The Vicious Circle
The vicious circle begins in childhood, where all images are formed. The child is helpless; it needs to be taken care of; it cannot stand on its own two feet; it cannot make mature decisions; it cannot be independent of weak and selfish motives—and therefore must depend on other human beings to a certain degree. Hence the child is incapable of unselfish love. The mature adult grows into it provided the whole personality matures harmoniously and provided that none of the childish reactions remain hidden in the unconscious. If they do, only part of the personality will grow while another part will remain immature. There are very few adults who are as mature emotionally as they are intellectually. The child desires to be loved; in fact, it needs to be loved. If an adult existed who was able to give a semblance of divine love, the conflict we are discussing here would not arise. But even in this case, the inner problems of an entity would never be solved. For nothing can really be solved by what another person can or cannot do! That is why life on this imperfect and unpurified planet is necessary for every soul who is not yet pure.
The child comes in contact with more or less imperfect surroundings that bring its inner problems to the fore. Because of the lack of divine love, the child in its ignorance craves an exclusive love that is neither divine nor humanly possible. The love it wants is selfish; it does not want to share love with others, with brothers or sisters or even with the other parent. The child is often unconsciously jealous of both parents. Yet, if the parents do not love each other, the child suffers even more. So the first conflict arises from two opposite desires. On the one hand the child wants the love of each parent exclusively; on the other, it suffers if the parents do not love each other. Since the love-capacity of any parent is imperfect, the child misunderstands that, despite the imperfection, most parents are still fully capable of loving more than one person. The child feels excluded and rejected if the parent also loves others, however. In short, the exclusive love the child craves can never be gratified. Furthermore, whenever the child is prohibited from having its way, that serves as an additional “proof” to the child that it is not sufficiently loved.
This frustration causes the child to feel rejected, which, in turn, causes hatred, resentment, hostility, and aggression. This is the second part of the vicious circle. The need for love that cannot be gratified causes hatred and hostility toward the very people one loves most. Generally speaking, this is the second conflict of the growing human being. If the child hated someone it did not love at the same time, if it loved in its own way and did not desire love in return, this conflict could not arise. The very fact that hatred exists for the very person one loves dearly creates an important conflict in the human psyche. It is self-evident that the child feels ashamed of these negative emotions, and therefore it puts this conflict into the subconscious where it festers. The hatred causes guilt because the child is taught early that it is bad, wrong, and sinful to hate, particularly one’s parents whom one is supposed to love and honor. It is this guilt, living on and on in the subconscious, which in the adult personality causes all sorts of inner and outer conflicts. Moreover, people are unaware of the roots of these conflicts until they decide to find out what is hidden in their subconscious. The guilt has a further, and again inevitable, reaction. Feeling guilty, the unconscious says, “I desire to be punished.” Thus a fear of punishment arises in the soul, which again is almost always completely unconscious.
With the fear of punishment a further reaction sets in. Whenever you are happy and enjoy pleasure, in spite of this being a natural longing, you feel you do not deserve it. The guilt of hating those it loves most, convinces the child that it is undeserving of anything good, joyful, or pleasurable. The child feels that if it were ever to become happy, the punishment, which seems inevitable, would be that much greater. Therefore the child unconsciously avoids happiness, thinking to atone in this way and thus to avoid even greater punishment. The avoidance creates situations and patterns that always seem to destroy everything most dearly wished for in life. It is this fear of happiness that leads a person to all sorts of unhealthy reactions, symptoms, endeavors, manipulations of emotions, and even to actions which indirectly create patterns that appear as if they happened involuntarily, without the personality being responsible for them at all. Thus a further conflict comes into existence. On the one hand, the personality is yearning for happiness and fulfillment, on the other, a fear of happiness prohibits the fulfillment. Although the desire for happiness can never be eradicated, yet, due to this deeply hidden guilt feeling, the stronger one desires happiness, the guiltier one feels. Many personal as well as mass images are gathered along the way, all helping to fortify this chain reaction.
Now, the fear of being punished and the fear of not deserving happiness create a further and more complicated reaction. The unconscious mind thinks, “I am afraid to be punished by others, although I know I deserve it. It is much worse to be punished by others, for then I am really at the mercy of others, be it people, be it the fates, be it God, be it life itself. But perhaps if I punished myself I could at least avoid the humiliation, the helplessness, and the degradation of being punished by forces outside myself.” These basic conflicts of love and hatred, of guilt and fear of punishment exist in every human personality, only the degree varies. The compulsive desire for self-punishment due to wrong and ignorant conclusions exists in every human being to some degree. Thus the personality inflicts punishment on itself. This may happen in various ways, either by physical disease that the psyche produces, or by various mishaps, difficulties, failures, or conflicts in any area of life. In each case the area affected depends on the personal image the child has formed and carried around during this lifetime until it is found and eventually dissolved. Thus, if an image exists regarding profession and career, for instance, it will be fortified by the inherent desire for self-punishment; difficulties in this respect will constantly arise in the person’s life. Or, if an image connected to love and marital life exists, the same pattern will hold true there. Hence, if and when you do not succeed in a conscious and legitimate desire, and looking at your life you find the pattern that the fulfillment of the conscious desire was constantly frustrated, as though you had nothing to do with it, as though an unkind fate had happened to you, you can be sure that not only does an image and a wrong conclusion exist within you, but that, in addition, the need for self-punishment is also present.
A further chain reaction in this vicious circle is the personality’s split in its desire currents. The original split between love and hate, which started the vicious circle, causes further splits, as you can see quite clearly by now. One of the conflicting feelings is the need for self-punishment, yet, on the other hand, the desire not to be punished coexists with it. Thus a hidden part argues, “Perhaps I can get around it. Perhaps I can atone in another way for my great guilt of hating.” The imaginary atonement amounts to a kind of bargaining. One does so by setting such a high standard for oneself that it is impossible to live up to it in reality. This little inner voice argues, “If I am so perfect, if I have no faults and no weakness, if I am the best in everything I undertake, then I can make good for my past hatred and resentment.” And since the little voice was at one point repressed into the unconscious, it did not die; it is still alive in the present. You get over something only if you can air it out. That is why the same old hatred still lingers on in you. That is also why you constantly feel guilty. If it were really a matter of the past, you would not feel this acute guilt all the time, even though the guilt is not conscious. You think that by being so perfect you can avoid punishment. In this way a second conscience is being created. In reality only one conscience does exist: it is the higher self, which is eternal and indestructible; it is each human being’s divine spark. Do not confuse this conscience with the second conscience that has been artificially created out of compulsion to atone for a supposed sin, or even for a real failing. Neither imaginary sins nor real failings can be atoned for by the artificial and over-demanding conscience; in reality no one needs to be punished. As you all know by now, the way to eliminate real failings is very different and much more constructive. If and when you finally differentiate between these two kinds of conscience, you will have taken a great step forward.
The good and pure divine conscience is, of course, concerned with your progress, with your spiritual development, and with the fulfillment of your personal task in life. It is also concerned with your personal law. When I say personal law, this should not be misunderstood. It does not mean the kind of behavior that self-willed, primitive, undeveloped or antisocial people display. It does not mean living in a fortress of separation, sometimes by one’s own law of selfishness. Such people disregard not only the law of their government, but also divine law. The personal law I refer to is part of divine law; it always remains within the framework of the divine and never contradicts it. Yet every child of God is different in development as well as in character and temperament. Each person has different qualities and shortcomings. Therefore, every human being needs something different for each life, and often something different for each period within the same life. What applies to one person does not necessarily apply to others.
Divine law is wide and very flexible. It knows none of the rigidities and generalizations of the human misinterpretations of divine law. Such misinterpretations may close in some individuals. They feel acutely what is expected of them and what they consciously think is right oppresses them. Perhaps their selfish instincts are still so strong that their real and divine conscience has that effect, but perhaps it is leading them according to their personal life plan. So perhaps your surroundings lead you to do something that in itself is right and yet that may not be the right thing for you. On the other hand what your real conscience wants you to do may at first appear contrary to the ethical and moral law of your environment. Though this may sound strange to you, yet when you think more deeply it is not so strange. Your divine conscience will never be at variance with divine ethics and morals. So if you have the courage and independence to think through what the outer morals are, you will find that in many cases they may conform with the divine law, while in some they may not. Sometimes the outer morals are rigid and senseless. By adhering to them, you may inflict more harm on others and yourself than by following your own personal divine law.
Divine law is always determined first and foremost by whether it hurts others. There may be situations in your life when it is inevitable to hurt others; these situations arise from your former ignorance. In such instances you must deliberate and weigh carefully, asking God for enlightenment about which decision will bring less hurt all around. As you hear the voice of your divine conscience, it will give you peace and freedom. Let me emphasize again: your personal law and plan can never be immoral or unethical in reality. At times it may appear to be so according to human rigid standards, which always have the tendency to go by the letter and not according to the deep meaning. Rigid standards of humanity must often by their very nature be ungodly and compulsive in the same sense as your second, artificial conscience. For what lives in the individual always lives in humanity as a whole. Only by deeply feeling into yourself and only by complete self-honesty can you grasp the meaning of the true and real conscience that will guide you right if you do not let the voice of the second compulsive conscience overrule the real conscience.
When your real conscience speaks to you, you will be liberated regardless of whether your decision turns out to be what your emotions desire for the moment. Here is the difficulty: there are no rules. At one time your real and divine conscience may tell you to do what is unflattering, uncomfortable, and against your selfish desires. Then your hope that your inner voice warning against your selfish desire may be your compulsive conscience is unjustified. At times the right way may be what both your real and your compulsive conscience are saying only the motives may be different. At other times, your real conscience directs you toward the very thing you desire most, but you have no courage to obey it because your compulsive conscience speaks too loudly. This voice says, “I am too guilty. I must not be happy. I do not deserve it.” But when the voice of your divine conscience speaks to you, you must feel liberated; you must feel in complete harmony with yourself and with the world, whatever the decision, whatever the outcome, whatever the difficulties may be. Very few people can penetrate to the voice of the divine conscience at all times and be conscious of it. They are constantly whipped by the slave driver of their compulsive conscience, which has come into existence by the chain reactions I mentioned earlier.
The compulsive second conscience makes demands that are impossible to fulfill. Each time you fail to live up to these standards, you feel disproportionately dejected. With each failure to satisfy the compulsive conscience, you feel more strongly that you cannot avoid punishment. You feel the need for punishment even more than before you invented this second conscience. You say to yourself, “If I am not even capable of being as good and as perfect as I should be with most people, then how can I be perfect with those I hate? Therefore I know how much I deserve to be punished and despised.” The bargaining you wanted to do did not work out. It could never work out. So the price you pay for the second conscience is high—so much higher than the price everyone must pay to live life healthily! What happens when you cannot attain these goals? Inevitably the result must be a feeling of inadequacy and inferiority. Since you do not know that the standards of your compulsive conscience are irrational, unreal, and impossible to realize, and since you believe, behind your wall of separation, that others can succeed while you alone do not, you feel completely isolated and ashamed, with your guilty secret of not only hating, but also of being unable to be good and pure.
You may say, “It is right and good to become perfect.” You may say, “Does not the divine conscience wish this perfection too?” Certainly it does. I said before that at times the divine and the compulsive conscience may strive for the same thing. In the first place, though, the way it is achieved differs in each case. The divine conscience knows you cannot be perfect yet; it wants to show you step by step how to attain perfection by degrees, by accepting yourself as you are now without guilt and fear. The compulsive conscience does not know anything of the kind; it has to be perfect now. Furthermore, the motives of these two voices vary. The divine conscience has time; it desires its ultimate goal for the purpose of loving better; it knows that the perfection of divine truth is the only way to give love and happiness and to become happy and be loved.
The second conscience is motivated by weakness and fear. It bargains; it wants to avoid something that may or may not be good, healthy, and deserved—it depends how you look at so-called punishment. It is too proud to realize that you simply cannot be perfect yet. It is also too proud to let you accept yourself as you are now. You must therefore feel inferior because you are not able to live up to your high standards. All inferiority feelings in human nature can be reduced to this common denominator. As long as this fact is not felt and experienced, you cannot shed inferiority feelings. You have to uncover the whole vicious circle and see its lack of reason; you have to live through the emotions that led you to create it. Only then will you dissolve this chain reaction point by point and create new concepts within your emotional self.
Whatever rationalizations you use to explain your inferiority feelings, they are never the real cause. Others may indeed be more successful in one way or another, but this by itself could never make you feel inferior. Without your artificially high standards, you would not feel the need to be better than or at least as good as others in every realm of your life. You could accept with equanimity that others are better or do better in some areas of life while you have advantages that others may lack. You would not have to be as intelligent, as successful, as beautiful as other people are. This never is the real reason for your feelings of inadequacy and inferiority! This truth is borne out by the fact that you see the most brilliant, most successful, most beautiful people often having worse inferiority feelings than others who are less brilliant, less successful, or less beautiful.
This inadequacy and inferiority serve to further close the great vicious circle. Again, your unconscious little voice argues, “I have failed. I know I am inferior, but perhaps, if I could just receive a great amount of love and respect and admiration from others this would feel like the same gratification which I originally yearned for and which was withheld from me back then, thereby forcing me into the position of hating and creating this entire circle. The admiration and respect from others would also be the proof that I was justified, for it is possible to receive now what my parents have denied me. But it will also show that I am not as worthless as I suspect when I fail to live up to the standards of my compulsive conscience.”
Naturally, these thoughts are never reasoned out consciously; yet this is the way emotions argue below the surface. So the circle closes where it started, and the need to be loved and admired becomes much more compulsive than it originally was. All the various points of these chain reactions make the need much stronger. Besides, there always exists a suspicion that the hate was unjustified—which it was, but in a different sense. The personality unconsciously feels that if such love does exist at all, then the child was right, and your parents, or whoever else it was who did not give it to you, were wrong. Thus the craving for love becomes more and more strained and tense with weak, unhealthy, and completely immature motives. Since this need can never be fulfilled—and the more this becomes apparent, the greater the guilt becomes—all ensuing points in the vicious circle become worse and worse as life goes on, always creating more problems and conflicts. Only when you desire love in a healthy and mature way which does not cover sick motives, and only when you are willing to love to the same degree as you desire to be loved, thereby taking the “risk of life,” will love be forthcoming.
Remember that the sick personality in which this vicious circle is strong can never take that risk as long as it continues to desire immature childish love. As long as it cannot risk anything for love, it does not know how to love maturely. The child is not supposed to take that risk; yet the adult is. The inner child has only the immature desire and craving for love, and wants to be loved and cherished, cared for and admired even by people the individual has no intention to love in return. And with those people who may have the intention to love in return, to some degree, the proportion between their willingness to give and their compulsive need to receive is very uneven. Because of this basic unfairness, such a scheme cannot work. For, divine law is always just and fair. You never receive more than you invest. When you invest freely, without weak and compulsive motives, you may not get the love back immediately from the same source you invested it in, yet eventually it must flow back to you, this time in a benign circle. What you give out will flow back, provided you do not give in weakness, with a motive of proving something. If the motives for the limited love you give are unconsciously based on the great vicious circle, you can never receive love in return, even if by chance you come across a person who would basically be capable to love more maturely than it is possible in the environment you usually attract by your hidden currents. Let us suppose, for argument’s sake, that all your needs in receiving love could be gratified while you invest only a minimum of emotion. Even then your need could never be gratified. This is because of the simple reason that your inner suffering needs a different answer. The love you crave in the mistaken idea that it will set you right is not the answer. In other words, you look for a remedy that is no remedy for your sickness, so your hunger for love will remain, never to be stilled. It is like a bottomless well. Thus the circle closes.
It is your work on this path to find this circle within yourself, to experience it, particularly as to where, how, and in respect to whom it lives within you. All this has to become a personal experience before you can really dissolve it. If you let this circle be only an intellectual knowing, without emotionally reliving it, the knowledge will not help you. To repeat: if you cannot identify the various points of the vicious circle in your emotions, the existence of the chain reaction will just be another piece of theoretical knowledge you have absorbed, entirely separated from your emotions. Therefore, once you find this circle in your personal work you can break it, but only after realizing where the wrong premises are. You will have to see that as a child you were justified in having certain feelings, attitudes, needs and incapacities which are now obsolete. You also have to learn to be tolerant with your negative emotions. You have to understand them. You have to discover where you deviate in your emotional tendencies, requirements, and desires from you conscious knowledge. You may know perfectly well, and even preach, that you have to give love and not be so concerned with receiving. But all of you, in your emotions, still deviate from such intellectual knowledge. The discrepancy has to be made fully conscious before you can hope to break the circle. Only after you have realized and fully absorbed all that, and after you have thought about the irrationality of certain hitherto hidden emotions, will they begin to change, slowly, gradually, when you do not expect them to change the very moment you understand their lack of reason. Giving them leeway, and realizing that they are habit-bound will do it. If you discover their wrong trends again and again, long after you have initially understood their childishness, then, and then only, will these emotions slowly begin to mature. So far you have not realized that your emotions have often claimed that you wanted to receive more than you were willing to give. They also insisted that you be loved exclusively. And you still live—unconsciously—with the wrong conclusion that if a dear one loves someone else, he or she necessarily loves you that much less. All this is immature and based on entirely wrong conclusions. Only by lifting these emotional reactions into consciousness can you realize this. Then you will become aware, point by point, of the great vicious circle. After the emotions have come to the surface, you will be able to think them through, considering how and why they are wrong. When you face them—their ignorance, selfishness, and immaturity—without being ashamed, and apply your conscious knowledge to them, catching yourself whenever you fall back into old, bad emotional habits, your subconscious will gradually reveal more and more wrong conclusions. Each act of recognition will help you further to break your personal vicious circle. Thus you will become free and independent.
The human soul contains all the wisdom, all the truth deep down. But all the wrong conclusions cover it up. By making them conscious and then working them through point by point, you will finally reach the goal of unfolding your inner voice of wisdom that guides you according to the divine conscience, according to your personal plan. When the divine laws are violated in your inner and outer reactions, your divine conscience leads you inexorably in such a way as to restore order and balance in your life. Situations will occur that seem like punishment, while they are actually the remedy to set you on the right track. Wherever and whenever you deviate, the balance must be reestablished, so that through your difficulties you will finally get to the point where you change your inner direction. You will change, not necessarily in your outer and conscious actions, but in your unconscious childish requirements and aims.