The start of the spiritual life is a state of self-deception.
The spiritual path seems to promise peace, joy, freedom to oneself. It appears to offer God's grace to you and to me. We confidently believe that evils will not come nigh our door, that ills will miraculously fade and abundant good will ever be our measure.
Hopefully we enter the Way, feeling ourselves set apart from other men, free of their trials, temptations and fears. Truly this must be paradise in which men walk as though angels, God-inspired, God-protected, God-sustained.
And for awhile it really seems as if all this were true. We appear to flourish by our understanding. Our cup runneth over by our spirituality. In other words we are puffed up.
Here Satan enters in the form of our self with desire for greater light, higher vision, a more saintly bearing. Our self would add to our self more of God, more of good, more of grace, seeking to retire even more from the world of men to have more of God, to commune more with Him, to feel more of His presence.
Our self is in the ascendancy but must diminish, and here the long nights of struggle begin. Today feeling high in spirit as if the world were ours, tomorrow doubting and wondering, next day plunged into an abyss, convinced that God has forsaken us.
But why? Have we not lived a chaste life in the Path? Have we not meditated and communed? Have we not sought to show what good things follow those who walk with Him? Why hast Thou forsaken us when we would have more of Thee? Has not our very goodness, obedience, diligence earned for us more of Thy good?
So seeks the self to glorify itself by earning more of God. So seeks the self to satisfy itself. Always the self would draw to itself more of Him to the glory of the self. Prideful self must puff itself even in His light.
The see-saw of spiritual pride and self-dejection goes on and on, up and down, and sometimes around until realization dawns.
Up to now we have been glorifying the self with God. Spiritual grace has made us vain with pride in our spiritual progress, our spiritual fruitage, our spiritual development and rewards.
The self may not advance through spirit. The self may not be glorified or pleased with itself. The self may not adorn itself with gifts of life but must don sackcloth and ashes until its extinction.
Thus begins the pain and poverty of spiritual progress. Thus the dying daily starts within oneself.
The Way is straight and narrow. The dying self is not content to peacefully pass away but must resist with every bit of remaining strength, succumbing to its inevitable fate. The self will not easily or quietly yield and every day's delay is agony to the soul that would surrender itself to God.
Only in the final black night is self extinguished and God reveals Itself. In this light no self glorifies itself by God contact. No self shows forth the fruitage of the spirit. No self remains.
from Tape 152A
Nature of God as Love
1956 Second Steinway Hall Closed Class