What typically happens as soon as we begin to take our closest relationships for granted? Do they necessarily begin to wither and die at that point, or are there some situations where such an “autopilot” mode is ideally suited for the growth and development of trust, intimacy, love, and mutual understanding? Don’t genuine love and trust largely depend on a stable container or vessel in which to grow and mature? If such structures – the so-called “terms and conditions” of the relationship – are continually being questioned, scrutinized, and critiqued, won’t their leak-proof protectiveness and stability be under continual threat?
What seems not merely to be implicit, but quite conspicuous, from these preliminary questions is that we can err in either direction. Thoroughly unexamined relationships – where all is taken for granted –invariably deteriorate into suffocating prisons or emotional straitjackets that eventually cripple or kill the very ‘goods’ they were designed and built to protect. At the other end of the spectrum, those relationships, the terms and conditions of which are incessantly being renegotiated on a minute-to-minute basis, are highly susceptible to collapse from sheer exhaustion and wild fluctuation.
Our human-instinctive craving for security will typically nudge us in the direction of unadventurous acquiescence to fixed patterns and routines in our relationships. In religiously adhering to the comfortable (or merely familiar and anchoring) patterns and habits that provide “plot” and “formal structure” to our relationships, we may be purchasing a dubious sense of security at the price of other goods, virtues, or benefits. Honesty and spontaneity may have to be sacrificed, for instance, in order to avoid “rocking the boat.” The more rigid and constrictive the implicit terms and conditions become, the greater the risk of an eruption or meltdown as soon as the repressed, “disturbing” energies begin shaking things up from below – and eventually “life bursts forth.” These repressed instinctual-psychic energies manifest themselves in a variety of different forms: erotic, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and imaginal—and sometimes collectively, as looting/rioting, civil strife, genocide, international war, violent revolution, etc.
Many of us possess a measure of discretion and control over the course of events when the rising sap of life begins to disturb and disrupt the mummified patterns and rigid, rutted rituals that have been locking us up securely inside our mind-forged manacles and protective prisons. We hear persons say that a sacrifice or loss to the ego is an enrichment or enhancement of the soul. This strikes me as an idea that is relevant in this context. When either the disruptive-vivifying energies of life or the assumption-shattering insights of living wisdom powerfully collide with our protective prison-walls, many of us instinctively cling to our familiar shackles and manacles rather than don the wings of unfamiliar freedom. Some must be dragged, kicking and screaming, from their cells and thrown forcibly into the sea to learn to swim – or fail to learn, and sink. It turns out that a good deal more is under siege than our ‘human, all too human’ attachment to familiar or comfortable feeling states. Such attachments are clearly under threat but these are comparatively trivial, foreground matters when set beside the subtler assault upon our very sense of identity – our established sense of who (or what) we take ourselves to be. This is a far more insidious and terrifying threat precisely because it resembles a death sentence issued against the ego itself – a death preceded by a profound sense of disorientation sometimes so extreme as to warrant the name of “insanity.”
To be sure, there are successful cases on record where such unpleasantries were mitigated, if never quite eliminated, by an outstanding spiritual-psychological education and exceptional self-discipline. But more often than not, these days, such priceless preparation is not readily available to those who need it the most. Such raw recruits upon the internal battlefield of spiritual-psychological transformation are obliged, in most cases, to rely on the extremely limited assistance provided by outmoded, dogmatic teachings (or frothy/diluted “New Age” offerings) that tend to be more stultifying than salutary, more obfuscatory than preparatory. Nevertheless, in spite of such outmoded or diluted spiritual resources as we find upon the barren contemporary cultural landscape, a few intrepid and resourceful initiates are able to navigate through the fateful transformation of consciousness that is detonated by the crisis hinted at above.
As the transformation reaches its destined climax, the newly initiated consciousness has been, in effect, turned inside-out. Where, before, there was an apparently self-serving, outer-directed ego named “so-and-so” who was driven chiefly by personal desires and the will to power, we now find a centered and balanced, interior observer who artfully cooperates with the body-mind-complex (or personal ego) that functions as a kind of agent or vehicle in the waking, sensible world. A new psychic center of gravity has gradually been established over the course of the transformation – and the new center of gravity displays markedly different characteristics than the one from which the initiate’s consciousness has been uprooted and, in a sense, liberated. Echoes from the old standpoint may continue to resonate from time to time within the soul of the initiate, but the once authoritative and irresistible grip of compulsive desires and fears has been broken. Thus, the serene neutrality native to the new standpoint is accessible if and when the tempests of desire, passion, and imagination begin to rise up from the outer periphery of the vortex—while the center always remains calm and still. As the consciousness of the initiate becomes increasingly “at home” within the timeless, motionless center, a number of significant developments occur:
The dispassionate, detached, and pure awareness at the source has the effect, over time, of gradually dissolving the ‘I-am’ thought—the root of the illusion of separate or individual existence. Because the “world” and the “separate self” (or subjective standpoint) are interdependent, as one dissolves, so does the other – into merely apparent existence. The very contexts of time and space no longer have any ‘place’ or ‘duration’ within the perfectly still and peaceful ‘heart of being and non-being.’ In the approximation of consciousness to this rarefied state of stillness, the dependent human ego humbly acknowledges its insignificance and ultimately fictional status. It recognizes its own dependence upon mind, that magical-creative power which emerges from, and is dependent upon, the mysterious source – the formless, eternal absolute.