Last night, I was at the Healing Journey class I’ve spoken about before. It’s a progressive group exploration of themes of spirituality and emotional healing, written for cancer patients. I’m in Level 4, so I’ve been at this for a while, and I’m starting to feel very close to the women in there. There are all types of cancer represented, although I think breast is the most prevalent. I love hearing everyone’s perspectives, and I’m trying hard to open up to them because I struggle feeling close to people. I was even asking last night how to allow myself to be vulnerable because I feel like I’m holding back.
But that’s a subject for later discussion.
We were talking about the nature of the Universe, especially in relation to what goes by many names: the Source, the All, God. One of the women asked our leader about why. If we start out in unity and our journey is back to unity, which is the same place, why are we here?
I’ve been reading Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune, and there were a couple lines that struck me as the answer to this question. When I read them a couple weeks ago, I was so blown away by what she was saying that I put down the book and just thought about it for a while. I was getting treatment at the time, so I looked around me and saw the nurses hurrying and the patients sleeping while hooked up to their life-saving medication.
At that moment, cancer felt so insignificant in light of the internal experience I was having: our time here is precious, yet “good” or “bad” mean nothing to our eternal souls. “Bad” experiences like cancer might bring about the most profound spiritual growth in several lifetimes, and “good” experiences like winning the lottery might bring about a spiral into depression and addiction and set us back for centuries.
I read the quote to the class, and everyone got silent, and I got the impression that they were all like, “What the fuck is she talking about?” And the woman who was asking answered, “Ok, but WHY are we here?”
Which is a slightly different question than she asked, but it makes sense. It’s the ultimate one, isn’t it: What is the meaning of life?
I don’t mean to keep you in suspense. I’ll share the quote at the end, but I don’t think it will mean anything without the context I’m building. I thought about why this was my answer, and why it didn’t answer her question, and I think it’s a matter of perspective and layering.
There is no one answer to “What is the meaning of life?” You find an answer, and it makes sense, but that’s not enough. So you keep digging, you keep going through the layers, until you find something that satisfies you to an extent, until you find something new that satisfies you and realize you weren’t actually satisfied before.
And Truth is like a diamond, with many facets. So today’s perspective will be different from tomorrow’s and ten years’ from now. And my perspective wasn’t wrong, it was just different from everyone else’s in the room. (Or maybe not, maybe it helped someone, I don’t know.)
But ultimately, I realized that I answered the question of “What is the meaning of life?” for myself, and I was answering the next question, which was more like, “What happens next?” or “What is the end of the road?” The meaning of life didn’t come like a flash upon me, which is why I didn’t realize I’d satisfied that question for myself. And honestly, I’d been talking to another woman at the beginning of class, expressing what I’m about to say, so it didn’t feel particularly profound.
I don’t claim to be the next Buddha or something. I don’t have all the answers. But I do know I’ve gone from, “Why is there suffering in the world?” to “I understand why.” And, as you know, this comes from someone who has suffered a great deal.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone is going to like this answer.
But for me, the answer to, “Given all the terrible suffering that we endure here in the physical realm, why the FUCK would ANYONE be so insane as to reincarnate into a life of trauma, disease, and pain?” is “Because it is our nature.”
The journey we’re taking starts with us as pure spiritual stuff, then we descend into pure physical stuff, and then we ascend back up into pure spiritual stuff. This process changes our essence.
Different models hypothesize different numbers of planes we go through, 3 or 7 being the ones I most work with. But I think it’s less of a set of planes and more of a spectrum, just like light is a spectrum. Because of our sensory organs, we group a certain range of light into “the greens” and then another range into “the blues,” etc., but there is no intrinsic reason that blue is blue and green is green. Same with the levels of matter versus spirit. You look at your hand and you’re seeing 100% matter. You talk with a ghost, you’re in maybe the 15% spirit / 85% matter range, although a medium might say the ghost is living on “the astral plane” because grouping a certain range of spirit / matter percentages together makes things easier to work with.
But I digress.
Our journey goes from 100% spirit, to 100% matter with a connection to spirit, to 100% spirit, on that sliding spectrum. So why would anyone descend into physical matter? Why wouldn’t we just stay at 100% spirit?
And again I say, “Because it is in our nature.”
I mean, maybe there are human souls who decided NO THANKS I DON’T NEED TO EVOLVE (and some traditions say there were and some say they were “forced” to do it anyway, but that’s a whoooole other discussion). But you and I decided we would… because we wanted to. Because we were compelled by an inner drive to do this difficult, shitty thing. Because we ENJOY it when we look across from the other side of the veil, even though we are fully aware of how tough it is at some points.
Let’s take my hobby of sewing as an example.
I love sewing. I mean, sometimes I hate it. The thread gets tangled. I punch a hole in some fabric and have to cut some more. My needle snaps. I’m not actually a big fan of doing elastic or sewing buttons. I feel like I haven’t really progressed in a while and I’m just doing beginner work.
Yet there is something about it, as a whole, that I love. The hum of the machine. The feel of the fabric under my fingers. Piecing things together and sliding the pins to join them. Gazing upon the beautiful finished project and being proud of what I made.
But what about the snags and the setbacks and the frustrations? I dunno, they’re not so bad when I hold up something handmade and feel pride in what I did myself. In fact, all those challenges along the way make it that much more precious to me because I remember that corner there, when I wanted to throw the whole thing in the trash and never see again.
Why do I sew? Because something in my soul wants to create this unique, individual garment.
Why do we incarnate? Because something in our souls wants to create this unique, individual Self.
And then we come full circle. What is that spark inside us that wants to create? It is God, Source, the Divine.
I’ve been reading a lot of things about the esoteric meanings behind great spiritual works. The Bible, in particular, has been obfuscated beyond all recognition. Sure, there are some basic things like love and kindness that shine through, but the underlying spiritual truths have been lost in mainstream Christianity. A large part of this is the political (i.e. desire to control other people) agendas that have been heaped on throughout the centuries and that appear to have no sign of abating, but some of it is the translations being lost through the centuries. Words are not a mathematical one-to-one relationship, and English doesn’t have a lot of the concepts that Hebrew or Latin had… And Latin doesn’t have a lot of the concepts Hebrew had… So it’s just a long game of telephone, where much is lost because words change and languages reflect the culture they represent.
So what that means is that for every word, we could spend hours analyzing what it meant two thousand years ago when it was written.
In particular, the point I’m coming to, is the story of Moses and the burning bush.
This one is pretty famous, but I’ll recap. Moses was out in the wilderness, and a bush went up in flame.
(It’s interesting to ponder whether this physically happened or if it happened to his inner eye; the ancients had many assumptions around what constitutes a spiritual experience, not the least of which is that most everything in the Bible is a metaphor. If you said to a 4th century Christian mystic that you believe Jesus literally died and then rose from the dead, he’d inquire as to whether you were right in the head.)
So here’s Moses with a burning bush and he’s all, “What’s this?” And the bush is all, “Take off your sandals. This is holy ground.” And Moses is like, “Who are you?”
And then the bush — which is God — says in most English translations, “I AM.” Or “I AM THAT I AM.”
That has given a lot of people a lot to think about over the years, but there’s even more, hidden by language, to think about. I’ve read discussions on what it might mean, back to the original Hebrew, and the translation that resonates most with me is, “I AM BECOMING.”
And that is a world in and of itself.
It means what I’ve just laid out here — The journey that “God” is taking from pure spiritual matter and into form, splintering into myriad soul fragments that compose each of us, to find our way back to pure spirit, happens because it is in Its nature TO BECOME.
Which also turns incorrect the current Christian paradigm of God the Creator making the world once and then sitting back to chill and watch the drama unfold. (Not to mention God the Creator being separate from creation — that’s not precisely correct either, but if you get me started on God-names and the Elohim, we’ll be here all afternoon.) We ARE BECOMING. Every moment, Source/the Divine/God unfolds into Its true nature through our actions and choices. It is a continuous unfolding from the beginning of time to the end of time. (More discussion on what happens before / after / outside of time would keep us here too long, as well.)
So the short answer to, “Why do we choose to suffer?” is then, “Because it is innate within us to want to evolve.” The longer answer involves how we are part of the God-stuff and how it’s innate within IT to want to evolve.
Qabalistic Tree of Life
The quote that I shared is more concerned with why, if we are going from unity and back to unity, we even need to do that. Why not stay in unity? The answer is that the before and after aren’t the same state. The before is the undifferentiated newborn, and the after is a wise sage connected to every living spark in the universe. I’ve had a fear of “enlightenment” because I don’t want to become a Borg, but Qabalah, at least, says that is not what will happen.
“The state of the soul which has attained Nirvana may best be likened to a wheel that has lost its rim and whose spokes have become rays that penetrate and interpenetrate the whole creation; a center of radiation to whose influence no limit is set save that of its own dynamism, and which maintains its identity as a nucleus of energy…. Form is the matrix in which the fluidic consciousness is held till it acquires an organization proof against dispersal; till it becomes a nucleus of individuality differentiated out of the amorphous sea of pure being.” —Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune, pgs 111-112