Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Way of the Symbol

If I had to describe my spiritual path in one pithy expression, it would be, "The Way of the Symbol". I have discovered little nudges along the WAY over the years, pointing me in a direction of my choosing. When I see these signs, I just know that it is meaningful for my spiritual journey. So in a way, I would say that I have my daily conversations with GOD, yet, I would never be so arrogant to claim that what is meaningful to me has to be true for others as well. 

When we live our life, reacting to external signs and voices and giving them spiritual meanings, we of course have to ask ourselves, what is truly of GOD and what is our own make-belief.  I actually think that I have become pretty good in these situation-specific "yes", "no", "no", "yes" choices for the very reason that I have worked the best TEACHER there is for a while now, the WAY. 

Today, I stumbled on a note that I wrote many years ago when I wanted to understand better how exactly one knows when something is "right" or "wrong". And while I still don't have a clear-cut answers that I can pass along, I have mellowed a bit on that subject; I will argue later that this distinction matters much less than you think. Please read the problem statement I faced a while back first, and then allow me to provide some updated thoughts afterwards.

True Self or Super Ego, June 7, 2009

We always talk about the True Self, the higher institution inside us which is permanently connected to the universe. How can we separate this voice from the super ego, i.e. Freud's concept of the deep-seated biases that we receive from our our parents, society and culture?

Let me give you an example: I had some receding hair line, so I got a hair transplant done a while back. It is a minor operation and actually worked out quite well. In any case, one day before the operation, I banged my foot into a door such that I could hardly walk for almost one week. But since I am very well-coordinated, these things just don't happen to me. On top of that, the injury miraculously vanished exactly at the same time when my scalp had healed. I conjectured that my True Self wanted to give me the lesson that "you are not your body" and promptly cancelled my follow-up operation.

Perhaps it was a message from a higher institution, perhaps not. The alternative is that I was just ashamed as our culture still sometimes frowns on plastic surgery. My super ego was quite well articulated by my mother. When she heard about the upcoming operation she said, "My son, these are your genes, you should accept who you are!" You see the alternative view point, I may have run into the door because my subconscience wanted to tell me that I should not go against our cultural norms. How do we know? Any ideas how we can separate the alleged True Self from our subconscious desires and fears?

This was my problem statement from 2009, and as I mentioned, I canceled the follow-up operation and even stopped taking the medicine to prevent further hair loss, not because I believe that God frowns on those things, but simply because of a feeling I had during the operation. In order to transplant hair from one part to the other, the doctor has to penetrate your skin with a scalpel, and I simply disliked the feeling. "No one has the right to cut holes into me", I heard a voice say, and that was the end of this discussion. Super-ego or True Self, I didn't know who talked then, and I also didn't particularly care, all that mattered was the feeling to stop this madness and I never looked back. Frankly, when I look into the mirror these days, I kind of like what I see.

All of us are on a path that is meaningful to us; we need to find this path for ourselves and need to stick to it without losing much sleep over whether the super-ego or the True Self is talking. I am reminded of Siri's voice: we use her for digging up stuff; for finding restaurants in our neighborhood, or for reminding us of upcoming calendar events. So she is somehow there to help us. Similarly, we can use our super ego as a convenient tool to help us proceed along our spiritual path. But then, on those few occasions when the signs of the WAY and our super ego, or our id seem to clash, that is the time to dig our heels in and override what seemed obvious and natural all our life.

When Freud developed his insight of ego, super ego and the id, he perceived himself as part of an enlightenment process designed to help us discover our "healthy ego". C.G Jung felt a spiritual component was missing in Freud's theory, so he alerted us to the "Collective Unconscious" and spent his life trying to incorporate his spiritual insights into the rational thinking framework. But even he was only willing to go so far. It was him who stumbled on Synchronicity, a framework that I frequently use along my spiritual journey. But he stopped short of developing it. At one point in his career he admitted that once he stopped looking for Synchronicity, the signs of the WAY also stopped coming. Perhaps even more revealing, when someone later in his career offered to introduce him to one of the enlightened Hindu Mystics - I believe it was Sri Ramana Maharshi - he politely declined as he didn't want to go down that path. We all manufacture our story, our path, and all of us are only willing to lean so much out of the window. Life is an ongoing choice to define our "self", and there is no "right" or "wrong", there is only our way.

I look for signs of the WAY. I look for ONENESS. I look for spiritual insights and I look for love. The signs of the WAY surround me daily, and I consider it so much fun to unwrap the little blessings that GOD sends me. It is a feeling really, an insight that strikes. I may miss a few steps, but more often than not, I recognize the symbols of the WAY and react accordingly.  If I felt today for some reason that a hair transplant could help me remove an inner obstacle along the WAY, I would immediately sign up!

It is arrogant to believe that I have something more worthwhile to say than Freud or Dr. Jung. Yet, it may be able to offer better directions for the select few who want to travel "The Way of Symbols" together with me. We can always appeal for GUIDANCE to a FORCE beyond our horizon, and this FORCE will cleverly use the symbols that we embrace. Observing Synchronicity in action does not prove that GOD exists. All it shows it that we are that magnetic and powerful to attract the symbols that are meaningful to us. Neither of us has any right to lecture someone else on what is "right" and what is "wrong" by GOD. "The Symbols of the WAY" are an intensely personal conversation.

God, in Neale Walsch's "Conversations with God", repeated one insight over and over: lose less sleep over the question what is "right" or "wrong", and start asking whether something is useful or a hindrance towards where you personally want to go. That's it really; first you decide what your life story is all about, and then go after it with all you got. If the collective insights of our forefathers and mothers have installed certain normative shortcuts to help us get to our goal, the better. And if we painfully have to overwrite certain biological, psychological or normative programs to advance instead, then so be it. This is our story. Let's make it a good one.

The WAY is always here to help us advance once we ask request the journey HOME. We are not intellectually or spiritually superior to anyone else, but when we travel next to HER, we end up having a lot of fun! Join us along the "The Way of Symbols"!

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