Friday, March 29, 2013
The Joy of the Lord is everlasting
Yet indubitably, the event of Christ's passion is meant to be joyful. Symbolically, it depicts the fact that there is a higher principle we surrender to; and that higher principle does lead to a Joy that is everlasting. But the only way to that Joy is through suffering; and above all, it is a path that leads through suffering what I am.
Because I am programmed by thousands of mechanical and habitual ideas about this level and how things ought to be—because, biologically, I'm a pleasure seeking organism, and the physical machine that drives life on this level is built that way — I want bliss. I want joy. I want an easy life in which God gives me what I want — not what I need. So I attempt to arrogate to myself the good things that come from higher levels. I want enlightenment; I want wisdom. I want this, that, and the other thing, and in some place or another inside myself, I think, maybe, that I deserve those things. I don't see my ego and how it functions, and I generally don't see my own negativity. Above all, I don't see how helpless I am in the face of forces larger than myself.
This life is a place of confusion in which, if we are trying to become available to higher influences, we attempt to sort such things out. Even Christ himself was confused; yet he understood, in the end, that he had to submit to God, and the forces of this level. This is actually an incredibly high level of understanding. Ordinary men and women generally don't reach it. If I'm fortunate, and I work hard enough, pray hard enough, to submit, I may begin to see how far short I fall of any intelligible understanding of this nature. But I'm a long, long way from it, and the only path I know that leads toward it is prayer.
I increasingly see, as I grow older, that life arranges itself to deliver a lesson. The lesson is systematic, and it keeps trying to teach me that I'm not in charge. It consists of balanced measures of joy and suffering. Grace, to remind me of how blessed life is; suffering, to teach me humility. I repeatedly see through this generous path that there are parts of me that absolutely refuse to surrender, categorically insist on clinging to every selfish impulse they can dream up. I don't find myself in any way capable of becoming free of these forces. And I am increasingly confronted by that kernel of Being, influenced by the subjective effects of blending with external factors, that comprises what Gurdjieff called "sins of the body of the soul."
All this stands in stark contrast to the material world and the general consistency of life, which is a glue one has to slog through, spiritually speaking. As one does so, one sees how incredibly arrogant and absolutely shameless we all are. Confronted with the vision of Christ on the cross, which conclusively demonstrates just how much suffering and humility is necessary, I am dismissive. It's an old picture; it's an old story. The newness of life which ought to come in every moment, reminding me of my place, is a theory, not a practice.
All of these probably seem like odd thoughts to follow on the statement that the Joy of the Lord is everlasting. Yet the statement itself is absolutely true. The fact that I don't properly correspond to this Joy or understand it in any sense does not take away the truth of the Joy itself. There are times when a taste of this is given, in order to remind me of my place. The experience is, to be sure, miraculous; and every day, such reminders come. But in the end, each one of them leaves me seeing where I am, and how far short I fall.
I'm reminded once again of the prayer:
Lord, I call to Thee from the depths of my iniquity.
I have not delivered myself sufficiently unto Thee.
I know not how.
May your soul be filled with light.