A CRITICAL RESPONSE TO MY "REVIEW" OF
The Mission of Mysticism
(by an online reader and good friend, slighly edited, with my observations identified [inside brackets])
On "Limiting Love" and "Agitation from Outside on Account of Love"
I did have quite a few thoughts (and questions) come to mind while wondering about the part where you discuss Kirby's idea of the third/final nirvana. (Just as an aside . . . I looked up "nirvana" and was a little surprised at Kirby's use of it (since he is being so "Christian" ) . . . as it appeared from what I read that "nirvana" is a word with very "Buddhist" roots.)
[In his first chapter I was impressed by how eclectic Kirby was in choosing his descriptive terms, he was trying to bridge all religions, I believe. But in my opinion he fails to bridge anything in the end because he becomes so Christ-centered later in the book.]
Let me say first that without knowing the whole context of what Kirby was saying, I may completely off base in where my thoughts went when reading this. But as I said above . . . that's all I have to share with you . . . is where my thoughts go!
I found myself most drawn to what he says about "love" as I note in the two quotes below . . . with special attention to the underlined parts:
Five more fetters must be broken: the first two are attachment to life, whether in form or formless, that is to say, attachment to any limiting form of love.
The third and fourth fetters are pride in the power of consciousness and agitation from outside on account of love.
I was interested in the idea of a "limiting" form of love and "agitation" from outside on account of love.
Love is "limiting"? and love causes "agitation"? That seems to fly in the face of what we all think "love" is supposed to be, does it not?
Let me say at the outset . . . I am no longer sure at all that I know what "love" is. As a young, innocent bride I thought I knew what love was and thought that I had found it. But that concept of love has been shot all to hell.
What little I've learned of love since then has not yet fully crystallized into something comprehensible.
What I did with this though, just for fun . . . is what we used to have to do in college literature. Read something some great author wrote and then write an essay to tell what we think the author meant or what his writings "said" or meant to us. So here goes!
Based just on these few lines, I think Kirby seems to be equating "life" with "love" . . . that is with a "limiting love". He says we must break ". . . attachment to life . . . that is to say, attachment to any limiting form of love". To me, his words equate life with a limiting form of love. And he speaks of this limiting love as either having form or being formless. I don't know if I can put into words what this seems to be saying to me, but I'll try.
Perhaps he is saying that in order to progress to "higher enlightenment" we must break, first of all, our attachment to the "love" of our own "life". I would see that to be love of our earthly, material, worldly, secular "life" and all the fetters, shackles and restraints that go with maintaining that part of our life . . . seeking power, money, self-promotion, acceptance of others, etc. (I would see this as Kirby's "formless" love, these are abstract.) Without getting beyond this kind of love of our life, it seems to me we cannot move beyond "ourselves" and our earthly pre-occupations and demands to get to a higher dimension- enlightenment.
In addition to getting beyond our love of our own "material/worldly" life . . . it seems to me Kirby may also be saying that we must get beyond the "love" of other's "lives" when that love is the kind of love that "limits" us. (I would interpret this as Kirby's love that has "form", this is the concrete form of another human being, for example.) And what kind of love limits us? You said that you thought this limiting kind of love might mean "impure or selfish love".
My thoughts about this took me in a different direction than it did you . . . which I will try to explain . . . if I can. It seems to me that love of "other's lives" or more simply put . . . the love of others . . . can be extremely "limiting". Let me see if I can explain what I'm thinking.
As humans we seem to have a very strong, natural instinct to "mate", to love, to connect with another person in what we normally consider a loving relationship. Of course part of that instinct has to do with the continued need for procreation of the species.
But I think it is more than that. We humans seem to have a strong need to love and be loved and to "pair up". We often do not feel "whole" unless we are in an active "loving connection" with another human being. We don't feel complete, we don't feel loved, important, secure, cared for, etc, etc.
I understand that connection and need, I have known it myself, of course. And I see it play out over and over in the lives of others all around me. I see it in my children's lives.
Of course in the initial stages of this kind of "love", we feel tremendous ecstasy, it is pretty much a mystical experience itself . . . it's as if the whole world is transformed for us. You have described all that rather beautifully on your web site.
[There are several places she could be referring to, this being one.]
And that is all wonderfully good . . . as long as it's "new". But the kind of "narcotic" that is found in "new love" does not last as the love ages. The only way to continue to get that kind of "high" from “love” is to move continually on to "new flesh". Not such a great idea really. And it's all wonderfully good . . . as long as it's good.
But as relationships age, they can become as much "hard work" as they are "good feelings". Still the instinct to seek this mating in order to feel "whole" continues to drive us. But maybe, after all, that drive is not the ultimate path to "wholeness". Perhaps our mission is to learn how to get beyond that neediness for another person and feel whole within ourselves.
Based on my experiences and observations, the kind of love we seek with another person to make ourselves "whole" is seldom constant and seldom does it make us whole over the long term. Instead, I feel it really does limit one's ability to live beyond certain boundaries and know complete "wholeness and peace within one's self".
That is because our happiness is always dependent on the other person's "love" for us, we often find ourselves trying to modify or adapt our behavior so we will be "acceptable" to them, etc. We make decisions to do things and behave in ways we would otherwise not do in order to please them and maintain their "love" and acceptance/approval of us.
Perhaps this is what Kirby is suggesting when he speaks of a limiting love and of agitation from outside on account of love. We become so consumed with trying to please the other, to do what is expected of us by the other, to be loved by the other . . . that agitation and anxiety overtakes us and places us in a position where we are unable to seek and achieve the wholeness and peace that is to be found within ourselves. We essentially "lose" ourselves in our effort to win the love, approval and acceptance of the other and are unable to move to a higher dimension.
Can I be all that I can be if I am afraid my "other" will be annoyed or jealous or want me to be or do something else? Will I hold back and suppress my own potential, my dreams, and my talents in order to “not tread” on the agenda of my "other"? Will I participate in activities or do things or go places I might otherwise not do because I am afraid my "other" will be aggravated, angry or disappointed because I don't do what (s)he wants me to do?
I think when we are dependent on another person's love for our wholeness; it is quite possible that we will acquiesce to the demands of that person. Our ability to reach higher enlightenment will be "limited" if we are limited in what we can do by our need for the "love", the acceptance and the approval of the other. Can we know real "wholeness and peace" when we are in a state of anxiety about having the "love" of the person we love? I think not.
On the other hand, we may often be disappointed and let down when our "other" does not do what we want them to do or when they do not behave in certain ways toward us. We will most likely find we're so busy being angry or disappointed with our "other" because they are not behaving the way we want them to that we cannot find peace.
But if we are whole in ourselves and at peace . . . other's behaviors cannot let us down or bring us down from our state of peace. While it is very true that we may still, from time to time, feel disappointed by things others do, it does not detract from our own state of wholeness and peace with our lives. We do not require certain kinds of behaviors from them in order to make us feel happy or whole or at peace.
When the "love" of that other person goes "bad", our whole world goes upside down and inside out. Again, this is an "agitation from outside on account of love". We can become totally miserable, lost, hopeless, unhappy, and desperate. Often, it seems when humans find themselves "alone", without a significant "other", or when they are in a contentious, disappointing, unfulfilling relationship, they become unable to feel whole and happy within themselves, and their ability to move on to higher dimensions becomes completely swamped by their perceived aloneness or inability to please their "other".
It seems to me that we are hard put to get in touch with our own inner strengths, insights, understandings and wholeness when we are overcome with the "neediness" that comes with trying to hold on to another's "love", to please them, to be what they want us to be, or to get them to be what we want them to be. I see that as a "limiting form of love" and an "outside agitation".
When we are obsessed with that kind of love, we have very little ability to move on to a higher dimension of understanding our inner selves and gaining further enlightenment. We're so busy trying to be what that other person wants us to be that we cannot pay any attention to our own inner wholeness.
So it seems to me that when we are in a situation where we are dependent for our happiness and wholeness on the "love" of "another one", we are limited. Kirby seems to suggest that we need to come to a state where, rather than being dependent on the love of "one", of someone outside ourselves, we can come to a state that enables us to see our wholeness and our happiness as being dependent on love of the "whole" and that “whole” exists within us . . . where we are one and whole with "all" that exists . . . and there are no "particulars" . . . as Kirby puts it:
But in the nirvana of the self the vision of the whole is attained; it is seen that there are no particulars, that truly all is one.
In other words, our wholeness is not dependent on some other particular person or some other particular material thing . . . it is not dependent on love of our life or love of another's life. It is rather dependent on love of the whole of our universe . . . the trees, the leaves, the whole of all humanity, the whole of all that is, the beauty of all the pieces of our lives, the beauty of the very existence of our lives.
I first began to catch a glimmer of that sense of wholeness with the very existence of my own life after an auto accident which doctors told me over and over should have taken my life or at the very least, left me quadriplegic. Caged in a halo brace, which caused my back, shoulders and head to be lifted up off the bed, I was unable to lay back in comfort and was able to sleep only in short naps.
For five months, I often spent many hours at night looking out the window near my bed, which often framed the moon. During that time, I became profoundly aware of the great gift of my life which I understood I had nearly lost. It was a beginning place for me where I began to gain a sense of my own inner self and a dawning awareness of myself as a whole and complete entity.
It has been a long journey from that beginning place with difficult lessons to be learned, but I have become more and more capable of finding wholeness within myself.
It seems to me that finding this wholeness and oneness with the existence of our lives, is very different than the love of our material lives or the love of another particular human being. Perhaps Kirby is saying that if we can arrive at a place where we feel whole within ourselves and with "all" that is about us, then we can be complete and at peace with ourselves whether we have a single significant "other" or not, whether an "other" is doing what we want them to do or not, or whether we have significant worldly possessions or not.
I no longer believe in the fairy tale of forever-after love with another individual. I think there are very few marriages/relationships that can maintain the fairy tale, if any. Many splinter off . . . and more so nowadays because women are less inclined to stay put than in generations past, often because they can attain some financial independence that allows them escape.
Yes, many couples do stay together . . . but only as financial or practical arrangements, not because of pure love. Others may stay together and may be genuinely fond of each other, admire each other, care for each other, share children and other things in common, but the deep spiritual bond of oneness and wholeness does not exist.
In many case the sex act may continue to occur but in my opinion it is not the expression of a truly spiritual love but it is rather the expression of the physical sexual need or the need to be "held". In other cases, sex is lost altogether.
It seems to me that most "love", as we know it in our society, is a kind of love that is based on two people filling the needs of the other. Or often . . . it is one person filling the needs of the other at the expense of their own. Many couples consist of a "taker" and a "giver". In many, many cases, relationships hold together because we are using the other person to fill some need or needs of our own. That is limiting.
I see this business of love of other's lives being "limiting" also in relationships with others that are not of the romantic kind of love. Love of friends, associates, etc. These can also become limiting when our need to be accepted or "loved" by various individuals in our lives causes us, once again, to do things and behave in ways we may not otherwise do. It's called "peer pressure".
Being part of the group, part of the crowd, etc. may cause us to limit our ability to reach higher dimensions. Our ability to "rise" may be hampered by our need to fit into our social circles and niches . . . hampered by our love of the lives of others and agitation may result when we are not as accepted as we desire.
Let me say I do definitely think there is a place in our lives and our learning and education for the emotional and physical pleasures of love and even of deep physical passion, even lust. But perhaps it is part of a learning process that leads us to another dimension rather than an end point.
I think there is much we cannot know about ourselves until we have experienced that kind of love, lust and passion. It is part of understanding our complete selves, the light and dark sides of ourselves as well as the light and dark sides of others.
But I also think there can come a time when the need for that kind of "love" and expression can become very remote. Quite frankly, it seems to me that when we can find that wholeness with the "all", that wholeness within ourselves with all around us, the need for sexual expression as a physical act may become less and less important. That comes from becoming whole within ourselves.
Perhaps that is what is being suggested by Kirby when he speaks of the mystic as the man who has renounced earthly embraces. Perhaps it is possible to reach a place where those earthly needs of the flesh just are not needed or desired to feel wholeness and mystical ecstasy.
Now, lest you think I am a complete cynic, I do think it is possible for there to be a "love" between two people that is not "limiting" and that does not lead to "agitation from outside due to love". The kind of love between people that is not "limiting" seems to me to be the kind of love that can be experienced when two people who are "whole" within themselves, come together purely and solely to share, to converse, to spend time with one another, to think together, to have companionship and pleasure together.
They come together to compliment each other, to enrich each other . . . but not to be in "need" of each other, not to change each other . . . not to make demands of each other. They are as whole when they are apart as when they are together.
It may be a relationship in which there is sexual sharing, or in which there is very little need for sexual expression, if any. And when there is sexual expression, it may be of a very spiritual rather than physical nature.
It seems to me that is a very, very rare kind of loving, a rare kind of relationship. But I believe if two people who are “whole” can find one another . . . it is a possible kind of loving.
I was thinking of the story you told about Rumi and how devastated he was when he lost his loved companion. His ability to reach ecstasy was based on being with that other person that he loved. In a way he was "limited" by his love for this other person in that he could not reach ecstasy by himself, he was not whole by himself.
Without his companion he was lost, miserable, and desolate for a time. Only after his companion was gone did he learn how to attain the heights by himself. Once he learned how to be whole by himself, he could attain that ecstasy without his companion's physical presence . . . and then it was as if he was united once again with his companion, even though his companion was not physically present.
He was able to experience the same ecstasy he had when his companion was physically present because he had transcended the need for that "limiting love" with his companion. It had become a spiritual love, if you will, in which he could be with his companion in a higher dimension.
Well, okay, there you have it . . . whether I have been able to explain what I felt Kirby is saying to me, whether I've been able to put it into words that make any sense. . . . well, you'll have to decide that!
[That is good advice to every reader: decide for yourself. As for me: I stand corrected. I was not thinking in the deeper terms that Kirby was thinking in, when I wrote my Kirby-critique.
My friend and online reader here is interpreting Kirby in the way he would interpret himself, I am now convinced. I am grateful for these thoughtfully expressed and very personal insights from a very good friend and very wise woman!]