Dear Pogue,

I would be surprised if you knew who the Cambridge Five were. No they weren’t a rock band from “back in the day”. Good try though. They were Englishmen who held security positions and spied for the Russians or Soviet Union as was back in the 1950’s and 60’s. All five went to Cambridge University and were recruited whilst there.

Ready for a mind leap?

Rory Gallagher, who was a rocker but never went to Cambridge wrote a song about the most infamous of the five, Kim Philby and it starts:

Now ain’t it strange that I feel like Philby, there’s a stranger in my soul….

And all that brings me to today’s letter, as the line from the song came to me as I read a post written by someone else. Someone who has done something that they now want to leave behind and distance themselves from. I’ll return to their post in a bit.

First let us agree that we’ve all done things that we’d rather we hadn’t and want to leave far behind in what will become our past. We perhaps don’t really understand why we did it. At the time we regretted it. It was so out of character for us. The issue is, having done that thing and telling ourselves we’d not repeat the mistake, a time later we did, or did something very close to it. If there’s any comfort to be had, this sort of thing happens to even the best of us:

For the good that I would do I do not: but the evil I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

Romans 7:19,20.

That’s Paul, the apostle, mainstay of the second half of the New Testament, a holy man. If, 2000 years ago, there had been a Jerusalem Five would he have been singing: “There’s a stranger in my soul…”?

Mankind has a long history of abdicating responsibility for actions by making statements such as this. The, “it’s as if it wasn’t me” sort of claim, the “I wasn’t in control” claim.

Now, for a large part of history the general belief that a person could have their being possessed by a malevolent entity was generally accepted and things not understood would be attributed to demons. Indeed we still refer to “our demons” when talking about things we’ve done, regret and continue to trouble our thoughts. But I’m sure even as we say this we don’t believe we have a dark force controlling us. I know that there are places and groups that still hold to this type of belief system. Me, I’d just think I could benefit from some counselling. But, I understand that it is comforting to distance ourselves from responsibility for some of the things we may have done, because, well, there are consequences. There always are and if I could sidestep those by avoiding responsibility for my deeds, well, game on!

As far as the consequences go, some are predictable and some are not. I place my hand in a flame and…well the consequences are obvious. However, I do something that touches another person and who knows where this will end up. As the old saying goes: “There’s nought so strange as folk”.

So, I apologise. Maybe I’m forgiven, maybe I’m not?

I make reparations but are they enough?

It maybe that the fine membrane of relationship is too far damaged to be repaired. Even if things do move forward there is a whole new world of trust to be established and for a time, maybe a long time, all is fragile.

Was I possessed or was it just my humanity working itself out? I suspect men and women come fully armed, weapons hot, to do the things they should not do as Paul stated above. Then they will step away and look back wondering why they ever did that. Overtaken in the moment? Fulfilment of a long held desire? Possessed or responsible?

I can understand the efficacy of exorcism for the religious or just the compulsively superstitious, those who’s society is entirely built around a worldview of good and evil forces battling within the world of men. For those, to have an authoritative figure, the priest, the minister take authority over the compelling force and declare freedom from it, well, that can be very powerful at a psychological level. To believe that a higher power has worked in your life. And if that works for you, well, fill your boots.

You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.

Jim Rohan

For me, at present, I think it’s taking responsibility that works. Maybe there will be a benefit from counselling. Maybe a support network so the returning “demon” shouldn’t overpower my will again. I say at present because I know much of this world remains a mystery and I will continue to explore.

All that brings me back to the post I mentioned way back at the beginning. The person that did something that they now regret. Something that, after the outworking of consequences, has spread like the ripples on a pond. So, they came clean. Whilst they would declare they really don’t understand why they did it, they have taken responsibility for their actions and are trying to make amends. Confession done. A course of actions decided, plans to avoid a repeat, support network under construction. Some deep soul searching. At this point I feel compelled to say: “Now move on!” Carefully, gently as those most unpredictable of consequences are present…people. But move on.

My past will remind me but it will not define me.

Andy Stanley

But no. The person seems to remain bogged down in a continuing analysis of the situation, mired in guilt and interpreting of third party actions as failing faith and growing distrust. There’s a hole being dug, ever deeper, and yes, the person is actually becoming possessed by their own thoughts and actions. No demon required. Rather a refusal to stop digging and walk away to build for a new day.

You see we need no demonic assistance to become possessed. We’re quite capable of bringing it about on our own. It’s human nature, the failing side of human nature. To become focused on our misdeeds and, if not careful, evolve to obsession with them. But didn’t we touch on a better way in the last letter or two?

Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants.

Romans 8:5

Paul, having lamented over his inability to avoid his misdeeds then moves on to rejoice that by surrendering to the Spirit, which could equally have been written ‘God’ or ‘Source’, finds a path away from what he has done. In the last letter we discussed surrender and the power it has. I know many see surrender as weakness and failure but I hope you now know differently. In Shibumi we talked around its existence as a spiritual quality, a quality which is stronger than the ego driven life lead by most. We talked about it only being found through surrender of ego and all that attaches to ego. In the preceding letter, Wabi Sabi, we discussed how our flaws, our brokenness are part of the perfecting of our characters. That we find our very best us on the far side of brokenness.

Imperfection is a form of freedom.

Anh Ngo

So, I’m going to suggest to our troubled blogger that they start walking away from their misdeed. Let it go. You’ve confessed. You’ve repented. You can do no more so walk away. Another thing we’ve written about. Not easy to do, I accept, but necessary if you’re not going to bring about a self induced possession. As Paul says, “live as the Spirit tells”. How? Spend time making room for the Spirit which involves stillness and quiet on an ongoing basis. Maybe that’s a new life style but, hey, look where the old one got you.

There is freedom, even after we’ve done the things we do. We can be brought to our most perfect state on the far side of our transgressions, with our brokenness. Don’t let the world tell you that you’ve written off your life and all its possibilities. Remember, with God all things remain possible.

Yours, seeking perfection beyond brokeness,


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