Surrender to God.
Surrender to God, which in Arabic is called islam, is a theme and an intention shared by many spiritual traditions. Yet the meaning of this is multilayered.
One very significant meaning is surrender to the Divine within us. It is discovering this Divine and then surrendering to this Greaterness within – which is the greater spiritual love, wisdom, and aspiration within us. Many people think that islam is mostly about surrendering to the laws or rules of a religion, or else surrendering passively to whatever is going on (the outer circumstances). But it is essentially about surrendering to the Divine emerging from within. This can be regarded as one’s true inner self. There is a Whole Divine Ocean of Being within everyone, which is trying to come through heart and mind. We do not have enough personal capacity for the Whole Ocean to come through, but we can allow at least some to come through, to move through us, to live through us. We need to allow the Divine to emerge and reveal through us, and not resist it, and not let our little ego get in the way. The little preoccupied self surrenders to the Greater-Spiritual Self within.
So, surrender to God means surrender to the Divine Love-Wisdom emerging from within us. Some people think it is about surrendering to outer circumstances, as if God is creating these circumstances. One aspect of surrender is an acceptance of circumstances, but this is not merely a passive acceptance – rather, one should also be actively considering the opportunities in any circumstance for making a change or else changing the circumstance. Surrender should not be falsely understood as merely a passive acceptance of circumstances, as if it all difficult circumstances were our divine fate, or as if whatever happens is God’s wish for us. Outer circumstances can be regarded as opportunities or, in difficult times, as challenges; rather than as what God is intending for us. For there are many outer circumstances and difficulties that are obviously created by man, not necessarily God. The circumstances of our world is an indication of what God allows, rather than what God is intentionally creating or ‘sending’ to us.
Another aspect or meaning of surrender is giving up the little gods we tend to worship – our lesser preoccupations of mind and heart, whether these be our little desires or our outer attachments. For these little gods are both within and out. So, an important meaning of surrender is to let go of these lesser gods, these lesser preoccupations and attachments; and instead, turn our mind and heart completely to the Greatest and Highest of all. We surrender the lesser gods-of-attention for the sake of and love of the Greater Infinite God, the God of All, our absolute Sustainer and the One Whom we owe our being. Simultaneously we surrender the lesser and aspire towards the Greater; we give up the insignificant and seek the most important. And the most important of all is God who is the One living through us. So let us give our heart and mind fully to God. This is surrender.
This life is a process of sacrifice. We should say first, though, that life is a process of death and rebirth. Then, if we are willing to accept and go along with this, without struggling to avoid it or deny it, our life turns into conscious sacrifice. And one Realizes that, since there is nothing really we can do to make the nature of life different than it is, we might as well consciously sacrifice our self in it. We might as well sacrifice our self to life as it is. Then once we make this sacrifice, with acceptance and without struggling against it, a great peace is realized, and we find ourselves floating in an ocean of love. We are now being with what is and sacrificing our self in this.
Surrender to God; this is one of the main themes in theological mysticism, such as Sufism. But what does this mean? What is being surrendered, and to what? And what is the action of surrender? If one is simply surrendering one’s will, then this is a kind of giving up and also an allowing of some other will to fulfill itself instead of one’s own will. This sounds spiritual at first, but is God’s Will replacing our own little will when we surrender it, or is our surrendered will merely replaced by someone else’s will?
If we end up merely being passive, without any will of our own, then other people or religion or government come forth with their particular will, so we are then just following some other human will or a group will, or possibly we might be surrendering to the goals of a business, or to machines, or to bureaucratic rules. So this spiritual goal, with fine intentions, might end up being our ego surrendering to just another ego, and possibly not a good one. This is because there are so many forces in the world, which can be called egos, that want us to become as servants to their will or instruments towards their particular desires or ends. Thus, one has to be careful about this idea of surrendering. Is it simply a surrendering to some religion, or to a set of rules, or to other ego forces?
Yet positively, a surrender of personal ego can be a surrender of lower level compulsions and habits, so that a higher-better will can unfold. This higher will can be understood as being already subsistent in our being, as the true will of our higher potential self. Then we can call this our own higher will, or the spiritual will of our own true soul. Alternatively, the higher will can be understood as Divine Will, with the possibility that this Will can enter and live through us. Then we become as an instrument for this Divine Will. But remember that this Divine Will is not a power over others, but rather it is the Will of Love, it is Active Love, the Active-Wisdom of Love.
So it is possible to surrender to something higher and better, rather than just being a passive faithful servant for other egos, or a mindless follower of religion. What we should surrender to, though, is to a higher-better Will in ourselves or in the universe. And remember, this higher Will is already present at every moment and waiting to emerge. So if we become quiet and listen within the heart, we will feel or intuit this higher Will. This is what we need to surrender to, to the higher-spiritual Will within ourselves and to the greater Purpose which we are meant to fulfill.
Now what is meant to surrender is called the lower-ego, which is a term encompassing many aspects of self. Most specifically, personal ego refers to a self-will that is self-aware and volitionally choosing. Yet at lower levels of ego, there really isn’t much choosing at all, because the will is merely compulsive, habitual, automatic, mechanical, and it is often just following the conditioned patterns of the culture or society in which it developed. This is the ego that thinks it is awake and choosing, but in reality it is asleep and mechanical. But who wants to hear that? There is little use in telling a lower ego-self that it is really sleep-walking or that it is really on auto-pilot. That ego will either ignore what you say, or it will smack back at you from such an insult.
Furthermore, an ego involves desire and calculating thought. The definition of ego is insufficient unless desire and thought are included. So every ego has some degree of driving power, some kind of emotion or mood surrounding it, and a complex of beliefs and calculating thoughts as part of an ego structure. Once we know this, we can talk about a possible alchemy of the self, a possible transmutation of lower level ego into a higher self. But remember that this possible higher self is already subsistent; that is, it is already in the core of our being or it is like a seed within us. Some call this God, while some call this our higher self; either idea works for our present pragmatic discussion.
The alchemy here in discussion is to do with oneself alone. It is not about others, not about the world; it is just about you or me, alone. It involves an inner meditation that is only about you and God, or about you and potential you. Nothing else matters at this point. It is all about self-transmutation. It is to do with surrendering oneself to that which is within, yet unknown. There has to be a relation to the Unknown, to a greater Mystery that one has no idea about at this moment. And to surrender to such an Unknown Mystery requires a courageous faith, a faith that this great Unknown is at least compassionate and loving. Because in this surrendering of ourselves, we are going to voluntarily die into this great Unknown Mystery. That takes a lot of faith, or at least a lot of guts.
Now what is being surrendered? Surrender everything in your heart and everything in your mind. And also surrender your will, except for your willingness-to-surrender. So we surrender our desires and other emotions like irritation or self-importance. And we surrender the contents of our mind, the thoughts that keep chattering away. Even more deeply, we surrender all of our beliefs and concepts about ourselves. We hold on to nothing: no thoughts, no self-concepts, and no self-desires. And we surrender all of this to the great Unknown.
Then, when all of this stuff of ourself has been surrendered and emptied, when only consciousness and breath remain; the true essence of ourself, or God subsistent within us, spontaneously emerges as the Real Truth of our being. Out from the fire of complete self-annihilation, emerges the Phoenix, the Resurrection, the truer or higher Self that was always there - but hidden and obscured by the usual compulsive, mechanical, reactive, chattering lower-ego.
So the Deeper Truth or the Real, that was already present and subsistent within us, now becomes consciously active. The Eternal Essence of Being is now free to emerge and unfold, consciously and willfully through us. Thus the lower-ego, the culturally conditioned and mechanical self, the ego of compulsive self-desires and self-calculating mind, has been transmuted (by surrender) into a higher being, or into an expression of Divine Being/Love/Light.
The Essence of Divine Being is experienced, though this pure Essence is undefinable. Yet mind begins to comprehend the Qualities of this Divine Essence/Being; thus knowable Being is possible.
The nafs is selfness. It is identification. It is desire.
But the phenomena of selfness is “I”.
The big question is “what will I do now?”
Much of the spiritual life is to do with “I”. Negative examples would be greedy I, or angry I; such as “I am greedy, or I am angry. But a positive example would be responsible I, or loving I; such as I am responsible, or I am loving.
The I can be in mechanical attachment and fixed identification; yet the I can also be responsible and decisive. As well, the I can be focused on self-desires, or it can be focused on needs and purposes of the greater wholeness of life. Now there is a spiritual work that directly involves the I, which is to awaken from mechanical attachment and fixed identification, then also awaken into self responsibility and decisiveness. Then, if one can listen to a higher conscience, one can move from self-desire to responsibility toward fulfilling needs and purposes of the greater wholeness. All of this depends on an awakening of the responsible I. This is also the meaning of our spiritual will, which is an essence of our divine soul.
We have to come into the sense of “I am responsible” and “I will work for greater needs and purposes.” I am responsible for my life and my spiritual path. I am responsible for being awake and not letting mechanical patterns control my life. Life is meaningful and purposeful, only when ‘I am’. No one else is responsible for myself, my decisions and actions; only I am. Not even God is responsible for the moments and events of my life. To believe that God is responsible and not I, is simply a false excuse for self-responsibility. God has given us life, but also the power of responsibility for our life. God has given us the freedom to be self-responsible, and the freedom to make responsible decisions. It is up to us. The self-I must take responsibility for itself, and decide what to do or how to act in any moment. The world has provided conditions and conditioning, some good but some maybe not so good; yet we are responsible for not letting these conditions and conditioning to control our lives. So we are also responsible for becoming free of this.
We are also responsible for our relationship with Divine Love and Wisdom. For it is up to us to open our heart and mind to That which is ever ready to emerge through us. It is our responsibility to listen to the higher conscience, to Divine Love and Wisdom, and allow this to emerge through us. This allowing is the meaning of spiritual surrender. And we have to do this. It is not up to God to surrender for us. We have to do it. I have to do it. I have to surrender to God. I have to allow this. I have to make the decision. I have to be responsible. Yet in doing this, I am not alone; for God is ever ready to emerge through me, when I finally surrender and I allow. So in this surrendering and allowing, the Divine Power of Love and Wisdom, God-Being, is let into oneself and into self expression. In fact, the real spiritual goal for the I, for myself, is give myself up to the Divine Power and allow This to emerge through me. Our real responsible purpose is to become a clear and free vehicle/channel for the Divine Being and Its Divine Qualities. This requires a surrendering death of our usual self-will, yet it also demands a self-responsibility for the surrendering This self-surrendering is our spiritual will. This might be understood as a death of our lower will, simultaneous with an awakening of our spiritual will. Thus, a greater Power comes through upon a sacrifice of conditioned will, but only if the self-responsible, spiritual will is present.