Ramakrishna-Vivekanada: October '03
This month's Missal takes a look at two of the greatest Indian saints of recent times, Ramakrishna, and Vivekananda. Sri Ramakrishna was born in 1836 in a small village outside Calcutta. Even as a young boy he was intensely religious, losing himself in rapture at the sites of beauty in nature, and taking on the characters of religious Hindu figures. His mystical trances became even more common as he grew older. He was given the job of keeper of a temple to the Goddess Kali when a young man, and he took the statue of the goddess to be her living form. His longing for her became so intense, that he pulled the ceremonial dagger from the statue and declared to kill himself if she did not reveal herself to him. Suddenly, " the blessed Mother revealed herself. The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious … within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother." The goddess stayed in constant contact with Ramakrishna from then on.
His seemingly mad behavior continued, causing his family to consult with holy women as to whether the madness was ordinary and cause for concern, or whether it was a "holy madness', and should be respected. The conclusion was the latter, and Ramakrishna began to gain respect from his family and neighbors, as his spiritual longing continued to grow.
Ramakrishna soon met a traveling ascetic by the name of Totapuri, who was an enlightened follower of the nondualist form of Vedanta philosophy, Advaita. After consulting with the goddess Kali, who admitted she had set up their meeting, he became Totapuri's disciple, and under his instruction, Ramakrishna experienced nirvikalpa samadhi after only one day of practice, something Totapuri had struggled to attain for over forty years.
Totapuri's Teaching on Advaitha
" Brahman is the only Reality, ever-pure, ever-illumined, ever-free, beyond the limits of time, space, and causation. Though apparently divided by names and forms through the inscrutable agency of Maya (illusion), that enchantress which makes the impossible possible, Brahman is really one and undivided. When a seeker is merged in the beautitude of Samadhi, he does not perceive time and space or name and form - the production of Maya. Whatever is within the domain of Maya is unreal; give it up. Dive deep in the search for Self and be firmly established in It through Samadhi. You will then find the world of name and form vanishing into nothing, and this puny ego merging into cosmic consciousness. "
Around this time, a following of disciples began to form around Ramakrishna, including his future successor, Vivekananda. Ramakrishna's enthusiastic manner of living and ease with which he entered into samadhi, made a great impression on all who came to see him. He did not care for the Hindu religious formality of the time, and was spontaneous and childlike in his life and teaching. He taught that a seeker should use whatever path presented itself to him, and follow it to its end, as all paths could lead to liberation, whether Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. He continued to teach and be an inspiration, even through the illness of throat cancer, from which he died in 1886.
He who has attained God keeps only an appearance of ego... He becomes like a child...
He becomes as quickly detached from a thing as he becomes attached to it...
All persons are the same to a child. He has no feeling of high and low in regard to persons. So he doesn't discriminate about caste. The child doesn't know hate or what is holy or unholy. - Ramakrishna
His foremost student, Vivekananda, was similar in his desire to know the truth, but more intellectual in his temperament. While Ramakrishna was illiterate and inclined to flights of samadhi and ecstasy, Vivekananda was well educated and disciplined in his behavior. Born in 1863, Vivekananda was possessed of a strong analytical mind, steeped in scientific thought, and a good singer to boot. It was this that led him to meeting Ramakrishna at a neighboring devotees house, where he was asked to fill in as a singer for a devotional gathering. Prior to this, Vivekananda had begun asking questions such as "who is God?". He would ask of all religious people he met the question - "Have you seen God?" But so far, he had not met anyone who would answer him. His first impression of Ramakrishna was that "It was a most unusual kind of meeting. I could not understand the peculiar behavior of that mad, monomaniac Brahmin". He thought Ramakrishna's samadhi to be a form of hypnosis, the product of weak minds. But being inexplicably drawn to visit the saint once again, he put to him his question of "Sir, have you seen God?', to which Ramakrishna replied,"Yes, I see Him as clearly as one sees an apple over the palm, nay, even more intently! And not only this, you can also see Him". Then, as he went into samadhi, Ramakrishna touched Vivekananda with his right foot, and sent him into a state of intense mental disassociation, the room began to swirl, and Vivekananda came face to face with the fear of the death of his "I-ness", which he realized was the same as his own death. The experience went as quickly as it came, leaving Vivekananda shaken in his previous belief in his infallible control over his own mind.
He became an ardent disciple of Ramakrishna, spending many hours learning the wisdom of the sage, until Ramakrisha's passing. He then undertook the task of forming an order of monks, dedicated to passing on the teachings of Vedanta and Ramakrishna, thus the Ramakrishna Mission was formed. By 1888, Vivekananda became restless, and left the monastery for a life of wandering the Himalayas. His travels continued for several years, giving him a great understanding of the conditions and burdens of the common man. He began to see that science and religion need not be antagonistic to each other, and that the western mind may bear fruit if the seeds of Truth were planted. In 1893 he was invited to represent Hinduism at the first World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Here, his ability to communicate the validity of the spiritual search came into flower. He stayed in the West off and on for several years, giving talks in America and Europe. During one of these talks, a young man, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, then a student of mathematics, became convinced that the spiritual path was the only one worth following, and began his search in earnest. He gained Realization some twenty years later, after an intense life of inner study.
- Vivekananda on Concentration -
The mind takes up various objects, runs into all sorts of things. That is the lower state. There is a higher state of the mind, when it takes up one subject, and excludes all others, of which Samadhi is the result. We should put our mind on things; they should not draw our minds to them. We are usually forced to concentrate. Our minds are forced to become fixed upon different things by an attraction in them which we cannot resist. To control the mind, to place it just where we want it, requires special training. It cannot be done in any other way. In the study of religion the control of the mind is absolutely necessary. We have to turn the mind back upon itself in this study. Concentration is the essence of all knowledge; nothing can be done without it. Ninety per cent of thought force is wasted by the ordinary human being, and therefore he is constantly committing blunders; the trained man or mind never makes a mistake.
Vivekananda spent much of the next decade teaching in the west, spreading the message of Ramakrishna and Vedanta, and teaching that all religions were a valid path for the sincere seeker. He spent his last years in India helping the Ramakrishna Mission. It is told that on the day before his death, he informed his fellow monks that he would be leaving on the morrow. The next day, in 1902, he bid farewell, and left the body.
- Related Sites -
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York: "The Center bases its teachings on the System of Vedanta, which combines both the religion and philosophy of the Hindus, especially as explained by Sri Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda. Vedanta teaches that every soul is potentially divine, and that its divinity may be manifested through worship, contemplation, unselfish work, and philosophical discrimination." http://www.ramakrishna.org/
The Complete Works of Vivekananda:
Vedanta Society of Southern California: " India, with her wealth of spiritual tradition, has produced many spiritual giants. One of the greatest was Ramakrishna (1836-1886). His life was a testament to truth, universality, love and purity. - To study the origin of the Vedanta movement in America is to study Swami Vivekananda and his travels across the US. We like to put the spotlight on him since his message about self-effort, strength, and freedom of the soul is especially favored by the Western mind. But who was he? What was the magic in his message that made him so popular in America and his homeland of India?" http://www.vedanta.org
Cosmic Harmony : Good, thorough biography of Ramakrishna and his path to Liberation. Includes the story of his meeting with Totapuri and Avaita.
"Maya is nothing but 'woman and gold'.
A man living in its midst gradually loses his spiritual
alertness. He thinks all is well with him.
The scavenger carries a tub of night-soil on his head,
and in course of time loses his repulsion to it. "
Tricks and Traps
Trap: The belief that a memory or past event is painful in and of itself. Memories, as all images, are actually neutral in and of themselves. There is a negative energy knot linked to the memory image, and as soon as we are aware of that memory, and feel the knot, we feel pain. Our mind had placed a negative value on the event (created an energy knot), and unconsciously continues to do so in the present (feeds the knot). What makes it painful now is our reaction in the present moment, not the event in the past. We are still caring for the knot. We make it painful now because we re-react to it, through the continued identification.
Trick:Becoming detached from the memory. If we can re-examine the memory-event and understand it, we may free ourselves from it and release the knot. Then when we see the memory, there will be no pain. The pain is not in the memory; the pain is in our mind's reaction, through its interpretation and identification with the characters in the images. We feel the pain because we still believe, unconsciously, that the event is real, happening to us in the present moment. If we detach ourselves emotionally (and therefore energetically) from the events playing themselves out on our memory screen, we can dispel the pain of identification. Any value or identification we have placed on images can be removed, starving the knots, leading to freedom. Trouble is, most of us do not want to be free: we are in love with our mind-misery.
Bonus Trick: Being detached from the images you see NOW. Apply the above Trick to the present moment's events.
The Inward Journey
"If a man clings tenaciously to truth he ultimately realizes God. Without this regard for truth he gradually loses everything. If by chance I say that I will go to the pine-grove, I must go there even if there is no further need of it, lest I lose my attachment to truth. "
To begin on a journey to ultimate Truth, we would be wise to begin by learning to find the truth in little things. If we are to find the Truth about ourselves, of which we must first admit we know nothing, we start by observing the truth in the everyday events of our day-to-day lives. Now we may say, "I don't have time for that, I'm going straight for the Big Truth, and let the small stuff sort itself out later". The mistake in this thinking may be not obvious, but it is crucial that we understand it. It is the ego which makes such statements, and the ego does not, by definition, know or understand Truth. The thief is not going to turn out a policeman to catch himself. To avoid the trap of endlessly fooling ourselves through trusting our Becoming to our least reliable part, we must take measures to insure our direction will be the right one, and our path straight and narrow. This is found by going for the truth in the little things.
As Ramakrishna says, if we are to find the God within, we will do so through clinging to the truth in all matters. This fights the hold of the ego by gradually exposing the small but prevalent untruths we are so fond of. The ego loves to have us running about, looking for that Future Pie in the Sky, while here on earth, in the present, we are deluding ourselves as to our present situation, and its underlying motivations. The ego, or mind, is quite capable of tricking us through rationalization, procrastinating, and over-intellectualization into actually looking away from the truth, about anything. This way the mind keeps its power, is self-sustaining, surviving as Head Honcho, while proudly proclaiming to be the guide in the Quest for Ultimate Truth. Any time we have a problem, resistance, question, or doubt, no matter how small, we would do well to look for the truth behind it, and let the ego be damned. This makes us into a force or vector, and counters the stranglehold of the associative mind.
This path of the reverse vector, of backing away from untruth, will take courage and calm, for we will see the truth of that which we have spent a lifetime hiding from: our 'self '. A way to get this self out in the open, and thus separate from it, is to watch our thoughts and feelings with detachment. This is not as easy as it sounds. Most of us identify with and act out our thoughts, and especially our feelings, and are thus, in a way, oblivious to them.
Any time we feel an ache or pain rising from within, if we see it as being a cause for behavior, we can use this opportunity to examine how these feelings cause our thinking, and form us psychologically. Whenever a thought or feeling comes that is cause for trouble, just look at it. Sit with it until you see its causes, until you understand it, and see its truth. If instead, we immediately start thinking or analyzing, we can be led down the road of meaningless associations. Guided by the ego, which is avoiding the truth at all costs, we are spun away from the problem into intellectual solutions and the curing of symptoms. We also make a mistake, being obsessed with fixing and tweaking our own personality with the personality, if we carry this into trying to help others. By giving advice, by judging, and by dismissing their problems and struggles as irrelevant because their problems are not as ours, we reinforce our own ego as truth, and thus rob our fellows as well as ourselves of the chance for grace or inner wisdom. This means we are not listening to them, because we don't know yet know how to listen to ourselves. This rooting out of untruths is done, first and foremost, inside our own head and heart. If we find we are focusing on our neighbor's problems, and proclaim to be fighting for the truth, we do them a grave injustice. As Rumi says, "I honor those who try to rid themselves of any lying, who empty the self and have only clear being there." By looking at the faults of our neighbor and ignoring our own, thinking we are without ambition and falsehood, we form a dangerous pattern of self-delusion by engaging in a form of egoistic trickery. If instead, we sit patiently with our faults and problems, and are strong enough to watch and listen, then we have the possibility of receiving help, rather than creating mischief. This receiving, or listening, gives us answers from within, in direct response to the need. This requires time, patience, courage, and the placing of value on something other than the reactive mind or robot.
Now this business of becoming a vector towards Truth is very tricky. As ego, we are liable to be guided by pride and fear as much as by common sense and intuition. Being identified with the ego as us, we cannot trust ourselves to set the course, alone. We must let the Truth within guide us to Itself. Now, this may sound like a paradox, and it is, but it is also not impossible. The practical path in following this, is the aiming of our vector in a reverse direction. We find the truth about the small things, and thus slowly back away from the small untruths. In this manner we gradually establish a true direction, away from the world without and its governing egos, and back within towards that which is manifestly more truthful. In other words, if we allow the ego and its survival mechanisms to guide us, it will lead us to having a better and better ego, but will not carry us to that which Is. The building and maintenance of the ego/mind is a zero-sum game, given eventual old age and death; it can't last. We cannot take the path of only getting better and better, faced with our given end. We must take the harder road to final Being, or the Truth.
Now we come to the subject of motivation, as well as discrimination. The farther we travel within, the more seemingly bleak the landscape. The ego will balk when it sees the coming silence. It will grasp at whatever 'spiritual truths' it might have picked up along the way, hoping to stop the inward plunge to what it knows is its own destruction. Our commitment and vector will be sorely challenged. Many are the temptations and excuses we will encounter, giving us ample opportunity to stop. Soon, the mind can no longer see anything ahead but seeming dark silence, and will long to retreat to the safety of words and teachers, paths and practice. Your inward momentum, your love of Truth, built up through years of wielding the sword of discrimination, will still be there to guide you, even when life disappears and only silence remains... but your ego will not. Who will you trust?
- Quotes of the Month -
" People speak of doing good to the world. Is the world such a small thing? And who are you, pray, to do good to the world? First realize God, see Him by means of spiritual discipline. If He imparts power, then you can do good to others, otherwise not.
" God doesn't appear easily in the heart of a man who feels himself to be his own master. But God can be seen the moment His grace descends. One can see God only if He turns His light toward His own face." - Ramakrishna
" Stand as a rock; you are indestructible. You are the Self (atman), the God of the universe.
We see that the apparent contradictions and perplexities in every religion mark but different stages of growth. The end of all religions is the realizing of God in the soul. That is the one universal religion.
A man may be the greatest philosopher in the world but a child in religion. When a man has developed a high state of spirituality he can understand that the kingdom of heaven is within him." - Vivekananda
" People who are sensible about love are incapable of it." - Douglas Yates
" A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free." - Kazantzakis
" When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained." - Mark Twain
" Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" - Walt Whitman
Some people are like Slinkies - they're not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs. - Anon
Look at him now, poor fellow. That's what a dose of reality does for you. Never touch the stuff myself, you understand. Find it gets in the way of the hallucinations. - Alan Moore
One day I shall burst my bud of calm and blossom into hysteria. - Christopher Fry
Tricks and Traps
Trap:Proclaiming our surrender to God's Will. With good intentions and naive ignorance, we may decide to 'surrender' our will to that of God's, and then, perhaps unconsciously, begin to create a divine Code of Conduct that matches our own personal interpretation of 'God's Will'. Thus, we build up our prideful ego by inventing a God and his 'will' that aligns with our own. (The personal will is recognized by it's judging of events, through its dual, reflexive nature.)
Trick: Willing the moment. By willing events, people, and whatever is in front of our face, i.e. the facts, we surrender our ideas of God and His Will, and instead accept the present moment, as it is presented to us. In this manner, our will becomes His. God's Will IS, it does not reflect upon Itself. But, wouldn't letting go of control result in disaster?
Trap: Fear of losing control. We may fear that the loss of personal will will bring about a loss of control and a downward spiral into negative action. This is the ego's trick of splitting itself into good and bad, and identifying with its good side, while relegating its bad qualities to the feared "not-self": the big bad unknown side of us we won't own. As long as the ego is in charge, this 'bad' side is active and 'in control' part of the time anyway; we just won't admit it.
Trick: Loss of 'self ' or ego is loss of fear. That which is afraid, is that which is unreal. How could God fear His own Will?
" I will also tell you a secret. We have to will one another: this is the beginning of conscious love."
- Maurice Nicoll
Principal and Paradox
“ Know thou thyself? Art thou the asker of the question or answerer of thine own question?
Thou art not the quest, and yet first must thou find thyself.
To be the quest, oh soul, thou must first be a seeker. To avoid action, thou must first determine for great action.
Peace to the wanderer. " - Richard Rose
Through a lifetime of being led astray into the wilderness of temptation and frustration, our wandering attention has become hypnotized by the mind, motion and dissipation, to become only outward turned, and thus we have forgotten our Self. In our search for happiness and peace, longing to return to our former Home, we may hear that our true nature is always with us, that there is nowhere to go, nothing to become, for we already Are, and have always Been. Our vanity and pride may listen to such statements with relish, for it takes us off the hook of having to do any real work. While there is Truth is the principal that we Are, that nothing needs to be done, if we are only hearing this with the intellect, which may be governed by unconscious factors that hold sway over our energy, we will remain ignorant and asleep. Clinging to blind belief in principal is rationalization, not realization. We cannot, from a position of ignorance, insist that we have nothing to do, until we have realized the Self, in full awareness, and thus are safely Home. Declaring that we are above the fray by believing there is nothing to do is a cop out, until we know for sure Who We Are. Until then, we must challenge and test our principals to see if they are just a cover for self-centered desire and fear.
The misuse of principal through our misguided intellect only serves to keep us from putting forth the effort necessary in finding our way back out of the dark underbrush we have been taught to love. It does not, in and of itself, lead us back out into the Light of Truth. This is a fool's creed, that of claiming that he is perfect in essence, and nothing is to be done. This could be an excuse to remain trapped in obsession and pride, so as to continue to wallow in the mud of our false 'self'. The rationalizing intellect uses the trick of claiming that the mind can never free itself from itself, in order to avoid any work or pain that might result from the person seeing the truth of his present state.
A definite shock is necessary to break the cycle of rationalization and let the truth of the matter slip past the ego, and stop our head. The head, or intellect, can be under the influence of other forces, such as laziness, pride, or negative emotional conviction states, and as such, cannot be trusted to make decisions concerning our essence-survival until we have traveled a little farther down the road. Here we run into the paradox: that we must work on the mind with the mind, even though we have heard, and have the intuition, that there is nothing that can be done with the mind, it being the problem. The acceptance of this paradox will free us from the tyranny of intellectual principal which may be under the influence of unconscious emotional states. Until these 'self ' sustaining states are brought up into the Light and observed, we must use clear reason and developed intuition to free us from this trap. The paradox cannot be explained away with the intellect. This would be exactly what principal claims should not be done: the mind working on the mind. The answer to the problem of paradox is not its removal, but its acceptance through a higher understanding beyond the finite mind. For this, the shock of seeing the mind and its mechanical nature in its entirety is paramount, and is brought about through the relentless task of scrutinizing the 'self' until the tension brought forth from truth and paradox produces the necessary shock.
This task of 'know thyself' is a tricky one, for here another trap presents itself: that of the intellect becoming lost in endless circles of self-analysis. What is needed is not analysis for its own sake or to bolster the ego in its pride and fear, but to free our energy and attention from the habitual learned reaction-patterns we have acquired through identification with the reaction-pattern itself. A point must come when we run head on into paradox, and discover we have become obsessed with chasing our own tail by becoming very clever at describing it. What is necessary is the shock of truly seeing our own mechanical nature, which finally frees our wandering attention from the mind and its restless motion. Once the attention is freed from the mind, it is able to listen and receive, rather than be mesmerized by interpretation and projection, only.
The solution to the apparent problem of principal and paradox is not the domination of one over the other, but their marriage in higher understanding. They are not mutually exclusive, but partners in a team that can free our trapped awareness from the pattern of mind-motion that holds us enthralled. Thus freed, this awareness can turn within, and perhaps come to see something more than thought, motion, and contradiction. We will know then that knowledge of principal need not interfere with right action, and that paradox is a guide to the Goal.
- Quotes of the Month -
" 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.
" I see no evidence of a system that leads to Truth -- only general guidelines. The rest depends on your honesty. Take heart, for all can find their way to honesty." - Shawn Nevins
" When all effort collapses, the mind stops and temporary shelter is no longer needed.
" The most awful thing that ever happened to you may be the best thing camouflaged." - Gary Harmon
" Many are desperately trying to force reality to reveal itself, when they haven't yet discovered and seen as false the self they've taken a lifetime to create.
" Our mind has an amazing ability to split itself. The effect of this on the seeker of self-knowledge is to lead him about in endless circles of egos, never getting a true look at himself. 'The world is divided into people who think they are right' also applies to the world inside our heads." - Bob Fergeson
" Most do not succeed in reaching the goal simply because the goal is a state of Effortlessness. It is abiding in non-doing and doing can not lead to non-doing! Effortlessness can not be had through effort, but we can reach the goal easily and quickly through a daily practice of Effortlessness, and nothing will remain undone. "- Michael Connors
" I feel that a sincere seeker who possessed the determination to find the Truth at any cost, suffering, or expenditure of energy, would most certainly find the Truth, if he followed the threefold path with an open mind. The part of the path which is hardest to realize is that dealing with the brotherhood or school.... This latter requires compatibility with a group of people and requires that we find a group that is doing something worthwhile." - Richard Rose
" We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we can respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children are smart." - H.L. Mencken
On going to war over religion: " You're basically killing each other to see who's got the better imaginary friend."-Rich Jeni
" Religion is a defense against the experience of God." - Carl Jung
Cloud of Unknowing
This Month's Missal takes a look at the author of The Cloud of Unknowing. An unknown medieval mystic of 14th century England, he is also believed to the author of The Epistle of Privy Counsel and The Epistle of Prayer. Written around the year 1375, The Cloud of Unknowing was written as a letter of advice to a young novice just setting out on the path of contemplation. The author, believed to have been a country parson, writes in a personal, direct style, hoping to share his knowledge of contemplation with the young would-be monk. The Epistle of Privy Counsel is this same teacher, some years later, giving further instruction and encouragement to the same novice.
While this little book may be simple, short, and direct, it is not lacking in substance, laying out the path of apophatic(without images) mysticism in clear terms. It might be called a hand-book for going within, once one gets past the religious language and terminology of the time.
The theme of the Cloud of Unknowing is of turning one's attention within, away from the mind and its objects. The attention is turned inward upon itself, and since it is now focused on nothing the mind can understand, sees only a 'cloud of unknowing', a seeming nothingness. For most seekers, this can be frustrating, if not impossible, for it gives no immediate reward, or even an object or image for their mind to grasp. To simply aim one's attention at its own source is to look back up the ray of one's awareness, where the mind and ego cannot go. This also takes the attention off of the body and its desires and fears, along with the senses and outer environment.
For when you first begin to undertake it, all that you find is a darkness, a sort of cloud of unknowing; you cannot tell what it is, except that you experience in your will a simple reaching out to God [a naked entent unto God]. This darkness and cloud is always between you and your God, no matter what you do, and it prevents you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your reason, and from experiencing him in sweetness of love in your affection.
- You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love. -
... no man can think of God himself. Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. Because he can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought. - Cloud of Unknowing
The author tells his charge that there are two kinds of students in the religious life: the active and the contemplative. The active type are the ones engaged in church life, in charity and spreading the word, and in maintaining the structure of the church. The contemplative's are those who are involved only in the inner task of becoming one with God. He is interested in teaching the young disciple this art of contemplation, to which he believes the young man has been called. Much is said of this difference between the active and contemplative life, and of the signs one can use in confirming whether one is called to move up from the active to the contemplative.
He places much emphasis on correctly understanding the task of contemplation, and in not confusing it with the work of the active life. He tells of the dangers of misunderstanding such key words as "up", and "in", and how not to confuse them with the actions of the body, or even the mind, but of understanding how they are meant for the placing of the attention or longing, the soul's desire rather than the ego's. This is just as important today, for an obsession with thought or feeling induced bliss and ecstasy do not lead one directly to one's source, and can be the cause of much misunderstanding and misery later on; only the awareness can find Itself.
I would have you be neither outside yourself, above yourself, nor behind, nor on one side or the other. "Where then," you will say, "am I to be? According to your reckoning, nowhere!" Now indeed you speak well, for it is there that I would have you. Because nowhere bodily is everywhere spiritually. Take good care, then, that your spiritual exercise is nowhere bodily. Leave aside this everywhere and this everything, in exchange for this nowhere and this nothing. Never mind at all if your senses have no understanding of this nothing; Who is he that calls it nothing? It is surely our outward man, not our inward. Our inward man calls it All.
(paraphrased, from Cloud of Unknowing)
The same author gives us a translation of Dionysious' Mystical Teaching, also written by an unknown author from perhaps the late fifth or early sixth century. Until this translation was made public, the work of Dionysius had been available only to the educated religious elite.
" Dionysius is the most important ancient voice advocating an apophatic mysticism. Apophatic is a Greek word meaning "without images." An apophatic mysticism, therefore, is an approach to the interior life that seeks to find the Holy at a level deeper (or higher) than any physical thing -- or even beyond any word or mental image." - Carl McColman
The gift of The Cloud is its simple message of going beyond the mind. We cannot find our Source, or "God", by thinking, or through worded thought, but only through what it calls love or longing. This may be called a vector, a direction we follow through our intuition, even after we have gone beyond our mind. It leads us into an uncharted realm, a cloud of unknowing in the back of beyond, where we lose our 'self'. If we continue into this Great Unknown, guided by this longing, perhaps we will meet our Self, and find we have been there all along.
For whoever hears or reads about all this, and thinks that it is fundamentally an activity of the mind, and proceeds then to work it all out along these lines, is on quite the wrong track. He manufactures an experience that is neither spiritual or physical.
He is dangerously misled and in real peril. - Cloud of Unknowing
I recommend the Clifton Wolters translation for its readability, the version that contains The Cloud of Unknowing, The Epistle of Privy Counsel, The Epistle of Prayer and Dionysius' Mystical Teaching.
- Related Sites -
The Cloud of Unknowing : Complete text of the Evelyn Underhill translation, from Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Somewhat hard version to read, being Underhill kept the Middle English tone and vocabulary, but free. Several formats available.
Tricks and Traps
Trap: Claiming true knowledge of and allegiance to the words of a spiritual teacher (preferably one who's not currently present) to the point of not trusting or placing value on your own judgment and intuition. Thus, we take ourselves out of the game and remain safely buried in ignorance and fantasy.
Trick:Trusting yourself: Through having the courage to learn from experience, we give the Inner Self the chance to further our education, using life and circumstance as its classroom.
" The challenge is to persist in this work till the secret meaning is secret no longer, but obvious. Thus encouraged let's get down to work at once." - Douglas Harding
" The ego is one of the biggest obstructions to the achievement of anything."
- Richard Rose
Much is being said of late of the value of work or practice in spiritual awakening. Proponents on both sides of the argument can agree on only one thing: that there is something to attain above and beyond the normal state of ego-attachment and its resultant misery. But should we work and strive towards this goal? Or should we simply take the path of least resistance, and hearing that we are already enlightened but just don't know it, make effortlessness our path? The confusion that springs from this seeming disagreement is illusory, as is the problem itself. The solution is in the definition of work, and of what is being worked on. Let's take a look at this from both sides, and see if we can come to a better understanding.
First, let's look at what does not constitute spiritual work, but is nevertheless practice for many. Herein lies the trap of what is called compensation, or ego-survival. As infants, we are relatively innocent, clear, so to speak, and have not yet learned the games of compromise we will later deem necessary for our survival in society. We have many excellent teachers waiting to begin our education in life, consisting of parents, teachers, siblings, relatives, and any other looming figure who has not done any real work on themselves. Soon, they have convinced us that not only do we exist, but we are a thing, defined not only by what is inside our hide, but also by what others tell us we are, and even by what they think. We are kept guessing at this ever-changing definition, never getting it quite right, but under the relentless pressure of society, we are taught we must keep at it. Eventually, with the onset of puberty and sex, we are hopelessly trapped in a box of our own belief, which must be continually re-created and maintained for our very survival, or so we have been led to believe.
This process of compromise and outright degradation, forces us to create what is commonly called "the unconscious". This functions as a trash receptacle in which every thought and feeling which does not fit the acquired pattern is sent: 'out of sight, out of mind'. These articles of 'garbage' are not destroyed, but kept in limbo, and some may be very much alive and active, though we cannot let ourselves be aware of this. A few examples: it could be that a person has a state of mind, inherited, that he must be successful and 'better than', though he may not even be of average intelligence and lacks worldly ambition. He cannot let himself see this contradiction, for it would threaten his very sense of individuality. Any event that would point out the facts of the matter, must be put out of sight. Another may have acquired an ideal which runs counter to nature and desire, and which boosts the person's ego by giving them virtues they may not really possess. When the person acts or thinks contrary to the assumed pattern, it cannot be allowed into the light of day, but must be repressed. We all have a near infinite variety of these beliefs, which we insist on as fact, though the facts about ourselves is something we know precious little about.
Now we are getting close to seeing what can happen when we decide that 'work on ourselves' is simply more of the above self-deception. We may see that we are built of contradictions, many of which are dualities of unconscious actions or beliefs with their conscious compensations. We may decide that the solution is in reinforcing or strengthening these compensations, while hiding their causes. We then label this as 'spiritual work'. Many are the traps that lie in this pit of deceit. What if we are attracted to a Guru simply because we still unconsciously crave Daddies' approval? What will we do, as far as practice is concerned, if the Guru sees this, and refuses the game? What if we are driven to spiritual work by inner anxiety, and succeed in finding just the right compensation in a prescribed method of distraction(meditation), become 'peaceful', and all striving stops, far short of the Goal?
All of the above is simply the ego desperately trying to survive, regardless of the facts. True practice is that which helps us to see our tricks of self-delusion, and thus reveals our sense of individuality, not reinforces it. We have filled our hearts with garbage, and cannot allow ourselves to admit it. We may have now become that which we despised at a much earlier age, and can no longer even recognize ourselves. A method of real work would be one that helps us to not only face these errors, but one which helps us rid our soul of its burden of false identity. Our very sense of existing as a thing, i.e. the ego, must be dealt with, not reinforced. Here is where true effort and practice comes into play. As we are, we are not capable of recognizing the simple truths about our 'self', much less that of the Truth of our Self, as we really are.
Cleaning the machine, or ridding ourselves of the acquired patterns and beliefs that bind us in self-deception, endless compensation and stagnation, is true work. We must begin to face our fact-status, and lose the false 'self's' that keep us asleep. We hear often from the teachers of old that a quiet mind is key to spiritual attainment. This is not simply the projecting of one thought or a pattern of thoughts to drown out the raging turmoil that may lie within. The possibility of Becoming starts with a quiet mind, which in turn is the result of facing this buried turmoil, of facing our buried conscience, and relieving ourselves of the unconscious and its contents by bringing them up into the Light of our own Mind.
Spiritual work does not lie in the building up of the ego. That is the job of life and society. Given this, those are right who insist we must simply listen to the silence, and all will be done. The work is in ridding ourselves of that which is false, and returning to our innocence, " as little children". By this, those who would have us work, are right. Can you truly say you are beyond ego, the false-self, and have nothing to do but wait for the Light of the Self to illuminate you? If not, and you admit that life has had an effect on your mind and soul, then practice.
- Quotes of the Month -
" In itself, humility is nothing else but a true knowledge and awareness of oneself as one really is."
" You will ask me how to destroy this stark awareness of your own existence. For you are thinking that if it were destroyed all other difficulties would vanish, too. And you would be right."
" Therefore, if I am able to give a vital and wholehearted attention to this spiritual activity within my soul, I can then view my eating and drinking, my sleep and conversation and so on with comparative indifference. I would rather acquire a right discretion in these matters by such indifference, than by giving them my close attention, and weighing carefully all their pros and cons. Let men say what they will: experience teaches." - from The Cloud of Unknowing
" Into this supreme and dazzling darkness we pray that we may come, that by not seeing and not knowing we may see and know him who is beyond all seeing and knowing through this very act of not seeing or knowing; and at this supreme peak of being, by dismissing all things that are, that we may praise him who is himself above all. " - Dionysius
" Because every thought enters the heart in the form of a mental image of some sensible object, the blessed light of the Divinity will illumine the heart only when the heart is completely empty of everything and so free from all form. Indeed, this light reveals itself to the pure intellect in the measure to which the intellect is purged of all concepts." - St. Hesychios the Priest
" To revolve in the circle of one's laziness is simply death. When we realize crisis is in the nature of the universe and is not some person's fault, we begin to grow up." - Maurice Nicoll
" Whether one has natural talent or not, any learning period requires the willingness to suffer uncertainty and embarrassment. " - Gail Sheehy
" One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star." - G. K. Chesterton
"How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?"
- Woody Allen
" Remember, there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over."
- Frank Zappa
John of Ruysbroeck
This month's Missal takes a look at the Flemish medieval mystic, John of Ruysbroeck. Born in Belgium in 1293 in the village of Ruysbroeck, little is known of him until he ran away from home at the age of eleven. He went to Brussels to live with his uncle, Jan Hinckaert, the canon of the Cathedral of St Gudule. Raised by Hinckaert and another priest, Francis van Coudenberg, he was taught the contemplative life in the Church and Cathedral, learning of prayer and good works. He became a priest in 1317, and remained in the cathedral in Brussels until he was fifty, in 1343.
During this period, Ruysbroeck began his transformation into what he later called a "God-seeing man". He took issue with those who hid in the life of religion, saying that men should be active in life as well as turning inward to God. He also took issue with what he viewed as the false teachings of certain mystics of the day, who taught that man himself was divine, and thus no effort or discipline was needed. These sects taught that an inner blankness or emptiness was our foundation, thus no connection to anything higher was possible, and no inner Truth was to be found, thus anything goes. Based on his own experience of the inner journey, he wrote in defense of what he saw as the true path, one of discipline and discrimination, founded on a simple, moral life, and that the emptiness of the other so-called mystics was actually a loss of connection with the Inner Truth.
Knowledge of ourselves teaches us whence we come, where we are and whither we are going. We come from God and we are in exile; and it is because our potency of affection lends towards God that we are aware of this state of exile. - John of Ruysbroeck
At the age of fifty, Ruysbroeck, along with Coudenberg and Hinckaert, grew tired of the pressure and distractions of cathedral life and moved to the old hermitage of Groenendael, or the Green Valley, in the forest of Soignes. Here, he wrote his major works, including The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, The Sparkling Stone, and The Book of the Supreme Truth. Tradition tells us that he would only write when inspired to do so by the Holy Ghost, and would walk through the woods to sit under a favorite tree when he felt the inspiration was at hand. One story speaks of a group of brothers, worried at his long absence, finding him at last under the tree in the glen, wrapped in a brilliant aura of Divine Light. He lived at Groenendael for the rest of his days, passing away in 1381 at the age of 88.
When love has carried us above all things ... we receive in peace the Incomprehensible Light, enfolding us and penetrating us. What is this Light, if it be not a contemplation of the Infinite, and an intuition of Eternity? We behold that which we are, and we are that which we behold; because our being, without losing anything of its own personality, is united with the Divine Truth. - John of Ruysbroeck
Ruysbroeck teaches that the truly spiritual, or ghostly, man has three stages in the contemplative life, each reaching progressively higher and more inward than the last. This growth is marked by the stages of the Active, Interior, and Superessential Life, called in The Sparkling Stone by the old names of the state of Servant, Friend, and Son. The progression is marked by the increasingly inward movement of the soul. The active man is still involved primarily with good works, while the superessential man is almost completely turned within towards the Divine Light. This journey within is based upon an orderly and reasoned view of the universe, giving the necessary foundation for the intuitive glance, "a simple staring ", to ascend beyond reason and concepts into ultimate truth. Ultimate truth, Ruysbroeck says, is not accessible to the human reason: "the What-ness of God" we can never know.
"Behold! by each of these images, I show forth to God-seeing men their being and their exercise, but none else can understand them. For the contemplative life cannot be taught. But where the Eternal Truth reveals Itself within the spirit all that is needful is taught and learnt.
For when we go out in love beyond and above all things, and die to all observation in ignorance and in darkness, then we are wrought and transformed through the Eternal Word, Who is the Image of the Father. In this idleness of our spirit, we receive the Incomprehensible Light, which enwraps us and penetrates us, as the air is penetrated by the light of the sun. And this Light is nothing else than a fathomless staring and seeing. What we are, that we behold; and what we behold, that we are: for our thought, our life, and our being are uplifted in simplicity, and made one with the Truth which is God. And therefore in this simple staring we are one life and one spirit with God: and this I call a contemplative life."
He teaches that truth is found by an ever-diminishing attachment to images. The less we are attached to any image, whether spiritual or not, the more we come to turn inward to the formless union with the Divine. We begin this turning within first by governing our actions, by living a healthy, moral life. Then, inwardly free of the distractions and attachment of outward life, we are free to turn within towards silence and the voice of intuition.
"If, further, this good man would become an inward and ghostly man, he needs must have three further things. The first is a heart unencumbered with images; the second is spiritual freedom in his desires, the third is the feeling of inward union with God."
His writings are in the medieval language of a priest of the Catholic Church, and can be hard to sift through to get to the universal truth of which he speaks, but it is well worth the effort. He outlines the path of the contemplative in much the same way as the author of The Cloud of Unknowing.
"My words are strange, but those who love will understand."
-John of Ruysbroeck
- Related Sites -
John of Ruysbroeck: The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage, The Sparkling Stone, and The Book of the Supreme Truth. Translated from the Flemish by C. A. Wynschenk Dom. Edited with an introduction and notes by Evelyn Underhill. Complete text of three major works by Ruysbroeck.
John of Ruysbroek : "a very great medieval mystic,... He was one of those who, coming after Meister Eckhart, not only bathed in that great master's light, but recognised that he too was the Light." Commentary from the Headless Way website, from Mystical Quotations in the Extras section.
Tricks and Traps
Trap: Being identified with our present mood, brought on by our current energy level. This tricky trap may be described in the following manner: We become drained, perhaps through stress, work and worry, or too much fun, and our bodily energy level drops. We 'feel bad'. Soon, we fall into the following cycle of tricks:
Trick of the negative mood: thinking we are that which is tired, we become increasingly identified with the ensuing mood of negativity. Everything looks glim, and nothing we do can turn out right. If only, but if, and I can't become our mantras, and soon we are seeing the past and future through a filter of negativity. This quickly leads to the
Trick of losing our sense of humor, especially about ourselves. Everything becomes personal and we think the entire universe is conspiring to keep us from what we want. Our defensiveness may pay off, if we retreat enough to catch our breath, regain some vitality, and, feeling the energy supply replenished, rush headlong into the
Trick of the positive mood: thinking that we are invincible, for our energy supply is back, and we can't wait to spend it. Dreams are planned, tasks set forth, and our past is now remembered as one of a wealth of accomplishment, setting the stage for our gloriously productive future. Off we go, only to sooner or later run out of gas, again, become frazzled, and return to the first trick mentioned above. If we are lucky, we might wake up long enough to reflect on the cycle, and see the
Trick of being used as an impersonal energy source, much as an open bank account. Seeing we have nothing to do with all this, really, except being asleep and identified, we may decide to be more careful with our vitality and sense of 'I', thus gaining a bit of freedom and energy to look further at what's really happening inside the world we all call 'me'.
Our State of Mind: The Ring that Binds
We all go through life maintaining our belief system, or state of mind, to the point of controlling everything in sight, so as to keep the ego of body and mind alive and well. This will hold even in the face of death, for we would rather be right than admit our error and live with it. We also grant our fellow man this same hell, by forcing him to be as we, even if it means controlling his every action, all in order to keep our precious ego afloat. To grant ourselves freedom, eternal and infinite, we must do the same for everyone else, and leave the hypnotic ring of attachment to the ego of body and mind. Through the clear examination of our very 'selves', and those of our friends, we break the ring, and find freedom in simple awareness. This is how we become, and in so becoming, free ourselves from the chains of mind and ego.
Most of us base our relationships on unexamined belief systems, and see others as merely things to be manipulated, hypnotized, and brought into that system, as we were. We don't see each other as real, but as objects either in our belief system, and thus right and in the proper place in the systems hierarchy, or as threat-objects to the system, which must be changed or removed. Thus, people are either acceptable recruits for our personal state of mind, or are heretics and should be attacked. This is all to keep our ego afloat, for if we are to be right, our beliefs must be upheld by not only our own mind, but by everyone else's as well. Thus, we cannot question ourselves, which is the same as coming to know ourselves, for that would call the whole belief system into jeopardy.
Most states of mind involve the application of pressure to keep us running in the circle of body and mind. We feel a certain pressure, perhaps coming through the body, as a need for a certain pleasure. The mind is then used to rationalize the pressure-releasing act. The mind can also be the initial source of the pressure. We may have an irrational fear, never really questioned but now a habit, which the mind forces on the body causing it to perform irrational actions. These circular patterns of behavior and rationalization tie up our energy and direction, negating any real spiritual progress. We are left trapped in a world of inner fantasy and imagination as concerns our inner journey, for the real motivations of our daily life are left to forces of direction other than our own. These forces then use us as agents to recruit our friends into whatever peculiar trap with which we have become enamored, creating another ring of attachment and descent.
How can we escape from this ring, this trap of identification with the dominant state of mind of our body-ego? Ruysbroeck points to the path to freedom, when he tells us of the differences between the Servants of God, His Friends, and His Sons. Each step along the inward path requires more and more objectivity to the very thing we know the least about: our very 'self '. The hidden must be revealed, whether we believe in it or not. Each step along the path from Servant to Son requires a lessening of attachment to objects, whether these objects are people, desires, fears, or our own manifestation as an apparent body/mind. The Servant deals in the world of objects, serving his conception of the higher good through the manipulation of these objects according to his beliefs. As these beliefs are questioned and called into the light of discrimination, the seeker becomes less attached to objects, and moves inward towards the formless. His progress is helped by those above him, the true spiritual Friends, who see clearer than he, and grant him the freedom to become as they.
One way to see the hidden but dominant state of mind that runs our life, is to observe how the trap of unconscious belief works in our friends. It is much easier to see the irrational habits, desires and fears in those around us, for it is not so threatening to our own ego. The mistakes, rationalizations and contradictory behavior of those familiar to us can be used as a door to our own mind. We may begin to see how our relationships are based on mutual neediness, in keeping similar states of mind afloat. If we are lucky, we may have the intuition that the imperfections in our friends are much the same as those hiding in us. This can be a frightening thought, for once we see clearly the traps of body and mind that snare our friends, we get the hint that we, too, are just as unconsciously snared.
By taking this simple step within, and realizing that we are asleep to our basic motivations and drives, we lessen their hold on us, and become less attached. Most attachments are dependent on a mental image, usually that of a state or object which we wish to possess, coupled with the ego's illusion that we are in control and know what we are doing. Through questioning our desire or fear of these mind-objects, we become a little freer, and self is a bit diminished.
In moving within, to a state of mind less attached to the systems of desire and fear, of energy loss and objects, we come to move in a straight line, rather than in the downward spiral of the blind leading the blind. From this straighter path leading within, we can also help those of similar bent. If we have no pressure forcing us to change the world of objects, having lost our attachment to them, we will no longer treat our friends as objects, and thus grant them the freedom to move within also. We may begin to get hints that they, too, are using us as examples of what states of mind can do, and are thus making progress through viewing our own particular displays of folly.
Through the seeing of 'self ' in our friends, we may gradually come to see 'self ' in ourselves. This 'fathomless staring and seeing' leads to the lessening of attachment to this 'self', and its eventual demise through a startling discovery. We come to see that there are no separate 'selves' or objects, including our own 'self ' or that of our friends, but only the Universal Awareness of Man.
- Quotes of the Month -
" To comprehend and to understand God above all similitudes, as He is in Himself, is to be God with God, without intermediary, and without any otherness that can become a hindrance or an intermediary. Whosoever wishes to understand this must have died to himself, and must live in God, and must turn his gaze to the eternal light in the ground of his spirit, where the Hidden Truth reveals Itself without means.
" If, further, this good man would become an inward and ghostly man, he needs must have three further things. The first is a heart unencumbered with images; the second is spiritual freedom in his desires, the third is the feeling of inward union with God." - John of Ruysbroeck
" Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it. " - Jack Canfield
" They enter a turbulent darkness, who cultivate ignorance - a yet thicker darkness who are addicted to knowledge. " - Isha Upanishad
" Anything that pays the bills or works in the everyday world, including psychological systems, is never able to be rejected or seen for its errors. As long as you pay the bills, you have little chance of escaping your thought patterns. The average person has a set of succeeding habits designed to master the simple production of livelihood and never seriously questions life unless he has a disasterous defeat. "- Jim Burns
" Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops." - H.L. Mencken
"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning." - Rich Cook
"A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention
in human history - with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila." - Mitch Ratcliffe
"Computers are useless, they can only give you answers." - Pablo Picasso
Silence - 12/10/03
This Month's Missal takes a look at Silence. Silence has long been said to be a necessary component to any spiritual path, if not the goal itself. Much has been written of the Quiet, from its physical aspects, to using it as a symbol of the Void. Let us take a look at this thing called silence, and see if we may come to a better understanding of it, perhaps even to see it as it is, in ourself.
Silence can be said to have four aspects, in that it provides the background for the manifestation of four functions of mind. The first is the silence of the physical world, the realm of the body and senses. The next two are the silence of our emotions, within the heart, and the silence of the mind, behind the realm of thought. And finally, that of the spirit, the silence of awareness. As we come to know these aspects, we separate from the mind-function or foreground, and begin to travel within. Each one will be more difficult to accept than the last. We may see we actually fear silence, as it threatens us in our very sense of being, or identification. But as each fear is overcome and a new level reached, we may come to know that the Peace that passeth all understanding is found not in noise, form, emotion, or even in disciplined thought, but in silence.
The most common aspect of silence is its physical one, being the absence of physical sound. We can easily see the value of this in our seeking. Having a quiet place to meditate and think is a necessity for us when starting out on the path. We can concentrate, remember our goals, and look inside without outer distraction as we begin the ardous task of coming to know ourselves. This silence can be increasingly hard to come by in this day and age, being bombarded with noise in the form of entertainment and distraction as well as from the environment. We have become a society which places value on constant noise, making us afraid of the quiet, perhaps without even knowing why. Though this lack of environmental silence is prevalent, it is relatively easily dealt with compared with the mental and emotional aspects. To find a quiet place may take time and energy, but it does not require much in the way of facing ourselves, within. While the silence of the outer world maybe threatening to some, it holds no place compared to the threat of the silence within.
"All miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." - Pascal
Emotional silence is found by bringing our feelings into consciousness. The unconscious emotional turmoil many of us experience leaves us no peace inside, and no ability to use our feelings as a true guide. Being unquestioned, they take on a life of their own, to which we say 'I', and never gain any resolution of them in the moment. These feelings may drive us relentlessly in circles, never allowing us peace, clarity, or the ability to hold to a steady purpose. To find the goal or aim of our very life, the thing we came here for, is impossible without some level of silence within our heart. We may be desperately searching for something we have never defined, driven by anxieties of which we are mostly unconscious, and which serve no real need other than to tap our energy. Working our way back to a silent heart is a wondrous thing, indeed. There we may find a goal we can live and die with.
"A quiet mind cureth all." - Robert Burton
Many are the systems and methods designed to quieten the mind, to reach an inner silence. Why is this? We are told that a quiet mind is paramount in achieving liberation, but just how is this defined? Is it an absence of thought, or the absence of identification with thought? We may find that after training ourselves to 'not think', that we have merely become good at holding the thought of 'not thinking'. This forced 'silence' is not going to take us to the truth of ourselves. If we can find instead the true background silence behind the mind, then the thoughts may flow on without our being identified with them, enabling us to get a good look at them as they pass by. Thus we have become a silent observer of thought and mind, and taken a step farther within.
By witnessing our thoughts, rather than trying to control them, we begin to notice the endless internal dialogue running in our heads. Tricked into taking sides in this dialogue, we fight ourselves, pitting one thought-pattern against another, trapped in confusion. We may see that the next step into silence is found by simply listening, while paying careful attention. This may be terrifying to some, for it can threaten us at the level of our individuality, the ego itself, for now the voices of intuition and conscience may arise unhindered.
"The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts." - Vicki Woodyard
We can see that by listening within, in the background of our mind, new information is available to us that was being drowned out by the internal dialogue, our 'knowing', and the constant emotional dissonance. By allowing our innate intelligence, reason, and intuition to solve the problems of the mind as they surface, rather than fostering interference through unquestioned desires and fears running counter to our aim, we no longer force the mind to fight itself, leaving it relatively quiet and efficient. And perhaps suprisingly, we find we are no longer identified with it, and find again another silence, a silence of the spirit which contains the mind, rather than being contained by it.
"What is spiritual silence? It is not just the absence of talk. Silence has substance. It is the presence of something. "- Kathryn Damiano
Here, beyond the reach of mind and emotions, we see we have become a silence, one that is aware. This is what Douglas Harding would call aware capacity. We have become the space in which all may happen. Just like the silence of the physical universe is the background and foundation of all noise, as the silence behind the notes allows the music to come into being, we have become that which gives existence to form and thought. As this aware silence, we may turn our attention around, and as we look within through the Mystery of the Unknown, we may find our Source, the Silent Spring from which all is born.
This journey from noise and confusion to Silent Being is not in any way an easy one, and not one which will be carried to the end by those that desire only ease and bodily peace. If you think you will breeze through the Gates of Silence with no trouble, then test yourself by spending a good length of time alone, in the dead quiet. Listen to your thought, and feel your heart. What do you hear and see, truly? If there is fear and ambition, desire and anxiety, your journey into Silence has just begun.
There is a silence within; a silence that descends from without; a silence that stills existence; and a silence that engulfs the entire universe. There is a silence of the self and its faculties of will, thought, memory, emotions. There is a silence in which there is nothing, a silence in which there is something; and finally, there is the silence of no-self and the silence of God. - Bernadette Roberts
- Related Sites -
Pure Silence: " A gentle, loving, inner peace and silence is here and now in this moment. It has always been this way. It is always here. It is right here within you and all around you, a stillness, an apparent void, a seeming nothingness out of which everything arises, exists, and eventually returns. There is nothing more than this. You are this. This pure silence contains you, your being-ness. The silence is your very being. This silence allows the entire universe to be." http://www.puresilence.org/
Nurturing the Now: "Nurturing the now is a way of living in the present with peace and optimism. You must yearn to return...to the living experience that you are." Vicki Woodyard has brought the fruits of her life and suffering into a site that is inspirational and a comfort to those in need.
The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts.
The next step is into surrender. Let the thoughts be there without fighting them.
Thirdly, admit that you need higher help. This will bring in the principle of humility
- Vicki Woodyard
Bernadette Roberts - An introduction to the life and work of a Christian contemplative. "For many years Bernadette lived in close union with God, who she identified as a 'stillpoint' in the center of her consciousness. One day however, an unexpected and irreversible shift happened. All sense of herself and God disappeared in a 'SILENT PUFF'. It left her in a state she was later to describe as "No-Self"." Brian Perkins' great web site speaks of the many types of silence Bernadette encountered in her life and journey to no-self and beyond.
Some Thoughts on Silence by Kathryn Damiano. " The culture in which we live does not value silence. Avoiding seduction into this belief is a major challenge. Yet our culture seems to promote a fear of silence. We also know that silence can be manipulative. It allows a person not to make commitments or take responsibility. What is spiritual silence? It is not just the absence of talk. Silence has substance. It is the presence of something." from the Quaker Ministry of Prayer and Learning devoted to the School of the Spirit. http://www.quakerinfo.com/silence.shtml
Tricks and Traps
Trap: taking sides in the constant internal dialogue, thinking that we are one of the two voices engaged in endless debate and drama, rather than triangulating between them to reach the observer above.
Trick: building a work memory so we can see both sides of the debate in the internal dialogue, and to know each character, so as not to identify with either. Here, above and between the voices, we have possibility in the moment.
Silence by Thomas Hood
There is a silence where no sound may be, in the cold grave-under the deep, deep sea,
Or in wide desert where no life is found, which hath been mute, and still must sleep profound;
No voice is hush'd-no life treads silently, but clouds and cloudy shadows wander free,
That never spoke, over the idle ground:
But in green ruins, in the desolate walls of antique palaces, where Man hath been,
Though the dun fox or wild hyena calls, and owls, that flit continually between,
Shriek to the echo, and the low winds moan -
There the true Silence is, self-conscious and alone.
In Silence, a Return to Innocence
"Life is real only then, when 'I am' ". - G. I. Gurdjieff
It is strong medicine to receive our perceptions as they are, without putting a buffer of words, meanings or values on them, based on such relative things as personal, unquestioned associations. When we are, life is real, for we are real. Then, we can accept the things that present themselves to us in their entirety, without fear or desire. Compared to our ordinary way of handling incoming percepts, this is an ideal state. But how do we get to this state of freedom, what's preventing us from becoming? Why are we incessantly identified with every aspect of the ego/mind, locked into a mechanical pattern we so graciously call our 'self'? Silence, simple and aware, is the means for finding and separating from the static interference called the self. Whether emotional, mental, or physical, this static is what is keeping our machine from being efficient and unbiased in its operation. If there's no interference coming from the machine, we have possibility. We then have the freedom in which to look around, to listen, to accept ourselves, and, perhaps, to go within. What prevents us from knowing this 'self', and possibly going within, is the constant state of dissonance in the mind, caused by our identification with it as `us', preserved by the fact that we do not know this 'self ' as well as our own coffee cup. Silence is the constant aware background which contains this noisy drama we take as 'us'.
Many of us may remember moments, often in childhood, when the world became very bright, and wildly interesting. We were bowled over by the glory in every little thing. The world was made afresh every instant, as if we had never seen anything before, and never would again. We can again be fascinated by the most simple of perceptions. Our seeing regains a bright, three-dimensional quality, which in normal existence is turned flat and gray from identification with our worries and concerns, desires and fears, our constant labeling and judging. These preoccupations with our ego keep us on the run, either toward or from something as undefined as the mind itself. The gray cloud of this noisy self steals our calm, clear vision, and gives us distraction and anxiety in its place.
How do we regain our fearless wonder and clear eye? We rid the machine of the interference or static, the dissonance that clouds the picture. Then the reception is again clear, for the focus is no longer on the static itself, but on the universal, rather than the unquestioned particular. When the statement 'I am' is our nature, rather than 'I am this or that', we are free to listen to whatever is presented to us, and to perhaps go within. When we unconsciously define ourselves as an object, a vain and clouded filter, we limit all other incoming perceptions by molding them through this false definition of ourselves. By finding the silent background beneath the functions of the mind, we are able to free our attention. As we then no longer take events so seriously, we no longer have to defend the object at the end of the statement, 'I am .....such and such', as if it were our very self.
A very tricky trap may pop up here, in that we may simply transfer the sense of 'I' to whatever facet of the personality happens to be in play at the moment. Given the dualistic nature of the mind, we are usually identified with one half of the constant internal dialogue playing itself out according to circumstance. The two players in this dialogue may both be within our own head, or in two different heads, ours and one of our friends or family members, living or not. Regardless, we are identified with one of the two characters in this drama of action/reaction, and change places or heads with the wind. The mind cannot be observed from one of these halves, it can only react as part of the pattern. To truly observe, we must become that which contains the mind, yet is silent and aware. This listening attention may observe the manifest, without causing a reaction.
Being able to 'just look', in silence, frees us from the confines of the mind. If, for instance, we can just look at something simple without thinking about it, say, our own coffee cup, we have made a first step. If we can then continue to look at it, and also at the same time observe the rising thoughts associated with it, without losing our attention, we have taken another. When we then think about what has taken place, we can see, very simply, that we do not think, but that thoughts occur according to circumstance and its associations. The thoughts about the cup are an automatic verbal description of the cup and what it means to our individual and collective minds. If we observe while still allowing thought to run its course, we stand a chance of catching a glimpse of the mind with our looking, before it runs away. The mind hates to be observed, for this robs it of the sense of 'I'. Losing the sense of 'I' is death, and for us to be reborn, the 'self' must die. We must stalk it as we would a wild beast, if we are to take back the sense of 'I' and return it to its rightful place in silence.
If we also observe how we don't take kindly to the realization that other people can and do see us as we are, in our nakedness so to speak, we may begin to see how the mind defends itself. It is a fact that others see us without the blinders we have towards ourselves. If we are to be able to see our self as others do, we must be able look from a place outside this self, perhaps from somewhere within. The mind will react to our observing it, just as it would to another person's objective scrutiny, so we must employ stealth to see it in its natural state. For our mind to operate while being observed by our own bare attention, we must look in silence lest we spook the beast and it runs for cover, or turns to attack.
We can start this process of stalking ourselves by becoming inwardly silent in times when it is easiest, such as during meditation or while going for a walk, alone. At these times the mind is under less stress or threat and is thus easier to observe. Later, as we learn to become even quieter, and can listen to our thoughts without identification, we may see more and more of the mind and its patterns, in action. After these periods of watchfulness, we can ruminate over what we saw, and allow the intellect to do its job of sorting and understanding. But we should never mistake this cogitation for the primary goal of silent seeing. As Douglas Harding admonishes, "it's the seeing, not the understanding”. We are not after intellectual conclusions, based in verbal reasoning, but the present awareness of the moment, in silence, from silence. We wish to reclaim our vision, the eye of the 'I', from the gray thief of the mind.
The acceptance of the aware silence that underlies the chatter of the mind is the key. This listening attention is the gateway to within, to the part of us that is not of the mind or this world, but the foundation and dimension from which they spring. Once we have returned to 'I am', this silent awareness becomes our foundation, our being. Then we may again see the world as Blake the poet, in our return to innocence and wonder.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wildflower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
- William Blake
- Quotes of the Month -
" What we need most in order to make progress is to be silent before this great God with our appetite and with our tongue, for the language he best hears is silent love.
" The very pure spirit does not bother about the regard of others or human respect, but communes inwardly with God, alone and in solitude as to all forms, and with delightful tranquility, for the knowledge of God is received in divine silence. " - St. John of the Cross
" All writers on the spiritual life uniformly recommend, nay, command under penalty of total failure, the practice of silence. And yet, despite this there is perhaps no rule for spiritual advancement more inveighed against, by those who have not even mastered its rudiments, than that of silence." - Edmond M. Obrecht
" If you have a trust in and an expectation of your own solitude, everything that you need to know will be revealed to you. " - John O'Donohue
" Silence is the only language we all speak. " - Brett Banfe
" Experience teaches us that silence terrifies people the most. "- Bob Dylan
" Maybe this world is another planet's hell." - Aldous Huxley
" Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends."- Woody Allen
" The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes." - Dave Barry
This month's Missal takes a look at H.P. Blavatsky. Born Helena Petrovna von Hahn in southern Russia in 1831, she led a fascinating and controversial life. She was the founder of the Theosophical Society, and one of the first westerners to enter Tibet. An exceptional child, very headstrong and willful, she was reported to possess strange powers from an early age. At the age of seventeen, on a dare from one of her servants, Helena married her namesake, General Blavatsky. The marriage was never consummated, and Helena soon escaped from the General and her family, and began her travels in what became known as her vagabond years. From 1848 to 1858 she traveled the world, though the details of her life during this period of adventure are rather vague. It was during this time, in 1851 in London, that she reported first meeting her Master, the mysterious Mahatma Morya, or M, as he was later called. Blavatsky had seen visions of him since her childhood. He told her of her future destiny, that of being an instrument of the Masters in bringing their message to the world. She had always exhibited boundless energy and impulsiveness, and now she also had guidance as to what to do with her life. She was soon to spend time with him and another of the Masters, Koot Hoomi, in Tibet and elsewhere, developing her occult powers.
... once that a student abandons the old trodden highway of routine, and enters upon the solitary path of independent thought - Godward - he is a Theosophist, an original thinker, a seeker after the eternal truth, with 'an inspiration of his own' to solve the universal problems.
- H. P. Blavatsky
She spent several more years wandering through the lands of Tibet, the Far East, and Russia, before finally coming to America, where she met Colonel H. S. Olcott in 1874. The spiritualist craze was sweeping the country, and Blavatsky was determined to put the spirit of the times to good use. Through her and Colonel Olcott's efforts, the Theosophical Society was soon formed. The group was named after the ancient teaching known as Theosophy, the Wisdom concerning the Divine, which had been claimed to be the spiritual basis of other great movements of the past, from Neo-Platonism to Gnosticism. The Society's goal was to collect and diffuse a knowledge of the laws which govern the Universe. Madame Blavatsk was forming a philosophy based on the teachings of her Masters, hinging also on her own experience of the powers of a strong, clear mind, an inner grasp of the soul, and her almost overwhelming intuition.
Anxiety is the foe of knowledge;
like unto a veil it falls down before the soul's eye;
entertain it, and the veil only thicker grows;
cast it out, and the sun of truth may dissipate the cloudy veil.
- H. P. Blavatsky
Soon after, in 1877, she published her first great work, Isis Unveiled, a huge two volume book outlining the history, scope and development of the Occult Sciences. In 1879, her and Colonel Olcott moved to India, and set up the headquaters of the Theosophical Society near Bombay. After several years they moved to Adyar, Madras. During this time, much of the controversy that would follow Blavatsky throughout the rest of her life, began. She insisted that she was receiving her instructions from her Masters via magically written letters which would somehow appear in a specially made case. Her longtime housekeepers, feeling slighted by Blavatsky, and later fired, told the press that the Master's letters were fakes, written by HPB herself. The firestorm of controversy hasn't settled to this day. The ensuing accusations of fraud and trickery had a negative impact on her health, and she lost much of her control of the Theosophical Society. (For both sides of the story, visit the links in the following section.) She soon left India, never to return, settling in Europe. In worsening health, she nevertheless began the work on her second masterpiece, The Secret Doctrine. Published in England in 1888, the first book of this two volume work is concerned mainly with the evolution of the Universe, while the second volume deals with the evolution of humanity. She died in 1891 in England, after a long illness, leaving an enormous amount of writing, and a legacy to match.
Learn that there is no cure for desire, no cure for love of reward, no cure for the misery of longing, save in the fixing of the sight and hearing on that which is invisible and soundless.
- H. P. Blavatsky
While her life was filled to the brim with experience and controversy, her ideals remained steady and of high character. She taught that virtue, compassion and friendship were necessary to any spiritual progress, and also believed in energy conservation and abstinence as tools on the path.
" Happy are those whose astral sense is not opened and who do not see all the terrible things that are about us. By a holy life there is a kind of aura developed which protects a man from them. All elementals and Dugpas are afraid of the Protean power. Its very presence seems to strike terror in them."
- H. P. Blavatsky
Her writings can be obtuse, overly intellectual, and of seeming irrelevance to those not interested in the occult sciences and religions of ages past, but their chief value may lie in the interest they stir. She can provide us with a starting point for further research into the mystery of ourselves, showing us that there is more to life than meets the eye, and that the true solution to our existence lies within, found through our perseverance, self-reliance, and sense of adventure.
No one else's opinion should be considered superior to the voice of one's own conscience. Let that conscience, therefore, develop to its highest degree, guide us in all the ordinary acts of life. As to the conduct of our inner life, let us concentrate our entire attention on the ideal we have set ourselves, and look beyond, without paying the slightest attention to the mud upon our feet ...Those who are capable of making this effort are the true Theosophists; all others are but members [of the Theosophical Society], more or less indifferent, and very often useless. - H. P. Blavatsky
- Related Sites -
Blavatsky Net Foundation: "This site focuses on Madame Blavatsky and her teaching - Theosophy. It features an introduction to Theosophy, study aids, research tools, original text, supporting evidence, membership, and visitor interaction." http://www.blavatsky.net/
of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-91), founder of modern Theosophy." http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/ Also, Madame Blavatsky talks about her life, in her own words, "During my Eastern travels, I have lived at different periods in Little Tibet as in Great Tibet, and these combined periods form more than seven years. Much of the teaching found in my writings come from these sages of the Orient, our Eastern Masters." http://www.blavatskyarchives.com/hpbspeaks.htm
The Mystica: An on-line encyclopedia of the occult, mysticism, magic, paranormal and more... presents the other side of the story: the critical view of Blavatsky and her mysterious life.
Tricks and Traps
Trap: being mesmerized by motion. We became fascinated, and eventually identified, with motion. Our attention has been trained to follow the movement of the world, whether inner or outer, and thus we feel a background anxiety formed by the loss of contact with the still-point.
Trick: finding the still-point. If there is motion, there must be its opposite, stillness. This unmoving point of reference gives us the anchor we need to resist being pulled hither and thither by the constant motion of the world. When this silent still-point becomes our identity, we are free from the ups and downs of mind-motion, and become able to go further within. We then have the opportunity to be hit by the next koan:
Trap of the still-point: Now, we may find ourselves in a new, very subtle trap, that of being identified with the opposite of motion. We find we are moving between silence and noise, stillness and action, but never into what we really Are. If we can see the still-point, as well as the movement, we have a chance to pull the next
Trick: Triangulating between stillness and motion. If we can be both motion and stillness, through our identification, we are moving between these as end points on a baseline. This line, with motion and stillness as its ends, can now be seen from a point above and superior to it. Where does this leave you ?
Desire only that which is within you.
Desire only that which is beyond you.
Desire only that which is unattainable.
For within you is the light of the world -
the only light that can be shed upon the Path.
If you are unable to perceive it within you,
it is useless to look for it elsewhere.
It is beyond you, because when you reach it
you have lost yourself. - Blavatsky
Losing One's Head for Nothing: The True Adventure
" Every child is seduced into taking part in our game of life. He loses direct-mind ability when he identifies with and participates in this dimension, and tries to manipulate it for his own petulant form of counter-seduction. " - Richard Rose.
Much is written about silence, no-mind and the void. But do we really desire to find them, much less become them? Are we willing to give up our ego-identity in the emotion-fueled game of life, to go beyond our character role in the ceaseless drama of action-reaction? The struggle to win the game of life, if we're lucky, is eventually seen as an endless circle, from which there is no true rest, and no real victory. To those who have had this intuition, hearing the faint call of the Voice of the Silence, the possibility of returning to our true home in the Unknown is no longer a fairy tale. But how? How do we make this journey that traverses a land without maps, a sea without charts? Let us look and see how the True Adventure might be likened to three stages of becoming, a journey from Nowhere to here, and back again.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." - Galileo
"We have to fatten up the head before we can chop it off -- have to do a lot of studying -- have to become virtuous." "The things that are holding you up personally are the negative things that have happened to you." - Richard Rose
"Energy is spent chiefly on unnecessary and unpleasant emotions, on the expectation of unpleasant things, possible and impossible, on bad moods, on unnecessary haste, nervousness, irritability, imagination, daydreaming, and so on. In beginning to struggle with all these habitual sides of his life a man saves an enormous amount of energy, and with the help of this energy he can easily begin the work of self-study and self-perfection. " - G. I. Gurdjieff
The First Stage: Becoming an Efficient Man-Machine. We must first become a good working machine, capable of interacting with the environment without the ego unduly interfering. In becoming free of obsession and fear, unbridled temptation and ambition, emotional turmoil, and habitual energy losses that tie us up in circles of dissipation that lead nowhere, we give ourselves possibility. From infancy to adulthood, we grow in body and mind, and slowly but surely become completely identified with the animal-man thus formed. All so-called psychological work is only to bring us to this point of being an efficient machine. This is still the first stage of life: the building of personality and the making of the healthy, moral, animal-man. If we think to shortcut around this stage, we risk making a big mistake. If our path through the everyday world of life has been blocked by a negative state of mind, forced on us through our environment, which keeps us from developing a healthy working ego, we may turn to 'spiritual' work in order to build the ego in a dream-world of no resistance. We think we are being spiritual, but are in reality copping out of the first stage by avoiding life and the proper functioning of the machine in its manifest capacity. By the discipline of energy conservation, we give our intuition a chance to ripen. Through the discipline of learning to reason, we free ourselves from the danger of placing our future in the hands of daydreams. A paradox for sure, but only through resistance and tension will the ego be properly formed, so as to assure its eventual complete destruction. Once we are capable of taking care of ourselves in society, having reached the level of good householder and truly completed the first stage, we have the real possibility of turning our attention to greater questions.
" Awakening begins when a man realizes that he is going nowhere and does not know where to go. " - G. I. Gurdjieff
" Anything that pays the bills or works in the everyday world, including psychological systems, is never able to be rejected or seen for its errors. As long as you pay the bills, you have little chance of escaping your thought patterns. The average person has a set of succeeding habits designed to master the simple production of livelihood and never seriously questions life unless he has a disastrous defeat. " - Jim Burns
"Learn that there is no cure for desire, no cure for love of reward, no cure for the misery of longing, save in the fixing of the sight and hearing on that which is invisible and soundless. " - H. P. Blavatsky
The Second Stage: Hitting the Brick Wall of Our Mechanicalness. The second stage is that of freeing the attention from the motion of the mind. This is usually brought about by a traumatic catastrophe, which starts our questioning of life itself and convinces us that it's a zero-sum game. We see without a shadow of a doubt that there is no permanent solution in mechanical or behavioral change. We thus come to the realization that we have been hypnotized by motion: the circular, ceaseless motion of the mind. Our very attention, our "I", is caught in the game of following motion, whether this motion is in the apparent world of objects, in the inner world of thought, or even in the following of astute, complex trains of feelings, memory, and thought. This is still just the attention following the motion that is mind. The blessed catastrophe of having our head cracked wide open hasn't much chance of occurring if we have not engaged ourselves fully with the world and life in an attempt to assert our ego to its fullest in its bid for power, security and happiness.
Whether through luck, trauma, or an unbending intent to find the Truth, if the spell of the ego-mind is broken, we may catch a glimpse, in the clear calm of a quiet mind, that we are not a man after all, but that which sees, or contains, the attention itself. We can then allow our questioning or longing to turn this attention inward. This turning within as a last, desperate act comes only after we have died to any possibility of hope in the world of mind and motion. Having given up our misplaced faith in the dimension of motion, we learn to listen and observe rather than identify and mechanically react to the trains of thought and circumstance. Our previous work in the first stage has left us without any dissonant agenda to cloud our vision and interfere with our quest. Now, we can start looking within. Backing out of our personality, we begin trying to find something real, other than mind-motion and endless patterns of thought.
"True observation must be carried on from a superior dimension. The mind cannot be studied with the mind. It must be observed from some point outside of, and yet superior to the mind. " - Richard Rose
" True perception is true knowledge. Perception is the capacity of the soul; it is the sight of the higher intelligence whose vision never errs. And that can be best exercised in true serenity of mind, as Mahatma K.H. observes: "it is upon the serene and placid surface of the unruffled mind that visions gathered from the invisible, find a representation in the visible world." In short - as the Hindu allegory has it - "It is in the dead of night that Krishna is born." "Self-knowledge of this kind is unattainable by what men usually call "self-analysis." Reasoning or any brain process does not reach it; for it is the awakening to consciousness of the Divine nature of man. To obtain this knowledge is a greater achievement than to command the elements or to know the future. " - H. P. Blavatsky
The Third Stage: Turning Within. Now we come to the final stage of our journey. We find we have become what can be called a ' listening attention' or simple awareness. When we first turn this attention within, we find Nothing, the Unknown. We may feel that this great, mysterious 'nothing' is more alive or real than the apparent world-projection, and possibly its source. Turning this passive attention outward, we see that what we once called the world was mainly an overlay of mind-projection on a now relatively simple scene. There are no longer what we used to call 'objects', including what we once called our 'self '. Our lost ability to know directly returns, by-passing the fading reflective mechanism of the thinking mind. We have given up on the manipulation of motion and have come to rest in a silent, aware space we find to be our Self. We now look upon the world as a reflection of this Self, and are not drawn into its motion or seek to steer its direction, for there is no longer a 'self ' to interfere. We can now see the truth in the saying, "Home is Where the Heart Is". While we have a hand (a pair of them) in the mind-dimension, our heart is now resting in the Dazzling Dark, and our head is, thank God, missing in action.
- Quotes of the Month -
" As the highest development, physically and spiritually, on earth of the creative cause, man should aim to solve the mystery of his being.
" Shun praise. Praise leads to self-delusion. Thy body is not Self, thyself is in itself without a body, and either praise or blame affects it not.
" Abstain because it is right to abstain, not that your self shall be kept clean.
" Degrade not truth by forcing it upon unwilling minds.
" It should never be forgotten that Occultism is concerned with the inner man, who must be strengthened and freed from the dominion of the physical body and its surroundings, which must become his servants. Hence the first and chief necessity of chelaship is a spirit of absolute unselfishness and devotion to Truth; then follow self-knowledge and self-mastery. " - H. P. Blavatsky
" Awakening begins when a man realizes that he is going nowhere and does not know where to go. " - G. I. Gurdjieff
Sometimes there would be a rush of noisy visitors and the Silence of the monastery would be shattered. This would upset the disciples; not the Master, who seemed just as content with the noise as with the Silence. To his protesting disciples he said one day, "Silence is not the absence of sound, but the absence of self." - Anthony de Mello
" Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you." - C.G. Jung
"Back in the Alfalfa Sprout Capital of the Universe, standing here at the ground zero of political correctness, I am reminded of my old fondness for these dear and fuzzy folk. I think of them as the American hobbits, except that they have, of course, banned smoking. Here they are, saving water, saving whales, saving dolphins and generally trying to bring humankind up to a level of perfection that is in almost lunatic defiance of everybody else's tendency to let things go to hell in a handbasket."
- Molly Ivins, writing about Boulder, Colorado
"There are more psychotherapists per capita in the town in which I live than anywhere else in the world. Why do you think that is? It's one of two reasons: either my town contains more screwed-up people than anywhere else in the world, or it contains more quack psychotherapists. "- Mr. Cranky, writing about Boulder, Colorado
"If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through." - The Black Adder, possibly writing about Boulder, Colorado
Copyright 2003 - 2004 Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.