Father Bede Griffiths on Contemplation

We are posing the question: “What does it mean to be human?” and we are considering the “10 C’s” for the answers they give us.  We are currently meditating on the “C” called Contemplation. 

Intense contemplation with prayer beads. Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash.

Father Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine monk who lived over fifty years in an ashram in India and was a pioneer in interfaith or deep ecumenism, offers us his wisdom on contemplation.  He writes:

Intuition cannot be produced. It has to be allowed to happen. But that is just what the rational mind cannot endure. It wants to control everything. It is not prepared to be silent, to be still, to allow things to happen. Of course, there is a passivity of inertia, but this is an ‘active passivity’. It is what the Chinese call wu wei, action in inaction. It is a state of receptivity.

Here Bede Griffiths speaks out about the power of stillness and of allowing things to happen. This way is an offense to the rational mind. It is a “state of receptivity.” The via negativa  teaches us these matters. There we learn letting go and letting be.

Father Bede Griffiths explains his near death experience and how it impacted his spiritual insight with particular emphasis on the Divine Feminine and Nondualistic mind. Originally posted to YouTube by YourSpiritualGuide

Bede teaches: There is an activity of the mind which is grasping, achieving, dominating, but there is also an activity which is receptive, attentive, open to others. This is what we have to learn. The classical expression of this intuitive wisdom is to be found in the Tao Te Ching, which speaks of the Spirit of the Valley and the Mystic Female.

Bede Griffiths believes that the East is better at the via negativa, which allows things to be themselves, than is the hyperactive West. This “intuitive wisdom” has a feminine dimension to it. Griffith is addressing patriarchy’s failures. Do you sense a correctness in what he is proposing?

Resting along the way – in the way. Photo by Eduardo Flores on Unsplash.

Bede speaks to the need for “repose.”  A hurried and hurrying society like the West finds this quite foreign.  To return to the root is repose. These are the principles which underlie the wisdom of the East, which the West has to discover and which China and the East have to recover if the world is to find its balance.

In modern times, says Bede Griffiths, we are out of balance because we have lost the healthy path of repose that leads to the root. The East used to excel at repose but today the East too is losing its balance.  This imbalance is as true of China and other Asian nations as it is of Europe and America. Activism is a disease of modern peoples. Do you sense this same imbalance in yourself? In your culture? What are you doing to find balance again?

Father Bede is not alone in calling for “repose.”  Consider Meister Eckhart: “If I were asked to give valid information concerning what the Creator’s aims were when he created all creatures, I would say: ‘Repose.’”  To be continued

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, pp. 241-243.

And Matthew Fox, “Sermon 27: How all creatures experience the divine repose,” in Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, p. 380.

Banner Image: Fr. Bede Griffith (second from left) leading a retreat in Denmark circa June 1984. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Dialogcentret billedarkiv.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Father Bede that the rational mind “cannot endure” contemplation and receptivity? 

Is this a price we pay for patriarchal consciousness, the compulsion to control?

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3 thoughts on “Father Bede Griffiths on Contemplation”

  1. Avatar

    Beautiful. “The path of repose.” If we could sit and contemplate in this path, we would be able to accept the gifts of this pandemic. We could pause deeply and move slowly toward a society, a world, that works for ALL.

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