Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Chariot of the Soul
It’s from Plato’s Phaedrus, a fable Socrates once told.
Take it as a story.
Just a story.
Except, that curiously, a chariot and wild horses also gets used in Bhagavad Gita commentaries.
Here, the horses are taken to be the senses that pull the chariot along the roads of desire when the charioteer possesses an undisciplined mind and cannot tame his senses.
Which makes me think that all this really boils down to teachings on consciousness,
and that Advaita Vedanta, the Platonic Good, and Byron Katie share more things in common than you might expect.
Gift from the gods
It’s said that those who fall in love become insane. So what? Great blessings come from madness, if sent as a gift from the gods. There’s the madness of the prophets; …the madness of poets …last, there’s the madness of love a gift from the gods that brings us the greatest happiness. But to understand how this gift works, we need to consider the nature of the soul.
Fable of the chariot of the soul
First, it’s immortal. Second, its form is like a chariot with two winged horses. Now the souls of gods are different from those of humans. In their souls both the charioteer and horses are noble. But for human souls, one of the two horses is a bit of a nag and difficult to control. Also, the steeds of the gods never lose their wings, but those of human souls do. And when this happens the chariot goes into free fall, landing on a body that it occupies and turns into a living being.
An obvious question is why a soul’s horses would lose their wings. It is the desire of every soul’s charioteer to join the chariots of the gods in heaven and stand on the edge of the universe and look beyond to behold every truth in its pure essence, without shape or color, and grasped only by the mind.
Souls that reach this place, and hold their spot, rotate with the universe and after a complete revolution they have seen every truth there is to know. Then these charioteers stable their steeds and live forever in the realm of the gods.
But most human souls do not fare so well. A few reach the edge of the universe and gaze upon the truth for a time, but constantly have to look away to manage their horses, the unruly of his two steeds lurching and rearing and straining at the bit… The rest of the charioteers, who are the majority, are unable to manage even this much. Their team of horses is completely out of control. Chariots collide, tattering or breaking off horses’ wings. During this melee these charioteers shout back and forth, asking whether any of them has seen the truth. Those who have reached the edge of the universe then fallen away tell of the little they have seen. This passes from the lips of one charioteer to the next, a spreading rumor that is constantly distorted in the retelling. Putting together these bits and pieces, each charioteer weaves his own erroneous view of reality until their horses have finally lost their wings and, one by one, chariots begin dropping out of the race and fall back to earth. …
Which brings us to love’s madness. During a reincarnation, objects on earth will remind a soul of whatever portion of eternal truth it captured on its ascent to heaven … The easiest to recall is beauty, for it is seen directly with the eyes, which are our sharpest sense.
It is this recollection of beauty that causes love’s madness. For a soul with only a brief and unclear perception of eternal beauty during its ascent to heaven, the madness takes the form of a crazed sexual urge. But souls that recollect eternal beauty clearly sense they are gazing upon something divine. …When in this state the soul pulsates, as if its lost wings were suddenly sprouting new feathers. This is the joy of a soul sensing its own divinity…
And what about the love object, say a beautiful young boy? How will he react to this reverence and attention? Cautiously at first, but once he realizes the reverence is genuine and not a disguise for base passion… a remarkable thing will happen. The boy will begin to see his own beauty reflected in the eyes of this lover. Inspired by this beauty, his own wings will begin to grow.
Same Wings and Eternal Love
Now such a love affair is unlike any other. For even when it is over the two will remain good friends for life, having shared something divine. And it is a law of the universe that when any soul’s wings begin to sprout, that soul will never lapse into evil… And imagine the glory that day when these two souls are given their wings and discover that their plumage is identical – testimony to their earlier love. It will link them together forever.
This, of course, is not a non-dual teaching where-in “What you see is your Self.”
But, who’s to say where You drop off and Divinity begins.
And I like it.
And I post it on what would have been Our Twentieth Anniversary,
and give thanks for what I have glimpsed through love.