Posts Tagged ‘initiation’

Uses of Sorrow

September 19, 2010

I am suspicious, I must say, of too much of the “positive thinking” trend nowadays, as if there were no point to true melancholy or utter sorrow. I don’t think life can be without them, nor do I think I would want life without them. This is a world of opposites, and you can’t have one without the other, one can’t exist without the other. Buddha calls for the middle path, but there is no middle path without experiencing fully the opposites. These thoughts have been with me in recent experiences of deep grief.

Rilke wrote in a letter to Madame M.R.:
“What you say of your life — that its most painful event was also its greatest — that is, so to speak, the secret theme of these pages, indeed the inner belief that gave rise to them. It is the conviction that what is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, has the modesty to use sorrow in order to penetrate our soul.”

I was reading today about initiations in the Mithraic mysteries and other forms of initiation. The intent of these rites is transformation, as from caterpillar to butterfly. To achieve the metamorphosis, the initiate passes through tremendous ordeals, and through them experiences otherwise unavailable ecstasies and wisdom. I believe life works this way.

I don’t invite sorrow, nor do I wish it upon anyone, but when it is delivered I respect it as itself. Sorrow is not a problem to solve but a great power.