Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fighting Dragons

This is a very well-known sculpture in the world of Anthroposophy, by Rudolf Steiner.
 It is the Christ gesture of man, where his left arm holds the forces that represent Lucifer at bay, and where his right arm holds the forces that represent Ahriman at bay. Briefly, luciferic forces are overly chaotic, overly idealistic, and selfishly disregarding others. Ahriman has a darker, more evil overtone; being overly controlled, overly sparse, letter-of-the-law, and void of empathy or emotion.  These are the extremes: hot/cold, male/female, love/hate, etc. This duality and even multiplicity  of our nature is recognized plenty among different religions and in culture.I
In the middle of the sculpture though, Steiner depicts the Christ gesture of embodying balancing these two forces. We need a little warmth of chaos, and we need a little order and lawfulness...just not too much of either or we lose the light if love. Even the Buddha spoke to his followers in a sermon of Buddhism's middle way: "Monks, these two extremes should not be followed   by   one   who   has   gone   forth as a   wanderer.  What   two?   Devotion   to the  pleasures  of  sense . . .  [and]  devotion  of self-mortification,  which  is  painful, unworthy and unprofitable . . . . By avoiding these two extremes the [Buddha] has gained knowledge of the middle path which giveth vision, which giveth knowledge, enlightenment [nirvana]. "
Fall 2013 Copyright © The Esoteric Quarterly  39
In the context of today, though, in the light of what is happening in the world, I believe these dualities in every way represent our innate fight or flight response to trauma.
One phrase I frequently quote on this blog is from Bessel VanDer Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score.  He points out that trauma "inevitably involves not being seen, not being heard, and not being taken into account." When one considers all the marginalized groups, and the scapegoating either through blatant sexism and racism, or exploitation, it makes sense that we have a culture of traumatized people. And some argue that neoliberalism in culture is traumatizing. I believe it is.
Tomorrow is Michaelmas...the festival of finding our inner light. For me, it is about finding the middle way. It is about acknowledging my own inner dragons attached to fight or flight behaviors, and the outer dragons I am forced to fight.
My dragons of flight involve giving up, avoiding, putting my head in the sand, not wanting to see, molding silence, cultivating apathy, taking on a stance of "let's all be happy", hiding behind all sorts of distractions, betraying myself to the core, complete submission, martyrdom. Dragons of fight are less familiar to me and include hot anger, retaliation, denial, self-justification, contempt, judgement, intention to harm, pleasure in bringing about the suffering of another human being, cold indifference, and enacting revenge.
Trauma, fight or flight, not being seen or heard- inevitably involves an oppressor/oppressed situation. That's what neoliberalism creates and tucks into so many pockets of our country's Big Daddy overcoat. But before even tackling the situation of being oppressed, and hopefully an oppressor or two would give up their cushy position to join the ranks of the less entitled, before that is even thought about, one must find deep courage. In order to do that, one must go through the forces of flight and fight, to acknowledge the value of one's own humanity.
There is a middle way, beyond dragons of sloth and chaos, there is a balance to be held within in order to deal with the larger dragons of the world in which we live. In bringing into balance our own dragons, we gain the courage and strength to bring to the world at large and really tackle larger issues.
Walter Wink, in Engaging the Powers, writes about  "Jesus's Third Way":
Jesus's Third Way
-seize the moral initiative
-find a creative alternative to violence
-assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
-meet force with ridicule or humor
-break the cycle of humiliation
-refuse to submit or accept the inferior position
-expose the injustice of the system
-take control of the power dynamic
-shame the oppressor into repentance
-stand your ground
-make the Powers make decisions for which they are not prepared
-recognize your own power
-be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
-force the oppressor to see you in a new light
-deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective
-be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
-die to fear of the old order and its rules
-seek the oppressor's transformation
Flight: submission, passivity, withdrawal, surrender
Fight: armed revolt, violent rebellion, direct retaliation, revenge

Gandhi insisted that no one join him who was not willing to take up arms and fight for independence. They could not freely renounce what they had not entertained. One cannot pass directly from "flight" to "Jesus's Third Way". One needs to pass through the "fight" stage, if only to discover one's own inner strength and capacity for violence. One need not actually become violent, but one does need to own one's fury at injustice and care enough to be willing to fight, and if necessary, die for its eradication. Only then can a person freely renounce violence and embrace active nonviolence."
-again, that is all found in Walter Wink's "Engaging the Powers"

Martin Luther King said there can be no justice without equality. There can be no justice where there is a bully. There can be no justice when there is an oppressor. Justice comes when people join as equals. And justice comes when one finds the heat of courage, the flaming truth, the heart arching forward towards inner freedom.
It then becomes about more than inner freedom. It becomes focused on your power to enact the freedom of another. It becomes courage in do the right thing even when it seems impossible. To really look at one's own dark step say what needs to be dragon was ever conquered without having courageous souls muster up their duty to protect and stop stop oppression of any kind.
"Seek the oppressor's transformation." Oh, I do, I prayerfully do.
Here's to a courageous Michaelmas. The divine is found when we clearly live without oppressing, and where we speak up against oppression, even our own.  May we all find our middle way. May we all honor each other's humanity.

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