At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
- Mark 1: 12
"The first part of life is to enter into [life] through particular experiences, to develop that self-identity as thoroughly distinct from all the other identities. Then comes the opportunity to translate that experience back into the higher values of the spiritual potentiality of the human being with the new brain, the left hemisphere being the basis for it."
- Thomas Keating, ending of Monday’s video
"The struggle between the [self-centered self and the self-giving self] is a constant theme in the New Testament. The [self-centered] self easily adjusts to the circumstances of the spiritual journey as long as it does not have to change itself. Thus, it manifests its radical self-centeredness in various expressions of human activity: in material pursuits such as wealth and power; in emotional satisfactions such as relationships; in intellectual goals … in social goals such as status and prestige; in religious aspirations such as fasting and acts of piety; and even in spiritual commitments such as prayer, the practice of virtue and every form of ministry.
"The Gospel calls us forth to full responsibility for our emotional life. We tend to blame other people or situations for the turmoil we experience. In actual fact, upsetting emotions prove beyond any doubt that the problem is in us. If we do not assume responsibility for our emotional programs on the unconscious level and take measures to change them, we will be influenced by them to the end of our lives. As long as these programs are in place, we cannot hear other people and their cries for help; their problems must first be filtered through our own emotional needs, reactions and prepackaged values. No amount of theological, scriptural or liturgical study can heal [us], because as long as our emotional programs for happiness are firmly in place, such studies are easily co-opted by them.
"… Jesus appears in the desert as the representative of the human race. He bears within himself the experience of the human predicament in its raw intensity. Hence, he is vulnerable to the temptations [and yet shows us how to confront them]."
- Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ
This is the time of fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
- Mark 1: 15
"Christ began his teaching not with any literal commandments but with a psychological idea -- the idea of metanoia which means change of mind. … This word, metanoia, awkwardly translated as repentance, means a new way of thinking about the meaning of one's own life. … That is its starting point: to feel the mystery of one's own existence, of how one thinks and feels and moves, and to feel the mystery of consciousness, and to feel the mystery of the minute organization of matter. All this can begin to effect metanoia. The contrary is to feel that everything is attributable to oneself. The one feeling opens the mind to its higher range of possibilities. The other feeling closes the mind and turns us downwards through the senses."
- Maurice Nicoll, The Mark
Video Reflections: As we move through various models and ways of looking at the human condition, the terminology may be unfamiliar and take some getting used to. It may be helpful to view video presentations more than once in order to grasp their implications, especially as they relate to the spiritual journey. Monday's video is "Formation of the Home-Made Self: The Existential Model, Part I." You will find the video and transcript on this page.
A note on language: As we stated in the very first message, we are sensitive to language and aim to update certain terms and conventions for our time. On Monday, we explored Fr. Thomas' reference to the human condition as the "false-self system" in this way: "It is false because it is a mask that covers …[our] true radiant being as a child of God … This level of the self is not false because it is wrong, but because it is incomplete. It is not the fullness of what God created us to be."
Knowing we can't possibly edit out the references in the video segments, we intend as much as possible to move past the false self/true self paradigm — which sets up polarities and can keep the inner critic or egoic stance in place — toward recognition of the evolution of the self, integration of the levels of consciousness and, finally to transcendence of self (no-self), wherein only Christ lives.
Practice: Reflect upon how these models of the human condition have informed you. What has come to meet you? Have you practiced embodied self-observation, non-identification and Self-remembering through the Welcoming Prayer?
You are invited to share your reflections, self-observations and experiences with your Journey Group or in your journal.
Resources for Further Study:
You may wish to read the Introduction and Chapters 1-5 and 7 in Invitation to Love (20th Anniversary Edition) and the Introduction through Chapter 6, in older editions.
An archive of previous emails may be found here.