Something Rotten in DenmarkJanuary 25, 2010
In his unique and controversial book, Grace, Gaia, and the End of Days, my ol’ teacher, Stuart Wilde writes about The White Shadow. Everybody who has delved into their mystic psyche is familiar with the Shadow; that place where you stash everything that is downright fugly that you don’t want others to see and which you wish to deny about yourself.
The White Shadow is particularly insidious and I have a laser-sharp radar for it. Ever since I was a little kid, I have been able to detect when somebody is ridgy-didge and walking their talk, or a total fraud. It is a disconcerting ability because I can sit next to somebody who has all the appearances of being a ‘good and kind’ person and sense that there is something rotten festering inside.
Naturally, as a child, I was told to not express my impressions or opinions and as a teenager came to believe I was being uncharitable in my thoughts. What can I say? A mystic’s upbringing isn’t all beer and skittles.
Stuart Wilde writes:
The Mr Nice Guy/Ms Heart of Gold pretense, the one that secretly feels better than everyone else, is a white-shadow trait. He/she hides his assumed superiority and disdain for humanity in social acts of helping and feigned kindness; she plays the white knight. So he greets people at church and raises money for charity; she helps people and makes them laugh; and he often provides for others generously, offering hospitality and entertainment. She is the all-around-great person – and a big phony.
The St Vincent de Paul conference I volunteer with is full of White Shadow people and this evening I called them out on a matter that is anchored in the concept of ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’.
CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS – This ancient proverb is said by some to have come from ancient Hebrew writings. However, its first appearance in English – though in slightly altered form – seems to be in the writings of Francis Bacon. In his ‘Advancement of Learning’ (1605) he wrote: ‘Cleanness of body was ever deemed to proceed from a due reverence to God.’
Near two centuries later John Wesley in one of his sermons (1791) indicated that the proverb was already well known in the form we use today. Wrote Wesley: ‘Slovenliness is no part of religion.’
Each week, our St VDP conference meets to discuss the visits we have made, usually 25-30 visits per week, and the assistance that was rendered; mostly in the form of food vouchers ranging from $70-$250 per household. We also assist with paying utility bills, purchasing books and uniforms for school-age children, rental arrears, and anything else that an individual or family needs to give them some breathing space. Each of us makes the call on where to help and how much help to offer without needing to OK it with our President first.
As I was listening to one member comment on his visits this past week, I was particularly disturbed that he feels it is “okay” for him to pass comment on the thoroughness of the client’s house-keeping – or lack of. Bear in mind, we are visiting people who are predominantly in receipt of Social Security benefits; unemployment, disability, sole parents with lots of children. I believe kids are messy; that’s their job.
Most of these people are battling depression and an assortment of mental and emotional challenges and, you know, when you’re in that dark space, keeping up with the housework is a Sisyphus-like task. And the next day – there is more bloody housework! Living so far under the poverty line, constantly fretting about how to pay the next bill, how to scrape the money together to meet emergencies, naturally, is incredibly energy draining. Same shit, different day for many of these people.
Without exception, when we enter a perfect stranger’s house, the first thing they say is ‘Excuse the mess. I haven’t been able to get the energy to do the housework’.
We’ve all been there. I know I have – there and back again. We all know people who measure their worth by how good a house-keeper they are; how shiny their kitchen sink is and in keeping the flying ducks on the wall all in a row. We’ve all got an inner grime-o-meter and our tolerance levels for clutter are set at different default levels. Live and let live is my philosophy.
So I’m listening to this chap, quite unashamedly, boasting about how he chides people about their slovenly habits – especially when there are children in the house. He says he is concerned for the children, yet if a situation is really dire, we do have the choice to contact a social agency with trained support workers to assess the situation and take the matter in had. We are volunteers.
I also detected quite a sexist tone in his voice and I know that he doesn’t offer a critique if there is a man present. Hmmm….
I do not believe any of us have the right to abuse our role as volunteers, to covertly bully an individual, usually a woman, about her house-keeping skills or lack of. That woman is anticipating compassionate understanding: not a lecture from a male who is neither her father or partner. She already feels like shit. She is already self-conscious that she has had neither the time, energy or inclination to pick up the house, and two strangers are about to turn up. I personally consider it the height of rudeness that she has to tolerate being nagged, chided, and bullied by a member of a charitable organisation that operates under the banner of “Good Works”.
We are there to offer a hand up, not a slap in the face!
I attempted to point this out to this member, that, in my view, he was violating the personal boundaries of these individuals and abusing his position. I was then accused of sitting in judgment of this member, who has performed this work for some 30 years and, therefore, is deemed as being close to saint-like. Hmmm….so he’s been pulling this stunt for 30 years, eh?
Methinks the thrust of my argument got lost in the scape-goating.
This last week, I myself visited a client whose living conditions were unsanitary to the extreme; a client who is ridiculed and ostracised by the other members. On the day I visited, I wished I had had the time to help her clean; to maybe do the dishes, help her change the sheets on her bed, or mop the floor. Anything to help her push that fucking boulder up the mountain for a day.
Why the conference does not employ a crew of cleaners for these extreme cases of need, I do not know. Maybe it makes too much sense? It is difficult to stay organized when you are living with either a psychiatric or physical condition that impairs your ability to tackle the ironing or mop up a spill or even just to take the rubbish out.
There is such a subtle tyranny in the cleanliness is next to Godliness mantra. It encompasses dreadful judgment and such a succinct method of self-persecution. I do wonder, if in the back-chambers of our psyches, a program is running that chants:
My house is untidy. The bath is dirty. God doesn’t love me. I am not worthy of his love. I am a bad person.
Another member has mentioned on several occasions, that he feels somewhat chagrined that receipients of our assistance are not more grateful. He says he doesn’t expect them to drop to the floor and kiss his feet.
Every day I look at my white and dark shadows. I go into every murky corner of my hidden traits, which after all work I have done, aren’t so hidden anymore. At this stage in the game, I am more focused on managing the congruency of my own soul, than going on a crusade to highlight the incongruencies I detect in my fellow conference members; the yawning chasm between what they say and what they do.
However, it really pisses me off, when these same people, in their role as ‘helping hands’, dump their shit into the houses of the people they have been called upon to help.
It is my observation, that the majority of the clients within our conference region, do not have good personal boundaries, are deeply entrenched in the victim/saboteur/beggar archetypes and, because they are desperately in need of assistance, feel they cannot tell somebody who criticises them to ‘get stuffed’ – for fear of having the anticipated assistance withdrawn or reduced.
I observe all this from a different – much broader – perspective that has been tempered and informed by my own experiences with poverty and, of course, all the training and study I have undertaken these last 30 years in mysticism, metaphysics and energy medicine.
Nothing scares me more than the arrogance of ignorance and how quickly people fly to its defence. Every day I pray for wisdom. Every day I know I fall short. Every Monday – I hate these meetings.
I ask that the grace of Wisdom guide me on my path.
Let me respond with wisdom to the problems and challenges of my life, rather than with fear and hostility. Let me build a soul with the stamina to absorb the grace of Wisdom so that I may serve the whole of humanity with the actions of my life, acknowledging as I now do; that all I do, think, say, and feel, influences the well-being of all life.