Why I practice meditation in the Christian tradition

Christian Meditation photo

In my discussion of Meister Eckhart’s ‘Wayless Way’ I touched on the Dominican master’s notion of the need for detachment from everything if we truly want to break through to union with God. For Eckhart, ‘everything’ includes all our talk of God. This means, paradoxically, that if we are truly to encounter ‘God’, the ultimate reality for which we long, we must be rid of the ‘God’ captured in our theological definitions, concepts and images. At the conclusion of that discussion I asked why, if there is any truth in this teaching of Meister Eckhart, we should persist with Christian talk of ‘God’ at all. Surely it makes more sense to bypass altogether images and concepts we must ultimately let go anyway. Why not adopt at the outset a more ‘secular’ approach like that of Eckhart’s modern namesake Eckhart Tolle, or even of Buddhism which many claim is not a religion at all?

What follows is a first step in the development of an answer to this question, a defence of the value and relevance of meditation in the Christian tradition in a world where people drawn to spiritual practices have a rich abundance of options from which to choose. The simple point I make is that the value and relevance of the Christian meditation tradition derive both from what it shares with the other great meditation traditions and what distinguishes it among them. Continue reading “Why I practice meditation in the Christian tradition”

Spirituality, religion and the ‘God-shaped void’

Our species is universally blessed with a capacity for transcendence, and cursed with the corresponding appetite. Such is the human condition. And such is the nub of that singularly human concern that we call ‘spirituality’.

This claim is admittedly problematic. There was a time when people spoke without too much reserve of such things, of ‘self-evident truths’, ‘universal principles’ and ‘the human condition’. Amid the settling dust of the post-modern turn, though, the reticence of thoughtful people to talk thus – beyond a nod to the ‘universal declaration of human rights’, perhaps – is understandable. We in democratic, secular and pluralist societies are learning, belatedly and all too often reluctantly, to cultivate an awareness of the limits of our own culturally determined perspectives and to keep in check the temptation to declare this or that to be true for the whole world. None of us, we are slowly realizing, has title to the real estate from which to pronounce on such matters.

As a relatively thoughtful person, I share this postmodern reticence and find myself increasingly aware and respectful of difference, of particularity. And yet I stand by my opening statement. For, the more I learn of the fundamental social, cultural, historical and religious particularities of various human communities, the more I see an even more fundamental commonality among us. I remain convinced that the quest for ultimate meaning, for spiritual connectedness, for transcendence is, if not in our DNA, at least as basic to our humanity as our DNA. Continue reading “Spirituality, religion and the ‘God-shaped void’”