The rapist, the corporate raider, the Don Juan, and the conqueror are always taking. The sad result is that they never give and therefore never receive. Therefore, the more they take, the less they have. As a result they always remain empty. For many of the biblical mystics, the symbol of conquest was Alexander the Great. He took almost the entire known world of his day. Yet, insisted the masters, without becoming a lover, Alexander would necessarily remain empty.
The legend tells of Alexander finding the Garden of Eden, symbol of all fulfillment, on the African continent. Now the Talmudic masters have a little bit of a soft spot for Alexander. They saw in him not only a conqueror but also a wisdom seeker. So along the way to Eden, Alexander is depicted as growing wiser and slowly divesting the personality of a pure taker.
In one of his adventures Alexander is confronted by an army of women warriors – mythological symbols of Eros and Shechina. They say to him, “It is not worth your while to attack us. For if we kill you – you will be known as ‘the king killed by women,’ and if you kill us you will be known as ‘the cruel king who killed women.’” A lesson in the futility of taking.
Next, Alexander asks these same women for bread to eat. Instead, they serve him loaves of gold. In response to his astonishment they reply, “You have enough bread in your own city. You came all the way here because bread would not fill you – you needed gold.” Second lesson – the clarification of desire. Be honest about what you need to fill you.
At this point, Alexander is ready to encounter the Garden of Eden. He eats some fish and recognizes by its scent that the water was from Eden. He finds the gates of the Garden and cries out “Entry!” He is refused access. He is not yet enlightened. Alexander pleads to receive at least some of Eden’s wisdom. From behind the gate extends a gift – it is an eyeball. Sensing its magical quality, Alexander has the eyeball inspected and weighed. Turns out this small object weighs more than all the masses of gold and silver he has with him.
“How could this be?” he asks his sages in consternation. They reply that this is a human eyeball – representing desire that can never be satisfied.
This is desire in the sense of taking, instead of giving and receiving. Human desire is so heavy that it weighs man down. Without a doubt it weighs more than all the gold and silver that Alexander could carry with him. Yet, unconvinced, Alexander asked the sages for proof. They sprinkled some dust over the eyeball so it could no longer see, and it immediately reverts to its natural weight.
On Alexander’s quest for wisdom, he needed to learn the futility of taking. Alexander is empty, as is symbolized in his request for food to fill him. The warrior women of Eros teach him to be clear about his desires. Gold and not bread. Do not pretend to be working for your core survival (bread) when it is really gold (honor and glory) that you are after. Finally, know that your desire can never be sated, even by all the world’s gold and silver. The human eye of acquisition is a black hole of desire, always demanding more. You need to change your essential relationship to the world. Let go of taking and embrace the law of love – that law is, only in the natural exchange of giving and receiving will you ever become full.