Teaching how to distinguish what is reality from what is illusion is one of the most characteristic tasks that people understand by spirituality. In a way, many human beings who approach a spiritual path believe that they are living an illusory life and seek to discover the truth by following the teachings of great masters of the past and present. When this path is taken seriously,, such people may come to confirm their suspicions about the illusory nature of their past lives and experience in their new lives as seekers of truth the full satisfaction of those who know they are on the right path. As a result, the bitterness of yesteryear gives way to joy, and all the doubts that they may have had about the great purpose that God established for the world and its inhabitants dissolve, being replaced by an unshakable optimism in the face of the challenges that the world and life can reserve.
This enthusiasm is a direct result of contact with the “bread of life”, the spiritual breath that animates and “feeds” the seeker on his journey. It works as a kind of provisional link between the human being and the Spirit, a necessary link to propel him at the beginning of the path, but still too superficial to generate constancy, since it is an external aid, and only a direct link with inner source is capable of providing the necessary autonomy for true transformation.
The connection with the inner divine principle has to go through the structures of the self, thus destabilizing the whole personality. When this begins to happen to the seeker, it is as if the “bread of life” has been taken from him and he feels as if he has been abandoned to his own account. This phase was portrayed in various spiritual traditions such as the crossing of the desert, and the spiritual schools assure that it is an integral part of the spiritual process: it is not possible to get around the desert, it is, in fact, necessary to cross it.
In this crossing, the seeker is confronted with the reality of his own being, thus establishing a disharmony between the old nature of the self and the new being that wants to manifest itself. The self refuses to look at itself and tries at all costs to return to the condition of comfort in which it has always been. The seeker’s conscience is inundated with doubts of all kinds and he often takes a longing look at the past:
If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death. (Ex 16: 3)
This and other biblical passages that have the desert as a “scenario” reveal the archetypal situation of the seeker when he faces the difficulties of discovering himself. The self revolts against its guide, the Spirit, and regrets having left its comfort zone. That is why the spiritual schools always warn the seeker that the true connection with the Spirit never leaves the self in a comfortable position. While the old me languishes in crossing the desert, the new being occupies more and more space in the seeker’s consciousness. This awareness that is in a changing process while remaining between the old and the new, is repeatedly tempted to make what is unacceptable acceptable. Why pursue such a radical transformation? Why not reconcile the old with the new, taking advantage of what is both “good”? If the new being is that special, why not transform the outer reality instead of trying to transform yourself? “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4: 3).
The compass that supports the seeker in these tests is the fundamental desire, which makes him accept nothing less than the truth. Having sealed a commitment to the Spirit, he accepted that eventually he would lead him on paths unknown to him and even contrary to what he himself envisioned. After long struggling against the process of transformation of consciousness, tired and unarmed, the searcher can finally contemplate his deepest being without looking away, without artifice and without escape attempts. All his shortcomings and limitations, which he has always kept in the shadow of his being, can now claim his place. All illusions about himself and the world dissolve and make room for him to see things as they are.
It is only then that love in its true conception can awaken in your heart. There is no other possible love but one that can embrace all human beings, with their “qualities” and “defects”, with their “mistakes” and “successes”, as well as with all life existing in nature manifested on earth. At this stage, even though conflicts may arise within the seeker, they are not able to shake the contemplative silence that has been established there This is the inner harmony that is maintained by the silent and continuous struggle in the heart of the seeker. achieves victory in the greatest of all trials – the victory over yourself.
For an informal account of the work done in the search for the real self, read the article Me, time and time again.