A Historical take


There’s actually quite a heritage of this sort of eclectic experimentation within the Christian tradition.


Exploration of meditative spirituality began no later than with the desert fathers and mothers of the 3rd century, and it exploded among a number of thinkers in Europe in the 14th century, including Catherine of Siena, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart, Thomas a’Kempis and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing. Why this burst of interest in meditation at this time? Most scholars attribute it to the horrific bubonic plague that killed fully half of the population of England and ravaged the continent as well. At this point, the spiritual tradition of solving problems through faith alone was proving inadequate--prayerful families were leaving infected children to die alone for fear of infecting the rest of the family. What could keep faith alive through such a massive catastrophe? The thinkers above--and many others beside them--independently looked to contemplative spirituality as the way through.


But this toggling between faith and spirituality has largely been lost in our era, except perhaps in monasteries. Still, the drive to rediscover this powerful combination has been championed by big-names like Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who said:


“[Contemplative spirituality] is very far from being just one kind of thing that Christians do: it is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of a renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom—freedom from self-oriented, acquisitive habits and the distorted understanding that comes from them. To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit. To learn contemplative practice is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly. It is a deeply revolutionary matter.”