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Friday, June 17, 2011

“Sweetness and Light” – CREDO CLXIII

There once was a nun who was a hermit and lived alone six days of the week and only joined the other hermit nuns for Sunday Mass. She lived that way for many, many years. Then she came upon a book by Jung and began to read and read his work.

Gradually she began to have nightmares, terrible dreams which truly shocked her. Then finally one Sunday she encountered a nun who had always irritated her and so she hauled off and slapped her! The poor soul then had a near breakdown thinking that she had gone mad.

At her spiritual director’s suggestion she came to me to have her chart done. The chart revealed the enormous self-discipline and utter devotion to God but also the repression and denial of any relationship. I tried to make clear to her that her anger was in a strange way a blessing, because even though it was so negative, it was still a first step in relating. My friend Brewster, a Jungian analyst, said that saying “Damn you!” to God is a huge step in relating to God. In the Old Testament we are told to love God with all our heart, soul, and might, AND our neighbor as our Self (sic) – not as our ego. So the whole point of incarnation may well be to find God incarnate as the Divine Guest within us all.

Jung wrote over and over that only to choose sweetness and light and to repress all the darkness in us results inevitably in our projecting that darkness onto others. So, simply put, trying too hard to be good can be bad for you!

My dear son, Timothy, when he was 13, came home on holiday from boarding school determined to be a saint. For two weeks he was obedient to his father, helpful to his mother, patient with his pesky sisters. He slept on the floor, ate sparingly, and got a job doing work he really didn’t enjoy. At two in the morning, I passed his bedroom door and heard sobs. When I knocked and entered I found him pounding the floor with his fists crying, “It’s not FAIR! It’s not FAIR!” I asked him what wasn’t fair, and he replied, “I’ve tried to be good all these days, and I’ve fallen into the greatest sin of all! “What sin?” I asked. He moaned, “I think I’m better than other people!”

I didn’t think it was fair either, but I did pray for a solution. The next day, as I replaced an empty paper towel tube, the light shone through it. “AHA!” I stuffed Kleenex in one end and went to my son and told him to look through it and tell me what he could see. “Duh!” said he. Then I told him to take out the tissue and look again. He looked again and at me as if I were an idiot. But then he got it: the light shines through – not out of the tube. And the good we do and the love that we share comes from that higher Source – not out of us. To claim it is to identify with it and become inflated. This aha! has been an enormous help to me and others ever since, because the corollary is that when people are grateful to you or complimentary, you can shoot it back up to the Divine Guest, so one doesn’t get trapped in hubris or terrible attacks of mea culpa. The ego can be pleased enough if it can keep the pipe clear. To this day, I am profoundly grateful to my son’s efforts.

No, he didn’t grow up a clergyman, but he majored in philosophy and then in medicine and became a great psychiatrist.



Anonymous said...

Nicely expressed - beautiful. Thanks to your son's efforts too and your creative symbol.
Love from

ruth hollis said...

... how blessed your son is to have had such a wise mother ...