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Conflict within Idealism


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Three Levels of Confusion

The practise of the spiritual life produces confusion in the seeker. This confusion has several sources. It is hard enough when the person ploughs his or her way through it meeting just one source at a time. I seem to have had all the sources acting on me for most of my spiritual journey (which so far has lasted about 35 years).

This article is my attempt to make sense of the conflicts that I have experienced. It is the weakest aspect of my theory of human spirituality.

Sub - Headings
First stage of Conflict 
Second stage of Conflict

In this article I give an overview of the pilgrim’s progress.
Then in the following two articles I go into a more detailed analysis.

When a seeker experiences conflicts through living his ideals, he may realise that some of these conflicts originate in his subconscious mind, and some in his relationship to his own soul, and some in his relationship to god. Therefore conflict can be experienced at three levels of confusion, corresponding to the levels of consciousness represented by the ego, soul, and god. [¹]

Each level has its own crisis that the seeker has to navigate. Each level orientates around a particular view of ethics and morality.

By god, I mean the personal god, not the impersonal god. In my view, the impersonal god is the immanent god in all physical matter, and so controls the evolution of physical worlds – solar systems, galaxies, universes, etc. The personal god is the transcendent god and controls the evolution of consciousness ; each unit of creation, such as a solar system, has its own personal god.

I outline the psychological and existential conflicts of the pilgrim’s progress.

Psychological influences relate to the person’s past, and existential influences relate to his present. [²]. No doubt there are short-comings to my viewpoint, since I analyse predominantly my own experience (as ‘the existentialist’). But all viewpoints need a framework. A seeker may think that he understands his experience, independently of any framework. But if there is no framework then there is no way of detecting errors in the seeker's beliefs. Once he puts that experience within a suitable framework then he will enlarge his understanding by reducing confusion and self-deception. [³]

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First Stage of Conflict

A human life is full of uncertainty. Usually, however, the support of family and friends is sufficient to carry on normal activities despite difficulties. Eventually, though, there comes a time when this support network becomes inadequate and the person has to face uncertainty alone. The uncertainty creates high states of anxiety. This is too much to accept for long. The person begins his search for a source of certainty. Eventually he meets either a teacher, or a religious leader, or turns to a holy book. In a moment of wonder he acquires faith in the teacher, leader, or in the book. Now at last he can rest in peace. He has his certainty. The teacher, leader, or book provides all the answers to all his questions and doubts. (see article on Faith).

The person has acquired faith.
What does faith do?  It re-orientates his system of beliefs. He acquires a new ideology, one that appears more relevant than his previous one (which may have been just a rationalisation of materialist desires). And how does faith annul his feelings of uncertainty?  By giving him access to a source of power. He either attunes to the power of the teacher, or, via the holy book, he attunes more to the power of his soul. Power is the real basis of the magic that faith accomplishes. It is the buzz of power that faith induces that gives the person the ability to dispel his doubts, fears, and powerlessness. In essence, the problem created by the pervasiveness of uncertainty is that of the feeling of powerlessness at the core of one’s life. [4]

At this first level of confusion the person has been focusing the loop of projection and introjection on an ‘ordinary’ teacher or leader. He has been working with ordinary transference, or what can be called ‘mundane transference’. [5]

So in the first stage of conflict, the person faces the problems of power and powerlessness. He resolves these problems by acquiring faith. If, subsequently, he finds that he has to renounce that faith, then he returns to the problem of powerlessness. The reward for acquiring faith is the attainment of certainty. 

The hidden flaw at this level is that certainty is maintained by denying validity to much of reality: the person cannot usually accept what is outside of his ideology. Confusion is buried, but at the cost of narrowing one’s mind. The person believes that his new-found spirituality will solve all problems.

Eventually the person realises that faith solves very few problems. It merely skims some issues off the top of his pile of problems, leaving many important issues incapable of being resolved. The person has to seek for a deeper meaning to his life.

He enters the second stage of conflict.

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Second Stage of Conflict

He may find an enlightened teacher, or one who claims to be so. He may experience transient episodes of divine love. If he does not seek such a teacher, then love may come to him in its own way.

Now he faces the problems of love and hate.
The primary difficulty here is one of over-developed sensitivity. Over a period of many incarnations the person has gravitated to the company of other developed seekers, and so has a moralistic background. So when he incarnates on Earth he prefers like-minded parents. Unfortunately, moralistic parents do not provide the emotional support needed to have a happy childhood. Moralistic parents find it very difficult to give love to a sensitive child. The child interprets this lack of support as a form of rejection. [6]

As the child grows up, it seeks happiness by exploring love and hate. The intensity of subconscious feelings of rejection leads to a compensating intensity of exploration of love and hate. Love seems to lead only to happiness, and hate to unhappiness. Divine love appears very entrancing ; it seems to solve all problems (as faith first seemed to do). The person grasps at it without hesitation. His subconscious feelings of rejection are annulled. But he has yet to learn the limitations of love. 

The hidden flaw at this level is that love creates the delusion of glamour: the spiritual life appears to be glamorous and enchanting. Such a life can be lived intensely ! [7]

When the existential seeker does not have a teacher, then he finds that love is a fire that consumes him. He becomes driven by love, belatedly discovering that love creates its own special problems. When love is channelled into the love of god, then few problems may arise. But when it is channelled into the love of truth or the love of humanity then the confusion within the subconscious mind becomes accentuated.

The existentialist lives his life within society and not in solitude. So the love of truth brings into his awareness all the confusions caused by his inadequate skills in social relationships – this inadequacy is, in part, caused by his love of solitude and his fear of rejection.

Since he lives within society, he finds that he has to explore the meaning of sexuality. He tries to keep sexuality at the level of romantic love, but his perpetual anxiety defeats this objective. Sexuality becomes an obsession during the time that he is exploring its meaning. Finally he emerges from sexual confusion when he realises the basis of his obsession. The obsession with sexuality revolves around the self-pity mode of jealousy, and not the love mode ; but the drive to explore sexuality comes from love, the love of truth.

Love creates the glamour of emotional experience, and so prepares the way for the pursuit of power, wealth, sex, etc. Love creates the passion for existence. But when life turns sour, the intensity of love brings only an intensity of sorrow.

At this second level of confusion the person has been focusing the loop of projection and introjection on an ‘enlightened’ teacher or leader, or the idealised myth of a teacher of long ago  ( I worked with the symbols of ancient Egypt – Osiris, Horus and Anubis). He has been working with spiritual transference, which is the perfection of his idealised yearnings.

Eventually the existentialist finds that he has to reject love. The intensity of life that love engenders has finally paled. And neither power nor happiness beguiles him any longer. Even if he occasionally longs for them, he cannot turn back. Returning to the illusions of the past is not an option. He continues to seek meaning in life that is beyond power, happiness and love.

He enters the final stage of conflict.

Now he has to confront continuous failure as he seeks freedom.

The ideas in this article are explored in more detail in the next article on Conflict within Idealism - the Three Stages.

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The number in brackets at the end of each reference takes you back to the paragraph that featured it.  For the addresses of my websites, see the Links page.

[¹]. The previous article, Orientations, began the description of these three levels. [1]

[²]. The differences between psychology and existentialism are described in an article Existentialism and Psychology, on my philosophy website A Modern Thinker[2]

[³]. See the article Confusion.
There is a section on self-deception in the article Characteristics of a Psycho-Analysis, on my website  The Subconscious Mind.[3]

[4]. The idea of power is described in the article Power. [4]

[5]. See articles on Projection and Introjection, and Transference. [5]

[6]. The problems with sensitivity are described in the article Sensitivity and Effects of Fear, on my website Discover Your Mind[6]

[7]. My definitions, descriptions, and analysis of emotions are given in the three articles on Emotion. See home page. [7]

Home List of  Articles Links Top of Page

The articles in this section are :

Dialectics and Human Evolution - the way of spiritual teachers.

Orientations - the three goals of the spiritual life ; the soul.

Conflict within Idealism 1 - overview of three levels of confusion in the spiritual life.

Conflict within Idealism 2 - the three stages in detail.

Conflict within Idealism 3 - three forms of ethics and three ideals.

Utopian Idealism - spirituality as personal choice.

The Conversion Experience - abreactions of jealousy and narcissism.

The copyright is mine, and the articles are free to use. They can be reproduced anywhere, so long as the source is acknowledged.

Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath
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Ian Heath
London, UK

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