In this greatest perfection of faith the infinite God Himself becomes the Light of the darkened soul and possesses it entirely with His Truth. And at this inexplicable moment the deepest night becomes day and faith turns into understanding. (Merton, Thomas, New Seeds of Contemplation)
As we move forward in this new season, I want to introduce you to three friends of mine that I think will help us on our journey. Let me present a little background that lead to the formation of these upcoming concepts.
Thomas Merton talks about faith and how true faith, that divine faith that is our stepping stone to intimacy, brings us into the Light that brings us truth. In that process of discovering our true identity in our divine union, we have to move past and through our false self. The term “false self” is legitimate, but the connotation of “false” I don’t like much because it implies something “bad” or “evil” or some other fallen human wisdom concept. So to avoid the implications of “false” I have another way of discussing the ever-present “false self.” That is the first part of the discovery.
The second part of the discovery is a discussion Merton presents about the conscious and the subconscious. I’ll avoid all the psychoanalysis jargon since I am not an expert. But here is a brief description of these concepts. Merton says there is a conscious that in Latin is called the animus and a subconscious that in Latin is anima. The anima is our desire and it influences everything we do. The animus is our reason and logic that tries to control the anima. Then we have the spirit or in Latin the spiritus which is our divine self that is supposed to rule over the animus and the anima. Our struggle is sorting all this out as we discover our true identity within the spiritus of us.
Confused? False self, true self, animus, anima, spiritus…oh my. Add some Jungian psycho-babble and you have one giant “what???” pie. So with these concepts running in the background I believe God has given me a new way to see it that is turning out to be very impactful for people I know. Ready, here we go.
I know we all have a true self, a created intended self, a spiritus, a divine self that is of and from and in the divine. Jesus said that He is in us and we are in Him and He is in the Father. That is a fancy way of saying we are one with Him. At the very core of our being is God. Like a great swell on the ocean we are a swell but we are ocean. If God is the ocean and we are the swell then our true self is of the ocean or the divine. We aren’t all the ocean, but we are of the same substance. I call this person Trudy for true self. She is like Adam and Eve before the fall. She is like a child who hasn’t been conditioned by the world. She is in each of us and is the center of us.
After the fall or when a child gets older or when we discover good-bad, we find judgment. Judgment is the product of the forbidden fruit. Judgment is our response to things that we like or things we don’t like. Judgment says “I want that and I don’t want that” or “that is good and that is bad,” whatever “that” is. Judgment assesses people and stuff and actions and reactions and data and opinion and so much more. Judgment is always running even when we are not aware like the subconscious. I call this judgment Judy. Judy doesn’t like pain or discomfort or stressful situations. Judy will scream her opinion about a thing or another person until she is heard.
When Judy is yelling and telling us her opinion we react. We learn to keep Judy quiet or stay away from the pain that Judy insists is right around the corner. Judy conditions us to respond in certain ways to certain things. Judy’s constant commentary teaches us how to interact with the world to avoid stuff we don’t like and take stuff we do like. We learn a new way to behave. This learned response or learned behavior or learned identity is Lena. Lena will do whatever it takes to survive and thrive. Lena thinks she is in charge and will reason she is right. Lena is like the conscious Merton describes.
I’ll cover more in the posts to come but let me leave you with something to think about. Imagine Trudy lives in and is the substance of Love. Judy sees Trudy and maybe hears Trudy for a time but Judy has worldly experience and reason. She know “how things really are.” Over time Judy begins to ignore Trudy’s innocent and naiveté inputs because she knows better. Likewise Lena is a product of Judy and only knows what Judy tells her. Lena doesn’t know Trudy if Judy is ignoring Trudy. It is as if Trudy were dead. Trudy is real. Trudy is divine with the creator. Trudy knows truth. Lena is not real. Lena is something created. Lena is a product of the world and conditioned responses to experiences and situations.
Our journey is to find Trudy. Our journey is to reach beyond our Lena and Judy to embrace our Trudy. Only Love will make it work. More to come.