What are Pleroma states?
They are blissful states of mind, which come up as a consequence of deep processing. They can also appear during meditation, mystical experiences etc.
Peace, Love, God, Myself and Pure Consciousness are some examples.
This would be the typical flow of process that ends in Pleroma:
1) Initial problem -- a problem you want to resolve (like anger at your mother, for example);
2) Several other negative elements, each (usually) deeper and more 'fundamental' than the previous one;
3) A first positive state;
4) Several other positive states, each (usually) higher and closer to your True Core than the previous one;
5) The highest positive state (Pleroma -- Deep Peace, for example).
So let's say you've ended a process in the state of Deep Peace, just like in the example above.
If you try to feel your initial problem now (anger in the example), it seems trivial. Or silly. Or far away. Or like something you made up... you get the picture.
It feels like you've resolved this problem for ever. In fact, it feels like you've resolved all your problems for ever.
And like Pleroma is here to stay.
Only it's not.
A Pleroma state usually doesn't last longer than 2-3 days. And then it's back to your normal, frustrating reality.
Then you process again. And reach Pleroma again. You enjoy it for a while, thinking that this time, surely, it must last for ever.
But alas, in a few hours or days you're back on earth, firmly grounded in your problems.
And so on it goes, up and down, again and again.
You might feel like you're making no progress. Like no matter how hard you try, you are always back at the start.
If you are frustrated by this, you're not alone. Many practitioners, especially at the beginning of their spiritual journey, try in vain to force Pleroma to stay.
But Pleroma acts like a fickle lover. One that comes and goes, and does not want to commit to a serious relationship.
So how on earth do you make it your permanent state?
Come back next week and I'll tell you.
When we work on an emotional problem or inner conflict, fear regularly comes up.
Fear is one of the most persistent emotions, appearing again and again, even during the same therapeutic session.
Example: Fear of death comes up while you are working on a certain problem.
So what do you do?
Typically, in a session you would take this fear of death as a new element and work on it.
However, fear is actually RESISTANCE.
It is a defense mechanism. Your subconscious uses it to prevent you from experiencing painful situations.
So when you fear death, you resist experiencing death.
Thus, Death is the problem here.
So really there's no wonder that feeling of fear continues to pop up. Because if you work on it directly, you're dealing with the consequence, not the cause.
You should work on that which you fear, not on the fear itself. It is faster and more effective.
1) If your initial problem is fear of something, disregard the fear and start working on the 'something'.
For instance, if you fear being abandoned by your souse, start from 'Abandoned by my spouse,' not from the fear.
2) If fear is so intense that you can't feel the experience you fear, start at the aspect of the experience that you can feel (in the example of 'Abandoned by my spouse', you can start from, for example, 'My mother feeling sorry for me' or 'Selling the house').
This tarot card depicts a regal, imposing man in a chariot. The vehicle is typically pulled by two horses, but the charioteer holds no reins.
The card tends to turn up in a reading when you have a goal. It suggests that you will achieve it.
But the victory is not guaranteed—if you want to succeed, you have to behave in a certain way.
Take the driver’s seat—take action. Actually, you need to take a series of actions. The chariot’s journey is a gradual victory. The horses are steered persistently toward the aim.
The Problem with Horses
The chariot is drawn by two horses. The left one and the right one.
The problem with horses is, they tend to pull to their side. The left horse to the left, the right one to the right. So unless the horses are tame and well trained, the chariot will not stay on the path and you will not reach your destination.
So how do you tame the horses?
You pull them both toward the middle and keep them there. You train them to stay in the center, on the path.
In the spiritual sense, both the chariot and the horses are part of you. The chariot symbolizes your inner potential—the ability to accomplish your goal.
The horses symbolize opposing tendencies inside of you. Your inner conflicts.
This is often shown by the contrasting colors of the horses: one is black, the other white. In some tarot decks, it is black and white sphinxes that draw the chariot. The sphinx is a mythological being—part human, part lion—which highlights the opposition.
Steering Without Reins
If we try to take action in the outside world while inner conflicts are raging inside of us, we’ll lose control of the chariot.
Best case scenario: we’ll veer off the road. Worst case scenario: the chariot will overturn.
In the picture the charioteer holds no reins. He doesn’t need them because he has mastered his inner conflicts. His two horses run like one, in the middle of the road.
The Chariot speaks of the inner work we need to do to reach our goals.
So next time you set a goal, integrate the opposites that stand in your way first.
Tame your horses.
The Myth of Daedalus and Icarus
According to this Greek myth, to break free from the labyrinth, where he and his son Icarus are kept imprisoned, the ingenious Daedalus makes two pairs of wings. He fashions them out of feathers and wax.
The father and the son are on an island, so in order to escape, they need to fly over water.
Daedalus warns his son not to fly too high.
But after a while, the boy becomes so overwhelmed by the excitement of flying, that he forgets the warning. He soars higher and higher.
The sun melts the wax off his wings …
And Icarus falls to his death.
… Or Too Low
Seth Godin speaks of this myth in his The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?
He argues that the older versions of this story contain a second point: Daedalus warns his son not to fly too low either, as the sea spray would ruin the lift in the boy’s wings.
To paraphrase Godin freely, by omitting this second ‘half’ of the myth, those in power have tried to protect themselves and control others: if flying too high is dangerous, then people will follow the rules blindly.
But Godin believes that playing safe doesn’t work anymore. To get ahead in today’s world, you have to embrace what is special about you—stand out and take risks.
In other words, you gotta fly high.
Both Are Dangerous
Godin is right in the sense that Icarus’ fate has been used as a metaphor for the dangers of forgetting one’s limitations, one’s “place”.
But if it’s wrong to ignore one part of the warning—‘don’t fly too low’, surely it is equally wrong to ignore the other—‘‘don’t fly too high’.
So what is the myth telling us, if we consider it as a whole?
Don’t fly too high.
Or too low.
Both are dangerous.
The Golden Mean
The Chariot warns us not to stray too far to the left or to the right if we want to reach our destination.
The Icarus myth tells us the same thing, only in a different dimension: don’t go too high or too low.
Both are allegories for avoiding extremes, for staying on the middle course. Aristotle calls this the golden mean, Buddha the middle path.
Ovid expresses this plainly in his, most widely accepted, version of the Icarus myth:
‘Let me warn you, Icarus, to take the middle way, in case the moisture weighs down your wings, if you fly too low, or if you go too high, the sun scorches them. Travel between the extremes.’
But the Icarus myth also gives us profound insights into the nature of the extremes.
The Hypnotic Sun
As we've seen, one half of Daedalus’ warning to his son—‘Don’t fly too high’—has been emphasized throughout history. This makes perfect sense: Icarus doesn’t die because he flies too low, but because he flies too high.
He is drawn to the sun. He can’t help it.
No wonder. The sun is mesmerizing. Hot and bright, it is the perfect symbol of a positive pole. The perfect Yang.
Icarus is never tempted to fly too low. The dark, cold sea below him is the pure Yin, the negative pole.
Infatuated by the sun, Icarus forgets his father’s warning to stay on the middle course.
That he ‘forgets’ simply means that he unconsciously starts gravitating toward the positive pole. The youth represents spiritual immaturity—lack of true awareness of opposites and their traps.
He gets carried away.
That happens to all of us when we are blinded by the desire to have the positive pole, whatever that means to us at that moment—a certain person, object, or outcome.
And all the warnings and wise advice of our family, friends, and well-meaning passers-by are unable to save us.
Icarus is attracted to the positive pole, repulsed by the negative, just like we all are in so many combinations and so many lifetimes in this universe of ours.
Regarding the Chariot, I’ve mentioned that the vehicle itself can be seen as our inner potential. We have a beautiful chariot each, but can we steer it?
If we learn how to, we’ll achieve our goal, the card is telling us.
The wings Daedalus created also represent our inner potential. We all have wings, but can we fly?
However, in the Icarus allegory much more is at stake than just achieving a specific goal.
Every healthy human being can learn to steer a chariot. But how many of us can fly with man-made wings?
None, no matter how cleverly designed the wings are.
Yet when all our opposites are integrated, the impossible becomes possible.
We escape the prison of the material universe, just like Daedalus escaped his labyrinth prison by staying on the middle course.
The reward is the Consciousness of One -- the Absolute Freedom.
In the first part of this post, I write about a phenomenon that sometimes happens when opposites integrate: it feels like one pole absorbs the other.
So if we take Life and Death as example, the state of integration of the two is often Life.
However, the opposite can also happen. Death can 'absorb' Life.
This new Death is of a higher kind. We are not repulsed by it, or scared of it. It is almost impossible to describe.
It just IS.
And because it has transformed, Death may not be the best name for it anymore. We may call it Nothingness, or Void, or No-Life.
That 'Life absorbs Death' more frequently than Death absorbs Life just shows that we are still conditioned. That even in high states of mind, we still experience Life as more attractive than Death.
A similar thing happens in near-death experiences: a Christian will have Jesus welcome him at the end of a tunnel of light. A Buddhist Buddha. A New-Age believer a Light Being or their 'Guide'.
In order to process sublime experiences, our conscious mind still 'interprets' them using concepts and symbols it can relate to.
Life is neither better nor nobler than death.
Opposites are equally valuable manifestations of Oneness.
William James, in his The Varieties of Religious Experience, writes about the integration of opposites.
He argues that one of the poles, "the nobler and better one", often "soaks up and absorbs its opposite into itself".
All of us who work on the integration have experienced this ‘absorption' phenomenon.
Let's say that we work on opposites Life and Death.
As the two merge, Life may start spreading and absorbing Death.
When the integration is complete, Life is all that is left. But this is a whole new kind of Life.
It does not feel particularly beautiful, joyous, or even positive anymore.
We struggle to describe it in the worldly terms. Because it just IS.
We don't feel that pull toward it anymore. Because we are ONE WITH IT.
But can the opposite happen? Can Death absorb Life?
Read about it in Part II.
The 6 of Pentacles
One of the Tarot cards, the Six of Pentacles, portrays a rich man giving money to beggars.
This card talks about giving and receiving. The wealthy man is tossing coins with one hand, while in the other he is holding a balanced scale.
The most clear interpretation is that the person who has too much gives to the ones who have too little, thus creating balance in society.
Whereas in a relationship reading, the Six of Pentacles urges us to take a closer look at how much we give and receive. This applies to money and tangible things, but also to love, attention, and communication.
Opposites Giving : Receiving are crucial for relationships. They are even more important for romantic connections, the success of which depends on an unhindered flow of attention, love, money, communication and sexual energy between partners.
This is why Giving : Receiving, as a karmic pattern, rules love lives of many. At the deepest level, all their ‘love games’ revolve around these opposites.
Until they integrate Giving and Receiving, they tend to give too little or too much to their partners.
An Unfair Game
In many cultures, including ours, giving is considered noble and spiritually evolved. Whereas receiving is frowned on and often brings with it shame and guilt.
This is why some people, who are eager to make their relationship work, sacrifice everything for their partner. But they often get nothing in return.
Even worse: their partner may betray them, steal from them, or cheat on them. So the ‘extreme givers’ are left in shock: how is it possible that they were treated so unfairly?
I wrote about a similar phenomenon in my previous post: Hippolytus, the protagonist of Euripides’ tragedy with the same name, is shocked at being punished 'for all his virtue.'
Euripides lets us see through Hippolytus’ fate that too much of a good thing leads to trouble.
At the spiritual level, relationships are games. If you give too little, the game will be too difficult for your partner, and sooner or later they will collapse under its burden.
But if you give too much--if you do all the work--they will become bored.
Contrary to what one might expect, you’re not doing any favors to those to whom you give too much. We value the things we have to work for—as working for something entails making an effort and overcoming obstacles to achieve it.
Which is how we evolve spiritually.
So when we give too much, we are robbing our partner of the chance to truly experience the giving pole.
In the words of Rabbi Dessler: “We don't do for the people we love so much as we love those for whom we do.”
For relationships to function well, there needs to be an equal balance of give and take.
Three pentacles on each side of the scale.
PUSHING EXTREMES -- Chastity vs. Desire
Opposites are fundamental for our understanding of reality. We perceive them outside of us, in the natural phenomena such as the sun and the moon, summer and winter, or darkness and light. But we also perceive them inside of us. Those polarizations are often called inner conflicts.
In order for us to grow spiritually, we need to integrate opposites. The Spiritual : The Material is one of those pairs most of us struggle with.
The Spirit vs. the Body
At the beginning of their spiritual journey, many people attach the highest value to the spiritual. At the same time they despise or shun the material, including the body. They believe that this makes them more ‘spiritually evolved’.
No wonder, as in many religious traditions ‘desires of the flesh’ are considered dirty and sinful, and are often perceived as enemies of faith and spirituality.
Medieval Christianity is no exception. This tendency is taken to the extreme in early Christian female saints, whose defining virtue is chastity.
A good example of this is Thekla, the first Christian female martyr.
Thekla is 18 years old and betrothed to a young man when she hears Saint Paul preach. Deeply touched, particularly by his call to chastity, she converts to Christianity.
This enrages her mother and fiancé. Thekla is threatened by death at the stake unless she renounces Christianity.
She stays true to her faith. The fire is lit, but as the flames approach her, a thunderstorm arises out of nowhere and rain extinguishes the fire. Thekla is released but commanded to leave the city.
Several similar episodes follow – and they mostly have these three things in common: 1) Thekla’s chastity gets her in trouble; 2) she is threatened with death but remains true to her ideals 3) on the verge of death, she is always miraculously saved.
As they were entering the city a young nobleman named Alexander saw Thekla. Being entranced by her beauty he rushed forward and tried to seduce her, but Thekla fought him off, thus disgracing him in front of his crowd of friends.
As you have probably figured out, Thekla did not lack suitors. It seems however that these guys were no match for her faith: all she needed to do to get super-strength and beat them black-and-blue was to cross herself.
So what is Thekla’s recipe for resolving inner conflict between chastity and desire? Well there is no recipe, as there is no conflict.
Chastity is her virtue of choice and she does not care in the least for romantic love or domestic bliss. The marriage she chooses is spiritual. She only has eyes for her ‘Heavenly Bridegroom’, and none of the men of flesh and blood stand a chance.
She pushes the ‘chastity pole’ to the extreme, absolutely neglecting and ignoring its opposite, the desire.
Her temptations and trials are formal and superficial. The act of adopting a new faith seems to have erased every trace of sexual/romantic desire in her. This rigid, robotic attachment to chastity is used as a proof of her saintliness.
But in some of the ‘ordinary’ women of the middle ages we clearly see this inner conflict between faith and desire. A beautiful example is In Trutina, one of the 24 songs in Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Though I am interested in the lyrics here, the music is sublime and the song only about two minutes long, so if you’re interested, you can find it online.
In Trutina (In the Balance)
In my mind's wavering balance
Wanton love and chastity sway in opposite scales.
But I choose what I see, I offer my neck to the yoke;
to a yoke so sweet I cross.
Though in the end the lady in question seems to choose monastic life (that is what ‘sweet yoke’ most likely means), the song is about her dilemma. Before she decides, she is torn between faith/chastity and desire.
What happened after she became a nun and if she regretted her decision no one knows. But unless the warring polarities were finally balanced out in her mind, the act of deliberately choosing one of the two did not resolve her inner conflict.
Suppressing one of the poles is never the solution, especially not when that pole is sexual desire/romantic love, which are some of our strongest instincts. And no one has better described the consequences of suppressing desire on account of chastity than Euripides, one of the three famous tragic dramatists of Ancient Greece.
A Tragic Misfit
Hippolytus, the protagonist of Euripides’ tragedy with the same name, is a poster child for chastity. And chastity, for the ancient Greeks, is symbolized by Artemis, the virgin goddess.
Her opposite is Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty and procreation.
These are the same opposites that played a major role in the life of the Christian martyr Thekla – chastity and desire. Only in Hippolytus they are symbolized by the two goddesses.
Hippolytus, just like Thekla, is obsessively chaste. He reveres only the pure Artemis and refuses to worship the seductive Aphrodite.
A Terrible Death
Greek gods are anthropomorphic. They look like humans, but they also act like humans. They are friendly and supportive if they get the respect they believe they are entitled to, but turn nasty when faced with rejection or slight.
Aphrodite is no exception--Hippolytus refuses to worship her and as retribution, she has his step-mother Phaedra fall madly in love with him.
- The young man rejects Phaedra’s advances.
- Phaedra falsely accuses Hippolytus of raping her, then hangs herself.
- Enraged, his father sends him to his death.
“"While he, poor youth, entangled in the reins was dragged along, bound by a stubborn knot, his poor head dashed against the rocks, his flesh all torn the while he cried out piteously, "… O luckless curse of a father! Will no one come and save me for all my virtue?"”
A terrible death. Terrible and … well, unfair. Remember, he is falsely accused by his stepmother.
But why doesn’t Aphrodite just make Hippolytus fall madly in love with his stepmother? Why does she go for such a complex revenge instead?
Because she knows the chaste Hippolytus will reject Phaedra. Aphrodite lets him keep his chastity, and puts in motion a series of events to ensure that this very chastity (‘virtue’, as he calls it) will become his downfall.
“For All My Virtue”
Now this story does not smell or taste like its Christian counterpart – Thekla is saved from her every trial by her God, while Hippolytus is destroyed by a vengeful goddess.
Hippolytus’ storyline is derived from a myth and certain motives, such as the vengeful goddess, old king and evil stepmother, seem melodramatic.
But which storyline is more realistic? The Christian one, where the heroine is rewarded for her fanaticism, or the Greek one, where the hero is punished for the same thing?
There is no doubt that in the Christian version chastity is the positive pole. Erotic love is the negative pole – not only should we avoid it, we should deny its very existence.
This is the exact opposite of what Euripides seems to be telling us:
We should not be excessive in anything, no matter how ‘good’ it seems. Cultivating one tendency to the point of completely neglecting its opposite is a mistake, which will in time prove disastrous for the one who makes it.
“… Will no one come and save me for all my virtue?"
Says the dying Hippolytus, shocked at the injustice he is forced to suffer. But the painful truth he is not yet ready to see is, he was not destroyed in spite of “all his virtue”, but because of it.
This is Law Amongst Us Gods
Aphrodite’s revenge just symbolizes the consequences of living in an extreme. It is the law of the material universe, and whether it seems ‘just’ or ‘fair’ is beside the point.
This is why Artemis, the goddess Hippolytus worships unconditionally, is powerless to protect him. In her own words:
“It was Aphrodite that would have it so, sating the fury of her soul. For this is law amongst us gods: none of us will thwart his neighbor's will, but ever we stand aloof.”
Chastity is not superior to desire. The two need to exist in balance.
As H.D.F. Kitto notices in his work The Greeks, Euripides…
“… makes of Hippolytus a tragic misfit;… Man must worship both these goddesses, antagonistic though they may seem.”