For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
- Isaiah 43:19
"If creation is to move forward toward its completion and transformation in God, what took place in the life of Jesus must take place in our lives as well. God evolves the universe and brings it to its completion through the cooperation of human beings. Thus, it matters what we do and how we live in relation to God, for only through our actions can we encounter God."
- Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being
Fr. Thomas uses anthropology, biology, neuroscience and developmental psychology to shine a light on what he calls the human condition. He describes the stages of development of the human family (Uroboric, Typhonic, Mythic Membership, Mental Egoic and Intuitive) that are recapitulated in the stages of each person's development, from infancy to the age of reason. If the natural, human needs of security, affection and a sense of autonomy were met in early childhood, we would move from one stage of development to the next, integrating all that is good from previous levels and leaving behind what no longer serves us.
Instead, most of us become arrested at one level; all of life becomes a quest for security, affection, or control — or all three. Though mostly unconscious to us, they, nonetheless, become our programs for happiness and drivers behind our behaviors. As we mature, we enlist the newly acquired higher brainpower, not to serve our evolution as Christ, but to get these unconscious needs met.
"[T]hese programs for happiness influence our view of the world and our relationship with God, nature, other people and ourselves. This is the situation Jesus went into the desert to heal."
- Thomas Keating, Journey to the Center
We are learning that this healing is our birthright. We are learning that through the synergistic practices of Centering Prayer and the Work, we can participate with God in the dismantling of the psycho-emotional programs that hold us captive. We are learning to regard our stressful emotions not as enemies but as energies that have been hidden and are rising to be released. As negative emotions surface, instead of expressing them, repressing them or justifying them, we are learning simply to uncritically observe them, feel into the feelings and sensations, and Self-Remember, knowing that they are not "I."
We are learning to Self-Remember always and everywhere — to continually turn our attention to the One that is the Source of all good, all beauty, all creation, all love.
"So every one of you say … 'I can work,' because this is what we can do. I can remember myself according to my own level; I can separate from negative emotions according to my own state and my own level; I can stop making internal accounts; I can practice non-identifying; I can stop fantasies; I can stop self-justifying; and so on. [E]ven if it is only for a short time … you are working … and you will change your level of Being, not downwards, but upwards, not outwards, but inwards, and through this you will come under different influences, better influences, influences in other words that belong to your next level of Being …"
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "On Changing Our Level of Being," June 30, 1945, Volume 2
"We are called to this journey not just for our own personal growth, but also for the sake of the whole human community."
- Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love
Review any emails, video excerpts or transcripts you found particularly helpful or you wish to take in again more deeply. The program archive may be found here.
Examen: Reflect on what you have been experiencing the past three months as you have studied the human condition teaching – and your own manifestation of the human condition — while continuing your practice of Centering Prayer and the Work. Do you notice any changes in your thoughts and feelings these past few months? Where are you – in relation to God, others and yourself?
A Reminder: Though Fr. Thomas often refers to the human condition as the "false-self system," we recognize that it is not false because it is wrong, but because it is incomplete. It is not the fullness of what God created us to be. We encourage all of us as much as possible to move past the false self/true Self paradigm — which sets up polarities and can keep the inner critic or egoic stance in place — toward recognition of the evolution of the self, integration of the levels of consciousness and, finally to transcendence of self (no-self), wherein only Christ lives.