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book cover The Human Condition
by Thomas Keating

One of the founders of the Centering Prayer movement, Thomas Keating offers a reflection on contemplative prayer, the human search for happiness and our need to explore the inner world. The spiritual search for God, he says, is also the search for ourselves. Drawing from Christian mystical tradition, Eastern and Orthodox religions, contemporary psychology, and the recovery model, Keating shows how the practice of contemplation can become a process of psychological and spiritual transformation. And as we move into a global culture, this process is of greater importance than ever. He begins with the great questions of self-knowledge: "Who are you? Where are you hiding?" The seemingly fruitless search for human happiness hinges on the answers to these: "Where am I in relation to God, myself and others?" and "Whoever I think I am, I am not." The contemplative journey is "divine therapy" for the illness of the human condition, a way to open up gradually to our own wounded unconscious. It is an excuse in letting go of the false self, which is the only self we know, and in realizing that God is the only true security. Divine love is the full affirmation of who we are. Writing with simplicity and depth, Keating brings common sense, extraordinary enlightenment, and fifty years of experience to the topic and the practice of discovering the presence of God.

Introduction to the book.   In 1997, Father Thomas Keating became the fifth person to deliver the Harold M. Wit Lecture on Living a Spiritual Life in the Contemporary Age at Harvard Divinity School. Born in New York City in 1923, Father Keating entered the Cistercian Order in 1944 in Valley Falls, Rhode Island. Fourteen years later he was appointed superior of St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, and in 1961 he was elected abbot of St. Joseph's Abbey, a large Cistercian monastery in Spenser, Massachusetts. After two decades in Spenser, he returned in 1981 to Snowmass, where he established a program of intensive ten-day retreats in the practice that he calls Centering Prayer, a contemporary form of Christian contemplative tradition. Father Keating is one of the architects of the Centering Prayer movement and of Contemplative Outreach, a support system for those on the contemplative path. He is also a former chairman of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, which sponsors exchanges between monks and nuns of the world's religions; a member of the International Committee for Peace Council, which fosters dialogue and cooperation among the world's religions; and a member of the Snowmass Interreligious Conference, a group of teachers from the world's religions who meet yearly to share their experience of the spiritual journey in their respective traditions. He is the author of several best-selling books on the contemplative tradition, including Open Mind Open Heart, The Mystery of Christ, Invitation to Love, and Intimacy with God. When he visited Harvard Divinity School, Father Keating delivered two lectures and led a service of Centering Prayer in the chapel of Andover Hall. In an era when the co modification of spirituality in America seems inescapable, his presence and message were genuinely inspiring and encouraging. Thus he fulfilled the desire of Harold M. Wit, who established the lecture series in 1988, to bring to Harvard "unusual individuals who radiate in their thought, word, and being those spiritual qualities and values that have been so inspiring and encouraging to me along my path." The publication of these lectures gives me the chance once again to acknowledge with gratitude Harold Wit, a generous benefactor of Harvard Divinity School, and to thank Thomas Keating for bringing together in these lectures the Christian contemplative tradition with insights from contemporary psychology. May his lectures serve as a guide to "true peace, sane counsel, and spiritual comfort in God," in the words of The Cloud of the Unknowing, the fourteenth-century English spiritual classic on which Centering Prayer is largely based.  Ronald F Thiemann Harvard Divinity School Cambridge, Massachusetts

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