“The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
~ From Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
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When light suddenly shines in a dark room, we experience temporary blindness until our eyes adjust and we can then see what’s been hidden from us.
A persistent problem encountered by those on the spiritual path is disillusionment. The intention and hope to “make progress” can be interrupted by an increase of negative experience. Why does this happen and what can we do about it?
Some wise soul once advised: “If you’re going through hell… keep on going!” Absolutely. So, if we do find ourselves stalled or falling or back sliding, or however we might describe a departure from the expectation of increasing light and awakening, this could be the best strategy. Just keep on going.
This is the instruction offered to pilots who get lost. The worst thing they could do would be to change course, guessing which way to go. As flight instructor manuals say, don’t change course! Instead, check your elevation. We might give ourselves the same tip. How high are we? This is especially important when we encounter mountain sized challenges.
In his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote about his experiences surviving a prisoner of war camp. He reports an experience of being marched with many others through an icy night, prodded by rifles to keep shuffling along through the bitter cold. “Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds.” 1
He looked up. He elevated his view. And, thinking about his wife, he realized that “love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire…The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.”
What is your image of the beloved that you cherish? You may have a spouse or some other partner who represents this for you. But this is a representation of the Beloved, with a capital B, and that connection is available to all of us regardless of our human relationships.
As the opening quote affirms, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.” If it’s good enough for angels perhaps it’s worth trying ourselves! What is that infinite glory? It’s an experience that defies further description but it’s obviously available because this author and many, many other individuals have reported their factual experience. They looked up.
If darkness descends for a moment, does this automatically mean we have fallen off the path of increasing self-awareness? Perhaps what’s really happened is that we have expanded our awareness of darkness! Doesn’t it make sense to keep going then? And, to light our way, why not deepen our experience of the source of light and love in all human experience? What helps us do that is to witness the blissful experience of others and learn from their example.
Teresa of Ávila wrote, “May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.”
Appreciating her words of wisdom, we can acknowledge the blessing conveyed by those who are traveling the path this way. They welcome us on and we can do the same for anyone who grow weary along the way and needs the reminder to look up. The stars are shining. The universe is in order. And… we belong.