Individuality and Union with God

A reader writes:

Carl, I am a devoted reader of your posts and always find much food for thought there. Thank you for tackling the throny questions of the contemplative life in such an accessible way. Here’s my question that arose from a conversation with a skeptical friend: If the goal of the contemplative is union with God, does the individual begin to disappear and lose his or her unique self (personality, emotions) in pursuing this goal? I have my own theory but I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this question when time allows.

A few thoughts in response. First, I think we misdirect ourselves when we speak of the contemplative life having a “goal” (although, it’s human nature, we all do it). If anything, the “goal” of the contemplative life is not to find God, but to be found by God! We are already united to God, God is already present in our lives, God already lavishly loves us. There is nothing to do (or not do) to make this more or less real. If there is any point or goal to contemplation from a human point of view, it is a means of allowing ourselves to discover what is already there: to reveal what is hidden (remember, “mysticism” is related to “mystery,” that is to say, to the “hidden things” of God).


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  1. Thanks for your response, Carl. “Goal” was an unfortunate word choice, but when you take it away, the question resolves itself, for me, at least.

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