Part 2, "The Potter's Stick"
In the Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam, the potter beats each newly fired pot with a stick to make sure it's strong enough to contain the wine it's been created to hold without cracking. The same is true for anyone foolish enough to "offer himself as a vessel for the transformation of deity."
If you ask, "Make me a vessel, Lord, for your continuing incarnation," you had better be prepared to be beaten by Him with a "stick" to make certain that you're strong enough to do what it is you've asked Him to do. Those who are, survive; those who aren't, don't. The former are the "bodhisattvas" who (like Jung and some of us) return to warn the others, "Watch out for the next step -- it's is a killer!" The latter are the people who stand on the street corner, shouting at passing traffic and arguing with the fire hydrant.
The difference is in the quality of the Ego, which has two mutually exclusive dimensions: Size and Potency. That is to say, a "strong" ego is not necessarily "big;" and a "big" ego is not necessarily "strong." It is only the strong, uninflated Ego that passes the test of God's "beating," while the weak inflated Ego fails it and breaks.
The archetype sine qua non of the former is the Biblical Job, and for that reason Jung chose it as the paradigm around which to describe his own violent encounter with God in his monumental work, Answer to Job, which some witnesses, such as Edinger, have called the "Third Dispensation."
At the outset let me say, for better or worse, that, like Jung, I was foolish enough to repeatedly petition God to become a vessel for His continuing incarnation. And, having done so, I was finally seized by Him at the throat, like Job, and victimized by His enantodromia for seven years -- almost exactly the same length of time as Jung endured the same experience. This is not to boast about or assert myself as special in any way. It is simply meant as a statement of fact. Like others before and since me, I followed Jung's map to the Source and, like him and Job, paid the price for doing so, but arrived at the destination it lays out.
In this, I am not unique. My own teachers -- Sabbatai Zevi, Jacob Frank, Sri Ramakrishna, Jung, Kirsch, Edinger, and others -- all have done so before me, as will many others after. It is only that I rise as a witness to what they and others like them have proclaimed to be the truth for all of us, and particularly the ordinary ones like me: The indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the third Divine Person, in man, brings about a Christification of many." (C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion, CW 11, par. 758)
"I am fully aware of the fact that any attempt to write anything about one's own history and development meets certain obstacles. Hindsight is a special lens through which one sees certain events and distorts others in a special configuration . . . Even now, I have to overcome a great deal of resistance [to doing so], but I feel I must tell it." -- James Kirsch, M.D. ("Reflections at Age Eighty-Four," Modern Jew in Search of a Soul: A Jungian Anthology, Dr. J. Marvin Spiegelman, Editor, Falcon Press, 1986)
Like my mentor, James Kirsch, "after a good deal of hesitation and much heart searching" I have decided to write this series of essays about my personal encounters with the Self as they might apply to and be instructive for others seeking the same. As Jung wrote of his own similar experiences, in his introduction to Answer to Job: "Whoever talks of such matters inevitably runs the risk of being torn to pieces" (ATJ, par. 553). In much the same way, the Zohar cautions:
"Scripture states: 'Joseph dreamed a dream and told it to his brothers . . . . and they hated him for it.' (Gen. 37:5, 8) From this we learn that a person should only tell his dreams to one who loves him . . . Come and see: Joseph told the dream to his brothers and [because they hated him] they made the dream disappear; for twenty-two years it was delayed." (Zohar 1:183 a-b)
At the same time, people like Joseph, Jung, Kirsch -- and even myself -- by sharing our deepest experiences lay ourselves open to the accusation of conventional wisdom that "Those who know, don't say; and those who say, don't know" -- which, of course, is nonsense. On the contrary, those who "know" have an obligation to "say," despite the possible consequences of being "torn to pieces" for their troubles. But, again to quote Jung, it falls to us to do so anyway because, "I know that I also speak in the name of many who have had similar experiences." (op. cit., par. 559)
As one of my Eastern teachers once replied, when asked if he had had the "full" experience of Samadhi, "If I say 'yes,' than I'm a braggart; if I say 'no,' then I'm a liar." In all that follows, I will neither brag nor lie, but simply tell the truth of my life with God as I look back on it over the past sixty-seven years. In all honesty, I take a certain amount of pride in this, but the kind of "pride" the Ba'al Shem Tov was referring to when he said:
"Even the followers of Abraham knew pride . . . . but they had the right sort of pride; they lifted their hearts and dared to accomplish great things on behalf of God. A perverted sense of humility separates one from the service of God."
So I ask your indulgence in all that follows. For the most part, I will be describing my own experience of what Jung wrote about in Answer to Job -- an experience that began for me with a dream in 1989 and ended with my "coming full circle" in 1996. It was an experience that almost finished me, but for which I had repeatedly asked, even as a child, and one which I would gladly have again if it brought me to the Place where Job had gone before, and to which, with the help of God, I am going. In the meantime, I can say along with him whose footsteps I followed:
"I know that you [Yahweh] are all-powerful: what you conceive, you can perform. I am the man who obscured your designs with my empty-headed words. I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand, on marvels beyond me and my knowledge . . . I knew you then only by hearsay; but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract all I have said, and in dust and ashes I repent." (Book of Job 42:1)
"If I say yes, then I'm a braggart; if I say no, then I'm a liar." (Guru's reply to the question, "Have you had Enlightenment?")
In order to understand the spiritual ordeal I experienced between 1989 and 1996, it's necessary to place it in context. In some ways, the actual collision with the Self -- the "Job Experience" -- is less important than the events preceding it -- certainly in that the latter cannot be understood without the former -- which requires that I share a certain amount of autobiographical details of my early life. The problem with doing so, however, is that it lays one open to the accusation of "boasting" or, worse yet, fabrication. It's a sad fact that most people are far more willing to accept the "chaff" of another's life than the "wheat." They are quick to accept the "lows," but even quicker to reject the "highs" -- especially when those "highs" are what can be loosely called, "Spiritual." Nevertheless, having committed myself to this project, it's necessary that I lay myself open by sharing those events of my early life that help to explain what I experienced of the Self during those seven years.
To begin with, though, let me make it very clear that the so-called "Job Experience," including my own, differs from the ordinary "run of bad luck" many people encounter in several significant ways:
Consciousness = Requesting + Getting + Suffering + Awareness + Surviving + Integrating + Returning
This is not to suggest that one who has gone through this process is "superior" to or "better" than those who have not, or who have and failed. He has simply offered himself as a peg from which the King can hang His Crown, and happens to be strong enough to hold its weight -- but he remains, nonetheless, only a peg and not the Crown hanging from it. In the words of Jung:
"Even the enlightened person remains what he is, and is never more than his own limited ego before the One who dwells within him, whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses him on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and vast as the sky." (Answer to Job, par. 758)