Hugh of St. Victor (1078-1141) and Richard of St. Victor (1123-1173) wrote that humanity was given three sets of eyes, each building on the previous one. The first set of eyes were the eyes of the flesh (thought or sight), the second set of eyes were the eyes of reason (meditation or reflection), and the third set of eyes were the eyes of true understanding (contemplation). They represent the last era of broad or formal teaching of the contemplative mind in the West, although St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) and Francisco de Osuna (1492-1542) are some rare examples who carry it into the following centuries. But for the most part, the formal teaching of the contemplative mind, even in the monasteries, winds down by the beginning of the fourteenth century. No wonder we so badly needed some reformations by the sixteenth century.
I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the loss of the contemplative mind is at the basis of much of the shortsightedness and religious crises of the Western world. Lacking such wisdom, it is very difficult for churches, governments, and leaders to move beyond ego, the desire for control, and public posturing. Everything divides into oppositions such as liberal versus conservative, with vested interests pulling against one another. Truth is no longer possible at this level of conversation. Even theology becomes more a quest for power than a search for God and Mystery.
Is contemplation, rather than dialogue, the key to healing the Church’s wounds? Is it some mix of both — perhaps dialogue guided by contemplation?
Adapted by Richard Rohr from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, pp. 28-29.