ContemplativeView.com originated with the work of Father Thomas Keating. This site is our response to a growing need for individuals and communities practicing centering prayer, the ancient method of Christian prayer that was rediscovered thirty years ago by Father Thomas Keating and others, and has been championed by the organization, Contemplative Outreach. When reading one of Father Thomas’ books, we’d come across a term or theme that touched us and stirred in us a desire to learn more and deepen our understanding. However, because Father Thomas’ books do not contain extensive indexes or glossaries and span several different publishers over thirty years, finding the meaning or gaining a greater comprehension of the term or theme proved difficult. Therefore, we decided to construct a reference for these terms and themes to make them more readily accessible.
As our research and writing grew in scope and depth, however, we saw that there needed to be more. After all, centering prayer is not simply a technique or an abstract philosophical or theological theory; it is a lived experience, a journey that one undertakes to open oneself up to God. So we added a Reflection section that offers further thoughts and questions for greater contemplation and opportunity to explore the term’s relevance at the present moment.
When we approached Father Thomas with the draft of the reference and reflection guide, we were somewhat concerned that he’d look askance at lay practitioners such as ourselves seeking to codify his varied thoughts. We were delighted that he not only welcomed such a contribution, but began to engage with the text, clarifying some of the definitions of the key terms and phrases and taking the opportunity to re-phrase the published text within which the terms and phrases first appeared.
The result is a book and the content for this website. The result goes substantially beyond its initial conception as a reference guide or concordance. In many ways, this site could serve as a place for the evolution and elaboration of Father Thomas’ core ideas. Because of this, readers should treat the content not as the definitive statement on Father Thomas’ ideas, but as a further voice to the conversation that has been going on for three decades about the experience, meaning, and gifts extending out of the practice of Christian contemplative prayer.
Now to the structure of the site itself. Each term or theme is defined on two levels, reference and reflection. The first level lists the terms, their characteristics, key ideas, and references in Father Thomas’ books and related works. The cited references are not an exhaustive list; they were selected based on their substantive content. The second section consists of an expanded description and a three-phase process for reflecting on the deeper meaning of the term and how it relates to one’s particular circumstances.
The site is intended to support a multi-faceted learning experience that is both active and contemplative. You can proceed at your own pace and participate as much or as little as you wish. You can use it as a simple reference to gain an understanding of a term, or you can use a passage as the impetus for a greater spiritual interaction that moves from the intellectual to the experiential. We believe that, at its deepest level, the content can provide you with the kind of moment that allows you to move to the next step and integrate the term or theme into your spiritual life. In our experience, one’s appetite is whetted for more and one becomes excited to know that God is just waiting to touch, heal, enlighten, and free us!
We are indebted to Father Thomas Keating for his inspiration, patience, and flexibility as this content developed and changed. Father Carl Arico’s suggestions broadened our vision, which led us to develop the reflection section. Gail Fitzpatrick Hopler’s recommendations helped us to refine the presentation of information. The pilot group – Tom Skinner, Elise Kuhn, and Steve Standiford – reviewed the format, applied the reflection process, and provided helpful suggestions. Thank you to Ben Miller and Suzanne Cahoon for their research and editing. We are also grateful to Martin Rowe as well as to Susan Hodara and her writers’ group for their contributions to the preface.
We hope that this site facilitates the process of researching the definition of words used by Father Thomas in his writings. We pray that it expands the contemplative experience of truth as these words are considered and lived.
Larry Todd Wilson