Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
At first sight this does not appear to hold many problems. Against the background of what I am trying to show, the depth of this inventory is very important. Looked at from a fundamentalist standpoint I believe it to be true that, indeed, this Step may not present too many problems. The picture is very different from a eisegesic point of view, for then every part of one's life experience and its interpretation comes into play. And that can feel, and usually is felt, like spiritual, hopeless devastation. As one's inventory contains positive as well as negative personality traits, it is as well to deal first with the latter (the easier option anyway) rather than the former. Great benefits are gained by the writing down of the details of this inventory, rather than simply going over them in one's head, a method too easily used as a cop-out.
Whilst this process of inventory-taking requires a deep investigation of every possible character trait, it will not be part of my task to go into the actual details of this Step, but rather to treat the subject in such a way as to throw some light onto the background against which my experiences may be compared, namely the life as lived by the mythological Christ through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. It will be recalled from my previous post, "Spiritual Awakening," that this is my chosen, pre-existing format with which to compare my own inner journey.
Following the Step 4 inventory comes the more difficult Step 5. This Step is important, not perhaps for what it is, as for what it is not. Let me quote:-
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
This would appear to be something in the nature of a confession, yet in reality it is far from that. Admitting to another person, and one needs to know that person can be absolutely trusted, all one's character traits, negative and positive, certainly focuses the mind onto reality as I had never known it before. And that goes to the heart of the process, the confrontation with a new reality. This, I believe, is where the Catholic ritual of confession falls short. I had discovered a new truth which up to that time I had not seen. Guilt did not come into the picture. Wrongs do not necessarily carry with them a sense of guilt, but of recognition. Guilt serves only one purpose, and that is to awaken awareness of one's state, for example submission to one's egos, and I had already been awakened to my ego. To have hung on to guilt would have been to maintain a self-piteous subservience to my false self, my ego. Guilt would then have acted as a counterweight or anchor, holding back the emergence into a higher, more spiritual life. And with guilt comes blame, the partner-in-crime, if I may name it as such, of judgementalism.
The recalling of what I experienced, as a litany of shortcomings, left me in a state of spiritual devastation. Thus was I totally unprepared for the joyous walking-on-clouds experience when I recalled my positive traits. This sense of experiencing a transfiguration is important and will be referred to in a future post. Sadly, in my experience, it is people who feel they live a highly moral, upright life, one of service to others, who often find this Step impossible to deal with. To have become as poor in spirit as I had become is something for which I am eternally grateful. I do not believe I could ever have made a more thorough inventory of myself. The necessary process, about which I learned so much later, was complete.
Of course, I have chosen to write this script from the standpoint of the "Twelve Steps" because that goes to the heart of my experience. However, this process is also referred to by St. John of the Cross in his dissertations on the "Dark Night of the Senses," and the "Dark Night of the Soul." These writings can be found in his collected works under, "The Ascent of Mount Carmel," and "The Dark Night."
For a very long time I was puzzled over Jesus' call to be 'perfect'. How could this be possible? Meister Eckhart in his sermons says that he is writing for those who have become 'perfects'. Out of my reading of St. John of the Cross, I conclude that perfection is that state achieved having gone through the process about which I have spoken above. Nothing else seems to make sense, and that kind of 'perfection' is something to be grateful for, a gift or grace received in humility.
At this point I will pause awhile. Physical restrictions, namely my recent eye surgery, requires that I take a break from writing. I have to say, however, that it has been a pleasure, a joy, to put virtual pen to paper, in short bursts, even if it has meant seeing the physical world through some strange, short-distance distortions.