Love is the glue of Oneness. Ultimately, everything adheres as part of the Oneness, though in our journeys of separation, distinctions veil our underlying interconnectedness. Our soul’s evolution marks love’s stages of refinement, as we find our way home to the greater Oneness.
The journey of this life begins with separation from one’s most local oneness, what has been called one’s soul group. An analogy to this group might be the consortium of cells that make up an organ, say, the liver, in the human body. Though all cells in the body share an underlying similarity and interconnectedness, those of the liver share a more specialized cohesion that makes their grouping a unique cell group.
Similarly, one’s soul group has journeyed together in various permutations, as well as separately, to solve karmic challenges that impact the group. Individual successes contribute to group wholeness and preparedness to venture further into the ever-unfolding mystery of continued life.
The refinement of love through this life and beyond is the awakening and receptivity to the increasingly subtle dimensions of life and its greater interconnectedness. In journeying deeper into the ability to love all, one finds their way home to Oneness.
Entering a life on Earth, our individual soul begins a physical life through attachment to family. This is the first experience of love in this life, which is supported by many archetypal promptings to protect and nurture the young. Love at this stage is largely the meeting of basic needs, which allows development to proceed. Ruptures in family attachments are frequent and often provide the context for one’s karmic mission in this life.
For love to move beyond the narcissistic imperative to shore up the self, one must establish a well-grounded ego, capable of basic trust. To truly enter the world of relationship, one must be able to grant another their own existence beyond their ability to satisfy one’s personal needs. The refinement of love at this stage is the ability to authentically meet the soul of an other.
Love is further refined when one can value all life with equanimity. This is the love that values all peoples, in all cultures. This is the love that values the planet as a living being needing our loving support. This is the love that realizes that all beings, even our greatest enemies, are at various stages in their own refinement to love.
See all your worthy opponents as providing opportunities to refine your relationship with love. To love a petty tyrant, we must get beyond our attachment to experiences that rendered us victims. These are the greatest challenges of all, as they frequently result in confrontation with unresolved trauma that has been walled off by a moat of defenses.
These journeys of recapitulation and resolution take us into the core issue of love, within the self: total acceptance of all one has experienced, all that one has done, and all that has been done to one. This is the essence of soul retrieval, a total consolidation of self.
Full acceptance includes the knowing that we live in a predatory universe and that our pure innocent selves will be wounded in life. Retrieving and freeing the wounded parts of ourselves is followed by a matured innocence daring to venture back out into the world, despite the known and unknown dangers.
Perhaps the finest refinement of love is helping, as a way of life. The first impulse many get after a Near Death Experience (NDE) is to write a book, to share the good news of life after life with others. To gift others with the knowledge we have gained aids all in their personal journeys of love’s refinement.
Of course, no-one can ever carry nor solve the burdens of others, but one can offer love, patience and knowledge to another in their own encounters with the predatory universe. This is love freely given, no expectation or need for reciprocity.
All life journeys are journeys in the refinement of love. The greater the refinement, the greater the advancement in soul groups, as they join with fellow soul groups on that ultimate journey of Oneness, and then, of course, beyond.
Holding space means being with someone without judgment. Holding space means being fully present without seeking anything in return. Holding space means bearing the tension of opposition. Holding space means unconditional acceptance of all that is.
Trickster is the child in all of us who simply refuses to conform to civilized expectations. That child will undermine our ego’s best intentions, as we find ourselves breaking our deeply fought for resolutions at trickster’s instigation. In a heartbeat, trickster will concoct a reason to open the refrigerator or peek at Facebook. Later, defeated and guilty, ego contritely starts anew on its road to self-improvement.
Before we completely demonize trickster, let us ponder a koan from Jesus. In Matthew 18: 2-4, Jesus is quoted as stating, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Clearly, the suggestion, on some level, is that, holding space for trickster is fundamental to spiritual evolution.
Trickster is a character that appears in the mythology of all cultures. Phil Jackson, of immortal basketball coaching acclaim, bestowed upon one of his star Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman, so called “best friend” of Kim Jong-un, the role of a Heyoka, a Lakota Indian trickster spirit, who both crossdresses and does things backwards to challenge the prevailing order of the tribe.
Phil Jackson recognized the necessity of holding space for this most unruly of characters, who would at times cost his team games and at other times help teammates to get over their self-importance and just have fun playing basketball. Like noted physicist David Bohm, Jackson knew the value of bearing the tension of full wholeness, over merely expecting goodness, in elevating a team to a higher level of play.
Jackson stressed the practice of patience in allowing another person to be who they were going to be, and while not protecting them from the natural consequences of their actions, not excluding them from the team either. In fact, he stressed the critical necessity of all-inclusiveness, including even the most vile trickster, in the building of a whole team.
David Bohm insisted that the way to advance civilization’s survival was to bring together all disparate characters at a roundtable of dialogue. All would commit to suspend judgment and merely express themselves and get to know their neighbors. The objective is not to advance one’s view over another’s, but simply to be part of this living wholeness.
Bohm predicted that this full presence alone, devoid of any attempt at convincing, would in itself give rise to the necessary resolution of difference. Perhaps his vision is similar to a Quaker service where, in the presence of the wholeness of the group, guidance spontaneously emerges in a channeled message. This was his social equation for human resolution, as he realized that at the most quantum subatomic level, only through the removal of subjective prejudice could science arrive at the fullest truth of energetic reality.
The trickster in all of us is our inner hero in the rough. Trickster is the ultimate Freudian slip, where the truth is most uncomfortably revealed. Perhaps that truth has laid bare one’s pretentious host at a party, or exposed one’s own most sensitive sore spots.
Trickster is daring, indignant, irreverent, ruthless, charming, hilarious, playful, spontaneous, sensitive, insensitive, attention-seeking, and highly self-centered. Trickster disdains reason and is far more driven by impulsive opportunity to shock and disrupt. Don’t expect trickster to be good at the party. Trickster is already eyeing the desert when you first walk through the door.
Don’t shut out trickster’s truth. Be patient and suspend judgment upon the full truth of the self. See what might emerge as you bear this tension. If trickster appears outside the self, in the person of another, recognize its value as petty tyrant. In Carlos Castaneda’s shamanic lineage, trickster as petty tyrant is the person who most deeply offends us.
Typically, these are the characters one would prefer most to not have in one’s life. But, from a spiritual advancement opportunity, petty tyrants require one to completely relinquish the ego’s self-importance by not engaging in a defeatist argument in a futile attempt to defend oneself. Trickster also lays bare any proclivity to self pity, which in itself depresses the ego into immobilization.
Alternatively, if one can contain one’s anger and hurt within the cauldron of self, and travel down the rabbit hole of holding space beyond one’s hurt ego, one may be led on a journey of enlightenment to hidden memories and attitudes, which reveal previously veiled truths about the self.
Trickster may never mature, but trickster will challenge one to get beyond the limitation of self-importance that burdens all egos. It may very well be that trickster’s irreverence persists only until ego truly grows up to the truth of right action, and assumes appropriate leadership. From that accomplishment trickster moves on, in its own mercurial way, to force attention upon another of ego’s many blindspots.
Most importantly, trickster offers us the opportunity to recover our lost innocence, the awe that leads to spiritual advancement.
I have been writing stories about the imp inside me, the fun loving, bright being who never seemed afraid, who was impetuous and daring, who seemed to easily handle life and its iniquities. She was the light side of my normally quiet and withdrawn child self. Today I leave her for a more serious subject: Mother.
In his blog earlier this week Chuck wrote of a man’s relationship to mother and how crucial it is that he separate from her and go on into life fully available to have a true relationship with another person freed of his infantile attachments to mother. In the end he must return to mother and love her from his separateness in order to achieve full masculinity. Whether his mother was a good mother or a bad mother is not important; a man still needs to rid himself of his attachments to her if he is to truly individuate and wholly become who he is. For women it’s a different scenario.
Women have an initiation ceremony built into their DNA. Somewhere between the ages of 10 and 16 a female begins to menstruate. This is the initiation into womanhood. Like all women before them, every young girl has to accept and deal with monthly bleeding for a good deal of her adult life. Some initiation! It lasts a very long time! I remember reading a little booklet my mother gave me when I was about 11. The phrase “you’re a woman now” still sticks in my head. Just like that, I was a woman! Just like that I was like my mother. But I did not want to be like my mother!
I did not have a good witch for a mother. I got a bad witch for a mother. If you have read my books, and especially Place of No Pity, Volume 4 of The Recapitulation Diaries, you know what I’m talking about. She was harsh and neglectful, not the kind of mother I wanted, not the kind of woman I wanted to grow up to be. Nonetheless, she was the mother I got and the mother I had as a role model. I was however always at heart a kind and gentle soul, even when I was being an imp.
The shamans would call the type of mother I got a petty tyrant. A petty tyrant is someone whom you probably hate for what they do to you, for the way they torment and belittle you, but may later realize that they taught you a great deal about how the world works and, most importantly, about how you yourself work, as they relentlessly and cruelly force you to face what you are most afraid of, most angry about, most resentful about, etc. When you cease to blame them for all your problems you may begin to see just how good they are at making you confront every uncomfortable and disagreeable thing about yourself. The petty tyrants of the world are the projections of all that we must sift through if we are to achieve our wholeness. For a woman, the kind of mother I got presented quite a challenge.
During my childhood I dreamed about other mothers, wove fantasies about the perfect, loving mother, the caring being I longed to have in my life. These fantasies got me through a lot of terrible times, as I could always envision a good and comforting mother in times of need. These loving mothers, fantasized though they were, became good role models, based on my own feelings and perceptions of what a good mother would be like. So even though I got a bad witch for a mother I was able to construct images of good witches who came to my rescue when needed.
As I grew into adulthood I had to figure out how I was different from the mother I got, just as I had to figure out how I was like her. For I am, in many ways, just like my mother. It has taken me a long time and a lot of work to accept this fact, that I too have the bad witch inside me. Though I have tended toward the good witch side, the bad witch has popped out often enough. I can truly identify with my own mother. At the same time, I had to extricate from deep within myself who I truly was, separate from her. For I am truly not my mother, I am me! And that’s where individuation takes place for the woman, in both accepting that she is like her mother but that she is equally her own being with her own emotions, feelings, and beliefs based on her own experiences in life, totally separate from mother.
My mother is still alive. Nearing 94 she now lives in a nursing home. Since my father’s death 12 years ago she came back into my life in ways I never imagined. Never a good driver and having not driven in 15 years or so at the time of my father’s death, she needed someone to take her everywhere. After a few years of accommodating her from afar, it became clear that she needed to be closer to me. Although I have many siblings I am the eldest daughter in the family and the one she calls upon most often. We moved her out of the family home and into a small apartment nearby. For several years she lived there in the company of her cat and some very nice neighbors, one or two of whom she grew fond of, until it became clear that she could no longer care for herself. Too many accidents and near fires paved the way for the next stage.
It soon became clear to me, as my mother’s demands and needs encroached on my own life, that I was not yet done with my mother. I was not going to be able to just walk away from the bad witch. We still had things to live out together. What they are continue to unfold to this day.
Demanding and petulant, like a spoiled child, she has relied greatly upon the kindness of my heart. I have met in her every permutation of the bad witch. Very rarely, she has thanked me or told other people how much I have done for her. It’s a rarity, but it does occasionally happen. However, most of the time I am the target for all of her own unresolved inner disturbances, resentments, and regrets. It can be pretty hard to be in a small room with a woman who did horrible things to you and still love her, have compassion for her, and be kind to her while she’s belittling you, laughing at your clothing, commenting on your hair, or angry because you didn’t invite her to Thanksgiving. And yet I accept all of this from her, for in her own way she has been my greatest teacher in what it means to be a woman, a mother, a lover, a kind and compassionate being.
To this day, though I sometimes quake in my boots at the sight of her angry demeanor and the mood she’s in when I visit, I am grateful for all she still teaches me. Indeed, I truly am a full-fledged woman because of all that I have learned from her about being a woman. She has often been an excellent example of how not to live, but also how to stoically face what must be faced. Every time I see her I must face myself at her age, in her physical condition, and wonder, “how will I face what she faces every day? How will I choose to face my death? How will I live out the last days of my life?” She is my greatest advisor. She has given me a lot to mull over, and I still learn things about myself and about being a woman from her.
So, to get back to the point of this blog: women, though we are naturally initiated into womanhood, still have to learn to be the woman that we truly are, biologically alike and yet totally separate beings from our own mothers.
I had to find a way to fully embrace and live life as my kind and loving self, the gentle soul I really am, so different from the mother I got. I had to learn to be this kind and loving being toward her too, even after discovering and understanding the truth about her.
But even as a child and living in my mother’s house I was always kind to her, from the time I was very young, complimenting her on her clothing or hair, and every evening at the dinner table I always told her how delicious the food was, without fail. It was almost expected. The meal could not be eaten until I had delivered my opinion, always positive, and she said, “Thank you, Jan.” Only then was the meal consumed in earnest. In a sense, perhaps a part of me was trying to placate the bad witch, being nice so she might be nice in return, but the truth is, I always meant what I said. I really am a kind person and always was, that too is in my DNA.
I am a kind and gentle soul partly because I have had the greatest petty tyrant of a mother to teach me how to be that way. She pushed me, through her neglect and cruelty, to find and embrace my true self, the kind and loving being I am, the part of herself that she always seemed to reject. For some reason that she has not ever revealed she has hated herself and been exceedingly hard on herself. But she was not going to let me be like her. In her own strange, unintentional way she made sure of that.
I often wonder how evolved a being my mother might actually be. The possibility exists that she planned and accepted the role as one of my petty tyrants in this life, and the truth is, it benefitted me! I thank her for that. And yes, I do love her.
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries
The Marrying Maiden, hexagram #54 of the I Ching, is a reading I’ve grappled with much of my adult life. The Petty Tyrant is a central theme in the training of the warrior in the shamanic world of Carlos Castaneda. I see the marrying maiden and the petty tyrant as mirror images of wisdom, pearls from two ancient traditions that reflect so relevantly in the world of now.
Contrary to a sweet, innocent image that the marrying maiden might evoke, hexagram #54 depicts an unchosen life, a woman forced into the role of second wife as she must enter the home of her marrying sister’s husband, an ancient Chinese custom. Not the chosen bride she nonetheless must accept her new station and all the duties it entails. Thus, hexagram #54 depicts an unchosen, unwelcome fate.
From a broader perspective this predicament captures a salient feature of the reality of life in this world. As Buddha concluded, “Life is suffering. There is no escaping old age, sickness and death.” This is our collective reality—we are all marrying maidens to forces we cannot control.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico discovered that we spend the bulk of our energy fighting these deeper truths of our human condition. They saw this as absorption in self-pity. I understand this as absorption in the child state of resistance to the inevitable loss of paradise that we may or may not have experienced in our early childhood. Regardless, we feel entitled to have it restored or finally delivered, refusing to leave the garden, stubbornly demanding our due.
Of course, this is a very young hero that holds the world accountable, but this young hero is ill-equipped for the adult truth of old age, sickness and suffering, that which ultimately afflicts us all. The Shamans see humankind as fixated at the stage of this young hero, wasting most of its energy fighting fruitless battles. The marrying maiden is doing the same thing, bemoaning her fate. The I Ching guides her to see the reality of her situation and to position herself appropriately without self-pity. Similarly, the Shamans encourage us to identify our petty tyrants—those who ruthlessly show no consideration for our needs—as our teachers.
Rather than spend energy on fruitless anger and resistance, a warrior stares down any energetic spillage of self-pity. A warrior fully accepts the circumstances that life presents and with clarity and full energy acts in accordance with what is possible, with what is the best decision to make, and with what is the best action to take in the moment. To achieve this readiness one must be fully present without an ounce of energy spent feeling sorry or sad for the predicament one finds one’s self in.
In a world currently dominated by violent opposition, where the opposites are dissociated and only seek resolution by destroying each other, we are confronted with being marrying maidens to these petty tyrants all over the world, most especially in our own country. It is challenging to not succumb to the self-pity of helplessness in such a state of chaos. On the other hand, we are gifted an opportunity to train in warriorhood.
A warrior pauses, examines the true nature of things and awaits decisive action in full clarity. A warrior spends no energy bemoaning his or her fate; all circumstances are equal opportunities to transform one’s position as fateful marrying maiden into that of decisive warrior. A warrior is grateful for all teachers, especially the petty tyrants.
Once broken of the fixation of self-pity and entitlement, we are truly freed to be leaders advancing into a new world beyond the filters of self-obsession into deeper truth, fulfillment and new balance.
Leonard Cohen sings:I had to go crazy to love you, had to go down to the pit, had to do time in the tower, begging my crazy to quit…Had to go crazy to love you, had to let everything fall, had to be people I hated, had to be no one at all…
I’m a Leonard Cohen fan, have been ever since I first saw him perform in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1976. It was just him and his guitar. He sat alone on a folding chair on the stage, a cup of something at his feet. He touched the poet in me and I recognized his agony. Since then he’s spent time as a monk, but he’s also perfected his outer persona and through many trials and errors become the consummate performer, giving his all, even at the age of 78 performing for three hours to packed houses.
I still hear his agony in his songs, recognize the imperfect human creature he presents us with. And this song, Crazy To Love You, is all about that. It’s about projection and facing the self, doing the recapitulation time, going down into the shadows of the self, ascending into the inflations of the self, confronting everything hateful about the self, becoming nothing—egoless—and in the process learning to love the self. It’s all about taking the endless contemplative inner journey and not giving up, no matter what is encountered. It’s about seeking a kind of perfection, a humble impeccability that knows that everything is okay, everything is necessary and permissible, everything leads to love. When we acquiesce to our humanness we discover that our greatest challenge in life is to love the self. If we can love the self, then we’re on the way to honing a new kind of impeccability devoid of self-importance, the impeccability of being able to love others, to being able to embrace all humanity as being as imperfect and as lovable as we are. We all have to go crazy to love one another.
Recently I dreamed a dream of deep encounters with the self. I sat with Chuck and many hundreds of others at a huge banquet table, perhaps a hundred feet long and a dozen feet wide. Perhaps you were all there as well. We were all under the control of a tiny woman who stood opposite me at the far end of the table. From my position I could see that she was tiny, but her voice was booming, commanding, and her image, projected onto a giant screen above her, loomed over us, making her seem bigger than life, more frightening than she appeared in person.
She made demands, gave us absurd and demeaning challenges. Like a dictator, she barked out commands, telling us what to do as she timed us, and then punished us for not completing our tasks within the time limitations she had set. At one point, she told us all to take a shit, right at the table. We were only given so much time and so much toilet paper. I failed this test. I fumbled with the paper, and by the time the few seconds she’d given us had passed I was in deep doo-doo, so to speak. From then on I had to walk around with shit in my pants.
After the table scene ended we had to hike through some fields. It was dark. We were heading to a big bonfire. We were commanded to bring our most valuable possessions with us, packed in small glass jars and wooden boxes. I told Chuck that if she instructed us to “go into the woods,” that I wasn’t going. I was adamant about that, a clear reference to my abuse. “Oh yeah,” Chuck said, and I could hear him trying to figure out a way to tell this little tyrant woman that I would not go into the woods and be humiliated, that I was done with that. We knew she was unapproachable, that she wouldn’t care and that no excuses would be accepted. It didn’t matter what you had been through in your past, she was not going to let anyone off the hook. Feeling sorry for anyone was not allowed. It was expected that every experience would be confronted if she deemed it necessary. She demanded that we erase all personal attachment and self-importance, and humiliation was as good a means of getting us there as any.
We finally got to the site of the bonfire. The little woman told us all to throw our most valuable belongings into the fire. “Do you think it’s a good idea to throw glass jars into a hot fire?” I asked Chuck, but it didn’t matter. “Just do it!” the woman screamed. We all tossed our things onto the fire and stood around watching them burn. I woke up as she came over to me, looked me straight in the eye, and then turned her back and walked away. “Fuck you,” I thought.
Upon awakening, it didn’t take me long to see this dream as confrontations with habits, with the mindless things we do and how they control us. Obviously, it’s also about self-importance. The little woman was me, a part of me that sets me up to do as I have always done, keeping me a prisoner of my own doings, as I clearly felt like a prisoner in the dream. And if you were there, you were a prisoner too. “Had to go down to the pit,” as Leonard Cohen writes, had to sit in my own shit.
We all have a little petty tyrant inside of us, someone who humiliates us and whom we hate. We feel trapped and helpless. It could be related to anything: to constant worry or fear, to overspending or over-consuming, to being too hard or too easy on ourselves or lazy and undisciplined. It could be attached to being angry all the time or sad all the time, full of self-righteousness or self-pity, things that really get us nowhere.
Our personal petty tyrant knows us so well. She knows how to slip in and take over, how to humiliate us and make us face our shit. In my dream, the tiny woman pushed us all to be something we hated and “no one at all.” In the burning of what was most precious, she forced us to let go of everything, of both our shame and our self-importance. I was nothing more than a woman walking around with shit in my pants, my possessions gone. Had to go into the fire and let it all burn.
In this dream, my petty tyrant, whom I so viscerally hated, became my guide, and so I have to love her. She is the knowing part of myself, leading me to the naked truth that I am nothing at all, and only in that place of naked truth can I love myself. As Leonard Cohen learned: Had to go crazy to love you! In recapitulation, we discover that going into the pit means accepting everything about ourselves; even the shit in our pants must not be attached to. Even the implication of my abuse must not be more important than anything, than nothing. “Don’t get attached to anything, Jan,” this tiny petty tyrant self is saying in this dream.
Everything is of the same value and everything has no value. There is no point in shame or anger, in self-pity or specialness. The only thing that really has value is pushing the self every day to keep going—just as this tiny woman dictator did—to keep confronting the self, to keep shedding attachments to what we think we need and want. In the end, although I said “Fuck You,” I was really thanking her for helping me face myself, for emptying out. Because by the end of the dream that was what I felt, empty, light, bereft, as if something had died, but bereft in a good and cleansing way. It was as if I had finally let something go that had been bothering me for a long time, and I know that it was my own attachment to feeling that I had to be perfect all the time. How absurd!
I hope this makes sense. Our struggle is to really let go of self-importance by facing our most private and intimate self, and fully accepting that we are all really nothing at all. I find such release in knowing that I am nothing. I’m able to relax into who I truly am, offered the freedom to live without fear and without the need to always get it right. For it’s in our failures that we learn, it’s in facing our shit that we evolve.
Going on, shamelessly facing myself, living in the moment, without attachment. Thanks for reading!
In all humility,
Many thanks to Leonard Cohen for a lifetime of beautiful work!
And without self-importance—because I really do reveal my most intimate self in my books—here’s a shameless plug for my new book. It’s really a good read! The book icon in the left sidebar leads directly to Amazon. I’m working on getting the Kindle edition linked to the main book page, so you should find it there shortly.