Contemplation was originally derived in the 16th century from Latin contemplationem (nom. contemplatio) which can be directly translated as the act of looking at. The core of the word stems from looking into something carefully, observing. In 1605 Bacon wrote: “The day wherein God did rest, & contemplate his own works”. The root for contemplationem would be the verb contemplari meaning to gaze attentively, observe, survey. Around four centuries ago it was more likely for the word to be used in a religious context. Contemplari was based on templum meaning “area for the taking of auguries or place for observation”, which derived from temple (from Latin building for worship or place for observation). In Old French (12th century) contemplation meant “religious musing” if one would translate directly.
A temple is the place where a person’s level of viewing the world changes. It’s the place where humans get closer to experiencing the sacred; they experience something universal. Contemplation itself as an act can represent the experience of being inside the temple by looking carefully into something. By observing something continuously, looking deep into the subject allows someone to create a microcosm of the particular observation. Essentially the microcosm recreates the experience of being inside the temple, and this process proves how the process of contemplating is so rooted in its origin.
Oxford English Dictionary defines contemplation as “the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time; deep reflective thought; the state of being considered or planned; religious meditation; a form of Christian prayer or meditation in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.” The Oxford English Dictionary also defines contemplative as “Opposed to active, esp. in contemplative life, in the Middle Ages, a life given up to religious contemplation and prayer, esp. that of the religious recluse; so contemplative man, etc.”
Nowadays the word has lost the religious influence and is usually used more often to describe the reaction of beholding or reflecting on visual subject. The word used to represent the process leading to experience of the divine,but contemplation is not confined to religious meditation. However contemplating as creating a temple in mind and contemplating on the objects can blend and merge into one meaning. Contemplation used to represent a connection to God, to the divine truth. The word gained more of a selfish meaning as time progressed. Now it means a connection to yourself and interpreting yourself through the world around. It might be interpreted as a worship to intuition or consciousness. Contemplation covers both stages of birth and life of thought. First it is sensitive and is the active observation of the world which creates ideas in a person’s mind. Inevitably it links self-awareness, thinking as well as the combination of sensory impressions. Contemplation is the cognitive activity, and as every century passes contemplation gets further away from God and more inside of people’s minds.
"contemplation, n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40094 (accessed November 13, 2012).
"contemplate, v.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40093 (accessed November 13, 2012).
"contemplative, adv., and adj., and n.". OED Online. September 2012. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/40096 (accessed November 13, 2012).