Bitterness of Heart, by Ivor Sowton

Jesus in A Course of Love (ACOL) brilliantly introduces and then links to more and more of our lives the idea of “bitterness of the heart.” He refers to the idea of suffering, the one thing that went wrong with all of creation, as the cause of this bitterness. It is thus very deep and metaphysical here in addition to being very personal indeed. He explains that once we identified with our egos we needed objects to blame for the obvious distress of the separated state—the inevitability of physical death, of illness and pain of numerous kinds, emotional as well as physical. From that place we quickly slide into a vengeful state because we have become so bitter about the futility of it all, just as one example.

So the consciousness of suffering will cut us off from a sense of well-being, from a sense of being loved and supported by God. We get bitter at heart, waiting to die in an isolated state. This makes us vengeful.
Jesus then connects bitterness of the heart to the desire for reward also. The major example he gives (in chapter 3 of the Second Treatise) is in comparison, where we experience unequal reward going on around us, and when we are denied the reward someone else seems to be getting, we get bitter and vengeful. Jesus lets us know here that we may have very limited awareness over how much of our lives have been co-opted by bitterness of heart. He says in that chapter that bitterness is to the heart what ego is to the mind, that everyone has this bitterness, often unconsciously, and that its hold on us has become so great that it, like the ego, must be consciously released.

So I think he’s saying we really have to look at our own personal bitterness of heart before we can choose again for love. It’s like we have to forgive ourselves, others, and God for all the perceived suffering in our lives. He says that the Time of Tenderness and of The Embrace have brought such a softening to our hearts that we can really do a lot of releasing of this bitterness now IF we so choose.

It’s often said that there will be one or two real challenges in each life—situations that becomes real cross-roads of choice for us. It feels like many, many of us have chosen bitterness many times in the past. There seemed so much evidence warranting bitterness right within those cardinal challenges: we got very ill, or we were bereaved, or we lost a career or a marriage. I think you get the idea!

My sense is that this is deep work for most of us. To let go of all those feelings of being ripped-off, disappointed by life, by others and by ourselves—we have to work sensitively here with the guidance of our gentle Teacher. There will be a favorable pace and rhythm to it that we can be shown if we are willing. Jesus speaks of the healed heart as the very altar of Christ Consciousness at our center. The healed heart has released all bitterness and all desire for reward in the ego world. This is whole-heartedness, from which we automatically assume the ability to be elevated within these very forms.

So, Jesus seems to be encouraging us to hang in there and let our hearts be healed of this deep bitterness that has held us back for so long. The results are so worth it and so within our grasp, with his help.

Let us pray for this release for ourselves and all our loved ones, and may we be more and more aware that everyone is our Loved One. And let us daily become more and more like him who said:

“I walked the earth in order to reveal a God of Love.” (3rd treatise, 5.6)

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3 thoughts on “Bitterness of Heart, by Ivor Sowton

  1. The beginning of this piece resembles the teachings of Buddha in separating one’s soul from wanting ”things” of the world because of the conflict and greed and discontent that often accompanies them. Nirvana, if I remember right, is the state of needing and wanting nothing at all in order to enjoy life, but simply to enjoy the living of life itself, existing to enjoy existence and sharing it with others through walks and play, music and art, etc. I like the similarities. Another part of this seems to reflect that our pains come mostly from us trying to control experiences we become a part of, by trying to shape them into our perceived needs of a packaged life ( through heritage, politics, various themes of divisions) rather than let them shape us through the lessons of spiritual growth we are supposed to receive where we are in our journey of spirit. I like this piece bringing this all to mind. It is sad when people choose to live in the past when it’s over and done, giving continuous breath to vengeance and injustice where it can harm only the one day dreaming it. Hopefully this piece will help some heal. Thank you for posting it.

    1. Ivor Sowton

      Thank-you so much for your insightful comment! And it is so wonderful to see the similarities between ACOL and the teachings of Buddha you site so well. Yes, letting go of the past and finding acceptance and peace in the present–may all of us find that soon!

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