There are some ‘big blocks of colour’ in an understanding of the mystical perspective – which is the inner truth of our lives. Even a cursory examination of these brings great value. Let’s consider them…
Foremost of these is that there is a more powerful Life behind life; that the life we see is seen through a lens that distorts, and that our belonging, our real identity, is with that which is beyond the distorted lens. The basis of this is quite simple, but let’s approach it carefully.
The Sufi philosopher and poet, Rumi, wrote:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
What did he mean? Was he simply talking about love between two people – that we should devote our lives to ordinary love as we know it? Clearly this is insufficient. We can sense something vast in what he was trying to import, something that used the passion of love as a metaphor.
The Sufi poets used both ‘love’ and ‘wine’ to convey the experience of what lies beyond the clouded lens we use to look at the world. They also had a special meaning for the word ‘Beloved’. We will examine all of these in this series of posts.
True teachers of the ‘mystical life’ see – by direct experience – that there is a deeper life centred in the human consciousness. Our ordinary consciousness is a product of a ‘self’ developed from birth onwards. This self sees and feels objects around it. Some of them are pleasant and some aren’t. Because the newborn has no sense of itself – it simply is – it hungers to know more, and so adopts these reactions to the objects around it.
It’s a tasty world, and the child is hungry to understand it… and even more hungry to understand it-self, since this is where all the impressions of its world come to reside and stay. Even at this stage, the brain is busy recording the history of the person, generating a vast store of experiential data that will be added to all its life – as the primary filter (memory) against which all experience will be judged.
The adoption of these vivid early impressions becomes its first identity. We all have a primal hunger to know who we are. These patterns of identity, like and dislike, become the foundation of its character, its self. As the child grows, we say it develops a personality, more accurately, an egoic self.
We all have one… we were all once children experiencing this, hopefully under the loving eyes of our parents, who could do no more than guide the child to be what they were…
The word ego was bestowed on the developing self by the pioneering psychologist Sigmund Freud, whose work showed that the egoic-self had three divisions: id, superego and ego. As the child developed, it suppressed – under guidance from the parents – some of the wilder instincts in its nature (the id) – in order to fit in with the expectations of the parents, and, later on, society. This pattern of censure became the superego. Between id and superego, the child developed an identity of ‘acceptable me who gets praise’ and this is viewed as the ego, though really it’s part of a three-fold psychological structure.
From this early stage, the child colours everything that happens to it with the lens of its egoic-self. As the growing human becomes more capable, it fortifies its self. By adulthood, it is a suit of armour, which, initially, is wonderful… but gradually is seen to progressively dull the experience of life. This ‘dulling’ invites a question: If the suit of armour of the egoic self is all there is, then how does it know that fresh expereince has become ‘dull’?
Wordsworth famously wrote:
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”
It is a profound re-telling of what I’ve written above, but written in the 1790s. It illustrates the depth of perception that great poetic and emotionally sensitive minds have always found, in ages that did not possess the idea that truth had to be numbers…
We shall have more to say about these ‘clouds of glory’ and – without trying to upset anyone, God, in future posts of this series.
For now, let’s close Part One, with the idea of ‘Object Relations’, an understanding of which, in the context of the truly spiritual, is the basis of these blogs.
The different experiences that colour the infant’s perception, and eventually becomes adopted or ‘imprinted’ on the child’s consciousness as building blocks of its identity, are referred to in developmental psychology as ‘Objects’ – that is, they are recognisable as separate things, capable of being labelled by the consciousness. In others words, they have repeatable properties. The field of Object Relations is one of the backbones of modern psychology. But this series of blogs is not intended to focus on psychology, beyond borrowing some of its words. Our purpose is to pursue Wordsworth’s ‘clouds of glory’ to see if the nature of the early ‘objects’ in our consciousness actually contain signposts back to the Greater Life from which we came…
And whether we can, in our modern world, remove the many barriers to Rumi’s ‘love’.
©Stephen Tanham 2022
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.