Earthly contemplation means to the Christian, we have said, this above all: that behind all that we directly encounter the Face of the incarnate Logos becomes visible... Contemplation does not ignore the "historical Gethsemane, " does not ignore the mystery of evil, guilt and its bloody atonement. The happiness of contemplation is a true happiness, indeed the supreme happiness; but it is founded upon sorrow.
Before examining this more carefully and investigating its consequences, I want to dwell for a moment in the contemplation of God, to ponder His attributes in me, to see, admire, and adore the beauty of His boundless light, insofar as my clouded insight allows. Believing that the supreme happiness of the other life consists wholly of the contemplation of divine greatness, I now find that through less perfect contemplation of the same sort I can gain the greatest joy available in this life.
I could say I believe in every drop of rain that . . . Well, I believe life is a Zen koan, that is, an unsolvable riddle. But the contemplation of that riddle--even though it cannot be solved--is, in itself, transformative. And if the contemplation is of high enough quality, you can merge with the divine.
The Oriental philosophy approaches easily loftier themes than the modern aspires to; and no wonder if it sometimes prattle about them. It only assigns their due rank respectively to Action and Contemplation, or rather does full justice to the latter. Western philosophers have not conceived of the significance of Contemplation in their sense.
Henry David Thoreau
Just as we believe by faith that the greatest happiness of the next life consists simply in the contemplation of this divine majesty, likewise we experience that we derive the greatest joy of which we are capable in this life from the same contemplation, even though it is much less perfect.
Indian monks were the first to choose the garden as the proper setting for their lives, which were devoted to the contemplation of the divine; but with a prophetic eye we may see that the garden will often be dedicated in a like manner: at a later time Greek philosophers, and monks in early Christian days, will retire into theirgardens for united, yet silent, contemplation.
Controlling the position of one's body and keeping a straight back are not contemplation, but can in fact become an obstacle to contemplation... when leaving the body 'uncontrolled' is spoken of, what is meant is simply allowing the body to remain in an authentic, uncorrected condition, in which it is not necessary to modify or improve anything. This is because, since all our attempts at correcting the body come from the reasoning mind, they are all false and artificial.
Everybody should do in their lifetime, sometime, two things. One is to consider death...to observe skulls and skeletons and to wonder what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up-never. That is a most gloomy thing for contemplation; it's like manure. Just as manure fertilizes the plants and so on, so the contemplation of death and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You'll get wonderful things out of that.
One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelization and to seek the good of others: it is the prayer of intercession. Let us peer for a moment into the heart of Saint Paul, to see what his prayer was like. It was full of people: "...I constantly pray with you in every one of my prayers for all of you... because I hold you in my heart" (Phil 1:4, 7). Here we see that intercessory prayer does not divert us from true contemplation, since authentic contemplation always has a place for others.
For contemplation is both the highest form of activity (since the intellect is the highest thing in us, and the objects that it apprehends are the highest things that can be known), and also it is the most continuous, because we are more capable of continuous contemplation than we are of any practical activity.
I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way - an honorable way - in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.
Viktor E. Frankl
Contemplation in the age of Auschwitz and Dachau, Solovky and Karaganda is something darker and more fearsome than contemplation in the age of the Church Fathers. For that very reason, the urge to seek a path of spiritual light can be a subtle temptation to sin. It certainly is sin if it means a frank rejection of the burden of our age, an escape into unreality and spiritual illusion, so as not to share the misery of other men.
Who among us has not suddenly looked into his child's face, in the midst of the toils and troubles of everyday life, and at that moment "seen" that everything which is good, is loved and lovable, loved by God! Such certainties all mean, at bottom, one and the same thing: that the world is plumb and sound; that everything comes to its appointed goal; that in spite of all appearances, underlying all things is - peace, salvation, gloria; that nothing and no one is lost; that "God holds in his hand the beginning, middle, and end of all that is." Such nonrational, intuitive certainties of the divine base of all that is can be vouchsafed to our gaze even when it is turned toward the most insignificant-looking things, if only it is a gaze inspired by love. That, in the precise sense, is contemplation... Out of this kind of contemplation of the created world arise in never-ending wealth all true poetry and all real art, for it is the nature of poetry and art to be paean and praise heard above all the wails of lamentation. No one who is not capable of such contemplation can grasp poetry in a poetic fashion, that is to say, in the only meaningful fashion. The indispensability, the vital function of the arts in man's life, consists above all in this: that through them contemplation of the created world is kept alive and active.
... the word "theory" ... was originally an Orphic word, which Cornford interprets as "passionate sympathetic contemplation" ... For Pythagoras, the "passionate sympathetic contemplation" was intellectual, and issued in mathematical knowledge ... To those who have reluctantly learnt a little mathematics in school this may seem strange; but to those who have experienced the intoxicating delight of sudden understanding that mathematics gives, from time to time, to those who love it, the Pythagorean view will seem completely natural.
Another error is an impatience of doubt and haste to assertion without due and mature suspension of judgment. For the two ways of contemplation are not unlike the two ways of action commonly spoken of by the ancients; the one plain and smooth in the beginning, and in the end impassable; the other rough and troublesome in the entrance, but after a while fair and even. So it is in contemplation; if a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth-that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which a man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of human is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for the brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way-an honorable way-in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.
Viktor E. Frankl
The contemplation of consciousness-which is the contemplation of no-thing whatsoever-is endlessly fascinating. It's like staring at a candle in a dark night-you find yourself mesmerized by something that is unchanging yet infinitely compelling. You feel drawn into something you don't understand rationally but that your heart or soul grasps completely. You are drawn into it, and as you are drawn into it, the only thing you experience as real is the eternal or timeless nature of Being itself. You find yourself in a state of rapture, because the deepest part of yourself has been released from your ego's endless fears and concerns, and drawn out of the time process altogether.
The study of letters is the study of the operation of human force, of human freedom and activity; the study of nature is the study of the operation of non-human forces, of human limitation and passivity. The contemplation of human force and activity tends naturally to heighten our own force and activity; the contemplation of human limits and passivity tends rather to check it. Therefore the men who have had the humanistic training have played, and yet play, so prominent a part in human affairs, in spite of their prodigious ignorance of the universe.