It can be argued, as a consequence of exploring the extensive dimensions of the knower, that our capacity for discernment will depend upon the degree to which we are in touch with various levels of human experience. It can be further contended that there are, at least, four different ways of experiencing ourselves, or of appropriating human nature.

©1998, Graeme Chapman
presented with permission from the author { full article }


Forward by Rev. Chuan Zhi Shakya, OHY
"All religions are the same" Chan Grandmaster Jy Din Shakya lectured to his disciples. And indeed, the more we learn about other religions the more we see that they really are little different from our own. They use different terminology to talk about the same things, they use different ceremonies to satisfy the same spiritual urges ... and they all use meditation as a vehicle to reach the divine. Wisdom is universal.

In this Interfaith Outreach section of the website we post literary contributions from Religious leaders around the world as a way to recognize the beauty inherent in all religions, and the universal nature of religion as a reflection of our existance as spiritual beings. We thank Christian Minister, The Rev. Graeme Chapman, for contributing this essay, Fullness of Being: How We Know" as the first in our new Interfaith Outreach section. May we all come together in a unifying embrace of our True Nature.

- Chuan Zhi


We come now to the question of how we gain knowledge of ourselves, others, our world and God.

We need to ask, first, who it is that does the knowing?


The Knower

In the last chapter it was argued that we are not disembodied minds. While the mind, operating through reason on phenomena presented to us through the senses, confronts us with aspects of reality, the cranial mind is not the only, or necessarily the most important, organ of knowledge. I contended that it is through the whole of who we are, as body/selves, that we know.

I also suggested that this body/self that does this knowing is not an isolated entity, but is psychically connected to others, to the total ecosystem and to that pervasive Self, the universal Mind, or Consciousness, to which we are accustomed to give the name God. This is consistent with biblical anthropology, which views us as integrated entities, as embodied spirits, whose essence is the gift and reflection of the divine Spirit.

Levels of experience

It can be argued, as a consequence of exploring the extensive dimensions of the knower, that our capacity for discernment will depend upon the degree to which we are in touch with various levels of human experience. It can be further contended that there are, at least, four different ways of experiencing ourselves, or of appropriating human nature.1

The Ego

We can live out of that part of us with which we interface with the world.

This is that aspect of ourselves with which we are most familiar, the conscious ego. This ego is a dynamic construct and is sustained and modified moment by moment.

The ego emerges out of its unconscious ground, out of an experience of primal unity with its environment. In the young child's early life, it is the mother, and the external world she represents, that constitute this environment.

In time, the young child develops the capacity to reflect upon itself, or to become subjectively conscious of itself, distinguishing itself from the objects and feelings of others.2 [26]

The individual later develops a series of personas through which they relate to others. When the persona dominates, when the person identifies with their persona, they lose contact with their truer self and forfeit the possibility of meaningful relationships with others.

The Self

Moving beyond the sheerly egoic level of existence it is possible for us to become familiar with the deeper self that results from a connectedness between the ego and unconscious.

The ego needs to separate from the unconscious before it can reconnect with it. This reconnection can happen in a number of ways, the most natural of which is through the ego inflating, encountering a crisis, repenting and being embraced in its brokenness by the community of those concerned for its welfare. Provided the environment that embraces us is positive and welcoming, this process, which is continuous, grants us insight into elements of the personality that are hidden from sight in the unconscious and enables us to reconnect with them.

Reconnection with the unconscious, and the gradual reintegration of ego and unconscious, leads to an awareness of a divinity within, an experience which is both an in-touchness with our libidinal energies and with the God who is the source of those energies and the ground of our existence.

The Body Self

We can proceed to a further stage and appropriate, or re-appropriate3 our bodies, which leads to our living out of a self that is in-touch with the diverse aspects of its embodiment, out of an integrated body/self.

We, in the West, suffer from disembodiment, resulting from a shift in consciousness that Ken Wilber argues began to manifest around 2500 BCE4 and that was reflected in a body/mind dualism reflected in aspects of Neoplatonism.5 This philosophy, which was in vogue at the beginning of the Christian era, deeply influenced the Church's initial theologising.

This disembodiment is gradually being recognized for what it is and many are seeking to reconnect with their bodies, to listen to them and to flow with their rhythms. This re-embodiment has meant that those at this stage in their development have discovered new ways of embracing reality, which include sensation, feeling, intuition and imagination, in short, the eloquent, apperceptive knowledge of the total body/self.6

Unity Consciousness

Living out of the body-self gives way finally to a form of existence that is a surrender to a pervasive Grace that holds the whole of life in existence. This larger, all-encompassing entity could be called the Universal Mind or [27] Consciousness,7 the all-comprehending Self, the Logos, the Tao, Brahman, the divine Spirit, the God who is immanent through all things as their ground or constituent element, the God in whom we live and move and have our being.8

While human development, up until this stage, has been effecting a centring of the self, this new phase of human maturation leads to the experiential understanding that that grounded self is not a reality separate from the rest of reality but is a manifestation of the reality that we call God. Two critical insights, related to this phase of development and reflected in the intuitive, meditative experience of contemplatives of all religious traditions, are that everything is connected to everything else and that God is in everything.9

Jesus as the Prototype

If Karl Barth is right, in arguing that Jesus is the archetypal human, the pattern of our divine humanity, then his life modelled a healthy, maturing acquaintance with and surrender to the divine Spirit. The early church discerned this inter-subjective connectedness, manifest in his personal presence and his behaviour.

It can also be argued that Jesus exhibited a species of faith that indicated that he was in touch with all levels of human experience, from the egoic to that in which there was an undeniable interconnectedness, at-one-ment, with the constituent energies of an interconnected, integrated cosmos.

Jesus did not live out of an isolated egoic persona nor worship a deity that was little more than a projection of positive and negative shadow material. Unlike the Pharisees, he refused to substitute morality for spirituality. The fact that he could discern the forces at work inside people's subjectivities meant that he was aware of what was happening inside himself, that is, he was engaging his unconscious. This was also evident in the fact that he spoke with authority. His knowledge, or wisdom, was sourced within himself and was not mere book-learning. Jesus was also in-touch with his body, and with what the Father was saying to him through his body, the body being part of his total apperception of reality. He was aware of the outflow of personal energy when touched by the woman suffering with a haemorrhage.10 His discernment of guidance, reflected in his reaction following the death of Lazarus,11 arose from an acute sensitivity of the total body/self. Jesus was also open to and sourced by the larger Self, his words and deeds being the gift of that Self,12 which he referred to intimately as Abba.13 The degree of his openness to this presence was such that he could say, When you encounter me, you encounter God: I and the Father are one.14 So powerfully was he impacted upon by this sense of the unity of all things, and by the presence of God within all reality, that he experienced no separation between himself and others, which gave rise to the comment: Inasmuch as you do it unto one of the least of my brethren, you do it unto me.15 Through his death, Jesus became so much one with this Presence that his [28] disciples, following his resurrection, had access to this Presence through Jesus and experienced it as Jesus.

By the time the Gospel of John was written it was obvious that the Johannine community, at least, had come to regard Jesus as an incarnation of the Logos, both in the Platonic sense of the agent of creation and in the Stoic sense of the divinity permeating the universe that gave structure to the explicate order, holding it in place.16

Meaning-Making and Communication

I have argued that we are body/selves who are aware, to some degree, of our interconnectedness with others, with the eco-system and with God.

It could also be contended that, as body/selves, we are engaged in two function that are expressive of, and a function of our spirituality. These two functions are meaning-making and communication, making sense of reality and relating.

While both functions can be looked at separately, they are closely connected. It could be contended that it is impossible to construct a map of reality if enriching relational insights are denied expression. On the other hand, it is difficult, if not impossible, to relate without at least a rudimentary frame of reference within which to locate relationships.


As we mature, our meaning-making and communication will occur at levels of increasing self-transcendence.

Transcendence has been differently conceived by different people.

Reinhold Niebuhr

For Reinhold Niebuhr, transcendence is the activity of the human spirit, which has the capacity to rise above the nature, or materiality, in which it is embedded. According to Niebuhr, transcendence of spirit is the pre-condition of freedom. When faced with a decision, we are like a trapeze artist, about to leap on to a swinging bar, who, at the moment of decision, suffers a measure of anxiety or vertigo. As a consequence, this moment of determination, of freedom, can result in either a noble action or in disaster. According to Niebuhr, the human spirit, with its capacity for transcendence, is the source of both our greatness and our sinfulness.

Bernard Lonergan

Bernard Lonergan also broaches the subject of transcendence in his treatment of a threefold process of conversion--intellectual conversion, moral conversion and religious conversion. [29]

Lonergan sees conversion involving transcendence, or the ability to stand apart from oneself and from one's situation and to become increasingly aware of processes in which one is involved.

Intellectual conversion involves the elimination of the myth that knowing is like looking, that objectivity is seeing what is to be seen and that the real is what is there to be looked at. It is a matter of being able to stand apart from and reflect on oneself in the process of thinking. It is also the awareness we have of ourselves as thinking subjects, which is a different and more profound experience than merely reflecting on oneself. It is an appropriation of one's rational self-consciousness.

Lonergan sees moral conversion involving the affirmation and appropriation of oneself as a morally, or rationally, self-conscious subject, the recognition and choice of oneself as a free and responsible originator of value. It is a matter of being able to stand aside from oneself in the act of making moral decisions, of being aware of what is happening and of owning what is being decided and the manner in which it is being decided.

Lonergan speaks of religious conversion, a special modality of self-transcendence, as an "other-worldly falling-in-love", a total and permanent self-surrender without conditions, qualifications, reservations. It is loving God with all one's heart, mind and strength, loving God in an unrestricted fashion. This falling-in-love takes us out of ourselves so much more completely than either intellectual or moral conversion. In addition, it has greater potential for transforming us.

Lonergan sees each of these experiences of transcendence as progressive levels of transcendence, from intellectual to moral to religious, with each higher level subsuming, or taking up into itself and integrating the lower level or levels.17

While the approaches of Niebuhr and Lonergan are insightful and helpful, they do not go far enough in exploring the impact of the divine Spirit, subjectively discerned, on experiences of transcendence. It is at this point that Rahner is particularly helpful.

Karl Rahner

Rahner begins with an observation that reflects the insights both of Niebuhr and Lonergan, when he argues that in raising questions about ourselves, questions that have an unlimited horizon, we transcend ourselves and indicate that we are more than those analysable components that appear to define us.18 Rahner goes on to argue that transcendence, experienced as the matrix of one's subjectivity, is not self-generated, but gifted and grounded in mystery.19 This infinite mystery is the silent horizon of our encounter with incomprehensible reality.20 The experience of transcendence, and the presence encountered in the experience of transcendence, are both gifted. [30]

Furthermore, the presence and the experience are one and the same. It is in transcendent experiences that we discern God's absolute and free offer of himself.21 Rahner describes transcendental experience as the subjective, unthematic consciousness of the knowing subject that is co-present in every spiritual act of knowledge, and which represents the subject's openness to all possible reality.22 Such experience is only recognized for what it is in or after the event, in the categorical, or external world, with which it is associated and through which it is mediated. What is recognized is a flow of grace within which inclines us to opt for responses which are consistent with the direction of that flow, responses that will mature us and benefit others. It is this subjective grace, Rahner contends, that is the basis of our spirituality.23

It could be argued that the human experience of finitude contradicts the notion of an infinite horizon of questioning that Rahner argues is a constituent element of our capacity for transcendence. Rahner responds to this challenge, however, by arguing that the very fact that you know yourself to be finite indicates that you have already transcended your finiteness.24

Thus far, we have given attention to the knowing subject, the body/mind, or embodied spirit, that finds expression in and surrenders to an inner urge towards maturation and integration. We have also argued that this body/mind is increasingly involved in meaning-making and communication and has the potential for experiencing more comprehensive levels of self-transcendence.


The next question to be asked is, "What is the focus or object of the human quest, that is, that which, in our meaning-making/ communicating, we are seeking to engage?" "What are we looking for?"

That which we seek has been variously described as truth, reality or God.


There are two major ways in which this "truth" has been conceived.

Working from an exclusively rationalistic, scientific model, some have not wanted to acknowledge any reality beyond that which is unambiguously presented to the senses. Truth, on the basis of this model, is associated with the materiality of the physical universe, in terms either of matter or energy. The aim of this sort of exploration, a legitimate aim, is the cognitive mapping of elements that can be discerned either through scientific inquiry and/or Aristotelian logic. The inadequacy of this model for assessing the truth claims of intellectual products or transcendental experience was argued in the previous chapter. [31]

Others see truth as having to do with metaphysics, with global explanations of the realities we encounter. Religious world-views are a sub-set of this category. Two pitfalls, facing this approach, are the tendency to confuse the map with the reality and the consequent temptation to regard truth as primarily cognitive or propositional.

I would argue, contrary to both of the above models, that truth, or reality, in its inner-most essence, is represented by Bohm's implicate order, that is, that which is enfolded in and which is the source of the explicate order of diversity. This constitutive reality is non-temporal, non-local and non-material and is not a product of cognitive paradigm construction, nor is it directly accessible to reason, nor necessarily to the measuring devices of the hard sciences. This truth is experienced through total embodied apperception, through the surrender of the body/mind to its Ground, to Being that lets be. Knowledge of the truth comes through our communication with the truth. Our experience of reality, of truth, is ultimately relational.

Apophatic Knowing

It is the experience of those who have explored reality relationally, meditatively, that one must proceed via a process of unlearning and personal reconstitution. This involves leaving behind the familiar and the comfortable. It leads to an unlearning, to an unknowing, to a transformation of our view of the nature of reality.25 It may also involve an experience of dereliction, resulting in personal de-construction and re-construction.26 It has also led to some, who have discovered that the implicate order is the more real of the two orders, describing the explicate order as maya, or illusion. Other have put it differently, arguing that ultimate truth is beyond duality, beyond the subject/object divide, which is an alternative way of describing the essence of and the priority of the implicate order.

Reflecting the paradoxical nature of ultimate truth, or reality, others have argued that the constitutive universal Consciousness is experienced in two different, but complementary, ways. The first is an intuitive, aesthetic, almost impersonal experience of the unity of all things. Some describe this feeling of an intense unity with nature, which finds exquisite literary expression in the Dao de Jing, as panenhenic.27 The second is the experience of surrender to the loving embrace of the universal Presence, to which we give the name God.

Granted that this reality, that is, ultimate truth that is impersonal/personal, is the subliminally alluring goal of the human quest, how is it to be sought. How is constitutive Consciousness, this God of love to be known?


I have already argued that the observation of, or experience of phenomena and reflection thereon, that is, the functions of sensation and thinking, [32] while productive, are inadequate for the sort of knowing that is capable of engaging the Reality we are seeking to discern, a Reality that is ultimately discovered within the energy of an open relationship. In addition, it needs also to be noted that whenever the West has fallen back into a purely rational apprehension of the truth it has succumbed to creedalism, scholasticism and arid debate over alternative paradigms.

On the basis of Jung's understanding of how reality is apprehended and responded to, it can be argued that to use only two functions, sensation and thinking, is to use only half one's capacity. Intuition and feeling are of equal importance.

Imagination should also be included. When fuelled by the unconscious, in a healthy rather than unhealthy way, it is a source of creativity that immerges from deep within the psyche, from that supra-personal source that gifts us with and is our transcendence.

It is little wonder that Rahner commented that the poetic, in the intensity of its essence, is a prerequisite for Christianity28 and that great poetry only exists where we face what we truly are.29 Poetry evokes the eternal mystery that is the backdrop of reality. It conjures up the inexpressible, fascinating us and setting us free. Rahner doubts that one can be unreceptive to poetry and be Christian. Lack of receptivity would indicate a lack of openness.30 Poetry, according to Rahner, can train us to hear the word of life. On the other hand, once we truly hear the gospel in the depths of our hearts we can no longer be totally unreceptive to poetry.31 There is an inner kinship between poetry and Christianity.32

Music fulfils a similar function. Tony Kelly drew attention to the fact that Gioseffo Zarlino, a Renaissance philosopher of music, was convinced that music interweaves the incorporeal energy of reason with the body.33

We, in the West, have problems recognizing the legitimacy and importance of intuition, feeling and imagination for the same reason that we are out of touch with our bodies. All three can be experienced as beyond rational control. Platonic mind/body dualism, along with its progeny, Cartesian dualism, are the prime culprits. Our faith in reason is illusory, in the sense that we imagine that the reasoning function can function uncontaminated or uninfluenced by other aspects of an integrated body/self. The more we rely exclusively on reason, the more likely it is that reason is functioning in the service of unconscious complexes.

The philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, commented that the Western notion of the mind as a ghost in the machine was a gigantic category error on the part of Descartes. He contended that Descartes was like a bewildered overseas student who, while being shown around Oxford, when the library, dormitories and chapel were being pointed out to him, continued to ask, "But where is the University?"34 [33]

It has been argued that knowledge, or experience, of reality is derived from the full range of receptors, sensation, intuition, bodily apperception, and of processors, thinking, feeling and imagination. One next needs to ask, if God is the ultimate object of inquiry, where is this God to be found?


Many look for God, as children look for Santa Claus, in some sort of North Pole, in a location external to themselves.

A mix of experiences contribute to this reaction.

First, our initial feel for God is related to our experience of our parents. They are the God-like figures of our infant world. After we have separated from them as objects, and as emotional centres of consciousness, they represent God to us.

With the development of an egoic self, when our separate identity has been successfully hatched, we begin, quite unconsciously, to arrange the elements within us into those that we are conscious of and those that we keep beneath the threshold of awareness. At a later stage the unconscious needs to be re-engaged and re-integrated. For the moment, it is appropriate that what is unconscious remains unconscious. This unconscious contains, among other elements, aspects of the total body/self that have not yet differentiated themselves out of the unconscious, or, having begun to differentiate themselves, have been rejected and repressed because of cultural disapprobation. The unconscious is also the repository of experiences that are too painful or complex to process.

One way of dealing with rejected material in the unconscious is to project it onto images, people, communities, animals, even material objects in the external world. Traditional images of God, Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, with which we are acquainted through the process of socialization, are frequently overlayed with our projections. We project onto them our libidinal energies, as well as our secret self-hatred, our negative judgements about ourselves. These images, draped with our projections, become our "gods"!

It is because our parents are figures increasingly separate from us, and because traditional God-images are generally considered to reside in uncontaminated territory external to us, that people, at this stage in their personal development, are convinced that God is spatially separate from them. The development of our image of God parallels and reflects our self-development.

This phenomenon was clearly evident in the pre-conversion experience of the apostle Paul. Paul regarded God as an external presence. In reality, however, his God was little more than projection of Paul's negative judgement on himself. Paul didn't feel he measured up, was internally critical of himself and projected his self-judgement onto an external symbol of this God, the [34] Yahweh of Jewish history and worship. Instead of discerning and co-operatively flowing with the pervasive presence that sourced and energized his life, Paul substituted morality for spirituality, thereby attempting to recommend himself to God by desperately striving for perfection.

An Energy Within

The testimony of those whose experience of "God" has progressed beyond overblown parental images and unchallenged projections, is that God is to be discovered, not in a specific location in the external world, but within. This can occur as a significant breakthrough, as it did with the apostle Paul.

On the road to Damascus, Paul finally surrendered his moralism and yielded to the embrace of a forgiving love that enveloped him from within. With this experience came self-acceptance, the pre-condition for accepting others, and a greater other-centredness. Explaining the effect of the experience, and, at the same time, the essence of a new insight, he commented that he now experienced Christ as an inner, initiating presence.35 Translated from christological to pneumatological terms, this latter described a strengthening of one's inner essence attributable to the presence of the Spirit of God.36

God And the Self

It can be argued that discovery of self and of God are one and the same discovery.

This experience can be approached from two angles. On the one hand, if we conscientiously seek God, we will be confronted by ourselves, as the Desert Fathers of the 4th century discovered. On the other hand, if we approach the experience from the other direction, if we go on an inward journey of self-discovery, we will find God. The latter experience was beautifully depicted in a haunting passage from Teilhard de Chardin, in which he described a descent into his interior being, in which he moved beyond conventional certainties. At each step he discovered a new dimension of himself that he had not known, and, as the path faded beneath him, he found himself confronting a bottomless abyss. He went on to explain that if someone, or something saved him, it was hearing the voice of the gospel speaking to him from the depths of the night, in the words, "It is I, be not afraid."37

Rahner, in a less poetic but an epigrammatic quip, similarly argued that the experience of God and the experience of the self constitute a unity.38 He contended that while the two experiences are not identical, they exist in such a unique unity that without this unity it would be impossible for there to be any experience at all. This inter-related experience is the experience of an ultimate and all-embracing unity. In experiencing God, we experience ourselves. Furthermore, our experiencing of God is what enables us to experience ourselves and is the intrinsic element in that experience.39 The [35] history of our experience of ourselves is, at the same time, the history of our experience of God.40

This coincidence between the experience of self and the experience of God is reflected in the Hindus' use of the word Atman to describe both God, as he/she is internally discerned, and the state of those who have come to an awareness of this indwelling divinity.

When God is discovered and responded to within one's self, this same spiritual presence41 can be recognized in the external world, in nature, in people and in historical experience. This "Cosmic Presence", however, differs from the "external God" of our projections.42


One's inner attitude is of critical importance. What is required is an openness, married to a commitment to what is discerned. Christians use the word "faith" to describe this experience. Faith, for the Christian, is an agency of spiritual perception. It is our commitment to what Tillich has described as "ultimate concern", to our asking ultimate questions and being concerned with ultimate issues, that enables us to discover where God is at work making human life more truly human, more congruent with Kingdom values.

The Unconscious

One way of discovering the God-within is to purposely explore one's unconscious, that part of us that lies beneath the threshold of awareness.

The unconscious has its own way of alerting us to its presence, and, if Jung is to be believed, of pointing the way forward towards integration of the conscious and the unconscious, towards our healing, or, in Jungian terms, our individuation.

Jung contended that there were two elements to the unconscious, a personal unconscious, which collected what was repressed during one's lifetime, and the collective unconscious, which comprised intimations of our interconnectedness as well as residue from our evolutionary past, which frequently expresses itself in archetypal images.43

Jung's life was spent exploring his unconscious, which he traced in Memories, Dreams, Reflections. It is interesting that, while he was reluctant to speak about, or confess to belief in an external God, Jung concluded that self-discovery was also the discovery of an inner divinity.

There are several ways of exploring the unconscious. These are identifying and acknowledging projections, working on the interpretation of one's dreams, using active imagination to dialogue with identities that surface in one's dreams,44 and employing fantasy or drawing to evoke images.45 [36]

The Body

Another means of access is through the body. Consciousness is located throughout the whole body and is not confined to the brain. This is evident in the activity of neuropeptides and neurotransmitters and the fact that other cells, apart from brain cells, for instance blood cells, produce chemicals identical to those made by brain cells, and which affect our moods and the way we think. Dossey has argued that we are body/minds with two brains, an anatomical brain, located within the cranium, and a functional brain that is to be found throughout the whole body.

This suggestion receives endorsement from The Hippocratic Writings, which contend that there is a measure of conscious thought throughout the body,46 and from Hermann Hesse's Prologue to Demian, where the author indicated that he had ceased to question the stars and the books and had begun to listen to the teachings that his blood whispered to him.47

It could also be argued that the body/mind speaks to us through "gut feelings".

Reflecting on our Western myopia, Mongesi Tiso, a Xhosa tribesman from South Africa, commented that white people were wrong in imagining that the brain controlled the body. It was the intestines that controlled the body and were responsible for indicating what was going to happen.48

An explanation of the phenomenon of "gut feelings" was offered by Candace B. Pert, co-discoverer of the endorphins, who explained that receptor sites she had been looking for in the brain were also found in monocytes, a type of white blood cell that has a critical role in immune responses. She explained that chemicals that effect emotion also control the routing and migration of monocytes. These cells not only have receptors for various neuropeptide chemicals that effect mood centres in the brain, but they also make these substances. Furthermore, she pointed out, the entire intestinal tract is lined with cells containing neuropeptides and receptors for them.49 It was this phenomenon, she argued, that was most likely responsible for people's 'gut' feelings.50

Reconnecting with our Bodies

There is a sense in which we, in the West, need to get back into our bodies, through meditative exercise and through embodying our insights in symbolic ritual. We need to listen to our bodies.

Kinesiology, which recognizes that the body is burdened, not only with its own refuse, but with repressed emotions, proceeds by asking the body what it is that is out of kilter, where the problem is located and what is the most effective means of righting the situation. [37]

"Focusing", developed by Eugene Gendlin, is another way of addressing issues of the body/mind. It involves getting in touch with one's body, allowing the body to suggest issues to be dealt with and then encouraging the body to symbolise the essence of issues and appropriate processes for their resolution.51 Commenting on the orientation of this gentle therapy, Peter Campbell and Edwin McMahon suggest that focussing allows consciousness to settle into the body, that part of us where there is a physical "inbinding" with the rest of the cosmos.52

For many, prayer, or meditation, is a fruitful means of encountering reality, or God. While Christians have always championed the benefits of prayer, and while there have been Christian mystical traditions, beginning with the Desert Fathers, it has been the religions of the East, notable Hinduism and Buddhism, that have most thoroughly explored the meditative way as the primary approach to the Ultimate.

Exploring the unconscious and re-connecting with our bodies are two means of engaging both ourselves and God. Suffering is another.


Suffering, which mostly comes unbidden and which is not masochistically induced, is invaluable. However, while Martin Buber suggested that all suffering prepares the soul for vision,53 we should distinguish between lesser suffering, which increases self-preoccupation, and severe suffering, which can decrease self-preoccupation and enable the sufferer to confront broader issues of existence and mortality.


In seeking to know themselves, engage reality and discover God, people become increasingly centred in themselves, in a healthy rather than a narcissistic sense. This centredness frees them from the clamant demands of unrequited ego needs sufficiently to attend to others.

In facing their true selves and appropriating the divinity's loving of the self, they will be freed from themselves sufficiently to attend to others. If they did not spend this reconstructive time on themselves, they would be distracted and enervated by personal issues.

It is also true that we can only understand others to the degree to which we can understand ourselves. We can only accept others to the degree that we are self-accepted and also to the degree that we are not threatened by them, by their successes, their prejudices or their anger. We can only love others to the degree that we are capable of loving ourselves. We can only give of ourselves to the degree to which we are in contact with those aspects of the self that we are offering others. Therefore, our capacity for denying ourselves, for giving ourselves to others, will be measured, paradoxically, by the extent to which we are in touch with ourselves, to the extent that we are [38] accepting of ourselves and to the extent to which our lives are centred in the body/self.

Incarnational Ambiguity

God's presence can be discerned in the external environment in which our lives are set. Those best able to intuit this presence are those who are in touch with their bodies, those who have learned to experience reality through the total body/self.

In the early phases of our evolutionary past, when we engaged external reality magically and mythically, and when the individual self had not yet come to experience itself as separate from the rest of nature, the external world, which was not experienced as wholly external, was felt to be suffused with divinity. This state represented an undifferentiated enmeshment.

With the transition from a mythical to a rational consciousness, which began to be evident about 2500 BCE, the magico-mythical way of interpreting reality yielded ground to an approach based on reason, to a form of interpretation that would later be formalised as Aristotelian logic. Socrates, challenging the mythological consciousness of his contemporaries, died as a martyr to the cause of reason.

This reason demystified and de-divinised nature, making it available to scientific investigation, and, later, to industrial exploitation. Furthermore, so fascinated were intellectuals and scientists by the powers of the mind, that the biological and sheerly physical elements of our environment were treated with scant respect. Intellectual capacity, associated with the egoic self, or spirit, was honoured. The body and the physical environment were disvalued. Nature was considered inert.

The Eco-romantic movement of the late 18th and the 19th centuries, in its reaction to Rationalism, focused attention on nature. Furthermore, it tended to regard nature as God. This was in contrast to the earlier belief, associated with Plotinus and the Great Chain of Being, that saw God, not as nature, but as revealed in Nature, as its constitutive essence. Furthermore, if nature equalled God, then God's essence needed to be discovered in nature. In an extension of this development, sexuality came to be identified with God.

In reaction to this identification of nature with God, Schelling resurrected the approach of Plato and Plotinus, arguing that, while nature should not be acquainted with God, God, as Spirit, found expression through the whole phenomenological world--the physical world, the biological world and the mental world. [39]

The theologian, Paul Tillich, impressed by Schelling, argued that God, or Spiritual Presence, could be discerned in all aspects of the universe, including human communities and their cultures. This conception was further developed by a protege of Tillich's, Langdon Gilkie, who contended that history, the journey of peoples and the record of their journey, incorporating their history and culture, reveals the human pulse of a regenerative Spirit.54

Tillich further suggested that the workings of this Spirit, or Spiritual Presence, was present ambiguously throughout the different levels of existence. The Spirit was incarnated in all reality, but ambiguously. One always encountered factors that appeared to deny the assumption of divine presence.

There is ambiguity in the world of nature.

The conviction that Spirit finds expression through continuing evolution, and increasing diversity, at the level of the biological, appears to be contradicted by the second law of thermodynamics at the level of the sheerly physical, which suggests that everything is dying. Then again, while we are deeply moved by the beauty of nature, we also have to take natural disasters and biological savagery into account.

The human body/self, which, it could be argued, is a vehicle for the divine, offers contradictory evidence. Physical decay is often in tension with the development of the soul, the essence that our corporality embodies. Furthermore, we are a mixture of light and shade, of ego and unconscious, of positive creativity and destructiveness. If it is argued that we are nurtured by the Spirit through the small communities of which we are a part, it also has to be acknowledged that these communities can cripple us. Parents burden children with their pathologies. Our shadows, as well as our conscious egos, engage each other. Children, when they have been made family scapegoats, venture out into the world, inadvertently offering themselves as projection objects, as communal scapegoats. In the wider society, injustice and inhumanity, which Bloom argues are an inevitable by-product of the process of evolution, appear to deny the notion that God, as Spirit, or Cosmic Presence, is involved in, and is the constituent element in the eco-system.

In spite of those elements appearing to deny the presence of Spirit in the phenomenological universe, those open to the discernment of such a Presence are convinced that this Spiritual Presence is a reality, but a reality that is ambiguously present. They argue that what we intuit as Presence is more than a mere projection of libidinal energies onto the environment, though they do not deny that we do such projecting.

There is a sense, therefore, in which I would want to argue that divinity is incarnate in all reality and that, if we are looking for God, one place to look, with critical openness, is the universe that embraces us. [40]


Talk of journeying and questing could suggest that the initiative, in our quest for God, lies wholly with us. This is far from the truth. The initiative lies with God. It was this awareness that prompted Paul to write to the church at Philippi and to advise two women, who were off-side with each other, to make up. His comment to them was that they should work at resolving their conflict, recognizing that it was God who was working in them to inspire both their desire for reconciliation and the action that would achieve it.55 Religious experience world-wide suggests that the progressive encountering of God is revelation, an unveiling. God discovers herself to us.


The givenness of revelation is reflected in creative processes. Dossey recounts the story of a celebrated concert pianist, who, shortly before her seventieth birthday, was playing the Bach fugue in A minor from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. She suddenly lost awareness of her own existence. On coming to, she had an altogether new perception of the music, which required both a new structure and a new technique. She indicated that the experience was like going through a small door into an immerse living, green universe and that, following the experience, she could no longer return back through the door to the world she had known.56

Creativity appears to proceed by visual images, rather than language. In fact language can sometimes be a hindrance, a screen that stands between the thinker and reality.57 Einstein explained that words and language played no part in the mechanism of thought that constituted his creativity. They belong to a secondary stage, the laborious explication of his theories.58 The capacity we have for an intuitive grasp of reality was also evident in the work of Michael Faraday who devised general theorems, the methodological deduction of which required mathematical ability of the highest order. Faraday, who did not use a single mathematical formula, intuitively apprehended these theorems.59


Glen Clark has suggested that, if we are open, receptive and anticipate the gift of ideas, they will come, in their own time, fully formed. The givenness of creative activity has also been highlighted by Adrian Van Kaam, who contended that the gift is bestowed when we are in a state of relaxed receptivity.60

The holistic nature of inspired creativity was illustrated in the way in which Mozart wrote his music. He explained that after his soul was fired, the subject enlarged and arranged itself, presenting itself to his mind as a finished product. He did not hear each of the parts separately, but all at once. The composition took place in what could only be described as a pleasing, lively dream.61 [41]

Commenting on the nature of this sort of creativity and the intuitive grasp that it implies, Max Knoll, a professor in the department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton, made the suggestion that the fact that ideas emerge full-blown suggests a special intuitive function that operates in a timeless, non-spacial dimension. The sudden illumination often occurs after meditation,62 or, as Van Kaam suggests, when one is in a state of relaxation.

Some would want to argue that inspired creativity, as an illustration of the givenness of revelation, does not sufficiently explain the energy of the divine initiative. They would prefer to contend, as Tillich has done, that when God encounters us, we experience ourselves as being grasped by the power of Being.63 Rahner, who also spoke of being grasped and known by God, contended that this experience transforms us to our very last roots and makes us sharers in God's being and life.64

Those who have a reasonable acquaintance with Reality are characterised by two unique qualities. First, they have come to understand that truth is ultimately paradoxical, pluriform and ineffable. Second, their lives are marked by an uncomplicated simplicity. They have discovered what really counts and have surrendered to it. They are not necessarily intellectual giants, but they are insightful, wise, deeply compassionate and hold their lives of no account in the context of living the Truth. They have taken Occam's razor to the business of living.

If the epistemology outlined in this chapter is granted some degree of credibility, then, in the exploration of truth, we will be called upon, increasingly, to fly by the seat of our pants, by our intuitions and feelings. We will honour and use our reason, but we will not submit to its fascist demands.


In the theological enterprise, there will also be a need, as McFague contends, for support, corroboration and collegiality This is because theology is deceptively pretentious65 and because we need to be saved from myopia, idolatry and a defensive pathological boundedness. This will require the sort of humility that is generated by self-acceptance and an inner security, both of which are the gift of Grace. [42]

1 The paradigm used is that developed by Ken Wilber in No Boundaries: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth, Boston and London, New Science Library, Shambhala, 1981. Wilber argues that there are at least four major level of human existence, each representing greater depth and comprehensiveness. These levels are associated with the Persona, the Ego, the Total Organism and Unity Consciousness. I have renamed these levels. What Wilber calls the Persona, I have called the Ego and what he calls the Ego I have called the Self. This change safeguards a consistency in terminology and is consistent with Jungian usage. Wilber, while appreciating Jung, is critical of him at various points and has devised his own terminology, which preserves the integrity of his finely-honed distinctions. For an elaboration of Wilber's criticism of Jung consult the index in K. Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, Boston and London, Shambhala, 1995. Wilber argues that a boundary runs through each of these that needs to be removed before the next level, or depth, can be accessed. Where Jung addressed the shadow at the Egoic level, Wilber argues that each level has its shadow and that different therapies are appropriate in addressing this shadow that manifests uniquely at each of the levels.
2 M. Mahler, F. Pine, F. & A. Bergman, The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant, NY, Basic Books, 1975: K. Wilber, "The Spectrum of Development", K. Wilber, J, Engler & D. P. Brown, Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development, Boston and London, Shambhala, 1986, 65-105
3 There is a sense in which, with the emergence of the ego, there often ensues, particularly in Western society, an egoic dissociation with the body. There is, therefore, a consequent need to reconnect with it at a later stage. It is important not to confuse a pre-personal lack of differentiation from a transpersonal, intentional re-connectedness. To confuse the two is to fall victim to what Wilber calls the pre/trans fallacy: K. Wilber, The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development, Wheaton, Theosophical Publishing House, 1985; K. Wilber, Eye to Eye: The Quest for a New Paradigm, Garden City, NY, Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1983, 201-246; K. Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, 205-208, 230-240.
4 K. Wilber, Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution, Boston, New Science Library, Shambhala, 1986, 180
5 While Neo-Platonism is generally credited with dissemination of a body/ mind or spirit dualism, Wilber argues that it was Gnosticism, which developed dualisms incipiently present in Neoplatonism, rather than Neoplatonism itself, that was responsible for the persistence of this dualism and for the early, predominant influence of the "Ascenders", those who sought to escape from the world through meditative practice. In contrast to this escapist response, Plotinus, in both his meditative practice and in theory, further developed Plato's synthesis between an eros-driven ascent through contemplation to the One and to wisdom and an agape-driven descent to the many and to compassion. The Ascenders, whose ascendancy began to be challenged at the time of the Renaissance, were captive to the first movement, which was driven, in their case, not by eros, but by phobos: Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, 331-344
6 P. A. Campbell & E. M. McMahon, Bio-Spirituality: Focusing as a Way to Grow, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1985
7 L. Dossey, Recovering the Soul: A Scientific and Spiritual Search, NY, Bantam, 1989
8 Acts 17: 28
9 Lama Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multi-Dimensional Consciousness, Wheaton, IL, Theosophical Publishing House, 1976, 141; K. Wilber, Spectrum of Consciousness, Wheaton, Il, Quest, 1979, 78; A. Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, NY, Harper Colophon Books, 1945, 5, 7, 9; Meditations With Hildegard Of Bingen, Gabriel Uhlein, Santa Fe, NM, Bear and Co., 1985, 41, 85; Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen, Matthew Fox, Santa Fe, NM, Bear and Co.,1985, 40; Meditations with Mechthild of Magdeburg, Sue Woodruff, Santa Fe, NM, Bear and Co., 1982,42; Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality in New Translations, Garden City, NY, Doubleday and Co., 1980, 73, 113, 196, 198; Mediation's with Julian of Norwich, Brebdan Doyle, Santa Fe, NM, Bear and Co., 1983, 39; Meditations with Nicholas of Cusa, James Frances Yockey, Santa Fe, NM, Bear and Co., 1987, 28f; Chao Tze-chiang [trans.], A Chinese Garden of Serenity: Epigrams from the Ming Dynasty, Mount Vernon, NY, The Peter Pauper Press,1959, 45; Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, B. Watson [trans.], NY, Columbia University Press, 1964, 16; Shankara, quoted in Wilber, Eye to Eye, 299; P. Brunton, The Quest of the Overself, York Beach, ME, Samuel Weiser, 1984
10 Mark 5: 30
11 John 11: 1-10
12 John 5: 19-23; 14: 1-14
13 Mark 14: 36
14 John 10: 30
15 This phenomenon, where the other is experienced as part of one's self, has been a characteristic feature of Buddhism, particularly Tibetan Buddhism: S. Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, London, Rider Books, 1992, 187-208
16 Platonic and Stoic conceptions of the Logos do not exhaust the traditions informing The Gospel of John. The Concept of Wisdom in the Hebrew Scriptures, the development of the concept of the Logos in Philo, together with the substitution, in the Targums, or Aramaic paraphrases of the Hebrew Scriptures, of the phrase, "the memre of God", for "God", were also influential.
17 B. Lonergan, Method in Theology, London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1975, 237-244; B. Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, London, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1958, xxviii
18 Rahner, FCF, 29
19 Rahner, FCF, 42
20 Rahner, FCF, 77
21 Rahner, FCF, 85, 86
22 Rahner, FCF, 20
23 Rahner, FCF, 52
24 Rahner, FCF, 19, 20, 31-32
25 The Cloud of Unknowing in The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works, C. Wolters [trans.], Middlesex, England, Penguin, 1978
26 John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul, H. Blackhouse [Ed.], London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1988: Merton, "Final Integration," W. E. Conn [Ed.], Conversion: Perspectives on Personal and Social Transformation, NY, Alba House, 1978, 263-272
27 Smart and Konstantine, op. cit., 71
28 Rahner, "Poetry and the Christian," TI, Vol. 4, 363
29 ibid., 365
30 ibid., 363
31 ibid., 364
32 ibid., 365
33 Kelly, op. cit., 139
34 J. Hooper & D. Teresi, The 3-Pound Universe, NY, Dell, 1986, 386
35 Gal 2: 20
36 Eph 3: 16
37 Teilhard de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin; An Essay on the Interior Life, London, Collins, Fontana, 1967, 76-78
38 Rahner, "Experience of Self and Experience of God," TI, Vol. 13, 124
39 G. B. Kelly [Ed.], Karl Rahner: Theologian of the Graced Search for Meaning, Minneapolis, Fortress, 1992, 176
40 ibid., 180
41 Tillich, op. cit., Volume Three, Part IV
42 For a more comprehensive treatment of the history of our god-images, see "The Evolution of 'God'" in G. L. Chapman, Spirituality for Ministry: An Exploration, Melbourne, CCTC, 1998
43 He suggested that the collective, or archaic unconscious was made up of 7 strata, which, in descending order, were associated with family, clan, nation, larger international conglomerations, primeval ancestors, animal ancestors and a central fire: Hannah, op. cit., 17
44 J. D. Clift & W. B. Clift, Symbols of Transformation in Dreams, NY, Crossroad, 1984; R. A. Johnson, Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth, San Francisco, Harper, 1986; C. G. Jung, Dreams, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1974; P. O'Connor, Dreams and the Search for Meaning, North Ryde, Methuen Haynes, 1986; F. C. Wickes, The Inner World of Man, Boston, Sigo Press, 1988
45 Wickes, op. cit., 221-313
46 Quoted in Dossey, op. cit., 80
47 ibid.
48 M. V. Bührmann, Living in Two Worlds: Communication between a White Healer and her Black Counterparts, Capetown, Human and Rousseau, 1984, 15
49 Dossey, op. cit., 86
50 Pert, op. cit., 8-16
51 P. A. Campbell & E. M. McMahon, Bio-Spirituality: Focussing as a Way to Grow, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1985
52 Campbell and McMahon, op. cit., 91
53 Quoted in Dossey, op. cit., 17
54 L. Gilkie, Society and the Sacred; Towards a Theology of Culture in Decline, NY, Crossroad, 1981
55 Phil 2: 12-13
56 S. Weisburd, "The Spark: Personal Testimonies of Creativity," Science News, 132, Nov. 7, 1987, 298
57 A. Koestler, The Act of Creation, NY, Dell, 1964, 177
58 J. Hadamard, The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1949, 142-143
59 ibid., 85
60 A. Van Kamm, Spirituality and The Gentle Life, Denville, NJ, Dimension Books, 1974
61 Quoted in J. Chesterman, An Index of Possibilities: Energy and Power, NY, Pantheon Books, 1974, 186
62 M. Knoll, "Transformation of Science in Our Age," J. Campbell [Ed.], Man and Time, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1957, 270
63 P. Tillich, The Courage to Be, London, Collins, Fontana, 1965, 167ff
64 Kelly, Karl Rahner, 9
65 McFague, op. cit., 67ff