As Contemplative Quest is launched into cyberspace, I am reminded of a September 12, 2013, NY Times article about the NASA Voyager I spacecraft which is astonishingly now exiting our solar system.
Sent into space 36 years ago, the craft has one 240,000th the memory of a low-end iPhone. Drifting between stars, Voyager I sends signals that take 17 hours and 22 minutes to reach a lab here on earth. The probe is 11.7 billion miles from earth streaking 38,000 miles per hour into interstellar space. The outdated instruments on board, including 8-track recorders, still function and data is sent back with a transmitter similar to a refrigerator light bulb. NASA hopes this lagniappe can continue until 2025. Voyager’s far reaching probe is a first for space exploration.
Our website is a first for us, widening the scope of our continual mission involving the contemplative interior quest—the real journey in life. This quest toward “awakening” spoken of in meditative traditions arrives after long probing into the depths of the inner space of our subjective personal self. That is, we prepare a dwelling place for wisdom in which we emerge transformed as we discover our true meaning.
From local and regional engagement to a world wide audience, we evolved from simple, organic, and local beginnings always convinced of the mutually enriching contact with contemplatives of various or no traditional affiliations.
Transfiguration Zendo, our home for meditation practice in Connecticut for over two decades, Contemplative Quest our online presence, and all our programs and services are under the aegis of our non-profit initiative, United Contemplative Institute.
We are most grateful to collaborate with two venerable guides. Rev. Kevin Hunt, OCSO Sensei, has been a major support and our spiritual guide since 2004. Fr. Kevin was very involved in the early pivotal inter-monastic East-West dialogues. Rev. Dr. Robley Whitson, scholar, artist, and poet known for his scholarly writings on the Shakers and his early formulations envisioning the coming convergence of cultures, has been a master mentor, generous inspiration, and contributor to this venture.
To be spiritually integrated we must realize the priority of experience over speculation and the basic oneness of all reality. This requires an authentic liberation from attachment which may be actualized through a spiritual discipline leading to transformation of consciousness. Spirituality is lived not communicated.
“Spirituality” carries inescapable ambiguity much like “psychology.” Spirituality is a fluid term not without confusion about its meaning. Here our context refers to the fundamental dimension of the human being and the lived experience which actualizes our spiritual nature when we discover our true meaning and take a responsible stance.
Spirituality from this point of view has gone through an amazing evolution over the last few decades. Churches and the academy are dealing with increased interest in spirituality by their members. A large number of esteemed secular universities, customarily wary of the encroachment of subjectivism, are offering graduate programs dedicated to contemplation and developing major centers for contemplative exploration.
Spirituality and contemplation have been adopted not only by many religions but by secular movements. An example of this comprehensive expansion is my earlier mentor, Ewert Cousins’ editing of the 25 volume Crossroad series, World Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest.1 Of this expanding series, only three volumes are dedicated to the Christian tradition.
Moving forward, we have to plan for the future. We need to realize the essential in life is something deeper than a role or career. Here we are concerned with the enterprise of total inner transformation and recognize that all other things serve that end. If we break through, by detachment and purity of heart, to the inner mystery of our ordinary experience, we attain a freedom which can’t be touched or affected by others. This liberty and transcendence is possible to reach.
For our internal development, very little seems to be offered. There should be a way whereby our destiny on earth is truly fulfilled and we can develop a higher form of consciousness. When we greet reality with open arms, minds, and hearts just because it is taking place, an alchemy will occur within us, we can be transfigured (the image we use for Transfiguration Zendo [see page] with black background is a way to imagine this). Our spiritual power can make what could remain dormant for us evident as Love and merciful Presence.
Such an awakening to our true identity is a response of intimacy to ourselves—to our name which we already know. This sudden awareness is cultivated by a practical experiential consciousness. Contemplation is a loving and self-critical engagement of our whole person. By emptying ourselves we can meet our deepest human identity and the mystery of communal unity. Opening ourselves to wisdom, to the utter silence of our heart, is a very human responsibility we all must assume. This grand human experience is a form of consciousness which breaks from dualistic notions of sacred and secular since nothing in a non-dual interrelatedness is not sacred.
This contemplative thrust toward the universal today will help foster convergences which can stimulate spiritual balance and restore sanity earlier thought impossible. The practice of the oneness of life reaches everywhere. We all possess the capacity to behold life’s tension of opposites, even the adequacy to grapple with the quasi contrariness of life and death.
Contemplative experience and communal memory of inner wisdom is universal and not confined to private market corners. In a time when the commodification of spirituality is apparently unavoidable, we hope Contemplative Quest will offer people a simplicity and depth to support a practice in the process of self-discovery. For those who desire a profound relationship with life’s Ultimate dimension, we aim to be a supportive presence and inspiration.
A revolution has occurred since the late 1970’s when Voyager I was launched. Every facet of our lives are caught in a sweep of changes, profound and irreversible. Religious experience and differing spiritual traditions including the secular, originating separately from one another, coming to a certain unique present maturity, are complementary dimensions of each other for a greater unity and make possible a novel breadth and depth of vision for humankind in an infinite universe. It is a good thing for us to open our eyes and SEE.
1 World Spirituality, 25 vols., ed. Ewert Cousins (New York: Crossroad, 1985-).