Contemplation and the Divine Therapy - 4 - The Human Condition
The beginning of our spiritual conversion is followed by a transition period that is always dark, confusing, and confining. Then comes a period of peace, enjoyment of a new inner freedom, the wonder of new insights. That takes time. Rarely is there a sudden movement to a new level of awareness that is permanent. What happens when we get to the bottom of the pile of our emotional debris? We are in divine union. There is no other obstacle.
As long as we are identified with some role of persona, we are not free to manifest the purity of God's presence. Part of life is a process of dropping whatever role, however worthy, you identify with. It is not you. Your emotions are not you. Your body is not you. If you are no those things, who are you? That is the big question of the second half of the spiritual journey.
The process of spiritual growth , is like a spiral staircase. It goes down, and it also goes up. Every movement toward the humiliation of the false self, if we accept it, is a step toward the humiliation of the Self. if we accept it, is a step toward interior freedom and inner resurrection. This new freedom is not control; it is the freedom not to demand of life whatever we used to feel was essential for our particular idea of happiness.
The divine therapy is an extraordinary project. Only God could have thought it up, and only God can persuade people to do it. I don't say that this will necessarily happen to everyone. But we are offered the opportunity. The Priority we give to the invitation is up to us. There is an impressive story in Zen Buddhist tradition, which I presume to paraphrase here, about a meeting of the Buddha toward the end of his life and eighty thousand disciples at a place called Vulture Peak.
When they all had gathered there and meditated together for a long time, the Buddha stood on a platform and lifted up a lotus flower with his two hands high above his head. As he did so, all the monks entered into a profound state of oneness with the lotus flower and all creation.
The silence grew deeper as they all transcended their personal self-awareness and became lost in the consciousness of the Ultimate Reality. Suddenly, a monk standing next to the Buddha started to laugh. His raucous laughter resounded off the mountaintops and shattered the sacred silence, creating instead in the vast assembly a stunned immobility.
The Buddha slowly lowered the lotus flower and turned to the monk. He immediately handed him the lotus flower, the symbol of imparting to him the fullness of the dharma. Or, in handing him the lotus flower, did the Buddha simply recognize that this monk, by his laughter, manifested a more sublime state of unity with the Ultimate Reality than all the other monks?
The ultimate abandonment of one's role is not to have a self fixed point of reference: it is the freedom to manifest God through one's own uniqueness. This monk had hit bottom. But the bottom in the spiritual journey is also the top. To be no one is to be everyone. To be no self is to be the true Self.
To be nothing is to be everything. In a sense, it is to be God. For Christians, it is to be a kind of fifth Gospel: to become the word of God and to manifest God rather than the false self, with its emotional programs for happiness and attachments to various roles, including the most spiritual. When you have been liberated from them all, you are in a space that is both empty of self and full of God.
This monk chose the way of spiritual discipline to become the Other. There is at least one other way of negotiating the spiral staircase. It is by passing through great tragedy or physical and mental suffering. God leads some people through the most terrible anguish and pain to the same place. Here is an example. A young man with AIDS was dying in a hospital, and he was literally shaking from the fear of death.
What had been communicated to him as a child was an emotionally charged idea of God an an implacable judge ready to bring down the verdict of guilty, or a harsh policeman ever on the watch- someone you would want to avoid encountering. The young man was afraid of dying and going to meet this hazardous God whom he had heard about in early childhood.
One of the nurses came into his room, and he asked her, " Can you do something to help me?" She said. " I can give you treatment called therapeutic touch." He replied, "Please do." The nurse began the gentle treatment.
At one point his eyes rolled back, and the nurse thought he was going to die, but she kept on with the treatment. When she finished, he opened his eyes and said, " You'll never know what you just did for me. I have experienced unconditional love." About an hour later, he died.
If we have not experienced ourselves as unconditional love, we have more work to do, because that is who we really are.
Reference: The Human Condition : Thomas Keating
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