Well – I’m back from my travels. More to come on that soon I’m sure – and on the many reflections I’ve been gifted with while away. In the meantime, here is a piece I wrote while away:
I have two quite different, competing tendencies, two incredible extremes of personality.
One is reflective, compassionate, curious, gentle and calm. It tends towards a kind of oceanic rationality which is clear and logical without being alienated or over-abstract. This mode is also a source of great vulnerability and at times fear. It does not tolerate uncertainty, pain or the threat of suffering well. It is childlike and deeply mortal. It deals in the stock of uncertainty, complexity and ecology.
The other extreme I’ve come to refer to as my Righteous Destroyer. It’s distilled fury, rage, destructiveness and brutality but always through a lens of moral absolutism. It is convinced of its own point of view and no matter whether my point of view is sensible or not I lose access to my reason when this mode dominates.
I just want to tear apart all those I disagree with, refute them with a violence that does me no credit. I also see this extreme in many other people and hate them for it. I disown my violence and project it onto anyone I disagree with. This mode is overwhelming and transpersonal – a kind of raging blind deity pulsing through me.
This second mode does not activate in response to every issue or circumstance. It has specific triggers, usually in relation to my recurring feeling of being excluded or unrepresented in the communities to which I gravitate. Or else it reacts out of my perception of injustice, wrong-doing, ignorance, or poisonousness.
For example I’ve allowed it to show very slightly in my writings about the Rune Gild, Alain de Benoist and on matters political. But I work hard to tone my rants down because the seething, righteous hate that rises up in me translates very badly into articulated opinions.
I’ve come to be troubled by the rigid dichotomy I experience between these two modes. I’ve come to be troubled by how violently, destructively reactive I become, often in quite arbitrary situations.
In the last year I’ve experimented with holding back my rage less in various inter-personal situations because I felt I was wimping out by restraining myself. The results have been much less satisfying and productive than I thought they’d be, however.
I am learning that while Alexander cutting the Gordian Knot is one thing, in real life a measure of subtlety, wit, self-control and patience is necessary and not just a cop out.
Often the fury comes over so quickly that I don’t actually bother to check if my chosen target is actually promulgating a perspective I object to or not. I just decide they’re wrong and go for the jugular.
Of course the irony is that I hate those who adopt similarly absolutist and violent postures. And I’m troubled by my extremity. Even if I totally disagree with another opinion, my fury almost completely disables my ability to apply reason and reflection and hence disrupts my ability to challenge or oppose in any constructive or effective fashion.
Or at the very least, the fury overshadows the reasoned and considered aspects of my thoughts and words so that these are diluted in their impact. And I risk coming across like a jerk. All in all: not good!
My fury is a deep ego attachment and, hilariously, it’s an attachment I often unleash in the name of ego destruction! Somehow I doubt this is even the sort of thing ego-oriented magicians have in mind.
When I was initiated into the Al-Jerrahi Sufi Order I was given the magical name Ali Salaam by the then circle leader. I don’t know if she was conscious of the full aptness of the name when she selected it, but it seems highly relevant to this schizoid furious/gentle split.
Ali was one of Muhammad’s generals and really the Islamic version of a berserker; he was much feared. One day he found himself in battle with a foe. He disarmed his enemy but before he could manage the coup de grace his foe spat in his face. Ali stopped, stunned by the epiphany that he was consumed utterly by hatred.
So disgusted then was he with his own actions that he threw his sword aside and stalked from the battlefield. I don’t think that was the end of his military career, but it was the end of his use of linear, brutal fury to further his ends. He resolved to be more respectful of the nature of violence, to act from a more holistic point of view.
Hence the name Ali Salaam – a peaceful warrior or a warrior of peace. I think this name captures my divorced extremities and also articulates a way by which I might yet be able to negotiate a healthier relationship between them. Kalima sure had me figured out when she named me.
That I would mention this point about Sufism should underscore the fact that, for me, these extreme modes are a psychological and spiritual conundrum. I am less and less able to tolerate these contradictions and hypocrisies, the way that they limit me.
When I am in my gentle mode I risk becoming ineffectual and paralytic. When I’m furious I am not fit for human engagement. Insofar as I tend to suppress the latter I also sap my will, passion and courage. I need to bring the two tendencies into communication so that I can freely move between them, weave them together, become whole.
How to achieve this goal? There are several aspects to the challenge:
1) Not letting my Righteous Destroyer run away with me;
2) Not slipping into the shadows of my gentle self;
3) Bringing the two modes into communication and connection.
I’ve decided to try to expose myself more to things that might normally drive me mad, but with a mindful attitude, a determination to stay present and not be swept away. Both gentle, retiring passivity and all-destroying fury are means of avoiding being present.
Perhaps by making more of an effort to be present, to go beyond only seeking out evidence that supports what I already believe (a universal human failing), by choosing to act on my beliefs out of wisdom and confidence and not fury or fear – perhaps I can come closer to reaching a détente between my two extreme modes of being.
I want to emphasis that these comments only apply to me. They do not imply a criticism of how anyone else conducts themselves. I recognise in myself a limitation, a disjunct in my nature, along certain lines. These motifs might have very different meanings for others.
In a sense both gentleness and fury are expressions of my transpersonal channel and my ego. I’m coming into a more nuanced experience of these phenomena as I get beyond hard dichotomies around self and other. I believe reality emerges out of the middle; subjective and objective are post hoc abstractions we derive after the fact.
So around another rung of the crazy spiral of Being and Mystery we go. I hope I can detach from my attachments and reintegrate into a healthier way of relating to myself and to the world around me.