It was to be a long time before I was able to write in my diary:
..........Die to self? How do I do that? I remember how I did it once before; a very special occasion. There was no trying so very hard to drag myself out of my ego-state; it wasn't like that at all. It was when, after days of exhausting meditation on the proof of my powerlessness in the face of another's ego, not to mention my own, that I realised how insanely foolish my behaviour had become. But that was not enough. My pride had not yet been shown to be the very real danger to my spiritual recovery that I needed to see. Thus more days of ever deeper investigation followed, until I wanted to cry out, "Please, no more!" But more had to come until I became utterly convinced. Then, and only then, was I able to, "Come to believe."..........
There could be no point in reaching that state unless I was prepared to go further. It was then that I first made a commitment to the path on which I had been placed, and that commitment required that I carry out a searching inventory of myself, to continue the process of "knowing myself".
I would like to reproduce here an email to a friend, describing what the carrying out of that moral inventory entailed.
"..........There are some subjects that are easy to write about, whilst there are others that come loaded with difficulties. This is one such subject. To begin with, this is not a subject that can be dealt with as a single, complete package but will need further visits. Like so much psycho-spiritual work, this exploration of one's inner world requires that certain aspects of that world need to be investigated time and time again. It is an ongoing experiment in which the parameter values may need to be changed, and new parameters given their due attention. The approach naturally assumes a spiral nature, going ever deeper with each turn, perhaps with some changes in motive and style depending on what one has discovered on previous visits. Each turn of the spiral adds a little more information, understanding and even, perhaps, wisdom. Truth is the desired goal.
When it comes to studying the ego in general, and particular parts of one's personality in particular, it is sometimes difficult to know where to begin. It would seem necessary to make at least a start on the analysis of some feature of the ego, to get things moving. The dissection of the onion, shell by shell, has often been used as an analogy for this process. The observation of the onion as a whole comes later. In other words, it seems to be a fruitless task trying to understand the ego as a whole until some work has been carried out on at least some of the ego's characteristics. The particular characteristics I will make a start with in this email are what have been called personality strengths and weaknesses. Subpersonalities and prejudices must await their turn, to a more appropriate time in the future, although much of what can be said of personality traits can also be applied to these behaviour patterns.
I recall the first time I began to deal with my character traits. Recalling and noting down, that latter process being very important, three examples of the use of my negative traits was a gruelling process. Pride, self-pity, resentment, anger, and so on, once begun the list seemed to be endless, all took their place under my searching gaze. Actually, I did very well. I had no desire to go through this process any more times than was necessary. Carrying out a similar process on my positive traits, citing only two examples for each, was far more difficult. The upshot of this process was that I was to be thrown into a despairing state of temporary depression (but under the watchful eye of an understanding counsellor) when dealing with the negatives in my life, only to be lifted to the heights of unmatched joy when dealing with my positives. The end result was that I knew a great deal more about my personality at the end of the process than I did at the beginning. I began to see how my personality traits affected the way I behaved, and how others reacted towards me as a result.
Even as a child I knew that no matter how hard I tried, there were things that I did that I did not wish to do; there were things I did not do that I would have wished to do. St. Paul seems to have been in despair when he also made this observation. No amount of willpower was going to change that situation. What I desired as an adult was to lay bare my personality traits in the hope that some fundamental changes would take place, beyond the place where my ego could interfere. It would seem that has happened, even if my ego still does insist on trying to keep its sticky fingers in business that doesn't concern it.
Periodical returns to that purgative, investigatory process into my personality traits has reaped other rewards. I do not return there, any more than I continue to probe into my childhood, for masochistic reasons. I am prepared to face legitimate pain, but not unwholesome pain. One thing I have discovered is that I no longer beat up on myself for past personality failures: that is ego behaviour. Furthermore, in learning and accepting that I cannot change my personality profile, I find that I am no longer in bondage to it. There has been the added benefit that the emphases in my character have changed, so that sometimes I wonder who I once was. There are, of course, times when I wish I had behaved differently, when I regret the hurt I might have inadvertently caused. But the guilt trip thing is no longer part of my life. By seeing something of who I am, I am no longer unavoidably ruled by traits of which I was once unaware. This is an ongoing process which I believe will eventually bring me to the point at which I can embrace the totality of what I am, the complete ego, with love. Without a developing healthy love of the Self I would be wasting my time.........."
Nothing I can say here can adequately describe the truly agonising, exhausting - and exhaustive - process that I undertook. Something that seemed to be beyond myself took my commitment to that inner search, and held me on that path. I had made my choice and, by heaven, I was going to be kept to that choice. One doesn't mess around with God! The process of investigating my personality traits, described in five or six lines above, took a little over three weeks, every minute of every day, of intensive work. There was no time off, except to give assistance to others who asked for and needed it. Even then I was advised, "Take a little care of yourself as well."
The absolute joy, and it did feel to be absolute, that accompanied the following step on the way was almost overwhelming. Yet the journey, during which so much had seemed to have been gained, had also seemed barely to have begun. The further I travelled, the further it seemed that I would need to travel, but only by one step at a time. It is odd that later I was to claim that I didn't do faith very well. This whole journey has been built on faith.