Conviviality

Relationships as a spiritual path

One of the articles in Friends & Lovers (IC#10)
Originally published in Summer 1985 on page 4
Copyright (c)1985, 1997 by Context Institute

This article is excerpted from Seeds of Unfolding (NY: Cafh Foundation), June, 1984.

HUMAN BEINGS do not live in isolation. We live in an organic, but unconscious, relationship with the world and, in addition, we establish conscious relationships with one another. Although we are an indissoluble and inseparable part of the universe, at the present time we do not realize this. However, we live in relationship, whether we want to or not, whether we realize it or not.

Some human beings have always dreamed of the perfect society that they would like to build and have imagined innumerable utopias, but no organizational change can produce a better society by itself unless we learn how to live together by establishing conscious, harmonious relationships.

Other people pursue Divine Union but live in an isolated way, as if their lives were the only important things in the universe. Spiritual unfolding is impossible if it is disconnected from the unfolding and perfecting of the relationship that one has with everyone.

We can view the road of spiritual unfolding as a continuous process of perfecting relationships, simplifying and unifying the different ways we relate into a single, harmonious way of relating, and also as a process of transforming unconscious relationships into conscious ones.

Viewed in this way, love would be considered the conscious, harmonious relationship between two or more beings, and ecstasy or Divine Union would be considered the conscious, harmonious relationship with the cosmos.

Although the individual’s spiritual life is intimate and profound, it cannot be isolated from the life of the great human community. The foundation of spiritual life is thus conviviality (sociability, "with life"), and its unfolding depends on the perfecting of relationships.

The soul unites with the Divine through souls, through all souls. It is useless to pursue the infinite if one looks down on, ignores or rejects the finite. One cannot embrace the cosmos without including all of its parts. Nevertheless, many people who seek spiritual perfection are not only unconscious of their relationships, but have little understanding of how to live well with others, in the most elementary way.

Spiritual tradition teaches the first steps to take in order to permit a minimum degree of human relationship: do not kill, do not harm, do not censure, do not mortify others, do not injure. In other words, passions must be controlled so that they do not harm others. It also teaches the practice of virtues that predispose one toward the acceptance of his neighbor: tolerance, patience, meekness, compassion. As yet, we have failed to incorporate these teachings into our lives, in spite of the fact that they mark only the beginning of a human relationship and do not establish a permanent and profound one between souls.

A conscious person tries to throw down the barriers he places between himself and others. He works in order to master all his personal expressions, gestures, words, attitudes and to prevent them from separating him from others, from breaking the nexus that harmoniously links an individual to others, each individual to the group, each group to the great human society. Through self-control, he establishes an indissoluble spiritual bond between himself and everyone.

Therefore, while it is true that spiritual unfolding demands continuous inner work, it is not enough to meditate, practice ascetic exercises, control the mind and work with the body according to one’s personal wishes. Relationships must be perfected in order to make the harmonious conviviality possible. Conviviality is the point of departure to attain to perfect integration, to Union with the Divine.

Our task, then, is to raise the level of our relationships. This is achieved in a very simple way if we remember that relationship is more perfect the less apparent it is. The perfect relationship is unobtrusive because no personal outbursts mar its harmony.

To live in conscious relationship is to live in participation, the perfection of conviviality.

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