Sunday, December 20, 2009

Watchfulness and The Divine Light - Beware of Delusion

Watchfulness involves lifting our thoughts to the spirit through our ability to observe them without being moved to any action.  This spirit within us is seen as the true way of knowing and the only faculty to know God.
Jesus says, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." (Matt 6:22-23)

What is the meaning of the passage? He is saying that this spirit is also light.  When have clear sight we can see, and when we can see, our whole being is filled with light.

In His Life is Mine, Archimandrite Sophrony describes his experience with the light of spirit and gives us some cautions.  He writes, "The world of mental contemplation is essentially a radiant one.  Our mind is created in the image and after the Primal Mind––God.  Light is natural to it since it was made in the image of Him Who is Light unoriginate." (p 155)

Hieromonk Damascene points out that we need to be careful when we think of this light.  He sys, "This is where many who have practiced watchfulness have fallen into delusion over the centuries."  The key in his view is having purity of intention when we enter within.  If our intention is to be spiritual we are in great danger.  On the other hand if it is to deal with our shortcomings so we can perfect ourselves to follow more closely the commandments of God, then we are on safe ground.  If through our own effort we come onto the experience of this inner light of spirit we will continue to worship ourselves and worse, think we are in fact God.

Achimandrite Sophrony had this experience in his spiritual journey where he was involved with various forms of eastern meditation.  He writes,
"Attaining the bounds where day and night come to an end, man contemplates the beauty of his own spirit which many identify with Divine Being.  They do see a light but it is not the True Light in which there is no darkness at all.  It is the natural light peculiar to the mind of man created in God's image.
The mental light, which excels every other light of empirical knowledge, might still just as well be called darkness, since it is the darkness of divesture and God is not in it.  And perhaps in this instance more than any other we should listen to the Lord's warning, 'Take heed therefore that the light which is within you be not darkness.'"

To avoid this danger, absolute humility is necessary.  Fr.Sophrony writes,
"Since those who enter for the first time into the sphere of the silence of the mind experience a certain mystic awe, they mistake their contemplation for mystical communion with the Divine, whereas, in reality, they are still within the confines of created human nature.  The mind, it is true, here passes beyond the frontiers of time and space, and it is this that gives it a sense of grasping eternal wisdom.  This is a far as human intelligence can go along the path of natural development and self-contemplation...
"Dwelling in the darkness of divestiture, the mind knows a peculiar delight and sense of peace... Clearing the frontiers of time, such contemplation approaches the mind to knowledge of the in-transitory, thereby possessing man of new but abstract cognition.  Woe to him who mistakes this wisdom for the knowledge of the true God, and this contemplation for a communion in Divine Being.  Woe to him because the darkness of divestiture on the borders of true vision becomes an impenetrable pass and a stronger barrier between himself and God than the darkness due to the uprising of gross passion, or the darkness of obviously demonic instigations, or the darkness which results from loss of grace and abandonment by God.  Woe to him, for he will have gone astray and fallen into delusion." (pp 155-56) 

He tells us that the experience the Uncreated Light of the Divinity is given to us only by special action of God.  To go beyond the limits of mind and receive this gift, demands humility.  We must not seek a spiritual light, silence or peace when we practice watchfulness.  We seek silence in our mind so we can hear the direction that God is giving to us. Gods voice is still and small. (1Kings 19:12)  We can only hear and discern what he is telling us by lifting ourselves above the distraction of random thoughts that are continually invading our mind.  Jesus says, "Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." (John 18:37)

We must remember His important words, "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father Who is in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you: depart from me, you who work iniquity." (Matt 7:21-23)  What he is really saying here is that YOU did know Him when He says "I never knew you." Hieromonk Damascene says, "In effect he is saying, "You andI never developed a relationship because you were always listening to your thoughts, emotions and desires rather than to me.  You did not learn to distinguish my wordless voice from all the other voices in your head."

This is the aim of watchfulness and silence of the mind.  We seek God's voice directing us.  We develop the virtue of discernment.  We find ourselves in relationship with HIm, and unite our will to His.  Yes, we may experience the light of the mind and if it be God's will we may also experience His Uncreated Light.  We need to be careful not make the aim this light as we will be deluded and risk making ourselves God.

Message: Keep your intentions pure!

See The Tao of Christ pages 326-331


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