Etty Hillesum and “God”

I have been reading the Letters and Diary of Etty Hillesum.  She was a Dutch Jew, and began writing a journal at the suggestion of Julius Spier, who was her teacher, therapist, and lover.  She died in Auschwitz in November 1943.  I came across this passage written on December 21, 1941:

From Etty, p197

Great confidence, truly great confidence, has very slowly been maturing in me of late.  Feeling safe and secure in Your hands, oh God.  I am no longer cut off quite so often from that deep undercurrent within me.  And when I feel fervent and elated, then it is neither forced nor wayward but based on the certainty of that undercurrent.  Nor do I still keep bumping into the sharp corners of the day.

Much as one should not set about studying a person with rigidly fixed ideas, so one should also not do that with a book, a day, a meal, or anything else.  If I begin this Sunday by remembering the last one and believing that this one is going to be another glorious Sunday just like it, then the day is bound to go wrong.  I should be doing it an injustice, fixing it with my own preconceived ideas.  I wouldn’t be giving it a chance to develop along its own lines.  I am very slowly beginning to accept that, and as a result I am becoming freer and freer, learning not to inhibit the growth of anything, be it a person, or a day, or a book, or God Himself, or myself.  Inhibition must be distinguished carefully from creative intervention.  From the struggle to express oneself.

The process she’s describing sounds a lot like my attempts to follow Tosha Silver’s program and my difficulty in letting go.

From Wikipedia:

Hillesum addressed God repeatedly in her diaries, regarding him not as a saviour, but as a power one must nurture inside of oneself: “Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives. Neither do I hold You responsible. You cannot help us, but we must help You and defend Your dwelling place inside us to the last.”

My biggest difficulty is not understanding “God” as a power inside of myself, but instead seeing “God” as a capricious, malicious, and willful omnipotent being, who pays no attention to me. I am restricted by a belief I described in 1996:

But mostly my experience of the universe is that it’s at best unhelpful, at worst malicious, that it’s set me some hard and difficult assignment, refused to give me help with it or even make it clear what the assignment is, it has some expectation of me that I keep failing to fulfill, it’s just waiting to punish me badly for every mistake and sneer at my attempts to do something “good”, to make something “beautiful”.  Well, I see that I’m not describing the Universe at all, but my childhood experience of Mom & Dad, where I kept failing to satisfy their expectation, and got no help or guidance at all, just sneers and invalidation when I ran into trouble.  I can’t believe that the Universe is like this.  Surely the One who made daffodils is capable of more compassion and support than that.  It seems like I’ve got so entirely caught in the world conditioned by my parents that I’ve completely lost my sense of some bigger wider universe, where compassion and support and abundance are available, and especially support for being one’s “big self”, living one’s big life, really using and living out of one’s creative power and strength.  I see how afraid I am of being punished and abandoned if I dare to live out of my real power.  Gosh that makes me mad!  Something showed up in my dream — I am being restricted by my parents’ “post-hypnotic” suggestion to live the kind of life that would have made them comfortable, not the kind of life my soul is capable of.

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