by Robert Wilkinson
Today we take a look at how to know where others are at as we dance with many throughout our lives.
As we move and groove through life’s intersections, we meet various kinds of people. Some of them are truly great Beings, whether actual or potential, while some are not so great. While all Souls are “equal” (whatever that means!), not all people are equal, whether in skills, spiritual awareness, or ability to relate to self and others in healthy ways.
So how can we know if someone is worthy of our trust, our friendship, and our efforts to create and maintain a loving, healthy relationship? I have found by seeing what people value we can learn a lot about their character.
Our old friend, the venerable I Ching, offers us some things about how to discern what is valuable or not, and the difference between the Higher Self and the ego. This ancient repository of Chinese wisdom, originally codified by Confucius, is an amazing friend, and contains a treasure trove of pearls of pure wisdom. And, as far as I can tell, it has never given me bad or incorrect advice in over 40 years. Not a bad track record!
The I Ching is composed of 64 “hexagrams,” each with an image and judgment. Each also has 6 lines that elaborate on the specifics of what the movement within that hexagram is all about. The following piece is from Hexagram 27, Providing Nourishment: "If we wish to know what anyone is like, we have only to observe on whom he bestows his care and what sides of his own nature he cultivates and nourishes."
It goes on to quote the Book of Mencius, written by a Chinese Sage who lived between 389-305 BCE:
If we wish to know whether anyone is superior or not, we need only observe what part of his being he regards as especially important. The body has superior and inferior, important and unimportant parts. We must not injure important parts for the sake of the unimportant, nor must we injure the superior parts for the sake of the inferior. He who cultivates the inferior parts of his nature is an inferior man. He who cultivates the superior parts of his nature is a superior man.
I'll move from this to Hexagram 21, Biting Through, where we get a quote from the Master himself, Confucius.
The inferior man is not ashamed of unkindness and does not shrink from injustice. If no advantage beckons he makes no effort. If he is not intimidated he does not improve himself, but if he is made to behave correctly in small matters he is careful in large ones. This is fortunate for the inferior man.
If good does not accumulate, it is not enough to make a name for a man. If evil does not accumulate, it is not strong enough to destroy a man. Therefore the inferior man thinks to himself, "Goodness in small things has no value," and so neglects it. He thinks, "Small sins do no harm," and so does not give them up. Thus his sins accumulate until they can no longer be covered up, and his guilt becomes so great that it can no longer be wiped out.
On our Path to Higher Awareness, we must learn the difference between what is valuable and what is not. Otherwise we get distracted by 10,000 things, and to use a term offered to us by the Poet, become “spiritual windowshoppers.” “But these walk into a shop, and their whole lives pass suddenly in that moment, in that shop. Where did you go? "Nowhere." What did you have to eat? "Nothing much."
In learning what is core and what is peripheral, what is important and what is not, we sift through experience and can come to understand something of what our Eternal Self holds valuable. In exploring what we believe is important and valuable, we also learn what is not important and only apparently or conditionally valuable.
That holds for our interaction with others. Some who seem to value “superior” behaviors and things may or may not actually BE that which they seem, while others who seem to value “inferior” behaviors and things may actually hold the keys to a great Self-realization. This teaches us Divine Discrimination, since not all things, behaviors, and Beings are equally valuable at all times.
That said, since a tendency acted out becomes a habit pattern, we must always watch what coerces us into any given behavior, belief, or response. All the negatives we’ve learned, as well as all the negatives we encounter, show us the way to change patterns. As we consciously choose which patterns to cease and which patterns to cultivate, through the experiences generated by those patterns, we can come to realize that all things can serve as grist for the mill of Soul.
I’ve found that as I’ve dropped certain behaviors, people also drop away. Sometimes I couldn’t hold on to them if I tried. It was as though in my shifting my focus, they receded into the background, or disappeared altogether. That was certainly true every time I “cleaned up my act,” whatever that meant at the time.
It’s always good to reflect on people who used to be in our lives, to see what they meant in our experience. Even when they brought out unhelpful behaviors in us, it still helped our Higher Consciousness to know what we needed to work on. That may be the best thing that “inferior beings” bring to our table.
In choosing relationships with those who are “superior beings,” we see what we admire, aspire to, and ways to moving from error into truth. All those we meet are Mysteries revealing our self and our Self. And none of it should ever lead us to believe we are separate from All-That-Is.
I will leave you with some words of wisdom from the notes on the venerable work Light On the Path:
Intelligence is impartial: no man is your enemy; no man is your friend. All alike are your teachers. Your enemy becomes a mystery that must be solved, even though it take ages; for man must be understood. Your friend becomes a part of yourself, an extension of yourself, a riddle hard to read. Only one thing is more difficult to know – your own heart. Not until the bonds of personality are loosed, can that profound mystery of self begin to be seen. Not till you stand aside from it will it in any way reveal itself to your understanding. Then, and not till then, can you grasp and guide it. Then, and not till then, can you use all its powers, and devote them to a worthy service.
If you want to know more about this timeless, ancient work, please check out Light On The Path – Separateness As A Path To Union With All-That-Is
(All quotes from "The I Ching, or Book of Changes," Richard Wilhelm Translation rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes, Foreword by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XIX, Princeton University Press)
Copyright © 2006, 2013 Robert Wilkinson