Truth and the human condition
Many will suppose that we, as human beings, should know our place and be humble. The ancient Greeks had their teaching stories about this, like the story of Icarus who flew on his waxen wings too close to the sun and fell into the sea to his death when the wax melted.
The Greeks called this hubris, when mortals got too inspired and dared to be god-like. The Christians called it the sin of pride, where a human being presumed they could be happy or fulfilled apart from God.
But what is this “sin?” The original word, from the Hebrew, meant to miss the mark. Really, it is the sin of ignorance, missing the truth, identifying with something other than our true nature. The deeper truth that was generally kept hidden, secret, esoteric is that the truth is God, and that we “miss the mark” when we presume that we have any being apart from the being that is God, or presume that there is “a God” apart from godhead, divine beingness.
This is the “fall” from nondual truth into the ignorance of (the ignoring of) truth. When we miss the mark, we miss our prior and essential oneness with divinity, divine being, and then ever after (or so it seems) we “miss,” or long for, that divine connection which never, ever, truly goes away. We feel a sense of deprivation or deficiency at our core, which is our core suffering. And so we try to alleviate that through filling the deficiency with a sense of sufficiency through attainments, pleasure, even spiritual experiences. But none of them can truly satisfy, as only truth itself can satisfy. And truth can never go away, even if everyone rejects it, calls it a lie, or a blasphemy. Opinion does not sway truth. It never has, and it never will.
The symbolism of Icarus was of the separate soul flying too high (in higher consciousness), too close to the sun of divine being or spirit. Yes, if one goes into higher consciousness but retains one’s identification with and as the separate one, then there is the danger of hubris or pride. Such a one might even proclaim, “I am God,” but take that to mean something about themselves, as special, as above all others. But if one ascends into higher consciousness as the presence of consciousness itself, then one realizes nonduality, and there truly is no “one” to proclaim anything. Then if one does affirm “I am God,” it affirms that the I am presence is the name or essence of divine being. It is not a claim about an individual self, but in the great mystery, there is an individuation of the universal I am that is a unique expression of that without being separate from that.
Maybe the gods wanted to warn humans about hubris, because they themselves were jealous of their godlike status. They didn’t want any humans getting too uppity, or too inquisitive about their own nature or the true nature of things. Because that would expose the gods to be simply immortal (and often immoral) human beings, living under the same illusion, ignorance, or “sin” of presuming their separate existence, their separation from source, oneness. The Buddha felt that the human realm was optimal for spiritual awakening, somewhere between the hell realms where the suffering was too much, and the heaven realms where the ambrosial nectars and pleasures were too strong to attend to serious inquiry into reality.
This is the sacred opportunity of the human condition. Will you — yes, you — meet it wisely? Or will you try to make it some sort of heaven realm (with enough health and wealth and all the rest of the goodies) so that you don’t have to face “reality,” that is, truth? Or will you make it into a hell realm, even by your very pursuit of heaven? Every day, every moment, you are given the opportunity, the choice. It is hubris to think that you already know better, that you already know what life is about. It is humility to be willing to set aside your opinions and let truth itself guide you.
Ed Hirsch leads a small group in various practices to deepen into presence. If interested, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Sally McKirgan at email@example.com.