Audio loading...

Welcome! You can log in or create an account to save favorites, edit keywords, transcripts, and more.


AI Suggested Keywords:

AI Summary: 





Now we want to see where that leads in a way, because asceticism can remain an isolated thing in the spiritual life, and it can remain a self-operating sort of block in the spiritual life, and it can even be one of those positive addictions we were talking about. Thomas Martin wrote a book fairly early in his life called Ascent to Truth, fairly early in his monastic life. If he had written it later on, he probably would have called it Descent to Truth, because the spiritual life begins to look more like a descent than an ascent as one goes along. And this has especially been true in recent years, I think. Remember St. Therese in her little way, the way really of becoming smaller rather than becoming greater, and of discovering God's power rather than sort of growing out our muscles, and discovering that our strength somehow is in opening ourselves to His strength,


paradoxically by making ourselves small enough so that we can enter into it, or rather small enough so that we can enter into Him. Remember St. Benedict's Rule, Chapter 7, where St. Benedict presents us with a paradox of the latter, by which we, you know, you go up and you go down, and you ascend by humility, you ascend by descent, and it reflects that in him of Philippians, Chapter 2, remember where Jesus empties himself, descends, and rather than, you know, be exalted himself. And in the monastic life, somehow you do the two of them at the same time. Jesus, after all, was exalted, raised up in a crucifixion, and glorified at the same time, according to the way St. John uses the word. And then St. Benedict's got this expression, humiliato corde, in the beginning of Chapter 7, a check on humility in the rule. The latter represents our life in this world.


Let's see. That ascent and descent means that we go downward when we exalt ourselves, and rise when we are humbled. The latter represents our life in this world, that the Lord erects for heaven when our heart is humbled, and the sides of the latter represent our soul and our body. Kind of a crude, allegorical interpretation of the latter, yet which has plenty of sense to me. It's the sides of the soul and the body, where we go up and down, where we bring our heart. And it's the heart that has to become humbled. And so that's what we want to look into. How asceticism relates to this question of humility. And it may turn out that the ultimate asceticism actually is humility. But the ultimate asceticism is a kind of a disappearance, in which there's nobody anymore to count our score of, or to measure our growth, or anything like that. Of course, the thing that does that most efficiently, I suppose, is a union. Because somehow, through the relationship of obedience,


God is really able to take away all of our ego gratification. And so we just, as the Lord says to St. Peter, by a way which we would rather not travel. Which precisely is the way that we need to have. Because the way that we prefer to travel, as long as we map it out, is also going to come around and gratify our own ego, our own self-will. Our own asceticism, anyway, seems to lead to a kind of impasse. Luther's got a beautiful article in Monastic Studies, number 9. You may remember it. It's a graphic article called Repentance and the Experience of God. And he talks about this kind of impasse that we get into. Then he quotes that saying of Abba Moses.


Somebody asked Abba Moses, What good are fasts and vigils? That's a curious question you're asking. I don't think everybody would be so convinced. But Moses responded, They have no other use than to knock a man down to true humility. If the soul produces this fruit, the heart of God will be moved towards him. It is the difficulty of the battle that produces humility, condition of heart, meekness, and sweetness. That's really something, to hear that from one of the Luther studies. They have no other use than to knock a man down to humility. In other words, it's not a success that's sanctified. It's a self-failure. Very paradoxical thing. And of course, they have other, they have other fruits, too. Asceticism, obviously, is not something you can cure. Obviously, there's another purification. There's a purification on the level of the body, on the level of the flesh, on the level of our lower instincts. But the basic, the most important purification is the one on the level of the ego, the one that reaches right into itself.


But otherwise, there's a paradoxical thing, where you clean out the house, and drive out one devil in the same fashion, and bring seven other devils in. That seems to refer to that kind of thing, where you purify yourself on one level, and meanwhile, ablaze yourself on another level, so that you get a parasaic kind of a virtue. If the soul produces this fruit, humility, the heart of God will be moved towards him. So somehow, the heart of the monk has been changed for his, for his, not directly for his, but for himself. Monastic asceticism, Luke continues, is then an asceticism of the poor, that drives the monk and his weakness and his sin into a corner, while throwing him back at the same moment into the arms of mercy, and of the saints that God alone can gather. There's an analogy here, between the role of monastic asceticism, and the role of the law, according to St. Paul.


You remember how St. Paul talks about the law in Romans chapter 7, which is, there's one law in my numbers, and there's another law in my mind. The law of God is in my mind, and I love it in my mind, because there's another law, a law of the flesh, in my flesh, that fights against it, and to be thrown into conflict. Somehow, the conflict is necessary. The conflict opens us to God's grace. There's another passage in Romans, which is even closer to the point, and that's in Romans 3. Whatever the law says, it speaks to those that are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Remember, St. Paul's whole crusade there, against the law, as far as the Christian is concerned. He says you're liberated from the law, and if you go back and you take on the yoke of the Jewish law once again,


you're rejecting Christ, you're throwing away the gift that you've been given, you're surrendering to the Christian liberty that you received in the Spirit, if you go back to the law. He says the law doesn't save you, the law doesn't justify you, it doesn't make you free from God's sight, it only shows you your freedom, it only includes your sin. Maybe St. Paul is being especially polemical there. Certainly, if you look at it from the Jewish side, you find a beautiful piety of the law, but there he's making a theological principle. Is that obedience to the law, but not regard of love? Certainly, the heart there also, as you see, certainly the heart of God is moved towards that person, who obeys the law. But St. Paul is making the point that the law reveals our inability to keep the law by ourselves. In other words, the law forces us to open ourselves to grace.


Now, there are a bunch of other things that force us to open ourselves to grace. Of course, the last one of them is death, isn't it? And death, somehow, as you say, is the final law. And our nature itself, this fallen nature of us, is under the law of death. And so, everything that we're talking about somehow is aiming in that direction, is aiming in the direction, finally, of that boundary line, that wall which we cannot throw, the law of death. And it's when we are hit by the boundary line, by the law, in any of its forms, that then we feel our need for grace, because that's our limit. We can't move any further. And so it is even with this whole question of God. And so it is with asceticism. If we get to a boundary line, we get to the limit of our possibilities, then we have to look for grace. Maybe that sounds too, like an oversimplification, but it seems to be true. Luke also speaks of a zero point in our life of prayer.


This is in the early part of his book, Preachers to Prayer. He's talking about this as a collective thing now, not just for one of us, but we're all more or less in the situation now. He's talking really in the person of the people he's writing for, not so much from his own position. The truth is we are at our wits' end. We have lost the sense of prayer altogether. We are caught in the blind alley of an illusion. It really dramatizes it. Many of us have touched zero point. That's the essential expression there, zero point. A point of helplessness. Thank God, he says, for now we can make a new start. It's the movement from Roman VII to Roman VIII, from the conflict to the resolution to the grace of Christ. That zero point can mean a reversal, a turn of the tide, but this is the saving grace of our time in the Church of today, that we are now at our wits' end, that the props have suddenly collapsed, that now at last we can see how little of the facade remains


or indeed was ever there at all, and that now the Lord can build everything up again from scratch. The collapse of triumphalism, and therefore the collapse of illusion, the kind of ego boasting that's present in every kind of triumphalism, even in the collective kind, even in the Church kind, the Catholic kind, until now we can be dependent on those. Do you remember how the prophet, in the word of God, derails against that kind of conflict, that over-conflict on the part of the Jewish people in the Old Testament? Tempum Domine, Tempum Domine, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord. The prophet is mocking the people who think that this is their place, that's the Temple, that you may go in there and pray that God is always pleased with you. He says, forlorn is peace. It's the humility and the devotion of your heart that tempts the broken heart. It's not the fact that it's at the Temple. And then, later on, the discursive,


the discursive departure from the Temple, the discursive departure from the Temple. Then he talks about technique, the techniques of recollection and interior quiet, now reaching us from the far east, things like yoga, things like, generally, can put us all on the road to prayer, but they cannot, of themselves, bring us to our destination. They have first to grow beyond themselves, as it were, exceed themselves, in order to be taken up into the pastoral action of Jesus. This is always the acid test, the first step, that's really the pastoral mystery of Jesus, his death and resurrection. Everything runs up against that wall. Everything runs up against the wall of death. And if it's not valid, if it doesn't go through there, then, ultimately, it's no good. Ultimately, they're trying to abandon us, and we'll have to abandon them, because we can't. They won't carry us across there. The only thing that will is the cross of Jesus, is the grace of Jesus. So this is the point where nothing helps us but pray. And this is how everything must be judged, in the end.


This does not simply happen all by itself. The technique must first be lowered to its zero point. The man who applies himself to that will, at some point, see his effort break down, collapse, being inadequate to the task of prayer. That gulf between a natural technique and the gift of prayer is not to be bridged from man's side. Every technique runs up against the death of Jesus. It is faced with the foolishness of this cross. Remember how St. Paul, when he's talking about the wisdom of the cross, he says, the Greeks looked for wisdom, the Jews looked for science, and so on. But we preach Christ, Jesus Christ, with scandal and absurdity. And the same thing holds for the spiritual life. There's all kinds of wisdom, you know. There's all kinds of techniques and things, and ways and special paths. But they all run up against the death of Jesus. They all run up against the cross, and nothing goes through there except faith. And both can rise. Nothing goes through there in the other direction except the grace of God. And there's a great liberation, of course, at that point.


And so we sort of put down our burden of equipment and just open and just look at Him. Through the faith of Him who prays, it can gradually be subsumed within the vitalizing dynamic of Easter. In other words, it has to be carried up, it has to be incorporated into the Christian faith, to put it that way, into the grace of Easter. So this thing of purity of heart begins to look more like the melody of heart. And that, I think, gives us a deeper sense of the purity of heart. We talked about the debate between Thomas Merton and B.T.C. Suzuki that he recounts in the book of Advocates and how Suzuki seems to be getting deeper than Thomas Merton at a certain point because Merton is talking about purity of heart through a taxonizer, which is still something you can sort of experience. It's still like emptying out a vessel, and there you are, a vessel, waiting for God to come and fill you. And you experience this tranquility. But Suzuki is talking about an emptiness


which is beyond experience. There's something very much like it in Eckhart. As a matter of fact, Thomas Merton quotes Eckhart in that place. This passage that I referred to earlier. If it is the case that a man is emptied of things, creatures, himself, and God, and if still God could find a place in him to act, then we say, as long as that place exists, this man is not poor with the most intimate poverty. Eckhart really likes to drive this point home. For God does not intend that man shall have a place reserved for him to work in, since the true poverty of spirit requires that man shall be emptied of God and all his work, so that if God wants to act in the soul, he himself must be the place in which he acts, and that he would like to do. For if God once found a person as poor as this, so poor almost you can say that he doesn't exist, he would take the responsibility of his own action and would himself be the scene of action. For God is one who acts within himself. It is here, in this poverty, that man regains the eternal being that once he was,


now is, and evermore shall be. Merton says, the place is zero, or emptiness as being, whereas the work which is carried on in the zero place is infinity, or emptiness as becoming. I think this is Suzuki's argument, not Merton's. The risk there is that we get too philosophical about the whole thing, and that we get too abstract. But this is, it's the case of really needing to be wiped out, wiped out on the level of the ego. But the heart remains, and somehow that's true. But our experience is not going to be a neat, clean one, of emptiness. It's more likely to be a negative experience. But it seemed that way. A death is to be died. The Desert Fathers like to talk a lot about


being dead, you know, dead to the world. To be dead to your brother means that it doesn't bother you when he does something to you, or it means that you're not sort of looking for the approval of others. There's a quotation, there's a text in Deuteronomy, which is close to what we're talking about. This business of deprivation and poverty and how it leads to humility, and really that's the purpose of it. This is from Deuteronomy chapter 8. It's God talking to Israel and Moses. Remember how Yahweh your God led you for forty years in the wilderness to humble you, to test you and know you're in most hard, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you. He made you feel hunger. He fed you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives from everything that comes from the mouth of Yahweh. He led you for forty years in the wilderness


amidst that poverty to humble you. Somehow, in the Jewish and Christian scheme of things, the body and the soul are one. The body and the heart and the mind are one. So when the body gets humbled, somehow the spirit, the soul gets humbled too. And you can humble the body, and you humble it through this kind of thing, through hunger and so on, and hard labor. In all of this, though, there's a spiritual warfare which goes beside us on both sides. It goes beyond us on the side of the enemy. St. Paul says that warfare is not against a person's life. It's not just against yourself, but there's another power there. There's a power of evil that's there, which somehow gets our own lower powers alive with it, captivity. And on the other side, this is at the end of Ephesians. Remember St. Paul says, Well, take on me the armor of God. On the other side, the power with which we fight it


and with which we're able to overcome it is the power of God, not our own power. The sword of the Word of God and so on, the shield and the helmet, all those things which are given to us by the Lord. It's a really good power. So, this matter of asceticism sort of funnels into the question of humility, the question of finding the truth, because humility is the quest of the truth, the truth about ourselves. Remember St. Bernard's three degrees of truth. The first degree of truth, the first stage, is to find the truth in yourself. And this is the lesson of humility. With the truth in yourself, the truth that you ultimately find is God. The first stage is finding the truth in yourself, humility, and that makes you a compunction. And that enables you to begin to feel that your brother is made of the same stuff you are. It lowers you to the level of your brother after the pride is drained out.


And then we begin to be able to find the truth in him. And then our heart expands. And then finally we begin to be able to find the truth in itself, in God. The truth somehow is in our power. Somehow we... St. Paul talks about the people who confine the truth, who shut up the truth, who hid the truth, who buried it and concealed it. He's talking about, I guess, pagans and idolaters and so on. We do the same thing inside ourselves. We have the power to conceal the truth, to close our own interior eyes and close the heart. And it's largely a matter of hope. It's a matter of what we put ourselves in. It's a matter of what we want. It's a matter of what we stand on, where we get our support. It's hope that seems to control the whole thing. So the journey is the journey of moving from one kind of hope to another, and basically moving from hope in ourselves to hope in God. There's a kind of a convergence point


of all of the authentic traditions of spirituality, not only the Christian ones, but all the others, I think, at this point. This point of death itself. Everyone has got a different notion for it, whether it be Buddhist or Hindu, or whatever. But that's the sign of what Christianity really is, the spiritual tradition, is that they pass through the... they pass through the path of omniscience, even in an unknown sense. Anna talks about the anonymous Christians, the people who... everybody wouldn't like that expression, anonymous Christians. But as the people who, practically speaking, live the mystery of death and resurrection in their lives because they face death and they accept it, because they live their lives in the face of the ultimate, in the face of God, even though they don't know God in our sense, even though they don't know anything about Christ, yet somehow they participate in the death and resurrection of Christ because they live their lives, they face their lives, in a way, their lives and their death.


There's a... I have this saying I like very much here, if I can find it. This is Aaron of Scarlon, who was a disciple of the great Magid. They asked Rabbi Aaron what he had learned from his teacher, the great Magid, the great teacher, the great priest. Nothing at all, he said. And when they pressed him to explain what he meant by that, he added, The nothing at all is what I learned. The nothing at all. I learned the meaning of nothingness. I learned that I am nothing at all and that I am notwithstanding. That's beautiful. That really says it. This is the most that a teacher can teach you, is that you are nothing and yet you are. Remember that I am, is a reflection of the great I am of God, right? The I am. When God was asked, Yahweh was asked for his name by Moses,


out in the Bible, in the third chapter of Exodus, that's what he replied. I am who I am. And from that comes the name Yahweh. I learned that I am nothing and yet I am. To learn that emptiness that is ours and yet that within that emptiness is the affirmation of our being, which is God's own self-affirmation. To learn that we are nothing and yet that we are because God loves us and basically because God is and because he is and because he made us out of love, our very being is a participation in his being. So our very affirmation of self becomes a participation in his self-affirmation. So that we are because he is and the joy of our life is sort of the springing up of his self-affirmation. To learn that I am nothing and yet I'm what I am.


They say there's a very good question to ask yourself when you get to the end of your rope and you'll be set right out. And that is, well, why does anything at all exist? How come anything exists? And if you add everything up, you have to come out with a plus because something is, something exists. Now, if something exists, then, well, why? How come? In fact, it might as well not exist. And why do I exist? Well, I might as well not exist. But how come I exist? Well, if I exist, then basically reality is a yes. It's not a maybe, and it's not a no, but it's a yes. And then you can go from there. There are all sorts of consequences. If I exist and there's nothing that wants to exist, because it's a very stubborn reality that exists in front of me, no matter how much I want to shake it, I can't get rid of it. I'll wake up the next morning, I'll say, there's something that wants very badly to exist. And if you stick with that question, and if you are stubborn enough about it and look into it,


you come to the conclusion that something wants me to exist because it loves me. And that that love is the most faithful thing that exists. And that that gift of being, and that love which somehow is in us and surrounds us and closes us, follows us through our whole life. And that somehow it's waiting to be discovered right inside the people of my own existence. So in a monastic life, both of the functions of the teacher, in a way, is to teach us that we are nothing and yet that we are. So what does he do? He's spiritual father in that sense. He teaches you humility. He teaches you to vanish. He teaches you to die. And yet he teaches you to discover your resurrection. In other words, what he does is he gets you in the new man in such a way that you discover your true father, right? Who is God. You discover that act by which you exist as God's own self-affirmation.


In other words, when you do a chapter, you have your father in that way, somehow. And how does he do it? He does it by that sort of two-fold process of helping you to detach yourself from your illusions and from the things that you're stuck on and from all of the junk that we accumulate and glue together in order to convince ourselves that we exist, in order to reflect ourselves back to ourselves. By helping you to get rid of your attachments and to die to everything that confirms your false existence. So that's the negative part, the left hand, we might say, helping you to die. And the other thing is by affirming it, simply by transmitting to you, somehow, the love of God in his own love, in his own total acceptance, in the fact that he relates to you as your father, he holds you up with his right hand while he helps you to die with his left hand. So he's not just a teacher, but he's your father in that way, reflecting the fatherhood of God, who does the same thing for us as it was with his right hand.


There are a lot of texts in the New Testament which I won't repeat to you about the death of this whole self and the birth and the growth of a new self. There is one that I want to mention, and that's Galatians 2. I who the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. It speaks very clearly about the death, the death which is somehow a death to the law. And that death is a death to every law, so that what is born now is born in freedom, is born in the spirit. The resurrection knows no law but the law of the spirit, and the law of the spirit itself is freedom somehow. The law of the spirit itself is life. The law of the spirit itself is love, and it manifests in all the fruits of the spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, all of those things, which are their own law, which are their own principles,


which is life. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. He doesn't live in the way that he lived before. Remember that Philippians chapter 2, where he talks about all the things that supported his being, his ego, when he was a big wheel among the Jews, when he was a Pharisee. But all those things have become garbage, and he's thrown them all away for the surpassing knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's what he's talking about now. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith. He's still in the body. The body's dead, but he's still in it. He lives by faith. The only thing in the end, the only thing that gets through there is faith. And faith, of course, opens us to hope and to love. But you can call it either one. You can call it faith. By faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. The love of the Father that brings us into existence, is somehow made visible through it, in the love of the Son who dies to give us his life,


who dies to give us his very existence at some point. He dies into it. I do not nullify the grace of God, for justification is through the Lord Christ, God, and my soul. Okay, it seems that there are two ways we can go. And one way is sort of the way of vanity, and the other way is the way of humility. So, the monastic life makes a very decided option for the way of humility. Because you can either appropriate the spiritual life in the gift of God to yourself, and we're always doing it, or you can try to get your ego out of the picture, and that involves a further death. So that every time we profit, we have to sort of chalk up a loss in our life. A continual process of dying, as the gift of God continues to come into us. There's a whole lot in that, and I'm flattered about that vision of vainglory, but I won't go into it because we don't have time.


But the way of vainglory, and the way of ego satisfaction, is the way of the Pharisees. The Pharisees are the archetypes of that particular thing, of appropriating religion to yourself. When St. John of the Cross writes about the passive purification of dark nights, he's talking about the things that kill that kind of ego-centered religion, and make religion a serious business, make it a sincere business. That gratification of our own self, that sort of wearing our faith in our religion like a garment, in order to gratify ourselves, becomes impossible because there isn't any more feedback. The light, the pleasure of the feedback, all washes out somehow, all disappears in the darkness. So all that is left is the heart, and faith in the darkness. So the other way is the way of humility, and the way of emptiness. We have a lot of problems, difficulties sometimes nowadays,


because of the seeming collision of our monastic spirituality with the doctrine of psychology. I'll just read you two little texts, kind of amusing, just to illustrate that. Here's Abba Isaiah. Nothing is so useful to the beginner as insult. The beginner that bears insults is like a tree that is watered every day. Then here's John Powell, the Jesuit, who writes books on popular psychology, which have a lot of good in them. A good self-image is the most valuable psychological possession. The first of the steps into the fullness of life is to accept oneself. Obviously, all growth begins with a joyful self-acceptance. Otherwise, one is locked perpetually into an interior, painful, and endless civil war. However, the more we approve and accept ourselves,


the more we are liberated from doubt about whether others will approve and accept us. The wellsprings for the fullness of life rise from within a person, and psychologically speaking, a joyful self-acceptance, a good self-image, and a sense of self-celebration are the bedrock beginning of the fountain that rises up from the fullness of life. What would Abba Isaiah say about all of that? Or what would Abba Coleman say about this sense of self-celebration? He says that grief is the one thing that makes a monk out of you. It's the one way to thank him. There seems to be a head-on collision here. It's as if there's a kind of a graduality. It's as if you have to go through a point of accepting yourself and of somehow finding yourself before you can begin to lose yourself. Not before you can begin to lose yourself. No, because the two happen. Happen also concurrently. It's a kind of a curve.


And if you lay on that self-denial thing, or that humiliation thing, too heavy and too early, a person can be crushed, clenched, and never be able to go to a healthy state. There's one text in the Sangha, the fatherhood, which has a particular wisdom about this. An old man said, this is one old man, another wiser old man, an old man said, I hate the vainglory of the young fellows, the young monks. It makes them wear themselves out for nothing, that is, for no reward. For in fact, they're looking for a human reputation. They do it because they're showing off that their asceticism is a vain asceticism. Another old man, very discerning, replied, For my part, I quite approve, and for it's useful for a young man to have regard for vainglory rather than falling into negligence, rather than being tepid. It's better that he do something, even if he does it for the wrong reason.


If he has vainglory, in fact, he must restrain himself, that is, mortify himself, keep vigil, exert himself, acquire charity, and support figuration in view of earning praise. After he has behaved in this way, the grace of God comes to him and says, Why do you tarry yourself out for men and not for me? Then he allows himself to be persuaded to give no more attention to human glory but rather to that of God. And hearing this, the Father says, Truly, it is done. So, you have to do that in the beginning. It may even have to be a competitive ascetic, or a competitive minister, or whatever you want, a competitive monk. And it's just in order to get you going in the beginning. But then the Lord takes care of it afterwards. He drains away that feedback and that vainglory, and He also speaks to you in your heart and says, Well, why do you? Why do you play these foolish games? Why not take them seriously? So there's a lot of graduality there.


What is this business of humility? Somehow it's a matter of confronting the dark side of ourselves. And we had our retreat, it must be about five years ago now, at the time it was in Genesee. He talks about confronting the dark side of yourself, as confronting your shadow. You know, that's a Jungian term. The shadow is the part of yourself that you push under into your unconscious, the part of yourself that you repress so that you can sort of have a satisfactory image of yourself in your consciousness. And it's also the part of us that we project on other people. So it's the qualities that we don't want to recognize in ourselves that we tend to project on others. And this shows up in our dreams, too, because it's a frightening adversary, a shadow figure pursuing you that turns out to be the part of yourself that you repress. So humility really is turning around and it's not welcoming. It's at least recognizing and coming into a relationship


with this dark side of yourself, with this shadow. In a deeper sense, it's turning around and somehow coming face-to-face with our death and face-to-face with our mortality. Thomas Merton talks about this whole business in terms of a false self and a true self. You're probably familiar with that already. That's something really, he really stuck to, even in that 90th year of the inner experience that the middle public has represented a lot of his final thoughts. The central axis in the whole thing is that movement from the false self to the true self. It's a very helpful thing. In some ways, it needs to be looked at kind of critically, too. What is the false self? There's some synonyms for it. The false self is the exterior I, I as a pronoun. The empirical self, the ego-centered self, self-will, the lower self, the world of mind,


non-being. In biblical terms, it's the flesh of St. Paul. At a certain point, Merton says, in Music of Consecration, he says it's the empirical ego. The true self is the interior I, the inner self, the Christ self, or the Christ-centered self, the real self, being, transcendent self, the center. And it's the spirit of St. Paul, not the Holy Spirit, but the spirit as far as the old man ruled by God's Spirit. And for him, the spiritual life is the death of this false self and the discovery, the emergence of the inner self, the true self. And this is a translation into sort of psychological terms, the experience of man, whatever you want to call it, of the physical reality of the seed falling into the ground, or the death of the old man and the appearance of birth as a new man. The only trouble is


you've got to be careful about confusing the false self with your actual self. In other words, if you look at yourself, you're likely to come to the conclusion that the whole thing is 100% false self and that it's all got to go. Well, that can worry. That can worry enough for God. You have to be a little bit compassionate about ourselves, as I think we find in history compassionate about ourselves. Besides the false self, there's an actual self. There's who we really are at a particular moment. And we can't totally reject that. We have to live in it. We can't just throw it into the garbage can. So we've got to be a little bit careful about judging and sort of outlining this false self. Similarly, about the true self, we have to be very careful that we don't get into a kind of Gnostic way by which we try to identify something that's perfectly divine within ourselves and gradually get in harmony with it. We can't objectivate that true self.


There's a real death and a real new birth that has to take place. And if we look into anything there that sort of falls short of faith or the short-circuited faith, we're into a kind of Gnosticism. Just a couple of passages that explain what the false self and the true self are. I'm going to quit for a bit. I don't want to keep going on. You'll find a lot about this in the book Muses of Contemplation. There's also a book written specifically on this, which is written by a friend of mine, Martin Stiles, who helped me. It's about the false self, true self thing. My false self is the one who wants to exist outside the radius of God's will and God's law, or outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion. That's part of slavery, according to Martin. The false self, or worldly mind, is the one who wants to assert himself, have pleasure, satisfy himself, get somewhere. He is ambitious.


This is the self we are struggling with. When we are in the grip of this self, we are in delusion. We are not ourselves. We are mad. Freedom to enter into the inner true self is denied to those who are held back by dependence on self-gratification, sense satisfaction, pleasure-seeking anger, self-assertion, pride, vanity, love of comfort, greed. All these things belong to the false self. But he really outlines the thing and makes a portrait of it. The false self is based in the drive for survival. This drive for survival can show itself in all forms of self-assertion. The instinct to survive at all costs is translated into a lot of other terms. This drive to continue in existence at all costs is the source of our thoughts, even of sexual temptation. Sex is not a drive for pleasure. He says it's a drive for survival, which can show itself as a desire for self-assertion. This drive can register in all forms of self-assertion, all forms


of beating somebody. The false self we create in our relationship with other men by reason of their esteem for us or our desire for us or by reason of our own self-esteem or efforts at it. And this enters us in the path to truth. He gives the idea that the false self is a kind of shell and the true self is inside. Enough about the false self. Let's hear a word or two about the true self. God is seen as being within my own subjectivity. He is the root of my personality. That's something that needs thinking about. God is not outside you, but he's inside you in the deepest sense. He's inside your own will. He's inside your own desire in some way. He's able to do that. In other words, what we really want most deeply is to touch the God. He's at the root of our personality. This is our awareness


of God. God is the source of our being and we are penetrated by his knowledge and power. There's a quote from St. Catherine of Genoa here. My me is God, nor do I know myself but accept him as God. My being is God, not by simple participation but by a true transformation of my being. St. Paul calls this inner self spirit, the spirit of Christ. Indeed, Christ himself dwelling within us. There is a union of God's spirit and your inmost self so that you and he are in all truth with one spirit. The interior I, to quote him once again, is as secret as God himself. Therefore, it cannot be studied as a thing. It's not coaxed forth by any process including meditation. All that we can do is produce within ourselves the silence, humility, detachment, fury of art and indifference necessary for this I to manifest its presence. You see how the inner I is or the true self is


related to faith in the sense that it has to remain in God because law of invisibility holds especially when you take to it. In finding God, man will also find himself for God is the very ground of man's being. By forgetting himself as an object of reflection, man finds his true self. The inner self is united to other men on a higher plane. One who is living his inner self is united with all others who are living their inner self. It's a wonder, it's surprising that Jonathan doesn't use other terms for that. He consistently sticks to the terms inner self or true self and false self or exterior self. It's a wonder he doesn't use the word person. There's a philosopher in Columbia, Dan Walsh, who teaches to a lot of people and has a lot to do with this sort of concept.


This is a session, in fact, on the notion of person. It's very much like Jonathan's notion of the true self. I'd like to talk more about all of this if there isn't time. We need really to work out a way of identifying the false self and of letting it fall apart or at least draining the energy out of it, draining the life out of it and devoting our energies to the actualization and realization of the true self. There's a psychologist who writes very much the same terms as Karin Kornai but I don't know if any of you know her. She has a lot of books in her library and especially a good one is Neurosis and Human Growth in which she describes this false self as a compound. Her terms and her concepts are a little different from common terms because she's not writing but in a theological framework. She's just writing in a framework of this life and specifically with respect


to neurosis. In other words, the false self for her is a neurotic thing whereas for not everybody has it. But she may have been influenced by her. In the end, all of this has to come up against, once again, the past and we find that a lot of streams of psychology run right into this place, right into this thing called the beginning beyond the false self and what is the false self? It is that we move through out of that false self and let it fall apart and escape from it and be liberated from it. Here's our faith in the resurrection of Jesus. So this flows directly into the classical history and this is the point where a lot of psychotherapy and anesthesia really converge at this point because so much of neurosis seems to be a refusal


to face reality and the reality which we avoid at all costs is the reality of the fear of death. Remember that text in Hebrews 2 where the devil held all men for all their lives slaves under the fear of death. Now if you can turn around and face that fear of death somehow move into that and the only way you can do it is by faith in the resurrection somehow then it's not only a question of asceticism it's a question of monastic sanctification or whatever it's a question of health somehow that's the secret of health and so the secret of mental health somehow in the deepest way is in faith trust and love that's what we're healed by. So I think this thing needs to be studied somehow another thing needs to be studied was the relationship between compunction which for the monk becomes his his characteristic


quality compunction which is the quality of sort of the transformed heart and psychopathy the grieving which is an essential thing in psychological healing in the acceptance of death in the acceptance really of life of doom of torture and it's something we've forgotten how to do the connection between the spiritual dimension the monastic dimension the Christian dimension and the psychological dimension along that line of compunction tears grieving as it moves towards death and how there's a process that happens sorry that I'm trying to talk about compunction it isn't the tears there's a process that happens where we start with fear or we start with sorrow and we end up with joy there's a kind of resurrection in the heart that happens in the process of compunction as one


faces the other impact the impact of one's sinfulness the impact of one's death moves through it into the grace of God which is coming into us I'd better let that go now unless someone has some questions I'm going to sing this for you yeah that's Eckart's wild German language you've got to watch it I think he means that also Eckart distinguishes God from the Godhead okay now for Eckart God is still something on the level of human concepts and human images right so he's overstating himself with that language that he uses as he very often does and that's how he got himself in trouble of course


so he would say you know the Godhead is still there but if the Godhead's going to be there then you have to get rid of God in the sense of your concept your image of God as far as you if you're concerned and you know God isn't there it's like when the Buddha said did we hear that in the lecture the other day if you see the Buddha killing what does it mean if you see the image or the idea if there's anything that you can that you can experience that you meet along your road the representation of the Buddha of God of ultimate reality then get rid of it because that's not there I think it's that kind of thing he's talking about our experience but Eckhart is confusing when he talks about the God and the Godhead Eckhart is just what he is saying yes


but that was a very important expression that Mother Teotokos in defending against the heresies but that wouldn't have put the point across because the point was that that Jesus is God as well as man I mean he's really God yeah and so I suppose probably the heretics the ones who are on the other side probably said well you're making our Mother the God of the Old Testament the God of the Father or something like that they would argue that way probably but the point was that there is a divine nature fully in Jesus that he's fully God as well as fully man and that was the expression that they used to defend the council council and that's really strong Mother of God that's right


Echard would have said it anyway and he would have got in trouble there's something beautiful about that expression, because it brings a paradox across, you see, it brings a mystery across in most forceful terms. And of course it could be misconstrued in the sense that, well, you're making an idol greater than God. Not greater than God, but mother of God, because God who is infinitely great is able to become infinitely small. He is so great that it expresses that paradox that he's so great that he can somehow become smaller than we are. He's so infinite, unbounded, that he can also come inside of us. It's just that kind of beautiful. I wish I brought Hoover along, because he's very good on the distinction between those


two. It seems to me that it's an uplifting and a happy thing that you like to do. Exactly. Somehow, the grieving process is one of the most healthy things you can do. And the distinction is this, that one of those things goes in the direction of self. The self-pity thing, the self-preoccupation thing, the depression thing, is always revolving around self. But


the grieving thing goes in exactly the opposite direction. It gets you out of self. In fact, it's like burying yourself in somewhere. As you bury that which you're grieving over, in some way you're burying yourself into the ground. And so, the seed is falling into the ground, and you're sort of watering it in some way. And the whole ground becomes yours. It's a way in which the fullness or the reality of God breaks through into your experience by letting go of the finite or particular. Okay? So, whenever we grieve, we're grieving for ourselves, in a sense. Whenever we grieve, we're dying in a voluntary way, which means that the resurrection is coming in. And so, it becomes a very joyful thing. And that's part of why the monks would say, you know, that they wish to take the food all the time. The things are so strong in there. I've got a couple of them here. There's quite a lot of literature on that. It's a liberation somehow. It's somehow indescribable, I think, that kind of thing.


And the spirit of compunction is nothing more characteristic of the monks than the spirit of compunction. Let me read just a little bit, because I didn't get a chance to talk about that. It's really important. This is from that article by Daniel on the Beatitudes in Eastern Persia. He talks about each of the Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn. He says, this Beatitude is the one which most obviously expresses an essential element of the spirituality of the early monks. The Syriac equivalent of confuntes, the mourners, abila, served as a name for monks. They were the weakest. They were the ones who grieved. Now, that sounds terrible. That sounds depressing. It's quite the opposite. Abra Poman says, Grief teaches everything. In the first place, it is a matter of a state of soul, a deep attitude, this mourning, which is much more than a virtue, for it is the origin of everything. That seems very strong. It seems like an exaggeration, because what's true for the world is a quality of heart. In some way, it's different from humility.


It's a more personal thing, in a way, and it's connected with the relationship of God in a deeper way. It's connected definitely with sin, not just with loneliness or emptiness or whatever. It's with a sense of guilt, but a sense of guilt which somehow has turned the right way, so that it's not a depressing feeling. Always keep grief with yourself like a freed slave who does not wish to leave his master or like the shadow that follows the body. Those are two separate things. Why? Because you're supposed to live along with your death. You're supposed to live along with your mortality, and that grief is like the companionship of yourself as you experience it in your heart. It's living on the boundary line of life and death all the time, like St. Paul does about when he says that we bear the dying and the life of Christ both in our body. This is the monk version of that, the imperialized version of that. You've been carrying the pastoral mystery around with you all the time in your heart, because your


heart is living on the boundary line of passing over from death to life all the time. So they say nothing is so properly done. It's a little hard, more than a little hard for us to get into nowadays. In the epithagmata as a whole, there are far more frequent recommendations to remember one's sins than to remember God, because remembering one's sins is a way into this thing. And the memory of God could go a different way. It could go into vanity or something like that, but somehow this grieving will keep you out of that, out of that path of that glory. Not always, though. Sometimes it makes sense. But as soon as one remembers one's sins and weeps over them in God's presence, it is an authentic form of the memory of God guaranteed by humility. And then they give examples. And it's finally the business of grieving and joy. Whatever the cause of their tears might be, the visit fathers knew very well that they were transitory and that God had not made man for tears but for joy and gladness. Weep and lament over yourself until the day of your death, for when you are sad and weak


you are not going from sorrow to sorrow but to joy. The Lord does not in fact lead us from sorrow to sorrow but to joy. Remember Mother Simpletica there once said to me, when you begin a spiritual life you have to get the fire going. You make smoke and you make yourself fly. But later on you experience an indescribable delight. Just as those who want to light a fire are usually first enveloped in smoke and wheat, so tears are necessary if one is to know the ineffable joy of the divine Father. Who is not acquainted with joy is not acquainted with who grieved and shed over for him. So it's kind of a universal thing among the early times. Also in the Middle Ages, St. Peter Damian wrote a long, lyrical eulogy of tears. Pages and pages he just goes on. And they say, before all things, ask and seek them to get the tears. Once you get that then everything else becomes easy. There's a lot of grief in this now. Sometimes it's repentance, sometimes it's just the grief


of someone who's suffering. Grief and longing, somehow the two go together. The grieving and the longing. Remember those psalms about the city of Jerusalem, the grief over the destruction of the city, over the exile, and the longing to see the city again, and the longing for the future city. Those are the two sides of this thing in the heart, of the dynamic of the heart. Grieving and longing. Grieving, by which we bury the past, but we bury it in the right way, which moves us forward. And the longing by which we move towards the future, and what's in the future, of course, is that city, and is the risen Christ. One of the Western writers who wrote most and best about this business, you know the cleric's book, The Love of Learning and the Desire for Growth, he's got a chapter in there on St. Gregory's doctrine of desire, it's beautiful in this compunction book, where he talks about the process of compunction,


where you start out with kind of fear, and then you move to maybe a kind of grief, and then you move into desire, and then finally into joy. Well, this is a kind of arc of development within the compunction. I die. He'll be just glad to get finished with all those horrible things.


He scared himself to death. Yeah, he was a tender-hearted guy. The monster he was. Even in the city. You mean like in the city? Yeah. And that leads to the question of things like seniority. We begin to become proud because we are different,


and try to make ourselves more different, to excel in that which is our own ability. Yeah, that's right. Start out competitively. You've got to get started somehow, anyhow. And we'll take that later on. Yeah. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me with tinnitus. The prayer of compunction. That article by Luther's Good on Compunction. That's where it all started. That article in The Catholic Study No. 9. Dependence on the experience of compunction. It's especially good at the end where he talks about the characteristic spirit of the mature monk, who, I don't know, the way he expresses it a little bit. Just this patient, almost hopeful expectation


that the next time that God tries to expose him, he can go once again to complete his faith once again. In a certain way, somehow just living with his death and slowly turning to life inside him. The orthodox are much more familiar with that kind of thing nowadays than they were. But you know, Mormon has a good chapter on compunction and Christ's idea of the monk. That's one of the first places I came across when I was in the orthodoxy. It's right in Mormon history. That's not gone as well. But you don't hear too much about it today. Thank you. I think he was being sarcastic. I think that Jesus was being ironic. That's the only way I can understand it right off. And that there's more joy over one sinner who really sees the truth


than over you 99th sinners who don't see the truth or don't think that you need a physician. Sure, sure. Just like he says it's not the well that needs a physician, it's the sick. But he was talking to people that he knew were sinners but they wouldn't admit it, like to the Pharisees. Yeah, I think it's that way. That's a mysterious thing, obviously. Why should there be so much joy over the recovery of the lost sheep or the conversion of one's sin? There's a kind of delight of God in the coming forth of his mercy. A kind of a tension, like a waterfall. Just a delight in bridging that gap, coming down into that space. 9th day of the week?


8th. 8th? 8th. Give me a picture. A picture. I want it. I have no spirit. I need to do it. Can anybody do it? I'm saying, what is it? The 9th day of the week. What do you command? After. Can you even write that down? No, no, no. I've got it. 9th day of the week. Yes. Yes. I think twice before I say that.


Even one, you know. The Dharma mantra was, it says, the closer a man gets to God, the more he sees his sins. And this is kind of the traditional doctrine of the saints, that the more you know God, the more that light shines in you, the more you see your own sin point. And somehow, it never balances out. Like, remember that, I think it's the 6th degree of humility in Confidential Rule. It says, then the monk feels that he's the worst of all, he's the greatest sinner of all. So it's not true, you know. It's not true on a comparative level, but comparisons don't mean anything anymore. It is true on that sense of inferior knowledge. Because, why? Because he sees himself in comparison with God. Because God is present there. And in the light which is God, he sees himself. And it's like, a tremendous light, the light of the sun, tremendous distance with blackness, with darkness. Respect. And the comparison is such that they can see those things. But it's like... I've got no idea.


I really... Those things are so hard to deal with, and they're so hard to imagine, or to think of, or to reconcile with what we know about Christ. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.