The ultimate task
for me is not an external goal. Rather it is gaining wisdom and inner
peace. Sounds simple enough but if we understand that it may take
many years to understand just one dream we have had, then we see some of the
I had a startling epiphany during a particularly
crucial time in my life. During my late teens my mother had just
finished reading books by the esteemed psychologist Karen Horney
(German/American, 16 September 1885 – 4 December 1952). She
had gained insights and lauded them. Two hardbound volumes by Horney were on
our bookshelves: Our Inner Conflicts,
and The Neurotic
Personality Of Our Time.
I was a voracious reader and had read
classic literature, so read both books—though the language was
dense and sometimes almost indecipherable.
Through reading, I
grasped that neurotic people identify themselves with an idealized
image and will go to great lengths to maintain an unreal position. Their pain is unconsciously knowing they are not the
idealized vision. The gap is unbearable.
I realized I had been doing
the same by blocking out undesirable aspects of my "hidden" self in favor of
I entered a trial
period of just letting thoughts and emotions float to the surface
without judgement. Even nasty stuff
appeared but I did not bury it. Rather, I accepted and witnessed without judgement. Although difficult, this process
lifted me to greater strength. I breathed deeper.
At that time, I had
also delved into religion and enjoyed the ideals in the Baha'i Faith
Furthermore, great emphasis was on unity, freedom from prejudice, purity—away from materialism and towards spirituality.
As I continued my
experiment, I remember coming to a crossroads. The difficult emotions
and feelings continued arising and I wondered if I could go forward
in life feeling such dark forces yet being a person of light. I
wondered if I could live with the dichotomy. Should I block the gate
and keep the devils locked away, concentrating on adhering to a
religious and pure way of being? Or continue withholding nothing and
feeling like I was in a Hieronymous Bosch
painting of The Last
with depictions of rebellious devils led by Lucifer, or Garden of Earthly Delights.
particularly sensitive time in my development, I chose to block the
uncomfortable dark feelings and urges. Instead, I would concentrate
on immersing myself in religion as a way of evolution and salvation.
I would adopt thinking similar to what Emanuel Swedenborg
, (Swedish, 29 January 1688;
died 29 March 1772) wrote: The amount of goodness we receive from God can only equal the amount of evil we remove from ourselves as if by our own power, which is done by both working on ourselves and putting faith in the Lord.
decision led me into a colossal war of light and dark forces. The
more I sought to dispel the anger, frustration, pain and
malevolence within me, the more it insisted on knocking at the door
of my consciousness. No amount of praying, being with religious
people or studying holy texts could slay the monstrous beast
terrorizing the kingdom of my being. My light side hated my dark
side. I was divided and suffering.
My family history
is an interesting study in light and dark. My mother came from a
disturbed upbringing. She lived in foster homes at times. Her mother
went from husband to husband; eventually going through ten of them.
Mom was beautiful and hardscrabble when she met my father in Chicago.
My father grew up the son of doctor and a sensitive Jewish mother,
was brilliant and entered the University of Chicago at the age of
fifteen. He finished graduate school with a degree in criminology. Human darkness fascinated him and he was a problem solver. He went on to an
illustrious career in social engineering, implementing great changes
in American society.
Perhaps it was fate
that I would be a problem to myself and have to unify my original
These days I find
myself embracing non-conflict. I have come again to allowing all
feelings, memories, thoughts and perceptions. They come and go
without a fight. I am a changed person. I continue in my religion and gain great inspiration
from it, as well as from other sources of the same Divine light.
A few days ago, I
wrote in my journal:
Essentially, I will stay in a state
of peace. If my pristine and calm being is tested by unruly ego or
illusion of duality, I can override the challenge. It is as if I am
at last taking the throne of command to my own kingdom. No longer
driven by intractable and wayward passions..
Thank you Lord for giving me what I
So I embrace all and realize that all is necessary. Nothing drives me but the urge to understand the puzzle of life and be near God.
The darkness and light inform each other. Any great work of art must have them both.