I have traveled this line of thinking about meditation in my own life for a practical reason. Teaching, the delivery to my intellect of the meanings of Scripture and doctrines to be understood and followed, was not having the full effect I felt it should. That is, I still found myself behaving in contradictory ways. I didn't understand me, or why I acted the way I did. Likewise, I found this to be true in those around me. People I considered devout would evidence odd opinions or behaviors that I could not reconcile with "living in the spirit of Christ." Reducing such to considerations of maturity was accurate but incomplete. I was most aware, of course, of my own feelings. Honestly, there were times when I knew I was "behaving" like a Christian because it was the socially acceptable thing to do within my sub-culture, the church group. More painfully, as an elder I knew there were moments when people searched me out for my opinion/insight, as if I held some understanding that would help them. I found myself giving rote answers, a "doctrinally" correct intellectual stance and socially correct disposition of our belief system. I truly, deeply wanted to help them; I said what I thought would help, but some place in my heart knew I didn't fully believe everything I said. Or was it that I simply didn't fully comprehend? I lacked understanding. This left me desolate at times and empty. I never doubted God, I doubted me. Later by extrapolation I doubted all of my fellow elders and some of the practices of traditional religion all around me which I had identified as my "theological home", the Evangelical movement.
Please understand that I am not attacking the Evangelical movement. I do not suggest such is wrong. I believe it lacks understanding because it is a product of Western culture. From before the Renaissance, Western thought has developed along a philosophic path that traces itself back to the Greeks. Church scholarship developed and held the lamp of knowledge for Western culture through the Medieval period such that church and culture existed in a symbiotic relationship of sorts. This philosophic path has a practical component through which it meanders, the rational mind. Western culture emphasizes rationality and thereby cuts itself off from the human heart. There have been a few reactions like the Age of Romanticism, but the onward development of a rational explanation of the human experience has never lost steam. The Evangelical movement is both product of this combined history of church and culture and remains a participant today. It does not do so without consequence to its intellectual and spiritual constructs.
Remember my discussion on Christian diversity wherein sociologists define human social experience in terms which I contend reflect the whole human? (Oct. 10 post) This is our three-part being of body, heart, and mind. Western culture focuses primarily on the intellect and secondarily (pop culture in particular) on the body. The Western Christian church preaches there must be a changed heart, but I believe as an institution lacks in its understanding of how the heart affects the whole human. (I cannot here take the time to validate this assertion of mine, maybe another post.)
Our culture has developed a "heart" obsessed with the lust of the eyes. Literature, drama, the visual arts, musical arts and tech media are overrun with imagination applied to expressing the fallenness of the human heart. It isn't just pop culture of the day either. Ever read the lyrics of great operas or pay close attention to the themes in Shakespeare? Western religion's answer to this problem is to preach against lust. This is an intellectual exercise; and from a practical standpoint of the state of the human heart, is an ill-fitting application producing mixed results. In Western culture, we do not understand the effective application of meditation in overcoming our own hearts' vagaries. Consider this quote from scripture:
When I remember God, then I am disturbed; When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah.
You have held my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I have considered the days of old, The years of long ago.
I will remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, And my spirit ponders:
Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again?
Has His lovingkindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever?
Has God forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.
Then I said, "It is my grief, That the right hand of the Most High has changed."
I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds.
The author of these words is sorely troubled in heart over his relationship with God, the core relationship of life. His answer is to meditate on God and His work. Of all the words in the Hebrew which can be translated meditate or meditation, they share one common possible meaning. That meaning is muse. Actively, muse can mean in our language to meditate or ponder. Interestingly, another use in our language is drawn from Greek mythology. This use is muse as in "a guiding spirit". Within artistic expressions, to find one's muse means to discover inspiration.
I submit that to meditate as a Christian means to find guidance from the Holy Spirit by filling the eyes of our hearts (requires the faculty of the imagination) not with lustful concepts from the world but with the purity of God Himself. In so doing, we access a source of growth for both our souls and spirits which is of God. Further, this growth will not be stimulated by teaching our minds, the intellect.