Sacred Relationship to Our Individual and Collective Entelechy
Prologue: The Opening Crack
I recalled the moment I was initiated into a sacred quest. It was a moment of confusion and bewilderment. The construct of time and space became non-linear and I was launched into a world of mysteries by an ineffable force of nature. It was November 2011, a time of in-betweens. It was a time of intermediary intersection of the yearly season transition from autumn to winter. It was gloomy, dark and rainy in London which I found how well the weather of this season mimics the old-fashioned architecture of old England. Buildings spoke of old tales and many untold stories of the mundane post-industrialized human life. Despite the efforts of renewal through reconstruction and repainting of the outer walls of the buildings, every eventful human story was kept recorded in the archives of the cold walls which were ruminating whether those stories were the pinnacle of human evolution.
I was sitting for a Mathematic quiz in my freshman year at Imperial College of London at that time. Despite the sounding silence in the room, the four-sided enclosure was debating loudly while staring down at me as they await what appropriate judgment would be sentenced to me. Mathematic equations were questioning my life and they shapeshifted into questions that confronted my very existence and its purpose. They brought me into attention of the discomfort in my gut and asked about how the environment that I was in was treating me. It was the hardest quiz I had to take because there is no textbook answer for these questions. There were no answers to memorize for and there was no such thing as cheat sheets or preparation for this quiz. I felt as if I was suddenly thrown into deep sea where waves were made out of chaos and mayhem and I had to just swim and survive. I was posed with a question, “Swim or drown?” How I swim was my least concern. I knew if I did not at least try, I would most definitely drown. Gulping my last built-up saliva in my mouth and clenching my teeth as hard as I could, my autonomic nervous system took over and it was fight or flight. I was dripping cold sweat and went into a state of paralysis. I may as well be schizophrenic as the construct of my experience of the world was falling apart.
Despite that, I knew the answers to the questions very well. I had always had the answer; the only resistance was admitting that the answer that I had was the truth and it was too hard to be swallowed by my current understanding about life. Ever since I first set foot into Imperial College of London, I knew the environment definitely did not feel congruent with my inner peace. People felt like they were walking robots and the geometrical buildings of Imperial College of London casted away any signs of vibrancy that can be found in nature. I felt incarcerated, claustrophobic and my vitality, diminished. My experience of attending lectures and classes, participating in student club activities and making new peers in the dormitories were lacking something so crucial for living and existing harmoniously. I felt a sense of wrongness but I did not know what that “wrongness” was. It tended to show up as a disturbance in the background of my senses like a splinter. It was subtle, prickly and flirtatious yet very much alive and sounding as if it there was a point to be made. Sitting in the hot seat of the room, my very existence was challenged. I asked, “Is this the pinnacle of my life?” While experiencing a crack in my psyche and noticing the obvious disharmony between my heart and my mind, I had the most brilliant idea – drop out of the hard-earned placement in this prestigious university and go on an enigmatic, exciting adventure. I was enveloped with fear and anxiety which soon turned into an adrenaline rush similar to the moment when the rollercoaster reaches its peak soon to be free falling. I was filled with the zest of life which was more enlivening than knowing all the answers to any quizzes that I had taken. Deep down, I knew there was an urgency for radical change. As my pre-frontal cortex rebooted, I left the room while handing in an empty paper. I was completely disoriented.
Initiation: Call to Adventure
The disorientation did not stop ever since. In fact, it propelled me to Naropa University in fall 2014 where wisdom of spirituality is cultivated and practiced. Since that incident, I ping-ponged my way through experiences as such and finally stumbled into environments and people that could explained my experiences of disorientation. Towards the end of year 2017, I felt less lonely, less afraid and finally was able to integrate those traumatic disorienting experiences sensibly. Looking back, the threshold experiences of each event have polarizing feelings of fear and excitement. They were filled with highly charged anxiety as well as great enthusiasm for life. As a result, the battle in my mind was between taking spontaneous, radical ideas into action or holding myself back to safe answers that were conditioned and provided for me. The conflict left me in turmoil and doubt. I was chronically dissatisfied and constantly found myself in conflict wherever I go. Nevertheless, behind this conflict lied gifts that I never had thought would be one. Jeanine Canty (2017), a leading academic in the field of ecopsychology explained,
When one experiences many challenges to one’s worldview, it often cracks this fixed reality, allowing one to open up one’s awareness to larger perspectives. When our lenses of seeing are cracked, we have the opportunity to expand. A broken worldview fosters a more awakened and resilient reality. (p. 23)
The gift was moments of sacred encounter with Spirit. Looking at those experiences with this perspective, I was at awe with the generosity of Spirit trying to deliver sacred messages to me. Through the intensity of my confusion and bewilderment in those threshold experiences, I entered into an altered state of consciousness which made the shift of worldview possible. Believers of magic and mystical experiences would say that I entered the realm of spirit. In that threshold container, I was introduced with potential of possibilities of life or parallel multiverses of how I could live my life in a more awakened and resilient reality – one that is free from suffering and endorsed with fulfilment. Those experiences were what Christian mystics would call “dark night of the soul”. Christopher Bache (2000), a transpersonal psychologist describes it as,
advanced stage of psychospiritual growth reached by only the most committed spiritual aspirants… It comes after a series of lesser trials and just before final awakening into unitive consciousness. It is the final stage of a long spiritual process of increased purification in which one’s identity as a discrete self is challenge at its core and eventually surrendered. (p.91-92)
I started developing existential crisis from the ongoing experiences similar to what had been described by Bache. Symptoms such as chronic depression; experiences of isolation and alienation; and recurrence of chronic atopic dermatitis had pervaded my life which I now truly believe are powerful catalysts for transformation. The ongoing tragedy was worsened with failed intimate relationships and failed academic results. Collectively, the increase of severity of those circumstances finally left me in the state of anguish and despair, striving me towards the edge of suicide. Soon, I had lost the point of reference of who I thought myself to be, what my purpose was and how I could continue to live on. My immediate experiences no longer matched what I used to know about life. Despite my search for healing, no consensus modals be it the education system, the healthcare system or the sociopolitical system were able to fix or heal the suffering of the existential pain that I was experiencing – the pain of being alive. Those were moments of transformation without roots. Mezirow (2000) calls this phenomenon as disorienting dilemma, describing,
Transformations were often found to follow a learning cycle initiated by a disorienting dilemma and resulting in a reintegration into society on the basis of conditions dictated by the new perspective…one does not return to an old perspective once a transformation has occurred, but there is seldom consistent forward movement (p. xii).
Because of that, I knew my experiences of suffering were rooted from something deeper than just mere expressions of those symptoms. Symptoms were encoded messages of nature that we have not yet understand fully. This began my inquiry for true healing and finally accept the call to adventure to look for the remedial elixir to my state of being. I became widely curious and became explorative across boundaries of different disciplines, space and time. The culmination of the exploration drew me into two concepts – Sacred Relationship and Entelechy. Both which became what I call my North Stars as they are two powerful guiding principles of how to live a soul-directed life as well as coming to terms to live life with the deep interconnectedness between all sentient beings.
Apotheosis: The North Star
Answering the call to adventure was like traversing into the dream landscape where new opportunities and trials showed up to be attended to. Saying “no” or resisting usually brings more conflict into my life. This reminded me of the movie “Yes Man” starred by Jim Carrie where the protagonist radically changed his life from destruction into actualization by saying “yes” to every opportunity, request and invitation that present itself. Joseph Campbell (2008), the mythologist who popularized the term Hero’s Journey mentioned that in facing the challenges of the quest, the hero is aided with supernatural help and benign power supporting the hero in one’s superhuman passage (p.81). This is similar to Paulo Cuelho phrase in his famous story on The Alchemist,
It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. … when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. (p.24)
The dream landscape is both real and symbolic, both in our waking life and sleeping state. Both offers experiences that cannot be described and explained but undoubtedly can be felt and be noticed. It is the terrain of the unconscious that is connected to the collective non-local field that forms the basis of interconnectedness. Thus, like an elementary particle, dream landscapes follow its dualistic nature, both being real and imaginary and both being solid and wave-like. Arnold Mindell (2013), the revolutionary thinker of process-oriented psychology explained that what dream landscape really means is the possibilities of unfathomable and parallel realities that are real even though we don’t know exactly what those sudden fantasies refers to in the moment (p.33). I call dream landscapes the third space which is the space of intersubjectivity where subjects and objects interact. In my case, the vividness of the speaking walls of Imperial College of London (the object) and the visceral experience (the subject) of the shapeshifting mathematical equations were this supernatural help and power (the outcome of connecting to the third space) that Campbell and Cuelho talked about.
It was actually the force of the universe in play that conspired to bring forth the fruition of my deeper quest even though it may seem cathartic at the moment. Ever since I embraced my call to adventure to discover the true essence of healing, the catharsis occurred less and at the same time transformed into life wisdom which I could not attain from books, lectures or verbal guidance. I believe this force of the universe can be experienced deeply especially when one’s is ready to accept the call of one’s unique call to adventure. I also experienced this force as pre-verbal which is why a different language system is required to understand its nature. I found that this is study of alchemy and it involves the understanding of symbolic meaning of our experiences. It is metaphorical, poetic and if taken literally and logically with our rational mind, we have difficulty accessing different forms of knowing. According to Jung (1964), a symbol is
a term, a name or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning. It implies something vague, unknown or hidden from us. … It has a wider “unconscious” aspect that is never precisely or fully explained. Nor can one hope to define or explain it. As the mind explores the symbol, it is led to ideas that lie beyond the grasp of reason. (p.3-4)
Thus, it is a language that helps us to understand phenomena of experiences beyond what can be explained by the rational and logical mind. Since it is a form of language, it is therefore a creation of human mind so that we can communicate experiences of numinous qualities to each other as well as making sense of what nature is communicating to us directly. More accurately, it is the language of the unconscious part of the human mind and it brings forth symbols in an attempt to bridge with the conscious part of the human mind. This is important because it is an attempt to bring wholeness to the experience of the phenomena of life that is beyond perception of our immediate five senses. In an epistemology context, this form of communication is how the mystery of life, the terrain of the unknown enters our consciousness so that new discovery and new knowledge can be attained. Thus, as Jung (1964) confers, “every experience contains an indefinite number of unknown factors, not to speak to the fact that every concrete object is always unknown in certain respects, but because we cannot know the ultimate nature of matter itself” (p.4-5). Despite the fact that we cannot know the ultimate nature of Life itself, we can still be aware and experience the ultimate nature of Life. This is why symbols are best to be experienced rather than attempting to figure out its literal meaning. My experience of encountering and deciphering numinous symbols tells me that in giving room for the meaning of symbols to change, evolve and in experiencing them directly, I get closer to the deeper meaning of the symbols presented to me in life in an embodied way. It is a living language and just like the third space, it is a living entity.
This brings me to the concept of synchronicity which literally means the possibility of meaningful chances and is associated with the Greek term ‘kairos’. Mindell (2013) explained that we have the capacity to create ‘kairos’, an atmosphere where relationship happens and polarities are less significant (p.52). It is by being the conduit of the matter at hand that through the action of non-action or allowing, we create the climate wherein things and problems can get solved through a participatory experience. It requires one to be actively engage in the present moment so that one can be receptive. This requires a state of mind that synchronizes with the multitude of our bodily senses so that we can perceive into the symbolic language of the universe. Mindell (2004) explained, “To perceive ‘kairos’ was to perceive the weather and irrational experiences as a source of guidance in determining the presence or absence of propitious circumstance. (p.44)” I experienced this constantly as a dancer. I was required to flow with the music and move through the space without constructively thinking about the next move. Thinking would only slow me down and as a result, I would miss the beat of the music and would be thrown off rhythm. Similar to our mundane life, it is like waking up at the wrong side of the bed and all sorts of “unlucky” phenomena happened consecutively. Little did we know these “unlucky” phenomena were deeper messages from the universe to remind us to return to connectedness by simply stop, pause, breathe and start noticing ‘kairos’.
Bringing this state of ‘kairos’ to mundane life had been my practice and it is challenging because the habit of getting lost in thinking and analyzing is strengthened simply by living in an environment that is highly informational and technological. Living life through this habitual pattern leads to forgetfulness. It is the forgetfulness that assuming our sense of self is separated from the interconnected whole. And with that, we give birth myriads of problems that are dualistic in nature. Mindell (2013) soothed this issue with his word of wisdom by saying,
The problem is that we forget the flow part of ourselves. We forget the dance, the flow. It is absolutely natural to forget. We need to forget the dance to be a normal, everyday person in consensus reality. There we have separate parts. That is okay, there is nothing wrong with being a part. It just isn’t comfortable all of the time. It’s important that you get to know this movement-dreaming part of yourself that will actually put your parts together into a flow. (p.29-30)
Through my everyday experiences, I found myself going in and out of experiences of forgetfulness – experiences of separateness and in parts; and remembrance – experiences of interconnectedness and in a whole. In the process, I understood there is a sacred relationship going on with me and the universe despite the explicit individuality that I hold. It is sacred because a very ancient force called life has an innate intelligence that directs acausal, partial and unrelated events or experiences to be connected intrinsically through shared meaning. I hypothesize the reason for synchronicity is so that the universe can bring forth evolution and transformation of life itself whereby parts and wholeness can exist simultaneously and work harmoniously. I believe sacred relationship to be the key to enter the domain of the dream landscape or the third space where all possibilities have the potential to be manifested. This means whatever potential that resides locked within every sentient being have the potential to be unlocked and be expressed. It requires awareness and transformation of our limited consciousness so that polarities can be held interchangeably and exist simultaneously. This allows us to appreciate the mystery of life that continues to unfold and remained unanswered. I hypothesize in understanding and in remembering how to relate with life in a sacred and effortless manner, all ailments, tragedies and conflicts can be resolved. I do not see resolution come in a manner where all problems ceased to exist. Instead, problems have the potential to be resolved by us in a creative and peaceful manner rather than a destructive and violent manner which harmful outcomes are created. My perspective of resolution of problems is by bringing forth a way of being that is in harmony and in peace with the nature of life rather than delivering a new philosophical panacea to the problems of our world. The former is about allowing the wisdom of the universe to emerge through our innate creative potential so that brokenness can be transformed; and the latter is about controlling and fixing the brokenness that cannot return to its original state.
In relation to how the embodiment of sacred relationship brings forth creative expressions, I want to introduce the term “entelechy” which simply means the seed of our unique creative potential. I stumbled upon this term the same way I experienced the forces of universe pulling and tugging me out of the labyrinth of Imperial College. I first came across this word by reading a memoir called Soul Shaping written by Jeff Brown about his transformative life that was catalyzed from a self-destructive lifestyle and evolved into a self-actualizing life. His memoir led me to discover a visionary thinker of the Human Potential Movement Jean Houston, (2012) who defined entelechy as so,
Entelechy is a Greek word that means “the fullest realized essence of a thing.” For example, a grand oak tree is the entelechy of an acorn; a full-grown adult is the entelechy of a human infant. If we look at ourselves, mythically, the entelechy would be the part of ourselves that has had thousands of years to expand, learn and evolve. It is the fullest realized aspect of ourselves. (p.32)
This made me asked, “What does it really mean to embody ‘the fullest realized essence of a thing’?” This single question had become a gateway to the many research question that fueled this thesis. In fact, the crux and the main intention of this thesis is to answer how can we fully realized the deepest and most authentic core of our spirituality so that it can be integrated into our earthly issues. I hypothesize that entelechy is the innate intelligence that exists within us readily to be expressed especially in times of conflict. It is the most authentic part of us whereby in reconnecting to this part of us brings healing and repair. It is the very fundamental creative force of life that brought about existence and has the capacity to bring forth renewal, restoration and rejuvenation. Also, in relating entelechy to its dualistic nature, it can be seen as a final product of one’s human development, as enlightenment or transcendence. Or, it can also be seen as an ongoing force or energy that has innate intelligence to create the balance of conflict and resolution within ‘kairos’ to bring continuous forth transformation and evolution. In Pathway to Bliss, Joseph Campbell (2004), best known for his work in comparative mythology said,
There lives in us, says Durckheim, a life wisdom. We are all manifestations of a mystic power: the power of life, which has shaped all life, and which has shaped us all in our mother’s womb. And this kind of wisdom lives in us, and it represents the force of this power, this energy, pouring into the field of time and space. But it’s a transcendent energy. It’s an energy that comes from a realm beyond our powers of knowledge. And that energy becomes bound in each of us-in this body- to a certain commitment. Now, the mind that thinks, the eyes that see, they can become so involved in concepts and local, temporal tasks that we become bound up and don’t let this energy flow through. And then we become sick. The energy is blocked, and we are thrown off center; this idea is very similar to the tenets of traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. So, the psychological problem, the way to keep from becoming blocked, is to make yourself- and here is the phrase – transparent to the transcendent. It’s as easy as that. (p. xvii)
As much as this energy, entelechy, is transcendence, it is also present in the here and now through our bodily sensations and experiences. To sum it up, it is the creative potential that is dormant with in us, readily to be expressed through stimulation be it through conflict or through inspiration.
Never did I expect when I start answering the call to adventure that I would also answer the existential questions of being human. From this notion, the human experience is the bridge between spirit and matter; heaven and earth; mind and heart. This requires transparency, fluidity and semi-permeability as energy is impermanent in nature, cannot be created or be destroyed. In embodying these qualities, we can begin to embrace the notion of sacred relationship which are deterministic by those qualities themselves. In doing so, sacred relationship becomes the key that unlocks our creative potential, our entelechy. It makes sense to me entelechy is both shared between all sentient beings as well as it is personalized through our individuated creative expression in the form of multiplicity and diversity.
Life as Ritual, Life as Community, Life as Healing
Interestingly, this way of seeing and living life is nothing new but something very ancient and had been practiced by our ancestors before we shifted to live predominantly through our mind. Despite that, it was done very unconsciously, unintentionally and came from an instinctual place as we found our sense of belonging deeply rooted in nature and the earth. The evolution started from living predominantly through the body, to living predominantly through the mind and I foresee the future of evolution of consciousness is to live predominantly through the heart which is bridging our instinctual, immediate and “irrational” body senses with our mechanistic, linear and rational mind to bring forth the entelechy of our heart. When I speak of evolution I was referring to the critical mass that represents our collective consciousness as a whole rather than just a group of people. I do not deny that many ancient traditions were living from the heart space since ancient times. However, because much of the heart wisdom is lost through history through moments of golden and dark ages, our consciousness evolutionary process as a whole did not progress as quickly.
This way of seeing and living life is living life as a ritual, as a ceremony and as a community. Instead of seeing life as a hardship, every life event whether it is pain or joy are treated with an attitude of celebration and rejoicing. From the biggest of celebration such as marriage, coming of age, birth and death and life’s universal thresholds to the smallest of celebration such as hunting, cooking, cleaning, eating, and the mundane chores, are all treated with the utmost respect and with deepest intention as if all activities are important initiatory rites. Arnold Van Gennep (1960), the first anthropologist to note this way of living analyzed that, “a complete scheme of rites of passage theoretically includes preliminal rites (rites of separation), liminal rites (rites of transition), and postliminal rites (rites of incorporation) (p.11).” I think these three subcategories are powerful pointers when we consciously move into the third space. It gives a dynamic experiential process in engaging specific activities which our mundane tasks become sacred simply because we are more intentional in what we are doing. This is especially more effective when we consciously enter each sub-phase of the ritual. According to Malidoma Some (1998),
Ritual is the technology that allows the manipulation of these subtle energies. Community is important because there is an understanding are collectively oriented. The general health and well-being of an individual are connected to a community and are not something that can be maintained alone or in vacuum. Healing, ritual and community – these three elements are vitally linked. (p.22)
Essentially, the purpose of ritual is to welcome the integration of the forces of the natural world back into the activities of our life and as mentioned by Somé, it is impossible to integrate the forces of the natural world into our personal lives without the recognition of our community. Thus, sacred relationship is not just an individual process but a collective process and the more we express our entelechy in pods of communities, the more powerful the change through inspiration and shared meaning can occur. The act of observing and witnessing by the community enables a person, in powerful periods of growth, to behold voices within confirmed by voices from the community without (Somé, 1998, p.28). This form of growth then becomes embodied as it is witnessed and stays permanently in the individual’s personality and way of living. With that healing can take place as a person’s fragmented experience of life is reintegrated back to wholeness. Similarly, the collective and community’s fragmentation through crisis can then reclaim resolution through the gift of individuals’ wholeness.
To sum it up, sacred relationship is built on the principles of ritual, community and healing that in the indigenous world, these principles cannot be separated. This is best explained by Some (1998) in the following,
Ritual, communally designed, helps the individual remember his or her purpose, and such remembering brings healing both to the individual and the community. The community exists, in part, to safeguard the purpose of each person within it and to awaken the memory of that purpose by recognizing the unique gifts each individual brings to this world. Healing comes when the individual remembers his or her identity – the purpose chosen in the world of ancestral wisdom – and reconnects with that world of Spirit. Human beings long for connection and our sense of usefulness derives from the feeling of connectedness. When we are connected – to our own purpose, to the community around us, and to our spiritual wisdom – we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness. (p.36)
Moving forward, we have to ask ourselves questions about our lives that involves the remembrance of the intention of our existence; how we can create shared meaning through communal interactions; and how can we reintegrate our modern life with the forces of nature so we can live coherently with nature rather than against it. The answers to these questions are going to vary from people to people but in spirit, we ultimately share the same meaning for love, peace and harmony in this world. And in that shared meaning, we have to ask ourselves how we can embrace the differences of expressions of that shared meaning as well as the diversity that had already been existing in this world. We, therefore, have to practice the art of being human and remember that we are connected through a sacred relationship with life so that we can work to create the world our heart truly yearns and deeply wishes.
Epilogue: The Pilgrim’s Heart
I woke up one morning to the freshness of the overnight rain. There was the smell of the petrichor which is the smell of the Earth mixed with rain after prolonged dryness. It was the most soothing smell to my nervous system as if my dear Earth Mother’s fragrance rose up from the ground to caress me with her sympathetic motherly love. Enjoying the caress, I fell back into the comfort of the bed while I tried to recollect my foggy early morning memories. At that moment, I did not remember where I was and how I got to where I was. All I remembered was a voice saying, “Rest now, child. You had traveled far and you had done enough. It is okay now.” I could not tell differentiate between reality and dream as I laid there. I also remembered in my distant “dream” which my anima painted a luminous blue toroidal sphere on a canvas. There was tremendous life force emanating from the canvas and the blue sphere was enlightening, radiant and living. It was spinning in a toroidal space showing me a close self-sustaining system where the energy does not run out or goes into waste. Instead, it was recycled and reintegrated into the spinal vortex down the middle and then back out to the outer layer of the sphere. It was the most beautiful blue sphere.
As I regained the sense of my rational consciousness moments later, I noticed I just came back to my home in Boulder after 24 hours travel from Asia and was in the process of recovering from the jet lag. Despite my physical fatigue, there was clarity in my mind. I never felt so sure about my life especially about what I am about to do with my life beyond my graduation. In that moment, I found tremendous resolve to continue my journey in discovering the mysteries of the universe and felt so much relief because I knew the connectedness I had with Spirit. I believed my entelechy is what I would call a Pilgrim’s Heart which I would travel afar to understand the mysteries of the universe and share the stories of those adventures. It stirs my heart to be sharing stories of hardship and initiatory experiences with my community and what’s more captivating to me in that process would be to hear those stories from my community.
In understanding my dream, I felt the message was that there is an unbroken energy within the universe and that it is self-sustaining. This eases my worries if my efforts of making this world a better place was enough. With that, blue toroidal sphere in mind and in heart, I recognized that one’s person only obligation in their existence is to fulfil their entelechy as their service to the world. Just like at the back cover of The Alchemist, that says, “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”, I believe when we shift from the paradigm of mechanistic change to the paradigm of change through inspiration and shared meaning, we start welcoming the forces of nature into the fray and develop a sacred relationship with it. From there, wholeness and healing can come through inevitably in this crisis-torn world.
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