I was reading an article recently in a magazine that I pulled off a friend's bookshelf. The series was called "Parabola", and the publishings inside of this particular magazine were something that intrigued me enough to open it. I cannot remember the exact title of this magazine, but it was something like "The Path of Yearning"; this reminded me of the Bhakti Yoga path. Within the tradition of Bhakti, it is said that the longing inside of the human heart for God is our most precious and powerful ally for the awakening of consciousness. This makes me wonder: what is this longing, where does it come from? Why is it that we, as humans, experience the indescribable sensations of the search for meaning in this life? I ponder on these things and perhaps you do, too...
We are bound by an incessant draw to understand, to comprehend, to truly know; it is this way for me, at least... maybe it is for you as well. And the more we search, the more our experience baffles us. The more we seek, the wider the unknown. It is as if we look for an answer where this is none, or we find answers that are not satisfactory to the greatest of life's mysteries. For some individuals, religion is an attempt to explain or, at the very least, offer solace by providing some semblance of comprehension to the infinite cosmos. To some, where religion has failed at providing satisfactory answers. science prevails. Still to others, neither religion nor science can transmit the ultimate comprehension. Those who find themselves here -- unsatisfied by the dogma of religion and feeling incomplete with scientific rationale -- it seems that the heart begins to sing. The heart begins to sing a song of longing, of yearning, of innocent desire. As pure and sincere as an infant beckoning to her mother to receive the nourishment of milk, this cry reaches out from the innermost vibrations of a being. This is where the path of the mystic begins -- a pathless path, for there are no answers to be found in the world, only pointers for how to begin to walk it. The desire to know oneself... a desire that God alone can satisfy, and thereby answer the age-old question: "Who Am I?"
For the mystic, looking at the world of form, one sees only the magical and temporary net of vibration and energy. This is why the answers do not satisfy, for the answers only box in the infinite mystery. We do not know what we claim to know, and we literally cannot know the unfathomable. Because this is so uncomfortable for the mind, we would prefer to rest in some half-truth, some rationale or explanation, that can comfort us and allow us to then navigate in what is essentially a sea of uncertainty, of temporality, of the finite. Yet there exists within us an eternal quality -- this we know, or rather we intuit, for to "know" it would be to quench it's hungry flame and package it as many do in some sort of spiritual teaching. We intuit the nature of the Soul, the nature of our own consciousness ... and yet we lack the proper comprehension of what it truly means to possess a soul, to be fundamentally eternal and infinite, when everything that we perceive appears temporary and illusory. It begins this way when one begins to awaken to the deeper Reality: the short-sighted pleasures of the world hold no more sway over one's mind, as one begin to search for a deeper and more lasting fulfillment than anything the world can offer.
If one is successful in the world, one's ego begins to build up. A healthy psyche is created. This is an important part of this journey. If one renounces the ego too soon, the mind and psychic faculties remain undeveloped and certain traits and worldly abilities lay undeveloped and forgotten, like unsharpened and un-cared-for tools rusting in an old shed. While the home of one's own mind may survive the storms of life, one never finishes the establishment and the weathering of life continues to batter our ill-constructed walls and fortification. These fortifications are our beliefs and ideologies. Some of them are based on our experience, some of them are inherited, and still others are conditions from the society we live in. The psychic home whose walls are the result of direct experience possess a greater fortitude and stability than those we have received indirectly or conditionally. And where our experience is lacking, the society and culture fills in the gaps. Yet we end up with a shanty of a sort instead of a fortified castle of being-ness and wisdom. If a strong enough storm comes through, our crudely constructed shelter fails to protect us from the power of nature, and we have to make repairs and re-evaluate its construction for the inevitable forces of life. This analogy of the home is similar to the analogy of building up a healthy ego and psyche. There is a requirement of experience and trial-and-error, which is the function of one's own will and ego-in-action, where life circumstances offer the critical guidance of how to build the home inside. And at the center of the home, the hearth of the home, where the furnace is burning and providing the life-giving heat and warmth to not only the household but to all guests, is the burning human soul. The two must work together and go hand-in-hand: ego and soul. A healthy relationship ought to be formed. The premature renunciation of ego, as it has been mentioned, may lead to a soul that appears free, but there is a lack of harmony in physical, mental, emotional and psychological experience of life through the body-mind, which is the instrument through which the soul can experience. The physical, mental, emotional, psychological experience of life must have alignment between soul and ego. This is where the healthy development of the ego assists us in our spiritual quest.
If we are embarking upon the mystical quest into the unknown, one's tools must be sharpened and their inner home established to face the wilderness of life. Much of what is known or believed to be true must be cast aside. This allows for the truth of experience to be more essential than words that have been read or heard from others. When one embraces this, one begins to see the world with open eyes. The awakening process can only begin at this time and the awakening ceases to blossom when one claims to "know". This awakening is not a "one-and-done" process -- it is the constant evaluation of the house of the mind, and the ability we have to remain present with the unknown. And what drives the whole ship forward is the yearning in one's heart. As soon as one is no longer connected to their innermost longing, the depth of their dissatisfaction with life, suddenly the construction process ceases. Interestingly, the construction process of the inner home is a deconstruction of the false walls and fortifications put up as defense to keep truth out. We put up walls within ourselves, around our heart, to block the truth from entering. Why would we do this? These walls are the half-truths we tell ourselves, the false certainties we claim over our perspectives about how things are. This happens when we are confronted with harsh realities; it happens especially in traumatic incidents where we lose faith in the intelligence of life. When the storm strips away our walls, we shake our fist at the sky and the malevolent Creator who has cast upon us bad fortune instead of questioning why the wall had no foundation to begin with. We quickly go about rebuilding our shanty-shack to protect our prized possessions. Our soul continues burning its eternal flame, but the winds buffeting us and lack of fuel make the fire burn low and quiet. Through our spiritual quest, we learn to feed the soul what it needs and rebuild this fire, too. Eventually we end up with satisfactory house once more and roaring blaze, until the storm comes strong enough to strip us back once more.
For those on this mystic path, this stripping back and laying bare seems to happen more frequently. This is what exactly what drives one to seek for the experiences and initiatory processes that provide one with the growth and tools to strengthen the inner home and fuel the inner soul spark. The ancient teachings of many great wisdom traditions provide us the blueprints for how to build the house of the body-mind -- this is exactly where practices like yoga and meditation come in -- but we must apply them and experience them to erect the proper shelter. If we do so diligently and with time, attention, and precision, the shanty-shack which was previous based on others' experiences is instead erected out of our own will, perseverance and self-effort. This installs a diamond like shelter for the heart and soul, which allows the inner light to shine through and radiate outward in all of its splendor. Our walls are no longer hastily erected from wounds and a desire to protect, but are instead carefully chosen for their material and durability and constructed in this way. We build a transparent crystal palace which has deep roots and is fortified by generations of refinement through the wisdom tradition which we follow. Our inner home now possesses enough solidarity that we can venture out further into the unknown without risk of us returning to something that has been swept away once again.
Eventually the stripping back happens less and less, because one's inner shelter and place of refuge has been so well established so as to be impenetrable by the forces of untruth. Evil can no longer dwell in the place of purity. If there are holes in the armor, penetration and deterioration can occur. Just as infection occurs more readily when there is an open wound, for one who possesses the spiritual armor borne of profound inner experience, the dark invaders can gain no foothold. This is the point in which one's service to the world can really open up and expand, for the strength of their sovereignty is so well-established that the dark forces which attempt to corrupt hold no power. These dark forces are similar to the storms mentioned in this essay -- they are the oppositional forces of nature and provide a crucial role for life's evolutionary process. Without the opposition, there is no struggle to attain. There is no desire fo this quest to begin with. Without the despair that one feels when looking for answers and finding none, there is no yearning. This yearning provides the essential nutrients for spiritual life to begin -- for the seeds planted by our ancestors to burst through the layers of sediment covering the mind.
As the mystic's journey continues, there are different challenges to be faced. They are of the same nature as before, but they transform to take on a different form. For the one who has progressed to the point where they no longer see things or take reality at face value, but instead looks inward for their true meaning, they have begun a process of inner alchemy. The alchemy which converts the dross of experience into the rarified substance of spiritual wisdom. This is when comprehension dawns. One's inner home is strong enough and pure enough to hand the challenges of life without being swept back and one is no longer constantly in a struggle to make ends meet. Now, the spiritual laboratory has its beakers bubbling and experimentation is in full-swing. Pages of notes are taken as the experiments continue. The mystic has within herself the power and courage to make leaps into the unknown, combining different variables and different ideas to react together and produce new results. This person feels strong enough in themselves that they can journey where they know nothing and still reap the reward of experience. They can squeeze the juice out of any challenge. They can leave their front doorstep and enter into the wilderness, armed only with the torch lit by their inner furnace, and seek for what has not been found yet. When they find something, out there, in the great wide unknown, they have enough wherewithal to make their way back to their inner home, their temple, their place of refuge, and bring back what was discovered and place it next to the other experiments to be refined, rarified and documented. Eventually, the ingredients of their searching are alchemized into the magical substances placed on their innermost altar. These substances hold magic and power because they are borne of an enduring process that required multiple steps of evolution. They are the final symbols of the entire evolutionary outcome explained here in this essay. They are the mystics tools of comprehension and understanding of the cosmos, and they are entirely unique to each person. These are the tools which provide the evolution for humanity and for consciousness.
The yearning of the heart is what propels this entire chain of events. It takes us beyond our comfort zone, again and again. It forces us to look for and. find answers where there are none. It takes us out onto the path where none have traveled, where we can rely upon our own wits and direct experience to persevere, overcome, and eventually know. Yet unless and until this happens, we rely upon what we hear and what is told to us. This is incomplete and it does not add fuel to the evolutionary chain. For those who possess the desire to know, they will be able to observe the aforementioned process in their own spiritual journey. And as one is walking this path, the teachings of all the sages and all of the traditions begin to find their home inside. They are realized and re-membered as the truths that they are, not in any intellectual or cognitive analysis. The walls of the inner home and temple space are constructed out of the diamond-like material of experience alchemized by wisdom. No longer are we living in a shelter of ideas or ideologies, carefully protecting and trying to preserve our tiny soul's flame. We are here with wide open doors to a temple that is firm and enduring, for any weary traveler to take refuge and warm themselves by our fire. For this weary traveler was once ourselves, stepping out into the unknown, leaving behind our shanty, searching into the wilderness for that which would last and stand the test of time. And eventually this weary traveler finds the eternal truth, spoken of in many tongues across many ages, only to bring it back home to the heart, to satisfy the longing that pushed one out the door in the first place.
PS -- The word "Parabola" describes a geometric process of an arch that departs from the line origin, travels some distance, and returns to the line of origin.