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Freedom and Relation

(On the Demands and Dangers of Spiritual Life)

As human beings, we usually want to know what we do, and preferably do what we are convinced has any meaning. In other words, we try to live „from the spirit“: from that inner space in which fundamental human questions emerge. This is a space far more abysmal than outer space. It opens up inside everyone of us, and the extent of our own penetration of it is, in turn, reflected in our attitude towards anything we encounter. Seen in this light, spiritual life inheres in seeking and finding an absolute coordinating starting point, from which we could best develop our own life in freedom and in intrinsic relations.


Humans lead their spiritual life since childhood, being born not only with the capacities of perception and of responding but also of thought. We do not have to be content with external sensations, with the way we associate and communicate with others, with the way we engage and divert ourselves; we can listen in to the diverse echoes of all this resounding in our innermost self; we do not have to shun solitude; we can enjoy our own ideas, fantasy and plans, and primarily that innermost silence and tranquility in whose meditational transparency everything that is around and inside us emerges in its true shape; then we tend to discover the correct course and direction of our lives, the genuine inspiration, the true values.

The gamut of all existing layers and levels of spiritual life is immense; ranging from self-serving gravitation to unlimited prospects and horizons via the creation of a work of culture to that day-to-day struggle for good in human relations. Nonetheless, its backbone lies in certain spiritual constants whose specific contents tend to vary in our own eyes as our spiritual maturing progresses: good and evil, order and chaos, movement „upwards“ and movement „downwards“, etc.

Our spiritual life commences as soon as at least a germ of what we call the human inward nature has been born: when passages of autonomous experiencing begin to settle inside man in between clashes and intersections of animal impressions and instinctive reactions. A conscious preservation of impressions and retention of responses constitute a condition of the establishment of this „other“, inner life; they generate its constitutive content. This is instrumental in introducing an element of „inner time“, wherein ideated impressions mutually interact and arrange themselves into a structure, thus creating the orderliness of human reactions, and an element of „inner space“, structurating itself according to its own original laws, adapted for the movement of pure meanings. This leads to the emergence of humanly specific modes of communication, which may serve the constitution of relatively common worlds for whole large groups of people – realms of particular spiritual cultures.

The first task facing individual spiritual life is to master that spiritual heritage preserved and cultivated in the social milieu into which the given individual has been born. The child is insatiably inquisitive about the causes of each and every thing, grasping and appropriating with guileless purity all the positive values (suffering from their devaluation), and eventually (in its sixth year at the earliest) realizes the inevitability of death. Built on this groundplan, outlined primarily by the infinitely rich semantic forms of myth (that is fairy tales, various sorts of adapted information and independent children's imaginations), rises the edifice of the entire future spiritual life, developing according to prescribed education, personal experiences and free decision-making.

Thus, human culture – in the broadest sense of the term, ranging from time-tested traditions of practical behaviour, personalities we can look up to as our models, norms of commendable attitudes towards other people, via works of art, discovery of natural beauties to philosophical and scientific quest for the truth as far as religious faith and day-to-day Church life etc. – assists us in our inner growth. In all these branches, culture or education constitutes a kind of depositary of various modes and components of spiritual life. For its part, fine art offers a source of inspiration through its own methods of non-descriptive, ie. spiritual perception. A similar case in point is music and its relationship to innermost experiencing. Together with literature it succeeds in developing a plethora of themes which tend to refine feeling, thinking and believing... And this list could be extended to cover many other fields of human creativity.

Each work of culture (in the broadest sense of the term) proceeds from a certain order which represents a unique form of the author's spiritual freedom. Art, religion, philosophy or science – all these tend to capture and inspire our imagination particularly because of that vast space of innermost freedom developed and modelled within them. They assist us in not losing our bearing within our own self, they can provide a „scaffolding“ or a „map“ to our spiritual life. But, as a rule, they constitute neither an authoritarian „railing“ nor do they prevent us from conducting experiments or making independent choices; they are only in a position to forestall certain negative experiences. Within the space of inner freedom it is likewise possible to lose that freedom quite tacitly, one may even get lost in the depths of one's own human soul: to lose oneself in the labyrinth of its more superficial layers, to sink into the marsh of one's own ill-conceived identity, to forfeit one's own life to idle values, to miss the finer and more supreme calls which come up from the bottom of the soul to meet our ears.

The biggest danger posed to one's spiritual life lies in its flattening or simplification into a mere inevitable function of outward survival and adaptation. In this, human being usually takes advantage of his free and unlimited oversight only to the smallest extent – in order to cope with his social milieu, in order to prove how successfully conformous and conformously successful he can really be. Owing to this attitude man is being cut off from the deeper roots of his inwardness, struck quite spontaneously since his childhood, he loses the possibility of individual growth. He thus becomes only a more complex „automaton“ than an animal. His muffled and forgotten potentialities, from which he has thus cut off his conscious life, can then draw attention to themselves in various uncontrolled manners. To a man who has long lost contact with these in-depth potentialities an automatic emergence of these will inevitably appear as something „numinous“ and utterly alien. By rendering his spiritual life superficial, man therefore paves the way towards a mental pathology, which is correctible solely by a re-integration of unconscious contents – either of a personal or generally human nature – into the whole of one 's inner life.

Therefore, in its first, „positive“ phase unblocked spiritual growth takes the shape of a gradual discovery of one's own self, of creating one's own world and of independent decision-making for a certain life orientation on the basis of mastering the spiritual heritage of the given culture. The sufficiency of this mastering is not conditioned by an individual's intellectual abilities or an ideal access to education; one may state that it is sufficient to get acquainted with the universally accessible and traditionally acknowledged works from the field of religion, arts or philosophy in order to find out what is at all humanly feasible in spiritual life and to confront one's experiencing with that.

And precisely at that very moment, as man stands in utter awe before the limits of the human mind and spirit, can he discover its reverse side, which renders its extreme possibilities relative and trifling. One individual resuming the extensive experiences of his or her mature age, another in the split second of clear-cut intuition may one day come to the realization which will virtually struck him down but which will at the same time give him a chance with the same amount of adequacy – of finding out what actually transcends the experienced human limits.

He will come to the full awareness of the spontaneous human spiritual enclosedness – an experience which is usually fragmentary and which is blunted by pretentious banalities.

He will sober up into realizing that a spiritual life lived however fully but solely from the human vantage point is, after all, as hopelessly terminal as physical life, whose mere ornamental pendant the former appears to be. He does fully realize that death is the absolute ruler over everything human: Even if each and everyone of us were a Goethe or a Beethoven, even if truth, goodness and beauty prevailed all over the world, and even if we all could fully fathom the truth about everything and solely enjoy everything, even if we all had the best available ideas of the absolute, in spite of that (and together with that) „dust we are, and unto dust shall we return“.

Man irrevocably realizes that until he is prepared thoroughly to admit this fact to himself, everything he fills his life with is suspected of being a mere facade of absurdity. He is given an insight which he would have never arrived at on his own because it seems to deny all human endeavours or to make them futile. This insight is profoundly personal and, at the same time, carries an alarming universally human validity: if we do not accept the truth about ourselves, we will remain for ever closed to that truth, which could eventually be instrumental in transcending our limitation. Seen from the viewpoint of that inner experience of human spiritual limits, even the most supreme ideals seem like empty glitter, designed to distract one's attention and help somehow while away the limited time; in reality – this spiritual experience tells us – there is nothing to live for when we are bound to die anyway and all our works will disappear since mankind and universe will disappear as well; our awareness of this seems to be the only difference setting us apart from animals... But human being feels that sticking to this truth is somehow just as cowardly an act as trying to avoid it; after all, the paramount goal is not just changing the contents of a persistent spiritual enclosedness – exchanging „too human“ a hope for equally „too human“ despair – but rather abolishing that spiritual enclosedness.

Therefore, at the beginning of this „negative“ phase of spiritual growth everything man has hitherto built his elementary personal identity and meaning of life with will inevitably seem like cheating, vanity, escapism, illusion. Just as Dostoyevsky's Kyrillov expresses it with absolute consequentiality: „Man did nothing else but time after time tried to reinvent God so that he could live and would not have to kill himself.“ (But to kill oneself is not, in the given situation, any more honest than living on; man feels that this would be a mere continuation of the tactic of escaping before the full awareness of reality.) God (or another spiritual Absolute) as a mere infinite background to the world and to the sacred things man encounters in the world, God whose purpose is just only this world and human bliss, will become irreversibly suspicious as nothing but a projection of the deepest background of the human soul. God, if inseparable from the world, has no independent life of his own; he is just drafted on to the world through human artifice.

This poses to man a key option. Without obscuring confusions, a possibility offers itself to grasp the difference between an approach through which I merely ensure that in my faith I shall not somehow go astray and thus attain salvation (being guided by doctrine, liturgy, moral rules etc. and instinctively avoiding all doubts because even if my faith were a mere illusion it is still more pleasant to cherish an illusion) and between an approach whereby my intention is not just to make it probable that I shall not sometimes barely miss God (for my own benefit) but whereby just here and just now I yearn for him with my whole being (because I feel I cannot give him anything less), whereby I simply cannot honestly live any longer without the genuine assertion whether God exists and without a genuine encounter with him (without which nothing is meaningful and which I do not want to confuse with an encounter with anything else). A person who has grasped that anything else (including religious practices and theological reflections) is valueless and futile without that has opened himself to the possibility of contacting God independently of anything in the world, running even the risk that he might contact a mere nothing. (But a truthfully discovered, genuine nothing is infinitely more than the unreal, paltry nothing of our illusions.)

Such a person has decided not to proceed any longer „through the world towards God“ but rather „through God towards the world“. In actual fact, without a primary relation with God it is impossible to distinguish with any reliability what is there in the world, so to say, genuinely God's and what just affects to be. To be sure, if we really yearn for God, we must realize quite clearly that genuinely wanting to recognize God through the world and in the world, if I have not discovered him „separately“ before, is actually incomparably more difficult (if not impossible) than an internal exodus towards God himself, who is worth being accepted not only in the world, in that undignifying mixture with everything else, but in my quest for him – only him and only because of him – outside the world.

In this stage a hitherto „unbelieving“ person is concentrated on the same absolute matter as a „believing“ one, even though he does not automatically use the word God but – let us say – the absolute, meaning, etc. What all the people have in common on this „negative way“ is that they commence promoting their spiritual life in terms of the seriousness of life and death, that without any attempt at escaping they have descended to the rock bottom of their authenticity and they will not be content with anything relative, approximate or second-hand. Primum philosophari, deinde vivere – by reversing the classical maxim it is possible to describe their spiritual attitude – wherein „philosophari“ rather denotes such an enquiry with which the framework of philosophy has already been overstepped.

Such an inquisitive mind will hardly let itself be hoodwinked even by the strongest of narcotics – mysticism of an inner concordance of everything there is; the question of the absolute meaning is not solved by simply transferring it on to something greater than ourselves and dissolving it in its „mystery“; on the contrary, it gets all the more urgent as a result of this; we therefore ask on behalf of this mysterious whole. This question cannot be solved neither by trying to drown it in spiritual emotions; even an authentic inner experience of unity of all gives man nothing but a feeling of supreme spiritual delight, which is, however, not identical with an awareness of meaning. In this respect, man remains unfulfilled even face to face with the purest reality that „being exists“ at all. He does not know why he should stand in sacred awe and wonder philosophically. Such a self-sufficient „divine“ being could only be a supreme example of utter and universal meaninglessness. Man poses a question enquiring about something more: whether there is any meaning in that there is anything at all. And he considers such a question – which appears to be destructive when viewed from a conventional angle – to be his greatest treasure, even more valuable than his own life. From the very first moment he, therefore, sets his sights on it, trying not to lose it.

He does leave artists and thinkers, whose works at that moment look almost like children's fairy tales; natural and human beauties, which suddenly appear like silly stage props covering up an abysmal void of universal death; all the teachings of faith and spiritual paths, which now seem to be a dangerously easy way of bolstering up ever more thoroughly contrived human self-deceptions. Man begins to sense in the lifestyle of all the people around him (a lifestyle he has shared in good faith up till now) all the animally inventive methods of not knowing about the fundamental human thirst and yearning. He perceives it as a foolish case of escapism and illusion, as a drug, as a theatre performance. He does not want to have anything in common with it.

On many occasions he just vaguely feels that his innermost attitude embodies the „classical“ instruction: Search for the Kingdom of God – and all the rest shall be added. Man enters his spiritual maturity, giving up everything; it is a hallmark of authenticity if he does this without aversion and violence and not as if he were forced himself into it or as if he practised or rehearsed it; finally, he can no longer act otherwise. Whatever he takes up – including the most sacred and spiritual matters – will, facing his quest, crumble into intrinsic relativity and nothingness, into „dust and ashes“.

Philosophically speaking, this is a direct opposite of phenomenological epoche: everything that can exist and be examined solely as a mere humanly experienced meaning is placed outside the sphere of any spiritual interest even if nothing were to be left to man. All the immanence has been shelved, „bracketed“; man becomes pure openness. He oversteps the boundaries of the general narcissism or autism of human culture, its enclosedness in „natural“ self-deceptions, whose rich mutual reflections occupy the minds of generations with new and new interpretations of more and more involutionary derivates of the changing „meaning“.

At the same time, this conscious distancing from all human certainties, from the entire individual and collective memory marks no regression, no nihilistic return to „bare living“, but on the contrary it comes as a result of detaching oneself from that bare living, which has been identified as the determining core of its cultural wrappings. This is a distancing into the „emptiness“, „darkness“, „nothingness“ of the pure spirit, a distancing into freedom. (Freedom is given to us not by external possibilities of expanding our spontaneity but rather by the level of our abilities to control ourselves independently from within.)

It is, therefore, in freedom that man succeeds in distancing himself from all the oases of human consolations, on which it is unwise to rely if one is genuinely bent on searching for the truth. Nothing shall ever force him into an inward sharing of the worlds wherein meaning is not sought after for its own sake but rather it is feigned as a prop geared to secure satisfactory survival. Man no longer means anything to himself but a yearning for the absolute meaning. In the remotest, quietest and most open spot of his soul, as if perched on an astronomical observatory, he looks out for that without which only one thing has a meaning: to stay here until something opens up to him (or possibly until he dies). Only waiting on this top of one's own freedom can man unequivocally refer himself to that which under no other circumstances is purely and credibly accessible in its own, genuine form. Only on this top of one's freedom is man able to refer himself unequivocally to God.

There is nothing here that would have any meaning, and yet – or precisely because of that – there is Meaning. Unconnected to and with anything, unconditioned by anything. It is irreplaceably hidden exactly in situations of utter absurdity. Unbound to anything immanentistically „meaningful“, it binds to itself everything.

The God that cannot be thought up or dreamed up is the only genuine reply to all the absolute questions. God's absoluteness can be encountered in virtually everything – but only if man can fully perceive the absolute relativity of everything.

Only seen from the viewpoint of the God-filled emptiness, is it possible – with hindsight – to discern in the human culture free works, which authentically proceed from this very encounter. Similarly, only looking from this „other side“, is man able to discover some people capable of that loving detachment, so characteristic of free relations, essentially carried by God's relation to us.


While the positive stage of spiritual growth usually lasts for many years, the length of the negative phase may be in a reverse ratio to its intensity (if sufficiently dynamic, it can take only several weeks for man to cleanse and open himself up). The third, synthetic stage, whose precondition consists in this „negatively“ mediated process of establishing the transcending Relation, is a complex process of interpenetration of positive and negative approaches, with the ultimate aim of not losing the established relationship, of promoting it and making use of it in the intentions of the „counterpart“. The synthetic phase does not appear to be limited in time; all the signs are that it is as inexhaustible as the real relationship between God and man. Reflection is its vantage point as well as its constant key moment.

Reflection is something that can lead us, in our spiritual life, completely astray or can become the most powerful human source of genuine dynamics.

A protective vantage point is the realization that there is virtually nothing to reflect or interpret. Our relationship with God may, indeed, be lost as soon as we try to convert it – through our own endeavours – into „something“; into a „sensation“, into a would-be situational matter of fact; into uncritically posed ready-made thought structures, which would overshadow it; into private ideas and explanations people like to attach to it so that these images eventually replace the relation we may stop being dependent on only to our own detriment. This homocentric, objectifying mode of reflection signifies the loss of respect towards the fact that the relationship with God exists – in the strongest sense of meaning – otherwise. Unwittingly, we convert this relationship precisely to the dependences through the abandoning of which man gets to it. We adjust this relation to something it is not commensurate with, we expropriate it from itself, we destroy it. This is the „extinguishing of the spirit“ by John of the Cross or Kant's „uncritical use of rationality“. While during the previous negative phase of our spiritual life we emancipated ourselves from all the false positive certainties of life, now, after the supra-positive event of establishing a relationship with God, we may be very busy freeing ourselves from permanently proffering false certainties of the spirit, which has a tendency to fix for itself even things that cannot be fixed at all.

A lifelong adherence to one's relationship with God may be maintained only in a manner consonant with this relation. Having finally left ourselves as a kind of windowless house, it would indeed be foolish to return to it, trying to illuminate it by bringing light inside in sacks. After all, it is much better to stay outside and let the sunshine permeate us. To expose ourselves to reflection whose vantage point seems to lie outside us, penetrating us and transcending us. That is the safe, spiritually authentic and fruitful reflection, which is liberating because within it our own petty human viewpoint has been doomed to extinction. Such a „synergistic“ reflection in no way overshadows or disturbs our attitude to God, on the contrary it puts our whole life quite uncompromisingly into his spotlight, enabling us to work on its transformation. It serves to dynamize us in several correlative directions.

Our independence becomes deeper. Man, thus brought through his relationship with God to the free core of his being, is capable of „standing alone“ in that core. He is capable of not being subjected to superficial situational links, maintaining his freedom towards intrinsic relations.

Our open-mindedness grows. Man approaches his fellow men with a keen realistic perceptiveness. He does not allow himself to be constrained by the straitjacket of previous experiences, he is free from positive as well as negative illusions.

Our faithfulness becomes more solid. Man is capable of giving himself intrinsically to another person. He can maintain a relationship independently of situational impacts and of the mutuality of the relationship (of course, provided the freedom of the other person is preserved).

Our creativity has been released. Man is capable of attentively listening to his own inward inspirations and that is why he can freely, fruitfully and constructively control himself and anything at his disposal.

Our authenticity becomes more explicit. Man no longer lives in mere assumptions, ideas and concepts but rather in relation to what there is. His acts have the nature of a compassionate service rather than a noncommital game.

Our disinterestedness is strengthened. Man is capable of self-forgetting and sacrifice, his love has no situational limitations and does not need any situational support.

Our whole life is thus gradually structured according to the lines of an intrinsic, from within lived order, which roots and grows inside us through the theocentric mode of reflection, which does not extinguish what has commenced flowing through us but rather – in a humbly critical attitude – stimulates this flow. That reflection, which is not an observer but a direct component of our relationship with God, thus assists us in each and every moment in freely living from the absolute vantage point. It makes possible constant penetration of what we have come to be intrinsically anchored in and what turns out to be the culmination of our freedom, into all the situations of our life.

It stimulates and maintains in us the never-ending struggle with oneself; with one's outlasting and ever more sharply highlighted rootedness in various situational dependences, with one's reverting tendency to create new inconspicuous illusions and idols, with one's insurmountable fear for oneself, with one's tiredness and apathy, with one's wilfulness. All this – however subtle it may be – tends to block our attitude to God (and all our relationships) with a slowly settling layer of „dirt“. Thus, a thin wall may arise between us and God, a wall on to which we might again easily start projecting our images. This is the same old wall which – in its general „hereditary“ shape – has been passing through all human situations since the dawn of history, which is anchored deep in human unconsciousness, ranging from the most vulgar passions to the most subtle – and hence most proficiently view-obstructing – religious symbols. Having broken through the wall with the „negative path“, we have established an elementary relationship with God. Thanks to the reflecting maintenance and expansion of that free and unhindered space of the ambiguous „nothingness“, „emptiness“ and „darkness“ between us and God, we succeed in restoring our genuine relational attitude.

Spiritual life is a struggle in which everything is at stake at every single step and no one situation is ever repeated. With the passage of time, consequences of each of our minor choices are multiplied. It is, therefore, crucial to be able to distinguish in practical terms between various spiritual alternatives, ideally already in their inconspicuous, initial shape. At the same time, it is useful to draw on the heritage of classical leading lights in spiritual life and not to shun a dialogue conducted in the spirit of the intrinsic mode of reflection.

A key issue in the Christian tradition of this „distinguishing of spirits“ is how to maintain an orientation towards the Absolute, towards God, towards good, how to avoid being led astray and swallowed up by relativity, „Devil“, the evil. Proceeding from the assumption that being in relationship with God signifies absolute good, evil may then be grasped – unsubstantialistically – exactly as an act of violation of this relationship: as an involvement, entaglement in a mere situational relativity, against whose power man protects himself with self-centred wilfulness, which,however,only further deepens his unrelatedness. A situation could, however, never dominate us in this manner if our subjugation were not mediated by a specific „transmission gear“ – our habitual self-centredness. Our dependence on situations is its function. The promotion of freedom, which is eventually anchored in the Divine absolute – so that man ceases to be a centre for himself – turns man's originally unconditional situational dependence into merely conditional. Man learns to prefer making use of situations – according to their supra-situational meaning – rather than be used by them, thanks to his desire for pleasure and his aversion to suffering. He maintains a detached attitude towards his spontaneity – even his own death figures just as one of the meaningfully applicable items in the order of an intrinsic life, with situations having virtually nothing to „catch him by“. After all, through them man no longer serves his own purposes. He is free to serve God in whatever situation. The key – literally lethally significant – crossroads in spiritual life are tests of our ability to distinguish our own spontaneous self-centredness in its various garbs.

During this distinguishing process we are guided by some sort of a compass, which is built-in directly inside us. It is located deeper than our rationality, our emotions and our instinctive leanings, and unlike them its exclusive magnetic pole is the Absolute. This „organ“ of spiritual orientation is traditionally called the „heart“. This is something inherent in us (independently of the extent of all the other abilities) but also something we cannot entirely control inside us; something we can safely lean on to if concerned about something more than ourselves. The voice of the „heart“ may be partially drowned, not heard, misinterpreted, but it cannot be changed by ourselves. Nobody needs looking hard for it; if you really want to hear it, it is next to impossible to miss it.

Furthermore, in the negative phase of his spiritual life man is guided in his distinguishing by a possibly yet more drastic but more direct mode. He walks in the dark, „taking the tough with the smooth“, but he goes directly, as if guided by stars, whose reliability is, after all, infinitely greater than that of any map or any roadside signpost: it is impossible to rely on any religious tradition or any Scripture more than on God. (A yardstick of reliability cannot be provided by something whose credibility arises only in the light of what it should lead to.) Faith as a suggestive convergence of habit, reason and wishful thinking will no longer succeed here.

In any stage of spiritual growth it is vital to distinguish whether – under this or that situation – we are being guided by God (and our hearts) or by something different. If rejecting something, the question is whether we do this to ourselves or to God, and heading somewhere, the question is whether we give ourselves to God or something (anything) different. This is a truly abysmal difference.

Jesus's „My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?“ is a prototype of a reliable way of really establishing relationship with God. God is „semper maior“; particularly on the cross – possibly only there – is it possible to find out that something man has lived and died for may be something which – face to face with the truth of death – dies earlier than he does; but God is always greater than God. Definitively abandoned by God, we are definitively led to abandon ourselves to God. A self-giving outside the situation of the cross carries with itself – whether we like it or not – always a certain risk of self-deception. The „God“, to which we abandon ourselves in a different situation than that of inner emptiness, is always a bit suspicious of being something that is to serve us a specific purpose. Only under a painful situation which offers no prospects whatsoever, do we begin to fear enough to abandon ourselves really to God. Only this fear is bigger than the fear of death, with which the powers smaller than God eventually blackmail us. „My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,“ prays Jesus before his long journey towards death. He experiences the anxiety of a mortal being. „Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.“ Only in self-giving through death is it possible to give everything up to God without any claims whatsoever. This „koan“ may be experienced in any extreme situation but it may be shared with Jesus also independently of all the situations. It is something which – owing to human finality – permanently underlies our spiritual existence and through which a true relationship with the genuine absolute may open up for us.

Standing before this narrow gate, we still give ourselves up to something smaller than God – although it may be „God“ as Being, a universal principle, a noble idea or a profound emotion, a great personality, cosmic energy, „Super-Self“ etc. – what is always somehow consonant with something inside us what we do not want to abandon on behalf of God and because of what we even let ourselves be somehow abused or destroyed. In this way, we only increase the futility of our own life: we sacrifice ourselves to something which is „God“ only out of a human desire. Playing with such a prop is a natural product of our still not very thoroughly reflected interests, inclinations, emotions, and prejudices.

A distinguishing mark of self-giving into the right „hands“ is the presence of selfless love. This is a synthesis of all the dimensions of intrinsic life (of that independence, open-mindedness, faithfulness, creativity, authenticity, disinterestedness). It flows through us in proportion to the extent we have been cleansed of private barriers to its universal influence. According to the extent we have „died“ with Jesus and to which Christ lives in us. Love is life which has overcome death and which has thus transformed itself into an intrinsic relationship. Through the prism of love we are in a position to perceive everything as it really is, as it is not and as it could be. Love is a creative service. It gives regardless of whether anything will be ever „returned“, it leads man towards giving even though he himself is in need or even if his approaches are rejected. It learns to co-experience the misery of others as if it were our own misery. This understandably causes man pain. „Aut pati, aut mori“ (Either suffer or die) is the succinct expression Theresa of Avila coined to describe an unswerving decision never to give up that love whose hallmark of genuiness is exactly that meaningful suffering – as well as the joy derived from the flame which has burnt down to the roots that useless and redundant spontaneous self-love.

The basic distinction which lies at the heart of spiritual life may then be formulated as a distinction between the „I“ principle and the „You“ principle. Starting from either vantage point, it is almost possible to embrace the entire universe: to expand the sphere of „my“ or „our“ ad infinitum or to open it out. „Not as I will, but as thou wilt“: a relational unification with the Absolute (hence, neither an illusory identification with it nor its manipulative illusory objectification) is possible solely from his „will“ and according to it. We give ourselves at its disposal the more we want it but also the less we simultaneously suppose it operates through us. All the more we are in unity with God, the greater difference between him and ourselves we are able to perceive. In this spiritual openness towards his activity lies the paradox of salvation, an awareness of which may be retained inside us through the little key word „You“ (neither „I“ nor „it“).

On the contrary, the point of departure from the principle „I“ is marked by an enclosedness towards any spiritual relationship; an utter submersion into situation. „God“ is just a supreme human idea – emotionally experienced, doctrinally elaborated – which should be believed because of many situational reasons, ie. should be empathized that an indoctrinated idea really exists and that by having faith in it and by practising faith-conditioned religious life our own self-centred „salvation“ will be facilitated. „God“ is thus man's rightless undercarriage, an artificial prop for various individual, group, national and „Church“ interests which provide vantage points for a kind of thinking and behavior weighed down with guilt – from private self-deceptions via sectarian brainwashing to religious wars. However, a mere atheistic cleansing from that illusion offers no solution; it casts away the last remaining obstacles to an unbridled application of lies and violence in the name of the lowest idols. Nevertheless, this is instrumental in introducing, quite overtly and extensively, such a profound spiritual poverty wherein any mere illusion loses its validity. The strong nihilism of this situation should be accepted: as a given vantage point of the authentic „negative way“, the truthful self-opening towards a genuine, reflectively distinguished primacy of the Divine „You“ (to which everything else has merely been „added“).


Our self-centred bias is gradually dissolved in our encounter with God and a new partiality is born: partiality for genuine being – mine, yours, of all there is – for genuine being to which we can help anything there is, help in God's engagement. By deed, word, attitude, by what we are.

The manner of being whose point of departure and also destination is our synergism with the Absolute is identical with total, intrinsic prayer, which is no longer a mere (oftentimes just autosuggestive) speech act or just a (similarly monologous) meditation but rather an authentic effort by man and God steadily to approach one another as much as possible. For man this is a road to freedom, for God it is a form of self-giving through relationship.

Needless to add, such a unifying prayer is impossible without man and God struggling against everything intrusive, everything that stands between them. This is a renewal of a relationship, which is otherwise severed by what is in Christian tradition grasped as the primary sin: human self-stylization into the role of god who knows well, on his own, what is good and what is bad. This preference of knowledge („gnosis“) to a love-filled relationship is closely associated with the overt and covert greed for power. Indeed, this is a vantage point for any life activity wherein prayer may be left out or wherein it can be turned by us into a mere instrument for implementing our own intentions. Attempts may be made to overcome the contradictions between thus oriented I and what contradicts it by external violence but also in a purely spiritual manner; by the means of an escapist submersion to the depths of one's own „Self“, which is no longer „lowly egotistic“ but to which it „suffices“ that it somehow spiritually encompasses everything, that it somehow gives rise to the whole world and – in turn – absorbs it. This illusory play-acting of a Divine part (which has nothing to do with the classical forms of neither of the world religions) sets man apart from God more than any mean and hateful struggle with reality. This is a quest to attain „higher levels of consciousness“ without a relationship. Unlike the realization of what we really are in the deeper layers of our own being, which may be given to man as a byproduct of the promotion of his own relationship with the Divine „You“, this self-contained self-serving search for one 's Self ends, quite demonstratively, in a blind alley.

On the contrary, man's violent struggle with reality may eventually lead to a cleansing through suffering. The resistance of reality may lead us to a desire for order and harmony, which we ourselves – as we gradually come to see – shall never be able to introduce because our vantage points will always be limited. This ending of enmity towards what opposes our self-serving power, this desire for coexistence in dialogue with everything different according to an order which would be more universal and powerful than the greatest human power – this process of humbly stepping out of oneself – is a prerequisite for a renewed unification with God.

Prayer means a guileless act of giving our entire being to the one who has given it to us. Giving only to him; not to „inspirations“ or „signs“ merely coming from our unconsciousness. (These are always primitively more palpable than God's imperceptibly slight and profound influences.) The pathology of prayer in its diverse arrangements proceeds from a single core: from the inadequate concept of prayer as kind of a special activity whose purpose and form may be stipulated beforehand. In this way, a certain ritual detachment from God is maintained, a zone in which our own narcissistic emotions, ideas and feelings flourish. The apellation „God“ may just be nothing but a coping stone in a vault with which we actually cut ourselves off from genuine transcendence. There also exists a sort of praying, which really sounds like articulation of utter alienation between man and God; this happens when we thank and ask for things we can now easily enjoy precisely because we have been shunning a genuine relationship with God or when we thank and ask for something we should have rather sacrificed and also when we thank and ask for something God would never give us anyway. When we thank for various spiritual enjoyments any dead idol and a shared relation to him can afford to us. To trifle with prayer without feeling genuine thirst is both dangerous and pretentious. In this way, we insinuate into our minds the unreal, our „prayer“ becoming the biggest obstacle between us and God. We indulge in the self-sufficient process of self-clarification, practised against the background of a habitually put up screen – „God's face“. We search for external recipes for prayer, we „learn to pray“ on our own. As a result, something more profound, gentle, genuine and perspective is torn up and blocked inside us. Man is strengthened in his self-assurance and externality. He „knows“ about God all he needs to know and he affects him; he is ready to accept as God's activity and God's gifts only what he himself is prepared to adore; he passes his own inward movements off as God's „answers“. In this way, man grows to be a mere idolater of pleasant inward states he himself regards as the presence of Divine grace. He remains to be enclosed inside himself.

Without You I do not want even myself, without You I want nothing – this is the way out (in the purest form given to man during the negative phase of his spiritual development). Prayer is a an act of liberation whereby we find out that we have no rights to whatsoever; that we have no right even to be. However, the cleansing goals of prayer – independence of the impact of anything else than of God and the exclusion of the overall manner through which our self-centred spontaneity deceives us – cannot be accomplished by God (acting inside us) without our own free and undivided cooperation. At the same time, these „negative“ goals serve as a mere prerequisite. In prayer man dies unto himself and receives a more profound life from God. He rids himself of all the elemental motivations, of anything that is „his own“. He vacates his soul for God.

God will assume the place we have thus emptied for him but he will immediately depart as soon as we stop distinguishing between him and us or as soon as we try to appropriate him in any way. He cannot be assimilated by any means. He is abysmally Different, and he wants to shape and use us as he himself wants to, even without this having to pass through our understanding. He escapes our direct look, affecting us in the innermost starting point of our perceptions (and behavior), deepening it infinitely. „It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.“ As if we have entered new (but never definitive) inner ground; its purity gives us inner strength for humbleness: for independently seeing ourselves.

One can pray constantly. While doing or thinking about anything. A prayer will be prayer if sustained by God and not only by our habits and order. Only then is it the domain of our communicating freedom: nothing external can forestall it if man really wants to pray, and nothing external can help it if our will is lacking. But God does not wait for us to attain this freedom in its entirety. He interferes with our blunderings. Quite imperceptibly he gives us surprising courage; and he himself leads us towards genuine prayer, which constitutes no „alternative life“ but extraordinarily deepens common experiencing. He teaches us not to dream but to perceive; not to sleep but to live. He shows us that the real, free „I“ is nothing but being in a relationship. In this way, he gives us a life as prayer and prayer as life.

For all that, our relation with him remains – in a sense – indirect. Everything we can directly unify with (truthfulness, order, strength, freedom...) remains – however transcendent it may be – a mere reference to him. Not even unwittingly can we unify with this in the manner as if it were he himself. Everything he activates inside us – including even the vastest ocean of love – is a mere reaction to him, it is not him. Inside as well as outside us he shows to us things surprising and infinite, but it is not him. We are sober and do not blunder only when knowing that between God and anything that we may perceive there lies an abyss which only he can bridge. He gives himself to us in his absolute, sovereign freedom. This Divine freedom is subsequently liberating to us; thanks to it we are able to give him freely the only thing we can ever give to God: that we are concerned with nothing else and nothing less than himself. As to the rest, only in this way can we actually maintain our openness to prayer carried by him.

God is a mystery that escapes us, opens us, attracts us, cares for us, but has no symetrical connection with anything. Seen from our side, he is no „extension“ even of the noblest of his gifts. He is Outside. But from this „Outside“ he is with us more than if he were our very selves. „Unmixed“ yet „undivided“ – these particular terms, used by theologians in an attempt to understand the relationship of „Divine and human substance“ in Jesus Christ – can possibly indicate his mode of relationship with us. This is also expressed eg. in the following Buddhist koan: Imagine two countries of which only one borders with the other. Paradoxically speaking, we may say – and only in a relationship which is in his hands can we understand it in the correct sense – that the less we want to bind God to us, the more he can bind us to himself.

He can anchor us in pure openness, in spirit, in freedom, in truthfulness, in love. Beyond all the emotions, reflections, intentions. This anchoring seems to be inaccessible to us, we cannot see its bottom. The arrangement of our soul will emerge from it. In this anchoring we do not need any another supports.

To turn to the world and to act in it in a spirit of this anchoring means, however, trying to approach everything with the same „unmixedness“ of freedom and „undividedness“ of relationship, with which God approaches us. On the other hand, human spontaneity, sustained by the mere archetypal furnishing of our soul and by our partial experiences, tends to „mix“ us externally with the world, while internally „dividing“ us from it. In spontaneity we establish contacts predetermined only by the restraining and limiting special conditions out of which we grow. Spontaneity, however loose, can never be turned into freedom and make genuine relationships possible. It grows merely out of our coalescence with everything that immediately conditions our limited situational existence. It only gives our life a certain individual colour, a certain particular dynamics and specific incorporation in horizontal contexts.

On the other hand, we grow into freedom by realizing and transcending our spontaneity, which for us – just like any other circumstance of our existence – ceases to be a determining breeding ground and rather becomes an instrument. Rooted in freedom, we are in a position to cast aside those confining dependences, particular filters and individual preferences, and establish differentiated yet unconditionally based relationships tending to universality. Thus we enter dialogical unity with what is the opposite of all the limitations and contingencies, and into that unity we draw everything we have established relation with.

The universality of this unity with God cannot be grasped by any general idea; it is attainable solely through a relationship. Human simulations of the universal unification can always proceed merely from a spontaneous, limited assumption. They cannot rid themselves of the hidden elements of idolatry or narrowed-down interest. That is why they inevitably have to back up their arbitrary claim with totalitarian violence or pluralistic illusions. Unity without freedom towards transcendence, without relationship with the Absolute can never be universal. Entirely dependent on human points of departure, we can never really attain what is possible solely from the standpoint of spirit, of freedom, of „nothingness“ given from „elsewhere“: to be, to meet and to work for the benefit of genuinely universal unrestraining unity.

At the same time, it proceeds from its nature that nothing partial inside or around us provides an automatic guarantee that we really serve this unity. Only by denying all seeming supports can we maintain our free openness and availability towards it. Freedom is the only safe „bridge“ of universal togetherness in relationship with God. In a sense, one can say that freedom is as if identical with this relationship. It is a freedom towards him, it is a void for his fulfilment, it is an expression of his impact. If man is really free, he finds himself in relationship with God and vice versa. Even in all the other things he tends to seek and stimulate tendencies towards free universal unity.

This is a unity different from that in the common self-enclosed position of „our own“ versus „other people's“, an attitude which is naturally initial for our life: unity with one's mother, with one's home, with one's employer, with like-minded people, etc. This is not even that sensually gratifying unity enjoyed in sleep, sex, during concentration on one's work, sport or recreation, during profound aesthetic, emotional or meditative experiences, a unity which lacks permanency and unconditionality, a unity wherein „our spirit remains parched“ (John of the Cross). This is not a unity attainable through any image or speculation – eg. Hegelian or Jungian. Universal togetherness does not arise through the mere realization and conciliation of all situational contradictions. It is not a kind of internally ambivalent immanent wholeness, which has come to the conclusion that its situational contradictions have been perfectly equalized and which has, therefore, completed its life dynamics with death eleatically called „everything is the same“ or in a Nitzschean vein „everything is eternal return of the same“. Divine universality is not a principle of madness, but a principle of redemption. It is not a principle of unifying and enclosing of the ambivalent situational immanence; on the contrary, it is a principle of its internal opening to intrinsic transcendent unambiguity. Love prevails over hatred, good over evil, truth over lie, creation over destruction, justice over lawlessness, relational unity over mechanical or biological totality. Many events, which may – in terms of situations – appear to be mere elements of the situation involved, equally incidental as their opposites, seen in a definitive perspective, will manifest themselves in their true shape: as an indestructible foundation stone for „the Kingdom which is not of this world“.

No specific spiritual path will take us further in maturing towards this unity than the course of life itself; if we want to mature in it. From the pleasurable situational unity with our mother's body to the meaningful and being-ful unity with the Divine Spirit; from the tiny unconscious zygote towards a human being which is able – with humble detachment – to accept even death as a process of departure from a major focal point of its dependences.

Possibly, it does not only matter in which particular categories man realizes the overall meaning of his spiritual life. It certainly matters whether he actually lives it.

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