Last evening I was stunned to find this marvelously large and colorful spider weaving a fantastic web between a vine of Morning Glory and one of the wooden posts of my back deck. Although I had a natural sense that this might be one of those spiders with a wicked bite, I couldn’t help coming in close to watch its skillful legs move rapidly and precisely as it completed the innermost circle of its web. Somehow, in those moments of watching I began to identify with that beautiful spider, to sense a greater relationship or connection between us than that of ‘human’ and ‘spider’. I will, therefore, refer to this particular spider as a “she”, and I must add that “she” is absolutely magnificent. 

The other day I received a business call from a woman working at a bank. She was terribly anxious because she had overpaid us by a relatively small amount of money and was in a great rush to get a refund.

“Can you mail it overnight?” she pleaded.

“But why the rush?” I asked.

“Let me tell you that I have never made such a mistake in 24 years of working here, but now that our bank is being audited I have made the mistake. Just look at the timing! If I don’t get the money back immediately I am going to get a big scolding and if that happens I think I will lose my mind! Please, can you help me?” she pleaded again.

“No problem,” I replied.

Yes, “no problem” is what I was thinking. Despite having struggled with severe anxiety since early childhood, this seemingly small incident suddenly struck me as so odd, so strange. What a “large problem” this woman was bearing upon her shoulders that would cause her to “lose” her mind. Aren’t we already terribly lost in our minds that we should lose them again and again? What a curious world we have created for ourselves, so complex, so conflicted, so full of anxiety – but with what purpose?

This made me think of my friend the spider. She might not consider me a friend nor may she even be aware of my presence, but my personification of her, my identification with her causes me to relate to her as ‘my friend’. That is complex is it not? What if she bites me, will I still consider her gently and compassionately as my “friend”? I wonder if my friend the spider is this complex. What about her web?

Yes, the web. As I watched my spider friend work hard weaving her bloody trap I realized something: I have always looked upon the spider’s web as just that, a bloody trap. If not a trap then it represented a lonely space, a place devoid of life, collecting dust and growing cobwebs in the corners. The spider web has been used similarly by humans throughout the written (and probably spoken) ages as a metaphor for captivity, complexity, fear, death, and loneliness. It occurred to me that human beings, including myself, view the image of the spider’s web in largely negative terms. A case in point that may be familiar to many readers is Sir Walter Scott’s quote, “oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Surely this is a well crafted metaphor, apt and even beautiful.

“But tell me something Rula,” I asked myself, “does this quote which relates to the captivity and complexity of a spider’s web, or a metaphor which relates the spider’s web to human emotions of fear and loneliness really do justice to what you See before you here and Now?” The answer was obvious to me. No, it does not.

Yes, on one level the spider’s web is a bloody trap, but on another level the web is something utterly different, something exquisitely beautiful which, if it must be translated into human terms, can also translate beautifully and meaningfully with the image of the web as an instrument of LIFE, not death.

We tend to view the spider’s web as a tool used to kill, entomb, and consume bodies – a complex and somewhat gruesome system of spider survival. Actually, whatever mechanism a living being uses to ensure physical survival, though often interpreted by the human mind simultaneously as remarkable and grotesque, is really an energy providing system, an intricate and delicate LIFE-giving process. Yes, the spider’s web is not just a death trap, but a web for Life.

The beauty of my spider friend is that she spins her web for the right reasons. She will never get caught in her own web, only a human being does that. Why? A human being, perhaps, was not meant to be a web-weaver. But since the human mind has taken to spinning intricately complicated psychological worlds out of the heavy fabric of dualistic thoughts and concepts, why not aim to do it as beautifully as a spider naturally does? Why not aim to weave consciously? And what would it mean to weave a web consciously? First of all it would mean that one would have to realize that this spinning of yarns is taking place, and that it is largley unconscious. Wouldn’t it also mean the spinning of a web for the sake of actual (not conceptual) survival? If my mind is a tool, then shouldn’t that tool be used for its actual purpose – for the sake of accumulating and refining the infinite energies available to us through the sheer Reality of Existence?

“What on earth does that mean?” I ask myself to repeat what I just realized. “It means, Rula, that physical survival is a fact that we can’t avoid. Life is an energy game.” The question then becomes, ‘what is psychological survival?’ Isn’t the need for a mind to feel important, to belong, a conceptual matter? Is the psychological world a fact that it should need a steady supply of energy to back it up, to bolster its subjective images, to ‘survive’? Is the psychological realm a fact, a reality that we can’t avoid?

But the fabric of the human mind does not appear sheer and light, nor is the web spun from it simple and created for reasons of actual survival. Rather, the fabric of thought is heavy and cumbersome, our method of construction is an obstruction to constructing and thus confusing, tedious, and violent. Unlike the spider, human beings get tangled in their own webs because they can’t see in simplicity the purpose of that natural thread of consciousness. They – WE – misuse the powerful tool of thought with which we are endowed.

Ultimately the web is a tool used to provide the much needed energy to support Life. A spider’s web accomplishes this by keeping things ‘in’ that will provide it with the Life support it needs. But human beings can consciously weave webs to keep things “out” with the same ultimate purpose of cultivating the much needed refined energies for True Living – a web that will enable us to See rather than obstruct. The question is, can we use the web – our system of thought – as a tool to consciously filter out the ugliness and psychological conditioning which manifests into a world of conflict and violence within and without? Can we use thought consciously to catch unconscious or conditioned thought which lies in the realm of conceptual reality? Can we use nature against nature?

All our lives we weave a complex internal (and thus, external) world, and though we realize its complexity we find ourselves so quickly and thickly entangled that the possibility of disentanglement becomes so remote and hopeless. If man were only able to use the fabric of thought with a definite purpose and with great Intelligence, that is, with conscious attention, he might begin to catch and neutralize the infinite debris that otherwise covers and clouds his world, veiling, corrupting, and causing internal, and thus, external decay.

If we must spin webs of thought then let us use conscious thought to undo unconscious thought, to undo our conditioned selves. We must either do this or give up spinning webs all together. In my view, these are my only two choices if I geniunely mean to LIVE without the plague of conflict and anxiety.

Life is simple. Humans make it complex by weaving webs in which they themselves get entangled, adding to this complexity. Can we simply disentangle?