Gnosis Inner Knowing
Ann O’Hara’s Story:
Ann, in her simplicity, gave words to what mystics have been trying to convey for centuries – namely that we are wholly and completely loved just as we are. From that day forward Ann was completely free from anxiety about all of her percieved imperfections, foibles, and wounds. This inner conviction comes not from study or prayer alone, but from an all-consuming experience of feeling immersed in God, in union with All Reality, separate from nothing. It can happen over time through prayer and meditation. Or it can happen in a flash, while in a crowd or in nature, anywhere.
This kind of knowing is often associated with mystics whose writings use marital/spousal images and language to convey their experience of union with God/Reality. The term used to describe this perspective is “panentheism.” As the word suggests, “pan” – many or all, and theism – God or Divine – meaning that the Divine/God is in all things and all things are in God/Divine. So the mystic perceives a spark of the Divine or the fiery intelligence our reading spoke about in all things.
Rumi, the great Sufi mystic, suggested that the human heart was the door to the macrocosm, and this world, the microcosm, inferring that interior world could lead one to discover the secrets of the universe.
Teresa of Avila said, “To journey into this interior world within, love must already be awakened. For love to awaken in us: Let go, Let Be. Be Silent. Be Still in Gentle Peace, Be Aware of Opposites, Learn Mindfulness and Forgetfulness.”
As one who is an introvert, I journeyed into this interior world easily as a child. I think many children do. The doorway may be as Rumi suggests, the human heart – a sense of feeling connected to something bigger than oneself. If the human heart is the doorway, then imagination is the elevator that lets us explore the many levels, floors, or rooms in this interior castle, as Teresa of Avila called it.
Ultimately, inner knowing, gnosis is an experience that leads to enlightenment, the realization that I/we am loved just as I/we am. Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance, suggests that enlightenment isn’t about gaining perfection, but rather having no anxiety about our imperfections. Knowing who we are and whose we are deep down, underneath our imperfection, mistakes, free from the past.
For me, this awareness came over time, by spending time with God alone, in nature and in meditation, but one day this realization hit me like a hammer on the head when I was participating in communion at a Catholic mass.
During the communion rite the priest takes the bread and says in the words of JC, “this is my body, given for you.” In that moment, even though I had heard those words a million times, something in my heart broke open and I realized that this bread, this world, this life is for me! Now! The invitation of Life itself was to imbibe wholly and completely!
Not at some later date when I was healed, or perfected or unbroken. No! right now! Because I am whole! I am healed! I am unbroken! The bread became a metaphor for All That Is – for me and you, for the seas and the sky, for love and loss, for the cycle of becoming that manifests as birth, death, and resurrection.
Deep down that fiery intelligence, that spark of awareness revealed my Self to me. I am One with All That Is. I had a profound awareness of the intimacy of communion, the interconnection and interdependency of all life. But more importantly, I had an overwhelming realization that I am worthy, I am enough, I do not have to change to be loved and loveable, to participate fully in the communion of Life!
In that moment, I realized that there was a greater reality deep down, beneath the shadow of ego, beneath that feeling that I am not worthy, not enough. It was an overwhelming sense of knowing that at my essence and at the level of essence of all that is, all is as it should be – whole, healthy, unbroken.
And when I AM on that holy ground, I cannot be broken, I am not wounded, but I am loved just as I am and I am able to love others just as I am. It is the awareness that I do not have to change, you do not have to change to be loved, loveable, or made worthy. We already are!
Tara Brach suggests that the primary suffering of the West is the belief/feeling of “being not good enough (shame, inadequacy, unworthiness, etc.).” She describes it as “soul sadness” – grief stemming from the realization of “how much of our life we have lived in a contracted state” which is often rooted in our perception and belief of unworthiness. This resonates deeply with me.
We spend much of our lives looking for our sense of worth outside of ourselves. We try to earn it through our accomplishments, through our work or our family. We look to others to give us a sense that we are okay, that we are good and worthy. So long as we are looking to gain that knowledge about ourselves from others, it is a clear indication that we don’t know it ourselves, in our heart, in the core of our being, where awareness of that knowledge can transform us and re-orient our lives and the way we perceive our relationship with all that is.
Seeking our self-worth or measuring our lives based on what we do, what we have or even what we think is an indication that we have not accessed our inner knowing, the awareness that we are already worthy, whole and capable of even more than we could dream.
We are not an accessory to Life’s sacredness. We are an expression of it, part and parcel of the Divine Unfolding, which we call Life, the Universe, the Great Mystery, God.
The challenge of being human is to trust this inner truth at all costs…to trust it in the face of trials and difficulty, to trust it in the midst of persecution and oppression, to trust it, even when we ourselves have acted contrary to it.
I believe much of the violence and hatred in our world results from our refusal as a society and now global culture, to value inner knowing, knowing through a felt-sense of Self that insists that there is no separation of realities.
Instead, we have emphasized the value of reason and rationality which breaks things down into parts and pieces in order to gain understanding, over other ways of knowing such as mystical experiences, intuition, imagination, gut-feelings, and that thing that is sometimes called a sixth sense.
And yet, who among us, couldn’t share a story of a time when had a feeling or a sense that something was going to turn out a certain way, and then it did? Or who among us hasn’t felt the need to act contrary to convention or what appears to be the right thing to do in order to remain consistent with our inner knowing?
We poo poo the world of metaphysics and yet mystics have said for centuries and science is now confirming that all things are interconnected. Nothing exists in isolation. If that is true it makes sense to me that just as individuals have consciousness, there is a collective consciousness that can be tapped into. We see it in the 100th monkey theory. The theory is based on the observation that when one monkey in a family of monkeys learns something new, not only do the other monkeys in the family pick it up, but monkeys who have no contact at all with the others will begin to adopt the new behavior.
It has been said that when a new discovery is made, for example in science, on one continent, the discovery will follow very soon after by scientists in other labs all over the world until it becomes common knowledge, accepted as truth.
Can you imagine a world in which the inner knowing, the knowing the mystics spoke about and wrote about and danced about – that I am and you are loved and lovable, just as we are, that deep down we are worthy, and free, that underneath all that appears separate is a unified whole, from which we can neither be separated nor expelled – could reach the level of consciousness by enough of us that it permeated the collective consciousness to the point that it became common knowledge?
Everything would be different! The violence which comes from our own self-hatred would cease. Dis-eases of the ego like depression, anxiety, eating disorders would cease because we would realize from the core of our being that nothing is wrong! Wars would make no sense because we would see that in killing others we are killing ourselves!
Love, tenderness, compassion, along with courage, inspiration and aspiration would become our norms because we would be less consumed with our wounds (recognizing them as superficial) or confined by self-pity and more compelled by our passion to live into our potential and possibility.
This inner knowledge – that we are loved just as we are - will never become common knowledge until we believe it ourselves. (51% like the movie I AM talked about.). So do whatever it takes to explore interior world. Play! Pray! Be open to the new and unusual! Put on the mind of the mystic and act as if there is a divine spark that cannot be extinguished in everyone, everything and most importantly, in you. But remember, as Teresa of Avila said, “To journey into this interior world within, love must already be awakened. So fall in love as deeply as you can with one another, your partner, spouse, family, friends, and four-legged, with music, art, nature and the entire cosmos and just see where that Love takes you! My hope is that it will bring you home, to the inner knowing that you are more than enough and inspire you to become more than you know yourself to be today.