We MUST Choose
“This above all: to thine own self be true.” – Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
Yes, but what part of thine own self to be true to? What’s best in oneself? Or what’s less—sometimes even much much less—than best in one’s self?
“For human beings, there is a possibility of making a choice of influences; in other words, of passing from one influence to another. It is impossible to become free from one influence without becoming subject to another. All work on oneself consists in choosing the influence to which you wish to subject yourself, and then actually falling under the influence of or submitting wholly to this influence.” – G. I. Gurdjieff, quoted in P. D. Ouspensky’s “In Search of the Miraculous,” pg. 25.
There’s no neutrality in life.
There are only two possible states of being, two ways of orientating ourselves.
One is complete submission to God or to God’s will or influence, the influence of the Tao, the Dharma, Truth, goodness, virtue, Love.
And the other is incomplete submission—or the refusal to truly submit ourselves—to anything, to any influence, beyond our own will—beyond our own narcissism and our own scattered disorganized impulses, desires, and feelings—a refusal which automatically opens the door to the forces of evil.
Because at every moment we ultimately belong to either God or the devil, to good or evil, to one influence or the other. Paraphrasing C. S. Lewis, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch around us and every split second of our lives is up for grabs, to be claimed by God or the devil, and to be claimed by us for either God or for the devil.”
And to attempt to avoid this dilemma by trying to stand exactly halfway between the two—halfway between God and the devil, uncommitted to either—to either goodness or utter selfishness—is to risk being torn apart and split forever into two beings, to become a house divided, permanently at war with ourselves, vacillating forever between two influences, forever fighting ourselves, fighting within ourselves, and having that infighting spill out of us into the lives of those around us. Because, ultimately, even trying to choose not to choose and to not align ourselves with one influence or the other is still to choose, it is still to choose not to submit to anything beyond the self, beyond one’s own will and wants.
Christ expressed this paradox when he said: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).
Yes, we are always free to choose, but ultimately we are free only in this sense: in the sense of choosing which influence, which form of enslavement, we ultimately will submit to: God’s or the self’s, God’s will and influence or ultimately nothing more than our own; what’s best and highest and noblest in us or a free-for-all where we give into and submit to any impulse or desire that occurs to us.
We must choose: —One form of enslavement or the other. (the previous eight paragraphs were abridged and adapted and elaborated on from M. Scott Peck’s “Glimpses of The Devil,” pg. xvi)
And most people do not so much choose their form of enslavement as they just go along with what happens to them and what feels natural without questioning much, without really thinking much or examining themselves and searching out their own heart and mind and conscience and paying much consistent attention to themselves and what path they’re really on and why.
This is our fundamental choice in life and to make each day and at every moment—who and what to live for and why? To live on the autopilot of emotions and impulses and desires and wants and pet ego-projects and whatever gets us through the day and anesthetizes us, numbs us, titillates us, distracts us, momentarily makes us drunk*; or to live more mindfully, more deliberately, with more grace and composure and perspective and order? To live for ourselves and nothing greater or more than the self and our ego and aggrandizement and survival (narcissism); or to live for something more, something that transcends the self—some ideal, principle, path or way (Tao), some force or Spirit—God, Love, Truth?
Again, there’s no neutrality in life. Every day, in every moment, and with every choice we make—of what to do with ourselves in that moment, with how to spend that moment—we are declaring our allegiance and we are doing something to ourselves . . .
“[E]very time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.
“And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.
“To be the one kind of creature is heaven: That is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power.
“To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.
“Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” – C. S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity,” pg. 87
* “There are thousands of wines
that can take over our minds.
Don’t think all highs are the same!
Drink from the jars of saints,
not from other jars.
Be a connoisseur,
taste with caution,
discriminate like a prince.
Any wine will get you high;
choose the purest,
one unadulterated with fear.
Drink a wine that moves your spirit.