Everything in nature is in movement, in flux. Every phenomenon in the entire universe possesses its own rhythm, temporality, and flow.
As we explained in the previous lecture, breath is in a state of transience. This parallels cosmic periods of manifestation, of activity, and of repose. Just as our breath constitutes the flux, the pervasiveness of life, the expression of the soul, so too does the consciousness manifest in different states, with different qualities of being, of expression. If you have studied Gnosticism for some time, we always remember that consciousness has infinite levels, from the most basic, the most primordial, that which is germinal―to the most refined, the most beautified, the most sacred, as demonstrated by the quality of life and mind of the greatest initiates, the greatest meditators: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, Samael Aun Weor.
Consciousness as we currently possess it is not developed, because our daily state is mostly constituted of negative qualities: distraction, affliction, suffering. All traditions teach that the human being is a germ for sacred individuality and consciousness. We possess the body of a human, a humanoid organism, but our mind, as has been demonstrated, is animal. Our mind always chases after cravings. We run away from unpleasant situations, aversive things. All the while we are ignorant of how our own internal psychology produces pain, produces suffering.
This is why we study and practice meditation. We want to learn how to develop our complete potential, so that we cease suffering. We suffer because we don't readily perceive how our own nafs, nafas, animal defects, egos, keep us hypnotized and asleep. We go through life feeling that we are unitary, when in truth we are humanoids in a constant state of contradiction. We are a multiplicity, and this is something very important to remember, because in Sufism and Islam, those initiates speak abundantly about the unity of God.
This is declared in the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith, that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.” To state this with conviction is something extremely sacred, very profound. It means to have a concentrated will without any defect whatsoever―no idol, no negative crystallization in the mind, no naf, no ego, no blemish, no fault. This is how we really obey divinity, to reach those heights, and that is the definition of a true Gnostic, a true Muslim, a true Sufi.
We can only really say that divinity is one when we ourselves are singular. We have to unify the consciousness. We have to purify the consciousness. The Essence must not be conditioned anymore, because each ego, desire, vice, error, conditions and traps who we really are. And because of our different defects, which pull us in multiple directions, we are fractured.
We are distracted, moving in many directions at once, and also spiritually going nowhere. This has to change. This is why we study concentration of mind, concentration of will, meditation. God wants to express His perfection in us, but for that, the soul, the consciousness, the Essence, must be pure.
So meditation is the science that leads us to that unity, to the unification of the consciousness To develop consciousness, we study ethics. We practice purity. We work with energy. We work with our breath to empower our consciousness, so that it opens the inner doorway to understanding. As we are working with these preliminaries, we have to really study how the consciousness works, and for this the Sufis speak abundantly about two very important types of consciousness: contraction and expansion. For the sake of clarity, it will be good to define these terms within conventional english.
“Contraction is the process of becoming smaller. Some synonyms include shrinking, reduction in size, shrinkage, decline, decrease, dwindling, down tick; it is the process in which a muscle becomes, or is made, shorter and tighter.” This is similar to “tightening, tensing, flexing, constricting.” ―Online Dictionary
All of these definitions point towards a restriction or limiting, a heightened focus, a type of diminution, to really concentrate and restrict our vision to one thing.
The opposite of contraction is expansion. This definition includes:
“The action of becoming larger or more extensive. This is similar to growth, increase in size, and enlargement, extension, augmentation, development, evolution, build up, build-out, scaling up, spread, proliferation, multiplication, mushrooming, evolvement. It is the extension of a state’s territory by encroaching on that of other nations pursued as a political strategy,” (as an example of what expansion involves or as typically understood). ―Online Dictionary
These definitions relate how something within a small space moves outward to fill something greater in volume, much like smoke rising and filling the sky during a campfire.
We find contraction and expansion in our breathing process. When we inhale air, our lungs expand, and when we exhale, our lungs contract, so that we can expel toxins and waste from the body. Likewise, the heart, when it fills with blood, the heart expands, and when pumping blood through the body, it contracts. This flux or rhythm in our body is essential to daily life.
While this is very true, we also possess, in our consciousness, states of contraction and expansion. These are fundamental and necessary for our spirituality, for psychological balance, for our meditation. All this of course is guided by divinity, for as the great Sufi poet Rumi taught:
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” ―Rumi
Let us explain what contraction and expansion mean in regards to states of consciousness.
Definitions of Contraction and Expansion
So in meditation we study two very profound principles, which can aid us in awakening our consciousness. These are attention and awareness.
Attention is highly focused. It is directed. It is concentrated. If I were to tell you to direct your attention to your right thumb, you would experience a shift in your consciousness. You can try this at this moment.
You may suddenly have awareness or cognizance of your right thumb because you have directed your attention to it. Yet, how many of us were actually aware of our thumb, our hand, our fingers, our body? Probably before I even mentioned it, you might not have been paying attention, because you were following the thread, the continuity of my voice, and the ideas we are expressing.
Let's try another experiment. Become aware of your surroundings. What is your home like where you are at? Are you driving and listening to this lecture? Become aware of the street. Become aware of your surroundings. Become aware of your environment. No matter the time, the weather, the place, the people around you, or if there are no people, become aware of your external situation.
Not only should we be aware of our environment, but we have to be aware of whatever task we are involved in. How attentive are we right now to my words? Are we maintaining a continuity of directed attention towards these ideas that I am presenting to you? Or are we thinking of other things? Are we making a mechanical associations in our mind, such as “I heard something similar to this before,” or “this reminds me of another lecture I heard.” It could be any type of commentary in the mind, in the intellect.
Or as you have been listening to this conversation, this lecture, have you lost the thread of what was being said because you got distracted? Do you remember or did you forget what I said a minute ago?
So this little experiment reveals something very interesting. If we are talking in our heads instead of being attentive to this lecture, it means we are not conscious. Likewise, if we are not aware of our environment, we are also asleep. The Essence is not awake.
This is why we practice meditation, because the consciousness needs training. We typically get distracted very easily, and so in the beginning, we need more focus. We need will. We need concentration on whatever activity of life we engage in. However, many times we also tend to go through our home, the bedroom, our neighborhood, without any cognizance of our surroundings. We do so blindly, because we don't see what is new. We have a representation of our environment in our mind to which we relate, or we are so deep and lost in reverie and thought that we don't notice what is going around us.
What is happening? We could be driving our car in an alley and suddenly come across a person, perhaps someone who was injured lying on the ground, something very unusual. And if I am relating this example, it is because this happened to me today. I was driving my car back to my home after being away from work, and I suddenly realized as I was driving that a group of people were standing near the side of the alley where I usually park. There was a person who was injured or not moving. I was shocked. Obviously, you know, I spoke with the people there, that they had called the police and they were going to get an ambulance. You know, this is such a shocking and alarming thing, disturbing.
In that moment, I felt very alert, because I realized I wasn't paying attention. I was expecting that I was going to go home according to my routine, according to mechanicity, and it took awareness of my surroundings and a person driving the other direction to roll down their window and tell me that something was ahead. So we are very sleepy, and we have to train ourselves to be aware of what is happening at all times.
We have to remember that the consciousness is like a light. It is perception itself. When we lack attention and awareness, it means that the light of our consciousness is diffused. It means that our light is obscured, because our mind, our egos, our defects, keep us preoccupied. We invest our energy, our light, into them. The ego, like a moon, has eclipsed our sun.
So when we talk about these principles, we have to remember that attention is like a flashlight. When you use a flashlight, you direct it. You concentrate it. You focus it.
Now, awareness is a little different. It is expansive. It has volume. It is luminous. It is amplified. It spreads outward in its radiance and radius towards our surroundings, when we do so willingly.
Perhaps with these examples you can see where we are headed when talking about the Sufi teachings on contraction and expansion. So the Sufis explain that contraction and expansion, focus and broad spatiality, are attention and awareness. So contraction is when our attention is focused on one thing. So, as I was driving my car today and a person in the other lane pulled up and rolled down their window, I was contracted in my attention. I was directing my attention to that person, but I wasn't aware of what was ahead of me. I had a shift in my consciousness when I suddenly realized what was going on. So this is an example of how with contraction, we are focused on one thing, but with awareness, it is a broad spatial perception. We become aware of our surroundings.
Contraction in Self-Observation
So contraction also happens in our work of self-observation. This is really important to understand. When we study our different defects, our egos, moment by moment, we are focused on our interior. So while it's true that we have to be aware of what is happening outside of us, we have to divide our attention inside. You know, often times when we make a mistake, we can also feel a contraction in our heart, a state of remorse, and we can feel and exclaim or feel that we have really done something stupid.
As I am explaining these concepts, there is a lot of dynamic range with these principles. Here I am introducing just a few, but basically contraction and expansion occurs in self-observation, especially―the work of the ego. We can experience a state of contraction, of heightened focus, when we catch a defect within our three brains, because we are observing, we are conscious and attentive of our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. Usually we can feel the pangs of conscience, the remorse of the soul whenever we come upon very disturbing egos, very big errors that we created, that we are responsible for.
Self-observation amongst the Sufis is muhasabah, inner-accounting. In this work, we have to take an account of our psychological states, those defects we have in abundance and those virtues we must develop further. This principle is very important. This is the foundation of gathering data about ourselves, so that we can achieve annihilation of the ego, fana, in Arabic. There is only reunion with the Being when the ego is fully dead. So we have to study ourselves. We have to observe ourselves.
Expansion in Awareness
So expansion is awareness, and through it we experience an amplified state, a magnification and a deepening of our perception of everything around us. Have you ever noticed on a rainy day, walking down the street of your home city or town or wherever you may be, and have really contemplated a sunset? The vibrancy and color, the depth, the beauty, the profundity of the moment? The way that leaves shift in the wind, or how puddles form upon the streets, the stones, the architecture around you, the buildings? With a state of awareness or expansion, we are deeply enmeshed, aware of everything surrounding ourselves in the moment. We have to learn to develop that clarity, because it helps us to go deep into our own consciousness. The consciousness is very dynamic, as we are saying.
It can expand outward, but also it can focus on a point inside, which in our works of self-observation, is the work of the ego―understanding the relationship between the ego, personal states, and external events. Both qualities: attention and awareness, contraction and expansion, are often depicted as two poles within Sufism, two opposites. However, they are both essential as Rumi was teaching us, because both principles or qualities of consciousness help us to be well-rounded.
There is an exercise in our tradition, or in many schools of meditation. To learn to cease thinking so much, we can pay attention to our surroundings, whether it be a deep walk in the woods, a hike in nature, in which we focus on the external world and the beauty of our surroundings. But also we need to learn to develop internal insight, focus, attention upon our different egotistical states, and also how our ego relates to the external world. This provides a comprehensive basis by which to gather data for our meditations.
Levels of Contraction and Expansion
So attention and awareness are developed in levels, in accordance with the level of being of the practical meditator. A true Gnostic, a true Sufi, a true Muslim, experiences these states with will, because they trained themselves for many years. Meditation masters also experience these states in an open, receptive way, because the Being determines for them through intuition, through influence, through inquietudes, a hunch, what to focus on and what to become aware of. Our Being can guide us in our daily life when we learn to connect with that inner conscience, the continuity of awareness and self-observation or remembrance of the divine. So bearing this in mind, we can begin to approach this very high level of understanding by examining what the Sufis taught. The following is from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“Contraction is to the gnostic what fear is to the beginner, and expansion is to the gnostic what hope is to the beginner.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Beginners fear many things, including the exploration of the ego. Many people are afraid to look inside of themselves because of the ugliness that they have, and this is a normal reaction, but we have to learn to overcome our own nausea and disgust, to quote Nietzsche from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So contraction can be focused on very unpleasant things, egotistical, negative states, but we have to learn to look inside, to feel that constriction and contraction of our attention, especially in moments of pain. We have to look at ourselves without running away. We have to not repress what we see, and we have to not justify it either. This is essential to develop maturity in this work.
Also, beginners hope to have awakened states, awareness of the superior worlds, through this discipline, and the Gnostics, those great masters of meditation, also enjoy an expansion of consciousness in the superior worlds through their meditation, their meditative practices.
"The distinction between contraction and fear and expansion and hope, is that fear only relates to something in the future, whether it be the loss of something dear or the onset of something dreaded. Hope likewise only relates to future events―the anticipation of something one likes or the awaited disappearance of something one dreads, the expected end of something one hates.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So beginners, we fear the uncertainties of the future, whether it be material or spiritual loss, difficult situations, challenges in life, ordeals. Likewise, we also hope for spiritual advancement and internal experiences in this path.
Yet, while these are normal sentiments for beginning meditators, we must learn to focus entirely on the moment, to be aware of all of its rich, enlightened, golden mysteries―alert novelties, the truth, the unknown.
"Contraction, however, is a subtle impact produced in the moment itself and the same is the case with expansion. The heart of the one who experiences fear and hope is attached by its two states to the future, while the “now” of the one who experiences contraction and expansion is captured by a feeling that overpowers him in the present.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is fundamental. We have to stop daydreaming. We have to stop thinking of some utopian future where experiences will come easily, by grace, that we must reach some plateau of wisdom and that the work is somehow magically done, easy, like blowing glass. Likewise, it's important to stop fearing the future and to mull over the past. It is important to have remorse and sincere work upon our errors, but not to be hypnotized by our histories, by our tragedies. We have to develop attention and awareness in the present. This occurs through self-observation.
Dynamics of Contraction
Al-Qushayri relates a very beautiful teaching that I would like to share with you:
"As the Sufis’ states differ, the quality of their contraction and expansion also differs. Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains. Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful and profound. There is a lot of meaning here that I'd like to unpack for you. One of the defining characteristics of self-observation, that we are really focusing our attention well, is that we do not become identified with what we perceive. Samael Aun Weor explains that to gather data about our defects, we need a division of attention. We need to separate our Essence, our consciousness, from the ego. This is basic. Without this, we cannot meditate. Without this, we cannot perceive anything clearly.
So the consciousness, the Essence is the one that observes. It is perception itself. It is alert, focused, clear attention. The Essence, the liberated consciousness must observe the ego, our defects, our vices, within our three brains. The ego is what is observed. We have to observe our internal reactions to external life, much in the same way that a director of a film, films an actor in a drama, a comedy, a tragedy. These dramas, comedies and tragedies of life are the external events, the situations, the circumstances of our existence.
We must not invest our energy externally towards anything outside of us. But we must become hermetically sealed. This means that when we respond to situations, we do not waste energy. We don't give energy to negative thoughts. We don't empower negative emotions and we don't hurt ourselves through negative actions. This is an intuitive, qualitative state in which we have to make many mistakes, because we are learning. This is why we meditate. We clear our mind. We review the events of our day in which our ego acted, in which the self, the conditioned mind, emerged within the screen of our attention.
So hermetical sealing, to be closed within, means to not waste our precious, conscious potential, because “Wherever we direct our attention, we expend creative energy,” says Samael Aun Weor. We have to be very clear, and to really be patient with ourselves, because it is not something we are going to master in one day. Instead, we learn to differentiate between egotistical states and conscious states.
You will know it through experience. What states of being produce happiness, liberation, contentment? And what states produce our suffering? We have explained this in depth previously.
So in relation to this quote, for some disciples:
“Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So we can be gathering data about the ego, such as a state of anger when we are criticized. We may still be a little bit identified with the event even though we are observing. We are consciously working not to invest ourselves into that element. So there are degrees of identification and degrees of remembrance, levels of being, “Light upon light,” says the Qur’an [24:35].
However, if we are really working seriously and very well, psychologically, if we are meditating on our mistakes and really working to retrospect at the end of our day, to catch those defects that emerged in certain events, we learn the distinct qualities of conditioning and we learn not to make those mistakes again, because we are comprehending more and more, how those errors manifest, how they feed, how they sustain, and how they pass. So if we are really working well, we do not lose any of our energy through the ego.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We become a barrier. No matter how bad things are externally, we do not internalize negativity at all. Samael Aun Weor stated, “Shut your doors to negativity.” This doesn't mean that we abandon certain friends or family members who may be toxic. There is some credence to this. If we need some space, it could be good to associate or disassociate with certain crowds. This is basic. But in reality, this principle relates to how we shut our psychological doors, because we can't avoid negativity at all times. We have to face the reality of life and the social conflicts of our humanity. We have to learn not to identify with any problem, to shut out any possibility of investing ourselves in the world's problems.
It doesn't mean we ignore those problems or don't do anything about them. It means that psychologically we have a space, a clarity, a serenity that is not shaken, so that we can learn to focus on those issues with greater understanding and comprehension. When we are serene and insightful, we can respond to life with efficacy, but this is learned through experience.
Dynamics of Expansion
So these principles also relate to expansion, to awareness. Al-Qushayri states:
“This is also how it is for people in the state of expansion. There may be an expansion in someone that widens his nature but does not cut him off from the majority of ordinary things. And there may be someone in bast who will not be affected by anything at all.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So when you expand conscious awareness, a broad spatial perception, a vividness of your surroundings, you learn to stop thinking. This is not forced. It is not repression. It is the natural quietude and silence of the mind. Our problem is that we invest too much in our internal chatter. By taking in the data of our surroundings, when we learn to have a receptive mind. As I said, such as through walks or hikes in nature, we can enter a very deep state of consciousness in which we are cut off from mundane things.
So the reality is that nothing around us is mundane, but it is rather our projection of our mind. We have to learn to see each moment as a golden child of Gnosis. You can study this in the “The Struggle of the Opposites,” a chapter in The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor, in which he describes how we overcome the illusions of the mind. And of course, there are degrees. There are levels to this. Sometimes we enter deep states of expansion, of awareness, but part of our mind is still stuck, is identified. Yet, with the most lucid perception according to Al-Qushayri, “there may be someone in expansion (bast) who will not be affected by anything at all.” We can become so aware of the details of life with such awareness, such clarity, like in a lucid dream, an astral experience, a samadhi, an ecstasy of the soul, that nothing can break that continuity easily.
Of course in the beginning, we struggle. We want to experience and maintain these lucid states at will. This is why we have different practices of concentration and awareness to help us focus our attention, but also develop more vividness, an amplification of our perception, our awareness.
The Signs of Contraction and Expansion
So as I mentioned, contraction-expansion are very broad principles. They have multiple levels of application and meaning according to the three levels or degrees of Sufism: Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah / Ma’rifah, or the introductory, the intermediate, and the advanced teaching.
So contraction, as a heightened focus, can occur during an ordeal, especially. In the beginning of our ethical discipline, we have to learn to become aware of everything that is happening outside and inside. When we feel remorse for a defect that we have observed in the moment, which is causing us a lot of pain, we have to really see it for what it is. This is impossible if we don't divide attention inward, but also have awareness of our external events.
We also experience expansions of a positive nature when we discover how to use our virtues, when we receive spiritual insight to a problem, that relieves us of a certain suffering and pain. So on one level, contraction feels like a restriction, and it can even sound painful when someone is restricted, is limited. But that inward contraction is necessary in this work, because if we don't confront our defects and feel that pain of remorse in our conscience, we will never change. It is through that introspective work, when we liberate consciousness and really pinpoint the defects we want to work on, that we can really work towards their elimination and expand our knowledge, our Being.
“One of the lowest causes of contraction is the arrival in the heart of a feeling brought on by a sign of divine reproof or a hint that one deserves punishment. This inevitably produces a contraction in the heart. Other feelings may be prompted by an indication, through a sort of kindness and welcome, of approach to God or response from Him. This produces an expansion in the heart.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Degrees of Contraction
There are degrees of contraction and expansion, which again, as we stated, process in accordance with the level of being of the meditator. There are levels to our conscience, a restriction of the heart, whereby we feel a certain intuition, a sudden sentiment that a specific behavior is wrong. The more we listen to our conscience, the deeper we go in our understanding. It is a fundamental principle.
The intellect cannot resolve problems. The heart, our conscience, is what knows how to perceive reality and to understand. The less we follow our states of introspection of contraction, of inner focus, of remorse and analysis, the more we depart from religion, from the teaching, because we disconnect ourselves. We don't listen to what our heart is telling us, what is right and what is wrong. We feel that contraction in our heart, that pain, that deep suffering, perhaps about an action we took in the past that we want to rectify, or feel that we can't. That is contraction, a very deep and profound one. And so these two principles really complement each other. They are both essential, as stated in this scripture, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“In general, the degree of contraction of which someone is capable is the same as his potential expansion and his expansion is to the degree of his contraction.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So think of a heart that is perfectly balanced by its pumping of blood, its restrictive and expanding movements, just in the same way as Rumi said that the two wings of a bird extend and contract in order to create flight.
“There may be a contraction whose cause is unclear to the one who experiences it. He finds in his heart a state of contraction for which he perceives no reason or motive.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So here we may feel remorse, but we don't understand why, and this is why we have to gain clarity. We have to review a particular moment in the day in which we were confused, or we are suffering with a problem, to visualize it and to see it in our imagination, our perception, and to look for the cause, to introspect, to look, and to wait. Therefore, the Sufis state:
"The proper course of action for such a one is submission until that moment passes from him. If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase, and [his efforts] might be counted against him as an infringement of the principles of spiritual conduct.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this has to do with moments of observation. We must be mindful of the moment. We must be attentive, alert, aware. We have to be receptive to internal states of Being. This is a quality of the heart, the remembrance of the presence of God. We have to remember that distinct quality of communion with our own inner Spirit as we carefully scrutinize the ego.
So again, it is a division of attention. We are observing our defects, where we are remembering that we are the Essence, which belongs to the Being. We have to learn to act appropriately towards each external event with the appropriate internal state. So sometimes in an ordeal, perhaps we are really criticized very hard and we feel a lot of resentment, pride, hatred, and a conglomeration of different egos and defects emerging in that scene. Sometimes the best thing is to wait. Be patient. Learn to see the impression of that person, the aggressor, with serenity, with compassion, with gladness.
We have to really transform our perceptions of life, and this is not easy, because we want to retaliate, to react egotistically. If we react in the moment, we constrict ourselves even more, in a manner of speaking. We make our situation worse, because if we argue back, we create conflict. So it is better to comprehend the situation, to look at it, to not let the ego react, and let anger subside. As Prophet Muhammad taught, "The strongest among you is he who controls his anger." If we don't do this, we do not submit to God, to the rules of the moment.
So Al-Qushayri continues:
“If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase…” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as I said, we tend to react to life. Here we need to learn to wait, to be patient, and sometimes in a situation, we have to respond quickly, and this is the great temptation of the mind. The ego reacts and wants to intervene. It is a mechanical reaction to life, but with patience and observation, we can wait for the appropriate internal state to follow our heart, so that we know how to respond with consciousness. To not do so is to contract oneself, to be delimited, to be egotistical, to be vain. Remember that the mind makes a swing between the battle of the opposites, “Should I or should I not retaliate to this critic?” Our mind also goes between how to get revenge, or perhaps we want to run away. Neither are viable, depending on the situation―in most cases. If we are just having an argument or a conflict at work or with a family member, instead, intuitive action, beyond the duality of oppositional thinking, leads the awakening of the consciousness.
"But if he surrenders to the rule of the moment, before long the state of contraction will vanish. As by God, may He be exalted, said, “And God brings about contraction and expansion” (2:245). ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So I know a lot of us may think that divinity is far away, but the reality is that our Being is in our heart and is always telling us what we need to do. The problem is that we have too many veils, too many conditions of mind that obscure that thread that we have to hold on to. This is why in meditation we learn to introspect, to remove the veils of our perception.
Degrees of Expansion
Like breath, states of awareness or expansion suddenly arrived in accordance with divine will in a properly cultivated psychology. So when we train our attention to focus on one thing, to not be distracted, whether it be a candle, observing the flame and not thinking of other things, or practicing awareness of the present moment, this serenity of mind allows for light to reflect within our consciousness, to augment and expand it.
Again, Al-Qushayri states:
“And there may be an expansion that comes on suddenly―the one who experiences this encounters it unexpectedly, without knowing any reason for it. It shakes him and makes him giddy.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Sometimes in our practice, we can awaken in the astral plane. We suddenly have illumination and a vision which makes us very happy. The problem is that we tend to get overexcited, whereby we agitate the mind and lose the ecstasy, the experiences.
“The proper course of action for someone in this circumstance is silence and the observance of correct behavior, for there is at that moment a great danger for him. Such a person must beware of a hidden scheme, a test in the form of a gift.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
How we handle visions is important, because even spiritual experiences can be a test to see whether or not we will act responsibly with light, or whether or not that light should be taken away because we abuse it―we indulge in negative states. It comes to my mind an experience I had in the astral plane, in which my awareness was expanded and I was flying over a beautiful landscape, enjoying the beauty of nature. I knew my God was with me, was guiding me. I landed in a forest upon a hill in the middle of the woods, and suddenly, I saw the numbers 600,000 on the ground, and certain women were approaching me―lustful women.
I intuitively knew that this was related to Arcanum 6 of the sacred tarot [The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah] in which I had to fight against my own lust. So it was a test and a blessing at the same time. I was given a vision, but this was a hidden scheme, a test, an ordeal, because the masters of the White Lodge awaken us in the astral plane to give us experiences and to test us, to see whether or not we will act ethically, because in this vision that I had, this experience, these women were trying to make me fall sexually and I had to throw them off of me in a great battle. Very difficult. I was very exhausted by the end, but that experience relates how we can be given light, amplification, and experiences, and yet, we can make very grave mistakes if we are not careful.
“Thus one of the Sufis said, “A door of expansion was opened upon me. I slipped so I was veiled from my station.” And on account of this they say. “Stay on the prayer-rug (bisat), and beware of delight (inbisat)!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Or as the Buddhist state, “Don't get drunk on Nirvana.”
We can become very attached to internal experiences. We have to have that type of awareness but not be attached, to be unmoved, to be serene.
This ties into the joy of awakened experiences and the discipline we need to contract or restrain our mind. All meditators must learn to experience the bliss of the consciousness by restricting and disciplining the animal ego.
Fear and Hope in God
Al-Junayd said the following, as quoted by Al-Qushayri in the Principles of Sufism:
“Junayd said, “Fear of God contracts me while hope of Him expands me. The real nature of things (haqiqah) unifies me [in His Presence], while the Truth of His Being (haqq) separates me [from Him in essence]. When He contracts me through fear, He makes me pass away from myself, and when He expands me through hope, He returns me to myself.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This fear is not egotistical. It is the reverence of the consciousness towards the divine law, especially chastity. We fear to make mistakes and to deviate from the path when we really revere God. So mystical experiences return us to ourselves, to remembrance of our reality, and this is how we learn to have genuine hope in the Being.
"When He unifies me through the real nature of things, He raises me to His Presence and when He separates me [from Him] through His Unique Truth, He makes me witness what is other than myself, and so veils me from Him." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So notice how mystical experience, states and stations in the path are governed by divinity. The Being contracts and expands our perceptions of consciousness depending on the need and His decisions, because the Being always manages our experiences, our light.
"He, may He be exalted, in all of that moves me [from state to state], not holding me back. He estranges me [from all else] but does not make me familiar with Him. It is in His Presence that I taste the food of my being. Would that He would annihilate me from myself and so gratify me, or take me away from myself and so revive me!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful. God determines our path, if we learn to follow His will in our three brains, our human machine. He gives us experiences, but doesn't make us familiar with Him, because many times when we long for the Being, we work harder. There is a very famous saying in Islam how God often withholds divine blessings or experiences as he hears the prayers of the disciple, because the sound of it is sweet to Him.
How do we taste the food of our Being? Meditation. Samael Aun Weor states that meditation is the daily bread of the wise, the bread of being. We gain insight when we are establishing ourselves in attention and awareness. Self-observation of our states and awareness of their relation to external events provide us with holistic data about our internal, humanoid machine, our ego. Through developing serenity of mind, calmness and equanimity of consciousness, we expand our awareness of the internal worlds.
This comes about after we learn to concentrate on one thing. We could focus on a sacred sound, or as we stated in the previous lecture: Breath, Ham-Sah, mantras, etc. We constrict our attention to the object of concentration so that the mind stops chattering. In the silence of meditation, when we learn to focus internally without distraction, we can receive internal knowledge and awareness of the internal worlds.
Three Types of Expansion
We spoke extensively about contraction. Abdullah Ansari of Herat speaks beautifully about expansion. His definition of expansion pertains also to enlightenment, spiritual insight, astral samadhis, conscious experiences within the internal worlds. As he states, citing the Qur’an:
“God, the Most High and Holy [speaks of one],’whose heart God has opened to Islam so that he has received enlightenment from God’ (39:22).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
We receive enlightenment through submission. How do we submit to God? It is by achieving equanimity of mind. So serenity is developed in degrees. We have to learn to overcome distractions to the object of our concentration, whether we are focusing on the breath, with a mantra, with pranayama, or a statue, an object, a candle flame. Or if you are familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala. You can also concentrate upon the Arabic and Hebrew letters, especially, to focus on a principle represented in that calligraphy, so that the mind stops thinking of other things.
In some of these practices, we imagine and concentrate upon that image. We can see it before our physical eyes, and then we visualize it in our imagination. But in order for imagination to be very crisp, to be stable, we have to not forget what we are doing. So equanimity comes first, when we no longer get distracted, when our attention is crisp and clear. When it no longer takes effort to focus on our object, when we are accustomed and familiar with the perfect state of equanimity, we can learn to submit to God. This is how we receive enlightenment.
Notice how Muslims and Sufis, they bow their head towards the stone of Kaaba, as we see in this image―a symbol of working with the stone of Yesod. We have to bow our head by working with our energies, to calm the mind. We offer our calm, serene mind to the Being, but it is a process.
Of course, enlightenment occurs in levels. It begins with awakening physically, but also achieves or appears internally in our work.
“Expansion is the opening that God bestows upon the heart, the spiritual time, and the aspiration of a servant. And that is of three kinds: the expansion of prayers and invocations, the expansion in service, and the expansion during seeking.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Let us examine what these entail.
Prayers, Service, and Seeking
“The expansion of prayers has three signs: invocations with reverence, awestruck humble supplications, and beseeching God through Qur’anic divination.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So invocations and conjurations, as we have stated previously, help us to protect our reverence.
Humble supplications are our prayers. We concentrate and pray for the help we need, enter silence, and then when the mind is serene and receptive, we can receive the answers we need.
Qur'anic divination, for the purposes of our studies, is to read and study the doctrine. We pray for help that God gives us understanding through whatever scripture we read, such as in the Qur’an or the writings of Samael Aun Weor. We can sit, close our eyes, and pray, asking divinity to lead us to a chapter, by flipping through the pages, to show us that which we must read and understand, what we must read about to help us in our particular situation.
“And the expansion of service has three signs: lightly carrying the load of plentiful works, abundant prayers concealed from people, and a heart punctual in prayer.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So, sacrifice for humanity without seeking benefits in return. This means to be consistent in our meditations and prayer, that whatever our schedule is, we have a set time in which we enter meditation, silence of mind.
People want experiences. They want expansion without recognizing that experiences are the payment the Logos grants us for good works, for sacrifices for humanity.
Consistent discipline and meditations makes expansions more frequent, since meditation transforms the astral body, according to Samael Aun Weor.
“And expansion during seeking as three signs: minimum audition yet great benefit, minimum service yet great joy, and minimum contemplative reflection yet great contemplative vision.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So we can listen to classical works of music, spiritual auditions, while being focused on the rhythm and the music as it enters our psyche, such as the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Liszt, and many others, which we have outlined in The Secret Teachings of Opera on our website. We can sit and concentrate upon the music, let our focus be entirely on our heart and the influence of those sounds upon our consciousness, which have the power to awaken our concentration and also our awareness, internally, of divine things. Classical compositions and music are Kabbalistic, and teaches many profound principles in nature.
Even when we perform small works of selfless service, sacrifice, the quality that it grants us when it is sincere is tremendous. It gives us motivation and happiness.
Lastly will conclude on one point: “An hour of meditation is better than a year of prayer” according to Prophet Muhammad. So minimum contemplative reflection, if it is very deep and profound, can really open a lot of doors for us. Quality, not quantity, is important. Although it is important that we build up our practices gradually, in accordance with our needs, so that we can train ourselves and deepen our discipline.
At this point in time I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: How can you find your vocation or do good work, but not identify with your external situation?
Instructor: Obviously, every disciple of this teaching faces hardships, ordeals, and there is a saying within the Qur’an that "All good and bad comes from Allah," the Being. As for finding our vocation, that is something that we have to really meditate upon and reflect.
We can basically sit in a quiet space, close our eyes, shut off our senses from the world, and visualize in our imagination, and reflect upon our positive qualities, our skills. Those skills and those virtues of the soul belong to the Being, and the Being can show you through visions in your meditations, through experiences, what you can do with your life.
I think it's important to remember that when we do find our vocation, our genuine mission in life for the spiritual work, you will realize and will find from experience that it is never just something easy. If you look at Beethoven, his mission was to provide the doctrine of Gnosis in his symphonies, in his works, and yet he suffered tremendously. So, I know sometimes we may think that by finding our vocation, we are going to have everything easy, and that's something that obviously we hope for, but the reality is that there are always going to be difficulties. But the reason that we are able to overcome them, our external situations, to not identify with them, is because we love what we do. That is the key of finding your vocation.
When you are providing some kind of service or work that you really love from your heart and soul, even when you are challenged, when you have doubt, when you are filled with fear, uncertainty and difficulties, you do what is best for others, because it is the right thing. It is an expression of our internal integrity. You find your vacation based off your psychological work. Change your behaviors that are harmful. Adopt virtuous behaviors. Expand your awareness outward. Expand your virtues outward to humanity. Let your consciousness be the one that dictates how you relate to others, because if we are just going along with the flow of life, if we are just reacting to our situation, blaming others for our problems and suffering, we are creating a lot of pain for ourselves and for our neighbor.
But the beginning is, learn to constrict your attention inside. Learn to evaluate in yourself what egos are causing you trouble, because when you eliminate the ego, you develop virtue. You develop comprehension, and then you know as a soul, as an Essence, how to resolve problems. So, internal self-observation is the key.
As you begin to learn about yourself and your abilities, your Being will naturally lead you to situations and environments in which you will expand your knowledge and your experience, so that you learn how to really fulfill your role in society and within the Gnostic teachings.
Question: Why do discursive thoughts seem to always have some importance and relevance?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor states that the thoughts and the egos of our intellect, our internal psychology, bear resemblance of half-truths. The reason why they seem compelling and important is because the ego is a mis-transformation of impressions.
So we have explained previously how the ego is created, the self is created, through a mis-transformation of consciousness. We use our consciousness in the wrong way, and so these defects always appear to be honest and truthful and sincere and important and relevant. But if you are observing yourself through self-observation, you begin to see the mistake of this, that the ego is a conglomeration of half-truths, mistakes, which take on the resemblance of truthful things.
The intellect is really a machine which we have made into something demonic, something negative, because the ego with its intellect uses thought to convince us to do the wrong things. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated in Tarot and Kabbalah that the greatest weapon that the Black Lodge has to pull students from the path is the intellect. So you learn to see the truth of things by looking inside, so that we can distinguish truth from falsehood, not looking for any justifications or repressing anything we see, but simply observing them―letting our heart be the judge.
Question: It's so easy to rush past sitting quietly with the painful expressions of our actions and go pass to the end, all fixed, and my mind shuts off to any work. So how to make the mind shut down and for me to work on myself?
Instructor: Your comment seems to point towards a tendency in many students, which is to repress what we see. We want to shut down the mind because it is too painful. We see faults in ourselves and aggregates and nafs or defects that are so painful to look at, that we want to become numb. We want to repress what we see. But in truth, this work is a work of suffering. It is conscious works and voluntary suffering. We have to learn to be equanimitous even when looking at the worst defects, and facing the worst ordeals that really bring out our most hidden defects that we thought we never had. We have to learn to develop that equanimity in our daily life. It's not enough just to sit for fifteen minutes a day to clear the mind or to focus on an object of concentration. Those complement our daily work. We reach silence and serenity of mind by working all day―observing the mind, looking at it, and acting as a consciousness, following our conscience, our heart.
If we feed our desires, we suffer. This is a basic law and every religion, especially Sufism and Gnosticism. If we do not create a space in our interior, moment by moment, instant by instant, we don't have the means by which we can really work effectively.
And of course, there is a lot of components that can go into this process. Obviously, our home environment is important―having a clean, stable, perfumed home, such as one of our lecturers explained in a lecture called Basics of Spiritual Defense. It's important that we make our home a space for meditation, a place that we can really pray and contemplate and work and aspire to these principles, to fulfill them at whatever level we can, because the more we feed our heart through these disciplines and practices, such as in a lecture I referenced, we can protect our spirituality, but also give ourselves strength and motivation.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I had a couple of questions on my mind. I was kind of wondering about the sacrifice aspect as you were kind of discussing it, and I mean I have ideas about what that could be, but sometimes I feel like just like you were saying, it might be a while until you kind of even gain the clarity and openness of mind to receive information about your vocation. For instance, the way that you should be serving.
So I was wondering if it kind of counts towards the sacrifice that we are doing, that we work on ourselves, that we are always observing ourselves and checking ourselves and foregoing our anger in favor of being attentive to our feelings and trying to examine them and understand them. Is that considered sacrifice or is there some other meaning?
That is one question, and another question I have is a little bit unrelated. But I have been listening to a lot of the Rune Course and on one of them it was talking about the seals, kind of like the way people do the sign of the cross, and how it's not really correct. I was wondering if there's anywhere that it shows how you do that, like a video, because I found it hard to follow the movements that were described in words.
Instructor: Thank you. So as to the first question, it is a tremendous sacrifice to learn to be a decent person when our mind is filled with rage, with anger, with negative qualities, with defects, and we are put in situations in which we feel that we are not benefiting, that we are suffering―and yet, we learn to transform our own pain, to be compassionate to our neighbor. This is a form of sacrifice, a very noble one.
Now, obviously there are levels and degrees to sacrifice for humanity. But I think all that is predicated upon an understanding of how we live ethically in relation to humanity.
I know a lot of us may feel confused or lost in relation to finding a vocation in life. Some of us may be more advanced in our years trying to find new careers, and we often think that sacrifice for humanity means to have some kind of job, and of course, this is important, but the reality is that our vocation is something within the Being. Really, we have many vocations that we can fulfill. I mean, for example, you look at Samael Aun Weor: he was a writer, he was a lecturer, and he was a healer. He did many things that his Being called him to do, and so while we like to look towards some kind of job or vocation to fulfill us, to give us not only income but some kind of psychological and economic meaning, the important thing to remember is that if we were working on our ego, we will be guided to what we must do in our life in our daily existence.
As for the sign of the cross, we do not have a video that shows that, but perhaps that's something that we will develop, especially since we have had a video on the pentagram specifically.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I wanted to ask about some news I heard recently because of COVID-19, the stone of Mecca, that the visiting of that has been canceled. And in that it's an unprecedented event, and I was just wondering if the stone is related to contraction or expansion and if that is causing a lot of grief for people that want to see it. Is that a thing that can be done internally for people?
Instructor: So with the terms contraction-expansion, these apply to our consciousness, and as I provided an overall reference, there are many levels to that. Contraction can mean focus on an object of concentration, a restriction. It also is self-observation, when we feel constricted or our focus is on our internal psychology and what is occurring there. Of course, awareness is the opposite, where it is an expansion of consciousness outward.
Now the important thing to remember is that the stone of Mecca, physically, is a symbol, just in the same way that a cross on a church spire is a symbol. The stone of Mecca is a beautiful representation of the work with the sexual energy―the Kaaba, or the stone of La Vaca, the Cow, which is how you say it in Spanish. But you take the syllables and rearrange them, it is Kabbalah.
So it's a very profound symbol that has a lot of beauty and meaning, but while many Muslims cannot go to perform Hajj or go to the stone of Mecca to perform their pilgrimage, obviously for them that is a cause of great suffering. But the initiates of the mystical Sufi tradition have always known that according to the words of one initiate:
“When you are separate from the Kaaba, it is all right to turn toward it, but those who are in it can turn toward any direction they wish.” ―Bayazid Bastami
Basically, it's a symbol of how there is a great difference between exoteric Islam and esoteric Islam, which is the Gnostic teachings within Sufism, especially. If you are working with your sexual creative energies, your stone, your Kaaba, you are purifying that black stone into a purified white cubic stone as the foundation of your temple―then it doesn't matter if you pray towards the East or the West. It doesn't matter if you travel physically to those places, because really, real pilgrimage for the initiates is in the internal planes. And personally I have been to the Middle East in the astral plane many times. Really our consciousness, when awakened internally, we can see things what the symbols of any tradition represent. You know, those journeys to the Middle East and all the symbols of that tradition are very beautiful, but they are not necessarily meant to be a literal dogma. You know, they are a great reminder of what we must do esoterically, but of course there are levels to religion. If that makes sense.
Audience: Yes, it seems like there's a pointer in that being canceled that we should turn internally toward that stone and instead of relying on the external. Yeah, thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I have experienced my infra-conscious dimensions several times in my dreams, things I would never do or engage in physically. What message is my Being giving me and could this be a part of my past life?
Instructor: Yes, it can. It could be your Being showing you your ego, the things that you need to work on. Remember that there are two moons in the esoteric doctrine. There is the white moon and the black moon, Nahemah and Lilith in Hebrew. These are our representations of the ego that is visible and the ego that is hidden. Now as we awaken more consciousness, as we expand more consciousness and learn to perceive our infra-conscious realms, we begin to understand and perceive things in us, that even if we would not act upon them physically in this life because of our ethics, we still have an element inside that we need to eliminate. So your Being can be definitely showing you your errors that you need to work out.
So here is an example of where your consciousness is expanded. It is a profound awareness of what happened, but also you need to introspect or contract your attention inward in order to reflect on that remorse in your heart, as well as the source of this defect, so you can be free of it.
Question: When we see ourselves psychologically, it's like holding in our breath and indulging in desires gives us air. How should we deal with ourselves and our remorse when we know what we could do or what could and should be done, but do not have the ability to do it? Does knowing what should be done mean we have the ability to do it?
Instructor: This is an important thing to consider. Remorse is a quality of the heart. It is a conscious sentiment. It is very different from shame, from a sense of pessimism, of morbidity, and repression. The ego feels shame and says, “I am a bad person. I did this. I am so horrible! Look at what is in my mind,” and we can become very sour people if we invest our energy into that type of feeling.
Remorse is very different. It is the expansion of the consciousness when we learn to constrict ourselves. We feel that constriction or contraction in our heart, that we have something negative inside, but this is not something that is egotistical. You know, this is not something that is of the mind, because if we just dwell on the mind and not on our heart, on the Essence, we could become very dark people. So this is something to consider.
We have to remember the virtues of the Being. If you feel a lot of suffering for your faults, it is important to be realistic and to meditate on your virtues. So if you feel like you know what you should do and could do, but don't do it or don't have the ability, it's important to really meditate on our virtuous qualities, because oftentimes we adopt a negative skew of things, of reality, because we invest too much energy in our conditions. The reality is that we have a lot of hope, a lot of potential. Don't expect that you're going to be able to do everything all at once, but take the steps that you need, that you know you can do, and to do them.
Fundamentally, the important thing is chastity: save your sexual energy, transmute it. And if you struggle with maintaining this energy, keep trying. As Rumi taught us, "Come, oh wanderers and leavers. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, come, join us, for ours is not a caravan of despair." We learn to change gradually, but the important thing is that we repent sincerely. That is going to be an entire lecture in this course that we will give in the future, of what repentance looks like, what renunciation looks like as well.
Comment: We talked about being in the moment, but also we don't want to be lost in that moment through fantasy like watching TV. We are in the moment for hours, but at the same time, we are living someone else's dream, whether the writer, the producer, etc. So this is a form of attention, concentration, awareness, etc. But this is being lost in the moment for the consciousness, taking impressions that are stored in the memory.
Instructor: This is a really good distinction to make. So while we are talking about states of awareness and attention in the moment, we have to be very specific about what is the quality of that awareness and attention. You know, we can sit in front of a television, as was stated, and be entirely focused on the theme of the story, the characters in the drama, and yet, it is entirely egotistical, because the ego knows how to direct attention, but it is through desire―the desire to watch and to receive the impressions and sensations of that moment, that perception from the television.
So real awareness, real concentration, is when we concentrate with complete voluntary will. You know, obviously, sitting in front of a television is very passive. It doesn't take any effort. But when you concentrate on a candle or a mantra or really work to exercise the Essence in you, you will find that it is very difficult in the beginning. It is very challenging, because our free consciousness is very weak and needs to be trained. We find that it is very difficult to voluntarily focus our attention on one thing or to be aware of our surroundings in a clear sense. So we have to learn to take impressions of life, but not passively where our mind and personality and ego is active. We have to put those in a state of suspension, of calm, and equanimity, and instead learn to make the consciousness be the one that is active, that is working.
Question: Do Gnostics have fun?
Instructor: Yes, especially the ones that I know, associate and work with. Yes, while we talk about very serious topics, we do have quite a profound sense of humor. If you come to our retreats, you definitely will pick up on that. So hopefully you can and will be able to meet you in person. That would be nice.
Question: Can you speak a little on the ego of self-love and self-compassion?
Instructor: It's important that we have compassion towards ourselves, especially because we are very weak. We make mistakes and we suffer a lot. But it doesn't mean that we are filled with self-love. A lot of times, in current spiritual movements, people often say that you should love yourself, that you should find yourself beautiful. And really, what these philosophies and polemics often do is reinforce self-esteem, which is a defect, an ego.
It is true that we need to be compassionate towards ourselves and to have a conscious love for our soul, but we have to be very merciless towards our ego. You know, the compassionate thing to do for ourselves is to have no mercy towards our defects. If we have a fit of anger, if we have a defect or a vice that emerges and we don't want to identify with it, we have to be very cruel to ourselves, in the sense that we don't identify or give it what it wants, because this is the compassionate thing, the loving thing. The soul knows how to give love towards others without expecting anything in return. Self-love says, “Other people should serve me because I deserve it.”
So our focus in this teaching is to learn how to introspect and to identify those egos of self-esteem that are particularly problematic, which create a lot of drama in different circumstances of life. So remember, compassion is that we serve others out of love for humanity, conscious love, not egotistical love, not complacency with error. Because compassion can be very strong for some people. Sometimes the compassionate thing is to be very severe with a person, but it doesn't mean that we don't love them. It means that we are enacting divine justice if necessary. Or as Shakespeare taught us, "I must be cruel only to be kind. Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind” (Hamlet 3.4.181-182).
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