Richard Harvey—Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

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An Honest Account Of The Human Predicament

We are all one. The sacred practices reflect this, sacred wisdom speaks of this, and a sacred attitude wills this into revelation.

To restore the sacred, the spiritual principles in the world today, we must be courageous. Being courageous entails great honesty with ourselves and toward others. Yet, first and foremost we must be honest about the human predicament and to do that, we must become clear about our personal viewpoint. We must clean the lens until we can view the objective world, the view beyond our personal viewpoint, with transparent clarity. We must transcend the point of view that arises solely from a conditioned subjective position.

When we practice discrimination gently but resolutely, we can see that the individual is a mass of conflicts, because he or she has no viable center. The center is the psyche or the soul, the very root of human being-ness. Individuals and collective humanity are now very far from that center. Furthermore, all around us are terrible forces of destruction, which do not only include personal and collective human forces, but also interpersonal relationships based on unawareness and non-appreciation of relationship, of reverence for human life, and for life itself. Further again, this entire drama takes place within a merciless, death-filled milieu known as “nature.” Nature or Kali energies are indiscriminately unpitying, relentlessly deathdealing, yet exhibiting a terrifying beauty.

We are reminded of the story of the honey drop: One day a man was walking in the jungle when he was chased by a fierce tiger. Running to a cliff edge he considered taking his own life by throwing himself over when he saw a thick vine hanging over the side. He seized the vine and climbed down the cliff-face. As he was hanging there two little mice emerged from a hole in the rock and start to gnaw away at the root of the vine. In panic he looked down. From the bottom of the vine he would be able to successfully jump down to the ground. But just at that moment a hungry wolf swaggered out from the undergrowth and stationed himself beneath the end of the rope, its murderous jaws slavering. He looked up in terror to see the face of the tiger peering down at him expectantly from the cliff-top. Just then he spied a single drop of delicious honey. It was about to roll off the branch of a small tree to his right, just out of reach. He leaned over and stretched his body as far as he could and extended his tongue just underneath the drop of wonderful nectar. Just at that moment an angel appeared behind him. Declaring the man’s predicament to be critical, the angel announced he had been sent to save the man. Distracted by the imminent drop of the delicious nectar, the man looked round at the angel with a pleading expression and said, “Could you just wait until I have tasted this drop of honey?”

The horror of the human predicament is real. It is matched only by our ignorance of it and that ignorance is self-imposed. For thousands of years now the spiritual adepts, the teachers and avataric presences have been revealing, teaching, and pouring out the Truth in multiple songs of bliss to the human family, which has been unable to listen. Today we reap the fruits of ignorance, the outcome of stretching, reaching, and pleading to experience the taste of that last drop of honey, while at the same time refusing to acknowledge the reality of Love, the presence of the Divine.

An Historical Perspective

Two and a half millennia ago, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mahavira, and Jesus appeared on Earth, within 500 years of each other, and changed the course of religious and spiritual life for humankind… in less than half a millennium. Arguably Hinduism and yogic teachings and by extension Buddhist teachings have given us the ways and means of spiritual practice, meditation for example. Depending on how we date it then, our present spiritual disciplines could be sourced from as long ago as 5000 years, the time of the writing of the first Upanishads.

Human beings may not have changed a lot in 5000 years, but if I were a spiritual teacher of antiquity or the founder of a world religion I would like to think that progress was made, rather than that human beings blindly followed the ancient teachings like a fetish, like a superstition with misguided blind faith in some past Golden Era and no sense of the relative evolution of humankind in the future. But humans are resistant to change and hesitant to part with what is familiar, tried, “true,” and tested… as anyone in therapy will know with regard to their emotional-behavioral patterning and character strategies.

Today we live in very different times, different from 5000 years ago, different from 500 years ago, different from 50 years ago. Instead of steadfast loyalty to our religious and spiritual disciplines and beliefs, let us be transparent to truth. For example, the ego-processes have taken over the world so insidiously that we can hardly discern them anymore and we hardly need to, because ego is everywhere. In this sense alone, spiritual practice has failed over 5000 years. Very few human beings are enlightened; Self-realization is a chimera, yet more people perhaps than ever before apparently practice yoga, Vipassana, meditation et al.

Predictably, these powerful spiritual methods have been downgraded and made acceptable to the masses. People meditate to feel more relaxed and work more efficiently. Many do yoga now blissfully unaware of what yoga really means, mistakenly seeing it as a system of exercises for physical health, like an alternative to aerobics. Many speak of spirituality as a confection, love as sentiment, and deeply human and emotional states are confused with the spiritual and the transcendent.

In the Brahma Viharas, or Divine Emotions of Buddhist dharma, we can learn about the near and far enemies of these profound states. For example, one of the Brahma Viharas is karuna or compassion. The far enemy of compassion is cruelty, because it is virtually the opposite emotion. The near enemy, however, is pity. It is near, because it appears close to the virtuous emotion, so that it may sometimes be mistaken for it. Similarly with equanimity, another of the Brahma Viharas, the far enemy is craving or clinging, while the near enemy is indifference.

Indifference is not equanimity; pity is not compassion. Neither are yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices, as they are practiced today, necessarily sacred or strictly speaking spiritual. By and large they are misunderstood, diluted, made superficial, hijacked by the ego’s self-interest, and subordinated to the separative point of view of the modern mind. Neither has the Father Christmas gift-bearing, patriarchal god anything to do with the Divine Person or the form of the Absolute, or Transcendent Love itself. This is sacrilegious, irreverent. We can only reach the God of Reality, the only God there is, by the authentic route, through practicing the appropriate, effective ways and means. In this present era of cheapening, materialism, violation and disregard for the truly spiritual, more than ever before, we need to open our ears and hearts to the sacred.

Here, now, at the birth of the 21st century, we can take responsibility, embrace the calling to evolve and participate in the evolutionary impulse of modern humanity toward a spiritual and sacred future that is beyond the limitations of commonly practiced contemporary disciplines.

This article is an excerpt from Richard Harvey’s book Your Divine Opportunity.


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This article was published on this site in January 2024.

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