All things must come to an end. This is an inescapable fact within the human experience. Whether we consider the ending of a relationship, the experience of physical death, or the collapse of a civilization, life always moves toward its termination. At first glance, it is difficult to see this as a function of evolution, but indeed it is. Endings are essential, and are built into the spiritual journey itself. They are simply expressions of the great Law of Periodicity.
The Law of Periodicity is a foundational tenet within the Perennial Philosophy. It states that all expressions of life are cyclic in nature. This law suggests that Life has a natural tendency to periodically incarnate itself into form. Through this process, the evolution of Life proceeds. Incarnation into form provides Life with a field of experience necessary for its growth and evolution.
In Eastern philosophical thought, this is referred to as the great out-breath and in-breath of God. The out-breath occurs when Life is breathed into (and as) form, and thus the manifestation of physical life emerges. Conversely, the in-breath is the withdrawing of Life out of form. Endings always indicate, therefore, that Life is extracting itself (in-breathing) from its form encasement.
Whether we consider the endings experienced by a blade of grass, a human being, or by the entity that ensouls the entire planet (the planetary logos), this process of in-breathing and out-breathing is ceaseless. It is the great pulsation of Life, and is woven to the physics of evolution itself. Life rhythmically incarnates itself into containers of substance (form), only to later extract itself when the usefulness of the form has been exhausted.
The Soul and its Garments
When considered from the human perspective, it is the soul (as the carrier of Life) that incarnates. Through countless incarnations, the soul gradually develops its ability to unfold its love and wisdom though its container of substance—the personality. As such, the personality is merely a garment used by the soul to interact with the outer world. By so doing the soul evolves.
It must be remembered that a container of substance is both an asset and a liability to the soul. It is an asset in that it provides the soul with an outer garment to experience thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Yet, it is a liability because it can only provide the soul with a limited set of learning experiences. From the soul’s perspective, therefore, the personality has only temporary value. Death simply indicates that the soul has lifted itself from its garment, and that its relationship with the personality has run its course.
Ending a Life Circumstance
Less dramatic than death, the soul will (at times) extract itself from various life circumstances. Considered in this way, the soul’s garments of expression represent the outer situations of life. Everything done in day-to-day life is (to the soul) a process of interacting with form. Relationships, career and everyday activities are merely forms that provide experience to the soul. Most importantly, just as the usefulness of the personality is temporary, so too are the situational forms through which we live our lives.
Due to the Law of Periodicity, the circumstances of life are inescapably cyclic. For example, when we examine our relationships it becomes apparent that they are governed by an ebb and flow. Sometimes they grow and flourish (flow) and therefore nurture the parties involved, while at other times they are in the ebbing tide. Being alert to this tidal tendency is spiritually important. When seen, a person can better understand the rhythms of his/her life, and how to rightly navigate them.
Sometimes the ebb (in-breath) is only slight. In such cases, an individual feels compelled to change only an aspect of a particular situation. Yet at other times the ebb is strong enough that it demands full extraction. When this occurs within a marriage or partnership, the relationship has reached its end. When pertaining to an occupational form, a yearning for a new career emerges.
Crisis as a Prelude to Change
Withdrawing from an important life situation (form) is usually accompanied by much angst and discomfort. Yet, it must be realized that crisis is a prelude to all expansions of consciousness. When the soul gives impulse to extract itself from a particular circumstance, it is always the personality that experiences the crisis, not the soul. This distinction is crucial to remember, particularly when in the midst of such a process.
The personality is essentially form-bound consciousness. It exists as the sumtotal of our everyday thoughts, feelings and outer life experiences. Because the personality is defined by these forms, it tends to have a habitual relationship to them. It therefore feels great discomfort when it is forced (by the soul) to remove itself from various life circumstances.
When approaching an ending in life, the personality will often experience fear and hesitancy. If this hesitancy is protracted indefinitely, the soul’s higher intention is denied. The personality then wins the day, and a bit of the soul’s influence is lost. This is overcome when we learn to anticipate that a period of darkness will likely emerge as an ending is approached. In this regard, it is well to remember that darkness is often a prelude to a dawning hour of opportunity.
It should be noted that not all crises are caused by the soul’s need to extract itself from a form or life situation. In fact, the majority are not. The most common types of crises pertain to the personality’s struggle within itself, and with its ego needs. When crisis (and its ensuing ending) is triggered exclusively by the personality, the underlying motive is to support ego amplification.
However, when an ending is impulsed by the soul, a higher motive is at work. There is recognition that a wiser aspect of oneself (soul) is seeking greater expression, and that an established life circumstance can no longer support this heightened expression. Hence, the soul is compelled to withdraw. This is experienced as a pulling away from the particular situation. And, at the same time, there is a sense ofcoming into oneself, yet without ego inflation.
How we manage change influences our progress on the spiritual path. When the soul is guiding the process, the form left behind is still viewed with reverence. The heart remains open, even as the individual lets go of the old. Normally, this is not the case when the personality gives impulse to an ending. In such cases, the heart tends to repulse the form that it once loved. Sadly, when this happens, disappointment or resentment will taint the process.
Cycles within the Greater Life
Though we have discussed the principles that govern endings within an individual’s life, they are equally applicable to society as a whole. Just as with a human being, humanity has a soul and personality, and it too is evolving over vast periods of time. And, just as a human soul will (at times) trigger an outer change in life, the same is true for humanity.
Culture is simply a form used by Life to express itself on a larger scale. Indeed, humanity evolves through its relationship to cultural patterns, as well as the many societal institutions that arise from them. The great drama of human history clearly reveals that civilization is governed by cycles, often lasting many centuries. Historically, the rise and fall of civilizations give testament to the nature of Life as it cyclically manifests and extracts itself over time.
Within the human experience, and upon the cosmic stage, cycles manifest in every aspect of our existence. The seasons of the year, the phases of the moon, and the emergence and extinction of species (when naturally caused), all bear witness to the notion that everything is cyclic and dynamic. When we fully grasp and utilize this truth, it makes the spiritual journey much easier. To align with the cycles of life is to synchronize oneself with the Greater Life.
Temples Become Prisons
Of course, the great challenge is to recognize when the forms we use no longer support the soul that seeks to express through them. The personality (and civilization) tends to resist change, and crisis then naturally ensues. We can navigate our way through these critical times when we remember one very important principle. A form that facilitates growth will eventually outlive its usefulness, and thus become a liability. Metaphorically stated, that which is your temple today will become your prison tomorrow.
The spiritual journey requires that we learn to accept that endings are inevitable. Yet, every ending is also a new beginning—an alpha and omega. The in-breath of Life is always followed by an out-breath, but on a higher turn of the spiral of evolution. In this is found reason for optimism. Indeed, it is a source of joy, for it holds the assurance of one’s immortality. Form comes and goes, but Life is, and always has been.
© 2007 William Meader
William Meader is an author, teacher and counselor. Much of his work is focused on the subjects of Spiritual Creativity, the Evolution of Consciousness and the Art of Meditation. At present he is teaching in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He resides in Oregon, and can be contacted through his website at meader.org.