The Spiritual Significance Of Human Relationship
Whenever a relationship is experienced as irrelevant to inner growth – left on its own, as it were – it must falter, sooner or later. And that is the fate of the majority of human relationships – especially the intimate one between two mates. When a relationship is not recognized as a mirror to inner growth, it gradually wears out.
Many of my friends are indeed progressing. Sometimes this progress manifests, at least temporarily, as crisis. You know this as a principle, but it is easy to forget this spiritual law when you are submerged in crisis. Therefore, it is all the more important to remember there is deep significance in the crisis you experience. Your attempt to understand it at its depth will bring you liberation and joyous living all the more quickly, liberation and joy that is real and permanent.
Tonight’s topic deals with relationship between human beings and its tremendous significance from the spiritual point of view – from the point of view of individual growth and unification. First, I would like to point out once again that on the level of manifestation in human life, individual units of consciousness exist. These units sometimes harmonize, but very often conflict with one another and create friction and crisis. Yet behind this level of manifestation there are no different, fragmented units of consciousness. There is only one consciousness, of which every created entity is a different expression. When one comes into one’s own, one experiences this truth without, however, losing a sense of individuality. This can be felt very distinctly when you deal with your own inner disharmonies. The exact same principle applies there also.
In your present state, a part of your innermost being is developed and governs your thinking, feeling, willing, and acting. Other parts, still in a lower state of development, also govern and influence your thinking, feeling, willing, and acting. Thus you find yourself divided, which always creates tension, pain, anxiety, and inner and outer difficulties. Some aspects of your personality are in truth, others in error and distortion. The resulting confusion causes grave disturbance. A person usually pushes one side out of the way and identifies with the other. This superficial denial of part of what exists cannot bring unification. Quite the contrary, it widens the split. What must be done is to bring out the deviating, conflicting side and face it – face the entire ambivalence. Only then will you find the ultimate reality of your undivided, unified self. As you know, unification and peace emerge to the degree that you recognize, accept, and understand the nature of your inner conflict and split.
The same principle applies to the dissension between entities that seem outwardly separate and different. Behind the level of appearance they also are part of one consciousness. The dissension is not caused by actual differences but, as with the inner dissension in one person, by differently developed aspects of the manifesting universal consciousness. The principle of unification is exactly the same. Yet this principle cannot be executed with another person unless it has been applied first to one’s inner self. If the divergent parts of a self are not approached according to this truth and ambivalence not faced, accepted, and understood within a self, the process of unification cannot be put into practice with another person. This very important fact explains the great emphasis of this pathwork on one’s own unification process. Only then can relationship be cultivated in a meaningful and effective way.
In this lecture I shall outline some elements of dissension and unification between human beings and show how these parallel the individual process. First I should like to say that relationship represents the greatest challenge for the individual. It is only in relationship with others that unresolved problems – the difficulties and conflicts that still exist within the individual human psyche – are affected and activated. Because of this, many individuals withdraw from contact and interaction with others. Sometimes the illusion can be maintained that the problems arise from the other person because one feels disturbance only in the presence of others, and not when by oneself.
Being alone elicits the inner call for contact. The less that contact is cultivated, the more acute the longing becomes. This is a different kind of pain from that felt in the presence of others – the pain of loneliness and frustration. Contact makes it difficult to maintain for very long the illusion that the inner self is faultless and harmonious. It requires mental aberration to claim repeatedly that others and not the self are the cause when problems arise in relationships. This is why relationship is simultaneously a fulfillment, a challenge, and a gauge to one’s inner state. The friction that arises from relating with others can be a sharp instrument for self-recognition and purification.
Many aspects of inner problems are never activated when one withdraws from this challenge and sacrifices the fulfillment of intimate contact. The resulting illusion of inner peace and unity has even led to the idea that spiritual growth is furthered by isolation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Intervals of seclusion are necessary for inner concentration and self-confrontation. But these periods should always alternate with contact. The more intimate such contact is, the more it bespeaks of spiritual maturity.
Contact and lack of contact with others can be observed in various stages between the two extreme poles of isolation and intimacy. At one end is total outer and inner isolation. At the other end is the deepest, most intimate relatedness. In that relatedness, there is a capacity to love and to accept others, to deal with them and with mutually arising problems, to find balance between self-assertion and giving in, to give and receive, to be acutely aware of the interacting levels between the selves. Some people have obtained a certain superficial ability to relate, but still withdraw from more meaningful, open, unmasked, inner mutual revealing and contacting. I might say that the average human being of today fluctuates somewhere between the two ends of the pole.
One can measure one’s personal sense of fulfillment or frustration by the depth of relatedness and intimate contact, by the strength of feelings one permits oneself to experience, and by the openness and willingness to give and receive. The degree of frustration indicates an absence of contact which, in turn, precisely indicates withdrawal from the challenge of facing certain inner problems. This withdrawal from the challenge of facing certain inner problems sacrifices personal fulfillment, pleasure, love, and joy. Longing must remain unfulfilled when sharing is wanted on the basis of receiving only according to one’s own terms; in this case the self is really (although secretly) unwilling to do any sharing. People would be well advised to consider their unfulfilled longings from this point of view, rather than indulging in the usual assumption that one is unlucky and unfairly put upon by life.
One’s contentment and fulfillment, specifically in regard to relationship, is a much neglected yardstick of one’s own development. Relationship with others mirrors one’s own state and thus directly helps in one’s self-purification. Conversely, it is equally true that only by thorough self-honesty and self-facing can relationships be sustained, feelings expand, and contact between human beings blossom in long-term relationships. So you can see, my friends, relationships and human contact represent a tremendously important aspect of human growth.
The power and significance of relationship often represent severe problems for those who are still in the throes of their own inner dividedness. The unfulfilled longing becomes unbearably painful when isolation is chosen due to the difficulty of contact. This can only be resolved when one seriously settles down to seek the cause for this conflict in the self without guilt and self-blame, because these self-annihilating defense measures eliminate any possibility of really getting at the core of the conflict. Looking within, plus the inner willingness to change, must be cultivated to alleviate this painful trap in which both available alternatives – isolation and contact – are unbearable.
Fear of pleasure is largely connected with the problem of dealing with others and facing one’s rigid self-blindness. It is also important to remember that withdrawal can be very subtle and may exist only on a level of feelings outwardly unnoticeable and manifest as concealed guardedness and false self-protection. Outer good fellowship does not necessarily imply a capacity and willingness for inner closeness. Inner closeness is too taxing a problem for many. On the surface this seems to be due to a difficulty to cope with others. Yet the difficulty actually lies in the self, regardless of how disturbed others may also be.
When people of unequal spiritual development are involved with one another, the more highly developed person always has the responsibility for the relationship. I mean specifically that the more developed person is responsible for searching the depths of the inner level of interaction which may cause friction and disharmony between the parties. The less developed person is not capable of such a search and is still involved with blaming the other. He depends on the other’s doing “right” to avoid unpleasantness and frustration. Also, the less developed person is always caught up in the fundamental error of duality.
He sees any friction in terms of either he or the other person being right. If he detects a problem in the other, this seems to whitewash him automatically, although in reality his own negative involvement may be substantially more important than what he sees in the other person. Only the spiritually more developed person is capable of realistic, non-dualistic perception. He may see that either party may have a deeper problem, which does not eliminate the importance of the much lesser problem of the other person. He will always be willing and able to search for his own involvement when negatively affected by a specific relationship, no matter how blatantly at fault the other person may be. A person of spiritual and emotional immaturity and crudeness always puts the bulk of blame on the other, whether or not he pays theoretical lip service to the above mentioned process. This process applies to any kind of relationship: mates, parents and children, friendship, business contact, or any other.
The tendency to make oneself emotionally dependent on others, which is such an important aspect of the growth process, comes largely from wanting to absolve oneself from blame or avoid the difficulty of establishing, maintaining, and sustaining a relationship. It seems so much easier to shift the bulk of this burden to others. But what a price to pay! Doing this renders one helpless indeed. It brings about precisely that state between the two undesirable alternatives of isolation or unending pain and friction with others. Only when one begins truly to assume self-responsibility by looking at one’s own problem in the contact, and by willingness to change, can freedom be established and relationships become fruitful and joyous.
If responsibility for the relationship and looking for the core of dissension within is refused, the more highly developed person will never really understand the mutual interaction: how one problem affects the other. The relationship must then deteriorate. It must leave both parties confused and less able to cope with the self and others. However, if the more highly developed one accepts this inner spiritual responsibility, the other person will also be helped in a subtle, possibly unarticulated way. If the developed party can desist from the temptation to constantly belabor the other person’s obvious sour points and look into himself, he will further his own development considerably and spread peace and joy around him. The poison of friction will soon be eliminated. He will also make it possible for himself to soon find others with whom a truly mutual growth process is possible.
When two equals relate, both carry the full responsibility for the relationship. This is indeed a beautiful venture, a deeply satisfying state, of mutuality. The slightest flaw in a mood will be recognized for its inner meaning and thus the growth process will be maintained. Both will recognize their participation in this momentary flaw, whether it be an actual friction or a momentary deadness of feelings. The inner reality of the interaction will become increasingly the more real one. This will do much to prevent injury to the relationship.
Let me emphasize that when I speak of being responsible for the less developed person, I do not mean that another human being can ever carry the burden for the actual difficulties of others. This can never be so. I mean that difficulties of the interaction in a relationship usually are not explored in depth by the individual of more primitive spiritual development. He renders others responsible for his unhappiness and disharmony in a given interaction, and is not able, or willing, to see the whole issue. Thus he cannot eliminate the disharmony. Only the person who assumes responsibility for finding the inner disturbance and its mutual effect can do so. Hence the spiritually more primitive person always depends on the spiritually more evolved one.
Contact between individuals should be severed when the destructiveness of the less developed one makes growth, harmony, and thriving of good feelings impossible, or when the contact is overwhelmingly negative. As a rule, the more highly developed person assumes the necessary initiative for ending the contact. If he does not, he needs to face his unrecognized weaknesses and fears. If a relationship is dissolved on the grounds that it is more destructive and pain-producing than constructive and harmonious, it should be done when the inner problems and mutual interactions are fully recognized by the person who takes the initiative to dissolve an old tie. This will prevent the initiator from forming a new relationship with similar underlying currents and interactions. Also, the step of severance will occur as a result of growth rather than of vindictive spite, fear, or escape.
The exploration of the underlying interaction and effect of a relationship, where both peoples’ difficulties are explored and accepted, is by no means an easy process. But nothing can be more beautiful and rewarding. Anyone who reaches the state of enlightenment where this is possible will no longer fear any kind of interaction. Difficulties and fear arise to the exact degree that a person still projects on others his difficulties in relating and still renders others responsible for anything that goes against his liking. This can take many subtle forms. One may constantly concentrate on the faults of others, an attitude which at first glance may even appear justified. One may subtly over-emphasize one side to the exclusion of other aspects. These and other distortions indicate projection, and a denial of self-responsibility for difficulties in relating. The person who pursues such a course becomes dependent on the other’s being perfect and will therefore feel let down, fearful and hostile.
My dear friends, no matter what wrong the other person does, if you are disturbed, there must be something in you that you overlook. When I say disturbed, I mean it in a particular sense. I do not speak of clear-cut anger that expresses itself guiltlessly and does not leave a trace of inner confusion and pain. I mean the kind of disturbance that comes out of and breeds further conflict. Even though I have warned you repeatedly about overlooking your own part in the conflict, you find it most difficult to look within and find the source of the disturbance within yourselves. Even you, my friends, who are sincerely searching for liberation and unification within yourselves, are still involved in deep projection in this area. One of the roles or games we have discussed recently, as one of mankind’s most favorite tendencies, is to say, “You are doing it to me,” making the other person guilty. The game of making others guilty is so pervasive that it constantly passes by unnoticed. It is so much taken for granted. One human being blames the other, one country blames the other, one group blames the other. This is a constant process at this lower state of development. It is indeed one of the most harmful and illusory processes imaginable.
Perhaps only a few of you can begin to see how you are doing this and, when you see it, can only stop it here or there. Begin to question this habit and cease placing the guilt on others, which always is a hidden form of hostility and white-washing of the self. Blaming gives one pleasure, although the pain and the insoluble conflicts that follow are infinitely disproportionate to the puny, momentary pleasure.
I would now like to discuss the attitude of the recipient of this game, rather than the enactor of it. He who executes this game harms himself and others. I strongly recommend that you begin to be aware of your blind involvement in this guilt-shifting game. But how about the “victim”? How is he to cope with it? His first plight is that he is not even aware of what is happening. Most of the time, it happens in a subtle, emotional, and unarticulated fashion. The silent, covert, indirect blame is being launched without a word being spoken. The blame is expressed in many indirect ways. Obviously, the first necessity is concise, articulate awareness. Otherwise, the “victim” will unconsciously respond in equally destructive, falsely self-defensive ways. Neither party really knows of the intricate levels of action, reaction, and interaction until the threads become so enmeshed that it seems impossible to disentangle the complicated aspects of the relationship. Many relationships have faltered due to unawareness of this interaction which contains many mutual reactions to something one only vaguely feels.
The launching of blame and guilt spreads poison, fear, and at least as much guilt as one tries to project. One who receives this blame and guilt may react in many different ways, according to his own problems and unresolved conflicts. As long as the reaction is blind and the person is not conscious that guilt was projected on him, the counter-reaction must also be neurotic and destructive. Only conscious perception can prohibit this. Only when you see what is happening will you be able to refute the burden placed on you. Only then can you articulate and pinpoint it.
If a relationship is to blossom, one must look out for this pitfall of guilt-projection so much more difficult to detect because it is so widespread. Also, the recipient should look for it in himself as well as in the other person. I do not mean a straightforward confrontation about something wrong the other person did. I mean that the subtle blame for personal unhappiness must be challenged.
The only way to avoid becoming a victim of blame and guilt-projection is to avoid doing it yourself. To the degree you indulge in guilt projection, you will be unaware of it being done to you. You will therefore become victimized by it. You may blame and project guilt in a different way than the one who does it to you. The mere awareness of this interaction will make all the difference, whether or not you verbally express your perception and confront the other person. You can only refute someone else’s guilt-projection to the degree that you undefensively explore, face, and accept your own problematic reactions, distortions, negativities, and destructiveness. Only then will you avoid being drawn into a maze of falseness and confusion in which uncertainty, defensiveness, and weakness make you retreat or attack. Only then will you stop confusing self-assertion with hostility and flexible compromise with unhealthy submission.
All these aspects determine the ability to cope with relationships. The more these dynamics are profoundly understood and lived, the more intimate, fulfilling, and beautiful human interaction will become.
Unless you approach relating to others in the way described here, how can you assert your rights, seek fulfillment and pleasure in the universe, or love without fear? Unless you learn to relate honestly, thereby purifying yourself there must always be a whip lurking in the dark when it comes to intimate closeness: the whip of loading guilt on each other. Loving, sharing, and profound and satisfying closeness to others could be a purely positive power without any threat, when these snares are looked at, discovered, and dissolved. It is of utmost importance that you look for them in yourselves, my friends
The most challenging, beautiful, spiritually important, and growth-producing relationship is between man and woman. The power that brings two people together in love and attraction, and the pleasure involved in it, are a small aspect of the state of being in cosmic reality. It is as though each created entity knew unconsciously about the bliss of this state and sought to realize it in the most potent way open to humanity. That way is in love and sexuality between man and woman. The power that draws them together is the purest spiritual energy, which leads to an intimation of the purest spiritual state.
However, when men and women stay together for a longer period of time in a more enduring and committed relationship, the maintenance and increase of bliss depends entirely on whether the two people relate to one another in the terms discussed in this lecture. Are they aware of the direct relationship of lasting pleasure and inner growth? Do they use the inevitable difficulties in the relationship as yardsticks for their own inner difficulties? Do they communicate in the deepest, most truthful, self-revealing way? Do they share their inner problems, and help each other, rather than placing mutual guilt on each other and whitewashing themselves? The answers to these questions will determine whether the relationship falters, dissolves, stagnates – or blossoms. When you look at the world around you, you will undoubtedly see that very few human beings grow and reveal themselves in such an open way. Equally few realize that growing together and through each other determines the solidity of feelings, of pleasure, of enduring love and respect. It is therefore not surprising that long-lasting relationships almost invariably are more or less dead in feelings.
Difficulties that arise in a relationship are always a yardstick for something unattended to. It is as though a loud message were being spoken. The sooner it is heeded the more spiritual energy will be released, so that the state of bliss can be expanded and grow along with the inner being of both partners. A mechanism exists in a relationship between a man and a woman that can be likened to a very finely calibrated instrument that shows the finest and most subtle aspects of the relationship and the individual state of the two people involved. This is not sufficiently recognized by mankind, not even by the most aware and sophisticated human beings, who are otherwise familiar with spiritual and psychological truth. Every day and every hour one’s inner state and feelings are a testimony to one’s state of growth. To the degree this is heeded, the interaction, the feelings, the freedom of flow within and toward each other will blossom. The perfectly mature and spiritually valid relationship must always be deeply connected with personal growth. Whenever a relationship is experienced as irrelevant to inner growth – left on its own, as it were – it must falter, sooner or later. And that is the fate of the majority of human relationships – especially the intimate one between two mates. When a relationship is not recognized as a mirror to inner growth, it gradually wears out. The first steam evaporates and nothing remains. Either overt friction and dissension, or stagnation and boredom will wreck what was once promising. Only when each one grows to his ultimate, to his inherent potentials, can the relationship become more and more dynamic and alive. This must be done individually and mutually. A relationship that is approached in this way will be built on rock, not on sand. Fear will never find room under such circumstances. Feelings will expand. Security about the self and each other will grow. Each day and each hour will mirror the inner state of both partners and therefore the relationship. Whenever friction or deadness exists, something must be stuck and hidden – something that ought to be seen. Some interaction between the two people must still be unclarified. If this is understood and properly handled, growth will proceed at maximum speed. Happiness, bliss, the feeling of meaningful living, deep, profound experience and ecstasy will grow into forever deeper and more beautiful dimensions. Conversely, fear of intimacy implies rigidity and the denial of seeing one’s own share in the difficulties in relating. Anyone who ignores or pays only lip service to these principles is not ready emotionally to assume the responsibility for his inner suffering – whether it be within a relationship or in a state where relationship is absent. Such ignorance also brings about fear of one’s feelings. The person is still at the primitive juncture where he shifts guilt to others. Fear and uncertainty make it impossible under such conditions to find bliss and closeness – fearless closeness.
So you see, my friends, it is of the greatest importance to recognize that bliss and beauty, which are eternal spiritual realities, are available to all those who seek within their own hearts for the key to all problems of human interaction, as well as to the problems of loneliness. True growth is as much a spiritual reality as profound fulfillment, vital aliveness and blissful, joyous relating. When you are inwardly ready to relate to another human being in such a fashion, you will find the appropriate partner with whom this manner of sharing is possible. Relationship will no longer frighten you. It will no longer beset you with conscious or unconscious fears when you use this all-important key. You cannot ever feel helpless or victimized once the significant transition has taken place in your life, when you no longer render others responsible for what you experience, or fail to experience. Thus, growth and fulfilled, beautiful living become one and the same.
May you all carry with you new material for your work, and the inner energy force awakened by your good will. May these words be the beginning of a new inner modality to meet life, to finally make the decision, “I want to risk my good feelings. I want to seek the cause in me, rather than in the other person, so that I become free to love.” This kind of meditation will indeed bear fruit. If a germ, a particle of this truth is being carried away by you tonight, it was truly a fruitful evening. Be blessed, all of you, my dearest friends.
By Eva Pierrakos, The Guide
This article is borrowed from “Pathwork Guide Lecture # 180 “THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIP” 1970″