The conversation was good natured, but the debate was real. Two opposing viewpoints meeting in the no-man’s land of middle ground, where neither felt their personal perspective was being given due consideration, yet both realised that the other was not ‘wrong’. It happens to most of us, probably more often than we realise. How else could it be, after all, when we alone look out on the world through our own eyes and every other person on the planet looks from their own unique perspective, bringing their own particular experience and understanding to every moment of every day.
Even reality has to be based upon this middle ground… a general consensus that accepts the dictates of language, usage and empirical evidence to construct a vision of the world that agrees with that of the majority. Not everyone, however, has access to the same data. Location, sensory ability, age and culture all affect how we perceive our environment.
How, for example, would you explain a snowstorm to a native of a desert without access to the media that brings such phenomena into our homes? Even were he to admit the possibility of snow, his belief would be tinged with a reserve of judgement, perhaps, and at best would be lacking the depth of detail that comes only with feeling cold flakes settle upon your skin and watching their delicate patterns dissolve to water or turn the world to white. Personal experience shapes all our beliefs.
Even, perhaps especially, our understanding of each other is based upon our own perception and experience. In the Silent Eye, for example, we make use of the Enneatypes… nine basic ways of interacting with the world. The system is best known for its use in profiling in the psychological and corporate worlds. It does, however, have a deeper application. For the purpose of the school, we shape the system into a way to explore our own personality from a spiritual perspective. Nine archetypal figures, each reflecting a particular pattern of reaction to the world and the way in which we, as individuals, move through it.
In contrast to the popular misconception, none of us are ‘a type’, but show aspects of all of the types in varying proportions. It is not a case of saying, ‘he is a six,’ or ‘I am a nine’… all we can say is that each of us interacts with the world around us predominantly through the characteristics of one of the ‘types’.
There is a problem, of course, because the essential nature of each of these archetypes is designed to illustrate a particular numbered ‘type’, and, in order to teach we must present a clear picture. Yet how can we do so with absolute objectivity, when our personal interactions with these types is purely subjective?
The perfectionism of the archetypal One, for example, will judge each of the other eight characters through a personal and critical lens. This will not be the same perspective as that of the archetypal Two, who seeks only to be loved, whatever the cost; or the Three who needs to cover a lack of self-worth by standing out from the crowd. So, even for our Nine basic types, there are 72 individual viewpoints. The One might look at the Two, for example and see only base manipulation in their desire to gain love through good actions. To the One, the Three might simply be seen as vain, where the Two might see that type as in need of compassion for the underlying fragility…
To teach within the School, therefore, we had to create a set of archetypes to embody a middle ground… a consensus… for the traits inherent in each of the types, yet of course, those traits are not fixed, but evolve, ranging from the ‘worst case’ to the pinnacle of humanity… so our 72 now shifts to a multi-layered spiral of experience, where our way of interacting with our world may rise from self-preservation to saintliness… or anywhere in between.
Complicated? It would be, except for one small point… while it is necessary to realise the extent of the subjectivity with which we view each other and our world, for each of us there is only one viewpoint possible… our own.
Even though that viewpoint may shift and change over the years and with experience and understanding gained… even though we may change our opinions and beliefs as we grow and learn, allowing new influences to work upon us in ways both positive and, sadly, negative, our view of the world remains unique and personal.
The spiritual journey is one of change. It is a journey we all take as part of our personal growth and evolution. To make a conscious choice to walk a spiritual path is to deliberately set foot upon a journey of ‘accelerated evolution’. It is not always an easy path and there are times when the road seems full of rocks and sharp stones. Yet it has a purpose. By embracing this path, we can change the world around us, we can change the people we know… not by altering a single thing about them, but by changing ourselves and in doing so, moving our own perspective and perception to see a wider view with a clearer sight.
To change our own viewpoint may be the only act that can simultaneously change our present, our future and how we perceive and understand our past, as we learn to see the underlying causes of our present selves and how that shapes our world-view. To be able to look on past pain with compassion and see it unfold, revealing seeds of possibility that have lain fallow within, can have a dramatic effect on how we are able to address the present.
Many find their personal path leads them forward alone, others seek the comfort and companionship of fellow travellers in a group or school. All share a similar journey, learning to see ourselves with a clear sight that will, in turn, change how we see our world.
‘Know Thyself’ was written above the doorway at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It is often quoted and one of the first maxims learned in the Mysteries. Within the Silent Eye, that is where our journey begins, not only in acknowledging the darker side of our human self, with the weaknesses, hurts and fragilities shaped by the experience, but, by using guided journeys of the imagination, in learning to separate the ‘I’ from the image and see the Light that shines within each and every fragment of creation… and within our own Being.