Monday, October 8, 2012

Temptations and Trials, Part I

The struggle with temptations and trials is an essential part of being human.  We must deal with the fact that we are tempted by our passions.  The monks speak of demons fighting with us.  By that they mean the forces that emerge in us, that pull us one way or another, that we do not consciously want.  They focus on the experience that we are not simple and straightforward, that we are tossed here and there by various thoughts and feelings.  And they use those terms to describe the forces that we have buried in our shadow side, the unconscious.  Despite our attempt to be decent, the thought occurs to us to throw everything overboard, to simply dispense with the commandments.  For all our amiability we sometimes think that what we'd really like to do is kill our neighbor.  It would be naive to say that it's enough to keep the commandments and to will the good.  There is a raging conflict in our heart between good and evil, between light and darkness, between love and hatred.  For the monks this is perfectly normal.  It's not wrong; it's the test that make us tried and true.  Nowadays we might say that it's a way to live with greater awareness.  The monks know about their shadow side; they come to terms with the fact that their unconscious harbors forces that they do not know yet, that they have to be careful with.

Temptations, the monks tell us, make us human.  They bring us into contact with the roots that bear the trunk.  Facing temptations means encountering the truth.  Thus one father says:  "Take away temptations, and no one will be whole, for whoever flees useful temptation, flees eternal life.  There are in fact temptations that have prepared crowns for the saints."

from Heaven Begins Within You
by Anselm Gruen

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