Robert Kegan, in his excellent book 1982 book The Evolving Self, quotes a parable written by another from the experience of seeing an identity stage-transition as an untrusted external force, “glimpsing a whole new way of composing himself and his world, but overrun and exhausted by its motion. — This fear and repression of an impending higher self-balance, rejecting it from awareness as an intrusive Other. The parable is beautiful and worth quoting here (from p 239-240, author credited just as Kenneth, bold formatting is mine):
He left because what he wanted was not here; he came back because it was to be found only here. What he wanted was beauty, and beauty, though he did not know it at the time, is in the doorway to the room. Poor fellow. He could only be outside the room or inside the room, for it was impossible to stand in the doorway. So he kept going back and forth, in and out. He got a steady rhythm going. Each time he moved either in or out of the room he felt he was getting closer to what he was searching for, and the closer he got (or thought he got) the more enthusiastic he became about the quest. And then he made the great discovery: the beauty is in the doorway. And he knew the faster he went, the more he would see of it. He got so he could keep his eye on it as he went back and forth.
But there was a problem. By now he was completely enslaved in the rhythm. He was doing nothing but forces on either side were pulling him in and out. Forces he could not see. Forces he could not fight. Because in his quest for beauty he had to have let them take him there. And this meant selling his soul. This meant trusting to the wind. But the wind betrayed his trust. Poor fellow kept going faster and faster and he tried so hard to keep his eye on the doorway, but he got very dizzy in this attempt and finally had to give up trying to turn his head.
So here he was oscillating at an ever-increasing speed back and forth, and immediately after beauty left him, the whole thing became very strange indeed. He wondered: “I gave myself to the wind so the wind would give me beauty, but now the wind will not let me have it. I go faster and faster wondering what I am doing in this mess if it is not for beauty’s sake. What else is there for man to live for in the world? If not for beauty at least good. They are the same, aren’t they? Now I can’t even see good.”
Well, you can imagine what happened. He kept going faster and faster and became more and more dizzy. Soon he could not even think, he just became more and more frightened about what was happening to him. He left last Thursday. I am sitting here waiting for him to return. He will someday soon, I know. I hope so, ’cause he’s a nice guy to be around.
Selling one’s soul to the Wind in the quest for Beauty — what a beautiful rendering of the fear and uncertainty and yearning associated with any transition. My comments:
- This passage creates a neat developmental-structural twist on the archetypal action of “selling your soul” to a not-quite-trusted Other (a “golden shadow” in Integral community terms). There’s no way to foresee how trustworthy this mysterious prospective soul-owner is; for all the “poor fellow” knows, it could be a demon who he’ll sorely resent. Or it could be a well-meaning and authentically higher self-balance (the Wind) which is still too fragmented, not yet coherently constructed enough, to provide sane guidance towards Beauty or whatever one’s momentary Grail might be.
- The emphasis on the Wind as the only path to Beauty, yet not letting him reach Beauty once it’s in control – seems in an odd way to parallel the allegorical role of the room: “He left because what he wanted was not here; he came back because it was to be found only here.” Could the Wind quandary be seen as a higher-abstraction reflection of the room quandary? Certainly the Wind plays a higher-abstraction role than the room. But the two are not quite functionally parallel, as there is no equivalent for the doorway in the transition to control of the Wind. In the context of this parable, there is no back-and-forth of commitment to the Wind; it’s a one-way decision, making moot the doorway analogy. Interesting, too, that the Wind comes prior to the doorway; the (more abstract) Wind is what guides him to the (more concrete) room in the first place, in a move of invisible higher guidance reminiscent of Wilber’s involution.
- The fascination with transcending polarities and harnessing paradox (neither inside nor outside; it’s the doorway that ‘s the goal) epitomizes Kegan’s characterization of the inter-individual balance (b 5) as being more focused on movement than on form. Yet, elegantly, the dizzying spiral into trans-formal movement is re-grounded in concrete images with the concluding lines: “He left last Thursday. I am sitting here waiting for him to return. He will some day soon, I know.”
- When the doorway is interpreted as the path to conscious adaptation of the intruding identity-balance (here, inter-individual), the image of oscillating around the doorway of beauty at an ever-increasing speed foreshadows the eventual pick-up of this new consciousness as a regime shift which hasn’t happened yet. The “poor fellow” is caught in the turmoil of the lower edge of a hockey-stick curve, with an undeniable one-way trend but no clear order visible after the chaos of transition. Eventually the new consciousness will pick up momentum, fully integrate into conscious awareness, and become the new, more adequate modus operandi rather than a threatening transition.