What motives prompt our way in metaphysics, yoga, or religion? Ideally, we would be motivated by pure love, by beauty, and by a quest for knowledge that meets the needs of humanity, and incidentally our own.
But when we look to the world of metaphysical schools, the many yoga teachers, the schools of magic, and religions of every description, it becomes clear that we humans fall far short of pure motivations. One may well ask, “Does religion have anything to do with spirituality?” Is yoga a home for egotist? Is religion a brainwashing for the confused and distraught?
It does not take much thought to see that most human activity is motivated by desire and fear. But we tend to think of desire and fear in their more gross expressions, and our imagination does not easily follow the more subtle forms of these, particularly as they apply to us personally. And so we may fail to see how these reappear in subtler forms as we try to follow a more metaphysical path.
Have you met many people who had a “normal” happy childhood? It would seem that, on the chaotic surface of the human scene, benign childhoods are the exception rather than the rule, and most of us pass through childhood’s school of hard knocks where our fears are aroused and our desires roughly shaped. Humans, as a rule, carry with them their, “inner child of the past.”
Do we imagine that the fears and traumas, the unfilled needs, the chaos of the human relations, all this heavy childhood karma—do we imagine that when, coming to the threshold of spiritual life, that we readily leave it all behind and pass unscathed toward a higher path? Do we rightly picture ourselves at some high degree above it all, plunged into a baptismal pool, passed through purificatory fires, made new by faith, saved, cleared, born again to sanity at last, grounded in depth of knowledge? Perhaps ideally it might be so, were we the true, the profound students, the enlightened, the magical beings, the keepers of sacred fires; were we even half of the forward leaping glory that our optimistic souls project.
But if we look in the mirror with more realistic eyes, we may find that our motives overlaid by the pains and empty shadows of childhood. For the child, an ideal father should be worthy of adoration. But such being is relatively rare, and more commonly a bad father meets us again as a bad god or a bad guru. And a half-bad father is joined to us again as a half-shadowy teacher. Or even if the teacher is more or less good, we take them under false pretense of our hidden unfulfilled desires, the secret devotional need; so we fill the vacuum of our lost childhood with new idols.
Oh mother, mother, where are you? The mother we would have, the mother we must have; we find her in our new religions, or we build her there. Our metaphysics abounds with mother superiors according to need, and sacred goddesses, and holy feminine types whether in the body or out. Why with a little help, we can become one ourselves. Father, mother, brothers, sisters, family! We readily yield ourselves to cults if by them we can buy the family we never had.
I do not speak against the sacred feminine; I do not disparage father fire. I only suggest we rarely ascend toward them with pure motive, and more often our motives are overlaid with the pained and unfulfilled ghosts of childhood. And it is easy to miss the way in which the heavy hand of the past spiders our days, for our motives are rarely all bad, being mixed with enough quality that, on first superficial look, all sparkles well to our eyes.