33: The False Self in Action, Part 1

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We know that all things work for good
for those who love God,
who are called according to God’s purpose.
– Romans 8:28

Once again, we are faced in this teaching with the hard lesson that God is always inviting us to look at our attitudes and unconscious motivations when something in our life troubles us; that the other person, event or situation isn’t the problem. We are going through the purification of the unconscious which can be unpleasant at best, and sometimes very painful.

In Open Mind, Open Heart, Fr. Thomas calls this interior purification a dynamism that “is a kind of divine psychotherapy, organically designed for each of us, to purify our unconscious and free us from the obstacles to the free flow of grace in our minds, emotions and bodies.”

While we all experience this interior purification on the spiritual journey, it is different for each one of us, as we learn in this session’s video that “unconscious motivation begins to emerge into consciousness, if you give it a chance. Well, it not only emerges into consciousness, but the dark side of our personality also begins to emerge existentially into your feelings.”

At this point, we may start to wonder why we ever started on this spiritual journey and if we should continue. Fr. Thomas says the great struggle is not to get discouraged. He encourages us by telling us an example from his own journey and concludes by telling us that our journey “is an invitation to a new depth of love, a new depth of relating to God on a more spiritual level which requires a little scrubbing, a little emptying out so that we can relate or hear that marvelous communication, that transmission of divine life which can’t come through if the noise of the false self is too strong.”

Ultimately, if we persevere on the journey, Fr. Thomas assures, “You begin to trust God, to be content with his action in the way he treats you, and you begin to trust in his love beyond your psychological experience” (Thomas Keating, Session 33 video).

A Meditation

“God is always one step ahead of us in this journey toward the center. Just as we think we have found [God], [God] slips out of our grasp. The worst thing that can happen to us is to settle in an oasis under a palm tree. Growth is the challenge of the Gospel. The great sin in the New Testament is to refuse to grow and to choose to stay as we are. The spiritual life is dynamic. The Spirit keeps inviting us to new levels of surrender, faith, and love. The Divine Therapist continues the treatment in daily life. God brings people and events into our lives and takes them out again to show us other things we need to see about ourselves. Thus, contemplative prayer and daily life work together if we are willing, and mutually reinforce the therapeutic process … Humility and boundless confidence in God’s infinite mercy merge, and the ongoing journey becomes whatever God wants it to be.”

– Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “The False Self in Action, Part 1.” It is about 29 minutes in length.
  • Reflect on the meditation from Intimacy with God. Sometimes it is helpful to look back in our lives to see where God was one step ahead of us so we can build that trust and boundless confidence that God is always one step ahead of us. Can you find examples in your life where this has been true?


“The False Self in Action, Part 1,” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 29 mins.
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Audio for this Narrative

"The False Self in Action, Part 1," excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Part 2, 29 mins.
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Resources for Further Study:

You may wish to read Chapter 7 "Unloading of the Unconscious" in Open Mind, Open Heart (20th anniversary edition), Chapter 9 in older editions.

You also may wish to read Chapter 4 "Divine Therapy" in Intimacy with God (new editions), Chapter 8 "The Psychology of Centering Prayer," in older editions.

Additional Resources