These words are powerful statements about the role of relationship in the spiritual search. (Note 93)

The only way to spiritual fulfillment is through relationship.

      ~ Carl Jung

The spiritual quest is always realized through relationship.

      ~ Joseph Campbell

Jung and Campbell intend all intimacy, but this thread focuses on primary relationships. Though I came close on one or two occasions, realizing the significance of female bonding in my quest kept me from joining an ashram and removing myself from the mainstream of life. The nature and quality of my experiences with women had a dramatic impact on my understanding of and connection to intuition.

Childhood Sweethearts

My interest in the opposite sex started young. When I was in the fourth grade, my teacher was a friend of my mother who was the sixth grade teacher. Miss Wilson realized I had a crush on Ruth Ann. She rearranged the seating to nurture my interest. However each time I knocked on the screen door, Ruth Ann showed little interest in Merritt. (I was called by my middle name in those days.) Reflecting on her image, I realize she was the kind of woman a young man brought home to mother. Ruth Ann was my first encounter with the "ideal partner."

Marlene was another classmate I had a crush on in grammar school. She was not the kind a young man brought home to mother. Marlene was an earth mother in the making. Full of dark energy, we would roll and tumble around in her backyard as often as I could get it to happen. My buddies and I hung out in an orange grove next to her house. So that brought me into her part of the neighborhood often. What a glorious introduction to earth energy. She had the power to destroy by just waving me away after a brief rough and tumble. It would be many years before I would return to Kali encounters.

In sixth grade, things got serious. I attended dance class across the tracks in the country club neighborhood. As we learned the steps and social graces, I became infatuated with Jean. When time permitted, I rode my bike over to the country club side to visit her. Jean's maid would serve us refreshments in the parlor. What a life! I bravely asked her to a Saturday matinee. This was my first formal date. My Mother drove us downtown to the theater, and my Daddy drove us back while we sat in the back seat. Jean symbolized the kind of woman that would always be out of reach because of social position or whatever.

My experiences with Ruth Ann, Marlene and Jean were positive starts working out the male female dynamic which was destined to be an arena for my search. The Intuitive Self was still reasonably well intact. Successful early intimate encounters nurtured the intuitive side of life which came under heavy assault on the school front. My comfort with friends of the opposite sex was high. The give and take of the male female dance helped to preserve The Intuitive Self. Being around female friends in grammar school, keep the feminine side of life alive in my subconscious.

But this was about to change. Harry the neighborhood pedophile set his sights on me as the next target for his "affections." His offers to buy ice cream from the Good Humor man and of rides in his car were too much for an impressionable child to resist. Forays onto lonely roads led to new and disturbing experiences. The male to male sexual play cast a cloud of confusion over what had been smooth sailing heterosexual encounters. An auspicious start with intimate relationships was thrown into confusion. My naive confidence was shattered. These feelings are captured in my poem "Oh Shit Harry!"

Dark Clouds on the Horizon

A number of shadow complexes sprung up around Harry. The spontaneous way of being in the world was tainted by painful and confusing happenings. The self assurance in social settings that dancing school sought to nurture slipped by the wayside before it really got established. Although I had a crush on my best friend's older sister, I did not have girl friends in junior high. I began dating again in high school and had a girlfriend throughout most of the period. Even though a close connection with the intuitive ways of feminine experience was reestablished, my ease being in mixed social settings suffered.

The relationship did not survive the transition from high school to Georgia Tech. My abortive year as a Rambling Wreck was complicated when I joined a fraternity with several gay members who made sexual advances after drunken parties. Though active during this period, dating was overcast dealing with the unconscious revival of pain from experiences with Harry. While in pilot training, a Navcad romance marked the return to being with women and the intuitive way of relating. But dropping out of training ended my relationship with Rita.

The Navy ship I was stationed on in the Mediterranean was based in Barcelona. On our frequent layovers there, I met one of the bar girls. We soon became close, and no money changed hands after the first few weeks. Whenever I was on shore, we spent time together. My prostitute girlfriend connected me for the first time with tender caring. Denise made sure I wasn't cheated in the shops and expressed deep feelings even though our conversation was limited. Getting to know who she was, where she came from and what she was doing engendered a life long sympathy for any woman who spends her youth as a prostitute.

Returning from the Navy, a new year's eve blind date introduced me to the woman who became my wife. By that time I was hardened in my rational way of being in the world. My wife to be was different. Since opposites attract, I was drawn to her spontaneous way of doing things. In addition to projecting Helen parts of my anima onto her, our relationship planted subconscious seeds on the difference between intuition in the small and large. As an strong extrovert, she was good with intuition in the small; while as an even stronger introvert, I was more comfortable with intuition in the large.

Marriage, Open and Otherwise

We soon married and both settled down to work as I returned to school. The wheels of rationality were grinding away at my psyche. After three degrees, I settled in for career building and child raising. My academic career reinforced the rational way of being. While child rearing had the potential to remind me of the intuitive, preoccupation with career shielded me from what would have been divine influences. It was not until my first grandchild that I realized what I had missed not being closer to my children in their preschool years.

Our middle years of child rearing corresponded with the "new age" movement sweeping the country. Among other spin offs from the fad was "open marriage" promoted by Nena and George O'Neill:

Open marriage means an honest and open relationship between two people, based on the equal freedom and identity of both partners. It involves a verbal, intellectual and emotional commitment to the right of each to grow as an individual within the marriage. (Note 94)

I devoured these lines as well as their chapter on "Love and Sex without Jealousy." This rationalized sexual freedom in the name of growth. Having never recovered from Harry's transgressions, here was an excuse to explore forbidden territory and recapture lost youth.

Had I understood the Shiva Shakti dynamic then, I would have realized that dabbling with the powers of creation and destruction has grave consequences except for the most divine. Even the Greek gods from a culture known for sexual openness had hell to pay when they exploited these energies for personal gain. A line from a David Whyte poem goes "And I have heard even the gods speak of god." But I did not realize what I was getting into investing energy in affairs. It has taken years to unravel the grosser betrayals I brought on my family - the more subtle will go to the grave with those involved.

Misunderstood Sexuality

My daughter was changing from a girl into a woman while all this took place. The swirls and eddies around my transgressions plagued her well into her second marriage until she overcame them in a four year effort of awareness and release. A fatal flaw in the open marriage formulation was the missing heart. When the lower chakras pursued their aims out of harmony with the upper chakras, betrayal was an inevitable consequence. The Tai Chi Dancer would firmly plant one foot each in the lower and upper chakras. I was not a Tai Chi Dancer!

Since I was not connected with intuitive heart knowing, I did not appreciate what was happening in my family. Intuitive awareness was suppressed by driven loins that rationalized their behavior. After all, the O'Neill's had said so. Their own marriage was on the rocks, then over while the book was still in popular circulation. So much for the advice of self appointed, new age, self help experts. There is only one guru - the inner guru. But I was not connected with The Intuitive Self which would have seen through my charade in a split second.

Even though The Intuitive Self had not come to the foreground, I was exploring this mode of knowing though notes to myself that I called Bill's Proverbs. With Hugh Prather's writings as my inspiration, my diary reflected my thoughts during this turbulent period. These insights were more ideas in my head than behavior toward family members. Had I behaved more in tune with these thoughts, I would have learned more about myself and caused my family members less pain. I had not come to a basic understanding of sexual energy.

Joseph Chilton Pearce explored these issues in "Kundalini and Sexuality." When Shiva the non-moving point and Shakti the creative energy flowing from Shiva divide unto themselves, experience arises out of the holomovement. But as my "Give 'it' to me" poem suggests, we literally lust for reunion. This leads to all manner of sexual excess unless the loins are guided by the heart. But mine were driven by unresolved issues from relationships difficulties. As a result, my family suffered from my lack of intuitive sensitivity. Insight from Tantra explorations came later long after the damage had been done.

Recognizing Codependency

After years of stumbling in and out of various therapy programs, I discovered the Codependents Anonymous variation of the Twelve Step Program. Among other catalysts, my wife's decision to leave our thirty year marriage catapulted me in that direction. From the best seller list, Melody Beattie's Codependent No More found its way onto my stack of books. The subtitle "how to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself" caught my attention. My intuitive openness had sufficiently matured that when something grabbed me, I paid attention.

After surveying the field for the meaning of codependent behavior, Beattie came up with this definition:

A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior.

Given my reaction to my wife's leaving and the way I had reacted in other relationships, this definition fit like a glove. Going through Beattie's long list of codependent characteristics, several shouted from the pages: over commit themselves, take things personally, lose sleep over problems or other people's behavior, think they know best how things should turn out, go to doctors and get tranquilizers, stay in relationships that don't work, avoid talking about themselves, repress their angry feelings, consider or have an extramarital affair and are extremely responsible.

Having lived from the dynamic of these and similar behaviors for years, it was amazing betrayal had not come much earlier. But when it did, it hit hard. Although Codependents Anonymous was valuable, I found addiction to a person was easily replaced by addiction to a group. My sense pointed to getting behind the patterns to discover their source. Exploring the betrayal theme, I came across Jean Houston's ideas about the sacred wound. What an amazing revelation as I discovered this truth within myself.

Blessed Betrayal

Realizing betrayal opened me to a new way of being made the pain easier to bear. The old forms of me had to die to make way for new forms. Betrayal was the catalyst for confronting the demons and monsters. The drastic change in my life transformed me into a vehicle for my own becoming. The gut wrenching loss opened the way for a new consciousness to dawn that was rich in collective archetypes. Initially my reaction was tinged with revenge, denial and cynicism. These avoidance behaviors gave way to awareness that I was betraying myself by not coming to terms with the loss.

The evolutionary process was mirrored in my therapeutic art work. In the initial stages of loss, the chalk drawing of blessed betrayalrelationship was buried in an earthen grave adorned by a plain black tombstone. As archetypes shed light on my experience, grass began to grow in the fresh earth. Then wildflowers of many colors sprouted. As the inner transformation continued, the tombstone acquire a different character. Now it was brightly colored with the epithet "Blessed Betrayal." Except for occasional twinges, I lovingly embrace this hand maiden to the birth of a more intuitive me.

Betrayal had two sides: those I experienced and those I betrayed. Making amends was the most valuable part of the Twelve Step Program. For my family, I went through the making amends process for my wife, daughter and son. An amends list for myself appears in a later thread. I discussed my wrongs with my children while preparing their lists. So their amends included things I felt were hurtful as well as behaviors they remembered. Completing Steps 4, 8 and 9 with my family helped me release guilt feelings about my behavior. Accepting failures and asking forgiveness was very liberating.

Forgetting My Lessons

I found the dynamic for my next primary relationship described in chilling detail by John Welwood in Journey of the Heart. His description of engulfment and abandonment read as if it had been written about our relationship. It was a "match made in heaven," but not in the way intended. Out of relative ignorance of our shadow projections, we fell into an implicit pattern of "You're abandoning me" versus "No, you're engulfing me" although these words were never spoken. Counseling did not penetrate to the root of our difficulties since it focused on expression of feelings. We never went behind the feelings to discover where they came from.

Had our Intuitive Selves been developed, we would have seen what was happening and what needed to be done to resolve our difficulties. The importance of an intuitive sense about things was one of the main lessons from this relationship. From the beginning, I sensed an image of shoes at the doorway poised as if ready take flight. Even though she seemed committed, The Intuitive Self was clear about the relationship outcome. Looking back, I was struck by both the message clarity and the strength with which my ego choose to ignore the foresight.

In the final stages of breakup, I discovered story telling would unveil the deeper message of the relationship. Writing the Betrayal of Great White Hunter myth allowed The Intuitive Self to break through an otherwise painful situation. Fears and desires were so activated by the experience, that connection with inner being was difficult if not impossible. The metaphor provided a vehicle and permission for intuitive knowing to inform me. I learned that primal trust might be betrayed, in fact likely would. But nonetheless, I would still commit to the process again. The curse of sex unbonded to the heart became clear, yet I would still risk an impassioned relationship.

Relationship Qualities

Another exploration into relationships came through "video dating." I signed up with Great Expectations. They claimed to be more than pickup dating. But the name should have been a dead giveaway! After filling out a profile and answering on camera questions, I contacted and awaited contact from prospective dates. It turned out we were a group of relationship hungry men and women searching for ourselves in someone else. I let my membeship lapse realizing I needed to search for my true self, not look for a companion. The universe would introduce us when I was ready. Obviously I was not ready.

During this period "A Tale of Two Monks" found its way into my heart. I shared this story of letting go with my students. In the classroom, I emphasized the importance of an unattached mind to the emergence of The Intuitive Self. Once again what I taught was what I most needed to learn. Historically my class notes would provide a panorama of lessons, not for my students but for me. "Picking up" each moment, "allowing" its inherent intent and then "letting go" applied as much to moments of primary relationship as to an intuitive attitude. The wise monk suggested I let go of "looking" for a companion.

As my relationship awareness deepened, I was drawn back to Carl Rogers' Becoming Partners. I was fascinated with his ideas about the threads of permanence he found in enduring and meaningful primary relationships. From counseling numerous couples in many kinds of living arrangements, Rogers identified four process making elements:

  • Commitment to the relationship process,
  • Risking the communication of one's own feelings,
  • Ceasing to live by roles, and
  • Discovering and sharing more of one's separate self.

Rogers concluded "But I have no illusions that my analysis is correct or that it is the only correct one. I hope you will build your own."

Name That Tune

Occasionally a popular tune grabbed my sense of being. When lyrics ran like a mantra in my mind, I knew the words carried a deep message. That was true for "Let It Be A Dance" mentioned in a previous thread. But it often took years for the metaphorical meaning to dawn at the conscious level. When I first heard Ezio Pinza sing Some Enchanted Evening, I was a goner: "When you feel her call you, Across a crowded room, Then fly to her side." This cried out for me to clarify the qualities of relationship that were important to me.

Years later, another popular tune had a similar effect on my presence. When Mary Magdalene sang I Don't Know How to Love Him in Jesus Christ Superstar, tears streamed down my face. Seeing her in the night dessert singing to Jesus in the tent shadows, my breath stopped as an epiphany washed over me. An expert in physical love, the prostitute was puzzled and frightened by her feelings. How could she love that which was infinite love. The power and mystery of sexual energy swung in the balance. Mary was poised between the second and fourth charka as kundalini energy arched the bridge between.

With the song refrains echoing in my mind, I took Carl Roger's advice and formulated what I felt were qualities of a rewarding relationship. I summarized characteristics that were important given lessons I had learned: Spirituality, Commitment, Compassion, Dialogue, Trust, Bonding, Vision, Consideration, Acceptance, Balance, Community, Openness, Ownership, Focus, Passion, Challenge and Romance. Though the list was long, each quality had experiential meaning gleaned from the crucible of working it through. On another occasion, I said the same thing with a few strokes of chalk:

chalk drawing of relationship

The Spiritual Marriage

Given society's emphasis on romantic love, the Spiritual quality of relationship does not receive much attention even in traditional religious settings. The popular song images and my drawing hinted at a relationship that transcended the romantic notion. In the Power of Myth series, Joseph Campbell clearly articulated the mythical qualities of marriage with a transcendent quality:

Marriage is a relationship. When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you're sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship. The Chinese image of the Tao, with the dark and light interacting . . . which is what a marriage is. And that's what you have become when you have married. You're no longer this one alone; your identity is in a relationship. Marriage is not a simple love affair, it's an ordeal. and the ordeal is the sacrifice of ego to a relationship in which two have become one.

In conversation with Bill Moyers, the spiritual dimensions of marriage were developed in depth. The inner union of hieros gamos helps ensure spiritual realization in a primary relationship. If my inner union has not been conscious, I am more likely to project unresolved anima onto a partner. I found out the hard way that a woman cannot bear that burden successfully. That is too much to ask!

Reconnection with The Intuitive Self that accompanies the inner spiritual union provides me with the awareness and insight to recognize a spiritual partner if she comes my way. Although I have fantasized about such a relationship, the closest I have come is my chalk drawing. Nonetheless the inner marriage deepens with each passing day as my reconciliation of opposites continues.

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