IMAGE is copyrighted by The Ecumenical Institute, a division of the Church Federation of Greater Chicago. The Ecumenical Institute was founded by concerned citizens and churchmen as a result of a resolution offered in the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Evanston in 1954. It is a not­for­profit organization chartered by the State of Illinois. The institute is dependent for support upon gifts, deductible for tax purposes, from individuals, corporations, religious bodies and foundations.

IMAGE is an occasional journal. It is intended to provide the reader with the insights, models and methods that have emerged directly from the Institute's fifteen years of experimentation and research in contextual re­education, social reformulation and human motivation. Each issue is an IMAGE of a style of life for the universal human citizens of tomorrow's world. Price: $1.00.

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The publication of this issue of IMAGE is a sign of a major turning point in the life and work of the staff of The Ecumenical Institute and in the course of the Church in the twentieth century. In the last two years the staff of the Institute, as a research body on behalf of the whole Church, has been struggling with the implications of the global cultural crisis as it has been illuminated by recent events that have shattered the composure of every human being who is sensitive to what is going on. Such events have signaled the collapse of the optimistic social activism that characterized the mood of the Church in the sixties.

Today the man of faith is raising again the deep questions of human destiny that drive him back to reflect on his interior solitary existence. And it is here that he experiences the confusion and frustration that illuminate the depth human need to re­contextualize all over again what it means to pray in the twentieth century, or better, what it means to be a religious man in a totally secular context. Every man knows that prayer is not some kind of spiritual magic. The crucial need is to rediscover what prayer is.

The deep question of what it means to create a new secular piety for the twentieth century religious man has compelled the research staff of The Ecumenical Institute to undertake a depth examination of the devotional life of the individual, or the solitary religious practices of meditation, contemplation and prayer. The theoretical research and practical experimentation in the corporate life of the staff have been systematically organized in the following document on the solitary religious life. This issue of IMAGE is offered, however, not as a presentation of completed research in the form of a finished model, but rather as an invitation to participate along with us in the shaping of the new religious mode of existence through the creation of a solitary office that orders the solitary life of every man. This document, in its present form of a working paper, is offered to our friends and colleagues who have deeply struggled with prayer in their lives as a crucial dimension of being human.

The chaos of our times demands that spirit men forge out methods to enable the emergence of the spirit dynamic in every human life. The research of the Institute in the religious dimension has since its beginning dealt with the practical methods of enabling human spirit decisions. The imperative to share this particular aspect of the continuing research reflects the demand in our day to create the new religious life style for the new global man.

We urge your own participation in responding to this imperative through your own practice of the solitary office and we invite your comments on the document particularly in the light of your own experience.



1. Man in the twentieth century aha experienced a profound alteration in the basic images of reality by which he lives. As he encounters explosive change across the globe, he cannot escape the awareness that the new world has called radically into question every political and economic system and every symbolic universe that has sustained human society in the past.

2. The crisis of today is a crisis inhumanness itself. It raises the question of what it means to be a human being who is present to the sheer mystery of his existence in a universe radically different from the past. It demands that humanness be invented anew through the creation of symbols which articulate man's experience of his relationships.

3. The signal contribution of religion in any era is in its invention of humanness. Authentic religion offers recognition of final mystery: it articulates that "otherness" man is finally faced with. It offers man a symbolic universe as a context for dealing self-consciously with his life experience. Authentic religion creates a story which articulates the secret of fully human existence. It becomes the life story by which selfhood or un-selfhood is measured. Authentic religion creates a life style that relates man's self-understanding to his practical decision-making.

4. The form in which humanness is articulated is the religious metaphor or poetic image that is born from the consciousness of one's consciousness-form the process of reflecting on one's self-awareness. It is the primordial of Ur image which captures for a particular cultural ethos a mode of existence in relation to man's encounter with the mysteriousness ofd life. The primordial Ur image bridges the gap between one's idea of life and his practical life decisions, allowing one's subjective response to the synthesized with the objective situation in a concrete life response.

5. The task of the religious, the People of God, is to create humanness out of chaos. The religious must perceive the chaos of the time and out of his self­consciousness must construct the life metaphor that articulates a religious mode, or a way for every man to be human in the midst of history.


6. Man in the twentieth century is becoming aware of a basic mutation in human consciousness and thus in the basic Ur images that have defined humanness. For the first time in history mankind is experiencing a universal upheaval in consciousness: every continent, every people, every individual, and every stage of life is affected. For the first time in history man is aware that he creates his own self­consciousness. This mutation in humanness was born out of the global cultural revolutions of the twentieth century.

7. The revolution in common sense has given man a scientific comprehension of the universe and altered his images of human participation in it. The revolution in common style has shifted the basic orientation of man from images reflecting past patterns to the creation of future possibilities. Under the impact of accelerating social change the simple rhythms of nature, the intimate, and the provincial have given way to the complexity of historical variation, the anonymous, and the comprehensive. Today the entire world is an emerging cosmopolis in form and mentality. The revolution in common mood of man has replaced the assumed authority of the past with intentional temporal models forged out of the insight of the times as a means of determining the future.

8. Man in the twentieth century experiences the demand to create his own future by creating his own self­consciousness, and thus the demand for a new religious mode of existence articulated through the self'­conscious transformation of the basic Ur images by which he lives. He is aware that he has grasped his hunnanness out of a particular prirnordial invention which is only one of' several Ur images emphasizing different, though equally significant, aspects of what it means to be human. This awareness is the first step in creating a new, universal invention of humanness embodying the gifts of all the Ur images in a new religious mode.

9. A religious mode, in any age, is that ethos of a time and a people by which man is related to the final mystery of existence itself. It is that style out of which his every relationship is defined. It is that ground out of which he is enabled to forge his own particular self'­understanding. The religious mode demanded in the last third of the twentieth century is for the first time not the mode of a people but the most of all peoples. Nothing less than a universal religious mode is demanded of our time.

10. Every religious node is expressed concretely in social structures, or it becomes an esoteric system or abstraction that is not a mode of existence. A religious mode is embodied in the social vehicle which holds it in being. In order to change a given complex of social structures it is necessary to revolutionize the mindset which sustains it. It is the transformation of human spirit through the bringing into being of a new religious mode which gives man permission to invent a new social vehicle.

11. Today the demand upon every human being is to participate in creating the new global political, economic, and cultural structures of a social vehicle that will offer the possibility

of humanness to every man. Those men of the spirit who respond to this demand - the

People of God - know that the only strategy that will make possible the creation of a new

social vehicle for the globe is the intentional creation of a new religious mode that is the spirit revolution itself. The decision to embody this new religious mode in one's solitary

being, his corporate being, and his spirit journey is that without which nothing new is

created in history.


12. Every man in our age, regardless of his social and religious context, stands present to the totality of existence in three fundamental ways. He is driven to order the chaos that surrounds him, to extend his consciousness to the edge of the knowable, to continue his journey of increasing the sphere of consciousness. He is also driven to accomplish, to give meaning to his life through participation in society, to grasp his significance as related to ever­broadening the scope of his action.

13. Yet knowing and doing are finally not adequate ways of describing man. He discovers in knowing that he knows nothing, and that all of his knowing throws him over the abyss. He

grasps all his doing as impotent, and thus all his doing throws him over the abyss. He is the one who is unsynonymous with his knowing and his doing, yet his being is the intensification of both which utterly transforms them. Man's being is a style whereby he stands present to all of his life and therein creates history - a style which in our day is that of transparency.

These facts are imperious; they cannot be wished away. They cannot be prayed or cursed out of existence. It is as futile to ignore them as to run away from them. We have no choice, then, but to come to terms with them. It is surely clearer every day that the times have caught up with us but we have not caught up with the times.

-John Cogley

What is needed is a chance to

rearrange the elements of

the Western vision.

-Carl Oglesby

We will not reach that goal today or tomorrow. Perhaps we will not reach it until the end of our life. But seeking it is the greatest adventure of our age. We may be impatient at times with the weight of our obligations, the complexity of decision, the agony of choice. But for us there is no comfort or security in evasion, no solution in abdication, and no release in irresponsibility.

-John F. Kennedy

It is the loneliness of a man who knows he will not live to see the mystery of life solved, and who, furthermore, has come to believe it will not be solved when the first humanly synthesized particle begins-if it ever does-to multiply itself in some unknown solution. It is really a matter, I suppose, of the kind of questions one asks himself.

-Loren Eiseley

The judgment of the future upon the present is not a matter of claiming allegiance to certain abstract eternal values or ideals, but of quite specific technological and political goals. They are defined and given concreteness in the midst of the dialogue between our vision of man and of what he can become and tile situation in which we find ourselves.

-Richard Shaull

14. Man in the twentieth century experiences his existence as radical discontinuity with all he has known, done, or been. As he faces the collapse of his knowing and the frustration of his doing, he is driven to raise the question of his being anew out of the explosion of new depths in his self­consciousness. Every human being has been thrown into a depth struggle against the primordial mystery at the center of life itself. That struggle is finally a solitary struggle in which the new face of God is created by man's solitary primal decisions and those alone.

15. Humanness always manifests itself in myth, rite, and symbol which hold any religious mode in being and are manifestations of that mode. Man in the twentieth century, having been thrown into his solitary struggle with the mystery of his existence, experiences with every solitary man in history the demand to forge a solitary office which will hold him before the white hot intensity of the final mystery.

16. The solitary office is that human act that is at the very core of both the religious mode and the social vehicle of the times. It is a particular enactment whereby the religious mode is created and sustained. The myths, rites, and symbols of a people are discovered anti created by those human beings who shape the consciousness of a time and place. At the same time the religious mode is the primary context in which a solitary office is performed; the office itself is informed by and takes its shape from the mode in whicl1 it is enacted. The Moslem shalom six times a day could come into being only in the Islamic religious mode.

17. The solitary office is simultaneously that human act whicl1 creates and sustains the social vehicle of a people. As that unique, unrepeatable act of the will is performed, it concretizes the religious mode in selfhood, demanding a spirit decision to create a new politics, economics, education, symbol, and style. The social vehicle in turn prescribes the context within which that spirit decision is forged. The psychotic is the person whose solitary is out of step with his society. Revolution takes place by means of those solitaries done on the rim of the psychotic abyss, unrelated to the social vehicle of the day, while at the same time the revolutionary remains utterly a part of that vehicle. The solitary office is the core of the spirit discipline of the People of God at any given moment in history, and manifests itself in a covenantal rule with colleagues and reality itself.

18. Man in the twentieth century stands as a solitary Being before the awesome task of creating that which never was. The solitary office is that spirit exercise by which he decides to be the being that history demands.



and in Oriental civilization in the short space of twenty years human spirit has created Communist China. It was the solitary by which Mao Tse­tung lifted the Chinese nation from feudalism to the point of capturing the imagination of the voiceless people of the world.


21. The solitary is that human act whereby history itself is forged. Although history is finally created only by a body of individuals who unite themselves in a common deed, it is the individual's spirit decision that gives particular shape to human life. Every decision has its own unique form, and that form is determined in the act of the solitary. Human beings are basically related to raw existence or nature, to society or other human beings, and to the spirit dimension or the matrix of intentionality. As a people who have decided to stand before the final mystery-the enigmatic power that drives man this way and that-the solitary People of God call that power Father, taking a relation to that power as the source of their very being. The solitary is that act that releases man from all those vain irnaginings that draw him away from that life decision. As a people who have decided to embrace their lives as they are exposed by that event that destroys their illusions about life the People of God know that their real life is affirmed in the Word of that event. The solitary is that act whereby all other words about life are relativized and made subservient to the Word. As a people who have decided to live out their lives as utterly free people who are utterly obedient to the way life is, the People of God are thus finally responsible for forging the destiny of mankind. The solitary is that act whereby they individually actualize that responsibility.


22. In the deeps of human existence the solitary deals with the relationship which human beings take to the structure of being­in­itself. Man becomes human only before the final mystery of life that is totally unsynonymous with his existence. Humanness begins at the moment a human being is faced with the dread of non­being. When man faces the fact of his death-that his existence is nothing more than a burst of energy into the great abyss­- then it is that he becomes human. It is by means of the solitary that he faces non­being concretely. All abstract considerations of death in the world do not enable man to be the human being that he is. The solitary is an act of the will hereby man looks clearly at his death and therefore at the death of all things. And that death is dread­filling. But he also emerges as a conscious being before the dread of being. The depth human fear that all human

Ho! Ye Sun, Noon, Stars.

all that move in the heavens,

I bid you hear me!

Into your midst hath come a new life

Consent ye, I implore!

Make its path smooth,

that it may reach the brow of the first hill.

Ho! All ye of the heavens.

All yue of the air, all ye of the earth.

I bid you all hear me!

Into your midst hath come a new life.

Consent ye all, I implore!

Make its path smooth.

then shall it travel beyond the hills.

-Onlalla Indians

'Touch ultimate emptiness,

Hold steady and still.

All things work together.

When you know

What eternally is so,

You have stature

And stature means righteousness.

And righteousness is kingly

And divinity is the Way

Which is final.

Then, though you die,

You shall not perish.

--Lao Tzu

lives is the fear of the "just­thereness" of life. Alan is always going about imagining that one day he will live, that today he is not yet living. But the way life is is that his life is his life just as it is given. When he faces that, he lives. The solitary is that act by which man brings his total attention, his total existence to bear on the facticity of his life. When this occurs, new life or resurrected life, life in all its fullness, rushes into his existence. This experience in life is the deepest dread of all, as man sees that he is in fact a new man. The man of faith knows that his only choice is suicide or crucifixion. The solitary is that act by which he makes that decision over and over again. And yet in the midst of the dread of life, humanness emerges at the same time as a depth fascination before the final mystery. As a human being faces the primordial chaos, he is utterly fascinated by non­being. Man faces his death and becomes absorbed with dying that death. The solitary is that act whereby he moves into that absorption. Humanness also comes to be when man faces his "showed­up-ness" and becomes utterly fascinated by being, or by creation itself. His task is to respond to that fascination with death and showed­up-ness by affirming, a world in perpetual change. To speak confessionally, it is only in his response, his eager response to the Lord of history, that man becomes a full human being. This response is the solitary. In dread and fascination is found the creep human awe that enables human beings to be human. The solitary office is an individual rite which confronts man with the nothingness of life as well as the something-ness of life. Awe is experienced before everything that is when man stands as fully human. The solitary deals with the phenomenology of all existence, and in so doing creates life in all its manifestations.


23. The secular, revolutionary, and universal world of the twentieth century demands that man today bring into existence a new solitary office. The imperative of the transmutation of consciousness-whereby man consciously forms his own consciousness -- is the imperative to create a new symbolic life. The solitary office is the center of that new consciousness of consciousness of consciousness. The secular world demands that man intentionally forge out those symbols and patterns of relationships which allow him to decide his own life freely as he knows it grounding in all of history. The revolutionary world demands that man constantly forge new structures of civilization within a corporate group. The new solitary office must enable the revolutionary stance. It must also enable man to participate as a universal man by being the source and expression of his decision to stand before the mystery in the Word that all of life-all of creation-is received and good as it is. The symbolic life of the solitary is that which will finally sustain the secular, revolutionary, and universal which is humanness itself.



24. Three fundamental dimensions of man's solitary struggle have formed his solitary office throughout the ages. In contemplation man encounters the abyss in which he stands utterly present to the final mystery at the center of life. In meditation, an encounters a host of colleagues in the solitary struggle, allowing their insights to inform his struggle. In prayer, man encounters the demands of history, lifting before his gaze the past and present as they focus on the future of civilization and assuming responsibility for all that will be.

25. The construct of the solitary office corresponds to the solitary experience of life in which man grasps after the deeps of existence through the human activities of meditation, contemplation, and prayer. Though these activities intermingle in life and are interrelated in the solitary office, they are here treated as three distinct entities, designed intentionally to hold man present to the totality of life. The task of creating consciousness in the twentieth century always requires comprehensive structuring of the symbolic life, which exposes man to the depth and breadth of human experience as he encounters the primordial deeps and the enigmatic future.

26. As man faced the assault of the future which demanded life and death decisions of him, one of the ways he coped with this demand to face the unknown was through reflecting on the wisdom of his "ancestors." Every man has ancestors whose lives, deeds, and sayings inform his imagination and consciousness. To meditate is to reflect self­consciously on one's actual and projected relation to those who inform his imagination. The issue for man in the twentieth century is disclosed in the fact that he is free to create his own conscience, to choose who will and who will not be his imaginal ancestors.

If it had been a question in my lifetime of choosing a spiritual guide, a guru as the Hindus say, a father as say the monks at Mount Athos, surely I would have chosen Zorba. I watched Zorba dance and whinny in the middle of the night, heard him call me to leap up in my own turn from the agreeable heaven of prudence and custom in order to depart with him on great voyages from which there was no return, and there I sat, motionless and shivering. I have been ashamed many times in my life because I caught my soul not daring to do what supreme folly-the essence of life-called on me to do. But never felt so ashamed of my soul as I did in front of Zorba. -Nikos Kazantzakis At that time I had a chance to read Thomas Merton's autobiography. Despite my rejection of Merton's theistic world view, I could not keep him out of the room. He shouldered his way through the door. Welcome, Brother Merton. 1 give him a bear hug. Most impressive of all to me was Merton's description of

New York's black ghetto-Harlem. I used to keep his passage in mind when delivering lectures to other prisoners. Whenever I felt myself softening, relaxing, I had only to read

that passage to become once more a rigid flame of indignation. I vibrate sympathetically to any protest against tyranny.

-Eldredge Cleaver

27. The construct for meditation includes both formal categories for identifying and selecting friends and phenomenological categories describing levels of experience in meditation. There are four types of meditative friends: (1) Permission­giving friends act as Mediators of the Christ­Word, giving man unlimited permission to appropriate the horror and possibility of his life as profoundly significant. (2) Demanding friends act as Priors or self­chosen "fathers" who recall man to his unlimited obligation to his neighbor and require that he be present to the universal and particular demand on his life. (3) Style­exemplifying friends, ancient and contemporary, who have embodied a revolutionary life style in forging the future become one's Saints. (4) Transpositional friends are one's Colleagues of the past who cry out to him to complete their work and who depend on his decision for their historical existence.

28. The phenomenological levels of encounter with one's imaginal friends are, first, the initial Impact; secondly, the Address; thirdly, the Dialogue; and finally the Communion. The ever-deepening life responses to the address of friends begin at the first level with the "hearing" of what is being said. Having intentionally held himself open to this address at the second level, the meditator then enters into dialogue at the third level, saying "yes" and "no" as the free man he is. At the level of communion the friends join forces and become one in new­found knowledge.

29. The selection of spirit friends is facilitated by a comprehensive space/time chart. One might possibly select friends on a daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. The typology suggested here would fit a daily selection, with seven temporal categories and four spatial categories. The seven temporal categories would include futuric friends (imagined, e.g. 2050 A.D., contemporaries, friends from modern history, the medieval period, ancient history, organic life and inorganic matter from the primordial past, and mythical friends. The four spatial categories would include the West, the East, the South, and the Cosmos (e.g. Planet "X" in Galaxy 0537). Inclusiveness is enhanced in the space/time chart by the identification of roles such as teachers, actors, intimates, and the People of God. Types of media through which one encounters friends include literary works, art objects, and recordings. The task of comprehensively ordering and intentionally selecting spirit friends for the practice of meditation in the solitary office requires sensitivity to one's own spirit deeps, the historical drama, and especially to the ordering of time for post-modern man in the secular world.


30. Contemplation is the activity in which the self probes the depths of its being as being­in-relation to the mystery of all that is. Contemplation is designed to bring to consciousness the struggle to be one's being while aware of the utter objectively of one's encounter with the mystery. The content and method of contemplation are designed to bring this awareness to consciousness througl1 the disciplined focus of body, mind, and spirit on a particular myth, rite, and symbol.

31. The construct for contemplation includes both formal categories for ordering the reality which is encountered in the act of contemplation and phenomenological categories describing levels of experience in contemplation. The attention of the self is engaged in contemplation of its relationships to the Other, the Past, the Future, and the Self through methods which push consciousness beyond rationality to a depth encounter with the mystery.

I am being driven forward
Into an unknown land.

The pass grows steeper.
The air grows colder and sharper.
A wind from my unknown goal
Stirs the strings
Of expectation
Still the question:
Shall 1 ever get there?
There where life resounds
A clear pure note
In the silence

It occurs to you in a flash; I might just as well never have existed. Other people, however, seeing you with a guaranteed salary, a bank account, and a briefcase under your arm, assume that you take your existence for granted. What you are can be of interest to them, not that you are.

--Dag Hammarskjold

32. A new consciousness of the self in relation to the Other may be created by encountering one of the Ur images expressing the depth of humanness invented by another culture, through the use of a story or myth from that culture, a rite using the body in a gesture or posture unique to that people, or a geographical symbol of that region that enhances global awareness. Alan's perception of the self in relation to the task and the Future is heightened as he stands self­consciously before the totality of time and space through symbols of another historical period or through the use of the body in the rhythmic and spatial dimensions of the dance. This heightened awareness of the self in relation to the Other, the Past, and the Future brings about an expanded consciousness of the Self in relation to itself in its knowing, doing, and being. Through symbols which hold him present to what he knows, such as a rood screen or montage, man grasps the comprehensiveness and depth of his knowing. Through contemplation of the effectiveness of his deeds and through the strain, tension, and pain of extreme bodily gestures and postures, man senses anew the physical dimension of the self in its doing. Through the story he tells himself about who he is in the midst of these relationships and in the midst of this solitary act as he contemplates his style, his stance, and his decisions, man struggles to perceive his being. Thus contemplation increases consciousness of the mystery of the self in relation to the otherness, the "not-me-ness" of all its relationships. Methods such as these are not contemplation; they simply create the possibility of the contemplative act.

33. The phenomenological levels of experience of one's relationships in contemplation are, first, the Encounter; second, the Entrapment; third, the Collegiality; and finally the Adoration. St. John of the Cross wrote a classic description of what happens in contemplation using the categories of the Preparation, the Descent, the Dark Night of the Soul, and the Ecstasy. Initially man encounters anew his life as it is. Struggling again with all that is there, he knows himself as a strange being of unknown future and ungracious past. He falls, perhaps, into an immediate sensing of the offensive dread, the shame, and the emptiness of the moment. There may follow that raw experience of the painful uncertainty, the inevitability, and tile total chaos of all being, which has been called the Dark Night of the Soul. The final awareness which may sometimes occur is the transfigurational moment in which all is seen as one through the ecstatic vision (or decision) that all that is, just as it is, is good. Then life comes together as one fabric as the solitary office culminates in the transparency of the self in the ecstatic love of God.



34. As man's life is engaged in creating deeds necessary to civilization, he constantly engages in acts of repentance and acceptance, of gratitude and supplication. This is the prayer life of every man. Prayer in the solitary office is the articulation of that ongoing human activity by which man symbolizes and orders the investiture of his life in the world. In prayer man decides his relationships and thus reveals his life stance as he chooses to be present to the totality of life, past, present, and future. Prayer is the creative freedom that brings to be what never was before. Out of the nothingness at the center of one's being comes something. Prayer is the deep resolve to create humanness in the midst of man's particular situation in which he is overcome by the mystery. No man prays alone; no one creates out of nothing without standing on the shoulders of colleagues from the beginning of humanness itself and within a particular historical community. In prayer man takes responsibility for the future, risking his selfhood in mortal combat with the way life itself is to create a model for what needs to happen. Prayer dares to shift the universe, and yet prayer arises only out of man's awareness of his radical inadequacy and concerns only that which is impossible.

35. The historic practices of prayer, described by the formal categories of Confession, Gratitude, Petition, and Intercession, hold one open to the methods by which man has grasped after his creatureliness as he relates to himself, others, and the final mystery. Confession is the acknowledgment of the sinfulness of man and one's own participation in that reality. Gratitude is the articulation of the decision that the world as it is given is good, and the awareness of tile particular givenness of one's life as good. In Petition one prays as the church, assuming responsibility for the church's life in its universal, historical, and local forms. In Intercession the church takes responsibility for the whole world in the past, present, and future.

36. Through the construct of prayer in the solitary office man recreates and participates in life at the levels of experience described by the phenomenological categories of the Burden of the world, the Passion of engagement, the Intervention in history, and the Expenditure of life. The Burden is that of realizing the demands of the world upon the man of faith. Passion is the awareness that the individual himself is responsible for what is happening. Intervention is creating a plan for what is needed in the concrete situation. In expenditure one joyously gives himself to the realization of that prayer in history. To pray authentically is to actualize oneself as one thrust in history.

37. To enable the activity of prayer in the self­conscious practice of the solitary office, men of all cultures and faiths have used a variety of aids including literary constructs, plastic arts, rhythmic instruments, and bodily movements. Prayer books and prayer charts provide a comprehensive model of intercessory concerns, scheduled systematically to hold man intentionally before all aspects of life for which he takes responsibility as a man of faith. The plastic arts provide him with other tools like the rosary, prayer beads, and the prayer wheel, which serve much the same function, while rhythmic instruments like the gong, drum, bell, and rattle provide an emphatic accent to his prayers or guide him through the stages of his spirit exercises. David's psalms of praise were often accompanied by the lute or harp which provided a musical mood or setting for his prayers. Bodily movements such as postures (bowing, kneeling, sitting cross­legged, prostration), gestures (bowed head, clasped or uplifted hands, or outstretched arms), speech (chant, public voice, ecstatic cry, laugh, moan) and the dance (ecstatic whirling of the dervish) accent his responses and enable him to express more fully his deepest struggles as he prays.


38. The structure of the solitary office as meditation, contemplation, and prayer is grounded in man's experience of his humanness. It enables the secular religious man to struggle self­consciously with the depth dimension of his life before the final mystery. Meditation, contemplation, and prayer serve as an intentional form by which man in the post­modern world can create his own consciousness. They are a religious mode of existence for secular society as it grasps after its real source of power and creative impulses.

Prayer chart goes here



39. The solitary office confronts man with his actual life situation as the only context in which he can operate and requires that he make a solitary decision about his relationship to the given situation. Within this confrontation is the objective Word in Jesus Christ, the presence of which proclaims that the situation in which man finds himself is good, received, and approved. The Word thus becomes the imperative that he grasp the actuality of his situation as open to the future. This experience is at the center of the solitary office. One is never without a relationship to his situation. Finally one is related concretely to all of life only through the particularity of his given situation. One's selfhood or humanness is not the basic relation to his situation, but rather is ultimately determined by the manner in which he relates to that basic relation already present. In consciously deciding to relate the self to the already present relationship one experiences self­consciousness. Radical self-consciousness takes place when one relates to his total relationships out of the Word in Jesus Christ in which he self­consciously decides to stand totally present to the total situation in affirmation of that situation as good and necessary. This radical experience is the birth of humanness and its occurrence in human life an objective fact, but the event which is the birth of true creativity is the experience of the solitary office itself. This can be understood only within a threefold context. First, the experience of spirit encounter is the experience of every man. Every man knows to one degree or another that the deeps of human experience are to be lived in every concrete situation, and senses the demand to seize his own authentic creativity in every situation. The solitary office allows him to see that his entire life has been one encounter of the spirit after another and that the remainder of his days will be lived before that encounter. Secondly, the experience of human spirit as it is enacted in the solitary office, while being radical, is a very common, everyday experience. It is in fact the core of every experience. It is the everyday struggle at being a human being, that is the setting, for the spirit life. Finally, the solitary office experience is that experience which thrusts every man's knowledge to the horizon of the universe, engages every man's activity in the demands of all of history, and enables one to stand as a total human being before the unknown depths of the mystery of life itself.


40. The spirit decision which transforms man's relation to his knowing enables him to spell out with­relative clarity the scope of the change in knowing, whether it be in general under­standing or in a depth encounter. The new relationship to life in the knowing dimension is ultimately a shift in one's theological stance, a result not essentially of any degree of intellectual endeavor, but rather of the encounter with the Word in Jesus Christ. The result of reducing the solitary office to some level of intellectual astuteness is a form of intellectualism. The solitary office is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but rather a depth reflection of one's total grasp of his function as a knowing being. A much more subtle expression of the reduction to merely the intellectual is what might be called phraseology. This is the reducing of the reality of the solitary office to metaphors. Metaphors are utterly necessary for creative reflection in the solitary life, but if the categories used become tools by which the depth encounter within the office is blocked, then the dynamic vitality is frozen in sterile rigidity. In the richness of the solitary, one grasps his new relationship to life as one of standing present to the transparency of any system of knowing, being aware of the fact that knowing always reduces that which is uneducable, that it orders that which can never finally be ordered, and that it gives meaning to that which is finally mysterious.


41. The spirit decision which transforms man's relation to his doing brings about theologically grounded activity in an archaic, comprehensive, intentional, and futuric framework. The new relationship to life in the doing dimension implies that concrete action actually takes place in a new way or that a change takes place in the performance of cruciformity. This action, while experienced as a new relationship, is seen in the Christ­Word in which doing becomes transparent to life itself, grounded in the given situation, rendered by the totality of the self, and surrendered in the openness to new demands. Too often the solitary is misunderstood as a ritual to justify whatever action a person happens to be engaged in. This is a subtle form of moralism in which the individual believes that if he does the right ritual his doing will be made more effective. The solitary office is not a manipulation for effective social action. Very closely related is the mistaken idea that the solitary is some form of emotional "pep talk" in which the result is a "great feeling," or a psychological comforter in which one's particular problems find miraculous cure. The solitary office may produce a coming to terms with one's life or the decision about living despite one's particular

psychological blocks, but the office is not designed for these purposes. Life is not limited to just exciting experiences, but consists of ever­new decisions about how to act out one's life in relationship to his past in the present situation for the sake of the future.


42. The spirit decision which transforms man's relation to his being is finally the forging of a discernible stance which is self­consciously conceived in the participation of the moment and in the midst of the actual life situation. The stance is the dynamic creating intentional activity in the one who has appropriated his own death. At the same time it is an authentic response found only when the deeps of the self are transparent to the perpetual presence of the mystery of life. Because the solitary is always deeply grounded in the concretion of an individual's life, there is a strong temptation to abstract the experience to a plane of unreality, or to enter what might be called esotericism. If the contribution of the solitary office is contained within the office and no self­conscious relation is made to the givenness of one's life, then the experience is isolated and void of objectivity. When this objectivity is lost often an individual will focus on the artifacts or the "beauty" of the experience itself'. The artifacts are tools and the experience the vehicle by which regains the necessary objectivity to stand in a new relationship to his own struggle. This change in stance in the context of the Christ­Word is not simply a realization of a psychic thereness nor of one's present stance in life, but rather involves a new decision about how one finally stands present to all of life. The solitary office enables man constantly to decide his actual relation to his total situation.


43. The solitary office thus finds its significance only in the Word in Jesus Christ, which when brought to consciousness creates new relationships to life. In utilizing the solitary office one must constantly remember that the office is merely that vehicle in and through which one is able to bring to self­consciousness those already­present possibilities of relating in depth to the totality of one's experience. There is a dangerously thin life between this appropriation of the solitary and the many traps that make the solitary of office a means of reducing one's response to life. The experience of spirit which is the solitary office is the uncontrolled leap beyond one's narrow self­imposed bounds and the ecstatic plunge below the self­defined shallowness of the particular situation to the mystery at the depth of all of life.


44. The solitary office is finally the method by which human beings appropriate their own particular myth, rite, and symbols which enable them to participate in and formulate the time and space about them. Rather than living out of many stories which he adapts to the convenience of the moment, man consciously puts together out of human heritage a cosmic story out of which he can live fully. Yet no man can construct such a myth willy­nilly as he chooses; he constructs or discovers it amid some community in history. This is finally the eschatological community. But no one lives in a myth; it is crucial that every man participate in a rite, a high ritual, through which he is regularly and constantly held over against the mystery, depth, and greatness of his existence. The solitary office is such a rite, and it always stands as that avenue through which his wild interior struggle lives anew through the cosmic myth. Finally a man cannot maintain his humanness unless his life is pervaded by symbols. Symbols are those entities from which there is no escape. They move us beyond the immediacies of our own particular lives to the boundary of existence itself in order that the human depths we share with all human beings can be experienced in every specific encounter of our lives. The solitary office is at one and the same time the means by which our myth is retold, our rite is re­enacted, and our symbols are held before us.