Carl Jung believed when the introverted elements (know thyself) and extroverted elements (social conscience) of human character are integrated, the strongest type of personality emerges. People inwardly connected to the deep promptings of their souls and ouwardly connected to the to the world through activism and service have the greatest effects of society with marginal numbers. We need more Christians who are both mystics and activists.
Thomas Keating says extraverts, contrary to popular opinion, usually make the best contemplatives. For extroverts, interior prayer is a way to recharge batteries for greater service. Those who pursue interior prayer for its own sake miss the point. Christian prayer makes little sense outside the context of service and the purpose of prayer isn’t an insular self-improvement project. It’s steadily increasing sensitivity to the needs of others.
Contemplation pulls us toward service and service toward contemplation. The more time Thomas Merton spent in his hermitage, the more driven he became to engage the world. Plumbing internal depths encouraged Merton to plumb external depths. Anyone who is in a service profession will tell you it’s like being on the front lines of a losing battle. All soldiers in the helping professions need a refuge from the storm.
The following lines highlight the paradox between prayer and activism:
Many have tried with more or less plausible results to link Jesus and one or more of his followers with the Essenes or the Zealots, an interesting endeavor since the one group practiced withdrawal from the world and its affairs, and the other advocated active engagement! (Laughlin, Remedial Christianity, 78)