In response to my “Self-Emptying #2” post, Jaqueline offered a fabulous quote from Joseph Campbell.

Campbell writes:

“The field of time is the field of sorrow. ‘All life is sorrowful.’ And it is. If you try to correct the sorrows, all you do is shift them somewhere else. Life is sorrowful. How do you live with that? You realize the eternal within yourself. You disengage, and yet, reengage. You—and here’s the beautiful formula—’participate with joy in the sorrows of the world.’ You play the game. It hurts, but you know that you have found the place that is transcendent of injury and fulfillments. You are there, and that’s it.”

Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living

Campbell’s idea of a “place that is transcendent of injury and fulfillments” captures a crucial aspect of the spiritual life.

We all bear within us, a reality that is greater, stronger, more radiant, beautiful, and true than all the terrible things that may ever have been done to us, or that we may ever have done.

There is at the heart of our being a “transcendent” “place” that does not rise and fall with the tide of circumstance. There is a depth dimension to human existence that bears something of the nature of the God in whose “image and likeness” we were all created. It is strong, steady, and non-reactive.

This is the place within every human being wherein resides the well-spring of wisdom and light that has the power to guide us into true life.

This steady is the origin of all art, all human compassion, triumph, goodness and perseverance. This force at the core of our being is the power that causes life to continue and spirits to persevere. It is the only way to a secure confident identity, free of attachment, clinging and eogic identification. It is the source of true freedom.

We may call this inner reality, the “image of God”, the presence of Christ, eternal life, or our true self.  Paul speaks of this reality when he writes:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19,20)

Whatever we call this abiding reality our hearts long to connect with it. We desire above all to touch this strong unchanging centre and to live in confidence and trust in its never-failing presence.

So much of our lives are like the flotsam and jetsam bobbing on the surface of the ocean. We fixate on the bits and pieces of circumstance and situation that rise and fall with the waves, as if this is our real life. We forget that deep beneath the surface in the darkness below the turmoil, there is a steady fecund reality that never changes and is never undone by whatever may be happening on the surface.

I have seen this again and again in peoples’ lives. They have suffered terribly; they have known injustice, cruelty, rejection, and violence. Yet in the midst of all the terror of life, these people know that there remains within them a tiny spark of light that is never extinguished. No matter how much life may let them down, they know that this power at the centre of their being, never fails. This enduring light is what is most deeply and profoundly true about us.

Paul wrote,

Love never ends. (I Corinthians 13:8)

It is not that we try hard, it is that we are held secure. God is faithful and that faithfulness is the core of our being.

The goal of all spiritual practice is to awaken to this abiding reality.

When I sit in silent prayer, I am intending to open to this “transcendent” presence. I am expressing my trust that this presence is real and trustworthy. I am exercising the muscle of surrender which is the only means to find my way to this deep abiding presence that is my true nature created in the image of God. I am descending beneath the flotsam and jetsam into the dark depth of my being where I find that spaciousness that enables me to be more fully conscious of the reality of the Divine in all of life.


Ponder these texts. Feel their strength. Let them open you to that presence that dwells in the deep silence of your innermost being.

Touch the deep place within yourself that knows these words are true.

Job 32:8 – But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding.

Ezekiel 37:14 – I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.’

Zechariah 12:1 – Thus says the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the human spirit within

James 4:5 – do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, ‘God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’?

II Corinthians 4:16 – So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

Romans 7:22 – I delight in the law of God in my inmost self.

I Corinthians 15:44 – If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

I Corinthians 10:3 – all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink.

John 4:14 – those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

Matthew 10:28 – Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul

Luke 17:20,21 – Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’

Romans 8:9 – you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.

I Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

I Corinthians 6:19 – do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

John 15:4 – Abide in me as I abide in you.

Romans 8:10 – But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Colossians 3:11- Christ is all and in all.

Galatians 2:20 – it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.

John 17:22,23 – The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me.

Colossians 2:9, 10 – in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him.

II Corinthians 4:7 – But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.

Ephesians 3:16,17 – I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

Colossians 1:27 – To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

I John 4:4 – the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.