Pride is a deep, insatiable need for unreality.
Pride is a stubborn insistence on being what we are not and never were intended to be.
Thomas Merton, The New Man.
Merton is speaking of Adam’s pride. And his words are almost “throw away” wisdom as he proceeds on to the explanations I carefully underlined in my 1961 Mentor-Omega paperback book, the pages of which are now quite yellow, fragile and ready to crumble.
Adam’s sin was a double movement of introversion and extraversion. He withdrew from God into himself and then, unable to remain centered in himself, he fell beneath himself into the multiplicity and confusion of exterior things…
Adam turned human nature inside out and passed it on in this condition to all his children…
Each of us has the task of turning the thing right side out … and the task is by no means easy.
That phrase, “a double movement of introversion and extroversion” has stuck with me through the decades, as I’ve tried to turn “the thing right side out.” It has been by no means easy, or perhaps more accurately, quite a measure of my pride and insatiable need for unreality.
Seven years ago or so, I was delighted to discover the Taoist text entitled, “Turning the Light Around.” It described a technique that I realized I could perform. A practice that if performed for 100 days promised that I would become immortal.
I lasted about 10 before things just got “too weird.”
Unreality is so ingrained in me as Real.
The words also invoke contemplations I mentioned not so long ago - the strange twisting inversion of consciousness I discovered as I tried to diagram the flow of creativity throughout Creation. Our minds can travel “from smaller than the smallest to larger than the largest,” in Maharishi’s jargon. To me, this journey forms a kind of Klein bottle – a geometrical object that you can imagine but not build since a Klein bottle requires four dimensions. (Oddly, it’s surface passes through itself without a hole. Is this a metaphor of transcendence, I have to wonder?)
So, my ears perked up the other night as I listened to Eckhardt Tolle on the true nature of space and time:
Go out on a clear night and look up at the sky…What appears to us as space in our universe perceived through the mind and senses is the Unmanifested itself, externalized. It is the “body’ of God. And the greatest miracle is this: That stillness and vastness that enables the universe to be, is not just out there in space – it is also within you…. Within you, it is vast in depth, not in extension…
What you perceive externally as space and time are… the two essential attributes of God, infinity and eternity, perceived as if they had an external existence outside you. Within you, both space and time have an inner equivalent that reveals their true nature, as well as your own. Whereas space is the still, infinitely deep realm of no-mind, the inner equivalent of time is presence, awareness of the eternal Now.
The Power of Now, Chapter Six, The Inner Body
The teachers of enlightenment speak of two a two-step process.
First, it is necessary to wake-up to your own true nature. Know your Self to be unbounded. Second, the ego must dissolve into an awareness of unity.
Maharishi clarified the distinctions between Cosmic Consciousness and Unity Consciousness. Adyashanti speaks of awakening as the first step to becoming fully enlightenment. And Merton, has this double movement – pulling the senses out from identification with the world, becoming re-centered in the self and then melting into God.
People don’t seem to speak of Merton anymore. So, let me end with more of his words. More phrases that have stuck with me all this time.
If we would return to God…we must reverse Adam’s journey, we must go back the way he came. The path lies through the center of our soul.
Here he echoes Tolle’s instruction that the inner body is a portal into Being:
The body that you can see and touch cannot take you into Being. But that visible and tangible body is only an outer shell…In your natural state of connectedness with being, this deeper reality can be felt every moment as the invisible inner body…to “inhabit the body” is to feel the body from within… and thereby come to know that you are beyond the outer form.
The sense of being “carried” and “drawn” by love into the infinite space of a sublime and unthinkable freedom is the expression of our spiritual union with the Father…[Son and Holy Ghost (to put it in the Catholic)]
When the light of God’s truth begins to find its way through the mists of illusion and self-deception…the false self which we inherited from Adam begins to experience the strange panic that Adam felt when…he hid in the trees in the garden because he heard the voice of the Lord God in the afternoon.
If we are to recover our own identity… we must learn to stop saying: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked. And I hid.”
OK – I’ll sign onto Dan’s passage too. And end with this one, which I really like:
It is a spiritual disaster for a man to rest content with his exterior identity, with his passport picture of himself… If that is who he thinks he is, then he is already done for, because he is no longer alive, even though he may seem to exist.
Actually he is only pushing the responsibility for his existent on to society… he assumes he is a person because there appear to be other persons who recognize him when he walks down the street.
Thomas Merton, The New Man, Spirit in Bondage.