The Three Spirits

“We need to see that there is no ‘thinker,’ that this imagined ‘I’ which thinks ‘me’ and ‘mine’ is simply an illusion.” writes Jeanne de Salzmann in The Reality of Being.  “In order for us to receive truth, this must be dispelled, as well as all the other illusions of the thinking, including those behind our desires for pleasure or satisfaction. Only then can we see the real nature of our ambitions, struggles and sufferings.  Only then can we see through them and come to a state free of contradiction, a state of emptiness, in which we can experience love.”

Last week, I wrote about Scrooge and I’m still thinking about that great teaching.   I see Scrooge dining alone in a restaurant close to Christmas.  The waiter asks him if he would like bread with his soup.  The penny extra it will cost is too much for the brilliant businessman.   The hurt he experienced earlier in his life has closed his heart not just to others but to himself–to his larger capacities and possibilities.  The ghost of Marley, Scrooge’s miserable old business partner, appears to Scrooge in the middle of the night and shows him how we make chains of habit out of our thinking and our desires for pleasure and to avoid pain.  Even single-pointed concentration can become a habitual way of avoiding pain and a chain to bind us.  Habit can become character and finally destiny, but habit can change.  We can wake up to the true nature of our ambitions, struggles and sufferings.  After Marley,  three spirits–three moments of greater awareness–appeared to Scrooge.  The Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge how the hurts he suffered early in his life led him concentrate on making money to the exclusion of all else.  The Ghost of Christmas Present introduces him to the reality of others and his impact on others for good or for ill.  From Ghost of Christmas Future he comes to grips with his final destiny and what it means to live a life untouched by love.  At the end of the night, Scrooge says “I am not the man he was”.   He has seen through the embattled fortress of the self.  Awakening, he is determined to keep Christmas well, to live in the light of love.

“What is important is to live with this void in which the self is abandoned,” writes Madame de Salzmann.  “With this abandonment arises the passion to be, a wish beyond thought and feeling, a flame which destroys all that is false.  This energy allows the mind to penetrate the unknown.”

A higher consciousness or greater awareness can sometimes visit us.  This greater awareness can have a penetrating wisdom and insight and it can reach us, chained as we are with our habits and striving for plearure and the avoidance of pain.  Really seeing ourselves as we are can bring about a state of emptiness–and the stillness of the grave.   Love can find us there.  It can descend into the void where all seems lost and reconcile us to Reality.

“No movement from the periphery toward the center will ever reach the center,” writes de Salzmann.  “A surface movement trying to become deeper will never by more than of the surface.  In order to understand itself, the mind has to be completely still, without illusion.  Then with lucidity we can see the insignificance of ‘me’ dissolve in an immensity beyond all measure.  There is no time, only the present moment.  Yet to live in the present is wholly sufficient unto itself.  At each moment one dies, one lives, one is.  Free of fear and illusion, moment after moment we die to the known in order to enter the unknown.”

Past, present, and future all here and now.   This Christmas, may we all be still and know ourselves as we really are, and know Love and the Peace that passes all human understanding.   Bless us everyone.

23 thoughts on “The Three Spirits

  1. Dear Tracy,

    Wonderfully engaging post. Thank you. Reading this post was like breathing in fresh air and it strikes me how Madame de Salzmann’s words are filled with the current of Life.

    Happy Holidays.



  2. Thank you, Luke. Madame de Salzmann’s words are alive and breathing, filled with the current of Life.

    Happy Holidays, esteemed colleague.

    Warmest wishes to you and your loved ones,


  3. Another meaningful post Tracy.

    I appreciate Madam de Salzmann because she doesn’t appeal to loveliness but rather to reality. Simone Weil reminds me so much of Madam. They have this mutual lack of need to become sugary so as to appeal to image.

    Scrooge was fortunate to have the help of these spirts to experience the truth of ourselves. We have to surrender ourselves to invite the help of the Spirit for this purpose which is very difficult.

    “We don’t understand the importance of our attitude. My attitude at any point is like the sunken part of the iceberg. I start out from the conscious affirmative part which is like the tip. I’m quite surprised—and unprepared—to meet resistance from this unconscious part. Yet my attitude is largely governed by this resistance. You have to see the resistance. You have to be more aware of the wish to not work—at the same time as you are holding the wish to work.” John Pentland

    It’s not so easy to keep this attitude when our tendency is avoidance of what we are unaware of through a host of acquired psychological techniques.

    Have a meaningful holiday period.


  4. Dear Tracy,

    Thanks for this nice post. This post has its own depth, an invitation to realize the higher state of consciousness. The timing is very pertinent, this is the season of festivity and sharing the pleasure with others and focusing on the “inner” can help us to have taste of this formless state of consciousness.

  5. Lovely Tracy, simply lovely.

    Thank you for reminding us that in order to find our truest self, we must let go of the self in which are so grounded in ordinary time, grounded in daily.

    And thank you also for the reminder us that we are actually grounded, even more so, in a greater mystery that takes us beyond our daily self. A self that has to function in this world, and a self that is so easily distracted by our desires.

    Christmas is indeed a special time of the year, a time out of ordinary time, when we practice in some form a letting go of our self in order to give to others, to give selflessly. A time to share our selfless love, to celebrate the birth of something new and unique within the world, Gods love.

    Christmas for a Christian, for anyone really, is also about the longing of God for all humankind, since Christians believe that God became human to be with us, to become one of us, to become human. Emmanuel, God with us. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.”

    Christmas brings a realization that God’s Holy Spirit is truly alive in each one of us, that the Holy Spirit lives within us each, and that it is indeed a time of giving birth to God’s love within the world.

    As my Christmas gift to all of you, I would like to share this reading I did of “God’s Longing,” a poem that draws on the image and concepts of more than one contemplative tradition, but also points back to the mystery that binds us together, bless be the ties that bind. May they bind us further still, the bright ribbons of Christmas, the gift of ourselves to one another.

    Peace and Merry Christmas,

    Ron Starbuck

  6. “What is important is to live with this void in which the self is abandoned,” you quote Madame de Salzmann. The best froms of giving come from this selfless space, and because it is immediate, it focuses on what is needed right here, right now in the concrete, mundane world by the people in front of us, often those closest to us to whom we hold in love, but who also push our buttons.

    Thanks, Tracy. Have a warm and spirited Holiday Season.


  7. Something in me today, Christmas day, reminded me of this remark by Simone Weil.

    “Let us not think that because we are less brutal, less violent, less inhuman than our opponents we will carry the day. Brutality, violence, and inhumanity have an immense prestige that schoolbooks hide from children, that grown men do not admit, but that everyone bows before. For the opposite virtues to have as much prestige, they must be actively and constantly put into practice. Anyone who is merely incapable of being as brutal, as violent, and as inhuman as someone else, but who does not practice the opposite virtues, is inferior to that person in both inner strength and prestige, and he will not hold out in . . . a confrontation” — Simone Weil

    It brings me to Gurdjieff’s description of a Christian. From ISM:

    “First of all it is necessary to understand that a Christian is not a man who calls himself a Christian or whom others call a Christian. A Christian is one who lives in accordance with Christ’s precepts. Such as we are we cannot be Christians. In order to be Christians we must be able ‘to do.’ We cannot do; with us everything ‘happens.’ Christ says: ‘Love your enemies,’ but how can we love our enemies when we cannot even love our friends? Sometimes ‘it loves’ and sometimes ‘it does not love.’ Such as we are we cannot even really desire to be Christians because, again, sometimes ‘it desires’ and sometimes ‘it does not desire.’ And one and the same thing cannot be desired for long, because suddenly, instead of desiring to be a Christian, a man remembers a very good but very expensive carpet that he has seen in a shop. And instead of wishing to be a Christian he begins to think how he can manage to buy this carpet, forgetting all about Christianity. Or if somebody else does not believe what a wonderful Christian he is, he will be ready to eat him alive or to roast him on hot coals. In order to be a good Christian one must be. To be means to be master of oneself. If a man is not his own master he has nothing and can have nothing. And he cannot be a Christian. He is simply a machine, an automaton. A machine cannot be a Christian. Think for yourselves, is it possible for a motorcar or a typewriter or a gramophone to be Christian? They are simply things which are controlled by chance. They are not responsible. They are machines. To be a Christian means to be responsible. Responsibility comes later when a man even partially ceases to be a machine, and begins in fact, and not only in words, to desire to be a Christian.”

    How different this is from many conceptions of Christianity that justify weakness. To me, master of oneself is not to deny oneself but rather with the help of grace, to have transcended its psychological dominance.

    Perhaps this is why the meaning of Christmas, its magnitude and significance, has degenerated culturally into a secular holiday.

  8. Nick,

    For some it is indeed a secular holiday, and for others a sacred holiday.

    Christmas for me is about giving birth to God’s love and compassion, or giving birth to love and compassion itself, just as Mary gives birth to Jesus in the bible story of the Nativity. Today for many Christians is the first day of Christmas, followed by eleven more days of celebration.

    Christians celebrate many things at this time, but most especially they celebrate that God, Emmanuel, is now with us as a human being.

    God has come into the world to feel all the sorrow and joy of what it means to be born as a human being in this world.

    This experience of life, of life calling out to life, leads only to complete compassion, mercy, and the reconciliation of all things through this mystery, however you might come to understand that mystery. And by doing so, come to know the fullness of our own humanity, to become fully human.

    Colossians 1:15-20 (NRSV) – The Supremacy of Christ

    “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

    When Christians, look at Jesus Christ as the Incarnate Word and the first born of all creation, we are in a very real sense viewing Christ outside of time or within the eternal context of all creation. What that means in terms of salvation is that we are and always have been completely accepted by God, as the 20th Century theologian Paul Tillich so often pointed out. In short, we are the beloved of God.

    In terms of Christian soteriology, we are and always have been accepted and beloved of God from the very beginning of creation. Christ as the Incarnate Word – the Logos, preeminent and preexisting, makes this possible. Your acceptance and my acceptance have taken place within and outside of time as a part of the Paschal Mystery; the passion, death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Exaltation of Christ. If this sounds like a paradox, it is, but God loves a good paradox. A good paradox keeps us on our toes.

    From an orthodox view, this is the good news of the Gospel, simply that we are accepted. Christ for a Christian is the love of God made manifest within the world, and it marks our complete acceptance by God. An acceptance that was always there and will always be there.

    Through the Paschal Mystery all of creation has been reconciled and made whole in Christ with God; Christ has fulfilled the perfect covenant of God. God’s love is now shown to us as eternal and constant. Through Christ, who is the love of God actualized as the Incarnate Word, salvation has come and is now an eternal event. The core truth of the Pascal Mystery and of God’s love is a truth that is still unfolding and a mystery that we are still trying to fully understand.

    Through Christ, salvation for all humankind has come into being from the very foundations of the earth and before. All that we have to do now, is to accept that we are accepted, to accept that we are all the beloved of God. When we begin to understand God as love, and Christ as the actualization of God’s love, our whole worldview changes. We change and our relationships with others change, these relationships become transforming because we see and find Christ in the other.

    This is how Christianity described this mystery, but it is still a mystery. It is a mystery that may reveal itself in another way or another form, even within the context of another culture or faith. They are all fingers pointing at the moon, fingers that point us back to love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation with one another and all of creation.

    It is simply a story, a myth, a deep truth in this sense, that can be told in different ways, but, for me it boils do to this single piece of scripture.

    “God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God.”1 John 4:16

    It is as simple and as complex as all that.

    Merry Christmas,

    Ron Starbuck

  9. Merry Christmas Ron. You wrote

    It is simply a story, a myth, a deep truth in this sense, that can be told in different ways, but, for me it boils do to this single piece of scripture.

    “God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God.”1 John 4:16

    I’m not sure if I understand you. Do you believe this myth actually happened? Was there a Jesus born of a virgin or is it just a story that only refers to human psychology and a possible God/Man relationship making the birth of Jesus irrelevent other than for the sake of a story as a means to convey an idea?

  10. Hi Ron

    It’s as true as you want it to be Nick, and that makes all the difference.

    If what you say is true and we create our own reality, perhaps Marx was right and the essence of religion is a fantasy that serves as the opiate of the masses we would be better off without since it it denies realistically dealing with societal woes.

    “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”
    Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

  11. Nick –

    Sorry if this is a bit long.

    Marx and Hegel wrote from the experience of their own reality and the society in which they lived, and their own time; it is not a reality that is true for me or for most of the people that I know. Not today. The world has changed much since they completed their philosophical works.

    Joseph Campbell spoke of myth as pointing us to a deeper truth, and our belief in something or someone can lead us into a deeper knowledge of what is and how the world works. Belief can lead to knowledge, we can know and become known by the Divine, or rather, we can move beyond belief into knowledge.

    There is great truth in the story of The Nativity of Jesus, it is pointing us towards a truth that we can give birth to at many different levels, this truth is real. It is as real as it gets and then some. The Holy Spirit is still at work in the world moving people towards a deeper understanding of the Divine, “the More,” the Lord God Almighty, the Presence, however you may imagine that mystery. And it is a mystery that we can experience.

    I accept this Mystery, and it is a deep acceptance, just as I accept that God as this Great Mystery also accepts me, loves me, loves all of us, and I am a Christian who does practice his faith daily. In this sense I am quite orthodox, the Nicene Creed is a good fit for me, a good beginning and understanding of the relationship we have with God, it does point to God as a mystery that is greater than ourselves. Christians point to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but with a full knowledge that God is more than what we may imagine and that Theosis or Sanctification is a life log path or becoming more Christlike.

    Still, I can easily see how other faiths have come to believe, understand, and know God. God is bigger than a bread box, God is bigger than the visible universe which is 28 billion light years in diameter.

    God is all the names and symbols and metaphors used in the Bible, and these symbols are many; both Male and Female, Father and Mother, King and Queen, Shepherd, Wisdom – Sophia, Lover and Beloved, Spirit and Truth, the Logos – the Incarnate Word, as Hypostatic Union, God as a Oneness and a Nonduality. And that these – conceptions of nonduality evolve historically and that all the different sacred scriptures are a gift of God to humanity. They are fingers pointing at the moon.

    Christian teachers like Bede Griffiths, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, Laurence Freeman, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, Barbara Brown Taylor, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Julian of Norwich, and Evelyn Underhill have all pointed us in this direction, of learning to see and experience God as unitive life.

    This is what I meant in saying that it is as true as you want it to be and become, and that really does make all the difference. We start with a simple belief and move forward from there, we grow and our practice (praxis) and knowledge grows as well.


  12. Hi Ron

    Needless to say we understand the human condition differently. Since I don’t believe either of us has a malicious intent, It’s OK. I appreciate learning your perspective.

    I’m drawn now to the plight of young people with both a spiritual heart and scientific mind. They are getting it from all sides and it is understandable how so many can endure life long psychological damage. They have come to see what Socrates did that all around them are BSing. Unlike Socrates they haven’t yet acquired the confidence to admit their own nothingness. Help is needed and they are deprived of it by all conceivable means.

    How should such a kid take the idea that Marx had his own reality and now we have ours? The obvious question is why we have all these realities and which is more real. That will of course demand ten lashes from the proper authorities. Yet the Oracle told Socrates he had wisdom for coming to this conclusion.

    Joseph Campbell was a scholar and as such didn’t experientially verify but rather speculated on theory. It is natural then that he considers the value of myths but underestimates human resistance to them and how they must become distorted to become acceptable to our resistance.

    This is why he wasn’t open to the potential reality of the virgin birth.

    Now suppose some kid reads 1 Corinthians:

    12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

    Suppose Paul is right? Yet if this is just a myth, why be concerned if it is just the usual adults BSing trying to con kids into being like them?

    I’m fortunate. When I became aware of levels of reality and how they are connected within a conscious universe, then it became clear that the virgin birth was a miracle and the beginning of a cycle that leads to the Resurrection.

    As soon as we read the word miracle it invites the usual creating of our own realities but suppose it has a rational that is not in opposition to science? Ouspensky explains in ISM

    “The idea of a miracle in the sense of a violation of laws by the will which made them is not only contrary to common sense but to the very idea of will itself. A ‘miracle’ can only be a manifestation of laws which are unknown to men or rarely met with. A ‘miracle’ is the manifestation in this world of the laws of another world.”

    If true, why are we unaware of it? Because we are third force blind. You imply that we are victims of attachments to duality but omit third force that reconciles duality and what allows for the connection between levels of reality.

    Suppose Mary was with Joseph in an esoteric school with a lineage described in the Bible. Suppose she had acquired an emotional purity capable of receiving the spirit with the power to create the seed of Jesus, the host body capable of receiving the cosmic Christ lawfully possible at this particular time and capable of experiencing a conscious crucifixion for the sake of inviting the third force necessary for the Resurrection? This body had to be capable of receiving a high quality of energy impossible for one with original sin (distortion). I can see the logic of it from the standpoint of how consciousness is connected on a universal structure. The miracle is as described by Ouspensky

    Christmas then is the celebration of a conscious event that introduced the higher into the lower enabling the Resurrection which cleared the path for those capable to follow. You can’t buy this in Macy’s.

    From this perspective we don’t create but rather allow for a conscious inner foundation (presence) on which conscious creation can take place.

    It is one thing to speak of the power of myths but to profit by them we must understand the power of resistance. Paul describes it in Romans 7:

    14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

    Scientific kids still spiritually alive can come to witness this. They can see it in themselves regardless of what those around them preach. It is neither good nor bad but just the human condition. Now the essence of religion begins to make sense. It isn’t a matter of doing the right thing but opening to the acceptance and experience of resistance so that myths can begin to serve the purpose they are capable of rather than just serving as a pleasant escape as we turn in circles.

    Marx explains the cause of alienation as defiance of society within which man is god. Campbell explains it as the loss of myths. Simone Weil explains it as a response to the loss of Grace. How do we reconcile this?

    “Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace.” Simone Weil

    Christmas invited grace. It is the world that rejects it. Yet these exiles transcend the psychological dominance of the world.

  13. Nick –

    To answer your last question.

    How do we reconcile this?

    You find and discover the grace in your own life and make that meaningful. Grace Abounds. Grace is always there, it is God’s love at work in the world.

    The Shaking of the Foundations by Paul Tillich

    Chapter 19: You Are Accepted

    “Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.”

    The story of Christmas and the Nativity is the story of God accepting humankind in all our imperfections, it is letting these imperfections make perfect our compassion.

    Merry Christmas,


  14. Hi Ron

    I agree that Grace permeates the universe, The problem is that we reject it. The Wretched Man is a plurality. The majority of this plurality has no interest in grace and prefers to reject it as an annoyance to the status quo

    As far as Christmas, we have a different conception of its meaning.

    I feel like Scrooge here saying “Let me keep Christmas in my own way, I’m too old to change.” :)

    However, as long as there is still good scotch in the world, all is not lost. :)

  15. So very interesting to come across this dialogue..

    I want to mention A Take on this all from J. Krishnamurti

    His quote That “Truth is a Pathless Land.”

    Beliefs are futile..It limits the intellect…A trip the the unknown is only after the illusion of “I” is smashed.

    There the debate ends…”WHO am I……

    Peace All

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