Through Crises, New Beginnings - 1
One of the little understood and advertised aspects of the relationship between a real guru and his disciple is that through such a relationship the disciple is made to face a deep crisis. His entire future depends on how he (or she) meets the crisis, on the quality of the emotional attitude, the depth of understanding, and the character of the will he brings to it.
A crisis is almost unavoidable, because as the disciple meets his spiritual Guide he brings to the meeting not only an eagerness for inner growth, or perhaps only an intense and fascinated devotion to the guru, but also the karmic residual of his past — and not only the past of his present life. In his aspiration for a more spiritual life and consciousness, the disciple has forgotten this past. In fact he probably has never realized the heaviness of this karmic past, and unconsciously he is quite eager not to meet it at this time when all he aspires to is light and divinity. The ego of any individual either is not aware of the ancient past, or he half-consciously finds ways of getting around it and to evade harsh confrontations with his old sins of commission and even more omission. He is like a lawyer trying to circumvent the law, even though he would be amazed if he were told that he was doing so deliberately. By meeting his guru and earnestly asking for spiritual guidance, the disciple, unbeknown to himself, sets in motion an equally spiritual reaction.
The presence of the guru, even more than what he actually may do, say, or suggest, focuses upon the disciple the karmic harvest of the latter's past. Impersonally, and perhaps with some deep sadness and compassion, the guru brings about situations which force the disciple, who probably is eagerly waiting for revelations and illumination, to squarely or frontally face the darkness of a perhaps long-forgotten past of indolence, selfishness, or spiritual bankruptcy. The disciple comes face to face with what, in the most extreme instances, has been pictured (in Bulwer Lytton's famous novel, Zanoni) as the monstrous Dweller on the Threshold. In any case he faces a crisis; and the word, crisis, from a Greek root which means "to decide." This root can be traced to the still more universal radical Kri which we find in the names of the great Avatar of India's tradition, Krishna, and of our Western divine Manifestation, the Christos. In Javanese the so often used dagger or specially shaped small sword is called "kris."
Christ brought to men, not peace — as he himself stated — but the "sword of severance." Krishna originally was known in India as a great statesman who, through his consummate diplomacy, brought face to face and with equal strength the two great clans of the Warrior caste who had made of the land a constant battlefield. On the plain of Kurukshetra, the two clans met and destroyed each other. This ended the power of the Warrior caste and marked the rise of India's great Age of Philosophy, dominated by the power of the Brahmin caste.
Whether this be fact or myth it should bring to us the realization that the divine Guru, in whatever form and according to whatever circumstances it may be, brings to the people among whom he is born, a some time fearsome crisis, forcing men to "decide." In the Bhagavad Gita, on the eve of the great battle of Kurukshetra, Krishna faces his pupil, Arjuna who, seeing friends and relatives in both camps, is ready to evade the issue and refuse to fight. Krishna confronts him with his dharma as a warrior and Arjuna makes his great decision, and the battle is "won." But who wins it? Not the victorious army that is also decimated; not the victorious ego of Arjuna the warrior. Spirit alone wins — within Arjuna's Soul and inner consciousness, and within an India relatively freed for a time at least from the conflicts and passions of the Warrior caste.
The divine Spirit — the Christos — also won through the courage and endurance of Jesus, Son of Man. But it was victory as yet only in the realm of Archetypes: the Great War has been raging ever since in the planetary consciousness of mankind and in the innermost heart of all men, who swear by the name of Christ, yet remain asleep and betray the Christ spirit, as the apostle, Peter, and the Church founded on his symbolic name, betrayed the master they pretended to worship. The Great War may still wait for its climactic Kurukshetra. The radical decision is not yet made, except by a few individuals here and there.
Assuredly many small and valid decisions are made by individuals and groups at one time or another; but unless the issue is truly focal the decision may not be "radical" enough; it may not reach the very root of the individual person. It may not demand as yet the irreversible crucifixion of the individual as an ego and lord of whatever comes under the sway of its autocratic power.
The strong individual whose mind is open and wise may not need a guru to force him to meet his karma. To the strong, life itself answers with compelling and ineluctable circumstances. The disciple who relies on his inner center and his potential divinity may himself precipitate the confrontations generating one crisis after another. The ever-present danger is that, under strain and stress, he may make what appears to be the wrong decision or that, unable to make any decision at all, out of sheer inner exhaustion, he may slide into insanity or premature dying. Yet there are perhaps no wrong decisions, if they are sincere and open to whatever may come; if the results are placed on the inner altar of one's dedication to the Divine, for God to accept or reject.
The guru is nevertheless always present behind the scene, even though in the awesome abysses of the "Dark Night of the Soul," of which many mystics have spoken his presence is not felt, his voice not heard. The disciple is left with only one weapon: the sword of his pure, unadulterated will. He alone can wield this sword, not to cut a mythical Gordian Knot, as the youthful Alexander, the conqueror, is said to have done with his sword, but to cut the rope his own ego had made to tie the ship of his consciousness to some safe, secure, and comfortable haven. As the ship is left loose to brace the currents and storms of the immense sea of an astral realm that one can only reach through as well as beyond the solid physicality of our everyday world, the life of the self-consecrated individual produces radical crises.
Crises are thresholds which one must pass through; what counts is the essential quality of the movement through. That we may stumble, fall and get badly hurt, or make tragic mistakes or blunders and hurt others this is in most cases unavoidable. The main difference between victory and at least temporary defeat resides in the quality of our being. This quality of being goes deeper than mere conscious motive — for is it not said "Hell is paved with good intentions"? By quality of being I mean what we cannot help doing, feeling, or thinking, because we are that. Victory comes, ultimately, because everything in us and beyond us — the whole balance-of-power within the field of actualization of the Soul in which our personal self participates — everything comes to a focus in some essential "Yes" or "No" saying.
The ransom of spiritual victories almost unavoidably is suffering; but here again all depends on the quality of the suffering or, one might say, on what suffering is geared to. It may be geared to a will to victory over the domination of the ego or to a stubborn decision by the ego to gain control over whatever challenges its power, or even to a feeling of defeat and impotency which in some instances may turn into a semiconscious will for self-annihilation.
Suffering should be differentiated from pain. Any living organism experiences pain when some of its vital functions or the integrity of the body is interfered with. Nature inflicts pain upon all living organisms caught in its more or less violent processes, its storms, its droughts or flood, its fires, its extremes of heat or cold. The implacable law of the biosphere, "Eat or be eaten," produces everywhere pain; a pain which under certain conditions, even in the vegetable kingdom — as recent experiments by Cleve Baxter have shown can be shared by other organisms vibrating in sympathy.
Human beings also experience physical pain in natural circumstances affecting the nervous system. But with suffering we reach another level of feeling, because suffering implies a more or less individualized consciousness of pain — not only physically felt, but pain referred to the personal desires, the goals, the expectations, and the potentiality of self-unfoldment and spiritual growth of the individual person. As an individual severs his bondage to his society and to the instinctual rhythm of his participation in nature; as he places a priority on the development of mind and of social power, prestige, fame, and wealth in a competitive society, regardless of what this will do to the natural harmony and smooth-workings of his biological functions and emotional drives, he invites suffering. He who is following the transpersonal Way and is definitely ready and intent upon entering the Path — the path of total transformation — can expect to travel with suffering as his companion. He has deliberately entered a process of transition. He has placed himself "out of gears" in order to be able to change to a higher gear; and the change is very rarely smooth, because, unlike a well-engineered car, each position of the gears resists change; instead of some kind of lubricant to facilitate the displacement, each gear is surrounded with a mass of particles opposing the shifting. The result is an often harsh and potentially destructive grinding noise, especially if there is no experienced driver to teach the novice.
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