“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is the eighth beatitude contained in the Sermon on the Mount and therefore the last portal on the earthly plane of the way to the light. I was in the monastery library, concentrating on my studies and, I confess, those words sounded empty to me. Why be persecuted because of justice, if this virtue had been sedimented in the wanderer when he had gone beyond the Fourth Gate? Therefore, it did not make any sense to speak of justice again. I wanted to consult the Elder, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order, but he had left very early and would only return at the end of the day. I wandered in vain through the library shelves in search of a book which could help me decode the message. I found some esoteric texts on the subject, but they were obscure and offered me no help. As the Elder said, murky waters serve to hide the fact that the lake is shallow; wisdom needs clear waters so that we can see all its depth. I understood why the ancient texts concealed in hermetic phrases the teachings that guide us on the way to the light. At the time, there was both political and religious persecution. We lost a lot throughout history. However, today things are a bit different and we don’t need those tactics anymore. I was wrapped up in reflections that did little to help me advance in the understanding I sought, when I heard someone crying softly. I left the book on the table and went to see if I could help. I found a very young monk, he had joined the Order the previous year, sitting alone in an armchair overlooking the mountains. Norton, that was his name, was trying to hold back tears without any success. I sat beside him. Without saying a word, I waited for him to calm down and tell me what had happened. Norton studied physics at the prestigious MIT and specialized in quantum mechanics. On holidays he would come to the monastery to learn about metaphysics and philosophy. That year, before coming, he had written a paper together with his girlfriend, a psychology student, explaining how quantum mechanics could shed light on premonitions and, even more, how the unconscious mind allowed trips into the future, as perceived by Freud, who defined this part of the mind as timeless. This was because the unconscious mind worked quantically, allowing leaps in time, while the conscious mind reasoned linearly. Norton did not publish the study. Rather, he decided to ask two other monks of the Order for their opinion on the work. The night before, these monks called him in private and advised him to abandon those ideas which they called ridiculous. They said that premonitions were partly daydreams, partly the mysteries of Mysticism and would never have any explanation because they were not necessary. They accused him of trying to reinvent the wheel and advised him to study more. Finally, they threatened him with expulsion for defiling the image of the Order if he insisted in publishing that nonsense.
I asked him to calm down. Referring to the monks who criticized him, I said that the simple fact of being part of a philosophical or religious organization did not make anyone wise or holy. On the contrary, I had noticed over the years that precisely the people who most needed to emerge from the existential darkness in which they found themselves were those who, not infrequently, were part of these institutions. I asked if the Elder was aware both of what had happened and his work. Norton explained that, although he had left a copy of his studies with him, there had been no statement about it.
That fact bothered me, it was a clear affront to freedom of thought and expression. Something inadmissible and sombre. I told Norton that I would talk to those monks and meet him again later. The same day I met with them and was well received. When I begin to talk about the specific question of prohibition, their features changed. Their speech was aggressive, with subliminal threats should I insist on defending Norton’s position. I said that I had no conviction about the work presented, as I had not read it, but I did not agree with any kind of censorship, either to free thinking or to its full manifestation. I remembered how history was full of cases that obscured the lights due to intolerance to those who dared to think and live differently than allowed by groups that dared to dictate rules of behaviour and, worse, to establish boundaries to conscience. “It is not a matter of inventing the wheel, but of preventing it from stopping its movement,” I explained my position. I was talking about the wheel of evolution.
The two monks cornered me. They said that if there was still any doubt about instituting a process to expel Norton, it no longer existed. It would be initiated immediately. What is more, because of my defiant position, they would also place me as a defendant, for they perceived how I was contaminated by foolish and misplaced ideas. I said that it did not matter whether the young student’s work was right or wrong; at that moment, the true absurd was the prohibition that was imposed. I reminded them of the famous trial of Galileo Galilei and so many others, such as Socrates, Paul of Tarsus and Peter, condemned for the simple fact of looking at life from a different angle than the established as standard. As long as it did not harm or invade any fundamental right of another person, it was arbitrary and inappropriate to prevent someone from thinking differently or even living according to their convictions. And this, to be sure, Norton had not done.
I told them to feel free to include me in the expulsion process. An unjust conviction was preferable to an unjust life.
At lunchtime I had the feeling that some of the other monks looked at me strangely. They were in the minority, but it bothered me. I isolated myself on the veranda to reflect. A bitter fluid ran through my veins. The criticism, while not affecting the certainties I had, bothered me to the point of shaking my peace. I was trying to align my feelings with my ideas when my mobile phone rang. It was one of my daughters to tell me about a problem, ask for an opinion and perhaps some help. I reacted impatiently. I told her she was old enough to sort out her own life on her own. Her sad voice as she hung up was like a stab in my heart. I called back and apologized. We talked, but my mind lacked clarity for me to be able to help her. Fear has the power to obstruct full reasoning. The discomfort increased.
During the day the news about the expulsion process had spread around the monastery. I had the feeling that some monks avoided me at afternoon tea or looked at me as if I was a criminal, although they said nothing about the matter. Others pledged solidarity in a frank manner and said they believed in the unreasonableness of any condemnation, since we had done nothing wrong. I sat next to Norton in the dinning hall. No one sat at the table with us, not even those who had supported us in words. I learned that the silence of censorship can be crueler than the voice of prohibition.
When everyone was finishing their snack to return to their duties, the Elder entered. He greeted everyone with his usual gentle voice and sweet smile. Then he sat at the table with me and the young monk. I was apprehensive, not knowing whether the gesture was casual or meant a message. Even more, if the content of the message was good or bad. Nobody left as if they were waiting for a sign of how things would unfold. Like someone who does not share the same concerns as the others, he told us an old joke. We laughed, but our worries prevented us from enjoying the joke as much as we could. Fear is the jailer of happiness.
However, the Elder revelled in laughing at his own joke; he seemed to hover above the gloomy cloud that had settled over the monastery. Everyone looked at each other as if searching for understanding. The good monk took his tea leisurely and repeated the oatcake. Then he stood up, looked at the monks and recited an excerpt from a short poem by Valentina Vaz, a nun of the Order. His voice, as always, had a serene timbre:
“Darkness translates into the lack of light;
Evil exists only in the absence of good.
The Truth is mine, is yours, is in the street; naked, under the moon.
The truth is neither mine nor anyone else’s”.
And he left.
In the evening, Norton and I were invited to the Elder’s office. In the corridor we met the two monks who were accusing us. Scowling, they confined themselves to a mere formal greeting. We were received by the Elder with a sincere smile. Once we were settled, he served us coffee and then got straight to the point: “I read Norton’s work. As I liked the approach in many aspects, I could also notice there are points that leave a gap due to lack of clarity. Although I don’t know quantum mechanics in as much as I would like to.”
Norton asked if those words meant a negative to the dissemination of his studies because they were still incomplete and lacked due clarity. The Elder clarified: “On the contrary, precisely because of this I think we should publish it”. I interfered to say that it was incoherent and even senseless to publish a work that was not definitive. The Elder looked at me with compassion and asked: “What knowledge is definitive, Yoskhaz? We have libraries full of temporary knowledge. Knowledge expands as planetary consciousness expands. Even an absolute truth, like the immeasurable power of love, has a knowledge that is still limited by the little we know about the extent of this virtue that completes itself in plenitude. He took a sip of coffee and added: “Definitive knowledge will always be an illusion of the arrogant and overbearing. Therefore, one must sow the seed of knowledge, even if shyly, always humble, so that others may be enchanted by the flower and add new species to the garden. Thus, little by little, we transform the deserts of humanity into beautiful forests. Without owners or masters”.
“Norton’s text brings some advances. This, for the moment, is enough. The reader of good will and great interest in the spiritual journey will have to add new points. Each one with his part; together we have and are the whole”. He looked at the young monk and questioned, “Correct me if I am wrong, but Einstein achieves the Theory of Relativity by dismantling the Laws of Newton, a physicist for whom he nurtured sincere and deep admiration. The apprentice has gone beyond the old master; however, without his knowledge, he would not have got so far. Norton smiled and confirmed with a nod of his head. The Elder concluded: “In philosophy the same thing happened between Plato and Aristotle. I have to thank all those who have helped me get this far. Even if today the ladder is higher than yesterday, I must admit that there will always be an infinite number of steps to climb. The climb of knowledge is linked to that of evolution; both have no end”.
I asked about the expulsion process. The Elder gestured with his hand for me to forget that matter and commented, “It is a lump without the strength of the seed. There is no life there to germinate.” I spoke that those monks should suffer punishment for their aggressive behaviour. The Elder looked at me with compassion and asked: “Isn’t that enough? The unfolding of the facts is enough for many reflections. Why insist on prolonging the pain?”.
He took another sip of coffee and thought: “They are not bad men. On the contrary, they think they are looking after and maintaining the good of the Order. However, it is not always easy to deal with the light”. He paused and warned: “When we live in shadowy zones, we criticise others not for their failures, but for their virtues. The light bothers the initial perception of those who are in the darkness. We need time to understand and sometimes centuries to accept.”
“Faced with a more intense light, the individual has two possibilities of choice. One, with humbleness, by admiring the one who illuminates his steps, he will continue in evolution. Another, with pride, by denying the fact that someone may know more than he does. Then, he will try to destroy him and will remain condemned not to leave his place as long as he maintains his posture”.
He frowned and said seriously, “Don’t believe that this happens only to others. It is a trap common to all of us, set by the shadows that inhabit us and have not yet been enlightened. To a greater or lesser extent, we do not perceive ourselves as being involved in this web. One must be alert”.
“The renewal of both ideas and life is a typical manifestation of the light. Whether for convenience, because of the indispensable effort needed to move forward, or because of fear of the unknown, we resist change. Have you ever noticed that we have the habit of closing the curtains of the house so that the sun cannot enter in the morning? Have we ever asked ourselves the reason for the symbolism of this gesture rooted in atavism?”.
“When lost from oneself, the individual tends to look at other people as one who is faced with enemies. To justify the shadows, he starts to look for the faults of those people who dare to go where he has never been, to do what he has never had the courage to do. He considers as an affront the simple fact that someone lives differently from him.
“Imperfection is inherent in the evolutionary process of the planet. Of course, when looking for it, we will find mistakes in every person’s life. Then, satisfied, we will proclaim that small faults are impediments to great virtues. They will shout that no one should rejoice in the beauty of sunny mornings because the surface of the sun is full of eruptions and has unforgiving blemishes. They will endeavour to show that the problems caused by the solar star are greater than its benefits. Accusations of deception or a worse crime will arise. They live for the sake of destroying the other rather than building themselves up.”
“Although it does not break or damage anything, the sunlight coming in through the window highlights the dust that exists inside a house. It shows the cleaning that has not yet been done. It bothers because at that moment the soul reminds the ego: it was about choices like this that we talked. See how beautiful it is. Learn, change and come closer to me!”
“However, in order not to lose the dominance they exercise, the shadows need to prevent the ego from falling in love with the soul. They close the curtains to the light! As a strategy, they declare war against that ethical individual who has become a threat by the simple unintentional example he offers of being who he is. Deep down, there is admiration for the lightness and freedom of others, but changing patterns and behaviours is hard work. We are almost never willing. We believe that is easier to use the usual tactics: amplifying the faults, inverting the qualities, making unreasonable criticisms, slandering and uttering senseless condemnations in an attempt to justify an addicted way of living.”
He looked at me, as if guessing thoughts, and clarified: “So we begin to understand who are those persecuted by justice referred to in the Eighth Gate”.
Facing my astonished look, he explained: “It is worth pointing out, and precisely for this reason, that the sacred texts refer to the word justice as a substitute for virtue and ethics. The just or ethical person, to whom the text of the Sermon on the Mount refers, is the one full of virtues, complete in himself and with conquered plenitudes. He walks straight on the Way, without letting himself be shaken by the temptations, fears, noises and tumults typical of each landscape. Nothing and no one can stop him on his journey towards the light”.
“It is up to the ethical and virtuous to follow unwaveringly. His free spirit will remain unreachable to the arrows of the world. These are short-range.”
“With due humbleness, he treats everyone with compassion. In spite of the gentleness that characterizes him, he acts without abdicating determination so as not to nurture any evil. Being sincere with himself he has an honest relationship with the world. Although he is generous, he strives to be fair in the simplest acts. This strength is unshakeable and is available to all, regardless of any personal characteristic. All that is needed is the will to approach the light.
We remained some time without saying a word. I thanked him for helping me to understand each of the Gates of the Way. The Elder emptied his coffee cup and reminded me: “Knowing does not mean being. To possess a map does not mean to be able to make the whole journey immediately. There is a huge gulf between one thing and another. However, knowledge helps you find your bearings and choose the direction in which you should go. Go slowly and, most importantly, respect yourself. Move forward at your own pace and pay attention to the beauty of all things and people as you learn from them. Everything and everyone has its importance. Do not trust easy things and shortcuts; the Way is an essence that is revealed inside, never an appearance that is adorned outside. If you need to start again, do not hesitate; return from where you stumbled. This happens to any walker; do not allow the inevitable tumbles and the unpredictable obstacles to rob you of the joy of the journey.
He blinked one of his eyes in a mischievous way, as if telling a secret, and said: “The Way is a journey made in two worlds, simultaneously. Inside and outside each one of us. A necessary symbiosis. In the bumps in the road are the secrets that reveal the light of my soul. In gratitude, I light a lamp in each place I pass”.
Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.