exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
"He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart; and, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God." spoken (or sung) by the chorus in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, the first of a trilogy of theatrical plays, the Oresteia (circa. 458 BC)
Editor's Essay: The Holodeck Worlds: How We'll Find Wholeness in Summerland from the Traumatic Sufferings of Planet Earth
Editor's Essay: “Why the world doesn’t need Superman”: Pondering the question of God’s seeming unconcern and uninvolvement regarding the suffering and calamity on planet Earth.
Where is the voice to answer mine back?
“A hand for each hand was the plan for the world, why don’t my fingers reach? Millions of grains of sand in the world, why such a lonely beach? Where is the voice to answer mine back? Where are two shoes that click to my clack? I’m all alone in the world!” Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962
The Lament, Edward Burne-Jones
"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable." Anne Spencer Morrow Lindbergh
Professor Charles Xavier, X-Men (2000): "Just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn't mean they're lost forever."
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search For Meaning: “This emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in the categorical imperative of logotherapy, which is: ‘Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!’ It seems to me that there is nothing which would stimulate a man's sense of responsibleness more than this maxim, which invites him to imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed and amended. Such a precept confronts him with life's finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both his life and himself.”
every obsession constitutes a refusal or inability to consciously address the pain in one’s deeper being
Every addiction, every fixation, every out-of-balance craving – whether it be drugs or alcohol, work or shopping, eating or indolence, religion or charitable works, sex or entertainment – becomes an avenue to cover up the pain in one’s hidden person. None of these palliatives reach to the core issue.
All such attractions, in the end, become fatal attractions. Not even the pursuit of aesthetics, of beauty, of the fine arts, will fill the hole in one’s heart. This is why historian Paul Johnson asserted that “art is not enough.” He was speaking of Hemingway, whose inner demons eventually led the great writer to suicide. Art is not enough because nothing is enough, there is no royal road to inner peace, other than accessing one’s true self.
And this is why apparent love relationships and marriages break down so quickly. In the aftermath, people might remain together but only in a dazed condition of “what happened to the thrilling love?” which, as the Beatles wrote and sang, “has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.” John-and-Mary heady romance has no hope of surviving because they entered into their compact in order to neutralize the pain already existing in their lives. The relationship, fundamentally, did not cause the pain – although some relationships do a very good job in this area, too; but, instead, their union merely brought out the pain lurking below, temporarily anesthetized by the thrill of “getting married.”
Honestly and openly addressing the pain in one’s spirit is a major part of our task in this world. See more discussion in the “Surrender and Acceptance” article.
Robert Frost, The Black Cottage:
“For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true?
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again, for so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favor."
Editor's note: Forlorn and unloved truths we revere and live by, though unshared by others, will eventually "come into favor," and "turn true again." Of course it must be so. Truth, raw and unapologetic truth, is not determined by majority vote nor by iron-mail fist of cultish censorship.
John Keats: "Call the world if you please, 'the Vale of Soul Making,' then you will find out the use of the world."
Walter M. Miller, A Canticle For Leibowitz: "Why don't you forgive God for allowing pain? If He didn't allow it, human courage, bravery, nobility, and self-sacrifice would all be meaningless things."
what you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you
An excerpt from Dr. Frankl's concentration camp memoirs:
... a semi-starved prisoner had broken into the potato
store to steal a few pounds of potatoes. The theft had
been discovered and some prisoners had recognized the
"burglar." When the camp authorities heard about it they
ordered that the guilty man be given up to them or the
whole camp would starve for a day. Naturally the 2,500
men preferred to fast.
On the evening of this day of fasting we lay in our earthen
huts — in a very low mood. Very little was said and
every word sounded irritable. Then, to make matters even
worse, the light went out. Tempers reached their lowest
ebb. But our senior block warden was a wise man. He im-
provised a little talk about all that was on our minds at
that moment. He talked about the many comrades who had
died in the last few days, either of sickness or of suicide. But
he also mentioned what may have been the real reason for
their deaths: giving up hope. He maintained that there
should be some way of preventing possible future victims
from reaching this extreme state. And it was to me that the
warden pointed to give this advice.
God knows, I was not in the mood to give psychological
explanations or to preach any sermons — to offer my com-
rades a kind of medical care of their souls. I was cold and
hungry, irritable and tired, but I had to make the effort
and use this unique opportunity. Encouragement was now
more necessary than ever.
So I began by mentioning the most trivial of comforts
first. I said that even in this Europe in the sixth winter of
the Second World War, our situation was not the most
terrible we could think of. I said that each of us had to ask
himself what irreplaceable losses he had suffered up to then.
I speculated that for most of them these losses had really
been few. Whoever was still alive had reason for hope.
Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune,
position in society — all these were things that could be
achieved again or restored. After all, we still had all our
bones intact. Whatever we had gone through could still be
an asset to us in the future. And I quoted from Nietzsche:
"Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker." (That
which does not kill me, makes me stronger.)
Then I spoke about the future. I said that to the impar-
tial the future must seem hopeless. I agreed that each of
us could guess for himself how small were his chances of
survival. I told them that although there was still no typhus
epidemic in the camp, I estimated my own chances at about
one in twenty. But I also told them that, in spite of this, I
had no intention of losing hope and giving up. For no man
knew what the future would bring, much less the next
hour. Even if we could not expect any sensational military
events in the next few days, who knew better than we, with
our experience of camps, how great chances sometimes
opened up, quite suddenly, at least for the individual. For
instance, one might be attached unexpectedly to a special
group with exceptionally good working conditions — for this
was the kind of thing which constituted the "luck" of the
But I did not only talk of the future and the veil which
was drawn over it. I also mentioned the past; all its joys,
and how its light shone even in the present darkness. Again
I quoted a poet — to avoid sounding like a preacher myself
— who had written, "Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der
Welt Dir rauben." (What you have experienced, no power
on earth can take from you.) Not only our experiences, but
all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have
had, and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it
is past; we have brought it into being. Having been is also a
kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.
Then I spoke of the many opportunities of giving life a
meaning. I told my comrades (who lay motionless, al-
though occasionally a sigh could be heard) that human life,
under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning,
and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and
dying, privation and death. I asked the poor creatures who
listened to me attentively in the darkness of the hut to face
up to the seriousness of our position. They must not lose
hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the
hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity
and its meaning. I said that someone looks down on each of
us in difficult hours — a friend, a wife, somebody alive or
dead, or a God — and he would not expect us to disappoint
him. He would hope to find us suffering proudly — not
miserably — knowing how to die.
And finally I spoke of our sacrifice, which had meaning
in every case. It was in the nature of this sacrifice that it
should appear to be pointless in the normal world, the
world of material success. But in reality our sacrifice did
have a meaning. Those of us who had any religious faith, I
said frankly, could understand without difficulty. I told
them of a comrade who on his arrival in camp had tried to
make a pact with Heaven that his suffering and death
should save the human being he loved from a painful end.
For this man, suffering and death were meaningful; his was
a sacrifice of the deepest significance. He did not want to
die for nothing. None of us wanted that.
The purpose of my words was to find a full meaning in
our life, then and there, in that hut and in that practically
hopeless situation. I saw that my efforts had been successful.
When the electric bulb flared up again, I saw the miserable
figures of my friends limping toward me to thank me with
tears in their eyes. But I have to confess here that only too
rarely had I the inner strength to make contact with my
companions in suffering and that I must have missed many
opportunities for doing so.
H. G. Wells, The Time Machine: "I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human intellect had been. It had committed suicide. It had set itself steadfastly towards comfort and ease, a balanced society with security and permanency as its watchword, it had attained its hopes - to come to this at last... absolute safety... And a great quiet had followed." [observations of The Time Traveler regarding mankind of A.D. 800,000 which had apparently succeeded in removing all risk and danger from life.]
William Stainton Moses, channeled writings: “It is necessary that afflictions come. Jesus knew and taught that. It is necessary for the training of the soul. It is as necessary as physical discipline for the body. No deep knowledge is to be had without it. None is permitted to scale the glorious heights but after discipline of sorrow. The key of knowledge is in spirit hands, and none may wrest it to himself but the earnest soul which is disciplined by trial.”
Rainer Maria Rilke: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
Rainer Maria Rilke: “Perhaps somewhere, someplace deep inside your being, you have undergone important changes while you were sad.”
Richard Bach: "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly."
Buckminster Fuller: "There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."
Abraham Lincoln Consoles Mrs. Lydia Bixby regarding her loss of five sons:
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864
To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
Aeschylus: "Zeus has led us on to know, the Helmsmen lays it down as law that we must suffer, suffer into truth."
Charles de Foucauld: "Our difficulties are not a transitory state of affairs... No, they are the normal state of affairs and we should reckon on being angustia temporum ['in straightness of times,' Dan. 9:21] all our lives, so far as the good we want to do is concerned."
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, 30 years after her ordeal in a Nazi death camp, offers her thoughts on the purpose of suffering: "Some questions remain -- but they are not to be feared. Our Heavenly Father holds all things in his hands, even our questions... No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still... the best remains, and the very best is yet to be."
Unknown: "A diamond is all the more brilliant against a backdrop of black."
Rainer Maria Rilke: “Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Reminiscences: "Never in history had a nation and its people been more completely crushed than were the Japanese people... Their entire faith in the Japanese way of life ... perished in the agony of their total defeat... It left a complete vacuum, morally, mentally, and physically. And into this vacuum flowed the democratic way of life."
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.”
Winston Churchill: “If you're going through hell, keep going.”
Paula Poundstone: "The wages of sin are death; but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a bad feeling."
Eric Hoffer: "Not actual suffering but the hope of better things incites people to revolt."
Dinah Shore: "Trouble is part of your life, and if you don't share it, you don't give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough."
Mark Twain, from his notebook: "If I were going to construct a God I would furnish Him with some ways and qualities and characteristics which the Present (Bible) One lacks.... He would spend some of His eternities in trying to forgive Himself for making man unhappy when He could have made him happy with the same effort and He would spend the rest of them in studying astronomy."
Greek proverb: "It is not good for all our wishes to be filled; through sickness we recognize the value of health; through evil, the value of good; through hunger, the value of food; through exertion, the value of rest."
John Tillotson: "Though all afflictions are evils in themselves, yet they are good for us, because they discover to us our disease and tend to our cure."
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain: The problem of pain defined: "If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both." This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form. The possibility of answering it depends on showing that the terms 'good' and 'almighty,' and perhaps also the term 'happy' are equivocal: for it must be admitted from the outset that if the popular meanings attached to these words are the best, or the only possible, meanings, then the argument is unanswerable."
Does pain accompany violent death?
The following was written by Michael Tymn:
Posted on 25 June 2012
Does a person who suffers a sudden, violent death experience pain? A number of messages from the spirit world suggest that there is no pain, although there are indications that the spiritually-challenged person, i.e., the person who still thinks of himself as only his physical body, can “sense” the pain through his spirit body because he does not realize that he is “dead.”
What may have convinced renowned author Victor Hugo of the reality of spirits was a mediumistic communication on December 9, 1853 from André Chénier (below), a French poet, who was executed at the guillotine on July 25, 1794. By means of table raps or taps, Chénier tapped out the remainder of the poem he had been working on just before his execution. It was in the same style as his work when living. While there is apparently an opposing view holding that it was more in Victor Hugo’s style, it was recorded that Victor Hugo was not present at that particular séance. Chénier also communicated new poems in his old style.
Chénier told of his last moments on earth, seeing the slop basket swaying beneath his head, half-filled with blood from those executed before him, and, suddenly, hearing the creaking sound above his head. After the sensation that his head was falling into the slop basket, he found himself far above his headless body, his soul body being enveloped in a diaphanous sheath. He then felt the presence of his mother and mistress. He observed a luminous line separating his head from his body. “Death appears to me simultaneously on the earth and in the sky; while my body, transfigured by the tomb, plunges deep into the beatitudes of eternity,” he communicated. “I see, at an immense distance below me, my other body which the executioner is throwing to the worms, my head rolling in the guter, my wound gushing blood, my guillotine blade being washed, my scalp hanging at the end of a stick, and my name being execrated by the crowd. (For more about Victor Hugo’s experiences, see my latest book, The Afterlife Explorers, and John Chambers’ excellent book, Conversations With Eternity.)
Although Chénier does not clearly address the pain issue, one might infer that he felt no physical pain. Pioneering French psychical researcher Allan Kardec asked a communicating spirit if one retains consciousness after decapitation. “He frequently does so for a few minutes, until the organic life of the body is completely extinct,” was the response, “but, on the other hand, the fear of death often causes a man to lose consciousness before the moment of execution.” Based on other communications, Kardec explained that “in all cases in which death has resulted from violence, and not from a gradual extinction of the vital forces, the bonds which unite the body to the perispirit are more tenacious, and the separation is effected more slowly.” Kardec and others have said that the more spiritually evolved the person, the quicker the separation.
In communicating through South African trance medium Nina Merrington, Mike Swain, who died in an auto accident, told his father Jasper Swain, a Pietermaritzburg, South Africa lawyer, that he left his body an instant before the cars actually impacted. Heather, his fiancée’s young sister, was also killed in the accident. As set forth in the 1974 book, On the Death of My Son, by Jasper Swain, Mike told of being blinded by the glare of the sun reflecting off the windscreen of the oncoming car. “All of a sudden, the radiance changes from silver to gold. I am being lifted up in the air, out through the top of the car. I grab little Heather’s hand. She too is being lifted up out of the car.”
When they were about 30 feet above the car, they witnessed the collision below them and Mike heard a noise like the snapping of steel banjo strings. He said that they had suffered no pain.
There have been a number of other communications suggesting that the individual leaves the physical body before violent death is experienced and thus does not experience any pain. In her intriguing 2011 book, The Survival of the Soul, Lisa Williams, a popular medium of the present day, offers the words of her spirit guide, Ben, on the subject. Ben told her that when a person is about to die under violent circumstances, his or her spirit team knows about it in advance, although they don’t know the exact moment. Thus, they have to be ready to “catch the soul when it pops out of the body, before any trauma or shock can hit the body, which is why so many on this side say they did not feel anything at the moment of a fatal accident.” Ben further explained that the soul will remove itself to protect itself from pain.
Williams tells of a reading in which a person named Chris came through to communicate with his mother. Chris had died in a bike (motorcycle?) accident. He told his mother that after his body was ejected from the bike and was heading toward a rock wall, he was bracing himself for the impact when he was “tugged out” of his body. He then watched what happened to his body from above.
In her 1973 book, Peter’s Gate, medium Jane Sherwood relates the communication by a man who had died in a motorcycle accident. “The grey road rose swiftly to meet me and a shattering blow put me out,” the man, who had adopted a nihilistic view of life when alive, said. “Immeasurable time seemed to pass before I came to myself without the accompaniment of pain. Then I opened my eyes with a shock of surprise because somewhere in my mind was the conviction that I could neither move nor see, but the nightmare had lifted and I opened unbandaged eyes. I raised a hand to feel my head and was reassured. The last half-hour terminating in the crash had retreated into a misty past and I saw and contemplated the small distant views of roadsides reeling past, grey skies and spring blur of hedgerows. There had been an accident in which I had been knocked out. I ought then to be in bed somewhere, perhaps in a hospital.”
At first glance, the above case seems to conflict with the communications suggesting that that a spiritually-challenged person might “sense” the pain, until we remind ourselves that a nihilistic view does not necessarily mean that the person lacked spiritual qualities. He could have been a morally righteous person who simply didn’t believe. As William James put it, “If religion be a function by which either God’s cause of man’s cause is to be really advanced, then he who lives the life of it, however narrowly, is a better servant than he who merely knows about it, however much. Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life with its dynamic currents passing through your being is another.”
In a 1922 book, Our Joe, author Charles S. Mundell tells of communications from his brother Joe, who was killed during a hunting accident in California. Joe communicated that he set his rifle down against his leg as he rolled a cigarette. As he reached for a match, he knocked the rifle over and he remembered nothing else until he awoke in his deceased grandmother’s arms. He recalled no pain.
In his soon-to-be released book, Tell My Mother I’m Not Dead: A Case Study in Mediumship Research, Trevor Hamilton, the biographer of pioneering psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers (Immortal Longings), tells of communications coming from his son, Ralph, after he was killed in an auto accident during 2002. In one sitting the medium related: “No pain. The body felt pain but he had left it. He was jammy.” Not familiar with the word, ‘jammy,” I asked Hamilton for a translation. He explained to me that it is English slang meaning “lucky” and that it was the kind of word that Ralph would use with his mates. But Hamilton recognizes that there is nothing evidential in such statements and that they lend themselves to “a rather rosy sense of wish-fulfillment.” On the other hand, Hamilton gives weight to the consistency in a large number of post-mortem communications, referring to cases cited by Dr. Robert Crookall in his 1961 book, The Supreme Adventure.
In addition to after-death communications, Crookall cites cases of people in the jaws of death who survived and told about it. He quotes David Livingstone, who was attacked by a lion: “He shook me as a terrier does a rat. It caused a sort of dreaminess in which there was no sense of pain or feeling of terror, though I was conscious of all that happened.” The pain began later.
Crookall theorized that the violent shaking caused an exteriorization of the “soul body” and therefore a loss of physical sensation.
Crookall further mentions a case which sounds very much like the Mike Swain experience mentioned above, except that the person survived. One R. H. Ward is quoted: “A car in which I was a passenger seemed to be on the point of…a head-on collision…I felt myself to be actually shocked out of my body. I had the strange impression that one aspect of myself was several yards distant from the cars, and watching, quite calmly and objectively all that was happening to the bodily aspect of myself, which was still sitting in one of the cars…It mattered not at all to my separate and usually conscious self that my body was likely…to be smashed to pieces; death was quite unimportant, and evidently something which might happen to a quite unimportant part of my total nature.”
A doctor who survived a plane crash reported: “The moment it became obvious that a crash was inevitable…one lost all apprehension.” The doctor recalled a “pleasant awareness” while looking down at his body some 200 feet below.
Mountain climber A. C. Benson told of falling into a crevasse when climbing in the Alps. “My first feeling was amusement,” he said. “I hung over an immense depth…They tried to haul me up, but could not. I was certain of death. I hung like this for twenty minutes and all that time I had no single thought of fear. I was being slowly strangled by the rope.”
Benson went on to say that he actually felt disappointed upon being rescued.
Rainer Maria Rilke: “Be of good courage all is before you, and time passed in the difficult is never lost...What is required of us is that we live the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us.”
C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain: "No doubt Pain as God's megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us. Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We 'have all we want' is a terrible saying when 'all' does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St. Augustine says somewhere, 'God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full--there's nowhere for Him to put it.' Or as a friend of mine said, 'We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it's there for emergencies but he hopes he'll never have to use it.' Now God who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call 'our own life' remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness? It is just here, where God's providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the highest , most deserves praise. We are perplexed to see misfortune falling upon decent, inoffensive, worthy people--on capable, hard-working mothers of families or diligent, thrifty little trades-people on those who have worked so hard, and so honestly, for their modest stock of happiness and now seem to be entering on the enjoyment of it with the fullest right.... Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for the moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them."
Leslie Weatherhead, The Christian Agnostic: "While this is not yet the best of all possible worlds, it may be the world of best possibilities... It is impossible for us at our infant stage of development to get the suffering of the world-which has made so many men disbelieve in God-into the right proportion. I have sometimes imagined a mass meeting of toddlers with a chairman aged five. I imagine an angry discussion in which speakers prove that there cannot be love at the heart of their homes. It is alleged by one speaker after another that parents allow the existence of cats with sharp claws, furniture and dinner knives with sharp edges, paths covered with sharp gravel. How can love be said to rule when a toddler is put into a home situation carrying so many evidences that either parents don't care or they have no power to alter things? 'Look at my cut knees,' says the chairman, adjusting his bib. 'Look at the scratch on my hand, and I only meant to play with the cat'! In exactly this spirit, believing himself to have grown up, Richard Robinson writes, 'A god who was all-powerful but left much misery in the world would not be all-benevolent. An all benevolent god in a world containing much misery would not be an all-powerful god. A world containing a god who was both all-powerful and all-benevolent would contain no misery. Here, then, we have a mathematical proof bearing on a common religious doctrine. Anyone who is confident that he frequently came across misery in the world may conclude with equal confidence that there is no such thing as an all-powerful and all-benevolent god. And this mathematically disposes of official Christianity." Exit Christianity!! I must remind Mr. Robinson, in familiar words, that the Christian religion is 'an anvil which has broken many hammers' and his so-called 'mathematical proof' is inadequate to banish the faith of a believer, even when he suffers. I believe that one day we shall view the suffering that now appalls us, as now we view the sufferings of our childhood."
Channing: "Even in evil, that dark cloud which hands over the creation, we discern rays of light and hope, and gradually come to see, in suffering and temptation, proofs and instruments of the sublimest purposes of wisdom and love."
Eckhart Tolle, The Power Of Now
BEYOND HAPPINESS AND UNHAPPINESS THERE IS PEACE: THE HIGHER GOOD BEYOND GOOD AND BAD
"Seen from a higher perspective, there is no 'good' or 'bad'. There is only a higher good - which includes the 'bad'.
Is there a difference between happiness and inner peace?
Yes. Happiness depends on conditions ["happenings"] being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.
Is it not possible to attract only positive conditions into our life? If our attitude and our thinking are always positive, we would manifest only positive events and situations, wouldn't we?
Do you truly know what is positive and what is negative? Do you have the total picture? There have been many people for whom limitation, failure, loss, illness, or pain in whatever form turned out to be their greatest teacher. It taught them to let go of false self-images and superficial ego-dictated goals and desires.
It gave them depth, humility, and compassion. It made them more real. Whenever anything negative happens to you, there is a deep lesson concealed within it, although you may not see it at the time. Even a brief illness or an accident can show you what is real and unreal in your life, what ultimately matters and what doesn't.
Seen from a higher perspective, conditions are always positive. To be more precise: they are neither positive nor negative. They are as they are. And when you live in complete acceptance of what is - which is the only sane way to live – there is no "good" or "bad" in your life anymore. There is only a higher good - which includes the "bad."
Seen from the perspective of the mind, however, there is good-bad, like-dislike, love-hate. Hence, in the Book of Genesis, it is said that Adam and Eve were no longer allowed to dwell in "paradise" when they "ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
This sounds to me like denial and self-deception. When something dreadful happens to me or someone close to me - accident, illness, pain of some kind or death - I can pretend that it isn't bad, but the fact remains that it is bad, so why deny it?
You are not pretending anything. You are allowing it to be as it is, that's all. This "allowing to be" takes you beyond the mind with its resistance patterns that create the positive-negative polarities…
For example, when a loved one has just died, or you feel your own death approaching, you cannot be happy. It is impossible. But you can be at peace. There may be sadness and tears, but provided that you have relinquished resistance, underneath the sadness you will feel a deep serenity, a stillness, a sacred presence.
This is the emanation of Being, this is inner peace, the good that has no opposite.
What if it is a situation that I can do something about? How can I allow it to be and change it at the same time?
Do what you have to do. In the meantime, accept what is. Since mind and resistance are synonymous, acceptance immediately frees you from mind dominance and thus reconnects you with Being. As a result, the usual ego motivations for "doing" - fear, greed, control, defending or feeding the false sense of self - will cease to operate. An intelligence much greater than the mind is now in charge, and so a different quality of consciousness will flow into your doing.
"Accept whatever comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more aptly fit your needs?" This was written 2,000 years ago by Marcus Aurelius, one of those exceedingly rare humans who possessed worldly power as well as wisdom.
Editor's note: In "The Wedding Song" Kairissi and Elenchus discuss the issue of "there is no 'bad' when viewed from a higher perspective," that of God as Singular Pervasive Reality.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter: "There was no other attribute that so much impressed her with a sense of new and untransmitted vigour in Pearl's nature, as this never failing vivacity of spirits... It was certainly a doubtful charm, imparting a hard, metallic lustre to the child's character. She wanted -- what some people want throughout life -- a grief that should deeply touch her, and thus humanise and make her capable of sympathy. But there was time enough yet for little Pearl."
W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965): "To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all of the miseries of life."
The death of his young bride, shortly after their marriage, threw Wyatt Earp into a period of deep depression and disillusionment. In May 1871, before recovering himself, Wyatt was arrested and charged with horse stealing in Arkansas, but he skipped bail and was never tried for the offense.
Wyatt Earp, the movie: Rescuing his son from depression and drunkeness, Wyatt's father speaks of the untimely death of his son's young wife: "Do you think you're the first man to lose someone? That's what life is all about - loss!"
Muhammad Ali, after his defeat by Leon Spinks, Feb. 17, 1978 (a fight, purportedly, the inspiration for the movie, Rocky): "We all lose in life. You lose your wife, you lose your mother. We all have losses, and what you have to do is keep living, overcome those losses and come back. You can't just go and die because you lose... Of all the fights I lost, losing to Spinks hurt the most. That's because it was my fault... I didn't train right."
Rainer Maria Rilke: “Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find these words.”
Hermann Hesse: "You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation... and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else."
I Peter 2: 23, 24; 4: 19, J.B. Phillips translation: "... when [Jesus] was insulted he offered no insult in return. When he suffered he made no threats of revenge. He simply committed his cause to the One who judges fairly... those who suffer ... can safely commit their souls to their faithful Creator, and go on doing all the good they can."
Zoroaster: "Thus spoke the Devil to me once, Even God has his hell: it is his love for man."
Aeschylus: "There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief."
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead: "I believe most assuredly that either on this side of death or the other there will come to every human spirit an hour when God calls up all the resources of the personality; assets which He has been guarding jealously all the years; when everything suffered, everything borne, everything overcome, every talent, every bit of character, everything we now dream we might become, will be used, mobilised and dedicated to some high purpose, a purpose which is the only reason why we ever emerged from that infinite source of personality from which, by the method of human birth, we were drawn as water from a well."
Silver Birch: "The Great Spirit is infinite love and nothing happens in the whole universe without His knowledge. All suffering automatically brings its own reward because it touches the soul and, in doing so, gives it a greater awareness of the higher, deeper and more profound aspects of the universe... Your world does not understand the function of pain and suffering and difficulty and hardship, but all these play an important part in the evolution of the human spirit. Look back in your own lives and see that often the greatest crises, the difficult problems, the darkest hours, were the stepping stones that led to greater understanding. You would not evolve if forever you dwelt in the sunshine, lived free from care, anxiety and worry, where every approaching difficulty was automatically smoothed out so that it never touched you, where there were no rough stones for your pathway, where there was nothing for you to conquer. It is in the facing of, and rising supreme over, trouble that you grow... In the great universe where harmony is the law, each one of you contributes to the plan. The events in your lives, sometimes of bitterness and despair, of pain and misery, all play their part in preparing the soul gradually for the path that is being trodden... The darkness and the light, the shadow and sunshine, are all but reflections of one whole. Without shadow there could be no light and without light there could be no shadow. The difficulties of life are steps which enable the soul to rise. Difficulties, obstacles, handicaps -- these are the trials of the soul. And when it conquers them all, it rises stronger, more purified, deepened in intensity and more highly evolved. Do you think that the latent powers of the soul, infinite in their possibilities of expression, could realize themselves without difficulty and pain, without shadow, without sorrow, and without suffering and misery? Of course not. The joy and the laughter can only be enjoyed to the full when once you have drained the cup of sorrow to the dregs, for as low as you can fall in the scale of life so correspondingly you can rise. The more you have tasted and experienced that which seems the shadow of earthly life, the more you will appreciate, because of it, the greater joys of the sunshine. Your experiences are all part of your evolution. One day, freed from the trammels of flesh, with eyes not clouded by matter, you will look back in retrospect and view the life you have lived on earth. And out of the jigsaw of all the events, you will see how every piece fits into its allotted place, how every experience was a lesson to quicken the soul and to enable it to have greater understanding of its possibilities. There is no experience that comes to the human soul, which, rightly understood and rightly faced, does not leave you better for it. Can you contemplate a world of matter where there were no difficulties, no trials, no troubles, no pain, no suffering? There would be no evolution. There would be nothing to surmount. You would decay."
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the movie: Frodo: "I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened." Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times -- but that is not for them to decide; all you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you."
Sir Oliver Lodge, Raymond: "The Universe is a flux, it is a becoming, it is a progress. Evolution is a reality. True and not imaginary progress is possible. Effort is not a sham. Existence is a true adventure. There is a real risk. There was a real risk about creation--directly it went beyond the inert and mechanical. The granting of choice and free will involved a risk. Thenceforward things could go wrong. They might be kept right by main force, but that would not be playing the game, that would not be loyalty to the conditions. As William James says: A football team desires to get a ball to a certain spot, but that is not all they desire; they wish to do it under certain conditions and overcome inherent difficulties -- else might they get up in the night and put it there. So also we may say, Good is the end and aim of the Divine Being; but not without conditions. Not by compulsion. Perfection as of machinery would be too dull and low an achievement -- something much higher is sought. The creation of free creatures who, in so far as they go right, do so because they will, not because they must -- that was the Divine problem, and it is the highest of which we have any conception. Yes, there was a real risk in making a human race on this planet. Ultimate good was not guaranteed. Some parts of the Universe must be far better than this, but some may be worse. Some planets may comparatively fail. The power of evil may here and there get the upper hand: although it must ultimately lead to suicidal destructive failure, for evil is pregnant with calamity."
Jim Croce, Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Brighter Day: "... nobody ever had a rainbow, Baby, until he had the rain..."
John Overton Choules, August 12, 1843: "The glories of Christianity in England are to be traced in the sufferings of confessors and martyrs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and it was under the influence of Christian principles, imbibed at this very period, that the Mayflower brought over the band of Pilgrims to Plymouth... We should never forget that the prison, the scaffold, and the stake were stages in the march of civil and religious liberty which our forefathers had to travel, in order that we might attain our present liberty."
Ann Landers: "The poor wish to rich; the rich wish to be happy; the single wish to be married; and the married wish to be dead."
The Association, Cherish: "...you don't know how many times I wish that I had told you."
William Butler Yeats: "But O that I were young again And held her in my arms."
Rainer Maria Rilke: “The only sadnesses that are dangerous and unhealthy are the ones that we carry around in public in order to drown them out with the noise; like diseases that are treated superficially and foolishly, they just withdraw and after a short interval break out again all the more terribly; and gather inside us and are life, are life that is unlived, rejected, lost, life that we can die of.”
Gary McClain, Idiot's Guide to Zen Living: "Dukkha is the Sanskrit word for suffering or, more generally, that deep feeling of discontent, dissatisfaction, restlessness, unfulfilled desire and want that so often characterizes human existence... Suffering is caused by desire. Desire is wanting something you don't have... [Enlightenment reduces suffering by reducing desire; this comes about by a realization that we, within ourselves, already have a measure of important things.] Dukkha isn't easy to ignore. It keeps hounding us, following us around like a stray dog [Why are certain feelings of suffering so strong? Because the precipitating suffering-event seemed to be such a large loss to you] ... Dukkha makes us misperceive reality. We get so caught up in our own heads that we have no idea what is really going on. [We imagine things, we feel threatened unnecessarily, causing us to be angry and depressed.] ... To live means to experience suffering ... So you have to be alone because your marriage didn't work ... So you have to exchange information with the person whose car you just hit. Nobody likes these things ... Being human means experiencing unpleasantness. How you handle these bad things (bad being a relative term) is what causes your suffering, not the bad thing itself... Let the [suffering] go. This means waking up to your life and true nature again and again and again, as many times as it takes. The better you become at foiling dukkha and living by dharma [reality], or the truth of your own nature, the more glimmers [of what's real] you'll get... [Suffering needs to be seen as something separate from one's true self. When we are hurting we should acknowledge dukkha, but then let it go. We should say: 'There's that dukkha feeling again' as we acknowledge that suffering is normal for all of us -- but it doesn't have to overcome us.]"
Rainer Maria Rilke: “You darkness, that I come from, I love you more than all the fires that fence in the world, for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone, and then no one outside learns of you. But the darkness pulls in everything: shapes and fires, animals and myself, how easily it gathers them! - powers and people - and it is possible a great energy is moving near me. I have faith in nights.”
Louise Bogan: "I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!"
Geri Larkin, Stumbling Toward Enlightenment: "Just when we start to be able to see clearly ... we discover that behind our anger -- which we thought we had faced just fine, thank you very much - is rage... So let go of your rage... Forgive.... Let your own inherent gentleness free you."
Helen Reddy, I Am Woman: "Oh, yes, I am wise, But it's wisdom born of pain, Yes, I've paid the price, But look how much I gained -- If I have to, I can do anything..."
Arthur Miller, The Ride Down Mount Morgan: "Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets."
M. Scott Peck: "The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."
Rainer Maria Rilke: “It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing. That is why the sadness passes: the new presence inside us, the presence that has been added, has entered our heart, has gone into its innermost chamber and is no longer even there, - is already in our bloodstream. And we don't know what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can't say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.”
John Adams: “My daughter [marrying unwisely] and Charles [his son, suffering from alcoholism] bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. The daughter, without a fault. Unfortunate daughter! Unhappy child!”
Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning: Recounting an Auschwitz experience: "We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road running through the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles... But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look... for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth - that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world may still know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when a man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way - an honorable way - in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment... I resumed talk with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she answered; she questioned me in return, and I answered." [Frankl would later discover that his beloved, at this point, had already been killed in the death camps.]
Eckhart Tolle, The Power Of Now
Dissolving the Pain-Body
"Every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merges with the pain from the past, which was already there, and becomes lodged in your mind and body... This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind... It’s the emotional pain-body."
CONSCIOUSNESS: THE WAY OUT OF PAIN
Nobody's life is entirely free of pain and sorrow. Isn't it a question of learning to live with them rather than trying to avoid them?
The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life.
The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgment. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind...
Past Pain: Dissolving The Pain-Body
As long as you are unable to access the power of the Now, every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merges with the pain from the past, which was already there, and becomes lodged in your mind and body. This, of course, includes the pain you suffered as a child, caused by the unconsciousness of the world into which you were born.
This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind. If you look on it as an invisible entity in its own right, you are getting quite close to the truth. It’s the emotional pain-body.
It has two modes of being: dormant and active. A pain-body may be dormant 90 percent of the time; in a deeply unhappy person, though, it may be active up to 100 percent of the time. Some people live almost entirely through their pain-body, while others may experience it only in certain situations, such as intimate relationships, or situations linked with past loss or abandonment, physical or emotional hurt, and so on. Anything can trigger it, particularly if it resonates with a pain pattern from your past. When it is ready to awaken from its dormant stage, even a thought or an innocent remark made by someone close to you can activate it.
Some pain-bodies are obnoxious but relatively harmless, for example like a child who won' t stop whining. Others are vicious and destructive monsters, true demons. Some are physically violent; many more are emotionally violent. Some will attack people around you or close to you, while others may attack you, their host. Thoughts and feelings you have about your life then become deeply negative and self-destructive. Illnesses and accidents are often created in this way. Some pain-bodies drive their hosts to suicide.
When you thought you knew a person and then you are suddenly confronted with this alien, nasty creature for the first time, you are in for quite a shock. However, it's more important to observe it in yourself than in someone else. Watch out for any sign of unhappiness in yourself, in whatever form - it may be the awakening pain-body. This can take the form of irritation, impatience, a somber mood, a desire to hurt, anger, rage, depression, a need to have some drama in your relationship, and so on. Catch it the moment it awakens from its dormant state.
The pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it. It can then rise up, take you over, "become you," and live through you. It needs to get its "food" through you.
It will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy, anything that creates further pain in whatever form: anger, destructiveness, hatred, grief, emotional drama, violence, and even illness. So the pain-body, when it has taken you over, will create a situation in your life that reflects back its own energy frequency for it to feed on. Pain can only feed on pain. Pain cannot feed on joy. It finds it quite indigestible.
Once the pain-body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or a perpetrator. You want to inflict pain, or you want to suffer pain, or both. There isn't really much difference between the two. You are not conscious of this, of course, and will vehemently claim that you do not want pain. But look closely and you will findvthat your thinking and behavior are designed to keep the pain going, for yourself and others. If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would dissolve, for to want more pain is insanity, and nobody is consciously insane.
The pain-body, which is the dark shadow cast by the ego, is actually afraid of the light of your consciousness. It is afraid of being found out. Its survival depends on your unconscious identification with it, as well as on your unconscious fear of facing the pain that lives in you. But if you don't face it, if you don't bring the light of your consciousness into the pain, you will be forced to relive it again and again. The pain-body may seem to you like a dangerous monster that you cannot bear to look at, but I assure you that it is an insubstantial phantom that cannot prevail against the power of your presence.
Some spiritual teachings state that all pain is ultimately an illusion, and this is true. The question is: Is it true for you? A mere belief doesn't make it true. Do you want to experience pain for the rest of your life and keep saying that it is an illusion? Does that free you from the pain? What we are concerned with here is how you can realize this truth - that is, make it real in your own experience.
The moment you observe it, feel its energy field within you, and take your attention into it, the identification is broken. A higher dimension of consciousness has come in. I call it presence. You are now the witness or the watcher of the pain-body. This means that it cannot use you anymore by pretending to be you, and it can no longer replenish itself through you. You have found your own innermost strength. You have accessed the power of Now.
What happens to the pain-body when we become conscious enough to break our identification with it?
Unconsciousness creates it; consciousness transmutes it into itself. St. Paul expressed this universal principle beautifully: "Everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed to the light itself becomes light." Just as you cannot fight the darkness, you cannot fight the pain-body. Trying to do so would create inner conflict and thus further pain. Watching it is enough. Watching it implies accepting it as part of what is at that moment.
The pain-body consists of trapped life-energy that has split off from your total energy field and has temporarily become autonomous through the unnatural process of mind identification. It has turned in on itself and become anti-life, like an animal trying to devour its own tail. Why do you think our civilization has become so life-destructive?
But even the life-destructive forces are still life-energy. When you start to disidentify and become the watcher, the pain-body will continue to operate for a while and will try to trick you into identifying with it again. Although you are no longer energizing it through your identification, it has a certain momentum, just like a spinning wheel that will keep turning for a while even when it is no longer being propelled. At this stage, it may also create physical aches and pains in different parts of the body, but they won't last. Stay present, stay conscious. Be the ever-alert guardian of your inner space. You need to be present enough to be able to watch the pain-body directly and feel its energy. It then cannot control your thinking.