THE BRANDT SERIES – A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS
The Brandt Series
~ A New Consciousness ~
photos and text by Fr. Charles Brandt (except as noted)
In all things there is a “hidden ground of Love”. These are the words of Thomas Merton, my mentor in the life of prayer. He was one of the guides who inspired me to live as a hermit.
In my Anglican days, Dom John Chapman’s Letters taught me Christian meditation and a protege of his, Evelyn Underhill, also was a source of inspiration. Later, it was through the writings of Dom Bede Griffiths, OSB, I found my way into the Catholic Church.
In 1989, I spent two months in father Bede’s Ashram, Saccidananda, South India. There “the hidden ground of Love” confirmed me on the path of “praying always”.
I have come to realize that while we are distinct from this Loving Ground, the Cosmic Christ, we are not separate from Him. Here lies the basis for contemplative prayer. On this foundation we build a life of prayer.
To seek how to “pray always” is not necessary since this stream of love, is always flowing between Jesus and the Father. We simply have to become aware of this Stream of Love.
A Sufi story speaks to this: One day a Lover approached the home of his Beloved. He knocked on the door. A voice within responded to the knocking: “Who it there?” The Lover answered: “It is I”. The voice within spoke, almost sadly: “There is no room here for me and thee.”
The Lover went away and spent much time trying to learn the meaning of the words of his Beloved.
Sometime later he again approached the home of his Beloved and knocked. Once again the voice within asked: “Who is there?” This time the Lover answered: “It is Thou”. And the door opened and he entered the home of his Beloved.
This story in two parts describes two modes of spirituality. Many of us, I think, move from where we sense we are separate from God to where we realize that, although distinct, we are not separate. This realization confirms that we are not separate from our brother and sister, nor from the earth.
At first, my spirituality was more about doing than being: more about fulfilling God’s will than experiencing it. This spirituality of dualism clearly stressed God’s transcendence and separateness from the world.
The second mode of spirituality is less verbal, less speculative. It prefers silence to words. Experience is more important than scholastic terminology.
There is a great desire to experience God. It is in forgetting myself that I find God and discover my true self in God. I feel comfortable in saying “It is Thou”. I come to realize that God’s transcendence necessarily flows into immanence.
Where does contemplation lead one? Since it finds the Ground of Love in all reality, it leads to one’s sisters and brothers: it creates a social consciousness; it leads to a deeper unity and love with and for the earth.
Contemplation leads to transformation. Without being unmindful of the need for change in behaviour, the stress is in the need for a change in consciousness, coming to see reality differently.
As Thomas Berry points out, it is necessary for the human community and the earth community to go into the future as a single sacred community.
The key to this is recognition that while distinct from the Ground of Love, we are not separate.
thomas merton photo
Then we realize our unity and communion with every human being, with the earth and with the universe.
On February 19th Charles turned 92 years of age.
This article originally appeared in 1991. The photos are more recent.
Happy birthday Fr. Charles