This Missal takes a look at a twentieth century philosopher and doctor from France, Hubert Benoit. Best known for his book, The Supreme Doctrine (now entitled Zen and the Psychology of Transformation), Dr. Benoit was a psychiatrist, surgeon, violinist, and writer whose understanding of Zen and Traditional Metaphysics lives on today. Counted among the pupils of Gurdjieff, he wrote on the subject of Zen and its masters, being one of the first to bring this ancient teaching to the West. Born in Nancy, France in 1904 to a well-read family, he entered into the study of medicine. He studied in Paris and specialized in surgery, which he practiced until being gravely injured in the Allied bombing of the town of Saint Lo during the Normandy invasion in 1944. His injuries put a halt to his surgical career, and he became a psychiatrist, practicing for over thirty-five years.
During his long years in a hospital bed recovering from his injuries, he had the chance to fulfill a life-long yearning to understand the human condition. His practice of psychiatry and his books on Zen brought this to fruit. Besides his book The Supreme Doctrine, he published several others including The Interior Realization, which he considered his best. He continued to bring his work to others through his psychiatric practice and his writing until his death in Paris in 1992.
" Imagination does not bring realization, but only the fallacious hope of realization. - It is in the failure to master the imagination that human servitude resides." - Hubert Benoit
Benoit's understanding of our dilemma is explained in detail in The Supreme Doctrine. He tells us our problems with suffering are facets of our imaging process, the imagination, and never based in the outside world. They start from the misconception that we are a separate creature, an animal and/or abstract self, at risk of complete annihilation at the hands of the not-self, the world. The animal self is at odds with and the opposite of the abstract self. The abstract self lives in the imagination, in the world of ideas, while the animal self is the emotional identification with the body and its needs. One or the other of these selves is dominant in us, and the other is repressed or ignored. The animal self goes about its survival by accumulating wealth and security, using success or failure in the world to gain emotional stability. The abstract self finds its haven in the ideal, it's ego identifying with the intellect and thought. These selves can be either positive(preferable) or negative, depending on circumstance.
When I awoke into my life,
a sobbing dwarf
whom giants served
only as they pleased,
I was not what I seemed.
The Sea and the Mirror - W.H. Auden
(thanks to Art Ticknor)
Benoit goes on to say that each of us covers the feeling of having been separated from our divine principle(which is not in fact the case) through compensations, tools of the ego to keep us believing our life has meaning outside our true nature. These compensations eventually wear thin, and we keep having to find ever new ways to not face the truth or facts of our mortal life and our near complete identification with it. The only way out of this trap is by the trick of letting the compensations run their course, or seeing through them at once. Through this loss of footing we come face to face with inner truth through humility. We cannot work at becoming humble directly, for that is yet another form of pride, but we can face our mistakes and humiliations, and thus see ourselves more clearly. This is another of the paths of retraction, a retreat from error rather than a gathering of ego and will. We come to see we are in reality what Benoit calls the conciliatory principle, the top point of a triangle, the base-line being our constant struggle to uphold one or another of the opposite poles. This principal is always present, regardless of our feeling of angst or loss, and comes into play when we realize our helplessness in solving the problem of life through ego and its illusory will. We have never been truly abandoned, but have become lost through identification with one of the inferior points.
I've found Benoit's The Interior Realization to be a compact work containing his major ideas, and a road map to realization if one's intuition is able to pick up on it. The Supreme Doctrine offers much more detail, but is rather weighty, to say the least. Art Ticknor's excellent explanation of Benoit's compensations and general ideas is worth a look, found at: http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/bzrecap.htm. Another look at our propensity to identify with one or another of the opposites is seen in my paper From Psychology to the Listening Attention: The Path of Becoming, found at http://www.listeningattention.org/writings_2.htm#from_psychology_to_the_listening. The two short selections of Benoit's work listed below (found on the Articles Page) give a concise look at his Zen-like approach.
- Related Sites -
The Supreme Doctrine, a re-cap of Benoits main ideas. "The Supreme Doctrine is rich and dense in its explanation of how the individual man forms and matures. Benoit refers to this process as the pattern of our natural development, which leaves us with a great sense of metaphysical distress." Excellent detailed summary of the main ideas in Benoit's system, from Art Ticknor's Self-Discovery Portal. http://www.selfdiscoveryportal.com/bzrecap.htm
Hubert Benoit: Information on the 20th Century French Philosopher, by Jeffrey Grupp. Benoit puts the techniques of this movement (Ch'an)into a contemporary context in order to offer a picture of Zen that is quite reasonable and workable amid the struggle of life, whether primitive, modern, or postmodern. Hubert Benoit, in his books (especially Zen and the Psychology of Transformation, formerly entitled The Supreme Doctrine), goes back to the impetus of Zen philosophy, in order to seek such a way of life. http://abstractatom.com/hubert_benoit.htm
Tricks and Traps
Trap: confusing intuition with magical thinking. Wishful thinking is sometimes confused with intuition, for it provides an excuse for lesser or negative emotions to manifest. We may believe we are receiving higher hints about our actions, when in reality it's just an emotional obsession using our inability to reason clearly to get its way.
Trick: Look below the thinking/feeling for the motivating emotion. Double check the so-called intuitive message for hidden appetites or negative moods. Is it reasonable, and does it have your best interests at heart? Does it hint at the promise of something for nothing, an easy way out of decisions and committments, perhaps distracting you from having to look at yourself?
Trap: Ignoring the real thing. We may also fall off the other side of the wagon by rationalizing intuition as muddled thinking, and not worth hearing. If we have never put in the effort to find our intuition, and don't have the energy to see why we should, laziness and pride may become our motivators instead.
"Many attractions in life are simply bait dangled before the eyes." - Richard Rose
Something for Nothing
"We are what we do, not what we think we do."
"The fact that you don't act means you don't have conviction.”
- Richard Rose
I've found as I get older that some of the seekers I meet are getting long in the tooth too, and suffer from a lack of conviction(inability to act) brought on by a combination of age and success in life. They have time and money relative to their youth, but are reluctant to use them towards their spiritual path. Perhaps this is not done consciously, but could be that a life-time of work and struggle, not only in the outer world but also in the realm of personality, vanity and ego along with the effects of aging, have left them almost unable to act any other way. The strange thing about them is their 'conviction' of commitment to the spiritual path, and the simultaneous lack of ability to act in that direction.
The following is a list of characteristics peculiar to this type of fellow and some questions for him in the hope he will see, and resolve, his paradox:
You have heard that all is One and there's nothing to be done, and have used this to cleverly rationalize your inability to act towards spiritual work.
You have heard that one must work on oneself even while going about daily activities, but have used this too as a rationalization to avoid actual involvement in spiritual work, especially with others.
You find the view pleasing from resting high on the shoulders of those seekers who have gone before. Why do you refuse to carry someone yourself, to continue the chain?
Your spiritual work consists mainly of reading and ruminating, along with some so-called self-observation while going about your business. Seldom does it involve actual work, even less work with others, and never work for the Work.
Your comfort zone has been made secure by years of effort. Do you think you will make the trip within to the Truth by this continued comfort, both mental/emotional and physical?
Any suggestion of change is met with cleverness, for you have become averse to anything that might rock the ego from it's throne.
This vanity of being always right even extends to your ideas about the ego itself, as evidenced in your insistence that you will 'destroy the ego', thus entering further into dichotomy.
Most of this occurs because of a deep-seated vanity that you are special, and thus have no need to involve yourself with the struggles of the less fortunate.
When facing confrontation about your lack of action, you put on a polite yet knowing smile. Your sense of superiority carries over into spiritual work, and is defended by very subtle yet effective masks.
You gravitate towards those that flatter your vanity, and if the going gets tough, you get gone.
This vanity is your biggest block, and keeps you from your inner self, though you think just the opposite.
When your superior attitude is pointed out, it is rationalized by declaring that underneath you still suffer from a feeling of inferiority. While this may be true, it is seldom worked on, and never resolved.
If a meeting or retreat is attended, it's usually only once, for if there is no immediate profit from it, you feel there is no reason to go again.
The idea of work being profitable only after years of constant effort has somehow slipped your mind. Possibly because your vanity says you have 'been there, done that', now it's time to relax and reap the rewards.
You have found in business how to work smarter rather than harder and this gives you an edge over the competition, but what is it you actually do with this new found time?
You expect teachers and fellow students to cater to your schedule and seem to have no sense of how much actual work and effort they have sent your way.
Do you have an understanding that they are actually working, in actions as well as words, to get you to do the same?
Do you think you could reverse the habit of feeling you deserve something for nothing, and start paying, with your actions, for what you take from teachers and fellow seekers?
Something for nothing is a valid method of work, but only if it involves between-ness. You trade your 'something', the vanity of the ego and its suffering, for the inner self, which knows its own nothing-ness.
- Quotes of the Month -
" Man is of the nature of God, but in a state in which this is not apparent.
" The Gospel tells us that we must be reconciled with our brother before we pray; the balancing of our being in the conditions of everyday life represents this reconciliation. This means that a man may have to work long and laboriously on his ordinary nature before undertaking the work of transcending it.
" Asceticism has in itself no efficacy -- at any rate where timeless realization is concerned. Nevertheless a certain asceticism may be necessary for the achievement of the inner state of maximum calm, without which the exercise cannot be properly carried out.
" 'Moral' suffering working on the image-plane is closely bound up with the play of the imagination. It is in the failure to master the imagination that human servitude resides.
" Imagination does not bring realization, but only the fallacious hope of realization." - Hubert Benoit
" If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. " - Meister Eckhart
" An individual who hates his parents is probably more likely to become like them as the years go by. This individual would be better off if he were to respect them as struggling human beings caught in the flow of life. In this way, he can study his own inherent weaknesses and try to escape." - Richard Rose
" Every man can be happy, and it is our duty to seek and find how." - Joseph Sadony
" Dangerous, stupid work leads to discovering who you are." - Swain Wolfe
" Humanity isn't worth it -- this place is a Hellhole. Forget it and struggle for the Truth." - Richard Rose
Copyright 2007 - Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.