The following excerpt from the gifted teacher and author, Byron Katie, was sent to me by a friend in light of my sons death last July. My response follows, which essentially agrees, yet with a strong warning that the human experiences of judgment and confusion are perfectly normal and necessary in a soul-making universe. The deep serenity of the mystic doesn't enter the psyche through osmosis, but via inconvenient archetypal experiences native to the en-Humanment process. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, "An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." - On Running After Ones Hat, 1908
from Byron Katie
"If my daughter (or brother in my case) dies, I realize that there is no self to be affected. It's not about me. This is about her life, my child's life, and mind --the unceasing bodiless mind that is finally awake to itself, the mind that never existed as a her, and the her that can never die. In this, we are never separated. And that's just a beginning: it gets even kinder. I get to see what my child's children grow in to because she was not there to teach them differently. Whenever I lose something, I've been spared. Every loss has to be a gain, unless the loss is being judged by a confused mind. I come to see what fills that space in my kindness in my world cannot decrease, because something else enters the space that I held her in. Just when you think that life can't get any better, it has to. That's the law."
My 'concern' with this excerpt is with the possible assumption that 'judgment' and 'confusion' are unnecessary experiences, and to be gotten rid of. Just because something is undesirable doesn't mean it is unnecessary. I realize that Katie doesn't say that, but so many current teachers of consciousness who are compassionately seeking to end suffering imply that there is no cosmic necessity in the suffering created by a judgmental and confused mind/brain. I see the Universe as a wondrous place for the eternal archetype of 'Confusion'. The mind/brain are made to judge and be confused.
Isometrics is the increase in strength as a result of the necessary and normal fusion (con-fusion) of joint and muscle with objects of resistance. Without gravity and solid matter, we would be limp noodles. Babies come from the womb kicking against uterine walls, swinging their arms, inhaling and expelling oxygen for the first time, grabbing fingers, fighting gravity, pushing against the floor and screaming against the resistance of a very 'oppressive' (to press against) world. Without these resistances, they would never develop. The body would grow flabby and atrophy without continued resistance against immovable or reluctantly movable objects.
I call soul-making Spiritual Isometrics. The soul is like the human body. It must encounter resistance in order to increase strength. The proclivity toward mental and emotional conflict is built into the mind/brain. Mind and brain function like joints and muscles to expand through resistance. We know this to be true of neurons, that they increase and multiply through the con-fusion of cross word puzzles, college exams or figuring out ways to prove we are right to our partners. All great inventions and adventures are the result of meeting resistance and expanding beyond the obstacle.
Resistance and confusion are native to Reality. At the cosmic level, the Big Bang is an act of creative resistance. The recent Membrane Theory which attempts to explain the Big Bang says, “Spontaneous creation of matter seems to be possible, because the resistance of the existing matter inside the membrane is producing a great amount of energy.” One physicist oversimplified it by saying, “The universe appears to be made up of quantum membranes, like vast cells, and when two or more collide, they con-fuse and there is the birth of a universe.” Mothers and fathers call this conception.
So from the structure of the cosmos, to the energy of the atom, through every phase of evolution, to muscle development, through grappling with Jason's death, to pounding my fingers against this plastic alphabet on the computer key pad - Reality always expands by meeting immovable or reluctantly movable forces.
So called ‘negative emotions’ exist for that purpose, namely, expansion of soul. Fear, grief, confusion, anxiety, panic, depression and so forth are forms of normal, necessary and creative thoughts and emotions that expand and empower soul to grow bigger than it was yesterday. These amazing affections are as much a part of a loving Reality as joy, peace, clarity and ecstasy. That’s why the Hindu mythology, and all mythologies, depict a Mother Goddess (Kali) as simultaneously the giver of new babies and the decapitating demon. The Celtic equivalent is Morrigan. That is why Nature slaughters her population every Fall, and regenerates them each Spring.
Katie says, "Every loss has to be a gain, unless the loss is being judged by a confused mind. I come to see what fills that space in my kindness in my world cannot decrease, because something else enters the space that I held her in. Just when you think that life can't get any better, it has to. That's the law."
I would change three words in her statement, "Every loss has to be a gain, because the loss is being judged by a confused mind. I come to see what fills that space in my kindness in my world must decrease, because something else enters the space that I held her in. Just when you think that life can't get any bigger, it has to. That's the law."
Confused judgment is the means to or cause of the new gain, not an obstacle. The confused judgment is the building material of the gain just as the weight in the gym is the cause of the muscle increase. The obstacle is the cause of the expansion.
I see the mind/brain as being wonderfully constructed to include the capacity and necessity of confused judgment - and thereby create the space and the material for the myriad gains that will come with each experience of judgment and confusion. Just as the foot is constructed to press against the pavement in order to generate movement, or the finger to pinch and squeeze a piece of food in order to hold and eat it, so my mind must grasp or press against each loss 'in order' to create the container for, and to acquire the gain. The foot and finger are 'confused' or fused together with oppositional gravity and material resistance in order to increase strength to take the walk or get the food. My mind must encounter resistance and ‘suffer’ internal and external oppositions to create my unique soul. It is what mind/brain is made to do, and is purposeful.
I once spoke to a group of New Age devotees about the necessity of judgments to make soul. One participant spoke up, obviously upset, and said that he was sick of all these theories, debates and arguments about spirituality. He proceeded to go on and on about the serenity and joy he had attained by giving up judgments. After he finished, I hesitated, but couldn't resist, and said, "It sounds like you have some very strong judgments about people with judgments." Truth is sometimes inconvenient. You see, we cannot live without judgments any more than a baby can live without trying to walk. To be human is to judge. It is our nature, and it is purposeful. One could liken our propensity to develop judgments which we will later try to release, to a child who labors ceaselessly to develop muscles in order to grow up and invent machines to minimize the exertion of muscles! We develop judgments in order to release judgments, and thereby grow a soul. Soul is made in the process. Growing egoic opinions, beliefs, prejudices and judgments and then learning to surrender these opinions and judgments is a means to an end. And that end is not even serenity, but soul-making. Serenity is a wonderful by product.
We encounter these mental ‘con -fusings’ all day long with thousands of subjects and objects. The mind/brain are in a chronic state of judgment and con-fusings, chronically thinking, “I like this or I don’t like this.” We don’t consciously do this, it just happens, like a baby exerting his muscles. Mind/brain automatically con-fuse (combine) with life events, just as the lungs automatically fuse with oxygen, by nhaling and exhaling without conscious thought. Attraction and repulsion are the two autonomic states of mind/brain for making unique souls. Our automatic innate judgments and con-fusings must be seen as normal and necessary. Then we can learn ways to care for and work with them as allies rather than enemies.
That is where I find Katie’s method helpful in not getting stuck in a single, myopic state of ideological confusion. Her four questions can help me shift one kind of fusion to another – I can refuse them, re-fuse them, in-fuse them, sometimes de-fuse them, ex-fuse, inter-fuse them, etc. The mind must fuse with something - it simply must and always will unless your brain is organically diseased, you get a lobotomy or enter into an altered state through medical or meditational escapisms. The Psyche is always judging, always creating more anxiety and confusion to stretch our souls. Most judgments and con-fusions are subtle, some are catastrophic. It is as instinctual to judge and fuse with people, situations and ideas as it is for the baby seeking to fuse with a nipple or squeeze a finger. These fusions jump start the expansion process. And this universe is rife with the objects and subjects of the necessary judgments and fusions for soul-making.
I do find Katie’s language to be quite beautifully instructive when she says, “I come to see…” The ‘coming’ process is just as normal and necessary as the ‘seeing’ goal. She nearly went insane and ended up in a halfway house before 'coming to.' Sometimes we minimize the ‘coming’ process that entails going through all of the painful thoughts and emotions of judgment, worry, fear and grief. There is never human mystical integration without emotional and mental disintegrations (plural). I know of no mystic who has not fallen completely apart before they surrendered. Science knows of no galaxy, solar system or planet that did not develop from a flaming debris field. Mythologies from Jesus' resurrection, Osiris's reassemblage, the rise of the Phoenix from the ashes and Humpty Dumpty's crash are all archetypal indicators of Psyche's nature as a 'coming'...and then a 'coming to' and finally the 'seeing.' And 'coming to' implies a 'going out' or crash and disintegration. The goal requires the process.
“I come to see…” teaches me that the serene mystic mind is ontologically no more necessary or important than the confused judging mind, anymore than the fully blossomed rose is greater than the little rotting seed in the dark soil from which it sprang. Souls, like flowers, are made progressively and processively. Just as the seed must die, crack up and con-fuse with the muddy loam in the murky pond in order to bud (Buddha) into the flowering Lotus, so the human soul must fuse with many experiences of death, darkness, disagreement and a thousand ego related conflicts to reach full enHumanment. ‘Coming to,’ is a necessary process for ‘coming to see’.
Wholeness is not attained when one 'sees'. Wholeness includes the dirty, con-fusing process of coming to as well as the result of seeing. The tacit or explicit assumption that Wholeness includes only the awakened mind is a mistake made in many New Age circles. This wrong assumption is to the peril of all humans who think there is something amiss until they finally un-fuse with their problems and 'see' the Light. The flower is Whole as the seed pod stuck in the black pond sediment, through the cracking open and extension of roots downward, to the full bloom under the sun and all the way to wilted heap.
Our confusions, judgments, fears and all so called 'negative' emotions are normal and necessary, not to be tolerated and gotten rid of as secondary processes. These innate mental and emotional resistances are allies to soul-making via their nature as painful obstacles. This process of spiritual isometrics grows soul, or some would say 'increases character.' This is what the amazing poet William Blake was conveying in his opus, 'Marriage of Heaven and Hell', summarized by his proverb, "Without Contraries is no progression." The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said it like this, "Strife (confusion) is the Father of all." And the Geek philosopher Homer Simpson who said, "Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel."
And of course confusions and judgments can also sometimes strain and break us severely. Not all isometric exercise strengthens joints and muscles. Sometimes we break a bone or damage a joint and need healing. Sometimes the mind and heart are broken, suffering compound fractures – what we call 'emotional or mental breakdowns.' I see Katie's process and other mental healing fantasies as VERY VERY beneficial when the mind is being 'over-exercised' or at the breaking point. The Work can move you into and through mental resistance in order to develop soul, unless you use it to escape. Exercises are only as good as their proper execution.
But to imply that judgmental confusion is unnatural, unnecessary, abnormal and needs to be gotten rid of is a very dangerous assertion. It is tantamount to saying that just because physical exercise is difficult and uncomfortable, it must be stopped. Or that algebra causes me to suffer, therefore algebra is bad for me and must be ended. If my musculature did not daily fuse with the many objects of resistance in my path, I would atrophy and die. The mind/brain are not doing something 'wrong', 'alien', 'abnormal' or 'unnecessary' when they judge and get con-fused with life events. The mind/brain are doing what they do, fuse with objects of resistance, judging them in order to grow a soul.
THE CON-FUSION OF CONCEPTION
Another natural example is the necessary collisionS and confusion of a hundred thousand sperm cells into the citadel of the solid and resistant ovum. The microscopic crusaders batter the impenetrable membrane until one finds the open gate and enters. Then the 'fusing together' begins. The sperm cell and egg cell fuse together (con-fuse) and a new life begins. This is a microcosmic metaphor for the making of an individual soul, and the collective Soul of the Universe - collisions, losses, confusions, divisions, multiplications, additions, subtractions and all of these done in the depths of a dark womb. The creative chaos in the womb is the way mind/brain works too.
The night I heard Jason died, I was fused with unimaginable loss. It would have done me no good, and does me no good now, to hear “that there is no self to be affected.” I know there was a self to be affected because it was. That self was, and still is, being dismantled by these affections. There is very likely a stage in the process where the human soul ceases to be so affected in the enHumanment journey, a 'coming to see,' but the necessary experiences of traumatic self ‘affection’ must not be minimized, discounted or avoided. I meet too many people who have a kind of subliminal assumption that ‘someday’, when they are enlightened, suffering will cease. One might as well wait for the trees to stop shedding their leaves or the universe to stop expanding toward extinction. Soul is infinite. To negate or minimize the Gods that we don’t like because they are troubling is what the Greeks called hubris. Humans are in a process of infinite expansion, and humans will never trump the work of the Gods in soul-making. The Gods will return until they are heard and/or honored, and their returns we often call re-sentments. That is why Jung counseled, "Always look for the God in your symptom."
In this life, there will be and equilibrated measure of days of pleasure and days of pain, days of loss and days of gain – and perhaps, as we enter the process fully and encounter our sufferings as normal and necessary, we may achieve some measure of consistent serenity in the midst of the myriad con-fusings on planet earth. M. Scott Peck said, “Life is difficult. But when you see that life is difficult, it becomes less difficult.”
Tolle said it well when he wrote that without the suffering caused by ego we “would not evolve as human beings…Suffering drives you deeper. The paradox is that suffering is caused by identification with form AND (my emphasis) erodes identification with form…eventually suffering destroys the ego – but not until you suffer consciously.” (A New Earth, p.102)
Tolle’s observation should have been developed and turned into a whole chapter to help people see the necessary, purposeful role of ego and its more 'dysfunctional' aspects as crucial and functional experiences for creative soul-making. My suspicion is that Tolle is trying to remain religiously neutral and spiritually detached to reach a larger secular audience. But that is like trying to teach someone to learn the alphabet without telling him that the goal is to read and write. The ego is good. The ego will meet much resistance - the result is soul-making, which cannot be taught without the Gods.
Over the past few months since my sons death I have been fused-together with loss, sadness, fear, remorse, resentments and a thousand other forces of affective or emotional resistance. I have been filled with judgments. I have been falling apart. I have curled up in bed and slept, dreamed, wept, prayed, cursed and experienced affections I didn't know existed. But from a soul-making perspective I could more clearly see my falling apart and confusion as normal and necessary, not mental illnesses or inherited dysfunctions, not some alien intrusion, not due to original sin or the fault of my selfish ego which was trying to ‘edge God out.’ I see the work of Ego now as ‘edging God outward.’ The ego-seed pod must burst asunder, shed its fragile skin, lose its perfect circle, then begin again.
There have been times the isometrical resistance of Jason's death has debilitated and broken me beyond human comprehension. I have learned to allow people to carry me when I was so broken I could not walk, and the bones are mending to become even stronger. Like Jacob, after wrestling with the Angel of the Lord for his blessing, I will always have a dislocated hip. But the soul blessing is becoming mine as a result of the crippling struggle, not in spite of it. Soul-making gives us wounds and scars. What better way to be reminded that the amazing character we are developing is not auto-generated or self righteous morality? Scarred work is sacred work. The result of these past months has been a gradual increase in heart and mental strength; a greater sense of call, a larger ability to love my other children, my parents, my fellow human beings - and this new love continues to grow. I have never in my life wept so much as I have over Jason’s death, and yet my heart has never been larger. I have never been so fused with loss and darkness, and my heart is now opening to levels of abundance, love and light I could not have imagined.
REALITY IS NOT ALWAYS KIND
Finally, I do not think that reality is always 'kind'. That implies that there is little or no reason or room for 'unkindness' apart from human failures or sins. Experiences of unkindness, like war, are archetypal, and provide us with the opportunity to grow souls of kindness. The experiences of heartless cruelty from mean people provide the resistance a soul must feel in order to individuate, determine values, draw personal boundaries and form deep compassion for wounded human beings. That is why Jesus told us to bless our enemies - they are the force against which our souls push to increase spiritual muscle and stature. Bitter resentments act like beneficial mold on cantalope - destroying the more lethal bacteria of self obsession. The more deep and powerful the resentments, the more we see how self obsessed we really are, and seek ways to escape the pain of self obsession. Grief expands a tiny ego-pod into a greater capacity for joy. Cynicism, criticism, hatred, anger and sarcasm give us the experience of hellish isolation and self absorption, moving us like Scrooge to a misery that presses us down (depression), forcing us to brood over the past, present and future. During the miserable brooding, Psyche, like the Spirit hovering over the Cosmic egg in Genesis 1, may hatch the light of consideration, acceptance and compassion for others.
We live in an odd universe. In the human being, infinity has been mixed with finitude, the two are wonderfully con-fused, and it is through the daily interactive resistance of mind, body and spirit that we conceive and grow invisible souls.