A Moral Predicament.

Via on Jul 9, 2011

Many of us have had spiritual experiences in which we momentarily glimpse an indescribable glory—a greater purpose and a higher potential for human life.

But because most of us live in a culture of such extreme narcissism and secular materialism, we have no context for knowing how to honor and respect a dimension of life that is infinitely greater than the personal sphere. We are culturally unprepared to respond to our own deepest spiritual experiences, and therefore, even after glimpsing the glory of our own potential, we rarely make the noble effort to actually transform ourselves for the highest reasons.

The problem is that most of us are not spiritually mature enough to have reached the point where we want to pay the price to genuinely evolve, here and now. And because we don’t want to, we have consciously and unconsciously convinced ourselves that for various reasons we can’t. This, in a nutshell, is the evolutionary predicament of the postmodern narcissist: We don’t want to make the effort to change. And from a cultural perspective, it is a moral issue, not just a personal psychological problem. The ego is very invested in conveniently having a problem, like a wounded soldier who is not quite ready to go out onto the battlefield of life. Most of us are playing the same game, and of course, there are many professionals—therapists and spiritual teachers and so on—who will conspire with us to perpetuate that view. But it’s not actually true. Unless we are severely mentally damaged, the problem is not that we are incapable of exercising the power of free agency in order to transform ourselves. The problem is that, more often than not, we just don’t want to. And as long as we allow ourselves to remain on the sidelines, we are not going to be able to serve the evolution of our species in any deep and profound way. We will always be mesmerized by a self-created personal drama, full of excuses, ever remaining consumers of natural resources and personal experiences who have nothing significant to contribute.

I’m not in any way denying the reality of the emotional, psychological, and physical wounds, traumas, and shadows that we all carry to differing degrees. But I am saying that there is a much bigger context in which to look at them. Maybe the fact that we have neuroses, that we’ve been emotionally, psychologically, or even physically hurt, is just part and parcel of the developmental process. Of course nobody likes to suffer, but unfortunately some degree of suffering seems to be an inherent part of the incarnational experience. Think about the evolution of the cosmos: Planets violently collided to form new elements; and for all its beauty, nature is often brutal in its struggle to survive. For many of us highly developed human beings, life is comparatively easy, but even then, there are always traumatic events that make powerful negative imprints on the psyche. That’s just part of the process. The problem is that as obvious as this may seem, most of us in the postmodern world don’t believe it. We have somehow gotten the strange idea in our heads that we live in a universe where we—the most privileged, wealthy, highly educated sentient beings this side of the Milky Way—are not supposed to suffer. And in an authentically developmental context, that simply couldn’t be the case.

When we awaken to this truth, our heart deepens and widens in a way that is profound, and our perspective begins to expand. We make less of a big deal out of our own emotional and psychological discomfort, because our goal in life is no longer just to avoid suffering. That is an enormous shift, because it makes it possible for us to embrace so much more of the human experience and begin to participate in the life-process in a truly dignified way. This is not a perspective that lacks compassion. Indeed, it is really about becoming a big-hearted human being, one who doesn’t even think about the possibility of not having difficulties, challenges, and problems. There are many reasons that we suffer: some are utterly petty and some are noble. But if we care deeply about a higher purpose, what matters is that we are always willing to make the effort to not use our own suffering as an excuse to be unavailable to life.

This perspective on transformation won’t help to rid you of your neurosis, but it will make it possible for you to take responsibility for it and enable you to embrace life in a much bigger way, in all your imperfection, right now. And that makes all the difference in the world. There is only so much time we have, and we can either spend that precious time trying to get rid of our neurotic pain, or we can become concerned with things that are infinitely more important than the fact that we happen to suffer emotionally from time to time. Considering that now we are needed more than ever to consciously participate in the evolutionary process, the strange notion that we’re never supposed to suffer could be seen as not just misguided but even diabolical. If God is the energy and intelligence that created the universe, then it must have been the devil who whispered in our ears that we’re not supposed to suffer, rendering us unavailable to God because we are too busy licking our wounds. Only when we get to that point where we realize we no longer have a right to wait on the sidelines while others are fighting on the battlefield of life, will we find the resources within ourselves to make whatever effort is necessary to participate wholeheartedly. When we reach that point of maturity where our own pathological self-concern is seen as a moral failing in relationship to the evolution of the Kosmos rather than as a personal psychological problem, we will find the soul strength to take responsibility for all of it, right now. Nothing truly significant is ever going to happen in our struggling world until you and I, in all our imperfection, are unconditionally ready to be responsible for ourselves so that we can participate in the evolutionary process, without hesitation. That is a dignified approach to higher development, a mature relationship to the precious gift of being alive.

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Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and founder of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine. Click to learn more about his new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.

About Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen is an American spiritual teacher and visionary thinker widely recognized for his original contribution to the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality. Through his talks, retreats, publications, and ongoing dialogues with the leading philosophers, mystics, and activists of our time, he is becoming a defining voice in an international alliance of individuals and organizations that are committed to the transformation of human consciousness and culture. The founder and editor in chief of the international, award-winning EnlightenNext magazine, formerly What Is Enlightenment?, Cohen is dedicated to creating “nothing less than a revolution in consciousness and culture.” Since 1991, Cohen and his small team of editors have met with mystics and materialists, physicists and philosophers, activists and athletes in an effort to create a popular forum for dialogue and inquiry regarding the meaning of human life in the postmodern era. You can follow him on his Facebook page. Download a free chapter of Andrew's book, Evolutionary Enlightenment, by clicking here. You can also join him for a series of free monthly broadcasts by registering here.

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5 Responses to “A Moral Predicament.”

  1. Brilliant. Powerful. Poignant. I especially loved this line: "Only when we get to that point where we realize we no longer have a right to wait on the sidelines while others are fighting on the battlefield of life, will we find the resources within ourselves to make whatever effort is necessary to participate wholeheartedly. "

    This piece resonated with me deeply. Thank you for your insight.

  2. Thaddeus1 says:

    I absolutely love this…"The ego is very invested in conveniently having a problem, like a wounded soldier who is not quite ready to go out onto the battlefield of life. Most of us are playing the same game, and of course, there are many professionals—therapists and spiritual teachers and so on—who will conspire with us to perpetuate that view. But it’s not actually true. Unless we are severely mentally damaged, the problem is not that we are incapable of exercising the power of free agency in order to transform ourselves. The problem is that, more often than not, we just don’t want to." The sad part is that this sounds like entirely too many people I know and I would suggest is a predominant theme even here amongst some of the more esteemed contributors. Thank you for your contribution.

  3. Clarissa says:

    So true. In our quest for greater material advancement (read comfort) we have set ourselves apart from life, and now we have forgotten that we belong to it. Reconnecting with life is the great task before us, and while some will be tempted to vilify all the progress we have made, a regression to an earlier time is not necessary. Something new, a spiritual transformation that reconnects us with nature and at the same time reconnects us with the stars, is what is needed now. It is up to each and every one of us to make those reconnections, to reach out to life and all its imperfections and remember what it means to be human.

  4. [...] might think that any morally upstanding person would automatically choose the latter. But when you learn that the objects of my [...]

  5. Yogi Mat says:

    Half Truths. Glittering Generalities. Standard Transcendent Rhetoric. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. We also have an appeal to the Therapeutic (again – HO-HUM) – although very well written with no spelling misatkes and excellent grammar – so well done for that. (turns out patronising people is quite easy after all huh?) "Spiritual Maturity"? WTF. GFYS and then maybe you can do us another favour and preach about the morality of that. Will this stupid patriarchal bandwagon ever run out of fuel?

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