Happy New Year! May you be happy and peaceful. May all of your good intentions and highest wishes come to fruition. “The ‘Causes of Existence’ mean not only the physical causes known to science, but the metaphysical causes, the chief of which is the desire to exist,” writes H. P. Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society. “This desire for a sentient life shows itself in everything, from an atom to a sun….According to esoteric teaching, the real cause of that supposed desire, and of all existence, remains forever hidden….”
“A ‘sentient life’ is impossible without sensation, and sensation is impossible without consciousness–the capacity to relate self and other,” writes Richard Smoley in The Dice Game of Shiva. “So the root of all existence is the primordial distinction between self and other.” Even hydrogen and oxygen atoms are conscious in this sense know how to “recognize” each other so they can bond and become water. When did this “selfing” all begin? Smoley quotes the creation hymn of the Rig Veda, the oldest book in the world: “‘Whence this creation has arisen–perhaps it formed itself, or perhaps it did not–the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows–or perhaps he does not know.”
The drive to be, to affirm or define ourselves in relation to the world around us–there is no getting to the beginning or the end of it. At this dark, cold, still time of year, this time of resolutions and affirming new beginnings, the yearning to get down to the serious business of being the “real” self, clearing away all the distractions and obstacles that stand in the way really stands out. It suffuses many inspiring and useful blogs like “Zen Habits.” Yet there is always another yearning that is harder to articulate, to return to the source, to be free of the isolation of the ego and connected with the whole of life.
Even as a little girl I can recall yearning to reveal the “real” me (at five years old I pictured her as a cross between a cartoon superhero and Mowgli from Disney’s version of Jungle Book, strong yet connected to nature). It’s harder to remember exactly when I noticed the opposite wish–to go beyond myself. It appeared first as wondering, looking up at the night sky and wondering when it all began and what was it for.
It would be really lovely to be able to divide a life into “selfing” and “unselfing.” In a way this is the truth, since I no longer daydream about flying into my classroom like super girl or demonstrating my power to communicate with animals to the amazement of my friends. These days, the dominant wish has to do with wishing to be connected with others and with the whole of life. But in reality the experience is mixed–on the very deepest level there is affirming, denying, reconciling. There is no escaping life as long as we are alive.
For humans, it is even more complicated. In the words of Madame de Salzmann: “We participate in life with both a divine nature and an animal nature. Man is double; he is not one. And as such, he is only a promise of man until he can live with both natures present in himself and not withdraw into one of the other….A conscious man is he who is always vigilant, always watchful, who remembers himself in both directions and has his two natures always confronted.”
What can this mean?