SFG 2 Resources – Sweet and Bitter: An Advanced Study

Sweet and Bitter: An Advanced Study

(Posted on August 27, 2014 by David McMillin)

[NOTE: While serving as mentor for an online version of “A Search For God” study group and working on the Oppportunty lesson, a class member struggled with the “Sweet and Bitter” exercise. Here is my reply. – David McMillin]

… it’s good that you are wrestling with this concept. Actually, when the first study group asked whether a study of the Revelation should be included as part of the ASFG material, they were told that the Revelation is an advanced study and may be too deep for people just getting started with the material:

“(Q) Should we study to present with this lesson [Destiny of the Body] an understanding of the Book of Revelation? If so, how?
(A) Not necessarily; for one is as the spiritual body, that is given in symbolic activity for the learned, while we are beginning with babes!” (262-86)

And yet, one of the members of that first study group was led to include a study of the Revelation as part of her Search for God for this lesson on Opportunity.

Since many of the e-group members for these lessons have considerable study group experience, I decided to include this advanced exercise on SWEET and BITTER from the Revelation as part of this lesson. So the fact that you are wrestling with it in such a deep way indicates that you are probably ready for it.

Essentially, we need purification and that can be a painful process as we let go of selfish patterns that we think we need to thrive and survive in this material world.

And yet we feel the urge to become more spiritual. That urge to become more spiritual is SWEET in mind to contemplate; SWEET in the mouth to discuss.

When we have to APPLY spiritual principles in our daily lives (YES, APPLICATION!!!!), it is not always so easy. That’s where the BITTERNESS comes in.

“It [the little book in John’s Revelation] is very beautiful to look upon, very beautiful to be desired; but in the application of same at times very bitter….” (281-32)

The BITTERNESS COMES FROM THE PURIFICATION OF OUR OWN SELFISHNESS. It’s the self-centered stuff within us that is being purged and released.

The selfish, egotistical part of our self needs healing but doesn’t necessarily want to let go. So it blames others for the resistance that sometimes comes to the surface when we try to live (APPLY) our spirituality. This is projection that shows up in the Mirror of Life (Know Thyself, lesson 2 ASFG I). We are only meeting our own self, but we don’t want to own up to some of the negativity. Also, some of the patterns that are being changed relate to habitual carnal desires and attachments to flesh in various forms. We don’t want to let go and give it up for the sake of the SWEET spiritual ideal that we have claimed. All of this can lead to emotional BITTERNESS within.

If we stick with the process and allow ourselves to purified of the drosses within, then, yes the SWEETNESS comes back. Peace and joy reigns, just as in John’s Revelation – The New Jerusalem – Enlightenment.

You will find this pattern of SWEET and BITTER initiation in any organization that promotes a high ideal (such as churches and political parties). I have witnessed many, many SWEET and BITTER spiritual initiations in others over the years at the A.R.E. in Virginia Beach (and underwent a powerful initiation myself the first year I lived here and became active with the organization). That’s probably why the A.R.E. is sometimes called a “karma wheel.” It just provides an Opportunity to meet ourselves and be purified. Thus it is a place of spiritual initiation and sacred transformation.

There is a video on Sweet and Bitter on the Free page (Revelation section) of my website:


There is an entire lesson on spiritual Initiation in SFG 3 on my website:


There is also a Resource article for this exercise: Sweet and Bitter Opportunities

Just stick with the process and it will make sense if you are ready for this advanced lesson in your Search for God.

Blessings, Dave

[During another eGroup session, a group member shared from his experience with many people who lost all to hurricanes. Some responded by becoming less materialistic, more loving and grateful, realizing the truly important things in life. He didn’t understand how individuals could “volunteer” for such an experience, even though ultimately it did seem to result in a purging of the impurities of the soul. Similarly, he was confused about how the the “sweet and bitter” initiation might apply to individuals struggling with addictions. Here is my reply.]

… those are great questions. Here are some thoughts (and an additional exercise) for you to consider.

Your use of the terms “volunteer” and “volunteering” is suggestive of the process of “reality creation” in which we each participate WILLINGLY (at some level, often unconscious) in the events and situations of our lives. Thus we are each “constantly meeting self.” This can happen at the individual level of personal “reality creation” as was noted in the lesson on Faith. But can also be part of our collective experience (as we studied in the lesson on the Cross and the Crown) if we are part of larger, dramatic scenarios such as wars, natural disasters, epidemics, etc. Perhaps participation in such situations could be regarded as “volunteering” from a metaphysical perspective.

Keep in mind that at the individual level, the person may not necessarily be committed to (or familiar with) a spiritual perspective or ideal. If they have NOT made such a commitment, they may experience soul growth from such Opportunities, but will probably not have a “sweet and bitter” initiation.

The “sweet and bitter” is an advanced lesson for the soul that is already on the spiritual path and making progress – having said “yes” to spirituality – but still in need of purification. Thus when a calamity happens, they may become disturbed and ask why God allowed this happen to me? Am I being punished? Why are others (who are supposed to be spiritually-minded) treating me this way? etc. That's where the bitterness comes in as a resistance to being purified – we blame others and project our bitterness outward, when it is really about our own self-centeredness. We are meeting ourselves and don't like what we see.

Thus the pattern of sweet and bitter initiation is typically associated with a setting where there is a high ideal, such as a church, and organization such as the A.R.E., a 12-step program, etc.

Your example of a person in recovery may represent a “sweet and bitter” initiation, for that person has already begun the spiritual journey (if using the 12-step model) and said “yes” to the process. There may be an initial sense of sweetness in that decision and commitment to spirituality. Yet, tests will come, and failing those tests may well lead to a feeling of bitterness which is self-inflicted. You know more about this process, so feel free to share if you like. Just keep in mind that there is choice involved in which the individual consciously says “yes” to spirituality (in some manner) and there is usually a sense of sweetness associated with that decision. If we fail the test, we may become bitter and have to do it all again, and again until we get it right.

Your question about how this relates to natural disasters in which many individuals are involved is more complicated – but the pattern is the same. Some of those individuals will be on the spiritual path and thus have experienced the sweetness of spiritual commitment (such as church-going Christians). So, for them, it will be an Opportunity of testing. If they fall short, there may be bitterness as they blame others (or even God) for the outcome. If they pass the test by serving others and letting go of selfishness, there will be no bitterness – no need for it because there is no need for purification.

Yet, there will be many in such situations, who are not overtly on the spiritual path and have not said “yes.” They will not likely experience bitterness (as part of a spiritual initiation – important distinction there). They may use the situation as a growth experience and this may lead them to undertake the spiritual journey (in some form or other). Thus the Opportunity for a “sweet and bitter” initiation still awaits them further down the path.

This could apply to those who “come to be less materialistic & more loving and grateful” as you have noticed. It could be an awakening for them in which they begin the spiritual journey. Or perhaps they are already on the path and have passed the test with no need for purification. You can usually determine this by speaking with them or just being around them.

So now we come to an additional exercise that you can undertake at some future time if so inclined.

Look for Opportunities to chat with those individuals in your area who became “less materialistic & more loving and grateful” as a result of the hurricane. Just ask them about their reactions: Was there initially any bitterness to be overcome? (or anger – which is not the same thing). Did they feel purged or cleansed in any way? You get the drift. Just listen sympathetically. Try to get a sense of whether they had a spiritual orientation before the hurricane (hence the “yes” aspect of initiation). Had they been through similar experiences before and were in a sense primed to deal with the disaster (maybe they had been cleansed before and this was just an Opportunity to serve others). Or was the calamity an Opportunity to explore the spiritual side of life and begin that journey. Many possible variations on Opportunity.

A “sweet and bitter” spiritual initiation is an advanced lesson in soul growth. It can be a difficult concept to get your mind around until you have experienced it personally – then you will know it – you will know the sweetness and bitterness in your own experience. If you are on the path and have not experienced it, maybe you don't need that lesson in purification. We each have our own lesson plan for this earthly classroom.

Hope this explanation is helpful in some way. Blessings, Dave

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