Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Perennial Hunger

Heinrich Suso (1300 – 1366) was a German mystic and student of Meister Eckhart. The passage I have quoted here is from his book “Little Book of Eternal Wisdom”.

“In the first day of my youth I tried to find it in the creatures, as I saw others do: but the more I sought, the less I found it, and the nearer I went to it, the further off it was. For of every image that appeared to me, before I had fully tested it, or abandoned myself to peace in it, and inner voice said to me: 'This is not what thou seekest”.

There is an innate dissatisfaction when we savour the beauty or the extrinsic value of all created things. You look at the beauty of a lovely girl or a handsome man and if you contemplate a little deeply you know this quality is not permanent. As one ages you loose all the glamour. So also with what nature bestows upon us; be it pets, flowers, food or whatever is our fancy. The initial euphoria dies down as quickly as it came on.

Abraham Maslow, the father of humanistic psychology said:
“If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you'll be unhappy for the rest of your life”.

This is what we do when we seek out satisfaction through extrinsic values. Every exercise in this pursuit leads us to disappointment and a craving for more in the false hope that in quantity we will ultimately attain quality. Human capability is phenomenal and we deliberately restrict ourselves to remaining in the lower strata of easily available and readymade objects to be our goal in achieving happiness. This as Maslow points out leads to a life time of unhappiness. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs most of us never reach the ‘self-actualization’ stage.

True happiness can be found only in seeking wisdom. It is a perilous path. Walter Hilton, a Carthusian monk, in his celebrated work "Parable of the Pilgrim" writes about a pilgrim who is proceeding to Jerusalem and is seeking the advice of the guide. The guide here refers to the spiritual guide and Jerusalem is the symbolism of wisdom. The advice given is that one should

“be sure to have with you two necessary instruments, Humility and Charity. These are contained in the words above mentioned, which must always be present to your mind, "I am naught, I have naught, I desire only one thing”

This single minded focus should be the goal our journey. Suso says that when we are thus focused eternal wisdom answers:

“Dost thou not know it? And yet it has lovingly embraced thee, has often stopped thee in the way, until it has at length won thee for itself alone”.

Love to you all

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