The journey of forty days begins afresh, from the beginning, every day. All achievements or failures are deleted or become unimportant archives in the story of the self. Not that what happened yesterday doesn’t count for anything. It does. But its meaning is only understood when we view it with the eyes of mercy and humour. The self-important judging and condemnation, the praising, self-preening and nasty blaming of the ego, have no connection with the reality of how the past becomes the present. The temptation to turn stones into bread is greed. Today’s temptation that we will encounter on this journey, as Jesus did before us, is vanity and pride.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Many a successful project has collapsed because of a last but quite unnecessary burst of egotistical pride. Over-reaching oneself. Testing to see just how omnipotent is your power over others. It’s the gambler’s last hand with which they put everything on the next throw of the dice, torn between hoping to win and hoping to lose. Every temple of the ego is destabilized by the desire to test its stability and the feeling that one’s acclaimed achievement might actually be illegitimate. Putting God to the test is self-destruction.
Jesus wasn’t tempted by bread. But the highest pinnacle of the holy city and its greatest religious ego-construction could be the downfall of any ascetic close to the end of their forty days. The devil quoting scripture happens whenever we twist the truth in our self-deluded minds in order to install the ego where God should be.
And where should God be? At the summit of our ‘value-system’? That would be no more than the strange little god of fundamentalism or superstition.
The word ‘templum’ originally meant not the structure we build – St Peter’s, the Abbey, the Ka’aba, the White House. It meant the empty space of worship. In meditation we acknowledge the unstructured, wholly simply, nature of God. If we can stand on it and look down on everything, it isn’t God.