Dear Donagh,

… I love your website for the depth you give to everything.  It’s not often we get that.  I haven't got a question for you this time, I just want to compliment you on the quality of the answers you give. – they have a philosophical edge, very spicy!  What's the secret of a mind like that?  Joe C.

Dear Joe,

Thank you for your comments, which were well meant I'm sure.  I never got a question about me before!  To go straight to the point: I don’t really like the word ‘depth’ at all.  It can be an illusion and a trap.  It may be worth dwelling on this subject for a while – and that’s why I’m responding to your question (if it was a question). 

In times gone by, when people wanted to imagine hell they thought of a huge fire, stoked by demons with pitchforks – a huge roast.  It was the worst they could imagine.  But we have even more terrifying images today.  Black holes in space give me goose-pimples (even at this distance).  They suck in everything around them – stars, planets, gas clouds, everything…. The gravitational force in a black hole is so strong that not even light can escape from it, so they call it black.  There’s said to be a huge one at the centre of the Milky Way, millions of times more massive than our sun.  It would be a good image of hell, if you wanted one. 

I think, though, that it could also have a more proximate use.  It could be an appropriate image of the human ego (of course you would have to scale it down a bit!).  An ego at full force is a bit like a black hole, in the sense that it wants to suck everything into itself – food and drink, for a start, and sex (these gravitational forces have a built-in braking-system, but addiction can override this).  Then money, which has no built-in braking-system.  Then there is the less material stuff (but it has even greater gravity): praise, fame, power, control….  All headlong into the black hole.  Not even light can escape – I mean the light of understanding and awareness.  People who are fully identified with their egos can't see that identification at all. 

Is that where depth is to be found?  I hope not!  Depth is in danger of being mistaken for the bottomless pit that is the ego.  Someone stands out in my memory as a perfect example of this.  He was deep in ‘depth psychology’, but there was something missing; I was slow to pinpoint it, but the moment of clarity came: there was no love in him.  All the movement was inward; he was giving nothing away.  I think now that depth should be measured, if it can be measured at all, by how much we can give ourselves away.  We are meant to be radiant stars, not black holes.  I recall a passing remark by Wittgenstein, “depth is on the surface.”  For years I could not see what he meant, but now it seems clear.  Meister Eckhart said that the richest person is not the one who has been able to accumulate the most wealth, but the person who has been able to give everything away.  Extending it, we could say the deepest person is the one who has been able to give themselves away completely.   

In meditation, the transition is from a black hole to a radiant star.  In meditation you are not ‘going into yourself’; you are going out of yourself; you are attempting to emerge from your ego, your black hole.  Of course there are different kinds of going out, as there are different kinds of going in.  You can try to escape ‘out’ just as easily as you can escape ‘in’.  The kind of ‘going out’ I mean is not an escape into distraction, but a matter of being fully present and responsible.  You are there on the cusp of the black hole (I believe they call it the ‘event horizon’): there is a perilous moment when something can be sucked in or not sucked in.  The light in you is not yet trapped; you are awake and aware.  You resist the pull of inward gravitation; you go out to find the depth outside your ego.  Only there are you one with God's creation and with God.  What a liberation it is to see depth in everything! (though we still have reason to be nervous of that word because it has been hijacked so long by the ego).  Everything in creation is a revelation of God, but the ego sees nothing there.  So, like many words, the word ‘depth’ needs cleansing.  The more used a word is, the more it needs to be examined and reinvented.  

While we are waiting for that to happen, why not use the word ‘spacious’ instead – or some equivalent?  Why not play with that, and see where it goes?  I came across this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950).  You may find it helpful. 

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Further away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That cannot keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat  -  the sky
Will cave in on him by and by. 

Thanks, Joe, for your question.  I wish you the best. 


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