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Suffering in the initiatory Teaching

by Athos A. Altomonte

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An oriental Master used to teach: «happiness originates from the abandonment of desire».

Since unhappiness is the result of ignorance and it creates errors, we can say that suffering is the result of ignorance; on the contrary, happiness is the result of Wisdom. This concept can be reduced further in the two opposite elements of “unbalance and balance”; we can make them complementary by achieving in ourselves the middle Way, also called the middle Path.

This Way can be presented to a western mind using the Criterion of Rhythm. This Criterion is the element through which every Law takes shape and manifests itself. Without this Criterion, connected to the Law of Balance, for example, there wouldn’t be a consistent manifestation of Laws such as those of Economy, Distribution, Emanation and Reabsorption of the systemic and cosmic Cycles of the universe. For the Initiate the Criterion of Rhythm hides the Law of Synchronicity which also works in the presence of multidimensional and multitemporal planes.

The Criterion of Rhythm in Hermetic Philosophy states that everything flows and re-flows, everything has several stages. Everything rises and falls, in everything is manifested the criterion of the pendulum; the oscillation on the left is equal to that on the right and everything is compensated in the rhythm (Cycles, Cadences, Rhythms, VII cosmic Aspect also called Ceremonial Aspect of the Universe).

This is true for everything: planets, stars, energy and matter, as well as for men and animals, therefore mind too…This is the art of hermeticists; once understood the criterion, to learn to use it rather than to endure it. Therefore if the hermeticist is polarized on a certain point, he neutralizes the rhythmic force of the pendulum which by oscillating would lead him to the other pole.

The usage methods, contraction and neutralization of the criterion of the Rhythm, make up one of the most important parts of mental Alchemy. The analogy that joins the rhythmic (Order) or arrhythmic (Chaos) motion of this Criterion is quite clear, with the masonic Plumb line already analyzed in other articles. We find another clear analogy in the Mobile Cross of the Zodiac, called of the Apprentice, as well as the Fixed Cross and the Cardinal Cross which refer esoterically to the following initiations. The motion of the swastika represents the motion of the sun, ascending (clockwise) and descending (anti-clockwise).

Even though we are going to skip the mention of all the symbols connected to the synchronic motion we will remember that they are subjected to the same criterion: Oscillation-Perpendicular-Oscillation; for the western initiate stopping perpendicularly and keeping any inner dissonance quiet is the middle Way.

Now let’s go back to the topic of this text, the Suffering criterion and its antithesis, the Happiness criterion.

Suffering is the result of Ignorance and its resolution resides in Liberation; but we will talk about the latter further on.

At the origin of the eastern Philosophy of Dharma we find the enunciation of Four Noble Truths:

  1. The Truth of suffering;

  2. The Truth of the origin of suffering;

  3. The Truth of the suppression of suffering;

  4. The Truth of the journey that leads to the suppression of suffering.

First Truth: birth is suffering, old age is suffering, disease is suffering, death is suffering, the association with what we don’t like is suffering, the separation from what we like is suffering, not getting what we desire is suffering.

Second Truth: the origin of suffering is the thirst for knowing-feeling-owning which is cause of rebirth, desire, pleasure, existence.

Third Truth: the gradual suppression of this thirst ‘by filling and thus exhausting’ through Knowledge, the source of that desire.

Fourth Truth: the application of the eight-fold Path of Initiation of: 1) upright faith, 2) upright decision, 3) upright word, 4) upright action, 5) upright life, 6) upright effort, 7) upright memory, 8) upright concentration.

The commitment to this Path leads the Eastern Adept to Illumination and Beatitude, having extinguished the yearning for formal life and its aggregates, such as form, astral sensation, personal or separating concepts or ideals, predispositions of a limiting nature, individualized conscience. This Philosophy teaches us that these aggregates are the result of ‘the ignorance on one’s own nature’; they are therefore impermanent.

«Ephemeral are the phenomena subject to the law of birth and death; being born they die. For them the accomplishment consists of extinction.» Mahaparinibbana Sutta VI, 10.

R. Assagioli, through psycho-synthesis, mentions this vital element of man as the element of the fundamental polarity pleasure-suffering. By using the enlightened mind we can understand its causes, nature, functions and we can distil its essence. Suffering purifies by burning inner dross with its beneficial fire. It bolsters, strengthens, develops and matures any aspect of our conscience. In certain cases we can reach such a full comprehension of its function that, whilst the emotional level suffers, a higher level rejoices.

What is stated above can be better understood through the synthesis of what R. Assagioli wrote, where he described the process and technique of Balancing and Synthesis of the opposites.

1) Process. This great criterion is the key to understand and solve many theoretical and practical problems; it was conceived by Plato. Since the unity exists before the duality and the coincidence of the opposites before their division, the opposites are opposed between them but not towards the unity. The two antithetical terms are solved and overcome in the synthesis. The most efficient way to accomplish the latter is to resolutely detach the center of conscience from the two poles and to keep it steady and consistent on the higher point of balance and domain.

2) Technique. The difference between the solution of compromise and the synthesis is quite clear in a triangular graphic representation. At the far ends of the base of the triangle there are two opposite poles; the (middle) point of the base can represent a position of compromise. But the two elements are absorbed in a higher unity with qualities that transcend those of both.

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