Jump to the following topics:
- What is desire?
- The dynamic of desire is composed of three parts.
- Desire can arise from many possible sources.
- Desire is denounced by religions.
- Desire serves a purpose.
- The techniques for "managing" our desires.
What is desire? It is a magnetism-like attraction toward something, the possession of which is expected to create a personal benefit, e.g., a material gain, or a pleasurable sensation or feeling. It is the energetic bond between a material object and an element within one of our archetypal fields (i.e., "a-fields"). The material object might be a physical object, a person, a circumstance (e.g., a job for which we have applied, etc.). The energy which sustains desire is the same energy which sustains "attachment"; it is the energy that is created when spirit "fragments" into dualities (and thus it is somewhat analogous to the energy which is created when an atom is "split" in fission). The "dualities" are two complementary archetypes (e.g., Male and Female). This energy is then a bond between those dualities, drawing the two together (as in desire) and holding the two together (as in attachment) until the energy-charge has been resolved.
- The object of desire. We believe that this object will satisfy a need.
- The magnetism-like force which connects us to the object of desire. The force's effect is similar to that of a metal magnet in the familiar experiment in which we would place a magnet under a piece of paper and then observe the iron filings arrange themselves into a pattern on the paper. Analogous to that magnetic force, the force of desire, too, has an effect on matter -- "arranging" our thoughts into its pattern (such that we think about the object, and we visualize it), and even aligning the physical conditions of our life such that the desired object eventually comes to us (if the force is strong enough, in contrast to the force which is associated with our other desires which also call for attention). The force arises when there is an "empathic resonance" between the object and something that is within us; this is similar to the resonance between the two tines of a tuning fork. We experience this resonance as an uncomfortable stimulation which we seek to stop by interacting with the object of desire -- exchanging energy and information until the stimulation ceases. While this is a rather unromantic description of sexual desire, for example, the same dynamic also occurs in every other type of desire -- for material goods, for activities, etc.
- Our subjective experience of desire. Fundamentally, desire is simply an awareness of the magnetism-like attraction, like when we are aware of a noise. We personalize this impersonal attraction by implanting archetypal elements such as emotion (i.e., romantic love, which is felt as craving and hoping), and images (in our fantasies regarding the object), and thoughts (in our schemes to acquire the object, and in our plans for using the object once it is acquired). What we commonly call "desire" is usually the emotion which is in the a-field; if this emotional component is particularly strong in the a-field, we experience it as passion or lust (which are not "moral vices" but rather simply a state of intense emotion, perhaps to the point that they distract us from other input such as rationality and intuition -- and thus they have gained their foul reputation in religion.)
Desire can arise from many possible sources. If desire is simply the attraction between two material objects (including the "material" which constitutes the mind), we can find many ways in which this dynamic occurs.
- The physical body. For example, when we are hungry, we desire food. And if, as some metaphysicians say, there is also an emotional body (on what is called the "astral plane") and a mental body (on what is called the "mental plane"), those other bodies would feel a sensation which is analogous to the physical body's hunger.
- Ego. As explained in the chapter regarding ego, our ego is not a bad thing; it is merely the part of us which is responsible for creating our human life. Its desires are to actualize the archetypal aspects of that human life: a secure and comfortable home, a physical environment which facilitates health for the body, a source of sex, etc. The ego contains an archetypal "blueprint" of human life; the elements of that blueprint resonate with external elements and thus we feel desire for material things which are needed for the construction of a human life.
- Archetypal-field elements. As explained in the chapter regarding archetypal fields, we are constantly interacting with archetypes; they provide the underlying structure and force of life. Every archetypal encounter leaves a "residue" from each of the thoughts, images, energy tones, and actions which we committed during the encounter. If our thoughts, etc., were guided by intuition (which accurately perceives all dynamics in a situation), our actions were appropriate, and so the elements discharged their charge in the course of the interaction; the elements remain merely as memories. However, if our thoughts, etc., were not guided by intuition (but instead by a default, such as logic, or past experience), our actions did not connect with the situation as it really is, and so the elements remain in our a-field with their charge. This unresolved charge is one of the energies which powers our desire (and our attachment). In a future occasion when we encounter the same archetype, these unresolved a-field elements resonate with the physical objects which represent the archetype, and thus we are compulsively drawn to (and "desire") the objects; for example, we find ourselves repeatedly in the same type of relationships because our a-field regarding the Relationship archetype has remained the same, and so it re-creates the same type of relationship in which the unresolved elements were created, so that those elements can discharge their lingering charge. Some psychologists (and teachers of metaphysics) have said that the patterns of our life will not change until we change our thoughts regarding the situations. Indeed, we would be altering our a-field, because we would be installing new thoughts and images and energy tones and actions into this a-field which is continually recreating our physical circumstances through the force of desire. These patterns are sometimes called "karma," which -- rather than being an abstract religious notion -- is nothing more than the contents of our archetypal fields.
- Soul. In backtracking through the dynamics of desire, to find its source, we come to the soul, the eternal, transcendental part of us. Because the soul is composed of the substance which we call "spirit," and because that same spirit is within everything -- the human and the object of desire -- soul does not experience the dualistic attraction which is experienced by the human being; i.e., spirit cannot be "attracted" to spirit. Nor does soul experience the subjectivity which arises when a human desires and values one object more than another; instead, all things have equal value to soul, because it discerns the same spirit within all. Then what is the original cause of desire? Perhaps it is soul's own creative decision to experience a particular archetypal situation, to learn about a part of itself by creating a material representation of that aspect; but because this is a world of duality, that part must be split into two parts -- as in (1) the person who desires, and (2) the object of desire. When the split occurs -- as in the splitting of an atom -- energy is released, but instead of an "atomic explosion," the energy persists as a bond between the two halves. This energy-bond gradually pulls us toward our other half, and the power is so strong that it influences our physical environment to facilitate our eventual meeting. We are drawn like a moth to a lightbulb, regardless of whether we are aware of the force, or whether we like what we are drawn toward; compulsively, we begin to value that object, and we "desire" it -- and, as we think about it, and fantasize about it, and have emotions regarding it, we create a a-field constellation which fleshes out our personalized, human relationship to this archetype. Thus, desire -- far from being a barrier to "spirituality" -- is the mechanism by which soul sets into motion the circumstances in which it gains its spiritual education in the material worlds.
Desire is denounced by religions. Among the many impulses which lead us toward action, desire is the one which is most often condemned by eastern religions; it has a similar dynamic to that of another spurned phenomenon, attachment. In our attempt to be "religious," desire does cause problems (each of which is reframed into a positive value later in this chapter):
- It focuses our attention on materiality. While our religion might be telling us to seek only God, desires pull us into the material world. Our thoughts and physical actions are directed toward the objects' acquisition, retention, and maintenance. And when we develop obsessive a-field constellations regarding possessions, we tend to cultivate attributes such as greed, lust, and envy -- which might not be "evil" in themselves but they are distractions from the other activities which we could be engaging in the wholeness of our life, and they lead us to unbalanced behaviors such as lying, defrauding, stealing, and fighting (and they also give cause for the emotion of fear that we might not acquire the object of desire, and the emotion of anger that someone might be trying to take the object from us). Even when we are trying to be "religious," desire might be present as "spiritual materialism" -- the craving for mystical experiences and for "religious" personal traits as though they are trophies.
- It maintains our sense of duality. While our religion might be telling us to seek "oneness," desire is a reminder of our duality (i.e., the person who desires, and the object of desire). Even the noble goal of "desiring to experience God" is commonly recognized as an impediment to the experience itself; the desire can lead us to use the spiritual practices which bring us close to the experience, but finally the desire itself must be dropped as we enter the experience of oneness with our own essence (i.e., "spirit," which is not God itself but rather the essence of God such that we do not become "one with God" but rather we become one with this essence which God and soul have in common).
- It precludes emotional and mental stillness. Desire generates wishes, daydreams, suffering, and other inner activities.
- It precludes passionless objectivity. We no longer see the item-in-itself; we see an item-to-fulfill-my-particular-desire, because we are looking at the object through the mist of our thoughts, projections, emotional energy (and the bonding energy of desire itself), and our valuation of the desired object as more important than objects which we do not desire.
- It precludes contentment. Desire is a continual function; it ceases only at the moment of acquisition of the desired object, but then it immediately points toward new objects of desire (and toward a repetition of current pleasures). The perpetual presence of desire assures that we are never satisfied except during the instant of acquisition; during that instant, our joy is not due to the object itself, or to the appropriation of it, but instead it is due (in part) to the transient awareness of soul's divine wholeness (and the opportunity to experience life and energy through our interaction with this object). In addition to other motivations (including the pragmatic drive to acquire the goods which we need in our life), one motivation in our desire for objects is our craving for that spiritual experience when the two halves of a duality come together.
- It precludes discipline, and control of the mind and emotions. With the will, we cannot stop desire itself, nor can we cease its creation of thoughts, emotions, and other psychological activity, nor can we control the subject-matter of those thoughts, etc. (e.g., fantasies about a new computer when we are trying to meditate on a "spiritual" topic).
- It removes us from an experience of "living in the moment." Desire directs our thoughts and imagination toward a future time when the desire will be fulfilled.
- In addition to the religious values which have been considered so far, desire is denounced for other reasons:
- It is experienced as a type of pain.
- It can be viewed as a disruptive influence in a sub-culture which values tranquility, passivity, and complacency.
- It allows us to be controlled by other people. We succumb to the temptations of advertisers and manipulators (and, some would say, "the devil himself"), thereby losing our freedom, our dignity -- and our money.
Desire serves a purpose. In a point-by-point response to the previous paragraph, we can see that desire is an agent of our spiritual drive toward wisdom, love, and completion. As is the case with other psychological and macrocosmic dynamics which are condemned only because we misunderstand them and thus misuse them (and, further, are pained by them), desire has a beneficial purpose in our life. Following are re-statements from the previous paragraph, and their rebuttal:
- "It focuses our attention on materiality." This dynamic can be condemned only if we believe that materiality is contrary to spirituality. However, some people believe that God created this material world for a reason: to give us a realm in which we could learn about life (i.e., spirit) through spirit's material manifestations of archetypes. If we have any spiritual purpose for being in this world, we are foolish to hate the world's material substance and our natural desire-filled response to it. And if we honor our human self, we respect the gene-based survival instinct which guides us to create a life of material safety, physiological comfort, and the other commodities that allow us to function during our time on earth.
- "It precludes passionless objectivity." Objectivity is an ideal which helps us to discern more of an object's nature apart from the subjectivity which is created by (among other things) the charge of residual elements in our corresponding a-field. But objectivity as a way of life is non-productive; if everything has equal value, then we have no reason to choose one course over another, i.e., to walk in front of a truck or to wait until it passes. As human beings, subjectivity serves a purpose: it is an expression of our values which guide us to create a life which is meaningful to us, and it also guides us to create the circumstances in which we can discharge residual a-field elements.
- "It precludes contentment." This concept contains at least three fallacies: (1) in transcendence (as explained later), we can simultaneously experience desire and contentment; (2) when contentment is our goal, we are desiring contentment; i.e., we are "desiring not to desire"; (3) if we pursue contentment as an ideal, it can degenerate into its dark side with passivity, sloth, and repression of our natural urges (and then we re-balance ourselves by enhancing the complementary ideal of motivation). If, instead, we view desire as a benevolent dynamic by which we are driven to experience life, its relentlessness is as necessary (and as welcome) as the relentlessness of our heartbeat.
- "It precludes discipline, and control of the mind and emotions." Desire is the enemy only when we create religious values which are contrary to the stimulation of life itself. If we are trying to "control" the mind when it seeks instead to fantasize about a desired object, perhaps we need to question the validity of our religious goal (which apparently has less vitality that does the fantasized object of our desire), and instead contemplate the nature and content of our desires; we might discover that these desires are showing us what we truly want and value, in contrast to whatever our religion (or another belief system) says should be important to us. If we still want to develop the traits of discipline and control for their own sake, we can exercise them in the course of our everyday life; for example, instead of trying to discipline ourselves not to want money, we can discipline ourselves in the pursuit of money. Of course, sometimes we do need to attend to duties which are less exciting than our desire-driven fantasies; at those times, we can use transcendence (as explained later).
- "It removes us from an experience of 'living in the moment.'" We can experience our desires in the moment; in Zen, one of the practices is to observe desires as they arise and recede.
- "In addition to the religious values that have been considered so far, desire is denounced for other reasons:"
- "It is experienced as a type of pain." Yes, desire is experienced as a type of pain, but so is hunger (the physiological "desire" for food) -- but instead of condemning hunger, we accept it as a signal that we have to attend to a need. Pain is merely a signal of distress (as in the need to resolve the tension of desire); pain becomes "suffering" when we develop an a-field constellation regarding the pain -- adding our thoughts, images, and energy tones which personalize and amplify the impersonal condition of discomfort.
- "It can be viewed as a disruptive influence in a sub-culture which values passivity, complacency, and tranquility." Those sub-cultures have chosen values which are important to them, but they are probably repressing their life-instincts in many ways, and they are creating "forbidden fruits." The dynamic of desire is still present, but we have created a constellation of anger and fear and disparaging thoughts -- and a denial of our craving -- toward the desired object.
- "It allows us to be controlled by other people." We can be "controlled" only to the extent to which we have some charged elements in our a-fields; these people are merely presenting opportunities for us to discover, study, and resolve the charges. Even the devil has a role in the larger scheme; in the Old Testament, his God-given duty was to test and tempt humans; someone has to do it. We consider these people to be "evil" because we don't like what they reveal in us as they "push our buttons" (i.e., trigger our charged elements). But, as the Tao Te Ching says, "If the people are simple and free from desire, then the clever ones never dare to interfere."
The techniques for "managing" our desires. Desire is inevitable (and indeed, purposeful); thus, we can learn to deal with it, instead of merely repressing it. (Other useful techniques are presented in the chapter regarding attachment. Some of those techniques are useful in the management of desire, because desire and attachment are based upon the same dynamic: desire attracts to an object, and then attachment holds us there.)
- We can accept the existence of desire. It is part of life; it is part of our nature; it is part of the dynamics of this world. But we can have more than this fatalistic view; we can see desire as a stimulating adventure by which soul explores itself and eventually realizes its spiritual oneness with the objects of desire.
- We can become more aware of our desires. As we develop our cognizance of our intuition as a source of inner guidance, we also note the other factors which are suggesting courses of action; desires are among the "voices" which are telling us what to do. We need to be conscious of our desires in order to distinguish them from our intuition; however, the intuition's suggestions are not contrary to our desires but instead they are wholistic considerations of all of our needs, including those which are expressed by desires.
- We can change the contents of our archetypal fields. Desire draws us to archetypal situations; the nature of these situations is determined by the specific contents of the a-field which corresponds to the archetype. For example, we have a desire for friendships, but the quality of those friendships will be determined by the elements in our Friendship archetype. We can take responsibility for the contents of the a-fields complexes through archetypal field-work; we insert (1) new thoughts, through affirmations, and (2) new images, through visualization techniques, and (3) new energy tones, through energy toning, and (4) new actions, through the as-if principle. If our a-fields contain productive elements, our desires are not troublesome but instead they are useful sources of energy and guidance which carry us toward fulfillment in every area of our life. During our striving to obtain objects of desire, and during the time in which we possess the objects, we can enhance our corresponding a-fields to facilitate the interaction with the objects.
- We can allow ourselves to pursue our desires. In the long run, perhaps all of our desires must be fulfilled, to allow soul to learn all about itself (although this would require many lifetimes). The people whom we admire for their wisdom and stability are usually those who were impetuous during their youth -- following their desires, their passions, their heart, and their impulses, such that they acquired a vast range of experience; then, when they finished "sowing their wild oats," they settled down. We might disapprove of the wildness, but we revere its final products: wisdom and stability.
- We can stop denying the existence of desires which are embarrassing or offensive (perhaps because they violate our moral code). This acknowledgment does not mean that we have to act out the desires in the disreputable form in which we perceive them; it simply means that we are willing to look at them with the intent of finding a constructive way to express them (instead of repressing the desires and then being unwillingly pulled by them into the compulsive actions which would embody their rightful claim to discharge their charge).
- We can "savor" what we have. If our desires are so powerful and persistent that our lives seem to be nothing but the meaningless acquisition of objects which we do not have time to enjoy, we are probably out-of-balance with the regard to the cycle of "laboring and savoring." Our desires cannot be satisfied by mere ownership or by superficial interaction, because satisfaction doesn't come from the object itself but rather it comes from soulful, interactive "savoring" whereby we share the energy and information for which the object has come into our life. If we spend "quality time" with what we already have, we can explore more of its facets and dimensions, and we might discover that some of our desires can be satiated with these current belongings. For example, if we strive to learn more about our marriage partner's many dimensions by which we can satisfy our desires, the marriage stays fresh with excitement and adventure and we do not crave affairs that promise to quench our myriad desires through shallow encounters with a variety of people. Savoring gives us two benefits: (1) we gain an enriching experience with the object (giving to it, receiving from it, learning from it), and (2) we do not waste our time and money in the pointless stockpiling of untended, unloved goods. We can enhance our savoring by setting aside some time to indulge the natural emotional qualities of acceptance and enjoyment and warmth and gratitude and appreciation toward the objects which we own. Love for material goods is not the disparaged "materialism"; it is love. The troublesome kind of materialism is in the acquisition of symbolic wealth (i.e., big numbers in a bank account, or an extravagant home merely to impress people or perhaps to compensate for thoughts of inadequacy in our Ego archetypal field); that type of wealth is useless, dead, burdensome, and unfulfilling to our desires. Many contemporary spiritual teachers have rejected the ideal of the holy ascetic; they say instead that we can have any amount of material goods because what is important is not what we own but rather our relationship to what we own -- a relationship which is founded on vitality and purposefulness in our life at this moment.
- We can transcend our desires. We tend to become enmeshed in our constant craving if we identify each impulse as "my" impulse; instead, we can engage an objective, dispassionate, "mindful" viewpoint toward the phenomenon of desire. We still need to attend to the call of desire, recognizing it as the call to life in material form, but we become better managers of desire if we distance ourselves from it -- at least for a period of time, in some type of contemplative state. When we dis-identify from our desires, the objectivity helps us in several ways:
- We perceive desire as an impersonal magnetism-like force which is not "ours" but rather it is ours to deal with. We know that both the desires and the objects of desire are only temporary visitors in our life; they are not who we are. But they are important; they bring gifts of vitality and information and fulfillment, so we interact with them attentively and lovingly during their brief cycle with us. When the cycle is completed (i.e., the energy-exchange has occurred such that there is no longer an energetic charge bonding us to the objects), we release the objects without attachments.
- We can observe the mechanical steps in the process
of desire. Those steps include
- Our awareness of the desire.
- The arising of associated thoughts and images and energy tones and physiological activity (such as the increase in heart-rate as we become stimulated by the desire).
- Our instinctive discernment of the "quality" of the desire, e.g., its intensity, worthiness, moral value, etc.
- The engagement of the analytical function of the mind, to plot a strategy by which we could acquire the object of desire.