Ernesto Cardenal speaks out on the Via Negativa and the many deaths we undergo before our final death when he writes:
Only by dying to ourselves do we encounter our true identity, because our true identity is not in our ego but in the All. We are centered in God as are all other things and beings. He recognizes what he has called previously the “religion of nature” in human nature as well when he says that in the All we encounter or true nature, our true identity. This is common talk among mystics. He continues:
Our ego is a solitary place, and he who rejects suffering and defies death and refuses to give himself, but wants to retain his self, shuts himself out of that Unity of all things which is God (“If the grain of wheat does not die, it remains alone…”).
Here he is urging us not to resist the path of suffering and death and invitation to generosity, not to shut ourselves off from all the experiences life offers us.
He calls on Jesus’s words about how the grain of wheat must die if it is to grow and live. Or, as Meister Eckhart put it, “if you want the kernel, you must break the shell.” Or something or someone must break the shell.
Cardenal recalls the universal cycle of living, dying, and being reborn. We cannot resist that cycle even before our earthly death. We undergo many deaths, and in the process become vulnerable to an experience of “the All.”
We fall like the grain into death, and in the process we spring to new life and new existence, just like the little shoot growing from the seed. Have you experienced the little deaths of self that lead to new life?
Surely the suspended state we find ourselves in at this time in our being cut off from our normal worlds of working in spaces with others and for others, our being shut off from public transportation, from gathering in bars, restaurants, theaters, the streets—all this is a kind of dying because it is a kind of letting go.
What we called ten days ago a kind of unintentional Lent as in “giving up things for Lent.”
Cardenal is proposing that bigger things may be afoot. That stepping out of our regular routines of busyness and noise and hustle and running around need not be a negative thing. It might prove to be an invitation to go deeper. To find the true self and not the false self that is more prone to pleasing others than encountering the All that is what binds us all together and binds our inner self to our working self, is the glue between inner work and outer work.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 339.
Banner image: The world in a droplet, turned upside down. Photo by Matthew Fassnacht on Unsplash.
Queries for Contemplation
Is the withdrawal that the coronavirus emergency is foisting on you teaching you lessons of “dying daily”? What are some of those lessons you are learning?