Those days were dedicated to intense learning. I had been in the monastery for a few days. I went there to an informal visit to the Elder, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order, when I came across a symposium on the Gospel of Thomas. A text considered apocryphal by the canons of the Catholic Church and gnostic by the esoteric people. A book whose content expands the doors of perception to knowledge. Not by chance, a professional misunderstanding born from a difference of view with another monk, Frederico, was useful to expand the understanding and applicability of the teachings contained in those millenary words. Wisdom consists of using knowledge in common, everyday situations. It happens that our shadows are usually in the front line and respond even before we can use what we know. Pride, vanity, jealousy, fear, frustrations, sorrows, among other painful memories, behave like infantry soldiers on the front line and react to any movement as if we were being attacked. This is because they wage an imaginary war. In truth, internal conflicts when misunderstood, take shape and perpetuate themselves in various aspects of the personality, incorporated as personal characteristics. This is who I am, there is no way to fix it, we repeat as a justification for stagnation. We deny the transformations which are inevitable for evolution. So we suffer.
When we keep the shadows as sentinels, with the function of watching over everything and everyone, we isolate ourselves from the world and, worse, from our own essence. They highlight supposed dangers and faults, whether of situations or of people, relegating to a secondary plan the opportunities offered and the existing virtues. What remains is the feeling of isolation and abandonment, contemporary existential wounds, more and more common in our days. Impatience, intolerance, bad temper, stiffness, aggressiveness, anxiety, indifference, apathy and depression are its most common manifestations, easily recognised in the face of the huge planetary epidemic. No, we are not like that. These are the typical symptoms of sick souls. They are cries from the unconscious clamouring for help. The essence of any person is pure and loving; it is of light. However, it is still in an embryonic stage. The awakening of the soul is personal and non-transferable. The role of the ego in this process is of fundamental importance. Not as an enemy, but as a valuable ally.
The greatest difficulty for the cure is the denial of the disease. How many confuse pride with self-esteem, greed with progress, exalt aggressiveness and selfishness as effective methods of conquest? They blame others for their sufferings in refusal to seek in themselves the transformations necessary to overcome the obstacles inherent in life. No therapy for the soul will be successful without the effective participation of the ego. This is because healing translates into personal evolution. Evolution does not occur by accident, but as a conscious act. The conscious mind is the field of action of the ego.
The end of suffering begins with the understanding of the situation in which the individual placed himself or allowed to be placed. Action or omission have equal responsibility. Then, the ego, conscious of its function, power and also of its limitation, perceives the existence of a different and alternative force, with unlimited attributes and possibilities, until now despised. It understands that it is another part of itself. It decides to intensify the dialogue between darkness and light.
When the ego meets the soul it is a moment of magic because of the transformation it provokes. In fictional novels it is usually represented in the most diverse ways. It is, for example, when the knight Arthur gets hold of Excalibur, his enchanted sword, and with its help manages to conquer the rebels (the wild passions) and unify the kingdom (the whole being). Each one becomes the king of himself after conquering and unifying the parts that inhabit him.
By understanding his difficulties and limitations, the individual does not allow them to continue to perpetuate themselves, as they are the causes of his sufferings. He assumes the commitment to transform and grow, an efficient healing therapy. Inspired by the soul, the ego establishes a new pattern of behaviour, changing the way of living, based on different ideas, concepts and values. A little different and better every day. It keeps a constant effort to rescue the primordial virtues to the existential progress, through successive and infinite cycles of overcoming. This practice expands the consciousness, because now it is not just the ego, but brings to the surface the powerful influences of the soul, until then tenuously manifested in the imperceptible depths of the unconscious.
The will is the indispensable motor for this cosmic therapy, which basically consists of the unbreakable disposition to replace, through each one of the choices made, the acting shadows by the dormant virtues. The ego, the brave guardian that represents us on the front of existence, begins to take advices from the soul, the wise man of the ancestral library, perfecting the methods of fighting: the choices. As the new virtues become instruments of combat, replacing the tired shadows, we will manage to get rid of the heavy and obsolete armour which, without realising it, we insist on wearing. The unhealthy emotions typical to painful emotional memories, which cause so much suffering and unpleasant reactions, after involved with the love of virtues and the wisdom of the enlarged consciousness, will serve to tell the incredible story of overcoming and healing experienced by you or me.
That is the good fight. The wonderful journey of us all.
These were my reflections as I walked alone on the mountain trails that house the monastery. Stillness and solitude are important when we need to think. The last few days had been rich with new ideas that were trying to find a place to dwell in me. That’s when I spotted Frederico in a clearing, sitting on a rock. The initial reaction was to avoid him. I argued with myself that I had not come to talk, but to reflect. Moreover, he was not a pleasant person to me. However, at that moment, I asked myself if it was my shadows, at the front of existence, answering for me. Although they are part of who I am, they only take over my life if I grant them such power. Shadows or virtues, I choose my instruments of combat. The day before, the Elder had talked about the importance of admiring all people as a way to transmute emotions into feelings and thus darkness into light. But how can we do this without getting to know people a little better, without intensifying our contact with them? Without them it becomes more difficult to understand the abilities and attributes of who I am not and do not know.
I considered that Federico might react badly to my presence. On the other hand, I pondered, if it happened, it would only reveal the darkness in which he found himself. Arrogance and indifference serve to diagnose a bleeding soul. Pride is the mask of one who hides a shallow courage due to a deep fear. Avoiding him just for fear of his reaction would manifest in me the same symptom. Shadows have many tricks and disguises with which we easily deceive ourselves. For a fraction of a second there was an intense duel within me. It’s always long time when we still live the agony between who we are and who we wish to be. I went to him prepared for the worst.
When he saw me, Frederico arched his lips in a slight smile, as if he knew that this was a sort of an appointment. I asked if I could sit down. He was kind. He moved a little away as a way of offering me a part of the stone so that I could sit down beside him. A gesture of goodwill. At that moment I realized an obvious fact, present in other events in my life: our greatest fears almost never come true. However, we tend to waste the honey of life by always waiting for the worst. In case it happens, don’t regret it, only fools have bad days. Learn about how every moment is valuable for manifestation and improvement in the use of your sword, the light.
Without beating around the bush, with honesty and without any trace of hostility in his tone of voice, Federico wanted to know if I was upset with his decision to rescind the contract of the multinational company, of which he was director, with my advertising agency, because I had taken holidays during the preparation of an important campaign. I explained again that I trusted the agency’s creative team, and that I was in contact with them whenever necessary. I added that, although I found their demand for me to return immediately arbitrary and unreasonable, I stressed that there was no resentment on my part. I explained, “I made the choice to stay in the monastery because it is in accord with my conscience. It is my conscience that creates the conception of truth that I acquire as I perceive who I am and the world around me.”
“I may not agree, but to be hurt by someone else’s choice is an absurd practice, as it doesn’t take into account the diversity of rights, interests and perspectives. I disrespect my own dignity when I don’t respect someone else’s freedom.”
Frederico shook his head to say that he agreed. Then it was his turn to speak: “We have a terrible ancestral conditioning to think that decisions that go against us are personal. This person did it because he doesn’t like me, this other person denied my request because he doesn’t like me. Thus, we justify our frustrations, when most of the time it was only a decision that someone else understood as the right one at that moment. We become victims of our own narrow conscience. Worse, we do not perceive it this way. With this, we suffer due to the resentment that arises and keeps us stagnant, like that puddle on the riverbank that denies its essence of going towards the sea. It will eventually become muddy and smelly”. He paused before concluding: “By denying the flow of life, we lose the power contained in our essence.” Looking away, distracted in his thoughts, he concluded: “Almost never a decision is a mere retaliation, with the sole objective of stopping our wishes. Because of the ineffectiveness of this reasoning, we need to abandon the belief that the world conspires to harm us. This is an enormous nonsense, typical of an immature soul. The facts that hit us only reflect who we are yet to be and the consequences of the content we have not learned. If we had already learned, we would not be affected by these consequences.”
Not only did I agree, but I could see in him a man with clear, consistent and well-developed ideas. There was a mature thinker that I believed that did not exist.
The reciprocal was also true, for I noticed the interest Frederico took in my words. I took the opportunity to say that he shouldn’t have been so strict as to terminate the contract. I said that he should have believed in my capacity to lead the agency, even from a distance. He replied: “The speech, although perfect, does not always match the practice. The fact that you are far away will only make you participate in the major decisions. The apparently less important ones will be taken by your team. A victory may depend on a simple detail, which will go unnoticed because you are managing with the eyes of others. In this specific case, you understood the campaign through the eyes of your team. Every day you were in touch to follow the progress of the work. Your ability to act was limited, not by what you saw, but by the words you were told. Whatever wasn’t told to you would be as if it did not exist in your universe. The silenced part, the verse, was beyond your reach because it was far from your eyes, the unity. Thus, in truth, the decisions were not yours, only apparently yours”.
An unsophismable argument. Although I was fully entitled to make the choice I made, based on my own reasons, it was undeniable that his decision had nothing arrogant, emotional or unreasonable about it. On the contrary, it was grounded in sensitive and experienced reasoning.
I admitted that he was right and expressed this to him. The arguments were of undeniable consistency. However, I made a confession: “For some time now I have been moving away from the agency. I think it is a beautiful cycle that is coming to an end, as all cycles are. It has served for me to learn and transform myself. It is time to share in order to move on. This way we close a cycle to start another one”.
Federico nodded again in agreement. I continued: “The agency’s creative team is made up of young, well-prepared and highly talented professionals. They need me less and less. An advice here, a course correction there, so and only. They have done better work than I have ever been able to do. It is wonderful to see the mystery of life manifesting itself and to see young birds on their first flights. It is up to me to discover different powers for my wings. Thus I renew myself. Other journeys, new destinations. I get older but not obsolete”.
Surprised, Federico said: “Are you telling me that if you were at the agency you would have done the same things you did here?” It was my turn to nod my head to say yes. We smiled. He continued, “Ludwig Wittgenstein, the forerunner of analytic philosophy, maintained that the world’s conflicts have as their causes the failures and noises of communication. The improvement of dialogue is the basis of healthy relationships.” An undeniable observation. We had both acted honestly with each other and sincerely with ourselves. There was no bad intentions and no lies. We were in line with our own consciences and had made truthful choices. However, there was a lack of attention and care for each other.
We stayed for some time without saying a word. Then we returned to the monastery together. At lunch we shared the same table. In the auditorium we sat side by side. Everything was in absolute silence. There was nothing more to say, it was time to allocate ideas to grow with them.
In the continuation of the symposium on the Gospel of Thomas, the Elder addressed aphorism number twenty-five. “Jesus said: love your brother as your own soul, and care for him as for the apple of your eye”.
No, nothing is by chance. Life is a sophisticated and perfect puzzle. No piece is missing, no piece is left over. Everything fits together towards evolution. It is enough to learn to see that the whole universe manifest itself in light. For minutes, I lost myself in my thoughts, enchanted with the beauty of life. When my mind returned to the lecture, the Elder was explaining: “Few parts of the body are as sensitive as the pupil of the eyes. Through it we perceive the shapes of the world, the colours of flowers, the immensity of the sea. I see you and I perceive myself before the mirror”.
“I am whole in myself. But without my brother, what use is the power of being whole to me? What is the use of having a handful of the best seeds if there is no land to plough? What use is a map to me if there is no place to go? What is the point of possessing a key if there is no door to open? It’s no use singing about love when your back is turned to the world.” He paused briefly and concluded: “Take care of yourself without neglecting others. So that there may be grace and meaning in the Way”.
At the end of the talk, the debates began. Frederico, like me, was wandering in his thoughts. At the end he invited me for coffee. We went to the canteen. Sat in front of two steaming mugs, Federico wanted to know if I would accept to take over the campaign again. He explained his attitude: “As far as possible, we must make up for our mistakes”. With a glad heart, I immediately accepted. But I made one demand: “I need you to forgive me”. Federico shrugged his shoulders and said that there was nothing to apologise for. It was my turn to explain: “I thought badly of you. I made the folly of creating a tribunal to judge whom I did not know.” He said that he terminated the contract because he had done the same to me: “We denied dialogue, understanding escaped through the cracks of existence”.
Happy with the dignity that we began to treat each other, we shook hands sealing a new contract. We were surprised by the voice of the Elder: “What is the reason for so many stars in the sky of the canteen?” Joy overflowed from the friendship that was born. We told him what had happened. The Elder commented: “Enhancing dialogue is a way of deepening understanding. A beautiful way to live love. Whether in myself or in others”.
“We insist on getting in each other’s way. Each to himself”. He pointed to the window and said: “The sun is available to all”. He placed his hand to block the rays of the setting sun from entering through the window. With his chin he showed the shadow of his hand reflected on the wall and said: “Darkness is only formed behind and because of the obstacles we oppose to the propagation of light”.
We invited him to sit with us, but he declined the invitation. He was going to the library. He wanted to prepare for the lecture the next day. He took a mug of coffee and left. In silence, we watched the Elder walk. His steps were slow, but steady.
Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.