Progress and Cycles
Are you concerned with the progress you are making in your development of consciousness, or in your spiritual journey. When you see yourself not 'making progress' do you think there is something wrong or that you are failing? And when you are 'making progress' do you usually have a pride of achievement? - perhaps a sign that you have not attained the assumed state of consciousness or enlightenment. In fact, pride of achievement is antithetical to the soul journey.
Much of what we perceive as progress is really a superficial measurement of our experiences. When viewing anything with the measuring stick of progress what we are trying to do is to quantify and compare between now and before. Most of this perception is distorted because we do not have an accurate assessment of ourselves in the present. What might be a more accurate statement of perceptions of progress might be something like: "I didn't like where I was before. I like (or like more) where I am now." This has nothing to do with objectivity, but might be an honest subjective statement of the way you feel about yourself. If that is so, then it should be expressed as a feeling rather than as a fact.
Very often the idea of progress is linked to achieving goals. People set goals that they believe or assume are progressive in some way. Then when the goals are achieved one could say that they made progress. However, it would be more accurate to say, "I achieved this goal which I set for myself." The goal could just as easily make one's life worse in the long run, so whether it is progress or not can probably not be known for some time, if ever.
There are many books that describe well the process of setting goals and reaching them. Goal setting is useful for personality training, activity and outward achievement. But goal setting does not apply to the soul journey.
Progress is a myth, a personality time-dimension myth. This does not mean it doesn't exist. It really is a way of speaking about change that we like better than the previous state. A myth is a metaphor or symbol, and not a factual way of speaking. Therefore, progress is not an objective reality - not even in the linear, time dimension.
Spirituality encompasses dimensions beyond time, and therefore the myth of progress does not apply - not even symbolically or metaphorically. When spiritual progress is spoken of it is a fantasy myth that gives us a way of speaking which indicates that something is happening psychically.
Progress somewhat more accurately refers to linear reality, but even there it does not have relevant objectivity because life is cyclical, not linear. All peoples prior to modern times have viewed life as cyclical rather than linear. For example, Plato and his disciples said that a Great Year was approximately 36,000 years, and then things would start over or at least another cycle would begin. The Mayans claimed an 'age' was 26,000 years. In Hinduism, Brahma is said to dream the world in billion-year cycles divided into four ages or yugas. The present one is called Kali Yuga, or the age of Kali, the destroyer.
Consciousness evolves or develops in a cyclical pattern as well. All cycles are understood to have three phases:
- A beginning - something new starting.
- A development that involves learning through trial and error, mistakes, etc.
- A destructive or terminating phase - completion and preparation for a new cycle.
Historically the idea of progress did not exist for humanity until about 1300 AD. Up to that time everything was seen as cyclical. Even today most primitive cultures, or peoples who are not technologically developed and who live at a subsistence level close to the ground and nature, do not expect anything to change. For them the future is but an extension or repetition of the present. Therefore there is nothing to be concerned about other than working with what is at hand at the moment.
Between about 1300 and 1600 A.D. there was a discernible development of the rational mind. Formal education in the West started to become more widespread. Academic education develops the mind. With the development of the rational mind, the linear view of reality became more common. Also, with the development of the mind, the will develops, and people begin to realize that they have choices. To choose is to exercise the will.
Mind development requires the ability to analyze. Analysis separates things, and we then quantify, compare and choose what we want. We also begin to realize that we now can work to acquire what we have chosen, based on what we want. The mind then becomes an instrument to fulfill our desires. This means that the future can be different from the present. The idea of progress enters in. But what we call progress then is often little more than getting and having what we want but didn't have before. If we get what we want, we call that progress. But from a higher perspective it may not be progress at all - just more experience.
There are still traditional cultures where formal education is either non-existent or minimal. These cultures do not have the idea of progress, nor do they expect the future to be any different than the present or past. They are often very yin in their energies and rather than trying to control nature (controlling is yang) they see their relationship to nature as more responsive than controlling. Nature is clearly cyclical.
When we go into an altered state of consciousness for inner work, the lower mind recedes and we experience self and other outside of a linear framework. The altered consciousness of the meditative state is yin, which is essential for the expansion of consciousness, for flowing with the cycles of unfolding experiences, and for the experience of quality rather than quantity. The self is not a quantitative, objective reality. Nor is the other. Both self and other are qualitative, non-linear, subjective experiences, living in a cyclical universe.
1. What have you learned lately from your experiences? What did it look like from a higher perspective?
2. How has your perspective of progress changed if at all?