The title of this lecture is “The Multiplicity of Self,” and truly today we are going to be talking about courage, because to seek true and profound self-knowledge, to face the complicated and frightening multiplicity within our own psyche, requires tremendous courage.
In this image we see the Greek hero Perseus holding the severed head of the Medusa, the Gorgon, the monster. And on the Medusa's head, her hair was turned into hundreds of little serpents, representing, psychologically speaking, the multiplicity within our own psyche. Terrifying, Medusa had the power to turn anyone who looked at her to stone, to petrify them, to make them unable to change or to grow, to kill them.
It could be frightening to see things within ourselves that terrify us, things that we would prefer to ignore, to pretend are not within ourselves. But as we seek on the Gnostic path, to reach our highest potential, we must become Heroes like Perseus, not necessarily heroes in the outside world braving all kinds of terrors or tremendous difficulties, but first, heroes within ourselves: to plunge into the depths of ourselves, to not be frightened of facing the reality of our situation, psychologically speaking.
Our Psychological Situation
When we think about our spiritual situation, we can imagine a scenario like this. Imagine that you are in a dark jungle, so black that you cannot see anything, and perhaps you hear frightening noises around you. But because you cannot see, because you do not know where you are, because you have amnesia and have forgotten who you are or how you arrived in this state, you begin to dream. Feeling helpless and feeling terrified, you begin to fantasize. Perhaps imagine that you are somewhere safe. Imagine an identity for yourself, one that is strong or glorious. Imagine a life that is very happy. And although, all the while while you are dreaming this dream, in reality you are sitting in the dark jungle with any terror that could come up and devour you in any moment. You cling to your dreams and your fantasies as the reality, because it would be too terrifying to look at the truth of your situation: to feel helpless, to have no idea how to get out of the jungle, to have no idea who you truly are or how you arrived in this state.
So this is a metaphor for our spiritual situation. Spiritually speaking, we know very little of our true self. We know very little of how we arrived in this current situation that we are in or where we are going, and perhaps, spiritually speaking, we are not going anywhere. If we are blind, if we have lost our connection to our inner divinity, how do we find our way out? That is why we need the courage to open our eyes, to pray, to seek answers. To be guided by our inner divinity out of our current situation, we must first see our reality, our spiritual reality.
Dreams vs. Reality
There is a quote by Gurdjieff I am going to read for you. He says:
“Man's possibilities are very great. You cannot even conceive a shadow of what man is capable of attaining. But nothing can be attained in sleep. In the consciousness of a sleeping man, his Illusions, his 'dreams' are mixed with reality. He lives in a subjective world and he can never escape from it. And this is the reason why he can never make use of all the powers he possesses and why he lives in only a small part of himself." ―G.I. Gurdjieff
We are asleep. We go about our days in a subjective world, subjective, meaning it does not have an objective truth, but rather is a production of our own perspective. And as we talked about in the previous lectures of this course, our perspective can be very flawed at times.
Let's say, for example, that you are at a work meeting, and your boss seems grumpy and makes a comment to you. You feel very certain that your boss is angry at you. So you spend the rest of your day avoiding your boss, hiding from him, or if you have to talk to him, trying to be very careful to make him like you, to make him think that you are doing a great job, and let's say that the next day you hear from a co-worker that, truly, your boss was angry because some other misfortune happened. He recently lost a relative. Someone he cared about died. And so you had spent the entire day in a fantasy, in a dream, terrified or stressed out doing all these actions to avoid your boss, to avoid that anger that you believed was there, when all the while it was a fantasy in your own head, a misperception of reality.
In this example, we can see many times, in many ways in our lives, sometimes our dreams are mixed with our reality because of our subjective state of perception. They can also have a more positive slant to them. Perhaps you are trying to be friends with a new group of people, and every time you are around them, you think that they like you. You are making all these great jokes and you are in your own mind really impressing these people. And then later on, you find out from one of them that the whole time they were very annoyed with you, that they were making fun of you behind your back. What kind of pain does that cause for us when we have dreamed and believed that reality is a certain way but when the facts are actually otherwise?
And that is why, as painful as it may be, to break through the defense mechanism of our fantasy and to see our blind and helpless spiritual state, it is essential. It is crucial that we begin to work towards that, because when we awaken, as Gurdjieff says, our possibilities are very great. If we saw reality as it truly was and if we knew ourselves as we truly are, if we became aware of the wealth that is sleeping inside of us, inside of our consciousness, and we activated that, we would not even be able to conceive, currently, a shadow of what we would be capable of attaining. As as Gurdjieff says, because we are asleep, we can never make use of all the power we truly possess in our soul. We live only in a small part of ourselves.
Mechanicity and True Action
So we have to ask ourselves, if we are so asleep all the time, and we are going about our day according to fantasies or misperceptions of reality that we believe to be true, but that really have very little to do with our actual situation, what kind of willpower do we have?
This is a great philosophical debate. Do we have free will or is everything predetermined? Is everything destined to happen a certain way, or do we have a choice in things?
Gurdjieff often talked of man as a machine, saying that the sleeping man, the man who is like all of us in our sleeping conscious state, is like a machine―that someone pushes the right button and you react without any freedom, without any control to change your reaction. Perhaps a sibling or an enemy taunts you in a certain way, criticizes a defect that you are very sensitive about, and you react instantaneously with anger or with embarrassment, and you have no conscious control over that. But even greater is our situation that many larger external forces, economic pressures, politics, our jobs or education, all kinds of external situations become the larger mechanism within which we are trapped without the freedom to do anything more than react to our external circumstances.
And so Gurdjieff describes this state talking about our lack of will, true free will. He says:
“Will is a sign of a being of a very high order of existence as compared with the being of an ordinary man. Only men who are in possession of such a being can do.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
And by do, Gurdjieff means have a true independent action, an action that is of our own will and not merely reactionary to other forces and pressures. Gurdjieff continues:
“All other men are merely automata, put into action by external forces like machines or clockwork toys, acting as much and as long as the wound-up spring within them acts, and not capable of adding anything to its force.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
So as I mentioned, these external forces can be pressures in our world, can be the people in our lives, can be our worldly situation. But further than that, we also have many forces that move us from within our own psyche, over which we have no control.
We can think of our psychological state as a multiplicity. A very basic and perhaps silly example is how many of us wish that we could be healthier, that we could be in shape. And we think that we will have a healthier diet and so we begin to maybe starve ourselves. We are only going to eat celery sticks, just a celery stick fast, and a couple hours later, or maybe if we have a lot of willpower, a few days later, we suddenly become starving. We see a chocolate cake or some really delicious food that is our favorite food, and we begin to gorge ourselves on that. And so while in one moment, we had the will, the desire, the sense of self that wanted to be skinnier or healthier. In the next moment we are possessed by a sense of self that is gluttonous, that desires the sensations of those tastes, those foods.
So which one is really us? Are we the self that wants to be healthy, or are we the self that wants to enjoy life and eat delicious foods? Are we the self that wants to go work out at the gym and become stronger? Or are we the self that likes to relax on the couch and watch TV all day?
If we see both of those desires within ourselves pulling us―one moment is one, the next moment is the opposite, the next moment it is some other drive―how do we know who is our true self from moment to moment?
As we slumber and shift ever between these states, between these different urges, we have the illusion of continuity. We have the illusion that there is one self always present there, when in reality, one moment we are so hungry and we are trying to get up so that we can go to the kitchen and prepare ourselves some food. But then in the next moment we are too tired. We just want to continue to lay in bed and not do anything.
So which one is the true self? How do we know what is our true will?
The founder of the Gnostic movement, Samael Aun Weor, wrote about this state of our existence. He said:
“Many thousands of different individuals, different persons, “I’s,” or people who quarrel amongst themselves, who fight amongst themselves for supremacy and who do not have order or concordance whatsoever, exist within each one of us.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So that is like the examples that I was just giving. There is “I” who is hungry. There is an “I” who wants to go on a diet. There is “I” who is tired. There is “I” who wants to exercise. There are all these different identities within ourselves, but they don't have an order. They don't have a structure or a concordance with one another. They are chaotic. They are constantly battling for control of our human machine, our mind, our heart, our body.
So it becomes very hard for us to move in a defined direction, to have a true individual, continuous will, because we are constantly being divided by many, many, many wills within ourselves.
Samael Aun Weor continued:
“If we were conscious, if we were to awaken from so many dreams and fantasies, how different life would be...” ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So as Gurdjieff was talking about how our dreams are mixed with reality, and because our consciousness is asleep, we believe that we are perceiving reality. Let's say that you have a dream. You are asleep at night and you are dreaming that you are being pursued by a huge ferocious tiger. And in this dream you are seeking to escape. You are running. You are looking for a tree that you can climb to get away from this tiger. But in the next instant, you wake up, and you realize you are safe in your bed and the entire time it was a dream.
Well, what about that example from earlier about your boss being mad at you and you are running, and you are running away from your boss, but then the next day when you find out the truth, that your boss isn't mad at you? You wake up in your bed and you realize the whole thing was a dream. You were so frightened. You were so worried. But here you are just fine. There is no threat.
If we were conscious, if we perceived what in us is a dream, our life would be very different, because in reality there are true threats to our spiritual development, true threats that can cause us to become petrified, turned to stone, and unable to grow and develop spiritually. We cannot perceive them as long as we are living in a fantasy.
“Nonetheless, as if our misfortune was not enough, negative emotions, self-love and self-esteem fascinate us, hypnotize us, never allowing us to remember ourselves, to see ourselves exactly the way we are...” ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
We have a skewed perception. We talked about it in previous lectures that we become very egotistical, very egocentric―possessed by our self esteem, our self love, our sense of anger, our sense of pride, our lust, our greed, our vanity―and because of that we are pulled all the time as if by our own psychological strings.
We do not have control over ourselves. We may swear in one moment that we love someone. We love our spouse, and in the next moment our spouse does something to make us angry and we hate them. We become cold towards them. We begin to push them away or to treat them cruelly. We have no power there to continue to love our spouse. Which one is the true self, the love or the anger?
That is why we have a tragic situation. We cannot remember ourselves. We cannot see ourselves as we truly are, because in each moment, we are possessed by negative emotions that separate us from the true and innate happiness of the consciousness.
We need an individual will. We need the will of our inner divinity, our true will. Not the will of these temporary and transient egotistical desires. But so long as we believe that we already have an individual will, we cannot access and become aware of the will of our inner divinity.
The will that speaks and expresses itself to us through our conscience, which many of us have silenced through years of ignorance. Samael Aun Weor also talks about this situation. He says:
“We believe that we have one will, when in reality we possess many different wills. Each “I” has its own will. The tragic comedy of all this interior multiplicity is dreadful. The different internal wills clash against each other, they live in continuous conflict, and they act in different directions. If we had true individuality, if we were a unity instead of a multiplicity, then we would also have continuity of purpose, awakened consciousness, a particular, individual will.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
We know of situations where perhaps we or someone else has worked for years to attain a certain job. They spent lots of money. They spent years studying, getting education, getting training. They worked very hard to fit the role of this job that they sought, and finally, perhaps they are successful and they get this career. And then a few months or a few years later, they are unhappy. They realize this isn't what they want to be doing. They want to be doing something else, and that is an example of this tragic comedy that is ridiculous and absurd: how we are pulled so strongly in one direction only to realize that that was a false self, a false desire.
We thought having this certain job would make us happy, only to realize, tragically, that we are still unhappy, that that was not actually the happiness that we were seeking. We think that when we have a nicer car than our neighbor, whom we envy, that then we will be happy. We get the car and then our other neighbor gets a nicer car than us and we are miserable. Our pride is wounded. Our envy is inflamed.
So we see that in all these dreams and fantasies that we chase in the external world, we never truly find contentment that we are seeking, and in fact, often only cause ourselves more suffering. But if we awoke our consciousness, our inner connection to divinity, and we followed the will of our inner divinity, then we would have true purpose, true volition, and true happiness that cannot be taken away, no matter what our external situation maybe.
We are going to do an exercise because it's very important that we become aware of this within ourselves. I have been giving many different examples of that multiplicity, and perhaps some of them might resonate, but to truly psychologically observe this within ourselves is very important, because we need to first of all have the courage to face ourselves and to face our psychological situation. Furthermore, use that courage and use that sincerity with ourselves as a weapon to gain more and more self-knowledge.
As Gurdjieff says in the following quote:
“Try to understand that what you usually call “I” is not I; there are many “I’s” and each “I” has a different wish. Try to verify this. You wish to change, but which part of you has this wish? Many parts of you want many things, but only one part is real. It will be very useful for you to try to be sincere with yourself. Sincerity is the key which will open the door through which you will see your separate parts, and you will see something quite new. You must go on trying to be sincere. Each day you put on a mask, and you must take it off little by little.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
What we want is to see directly in our own experience of life what is new, to comprehend things in ourselves that we had previously been blind to. We have many fantasies about ourselves: fantasies about our life, fantasies about other people in the world that we cling to, that we repeat. We think the same thoughts. We feel the same emotions. We have the same habits day after day after day. But when we awaken consciousness, we begin to perceive ourselves and reality in a new way, and that requires a lot of courage and a lot of sincerity.
So in this exercise, we are going to use a technique of meditative self-observation that we learned about in previous lectures. It's going to be a little bit challenging and uncomfortable. But using our willpower, we are going to set this task for ourselves to be truly sincere and to see within ourselves something new.
So go ahead and close your eyes. And for a few minutes, we will enter into a meditative state. First, we will become aware of our physical center, the sexual-motor-instinctive brain, becoming aware of our physical body, relaxing and breathing deeply, noticing any physical sensations in our body, becoming aware of that, becoming conscious―concentrating, awake, alert, but relaxed.
Next, we will become aware of our emotional state, becoming aware of how we feel in this moment, whether it is positive, negative, or neutral―not judging it, just becoming aware.
And then moving into our intellectual center, becoming aware of our thoughts, becoming aware of any thoughts that are passing through our mind―not trying to change them, but just noticing them―breathing deeply, relaxing with each inhalation, and letting out any stress with each exhalation―beginning to enter into a relaxed and concentrated state, maintaining the alertness and the concentration of our consciousness.
Now we set a wish for ourselves, using our willpower, to recall one of the most painful moments of our lives, and as this memory comes into our concentration. We become aware of our heart, our emotions. We become aware of our body, our physical reactions. Become aware of our mind and our thoughts.
You may notice as you try to focus on something that is uncomfortable and painful, try to look at a painful corner of yourself, but there are many other wills that arise that resists it, that dislike it, that try to pull your concentration away, because we do not like to look at ourselves, to face our suffering. But this is necessary, if we can begin take a deep breath, to relax again, to let the memory go and to come back to this moment.
So hopefully in that exercise you observe something within yourself, a division of wills: that when you set an intention to truly look at yourself, other wills arose that did not want to look, that were afraid, that were angry, that were hurt, that wanted to distract themselves or avoid facing reality. But as Gurdjieff says:
“Sincerity is the key which will open the door through which you will see your separate parts, and you will see something quite new.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
We cannot be afraid of ourselves, even the most painful things that we carry within us. We must be sincere each day. As our sincerity, our willpower, our courage, is the key to overcoming the multiplicity within ourselves.
Christianity and the Multiplicity of Self
I am going to talk in the second part of this lecture now about different scriptural examples that encode this psychological teaching for us.
But we can see that his esoteric teaching has been present in traditions around the world for many hundreds of years, or thousands of years. In the Bible, there is a story of a madman who wandered around the tombs. And if we look at this as a metaphor for our own situation with all of our fantasies, with all of our ideas about ourselves and our delusions about our lives, we are the madman who is wandering around the tombs, because spiritually we are dead. Spiritually, we do not have life.
In the Bible, in the Book of Mark, we see here that Jesus went to this madman who is possessed by many demons and the madman said to Jesus, "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?"
When our conscience speaks to us, when our inner divinity comes to us, to show us the reality of our situation, to guide us, to show us what is, what is wrong, what we must do to awaken to overcome ourselves, do we accept that guidance? Or do we turn back to our delusions and say to God, “What have I to do with thee? What have I to do with my own inner Spirit?” If all of my time is invested in my worldly fantasies, in my idea of myself, my pride, my selfishness, my gluttony, my lust, my greed, my envy―what have I to do with God or with the Christ if that is my choice? To live in a fantasy and to avoid my spiritual reality? But Jesus, representing here the Cosmic Christ, the force of universal compassion and wisdom, says to the man before he heals him:
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
And he replied, “My name is Legion: for we are many.” ―Mark 5:9
The many that exist within this man, this madman who lives among the tombs, who represents us, is a multiplicity of false wills, sometimes demonic wills, animal wills, selfish, egotistical wills that have in their intention to harm others for our own benefit. They are false wills. They are a sense of self that we believe in a given moment is true―“Is who I am” in this moment, because “I feel angry. This is my true will and I will hurt the ones I love to avenge my anger”―when a little while later, we feel remorse. We realize that we were controlled in those moments by the demon of our anger, and that it was not truly the will of our soul. But now having hurt the ones we love we, must live with the consequences of having been possessed by a false “I,” a false self.
But as we see in this chapter of the Bible, Jesus has the power to heal this man of his demons, and he cast them out and cast them into pigs, which run into the waters and then drown. This is a deep esoteric symbol. We can simply say that when we turn to our own inner divinity, or own connection with a force of universal love and compassion, the Christ, and we asked to be healed, that we can overcome the multiplicity of ourselves.
But that takes the sincerity of realizing that, as we currently are, we are possessed by many demonic wills. We lack true individuality
Gurdjieff has another quote that has to do with breaking through this mechanicity, this defense mechanism, this multiplicity. He writes:
“All religions speak about death during this life on earth. Death must come before rebirth. But what must die? False confidence in one’s own knowledge, self-love and egoism. Our egoism must be broken.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
That egoism that I was just describing, a sense of self that has nothing to do with divinity, that has nothing to do with our Spirit or our soul, that is false. That is multiple. That is divided. That believes that our anger is real, that our lust is real, that our envy is real, that our pride is real, and will even fight to the death to defend a sense of self that has no permanence, that has no continuity, that is here one moment and gone the next. This egoism must be broken, and can be broken by our sincerity, and by working with the force of Christ.
“We must realize that we are very complicated machines, and so this process of breaking is bound to be a long and difficult task. Before real growth becomes possible, our personality must die.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
If we want the growth of the soul, we have to invest energy into our soul. And if all of our energy is poured into a thousand different directions that have nothing to do with the growth of our soul, we will remain stagnant. We will remain fueling a false identity, a false personality.
In order for our soul to be born again, for us to be reborn, our false self must die. This is something we have touched on in the previous lectures, which ties into this topic today as well.
War in the Bhagavad-Gita
It is another example from the Hindu tradition, in the scripture of the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna, who is a representation of Christ, the Hindu Christ, comes to the battlefield to help the hero of the story, Arjuna. Arjuna is a representation of our own human soul, the true willpower of our soul.
In this battle, Arjuna ask Krishna to pull his chariot in between the two armies, the army with whom he fights and the army whom he fights against. He looks on both sides of the battlefield and he sees, on both sides, people who were once or currently are his friends, his relatives, his children, his grandparents, his brother-in-laws. He sees his beloved friends and relatives, and he loses heart. He loses courage. He loses his strength, and he says to Krishna, "I cannot fight. It would be better for me to die than to kill these people whom I love. How can you ask me to fight this war?"
Now this is a psychological symbol for our situation. As we look on our spiritual battle field, at the army against whom we fight, the legion within our psychology, we see many beloved friends and relatives, psychologically speaking, that we are very attached to: our pride, that we are very attached to our gluttony or greed or envy or lust, our desires for the future, our desires for fame or for wealth or for a certain partner, certain security. We are so attached to them that we say, “I don't want to fight this spiritual battle. I want to continue on with the flow, even if it costs me the death of my soul. I don't have the strength to fight.”
But what does our inner Christ say in this beautiful scripture? Krishna gives Arjuna the teaching of Atman, the true Spirit, the inner-self that is not attached to fame or to disgrace, to gain or to loss. It is not attached to heat or cold, to happiness or sadness. The Spirit has eternal wisdom and love and a contentment that is beyond temporary pleasures of the world. Through this teaching, Arjuna gains direct knowledge of non-attachment and gains the strength and the courage to go to battle against his enemies, which as I stated earlier, psychologically speaking, are elements within ourselves that we are too attached to―that we believe are our cherished darlings, our family, our loved ones, but that ultimately come to steal from us the kingdom, the kingdom of our soul, our spiritual inheritance. They come to take away our lifetime, to take away our energy and our willpower so that we cannot fight for our soul, for our spiritual development, and fight according to the will of our inner God.
Perseus and Medusa: The Essence Battles the Ego
Finally, we will return to the Greek mysteries, the myth that we began, the myth of Perseus and Medusa. So the Medusa, a Gorgon, was once a very beautiful woman, so beautiful that she became very vain and proud and egotistical, and as a result, incurred the wrath of the goddess and was turned into a hideous monster with hair full of serpents.
These many serpents represent the same symbol as the poisonous serpents in the desert that bit the Israelites, the many different desires within ourselves that bite us, that poison us, that causes us, spiritually, to become weak and to die, because they divide us from our true self, from our true inner divinity.
In order to protect the virtue of his mother from a lustful king, Perseus goes and fights to bring back the head of the Medusa. Medusa with her stare petrifies anyone who looks upon her. Many warriors have gone to fight her, and in looking upon her horrible, terrifying face, have been turned to stone and have perished.
Spiritually speaking, when we look at ourselves, we must not get identified. We must not get attached. We must look at ourselves with serenity with courage, look at ourselves from the perspective of our inner divinity who is not attached to any outcome, but can see reality as it truly is. So in order for Perseus to defeat Medusa, he is given by Athena a polished shield, a shield which allows him to see the reflection of Medusa and to kill her without looking directly upon her.
Symbolically, this represents our need to enter into a meditative state in which we are not identified, but can reflect on ourselves from a higher perspective. We can destroy our enemy, because when we sit to meditate, we can separate from egotistical desires and enter into communion with our inner divinity, which gives us strength to see reality. But as stated in the earlier example, when we are fused with a given desire, when in that moment we become so identified with our anger that we do horrible things, say horrible things to the ones that we love, then we are defeated. We are spiritually killed by our inner enemy, and that is why we need that separation: the polished shields of our own self-reflection.
As he cut off the head of the Gorgon, Perseus was given an adamantine sword by Zeus. Zeus was his father, because Perseus, like us, is half God, half mortal. Within us we have our soul, our Essence, the seed of a soul which is given to us by the Spirit, our spiritual identity, our inner divinity. But also within us, we have many mortal elements given to us by Mother Nature, our physical body and internal bodies and vehicles that were given to us by nature. And so we must work with the sword of willpower, which represents the willpower given to us by our inner Spirit, of our spiritual nature, to cut off the head of the beast, our psychological enemies.
Now after Perseus kills Medusa, he must put on the helm of Hades. Hades is the king, the lord of the underworld, and this helm of darkness allows Perseus to hide from the other enemies that come, the other Gorgons that come to destroy him when they find out that he has killed their sister. This represents the facing of ourselves and cutting off the head of Medusa is just the beginning of our battle, but what we have to use to protect ourselves for the further battles after that is the helm of darkness. Because when we have faced the darkness within ourselves, we received the gift of Hades, the gift of the lord of the underworld, that we can use to protect ourselves, because we know when we face the worst in ourselves, we have the courage and the ability to fight and conquer other forms of evil.
So to summarize everything that we talked about here, we can look at what these symbols represent. When we are first courageous enough to admit that we have a multiplicity of wills and that we do not know our true individual will, the will of our inner God, when we become serious about our spiritual work in developing our soul, rather than chasing after many false fantasies and false desires that change moment by moment, that at the end of our life have brought us nothing, we instead face ourselves and we become serious about wanting to develop our soul.
We can use a method for self-transformation, that just as Perseus used the shield, we must have non-identified self-observation. This comes from self-observing ourselves throughout the day, as we talked about in the previous lectures, but also through meditation. Through developing our connection with our inner divinity, that can strengthen us to see what is our true self. Because when we know our true self, we are not so easily fooled by the multiplicity of false selves within our psyche.
At the end of each day, we retrospect. We perform a meditation in which we observe which elements were active throughout our day, so we can begin at the beginning of our day and replay it in our mind with non-identification, or we can start at the end of our day just before we sit to meditate, and replay the day backwards. But either way, observing how many multiple wills pulled us in different directions, how from one moment to the next our will was not continuous, and analyzing from an unidentified position, we question: what is the truth of those desires? If I pursue this anger, if I go and I take my vengeance and act on this anger, what will the outcome be? Will it bring me happiness? Will it bring me peace? In the long run, will it develop my soul? Or is it just an illusion? Is it a false desire? A false self that I must separate from.
The same is true with pride, with envy, and lust, gluttony, laziness. If we act on these defects, what will the outcome be? Will the outcome be spiritual growth? Will it be self-knowledge and wisdom? Universal compassion? Will the outcome be that true happiness of the soul?
Or will those only bring us temporary pleasures, that when we reach the end of life, will be lost?
For that type of meditation, we need sincerity. We need to be very sincere with ourselves and not allow our self-deception to fool us into wasting much time and energy chasing after fantasies, delusions that won't get us anywhere. And all of this work takes tremendous willpower. For that willpower, we need to conserve our energy, to be living ethically, to be honest with ourselves, to be honest with others, to be living in an upright way, to be acting according to what we know in our conscience to be right. Through those ethics we can conserve enough energy to have the willpower to observe ourselves day after day, to meditate and to truly seek the awakening of our consciousness.
And finally, it's very important that we use prayer, because this self-transformation is a tremendous feat. It is very difficult. It is symbolized by the heroes of the Greek myths and the heroes of the scriptures, because it requires a tremendous amount of willpower, a heroism that we must find in our own soul and develop. But always these heroes have the help and the guidance of the gods and of divinity. And that is why through prayer, we can gain that inner help, that inner guidance to show us, what is the truth? What is the reality of our situation?
And what is the will of our inner God?
Do you have any questions?
Questions and Answers
Question: When Gurdjieff says what is man capable of, what is he capable of, if we are going to do this work of eliminating ego? What happens for us?
Instructor: Many people wonder “Who would I be if I didn't have all these desires? What would I do? Would I just be nothing?” But when we look at great spiritual masters like Jesus, like Buddha, like Krishna, these are truly great solar identities, solar beings, profound, powerful. If we took an ordinary person and put them in a situation where they were all by themselves, this person would be helpless, would not have the ability in that jungle, like our earlier example, to find their way out or to survive. But if we took a master like Jesus who has power over nature, power over himself, truly channels the power of divinity, his potential is limitless on earth and in the higher dimensions of nature. So that is the ultimate goal that we seek. Whatever level we might reach, we seek to develop our spiritual potential to have power over ourselves first and over nature, and even spiritual power.
Question: So Gurdjieff talks a lot about genuine will. What would be an example of genuine willpower according to divinity?
Instructor: We can think about the example of Jesus of Nazareth in the garden of Gethsemane. What does he say as he prays to God? This is before his crucifixion and he knows he is going to die and he prays to God, "Father, if it be thy will, take this cup of bitterness away from me, but not my will but thine be done." It is an example willpower. It is submission to divine will, that where our Spirit guides us, that we have the will of our inner God to do whatever is necessary, and that we are not controlled by fear or by any egotistical desire, but rather, we have true strength, continuity of purpose. We are awakened. We know what we must do and we have the will and the power to do it.
Question: So what does it mean to be conscious? Because this is a very difficult thing for students and for ourselves, is learning to understand what it means to be awake. So when we are awake, how do we really know? So I know it sounds like a kind of a catch-22, but what are the signs of being conscious in this work?
Instructor: Well in that example or in that exercise where we were meditating, were you aware of your feelings? Were you aware of your physical body sitting in the chair? Were you aware of your thoughts? That simple awareness of physical sensations or emotional sensations or mental sensations is an example, is a taste of becoming conscious. Actually, throughout the day as we are walking around, we are often not even aware of our physical body. We are not aware of breath coming in and out of our body. And so on the most basic level, to be aware of your physical processes, becomes the first level of being conscious, and then as we become aware of our more profound psychological depths―our thoughts or emotions that were previously unconscious to us as we work more and more in meditation―then we are awakening more and more. We might even perceive things that are extrasensory, you know, develop spiritual senses like telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudience, to be awakened when we are asleep at night, to be awakened in the astral plane. These are examples of awakening, but it happens degree by degree.
Question: So what does it mean to be asleep and hypnotized? Because I know we talked a lot about different identities and wills. How is it that our sense of self makes us dream or makes us unaware of ourselves or unaware of things?
Instructor: Well, I think I gave an example too of being, you know, having a misperception of a situation with our boss, right? Where we believe that our boss is angry, and so we go about our day acting according to that belief. Now the reality is that our boss is angry at us, was having a bad day, because of some other situation that we didn't know, but in this state, this subjective reality, the subjective world of our own psychological perspective, we believe it to be true. And so we are going about acting as though that is the reality when the reality is otherwise. And that is because we are sleep, because we think we are perceiving reality, but truly we are filtering reality through our own egotism, our own fear that our boss would be angry at us, for example.
It’s just like the dream with the tiger chasing us, that when we are asleep and we are having a dream, that a big tiger is after us, we believe it's true and we are running like mad and we are trying to find a tree. We are trying to escape, and then we wake up and we realized that was not reality, right? So that's an example of what it is to be asleep. And you know, there are many desires that we are chasing we believe are very real, that desire for that new car, that desire for that new partner, that desire for that new job. And as we chase them, we believe they are real, but perhaps a few months later, some other job comes up and you get that job instead, and so all that time that you invested thinking that, “Oh, in a year from now, I am going to have this job,” was wasted, because the reality ended up being different. The truth is, that life never goes according to our plans.
Question: When I see that certain egos come up in situations, such as insecurity or fear or uncertainty or doubt, despair, and becoming hypnotized by those thoughts is what keeps us asleep. So why do we have a multiplicity in us? Why is it that we have ended up the way we are?
Instructor: So because we―in past actions, both in this lifetime and in previous lifetimes―invested our energy into desires that had nothing to do with our inner divinity. We created a flow of energy that goes into multiple different directions. So let's say that, you know, in the past, in a past life when we had a stronger connection with our inner divinity, we were guided to perform one action. But because of some egotistical desire or fantasy, because of our pride, for example, we didn't want to do this action that would have humiliated us. So we chose to act in a prideful way.
Well, in that case, psychologically speaking, we strengthened our sense of pride. We strengthened that false self, and we did this many times, many different actions, many different directions, created a multiplicity of wills with our own energy, our own consciousness, our own conscious energy. And so in this lifetime, we carry the psychological consequences, the psychological bodies from those previous existence―existences that have a multiplicity of wills.
But because we have become so hypnotized, so asleep, like I said, spiritually speaking, we have amnesia. We have no idea how we got here. We don't even remember what we did yesterday or two weeks ago, let alone what we did in past lives. And so our situation is very confused and very asleep. But as we work with meditation and as we perform this profound psychological self-transformation and awaken ourselves and begin to perceive the depths of our psyche, we can become aware and awakened and remember our past lives and see for ourselves, directly, through our own experiences, our mystical experiences, the reality of our past lives and how we ended up in this situation now.
Question: So when we get rid of the ego, we develop the soul. How is it that by eliminating the ego, we develop our consciousness? How is our consciousness trapped in the ego, right? Can you tell us more about what that process is like?
Instructor: I am going to go back to this quote here by Gurdjieff, when he says the death must come before rebirth. And so we know that our egoism must be broken. The ego is all of those different “I’s.” So we can say actually that we have a legion of egos. Ego means “I” in Latin. Now, because we have our own psychology divided into these false senses of self, our energy and our attention and our awareness is divided in many different directions, so that we can't progress through life with a continuous direction and a sense of will. We can't work towards one aim, because one minute we want to go on the diet and become skinnier, and the next minute we are turned in another direction and we are eating that chocolate cake, right? But this is actually a much bigger problem for us when we perform meditation everyday and we see the reality of different egos that pull at us.
As we meditate and we begin to take our energy back, we begin to extract our consciousness from these false delusional selves, these delusional desires, and we bring our consciousness back into a center of gravity and we center ourselves, again―in our Spirit, in our soul, in our conscience and our connection to divine will within ourselves, our true individual will―then we can begin to die to the delusion and to be born to the reality of the soul, and see the spiritual realities that are much more profound than the false realities that we perceive now and that we believe to be true.
But so long as we believe the lie, well, then we cannot perceive the truth. So we must first perceive that the egos or the different “I’s” that manipulate us moment-to-moment are false and then die to them. Let them go―as Arjuna killed these beloved attachments that we have, because they are temporary, because they are false. Then all of that energy, that consciousness, that awareness, returns to our Spirit, to our soul, and so we can be born as a soul.
Question: Can an ego observe another ego? How does that work? I believe Samael Aun Weor talked a lot about that process.
Instructor: Well, some people develop an egotistical sense of self that is doing this work. You know, it may be a Gnostic “I’s” that sits and judges and condemns the other “I’s” and says, “This one is bad and this one is not good.” But eventually that person has to become aware that that Gnostic “I” is also a false self.
When we are sitting in a state of conscious meditation, free from conditioning, we see and perceive the reality directly. We gain comprehension that is not intellectual. When one is sitting, at the beginning perhaps, our analysis is a little bit intellectual because we start where we are at, and so we have to maybe begin just by intellectually pondering: “Well, was that desire to yell at my friend good or bad?” Or “Where is that going to take me if I continue to act on that desire?”
Perhaps in the beginning it is intellectual, but as we strengthen our connection with divinity and as we strengthen our consciousness through this work and awaken, then we have comprehension of ourselves. We perceive reality directly. We know the truth. And so we do not have to analyze in this egotistical way or this intellectual way, but merely sit to meditate, observe what we see, and we will know through direct spontaneous insight. Perhaps not in that moment of meditation, perhaps later, but as well as long as we are doing this work and we are making efforts, our inner divinity will guide us and will show us the truth. It is very inspiring and doesn't require exertion. It comes naturally as a result of the effort to observe ourselves and to meditate.
We start with the quote from the Oracle of Delphi:
“Man, know thyself and you shalt know the universe and its Gods!”
For most of us, we do not have a deep understanding of ourselves. We have a superficial understanding of ourselves―our name, our race, our job―maybe what we like and dislike. When it comes to a deeper understanding, we ask: what does it mean to be a human being? Does it mean we have a soul?
We might have ideas about it, and we might have beliefs, but how does one come to know themselves? How does one know themselves so profoundly that they then experience, directly, the universe, the gods, our own inner divinity, our connection with all the rest of life?
It’s important to ask ourselves where we seek knowledge. For seeking knowledge externally, in classes, in documentaries, scientific studies, or books, that knowledge might help us to survive in the world, and man’s struggle has often been a struggle for survival.
But once we have those basic needs met, and we find ourselves feeling purposeless or aimless, we have to ask ourselves a deeper question, which is: why do we exist?―not just the search for survival, but the search for meaning.
To really understand that, we have to start by knowing ourselves.
So, we have to ask ourselves what we want from life. And if we want from life just a bunch of money in a bank, a nice car, a good job, well, then we’d probably never be here in a group like this. We want something more. We want to really understand directly the truth, something that is beyond pleasure, entertainment, or comfort.
We want to know: what is the meaning of all of this? Why is everything like this? Why do I exist? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What is the purpose of it all?
Then we have to evaluate how we have been using our time and our energy. If all of our time and our energy is caught up in the struggle for material success, beyond just covering our material needs, but to really investing our whole life into entertainment, pursuits of pleasure, money, and comfort, and investing no time in our spiritual search, our own spiritual development, then we will never come to cultivate the self-knowledge that we are looking for―the knowledge that can go so deep that it can show us the root of our own existence.
We talked a lot about consciousness, and that is what we are seeking to understand: where does our consciousness come from?
Some very materialistic scientists will tell us that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. We are all just walking chemical reactions. But in these teachings, we believe that consciousness is actually the root of our experience of all life. It’s only through consciousness that we can experience thoughts, or emotions, or physical sensations. So, that is what we are going to work with.
The Purpose of Studying Gnosis
So, we need to know why we are here. Of course, in a deeper sense of why we exist. But also why we are here studying spiritual teachings. And so the founder of the modern Gnostic movement, Samael Aun Weor has a quote about this. It is very meaningful to me, and it says very directly:
Obviously, we need to know our purpose in gathering ourselves here, in these studies, and for what. If curiosity is the simple motive that moves you, listen: there are many things to be curious about, i.e. in city entertainment centers, in cinemas, the bulls in the arena, etc. Yet, to enter in these studies is something very serious [...] Indeed, to emancipate the Essence (which we’ve talked about before is our own consciousness), to disassemble the mind and will (from our conditioning), is not an easy task. ―Samael Aun Weor, Cosmic Ships
The Gnostic work, to really get that deep into the Gnostic work, to really experience our true nature, is difficult. When we’ve talked in the past few months about different barriers that we have, we’ve talked before about how we need to struggle to awaken our own consciousness. Most of time our consciousness is asleep, and we are going around in our mechanical habits: same thoughts that we thought many times before; feeling the same emotions that we cannot seem stop feeling, even if they are negative, even if it is sadness or anger. We cannot seem to get out of it―our same habits, our same routines. If we really want to wake up, and experience life in a new way, experience life in a more profound way, we have to overcome certain barriers.
Balancing the Three Brains
So, one of the first things we talked about was the three brains: that we have an intellectual center, an emotional center, and a motor-instinctive-sexual center―that we need to work with our physical energies, our emotional energies, and our intellectual energies in a balanced way. By balancing, and achieving that equilibrium in ourselves, in this moment, but also in our daily lives, then we can begin to awaken consciousness.
When we awaken consciousness and work with self-observation, and we are truly observing not only our external life but also our internal states, our states of mind, our emotional states, then we begin to see what is false in us.
We distinguish between consciousness as pure perception in each moment, and then the egotistical filter that prevents us from seeing situations as they are―seeing situations with equanimity and serenity. Instead, we become very upset, angry, or unhappy, or displeased with many situations in life because our own egotism.
Once we finally established a basis of equilibrium to an extent (we have to begin where we are) and we’ve begun to absorb what is false in us―how do we move beyond that and begin to have those higher experiences of the truth? Today, we are going to talk about this: the experiences of our consciousness free from any delusional, egotistical ideas we may have about ourselves.
But to truly understand our own nature, we are going to talk about how we can form our foundation to those types of higher experiences today.
So, do we spend most time observing reality? I gave some examples last time about how, maybe you meet somebody, and the first time you meet them, you think they are a really nice person. Then later on, you find out that was not the case. Or vice versa: you think somebody is a jerk and then later on, you may find out they are a great person and one of your best friends.
But if we extend this little problem, we see that filtered perception extends to our whole life. How much of the time do we spend actually directly perceiving the situation as it is?
So, I already have been talking for a few minutes and probably most people's minds have drifted, begun thinking about other things. We can do that at many points in our life: when we are sitting there in a meeting, or at work, or we are sitting with our family, having a conversation, doing some task. How rarely are we actually focused on that task? Are we actually present and engaged with it, attentive to that conversation without some kind of mental filter, without many other distractions of what we should be doing or what we wish was happening instead, or what we have to do later, but to just be present and enjoy our lives?
If we spend most of our time in that state that I had mentioned, of mind wandering, then how much are we really living? How are we going to understand the true nature of the reality and ourselves if we are never there, consciously speaking? We are asleep. If we are hypnotized by our own ideas about life, our own perceptions that are not true, then how do we begin to see reality?
So, take an average day, today. How long do you think you spent worrying about things, or fantasizing about things, daydreaming? I see this in myself a lot when I am driving. I am not really focused on driving. I’m thinking about all the other stuff that I have going on.
It is not to condemn mind-wandering, but to say that if we are really seeking to wake up, consciously, to begin to perceive life in a profound way, in a new way, in an alert way, then we can’t be always seeing life according to our habits.
Many of us have somebody in our life―I think this happens a lot with family members―where we already know how they are going to act, and what buttons they are going to push. You might go to see somebody. For example: you might go to see your brother and you already have this idea: "Oh, my brother always gets on my nerves in these particular ways.” So, even when you are walking in the room, in the first few minutes of talking to him, you already have in your mind “This is going to be an unpleasant encounter.” It is going to go the same way it always goes.
Comment: You’ve already analyzed it and tried to come to a solution.
Instructor: Right. So you are not giving each situation a new chance, and what happens, interestingly enough, we see this in psychology as well, is that when we have our own preconceptions about somebody, we end up treating them in a way that causes them to continue responding to us in the same way.
These types of cycles can happen in our relationships. They can happen in our jobs. “Oh! I am already dreading going to work today and it is going to be a terrible day!” And then you show up having that kind of attitude and it ends up being a terrible day.
So there can be some feedback loop there. It is very important to check ourselves up a little bit, psychologically―to perceive each day, and each moment, and each person in a new way―to really see the reality of that. To do that we need to be awakening our consciousness.
The Key of Sol and Self-Observation
And so, one way we can awaken consciousness is self-observation. We talked about that before, that there is a specific technique that we use in Gnosticism called the Key of SOL. As taught by Samael Aun Weor:
Gnostic students must learn to divide attention into three parts: subject (which is us), object (which is whatever we are focusing on, in this moment, in the external world), and location (which is where we are right now). ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
So we can go ahead and do this right now:
Subject: to not fall into the forgetting of oneself before any representation. ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
Whoever has watched a movie or a TV show, and you get so sucked into it that somebody can be talking to you in another room and walking behind you, and you do not even hear them, because you have completely lost focus.
So, we forget about our physical bodies. We forget about our emotional states, and our intellectual states. We just go along with things and the next thing you know, you’ve gotten so caught up in your anger, that you are shouting at somebody before you have even been able to catch yourself and realize: "I am getting angry!"
It can happen. We are not aware of ourselves. So, right now, if we become aware of ourselves, we can use the tree brains as a point of reference that we talked about before.
So, physically, “How am I feeling?” In my physical body. This is not an intellectual process, but just to consciously observe it, to feel your body.
Emotionally: "How am I feeling?" So, even if you do not have a label for your emotional state, become aware of it.
"What am I thinking?" Become aware of your thoughts, and that creates a space of separation from ourselves, from which we can observe ourselves in a more balanced way. So, after we become aware of ourselves, we need to also be aware of the object of our attention. So, Samael Aun Weor says:
Object: To observe every representation, every fact, every event, no matter how insignificant the latter may seem, in detail, without forgetting oneself. ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
So maintaining awareness of ourselves is to be aware of the person we are talking to, or the thing we are listening to, or the task we are engaged in, no matter how meaningless it seems. Maybe we have a job in a factory where all you do is to push a button all day. So, no matter how meaningless it seems to be awake to that moment, to be alert to it, to be perceiving this as new, and not allowing your mind to drift off into autopilot―but to wake yourself up. The more we work with them, the muscle of self-awareness, the muscle of consciousness, the more we begin to perceive even more of reality.
And then also being aware of our location:
Location: The rigorous observation of the place where we may be, and to ask ourselves: "What place is this? Why am I here?" ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
So, for most of us we walked into this room. We have not looked at it. We found a chair. Since then we have forgotten about the room we are in. So, what we want is not the tunnel vision of consciousness where we are only perceive a speck of our experience. We want to expand that consciousness out. The way to do that is to work with consciousness―to wake yourself up.
Throughout the day I try to catch myself. If I am at the computer, working away, and then suddenly I am: "Oh, I am not self-observing!”―to catch myself, to work with a practice like the key of SOL, to make myself aware of myself, aware of what I am doing, where I am―and gradually your consciousness begins to expand so that you can be aware.
I have a walk to work where I walk across a really beautiful green space. Usually I am there in my tunnel vision and I am really focused: “Ok, I have got to get to work. These are the things I am going to do,” but I will wake myself up like this and I use to practice like this. Suddenly my experience of life becomes much fresher, much more profound. I notice the people walking by. I can hear the birds. I can smell the freshly cut grass, or whatever might be.
So, if we really want to have a really dynamic and living experience of life and not sleeping like robots, then we can work with this type of practice. It’s a spiritual practice, a spiritual exercise working with our own consciousness, our own perception.
That is distinct from an intellectual understanding. It is not: "Oh, I hear the birds. I smell the grass." It is not in the mind. It is just being aware of it. Just being alive to it.
Samael Aun Weor also wrote about that:
“Whosoever wants to awaken consciousness must work here and now. We have the consciousness incarnated and that is why we must work with it here and now (in our body, in our daily lives, not to be off fantasizing about other things, but to be working right here, in this moment, in every moment of our lives, with our own consciousness). Whosoever awakens consciousness here in this physical world awakens in all the suprasensible worlds.
“The one who awakens consciousness in this three-dimensional world awakens in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh dimensions.
“The one who wants to live consciously in the superior worlds must awaken here and now.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
The Tree of Life: A Map of the Superior Worlds
We are going to talk a little bit about what the superior worlds are, but I want to point out: what is the foundation for having higher experiences, for experiencing the truth, our true nature, the root of our existence, our inner divinity?
The basis for this is: pointing out, to begin working with our consciousness here and now. If we want to sit in meditation and to really awaken in higher states of being, we have to begin by awakening in our daily life, all the time, moment to moment.
We can use this diagram of the Tree of Life―which is also in your handouts, if it is easy to see at there―to perceive what we are. We talked about the bottom part of this before, the bottom sphere of this diagram, Malkuth, our physical body. So, if we are aware, conscious of our physical body, we can know that part of our consciousness is here, acting in the physical body.
We have also to talk about having an energetic body, the vital body. And that is the energy that moves and circulates blood and air and keeps us alive allows us to move around. Without the energetic body, we would not be able to exist, physically. So, we have an aspect of our consciousness that we may not be conscious of from moment to moment, but we do have an aspect of our consciousness that is animating our body, keeping us alive.
We also have what is called an astral body, related here with the sphere of Hod. The astral body is all the emotional energies that move through us and keep us functioning in the emotional plane.
And then, we have a mental body here in Netzach that transforms all of our thoughts.
Finally, the human soul, or for us, the essence of the human soul, which is related with the sphere of Tiphereth.
There are higher spheres on the Tree of Life as well related with our divine soul and Geburah, and our Innermost Spirit as Chesed.
And so, those are the things that we want to start experiencing.
We may have a sense of our physical body, a sense of the energy moving in our body. We may be familiar with our emotional states and our mental states. We may even feel a little bit conscious of our own willpower. How do we become conscious of our divine soul? Of our Inner Spirit? Or even higher in this Tree of Life?
We have these three top sephiroth that are related with the tree primary forces that in Christianity we call them the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In order to be aware of those, we have to awaken here and now.
Also, I want to point out that there are lower dimensions. So, if this is the Tree of Life, so we can consider these spheres at the bottom are an inverted Tree of Life, the shadow of the Tree of Life. Last time we talked about the ego, that we have many delusional states that we get caught in. Perhaps walking to a room and we are very afraid of everybody is going to hate us in that room. Even if that has nothing to do with reality, even if you are walking in the room, people do not even notice you are there, you can have your own psychological state about it―that would be experiencing a lower state of consciousness, a state of consciousness that is not free, that is not experiencing reality, but is conditioned by our own psychological habits.
In order to ascend to higher states, we need to become aware of these lower states.
In talking little bit about the Tree of Life, there is a quote from the gnosticteachings.org website:
“The primary symbol of the Tree of Life is a structure of ten spheres called sephiroth in Hebrew. These spheres have many levels of meaning. Macrocosmically, they represent dimensions or worlds. Psychologically, they represent aspects of our consciousness [...] The ten spheres are but a simplification of a much more sophisticated and complex rendering of the many dimensions found in existence and non-existence.” ―A Gnostic Instructor, Glorian Publishing
Just this can represent psychological states or aspects of our consciousness, they can also represent higher, superior levels of nature, in which nature becomes more rarified, more divine, more pure and sacred. If we want to experience higher dimensions, what might be called heavens in some religions or Nirvana―in order to do that, we have to awaken―we have to liberate ourselves from lower states of being.
You can think of the consciousness as a seed that has been planted in physical matter. We actually have a teaching about the ray of the creation in Gnosticism. But up here, we have the Ain which is the Nothingness. And from the Ain emerges the Ain Soph, which is the Limitless.
Another Instructor: Ain is the Nothingness, while the Ain Soph means “No limit” because Ain means “No” or negation and Soph means “end.”
Instructor: From Ain Soph emerges the Ain Soph Aur, which is the “limitless light,” the light of the Christ. As that is the light that descends through these different dimensions, these different levels of nature, it is gradually is going to be planted here in our physical body.
Whatever we choose to do here and now with our consciousness, with that little seed, will determine if we are going to grow as a Tree of Life or going to descend into lower states or being.
It is very important to learn about our consciousness, to work with it, to understand it, to meditate, to self-observe. And as we work with that energy, to be able to begin understanding higher dimensions as well.
If we have already got all the elements that we need, how can we experience those higher states of consciousness? Just, in that analogy of planting a seed, a seed needs certain conditions in order to be able to grow, right? A seed needs water, light, air. So, we already have the seed planted in the earth. But do we have the light? Do we have the teachings and the doctrine that help us, the scriptures, the Word of God, whether it is the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist scriptures as well?
Do we have that type of nourishment coming into our life? Or are we feeding our hearts and minds with lots of garbage, other junk food that is not nourishing the soul?
And do we have the water, the water of the life, the energies that we need? Because in order to self-observe, all day and all night, to be awake in the dream state, as well, you need a lot energy.
Awakening and the Conservation of Energy
We have to talk about the conservation of energy. And it begins by just observing yourself and see how you are using your energy.
If observe yourself through the day:
How do you use your physical energy?
How do you use your vital energy, emotional, or mental energy?
Volitional energy is the energy of the willpower.
The energy of your consciousness, your spiritual energy. How do you use all of that in a given day?
Do you use it wisely?
Do you over-exert the mind, the heart, or the physical body out of balance with the other centers?
Much of this is building off what we have already talked about.
But in order to conserve it, we have to first see how we are using it and where we are wasting it. So, if I am spending ten hours a week, out in bars, drinking a bunch, and laughing with my friends and doing that stuff all the time―is that ten hours of energy that I am conserving for my spiritual practice or is that ten hours of energy that I just kind of binged on and it is gone? It is never coming back.
Comment: It got spent elsewhere.
Instructor: Right! If we want to use this life wisely, we really want to ask ourselves: “What do we want from life?” And if what we want from life is something more than just entertainment, something more than pleasure and money in our bank accounts, but we really want to know divinity, we have to start being serious about looking how we use our life.
If we are using our life in ways that do not achieve that type of outcome, then we can’t be surprised. Everything in nature works on the basis of cause and effect. If every cause that we are putting into motion is creating effects that are wasting our energy, well, then we are going to get to the end of our life and we should not be surprised that point that we have not cultivated our soul, because we have not put the causes into effect that would have created the awakening of consciousness.
We have a really valuable opportunity that we have teachings like this. Now we have access to all the world scriptures, access to a variety of teachings, especially here in the United States. Many of us have more time to study religion than has ever existed in the past, but how are we using that time and how are using this precious lifetime? We have a chance now to really know ourselves, and to know divinity directly. If we do not take that seriously, no one will be to blame but us.
An important piece of conserving energy is ethics. A lot of time people talk about morality, and morality can change depending where you are, what country you are live in, the time period.
For example: I was living in South Korea and many of the morals of Korea are different from the morals that we have here in America. Who is to say which moral is better or worse?
But when it comes to ethics, this is really something personal. Yes, in the Ten Commandments or in the ethical foundations of Buddhism, or in yoga: Yama and Niyama, that we are going to talk about―in all of those teachings we are getting a sense of ethics, but truly we have to go deeper than just doing something because “Somebody told me to do it. Because my priest says so, or my teachers, or whoever told me to do it.”
We have to find the ethics in our own heart, in our own conscience. So, we know when we are doing something that is wasting our time. We know when we are doing something that is harming others or harming ourselves. And if we choose to ignore that and waste our energy, like I said, we are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences.
Ethics is not about following some strict dogma that has been imposed upon us, but ethics is about really working with the energies of nature, and the energies of our own consciousness, and the energies of our soul. It is the reason that we have a conscience that knows wrong from right. It is because we are longing to awaken to something more. But if we do not set the right foundation, if we do not have the causes that help us to awaken in higher dimensions, then we will not be able to do it.
So, another quote from the Gnostic Teachings website is:
“Ethics are not just mechanical laws that some external authority is trying to impose upon us. These rules, commandments, or vows have a very specific function, which must be clearly grasped, and that is this: If you perform actions that are harmful, you create disharmony not only in your environment but in your mind. Yet if you follow these (ethical) "observances," or positive practices, you create positive energy, not only into your environment, but in your mind. So the purpose of Yama and Niyama or the Commandments of Moses is to stabilize our psychology so that we are no longer vibrating with so much negative emotion.” ―Gnostic Instructor: Meditation without Exertion: Ethics
In every religion, if someone is going to become a practitioner, like a monk or a nun, they have to take certain vows, ethical vows, renouncing harmful behaviors, and this is not just because somebody wrote a rule book and said that you have to do it.
This is because when we work with spiritual energies, we need to be aware that disharmony will create an inability to see the truth.
If you go and are lying to people all the time, eventually, you yourself become unable to perceive the truth yourself. Many people justify…
Comment: Because you told so many lies that you don’t know it anymore!
Instructor: In your own mind you become confused. People justify that. I have heard many people say: "Well, everybody lies. It is no big deal!" But if you really make an effort to be honest, you begin to see things in a very different way.
When we lie, we actually come to hate ourselves. We come to feel that we have no integrity as a person. We become confused in our own mind about who we are, because we said so many different things to so many different people that we do not even know anymore, “Who am I?” And lying is just one little example of ethics, right? There are much more profound types of unethical behaviors that we can give in to.
It is serious in this work. If we want to experience directly divinity, and higher states of consciousness, then we cannot just skip this step. People want to jump right into the highest levels of Tantric Buddhism, and all of those high aspects without establishing their own ethics.
So, people get very confused. They start working with energetic practices and they create more harm for themselves and for others.
What we need to do is to cultivate stability of mind, in which then divinity can express to us very directly, because the mind becomes like a serene lake. But each time that we are doing things that in our conscience we do not feel right about, we come to disintegrate ourselves so that we do not have even a good sense of our character.
Well then, how can we go and sit in mediation and prayer and bare our souls to God and expect that God’s going to show up? We do not have that sincerity with ourselves in those cases.
Ethics in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
To highlight just one example of ethics from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: the first two steps of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras are Yama and Niyama, which are “to-do” and “not to-do.”
So, certain behaviors that we should be doing that are harmonious with other people, harmonious with ourselves, harmonious with divinity and our environment and that generate a good energy, a positive energy that can help us to awaken.
Then there are actions to avoid, because when you do those types of actions, it is like throwing big rocks in a lake, and so of course, you have to wait for those effects to dissipate.
Under Yama we see:
I am going to point out that these are not just physical actions. It is really good to avoid physically being violent, to physically say the truth, not to steal, to be chaste: to conserve our sexual and vital energy as well, and not to be greedy, or jealous. But in our mind, we can also do that, in our heart.
So, I may be angry at my friend and I say: "Ok, well, I am catching myself. I can see this anger. I should not be violent. So, I am not going to punch my friend.” But in my mind, I am sitting there, criticizing my friend, and in my heart, am I hating my friend, this person who I should love, who I should feel compassion for?
It is not just to get caught in the physical actions. That is where we need to begin, checking out, “What I am doing with my physical actions, with my daily life?” But then, as we are working with self-observation and we are going into those deeper states and truly seeing ourselves, we will discover many states in ourselves that are unpleasant, that we do not like to see, that we do have hatred in our hearts even for our family members, or the people that we are supposed to love. There are moments when we truly hate them, when maybe we think we want to kill them. It is terrible, but we have those thoughts. We have those feelings, and we need to observe them. We need to become aware of them, meditate on them so that we can change, so, we can pray and get the help of divinity to become better people.
Because every time we are acting on it, we are fueling our envy: "Oh, I just hate that guy. I really hope he loses his job!” Every time we are feeding our energy into those types of thinking, in that type of emotion, we are creating more disharmony in ourselves, and more unhappiness. We cannot be calm, and we cannot be able to experience higher states, higher emotional states of compassion and truth, love, and serenity. We cannot feel that as long as we pour our energy into those negative states.
Here in the other column we have Niyama:
Saucha: freedom from egotistical desire, desire of I want and I do not care who has to suffer for me to get what I want.
Comment: Or wanting to be on top!
Instructor: Yes, entitlement as well. So we need to let that go, to not be so consumed with "I wish that reality was a different way! I wish that my life was a different way! I wish these people treated me differently than how they are treating me!" Because that is making us very unhappy. We need to learn to accept reality, and to let go of our own egotistical wishes to change everything because that is a cause of our misery.
We talked about Noble Truths of Buddhism and that suffering is caused by desire. So, if we want to stop suffering, we have to let that go. We need to have contentment with what one has.
Also, work with austerities or spiritual practices, so we can begin with prayer and meditation. Or as I mentioned, self-observation. We have many other spiritual practices, in this tradition that we can work with as well.
Study of scriptures and continual remembrance of God. There is that light that we need. To nourish our soul, to awaken.
By continually remembering God, we can avoid actions that we do not feel are truly ethical. Because if we really remember in each moment, divinity is here in my heart, in this temple, then, how can you continue to be cruel to your neighbor, and to hate the people around you? To be filled with all kinds of defects. You want to change. You feel remorse.
You can test this. I have had many times in my life where, rather than trying to change an unpleasant situation, I just start tried to change myself. So, I will be honest with you, guys: I have had a bad attitude about many jobs that I had in the past. Realizing like, as I said, that there is a cycle there. I am going to work with this attitude: "Oh, these coworkers are going to annoy me, and my boss is going to be a jerk! I am going to have these problems with customers!” And so, rather than trying to always run from one job to the next job, to the next job, and finding ourselves again in an unhappy situation, in our new job…
Comment: It follows you everywhere you go!
Instructor: Your problems follow you exactly.
Because the problem, most of time, is with you, not with your external circumstances!―even if the external circumstances are very bad. I mean, some people have very difficult lives, very challenging external circumstances. Sometimes the only thing that we have control over and power to change is ourselves.
I work with this, and I try really hard: "Oh, I am catching myself. I am not going to lie, even though right now my boss may be mad at me if I tell the truth. I am going to catch myself,” and forcing myself to do it. It is difficult. It is a challenging work. But if you put it into motion and test it out, you will see the results and you are going to see in your meditation and your practices as well, then you will have that faith from your own experience that putting ethics in motion really work, and really helps you to awaken and decreases your suffering. It puts you in harmony with the people around you and harmony with yourself. Then, you do not need anybody warding over you or telling you what to do.
You want to do what is right because you know that it brings is your happiness. You see the link there between cause and effect. But, because most of time we are totally, psychologically asleep, and we are not aware about what we are doing, or what effects are coming from what we are doing, then we go around with an attitude of entitlement. "Oh, why are not things the way I want them to be?" And we do not accept responsibility. And we do not see that we are putting the very causes into motion.
Comment: Yes, doing things my way instead of your way.
Instructor: Yes. We do not see that our own thinking is flawed. That we think that reality should succumb to our will, our wishes. And our ideas about reality, rather than being conscious of: "OK, reality functions on a basis of cause and effect, and it is found by working putting the right causes in motion, then there is no way I am going to have positive effects.”
You go around and you hate people, and you are mean to people, and you lie, steal, murder, cheat, and all of those things, you are going to have an unhappy life.
But, sometimes we do one good thing, and then we feel: “Well, how come I did one good thing, and I am not getting all these results?” We ignore that the other ninety-nine percent of the time we are doing a lot of harmful things.
We need to be really sincere with ourselves―a radical kind of sincerity with ourselves. Moment to moment, what kind of causes am I putting into effect? Slowly, tip the scale back, so, that you are putting more positive actions into place: turning the other cheek. I mean, do not endure abuse. Have common sense, but if somebody insults you, not getting into a huge fight with them, forgiving them, having compassion. Maybe they are having a really bad day. Whatever the situation may be, putting positive causes into motion every moment, and we then gradually start to see the effects.
And so, another quote from Galatians, in the Bible:
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” ―Galatians 6:7
Instructor: Yes. It is karma. Cause and effect. Karma means action and consequence, cause and effect.
So, sometimes we think we can trick God into having mercy on us: “I’ll just wait and I am on my deathbed and then I’ll beg for forgiveness and I will just be fine!”
Comment: The problem is, you never know when you are going to die! You can get killed in a second in a car accident…
Instructor: Exactly! And we do not know how much time we have. That each moment in life is valuable. And God is always watching you, even if you forget God, he does not forget you.
Divinity is very alive, very intelligent. That the law of action and consequence is an intelligent law. It is not mechanical. Laws of nature might be mechanical, but the superior laws, the laws of divinity, are laws that have a balance of severity and mercy.
If you are acting in ways that you know in your consciousness that are wrong, that law is going to be severe on you for your own good, so that you see that you need to listen to your heart, your inner divinity, to do what is right. But if you express sincere remorse, if you want to change, if you want to become a better person for your own benefit and also for the benefit of everyone around you, then the law of mercy can help you, can elevate you into those higher states that we saw in the Tree of Life.
We do not want to be like the Pharisee, going around and telling everybody: "Look how great I am! I am such a poor person! I am so noble. I do all of these great things"―and then in our own mind be full of impurity, be full hatred, be full of envy, and greed and lust.
We want to really be sincere with ourselves and humble to see ourselves as we are.
There is another quote from the Bible, one of my favorites, from the first book of Samuel that says:
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. ―1 Samuel 16:7
When we look in ourselves, we take such good care of our appearance how I am going to look? How are people going to perceive us? What kind of job do I have? What kind of car do I drive? These types of outward things. When we are really working spiritually, we want to develop our own spiritual growth, our own soul, we need to look on our heart, the way that God does, to weigh our heart in a scale and to see, “I really used today wisely,” that “I really used today in a way that I feel good about," that “I feel that I was trying to become a better person.”
In the beginning, it is not to strive for perfection, that is unrealistic, but to just to be sincere, “Did I take the next step that I was able to take?” Sometimes we see things that we didn’t, that we missed opportunities. That is OK, as long as we are learning from them and we are trying to change, asking for help from our inner divinity to be able to change.
That is gradually working with self-observation, working with meditation, seeing these things in ourselves, and being sincere, that we can begin to ascend into higher states of consciousness and come out of those states of suffering, and even have experiences directly with divinity.
The Four Principles of Karma
When we work with action and consequence, with this law of karma, there are four rules that we should remember and keep in mind [as taught by Tsong Khapa in Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment].
The first is that:
1. Action produces related consequences.
So, it means that whatever you are doing is going to have a consequence. There is no action that is not going to produce a consequence. To not think as some people do, to not fool ourselves as: "Oh, I can cheat and get my way through this! And nobody will find out. None of this will have a consequence."
Even if you are lucky and you get away with whatever it was that you did, physically, internally you did not get away with that―and internally, in your own conscience, know, you are going to think less of yourself as a person for having done that.
But the thing is not only physical consequences, but they also have emotional consequences, energetic consequences. Consequences in our mind.
I gave the example of lying. Lying does not just have the consequence of hurting the people that you lie to. It also imbalances your mind. It creates disharmony and confusion in your own mind.
If you really work to tell the truth from moment to moment, you begin to see how much clearer your mind becomes.
The second rule is that:
2. The consequences are greater than the actions.
You might say one word, just one word, even if it is a hateful word. It is cruel word. It is a loving word. The effects of that word can be much greater. We see them in people that have written a book. Or somebody tweets a wrong thing. Twitter is pretty popular right now. So, somebody just tweets the wrong thing and the consequences can be enormous, that they can lose their job. They can lose their entire reputation, in an instant, right?
Being aware that the consequences are greater than the actions is important. It is not to delude ourselves: "Oh, this is just a little thing!” But you know that little things are going to produce much greater consequences.
This can work in our favor. When we work with positive actions, when we work with ethical actions, sacrifice for others, compassion, good behaviors, virtuous deeds, then the consequences as well are great. We will be rewarded in our work, in our life. People will like you more if you are kind to them. (I don’t know guys if you have figured that out). Usually, if you are jerk to people, they are not going to be nice to you. They are not going to want to work with you. If you are kind to people, then you can get along better with people.
Comment: Then they can get cooperation from you.
Instructor: Right, and people will want to cooperate with you because you are a nice person. Even on a superficial level, we can see that, that the actions have effects. But when we are talking in a more profound level, on the spiritual effects of our life, then this becomes even more important to us.
How am I using my emotions, my mind?
Am I using them in a way that is in accordance with what God wants from me?―you know, with this loving neighbor, loving God―or am I using them to hurt people? This stuff that we should not be doing.
The third rule is that:
3. You cannot receive the consequence without committing its correspondent action.
If you want to experience higher dimensions, or heavenly dimensions, talking with divinity or angels, you can expect that if you have committed the actions that allow that to happen, since nothing is given for free.
You sacrifice and you help others, you perform virtuous deeds, you do in your daily life what your own conscience your inner divinity is guiding you to do, then you will be able to have those higher mystical experiences. But you cannot just expect to go with the flow and continue on in bad behaviors and then suddenly your life changes in an instant. We may have a fantasy about that, but that cannot happen, unless we begin to work.
4. Once an action is performed, the consequences cannot be erased.
After you said some really cruel thing to someone that you love, you cannot ever take it away. That is an example of this.
However [There is a fifth principle of karma that has not been taught until the writings of Samael Aun Weor]:
5. A superior law always overcomes an inferior one.
So, if are sincerely remorseful, you may be able to go and apologize to that person and they may forgive you.
Comment: And then maybe the law of mercy will want to take over instead.
Instructor: In that merciful exchange, you might be able to repair the damage from the bad behavior, but you can’t erase the consequences of actions that have put in motion. However, we work with superior laws here. We work with the law of sacrifice, of doing kind things for others without expecting anything in return. That is what Jesus has modeled for us. He gave everything with his life―a beautiful, a perfect example of love as sacrifice.
If in our own little way, in our own interactions with others, our daily life, our work, whatever our situation may be, if we are working to turn that into a service, to do good for others―not because we want everybody to like us, and to praise us and think we are great, but just genuinely out of love for others―we can overcome our defects. We can overcome the consequences of the mistakes we have made, because we sometimes, being very much asleep, just say stupid things, which can be discouraging to see in ourselves, but as long as you are conscious, you are trying to use that to do good things.
The effects can be more powerful. We have talked before when we do things consciously, whether positive or negative, the effects of those actions are going to be more powerful. So, we want to make sure that we are awakening consciousness, conserving our energy, putting positive, virtuous, harmonious actions into motion so that we have positive effects.
The Training and Work of Initiation
Finally, we are going to finish with a long quote from Dion Fortune. In many esoteric schools, they talk about initiates and imitates are people who enter into the mysteries of divinity, the secret teachings.
Now, in this tradition, many secret teachings are openly taught, so we do not have to wait other person to come and to initiate us. But we ourselves are the initiators. We ourselves have to take these teachings in our own daily lives, in our own spiritual practice and work with them. So then we are able to enter into higher aspects of consciousness, in our own meditation, in our own experience.
We have to initiate something new, create new circumstances for ourselves by working with our own consciousness. When the consciousness is free, when the mind is free of conditioning, when the will is free of conditioning, then we have freedom in our life to see things in a totally new way, to make choices. As long as we are caught in that, the cycle repetition, sleeping mechanical consciousness, then we do not have any power to change.
As we start to wake up, we have to master equanimity and equilibrium in our circumstances, because life is going to bring hard, challenging circumstances in your way. Many of us are experiencing this right now. We are here in these type of studies is because we are suffering, and because we are trying to find a way that transcends the suffering. In order to do that, first we have to begin by accepting suffering, not in a way that is passive or complicit with evil, but in a way of the integrity of the soul.
In this quote Dion Fortune says:
“The initiate may accept his lot with a calmness which amazes men whose impulse it is to curse or pray according to their nature, but his acceptance does not necessarily imply passivity. To accept one's fate without murmuring does not pledge one to make no effort to better it. Knowing the power of concentrated thought, the initiate makes use of it in all the problems of life (that concentrated thought is our conscious awareness). His method, however, is not that of direct attack in which he "wills" the change of the unpleasant condition, but is directed to bring about certain changes in his own consciousness, for he knows that it is his own temperament which is the real instrument of karma. It is only through those factors in his own nature which react that karma can affect him. He knows that certain conditions come to him in order that they may provoke certain reactions in his own nature, and according to his handling of these reactions will be his karma, even in the present life. When he has harmonised these reactions, he has worked out his karma.” ―Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of an Initiate
If we break that down a little bit, it is everything that we have been talking about. It is about establishing a really deep sincerity, a deep ethic in yourself then no matter what everybody does you, you are going to be a good person. You are going to be a person that can feel dignity with yourself, integrity, because you know you try to do what is right, by your own conscience.
No matter what circumstances throws at you, your reactions to the circumstances is going to determine what happens next. So, if you respond positively, with virtuous actions, sacrificing and helping others, then your life can slowly, gradually ascend into better circumstances. If you respond to life with negativity and make things worse, getting into arguments with people, hurt people, then little by little you are going to increase your problems, and descend to lower states of being.
So, she goes on talking about the initiate:
“He knows, therefore that although he cannot determine the conditions under which his life must be lived, he can determine his reaction to those conditions. It is this fact which he bears constantly in mind in all his dealings. It is this realisation which enables him to raise his head above a sea of troubles and view them from the standpoint of cosmic law and spiritual principles. Although he cannot command the conditions to which he awakens from the sleep of birth, he is nevertheless the master of his fate, for he can manipulate those conditions in such a way that they shall bear him whithersoever he will, just as a ship can tack against a head-wind; and the worse the conditions and the stronger the wind, the swifter his progress.” ―Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of an Initiate
In this teaching we are trying to transform our life by using it in a superior way, by using life as a school for our spiritual development. That is very different from a common mindset: "Oh, well, I can’t control anything in life! Life just happens to me,” and so. “No, if life is terrible, there is nothing that I can do about that. I do not have any power to make it better!"
We accept responsibility for our life, and we work with higher principles, with spiritual principles, not with the laws, the worldly, common sense of average people. When we are working with the spiritual laws and with that by working with our own consciousness, we realize that the worse the conditions of life, the better for us. Because we are able to define ourselves, to develop ourselves, to see new things about ourselves, to become stronger in our own soul.
The soul is like a warrior, and as a soul, without any battles, cannot train, cannot develop itself. Then look at the ultimate example of this: Jesus Christ, right? Or we can look at saints or buddhas. People who endured terrible persecution, and Jesus was crucified.
If that is our ultimate goal, if someday we would like to gradually ascend towards becoming better people, with equanimity, truly spiritual types of people that can endure suffering and still love others, still have great compassion and serenity with our circumstances, then we have to begin by looking at our own life and in our ability to tolerate the little unpleasant things in our life.
If Jesus could handle being crucified, can I take an insult from our neighbor and respond with love? And that is where we have to begin. Little things that right now in our life are training us so that we come to handle bigger things.
So, there is one more quote I am going to end with by Dion Fortune:
“The discipline of the path cannot be learned from books. It is experience alone which brings realization. Let us therefore accept our karma as the first initiation. Let us strive for a mastery of ourselves in our circumstances which shall give us serenity under all conditions. What cannot be cured must be endured. This is the first lesson which karma teaches us. The adept is a man of unruffled serenity. For he is a man of perfect self-control. Let us strive for mastery of the inner astral kingdom of the emotions (having serenity of the emotions); once we have acquired this, we have the key of the astral plane in our hands ready for the time when the initiator shall bring us to the door.” ―Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of the Initiate
So, if we seek those higher experiences, we need to establish the causes here in our own emotional states of being, our mind, our heart, our body. So that we’re ready, that when the moment comes, we’re given key to enter into higher states of being, we have the necessary preparation.
So every time we meet here together, we talk about gnosis. What is gnosis? It is experiential knowledge, knowledge of divinity, but knowledge of divinity that begins with ourselves.
Consciousness, ego and personality are three elements of ourselves that we can understand. And if we start with the basis of understanding this, then we gradually work into an understanding of which part of ourselves is the most divine, and how we can strengthen that part.
Now, because this is a path of self-knowledge, we have been working with the practice of self-observation. Before we seek to understand beings that we cannot see, other dimensions, those types of mystical experiences, we seek to just understand our reality. So with self-observation, we have begun by looking at our three brains. We talked before last time about how the three brains are three energetic centers.
The body is like a machine that can receive all types of information. We can receive motor, instinctive, and sexual impulses in our body, and that is controlled by the motor-instinctive-sexual brain.
We can receive emotional sensations, things that we process usually in the middle region of our body. We can feel anger in our gut, or love, warmth in our chest. And that can be divided into superior or inferior emotions. All of us have emotional states that are very pleasant and happy, serenity, but most of the time, unfortunately, we are stuck in emotional states that are states of suffering, anger, depression, misery. So we can use the emotional center in two different ways, in a superior way or inferior way, depending on what we are resonating with.
In the same way, the third center we talked about, the intellectual brain, which corresponds with the physical brain, up here in our head, can be divided into superior thoughts or inferior thoughts. Superior thoughts might be inspired works of genius, inventive types of creative thoughts, totally free from repetition and conditioning, while inferior thoughts might be of a more egotistical nature, selfish and repetitive.
If you have been working with self-observation, and observing not only external events but also your internal states of being, you might have noticed that the majority of our life is spent repeating thoughts that we have already thought, emotions that we have already felt before, actions and habits that we have already done, that life becomes a bit like a routine. And we don’t know how to escape this. Even if we are stuck in habits and emotions and thoughts that do not necessarily bring us any joy, we don’t know how we are supposed to step out of that.
We talked about how gnosis, self-knowledge, is the fourth path, the path of equilibrium, the path of awakening consciousness. Consciousness is separate from thoughts, separate from emotions, and separate from our instincts, impulses and body. Although consciousness gives us the chance to perceive all of those different types of sensations that we experience, that are a part of our life, we can awaken our consciousness separate from those sensations when we are in psychological equilibrium.
So we talked last time about looking at our lives, looking at if we are living in an imbalanced way, if there are times when we become too intellectual, getting carried away in theories and ideas. Times when we become too emotional, getting attached to sensations and emotional stimuli, dramas on TV, those kind of things, and not really thinking things through, not really putting things into practice. Or finally, we might be imbalanced in that we are a person that is always on the go or has a lot of instinctual habits, really identified with our physical body, but we’re not really thinking things through. We don’t have a lot of emotional depth.
By identifying that and working to correct our own imbalances, we can begin to activate a state of conscious awareness. We can begin to self-observe ourselves in a new way.
Perception of Reality
So if you’ve been working with that practice over the last few weeks, then this question might be something that you are looking at in a new way. Do we perceive reality?
So most of us are going to assume, “Well, yeah, I’m not hallucinating. I see the room around me, and that’s reality, right?” But we want to go a little bit deeper than a superficial understanding of this question.
When working with practices to understand not just the external world and our habits and life the way that we usually understand it, but to perceive life in a more profound way, in a spiritual way, then we need to question reality, because is it reality, or is it our perception of reality?
To give you an example of this, pretty common, that most of us have had a first impression of somebody that was really great, and we thought that they were an amazing person, and then later on we found out that maybe they weren’t such a nice person after all. Or conversely, maybe somebody rubs you the wrong way, maybe the first time you meet, you think this guy is going to be a jerk, but then not so long later, you realize they are a pretty good person. Maybe they become one of your best friends.
So what is it there that tricks us? Why is it that we think we are perceiving the reality of someone or situation, but later on time proves that we actually haven’t seen it as it was?
A really poignant example of this is a betrayal. So all of us at one point in our life have been lied to, or betrayed by someone we trusted, and that can be a very traumatic experience for the soul. Because in an instant, you realize that someone you thought you trusted, you thought you knew, you thought you had a good understanding of their character, has said or done something that contradicts everything that you believe. You might go deeper into a state of doubt, questioning not only your relationship with that person but questioning yourself and what you did wrong, what you didn’t see to get yourself in that position. Questioning: is it just this one person that I didn’t understand, or is it all types of people that I don’t understand? Do I even have a grasp of life?
The doubt can be very distressing, but it is very important, because it shows the fundamental truth of our situation, which is that we are not really very cognizant of reality. We are actually in a state where we should feel a little bit of distress, because we need to figure out: “What is it that I am not seeing? And how do I move into that place where I can begin to see things as they are? So I don’t continue to follow an unconscious assumption about life and about people and about myself that puts me into a state of greater suffering.”
But most of the time after something like this happens, the pain is too great. So we run away from that doubt. We run away from ourselves. We push it down. We blame the other person or we get distracted with something else. Sometimes we run directly into the same situation with someone new and we end up repeating and continuing our suffering rather than learning from it.
Now with practices like self-observation and meditation, we are able to begin breaking that cycle. We are able to begin to understand what it was that we missed, that we didn’t perceive, to understand ourselves in a new way, and to step beyond our wrong assumption of reality into a better understanding of reality.
So the first of the three elements of ourselves we are going to look at today, that will help us to be comprehend reality, is consciousness. Now consciousness as commonly defined is “the quality or state of being aware and having mental faculties not dulled by sleep, faintness or stupor.” So that is, if you’re the boxer in the ring and you get knocked unconscious, then you wake back up and you are conscious again. You know, very simple, superficial understanding of what consciousness is, but we are seeking again to go deeper.
That consciousness is not just being physically awake or physically asleep. But most of the time, in an esoteric understanding of consciousness, we are asleep. We are not perceiving things as they are, but rather we are going through the motions of things only half aware of what’s happening, repeating our habits, repeating our routines, but not really being awake, not really perceiving the situation as it is.
So in Gnosticism, we define consciousness as the root of our perception of all phenomena. So as I mentioned earlier, consciousness is beyond our mind, beyond our thoughts, beyond our heart, beyond our emotions, beyond our body. It is through consciousness that we can perceive physical sensations and emotional sensations and intellectual thoughts, but consciousness is distinct from them.
When we really begin to work with consciousness, in an awakened way, we begin to strengthen that inner energy within ourselves. Consciousness is also understood as the Essence of the human soul. So an Essence is a synthesis, a seed of something. And in our tradition, we talk about how by working with consciousness by activating and awakening consciousness, we begin to develop the soul, to develop what is within us in a new way.
So one way to test our consciousness right now is: are you aware of your thumb on your right hand? Now you are, but you weren’t just a few minutes ago, maybe? Yeah! Right, well, and that is a good point. A lot of time our attention is focused on everything else that is going on. We are perceiving a very narrow bit of whatever is happening in the room. Right, so if we want to work with consciousness, to become more conscious, then we need to be always working to become more aware, to expand our consciousness in every moment.
Just like a muscle, the more that you use it, the more that you are able to perceive. However, if we are never working with consciousness, we are only perceiving a sliver of reality. In fact, we estimate that only about 3% of our consciousness is actually active. Whereas, if you looked at someone like a Buddha, who is totally awake and enlightened, you know they can perceive everything around them, everything within them, multiple dimensions of reality. That’s the ultimate goal we are striving for in our spiritual work, is to become awake, to be able to perceive things as they truly are, not just to perceive a narrow or a filtered view of reality.
From moment to moment, we can begin with a practice of just being aware of our body. It’s a great way to ground yourself. You know all the time we are walking around in our body, we are doing all kinds of things, but we are never aware of breathing or the way our eyes move around to look at things, right? Until suddenly we trip over something or we have this terrible pain in our back, then we are aware of our physical body. That is a good place to start, but, of course, with Gnosticism, we are seeking to go a little bit deeper even with that. We are seeking to become aware of the inner parts of our self, seeking to become aware of consciousness itself, our inner psychology, so we gain that self-knowledge.
But there is one barrier to becoming conscious, and that barrier is what we call ego. A common definition for ego is the self. In fact, the word is Latin for “I,” as in “me.” And another common definition we have for ego is an exaggerated sense of self-importance. So we can think of this with celebrities, right? They might walk into a room and demand certain things that other people wouldn’t ask for, that they might have a sense of themselves, that they are larger than life, even if physically we realize they have a physical body just like us. There might not actually be a physical difference in that person.
If you put them alone in the desert all by themselves, you know that sense of self isn’t going to save them, right? And yet we see that they have that exaggerated sense of self-importance. It might irritate us, in fact, that they move through life in that kind of way.
Now the trick is that all of us have that, not just celebrities, but we don’t catch it in ourselves as much because we haven’t trained ourselves to look for it. One of the fundamental practices of the gnostic is to train yourself to catch when your ego is getting carried away.
So in Gnosticism, the ego is a false self which filters our perception. It can also refer to a compilation of all kinds of egotistical desires that give us a sense of self.
We might, for example, be somebody that really loves hamburgers, and so that is a sense of “my identity.” “I love hamburgers and I might drive two hours just to be able to get the best kind of hamburger that I want.” So I am feeding a false self. The truth is that if I never saw a hamburger again, I would not die. I would be able to survive just fine. But because I have developed this sense of identity attached with that sensation of eating a hamburger, then it seems really real to me and I will do all kinds of crazy things just to get what I want.
This is a silly example―right?―hamburgers, but we can think about it with ourselves. How much do we do, how much do we sacrifice, to have a job that we believe other people will respect? Or to drive a car or have clothes that show a certain sense of self? How much do we do to feed our own addictions, and I don’t just mean drugs and alcohol, but addictions to different kinds of sensations, like our emotional addictions to drama. How many hours might we spend watching dramatic television shows?
Yet all of that is kind of a construction in our own mind. It does not have much to do with reality. It’s a sense of self that we feed and we make real, a psychological sense of our self-image that we believe very much is real. We will argue with people to the death, sometimes, to defend our sense of pride, but physically does not actually have a reality, does not have much to do with just the regular physical sensations of our bodies. It is exaggerated.
Now there’s actually a study that is going on at Ohio State University’s medical center where they talk about mind-wandering. So if we think about the consciousness, pure and free from any egotistical self-interference, that is what they would call in their study, it is a neuroscientific study, they would call it “on-task thinking.” So they are able to see in the brain that the brain exhibits different activity when we are in on-task thinking. That is when you are perceiving something just as it is, without any thoughts. You are just totally awake and you are there.
In addition to that, there are two levels of mind-wandering. So when you are perceiving something, let us say you are sitting in a class and you are perceiving something. The professor is going to talk about some problems that are going to be on the next test, and then you start to have your own commentary about it. That is the first level of mind-wandering. That is a performance based mind-wandering. You might be thinking, “Oh no, he just said that and I missed what he said, and am I going get that wrong on the next test?” You are still half aware of what is going on, but there is this other level of being concerned about your own performance. So it can be when you are listening to somebody talk and in your mind, you are disagreeing with everything they say. Then that can be the first level of mind-wandering.
And then a deeper level of mind-wandering is when we are just totally somewhere else. You know we are sitting there in that class and we are thinking about how we need to get to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for enchiladas, so when we get home we are going to cook dinner. We are totally not there at all.
One of the studies that actually came out of Harvard about mind-wandering found that over 50% of our lives we are mind-wandering. Now you can measure that in the brain, a different activity pattern in the brain. But that people who engage in mind-wandering less are actually happier than people who engage in more mind-wandering. I bring up this example because a lot of the time we are thinking about the things that we want. We are fantasizing about that hamburger, right? We are not just perceiving the situation as it is. We are not just perceiving the painting of the flowers for what it is, but we are perceiving with our own filter of, “Well, I don’t really like the colors that they chose here.” Or, “Ooh, I really like the paint choice of that.” We are always bringing ourselves into situations rather than perceiving them with that pure consciousness, bright and awake. So before we say that is good or bad, it is just something to be aware of in ourselves, something that we want to observe.
The other element that we want to be able to observe and distinguish from ego and from consciousness is our personality.
We talked last time about how most of us believe who we are, is our identity in the world. You know, “My name, my age, my race, my culture, my job, my family,” that we believe all of those things are “who I am,” and we live our lives investing a lot of time into those things.
Commonly defined, the personality is “the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics.” And in psychology, we study personality as something that is relatively stable over time, that someone has a certain characteristic and that is just who they are and they are not going to change very much. So you will hear people who will maybe do something that really irritates other people. They will always defend it and say, “Well, that is just who I am. You need to accept me for who I am!” And sometimes the personality can become egotistical in that way. We can use different traits of our identity in the world to strengthen a sense of self, to make ourselves feel more real.
When we look at personality in an esoteric way, we look at the root of personality, which is persona, in Latin meaning “mask.” And in Gnosticism, we consider the personality as just a mask, that it is not the truth of our identity, but rather one superficial part of our identity.
Personality is neither good nor bad, but it is the way in which we can interact in the world. So we can look at is as an interface with the external world, which allows us to communicate and function in a particular time period and location. So if you had the personality of someone from ancient China, you would never fit in here. You would not eat the same things. You would not wear the same clothing. You would not speak the same language. You would not have the same customs. It would be very hard for you to fit in the world.
So we need a personality. We need these characteristics we inherit from our family, we inherit from our culture, from society and education, in order to be able to survive in the world. But, are we able to also look a little bit deeper into what is going on behind the personality? What is driving the personality?
When we are moving through the world, it is not just the interface that is acting, but it is our own conscious energy, our own psychology, that is expressing through that. When you are feeling very kind towards someone and acting towards them in a very loving way, you might be using the same language, the same mannerisms, to be able to communicate with that person. But it is a very different experience than when a few days later, you are furious with that person and you are shouting at them. You see there that distinction? The personality is the same. It allows us to connect with other people. But who do we have driving the car? That is the question.
I would like to quote from Gurdjieff, something he said about personality and about our own inner self, the deeper psychological self that we are seeking to study here with esoteric knowledge. Gurdjieff says:
“We have nothing of our own; everything that we put in our pocket is not our own―and on the inside, we have nothing.” ―Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
So we do not want to find ourselves in that situation, where we have lots of material possessions. Everything that we put in our pocket, or even psychologically, we have a sense of self that has been given to us, a name that has been given to us, an identity prescribed to us by the world, but internally we have nothing of ourselves. We have nothing of our soul, nothing that carries on, as we mentioned last time, that carries on after death.
We want to develop our soul, that Essence, that seed, into something that is strong and vibrant, shining with a lot of conscious awareness. So that when we come to the end of our life and we have to give up our status, we have to give up our reputation, our wealth, our possessions, even our physical body, there is something that survives, right?
So this is our situation as we are. We can look at ourselves. This is just a conceptualization, a framework by which we can look at ourselves and examine ourselves. But where did it come from? Have we always had a consciousness? Have we always had an ego? And have we always had a personality?
If we think back to childhood, the early years of childhood, there was something different there. Unfortunately, this is starting to change now a days. Children are much less happy, but for most of us we can recall those first years of our life were very happy, were characterized by a state of bliss. We were free from the types of worries that we have now. I have a four year old niece and the way that she goes and interacts with toys and games, she is totally bright and present. There’s a lot of pure consciousness there. But unfortunately as we start to get older, as we enter school, and then later on as we enter into puberty and different psychological stages of development, in which we become very self-conscious and very aware of ourselves, all of that begins to change.
The sense of self that we have becomes more developed, becomes stronger, and we are no longer able to just perceive life the way that a child does. Now, it is true that children do not have the intellectual understanding of life that adults have, but they do have a very awakened perception of life that is something we lose sight of.
Many times we become distracted. We have all those wrong ideas of life, all those perceptions of life, that we mentioned earlier, that end up actually not being a perception of reality. And so we have lost something that the child has that we can reclaim by working on our own psychology.
The founder of the Gnostic movement is Samael Aun Weor, and he gave us this quote in his book about the Fundamentals of Gnostic Education. He wrote:
"The revolutionary psychology of the Gnostic movements, in a clear and precise manner, makes an in-depth distinction between the ego and the Essence [consciousness]. Only the beauty of the Essence manifests through the child during the first three or four years of life. Then, the child is tender, sweet, and beautiful in all his psychological aspects. However, when the ego begins to control the tender personality of the child, then all the beauty of the Essence begins to disappear and the characteristic psychological defects of every human being bloom in its place.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So we see that at a certain age, children start to throw temper tantrums. And what are those tantrums about? They want their way. They didn’t get what they wanted. “Billy is playing with a toy and I want the toy. And so I am going to scream and have a fit and become miserable about the toy.” As adults we might smile at this, “Oh, that’s so silly that he is so upset about this toy when we know that twenty minutes from now he is going to be completely thinking about something else and will have completely forgotten about the toy. So why is he investing all this energy, crying and screaming and getting so upset about, it when it is not a big deal?”
But, we do the same thing when it comes to our money, when it comes to our car. We get into a car accident. When it comes to losing something that has value to us, we will freak out. We will be in misery if a check gets lost in the mail. We lose it. We do not perceive ourselves in that same way. Perhaps this is something that, yeah, is going to be inconvenient for us, it is going to be causing a little bit of time or effort or energy for us. But in the long run of things, is it really worth becoming so upset? Becoming so frustrated about it?
The Four Noble Truths
In part of Buddhism, they talk about the Four Noble Truths. Has anybody heard of those before?
The first is that life is suffering.
The second is that suffering is caused by desire, selfish desire, the false sense of self that we are talking about here. That “I want,” “I want reality to be a certain way that I want it to be, and if it is not that way then I am going to suffer and be miserable about it. And I will make everyone else miserable too.”
But the third is that there is a way to cease suffering.
And then the fourth is that the way to cease suffering is the eightfold path.
We talk a lot about Buddhism in the Gnostic studies, not in this particular topic that we are talking about today, but Gnosticism is on that same foundation. We invest a lot of energy in a false sense of self that is actually creating our misery. We think, “When I get that promotion then I’m going to be happy.” We desire that promotion and we work really hard. And maybe sometimes we are lucky and we get the promotion. But then we are not happy because we want something else. We want the next promotion, or “I am not getting the same credit the guy next to me is getting, so I’m not happy.”
We do not see that it is our own sense of self-importance that has crated our unhappiness. The important thing is not to change our physical life. It is not to renounce promotions or cars or clothing, you know. It is not the point. The point is our psychological relationship to life, that with this exaggerated sense of self, we are walking around expecting life to conform to the way we think it should be. We are actually not allowing ourselves to see life as it is. We are not allowing ourselves to be content with whatever is the experience of life: to be in tune with the experience of life, whether its happy or sad, whether it is raining outside or sunny―to just accept life as it is and continue to be, to be present, as an Essence, as a consciousness, as a soul, that gets to experience all the variety of life in its many manifestations.
Samael Aun Weor said something else about personality and Essence, to distinguish that for us. He wrote that we should:
"Understand: the human being is born with an Essence but not with a personality; thus, it is necessary to create the personality. Nevertheless, the personality and the Essence must be developed in a harmonious and balanced manner. [...] In the Essence, we have everything that we own; in the personality, we have everything that we borrowed. That is, in the Essence we have our innate qualities (our spiritual qualities, our soul), and in the personality we have the example of our elders, what we have learned at home, in school, and in the streets." ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So we need both of these things. We need our personality. The personality gives us the chance to experience life and connect with others, to develop our soul through different types of experiences and learning. And we need the Essence, which allows us the conscious perception of those things.
We need the Essence to become active, because when the Essence is asleep we get into repetitive behaviors. We are just going around like a machine repeating everything by habit. When the Essence is awake, we are able to perceive life in a totally new way.
Is the Ego Really Necessary?
We need a personality and Essence that are developed in balance, but do we need an ego? Do we need a big sense of self?
I have a comparison here for you. You can think of somebody with a big ego like a talk show host or a radio host―or a sports celebrity or sports talk person. Those people who make a living off of having a big ego, exaggerate their personality. They become, maybe, extremely politically-opinionated or they are very aware of pop culture and everything that is going on with current events. They are able to use their personality in a way that is creating a strong persona, so that more people will listen to them. They find that entertaining. They love the types of jokes that that person always makes.
And so we look at a talk show host that has a lot of egotism and a big sense of self feeding that personality. But is there another side to the coin where we can have a different type of self behind the personality?
Solar or Divine Personalities
When we talk about great masters, when we talk about people like the Dalai Lama, or Leonardo de Vinci, or Buddha, or Jesus, we think of those people with what we term in Gnosticism as a solar personality, a personality that comes from the spirit within. So they are able to use the customs, the language, a physical cultural experience of life, but not to express a big sense of themselves, not to convince everybody that they are the smartest person and they know exactly what they are talking about and everybody should listen to them and follow them. They are able to just express divinity in a very bright, intelligent and pure way.
We can compare someone like that to a light bulb, in that the energy, the light of divinity, or the spirit within them, is very bright, and when they clean off all the grime on the glass, when they make their personality just that glass, that is pure of any egotistical filtering, then that light can shine more brightly.
You see a lot of power in those types of people. But it is not a power that tyrannizes others. It is not a power that oppresses or makes others feel less than. It is a power that people are drawn to because it is a natural power from God.
Balancing Essence and Personality
We mention that we need a balanced development, and I am going to read one more quote from Samael Aun Weor about that.
“In practicality we have been able to verify when the personality has developed in an exaggerated manner at the expense of the Essence the outcome is a swindler, so that’s a cheat or a charlatan. The observation and experience of many years have allowed us to comprehend that when the Essence is somehow developed without attending in the least to the harmonious cultivation of the personality, then the outcome is a mystic without intellect, without personality, of noble heart but inadaptable and incapable.”
"In practicality, we have been able to verify that when the personality is developed in an exaggerated manner at the expense of the Essence, the outcome is a swindler. The observation and experience of many years have allowed us to comprehend that when the Essence is somehow developed without attending in the least to the harmonious cultivation of the personality, then the outcome is a mystic without intellect, without personality―of noble heart, but inadaptable and incapable.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So we talked last time about Fakirs, and I think Fakirs are a nice example here of the mystic without the personality developed. They might go off into the desert or into the woods and do all kinds of incredible feats of will power and renunciation, but are they able to come back into society and help others? Are they able to communicate? Do they have the skills necessary to be adaptable to different situations in life? They are developing a lot of Essence, their own Being, and that’s beautiful, but, unfortunately, it is a little bit out of balance.
In that first example, he is talking about a swindler, and we can think of con men, people that have that big personality, very charismatic, have a big sense of self, but do not have developed an ethical type of character. They do not have much consideration for their soul, for who they are inside, or for whom they hurt, so they do not have the ethics, the conscience of their actions.
We want a balance of both of these. We do not want to be too much a mystic without any ability to go and connect with others and to learn from life. But we do not want to be too much of someone invested in life and getting the most that we can squeeze out of it, hurting other people, without any development of the part of ourselves that is, hopefully, going to be immortal and survive after this life ends.
So Samael Aun Weor finished by saying:
“The harmonious development of personality and Essence brings as an outcome brilliant men and women." ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So when we think of people like Mozart, Beethoven or Leonardo Da Vinci , Michelangelo, we can see that those were people that had a craft in the world, that really developed that to the highest pitch, but were also able to bring some aspect from their own creative consciousness, within their own spiritual soul, into the world through it, and gave us great works of art. And that is what we are striving for.
There is another quote from Gurdjieff that I want to share. Gurdjieff talks about the Essence and he talks about the personality, but he calls them knowledge and being. So the Essence would be the Being, that is that child who is just there, totally present to what is going on, bright and attentive. That sense of just being, being aware. And the personality would be the knowledge that we gain from external life, what other people teach us, our education in school.
Gurdjieff says that:
“People understand what ‘knowledge’ means. And they understand the possibility of different levels of knowledge. They understand that knowledge may be lesser or greater, that is to say, of one quality or of another quality. But they do not understand this in relation to ‘being.’ ‘Being,’ for them, means simply ‘existence’ to which is opposed just ‘non-existence.’ They do not understand that being or existence may be of very different levels and categories.” ―Gurdjieff cited by P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous
So just in the way that we can go to school and we can develop our knowledge, our personality, we can learn a lot of things about the external world. We can develop the Being. We can develop our Essence, our soul. And that is what our spiritual practice is geared towards. He says that being or existence may be of different levels, but some people exist in a state of misery, that their being is very low and they are suffering a lot. It is hard to get out of that state.
There are other people who exist on a high level of being. We talked about very extreme examples of people like saints, or buddhas, that have a lot of being, that emanate love and happiness even when they are burned alive at the stake, or persecuted. Those people have a very elevated level of being to still express compassion. So how do we develop that?
It begins by working with first seeing ourselves through practices like self-observation and meditation, and little by little coming out of our state of suffering. If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, then what is the use of our spiritual practice? We are coming to these studies because we want to change. We want to understand ourselves so that we know how to change. How do we receive the guidance of divinity within ourselves? Not from anybody outside of ourselves, but from within our own direct experience. So we do not have to rely on ideas or theories about the way that life is, what we have been taught in school, but that we know from our own heart, from our own soul, what life is, and how we can come out of our suffering, how we can change in those types of ways.
So how do we ascend to those higher levels of being? How do we develop ourselves consciously, spiritually?
The Purpose of Essence, Ego, and Personality
I am going to finish this lecture with a section about the purpose of these three elements. Now that we have come to look at consciousness, ego and personality, and distinguish them a bit, how do we make them useful for our own development?
Gnosis is the path to self-knowledge. Just in that way that during our last talk we began to gain some self-knowledge about our habits, our predisposition, are we an overly intellectual person? Are we an overly emotional type of person? An overly physical instinctive type of person? In the same way, we should gain self-knowledge. We should train ourselves to be able to observe these elements of our own psyche.
So we talked about the Essence, that is the seed of the human soul, and how it can be developed through conscious works and upright efforts. If we are not becoming aware of ourselves from moment to moment, if we are not strengthening that muscle of the consciousness, then we are never going to develop it. We are not going to become aware of anything more than the little sliver which we are habitually always perceiving of life.
We need to be sure to awaken ourselves in an upright way. So the more that we work with our conscious willpower, the greater the effects of our actions are going to be. We talked last time how if we are working with consciousness in an imbalanced way, strengthening our egotistical sense of self, or working with consciousness so that we can control other people and get them to do what we want them to do, then we are going to develop in an inharmonious way and we are actually going to increase our suffering.
When we are working in an ethical way, when we are seeking to bring ourselves out of suffering, to not cause suffering for others, to awaken in that way, through upright efforts, then we are strengthening the soul free of any ego. The ego is the false self, can be considered as an inner adversary, because it is trapping us in the conditioning of believing “I want this. I need to get this.” And then when we spend years of our lives trying to get the certain job that we wanted so badly, and we are there and we are not happy anymore, then we are stuck with this exaggerated sense of self and in a state of misery.
But how do we become conscious? We do what we need to do to survive. We go to work, we take care of our families, do those things, but without a big egotistical attachment to it.
We also talk in this tradition about how the ego actually is a result of past error from past lives. So this is a tradition that believes in reincarnation and teaches reincarnation, and that is a lot of our predispositions, that we think “That is just naturally who I am,” can actually be a result of past errors in past lives.
We will talk more about it in another talk, but the way that we learn from ourselves is by accepting the ordeals that life brings us. Life brings us a variety of situations, and in those situations, which can be painful ordeals, we are able to begin to see ourselves as we are. We have a friend that is always talking down to us, really irritating us, activating our pride. That friend is actually giving us a chance to see an element of self. Now I am not saying, “Be friends with people who are abusive and really mean to you.” That is not the point. So do not go to extremes. But that in different situations in life, if we are humiliated or angered, or we are really wanting something very badly that we cannot have, we are able to see that self in a new way, especially if we are self-observing. And then if we are able to perceive that self in a deeper way, when we are meditating about what we have observed, we might be able to become free of it and be able to change.
Now I will use an example from my own life here in a moment, but I want to finish here about the personality being the mask to the external world. So we need the personality. It is not a bad thing. We need the personality to go through life and encounter those ordeals, so that we can learn about ourselves internally, and so we can learn about how to help other people. It is important. In an example to make this all a little more concrete for you, how do you actually work with self-observation and meditation to understand these types of things? I will give an example from a couple of years ago when I was first working with these types of practices.
I was in school and I had been assigned to a group project with two other people, two other students. We were randomly assigned a topic for our project. So we did not get to choose it. But I was glad about the topic because, you know, with my personality speaking here, it was something that I had many years of experience with and I really liked. The other two students in my group had no experience with it and did not really care for the topic. So I thought in this moment that I was going to be really helpful and volunteer to do the majority of the work. So I said, “You guys don’t worry about it too much, I’m going to do most of this. I know all about it, so you guys can just take it easy.” But as time went on and we were trying to work together, I realized that they were pretty irritated with me and they were shutting me out, doing parts of the project without doing that in a collaborative way.
So I began to be frustrated. My pride got hurt. I was like, “Why are these people being so hostile to me? I’m just trying to be helpful here!” Since I had been self-observing, after one of the meetings in which I felt they were treating me very coldly, I was meditating on it, because I choose to meditate especially on the things that are causing me suffering, trying to understand “Why am I suffering, and how do I make a change here?”
I had a strange experience in meditation. It was the first time it happened to me, where as I was just replaying the scene as it had happened, you know, as I observed it in a balanced way, with my three brains in equilibrium, suddenly I saw it from a completely different perspective, as though it was in third person, the way that those persons would have seen me. Now originally, in my egotistical perspective, I thought I was great. I was being helpful. I was just trying to do the right things for these people. But when I saw it from the perspective of another, in this experience of meditation, I saw a lot of pride, that I was being a know it all. I was not having any appreciation for the fact that even if they did not have years of experience with this topic, they might want to engage with the project. They might have opinions or insight or things that are valuable. I was not able to see that because of the egotistical filter at the time.
When I saw it in meditation, my experience of that situation totally changed. Rather than being angry at them and resentful that they were not treating me with respect, I was humbled. I felt terrible that I had not been appreciating what they were going to contribute to the project, and so from that point on, I changed. I gave them way more opportunities to share. I talked less about me and all the things I know. The project ended up going much better from that point. It went very well.
This might seem like a silly example, but it is just one small example of many things that we are doing throughout our life―many things that we have no awareness of how other people are seeing us. We walk into a room and we think everybody is seeing us in a certain way. We might walk in and think, “Oh, I am gonna sound so smart and everybody is gonna think I look so great!” Maybe, conversely, we walk into a room and think, “Everybody here is gonna hate me! Everybody’s looking down on me. Nobody here values me!” And none of that is reality. It is this false sense of who we are. It is an image of what we carry around within ourselves, of what we think other people think about us.
But authentic self-observation with the consciousness allows us to begin to perceive ourselves in a real way, especially when we are coupling that with meditation and what we have observed. We are able to go a lot deeper. And you know, because of this little change, this little story where I saw my pride, I was able to walk away from that. Then after I finished school and I got a new job, I was much more of a team player. I didn’t walk into every staff meeting talking and gloating about all the things that I knew and how I was the best person. I was able to appreciate what my colleagues have and to learn a lot from other people. If I had held on to that sense of pride I would not be able to learn.
And you know it is interesting that we see this a lot in other people. We all have that friend who is the one upper. “You went to NY last weekend? Well, I went to Paris, and I met with the Dalai Lama.” We know that person. We see that in other people and we know it is really irritating and we do not like it. We kind of roll our eyes, “Yeah, OK,” but why don’t we see that in ourselves? When we are in the lime light, when everyone is finally listening to us, we want to brag and get everybody to like us and think that we are great, maybe not in these exaggerated examples that I am giving, but in small ways, little ways.
We are not perceiving it most of the time, and we can see it in other people, because it shields us from seeing it in ourselves. We get frustrated and angry with other people. We project onto them and criticize their negative qualities because it is painful for us to see our own state. We need a really radical sense of sincerity and humility if we really want to be serious about achieving this type of self-knowledge in our own spiritual work.
Dolos, Prometheus, and Veritas (Truth)
So we can use myths in order to understand archetypes in ourselves. The Greek mysteries are very deep, and they give us a chance to understand psychological teachings. Sometimes people think that Greek myths are all about these gods in the past and pagan worship, and that they are literal figures. But if we use myths in a way to understand our own spiritual development and our own psychological processes, they can be very useful for us, here and now. Not in some ancient time, but here and now in our own psychological work.
“The myth of Dolos, spirit of deception. In Greek mythology, Dolos is the spirit of trickery and guile. He is also a master at cunning, deception, craftiness and treachery. He was the son of Gaia and Ether. The name Dolos is translated as “deception.” Dolos was also an apprentice of the Titan Prometheus. Dolos became known for his skill when he attempted to make a fraudulent happy statue of Veritas, in order to trick people into thinking they were seeing the real statue. He ran out of the clay he was using to create the statue and had to leave the feet unfinished as he quaked in fear as his master Prometheus looked over at his attempt of deceitfulness. To his surprise, Prometheus was rather amazed at the similarity between the statues, so Dolos then became a master at his crafty and tricky ways.” ―Excerpts from Wikipedia
The following account comes from Aesop’s Fables:
“Prometheus, that potter who gave shape to our new generation, decided one day to sculpt the form of Veritas [Aletheia, Truth], using all his skill so that she would be able to regulate people’s behaviour. As he was working, an unexpected summons from mighty Jupiter [Zeus] called him away. Prometheus left cunning Dolos (Trickery) in charge of his workshop, Dolos had recently become one of the god’s apprentices. Fired by ambition, Dolos (Trickery) used the time at his disposal to fashion with his sly fingers a figure of the same size and appearance as Veritas [Aletheia, Truth] with identical features. When he had almost completed the piece, which was truly remarkable, he ran out of clay to use for her feet. The master returned, so Dolos (Trickery) quickly sat down in his seat, quaking with fear. Prometheus was amazed at the similarity of the two statues and wanted it to seem as if all the credit were due to his own skill. Therefore, he put both statues in the kiln and when they had been thoroughly baked, he infused them both with life: sacred Veritas (Truth) walked with measured steps, while her unfinished twin stood stuck in her tracks. That forgery, that product of subterfuge, thus acquired the name of Mendacium [Pseudologos, Falsehood], and I readily agree with people who say that she has no feet: every once in a while something that is false can start off successfully, but with time Veritas (Truth) is sure to prevail.” ―Aesop, Fables 530 (from Phaedrus Appendix 5)
I want to talk more about this myth in our discussion so I’m going to break it down a little bit and then we will rap up and move into discussion.
So let us talk about some of the symbols in this myth. Hopefully you caught them. One of the main characters of the myth is Prometheus, who is actually teaching Dolos. Prometheus is a Greek word that means “forethought.” Prometheus is known for being a Titan that was very wise, who had the forethought of future things. He is credited with creating man from clay, like all of humankind he created. And he stole fire, the creative power of the gods, to give to mankind, so that mankind would be able to develop beyond the animals, so that mankind would be able to progress and create all kinds of feats and inventions and new ways.
The next character is Dolos. Dolos is the spirit of deception. Dolos actually means “deception.” And in the story he crafts a statue that is so well constructed that he almost fools his master, Prometheus. He is a trickster known in many other stories for being able to fool even the gods and get the gods to make mistakes. And when we look at these two statues, they are also very important. So, one statue is Veritas, the Truth. Veritas means “truth” actually.
Prometheus is this great archetype related with our consciousness, but actually, a much more elevated aspect of our own spirit and Being then we are going to get into today. When he creates Truth, he does it in order to create a form which can regulate human behavior. So we can think of Truth as an archetype for the soul that is something given to us spiritually, but that we have to develop. We have to give it life in order for it to guide us in living in a true way, perceiving reality in a true way, performing those upright actions.
The other statue, which is created by deception, his apprentice, is Pseudologos, which means “lie.” And that would be what we have been talking about, the false self. Our own self-deception fuels our own creative power into creating a false self that does not have any feet, spiritually speaking, does not get us anywhere. And in the end, when we have given our life to both statues, we will be able to see, like Prometheus does, which one can walk and which one doesn’t get anywhere.
When we continue to fuel the false self, we are stuck in our tracks. In the beginning, it looks really great. It might look the same even. That is the way it is with a lie. It starts off well, but then over time, the truth prevails. The truth comes out. We want to study our lives in a way where we can begin to discern between these two elements.
Now a little back story about Prometheus is that he had a brother. The brother’s name was Epimetheus, which means “hindsight.” Prometheus is an archetype of foresight and Epimetheus an archetype of hindsight, someone who learns from the past, is not able to predict what is going to happen next, is not able to act wisely and intelligently to take steps in a way that are positive. He is someone who makes lots of mistakes and has to learn from, unfortunately, the suffering from those mistakes. You can see a correlation there. In this myth of Prometheus, it says:
"After the gods have moulded men and other living creatures with a mixture of clay and fire, the two brothers Epimetheus and Prometheus are called to complete the task and distribute among the newly born creatures all sorts of natural qualities. Epimetheus sets to work but, being unwise, distributes all the gifts of nature among the animals, leaving men naked and unprotected, unable to defend themselves and to survive in a hostile world. Prometheus then steals the fire of creative power from the workshop of Athena and Hephaistos and gives it to mankind." ―Olga Raggio, The Myth of Prometheus
So Epimetheus is a symbol here of our own lower qualities, our lower state of being. He is giving all of the best forces that we have, our life, our energy, to those qualities of anger, of pride, of envy, of greed. He is giving it to the animal nature that we have within. And because of that the human part of us, the highest archetypes, as what we see as an ideal for humanity, human virtue, goodwill for others, love and wisdom and reason, there is no energy left for that. They are left naked and unprotected and unable to defend themselves in a hostile world.
Prometheus is the other side of this. Prometheus steals that creative power from the gods, the consciousness, and gives it to mankind to develop, to progress, to make them higher than the animals. In our spiritual work, that is what we are seeking to do. We are seeking to move from that level of being that is characterized by suffering, by repetition, animal types of desires. We are seeking to move into a human state that emanates love and reason and wisdom, that sees reality from a higher perspective.
So I kind of already talked about this but we can see that these archetypes and the great myths relate to ourselves. Prometheus is being a creator of our life. In the myth he breathes life into both statues and puts them into the kiln. And in the same way we are taking our consciousness and we are breathing it into a false part of ourselves, with the false identity that we are clinging to and feeding with a lot of our time and energy. And we are also breathing that life into pure parts of ourselves, our love, our creativity, all the things we have to offer the world. And by doing that we are able to, if we are aware, if we are self-observing and meditating, to perceive which one is reality, which one is helping us to rise out of suffering and which one is causing us to remain trapped in greater states of suffering.
Two examples of the ego: we have Epimetheus, afterthought, hindsight, and we can have Dolos, which is our own self-deception, that intentionally or unintentionally we are deceiving ourselves a lot of the time to believing we are somebody that we are not. Sometimes it can be a good thing. We are believing ourselves to be somebody better than we are. We like to think that we have got it all figured out, we are the guy that is reliable and nobody else is as good as us. Or sometimes we can have a self-deception that “I’m incompetent. I’ve got nothing to offer and nobody is going to listen to me,” and any variety in between there.
But we are not perceiving ourselves as we really are, so we need to train ourselves to awaken consciousness to be able to do so.
As I mentioned earlier, the two statues are representing aspects of our personality, that personality being driven by a false self-image. Is it something that we are feeding and we are developing our personality a lot for our own egotistical gain, for our own sense of self and getting what we want, feeding our desires? Or is it a personality that embodies the truth, the divine archetype of our soul, that does not need any egotism, but can shine with a lot of radiance and power, to be able to live in a wise and compassionate way?
So I am going to finish here with two quotes from Samael Aun Weor.
The first he talks about two consciousnesses, referring to these two statues that we just learned about. He says:
“…we must get to know, to be able to comprehend, that the human being is divided into two consciousnesses: the true and the false.
“When one comes to this world, one brings within the essence all the data (which is deposited by nature) that one needs for the inner Self-realization of the Being. But, what happens? One is put into schools where one receives a false education and much advice and precepts that are futile. In the end, one creates a false consciousness. The true consciousness within, with the deposited data that one needs to follow the footsteps, to follow the path, to arrive at the liberation of the Being, remains at the bottom, sadly categorized with the name of subconsciousness.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
He goes on to say:
“Therefore, we have to throw away all that constitutes our false consciousness in order to cause our true consciousness to emerge to the surface so that we can work with it. This shows us that in order to work psychologically, that is, in order to put the true wisdom into play, one needs to become a child, to become an infant, a baby, stripped of all theories.” ―Samael Aun a Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
So as a child we are talking about that state of cognizant awareness of life, perceiving things as they are, perceiving reality as it is, not as we wish it would be. Not a child in a naïve sense, but a child with the purity of the spirit and with the wisdom of experience.
So that means that we need to begin to strip ourselves of some of the theories. Sometimes we cling to our idea about life or the way that other people are, “what I need to do to get ahead,” all these theories might not actually have a basis in reality. They might be things we have been told by other people, things that sound good. It is only by working with our own consciousness, our own self-observation, our own meditation and guidance from within, becoming a child of divinity, that we are able to grow psychologically and spiritually to increase our true self. But we need to be able to abandon our self-deception in order to do that. As long as we are clinging to our idea and believing that the way that “I am perceiving life right now is how it is and I’ve got it figured out,” we are never going to see it in a new way. We are just going to keep repeating and living off of that.
So a question for us to finish with is, “What is false in us?” Hopefully, as we have been talking and giving some examples, you have been able to think about yourself a little bit. What we are going to close on with our discussion is considering, with a radical sincerity, with total honesty with ourselves, what it is that we have been investing our lives into, spiritually speaking, that does not have any spiritual significance? It is not to discard our duties to our family, to our jobs, to our society. It is not to run away from our responsibilities, but to use those as places in which we can self-observe, in which we can meditate on our life and use life as a school for our own spiritual development, to develop the truth of ourselves, to become those brilliant men and women that were mentioned earlier.
It is only first by seeing the lie that we are going to be able to renounce it. As long as you do not see the lie, or you believe that it is the truth, you will never be able to see beyond it. So we need to start by looking at ourselves, not at other people, not at anything else going on in the world. Until we can see ourselves, then we are not able to see anything else. We start with self-knowledge and then we grow in knowledge of other aspects of reality, the universe and divinity.
Do you have any questions?
Comment: I do have a comment on the last slide that you showed us, you must become a child… Jesus quote… to enter the kingdom of heaven you must become a little child…
Instructor: Yes, he says, “Verily I tell you, unless you change and become as children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” It is in the Book of Mathew. It is the same sentiment exactly, that when we are hoping to reach a higher level of being, we have to first become pure like a child.
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