by Michael Maciel
The following words, through no fault of their own, have been FRAMED!
It’s hard not to think of this word without evoking the frame of “power over,” as in power over other people. The word “empowerment,” ironically, is okay, because it has been framed rather innocuously as the power to express oneself, like the kids in high school in the drama department—quirky but basically harmless. But whenever power is brought up as a stand-alone plug-in, for some reason it suddenly becomes ominous and threatening, and everyone immediately positions themselves to protect against it. T. S. Eliot got it right: “The power that, through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my green age.”
This is a biggie. Who can resist the urge to equate “militant” with violence? It evokes the frame “military” (obviously) and all that goes along with it, including aggression, murder, war, and the failure of diplomacy. But, and again ironically, bring up “martial arts,” and even the most pacifistic spiritual types will think of discipline, poise, strength, and balance. The same goes for the word…
This one escapes the frame of violence because it’s on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. (Hard to pick a fight with THAT!) But, there it is. No matter how hard you try, you can’t separate “victory” from “battle,” can you. And battle is just so…militant. If victory is so terribly awful, why is it on the Tree of Life? Sure, you can say that it means victory over oneself, but you shouldn’t then say that we’re all one. No matter how you slice it, victory is a zero-sum game. There’s a winner and a loser. Darn.
I suppose if you used modern terminology, you’d have to say “gun.” That’s just…not right. It would be like updating the cross of Christ to a hangman’s noose or a lethal injection table. Can you imagine that? You walk into a church and there above the altar is a scaffold with someone hanging dead. Ugh! But crucifixion was just another form of capital punishment in Jesus’ day, so why not? But the sword is undeniably a weapon. No getting around that. Just like a gun. So what can we glean from “sword” as symbol? Is there something about guns that might help us understand? It just so happens that there is, and it comes in the form of a bit of conventional wisdom regarding firearms: “Never draw your weapon unless you are prepared to use it.” Now, if you’re a linear kind of thinker, this will drive you bonkers, because you won’t have any way to see it in terms other than literal. But…if you’re capable of thinking symbolically, you will see how it relates to willpower. Jesus said, “Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Hmmm. And as Ramakrishna said, “Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.” The sword, therefore, means RESOLVE. And what spiritual seeker can succeed without that?
This one has been overplayed. Use this word and the framing immediately brings to mind the admonition “What you resist persists.” And that’s true. Focusing on what you don’t like just feeds it energy. But does this mean that you can ignore the negativity in the world? Can you get rid of it by affirming the good only? Good question, right? At what point is it appropriate to just say NO? Is that okay? Ever? There’s a part of the HOOM ordination ceremony that gives the new priest the “power over the life and death of creation.” What does that mean? The “life” part is easy, but “death”? Whoa. That, all of a sudden, gets a little heavy. But isn’t this a case of succumbing to the typical framing of “death,” as in “to kill”? Can we negate something without going to battle with it, without feeding it life? I know in my own experience that the most powerful course-corrections I ever received weren’t a thunderous “NO,” but a quiet, very simple “no.” (Thank you, Master Timothy.) But still, don’t say it unless you mean it. A woman mystic I know puts it very simply: “You are either a yes or a no. That’s ALL you are.” Your yes can’t be very powerful if your no isn’t well-developed. How well can you say, “NO”?
It’s not enough to be good. Good is good. But you also have to be strong. And strength by itself is meaningless unless you can put it into action. Action is what counts. And I don’t mean outer action, necessarily. Action can be prayer. Action can be your Word. Action can be your NO. But unless you can be a warrior in your spirit, a warrior in your attitude towards the world, you’re not really spiritual. Not in this age. Because this is the Age of Activity, and in order to be spiritual, you have to stand up and declare how it’s going to go. This takes guts. It takes a resolve that is equal to if not greater than the resolve of those who are trying to ruin the planet. Don’t be a wimp. Take your sword and plant firmly into the Earth. Tell the collective mind what it’s going to do. That’s your right. Don’t abdicate the power that God gave you. Because the other guy isn’t. He’s using it to his benefit, and he doesn’t give a damn if it helps you or not.
“God is no respecter of persons.”