Sunday, October 09, 2011

Awakening in Love, The Dark Night of the Soul

Most of us don't really know what to make of the famous classic The Dark Night of the Soul of St. John of the Cross, and the world got all upset when Mother Theresa's diaries were published, full of material that clearly reflected episodes of her dark night of the soul, and evidently should have never been published. Margot Krikhaar, in her book Awakening in Love, shares much of her inner process with the reader, which is a profound invitation to encourage us to engage in the process, and her sharing of her dark episodes can be helpful exactly because they are written from the standpoint of the eventual inner clarity she arrived at. At that point she could see how everything in her life had been helpful for her to get to the point of what the Course calls accepting the atonement, aka awakening, or enlightenment - when we no longer identify with the ego, but see with Shakespeare in total clarity that all the world's a stage, and join with our brothers in finding the way back home, as forgiveness becomes the single purpose of everything in life.

Jed McKenna in his Enlightenment books (see, and ) discusses the process that he calls autolysis as a way of getting our ego struggles and resistance on paper, noticing how our thought processes are a perfect way of hiding the answers, because we spend most of our lives running around in circles without ever facing the fact how absurdly illogical our thinking really is. One of his funnier comments is that your head is no place to keep your thoughts, and his point is clearly that the illogic only becomes visible when you try to commit the insanity to paper. The process of writing stuff down in a diary, if it is practiced with persistence and perseverance and the determination not to stop before we get to the truth, will eventually bring us to what Jiddu Krishnamurti calls 'the end of thought.'

This writing process, particularly if we practice it in the style the Course would suggest, namely with the love of Jesus beside us, can often also produce the answers we need - they are what remains when the insanity is finally seen for what it is without recrimination. The whole point of the Course's forgiveness process is that looking with our ego would only make us more self-critical and judgmental in the extreme: how could I be so stupid... etc. The presence of Jesus, who represents the love and forgiveness of the Holy Spirit, (and he's not particular, it could be Quan Yin, Lao Tse, Krishna, Theresa of Avila, Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer, or whoever that fills that role for you), means that you can forgive the issues that come up and ask for help in looking at it with the vision of the Holy Spirit, and from that the answers come through. In the OT this is symbolized in the story of Job, who first is listening to his old (=ego) friends, but then becomes quiet and starts listening to the Voice for God.

This inner process of cleaning out the Augias stables, is messy, and it is also very individual. Only at a very high level of abstraction - in the eyes of the Holy Spirit - does it become simple, because ontologically the issues are always the same in one form or another. When you're in these episodes they are never clear, and very threatening at times. In that way St. John of the Cross was helpful in writing about it in retrospect, from the calm that resulted from his process in the end, likewise Margot Krikhaar writes in a way that invites us in and constantly helps us to look at our own process, which may be ever so different in form, but is always the same in the end. And in the end, clarity always results, once we really forgive, instead of yet again muddling through with our own judgment.

1. The real world is the state of mind in which the only purpose of the world is seen to be forgiveness. 2 Fear is not its goal, for the escape from guilt becomes its aim. 3 The value of forgiveness is perceived and takes the place of idols, which are sought no longer, for their "gifts" are not held dear. 4 No rules are idly set, and no demands are made of anyone or anything to twist and fit into the dream of fear. 5 Instead, there is a wish to understand all things created as they really are. 6 And it is recognized that all things must be first forgiven, and then understood. (ACIM:T-30.V.1)

What is so powerful in the process of the Course is that the path of forgiveness leads us through the mess with the growing awareness of Jesus' presence, in part in the words of the Course itself, but then increasingly also in our inner experience. His is a voice that we knew before, and always recognize, but for most of our lives we repress that voice out of awareness, as long as we are in the service of the false rulers, be they Pharao, or uncle Laban, and all of the figures that fill those roles in our lives. Hence the Course says that the ego always speaks first and is always wrong, just like Job's old friends were always wrong.

1. Remember that the Holy Spirit is the Answer, not the question. 2 The ego always speaks first. 3 It is capricious and does not mean its maker well. 4 It believes, and correctly, that its maker may withdraw his support from it at any moment. 5 If it meant you well it would be glad, as the Holy Spirit will be glad when He has brought you home and you no longer need His guidance. 6 The ego does not regard itself as part of you. 7 Herein lies its primary error, the foundation of its whole thought system. (ACIM:T-6.IV.1)
In retrospect we can see how everything in our growing up, even the children's games we played are pure ego training, like hide and seek - it merely models the ego's lessons of hiding from God, modeled in the old testament as Adam hiding from God in the bushes, because he is ashamed. Thus the un-learning of the forgiveness process, which helps us un-doing the ego, is like retracing our steps to the original point of choice. The same thing happens in the autolysis process, as the light of the Holy Spirit simply dissolves the ego, which one way or another cannot stand the light, and only keeps its power over us by our not looking. There is however another way, and Awakening in Love is a powerful demonstration of it, and an inspiration for every Course student to commit to seeing it through. The Course is the invitation to make the other choice, simply because we get sick and tired of being sick and tired with the ego system. Margot Krikhaar's book is a helpful demonstration of what it looks like to make the other choice in very practical day to day terms, she is the girl next door, who picked up the Course and followed it all the way to the end, to end up living the solution, not the problem.
1. Temptation has one lesson it would teach, in all its forms, wherever it occurs. 2 It would persuade the holy Son of God he is a body, born in what must die, unable to escape its frailty, and bound by what it orders him to feel. 3 It sets the limits on what he can do; its power is the only strength he has; his grasp cannot exceed its tiny reach. 4 Would you be this, if Christ appeared to you in all His glory, asking you but this: 
5 Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there.
6 For He has come, and He is asking this. (ACIM:T-31.VIII.1)
In reflecting on the Western tradition I grew up in (though other cultures are not too different), it is worth reflecting on the strange way we've dealt with the matter of spiritual awakening. The process of declaring people saints, and treating them more or less as as a sort of oddities is almost off-putting, alienating. But the Course speaks right from the outset about 'love's presence' as our 'natural inheritance,' moreover throughout the book it makes it clear that 'the outcome is as certain as God.' Jed McKenna also speaks of 'human adulthood' as an inevitable development, and refers to the state society accepts as 'adulthood' as a case of arrested development. Jesus in the Course refers to the what the world calls adulthood as spiritual childhood.
The Course also is clearly pitched at spiritual toddlers, who are only just starting out. It may be worth reflecting that besides the few who were acknowledged as 'official saints,' there have been any number of enlightened people who were never known by anyone, traditionally this is reflected among other things in the Chassidic teaching of the thrity-six zaddikim who no one knows who they are. For all you know, the cleaning lady, or a shoe-shiner may be an enlightened person. For really, what is left to talk about - unless like Margot, you are called to teach in the formal sense. And so, since truth is one, and is the only thing that really is, there is no other option but ending up there. Margot's book as a testimony of one person's journey is a very powerful help for anyone who becomes conscious of the call in their own life.

Copyright, © 2011 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.
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