Repentance! And how does one truly repent? That comes from within, in and of the spirit, the full acceptance of what an awakened conscience shouts at our hearts. It cannot be contrived by an intellectual process or a superficial emotional response of regret and remorse. Political posturing does not constitute repentance, as necessary as political action is at the national level. In Germany, there was, from the beginning of the movement, an underlying spiritual movement. It came out of the country’s long-neglected Christian roots.
in the back reaches of our souls, the little inner voice still whispers, “But you know you are a sinner, that you have been and are immoral. You know there really are right and wrong things, things in your mind and that you actually do which really should change, however much they can be rationalized and temporized by your own inclinations and the wink-winking of society.
Western humans entertain a sort of self-hypnosis that we can and will master nature, compel it to do our bidding, because, tiny on the cosmic scale as we are, we are smart, really smart! We can learn everything we need to because we are so smart. We apparently are in the process of uncovering the very secrets of the Universe Itself – its when, what, and how at least. Our current paradigm mostly sloughs off the why and who and makes the where irrelevant.
The three brief references at the top of this episode point to the most important but most neglected truths about humanity that paying attention to history teaches us: (1) the Law of Karma is almost completely borne out over time, to the degree that it invites belief in the old-fashioned idea of fate; (2) everyone knows that we should learn from the past, but almost no one ever does – both as individuals and as societies from the smallest level (family) to the widest (nations, civilizations); (3) nevertheless, there is a way out of the trap of being the pawn of history and the mere victim of fate, – both personal and collective.
The pursuit of fame, fortune, the perfect body, the perfect career, the perfect partner, all turns to sand after a while. When we wake up to that, we begin to search for an identity beyond our technological prowess and our mania for “self-actualizing” ourselves as anything we care to imagine. For most of us, the refrain of “you can be and do anything you like or can imagine, even totally reinvent yourself and your gender” turns out to be the pursuit of a phantom which keeps disappearing around the next corner or curve in the road. Or maybe the Phantom sneaks up from behind and laughs snidely that it’s a chimera. The Phantom smirks that we should have known all along what we are really supposed to become, but now we’ve burned so many bridges it’s too late, or seems to be, to go back.
Ideology blinds its fanatical promoters and advocates at least as much as any theology. What we have now seen all too terribly in modern history is that it ultimately kills many more people, much more beauty, creativity, and even creation than any set of Inquisitors, Puritans, or whatever other set of religious zealots ever did.
Regaining contact with our personal inner moral compass in our now largely morally bankrupt culture is very urgent and important. In the long run, it is even more important than taming COVID-19. At least if we believe that human beings are more than creatures who have only a finite existence defined by birth and death. And perhaps even then.
No amount of psychologising about how we’re all victims of social conditioning has yet made conscience go away. No amount of mental gymnastics guided by Freudian psychoanalysis about repressed sexual desire has rid anyone of having a bad conscience about how they have done and do wrong to others and themselves. No amount of anthropological research has traced this inconvenient aberration back to some ultra-remote ancestral hominid who somehow evolved this the faculty of feeling badly about inflicting pain and suffering on other humans and even on other creatures.
Suddenly, Shim’on understood. He had been waiting for this for his whole life! His confusion was that he knew he was totally unfit for this call. His sense of uncleanness, unworthiness, and inadequacy overpowered his yearning. He hardly realized that he had dropped to his knees as he said, “Leave me, Master, for I am a sinful, unworthy man.”
If he was an up and coming new rabbi, one even recognized by the Immerser as someone special, why would he come back here to the backside of Israel? Why didn’t he go to the city and set up in the Temple Porticos like the other rabbis seeking to gather disciples and make a name for themselves? He would never get anywhere by spending his time up in the Galil among its uncultured peasants and yokels.