Yield – Chapter Four
The symbolism of the New Testament
Yield – Chapter Four
Am I Devil or Angel?
We opened the door of our soul, and there came to us, unconsciously at first, the realisation and experience that we are more than we had ever supposed. Our sense of being separate, cut off, individual and apart from all else, opened to the ocean of Life, and there arose from within us the tiny and infant-like knowing, that we were part of the All. Between the ocean of Life, the unifying principle linking all manifest things and our separate self, came this knowing, because of the door we had opened: and its name is Jesus. This Jesus is the Road-mender; the Bridge-builder, for Jesus links the separate and the united – the droplet and the ocean.
At first this Jesus is only a vague movement within, a trembling presence in our depths, perhaps unknown unless we come close to some influence, words or person, calling into being this inner life. Then, with the thoroughness of all life processes, from seed to mountains, as the cycles of growth are fulfilled, this infant sense of knowing is born to our awareness. Tiny, fragile, yet mighty as a tender green stem cracking a rock as it grows; this Jesus is threatened on all sides by our previous values our habits, our misery and darkness. Only by the might of Life pressing through it for expression, through this tiny green tendril of vine within us, does it survive and push away the burden of earth holding it back, and then take this earth into its roots and transmute it into the very process of its growth, its being. So does this tender realisation face the Herod of our past experiences, the earth of our outworn values, our life burden, and weave them into its very own stem and leaves; its support and sources of realisation. For it battles worldliness with material experience. It confronts us with the lifelessness and lovelessness of our past – a dried-up, dying branch unless it be filled with the spirit of Life. Thus the seed Jesus survives the destructiveness and disintegrating power of our earth – our worldliness. And this tender knowing is not of God, nor is it of our mind, or our heart or our genitals, or our hungers or senses; it is all of them, for Jesus is the bridge, the link, the middle way. He is ‘not this – not that’. He is neither action nor non-action, but action in non-action. Jesus is not God or man, individual or universal; but God in man, and the individual within the universal, the formless in form, the Word made flesh.
Looking at this Jesus, we may be tempted to say, ‘This has arisen from my own self. I am doing this’ We are wrong. Or we may say, ‘This is God’s work, its influence is completely beyond me.’ We are wrong. This is from our own self and its influence is completely beyond us!
People ask, ‘Am I doing this, or is God doing this to me?’ the answer is ‘YES.’
Pleasure is in me and I laugh with delight at the stars. They are such a huge, beautiful and serious comedy. But maybe it is I who is so funny wandering up this hill at night. And with all of my delight I piss upon the wayside grass, and then walk on.
It is as simple as that.
And this tender mighty vine, that could be torn apart by a babe, yet is indestructible, takes the water that could rot it, and makes of it streams of delight within its being. For the emotions that were rotten within us become fountains of pleasure. So is the burning sunlight that threatened to kill, taken in and made as life. For the as yet-unknown is for many like unto a threat of death, and to enter into it is destruction. To this vine come the wise men, who are our own wonders, the treasures and riches of our own past life and lives, now unlocked to us, and built into our new growth. For in the earth, water and air of our being, lie all the treasures of our past, our wisdom learnt through pain and years; our talents dug long labouring from within.
In the middle of our deadness, our dried-out branches, our lifelessness, there comes a voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Repent – make straight the way of the Lord.’ It is John, our active human love, keeping open the door for Life to flow through. It is John, leading each part of us who lives in this wilderness, into the waters of life, to be baptised and cleansed, ready for Jesus to baptise with the spirit. Then Jesus, this sense of man and God within us, allows itself to become immersed in all the rush of thoughts, emotions, instincts and desires arising from the life stream. It opens itself to fresh levels of ourselves, that it may experience and redeem; and that it may at the same time cleanse and be cleansed, for it is God and man, cleanser and that in need of cleansing; the bridge, one end of which is man, the other God. And in this act of going down it rises up. In its supplication it is most high, and the higher realisation alights upon it in the very act of descending into its depths. The river Jordan is the flow of life through the already revealed or realised – the life surging up the vine. The Holy Ghost or Spirit is the descent of power from the ‘as yet unknown,’ the not yet revealed, the Sun upon the leaves. In truth they are One, coming to us in different ways.
“I seemed to be any person who had ever lived, a nameless representative of humanity, and yet a composite of all persons. Then with an awe that was almost overpowering, I had a momentary glimpse of what man would eventually evolve into, of the heights he would sometime reach, and of the development as yet unimagined. For the most part, that glimpse will forever remain indescribable.
“In this stage of evolution which far surpassed that of my actual self, serenity, tranquillity, and joy continuously enfolded me. In addition my thoughts became crystal clear, flowing quickly, yet as gently as a moving stream.
“Dr. Jung’s belief that every person retains race memories came into my mind. Although I had formerly held a ‘perhaps-what’ attitude toward the theory, to me it was now fact. Indeed it could be none other than true; the thousands of feelings I had experienced could not have been contained in a bit of drug smaller than a grain of sugar. Nor had they been gained from my life experiences. Emotions cannot be learned from reading books or attending schools or Church services. Furthermore, I was convinced that race memories are retained by every person; and that it was these remembered emotions which all too frequently show themselves in what we recognise only as crimes and wars.
“I became aware that my violent ‘vomiting’ had been symbolic of the entire human race trying to rid itself of the negative emotions of the marshes – evolution’s journey through prehistoric and ferocious animals. Because of man’s ability thus to throw out negative feelings, from the snarling, hissing, and fighting, the catastrophes and the suffering, he had evolved to become capable of such positive emotions as forgiveness, compassion, kindness, mercy, honour, charity, self-sacrifice, and love. From the mud had grown the beauty of the water lily. I felt that most of the insanity I had experienced so devastatingly had resulted from the failure both to pour out these negative emotions and to accept the positive ones.
“Another conviction quickly arose; it was that each positive emotion and its negative antithesis indeed constitute one quality rather than two. I saw clearly that in the same way the dark colours in a painting give beauty and contrast to the pastels, the negative emotions are equally necessary to give depth and meaning to the positive ones: that one could truly not appreciate love without knowing hate, or beauty without seeing ugliness.
“the day’s experience had shown me that with each stage of human development, the positive qualities had become more numerous and could be felt with greater frequency and intensity. In contrast to the rage, hatred, and terror of prehistoric man and beast, I again felt the tenderness of the black mother, knew the integrity of Socrates, relived the reverence of the Buddhist, created the art of Michelangelo, and listened to the music of Toscanini.
“Somehow I had always thought of evolution as the sum total of changes which had occurred in the past. Now I perceived that the tremendous struggle still continues for every plant, animal and human; that life must never be thought of as static; and that if any part of life fails to develop with an upward rise, it would eventually be obliterated, as had so much of life in aeons past.
“Next there flashed into my mind the statement that man differs from animals because he can think, and I knew it to be relatively unimportant; that persons who stressed this fact had missed the point. My newly-found insight told me the significant difference was that evolved man can love and feel all positive emotions to a far greater degree than can animals. I became aware that it was terror which keeps the negative emotions uppermost and that security is the only hand which can turn emotions to their positive side.
“My many emotions of the day had been so all encompassing that they left me with another unshakeable conviction which crystallised in this paradise: it is that all plants, animals and humans alike have much the same feelings you and I have. For the first time in my life, I became aware of a wonderful oneness existing between all living things, whether plant, animal or human, whether prehistoric, historic or present. We had each faced the infinitely treacherous struggle for survival; we had each responded to the upward pull of God. I wept because of the wonder of oneness so great.
“Almost simultaneously it occurred to me that the life force felt by every living cell, from the lowest amoeba to the most highly-developed man, was like gravity which pulled down on all things at all times in all places through all ages, which had always been and always will be. This God gravity, however, was in reverse, exerting its force by drawing ever and always upward, ceaselessly since time began and to be continuous throughout all eternity. Furthermore I knew that as long as we grow to the maximum of our potential, the serenity and peace which then cradled me can be ours; but that the moment our progress becomes one whit less than our best, we experience a restlessness which knows no quieting. With this understanding of evolution, I became aware that man would continue to develop, not so much because of himself but in spite of himself. This conclusion brought me a refreshing, newly found optimism.” (1)
“But I had a feeling at times of an enormous journey in front, quite a fantastic journey, and it seemed I had got an understanding of things which I’d been trying to understand for a long time, problems of good and evil and so on, and that I had solved them inasmuch that I had come to the conclusion, with all the feelings that I had at the time, that I was more – more than I had always imagined myself, not just existing now, but I had existed since the very beginning in a kind of – from the lowest form of life to the present time, and that that was the sum of my real experiences, and that what I was doing was experiencing them again. And that then, occasionally, I had this sort of vista ahead of me as though I was looking down – looking to an enormous – or rather not looking so much as just feeling – ahead of me was lying the most horrific journey, the only way I can describe it is a journey – a journey to the final sort of business of being aware of all – everything; and that – and I felt this so strongly – it was such a horrifying experience suddenly to feel that, that I immediately shut my- self off from it because I couldn’t contemplate it, because it sort of shrivelled me up. I – it drove me into a state of fear, so much – I was unable to take it.” (2)
“And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted by the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, ‘If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.’
“And Jesus answered him, saying, ‘It is written that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
“And the devil said unto him, ‘All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be thine.’
“And Jesus answered and said, unto him, ‘Get thou behind me Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’.
“And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, ‘If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone’.
“And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’.
“And when the devil had ended all the temptations, he departed from him for a season.” (3)
Yes, you have stood with me in the wilderness while I was tempted; and you hearkened to the heat and the dryness, snatching at crumbs for sustenance, eating and drinking what was vile in fear of death and loneliness. I watched you and I was pained for you, seeing who I love in such extreme. And I begged you to trust me, to burn with me in that heat, to hunger and yearn with me, but you turned from me.
You do not remember? Recall then the times you have stood before another in the wilderness of a dry heart, unfeeling to their entreaties, without emotion or mercy, or the water of love. Remember the times you dried up your tenderness toward mother or father, brother or sister, husband or wife – toward another – by dwelling in the desert of your own wants, your own needs, in surface judgements, in the act of not loving them because they have failed to love you. So often have you stared blankly at another, holding back harshly the rush of that great love stream, that life stream; damming it because, like you, their face was hard, their mouth was dry with words, their fist was tensed, their heart like stone, while underneath you are both lost children, longing to cling to each other – desperately in need of each other. But you turn away, back into your own desolate wilderness, when a touch, an asked forgiveness, a show of your own child weeping in the desert, would have revealed their heart, their loneliness, their desperation.
Jesus, yes, yes, I remember. Forgive me. What a fool, what a fool I am. Help me Jesus, please. Heal me, but, help me, for I have lost my mother and father, and I am afraid. I am like a lost kitten who bites and scratches because it is terrified of being hurt, although it desperately wants to be loved and held. It can’t help wounding the very hand stretched to it. I can’t help myself, Jesus.
I have beaten my children because even as a man I am a lonely child crying on a cot. I have dried my heart into a desert place where nothing lives, no streams of life flow, and cut my wife with the sharp edges and hardness of it. Why? You want to know why? You don’t need to, you already know, you wept with me afterwards didn’t you?
Yes, I was with you, and I know. Each time you did it you were a child again. Your mother had put you away from her, and you were desolate, lost in the vastness of your own loneliness, your own need. And you had to prove the depth of your mother’s need for you. If she would not show it as love, then she must show it as fear, as pain, as a wound. So you despised her, and left her in soul, even though your dependence was too great to leave her in body. And you pushed her hand away when she tried to touch you, and called her a cow, and walked as far away from her as you dared.
And my loved son, now you do it to your wife, for you are still afraid of this burning lonely desert even though you are a man. But man does not live by bread alone. There is one greater than father or mother, family or friend, more faithful yet than a dog; there is God, who is with you even unto the end of time.
God will never forsake or push away. God is with you even in the wilderness of your own loneliness, your fear of being deserted and abandoned, and even if you push away God’s hand, he will not leave you. In my heart I know you are right, yet I am afraid. Can I really face all my anger, my sense of emotional desolation, the lifelessness of my fears, the dead sea of my bitterness and unforgivingness, the burning thirst of my dependence upon people, upon money, goods, shows of affection, position, upon the world? Have I the strength to spend forty days and nights in this living death?
No, you have not. But put your hand into the hand of God, and this shall be better than a light, safer than a known way. And I did as he bid me, and we walked into the wilderness of my own soul, to face my hunger and thirst. So it was that I knew myself as a child upon a hospital bed, screaming for a mother who did not come, and I wept as my own child self once more, and I saw as in a vision the lonely children of the world, lost in war, alone in sickness, deserted in the same room as their mother. I saw, too, the lost child in the soul of grown men and women. I knew as well the burden of pain and rejection I had heaped upon my own children, and I cried out to God for forgiveness. I cry out, ‘God forgive me – God forgive me’
It was all so simple. For as I looked upon the faces of those about me, I saw they were all children too. All they wanted was love, as I did. Why didn’t we stretch out to each other? Why didn’t our innocent yearning break through the mask of our adulthood? Why didn’t we become little children again? I don’t know. Perhaps because we have so disciplined our children and our outer life we chain our inner child by the same bonds. But I gently untied the knots by holding them out to God. And when God had sufficiently released me from this bondage, and my arms were free, I reached out with them to those about me – at first half afraid they would push my arms away – and I took them in my arms. My heart was a spring of living water, and the rivers of desire and love swept along my arms, carrying away my fear. And they fell into my arms – they held me close – they wept – they caressed me. Oh God, they loved me; loved this lonely child, this desolate dried-up stick of a man, and the love I had withheld now was my own. Do you understand, Jesus? Jesus, where are you? Where have you gone?
Strange, I am alone in the desert, but it matters not, rain has fallen, and the love I had wanted from others is flowing out from me. I am no longer alone. I am just me, a human, a wonderful glorious animal. A pulsing mass of tissue and blood, a mouth and an anus; I am a dirty fingernail, a hairy leg, full of what, outside a man, would be vomit. But I am beautiful. I am Life pulsating and moving, and whatever I do to these, wet, sensitive, squirming tissues, I do to Life, to God.
But Jesus, come back, tell me where was the Devil? I do not understand. Jesus, why have we not been tempted? There is no answer – at least, not from outside. But something within me speaks. It . . – says – - . wait, I begin to hear. It says. . – You . . . were . . . the Devil. It was. . . you – - . who tempted me. Your fear, your loneliness, your dependence on things of the world, on people’s opinion, on wealth as a means of self-respect, on hate as a means to love – all these you tempted me with. Now you have left me for a season, for with God’s wider view given with the Dove, I showed you the illusion of your gods – the emptiness of your fears, the powerlessness of your determinations. The shadow cast by the knots tied in your heart, your head and your belly, was the Devil. Like children’s hands held between a candle and the wall, your pains, desolations, and terrors have cast grotesque shadows upon your consciousness, which you took to be real, and you lived according to their demands. By these shadows men are led to war, murder, theft, terrible ambition, lust, even madness. All mankind is possessed by these shadows – by this absence of the Light, the Life and the Love. I come, not to condemn them but to redeem. For you are your own devil, and your own angel. But my hour is not yet come; when it does I will redeem.
“Do not be dismayed because thou art yet a child of chance, and at the mercy greatly of both Nature and fate; because if thou wert not subject to chance, then wouldst thou be Master of thyself; but since thou art not yet Master of thine own passions and powers, in that degree must thou needs be at the mercy of some other power. And if thou choosest to call that power ‘chance’, well and good. It is the angel with whom thou hast to wrestle.
“For (over and over again) there is nothing that is evil except because a man has not mastery over it; and there is no good thing that is not evil if it have mastery over a man; and there is no passion or power, pleasure or pain, or created thing whatsoever, which is not ultimately for man and for his use – or which he need be afraid of, or ashamed at. The ascetics and the self-indulgent divide things into good and evil – as it were to throw away the evil; but things cannot be divided into good and evil, but all are good so soon as they are brought into subjection.
“And seest thou not that except for Death thou couldst never overcome Death -
“For since by being a slave to things of sense, thou hast clothed thyself with a body which thou art not master of, thou wert condemned to a living tomb were that body not to be destroyed. But now through pain and suffering out of this tomb shalt thou come; and through the experience thou hast acquired shalt build thyself a new and better body; and so on many times, till thou spreadest wings and hast all powers diabolic and angelic concentrated in thy flesh.” (4)
“Now that I have recorded some temptations and secret, inner disturbances aroused in me by the devil, I will describe certain others which he inflicted on me almost in public, and in which it was impossible not to recognise his agency.
“Once when I was in an oratory he appeared on my left hand, in a hideous form. I particularly noticed his mouth, because he spoke to me, and it was terrifying. A great flame seemed to issue from his body, which was intensely bright and cast no shadow: He said to me in a dreadful voice that I had indeed escaped his clutches, but that he would capture me still. I was greatly frightened and made shift to cross myself, whereupon he disappeared, but immediately came back again. This happened twice and I did not know what to do. There was some holy water near by, some drops of which I threw in his direction, and he did not return again.
“On another occasion I was tormented for five hours with such terrible pains and such inward and outward disquiet that I do not believe I could have stood it any longer. The sisters who were with me were terrified, and had no more idea what to do for me than I had of how to help myself.
“It is my custom when pains and bodily sufferings are most unbearable to make the best act of inner resignation that I can, begging the Lord, it if be His pleasure, to grant me patience -
and so long as I have that I can continue in this state until the end of the world. So this time, when I found myself suffering so cruelly I helped myself to bear it by resorting to these acts and resolutions. The Lord plainly wished me to understand that this was the devil’s work; for I saw close beside me a most hideous little Negro gnashing his teeth, as if in despair at losing what he had tried to win. When I saw him, I burst out laughing, and had no fear. But there were some sisters there who were helpless, and did not know how to relieve my pain. For he made me thresh about with my body, head, arms, and I was powerless to prevent him. But worst of all was my inner disquiet, from which I could get no relief in any way. I dared not ask for holy water for fear of alarming my companions and of their realising what the trouble was.
“I have learnt from the experience of several occasions that there is nothing the devils fly from more promptly, never to return, than from holy water. They fly from the Cross also, but return again. So there must be a great virtue in holy water.
“Then, as my pains did not stop, I said: ‘If you wouldn’t laugh at me, I should ask for some holy water.’ So they brought me some, and sprinkled it over me, but it did no good. Then I threw some in the direction of the little Negro, and in a second he had gone. All my pain disappeared as if someone had snatched it away, except that I was left as weary as if I had received a severe beating. It was of great service to me to learn that – with the Lord’s permission – the devil can do so much harm to a body and soul, even though they do not belong to him. What will he do to them, then, I thought, when they are truly in his possession! This gave me a new desire to deliver myself from such dangerous company.” (5)
St, Theresa’s experience, quoted above, is little different from the wrestle with the devil many people face today. The following dream of a man shows how, once we reach the ‘wilderness’, we also face the devil. “In my dream I had challenged the unseen to rise against me, for I feared it not. Then the door to my room creaked open and two terrible Negroes entered. They were like the living dead; flesh rotting and almost hanging from them; eyes dead and sightless yet seeing, awful liquid running from their mouths. I was terrified despite my challenge, and made the sign of the cross. They disappeared immediately, but in a few moments came back and walked toward me. So great was my terror my sign of the cross no longer held them off and their hands gripped my throat and I woke screaming.
“About that time I also dreamt I had awoken in bed because of a noise downstairs. As I listened it seemed as if someone was moving about. I thought ‘Blow it, I suppose I will have to go downstairs and deal with this intruder’. For some time I had had an irrational apprehension about such an incident. It was not strong, but enough for me to place a large bush knife near my bed. In my dream I was going to take this down with me. But before I could rise, I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, and, felt myself paralysed by fear. There were only thirteen steps to our room, but the sound of mounting feet kept on and on, and my paralysis became deeper and deeper. I was literally rigid with terror until suddenly the sound stopped and our bedroom door began to creak open. Then, despise my terror, my fear became so great it broke through my rigidity and I screamed out for my wife to switch the light on. The scream woke both my wife and myself, both of us very frightened.
“These dreams were a great help to me, as I gradually understood their meaning, and saw how our little known levels of consciousness throw up symbols depicting inner events. The Negroes and the unknown being downstairs represented emotions, sexual feelings, and apprehensions I had kept locked up within myself, or downstairs in the unconscious. This was a revelation to me, and I saw how the devil, as an embodiment of our fears and sick inner life, had arisen in times past due to a rigid morality and mental outlook, which turned parts of one s nature rotten and devilish. This is exactly what I had done to myself. I had unknowingly sat in judgement on myself, accepting some parts of me as good and acceptable to my conscious life; and leaving other parts evil or hateful, to be buried within.
For some reason, white men have found the Negro often used by their unconscious as a symbol of this. I believe this is a compliment, because as one’s fears are faced, the Negro is shown as a person with very developed awareness of his inner life.
“But we cannot hold back such parts without awful consequences. In my own case, past events had led me to look upon some of my natural urges as sinful. These urges, which if allowed natural expression would have been no more sinful than eating, became poisonous through stagnation. So much so that my love toward my family had been disrupted in a way I found difficult to cope with. And I was terrified, not because the things in themselves were devilish, but because I had taken that attitude toward them. My mother had told me, during adolescence, that if I masturbated I would surely die. This so frightened me I tried to stop, and found it terribly difficult. Eventually I managed to stop doing it consciously, but began to do it while asleep. This had made me feel I was possessed by some awful force I could not control – a devilish thing instead of just the life stream. Eventually I managed to stop altogether by rigid tensions and making myself not feel anything in that area. My tension in he dream was a re-experiencing of this, along with the terror it involved.
“As I gradually learnt to accept these urges, however, the black men in my dreams changed into intelligent, well-dressed people, and eventually we sat down together before God, asking God’s blessing.
“Later in life, when I had learnt to accept the so-called evil or devilish parts of me, and saw that they were really only the life force that had been damned up by guilt, or fear, or pain, I could say to God: I now trust you enough to be led by you into experiencing my own wilderness, my own locked-up life force, my own devil. And in this surrender my body sometimes shook, or moved spontaneously as God helped me to relive painful parts of my past, literally going again through the physical – and emotional – movements of them. Once again this was a revelation to me, for in times past, under the name of religion, men and women had been burnt and tortured as being possessed by the devil when such things occurred. Truly the world was then in the ‘dark ages’ for people were so terrified of their own pain and ‘evil’ they projected it outside of them and called it the devil. It is also interesting that the word ‘evil’ is only ‘live’ backwards, and the word ‘devil’ is ‘lived’ reversed. Truly our evil or devil is in fact the way we have turned life forces back upon themselves. And they had so little faith in God they could not live in the wilderness as Jesus did, meeting their devil, but had to fight if off as if it were as real as God. In being so afraid of evil they denied the reality of God; for as St. Augustine says, ‘I enquired into the nature of Evil, and found no substance there.’ It is only when we act out of this absence of light that evil becomes a reality. Then we build it into the substance and experience of the world.”
I have seen that the world was Satan, who defined men’s soul by opposing it, yet in itself was not evil – only restraint – only opposition. The pain of my life wakes me to the fact of my own weakness, my own mistakes. It stimulates in me the desire to rouse up the spiritual power to cope with these difficulties. Pain and despair, even agony, as evil as they seem, are yet the arms and agency of Love. For if I hold my breath through self-will, and block Life’s action on me, I at first experience discomfort; then pain; then if I persist, agony. If I still persist, unconsciousness claims me. And all these graded boundaries of pain are fences guarding us against self-destruction. For if I did not incur such agony in restraining my tides of breath, I would soon kill myself. So in agony of mind, or heart, or body; all are warnings that through act, or thought, or feeling, we have transgressed against the law of Life which tries to preserve us. God, trying to turn us from destruction of our soul and mind, puts ever greater barriers in our way. And what do we call God’s love, which tries ever to help us unfold, grow, discover love and eternity in ourselves? We call it Satan.
There are many devils in us. There are the devils of our weakness and terrors, tempting us to act out of their urging. There is the devil of materialistic values, which says ‘You are but a body, destined to die. You have no links with others, grab for yourself all you can, while you can, from who you can. There is nothing beyond death, so have no fear of judgement following upon what you have done in life. There is no ruler or God looking upon your actions – there is no inner nature which wilt rebel against what you eat or feel or think, so raise hell, and trample on the other fools.’
Then there is the devil of spiritual pride which says – ‘You are of the elect. You will be saved, all others damned, for they do not believe as you believe. They do not live as you live. They are beneath your notice. Cut yourself off from them.’ There is the devil which says, ‘Men are the makers and breakers of laws. There is naught else. Be clever in the ways of men – manipulate them by understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Do not appear too clever or foolish, but nevertheless, learn and apply, and take what you want within the rules, for common thieves are fools.’
So the devil in us may urge us to look upon people as ‘things’, mere objects in an outer world. Lumps to be experimented on, exposed to drugs and surgeries and manipulations of mind, like machines. The devil is all that leads us to be incomplete, whether it comes from within or without ourselves. To see ourselves, or to live, in a way that denies our wholeness, is to be tempted by the devil. We are a body, a soul and a spirit. This is our wholeness. We are a being of form and substance – our body. We are a being of fluid inner life; of individual emotions, thoughts and desires- our soul. We are universal and eternal beings, linked with all life, all other souls and bodies – our spirit.
To be an ascetic and deny the body is to be tempted out of our wholeness. For the ascetic is as much a prisoner of this denial of body, as a materialist is of his denial of spirit. The ascetic has made a vice of his virtue, and is possessed of the demon of ego and self-imposed spirituality. Holiness arises from God, not from self-imposed morality. The devil in him is saying ‘look how spiritual I am. Look how afraid I have made this soul of its body – for his soul is surely full of fear, and here is my power over it.’
To be a materialist and deny soul and spirit is to be unwholesome. In this unbalance we assure ourselves that we have no links with the rest of life. We are cut off, live only for our outer life, and feel the only good is physical comfort, possessions, rank, outer power and self-preservation. Thus we are, inasmuch as we are possessed by this devil, afraid of destruction, death, lack of material objects, lost opportunities and withheld social respect.
To deny one’s individual inner life, and suppress thought and feeling, is to be possessed by the devil which says ‘I am not. This “I” is an illusion, it is naught but darkness and a void.’ Thus we cut ourselves off from unique and individual action within the whole.
To be whole is to allow the soul to exult and express its unique wonder through the body, while allowing all its life, growth and expression to be directed by its sense of unity with the all.
To be whole is to be utterly free through the complete discipline of surrendering all of self to God. In this supplication, God does not wipe out our ego, but merely shows how some of our aims, our ambitions and desires, are either potentially self-destructive, or harmful to other living beings or our universe. But to parts of our own personal longing and creativeness there comes a great AMEN – it is whole, let it be done.
To be free, is to be unpossessed by the devils of our own disharmony; and we are inharmonious because we have chosen to do what we will, from our own limited knowledge, instead of being directed by the Unity of all Life.
Then Jesus spoke to me – yes even unto me – and said ‘To be led by the Spirit is to be directed by the Unity of which you speak, the Unifying Principle. Thus am I led to experiencing your own inner wilderness, the barrenness of your heart, the lifelessness of your soul, and the death of the life-giving forces within your body. The Dead Sea is your soul, so full of salt, the preservation of dead forms, the holding on to past facts, the petrifying of emotion, that it supports no life.
‘Do you know that to fast is to desist from actions and thoughts not arising from Spirit, and to await the fruits of the Spirit for forty days, which is indefinitely? It is to stop acting from the urges arising from ambition, covetousness, failure, and do nothing unless it arises from out of the inner silence, not the inner turmoil.
‘It is thus that you tempt me, saying, “But if you do not go out and attempt to make a name for yourself, to build up a following, to help people, to do something, you will never get anywhere or be anyone. And thus you deny God and exalt yourself, who have become a devil. For you are saying, “With my tiny intellect, my turbid emotions, my tortuous desires, I know exactly what needs to be done in the life of other individuals, in my life, in the world, to set all right. I know this even though my own life is not whole, though I have no contact with the Creative Forces which caused all to exist. Yes, I can do it all without help.”
‘But I smile at your childishness, saying, “Neither you nor I,-but our Father in us does these things. And unless we turn to that greater wisdom, that wider love and power for direction, our actions, our words, our activities, even if well-intentioned, are out of harmony with the whole, and can be destructive to others and ourself.” So I tell you to fast from such urges; yes, even though you cry out in hunger for them. And you will cry out, for they are as a crutch to you, and when the crutch is taken away you fear you will fall and die. You curse me for kicking at your crutch, yet I know you can stand, and will not die; but you scream at me, saying “You bastard – you bastard – don’t come near me, I’ll see you hanged.”
‘Then you pick up a rock to hurl at me, but instead taunt me, saying, “If you are so clever, turn this into bread”, and you throw it at my feet, spitting.
‘Do you not understand what you are asking, and that you again tempt me out of your own corruption? For a stone is an everlasting thing, and is for men a symbol of the eternal in all things; and you ask me to use my will to bend the power of the eternal, to care for the needs of my body and my ephemeral self. If we but merge our life in the whole, our needs are cared for as a matter of course. We need give little or no thought to them. My Father has said, “Fear not, for you are my children whom I love.” Would I then see you go hungry, cold and despised? Only when you scheme against each other. hate, grab for self, resist my feadings within you, refuse to take part in the great work, and seek by your own efforts to create your own material goods, your own world, or your own spiritual growth, do you cut yourself off from the things you need.’
‘Then you say to me “This is stinking lies. I am the power in the world. Only through my own efforts have I got what I’ve got, risen to where I am, know what I know. You are but an idea in my mind – a feeling – a realisation – and I am just playing at thinking about you; thinking about religion, about God, about life.” You, Jesus, although you talk big, haven’t given me a damn thing yet, except a lot of ephemeral hopes, ideas, promises. All you have done is to tell me to give up what I have, but you haven’t given me anything in return except promises. Words are cheap, friend. But if you are Life, as you claim to be, then I will give you all I have, all my worldly ability and power, if you do my bidding. Exchange is no robbery.
‘Prove your promises by bowing to my will, and I will give up everything.’
‘You do not know what you are asking, for if to you was given the power, the kingdom and the glory you would destroy yourself. Only a little power, a little wisdom, a little love is given you, as one of God’s children, to practise with. Even with that you set about destroying the world you live in, those about you, and yourself. What I promise can only be given when your will and desire is truly committed and married to God’s will. Only then are you safe from destruction.’
‘‘But I do not want to give up my will. What would I be without a will; nothing but a bloody puppet, a tool, a nobody!’
‘Self of mine that you are, can you not yet see that Life is your Father and Mother? Have you not yet found enough love, enough wonder, enough tenderness, to see that Life has struggled through the loneliness of Time and Space to create you, and supports you now? Do you think in your deepest self that Life has made you just to destroy, to play with, to taunt and hurt? Has God given you a will only to take it away again?
‘God loves you. God is Life. Life does not seek to leave you without will, or backbone, or self. But it cannot give its greatest gifts to you, gifts of great creativeness, great love, great knowledge, until you learn to use what will you have in harmony with all life. God said tome, ‘Son, I do not wish to destroy your will. Your will is a part of my will. It is an expression of the divine will in you. If you surrender your will to me, it is not so that I may take it away, but so I may direct it; so I may take into consideration not only what you want and need, but what every other living thing wants and needs. If you open to my direction, I can lead you to a way of satisfying your wants in a way that fulfils the wants and needs of others. Or perhaps to show you where your desires would lead you, and ask you if that is really what you want.’
‘All very clever stuff, and “oh so logical”, but I can’t say I have seen a lot of evidence for any of it so far in my life. If this God is so bloody loving, what about all the pain and misery I have had in my life. Not just me, but others. My life is just a bruised grass compared to the field of cut hay in some people. I mean look at the world, it’s just writhing with its own hurt, perversion, crime, war and murder. What about that?’
‘You have answered your own question. You have talked about your own unwillingness to surrender your life, and in the next breath talk of your own misery. I say again; to live out of harmony with Life is misery. You talk about the pain of the world; but where are there men who are willing to be directed by God, and not their own lust, hate, revenge, longings for power, fame or ease? If they are acting out of their hate, misery, loneliness, desires, ambition and murderousness, how can any thing but these things exist in the world? Unless men and women are willing to be cleansed of these, and act from the direction of the one Will, not from their own ego, their own government, not from the direction of some man they have set up to worship, or who has set himself up for them to worship; how can a harmony exist on earth? While there are millions of egos all seeking their own will, chaos will reign, murder’ and war will be kings, rape and misery the comforters of mankind.’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake, people have been saying this for thousands of years. Great religions have sprung up everywhere, millions of people have joined in, and where are we – nowhere What’s the use? It’s all a load of fancy talk.’
‘Is it? How do you know? Surely you too are just speaking convictions you have not tested. Have you honestly surrendered our life, gone through baptism, faced the loneliness of the wilderness, and kept true to your resolve? And the religions; true they teach this same thing, all of them, but how many of the millions apply it? Look and see what they do. They worship a book, a code, a building, a set of morals, some beautiful rituals, a sense of being the saved ones; anything except commitment to the rush of Life in and through them. Look however at the few who have; is it not true their lives have been transformed? Well?’
‘I don’t know. I honestly don’t. What you say makes sense, but it’s all in the air, there’s nothing concrete to give me encouragement to apply it. All the things I have ever believed in are now said by you to be meaningless. Well, okay, but they are the only things I have, At least they are working for me, even if inadequately. If I let go of those, what happens? I mean the thing itself as you point out is meaningless, it’s nothing, it is, in your words, ‘a void’. Hell, if I let go of the rotten branch I am hanging on to keep my head above water, I’ll drown. Believe me it’s all I’ve got. There just isn’t any other visible means of support except my own efforts, my own emotions, my own thoughts. You say I tempt you. Good God, it’s more like you tempting me. This is how everybody sees it, tempting me to be a bloody fool. That’s so, isn’t it – throw yourself off this cliff, you say, and all will be well? There is an unseen, unfelt, unknown, imperceptible, formless, unthinkable something or other that will catch you! Well, Jesus, my old mate, I assure you all I can see are those bloody great rocks at the bottom! So how about it Jesus? Just give us the once over and throw yourself off first. You know, just to sort of give me confidence. What about it? Or, to be more sporting, we’ll hold hands and jump together. I honestly want proof. I am sincere now. If there is anything in this I want to know, so right, let’s both jump.’
‘I can see your difficulty, but we will not solve it that way. Even if you tore your body apart you would not find your Unifying Principle. By too frantic an analysis you destroy the very thing you are looking for. Tearing a flower apart to find out what it is destroys the flower. You can only be it. Besides which, if you jumped off the cliff, you would have willed or desired to do so. I have just told you that your will is a part of the divine will; so too are your desires. You are given the chance to destroy and mutilate what you have by the use of your will. God will not interfere with his own will in you, unless it involves too many others in away they have not called upon themselves. If you yield your will and then circumstances push you over the cliff, that is another matter.
‘But I am not telling anyone to jump over a cliff. I say surrender yourself with trust and patience to the invisible Life within you. Inasmuch as you do this there will be the divine support, guidance, healing and growth. They emerge out of the very act of yielding.’
And, there came out of the land of the East the figure of a man. He came to my loneliness, for I had spent my abandonment in the wilderness many days, having struggled with myself all that time: and the man was Jesus. He looked upon me with love but I was still afraid of love, and bade him with my eyes to touch me not. And he had pity for me and came not near, but stood a little apart and turned his gaze to the North.
Looking Northward I saw there a great shadow drawing near, a shadow like unto a man yet not a man, and it was full of power and subdued light. So charged was it with power I was afraid lest it harm me. But I stood and watched as it drew near, a misformed figure of a man, twisted by the very unspent force of its being; and I knew it to be the Devil.
Then the Devil and Jesus looked southward, the Devil smiling with suppressed laughter and denied happiness, which made of his face an awful mask. And turning I saw my neighbour coming and hailed him, wondering why he came. Seeing not Jesus and the Devil he spoke to me, saying, ‘Come back with me, you can’t stay here-you mustn’t.’
But I stood without speaking, wondering at his words, and he spoke again. ‘Excuse me saying this, but you’re an idiot. I came out to help you get out of this place. You can’t spend your whole life here. What good is it doing yourself or anyone else? You’ve got to get on with life. Sitting about waiting is no help at all. You have to make your mind up to do something, and get on with it. If you don’t grab life and make the most of it, it will slip by and you will never amount to anything. I know, I have seen dozens of people sink into some stinking backwater and rot. In the end their only supports are drink, drugs, or women; or in some cases they get drunk on self pity. Can’t you see that?’
Jesus then spoke to me, saying, ‘You are a fool in his eyes because you do not live according to his standards. He thinks you are too weak to wield opportunities to suit your will, to build a fortune, to achieve respect from your neighbours. As you are not seeking respect, financial or political power, fame, or what he thinks of as pleasure, he cannot help but conclude you are a fool.
‘But if a man acts out of his fear of being nobody; if he acts out of his misconception that without worldly goods he has no security; if he builds his life activities upon the illusion that he is self-sufficient and needs no one, then what manner of monster will he create with the God-given energies of his life? What war will he stir up; what misery sow in the life of those near him; what shell will he create about himself; what ripples of disharmony will he set up in the world?
‘Here in the aridity of yourself you have dwelt. You have denied the reality of illusions and the promptings of your fears and pains. Apart from, these, you await the call to action which arises from the silence. It is the expression of that which unites all things and to act from its prompting is to work in harmony with all beings, all creation. But to act from the promptings of one’s fear, desire for fame, or insecurity, is to act against the whole and spread strife and misery not only to others, but to cause one’s own sickness and pain.
‘Those of whom he speaks who dwell in the bitter waters of self-pity and constant inactivity are those who, like Lot’s wife, look back upon their own past, their own disaster, their own shame and are frozen by it, possessed by it, till they are lost. Or they are those who, yet denying the illusion have not the strength to act when the voice of the silence calls them to action, but remain forever in its call to silence.’
These things I told to my neighbour, and he replied, ‘Do I look like a man who is afraid, who is acting out of insecurity? Could I buy and sell goods and houses if I were not sure of myself? It is you who are ill my friend, there is nothing wrong with me. I am a well-known and active member of my community, I spread no strife.’
And suddenly the Devil, whom I had forgotten, shouted with pleasure and laughed terribly, looking at my neighbour with an awful satisfaction. ‘What a lovely man’ – he said. ‘He’s mine, he’s mine: I swear he’s mine. How wonderfully blind he is to the distance he has placed between himself and his son by his own sense of importance. How wonderfully ignorant he is of how his frantic hold of his own ambitions has been forced on his wife and children, crushing out in them their own talents. I could just hug that man. In fact! do, every time he sleeps with his wife.
It is just so satisfying to see how he has to picture in himself some young girl while he does it to his wife. I just am delighted with him. He hates her, looks upon her as old and ugly, but can’t have it with anybody else in case he loses his place in the social hierarchy, so he makes his wife dress up as much like the imagined picture he holds in his head as he dares. He buys her negligees, makes love to her tits, imagines her as the nude photograph he worships, because he can’t stand his wife.’
I looked back at my neighbour with compassion, for I, too, had been the unknown victim of my own hidden devil, and perhaps still was. And he saw the kindness in my eyes, and hate sprung up in him, and malice, for without realising it, he knew I knew; and once more I heard the Devil’s scream of laughter and delight.
‘You think you are so bloody superior’, he said, ‘yet you’re nobody. You sit out here pretending you’re god or some chosen one, better than the rest of us. Do you know what I really came to tell you? I despise you. You make me creep. You wander around in a dream, acting like you were too good for this world, with a pack of frustrated women and spineless men running around after you, and you just lap it up don’t you? When are you going to grow up sonny?’
I looked at him and shrugged my shoulders, for truly I did not know; and he turned from me and walked quickly away, the Devil going with him.
Then Jesus bade me walk with him awhile, and I did, though I was stung by my friend’s words. But Jesus strengthened me saying, ‘Some of the things your neighbour said are true, yet not in the way he said them. I can see into the state of your soul, and there is much sickness there still, this is why his words hurt, for within you are open sores which his taunts pierced.’
‘Know though, my soul, that I love you, even though you appear as a wretch to the world. You have stood with me here in the wilderness and seen the Devil and his works. This much many have not done, though their soul may not be as wretched as your own. You have tarried here though fear and uncertainty rose against you like a flood. You have said, even with a trembling voice and heart, “I know my Father loves me and is with me, even now. He is with me though my eyes are too blind to see, and though all of me cries in its blindness.”
‘To stand thus alone in this wilderness is the first act of spiritual certainty. No longer do you search among men and books for God. No longer do you fly hither and hither from this church to that teacher; from this promise to that hope. In patience you possess your soul, saying, “I am that I am”; and you wait, nurturing this certainty until it rises within you into life.
‘To stand in this desert is to affirm the presence of God in the face of desolation and loneliness. In the very face of your uncertainty, by this act you say – I KNOW.’
Then Jesus looked at me. Yes, looked into the very depths of my being, even unto my degradation, yet looked with love. And I stumbled into his arms weeping, and he held me until I was no longer alone but was within him, held in his wonderful being. Then the voice of the silence spoke within and bade us go out from that place. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.