73: From Contemplation to Action, Part 1

Throughout the Spiritual Journey Series, Fr. Thomas emphasizes how important our contemplative practice and transformation are to the world, not just to our individual lives and journeys. When we consent to the presence and action of God within our Centering Prayer practice, we are consenting to transformation, the restructuring of our consciousness. Even though we may continue to feel the pull of our emotional programs and cultural conditioning, we are being led by faith to a new way of being in the world. As we mature in faith and integrate the values of the gospel, we may no longer be able to witness social injustice in the world and excuse it as just the way things are or overlook it entirely. We may even begin to ask how we are complicit.

Fr. Thomas uses the film “The Mission,” which depicts events that occurred in the 1740’s, as an example of how the mythic membership level of consciousness justifies the massacre of innocents. Since the advent of the internet and globalization, we now have access to information from all over the world, where we see and read examples in the news every day of the suffering created by poverty, war, kidnapping, rape and torture of innocents – all which comes from the same mentality that created the massacre of innocents in the film.  Who is responsible?

“The movement beyond mythical membership consciousness is essential to becoming fully human. Although humanity as a whole began to access the mental egoic level of consciousness around 3000 B.C.E., its mature vision of personal responsibility still has to be interiorized by each of us. Such maturity is vigorously opposed by the downward pull of regressive tendencies and overidentification with national, ethnic, tribal and religious groups from which we draw our sense of belonging and self-worth. These regressive tendencies hinder us from taking responsibility for the injustices that are perpetuated in the name of our particular community.”

-Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love


In this session’s video Fr. Thomas says, “…As humanity moves to the intuitive level, or as more and more individual people, through the spiritual journey, access the energy that we call the intuitive level of consciousness…we perceive intuitively the oneness of the human family; we feel the sufferings of other people.” It is when we are able to feel the sufferings of other people and not excuse it as just the way things are that we begin to take responsibility for being a part of the human family and ask, “What can I do or how can I contribute?”

A Meditation

I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs, and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle, and to a movement which has not yet won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize. After contemplation, I conclude that this award, which I receive on behalf of that movement, is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later, all the peoples of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize,” A Call to Conscience

To Practice
  • View the video excerpt “From Contemplation to Action” which is about 26 minutes in length.
  • In this session’s message we talk about the downward pull of regressive tendencies. In your personal spiritual journey you may be experiencing a pull towards contemplative service. Rather than asking “What can I do or how can I contribute?” reflect first on what you are already doing and contributing. How is your contemplative practice informing you?


“From Contemplation to Action, Part 1” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Series Part 4, 26 mins.
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Audio for this Narrative

“From Contemplation to Action, Part 1” excerpted from The Spiritual Journey Series Part 4, 26 mins.
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Resources for Further Study:
You may wish to read Chapter 22, "From Contemplation to Action" from Invitation to Love, Chapter 20 in older editions.

Additional Resources