Eli Jaxon-Bear’s Sudden Awakening was another book I found for $1.00 in the clearance section of the HalfPrice Bookstore next to my daughter’s dance class. I bought it because I attended an Enneagram class several years ago given at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Austin by one of his students from Leela. I had a HUGE self-realization while reading his book, The Enneagram of Liberation, which had been assigned for the class.
Just a little back ground info. I’m a seven on the Enneagram scale. This has been confirmed by several Enneagram practitioners including those from Leela, so I’m assuming it is an accurate assessment. Sevens are experience gluttons. We have difficulty sticking with anything for long because we are always off seeking the next, new experience or grand idea. Because we tend toward gluttony, our movement toward wholeness, according to Jaxon-Bear, is through “sobriety”.
I had already been through Richard Rohr’s class on the Enneagram as well as a class given by a Jesuit priest who was a psychologist and expert on the Enneagram in San Diego, so none of this was news to me when I took the class offered through the Leela Foundation. But what I hadn’t considered before reading Jaxon-Bear’s book was that particular kinds of spiritual seeking can be a form of “gluttony”. I wasn’t into the sort of religious experience people try to effect through meditation or drugs. That has always seemed to me more like gluttony than spirituality. What I was into, however, was trying to figure out “the code”. (I don’t know how else to put it.) I felt certain that if I just studied enough, prayed enough, meditated enough… I’d figure out the spiritual secrets of the universe which would, in turn, “save the world”. In Enneagram, Jaxon-Bear wrote:
Sevens love to skate on new ideas. This is a place of synthetic or associative thinking. They love to bring together new and interesting combinations… These are the future thinkers. For them, the present is made tolerable by the future. Sevens always envision us moving into a Golden Age. Things are going to get better. Thoughts of the future are used to avoid the pain in the present moment.
This hit me like a ton of bricks. Part of the reason I’ve been a spirituality junkie is because I genuinely believe there is something to figure out and when it gets figured out and is presented to others in an understandable way, everything will be better. That this could be a form of avoidance never occurred to me, but it makes sense. It’s like Nietzsche’s idea of Eternal Recurrence. Would you be willing to live your life over and over and over again, as it is now – warts, wars and all? Nietzsche had chronic migraines and serious, painful stomach issues. This wasn’t coming from a man who was living a carefree life. But it makes sense. We aren’t living in the future. We are living now. If your focus is on a “better life” in the future rather than gratefulness and verve for life as it is, then according to Nietzsche, you aren’t living.
Anyway, I was excited to happen upon another book by Eli Jaxon-Bear because I had gotten so much out of his first book. Unfortunately, the primary focus of Sudden Awakening seems to me to be on the very thing Jaxon-Bear warned sevens against in his previous book. It’s full of “wake up so you can save the world” mentality. I checked out the Leela Foundation on-line and the bi-line is: “Dedicated to World Peace and Freedom through Self-Realization”. At one point in the book he writes, “Perhaps the only hope for the planet lies in our willingness to end our personal suffering.”
It makes me think of that George Carlin skit where he wonders if human beings have reached a new pinnacle of egoic arrogance by thinking we can “save the planet”. Carlin reminds us that the planet will be just fine. It will recover. It is human beings who are fucked!
Of course, I don’t disagree that there is value in ending our personal suffering. Healing is healing and has a wide-reaching ripple effect that should never be underestimated. And I truly got a lot out of reading Sudden Awakening. Jaxon-Bear is fully of psychological insight. But I can’t help but wonder: if we place an urgency on human beings “waking up” in order to “save the world”, how is that not an attachment to the ego?
How can we possibly put an end to our own personal suffering if our primary reason for doing so is to save the world? This seems to me to be a double egoic attachment to waking up which I suppose keeps spiritual gurus in business. It’s a great sales pitch: “buy our services and we will help you ‘wake up’ which will put an end to personal suffering and world salvation will be yours. But if we “do in order to get”, is that truly an awakening? Maybe Jaxon-Bear needs to re-read the book he wrote on the Enneagram. Especially the part about the Sevens.