Jeffry Hamilton Steele

THOUGHTS ABOUT ORPHEUS (5/97)


As I view adults around me, I see two roads being traveled. One involves pursuit of the true self, while the other involves avoidance of true self through addictive behaviors, relationships and substances. Nearly everyone seems to have both, in varying proportion.

It is indeed terrifying to face the splendor of what we can become, for it involves letting go much of what we thought of as our security. What distinguishes us humans from other creatures is that we have the ability to tell the difference between these two roads and can, in fact, choosewhich one to go down.

To further illustrate the concept of these two roads, I recall the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice:

When Orpheus plays his lyre, nature listens. Eurydice, while gathering flowers by the river her wedding to Orpheus, is bit on the foot by a snake. She quickly dies. That night, Orpheus -- playing his lyre, pouring all his grief into the music -- enters the cave to the underworld in hope of finding his bride. Charming the ferryman and 3-headed guard dog, he reaches Hades the cold-hearted King of the Underworld -- who is uncharacteristically affected. Hades pronounces to Orpheus, "Go back to the light of day. Go quickly while my monsters are stilled by your song. Climb up the steep road to daylight, and never once turn back. The spirit of Eurydice shall follow. But if you look around at her, she will return to me."

And so Orpheus begins the return journey, but fails to hear any sign of her spirit following him upwards. Wondering if he has been tricked and doubting that he could succeed in returning down a second time, with the mouth of the cave in sight, he turns to look behind. For a brief moment he can make out her form and he attempts to embrace it. She says only "goodbye" and vanishes. Other versions of the story have her nagging him as they walk, saying he must not love her if he won't turn and look.

To not look feels like death; to look is death. I ask each one of you: In what ways do you give in to looking back and what act of faith will it take for you to proceed forward? To facilitate this discussion I have prepared a list of how, to me, these two parts of our self appear to operate:

Ego Self - Personality - Victim

Higher Self

PROVIDES FOUNDATION, THE BODYCONNECTED TO THE DIVINE and our spirit purpose
KNOWS HOW TO DO THINGS, NOT WHY
  • rows the boat but doesn't know the first thing about navigation
KNOWS WHY
  • makes informed decisions for the Ego Self to act on 
  • can navigate the boat
  • when Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus
  • when Paul Revere made his ride
ACTS OUT OF ANIMAL INSTINCT
  • sex drive, territorialism
  • perceives competitively; only victims and victors
  • believes in a certain autonomy; "every man for himself"
  • yet also feels the need to be taken care of by someone
ACTS OUT OF WISDOM
  • views each individual as part of the whole; "All for one and one for all", "No one is free until all are free"
  • decides when to have sexual feelings
HOARDS
  • obsessed with holding on to the past through photos, etc.
  • having no divine faith, always preparing for the worst
  • preoccupied with security
KNOWS TO LET GO
  • leave behind what is not needed
CLINGS TO THE FAMILY, CLAN, TRIBE
  • believes loyalty is key to survival
  • acts out of obligation
  • expects paybacks
  • seeks a dominating patriarchical God
  • loyal to religious orders and institutions
HAS "CUT THE CORD"
  • does not require family, clan or tribe connection
  • seeks the God within
  • has no need for religious or institutional affiliation
  • seeks to deepen relationships naturally with all present
  • values all relationships
  • does not require one special exclusive relationship
SEEKS MATERIAL SOLUTIONS TO SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS
  • power
  • sex
  • retribution
  • wealth
KNOWS THE THINGS WE TRULY DESIRE
  • transcendence
  • true closeness
  • ability to forgive
  • the genuine abundance of giving and receiving in quantity without attachment to wealth
HAS NO IDEA WHAT LOVE IS
  • objectifies others
  • seeks to be objectified
  • insatiable need for attention
  • unable to listen to another or imagine the feelings of another
  • needs to always be "right"
  • seeks personal fulfillment through relationships
CAPABLE OF GENUINE LOVE
  • able to listen to another with loving detachment
  • offers nurturance without seeking fulfillment through it
CONSTANT NEED TO BE DOING SOMETHING 
  • cannot receive
  • lack of creativity or imagination (can't see any point in funding the arts)
RECEPTIVE, REFLECTIVE
  • requires no activity to be fully engaged; appreciative of every nuance
  • source of unbound creativity and imagination
IMPATIENT
  • believes only in instant gratification
  • only interest is: "what's in it for me"
PATIENT
  • content waiting
  • completely present in each moment
DOES NOT CHOOSE FREELY
  • basis of tyranny, dependence and addiction
  • military training/obedience
CHOOSES FREELY IN EVERY MOMENT
  • basis of liberation and independence; makes free choices

See related article within this site: Sermon given 5/97
 
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