Q: Fr. Keating, in his book Intimacy with God and elsewhere, develops the idea – the image – of God as Divine Therapist. Yet Fr. Keating also argues that we must not have or hold on to an image of God. How can this contradiction be reconciled?
A: We are dealing here with two sides of one coin ‚Äì the apophatic and kataphatic approaches to God. One way of describing the kataphatic side of the journey is the use of images to aid our understanding and deepening relationship with God. So, in this case, the image of God as the Divine Therapist helps us understand the experience of the unloading and purification stages of the journey. For many it has been a helpful and powerful image because it bring in the two energies of forgiveness and healing: I‚Äôm able to see what needs to be forgiven in myself and others and also what needs to be healed on a deeper level. Images of God are also useful when we are reading (listening), reflecting and responding to God in Lectio Divina or in all of life.
Centering Prayer is a prayer of consent where we are consenting to the divine presence and action of God in our lives, through the grace of God. We let go of all images (thoughts) during the prayer as we enter into the apophatic side of the spiritual journey; there is no need for an image for we have given ourselves over to the will of the God, our Beloved.
So, two sides of the same coin — on one the image and on the other pure Presence which does not require an image.
Although it seems like a contradiction, it is another aspect of the mystery of God. As our relationship with God deepens, we are invited to move beyond all images, expectations, attitudes, etc. Hope this helps.