By Susan Beal
I had an intense experience a couple of weeks ago, when someone in my writer's group reacted very negatively to a piece I wrote for this blog. Her reaction was not about the writing itself, but the spiritually-oriented tone of the piece. Part of the difficulty for me was that she’s a Holocaust survivor. I felt hobbled by compassion, partly because it was apparent to me this trauma had a lot to do with her reaction. So I tried to listen, to draw her out, and to hold space for the conversation in a spirit of openness and acceptance. But the increasing virulence of her response broadsided me and finally rendered me mute. It took me more than a week and a lot of subtle energy work to regain my equilibrium.
On the surface, the discussion appeared civil—no raised voices, an even exchange of thoughts and opinions, a conversational tone. But under the surface, it was a very different story. Energetically it felt violent, as if the fears from her experiences as a child were being unleashed, and I was their target.
For me, it inflamed many of the doubts I’ve had about just how, when, and to whom to express the worldview that Lorian represents, as well as how to practically apply Incarnational Spirituality in a world that largely dismisses the existence of the spiritual and subtle realms. While I have always been something of a mystic, I have also always been in the closet about it. I have not revealed that side of myself to the majority of my friends and family. I rarely share stories about my inner guides and contacts, my clairvoyant journeys and experiences, or my studies in Incarnational Spirituality and geomancy. As my geomantic teacher said, we have to be careful about what we say “lest we return to the burning times.”
Those are strong words, but even though we’ve left behind the literal burnings of centuries ago, the intolerance is still very much with us. The woman in my writer's group is not alone in her perspective. In fact, I suspect she is in the majority, maybe not in the strength of her views, but in the gist of them. She seemed to feel it was her duty to stamp out such irrational ignorance, to let me know I was on the slippery slope to evil—the kind of evil represented by Nazism.
In the most recent, April issue of Scientific American, the Skeptic column entitled “The True Meaning of BS” references a study on people’s susceptibility to bullshit. The authors of the study were testing the hypothesis that “higher intelligence and a superior analytical cognitive style…leads to a greater capacity to detect and reject pretentious BS.” The study apparently revealed that “those most receptive to pseudo-profound BS are also more prone to conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.’ ”
It’s ironic, of course, that reactions like the one from the woman in my group are hardly calm rational, and analytical. Instead, they are as fixed and emotionally charged as any religious fundamentalist's, and seem freighted with more than a little fear. I’ve noticed that oftentimes those most violently opposed to spiritual topics and “unscientific” approaches have a deep wound or trauma in their past that influenced their beliefs about the world. It’s as if by denying the reality of anything unprovable in a laboratory, they are shutting the door on a painful past—or at least trying to.
The thing is, the subtle world exists, whether or not we believe in it, and it is impacted by our traumas and conflicts. Conflict, despite its outer, physical manifestations, is largely a phenomenon of the subtle world, fueled by values, emotions, and energetic dynamics that have a negative impact on the psychic landscape. Unresolved trauma and conflict are to the subtle world what pollution and toxic waste are to the physical environment.
I’m sure everyone reading this knows people who are not only dubious about but actively intolerant of spiritual outlooks, and for whom something like Incarnational Spirituality, with its talk of subtle energies and spiritual beings, is a danger to be stamped out. With such folks it rarely works to agree to disagree, as I experienced. Even if physics has begun to recognize and accept the weirdness and seemingly magical properties of the universe, there will always be those for whom “science” is a shield rather than an open-minded inquiry, and skepticism an excuse to reject what is beyond one’s comfortable control.
The problem is, if we stick to preaching to the choir, or keeping quiet until it’s safe to speak again, it’s difficult to bridge the gap and move toward greater understanding and wholeness.
So what’s to be done?
I was ordained as a Lorian priest last summer. I also have a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, though I have not been in practice as a mediator in some time. I know that the call I felt toward ordination and the call I felt toward mediation are the same call. It is the desire and willingness to steward the in-between places, the zone where differences come up against each other, the birthplace of both creativity and conflict. It’s the place between boundaries, between identities and mapped out areas, where the potential for transformation is greatest, but so is the potential for violence and destruction. It’s an area of great power and sensitivity, where the smallest influence can have enormous impacts for good or ill.
In a good mediation, there is a moment when the energy shifts from conflict to cooperation. It’s palpable. The parties begin to work together, putting their efforts, often excitedly, into working together rather than opposing each other. If they take it far enough, it leads to forgiveness and reconciliation. I think of that shift as the holy moment, the moment when light and love get the upper hand and my work as a mediator is largely done.
To me, Incarnational Spirituality in general, and Lorian priesthood in particular, is about actively cultivating that same dynamic, that moment when love, or at least acceptance, transforms separateness into wholeness, and everything grows brighter and more hopeful. Wholeness, or holopoiesis, as I understand it, is not only the bringing together of disparate elements into a collaborative partnership, it is also the reconciliation of opposites, the acceptance and integration of the dark and difficult shadow stuff—all those things that have been rejected, denied, misunderstood, and feared. It is extremely challenging work, and sometimes it seems impossible.
But as incarnate human beings, we are mediators by design. Our ability to move between, hold, assimilate and synthesize very different energies and vibrations, from the material all the way up to the celestial, is fundamental to our humanness. It is mediation in its ultimate manifestation. It is a gift, but it is also a burden, because our ability to span this wide gap comes with the responsibility to do so. Otherwise, we are not living up to our potential and are, in fact, denying our call as incarnate human beings.
It’s a tall order, and there is no pithy answer or easy path toward achieving it. Sometimes we’re called on to take outward action in the face of conflict or injustice, and sometimes subtle activism or inner work is more appropriate, even if just to balance our own reactions.
But ultimately, I think, the most powerful thing we can do is to simply be awake and present to the circumstances of our lives with as much love as we can muster.
Thank God our time is now
when wrong comes up to meet us everywhere
never to leave us till we take, the greatest stride of the soul
man ever took.
affairs are now soul size
the enterprise is exploration unto God.
Where are you making for?
It takes so many thousand years to wake.
But will you wake for pity's sake?
Views from the Lorian Community publishes essays from a team of volunteer writers expressing individual experiences of a long term, committed practice of Incarnational Spirituality (and the general principles shaping such a practice.) If you wish to share how your life has benefited from your relationship with Lorian and IS, please email the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. We prefer submissions between 700-900 words. We rarely accept previously published material (including blog posts.) We also reserve the right to edit or decline your submission. Any accepted submissions will be published in the order that best fits our schedule.