Saturday, October 26, 2013

Beware of the known

Fragment of a sarcophagus; priest of Sekhmet
Vatican Museum, Rome
People always think they know.

The verbal formula of “I don’t know anything” in inner work is just a convention. It’s become a verbal tactic designed to convey the appearance of conformity. Of course people think they know; we all do. Everyone should get off their pedestals for a moment and admit this. There’s no shame in it; but lying about it doesn't help a bit.

To not know is to be troubled in a way that the mind alone can’t convey. It is a kind of depression- not clinical depression, but angelic depression-that emanates from the seeds of the soul and penetrates Being. 

We should never assume that we can engineer situations in the work or in life as though they were lab experiments with expected results. The work is a form of research, to be sure, inner research. But research is not just about the expected results; the ones others tell us about, the ones we read about and hear about. The results we are "supposed" to have. 

Life is a lab experiment with an endless series of unexpected results, and the whole point is that the results are unexpected. If one goes into the lab expecting that one knows what the results will be, it doesn't work. 

Let me give you a practical example. My grandfather, a prominent nuclear physicist, was Nobel prize winner Harold Urey’s lab partner. They were working on a series of experiments and got some peculiar, very unexpected results. My grandfather shrugged them off as an anomaly and moved on; Urey dug further into the question, and discovered deuterium. The rest is history. 

My grandfather went on to make many major contributions to the nascent field of quantum physics, but he never won the Nobel prize, because he glossed over the unexpected in favor of what he thought ought to happen. It bothered him for the rest of his life. He thought he knew what the answers would be, but he didn’t.

I was at a work event some months ago with an individual who thought this way. They did an exercise; it was pretty interesting, but then at the “end” (as though there were such a thing) it became apparent this individual had arrived with a specific agenda. Far from working in any way within the moment, there was a set of predictable “correct” responses this person was looking for- all of them conforming to a preconceived idea of what was “important” about the exercise, and above all how the work ought to be. Not what was... what should have been.

This idea of how inner work ought to be is an insidious one. Inner work is about forming a relationship with God, working with a connection to a higher energy. Everything starts there; and it is all an experiment with potential results even more dramatic and unexpected than Urey’s heavy water. 

We are here, after all, to learn how to breathe in and out on behalf of God; and who actually knows how to do that? 

We can know this much: it's done in the moment, and without instructions or plans.

May your soul be filled with light.


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