Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Anointment is a sacred action with an ancient tradition, originally meaning to  touch in one way or another. Often, the touching was accompanied by a symbolic substance, typically oil, which indicated the transmission of a sacred property from one individual to another. Another meaning of the word is to elevate, nominate, or make another person special. In particular, in religious venues, anointment is important in baptism and  the anointment of the sick, and in secular ones, the appointing of kings and nobles.

The meaning of anointment in a religious sense is actually quite specific. If one is touched by a higher or sacred power, the anointment is not intended to elevate. It is intended to open; and this is a very different thing than being elevated, because the last thing that one needs is any sense of elevation.

To be anointed is to be opened to the actual sight of one's sin. That is to say, if one is touched by God, what takes place is a material opening to the nature of one's own iniquity, or sin. Now, sin may be an old-fashioned idea for most of us; but there is nothing outdated at all about it, because it is constantly active in even the best of us. Perhaps we flatter ourselves with modern ideas that suggest we are free of this property; but that in itself is a sin. We are, in fact, deeply immersed in sin throughout our entire lives, and that sin consists primarily in our self-love, or selfishness. Our society has in fact arranged everything to encourage this kind of behavior in every sense possible.

To be anointed is to be given the opportunity — it is not a default proposition — to open our eyes to our own selfishness and see what we are. This is essentially the same thing as seeing our own lack, which is what Mme. de Salzmann stressed as so vitally important in inner work. That seeing can and must become an organic property of work, not an intellectual one; and anointment is an action meant to bring us down to our knees, that is, to open us to how unholy and unsacred we are. So if we are touched by an Angel, or by another heavenly force, it is always to bring us downwards with our eyes open, so that we can see ourselves more clearly — never to lift us up into the heavens. Let us take note that even Christ had to be prepared in this manner; and, of course he did, because in becoming fully human, he had to go through the full range of human experience, in order to understand it for himself. So in his trials we see reflected what is necessary for ourselves. He sets the example.

We must immerse ourselves consciously in what we are and see it in order to understand how far away we are from God. The meaning of the German folk character Till Eulenspiegel, "owl mirror," literally translated, is that the wise man sees himself in the mirror. He knows what he is. And the man who is truly wise, who sees himself in the mirror, knows his sin.

To be anointed is to be offered the possibility to see that much more clearly; so from the point of view of earthly life, it is not a good thing. It is, on the contrary, a destructive force that gives us the possibility of melting the ego, an action we vigorously resist even if we are helped with it.

To anoint a child in baptism when they are an infant is a hopeful moment, because we are symbolically stating that we hope this child will, from the beginning of its life, have this opportunity open to it.

Yet of course life takes over; we don't trust, and the rest is, so to speak, history.

 May your soul be filled with light.

1 comment:

  1. "[Anointment] is intended to open; and this is a very different thing than being elevated, because the last thing that one needs is any sense of elevation."

    Well put...being open may be indicative of one's alertness to the simultaneity of the transcendence and immanence of that 'higher or sacred power': a necessary mutual tempering that with any luck should tame one's sense of elevation (as above) or ego (so below).


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