We spoke previously about contraction and expansion of consciousness. In simple terms, this refers to attention and awareness. We explained that if consciousness is light, that attention is focused like a flashlight. We use attention to concentrate upon different things, such as a progression of ideas in a lecture or in a conversation with a person.
We explained that awareness is different. It is expansive, like a diffused light, the amplification of cognizance. Awareness spreads out towards different phenomena outside.
We spent a lot of time discussing these principles so as to aid our meditation practice, and building off that understanding from the previous lectures, we are going to talk about a very essential discipline that is practiced within every major world religion, every meditative science. This has to do with the continuity of consciousness.
So while contraction and expansion, attention and awareness are important, it is now even more crucial if we wish to really understand this science of meditation, whether from Sufism or any faith, we have to study the continuum, the maintenance, the constant and consistent implementation of the consciousness in the present moment.
We can be attentive in a given instant, in a specific moment. Perhaps at work, we have a challenging circumstance, a trying situation, a life-threatening ordeal. Some people in the midst of a crisis, such as with 9/11, in which the destruction of the Twin Towers shocked the consciousness of everyone present, not only in the United States, but even people viewing the news across the world. Sometimes those instances can produce a very quick awakening, a spontaneous, constant shock that awakens us for a moment, if but briefly.
Many people approach religion, spirituality, meditation, because they want experience. They may have had a taste of that initial flavor of awakening of consciousness, of profound attention, of expansive awareness, but the problem becomes, can we sustain that state? Can we will it? Can we make it consistent in each moment of our life? Can we be cognizant like that, in a state of alert novelty, throughout an entire day?
Continuity of consciousness, in esoteric Buddhism, is known by the term tantra. It is the continuum, the flow, the constant manifestation of the energy of the consciousness within the meditator. Continuity of attention, of awareness, all day, is known as mindfulness in Eastern traditions. It could be called remembrance, presence, vigilance. The Sufis have many beautiful terms that relate to this essential point. One of the many wonderful Arabic terms that explain the nature of this perception, this continuity, is known as مراقبة muraqaba, which translates as vigilance and also meditation.
What is a vigil? People who commemorate the life of someone who is deceased often perform vigils outside their casket, with family and friends, many times enmeshed and concentrated within deep prayer. They don't sleep physically. Many other traditions, such as the Aztecs, the great warrior dancers, the Jaguar Knights of ancient Mexico, would perform beautiful vigils as a ceremony in remembrance of divinity. And likewise, the Sufis, many masters of that tradition would often fast, but also not sleep for prolonged periods of time. I believe Prophet Muhammad was well-known for this. He often stated and many times, referenced in the Qur’an, "It is best to lose sleep over prayer."
More importantly for us, we have to learn to be awake all the time as a consciousness, as an Essence, as a soul. It means that we have to be attentive and aware at all times.
But of course, in the beginning this is very difficult. For those of you who have perhaps practiced a physical vigil, it can be very difficult. Personally, I have done this in the past and often have spent nights deep in prayer, meditating, seeking illumination, especially in the morning hours. Waking up early, but also waking up throughout the night to perform vigil, introspecting, meditating, asking for guidance. Because if we are attentive in our consciousness, not only just one moment, but throughout our entire existence, we deepen our state. We deepen our connection. We augment our remembrance with the divine. It is even stated in one of the surahs of the Qur’an, "the recitation at dawn,” how great it is, for it “is ever witnessed” by the angels, by the divine. For how do you not know that “your Lord shall resurrect you in a praiseworthy station?" (Qur’an 17:78-79)
This has to do with really deepening our practice, because it is not enough to be attentive just for one instant in our life. We have to learn to develop consciousness, its attention and its awareness, but all the time. Otherwise, we are not going to have much depth. People who learn to have insight for a moment, who state that they have a spiritual awakening, but who do not sustain those states, eventually become swallowed by life. They are not practical. There are many philosophies and groups that teach you that awakening is just momentary. But in reality, there are levels and levels upon awakening, of presence with the Being. Heights upon heights.
So we have to be intentional. It is not enough just to have one moment of clarity. We need clarity in every instant of our existence. We have to sustain our attention and awareness with intention, with will. So people often talk about feeling a presence, an awakening, but they describe it as something fleeting. It means that they are not awakened, but they are asleep. They had a shock, perhaps a divine moment, but then the mind intervened, and now they are back again in a state of slumber, psychologically speaking. So while we can have a profound moment of wisdom, it does not mean that the entirety and totality of our life is that.
Where is our center of gravity? Where does our attention, our awareness go? And more importantly: for how long?
All religions teach the need to awaken, yet, they were never explicit in their methods. So they gave clues, but not all of the techniques that lead to that state and its diverse qualities. Every religion has a kindergarten, an exoteric doctrine, a public school, a beginning level. In Sufism, this is Shariah. It is ethics. We learn to be ethical when we are awake. If we are asleep at the wheel of our car, psychologically speaking, we cannot in any way protect our spirituality, because if we are unconscious, we make mistakes. We act upon nafs, egos, desires.
We have to learn to observe ourselves, to do that all day, to be awake, to see what is new inside. But at the same time, we need to be aware of our surroundings. So one of the points we wished to have left you with in our former lecture is that external events and our understanding of their relationship to internal states is how we arrive at comprehension of ourselves, comprehension of the ego. So that we are no longer asleep. So that we are not dozing off, not paying attention to where we are at and what we are doing―thinking of other things, of our fiancé, our friend, our wife, our partner, our family, and not knowing where we are at or what we are doing. So this is vigilance―to not sleep.
When we lose our attention, we don't really have consciousness of the causes of our own psychological states. We can be angry at a person and not know why. This is fundamentally wrong. We need to know everything: the reasons why we exist and why we act the way we do.
This is why in the beginning levels of religion, of Sufism, we work with ethics. We learn to curtail negative thinking, negative feeling, and negative actions within ourselves and in our daily life, all the time. It is not enough to be chaste for a day and to be impure the rest of our existence. Meditation does not work that way. It requires a complete introversion of our consciousness―to not blame the external world, but the look inside, to have presence within the body, to know that we are here, to know what is happening, to know why we are irritated or upset, depressed, morbid, doubtful, lustful. We have to understand our relationship to the world and vice versa, and so we have to ask ourselves, are we really here, and how do we know?
Here is a test for you. When you go to sleep at night, are you awake in your dreams, or do you see nothing? If eight hours pass and you don't know anything, it means that we are profoundly unconscious in our physical life, as we have explained in the lecture The Present Moment, because conscious awakening, if it is continuous, it manifests in our sleep, physically, so that the consciousness, which is trained, which is active, is aware and awake and intelligent and profoundly luminous in the dream world. We stop dreaming. We see those dimensions for what they are, and we can gain even more knowledge about how to change.
And so there are very distinct levels of presence, that flavor of remembrance. I am sure all of us had had a moment in which we forgot something very important, perhaps related with work, and suddenly we have the insight. We remember. We have a shock in our attention. We see something new. We have a clarity and a crispness that is distinct. It is pristine. That is a simple allegory for presence of being, remembrance of our state. It is the absence of distraction. It is the absence of the ego, but a profound presence in our own awareness, which is maintained.
These levels of presence and even absence are mapped in different ways by different traditions. In Buddhism, you have nine stages of meditative concentration or calm abiding. If you want to know more about that very famous glyph within every Tibetan Buddhist monastery, you can study Meditation Essentials on Glorian.org, or our lecture on Calm Abiding: The Stages of Serenity and our course on Gnostic Meditation.
In Judeo-Christianity, you have the Tree of Life, which documents different levels of presence, of understanding, of consciousness. Within Sufism, this marvelous tree of being correlates directly with the states and stations of the esoteric path. All of these are tools. They can help us understand where we are at in our development.
So, how present are we throughout the day, or even when we sit to practice meditation? On a simple level, we can be present for a few moments, remembering our objective during a certain session. We are concentrating on a stone, simply viewing it and not thinking of other things. We are observing the fact of that rock in front of us, and if our mind starts to think or get distracted, we don't repress. We don't justify. We don't get carried along with that associative chain of thought. We simply return to observation. But if we do forget, we get distracted, we start thinking and daydreaming of other things. It means that we are absent. We are physically in front of this rock, seated in an asana, a posture, but our mind is traveling very far away.
This has to change. We forget ourselves more often than we remember ourselves in the beginning. This change is through discipline: remembering the Being, alert novelty, remembering the presence of the Self, the Innermost, observing our defects.
So beginners struggle often to remember their Being, the focus of their practice. Their center of gravity is in the ego, not the consciousness. Masters of meditation are different. Their center of gravity is in the consciousness. It is in the Being even, but this is a gradual development. They have presence or continuity of attention and awareness at all times, even when the physical body is asleep. They are awakened citizens in the internal planes.
We get to that point through consistency in our practices, which is why Abu-I Husayn al-Nuri stated:
“For twenty years I have been finding and losing―when I have found my Lord, I have lost my heart, and when I have found my heart, I have lost my Lord.” ―Abu-l Husayn al-Nuri
If we remember the Being, we forget that we are the ego. Our consciousness shifts. There is a division of attention there. We are the Essence that is free. But if we invest our energy into desire, info nafs, into ego, we forget our Being. We lose our Lord, because we are concentrated on our own egotistical heart.
The Definition of Absence
"Each moment is a golden child of Gnosis" says Samael Aun Weor. "Nothing in life is ever static or dull." However, if we are not vigilant, continuously applying effort to be here and now, we do not recognize the novelty of each instant, each moment.
This is the qualifying characteristic of whether or not we are doing this right. We have to see life in a new way, all the time. If it is repetitive and dull, if we are lax in our attention, if we are ambiguous, vaporous in our awareness, misty, clouded, it means that we are asleep. We need clarity. We need crispness, but this is only refined through application. And when we forget to do the work, we have to remember, bring ourselves back. Part of that is because of our Being pushing us inside, but oftentimes we don't know what is going on around us or even within us. This is a profound absence of consciousness.
Al-Qushayri, the writer of Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism, stated something very interesting:
“Absence is the heart’s absence from knowledge of what is going on in ordinary human affairs, due to the absorption of the senses in something else that is influencing them. The heart may be made absent from its sense of itself and others by the influence of remembering eternal reward or of thinking about eternal punishment.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Too often people project their mind on to life. We don't really see the reality of things, if we are honest, if we are really analyzing ourselves and being critical, not from a sense of morbidity or doubt, but from seeking to know the truth of our life. So this is our psychological state. We often project our fears, our hatred, our preoccupations, our ideologies, our politics, upon the world, upon others. We often identify with externals, but really don't see any internal cause for anything that happens in the world. Many times people think that presence has to do with perceiving correspondences within our surroundings. Sometimes people look to find numbers that repeat, coincidences, things that seem rather supernormal, but I like to relate to you a statement by Samael Aun Weor in his Revolution of the Dialectic about the need to have a receptive mind, to not project our beliefs unto what we see, to be present.
“If you are eating, eat; if you are getting dressed, get dressed, and if you are walking on the street, walk, walk, walk, but do not think about anything else. Do only what you are doing. Do not run away from the facts; do not fill them with so many meanings, symbols, sermons and warnings. Live them without allegories. Live them with a receptive mind from moment to moment.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
We have to be present. That continuity must be maintained always.
So the term absence is very dynamic within Arabic and Sufi mysticism. For most people, absence is our daily state. We are inattentive or unaware of our psychological states and the external environment in which we are. However, there is a type of spiritual absence, but I invite you to reflect deeply on this and not get caught up in the terminology. It is something different than what we commonly associate with absence, as if no one is home. You know, we say that a person is not attentive or is kind of lost, that “There is no lights on at home.” There is no one there. There is no one conscious or present in front of us.
There is a type of spiritual absence. It can refer to a type of profound absorption, internally concentrated and connected with divinity, so much that the initiate seems unaware of what is happening outside of oneself. This type of spiritual absence is an advanced state amongst masters like Samael Aun Weor.
I'll give you an example. He knew how to leave his body at will. He could be talking to a person physically, and yet he could close his eyes and leave his physicality behind and enter the internal dimensions, intentionally, at any time. Other people could be talking to him, but he would be in samadhi. His consciousness was so focused on the internal worlds, his center of gravity was in the internal worlds, and that it was difficult for him to be present in the body. Now, most of us we struggle to be aware of our physical body in the first place and even our environment. Meanwhile, we lack cognizance of pretty much anything. Beginners also do not know. We do not know how to enter the astral world, the internal worlds, the heavens of the Tree of Life, at will.
Meanwhile Samael Aun Weor and many prophets like Mohammed, Krishna, Moses, Buddha etc., are awakened internally. Samael Aun Weor had to exert effort to be in the physical body, because his intelligence was focused, his center of gravity was focused in the heights of the Tree of Life, so otherwise he was absent here, physically, due to his absorption.
We can relate a few more excerpts about this from The Principles of Sufism.
“For instance, it is said that Rabi bin Khaytham was going to visit Ibn Masud when he passed by the shop of a blacksmith and saw hot iron in the forge. He lost consciousness and did not come to himself until the next day. Having awakened, he was asked about what happened, and said, ‘Through that fire, the existence of the People of the Fire came to my mind.’ This is an absence that exceeded its bounds and became a faint.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So these are stories. These are principles the Sufis spoke in a very allegorical way, which people read literally. If they want to, that is fine, but more profoundly in relation to the states and stations of the esoteric path, this has to do with an absence of the body and presence in the internal planes.
So this presence is when we have experiences about the realities of heaven and hell, the Tree of Life, and its shadow, the Tree of زقوم Zaqqum, the hell realms, the infra-dimensions. And when we learn to really walk this path, we have to face many entities that belong to what the Qur’an refers to as the left-hand, the path of demons, sorcerers, black magicians, unbelievers. The term unbeliever in Arabic is كافر Al-Kafir or the الكافرون Al-Kafirun, the unbelievers (plural).
So what does this term mean? There is a surah in the Qur’an called الكهف Al-Kahf, which is the Cave, كهف Kahf, where the unbelievers, الكافرون al-Kafirun, dwell within the caves of the Earth, in the infra-conscious dimensions, which we access in dreams or in meditation―if we are pulled in that direction based on our level of being. Because some people have nightmares, very disturbing dreams, and that is a reality. That is hell. It is not a made-up illusion. It has a real existence, but of course, it is inferior in relation to the multi-dimensionality of existence.
So the people of the fire are those كافرون kafirun, unbelievers, who are not only outside, but inside. Our own egos do not believe in divinity. They fight against us when we want to be chaste, when we want to meditate, to concentrate. So that war against the unbelievers is inside our own defects.
So that is an example of a type of absorption in which something physical reminds one of a profound principle, internally.
"Through that fire, the existence of the People of the Fire came to my mind." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
For those of us who have had experiences of these infra-conscious realms, we can speak with clarity that these are really profound states of suffering, and that we seek to avoid in our work―to confront and to change, so that we don't go to those states permanently. But things can remind us, give us remembrance, give us a shock, so that we forget even what is around us― even introspect inside. In a sense, that is a type of absence, physically, but a presence within our consciousness, a remembrance.
There is also a statement in this quote that is interesting to analyze:
“It is also told that a fire broke out in the house of Ali ibn Husayn while he was in prostration, but he did not turn away from his prayer. When asked about what had happened, he said, “The remembrance of hellfire protected me from that fire.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again, these are psychological truths. They are not necessarily literal stories where, because he was praying, his house didn't catch fire, because he was remembering hellfire. That metaphor, that symbol, that allegory, for our purposes, has to do with the fact that if we are remembering our Being, we will not get hurt physically. We will face dangers, but we will be protected.This is something we verify through presence, through awakening, through faith, through knowing. It is not a belief. We know the source of our protection from experience. Divinity is the Mighty, the Wise, says the Qur’an, but of course, we have to remember who He is, what the Innermost is.
The Causes of Absence
Absence and presence have different causes that we have to become attuned to, to understand, and even to manipulate at will. Al-Qushayri states:
“Sometimes absence from one’s senses may be brought on by the Truth’s disclosure of an inner meaning. Those who experience this are differentiated according to their states.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So sometimes, we can receive profound insight into a problem, an experience of a dream we had in the morning, or a realization that emerges seemingly from nowhere, whereby we feel a shock of conscious understanding. We become internally absorbed, in that our external circumstances do not really influence our attention or awareness. We are present within, but absent from the cares of the world.
While Sufism might seem to present these terms, absence and presence, as opposites, they in truth represent dynamic qualities, principles with multiple layers of meaning. So what are these degrees or differentiations of states according to Al-Qushayri? We have to remember that there are three levels of meditative science: introductory, intermediate, and advanced, or in Arabic: شريعة Shariah, طريفة Tariqah, حقيقة Haqiqah / معرفة Marifah. Or: ethics, the law, Shariah; the path of meditation daily, which is Tariqah; and the truth and knowledge we gain from experience of reality is Haqiqah (the truth) and Marifah (knowledge, or in Greek, γνῶσις Gnosis, or in Hebrew, דעת Da’ath). They all reference the same thing.
So we have to learn where our center of gravity is in our states of presence. In the beginning levels, it is sporadic. We forget ourselves more than we remember ourselves. In the intermediate paths, we are learning to remember ourselves more. And in the highest stages of wisdom, one does not forget the Being at all.
So we can fluctuate in our meditation practice in a given session through all of these states, from one moment to the next, but a master has their full development in the knowledge and truth of their Being.
We have to begin where we are, and many people have experiences, even though they are temporary, are so profound, that they place them on a spiritual path. For example, you have many initiates of the White Lodge who were once very poor people, had negative character, and were suffering a lot. Because they had a transformative experience, they left behind a life of materialism and entered a life of spirituality. This is allegorized in every tradition, whether from Milarepa in Buddhism, St. Paul of Tarsus in Christianity, and in this example in Sufism, we have the Master Al-Haddad. Let us read an excerpt about him:
“It is well known that the state of Abu Hafs al-Nishapuri al-Haddad (the Blacksmith) began with his leaving his trade. He was in his shop when a reciter of the Qur’an chanted a verse, and an influence came over his heart that made Abu Hafs lose awareness of his senses. He put his hand into the fire and drew out the hot iron. One of his students saw this and exclaimed, ‘Master, what is this?’ Abu Hafs looked at what had manifested through him, abandoned his trade, and left his shop.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is allegorical wisdom. The Sufi language is Kabbalistic. Many people are like this blacksmith. Many of us identify with materialism. But it is a recitation of the Qur’an that opened Al-Haddad's eyes. It is interesting that even names in Arabic have a lot of meaning. Haddad resembles Al-Haddid, which is a surah in the Qur’an known as “The Iron.” Interesting that a blacksmith has the name iron, or a name resembling that word.
Let us read a verse from the Qur’an that relates to this principle. It is from Surah Al-Hadid, The Iron, verse 25:
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah may make evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” ―Qur’an 57:25
The language of the Qur’an is Kabbalah and alchemy. It is symbolism. There are verses of literal meaning and there are verses of symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical, conscious, symbolic meaning.
A balance represents equanimity, serenity, tranquility, the scales of inner peace. Iron is a symbol of willpower, spiritual force, concentration. Haddad, the blacksmith, was so absorbed by the mysticism of the Qur’an that he put his hand on a hot iron and didn't realize it. This is implying that, as with many of the Sufi stories, that he was in this case physically not hurt, but this is a symbol how the fire and heat of lust cannot harm us if we are present with the Being. Lust, ego, nafs, desires, cannot affect the person who is present with God. So in this example, Al-Haddad left his shop. He left behind a life of materialism and became an initiate of esoteric Islam.
So with training we can learn to be absent from lust and present with chastity. These are psychological states, and in the beginning we are often filled and afflicted with desires, and many students write to us complaining and suffering a lot: how do I overcome my egos, my defects, my desires, because we have so much of it? We have to learn to be like Al-Haddad.
Remember your Being. Remember the message of the divinities, such as through the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita, the sutras, the tantras, the writings of Samael Aun Weor. Remember those teachings and practice them to the best of your ability, so that with presence of Being, you learn to even approach the sexual act, your marriage if you are married, the creative energy, and not to be burned by that force, to not be hurt by it. Instead, we transform it and we create the soul.
The Definition of Presence
So let us talk about the definition of presence. This is awareness. The Arabic word for awareness is muhadarah, which is where you get words like presence, حضور hudur. When we say that someone is present, it implies that we are attentive, listening, apprehending the nature or meaning of phenomena.
So the mind needs to be in a state of receptivity, passivity, and the consciousness needs to be active, intentionally looking. If you are not intentionally perceiving your existence, if not providing effort in that regard, if we are not consistently manifesting our cognizance in accordance with the needs of each circumstance of life, it means that we are not awake.
We are in the physical world―in Kabbalah, Malkuth, the physical body―and usually we are not even aware of our physical body itself. As we stated previously, we often forget our breathing. Sometimes we get into an argument or we are angry. We are panicking. We are breathing really fast. We are not even aware of this process. If you control your breath, you control your mind. You control your body. This is a basic fundamental practice within Sufism: to control the breath, to be grounded in where you are at. So if you forget what is happening to you, just breathe, relax, become concentrated in yourself. This is a kindergarten practice, but it is the foundation of everything else.
So let us remember ourselves and our body. Wherever we go and whatever we do, let us not be distracted to the reality of our daily life.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“As for presence, it means that one is present with the Real, because if one is absent from creation one is present with the Real. [The term] implies that [the state] resembles being [physically] present: the remembrance of the Real captures one’s heart, and one is present within one’s heart before the Lord Most High.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What does it mean to be absent from creation but present with the real? Many students often ask what it means to have presence, to be in remembrance of the presence of divinity.
Examine your conduct. Examine your behaviors. Examine your mental states. Do you act out of benefit for others, with compassion, with equanimity, even when you are being insulted? Do you respond with kindness to the person who has betrayed you? Do you have patience for those who afflict you and hurt your pride? Do you give to your neighbor even though it hurts? Do you forgive the person who betrays you? Who has walked away from your most generous actions? Who doesn't appreciate your best efforts?
Our behavior shows us our level of being. Are we acting with divine principles, or are we reacting to life out of pain in order to produce more pain?
We have to be in the world, but not of it. Be present. Respond to life, but don't react. What does this mean? In a moment, we are afflicted with rage. We are angry. Someone betrayed us, did something very hurtful. Our pride is seeking to express in our words: sarcasm, hatred, wrath. We have to learn how to respond to a situation, but not with desire. So while we previously stated it is important and even necessary to be patient in those circumstances, in challenging ordeals, we always have to respond in some way, with presence of some kind.
Life always demands a response. We cannot live in a bubble and think that we can avoid the problems of existence. The reality is that we need to intelligently deal with everything, with cognizance. You have to do it by being present of your behavior. First, physically, and then internally.
What does your mind want to do in this situation, even if you don't voice what you are really feeling? Our invisible behaviors show us our level of being. What do we secretly want to do? Do we want revenge? Do we want vindication? Do we want the world to embrace us as a hero, even when we are not? When we are wrong?
We have to examine our internal qualities, and when you follow your conscience, knowing the right thing and actually doing it, we learn to end problems. They cease. They evaporate. The real problem is our attitude, our mind, our identification with life, that feeling of “This person really harmed me and I need to get revenge.” We are identifying in those instances. Our sense of self is invested in the problem and it is the problem.
So, don't invest your energy in that, because that energy needs to be conserved and used for the Being. Without energy, we cannot be present. We cannot be awake, even physically. If you don't sleep enough, if you don't have enough vital energy, you can't pay attention. You will nod off. The same with our spirituality. Examine your behavior: how we behave, and think, and act, and feel, and how we exert energy. Where we direct our attention, we spend energy. So, don't invest it in external things. To know divine qualities, we have to really renounce egotistical qualities in ourselves.
These profound states of being that everybody wants are found here and now. They are not in some far distant future. The presence of God is found by doing what is right in your heart―not out of vindication or shame or pride or malice, but for the benefit of the other person, even when they are wrong… especially so. This is Shariah, the basics, the foundation of religion. If we don't do this, we cannot meditate. In fact, we will be wasting our time.
This is why Dhū’l-Nūn Miṣrī stated the following:
"The key to success in worship lies in meditative reflection (fikrat)…whoever persists in such reflection in the heart will behold the invisible realm in the spirit. Whoever contemplates God through keeping watch over the thoughts which pass through his heart will be exalted by God in all of his outward deeds." ―Dhū’l-Nūn Miṣrī in ‘Aṭṭār: Tadhkirat, 154-155
Therefore contemplate yourself, for as the Sufis state, "He who knows himself knows his Lord."
Presence with God
The presence of God, the Being, has degrees. This is why we study the Tree of Life. It is a map of levels of being. Let us read the wisdom of Al-Qushayri:
“Presence with God, is to the degree of absence from oneself and the world. When it is said that so- and-so is “present,” it means that he is present in his heart with his Lord, not unconscious of Him and not distracted, in continuous recollection of Him. In that state, and according to his degree, the Truth reveals to him the spiritual meanings and secrets for which he has been chosen.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Let's examine this glyph of the Tree of Life and this statement by Al-Qushayri by asking a few questions.
How present are we in the body?
Are we aware of energy circulating and flowing in us?
Do we sense our emotions? Do we have control over what we feel, our mood, our sentiments?
Is our mind calm, or is it racing with thoughts, associations, ideas, projects, plans, day dreams, fantasies, commentaries, internal chatter?
This is mapped out on the Tree of Life, this dynamic. The lower four סְפִירוֹת sephiroth or spheres of this glyph on the right represent:
Most people who approach meditation don't even get past the body. We are usually so unaware of our body throughout the day that if one sits to practice, even if very sincere, to go inside, to introspect―the body is agitated. We have an itch. The arm wants to move. There is no control. It is impossible to relax.
Ethics are so important because the physical body must be at peace, and if we are engaging in negative behaviors all day, we are agitating our body. It becomes tense. If we are angry, we clench our fists and our teeth (some people, perhaps). We all have our tendencies, and if we don't know how to relax the body, we cannot do anything. So this is the beginning. After adopting a posture, we relax. We let the body sit. We don't move. Let it be. Let it rest.
In order to aid in this process, we work with energy: Yesod, the foundation of our spirituality. יְסוֹד Yesod in Hebrew means “foundation.” It is to work with the sexual creative energy, and within Sufism, when we work with breath, as in with any tradition, we are circulating that vital force throughout our body, our heart, and our mind. That energy helps us to relax. Deep breathing helps us to calm, helps to be still.
So after adopting a posture, are we really present with the energies of the Being through our breath, through our work, through our pranayamas, our mantras, our transmutation exercises?
As we are examining ourselves, is our mood calm?
We have to suspend emotions and to enact superior emotions through prayer. We have to pray sincerely for divinity to help us. This is not found in some formula or memorizing a complicated prayer. You can do that, and it's very beautiful and wonderful if you can, but more importantly, prayer is sincere and effective when we are genuine―not by mechanically reciting 10,000 Hail Mary’s or reciting Al-Fatihah, the opening of the Qur’an, mechanically, repetitively, without knowing its meaning.
We also have to suspend thought. Don't let the mind dictate to you your life. But this doesn't mean that we repress what we see. We have to comprehend our mind, so that it naturally, by looking at it and not investing our selves into it, it starts to settle on its own, like the waves of a lake that cease its turbulence when we no longer thrash against the waters, so to speak, with negative behavior.
This is all preliminary. When the lower four sephiroth are calm, we can learn to concentrate with willpower, with concentration. This is תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth, which means “beauty,” or in Arabic, إحسان Ihsan, “beautiful action.” It is the source of all beauty and action within our very being.
Without willpower, guided by Geburah, our consciousness, our conscience, we can't affect anything. גְּבוּרָה Geburah in Hebrew means “judgment.” It is our intuition. It is knowing what is right and wrong, even if the mind does not understand.
The thread of that awareness is very subtle in us, very profound, and if we are all listening to this type of lecture or studies, it is because we're following our conscience, which is the voice of our inner Being, חֶסֶד Chesed: “mercy” in Hebrew. Or الرحيم Al-Rahim, as we state in the opening of every surah, except surah 9, in the Qur’an:
بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
“In the name of Allah (the Being), the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Mercy is Chesed. It is the Spirit. It is رو Ruh in Arabic but רוּחַ Ruach in Hebrew―the same meaning.
We have to follow our inner judgment, to know what is right and wrong from our heart. And as we learn to connect internally by suspending our body, relaxing our body, and calming our senses, the energies, suspending our emotions, withdrawing from thought and concentrating upon our inner intelligence, we learn to follow and understand the voice of judgment in ourselves, with clarity. This is why meditation is essential, to withdraw from the world internally and not to be caught up in the mind or negative emotions or lustful sensations, because they are all distractions.
So judgment in Arabic is دين Din, relating to Geburah, the sign of Mars, astrologically when you related it to this tree [of life]. The metal is iron, so going back to the study of the Iron Surah, verse 25, we can unpack this even further:
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.” ―Qur’an 57:25
So what is that clear evidence? It is internal experiences in your meditations, and when you are in the dream world, the astral plane, Hod. So the scriptures all emanated from the internal worlds, from the divine, from the higher sephiroth of this Tree, and it is the force of balance, because justice is the scale of balance―how you balance the deeds of your life with intelligence, which is above, בִּינָה Binah in Hebrew. It is “understanding.” It is a primordial root intelligence that is beyond matter and materiality and energy, but which is the cognizance of the most high aspects of divinity.
We have to use our balance, our judgment in how to live our life with willpower, with iron. Willpower can relate to Tiphereth, the human soul, which is the source of the most beautiful actions, as we stated.
Balance, justice, genuine religion, is a state of meditation, whereby we evaluate the contents of our mind with the scale of equanimity and the iron of concentration.
If you think of iron, it is a metal that is very solid. Is our concentration like that, or do we forget what we are doing when we sit to practice? Let us develop ourselves. Let us get serious. Let us actually develop ourselves consistently. We learn to support this teaching, the scripture, and the unseen messengers when we awaken internally. At that time, no longer are those masters invisible to us, but visible within our experiences.
The Dynamics of Absence and Presence
Absence and presence are also flexible terms amongst the Sufis. We are going to build off this explanation by reciting some quotes here. This is from Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery, the Persian manual of Sufism that is very well renown amongst Sufi circles. Samael Aun Weor, we have to remember, said that the best of Sufism comes from Persia. So this is a very valuable text to study.
“These terms, although apparently opposed to each other, express the same meaning from different points of view. “Presence” is “presence of the heart,” as proof of intuitive faith (yaqin), so that what is hidden from it has the same force as what is visible to it.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
We talked previously about certainty, اليقين Al-Yaqin. We arrive at certainty when we have inner experiences in meditation, in visions, in astral projections.
We have to become totally absent to the ego. We have to escape its conditions so that we can really see. The key is relaxation. Suspend your senses. Work with energy to empower your consciousness. Concentrate and visualize with your perception or imagination, otherwise known as insight, firasah in Sufism.
“‘Absence’” is ‘absence of the heart from all things except God’ to such an extent that it becomes absent from itself and absent even from its absence, so that it no longer regards itself; and the sign of the state is withdrawal from all formal authority, as when a prophet is divinely preserved from what is unlawful. Accordingly, absence from one’s self is presence with God, and vice versa.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So on those highest samadhis, mapped by the Tree of Life, we have no longer any conception of self-hood. We are merely the pure, clear, expansive, profound, illuminated consciousness united with the Being. Whenever we identify with thought, we lose our experiences, but at that point we no longer regard ourselves as a terrestrial person. Our identity is no longer there. There is only the Being. And it is a “withdrawal from all formal authority” because, really, the authorities of this world do not know anything of internal states, the real experiences of the Being. This is very evident if you look at the politics of humanity and all the division amongst religious and social, spiritual groups.
Withdraw from formal authority and gather your authority from your inner experiences. Rely on your own divinity to teach you what is presence and what is absence.
Degrees of Presence and Absence
To be present in our body is different from being present with divinity in the higher dimensions. Each ספירה sephirah, we could say, is a veil for what is more subtle, that which obscures our understanding of the dimensions beyond it. Entering higher worlds is uncovering veils, obscurities―seeing reality in a more profound level of nature.
So the Qur’an allegorizes this very beautifully in many symbols relating to the horizon, the sky, how “Allah makes the heavens a sign for the believers,” whether the rising sun, the setting sun, the moon. These are not literal explanations. These are symbols of qualities of Being, because if you are in the internal planes and you see these astrological bodies, they are teaching you, divinity is teaching you something profound about yourself.
If the sun sets, it means something needs to die. If the sun is rising, it means something is being born. If there are stars, it is a symbol of presence with the Being, unity with divinity at our level, deeper remembrance, clarity, perception. But if the sky is clouded, it means that we are asleep. We have a lot of ego. We are cloudy in temperament and mind.
“‘Present,’ with the sense of being back from an absence, may also be used for the servant’s return to his perception of his own condition and human situations. This, however, refers to the presence with the creation, while the first use of the term refers to presence with the truth. States of absence vary―for some Sufis, absence is not prolonged, while for others it is continuous.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So our degree of development depends upon how consistent we are in entering silence of mind, serenity, insight, our internal worlds. We stay asleep and absent if we don't practice. This is a simple law of cause and effect. For some, absence is prolonged. For others it is short, depending on our level of being. Some of us may wake up more depending on our development, our work, our efforts. States of absence are replaced with states of presence when we are consistent at our exercises.
The Subtleties of Absence and Presence
So in synthesis, the more we are absent to the ego, not identified with it, the greater our cognizance of divinity. The more attention and energy we invest in the ego, the greater our absence of and distance from the Being.
Once entering clearer states of remembrance and divine experiences, oftentimes the methods we use to reach those heights are no longer necessary. This is a very subtle thing that Al-Qushayri really explains. For example, to really be present on an object of concentration, such as a mantra, pranayama, a candle, a visualization, an image, requires that we become absent to distractions. And this is really the value of such exercises. We train ourselves to be here and now, to discover how our mind keeps us asleep, how we fantasize, how we are hypnotized.
It takes tremendous effort and energy to be focused in the beginning. However, by deepening our tranquility, it takes less effort and more familiarization with that state. And when you have achieved perfect serenity, it takes no effort, which is why Al-Qushayri states in Principles of Sufism:
“According to etymology, the disciple is ‘he who possesses will,’ just as the knower is ‘he who possesses knowledge,’ because the word belongs to the class of derived nouns. But in Sufi usage, the disciple is he who possesses no will at all!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very subtle. It means not to have any egotistical will, no desires present, no distractions, no fantasies. After we obtain perfect concentration, we don't need any effort to maintain it. We only need to be familiar with it. This is very well known within Buddhism, especially. When obtaining serenity, we are absent from desire and present within our Essence, the human soul, Tiphereth in Hebrew, Ihsan in Arabic, the beauty of the consciousness within Kabbalah.
Let us read some excerpts from this book, Revelation of the Mystery, (Khashf al-Mahjub):
“...inasmuch as all excellencies are bound up with presence, and as absence from one’s self is a way leading to presence with God, the way becomes an imperfection after you have arrived at the goal.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So when you are fully concentrated in divinity, it does not take any exertion or effort. You simply have to be present. This is a qualitative state you have to become familiar with through a lot of practice and trial and error.
“Presence (in God) is the fruit of absence (from desire), but what light is to be found in absence without presence? A man must needs renounce heedlessness (distractions, novelties, vain amusements, a distracted mind) in order that, by means of this absence, he may attain to presence (with the Being); and when he has attained to his object, the means by which he attained it has no longer any worth.
“The ‘absent’ one is not he who is absent from his country, But he who is absent from all desire.
The ‘present’ one is not he who hath no desire (longing for divinity),
But he who hath no heart (no thought of worldly things),
So that his desire is ever fixed on God.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So desire can be interpreted in different ways. Obviously in the Gnostic teachings, strictly, we use desire to refer to the ego, but some people refer, the Sufis refer poetically, semantically, to the desire for God, which is a longing―better said―for our uses, our language. Longing is different from desire, the Essence from the ego. But here, the Sufis often take the same word and give it multiple meanings in different contexts. This is the beauty of that system, the complexity of it, the subtlety.
Absence of Personality and Presence with God
The qualities of initiates, their presence in divinity, is not understood by common people. Many Sufi stories are, as I said, parables of psychological truths, initiatic principles. Many of them demonstrate not the aloofness of Sufi Masters, but the reality of mystical states. One such master, Bayazid Bastami, illustrated how we have to become lost to ourselves. Samael Aun Weor even stated in a lecture called “The Knowledge of Oneself” the following:
“We must attain a change in order to eliminate all our weaknesses. We must even lose our own personal identity. This means that the change must be radical and complete. Our personal identity, for example, "I am so and so," must be eliminated from oneself; and then one day we will find that we have no personal identity. If we truly want to become different, then obviously personal identity has to be lost. We need to convert ourselves into entirely different creatures, happy creatures; and we have the right to happiness.” ―Samael Aun Weor
I know a lot of people hear that and read that and get scandalized. This does not mean we become zombies. The Essence has a dynamic solar personality. The absence and annihilation of ego does not mean that we are soulless, without life. In fact, it means we are more creative, more brilliant, more intuitive. You possess ethical character that knows how to respond to life in its worst problems, with clarity, with equanimity, with intelligence. We must eliminate egos, nafs, so that we develop the soul that knows how to live life with efficacy and wisdom.
However, people are really afraid of this term annihilation. They run away from this term even though it is essential to every religion. Annihilating the ego is painful for people because they have never experienced anything outside of it. People don't want to approach it because they are afraid. They mistake their personality, their hatred, their impatience, their lust, their vanity, their pride, their envy, etc., as if it is true. This is a mistaken sense of self, these selves, these egos which must be removed, these nafs, these lower animal qualities that the Sufis speak abundantly about eliminating in their doctrine. And in that process we gain understanding that we are not this terrestrial personality. We are not the ego. We are something more profound, and the Sufis have a beautiful story about this:
“It is related that Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri sent one of his companions to Abu Yazid al Bistami so that the man could bring him word of Abu Yazid’s quality (meaning: his level of being). When he reached Bistam, the messenger inquired after the house of Abu Yazid and went in to see him. Abu Yazid asked, ‘What do you want?’ ‘I want Abu Yazid,’ he said. ‘Who is Abu Yazid?’ was the reply, ‘and where is Abu Yazid? I myself am in search of Abu Yazid!’
“The man went away, saying to himself, ‘This one is mad!’ He returned to Dhu-l-Nun and informed him of what he had seen. Dhu-l-Nun wept. ‘My brother Abu Yazid has left with those who go to God,’ said he.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Obviously, the Sufis play with the trope of the initiatic madman: that disciple of God who is never understood by the masses because they cannot comprehend the eccentricities and dynamic profundities of the Spirit, because they [the inituates] don't go along with conventionalisms, with vain religious beliefs and outward adherences.
So this is a symbol of something very beautiful and profound. You know, this initiate was so advanced in his work that he was saying “Where is my personality? I am looking for a self here.” Meaning, he is really scrutinizing and looking for those final egos to eliminate. You know, this is very high work. Obviously, we have thousands upon thousands of egos in the beginning, but as we advance in this process, the ego is eliminated until there are none left. So Dhu-l-Nun recognized this and cried by how beautiful this allegory is, that this initiate is saying, “I am looking for a self here and I don't find one.” This refers to initiatic hierarchy.
Presence Over Absence
However, to be truly present is a very difficult path, which is why the following teaching was given by Al-Hujwiri in Revelation of the Mystery:
“A certain man came to Junayd and said, ‘Be present with me for a moment that I may speak to thee.’ Junayd answered: ‘O young man, you demand of me something that I have long been seeking. For many years I have been wishing to become present with myself a moment, but I cannot; how, then, can I become present with you just now?’” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
You know many people have difficulty in the beginning of our studies knowing how to relate to people even, because they are so introspective and they are learning how to be present for the first time, and learning how to relate to the world in this new state is difficult, because this type of analysis and work requires a complete introversion and transformation of our attitude. But with time we learn. With practice, we learn to be present.
“Therefore, absence involves the sorrow of being veiled, while “presence” involves the joy of revelation, and the former state can never be equal to the latter. Shaykh Abu Sa’id says on the subject―
“The clouds of separation have been cleared away from the moon of love,
And the light of morning has shone forth from the darkness of the Unseen.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So again, that is symbolism from the Qur’an. If you want to know your level of being, how present you are, ask internally and let them show you the sky in the astral horizon. Do you see clouds separating you from the galaxies, from the stars, from the heavens? Or do you see the light of morning shining out of the darkness, rising as a symbol of your birth? Levels upon levels of light, presence in deeper states.
We will conclude with a statement by Samael Aun Weor which synthesizes everything we have said:
“Wherever we direct our attention, we spend creative energy.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So, how are we spending our attention?
What are we focused on? For how long, and why?
Why do we invest our energy in certain behaviors, in certain qualities, in certain actions?
What direction do we want to take our life?
If we are really analyzing our behavior from day-to-day, we can sit in a quiet space after our mindfulness practice, our self-observation, and remembrance throughout the day. We close our eyes, we relax, we introspect. We calm the body, calm the senses. We can work with pranayama, breath work, transmutation, mantras, etc., energy work. You can even do runes before you sit to meditate, so that you have energy circulating in you that is going to be conducive for your relaxation. Your ethics combined with energy create a very powerful conduit by which to meditate.
When you sit quietly, relax your heart through prayer. Pray to your Inner Being to show you what you need to work on and what you need to do, to help you understand your daily circumstances, your behaviors, so that you can change. Concentrate inwardly and do not let your thoughts distract you from your goal.
When you are really profoundly concentrated, your mind will be serene, especially if you are working really well with energy. You know, for people who have a very disbalanced mind or imbalanced mind, a lot of suffering, a lot of affliction, it is good to work with sacred sounds, mantras, so that you gain clarity and calm. And when the mind is still, you can focus on whatever you want to understand.
I recommend reviewing your day. Retrospect your day. How present were you in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening? Where did you forget yourself? What did you observe? What did you remember? How present were you in certain situations?
Bring this to your attention in your imagination. See it. Visualize it. Look at it. And look for those gaps in which you were not awake. Try to remember where you were, what you did, what you said, who you were with, what happened, what you were thinking, what you were feeling. We have to learn to understand what happened to us and what led us to sleep. Try to remember everything that happened. Retrospect.
There is a very powerful mantra that you can use in our tradition, in Gnosis, that can aid you in remembering your day and even your dreams, if you have just awakened from sleep and you want to remember what you just dreamed about, and by not moving your body, mentally pronounce the mantras RAOM GAOM.
Samael Aun Weor says this mantra is like dynamite. It will help you blow a pathway into the subconsciousness, the caves of the mind.
At this point in time, I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: Can you recommend a practice for trilling the R's in mantras?
Instructor: I believe you can even go on YouTube and look up Spanish pronunciations of the letter, because R is very common in Spanish. You know, there are a few videos you can probably look up and find that will teach you how to use the pronunciation of the letter R. Basically, it involves rolling your tongue at the roof of your mouth so that you can make the tongue to vibrate, but if you look online for some videos, you can definitely find some.
Question: Don't you have to move in the morning to turn off your alarm?
Instructor: So in reference to not moving your body when you physically wake up in the morning so that you can remember your dreams―this can be very difficult. I know I have had that problem where I had to get up early for work, especially before COVID-19, very early, in which my alarm would pull me out of my experiences and I had to return to my body, but sometimes, I find it difficult to remember what happened.
It takes a lot of willpower. Even if your alarms going off, hopefully, it's not too much of an annoying one. Maybe pick something that is more relaxing. You know, some meditative bells or something that is quiet. That is what I like to use for an alarm. And, I don't move. Even if I have time constraints, I concentrate on myself and do the mantra mentally so that I could remember, especially if the experience is very profound and very intense. That's something that you don't want to forget, what happened internally. And if you move your physical body when you wake up from dreams, the connection between the astral body and the physical body gets shaken, or the astral body and its memories become diffused and don't really enter the physical brain if there is too much movement.
When you wake up in the morning, obviously, there is a connection that is very vital and sensitive, which is why we shouldn't move the body, just in the same way that you can't reflect the images of a lake, of the heavens, if the water is rippling with movement. The same principle applies here. But, if you really want to remember your dreams, I just recommend don't move. If your alarm is really annoying, then as I said, maybe change it.
Question: We have a question about awakening. Does it happen suddenly or is it more like a process happening gradually?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor mentions in The Perfect Matrimony that awakening is gradual. Now, there are moments in which we can gain greater clarity, such as through an ecstasy or samadhi, an experience that is very divine, mostly because we get help. The Sufis spend a lot of time talking about the blessings of the initiates called بركة barakah in Arabic or the Hebrew version of בָּרוּךְ Baruch, meaning “blessings.” So as the Jews say, ברוך אתה אדוני Baruch Attah Adonai, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” and Barakah is the blessings of a master when they give light to us, so that we can have a temporary experience that gives us some kind of illumination.
Now, as for developing that completely in us in its full totality, it happens naturally over a process, gradually. Because just as a tree doesn't grow into a profound oak, from a sapling in one day, it happens through a process, a temporality. It takes time, in conventional language. So the important thing is not to be impatient with wanting experiences or development, because you have to be really tenacious about our exercises and to work even if we feel like we are not getting results, because with time you will see the roots of your practice. So it happens gradually.
Question: Does the degree of ego elimination one achieves in a single practice depend on the complexity of the ego?
Instructor: I would say the degree of ego elimination occurs in accordance with the depth of our comprehension. If it's a really complex ego, obviously, it's going to take more comprehension, which means that if our understanding is more profound and deep, we are going to really eliminate the roots.
But for that, we have to really be absent from the body physically and be present internally, to go inside and even in the higher dimensions to investigate the source of those egos that we have to really analyze.
Comprehension is what grants us the degrees of elimination. How much do we understand? Because if you don't understand the depths of an ego, we can't really eliminate it in its roots. Obviously, there are egos that are very superficial, that exist within the higher levels of the mind, but in the depths we have to go very profoundly into ourselves, and that is a very long work, a very patient work.
Question: My understanding of the Nous atom is that this is the Christic atom of our heart, or in our heart. (Instructor’s explanation: for those of you are not familiar, it is in the left ventricle of our heart itself). How do you reconcile this with your reference to the ego as nous or spelled n, o, u, s, e?
Instructor: So, in Arabic the term for ego is نَفْس nafs: n-a-f-s. νοῦς Nous in Greek is different. That is the Christic atom as you mentioned, but ego is nafas or nafs in Arabic. So different, different terminology. Obviously, the ego has nothing to do with the Atom Nous because the Atom Nous is a very divine spiritual influence in us, which also relates to Geburah, to Din, to justice in Arabic. Allah-Din, the conscience and judgment of God. It relates to our Atom Nous, which is used to judge nafs, the lower soul, the animal egos we have to eliminate.
Question: Explain the difference between general spaciness with absence, for I found it hard to relate with this world anyway. Too much introspection has left me a few friends.
Instructor: So I like that you asked that question, because it relates to a very serious problem amongst many Gnostics. You know, some people can easily read the term absence within Sufi language and conflate it with being spacey or imbalanced, not knowing how to socially relate to others. And of course, the stories within Sufism seem to correlate or explain, or show that dynamic especially, that the Sufi masters are just out there.
I think that is part of the appeal in Western societies, that these Sufi masters have a type of understanding that goes against conventionalities. Now, while there is a level of credence to that, at the same time, if we are learning to be absent from the ego and present with our consciousness, it doesn't mean that we are going to be spacey people, like zombies, not knowing how to relate to other people. In fact, these are states of consciousness in a more profound sense, levels of being.
We have to learn how to be present in our daily life, that is the important thing, especially as beginners. We need to learn how to be absent to our ego but also present in our body, present in our consciousness, so that we know how to relate to the world. There is a very fatal polarity in this term of absence, in such that we can be so introspective that we don't know how to relate to other people, and this is mistaken.
The important thing is that when we introspect, we also have to be aware of the world outside of us, to know how to relate our internal world with the external world. This is why we spent a lot of time in our last lecture talking about contraction and expansion. We have to be aware of our surroundings, expansive in our cognizance of the people we are surrounded with or surrounded by, and also contracted or attentive to our internal states. We have to analyze our personal states and our external events, and the relationship thereof. This is what Samael Aun Weor mentions as the requisites in his book Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology. We have to be present in the body, present of our internal states, introspective, but not being antisocial. That is very different. That is a personality problem, typically.
You know, it is also egos of awkwardness that don't know how to relate to people in certain situations. If you eliminate egos of awkwardness and observe that in yourself and really destroy them with comprehension in your meditations, you are going to learn how to be more social and ethical, and even funny.
I will relate to you an experience I had long time ago, because in the beginning of my studies I had this problem, where I was so introspective that I didn't know how to relate to people, and so I lost a number of friends and was becoming very sour at my practice, until finally my Being came to me in the astral plane and reprimanded me. He showed me some instructional videos teaching me what I needed to do. He said I needed to be, and this is the funny part, “like Bill Murray,” and I was kind of shocked by this answer. What I saw in his relationships, in the video with other people, that he was very social and funny. People liked him, but at the same time, I could see that this representation of this actor was being very serious in his work. Meaning, there was the thread of continuity of attention there, but meanwhile, knowing how to relate to other people in a very humorous way. I mean it's a funny experience, but a very objective one. You know, I have meditated on that for quite a while now, but it really helped me because I was being very negative in my practice, thinking that introspection has to do with not relating to people―and this is wrong.
Being absent to the ego means to enact positive states or qualities of Essence, of Being, and in this way, you develop better friends, better friendships. You know how to relate to people more. You know how to support your community better, how to help others, how to be helped, how to receive help without that morbidity or shame that usually accompanies that type of introspection that is negative.
Question: In comparison, the partial opening of the eyes of Buddha, does it symbolize the need to be aware of the outside world?
Instructor: I am sure there is a lot of symbolism in that, or different representations of Buddha, but yes, that is part of it. We have to be aware of the outside world but also introspecting within. So again, contraction and expansion are represented by that common depiction of the Buddha. Buddha simply means “awakened one,” which is the purpose of our exercises in our studies in Gnosticism.
Question: I am a medical provider amongst homeless communities in Los Angeles. It can be quite stressful during the day as we deal with life and death situations, or situations that deal with heavy drug use and sex work. How can I keep the consciousness awake in these scenarios? I tend to think about my patients in meditation, which I struggle with at times.
Instructor: This is a very delicate thing. It's important that we feel safe, that we feel protected, that we feel awake, and also that we are really taking care of our own health, especially if we have a job that is very difficult. I never worked as a medical provider, but I have had other jobs that have been pretty taxing on my mental and emotional health, and in those situations―where it was not necessarily life and death, but very confrontational or difficult, and in your case, dealing with life and death situations or negative influences―it is important to really work with energy. You know, it could be very draining to be in those circumstances and you can often feel very disempowered, whether by the system one works in or one's own abilities, feeling insufficient or deficient or doubtful. Your profession is obviously a very noble one and it is very much needed, so if this is something that your Being is pushing you to do and if it's able to provide your necessities for your life, then obviously you have to follow your conscience.
But again, if you find that there are difficulties that you can't handle, it's important to be safe, especially, to protect oneself and to create a space in oneself and even one's physical life in order to be able to handle those circumstances. I recommend, if you find that it's difficult to deal with the situations, it's hard to see it and understand it and to overcome the shock of it, to work with exercises like the runes. I remember at one of my jobs where I had to deal with, you know, pretty difficult clients, very difficult people that I had a hard time transforming the impressions of, I would do hours of runes. I would have breaks during my day, sometimes for an hour and a half or more, and I would just, instead of prepping for my day or doing other things, I would do the Rune Fah, the Rune Dorn, the seven vowels, for a long time. I would charge myself with enough energy so that I felt awake. I felt aware, and I felt concentrated in myself.
You know, the Rune Dorn is very powerful for that. It develops Christ will, solar will, so that we can learn to handle really horrible situations with grace. But of course, you have to learn balance. You can work with those runes, really practice them deeply, for a long time if you can. Give yourself enough energy to empower your Essence so that you can transform the situation, and also meditate on your reactions too. But depending on your abilities and your health, emotionally, especially with this kind of work, you need to evaluate or really consider, you know, what is going to be best for you. We have to sacrifice for humanity, but at the same time, we have to take care of ourselves too, so that is something that you need to be the judge of. But runes are especially powerful for that. Study the Magic of the Runes. Those Gnostic exercises, those yogic postures are really powerful. They can really help you.
Question: Are there times where the Being will place symbols within physical life, similar to dream symbols, that speak another language, of intuition? Often times, I feel that my Divine Mother is speaking to me in a circumstance in life where a particular event happens, which helped me to reflect, or even numbers appearing within the physical life or the physical world. Can these have meaning here within physical life, and how can you become a vigilant one without being overly tired the next day? Or perform a vigil without being overly tired the next day?
Instructor: So let's break down this question step by step. “Are there times where the Being will place symbols within our physical life, similar to the dream symbols, that speak in the language of dreams, intuition?” There can be that relationship. You know, some people have reported having experiences internally, and then that same circumstance unfolds itself physically. I have had this happen to myself many times.
Now, typically from my experience, I found that the symbols of dreams have an allegorical depth. They have a profound relationship to physical life. They explain physical circumstances, but not necessarily, you know, we wake up and then we see the same symbol from the dream. My experience has been that dreams show us something much more prophetic, and that the symbols represent qualities of being, but also how different relationships or circumstances can play out. For example, I remember one experience (I mentioned this in the Beginning Self-transformation course) that I had an astral experience where I was driving down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, when at 4:00 am in the middle of the morning, when it was pitch-black, my mother in the dream, my physical mother, stopped me as I was driving my car. She asked me to get out, so I let her take the wheel and I got in the passenger seat, and then I woke up. Later that day, physically, I had an ordeal or circumstance in which I was at a drive-through in a Starbucks―going out of town from Chicago with my wife, to get away from COVID-19 and get into the woods, enjoy some recreation―when a person in the line had driven past me and rolled down his window. He didn't really say anything extremely offensive. But you know, I took it as an offense, and my ego was, my rage and anger was building up from that moment. And so my wife said, “I see you're getting upset here. Let me take the wheel.” So I got out of the car, she took the driver's seat, and I sat in the passenger seat and was reflecting on my own anger until I could comprehend four egos I need to work on and eliminate.
Literally in the dream, my mother, my Divine Mother better said, took control of my car, which is symbolically representing my mind, but even in the physical ordeal, my wife took the car or took the wheel, and I got out into the passenger seat. So that literally did happen. So it’s possible―more importantly for me, this was a symbol of multiple layers of meaning. Physically is one component, but more importantly, my Divine Mother, my Being, was controlling my mind and helping me to work on my ego, because it was pitch black in the dream. My mind was dark. I wasn't seeing clearly, and that allowed a certain ego to manifest in me, or certain egos to manifest in me that could have created problems.
So let's look at the rest of your question. “Often times, I feel that my Divine Mother is speaking to me in a circumstance in life or a particular event happens which helps me to reflect.”
So yes, our dreams reflect the quality of our daily life. So this is direct correlation.
“Even numbers appearing within physical existence or life, can these have meaning here within physical life itself?” I would say there could be a relationship, but as I related a quote earlier regarding Samael Aun Weor and the struggle of the opposites from The Revolution of the Dialectic, it’s important not to fill our life with too many sermons, symbols, meanings, allegories, warnings. Learn to live with a receptive mind, and in that way you can interpret how your dreams relate to your physical existence without imposing or projecting any beliefs onto what we see.
So how do you perform a vigil without being over the tired the next day? Well, the purpose is to sacrifice one's energy and time to do these practices. They could be difficult. Hopefully if you have time to sleep in later that's good, but part of the constituency of this exercise is that you stay up and meditate and practice, so that you can really go deeper in your work, even though it's going to make you tired. But obviously, find balance in what you do.
Question: I didn't really comprehend the parable of the blacksmith placing his hand in the fire. That his name represents a metal alchemically.
Instructor: Yes, his name was Al-Haddad, which in Arabic relates to Al-Hadid, which is basically almost spelled the same. Al-Hadid means “The Iron,” and there is a surah in the Qur’an called “The Iron,” specifically, where we read a quote or excerpt in relation to that story.
It is a symbol of how we use our willpower, represented by the metal iron within alchemy, to control our mind. It is willpower. We use our will power to work with the fire, the sexual energy, specifically. When he placed his hand into the fire, he didn't get burned. This is the literal meaning of the story, but symbolically it refers to how when we are alchemists, we learn to work with the sexual energy and not get burned by it, because we are in the remembrance of the divine. We are in the presence of divinity. Because in the story, he was listening to the Qur’an while he was working in his shop, and so the meaning thereof is that he was remembering the recitation, because Qur’an in Arabic is “recitation,” and it refers to his remembrance or continuity of remembering divinity. You know traditionally in Islam, they will recite the Qur’an musically, verbally, with a lot of beautiful intonations and expression. That is a practice that is very profound. I like to listen to those recitations quite a lot, because the melodies are very beautiful, but also the power in the verses is very profound if we know Kabbalah and Alchemy. They would recite, and they do recite the Qur’an as a form of remembrance. That is a text that is very beautiful, and like any scripture, we can remember divinity if we are really studying it astutely, very deeply.
When the blacksmith in the story, Al-Haddad was listening to the Qur’an, it is a reference to how he is really seeing the teachings and understanding them and practicing them. In that way, we can overcome many ordeals, symbolically. It doesn't mean we are going to put our hand into a forge and pull out hot iron because we hear the Qur’an, literally. The language of the Sufis is symbolic, so we approach those stories with a lot of subtlety in relation to psychological work: Psychology, Kabbalah and Alchemy.
The Gnostic Academy of Chicago
Free online courses, lectures, podcasts, and transcriptions.