January 21st, 1982, Serial No. 00685

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Monastic Spirituality Set 5 of 12

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Second discourse of Dorotheus on humility this time, and I apologize for repeating some stuff that we went through when we were treating Roberts, because we want to review this notion of humility a bit in the light of contemporary problems or objections and so on, then we'll go on to the next one. You remember that Dorotheus follows a kind of orderly path there, and first he talks about the values of humility, and then he talks about the power and the


value of humility, and the kinds of humility, the kinds of pride, and he gives some examples of the saints as he always does. And then how to acquire humility, doing the commandments, and then, remember those three means, and he quotes one of the sayings of the Fathers. And the last one, of course, is bodily work, which surprises us a bit. But we're going to find continually, Dorotheus, that everything is one for him. Man is very much of a physical, spiritual, mental being. Now, having gone through the conference, I'd like to review some of those notions, some of those problems with humility. This method has its faults. If we always look at the problems, it's as if we're always putting every one of our monastic values sort of in a situation of doubt. I don't intend to do that, really, but these problems are going to come up anyway. These objections, these criticisms and reactions against the


spirituality of humility. So it's best to take a brief look at them, at least at the outset, to immunize yourselves against the doubts or problems you might have, to try and form an idea of your own, an orientation of your own already, rather than just having heard the tradition from the book and then having to contend later against unexpected objections. I think we could pull that book now, probably, if you'd like. Some of you will remember Berdjev and his masterful treatment of the two kinds of spirituality. Remember? Salvation spirituality and creation spirituality. Salvation and creativity. And what he's against is a certain kind of Christianity which is contractive, which consists in making everything negative and making everything smaller, and which he contends is contrary to the actual charism, the actual spirit and impetus,


thrust of Christianity. I think he's right. What he's criticizing is what he calls decadent humility. This is an article entitled Salvation and Creativity in this collection edited by Matthew Fox, Western Spirituality. I'm just going to read a few lines of it to recall it and then I'll write to you. Nicholas Berdjev, B-E-R-D-Y-A-E-V. He's a Russian who spent part of his time in Russia before the revolution when he was exiled to Paris. Brilliant writer, philosopher, somewhat of a theologian, and one of the leading thinkers of the exile Russian movement in France. A very audacious thinker. Okay, here we go. He's talking about a distortion that happened in history when this


accent was put on humility. Humility was laid down as the way of salvation for eternal life. Humility was at the foundation of all Christianity and at the base of every spiritual way. According to this type of thought, the human being must humble himself and all the rest will come of itself. Okay, there's there a bit of the difficulty. If you humble yourself, everything else will come of itself. Now there's some of that, you're going to find some of that in the monastic tradition. Reading Roberts before, we're skirting the edge of that kind of thinking. That is, if you say that the core of Benedictine monasticism is humility, then basically what you're doing is trying to be humble. Okay, and then if you do that, everything else will come of itself. But if we really believe that, we've made an enormous mistake because everything else doesn't come of itself. That which really counts is faith and hope and love, right? That which really counts is the basic positive thrust of Christianity. And humility then is the particular monastic way of orienting, of channeling that thrust,


so that one goes in a particular direction. But the risk with humility is that it moves back upstream, you see. It moves back upstream instead of directly and obviously following the thrust outward of Christianity, of the Holy Spirit. It moves back upstream in order to arrive at the theory of art, in order to, as it were, swim upstream to this source. And if you forget the positive thrust, the basic thrust of Christianity, and just consider that upstream movement, you're going to diminish yourself. Humility is the only method of inner spiritual work, but humility hides and stifles the love which is revealed in the Gospels, and which appears as the foundation of God's new covenant with humanity. And that's, see, that's what happens with this decadent humility which he's talking about, or this too massive interpretation of humility. Now, he's writing about, largely, not entirely, but he's writing largely about the Eastern Church, the Orthodox Church, in which monastic spirituality tends to dominate the whole scene, right? It's not merely so true in Western spirituality, which is broken


far away from monastic spirituality. For instance, the Catholic Church now is not a monastic church, basically. The Orthodox Church is much more narrow than that. They don't have such a pluralism of spirituality. The pluralism of ways of living are in the Western spirituality. So humility can tend to be overstressed in that way. That's happened plenty in the West too. Now, here he gets down to his positive treatment, what he really, what he thinks humility really is. The ontological meaning of humility lies in the real victory over the human being's sinful inclination to place the center of gravity of life and the source of life within himself. Okay, and I think that's it, exactly. That's what humility is about, is the fact that we start out by putting ourselves at the center of the universe. So humility is the Copernican revolution, as it were, to realize that I'm not the center of existence. That's very hard to realize, because that's the way we're made. Even physically, we're at the center of our world. And for us to arrive at a point of view at which we really gravitate and genuinely and


totally gravitate around the real center, which is God, and in which we're not the center as far as other people are concerned, that really requires something from beyond this world, because physically we can't get there. And rationally, the reason is not that strong. Humility thus lies in overcoming pride. Pride is not nearly as rare as we think. We think pride, we ought to be able to see pride. We've got pride. Well, if I were proud, I'd know it. If it's not so, I don't know it. It's my very blindness. It's the beam in my eye. And there's a lot more of it than I know. It's sort of the thing that I'm steeped in and that I walk on, which is not all pride. That blindness, you can't accuse it all of being pride. Humility means a real change and transfiguration of human nature, the supremacy of spiritual humanity over psychic and carnal humanity. But humility must not stifle and


extinguish the spirit. Humility is not outward obedience, submissiveness, and subordination, and yet it will manifest itself in the right forms of it. Christianity cannot deny humility as a stage of the inner spiritual way, but humility is not the goal of spiritual life. It is rather a subordinate means. And humility is not the only means nor the only way of spiritual life. Inner spiritual life is infinitely more complex and multifaceted. One cannot answer all the demands of the spirit by preaching humility. Furthermore, one can understand humility falsely and much too superficially. And it goes on. While the ontological meaning of humility lies in the liberation of spiritual humanity, decadent humility keeps humanity in a condition of repression and oppression, chaining its creative power. So people oppose courage to humility. They oppose initiative and creativity to humility and say, well, you can't do that, you're going to be humble. You can't do that and be humble too.


And so everything gets separated. Or the idea is that, well, it's going to take me my whole life being humble in order to arrive at purity of heart and humility, and then I'll begin to be able to do something positive. But, you know, it is going to take you your whole life. You'll never turn around if that's your philosophy. So humility has to go along with the other positive thrusts. What is the basic flaw of decadent humility in its system of life? The basic flaw is latent in a false understanding of the relationship between sins and the ways of liberation from it and the attainment of a higher spiritual life. I cannot argue thus the world lies in evil. I'm a sinful person and therefore my striving towards the realization of Christ's truth and towards brotherly love between people is a foul claim of my humility. In other words, I can't do those things because I would be pride. For any authentic movement in the direction of the realization of love and truth is a victory over evil and a liberation from sin. Then he goes on to say that if you say that all the other virtues are infected


with pride until you're humble, that is anything you do is infected with pride until you arrive at humility. You can say the same thing about humility or infected with sin, but humility itself can be infected with sin and that's what he's talking about when he's talking about decadent humility. Humility is no more guaranteed against distortion and degeneration than our love and knowledge. And then he goes on to the positive the positive vision of Christianity. It's essential to have that positive vision first. Now Berger is a character who he's writing on one side of one side of the truth, but he's correcting something that really has been very dominant at times. And especially in religious life where often a value will be preached without considering the


other side. All these things are dialectic and many of them if they are at least under some respect negative, if you preach the negative you can make people smaller. The other trouble with decadent humility or the lure towards decadent humility is that it goes along with our laziness and our cowardice. And it's easy to be humble in a decadent way. It's easy not to do anything. At least for some people. Other people thought it was for some people. It's easy just to slide and it's easy to say nothing, to have no initiative, not to swim against the current. And so that makes it very tempting for people who are under the religious light. There's an article in the most recent issue of the Review for Religious entitled The Other Side of Humility, Its Clarity and Strength. It's not a particularly striking


article but he makes a few points which I'll mention to you in the same line of trying to arrive at a true notion of humility and to distinguish it from its counterfeits and its distorted versions. First of all, humility must avoid or the trying for humility must avoid killing healthy self-love. We need a certain self-love, a certain self-affirmation as well as an affirmation from others in order to be healthy, in order to operate at all. Secondly, humility frequently, or I should say the attempts at humility, frequently move in the direction of untruth and unrealism, saying something we don't believe, trying to convince ourselves of something that we don't believe. Thirdly, there has sometimes been an authoritarian exploitation of humility, which means it's much easier to control people if you train them all on an ideology of humility, that is that they should take no initiative. They may not be very productive elements in


your organization but at least they'll keep in line, they'll be easy to rule, easy to command. And so that frequently is happening in the Church, not out of deliberate bad will because the people that are doing it usually believe it too, but it's very convenient. It's very convenient Now, Merton is the Grand Master in writing against this kind of thing. Merton in our time, and from inside the Catholic scene, but of course there's been writing about this since the time of the Reformation and before, and probably way before, we don't know, around the time of Lutheran there was a big attack at the monastic values, and central among them was humility and obedience. Finally, he talks about the contemporary ideal of the Christian person which seems to go in another direction from what we think of as the traditional seeking of humility. A personalistic age that emphasizes individual responsibility, self-actualization, self-fulfillment.


The contemporary ideal is to be authentic, positive, creative, and expressive of our true feelings, needs, and talents. Our culture urges us to develop a healthy self-image for ourselves, affirm the personal worth of others, not to help them but get humbled by nothing in them, and to struggle for peace and justice on all levels of our existence, even if at times this brings us into violent confrontation with authority. Rather than always taking the last place and assuming everyone else is better, and thus assuring that the reins of power will fall to those who are ambitious and scrupulous and incompetent, a contemporary Christian should be one actively involved in seeking the real power in the social political and economic life of society. According to this outlook, humility with its emphasis on loneliness and subjection is quaint and even at times dangerous. All of these things, what they're writing against really are the attempts at humility, and the thing itself is not very easy to catch. The attempts at humility and the simulated forms


of humility, the near misses and far misses at trying to get humble, and the images and notions of humility that have been preached. Merton in Contemplation in the World of Action has an article, as you know, on the identity problem. Of course, this was 15 or 20 years ago when he was writing this. There's one remark here of his that I want to recall to you. According to him now, the identity problem has to be basically solved in some sense when a person enters a monastery. And he says, if a person doesn't have a sense of identity when he comes into a monastery, then a lot of the monastic training, a lot of the monastic environment is going to be negative for him, it's going to hurt him, because it goes in another direction from the direction of self development, in the direction of arriving at an identity, that expansive direction.


In the highest sense, the monastic and contemplative life seems to be a sacrifice of identity, a loss of the self, in order that there may be no self but that of God, who is the object of our contemplation and our praise. Okay, but the mystique of humility and contemplation is good only for those who have an identity which they're capable of surrendering as though it were nothing in exchange for the all of God, in which they too are found and recovered with all the world besides. To the immature man for whom the accession to full identity is too difficult a step, a role of passivity and anonymity, a laudable and highly respectable nothingness, can even become a very convenient evasion. But it's not as simple as all that, in that we don't come in with a perfect stage of identity and maturity, and so we have to work these things out side by side in the monastic life, even though the needs seem to go contrary to one another. The need to arrive at a fuller self-development, self-expansion, a fuller sense of identity and self-affirmation, and


at the same time the need to get rid of all that, to go beyond all that. They seem to go in contrary directions but I think in the end they don't really. It's only because we try to picture it and make a little diagram in our minds and they have to run contrary. But really they can go in the same direction. It's our efforts to arrive at them that seem to contradict one another at those ends. Because the movement to... well anyway, on the deepest level they're running in the same direction. On a more superficial level we have to, as it were, build up something and then destroy it. Build up an ego and then go beyond it. But on the deepest level I think we're always moving in the same direction. It may be a little foggy, a little fuzzy. Here's something from Panikkar, from that manuscript of his on Blessed Simplicity. He gives an example of... remember the old story about the abbot who tells a monk to bury the


stick upside down and bury the tree upside down. What he's talking about here, his general context, is conversion, or as he calls it, the stage of the breaking of the heart. That is the change of one's direction and this conversion or this turning back is the same thing as Merton was just referring to as the mystique of humility and self-abnegation. It's that turning around from the expansive direction of the ego of the human person in this direction of humility. The disciple goes to the master because his heart is broken and asks for instruction and guidance. In other words, God does the breaking, God does the opening up. But he's uneasy and often revolts if he feels that what the master wants is to break further his heart, obliging him, for instance, to do irrational things. The famous watering of a stick could


serve as an extreme example. That's the one he takes, the one where the abbot told his disciple to go out and water that stick for a couple of years, remember. Because of the stick it didn't grow, it didn't last long. It was irrational. And then he brings up three reactions, three levels of reaction which a person would have to that nowadays, which makes it not so opportune as a way of teaching and as a way of initiating people's humility in our time. First of all, the new monk has lost the innocence so as not to see clearly through the psychological motivations of the superior. You know, it's hard to come into a monastery and find somebody that you can worship enough so that when he tells you to do something like that, you don't have to struggle with it. Maybe you should have to struggle with it. But what I mean is that it's hard for you not to see through the exterior to why the person is doing that. And either you'll think, well, this is just a game, why do we have to play this game,


why can't he be sincere with me, why can't he just help me to relate to the truth rather than playing these games with another child? Or we suspect some kind of motivation in the person that shouldn't be there, some kind of motivation in the superior or the novice master that oughtn't to be there. Is he doing this just because he likes to dominate people? Is he playing games with me for his own satisfaction? It's very hard for us not to go in one or the other of those directions. Now, probably that was always true to some extent, but it's more true nowadays. In fact, somehow it's flipped over to the other side, to the point where you can't do that kind of thing anymore. That doesn't mean that everything has to be perfectly intelligible to a person when you ask him to do something. No, not quite. But it has to be much more in a context of truth and of frankness than it did at other times, when things ran in a much more vertical way, when there wasn't nearly as much sense of dialogue. Secondly, the monk feels humiliated not in his pride but in his dignity to be treated


in that artificial manner. That's close to the first thing I was saying there. Not his pride but his dignity. In other words, that's not the way that Christians or human persons relate to one another. There's something about the truth of the situation. It's hard to get a hold of this, but there's something there about... If you feel that somebody is playing games with you, you feel hurt and insulted because he doesn't respect you enough to put you into touch with the truth beyond himself, but he's operating with you within his own artificial context. He set this thing up as a school and he's not really letting you be yourself in touch with the truth, but he's making a truth for you. He's making a little world for you to play in. He's making a playpen for you, and he's not letting you be in touch with the truth. But we don't like that anymore. We can't stand that anymore. In other words, the person has to get out of the way and let you be in touch with the truth


and reality. Thirdly, he is also concerned with the stick and with the real plant and takes it to be an affront to the earth, the possible plant and the stick to indulge in such mockery. Okay, that may or may not be. There are contexts of training in which a person might put up with something that he knows is just for training purposes. But by and large, that's true, that he wants the reality to be respected, and he's got a much more global sense of this thing than as if the only thing that mattered was his learning humility. But he can't really tolerate very well things being that much out of joint, that you have a training program which doesn't have anything to do with the rest of reality, and so it runs roughshod all over the rest of reality. Because it seems that the real training should come from a place of wisdom deep enough so that it continually puts you in touch with everything that's around you, rather than having to do these games and to waste time, waste material,


waste the earth and so on, that kind of thing. So Panikkar, I think he's put his finger on the psychological aspects of the problem, that particular kind of artificiality. But that's just one small feature of the whole practice of humility in the best sense, once that's pushed out of the way. But that's illustrative of a lot of things. If you push that out of the way, then you can be in touch with the real question of humility. But that says something, doesn't it? See, that's a thing that you do, that's a practice. It's an artificial practice, but it says something about an artificial kind of humility too, doesn't it? And about artificiality in general, and this thing that we're talking about. We have come to realize that humility fundamentally is contact with the truth. Now there's something about this that it's not as if there are just plain two kinds of truth, you know. There's a kind of second grade truth which is around you, that's the truth of biology,


you know, and of how things grow and all of that. And then there's another truth which is purely supernatural and purely spiritual, and this novice master is just full of it, just shining with that kind of truth, okay. So because he has that sanctity and that supernatural truth, he can come along and contradict all of the natural truths. Now it seems to me that at certain times it was easier to get away with that than it is now, and at certain times I think it was true. In other words, you would have saints who had that charism and who had that, therefore, that privilege of being able to use the observed in a way, all right. Now the fools for Christ, you can say the fools for Christ were doing that. Well, in a certain way, they're close to it, you see, in a certain way. But you've got to be going against reason in order to manifest God's truth in some way. But you've got to be pretty holy and pretty wise to do that. You've got to have authority, as the Gospel says about Jesus, to do that. And if you don't, then it's seen right


through, at least nowadays. And at times people would do that kind of thing without having that charismatic authority. And when you do it, and you do it in an ignorant way, what's happening really is you start to use it for your own ego satisfaction. That is, the whole business of manipulating people in a military way or self-satisfying, just to indulge one's satisfaction in dominating people, that kind of thing. So it can get perverted. And I think this movement towards the sense of truth in the whole situation is a movement definitely forward. Now, what's the risk? The risk is that you get so sure of your own perception of the truth that you lose out on the thing of the reality entirely. In other words, in not being able to conceive that there is a realm of truth which goes completely beyond that, which is not in contradiction with it, basically. It's not in contradiction with it. But it means that at a certain point we just have to give up our own little world of truth, our own thinking, our own conviction.


It's tricky, because we don't want to satisfy, we don't want to sacrifice our basic convictions, nor our basic confidence in our own reason, and so on. But that little world of my circumscribed rational structures has to be broken through. That's what this is about. By all means, the monk wants his will to be set in tune with the will of God or the Master, or simply with the nature of things or of reality, but not just to be broken for the sake of it, so as to be prayed to no matter what injunction may come to him. And this is a whole, in connection with it, whole business of the shifting from a very vertical sense and spirituality in the Church to a much more horizontal, in which we see ourselves as all being sort of children of God, and therefore not being able to claim some position of inviolable


authority whereby we can order other people about without their having any knowledge of what's up, of what they're doing. In other words, the truth is not mediated through somebody else, but you're in immediate contact with the truth. The truth doesn't come to you, principally, through somebody else. The only thing another person can do, really, is to help you to perceive the truth and discover your own relationship with it. He can help you to enkindle your own light, but he's not supposed to give you light. This came up in the general chapter there. I hadn't made the connection before, but Fr. General was saying it in his – this is the other part of the report, the second part – the way that he exercises his authority and so on. It's very hard, he says, now to rule by means of authoritative interventions, you know, just telling somebody, you do this, you go there, or you stop that. And the principle that he brought out was the


principle of the individual conscience and the immediate contact of the person with the truth. That is, each of us in touch with the truth, each person in direct contact with the truth, and he doesn't get it through somebody else. He doesn't get it through authority. Okay, now this had always to be balanced with another principle of authority, which has been in the Church from the beginning, which is in Jesus, which is I say, and then it's in the Apostles, he says, who hears you, hears me. And it comes right down, you know, that minor authority comes right down in the Church. And Lord help us if we didn't have it. But it's a question of getting a balance between these two principles. And that means that both sides, as it were, have to – both sides have to be very sincere, and both sides have to be in dialogue, the side of authority and the other side. I was just going to say, whatever you're telling me,


people with a lot of interests, health interests, and things like that, well, maybe there is a person who comes to you, and he's coming to you, and he's open to you, and he's open to the


other possibilities. And the other is discipline, and his harshness is going to be balanced. Some people are looking for it. There's a difference here, somehow, between people who come in a phase of conversion, and they've got a whole life behind them, okay, that they're rejecting at this point. They say, I've been a sinner all my life, I'm completely weak, okay, in myself, they say, there's nothing good, I've got to find somebody who can put me on the right road and give me a strong push. So you've got that kind of people that come to the monastery. And then you've got the other kind, who are completely open, they want to, so they need and want to be led gently in the way of salvation, and it's not as if they had to, they're going to respond, they're going to be able to respond. But what about the guy who comes, and he's open because he's experienced a conversion, but it's like he's got this big load of sin on him, this big load of slavery on him, an inability just to walk the right way,


and who wants in some way to be, he wants a law. You find people like that. I agree about the openness, but I think that some of them will be able to do it, will be able to respond, and others need a lot of help, and in fact, they want to go back and be slaves to the law in a sense, either in a sense rightly or wrongly, because they don't feel strong enough for that freedom, they don't feel strong enough for freedom. Somehow there's a principle here that's like the principle of the law in the Old Testament, which is a pedagogue, you know, authority is like that. Authority is there to help until a person is free enough and strong enough to react, to relate to God, to relate to the truth, to relate to the situation itself. It sure used to be, they used to send people to monasteries as if they were penitentiaries,


like priests who had done something awful, you know, they sent them to a monastery. Also lay people, they'd really done big crimes and things, you know, they'd turn themselves, oh I'm going to enter a monastery. That happened quite commonly. I think sometimes the government would not prosecute them if they did that. See this? This is an important thing. There are a lot of things concerned here, and it's not directly in our road here, but let's talk about it a bit. Because it seems to me that there are two valid principles we've got here. First of all, the principle that a person naturally, in the right


situation, a person naturally responds freely to the situation and to the truth without being forced. On the other side, the monastic tradition, by and large, has had a severity of law and of authority, and the people voluntarily have put themselves into that kind of regime in order to help them along the way. It's similar to the question of the vows. Why do we make vows? Why does a person make a vow of chastity, a vow of obedience, and things like that? Because they know that there are going to be times when if they don't have that vow, they don't have something binding them. Now they're bound down freely now because they've done it, but at that moment, if they didn't have that bond, they'd run away, but they wouldn't go on, they wouldn't go through. We talked about that commitment business in our last course there, and that's connected here. Because those things are, those principles both have truth in them.


Well, I don't know if I'm going to be expressing this tomorrow, but it's kind of important to me to see here. Going back to the child, the one who's responsible, the child is in a pretty, pretty, pretty environment. He's not a responsible guy. I think a child is responsible for this. Okay, his parents have put something, they put some guidelines there, but they put some limitations too, so he won't put his nose in the wall plug until he, you know, he has to know how to tie his shoes. Yeah. Okay, I agree with you. That's the best situation.


Now, I don't think we really disagree on this very much. If I look at your life, for instance, if I look at your own discipline, you see, you really believe in discipline. You really, only you believe in a discipline that is taken up spontaneously, but that's a discipline. All the things that we do, you know, physical things or whatever kind of thing, it's a discipline, but if it's taken up spontaneously, I think it falls into your thing now, okay? But you agree that it's necessary, that it's imposed from without, that adds nothing, and it can be very negative, you know? It's much better if it... Some people feel the need for something to be given to them, and even under obedience, you know, so that they can go through it. They feel weak like that. And we can return to this in probably another context, the same thing I'll come up with, and return to it again later. One of the things that I think is very important for a monastic discipline is the relationship with persons in the center, and communication, and the discipline that is required in that. So, we're working towards something, towards a greater unity of that kind. And like a Soproni's monastery up there,


he won't give them the rule of life, and they keep asking for the rule of life, and he won't give it to them. See, it's like the posthumous card, you know, it's like that. This is such a nice thing to share, isn't it? Because the person is in the center, there is a relationship between them, and to each other, and so there is a discipline, and they are moving towards something. And the bigger the group gets, the more they're likely to have a rule, you know? That's the kind of thing that happens too. I was thinking about it this morning, the history of the Church is largely, rules and things are largely a product of making, doing things on a big scale, you know? Once you get away from the personal scale, the small scale of personal interactions, you've got to make rules. And then you've got enforcement. I just want to say something a little bit about the Banoffs, I don't know whether they will say to prevent, you know, sinners from doing those things, but they're also an offering to the Lord. Sure. No, it's only one aspect. There's a whole positive dimension of some of the sacrifices of the life, and this one's the life, they're not only just to keep us on the line,


they're also just a positive thing to give it to the Lord as a kind of offering. That's right. Our spontaneity needs a little help. For instance, our spontaneity in the area of chastity needs the help of a vow, you know? Otherwise we think, well, this time it's okay, or something like that. There's got to be some kind of alignment. It can be taken up spontaneously, but still it's a law, it's a line. You were also talking about positive aspects of truth as opposed to authority. Yes. But I'm supposing that person is not going to be the truth. And there are problems like that. There are problems like that over there, where that method is not able to recall people from a very bad position, and they don't really put force on them, or they don't really lower the boom arm and lay down the law,


and so the person stays way out. What happens? Okay. Further note, Adityananda's conundrum here. I've always thought that the whole discussion of humility rather false. If one were really humble he would not notice he were. The virtue would be invisible to the possessor and only noticed by others. Perhaps there's an absence of egoism, I'm questioning that. Okay, I think that's right. That humility, we talked about this a bit before, humility is an invisible thing, and when we make a focus of it, then we're going to get into trouble, probably. It's something that should almost grow naturally like the moss on the wall. But if you aim at it, then you're going to get into some kind of negativity or some kind of artificiality, because we're going to be aiming at a figment of our imagination, since it itself is invisible. A few comments on the way towards finding an integrated view of this thing. I don't know that


we need to trouble our minds about that too much. I don't know that we're in a problem about it, but it is fundamental. This is sort of the central track of the whole monastic thing, and so if we don't get it right, then we have problems too. I think so. No, I don't think so. Maybe our lady. We need some people. Yeah, but he doesn't imply that it came about naturally, I don't think. He's not saying that. He doesn't exclude the effort to acquire the anointing. I'll read over it.


I've always thought that the whole discussion of the anointing was rather false. If one were really humble, he would not notice you were... Okay, I guess that's what you're saying. He would not notice it, and therefore he certainly couldn't aim at it. He wouldn't be self-conscious about the anointing, he wouldn't be striving for it. I don't think that's necessarily implied. I happened to be talking about that just before, but what he's saying is that when a person has really achieved humility, he doesn't know it. He doesn't feel a humility like he would something he'd learned. A quality of the qualities, in a sense. Well, I think that we have to aim for humility, but we aim for humility as a quality of what we do, as a quality of our life, rather than as a focus. Okay? As a quality of everything that we do. It's a tone to one's life. So there's a consciousness of humility? There's consciousness of humility as a goal, definitely. But less as a noun than as an


adjective, I would say. In other words, there's a humble way of doing things, there's a right way of doing things, but you don't aim at rightness just in itself. Similarly, we don't quite aim at humility just in itself. It has to be in the concrete. And then the person who's really there, he probably doesn't think he's humble, because that's precisely it, you see, is to be on a boundary line between oneself and what's greater than oneself, so that one doesn't see oneself at all, especially with any positive qualities. And that, I'm putting it kind of absolutely. So I think he's expressed it well there, and actually he answers his own question in a way. It's an absence of egoism, and therefore it's an absence of self-preoccupation, of self-regarding. The business of the humility and the truth is important. I think we have to try to keep the two together. And that Western principle of the oneness of truth – I say Western, because it's in Thomas Aquinas, it's in the Western philosophical and theological


tradition. It's strong. The idea that you don't just go by the inner light, but you also go by the reality that you see outside of yourself, and that what you see and feel and touch, and that that truth and the inner truth are basically the same. That's a very tough tension sometimes, a very hard tension sometimes. The West has stuck with it, the Catholic theories have stuck with it, based on Thomism. There are several things, we can talk about it sometimes, but it's important, and in the long run it bears its fruits. It bears its fruits, whereas other people get into contradictions, and they get into a ghetto, a ghetto situation where they have to run away and hide in a cave with their inner light, to avoid confronting the world, which has gotten out of control. The other kind of truth, which is really the development. Because if you keep somehow in touch with both of those kinds of truths, eventually you find the world coming around, eventually you find them converging, and you find a way towards the rediscovering of the sacramentality of the resurrection,


even in the spring holdings of the external world. Again, jumping too much with my logic. But there are two levels of truth, okay? There's visible truth and then there's the interior truth. There's the visible truth, the truth outside, the truth of that stick, you know, which wasn't going to grow, and the truth of the earth, and so on. Rational truth. And then there's the heart, the inner truth, and there's a qualitative difference between the two. And actually we can talk about it in an apathetic way, we can talk about it way beyond anything we know. We can talk about realities which may even seem contradictory to what we know, and they're not. And that's also because the truth that we see around us isn't ripe, it's not finished, it's on the way. It's as simple as this world is passing away, and the things in it. They're not in their final form, and so the forms that they had to be very deceptive. But the thing that really pulls them off the track is the gravitation of egoism, of fear, and of desire, and of pride. And we have this denial of death, and this false self,


this blindness, to the inner truth, which means that we get dependent upon the external. And the inner truth doesn't have the same... And to be really in the light of that inner truth is humility. And that's why the apparent contradiction that people talk about, well he says he's the greatest sinner in the world, and look at him, he's a holy man, that kind of thing. No, it comes from that tension. The external truth is very relative, and not final. Panagraha's got a whole thing, which I'll get into at another time, about the monastic life being a quest for the center. I just want to touch it in passing now. He says the monastic life is a quest for the center, okay? But the center, it turns out, and this has to do with humility, but the center is empty, the center is a void. The center, in a sense, is nothing. The center is entirely in function of what's around it. I don't mean this to be just a paradox. I say it's a void, it's a void because there's nothing


there to see, there's nothing there to sense. Now this goes right along, it's very parallel with humility, it's because the monastic life is characterized by humility. As you aim towards this center, you aim into a nothingness. Your goal is invisible, okay? Whereas all of the positive goals of life in some way are visible, in some way we can bear them, we seek them by moving them outward rather than inward. Now if you move towards this center, which is emptiness, and if that search is the movement of humility, the search for humility, then you can't really focus on humility itself. If you do, your focus is going to be pure negation of everything else. The only way you can do it is by pure negativity. So really, what I'm trying to prove is that the search for humility, that humility is really a quality of other things. It's a quality of ourself, and the strivings for humility are strivings to impart a certain quality to each of the things that we do, to our thoughts, to our words, to our actions. You have to keep that


centrality of the positive. Humility is not a focus. You can't aim at nothing and you can't do nothing. That may be an irritating kind of insistence, but here's a quote from Merton. I was happy to... It's not that we're necessarily saying that there were nothing, but we're more trying to move in the direction of saying, my brother is everything. You kind of move to be a servant for a brother, it's a positive thing. We're putting a positive, we're not putting a positive on ourselves, we're not putting a negative on ourselves, but we're putting a positive on our brother. Okay, that's one way of looking at it. That's one kind of humility for Dorotheus, is humility with respect to your brother. The other is the absolute humility with respect to God and so on. And you can say that too, that humility is not an attempt to put myself down, it's an attempt to put God up to where he belongs. And that's right. That's right.


And as long as you consider it with respect to your brother, or with respect to God, then you're not in danger of falling into this trap, okay, of aiming at nothing, of aiming at negativity, you see, by trying to humble yourself in some way. And yet we do, you know, we need to make those efforts sometimes, clumsy as they have to be, we need to make them. The important thing is to get there. But we don't want to make a theory out of the crudities of the practical things we have to do. So, yes. Okay, hold on for a moment. We can be talking about two different things there.


One is a kind of acute sense of one's sinfulness, which you could call it compunction or something like that. And the other is the self-forgetfulness. Okay, that's good. I think the distinction is somewhat parallel to the distinction between an Eastern view of this whole business of spirituality and a distinctively Christian view, or a Judeo-Christian view, in which the factor of sin comes in. In other words, in the Eastern view, we tend to move, for instance, in Buddhism, we tend to move towards a no-self, a place of emptiness, a place beyond self in some way, in which humility would be simply self-forgetfulness. In fact, what would it be? It would be passing beyond the illusion of the self, the illusion of having a self. In the West, it tends to go rather in the direction of consciousness of sin, consciousness,


an acute stinging awareness of one's separation from God, which at the same time is really humility, really compunction, is sort of filled with the living water of the knowledge of God's love, of God's forgiveness. Okay? So there's a distinct difference between those two. But, on the other hand, if you're relating to people, and if a person is walking around, for instance, among others... See, what Adityanath is talking about is how you look to others. He said, I think it would not be noticed by others, and not even noticed by the person himself. Now, there's truth in that, okay? He would not notice... Yeah, okay. He would not notice he were. The virtue would be invisible to the possessor and only noticed by others, and that has absence of egoism, perhaps. There's still some truth there, because he wouldn't see that as humility. In other words, he wouldn't say, I have compunction, I have humility. He would say,


I haven't begun. I don't have anything, all I have is sin. So it wouldn't be seen as itself by the person, you see? But it is a sense of self that's different than... It is, distinctly so. Yeah, distinctly. It's a different aim. It's a different aim. But, you know, at this point, you have to ask yourself if that is the ultimate desirable thing, okay? If the ultimate desirable goal, even in Christianity, is compunction. It's kind of the same test of feeling, isn't it? Is your ultimate goal seeking something of yourself, or do you believe in God above and beyond yourself, you see? Yes, and if you... Because Buddhism isn't seeking God. Okay, but I think that the ultimate goal can be a kind of self-forgetfulness in either case, okay? If it's God, then it's because of God's enormous being, transcendence, in comparison with my own littleness, in which case it's good for me to forget myself, and even go beyond,


at least, go beyond that compunction in a sense, too, okay? That's... I just leave that because I don't know. But that's as true in Christianity as it is in Buddhism, I think, that the ultimate, that is self-forgetfulness, should characterize ultimately the goal. It seems, though, in terms of thinking in Christian knowledge today, thank you for the wonder of my being, okay? It's not there in a Buddhist sense. I mean, in terms of just the personal self, not in terms of creation in general. Buddhism identifies with everything as self, and not self at the same time. Whereas in Christianity, there's an affirmation of self, even that humility, in a sense, that cringing humility of myself before God is more of an affirmation of self than in Buddhism. Oh, definitely, yeah. There's a distinct difference there, okay? The two goals are diametrically different in this respect, that the Buddhist goal, self's advantage is blown up,


and in the Christian goal, there is an acute, a remaining, continuing reality of self, and also a sense of self, okay? But the sense of self, psychologically, doesn't have to be there all the time. Sometimes there'll be a forgetfulness of self, which is great. Sometimes there'll be a sense of self with humility, gratitude, compunction, that kind of constellation, and I think of it more back and forth between the two. But, and a positive sense of gratitude for self, because that's the Christian thing, you know, is that sonship, is that gratitude for what is being generated by the Father, and coming out of sin. Sure, oh no, there's a big difference, I mean, yeah, I don't want to smooth over at all the differences between the two points of view, but the self-forgetfulness thing tends to characterize both of them, and there's a, especially when a person is dealing with others, especially if it'd be a self-forgetfulness and an unrealization of his own humility, he wouldn't think of himself


as being humble, and that's what it means. This is a quotation from Martin, which puts the whole thing we're talking about in a perspective of freedom, and of that center that we've been talking about. And when we're talking about each of these themes as we go through Dorotheus, I sort of like to look back at that central point, which is the positive of what we're talking about, and the central of what we're talking about. We call it the human person, we call it simply the center, whatever, we can work on as we go through. This is a kind of long quote, and so I won't read the whole thing. One of it's on freedom, and it's a lot like, remember that article from Cistercian Studies on the ascetic life and freedom, and there's two tapes of this. One where he talks about the grain of gold and that central point, and he talks about Viktor Frankl and those two kinds of freedom, the freedom, superficial freedom, and in the deep. One of the purposes of the ascetical life is freedom,


freedom to do what you really want. And what do you really want? To be able to love without impediment, to be free to do what in the depths of your heart you really want to do, to be free to love what is important, what is worthy of our freedom as sons of God, to be free from compulsions, to be free in the realm of imagination, which is very important, to be free from threatening images, people disagreeing with you, to be free from heedlessness, to be attentive to reality and fully awake to what we are doing, to be free to be at the disposal of reality of others and of God, to be free and to be able to be moved by the love of God, to be free from being overly sensitive, which is a danger in this world. All of this somehow involves humility. A lot of this is humility. These are being freed from those of sensitivity, those kinds of ultra-sensitive ego, where everything matters in so far as it matters to me, where everything is filtered through my own self-love. That's humility,


to be free of that. The real question is not am I happy, but am I free? And am I free in the end from even the need to be happy? Am I free even from concern with my own happiness? I still have to ask myself, am I happy today or am I not? Do I feel good about this? Is this all right? Is this good because I feel good about it? Or can I just let it be good and I let it be what it is if I feel good about it or not? Am I developing the freedom God has given me? That is, the freedom to respond with our whole self to reality, to what is. See, this thing of truth is always coming in here. It's precious. Asceticism frees us from depending on external conditions or others for responding to reality and happiness. All that stuff which comprises our false self, what I like or dislike, is not important. What is true and lasting is deeper than this false self, and asceticism helps us live on that true self, deep level. I'll let you hear this tape at about the same time.


It might be from the same tape, another part of the same tape, I don't know, whatever that was in Europe. When everything is taken away, you can still be free, and that is true freedom, and this is why we are here, to find this out. It's good sometimes to have everything taken away so that we're forced into this freedom, you know, forced in quotation marks. And this has to do also with that business of obedience and having a law and having authority there, you see, because there's this law of the cross that comes in which goes beyond our own development and our own spontaneous walk, you know. Something has to challenge us, something has to bring us up short against death, because the only thing that we're not going to take too spontaneously, the only thing the Montessori method isn't going to teach us to adopt is death or contradiction or the cross, and yet somehow we have to cross that one in order to get this kind of freedom that he's talking about. That's where I think that the other side there, is right, the side that we need a kind of law, that we need something to contradict us at a


certain point, and something that isn't in the line of our spontaneity, of our own, what do you call it, non-self-generating, free development, because we've got to make a quantum leap at a certain point, from one level of freedom to another, that's the point, okay. A quantum leap from one level of freedom to another, and that involves a death, and death is not something that we're going to, that we're going to take spontaneously. In other words, we have to be checked, we have to, and that's, see this authority thing comes in there, unpleasantly, but it does, which puts authority in a real villain's role, you know, if it has to supply that, and play that particular role, that particular function. Sometimes that can be over-theorized, so that the avid becomes a kind of hangman, you know, who's going around trying to find ways to crush people, but it does come in there. Obedience is, it should bring us to that point. Now too often in the past that's been made into a theory, just as the cross has too often been


made the general rule of spirituality and of human development, and if you do that, it's murderous, because we can't live, we can't eat nails all the time, you can't do that. The cross comes, and God sends the cross, but God lets it come, and whatever, death comes, but you can't make a philosophy out of death, you can't make a spirituality out of death. Most of us have to be forced, forced in quotation marks, again, this freedom comes only with grace and the nearness of God. God is identified with our inner self, which remains even if everything has taken away. You hear the Viktor Frankl concentration camp thing, remember? That's where he gets his fundamental insight about his logotherapy, is that experience of having everything taken away, and then finding the real freedom. Everything can be gone, but God is in our center. Now here's where the center comes in, and that center is all that is left when we die. The real freedom is to be able to come and go to that center. When we die, everything, that is the false self, that is the editor of the thing,


is destroyed, except that which is important, the true inner self, the center. The only thing which is important is this inner reality, for God preserves and is identified with it. God is identified with it in some way. In other places we'll call it the Christ self or the true self or whatever. Nobody can touch or hurt this center. We must be free to be in contact with that center. Usually you'll have to be forced with the possibility of everything else being taken away, the false self being destroyed, before we come to realize that this center will not be destroyed. So it's the discovery of the resurrection in some way. Other people would talk about the resurrection. It's a little risky to talk about the center or the true self in this way, because it can give you the idea, which again is an Eastern track, not a Christian track, that there's something in you that you can climb into like a capsule, and that'll get you right through death too. Whereas in the New Testament, what we find is really death and resurrection,


not the continuity of walking through something, or finding some place, something in yourself that goes through. And yet that's true too, because the spirit is in us, and that self is already awake and alive in us in some way, which is immortal, which is the self of the resurrection. It's difficult to get that precisely. Perfect humility is this freedom, because humility detaches us from this false self and enables the real us, the true self, the center, to operate. We have to train ourselves to choose what will let this center operate. If you choose to handle everything that comes up so that you're in contact with this center, you will have freedom. No matter what happens, or how busy you are, or how rough, or how hard everything is, you can respond to what is really real in you, your true self, your being. This means accepting the fact that things are what they are, and willing reality what God wills. At every moment there is reality, which is the will of God, and it could keep me in contact with


this center. If anybody's interested, they want to read this. It's number 264 on page 40. Are there any questions or comments about this before we leave this room? Would you repeat again page 40, that thing about the freedom and asking whether you're even happy? Okay, let me read Martin, and then... Yeah, then you can kind of paraphrase it if you want to. The real question is not, am I happy, but am I free? Okay. Now, in that article that I was talking about, which is somehow related to this tape, he says, he's talking about these people who are writing in and asking, well, how can I be happy? How can I find happiness? He said, ridiculous, forget it. The problem is not to become happy, the problem is to become free, okay? Then he goes into his thing about asceticism.


Now, I think that one of our fundamental problems is that we think we have to be happy, okay? And then what does it mean to be happy? Okay, there's a whole philosophy we've got there that we're not conscious of. For me to be happy means that I feel good, okay? I feel good in a certain way, ultimately physically, because all of the other feelings somehow have a reflection in the body, which is like a little red light that lights up and tells me that it's all right to feel good, you know, because I feel good. It's all right to feel good psychically, in my mind, because I feel good in my body. There's something like that, you know? And we find ourselves, without knowing it oftentimes, being caught just by some physical thing that pulls us down below the level of what we consider happiness, you know? It's that kind of thing. Well, suppose that we didn't feel that need to make a judgment whether we were happy or not. Suppose that somehow that thread was cut so that we were indifferent as to how we felt. Is that possible? Now, on one level it's not possible, okay, because we're still going to hurt, and we're even going to hurt on the psychic level,


not just in the physical level. But it is possible, and we've all experienced it at one point or another, where you're just miserable, you know? You're just physically, and all kinds of problems, and then suddenly something happens, and you say, all right, are you able to accept it in some way? The whole thing turns over, and physically it's just as bad as it was before. But somehow your core has changed, the switch is thrown, you know, and it's all right. It's all right. It doesn't matter that you're not happy, because you don't care, you've found something deeper, you know? Because happiness is on that level of the superficial self, all right? And we've got a whole system of dials there that tell us whether we're happy or not, because we remember that we were miserable another time, and if the day is just that kind of day, and if those four things happen, then I've got to be miserable this time, too. So we build a philosophy, and we conclude that no, fundamentally it's a choice of yes or no, you know? That am I going to let myself be a positive person and a free person, or am I going


to turn in my freedom again today and say, no, it's a bad day, the weather's too bad, I cannot be happy, and I cannot really be alive today, you know, in some way, that kind of thing. There's an on-off thing that we shut on and off without even knowing that we know it and we don't know it, you see? But that's the point where we sacrifice our freedom, you see? It's where we say, well, no, I'm not happy, therefore... But who says we're not happy? What is happiness? It's our whole thing. There's a deeper freedom that we know about, too. You know what I mean? There's something that happens when there's a death and a resurrection that happens.


There's that story also in that book about St. Francis, The Mechanical Creatures, that French Franciscan, Capuchin or Franciscan, who was in a boxcar with a bunch of prisoners at the end of the war, and they'd been shunting them around, the Nazis, you know, while the allies were closing in, I guess. They'd been pushing them around, and they'd been in that boxcar for about 14 days or so, and people dying, and I don't know how many of them were in there, a lot of them were dying and everything. And one of them died, and they held a little death service for him, and suddenly a kind of spirit of joy, and came over the whole group, and they began to sing this canticle of St. Francis. And for him it was a transcendent experience, the same kind of thing. And Frankel's thing, which Merton comes from in that article of his, is a death camp experience, too. Somehow that's the situation, that's the archetypal context in which, situation in which this kind of thing is discovered. It's a death. And the Jews,


they're the people, you know, I'm one of those, I'm one of Paul West's. They're the people in our time who, who, maybe most have gone through the Passion of Christ. Yeah. You know, there's a doctor, a study by Kruger, well, she's got these five stages. The first one is denial, you know, you know, I haven't got cancer, there's nothing wrong with me, I've just got a sore throat. And then there's anger, and then there's bargain, it seems to me, and then there's depression,


and they find, they realize that it's really there, you know. And then they go through that, and they come out the other side, and if they keep going, then they arrive at the stage of acceptance. You just said that you need to go through, you can't do it in one of those steps, you have to reach that higher, and hurt. Even the bargaining stage, you've got to do your bargaining. There's a, these two charismatics, two Jesuits, who wrote a book on healing, in which they adapt the same five stages to other problems. They say you have to go to the same five stages, basically, at least that's the pattern for most other troubles, accepting most other things. I don't know whether it's true. And some people say you can short-circuit the thing, there's a way to it. The important thing is to do it in a positive way, because some people seem to be able to do


it in a negative way. What I mean is, some people can cut loose from their ordinary sensibilities. They can build a wall in their consciousness, or some way in which they don't even feel physically. Okay, maybe that's enough for today. So next time we'll go on with the third discourse, which is kind of short.