Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
Return to Invitation to Love
Chapter 12: Anthony in the Tombs: Freedom from Cultural Conditioning
After passing through the night of sense, Anthony arrived at a plateau of relative tranquillity, a period of integration. But soon he felt "an invitation to take another quantum leap of trust in God." He went to live in the tombs, which were regarded as the habitat of demons, a move requiring "a journey away from cultural expectations, stereotypes, and mindsets into an increasing trust in the goodness and power of God." This is an example of moving from mythic membership consciousness to mental egoic consciousness.
Anthony struggled with the demons, enduring great pain and suffering, at first afraid but then passing beyond fear, a characteristic of any important transition. When God finally came to help him, Anthony asked why he had not come sooner. Indeed, why does God let us suffer? Keating reflects on this question with a story of scientists helping a rare butterfly emerge from the cocoon. Though they successfully assist it, they also deprive it of the ability to fly, to function.
"This is a mistake God is not going to make. . . . God holds back his infinite mercy from rushing to the rescue when we are in temptation and difficulties. He will not actively intervene because the struggle is opening and preparing every recess of our being for the divine energy of grace. God is transforming us so that we can enjoy the divine life to the full once it has been established. If the divine help comes too soon, before the work of purification and healing has been accomplished, it may frustrate our ultimate ability to live the divine life."
This letting go of one's cultural conditioning is called the Night of Spirit.