The Three Tests on the Way

In this article I would like to give an insight into the universal teaching of the „Three Trials“, that has been reflected in our culture (et al.) in the story of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness (Mt 4,1-4,11). These „temptations“ - I have called them „dead ends“ - affect from student to master every traveler on the WAY. They refer to the three parts that make up our personality and which decisively determine our actions in this world. It is precisely failing these trials that leads to superficiality, arrogance, fanaticism, abuse and charlatanism lining the path of religious and occult traditions; and the Inner Arts of the Far East are not excluded.



The first dead end

Physical dependence: the addiction to physical salvation

„... command that these stones become bread“ (Mt 4: 3). I assume that we can not turn stones into bread. But we can put the surface before the depth and give preference to the body over that which animates it. In that case the Inner Arts serve no other purpose than „doing something for our body“.


We fall into this first impasse, when we expect something or another to make us physically whole and lead us into a perfect physical existence - rich, healthy and beautiful. Of course, there is nothing wrong with caring to a certain extent for physical good. The problem is to reduce health and salvation solely to the vision of material well-being and thus degrading the purpose of the Inner Arts which have infinitely more to offer.


Therefore the Master counters this first temptation with the scriptural quote: „Man does not live by bread alone ...“ (Dtn 8: 3) - a statement worth pondering extensively.



The second dead end

Emotional Dependence: The addiction to confirmation

„... plunge down; for it says in the Scripture: He commands his angels for your sake - they will carry you on their hands ... „ (Mt 4: 6). I think that none of us is about to throw him or herself off a roof to force God’s attention. However, none of us regards him or herself being „Jesus the Christ“ - at least I hope so. Nevertheless, we too fall into this impasse when our actions are focused on recognition and affirmation. In that case the Inner Arts degrade into a means to feel special and superior to others.


I once had a student whose Tai Chi performance deteriorated when she started practicing Reiki (esoteric laying on of hands). From then on – as a budding „Reiki Master“ – she was very concerned about feeling Qi in her hands (and telling everyone). She also developed a resolute resistance to any kind of correction. How could one dare to correct her, she, who could feel energy and see the inner light? Needless to say, that she has not been my student for so much longer.

Inflated egos we will find abundantly in the Tai Chi, Yoga and Qi Gong scenery, even more so when a supposedly spiritual direction is taken. One feels – as to say with the scripture quote – as „carried by angels on hands,“ for one feels energy, sees light or colors (with closed eyes), feeds on Prana or whatever. However, we actually fall into the same trap if we are sick of not belonging to these „chosen ones“ because of having no special abilities despite years of practice. Feeling proud of special abilities or bad of the lack of it means suffering from the same disease.


The Master also encounters this second temptation with a quotation from Scripture: „Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the test“ (Deut. 6:16). From the mouth of an old Daoist sage it would probably sound like this: „Do not put the Dao to the test. Otherwise it escapes you and leaves you behind with empty self-conceit. Rather be humble and confident on your way. Do not demand and expect anything!“ My first Taiji- and Qi Gong Teacher just replied to my ambition: „If you seek the Qi, you will not find it.“ 



The third dead end

Mental dependence: the addiction to control

„... I will give you everything if you prostrate before me and worship me“ (Mt 4,9). This last temptation is very hard to see through. In fact we succumb to it daily. For it is the very basis of our modern civilization: slavish devotion to the rational mind and its achievements.


Of course, it truly brought us humans very far – the mind: incredible technical triumphs on the one hand, and yet the abyss of self-destruction on the other. The mind is obviously useful for calculation and for planning, but it can not grasp life and its meaning. Due to its nature, it is forced to remain on the surface. Thinking is surface. All our concepts, ideas and ideals, even the noblest ones, are only peripherals. This is what the tempter offers: „all the kingdoms of the world with their splendor“ (Mt 4: 8) perceived from the mountain top: surface! The essential – incomprehensible to him, the tempter/mind – remains invisible.


Going deep - that is the purpose of the Inner Arts, be it Qi Gong, Yoga, Tai Chi or meditation. But if we want to go deep, from the periphery to the center of life to where the meaning only can be found, we have to immerse ourselves in the experience beyond the mind. Depth just can not be thought through, but has to be lived through and now and then also suffered through.


As long as we can not escape the hamster wheel of thinking, as long as we put ideas, concepts, and philosophies, be it of any respecters, institutions, or wise books, before the immediacy of personal daily practice and experience, the true meaning of the Inner Arts remains unattainable for us.


I do not want to „satanize“ the mind and the thinking. They have their place and their purpose. But submitting to „Satan“ and worshipping him means nothing less then worshiping the surface and denying the depth, the meaning.


Here, too, the Master counters with another scriptural quotation: „You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone“ (Deut 16:13), which  for the purpose of this article could be translated as: „Leave the surface, that you are devoted to, and turn to the essence, the depth instead. For from within, from the depths you shall live.“



All misery is created by the hustle and bustle of thinking.

Can you leave words and ideas, opinions and expectations?

If you can, the DAO will become visible.

Can you be quiet and look into your depths?

If you can, you will realize

that TRUTH is always available

always accessible.


(From the Hua Hu Ching) 


Copyright © Torsten Schiz 2018