From out of the depths—the way to God through peace of mind joy, patience and charity
By Brigid Mary Waters
WHEN first the theory of the unconscious mind was postulated by Freud it met with ridicule and disgust. Today it has become a commonplace and the writers of novels, magazines and the daily Press take it for granted.
To most people the unconscious exists as a personal dustbin. It is the receptacle of painful memories and the playground of primitive instincts. Wishes that could never be admitted into consciousness lurk in its depths, together with the feelings of guilt that we cannot bear to experience.
To some, the unconscious is filled with the primitive terrors that civilised man has outgrown, and it is the dwelling-place of our shadow self, of mystic symbols, strange intuitions and thought-processes that are not governed by reason.
The life orthe unconscious has its own emotions and when its depths are stirred and the censor is weak, these emotions and symbols reach up into consciousness to become a source of torment to us.
In the well-ordered, reasonable life of the normal personality, however, the unconscious and its conWrits are kept at bay and life may be lived on the conscious plane alone. Such living is often valuable, but it lacks much of the richness that should be the possession of all and to deny the unconscious and its life because we fear it is to show a lack of trust in God and to deny Him sovereignty over a part of His creation.
THE Catholic Church has always
acknowledged the existence of the unconscious mind by the provision she has made for its needs. The rich symbolism of her ritual, her use and sanctification of art and music, have always appealed to the depths of the unconscious mind.
The men of the Reformation, in the pride of their new-found private judgment, cut out all that the Church offered to man's unconscious mind and in so doing paved the way to modem emptiness and disillusionment.
Today the return to the Church of so many intellectuals, the interest in the liturgy that has arisen, and above all the desire of the laity for interior prayer all point to man's need to bring his whole being, conscious and unconscious alike, to the worship and service of the Infinite.
Man seeks for truth, and in the one true Church he finds that God has made provision for all his needs —both conscious and unconscious. The whole personality of man must be integrated and made whole and this wholeness can only be from God and in God.
When the depths of a man's being are laid open to God in prayer, the Holy Spirit will come to him as a cleansing wind and will shine as a blazing light, and God's Will will be done in and through the soul that is completely yielded to Him.
Into the depths
THERE are many Catholics who 1 have spent years in striving to serve God in consciousness. They have given time to vocal prayer and meditation; they have sought to mortify themselves and they have struggled to overcome their besetting sins.
The result of all their effort has been disheartening and they have had an uneasy feeling that they have not come to the heart of the matter. They have seemed like those who have weeded their gardens but not dug out the roots of the bindweed. They have loved God and tried to serve Him but they have been blown
hither and thither by the gusts of their emotions and passions and God has not been the one Reality in their lives. Their lives have not been harmonious, for they have lacked integration.
One day a call has come to them worships Jesus in the Sacrament of through changing circumstances. the Altar, offers itself through His through their reading or maybe Hands as He offers Himself and His through the voice of a friend or conbrethren in the Sacrifice of the Mass fessor. and they have found a way and adores Mini with all created of prayer that has reached down to things and with all the saints in the the depths of their being and brought making in the religious houses
harmony and fulfilment. throughout the world.
God enlightens the soul in the Christ is seen in the persons of prayer of the depths, God reaches the sick and the suffering. He is down to men's unconscious mind and known in all His children and service
deals with the roots of conduct. to them is known to be service to
Moments of joy
THE work of the soul is to rest in stillness and in peace, turning away gently from the distractions that fill the mind when it seeks to dwell in non-activity and nothingness, so that it may contemplate the Infinite.
It may be that many years will be spent in prayer that seems all distraction, but so long as the time be spent in God's Presence and never curtailed because of difficulties and apparent lack of prayer all will be well, and God will work His Will in the depths that arc beyond the reach of man's conscious mind.
Probably there will be times when prayer seems real, when God's Presence is felt, when indescribable joys are experienced, for God will encourage the soul that has abandoned itself to Him and has ventured on this journey through darkness and nothingness, Such times may be rare, and fierce temptations, constant distractions and apparent emptiness are more likely to be the daily experience.
THE fruits of this prayer of the I depths are manifold and those who practise it know themselves to be born again.
Through prayer the mind is enlightened and much that was obscure is clarified. The value of suffering and obedience, the need for humiliations that alone will produce humility are seen in a flash of light, and though pain and the practice of humility and obedience will bring many a struggle, henceforth the will remains firm.
When the soul has seen, the subsequent darkness cannot wholly quench the light.
Through interior prayer the passions are stilled and the force of habit weakened.
God works in the depths and deals with the roots of evil. When the hidden conflicts are resolved, charity and patience become more habitual.
Heaven and earth
;THROUGH prayer, time and
space are eliminated. The soul shares the earthly life of Jesus and Our Lady. It becomes a child with the Child Jesus and an obedient adolescent with Jesus, growing in favour with God and man, and it dares to suffer with the Mother of God at the foot of the Cross.
and offers its adoration to God with cherubim and seraphim, with Mary, Queen of Heaven, and with all the saints, who are the courtiers of heaven.
And all the while it lives on earth,
FEAR is the heritage of man and a constant enemy of spiritual progress. We fear pain and humiliation, we fear loss of prosperity, we fear old age and death. To those who think at all, the state of the world and the possibility of modern war 'are a sourcc. of fear.
The man who prays in the depths of his being finds that the hold of fear upon him is weakened. He may still fear an imminent visit to the dentist or the immediate prospect of an operation, but he no longer suffers from Tong-distance fear or from the vague anxiety that is a common disease of our decaying civilisation.
He does not fear so greatly because he is no longer so concerned with self. Experience in prayer has taught him that he is wholly dependent on God, and in his new-found love that dependence is a source of joy. The trust in God and the love of His Will that have come through interior prayer will gradually eliminate fear.
Peace and Love
THROUGH the prayer of dark" ness carried on in the depths of being, the personality is gradually integrated and re-orientated. God's Will becomes our desire and His interests are our chief concern.
Not in business or fussiness but in peace and love we seek for the extension of Christ's Kingdom and we grieve with Our Lady and the saints because He is still the rejected of men.
We no longer suffer and serve because we must. for we would not have it otherwise. We have learned to use our sufferings and even the humiliations resulting from our faults and mistakes become part of the joyful offering that we make to Him.
The psalms and hymns that we learned in childhood rise again to our minds as we seek to join our praise to the perpetual adoration and praise of earth and Heaven, and we find that we really mean the prayers that so often we have said without thought or even with secret reservations.
INTERIOR prayer strengthens our
desire for the sacraments of God's healing love. and though we were never so conscious of our unworthiness, we were never so filled with desire to receive the Bread of Heaven and to take our part in the Sacrifice of the Mass.
Far from cutting us off from the stream of Catholic life, interior prayer causes us to plunge more ardently into that stream, and the prayer of intercession and the practice of charity take a greater part in our lives than ever before.
There are many who think that the silent prayer which reaches to the depths of the soul can be practised only by men and women who are called to the life of the cloister. They think of it as something that is mystical, esoteric, dangerous and not for ordinary people. It would seem, however, that God calls many people to the practice of simple contemplation today, and if He calls, it is for us to obey.
The call to interior prayer is a call to lay bare the whole of the personality to God so that He may heal it and use it for His glory.
Probably many who practise interior prayer will never know the ecstasies of the mystics, but they will pray as God means them to pray because the Holy Spirit will pray within them. They will wish for no higher form of prayer than that which has been given to them for what He gives is His will for them.
Encouragement THE man or woman who sets out to practise the prayer of the depths will need counsel and encouragement from time to time for he will experience many fierce temptations and often he will feel that he is engaged in phantasy and self-deception.
It is for this reason that he will need the help of a confessor who is himself a man of prayer and good sense. God, who has given the call to prayer, will provide whatever help is needed.
Prayer alone can overcome the final fear, the fear of old age and death, for old age will be a time of leisure in which to pray more deeply, and death is seen to be truly the gate of life, the gate through which we must pass to Heaven, where with our whole beings we shall experience the Joy of ceaseless contemplation, adoration and love of the Eternal in the endless bliss of eternity.