Next Steps

Wouldn’t you love to have a map for this journey of your life? Some chart, some tool – something that could help you get oriented in Reality and moving in the right direction? We’re not talking about a step-by-step itinerary prescribing every move, turn, and stop along the way. That would take the adventure out of it.

There’s something about having to find your way, and not just follow someone else’s, that makes the journey a true adventure.

We find just such a map in the wisdom traditions of the world, which originate from the wellspring of spiritual insight (seeing into the true nature of things) and comprise a network of tributaries flowing into a Great Sea of Enlightenment. As the religions have fought over water rights and whose buckets (conceptual categories) will hold and define this living stream, Sophia Perennis has carried on in its work of awaking, liberating, and renewing the Human Spirit for millenniums.

The diagram above is a simplified illustration of this map of the human journey, again not so much a prescription for where we should go but a layout of the terrain and the different directions we can go, depending on what kind of experience we are seeking. An important metaphor from the wisdom traditions visualizes this journey as more a way or method than a pilgrimage with a preset destination.

In that light, human salvation is less a distant arrival point (e.g., the heavenly paradise of religion), than it is the healing, wholeness, and wellbeing that arise from intentional living, when we are mindfully engaged in the Here and Now.

As with all helpful maps, this one orients us with a “You are Here” locator designated by the notorious term “ego,” which, innocently enough, refers to the place in each of us where consciousness flexes back upon itself in a self-conscious identity.

While it is true that the great historical wave of human suffering originated with the breakthrough to an individual self-conscious experience, the emergence of ego consciousness also opened up new frontiers of spirituality.

From this central point, seemingly alone in the middle of Everything, four such frontiers open up to us, each one leading into a distinct realm of discovery, challenge, and opportunity.


The path on the left leads into the character, personality, and temperament of the individual – into “oneself.” This is an endlessly fascinating realm filled with funhouse mirrors that reflect back distorted images, along with countless passages, rabbit holes into dark tunnels, and tight mazes where it is easy to get lost.

On the path into Oneself we see the image of a spiral threatening to pull consciousness from its introspective adventure and into a neurotic pattern of self-preoccupation. Such obsession with our own need to feel safe, loved, capable and worthy (our so-called subjective or “feeling-needs”: the collection of funhouse mirrors just mentioned) is what generates the preponderance of psychiatric suffering across our species today.

Our anxiety drives us to attach to what or whom we need to save us, which of course they cannot do. This agitates our frustration, causing us to grip down even harder – or else drop to our knees in submission, hoping that our gestures of flattery, adulation, or appeasement will motivate their intervention on our behalf.

Over time, the resulting entanglement and codependency have us completely hemmed in and we might remain in this self-induced hostage condition for many years – even a lifetime.

The not-so-clear but very present danger of this neurotic spiral shouldn’t steer us away from the truly enchanting frontier of Oneself, however. Temperamental traits, patterns in the personality, and habits of character that formed as we responded to our circumstances and chose our way through life: all of it holds the potential of greater insight into who we are and why we tend to lean into or away from Reality as we do.

The modern science of psychology is itself evidence of how at once intriguing and baffling we humans are to ourselves.


A second frontier, accessible from this back country of Oneself but also approachable by a more “vertical” and inward drop away from the center position of ego, is a mystery of what the wisdom traditions name the Ground – the grounding Mystery, Ground of Being, Real Presence, or the Present Mystery of Reality.

The alternate route, through the threads and tangles of personality, has frequently led some to conclude that the frontiers of Oneself and Ground are really the same – when they are not. Their difference is a matter of whether the ego is conducting the quest, through a webwork of its own making, or instead needs to be released and left at the surface for a kind of existential “trust fall” into the very Ground of our being.

This is the essential, and etymological, meaning of “faith.”

Interior probes of our personality can bring us to the brink, perhaps, but at some point the center of self-conscious awareness must itself be surrendered, leaving no one (none, no thing, Nothing) but an ineffable and boundless Presence.

Mystical spirituality is a disciplined cultivation of communion with the Ground, playing at the threshold or drop-off where words dissolve, theology (“god talk”) becomes nonsense, where thoughts untie from the thinker, and only a pure awareness remains. Not surprisingly, mystics the world over have not been well-received by the custodians of religious orthodoxy. In many cases, they have been excommunicated, persecuted, condemned and put to death – only later honored or even worshiped as revealers and avatars of Truth.


Returning to the “You are Here” station of ego, a third path takes us into the frontier of interpersonal life, the social arena, and where we encounter “an other” (Another). The otherness of Another shows itself only through the veils of personality, as the hidden subject behind the presented object of the person before us. An interior self, a center of feeling, thought, intention and will, is back there somewhere, arousing our fascination, curiosity, fantasy, suspicion or fear.

The development of our own personality and sense of self, of our ego and personal identity, was shaped in the field of early attachments and alliances.

Personal identity and its ego-in-charge would simply not be possible without this interplay with partners, allies, rivals and opponents who are on their own journeys of ego formation toward becoming somebody special.

Just take all of those complications and neurotic potential that we barely acknowledged in each of us (Oneself), and now throw it into the fray of interpersonal and social interactions, and what you have is an exponential dynamic of actions causing reactions causing counter-reactions, all together producing an amplifying effect across the web of human relations that seems always on the verge of blowing up or shaking apart.

And yet, somehow we need each other.


For what? The answer to this question takes us into our fourth frontier, called Community. Not just another word for the addition of more Others to the scene, community names the synergistic and transformational process whereby much of that same chaotic energy just mentioned gets harnessed and channeled into a higher wholeness.

Individually we are empowered to rise above our own roles and identity contracts for the sake of joining with others in transpersonal fellowship and harmony.

Notwithstanding my earlier concession that the human journey is less about a destination (where we are going) than a way or method (how we are going), this whole scheme seems guided by an aim towards ever more inclusive, compassionate, virtuous and enlightened – in a word, provident – forms of community.

As individuals commit themselves to living more grounded and centered lives, reaching out to each other with acceptance and love, the strength of their bonds and the synergy in their differences will continue to create communities that nurture, inspire, guide and liberate the Human Spirit for still more to come.

It’s there we learn that waking up and becoming whole, together, is what the human journey is all about.

Published by tractsofrevolution

Thanks for stopping by! My formal training and experience are in the fields of philosophy (B.A.), spirituality (M.Div.), and counseling (M.Ed.), but my passionate interest is in what Abraham Maslow called "the farther reaches of our human nature." Tracts of Revolution is an ongoing conversation about this adventure we are all on -- together: becoming more fully human, more fully alive. I'd love for you to join in!

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