Everything else leads us not only to a dead-end, but also away from the true path.
Irene had been married to Ferdinand for thirty years. The reason it had lasted so long was only due to the fact that Ferdinand travelled frequently for work. He was so choleric that Irene was always happy to have a few days to herself where she could simply live her life without being constantly criticised, patronised and yelled at. And when he came back, she could be happy about it—after all, he always left just before the situation became unbearable. The only thing that worried her was Ferdinand’s approaching retirement. It seemed like a straightjacket that would be wrapped around her with no escape. Eight days after Ferdinand retired, Irene died of natural causes.
Nevertheless, it was a kind of suicide. If Irene had dared to think outside of culturally accepted patterns, her body would not have needed to succumb to her fear. She would have had the courage to tell Ferdinand how things really stood and could have decided to take a smaller second apartment so that she could take a few days for herself now and then to refresh her soul—just like it had worked so well for thirty years.
It was similar with George. When he married Marianne, they had no money and therefore no other option than to live at Marianne’s parents’ for the first five years of their marriage. George suffered at living under the thumb of his in-laws, who, he thought, stuck their noses into everything and always patronised them. He was finally able to recover when he and his wife moved into a rented flat where they lived happily together for twenty years. Until his in-laws had an idea: they suggested selling their home and buying a larger one where they could all live together—each pair in their own apartment. The in-laws hoped that the younger couple would look after them in their old age. For George, this was a nightmare. But he finally gave into the pressure from his wife and her parents—seemingly. For on the very day the sale of the in-laws’ house went through, he had a heart attack. Two days later he was dead. Only then did his wife find out that something else had been weighing him down: he had been passed over for a promotion for the third time.
If George had listened to his inner voice and remained steadfast in his opposition to the in-laws’ project, and if he had either been able to trustingly confide in his wife about his setback at work or been able to realise that his job was not his calling and, here also, had the courage to follow his heart—his life also wouldn’t have needed to end in unconscious, premature self-destruction.
And so we see: not living your ‘self’ can cost you your life. For even if there is a plan for our lives, even if there is a certain lifespan allotted to us, that doesn’t mean that we can’t prematurely end that time through wrong decisions or wrong lifestyle—and we’re not only talking about self-inflicted suicide.
So it can be life threatening when we don’t follow our inner calling, when we let ourselves be externally dictated to instead of following what we feel within. In his new book, Körperglück—wie gute Gefühle gesund machen (English: Body Joy: How Good Feelings Make Us Healthy), Werner Bartens tells of a woman who was brought to the hospital with what appeared to be a heart attack. But only apparently, because while all the symptoms clearly pointed to a heart attack, no medical testing could find any damage to the heart at all. Only the left chamber of the heart showed a slight impairment. Now the doctors know what she was suffering from: Broken Heart Syndrome.
“In patients with broken hearts, both the heart muscles and the cardiovascular muscles contract in a cramp-like manner. The cause of this dangerous situation, however, is not a blood clot clogging the artery, as is the case with a typical infarction or even a cardiac dysrhythmia, but emotional overload.
“Psychosomatics saw first indications: ‘This woman was under an unbelievable amount of pressure her whole life,’ said her attending doctor. ‘It’s a miracle that she managed it as long as she did. Yet the patient says that she has had back pain, sleep disturbances and terrible headaches for years. But she wouldn’t allow this, continued fighting, and grit her teeth. That was how she had been taught.
“In the psychosomatic clinic, she learned to be good to herself. (…) Up to this point, she had been straight-jacketed her whole life; now she savoured being able to move more freely, more relaxed and without stress, without always having to achieve something. ‘I never thought that I would experience feelings like this again,’ she said with tears in her eyes.”
Most “premature deaths” are actually acts of self-destruction by people who inwardly feel that they can no longer continue to live in the way that they have, but who are too scared to dare to change course, postulates Herman Meyer in his (out of print) book Der Tod ist kein Zufall (English: Death is No Accident). These fears are mostly suppressed and give rise to another fear: that we dare not allow ourselves to face them.
And so eventually there is no other option than to escape from life—through a deadly illness or an accident.
What we do with our lives does matter, and the path of least resistance usually leads to an emotional wasteland that seems to have no exit.
That so many people in our rich countries vegetate in spiritual poverty and hopelessness is due to the fact that they don’t learn about the truly important things. For example, the idea that they don’t only have this one earthly life and therefore shouldn’t use the time simply to pursue the greatest pleasure.
Rather, we re-embody again and again—and it is of course completely immaterial if we believe in the fact of reincarnation or not. All of us have sought out this, our individual life, by what we have done in previous ones. And what we do in this life will in turn decide where we will be born next—in which country, in what social class, with good or poor health, to which people. If we do no good or learn nothing, our next life will look a lot like this one. If we fritter this lifespan away on nonsense and vice, then the next conditions will be much more difficult. But if we strive for self-improvement in every regard, practise goodness and selflessness, then we climb the steps of accomplishment—steps that lead to ultimate inner and outer freedom. Whatever good we have acquired can never be taken from us, by anyone. This is thus the true, immutable treasure that is really worth attaining.
But this is not to be attained, however, by selling our soul—to a career, a position, conventions, power, fame, influence, money, or even to a person. On the contrary, in doing so we betray our true Self. We shut it in a closet of the subconscious and let it stew there so that we don’t have to hear its resounding, warning voice—also called our conscience. And in the moment that we try to lock the true, divine Self away in the closet of the subconscious, we open the doors and all its beasts jump out. Omraam Michael Aivanov, the Bulgarian sage, once described the layers of sub-consciousness as “regions in which all sorts of prehistoric monsters are collected: dinosaurs, brontosaurs, ichthyosaurs! ... Yes, these monsters are all still alive. True, they disappeared from the earth’s surface long ago, but they live on in man as instincts, emotions, and desires. Even when their physical bodies have disintegrated, that doesn’t mean that their astral bodies have disappeared. No, for through their astral bodies all animals—and not just the prehistoric ones—reside in man’s sub-
consciousness. And psychoanalysts ignorant in the science of initiation are careless in stirring up these hidden layers because they are ostensibly looking for the sources of certain disorders in the person’s sub-consciousness. But through this intrusion, they wake up these animals that then fall on the unsuspecting individual, ready to devour him.”
When we look around us, we have the impression that many of these “beasts” have escaped from their dungeons. So many people have become hostage to their own cravings! Because they have absolutely no spirituality in their lives, because they have daily given their attention to coarse sounds, horrible films, or even pornographic performances, so many people today have unknowingly opened the basement door of their sub-consciousness and now find themselves prisoners instead of masters. “The sub-consciousness is a broad and dangerous region,” warns Aivanonv, “like the depths of the oceans. If you want to dive there without the necessary equipment, it’s all over for you, for monsters dwell there lying in wait to devour you. Everybody knows that you need special equipment to explore the depths of the seas or the interior of the earth.
“After all, it is necessary to be physically fit in every undertaking and even to have a special safeguard. Only when it is about descending into the depths of one’s own being do people think that it is easy and fully without danger.”
How much more important, then, to realise that we don’t have to be a hostage shaken by fears, dark emotions and hopelessness. Omraam Michael Aivanov wouldn’t have been much of a sage if he hadn’t given his students instructions as to how they could free themselves from this ‘captivity’: “I have given you methods that enable you to place your sub-consciousness in service to your spiritual work. You should know, for example, that true transformations never take place through conscious thought, but rather become actualised through the subconscious. In order to achieve your spiritual ideal, you must therefore learn to descend into your sub-consciousness in order to implant the picture of the envisioned ideal. Through conscious work, it will one day come true. It happens more quickly, however, when you work with the sub-consciousness, for the subconscious forces have the most power over the physical.
“So what is meant by the sub-consciousness?” Aivanov explains: “The unconscious corresponds to the mineral kingdom, the subconscious to the plant kingdom [which may be one reason for the effectiveness of the Bach flower remedies, Ed.], the conscious with the animal kingdom, self-awareness with mankind, and super consciousness with the great masters and initiated ones. The physical world, meaning realisation, is very close to the plant-kingdom, which in turn is connected to the sub-consciousness. The super consciousness, on the other hand, is far removed from that level. So when you are able to inject your wishes into the sub-consciousness, they will be realised more quickly. Hypnosis works on the same principle: through hypnosis, a person’s sub-consciousness is influenced and then he will carry out commands given to him that he would possibly not have obeyed when awake or in full consciousness.
“When you want to achieve faster results in your spiritual life, you must concentrate, meditate on the desired goal, and then immediately go to sleep, for only in this way will the powers of your sub-consciousness participate in achieving your wishes. I have practised this for years. And if I have achieved a little more than others, it is only because I work in this manner.
“You can also try to manifest your ideas by improving your way of life and learning to better execute every action of daily life: eating, breathing, walking, sleeping, etc. For each of these actions is connected with our subconscious life and if we carry them out properly, we can contribute to the realisation of a divine idea. Incidentally, I often emphasise the importance of my mental and emotional condition as I fall asleep, since sleep favours the crystallization of this condition in the sub-consciousness. So you must fall asleep with the best thoughts and wishes, for thus you contribute to their realisation.”