The most important things in life are hard to comprehend and often hidden from view. The usual way of conceiving the world is that that which appears is real and life is a straightforward game of winning and losing, success and failure. Our standard image of the hero is the man or woman who takes on the manifest world and achieves victory. It all seems so straightforward: grab the bull by the horns and get on. It is what we are taught from the earliest age, to make mummy and daddy proud, be the best, beat the odds, achieve victory.
It sounds so logical, so plausible, so appealing and seems to take us on a journey away from death and into life. We don’t see that what we are really doing is the opposite and that the manifest world, the world of form and appearance, is a pale reflection of another world, a world of unconditional joy and love and freedom. Even the fact that our journey ends in death isn’t enough to wake us up and tell us that none of it is real despite the fact that death is staring at us down the barrel of a gun called time.
The world of appearances is not the real world despite everything that is said. What drives us on this journey called life is the mind’s absolute terror of nothingness, of standing still, of being, of annihilation. Even those of us who call ourselves spiritual cannot let go our need of hope, goals and a future. Who would I be without the next thing? This thing I always wanted and now have is not enough. Our eyes are always on the horizon. Even if the horizon has shifted from a material one to a spiritual one we are still only as good as our next story, as they say in the newspaper trade.
I almost laughed out loud the other night when a young man was being told by an excited, encouraging audience to follow his dream. It sounded so real, what we have all been taught, that we don’t see what’s right there in front of us: the need to live in a dream. We are all living in this dream of individuality and we have been living it so well now and for so long we have no idea that we have inverted the natural order and have a fantasy world confused with the real world.
Almost everybody is caught in their own version of the same dream. And the dream has one purpose and one purpose only when we boil it down, and that is to stop us facing the death of ego that would have to occur if we just stayed where we were without dream, hope, goal, motivation or interpretation. The last thing we want to hear is the truth and the truth is that despite appearances and our story, we are nothing. And in being nothing we are everything. When the dream of individuality dies what we are left with, if we can face our fear and allow this dissolution of everything we have known, is that we are not human but immortal, on a par with the gods.
This knowledge has been hidden from mankind in the west for thousands of years, but it is finally making a return. Like all truths that have been cynically and foolishly buried from view by those who write history, those who would choose power over love, eventually, at the right time they resurface and once more take their place in the culture where this time perhaps they may be realised and lived rather than unrecognised and rejected.
The shaman’s journey, that which lives prior to religion and concept, has been evinced in different cultures around the world. People have been communing with the divine in similar ways globally since the dawn of time and before. The hero’s journey is not up into the light, living on the surface, but down into the depths, the underworld, where the opposites meet, where the sun went each night at the appropriate time and rose from each day. The underworld is the meeting place of opposites and the hero’s journey takes us right through it and out the other side.
On this hero’s journey there is no gathering of laurels and accomplishments, wealth and titles, but rather the shedding of all we have known, the loss of all self concept. Small wonder it has been largely written out of history. The journey is both terrifying and deeply unappealing. According to scholar Peter Kingsley, who has done so much to reawaken us to the truth of the origins of western philosophy, Plato and Aristotle are the culprits, the rewriters of Truth who turned philosophy from a deeply practical love and knowledge of wisdom into an intellectual debate, a way of being that has seeped through all aspects of our culture. The old ways involving the body and the divine feminine out, the new involving heady intellectual men in. We can call it patriarchy but it doesn’t really matter, what matters is the loss of the real for an unreal world seductively masquerading as real.
Of course, if we could get through the pain of the journey to the real world we would see that all our paltry dreams of a successful me are nonsense, a pale and passing reflection of something so magnificent that if we tasted it for just a second we would see that giving up everything we know was an infinitely small price to pay. The Greek hero or kouros was a childlike initiate, embraced by a teacher of initiation, a lineage and a family so intimate that he was surrounded by the love required to make the journey. What dies is an idea. What lives as you is Everything and Nothing.
Jesus said that unless we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom and we only enter the kingdom through death, the death of the idea of me. What propels us on our journey is our longing, the emptiness that lies at the core of each human being. If we let that longing direct us further into life we strengthen the ego and move further away from what we truly want, always chasing the next dream.
But if we can see what is really happening, see that each dream is what it says it is, merely a fleeting apparition, we can see that true wisdom hides in death and that almost everybody is headed in the wrong direction. It is the cosmic joke, the funniest of crimes and causes all the chaos there is. And the mystic learns to face his own nothingness, takes the road less travelled and experiences ‘The Disappearance Of The Universe’.
Everything we need to know lies within, all we need do is turn and face it.
Copyright Simon Heathcote 2010