Ghost in a Box
- What is Realization?
In the realm of spiritual seekers, many and varied are the conceptions of what the Final Realization will be. Most of these are meaningless discussions of symptoms, rather than any serious attempt at understanding the final state, much less becoming It. The projected outcomes of these students are as varied as the different schools and teachers in which they place their trust. Given this Gordian Knot of thinking and feeling, fueled by ego, and projected by unexamined minds, what can one do, and expect? How can a serious seeker find assurance that they are on the right course, and how can one be sure that they themselves, or someone they know and trust, has had the Final Realization, a Total Answer?
First off, the final judge must be the person themselves. In order to pass beyond the duality of the finite mind, we must be aware of the trap of putting yet one more level above us. This is a never-ending game of the mind. There will always be someone out there who claims to have a higher, more complete, more total realization than what we, or our teacher, may have found. Only in our Selves can we rest. The trap of endlessly judging levels of attainment may be a way to keep our own spiritual ego afloat, but is a dangerous distraction if taken as the quest itself. We must press on within, and leave the fate of others to themselves.
The above said, there still remains the problem of the mind's ability to fool itself with its own projections. Driven by ambition, mental laziness, and fear of the Unknown, we may unconsciously decide to claim realization by virtue of these desires and fears, and take an easy out. How can we check and compare our own level of spiritual attainment and not be misled, by our mind or the minds of others? Let us take a look at the stages of spiritual becoming, and hope that the words herein will serve as a guide to keep our vector moving and on track.
There are three states or levels of being that we find in this search, before reaching what might be called the final or absolute state. The first may be called the level of experience. The second, the level of union. The third, the level of becoming.
The first level, that of experience, may be likened to someone in his room watching a television, and being identified with the characters in the dramas as they unfold on the screen. Losing contact with himself, he has become hypnotized into believing he is a character in the TV. The freedom he began with, that he was (and still Is), the innocent observer, has been lost, traded for the mind-motion of thought and feeling projected into the plastic box in front of him. He places his highest value on the screen-character with the most motion and energy, in relation to his upbringing and education by other screen characters. The more the characters move and are dominant (whether positive or negative does not matter), the more energy is expended, and the bigger the reaction that is drawn from the person. His innocence and detachment have been replaced with the sense of motion and thought, and the thrill of losing energy. Now that he is inseparable from his role in the drama, he places a high meaning on the feeling of belonging, which he now values as part of his very definition. He has fallen deep into sleep, and is dreaming the life he thinks he lives, a mere ghost in a box of motion, emotion and thought. He will evaluate a mystical experience in much the same way. If the experience has much motion, much release of energy, and if the character involved succeeds in his tasks, whether positive or negative, he will place a higher value on him, and claim his identity for his own.
This level is very basic and body oriented, having to do with visions of power and ego, and control over the environment. Any mystical experience or contact with spiritual systems or teachers a person on this level has, will be interpreted from this level. It constitutes no real change, or becoming, in what might be called the basic animal man, who, perhaps frustrated in his ambitions in normal life and society, has chosen a path of lesser resistance through fantasy for the fulfillment of his animal urge to power and dominance. He is the level of the mind and its motion, with which he is wholly identified. Fear and desire drive his every move, and he is firmly engrossed in his dreams.
The second level is only found through the disastrous failure of the first, combined with a serious inner commitment the seeker must have previously made to finding the truth about himself, at any cost. Given this commitment, he will sooner or later be rudely shaken awake from his dreams of fantasy, and forced to face the facts about himself. For a true change to occur, a true failure of the first level's ego must be brought about. His sense of personal identity, which is rooted in the fictional characters in the box, one after another, must be cut away. The resulting trauma will be in proportion to the size of the ego that was created. The symptoms of this collapse, meaning emotional and mental trauma, are individual, and should not be taken as the change itself. The possibility of the inner witness coming closer to the surface is the only important matter. The man then becomes identified with not just the individual character(s) on the screen of the TV as it continues to hold him entranced, but now becomes identified with everything that enters the universe-box from the projecting Light. His sense of self expands to include all the characters in the drama, as he gains a sense of unity with all the many dots in their coordinated dance across the screen. He may feel exalted and full of love for this picture show, and imagine this union to be the end-all of possibility. His very sense of exaltation, of still clinging to a higher and lower, with his remaining sense of being a 'being", give him away. The experience, though of a greater level than that of the first man, is still relative. He still believes himself to be a thing apart, in contact with another, though higher, Thing apart. The very idea of existence, of himself and anything else, is still intact, and unquestioned. His new profound experience is just that, and fades into a memory, though the conviction may remain. He soon finds himself back in the position of the first man, in motion and identified, subject to the environment for his feeling and concept of himself in the moment. Only in his memory and understanding is there a change. His perspective is still that of a man, a human entity, alive and living in a now conscious Cosmos, with which he is united.
For the man of union to Become, he must again suffer a complete disaster, and have an impossible bit of good luck, to boot. Through somehow seeing the still remaining dual nature of his mind, he may find the hint within that there is something of the intuition that led him this far, still in contact with him. He may see from time to time that he senses he is somehow behind himself, apart and unconcerned with the 'thing' that he previously called "I". He may even experience moments of "headlessness", in which he looses his usual sense of 'self' and instead sees the world without the noisy filter of his mind. He may even have the intuition that the secret to Becoming lies in this detachment, and not in the blissful union he values so much. This detachment has yet to become a steady factor in the present moment, but he begins to sense that the unaffected yet somehow aware screen, the very capacity for existence, and not the mind-made images that run across it in an ever-changing flux, is his true nature. That the Light and the screen it illuminates are but two different aspects of the same thing: Himself. Intuition now plays the bigger part, with reason and logic now only functions of the practical aspect of his environment.
Many little hints may come to him now, and if he is lucky enough to place a value on them, and follow them, he will continue to move. Most of these hints are along the lines of what has been called 'headlessness', or the" listening attention". He may find he is observing without labeling or judging. That he is now free, for a moment, to gaze upon the world without knowing what he sees. These moments may be accompanied by a strange feeling of peace or silence, which he may come to know as the quiescence of his mind. Here, the former work on fear and desire come to fruit, as one cannot look into the Unknown if any vestige of fear or worldly ambition are still dominant. The site of the world without the minds' interpretation can be frightening for those still attached to its false security. By continuing to look within, he may sense that the Light he feels, is not only healing him, but has a direction, a Source. If he travels back far enough to merge with this Source, he may find It to be the opposite of the 'world', and hence come to the possibility of triangulating the difference between Samasara and Nirvana, and so coming to Himself, as that which contains, and simultaneously is, All.
This return to our original nature extracts a high price, but only to the ghost in the plastic box. The ego, which has evolved from identification with the character on the screen, to that of the ego of the spirit united with its source, now has died. For the original awareness, this is release, yet it finds itself to be unchanged and knows it has never been any different. To friends and family, the symptoms of this final ego-death may, or may not, be visibly dramatic. The trauma of release is indicative of the size of the ego that dies, rather than of the nature of the underlying Reality. Any value we place on the size or spectacle of the resulting trauma of others may be due to our own need for distraction, and longing for continued sleep in our pride as sincere seekers. Facing our own coming headlessness is much more difficult than ruminating about the possible symptoms of the decapitation of others. Much of what may have happened in another's becoming may not have been made available for our personal viewing, and consequent judgment.
The worded description of this final state is something that has caused much consternation in seekers and teachers alike through the centuries. Perhaps the best that can be said about it, is what it is not. It is not an intellectual conclusion reached through deduction, no matter how astute. It is not a feeling-state, not matter how sublime. It is something we receive, though we give it to ourselves. We become It, rather than 'get it', and then know we have never not been It.
In most schools, words such as 'awareness', 'witness', 'absolute', and 'void' are used to describe the causeless state, which we seek to become. An aware witness, void of any other qualities; an unbiased, empty Observer, having no cause, but being the cause of Itself, alone. A conditionless yet aware state that is itself unconditioned and not witnessable by other than itself, there being nothing other than Itself. Any description one hears which adds a word or words after "I am", is not a description of the Self, but at most, a description of a symptom or view. Be very wary of those who claim unending Bliss and Peace, for any relative state calls forth its opposite, and is subject to change. You, and only you, will come to know what your final state is, and then, later, will struggle to find words to describe it.
by Shawn Nevins
Ascetics are the extreme athletes of the spiritual search -- the people who fast for days at a time, pray without sleeping, wear hair shirts and live in desert huts, sleep in unheated rooms on beds of nails, and a hundred other variations on the theme of controlling and purifying the body. The ascetic looks upon the body as a barrier to spiritual knowledge, or he believes that his sacrifices will draw the blessings of God. This is an ancient tradition with many sad extremes, yet it has a basis in truth. The body is not so much a barrier to spiritual knowledge as it is a tool we use poorly. Ascetic practice sharpens the body and mind, expanding our ability to act effectively. The modern seeker of self-definition who scoffs at asceticism may be most in need of this experiment.
The truth is that our lives are a mix of desires. We want a piece of sugary cake, yet want to lose weight. This simple conflict illustrates a body that wants, under the cover of pleasure, fuel in the form of sugar and fat. At the same time, we want to stay thin in order to attract a mate and keep the body healthy. The modern man's solution is to indulge all these wants and declare the need for a balanced life. Such a balance is akin to trying to keep everyone (i.e. every facet of the self) happy all the time. The result is temporarily contented mediocrity.
Asceticism is self-denial for the purpose of redirection of personal energy. By denying an aspect of your self, you test to see its permanence. If you refuse to eat cake for a month, and discover that desire fades, then you eliminate a less true facet of your self. You can ignore the voice that calls for cake and concentrate your energy on more important matters. You gain a measure of freedom.
Asceticism is not simply the denial of pleasure. Nor is it the substitution of pain for pleasure. The experience of pleasure is not a detriment to the spiritual path and self-induced agonies are not tickets to heaven. It is our many obsessions that are a detriment to success. Your obsession must be with self-definition if you wish to assuage your deepest desire.
Success in the quest for self-definition requires a commitment of your mind and body. There are many desires competing for a finite amount of energy and you must discover which are necessary (e.g., the need for basic food), which can be eliminated (e.g., the need to get drunk), and which can be lessened (e.g., the need for money). Success will be determined by the amount of energy (time, desire, effort) you bring to bear on the question, "Who are you?"
Asceticism will clarify your desires. Through this artificial creation of adversity, you will discover what you never truly needed. As you come closer to identifying your true desires, you come closer to following your bliss. Following your bliss, following your heart, will lead you home.
There is another more subtle value of asceticism. A sacrifice is a statement of your intent. It is saying to whatever may be listening that you are serious, that you are willing to make an intimate sacrifice. Such a statement changes who you are.
Although wearing hair shirts is out of fashion, there are numerous ascetic practices. I engaged in practices such as: limiting sleep, fasting, eliminating sugar and spices, isolation, not talking, no alcohol, no television or other media, and celibacy. For some, an ascetic practice could be no online chat rooms for a week. There are individual distractions and they change over time. Don't doom your self by taking on numerous practices simultaneously. If you stumble in your practice, simply determine to try again and do a little better. Gradually wean your self, if need be. The end result will be a balance of desires, but a balance obtained within the over-riding goal of the desire for self-definition.
"MEDITATION: It's Not What You Think..." Part II, by Michael Conners
An Example of Effortful Meditation
Let's try to distinguish between substance and appearance.
The mind and senses discriminate the appearance of objects of experience from each other using patterns of sensory conditions: size, color, sound, feel, smell, weight, boundaries, warmth, etc. And we assume that the characteristics of each object are the object and that our senses are merely receiving external data about it. That these objects do not exist except to the mind of the experiencer is not and cannot be discovered by using the senses which tell us that the objects do exist.
An example is the "wave" created at the stadium by people standing and sitting in turn. We see a wave, moving, but this wave only exists to our sense of sight; its only substance is people, standing and sitting. The wave is merely an appearance.
The people too are only the appearance caused by the body's cells, and their version of "standing and sitting."
The cells also are only the appearance caused by molecules "standing and sitting."
...the molecules by atoms,
...the atoms by subatomic particles,
...the subatomic "particles" are not really particles at all!
...they are waves in what appears to be nothing, to the mind,
...this apparent nothing is in fact the only real substance!
But it is not within the ability of the senses to comprehend this Real Substance which is at the heart of all objects of experience because it has no characteristics that can be perceived: no size, no limits or boundaries, no color, no texture, no odor, no motion (which are attributes of the senses themselves).
Knowing that to be true is the real Knowledge. Recognition of this situation can free us from the illusion of the world as real and present the possibility of our knowing the real nature of all existence to be a transcendental essence.
This liberation from the world of illusion and knowledge of the reality is enlightenment. Liberation then is not an experience. Real, doubtless knowledge alone is the essence of it. This is why liberation is always referred to as Knowledge, Jnana, Vidya, Self knowledge - and the sage as the knower of reality.
This is the supreme knowledge, the perfect knowledge.
Self realization comes when we Identify with the Eternal Omnipresent Existent, and recognize that as our innermost essence, our Soul, our Self.
To see the Real as our true Self is to become the universe.
"MEDITATION: It's Not What You Think..." Part III, by Michael Conners
Effortless Meditation: A Practice of "Letting Go"
Whatever your technique of meditation, Zen, Mindfulness, TM, etc., effortlessness of practice will increase its effectiveness.
Usually we think "I am thinking" or "doing" or "feeling" or even "I am my thoughts, and my feelings, and my actions." And with that identification comes suffering.
The value of effortless meditation is that it is a pleasant, relaxing practice that loosens identification with thoughts and feelings, releases stress resulting in health benefits, and awakens subtle levels of awareness which leads to the experience of Transcendental or Pure Consciousness.
Just what does effortless mean? NO EFFORT! We sit down with the intention to do our technique, but then we "do" nothing! We welcome whatever happens as it comes. Just like remembering and forgetting a name or phone number, we remember our technique automatically.
To meditate effortlessly, sit comfortably with closed eyes for a moment. Thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations will arise within your awareness without effort on your part. Then you will remember that you are sitting there to meditate, and that remembering will be effortless ("Oh..."). That is one repetition of the effortless meditative cycle. At this point it is important to not try to "do" your meditation technique! This faint remembering is enough. Then, after a few moments, you will become lost in thought for a while until you again remember "Oh...", which continues the cycle.
To keep your meditation effortlessness, REMEMBER!
NO MENTAL OR VOCAL VERBALIZATIONS
NO RESISTANCE TO ANYTHING THAT COMES
IT'S A NATURAL, AUTOMATIC PROCESS
IN PRACTICE WE SIT LIKE THIS FOR 15 OR 20 MINUTES, TWICE A DAY.
On the Conservation of Energy
After a long interruption, don Juan continued explaining. He said that seers saw that from the moment of conception awareness is enhanced, enriched, by the process of being alive. He said that seers saw, for instance, that the awareness of an individual insect or that of an individual man grows from the moment of conception in astoundingly different ways, but with equal consistency.
"Is it from the moment of conception or from the moment of birth that awareness develops?" I asked.
"Awareness develops from the moment of conception," he replied. "I have always told you that sexual energy is something of ultimate importance and that it has to be controlled and used with great care. But you have always resented what I said, because you thought I was speaking of control in terms of morality; I always meant it in terms of saving and rechanneling energy."
Don Juan looked at Genaro. Genaro nodded his head in approval.
"Genaro is going to tell you what our benefactor, the nagual Julian, used to say about saving and rechanneling sexual energy,'' don Juan said to me.
"The nagual Julian used to say that to have sex is a matter of energy," Genaro began. "For instance, he never had any problems having sex, because he had bushels of energy. But he took one look at me and prescribed right away that my peter was just for peeing. He told me that I didn't have enough energy to have sex. He said that my parents were too bored and too tired when they made me; he said that I was the result of very boring sex, cojida aburrida. I was born like that, bored and tired. The nagual Julian recommended that people like me should never have sex; this way we can store the little energy we have.
"He said the same thing to Silvio Manuel and to Emilito. He saw that the others had enough energy. They were not the result of bored sex. He told them that they could do anything they wanted with their sexual energy, but he recommended that they control themselves and understand the Eagle's command that sex is for bestowing the glow of awareness. We all said we had understood.
"One day, without any warning at all, he opened the curtain of the other world with the help of his own benefactor, the nagual Elias, and pushed all of us inside, with no hesitation whatsoever. All of us, except Silvio Manuel, nearly died in there. We had no energy to withstand the impact of the other world. None of us, except Silvio Manuel, had followed the nagual's recommendation."
"What is the curtain of the other world?" I asked don Juan. "What Genaro said--it is a curtain," don Juan replied. "But you're getting off the subject. You always do. We're talking about the Eagle's command about sex. It is the Eagle's command that sexual energy be used for creating life. Through sexual energy, the eagle bestows awareness. So when sentient beings are engaged in sexual intercourse, the emanations inside their cocoons do their best to bestow awareness to the new sentient being they are creating."
He said that during the sexual act, the emanations encased inside the cocoon of both partners undergo a profound agitation, the culminating point of which is a merging, a fusing of two pieces of the glow of awareness, one from each partner, that separate from their cocoons.
"Sexual intercourse is always a bestowal of awareness even though the bestowal may not be consolidated," he went on. "The emanations inside the cocoon of human beings don't know of intercourse for fun."
Genaro leaned over toward me from his chair across the table and talked to me in a low voice, shaking his head for emphasis.
"The nagual is telling you the truth," he said and winked at me. "Those emanations really don't know."
Don Juan fought not to laugh and added that the fallacy of man is to act with total disregard for the mystery of existence and to believe that such a sublime act of bestowing life and awareness is merely a physical drive that one can twist at will.
Genaro made obscene sexual gestures, twisting his pelvis around, on and on. Don Juan nodded and said that that was exactly what he meant. Genaro thanked him for acknowledging his one and only contribution to the explanation of awareness.
Both of them laughed like idiots, saying that if I had known how serious their benefactor was about the explanation of awareness, I would be laughing with them.
I earnestly asked don Juan what all this meant for an average man in the day-to-day world.
"You mean what Genaro is doing?" he asked me in mock seriousness.
Their glee was always contagious. It took a long time for them to calm down. Their level of energy was so high that next to them, I seemed old and decrepit.
"I really don't know," don Juan finally answered me. "All I know is what it means to warriors. They know that the only real energy we possess is a life-bestowing sexual energy. This knowledge makes them permanently conscious of their responsibility.
"If warriors want to have enough energy to see, they must become misers with their sexual energy. That was the lesson the nagual Julian gave us. He pushed us into the unknown, and we all nearly died. Since everyone of us wanted to see, we, of course, abstained from wasting our glow of awareness."
I had heard him voice that belief before. Every time he did, we got into an argument. I always felt compelled to protest and raise objections to what I though was a puritanical attitude toward sex.
I again raised my objections. Both of them laughed to tears.
"What can be done with man's natural sensuality?" I asked don Juan.
"Nothing," he replied. "There is nothing wrong with man's sensuality. It's man's ignorance of and disregard for his magical nature that is wrong. It's a mistake to waste recklessly the life-bestowing force of sex and not have children, but it's also a mistake not to know that in having children one taxes the glow of awareness."
"How do seers know that having children taxes the glow of awareness?" I asked.
"They see that on having a child, the parents' glow of awareness diminishes and the child's increases. In some supersensitive, frail parents, the glow of awareness almost disappears. As children enhance their awareness, a big dark spot develops in the luminous cocoon of the parents, on the very place from which the glow was taken away. It is usually on the midsection of the cocoon. Sometimes those spots can even be seen superimposed on the body itself."
I asked him if there was anything that could be done to give people a more balanced understanding of the glow of awareness.
"Nothing," he said. "At least, there is nothing that seers can do. Seers aim to be free, to be unbiased witnesses incapable of passing judgment; otherwise they would have to assume the responsibility for bringing about a more adjusted cycle. No one can do that. The new cycle, if it is to come, must come of itself."
From Carlos Castaneda's The Fire from Within. (Simon and Schuster, 1984) my italics.
Your Current State
by Shawn Nevins:
Take a moment to be aware of your current state. Now, imagine that yesterday you died. You are exactly where you are right now, only you are dead. Nothing has changed, except that you are dead. Everything that you do from here on out is the action of a dead person -- it means nothing. Try as you might, your actions have no effect. Your touch is that of a ghost, your mightiest efforts like a soft breeze.
Your friends call your name, but as you reach out to them, you see that they too are ghosts. All that you hold dear, is like a storybook -- it existed, but was made to be set aside.
In all the universe, there is only you. Utterly powerless to even cast a shadow upon a wall.
You are dead, yet you feel alive. A Light shines through your form, animating your thought. Listen for your ceasing to be, it is calling. Let the ghost cry for the loss of it's self -- tears of Truth to set it free.
You died the day you were born. How long will you wait to go Home?
Who am I?" by Shawn Nevins:
You don't have to spend your days asking, "Who am I, who am I, who am I,..." Everything you do and everything that happens to you is asking that question for you. It's like the little kid who exasperates his parents by continually asking "why" -- "why is the sky blue, why is the grass green, why are we going here?" You are an immensely mysterious creature and a little curiosity about why you do the things you do, will carry you a long way on the spiritual path.
Did you ever watch yourself make a decision? I mean really watch what is going on in your mind. Let us say you don't know what to eat tonight. You think of some options, suddenly a decision is made. Did you decide or did a decision present itself? Were you just the observer of a process?
Did you ever try to catch the first thought of the morning? If you wake up slowly, you will find your mind quite silent. Suddenly there is a thought. Where did it come from? Did you decide it was time to start thinking, or did a process begin without your consent?
Some of our thoughts are obviously automatic. We might say, "It is hot," when the temperature is over 90 degrees. Other thoughts are equally reactive, but harder to trace. For example, we drive to the grocery to buy a chocolate bar when we are depressed, not because we really want it, but because the sugar gives us pleasure that counteracts the mood. Some people may enter relationships with the opposite sex for the same reasons as buying a candy bar, yet be just as unaware of the real reasons for their so-called decisions.
By examining the reasons for your actions, you are asking, "who am I." By watching your mind to see where decisions occur or thoughts arise, you are asking, "who am I." By simply being curious about your personality and wondering why you have certain likes and dislikes, you are asking, "who am I."
By becoming a watcher of your self, you are engaging in serious spiritual work. You are not that which is observed. You are the observer. If you are truly curious and diligent, you will find you can observe your observing. Here you run into a roadblock -- the mind watching the mind.
The mind continues to watch decisions being made, thoughts occurring, and at times watches itself watching. And perhaps, in watching the watching, a great doubt descends as we realize we are watching all that we know, yet feel a hint of something more -- beyond our knowing.
Beyond knowing, where words fail, where our self fails, where we lose all to become All.
Poems of Shawn Nevins:
Out beyond the lighted window
Waiting for us patiently
Is a view of sky eternal
Starry depths quiet and free.
Lose your self in this view of heaven
Not a place for you or me,
But a home, a source unending
Of the life which we can be.
Ever-present stillness waiting
Calling to us silently.
I am dead and you are dying
Do not weep, rejoice with me.
The ticking clock has served its purpose
The quiet round us deepens till
There is but One who looks upon us
Who looks upon an empty field.
A Simple Gate of Logs
A simple gate of logs
in the stark light of morning:
It is glowing in Silence.
It is every look of longing answered.
It is loneliness unmasked
as a revelation.
It is an echo over the broad water of life.
The essential fact is as still
as this moment without me.
Come Deeper With Me
Come deeper with me
to the place of watchers of watching.
To the place where all becomes shadow.
Where our lacy mind blows in a gentle breeze
that is the whispering breath of God.
A god who gently laughs as he himself
slips under waters as still as death.
Leave me and you will find me.
Within and behind is the Golden Find
Do Not Care For the Names of Things
Do not care for the names of things
or for the particulars.
It is the patterns that call out to you.
For in patterns you find the hand of God --
in names, the hand of man.
All you possess are words.
What you are is a play of light
upon the still hand of eternity.
From Far Across the Green Hills
From far across the green hills,
Patchworked with misshapen dreams,
Came the vision of my dream
Carried by the wind.
"I shall be," and "We shall be."
Such are the beginnings of our pain.
There is nothing wrong with living,
Except the dying,
And nothing wrong with dreaming,
Except the believing
That all we are is being.
Now, on my hill
Are the stones of the dead
And no wind blows.
The far off hills are quiet and still,
As am I.
You are not,
Yet you still are,
Only there is not a you.
Put a bullet in your brain
And it travels spaces vast and bare.
You can't kill what's not there.
The mind is a drowning man
It cannot save itself.
I offer no hope.
Only infinite depths
Which fold upon themselves;
Lose themselves in their vastness.
I'm handing you a red-hot iron.
Hold onto it, and you die.
Let go, and you die.
Figure that one out and you die.
To die is to live. Turn your back on it
And you merely dream.
No movement, but still an "I."
Form frozen in a matrix.
A living matrix surrounding all.
The mind, too, slowly spins down,
Freezing, relaxing into a frozen death.
The air so thick I can barely move.
Nothing matters and no one cares.
Dead, but aware.
Not you, but aware.
Aware of itself,
Awareness without any distinction,
No subject or object.
Timeless, dimensionless Presence.
The steady snow
Fills my footprints
Left hours ago.
* * * * *
A short summary of the Work, by Maurice Nicoll,
from his Commentaries:
Notes for the Reader (or read them slowly)
(I) Unless a man believes that there is something higher than himself he can never remember himself rightly. For example, the Work teaches that we have something in ourselves much higher than we are at present, on our level--i.e. Real I.
(2) The Ray of Creation teaches us that there are much higher levels of being than exist on Earth. We are under 48 orders of laws, the Sun is under 12 orders of laws, and so on. Our being compared with the Being of the Sun is very small
(3) The Work teaches that we have far higher centres in ourselves that we do not use called Higher Centres. They are always awake, but we are asleep to them.
(4) The Work teaches that mechanical Man is capable of becoming Conscious Man--i.e. of being much higher than he is at present in being. But if he takes pride in his present being, he cannot develop.
(5) When a man tries to obey the Work apart from his self-love and self-emotions, he is raising his level of being, and if he can listen to the Work in his heart and mind, he will be shewn how to work on himself and change his being. This of course applies to women in the same way.
(6) But if a man believes that the Universe or Nature created itself and has no meaning, then he can never remember himself, because he (or she) believes there is nothing higher than himself.
(7) Recall that a man or woman with good Magnetic Centre can distinguish between the influences created in life called A influences and those sown into life by the Conscious Circle of Humanity which are called B influences. Such a man, such a woman, has the possibility of development. Such can be selected by the Work and such can begin to remember themselves.
Work on Essence
by Maurice Nicoll
When you begin to know what it is you have to work on, you should not tell everyone. There is a great deal said about inner silence in the New Testament. For example, we are told that we must not let the left hand know what the right hand does. ("But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth" Matt. vi.3.)
In this Work we have to move consciousness more and more internally. Many things have been said about the external parts of centres, and intemal parts of centres that communicate with Higher Centres. The external parts of centres communicate with the external senses and the external world. You do not wish to become more external but to become more internal. If, therefore, you wish to become more conscious of what lies internally in yourself, you do not wish the small 'I's that live in the external divisions of centres to try to express what it is that you are working on - what it is you have gradually discovered you must work on - because there is something almost sacred in this discovery. It is more in the nature of a revelation granted you when you can stand it than a so-called logical process of formatory 'I's. What can the: small 'I's in formatory centre know about the whole of us? How can the formatory center, which is Third Force blind and therefore merciless, dictate to us what we should do? It can only say that we are bad or we are good. It works in opposites. Your heart knows much more about you than your head does. I fancy that the Emotional Centre in its interior part knows a great deal about what our Chief Feature is, and all the connections with it that we have to work on. It cannot be expressed in a word. A novel or a play might express it.
Truth lies between the opposites. Therefore, it is impossible to express it formatorily. Language uses either one opposite or the other opposite, but we do not know that there is another language which lies between the opposites, spoken by Higher Centres: one that we can by training listen to a little, but not put into formatory words - one, indeed, that often clothes itself in dream-allegories or parables. I do not, therefore, think that one should try to put into words what one feels one should work on. Moreover it is not possible to give a sincere observation about oneself in public, as I think most of you will agree. Of course, one can play the role of being sincere and frank and never hiding anything from anybody. Then, of course, you are simply showing off so as to gain the esteem of others. Most of what we do is for this reason. Now asking questions in the group is not the same as making these so-called sincere observations about oneself. Asking questions belongs to that side of the Work called Work on Knowledge. Observing oneself belongs to that side called Work on Being. The idea of self-observation is to make one more widely conscious of oneself and what lies in oneself, in one's being. It is a difficult and intermittent thing to do in the present moment. It is easier to notice yourself in retrospect, both immediate and remote. You thus get a new memory of yourself - a Work Memory. This gradually shews you that you are not what you thought. It alters your ideas of yourself. If you try to speak about your observations to others, it brings them forward to the external parts of centres, and your Work Memory is not formed in the right place. It cannot be formed in the external parts of centres. Of course, you must be aware of a very simple trap that lies here. It is something like this: a person says to himself that he must not talk about his intimate self-observations, so he will keep silent about them and tell no one - the result being that the person ceases to observe himself at all. This is the case when you only do things for reasons belonging to external life and have no interior life that has any reality or seriousness to you.
Our observations and our desires concerning what we wish to be changed in us must move inwards towards Higher Centres. Only then do we receive help. It is written in Matthew vi that if prayer and alms giving are kept secret "thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee." This is what I meant in the previous paper when it was said that if we do things for life-reasons it cannot develop Essence, but if we do things for Work-reasons it can. If you pray so as to be seen of men nothing will happen, but if you pray in secret you will be heard and rewarded - in secret. This is the psychological idea. It refers to the place we act from in ourselves. For what reason are you doing the Work? From what place do you act - if you act at all? That question has been asked before. As was said, if one has begun to see something that one must really change, some too flagrant contradiction, then one is in a position to do the Work for a definite reason - for a Work-reason. Many traps, however, lie here as well. You may see something about yourself that you consider must be changed and you may be right, but you try to change it for life-reasons - such as for the sake of your reputation and appearance. You are not doing it for the sake of your belief in the Work and your wish to live the Work. So the Work will not help you. Your efforts will not help in the development of your Essence. It originated from the outside. You can see I am talking about something that I would rather not try to put into words. There is a passage which runs like this:
"Hypocrites! who cleanse the outside of the cup and within are full of extortion and injustice. Cleanse first the inside so that the outside may also be clean." (Matt. xxiii.25, 26)
Do you imagine trying to change something for the sake of appearances is cleansing the inside? This cleansing of what lies inside - that is, internal to outward appearances - is to cleanse and develop Essence itself. This has to come first. That is the important point. It is not life-reasons that will bring this internal cleansing about. Your Personality may appear beautiful. Externally you may appear to be deeply religious and most pious and moral, but it is what you are internally that matters. Internally, you may think that religion, and all that kind of thing, is poppycock. You may appear kindly and sincerely concerned about other people, but internally you may not care tuppence about them. You may seem most earnest about the Work, and inwardly think it is silly rubbish.
Now, are you going to tell me that you are often distressed by the complete contradictions that exist in you between your outer behaviour and your inner thoughts and feelings? You are not. Why? Because you do not observe yourselves. Without self-observation we are rarely disturbed solely about ourselves. People do not therefore work on what they specifically should. They do not see, for example, specific and dangerous contradictions existing in them. We all see motes but not beams. This is owing to the action of buffers. Buffers prevent us from seeing ourselves. They prevent us from seeing contradictions in our behaviour. So we seem to be satisfied with ourselves. At least, we are not dissatisfied about something specific. Moreover, these busybodies, the self-justifying 'I's, get to work if there is any trace of feeling that we are behaving in a contradictory way and may actually be in the wrong. To endeavour to make our behaviour more uniform and calm will not meet the case. That would be an external matter. We are told we have first to cleanse this inside part of us - this part which is at present un-developed, irresponsible, naughty, and so often contradictory to what we pretend to be outwardly in Personality, and we cannot do it for life what reasons. Certainly, we cannot do it from anything belonging to False Personality, which does things "to be seen of men". There is, however, a trace of Real I in us, we are told. If we did anything from this trace of Real I, we would not be doing it from False Personality, or Imaginary 'I'. Nor would we be doing it for life reasons. We would be acting from that Work reasons (which may go right against life reasons). But it takes a long time before we become conscious of the differences in the qualities of the feelings of I. Also, to make effort for the sake of nothing tangible, or visible, or profitable, in life, or obviously praiseworthy, seems strange to many. It seems strange to the Personality. Yet if we could make effort from the right feeling of I we would be rewarded - in secret. How rewarded? Essence would grow. A growth of Essence means a development above time - a supra-temporal change - something that does not end with death. But if we make effort from the wrong place and the wrong feeling of I, we can get no response of this kind. The Essence is the eternal part. If ungrown, it recurs again and again. It seeks perfection. But life-efforts will not perfect it. It remains imperfect. To seek perfection in something without ambition entering in, or praise or any similar life-motive, would develop Essence. "The young man asked Christ: 'Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?' and Christ answered him: 'If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.'" (Matt. xix. 16, 21)
Maurice Nicoll from Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.
Stages of Becoming by Bob Fergeson
In the struggle for understanding and Self-knowledge, we can see definite stages in our journey. At every turn we find a new challenge or difficulty. These challenges can be found to be exciting and stimulating at the first stages, but later we find we may have stopped moving, perhaps for months or years, and cannot seem to find the true cause or block. Let's take a look at these stages and in particular the gap that must be bridged between the third and fourth, where this journey or Work can become stagnant.
Gurdjieef taught that our becoming was subject to the law of the octave, or law of seven. This closely parallels numerology and the musical scale. The following list gives a framework for understanding the first three general stages we encounter in the Work.
Do, or #1 = Evaluation of the Work ideas, state of knowledge
Re, or #2 = application of the Work ideas to oneself, state of bringing the knowledge into the practical
Mi, or #3 = realization of personal difficulties, state of completion - spiritual, mental, practical
Gap or chasm = the missing semi-tone, place of shock,
Fa, or #4 = place of understanding, dealing with the practical
When we first come into contact with esoteric ideas through a teacher or friend, from intuition, or a need to escape misery, the information comes to us via the intellect. If this first note is struck hard enough, the ringing of our bell can carry us to sound the second note, and so on. Thus becoming inspired, we can begin reading and listening, and perhaps think we have a grasp of the Work in a real way. We have gained a positive, yet passive, evaluation of the idea of working on oneself. We have come to hear the Work and agree to it in an intellectual manner. But soon concrete action is needed if we are to advance and sound the second note. The ideas of self-inquiry must be taken to heart, and acted upon. This undertaking can move us up a step or note, to actually applying these ideas to ourselves in everyday life. Finding it much harder to act on our thinking than to just speculate and dream, we must begin to put forth energy in an active manner. We may find we have joined a group or begun meditating regularly, and are practicing what was at first only believed. This is the stage where discipline and commitment start to pay off.
Time and energy spent in the active pursuit of self-knowledge can lead us to the next stage, the realization of personal difficulties. A great deal of impartial observation is necessary here, plus a degree of humility and self-honesty, for all of our hard work and newly acquired self-knowledge lead us seemingly into a dead end. We have become aware not only of our patterns, but that as a personality we are strictly mechanical, a robot. An accidental associative reaction pattern cannot change itself, and we are left in a quandary. We see we have a set pattern of personality, mood, states of mind, body type, metabolism, habits, talents, obsessions, even addictions, that are all mechanical, and more importantly, are not us. We realize we cannot do, but yet something must be done. Courage is needed here, for we must accept this fact and at the same time turn our focus inward and face the unknown. We have become an observer of our mechanical nature, but still have no experience of our Final Self.
To bridge the gap between the third and fourth notes, a surrender is needed, a recognition of Grace. At this point an inner change must occur, a dying to our former self. A discarding of the hope that the person we once thought ourselves to be, will be forever. This gives us the shock needed to drop the ego, if only for an instance. A turning towards the unknown because there is no where else to go. A listening, a turning to the silence within, only now valued because all other avenues are lost. This might bring us a strange surprise. We might find something is trying to reach us, has always been trying to reach us, and that by giving up we find contact with something greater, and that through this gate of silence, everything is possible.
Tears for Fears by Bob Fergeson
We climb inside our pride to hide,
digging holes to crawl inside.
To run from Fear inside a tear,
we run inside our Pride to hide.
Why does life seem so hard to try?
Turn left, back right,
I can't decide.
Fear blocks my skill, what's left, pride kills,
I run inside vast pride to hide.
At the end of every year
I shed a tear for every fear
that drives poor souls the whole world wide
to crawl inside their pride to hide.
The warning whispered in Ceasars' ear
should not have been for a time of year
but to give him heed to that inside,
Oh, Ceasar! keep watch on the Ides of Pride.
Where are my father, mother, siblings three?
They all have sailed far out to sea,
driven by fear and self-tyranny,
they sailed back into pride, you see.
To build stone towers on islands each,
to fly the flag of pride above the breach.
This, they hope, keeps fear across the moat
but ties their souls with tight black ropes.
And safe within their castle keep,
safe from fear, safe in sleep,
kept prisoner by Fear's mighty tide,
they lie inside their pride and hide.
Cry humble tears where the paradox lies,
not boast of things that live, then die.
Come forth to stand in the light of day,
your gaze looks back on the world of clay,
no fear, no moan, no cry of dismay.
Climb out the trench where we all lie,
stand firm in Truth, don't fear the lies,
shake off the dark, dank cloud of Pride.
Don't fight too hard, don't try to hide, just
let it be, this curse of Pride.
To humble be, is a trick you see,
it leads you round to Pride's vast sea.
On the Turning of Heads:
First there must be enough trauma or suffering to turn us away from the belief in life as an end in itself. If we are lucky enough to be thrown into the unknown, through sheer desperation or misery, we may find that we emerge ok, that something took care of us. This forced surrender gives us renewed Faith. We begin to trust something greater beyond life and the world of the five senses. This shift in meaning is usually synchronistic with a teacher 'ringing our bell'. There is an inner connection established between our inner self and this 'God incarnate', the Guru. Something in us awakes and our head turns towards a new view. The old values of the rat race and mundane pleasure are no longer enough, and we see our new-found teacher as proof that there is something else worth doing.
Somewhere along here we will begin to see in a real, personal way that we are mechanical, a robot. That as personalities,or egos, we are nothing but accidental associative reaction patterns. We don't exist. But our heads are locked on this robot, identified with it in an almost absolute hypnosis. This includes inherited and learned states of mind and moods, that are precursors to reaction patterns. Seeing this gives us a shock, and we begin to learn the hard way that no amount of tinkering with the associative pattern will give us real being: the realization that endless analysis of the robot is a dead end. We begin to look within. This acceptance and the following ability to turn the head inward only comes after every mental avenue has been exhausted. We can no longer place a high value on states such as 'happiness', justified negative emotions, mundane pleasures, or even elevated 'spiritual states' or feelings of well being, such as 'being a good boy', a do-gooder, etc. Confrontation, whether in a group setting or from being engaged with everyday life, helps us to see our mechanical nature and the uselessness of putting our faith in its eventual perfection. It also helps to bring up real conscience, which enables us to have compassion for our fellow man, as we see he cannot change either, and is also not a conscious being.
Continuing to go within, as there's nowhere else to go, we begin to see the value in listening. We begin to develop and place value on the 'Listening Attention'. We realize that we don't know, but that knowledge is available. We begin to hear Higher Centers and value their help. This leads to a return of faith in the inner self and begins the inner relaxation and loosening of energy knots(egos) formed by implanted erroneous beliefs. Given this new mental freedom, we can see the dualistic nature of the mind, with its penchant for ever increasing the subtlety of its ego through cleverness. We sooner or later separate from it and thereby realize the observing awareness that is our true self, 'This I know is me', the self that realizes its own nothingness.
This receiving of the experience of ourselves as awareness also leads us to see that this awareness is the same in everyone. We have become Universal after our long lost voyage in the particular and find ourselves back Home, where we've always been.
As individual points of awareness, our chief feature is one of identifying. We become whatever we stare at long enough, and we have been looking at the body/mind since birth. This hypnosis is so strong, most of us cannot escape it without help. The ego, being the clever, self-righteous fool that it is, will not let us accept this help, so we have to be tricked. Fortunately, the Powers That Be invented some very useful tricks to help us out. All tricks are for destroying the ego-centric fantasy that we actually exist, as the body/mind or anything else for that matter, and for freeing us from believing that there is such a thing as an individual 'self '. They serve to back the awareness out of the individual mind/memory and into the state of universal awareness, away from self into silent witness. Thus, a retreat or dis-identification from the mind and its projections is caused, hopefully leading to the realization of one's true self: the observer. Here's a few tricks to get you going but remember, . . . they won't work if you actually believe any of this.
Trick of going against negative emotions:
This helps lead us away from the extreme defensiveness of the ego-centric position. We believe we're doing good and being virtuous by not being negative, but are actually just moving away from manically defending the false or particular, i.e. the 'self '. This brings about an inner movement towards a more universal view where one thing, or self, is not set up against another. This trick is also known as 'helping others', practicing virtues, etc.
Trick of 'know thyself':
The point of this trick is to cause dis-identification with the individual memory pattern by becoming familiar with it: what we see is not us. Getting to know the robot leads, hopefully, to realizing it's not you. The information gained by knowing one's self isn't the point, it's the inner movement or retreat that counts. So, don't worry if you discover you're not the person you thought.
Trick of effortless meditation:
We simply watch our thoughts without being attached or affected. Again, we're led within, as this trick serves to unattach us from our personal reactive mind and places us in the universal rather than the particular. This trick has the added benefit of being quite peaceful.
Trick of self-remembering, "Who Am I", meaningless Zen koans, etc., :
these tricks are quite simple, and therefore very effective. The ego loves complexity and distraction, so the act of focusing the attention on an unanswerable, meaningless koan knocks the ego off its feet, for a bit. Eventually, we may become less afraid of the silent unknown. The movement back and forth between the formal (mind chatter) and informal (silent awareness following the shock of perplexity) might bring about a triangulation: the body/mind and accompanying 'self' or looker may be seen for what they are.
Trick of self-inquiry:
great trick for the astute, since they think they'll have it figured out in no time. Eventually, they might come to find they're not as clever as they thought. It can lead the inquirer to accidentally going within, thus being effective. At its best, it will cause a surrender, or ego-death, when the mind comes to a dead end, thus teaming up with the trick below.
Trick of surrender: a most powerful trick in that we are led to believe we are doing something pious, and instead end up getting a good look at our pride. The trick is that we've never been in charge anyway, meaning we do nothing and never have. Surrender as an act of the prideful, pious ego usually fails miserably. This can eventually lead us to inquire as to what we did wrong, thus leading us back to the trick above. If both inquiry and surrender are practiced, we might trick ourselves right into a massive ego-death, so be careful, ... don't get tricked.
-An outline of a talk on the Spiritual Path, given at a retreat, July 2000:
HOW TO CONCEIVE THE INNER TASK
Let us come back now to this displacement of the attention. In order to render it understandable we have shown on what intuitive perception our attention must come to be fixed; and we ought to proceed thus in fact, for it is impossible to withdraw our attention from a point without having another point towards which to direct it. But it would be entirely wrong to believe that this in-formal intuitive perception towards which we voluntarily direct our attention positively presents the least interest (illusory conception of spiritual as opposed to temporal 'possessions'). It is only a point of orientation, a simple means of which we avail ourselves to preserve our energy from the meshes of the formal machinery which would seize upon it but for that. Thus to displace attention, that is to work inwardly, is not then to 'do' anything but what one would do ordinarily, it is to 'do nothing', or more exactly actively to inhibit every 'deed' that can be described.
This conception of the two planes, formal and in-formal, of such a kind that 'to do' in the second corresponds with 'to do nothing' in the first, enables us to understand the real positivity of the negative terms which Zen uses so readily, 'no-mind', 'no-form', 'no-birth', 'emptiness', 'void', 'Unconscious', etc ....
The practice of the 'koan' is understandable also. The cryptic formula on to which the Zen monk incessantly brings back his attention, has, certainly, a form; but this form is such that it quickly ceases to be perceptible on account of its apparent absurdity. When the Zen monk fixes his attention on his koan it is not this last which possesses the slightest interest; what is interesting and efficacious is by that means to tear the attention from the plane of form.
The displacement of attention which constitutes the inner task should really be a displacement, and so a coming-and-going of the attention between the formal and the in-formal. It would be impossible to fix the attention on the in-formal (as also on any kind of form) with stability. To begin with that would amount to suicide. But, above all, the excitation of the outer world is absolutely necessary for the surging-up of the in-formal energy from its central source. The inner task is then necessarily discontinuous; in that it conforms to the law of alternation which dominates all creation (day-night, summer-winter, systole and diastole of the heart, etc.).
It is not a question, either, of wishing to save from phenomenal disintegration all our vital energy. To think incessantly of the energy which wastes itself in us would be to fall back into the distressing error of 'salvation' regarded as a 'duty'. There would then be contraction, not relaxation. It is only when I no longer trouble myself to contract that I can relax.
The Zen masters say to us: 'You should not in any event hinder or disturb the course of life.' The inner task is performed in the course of our life, but it does not disturb it because it is done in parallel with it and not in it. That is to say that it is not concerned with forms, with the manner of life, and does not try to modify them; the attention, in leaving the plane of form, is content to ignore form. The man who works according to Zen becomes ever more indifferent to his actions, to his imaginations, to his sentiments; for all that is precisely the formal machinery with which he is obliged to share his energy. This man can work inwardly all day, in the alternating manner of which we have spoken, without this work comprising thc slightest spiritual 'exercise', the least intentional discriminative reflection, the slightest rule of moral conduct, the least trouble to do 'good'. Turning his back on the visible and its phantoms, fair or ugly, he accumulates in the invisible the charge of energy which will one day blow up in him all the 'cave of phantoms', and will open to him thus the real plenitude of his daily life.
A Technique of Timeless Realization
This work must be carried out as a practical exercise undertaken at times when the subject can withdraw from the immediate excitations of the outer world.
The exercise: Alone, in a quiet place, muscularly relaxed (lying down or comfortably seated), I watch the emergence within myself of mental images, permitting my imagination to produce whatever it likes. It is as though I were saying to my image-making mind, 'Do what you please; but I am going to watch you doing it.'
As long as one maintains this attitude -- or, more exactly, this relaxation of any kind of attitude -- the imagination produces nothing and its screen remains blank, free of all images. I am then in a state of pure volutary attention, without any image to capture it. I am not paying attention to anything in particular; I am paying attention to anything which might turn up, but which in fact does not turn up. As soon as there is a weakening of my voluntary effort of pure attention, thoughts (images) make their appearance. I do not notice the fact immediately, for my attention is momentarily asleep; but after a certain time I perceive what has happened. I discover that I have started to think of this and that. The moment I make this discovery, I say to my imagination, 'So you want to talk to me about that. Go ahead; I'm listening.' Immediately everything stops again, and I become conscious of the stoppage. At first the moments of pure attention are short. (Little by little, however, they tend to become longer.) But, though brief, they are not mere infinitesimal instants; they possess a certain duration and continuity.
Persevering practice of the exercise gradually builds up a mental automatism which acts as a curb on the natural automatisms of the imagination. This curb is created consciously and voluntarily; but to the extent that the habit has been built up, it acts automatically.
The principle of the liberative method is now clear. Man triumphs over his imaginative automatisms, not by pitting himself against them, but by consciously allowing them free play; his attitude towards them is one of active neutrality. His final triumph is the end-product of a struggle in which his voluntary attention does not itself have to take part. (Such participation, it may be added, is incompatible with its pure, impartial nature.) Man rules by dividing; refusing to take sides with any of his mental forces, he permits them to neutralize one another. It is not for Divine Reason to overthrow nature, but to place itself above nature; and when it succeeds in taking this exalted position, nature will joyously submit. (It should be noted that the curb which is imposed by the exercise on the automatisms of the imagination is not imposed by the opposition of Divine Reason to automatic nature, but by the opposition of one pole of our dualistic nature to the other pole.)
During the exercise the subject, insofar as he practices it successfully, feels himself relieved from his fundamental distress. After the exercise he falls back into this distress, which may be momentarily greater than usual. The reason for this is that he has fallen back into his ordinary state of inner passivity, so that there is nothing to neutralize his distress; at the same time his imagination, curbed for a moment, does not at once recover its compensatory power. On the whole, however, the longer the exercises are repeated, the more the subject finds himself relieved of his basic distress.
- Hubert Benoit
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS OF MEDITATION
- taken from the booklet:
How Your Mind Can Keep You Well
The meditation, properly used, will bring about a significant change in your relationship with words. Where as you have been accustomed to respond to words as though they themselves were the idea or the thing referred to, you will soon find yourself responding increasingly to the meaning that the word reawakens in you. You will come to realize that at various times in your life you have been "hung up" on words, studies, concepts, and ideologies. You have allowed words to "drive" you and to shape your behavior.
Forgetting The Forgettable
As a result of the meditation exercise, your consciousness will begin to reject words as meaning or as motivation forces. You may experience an emptying of thought content in this respect. You may experience forgetfulness both of trivia (grudges, for instance) and of important matters (for which you have no immediate and pressing need). Chatter, names, babble, excuses, false concepts, and commercials vanish. True concepts that you once accepted without understanding will come back for review and energizing by conscious acceptance. To the degree that we accept, we energize, so that words derive their power from the fact that they are driven by, and associated with, meaning and insight.
Before the time of understanding, we were all brainwashed. We played back noises like a parrot; we mumbled acceptable phrases in order not to rock the boat. We never spoke from meaning. We never spoke honestly. We didn't want to displease others, for to do so would cut off our supply of words of praise. So we gave our associates the words that they also wanted to hear.
We needed words and the sources of the words. We became increasingly dependent upon and identified with our word sources, until, very often, our needfulness stirred our pride to rebellion against them. Then, our resentment made us guilty, our guilt made us afraid, and soon we were lost and wrong, unable to find our way back to simple beingness.
To the degree that you are able consciously to accept or reject words and concepts from the framework of real meaning, to that degree will you inherit control over language, and language will cease to control you. But to the degree that you allow impressions to enter your mind unconsciously, to that degree are you controlled by words, knowledge, and the cunning powers-that-be that feed you the line as they rob you of life.
There are invisible "sticky" fibers of communication that link reaction, feeling, and thought together. Your conscious awareness is also chained to due process of thought. When you meditate, you will become conscious of a sudden shift in viewpoint as these thought processes tend to pull you down into them via these invisible connections. As you pull back out and away from the involvement with dream and thought stuff, that thread-like connection is broken. Our consciousness is made aware of the effect of the thought stuff tugging at it by means of a mystical relationship with Reality, which, in effect, pulls it back to view those thoughts and their power to drag our attention down.
Wrestling With The Unholy
Our compulsions to err are made up of many such patterns. As you become aware of them and successfully wrestle with them to break their hold, newer patterns will emerge in the form of distraction and bona fide guilt's. These may tend to pull you down from your position of observing them, and excite you to deal angrily with them. But remember: never be angry over what you see. Anger only strengthens the tie, involves you more closely with the process, and separates you from reason. You will find that you can dissolve distractions and trivia that try to get in the way of concentration, but be careful not to try to resolve the real faults that rise to your view. Just allow them to bother you, look at them, be aware of them, but don't try to deal with them in any way.
If thoughts do not cloud your mind, you can see a Light shining in your consciousness. This Light is not the same as sunlight, but it does serve a similar function in that it makes our character flower as the solar rays make the plants grow. When you were small, you may have seen those moving energy patterns of color in your mind and wondered what they were. But as you grew, the excitement of the world rose up in your mind as thoughts and pictures, and soon the light faded.
The Light That Guides Us All
But the Light is still shining in your darkness. It appears as conscience when you err. Before the time of error, what you now know as "conscience" was a clear untroubled consciousness, containing the pattern of your potential. You often felt it as a pressure behind your mind trying to tell you something. It was the Light that should have shaped your behavior. When you became impatient with its promptings and looked to the outside world for guidance, it became troubled by your faithlessness. It is that troubled state of consciousness that we all know as "conscience."
Conscience is the Light that shines on our rabid thoughts and allows us to see our mistakes; but if we are proud, we do not want to see them, so we bend all our efforts toward putting out the Light within us that would show us our faults. We have physical eyes to see where we are physically going, but the Light that shines in our consciousness tells us what is right and wrong and illuminates our spiritual path.
If we do not want correction or right direction, the Light of consciousness (or the afterglow of conscience) is an abomination to us, and we must try to put it out. But it isn't easy to put out that Light. The means we most frequently employ are anger, excitement, and mental imaging.
The conscious mind of man must be still before the subconscious can be impressed by it, and the consciousness of man cannot be still until it becomes aware of its restless ambitious nature and turns from its worldly pursuits. Once it is committed, no longer reaching out after things and activities to obscure the presence of Truth, it will become still and in the stillness it will see the Light.
When we are able to see by the True Light, we see not only our own hidden thoughts, but the intents of those we have justified and "loved" (needed). Until that time, we remain blind for two reasons: our ego refuses to see, and our emotions are attached to error. We cannot see the forces that control us because we are egocentric and simply refuse to see that we are wrong.
As we justify our faults, we also justify that which made the fault grow in us, so what is really all wrong seems to us to be all right. As we grow more excited, we fall further. Again we shield ourselves from the correction of the conscience. Our mind grows dark. We cannot see because excuses and excitements, imagery, and distractions shut out the Light that would otherwise have illuminated our path and put an end to our groping and guessing through life.
But What About Man?
Now, what about man? Nobody in whom the Light of consciousness still shines can honestly believe that man is simply the most highly-evolved of the animals, designed to take his turn-on value from other people, for then we could never be any better than those who "turn us on." We know intuitively that, as people, we must live in the world, but not be of it. We must obtain its support and nourishment without allowing it to dictate our pattern of growth. In other words, we must take and retain dominion over the things of the earth. As people, the closest link we have with Reality is our consciousness. Through this consciousness, the Light that sired all creation outside touches us inside and turns us off to outside influences that seek to control us.
The conscious mind, being our closest link with Reality, is fashioned to "see" and move by the light of that Reality. Such motion, originating in and flowing out of the Self, is harmonious with purpose, a soothing balm to restless nature. It is incompatible with egotism. But when we allow pressures of the world to upset us away from the quiet consciousness through emotional reaction, then our inherited factor of Pride rushes to the defense of our compulsive behavior, justifies it and gives us the illusion that we are living our own lives.
Stalking Yourself with the Listening Attention
Above the door to the ancient temple in Delphi were inscribed the words, "Know Thyself". These words describe the process by which we separate from our false state of ignorance and rediscover true Being. But how do we initiate this process, this grand work of spiritual discovery? What tools should we choose to come to know this thing we call 'ourselves'? If we are to engage in the pursuit of self-definition we will need to use the best tools available. To stalk our 'self ', we will need something above or behind this personality to best observe with, something of a different order. Using the personality to observe the personality simply doesn't work. It's like trying to lift a plank while standing on it. This self we wish to come to know is a constantly changing, moving target, a veritable chain of reactions and patterns, seldom still, but always within our sight. To observe it we will need something calm and constant. Something that looks but doesn't react; a seeing that listens.
Spending time alone, in a quiet environment, can be a good way to start this practice of self-observation. To be free of the routines of work and family and the expectations of society is calming and conducive to beginning the art of introspection. We can let our guard down a bit. Also, our own personality is partially absent. The part of us that interfaces with others is no longer needed and we can relax. This state of lack of attack can be quite useful for sneaking a look at ourselves. Since other people do not have to be dealt with, we can devote all of our energy to watching the only person that remains: our self. The social personality is a tool whose job is to deal with social survival. It has been made to do this, in and by the social context, and is only answerable to that context. To try to use it for examining the self, as we normally use it to examine others, will not work. It may not be the best tool we have to better know ourselves. A hammer is only a fitting tool when combined with nails and wood. To observe the files in our computer, we need something with a subtler touch. A listening attention is needed, a looking without speaking, an interior silence which observes but does not place value.
Eckhart Tolle gives a good example of the type of attention we need. He asks us to try a little experiment, to close your eyes and say to yourself, 'What's my next thought going to be?' then become very alert and wait for this next thought, just as if you were a cat silently watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to pop out? As long as we are in this alert silent watching/listening, no associative thought pattern interferes with our observing. Let's take the experiment a bit further and put ourselves in the context of the hunter or stalker. Our goal is to stalk ourselves. The personality and ego are our game. We wish to observe them, not observe through them. Our game is very smart for it knows what we are thinking, even before we think it, for it has had control over us for years, perhaps decades. The only advantage we have is our simple, pure awareness, something the ego lacks. We must become very still and alert, as if we were in a room with a large beast, which can only grab us if we move, feel, or even think. As long as we observe without placing meaning on our observation, we are invisible, and can watch the beast, freely and calmly. If ever the thought comes to us, "Hey, I'm watching myself" or, "Wow, look what I'm doing", we have lost the thread. We are then reacting, not observing. Watch for this 'I' thought. If the feeling of 'I' and its sense of being the 'doer' come into the scene, the listening attention is lost, and you're off the track.
At first we will only be able to watch ourselves during quiet times, such as meditation. While our quarry is relatively still, we are not confused by its movements and are able to hold our attention steady. Later, we can observe when the personality is more active, and can keep from being thrown off balance. It's good to learn to swim in shallow quiet waters, before taking on the waves. Once the basic feel of the listening attention is found, one can progress from observing oneself in quiet times to watching the body and mind as they perform small repetitive tasks. Eventually the awareness will become free enough to observe the self, or `person', in complex actions such as conversation. As we begin to see more and more of ourselves, we gain a certain freedom. Its value does not lie in the modifying of our behavior into a more efficient, flattering form, but simply in becoming free from the hypnotic identification with our pattern. We begin to see we truly do not do and never have. We only observe.
No matter how determined we are to stalk this strange person we call ourselves, we will continue to fall asleep and be swept back into the state of identification. One tool we can make use of to counter this is what might be called 'alarm clocks'. We create little habits that remind us of our task: which is to watch silently. We place these alarms throughout our day. An example is meditating at a fixed time. The body will become used to this and remind us it's time to turn inward and observe. Another is books or tapes we find to have value. These can serve as alarms by their presence, as well as by their content. One of the best is a group of fellow seekers, who can serve as mirrors of our current state and help snap us back on track. As with anything done with regular routine, these alarms will become less useful with habit, and new ones will be needed.
Another trick is to practice what is called 'inner stop'. Whenever we sense we are becoming obsessed with a thought pattern, fantasy or habit, whether of anger, self-pity or desire, we can say to ourselves, 'Stop!" Just as a loud unexpected noise can stop the conversation in a room, so can this command silence the noise in our head.
One last pointer is what might be called developing 360-degree vision. This is best described as having a two-pronged awareness. One arrow is pointed outwards, towards the relative world and the 'person'. The other is aimed inward, towards our source. Our quarry, or what we might call the person, can only look out. We have a distinct advantage in being directly connected to that Infinite Silence within and its unlimited patience and wisdom.
Coming to know ourselves eventually crushes the ego, in that we find we are not what we imagined ourselves to be. We begin to see that the person we think we are is purely mechanical, a robot. Honesty and courage will be needed if we are to accept what we see, and perseverance when we find our task difficult and wish to retreat back into imagination. This process of dis-identifying leads to ego-death, as we separate from our pattern. The simple act of clearly seeing the person we were for what it truly is, is enough to bring about its death. We find we have become that which witnesses experience, where before we were experience, creating more and more experiences in an endless mechanical pattern. We are no longer the wily animal we have been tracking, which becomes cleverer with every experience, but instead something free, eternal, and indescribable.
1. There is an easy trap to fall into when we first engage in self-observation, and that is to create, or visualize, an observer who observes. We are then back in the same comfortable game we were in in the first place: that of the personality reacting to the environment in an endless pattern. There is no sentience in mechanical reaction. In describing observation, we are not talking about visualization or imagination, but the simple act of looking without reaction, of looking through the personality, not with it. We have been taught since birth to create and then identify with a separate thing we call ourselves. This reaction pattern continually recreates itself as the person who reacts.
2. Right Intent. We can only use the listening attention for gaining self-knowledge, knowledge of our own mind. If ambition, ego, or greed comes into play, we have degraded into visualization and are lost. We must want only to scrutinize the self and observe the mind. We must not, and will not be allowed, to take advantage of or gloat over our success. We can take the example of Joseph Sadony
to heart. After using his psychic gifts to provide a friend with profitable information in the financial market, he lost his powers for one year to the day. He never again traded his Connection for profit.
3. We must have a stable and clear emotional state to succeed. Emotional problems cannot be of a level that spin us out of control. The capacity to walk a straight line, without being sidetracked or continually distracted, is imperative. If we attempt to go into inner silence only to find we are full of unconscious emotional turmoil, then these problems must be dealt with first. To take responsibility for ourselves and to support ourselves, to harbor no excuses; this is the good householder, the level from which we begin. No victims or perpetrators are found in the journey through the valley of death. We must first become a healthy moral animal before we become the hunter, or the beast will hunt us.
Find your Highest Opposition
by Art Ticknor
In order to discover the real treasure that life has to offer, we have to reverse the procedure we ordinarily use to acquire or accomplish.
For other goals we can define a list of tasks that are necessary, create a critical-path diagram if those tasks are numerous and interdependent, then apply effort in a systematic way. We'll know where we stand in terms of final accomplishment and what's left to be done at any point along the way.
Seeking truth, reality, the bliss of full satisfaction, or the absolute state of being that words can point to but never encapsulate requires a different tack, however. We don't know the nature or location of that objective. By intuition or disillusionment we learn the direction, which is "within" or "know thyself." Then we have to figure out how to go within.
Knowing the self is generally interpreted to mean observing our personal characteristics, getting familiar with our thoughts and reaction-patterns to the point where we can explain and predict our behavior. This level of self-knowledge has utilitarian value, making our lives run smoother, but it doesn't take us to the great treasure. For that we need to realize that all of the characteristics we've observed, all our thoughts and feelings and behavior, are precisely not us. We are that which observes -- and all that we've observed, all that we've learned, is not-self. The viewer is never that which is viewed.
"Oh, but wait a second: Guru Summerfallwinterspring says that the viewer and the view are one and the same, that All is One." Yes, that may well be true, but we can't (unfortunately) agree our way to the truth. Each of us has to make the trip. And from our current view or state of being, there is a split between subject (self) and object (not-self).
So, how do we go within, find the ultimate self? The process is akin to sailing into the wind. It can't be done directly. We tack first in one direction, then in the mirror-opposite. For example, if the wind is coming from the north, we sail alternately northeasterly then northwesterly. Each tack results in climbing a horizontal mountain or ladder, taking us nearer and nearer to the end of the world as we know it.
In self-definition or the search for the final self, the wind we're sailing into is the gale-force current carrying us from birth to death.
The process of going within is one of retreating from untruth -- specifically, the untruth of believing that we are what we observe: our bodies, thoughts, feelings, and so forth.
The process unfolds by introspection. We observe an ongoing battle, a war of "voices" -- fears and desires -- struggling for supremacy. We observe ourselves feeling alternately happy and sad, hopeful and hopeless, a range of positive and negative emotions. We see the internal process of trying to find a satisfactory balance between these opposing forces -- but find it impossible to remain for long at the swing-point. We think of ourselves as the victim of this emotional swirl.
How do we get out of this mess? The process of observation itself, of watching the ongoing battle, results in a jump to a new level of observation within the mind, where we continue to witness the emotional struggle but now as a detached or objective observer. We are no longer the experiencer being buffeted back and forth on that line of positive and negative emotion but have been freed from that bondage. Sure, there will be times of intense emotion where we'll "forget ourselves" and be back down there. But we'll no longer be trapped there.
This jump to a new objectivity could be called death by triangulation. What dies is a faulty self-definition.
We may luxuriate for a while in our new-found freedom, but eventually we'll realize that we're privy to a new opposition, a more abstract conflict going on within us. This new contest is a war between the practical and the transcendent, the outer self and the inner.
We now identify ourselves as the decider. But as we begin to question the decision-making process, we may become suspicious about our personal role in it. We can often trace back some of the argument that yielded a decision and come up with a rational explanation for it, but the more we observe, the more we come to admit to ourselves that we don't really know why we do what we do. We may see that the decision-making process proceeds whether we're watching or not, that in fact we're largely unaware of the hundreds of "little" decisions that get made every day. We generally become aware only when the opposing forces have come to a stalemate and the decision process is spinning without result.
When this happens, many of us worry and agonize over the need to make a decision, our inability to come to a satisfactory conclusion, and our endless pattern of second-guessing and uncertainty. This syndrome is symptomatic of the intellect, which is good at drawing logical conclusions from a given set of assumptions but not at discriminating between values that underlie competing assumptions. "What is my deepest desire?" or "Is there an objective worth committing my life to?" are not questions that intellect does well with, since intellect in its refined functioning finds that analysis leads to paradox and indeterminacy. Fundamental questions like the above lie in the domain of intuition, which may be emotion or feeling in its refined functioning.
An insight that arrives via intuition comes complete with conviction as to its rightness. This is both the advantage and disadvantage of intuition, since we find by trial and error that our intuition, or our apprehension of it, can lead us astray. But it's also the guide that leads us within. So we find ourselves in the opposition between mundane practicalities and transcendent possibilities.
As the view of this opposition between the mundane mind and the intuition becomes more apparent, we arrive at a point where we identify ourselves solely as the observer. This new self-definition coincides with the death of the old one, the self as decider or doer. We may even have been fortunate enough to get glimpses of what we are looking out from. And yet we're still trapped within the mind, convinced of our individuality and unable to shake the subject-object duality. At this point we come to a final opposition, which we see in various terms such as our deepest desire and fear, life and death, inside versus outside, transience versus permanence, or individuality versus wholeness. As we observe what we're looking out from, we step into the abyss that separates us from realizing our non-separateness, and the conviction of being a separate observer of this ultimate essence dissolves.
The Will to Resist, by Art Ticknor:
What is will? I've watched myself engage in potentially harmful behavior at various times in my life, and sometimes I've been able to observe that there's a decision-point after the inspiration for the behavior forms in my mind and before the action occurs. At that decision-point there has been an agreement to proceed -- not so much an active agreement, really, as an unwillingness of the inner executive to use its veto power to cancel the pending action.
An article appeared in the 3/5/89 Miami Herald which provides the best physiological explanation of this resistance-point that I've come across. It was written by Tom Siegfried of the Dallas Morning News and was titled "How free is free will? Science decides to see." Siegfried cited a paper by neuroscientist Benjamin Libet, in the March-April issue of The Sciences, describing what goes on in the brain as people decide to act. The key items were as follows:
Brain signals jumped in voltage eight-tenths of a second before the action (hand movement) began. Why? It doesn't take anywhere near that long for a message to get from the brain to the muscles.
Brain signals began three-tenths of a second before the subjects even became aware of their intention to act. It appeared as if the brain had begun preparation for the movement before the individuals perceived themselves as deciding to do anything.
Some subjects reported that they could change their minds after deciding to act. The neurons began to fire, the person prepared to move, and then -- fifteen-hundredths of a second before the motion should have occurred -- the person decided to stay motionless.
"Apparently the conscious mind could intervene, in the final stages of the heightened neurological activity, either to block the already initiated movement or to let it pass," Libet had concluded.
Libet's conclusion jibes with my introspective observations, which point to two categories of the go-with-it response. In the first, I recognize that the action is potentially harmful, but it's a new "opportunity," and some combination of factors wins the argument over the self-protective fears and desires. The heftiest of the winning factors seem to be curiosity and a cavalier attitude toward self-preservation that looks, afterward, like a desire for self-destruction. In the second category, I've engaged in the activity before and consider its effects harmful, or at least feel that becoming enslaved to habitual repetition is undesirable. When the ensuing action hasn't been vetoed at that hinge or swing-point, I've observed a feeling of powerlessness to resist.
When we recognize potential harm, what determines whether we will veto the action -- or at least attempt to resist? Richard Rose, in his "Temptation" essay [see the May TAT Forum <forum2001-05.htm>], said that he learned he could veto a questionable action by asking the question "Why?" This approach may buy us some space-time, breaking the force that's compelling us into a potentially harmful action until we can consider it in a somewhat dispassionate frame of mind. What has been most effective for me, once through the storm, is to arrive at a calm determination to resist the compelling force if and when it returns. With me, this occurs not so much from an ability to talk myself into taking such a stand as from scanning the inner horizon until I find such a determination there.
The Way of a Pilgrim
As for the things I say, they are not my own, but what I have heard from my departed starets, who was full of divine wisdom; or what I have gathered from a careful reading of the holy Fathers. But my ignorance has gained more light from interior prayer than from anything else, and that I have not reached by myself, it has been granted me by the mercy of God and the teaching of my starets. And that can be done by anyone. It costs nothing but the effort to sink down in silence into the depths of one's heart and call more and more upon the radiant Name of Jesus. Everyone who does that feels at once the inward light, everything becomes understandable to him, he even catches sight in this light of some of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And what depth and light there is in the mystery of a man coming to know that he has this power to plumb the depths of his own being, to see himself from within, to find delight in self-knowledge, to take pity on himself and shed tears of gladness over his fall and his spoiled will! To show good sense in dealing with things and to talk with people is no hard matter, and lies within anyone's power, for the mind and the heart were there before learning and human wisdom. If the mind is there, you can set it to work either upon science or upon experience, but if the mind is lacking then no teaching, however wise, and no training will be any good. The trouble is that we live far from ourselves and have but little wish to get any nearer to ourselves. Indeed we are running away all the time to avoid coming face to face with our real selves, and we barter the truth for trifles. We think, ' I would very gladly take an interest in spiritual things, and in prayer, but I have no time, the fuss and cares of life give no chance for such a thing.' Yet which is really important and necessary, salvation and the eternal life of the soul, or the fleeting life of the body on which we spend so much labour ? It is that that I spoke of, and that leads to either sense or stupidity in people."
from "The Way of the Pilgrim", author unknown,
translated from the Russian by R.M. French
Unblocking a Malfunction in Consciousness
by John Wren-Lewis
Over the past few years some researchers have begun to turn their attention to the remarkable effects of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) in this life. NDEs almost always leave the experiencers freer, happier people than they've ever before dreamed possible.
Moreover, while this new-found capacity for joy in living seems to drive all NDE-ers to use religious language in trying to do it justice, it doesn't necessarily involve any particular conviction that the soul is going to survive the body's death. It's more like a basic shift in consciousness whereby life in each moment becomes so vivid that anxiety about future survival, in the body or out of it, simply ceases to be important.
The hypothesis I've come up with is that the block which cuts off so-called normal human consciousness from its roots in that other, impersonal consciousness, is some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system. Exactly how or when this originated in the history of our species I have no idea, and at present don't propose to speculate. But the effect of this hyper-defensiveness is to focus individual consciousness so rigidly on the business of securing its own future that the underlying universal consciousness, with its every-present-moment happiness, peace and wonder, gets shut out. The only satisfaction allowed into awareness is that which comes from meeting the needs (or supposed needs) of the individual body-mind, while pain becomes wholly negative suffering instead of a life-enhancing signal. And this basic malfunction is epitomised in the fact that dying, which in nature is simply part of life's great flow (or of that secondary game called individual manifestation), becomes the object of ultimate fear and horror, with all the catastrophic psycho-social consequences to which Ernest Becker and others have directed attention (Becker, 1973).
Close encounter with death is able to break this whole spell because the survival-mechanism gives up at this point which I'm sure is why the Tibetan Book of the Dead Evans-Wentz, 1960) calls the dying-moment a time of special grace when Nirvana can suddenly become apparent to anyone. And this is why some who return from the brink of death have been privileged to come back knowing what consciousness really is - knowledge which, once acquired, enables the survival-mechanisms to resume functioning without their former hyperactivity. I've observed that, since Thailand, my feeling about death, my own included, is that, although I still intend to avoid it as long as possible in life's secondary game and still mourn the loss of friends, it has in itself a very special kind of beauty, like the dying leaves of autumn, whose splendour we are allowed to see in ordinary consciousness because our minds don't associate it with the ultimate taboo. A corollary of this changed attitude to death has been the discovery that ageing, including even its more obvious decay-aspects, has become interesting rather than depressing or disgusting.
The big question now, of course, is whether there are less drastic (and less haphazard) means by which the spell of separated selfhood can be lifted before the moment of death, and I hope my research may eventually shed some light on this. For while there are mystical traditions the world over which offer 'paths to higher consciousness', it doesn't seem to me that any of them has a very encouraging success rate in bringing about the kind of liberation which NDEs can bring immediately to anyone, high or low, good or bad, believing or unbelieving, trained or untrained. In fact, my studies of these traditions, ancient and modern alike, suggest that while there are almost always valuable insights to be gained from them, they all get bogged down in their own basic idea of a 'path', which inevitably suggests that 'higher consciousness' is a goal to be achieved, thereby reinforcing that very preoccupation with one's personal future which is the cause of all the trouble Wren-Lewis, 1991).
My experience, and that of NDE-ers generally, suggests that liberation isn't at all a matter of taking 'the long voyage Home'. It simply means waking up to the consciousness which is already the basis of our very existence, but is, as G. K. Chesterton used to put it, so large and close and obvious that it escapes notice. What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D. E. Harding's exercises for discovering one's own essential 'headlessness' are the best ideas I've yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people 'get it but simply don't believe it' (Harding, 1961, 1988, 1990, 1992) This, I suspect, is precisely evidence of the survival-program at work, and in my view there is no more important task facing transpersonal psychology than research into techniques for circumventing this fundamental malfunction in humanity's 'software'.
[Continuing with adapted extracts from Gnosis Magazine:]
It feels quintessentially natural that personal consciousness should be aware of its own Ground, while my first 59-odd years of so-called 'normal' consciousness, in ignorance of that Ground, now seem like a kind of waking dream. It was as if I'd been entranced from birth into a collective nightmare of separate individuals struggling in an alien universe for survival, satisfaction, and significance.
Indeed the more I investigate, the more convinced I become that iconoclastic mystics like Blake and Jiddu Krishnamurti were right in asserting that at the very idea of a spiritual path is necessarily self-defeating, because it does the one thing that has to be undone if there is to be awakening to eternity: it concentrates attention firmly on 'futurity'. Paths and disciplines make gnosis a goal, when in fact it is already the ground of all knowing, including 'sinful' time-bound knowing.
I know from first-hand experience that the 'joy beyond joy' is greater than the wildest imaginations of a consciousness bogged down in time. But I can also see that the very impulse to seek the joy of eternity is a Catch-22, because seeking itself implies a preoccupation with time, which is precisely what drives eternity out of awareness.
So what to do? One thing I learned in my former profession of science was the right kind of lateral thinking can often bring liberation from Catch-22 situations, provided the Catch-22 is faced in its full starkness, without evasions in the form of metaphysical speculations beyond experience. This is the exploration to which my life is now dedicated. It's a research project in which anyone who's interested can join.
I'll end with a couple of cautionary hints.
First, beware of philosophies that put spiritual concerns into a framework of growth or evolution, which I believe are the great modern idols. Both are important phenomena of eternity's time-theatre, but as paradigms they're old hat, hangovers from the age of empire-building and the work ethic.
The 'I want it now' attitude, so often deplored by spiritual pundits as a twentieth-century sin, is in my view a very healthy sign that we are beginning to be disillusioned with time-entrapment. A truly mystical paradigm has to be post-evolutionary, paradigm of lila, divine play for Its own sake, where any purposes along the line of time, great or small, are subordinate to the divine satisfaction that is always present in each eternal instant. Mystical gnosis is knowing the instant-by-instant delight of Infinite Aliveness in all manifestation, irrespective of whether, from the purely human standpoint, the manifestation is creative or destructive, growing or withering, evolving towards some noetic Omega or fading out.
My second warning is to mind your language, for the words we use are often hooks that catch us into time-entrapment. For example, when we use the term 'self' with a small 's' to describe individual personhood, and 'Self' with a capital 'S' for the fullness of God-consciousness, the notion of the one gradually expanding into the other becomes almost inescapable, again concentrating attention along the time line. Mystical liberation, by contrast, is the sudden discovery that even the meanest self is already a focus of the Infinite Aliveness that is beyond any kind of selfhood.
Against this background, the main positive advice I would give to spiritual seekers is to experiment with any practice or idea that seems interesting - which is what the Buddha urged a long time ago, though not too many of his followers have ever taken that part of his teaching seriously. Ancient traditions and modern movements alike may be very valuable as databases for new adventures, but to treat them as authorities to be obeyed is not only 'unscientific' - it seems to go against the grain of the divine lila itself, since novelty is apparently the name of the time game.
I suspect gnosis comes as 'grace' because there are as many different forms of it as there are people. Yet because we're all in this together, sharing experience is integral to its fullness. Whatever experiments you make, share your 'failures', your hints and guesses, and your awakening too if it happens, with warts-and-all honesty, because 'everything that lives is holy'.
Professor John Wren-Lewis, 1/22 Cliffbrook Parade, Clovelly NSW 2031, Australia.
Conversations with the Down Under Mystic
By Dan Sutera, a senior at Duke University majoring in Computer Science
In a recent issue of What is Enlightenment? magazine (http://www. wie.org)
, Ken Wilber described enlightenment as the 'radical realization of the ever-present condition of all conditions, a radical freedom in its radical fullness, an infinite Release in the midst of misery, a tacit realization that you are utterly one with all that is arising moment to moment in any and all domains, high or low, sacred or profane.' To which the Enlightened John Wren-Lewis replied, "Well, yes, except on Thursdays! What in the hell does that mean!?!"
My curiosity about the seventy-seven year old author and skeptic-turned-mystic was sparked at a Self-Knowledge Symposium
(SKS) meeting at Duke University in the fall of 1998,
when Augie Turak brought 'The Dazzling Dark,'
) an article John had written for What is Enlightenment?
The article recounted his near-death experience and subsequent immersion in 'eternity consciousness' -- or what is more commonly called spiritual Enlightenment. Raised Roman Catholic, I've always been uneasy with the idea of 'Enlightenment,' and the more esoteric things we talk about at the SKS. When I went to Australia for a semester abroad last spring, a few of the SKSers suggested that I find John Wren-Lewis and ask him about his experiences in person. Why not? I thought. In Sydney, I found his number in the phone book. I called him up to ask him if he would like to meet for coffee, but ended up in a more than three-hour phone conversation with him. In his insightful, kind, rambling, rational, and witty manner, John did the best he could to answer all my questions about his experience and Enlightenment in general.
Once an outspoken skeptic of mysticism, he was thrust unexpectedly into Enlightenment in 1983 as a result of a near death experience. On a long-distance bus in Thailand, John ate a piece of poisoned candy from a would-be thief. Though he didn't have an out-of-body experience, didn't see any bright white lights or meet any spirits, John woke up in a hospital bed in a new state of consciousness, which he would later come to call 'the Dazzling Dark.' John had been a long-time spiritual skeptic and was a strong proponent of the 'Death of God' movement in the 1960s. Although after his experience he realized that the mystics had been right all along, John has stayed true to his scientific roots and has been working hard to make Enlightenment understandable to the average person. Bringing Enlightenment 'down to earth' is the main theme of his upcoming book, The 9:15 to Nirvana, in which he tries to explain simple things, such as how Enlightenment makes your corn flakes taste different.
After our initial conversation over the phone, we met in the city, where my friend Colin and I helped him carry a second-hand MacIntosh back to his place so he could finish his book. He lived in a picturesque location: it was on the coast, overlooking the Sydney harbor bridge. And John looked just like I thought he would -- energetic and alert, especially considering his age. As we spoke in his one-bedroom apartment, cluttered with the spiritual research and notes for his book, John enthusiastically offered me insights into the truth of existence. This time I came armed with a tape-recorder so as not to miss a word.
"My first realization after the accident was that nature did not involve suffering at all, it was only the human mind that was out of step with natural consciousness," explained John. "Human consciousness is unaware of the unconditional love of the universe!" John is now aware of that love but says that he spends only about 50% of his day in eternity consciousness, since concentration of any kind causes the eternal, or the 'Dazzling Dark,' to temporarily recede. He is working towards perpetual eternity consciousness, and though some gurus have claimed to have reached it, he doubts if it is possible. John experiences two types of regressions into normal consciousness: the first he calls a 'slip-out,' which happens once or twice a week; the second he calls 'screening.' When John needs to concentrate on something, the Dazzling Dark is pushed to the background, and the 'role' of John Wren-Lewis takes the attention on the forefront of his mind. He used the metaphor of a camera shutter closing briefly then re-opening so he can see the world 'correctly' (in eternity consciousness) again. Occasionally, the camera shutter gets 'stuck,' and this results in the slip-out. But he falls back into Enlightenment as soon as he remembers the Dazzling Dark, and no harm is done.
The other kind of regression, screening, is a more extreme slip-out -- the shutter closes, and John cannot relocate the Dark. This has happened to him only a couple of times, and it has always been associated with severe physical or emotional pain. John describes the time when he is apart from eternity as his own 'dark night of the soul.'
One thing about the prospect of Enlightenment has always bothered me: the notion of the complete loss of self and identity. I ask John about this -- is it true? Do you really cease being who you are?
In his enlightened state, John says it is as though nothing has changed and yet everything has changed. He has retained his personality, needs, desires, but now is aware that the entirety of his existence is simply one of the infinite ways the universe is expressing itself moment by moment. When I asked him if it was worth it, he says definitively that "Yes, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me and it's the natural birthright of everyone and I haven't got a clue how to reach it!" In fact, he feels that most methods people practice to try to reach Enlightenment are counter-productive in that they concentrate on self-effort and think along the lines of time and causality. Although the acausality of enlightenment may sound like bad news at first, John says that it is also good news in a sense because there is no need to kill yourself with spiritual practices or worry about making irreversible mistakes on the spiritual path. In the sixteen years since his experience, he has sought out other people who have had permanent Enlightenment experiences. He has thus far found fifteen, and only two had previous spiritual backgrounds. Just as we are all different people, John told me, there is an infinite variety in the types of Enlightenment experiences that people have. John says the eternity/God/Dazzling Dark loves the variety. The best you can do in the meantime is be aware and to 'travel hopefully.'
"And besides," says John, "Death takes you straight there anyway!"
Now he really had my attention. I realized more acutely than ever before that the primary motivation behind my interest in spirituality was my fear and fascination with death and the prospect of life after death. So I popped the question: "What happens to you after you die?" "I don't know. I haven't died yet!" John said with a laugh. What he really meant was that he didn't know specifics about what part of a person survived death or what exactly happens to it, but he could tell me that some sort of 'personal essence' returns to the unconditional love of the Dazzling Dark. Partly this knowledge derives from a real sense of closeness that John feels with family and friends that have passed away, a feeling that what was 'good' in them is still contained in the Dark somehow. However, John is quick to point out that it is more than just a 'sense' that there is 'life' after death -- he knows.
"The Dark," he says, "is constantly there, producing everything at every moment, from the big bang to the final whimper. When you die, the Dark in you lives on." John likens the whole space-time universe to a theatre in which eternity is playing out the 'time game.' The only place to go when your personal 'time game' is over is offstage, and back to the Dazzling Dark. No judgment, no hellfire and brimstone, simply a return home to eternal love. "The entire concept of a fallen angel is ridiculous," says John. "I can't imagine anyone choosing not to have Enlightenment!" The fact that there is no hell is not to say that there is no universal morality, for as Christ taught, that which is not in accord with unconditional love is still 'immoral;' however, there is no sin that goes unforgiven.
As a great sigh of relief echoed through my Catholic soul, I felt a new sense of vitality and freedom. But at the same time, I felt an overwhelming aimlessness due to the fact that there no longer seemed to be a huge 'agenda' for life. So I asked John, "If you were in my shoes, twenty-one years old and unenlightened, with a world of opportunities before you, what would you do?"
Characteristically, the playful John Wren-Lewis quoted Shakespeare, saying, "'There is nothing serious in mortality.' Live mindful of the fact that life is nothing but a grand play," he advised, "and become more settled day by day in the knowledge that death is but a return home. Remember that happiness is in the moment and its value is itself."
And with that, I was at peace, maybe for the first time ever. After years of mental turmoil and anguish over parting with constrictive Roman Catholic beliefs, and subsequently moving into a more worldly, open-minded, and rational spirituality, my feet had finally found some stable ground. In retrospect, John told me little that I hadn't already theorized or suspected, but being an extreme skeptic (just as he had been), I needed to see it to believe it. It is truly transforming to look into a man's eyes as he sincerely tells you, "I know God." John Wren-Lewis did not bring my spiritual journey to an end, but to a new beginning. He replanted in me a mustard seed of faith that had long been uprooted. And for that, I thank him.
by Bernadette Roberts
TRUTH IS UNBELIEVABLE - thus we need Faith.
"But I tell you the Truth, and that is why you do not believe me."
BELIEF IS DIFFERENT THAN FAITH
Is an intellectual assent, a reflective assurance. It is a conviction of propositions presented based on evidence. It is a reasonable assent to hold true what cannot be immediately verified. It involves intellect and even reason.
Belief is our OWN exercise, and thus it will always be subject to doubt and its reverse - unbelief or no belief. In other words, belief is not stable.
Anything we actually know, does not require belief; so once we know something there is no longer belief. BELIEF, THEN, DEALS WITH THE KNOWABLE - or what eventually can be known - and therefore it is RELATIVE. FAITH, however, goes further, goes beyond anything that is knowable to the mind, intellect, and consciousness. FAITH DEALS WITH THE UNKNOWN AND UNKNOWABLE, THE ABSOLUTE - and thus it is ABSOLUTE.
Is "Seeing darkly what we shall one day see face to face." In the end, Faith gives way to vision - heaven.
1. A SUPERNATURAL GIFT, not of our own doing.
2. NO ADEQUATE DEFINITION. Not in our heads - not a concept.
3. An obscure CERTITUDE = a truth-sensor, a seeing, knowing; even an indefinable presence.
4. BEYOND REASON; may even be unreasonable -Tertullian: "I believe because it is absurd."
5. DEALS WITH THE UNKNOWN. Knows in unknowing
or not-knowing, thus it is not subject to doubt, or disbelief. We do not know how we know Faith, it is just "there".
6. NOT AN EXPERIENCE. As a non-experience, Faith is the most mystical experience we have. It does not come and go - as do experiences. If we had perfect faith we would not need any experiences. Thus perfect Faith is no-experience. As experience decreases, faith increases - because experience IS self.
* * * * *
- Commitment -
... Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!
-W.H. Murray -The Scottish Himalaya Expedition of 1951
Sayings of Paracelsus:
On Feelings: "What is a philosophy that is not supported by spiritual revelation? Moses did not teach physics; he wrote in a theological sense calculated to impress the feelings and awaken the faith of the simple-minded, and perhaps he may not have understood physics himself. The scientist, unlike the theologian, does not put any trust in his feelings, but believes only in his experiments, because physical science deals with phenomena and not faith."
On Faith: "Faith is a luminous star that leads the honest seeker into the mysteries of Nature. You must seek your point of gravity in God, and put your trust into an honest, divine, sincere, pure, and strong faith, and cling to it with your whole heart, soul, sense, and thought - full of love and confidence. If you possess such a faith, God (Wisdom) will not withhold His truth from you, but He will reveal His works to you credibly, visibly, and consolingly."
Three Principle Points: "Everything that happens takes place through the will of the Supreme. Conscience is the state which we have received from God, in which we should see our own image, and according to the dictates of which we should act, without attempting to discover reasons in the guidance of our life in regard to morals and virtues. We should do that which our conscience teaches, for no other reason but because our conscience teaches it. He who does not burn himself will not be burned by God, and God provided him with a conscience into which he may put his implicit trust. To learn from others, to accept the opinion of others, to act in a certain manner because others are acting in that way, is temptation. Therefore faith into the things of the earth should be based upon the Holy Scripture and upon the teachings of Christ, and it will then stand upon a firm basis.
Therefore we shall put the fundament and the corner-stone of our wisdom upon three principal points, which are: first, Prayer, or a strong desire and aspiration for that which is good. It is necessary that we should seek and knock, and thereby ask the Omnipotent Power within ourselves, and remind it of its promises and keep it awake, and if we do this in the proper form and with a pure and sincere heart, we shall receive that for which we ask, and find that which we seek, and the doors of the Eternal that have been closed before us will be opened, and what was hidden before our sight will come to light.
The next point is Faith: not a mere belief into something that may or may not be true, but a faith that is based upon knowledge, an unwavering confidence, a faith that may move mountains and throw them into the ocean, and to which everything is possible, as Christ has Himself testified.
The third point is Imagination. If this power is properly kindled in our soul, we will have no difficulty to make it harmonize with our faith. A person who is sunk into deep thought, and, so to say, drowned in his own soul, is like one who has lost his senses, and the world looks upon him as a fool. But in the consciousness of the Supreme he is wise, and he is, so to say, the confidential friend of God, knowing a great deal more of God's mysteries than all those that receive their superficial learning through the avenues of the senses; because he can reach God through his soul, Christ through faith, and attract the Holy Ghost through an exalted imagination. In this way we may grow to be like the Apostles, and to fear neither death nor prison, neither suffering nor torture, neither fatigue
nor hunger, nor anything else."
On Wandering: "The knowledge to which we are entitled is not confined within the limits of our own country, and does not run after us, but waits until we go in search of it. No one becomes a master of practical experience in his own house, neither will he find a teacher of the secrets of Nature in the corners of his room. We must seek for knowledge where we may expect to find it, and why should the man be despised who goes in search of it? Those who remain at home may live more comfortably, and grow richer than those who wander about; but I neither desire to live comfortably, nor do I wish to become rich. Happiness is better than riches, and happy is he who wanders about, possessing nothing that requires his care. He who wants to study the book of Nature must wander with his feet over its leaves. Books are studied by looking at the letters which they contain; Nature is studied by examining the contents of her treasure-vaults in every country. Every part of the world represents a page in the book of Nature, and all the pages together form the book that contains her great revelations."
On Reading: "Reading never made a physician. Medicine is an art, and requires practice. If it were sufficient to learn to talk Latin, Greek, and l Hebrew, to become a good physician, it would also be I sufficient for one to read Livius to become a great commander-in-chief. I began to study my art by imagining that there was not a single teacher in the world capable to teach it to me, but that I had to acquire it myself. It was the book of Nature, written by the finger of God, which I studied - not those of the scribblers, for each scribbler writes down the rubbish that may be found in his head; and who can sift the true from the false? My accusers complain that I have not entered the temple of knowledge through the "legitimate door." But which one is the truly legitimate door? Galenus and Avicenna, or Nature? I have entered through the door of Nature: her light, and not the lamp of an apothecary's shop has illuminated my way."
On Magic: "Magic and Sorcery are two entirely different things, and there is as much difference between them as there is between light and darkness, and between white and black. Magic is the greatest wisdom and the knowledge of supernatural powers. A knowledge of spiritual things cannot be obtained by merely reasoning logically from external appearances existing on the physical plane, but it may be acquired by obtaining more spirituality, and making one's self capable to feel and to see the things of the spirit.
On Healing: "Christ and the prophets and the apostles had magical powers, acquired less by their learning than by their holiness. They were able to heal the sick by the laying on of their hands and to perform many other wonderful but natural things. The clergymen talk a great deal about such things; but where is the priest of today who can do like Him? It has been said by Christ that His true followers would do the same things and still greater ones; but it would be difficult to find at present one Christian minister who can do anything as Christ did. But if anyone who is not a man-made minister comes and cures the sick by the power of Christ acting through him, they call him a sorcerer and a child of the devil, and are willing to burn him upon a stake."
On Dreams: " You should know that man has the capability (latent or active) to foresee future events and to read the future from the books of the past and from those of the present. Man also possesses a power by which he may see his friends and the circumstances by which they are surrounded, although such persons may be a thousand miles away from him at that time. This art is taught by the spiritual perception of man. It is a power which may become especially active in dreams, and that which is seen in such dreams is the reflection of the light of wisdom and prophecy in man. If a man in his waking state knows nothing of such things, the cause of his ignorance is that he does not understand how to search in himself for the powers that are given to him by God, and by which he may arrive at all the Wisdom, Reason, and Knowledge concerning everything that exists, whether it be near him or far away."
On Clairvoyance: "Sleeping is waking in regard to such arts, because it is the inner light of Nature that acts during sleep on the invisible man, who, notwithstanding his invisibility, is existing as truly as the visible one. The inner man is the natural man, and knows more than the one that is formed of flesh."
* * * * * * *
Clouds of Consciousness, by Gary Harmon
The emergence of a cloud materializing out of the breath of nowhere is similar to the way we have appeared, and the way we will dissipate also. Clouds appear and disappear, they are born and they die. It can be said that they transform continually but their essence remains the same. Without any planning or particular reason, clouds just materialize.
As I watch the different types of clouds floating across the sky, there is a sense of kinship. We have much in common with the 'life' of a cloud. Immortality is a prime feature of the evident transitory existence. They change from a vapor to a visible form, changing again from detectable form back to a diffusion of vapors. There is an eternal implication to the entire procedure. Our life cycle is a very similar process with no memory of the place that we have appeared from; we just become conscious of our existence. How magnificent and astounding this actually is.
Here is a contribution by Pei-chien (1185-1246) a Cloud of Consciousness that dissipated long ago. His words are just as alive as when they were first written.
" Let your actions be like clouds going by; the clouds going by are mindless. Let your stillness be as the valley spirit; the valley spirit is undying. When action accompanies stillness and stillness combines with action, then the duality of action and stillness no longer arises. "
It can be understood consciousness is very sky like. There is nothing to observe at all, just the unoccupied measureless space. Out of nowhere a cloud appears in the atmosphere, in quite the same manner that we are created out of emptiness. The cloud always remains part of the sky, just as we forever remain a vector of empty space.
Sincere Inquiry, by Gary Harmon:
Sincere inquiry is a willingness to notice with attentiveness, exactly what is not there.
The onlooker happily dies from lack of imagination.
Earnest sincerity works faster than tortuous insincerity.
True action is the result of "know thyself" therefore "Thy will be done".
I've learned that silent friendship is often more credible than words of advice.
When all effort collapses, the mind stops and temporary shelter is no longer needed.
The most helpful advice that I was ever given has to do with stained glass windows.
The most awful thing that ever happened to you may be the best thing camouflaged.
There is no doer and nothing to be done... awareness subsequently shifts.
Actionless Awareness, by Gary Harmon
Much is said about non-action and surrendering. What could be called 'actionlessness' appears at face value as a nonsensical statement. This refers to doing nothing as a method of doing something. Seeing the actual truth of this can return one to the original state of awareness.
When you say, "I perform action," it is not Awareness that performs any action. It is the eyes that see, the nose that smells, the thoughts that move in the mind, all in Awareness, in consciousness. Action is of the nature of movement. All actions stand in I-ness, Awareness, the consciousness that is aware of time and space. The planets, the air, the inhabitants, all move only in Awareness. Space itself is in Awareness, the so called "NOW" is in Awareness, so Awareness must be all-encompassing and omnipresent. Where can it move? Where is a stopping or a starting, let alone a now? Awareness, the so called 'I,' is motionless, spaceless, and timeless. It is that which is always present, in which even time continuously moves, or at least gives the impression that it does. Awareness is thus timeless. You are that Awareness in which all things exist, but which itself is liberated from time and space.
Therefore, Action takes place in Awareness, which is action-less. This is one's factual nature. How is that for a 180-degree statement? One who appreciates oneself as action-less does not take oneself to be an actor, in spite of the apparent acting. One recognizes that the mind, sense organs, arms, legs and various other body parts perform their respective tasks and that we are all the one Awareness that is aware of its own awareness. In the divine presence all activities take place, but there is no performing of any action.
The 'I' that is Awareness is action-less, and life from here is eternally tranquil and free from all limitations. Being Aware of the true Self is all that remains in deep, dreamless sleep. The Self is like the ocean that floats upon and swims through itself, for you are both the ocean and all things that swim in it -- the no-thingness and the Allness that becomes obviously the same, which is realized as You.
The Place of No Concern
In the winter of 2000, something happened to me that answered my questions as to who I am and my relationship to life and death, the questions that had somehow haunted me, consciously or not, for most of my adult life. Soon after this event, I wrote in my notes, " I was taken beyond myself into the place of no concern". The years of wandering, of alternating between pleasure and misery, came to an end, along with the searching and longing it generated. Paradoxically, I saw that in all that time I had never really moved. Rather, I simply woke up.
At the time of this occurrence, I was participating in an online confrontation group, my interest in spiritual matters being at a peak. A period of despair had thankfully passed, in which I had mostly given up hope of ever finding anything more than a little peace of mind, and perhaps something to do to pass the years. The online group helped provide the tension needed to push my spiritual interest back to the forefront.
I had been getting glimpses of how the mind works in dividing the personality into opposites, such as the parent/child, ego1/ego2, and God/Charlie Brown, and was determined to somehow transcend this trap. One of the members of the group artfully confronted me, suggesting that something I should look at was how I was in love with my self, the very thing I was trying to separate from. Realizing I was being fooled again, trapped in yet another duality, I came to a dead end. I can't remember the details of the exchange, but it dropped like a depth charge into my mind. Acting as a catalyst, it soon caused a change. This change was something I could not have foreseen, for it was a total change in being, rather than in thought.
I remember sitting on my bed, looking toward the mirror in the bathroom, and suddenly noticing I was no longer the same. It's still very difficult to explain this. It was not a change in thought or feeling, but rather a change in place or perspective. I was no longer 'in the world', but back beyond some inner boundary separating the formal from the informal. It was not traumatic, but rather curious. One of the first things I noticed was that I could see 'Bob', but he could not see me. I thought this strange, and wrote in my notes that he seemed to be asleep or hypnotized, so involved in the world that he could not look back. I soon discovered that he was entirely of the world, being solely the product of experience, and thus incapable of seeing anything else. (The poem below, The Little Man
, came to me at the time in an attempt to describe this first event)
This state continued unabated for a couple of weeks. I spent the time watching Bob, the Little Man, as he went about his day-to-day business, marveling at my newfound lack of concern or worry, though Bob clung to his with his usual fervor. There was no change in the field of emotion coming directly from this change, or answers to any questions, only an interest in how strange it was to find myself completely unattached to thought, emotion, the world, and anything else one might call existence, even though it was all there for the seeing. My attention had been freed from its fixation on and in the personality, though its direction was still outward turned, only. This too, was about to change.
One day off a couple of weeks later, I was out cross-country skiing. I was climbing a long ridge. The slow, easy ascent would take a couple of hours, freeing my thoughts to go where they may. I was relaxed, being in familiar territory where I felt safe, free from worry or concern. As I continued up the hill, I felt that something was trying to get my attention, that perhaps there was someone behind me. I turned around, but was alone on the hill. Still, I could not shake the feeling. It grew steadily though quietly. I soon came to see that it was not in the surroundings, but somewhere within the inner field of the mind. It was as if a still voice were saying, `turn round and look within, and all you seek will be answered'. So, I did. As I looked within at whatever this silent prodding was, a dam burst, and my long pent up questioning could no longer be contained. Over the next couple of hours, all my questions were answered, as my attention was now free to go into the mysterious unknown source within from which all springs.
I saw, without a shadow of a doubt, that whatever looked out from my eyes, was the same in all men. There was no individual, but only Universal Man. Now this was traumatic. It ran counter to the dualistic belief I held that I was either better than, or worse than, everyone else. Not only was I the same, I didn't even exist! As the stream of false notions I took as my `self' came to the surface, they were burned away in the light of truth that was so obviously present, but had been hidden within. I became more and more shaken, and soon found myself laying in the snow, weeping. I came to see that everything was in the same place, at the same time. That everything is One, contained in Nothing. All was possible, all was available, depending on what the Heart desired, and the Heart desired nothing but Itself. Nothing was separate, for no things existed.
At this point, something inside me stopped the process. At the time I thought that `something' saw that something was about to break, and this must not happen. The journey within was halted. I slowly came back to the senses and noticed I was becoming a bit numb from lying in the snow. I shook myself off, got back on my skis and began the long descent to the highway and town. On the way more energy knots, as I've come to call them, were unloosed, as long held beliefs were seen through and discarded. By the time I got home, I was able to reflect on what had happened. I know knew what I was, though I still cannot describe it very well. This `seeing' is still available, though the `oneness with the One' has receded to a faint thread or feel. I can't see how one could function if it were otherwise. Whenever I return to that place in the woods, something of the feeling of what happened still returns.
In the coming weeks, the two incidents began to make sense. The first, the separation of the attention from its fixation in the personality, was the becoming. I had heard this term for years, but always interpreted it as becoming something manifest, some `thing' in the world of thought or mind, such as smarter, bigger, more subtle, wiser; the Big Man. Never would I have seen it for the complete change it was. Never would I have seen that to become, I had first to unbecome, to recede into non-existence. I remember thinking at the time that whatever I had become, it was something unhuman, meaning that I could no longer find any attributes in what I now was, other than what might be called awareness.
The second event was the dissolving of the emotional attachments, or energy knots, which held the attention tightly bound to the unreal assumptions I had taken as reality. I saw that I had taken my very meaning, and placed my highest value, on inherited beliefs, from top to bottom. Now, nothing was my own, for there was no longer anyone to claim anything. Thus, I had freedom to simply see and listen. I no longer had to place my very sense of being in the world of thought and mind. I Was, and that was All. Paradoxically, `Bob' is still pretty much the same. Perhaps a bit more relaxed, but still in and of the world, a reaction pattern without any real existence of his own.
In hindsight, I cannot say I know how all this happened in detail, except to say that I had a bit of luck, a few good friends, and could not rest until I knew what I was and had some real understanding of what was going on in terms of life and death. I had a mantra that expressed the inner angst I felt at not being defined: " I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to find out". I also cannot express the gratitude I feel to several persons who were part of this. Nothing in the search is more valuable than those whose honest concern for your long-term peace takes precedence over the pettiness of your ego. As the years go by, I still find that my home is in the Place of No Concern, as is yours. Will you use the life you have as a return ticket?
The Little Man
From early morning coffee
to late night herbal tea,
We lived for near forever,
the Little Man and me.
When first I came to travel
in this classroom wide and grand,
I knew nothing of the coming
of this lonely Little Man.
But parents, teachers, doctors,
the whole damn Helping Herd,
Soon created him inside me,
As their ancestors had insured.
He has no real existence,
None that I can see.
But could and should and would!
Screamed the Little Man in me.
Soon I hid myself in pride,
Found that fear blocked every door.
I was now what I despised!
Just as those that'd gone before.
The hypnosis worked it's magic,
No peace had I, no stand.
Just a mis-identification,
I became the Little Man.
I took him for a person,
Hell, I thought that he was me!
He sure could be convincing,
that Little Man in me.
Then one day it happened,
I know not really why,
I looked out there below me
From some Great Eternal Sky.
He didn't even notice,
So busy as a bee,
He just kept right on sleeping, but
that Little Man ain't me!
One day looking in the mirror,
From my bed as I did stand,
I receded back behind him,
that sleeping Little Man.
He didn't even notice,
Just a grain lost in the sand,
He can't look back and see me,
that lonely Little Man.
I watch him and his pattern,
How he blends right in so well,
That his life and his surroundings
are no different from himself.
He has no greater vision,
Desire and fear are all he sees.
An actor in the TV,
that Little Man in me.
It's a sad but true short story,
I cry a tear, and so does he,
He won't survive, he lives to die,
the Little Man in me.
Copyright 2003 - 2006 Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.