Planting Too Many Seeds

During the early 17th century, pamphlets proclaiming the existence of a mysterious Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross caused a sensation in Europe. Yet, few, if any, were actually accepted into the Brotherhood (if it existed as such), despite a number of public petitions.

It is difficult for us to imagine why this was such a big deal. Today, we are flooded with choices — choices of movies, bars, restaurants, and shops, etc. Likewise, spiritual “traditions,” groups, Orders, sects, and so on, have sprung up in abundance. And if there’s nothing that really suits us, we can just pick from a few traditions, mix them together, and make our own tradition. 

It may not come as a surprise that more choices might, in fact, make us less satisfied. No matter what — or whom — we choose, there always seems to be something better out there that we should have held out for. If you live in a city like New York, you’ll be familiar with the complaint that, while friends back home in a smaller city or town are getting married, finding a serious partner in NYC is next to impossible. There are just too many options for most people to want to “settle.”

Likewise with spirituality. It’s common for people to endlessly skip from one tradition to the next, or to practice several during any particular period — a Buddhist ritual one night, a Voodoo one the next, some Kabbalah, some Chaos magic, and so on. In many cases, we find individuals desperately joining every organization, Rite, Order, etc., that they can find.

There is, as you might know, the custom of swapping recognitions and degrees within the world of the occult so that it’s possible to end up at the top of various occult Rites that you’ve never practiced. It’s like stamp collecting. The individual wants to get one or two that most others don’t have. That way he can always claim to have some secret that makes him right in any conversation about the spiritual.

What are romantic relationships and spiritual practices and traditions actually for?

I mentioned bars and restaurants earlier. These intend to provide an atmosphere, and, in a sense, to change your consciousness temporarily, from one of the daily stresses to one of relaxation, happiness, and a certain freedom with your cash.

Relationships and spiritual practices and traditions are about cultivating a new, permanent consciousness over the long term. They are, in a sense, trying to plant the seed of a new consciousness and asking you to tend to it. But how many seeds can we actually cultivate?

The endless chasing of sexual partners means getting to know people (and to know one’s self) only in a very superficial way. Likewise, when I meet people that are in six or seven different spiritual traditions, it seems to me that they speak in cliches, that they merely reference symbols rather than embodying their meaning, and that they say nothing profound or original. They haven’t thought deeply enough because they don’t allow themselves room to think. Indeed, their symbols all seem to reference and equate with all other symbols: A = B = C, etc. It’s a loop, endlessly circling the base of the mountain, but never rising up its sides, endlessly circling the truth, the “Aha” moment, but never finding it.

In reality, we can only cultivate a few seeds in our life, at least at one time. We might cultivate our physical body through diet and training. We might have a spiritual practice. We might have a creative practice. (Indeed, we can, and should, cultivate the mind, body, and spirit.) But the truth is, if we are going to do any of these well, we can’t practice six or seven physical disciplines, each with its own diet. And we can’t have half a dozen spiritual practices or practice half a dozen arts.

The “tree of life” is a motif in many different cultural traditions. No tradition that I’m aware of talks about “trees” (plural) of life. Our tree should have different branches: spiritual, emotional, physical, and so on. But time is limited. If we plant fifty seeds in a plot of land big enough for three or four, we will end up with tiny trees that produce little or no fruit.

Life ultimately isn’t about multiple choices or countless forgettable experiences. It isn’t about sampling everything we can. It is about going deep — deep into life; deep into a tradition (art, spirituality, etc.) to discover the essence and to express it anew and discovering the depth within us that we’re often afraid to approach.

Practitioner of esoteric spirituality, Dharma, and martial arts, Angel Millar is also an author of books on Freemasonry, the occult, and Islam. His writing has also been published by Quest magazine, New Dawn magazine, and Disinfo dot com, among others. You can find out more about him at AngelMillar.com.

6 thoughts on “Planting Too Many Seeds

  1. I wonder how to navigate between choice and tradition. I’m hitting a point where committing to something seems important and right to do, but then I think, “If I decide on something that doesn’t fit properly, do I persist til the tradition and myself shape ourselves to each other, or do I fulfill some level of commitment before I seek some other outlet of growth?”

    Tibetan traditions, according to Tsultrim Allione, apparently have methods for ending commitments, dedicating their merit towards others, and purifying from the act of ending those commitments, but we seemingly lack that in the West.

    1. That is the quandary facing every contemporary Westerner. Personally, I think you have to devote yourself to something for some time. Perhaps you will give it up later, but you may well be able to integrate its teachings and transcend those lessons that were important for you at the beginning. Or perhaps you will remain part of it, and can contribute to it.

      It is like becoming an artist. You might have to choose abstract painting or landscapes. But, probably, it will just be a pathway to something else.

  2. Important issue, wise words! Tourists rarely master the language or acquire deep culture. One has to take up residence to do that. This doesn’t mean one has to stay forever, but one does have to make a serious commitment and work it conscientiously if there’s to be any growth.

    Best wishes for the success of PHANES!

  3. Beautiful analogies throughout. It reminds me of the idea that meaningful growth is rarely pleasant, and often requires sacrifice of your past self. And it seems that on the road to mastering any of the disciplines you mentioned one must also sacrifice the allure of novelty… There is a real joy in learning something new. But in the end, there is a real danger in never ‘fully’ learning at all.

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