In the second part of this essay, I will travel back to that time when my spiritual fortunes seemed to be at their lowest ebb. That was the time when I was forced to face up to my abject and humiliating failure to control another person's drinking. There would be little to be gained from trying to describe the sense of psycho-spiritual devastation that I experienced, except for one thing. A very real sense of oncoming spiritual annihilation obliged me engage with some serious soul-searching, if I was to have any chance of survival. For about two-and-a-half weeks, and for almost every minute of the day, I had (under strict supervision) to search out and write down (the latter being a very important part of the process) every example that I could recall of my powerlessness over that person's alcoholism. Up until that point I had always believed that if I tried hard enough and for long enough, I would succeed, that the solution to the problem was in my hands. How wrong could I have been? Not only did I discover just how lacking in power I really was, but also what a devastating effect that wasted output of energy was having on my outer life. At that time I barely acknowledged that I had an inner life.
But so what? What has that to do with me now? Simply this, that the seeking out of that over which I, that is to say my conscious self, am unable effectively to exert power continues to this day. Only the focus of my attention has changed, and the means by which I seek to effect satisfactory outcomes. At the end of the two-and-a-half week investigatory period referred to above, I was exhausted. Yet that was, perhaps, the necessary condition for my discovery of, my coming to believe in, a power and energy that was greater than my egoistic self-will to deal with my battle against my ego (or more correctly, ahamkara). But that battle was not to be consciously joined for a while yet. I had to walk before I could run; I had to see the way before I could journey. I still needed to discover what lay at the very heart of powerlessness. It was to take some time and a great deal of work on the process of "Knowing Myself" before I discovered what I was seeking.
I will at this point, for the sake of brevity, skip that work and move on to the discovery of what really lay at the heart of the task to which I had agreed (at least between me and God) to apply myself. That kernel of truth was to be summed up in, "delusion and denial." Delusion hides the truth, whilst denial is a means of continuing the state of delusion. The task of ridding myself of these twin problems has always been at the heart of my commitment to seeking truth. Whatever may be said about the ego and its inappropriate attachments, whatever may be debated about its meaning, can be said to be deflections, generated by the ego itself, from the central and all-important task of dealing with delusion and denial. It has been said that that task lay at the centre of the spiritual Master Jesus' teaching, not to mention the teachings of the Buddha and others. In Qabalistic terms, this is the experience of Tiphareth, the achievement of the Great Work.
I said in the first part of this essay that Jesus (according to the Thomas Text) said that if we do not know and understand ourselves, then we are in poverty, and we are the poverty. Now it seems to me that if the Text has been correctly translated - and I have to take that as a given - then either Jesus is just plain wrong, or there is another interpretation to be discovered. This is all part of that Great Work to discover the heart of spiritual truth, to rid my spiritual system of delusion. The first obstacle to be overcome is the assumption that Jesus is correct simply because his name is what it is. Now I find myself on steadier ground, that I can acknowledge he may be wrong, but also that he may be correct, that we can in some way be the poverty.
I pointed out in the previous part of this essay that it may be a question of identification. Yet somehow that appears to leave certain questions unanswered. These questions are, at the least, tied up with the matter of character traits, thoughts and emotions, and the judgements we pass on their rightness or wrongness (or holiness or sinfulness, if religious language is preferred). It seems to me that if the Text is correct, by that I mean truthful, then it points to the possibility of more than one reality. In which case, what I see as reality is not absolute, but relative. One reality, the one which is relative to the ego, says that I am my body, my thoughts and my feelings. Yet I have found in my life that there is a higher reality, that of the Higher Self, which says that I am not my body, or my thoughts or my emotions. The level of reality is dependent upon spiritual development.
Father Richard Rohr, (Centre for Action and Contemplation, New Mexico), summarises this trend of perceived reality with spiritual growth in his most recent on-line meditations. Briefly, regrettably very briefly, he lists spiritual development under the following headings:
Part 1: Stage One: My body and my self image are who I am.
Stage Two: My external behaviour is who I am.
Stage Three: My thoughts and feelings are who I am.
He goes on to say, "Without great love (and I mean great love) and great suffering, where there is a major defeat, major humiliation, major shock to the ego self, very few people move to Stage Four.
Stage Four: My deeper intuitions and felt knowledge in my body are who I am.
It yet remains for me to complete my journey, but something wonderful beckons.