May 18, 2014
The older I get, the more I find that my only enemies are inside me; that when I can defeat and kill these adversaries, what I once saw as threats and strangers around me are just illusions, the misperceptions of derived and superficial belief.
Opposition — the belief in me versus the external, my life against what’s-out-there — is an illusion that is based upon a vast web of delusion, false belief. Now this understanding may seem to be undermined every day, when someone cuts us off in traffic, or takes us to court, or punches us in the nose, or steals from us. I am reminded of the outburst from Dr. Johnson, who was taking a walk with his faithful biographer Boswell, discussing Lord Berkeley’s theory of idealism (immaterialism): he kicked a stone in anger and cried out, “Thus I refute him!”
The point here is that we can play within the material world without actually giving it the energy of belief. It begins with a simple understanding that must reach far beyond mere intellect: I am not a stranger here; I am not an alien visitor to this universe; I am not just a continually decaying organism dropped into a threatening world of the foreign and the external. The game of division from and opposition to life is a play of shadows, a field of falsehood.
So taking a side is already a step into darkness, blindness. I cannot be either a materialist or an immaterialist. Yes, as a new ager of sorts, I can readily understand the common reaction against all things materialistic. Our economic system is dominated by the uber-wealthy few and our legal system is a shell game of braindead procedure, obsolete lingo, and again, corporate money.
But money is not the root of all evil; for evil itself is an illusion, a fantasy. Illusions can, of course, seem very compelling at times — often to the point where we mistake them for reality. But we can’t allow ourselves to be ruled by cynicism, for that’s the game that the materialists — and many anti-materialists — are already playing: if we join in that game, then we are merely adding fuel to their fire, darkness to their shadow. Whenever we play the game of cynicism we are giving the cynics the home field advantage. There is another way — your way.
It’s a lesson we have to hear within, probably throughout our lives. Since I work regularly with the I Ching oracle, I’ll show you the most recent iteration of this lesson I’ve received there. It’s the 40th hexagram, called “Freeing” or (rather more prosaically) “Deliverance”. I was given three moving lines, the 2nd, 4th, and 6th:
DELIVERANCE. The southwest furthers.If there is no longer anywhere to go,Return brings success.If there is still unfinished business,It furthers to bring it swiftly to an end.
2. One kills three foxes in the fieldAnd receives a yellow arrow.Perseverance brings success.
4. Deliver yourself from your great toe.Then the companion comes,whom you can trust.
6. The prince shoots at a hawk on a high wall.He kills it. Everything serves to further.
OK, there’s a lot of “killing” going on in these lines. And that, to me, is fine. Remember: my only enemies are within me, and when I overcome them, all outer opposition becomes a play, a game whose rigid walls of hatred and division weaken and collapse under the warm light of awareness.
As I studied the metaphors contained in the moving lines, I discovered the following elements:
- Externalization: the “foxes in the field” (out there, apart from me). This is that ego-impulse of seeing self as alienated from other; me-against-the-world. It is the fuel that feeds the next delusion…
- Opposition: the “great toe” is a metaphor on the impulse to kick out, to see opponents and threats everywhere in that world from which I am supposed to be divided by Nature or even by God. To burn the body of opposition under the heat of realization is to draw the energy of the “companion I can trust” — the true self of genuine Nature.
- Estrangement: the “hawk on the high wall” is the alienated self, looking down at the world and at others in either contempt and/or fear. The point here is that both the “hawk” and the wall on which it sits must be brought down and cleared out of the energy-body, the life-space, the field of one’s being. Once they are gone, life becomes easy, a regenerative flowing of abundance, true wealth (in contrast to mere money), and love.
Thus, I followed this work up with a meditation, in which I said an “inner No” to these ego-elements. The point is not just to feel good about oneself, but to make the connection between the inner life and outer benefit. For example, when I did the inner work above, I happened to be in the midst of an outer conflict, a legal matter involving a state institution that was threatening my very livelihood, my financial body, as it were. What clearing myself of the remnants of these delusions accomplished outwardly was remarkable: I was guided past the institutional and bureaucratic aspects of the situation and directly into its human components. The old saying is true: you can’t fight City Hall. But you can connect with the people who live and work within it.
That’s an easy, even self-evident principle, but really making it live within and around you is another thing entirely. My experience has been — again and again and again — that the best way to make such a principle take flight and soar through your own life is to first clear your inner space of the decadence that it is meant to defeat. It takes some focus, some personal effort, and a great deal of help from sources whose nature and very existence you might not understand and even sometimes doubt. But don’t worry about that: consider such work an experiment, a testing of a hypothesis. In this case, the hypothesis of the experiment is simply an alternative to our culture’s prevailing (and unfounded) assumption: that one’s body is an alien being terminally divided from the world and the cosmos, and that I can only live through struggle and opposition.
So the alternative really amounts to an affirmation of one’s union with all being and all of Nature. It is what the poet Coleridge called a “suspension of disbelief” in ego’s rigid assumption of estrangement. It’s not that you’re trying on a different psychological or ideological dress for size; it’s really more like you’re taking off all the clothing of defense and alienation that our culture tends to hand us, from the cradle onward. The experiment, therefore, is about abandoning that dress of defense and seeing what happens when you go out into the field of life psychologically naked, with no beliefs or thought-games to wall you off from others and from the world.
I think that if you will give this approach an honest effort, you may find that there is a natural source of protection — invisible but more genuine and enduring than the illusory defenses of belief — which will keep you from harm in the same way the membranes of your body’s cellular structures protect you from disease: with a web of receptivity that repels invasion through the very invitation to nourishment. This is a way of true liberation over mere escape; of deliverance over the repetitively painful drill of defense.