The Center Must Hold
by Atum O'Kane
For several months I have heard this phrase in my meditations, dreams, and spontaneously throughout the day. In this past year my calling has taken me to North and South America, Europe and Asia, and the Middle East. The story of the world now is a planet in transition, trying to give birth to a greater consciousness. Everywhere there is liminality, the "in-between time," when the identities, forms and myths that embodied the previous paradigms are dying, while the ones that will embody the new consciousness have not been fully envisioned or manifested.
In our personal lives times of great transition are marked by deep uncertainly, fear, anger, grief, disillusionment, even despair. This can be balanced by the sense of a new calling filled with possibilities, hope, growth, dreams, expansion and a revivified life. During such passages we are asked to wait, listen, and stay connected to our soul while not clinging to the old identity or grasping onto a premature way of escaping. Imagine this condition magnified billions of times throughout the planet.
In Jerusalem I found the great pull and danger of fundamentalism, which is present in various forms throughout the world, as people desperately long for certainty in a romanticized, idealized past. The United States took an amazing leap into new consciousness and the healing of its soul in electing an Afro-American president with an Arabic first name. Now we see the powerful reaction trying to pull us into regression. Canada is searching for a cohesive vision to carry it forward.
Bangkok Thailand mirrors the alchemical image of the Old King, representing the old order, swimming but going nowhere. Unlike the alchemical symbolism, the New King cannot be seen on the shore. The city shows us why we cannot continue in the same way, for it is poisonous to the people and the planet. My recent visit lead me to ask repeatedly, "how did we come to this?", for it could have been different, especially more humane. The city lives the polarization of the opposites. Talk to a taxi cab driver about the soul-killing conditions of their life. Then go into one of the gleaming malls, a temple to the gods of materialism, consumerism, and commercialism, the trinity that is soul numbing to so much of humanity.
Mexico in some areas suffers from perverse cruelty due to the drug wars and the addictions that foster them, which often come from the wealthy countries. Bhutan and Brazil represent the emerging new consciousness as they explore and experiment with no guarantees, yet are giving expression to the evolving innovative, improvisational creative life force seeking a new way. Europe struggles to integrate changing national identities with a European one, while finding its place in a shifting world order.
In this era of enormous polarization, uncertainty, fear and anger, the center must hold or we shall fall into chaos rather than emerge into planetary consciousness. There is real danger from those who feed the fires of polarization, especially the ones who have no mature sense of the destruction they can unleash. Those who claim with absolute certainty that they know the way are the ones who can lead us blindly into an abyss.
Carl Jung warned of the destruction that occurs when a group of people becomes possessed by an emotion and they lose their individual consciousness. What was Yugoslavia is a prime example of how the rather recent layers of more civilized consciousness can revert to a more primitive, tribal mentality. I was in Mexico during the N1H1 flu and personally witnessed Jung's warnings, as the media drew the world into the possession of collective fear within days.
Given what is occurring throughout humanity we should not be surprised to find these conditions mirrored in our lives and all around us. It is a naďve form of specialness to expect that because we are on a personal spiritual journey that we will not be affected by the state of the planet in crisis. The great gift of spirituality is that it offers us, through various traditions, a body of proven teaching and practices that will aid us in holding our own center.
Hazrat Inayat Kahn noted that the condition of humanity at any time is a refection of its consciousness. Enough people must be able to hold their own center in this turbulent time so collectively we can hold the center for humanity.
The Cosmic Christ In All of Us
The true gift of archetypical images is their capacity to embody and integrate many layers of meaning, beyond concepts, and transmit into one the living reality of the archetype. I was greatly blessed after months of living with this profound phrase (the center must old) to encounter its embodiment in the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.
The statue of the Cosmic Christ, not the historical Jesus, represents the integration of various states that will be present in people who are transformed into the new consciousness. Although this particular sacred image arises out of the Christian myth, the promise is in all of us and may be experienced in archetypical images emerging out of other traditions. There are also feminine expressions of the same reality, such as the Cosmic Christa. They are longing for human beings to call them forth through our soul's gift of creative imagination.
The statue is placed on the top of a mountain with a park surrounding the base. The eyes of the Cosmic Christ look out over the city and beyond to the whole planet. They hold the vision of the vaster consciousness and a more illuminated and awakened world. There is complete conviction in the glance that cannot be deterred, as is conveyed in the words of Hazrat Inayat Kahn, "Truth in the end shall win." The qualities of overseeing and protection are eminated to the world.
The feet are deeply grounded, as if they are one with the mountain and the whole earth. Only such grounding can offer balance to the vast vision and enable one to carry it. These two dimensions are contained in Tiehard de Chardin's description of the new cross, which asks us to expand into planetary consciousness while being anchored in our individuation process.
The arms of the Cosmic Christ are open wide and fully outspread. Rather than closing off in isolation and self-protection, Christ is completely open-hearted, encompassing the planet in an uplifting compassion. This is possible because of the Sacred Heart of Christ, which Tiehard says must be re-envisioned. Rather than expressing suffering, it is now the holy fire of creative love radiating out to the whole world, with the blessing and life force of resurrection.
A Model For Holding the Center
The first time I saw a photo of Christ the Redeemer standing above Rio, I had a longing to experience him. The statue is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world. Blessed with the companionship of my son Emmanuel and guided by a soulful Brazilian friend, Maria, we were about to fulfill that dream. Maria suggested we first explore the park with its jungle and waterfalls. By the time we came to the entrance of the statue, night was coming and the weather was changing dramatically. Most people go there for sunset on a sunny day and watch the jewel-like lights of the evening arise out of the spectacular natural setting of Rio. For us, it would be quite different. A cold fierce wind greeted us, which only intensified during out visit, becoming so overpowering that some had to lay down on the ground for refuge. The black clouds would occasionally open to reveal the emerging stars amidst the threatening storm. In all of this confusion, there was the cosmic representation of the being of Christ, never swept away from his center. He didn't even sway in the howling winds, so anchored was his groundedness. With his arms extended, a heart still open and radiant, and a vision that sees far beyond the drama of the evening, here was the embodied archetypical model for holding the center. All that had been forming for months in my understanding was enacted before me and now vividly lives within me, showing the way.
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