by Bob Trowbridge, M.Div.
As with many familiar Cayce readings, this one—be content, not satisfied—contains more depth and may have far more significance for living the life of spirit than at first is apparent. One of the great and often overlooked values of the Cayce readings is their ability to trigger understanding and insights within our own experience. The readings themselves were very individualized and yet the concepts, repeated to many individuals in different circumstances, obviously have universal applications.
This article is not an explication of what Cayce had to say on the subject of “be content, not satisfied.” Rather it is about what that saying triggered in me, the insights it gave me in my own growth process. Cayce might not even agree with my conclusions, but the value of the readings is not as a fixed body of work, like a closed Bible, to be dogmatically followed. Rather, it is a living legacy, parts of which can serve as seeds to entirely new flowerings of thought and understanding.
To Struggle or Not to Struggle?
The question I was struggling with was Why am I struggling? It seemed to me that because I was so aware of my potential, because I had these pictures of my ideal self, my enlightened self, even my simply successful self, I was continually in a state of not being okay. Even though I had my successes and could see areas of growth in my life, the final goal seemed depressingly distant, the gap unbridgeable.
As usual I began to understand this dilemma by seeing the people around me—those pesky and persistent mirrors of my own thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and fears—struggling with the same thing. A good friend of mine was going through a mid-life crisis at age 32. He had succeeded in fulfilling an earlier goal by creating his own business. But now he had a new goal and was feeling like a failure. I realized that we can feel like failures most of our life if we continually look at what we haven’t yet accomplished. Our successes become only momentary oases on our way to some nebulous higher goal.
One of the reasons growth and change is such a struggle is that we approach it from the position of being “not okay,” from the position of failure. How can a not-okay person do something okay? How can a person who’s a failure, succeed? Thoughts are things. Mind is the builder. The mind builds an image, an identity, of someone who is basically flawed. Growth becomes a struggle because we’re telling a self we identify as a “loser” to go out and win.
And we do “win” occasionally or even frequently, but if our self-image is fixed on “I’m not okay,” those wins will not change the basic negative perception. It is especially difficult for those who are aware of the spiritual dimension. Things like enlightenment, living in the light, or even the ideals from the Cayce readings, seem forever unattainable and the self we experience seems truly fallen and flawed.
Being satisfied doesn’t seem to be a problem for the spiritually aware. I know of no one who does not feel the need for some change, growth, or healing. Being content, however, is a major life challenge for me, and, I suspect, for many others.
The Seeds of Discontent
Why is contentment so difficult for us? Why do we see ourselves in such a bad light? If we look at the major influences in our culture—science, psychology, religion, and spiritual disciplines—we will see how pervasive the “You’re not okay” message is.
Science sees life on earth, including humans, as a big accident. There is no purpose in life save for survival, and certainly no meaning aside from what we are able to inject. We try to elevate ourselves by being the highest form of animal life, but we’re still “just” animals (a real insult to the animals, by the way) and we still live by tooth and claw. Improvement, such as there is, comes through the process of evolution. Evolution is an ugly and sordid affair where “natural selection” assures the survival and propagation of the strong, intelligent, aggressive, and cunning. Good guys, in the moral sense, do finish last.
Psychology isn’t much better. Although there have been many psychological theories and approaches since Freud’s ideas came on the scene, his basic concepts, which are in keeping with the scientific view of reality, also permeate our culture. Freud said that we’re ravenous beasts (the id), which must be controlled (by society and the Superego) if we’re to restrain ourselves from murdering, raping, and pillaging. We need religions, governments, armies, and police forces to protect us from ourselves.
Religion, rather than providing an uplifting view of humanity, simply echoes biology and psychology. Christianity views the human race as fallen. Basically we’re regarded as sinful just because we’re physical. The only solution is salvation through Christ, who suffered and sacrificed himself for the world. Jesus, unfortunately, becomes a model for the same kind of struggle and sacrifice in our lives. Salvation is a ticket to Heaven but not to a struggle-free life.
Hinduism and Buddhism offer no less struggle. Being human means being stuck on the wheel of death and rebirth, and we’re going to stay stuck until we work it all out. When we do work it all out we’ll be able to melt back into the great God goo. Most spiritual traditions take some combination of Christianity and eastern religions and still end up with humans not being okay. Physical life is a kind of soul slumming. Human beings are these vessels of clay holding a pure spirit. The only reason for being physical is to learn how to stop being physical as soon as possible so we can move on to where the real fun begins. I think we’re in big trouble.
The Unfinished God
The problem is in our theology. The Old Testament says that we were made in God’s image. It’s far more likely that we, like others before us, have made God in our image. In some traditions we end up with a God who is nothing more than a petty tyrant and terrorist, a God far too small to play the role we have assigned. Other traditions make God too big, a Being who has nothing to do but sit around eternally being praised by His creation.
I propose an unfinished God, truly a living God, one not perfected. A perfect God would be a dead God; not changing, not growing, not learning, not creating new worlds, new beings, new universes. The unfinished God does not strive for perfection, does not strive at all. He/She/It is a becoming God—becoming is its nature, not a means to an end.
Moses asked God to give him a name that he could take back to the Israelites so they’d know Moses had truly spoken to God. That name is usually translated as “I am that I am.” It can also be translated as “I will be what I will be” or “I am becoming who I am becoming.” The living God exists to create and experience. This unfinished God is content because it is fulfilling its purpose in being. It is not satisfied because existence contains and continually offers new opportunities for creating and experiencing.
The unfinished God provides a model for us. We also are becoming. We can be content if we recognize that we’re here to create and experience, to learn and grow, to experience ourselves as fulfilled on a daily basis even as we strive for greater fulfillment. Perhaps we can stop beating ourselves up if we realize that we are unfinished, and no matter how far we progress spiritually, in the body and beyond the body, we, like God, will always be unfinished. There will always be more to experience, create, learn, and be.
If we can allow ourselves to be in a state of contentment, through recognizing our unfinished nature, we will find that our spiritual path will be much more natural, much less of a struggle. The contented self will not be satisfied with things as they are, but will be content with the process of creating and experiencing, of growth as an ongoing part of being. Ideals and enlightenment will be seen as dynamic ways of being in the world, not static ends to growth and learning. Go within. Find the place where contentment reigns. Practice, without struggle, creating and experiencing from that place. Let the unfinished God do its work in and through you. It’s just possible that we’re here to enjoy life, not suffer through it until we can escape.
Venture Inward, May/June 1991, p. 16
Bob Trowbridge is an editor for Southern Lights. He has been active in the A.R.E. since 1975 when he joined his first study group. In the Northern California/Northern Nevada Region of the A.R.E., Bob was a frequent and popular speaker and workshop leader. He has written a number of articles for Venture Inward and other publications. He has spoken at A.R.E. Headquarters a number of times as well as in numerous A.R.E. regions.
Bob and his wife Diane now reside in North Carolina where Bob is active with the Triangle Team and the Core Team. His book, The Hidden Meaning of Illness: Disease as a Symbol & Metaphor, was published by A.R.E. Press in 1996 and is now out of print.