The Principle of Holarchy and
the Interplay of Horizontal and Vertical Relationships - 3
The person-Pleroma relation
In the hierarchy of systems presented in this book, four basic levels can be clearly defined: matter, life, culture (and its central product, personhood), and the Pleroma state of all-encompassing planetary wholeness. In an analogy derived from vegetation, matter is the humus and the root; life is the power of the sap which transmutes the material of the soil into stems and leaves; culture is the flower whose color and perfume represent personhood; and the seed symbolizes the autonomous, self-contained individual. The Pleroma refers to the whole vegetable species whose power is potentially focused into every seed.
Each of these basic levels has sublevels. The kind of experiences persons and individuals have at the social, political, and religious sublevels of the cultural level at which they mainly function evidently conditions the value they give to horizontal and vertical relationships. During the individualistic phase of the evolution of human consciousness, because horizontal relationships are more in tune with the process of developing self-reliance, autonomy, and personal responsibility, they tend to be considered more basic and wholesome than vertical relationships. Yet one tends to think favorably of the latter when one is at the top level of a hierarchy of command; one's ego enjoys giving orders or healing or "saving" distraught people! Relationships based on such interactions, however, are not really vertical; they do not imply the containment of numerous small structures by a larger one. Moreover, in a truly vertical relationship, while a single entity operating at the higher level may control, direct, or inspire the actions or mental processes of entities at a lower level, the motivation for control and the type of power used belong to the higher realm of being.
A vertical relationship is at work when a person deliberately makes a physical gesture. The relationship is vertical because a human being operating at this level of personhood (perhaps in order to follow a practice imposed or suggested by his culture or religion) affects biological activity by controlling the electro-chemical reaction of the cells in his body's nervous system and muscles. The level of personhood and social processes constantly interacts with the biological level of cells, organs, and systems through thoughts, emotions, and acts of will; and cells can perform their biological functions only when vertically related to their many component molecules. Such interactions are far from being understood well.
By extension (but through different processes which are even less understood) vertical interactions can be assumed to occur, or at least may occur when required conditions are present, between human persons and beings operating at the Pleroma level. These interactions can be viewed from two perspectives. A person may have devotional, religious, and mystical experiences during which a contact seems to be established with transcendent beings (or with a human guru who speaks and acts in their name), or perhaps with a one and only God in whom all spiritual values are condensed, yet with whom a "dialogue" is possible. Impelled by a poignant or precise personal need, the human being initiates the relationship with prayer, invocation, or even magical incantation. Remarkable transformative changes may result; but from the point of view of modern psychology the transformation probably would be interpreted as the resolution of psychological conflicts. The psychologist would refuse to accept the possibility of an actual vertical relationship with a superpersonal divine being who is aware of the human prayer and responds to it in a quasi-miraculous way.
From the holarchic point of view, beings operating at the Pleroma level not only can respond to a human call for assistance; they are impelled by their essential nature (supreme Compassion) to seek to interact with and exert pressure upon men and women operating at the level of personhood — the level the Pleroma beings have experienced and transcended. Another interpretation of such compassionate action is that the greater whole, the earth, is relating itself vertically to and affecting the many lesser wholes (human beings) it contains; but such an interpretation makes sense only if one realizes that the planet is a living, thinking, spiritual system, not merely a mass of matter.
The earth thinks through humanity at the level of the human mind and, in a different way, at the archetypal and spiritual level of the Pleroma mind. The Pleroma as a whole radiates the fullness of God's power and light; but each of its component beings "belongs" to only one of the colors (or "Rays") which in their togetherness constitute this divine power and light. Thus a Pleroma being may be understood to act as a power of attraction for individual persons who resonate to the same basic spiritual vibration (Tone or Ray). However, these beings should not be considered individuals with personal names, but vortices of power and spiritual Qualities, centers of consciousness and activity within the one Pleroma, the "spiritual Body," of the earth. This may be what Paul sought to symbolize as the "mystical Body of Christ," but the word "body" is confusing. If it is a "body," its archetypal form must have been latent since the beginning of humanity; it is developing only gradually (one might say, cell by cell) as human individuals one by one pass from the level of personhood to that of the Pleroma.
Esoteric traditions refer to the arduous process of this passage as the Path. This process, and even the preparation for the more or less definite event that starts it, involves not only a vertical "upward" movement of the individual person aspiring to a new state of being, but an equally vertical "descent" of the Pleroma focused by one of the great beings whose vibrations can best stimulate a response in the aspirant to radical transformation. Metaphysical consistency indeed impels us to believe that the action from above precedes the personal reaction at the lower, existential level. Spirit is the integrative power. It constantly seeks (impersonally of course and because of its very nature) to establish relationships linking a spiritual Quality to a personality that might give it concrete actualization.
When such a vertical relationship is established, at first only as a temporarily effective contact, the lower pole (the individual person) may not even be aware that anything unusual is happening. If the person is aware, his or her mind, which probably is still heavily conditioned by rigid cultural and religious beliefs, may interpret the awareness in terms of such beliefs. In most cases, the contact operates either through the field of mental or intuitive discovery (inspiration) or as a powerful feeling-experience — perhaps the feeling of a subliminal presence. Only in rare cases is the physical shape or outline of an actual being seen or a voice heard. In such cases a psychiatrist, or even friends or family, are likely to respond to any mention of the appearance by calling it a hallucination; indeed reports or experiences of such appearances or voices may not be easily distinguished from apparently similar ones occurring during psychotic episodes. The possibility exists, at least in some cases, that "psychotic episodes" may be preludes to or intimations of spiritual transformations which become aborted, partly because of the incomprehension and lack of support met by the psychically distraught yet (for a brief moment) spiritually open person.
Both the process of developing personhood (the condensation and integration of the emotional and intellectual elements fostered by a culture) and the process of individualization (the emergence of an individual out of the cultural matrix) almost inevitably produce a residue of irrelevant psychic movements — unassimilated images, symbols, and concepts that block or deviate the flow of the inner personal life. This residual material can be compared to the more or less toxic waste products disgorged by factories in the production of culturally and socially useful objects. These waste products may combine, lead an unnoticed life of their own, and often poison the "water" and "air" (the collective psychism) of a culture-whole.
Moreover, a culture's attempts to build a collectively accepted religious system to comfort sinners, and especially to give mental or moral support to persons eagerly but confusedly aspiring to a state of more-than-human perfection and bliss, always tend to result in a rigid and materialistic establishment. As a religion becomes institutionalized — and like any institution seeks societal and psychic powers, self-perpetuation and expansion — a vast psychic network of distorted images of spiritual reality and misinterpreted metaphysical concepts is produced. These images and labels also assume a psychic life of their own, and the unwary may feel certain that these are indeed the forms or voices of the great founders of religions, planetary Pleroma beings who originally had sought to sow the "seeds" of some of the values of their realm into the soil of the culture's beginnings.
Especially in times of personal or social crisis, "false gods" often act as substitutes for Pleroma beings, because inherently devotional and insecure people, unable to think of spiritual realities in terms of basic principles, easily confuse these simulacra with the true models. Such confusions and misinterpretations of formations of the psychic (or "astral") realm are always to some degree the product of collective fears and emotional insecurity. Many people whose minds lack individualized formative power are impelled to worship the idols fascinating their community, their peer group, or even their entire culture.
At its mountain source, a culture is pure; its symbols and myths are attempts to give concrete form to a spiritual Quality (or set of Qualities) seeking exteriorization because "the time and the season" for it has come in the process of cosmic or planetary evolution. But after crossing human plains and being filled with the waste products and psychic poisons of many cities, the river is often not much better than a glorified sewer. The people who drink its water have become mainly if not exclusively concerned with diverting some of the river's flow for their own personal use or profit. They fight for their "rights" to own and sell it and perhaps proclaim that they have purified what they sell: all this in terms of the horizontal interplay (often a war) of societal relationships colored by greed and the will to power. Inevitably, some day, a great drought will occur. Somewhere else the compassionate Pleroma-rain will generate a new source, and eventually a new culture will flourish.
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1983 by Dane Rudhyar
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