Seventy-five years ago on November 30th, a young Dutch Jewish intellect died at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Her legacy of love and reconciliation, as described in her ten diary notebooks and the many letters that she wrote, continues to inspire people around the world. Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) was only 29 years old when she died, but during her short lifespan she managed to live a life of contemplative spirituality and practice in a world that seemed to be falling to pieces around her.
Hillesum grew up in a non-religious home of intellectuals. Her parents were both teachers – her father taught the classics and her mother Russian literature. Hillesum had two younger brothers, both very talented but mentally unstable. She describes having grown up in a “chaotic and sad situation … a madhouse where no human being can flourish.” Continue reading →
Roberto Assagioli’s “prison diary” Freedom in Jail is an autobiographical account of the month he spent in prison under the fascist regime in 1940. His conclusion is entitled “A Hymn to Inner Freedom” where he writes about every man and woman’s power to inwardly free themselves.
One does not need to be incarcerated to feel imprisoned. Part of the human condition, at different points in our lives, is to find ourselves enslaved by some uncontrollable situation to which we feel bound. Freedom in Jail shows us that no matter what our condition – be it catastrophe, ill health, old age, and even pending death – we always remain free and responsible for choosing how we actively accept the situation and what attitude we take. The mystery is that these circumstances can also lead us to our Higher Self.
He was a big, well-built man with thick thighs like huge whales, breaching towards the airplane seat in front of him. He ended up sitting in the aisle next to me. We were thrown together that afternoon, only after some confusion and switching of airplane seats. Because of his size, I thought he wanted more space, but he quickly confessed he needed to sit in the aisle because he was claustrophobic.
“My doctor says I should see a psychologist, but he also gave me some drops to calm me down.” The words rushed out in a torrid as he jumped up to retrieve the prescriptive drug from his jacket in the overhead bin.
“Well, you’re in luck,” I said smiling once he settled down (sort of). “I’m a psychologist!”