Couple as enemy of spiritual community

This page provides the context for the quote: 'The "couple" is the enemy of the spiritual community', which is quoted in The FWBO Files at note 34. It is highlighted in bold in the text below.

The quote is from the book 'Alternative Traditions', by Sangharakshita, pub FWBO/Windhorse 1986, pages 178 - 181 (quote starts 2cd para p 178)

Sangharakshita is talking about Rananim, a community which the writer DH Lawrence tried to form, and which he wrote about in 'The Plumed Serpent'.

'In the light of our own experience of spiritual community, within the FWBO, it may be possible for us not only to identify the principal factors leading to the failure of Lawrence's idea of Rananim but also to make it clear how, given those factors, the idea was doomed to failure from the start. We can best do this, perhaps, by first reminding ourselves of some basic principles, - principles that, as a result of our own efforts to put the Buddhist ideal of Spiritual Community into practice in the West, we have found to be true, - and then applying those principles to the idea of Rananim, as Lawrence actually sought to carry it out. Enumerated more or less at random, the principles in question are:

(1) The spiritual community consists of individuals.

(2) The 'couple' is the enemy of the spiritual community.

(3) The spiritual community is not a group.

(4) The spiritual community must have a common ideal and a common method of practice.

Though enumerated at random, these four principles will provide us with a framework for a brief discussion of Lawrence's failure to give concrete, social embodiment to his idea of Rananim and, at the same time, enable us to see the limitations of the idea of Rananim itself - limitations that were obvious to at least some of Lawrence's friends, even though they were not all obvious to all of them, or even to Lawrence himself.

(1) The spiritual community consists of individuals.
The significance of this statement is not so obvious as it might, at first sight, appear to be. What do we mean by 'individuals; and in what way does a spiritual community consist of them? At least so far as the establishing of Rananim was concerned, Lawrence himself it seems did not have a clearly defined concept of 'the individual; perhaps would not have wanted to have one, - although when he told Koteliansky 'only the people were wrong; what he may have meant was that they were not individuals, i.e. not true individuals.

From the Buddhist point of view, the (true) individual is one who is self-conscious or self-aware (though not in the alienated way that Lawrence so rightly condemned), able to think for himself, emotionally positive, creative rather than reactive in his attitude towards life, spontaneous, sensitive, and responsible. The spiritual community consists of (true) individuals in the sense that it is a free association of - the sum total of the non-exploitive, non-addictive relationships between - a number of people who are individuals in the sense defined. Lawrence perhaps had an inkling of what this sort of community was like when, towards the end of his life, he wrote that 'the new relationship will be some sort of tenderness, sensitive, between men and men and men and women, and not the one up one down, lead on I follow, ich dien sort of business' (p. 207).

(2) The 'couple' is the enemy of the spiritual community
By the couple, in this context, one means two people, usually of the opposite sex, who are neurotically dependent on each other and whose relationship, therefore, is one of mutual exploitation and mutual addiction. A couple consists, in fact, of two half-people, each of whom unconsciously invests part of his or her total being in the other: each is dependent on the other for the kind of psychological security that can be found, ultimately, only within oneself. Two such half-people, uneasily conjoined as a couple, can no more be part of a spiritual community than Siamese twins can be part of the corps de ballet. Their 'presence' within the spiritual community can only have a disruptive effect. The couple is therefore the enemy of the spiritual community.

Lawrence, however, did not see this. Perhaps, because of his personal history, and the pervasive influence of our culturally-conditioned notion of 'romantic love' between the sexes, he could not see it. As is well known, for him the man-woman relationship was at the very centre of things, even though balanced, to some extent, by the man-man relationship. This meant, in effect, that the couple was at the centre of things. Rananim was to be made up of married couples: a contradiction in terms.

Among all Lawrence's friends, the only person who seems to have spotted the contradiction was E. M. Forster. Writing at the beginning of 1915, after Lawrence had scolded him so much on his visits to Greatham that, as Keith Sagar says, 'at last the worm turned; he began his letter, 'Dear Lawrences,' and continued, significantly, 'Until you think it worthwhile to function separately; I'd better address you as one . . : (p. 82). Because Lawrence did not think it 'worthwhile' to function separately it was not really possible for him to relate to others as an individual, - certainly not to the extent that is required in the spiritual community, - and because he could not relate to others as an individual he was unable to bring Rananim into existence. He could not have his wedding cake and eat it too, although, like most of us, he wanted to.

(3) The Spiritual Community is not a group.
It is not a group because a group, unlike a spiritual community; does not consist of individuals but of those who have yet to become individuals. Before one can distinguish the spiritual community from the group, therefore, one must be able to distinguish the individual from the proto-individual or 'group member; and in order to do that one must be an individual oneself, for only an individual can recognize another individual.

From this it follows that if one is not an individual, and therefore unable to distinguish individual from proto-individual, one will tend to bring into existence not a spiritual community but, at best, a 'positive group This is what happened with Lawrence. Moreover, if one is not able to relate to others as an individual one will tend to relate to them in some other way. Lawrence was not able to relate to others as an individual: he had to be their leader; he had to ask them to follow him. Most of his friends did not want to do this, much as they loved and admired him, and some of them were honest enough to say so. 'I like you Lawrence', said Mary Cannan, when she was asked if she would go with him back to New Mexico, 'but not so much as all that, and I think you are asking what no human being has a right to ask another' (pp. 168-169). Eventually, Lawrence himself repudiated the idea of leadership, as we have seen, declaring, 'the leader of men is a back number' (p. 207). He had seen that Rananim could not be a group; ... etc.'
[end p 181]

Similar views have been expressed elsewhere in FWBO publications, e.g. in 'Buddhism for Today', by Subhuti, pub FWBO/Windhorse 1983 rev. 1988, ISBN 0-904766-34-9. p 86

In traditional Buddhism it is said that real friendship has a near and a far enemy. Clearly, hatred is the far enemy of metta, but its near enemy is romantic love. It is a near enemy because it appears often under a similar guise. In friendship there is a strong concern for the welfare of the other and so is there in romantic love. The latter feeling, so glorified in our culture, is, however, another and very powerful kind of need-based relationship. At best it serves a biological function, at worst it creates an `egoisme a deux', a relationship of mutual neurotic dependence. In the latter instance, the relationship is essentially addictive: each partner uses the other as a drug to palliate his own feelings of weakness and insecurity, each seeks to use the other to satisfy his own feelings of infantile dependence. ... etc.