Having read three of Father Keating's other books, I had high expectations for "Manifesting God." While perhaps not quite as good as some of his other work, this latest offering does provide the interested reader substantial material for challenging a number of preconceived notions and unexamined assumptions about the Ultimate Reality. At the heart of Keating's teaching is the call for each individual to relinquish the limitations we place on our relationship with God as a result of the "emotional programs for happiness" we carry with us from childhood. This release of unconscious forces through Centering Prayer, plus a greater detachment from group identification, enables the seeker to expand his relationship with God.
Keating illuminates key biblical parables relating to this divine relationship. Each of us is cautioned to avoid the extremes of loathsome unworthiness or special favoritism resulting from consolations or ecstatic experiences, for truly all are invited to the banquet. While, intellectually, many of us might scoff at the presumptions that we are either deserving of God's special favor or so completely unworthy of his love that we are, in fact, not loved at all, nevertheless if we dig deeper into our subconscious motivations we may be surprised to find some of these antiquated impulses fueling our spiritual life.
Expanding our relationship with God also means making that relationship evermore personal. Keating frequently refers to Christ's experience of God as "Abba," the Aramaic word roughly meaning "daddy." This is an intimate way of relating to God characterized by a deep trust, an abiding faith, and a certain sense of playfulness. That trust is particularly important when the well has run dry on our religious motivation and when we are devoid of the spiritual consolations that may have motivated us at the beginning of our journey toward God. Although we can never, of course, be abandoned by God, without our spiritual props, as Keating often refers to them, it can certainly feel as though we have been abandoned. Keating maintains that it is precisely during these times of spiritual aridity that we are being challenged to a greater faith and a deeper relationship with God, a relationship that does not simply anticipate the Divine in some grand epiphany or peak moment of ecstasy, but experiences God in an ever expanding realization most often glimpsed in the common and ordinary details of our daily lives. This is a dance with the Divine Partner perfected over time through a life of prayer ("in secret"), acceptance, and surrender. Thus are we submitting ourselves to the Divine Therapist who will eventually transform our entire relationship.