Three theological words sum up the spiritual journey for many people: Purgation. Illumination. Union.
Put psychologically, these three experiences might look like this: Observation. Knowledge. Integration.
To see ourselves and feel our brokenness, our pain, our sad stories of suffering, our patterns of thinking, to see it without giving them such power over us is to Observe. Sometimes there is a suffering in this seeing because, perhaps for the first time, we discover who we really are, who we have been, and even how we have hurt others. This observation is a purgation because to see it is to free it. We are not that which we see about ourselves.
To see it gives us the freedom to know it and to know it – as in welcoming the space for grace in between the thing seen and the one who sees – is a kind of non-attachment to that which is seen, and in the space for grace, we can discover the deeper knowing and truth that we are not it, we are more than it – we are always connected with God despite that which is occurring in our personality and body-mind-me dynamic that thinks or feels otherwise. It’s just forgotten.
To live in the space for grace of non-identifying, or not believing that which we see, creates a knowledge and history of the range and field of our interior energetic experiences and insights that we can draw upon in the next moment we are tempted to be, see or think in the same pattern of being that has dogged us in the past, often limiting our flourishing and smothering out love and the fullness of conscious radiance in our human relations.
For example, noticing at a social gathering the thought occurring in your mind, deep background doubt: “I am not good enough.” Observing, not-believing it, freeing it, one might discover a lightness of being, and a difference of behavior, and the next moment you discover yourself joyfully laughing with a stranger connecting from the depth of your richly endowed freedom and goodness. Yes, the thought may still be there. But because you have not believed it as in the past, you are free to show up differently. Sounds easy, right! Oh my! It’s Work! Or as St. Paul put it, “working out our salvation” gaining true freedom in Christ.
Touched by the miracle of Spirit/Grace, something deeper begins to occur, a holiness of love that can’t be controlled or manipulated. A rising up, and an anointing down, as if at once – uniting us from the inside with the deepest part of our being, and absorbing that which is still more surface and peripheral. Moving from the false to the real. From the wounded to the whole. From the unloved to the loved. Integration. Union. Oneness.
The oneness isn’t really with our deeper, more true self, although I understand why some describe it this way. The Union is a new state. A new reality. The Union isn’t your Deepest Self. It’s not your True Self. It’s beyond that. There is not two self’s in you. There is not a True one and a False one – these are just words used to describe the common experience of integration, moving from fragmentation to wholeness. It’s all just you and it’s all just not you. The Union is a new condition interiorly that comprises You and also Not You. It’s a new Being unfolding at an energetic, cellular level of mind, body and spirit creating the new creation in you that simply is more of Christ in you. Christ is literally a condition. A mind of influence. A state of being. Christ is the Union of the Divine Nature with your unique, particular human existence/nature.
It – the Christ – was demonstrated in and through Jesus of Nazareth.
It – the Christ – can also be experienced by, in and through you.
So Union is a journey of Becoming. Becoming Christ. Becoming Love. Becoming Whole.
And for the human community, ultimately, becoming One in Christ.
How? Give your attention to the journey, all the more in the silence and discover that this three-fold grace is already occurring, even now, reading this:
Purgation. Illumination. Union.*Original post in “The Contemplative Companion” by Peter Traben Haas