People will fight tooth and nail to prevent their shirt tearing. The identification with their facade is so strong and powerful that they experience it as an assault on themselves. In Gurdjieff's teaching of the chief fault he proposed that when you intuited by observation the nub of a person's character structure, they would deny it... inevitably. It may be not talking, or talking too much, being bored or angry, seductive or manipulative. Somewhere among your behaviors, Gurdjieff said, is a central thread, a knot that all the rest of the stitches are sown into. If you are told what it is, you will always deny it and that is a test of its authenticity.
But why would you deny a revelation that would be so ultimately beneficial? The answer is clear. You hold on to your facade as if it were you! While the prisoner of your real self lies suffering in the jail of internal confinement this other, this mask-self, performs and "relates" and behaves as yourself... and that is how you want it to be.
The New Age—and in these later days we perhaps should now call it the Old Age—has taught how we can manifest what we want, have all that we desire, change the world according to our whims, and live fulfilling lives, spiritual lives, compassionate, forgiving lives of abundance and great promise—enlightenment even.
Yet these modern day teachings have omitted the important fact that these aspirations and the practices that lead to their accomplishment can simply dig us into deeper holes.
People will tell you to live your truth, which sounds good. To respect yourself and your boundaries, again sounding good. The same folk are of the opinion that people must grow, love, respect boundaries, develop spiritually, mature emotionally, and accept others. Yet where is their acceptance of the ones they urge to accept others? It has been easy and widespread for people to take these truths, these dictums of New Age-speak and interpret them... interpret them according to their facade, their opinions, and their own judgments, based on their early life conditioning or how they have learned to survive.
A Little Knowledge...
It is reminiscent of the Sixties which, while being a time of great revolution and challenge and setting new paradigms, were intensely conformist, compromising, and conventional. We even made a convention of being unconventional and normalized rebellion.
The reader of self-help literature, the participant in Mediterranean spiritual retreats with guaranteed enlightenment, the what you can do to change your life and be "the best you" you can be people today have a tendency to conform, to filter the messages of revolutionary psychology through a filter of their small selves to reinforce their reactivity and defensiveness.
This is pervasive and intrusive and it is insidious. A little knowledge can indeed be a dangerous thing. How do we describe the big picture?
The Six-Fold Process For Preparing Olives
Let me try with this metaphor about preparing olives. Olives straight off the tree are inedible. The process for making them delicious is roughly this: pick the olives toward the end of the year; soak them in fresh water, change the water daily until the olives are no longer bitter; soak in salted water; then in vinegar and water; finally dress and flavor with herbs and garlic.
That's a six-fold process:
First, picking the olives is the gate to awakening, the stirrings when we hear the call and feel the impulse to awareness and self-discovery. Second, soaking in water until they are no longer bitter: the seeker soaks himself in the waters of psycho-spiritual practices, healing, and developing awareness, integrating new insights until he becomes un-embittered by the past or by his conditioning. Third, soaking in salt water: salt cures, enhances flavor and texture, provides a source of nutrients, and acts as a binding agent: only when the seeker is freed of his past can these stabilizing, enriching influences be introduced.
Fourth, soaking in vinegar water is a refinement of the brine or salt process or the final cleansing. Fifth, dress and flavor is wearing the garb of authenticity we are now empowered to clothe ourself in. Our taste becomes authentic, our feel genuine. Finally, eating is life itself, offering ourselves to the stream of life, to the world.
Richard Harvey is a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist, spiritual teacher, and author. He is the founder of The Center for Human Awakening and has developed a form of depth-psychotherapy called Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) that proposes a 3-stage model of human awakening. Richard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.