Chapel on the Bridge
WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?
A Metaphysical Interpretation of the Biblical Book ofJob
Nancy B. Detweiler
Scripture Reading for this Lesson: Job 28-31
Job has achieved a new stage in his spiritual evolution. He has rejected the traditional explanations for why good people suffer. He has rebuked his friends, who tried to comfort him with "empty nothings." Job is awakening to the presence of God within himself.
St. John of the Cross describes two dark nights of the soul: one, the purification of the lower self; and two, the baptism of the spirit.155 Metaphysicians refer to this baptism of water and the Holy Spirit as the 2nd Initiation. Jesus underwent this initiation at the time of his baptism in the River Jordan, followed by his wilderness experience. The purification of the lower self involves gaining control of our emotional nature via the mind. No longer do we respond to life instinctively. Instead, we are learning to live life with conscious intention, to think through the challenges we meet, and to respond constructively. Achieving the 2nd Initiation can require many lifetimes. It is the most difficult of initiations because our emotions are so powerful and they are strongly reinforced by our society.
According to St. John of the Cross, the second dark night of the soul seldom follows immediately after the first. Usually, there is a period of time in which we experience great joy and excitement over being on the spiritual path. Communion with God can be easy. We feel a strengthening of our souls; we feel blessed and healed.156 Marsha Sinetar, in her book Ordinary People As Monks & Mystics, allows one of her clients to describe her "awakened spirit."
"I feel as though I'm walking with God all the time now. Little, insignificant things happen to me that make me feel his presence. I feel He's a part of me and that I'm a part of Him. There is a sort of inner light in and around me, although I know it's not a visible thing, and I don't actually visualize it. The point of all of this is that I've gained the strength to live a more potent life, a genuine and authentic life, a life of kindness. God is with me all the time and everywhere."157
The feelings described above are characteristics of a period of rest. Once we say, "God, I want to be conscious," we enter graduate school where the training and exams are much more difficult. We can feel stretched beyond our limits, only to find that the stretching prepared us for a much higher level of consciousness. We are never stretched beyond than our capacity to meet successfully the challenge. The pain occurs because we do not remember what tremendous beings we really are. We think we are solely human, when in fact, we are divine-spirit beings choosing to experience the plane of duality.
After his baptism, Jesus came out of the River Jordan and the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness for a period of meditation and inner struggle. The 40 days in the wilderness are synonymous with the second dark night of the soul that Job is now entering. St. John of the Cross describes this second dark night of the soul. "This dark night is an inflowing of God into the soul, which purges it from its ignorances and imperfections, habitual, natural, and spiritual. Herein God secretly teaches the soul and instructs it in perfection of love, without its doing anything, or understanding of what manner is this infused contemplation. Inasmuch as it is the loving wisdom of God, God produces striking effects in the soul, for, by purging and illuminating it, He prepares it for the union of love with God.
This Divine Wisdom is not only night and darkness for the soul, but is likewise affliction and torment. The first is because of the height of Divine Wisdom, which transcends the talent of the soul, and in this way is darkness to it. The second, because of its vileness and impurity [in comparison to God] in which it is painful and afflictive to it, and is also dark .. The clearer is the Light, the more it blinds .. When this Divine Light of contemplation assails the soul, which is not yet wholly enlightened, it causes spiritual darkness in it; for not only does it overcome it, but likewise it overwhelms it and darkens the act of its natural intelligence." 158
The soul's encounter with the Divine results in great pain because of its impurity. St. John continues: "When the soul suffers the direct assault of this Divine Light, its pain, which results from its impurity, is immense . the soul feels itself to be so impure and miserable that it believes God to be against it, and thinks that it has set itself up against God. This causes it sore grief and pain, because it now believes that God has cast it away." 159 Job felt that he had been cast aside by God. The individual undergoing the second dark night of the soul feels utterly alone, abandoned by God, family, and friends. No one else can understand the particular circumstances involved. The individual is learning to stand apart and to walk independently.
Thus, Job finds himself sitting on a pile of ashes, the laughingstock of those around him. However, Job is now aware of changes taking place within him. "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold." 160 Job hopes. Job fears. Job laments. Job praises. The upheaval, the extreme shift in moods, the confusion, the desperation, the hopelessness, the moments of insight and praise: all are the ingredients of the transformation process that takes place during the second dark night of the soul. For a while we do not know where we have been or where we are going. We are helpless to defend ourselves. After all, the world around us judges our situation according to its standard traditions and beliefs and finds us lacking. Why would the world desire to consider the new and different? For, to make us an exception to tradition would be to admit something very frightening about itself.
Into this scenario of Job's inner turmoil, some biblical scholars believe the 28th chapter was inserted at a later date by someone other than the writer of the Book of Job. As a metaphysician, I believe this chapter to be a depiction of the Holy Spirit teaching Job through his own intuitive thought processes.
"But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Mortals do not know the way to it, and it is not found in the land of the living." 161 Through Job's dark night of the soul, God is teaching him that wisdom is not to be found by the human intellect, by human dialogue, or through human traditions. Humans do not know the way and cannot find wisdom without divine intervention.
"God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens." 162 Job is comforted as he sits in the "darkness-that-is-God-approaching." God understands the way to wisdom.
"Truly, the fear [meaning reverence, awe] of the Lord [or universal Law], that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." 163 Through Job's purification and testing process, God is guiding him away from evil and granting him understanding. God is lovingly instructing Job as he sits in mental darkness.
Once more Job looks back, yearning for the good old days when "God watched over me; when his lamp shone over my head, and by his light I walked through the darkness; when I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent." 164 Job was respected back then. He wore fine clothes and people were eager to greet him. Back then, people waited anxiously to hear what Job, the Edomite sheik, would have to say. "I lived like a king." 165 What happened?
"God has loosed my bowstring and humbled me . now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have taken hold of me . my inward parts are in turmoil, and are never still . I go about in sunless gloom." 166 Job is devastated. Job no longer has any idea who he is. The old Job is passing away; he is being buried on the ashes heap.
We, like Job, must pass through our wilderness experience. Gloria Karpinski, in Where Two Worlds Touch, describes this stage in our spiritual evolution. "One reason that the purification cycle is so painful is that we've already had the awakening that assured us the shift was right and, during [the] commitment [stage], we've worked hard to make it happen. Yet when the purification starts, it can seem as though we've failed. It's easy to get caught in frustration. 'What do you want from me, God? Get off my back!'" 167
Actually, Job has intuited what God wants from him. God wants the same from us. In chapter 28, Job compares his search for wisdom to a miner digging for precious gems. "Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place where gold is refined.. God sets an end to darkness, and knows the end of everything.. The miner puts forth his hand upon the hard rock to break it; .he divides the rivers by his might; and his eye sees every precious thing.. The thing that is hid, he brings forth to light." 168 God wants to bring forth every precious gem within Job and us. God sees only our good. His loving eyes penetrate through the rock of our spiritual blindness and behold gold, silver, and precious stones. The dark nights of our soul are the miner's spike, digging through the walls we have erected around ourselves through the eons of incarnations on planet Earth. As the Light of God begins to penetrate the hole in the wall, we are blinded by the brilliance. Our soul sits in the "darkness-that-is-God-approaching"-confused, but hopefully now teachable.
This darkness is different. We are no longer lost. We are finding our way and the Light at the end of the tunnel blinds us with its radiance. The Apostle Paul offers encouragement for our journey through the tunnel. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with signs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." 169
Regardless of how far we are stretched, how difficult the graduate exams may be, we can rest in peace knowing that all things do work together for good when we are responding to the call of God to awaken to the precious gems to be found within our innermost being. God calls us to know our true beauty. It is our own forgetfulness, rigidity, and spiritual blindness that require the miner's spike. God would comfort each of us with the gentle words, "You are my beloved Child."
"My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord,
"Initiation is the revelation of love .
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time
155 St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul (New York: Image Books Doubleday, 1959) 61.
156 St. John of the Cross 91.
157 Marsha Sinetar, Ordinary People As Monks and Mystics: Lifestyles for Self-Discovery (New York: Paulist Press, 1986) 81.
158 St. John of the Cross 100-101.
159 St. John of the Cross 102.
160 Job 23:10.
161 Job 28:12-13.
162 Job 28:23-24.
163 Job 28:28.
164 Job 29:2b-4.
165 Job 29:25b.
166 Job 30:11a, 16, 27a.
167 Karpinski 228.
168 Job 28:1, 9-10, 11b.
169 Romans 8:26-28.
170 Hebrews 12:5b-8.
171 Bailey. From Bethlehem 26-27.
172 Romans 8:18, 11:36.
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