There is a Buddhist saying that the way you do anything is the way you do everything, as though the weave of a cloth tells more than its print. It is the way our soul is threaded together that concerns us as mystics, its structure, not what we know or the things we possess. And while we did not create our soul, we are responsible for its content. What we do is not as important as what we do automatically. “Habit becomes character” (Ovid).
Self-observation begins with retrospection, the nightly practice of reflecting upon our actions of the day. As an impartial judge weighs the evidence of a case and rules on its merits, we look at what we did, what we said or thought, and evaluate it in the light of an awakened conscience. Then we resolve to get it right the next time. In so doing, we change the patterns of our behavior, the deep ones, and gradually our nature changes. In the fires of Athanor, the alchemist’s furnace, opacity and density give way to light and airy transparency, and the Light of Christ shines through. Lead becomes gold, and the dead are raised to life. This is the work of the mystic and the enlightened Christian.
In a competitive world, compassion is weakness. But the emergence of compassion is the hallmark of an evolving soul. Souls do not compete, but instincts and intellects do. We strive to be more than instinctual/intellectual beings – the children of this world. Instead, we desire to connect, to become part of the whole, not so much for what that has to offer but for what we might contribute. For it is in giving that we live. We become the Worm Ouroboros in reverse – our body is born out of our mouth, not eaten by it. We find our life by speaking it forth into the world, to spend our energies relentlessly in giving life to the good, not by resisting the evil.
The Bible says that sparing the rod will spoil the child (Proverbs 13:24), but the enlightened Christian knows that it is our inner children that need discipline and that the “rod” is the Word of Power, the channeled Voice of God. “He conquers who conquers himself” – the battlefield is not out there. Holy War, as the good Muslim knows, is an inner affair, not a political ideology. The highest form of government is self-government, and one can only win at that game by carefully observing one’s own reactions and by redirecting the energy of those reactions down the streets of compassion.
Our inner reactions are the “members of our own household” that will defeat us (Matthew 10:36). These are the “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters” we must hate, not the flesh and blood we share our life with. Being a good shepherd means guiding our own instincts (and thoughts) to green pastures and away from wolves. Good Christians know this.
In your patience possess ye your souls (Luke 21:19).