Polyamory and Spiritual Growth: The Heart of the Matter

Polyamory helps God evolve. This may seem like a bizarre, perhaps even nonsensical statement, but I hope you will understand what I mean, and perhaps even agree with me, by the end of this blog post.

There are many reasons why someone might be attracted to polyamory: more sex, making a social/political statement, trying to fix an existing relationship (not recommended), and wanting to grow personally are some of the usual suspects. For me, I can honestly say that polyamory has led to more emotional and spiritual growth than drugs and meditation combined. I’m still polyamorous half a lifetime later because, like a snake repeatedly shedding its skin, polyamory forces me to let go of old ways of being and expand into larger and better versions of myself.

It may be helpful at this point to provide some context by sharing some of my core spiritual theories. I believe the astonishing complexity of the Universe evolved from some very simple principles of love and attraction. Everything in the universe is attracted to everything else and the infinite ways in which organisms have evolved over time are various expressions of that attraction. I would go so far as to say love is the very fabric of the Universe and its purpose is to know itself as pure love. Technically, talking about “purpose” in this way makes me a “teleologist” in that I believe evolution has a direction and endpoint, rather than the random outcome of survival of the fittest.

Think of evolution like a leaf falling from a tree. Given the law of gravity, we can pretty well assume that the leaf will fall towards the Earth. But its exact journey is a mystery. A wind might pick it up and carry it miles away. The leaf might land on a branch and be stuck there for minutes or days. Or it might flutter down and rest on the ground at the base of the tree. Natural selection focuses on the journey of leaves, which on one level is quite random. But it misses the larger context and direction of the leaf’s journey. In a similar way, I believe our life’s journey is quite random on a day-to-day level, but our larger evolutionary journey is towards greater love and compassion.

So, what does all this have to do with polyamory? I believe we are all on a journey to more fully experience and express love within the constraints of our physical world. Our capacity to love multiple persons is limited by time and space, but our quest is to expand our “bandwidth.” Think about it, if time and distance were not barriers, why wouldn’t we love everyone? However, it can take a long time for us to fully develop our capacity to love, and I can think of no better field of practice than polyamory.  

When Guin and I were married 25 years ago, the first line of our wedding vows reads, “For all the days of our lives, we will take our marriage as our spiritual path.”  When we opened our marriage, I began to question everything I thought I knew and that spiritual path began to feel more like being shot out of a cannon. Like a fish seeing water for the first time, I started to recognize our invisible cultural narratives and realize that most did not actually ring true. For example, I learned I’m not actually a jealous person and can feel compersion when Guin is happy with her other lovers. Later, once I started dating, I experienced the epiphany that it is possible to truly love more than one person. And I found that giving each other freedom to love as our hearts desire did not result in our separation, but rather just the opposite. In fact, I’m sure we would not be together today if we did not open our marriage 24 years ago.  

Learning to love fully is a journey — starting at birth — of letting go of our egos — specifically, our sense of insecurity and our constant grasping for what we need. All of us start our lives primarily concerned with our own survival. We reach out to those who provide resources (mainly, food) and recoil from those we perceive to be a threat. As we mature, we are able to take on the perspective of others and form mutually beneficial relationships. We are taught the Golden Rule, which is the highest ideal of every major religion. But doing unto others as we would have them do unto us is still seeing others through our own egos. I believe we can go even further and adopt what some call the Platinum Rule, which is doing unto others as they would have us do unto them. We tend to love others in the way we would like to be loved and it takes a lot of personal work to let go of our egos and love others in ways that can best support their growth and freedom.

In monogamy, we curtail our freedoms in exchange for the promise that our partner will be there for us only. In polyamory, there is no such security. When our partner has an intimate, romantic relationship with someone else, our fears of abandonment and inadequacy bubble to the surface. Confronting them requires letting go of our own need for security through another person and allowing our partner the freedom to grow and explore.

A wise person once said a good way to clean potatoes is to put them together in a pot of water and shake. Simply by their rubbing against each other, they will become cleaner. It is the same with polyamory. Through sharing love in multiple relationships, through confronting our insecurities and transcending our egos, we shed old cultural stories and paradigms and allow our inner lights to shine more brightly.

If Guin had not asked to open our marriage around our first anniversary, I probably would have happily continued being monogamous for decades, perhaps repeating my father’s pattern of having affairs in middle age. It took me six months to start agreeing to explore non-monogamy, which took a lot of soul searching and asking ego shattering questions such as “Why am I not enough for Guin?” and “If she loves someone else, will I still be special to her?” After a lot of personal work, I eventually felt strong enough to allow Guin to expand her circle of love and also see how polyamory could allow me to continue growing in ways I had closed myself off to in our marriage. Through all the ups and downs and all the joys and pains, polyamory has fundamentally changed who I am in the world. I have become more trusting, more loving, and more forgiving of myself and others.

Now, when I listen to others’ struggles to understand how polyamory is even possible, I sometimes feel like an alien species, until I remember that I used to feel the same way. And to the extent I am able to support others in expanding their sense of love, I feel my personal work becomes “world work” and our individual journeys begin to blend together into this larger arc of the conscious evolution of humanity and all life.

If we are on a collective journey towards greater love, then I believe polyamory is on the cutting edge of this journey and helping expand our individual and collective consciousness. If God is love, and if the universe is evolving towards ever greater awareness and expression of this love, then we, through practicing polyamory and learning how to love each other more openly and deeply, are actually helping God evolve. How cool is that?!

 

Cover art: At the top of Arunachula Mountain, India, by Art.

 

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