“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.