Archive for July, 2006

Meditation Part 1 – Mental States

Saturday, July 22nd, 2006

My first question about meditation and mental states is, “What form of meditation would facilitate connection with God?”.This, of course, is really the universal question found in worship and in prayer, “How does the interface between a natural human and the spiritual god work?” (Of course being a programmer, ‘interface’ makes sense to me. An interface is the link between two separate modules, or programs. It handles the passing of information from one module to another).

There are a number of models for this interface. For the purposes of this discussion of meditation:

  1. There is the sacramental model, where the carrying out of a rite by an ordained priest, somehow brings the Grace of God into the material realm.
  2. There is the incarnational/immanent model, where the Grace of God comes from within and around, as life is lived out trusting in the indwelling God.
  3. There is the ecstatic/transcendant model, in which emotional worship draws the individual (and indeed group) into a trans-rational experiences which, by their very nature, are not easily analysed, but are seen as the presence of God. From these experiences, gifts, such as prophecy and healing emerge (which is not to say that this is the only model in which gifts occur).

As a refugee from what currently passes for charismatic churches, my preference lies firmly with the incarnational model.Traditional meditation or contemplation is firmly in the incarnational model. The practice involves consciously holding yourself in the present moment.

Newer forms of meditation (derived, I think, from Ignatius of Loyola, so not that new) involve the use of the imagination to visualise stories and scenarios. For me, that has until recently contrasted a commitment to reality with a commitment to fantasy, and thus closer to the trancendental model, but I am rethinking it. This re-think has to do with the nature of stories and their relationship to truth.

Most famously, Jesus told many stories which, while not absolutely true, had the potential to communicate truth. In telling stories, rather than lecturing in ethics or philosophy, Jesus was stimulating the part of the mind that imagines and visualises the story. In this, he stands in a long line of prophets who used story to communicate revelation. From the Reformation on, there has been a move to purify and distill the pure truth of the Gospel out of the histories and stories of the Bible: orthodoxy seen as believing the right thing. Faith became a matter of the mind, which was identified as the spirit (that part of man that is from God and unique to humankind of all the earthly creatures).

More recently, the resurgence of a more holistic view of man has led to a renewed interest in emotional and aesthetic factors. There has been a shift from ‘what you believe’ to ‘how you believe’. Thus it is possible for a holistic hearing of a story to lead to a reception of more than pure facts.

This leads to the question, “What stories should we be telling and imagining?”.