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The Nature of the Illusory Self

From a spiritual perspective, most sexual relations on planet Earth are narcissistic in nature, based upon karma, and rooted in the ego, the illusory self. They are the result of emotional and mental habits ingrained in us in this and former lifetimes. We often call these relationships “romantic".

Romantic relationships are unconsciously motivated, and so we may find ourselves in this type of love relationship wondering why we are behaving so strangely. We find the behavior of others equally illogical, equally mysterious.

From Venus Unbound by JSherry

These karmically-driven sexual relations operate in a similar fashion to clockwork mechanisms, unfolding according to an inner logic that we seem helpless to alter. This is why lovers so often say, “I couldn’t help myself! I didn’t want to hurt them! I didn’t want to suffer like that! I didn’t want to recreate the same failed relationship this time around! But there was nothing I could do to stop it!”

These habitual failed relationships stem from the seeds of karma we have sown in this and other lives through our attachments to sensual pleasures, our negative emotions, negative experiences with love, family role models, cultural conditioning concerning love relations, and negative mental attitudes about ourselves and about love.

Spiritually speaking, at the most basic level, all evil actions in the world, all isolation, all lack of love, stem from three sources: a closed heart, a poisoned mind, and a will encrusted with the demons of bad habit.

To open yourself to experience a love that enlivens, uplifts and brings joy to your life, do these things: purify your emotions, cleanse your mind, strengthen your will, and open your heart. We will be offering specific techniques to achieve these goals in later chapters of this book, under the sections entitled "partnerships" and "divine lovers". You may also find meditation techniques to help you take the first steps toward a Divine love, in  "Back to the Garden Part 4: Meditations on Self-Love" and "Back to the Garden, Part 5: Sunrise Meditation".

By the spiritual law of resonance and attraction, we attract love relationships with individuals who are on our own level of spiritual development. Thus, we share the same difficulties, imperfections and spiritual lessons. According to the laws of karma, we attract those love relations who can best help us to learn the difficult lessons about ourselves that will enable us to be free to love. Strong karma generates strong attraction between lovers, although this attraction can be in the form of a love/hate relationship, and can often result in mutually destructive behavior.

Thus our loved ones are our best teachers. Our relationships with loved ones are all but guaranteed to be the most challenging relationships in our lives because, by definition, we have the most karma with these individuals.

Polaroid by Aline Mare 1978

To understand the seeds of karma, and how the egoistic personality, the illusory self, creates failed love relations like clockwork in our lives, it is helpful to understand the psychology of the illusory self and the spiritual origins of the illusory self as well. That is the topic of this discussion.

The vast majority of all sexual relations between human beings are based upon Eros and ego, physical attraction and mental inclinations, desire and greed. These sexual relations reflect the needs and desires of the egoistic personality. The evolution of most love relationships is directed by these egocentric desires rather than being guided by spiritual goals and a shared spiritual practice.

This is because most of us have not yet discarded the egoistic personality and attained true self-love, which puts the Higher Self in charge of every aspect of our lives.

When we succeed in the arduous task of transcending our personalities and recognizing our interdependence with the great web of life, when we achieve the great work of the alchemists, when we attain the Self-realization that is the goal of the most exalted yogis, when we reach the mountaintop of personal growth which psychologist C. G. Jung called "individuation", then we shall re-enter the Garden of Eden, where the fall of Adam and Eve triggered the war between the sexes, and at that point, we shall attain oneness with our love partner. We shall share Unity Consciousness.

At that point, with paradise regained, we shall know the true nature of the Divine Lovers, and we shall truly have entered into a New Age.

In the Garden of Eden

According to the great Western mystic and spiritual teacher Omraam Aïvanhov, there are as many Garden of Eden myths as there are human beings, because each human being contains the Garden of Eden within.

Omraam teaches that the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represent the upper and lower chakras of the body respectively, and that the Garden of Eden myth represents a story about the origins of life in the material world.

This is my commentary on the Biblical version of the Garden of Eden myth, as it relates to the question of human sexuality and love relations. Omraam’s version of the Garden of Eden myth is extremely interesting, by the way, and full of beautiful teachings, some of which find their way into today's discussion, but Omraam's story is ultimately a story for another day.

 from "Sacred Sexuality" by Mann & Lyle

In the Biblical account of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were at one with creation, living in conscious harmony with the plants, animals, angels and with God. Adam and Eve experienced life through the eyes of the Higher Self, consciously aware of their interdependence with nature and with spiritual realms.

Adam and Eve possessed preternatural abilities. They could sense angels and nature spirits and they could talk to plants and animals. They lived in the Garden of Eden in perfect health, in harmonious partnership with one another and with their environment.

However, Adam and Eve possessed only a rudimentary sense of their own individuality, and did not make a conscious decision to participate in God’s plan, in the unity of creation, they simply did so as part of their nature, automatically. Although they possessed the capacity for free will, they did not truly exercise that free will. Free will had not yet been developed within them.

It was that capacity for free will, our self-consciousness, which resides in the ego, that distinguished Adam and Eve from angels. When God created Adam and Eve, he endowed them with the capacity for individuality and free will so that they might love more perfectly.

The great Austrian clairvoyant and spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner points out in his lecture series on the Gospel of St. John that independence, conscious choice, free will and full self-consciousness are required in order for one person to truly love another.

“No one can love another in the full sense of the word if this love be not a free gift of one person to another,” Steiner explains. “My hand does not love my organism. Only one who is independent, one who is not bound to the other person, can love him.”

Human beings were created to be self-conscious vessels of Love, the bringers of Love to material creation. The cosmic task of the human being, according to teachings of Esoteric Christianity, is to infuse earthly life and creation with love.

Human evolution was designed to exercise and strengthen the forces of the human ego to the point where we might be able to unify the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual components of the human being, and through that unity, transcend the ego altogether.

Through a long process of evolution a more complex form of divine love might be attained. Unity consciousness attained through struggle to unify material and spiritual realms would enrich and harmonize the previously divided realms of matter and spirit. 

With this lofty, long-term, evolutionary goal in mind, a goal that could only be entrusted to his newest creations, God announced to the angels that these human beings were the greatest of all his creatures. God instructed the angels to bow before them.

Lucifer refused to bow before the humans. Some say this was out of pride, but the Islamic tradition says that Lucifer refused to bow to Adam and Eve because he loved God so much that he would not bow before any other being.

Lucifer's exact motive remains obscure, but ilt is clear that Lucifer desired to set himself up as an equal to God. This desire to over-reach his own true nature could only trigger a rift in Heaven. The result of his rebellion was to create within himself a dualistic consciousness where before there had been Unity. The dualistic consciousness of the ego is full of desires, and desires to be first among equals.

There was a hidden benefit to Lucifer's rebellion, however. For the angels, as for Adam and Eve, the original Unity Consciousness was not a choice, not the result of a long evolutionary process, but was rather the original nature of both angels and human beings. 

Since there had been no choice, there could be no true merit in the attainment and exercise of angelic Unity Consciousness prior to Lucifer's rebellion.

When Lucifer first rebelled against God's elevation of humanity to the zenith of creation, the brightest angel partook of the new human quality of free will. Lucifer's rebellion presented all the angels with something novel -- a choice. A choice between Lucifer and God. All angels had to make a choice. Some chose consciously to align themselves with the Divine Order and some chose consciously to set themselves up as arbiters of Divine Order, setting themselves up as equal to the Divine itself.

Lucifer and his angels were cast out of Heaven, and plummeted to hell. Hell is the egoistic personality in its rawest form.

Lucifer's rebellion brought about the fall of a great number of angelic beings, whose only path back to God would be to eventually reconcile themselves consciously to God's Divine plan for creation, through their self-developed capacity for free will, after an exile of undetermined length, which has not ended to this day. When the fallen angels make a conscious choice to re-align themselves with the Divine, their long evolutionary journey will reach a triumphant conclusion. This is the potential upside of Lucifer's rebellion in Heaven.

Lucifer continued to be fixated on Adam and Eve and the human experiment. Lucifer entered the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve and Adam with the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, which had been forbidden to them.

The knowledge of good and evil is dualistic consciousness, the opposite of Unity Consciousness. Adam and Eve ate the fruit, obtained knowledge of good and evil, and suddenly lived in a world of choices. They entered the realm of the egoistic personality, a realm far outside the Garden of Eden, divorced from their original Unity Consciousness.

Their very first act of free will was unfortunately an act of egoistical desire.

detail from Soul Mate Search by J.Sherry

Out of a prideful sense of entitlement, Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, which Lucifer claimed would make them powerful as gods. Adam and Eve shared in the sin of Lucifer, the desire to over-reach their nature. Our first parents lusted to become "as gods", and by eating the apple, they elevated their egoistic personalities into a position of dominance within their previously unified psyches. 

Adam and Eve had enjoyed primoridal Unity Consciousness from the first moments of their creation. 

The Luciferic sin of pride causes the individual to place the ego at the center of the Universe, usurping the place of the Divine itself.  The ego has many desires, chief anong them the desire to exert power over the rest of creation rather than living in harmony within the web of life.

By eating of the apple, Adam and Eve succumbed to the lure of narcissistic desire, and created the first dualistic human psychology of dominance and submission. 

The results of their transgression were immediate and severe.

In the long term, as we shall see, narcissistic desire forms the template for lustful love, romantic love, egoistic love and a myriad other perversions of true love rife on the planet today.

In the short term, on an energetic level, Adam and Eve became captivated by sensory stimuli to such an extent that they identified completely with their bodies, their emotions (astral bodies) and mental attachments to the physical world (lower mental body).

They identified completely with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve identified with the lower chakras within the spinal column, which are centers of energy that maintain the physical body, personal power and personal sexual drives and desires.

They became divorced from the Tree of Life. They lost contact with the higher chakras from the heart to the crown. Those centers of energy closed, and Mystery School Traditions of both the East and West are dedicated to re-opening those closed centers of energy, introducing the individual to a trans-personal consciousness, and re-activating perception of subtle energy and Higher Worlds. The centers of this Higher perception are to be found in the upper chakras, of course.

The original sin in the Garden of Eden was the origin of polarity consciousness and dualistic thinking.  

The Garden of Eden story is the story of the origin of the illusion of the separate self and the story of the origin of all dominator cultures that set humanity above the rest of the web of life.

Spiritual science says that because of the Fall, the lower mind or ego took control of the human being. The servant became King of the catle.

From this point in human evolution, Adam and Eve and all their descendants found themselves irrevocably on the path of conscious choice and free will, and their spiritual evolution depended from that point onward on their ability to freely choose to relinquish the dominance of the egoistic component of their psyche in favor of the Higher Self and Unity consciousness.

Only in this way can human potential be fulfilled and God's plan fulfilled as well. This is why some Christian theologians call the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden the "felix culpa", or fortunate fall.

It is a fortunate fall because the fall was the first evidence of humanity's free will, and the first step on the long road toward humanity's fulfillment of God's plan for our species. Human beings are intended to exercise their free will in order to Unify with the Divine Order and infuse the material world, planet Earth, with loving wisdom that will accelerate the spiritual evolution of all life in the Solar System.

Humanity will bring a conscious awareness of the Divine Order to planet Earth, as the fulfillment of Divine Will and human destiny, but that happy outcome remains far in the future.

Presently we live with the results of Original Sin.

The fruit of that sin is the overwhelming dominance of the egoistic personality. And the fruit of the egoistic personality is war. War between the sexes, war between neighbors, religions, countries and the war of humanity upon the natural world.

Unity is Our True Nature

Psychologists say that our egoistic personality is simply an illusion.

As infants, our sense of Self  “embraced the universe and expressed an inseparable connection of the ego to the external world,” says psychoanalyst Geza Roheim.[i]

We are sexual beings in a Universe of dualistic polarities, but our original psychological nature consists of Unity.

Our physical being originates in the sexual union of mother and father. Our first nine months of being we exist, not as a separate physical being, but as part of the dual unity of mother and child. Unity is our experience of life prior to the moment of our birth.

Painted Photo by J. Sherry

As infants we learn to identify two classes of beings, those that bring pleasure and those that bring pain, according to the father of psycho-analysis, Sigmund Freud.

As infants, we identify Mother as the bringer of pleasure and we want to re-establish Unity with her, but we cannot. We are separate beings now, and we are surrounded by a myriad of other separate beings. Beings that bring pleasure are considered “mine” and those that bring pain are considered “not-mine”.

In effect the infant incorporates loving beings, events and energies that bring pleasure into the egoistical self. The infant separates from other beings, events and energies that bring pain. These beings, events and energies that the infant associates with pain are suppressed, driven deep into the unconscious, where they constitute the Shadow side of the newly emerging personality.

The net effect is the establishment of an illusory self, the ego or personality, which has, in Freudian terms, swallowed the Mother to become one with her.

After the Fall, just like the infants described by psychoanalysts, Adam and Eve began to divide and separate all of creation into dualistic mental categories: mine, not-mine, painful, pleasurable, good and evil. This was indeed the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The seeds of logic and scientific inquiry were sown at this time in human development.

But there was an immense price to pay for this exercise in free will, for diving too deeply into the material world, for identifying too heavily with the lower chakras, with the body and the egoistic personality.

Adam and Eve were no longer able to commune with the animals, plants, angels and other spiritual beings on Earth and in the heavens.  When dominated by the ego rather than

from "The Androgyne" by Zolla

guided by the saving Grace of the Higher Self in tune with the Divine Order of the Universe, the human mind does not perceive invisible realms, spiritual beings, or the gossamer web of interdependence that unites all creation.

Adam and Eve began to cling to a belief in an individual existence, separate from the rest of creation creation, and Adam and Eve lost their original state of grace, their preternatural senses, highly refined intuition, spiritual guidance and other benefits of their pre-lapsarian state.

In creating an illusory individual self, they lost their sense of Unity with God and creation.

The illusory self believes it is cut off from the rest of Creation, and the illusory self identifies with the physical body. The egoistic self naturally believes in its own mortality. Suddenly, awareness of death overwhelmed Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve felt fear. In their fear, they felt cut off from God, ashamed, and self-conscious. Guilty. The dualistic split between mind and body occurred at that time.

Suddenly their very sexuality, which had been a source of Divine inspiration and joy between them, seemed sinful, and they covered their nakedness with leaves and branches. In this way they would appear different from the animals. For in truth they felt their animal nature beginning to dominate them, and wanted to symbolically suppress their own animal nature in response.

Adam and Eve in their newfound pride also suddenly felt superior to the rest of creation, which they imagined in their arrogance to be their own personal toystore. They no longer saw themselves as a part of a vast web of creation, inter-dependent with animals, plants and the mineral kingdom, a small part of Gaia's Titanic living biosphere.

They saw human beings as the crown of creation and imagined that all other forms of life were simply sources of food, energy, clothing and building materials to be used and discarded at will. This is the origin of humanity's tendency to abuse the eco-system.

Adam and Eve also lost the harmony and feeling of personal partnership that had characterized their relationship from the beginning.

They were cast out of the Garden, and the blame game began. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent who had seduced her.

In their new home to the East of Eden, they began to view what had been a life in Paradise as a hell on Earth.  Instead of seeing life as the unfolding of a beautiful evolution toward Universal consciousness, they now perceived life as a struggle for existence, for dominance over other human beings, and over all of creation, the entire eco-system, even the entire Universe.

Guilt, shame, fear, suffering, anger, jealousy, pride, and isolation became the dominant emotions manifested in their relationship. The war between the sexes had begun.

Lust and Narcissistic Desire

The war between the sexes is a war between ghosts. The war is between Adam’s illusory ego and Eve’s equally illusory ego.

This illusory, separate self, the personality, or the ego, is that aspect of us that engages the loved one on the path of narcissistic desire, or lust.

As we shall see, ignorance, which sustains the illusion of the separate self, is the explanation for many problems encountered by individuals on the path of lustful relations.

Photo by Aline Mare 1978

And as we shall see, the primary path to ending the war between the sexes and establishing a harmonious love relationship that will bring both partners back into the Garden of Eden involves transcending this illusory ego-self.

Lust operates from the ego, from the mind, so lust separates, analyzes, criticizes and controls. The egoistic self is ignorant of our true nature, which exists as interdependence and Unity with the Divine Order and Universal Consciousness.

The egoistic self carries with it all the baggage humanity accumulated through the Fall in the Garden of Eden. This includes fear of death, fear of the Other, fear of loving unity with another, and a desire to control, dominate and exploit everyone and everything encountered in this life.

The ego even wants to control its own emotions. The ego utilizes repression as a technique to limit feeling what are perceived as "negative" emotions, little realizing that such repression only strengthens the unwanted emotions, and twists them into truly demonic forms which will burst out at unexpected intervals causing immense pain.

Above all, the ego wants to control the actions of the loved one, believing that only in this way can love be made to last.

In addition to mental illusions, such as the separate self, those who would walk the path of loving partnership must overcome the shared mental agreements about reality that infuse the collective consciousness of our dysfunctional rational materialist dominator culture.

Most of us have experienced substantial social conditioning that has burdened our expression of sexuality with all kinds of expectations and repressions. Of course repressing sexual desires leads to outbursts of lustful behavior at best, and a total shutdown of the life force at worst.

Fear of letting go, fear of experiencing the deep connection between lovers, fear of losing control, and fear of societal and moral condemnation all impel us to repress our impulses to experience love, on all levels of existence, spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.

The ego wants to maintain control of its little world, and the best way to do that is to control the sex impulse, to subject the sexual impulse to mental conditions of all kinds. Failing that, the ego attempts to control the lover, to impose mental conditions on the lover and on the love relationship itself.

Attempting to control one's lover is the best way to insure that love cannot last.

Social expectations about the nature of love, about what love should look like, contribute greatly to our misconceptions about love.

Our attempts to conform to societal expectations about love are based upon a deep unconscious agreement we have formed with our society in our childhood years.

Because of cultural conditioning, we in the West expect sexual love relations to be based upon "romance" -- and we also expect romance to involve suffering, as we discussed in the Chapter 2 of Back to the Garden: The Alchemy of Love, in the section called "Why Does Love Hurt? "

These societal barriers to free sexual expression of the love impulse trap us in two ways. As long as we identify with the cultural expectations of romantic suffering, and as long as we react and rebel against the social conditioning that declares sexuality a sin, we will keep creating experiences based upon egoistic, mental conditions, and upon the infantile narcissism that is at the root of "me-centered" lustful love.

We will remain on this level of spiritual development and on this level of love relations, until we understand the nature of the ego, the trap of narcissism, and the true nature and limitations of lustful love. Then and only then we can take steps to progress on the path of love to more fulfilling relationships, relationships that bring us ever closer to Union with the Divine.

Painted Photo Montage by Jane Sherry

Lust is selfish by definition. Lust, being based upon the egoistic personality, has a narcissistic orientation that values the loved one to the extent that the loved one flatters, upholds, and reflects the lover's ego and gratifies the lover's physical desires.

Lust sees the lover as an object, a trophy to be possessed. The loved one’s positive attributes are added to the laundry list of “that which is mine, that which is me”, by the egoistic mind, and this conquest of the loved one’s desirable qualities contributes to a false sense of enhanced self-worth on the part of the lover.

Because the loved one is attractive to others, the lover obtains further “proof” of inner value and enjoys enhanced status within the peer group. The loved one becomes an ornament to vanity. But that vanity and this trophy carry a very high price.

“We need to look at the nature of our love,” says Buddhist Monk and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Thich Nhat Hanh.[i] “Our love should bring peace and happiness to the ones we love. If our love is based upon a selfish desire to possess others, we will not be able to bring them peace and happiness. On the contrary, our love will make them feel trapped. Such a love is no more than a prison. If the persons we love are unable to be happy because of our love, they will find a way to free themselves. They will not accept the prison of our love. Gradually the love between us will turn to anger or hatred.”

Lustful love, being the product of the mind, the defensive, illusory self, is critical, analytical and judgmental by nature. Lustful love is based upon sensual pleasure and mental considerations above all.

There is a constant misguided attempt to determine mentally whether the lover is truly compatible, and whether there is an "equitable" exchange of energies between the two, which usually means an exchange of energies that requires no sacrifice on the part of the lover.

The lustful lover will continuously refer to a mental scorecard when evaluating potential lovers and mates, even during the course of the relationship, and often during the sexual act itself. What am I getting out of this exchange? What’s in it for me?

The mind sets up conditions for loving. I will love you if you will love me. I will love you if you fulfill my fantasies. I will love you if you are lovable. I will love you if you lose weight, get a job, pay more attention to your wardrobe, and make more money.

These mental conditions kill love. Pure love is unconditional love, and is free of mental considerations and expectations of all kinds.

These mental conditions are a reflection of narcissistic love. Narcissistic love exists not to give but to receive. Narcissistic love exists for the convenience of the ego. The ego wants to be flattered, expanded and put on a pedestal, relative to the loved one and the entire rest of creation.

This is, of course, the original sin of pride committed by Lucifer, and by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The Sin of Narcissus

To understand lustful love and how our egoistic personalities lock us into doomed, unsatisfying and even tragic love relationships, we must understand the sin of Narcissus.

We will examine the myth of Narcissus in the light of modern psychology and ancient spiritual wisdom. We will see how the sin of Narcissus is the original sin of Adam and Eve, and how our narcissistic egos operate to stifle love, exiling us from our own inner truth, our SatyaCenter, the proverbial Garden of Eden.

Photo by Aline Mare 1978

Narcissus was a gorgeous Greek boy who was much beloved by humans, nature spirits, and even the gods and goddesses on Mt.Olympus. Narcissus spurned the love of the nymph Echo, and many other would-be lovers, according to Ovid's version of the tale. Echo was so distraught she wasted away, becoming a mere voice upon the wind.

"Thus he deceived the Nymph and many more," Ovid recounts. "sprung from the mountains or the sparkling waves; and thus he slighted many an amorous youth." 

One of Narcissus' spurned lovers, "lifting his hands to Heaven, implored the Gods, 'If  Narcissus should love deny him what he loves!' and as the prayer was uttered it was heard by Nemesis, who granted her assent."

In this version of the myth, Narcissus is incapable of giving love. He is looking for the perfect lover, and no one can measure up to his mental expectations, not even the preternaturally beautiful nature spirits or the flowers of Grecian youth, aflame with desire for the beautiful boy. Narcissus suffers from an inflated ego, and he believes that love exists primarily for gratification of that immense ego.

The ego seeks to protect Narcissus from any love relationship, because such relationships would require Narcissus to let go, to lose control, to relinquish the primacy of his bloated ego, to give rather than merely to receive, and to enter into the scary expanse of the transpersonal.

A love relationship would require the boy to acknowledge that Narcissus is not the center of the Universe, merely a beautiful but tiny fragment of the immense and gorgeous web of life, no more (and no less) important than the lovers he so casually spurns for being less than perfect specimens -- less than perfect adornments for the enhancement of his own egoistic personality.

 Photo by Jane Sherry

Narcissus stumbles across a "mirrored pool", according to Ovid, and "while he is drinking he beholds himself reflected in a the mirrored pool -- and loves; loves an imagined body which contains no substance, for he deems the mirrored shade a thing of life to love."

Here Narcissus commits the primal sin of pride, the sin of Lucifer. This is the moment in Greek mythology corresponding to the moment in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Narcissus mistakes his egoistic personality for a lover. The ego, of course, is an illusory construct, as we saw in the previous section of this chapter, Unity is Our True Nature.

The sin is to worship that illusion, the separate self, to the exclusion of the web of life, the Unity of creation, and the punishment for this sin is expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the fragmentation of Unity consciousness, isolation from the web of life, and entrapment in a dualistic Universe.

The punishment is exile from the Source of love, and impoverishment of the Spirit, the slow death of the soul that comes from loving a ghost more than life around us.

"All that is lovely in himself he loves," Ovid tells us, "and in his witless way he wants himself -- he who approves is equally approved; he seeks, is sought, he burns and is burnt. And how he kisses the deceitful fount; and how he thrusts his arms to catch the neck that's pictured in the middle of the stream! Yet never may he wreathe his arms around that image of himself."

Narcissus realized that he could never fulfill his impossible love for his own image, but yet he remained at the pond, unable and unwilling to break free from his own self-created spell. Narcissus eventually died, alone, of a broken heart.

Lustful, narcissistic love also exists between two human beings, when that love is based upon egoistic gratification, as we have seen. Lustful, narcissistic love is even a natural stage of sexual development.

There is a time in our lives when human beings develop the sexual aspect of their Divine nature, and explore sexual identities to discover their true realities. This is the awkward, thrilling and dangerous time of adolescence.

Adolescents, whose biology places them most often at what psychologists call the Narcissistic stage of development, are most often fixated on their own inner growth and ego-development.
Adolescents, especially boys, have not experienced the inner growth that brings emotional maturity, nor have they developed the capacity for compassion, for giving, for opening the heart to another human being. 

This would require boys to experience their own inner female nature, and this they generally have not done, or at least not in a healthy, life-affirming way, regardless of the gender of the lovers in their lives.

Girls may have more mature emotional development at an earlier age, but they too need to experience the hidden side of their own nature in order to love freely.

They need to experience the male side of their own Divine nature in order to have the ego-strength and strength of will required to make a deep connection with a lover.

The same difficulties can be found in lustful lovers generally. Regardless of age, lovers stuck at this stage of development conform to social expectations and place mental considerations and egoistic needs above all else when involved in a love relationship. 

Magic Lantern Drawing JSherry

Such narcissistic lovers tend to love the reflection of themselves they see mirrored in the eyes of the Beloved. They tend to place one another on mental pedestals, idealizing one another's qualities and the love they share.

This all feeds the egoistic personality, and kills true love. Narcissistic love, lustful love, romantic love, typically involves creation of a mutual fantasy in which both partners project idealized, Romantic, yet tragically flawed visions of the Beloved onto one another. 

This is called the encounter with the Shadow in psychological terms. This narcissistic love creates a super-charged emotional atmosphere that at first seems to transport the lovers into the mythic realm of Romance peopled by medieval chivalric knights and their ladies.

The lovers enjoy their mutual fantasy world at first. The boy tells the girl that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. The girl tells the boy that he is the most desirable, powerful young man she has ever seen.

They both see the idealized lover in one another's eyes which is the same lover Narcissus saw in the mirrored pool. They become a mutual flattery society.

Of course, before long the high-flying lovers come crashing down to Earth as they begin to see that their Beloved does not correspond to a Romantic god or goddess. Far from it.

The boy is incapable of giving love, or the girl is incapable of standing on her own two feet as an equal partner in the relationship. Or some other major defects appear, corresponding to the undeveloped nature of the two personalities, divorced as they are from their own Higher Selves, and from their inner Garden of Eden, the Source of all true, unconditional love.

Then the lovers can become quite disappointed, even violently so. Often each lover begins to see the Beloved as the repository of the most repressed and undesirable traits to be found in the opposite sex.

Then the lovers may lash out, inflicting serious emotional damage to one another, and even to themselves.

Narcissus and the Shadow

In narcissistic relationships, we are capable of loving only what we see of ourselves in the other person. We are attracted to those aspects of their personality which mirror the ego, and we have both attraction and repulsion for the parts of the lover that mirror the unknown and hidden parts of our own personality.

We are all androgynous beings, psychologically and spiritually. We have both male and female aspects, and those aspects must be honored if we are to advance on the path of love. But narcissistic lovers are unable to do that.

 Photo by Jane Sherry

Narcissistic lovers project create an idealized image of the Beloved which corresponds to their own fantasy of the opposite sex, based upon the unconscious and hence undeveloped hidden aspects of their own personality. Modern psychoanalysis calls these undeveloped aspects the Shadow.

Because the Shadow self that is projected onto the loved one is an unconscious component of our true Higher Self, that Shadow also contains many rejected qualities of the opposite sex, qualities that the lover has chosen to repress in his or her own nature.

Thus the lustful lover finds that the loved one inevitably manifests those repressed qualities, perceived as unlovely, but yet perceived as typical of the opposite sex. Here we have one of the main triggers for the war between the sexes.

There will always be a huge gap between that idealized image of the lover found in our Shadow self, and the behavior of the loved one. The natural result is that the lustful lover will find much to criticize in the loved one, much that needs changing.

The faults we find in our lover are always the reflections of our own faults, and often represent aspects of our Higher Self which have been repressed and rejected. By owning these repressed traits, we can begin the painful but necessary and enlightening process of freeing ourselves from their iron grip.

This insight is connected to the law of resonance and attraction because we will always attract the lover who vibrates in resonance with our own energy signature.

If we are full of self-loathing, and if we have low self-esteem, we will attract a lover who is also lacking in self-love.

For example, a girl or boy with low self-esteem may feel she or he needs lots of lovers to feel valued and loved, but really they are reinforcing their low self-esteem this way.

For example, by setting a low value on her own love, a girl with low self-esteem sets a low value on her lovers, and inevitably comes to see their love for her as a proof of their imperfection. At the same time she will be driven to punish her many lovers for loving her when she’s so clearly undeserving. If, on the other hand, the girl can develop true Self-love, she will attract a lover who has great love to share.

 Magic Lantern by Jane Sherry

The same syndrome applies to boys, women and men of all ages and all sexual persuasions.

Until the lustful lover can integrate the Shadow into the Self, through a process of self-discovery and Self-love, there can be no happiness in sexual relations, nor can the individual successfully unite with the Higher Self.

For men that means discovering and integrating the feminine aspect of the psyche, and for women that means discovering and integrating the male aspect of the psyche. The tragedy is that if we could only see past the Shadow into our lover's true being, we would see reflected in that mirror the true nature of the opposite sex.

By honoring the loved one, men can have an experience of their own wise, nurturing inner female aspect and women can experience their own fearless inner male spiritual warrior.

This discovery and integration work requires the lover to forgive the loved one’s superficial faults, a major step on the road to a truly unconditional love, a love that will transport lover and loved one alike back into the Garden of Eden.

This work can be accelerated by meditating upon the Divine qualities of your loved one. Look for more on this topic in the "partnerships" section of Back to the Garden.

Energy Attachments and Karmic Bonds

Accepting the Shadow side within the Self that the loved one reflects to us in the magic mirror of love is a first, essential step in the long path we take to transcend the ego through acceptance, forgiveness and Self-Love.

But the lustful lover rejects the Shadow, rejects the Higher Self in its fullness. Left unfulfilled by this failure, and impelled by the fears and desires of the egoistic personality, the lustful lover seeks to fill the void within the unloved Self with the energy of the Beloved. 

The lover seeks to capture the energy of the Beloved in the form of sexual activity, attention, and emotional interchanges. The intensity of the sexual and emotional interchange is far more important than the quality of the interchange. Emotional outbursts, for example, provide lots of energy. 

Photo by Jane Sherry

A lover captures the energy of the beloved by creating mental, emotional, karmic and energetic attachments to that person. In this way, the lustful lover can obtain a steady flow of life force energy from the loved one. In this respect, narcissistic, lustful love is a form of mutual parasitism.

These energetic attachments are very real, and can be seen by clairvoyants. They are cords that extend most often from the lover’s major chakra centers to the loved one’s major chakra centers.

These cords are created by the lover’s intent, conscious or unconscious, to obtain the loved one’s energy for his or her own egoistic purposes, and to fill the void within him or her with that energy.

The lover sinks energetic hooks into the auric field of the loved one to compensate for a perceived inability to connect with the Divine Source which alone can fill the Self with Love and Light, with energy unbounded. 

Of course this is an illusion fostered by the egoistic self. In reality we are all connected to the Universal Source of life force energy at all times and our Higher Self always has the ability to infuse our being with this living loving intelligent light.

All we have to do is let go of the ego and relinquish control of our being to the Higher Self. But that is difficult to do, and this relinquishment appears to the ego as a form of death, to be avoided at all costs.

So the game continues between the two lustful lovers.

In many cases, both lovers create such energetic attachments to one another.

 Sculpture by Jane Sherry

This is the basis for the teachings within many spiritual traditions telling us that we create karmic bonds with every sexual partner. Karma is at its most basic level an imbalanced energy exchange, and all imbalanced energy exchanges between individuals must be brought back into balance, over time. That is the Law.

“Think about the question of bonds,” suggests Mystic and Spiritual Teacher Omraam Aïvanhov. “Everything in the universe consists of bonds: the sun, stars and planets; trees and crystals; atoms and electrons, which are arranged along lines of force; faces; geometrical figures. . .Everything consists of bonds, threads, tissue. . . Every thought, every sentiment, every promise, is a bond. . .Meditate about this so as to be more aware of how terribly important it is, and be careful of the bonds you form, for your whole life is at stake.”[i]

The bonds of lust and egoistic love can literally drain us of our life force energy, magnify detrimental emotional states, inject us with another’s poisonous emotions, and keep us in a mentally clouded state that prevent spiritual progress.

Removing these attachments, or hooks and cords can be very beneficial for individuals who desire to progress on the path of Self-love. This can be done in a number of ways, including past life regression sessions, Reiki, and other forms of vibrational healing and subtle energy work.

The Value of Lustful Love

These teachings must not be misunderstood. The intention is not to suggest that individuals at the narcissistic level of spiritual and sexual development should sublimate all sexual energies, and refrain from sexual relations.

For one thing, sexual relations we enter into in this life are generally the result of karma we have accrued over many lifetimes, and it is often beneficial for us to have the experiences that will result in balancing this karma we have created in the past with members of the opposite sex.

 Photo by Jane Sherry

Yes, lustful love, although fraught with dangers, can produce many potentially valuable experiences. The lustful sexual experience often provides the under-developed Self with its first experience of transcendence.

The onset of first love often gives us our first opportunity to transcend the ego. One’s heart opens for the first time, at least a bit, at least for a while. One feels the impulse to nurture, protect and, yes, even sacrifice one’s own best interests, all for the benefit of another person.

Lustful love presents us with a great opportunity to understand the transitory nature of existence, because lustful, egotistical love cannot last. On this topic, Eastern and Western spiritual teachings agree.

Lustful love must either die or be transformed into a higher form of love, a more spiritual form. We will explore some of the ways to accomplish this transformation in later sections of this e-book concerning partnership love and The Divine Lovers.

When the fires of sexual attraction die out and the fog of Romance lifts from our inner landscape, we must often let go of the loved one, for that lustful love experience has run its natural course. Often we berate ourselves for the ending of the relationship, believing that there is something wrong within us that has caused this disaster.

Not so. The ending of a relationship based upon sexual attraction and mental considerations is an opportunity for celebration and thanksgiving. Yet how few of us can part such relationships as friends.

And how few of us can transform a narcissistic, ego-centered, lustful relationship into a higher, spiritual love.

 Photo by Jane Sherry

Love is threatening to the narcissistic lover as love becomes more pure, more complete. In moments when true love appears, the lovers experience a melting of the ego personality, a fusion between them. This heralds a momentary end to the duality that sustains the egoistical personality, the false self. All those who have experienced satisfactory sexual relations have had the experience of simply disappearing. All have experienced the mysterious moment when we feel what the Other feels, when we see their masks drop away, and we know that we knew nothing about them.

Here we have an example of direct experience, which transcends mental awareness altogether, and provides us with wisdom and spiritual insights. At these moments, as we sense the tremendous mystery that the Other represents, and as we intuitively understand that we can never possess the loved one, we partake of the true nature of our lover, and with that direct experience often comes a feeling that we know them now for the first time. We know them for the first time, and they know us in that moment of union.

At such moments, we transcend the ego personality and experience the Self. The Self is pure energy, formless and without masks. The Self is Unity within duality. When we first experience the true nature of the Self and glimpse the Self within another, we are catapulted into the Abyss. 

This is a positive development. For one instant, you are gone and the loved one is gone. Only love remains between you. No projections, no attachments, no criticisms, no judgments, no guilt, no blame, no fear of loss, no mental activity at all. 

And this is another clue to the true nature of the Higher Self. The Higher Self is freedom. The Higher Self is beyond the mind, which is why most spiritual disciplines involve activities such as yoga, meditation, intense prayer and contemplation, chanting, song or dance, which will completely quiet (or obliterate) the mind.

Because of the powerful transpersonal experience romantic, egoistic love provides, romantic love provides human beings with one variety of love’s heart-opening, transcendent experience.

Unfortunately, because romantic love compels us, through karma and lustful desire, romantic love can feel to the lovers like a burden, and the lovers will all too soon feel this powerful force as a form of bondage, chaining them together against their will, against their rational considerations, and often, against their own best interests.

Karmic relations, by their very nature, represent imbalanced relationships, learning relationships that have been designed by Divine plan to expose our weaknesses, our neuroses, and our faults, and to compel us to face our deepest fears. We find ourselves acting out irrational dramas that serve to equilibrate the ancient imbalances, the ancient wrongs, the ancient wounds inflicted by men upon women, by women upon men, by brother upon brother and by sister upon sister. This is in fact the Divine purpose of such relationships -- to end the karmic patterns and imbalances.

This is why the initial flush of transcendent beauty in romantic love is so very often transformed into bewildering tragedy. 

In the next sections we will learn about partnership love, and explore the difficult but rewarding path that leads from conditional love affairs, exemplified by romantic, egoistic love, to unconditional love expressed in conscious, spiritual loving partnerships between equals.

However, an essential prerequisite for all advanced loving relationships is that both parties work to attain a greater and greater measure of self-love, for only those who have attained self-love are capable of sharing love, of giving love, for only those who love themselves have love to share. Those without self-love, being deprived of love, being empty of love within themselves, can only take, and are locked into the stage of lustful, narcissistic love.

So anyone who wishes to transform his or her love life, to enter into a loving spiritual partnership, and to experience a love that lasts, must work to attain true self-love.

 

READ NEXT CHAPTER: Chapter 7: Conscious Partnership