The spiritual tradition to which I am committed has been going through some difficulties recently. As with many traditions, when the founder or founders die, or simply move on, those who are left struggle to manage their differences and diversity once the focal point of the founder has gone.
The details of the case are not important here. What I do want to talk about is a tendency I have noticed – which I have seen in abundance in New Age groups, but had not seen before among Witches – to stamp on anyone who is trying to raise difficult issues of ethics and integrity, by claiming they are being negative, or attacking individuals.
Spiritual practice is not a replacement for dealing with difficult issues
One way in which this is done in my particular tradition is to suggest that the people raising the difficult issues aren’t doing enough spiritual practice, as if daily energetic cleansing and soul alignment by the individual raising the issues of ethics and integrity would make the difficulty within the community go away, as if the problem is in the perception of the person raising the issues, not in the actions being pointed towards.
Cleansing and alignment are absolutely necessary, whether one is dealing with human stuff, or relationships with the Divine. But they do not make everything sweetness and light. Cleansing and alignment can make it even more clear and urgent that one must speak and act, just as they can make it clear that silence and stillness are required, depending on the specific circumstance.
The value of conflict
Conflict is always difficult, and it gets a bad rap in spiritual communities, but it is also inevitable and necessary when there are differences between people who are committed to the same thing. Conflict is how we work through difference to a place of resolution – it is part of the path to peace. To suggest otherwise is to say that one person’s comfort is to be bought at the cost of another person’s distress: this is not peace, but bullying.
Demanding that people should stop pointing out issues of ethics and integrity, suggesting that they just need to do more cleansing and alignment, claiming that they are just making personal attacks on others, demonstrates a fear of conflict, an unwillingness to have one’s comfort disturbed, which I find particularly peculiar among Witches. Where there is fear, there is power – the power, I would suggest, of vulnerability, of openness to one another, of community, of love.
Love, of all things, is not all sweetness and light. Love demands everything.