Coming To The Other Side Of Total Work: The Way Of Loss And The Way Of Wonderment

An Open Question

@jonnym1ller and I were recently corresponding about the relationship between Total Work and spiritual practices that disclose the one substance that reality is. I posed what he called an “open question”:


I don’t think there’s really anything that one can do to make Total Workers cross the chasm. One may provoke, to be sure, as I do.Yet it is life that, through some event, is the best teacher, life that may split one open, life that can provide the aptest pointer.

I. The Way of Loss

When I lose something or someone of the utmost importance, I suffer, perhaps significantly for the first time. I see that I can do nothing, and I know that cannot undo what has occurred. It is inexorably so.

And what, for me, has been sundered? Either my self-understanding (my understanding of who I am) or my world-understanding (my understanding of how the world functions) or both.

I may realize that or this is not enough. I might posit or postulate that there must be more to me or to it. If I do, I henceforth become a genuine seeker.

II. The Way of Wonderment

In a letter “When I Know, I Do Not Marvel” written in December 2015, I concluded,

When I know, I do not marvel; when I think I know but do not, I do not yet marvel; when I know not, then I may be opened to marvel; when I know not and also behold reality emanating, only then do I marvel. My marveling is a sign of the mystery dwelling at the center of life. Could but someone teach me to marvel more than I do now, the gratitude I would have to show him would have to be infinite.

I can only ever marvel–or, what is the same thing here, wonder–when I come face to face with what is prima facie incomprehensible. This encounter may reveal, even while partially veiling, levels of reality to me that were hitherto entirely veiled. Hence, I may conclude about myself or the cosmos that there is more to reality than I had hitherto thought possible, and I am called henceforth to investigate in hopes of seeing what more–what vastness, what stillness–there may be.

And This Is Only The Beginning

The Total Worker, taking himself to be a Doer behind the deeds, cannot be forced into seeing the truth, though he may be gently provoked. It is necessary for him to experience an opening, a rupture. If he does, he shall soon discover that the opening is only the beginning. Through the portal lies the Mystery.