Keating on Contemplative Prayer


„What Goes On in the Inner Room?

Two things take place in the inner room. The first is the affirmation of our basic goodness; the second is the purification of the unconscious. The latter is the healing of the repressed emotional material of a lifetime that has been stored in the body as in a warehouse. I call this process of healing the “unloading” of the unconscious. Until it is evacuated, the energy of negative material continues to influence our behavior and decisions all though life. This pattern is challenged and gradually dismantled if we accept Christ’s invitation to join him in the radical healing and transformation of our spiritual faculties (intellect and will) into the divine mode of functioning. The process of transformation takes place primarily through the exercise of the Theological Virtues of faith, hope, and charity, enhanced by the Fruits and Seven Gifts of the Spirit.

The deeper the interior silence, the greater the physical rest the body experiences. The rest is partially due to not thinking deliberately. It is also due to the increase of trust in God that is the result of the affirmation of our basic goodness communicated to our spirit in the inner room. This affirmation may take the form of a sense of God’s presence, interior peace or being forgiven, that everything is okay, that God is taking care of us and that there is nothing to worry about.

All of these are different means that God uses to reassure us not only when we are in the inner room, but also in the course of everyday life. God’s desire is to heal the depths of our unconscious motivation that is the chief obstacle to divine love. In this way our whole being can be filled with the Holy Spirit and the inpouring of divine love. Paul puts it in this way: “The love of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Every time we let go of some glob of undigested emotional material repressed in early childhood, the Holy Spirit rushes in and fills that space by increasing or activating the Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit. Sometimes, after the period of prayer and because of the new space that is now present within us, our mind clarifies. We begin to see certain dynamics of our unconscious that had been hidden from us, or how much energy we put into trying to make the emotional programs for happiness work. No amount of effort to make them work ever succeeds.

However, the more at peace we are and the more deeply we rest in God during prayer the faster and more completely the undigested emotional material of a lifetime is evacuated. This is called in the Christian Contemplative tradition, the purification of the soul. Modern psychology since Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) has recognized the existence of the unconscious. This is an enormous insight not only for medicine and psychotherapy but for the Spiritual Journey. We can now recognize that growth in mental health is also growth in the spiritual life.”


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