Happy Moltmann Monday, y’all! Today’s excerpt comes from The Spirit of Life in his chapter on the theology of mystical experience. I’m giving you the first few sentences for context, but pay attention to the last half particularly.
The Greek philosophers, the [parents] of the Church, and the monastic Fathers comprehended things ‘with their eyes’. They ‘theorized’ in the literal sense of the word (theoreiz in Greek=to look at). We really arrive at understanding when we go on looking at a flower or a sunset or a manifestation of God until this flower is the flower per se, and this sunset is the sunset, and this manifestation of God is wholly God and nothing but God Godself. Then the observer becomes part of the flower, or part of the sunset, or part of God. For through his perception he participates in his object or counterpart, and is transported into it. The act of perception transforms the perceiver, not what is perceived. Perception confers communion. We know in order to participate, not in order to dominate. Theat is why we can only know to the extent in which we are capable of loving what we see, and in love are able to let it be wholly itself. Knowledge, as the Hebrew word (yada) tells us, is an act of love, not an act of domination. When someone has understood, he says: ‘I see it. I love you. I behold God.’ The result is pure ‘theory’, and pure good-pleasure.”
You’ve likely heard me say before I’m not a contemplative. I won’t get into a passionate discussion of why here; suffice it to say I have a hard time sitting around trying to zone out. I have a hard time thinking that is in any way Christian. (Okay, I got into my discussion a leeeeetle bit.) However I’m trying to learn, and stretch myself into the uncomfortable territory that is the great mystical Christian tradition. And I am learning that it is not a zoning out, but a honing in. It is not a removal from the world, but an immersion into the world at the deepest level. This is why I love the phrase “perception confers communion.” That phrase makes me want to practice meditation daily, just for the hope that I can get a taste of that happening in me. It is when we return to that feeling of being transported into something so much bigger and wider and more loving and present and real, which is to say, being transported into the presence of God. You have to set your intention to be present to it, but you can’t go there like you walk to the store. You have to be lifted, transported there. You have to set yourself in such a place that you can be carried into it.
And it doesn’t carry you away. It carries you in and with. It confers communion. And isn’t that our goal?