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. [caption id="attachment_1162" align="alignright" width="300"]Point of Infinity Point of Infinity[/caption]
     Franklin Merrel-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

The Trap of Bigger is Better

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. [caption id="attachment_1157" align="alignright" width="300"]A Harsh Life A Harsh Life[/caption] 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?

Simple Truth

“The daily remembering and clear admission of our internal angst is key to the eventual ability to face the moment. It gives us energy and incentive to separate from being identified with the psychological manifestations of personality in the drama of the sleepyhead-knucklehead, and how this misidentification traps our attention in the illusions of the mind. Once relaxed, we can jump straight into the still, aware silence: the listening attention. In other words, we go straight from personality right back up to what we really Are. We gofrom being a very complicated psychology, to being a very simple two-way seeing. We learn how to listen, to just look at the facts always in front of our vision, while simultaneously looking back at what we really Are. Psychological work is used only to show us that we don’t have a quiet mind, no freedom of attention, and thus cannot tell the real from the false. Once we realize that having a quiet mind is something you simply find, it’s always there just under the surface, you no longer have to think about it, put effort into it, build it up. [caption id="attachment_474" align="alignright" width="300"]Peak in Upper Muley Twist Canyon Peak in Upper Muley Twist Canyon[/caption] It’s a retreat from complicated error and projection back to the simple truth of ourselves as aware capacity, indescribable and real”. -  Bob Fergeson, The Listening Attention

Who’s in the Drama

Trap: complete hypnotic identification with the current character in our life-drama.  For every situation we encounter in life, we create a fitting character, and become identified with 'it', calling it "I".  We do not see the change that occurs in our 'self' when the situation changes, as we switch our sense of "I" into the new character, or ego. The mind blurs or hides this change-over, creating a seemingly seamless flow through the many egos and their parts in our personal drama.
Trick: creation of an observing "I". To break the spell of the mind and its reaction-creations, an impartial point of reference is needed, an unattached observer. This "I" does not take sides, is not a judging or naming function, but simply an aware link between the many other "I's" which lead us around by our nose everyday, and night. The trick within this trick, is that we are already this pure "I", but have lost touch with our Selves through identification. Through the 'creation' of an observing "I", we get a glimpse of something greater, of possibility, a taste of our natural freedom.
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Three Tricks

Here are three tricks to bridge the gap between our ego/idea of ourselves and our fact status:
1. Practice a technique for seeing the personality indirectly. In the beginning, we may not be able to see ourselves directly, so the use of techniques such as dream study or journaling can help get us started on the path of self-discovery. Reading back through a journal can be a shock, we may think we are an earnest, positive and altruistic seeker, when the journal notes may show us to be a negative whiner who thinks only of himself.
 
2. Group Work. Nothing can help with seeing ourselves quite as much as the mirror of a group. To take advantage of the group setting though, one may need to learn to listen. Even in the work place, we may be getting all the information about ourselves we need, but refuse to hear it.
 
3. Watch your emotions. Take the time to sit quietly twice a day, first thing in the morning and before you fall asleep, and see what your heart is telling you. Not to the endless justifications or judgments in the mind, but to the knots or tensions in the background. Can you feel these? What are they related to? Can you bring up words to describe these knots? Do you have mixed feelings about the days events? Where are the contradictions?
 

True Crime and Tetris – by Dave Martin

When I first came across Bob Fergeson's site and articles a couple years or so ago, two things struck a chord with me - his article on the Puer Aeternus and his description of 'nostalgia', the sense that I'd once been someone or had something or been somewhere that I no longer was. The place or thing or person did not seem to matter as much as the sense of something 'missing', the longing of a 'return'. It did not make immediate sense but I went back to the articles over and over. There was something there, some truth I sensed but was not quite able to experience or realize. If there is anything different these last few years, it is that - the sense that I am finally on to something, close to something, something I'd given up on ever finding many, many times but never quite been able to get completely out of my system. My life before that was much like anybody else's - an attempt to get through life with the least amount of pain and the most amount of pleasure I could, trying to fit in and believe the same things that all the people around me did. The problem was that nobody was ever 'right' for very long... The other problem was that none of them seemed able to see that they were wrong, let alone admit it. Tetris Everybody around me seemed to be frozen in place, like the colored blocks in the video game 'Tetris' that slowly descended down, down and fell into some niche, locked in by other blocks, never to move again. For some reason that always scared the hell out of me. The only thing that scared me worse was that despite all my flailing around and so-called careful maneuverings to avoid that for myself, I seemed no more happier than they were. I could find no path out, no viable alternatives. As a teenager I was drawn to true crime books and autobiographies of those that lived outside the rules, so much so that I would later ‘explore’ some of those options but find out they were no more fulfilling than any of the others. I tried desperately many, many times to call off the search, pretend I didn't care, lose myself in some other pursuit or endeavor, tried to buy into the bullshit, but eventually, every time, out would come the flashlight or flamethrower and out would go another illusion... But then, every once in a while, I would catch wind of - something. According to the Zen Ox Herding pictures, most of my life has been the first one - aimless searching, with the sound of cicadas droning in the background. But then there was the second picture - the discovery of footprints in the dust and snow every once in a blue moon, just enough to keep me going on... And then, during the last 4 or 5 years, finally, glimpses of the rear of the bull in the readings of some of the works of Richard Rose and the Tat Foundation, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Jed McKenna, etc., and the resonances they evoked within me. But not much more than that until just a couple weeks ago. Then, finally, I believe, I not only saw the whole animal but actually touched it, briefly - long enough to know it is real. The funniest, oddest, most wonderful thing about it was that suddenly a lot of things I'd read about it - 'closer than close', 'the simplest thing', 'something you already are', suddenly made sense. Laughingly so! Am I 'enlightened'? No, but I believe I've not only finally had a glimpse through the brick wall of the Secret Garden, but smelled and tasted the fruit. I find myself now back at the wall, aware of what lies on the 'other side' (Ha!), playfully searching for another hole, another glimpse, feeling now as if it’s more of a ‘relaxing into’ that is needed than a ‘search’. We’ll see! Dave Martin  

Seeker’s Stories

Seeker's Stories: fellow seekers tell their stories of life on the Path Paul Schmidt,  Ike Harijanto,  Rupert CriswellTim Howell,  and Dave Martin describe their struggles with self- inquiry and illusion. [caption id="attachment_838" align="alignright" width="203"]The Path The Path[/caption] Whatever I had been doing was serving me. Robert Adams has said “Every desire every urge is a search for the Self.  But we’re misdirected”.  I’d agree as it seems my path has turned out to be one of reorientation.  Finding my way now to a point that must be reconciled with myself.  - Tim Howell   click here or on their name to read their personal accounts: http://mysticmissal.org/blog/?cat=192

Capturing Inspiration

I started carrying a tape recorder about the same time as a camera, and for the same reason, to capture inspiration. And as the cameras, they've changed with technology. First was a cassette, then a couple of digital's, and now the ubiquitous smart phone. They've been of enormous help saving ideas for writing, whether essays, material for a book, or just something I don't want to forget on the grocery list. When I'm out walking or skiing, that's when ideas/inspiration seem to hit, and getting them on tape before they fade away has been a life saver. [caption id="attachment_1107" align="aligncenter" width="242"]Over the hill, and far away Over the hill, and far away[/caption] One of the many spots I associate with inspiration is shown in the blog post below: http://www.nostalgiawest.com/blog/2014/2/the-old-second-creek-a-frame

Ennui

Ennui  by  Ike Harijanto   It is not blind for it has no eyes. A glob blubbery blob, marshmallowy, yellow, bloated Ennui blows thick smoke from a hookah drooping off its thick puckering lips.   For Life and Love it’s an ogre so hungry. Beware of its smoke for it can swallow whole and drag low, then all motions drags a clunky laborious chain of “Why?”   Marshmallow Ennui imperceptibly turns into sticky molasses Depression quickly. It’s not a morphing; it’s a giving of way, for Depression is a desperate try against falling so deeply asleep that is Ennui.   It drags you into a gray-brown bog, Blowing its drowsy fog. I fall asleep without knowing it, thinking I’m awake, thinking I’m aware.   553830_439267869427405_548650054_n Ennui is a know-it-all thinking, “I know too much.” Ennui is an armchair traveller claiming, “Been there, done that.” Ennui is jadedness yawning, “Meh, seen everything already.” Familiarity turns into a malady. But don’t waste your life feeling guilty, For it’s not you who says, “All is done; nothing to do.” It’s Ennui!   How did I fall asleep? I don’t know; Didn’t catch myself nodding. In this thick heavy fog, God of Light, please show Just a needle of Your Light piercing. From this aggressive vortex pull of Sleep, that seducer, I want out, I want to wake!   Henri in ennui, again What are you, Ennui? A resistance born of negativity, a lack of meaning of life, or merely, a superfluous entity? What an irritating allergy sapping energy, this chronic, addictive serving of me. Why are you here? What are you trying to tell me? More importantly, how do I widely open my eye?   Ennui Thrill is not its remedy, for Ennui’s not a hole for the Muse to fill with lively creativity. Maybe it’s a bothersome additional to simply shoo, shoo.   Can’t reason with that entity. Need I take it so seriously? Ennui, ennui, go away Come back another… Well actually, don’t bother!   - Ike Harijanto   * The hookah is a reference to a poem by Charles Baudelaire entitled “To the Reader” in his Flowers of Evil [caption id="attachment_1092" align="alignright" width="240"]Henri in ennui Henri in ennui[/caption] The cat is Henri, guru of ennui, found on youtube : http://youtu.be/Q34z5dCmC4M and FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/henrilechatnoir

A Seeker’s Story by Ike Harijanto

At some point early in life a feeling came that I was eccentric. I thought I wanted something no one around me seemed to want, and that was sincere, dependable love. All I found from people, young and old alike, was instead indifference, rejection, untrustworthiness, unpredictability. So I thought, if I was able to so intensely want something that seemed unimportant to others, that must have meant I was insane. Only in God could I put my trust, because a God unknown, unseen, nebulous certainly would not, could not betray me. God was the center of my devotion, my life. Slowly, though, the considerable commotion in my head I called intellect and reason made me abandon it.

Several more rejections and betrayals of trust from those around me, and I declared, “Love is a myth.” I was furiously baffled at the way I was created, feeling such a strong desire for something that could never be true. By declaring–––pretending, really–––I knew the truth about love, I unwittingly saved myself from feeling utterly devastated by the conviction that it closed its door on me. I began keeping a journal. Only in the blank pages of my journal could I confide safely. Something that doesn’t have any capacity of returning my love would not, could not reject me.

Young adulthood was a period of restlessness and confusion from not knowing what I sought in life. I thought I was unrealistic, “too philosophical,” wanting and doubting too much. Moreover, I saw that I was a different person from one day to the next, unable to keep a promise I made to myself. I became unpredictable and untrustworthy, exactly like those I had condemned. I looked around at my peers and saw them sail away, seeming to know where they were going. There I was, an enigma to myself, feeling I was left behind. “Did I miss a class everybody took?”

As loneliness pervaded uncontrollably, I isolated myself more by turning toward texts and dead scholars, looking for hard, solid, steely wisdom. I had a notion that it would take me superiorly beyond any dependence on others, and I would then be impervious to the pain of rejection. And dead people, they surely would not, could not reject me. The search for wisdom gave a purpose, a grand one, in fact, and a direction to my life.

My notion of wisdom at the time was a kind of knowledge I would swallow or possess, and the best chance of finding it was in the academic humanities. So I made a plan to lock myself in the university ivory tower and shut the door on any personal relationships. I was convinced that anything to do with my heart was a major distraction, complication, obstruction. I was on a lone secret mission, believing no one would understand it, or worse, they would ridicule me if they found out. I was not going to let myself be rejected ever again.

Shortly after the plan was made but not yet realized, my father died. The incident gave me an intimate preview that we all die, and we die alone, without exception. But my newly found purpose protected me, for better or worse, from being in touch with the situation of my heart. My rocket was on and nothing was to stop me.

Before the first semester even began, I met Art Ticknor at a meeting of the Philosophical Self Inquiry in Pittsburgh. During that first meeting he engaged me one-on-one, and I was surprised to find myself saying things I would never have said to others. Shortly after came another surprise in the form of trust. Brief though it may be, it was impressive because my life hitherto has shown it to be impossible. There was also an element of judging Art by his cover, as well, I suppose. He dressed typically, and I tend to peer with suspicion at people in robes living in the 21st century Western world. A massive gong fell and hit my head when I received my first major confrontation: “The direction is within,” he said. With all my might I tried to yell “No!”––but to my dismay, I was convinced he spoke the truth. I had just moved across the world on a search that had barely begun, when I realized I was to turn around. A giant monkey wrench thrown into my plan. Nonetheless I was compelled to turn around and look at the only “within” I knew. What I saw then, what was brought to light, was how separated I had been, alone and thoroughly lost in the wilderness. It reminded me of the preview I’d seen, that we all die, and we die alone. I was a lost sheep feeling certain that if ever there was God, It was not looking for me. The feeling of utter aloneness combined with an immediate conviction that the project I had taken on was too big for this little me led to the onset of a depressive period like I had never thought possible.

Art showed me a direction I thought I already had. First and foremost, he showed me trust and friendship I had stopped looking for. Deep down, though, I couldn’t help but still wanting them. To a sick, sick person, however, sweet water tasted bitter. The confrontations hit so many sensitive spots that I recoiled from pain and fright, and contracted inside. I was unable to see friendship, I saw only threats. Fortunately (I can say this now), I kept on coming to the meetings, albeit all closed up like a porcupine ball, compelled by a force I could neither understand nor ignored. Left to reason alone, it would not have made sense to keep on touching a hot stove when I already knew it was hot. But something other than reason told me I needed to take the bitter medicine to get cure.

I received my diagnosis early and am grateful for that. The sickness turns out to be ec-centricity, that is, being off-center–––that childhood feeling confirmed. The rejections I perceived in my childhood may not be the cause but actually the result of this feeling. I had lost my center long before I abandoned my childhood God. I don’t even remember how and when this happened. But once upon a time….

My life so far seems less about finding cure, than it is about realizing the pervasiveness of the sickness. Being out of center seems to also mean out of touch with reality. The idea of becoming schizophrenic, out of touch with reality, used to spiral me into panic. But reviewing over a decade of journals shows me undeniably, time and again: I live in the mind, not in the world; I interact with perceptions and stories, not reality. After years of psychological work and spiritual education, I am no more ethereal, no more sober, no more liberated. I wonder if I myself may be the cave of Plato, and not simply in it.

Coming in contact with Art and TAT rocked my boat till it almost flipped over. My life-cruising and life-building slowed down considerably. A good thing, I think, for I was only building a house of cards, and cruising through life as a sleepwalker, shutting my eyes to where my life will inevitably conclude, as I saw with my father’s. Adding spirituality to my life doesn’t seem to redirect its course either. My life is still going nowhere but toward the cemetery. For a while I used depression to deny it, but now it feels like a returning to reality. (Every impressive, sometimes seemingly out of the world, insights I ever had feel now like a simple return to reality, not an addition of knowledge like I had expected in my grand search for wisdom.) I can no longer pretend that death belongs to some distant, nebulous future and won’t really happen to me. I can no longer believe that aging is going to magically prepare me for it. My father did not have time to prepare for his death and spent his last moments in panic. If truly we all die, and we die alone, I don’t want to die in panic. Even then I still forget all too often.

That said, if self-inquiry has resulted in anything so far, it is only that I became less and less sure I know the self whose life and death I’ve been so concerned about, the one in this story, telling it, reading it. Honestly, I only claim to be a self-inquirer without having actually done much of it, because I was so confident I knew the “I” I was referring to. But everything I can refer to, perceive, sense, conceive of seems to be the mind through and through; an experience all the way down, including myself, my existence. What then? Do I just wait till this experience is over, since experience comes and goes? Is there something, anything, beyond experience? I’ve heard there’s a place: within. The work now is figuring out where within really is. I thought I knew, and that resulted in a deeper depression because I unquestioningly accepted what I saw there as “that’s it. Nothing more. Nothing else to be done. Might as well be dead now.” Pretending to know is a heavy burden, indeed!–––one I’m so prone to fall into. Truly, one must doubt everything especially one’s claim to knowledge.

Here’s another way to say it all over again. A principal intuition is confirmed, one that has been driving my life but I tried to deny. Behind the devastation of rejection and the desire for friendship and trust is a feeling for, pull toward, Utter Love. Because It was inconceivable to my mind, in my bewildered anger I called It a myth, a mere idea that could never, ever be real. Along the way, though, I learned that inconceivability does not equal impossibility. Love is possible. My contact with Art, to name only one person, has made me doubt my claim that It is impossible. Moreover, the search for Love turns out to not be a lone endeavor. It is acknowledged, praise the Lord, through my contact with fellow eccentric, off-center seekers. And this is another confrontation to one of my beloved beliefs: a challenge to the belief of being an individual doesn’t have to always be painful, after all. Now I finally hear what a French philosopher, Henri the black cat, said a while ago: “The life of a philosopher cat is nothing without friends. Perhaps I should share my treats with others.”

I still don’t know what Love is. So yes, you can say this “business of seeking” has not turned its full “profit” (though thinking of anything in terms of a business upsets the bohemian in me). But acknowledging the possibility of Love, isn’t this itself already a miracle? This acknowledgment is really the restoring of my faith in Love, because faith is always in relation to something one can’t conceive of but sense possible. This alone is already worth more than whatever it has cost, if it did cost anything of value!

I’ve been living my life for a distant goal. Be serious and work hard now, and reap the reward later. If ever. But it was probably no seriousness, no real work, but a playing around in a make-belief of what life was about and the proper way to live it.   But I did not know life, and do not still. Now that depression and panic have slackened their claim to knowledge about life and death, I want to play. Not to play around, for, God help me, I no longer want to live a make-believe life toward an imaginary, distant dream. But to play to get in touch with I-know-not-what, call it my heart, that is most authentic, most alive, most actual. Then to express it, or to get out of the way so thoroughly that that Genuine What may come forth unobstructedly. To live a life of devotion again. To live in love and wonder every instant. It’s a feeling that every day I’ve been striving to contact and approach. Still much frustration, that at the end of the day I somehow miss, and I go to bed with an unfinished business. Strangely, writing this wish feels already like a prayer come true.

 

Coda: In telling this story I sounded like I knew what was happening at the time it was happening, and where everything was leading to. Actually, though, the directing and the shaping only happen here in telling the story, in selecting certain things and leaving out many others. In telling it, the story loses solidity. It’s all so neat and tidy. It may well be a creation, for my whole life is a memory.

- Ike Harijanto

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