On leaving the library, I stood in the anteroom again.
This time I look across to the door on the left.
I put the small book into my pocket and go to the door; it is also open, and leads to a large kitchen, with a large chimney over the stove.
Two long tables stand in the middle of the room, flanked by benches.
Brass pots, copper pans, and other vessels stand on shelves along the walls.
A large fat woman is standing at the stove-apparently the cook-wearing a checkered apron.
I greet her, somewhat astonished. She too seems embarrassed. I ask her: “May I sit down for a while?
It’s cold outside and I must wait for something.”
“Please have a seat.”
She wipes the table in front of me. Having nothing else to do, I take out my Thomas and begin to read.
The cook is curious and looks at me furtively.
Every once in a while she goes past me.
“Excuse me, are you perhaps a clergyman?”
“No, why do you think so?”
“Oh, I just thought you might be because you are reading a small black book. My mother, may God rest her soul, left me such a book.”
“I see, and what book might that be?”
“It is called The Imitation of Christ. It’s a very beautiful book. I often pray with it in the evenings.”
“You have guessed well, I too am reading The Imitation of Christ.”
“1 don’t believe that a man like you would read such a book unless he were a pastor.”
“Why shouldn’t I read it? It also does me good to read a proper book.”
“My mother, God bless her, had it with her on her deathbed, and she gave it to me before she died.”
I browse through the book absentmindedly while she is speaking.
My eyes fall on the following / passage in the nineteenth chapter:
The righteous base their intentions more on the mercy of God, which in whatever they undertake they trust more than their own wisdom
This is the intuitive method that Thomas recommends, it occurs to me.
I turn to the cook: “Your mother was a clever woman, and she did well to give you this book.”
“Yes, indeed, it has often comforted me in difficult hours and it always provides good counsel”
I become immersed in my thoughts again: I believe one can also follow one’s own nose. That would also be the intuitive method.
But the beautiful way in which Christ does this must nevertheless be of special value.
I would like to imitate Christ-an inner disquiet seizes me-what is supposed to happen?
I hear an odd swishing and whirring-and suddenly a roaring sound fills the room like a horde of large birds-with a frenzied flapping of wings- I see many shadow-like human forms rush past and I hear a manifold babble of voices utter the words:
“Let us pray in the temple!”
“Where are you rushing off to?” I call out.
A bearded man with tousled hair and dark shining eyes stops and turns toward me: “We are wandering to Jerusalem to pray at the most holy sepulcher.”
“You cannot join us, you have a body.
But we are dead.
“I am Ezechiel, and I am an Anabaptist.”
“Who are those wandering with you?”
“These are my fellow believers.”
“Why are you wandering?”
“We cannot stop, but must make a pilgrimage to all the holy places.”
“I don’t know. But it seems that we still have no peace, although we died in true belief”
“Why do you have no peace if you died in true belief?”
“It always seems to me as if we had not come to a proper end with life.”
“It seems to me that we forgot something important that should also have been lived.”
“And what was that?”
“Would you happen to know?”
“>With these words he reaches out greedily and uncannily toward me, his eyes shining as if from inner heat.
“Let go, daimon, you did not live your animal.”
The cook is standing in front of me with a horrified face; she has taken me by the arm and grips me firmly.
“For God’s sake,” she calls out, “Help, what’s wrong with you? Are you in a bad way?”
I look at her astonished and wonder where I really am.
But soon strange people burst in-among them the librarian infinitely astonished and dismayed at first, then laughing maliciously: “Oh, I might have known! The police!”
“>Before I can collect myself, I am pushed through a crowd of people into a van.
I am still clutching my copy of Thomas and ask myself: “What would he say to this new situation?”
I open the book and my eyes fall on the thirteenth chapter, where it says:
“So long as we live here on earth, we cannot escape temptation. There is no man who is so perfect, and no saint so sacred, that he cannot be tempted on occasion. Yes, we can hardly be without temptation.
“Wise Thomas, you always come up with the right answer.
That crazy Anabaptist certainly had no such knowledge, or he might have made a peaceful end.
He also could have read it in Cicero:
“>rerum omnium satietas vitae focit satietatem-satietas vitae tempus maturum<o: [satiety of all things causes satiety of life-one is satiated with life and the time is ripe for death.] This knowledge had evidently brought me into conflict with society. I was flanked by policemen left and right. "Well," I said to them, "you can let me go now." "Yes, we know all about this," one said laughing. "Now just you hold your peace," said the other sternly. So, we are obviously heading for the madhouse. That is a high price to pay. But one can go this way too, it seems. It's not so strange, since thousands of our fellows take that path. We have arrived-a large gate, a hall-a friendly bustling superintendent-and now also two doctors. One of them is a small fat professor. "What's that book you've got there?"
“It’s Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.“
Pr: “So, a form of religious madness, perfectly clear, religious paranoia.-You see, my dear, nowadays, the imitation of Christ leads to the madhouse.”
“That is hardly to be doubted, professor.”
Pr: “The man has wit-he is obviously somewhat maniacally aroused. Do you hear voices?”
“You bet! Today it was a huge throng of Anabaptists that swarmed through the kitchen.”
Pr: “Now, there we have it. Are the voices following you?”
“Oh no, Heaven forbid, I summoned them.”
Pr: ”Ah, this is yet another case that clearly indicates that hallucinations directly call up voices. This belongs in the case history. Would you immediately make a note of that, doctor?”
“With all due respect, Professor, may I say that it is absolutely not abnormal, but much rather the intuitive method.”
Pr: “Excellent. The fellow also uses neologisms. Well- I suppose we have an adequately clear diagnosis. Anyway, I wish you a good recovery, and make sure you stay quiet.”
“But professor, I’m not at all sick, I feel perfectly well.”
Pr: “Look, my dear. You don’t have any insight into your illness yet. The prognosis is naturally pretty bad, with at best limited recovery.”
Superintendent: “Professor, can the man keep the book?”
Pr: “Well, I suppose so, as it seems to be a harmless prayer book.”
Now my clothes are inventoried-then the bath-and now I’m taken off to the ward. I enter a large sickroom, where I’m told to get into bed. The person to my left is lying motionless with a transfixed gaze, while the one to the right appears to possess a brain whose girth and weight are shrinking. I enjoy perfect silence. The problem of madness is profound. Divine madness-a higher form of the irrationality of the life streaming through us-at any rate a madness that cannot be integrated into present-day society-but how? What if the form of society were integrated into madness? At this point things grow dark, and there is no end in sight.
The growing plant sprouts a sapling on its right-hand side, and when this is completely formed, the natural urge to grow will not develop beyond the final bud but flows back into the stem, into the mother of the sprig, paving an uncertain way in the dark and through the stem, and finally finding the right position on the left where it sprouts a new sapling. But this new direction of growth is completely opposed to the previous one. And yet the plant nevertheless grows regularly in this way, without overstraining or disturbing its balance.
On the right is my thinking, on the left is my feeling. I enter the space of my feeling which was previously unknown to me, and see with astonishment the difference between my two rooms. I cannot help laughing-many laugh instead of crying. I have stepped from the right foot onto the left, and wince, struck by inner pain. The difference between hot and cold is too great. I leave the spirit of this world which has thought Christ through to the end, and step over into that other funny-frightful realm in which I can find Christ again.
The “imitation of Christ” led me to the master himself and to his astonishing kingdom. I do not know what I want there; I can only follow the master who governs this other realm in me. In this realm other laws are valid than the guidelines of my wisdom. Here, the “mercy of God,” which I had never relied on, for good practical reasons, is the highest law of action. The “mercy of God” signifies a particular state of the soul in which I entrust myself to all neighbors with trembling and hesitation and with the mightiest outlay of hope that everything will work out well.
I can no longer say that this or that goal should be reached, or that this or that reason should apply because it is good; instead I grope through mist and night. No line emerges, no law appears; instead everything is thoroughly and convincingly accidental, as a matter of fact even terribly accidental. But one thing becomes dreadfully clear, namely that contrary to my earlier way and all its insights and intentions, henceforth all is error. It becomes ever more apparent that nothing leads, as my hope sought to persuade me, but that everything misleads.
And suddenly to your shivering horror it becomes clear to you that you have fallen into the boundless, the abyss, the inanity of eternal chaos. It rushes toward you as if carried by the roaring wings of a storm, the hurtling waves of the sea.
Every man has a quiet place in his soul, where everything is self-evident and easily explainable, a place to which he likes to retire from the confusing possibilities of life, because there everything is simple and clear, with a manifest and limited purpose. About nothing else in the world can a man say with the same conviction as he does of this place: “You are nothing but … ” and indeed he has said it . And even this place is a smooth surface, an everyday wall, nothing more than a snugly sheltered and frequently polished crust over the mystery of chaos. If you break through this most everyday of walls, the overwhelming stream of chaos will flood in. Chaos is not single, but an unending multiplicity. It is not formless, otherwise it would be single, but it is filled with figures that have a confusing and overwhelming effect due to their fullness.
These figures are the dead, not just your dead, that is, all the images of the shapes you took in the past, which your ongoing life has left behind, but also the thronging dead of human history, the ghostly procession of the past, which is an ocean compared to the drops of your own life span. I see behind you, behind the mirror of your eyes, the crush of dangerous shadows, the dead, who look greedily through the empty sockets of your eyes, who moan and hope to gather up through you all the loose ends of the ages, which sigh in them. Your cluelessness does not prove anything. Put your ear to that wall and you will hear the rustling of their procession.
Now you know why you lodged the simplest and most easily explained matters in just that spot, why you praised that peaceful seat as the most secure: so that no one, least of all yourself would unearth the mystery there. For this is the place where day and night agonizingly merge. What you excluded from your life, what you renounced and damned, everything that was and could have gone wrong, awaits you behind that wall before which you sit quietly.
If you read the books of history, you will find men who sought the strange and incredible, who ensnared themselves and who were held captive by others in wolves’ lairs; men who sought the highest and the lowest, and who were wiped by fate, incomplete, from the tablets of the living. Few of the living know of them, and these few appreciate nothing about them, but shake their heads at such delusion.
While you mock them, one of them stands behind you, panting from rage and despair at the fact that your stupor does not attend to him. He besieges you in sleepless nights, sometimes he takes hold of you in an illness, sometimes he crosses your intentions. He makes you overbearing and greedy, he pricks your longing for everything, which avails you nothing, he devours your success in discord. He accompanies you as your evil spirit, to whom you can
grant no release.
Have you heard of those dark ones who roamed incognito alongside those who ruled the day, conspiratorially causing unrest? Who devised cunning things and did not shrink from any crime to honor their God?
Beside them place Christ, who was the greatest among them. It was too little for him to break the world, so he broke himself and therefore he was the greatest of them all, and the powers of this world did not reach him. But I speak of the dead who fell prey to power, broken by force and not by themselves. Their hordes people the land of the soul. If you accept them, they fill you with delusion and rebellion against what rules the world. From the deepest and from the highest they devised the most dangerous things. They were not of a common nature, but fine blades of
the hardest steel. They would have nothing to do with the small lives of men. They lived on the heights and accomplished the lowest. They forgot only one thing: they did not live their animal. The animal does not rebel against its own kind. Consider animals: how just they are, how well-behaved, how they keep to the time-honored, how loyal they are to the land that bears them, how they hold to their accustomed routes, how they care for their young, how they go together to pasture, and how they draw one another to the spring. There is not one that conceals
its overabundance of prey and lets its brother starve as a result. There is not one that tries to enforce its will on those of its own kind. Not a one mistakenly imagines that it is an elephant when it is a mosquito. The animal lives fittingly and true to the life of its species, neither exceeding nor falling short of it.
He who never lives his animal must treat his brother like an animal. Abase yourself and live your animal so that you will be able to treat your brother correctly. You will thus redeem all those roaming dead who strive to feed on the living. And do not turn anything you do into a law, since that is the hubris of power. When the time has come and you open the door to the dead, your horrors will also afflict your brother, for your countenance proclaims the disaster. Hence withdraw and enter solitude, since no one can give you counsel if you wrestle with the dead. Do not
cry for help if the dead surround you, otherwise the living will take flight, and they are your only bridge to the day. Live the life of the day and do not speak of mysteries, but dedicate the night to bringing about the salvation of the dead.
For whoever well-meaningly tears you away from the dead has rendered you the worst service, since he has torn your life branch from the tree of divinity. He also sins against restoring what was created and later subjugated and lost. lSI “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”
Every step upward will restore a step downward so that the dead will be delivered into freedom. The creating of the new shrinks from the day since its essence is secret. It prepares the destruction of precisely this day in the hope of leading it over into a new creation. Something evil is attached to the creation of the new, which you cannot proclaim loudly. The animal that looks for new hunting grounds cowers slinking and sniffing on dark paths and does not want to be surprised. Please consider that it is the suffering of the creative that they carry something evil in them, a leprosy of the soul that separates them from its danger. They could praise their leprosy as a virtue and could indeed do so out of virtuousness. But this would be doing what Christ does, and would therefore be his imitation.
For only one was Christ and only one could violate the laws as he did. It is impossible to commit higher infringements on his path. Fulfill that which comes to you. Break the Christ in yourself so
that you may arrive at yourself and ultimately at your animal which is well-behaved in its herd and unwilling to infringe its laws. May it suffice in terms of transgression that you do not imitate Christ, since thereby you take a step back from Christianity and a step beyond it. Christ brought salvation through adeptness, and ineptitude will save you.
Have you counted the dead whom the master of sacrifice honored? Have you asked them for whose sake they believe they have suffered death? Have you entered the beauty of their thoughts and the purity of their intention? “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched.”
Thus do penance, consider what fell victim to death for the sake of Christianity, lay it before you and force yourself to accept it. For the dead need salvation. The number of the unredeemed dead has become greater than the number of living Christians; therefore it is time that we accept the dead.
Do not throw yourself against what has become, enraged or bent on destruction. What will you put in its place? Do you not know that if you are successful in destroying what has become, you will then turn the will of destruction against yourself? But anyone who makes destruction their goal will perish through self-destruction. Much rather respect what has become, since reverence is a blessing.
Then turn to the dead listen to their lament and accept them with love. Be not their blind spokesman there are prophets who in the end have stoned themselves. But we seek salvation and hence we need to revere what has become and to accept the dead, who have fluttered through the air and lived like bats under our roofs since time immemorial. The new will be built on the old and the meaning of what has become will become manifold. Your poverty in what has become you will thus deliver into the wealth of the future.
What seeks to distance you from Christianity and its holy rule of love are the dead, who could find no peace in the Lord since their uncompleted work has followed them. A new salvation is always a restoring of the previously lost. Did not Christ himself restore bloody human sacrifice, which better customs had expelled from sacred practice since days of old? Did he not himself reinstate the sacred practice of the eating of human sacrifice? In your sacred practice that which earlier laws condemned will once again be included.
However, just as Christ brought back human sacrifice and the eating of the sacrificed, all this happened to him and not to his brother, since Christ placed above it the highest law of love, so that no brother would come to harm as a result, but so that all could rejoice in the restoration. The same thing happened as in ancient times, but now under the law of love. So if you have no reverence for what has become, you will destroy the law oflove.And what will become of you then? You will be forced to restore what was before, namely violent deeds, murder, wrongdoing, and
contempt of your brother. And one will be alien to the other, and confusion will rule.
Therefore you should have reverence for what has become, so that the law of love may become redemption through the restoration of the lower and of the past, not perdition through the boundless mastery of the dead. But the spirits of those who die before their time will live, for the sake of our present’ incompleteness, in dark hordes in the rafters of our houses and besiege our ears with urgent laments, until we grant them redemption through restoring what has existed since ancient times under the rule of love.
What we call temptation is the demand of the dead who passed away prematurely and incomplete through the guilt of the good and of the law. For no good is so complete that it could not do injustice and break what should not be broken. We are a blinded race. We live only on the surface, only in the present, and think only of tomorrow. We deal roughly with the past in that we do not accept the dead. We want to work only with visible success. Above all we want to be paid. We would consider it insane to do hidden work that does not visibly serve men. There is no doubt that the necessity of life forced us to prefer only those fruits one can taste. But who suffers more from the tempting and misleading influence of the dead than those who have gone wholly missing on the surface of the world?
There is one necessary but hidden and strange work-a major work-which you must do in secret, for the sake of the
dead. He who cannot attain his own visible field and vineyard is held fast by the dead, who demand the work of atonement from him. And until he has fulfilled this, he cannot get to his outer work, since the dead do not let him. He shall have to search his soul and act in stillness at their behest and complete the mystery; so that the dead will not let him. Do not look forward so much, but back and into yourself, so that you will not fail to hear the dead.
It belongs to the way of Christ that he ascends with few of the living, but many of the dead. His work was the salvation of the despised and lost, for whose sake he was crucified between two criminals.
I suffer my agony between two madmen. I enter the truth if I descend. Become accustomed to being alone with the dead. It is difficult, but this is precisely how you will discover the worth of your living companions.
What the ancients did for their dead! You seem to believe that you can absolve yourself from the care of the dead, and from the work that they so greatly demand, since what is dead is past. You excuse yourself with your disbelief in the immortality of the soul. Do you think that the dead do not exist because you have devised the impossibility of immortality? You believe in your idols of words. The dead produce effects, that is sufficient. In the inner world there is no explaining away, as little as you can explain away the sea in the outer world. You must finally understand your purpose in explaining away, namely to seek protection.
I accepted the chaos, and in the following night, my soul approached me. ~Carl Jung, Red Book, Pages 293-298
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