Dark Night of the Soul: Lenten Observance, Day 6, 2013

Chapter IV: Of other imperfections which these beginners are apt to have with respect to the third sin, which is luxury.


I found this chapter a bit difficult.  It seemed to be suggesting that one can get caught up in the whole practice and to so love the exercises that they become the focus.  I guess this is something like what I mentioned in an earlier post.  It may be good to diet, but this becomes a fixation and then people do it to their detriment.  The same could be said, I guess, of spiritual matters, that one gets caught up in meditation, or in various physical efforts, that they become the focus, rather than God beyond such things.

St. John also seems to suggest that some people are more prone to this than others and so have to watch this tendency.  I would imagine that such people, though, are often praised for their observance and that such praise reinforces the practice.

At times, I wonder if he is talking about monkey mind, the interruptions that occur when we try to quiet our mind, but instead we begin to obsess about relationships, or work troubles, or money, and the whole value of the meditation is lost.  For later he is talking about things that interrupt the process, especially in the section where he talks about the second cause, “the devil.”  The idea of an external figure causing trouble and trying to trip us up on our spiritual path is one that I have a lot of trouble with.  I’m not sure that I can believe in a figure that seems to exist within the world, but whose purpose is entirely to serve as a disruptive force.  I do get this in the case of troubled people, but there are reasons for such behavior, where the devil seems to be there just to cause trouble, and not for some other reason.  I do like the focus on how the devil can work on people’s fears such that they turn away from prayer and meditation as either ineffective, or times when they are likely to be most beset with doubts.  People think that the very practice somehow attracts the devil and puts a big red target on them.  Though I don’t believe in the devil, such a practice does go on in the real world – if a foe wishes to really damage you, one way to do so is to make you avoid the very thing that will help you.  Pride can do this (I don’t need to do that stuff), but so can a desire for an easy life (that stuff makes my head hurt, and so I’ll not do it to keep what seems to me mental equanimity).

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