Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More on love: attachment and union

In our experience in the physical world, love is not merely about attraction, but attachment. Attachment is the extremely limited and ephemeral, passing mimicry of the spiritual reality of union. Attachment happens at the level of the physical, emotional, and even noetical bodies. Each of these levels represent passing aspects of ourselves as forms, and I'll talk more about their implications and meaning in later posts. For now, it's enough to say there are different aspects of ourselves which can pass away, without erasing who we are essentially. Because our physical bodies pass away, or can be rendered distant from one another, physical attachments can suffer "breakage," and be lost. Emotional attachments can span distance and time in a manner that physical ones can not, yet anyone who has ever been "dumped" or initiated a breakup of a relationship knows the potential fragility of emotional attachments. Emotional attachments are of course not merely limited to people, of course. They extend readily to objects, places, creatures, activities and dispositions as well. That's what enables us to say "I love dancing, or I love my car, or I love New York." When we say such things it is not that we are wanting to trivialize love, but rather we are revealing and acknowledging our emotional attachment, which is a significant dimension of love in the realms of form. It is possible as well to have attachments in the world of ideas. Our attachments to a particular intention, notion or concept can be quite intense, and extremely durable, yet ultimately these kinds of attachments as well represent only imitations of the experience of spiritual union.

The fragility of attachments, regardless of what kind, are the source of enormous amounts of pain and sorrow, and it is those experiences of pain and sorrow that give love its risky reputation. Doing the "love" thing here on planet earth carries with it certain assurances of loss, and these sorrows, variously interpreted, can lead you to assume certain things about love that may not really be fair, when arrived at out of a spiritual context. One thing that can be said for sure, however: where love is based on attachment, the seemingly "loss" of love is a function of separation. So there are notably a variety of strategies for dealing with the seemingly inevitable experience of separation.

One strategy is to allow for attachments, but to live in fear of separation. This anxiety often colors a person's whole life, and is not surprisingly a function of the victim consciousness. The victim consciousness is prone to perceive "loss happening," and when it does, there is much inconsolable sorrow, lasting pain and anguish, as well as anger--actually, people like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross mapped out stages of grief more carefully than I have here, and her work is very interesting, as she maps out stages of denial, anger, bargaining, grief and acceptance, or something like that(!) She is not speaking to the victim consciousness as I am, and I am not implying that grief is an experience of the victim consciousness alone, as you will see.

When you approach attachment through the lens of the fear of separation, you will also likely employ strategies of control in order to avoid the feared outcome. Unfortunately, fear and control are not qualities inherent in a truly loving sort of attachment, and tend towards attracting the feared outcome more than anything, as like attracts like. So this is a vicious circle: you willingly attach (love) yet the tendency of fearing the loss of the attachment actually generates separation, confirming the fear, and the ultimate perception of attachment as a slippery matter requiring better control.

Another common strategy around attachments deriving from the same fear of separation is the strategy of detachment. With this strategy, loving/attachment is held at a distance: intimacy is held at bay. Unlike the strategy of the last paragraph, where intimacy is attempted, but subject to control in a manner that limits its flourishing, the aloof person does not dare risk intimacy at all. When the potential for intimacy intimates itself, the detached person may feign intimacy from an idealized perspective. This person will appear to be willing to be in an intimate relationship, and may even seem to be actively seeking an intimate relationship. But when the circumstances of relationship manifest, this one has an internal sense that the whole thing is a fraud at some level. That's because it is a fraud: this person is not really willing to risk intimacy, on the assumption that the result will be pain, suffering and loss. So the detached person either doesn't enter into intimate relationships, feigning disinterest to mask fear, or upon entering into a relationship feigns intimacy in order to avoid the hurt of separation, and thus never forms a real attachment. When the relationship not surprisingly fails, the fears of intimacy are confirmed, despite having been generated by the self defeating strategy of aloofness, and the empty or false relationships it generates.

Many folks who opt for the strategy of aloofness will find aspects of religious traditions or work situations that support their strategy. If this is your strategy, you may seek refuge in the tenets of Buddhism, for instance. Of course I'm not saying all Buddhists preach a pathological form of detachment any more than I am saying all Christians preach salvation through victim consciousness, but only that people with a strategy of detachment may conjure solace from their interpretation of certain Buddhist tenets, just as people with victim consciousness will interpret Christian scriptures in a manner that supports their pathology. Perhaps you will undertake your work in a manner that takes over your whole life, and keep yourself so busy that you couldn't possibly "have time" for a relationship. This is a way of passively refusing to make time for a relationship, yet it allows you to play the victim of your solitude based on the extreme circumstances of your work commitments, which themselves require a certain kind of aloofness as well (ie, being "businesslike."

So the strategy of detachment is undertake by a person who holds hi/rself aloof to avoid the perceived risks of intimacy, while the strategy of control is undertaken by a person whose anxiety of separation overwhelms and shortcuts hi/r experience of true intimacy. In either scenario, loving attachment is forfeited out of fear of
loss. So is it really better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? From the perspective of self mastery, it certainly is! That conviction arise from the principles and strategies inherent to the path of self mastery. True love does not attempt to control the beloved, but allows them to become their own loving self. Every attachment carries within its formation the necessity of letting it go. Attachments when broken for whatever reason still generate grief, for loss is loss, even when ephemeral or strictly physical, but that grief itself is passing. It is not ultimately debilitating, given the foreknowledge that all physical attachments are destined to end in separation, and all emotional attachments are destined to be transformed and matured and universalized, and all ideological attachments are destined to be relativized in light of the ultimate truth to which every idea must in the long run be subsumed.

The master who would love loves in a manner that endures beyond separation, because love manifest can never be lost, and s/he knows it. The love of the master does not blame, is not jealous, does not control, allows, attracts, and lets go. Separations are endured more easily when time is put into its proper perspective, and when you understand that nothing that is real is ever lost, although it may seem through the veils for a moment to be at a distance. The real grief of the master is the sense of separation from the source of all that arises in the process of clarifying your own intent and your own experience. You seems in that moment to be something other, and something other seems to postpone the ultimate spiritual union. But even this grief of the master is ephemeral, and will pass like the night at the breaking of the dawn, since the union is the "real."

The path I am describing is a path of love. When you take responsibiliy for your experiences, you are truly ready to love. The path of self mastery is a path of devotion, a path of service from the heart, a path which rejoices in loving attachment without fear of loss, because nothing that is truly loved is ever lost, and the love we experience is the experience of our very selves. Love is durable and abundant, despite the desparities of the fleeting physical world. Love is the stuff out of which our ultimate union is built, and we are here to liberally imitate that love and render its likeness on every plane of our existence, knowing that by our experience of responsible love we generate the patterns whereby we and those who follow us will step forward for the ultimate letting go which is our union with the source of all. Our loves and our losses are all preparation, practice, whereby we develop the permanent habit of love. So allow yourself to love, and love in a manner consistent with the tenets of self mastery and univeral law, so that you compound your experiences and open your heart: you have only your fears to risk, and your love to gain! See you in heaven--it's beating in your chest :-)


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