Brian Wilcox 'Hollyhock'
Note: In this writing, I use varied words for the soul: "I", Self, True Self, spirit, Heart. Varied words, likewise, refer to the ego: body-self, self, "i", false self. "Spirit," "Beloved," "Grace," "Infinite," "One," "Light," and "God" are among words for the Absolute.
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You exist behind form.
*Ram Dass. Becoming Nobody.
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As you read the following humorous, wise tale, recall the turban signifies Mulla Nasruddin was an educated man and, thus, literate.
An illiterate man handed the sage Mullah Nasruddin a letter. He said, "Mullah Nasruddin, please read this to me." Mullah Nasruddin looked at the letter. He could not make out a word of it. He said, "Sorry, but I can't read a word of this." The man replied, "Shame on you, Mullah Nasruddin! You must be ashamed before the turban you wear!" Mullah Nasruddin lifted the turban from his head. He placed it on the head of the man, saying, "There, you wear it. If it gives some knowledge, then you read the letter."
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Outer achievements and recognitions fail to approach what one enjoys in intimacy with Grace. Outer affiliations, memberships, applause, esteem, compliments, titles, degrees, ... are only adornments for the ego. Such self-ornaments apply religiously and spiritually, as well as socially.
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I grew up in a rural, largely farming community; my family was working-class. Later, I attended postsecondary schools many years to receive two Master's degrees, one from a leading medical school, a clinical certification in chaplaincy from a leading hospital in the United States, and a Doctorate of Philosophy. When a pastor, new parishioners would ask me how I wished them to address me. I said Brian or Pastor - whatever they chose - would be fine. I never felt a need or wish to be called Doctor, though I appreciated when persons did, for I knew they meant it out of respect for the hard work and long years of study. I felt this reflected on their love of me, for I did not see it as anyone saying I was a superior person to others.
I knew the degrees and titles added nothing to me whatever. This awareness was partly due to remembering my humble beginnings, which taught me character was vital, not titles, and what I most was to wish for is God's approval, not humans' honor. The Gospels of Jesus were part of this learning.
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This insubstantiality of ego-ornamentation is something that becomes real to persons when moving from identifying with the body-self - ego - into the soul. When consciousness moves into the soul, one sees the insubstantiality of all the ego-embellishments. Indeed, one receives insight into the illusoriness of the ego altogether. This soul aspect I often call the Heart, not what many mean by heart - emotional, sentimental - but the True Self in communion, in unity, with Spirit.
And, in the soul, we do not get to choose to keep some ego-identities and give up others. Even if little by little, they fall away, and we are left naked in pure being, no identity-wear on whatever. The ego sees this as a threat; the Self sees this as a relief.
The denuding of self does not mean the self is annihilated. But more on this below.
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True joy and intimacy come from the Heart, not the self. In the Heart, spirit mingles with Spirit, and will weds with the Divine Will, and love becomes Love. The soul tolerates no substitutes in union with its Beloved.
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The ego looks outside itself to others to validate its illusory realness and specialness. The "i" insists that others mirror back a validation of its supposed self-existence and independence. It does the same for other selves. So, illusory, mirage-like selves depend on each other to keep the pretense intact - this is why often dissent is not allowed in groups, for one dissenting is a challenge to the consensual delusion.
The self thinks it knows who it is. It thinks it can be. Yet, the Self cannot think it knows what it is, for it is beyond thought. The Self cannot try to be, for it is Being. To the soul, an agenda to be itself or prove it is itself would be nonsense.
The Heart discovers its realness and specialness from itself in communion with Spirit. This is why a being located in the soul plane might appear to others as aloof, or emotionally detached, even unable for persons to get a grasp on who he or she is, for the Self is, not is this-or-that. The ego must see itself as a this-or-that, for that is what the ego is. Hence, the self is a fly-by-night self.
The Self does not need anyone to mirror itself back to ItSelf, so it does not go outside to grasp the other-reflections. The Self is Self-Knowing, so Self-Loving, the knowing and loving being one act of intimate Communion bridging the Absolute and relative.
So, Ram Dass puts this in a few words, this contrast of ego and True Self - "You exist behind form." Almost everything we hear and see has taught us that we are form - a body -, rather than that which takes upon itself form. In fact, it is more accurate to say, "I took upon myself a birth," rather than, "I was born." The Self is birthless-and-deathless, for it partakes of Spirit's nature.
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So, when we speak of spiritually waking up, does the self wake up? Strictly speaking, no. The "i" is woken up, while the "I" is awake by nature. The ego is like the Moon reflecting the Sun's light. The shift from self-identity to Self is the Spirit's light being cast upon the self. Even the soul's light is from its union with Spirit. Hence, the True Self is - You in God. The ego is, initially - "i" in "i." With awakening to the Light, the self is pulled out of itself - its self-delusion -, realizing it never was self-existent or independent. The self may experience the awakening process as suffering, in time it shares in the joy of liberation in One. In time, the self comes to find in the pain of spiritual emergence a bliss.
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Hence, the Way is to engage a life in which the soul - the "I" - comes into the front, so to speak, and the self - "i" - recedes into the background. In this, the self realizes it is temporary and to serve the soul in the latter manifesting Spirit on Earth. Then, the self fulfills its purpose, recognizing it, as are all phenomena, is a manifestation of Spirit. The ego, though insubstantial, is not evil, is not a huge mistake, and is to be integrated by the life of the soul - the particular, then, finding its home in the Infinite.
Is the ego separate, then, from Spirit? No. Is the soul other than Spirit? No. We speak in duality what is nondual. The self and soul are pointers to how Spirit manifests in the world. There is actually no self or soul: again, these are words pointing to Spirit manifestations. However, Spirit is diluted the farther it manifests from its unmanifest potency. Ego could not be awakened to Spirit unless it were of Spirit. Likewise, if ego, or anything, were outside Spirit, Spirit would have a co-existing reality and, hence, the One would not be the One. This precludes, also, ego-bashing, as though the ego needs to be killed, as some teachers have taught. Again, there is no ego to kill - How can one kill an illusion? No more than one can kill a shadow. As the Buddhist teach... anicca, "no self." So, ironically, the nature of self is no-self. The ego shares in the goodness of all Nature. If ego were evil, Spirit would be evil. Yet, again, ego, being of Spirit, needs awakening by the power of Grace to Grace.
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Quit flirting with the surf;
make love with the depths.
Pour out the water.
Look! the dark red wine is sitting right before you.
Some break their teeth chewing on rock,
others relish the taste of fresh bread.
A dying man kept looking in a well.
He decided to jump in~
he will never die again!
You cling to a quarter as though
your life depends on it.
Christ offers you a blank check;
your life does depend on it.
Something small and red fell into my glass~
sounds crazy, doesn't it?
Now, I have a chalice with a
fountain of Christ's blood - "Life!"
Disown the comforts of the outer courts;
dare to walk inside the silence of the Holiest Place.
Abandon gazing into the candlelight,
place your mouth over the flame and swallow it whole.
You have long dallied with the flames,
it's time to become the Fire.
Leave the four directions;
kneel on the still point.
Do you want to go on a pilgrimage?
Then, why not here?
Why are so many dissatisfied with
Life under their feet?
Do you think surrender is for the weak? No!
So what if you don't have a Rolls Royce!
Even a jack ass will take you there,
if you only let it.
Now, does a bull give milk?
So, be careful where you seek Love.
The most lovely light
is not the Light - I assure you of that.
But if you wish to keep playing with your lovers,
okay: maybe soon you'll grow tired of them
and surrender, finally, to Love~so to Yourself.
See, the steps that lead into the Temple
are steps leading into the Temple,
and Grace uses even the steps
of denial of who you are, until
you look away from your face and cry out "God!".
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(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020