Etymologically the word "contemplation" derives from templum, which signified the space marked out by a seer with his divining rod as a location for his observation, but which later came to mean the actual observation made by a seer. The Greek origin of the word is θεωρε[symbol omitted]ν meaning to regard or look at a spectacle or religious ceremony, though some trace it back to θεóς (God) and others to θέα (vision). Both in Latin and in Greek the word has the general meaning of speculative study, admiration of beauty, or consideration of wisdom.
Contemplation in General. Contemplation is a type of knowledge that is accompanied by delight and a certain degree of admiration for the object contemplated. As an operation of the cognitive powers, it may involve bodily vision, imagination, or intellect; by reason of its delight, it may overflow into the appetitive faculties of emotions and will and, if intense enough, affect the body itself. As a type of knowledge, it is experimental and connatural, intuitive rather than discursive. In the purely natural order it finds its highest expression in the operation of the habit of wisdom or in the aesthetic response to the beautiful.
Nature of Contemplation. Whether the truth contemplated be of the sensible order, the intellectual order, or the supernatural order, contemplation is not the study of truth by discursive reasoning, but a consideration and delight in truth already grasped; not directed to the practical life of action, but a speculative, disinterested, and delighted gaze upon truth itself. Contemplation involves the following elements: (1) on the part of the object contemplated: truth or some aspect thereof sought for its own sake; (2) on the part of the faculty used: the speculative intellect, not in its function as a reasoning power but of intuitive vision, though utilizing other cognitive powers as auxiliaries; (3) on the part of the experience: a loving gaze that arouses delight and admiration, extending to the appetitive powers by which the delight is intensified.
Types of Contemplation. Both by reason of the truth contemplated and the faculties used, contemplation may be divided into the following types: aesthetic contemplation, which is the delightful vision of truth under the aspect of its beauty; philosophical or scientific contemplation, which is delightful vision of truth as such; theological contemplation, which is the intuitive gaze on God as known through reason enlightened by faith; acquired supernatural contemplation, which is the simple gaze upon God as known through faith and experienced through love; mystical infused contemplation, which is the intuitive experience of union with God through the activity of faith, charity, and the gifts of wisdom and understanding. The contemplation normally signified in the vocabulary of Catholic theology is restricted to that which has God as its object, and God precisely as experienced through the supernatural virtues or gifts, or, in other words, acquired supernatural contemplation and mystical infused contemplation.
Possibility of a Purely Natural Contemplation of God. Both plato and plotinus had admitted the possibility of a purely natural contemplation of the divine, but there are reasons for doubting such a possibility. Man's normal method of knowledge is through the external senses and the phantasms of the imagination, and hence he can know immediately and intuitively only those things that can be represented by a phantasm or sense image. But God cannot be attained immediately and intuitively through any sensible image or phantasm of the imagination, and therefore a purely natural contemplation of God is impossible. Moreover, to have an intuitive and immediate experience of God, it would be necessary that God Himself be the intellectual concept, but this would require the elevation of man to the supernatural order or the infusion in man of some supernatural power or species, for such a knowledge is connatural only to God (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae 1a, 12.4). If the human intellect cannot by its own power attain to a vision of God as He is in Himself (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer [32d ed. Freiburg 1963]895), this would therefore seem to rule out all natural mysticism (see Karl Rahner, Hörer des Wortes [Munich 1941] 88).
Can the human intellect attain any natural contemplation of God whatever that is intuitive and delightful? If an object of knowledge is in conformity with the proper object of the human intellect—truth as such—and is at the same time proportionate to man's intellectual capacity, then some kind of natural contemplation seems possible (cf. Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 109.3 ad 2). Some authors assert this possibility and base it on the nature of the human intellect and God's providence (see Cuthbert Butler, Western Mysticism [2d ed. London 1927]). Others defend this position by positing an immediate apprehension of God or innate ideas (G. Picard, La Saisie immédiate de Dieu dans les états mystiques [Paris 1923]; J. Chapmann, "What Is Mysticism," Downside Review  1–28; J. Maritain, Distinguir pour unir ou les degrés du savoir [3d ed. Paris 1932] 489–573; "Action et contemplation," Revue thomiste 43  18–50; Quatre essais sur l'esprit dans sa condition charnelle [Paris 1939]). According to maritain, this is truly contemplation, though negative and vague and a kind of bridge between philosophical contemplation and infused supernatural contemplation.
The human intellect has a radical capacity or obediential potency for the vision of God through contemplation but the actualization of the potency calls for something above man's natural powers (Thomas Aquinas, De malo 5.1c). Therefore, it would seem that the most man can achieve through a natural contemplation of God is the vague knowledge of God acquired by self-reflection. It is possible, however, for natural contemplation to produce a kind of natural ecstasy or alienation from the senses and a relatively intense delight, for which reason some authors have spoken of a "natural mysticism."
Possibility of an Intuitive and Experimental Knowledge of God through the Infused Supernatural Virtues. This would be a contemplation proper to the ascetical rather than the mystical state of the spiritual life, actuated through the operation modo humano of the infused supernatural virtues of faith and charity. It would occur either in the practice of some form of prayer or, perhaps, in the meditations of a theologian under the impetus of charity. Most modern authors who defend the possibility of an acquired supernatural contemplation (e.g., Thomas of Jesus, OCD, Philip of the Holy Trinity, OCD, G. B. Scaramelli, SJ, St. Alphonsus Liguori) usually quote St. teresa of avila to defend their position. She describes the prayer of acquired recollection as distinct from the prayer of infused recollection, but in the 17th century, Scaramelli, who stressed the difference between an ascetical and a mystical perfection, likewise taught the possibility of an acquired contemplation as the perfection in prayer for the ascetical state. As described by St. Teresa, acquired recollection is truly the perfection of ascetical prayer, but neither she nor St. john of the cross ever used the word "contemplation" in this context. Many authors, chiefly in the Dominican school, prefer to restrict the word "contemplation" to infused mystical prayer and hence judge the expression "acquired contemplation" a contradiction in terms.
An acquired contemplation that operates through faith and charity would involve the following elements: a loving gaze upon God; the absence of discursus and the lack of any intervention by other lower faculties; the operation of the supernatural virtues of faith and charity (see St. Teresa, The Way of Perfection ch. 28–29; Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, ch. 3). This type of contemplation, however, would be ascetical rather than mystical because it is an actuation of the supernatural virtues of faith and charity only; it would be infused contemplation because it is the operation of virtues that are infused and not acquired; it would be acquired contemplation in the sense that the infused supernatural virtues work in a human manner, that is, at the command of a human agent and through the natural powers or faculties that have been elevated through grace but not replaced by grace.
Mystical Contemplation. In spite of a variety of definitions of mystical contemplation, all agree on the essential note that contemplation is an experimental knowledge of God, which, in turn, admits of varying degrees or grades. Since the time of St. Teresa of Avila, most authors have followed her division of mystical contemplation, though not always using the same terminology. The first degree of supernatural prayer listed by St. Teresa is infused recollection, though Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, maintains that the first degree is the prayer of quiet, and the infused recollection is simply a prayer of transition. According to R. garrigou-lagrange, OP, however, the prayer of acquired recollection or simplified affective prayer is the prayer of transition. Infused recollection is followed by the prayer of quiet, in which the will is captivated, though there may still be some distractions because the intellect remains somewhat free (cf. The Way of Perfection ch. 31.5; Spiritual Relations ch. 5; Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions, ch. 2). The soul then advances to the prayer of union, which admits of the following grades: simple union, ecstatic union terminating in mystical espousal, and transforming union terminating in mystical marriage. Prior to the prayer of union the soul usually experiences a sleep of the faculties, which some authors place as a distinct degree of prayer (e.g., Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen) while others list it as an effect of the prayer of quiet (e.g., Royo-Aumann), in which the intellect is captivated. In the first degree of the prayer of union the imagination and memory are captivated; in the prayer of ecstatic union the external faculties are alienated to such an extent that ecstasy is a concomitant phenomenon (see ecstasy). In the prayer of transforming union the soul is completely surrendered to God and enjoys a quasi-permanent union in love and confirmation in grace (cf. Interior Castle, Seventh Mansions, ch. 1–4; The Way of Perfection ch. 10; Spiritual Canticle st. 22).
Biblical Sources. Perhaps more than any other mystical theologian St. John of the Cross has interwoven scriptural proofs and examples throughout all his writings. Among the Fathers of the Church, Origen and St. Augustine are noteworthy in defending the existence of contemplation in the Prophets of the Old Testament (see Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 161 v. [Paris 1857–66] 14:201; 11:1425, 1430–31; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne, 271 v., indexes 4 v. [Paris 1878–90] 33:610–611; 41:221; 42:404, 219, 283, 290–291). Moreover, it would not be difficult to find examples of contemplative or mystical experience in such Old Testament figures as Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others (see J. Lebreton et al., Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique. Doctrine et histoire, ed. M. Viller et al. [Paris 1932–] 2:1645–73).
In the New Testament Christ is the model of the contemplative life as He is of the active life. In His sacred humanity He enjoyed the beatific vision throughout his earthly sojourn, though the effects were withheld (see Summa theologiae 3a, 9.2). His personal prayer was evidently contemplative and in His teaching He encouraged souls to the perfection of prayer, as when He praised Mary for choosing the better part. In His last discourse at the Last Supper He spoke of the union between Himself and the Father and He promised a similar union between the Father and His faithful followers, promising to send them the Sanctifier.
After Christ, perhaps the greatest witness to contemplation in the New Testament is St. Paul, whose conversion was initiated with a vision in ecstasy on the road to Damascus. Most apostolic of men, he was at once a profound contemplative and progressed throughout his life to the highest degrees of prayer, as he bears witness in his Epistles. He is also the great preacher of charity, with St. John, and charity is the imperating power and the culminating joy in contemplation (see Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 2:1698–1716).
Theology of Contemplation. Among the Fathers and theologians the names of gregory of nyssa, pseu do-dionysius, augustine, cassian, gregory the great, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas are outstanding in the theology of contemplation. For St. Thomas contemplation is an operation of either the intellectual habit of wisdom or the gift of the Holy Spirit by the same name. Natural contemplation admits of two types: philosophical and theological (In 1 Sent., prol. 1.1). Some maintain that he admits a further distinction of theological contemplation into the purely speculative and the affective (see Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 180). Mystical or infused contemplation is distinguished from natural contemplation by the fact that the former is an operation of infused wisdom and the experience is quasi connatural (cf. In Dion de div. nom. 2.4; In 3 Sent. 220.127.116.11a; 68.1 ad 4). Like Albert the Great and Gregory the Great, he is careful to insist that there can be no immediate experience of God as He is; but infused contemplation terminates in God Himself, for it is a knowledge of the object present as present (cf. Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 45.3 ad 1; In 3 Sent. 24.2.3 ad 4). Like others before him, he favors the example of the sense of taste to describe the delight of contemplation, though the notion of connaturality seems to be borrowed from Aristotle.
Since mystical contemplation is an operation of wisdom, it is permeated with charity, of which wisdom is the perfection (Summa theologiae 2a2ae, 45). The gift of understanding serves to purify the intellect, but God ever remains transcendent (In 3 Sent. 18.104.22.168; Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 27.2 ad 2). St. Thomas nowhere describes the grades of contemplation as does St. Teresa of Avila, but he treats of the height of contemplation and follows the doctrine of Gregory the Great in so doing. Like John of the Cross and Pseudo-Dionysius, he refers also to negative contemplation, per viam remotionis. Until the 16th century it seems that St. Bonaventure had the greatest influence on the theology of contemplation, but since that time the doctrine of St. Thomas has been more influential.
Carmelite School. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross are recognized in the universal Church as great masters in the theology of the spiritual life, and Teresa is undoubtedly the greater of the two on the doctrine of prayer. Her approach is more experimental than speculative, more descriptive than deductive. Neither she nor St. John were concerned with the distinction between acquired and infused contemplation, and the earliest Carmelites understood their teaching in terms of infused contemplation. They defined contemplation as a loving knowledge of God that could ultimately reach the transforming union or mystical marriage (Dark Night 2.18.5). The distinction of acquired and infused contemplation was introduced into the Carmelite school by Thomas of Jesus, who defined acquired contemplation as a loving knowledge, free of discursus and obtained by one's own efforts (De contemplatione divina 2:3), and infused contemplation as a loving knowledge produced by the gifts of understanding and wisdom (ibid. 2:4). Later, Joseph of the Holy Spirit stressed the superhuman mode of activity in infused contemplation (Catena mistica prop. 12). St. John of the Cross had spoken of an affirmative, distinct contemplation and a negative, obscure contemplation, and he divided contemplation into the purgative, illuminative, and unitive stages, thus accommodating it to his doctrine on the passive nights of the senses and of the spirit. He also referred to an imperfect and a perfect contemplation, depending on the degree of passivity in the soul.
For John of the Cross, contemplation is an operation of the supernatural infused virtues of faith and charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in perfect contemplation there are substantial touches and a high degree of illumination. The contemplation itself is a "passive actuation" of the faculties of the soul through faith, charity, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit; it is also connatural, but not to the extent that contemplation is necessary or even normal in the proper sense of the word. According to Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, the Carmelite school maintains that contemplation is not strictly necessary for sanctity but it is usually associated with a high degree of sanctity. This leads to the conclusion that there are two ways to sanctity—ordinary and extraordinary—though all souls receive the grace and virtues that could lead to contemplation (Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 2:2065).
Dominican School. The teaching of Thomas Aquinas on the infused supernatural virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the active and contemplative life is the doctrinal foundation for the Dominican school. In general the Dominicans (with the exception of Vallgornera) have always rejected the term "acquired contemplation" because they restrict the word "contemplation" to an infused type of prayer that operates through the virtues of faith and charity and the gifts of understanding and wisdom. Some, however, admit an intermediate stage between meditation and strictly infused contemplation, still predominantly acquired or active but with a latent influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Garrigou-Lagrange, Christian Perfection and Contemplation 226–261; Royo-Aumann, The Theology of Christian Perfection 528–529). Infused contemplation is defined as a loving knowledge of God that proceeds from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; its immediate eliciting principle is faith, informed by charity and perfected by the gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge (Royo-Aumann, op. cit. 531). Mystical contemplation can be produced only by the operation of the Holy Spirit and this explains the note of passivity as well as its distinction from acquired forms of prayer. For the Dominican school, donal activity is of the essence of contemplation and the mystical state, though all donal activity need not be contemplative in nature (J. Maritain, "Une question sur la vie mystique et la contemplation," La Vie spirituelle 7 636–650). Infused contemplation does not require infused ideas, but infused light; charisms or gratiae gratis datae are not required, for the donal activity suffices; there is no immediate perception of the divine essence but a quasi-experimental knowledge of God as present through His operations. All souls are called to contemplation by at least a general and remote call, for each soul in grace possesses the virtues and gifts that are the immediate principles of contemplation; the passive purifications of the soul necessarily involve contemplation; the beatific vision is the goal of man's life and hence on Earth contemplation is the perfection of faith informed by charity.
Franciscan School. St. bonaventure is the source of Franciscan teaching on contemplation. His spiritual doctrine is overshadowed by and directed to Christ, and souls are brought to the perfection of the Christian life by observance of the commandments and love of Christ. The discourse of Christ at the Last Supper is the compendium of Christian teaching on contemplation and the mystical life (cf. Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 1:1777–91). With John duns scotus, Bonaventure states that Christ is the primary object of all the divine decrees and is the final cause of the divine economy and creation, so that man has a connatural desire for Christ, through whom he obtains an existential contact with God (L. M. Berardini, La nozione del soppranaturale nell'antica schola francescana [Rome 1943] 186). Through this same desire man has a psychological orientation to God and to contemplation, and the eye of contemplation, which is distinct from the eye of the body or that of the reason, can see God as He is. On the affective side, he also lists three powers, of which one provides the loving ecstasy, though Bonaventure speaks of contemplation as "excessive knowledge," meaning that the intellect is raised above itself through grace and the gifts (Quaestiones disp., De scientia Christi 7, concl. and ad 19). Prior to contemplation, God can be experienced as a universal presence, but through grace the soul receives the indwelling of the Trinity and the infused virtues and gifts. The theological virtues are directed to the Trinity; the gifts are directed to evangelical perfection and contemplation. Perfection consists in the operation of the gifts of understanding and wisdom and this is to become transformed into Christ (Breviloquium 5.7–10). Grace is not a static, but a dynamic, element (In 2 sent. 22.214.171.124 ad 4); the gifts are not receptive or passive powers, but energies that affect, not the infused virtues, but the human faculties themselves. Contemplation is the progressive manifestation of Christ, as promised at the Last Supper, and eventually the soul has an experience of the Trinity in and through Christ. Formally, contemplation is love, affective intuition, and contact, and because it is love, it is immediate, experimental, and existential. It does not give new knowledge of God, but a taste of God, and thus contemplation becomes "excessive love"; since it is an experience of the Trinity in and through Christ, it should rightly be called "Christian experience" rather than mystical experience. For Bonaventure, contemplation is infused because it is Christ working in the soul, though the immediate principles are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. After the 17th century a number of Franciscans adopted the distinction between acquired and infused contemplation (J. Heerynckx, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique 1.836).
Ignatian School. There is no rigid Ignatian teaching on contemplation but there is a common characteristic among Jesuits in this regard, e.g., Scaramelli, Poulain, De Maumigny, Maréchal, Grandmaison, Bainvel, de Guibert, and Truhlar. The early Jesuits followed the doctrine of various theologians and masters who had preceded them and for that reason it is difficult to speak of an Ignatian "school." Contemplation is specifically distinct from other forms of prayer; it is primarily a contact or experience through intimate union with God; it is an immediate awareness of God, not as He is in Himself, but as present through His gifts of grace, the divine indwelling, and the infused virtues. The principle of operation in contemplation is faith, though it is a loving gaze and therefore involves the will and charity, which accounts for the passivity of contemplation. The gifts operate but they have no special function in contemplation and they do not give a superior mode to the activity of the infused virtues. Contemplation is unconditionally and absolutely gratuitous, a special grace, so that it is not essential for salvation, nor can it be the result of one's own preparation. Therefore, it is relatively rare and when given it is an activity of the intellect (Maurice de la Taille) or of both intellect and will (J. Bainvel and J. de Guibert). Yet there is an acquired contemplation for which one can prepare through faith, charity, and purification. This point of doctrine stems from the 17th century, under the influence of the Carmelites, who introduced that distinction. Acquired contemplation is an intermediate state between the ascetical and the mystical or at most the summit of the ascetical state. Contemplation here on Earth, says de la Taille, can never surpass a knowledge of the divine essence through faith, but Maréchal stated that SS. Augustine and Thomas did not definitively rule out the possibility of a direct and immediate vision of the divine essence in contemplation. Since infused contemplation is extraordinary, there are two ways to perfection—the ascetical and the mystical—and hence contemplation is not required for perfection, all souls are not called to infused contemplation, and a soul can be a mystic without being a contemplative.
Benedictine School. Though the monastic life is centered chiefly on the interior perfection of the monk, relatively few Benedictines have treated explicitly of contemplation and the mystical state. Recognizing that such gifts are the work of God, the monks were more concerned with ascetical practices and religious observances by which they could be purified and disposed for the action of God within them. Moreover, the emphasis in spiritual literature by and for monks is usually on the community aspect of life rather than personal holiness, though the latter was recognized as essential. Lastly, the monks were occupied primarily with liturgical prayer, which is collective prayer. There is, therefore, no Benedictine school with a unanimous doctrine or vocabulary concerning contemplation, although certain Benedictines have come to be recognized as authorities in this field. Columba marmion teaches a Christocentric, Trinitarian, and sacramental spirituality, lived through faith, humility, and abandonment to God, but he does not admit of the double way to perfection. He avoids the word "contemplation" and speaks only of prayer, though he refers to the perfection of prayer in which the soul has a vivid awareness of its adoption as a child of God, through the movement of the Holy Spirit. Prayer begins in the affection, and as one progresses in prayer, discursive reasoning decreases. For advanced souls in the illuminative way the best prayer is the Divine Office, and if the soul is faithful in this prayer, it can reach the prayer of faith or prayer of quiet, which is available to all who are faithful to grace. Then a higher type of activity begins and the soul attains the state of contemplative mystical prayer, wherein it is touched and illumined from above (Christ the Ideal of the Monk [St. Louis 1926] 358–371).
For example, Marmion believes that all may lawfully desire the gift of contemplation and all the baptized are called to it in a general way, but when it comes, it is through a gratuitous gift of God and it comes suddenly. John Chapman teaches that contemplation begins with the illuminative way and is perfected in the practice of affective prayer. It is mystical and infused and requires the passive purification of the senses. The original point of his doctrine is that he denies that contemplation is essentially a supernatural gift, but it is the actuation of the preternatural capacity that Adam had and was not completely destroyed in us by original sin. This is effected by grace, the infused virtues, and an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Cuthbert Butler achieved renown through his classical work, Western Mysticism, a treatise on the history of spirituality. His basic conclusions regarding contemplation can be summarized as follows: (1) infused contemplation is passive and extraordinary and is an experimental perception of the presence of God; (2) acquired contemplation is active and ordinary, but mystical so far as it is the immediate disposition for infused contemplation, and it is the normal end of the spiritual life;(3) mystical experience is not a vision of the divine essence, but a direct and immediate perception of the being and presence of God; (4) theoretically no soul is excluded from infused mystical contemplation, and having reached the prayer of recollection, the soul can humbly aspire to it; (5) it is excessive to say that every baptized Christian is normally destined to the transforming union; (6) the best definition of mystical contemplation would be: a prayer without discursus, without phantasms and images, without words, and surpassing the laws of natural human psychology.
Anselm Stolz, who relates the mystical state to the condition of Adam before original sin and to Christ, sees it as something essentially sacramental, with its origin in baptism and its culmination in the Eucharist. Mystical contemplation is not a vision of the essence of God but an immediate perception of His presence. Stolz refuses to admit that the ascetical life is merely a prelude to the mystical life, but states that it belongs to the essence of the mystical life. Every true ascetic is also a mystic. It is not permissible to desire extraordinary mystical graces but it is lawful to desire those that constitute the essence of mysticism (cf. Theologie der Mystik [Ratisbon 1936]). Alois Mager approaches the study of contemplation and mysticism from a psychological and empirical point of view. He defines the mystical state as the awareness of the soul and its own passivity under the action of God; it is a function of the highest part of the soul, resembling angelic knowledge; the soul attains a spiritualization or "pneumatization" that is effected through the passive purifications of the senses. Mager distinguishes between the mystical order and that of ordinary grace; he denies active contemplation; mystical grace is normal in the development of the spiritual life; the primary essence of the mystical activity is charity, and the awareness of God's action on the soul is its primary effect; mysticism does not pertain to asceticism but it is the work of the Holy Spirit; there is no true mysticism outside of Christianity; authentic mysticism is essentially related to the sacramental and liturgical life (cf. Mystik als Lehre und Leben [Innsbruck 1934]; Mystik als seelische Wirklichkeit [Graz 1946]).
Vital Lehodey, a Cistercian, defines contemplation as a prayer of simple regard that proceeds from love and reposes in love. He admits two forms of contemplation: acquired contemplation, which he identifies as the prayer of simplicity (the prayer of acquired recollection for St. Teresa), and mystical contemplation, which consists in an awareness of the action of God on the soul and is preceded by the passive purification of the senses. All souls may lawfully desire mystical contemplation, but he insists strongly on total abandonment to the will of God. Are all called to the mystical life? Lehodey calls upon the distinction made by Maritain between the mystical life and mystical prayer, and answers that mystical prayer is the operation of the gifts of knowledge and wisdom and all souls are called to either the mystical life of contemplation or the blending of the two (Les Voies de l'oraison mentale, 1917).
Thomas merton, also a Cistercian, held that contemplation is the union of mind and will with God in an act of pure love, accompanied by a knowledge of Him as He is in Himself. Infused contemplation begins when God raises this operation above the level of human nature, and its normal terminus is mystical marriage. All souls are called to infused contemplation, which is the reason for their creation by God (see Seeds of Contemplation ).
A. Saudreau, who has contributed generously to the literature of the theology of the mystical life, defines infused contemplation as a superior knowledge of God, infused in the soul by God through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, together with a love that unites the soul with God. The soul is passive in receiving it, but active in using it. Contemplative knowledge is general and indistinct; contemplative love is a filial love of affection and intimacy. This enables the soul to taste God in His operations, even during periods of passive purification. The resulting union tends to be permanent and this justifies the term "unitive way." Infused contemplation is rightly divided into various forms or degrees. As to acquired contemplation, the words are used to signify different things by various authors, and increasingly it is used to signify a state of prayer in which there are incipient operations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The justification of the term depends on the definition given in each case. All souls are called to infused contemplation and to perfection, though not all are culpable for not reaching the goal.
Concomitant Phenomena of Contemplative Prayer. The various grades of contemplative prayer produce definite reactions that are sometimes manifested even in the body. Apart from the extraordinary effects that are not essentially related to contemplative prayer (see mystical phenomena), abstracting from contemplation other than infused and mystical, these are: (1) Infused recollection: awareness of the presence of God; delightful admiration for God; suspension of the operation of the faculties, or spiritual silence of the soul; infused illumination or knowledge of God. (2) Prayer of quiet: sleep of the faculties and inebriation of love (St. Teresa, Interior Castle, Fourth Mansions). (3) Prayer of simple union: mystical touches, flights of the spirit; fiery arrows of love; wounds of love (St. Teresa, The Life ch. 29; Spiritual Relations 5). (4) Prayer of ecstatic union (mystical espousal): suspension of the external faculties by means of ecstatic trance, often accompanied by insensibility and levitation. (5) Prayer of transforming union (mystical marriage): total transformation in God; total surrender to God; permanent union through quasi confirmation in grace.
See Also: mysticism; prayer.
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- Compleat Angler, The Izaak Walton’s classic treatise on the Contemplative Man’s Recreation. [Br. Lit.: The Compleat Angler ]
- Thinker, The sculpture by Rodin, depicting contemplative man. [Fr. Art: Osborne, 988]