Chapter 18: The Narrow Path

Down the Rabbit HoleThe phenomenon of speaking from the ground of being, from the Christ consciousness, can be found in the annals of history. It is virtually impossible to understand this idea intellectually because it must be felt. It is dynamic and alive; it is not a concept. There is a slew of visionaries, mystics, artists and other types from different traditions who have spoken and seen the world through this consciousness. The Sufi mystic Al Hallaj (858 - 922 AD) was put to death because he claimed that he and God were one. Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), in the Christian tradition, was condemned as a heretic for his statements about God and about his experience of God. He said: "If I am to know God directly, I must become completely He and He I: so that this He and this I become and are one I."6 There are many others who have come to this realization, that they and God are one, because they have surrendered to something greater. Their worldly selves have been crucified. They have let go of a pursuit of their own limited or local interests and limitations and have opened up their lives to greater possibilities. They pierced the matrix or fabric of this world. And they all speak from that experience in similar terms. They are this way not as a result of a moral or religious charter or out of fear of divine authority or retribution but as a result of a natural progression in the development of their consciousness. In Matthew 7:13 we read: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” And in Matthew 16:25, we read: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." This difficult path, which is spaceless and directionless, requires that we give up our traditional way of thinking and give up the fragmentary, illusory image of ourselves, which is based on a concept. It requires that we pluck out the eyes through which we have been seeing and judging the world. We are constantly judging and thinking about what we want, what we aspire to be, where we would like to go, not realizing the limitations that we put on ourselves.

Recall Matthew 19:24 "And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Although there has been much debate about the translation from Greek regarding the word ‘camel’, it does not detract from the point of the statement. The rich man here need not only be one who has great material wealth; Jesus was referring to those who cling to their beliefs or religion or stature or world image - their social status or ego - which may be even more difficult to leave behind than monetary wealth. The news is full of stories of actors, businessmen and others who, at the height of their careers, ruled the silver screen or the business world and now, in the twilight of their lives, are on the brink of suicide. They have identified themselves with the fleeting world-self and are afraid to let go of it. They wish to hold on to a crystallized image and fight against the natural change that is inherent in all things. As a result, they become crucified by the disintegration of their world-self. And were they to let go and embrace the impermanence of their worldly selves, they would be liberated; but many cling ever tighter as they descend into their abyss and their crucifixion becomes exceedingly painful.

This narrow path "into the kingdom of God" requires a shift in consciousness, away from the entanglements of this world and the religion or beliefs to which they have clung for so many years. The road is difficult because of conceptual distractions that shift focus away from this dynamic awareness, limit our field of vision and drive us to cling to things that are familiar. The challenge is to put ourselves in a position where we are constantly turning inward, constantly awake, and where we realize that the outer world is a temporal and changing inflection of a higher truth found within us. A well-known image of this necessary experience is reflected through the story of Abraham, in Genesis 22, as he was about to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's request. Reprieve comes only when Abraham was fully prepared to carry out the sacrifice mentally and physically and lifts his knife to slay his son. That is to say, transformation of consciousness or salvation cannot come until a psychological breaking point is reached where the sage surrenders the most seemingly precious thing in this world, his world-self, to the churning wheels of Life. Isaac represents the culmination of Abraham’s life and career as a father and a leader of a people. Isaac is his pride and joy in the world, his only son. Moreover, Isaac represents continuing lineage. The death of Isaac would mean the extinction of all generations in this world that have come down the line. Only when Abraham was about to give up his son who is a symbol of his continuing self, God aborts the sacrifice. Importantly enough, the sage does not have to carry out the sacrifice physically. Through his willingness or taking that first step, the sage has already made that leap and crossed the threshold psychologically. That is the pivotal point, the point of release and surrender to a new way of being and seeing.

Traditional views of wealth, with regard to religious goals, have always admonished the believer to denounce material riches because of their seductive and corruptive qualities. We know that money can entangle the believer in the affairs of the world and lead him astray from his authentic life. Although this is a fair assessment, there is perhaps a more obscure and compelling reason. We can view the negative aspect of material wealth not only from a corruptive perspective but also from a numbing one. Wealth generally leads to comfort and releases people from certain worries, anxieties and responsibilities, but these things precisely have the potential to be the beckoning gateway to transformation. That is, the experience endured from the lack of wealth can put one in certain situations that could potentially reveal to the individual certain truths about himself and the world and awaken the inner sage. These situations are often filled with seeming randomness or chaos, the traditional womb of creativity, rather than security and uniformity.

Imagine the journey of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man as always can simply embark on his personal jet plane and within a matter of hours reach his destination. The poor man however may have to travel by bus, cross the land by foot and sail from one shore to another to reach his destination. Imagine the wealth of scenery, people and situations – both good and bad - that the poor man encounters along the way. Wealth, whether material or “spiritual”, bypasses certain experiences, especially experiences of suffering that are afforded by poverty (Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven). These experiences sensitize and awaken certain psychic nerves, albeit often through suffering. And in dealing with dilemmas and suffering, a certain creative spirit is born, out of surrender. Now certainly there are many wealthy men who have denied their riches, in one way or another, in order to move toward greater knowledge and awareness; but in the end, the final outcome hinges on the individual's attitude and willingness to open the door, step through it and let go. At times suffering forces us through that door.

The brilliant psychologist and author Karlfried Graf von Durkheim beautifully expresses this point: “The man who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the suffering and pass courageously through it, thus making of it a ‘raft that leads to the far shore.’ Only to the extent that man exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within him. (and only in the giving of love when she most wants to get love, can she know that she is really is made of Love). In this lies the dignity of daring. Thus, the aim of spiritual practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a man to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered - that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let go his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites. The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world. When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the demons which arise from the unconscious, a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces. Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of annihilation can our contact with Divine Being, which is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more a man learns whole-heartedly to confront the world that threatens him with isolation, the more are the depths of the Ground of Being revealed and the possibilities of New Life and Becoming opened.”7

6 Meister Eckhart - Pred. xcix. "Mystische Schriften" p. 122

7 Karlfried Graf von Durckheim - The Way of Transformation

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