Why no one can be bullied into awakening

by | Jun 17, 2021

It’s easy to separate the world into two camps: the self-declared awake, and the unaware asleep. The unitive impulse of spirit in action, however, is to reconcile opposites by putting our assumptions on their head.

Enlightenment is the absolute cooperation with the inevitable.”
Jesuit priest and mystic Anthony Mello 

I n the Peruvian Andes, lightning strikes the initiate who may not have even known they had been put forward to become an alto mesayok – a shaman mystic-priest – as an apprentice to the mountain spirits. Sometimes more than once. Like awakening, there is no turning back on this path once you have been chosen. To be chosen sounds wonderful but it is precisely any sense of specialness that is ruptured by lightning. If the first strike doesn’t do the job of transformation, then the second and third bolts surely must.

The small self is not the active agency in this choosing business. In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus is quoted by Matthew saying, “Many are called but few are chosen.” Classically, this is understood to mean that many hear the call – an invitation to the kingdom of heaven – but only few choose to respond. The gate is narrow and so is the way, after all, and one might lose almost everything along the path. It’s not exactly a great sales pitch. And the path itself knocks over those not prepared for its rigours, because they cannot safely hold that amount of Light.

In that sense, the path is self-selective: we are only called to what we can handle when we can handle it. No one can be browbeaten into awakening.

The passive construction of ‘many are called’, and ‘few are chosen’ is not meant to veil God’s identity – it’s pretty clear where the invitation has come from. Instead, it is either vague to those still making up their minds, or stunningly clear to those “with ears to hear”, like a direct strike of lightning.

The vagueness reflects the divided will and the directness the inevitability of revelation.

This might separate the world into two camps: the self-declared awake, and the unaware asleep. The unitive impulse of spirit in action, however, is to reconcile opposites by putting our assumptions on their head. The ‘awake’ ones have blind spots where they are asleep, and the ‘asleep’ are awake in ways not obvious to the opposite camp. If that’s not enough to suspend all judgment, consider this from Paul: “Don’t fool yourselves. Any man who considers himself wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise.”

The conversion of St Paul

By Caravaggio. Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

Upside-down and inside-out

Before Paul was accosted on the road to Damascus, he was zealous prosecutor of the followers of Christ. Asleep one minute and ablaze the next, he was nonetheless always righteous for God. We are all called: it’s the sound of creation. The timing of the choosing is not accidental. We are being moulded from the inside-out. A turned prosecutor becomes a great warrior of Light.

It’s common in the shamanic traditions in Peru, whether in the mountains or the jungle, to resist the call to apprenticeship. Then a crisis or emergency intervenes. A family member gets sick, there’s no one else around to help, and the wayward apprentice is called back to the path. It happens so often it might well be a motif.

While we are all called, it is only when we have been sufficiently surrendered of the plans we had for our lives that we are chosen. It is a terrible emptying that traverses many dark nights of the soul.

No one in their right mind (or even healthy ego) would choose it if they knew what lay ahead.

It is an isolating and lonely journey at the end of the road when the path itself drops away. Words are useless here. Just as with the mountain spirit choosing its apprentice, it appears that only a “few” have indeed been chosen, because there’s no one else around! But sometimes God is like a good thief in the middle of the night, stealing away all our specialness and the hubris that keeps us separate.

In the upside-down, inside-out logic of the divine – one that multiplies fish and loaves to feed another wedding feast – the ‘we few’ are being freed to return to the ‘we many’ as living gateways to a new dimensional reality. The effect will be like wildfire as the few and the many collapse into the One and set the world aflame.

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