What is the collective insight in his experience?” I asked
“That is a great question,” Chris answered. “It turns out that the experience of the emotional self is meant to suffer us awake.”
“Awake to what?” I asked.
“Consciousness,” he answered. “Job was becoming aware of the relationship between his mind and the world around him. He was experiencing his feelings fully awake. If he remained unconscious or unaware, he would be at the mercy of his emotions.”
“So,” I asked. “Suffering with ourselves awake the emotional-self matures?”
“Yes, yes! Awake enough that we can begin to question our fate and the role of the ego as it relates with spirit. Importantly, we learn that the human spirit actually intends for us to wake up. The ego does not budge without the spirit’s provocation.”
“The spirit’s provocation, what does that mean?” I asked.
“The ego is permitting the suffering, but the spirit is orchestrating the suffering. It begins the process of connecting us to our heart. But something else has to happen first.”
Following everything that Chris was saying felt like having an X-ray of what was going on inside a human being while they were suffering. I could feel myself trembling in anticipation of what he was going to say next.
“What is that?” I asked.
“We have yet to understand the inner voices that plague us during our suffering,” he said.
“You are kidding me!” I exclaimed. “This dream interpretation distinguishes the inner voices of Job’s suffering as well? I assume these are separate from the constructs of ego and spirit?”
“Yes. I don’t have much information about it yet,” Chris said, “but I have heard rumors that there are several verses of the dream specific to Job’s inner conversation. Thus far, we have been learning about personality dynamics (ego) and the energy (spirit) that animates this personality. What’s coming is actual self-talk, or evidence of Job’s thinking at the time. Imagine the understanding and compassion this might make possible for the world.”
“Yes,” I said. “I can imagine the impact on individuals wanting to understand their inner life. This stuff is amazing. The world gets unheard of evidence that there is an important relationship between the human spirit and personality development. They are not separate or in opposition to one another. Nor do they stay abstract or theoretical. In truth, they actually work together to bring the individual into the present, in spite of any adversity the person might have undergone. Now you are telling me that we might get examples of self-talk during suffering. It’s as if we are finding a prescription for what to expect when facing adversity, as well as the best way to endure it and grow.”
“Indeed it is,” Chris answered. “And our longing for relief from such suffering was initially a longing for love. Love in this context was freedom to be and something we thought we had in the beginning, but then somehow lost.”
“So, what can we say that Job has learned thus far in his emotional journey?” I asked.
“The dream implies it is his and our fate to hear inner judgments and to become afraid—of being afraid,” he answers.
“That’s paranoia,” I said. “My God, that is the actual state of our culture now.”
I paused, taking everything in. I couldn’t believe that I was here, having a conversation about something that happened thirty-six hundred years ago, and yet finding in it something that was still so relevant today. I also realized how rare this analysis was—that we were speaking of an ancient person’s inner personality traits as opposing forces—each moving him to a place of healing and understanding.
“So,” I started, trying to formulate my next question. “There is a prescriptive tone or a ‘how to suffer’ quality represented by Job’s experience, yes?”
“I think the prescription is forming,” he said. “At a minimum we are learning that it is important to not passively serve the ego. Self-examination and inquiry are important first steps to understanding how to suffer.”
“I can see that now,” I said. “Also, that suffering needs to be done with compassion or we fall victim to our emotions?”
“Yes,” he answered. “And, we also have an answer for ‘why’ we suffer—to become conscious. Essentially, what we see happening inside of Job is the human spirit provoking a heartfelt question: are feelings or intuitions as important, or equal to, the ego’s judgments? By asking this question we see the first hint that mirrors the problems in contemporary spirituality,” he said.
I understood what Chris was saying—that Job was questioning which was above the other: ego or feelings? I understood ego to be that part of the psyche that experiences the external world, or reality. By using our senses, it organizes our thoughts and governs our actions. Ego is a survival mechanism that mediates between our impulses and the demands of the environment. It gets its standards from the culture and is tied to the brain. In contrast, feeling is an immediate reaction to the present moment, and the instrument used for its perception is the body and heart.
“What is our contemporary spiritual problem?” I asked.
“No one wants to admit, let alone work through, the abusive and powerful influence of the human ego. Instead, we think there is some shortcut around it. This dream text shows that Job decided to do just the opposite.”
“Are the emotional and spiritual self above the ego?” I asked out loud. “The average person spends the majority of their life buffing, polishing, and worshipping the ego. It usually isn’t until life hits them between the eyes with something that they wake up to the spiritual. And, even then, not everyone stays awake.”
“Sadly, it’s this unconscious allegiance to ego that plagues the human race today,” Chris said. “If given an option to worship love or fear, many choose fear. Sorting out Job’s dilemma could be an important first step in turning this around in our culture. If only?” With that, he sighed.
Suddenly, a noise from the back of the library caught Chris’s attention and he turned away. I could tell by the sadness in his eyes that he was moved by our discussion, but it was also clear that it was coming to an end.
“Thank you so much!” I said.
“Hey, no problem.” he replied. “At this point, we are just at the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to this teaching left to decipher. I hope to learn more as the week’s progress.”
We both checked our watches and commented that we couldn’t believe how long we had been talking. We agreed to stay in touch and then walked in opposite directions toward our cars.