Meta Enlightenment

VII. The Inner Trial

By Alex Bunard, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Franz Kafka has written the most peculiar book entitled The Trial. This book happens to be very difficult to classify, let alone explain. It opens with an incident where the main character (the "hero") is abruptly arrested, only to be immediately released and put on some undisclosed trial, to defend himself from the 'outside'. The accused is not aware of any of his wrongdoing, yet he 'plays along' expecting that any minute the error will be realized by the higher authorities, and that he will receive an apology. Nothing like that ever happens, of course, and we are forced to witness, to our horror, the ever more convincing logic that tightens around our hero's life, showing him that all resistance is futile. The necessity of being guilty creeps in so slowly, that by the time we realize the consequences of our reasoning, we awake to the fact that it's too late. Eventually, the ever hopeful protagonist of this odd tale gets executed ("like a dog"), and we finish the book with a disturbing aftertaste of utter injustice that has been done to the fellow human being, and of utter hopelessness of the whole situation.

The dreamlike world of Franz Kafka holds a strange fascination for us; although we know that we can easily shake off all of his absurd notions and mechanisms (accusing and executing any person without sufficient material evidence, and according to the laws, cannot be an everyday occurrence), we still feel that these absurd images had stirred something deeply disturbing in us. We feel that such absurd processes and mechanisms are far from being impossible to happen to us. Simply put, the observation that we are constantly subjected to the inner trial within the confines of our imagination is quite true.

The contents and the underlying mechanisms of this inner trial have been brilliantly exposed by the French psychiatrist Hubert Benoit, in his book The Supreme Doctrine (first published in France in 1951). There really isn't much one could add to his explanation -- it is sufficient to only gloss over Benoit's eye-opening concept here. The fact is that many of us can easily detect the endless trial unfolding within the so-called unconscious depths of our minds. There is little doubt that we feel very exposed, very helpless while being in a constant state of awaiting the news regarding the outcome of the inner trial. We definitely feel guilty, but we also feel hopeful. What do we feel we are guilty of?

To be able to demonstrate the answer to this question, we will first have to note that, for the most part, we feel as if we are on the mission in life. This mission's goal is to demonstrate to us that we are indeed united, integrated with the whole world. The need for demonstrating this wholeness stems from the deep inner sensation that we are not foreigners in this world, that we are not really "thrown into the world". Despite all the anxieties and the vexations we go through every day, deep inside we know that we are one with the rest of the world. We just have to manifest that state of affairs, in order to convince ourselves beyond the trace of a doubt. However, our efforts to manifest this are doomed to failure from the very outset.

There is more than one way to partially grasp the reason why our efforts to manifest our true standing in life cannot succeed. Yet, none of the explanations we can come up with can truly cover the real cause for this state of affairs (again, only the enlightening experience is capable of bringing this issue to its final resolution). Since such experience is incommunicable, we are left with less than perfect means of pointing to reality. Before we return to our discussion of the inner trial, we must try to probe more deeply into this strange phenomenon: why aren't we capable of demonstrating, beyond the trace of a doubt, our true standing in life?

On the intellectual level, this impasse could be compared with an attempt to setup an experiment where the outcome will determine its source. For example, the common knowledge demonstrates that the sleeping/wakeful activities of many animals are governed by the succession of day and night. It would be ludicrous to presume that by putting an experimental animal to sleep, we could cause the nightfall to occur in the middle of the day. Nobody would ever come up with such a meaningless idea, and yet somehow we firmly believe that we, as individuals, should preside over our lives.

This part/whole postulate is, on a rational level, clearly understandable by everyone, and it is quite obvious that while the whole determines its part, the opposite cannot be true. On a deeper psychological level, however, we are not that clear when it comes to our role in life (as a part of the unfathomable whole reality). Somehow, we feel that we, being a part of reality, should be more important and more powerful than the metaphysical whole.

Leaving the intellectual level (which proved to be too feeble for firmly grasping the truth beyond being baffled by the paradox), we can sink deeper into our intuition. Intuitively, we know that we cannot climb upstream, beyond our source. In other words, there is a source of our existence, and then there is the need to be above that source. There is the need, present within our being, to be the cause of this source. This is absurd, and we know it. Our confidence in the naturalness of our being-in-the world therefore collapses, leaving us clueless. This confusion contributes to our sense of guilt which is fueling the ever present inner trial.

It is obvious now that the above mentioned mission in life, which most of us feel is a crucial part of who we are, has serious cracks in its foundation. Simply put, the whole mission feels somehow unnatural. And this feeling of unnaturalness, of unsettledness, is very disturbing. As we are struggling with the paradoxes of this inner trial, we are anxiously awaiting its settlement -- many events in our daily lives get to be interpreted thus as being auspicious with regards to our intimate trial. When things are going bad, the impeding sense of unfavorable verdict grows to be so strong that it threatens to almost suffocate us from within with the gushing feelings of anguish. As soon as things start turning for the better, the feelings of tremendous relief well up inside ("ah, I will not be pronounced unworthy of living after all!") This roller coaster of the alternating big Yes and big No constitutes the famous chain of birth-and-death (or, in Oriental terminology, Samsara-and-Nirvana). Thus being constantly on this trial, we end up spending our lives feeling like a yo-yo in the hands of some unknown mysterious giant. We are being jerked up and down in a rapid succession of some totally unpredictable and uncontrollable pattern of events.

What about the deeply seated assuredness that we are indeed naturally integrated into the reality? We've seen the impossibility to demonstrate it, but does that really invalidate the unmistakable conviction that, despite the facts, this is true? This contradiction (that we know that something is true while being flatly refuted by the evidence) is actually the crux of the problem. To heal, to find the peace and to liberate ourselves from the ups-and-downs of living, we know that we have to end this incessant trial. The only conceivable way to end it is to affirm ourselves to such an extent that it cannot leave any trace of a doubt that we are truly called upon to live to the fullest in this world. The grave mistake in this approach is our belief that, in order to accomplish this, we have to grow our self at the expense of the no-self. Typically, our approach is that we either have to obliterate any no-self elements from our lives, or to win them over, to make them realize that they'd be better off if they were to defect from their camp and to join ours. This self-aggrandizing project is condemned to fall flatly on its face from the very outset. Still, we keep resurrecting it over and over.

The surprising thing is that the only way to end this trial is to go in the opposite direction. So, our initial hunch, our starting point, is perfectly valid. We are absolutely correct to believe that we are truly indivisible from the reality, and that we are entitled to live the most fulfilling and flamboyant lives. We only make the mistake in falsely interpreting the evidence that we have accumulated from our past experiences. In other words, not being versed in spiritual and other more subtle matters of our lives, we tend to be mislead by various paradoxes that our rational mind encounters.

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