There is an insidious movement afoot, these days, towards social reduction. Few people talk about it, but the effects are obvious everywhere: human relations and interdependencies of all kinds are disappearing! Deep friendships; learning relationships; cooperative communities; even matehood - they are all being denounced, and renounced. Check it out:
Take marriage: Many have tried it, suffered in it, and repented of it. People have done the same with spiritual teachings and teachers. And with cooperative community. How seamlessly “been there, done that" turns into “been there, shun that"! And of course, the consequence of that is obvious: many people are now on their own. Significant, deep social contacts - especially in-the-flesh contacts - are relatively rare.
Human beings are branches of the tree called the family of God. The energy/sap of God Light and Life flows through the trunk of the tree, supplying all the branches. But the branches are now cutting themselves off, and actually believing they'll thrive better that way.
We've whitewashed our retreat from practically all forms of spiritually beneficial relationships by saying we've outgrown them: “I'm beyond the need for social relations. It's all between me and God, now!" We've branded the “outgrown" social areas of life as “lower. " Some people call this spiritual progress: it's very cosmic to be your own everything, you know. Nonsense! You wanna know the truth? The loss of social means is spiritual suicide.
It has always been God's way to have God's children help one another. Various forms of relationship serve that Divine purpose. Are we really to believe, now, that people have really outgrownall kinds of functional interdependence? Are we seriously suggesting that people have made God's Way obsolete? Not likely! Yet all of the means by which God works through people to help people are being systematically villainized, demonized, anathematized, and are fast losing popular support.
Grads or dropouts?
Here's an inviolable rule of the universe: You truly “graduate" from one level to the next only when you've mastered it. Otherwise, you can leave that level for a while, and go on to anything you please, BUT . . . eventually, you must come back to the area of incompletion, and get it right. Those rules exist for this very good reason: because every level of life experience has lessons to teach - lessons that are valuable and necessary for the completion of evolutionary development. And therefore, what is “behind you" may well lay ahead of you yet.
So, friends, if you claim you've outgrown something, and now you are shunning it when in fact you have not mastered it, you are fooling yourself. If you failed to master it - made a mess of it and left it behind, or simply avoided it out of fear and aversion - you are living in a state of incompletion. You will return, for the sake of completion.
The “been there, done that" crowd rarely includes any true graduates. In most cases, they are more like dropouts than graduates. Or maybe refugees. But neither case amounts to graduation.
Perhaps in some cases, and to some extent, individuals have learned the lessons of social interdependence, and moved on to focus, for now, on other contexts of experience. But more likely, when it comes to “been there and shun that, " what happened in almost every case is this:
1. The people involved in some form of social engagement made mistakes, and watched others make mistakes. They saw/experienced the pitfalls involved. Becoming aware of the pitfalls is an accomplishment indeed. BUT . . .
2. Did they CORRECT the errors? Usually NOT. Instead, they simply moved on, and rejected the context, WITHOUT correcting the errors. “Been there, shun that. "
Of course, a person can zoom out and take the position that getting involved at all was their only mistake. For example, marriage itself is the problem. Or, why not this one: people are the problem. That makes the solution seem misleadingly simple - just avoid the entire context. Folks, as superficial as that is, it's exactly what people are doing - “worldly" and spiritual types alike.
Warnings from people who haven't really been there
Look at this fact, because it strongly supports the outrageous-sounding things I'm saying here: Individuals who have run away from certain schools of experience almost invariably have long stories to tell about the dangers and pitfalls of the places they have vacated. Indeed, in warning others of the various pitfalls associated with the area of life they “left behind, " they often seem to be representing themselves as experts in the matter of what not to do.
Noteworthy, too, is this: They almost invariably have far less to say about the values, benefits, and positive lessons of the areas of life they left behind. Hmmm - doesn't it seem odd? An alumnus with nothing good to say about his or her alma mater?
A person who had legitimately graduated from a school of experience would have plenty of respect for it, plenty of good things to say about it. But what we see, instead, are people who, for the most part, strongly recommend against the school of experience from which they claim to have “graduated. " Here's what I'd say about that: It's because they actually have not harvested those benefits to the full. And they're covering their disappointment and shame with blame.
I totally understand that no one wants to be involved with a despotic teacher, a hellish marriage, or an unworkable community. Of course not! And if the choice is between disaster or nothing, nothing is a big improvement. But there's another option: to overcome the pitfalls within those potentially valuable contexts, and enjoy the benefits they have to offer. I don't see many taking that road.
Everyone has seen or heard of clueless disciples who robotically memorized teachings, and made dogmas out of them; egomaniacal teachers running amok; marriages that were more like prize fights, mortuaries, or prisons; communities where people were exploited and unsupported as individuals. And that's mostly what everyone seems to expect anymore - all the know-it-alls! But have they experienced the real upside potentials? How about these:
- a beautiful teacher-student relationship that was extraordinarily liberating and useful all around?
- a great love relationship that tenderly nourished the hearts and admirably served the spiritual needs of both partners for a long time, even their entire lives?
- a group or community that was full of love and mutual support, in which each participant personally flourished while lovingly caring for the needs of the others and the whole?
Who has seen, heard of, or participated in any of these things? Anyone who hasn't certainly can't be called an expert on the subjects of studenthood, intimacy, or community.
Leaving the scene of the crime, and burning your bridges
Human philosophies like the reductionist philosophies I'm complaining about evolve in response to human dysfunctions. We messed up in a place - we danced with a lampshade on our head; we did wrong - and now we're embarrassed. We'd just as soon never show up there again!
Generally, when we do wrong, the brightest thing to do is go back there and fix it. But even though our soul might benefit from doing that - and so might the souls of others - we might not want to do that. In that case, things are likely to go even further south. To avoid having to acknowledge and correct our wrongdoing there, we start building a case against “there. " That's what “been there and shun that" amounts to. We vilify and invalidate “there" to make sure we never have to go back again. We burn our bridges. How handy. What a “relief. "
Bicycle riding is evil?
So the squads of mods who have tried and failed in significant relationships have spawned or embraced entire philosophies to cover their shame and aversion. These philosophies take the aberrant case, treat it as a general model, a virtual definition of its type - and thereby discredit an entire life area.
It is as if a boy tried to ride a bicycle; but, due to lack of skill, he fell down and skinned his knee; and now he says, “Bicycle riding is evil. Walking is much more sophisticated. "
This might be trivial if it were only bicycles we were talking about. But on Earth today, people are boldly preaching against everything that ego can ruin. And what ego ruins most effectively are all humanly cooperative arrangements - including deep, committed intimacy; student-teacher relations; and cooperative community. The conclusion of many who have failed in these contexts is, essentially, that these contexts are “primitive" and “dangerous. " Their testimony is that it is safe and appropriate to live alone, instead, and rely exclusively on inner guidance for all things.
The truth is, there's nothing wrong with the contexts; it's how we're using them that's at fault:
- In a SPASTIC world, bicycles are evil-dangerous tools of destruction
- In a world of UNLOVING people, marriage is hell
- In a world of EGO-DRIVEN students and teachers, studenthood is dumb,
- and teachers are dangerous
Are we making the world safe from ego - or for ego?
It is not that our fears are entirely unfounded. One should be wary of the pitfalls, the destructive twists and turns of ego in the particular contexts. Those errors are ego's way of ruining things that would otherwise have great positive value - ego's handiwork, indeed!
However, it is problematical to conclude that, owing to the ego's past record of ruining all things, valuable human-social functions should be abandoned. The truth is, these functions of intimacy, teaching, and community are much loved and needed by both man and God, for their true and crucial spiritual purposes, meanings, and benefits.
Let's be honest. Bicycling is more sophisticated than walking. And human cooperative living is, as a rule, more sophisticated than solo lifestyles. Thus, what we should learn is not just what the pitfalls of social cooperation are, but how to correct them. In this constructive attitude should remain a true recognition of the real values and positive potentials of the possibilities that eluded us before.
Burning social bridges to higher consciousness
Truly, it is part of a dark, repressive element on the planet that many people, including many spiritual teachers, are passionately preaching philosophies that would blow up all the social bridges by which human progress can be secured. This trend would decimate and eliminate almost the entire infrastructure of Divine-human-social helpfulness, by which God does the lion's share of His/Her work, including:
- those precious words on pieces of paper, we call teachings
- those physically manifest wise people, we call teachers
- those open-minded people who can benefit from input, we call students
- those human beings who can live together in harmony, we call partners, friends, lovers, companions.
- those groups of people who can function together, we call resonance groups, affinity groups, communities, work teams, congregations.
- those places where people of like mind can congregate, we call lighthouses, refuges, retreat centers, monasteries.
We need all these things. God needs all these things for us. And I'm obliged to declare it, because I know that these arrangements are necessary. Salvatory. Redemptive. They are essential tools for God's work. Practically essential for the upward progress of humanity.
People over-romanticize the solo path at their own risk - and at the risk of others. The way of solitude is the most dangerous path of all. Let's not kid ourselves: most people who have no relationships with teachers; people who will not be students; people who repudiate all teachings; people who shun social feedback; people who depend on looking within when they are not ready to hear the still small voice correctly and truly - are deeply lost. People who will not engage in social relations in which natural corrective feedback and mirroring will help guide their steps are much more likely to grow crotchety and imbalanced in their precious solitude than they are to enlighten themselves.
Considering all this, friends, can we still dare suggest that teachings and teachers should be ignored, if not eliminated? That there should be no students! That all people should ever listen to is their own inner-self! That there is no externally existing God worthy of the name God!
Believe me, there is very much an externally existing God - and there is an externally existing Self. And believe me, it is only because each of us has listened to that externally existing God/Self in the past that we are where we are today, spiritually. We'd be much worse off otherwise.
But if we take our own advice and reject all external voices of God in the future, the speed of our future progress will be cut in half. And in that same stroke, we will negate the past work of all the avatars, teachers, bodhisattvas, agents and helpers of God - all who have incarnated here to save the humanity. And we will effectively cancel all future comings of such men and women of compassion and wisdom.
People need to grow, get it? We need to advance from an unreliable or non-existent intuitive awareness of inner guidance, to a true and reliable ability to receive inner guidance. That progress must occur in each of us - God is depending on it. And that's one reason why we need all these external social structures - teachers, teachings, friends, community, and so forth. All these liaisons can provide forms of guidance, feedback, and mirroring essential for this crucially necessary growth.
Tools of God
God has His Way and Means. And almost all of God's Ways and Means are social! People of true understanding say, “God needs our help, because God has no hands and feet. " True. In fact, our hands and feet are God's tools. Our bodies are God's tools. Teachings are God's tools. Teachings are (or certainly can be) the transmission of true wisdom - like lightning bolts in the sky of humanity. Resonant groups are tools of God ("Where two or more are gathered in My Name, there I am also. "). Those are all God's tools.
When you meet someone to whom you bring comfort, upliftment, and wisdom - you are God's tool. And so, indeed, is someone else coming to you, to help you. Never let it be said, then, that these functions are not needed by God. They so obviously are.
Preserve and protect God's infrastructure
Therefore I say, we need all these functions, and we cripple and impoverish God's work if we tear them down. We need:
- Trust and goodwill.
- Close human relationships (including mated intimacies, friendships, dyadic partnerships of all kinds).
- Human cooperation; work teams, doing Divinely guided, co-creative cooperative work.
- Resonance centers, locations for Divine reception and broadcast.
- Student-teacher relations, teaching, and learning
Why? Because when all these so-called institutions are destroyed, humanity is lost and practically irredeemable. So I'm asking the people who think that they know better, to realize that they know worse.
And in that context of truth, this idea - “I've been there and done that, and I've moved on to a more sophisticated idea"- is wrong. In truth, we've done it, but we haven't done it right! All this paranoia and concern and caution people experience about the social context are indeed results of experiences mismanaged by ego. And that error needs to be corrected, not just run away from. Because we can't actually get away. In evolutionary time, we must and will master those experiences.
We need to make those precious functions work correctly, instead of giving up on them. When things are done rightly, they can endure, and they heal, not hurt. And through them, all will be blessed.
Amadon is the founder of the Living Love Fellowship. Over the last thirty years, he has given personal spiritual direction to hundreds of people, in the context of committed, loving friendship. He seeks to serve each person's true self-expression and intimate relationship with God. He has written numerous articles, many of which can be found at the organization's website, http://www.soulprogress.com/