James Finley: Silence and Vulnerability (Episode 29)
July 23, 2018
Cassidy Hall interviews author, retreat leader, and psychologist James Finley.
Author, retreat leader, and psychologist James Finley brings his experience as a student and spiritual directee of Thomas Merton to his work guiding others into the mysteries of Christ and of silence. He is the author of Merton's Palace of Nowhere, Christian Meditation: Experiencing the Presence of God, and The Contemplative Heart. He has also created audio learning series, including Thomas Merton's Path to the Palace of Nowhere and Meister Eckhart's Living Wisdom.
"When we get involved in spirituality, we're drawn to it, we tend to have a lot of questions, and that's why we tend to read spiritual books or watch podcasts and well we should, and we should get spiritual guidance and so on. But then... we get a little deeper, here we realize that it's not so much that we're the ones asking the questions, but God's asking the questions, God's asking me a question... and I start to discover that not only do I not know the answer to God's question, I don't understand the question." — James Finley
Cassidy met Jim through the International Thomas Merton Society, and discovering that they are neighbors in California, they made arrangements last month to get together to record this conversation. As they explore silence together, Jim tells Cassidy stories from his six years living as a Trappist novice (don't miss the story of talking to Thomas Merton about the pigs!), and how his entry into the world of radical solitude and silence — under the guidance of one of the great spiritual writers of the past century — Finley learned to find his voice as a seeker of God, and eventually discovered his vocation even though it took him away from the cloister.
"We can't with integrity claim to be on a spiritual path and turn our back on the suffering of this world." — James Finley
He and Cassidy talk about the tragedy of how contemporary Christianity has abandoned its own mystical heritage, learning to discover the mystery of God beyond all "boxes" and definitions, the "infinity of the unexplainable," learning to love the world as part of the contemplative project, the importance of paradox and perplexity, how language ought to be "in the service of the unsayable," how the experience of trauma can impact our spiritual lives, and other topics along these lines.
“I have only one desire, and that is the desire for solitude-to disappear into God, to be submerged in His peace, to be lost in the secret of His Face.” — Thomas Merton
Some of the resources and authors mentioned in this episode:
James Finley, Merton's Palace of Nowhere
James Finley, The Contemplative Heart
James Finley, Christian Meditation
James Finley, Thomas Merton's Path to the Palace of Nowhere
James Finley, Meister Eckhart's Living Wisdom
Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas
Jim Forest, The Root of War is Fear
John of the Cross, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time
Richard Rohr, The Naked Now
Cynthia Bourgeault, The Heart of Centering Prayer
Carolyn Myss and James Finley, Transforming Trauma: Uncovering the Spiritual Dimension of Healing
Rollo May, Freedom and Destiny
Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works (Sermons)
Richard Rohr and James Finley, Intimacy: the Divine Ambush
Richard Rohr, James Finley, and Cynthia Bourgeault, Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate
Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Thomas Merton, The Intimate Merton
Visit Jim Finley's website at www.contemplativeway.org. His recommended reading list can be accessed here: "Reading List for Beginners"
“Lovers cannot force the oceanic oneness, but can assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the gift of that … The poet cannot make the poem happen, but the poet can assume the inner stance that offers the least resistance to the gift of the poem.” — James Finley