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Some bookstores now have a new category superheroes. It’s between the metaphysics and self-help sections. Theaters are showing a parade of movies about superhero characters Spiderman, Batman, Ironman, Hulk and enough female heroes to keep it all politely balanced.
Somewhere deep in our subconscious, we have summoned this primordial archetype of the super human being, which is now deeply imbedded in our everyday culture. We look to our superhero to save us from danger, but they also represent an example of the highest human potential.
Friedrich Nietzsche, in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra explains that the superhero is the one who has annihilated himself for the sake of becoming another. Zarathustra taught that the goal of a human being is to rise beyond every day existence, beyond human nature to become an “over-comer.”
Walter Kaufmann, wrote in the preface of his translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “What else is human nature but a euphemism for inertia, cultural conditioning and what we are before we make something of ourselves.”1
The question that sometimes arises is what exactly are we overcoming? And, what does it mean to overcome ourselves? Why do we have to go through all of this anyway? Why can’t God just wake us up and make us enlightened?
We have a sense that we are not complete, not whole. We are seeking an understanding of our true selves, our true identity. The Saints tell us we are particles of the Supreme Ocean. Says Kabir:
I have kindled the flame of knowledge,
We tend to think of the Divine Ocean as an ocean of bliss and love. The problem with this analogy is that we tend to think of oceans as being ‘over there,’ somewhere else; at a distance from where we reside. But this ocean is infinite in all directions. It surrounds us. It isn’t a flat body of water adhering to the laws of gravity and contained by sandy beaches. It reaches out and radiates in all directions. As an infinite ocean of peace, bliss and love, how can it not already surround us? How can we not already be part and parcel of it?
We have the unfortunate distinction of being separated from the Ocean only from the standpoint that we lack the spiritual intensity necessary to fully merge into the depths of our true home. How we came to be separated is a question whose answer is beyond our limited intellectual ability to understand. It’s been suggested, allegorically, that we became separated from the Ocean like drops in a mist blown off from the surface of a wave. As such we no longer have the attractive force necessary to be drawn and converged back to the Source.
As a vapor of diffused spirituality we descended into the arena of ‘time and space’ with the sole purpose of restoring our spiritual energy back to the level of full consciousness where we can enjoy the bliss of merging back with the Ocean. Since we are part and parcel of the Supreme Being, God, the Source, had to come up with a “rescue plan,” as it were. Otherwise, our depleted spirituality would keep us eternally unconscious and we would not be able to participate in the bliss of the Supreme Being.
Only after we have walked the long and rough and tortuous path
This is the fall of man. That through the friction of duality man
- The Book of Mirdad
Re-union is only possible when we collect our diminished spirituality that is spread throughout our physical body and outside into the world and begin the long journey home. The journey begins by collecting our spiritual energy and concentrating it at the one point of the eye-centre. This can only be accomplished by simran, through meditation. This can be a painful process, as the body may ache prior to becoming numb. It is the same process as dying. It takes the courage of a superhero to undergo this procedure. The energy must be collected at the third eye so it can possess enough spiritual power to be able to burst through the gate. With this higher, collected spiritual intensity we begin our journey back towards ever increasing levels of spiritual energy and associated bliss.
But how do we get to the point of making the effort to concentrate our spiritual energy at the eye center? What motivates us to put ourselves through this living death?
There is a story of a man walking down a country road. He begins to hear all kinds of yelping and whining. As he approaches, he sees a man leaning against the fence along side the road; he is a farmer and his dog is lying at his feet making all sorts of unpleasant noises. The man asks the farmer what is bothering his dog. The farmer says, “He’s lying on a nail, but it doesn’t hurt him enough to get up, only enough for him to whine about it.”
So within God’s plan, we need a nail. Otherwise, what would motivate us to make the journey back to reconnect with the ultimate spiritual intensity of our true home?
The nail is the purifying friction of our life’s experiences. It’s the friction of our relationships to each other. It is the friction of the stone polisher whose aim is to take the rough edges off the course and dull stones so that their true beauty and light can be seen. Our world is God’s purifying tumbler.
In the tumbler we are spinning in what seems to be total chaos. We’re on the bottom in darkness one minute, then on top, where we can see a glimpse of light, the next it’s dark, then light, then dark again. When we’re on the bottom of the tumbler we complain bitterly that God is dead and life stinks. Our ego then prompts us to climb the corporate or social ladder so we can get back to the top of the heap. We step on our neighbor’s head, if necessary, so that we might advance to the top of the tumbler. And every so often we are on the top. Our gloating soon vanishes when we realize that there isn’t really much to look at from the top and it can be lonely. But not to worry, for at that very moment another tsunami of rough stones washes over us and again we are on the bottom. And so on the process goes until we become pure enough to be taken out of the tumbler by the master jeweler.
Some people have concluded that only an imperfect God could have created such an imperfect world. Therefore, an imperfect God is not worthy of our devotion and we are better served by mastering ourselves by ascending to the top of the tumbler that ascending to the top of the tumbler is the purpose of life.
Nietzsche made it clear that the meaning of life is realized while on earth by the few human beings that have raised themselves above the all-too-human masses. He warns against putting our hopes on the faith of the “promise” of heaven after death, but instead advises us to remain faithful to the earth, for it is the here and now of our existence that affords us the opportunity to become fully conscious of our true selves to learn to become true human beings.
But the worst enemy you can encounter will always be you,
Instead of occupying his time in the pursuit of material gain, sense gratification, worldly recognition and self-importance, the overcomer has planted his feet firmly against the tide of maya. He has been purified by his strenuous experiences within the domain of mind and matter. He has realized his own helplessness against these downward currents. This is the moment of surrender, the moment of what Mirdad called The Great Nostalgia longing and desire to return to union with the Supreme Being, the Source. This is the moment of victory because this is the moment that changes the direction of our journey forever. This is the holy understanding that illuminates the path leading to the true and everlasting bliss that has escaped us like a mirage in this world. Thanks to the tumbler we have learned to turn our attention away from the world and instead in the direction of the Source.
So we should thank our rough and rude neighbors, the ones who teach us patience and forgiveness, shaming us into pure and polished gems. We should thank our friends, the ones who speak frankly and show us our faults, humbling us beyond our sense of self. We should also thank the wall of calamities that inspire us to overcome ourselves to become true human beings, superheroes. And give thanks to the nail that hurt enough to move us into action.
1. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Modern Library, 1995, Tr. W. Kaufmann, p.3
2. Naimy, M., The Book of Mirdad, Penguin Books, 1976, p.153, 158
3. Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Modern Library, 1995, Tr. W. Kaufmann p.65
Copyright © 2009 Stephen Linsteadt. All rights reserved.