It is quite understandable to think of the spiritual path as a spiral.
The structure of a spiral or other toroidal forms point to a realization that we return to the same point again and again, but with different perspective– a perspective that arises due to our journey through the spiral and a returning to center. An expansion and contraction, chaos and then a reordering.
This chaos, the deconstruction that arises from expansion, from traversing a spiral and returning to center, is necessary. It is necessary to traverse the spiral in order to properly go through the disorganization–reorganization process. In simpler terms, to truly understand and embody a leg of the spiritual path, we must actually make that journey.
We cannot read about it, wear a mask that we are beyond it, use the terms and lingo of spirals much beyond our own spiral (because there is hollowness if we have not embodied the concepts. We cannot talk about things simply and in our own way if we do not understand their meaning. It is natural in the acclimation process to take on new words and phrases and to use them to one day understand them, but this is much different than the hollow machinations of spiritual phrases and words without realization), or skip over it.
Even if we do expand much further than a spiral or two in a stage of our path (for the sake of example, let’s say we expand five spirals), we must then go through the deconstruction of identity, the reformulation of the ego-mind, and the process of embodiment of the knowledge and realization of those spirals to fully experience the perspective shift it offers.
Put more simply, you can take a bunch of hallucinogens and go into a float tank and you will spiral quite quickly. It is a question of how you integrate that experience that matters– do you treat it like a high, do you require an anvil to hit you over the head for something to be spiritual, do you take your experiences down to where you were prior in your spiral and start talking about yourself as if you are the most enlightened being ever? It is quite easy to transmute even powerful spiritual experiences into yet another thing to seek, to chase, to use to power our wounded, limited perspectives of reality.
If our experiences are not fully embodied, fully felt, fully believed, we do not integrate them. Our inner and outer reality do not change. This is the single marker of the spiritual path that I can point to– if you are “spiraling” your perspective, way of being, the way you see and treat others, your conception of reality, and your “mundane” life will have massive change occur.
While this feels like painful deconstruction, especially at first, it is a release and purification process in which what has arisen due to trauma, due to pain, and of what is not working in our lives falls away. It is just a question of if we are in the place to recognize the purpose beyond this deconstruction-reorganization, and are in the correct place to no longer grasp onto our old selves, our old way of being, our old pain and its beliefs and formulation of what it considers to be reality.
In the structure of such a spiral, at the end of each we go back to center. We spiral back to a point that lines up with where we first started. This is an initiatory gateway, an opportunity to reintegrate, to come to a sense of solid ego-mind integrity (I think of the ego-mind as an organizing structure of our reality; we need a strong, solid ego-mind, not an absent one. Without the integrity and strength of our psychic structures– such as our midline and our energy field, in which the ego-mind plays an immense organizing role, we cannot process or embody in a healthy way our spiritual experiences).
The difficulty with such an initiatory gateway, and with each initiatory gateway at the end of each spiral, is that it is quite easy to believe that it is the end of the path. To see a brick wall rather than a gateway or doorway.
This is because the ego-mind is very protective of ourselves and we are very invested in the reality that we have constrained for ourselves. At this point I do not believe that we create our reality (especially not singularly), but that we create the limitations to experiencing our reality. We do this individually, we do this communally, and what is creating these limitations is trauma– both personal, transpersonal (ancestral and past lives), as well as collectively the conditioned layers of reality denote specific models of behavior that none of us can live up to.
When we cannot live up to a model of behavior, what our conditioning tells us to be, we make aspects of ourselves shadow. We cut them off, project them into the world. In doing so, we cut off more and more aspects of our vitality.
The spiritual path is then about transcending the limitations of trauma– whether it be from personal, transpersonal, or collective sources.
It is about reclaiming our vitality, our humanity, truly embodying feeling, our human experience of being alive for the short while we are within our human forms.
It has nothing to do with perfection, or goodness, or superiority, or of transcending. If anything it is moving beyond our prized cerebral cortex and descending into the limbic system (the middle layer of our brain, our emotional centers) and then the brain stem and cerebellum, which regulate and relate to our primal, animalistic impulses.
It is a process of letting go of perfection, needs to transcend, and a digging in our own dirt until we reconcile even the most atavistic of impulses within us.
It is a process of grounding in chaos, of reclaiming our wild and ineffable and deeply feeling selves, not one of creating more and more order and limitations for ourselves.
To mix metaphors a bit, I will talk about the concept of the hedge. This is because once you have gone a spiral or two you come to the hedge.
This is a massive initiation, a doorway, one that most people do not go through. This is because the hedge separates us from the Other. Within the hedge are the conditioned layers of reality, our personal and collective limitations and creations.
When you go beyond the hedge you move beyond the ego-mind, the organizational principle that creates the conditioning of our reality. You move beyond order, dominance, the edges of things claimed and clearly lit by what is within the hedge.
You move beyond neat explanations, one-for-one ratios, and the spiraling beyond the hedge can be anything from terrifying to blissful, transcendent ecstacy to complete meaninglessness.
Such experiences are ineffable, but it is quite easy to see who has traversed beyond this initiatory gateway because it is fairly rare. This is not to prize such a rarity, or use it as fodder for yet more reasons for the ego-mind to attempt to feel superior or create a reality in which one is special, significant, with mythic meaning for its pain (and/or recreation of trauma and the central myth of being “cast out” from the garden).
But it is because moving beyond the hedge creates a sort of contract with the Other. To be in touch with it is to be in relationship with in it, and it transforms the eyes, the essence, the way of being, the perspective of someone. In some ways it moves someone beyond having what is considered an “ordinary” or conditioned life; to be alive in a world in which very few people have anything remotely resembling vitality, or recall of that inner spark of divinity.
We so seek to know the answers, our conditioning and spiritual immune system thrives on sameness. It thrives on being within the hedge because such being within the hedge offers safety, comfort, what is known.
I mention this dynamic of the hedge for a few reasons. I got into a conversation with a student the other day about how frustrating it is for him to see how false the world is. This is a common struggle, one that comes from the embodied wisdom of peeking beyond the hedge, or traversing it.
A pervasive sense of meaninglessness, anger, and animosity at what is within the hedge is readily found the more you spiral.
This is because if you have peeked beyond the hedge, if you have gone beyond a spiral or so beyond the hedge, you still are within spitting distance of said hedge. You can toss a baseball back in, so to speak.
But when you start to trust yourself enough to move further into the wild Other, things begin to fall apart a bit more. There are different terms for this– the Voids, the Abyss, the proverbial Alice and Wonderland tunnel.
From this perspective, what is within the hedge begins to appear as meaningless. This is the point, as I talk about in my book, Working with Kundalini, that quite a few people get stuck. They may even tell themselves that this is some enlightened state of being. It is not. It is sort of the last call of the ego– an initiation moving someone beyond the individual self that is traversing the path for the self, and deeper devotional states of being. If the initiation of this is not properly traversed, devotional states of being are not experienced as there has been no giving over of the self to larger constructs.
This can obviously be difficult to navigate while still being a part of a reality that thrives on what amounts to a lot of meaningless things. The latest horror, the latest gossip, even the spiritual seeking that abounds is seen as significant for the former self, for others, but the current self moves beyond such immersion and hooking in to such concepts. They seek to matter as they once did. This can be a diametric change, especially if you have taken the effort to get to this point (and to get to this point does require significant effort).
But the other interesting thing about this perspective, and what I was chatting with this student about (he encouraged me to write a blog about it, by the way) is that there is often an immense anger at realizing that the world is false in an embodied way.
A frustration at the realization that many of the spiritual paths– ones that encourage “weirdness” or “finding your voice” or whatever other themes are played out within us all in that push pull (again mimicking the spiritual immune system; our biological impulses lead us to prize sameness but also create a push-pull to feeling unique, superior, or special) are all within the hedge.
They are all within the conditioned layers of reality. You can be weird, or artistic, or spiritual, or have a voice, but only if it is within the hedge; only if it still embodies that sameness, that it doesn’t deviate too far that it goes outside the hedge.
You begin to realize that we are so closed down, so muted, have lost so much of our vitality, that our basic humanity has been penalized, our voice has been taken away to such an extent that we deeply fear conflict, emotions, vitality and living to such a degree that any reminder of it, any reminder that we can embody that vitality, is seen as some huge step.
This begs the question of what happens to those who have traversed the hedge. If we have a movement prizing weirdness or oddity, but only within the context of social and other conditioning, what is being related isn’t weird at all. It is completely and totally normal, in fact. We have just been so regulated, so devitalized by the models of behavior that we feel we must fit into that any type of artistic expression or voice is silenced, anything that moves beyond the quieted and desperate form of misery that not being truly alive within the hedge (because we so prize normalcy, and normalcy is a state of repression and lack of awareness, a state of existing in quiet desperation) that even the suggestion that we live, for even a brief moment, is considered an oddity.
So the question is then what happens to those who are truly “weird”, who have a voice that says things that are on a different wavelength than others, who have traversed the hedge. Who are having spiritual experiences that go far beyond what polite, constrained society allows. They no longer have community, they no longer see themselves represented by the models of acceptable (and dare I say “popular”) behavior of the collective.
We then move to the opposing models in which we have have been conditioned to believe that any aberrance from the model means being off-balance, mentally-emotionally unwell, or embodying the archetype of the madwoman/madman.
These archetypal forms are intended to keep us in fear, to keep us within the hedge, to keep us within the conditioning and silence that is so pervasive.
Our minds naturally seek models of behavior, of being, and if we are not silent, and passionless, emotionless, and going through the motions of our lives we are then unbalanced, and in fact “mad”.
This then engenders a lot of opposing reactions to this model– imbalances that I see in the spiritual field in which people truly in need of balance reach for spirituality instead of trauma care, project their issues onto the Other from their conditioning (feeling spirits are always after them, for example, or creating spiritualities that have little to do with spirits) or not seeking the appropriate level of help– of bodyworkers and other professionals for basic grounding and stability in reality, in creating a grounded base, an embodied base, a strong ego-mind, to expand from and reintegrate their knowledge and experiences into.
But it also can leave others who do have that grounded base, that foot in this world, proper teachings and a teacher to help them to go through the deconstruction-reintegration process well, without models of being to follow. Or with a fixation at the falseness of the world (yet another initiatory gateway) where they endlessly point out every single spiritual teacher and teaching as false. The amount of energy and time and life force that such individuals put into pointing out everything is false is often quite astonishing.
This is because it is quite easy to get caught between spirals, at that initiatiory gateway. To point to the shadow of selves that are still in previous spirals and struggling with releasing past trauma and falseness. To have aspects of self that are shocked at how what once felt so meaningful now feels less so, or even meaningless. To not move beyond the pain of this realization into a reintegration process in which the world is very false, blankness, the white or dark Void, but also very incredibly real at the same time, filled with vitality and life and wonder and celebration of the vastness.
Each spiral offers us the opportunity to release our former selves, to move beyond contracting to our former selves and their ideologies and ways of being. To expand and spiral again, seeing the expanse and wonder of it all. Looking forward, through the gateway, to the next spiral, instead of backwards at what we have traversed, is how we reintegrate and move forward/expand.