Volume 59, Issue 4, December 2019
What is Contemplation?
The argument is developed by drawing on the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, Eric Voegelin, and Bernard Lonergan. Contemplation is possible because the self is constituted by self-presence in its engagement with being. Self-presence does not precede one’s engagement with being and is not an alternative to this engagement, but is the unique mode of human participation in being. Immersed in the frenetic give and take of the world, one is present to oneself. Self-presence also includes the unique quality of human existence in tension between the immanent and transcendent. The contemplative experience is characterized by awe, humility, joy, and mystery. In contemplation, one cedes for a time the practical preoccupations evoked by the pull of immanence and gives way to the questing disposition—what the Greeks called wonder—toward transcendence. Contemplation is the questing disposition of self-presence toward being.