The Clear Mind
In our members there is a slumbering inclination toward desire, which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery … a secret, smouldering fire is kindled…. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real … Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God … The lust thus aroused envelops the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall Temptation: Two Biblical Studies, p. 132].
At one time in our past, we could find a quiet and untroubled retreat in our soul. However, as we matured from innocent childhood into independent adults, we gradually became spiritual felons.
Evil has a scent. It permeates our attitude, infusing our personality with a distinct odor. Our polluted thoughts are volatile and dissolve readily into our mind. They release their toxic qualities into everything we do.
I became evil for no reason. I had no motive for my wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself. My depraved soul leaped down from your firmament to ruin. I was seeking not to gain anything by shameful means, but shame for its own sake. [St. Augustine, Confessions].
Spiritual deprivation means that we lack God-consciousness, that we are without moral guidance. Deprived of the Divine Presence, left alone with only our mind for direction, we become corrupt, straying from our convictions and beliefs.
Our conscience accuses us, yet the judgment is ours. We admit our guilt, so our own mind convicts us. We sentenced ourselves to life without God.
When we realize that we have sinned and stand convicted by our own reason, we see life’s contradictions as part of our spiritual sentence. The more our intellect struggles in vain to understand existence, the tighter become the fetters around our mind.
The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul. [John Calvin].
We feel guilt, regret, or shame because we know we have done something wrong. This disrespectful attitude toward ourselves shows up in our behavior.
The arrogance of our intellect accumulates rust that causes pain when we try to open our mind. We spend much of our time pacing our thoughts in reflection, yet find no solution. Our eternally recurring confusion forms an ever-tightening rope around our psyche.
I put the question directly to myself: “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?” And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, “No!” [John Stuart Mill, Autobiography].
Through our conscience, our self-condemning spirit continually pours fear and guilt into our mind. Our thoughts whip us with psychological lashes whose mental scars grow thicker with time. We try to self-medicate our malady with amusements, but without the mercy of God all our efforts are useless.
Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief. [C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed].
Wherever we go, whatever we do, we remain confined within the limits of our mind – unless we turn to the Divine Reality for pardon.
There is no thirst of the soul so consuming as the desire for pardon. The sense of its bestowal is the starting-point of all goodness. It comes bringing with it, if not the freshness of innocence, yet a glow of inspiration that nerves feeble hands for hard tasks, a fire of hope that lights anew the old high ideal, so that it stands before the eye in clear relief…. To be able to look into God’s face, and know with the knowledge of faith that there is nothing between the soul and Him, is to experience the fullest peace the soul can know. [Charles Henry Brent, With God in the World: A Series of Papers, p. 59].
Achieving true mental clarity is part of the process of knowing oneself. It requires that we cultivate spiritual consciousness by faith, prayer and worship.
… but take care that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and God will protect you, for the malice of humans cannot harm one whom God wishes to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly experience God’s help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore, place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men and free them from all distress. [Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, bk. 2, ch. 2].
Only God can make our conscience an abode of spiritual peace and dissolve shackles that bind us. Only God can quiet our self-accusing spirit.
Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness, the nourishment of the mind with his truth, the purifying of the imagination of his beauty, the opening of the heart to his love, the surrender of the will to his purpose. [William Temple].
We cannot purify ourselves. Only the Divine Presence in our life can heal our mind and restore spiritual innocence. Our submission and our devotion to God provide the only path to redemption and inner peace.
[But unto the righteous God will say,] “O thou human being that hast attained to inner peace! Return thou unto thy Sustainer, well-pleased [and] pleasing [Him]: enter, then, together with My [other true] servants – yea, enter thou My paradise!” [Quran 89:27-30].
Depression & Faith: How to Escape from a Prison of the Mind