To not recognize the darkest aspects of our way of life disables us from being the greatness that we are. To claim we are wise and spiritual without acknowledging the darkest aspects of who we are is superficial. This does not mean we should dwell in the darkness. Rather it’s a call to conscious to not allow the acknowledgment of divinity distract us from the aspects of society that are destructive and inhumane. In modern America we have conversations about spirituality yet all the while we skip over the suffering everywhere. To me, this is not only superficial, but it actually diminishes the execution of our inherent spiritual power.
It’s the “11th hour” and as I write this 200 species go extinct daily on our planet. That is 10,000 times more than the natural extinction rate. If we do not acknowledge this and act now we loose any future hope of co-inhabiting this planet.
Last week I had the privilege to see Marianne Williamson speak at an event at UC Berkeley. It was a symposium about changing the world through introspection and social action. I admit, I went into the event skeptical. I had been very frustrated with the field of “spirituality” for quit some time now. To me I have seen it influence people to see the light of love without going deeply into the darkness of, what Marianne calls, our “shadow side.” Going deeply into the shadow side does not mean that we focus on self-pity and guilt, but rather that we see how things really are, have compassion for it, and do something about it.
It is this compassion that we need to hone in on and develop if we are going be truly “spiritual.” Dealing with our “shadow side” means taking responsibility. Developing compassion may not come easy. It may have us on your knees in profound sadness when we actually see the shape of the world as it is. True spirituality has us not ignoring the desperation of a homeless person begging, the geo-engineering of our atmosphere, or the brutality of our industrial way of life. True spirituality has us feel all of this deeply, even if hurts like hell.
Ken Wilber states that “the more awakened we become the more we realize both the perfection of Saṃsāra, [the infinite and unalterable aspect of divinity within us and all things,] and the pain of our relative world.” To me, this is the essence of an evolved spirituality, for we do not loose ourselves completely in the recognition of ultimate reality, but we maintain a sensitivity to everything and we seek to undue the injustice and suffering of our world. It would mean that to see someone starving brings you compassionate pain, but all the while maintaining that this person whom is suffering is as divine and eternal as you are. It is a type of awakening that acknowledges that their suffering as your suffering.