Thursday, December 09, 2010
Reconciling the Opposites
In order to complete initiation, we must discover a way--or become possessed by a way--to reconcile the opposites. Yet, all around us, on personal and transpersonal levels, in private and cosmic realms, the evidence piles up that the split between the disparates continues to widen, moving toward a seemingly irreconcilable rift.
Consider, for example, Bliss and the Shadow. I myself have known a good deal of bliss in my life. In meditation, in movement, in group energy experiences--in yoga, in breathing, in holding still--a rapture flows. I am “ravished by the god,” I enter a realm of such deep sensuous delight I forget that I am a mere mortal, subject to the contingencies of the everyday. I become nothing but bliss awareness. I am ananda, ananda is my self and substance.
But then I awaken. I come back to “reality” and find myself, once again, in California, at the center of ever recurring catastrophe. Here the ground roars and opens beneath your very feet; giant sheets of fire incinerate not just houses but people, neighborhoods, entire communities. Cars pile up in massive collisions on fog darkened freeways, floods threaten cities in the south.
And all around us is evidence of such individual suffering as we had not dreamt of. Mothers with children in arms beg in the street, human wrecks huddle on sidewalks, old women wrap themselves in blankets against the cold as they curl up in doorways.
The indecencies of government and various national and international institutions are too familiar to catalogue. Powerful commercial interests poison air, water, or soil, as common citizens wonder what to do; these same interests loot the national treasury through various schemes (who got the money from the S & L scandals? the HUD scandals? the banking scandals? the housing debacle? the offshore tax havens? the munitions sales that fuel our seemingly eternal wars? Does anyone know? or care?)
The airways are filled with indecencies unimaginable in a previous age. Our language is polluted with what used to be thought of as obscenities. Our children absorb and reflect the false values inculcated by the T. V. screen and the movie theaters.
And so it goes. Evidence of the Shadow--of universal disintegration of values and behavior, of recurrent disaster--is massive on all levels, personal, public, and cosmic. Each day reveals its new scenario of grief, of suffering, of massive corruption and decay. And yet--each time we return to that deep center, each instant we make contact with that something which convinces that we have not yet discovered who we truly are--we are filled again with a bliss which whispers of that which exists beyond suffering. We know that we are linked to an inscrutable power which pervades our consciousness and carries our body to near insupportable levels of rapture. We feel that here, in this way, abiding in this reality, we once again verify the ever present bond between human and divine, world and source, striving and being.
But this--the Transcendent Moment and the Contingent Universe, Universal Love and Private Suffering--is but the first of many oppositions. Consider, also, Ecstasy (the bliss of total union with the invisible) and Awareness (the mundane consciousness that intervenes and orders our lives in all our “non-blissful” states of being). We live, alternately, in two worlds--the world of being and the world of knowing, the absolute realm of conceptless awareness and the idea-ridden universe of daily life. In the former, we suspend not only awareness but judgment and critical faculty. In the latter, we explore the ideational realm, we contemplate, weigh, measure, and judge. We challenge and correct. The exercise of the rational faculty is essential to our well being. It saves us from charlatans and protects us from the false gods, whether secular or sacred. But--how much easier was the task of the saints in their cells, the hermits in their mountain caves--how much simpler to embrace a single, coherent vision of truth, to remain fixed in perpetual bliss, rather than being pressed to travel constantly between the two realms, now flooded with bliss of union, now challenging the very evidence of one’s own experience. We are neither saints nor skeptics, neither committed sectarians nor scornful disbelievers. We are explorers, vacillating constantly between the two domains (one holy, one profane), as if our brains were a condo leased to separate tenants on a “time share” basis. When one is in residence, the other must be absent. They know of each other’s presence only by notes left on the refrigerator or taped to the telephone.
And we could continue our list of antinomies: Universal Love and Private Grief; Evolution of Consciousness vs. evidence of a Disintegrating Society. We could consider the oppositions inherent in the many potential approaches to and interpretations of “reality”--as obtained through the perspectives of body wisdom, mind sense, societal issues, depth psychology, art, music, poetry, movement, etc. Each conveys a conviction of truth in the paradigm it embodies, but none offers a totally comprehensive or convincing vision. (The body-worker, for example, discovers a “storehouse of the past” carried in the body’s own tissues and cells, and effects a seeming cure; the astronomer constructs a cosmic record from far more abstract evidence.)
Again, there are the many layers and levels of consciousness that have unfolded in history, with its many competing world-views and modes of perception. We cannot reenter the ancient shaman’s world, even as it beckons. For all we know, it--or another equally anachronistic mode--may have been the true entryway, a window opening onto reality itself, a vision now lost to us forever.
And there is the dichotomy of the immutable other (god? emanation? higher self? the transcendent?) and the shape changer within. For we, in our most private and essential nature, are never at rest--we are moody, distraught, joyous, and calm, all within a single day--or hour. We ourselves perpetually shift, now exultant, now sad, now caught in reflection, now swept by passionate feeling. The divine melody may be fixed in eternity, but we, the instruments, are called to play many variations on the score.
Yet each time we return to that deep center, each instant we make contact with that awareness that convinces us that there is ever more to discover about our source and who we truly are--we are filled again with a bliss that whispers of that which lies beyond the state of suffering and grief. We know we are linked to an inscrutable power that pervades our own systems and often carries us to near unsupportable levels of rapture.
We realize that here, in this way, abiding in this reality, we once more verity the immutable bond human and divine, world and source.
(from "Unmasking the Rose")
(Image from unknown internet source)