DIALOGUE ON THE PATH OF
The Life and Thought of Karlfried Graf Durckheim
by Alphonse Goettmann
Theodore and Rebecca Nottinghamhttp://www.centre-bethanie.org/compression/dialogue.pdf
From Chapter 5
FROM DEATH TO LIFE: THE BREAK-THROUGH OF BEING
GRAF DURCKHEIM: The experiences of the numinous can often remain subtle, whereas the
great experience of Being creates a radical turning around in the person who lives it; the old
world crumbles and a new life is born within him. This is positive transcendence, resulting in
rare and wondrous experiences. Children will go to an attic or a basement to be frightened, to
feel something which gives them a shiver. Adolescents like to lose themselves in the woods to
feel that which attracts and repels them. Certain audacious adults also seek out danger: for
example, the racedriver or the mountain climber both seek a nearness to death, to destruction,
to feel that which cannot be destroyed. The attraction of danger is the experience of the
indestructible; it is in the presence of death that we experience the extraordinary premonition
of something which cannot be destroyed.
I know a young lady who took drugs to kill herself. She was saved, and told me one day:
"You know, I will do it again!" "Why?" "The moment after having taken the poison was so
beautiful, I felt such freedom that it was worth it all! It was more beautiful than the whole life
I had lived, and I would do it again!" There is clearly a moment between life and death where
millions of people have felt something which, from then on, becomes the most sacred core of
their lives. For such persons, this can be the beginning of a new life, its measure and criteria,
discovered at the moment when they have gone beyond death.
ALPHONSE GOETTMANN: Is this joy and renewal the consequence of letting go?
G. D.: Let's say that all that keeps you attached to life has disappeared. This is the great
letting go. The self that has hardened and the barrier which separates us from the divine have
melted. Yet we must never forget that without such a separation we could not become
conscious of the divine. We should condemn neither the self nor original sin: there are faults
which cause the discovery of what is right, there are lies without which we would never find
truth, there are weaknesses without which we would never know what power is, and there are
falls without which we would never know what it means to get up again...In the end,
everything is connected and one doesn't go without the other.
As you stated, this is the image of the shadows which have not understood the light radiating
within them. We must not say: because there are shadows, we cannot see the light; it is the
shadow itself which holds the repressed light, just as each death anticipates life and no
suffering would have meaning without the hope for healing. One is always in the other. What
is important in those extraordinary moments in which someone has gone beyond human life is
that he is beyond what is generally called life and death. It is neither life nor death. But what is
it that goes beyond life and death, affirmation and destruction? It is the state that transcends
A. G.: This is a state which the world must have access to since everyone suffers and "even
creation groans in travail" as saint Paul says. At the very moment when Christ dies on the
cross, the Temple veil is torn, and the crowd suddenly finds itself in touch with the Holy of
Holies, beholding the immense freedom to which it is henceforth invited. But suffering had to
be unmasked and the abyss of death had to be overcome so that the supreme night could
become supreme light. This is the "Lost Secret" to be found in all traditions. "Night and Day
are two sisters who have the same love, the Sun..." as is written in Hindu scriptures. Should
we not move forward into the night of our suffering to discover the dawn of the new day
which awaits us?
G. D.: That's it! The more we enter into the night of our suffering, the more we find that man
is eaten up by three great distresses: --the fear of destruction, the anguish before death and
annihilation; man is no longer rooted in the source of life and to suffocate his fear he
surrounds himself with a security system. --Despair before the meaninglessness of life; cut off
from the vital inner reality, man builds himself an ephemeral and artificial universe. The third
distress is the utter sadness of isolation, because divided man is alone even though he is made
for dialogue. To be able to communicate through every possbile means, he creates for himself
all sorts of false realitonships.
There is no human life which is not marked by these three sufferings. Yet if someone has an
experience of Being, he is transformed from one moment to the next. He is no longer afraid of
death, he accepts meaninglessness and feels sheltered from solitude. This transformation is the
first and greatest evidence that we have been touched by the reality of Being beyond our
normal experiences: we are suddenly freed from our usual conditioning. If you ask me what
allows me to speak of the experience of another Reality, I would answer: "Is there a greater
reality for us than that which is capable of freeing us from fear, despair and sadness once and
for all regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves?" This is a passage to a new
level of being. But it is important to know that having the experience of awakening to another
reality does not yet make us awakened persons.
I have met people who have had dozens of such experiences but are far from being awake to
this other reality. That requires a continual effort toward transformation. From that effort
comes the second evidence of a transcendent experience: a new sense of life is revealed
through another way of feeling, of creating and of loving. It is a call to a new way of life. This
is where the third criteria comes from: the quality of the numinous which no longer manifests
itself under the shape of dispersed events but radiates in all its beauty, and makes the smallest
object transparent. It is an Atmosphere...A Presence. The fourth criteria is verified by the birth
of a new consciousness. The consciousness of the mundane self always in search of power,
knowledge, and possession gives way to the awakening of absolute consciousness. Remember
that there are three types of consciousness: the egocentric childish consciousness born from
fear of punishment, hell, and guilt; this consciousness satisfies our primary instinctive needs.
The second consciousness is expressed through the voice of the community to which we
belong, it is directed by the organization and its laws. Finally, there is a third state of
consciousness which expresses the fourth element of a transcendent experience. This state of
consciousness is an acute awareness of plenitude, and witnesses to the presence of Being. The
fifth proof of the validity of such an experience can lead one to smile or shrug one's shoulders,
and yet....This is the appearance of the Adversary: the Devil!
There where Life is born, the
Adversary arises; he is the personification of the power which tries to consciously stop or
destroy the life willed by God. The more a person is oriented toward the supernatural life, the
more the Adversary attempts to turn him away. This is not a pious story, but a fact found in
an inexplicable psychological experience.
When a person seeks to have an experience of Being, twenty-four hours do not go by without
his being assaulted by an exterior event which troubles or saddens him; the shock comes from
the outside and is therefore not a psychological reaction but an aggression, a wound, some
bad news, an accident...A good little Christian who fulfills his duties toward his community
and believes he is in perfect harmony with his conscience is an easy victim for the Devil, but if
this brave Christian comes out of his lethargy and has an experience of God, then the Devil is
afraid to lose him and puts everything to work in order to destroy the path of promise.
A. G.: In summary, the surface consciousness is very fragile and vulnerable, always being
bounced about by obscure powers, like a bottle on waves. But everything changes when our
anchor is tossed into the depths of Being which inhabit us. The one who floats in the
enormous distraction of his life hears a call and decides to be a seeker. For him there is only
one true work, and that is to fufill the reality of his being, all the rest is only the means...
G. D.: The motivating force of a seeker is always that which he seeks! The Reality he is
seeking is always there in his search. He could never search for the divine if he did not carry
the divine within him. There are many seekers among us today who have not yet had that
experience and do not know what they are seeking, but are haunted by a great longing and
desire to find something they have lost. They turn to miracles and to the wondrous, the most
direct way to awaken in primitive souls a belief in superior beings. But we should ask where
miracles begin. What is there that is not miraculous? The simple fact that things exist, that a
color is a color, that a sound is a sound...This is all miraculous! Does it cease to become
miraculous because it is known by everyone? And why is it only miraculous when it goes
beyond the frontiers of the known?
A. G.: We need to change the way we look at things.
G. D.: The way we look at things and the seeing of something entirely different! We know
that the search for the unknown has always fascinated humanity, but instead of digging into
himself, he has devoured books. That is not enough, so he runs from guru to guru. That does
not satisfy either, so he goes on long voyages, he investigates all the "techniques" of
meditation, and that still does not enlighten him! Today, many sects require incredible efforts
and yet do not reveal the divine. There is confusion between technical performance and
discovery of the depths within through letting go of every ambition. Without this letting go,
there is an inflation of the little proud self. What publicity there is concerning these so-called
spiritual experiences! When a true mystic like John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila, or a
Buddhist saint managed to levitate, it was kept secret. Today, there is money to be made in
it...and the mystery evaporates! It's abominable!
A. G.: The Judases have always done business. But living has another price! The person who
feels called takes the Path and knows that a few dollars and a little leasure are of no help.
G. D.: He pays the price of a superhuman task and takes upon himself a very heavy discipline
which consists of working tirelessly, and finding in each moment the best opportunity for
advancement. But he can do this because the divine force attracts him powerfully and his
decision is unshakeable.
A. G.: "Narrow is the way which leads to life and few there are who find it," Jesus said.
"Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me..." Only those who
"leave their nets" and bet everything on one card are worthy! "Who will find his life shall lose
it and who will lose his life for my sake shall find it..." This is also one of the great central
teachings of the "Synthesis of the Yogis" by Aurobindo: "True gift of self, total and without
reserve, pitiless erasing of the ego, making of all life the altar of this sacrifice, leads into the
vast movement of the Divine Joy."
G. D.: That is what differentiates it with other transcendental experiences! Consider drugs for
instance. The experience of a drug can allow you a glimpse beyond the wall. Because a drug
puts the self to sleep, you suddenly go beyond the limits of your usual consciousness. Hashish
lets you see colors more vividly and gives to the senses an incredible sharpness, while L.S.D.,
beyond its painful darkness, can plunge you into another universe. The more the experience is
"beautiful," the more the desire to repeat it arises. That is where the difference is! The
legitimate experience seeks something other than repetition. It gives birth to a knowledge and
awakes the desire for an experience always available through discipline but never created in an
Drugs awaken the desire for repetition which ends in the destruction of the mind, takes away
the power to work, and ruins their victim. Rare are those cases where the person who
experiences the beyond through L.S.D. feels it as a call to enter into the experience through a
meditative discipline. But I must also say that drug users often know something which is
unknown by those who have not experienced it! And no one can take away this "something"
which they have glimpsed. They have a certain pity for those who do not yet know what there
is beyond the wall.
It is no coincidence that, in the fifth criteria, the Adversary of Life presents
himself through drugs exactly at the moment when the West, for the first time in the history of
humanity, awakens in great numbers to the inner life! He says: "You want a great experience?
It's not so hard as they tell you! Take a little of this substance and you will have the same
thing without effort." And so a part of our youth today falls into the trap of easy experience
and misses the path to liberation. It is astonishing that drugs have always existed but it is only
now, when the transcendent is being discovered, at the moment when people feel this
nostalgia for Being and enter upon the way, that the market is full of them!
A. G.: Humanity is at a crossroad and its choice is all the more difficult now that the Prince of
darkness cloaks himself in light. So the experience of transcendence must always be
accompanied with discernment. If not, what we believe to be the meaning of life could be
absolute meaninglessness, and the path turn into a black abyss! In other words, there must not
be any experience without evaluation.
G. D.: This "evaluation" is precisely the criteria we have just considered; it is indispensable if
we do not want to wander in illusion and seek to enter into the new Jerusalem whose meaning
is infinitely beyond all that we have known until then! If you ask people what is the meaning
of life, one will say this, the other that will say that...During one of my conferences in Munich
where six hundred people were gathered, I asked this question: "Ladies and gentlemen, let's
stop for a moment and ask ourselves what is the meaning of life. Let each one answer for
himself." Then we all sat in silence. After a while, I stated: "I am sure that many among you
have had the following reflection: what a funny idea, that question cannot be asked because
the answer is different for everyone, even for each stage of our lives!"
For one, it is a happy old age, for another it is having children, for a third it is a job they enjoy,
another would like an easy death...There are as many answers as there are people on earth.
And yet a single answer is valid for all: the person who has truly tasted Being knows once and
for all that the meaning of human life is nothing other than becoming a witness to the divine
presence in existence. That is the meaning of human life!! For me, that is the one answer
which is present within all the other answers. Is that not the role of religions, to awaken
people to this answer? In the meantime, man lives in his triple distress as we have mentioned;
cut off from his depths and without roots, he is forever confronted with the fear of destruction
or death. Projected to the agitated surface of himself and living in the deception of the
multiple, his life has no meaning and he falls into the absurd.
Finally, the prison of the mind isolates him more and more and cuts off his deep ties with the
rest of creation and with the source of life. From this condition there arises a perpetual
nostalgia for a life beyond death, for a meaning beyond meaninglessness, and for a love
beyond sadness and isolation. But through a long discipline or the gift of sudden grace, the
death of the little dominating "self" can occur, breaking the chains and allowing the incredible
experience of Being to seize the whole man. The walls which he had built in the face of fear
crumble, his artifical quest for meaning in the face of the absurd runs aground, and his empty
affections are transformed. Suddenly, Being reveals meaning to him at the very heart of
meaninglessness, and at the very heart of his solitude a supernatural love surrounds him,
vivifies him and gives him unity.