A Playful Spirit – 5 quotes from Thomas Keating’s book – Reflections on the Unknowable

by Mark Votava

41-YNDn2WOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Control, pleasure, and security

“In regards to the development of consciousness from the infant, everyone starts out with almost zero self-consciousness, and begins to build a self that is dependent on parents, teachers, and its culture, along with its experience, temperament, and limitations. The world that we see, and that we are judging all the time, is very prejudiced. We see it through our tinted glasses. In that sense, the world is unreal – not because it is unreal, but because our view of it is. It is built on our desires of what we want it to be and our appetite for control, pleasure, and security. The spiritual life involves recognizing these appetites as illusions of our false self and detaching ourselves from them, without expecting that these problems are going to go away or that suffering is going to disappear. The spiritual life is precisely to lead this divine life in human circumstances that involve both suffering and great joy, which is continuing to evolve. We don’t know where it’s going. We have to learn to take responsibility for the world that we are in. And this we are reluctant to do because it limits some of our desired freedoms.”

2. The true source of human happiness

“The false self manifests itself in the emotional programs for happiness built upon the instinctual needs of human nature for survival and security, affection and esteem, and power and control, as well as over-identification with the social group to which we belong. The latter takes place during our socialization period from about four to eight years of age. The primary activity of the false self is the gratification of its instinctual needs and the acceptance by our social group. The true source of human happiness, which is the experience of God’s living presence, is unknown to it.”

3. The highest experience of God

“The highest experience of God is no experience. It just is. We no longer see the face of Christ because we have in some way become that face. Or more exactly, Christ has become our particular form…”

4. The attitude of listening

“Contemplation may arise from reflection… There remains the attitude of listening: alertness without effort. This kind of contemplation is completely receptive. But it is not just passive. It is an affective kind of receptivity, a peaceful and sometimes delightful being with the silence, presence, or stillness… There are no words, no thoughts, just pure awareness with perhaps the sense of loving or being loved, and the longing for oneness.”

5. Taking part in a playful spirit

“Is life as serious as it looks or feels like much of the time? Or is it more a game in which God invites us to take part in a playful spirit? Sometimes, we seem to be winning; at other times, we seem to have lost everything. God at times embraces us tenderly, and a little later seems to reject us. At times, God may seem both close and far away…”

Which quote do you like the best?

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