The Great Renunciation
Comment: You’ve written about the Great Renunciation otherwise called the Fourth initiation several times and gave reference to examples from the past. Are there any current examples? It would be helpful to give one even if it was fictionalized.
The trouble with writing a fictional Renunciation is that sometimes fiction cannot portray the overwhelming reality with the same intensity as the soul as it sets the stage (for maybe several lifetimes) for the Renunciation to occur.
The advantage of fiction though is I can write it without making any claims or revealing unnecessary history in my own life.
I have met numerous people who think they have gone though the experience merely because they have gone through a difficult circumstance. That is far from enough. The disciple has to be given a choice to give up all that is most dear to him in this world. If there was no choice to avoid the sacrifice, then the renunciation did not yet occur.
In the Great Renunciation the disciple is required to utterly sacrifice everything he holds dear to the highest part of his emotional self. Sacrificing money, a house, a standard love relationship is not enough. He must be willing to sacrifice the highest ideals the emotional self can fathom.
For Abraham it was not his son, but it was the very promise of God that was at stake.
For Jesus it was his highest ideal of service by creating the kingdom of God on the earth so there could be peace and good will according to the song of the angels. He had to let this, his highest desire, evaporate for something higher.
So what could be asked of Joe in the book that would qualify him for the fourth?
It’s difficult to think of something as encompassing as the soul would dream up, but here is a fictional possibility:
John approaches Joe and tells him he is to cease work on all his writings and destroy them so not a trace of them remains. He must leave Elizabeth and go to India to a remote village and be a servant for a prince there that is a spoiled brat.
Joe tells John that this makes no sense and demands an explanation.
John says that he cannot give one. All he can tell him is that this is what he must do.
Joe refuses. He tells John that he will not even follow him if it goes again his inner self or soul.
John then says, “Then you should check with your soul. In three days I will visit you and you will tell me what you soul has said along with your decision.”
Right after John leaves Joe feels something very disturbing at the core of his being. He knows it is the voice of his soul responding to John’s words and it scares the daylights out of him. “My soul could not possibly go along with such a crazy notion,” he thinks. But as the time passes the intensity of inner communion grows and he has to face the fact that his soul agrees with John’s command. In fact, it more than agrees. He receives a fire that seems to descend from heaven and it is so all powerful that it seems he will burn up. There is no doubt what the Spirit is telling him.
Still he resists and looks for a way out. Maybe the soul or even God could be wrong he thinks. Then a vision of Philo appears. Philo joyfully tells him that Elizabeth needs his presence to have the strength to stay well. Without him she will get ill again and he will look for an opportunity to destroy her. With Joe out of the way it should be easy.
Now Joe is really upset. How can he betray his wife to this extent? How could she ever understand or forgive him?
He prays to God with all the intensity of his being, “Father, let this cup pass.”
There is no answer.
He then sinks to a state that he never even imagines existed. If he follows John’s words then all that makes life worthwhile for him will be gone.
He prays and prays again and there is no answer. By the third day all he has is a memory of his answer, but it seems that God, the soul and all that gives hope is gone. It is as if he were in some outer darkness.
He senses John will return soon and searches for strength to make the decision. He reflects on the feeling that he has had when he has felt the power of the Spirit and decides he will go with Spirit because he has faith this will somehow lead to a final good. Besides, maybe this is a test like Abraham and the sacrifice will not be required.
John appears and asks for his decision.
Joe says he will accept, half way expecting a ram in the thicket to appear, but there is no deliverance. He must destroy his writings and leave the next day to India.
After years of struggle Joe eventually gains strength and learns a great lesson that will help humanity, but most powerful of all he is now attached to nothing in this world. He is ready to do what is necessary to fulfill higher will.
That’s one possibility in as nutshell. A whole book could be written on something like this.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
March 16, 2007
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