Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The Polarities of Love
Union and separation, love and longing, sweetness and despair, the polarities of the mystical path leave us bewildered and confused. Why are we left here behind the veils of separation when we know that separation is an illusion? Why are we caught in the prison of duality when our heart knows the deeper truth that 'everything is one'? The more we meditate and pray, the more we remember Him Whom our heart loves, the more alienated we feel in a world that appears to have forgotten Him. Somewhere we know what it is like to be loved beyond measure, and here we are left in a world where love is too often equated with demands and co-dependency. The eternal question of "Why are we here?" has an added poignancy when we have felt the infinite nearness of our real Home.
He Whom we love has abandoned us and only the pain of separation reminds us that somewhere He is 'closer to us than our very neck vein.' We carry the pain of remembrance in honor of our love, yet only too often we feel betrayed. How can such a Beloved desert us? How can such a Beauty veil Her face? Doubts bombard us as the mind tries to convince us of the stupidity of our quest: to look for what you cannot find... to long for an invisible Beloved who has only brought you pain... In many ways consciousness crucifies us on our search. The subtleties of torture with which the mind can torment are known to most travellers on the path of love.
Underlying these difficulties is the fact that while the nature of love is to draw us to union, the nature of the ego is separation. Love comes from the heart, the innermost core of our being which is our connection to the Absolute. Love is "the essence of the divine essence" (Massignon 1982, III, p. 104), and so dynamically pulls us towards oneness. But the ego is born out of separation. The ego's existence is defined by being different: "I am different from you." The path towards union with God takes us away from the ego with its sense of separate existence and individual identity. This is why the Sufi says that the first step towards God is the step away from oneself. Love calls us to come away from ourselves and enter the state of oneness where only the Beloved exists.
The ego and the mind belong to a dimension of separation and duality. The ego exists through its sense of individuality and separation; the mind only functions through duality: through comparison and differentiation. The power of love lifts the veils of duality, threatening the ego and confusing the mind. The ancient path of the mystics takes us back to the source where distinctions and differences dissolve just as "sugar dissolves in water." On this journey the ego and mind rebel as their identity and function are attacked. Love draws us into the gladiatorial arena in which we fight our own liberation and resist the pull towards oneness. But those whose hearts are committed know, like the gladiators of old, that death awaits them. They know that "When Truth has taken hold of a heart, she empties it of all but herself (Massignon 1982, I, p. 285).
We hide from the love which alone can heal us. We run from the Truth which torments us. But like the encroaching tide, the tremendous power of love gradually smooths away the ego's paltry marks in the sand. Slowly we come to recognize the infinite ocean as our real Home, an ocean where, in the words of Rumi, "swimming ends always in drowning" (Liebert 1981, p. 30).
(Llewellyn Vaughan Lee)