Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee | Embracing the Beloved

I do not know how many others have consciously experienced this test. I have always been very open to the archetypal world, and the drama of the inner feminine has been central to my life. Projecting the anima, my inner goddess, onto Anat took me deeper into the inner world than I knew possible. I felt the bliss of her seduction. But luckily Anat was very aware of the moment I changed from a man into a child. She in no way would play the mother—an instinctual taboo forbade it. Thus the pull of the inner also evoked a rejection—I was allowed to taste but not become lost in Her embrace. I could sense the eternal beauty of the feminine, but I was always to remain outside. At times this evoked anger and a feeling of betrayal. She who was so close was also forbidden. Now I am grateful because I know a more enduring love-affair, and how the embrace of the feminine can carry the curse of forgetfulness.

A human love-affair gives us a taste of togetherness, a hint of union. The heart can be opened to a depth of passion that transcends reason. But finally, however close we become, we are always two separate individuals with different needs. A human love-affair can remind us of love’s touch, can make us realize that love needs to include all of ourself—that it is not a cerebral affair. (There is a real reason why mystic love poetry is so full of erotic imagery.) But what the soul hungers for is a union in which duality does not belong on any level, in which there are a merging and quality of completeness dependent only upon Him. Another human being can never give us what we want. I knew this and yet I was also caught in the wonder of what was given through a woman.

This struggle was central to my years of romantic love, and was a way of fully incarnating my own love and devotion. I have found that in many relationships there are a lover and a beloved, one who loves and one who is loved. I was the lover. I needed to love, to adore. There was an inner certainty that this was the one woman I would love. Early in our relationship I had a powerful experience when sitting with her one evening. I suddenly found myself out of my body on the inner plane of the soul. In that space I was with her soul and I knew that I could trust her on the level of the soul. Whatever the difficulties and differences on the level of the personality, I could give myself to my loving of her with the totality of commitment that is my only way to live.

Cooked in the pot

In a human love-affair the inner wonder and taste of bliss are caught in all the complications of personal psychology and character differences. The opposites of the soul and the personality can tear a relationship apart and bring immense suffering. Here lies the danger of projection, in which we expect our partner to carry our idealized soul-image, and we give little consideration to the difficulties of personal relationship. For this reason the Jungian Robert Johnson advises against marrying someone with whom you are in love, saying that after a few weeks of bliss come years of suffering. Yet, acknowledging the power of romantic love in our culture, he likens it to a Zen teaching that inner growth always involves an experience of “a red hot coal stuck in the throat.” “We can’t live with it, and we can’t live without it—we can’t swallow it and we can’t cough it up!”[8]

Romantic love throws us into the primal contradiction that we are human and divine. Seeking our divinity in our partner, we are only too often confronted by human failings. Combined with this are the very real difficulties of communication between men and women. The English mystical painter Cecil Collins was known to remark that men and women are so different it is astonishing that they can even talk to each other! Yet romantic love can be an alchemical vessel of inner transformation, a vessel in which the opposites are melted down and reformed. The “red hot coal” can take us beyond duality into the paradoxical realm of a deeper truth. I once asked a wise old man, Werner Engel, who had been a friend of Jung, what was the way to resolve the seeming impossible contradictions of being in love. He replied with two words, “unconditional love.” “Unconditional love” has no reason or limit to its loving.

Romantic love was a deeply painful place of my own transformation. The power of my projection, my idealized inner feminine, was balanced by deep differences in character between my beloved and me. For example, Anat is a feeling type; feelings are her primary mode of experience and expression, which is combined for her with a great sensitivity. I was brought up in a family and collective atmosphere in which feelings are strictly taboo—I never so much as heard my parents disagree until one week-end when I was fourteen and they announced to all six children that they were getting a divorce. I was also sent off to boarding school at the age of seven. A collective masculine environment with cold baths first thing in the morning is hardly conducive to developing feelings or sensitivity! Added to the alchemical pot of our relationship were ancient masculine and feminine wounds and shadow patterns. These and other personal and archetypal dynamics were bound together with love, a deep connection on the level of the soul, and a shared commitment to the path. I often felt like the chickpea in Rûmî’s story, in which the chickpea tries to escape the boiling pot, only to be knocked back down with the cook’s ladle:

“Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you.
I’m giving you flavor
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.
 
Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.”
 
Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.[9]
 

Every wayfarer has to be cooked, boiled to perfection. We each have our own vessel, the container of our transformation. On the deepest level this container is the relationship with the Beloved, reflected in the relationship teacher and the path. But for many seekers a human relationship can also be a powerful and potent pot, for which passion, feelings, and love are the fire.

How many nights have I cried silently, caught in the opposites of the human and divine which form the cross of every lover’s crucifixion. I felt like an ancient ascetic, a monk of many lifetimes, bewildered by the contradictions of the feminine, unable to reconcile the power of my projection with the human differences that confronted me. There is love, devotion, a deep connection of the soul. Why cannot one live forever within that sacred circle, that intense, luminous loving? Why do the personality, the differences of character, intrude, bringing one back to earth from worship and wonder?

The wayfarer is always thrown between the opposites, the more potent the loving the more powerful the oscillation. Meditation and the energy of the path add to this effect, dramatically energizing outer situations and relationships, stirring the pot, bringing aspects of the psyche into consciousness. My teacher calls it the “yo-yo syndrome” in which we go up and down, from nearness to separation. In my loving this was played out to every extreme. Divine nearness was followed by two egos breaking apart, leaving me in the anguish of separation. In this despair and isolation I would turn inward into the emptiness, cry out for help, and then the love and nearness would return. Divinity would again be in front of my eyes.

I was being cooked in the pot of my own loving, tenderized by the impossible opposites of masculine and feminine, and human and divine. I once had a dream in which I was told that I had been “made soft by a very hard system.” The Sufi system is hard because it takes you to the extremes within yourself, pushes you beyond seeming endurance. Sometimes this is just an inner drama; sometimes it is dramatized on an outer stage. A human love affair can combine the inner and outer, the secrets of the soul and the visible dynamics of two human beings. When the deepest contradictions of your own nature are continually thrown in your face, there is no alternative but to surrender, to give up the pretensions of the ego, the desire for power or the demand to be right, and leave everything to be burnt away.

(Continued)

 

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