devil-or-angel

Devil or Angel

There is an interesting story in Buddhism about “The Dweller on the Threshold.” In spite of the various ways it was described, I was given the impression that this Dweller is one vicious and ugly critter whose job it is to test the sincerity of the spiritual seeker.

Apparently, if you are on the “right path” you will eventually come to an invisible doorway. The Dweller stands on one side of the entrance and “The Angel of the Presence” stands on the other. Before entering, you must wrestle with or otherwise overcome the Dweller before you can enter the Gateless Gate. There are a number of opinions as to how you can enlist the help of the Angel, but the general impression I got was that the Angel doesn’t actually do anything.

Actually, I don’t think you have to be any kind of seeker to come across these two guys. Through my work I have met a great many people who have met this monstrous entity and its angelic counterpart, usually at crucial times in their lives. Quite often the individuals were not aware of any Dweller or Angel, instead viewing their situation as a personal crisis and not a spiritual passage.

But what if every life problem was actually a spiritual passage, designed to help you grow in awareness and appreciation of who you really are? At first the problem might appear as the Dweller, the intimidating monster with whom you have to wrestle and conquer, but one you’d much rather avoid altogether. All the painful feelings you suffer, along with any people who seem to be causing or aggravating the problem, are bundled up into that Dweller identity as well.

And the Angel?  It seems to represent the invisible forces you turn to in order to save you from your crisis. This angel could be something as esoteric as a spiritual, heavenly being, or as scientific as your reasoning, analytical intellect.

So there you are, stuck in a struggle against this dark lunar lord, while desperately reaching out for divine intervention or logical remedy.

As I understand the myth, fighting the monster, running to the angel, or trying to turn and run from the challenge altogether are all ways to keep you from entering the Gateless Gate and the knowledge beyond. This has been my experience as well.  In my perception, both the Angel and the Dweller exist in separation and are therefore reflections of my fear. If I don’t automatically give into my fear, I can face the seeming darkness of the crisis and enter into the void of the Gateless Gate.

Relaxing into the pain that the crisis seems to bring on is like falling into a great emptiness. As I approach the heart of the discomfort I come to see that there is nothing there! I have heard that Buddhists refer to this as the Great Emptiness.

But “I” am there! Not the personality of Christopher or the character of essence, only me, the non-self. And the Great Emptiness is now the Great Fullness. I am not looking for light because I am the light.

Human problems are spiritual passages. Financial difficulties, relationship crises, health issues, personal dilemmas… they all introduce you to the limitations of your humanness, and give you the opportunity to recognize that there is an “I” which is not human, but which contains all the experiences of you, the human being. Facing your pain without reaction, and embracing it with your awareness, allows you to enter the Gateless Gate. And then?