9/06/03 This month's Missal looks at the art of Energy Conservation and Transmutation. One of the most ancient, valuable, and misunderstood means to spiritual attainment, the saving and transmuting of our vital energy is a readily available aid on our spiritual path. Many teachers and schools through the ages have practiced and taught this art, all teaching a similar practice based on human energy and its possible uses for spiritual advancement. The basis for this teaching is that man, as he is, has only so much energy at his disposal, and that if this energy is wasted, he has little or nothing left for his spiritual practice. The solution is not in looking about for additional sources, but in conserving and redirecting that which one has. If all of the energy we spend on distraction, needless pleasure, compensation, negative emotions and worry were spent instead on real inquiry into our nature, we would save years of time and effort.
There are three main avenues by which our energy is spent, and from which it can be saved. The first is the simple re-organization of our daily life and its habits. We waste an enormous amount of time and energy in distraction, emotional compensation, and in desperately trying to have more "fun". The roots of these habits could be deep, and much digging may be in order to find the causes, and the truth behind them.
The same could be said about the second channel of waste, our addiction to negative emotions. Any one who has been through a twelve-step program can testify to the dangers of resentment. Much of our so-called love and hate, likes and dislikes, fears, desires, and emotional 'needs' are merely negative reactions driven by unconscious negative factors. The energy waste is profound. Carl Jung's work on what he called the 'shadow' reveals much of how this energy is redirected and lost in negative ways.
The last and perhaps most powerful of the energies lost is that of the creative force that comes to us for procreation. When this force, powerful enough to create another human being, is wasted unconsciously and needlessly, we loose a tremendous energy, and perhaps some of our valuable innocence, too.
Gurdjieff had a system of categorizing energy, using the symbols of the periodic table of elements. His teaching was that the higher energies were needed to awaken the latent forces or 'higher centers' in us. By wasting these energies and other forces through negative emotions such as anger and resentment, we lost whatever chance at contact we could have had to higher centers. We also have the chance at acquiring these higher energies directly from the receiving of impressions in a different way, by seeing things as they are, which is not possible when we are wrapped up in our usual negative emotional reaction patterns.
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. Energy is wasted on the wrong work of centers; on unnecessary tension of the muscles out of all proportion to the work produced; on perpetual chatter which absorbs an enormous amount of energy; on the 'interest' continually taken in things happening around us or to other people and having in fact no interest whatever; on the constant waste of the force of 'attention'; and so on, 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
Richard Rose also taught the value of saving and transmuting our vital force, through living a certain lifestyle conducive to higher thought and the development of the intuition. His book, Energy Transmutation, Between-ness and Transmission, is an examination of the role of tension in life, the creation and conservation of human energy, and the use of that energy for spiritual attainment. He also taught that one could store and transmit higher energy to others, in order to help them make a breakthrough. This is dependent on the receiver having no open, running taps, so to speak, through which the higher force might be drained.
We have to fatten up the head before we can chop it off -- have to do a lot of studying -- have to become virtuous. Conservation of energy results in using a body function to transmit the mind into discovery. - Richard Rose
One can liken the work of energy transmutation to that of a vital substance being placed under pressure. If the energy is saved, and the motivations are redirected to seeking the truth about oneself and the universe, as an intense mental effort, the energy is drawn by a siphon-like action up into the brain, where it is made available for mental and intuitive discovery. Thus, if we conserve the energy we have, and then transmute it through the tension of inquiry or questioning, we have converted the body/mind machine to one of seeking, rather than one of only survival-reaction.
"Don't you see there is a reason why chastity is insisted on in all monastic orders? Spiritual giants are produced only when the vow of chastity is observed. There is a connection between chastity and spirituality. The explanation is that through prayer and meditation the saints have transmuted the most vital force in the body into spiritual energy. The force so transmuted is called ojas, and it is stored up in the brain. - Vivekananda
The above methods of saving energy are not based on moral, political, or social considerations, but are practical in basis, and are as valid now as they were thousands of years ago. The aim of finding the lost connection to our Higher Self cannot be confused with being 'good', but with doing what works, to discover the Truth. Changing our lifestyle to save higher energy, so as to develop the reasoning and intuitive powers needed to find our way through the maze of illusion, is not an easy task. The work of becoming detached from our negative emotions, hypnotically-induced fears and desires, and misunderstandings of sex and power, will test the seeker, and perhaps reveal to him his true motivations. Then, he will have acquired a greater understanding of himself and his options, and perhaps rediscover his innocence and creative vitality.
"Sex is an acquired habit. Go beyond. As long as your focus is on the body, you will remain in the clutches of food and sex, fear and death. Find yourself and be free."
- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
The needs of nature and society take up all our vital force, until we perhaps see that there is another goal, one of inward discovery. If you find you feel there is more to life than the body and its pleasure and pain, then conservation of one's energy becomes a practical tool. To travel into the Great Beyond, we will need power, power that has not been spent only on the illusion of bodily existence, but saved and transformed for our Becoming.
"Man is not going to find reality if he accepts that which the body tells him. You must be prepared to find that which is, not that which you wish to find, even if it is oblivion."
- Richard Rose-
- an energy-based explanation of the benefits of abstinence.
- Related Sites -
Celibacy, How and Why It Works: "No one seems to be able to properly explain what's wrong with too much of sexual activity. Religions invoke the wrath of God and the punishment of God to force us into self-control. Prudes force us to think anything is wrong that results in pleasure. The real reason for self control is quite obvious if you are sensitive enough to perceive changes in the quality of your mind. This article describes why it is good to practice celibacy, whether for a short, or long period of time." http://www.wikihow.com/Practice-Celibacy
Direct Mind Potential Diagram: A diagram by Richard Rose showing the potential of energy transmutation in contacting a dimension of Pure Mind, from the Downloads page of the Welcome to TAT Site: TAT, or Truth and Transmission, provides a forum for thought-provoking insights and personal realizations, with the ultimate goal of discovering Essence...
WIE Magazine: "What is the role of celibacy on the spiritual path? We asked three extraordinary individuals who have dedicated themselves completely to the spiritual life, Father Thomas Keating, Swami Chidananda, and Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, to speak candidly about their own experience of the significance of celibacy." http://www.wie.org/j13/celibacy.asp
HinduWebsite.com: Celibacy - "Since control of desires was considered essential for self realization and sexual desire being the ultimate of all desires, observation of celibacy became an important feature of Hindu spiritualism." Basic explanation of energy conservation and transmutation from the Hindu tradition. http://hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_celibacy.htm
KUNDALINI, THE JOY OF CELIBACY, AND YOKING THE LIFE FORCE TO ENLIGHTENMENT by Yogi Tom/Silver Dawn Media: "I found that once I had sat out the immediate crisis of desire that inevitably arises with the practice of celibacy if one has previously enjoyed an active sex life, that I had to master the very esoteric art of "inner sex"." http://www.hmt.com/kundalini/yoking.html
Tricks and Traps
This month's Tricks and Traps has to do with the value of having an aim or direction to hold to,
whatever the circumstance:
Learning to walk a straight line, regardless of the mood of the dream.
Trick: Thinking with our feelings. We can become mesmerized by our current mood, whether elevated or depressed. Convinced that we are the mood, we make plans, decisions, and conclusions, based on our current level of energy, only to have the entire thing change as the energy level waxes and wanes, leading us into the
Trap of bodily existence: We take our very definition of who we really are, from our feeling of our body's moods, based on its current energy level. If we're tired and depressed, we plan and dream as tired, depressed beings; when we're high and mighty, so goes our thinking. The circle of circumstance turns and spins, and having no safe harbor or aim, so go we.
Jesus said, "For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has." - Matthew 13:12
If we wish to advance spiritually, then we must take drastic steps beyond that which nature mechanically provides. We are not created as self-developing organisms in matters of the spirit, only in nature. We were born into the world as creatures of nature, bred to reproduce and provide a better environment or nest for yet more bodies, ad infinitum. But as individuals, we are not even recognized in the realm of nature, much less helped to a higher state of being. To fool ourselves into believing we are forever young, here to have only fun, never grow old, or become unhealthy, rot, and die stupid, is to throw away our chance to awake and recognize something of the spirit, as well as that of the body. Even as mind, we are limited, and can never know much that really matters in the short time and circumstance that nature allows. To become something more than a finite mind in a rotting pleasure house, we must take the highest energy this body/mind has, and invest it in the search for understanding. Higher energies are needed to stimulate higher thinking, and to generate even higher energies. To move beyond our limited natural state of mechanical pattern-reaction, to become an aware, alive intelligence, we will need to conserve and transmute what little energy we have.
The higher energies of understanding and spiritual discernment are found through conservation and transmutation. This is the true spiritual ecology. The saving of our energy to be used for the greatest possibility is to save our resources for our inner potential, rather than spending it on base reactionary living, only. Our machine, this body and mind, must be free of toxic pollution, psychic parasites, irrational fears, and unquenchable desires that would use and abuse it for their own self-interests. If left to the devices of these forces of adversity, we can be likened to a man who is unable to stand, down on his hands and knees, lost in inner fantasy and dissipation, racked with fever and fear, hung over from his excesses. Only able to crawl at best, he cannot muster the energy needed to shake off the negative forces that keep him down. If he is to gain the strength and stability needed to stand and walk upright, in clear awareness of himself, he will need to gain sustenance from the best food available. This energy, saved and transmuted, can rid him of the fever that robs him of his potential spiritual strength and understanding. We only have so much energy on any given day. To spend it only on the realm of the body and the fantasies of mind, is to rob ourselves of our spiritual potential. Having only so much energy for living, if it is spent entirely on partying and pleasure, on fear and false security, then none is left over to put aside for the future. The spiritual search will be under-funded while we dream away in pleasure, fantasy, and suffering. As our time runs out, we spend even more energy blocking these facts from our own minds.
Our feeling causes much of our thinking. When we are tired, anxious, or hung over, the world becomes a cramped place, full of danger and bereft of possibility. When we regain our energy, through time and the body's ability to regenerate, we become lighter in mood, possibility returns, and we go in search of the next opportunity to spend the little energy we have saved. Family moods and inherited states of mind can also eat up much of our energy, leaving us in dank corners of the mind, with little purpose or ability to even think clearly. It is easier to see how this works in others. How many of you know someone who is chronically tired, in a bad mood, and perhaps ill health? The causes of this can sometimes be clearly seen from the outside. Perhaps the person never exercises the body even enough to metabolize their food. He doesn't get out from in front of the TV long enough to take in new impressions, refuses to go out with friends, overeats, drinks too much coffee and beer, smokes, and uses drugs. Their moods and states of mind are the product of being in energy-debt. This toxicity is born from a lack of energy caused by spending more than you take in. But he or she would rather think the reason for their negative state of mind is that the world just isn't giving them what they want. If only they had a break, could be given another chance, be a different person. The idea that changing their lifestyle could solve the problem, and give them a new potential, is never considered. A toxic body/mind cannot, on its own, initiate action leading to sanity and freedom.
Bondage or attachment means we are identified with the personality facet, which is using up our energy, thinking it is 'us'. If we are hypnotically identified with our current state, then we can hardly be expected to think in a less attached manner. Being in a constant state of ego-defense or offense doesn't leave any time or energy for searching out a path to a higher state of being. Every time we agree to the bad moods and their corresponding personalities, and think that they are us, we burn higher energies that could be used in gaining greater understanding of ourselves. All impressions coming to us from outside are of themselves neutral, and are taken according to the inner state of the receiver. If we are in a negative mood, all incoming perceptions tend to be taken negatively. If we are light in mood, they can be taken similarly. Only if we are awake and paying attention, with our mind quiet, can we actually have a chance at seeing what's what. This also saves energy, and tends to give the higher energies we have a chance to transmute into even higher states. Animal reactions can only generate animal energy. Higher understanding comes from higher seeing. Our spiritual potential must be funded, to be actualized.
The path to Liberation is not found through getting more and more of what we think we want. It is found through clearer understanding of ourselves, brought about by a well functioning body/mind, capable of storing and transmuting energy, along with a well-defined aim or direction. The energy provides the funding for our search. The aim, brought about by our suffering, and longing for our true home, will provide the tension or pressure to transmute this energy into clearer understanding of ourselves. If enough energy and pressure are applied, we may find our very being is changed, and We are no longer in need, of anything. Take the little that you are given, and invest it in your future becoming. Apply the force of steady direction, inwards towards your Source, and stand the pain of withdrawal from your former 'selves'. Turn the water of your energy into the Wine of your Becoming.
- Quotes of the Month -
" The kernel of true manhood is the ability to abandon sensual indulgences. -
Little by little, wean yourself. This is the gist of what I have to say." - Rumi
“Gurdjieff used to say that a man revealed himself most clearly in his reactions to sexuality and to money." - Kenneth Walker
" Bear in mind that your flesh is weak and that no worldly thing can comfort or strengthen your spirit, for what is born of the world is world and what is born of the flesh is flesh. The good spirit is born only of the Spirit of God, who communicates himself neither through the world nor through the flesh. - St. John of the Cross
" Lust is radically opposed to knowledge. How strange that one who is physically enfeebled and has reached the end of his life, is still eager for sensual enjoyment." - Sage Ashtavakra
" Ever fed, never satisfied. Never fed, ever satisfied." - Yogananda on sex desire
" We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking. - Mark Twain
" Innocence seldom utters outraged shrieks. Guilt does." - Whittaker Chambers
Sex without love is an empty experience, but, as empty experiences go, it's one of the best.-Woody Allen
As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent. - Socrates
In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants,
and the other is getting it. - Oscar Wilde
12/18/04 - St. Nicholas and Jehoshua: This holiday season the Missal takes a look at two figures, Saint Nicholas and Jesus, who each represent many vastly different sets of ideals in the current celebration of Christmas. We'll take a look at only their purer form, the ideals they represent, without the historical, commercial, and political faces put upon them down through the centuries.
Saint Nicholas was born during the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. There is little in the factual accounts of his life, and he left no writings of his own.
One story tells of his love for others and of his humility. A father in the town where Nicholas lived had no money for the dowries for his three daughters, meaning they would not find good husbands, thus, in those times, faced a life of poverty and despair. Nicholas came to their house late at night and left a bag of gold, either by throwing it down the chimney or through a window, where it landed in the stockings before the fire. Returning for two more nights in a row, he secured the girl's dowries and their futures. When the father found out who had performed these deeds, Nicholas insisted that the thanks be directed to God, not himself. Thus, we have the stories of Santa Claus coming down the chimney, and the gifts he leaves in the stockings.
The Apolytikion (Hymn) of St. Nicholas
An example of the Faith and a life of humility, as a teacher of abstinence you did inspire and lead your flock, and through the truthfulness of your deeds were exalted by greatness, through your humility uplifting all and by poverty gaining wealth. Father and hierarch Nicholas, intercede with Christ our God that our souls may be saved.
Many such stories are told of Nicholas, all showing how he cared for the poor and innocent, and had no desire to take credit or reward for himself.
Little is also known of Jesus, or Jehoshua of Nazareth. While He may have existed in the sense read in the Gospels, as well as an historical figure, and may have actually spoken some of the many teachings attributed to Him, His real value lies in the ideal He represents, and how this can lead us to the inner Christ. As an inner guide who leads us to the true temple within our heart, where we become one in Holy Marriage to our Soul, and as the sword of discriminating wisdom, which leads us to retreat from the false, thus coming to Truth, He serves as a link between the outer man and the Inner Source. Much as the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sanghat, Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the formula for living and becoming. We become the Path, and thus come to the Father. Though Jesus preached the religious law of the time, including the commandments, he acted in pure spontaneity from His own wisdom, even if it meant breaking the law.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me." - John 14:16
Rather than a figure of sentimental puppy-love, a harsh judge doling out unforgiving punishment, or a lost figure of historical vagueness, the ideal represented by Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, that saves us by leading us away from identification with the world and ego, lighting the Path back to the Divine.
“As long as man does not know his own divine self, he will continue to seek in externals that which can only be found inside oneself. When he awakens to the realization of the divine power within himself, he will cease to look for salvation in external persons and things, and instead of seeking for a Christ in history, he will find the true Jesus within himself.”
- Franz Hartmann
Both of these figures are in basis an archetype, an ideal, and though perhaps based on an historical figure, molded by history, passion and greed into their commercial counterparts, this ideal is the energy or power that drives the images even today. To be caught in the spell of any of the various forms is to be identified with an image, trapped in the archytype, and thus lose the meaning and practical use of the underlying truth. Both of these men, and the force behind them, was not one of pride, greed or pious fundamentalism, but one of truth and humble action, though that action be difficult, and the truth lost in the details. The path within does not end in the messenger, i.e. the archytype, but continues into the nameless stillness and slilence beyond all images and their activities.
"The major tempation to be overcome in this period is the temptation to fall for one of the subtle but powerful archetypes of the collective consciousness. In the state of oneness, both Christ and Buddha were tempted in this manner, but they held to the "ground" that they knew to be devoid of all such energies. This ground is a "stillpoint", not a moving energy-point. Unmasking these energies, seeing them as ruses of the self, is the particular task to be accomplished or hurdle to be overcome in the state of oneness. We cannot come to the ending of self until we have finally seen through these archetypes and can no longer be moved by any of them." - Bernadette Roberts
- Related Sites -
Who is St. Nicholas? The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
The Gnostics: The main tenet of the Gnostics was that salvation, becoming one with God, was accomplished through interior realization rather than through an intermediary, such as the Church or clergy. The individual, turning away from the material world, came to find his Source within through his own efforts and knowledge, or 'gnosis'. The Greek term gnosis means investigation or knowledge; the understanding of spiritual mysteries. This early sect based on the teachings of Jesus all but disappeared soon after the rise of organized Christianity, which branded it heretical.
The Cathars: Also known as the Albigensians, the Cathars were a medieval Christian sect around the 10th to the 14th century. The term Cathars originates from the Greek, catharos, meaning the purified ones. Catharism was based on the idea that the world is evil, as believed the Gnostics before them, and had been created by an evil god, known to the Gnostics as the Demiurge, and to the Cathars as Satan. They equated this evil god, or Satan, to the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and only used the New Testament, particularly the Book of John, as their Gospel. To the Cathars, men became corrupt due to the hypnotic influence of the world of matter and its evil ruler, and were liberated through the Christ within.
* * * * * * *
Tricks and Traps
Trap: believing the 'world' is the sole source of your troubles. In the active-reactive situations of life, we may mistakenly come to believe that other people or circumstances are the sole source of our problems, as well as the potential source of our future happiness. This locks us into a no-win situation, for the world is not going to change to suit our petty desires and fears, nor will molding our 'self ' to fit the world resolve the conflict either. The world is change, and as such, no counter-change made in our environment or pattern can last, or bring peace and lasting security.
Trick: seeing that identification with our 'self', as it rises to meet the world, is the root cause of our trouble, desire and fear. When we come to see that our own reaction-pattern is what we should be looking at, we may also come to see that what we have been calling 'me', is not us at all. It is but another part of the changing world, a view. By observing our 'self 'as it rises up in reaction to the world, through self-observation, we come to this startling realization: we are only an observer. All action-reaction is of the world or view, it is not us. Thus, we separate from our pattern, and the view becomes just that, 'self ' included. Once we have hit this point of fact, we are ready to go within.
" When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty." - Jesus, The Gospel of Thomas
The Paradox of Change
"And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." - Luke 11:9
Both Jesus and Nicholas had one important thing in common; they were men of action, and taught through example. The theory came later, from those who recorded their lives and words. Neither of these men taught that we should wait around for them to save us, or that the inner kingdom was only entered by first gaining permission from paid priests and preachers. They taught that we must change first, in a fundamental inner way, and then the doors could be seen, knocked upon, and entered.
The primary change that must precede any exterior change, is that of value or aim. Another way to put this, is that what we love must change in order for our life to gain new direction. This inner or spiritual change comes first, an inner realization perhaps that things are not as they seem, and that if we are to find something permanent and unchanging, we can no longer put our faith in the ceaselessly changing outer world, a world of flux we now know cannot be depended on. This inner change causes or precedes the outer or psychological change. And from there, our actions too, may change.
A strange belief seen in some who profess to desire the truth, is one that no effort or change is necessary, but that all one must do is wait, or believe, and that some force will do the work or changing for us. We should just sit, and perhaps talk high words of exalted states of complication or simplicity, and we will be enlightened or saved simply because we already are and just don't know it, or because our unconscious belief in our innate superiority will cause the gods and teachers to save us from the perils of life with no effort of our own. This is all nothing more than a rationalization for our own pride and laziness, or else fear of action and its consequences. While there is truth in the effortlessness of essence, and that the ego cannot create heaven in its own image, no matter the effort, this is only known after the fact, not before.
Waiting for inner change to occur without effort is actually the worshipping of our current psychological state. We do not wish for real change, but for all resistance to our self-centered will to be removed, so that our self-survival mechanism can render us omnipotent and eternal. This is ego worship, nothing more. The willingness to change, in a real and drastic sense, is shown first by a willingness to accept the truth of ourselves as we are, regardless, and then by a willingness to work on changing our current psychological state. This shows the powers that be we are not afraid, of mental change or emotional pain, and do not place our identification with our accidental state of being above fact of Truth, and our petty wants and worldly needs above love for Truth. We show we are willing to let go of our identification with our reaction-pattern, our 'self', and face the unknown, knowing intuitively that the Kingdom is within.
This initial change of heart and mind, the change in our direction or aim, comes to each of us in our own manner. Some may find it through mental inquiry into their present state. Others may find it through an intuitive feeling, while still others come to it by the trauma of drastic events. Some may find it through contact with a teacher or friends. Whatever the path we take to this moment, and whether we are even aware of it at the time, the inner change is primary and causal. It works its way outward and affects our lives, whether we like it or not. We will eventually look back with understanding, perhaps, but always with gratitude and praise. If this has not happened to you, but you know for sure that your life can't be as good as it gets, then begin the effort: ask, knock, and seek, with all your heart and mind, and surely you will find.
- Quotes of the Month -
Jesus said, " Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.
" Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule over the All." - The Gospel of Thomas
" Man as a true human is essentially a religious being and only secondarily a political, social, and economic animal." - Phiroz Mehta
" The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." - F. Scott Fitzgerald
" We live in an atmosphere of gloom and despair, but this is because our eyes are downcast and rivetted to the earth, with all its physical and grossly material manifestations. If, instead of that, man proceeding on his life-journey looked - not heavenward, which is but a figure of speech - but within himself and centered his point of observation on the inner man, he would soon escape from the coils of the great serpent of illusion. From the cradle to the grave, his life would then become supportable and worth living, even in its worst phases.… - H.P. Blavatsky
" Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God." - Lenny Bruce
" Religion is a defense against the experience of God." - Carl Jung
"(The Bible) has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies." - Mark Twain, "Letters from the Earth"
" Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." - H.L. Mencken
The Gnostics: 6/4/04 - This month's Missal takes a look at the Gnostics. The Gnostics were an early Christian sect, who were declared heretics by the early Church, and wiped out by the end of the fifth century. Until the later part of the 20th century, most information about them had been lost, as their writings had also been destroyed, and most of what was known about them were accounts left by their enemies, the main stream Christian bishops of the time.
The main tenet of the Gnostics was that salvation, becoming one with God, was accomplished through interior realization rather than through an intermediary, such as the Church or clergy. The individual, turning away from the material world, came to find his Source within through his own efforts and knowledge, or 'gnosis'. The Greek term gnosis means investigation or knowledge; the understanding of spiritual mysteries.
In 1945 a vital discovery was made in Egypt. An earthen jar containing ancient Gnostic books or codices was found. This collection, known as the Nag Hammadi library, was to give the world a clearer picture of the Gnostics and their philosophy.
Absolute reality, as taught by the Gnostics, was unknowable through the senses, or even the mind, and could only be known through an intuitive and inner direct perception. This Self could only be ultimately realized through the path of the heart, being unreachable through conceptual thinking. This True God was not to be confused with the God of the Old Testament, called by the Gnostics the Demiurge, a term meaning 'half-maker' or public craftsman. This god, the ruler of the physical universe, was the illegitimate offspring of Sophia, or wisdom. Believing himself to be all-powerful, having lost his connection with his Source, the Demiurge rules the Earth with arrogance, through fear and desire.
" Not all humans are spiritual (pneumatics) and thus ready for Gnosis and liberation. Some are earthbound and materialistic beings (hyletics), who recognize only the physical reality. Others live largely in their psyche (psychics). Such people usually mistake the Demiurge for the True God and have little or no awareness of the spiritual world beyond matter and mind. For instance the blind and arrogant creator-demiurge bears a close resemblance to the alienated human ego that has lost contact with the ontological Self. Also, the myth of Sophia resembles closely the story of the human psyche that loses its connection with the collective unconscious and needs to be rescued by the Self." - Stephan A. Hoelle
This remarkable analogy of the arrogant creator-god, lost in ignorance, calls to light the ancient maxim, 'As Above, So Below'. In the microcosm, our own ego, lost from its source and claiming to be the master, reflects the macrocosm of the Demiurge and its relationship to the higher Self. By showing us this recurring theme in many of their manuscripts, the Gnostics reveal the path back to reality; regaining our inner connection to the Self through gnosis.
The Gnostics taught that we needed help to overcome the hypnosis of earthly life and its demiurge ruler, or ego. These helpers, the Messengers of Light, came in many forms, the highest being Jesus. Jesus was not thought of as saving us from our sins through His death and suffering, but of leading us back to Truth through His teaching and His life. Many of the codices of the Nag Hammadi library are teachings of Jesus, in the form of sayings and parables. The most popular and accessible is the Gospel of Thomas, in which Jesus labors to show his disciples their current state, and of how to regain their lost grace.
Jesus said, "I took my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off their wine, then they will change their ways."
Another facet of the Gnostic teachings is the role of the feminine. Several of the writings, including Thunder, Perfect Mind are written in a feminine voice. Mary Magdalene plays a greater and different role, too, as used in several of today's popular works, such as The Da Vinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
The greatest gift of the Gnostics, for which they were persecuted and eventually destroyed, is that of inner self-inquiry as the path home. While guides and helpers are needed, and available, we are responsible for our own liberation, and cannot buy our way out of our state of ignorance save with our very life.
Jesus said, "A man had received visitors. And when he had prepared the dinner, he sent his servant to invite the guests.
He went to the first one and said to him, 'My master invites you.' He said, 'I have claims against some merchants. They are coming to me this evening. I must go and give them my orders. I ask to be excused from the dinner.'
He went to another and said to him, 'My master has invited you.' He said to him, 'I have just bought a house and am required for the day. I shall not have any spare time.'
He went to another and said to him, 'My master invites you.' He said to him, 'My friend is going to get married, and I am to prepare the banquet. I shall not be able to come. I ask to be excused from the dinner.'
He went to another and said to him, 'My master invites you.' He said to him, 'I have just bought a farm, and I am on my way to collect the rent. I shall not be able to come. I ask to be excused.'
The servant returned and said to his master, 'Those whom you invited to the dinner have asked to be excused.' The master said to his servant, 'Go outside to the streets and bring back those whom you happen to meet, so that they may dine.'
Businessmen and merchants will not enter the places of my father."
The circular, harmonic cross as used by several Gnostic sects, notably the Cathars.
Jesus said, "Become wanderers."
- Related Sites -
The Gnostic World View: A Brief Summary of Gnosticism. "Gnosticism is the teaching based on Gnosis, the knowledge of transcendence arrived at by way of interior, intuitive means. In the following summary, we will attempt to encapsulate in prose what the Gnostic myths express in their distinctively poetic and imaginative language." http://www.gnosis.org/gnintro.htm
The Nag Hammadi Library : The Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of thirteen ancient codices containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945. The discovery and translation of the Nag Hammadi library, completed in the 1970's, has provided impetus to a major re-evaluation of early Christian history and the nature of Gnosticism. http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html
Gnosticism - Ancient and Modern: "Gnosticism is a philosophical and religious movement which started in pre-Christian times.The term is derived from the Greek word gnosis which means "knowledge". The movement and its literature were essentially wiped out by the end of the 5th century CE by heresy hunters from mainline Christianity. Its beliefs are currently experiencing a rebirth throughout the world."
Tricks and Traps
Trap: Seeking spiritual comfort in the world and nature. When we make a move to change, and perhaps become, we will encounter the pain and adversity that accompanies all change and growth. If we then retreat or run from the pain into the past comforts of nature and the world, are we just being tricked into stagnation and decay? Running back to mommy or daddy, love (sex), wordly distractions, even into drinking, drugs, and shopping, only serves to delay our facing of the truth about ourselves and our egos.
Trick: Turning within, and questioning our reactions. When faced with spiritual difficulty, instead of retreating into old habits that might not have our spiritual best interest at heart, we can turn within. In a quiet mind, without the motivation of fear or need, we can question the pattern of pain and the rush to relieve it. In climbing a steep hill, we may find ourselves out of breath, legs cramping, faint with fatigue, not knowing when or if we will reach the top. Instead of quitting and rationalizing our way back down the hill to our old refuge of inactivity, dissipation and distraction, we could simply take a break. Remembering our aim, we catch our breath, and scout out the route ahead before continuing upwards. By facing our pain and fear in clarity, we eventually break through to the clear air of higher being. Through intuition and reason, we change to meet whatever real task is before us; for the task and the one faced with it are One.
The Gap of Time
The Gnostic's tale of the Demiurge, the arrogant ruler of the material world, gives us a clue as to the nature of our own prison, and how to escape it. Being himself created, a creature, the Demiurges belief in his own infallibility is a lie in basis, and so must be continually bolstered. To accept the true nature of his existence would be un-thinkable, for it would mean his demotion from absolute ruler to mere manager, a caretaker of sorts, rather than the True God. This he sees as death, and rightly so. Let us take a look at how we as ego, a reaction-pattern created from thought, make the same mistake, and how we can become free of this prison of projection and delusion.
When we become identified, we do not become identified with the world or the body. We actually fall asleep to the world or body, and become identified with the mind; meaning we are identified with thought. We may believe we are seeing things as they are, for we have never bothered to take a look at how we see, or what we are really seeing. The self-reflecting consciousness sees just that: a projected reflection of its own consciousness. This inner mind-world is a superimposed projection, built of thought that was formed throughout the person's life and the process of which he is completely unaware. We do not see this projecting process, for it is instantaneous and automatic. We only see the end result; a world made of thought, removed from the eternal Now through a gap of time.
This split-second from when we receive a percept and then react to it with thought, is this gap of time. This gap, though it be only a split-second, is a chasm wide enough to separate us from our very Self or Source. It is also wide enough to allow us to live in a world of reaction; a world of judging, thinking, and assumption. This dualistic realm is never stable, ever changing, and ruled by a tyrant whose very existence is after-the-fact. This tyrant is called ego, and is the very thing we have come to be. Our very sense of self has become identified with a reaction-pattern, removed from the present through time. This sad state of affairs is not only unreal, but patently dangerous. All of the world's ills spring from this illusion.
This illusion can also be called mind, or the inner drama. We live in this self-created drama, and must continually re-create it to keep our false sense of self somehow stable in an unstable world. Now, in our struggle for self-survival, our first reaction to hearing this is to dig in, to insist more than ever that we are in charge by deciding to take immediate action and remedy the situation with our new knowledge. We may decide to root out this egoic ruler who has deluded us for so long, and never again make the same mistake. Or, if our pattern is based in fear, we may decide to run farther into distraction and thought, hoping to be safe in sleep with the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Both of these reactions would be laughable if they weren't so common. Through our very effort to free ourselves, we trap ourselves even more. Through the arrogance of 'deciding', the Demiurge has simply affirmed its self-declared infallibility. We have made the same old mistake, again. As the reaction-pattern, we have only reacted. Nothing has changed; the dream goes on.
How then, can we escape this prison of thought and time? Our very effort to escape binds us more tightly, and even the world of distraction and sleep provides no rest, being subject to drastic change through ever-reacting thought. The answer lies not in affirming our ignorance through thinking we now know what to do, but in our admission of the problem itself. Through the simple admitting that we do not know, we begin the homeward journey to freedom. We start with this surrender; then our attention has the possibility of freeing itself from the drama of the mind in time.
This surrender is a not a passive giving in to our identification with the world or thought, but an acceptance of the facts. We realize that we do not know ourselves. We do not know how we see, much less what, and are thus freed to start looking. This admission frees our attention from the hypnotic trap of conceptual thought, and stabilizes it in silence. To find the possibility of moving this attention within to find out who we really are, as the True Self, means that we must free this wandering attention from identification with thought, and allow its gaze to be turned back within, across the chasm of time and projection.
When we can actually view the world without association, meaning we are finally capable of admitting we know not what we see, we have found a valuable clue. We have now become an observer, capable of turning our gaze within. No longer lost in time and the projection of the associative mental world, there is now the capacity to move within. We have this new freedom because we are no longer locked in the after-the-fact reaction-dimension of thought. This is how honest self-observation gives us possibility to become, to become a real Observer. In the world of thought, there is none. We step out of our own way, and are freed from our personal demiurge as we allow the True Consciousness to come forth.
- Quotes of the Month -
Jesus said, " Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.
" Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be amazed, and he will rule over the All.
" Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will become clear to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.
" Whoever has come to understand the world has found only a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world;... How miserable is the body that depends on a body, and how miserable is the soul that depends on these two.
" If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you will kill you." - Gospel of Thomas
" All you really need on this earth is enough food, shelter, physical freedom to walk around, and a little recreation. The basics of life are all you really need to be happy with the one exception of finding something that is higher than this world's satisfaction. You don't have to be anyone but someone who wants to make contact with the Creator, the Author of the whole universe." - Vernon Howard
" The practical job of awakening someone consists in part of showing him or her by various devices that all mental attempts to reach the pure Consciousness are in vain. It lies back of our mind and back of our consciousness. The problem is to reach Consciousness as it is in itself and not as reflecting some thought or perception of ours that is in it at the time. Naturally, as long as "we" decide or "we" try to do this, we are regarding ourselves as ultimate and reinforcing the bonds of delusion." - Alfred Pulyan
" If you feel the need for entertainment or escape, you are asleep." - Richard Rose
- Comic Philosophy -
" This is a different thing. It's spontaneous, and it's called wit."- The Black Adder
"At first, I only laughed at myself. Then I noticed that life itself is amusing. I've been in a generally good mood ever since." - Marilyn vos Savant
" If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a BAD hairstyle." - Dave Barry
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Advaita, April 05:This month's Missal takes a look at Advaita Vedanta, commonly known as advaita. The most popular of the Hindu philosophies based on the Upanishads, Advaita is a Sanskrit term meaning "not two", or non-dualism, signifying that the Atman(individual soul) and the Brahman(God or Reality) are one, and 'not two'. This interpretation of the Upanishads, that the individual soul and God are one and the same, is what distinguishes advaita from other forms of Vedanta.
While advaita has no founder as such, the Hindu philosopher Sankara (686-718) is credited with gathering the oral teachings and putting them into a cohesive written form. Sankara revitalized the Hindu religion and started monasteries throughout India. His greatest work, The Crest Jewel of Wisdom, or Viveka-Chudamani, is still revered as the leading exponent of advaita philosophy. While some modern scholars cast doubt on whether there was a single historical figure who wrote this treatise, its worth is self evident.
Advaita states that only the ultimate reality or Brahman exists, and that the Atman or individual soul is identical to and not separate from this reality. The world of form and illusory separateness is called maya, and is the cause of the misconception of individualness.
"Maya is neither real nor unreal, nor both together; She is neither identical with Brahman nor different from Him, nor both; She is neither differentiated nor undifferentiated, nor both. She is most wonderful and cannot be described in words. ... Everything, from the intellect down to the gross physical body, is the effect of Maya. Understand that all these and Maya itself are not the [absolute] Self, and are therefore unreal, like a mirage in the desert."
Liberation from this illusion of separateness or maya through becoming the Atman, and thus Brahman, does not involve simply identifying with a bigger concept, though it may seem as such to the eager aspirant. It is rather the observing of the illusion of separateness through intense self-enquiry. The idea of being an individual or thing must be transcended or seen through, not wished away. It occurs when our ego or sense of self is destroyed through honest self-observation, guided by heightened intuition and clear reason. While the underlying truth of our identical nature as Brahman does not need to be created, but simply realized, this must be found on a deeper level than the mere intellectual acceptance of words and teachers that flatter our ego.
"Teachers and scriptures can stimulate spiritual awareness. But the wise disciple crosses the ocean of ignorance by direct illumination, through the grace of God. Gain experience directly. Realize God for yourself. Know the Self as the one indivisible Being, and become perfect. Free your mind from all distractions and dwell in the consciousness of the Self."
The Real cannot be known through the unreal, therefore, according to advaita, we must find the real part of ourselves first, and thus find the ultimate reality. The cause of our suffering and illusions are found in our mis-identification with the individual personality pattern, which is part and parcel to maya. Through the process of self-enquiry, we can sift the illusion from the real, and come back to our true Self, or Atman.
One form of advaita meditation, perhaps best taught by the sage Sri Ramana Maharshi, is that of self-enquiry through the question " Who Am I?". By the elimination of all that is not us, we come to see that the view is not the viewer, and that we are none other than the impartial witness, the Atman. One of the dangers of advaita practice is that the ego can easily persuade us to stop the enquiry once an intellectual or feeling level is reached which satisfies our need for acceptance, self-worth, or peace of mind. Thus, we are tricked once again into duality and stop short of the goal. The fear of finding that which IS threatens the ego, is seen by it as death, and avoided at all costs by whatever tricks necessary.
"The Self never undergoes change; the intellect never possesses consciousness. But when one sees all this world, he is deluded into thinking, "I am the seer, I am the knower." Mistaking one's Self for the individual entity, one is overcome with fear. If one knows oneself not as the individual but as the supreme Self, one becomes free from fear."
The true way of advaita is one of relentless self-enquiry until the goal is reached. Once the real part of ourselves is found, we become Brahman as well as Atman, and all sense of separateness is gone, in ourselves and in our vision.
That Reality is One; though, owing to illusion, It appears to be multiple names and forms, attributes and changes, It always remains unchanged. [It is] like gold which, while remaining one, is formed into various ornaments. You are that One, that Brahman. Meditate on this in your mind.
- All quotes from Sankara, various works -
"This is the final declaration of the Vedanta: Brahman is all; [It is] this universe and every creature. To be liberated is to live in the continual awareness of Brahman, the undivided Reality. " - Sankara
- Related Sites -
Advaita Vedanta:"Adavaita Vedanta is the most influential Hindu philosophy. Like all forms of Vedanta, it attempts to synthesize the teachings of the Upanishads into a single coherent doctrine. Unlike other forms of Vedanta, it teaches that there is only one real thing in the universe and that everything else is illusory." http://www.realization.org/page/topics/advaita_vedanta.htm
Advaita: Sarlo's Guru Rating Service. "I have used this basically Hindu term because it is in India that the theory of this approach is most developed and it seems to be the term of choice among many leading exponents. While its best practitioners go way beyond mental methods, one way of characterizing it is as a mental/existential approach. The most direct is the simple use of the question, "Who am I?". http://www.globalserve.net/~sarlo/RatingsA.htm
The Advaita Disease: On the Tendency to Proliferation. "Perhaps there have always been so many gurus. They were certainly never so able to have such a high profile though, nor such a worldwide following. Mind you, this is a Good Thing; we need lots of them in these trying times. But my skeptical mind wonders: how many of them, especially in the burgeoning field of Advaita, are really enlightened? Is there any kind of quality control here?" - Sarlo http://www.globalserve.net/~sarlo/Ysatsang.htm
Nonduality: The varieties of nondual expression. What is Nonduality - Nondualism - Advaita? "Nonduality means non-separateness." "Defining nonduality is more than opening a dictionary. 'You' have to be opened." "The concept, often described in English as "nondualism," is extremely hard for the mind to grasp or visualize, since the mind engages constantly in the making of distinctions and nondualism represents the rejection or transcendence of all distinctions." - Jerry Katz, editor . http://nonduality.com/whatis.htm
Tricks and Traps
Trap: The Path of Least Resistance. Falling for the trap of ease and ego, we hear that there's 'nothing to do' for there is no 'doer'. So, we stop all effort at self-enquiry in favor of a concept, the thought of how wonderful we truly are, being that all is One(there is always a grain of truth behind every good lie). To escape from this conceptual trap laid by the ego's need to be right and holy, simply observe the facts, by asking the age-old question:
Trick: "Who Am I?" If this question is asked as a practical tool to see what part of the self one is currently identified with, and to look back at what you're looking out of, it can dispel any concept of identity and lead us back within. Careful of the following:
Trap: If the question 'who am I?' is asked only theoretically, due to fear of actually seeing the truth about oneself, it will only lead into more concepts. Try the following:
Trick: Look both inwards and outwards at the same time. Two-way seeing helps to break the spell of our inner movie, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. If we hold the attention on the outer view while also looking within at what we're looking out of, we silence the inner storyline, and might catch a glimpse of the current ego as it slithers away. At this point, ask the question again: "Who Am I?"
" You must be prepared to find that which is, not that which you wish to find, even if it is oblivion." - Richard Rose
"For those who are suffering in samsara from the heat of the threefold forms of pain, and wandering in delusion in a desert thirsting for water, may these words of Shankara which secure nirvana and excel all others, procure for them the ocean of nectar close by in the form of the non-dual God."
- last verse of The Crest Jewel of Wisdom, Sankara
Earnest Seeker or Sleepy Dreamer?
In pursuing a path of self-enquiry such as advaita, we would be well served to keep in touch with our present state of mind, and not venture too far afield into realms of fantasy and unquestioned belief. One thing we can use to ground our search in fact, is honesty. Another is coming to know our true motivations, why we seek. These two tools help us stay balanced as we walk the razor's edge of truth and illusion, safely crossing the chasm of maya and duality. Let's take a look at aim and honesty, and their counterparts, sleep and imagination.
To get anywhere, we must have direction. To Become, we must have the intimate knowledge that we are not. A little self-observation can show us rather quickly that if we are identified with the personality, intellect, and emotions, we are not a stable entity. Observation of our desires and fears as they manifest and control our actions will show us that we also do not have a stable direction. We hear from those who have gone before that there is another shore, where the misery of instability and want are replaced by Oneness, lacking in confusion and desire. Now, if we like the sound of this heaven, we are apt to use the only well-trained tool we have to find it: our imagination, the inner movie. We have been taught to live in imagination, and to use it as the gauge for how things are, and how they should be. Thus, we have been cut off from our ability to perceive directly, and are left with only concepts, ghosts and echoes.
If our direction is controlled by our imagination, and our imagination by desire and fear, we have no direction. We are wandering in our sleep, led by pleasure, pain, and illusions of happiness, none of which last, but constantly change as we drift along the primrose path of maya. We hear from advaita that there is no person, no doer, and that nothing needs to be done, for all is One. If we are prone to laziness and ease, we may think all we need do to attain this state of oneness is to blindly follow a teacher and their words, and don't worry, be happy. If we are afraid, we may seek security in these words and safety in the ashram. If we are ambitious, we may even claim realization and become a teacher ourselves.
As the years roll by, most of us find that following our desires and fears has simply made us pay. We have paid with our time and money, not only to keep our own imagination pacified, but also to keep our so-called 'teacher's' private dream-world well funded. If we are lucky, sooner or later the bubble bursts, and we are left with only a bad taste in our mouth, an empty checkbook, and a bruised ego. The old saying, 'if it's sounds to good to be true, it probably is', takes on new meaning. Our direction was only towards desire and away from fear. It was not towards truth, at least not yet. We may find that our true aim, what we really wanted, was not truth or oneness after all, and thus we paradoxically move closer to the goal, for now we know ourselves a little better.
Here's also where honesty comes in. If we continue to observe our own mind all the while we seek and meditate, we can see that despite whatever calming thoughts of oneness we hold in our head, the mind does not really change. The catchy slogans and charming teachers do not stand up to the tests of day-to-day life, and we find we remain frustrated and unhappy. We may look back fondly on the time when we did not have to pretend to ourselves that we had 'no-mind', and did not have to put one thought up against another to keep our new spiritual ego afloat. It's hard, miserable work, being perfect. Our talents, friendships, and capabilities are ignored while we cater to an ego-god that cannot be satiated. Is this really what nirvana is all about?
The path to self-knowledge is not one of ease and belief, a quick concept-jump into karma-free bliss, but one of hard work in facing oneself. The path of self-enquiry eventually leads to the state of non-action, but only after all ties to action are broken. Action and awareness do not conflict with one another; they do not need to be at war. Our thoughts are not us, we may watch them undisturbed. If we think becoming is simply a process of getting the right thought/concept to identify with, we are fair game for anything that comes along. Honest observing of the mind gives us a new direction, one of going within, and eventually leads to That which is beyond mind. Identifying with thoughts, whether spiritual or otherwise, leads us farther outward into the mind's labyrinth, where one thing is against another, and the game is lost no matter how strong the belief or loud the noise. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing with yourself, observe yourself.
- Quotes of the Month -
" Wisdom is not acquired save as the result of investigation.
" The increase of desires leads to activity, and from the increase of activity there is more desire. Thus a man prospers in every way, and samsara never comes to an end. To break the bonds of samsara, the ascetic should burn away both of these (desire and activity), since thinking about these and external activity lead to the increase of desires. The increase of these two is the cause of one's samsara, and the means to the destruction of these three is to see everything as simply God everywhere, always and in all circumstances. By the increase of desire for becoming the Truth, these three come to an end.
" I can tell you the contents of a half million verses on spirituality in half a verse: God is real, the world is unreal, the individual soul is none other than God! " - Sankara
" I see what you too could see, here and now, but for the wrong focus of your attention. You give no attention to your self. Your mind is all with things, people and ideas, never with your self. Bring your self into focus, become aware of your own existence. See how you function, watch the motives and results of your actions. Study the prison you have built around yourself, by inadvertence." - Nisargadatta
" Doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is an absurd one." - Voltaire
" Friendship like philosophy or art does not have a survival value. Rather it is one of those things which gives value to survival. " - C. S. Lewis
" 'Hell is other people' - Jean-Paul Sartre. 'Hell is also yourself' - R. Crumb"
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Suzanne Segal: 9/10/04. This month's Missal takes a look at the strange life of Suzanne Segal. The sudden loss of her very sense of self, a complete accident, and the years afterward trying to understand what had happened to her and why, make a perplexing and unfinished story. She had spent the early part of her adult life from the year of 17 until her mid-twenties as a devoted follower of Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation, or TM. After leaving the group, disillusioned with the Mahareshi and his band of followers, she moved to Paris and married a young Frenchman. Four months pregnant and in her 27th year, Segal was standing in line at a bustop in Paris in the spring of 1982, when she felt her ears pop, and the change began:
"I lifted my right foot to step up into the bus and collided head-on with an invisible force that entered my awareness like a silently exploding stick of dynamite, blowing the door of my usual consciousness open and off its hinges, splitting me in two. In the gaping space that appeared, what I had previously called 'me' was forcefully pushed out of its usual location inside me into a new location that was approximately a foot behind and to the left of my head. 'I' was now behind my body looking out at the world without using the body's eyes."
She felt like a floating cloud of awareness, a witness, which had no direct connection to the body and no sense of "me". This witness stage lasted for several months, even during sleep, and then it too, disappeared.
"The personal self was gone, yet here was a body and a mind that still existed empty of anyone who occupied them. The mind, body, and emotions no longer referred to anyone -- there was no one who thought, no one who felt, none who perceived. Yet the mind, body, and emotions continued to function unimpaired; apparently they did not need an "I" to keep doing what they always did. Thinking, feeling, perceiving, speaking, all continued as before, functioning with a smoothness that gave no indication of the emptiness behind them."
Along with the complete disappearance of her sense of self, Segal felt an ever-present fear, as the mind desperately tried to make sense of the situation. This fear and the mind's quandary were to last ten years. She traveled from one therapist to another, trying to find someone to help her understand what had happened, but found no one. Even her years in the Transcendental Meditation movement had left her unprepared for this life of 'no-self' and the fear that accompanied it. She found that while the life of no-self filled the mind with terror and confusion, outward functioning continued even better than before. During this period of fear and searching, she managed to get a PhD. in psychology and raise her daughter Arielle.
"The mind, body, and emotions no longer referred to anyone — there was no one who thought, no one who felt, no one who perceived. Yet the mind, body, and emotions continued to function unimpaired; apparently they did not need an "I" to keep doing what they always did. Thinking, feeling, perceiving, speaking, all continued as before, functioning with a smoothness that gave no indication of the emptiness behind them. No one suspected that such a radical change had occurred." - "Life became one long, unbroken koan, forever unsolvable, forever mysterious, completely out of reach of the mind's capacity to comprehend."
The fear and confusion continued unabated for a decade until she found the explanation she was seeking in Buddhism. The Buddhist doctrine of the skandhas, the five aggregates that make up the personality and give the illusion of self, helped her to understand how functioning continued without a 'doer'. At this time she also met several people who gave her validation, including Jean Klein, and found the writings of Ramana Maharshi, who she came to consider her spiritual father.
At long last the fear abated, and joy arose. The mind began to realize its limitations, and the obsessive fear dissolved.
"Once the mind admitted to the parameters of its own sphere and stopped pathologizing what lay outside it, the non-personal, indescribably joyful flavor of the vastness experiencing itself moved radically to the foreground forever." - "The presence of any thoughts, feelings, or actions is never interpreted to mean anything other than that they are present." - "... no judgment about good or bad or right or wrong ever arises; everything is simply what it is."
Where western psychology failed to give her an answer, eastern philosophy responded. Suzanne began to hold weekly dialogues, training classes for her fellow therapists, and finished the account of her experience, told in her book, Collision with the Infinite. Alas, this period of joy and work was not to last. After a couple of years, she began to experience what she called ' bus hits', when the vastness, as she described the everything we all are, began to expand on itself. These periods became more intense and left her drained. She stopped her work and gatherings and began to slip into ill-health. The fear she had had in previous years returned, also. By the spring of 1997, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died shortly after.
Her last few months were as much of a mystery as the initial experience at the bus stop. She began to remember periods of childhood abuse, and even told a friend that she now knew that she existed, even though there was no 'self'. For an account of this period, read Stephan Bodian's afterword in Collision with the Infinite.
While Suzanne Segal's life and story provide detailed descriptions of life with no-self, she gives little in the way of advice to others as how to attain this state themselves. The abrupt, accidental nature of her experience, and the as yet unexplained last months of her life leave little to the aspiring seeker but tales of the vastness. She offered these two suggestions to the novice:
"The first is to see things to be just what they are, because that is how the vastness is always seeing things. Thoughts are thoughts. Emotions are emotions. The body is just the body. It's the mind's interpretation of things that ends up creating suffering -...
The second suggestion, which is actually a non-suggestion, is to follow the obvious, because that is how the mysterious doer behind everyone's life is constantly revealing the truth of each moment. Now I'm not saying you need to figure out what the obvious is and then follow it. The mind doesn't usually perceive the obvious, and tends to devalue what it can't perceive. Take the expression "it's just too obvious," for example. It's not complicated or painful enough. The mind is drawn to complexity and struggle. That's the sphere of the mind."
Her friends and collegues never doubted the depth of Suzanne's realization, even through her final days. She herself never used such words, referring to her realization as " the naturally occuring state", possible for all of us.
"The purpose of human life has been revealed. The vastness created these human circuitries in order to have an experience of itself out of itself that it couldn't have without them. "
- All above quotations from Collision with the Infinite by Suzanne Segal -
- Related Sites -
Collision with the Infinite: "As she stepped into a bus on a street in Paris, an unexpected mental cataclysm split her consciousness in two. A few months later, her sense of personal self disappeared forever." Excerpts from Collision With the Infinite, by Suzanne Segal.
Suzanne Segal: Book excerpts, pictures, quotes, links, and commentary.
Suzanne Segal: "Suzanne Segal is, like John Wren-Lewis, a case of enlightenment outside of any tradition. I recommend reading Collision with the Infinite. It is not groundbreaking, but strikes me as a sincerely written account of a spiritual experience. She is a describer, though, and beyond that offers little except the common pronouncement that there is nothing to attain because we are already the infinite. Perhaps that is true, but the mind would like to know for sure, just as Segal's mind needed to know what happened to the sense of self." - Shawn Nevins, from his site Guide to Spiritual Teachers. http://www.spiritualteachers.org/suzanne_segal.htm
Tricks and Traps
Tools built of paradox, designed to befuddle the ego and bring back the lost art of direct perception.
Trap: Identification with the mind as the ultimate judge and arbiter. We think the mind can tell us what we are, and draw on it as the final say, even believing unconsciously and completely that it is us. Since this causes us to take things for what they are not, it leads to constant change, confusion, and suffering.
Trick: Observing the mind as it flipflops according to circumstance. Thought and the mind are basically reactions, so they change according to circumstance, as in "changing your mind". How could such a thing be taken as the ultimate source for our very definition? Watch your mind, your thinking, as it flipflops in its reactions, ever changing and elusive. Now, who's watching?
Obvious or Oblivious?
Suzanne Segal's suggestions to see things as they are and follow the obvious, thus realizing ourselves as the vastness, are valuable guides pointing the way within. But she does not provide us with any hints on how to become such a person: one who can see clearly, for whom the obvious is just that. We cannot count on an accident at a bus stop to magically provide us with clear vision and the advantage of no-self. Most of us already believe and act as though we do see clearly and that the obvious is our path already. Yet, we are filled with desire, pain, and suffering, and as a little honest self-observation will show, we are not possessed of clear, perfect vision. This bit of self-insight, or the honest view of a friend, might help convince us of our lack of inner clarity. If we have the intuition that there is a better way of seeing, that enlightenment and self-inquiry are not mere words, we may accept clear vision and a true link to the obvious as valuable, though perhaps not as present in us as we might wish. Let's take a closer look, first at what our present position is like without these two suggestions, and then see how we might come to gain clearer vision, a link to the hints of the obvious.
A man in the midst of life is under intense pressure or tension to spend his energy in certain pre-programmed directions. His basic dilemma is rooted in his unquestioned belief that he himself is the one who has chosen this pattern and that it is he that wants to live as these forces or tensions dictate. He does not see things for what they are, being oblivious to the obvious, and instead thinks himself the 'doer'. The business of life in society takes up all his energy and time, and thus keeps him from seeing the trap that no matter how successful he is in life, he cannot change the facts: he will not win. Old age, disease, and death are the end result. Now, don't get this wrong, for this is how it should be with life in general, and there is nothing wrong with nature in and of itself. But if a man has an inner longing, a certain nostalgia that there is something missing in this dream of life and tension, he may have the opportunity to find that he is more than just a man-thing in the struggle of nature. He may come to know that he is not a thing at all, but That which is aware, of nothing and everything.
The day-to-day struggle to earn a living, procreate, care for a family, build a career, etc., take up most of our energy, with the resulting need for compensations such as fun, recreation and distraction taking the rest. There is little if any vitality left to use in self-inquiry and learning to see the obvious, or why we don't. Even if we do have the inner longing to take a look at ourselves, we may fall for the trap of laziness and procrastination by buying into the idea that since there is no doer, there is nothing to do. We should not use the words of those who have found this truth as an excuse to avoid the effort required to make that truth our own. Any effort we put into self-discovery will be found to have been a good investment, and will lead to greater and greater incentive to continue.
The reason we cannot see clearly is that we think, feel, and see through a filter of desire and fear. We rationalize our actions from this desire-based thinking, creating pride in the belief we know the truth about ourselves. To begin to be free of this trap we use it, as it uses us. We set aside a period of time everyday in which we allow the desire of freedom and truth to guide our thinking into lines of self-examination. We use the fear of death and suffering to force us to examine the very motivations for everything we do. Not with a mind to change ourselves, but to find the truth, to see things as they are. We can use the inspirational works of those who have gone before to steer our thinking in the proper direction, and then allow our minds to turn inward and look at why we do what we do, think what we think. We start small, and as our efforts pay off we learn ever more ways to conserve and redirect.
As we turn from gazing at the self-created projection we call the outer world, and our inner fantasies of how to better arrange it to suit our struggle for self survival, we may find that life itself becomes less difficult. If we look at the problems and fears which threaten our sense of self, we become free from this self, seeing how it lives only within our minds. We gain courage from this, and learn to look steadily and fearlessly at our very defeats and obsessions, dissolving their hold, and thus beginning to see everything else clearer as well. It becomes obvious that we, as ego, are our own creator, and by retreating from the self-created patterns of behavior and thinking that bind us in the fog of desire and fear, the obvious becomes clearer. We come to realize that listening calmly and attentively to our own mind is how to see it, and are thus set free from believing unquestionably in our thoughts as being us. We may even find we can listen to our thoughts, without becoming involved.
As our energy becomes more and more our own, we find this listening attention reveals the obvious, now that our mind and its former desire/fear patterns are no longer clouding the view. The next step we need to take in our search for truth may suddenly become clear, obvious. As Jim Burns says, we can "chase our attention", now that this attention is free from the hypnotic spell of an illusory 'self'. We are no longer oblivious to the hints the inner Self is constantly putting in front of us. Free from the spell of the inner movie, the drama of our personal mind, we look for what our true longing, our inner Self, is always trying to show us. The poet John Davis said to "follow your fascinations". Now that we are free from inherited and learned desires and fears, we can come to know what our true fascinations really are. Our life becomes an adventure, as we walk the path back Home with a glad heart, finally free of the misconception that we are a thing, a thinker, a doer. We take joy in our life, free from fear, with the only remaining desire that of abiding in our Self, in love and freedom.
- Quotes of the Month -
" The experience of living without a personal identity, without an experience of being somebody, an "I" or a "me," is exceedingly difficult to describe, but it is absolutely unmistakable. It can't be confused with having a bad day or coming down with the flu or feeling upset or angry or spaced out. When the personal self disappears, there is no one inside who can be located as being you.
" There is a turning inward that occurs when the mind searches for internal information, whether it be about feelings or thoughts or connection to a name or inner experience of any kind. This is generally referred to as introspection. Without a personal self, the inside or internal simply did not exist. The inward-turning motion of the mind became the most bizarre of experiences when time and again it found total emptiness where it had previously found an object to perceive, a self-concept.
" In no way...am I suggesting that practices should not be done, only that there is no practitioner who is the doer behind them. This is true of every activity. ... Just because there is no practitioner (and never has been) does not mean that practice will not take place. If it is obvious for a particular spiritual practice to occur, then it will.
" If you could see things as only and exactly what they are, you would see that the 'you' that is seeing is the vastness itself." - Suzanne Segal
" Our pains are caused by our wrong viewpoints toward things. The false self throws up an imaginary picture of how it insists things should be. And every time this should be clashes with what actually happens, we react painfully. The problem is not what actually happens, but our demands that something else should happen. " - Vernon Howard
" Those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy. " - Marcus Aurelius
" Watching this film (the inner movie, when we first get a good look at the strange drama we call our mind -ED.) is like being drugged and dropped into the middle of a homeowners' association meeting in Norway. Who are these people? What are they talking about? Who's married to whom and why? Why are they behaving this way? "- with apologies to Mr. Cranky
"A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense not to himself."- Tom Stoppard
Dialogue - 06/30/09
This month's Missal examines the art of spiritual communication in the form of Dialogue and confrontation. Meeting in small groups, online discussions, and scheduled meetings, this technique can be invaluable for the earnest seeker in search of a better look at himself. The meetings are somewhat paradoxical in that there is no goal other than self-discovery. A topic may be chosen to get things moving, but the purpose is not one of reaching consensus or compromise, but of receiving a glimpse into the unconscious motivations of one's own mind. The idea is not to prove a point or to persuade, but to reveal the workings of the ego in the minds of the participants.
The renowned physicist David Bohm became interested in how people might work together to move beyond the trap of thought and its potential to fragment and delude. To find a way to probe the fundamental problems of existence, he became involved in conversations with J. Krishnamurti in Ojai, California, and developed an idea for meetings he called Dialogue. He refined this technique with colleagues Donald Factor and Peter Garrett as a leaderless, agenda-less large group inquiry into the motivations, assumptions, and beliefs underlying our thought and communication. Together they published Dialogue, A Proposal in 1991. For examples of Dialogue groups, try these links:
"Dialogue is a way of observing, collectively, how hidden values and intentions can control our behavior, and how unnoticed cultural differences can clash without our realizing what is occurring. It can therefore be seen as an arena in which collective learning takes place and out of which a sense of increased harmony, fellowship and creativity can arise." - David Bohm, Donald Factor, and Peter Garrett
"A key difference between a dialogue and an ordinary discussion is that, within the latter people usually hold relatively fixed positions and argue in favor of their views as they try to convince others to change. At best this may produce agreement or compromise, but it does not give rise to anything creative." - David Bohm & David Peat
Another method of using a group setting to further one's discovery of one's self, is confrontation, or friendly questioning. This method is practiced in the TAT Foundation's groups and meetings, and was pioneered by founder Richard Rose. These meetings are held in person as well as in regular online groups. The meetings use questioning of the participants to reveal the underlying motivations for their thinking and acting, and can have profound results if the participants gather in a spirit of friendship and determination in finding the truth about themselves. As in Dialogue meetings, speaking is not mandatory, and periods of silence often reveal answers. As one becomes more comfortable and trusting, active participation can take place. A monitor is used in confrontation to ensure the questioning does not turn towards personal agendas, and to keep the propensity for giving advice under wraps. The group challenges the thinking revealed by the members in a manner that points out the hidden beliefs that drive them, leaving the members with a better view of their own minds.
|" The meetings are a mix of discussion and questioning with the overall aim of understanding ourselves and our minds better. Meetings begin with an open discussion of the topic for the week which serves as a catalyst for self inquiry. After the initial discussion the meeting moves toward questioning one another. This often takes place in a conversational format and the point of the questioning is to help each person retreat from untruth in themselves - to see where their own thinking might be clouded by desires or fears, where they might be rationalizing or if they might have unchallenged assumptions and convictions. The meeting is not intended for people who want to get together and idly talk about philosophy as an exercise and demonstration of their intellect. Meetings embody the spirit of friendship and are for people who want to take an honest look at themselves and confront the questions that are bothering them and who have a suspicion that the answers lay within. Many people who participate in this process over time will find that their thinking becomes more clear and that they understand themselves and others better." - Jeff Crilley on confrontation, from his site www.firstknowthyself.org
Both Bohm and Rose saw the necessity in using group work to reveal the mind. They saw how most of us need help from our fellows on the long journey from particularized thought to universal silence. To travel from incoherent, individualized, and often obsessive thoughts, to the realization of the meaning of silence and common purpose, is jump-started with group effort. The unconscious and largely negative thought patterns that run our lives are at first seen as both the problem and solution. After this seemingly endless tail chasing has run us up the creek of thought without a paddle, we may come, through the help and energy of group work, to see that the solution lies above and beyond the level of the problem.
"Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally. Thought is constantly creating problems that way and then trying to solve them. But as it tries to solve them it makes it worse because it doesn't notice that it's creating them, and the more it thinks, the more problems it creates. What is the source of all this trouble? I'm saying that the source is basically in thought. Many people would think that such a statement is crazy, because thought is the one thing we have with which to solve our problems. That's part of our tradition. Yet it looks as if the thing we use to solve our problems with is the source of our problems. It's like going to the doctor and having him make you ill. In fact, in 20% of medical cases we do apparently have that going on. But in the case of thought, its far over 20%."
- David Bohm
Thought can only be resolved from the realm of no-thought; life and action only understood from the dimension of silence and stillness. The group setting of Dialogue and confrontation lends the help of a higher dimension to the individual mind, revealing what it is by showing what it is not.
"I do believe there's a system that searches for the Truth, and it's a process of challenging everything. It's good to challenge a person's thinking. You get them out of their daydreaming by saying, "Hey -- what are you thinking? Why are you thinking it?"
- Richard Rose
- Related Sites -
Dialogue, from Capacitie: "One of the requirements for successful Dialogue is the suspension of assumptions. This ensures that space is created for other points of view and for the possibility of something quite new arising. If this suspension is carried through to fundamental beliefs about what I am and my world view, I discover an openness which I believe to be what Traherne referred to as Capacitie. The normal understanding of self/other is undermined and a commonality of interest or impersonal awareness comes about. I think this approach is what he meant by 'True apprehension'. " - Alan Mann http://www.capacitie.org/dialogue/index.htm
TAT Foundation: For more than 35 years, the TAT Foundation has focused on providing a forum of friendship where truth-seekers can compare, discuss, and debate their successes and struggles in the spiritual search. TAT offers a unique opportunity to meet fellow seekers and hear amazing personal stories. Want to join us in some thought-provoking discussions that may produce inspiration and action? E-mail for more information on attending meetings. http://tatfoundation.org/curr_events.htm
The Wild Within, by Paul Rezendes. Paul Rezendes' powerful book of his journey from motorcycle gang leader to Master tracker. A professional photographer and spiritual teacher, Rezendes spellbinding adventures have given him provocative insights into our essential relationship with nature - and ourselves. http://paulrezendes.com/books.php#wild
Tricks and Traps
Trap: Self-Pity. In the endless game of ego-maintenance, we bounce back and forth between the poles of getting what we want and being denied same. Thinking relief from the ego's deflation cycle comes from wallowing in self-pity until a change of circumstance breaks the spell, we fail to rise above the trap.
Trick: Help another. The relief can come from helping others. When we look at the problems of our fellows, we see the issues without the threat of ego-deflation and thus get a clearer view. If we put the adage "We are all One" to the test, we see that the tension in another is ours as well, and its release, our relief. We then realize that helping another is helping oneself, and when practised, we feel how it works. If we turn the lesson on ourselves, we may see that viewing our problems with a bit more objectivity is more efficient, and thus has the added effect of freeing our fellows from having to deal so much with our mess as well.
Trap: You like it. We might come to like the feeling of ego inflation we get from being such a wonderful helper, and forget to see what the above has actually been pointing to: we are not that which does good or bad, but that which observes.
" The view is not the viewer." - Richard Rose
In the search for our true identity, no problem is more pronounced than that of confusing what we see and what sees it. We become so hypnotized by the endless parade of images we come to feel at one with them all. We lend meaning and value to what we see, until we believe we have become what we see. The mass of experiences we give meaning to are the pattern we come to call our 'selves', and any new experience that happens along is judged solely by how it flatters or threatens this pattern. We have come so far afield from anything even close to what we really are, it's no wonder the journey home is difficult, and so paradoxical.
In any instance where we might attempt to see who or what we really are, the mind calls forth an associated image and then judges it's relevance. We then say "I" to it, if it fits the bill. We are forever looking out of ourselves, for ourselves, and relying on what's not us, to tell us what is. This process of projection, judgment and subsequent identification is never questioned in and of itself, only endlessly refined. In an average lifetime, it's quite easy to never run out of things to be, the choices are legion.
Let's examine an inner dialogue of the sort that self-examination can produce. You hear that you should just look back at what you're looking out of. OK, you say, there's nothing there? Exactly. You now feel confused? So you think you're a feeling? Who's feeling this feeling? You are? Look behind the feeling. Again, nothing. Now you feel stupid? Well, maybe, but let's keep looking. You remember something you read, what your teacher said? No, very quick, before the image/feeling can take over. What do you see? Still nothing? If you can hold onto this instant of seeing 'nothing', for even the split-second before an image/feeling fills the space, you're on the right track. If something in you feels vaguely threatened by this, that's good news. Keep looking.
We find when trying to examine ourselves directly, we can't help but put associative images up on the inner screen of our mind. Let's try a little trick. Look at an object in front of you, preferably something still and relatively common. Just look at it. No judging, projecting, thinking, relating, associating, feeling, remembering; just look. If you can do this for even an instant, things may become clearer, calm and still. This is the absence of the projecting mind. What's left? Nothing much. Only you, the eternal observer of mind and matter, the infinite witness of feeling and believing. Behind the precious intellect, beyond the hallowed hall of feelings, lies the listener. This unlimited clear space has room for all, and need for none.
- Quotes -
" Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives false info that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought. Whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us.
" Of course, one of the main legitimate functions of thought has always been to help provide security, guaranteeing shelter and food for instance. However, this function went wrong when the principle source of insecurity came to be the operation of thought itself.
" We haven't really paid much attention to thought as a process. We have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process." - David Bohm
" Thought is generally considered to be a sober and weighty business. But here it is being suggested that creative play is an essential element in forming new hypotheses and ideas. Indeed, thought which tries to avoid play is in fact playing false with itself. Play, it appears, is the very essence of thought. This notion of falseness that can creep into play of thought is shown in the etymology of the words illusion, delusion, and collusion, all of which have as their Latin root ludere, "to play." So illusion implies playing false with perception; delusion, playing false with thought; collusion, playing false together in order to support each other's illusions and delusions. When thought plays false, the thinker may occasionally recognize this fact, and express it in the above words." - David Bohm & David Peat
" Watching the thought processes will stimulate us to purify and clarify them. And analysis will, with increased clarity, enable us to see the anatomy of thought more clearly.
" At the same time that we examine ourselves psychologically, we should examine ourselves directly. There are important questions, of which we should always be aware. We should now look at thought itself, and look for the relationship between awareness and thought." - Richard Rose
" What I mean by realization is living, being energy that is aware or awake to what is, or to what is arriving in the moment. An awareness that is at rest and has no intention for anything to be other than what it is. Although it is at rest and has no intention, it can have a dramatic action on the movement of thought in a person's life. This action takes place out of time, and without a doer. It is an action that does not come from a center, nor is it linear. In other words, it is not a reaction. When a person is realized, this awareness is the unresisted perspective in a person's life, a perspective without a center, and without fear or pride. " - Paul Rezendes
" No brims nor borders such as in a bowl we see, my essence was Capacitie." - Thomas Traherne
" Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present. " - Regina Brett
If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it. - Regina Brett
I sometimes lie awake at night trying to think of something funny that Richard Nixon said. - Lyn Nofziger
Copyright 2010 - Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.