Archive 6
8/02/03 -  Franklin Merrell-Wolff :
Franklin Merrell-Wolff
    This month's Missal looks at a modern day mathematician and philosopher, Franklin Merrell-Wolff.  Born in 1887, he was raised in California, the son of a clergyman. He graduated from Stanford University Phi Beta Kappa in 1911 with a major in mathematics, having also studied philosophy and psychology. He did graduate work at both Harvard and Stanford. While at Harvard in 1912, he attended a lecture by Vivekananda, an Indian guru, and became convinced that the spiritual search was the only task worthwhile. He left a teaching position in mathematics at Stanford soon after for the countryside of rural California, never to return to academia again.
     He had heard from the Sufi sage, Hazrat Inayat Khan, that the spiritual center of any country was at its highest point, so he purchased a ranch near Mt. Whitney, being the highest peak in the lower 48. He spent a great deal of the following years mining for gold in the California hills, giving him much time for solitude and contemplation.
     In 1922, he had his first premonitory "Recognition', that of "I am Atman", the discovery of his eternal nature as the Atman, or soul. He referred to his spiritual experiences not as such, but as Recognitions. The term Recognition through Identity was used to describe a different, direct way of knowing, beyond the usual reactive system of subject-object consciousness. His second premonitory Recognition was that of "I am Nirvana" rather than Nirvana being a place or separate dimension. The last of the premonitory Recognitions occurred within weeks of his Liberation, and was referred to as the understanding that "Substantiality is inversely proportional to ponderability", that theTranscendent was primary or more real than the world of appearance.
     The first of Wolff's two fundamental Recognitions took place in August of 1936.  He had been studying Shankara's teaching on liberation, and realized that it was not the finding of yet another object in consciousness, no matter how subtle, but a change in being, a becoming one with the Transcendent Consciousness. His second Fundamental Recognition came soon after as the result of realizing that he no longer had any reason to stay in existence, except to help lead others to the Recognitions also. This led him to the Recognition of the High Indifference, a state that was not dependent on either existence, or non-existence.

I was no more and God was no more, but only the Eternal which sustains all Gods and Selves.

 - Franklin Merrell-Wolff

     Merrell-Wolff gave two favorable conditions which he felt were vital to success in the spiritual search: a desire for liberation, and a spiritual guru.  The serious life-long commitment, coupled with a realized teacher, whether within and/or without, were indispensable helpers on the Path.
He also had a list of Barriers to Recognition:
    The first being Egoism, which though it can bring greater power to the task of solving the problem, it gives unusual difficulty in rendering the microcosm fluidic.
     Somnambulism, a tendency toward wakeful sleep, is a barrier through weakness rather than strength in the subject-object field, though this type is more accessible to induction, or transmission. Training in self-determination and a strengthening of the individuality is needed here.
     Sensuality, being the opposite of spirituality, is next.  All desire for sense-based pleasure(or pain), carries our attention in an outward direction, toward illusion and nothingness, away from the Source Within.
     False predication, or the reversal of value, was the last.  We fall into the error of projecting our own eternality onto the objects in consciousness, and place the illusory nature of objects onto our own awareness. We wonder how the universe evolved consciousness, when the correct question would be how did the universe come to be taken as real.

Recognition actually is a spontaneous induction out of Spirit Itself. Man's personal effort merely removes barriers in his nature that inhibit this spontaneous induction.

Awakening is re-integration for the individual consciousness of the inseparable parts that have been, apparently, divided. Thus, this Awakening does genuinely destroy the universe, in the sense of Its being a power over the Awakened Man. The latter, after the Awakening, may focus attention upon and act within the relative universe at will, but the significance of his doing so is precisely that of entering a dream and consciously playing a part in it.

    Though having being married twice, he is said to have been a lifelong celibate. This would go far in explaining his astute mathematical prowess coupled with a sharpened intuition, which together guided him on the Path to Liberation. Wolff lived on his ranch in the shadow of Mt. Whitney, and continued giving his Sunday morning lectures through 1985, when he passed on at the age of 98.
     I highly recommend reading Wolff's book, Experience and Philosophy.

For the fully Realized Man, Sangsara or the illusive universe is without value. This is very difficult for the egoist man to understand, and so the latter may be led to question the value of the Awakening. The Realized Man largely ignores those values which still seem important to the unawakened. - Franklin Merrell-Wolff

For more information on the philosophy and life of Franklin Merrell-Wolff, visit Art Ticknor's web site, Greatest Western Teachers of Modern Times, at

All quotes taken, with kind permission, from Franklin Merrell-Wolff's Experience and Philosophy: A Personal Record of Transformation and a Discussion of Transcendental Consciousness: containing his Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object and his Pathways Through To Space (Albany : SUNY Press). ISBN 0-7914-1964-9. Copyright 1994 by Doroethy Leonard and Robert Briggs

 - Related  Sites -

Franklin Merrel-Wolff Fellowship: " Franklin Fowler Wolff was an American philosopher, mathematician, and sage who combined an extraordinary intellect with profound mystical insight and authenticity. Those who knew Dr. Wolff were blessed by his openness to share both his wisdom and his deeply profound presence. The Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship offers this website in an effort to extend his work and to act as a meeting place for those around the world who recognize the value of his teachings."

The Great Space Center, Home of The Transcendental Philosophy of Franklin Merrell-Wolff: Franklin F. Wolff was an American Mystic, Philosopher, and Mathematician who combined an extraordinary intellect with profound mystical insight and authenticity. His books Pathways Through To Space and The Philosophy of Consciousness Without An Object provide a detailed record of Wolff's realizations and a lucid philosophical description of Transcendental Consciousness. Wolff's long life was spent writing, lecturing, teaching, and working the land. Comprehensive site with bio, summary of philosophy, and poetry.

Spiritual Rankings of Spiritual Teachers and Groups. " Franklin Merrell-Wolff is at times dense reading. He often seems primarily concerned with reconciling divisions between philosophic schools of thought. Of course, this is a man who considered pure mathematics excellent training for the spiritual life and loved to read Kant. It takes enlightened voices of all ranges to be heard by the varieties of seekers, so many, I am sure, will enjoy Merrell-Wolff's style." This spiritual teachers ranking site gives FMW Four Stars, highest recommendation.

The Induction - " Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a mathematician and prospector, had a profound realization in 1937, which he described in Pathways through to Space. From that time until this talk in 1970, various people coming into contact with him experienced a taste of what he had experienced, but always spontaneously. This is a transcript of an attempt to bring a group of listeners intentionally to the door to Nirvana."

Franklin Merrell-Wolff: American Sage of Vedanta Philosophy, from OM-GURU: Saints, Teachers, and Seekers in the Indian Tradition. " Franklin’s unique contribution to the varieties of religious experience seems to be his success in penetrating the mystery of consciousness without undergoing the exercises in fierce concentration that are generally prescribed by Hindu and Buddhist teachers. These are usually considered prerequisites to any sort of realization, and a necessary component of the path to enlightenment. However, Merrell-Wolff's insight came spontaneously. It seems that Franklin's spiritual realization has also stood the test of time." Great biography and summary of FMW's philosophy.

 Tricks and  Traps  

Trap: Bigger is Better. The all too common trap of sensual thinking applied to spiritual matters. That Nirvana or the Kingdom of Heaven is just being really, really high for a really long time.
Trick: What Goes Up, Must Come Down. If being exceedingly high is your definition of Nirvana, you'll sooner or later find your corresponding version of Hell. Instead, develop a trustworthy memory, learn to listen, and observe your self. Try being aware, in the moment, of your motivations, your experiences, your very reasons for living.  Learn to wield the sword of discrimination, rather than squirming about inside the oven of pleasure and pain. Haven't you cooked enough?

This month's

The Shifting Image of Identity

" When two subatomic particles where one is the negation of the other, such as positron and electron, are brought into conjunction, the result is mutual destruction--in their place a flash of radiation that spreads indefinitely throughout space. So also is the effect of the mutual cancellation of all dichotomies of experience and thought. The flash of radiation that spreads indefinitely through space is the symbol of the Enlightened Consciousness. To achieve the mutual cancellation is to effect the Mystic Death, and this requires faith and courage. " - Franklin Merrell-Wolff

     As we go through life, and the path of spiritual seeking, we find we have many ups and down. Upon closer examination, this emotional roller coaster is seen as being caused by identifying with a succession of images, which tend to cancel and replace each other in our never-ending quest for a secure identity. We completely identify with a pleasing image, say that of being a sincere seeker of truth, only to have the facts show otherwise. This can lead us into a negative state, and to fall back for security on a previous image, possibly even a negative one. Since any image is better than none, we will even cling to ones of self-pity and loathing if need be. Anything other than facing the self-less void of no-image. Soon, our energy may recover, we may get a lucky break, feed on flattery and hope, and then identify with an image creatively based on the new, positive circumstances. As life goes on, the circle of identification with the ever-changing parade of images continues. If we are lucky, we will tire enough of this zero-sum game to perhaps pause,...  and begin to question the entire process.
     Wolff speaks often of the subject-object consciousness, the Transcendent Consciousness, and the difference between them. Let's take a look at the subject-object realm and see if we can relate it to the above predicament. We first get into this mess of needing a self-created image to identify with, when we are first brain-washed into believing that the world, or mind-created images, are the reality, and our own awareness, an illusion. Wolff calls this 'false predication'. This happens before we are wise enough and strong enough to resist, even though we may know better. Soon the magic spell of hypnotic conditioning has done its work, and we are hopelessly dependent on mind-created images, or objects, for our very sense of being. We even create a subject-image we call "I"(ego) which we soon become so taken with, and let it so close to our hearts, that we forget our real Self, and come to completely believe in this "thing" we call "me". The false universe of the subject-object consciousness is thus brought to a level of value far and above that of its Creator.
     Since this false universe is based upon a false premise, it must be continually re-created. As the actions of life are played out, we must continually re-act to them, life being change and flux. The action dictates the form of the reaction, thus the subject (ego) is continually being modified by the object (world, inner or outer). Soon enough, the action-reaction pattern is taken to be "my life", and even "me". We become so engrossed with this pattern that we believe we are actually seeing a real, stable reality we call the world, from the likewise stable point of our 'self'. We never notice that this 'self' is a continually changing reaction-pattern wholly dependent on circumstance,...  until something goes wrong.
     Most of us are unlucky enough to put off questioning the dream of life until tragedy and trauma interrupt. Some, such as Merrel-Wolff, had an in-born intuition waiting to speak when conditions were ripe.  For those of us who need a more forceful wake-up call, the realm of action-reaction must provide. Once we receive this blow to the head, called by some the "first conscious shock", we begin to question our previous belief-system. We may come to hear from others who have been down the road before us, that there is another way of looking, a clearer, more direct method of seeing. We may get the feeling, reinforced with strange facts, that the world is somehow the reverse of what it appears, that things are somehow "backwards". Our guides may hint that we have been fooled by experts, and have now become experts at fooling ourselves.
     If we are lucky enough to meet teachers such as Franklin, we may pick up something valuable from them, an induction, not on the level of our usual perception. We may come to feel as if an inner light has appeared, an inner gong has sounded, and a part of ourselves that we had long forgotten has awoken. We are thereafter, never the same. We have become aware, though perhaps dimly, of the Transcendent. There is now the realization of the possibility of reconnecting to the Transcendent Identity we have lost. We now turn our attention Within, and perhaps find that we are Eternal, and that this Soul we Are and ever have been, is directly connected, via a Current, to Its Indefinable Source. It may take the commitment and work of a lifetime, but we have come to know there is no other task worthy of our time. If we persevere, we may make the jump from subject-object consciousness to the Great Space, the Infinite Capacity, where subject and object cancel each other out, and we Recognize our Self as having no boundary, free of the chains of subject-object, the endless suffering in the shifting sands of identity-as-image.

Bob Fergeson

 - Quotes of the Month -

" I cannot too strongly emphasize the fact that Recognition is not a natural result of simple growth or expansion in the subject-object field. It is an act of Transcendence, whereby a Man Awakens to find that, instead of being finite, He is an Infinite Being, has always been so, and always will be so."
" The average man can imagine a heaven or hell built upon the subject-object pattern where life is more intense, whether in a pleasureable or painful sense, but the truly Emancipated Life is beyond his comprehension. A subject-object world experienced after physical death as a highly blissful state is not Liberation."- Franklin Merrell-Wolff
" There are no limits to either time or distance, except as man himself may make them. I have but to touch the wind to know these things." - Hal Borland
" What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it. " - Alexander Graham Bell
"Equality, Superiority, and Inferiority are all dangerous traps that the Ego-mind uses to enslave us in separation, pain and discontent and to distract us from the Eternal and Liberating Flow of Divine Truth and Love. Assess not, compare not! Just be fully present and still, and let the Universe bless you abundantly with Peace and Eternal Love." - Ernest Fokoue

Comic Philosophy
     Get Fuzzy
get fuzzy mystery of existence

All my life I wanted to be something - now I see that I should have been more specific... - Anon

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. - Woody Allen

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4/25/04 -  Vernon Howard
This month's Missal takes a look at Vernon Howard.  Born in Massachusetts in 1918, he began writing at an early age and by 1965 had published the best sellers The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power, and The Power of Your Supermind. Little is known about this modern mystic and teacher's early life. Reports are that he seldom mentioned his past, and instead concentrated on helping others to see the trap of illusion they were in, and how they could escape. We can surmise from a photograph of him that he was active in the military at some point, probably during WW I I. He comments in his writing that he had been a counselor and teacher for many years. In the 1970's, he formed the New Life Foundation, a group dedicated to spiritual development, and taught there until his death in 1992. The group remains active today, with its headquarters in Strawberry, Arizona.
     Vernon Howard's teaching is primarily one of inspiration. He had no practical, step-by-step system I can surmise, but continually referred the student back to questioning himself. This process leads to the beginnings in the student of what Howard called impartial Self-Observation. His many books and essays continually bring one back to the fact that we do not know ourselves, and that this is the reason for our problems and misery. Over the years of our life, he tells us, we have created a false self through identification with our thoughts and projections, and have come to believe this strange creature to be us. Through self-observation, we see through the fallacy that we have to remain as victims, moved about by the world and circumstance, and instead see that we can be happy, at peace with the moment, and free from events and time.

Why do some events make me feel happy, while others bring sadness?
Because some events seem to confirm false ideas you have about life, while others seem to deny them.
Is it really as simple as that?
As simple as that. However, you must prove this for yourself through daily experience. For instance, notice your disturbance when other people do not agree with your claims of being a successful person. This leads to a state which is above all events.- Vernon Howard

     His steady admonishment that 'know thyself' is the key, throws the attention back on itself, keeping us from confusing our ability to project and imagine with that of simple seeing. Stressing common sense and trust in one's own perception, Howard can provide a wealth of material to keep us inspired, and to gauge our own intuition and progress. He shows us how we are not reactive or negative in essence, but are taught this mistake. To love our own illusive misery more than our inherent happiness and peace, he writes, is the result of identifying with our thoughts and unquestioned beliefs: the false self.  Howard shows us how to escape this trap of the false self through the door of unbiased, impartial observation of our own thoughts, emotions, and mind, leading us to the truth and realization that we are the Seer, rather than the seen.
THINKING produces noisy and wrong action.

 SEEING allows silent and right action. - Vernon Howard

     One gets the feeling that he was a man whose teaching method hinged on his ability to personally inspire seekers to look within, through his writing, personality and presence. Without his presence today, after the inspiration that comes from reading his work has faded, one can be left with the feeling, what now? To put a sincere practice of self-observation to work for us without a teacher there to correct our efforts, is a hard task. Still, Howard's lifetime of work continues to point the way to freedom, through inner work on negative thought and emotions, and a return to wakefulness and mental clarity.

"To be asleep means to be the slave of anger and envy, to demand that events turn out according to personal desire, to deceive oneself and others, to suffer from guilt and shame, to take secret delight in hurting others, to live in fear. To be awake means to possess self understanding, to have only one person within yourself, to see through the folly of worldly ambitions, to live from your real nature, to be free of all negative feelings, to be genuinely compassionate."   - Vernon Howard

- Related  Sites -

New Life Foundation:  " New Life is an educational foundation founded by Vernon HowardNew Life Foundation in the 1970’s for the distribution and dissemination of his teachings. It is dedicated to sharing true principles of self-understanding and success as a human being.  All are encouraged to explore, and apply these profound truths. The life-healing principles taught in Vernon Howard’s books and tapes contain a variety of guides and inspirations by which you can change your life." featuring the Life-Healing WisdomVernon Howard of Vernon Howard.  "Vernon Howard’s teachings are like a hometown restaurant off the beaten path with wonderful food and a steady flow of customers, but the tourists know nothing about it. Today, with more people than ever before having an interest in finding and expressing their wisdom and potential, his materials are an invaluable catalyst."

Vernon Howard:  A Modern Mystic:  "Vernon Howard was an American author and spiritual teacher who presented the Wisdom of the Ages in the language of today. He is especially known for his clear, direct explanation of the cause of every human problem — and the sure cure. His practical approach has shown millions how to bring the power of Truth into their daily lives."

Guide to Spiritual Teachers: Vernon Howard.  " Vernon Howard said that, 'The knowledge of human behavior will lead you to God,' and I suspect this summarizes his teaching as well as anything."  Review of Vernon Howard and his teaching from the Strictly Spiritual site of Shawn Nevins.  

Life of Learning:  "Life of Learning is a nonprofit organization founded byGuy Finley best-selling author Guy Finley. Its foremost purpose is to help individuals realize their True Relationship with Life through higher self-studies. So be of good cheer! You are not alone in your quest for a new life."

Tricks and  Traps

Trap: Identifying with the False Self. Through placing our attention only on the reaction-pattern of thought and emotion that we unconsciously project upon the world, we are trapped into calling that resulting composite view reality, and foolishly say "I" to this composite filter through which we see nothing but illusion.
Trick: Self-Observation. By practicing true self-observation through the listening attention, we separate our attention from its identification with the projection. This tricks us into withdrawing our attention from the mind and, perhaps unknowingly, backs it out of the composite view, thus it retreats from the error of projection. This starts our reverse vector towards what is more relatively true. This new freedom of movement of the attention also gives us the possibility of turning the attention around and going within.

 " The higher power does not need your aid. End your vanity. The higher power seeks to tell you to stop trying to help both it and yourself, for this enables it to help you.
  In a true man, spirit is the king and thought is the obedient servant. In a false man, thought is the king and the spirit is considered an enemy. "- Vernon Howard


Containing Tension

"We are cowards, and what we witness about us is a dynasty of fear in a play house of desires." - Richard Rose

      Most of us go through life with no clear awareness of our limited time and energy, but instead continue to plan and plot our way along as if nothing will ever really change. We live to have fun, known as the pursuit of happiness, making our forays into the world of pleasure from a base of imagined security. Driven by the fear that our security is tenuous at best, we rush to have even more fun, before the circle of our dissipation and paranoia collapses in on itself. We never question our motivations or bother to define what we mean by happiness, perhaps because of an inner intuition that that would take the fun out of it. Let's take a look at what this pursuit really is, and how it can be turned from a struggle downhill into frustration and bitterness into a change of being.
     This pursuit of happiness can best be defined as the pursuit of a fading memory, a memory of a time when some outside agent gave us a thrill of such magnitude we can't forget it, or else it relieved our anxiety so well as to leave us in a state of unusual peace. Being creatures of habit, we try repeating the same sequence of events that gave us the previous result. This cycle is sooner or later found to be one of ever-decreasing returns. We find the thrill or release lessen, while the inducing agent is needed in ever greater quantity. We never question the process itself. We never wonder why we even need an outside agent in order to feel happy, at peace, or complete. Only when the agent turns on us, and becomes the deliverer of pain and misery instead, do we stop. Even then, we still seldom question the process, but think we can beat the system by getting a new, improved agent and becoming cleverer in its application.

"As incredible as it sounds, an unhappy man does not realize that happiness is better than unhappiness. Knowing only his own concealed anguish, he worships it, which is the same as self-worship. " - Vernon Howard

     This unconscious trap of worshipping our own weakness keeps us from becoming strong. We fail to realize that the tensions we feel, as anxieties or promptings, are the very things that will free us from all need, if we stand up to them. By giving in to every prod and poke that comes into our consciousness, we give away our time and energy to nothing, and keep nothing with which to build our mental strength and intuition. Through resisting these daily irritations and promptings, we save our vitality and time, which can then be put to use on the spiritual path. We also become something, something that has a greater capacity. We can think clearer, have more time for study, and come to have a resistance to the inner noise, which used to send us running for distraction or numbness. We will have increased our capacity for storing tension dramatically, much like putting our money in a bank that pays high interest, to be used for something of true value when the time presents itself, rather than spending every dime in our pocket, and relegating ourselves to living paycheck to paycheck. Eventually, we will also have gained enough inner quiet to possibly hear something from within, giving our intuition a chance to be heard.

 "Be very careful that you do not unconsciously assume that nervous tension is power. This is vital. Watch yourself the next time you work toward some goal. Look very closely to discover tense feelings and nervous thoughts whirling around inside. Do not let them deceive you into assuming that they are creative forces; they are not. They are thieves of genuine powers. As always, your awareness of their thievery is your first fine step toward casting them out. " - Vernon Howard

     The energy we feel as excitement or thrills, is not the energy we are after. This is just the frenzy of a nervous mind, of thoughts and needs wanting to take advantage of us in exchange for a brief moment of peace when our stolen energy is gone. True strength and peace is in an increased capacity for tension. By increasing this capacity, we increase our resistance to the effects of life. We become calmer in the face of stress, and can think clearer under pressure. By virtue of our increased intuition, we may even begin to see through many of the traps we formerly succumbed to. Our patience will increase, and we will not panic and run when unflattering truths about ourselves come into the light of day. We will be able to sit and meditate for the lengths of time necessary to gain insight into these truths about ourselves, no longer giving into distraction, fear or pride.
     Through this reversal of the trap of dissipation into the discipline of containment, we gain a chance at freedom, and have become something more than a utility of forces unseen.  We now have the possibility of using our limited time and energy in real ways in the pursuit of self-discovery. Our imaginary life of having our cake and getting to eat it, too, becomes instead a life with a true direction, towards truth and self-knowledge leading to real happiness. The Kingdom of Heaven is truly within, and we will not find it by taking our pleasure and meaning from without, from the world and its ceaseless change and pain.
     The next time you feel an inner prod, an urge, an itch from below which you know can only be scratched at the price of your peace of mind, do not think that relief is in doing what it wants. Try resisting, turn away. We graduate from crawling by gaining enough strength to stand up and walk. Walking upright depends on having enough capacity for tension to resist falling down. Be patient, and learn to walk without wobbling. The view is better and you can cover greater ground. By this resistance, become something greater than the world, and take your meaning and definition from the silent strength you then find within.

“To avoid action, thou must first determine for great action.” - Richard Rose

Bob Fergeson

- Quotes of the Month -

"Awareness and happiness are exactly the same thing.
" Knowledge of divine nature is possible only by entering and passing through the dark tunnel of human nature. Any other way leads to self-trickery and self-isolation.
" 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.
" Interpretation blocks reception while masquerading as reception. Rightness does not need interpretation; it requires simple acceptance and nothing else."  - Vernon Howard
" The point of this Work is to save energy and not to be eaten by identifying. Unless we save energy we cannot awaken, because life and its turning events take our energy at every moment. None of the things that happen on the Earth, due to tyrants, etc. is comparable with the way in which we are used by life whose object is to keep us fast asleep. So it said we are all in prison. But we do not see this. We feel it is someone else's fault. Here we err deeply." - Maurice Nicoll
" Real freedom is the absence of the self that feels trapped, not the trappings that the self requires to make it feel free. - Guy Finley
" In order to act, you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking." - Georges Clemenceau

Comic Philosophy

" The American people are sheep. They're comfortable, rich, working. It's like the Romans, they're happy with bread and their spectator sports. The Super Bowl means more to them than any right." -  Jack Kevorkian

"The road to truth is long, and lined the entire way with annoying bastards." - Alexander Jablokov

For more Comic Philosophy, go to the Humor page of The Listening Attention

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 Perennial Philosophy - 1/25/05  :   The Missal for the new year looks at the Perennial Philosophy, popularized by Aldous Huxley in his book of the same name. One way of expressing the central insight of the Perennial Philosophy is with the phrase That Thou Art, taken from the Sanskrit of the ancient Upanishads. Basically an anthology, a book of quotes by then lesser known authors, Huxley weaves examples given by these teachers of how all religions and spiritual systems are united in basis through a perennial philosophy. While it was the 17th-century German philosopher Leibniz who first called this ground of all religion by the Latin phrase philosophia perennis, Huxley's anthology, first published in the 1940's, popularized it and opened the door for the mainstream seeker to its history and teaching.
    He defines the perennial philosophy as : the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being -- the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.
    While the reality of the Ground the perennial philosophy alludes to is available to everyone, being our common source, very few come to recognize it, much less become one with it. The error that leads to this mistake in identity, or of being lost in illusion, is the obsessive insistence on being a separate self, the attachment to I, me, or mine, which excludes unitive knowledge of God. This 'self'-manufactured separateness from our Ground is brought about by identification with reactive thought, as described by Huxley:
In the modern world the child tends to grow out of his direct awareness of the one Ground of things; for the habit of analytical thought is fatal to the intuitions of integral thinking, whether on the "psychic" or the spiritual level.

The path to reuniting with the Ground or That, is brought about by a turning within to directly perceive our source without the interference of reactive interpretation by words, associative thinking, and unquestioned belief states. Huxley again:

But happily there is the Highest Common Factor of all religions, the Perennial Philosophy which has always and everywhere been the metaphysical system of prophets, saints and sages. It is perfectly possible for people to remain good Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or Moslems and yet to be united in full agreement on the basic doctrines of the Perennial Philosophy. We have seen that many thoughts are unthinkable apart from any vocabulary and frame of reference. But the fundamental ideas of the Perennial Philosophy can be formulated in a very simple vocabulary, and the experiences to which the ideas refer can and indeed must be had immediately and apart from any vocabulary whatsoever.

  According to Huxley, one of the problems with religions is their tendency to degrade into "ritualistic legalism", or literal worship of long dead personalities and dogmas. This can lead to unquestioned belief in the also literal, and perhaps manipulated, translations of the original teaching. Misapplied by the 'lawyers' and priests of the religion, these legalistic rituals lead the masses outward into behavior modification instead of inward in search of Truth. Then, the world and its desires are taken to be examples of the higher good, and animal fears seen as evil; all defined by outward behavior only. Unconscious inner states of mind, oft ignored by literal man, are formed by this outward orientation, and  lead to the greed, ignorance and fear we see today and throughout history.

The bodies of human beings are affected by the good and bad states of their minds. Analogously, the existence at the heart of things of a divine serenity and good will may be regarded as one of the reasons why the world's sickness, though chronic, has not proved fatal. And if, in the psychic universe, there should be other and more than human consciousness obsessed by thoughts of evil and egotism and rebellion, this would account, perhaps, for some of the quite extravagant and improbable wickedness of human behavior.

  We cannot be free to even begin a real search for the Truth if we are unconscious of the true motivations and causes of our actions and thoughts. Turning back within via "a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning" reconnects us with That, the common Ground of all. Huxley lays out four doctrines of the sophia perennis to help lead us back from the maze of Maya and her illusions, and "so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground " that lies within.
At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines:
First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness--the world of things and animals and men and even gods--is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.
Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
Fourth: man's life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.

 He strives in his collection of sayings to give examples of the kind of life conducive to the perennial philosophy: a simple life, one of taking our attention and energy from time-bound pursuits, and redirecting them to the inner search. This is the simple way of the seeker, "pure in heart and poor in spirit".

The ground in which the multifarious and time-bound psyche is rooted is a simple, timeless awareness. By making ourselves pure in heart and poor in spirit we can discover and be identified with this awareness. In the spirit we not only have, but are, the unitive knowledge of the divine Ground.

All quotes by Aldous Huxley

- Related  Sites  -

The Perennial Philosophy: by W. T. S. Thackara. Aldous HuxleyFrom Sunrise magazine, April/May 1984. Copyright © 1984 by Theosophical University Press.

Mysticism and the Perennial Philosophy: Mysticism Resources Page. Information on traditional and modern spiritualities.

Tricks and  Traps

Trap: Being as Image. If we take our being as our image of ourselves, derived from our thought/feelings, we limit ourselves to the being of an image; we are an ever-changing symbol created after the fact of our very projecting of that same image from our thought/feelings. When you look in the mirror, do you identify with the image you see, the image you would like to see(improved version), or with That which sees ?
Trick: Look carefully at your thoughts and feelings. A teacher once remarked that we are much better creators than observers. Another says that identity spins identity. By questioning our thoughts and feelings, we may see this 'self' creating process in action, and perhaps slowly back out of our mind-made images into the listening attention. As pure observing, we are free from limitation, for instead of being trapped in form and mind, we now contain all images, all thoughts and emotional reaction. Our being now is as air, still and aware.
Trap: Fear of pain and death. But if we give up our self-images, especially the improved ones of our dreams and vanities, it hurts, for we are left with nothing to stand on. All that is left is fear of dissolution, death, no-image.
Trick: Look carefully at what is actually happening in the course of a 24 hour day. We start out our day in a dream world in our sleep, then we go through the 'death' of waking up, and start another dream, our daily life. Even the seemingly simple act of walking from a room outside into the daylight is an enormous change, but we're so asleep we no longer notice it, much less the changes in personality that automatically ensue whenever circumstance dictates. Through simple honest observation, we can come to see how tenuous and vague our waking life 'self' really is. This shock turns our attention within, and we find ourselves looking back at what we are looking out of, no longer obsessed with our image-creating mind and its desires and fears.


On Direction

" In the modern world the child tends to grow out of his direct awareness of the one Ground of things;.... " - Aldous Huxley

" I tell you that no one can experience this birth(of God realized in the soul) without a mighty effort. No one can attain this birth unless he can withdraw his mind entirely from things. " - Meister Eckhart

     There is a story a westerner tells of his first visit with a tribe of Native Americans. He was sitting in a home, watching a toddler play about while the adults talked. Noticing that the child was having trouble opening a heavy wooden door, he sprang to help, but was stopped by one of the residents. He reacted in disbelief, for he could not see how helping the child push the heavy door was not something anyone would not jump to do. The resident explained that they would rather let the young one figure it out on his own, for this would make him more reliant and resourceful, and not dependent on others. The visitor eventually came to a personal understanding of the wisdom behind this story, and later came to see how it affected his so-called civilized society and its members as well.
     Huxley tells us of a perennial philosophy, a path leading within to a common Ground or reality beneath all religions and paths. This Ground, he says, is found within, as in the biblical saying of the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet, as we are, we are turned only outward into the world of form and illusion, trained to be dependent and needful of a world that has no stability, only change and flux. The very idea of 'within' is frowned upon, or else mistaken for unquestioned belief systems we have unconsciously adopted. We come to forget the way within, and even its existence. This dependence on outer support, only, leaves us dependent and unable to intuit our own way. While it may be of use in the outer world of business and society, even then, we can only go where we are led. This might not be ultimately desirable or in our best interest.
     When we become dependent on outer sets of rules and behaviors for our model, we run into a trap of duality. If we are honest in our observations, we find things do not always go according to the plan we have bought, and are thus placed in a dilemma. Since the outer plan we have adopted cannot be wrong, it being counted on for our very existence, and since we have traded our intuition and inner guidance in favor of it, we are left with having to place the blame for the discrepancy in action and results somewhere else. The usual method for rationalizing the failure of the plan's perfection is to blame the operator, either ourselves or someone else. Even in the Bible, the word for making a mistake, taken from an archery term for 'missing the mark', has been mis-translated into 'sin'.
     This trap of looking without to find the blame for the plan's failure to provide heaven is the hell of the perfectionist. He is trapped by that most slippery of all nets, his own ego. The ego has an uncanny ability to divide itself whenever it makes a mistake or doesn't get what it wants. This splitting enables it to separate into two parts: one plays the part of the good guy, who would have heaven if it wasn't for that other part, the bad guy, on whose head all blame is placed.  This splitting can also be played with one part in our own head, and the other in the body of another. Our ego does not see a difference in where the bad guy lives, whether in our head, or out. We are led continually outward and about, into illusion and duality. Thus, whatever training we had, in whatever plan we have bought, is kept intact.
     Now, why would we be kept in such a dilemma? And by what? Something seems to want us to look only outward, and not to question our motivations, fears and desires. If we are kept helpless, distracted, led ever farther into complex obsessions, and deprived of the mental energy needed to develop our intuition and ability to question, we will never be able to figure out how to get the door open on our own. If it doesn't open at first try, and no one springs to open it for us, we fall back on our negative emotional training, and begin to play the blame game within the fractured realm of our 'self '.
     Huxley also speaks of a certain lifestyle conducive to the search, one of simplicity and purity. To be again as a little child, but with the wisdom of experience. With this lifestyle of containment and simplicity comes patience and energy. Then, if it takes us time and effort to open the door, so be it. The trap of looking for someone else to do our work, whether outer or inner, leads us to a lifetime of dependency. Whether this is under a guru, a job, a system, or another person as love-object, we still cannot open the door, for we will not give ourselves the chance. Now, this does not mean we should shun contact with others, but that we do not count on them to do our thinking, searching or understanding for us. We cannot help others if we are not free and independent ourselves. We take information and guidance from those our intuition says have gone farther down the road than us, but we find the proof of this ourselves by walking the walk, on our own. We are guided, but not carried, and form friendships, not co-dependencies.
     In the end, we find we are only One, and no duality really exists.  By turning within, in true Self-reliance, we may come to know this before it's too late, as old age and lethargy rob us of any chance to see the trap of duality and dependence, much less escape it. If we push on far enough, we come to the place of Paradox: where by losing our self, we find our Self, and find that only by exhausting all efforts do we finally see the door has been open all along. As we walk through the ever-open door into the Kingdom Within, we realize we never really left.

Bob Fergeson

- Quotes of the Month -

" Contemplation is that condition of alert passivity, in which the soul lays itself open to the divine Ground within and without, the immanent and transcendent Godhead.
" We pass from time to eternity when identified with the spirit and pass again from eternity to time when we choose to identify with the body.
" The best that can be said for ritualistic legalism is that it improves conduct. It does little, however, to alter character and nothing of itself to modify consciousness.
" Maybe this world is another planet's hell." - Aldous Huxley
" There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it." - George Bernard Shaw
" There is an arresting thought in one of Plato's Dialogues, the Symposium, that love is the midpoint between ignorance and wisdom, the mediator between humans and the gods, and that through love we attain spiritual understanding." - W. T. S. Thackara
" When one is perfectly still - mind and body, silent and alone - there is no personality to speak of, thus personality is one's unique way of expression, it is what others see and know of us, nothing more or deeper than that." - Bernadette Roberts

Comic Philosophy

 mental celibacy and honesty: doors to the path

When a guru's not engaged in meditation
A-reciting of his mantra for the week,
His capacity for infantile inflation
Is enough to drive disciples up the creek.
He will take the girls aside for tantric yoga
While celibacy's ordered for the chaps;
If he starts behaving like an angry ogre
He will claim it's just to make your pride collapse.
Oh, with all this yogic practice to be done,
A disciple's lot is not a happy one."

       This little poem by John Wren-Lewis was inspired by The Policemens' Chorus fromThe Pirates of Penzance, and the first (1988) edition of The Serpent Rising by Mary Garden. (from Alan Mann's NOW Newsletter, )

* * *
Pully, hauly, tug with a will;
The gods wiggle-waggle but the sky stands still.

- Aldous Huxley, Island

* * * * *

 Tao Te Ching and Lao Tzu- 2/25/05: This month's Missal takes a look at the Tao and it's exposition in Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. Translated as "The Path" or "The Way", the Tao has been called a vehicle for achieving tranquility of mind through the union of the opposites. The main mystical term of Lao Tzu and the Taoists that followed, the Tao is formless and unfathomable as the Source of all.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

 Lao Tzu is a mysterious figure thought to have lived in China in the sixth century B.C. in the ancient capital Luoyang. Some scholars feel that there was no single author of the Tao Te Ching, but that it is a collection of writings by many ancient sages. The character of Lao Tzu lends depth to the book, and gives it a face, regardless of the obscurity of the facts. He was said to have been a scholar and librarian in the archives of the Imperial Court, and a contemporary of Confucius. Upon hearing of Lao Tzu's reputation as a sage, Confucius paid him a visit. Being interested in the rituals and customs of the times, he asked Lao Tzu what he thought of them. Lao Tzu gave Confucius a very non-politically correct scathing about the uselessness of ritual and belief. After being confronted with LaoTzu's Zen-like wisdom, Confucius wrote this poem:
Birds can fly,
Fish can swim,
Animals can run,
So they can all be snared or trapped.
But Lao Tzu is like a flying Dragon, un-trappable.

 In the twilight of his life, Lao Tzu became disgusted with the disintegrating character of the kingdom and its inhabitants, and left for what is now Tibet.  He set out for the western border of China, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path or Tao. At the border he came to Han Gu Pass where a guard, Yin Xi, realized who he was, and that Lao Tzu was leaving the kingdom for good. He asked him to record his teachings for posterity before he left. Lao Tzu climbed down from his buffalo and immediately wrote the Tao Te Ching. He then left and was never heard of again. Composed in 5,000 characters, the Tao Te Ching has been passed down continually through the centuries.

Heaven and earth are ruthless;
They see the ten thousand things as dummies.
The wise are ruthless;
They see the people as dummies.
The space between heaven and earth is like a bellows.
The shape changes but not the form;
The more it moves, the more it yields.
More words count less.
Hold fast to the center.

 Whether Lao Tzu was an actual historical figure or not misses the point. The wisdom in the Tao Te Ching is timeless and springs from a common source inside us all.  It is beyond duality, beyond mind, yet immediately available if we leave the trap of thought and concept, and listen as we look.

Heaven and Earth last for ever.
Why do Heaven and Earth last for ever?
They are unborn, so ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.

-Above Quotes from the Tao Te Ching -

    The Tao Te Ching is similar in style and content to some of the works of the Chinese Zen masters of later centuries. The sixth Zen Patriarch Seng T'san's classic, Inscribed on the Believing Mind(OnTrust in the Heart), talks of the indefinable Great Way. Here, one sees the Tao spring forth again, still indefinable, yet closer than our own face.

Seng T'san
Excerpt from  Inscibed on the Believing Mind by Seng T'san:

The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.
The Way is perfect like vast space when nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.

- Related  Sites  -

Lao Tzu: Father of Taoism:  Thorough site with good information pages and introductions to Lao Lao TzuTzu, the Tao, the Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, and Wang Ch'ung, by Christopher Majka.

Biography of Lao Tzu - Founder of Taoism : "It's hard to pin down a biography of Lao Tzu (570-490 BC). There are numerous legends about him. Many believe he never existed at all, while historians can point to several possible historical identities for him. Regardless, the legends give the book an endearing, human face."

Google Directory listings for Tao Te Ching:Tao Te Ching Google Includes numerous varied translations, from Jim Clatfelter to Aleister Crowley.

Index to Stan Rosenthal's Translationtaoof the Tao Te Ching, from The Taoism Information Page.

Tricks and  Traps

Trap: Thinking our current mood or energy level is final or real. We may be having a bad day, work or home life is hell, and we forget that things were different a short time ago. Our thinking becomes negative and we may even decide that spiritual work is worthless, for it has not made us happy, or kept us in a good mood. This can be good, if it causes us to pause, think, and remember to remember this trick:
Trick: Being able to remember. If we can look at our memory without the effect of the current mood, whether good or bad, we can see that we change, meaning whatever mood is currently upon us will soon leave to be replaced by another. While this may break the current mood's spell, it can lead us into yet another trap,
Trap: Thinking that we are a failure( or a resounding success) at spiritual work because of our swings of mood and energy. This can lead into further traps of thinking along the lines of control and judgment rather than observation, by trying to maintain our hold on life(and thus our mood) through manic efforts at controlling it by force: peaceful meditation techniques, thought control, copping out, being overly efficient, proselytizing, refusing to admit the facts, self-berating, passing the buck, etc. To break this obsessive grip, we need the following trick,
Trick: What within us is always present, regardless of the present mood or circumstance? Simply by the act of looking at ourselves(non-judgmental observation), we can rise above the spell of the present mood. While honest self-observation may not make us 'feel good', we can come to see that the thinking-feeling state of the mood is 'not us'. And, by looking at the difference between these two 'selves', the one of moods and the observing one, we may find something of a surprise.

When we dream we do not know that we are dreaming. In our dreams we may even interpret our dreams. Only after we are awake do we know that we have dreamed. But there comes a great awakening, and then we know that life is a great dream. But the stupid think they are awake all the time and believe they know it distinctly.
 - Chuang Tzu
Click Here for
A Page of Prayers


Observing Our Afflictions

" The finite mind cannot perceive the infinite. The finite mind can become less finite - it can become infinite." - Richard Rose

     Some have asked why Richard Rose felt it was necessary to look at traumatic incidents from our past as a starting point for meditation. Why dreg up these unpleasant memories? Why not let a sleeping dog lie, rather than rudely wake him up and face the consequences? These are good questions. They can best be answered from our own experience, if we care to put the advice into practice. Then we can answer the questions ourselves and in the process, perhaps, change our being.
     Let's start out by defining our aim; why do we search? Any meditative practice can be defined as a means to this aim. If our aim is to find the Truth, regardless, then we must assume that we don't presently have it, or are at least not aware of it. This admission is the basis for our search and will serve us well.
     Most systems of meditation speak of the ego as the main obstacle to enlightenment. The ego can be defined as the sense of individuality, for which there is a survival-program of manic proportions. An individual thing such as the ego is by definition finite. If our quest is to find the infinite and eternal, then being identified with something manifestly finite is obviously a problem. That the finite mind can become infinite may speak to our intuition of the usefulness of reviewing traumatic incidents, if we define these incidents as afflictions to the individuality sense, or ego.
     Any time we have suffered emotional trauma at the hands and minds of our fellow man, it amounts to a rebuff. We have been rejected for our behavior, caused by our thinking. If later, after the heat of the event has died down, we look at the thinking pattern that led to the incident, we may see that we were acting from the manic survival program or ego, and not from a universal position of clear thinking. We can then see why we were rebuffed, and thus our thinking is possibly corrected, and becomes less finite. Any thinking that originates from opinion, ambition, fear, or personal emotion is finite in aspect, biased in its being. To become less finite and more universal, our thinking must become less based on personal opinion, and thus becomes less biased in aspect. The rebuffs we get from our fellow man for our finite reactions are red flags that point this out. Of course, if our aim is not one of becoming less finite, but only to survive as an individual ego-animal at all costs, none of this is pertinent.
     The main characteristic of the ego is its insistence on being right, no matter the facts. It will even split itself in two, and place the blame for its actions on its offshoot in order to keep itself convinced of its rightness. To examine our self in the light of the facts, and to admit our faults and errors, flies in the face of this ego-aspect and thus tends toward making our being less finite. Here again we see the value in dealing with past traumas caused by biased thinking, for it removes us from identification with our errors as it corrects our thinking.
     The ego's insistence on being right regardless stems from its insistence on 'knowing'. It cannot learn, for this would imply that it does not already know. Thus it cannot question its own actions or thinking, for this would also imply fallibility, something it cannot allow. To clear our thinking from this trap of 'knowing', and to become able to receive from a higher power or self by the admission that we do not know, enables us to become still less finite. That which is empty, and thus not full of itself, has a higher being than that which claims to know and therefore cannot receive. An empty glass has possibility.
     Only the real part of us can connect with the Real. Only that which is less finite can connect with the Infinite. By questioning our thinking patterns that led us into less than desirable outcomes, we back away from these patterns and become less finite. As an observer, capable of seeing present time experience clearly, and of honest admission of past mistakes, we are much less finite than as a pattern projector bent on recycling whatever doctrines flatter its valued concepts. A clear aware space has infinite capacity, and can receive. An ego, having to defend a set pattern of thinking, has no such capacity, and eventually becomes a cause for pain and misery, if it is allowed to live unchallenged and unquestioned.
     Once we can admit when we are wrong, we have allowed something greater to come into our lives. Eventually we may come to see that the Golden Rule and the commandment of loving thy neighbor as thyself are not mere dictates of virtue, but clues to our higher inheritance as Universal Man, if we wish to claim it. If we insist on being full of ourselves, vain and 'right', change, which is inevitable, will cause pain and denial in us as we bow at the foot of our god, ego.

Bob Fergeson

- Quotes of the Month -

" Stop thinking, and end your problems.
" Those who know do not speak, those who speak, do not know.
" Even a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step". - Lao Tzu
"To regard the fundamental as the essence, to regard things as coarse, to regard accumulation as deficiency, and to dwell quietly alone with the spiritual and the intelligent -- herein lie the techniques of Tao of the ancients."
" Once I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly and was happy as a butterfly. I was conscious that I was quite pleased with myself, but I did not know that I was Tzu. Suddenly I awoke, and there was I, visibly Tzu. I do not know whether it was Tzu dreaming that he was a butterfly or the butterfly dreaming that he was Tzu. Between Tzu and the butterfly there must be some distinction. [But one may be the other.] This is called the transformation of things."- Chuang Tzu
" To make clear the achievement of nature and throw light on all things is called yang. To be hidden, without form, deep and unfathomable, is called yin. Yang knows yang but does not know yin. Yin knows yin but does not know yang. The Profound Principle alone knows both yin and yang, both going and stopping, and both darkness and light." - Yang Hsiung
" Some say that Heaven produces the five grains in order to feed man and produces silk and hemp in order to clothe man. This is to say that Heaven becomes a farmer or a mulberry girl for the sake of man. This is contrary to spontaneity. Therefore their ideas are suspect and should not be followed." - Wang Ch'ung
" I have been reading your Descartes. Very interesting. "I think, therefore I am." He forgot to mention the other part. I'm sure he knew, he just forgot: "I don't think, therefore I'm not." - Katagiri Roshi
" To generate anything above the mental capacities, we must remove the ego." - Richard Rose

Comic Philosophy

"Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so,but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny."
- William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing

The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously. - Nicholas Murray Butler

Joy is not in things, it is in us.- Benjamin Franklin

People with opinions just go around bothering one another. - Buddha

For more Comic Philosophy, go to the Humor page of The Listening Attention

* * * * *

  I Ching, or Book of Changes, 8/15/05:  This month's Missal explores the ancient Chinese book, the I Ching, or Book of Changes. This ancient book was first formed three thousand years ago, and has since evolved to include commentaries and
Ch'ien: yang, creative, father
K'un: yin, receptive, mother
interpretations as well as the original core. The book revolves around sixty-four hexagrams or symbols, each having six lines. These hexagrams are composed of two trigrams(three lines), stemming from the original group of eight trigrams, based on the two lines, the 'yang' and 'yin' (solid and broken).    
     The most common version of the text is the Richard Wilhelm version, translated by Cary F. Baynes. It was Wilhelm's work that brought the I Ching or Book of Changes to the West. It started out in antiquity as a simple oracle and evolved to become a book of philosophy and guidance as well. Here is a brief history of the Book of Changes in Wilhelm's own words:
 In Chinese literature four holy men are cited as the authors of the Book of Changes, namely, Fu Hsi, King Wên, the Duke of Chou, and Confucius. Fu Hsi is a legendary figure representing the era of hunting and fishing and of the invention of cooking. The fact that he is designated as the inventor of the linear signs of the Book of Changes means that they have been held to be of such antiquity that they antedate historical memory. Moreover, the eight trigrams have names that do not occur in any other connection in the Chinese language, and because of this they have even been thought to be of foreign origin. According to general tradition, the present collection of sixty-four hexagrams originated with King Wên, progenitor of the Chou dynasty. He is said to have added brief judgments to the hexagrams during his imprisonment at the hands of the tyrant ChouI Ching Hsin. The text pertaining to the individual lines originated with his son, the Duke of Chou. This form of the book, entitled the Changes of Chou, was in use as an oracle throughout the Chou period. King Wên was the head of a western state that suffered oppression from the house of Shang (Yin). He was given the title of king posthumously by his son Wu, who overthrew Chou Hsin, and became the first ruler of the Chou dynasty, 1150-249 B.C. - Richard Wilhelm
     The oracle is cast using three coins to find the lines forming the particular hexagram showing the current pattern of the moment as it relates to the given question. These lines may be stable or moving. The moving lines change into their opposite, leading one to further hexagrams. The text provides an image for each hexagram, archetypal in nature and much like the imagery found in dreams. This is a good way to translate the hexagram, finding the particular mood and imagery one's mind provides to coincide with that of the given hexagram's description. For a look at how to use the oracle and for the charts of hexagrams and their meaning, see Wilhelm's introduction and text (with charts).

Our dreams tell us whatever we need to know... the I Ching addresses any question that we want to know, and choose to ask.  It does not offer generic advice or one size-fits-all answers; it offers specific, personalized answers to our questions, any question... by mirroring the wisdom of our own higher self. This strengthens intuition and self reliance. - Dr. Ron Masa

    The I Ching can be used as a means for advice as well as a means of divination. This change in usage, from a strict oracle of the future to an adviser on a course of action, took place somewhere along the book's rich history.

 When it happened for the first time in China that someone, on being told the auguries for the future, did not let the matter rest there but asked, "What am I to do?" the book of divination had to become a book of wisdom. - Richard Wilhelm
     New studies reveal the Changes as a poetic but pragmatic manual of divination that allowed court shamans to tell ambitious noblemen how to deal with concrete situations in their lives. It is less philosophically profound than the traditional version of the Changes, but much more direct. - Greg Whincup

     While the Book of Changes may be proven to be effective as a predictor of the future("roughly 80 percent of the time, according to those such as Pauli who have analyzed it on a statistical basis " -  Philip K. Dick), its spiritual use is primarily one of connecting us with our inner self. Modern man is too preoccupied with his day-to-day survival in the world of technology and distraction to hear his own inner wisdom. Through a tool such as the Book of Changes, we can reconnect with this inner guide indirectly, much like the process at work in dream study. The danger lies inI Ching believing that there is an 'oracle' in the book that is telling us what is real or right. Through this transference we could come to lose touch with our common sense. Furthermore, if we are adamant in finding out the big questions in life, such as 'Who am I ?',  and 'What happens after death?', we may be sidetracked from finding our Source directly, and instead spend our time answering the echoes of our desires and fears through a roundabout method.

The I Ching insists upon self-knowledge throughout. The method by which this is to be achieved is open to every kind of misuse, and is therefore not for the frivolous-minded and immature; nor is it for intellectualists and rationalists. It is appropriate only for thoughtful and reflective people who like to think about what they do and what happens to them -- a predilection not to be confused with the morbid brooding of the hypochondriac.  - C. G. Jung

    The I Ching can prove to be a valuable tool if we see it as an aid to rediscovering our own inner wisdom, thus rekindling our faith in the inner self. It can also be used as a means to test and improve our intuition, and to check our self-honesty as to our aims and desires. Like any tool, it can only do what the operator wishes. If we wish to find out trivial matters of earthly portent, it might help. If we wish to find something beyond the world of change, it may help us reconnect with our life-line to the changeless realm within.

The I Ching does not offer itself with proofs and results; it does not vaunt itself, nor is it easy to approach. Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered. It offers neither facts nor power, but for lovers of self-knowledge, of wisdom -- if there be such -- it seems to be the right book. To one person its spirit appears as clear as day; to another, shadowy as twilight; to a third, dark as night. He who is not pleased by it does not have to use it, and he who is against it is not obliged to find it true. Let it go forth into the world for the benefit of those who can discern its meaning. - C. G. Jung

- Related  Sites  -

I Ching: Have You Any Questions? The U of You teaches methods that University of Yourselfhelp you hear, trust, and follow your own inner wisdom.  Dr Ron Masa has been teaching the I Ching since 1980.  After earning doctorates in two social sciences from the University of Michigan in 1981, he began the serious scrutiny and testing of the I Ching, a process that has led to an ever deeper loyalty to this method of talking to and listening to our inner guide, I Chingwhich the I Ching calls the "sage."

I Ching,The Book of Changes: www.akirarabelais.comThe introductions to the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm and C.J. Jung.

I Ching: Richard Wilhelm's and Cary F. Baynes translation of "I Ching: Or, Book of Changes". The Wilheim text, with a chart of the 64 hexagrams linking to their commentary and descriptions.

The I Ching on the Net: I Ching on the Net"The I Ching or "Book of Changes" is an ancient Chinese divination manual and book of wisdom. Especially since the 1960's, its poetic text and extraordinary symbolism — to say nothing of its strange effectiveness in divination — have gained it a following in the West.These pages provide links to I Ching resources on the Internet, and include a brief introduction to the I Ching and to my own translation, Rediscovering the I Ching." Comprehensive site by Greg Whincup.

Schizophrenia & the Book of Changes: excerpts from an essay by I ChingPhilip K. Dick. "...For a schizophrenic, any method by which a synchronicity can be coped with means possible survival; for us, it would be a great assist in the job of temporarily surviving . . . we both could use such a beat-the-house system. This is what the I Ching, for the three thousand years, has been and still is."  Humorous essay on keeping our common sense when dealing with oracles, divination, etc.

Tricks and  Traps

Trap:Wishful Thinking. A common trap when using an oracle such as the I Ching is to base our interpretation of the answer mostly( and unconsciously) on our desires and fears. This could come from an addiction to the emotional reaction or thrill we receive from images of 'what if ' and 'if only'. Thus, the oracle becomes no different than a thrill ride at the carnival or a scary movie. This could also be why some of us have a distorted view of the future, and the past, and shy away from thinking about them, keeping us trapped in the circular pattern of our emotions. If we use our memory solely for indulging in the thrills and pain from our past victories and mistakes, we further this addiction to emotional reaction and lose sight of the real causes the emotions are founded on.
Trick: Clear thinking, and friends. We can avoid a lot of trouble and save much of our energy if we stay away from the trap of thinking and planning solely based on emotion or feeling, and instead use both feeling and reason in our planning and path. A good habit of using the memory to check for facts and motivations rather than to indulge in pain and escape also helps, for it frees us from the identification with the traumas of the past.
And nothing substitutes for trusted friends we can talk to, and to whom we will listen. They can often see our lives without the emotional baggage we carry and thus cut through the nonsense to the clear facts of the matter.

Commentary                                                            Mystic Missal  Monthly Missal meditation philosophy  zen religion

Thinking and Receiving

" Businessmen and merchants will not enter the places of my father. " - Jesus, Gospel of Thomas

     When we come upon a system such as the I Ching, our western oriented minds may have a hard time understanding it. We are used to making our decisions with a form of thinking commonly called deduction, where we logically form our opinions and beliefs through a chain of experienced events and thoughts. One thing leads to another. We may be relatively unconscious of this, but it predominates none the less. We may even take the opposite tack, and upon seeing an intuitive system like the Book of Changes, put it into use solely because it works in a different way than what we have been taught, thus believing in it through an unconscious form of rebellion. Neither of these reactions is other than mechanical. But if we have done enough deductive thinking, and a bit of thinking about this thinking, we may know its limits. If our intuition has grown enough for us to trust it, and we can see its value when coupled with reasoning, then when we are faced with systems such as the I Ching or dream study, we can appraise them without prejudice or infatuation.
     After much deductive thinking, we come to a dead end. This running head first into our mind's mechanical nature is usually necessary before we will come to trust intuition and information coming directly to us from any other source than logic. Here, the realization that induction is possible may be our last hope in finding a true direction back to our source. We are usually so tied up in survival thinking in order to get through our busy day that we do not leave room for our attention to focus within. Even if we are 'spiritual' and have a practice, it may have turned into just another habit, and only serve to bolster our daily life with some relaxation and rest to compensate for our otherwise sensual lifestyle.
     Now, if we do find that intuition and induction have a value, then how do we use them, and how do we know what's what? Intuition can be unreliable and interfered with just as our reasoning. Desire and fear have an open door to most of our minds, so a little common sense is a good thing. What we like to call thinking can often be seen to be little more than rationalization. Through a system of using reason to check intuition, and vice versa, we avoid opening the door for desire and fear, through either rationalizing their plots and plans, or through a blind believe in hunches and naive spontaneity. With experience gained through honest self-observation, we can see how our mind works and where the weak spots are.
     We are told the kingdom of heaven is within, but do we know where this `within' lies? Can we hear it? Is there a possible connection with it, through which we can receive direct knowledge, such as clues as to our true nature? The above quote from the Gospel of Thomas illustrates how practical thinking only, cannot lead us within. For this, we need a working understanding of induction and intuition. While dream study and the I Ching offer indirect paths to connect with our inner self, their main use may lie in showing us that such a place exists, and to give us an inkling of its direction.

Bob Fergeson

- Quotes of the Month -

" We must admit that there is something to be said for the immense importance of chance. An incalculable amount of human effort is directed to combating and restricting the nuisance or danger represented by chance. Theoretical considerations of cause and effect often look pale and dusty in comparison to the practical results of chance.
" The heavy-handed pedagogic approach that attempts to fit irrational phenomena into a preconceived rational pattern is anathema to me. " - C. G. Jung
" We know the outer world of sensations and actions. But of our inner world of thoughts and feelings we know very little. The primary purpose of meditation is to become conscious of, and familiar with, our inner life. The ultimate purpose is to reach the source of life and consciousness. Incidentally, practice of meditation affects deeply our character. We are slaves to what we do not know. Whatever vice or weakness in ourselves we discover and understand its causes and its workings, we overcome it by the very knowing; the unconscious dissolves when brought into the conscious.The dissolution of the unconscious releases energy; the mind feels adequate and becomes quiet. " -  Nisargadatta
" You are the light, You are the refuge, There is no place to take shelter but yourself." - Inscription over the Buddha's ashes
" Mostly we're too busy living to stop and notice we're alive." - Neil Gaiman
" Creative minds always have been known to survive any kind of bad training." - Anna Freud
" Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you mad." - Aldous Huxley

Comic Philosophy

"The good Lord never gives you more than you can handle. Unless of course you die of something."
- Guindon cartoon caption

"If you ever reach total enlightenment while drinking a beer, I bet it makes beer shoot out of your nose."
- Jack Handey

 Copyright  2006 - Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.