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Inquiry (Dialectic)

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Inquiry (Dialectic)

A True Relationship Helps Us Discover Reality

We are exploring the practice of dialectic inquiry while learning the practice of inquiry in general. We have seen that we can communicate with another person in a way that opens both of us more deeply to ourselves and each other. Then the relationship itself can expand and deepen the discovery of each of us, our relationship, and reality as a whole. In other words, a true relationship is one that helps us to discover reality. It’s fine if a relationship doesn’t help us do that—most human relationships are this way—but that is not what we are learning here. We are exploring how to develop relationship in new and unimagined ways. To do this, we need to develop certain interactive skills, what we call relational skills. We have discussed and explored a number of these, including the role of being personal, being open, and making direct and immediate contact, as well as the importance of feeling connected and having sensitivity for ourselves and for each other. As we have seen, being sensitive means having a delicate awareness, a very attuned awareness. Relational sensitivity includes empathy, being able to sense where the other person is coming from, what is happening with him or with her. It also includes attunement, which is the capacity to respond and relate in a way that considers where another person is. We don’t just express ourselves, we express ourselves to that particular person at that particular time. If we are not attuned, our friend will not completely get the communication.

Mutuality in the Dialectic

In addition to sensitivity and empathy, to openness and interest, there needs to be a measure of mutuality. A relationship does not open up if it is not mutual, if one person is interested while the other isn’t. Mutuality means that two people have a similar degree of interest in one another. If someone has less interest, then a dissonance or disharmony will result that will limit the relationship’s potential. One person wants more than the other wants to give, and it becomes a push/pull situation. For the relational field to open up, mutual curiosity about the other is important—two people who can see one another as having an inner life that is distinct, unique, and interesting. Then two galaxies can come together and create one field that has an interactive synergy. The relational field develops by two fields of consciousness coming together through an interaction in which the two fields become part of one relational field. In fact, sometimes the two fields become simply the one field opening up. When we talk about the relational field, we are talking about a field of consciousness that is participatory on the part of two or more individuals. As we sit in this room together, we are in a field of consciousness; the group field is gaining more presence as we focus on this topic. The group presence is a support for our work. We each add something to it. And every group is different in quality due to the various mix of individuals that comprise it.

Relationships Can Be Erotic without Being Sexual

So we are saying that a loving relationship can be erotic without being sexual. A friendship can be erotic in this way, for example, when love includes the interest and desire to be together, to enjoy each other, to delight in each other’s presence and expressions. There is an erotic energy, a living, pulsating energy, in the interaction that makes the relationship dynamic and fun, playful and powerful in its disclosing of reality. Two people are turned on together to reality and turned on to each other’s excitement about the discovery of reality. The dialectic inquiry will then have an erotic dimension that is full of pleasure and mirth, enjoyment and excitement, without it being physical or sexual. This is a type of relationship that society does not acknowledge clearly, even though many people experience erotic energy in some of their loving connections with others. We tend to think of eros as always being sexual because conventional understanding cannot differentiate the erotic (or the divine erotic) from the sexually erotic. The result is that people repress the living force of eros in most relationships in order for those relationships to fit the conventions of friendship or family. Or if they feel the eros in the relationship, they believe they must express it sexually, with all its potential complications, for they cannot imagine eros being other than sexual energy.

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