Today is the one-year anniversary of The Third Eve. I’m grateful for every single one of the community of bloggers I’ve come to know and love through the simple act of writing. You’ve enriched my life and enlightened me; thank you.
I started blogging because I had gotten out of the habit of writing. It seems that, having been published, I suddenly realized that I could be published and that the writing of books might be endless and meaningless. I also noticed some of my long-time friends and colleagues who write burning out as writers. I feared that writing might become for me what it was to them, a chore. All this, combined with real-life demands, stressors, and griefs, led to a long winter during which I did little else but suffer deep down inside.
During that sabbatical, I continued to read and to try and grow as a person. Something I read-probably Jung-started me thinking about four, the number of completion in numerous spiritual traditions. I kept thinking about how the Christian Trinity is three: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three, an incomplete number. Why, I wondered, would God use a doctrine of incompletion? A trinity couldn’t be complete.
Then one day I realized that the Fall happened, in effect, to God too. Humanity’s separation from our source, by whatever name one wants to call it, was a loss not only to the separated, but also to the source from whom we were separated. And so, as the Christian Myth goes, we needed our Bridegroom to fetch us back, even at the price of His own life. The most ancient stories, myths, and fables are replete with tales of the descent into the underworld and subsequent apotheosis of the hero, who returns to the land of the living with whatever treasure will save his people.
The thing is that not only did we need our Bridegroom to fetch us, but he needed us to be fetched. No Bride, no Bridegroom. We are the fourth member of the godhead, the Eve who completes the picture. Mary, the second Eve, represents all that we should be but are not, until we Become. And so I thought of The Third Eve, the metaphor of ultimate completion.
Writing as Love
My goal became to write regularly about the art and discipline of becoming whole. Becoming a real writer is much the same as becoming a real person: it takes inspiration and work. Most of us repress the habits that lead to wholeness, thus resisting our very selves. We lead lives of quiet desperation because we never realize our Selves. And yet we use the same energetic habits that might have propelled us forward in our journey to accomplish other, less meaningful ends, instead.
Repression is the act of shutting our inner eyes in order to avoid the suffering of discipline. Repression always calls forth a compensatory activity of the unconscious which will, through the back door, force upon us the very thing we are trying to repress. The alternative is conscious discipline: trying to plan, direct or curb our acts, or renouncing them altogether, should that be required. Such losses can be borne and are eminently human, if we will but muster the courage to go down the lonely path. Most of us will not.
The point of becoming conscious, of working on ourselves so that we’re aware of ourselves, is to allow what has been repressed to emerge so that we can consciously experience it. Once we’re awake to it, we may have to restrain its destructive aspects and put it under our conscious discipline. This is hard work, and every power in the world seems poised to thwart the pilgrim attempting to become, and remain, conscious.
Because of the difficulty inherent in becoming conscious, the first thing we often try to do when gripped by an unconscious force is to try and repress it. If we can’t manage to repress this force, then the next thing we try to do is act it out. But this is messy, because we act out on other people, and then we have to take responsibility for our actions anyway. A more helpful choice is to take the emotion we feel inward for reflection, so that we will better understand ourselves. Understanding that our reactions are entirely our own, belonging to us and not anyone else’s fault helps us to make our best conscious decision in the moment. Such decisions are based on an awareness that a force is active within us. We can choose to allow that force to influence us by using it creatively, or we may choose to sidestep the force and take actions not based on the emotional force, but based on principle. Or we may choose some combination of these; but the actions of a conscious person are consciously arrived at.
Most of us spend hours every day doing some discipline that requires time, attention, motivation, and reflection-the same disciplines required of the writer. We’ll spend hours on a hobby, or hours doing needful work, but we won’t spend it at our craft. We arrive at the next step of the personal journey and recoil from it, refusing to go deeper. Instead, we go deeper into other activities that are sometimes good and worthy, and other times worthless, leading nowhere. We do this to avoid the suffering of the lonely, even monastic, writer, experiencing instead the suffering of meaninglessness and self-abandonment.
Refusing the Call
One year, my friend Faye became convinced that the next leg of her hero’s journey required her to sleep for five years. This is the command that Spirit kept giving: sleep for five years. She had come out of an adult lifetime of clinical depression and was bubbling over with energy and ability: why sleep? She knew that sleeping, for her, meant going down into the depths of the unconscious, doing the belly of the whale. But she refused to do it. She finished her degree, she puttered around at teaching yoga and Bible studies. She decided she was a healer and began to see clients even though she was not trained for it, much. She went on cruises, she taught Sunday School, she shopped, and she had lunches with friends. She did everything but what she had been called to do, which was to go down into the depths of her self and sleep for five years. Sleep is dreaming, and sleep is healing; it is the underworld and it is the unconscious.
When I saw what my friend became by refusing her call, I felt disturbed. I wondered at her refusal, even though I understood why someone who had been paralyzed by depression might react against “sleep” by doing everything under the sun except live a solitary life and court the Real Self in its native land, the unconscious. I caught myself having strong feelings about her refusal, through them conveniently side-stepping responsibility for my own refusals. I became very much afraid of refusing my own call, and saw that I had, in fact, already been refusing it through unmitigated middle-aged developmental suffering, which had kept me from the real suffering required by my own solitary path. And so it was that choosing to face the blank page and write my 1500-2000 words a day became an act of obedience, and ultimately of love, for the one person I struggled with most in this world, which was me. Choosing to answer the call to write such humble offerings in a medium I did not respect, and which seemed worthless to a “real writer,” whose Holy Grail is Publication (Hallowed Be Thy Name), felt like failure. But it acted like God.
Happy anniversary to me. I went into a tomb, I was swallowed by a great whale, I was shipwrecked and cast into the tossing waves of the sea, and cast ashore outside the thick, high walls of a cloister. Today marks the first day of my novitiate, for I am committed to three acts a day for the next year: prayerfully invoking the mercy and aid of God, writing daily, and honoring the ancestors through reading. The book in my hand, the keyboard, and the blank page will be the leather belt, the sandals, and the the prayer rope of the novice.
What, I wonder, are your emblems of Becoming? To what novitiate are you called, friend? To what have you closed your eyes, so as to avoid the suffering of μοναχός, monachos, the monk, literally, the alone one? You’ve heard the voice of your Bridegroom, calling, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!” (Song of Solomon 2:10). How did you respond? To what daily habits have you fled to avoid the suffering of loneliness? To what postulancy are you called in the coming year?
How, and with what, will you answer?