Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 13. The Fruits of the Night of Sense
The night of sense is a step toward the dismantling of the false self. In so doing, it releases the powerful energies of the unconscious that enable us to transcend mental egoic consciousness and relate to God and other people with more freedom. It makes us able to take more substantial spiritual food.
The main fruit of the night of sense is humility. We come to realize how little we can do without God. But "when the emotional programs dry out and begin to crumble, they make a last stand to resist their demise." In the night of sense we are challenged by negative emotions which test our commitment. "When dryness and temptation are prolonged, everything in us wants to call a halt to the spiritual journey and hopes we will never have to start again. If we walk away from our commitment to the journey, the false self goes with us. Wherever we go, we will have to face it again under other circumstances."
Keating compares the spiritual commitment to that of marriage. Love makes one vulnerable. Married people lower their defenses and allow their dark sides to show, causing conflict which can break up marriages. But those who persist and learn from their experience (assuming they had good reasons for marriage in the first place) learn to grow and mature together.
Similarly, in the spiritual journey God leads us to a higher evolutionary level of consciousness, that of intuition, which is beyond the mental egoic stage. Just as perception is associated with physical faculties, intuition is part of our spiritual faculties. Keating identifies intuition with Teresa of Avila's infused recollection, prayer of quiet, prayer of union, and prayer of full union.
"At each level of human development, God offers himself to us just as we are." Transitions between developmental and spiritual states are difficult but necessary; they are associated with both positive and negative emotions. That is why spirituality requires both devotion to God and service to others. This twofold focus keeps us safe on our spiritual journey, like the banks of a river that channel it toward the sea. Our motives for persevering are more important than our motives for beginning.