Saturday, May 11, 2013

The lowest servant in heaven

 We are competitive creatures;  it seems to be in our nature. There are arguments about whether it is biological, or whether there's actually some spiritual basis to it; yet despite the idea that getting into heaven is some kind of contest, the conception of spirituality as any kind of competition is, more or less, anathema.

 Yet we are all involved in a competition within ourselves. There are in fact two competitions; and in life, we choose one or the other. The first competition is to see whether we will be the greatest of Demons; the second, to decide whether we are willing to be the least of the Angels.

We are unaware of these competitions in us, even though being and life is the battleground for either one.

The ego always wants to be the greatest of demons. It is better, the ego thinks, to be the king of hell than a lowly servant in heaven, and on this level, in this life, it conducts itself exactly according to this principle. This is why Ibn Arabi called it "the evil-commanding ego;" it sees no flaw in this kind of reasoning.

Yet spiritual individuals who have a real wish begin to develop a kernel in their being that understands it would be better to be the lowest servant in heaven than the king of hell. This kind of attitude is an entirely different attitude which has nothing to do with worldly things, or the gain we can realize by pursuing them. The kernel is tiny; and because its aspirations are ones of humility — which is a delicate thing that can barely be pursued, if at all, only sensed or acquired — it appears to have little power over the forces of life or, if you will, hell. If one remains unaware of it, and does not nourish it, it is easily batted aside in the rush to get for oneself.

Yet this wish to serve is not so easily destroyed. It is strong in the hearts of good men and women; resilient, unyielding, steadfastly turned towards an inner light that cannot be broadcast over media, and is not attracted by the material. One can nourish it; and the rewards for nourishing it turn out to be so much greater than all of the rewards being the king of hell might give one, there can be no comparison, because the rewards are inner ones.

These rewards are not well known to Madison Avenue or the media. You can't buy or sell them on eBay; it might even be difficult to find them in church, because they don't stay in church waiting for you; au contraire, if you have them, you might bring them to church, and it would be grateful to you for doing so.

Why are we so steadfastly focused on outer rewards in this life, leaving us bereft and dissatisfied? We have lost our connection to an inner vision; we are too busy competing to be the king of hell. And, one can see from the way outer affairs are conducted in humanity, there is no shortage of those who want to rule as demons. They have never tasted the sweetness of heaven; and I suppose they never will.

There needs to be an awareness, a consciousness, of the fact that life is a battleground where these two struggles take place. If one just shrugs the whole matter off as a philosophical question, it's impossible to gain understanding. We need to have a direct, tangible, emotional and physical insight into this question in order to make it immediate for us.

 It's worthwhile to think about the attitude necessary for these two competitions. What kind of attitude does it take to be the king of hell? And what kind of attitude does it take to admit to oneself that one would be willing to be the lowest servant in heaven? This might define a human being, if the question were asked.

And we need to carefully examine we define ourselves, because the definition we assign to our Being may well relate to this question.

May your soul be filled with light.

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