Question 017.  

But isn’t the “going into ourselves” thing narcissistic?

More than an introversion, prayer is a transcendence of oneself.  Do not wander outside of yourself, but return into yourself, for within the interior man dwells the truth.  And when you discover that you too are mutable, transcend yourself.  You transcend a reasoning soul.  Therefore, gravitate towards that place where your reason is illuminated… You [God] were more internal than what was intimate in me, and higher than what was highest in me.  Christ elevates the soul of the person in whom he dwells, so as to make communion and dialogue possible.


from St. Augustine Answers 101 Questions on Prayer by Fr. Ermatinger.


As a child grows in cognition, they first discover the self, then beyond the self (the world), and then that they are not the same. Afterward, that their parents, then other men, are not gods, and ultimately no created thing, nor creation in total, are gods. In man’s search for God, his gaze, now exhausted in outward wandering, must again return to the self-seeking the God who is beyond all things within.  Turning inward, his inner gaze might be deluded and return to childhood cognitions.  First, that the innermost self is (a) god, a denial of the distinction between creation and Creator.  Second, that the inner-self, in fact, all inner-selves, is the transcendent godhead.  This is a denial of the world beyond the self and the self itself.  These are narcissisms and regressive cognitions.  Rather, upon entering into the heart, the inner-self, especially if a man takes care, he will find that the inward journey mirrors the outward.  The outer world is mutable, transitory, and changeable – the creation of God.  So too does man find that the inner self is mutable, transitory, changeable, and ultimately not within the control of himself.  As he gazes inward, he finds his innermost self is not his own – it belongs not to himself and he does not dwell at its center.  Just as the heavens do not belong to man, so too does not man’s own heart.  Ever so vast the sky, its Creator is vaster.  Ever so vast the inner chamber of the heart, its Creator is vaster.  How to transcend this vastness?  Humility.  To recognize that all, even the self, is not God, and not in man’s control, nor ownership.  And in doing so, to look up at the light that illuminates.  To go beyond the self and into the innermost self requires the humility to allow God, through prayer, to elevate the soul of the person to Himself and so for Himself to dwell within.


The Annunciation, George Hitchcock, ca. 1890-1909