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Subjectivity vs Objectivity

Q. It’s hard to see loved ones so troubled, and feeling unable to help their mental and emotional suffering, however much love you give them. This in turn troubles me, and I find it difficult to keep perspective.

A. I understand your grief about X’s suffering only too well, and deeply sympathize. The suffering and worry about Y have been a deep shadow over our lives for so many years. I don't have much consolation to offer: my survival strategy has been acceptance of 'just the way it is', acknowledging the unknown destiny or purpose of the other person, and resolutely striving not to be sucked under by powerful contagious forces of negativity, especially when love appears impotent.

It might help your own understanding a little to consider a simple spectrum, with the two ends being the polarity between Subjectivity and Objectivity. On this spectrum of experience, sleeping dreams are at the totally subjective end, but normal waking consciousness ranges from the excess and dominance of subjectivity in mental ill-health conditions, to 'well-adjusted' individuals who have achieved balance with a degree of objectivity.

True objectivity is hard and really means that ‘dying to self’ which is the culmination of wisdom. However, objectivity doesn’t mean some elevated disengagement which would actually be a return to subjectivity, but rather realization of the whole spectrum. Excess can occur at either pole, to the degree that the other is lost.

Much of the middle range is a struggle towards objectivity by cultivating insight and experiences of the human condition in its true context, which is the vastness and mystery of our origin. I always stress the context of a greater perspective in any discussion of spirituality, because without an objective working context such as is provided by a genuine lineage or tradition, spirituality tends to turn towards the subjective, towards self-development and therapy.

Techniques derived from or directed towards therapeutic aims, by their nature, encourage the subjective as an end in itself. It is a valuable remedial goal when healthy subjectivity is lost, but a hindrance to those who have already achieved a healthy balance and want to go further. There is no danger in keeping one's gaze towards the Unknown, the darkness of vast 'caverns measureless to man', except boredom, loss of faith, impatience — all of which are temptations to subjectivity.

Subjectivity is a hungry ghost. It consumes and craves more. At its worst it feeds on contempt and disdain for anything less subjective than itself. It hates objectivity, for threatening its very existence. At present western society seems to be overtaken by a maelstrom of subjectivity, and sensitive beings are caught in its waves, struggling to hold a sense of identity with so much coming at them and no clear axle-pole with which to orient.

Heart keeps the balance, which is love, but not love of the personal subjective kind. It is the mediating third principle, and holds the balance through cultivating that particular inward silence and emptiness which makes space for fine emotion and clear thought. The Heart is traditionally an organ of Knowledge when it is neither subjective nor objective, but we are talking about an ongoing work of cultivation outside those times when the stresses of the moment threaten to overwhelm you.

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These musings are responses to a context, a time, a place, a query. Another time, another context. An angle slightly different, a different response, perhaps seemingly in contradiction.

But Truth is present if it resonates truthfully, and in the process should generate more questions...

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