AwakeningBy Anurag Shantam
(With R. J. Doucette)
Who Are You?In 1981 my search led me to India. There I became a student of self-discovery, a disciple of the ancient spiritual traditions of the sub-continent. At the center of these traditions is a simple principle - that to discover who you are now, you must first discover who you have always been. That is, who were you at the beginning?
One technique by which you are led back to this beginning is an ancient one. You sit before a Master who asks, "Who are you?" You begin relating the story of your life, in which you appear as both the omniscient narrator and the main character. The Master interrupts, and asks again, "Who are you?" You take your story in another direction, adding sub-plots, events and more characters. The Master interrupts and asks again, "Who are you?" Each time you begin, the Master stops you and repeats his question. Eventually, you realize that the story you have been trying very hard to tell is just that ... a story about who you are. The power of the Master's question is that it reveals a profound truth. You are not your story. You are, in fact, lost in its narrative.
The Master's technique is similar to that used in Western psychotherapy, where once again you begin your clinical quest to discover who the you is that requires therapy, essentially by relating a story. The therapist helps you peel through the story's many layers to the truth, knowing that as long as you are caught up in the story, you will never discover the person who is lost in the story.
When I returned from India, I set out to discover who this being was who was lost in my own story. I knew that if I could get back to the origin of my story, I could transcend it and discover myself. During this journey I came to understand the origin of not only my own story, but of the story of mankind. This archetypal tale is the paradigm that underlies the process of Awakening - the arrival at an Eden-like state of consciousness.
In his discussions of the power of myth, Joseph Campbell points out that there is an original myth that underlies the world's major belief systems. It is the myth of the creation. In Western tradition, this tale begins and ends with the first three chapters of Genesis. In chapters one and two, God creates the world. He blesses his creation and pronounces it good. In chapter three God creates two children, a son and a daughter, and places them in a garden paradise. Also present in the garden is a mysterious serpent of unknown origin. Everything in the garden is Adam and Eve's, except the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, the fruit of which is forbidden to them. Knowledge of good and evil is the key to the story, for in Eden there is no good or evil. Creation is one, undivided - creation does not live in a world of good and evil. It lives in a world of "is-ness". It is what it is.
Eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil transports you into a world of separation, a world of duality, a world of conflict. It transports you into the war between good and evil that damns mankind to this very day. By eating the fruit, you don't "know" good and evil, you have knowledge of good and evil, and knowledge is a borrowed belief. This is the distinction between knowing and believing. If I believe, then I am always in conflict with non-believers, trying to convert them to believe as I do. If I know, then there is no conflict within or without - for knowing is not shadowed by doubt, and does not require outside support, affirmation, and confirmation.
Feminists often use the story of the Fall to illustrate the evil patriarchal nature of western religion. It would seem to be so, for where is the mother in the story? Why doesn't she have a role? And what of Eve - why is the only female in Eden portrayed as evil, responsible for the fall of humanity? On the surface it does appear unbalanced, unfair, and patriarchal. However, while the story is often politicized - sometimes to oppress women, sometimes to oppress men - it is a nonpolitical, spiritual tale. If you are going to understand it, penetrate to its sublime depths, you must set aside the politics of good and evil and prepare to delve deeper. And yes, the mother was there - not as a person, but as a symbol. She is the serpent.
The serpent tempts Eve, promising that if she eats the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she will become Godlike. Eve eats from the apple, and tempts Adam to do the same. Suddenly they recognize their nakedness - their sexual differences. That is, they recognize that they are different from one another. By eating the apple they step into a world of separation. In the world of good and evil already inhabited by God, they become like God - just as the serpent promised. They have entered the world of duality.
God discovers that his children have eaten the forbidden fruit, and becomes angry. Adam, the son, becomes frightened. Eve, the daughter, is cursed with sorrow. Both are cast out of the garden, and their long journey of suffering begins.
Scripture indicates something else significant about the creation myth. A good and creative God enters the garden, but it is an angry, vengeful, destructive God who leaves it. The remainder of the Bible is a story, the story of the interactions and relationships of this father God and his children. In this story all the characters are trying to return to the Eden-like world of the garden.
We can all relate to this story. It is a narrative whose plot elements we plagiarize for use in our own individual stories... love, ambition, hope, war, music, treachery, joy, deception, creation and destruction. The creation myth exists in one form or another across all world religions. It is universal - as universal as the taxing and complicated story of mankind's existence after the fall from grace. This is the myth and subsequent story of every human being.
The Creation story points to a profound truth about who we are - not a factual truth, but a spiritual truth, and to grasp this truth is to unlock the mystery of your individual drama as you navigate through the world of good and evil. The key is to focus on who left the garden - an angry, vengeful, jealous, destructive father God who blames His children for the fall of His creation. He lays down rules that are impossible to obey, then punishes His children for not performing according to His standards. He punishes and seeks to destroy others who do not believe as He does. He is arbitrary and, at times, cruel. There is little if anything lovable about Him, yet He demands love.
This father God is always watching over His children - criticizing and condemning, judging them often and praising them rarely. A daughter, Eve, is the human Soul. She is tender, sensitive and loving. She is cursed by the father with sorrow, and blamed by Him for the fall of paradise. A son, Adam, is the human Spirit. He is fun, adventurous and trusting, but frightened by the father's anger. Feeling like a failure in God's eyes, the son is crippled by fear and insecurity.
Inside each of us is a part that is angry, a part that harbors thoughts of revenge against enemies, is jealous of happiness in others, and wants to control others with hidden lists of rules, of shoulds, that we arbitrarily impose. This is our angry God. Inside each of us is a part that is lonely and sorrowful, a part that always feels guilty and responsible for failure - in your own life as well as in the lives of others. This is our Soul. Inside of each of us is a part that is frightened and insecure, always seeking approval from others. This is our Spirit. These three parts are the same three parts described in creation scripture. They are lost in individual ego dramas, searching for each other - for the wholeness, the oneness they once were. They are futilely searching out there for what is hidden right beside them, inside. They are you.
The good, creative, blessing God who entered the garden became the three parts of who we are - the trinity that left the garden. We are the judgmental, controlling father, the hurting guilty daughter, and the insecure frightened son. This is what is hidden inside. This is the mystery the creation story reveals. How this came about - to begin to understand the spiritual dynamic and drama of our interior lives, we must first understand the nature of ego.