A wise teacher once told me that at some point we all need to answer the question for ourselves: is the universe for us, against us, or indifferent? Our answer needs to be more than intellectual. Only a handful of years ago I would have told you that the universe was definitely for me. I was a person of faith after all. But faith is not trust, and this question takes us to the edge where we either viscerally trust in the unfolding of the universe or we are fighting the unfolding.
When I started doing my inner (trauma) work I discovered that I was in denial. I had “faith” but I didn’t trust. In fact, my behaviour in intimate relationships revealed that I was living in a contracted state, guarding myself against a reality that I reckoned could stage an attack at any moment and for no good reason. Not that an outsider would notice it. I presented as a fairly relaxed and easy going fellow. Until you crossed me. Or at least I interpreted your words or actions as such. Then I attacked. But I was justified, you see, because you attacked me.
The problem is that until we’ve seen how our heart got broken and the how belief set in unconsciously that reality could at any moment turn on us, we’re pretty damned certain that we’re always right in our conclusion that we’re under attack. We are so identified with our defensive orientation that we don’t even know we’re living in a condition of distrust. The notion that your words were not actually meant to hurt, or that I might even be setting things up in such a way to provoke an attack, seems preposterous. Yet it’s what we do, it’s what I was doing (and still do on occasion) and it’s what nations do, all the while refusing to take responsibility. We, like nations, will always find a scapegoat so that our inner aggressor remains hidden from our view.
I’m suspicious of rationalistic “realists” who calmly tell us that it’s all going to end in a heat death, and that life is a tale told by an idiot. Meaningless and hopelessness don’t just drop down out of the blue one day. It’s the end product of both a pervasive materialistic initiation through our eduction system (all Reality can be reduced to physical reality), and in my opinion, early trauma. That’s when and where we learn that life is hopeless and that we are helpless to do anything about it.
When we’re infants and toddlers, the universe IS our mother, then our mother and father. If we are nourished, protected and loved adequately, the universe is experienced as a pretty amazing ally. And this is a reasonable conclusion, given that the universe has coalesced after billions of years of evolution into a warm-hearted human being who seems to delight in me, and gives a sincere shit about how I’m progressing. The conclusion that the universe is for me, under these conclusions, is an empirical fact. If, on the other hand, I experience repeated failures of love,reality is rightly perceived as unsafe and intent upon attacking me. When I am under siege I naturally contract, pull into my fortress, defend myself. And this brilliant defence system, which works well enough to get me through these early years, eventually undermines my attempt to live a full and vital life. In truth, if we were under attack, the only options we had were to become ourselves attackers (fight) , collapse into passivity (freeze) or run like hell from reality (flight).
Or we can do our work, after which we may be able to consciously choose the appropriate response to changing life conditions—and this may indeed mean fighting when it’s right to fight, taking flight when we’re in over our head, or doing nothing. There’s nothing wrong with any of those options. But if we are driven unconsciously by impulses and beliefs we formed when we were two years old, then our life is no longer our own. We’re being hijacked my memories parading as reality.
My email signature for the past couple of years is Rumi quote: “It’s rigged. Everything is in your favour”. Most people seem to like it. But it triggers others. I had a man email me back his response to the quote: “Ah, one word: Trump”. In other words, a narcissistic bully renders Rumi’s quote null and void. But just because reality CAN show up in a Donald Trump, doesn’t mean that such a brutish specimen defines reality. He’s a part of reality that I would say is anti-life. I would also say that he couldn’t be the way he is unless he learned to perceive that the universe was out to get him, and the only way to counter an aggressive universe was to be what he calls “a winner”, to aggressively manipulate reality so it goes “my” way. It’s kill or be killed in his universe, dominate or be dominated. If he pushes the button, he will no doubt believe that he is justified and that he had no other option.
Neither does Rumi’s quote mean that it’s always going to go our way. “Our way” is typically defined as what my ego (survivor self) deserves. But this small self has no way of knowing what is actually good for him. He just wants to be safe and secure against all incursions that threaten his ideal life, and will spend his life building a fortress around those ideals. But in truth, the best thing that could happen to this fellow is that the universe summons all its troops to take up arms against this fortress. If he will not fall, then he must be broken. Said ego, of course, would at first be convinced, like Job, that this was most unjust. He might conclude that the universe was against him at the very moment when the universe was offering him a new and truer life.
This is the great dismantling that I write about in my next book: Dismantled: How Love and Psychedelics Broke a Clergyman Apart and Put Him Back Together. (September, 2018). And so I’m persuaded, after having my own life dismantled and put back together, that the long arc of reality is moving in us, through us, as us toward a wholeness that we’re in the process of realizing—if we can let go of the ideals of our ego and surrender into the grace of Spirit.