Birth and death, the most fundamental of all human experiences, are perhaps the least examined and appreciated from a subjective point of view. Birth and death are the two extremes between which the pendulum of life appears to swing. Consequently, such outer ranges of natural consciousness experiences are shoved to the far corners of the rational mind as strange and distant. These poles are regarded as something to be known consciously only at the appropriate physiological and biological moments. The froth and tangle of contemporary life overwork awareness to such a degree that time nor rationale for exploring the significance of the gates of being seem available.
Yet the physical processes of being born and dying are analogies for inner psychological experiences patterned upon the ebb and flow of all creation. In ignoring these inner death and birth experiences, which are indeed challenging and perhaps even threatening, one’s awareness oscillates in a narrow spectrum of possibilities. Eventually a stagnation settles. Creativity and re-evaluation lie inert for lack of qualities to play off one another in the process of synthesis.
If nature were unwilling to go through drastic changes such as autumn dying and spring birthing, earth would most likely be a non-functioning planet, for it is the transformative experiences which continually recycle and rejuvenate the essence of life process. As part of that natural process, human consciousness cuts itself off from a vital source of insight if it fails to allow its own energy to co-operatively experience intense and transformative inner actions. What, then, is the nature of transformative action, and how may it be experienced?
A determining characteristic of a transformative event is its immediate, absorptive, focalizing power. It dominates and literally becomes the field of awareness. In one overwhelming moment of being, a pattern is perceived and imprinted, providing the awareness with a model for unitive functioning.
Birth and death are two perfect examples of powerful existential moments. When one is being born, one is doing nothing other than that. All trends or currents are subordinate to that main theme. When one is dying, one is doing only and just that. All actions and remembrances relate to the immediate center of the experience.
The intensity of such an event simply swallows up the consciousness. The subject-object relationship disappears and one becomes the experience. Being swallowed up in this manner is a beautiful, fragile, and essential capability of human consciousness, for it is then possible to identify in complete absorption with the essence of a thing.
When this occurs, the mind is initiated into, or born into, a new state of awareness. But the birth into a thing must be preceded by a death into that same thing. Only in total absorption and surrender can the totality of a thing be known.
Thus the two apparent extremes of life’s experience, death and birth, meet as one at the moment of a transformative interchange. The dying into facilitates the being born into. What appears to be in opposition resolves into unitive functioning. Sexual intercourse, the processes of birth and death, and certain meditative events share in common this electrical bonding of polar currents, which is the structural technique of transformative experience.
Psychologically speaking, in letting go and plunging into the immediate center of experience, one finds oneself expelled fetus-like into a new region. And, as newly born infants usually demonstrate, such an existential moment can be anything but familiar and comforting. In fact, one is almost forcibly obliged to flow along with nature when sudden and vast changes assert themselves. To be capable of tapping the genius which makes of such an experience a revelation is the greatest of human perogatives.
The crucial question, then, is how to develop or recognize the ability to surrender, and allow the birth of genius, the inner eye which notices the revelatory nature of common yet powerful happenings. What impregnates a moment with transformative potential?
Willful surrender, active passivity, allows the polar forces to collide, mesh, and blend. A type of synthesis emerges from the battle equal to the degree of focus and surrender.
For example, in meditation, one fixes the mind upon a central theme. This active focussing forms an absorptive vortex. A mental vortex is somewhat like a whirlwind or funnel, formed by currents of consciousness. It functions as a magnetic channel, and is connected at its tip to a correspondent point in a deeper dimension. Through active focussing, the mind projects and is drawn along magnetic currents within the vortex, until it reaches the apex of the channel. This point then becomes the frame of reference, and the process repeats, the mind extending and expanding into itself in a sort of hand-over-hand haul into infinity.
The birth-death-birth-death continuum is a basic pattern of pure introspective meditation. The active focussing, or willful concentration of the mind demands a giving into in the fullness of oneself in order to fulfill its purpose. Letting oneself be swallowed up into the center of concentration is the death which initiates experience in a phase of the spectrum unknown before. Meditation can be thought of as the art of living death, in the sense of consciously transiting an unknown space.
This type of total involvement can be cultivated in everyday action as well as in meditative space. Disciplines such as the Zen of becoming a thing, and integral yoga are designed to reveal multi-level meaning. Less deliberate focussing arises from dedication to one’s work, whatever it may be. Whether intentional or not, the result is a noticeable presence, a quality which stands out starkly against the backdrop of certain contemporary modes of being, for much of casual society avoids the note of intensity. Mental and spiritual lethargy is a major obstacle to individual and social renewal.
There is no dbout that transformational experience has its social risks. In the passageway between death and birth, the fool, the madman, and the genius aspect of oneself find it difficult to extricate themselves from each other’s reflections. Materialistic consciousness can hardly be expected to be understanding of this, and thus the willing self-transformer senses the loneliness so typical of brave explorers among skeptical companions. But without the necessary recycling and rejuvenation, life process eventually pales in value.
The type of concentration which skillfully directs one’s inner forces to the center of experience forms the key to self re-creation. The fruition of true inner concentration is solid action in physical space, action which is directly connected to inner realization. When an essential concept is carried all the way through from contemplative discovery to active expression, then movement, intent, and realization are one. The dance of co-operative evolution alights within one’s heart.
Inner effort and the mysterious, unique property of self-directed concentration can draw the poles of life experience into an intimate interchange. Death and birth, female and male, contemplation and action revitalize and complement each other, and when consciously brought into interrelationship generate an intense synthesis of forces.
The unifying of diverse strands of consciousness in deep experience gives itself to all who are free enough within, to likewise give generously of themselves. Perhaps it is just this inner generosity one must stir up and awaken, in order to withstand the constant barrage and colliding of energies which enliven the transformational existence.