At a child’s party the clown-magician takes out a long skinny balloon, inflates it, twists it many times and shapes it into exotic forms: animals, plants, people or whatever. When he squeezes different parts, they expand or contract. The magician creates a fascinating world before the children’s hypnotized eyes. If the knots come out and the balloon untwists, nothing is left but the deflated original balloon, in its original shape and size, empty of form but full of its original stuff-one whole only.
I have been to the other side of the table many times, back and forth across it, around and around it, accelerating faster and faster with each revolution. By twisting my magical imagination into all kinds of exotic forms I could, from these places, look from other sides, from the “other” point of view. Mental gymnastics can keep us busy for a long time; they can soothe afflicted emotions, heal, supply and resuscitate us. They just can’t evolve new understanding. Keeping myself tightly programmed, my understanding, neglected, can’t become my understood.
In my exploration, I gradually realized, listening to/as the inspiration of my own withinness….(n)o longer did I go through gymnastics of mental work… (Margaret Laird, We Are the World We Walk Through p. xxxi).
Beginning my evolution of consciousness consciously was a catastrophic jolt to my personal concept, like a defibrillator to a stalled heart. Behind my twenty-something bravado hid this “poor little me” childish sense of injustice, wishing not to be seen. I was fired by my angry principal from my first teaching assignment just on the verge of attaining my tenure. I had a wife, a house and a new baby on the way. Dazed (deflated-one knot coming loose), I zombie-like wandered into spiritual counseling with my pastor.
I had sworn that, after concluding my undergraduate studies, I would never read another book, so sick was I of reading. Sick I was, but not of reading (thinking). It would be some long time and a few more failure/success steps before I would lay eyes on the words: “Nothing serves unfoldment like reading a book-especially one with which you disagree” (dust jacket of the 1965 edition of Christian Science Re-Explored by Laird). Reading is reason (imagination) journeying somewhere. I became addicted to reading.
Doing depth psychology under clinical supervision, keeping my dream journal for eight years, learning to use the I Ching as an access to the Unconscious, I kept going to the other side of the table, now called the other side of my Self, for my views. As I found myself teaching and preaching from this all-of-the-Self view, I encountered more catastrophes, or “catalysts,” as I would later discover Margaret Laird had described them.
Error was very necessary in stating Truth, since my magical child’s will ignorantly kept right on twisting/squeezing my magical imagination to see things as they aren’t. At the same time, coincidentally, my Truth was pushing me hard to make the “first cut” of Soul-the offensive. What I mean by this concept comes from the world of sports. When a new recruit tries out for football, he must make the “cut.” Just so in individual spiritual evolution when we begin letting Truth question us: Why all this offensive, outrageous emotional reaction? Look at the offensive attitude or outraged mental position you so easily unconsciously assume, calling it injustice. You bring it, this pattern of reactions, with you into every situation and color it before you experience it. Why this imbalance within? In practicing the game of Science, these habits became my opponents. My “they” ceased being other people and became these beliefs.
“If we are offended, it is usually the ‘upper-end’ which is off-off-ended,” Martha Harris Bogue, an authorized teacher of Christian Science, told her 1934 class. “All affective phenomena are interpretive deformation of non-affective phenomena” (Hubert Benoit, Supreme Doctrine). In other words, one’s afflictive emotional reactions are conjoint with one’s beliefs, values, and “principles,” and are a symptom/sign of ambiguity, confusion and falsity. Just observing one’s emotional reactions to simple, ordinary, uncomplicated, everyday pettiness interactions is sometimes the first practice of the developing Scientist. It was very revealing to observe my emotional life set up as if it were outside of my control. It was the “easier” discipline to exchange my interactions with others for hidden motivations in myself. We instinctively do not like wasting such valuable self-energy, and it motivates us to get serious with the instruction Truth is offering us.
As I kept expanding in the negative, the positive seemingly shrank, just like the magical balloon. As I learned about emotional self-continence, the formulation of this insightful emotional orientation enabled me to move on; it gave me something new to do as I was losing my confidence in my earlier “training.” I learned to analyze my afflictive emotional reactions as only and all mine, about only me, and to see them conceptually as my being emotionally programmed for misery, since these projects for happiness were put together by my inventive 2-year-old self at that age. These old emotional programs, still operating unconsciously, were secretly influencing all my behaving. My belief that I was under another’s influence was beginning to crumble.
As this growth on that side of my balloon expanded, old value systems began to shrink, which brought on new catalysts. I was gaining emotional perspective and experiencing more mental tranquility but struggling to maintain old commitments without their old motivations. What better time for another catastrophe?
My career as a Jungian psychotherapist ended abruptly, simultaneously with my career as associate pastor of a large urban church, as I was ushered out the door by a congregational schism. Did you know the resistance that keeps a balloon inflated (inside/outside offsetting pressures) generates enormous heat inside the balloon? The first practice of Science, likewise, generates enormous heat in preparation for the breaking into conscious awareness of the unconscious light (insight). Enormous heat, little light. Why this imbalance? Shouldn’t internal heat have its equivalence in internal light?
I had plenty of opportunity to practice my self-discipline of emotional self-continence, letting go of my infantile emotional programs for happiness/misery, but pacifying my thoughts seemed to fall short of some unknown mark. As I was leaving, a parishioner offered me a box of Joel Goldsmith books.
Since I had nowhere to go and no one to teach when I left the church as a church psychologist, I went to the food court at the mall with my box of Goldsmith books. For six hours a day, seven days a week, for a year, I sat at my table in the food court reading metaphysics and mysticism from an ex-Scientist gone mystic. My Joel-eye-view sat opposite my unorthodox orthodox views. I was still a far cry from:
… the reason we see the mortal or human struggling to free itself from mortality, is immortality, the Self-conscious divinity of humanity” (WATW, p. 43).
And: Sorrow is salutary…. Trials are proofs of God’s care. Spiritual development germinates not from seed sown in the soil of material hopes, but when these decay… (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health, 66: 9).
What? Huh? What did she (I) say? “The first cut” of Spirit chemicalizes specific beliefs. But another cut was coming.
I next found myself the only Protestant minister/psychologist serving an international Catholic movement called Centering Prayer, founded by the Trappist Monks (Margaret Laird refers to the best-known, Thomas Merton, in her materials). I found myself their sole designated non-Catholic spokesperson. I was sent traveling around the whole table, teaching priests, nuns, psychologists, ministers, laity and even the Unity Church how to transform their views by contemplating the divine Presence and Action within each individual and to learn the “contemplative dimension of the Gospels.” How other-side-of-the-table can a Protestant minister get than teaching old veteran Catholic nuns their own new/old spiritual discipline of doing “centering prayer,” with them thinking I would make a great priest? I was a success of sorts. I had become a married-with-children monk in the world.
I had entered the closet, shut the door and silenced the material senses but was not ready for the paradox of language-Truth appearing as the problem of words and meaning.
I had grown the language of my discernment to the place of enabling me to discern my divinity beyond my affect living. But without deeper understanding, clearer discernment, I had no choice but to continue interpreting the little “me” the way I understood-as a false self system to be dismantled through spiritual discipline (self-denial). I did not understand that the magic of Science was cornering me, squeezing me tighter and tighter in order to prepare me for the “second, far more difficult, and deeper cut” of Soul-the defensive attitude. Giving up the defensive position, the habit of defending the Faith (self-denial), of arguing for my disease of profession not practice, of Truth discerning Itself in my thoughts as unbalancing my spiritual balancing act-by demanding: why this imbalance?-necessitated another catalyst. How much more profession can one get than living as a professing Protest-ant, Christian professional preacher a-pulpiteering to professing Catholics, Unitarians and seminary professors?
When the head monk of the Trappist order decided it was time for me to usher myself out, this catalyst precipitated the old loss/gain again. In one moment of life untwisting, my magical child-self-sense was divorced, defrocked, disenfranchised and deflated. I found my tiny self working in a tiny library in a tiny mountain town-alone. Alone, that is, now reading Margaret Laird, and with the librarian who gave me a job in the library; who later became my wife, and who, as it turned out, is an excellent research librarian. I learned how to procure and read obscure, out-of-print, almost non-existent books. I taught myself how to read the almost indecipherable ancient languages of our pioneer scientific metaphysicians.
The attempt to give up the world, the flesh and the devil (the way of mysticism, transcendentalism and monasticism) makes for inner conflict and guilt, as well as the suppression of natural communication with one’s environment. It is communication, as transaction, that is important in the modern world (WATW, p. 46).
I had been around the table many times: the Jesus Seminar; spiritualism; hypnotherapy; acupuncture; ordained Divine Science minister, teacher and practitioner; and simultaneously a certified personal trainer; and a manager of a vitamin store.
My friend from my mysticism days-the American-born swami, student closest to the Guru who was their non-Hindu spokesperson sent to Americans-surprised me one day confiding that he was wondering where, after all his years of devout practice, enlightenment was. (Translation: “I don’t understand.”) Why the quietistic discontent, I wondered. Identifying himself non-dually (advaita), he practiced self-denial scrupulously, not seeing that as long as we deny something we have something to deny. Experience taught me the benefits in methods of self-denial. One makes peace with no peace and lives self-tranquilly in a world of conflict. I had not seen the pitfalls. My spiritual director from mysticism days had said, “Meditation is not a high-class tranquilizer.” I was no longer sure I was right when I defended that Faith. No one had talked to me of the consequences to self-consciousness of all self-denial practices.
Face it. There comes a time in the evolution of consciousness when Love will make us unhappy and restless with what may have been satisfying in the past. … At that point the very things we do to preserve and enhance life destroy it. The Reality in the negation is the Reality in the affirmation. … [Mrs. Eddy speaks] of the importance of a clearing up of abstractions: “Let us open our affections to the Principle that moves all in harmony” (emphasis mine) (WATW, p. 215).
By now I had learned that every affective phenomenon is the interpretive deformation through ignorance of non-affective phenomena. Or as Benoit tells us elsewhere (in Supreme Doctrine), it was my spastically contracted meanings spasming, my stunted mental abstractions thoughtlessly verbalizing my own mental dogma, my own psycholinguistic life on auto-pilot that were blocking my growing understanding, and producing the ills of which I now complained. Parts of me were still locked up, and with the heat on, I, too, was seeking more than a spasmodic Light. Why this inequity?
Unable to extend my notions of things through my habits of use, misuse and abuse of my various languages, confronted with my need for developing the necessities of paraphrasing, all of my self-generated affective afflictions became symptoms of my neglecting the meaning of my life only. It wasn’t in my lively emotions where the trouble lay; it was in my dead language (meanings). I had my words, and the depth of their meaning. But something more was missing. I could parrot, but not paraphrase. I could profess, but not translate.
I learned to read two contradictory views simultaneously while throwing in a third refutatory view and to watch my mental abstraction, accompanied by my emotional reaction, inhibiting, impairing my free mental activity and vitality. Faithfully, my emotional reaction would signal my unclear abstractive mentality.
I had a veritable and incredible roundtable riot going on in my head. I learned to talk like a research library. But why is profession not practice, and practice not profession? Why does the lack of understanding show up in the life of an experienced practicer of spiritual discipline as the need to discern the error hidden in “politically correct language?” If things are nonaffective because my real Self is inaffective, then the problem lies in understanding words and meanings in their true relation, thus freeing the individual from the tyranny of words. How is it that the tiniest of words, like “of,” for instance, can cause the most confusion, mistrust and failed communicating within spiritual communities themselves, just as childish emotional programming does in 98 percent of families? How can one learn to discern the spiritual fact lurking in the material sense called reading? How can one learn to spot “profession not practice” or “practice not profession” in the very words we use every day?
I was trained in talking and then in not talking; trained in thinking and then in not thinking; trained by some of the best in the world. How else was I ready for the meaning in these words?
The Science of Scientific Metaphysics, useful in confronting all theories with the truth of being, is pure Mind. Science is existential, not supernatural nor transcendental. … The Christianity view of metaphysics, on the other hand, is semi-metaphysical, basing its arguments on dualism, not oneness. Semi-metaphysics views the seen as if it were external to the seeing (WATW, p 181).
When I went back to visit the old Divine Science Church, I had a private moment with the old minister (in the restroom), who told me he was dying of a strange, rare, untreatable disease. He had called me his brightest and best student, but later, when I started working Margaret Laird (and Mary Baker Eddy) into my guest sermons in the Divine Science Church, he dis-invited me, de-voicing me. I had been de-voiced before, professionally. But now in his last moment he revealed to me a secret: “I didn’t think it would end this way.” (Translation: I don’t understand.) He turned and went out to the tiny crowd and preached his powerfully positive view. I heard the echo of my swami friend in this old man’s lament-the quietist’s discontent-as Mind saying: Don’t starve me, feed Me; don’t slow me down, accelerate Me; don’t inhibit Me, live Me, all of Me.
Can the intellect (reason) be transcended, dismantled, annihilated, as mysticism insists it can and must? Or must it be redeemed? It was the hero monk Theophan the Recluse who said, “Most people are like a wood shaving curling around its central emptiness.” What is this central emptiness-this “I don’t understand” meaning we create for ourselves-except the result of practicing self-denial? And how did he know what most people are like? Did his daughter, Mother Teresa, confessing in her most private letters the secret that she had never once felt the presence of God within her, bespeak the secret lament of the paradox of discernment: profession/not practice? When is practice practice? When is profession no longer profession?
I understand, since I am now authoring my Margaret Laird, C.S.B., and my John M. Dorsey, M.D.-my “two sided” roundtable-into my language of living, that to deny any of my mentality (self-meaning) is a total denial of all my mentality (the meaning of my own life), since my mind is one indivisible whole. What Theophan did not say (in my self-reading anyway), what my self-mysticism and self-meditation and self-medication did not teach me was self-abnegation: the redemption of the analytical intellect (thought, man) to its original wholeness, Mind, the source and condition of all existence; self-abnegation: the identifying of I as Mind, not I and Mind; self-abnegation: the understanding of nothing to deny; self-abnegation: the conscious self-consciousness of living all of my use of my mental abstractions as creations of my mind only, all about and only about my mind only.
The evidence of profession appears in the understanding as no understanding when, in inhibiting the growth of meaning, practice is not practice. “Politically correct language” is wrong; grammatically correct language is wrong. Amazing to discover the old self-righteousness showing up in text! Better it show up in text than in symptomatic creativity living.
It was not my reading of Theophan the Recluse that said to me:
“To me ‘mystic’ meaning is most rarely understood as the individual’s unswerving devotion to the wholeness and allness of his individuality” (Dorsey, The Psychic Nature of Physiology, p. 28).
And: “My construction of any language presupposes my mind as its only creator. Whatever is, is all and only about itself. I must either honor its visceral nature or suffer the painful consequences of its inhibited vitality…. The price of irresponsible behavior exactly equates the cost of self-consciousness” (The Psychic Nature of Phsiology, pp. 120, 122).
When I read erudite philosophers, journalists and educators on how politically correct language makes them sick, I’m not sure they grasp the literal fact of what they are professing. And I have not yet discovered in their works how they see a way out of these labyrinthine “mazes of the mind.”
Given the human condition in which abnormality is normalized, self-denial is a necessary prerequisite to self-abnegation. The three indispensable steps learned from self-denial form the growth that is outgrown in the new outgrowth of the three indispensable steps of self-abnegation.
Picture being taught, as a semi-metaphysician, that spiritual practice is trying to keep one’s balloon mostly underwater. Self-denial: relieving a little tension here at the cost of building an enormous tension there. Picture the constant pressure, the constant instability, and the constant threat of inevitable failure that mal-practicing spiritual displacement creates for the keeper. To be the keeper of the Faith is a hell of a job. Ah, but that’s another article.