At the center of all reality is not a formless void, but rather a personal and loving God who desires to enter into relationship with us. The movement of Christian perfection is not simply akin to the Buddhist notion of enlightenment whereby negation leads to spiritual freedom, and the Christian quest is not towards an ideal nor a state of consciousness. Rather, Christianity is about the person of Jesus Christ, and the loftiest expression of interpersonal intimacy is love.
That does not mean, however, that the natural wisdom of religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism are somehow contradictions to the Christian enterprise. Within Christianity, there is a place for negation, for the path of unknowing whereby the individual responds to God’s grace in ways that are not limited to discursive reflection. Christianity has always held within her treasury of spirituality that God is beyond our natural abilities of reflection. That being said, Christianity makes a dramatic proposition which cannot be reduced to merely one among other apophatic philosophies and religions.
God has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and this revelation is accommodated to our natural faculties of reason. While reason alone cannot attain to God, God can come to the aid of reason and elevate it through the means of his grace. Through revelation, our human faculties move beyond their natural operations, and are brought to the very throne of God. Thus, we break through the void of God’s transcendence, and our humanity is brought into communion with God’s divinity. The means of this participation are faith, hope, and love.
Along these lines, ways of knowing and unknowing are merely preparations for the greater gift of God’s love. The human is given kataphatic and apophatic prayer as a means of responding to God’s initiative. Through them, our humanity is stripped of its attachments to this world and conformed to the Divine image. Thus, all of the human person is recapitulated through Christ and comes to operate on a supernatural level. The Christian does not leave behind their imagination nor anything that God has given them as good, but now receives it anew in a new mode of existence. This mode of existence is a life lived in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
Those moments in which the heart is raised above its natural operations, often referred to as infused contemplation, are given to the soul to create the conditions of freedom. These moments of ecstasy become a kind of reference point, for even when the vitality of ecstatic experience subsides, a residue of God’s presence remains. This wordless, imageless presence does not negate human activity, but rather joins itself to our nature, divinizing our faculties. Thus the Christian never leaves behind imaginative prayer, discursive meditation, or any other mode of existence which is the result of our intentional response to grace. Rather, the higher forms of prayer and mystical experience draw all these faculties up into the light of Christ.