I have been inspired by people who have come out in recent years. I just watched a video this morning of Pfizer executive Sally Susman talk about her coming out as gay, and how liberating it was and is in her life.
It takes so much courage, authenticity, honesty, for these people to be true to who they really are, to stop wearing the masks that pretend that they are something other than what they are, and to be true to themselves. Such recognition of your true self is a rite of passage, an ordeal—it changes everything. It is an unveiling, an unmasking, a nakedness and vulnerability that takes audacity, grit, and bravery, and is freeing.
I am not gay. I am straight. And I am a man (he/him/his). But I think there are many other ways in which we may each “come out” than in our sexual or gender orientations, to be true to ourselves, to unveil our true Self. We each hide in our own countless ways, with our own masks, with our own roles, our own jobs, our own personas, pretending to be something we are not, playing the part we are expected to play. We often play the parts in life that the world assigns us, and we usually don’t think twice about it. As Shakespeare recognized:
All the world’s a stage,-William Shakespeare, As You Like It
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
As Shakespeare briefly mentioned at the end, there is the “last scene of all” that ends this play-acting, that ends the play, that becomes Real. And that is “second childishness” and “oblivion.” It is perhaps a second naïveté, a return to an innocent state of being, which is a kind of oblivion of self, of ego, of the masked personality, the psychological self. Life is no longer a masquerade. We take off all our masks, all our layers, to reveal the true Being underneath it, and discover that it is none other than the Hero.
Mark Lisenmayer describes the change from first naïveté to the second in terms of belief:
We start out (with the “first naïveté”) taking all these religious fairy stories at face value. We then grow up and acquire critical distance, which not only involves applying what we’ve learned by actually dealing with the world… and from science, but also applying the insights of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud to look at your beliefs from these different points of view. But the agnosticism (at best) that typically results from this isn’t the end of the story. Fundamental to authentic religion (for any religious existentialist) is spiritual, i.e. emotional engagement, which when it comes to Christianity at least has to do with “being called.”https://partiallyexaminedlife.com/2015/03/29/ricoeur-on-the-second-naivete/
This is the perennial myth of “Adam & Eve” being ashamed of their identities as naked vulnerable mortals, in identifying with those fragile bodies, and so covering themselves up with fig leaves to hide themselves. We are still hiding today, even hiding out in Plato’s cave, and we may not even know it. The truth may be that we are afraid of our Self, who we really are. It frightens us. It frightens the ego, which is one of the most significant masks we wear, thinking that it is us. The ego is fearful of who we really are. It trembles and shakes, and the whole world along with it (Isaiah 14:15-17).
But the ego is the false self, a mask, a persona, a “belief,” just like all the rest. It is a role we are playing, one that we are hiding behind. Even the descriptors of man, straight, white, theist, mystic, philosopher, father, husband, Utahn, former Mormon, designer, writer, these are all also merely roles, masks, games, egoic identities that I wear in life. And many of them are fine to wear, we must wear these sorts of things, but we don’t have to identify with them. That is the crux of the issue of unveiling the true Self. We are none of those endless descriptors. As the mystics are apt to say, we are not even our own body or our own mind!
That is true “oblivion.” Once we’ve removed all the masks, all the roles, all the pretending and pretense, all the fig leaves, all the egoic dressing and trappings, even our very own physical body and mind, then what are we? “Sans everything,” who are we? Do we know?
We are perhaps what we were and are and will be. We are the world, the cosmos, the uncreated Light-energy of the Kosmos, the Holy (Wholly) One. Perhaps as Parmenides we realize that we are the One, because there is only the One. Once you’ve taken away everything that is unreal, all that you are left with is the Real. Or also as Parmenides, nothing does not exist, by definition. Only that which is, is, and we are that isness, or thusness, the sheer fact of being, what the Buddhists might call Tathātā, which is where the Buddha got his title Tathāgata, the “One who has arrived at suchness.” Everything that is not that suchness has “gone,” been “blown out,” “extinguished,” is impermanent, or at least become totally transparent, no longer opaque to our conscious awareness. We don’t identify with it.
The paradox is that the One who has thus arrived cannot simply proclaim “I have arrived at suchness,” “I AM the One,” “I AM the Christ” (Matt. 24:4-5), even though some in history have done that very thing. Because who is the one doing that proclaiming? Is it the One? Is it the Christ? The Tathāgata? Or is it the material form, dressed up as it always is in some kind of egoic trappings, clothes, forms, matter, roles, languages, impressions, images, conditioning. And that is perhaps where all the confusion enters the scene in Act Two.
We often get attached to those who so proclaim themselves as gods, even gods in material form, but it is not often the god in them that we end up worshiping, but the material form, the outward expression, the persona, the ego, the role, the temporary incarnation. And we thus create idols, forms to stand in place of the god, of the isness, of the thusness, of the nothingness of being (Śūnyatā), and we worship that idol.
But the iconoclasts and radical mystics and genuine prophets of history tell us that this is insufficient. We have dressed the god in false robes, and we don’t see that the emperor is actually naked, and we need to “pray God to rid me of God,” as Meister Eckhart. That idol, that icon, that image, that concept, that thought, that form, is not God as God is. It is a trickster, dressed up in false garments, or no garments at all. Not that the trickster is bad; we need them. But they are insufficient to realize God as God really is, Reality as-it-is (yatha-bhuta, dharma; cf. Jacob 4:13).
But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.-John 4:23
Jesus didn’t want to be worshiped. In fact, I think he actively denied such activity. When Peter went to defend him with the sword, Jesus rebuked him (John 18:10-11). Jesus realized that his disciples were not “following” him into the same kind of self-sacrifice, self-surrender, selfless being, self-awareness that he had gone through, but rather were “imitating” him, playing the role of Jesus, trying to be merely “like” Jesus, and Jesus recognized that this was a stumbling block to them. They had not realized their true Self yet. Jesus had to get out of the way:
But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.-John 16:7
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you…
I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.-John 14:16, 26
Jesus was an iconoclast of the icon of his own self! Thus is the wisdom of a true master, one who knows his Self, the true Self, the true Christ within, the Buddha-nature, the Atman. You are That.
How can the human being know itself? It is a thing dark and veiled; and if the hare has seven skins, the human can slough off seventy times seven and still not be able to say, ‘Now that is what you really are, that is no longer outer shell.’ (Untimely Meditations III)
I undertook something that not everyone may undertake: I descended into the depths, I bored into the foundations. (Dawn of Morning)
So what roles are we playing today? What masks are we wearing? How are we covering our Self up so as to hide our Light under a bushel? How might we unveil our Self, come out into the Light of our true Self, come out of Plato’s cave into our true Christ nature, our Buddhahood, and be That?
This often gets confused with ego inflation, with Tony-Robbins-style self-help puffing up the false self, and the conventional religions’ immortalizing and affirming the ego-self, the separate individual persona we think we are. To shine our Light we think we must become a great celebrity, an “influencer,” a great success in business, a wonderful teacher, someone well-known, a somebody. Only if we are a somebody can we shine, or so we think. But this is just another game of the ego, another role it is trying to play, another mask veiling our true Light.
And so we go on, putting on mask after mask after mask until we are so deeply divided and separated from our true Self that we are utterly lost, fallen, in the deep darkness of a thick night, a valley of the shadow of death. We don’t know ourselves. We don’t know our Self. We have become so disassociated from who we really are that we do not know who we are, where we are, what we are doing, where we are going. Nothing. Who are we? And there, in that space of nothingness, in the void of that despair, we might, if we are willing, surrender our self and fall into that abyss of nothingness, of unknowing, of darkness, of being totally unsure of who we are, uncertain, and “thus gone.”
There, in the depths of that abyss, in that dark cloud, in that nothingness of ego, in that silence, that stillness, where we are nothing, the Light may begin to shine (Moses 1:10; Helaman 12:7; Mosiah 2:25). The Light of a thousand Suns bursts upon the scene, and the theater, and the building, and the town, and the country, and the whole Kosmos, the All in All, blazing with a million flames,🔥a conflagration unknown in all of history, and burning to a crisp all that is not the One itself, the shadows fleeing, evaporating, dissolving. All that is unreal is utterly consumed because it is not, leaving only the Real, the immortal diamond of our true Self, the Christ, the Buddha, the One. And we are not that, but we are That. See the paradox?
We cannot wear the clothes of the Christ or the Buddha because our deepest Self is already That. It is who we are in our utter nakedness, in the oblivion of ego-self, sans everything, in second naïveté, in our inner being, in our divine nature. When God is revealed in that Truth, when we see that Apocalypse unveiling, then God becomes naked, because we are that God who is naked (see the Hebrew word galah, meaning “theophany” and also “uncovering nakedness”). We are the One who has become naked, who is exposed to the Light of the true Self. Our Self is known, and it is the Self who knows it, and only the Self who knows it, and is it. It is, and thus I AM.
So, yes, Jesus had to go, because he could no longer wear those clothes of idolatry. And so must all our idols go, including our self. We must come out of the closet of our feigned selves, closets within closets within closets, dolls within Matryoshka dolls, to realize the true Self, the true God, Ultimate Reality as it really is. We must become naked, in soul, in spirit, in identity, in being, in self, and only in that totally empty emptying (kenosis) can we know who we really are, the true Self in God, the divine Self, egoless, selfless, the Beloved. That is final Liberation, true Peace, genuine Security. Not until we come out of all our closets, all our caves, all our masks, all our feigned and fake identities, will we know the Self, the Hero, the One, and be truly liberated.
The empty vessel becomes one in which God manifests its Self, pours its Self in as Anointing oil, till it overflows. Emptiness is form, even while form is utter emptiness, as the Buddhists say. We become empty, void, nothing, a servant, letting go, surrendering ego-self, submitting our will to Ultimate Reality, and only then does God empty its Self into us fully, and the void becomes a pleroma, the dark night is revealed as the brightest perfect Day, the Morning Star, a fullness of everything that God is and more, Peace surpassing all understanding, all comprehension, all names, all categories, all concepts, all symbols.
And this is not a one-time deal. Yes, there may be a singular mind-shattering metanoia event in our life that is a crushing oblivion of the self into at-one-ment, an ego death, that dark night of nothingness in which the Light of the Sun/Son pierces through the veil as a nail, but it is not the end. Because once we think we are awakened, we are now an “awakened ego,” which is an oxymoron. The ego is not awakened, and never will be. It is the very antithesis of awakening, the “natural man” is an “enemy to God” and “will be, forever and ever” (Mosiah 3:19; cf. Romans 8:7). And so we must die again, letting that persona be crucified so we may be reborn again and again in Spirit, in that supreme Identity that blows where it will:
Getting born again feels real good for a while, until we get to thinking that who we are is someone who got born again. That someone who got born again needs to die again, and get born again, again. And so forth.—Brad Blanton, “Radical Honesty”
Paul confessed that “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31), and so must we. Of course, every day we do die. When we go to sleep at night, everything that was our “self” that day has come and gone, and is now dead. It is no more. It never will be again. The next day is a new day, a new present, a new now, a new self. We are always dying and being born again into the new moment, resurrected into the eternal now of God or Ultimate Reality. But it is not us that is being reborn, this ego we think we are. There is something much deeper that is birthing its Self in us, through us, as us.
We are playing out Christ’s myth every day of our lives, Buddha’s myth every day of our lives, every spiritual mythology is the depths of our life as it is being unfolded. And it is not even ours (1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23). We don’t have a life; that is ego that would have it, that wants to possess this thing we call life. No. We are Life. You are That. We are not any name, any body, any form, any orientation, any clothing, any role, any job, any title, any thing at all. These are temporary forms, at best, masks we must wear as we pass through the masquerade of life. But the One who is playing its Self as the mask of you is simply God, Ultimate Reality. And when the masks get taken off, then we know our Self, in Truth. God knows its Self.
In one of the most beautiful verses from the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith expressed it thus:
Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.
And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.–Alma 5:38-39
Who are you, really? Will you come out, and keep coming out? Adam? Eve? Where are you? Come out, come out, wherever you are… whoever you are…