Mind Fasting and the Immaculate Conception

In the advent season, many are making sacrifices such as giving up cupcakes or even añejo tequila. While there is a benefit to intentional suffering, it cannot happen in a mechanical way. Too often, it is thought of as the function of “will power”, that is the opposition of one desire (cupcakes) against another (sacrifice). What is really needed is to understand the relationship between personal effort and spiritual reality as we learn in the first Arcanum. This is essential because if one does not understand it (i.e. take hold of it in cognitive and actual practice), one would not know what to do with all the other Arcana. Tomberg reveals the first and fundamental principle of esoterism:

Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!

This is also the key to Yoga as Pantajali tells us:

Yoga is the suppression of the oscillations of the mental substance.

These oscillations are automatic and mechanical: they arise from sensory impressions, inner desires, negative emotions, and thoughts that run on their own and usually have origins from unsuspected sources. Concentration is a free act and must be distinguished from obsession, which mimics concentration, but is not free.

Intentional sacrifice then is training for concentration: we learn to distinguish the state of calm and freedom from the disorder of “desires, the imagination and discursive thought”. To be effortless, the will cannot oppose directly the sources of these disorders. Instead, we need to learn to detach from them, to observe them from a point of silence. Only then will they dissipate. This is the rational order of things, where the intellect is higher than, and dominates, thought and desire.

Advent is also the time of preparation for the incarnation of the Logos. Every physical event is the reflection of a spiritual reality and, since spiritual reality is timeless, it returns eternally. Hence, we can revisit the meditation on the second Arcanum as the Word is made Flesh.

There we see that the Logos is made incarnate by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Soul. As we are, the waters of our souls are full of perturbations. An event may create anger or anxiety, resulting in whirlpools that are hard to climb out from. There are tides coming in and out, so one day we say, believe, or vow one thing, and then the next day, just the opposite. Storms blow across the waters leaving them rough and choppy. In an unperturbed soul, the surface of the water is smooth line a pane of glass. Only in that condition will the Spirit be reflected clearly in the Soul. Otherwise, it gets mixed up with our fantasies and desires, which we too often take to be real expressions of the Spirit.

On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we are reminded that only the Soul without sin can fully accept the Spirit. That Soul is totally free from perturbations. Can we even imagine what that is like? The exercise is worth the effort.

So either instead of, or in addition to, a physical fast, there is a Taoist exercise called mind fasting. If anyone has bothered to observe his thoughts, he will find abundant material to fast from. Perhaps there is a vulgar fantasy he indulges in. Perhaps he replays an event or conversations over and over in his mind. Perhaps he has a persistent anxiety or a worry. Maybe he has some daydream of success or power. Choose one and give it up. But give it up without effort.

3 Replies to “Mind Fasting and the Immaculate Conception”

  1. Truly beautiful. Puts me in a special realm just reading it. The words light up my soul.

  2. Indeed. One good way I have found to concentration without effort, and avoiding going ‘cold turkey’ on the thought/desire-pattern which one is obsessed with, is to transform the desire from a lower to a higher source. A daily devotion to Mary using the Rosary will focus your mind on the truth and beauty of the Immaculate Conception, and in the mysteries will enable contemplation of the good. When saying it with devotion and sincerity, many fruits will come of it.

  3. This has basis in Tradition. St Bernard of Clairvaux wrote:

    In the first coming He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.

    Peter of Blois wrote in his Sermon on Advent:

    There are three comings of Our Lord; the first in the flesh; the second in the soul; the third at judgment. The first was at midnight according to the words of the Gospel: At Midnight there was a cry made, Lo, the Bridegroom cometh! But this first coming is long since past for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come to us and take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty for us; for who, save the spirit of God, knows them that are of God?

Comments are closed.