Monday, August 18, 2008

A Dark Night Brings Commitment to Life

Many of us, because of a critical illness, suicidal depression or life threatening accident, have been faced with having to recommit to life to go on living. Sometimes the road back is long and arduous. It raises questions about God and faith, the engine behind achievement, and the persistence of love, divine and human. What brings us to this point? At what point do we decide, YES, I choose life! How do we go about putting our lives back together after reaching this point?

This process, along with a physical crisis, also includes what has been called through the ages, “the dark night of the soul,” which refers to purifying the soul of worldly attachments in preparation for illumination. As psychologist, Carl Jung reminds us, "when the soul embraces and accepts suffering, the pain reveals itself as the birth pangs of a new inner being." As Jung points out "the birth of the Self is always a defeat for the ego."

Author Gregg Braden presents the dark night of the soul as one of the Essene Seven Mirrors of Relationship, allowing us a deeper understanding of our relationship with ourselves and others, and an opportunity to explore the our relationship with the Divine. The "dark night" might clinically or secularly be described as the letting go of one's ego as it holds back the psyche, thus making room for some form of transformation, perhaps in one's way of defining oneself or one's relationship to God. This interim period can be frightening, hence the perceived "darkness."

During this dark night, which Kierkegaard labeled "despair," we, as an ego, experience our utter impotence and powerlessness. We seem to be caught in an infinite double-bind, and might be afraid that we are going crazy. At times it even feels like we have fallen into the depths of hell. Suicide seems the only way out. To quote the Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross, who, in the 16th century coined the term the dark night: "the soul can do so little in this state; like a prisoner in a gloomy dungeon, bound hand and foot, it cannot stir, neither can it see or feel any relief, either from above or below…"

The Egyptian Hermetic teachings tell us the first step in the process of getting through a “dark night” is letting go of our ego’s hold on life brings about a complete transformation in our psyche. The second step, immersion into pure Being, brings about the revelation that our ego is itself just a limited projection of pure existence and being. Certainly from here, we begin to put our lives back together. But we will never be the same.

What do YOU think?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I AM What I Am and That's All That I Am

"All Fords are exactly alike, but no two men are just alike. Every new life is a new thing under the sun; there has never been anything just like it before, never will be again. A young man ought to get that idea about himself; he should look for the single spark of individuality that makes him different from other folks, and develop that for all he is worth. Society and schools may try to iron it out of him; their tendency is to put it all in the same mold, but I say don't let that spark be lost; it is your only real claim to importance." - Henry Ford

Albert Einstein seemed to be in agreement, when he said: "The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime. . ."

An individual being is defined by St. Thomas as "quod est in se indivisum, ab aliis vero divisum" (a being undivided in itself but separated from other beings). It implies therefore unity and separateness or distinctness. Individuality in general may be defined or described as the property or collection of properties by which the individual possesses this unity and is separated off from other beings. What is it that constitutes an individual, or individuality?

Everyone who is alive, explores and expresses their identity. What makes us individuals? Is being an individual the same as being different? When we enjoy our commonalities with others, do we lose our individuality? What do YOU think?
Artwork by Ralaf Olbinski Many thanks.