This month's contents:
Château d'Aguilar, 12th century Cathar castle, France
Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems (part 3) by Richard Rose | From Rock 'n' Roll to Silence by Bob Fergeson | Visitors from Space by Alfred Pulyan | Are You a Person? by Art Ticknor | Struggling Blindly by Art Ticknor | Finish What You Start by Anima Pundeer | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Escape by Shawn Nevins | Humor
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I have a few little notes that I will read to you, and if anyone would like to ask some questions, we will make it rather informal then. I'm not saying I will be able to answer every question you ask, but I will try to.
Things that I have found in my search of life:
Now I have a bit of a quibble when I define psychology and Zen in the same tone. I think a good bit of our modern psychology is an enemy to truth. It has become funded, a mercenary sort of thing, dependent upon public service for its values. That is, if it doesn't put the people back to work, if it doesn't establish marital compatibility, it doesn't get funded. So the big money is in the bedroom, or in the business—not in truth. Not in finding out. I maintain that the original purpose of psychology was as the word said: psyche and logos—the meaning of the psyche.
I take exception, of course. I find some worthy men: [Hubert] Benoit, for instance, goes way out trying at least to apologize for Zen. Another outstanding author of psychology is Victor Frankl. Frankl came up with the concept that the most important part of us, of mankind, is the will to meaning. Not the will to pleasure. And he states this specifically, that it doesn't matter whether we're compatible or not. What matters is whether we have a reason for sticking around.
Again, Frankl doesn't go all the way. This is true—that if you have a reason, if you go for the meaning of life, you can go through any hardship. He wrote this as a result of discoveries in the prison camps of Germany. And he found that the people who could survive were the ones who had a meaning—they were looking for a meaning in life—not someone who was just looking for instinctive gratification.
So he throws over the use of psychology as a social emollient or a behavioral-adjuster.
We have this hang-up, especially in this country. This is basically the whole core of what I call modern psychology, at least Western psychology—is that we vote on what is sanity. We decide what is sanity by checking out what people do. And when the day comes that ninety percent of the people are murderers, murder will be sane by virtue of the normal curve. We're approaching it I think right now in some respects with some of the wild behavior that is encouraged by modern psychology.
This is what our social structures are composed of today, an attempt to impose upon our children a fairy-tale heaven and then a compulsory behavior-pattern that fits into that fairy-tale heaven. And that if you do things in such-and-such a manner, you will be accepted into heaven. Don't cause any ripples, suffer a bit, and you'll be accepted into the heaven.
Of course as the years go by, the fairy-tale changes—and this alone should make us stop and think, that the fairy-tale somehow fits the pattern of expediency. Whatever's good for society at the particular time is encouraged. And it seems to work automatically. I don't say there's any grand conspirator, or anything of that sort.
But we are subject to systems of thinking that have no end result. We were talking about Frankl before the meeting. And I believe that when Frankl was waiting for the gas chamber, he kept alive by the memory of his wife and the fact that he had a manuscript he wanted to print. This was his meaning to life. He went about vainly trying to save the lives of people who gave up. And as I said, possibly these people who gave up were as Benoit said, those who "let go." And how fortunate it is to be able to let go before you die. Before somebody beats your brains in or something, and you don't have time to let go.
So the person who let go and submitted to the gas chamber may have reached a state exceeding the noble state that Frankl thought he was in. I maintain that of all the psychology books I have encountered, Frankl has the best. But still, he's not talking about the ultimate meaning of life and death. And you can't talk about the ultimate meaning of life without talking about the ultimate meaning of death—the precise knowledge of what death is.
That's the reason I said that when I was a kid, I went out and tried to look into materializations and séances and stuff, because I thought that if you want to know what death is, talk to somebody that has died. But strangely enough, you can't understand, you can't interpret anything from their messages. And I mean down through the ages, of all the records, there's very little information that is authentic that comes to you.
The thing is, then, that the final Zen experience is one of dying.
I don't know if I've missed anything. If anybody thinks I have and would like to ask me some questions, I'll be glad to try to answer you.
Q: Is there a book on Zen that you would recommend?
Rose: I think Benoit [Hubert Benoit's The Supreme Doctrine] is very good, and Huang Po [The Zen Teaching of Huang Po, translated] by Blofeld is very good. I think this little book here is very good. I wouldn't say it's Zen—he doesn't mention the word Zen in there—but he says everything there is to say. He's a Hindu. Just judging by what he has written, he strikes me as a man who knows what enlightenment is. It's The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi. I'm going to send out to Shambhala Press and get a few copies. I'm rather fascinated by it, just because I never saw anything written that plainly and simply.
Q: Does Maharshi advocate a system?
Rose: He advocates using a retreat-system, yes—of avoiding action pretty much. I find it somewhat similar to Huang Po. The main thing is he gives you a clearness of definition in your action—for instance, when he says "Who am I?"—and he tells you who he is not. And this is the best way to answer it. "Of all the attributes, the five senses, the ability to remember, and all these things, I am not."
It's a question-and-answer thing. And the student says, "Well, if none of these, then who am I?"
And he says, "After negating all of the above-mentioned—not this, not this—the awareness which alone remains, That I am." You might say it is the awareness of awareness.
Q: By being here, does it mean that the people here are already at the philosophical stage?
Rose: I don't know who is. Some may come to compare, yes. I've had people that came to try to convert me.
Q: Where is there to go beyond that?
Rose: The only thing I can say is that when I was at that stage, I didn't know where to go, either. But I kept struggling. Almost in any direction, beating my head against almost every wall, every door, every book.
Q: [Inaudible] ... no place to go beyond that?
Rose: No, I haven't. You may call it no-place. You might call it no-mind. But you can't use those words without saying—whenever you say "nothing," you must immediately say "everything." That which you find is nothing, but simultaneously it is everything. That's the only way you can describe an absolute condition with relative terms, or attempt to. There may be a hint, just a hint, that you can get from using these two terms together.
Continued in part 4 (conclusion)...
Nostalgia, intuition, and love form a string of longing, which leads us back beyond mind and death to our home in simple awareness. In retreating from duality and complexity, we travel back up the longing string and begin to "go within," finding our road home. What follows is in an exploration of how simple is better.
I don't hate music or rock and roll, but just wish to use this paradigm as a way to describe something I've found valuable, a way of talking about a process, a trick, which also may be something we don't want to think about, directly. It's a lot of info, perhaps, but if we can just listen to it, without agreeing or disagreeing, then later you will know for yourself whether it hit anything or not.
What are we? How can we describe ourselves practically, as our day-to-day function? A singer, a song. Singing our song, maintaining our image, this is the position we identify with in life. We will continue to sing as if we were immortal, despite knowing mortal life is a zero sum game, that we will rot and die. Fear is the stick, and desire the carrot, but why don't we ever wonder what's really up? Do we have an inner longing, something that calls to us from back behind our part in the play, our singing in the choir? By constant distraction and projection, we avoid seeing the truth of life and death, for it would upset our image, and stop the song. We refuse to legitimately suffer, or change. We all have lots of different songs we love to sing, both negative and positive, but are we aware of them? What is there throughout the singing, behind the notes, something constant, that if we would listen, might give us a direction, a connection, perhaps even answers?
Longing, nostalgia, can lead us back to something real, and this is accomplished through transformation of meaning and value. If we value that which is stable and more real, That, the Ground from which all springs, rather than the duality or the show, the drama, we automatically retreat from the play.
It hooks you into a situation where you think the solution for feeling bad is to feel good, to get rid of bad thought, we project or buy into a better one. Go out, party, and get high again, on whatever you need: money, business, marriage, drugs. And by getting high again, we're back to singing loud and clear, and to feeling and thinking that this makes everything OK. But this never leads us out of the system, it never stops. Instead, we get older, tired, more obsessed, and entrenched, until we die. To get out of the system we need to re-connect with something steady, quiet, silent, which has no duality. This can be found through longing, the faint memory that things were once okay, but somehow we got lost, separated from something real in ourselves. When we hit that invisible current, we can follow it, and find something in the background, in the mystery, which is steady, bigger than us.
When I was young, before puberty and sex (i.e., during innocence) how I had moments of indescribable beauty. I tried taking pictures of the trees and the sky, to capture that beauty. Of course it never came through in the photos. Then it was forgotten, became a nostalgic memory, but not a present moment experience.
How do we follow the longing string, assuming we've found it? Can we be deceived? What are the blocks and obstacles that distract us and keep us turned outward and away from our inner self? Let's use (abuse) the paradigm of rock and roll as the obstacle, and that of silence as the remedy.
Rock and Roll equals distraction, noise, dissonance, dissipation, the "self," reflexive consciousness, the personality pattern, the SMAARP (self-maintaining automatic associative reaction program). Each note in a song is like a person. The song is like a family drama. The notes play their part in the song, and because of the system, the scale, cannot do otherwise—despite what they themselves think, in their imagination, in contrast to the inner movie, where they might imagine they play a different role from the facts. Each song is part of the larger chorus of illusion or Maya, the system of nature, where each part's role is also defined and fixed. There's nothing wrong with this, it's not the enemy, and cannot be changed by ego-effort, but must be seen for what it is, separated from, dis-identified with. We somehow have become entranced, believing we are a note, a song, that must be protected and continued at all costs.
"The Self never undergoes change; the intellect never possesses consciousness. But when one sees all this world, he is deluded into thinking, 'I am the seer, I am the knower.' Mistaking one's Self for the individual entity, one is overcome with fear. If one knows oneself not as the individual but as the supreme Self, one becomes free from fear." —Shankara
This mistaking ourselves for an individual is the cause of our fear and desire, and the longing for our true Self is the way back home.
Silence equals stillness, background, unchanging Source, aware capacity, the divine or unknown, essence, the observer, Kingdom of Heaven. It cannot be changed or attacked, is out of time and space, beyond mind and death. It is not an opposite of noise or thought as much as a higher dimension that sees and contains all thought.
Silence is that which contains "self." Awareness contains action, but action is unaware. Aware capacity, rather than projected thought or held belief. As silence, we can be aware of the songs, the action, and are not affected in our essence. There is no pleasure, for there is not pain. The way out of the pain is not through better pleasure, but through becoming the observer of action, rather than the actor, doer, victim or singer. This is very plain when thought of as becoming that which watches a movie, rather than that which is in the play as an actor, suffering and doomed—for all plays, and the roles within them, must end, and begin.
Why do this work of observing, why become something beyond the character or note? To escape from the threat of being an individual something that depends on action and circumstance (change) for its very definition. This is not a good thing to be.
How do we get out of this illusion we are a thing? By more belief, better thought/concepts to identify with, more distraction to hide in? Paradoxically, the way out of all false suffering is by going through legitimate suffering, or facing the silence that comes from stopping the singing of our songs for a moment. Carl Jung noted, "The foundation of all mental illness is the avoidance of legitimate suffering." Suffering is the suffering of the ego, or the self, the idea self. This will suffer if we face the facts or the truth about ourselves. This false self suffers, and this is legitimate suffering for it shows us that we're living in distraction and limitation, that we're not facing the fact that we don't know who we are, that we're not listening to our Inner self, we're disconnected.
"The whole path to truth is through the umbilical cord—a mental umbilical cord. It links you to the Brahman. We are the Atman.... You'll not find the umbilical cord by reading books. You find it by going inside yourself. By observing yourself." —Richard Rose, from the "Mister Rose" video.
The suffering shows us that we have identified with a less than infinite mind, a finite mind, for we are not only disconnected from Brahman, but even from Atman. We're lost in our song, and lost to the real part of ourselves, the observer. When we change and our thinking is corrected, we can find the longing string and reconnect; we become less finite and thus come closer to becoming our real self as infinite potential or capacity.
Mental illness or insanity has been defined as anything less than ultimate truth. If we wish to find Truth, then we must admit that we don't have it, and thus are mentally ill, or insane as Rose would say—being that sanity would be knowing the Truth. We therefore are not facing ourselves, but when we do, it brings on the legitimate suffering. For a seed to become a tree, the seed must change or suffer, lose its "self." This brings us to:
What suffers, legitimately? Our image of our selves is what suffers, or should suffer. In many life situations, where we are wrong or mistaken, we "save face" instead of facing up, and thus we avoid the truth and real suffering. Instead of facing the truth, which might clash with our self-image, we save face by singing, we sing a song, our song of self. When we are young it might be rock and roll or soul, hip-hop, or country if we like to feel sorry for ourselves. Later, it could be Sinatra. If we're vain about our intellect, or feel superior, it could be classical or jazz. This image or song may change, but the singing of it doesn't ever lead to anything real. It just goes on and on, leading us nowhere as we sleep our dream of life. It's a zero sum game.
To suffer, and thus become less identified with an image or song, we may need a shock, suffering, and an admission, a silent listening brought on by this admission of the truth that we do not really "know." In this light of truth we can see ourselves, our image, our song, and begin the painful process of separating from it. As long as we are entranced in singing our song, we can't hear the silence, or admit to the still truth waiting behind us. This is the message in Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven": The truth is always there, waiting.
"Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits, nevertheless, calmly licking its chops." —H.L. Mencken
So we must keep singing, or we might have to face the facts of the contradictions of our different songs, how they change, and how we are ignorant of them, and therefore mostly miserable. Strangely enough, these many and varied songs of ours rarely bump into each other, and if they do we sing another one that rationalizes or denies this. This sleepy singing or projecting does not lead to awakening or becoming, but only keeps us moving, distracted, asleep, mesmerized by our songs.
The Longing String: Nostalgia as a Way Within to Silence and Contact
Nostalgia and listening are connections to the silence and inner self. We've talked a bit about facing the facts, listening instead of projection. Now let's talk a bit about developing the intuition, and compassion, the value of stopping the songs long enough to make contact.
"The person who has an ability to love has a much greater chance of immortality. IQ is not the greatest value. Rather, try to develop intuition." —Richard Rose
The orchestra conductor is the one who writes and judges the songs—not the singer. We can also use the longing string as something that turns us within, that turns us back out of poses, moods, states of mind and the identification with these, and from trying to be the director of thought traffic, the director of ours and other people's actions and thoughts. This inner longing turns us from the obsession with formulating the outside world, and instead causes us to pause and listen, to think that maybe we don't know what's going on, that maybe there's something better. The listening attention can help to find the inner peace that will allow us to hear the longing string despite the distractions of modern life. We can't hear the intuition if we're obsessed with singing.
People ask, "What can I do, as a person, to get answers?" First, stop singing long enough to find out what your real question is. To do this, we must find our heart through the longing string. In other words: What do we really want?
Then, we must be able to listen for that something we asked the question to, to answer. To what do we direct the question? How does it answer? This little switch from singing to listening causes us to look within, to catch that ray headed back up to the source, rather than to be caught up in projecting all the time.
Some examples of ways and means to set all this up: isolation (i.e., solitary retreats away from distraction), time alone everyday, even if for a few minutes, groups, work for the work. Return to innocence through truth and a healthy moral lifestyle (celibacy).
Jim Burns emphasized the need for lots of quiet time alone to connect with the inner self. In this quiet time we can listen, and get away from trying to direct the outer world, with business, family, making money, etc. We have time to sit in the quiet and listen and let the mind die down so that we can hear something within and start finding that hotwire, finding that direction within in the silence, rather than trying to orchestrate the noise.
I noticed that after camping for two nights, there was a distinct change, the silence came. After only one night, this wasn't dominant, but after two or more, the change was noticeable. We sing our song as a response or defense to other people's songs. If we are alone, in isolation, etc. we may find we can stop singing, and instead listen. This is a time when we can begin to stalk ourselves, learn to observe ourselves when the environment is relatively calm, like the shallow end of the pool as a good place to learn to swim.
Driving into and out of any big city, there is a change in inner atmosphere. It becomes quiet in the country and loud in the city. Millions of songs turn into noise, blocking out all reception.
Silence is always there as the background of noise. It gives energy instead of taking it, or releasing it. Rose used to talk about running out of gas from talking and having to generate the energy for this during silence. Rasputin generated power through isolation so he could heal.
I found that the nostalgic mood could show me what I was ignoring, if I went out into the woods—silence—and then listened and let whatever was buried come to the surface, and faced the pain. Rock and roll singing is a distraction, which doesn't let us hear the still small voice within.
After a camp stove, or any loud persistent noise, when it stops, we are much more aware of the silence. (There is also a danger of wanting noise so we can hear silence, which shows we only care about thrills. This is like the donkey wanting to take on the load, just so he can enjoy the feeling of getting it off.) The silence is opportunity, a chance to listen, rather than a pleasure to be re-created or for rest or escape. We can use "row, row, row your boat" to show this effect. While singing we have a communal self, and afterwards, we can have a communal not-self or container, something higher, which was always there, but we forget.
[Bob then divided the audience into three groups, each with a leader. The first group started, then the second group, and finally the third. Each group sang three rounds, and when the final group ended, the silence was allowed to sink in.] What happened? Did you see the difference from singing to silence? How can you recreate this process in your day-to-day life, at work, with the family, at home?
What can you do, personally, to hear the songs you sing, and to instead develop and listen to the intuition? What yearnings are there, inside you? What tricks and traps are active in you, that serve as distraction and noise, keeping you busy, perhaps even with spiritual work, so that you can't listen, receive, and then act? Don't continue to agree or disagree with yourself—observe yourself. This goes for others too. Questioning is not agreeing, or arguing, it is first off listening, and then understanding through taking it personally, how it applies to you, not in theory or to others, but you. Only you can find your way out of your own mind, only you face death. All else is imagination. Use the questioning process to separate from yourself as the singer, and move within.
[Questions and answers followed.]
~ This material comes from Bob's presentation at the April 2005 TAT conference. Watch a video trailer from the conference DVD. Also, see Bob's web sites, The Mystic Missal, NostalgiaWest, and The Listening Attention.
The only available evidence for "visitors from outer space" has come so far from highly imaginative individuals who wish either to achieve a little notoriety or to promulgate their particular religious theories and ethical concepts. We are told that some of these visitors come from planets of this solar system with the intention of preventing us from blowing up our earth and as a result, disorganizing the whole system. Their advice consists, as it must, of variations on the golden rule. It is doubtful if there are any other living beings in this system.
In the case of visitors from planets revolving about far distant suns, which seems the only possible place of origin, there seems no other reason for their coming than curiosity and scientific research, unless they have a genuine desire to share their attainments with others.
The question which prompted this article is whether such highly-developed beings would regard us as "vermin" and perhaps wish to exterminate us. There seems a certain fear that this could be the case.
We use the word "vermin" to denote certain living things like rats and fleas that are obnoxious to us. It is obvious that there are many members of our society who are much worse than vermin, but we feel that on the whole, we are civilized and kindly. As such, we have decided that as these obnoxious beings are conscious beings like ourselves, they should not be interfered with, unless perhaps they fail to pay their income tax. After all, the conditions of society are such that any of us might have grown up very similar to these dangerous individuals.
There would, of course, be no reason to exterminate us unless the visitors intended to colonize the earth or it became possible for us to travel to their distant system. Even then it is to be hoped that there would be a selective system in our extermination.
The real question is in what respect these terrestrials could be so superior to us. It is assumed that in time we could learn to tolerate one another's differences in appearance and smell and that communication would be established.
Suppose that you and I lived 20 or 30 thousand years ago on this earth and were visited by a race of beings at our present level of development. We should have been self-conscious and our minds would have been something like that of a bright child, preoccupied not with inanimate nature but with men and animals. We should have a language adequate for our needs and could have been fine pictorial artists. Our visitors (at the present level of development) would have many ways of handling the powers of nature, but would lack many direct instincts of the primitives and in addition, would have their memories filled with a lot of useless and dubious philosophic and religious theories. No doubt the primitives would have had a matching set of fears and tabus.
It is doubtful if the ethics of the visitors from today would be better than those of even Cro-Magnon man.
Furthermore, at some early stage of the race's history—and it might have started at the dawn of self-consciousness or true humanity—a remarkable thing happened unsought to many individuals and has continued until today . Not as a result of superior intellect and learning, but rather because of a mysterious inborn tendency to surrender the will and abnegate pride of self, the intermediate self-consciousness of certain individuals was at some time in life replaced by a complete consciousness. This consciousness is one in which the many half-consciousnesses or self-consciousnesses occur somewhat in the manner of dreams, except that the analogy should not be pressed too far.
In this way, some of the primitive men and women might have been far wiser than our most distinguished scientists and philosophers today. This answers the obvious question as to how Jesus and the Buddha, for examples, would be compared to the "advanced" men from the distant solar system. Unless these "advanced" men had gained this insight by true humility, they would be only technologically superior but in wisdom greatly inferior. If they had this wisdom, they would be equal to all those now and previously who also had it, even tho their technology was fantastically superior.
Parenthetically, I might add that most people can acquire this wisdom-insight with the assistance of one who himself or herself has it.
We are involved (as the whole universe has always been and always will be) in what could be called a space-time episode. Our visitors would of course also be involved in this. The only way out (since the wisdom-insight is not enough) is to leave space, time, and existence. We dread to do this, and dread the word expressing our release. The word is "death."
What we fear with the distant visitors is that they should be like us only more so, technologically advanced, ethically backward, especially as for no particular reason, millions of people in various parts of this earth are on the verge of burning and half-burning one another. We have advanced beyond the animal kingdom. We are not vermin.
We are insane humans.
~ This article was originally published in The ABEREE, Vol. 7, Issue No. 1 April 1960.
Then you will be alternately happy and unhappy. The fun prospects of life are ruined by death waiting in the wings. Of course death may eventually seem appealing. You will never be fully satisfied. An individual (a separate thing) is never going to be whole.
Ramana Maharshi stated his view succinctly: "'I am a man' is not natural. You are neither this nor that." Nisargadatta Maharaj put it even more forcefully: "You have squeezed yourself into the space of a lifetime and the volume of a body, and thus created the innumerable conflicts of life and death. Have your being outside this body of birth and death, and all your problems will be solved. They exist because you believe yourself born to die. Undeceive yourself and be free. You are not a person!"
"Undeceive yourself and be free." Indeed. And what are the self-deceptions that need to be shaken loose? The outer layers of the onion of self-deception are our identification with desires and fears. We mis-identify with the desire for acceptance, love, approval, status, wealth, security, fame, making a difference, being remembered, and so on. And we are hypnotically attached to the fear of rejection, appearing foolish, being wrong, making a blunder, being laughed at, censure, condemnation, social banishment, annihilation. When we introspect the mind, the war of desires and fears will come into perspective from a superior point of observation. It will become obvious to us that the fears and desires are objects in our view, not the subject or viewer.
The next layer of self-deception is that of being the doer, the decider, the person calling the shots. Again, watching the mind and observing mental processes will dispel the layer of self-deception. We don't know how to "do" this, but effort in the direction of self-observation results in an apparent accident which bumps our point of reference to a higher or more interior level of observation.
Since anything that's in our view is not us, the yet-to-be-defined viewer, we have at this point unwittingly reduced our self-definition to that of a possibly featureless but separate observer-thing. To proceed, our intuition must tell us that we somehow have to observe the observer—a logical impossibility. So how can we bring that about?
I heard the screen and stage star Matthew Broderick being interviewed recently, and he knew the formula. One of the interviewer's questions was about the timing of the events that led to his being discovered. He said that he'd been working off-Broadway for years without recognition. He was in the final night's performance of a play, which a well-known critic attended. The critic was impressed and wrote a glowing review. Broderick summarized: "All these things have to line up, which are out of your control." By persevering, you bring yourself to a place where discovery may occur.
What you seek lies between and behind these beliefs.
Believe in Me.
Question from Nicholas: Got any advice?
Wrong question to ask a woman, Nick—we love to give advice...:) And as it is you already know what you need to do, but it won't stop me now. Okay here I go....
~ The above Q&A comes from a recent interaction in an online self-inquiry group that Anima participated in for several years preceding a 2004 breakthrough into the "dazzling dark" of self-realization.
A snake crawls curling his way
What does he know of truth?
He runs his pale belly over a knife's edge,
Caught between this vision and the next,
The master strikes, "What color is the cloak of the naked man?"
"I am the substance and the one who has no substance."
"Which is ether itself, which has neither beginning nor end, which is subtle,
"His description is not contained within the intellect,
"I understood that God is in things only because all things are in Him,
"This Mind, which is without beginning, is unborn and indestructible."
"The Self that I AM has no name, for no word that points toward Me comprehends Me.
"Everything is beingness, but I, the Absolute, am not that."
"All that remains is All."
~ Quotes from Thunder: Perfect Mind, Shankara's Vivekachudamani, Rumi, Bernadette Roberts, Huang Po, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Nisargadatta, and Richard Rose.
I am surprised by the number of people I encounter who feel the spiritual search and enlightenment are an escape from life. Even spiritual seekers often feel guilty, as if they are avoiding life through the spiritual search rather than embracing it. As if it was nobler to stay in the trenches and suffer with the troops. Yet, enlightenment is more akin to a soldier "going over the top" and venturing into no-man's land. Far from avoiding life, the spiritual search is plunging full-bore into the paradox of life and our self. It is not avoidance, but it is escape—or the potential for escape. Only a fool would not want to escape an unfortunate circumstance.
And we are in an unfortunate circumstance. In a world at once stunningly beautiful, yet full of calamities. We witness love and hate, birth and death, tragedy and comedy. We witness our own mental and physical vacillation between extremes—health and illness, anxiety and calm. We see the picture of our life change, grow still, and fade. We don't know why any of this is happening, and we can't even be content to simply witness, for knowing that the witness will die and all it knew, all it experienced will be lost. Still, we have the feeling that something must survive, something must be permanent, yet is that feeling the truth, or denial of the truth?
Psychology, under its many guises, offers a host of escapes—which are better named avoidances, as not one of them is a permanent solution. Yet I do not dismiss all of psychology with that statement. Psychology can help us uncover our fundamental anxiety—death. When faced with the fact that everything fades, however, psychology's solution is for us to soldier on in the face of oblivion—to take solace in experience and join hands with the other experiencers.
Psychology casts stones at the spiritual search, or at best gives a condescending nod. The perception being that the spiritual seeker is a sort of refined alcoholic drinking in practices that numb him to the realities of the world. This is true for many seekers—it is true for most everyone in the world. The culmination of the search, enlightenment, is believed to be a state unfazed by the storm and tide of life and mind. So the self-realized aren't really experiencing life, or are in a drug-induced-like bliss.
I have not known a self-realized person who was without emotion, without thought, or without a body and its ills. Yet, there is a difference between someone who has been to no-man's land and returned, and someone who has never left the trenches. Enlightenment won't be what you want (you will still be, wet feet and all, in the trenches), but will satisfy your wants for all time. And that is not the avoidance of life, but the culmination.
Yes, the spiritual search is an escape. You have two choices, whether to avoid the problem of life and death, or escape it. A true spiritual search is an active study of escape routes that takes you through questions about how you will live life, through the realm of psychology, and into examining (looking for the source of) your experience of experience.
~ Thanks to Gabe Martin's Borderline. www.nevtron.si/borderline
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