The Needle’s Eye – Robert Wolfe
In investigating a matter, we typically consider its “history”—that is, what can evidently be known of it, up to this moment. In considering the phenomenon of human spiritual realization, most everyone becomes acquainted, in some manner, with the legendary exemplary activities (some, possibly, more legend than truth) of various spiritual “masters” or (presumably) inspired “religious” teachers. Few of us, in other words, have not been touched or enthused by the biographies of exceptional, sagacious forefathers.
His first sight of a holy man disturbed the insulated prince, Siddhārtha Gautama. Jesus was impressed with Isaiah, Elijah, the baptist John and others. Ramana Maharshi was inflamed, as a youth, by a written account of the lives of saints. Krishnamurti made occasional, admiring references to the Buddha and Jesus; et cetera.
Those whom we each refer to as “holy” were exceedingly uncommon people; that is why few people do not know at least a few details of who St. Francis was or who Mother Teresa was. It is striking, to anyone who diligently reviews the reports, not only how uncommonly these religious figures acted, but how similar their uncommon behavior has been. In other words, one need not investigate these biographical cameos very far before one senses a common “message” (but not even, necessarily, in their message)—in the way they lived their lives.
The most apparent message, which first stands out (whether verbally “preached” or nonverbally demonstrated), is that a profound spiritual awakening radically changes one’s “normal” behavior. Gautama left his fief, never again to resume it. Jesus left his home, never again to have another. Maharshi left everything behind him, except the loin cloth he frequently wore. Krishnamurti renounced his imposed, appointed position. And so on, through biographies which line many shelves.
The dramatic message seems abundantly clear: exposure to profound illumination is exposure to definite risk of radical transformation of one’s material existence or security. The willingness to risk is not separate from the openness to awakening. One who is not willing to take this risk—of possessions, career, family, security, stature, future and past—has encountered the first barrier, the eye of the needle.
The primary barrier to spiritual discovery is fear. Where it cannot be dissolved, it will be impassable. This is elemental.
Specifically, the fear which dominates is that of the future (or, conversely, the fear of not maintaining a future). Fear and any idea of future time are unmistakably wedded. This irremediable relationship has likely been the immediate insight of every saint who has come to the confrontation with risk. Fear is insurmountable, as long as the future gapes around it.
This pivotal recognition propels the adventurer into a seminal contemplation of the alleged property of time. The only prospect for surpassing the limitations of fear is to somehow transcend the bondage of time. And this is precisely what each spiritual discoverer has indicated. Fear does not die in the future, it dies with the future—as the future is laid to rest.
To pierce the heart of the dragon of time is the real function of “sitting quietly, doing nothing.” Stillness, utter stillness, is the antidote to the compulsion of volition, to the bondage of chronic activity. It is to permit one’s future to wither and die of neglect, as alarming as that may seem. A sudden unanticipated (even unintended) lurch, and the chain falls aside. Buddha arises from under the Bo tree, Jesus arrives on the shores of Galilee, Maharshi sits outside the temple, Krishnamurti lights his parting bonfire at the Order of the Star.
Not everyone finds themselves prepared to turn their face toward the immaterial and their back on the material. We each do what we do. But the dissolution of conflict is to see choice through to its ending, to be unequivocally consistent in one’s interpretation of truth. It is only in this way that truth can be interpreted. And only the firmament of truth is worthy of our exploration. In this, too, our mentors concur.
During Robert’s travels he has labored as an auto assembly line worker in Detroit, as a carnival worker, a journalist in New York City, on a farm of a Zen community in California, as a landscaper, a financial consultant, a janitor.
After living in the Mendocino area for about twenty years he bought a camper van and moved onto a property in a redwoods forest where he studied the inner life intensely. Something fell into place there after a number of years, and out of that period of solitude, Robert began writing and sharing his observations on the reality that surrounds and includes us.
Shortly thereafter, Robert moved to Ojai, California where he continues to live and write.