Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Surrendering to the Divine

We hear this notion of surrendering to the Divine and it even sounds nice — in theory. But do we take this possibility seriously enough to work toward it? If we do, then we are immediately faced with our lack of understanding of what it really means. To begin to comprehend what surrendering to the Divine means, we need to explore, try out various approaches, make our mistakes, find our dead ends, and keep at it until that sacred grace responds. And even then, it only gives us a better notion of the direction, while leaving the actual how-to-surrender somewhat unclear. So we continue to experiment, placing the whole of ourselves into this most central issue, this peak of spiritual practice.

To whom do we surrender? Though It remains unknown to us, we rely on our faith in that Loving Greatness, within and behind every level of our reality. The Divine is there and here, and though we neither see It nor touch It, by considering the next question, we discover where to look.

What do I surrender? Well … what can I surrender? Giving all my worldly possessions away would only impoverish me materially. My body inevitably will die, so I cannot really give that away. Give up my anger and fear? That might be a good start, if I could do it. But all those unbecoming manifestations are only peripheral to the root of the problem: my egoism, my self-centeredness.

Where is this egoism? If egoism is a usurper of my will, then I must look to my will. Though I cannot see my will, I can, with some care and practice, look toward where my attention and intention come from. That direction points toward the source of my will, indeed the Source of all will. But that direction is usually blocked, or at least polluted by ego. So I have identified the problem, egoism, and I know where to look: toward my innermost core, toward the one in me who chooses and decides and adopts attitudes.

How do I surrender? First, I need to move into that place of who I am, or at least who I think I am. From there I can explore the practice of surrender. I must gather the whole of myself, body, heart, and mind, into the one-pointed intention to elevate my will toward the Divine, perhaps silently crying out to God, with my heart fervently and solely wishing to cleave to that ineffable, loving Source. I must relinquish my very self to That, from my most fundamental core. I must open my own inherent sense of who I am, to abdicate my interior throne, the place where I reside within myself. I empty myself utterly. I pour out all that I think and feel that I am. All that belongs to me, all my inwardness, even myself, I send away into the stillness.

By all of this or perhaps by just giving up, I create a gap in my center. And into that gap, I wordlessly beg the Divine to enter, to live in me, as me. Even as my egoism keeps popping up in the middle of this process, I keep at it. I keep exploring and practicing this obscure and undervalued art of surrendering to the higher.

This does not necessarily mean that we enter a high world of light and bliss. While that may be wonderful and important in many ways, it is not the ultimate. The truest transformation comes in purifying ourselves of our egoism and leaving that empty gap open to our Loving Creator, Who may enter us. Not that we enter the Creator, but that the Creator enters us. As a thirteenth century Kabbalist put it: the seeker rises to the point that “the higher will is clothed in his will, and not only so that his will is clothed in the higher will.” (translation from Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, 1987, p. 418) Surrender is the precondition for entering the realm of Unity. Any vestige of separateness cannot find a place There.

Understanding of this question of surrender can only come by facing it directly and in practice, by actually making attempts at it during the deepest part of our prayer or meditation. The culmination of spirituality lies through that gate. This is not about an encounter with something high. It is about abandoning our inner seat of honor so that the source of Love becomes us. This is not something we can try once and be done with it. It entails a lengthy process of purification, increasing our need, and the actual practice of surrendering to the Divine.


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