This month's contents:
The Threefold Path by Richard Rose | Principle & Paradox by Bob Fergeson | Unblocking a Malfunction in Consciousness by John Wren-Lewis | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Falling Before Fear by Shawn Nevins | Eternal One by Franz Hartmann | Man to God by Art Ticknor | Complications & Sticking Points by Art Ticknor | Humor | Reader Commentary
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The system advised is threefold, and the symbol of the pyramid is used to remind the student at all times than he cannot just work on one level at a time. The directive is threefold in that you are advised to BE or become the Truth, the Way and the Life, which has practically the same meaning as the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
The manner of following each of these three directives in turn involves work on three levels, the physical, the mental and the essential.
Some of the work on these levels can be done by the individual, and some can only be done by the individual. On the other hand, the final realization of Essence comes about by the help of another person, or by accident. To gamble upon accidental happenings is to risk the dangers involved and to run the risk that Essential realization may never come about.
• Set the house in order. This means that we must find some economic security, we must keep the physical house healthy, as it will either quit thinking or think unreliably, and we must adjust the domestic scene so that people with whom we live will be amenable to the search.
• Find a person or persons who have been down the road we wish to follow. Look for books that will advise or furnish coordinative material. Travel in this regard if necessary, but never allow travel to become an escape in itself from you interior work.
• Find your fellow-seekers.
• Find a place to meet, and work together with these teachers and fellow-seekers.
• Implement regular, periodic, mental exercises with directed meditation.
• Or use Koan concentration.
• Use self-confrontation. That is to find for yourself ways and means of self-analysis.
• Reverse the vector.
• Find the obstacles that you must learn in order to avoid them in the process of reversal.
• Allow the ego to be eliminated, as it is the main obstacle.
• Constantly implement the Laws that are listed in The Albigen Papers.
• Find transmission from someone who has attained. (This transmission can best be effected in Ashram life.)
THE WAY (DHARMA):
• Set the house in order (domestic). Plan for tranquillity and security.
• Learn to conserve the energies. Find DETERMINATION AND DESIRE FOR DIRECTION with the success of conserving energies.
• Direct the energies profitably. (Study and search.)
THE LIFE (SANGHA):
• Value BROTHERHOOD AND COOPERATION. Brotherhood involves spiritual, mental and physical help, in that order.
• Utilize and understand the LAW OF THE LADDER. The Sangha is the matrix in which the law of the ladder bears fruit.
• Become a VECTOR. You must become a vector BEFORE YOU CAN BECOME THE TRUTH.
THE TRUTH (BUDDHA):
• Tell the truth in all things relative. (Physical and vocal truth.)
• DO NOT RATIONALIZE. (Mental truth.)
• BECOME THE TRUTH. (Absolute Truth.)
All of the above must be done simultaneously. We should not concentrate on the personal affairs and forget the brotherhood or forget the practice of truth.
Remove the urgency of habits. Habits are not sins but can sap our energy and even cause trouble or death. Do not allow the slavery from appetites or any habits. The word “habit” includes a wide range of distractions, which may not be negative except to the PATH.
With the energy thus salvaged, add to the intensity of the VECTOR, harmonizing
the body and raising somatic energy to the head,
... where we engage in research by checking out systems of many movements,
... where we meditate upon our reactions. And where we learn discrimination, and learn to act with discrimination. And
... where, when the observation of reactions becomes intense enough, THE MIND WILL STOP.
The group or Sangha serves to sustain and remind the members, thus keeping them on the PATH and stimulating their progress.
THE LAW OF THE LADDER is used. We do not advance without helping or being helped. The LAW OF THE LADDER is the formula by which the group or Sangha is able to find for all someone to help and someone who can use help.
THE LAW OF THE VECTOR. You must become a vector. In order to fully implement the law of the vector, you usually need someone to monitor progress and function as a catalyst at the proper moment.
THE FULL UNDERSTANDING OF THE LAW OF THE VECTOR INVOLVES THE KNOWLEDGE OF REVERSING IT, AS IT IS NOW AIMED AT THE RELATIVE WORLD SCENE.
The group should also contain someone, or should attract someone, who is able to effect transmission. This is the final REALIZATION OF THE ABSOLUTE.
IN ORDER TO INSURE GROUP SUCCESS, WHICH MEANS IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN THE CHAIN BY WHICH SEEKERS MAY HAVE A PLACE TO COME TO, EACH MEMBER SHOULD REALIZE THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WORD COMMITMENT.
This makes an eternal spiral—from the mundane to the Absolute.
By his commitment, the teacher reaches down to help the helpless.
The helpless, before receiving help, should make the commitment that when they succeed in any degree, they will act in a sincere desire to help their fellows.
Before the helpless become (reach the Absolute), they have thus made a commitment that will set in motion at least their minds and physical bodies in the direction of teaching and helping others, and even setting an example, ALL OF WHICH MAY SEEM FOOLISH TO THEM WHEN THEY ENTER SATORI—AND SEE THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF ALL MUNDANE EFFORT.
AS IN ALL THINGS, THE COMMITMENT SHOULD BE THREEFOLD—BODY, MIND, ESSENCE.
YOU CANNOT COMMIT THE ESSENCE—IT IS ALREADY COMMITTED. We are ESSENTIALLY, as far as the Absolute is concerned. There is however a paradox here, which cannot be explained openly, as it will lead to confusion.
© Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.
Know thou thyself? Art thou the asker of the question or answerer of thine own question? Thou art not the quest, and yet first must thou find thyself. To be the quest, oh soul, thou must first be a seeker. To avoid action, thou must first determine for great action. Peace to the wanderer. —Richard Rose (from "The Way")
Through a lifetime of being led astray into the wilderness of temptation and frustration, our wandering attention has become hypnotized by the mind, motion and dissipation, to become only outward turned, and thus we have forgotten our Self. In our search for happiness and peace, longing to return to our former Home, we may hear that our true nature is always with us, that there is nowhere to go, nothing to become, for we already Are, and have always Been. Our vanity and pride may listen to such statements with relish, for it takes us off the hook of having to do any real work. While there is Truth in the principle that we Are, that nothing needs to be done, if we are only hearing this with the intellect, which may be governed by unconscious factors that hold sway over our energy, we will remain ignorant and asleep. Clinging to blind belief in principle is rationalization, not realization. We cannot, from a position of ignorance, insist that we have nothing to do, until we have realized the Self, in full awareness, and thus are safely Home. Declaring that we are above the fray by believing there is nothing to do is a cop out, until we know for sure Who We Are. Until then, we must challenge and test our principles to see if they are just a cover for self-centered desire and fear.
The misuse of principle through our misguided intellect only serves to keep us from putting forth the effort necessary in finding our way back out of the dark underbrush we have been taught to love. It does not, in and of itself, lead us back out into the Light of Truth. This is a fool's creed, that of claiming that he is perfect in essence, and nothing is to be done. This could be an excuse to remain trapped in obsession and pride, so as to continue to wallow in the mud of our false "self." The rationalizing intellect uses the trick of claiming that the mind can never free itself from itself, in order to avoid any work or pain that might result from the person seeing the truth of his present state.
A definite shock is necessary to break the cycle of rationalization and let the truth of the matter slip past the ego, and stop our head. The head, or intellect, can be under the influence of other forces, such as laziness, pride, or negative emotional conviction states, and as such, cannot be trusted to make decisions concerning our essence-survival until we have traveled a little farther down the road. Here we run into the paradox: that we must work on the mind with the mind, even though we have heard, and have the intuition, that there is nothing that can be done with the mind, it being the problem. The acceptance of this paradox will free us from the tyranny of intellectual principle which may be under the influence of unconscious emotional states. Until these "self" sustaining states are brought up into the Light and observed, we must use clear reason and developed intuition to free us from this trap. The paradox cannot be explained away with the intellect. This would be exactly what principle claims should not be done: the mind working on the mind. The answer to the problem of paradox is not its removal, but its acceptance through a higher understanding beyond the finite mind. For this, the shock of seeing the mind and its mechanical nature in its entirety is paramount, and is brought about through the relentless task of scrutinizing the "self" until the tension brought forth from truth and paradox produces the necessary shock.
This task of "know thyself" is a tricky one, for here another trap presents itself: that of the intellect becoming lost in endless circles of self-analysis. What is needed is not analysis for its own sake or to bolster the ego in its pride and fear, but to free our energy and attention from the habitual learned reaction-patterns we have acquired through identification with the reaction-pattern itself. A point must come when we run head on into paradox, and discover we have become obsessed with chasing our own tail by becoming very clever at describing it. What is necessary is the shock of truly seeing our own mechanical nature, which finally frees our wandering attention from the mind and its restless motion. Once the attention is freed from the mind, it is able to listen and receive, rather than be mesmerized by interpretation and projection, only.
The solution to the apparent problem of principle and paradox is not the domination of one over the other, but their marriage in higher understanding. They are not mutually exclusive, but partners in a team that can free our trapped awareness from the pattern of mind-motion that holds us enthralled. Thus freed, this awareness can turn within, and perhaps come to see something more than thought, motion, and contradiction. We will know then that knowledge of principle need not interfere with right action, and that paradox is a guide to the Goal.
Over the past few years some researchers have begun to turn their attention to the remarkable effects of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) in this life. NDEs almost always leave the experiencers freer, happier people than they've ever before dreamed possible.
Moreover, while this new-found capacity for joy in living seems to drive all NDE-ers to use religious language in trying to do it justice, it doesn't necessarily involve any particular conviction that the soul is going to survive the body's death. It's more like a basic shift in consciousness whereby life in each moment becomes so vivid that anxiety about future survival, in the body or out of it, simply ceases to be important.
The hypothesis I've come up with is that the block which cuts off so-called normal human consciousness from its roots in that other, impersonal consciousness, is some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system. Exactly how or when this originated in the history of our species I have no idea, and at present don't propose to speculate. But the effect of this hyper-defensiveness is to focus individual consciousness so rigidly on the business of securing its own future that the underlying universal consciousness, with its every-present-moment happiness, peace and wonder, gets shut out. The only satisfaction allowed into awareness is that which comes from meeting the needs (or supposed needs) of the individual body-mind, while pain becomes wholly negative suffering instead of a life-enhancing signal. And this basic malfunction is epitomised in the fact that dying, which in nature is simply part of life's great flow (or of that secondary game called individual manifestation), becomes the object of ultimate fear and horror, with all the catastrophic psycho-social consequences to which Ernest Becker and others have directed attention (Becker, 1973).
Close encounter with death is able to break this whole spell because the survival-mechanism gives up at this point which I'm sure is why The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Evans-Wentz, 1960) calls the dying-moment a time of special grace when Nirvana can suddenly become apparent to anyone. And this is why some who return from the brink of death have been privileged to come back knowing what consciousness really is -- knowledge which, once acquired, enables the survival-mechanisms to resume functioning without their former hyperactivity. I've observed that, since Thailand, my feeling about death, my own included, is that, although I still intend to avoid it as long as possible in life's secondary game and still mourn the loss of friends, it has in itself a very special kind of beauty, like the dying leaves of autumn, whose splendour we are allowed to see in ordinary consciousness because our minds don't associate it with the ultimate taboo. A corollary of this changed attitude to death has been the discovery that aging, including even its more obvious decay-aspects, has become interesting rather than depressing or disgusting.
The big question now, of course, is whether there are less drastic (and less haphazard) means by which the spell of separated selfhood can be lifted before the moment of death, and I hope my research may eventually shed some light on this. For while there are mystical traditions the world over which offer "paths to higher consciousness," it doesn't seem to me that any of them has a very encouraging success rate in bringing about the kind of liberation which NDEs can bring immediately to anyone, high or low, good or bad, believing or unbelieving, trained or untrained. In fact, my studies of these traditions, ancient and modern alike, suggest that while there are almost always valuable insights to be gained from them, they all get bogged down in their own basic idea of a "path," which inevitably suggests that "higher consciousness" is a goal to be achieved, thereby reinforcing that very preoccupation with one's personal future which is the cause of all the trouble (Wren-Lewis, 1991).
My experience, and that of NDE-ers generally, suggests that liberation isn't at all a matter of taking "the long voyage Home." It simply means waking up to the consciousness which is already the basis of our very existence, but is, as G.K. Chesterton used to put it, so large and close and obvious that it escapes notice. What I suspect we need is not any kind of path or discipline, but a collection of tricks or devices for catching the Dark at the corner of the eye, as it were, and learning how to spot its just-waiting-to-be-seen presence, combined with strategies for stopping the hyperactive survival-programmes from immediately explaining the perception away. D. E. Harding's exercises for discovering one's own essential "headlessness" are the best ideas I've yet come across for the first half of this process, but, by his own admission, most people "get it but simply don't believe it" (Harding, 1961, 1988, 1990, 1992). This, I suspect, is precisely evidence of the survival-program at work, and in my view there is no more important task facing transpersonal psychology than research into techniques for circumventing this fundamental malfunction in humanity's "software."
It feels quintessentially natural that personal consciousness should be aware of its own Ground, while my first 59-odd years of so-called "normal" consciousness, in ignorance of that Ground, now seem like a kind of waking dream. It was as if I'd been entranced from birth into a collective nightmare of separate individuals struggling in an alien universe for survival, satisfaction, and significance.
Indeed the more I investigate, the more convinced I become that iconoclastic mystics like Blake and Jiddu Krishnamurti were right in asserting that the very idea of a spiritual path is necessarily self-defeating, because it does the one thing that has to be undone if there is to be awakening to eternity: it concentrates attention firmly on "futurity." Paths and disciplines make gnosis a goal, when in fact it is already the ground of all knowing, including "sinful" time-bound knowing.
I know from first-hand experience that the "joy beyond joy" is greater than the wildest imaginations of a consciousness bogged down in time. But I can also see that the very impulse to seek the joy of eternity is a Catch-22, because seeking itself implies a preoccupation with time, which is precisely what drives eternity out of awareness.
So what to do? One thing I learned in my former profession of science was the right kind of lateral thinking can often bring liberation from Catch-22 situations, provided the Catch-22 is faced in its full starkness, without evasions in the form of metaphysical speculations beyond experience. This is the exploration to which my life is now dedicated. It's a research project in which anyone who's interested can join.
I'll end with a couple of cautionary hints.
First, beware of philosophies that put spiritual concerns into a framework of growth or evolution, which I believe are the great modern idols. Both are important phenomena of eternity's time-theatre, but as paradigms they're old hat, hangovers from the age of empire-building and the work ethic.
The "I want it now" attitude, so often deplored by spiritual pundits as a twentieth-century sin, is in my view a very healthy sign that we are beginning to be disillusioned with time-entrapment. A truly mystical paradigm has to be post-evolutionary, paradigm of lila, divine play for Its own sake, where any purposes along the line of time, great or small, are subordinate to the divine satisfaction that is always present in each eternal instant. Mystical gnosis is knowing the instant-by-instant delight of Infinite Aliveness in all manifestation, irrespective of whether, from the purely human standpoint, the manifestation is creative or destructive, growing or withering, evolving towards some noetic Omega or fading out.
My second warning is to mind your language, for the words we use are often hooks that catch us into time-entrapment. For example, when we use the term "self" with a small "s" to describe individual personhood, and "Self" with a capital "S" for the fullness of God-consciousness, the notion of the one gradually expanding into the other becomes almost inescapable, again concentrating attention along the time line. Mystical liberation, by contrast, is the sudden discovery that even the meanest self is already a focus of the Infinite Aliveness that is beyond any kind of selfhood.
Against this background, the main positive advice I would give to spiritual seekers is to experiment with any practice or idea that seems interesting—which is what the Buddha urged a long time ago, though not too many of his followers have ever taken that part of his teaching seriously. Ancient traditions and modern movements alike may be very valuable as databases for new adventures, but to treat them as authorities to be obeyed is not only "unscientific"—it seems to go against the grain of the divine lila itself, since novelty is apparently the name of the time game.
I suspect gnosis comes as "grace" because there are as many different forms of it as there are people. Yet because we're all in this together, sharing experience is integral to its fullness. Whatever experiments you make, share your "failures," your hints and guesses, and your awakening too if it happens, with warts-and-all honesty, because "everything that lives is holy."
The above appeared in the "Death and Dying" section of the Global Ideas Bank. The Before and After book in which this piece appears is out of print.
The first section consists of adapted extracts from an article in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology (Vol. 26, Number 2, 1994) entitled "Aftereffects of Near-Death Experience: A survival mechanism hypothesis." It is followed by extracts from an article in Gnosis Magazine (Winter 1995) entitled "Gnosis: Goal or Ground?"
Reprinted by kind permission of the author. For an archive of Wren-Lewis articles, see Alan Mann's Capacitie site.
You make a list of things-to-do
I keep dragging a body
The river undulates with patterns
The body returns.
Clouds curtain open
What of the bonds of making,
One word from her
I am dying to such voices.
One again, the glass is empty.
Every wall is bare,
But you know these stories
If you are afraid of high places, climb to some
high place, but do not make a habit of it. —R. Rose
Early in the spiritual search, I learned to seek out and face irrational fears. Fears can dictate our actions and block our efforts to seek the truth. Of course, the assumption was that I face my fear and overcome or transcend it. But what of facing fear and failing? What if fear overcomes us in our attempt to transcend it?
In November of 1998, I went rock climbing with a workplace friend. I was an infrequent climber, though part of my job involved taking children on such adventures. Being afraid of heights, I found it invigorating to occasionally face the mental and physical challenge of climbing a rock face. Jeff and I looked forward to this trip to Stone Mountain, NC for several weeks, and evenings found me training for it via numerous pull-ups and calf raises. At 600 feet, Stone Mountain was far and away the highest climb I'd attempted and would demand all the endurance I could muster.
Stone Mountain is a stark granite dome rising from the surrounding forest. The classic route to the top, The Great Arch, is a relatively easy climb utilizing traditional climbing gear (protection). Protection consists of small aluminum wedges that are secured in cracks, then attached to the climber's rope to support his weight (hopefully) in the event he falls. Jeff, being the lead climber, would place the protection, as I held his rope on belay from below. At intervals, he would stop and belay me from above as I removed the protection below us. Thus, we would inchworm our way to the top.
And we did. In short order, we summited and were incongruously relaxing on a smooth bed of granite surrounded by a glorious view of the countryside. Ever energetic, Jeff was too soon ready to descend. Just as we climbed in segments, we would rappel in segments—Jeff going first. Thus, I found myself alone, six hundred feet in the air, facing two stainless steel rings bolted into the granite. Secured to the rings with a short nylon leash, I knew exactly what to do—connect myself to the climbing rope with my rappelling device [an Air Traffic Controller (ATC), a belay device that's light and easy to operate], then disconnect the leash and be on my way. Alone, hanging from those two little rings, with no sound around except the wind, the first thought of fear hit me: what if I dropped my ATC? With that one thought, the routine became extreme.
If I dropped my ATC, I might as well be on the moon. Jeff couldn't climb up to me and no one else was around. No logical thought of being rescued entered my mind. Only the thought of being stranded. Painstakingly, I gripped my ATC in a suddenly clumsy, sweaty hand and focused on what I had to do. By focusing, the fear receded. Turning from the fearful thought rather than facing it, I rappelled down to Jeff without further drama. Two more rappels brought us to the bottom.
After a restful lunch, we decided to tackle some short friction climbs. I was completely unfamiliar with this type of climbing. Friction climbing involves ascending rock bare of the usual cracks, protrusions, and depressions that make hand and foot holds. Instead, one uses the amazing sticking power of climbing shoes and the palm of their hands to keep from sliding. Friction alone holds you to the rock. With no cracks in which to place protection, these climbs are bolted. The bolts provide places to clip in your rope and arrest a fall.
Lest one get too comfortable, however, the pioneer developers of these routes placed the first bolt far from the ground. A climber ascends with no protection until they reach the first bolt, and ours was a good 25 feet away. As Jeff was the lead, I stood by while, through a miracle of friction and balance, he worked a nerve-wracking way towards the first bolt. I was scared. This is crazy, I thought. Why is he taking this risk to climb a rock? I was relieved, yet still uneasy when I saw him clip a leash and his rope to the first bolt. He gracefully executed the rest of the climb, and I thankfully lowered him to the ground. Now it was my turn, if I wanted, to climb up and recover the leashes he clipped to the bolts, then rappel down as in our previous climb.
After Jeff's precarious start, my heart was no longer up for the challenge. Yet I was living a life of accepting challenges and striving to do my best. In fact, Jeff and I talked on the drive down about the importance of giving 100% to one's endeavors. Caught between my rhetoric and reality, I chose to climb.
From the beginning, I knew I was in trouble. Friction climbing was like climbing a vertical slide. I felt that at any moment my feet would slip from under me, shredding my skin and nose on the granite rock face. In fact, as I went higher and higher, the feeling of shredding flesh grew stronger and stronger. This panic-provoking thought assailed my mind again and again, like a fire resisting all efforts to smother it. My body wanted nothing but to stop, yet I kept climbing until once again, I faced two stainless steel rings embedded in the granite.
Then I sensed something remarkable. At the edge of my awareness was a blackness—something palpable. It was fear. I saw it waiting there for me to look at it—waiting for me to face it. I knew that if I allowed it in, I was doomed. It was a blackness that led with the thought "what if?" What if I drop my ATC? What if my leash doesn't hold? What if I drop the rope? I knew that if I turned and embraced any of these thoughts, if I looked into that blackness, I would panic and fail, so I hid. With all my focus I hid from what loomed at the edge of my awareness. Somehow I made the transfer from rope to leash, and from leash to rappel. In a minute or so, I was back on the ground—utterly shaken. I couldn't speak when Jeff asked if I were all right. I couldn't look at him. All I could do was shake my head at the ground. I was unmanned. I had faced fear and run. We didn't climb any more, and in fact I thought I would never climb again.
For weeks I studied over what to make of this. I encountered fear, yet climbed. I climbed successfully, yet felt an utter failure. In my journal I wrote:
I feel defeated, unmanned, unsure of my willpower. I came too close to breaking under the stress, saw too much of my fragility, my weakness. Again, my sense of self, of wholeness, of competence, is weakened. I feel closer to insanity than greatness.
I felt it important, yet couldn't decide how such a failure could be a good thing—because when we face our fears, we must triumph. Yet in being unmanned, I was not humiliated, but humbled. I was humbled, not by a decision to seek humility, but by the truth. In coming to the edge of my capacity, I saw the cracks in my self. I was utterly scared, yet some part of me saw a body in turmoil, saw my will striving to save itself, and saw a seemingly foreign force called fear invade my mind. I saw the limitations of my body and mind—my self—and the end of a fantasy of invincibility. In a few moments I became older and wiser.
Of course, I'm not going to suggest you do what I did. If you purposely set your self up for failure, the lesson will be lost on the ego. Seek your fears. Face them with honest observation. In seeking, you will be humbled. Press on.
Could you say it a little louder,
I'm trying, Daddy, I'm trying
Isn't there something I have to accomplish,
I believe you, Daddy,
I can make a wide circle
Could you say it a little louder,
Event #1 on the critical path to nirvana1 is intuiting or hearing and believing that the antidote to dissatisfaction lies within. The first complication or sticking point, then, is never hearing that message. Hearing but not believing is basically the same as not hearing.
Other variations on getting stuck before reaching step #1 are hearing the message but being afraid to act—maybe coming to the conclusion that such a pursuit would lead to insanity or at least require you to make some impossible sacrifice—or hearing but not being willing to act now. Fear and procrastination are likely to visit the seeker at any time along the path, so they are among the many factors that we need to apply our critical observation and evaluation to.
For the person who embraces step #1, the ensuing sticking points and complications are legion. Our best chance lies in coming under the influence of someone who has made the trip and can guide us. Ideally, that guidance would come via personal interaction with a living teacher. If not, then we're in even greater need of finding or designing some system of self-checking. Of the three great western teachers of our era—Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Douglas Harding, and Richard Rose—only Harding, now in his 96th year, is still alive and functioning. If we come under his influence, and if his approach works for us, we will accomplish step #2 (i.e., looking at what we're looking out from; seeing what we really are) in short order. His recommendation for then finishing the work is to practice the exercises of "seeing" until a breakthrough of ego-death occurs. Unfortunately there's no system of self-checking, and the student needs to have faith that this approach will yield results.
Of the three men, Rose is the only one who left a system that can be applied by the student regardless of what techniques he's experimenting with and that can be used for ongoing self-checking at any stage of the project. The outline of this metasystem is in a paper titled "The Threefold Path" [in this issue]. After his self-realization, Rose said he could see that directives left by Jesus in his statement: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" and by Buddha, when he said to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, were pointing to the same thing.
My feeling is that the more retreating from untruth we've done in getting to step #2, the less there will be left to do in going from step #2 to #3 (i.e., accepting the radical implications of what we see)—and the sticking points are likely to be the same in either case. The greatest complication comes, I believe, in that we're not unified creatures before we arrive at the finish line, and different "parts" of us have conflicting agendas. For example, the intellect may hear and believe and act toward going within to find the ultimate answer while the emotions or instincts continually undercut our efforts by their conviction that the solution lies in another direction—love, security, career, etc.
If the instinctive function is primary, the call will be answered with asceticism, trying to discipline the mind by punishing the body. Buddha reportedly went through several years of this, bringing himself to the edge of bodily death before graduating to the next level of seeking.
If the emotional center has the upper hand, we will fall in love with or otherwise worship a savior or guru and thus follow a devotional path. We may then find a succession of teachers all of whom eventually reveal their "feet of clay" as in Buddha's story. In a way this is preferable to falling in love with a long-dead savior who's not around to either reveal his own foibles or to help us see ours. The graduation from this level of seeking comes with the realization that there's another way of seeking besides trying blindly to feel our way.
If the intellect is dominant, then we will try to understand our way to Truth, refining our concepts and building complex rationalizations that we hope will become impregnable fortresses. Unfortunately, these fortresses become our prisons. Eventually we have to see that the intellect is not the vehicle that's going to take us beyond the barrier of the mind.
While each of these levels of seeking is it's own sticking-point, the graduation from one to the next is liable to land us on a plateau of satisfaction with our newfound perspective. Being alert to this possibility, our customized critical-path analysis lets us enjoy a temporary rest but then warns us that it's time to get back to work.
Another common sticking point may either prevent us from starting on the path or may retard our progress at any point along the way. The different variations of it all result from war between our "higher" and "lower" aspects. We feel that our intuition is leading us astray and that pursuing such a nebulous thing as self-definition is an egotistical pursuit which, furthermore, is impractical and unrealistic. We tell ourselves that keeping the questions and doubts constantly on our minds leads us in circles, prevents us from living our lives, causes confusion and even depression. And we conclude that we'd better pay attention to conventional wisdom and get back to living "normal" lives.
1See "Critical Path to Nirvana" in the September 2004 TAT Forum.
Wanted to say great articles from November and December. I especially was hit by
Mr. Fergerson's article in December. Thanks again for everyone's honesty and integrity so rarely
found these days! :-)
~ Tim Hawkins
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