In a forum discussing the effects on individual’s lives who gave up their autonomy, their entire lives, to an individual, hoping to achieve enlightenment (what are sometimes called cults, and sometimes, accurately so), the subject of authority, and where it resides, whose authority it is, and so forth, is seldom discussed much further than to say “I wasted my entire life on this individual, only to be betrayed by him”. If one can get past the anger, my question is: What has been learned here? Where does authority lie, why do we easily release it to others in exchange for unfulfilled promises, and what, in the end, IS authority?
Obviously, our authority lies within. Each of us determines, either consciously or unconsciously, to whom it is we give our allegiance and our admiration and trust. Frequently, these are given without consideration or thought. Indeed, often we are unaware that we have the option, or that our authority is ours to give away! Most of us are not taught or conditioned to realize the power of our own authority, or that there even is such a thing. The conditioning of a small child starts early, and any defiance is usually severely controlled, sometimes for good reasons, and at other times for expediency. And authority has its place in a civilized community; without it, there is anarchy. But there are more subtle reasons for failing to inform a child of his or her power of choice and his or her own authority, which are reinforced throughout the culture. In any event, most of us react like billiard balls, hit by other billiard balls, thrown about by apparent events that we believe to be external to us and outside of our control, and the question of authority seldom enters that reactive activity.
And thus, when distressed, we easily turn to an “authority” of the subject we presume will resolve our discomfort. In the case of the spiritual arena (usually the final form for resolution of our very human condition which normally includes suffering, disappointment, or simple existential anxiety), some of us give up our authority to another hoping to discover enlightenment, or even self-transcendence. Others, for some kind of escape from suffering – sometimes a kind of self-transcendence, but usually an escape or distraction from that suffering. Still others trade their authority in exchange for a vicarious authority by virtue of their proximity to the “authority” who runs the group. (These are the ones who see it, I think, as a trade: “My power for his or her power, which, eventually, I hope to be my power”.) Sometimes this can be vicarious, sometimes a real grasp at the throne. What is interesting here is that with few exceptions, the reason behind giving up one’s authority interferes with achieving the goal, because the goal is seldom selfless and thus enlightenment is not found, and certainly not transcendence, suffering does not cease, and often the trade for power is a fickle one, liable to all kinds of political intrigue and hanky panky, and thus seldom a fair trade because rarely is the exchange even. Or said another way, we may or may not get what we truly went in for, and nothing more.
This occurs in all aspects of life, not just within spiritual groups, and all groups and authorities have cultish aspects to them, including mainstream religious groups, sociological, political, economic and otherwise. A group of any kind promises an individual knowledge, legitimacy, honor, achievement, power, protection, and so forth. But within spiritual groups, it is especially tragic when it fails at its promises, because it deals with, and promises achievement of, the aspirations of the soul, and the natural reach for perfection. And after the betrayal, which can be devastating, there is the grappling with the foolishness, the greed, the ambitions, the often very selfish reasons for becoming “spiritual” in the first place, and with one’s own delusions and illusions one brought to that group. And if those motives are not confronted and understood, the individual is left seeking ANOTHER authority to bring meaning and hope into his life, to allay his discomfort. In other words, the lesson of betrayal is not integrated. Only when we are consistently let down by our numerous choices of authorities, do we then finally come to grips with where authority truly lies, and how and why we so easily release it in exchange for un-kept promises.
As for what authority IS, I think it is at its base the soul, the source, or the unique radiance within an individual of the God quality that breathes that individual. The strange paradox of this giving up one’s authority is that, in order to fully retrieve and anchor it within, and know THAT it is and what it is, or to feel its reality and presence, it must be initially given to something greater than itself in order to make that discovery. Or to allow that discovery to be revealed. (This process is most likely necessary only because we have been conditioned to overlook it throughout our lives.) Thus, it is a slippery slope we climb, because the choice of one’s authority to achieve that goal can sometimes determine its benevolence or its malevolence.
That said, in my own experience, I have found that, despite the decidedly human aspects to most of my own chosen “authorities”, I have usually managed to extract from them the better part of their characteristics, and remained somehow protected from their more devilish behaviors. I think I can safely say that the only reason I manage to do so is that, despite my surrenders and dependencies upon their instructions, I reserve the power to discriminate and question, while at the same time devoting myself to their teachings. This was not without struggle, doubt, guilt, and recriminations and it is not easy. It is rigorous. However, I consistently remember that this journey is not about personalities, but about concepts, and when the personality begins to consume me, I back off, cool down, and question my motives. Of course, I am also fortunate, in that I have a human friend to keep me straight and honest. There is nothing greater or more useful on the spiritual path than another fallible human being taking to task another fallible human being to burn the dross out of the gold.
This morning, writing a response at TZF’s Open Forum (no longer active), I posed a question about a struggle that has troubled me for many years. The statement I made said in effect that I have struggled with the distraction of the delights, beauties, and attractions of the world while trying to remain focused on who I am, or on my spiritual search, and how difficult it was to deal with that conflict.
As I wrote the words, I realized in a flash of extraordinary clarity, the statement made by U.G. Krishnamurti to the effect that we do not want to solve our problems, we want to discuss our problems. And that, at the same time, if you listen to the question, you will discover the answer to the question within the question. U.G. is so persistent and insistent on both these points throughout his talks, that it seemed to me that this was a key he used to facilitate understanding, like a riddle, or a pointer.
Well, I was right, and he was right. And when I realized this, my mind came to a complete, dead stop, as solid and firm as a granite ledge. There was no movement whatsoever, and the activity and motion of consciousness ceased, and within that space was total immense freedom.
The actual realization that the dilemma that I found problematical was in fact the problem itself, and that the resolution of the problem lay in the formation of the problem itself, was shattering. It kind of worked like anti-matter, in that, upon discovering this, the entire dialogue within myself, and with another outside myself, came to a total end. Ceased entirely.
This realization is hard to explain, but what happens is that the problems we find ourselves in are created solely by a mind which depends upon these problems for its very existence. If we solve the problems, the mind ceases (usually only for a moment until it forms a new problem), and because as a separate, bodily being, we believe our consciousness which is composed of unique thoughts strung together, to be who we are, we maintain this deception in order not to realize it is a deception in order to maintain our “survival.”. So, the mind weaves problems, and then discusses them in order to prolong its survival.
When one looks at a question, or a problem, with true objectivity, one sees this fact clearly, and realizes that there is no problem at all, and that the mind has created a dichotomy in order to pose a problem, in order to discuss the problem, in order to pose further problems. So, the problem of remaining focused while distracted by a world of delights and beauties is not a problem, focus is not a problem, distraction is not a problem, delights and beauties is not a problem, spiritual work is not a problem, because spiritual work’s aim, as I see it, is to know that there is NO problem whatsoever with anything. This is so firm, and so unassailable, that I cannot cut through it or find any holes in it. It is just simply a hard, steady fact.
The most beautiful thing about this entire event was the mirror of my conversation resided within another human being, the one at TZF’s Open Forum who had posted the original question to which I was responding. Indeed, as I responded to him, I discovered that I was actually talking to myself. His points were every bit as correct, important, and relevant to the event as mine were. The mirror quality of this person, while unbeknownst to himself, was full of love and non-duality. The conversation between us was kind of like God talking to God, but in the form of two bodies. Neither of us was divided, neither of us existed, only the conversation existed and lived through us, and the content was irrelevant, and ultimately, meaningless, but the relatedness and responsiveness was the whole point of the interchange and nothing else ’ not the problem, not the resolution, not the participants.
The purpose of life is survival;
If you understand what wishes to survive, and if you understand what the purpose of Life is, both purposes will be fulfilled. It is the standing in the position of one or the other that obscures the realization of both. It is the clinging to one without recognition and allowance of the other that obstructs the fulfillment of either.
A Daoist Immortal
See what your mind is doing to you.