Saturday, December 28, 2002

We're on flood watch this morning. The river is supposed to crest sometime before noon, and some streets will be flooded. It probably won't reach our house, but we're prepared. They're letting water out of the dam, in preparation for the big storms ahead -- better a controlled flood than an uncontrolled one. So far, I don't see any rising water.

The reason I find "the way of tears" so appealing is that it's honest -- there's no way to force it, fake it, or fool yourself. There are no shortcuts, or easy answers. And that's really important to me, because I'm very aware that the biggest danger in mysticism is self-delusion, and there's no pride worse than spiritual pride. The way of tears is an expression of humility, weakness, and spiritual poverty. This has been an issue for me for a long time -- how do you keep yourself honest? How do you avoid fooling yourself? In most traditions, one studies under a spiritual master of some sort, a trained outside observer that serves as a reality check. This is not allowed in Baha'i teaching, and we have little in the way of tradition to guide us. There are only the Writings -- the guidance is there, but it's so easy to fool yourself. Baha'u'llah is very clear that no knowledge, no enlightenment, no spiritual progress is possible without detachment and cleansing of the heart, but how many Baha'is think that the Valley of Search ends when you sign a declaration card? Do they really believe that they are detached and pure of heart? I'm not, and I know I'm not. I'm a slow-flying broken-winged bird is all, just like the rest of humanity.

'Abdu'l-Baha' says that the slightest trace of self brings one right back to the very beginning -- and which of us does not have that? Our very religious belief becomes part of our ego-identity. One of the problems we have is that Baha'is are aware that the ego is dangerous, but instead of confronting the beast, they pretend like they've conquered it. But, boy, that accusation comes out pretty quickly if they see another Baha'i with ideas that threaten their comfortable picture of what the Faith is. And the ego charge, when thrown at someone else, is so insidious. The only defense one has is to shut up; the accusation is a silencer. That the root of the accusation is the accuser's bruised ego and need for control never gets noticed.

The very essence of the way of tears is that you give up the quest for power and control, and you weep for the loss. It's a moment when you really do bear witness to "my powerlessness, and to Thy might" instead of just reciting the words.

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