Are we ever truly alone and separate? Or is there something bigger we are a part of?
Holism is the view that everything must be taken within the context of a greater whole. To some, this is an intuitive concept: cells must be understood within the system of the body, individual animals within the ecosystem, each ecosystem within the global environment, planets within galaxies, etc.
But holism has much greater potential than simply an intellectual tool. For example, when we judge ourselves or others for misaligned behaviors, holism asks us to reflect upon what brought those things about: What emotions drove us to that outburst? What in our psyche caused us to react that way? Holism opens ourselves to a greater degree of compassion for ourselves and others through systematic analysis, as well as loving acceptance of another being you are integrally connected with.
Holism posits the paradox that even though we are each an irreducible and un-substitutable individual (one need only contemplate the infinite uniqueness of a single leaf on a tree, a tree within a forest), we are all still informed, shaped, connected to, and fulfilled by a unified system that is us far more than any sense of self divorced from the rest of reality.
This kind of metaphysical holism has astounding implications. It proposes that each person is greater than his or her individual self. It creates a new way of relating to fellow human beings, in that each is understood to be invaluable in his or her contribution and very being, a reflection and powerful element of the system as a whole.
Rather than any individual perspective becoming dominant, all become prisms with which to refract the same light; this is not to denounce critical rigor, but rather to transform argumentation into constructive conversation and curious discourse.
Overall, holism means loving oneself and finding oneself as oneself. We can never fully know, because there is always more to learn, to discover, and to love. The process and systematic whole is reflected in the beauty of each aspect, animal, plant, river, planet, star, and person, and each reveals another verse of the great mystery of life. We need only open our eyes to see and ears to listen.
About our guest author:
David Rauenzahn is a long-time seeker of deeper meaning. A recent Religious Studies graduate from Reed College, David spent the majority of his academic career pursuing perennial truths and the connections between objective truths, consciousness, and perspective. He is currently looking to bring dialectical techniques into politics to engender a holistic political environment that seeks a cooperative synthesis of values and perspective.
If you read “Will & Grace Part 1 | Divine Masculine,” you were introduced to the idea that polarization is something that happens even in contemporary spirituality, and that one major way this manifests is polarization of the gender principles. In this post, we will explore this further, and touch upon how we can honor the Divine Feminine in our lives (in balance with the Divine Masculine).
The Taoist sages of China, millennia ago, discovered that there are two fundamental forces behind reality. As many of us know, they called these Yin and Yang. The misconception that many Westerners have, however, is that Yin is evil and Yang is good. Perhaps this comes from attempting to understand another system through an Anglo and Christian lens. The Taoists did not associate these forces with good and evil.
Yang is masculine and it is the force that thrusts and shapes. It is hot and radiating. Yang is the quality that penetrates. In its extreme state it is corrosive, but when balanced, Yang is very life-giving.
Yin is the feminine quality, being receptive, flexible, and supple. It is depicted as darkness, but darkness is simply a photonic vacuum which light enters. There is no malicious aspect attached to it, being one half of a dynamic. Likewise, Yin is considered cold, and this is because cold is the emptiness which draws in heat.
THE TRIPLE GODDESS
Old Pagan traditions had rich descriptions of the Divine Feminine. A great way to learn how to incorporate sacred feminine energies into your own life is to run through the trifold nature of the Divine Feminine, metaphorically based on the three main stages of a woman’s life.
The Maiden is the young girl. She is playful, delicate, and creative. The primary trait of the Maiden is a full receptivity to life and other people. Unconditional acceptance and tenderness are natural effects of this. Be open and empathetic – imagine yourself as the person you are interacting with. What might be that person’s hopes and fears, dreams and regrets? See how you can connect with him or her, and how you might share commonalities. What could bring you together?
The Mother is the woman in her prime, nourishing those she cares for. She is fertile, abundant, and loving. She represents the alchemical vessel, from which Life enters and flows forth again. She is the Earth, the field, and the sacred waters. Reflect on the areas in which you are abundant. How can you use that abundance to give to others? Also, in which areas are you resisting being “fertilized” – do you have an energy, trait, or resource that could be activated, but you’re afraid? Perhaps you have ideas for a business, yet no clue how to put them into action. Maybe you have a vacant room, but don’t trust bringing anyone in to rent it out. Think deeply about this, and allow yourself to meet with people and opportunities that could put your stagnant resources to good use.
The Crone is the Wise Woman, the elder. Old in her years, and rich in experience, she intimately knows many mysteries. Her strongest attributes are a well-developed intuition and a subtle understanding about life. It’s as if she is straddling two worlds – the visible and the invisible. She refines the raw empathy of the Maiden, making it a well of vast wisdom. Pay attention to your intuitions and gut feelings. Learn to discern between ego impressions and genuine clairsentience (the difference is that strong emotions, such as fear or anger, often accompany the ego, whereas divine intuition is often pure information with a neutral tone). Record your dreams, and reflect on them. Practice meditation to still your mind and receive direct transmission from Spirit.
These practices are useful for both men and women. It is too much to ask a person to instantly balance the energies of both genders – this can be a lifelong journey. However, by paying attention to an energy you might not be used to, you can achieve greater perspective and more versatility in life. It is a stepping stone to equilibrium.
As humans, it’s easy for us to want to swerve one way or another on any given subject. It could be politics (“I’m Left and you’re Right”) and religion (“You’re either in my camp and going to Heaven, or you’re not and going to Hell.”). It could also be gender (“Men are from Mars…”) and ethnicity (“My culture’s better…”), or even just wanting to be right about something. This is called polarization—clinging strongly to either side of an extreme. One goal of spiritual growth is depolarization, or finding the “Middle Way” of balance.
However, polarization finds its way into spiritual practice and ideology without us even realizing it sometimes. When this happens, we tend to forget a whole aspect of the Divine and limit ourselves to only what we like. This puts us in arrested development. While comfortable at first, it limits us in the long-run.
The key areas often polarized in spiritual practice are the Divine Masculine and Feminine. To be truly balanced is to embrace them both. This involves overcoming our impulse to prefer one and push the other to the side. In modern spirituality and the New Age movement, we can see polarization happening, although there is increasing awareness that harmony between the Masculine and Feminine is important.
THE DIVINE MASCULINE
In the wake of the fantastic improvements of feminist movements, some men have actually lost some sense of what it means to be a man. Masculine concepts, which have been seen to oppress, dominate, and cause violence, are no longer considered viable. Indeed, this awareness has been a step forward. Unfortunately, the positive aspects of masculinity, the Divine Masculine, are hidden somewhere, out of view. Many men (and women) would benefit greatly by fully embracing these aspects. Rather than be a source for shame and corruption, a healthy Masculinity can develop. Here are some practical ways to explore the Divine Masculine.
1. Face Your Fears
Pure masculine energy is almost synonymous with momentum. It moves forward, in a purposeful way, steadfastly working to overcome obstructions. What this comes down to is this: don’t let fear hold you back from following your inner guidance or passion. It is the challenge, itself, that shapes and refines you! How do you face your fears? Reach into the deepest core of your being—find that part of yourself that links directly with Spirit. You can do this through meditation, shamanic journeying, or just knowing there is infinite potential at the root of your being.
2. Stay Focused
Are you a laser? The way to lose power is to diffuse yourself. Concentration is key to piercing obstacles. So learn how to focus your whole being on a goal or decision, and stay on track with it. Meditation is a great method to building focus. Also, channel a strong emotion to support your conscious aim—perhaps enthusiasm.
3. Expand Yourself
Continually build on your mastery of a subject and your personal development. Try to keep growth holistic—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Keep pushing the boundaries of what you think you can do. Test and challenge yourself. Experiment. Explore. Be a pioneer. Run headfirst into the Unknown!
These three concepts are connected—they’re all forward-moving and dynamic. One can easily see how they can get out of hand: facing fears becomes instilling fear, staying focused becomes having tunnel vision, and expanding yourself becomes dominating others. Like all things in this Universe, with every positive comes a negative. Men, and women, can allow the shadow side of masculinity to be a relic of the past, while integrating the new aspects of masculinity.
How do you typically express masculinity?