When you make the two One, and when you make the inner as the outer and the outer as the inner, and the above as the below…then you will enter the kingdom. ~The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 22:4,7
No one achieves his or her goals, worldly or otherwise, in a vacuum. Every hero develops important relationships. The Lone Ranger isn’t really alone. He has Silver and the two of them always ride with Tonto and Scout, usually escaping grave danger because of them. But few of us notice this motif. We worship the individual hero, the leading star whom we reward with the most prestigious Oscar. Our limited understanding of relationships and the crucial roles they play in our spiritual journeys makes it easy to discount the contributions others make to our lives.
We tend to believe success and happiness are just a function of how determined and self-disciplined we are. If I can go to the right schools, learn the right theories, find the right job, make enough money, say the right words, wear the right clothes, impress the right people, give my partner whatever s/he needs from me to be happy, put on a good front, and, if necessary, bluff, fight, or spin my way to the top, then I’ll live happily ever after. To many people, this is pretty much what life is about. To me that’s just half a life.
Our relationships are problematic because the average ego can’t see or learn from its own everyday reality as long as it’s caught up in an obsessive need to prove its identity through heroic deeds in the world. To resolve relationships problems we need a new approach. We need to value our relationships as much as we value our individuality. We need to balance outer work with inner psycho-spiritual work.
Another reason our relationships are problematic is because the differences between us bring up powerful emotions and impulsive urges. Both are opportunities to notice what’s really going on in our unconscious. This is why relationships, like dreams, are such good spiritual teachers. For them to work we have to stop our knee-jerk reactions of defending, retaliating, and getting one-up and start watching and listening to ourselves and each other.
This is extremely difficult when we’re swamped with strong emotions. When that happens our egos are usually clueless and our shadow is in charge. We can’t listen to what others are trying to tell us because we feel threatened. We find it nearly impossible to believe that the criticisms of others are justified, but there is almost always a grain of truth in them. This doesn’t mean we’re bad to the bone or that every accusation is completely true; only that a part of our shadow sometimes shows up in disagreeable ways. Our partners know this better than anyone.
We’re made to unite with otherness. Relationships form the core of human experience and determine the direction and outcome of the spiritual journey. As American Buddhist master Jack Kornfield says,
All of spiritual practice is a matter of relationships: to ourselves, to others, to life’s situations. We can relate with a spirit of wisdom, compassion, and flexibility, or we can meet life with fear, aggression, and delusion. Whether we like it or not, we are always in relationship, always interconnected. ~Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart, 1993, p. 287.
Many today recognize the spiritual significance of intimate relationships. Dr. Martin Odermatt of the C.G. Jung Institut in Zurich discovered that the symbol of The Couple carries profound spiritual meaning for a growing number of people. I’m not talking about gender, but about the masculine and feminine principles that represent all opposites and inform all relationships. Dr. Odermatt believed that the couple relationship has become a new symbol for the Self that is gradually replacing the average ego’s ideas about God. In his therapy with couples he discovered that whereas people used to look to religion for relaxation, regeneration, peace, harmony, and emotional security they now expect to find these qualities of life in relationships with their partners.
People also look to the couple relationship to stimulate their creativity and intellectual growth. They want their partnerships to confirm their individuality and uniqueness. And they look to their partners for deep, ecstatic religious experiences, particularly of a sexual nature. These societal trends reflect our emerging awareness of our need for honest, intimate relationships. This yearning is rooted in a hunger for the Sacred Feminine.
Can you imagine a spiritual entity like The Couple living in you, transcending the opposites of maleness and femaleness? Can you imagine experiencing this kind of partnership in your relationships and religions? Can you imagine what the world would be like if nations lived together in this kind of partnership?
What have you learned about yourself from your relationships? How has that knowledge influenced your spirituality?
Material for this post is from pp. 177-192 of Healing the Sacred Divide.
Image credit: Relationship by Haleh Mahbod. fineartamerica.com
Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.