Saturday, July 23, 2011

Paranoia and Bliss

The ego's road to enlightenment is at times not only a pathless path, but a switchback between hellish dark nights and heavenly raptures.  The best psychological account of the hellish realms I have read is Michael Washburn's The Ego And The Dynamic Ground.  In particular, Washburn describes the paranoia that besets the wee uncomprehending human ego when confronted by the looming, permeating Ground.

          Examples of such fears are the seemingly pathological apprehensions that one is going insane,
          that one is being possessed by an alien force or entity, that one is transparent to other people,
          and that one is being conspired against or manipulated by mysterious persons or powers (p. 194).

I can personally vouch for all of these.

With every step of growth, there is a moment of terror when all the underpinnings of identity are stripped.  We wonder, who am I if I'm not the person I thought I was?  In enlightenment we discover, in St. Catherine's words, "My Me is God, nor do I recognize any other Me except my God Himself."  This is pretty tough to get our minds around.  So we suffer.

But this same truth is also responsible for our bliss states.  When we know we are nothing but God's avatars, we -- our little selves -- are off the hook.  We cannot do God's job.  We are surrendered.  Our
life becomes unfathomably miraculous and we are joyfully absorbed by existence itself.

These swings between paranoia and bliss show up long before anybody is called to step on the road.  Think of the soul-crushing burden of imagining oneself responsible for every one's well being.  Think, on the other hand, of those moments of unselfconsciousness when it is enough just to be alive and to love.  At whatever level, we are never unaware of, or not relating to, the Ground.  We are either struggling with its Presence, relieved at its Sovereignty, or pretending It doesn't exist.

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