Drawing on the work of the theologian, John S. Dunne, Thomas Keating presents the spiritual journey as a pathway of consents drawing us through each stage of a conscious life, from infancy to old age and ultimately, death. The Four Consents are navigation tools for a fully participatory, embodied life, and offer a way of answering the question, “What is God asking of me now in this life I’ve been given?”
These consents are:
- To Goodness: we consent to our basic goodness of our being with all its parts — to the profound truth that we are loved and loveable before we do
- To Participation: we consent to accept the full development of our being by activating our talents and creative energies and by participating in life engaging these gifts.
- To Diminishment: we consent to accept our non-being and diminution of self that occurs through illness, aging and death and the letting go of everything we love in this world, whether persons, places or things.
- To Transformation: we consent to let go of all that is left, in other words, to the death of the self; we consent to be transformed into Love.
Experientially, these consents are often not linear and we may loop back through them at various stages of life, especially if we haven’t fully accepted each of these dimensions. Consent is an unfolding process of becoming, moving deeper into yes, deeper into the fullness of who we already are in Christ as divine/human beings.
“In growing up we … did not know that God was actually present within us; we had to look elsewhere for the security, affirmation and freedom … that only the divine presence can satisfy. The spiritual journey – which is the whole of life – is a training in consent to God’s presence and to all reality. …
“This gradual training in consent is the school of divine love in which God invites us to accept the divine plan to share the divine life with us in a way that transcends all that the human imagination can foresee.”
– Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love