So welcome everybody to our introductory course on the studies of spirituality within all traditions.
In this type of study we emphasize that the human being, as he or she is now, has the potential to become something more, something greater, and profound. Contrary to conventional belief, that the human being as we are now is the epitome or the peak of potential, we state that this is a false assumption.
Every tradition in the world has taught or been delivered by all the messengers of divinity, no matter what the tradition. We study in this school all of the teachings of these different faiths, primarily because we want to look at the heart, the essence of spirituality, because it is universal. It is one intelligence; one type of understanding that expresses in accordance with the needs, the language, the culture, the qualities of the students, the time and place in which those teachings were given.
But if you really look at the heart of what yoga teaches, Buddhism teaches, Judeo-Christianity or whatever faith, we find that at the heart, there is a science by which one can achieve what people call religion. The word religion in Latin means “reunion,” religare. In the East, it is yoga, from the Sanskrit yug, “to reunite.” And all these traditions have taught that the human being is a seed, has potential to become something truly divine and magnanimous, beautiful.
Different religions called this seed consciousness. The Buddhists call it Buddhadhatu, the seed of a Buddha, an awakened one, a master.
The Christians and Muslims and Jews have called it soul, and there are many names for that quality of being in those faiths. In this study, we call it the Essence. It is the pure potential to reflect divinity, and this is something that we can experience for ourselves when we know the science of meditation and when we practice it.
We can develop that potential in ourselves and have the experience of what different traditions have called divinity. That knowledge amongst the Greeks was called gnosis, but not intellectual knowledge. A lot of people in the West, especially in academies, like to think that gnosis was isolated to the first Christians, but that experiential wisdom of knowing divinity has nothing to do with theory, with believing, with a concept. It is what we know by experiencing the awakening of our Essence.
They are very vivid experiences which have been allegorized in all the scriptures. You have Moses on Mount Sinai, you have Krishna, like in this image, manifesting all of his qualities to the meditator, known as Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita. You have many faiths, many stories. The Greek mysteries, the Buddhist teachings, they are all symbols of internal truths. It is not literally that Moses went on a physical mountain and saw God, that it was a physical experience. It is a spiritual and psychological experience, something we witness in meditation, inside.
We can verify these things for ourselves through experimentation, through practice and therefore we don't need to believe in anything, to follow an institution, a religion, a dogma, a belief system. We like to be very practical in this type of studies.
But of course, it is a very difficult thing to do. It is not easy to experience divinity, to conquer in ourselves the causes of suffering, to understand that which in our own life really conditions and makes us suffer, because there is a reason why we may not know God now or divinity or Brahma, Christ amongst the original Christians, which is not a person. It is a type of consciousness that is universal, which different traditions call by different names and have been symbolized by all the beautiful paintings of any tradition.
These are not literal people. These are qualities of being, and in this image we see the Lord Krishna who is the Hindu Christ, that divine consciousness that is not personal to just one individual, but is universal to all beings. We see that he is a child seated with one hand facing up, the other down, and he is surrounded by millions of figures. This is a beautiful painting about the experience of the meditator Arjuna who asked Krishna, “I want to see You in Your true form. Show me in my consciousness, in my meditations, what You are.” And then Krishna, or divinity, manifested in a form of images―not physical images, but images we can see in meditation or in dreams.
This is very beautiful experience that was depicted in this scripture. And you see that all these multitudes of figures represent all the universal qualities of divinity, which are inside: compassion, divine love, selflessness, patience, compassion. But to really develop these qualities in us is not easy. If it were easy, then all of humanity will be a very different state of being. This planet would be a very different place.
So this indicates to us that these qualities are not developed in a permanent sense, are not realized in our own daily life, and so in these studies we like to be very practical. We like to analyze certain methods of meditation that teach us how to have that experience, and how to develop and maintain that state. I am sure any one of us who studies any type of meditation or is attracted to religion or any type of faith, they really deep down want to have that experience. They want to escape suffering.
This difficult path of meditation has been discussed in all religions. It is not easy to confront in oneself negative states like anger, resentment, pride, fear, laziness, lust, desire. All traditions teach that it is these negative qualities of mind that trap us. They enclose our potential in a static state. It is not active because in us, that potential is not active or developed. It has to be freed. It has to be worked upon very intentionally.
So in the beginning some people practice meditation and they may have an experience seemingly by accident, but the reality is that there are certain causes and conditions that brought about that state. One may not be aware of how and why. Some people call this spiritual awakening, insight. It happens. But if we want to be permanently established in that state, it is important to put forth the causes and the conditions that produce that reality in a permanent way.
So this is called self-realization amongst the Hindus, the realization of our true identity, which is divine. It is the awakening of consciousness. But of course, developing that is challenging, primarily because of the difficulty of our own conditions of mind, which is why in the Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 7, verse 3 state:
"Among thousands of men (or women, practitioners) one perchance strives for perfection (to realize that perfect divinity inside. As Jesus of Nazareth stated, "Be perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.") Even among those successful strivers (those who are really working to experience that truth) only one perchance knows me in essence."
So again, these are levels of consciousness. I believe even the 14th Dalai Lama stated that consciousness has the potential to expand to an infinite degree―so other levels of knowledge, levels of understanding.
This tradition or this statement has been paralleled in the Christian Gospel by Jesus, who was an incarnation of Christ. He manifested that divinity in himself, and with his life was allegorizing certain steps and stages about the spiritual path.
He also said, "Enter by the narrow gate." Enter into the meditative path that awakens your full potential, your seed, your Essence of soul. "For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it by are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to spiritual life, and those who find it are few." ―Matthew 7:13
Think of an analogy of a tree. A pine tree has thousands and thousands of seeds. How many of them actually become a full tree when they land on the Earth? You may have a handful, or one or two. A few. So spiritual development is no different than nature. Things happen progressively in steps, when the causes and conditions are ripe. In order for a seed to develop into a pine tree, it needs water. It needs appropriate soil. It needs sunlight. It needs the conditions that give birth to that full development of a tree.
But of course, many seeds are lost, and this is the sad reality. Our true potential is not a guarantee, that it will develop into something fully perfect and divine.
And this is very evident by the state of humanity today. We can look at the news and simply see the state of crisis in which people are afflicted: wars, violence, acts of destruction, which are truly horrendous. It is evident by the state of our culture and this planet that people are not developing the seed of their spirituality. It is a difficult fact to realize. It is very unpleasant. If that seed were fully manifested and developed, there would be no wars, because divinity is compassion. It is love. So it's evident that this seed of humanity is not generating into a tree. It is degenerating. It is not being developed. And so any person who looks at the news and feels that horror of what this planet is in, evidently feels inspired to want to know the reason why, and as well to escape that type of destruction, which is very prevalent.
And so how do we develop that seed? There are beautiful stories and many scriptures that can teach us about that development. The Bible is one of them, which is a very misunderstood text, read very literally, dogmatically. People don't understand that scriptures like the Bible are telling parables through stories. They represent principles and truths which are psychological, spiritual. We have a very famous statement in the Book of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 31 to 32 about the development of that perfect seed, how the seed of the human being can become a god, an angel, a buddha, a deva, a jinn―whatever name we want to give to that fully self-realized and perfected individual.
“Another parable put he forth unto them saying, the kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge and the branches thereof." ―Matthew 13:31-32
Individuals like Jesus or Krishna, Moses, were once like us, a seed. But because of certain discipline of mind and training, they became the individuals that we emulate, in which millions of people follow, who are inspired. We like to think in this culture or even for thousands of years that those were just exceptional people. It had nothing to do with people like us, that somehow they receive the grace of God and were able to have those experiences, which is true to a degree. But the reality is that they worked to become them.
They were once like us, people afflicted by fear and distress and anxiety and suffering. But because of their tremendous compassion and their work ethic, they were able to become enlightened beings. And like a tree, they can house through their teachings and their instructions, all of the birds of heaven, all the saints, all the students of meditation who really want to become like that.
You have many myths and stories throughout the world that teach and allegorize, whether in art or religious scriptures, stories that all teach the same thing: that we are a seed. We could become like divinity into a fully developed Christmas tree. If you are familiar with the Christmas tradition or the Christian tradition, people like to decorate a pine tree with many stars and globes and luminous objects and a star the very top. It s a very ancient symbol of this concept. The soul became a fully developed master of meditation and has lights illuminating that tree. It is a symbol of what we can become, as performed on the Nativity of Christ, the birth of Jesus, who symbolizes the birth of divinity in our hearts through practice and specific methods.
There is a very ancient teaching in the Aztec and Mayan religions that also point towards this concept. Samael Aun Weor who is the founder of the modern Gnostic tradition of which we study, wrote in a book called The Great Rebellion:
“One codex of Anahuac states that, ‘The Gods created humans of wood, and after having created them, fused them with divinity.’ But later adds, ‘Not all humans achieve integration with divinity.’” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
So what does it mean that the gods made people made of wood? A very interesting concept which anthropologists like to laugh at and read literally, thinking these are very superficial people or ignorant people who believe that, literally, people were made of wood by the gods.
Unfortunately, that materialistic view point misses the point. There is something symbolic here.
Even in art, amongst the Greco-Roman tradition, Renaissance art, European art, they reflected these concepts in their images. But people who are very materialistic like the thing that God is a person, physical. They don't understand that it is a representation of something spiritual and conscious, psychological. This is the creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel: a beautiful symbol of the development of or creation of the soul.
Some of you may be familiar with a story called Pinocchio, which also hides this truth. It was written by Carlo Collodi, who was an Italian author, and wrote about the story of a wooden boy that wanted to become a human being. It is a symbol. His writing was intentionally veiled in the form of a children's tale so as to avoid persecution. He was writing for a very select group of people who are studying this type of knowledge that was at the time forbidden to unveil or convey, primarily because people would not understand it and would create problems, because this type of thinking goes against the grain of institutionalized dogma. We can only think of the inquisition as an example.
So “Pinocchio, Pinoccoli or Pinocchio is the Tuscan Florentine word for pine nut or pine seed.” It is a symbol of us. We are a seed in a potential state that may want or feel inspired to become a fully developed human being, a person of flesh and bone, a fully developed being, a spiritually enlightened one.
The Three Esoteric Sciences
There is a lot of teachings in that story which are very beautiful and profound, symbolic. And if we read it from the knowledge of three types of science, we can gain a lot of understanding.
Those three sciences are known in different cultures and traditions, which we study in synthesis here. The word esoteric means “secret, hidden,” that which has not been taught publicly. These esoteric sciences, while some aspects of these traditions have been conveyed to the public, they were never fully explained until very recently, through the effort of many authors throughout different traditions, such as the Western Esoteric Tradition: the Golden Dawn, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy of Blavatsky, Rudolf Steiner's writings, from Anthroposophy, and many other teachings.
We study these three sciences called Kabbalah, alchemy and psychology, in order to develop our full potential. Kabbalah, alchemy, in the Book of Genesis, in the Old Testament, are called the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. These are symbols, practical methods and ways of study that can awaken the seed and develop it. These are not literal trees in the Middle East, that people think a single man and a single woman existed in a garden in Mesopotamia many millennia ago. That is a very literal teaching or interpretation.
What people don't recognize is that these sciences permeate all of the language of the Bible, but because people have not been instructed about the symbolic nature of those types of teachings, they of course read it like a newspaper. They don't really see the real value and depth of that instruction.
קַבָּלָה Kabbalah is the Tree of Life. These Hebrew letters read from right to left. The word קבל kabel in Hebrew means “to receive.” You may have heard many Jews study Kabbalah in this time. Real Kabbalah, in its spiritual sense, is knowledge that we receive from divinity, from direct experience. We can study Kabbalah intellectually and read books, but it doesn't equate with the actual personal verification of meditation for ourselves.
Kabbalah is a beautiful teaching that is symbolic and helps us understand all the parables and stories of the Bible, because the Hebrew letters themselves represent numbers, which are spiritual. They represent things, qualities of consciousness, and these letters also represent qualities of soul, which we study very didactically in our courses of Kabbalah, which we have on our website chicagognosis.org, or you can study also on gnosticteachings.org.
We also have the science of alchemy, or the Arabic الكيمياء: Allah-Khemia. The word Al or El in Hebrew is God. Khemia is a Greek term meaning chemistry: to fuse or cast a metal. Many people have heard of alchemy as being a medieval superstition of people literally trying to transform lead into gold, out of greed, and there are people who were like that, who misinterpreted this tradition to think that they could actually accomplish this feat. But the real depth and knowledge, the spiritual symbol of alchemy, is transforming the lead of the personality, our own negative states of mind into the gold of the Spirit. It is also the work with energy, working with all the energies we have in our body, in our heart, in our mind, so that we can fuse like a metal with divinity.
And then lastly we have psychology. This is the Greek (ψυχολογία psychologia) read from left to right. Psychology in these times is divorced from spirituality. People think psychology is simply the study of the mind, the brain. If you look at the original etymology, psychology is actually something very dynamic.
It comes from psyche, logos. Psyche is soul. It is consciousness. It is the essence of a person. It is not just the intellect, because truly in our depth, we are more than just a mind. We have a heart. We have a body. The consciousness is not just thinking. It is the ability to perceive, even beyond thought. So psyche and logos or logos, in its original term, means “word.” You may be familiar with the Book of John: "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Greek word is logos. “In the beginning was the Logos, the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.” These are symbols or qualities of being.
So what is genuine psychology and it's real root? It is how the soul, psyche, through meditation, unites with logos. Very simple. It also has to do with studying the obstacles in our own mind that create conflict for us.
We develop the seed of our potential through these sciences, and we will explain about these three in synthesis today.
The Sexual Seed: The Synthesis of Spiritual Creation
So the word seed has a very interesting connotation. A seed is the sexual synthesis of any being, whether from plants, from animals, from human beings. That seed of a person, of a soul, can be developed, very intentionally, when we learn how to work with all the energies that we carry within―not just our heart or mind, but even our creative potential.
That seed, which is sexual, our creative sexual potential, can give birth to a human being. We know this. The seed of a man and a seed of woman can unite to create a child, but people do not know that that very same seed, that energy or power that can create a human being, can create the soul, can fully empower it, because it is the power of life.
It is the most powerful creative power a human being possesses. It is how all societies are run. People are born through the seed. They have life. And just as physically we can have life with this body, the generation of our physical temple, we can also learn to transform the sexual seed through specific practices, transform that seed into energy, because creative sexuality is a tremendous power and a powerful responsibility. It is a tremendous responsibility to give birth to a child. It is very serious. But even more so, to give birth to a child within us, our full spiritual development, is even a greater responsibility. It has more power.
We can do that by learning to work with our energies. Some people may be familiar with Buddhism, of tantra, spiritual union, sexual union of husband and wife, working to connect from a state of purity of mind in order to transform everything that they have into developing their spirituality. This is why all traditions and all religions have really fought and explain that marital union, the love between husband and wife―not in a legal sense or in terms of paperwork, but from a conscious standpoint―has tremendous power, tremendous responsibility. The Bible relates some of these teachings in a very symbolic way, which people have interpreted, again, literally, but we'll explain some of the alchemical significance of these lines.
"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made..." ―Galatians 3:16
If you are familiar with the Old Testament, Abraham is one of the patriarchs of Judaism, the founding fathers. His people, the Jews, were promised by divinity that they would receive help. This is the fundamental, literal meaning. But if you look at this in a symbolic way, there is something more interesting.
"He saith not, And to seeds, as of many." ― Galatians 3:16
Meaning: individual people, because every person is a seed. When they are child, they grow and become a human being.
"But as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." ―Galatians 3:16
So what is that seed that is mentioned in the Book of Galatians? We could look at this image of a elderly man with a sun emanating from his genitalia, a book in his hand, a staff of power in his left. This is from the medieval tradition of alchemy. So many alchemists, who knew the science of uniting with divinity, taught their truths through art. They didn't explain this explicitly, because they would face many problems and persecutions, many scandals.
So they taught through art, and this is a very beautiful image representing an elderly man who is a symbol of our own inner divinity, the figure Jehovah amongst the Jews. He holds a book in his hand, referring to study, the need to study oneself, one's life. He also has a staff in his hand, representing a weapon, a type of will that is needed in order to achieve genuine religion. We have a sun emanating from his sexual organs because, just as the ancient people knew that the sun gives life to all things, they made the connection and knew that our own sexual seed is the power of generation.
The sun generates all life in every level. We could not exist on this planet without light, and so the ancients knew that this seed is a type of solar force. It is a solar energy. It is a power that can give life. And even Plato and many Greek masters knew that the ultimate divinity is the sun, the Platonic Logos. Or like Jesus, and the great paintings has a halo of light around his head, because he has used his own seed to transform that, and to develop the light of the saints. He is a Christmas tree with light, with spirituality.
There is a statement by Samael Aun Weor in the book The Great Rebellion. He states that:
“The Sun has deposited the seeds within the sexual glands of the intellectual animal in order to germinate a Human Being.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Some people get offended when they hear this term. But if you look at the story of Pinocchio, he was a wooden boy. He wanted to become a real, fully developed human being made into the image of divinity. And what is an animal? It comes from the Latin anima; to animate, to have life. If we look at humanity, we find that all the violence and wars and bloodshed and poverty and affliction is not the result of our own humanity, but that which is animal in us: anger, violence, prostitution, hatred, lust, envy. These are qualities that are animalistic, instinctive, and we all possess those elements.
But unfortunately, it is a very difficult thing to see how our own states of mind are the cause of our suffering. These are animal qualities. And because we have the intellect, we can rationalize. We are anima, souls, with intellect. But an intellectual animal is any one of us who has the seed and who can develop into a perfectly enlightened being, like in this image.
And what is a real human being? You can look at the Sanskrit: hum-man. Hum means “spirit.” Man or manas means “mind.” It is a mind that is united with hum, the spirit. And what is that Spirit? Like in the previous image, we saw Jehovah pointing his finger towards Adam, creating the soul, a symbol of creating the perfect being, not a literal history. That represents how the spiritual force of divinity is fully perfected in manifested in us. That is a real human being, hum-man, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna. They fully manifested all the qualities of the Spirit in a perfect way. That is a real human being.
But when we are criticized and we respond with anger and say very negative things, it indicates to us that we have much from the animal kingdom inside. Science and popular culture likes to defend that which is animal. You see it in our television, in our movies, in our cinemas, in our sports, in our fighting for power, in our politics, in our religions. These are animal qualities: competition, fighting, debating, arguing, inflicting harm.
But a human being is beyond that. Has transformed the seed into something perfected and we can do that by working with our energies through the science of alchemy.
“Obviously, such seeds can develop or be ultimately lost.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Going back to the quote of Jesus and the Book of Matthew or the gospel of Krishna.
“If we want those seeds to develop, it is essential to cooperate with the efforts that the Sun is making in order to create Humans.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
We have other images in this graphic, a lion beneath the genitalia of this elderly figure. You may be familiar with the Christian tradition of the Lion of Judah. It is a symbol of the strength and power divinity. You have also figures below who are fighting, grappling each other with swords and weapons, doing acrobatic acts, playing games. That represents all of humanity, people who don't really take spirituality seriously, their conscious life seriously, because they choose to engage in frivolities and wars.
So what is the way to escape the circus of humanity, the chaos? It is by studying ourselves like in this open book, and using our staff, which is a symbol of willpower, of daily effort.
The Seed of the Second Birth
Since we are explaining about the seed of generation, we find a very beautiful teaching in the story of Jesus talking to Nicodemus. It is very common knowledge amongst Christians, or the belief that one is born again through belief. This is from the old scriptures of the Gospels, a very famous teaching that is not very well understood.
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” ―John 3:5
People commonly interpret this as baptism, a ceremony or ritual in the church that one has received the water of spirituality and is blessed and then is saved.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking does not really address the practical problems of our sufferings. We may believe in divinity, in an institution or a church. We may be inspired by our groups. This is all necessary and beautiful, but belief does not change suffering. We continue to suffer whether we think something is true or not. The way that one overcomes suffering is through action, through work. But in a more deeper level, this scripture hides something very interesting that relates to alchemy, spiritual birth, the birth of the soul.
That which is born of the flesh is flesh. Obviously people do not need to be taught how to generate a physical child. But that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Through the matrimony or union of man and woman, one can give birth to a physical child, but that which is born of the Spirit through the same union, can give birth to the Spirit.
But of course, there are very specific procedures involved. When the couple works in their marriage or their union―and when I mean marriage, I don't mean papers, but a real marital union is the union of two souls that love one another perfectly, that are selfless and working on themselves, fully investing all their energy and love and potential, not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others. So that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.
Birth is a sexual problem. In order to give birth physically we need male-female. But Jesus was indicating symbolically how through the same connection, but done with purity and with specific methods, one can give birth to the soul, the Spirit. And this is symbolized in some of the Kabbalistic meaning, the language of this scripture, which if you see these letters:
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born (ה) of water (מ) and of the Spirit (ש), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” ―John 3:5
This is Hebrew. We can look at the meaning of these individual letters, transpose over certain aspects of his explanation. This letter is called ה Hei. It is related to birth. It is even shaped like a womb. The letter ה Hei refers to birth, genesis, the divine feminine. The next letter is water relating to מ Mem, and מ Mem has two forms. There is an open Mem (מ) and there is a closed Mem (ם). Sometimes in Hebrew, when a letter is at the end of a word or name, it takes on a different configuration, but it is the same letter, the same meaning. Now water is מ Mem. You have very famous references in the Bible to water: the water of life, the fountain of youth, the waters of Genesis, how the world was made and life came from the waters.
Again, the book of Genesis is not literal, a literal history, but refers to the birth of the soul. Those waters are our own sexual fluids, the creative waters of life, which, when they are conserved and transformed, can generate a lot of power, to give strength to our spirituality and make us truly warriors, those who really work out of compassion for others and generate all the beautiful qualities of the soul.
So “except a man” or person “be born of water and Spirit,” and the word Spirit relates to this letter called ש Shin. ש Shin has three prongs and refers to fire, but not a literal fire. It's a spiritual force, a power. Remember that Moses saw the burning bush, that Tree of Life, the Being, the divine, our true nature, inflamed with fire and light. Or Krishna with all those figures and light emanating from him. It's fire. It is a type of energy. It is not a literal fire in the kitchen. It is a fire that gives birth and light and understanding to our life.
That fire is contained within our own waters, because obviously, when a couple engages sexually, they are inflamed. The organs are inflamed. There is energy circulating, and the Buddhists call this tantra. Tantra is Sanskrit for circuitry. This is the circuitry of God. That fire can be conserved and circulated throughout the body and the mind to give youth. That energy which can create a child can rejuvenate the body and the soul, create harmony in every level. So if one is not born of water and the Spirit, one cannot enter the kingdom of God. This is the meaning of “to be born again.” It is a pure marriage or union. And again, marriage has nothing to do with paperwork. It has to do with love.
So you look at these Hebrew letters and the science of Kabbalah teaches this very beautifully. These letters can be reorganized in different ways in order to spell different meanings. You use these three letters to spell השם Hashem, which in Judaism they say ברוך השם אדוני Baruch Hashem Adonai meaning: “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” השם Hashem is a reference to the highest identity amongst the Kabbalists. You also take those letters and switch them around you spell משה Moshe, Moses.
Moses is a figure in the Bible or was a real person, but can represent something psychological, spiritual. He frees the Jews from this bondage in Egypt, which are psychological parables that teach about freeing the soul from the bondage of suffering and returning all of the parts of our soul to the Promised Land.
So all this is very interconnected and very interesting, and there are many connections we can draw between this tradition and many others. I am just providing a very general example that highlights that this is a very intricate and beautiful teaching. Very dynamic, but very simple in synthesis.
Spiritual Birth is Not a Theory or Belief
And as I stated, birth is a sexual problem. It is born from the Genesis of two human beings, male-female. And Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Perfect Matrimony:
“A seed never germinates because of what a person believes or stops believing. An insect is never born because of what a human being thinks or stops thinking. A man is never born from the parchment of theory. This subject matter is sexual and in this, the angel is no exception.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
“Unless be you be born again of water and Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God."
So this is the highest level teaching given in Buddhism, in Christianity, in Sufism. The mystics of Islam talk a lot about the love of the soul with divinity, but unfortunately people like to extrapolate, and they don't see the connection that we show the highest love of divinity in one's relationship, which is sexual. We show our love not only just with words, but with connection, because that is how the circuitry of God exists, how the energy flow between male-female.
Liberation within Sex
So this is an image of Padmasambhava from the Buddhist tradition, who is showing the highest teachings of yoga tantra, where literally yoga is “union, reunion.” There is no greater power or reunion with divinity than in the sexual act, because men and women can create a child. They can create life.
This is Padmasambhava with his consort, his wife, and he explained that in order to enter the highest teaching, individuals must be prepared through a lot of work in meditation on themselves, because the obvious difficulty of sexual connection is having that energy buildup and losing it. So the foundation of all traditions of meditation always taught chastity. Of course, this is a very misunderstood science today. People think of chastity simply meaning abstention from sex. But chastity has to do with purity. It means immaculate purity. So by conserving that power, one can transform it, raise it through the body, the different centers of energy in ourselves, in our mind, our psyche. And this is how spiritual birth occurs, by working with that energy.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” ―1 John 3:9
So the essential component is that the seed remains inside. That energy is never let out, whether it is to procreate a child or for simple animal pleasure. So it is a very specific procedure. That seed is never lost. Instead, it is transformed into energy through certain exercises and prayers. It is done with a tremendous sense of respect and love and purity and honor.
Mind and Perception
Lastly we will talk a little bit about psychology. So we mentioned a little bit about Kabbalah, the Hebrew letters. We also talked about the science of alchemy: fusing oneself with divinity, working with our most vital principles.
In these times, there is a predisposition to believe that we are the intellect. We are the mind. Because we think, we rationalize, we conceptualize. But we emphasized that the mind is not our genuine identity. It is not really the full essence of what we are, because we have perception even before thought. But in these times, people tend to identify very much with intellect, with thinking, with concepts and rationalization, because in the West, especially, that is the foundation of our culture. We are very intellectual people.
We do use the intellect for our spiritual studies and we need it. We need it to exist in this society, but it is not the sum total of what an individual is. Consciousness is very different from mind. Consciousness is the ability to perceive, to know, to understand. And we can understand things without having to think.
This is very evident by certain experiences of businessmen who go to meetings, as an example, and they think and they think, they think, trying to argue out a problem, to solve a solution. But many of them become tired and they can't figure out what they need to do for a certain proposal. They take a break for five minutes and don't think of anything, and suddenly, they may get an understanding. People come back to the meeting rejuvenated, energized. This is a concrete example that can reflect something in our spiritual life.
Understanding doesn't have to be intellectual, a concept, a way of thinking. The mind is not the sum total of what we are. If we put our hand on a hot stove, we burn our hand. We retract in pain, and only later do we have the thought, “That really hurt!” Instead, we had consciousness of the experience and we reacted. We understood the problem where we got injured. And then we thought later about, “Well, I shouldn't do that again.” This actually shows us that the intellect is the slowest aspect of a person. It's not the quickest. It is actually not the most divine either. It is actually not divine at all. It is just a machine. An intellect can have understanding of concepts. It stores information and then it gives back. We can learn to use the mind in a spiritual way, in a conscious way, in an intuitive way. But the intellect has also been used to feed qualities like anger and resentment. Anger has its own logic fear, its own logic, ways of thinking.
And so these qualities of mind, again, are animalistic, which is allegorized in the story of Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He is representing, or what it is representing in that act, how our own inner divinity must conquer the mind and this is what we attempt and practice in our meditations. Don't think so much. Don't worry so much. Don't daydream. Don't fantasize, but just simply be aware and attentive.
As we begin our practices of meditation today, we were just doing relaxation: a very basic practice in which we just become aware of our body, because most times we go through our day unaware of even our breathing, or circulation. You may have found that when you are starting to concentrate on certain parts of the body, you may start to daydream or think about other things. It means that the mind is not in control, that the mind is riding us instead of we, ourselves, riding the donkey, because the mind is like a donkey. It is an animal. It can be tamed or it can be wild.
Anyone who begins to practice meditation realizes that the mind is very chaotic. It could be a very disconcerting realization to make, but it is not a means or a reason to stop practicing. It is just that we are learning about what our state of mind is. We are just not cognizant of that fact on a daily basis because we tend to be very unconscious, in a spiritual sense. We don't really are aware of the full totality of our life.
So there is a concept of, “I think therefore I am.” This is from the famous French philosopher Descartes. So anyone of us who study philosophy at universities really takes a lot of time to emphasize that “I think therefore I am,” that the intellect is somehow our true identity. But according to Samael Aun Weor in his book Igneous Rose, he mentions that:
“The concept of Descartes,“I think, therefore I am,” is completely false, because the true Man is the Innermost, and the Innermost does not think, because He knows.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
Our divinity sees and observes and understands all things. It is a state of consciousness.
“The mind thinks, not the Innermost (our innermost true self).
“In its current state of evolution, the human mind is the animal that we carry within.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
So we can look at our own lives to see examples of this where the mind is animalistic. We can even look on the news. Again, people committing acts of violence which are really cruel, inhumane, we say, demonic.
“The Innermost does not need to think because He is omniscient.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
He sees and understands all things.
We also have a quote from the Book of John:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” ―John 14:6
Of course, people think that one has to believe in Jesus and that one is saved, because he is the way, the truth, and the life, but symbolically, Christ, divinity, was speaking through him, saying that only through your own inner divinity can you reach your inner true development, your potential. “No man cometh unto the Father,” which is a symbol of our own inner divinity, the Innermost, we can say, “but by me.”
Christ is an energy. Christ is the seed, a force, which can birth to our soul. So as we are talking about alchemy, we give birth to the soul through that energy when we learn to work with it.
The Story of Pinocchio
And lastly will conclude with a teaching from the story of Pinocchio, to kind of circle back. There is a very famous part of the story in which Pinocchio is going to school and the Blue Fairy, a symbol of the divine feminine, is teaching him, telling him go to school and learn. It is a symbol of how we go to a certain school or group or meditative school and learn this type of knowledge: how to transform ourselves.
That Blue Fairy, the divine feminine, has been called many names in different traditions, symbolized by Mother Mary, Athena amongst the Greeks, Kali, Durga amongst the Hindus, a symbol of our own creative forces that is feminine, inside, and which can help any meditator achieve genuine religion.
Pinocchio is going to school, and then he is confronted by a friend who says “Why go to school? Join me come to the Land of Play where we can play all day and never work.” And Pinocchio is tempted. He goes and eventually goes to this place, where eventually he is transformed into a donkey.
Of course, later, I believe, even in the film by Disney, which does a very good job of depicting this, in the book he gets out of that state eventually. He has to do a lot of work to reverse that, but it is a symbol of how in life, we come to any kind of school of meditation that teaches us how to change, and yet we then get distracted. Our friends say, “Come out to the bar and drink with me!” or “Come see this movie!” or “Let's go to the Land of Play” in a figurative sense: television or whatever distracts us from attempting the practice of meditation, so that we can be more introspective and spiritual, profound.
This is a type of work, because there are a lot of temptations in this society. Our Western society is a land of distraction: sports, media, television, news. We tend to saturate our whole life with all these things, which pull our attention away and makes us very distracted. And so he becomes a donkey, but eventually he gets out with the help of the blue fairy, his Divine Mother we can say. The Divine Mother in Hinduism is a symbol of our own Being, an aspect of our divinity.
Divinity is not just male. It is represented as a masculine projective force, but also is receptive and feminine. There is that duality there and we will talk more about that in our studies of Kabbalah (See The Divine Mother from Beginning Self-Transformation).
And so we have a teaching from the book Igneous Rose:
“The Innermost must flagellate the mind with the terrific whip of willpower.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
Flagellation, again, is not literal here, but it is a recrimination. Meaning, we start to act in a mental state of anger in a certain situation or crisis, we want to react in a certain way. But in that moment, we use our will and our awareness, our attention, not to act on that type of behavior, so that we don't cause harm for ourselves or for others. It is a type of willpower. Again, if you look back at the image of the old man with a book in his hand and a staff, he has a staff in his hand and the sun in his genitalia. That staff is a symbol of will, which is why all the shepherds in the Bible had staffs, a symbol of willpower, spiritual willpower.
“The one who identifies with the mind falls into the abyss.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
One who enters into greater states of suffering, not only just in some dystopian reality or hell realm, according to religion, official religion, but in our own existence. So there are different levels here. We can find that if we act on negative states of mind, we suffer. As the Buddha taught in the Dhammapada:
“Mind proceeds phenomena. We become what we think.” ―Buddha, Dhammapada
If we think wrong and harm and evil, then the result will be harm for ourselves and others. But if we enact the virtuous qualities of mind, positive qualities of mind, we reap the benefits, and other people obviously benefit too.
“The mind is a donkey upon which we must ride in order to enter into the heavenly Jerusalem.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
And the quote from Carlos Collodi from the book Pinocchio:
“Boys who do nothing but play end up turning into donkeys.” ―Carlos Collodi, Pinocchio
So what is a donkey? It is a stubborn animal. And you may find that in meditation that the body is stubborn. The mind is stubborn. We sit to adopt a posture or an asana and to relax, and yet we start thinking of other things. We start day dreaming of other things. The body wants to shift and move. We want to adjust ourselves. We feel tension or pain, but if we are always moving in our posture, we are not actually meditating. This is why a great Swami from the Hindu tradition of yoga, Swami Sivananda said, “Your asana, your posture, should be like a mountain, firm,” but relaxed. We don't move. And if you resolve in yourself in the beginning: “Don't move,” you'll find that your mind starts thinking over things or your body wants to move. You have an itch. You have a pain in your neck. You want to adjust yourself. That shows us that the body is like a donkey. It is an animal. You have to train it. The mind likewise. And sometimes even our emotions too. Negativity is animalistic.
So we hope to conclude with the fact that the soul can develop through these three sciences: alchemy, Kabbalah, and psychology, because that seed can become a tree of life when it is intentionally nourished and developed.
Do you have any questions?
Questions and Answers
Question: Where would you put astrology in all this?
Instructor: Sure. For those who are not familiar with astrology, it is the ancient science of the stars: astros-logos: astros, meaning heavens or stars, Logos meaning divinity. We can say that astrology permeates all three sciences―in the original sense or in the interpretations of astrology that there are 12 zodiacal signs that one is born in. According to Hindu tradition, one is born in a different zodiacal sign in each life, if you studied reincarnation and what those concepts entail.
But the zodiac has to do with certain influences in the mind, the heart, the personality, our spirituality too. There are different levels of influences from nature and the cosmos that influence a person. Of course, astrology today is a caricature. It is very divorced from a lot of the ancient roots and sciences that these astrologers actually knew. Astrology in its real sense is astros-logos: how the soul unites with the divinity of the stars. Every star and every planet has its own intelligence, its own divinities. Real astrology is when, in a state of meditation, we can let the body go to sleep, and the consciousness can awaken in what is called the internal dimensions. Some people call it dreams, astral projection, dream yoga, out-of-body experiences. This is something that you can experience for yourself and provoke at will if you seriously practice this.
In that way, in those dimensions known as the Tree of Life, again, the Tree of Life is a symbol of different levels of dimensions of nature that are psychological, spiritual, internal. And you can have those experiences in which your body is abandoned and you as a soul, in those planes, some people call it the astral plane, world of dreams―and then in that state, with profound clarity and awareness, you can call upon divinity. This is symbolized by Moses talking to God on Mount Sinai.
What is a mountain? It is a symbol of climbing that Tree of Life in meditation. A very difficult path, but you can reach the peak, those higher levels of consciousness in those states, and then you can call upon for help in those vivid, conscious, illuminated dreams, lucid dreams, people call it. In that way, you can get help from all the divinities of the stars.
If I am telling you this is because this is what I do regularly in my own practices. We receive help. And anyone can do this, because we all have a seed that can develop into that potential. Astrology relates with Kabbalah because when we receive that wisdom from any divinity, help for our physical life, we are performing Kabbalah, kabel, “to receive.” But also we can learn to have those experiences more regularly by working in alchemy, which is the science of The Perfect Matrimony, a book written by Samael Aun Weor, who is one of the founders of this tradition that we study along with many of the books that we have.
Astrology is not just the study of charts or memorizing complicated glyphs and numbers, which can have very interesting correlations to our life or not, but more profoundly, real astrology is when we develop our seed through these methods, these three sciences, so that we can receive help from the stars, literally, from heaven. Heaven is not a physical place, but a state of consciousness. You can awaken in the dream state, no longer projecting your dreams, your mind into that dimension, but you can see things as they are. It is not a vague or an amorphous dimension, but it is a material world just manifested by different levels or laws of nature. It's not physical or material like this physical plane. It's something different.
But that's real astrology. You can talk with the divinity of the stars. We have a book available called Practical Astrology with the different practices that you can use for each of the zodiacal signs during certain times of the month, where you can experience these things for yourself, receive help from those different influences.
Any other questions?
So if you are interested, I invite you to see our websites chicagognosis.org. You also can visit gnosticteachings.org. You'll find a lot of resources that teach this science in a very profound way. We have many courses available. The books that we have for sale here are also available online. You can also read every book, every chapter online. But if you want a hard copy, you can always purchase from here too.
Everything that we teach here is practical. You don't have to believe in any of it. We don't recommend that you believe in any of it, but in a state of neutrality, experiment and practice and see the results. And as you see results in yourself, that develops what we call genuine faith. People in these times confuse faith and belief. Faith is real knowledge born from experience. When you know from conscious experience that putting your hand on a hot stove burns you, you have faith that if you put your hand on a hot stove, you are going to get burned. It's a concrete experience. But even with those mystical experiences that all the saints of the different traditions taught, you can have that faith too, and you'll know from a state of lucidity and consciousness what those realities are, and then you don't the believe in anything. Belief doesn't change anyone. So again, you are also free to take some flyers and pamphlets if you are interested. We have the books available too, but I thank you all for coming.
So the purpose of this course is to study and understand, as well as apply the principles of meditation. Meditation in its heart has been taught in the core of every religion, but in accordance with the skills or dispositions, the needs, the qualities of the students, and the particular culture in which this teaching has been given. So in Gnosticism we study a variety of faiths, a variety of teachings, which all point towards the development of the soul.
In the spirit of universality and study, we are going to be examining in this course how the Sufis taught the science of meditation. Sufism is a very beautiful teaching, but which unfortunately is not very well studied in the West; neither is it understood or practiced well, primarily because in Western society, Sufism has taken an academic role, where it has been exclusively limited to discussions and polemics of academies. But in its practical essence, Sufism teaches us how to understand our way of being, who we are fundamentally—to see and comprehend the path that leads out of suffering and towards the personal experience of the divine.
Some of you may be familiar with the poet Rumi. He’s actually the most popular poet in the west. He stated: “Remember that the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.” So this statement is very profound and applies to the science of meditative knowledge: how we explore ourselves to perceive and understand what in us makes us suffer and what we can do to change.
Samael Aun Weor, the founder of the modern gnostic tradition, wrote in The Spiritual Power of Sound:
“It is completely impossible to experience the Being, the Innermost, the Reality (the divine) without becoming true technical and scientific masters of that mysterious science called meditation.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound: “The ‘I’ and the Being”
Meditation as denominated by the Sufis is mushahida. It means contemplation, to witness, to perceive. If you've heard or studied the public teachings of Islam, they have a very famous statement or declaration of faith called the Shahadah, which is the famous postulation: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His prophet.” In a profound way, to witness divinity, to witness the truth in ourselves, to experience what religion calls God, that all depends on meditation—because to bear witness of something, we have to see it. We have to perceive it. And that is what meditation is for. To see divinity. To know divinity. To not believe or leave that knowledge exclusively in the intellect or a sentiment in the heart. To really bear witness of the truth is to be a practical meditator. To practice contemplation, mushahida. That is how we enter the sanctuary inside of us, because all of us have divinity, the reality, the Being inside.
Samael Aun Weor, who founded our tradition, explained that Sufism teaches about the level of being, qualities of consciousness and also the way to perceive in ourselves, to understand the obstacles: that which conditions us and makes us suffer, by perceiving in us that which gives us pain. There is a way to change and to experience what divinity is, what religions have called divinity, no matter what the name from whatever culture.
So the purpose of meditation is to comprehend, to remove suffering and to elevate our consciousness to a better state than what we are presently in.
Meditation is not a technique. It's a way of being, a state of consciousness. Meditation is a profoundly lucid, pristine, cognizant state, that is free of conditioning.
So let us examine ourselves, if we aspire to learn meditation, to fully practice it. What in us is conditioned? What in us makes us suffer? What psychological states do we experience that are problematic for us, that make others suffer, that create conflicts at work and home, in the bedroom? What in us produces our pain?
To change all that, to no longer be afflicted, we practice the science of meditation. It is a state of consciousness: one in which we clearly perceive in us that which needs to change, which can be transformed. Because only from the state of equanimity, of dispassion, of calm, can we truly change our situation.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation is not daydreaming. It is not fantasizing or spacing out. Neither is it a dull state, a torpidity of mind, a cloudiness. Neither is it simply relaxing. Relaxation is essential, but it is not the state of meditation. It is what leads to it, what sets the foundation.
Meditation is the science of perception, of witnessing the truth for ourselves, to practice mushahida.
By comprehending ourselves, we learn to perceive clearly, because fundamentally all of us struggle with anger, with pride, with fear, with resentment, with envy, with lust. These are qualities of being which are very negative: fear that debilitates, that conditions, that traps the essence of who we really are.
Fortunately in religion and any meditative teaching there is a path that leads out of those conditioned states. But what it requires is a type of renunciation, a type of work, a type of practice. And this practice helps us to perceive the reality of our situation. Not what we believe or we fantasize, what we want to change simply with the intellect, by thinking or feeling, or daydreaming about a utopia, a better situation.
Meditation is the means by which we practically apply profound principles of understanding. As we say in this tradition: “Meditation is the daily bread of the Gnostic.” That bread is understanding, because when we understand something in us, when we comprehend defects like anger or pride or resentment, we can learn to remove them. Comprehension is the sustenance of the soul. Comprehension is essential. Understanding the conflicts of our mind and where they originate produces peace, equanimity, serenity.
And so the reason why we suffer is because we don't have equanimity. We don't perceive clearly in us what makes us suffer. Sadly humanity does not really understand or apply the methods for change. People suffer because they do not perceive reality as it is. We have desires that want the external world to change and yet we don't change fundamentally. Because of conditioned elements like fear and pride and anger and lust, we see life through the lens of these desires. Reality is one way, our desires want something else. And because our desires are never satisfied, never fulfilled, we go on through our existence, repeating mistakes, suffering, wanting the situation to change, yet not changing our own perspective.
It would be more radical and interesting if we were to transform our own mental states, because by changing who we are inside, we learn to change our situation.
So in a symbolic way, all of us are addicted to psychological states that produce suffering. But unfortunately we don't like to see this in ourselves. It's not a pleasant truth to understand: that we produce our own suffering and that we also make other people suffer too.
An alcoholic, someone who is addicted to intoxicating substances, may know intellectually that the desire or craving for alcohol is harmful, yet that person may continue to indulge in that desire, that state. They continue to suffer. So we may know on some level, whether we have experienced drug addiction or alcoholism, that engaging in that element is harmful. We may continue to do so anyways.
While this is a very extreme case, this is an example of our daily state. An addict knows that that addiction is wrong, but continues to feed that desire. And because desire never equates with reality, that person continues to suffer. The reality of engaging in that desire is to feel more and more pain, more suffering. And so all of us have addictions, perhaps not to substances, but to states of anger, of fear, of pride, because we want our situation to be a certain way, according to our egotism and desires. And yet because reality is what it is, we fight against it and suffer.
That is the state of the ego, egotism, the self, which we explore in our studies of meditation and seek to comprehend. Because by comprehending desire and the origins of our traumas, our sufferings, we reach the state of equanimity and change.
So on a basic level, we do not comprehend how our own desires make us suffer, because if we understood our desires and how they are never satisfied, we would not act on them or feed them. Because desire, which is always in conflict with reality, can never be filled, never be quenched. And when we don't get what we want, we suffer. That is a state of mind, of egotism.
The Reality of Suffering and Internal Transformation
This is why our world is what it is today, with all of its wars, its chaos, its afflictions. Humanity is in a state of crisis and people like to change the world with politics and theories and beliefs. People attempt to resolve the external situation without even considering how we psychologically are the cause of all the pain in this world. If the individual were to examine him or herself, his or her own mental states, which cause violence, extortion, prostitution, destruction—such a person would comprehend and would enact a superior way of being, a better way of acting, of relating to the world.
Samael Aun Weor wrote in his book Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology that:
“All things, all circumstances that occur outside of ourselves on the stage of this world are exclusively the reflection of what we carry within.”
It is a very difficult realization to make, but anybody who approaches spirituality sees in themselves, observes in themselves, how their states of egotism are the exact reflection of the chaos we see humanity in today. Society is the individual. It is a reflection of the individual mind. Trying to change the society in which we live can never produce results, if the individual does not change him or herself. It is a fundamental law of nature, a dynamic. The society is the individual. How we relate to others is a reflection of our own internal psychological states in which Sufism teaches us very beautifully how to comprehend, to analyze, to know.
“With good reason then we can solemnly declare that the ‘exterior is a reflection of the interior.’ When someone changes internally and if that change is radical, then circumstances, life and the external also change.” —Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So the science of meditation is what will lead us towards that change. As Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Great Rebellion:
“In life, the only thing of importance is a radical, total and definitive change. The rest frankly, is of no importance at all.”
So when we study Sufism or any tradition, meditation, we have to be very tired of suffering. We have to be very firm in our resolve, to work on our own mistakes and not to blame others. To change who we are. Because if we cannot change ourselves, it is impossible to change another person, to influence them, to help them. So therefore if we are really working effectively in ourselves, then our situation will change. It is a law of nature, like gravity, like attraction.
What we are psychologically attracts the circumstances of our life. If we are drunkards, we will be at the bar with other drunkards. If we are lawyers, we will be with other lawyers. If we are studying spirituality, we will meet others in a positive sense who are studying the same type of teaching, who also want to change. And so these type of influences help, or don't, depending on our state of mind.
We have to examine the facts. This is the radical zero-base by which we approach the science of meditation, because meditation is a state of consciousness. It is a state of understanding. It's about acquiring information, acquiring data. We have to see and look into ourselves, to witness that which causes our affliction—to see it, not to daydream, to theorize, to believe, to think we are a certain way, because of our cultural heritage or experience, but simply to look, to examine, to perceive.
Because as I provided the example of an alcoholic, they may know intellectually that their desire for alcohol is destructive, that it causes harm. They may intellectually know this and yet continue to engage in that desire itself. So what is missing in this example is observation of the facts: looking at what the situation is, what is the reality.
“Gnosis is lived upon facts, withers away in abstractions and it is difficult to find even in the noblest of thoughts.” —Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
So this term gnosis is Greek. It means knowledge, but not of the intellectual type. It is conscious experiential perception of reality. There are many levels of this perception, just as within the Muslim or Sufi doctrine there are levels of witnessing the truth.
So you've all heard the famous public declaration of faith: "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadun rasul Allah” (There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet). There are many people who recite this declaration and believe that they are now followers of God and that they are saved, simply because they think a certain way or feel a certain way.
But unfortunately, gnosis is lived upon facts, it withers away in abstractions. It is an abstraction to believe in a concept, that one is a follower of a tradition, or thinks that one is a saint, to believe that we are holy people because of our religion, of a institution, of a group. These are just concepts. They don't relate to the reality of our situation, about what we are psychologically. Believing in God does not change our anger in a moment of crisis. When we are criticized, we respond or react negatively and create problems, suffering for ourselves and others.
This declaration of faith on a public level does not really do anything, although people are welcome to practice and believe what they want. But in this teaching we like to be practical. What does it mean to witness divinity? To bear witness of something? It means that we've experienced it.
To witness something, or a person who is a witness in a court of law, sees an event with objectivity (hopefully). But in that situation, when we say we have seen something, it's because we've experienced it. It is what we know. It is not what we believe. To really bear witness that there is a divinity inside of us—and that there are many masters of humanity, of any tradition, that we have experienced—is another thing. It's another thing to really have that knowledge for ourselves from experience.
So what is this declaration of faith mean in a more profound level? To bear witness means that one is practicing mushahida, which is the Arabic term for meditation. Because in a state of meditation, when we have abandoned our conditions of mind, our negative internal states, we can in turn enter in to states of consciousness that are more elevated and that are beyond physicality. The body goes to sleep and the consciousness can experience truths that are beyond physical matter and energy. Some people call these dreams, lucid dreams, out of body experiences, astral projections, jinn experiences.
These are states of consciousness that are very real and the one who has experienced them knows those states primarily because of facts, because fulfilling the necessary principles of meditation, by working practically with them, and therefore such a person does not need to believe in anything—doesn't believe in a tradition, doesn't think something is true or think God is there, but knows it, because one has the experience. It is no longer an abstraction, and that unity of God, that the public teaching of Islam fundamentally ignores, is something inside. People like to believe in God as some anthropomorphic figure in the clouds, who dispenses lightning bolts to this poor anthill of a humanity. That figure does not exist. Instead it's better to think of, or conceptualize in the beginning, of divinity as a state of consciousness, which is inside of us, our true nature.
The Unity of God and the Soul
And so that unity that there is only one God is something psychological, internal, profound. That unity is a state of being which is very pure, has no suffering, has no pain, no anger, no lust, no desire. It is a definitive state of liberation. But if we look at ourselves and look at the facts of our experience, we find that we have many different desires. We have anger and pride and fear and laziness and gluttony. In one moment we may desire to have coffee cake—in the next watch television, go on YouTube, get into an argument. We are constantly conflicted, moving in multiple directions all at once. We have many desires which are not unitary, they are actually disparate, conflicting, contradictory.
We are a walking paradox, because physically we have this body which is unitary or works as a unit, but psychologically we are not a unit. We are very conflicted and this is why people suffer so much, why we are in the situation we are in. Because we don't look at the reality of our mind.
So meditation is about gathering data about that multiplicity of desires and discursive factors in us, which we seek to comprehend and to eliminate, to change. Meditation is how we see clearly in us what needs to change. Therefore “Gnosis is lived upon facts, it withers away in abstractions,” ideas, beliefs, “and it is difficult to find even in the noblest of thoughts.” So religion as it is taught today has very noble aspirations, but we have to look at the practical aspects of these doctrines, of these methods, to see what works and what doesn't. Because if humanity continues to suffer and we continue to suffer, it means that we are not changing fundamentally. This is the radical foundation by which we address ourselves when we study this type of teaching.
There is a Sufi initiate, a Sufi teacher by the name of Al-Junayd. He was quoted in a book called Al-Risalah, which simply means Principles of Sufism. He elaborates and even confirms what Samael Aun Weor states in this quote from The Revolution of the Dialectic:
“Al-Junayd states: To affirm the unity means to distinguish the eternal from ephemeral.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So what does it mean to affirm God? To know divinity, to have that divinity manifest in our very thoughts, our very words, our very deeds, our very ways of acting, our life. To have happiness that is eternal, that is unconditioned, that is pure. It means to distinguish that which is eternal from that which is ephemeral. Meaning, get through the illusions.
Look at the illusions that we continue to engage in about ourselves. It means to look at that which is not concrete, which is not real. Because all these desires, according to any meditative tradition, are not our true identity. Our true identity is happiness, a state of contentment, a state of peace. And so everything else is arbitrary. It is not eternal, and therefore we have to learn how to go inside of ourselves, to calm the mind and to learn to remove the conditions that have trapped us, that we put into place.
Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, the greatest poet of the Sufi tradition stated:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Therefore we have to rely on facts, observe ourselves, gather data about what we are doing at any given moment. To practice awareness of ourselves. Because as Al-Jurayri, again from this book Principles of Sufism, teaches:
“If someone does not seek to acquire the knowledge of the Unity (of divinity, from experience) through some kind of evidence, the foot of his delusion will slip into an abyss of destruction.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Of course this is a very serious case, but any person who approaches meditation does so because they no longer want to suffer in life, and want to change themselves. We have to rely on evidence; look at what we are. Do not assume we are a certain way, or think intellectually we are or possess certain qualities, but simply to look, to observe, to not daydream. But also not to seek for love, but to look at ourselves, to see what has trapped it. Because by removing these imperfections in ourselves, we can truly experience what love is.
The Three Levels of Meditative Instruction
Meditation was taught in the schools of Sufism very similar to many other traditions. There is an introductory teaching, there is an intermediate teaching, and there is an advanced teaching.
The following words are Arabic: There is Shari’ah (introductory level), there is Tarīqah, (the intermediate level) and there is Haqiqah / Ma’rifah (the advanced level). These are respectively an exoteric or public teaching, a mesoteric or intermediate teaching, and a hidden, secret mystical teaching, an esoteric teaching.
If you study Buddhism you're very familiar with the three schools: Śrāvakayāna, Mahayana, Tantrayana.
We are going to explain a little bit about these terms because they hold a lot of value for studying what meditation is and how to practically and effectively apply it.
People hear the term Shari’ah and in the West this term has a lot of baggage. People associate Shari’ah with Shari’ah law, as the punitive laws of Muslim countries, in which people have been stoned or executed, have been harmed. And sadly people have used that aspect of, or misinterpreted the original intent of this term. Shari’ah simply means law, but it is not a cultural law. It is not morals. It is not dogma.
The Sufis have a very interesting interpretation of what Shari’ah means. It simply means conduct, how one acts. Shari’ah as a public teaching, in the true sense, refers to how we produce actions which bring about the harmony and happiness of others, but also ourselves. This is known as ethics, codes of conduct, ways of being. It has nothing to do with the violence that is truly afflicting the Middle East. Whether people would like to interpret certain scriptures for their own benefit, to promote degeneration and destruction is one thing, but the Sufis have always explored the Qur’an and other mystical writings from a symbolic point of view.
Shari’ah refers to in its true sense, ways of being, superior ways of acting, such as compassion, kindness, understanding, love. It also means to refrain from those negative states of mind which produced suffering: anger, fear, pride, etc. This is the most introductory level of any meditative tradition. Ethics. Producing causes of happiness in oneself. Actions that produce harmony, peace and refraining from behaviors, even mentally and emotionally, which cause conflict.
The intermediate state which is built off of this foundation has to do with the heart. Tarīqah means “path,” and the Sufis explain that this is the path one follows in the desert of life. All of us are in particular situations in life, our experiences. We all have our own sufferings and hardships. We are symbolically wandering in the desert. Tarīqah has to do with those special practices that are for the benefit of others. The introductory level of religion, ethics, has more to do with training our own negative mental states and producing positive states. But the path of spirituality, Tarīqah, is working more for the benefit of others.
So this is a very profound shift in one's focus, in which our meditation is not just about us. We learn to change who we are so that we don't affect others negatively.
I believe there is a statement by a famous Sufi master. His name is Ibn Arabi. He said that he would always go on retreats, khalwa in Arabic, in order to not abandon the world, to avoid negative people, but he would go off into the desert or wherever in order to reflect on himself and work on himself, so that he did not affect others. He said most people enter retreat because they want to avoid bad people, the cities, whatever. But what Tarīqah, the mesoteric level of meditation, the heart of any religion, is more about working for the benefit of others.
We meditate not just for our own benefit, to know divinity for ourselves, but in order to express positive states of being with others. To produce the happiness of others.
This is the path that leads us towards the highest stages of realization. When we work for others, when we develop compassion, when we eliminate states like anger, we are in turn preparing ourselves for even higher degrees of understanding, which is Haqiqah, Ma’rifah.
Haqiqah is truth from the Arabic Al-Haqq, which is one of the names of divinity given in Islam. Ma’rifah means knowledge. Again this is the Arabic equivalent of the word in Greek, gnosis. This is the esoteric teaching. It is the hidden teaching. It has to do with certain practices which are very expedient, in which people who have fully established themselves in meditation and are working for the benefit of others can receive methods and practices in order to truly advance. To have more power and energy and work by which to impact others positively.
This is the equivalent of Tantrayana, the teachings of tantrism or the perfect matrimony explained by Samael Aun Weor. It is the teachings of alchemy according to medieval science, the science of a marriage, how a couple can work together in their matrimony, in their union, in order to transform everything they are for humanity.
Ibn Arabi, who is called the greatest of Sufi teachers, stated that in the introductory level of Shari’ah, “What is yours is yours and what is mine is mine.” There is separatism. Individuals work primarily on their own minds, so that they no longer suffer. In the intermediate path, Tarīqah, “What is yours is mine and what is mine is yours,” he says. People share and commune and work together. People work on their minds, their hearts, in order to help humanity as a whole. And then in the advanced state, Haqiqah, Ibn Arabi states: “Nothing belongs to you or me.” Because at that state of meditation, one is working very seriously and is impacting humanity out of the state of selflessness. For Ma’rifah, he says: “There is no you or me.” There is only God.
This is the highest teaching of religion, because the word religion from the Latin religare means “to reunite.” This is when the soul or consciousness in meditation and through this type of work has united as a consciousness with the Truth, Al-Haqq. No matter what name is given to that Truth, no matter what religion, that divinity. This is a very profound state and at that level in which one can truly say “There is no god but God and Jesus is His prophet, and Buddha is His prophet, and Krishna, Moses, Muhammad, whomever, are His prophets.” That is the highest experience of the truth which we can taste in the beginning if we're working seriously. But these levels are developed gradually, progressively, as we are practicing the requisites.
The Divine Law, the Way, and the Inner Reality
There are some very beautiful teachings about meditation and these dynamics explained by a Sufi writer by the name of Al-Qushayri. He wrote in the book called Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism explanations which are very profound about understanding what this past level instruction entails. He states:
“The divine Law [Shari’ah] commands one to the duty of servanthood.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again, what is this divine law? Some of you may be familiar with Buddhism, with karma, cause and effect, action and consequence. The divine law is acting for the benefit of others. Curtailing negative emotions so that one no longer suffers oneself.
“The divine Law commands one to the duty of servanthood [to serve divinity].” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is not a belief. It's a factual practice in which when we are confronted, such as at work, we may be criticized; we feel anger rising in ourselves, hurt self esteem, pride. We learn to serve divinity by not acting on those elements. By first restraining ourselves consciously, looking at ourselves and not acting from a state of negativity. That is how we serve God in us. We don't enact our desires. We learn to act with the soul, with consciousness.
“The Way [Tarīqah], the inner Reality [Haqiqah] is the contemplation of divine lordship.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So what is this inner reality as we were saying? It is gnosis. It is experience. When in meditation, we experience what divinity is. It also means that we comprehend ourselves, all of that which clouds the mind, which prevents us from reflecting that divine truth in ourselves.
“Outward religious practice not confirmed by inner reality is not acceptable. Inner reality not anchored by outward religious practice is not acceptable.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What is outward religious practice? It has to do with any type of exercise in our tradition or any tradition which is not confirmed, not understood, which is not experienced. It has to be validated by inner reality. Meaning, if we're practicing meditation or any type of exercise, such as pranayama, runes, sacred rites of rejuvenation, mantras, any type of practice, which we are using to develop our spirituality, has to be verified by inner reality. We have to genuinely perceive how these practices work. How they are effective. Because simply going through the motions of praying mechanically does not produce any results. Therefore this type of practice is not acceptable. We have to really vividly, consciously understand the purpose of any exercise, so that we can become prepared for meditation.
“Inner reality not anchored by outward religious practice is also not acceptable.” Meaning, having any type of experience, weather in dreams, or in meditation, which have nothing to do with our practice is also not acceptable.
There are many people who by engaging in this type of exercises start to see things in themselves. They have dreams or visions. But unfortunately because the mind is so conditioned, we are so afflicted with ego, that all we are seeing in many cases is a reflection of our own subjectivity, our own conditions. So if someone is filled with anger, they see through anger. They have dreams and visions and experiences filtered through that element.
Unfortunately we have a lot of egotism and we project a lot of our mind into our dreams when the physical body is asleep. So having those type of inner experiences, not grounded in any type of ethics, is unacceptable. If we have visions or perceptions, which are not grounded in our spiritual practices, is also not acceptable. We have to learn to differentiate that which is objective from that which is false, and this is the fundamental quality of meditation. It's discernment. To discern what is ephemeral from what is eternal.
“Divine Law brings obligation upon the creation, while the Way is founded upon the free action [or experience] of the real.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this path of ethics, divine law, is an obligation upon us. Divinity does not want us to suffer. Divinity wants us to enact positive actions which produce happiness. It is an obligation. It is a trust and a tryst. It is an agreement that anyone takes, when they are seriously working and looking in themselves to change. And so this way is founded, meditation is founded upon the free action or experience of the truth. We have to perceive and experience these things for ourselves, what religion, scriptures and practices actually entail, and their results.
“The divine Law is that you serve Him, the Way is that you see Him.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
How do we serve divinity? When we are with our loved ones, our parents or family members are really provoking our anger, our self-esteem, our pride—we want to be sarcastic, negative, harmful, hurtful with our speech—we serve divinity when we refrain from those behaviors. That is how we serve divinity. Because religion is about bringing communities together, creating harmony.
“The Way is that we see Him.” In the beginning we don't see divinity. We all want experiences, to have some type of ecstasy of the soul in which we talk face-to-face with our own inner Being, our inner God. Unfortunately, because we are conditioned, we don't see that in the beginning typically, unless we are really working seriously. We serve divinity by fulfilling ethics and we learn to see divinity when we fulfill those basic requirements. Because when we act on egotism, we feed desire and continue to cloud and condition our mind.
As Prophet Muhammad taught in the oral tradition of Islam, there is an organ in the body which, when it is pure, can reflect the truth. It is like a mirror. If it is cloudy, it cannot reflect anything—it is dirty. But when it is polished, it can reflect the truth. That organ is the heart, and the polish for the heart is remembrance—to remember divinity in those moments in which we are really tested. We are provoked to the edge, and yet we refrain from acting on those negative qualities of mind and that we, in turn, enact positive, superior action. That is how we polish our heart, refine our conduct, so that we can see divinity, to know divinity and therefore it is no longer a theory. It is what we experience.
“The divine Law is doing what you have been ordered to do. Haqiqah is bearing witness to what it is determined and ordained, hidden and revealed.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again Haqiqah, Truth, to know reality, the Being.
“I heard Abu Ali al-Daqqaq say that God's saying [in the Opening Surah, Al-Fatihah of the Qur'an] iyyaka nabudu—"You we worship"—preserves the outward practice, the divine Law. Iyyaka nastain—"to You we turn for help"—establishes the inner reality, the Way.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So those of you who are not familiar with the Qur’an, one of the most commonly recited prayers in the Muslim tradition states from the very opening of this book:
In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Judgment.
You alone we worship, and to You we turn for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received your grace;
not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
―Al-Fatihah: The Opening
“You alone we worship.” That is Shari’ah, the divine law. But why? What does it mean to worship divinity in accordance with meditative science?
It doesn't mean to believe or feel in the heart that one is a saint or a good person. To worship divinity is to have that respect and even that anxiety in moments of great trial in which we are truly tested.
We worship divinity by our actions, not through any type of mechanical, canonical prayer, by reciting words, which can have meaning or not. We demonstrate our worship in divinity by our level of acting, our level of being, how we behave in moments of great trial. We worship divinity when we don't feed anger, pride, lust, because we know that those qualities of mind will produce suffering for ourselves and others. We worship divinity because we want to make divinity manifest in us.
So this is the outward practice: “You we worship.” And then the inner reality is established by: “To you we turn for help.” So how is it also that we can worship divinity? It is very simple. We practice concentration, we relax the body, we focus in ourselves and silence our mind. Remove the obscurations of the psyche. Don't think so much. Ask a question of your inner divinity for help, for insight. When we concentrate our mind, we are performing a type of worship, because the distracted mind, a discursive mind, a fractured mind, cannot reflect anything true. It is simply conditioned by its own negativity.
“You we worship” is a type of concentration in which we abandon the mind, we abandon thinking, we abandon emotion, we relax the body, relax everything that we think we are and achieve a type of stillness. When we attain quietude in the mind, when we are no longer thinking so much, when thoughts are no longer there, when the heart is at peace, we can then receive the inner reality, the way. That is when we turn for help. Because remember that the mind and the heart are like a mirror, or even like a lake. If the lake is turbid, filled with waves and conflict, if it is churning with emotion, it cannot reflect any images on it's surface. But when it's still, it can reflect the heavens, the stars, nature.
And this is an allegory of our own meditative practice. “You we worship.” We concentrate. We relax the mind. We silence the mind. And then, when we're no longer thinking, insight, spontaneous, intuitive, emerges. We receive understanding. We can even receive experiences where we witness different states of consciousness, which are not physical. Imagery, which is not physical. Experiences that are beyond our physical reality. This is the inner way. This is how we turn for help. This is when we receive understanding, comprehension and with comprehension there is serenity, there is understanding and peace. When we understand the cause of a certain fault in us or a certain problem, we are no longer afflicted, and then we obtain religion.
“Know that religious obligation is a spiritual reality in that it was made necessary by His command. And spiritual reality, as well, is a religious obligation, in that the realizations of Him were also made necessary by His command.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Another very famous Sufi from the Persian tradition, wrote corroborating the thoughts of Al-Qushayri. His name is Abdullah Ansari of Herat, from the book Stations of the Sufi Path:
“Now, the divine law (Shari’ah) is entirely the divine truth (Haqiqah), and the divine truth is entirely expressed in the divine law, and the foundation of actual realization of the divine truth is the divine law and the claim to follow the law.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So don't think of a law or this law as something physical, political, social. This law has to do with consciousness. Certain behaviors produce sorrow and pain. Certain states of consciousness produce happiness. By learning to work on ourselves, we can learn to experience this truth.
“The divine law and following that law without realizing the divine truth is useless, just as claiming to realize the divine truth without practicing and understanding the divine law is useless. So all those who act without integrating and realizing both of these together are acting in vain.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Simply believing in a tradition is useless. To say, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His prophet,” or to believe in Jesus, in the Buddha and whomever and following a type of moral system, does not change anyone. Morality is, again, different from ethics. Morality are beliefs about how one should act. But that does not mean that one acts consciously. Ethics is what we do practically ourselves, so that we can experience the truth.
The Three Blessings of the Sufis
We will conclude with a beautiful teaching again from the book Principles of Sufism. They talk a lot about three blessings, which synthesize and summarize the foundations of meditation according to the Sufi teachings. It's a very beautiful book that elaborates many anecdotes and stories of which we will relate a few.
There are three blessings: faith, submission and beautiful action, Iman, Islam, and Ihsan. So faith has nothing to do with belief. When you witness something for yourself, you have faith. You have experienced it. You know it. Even as basic as putting one's hand on a hot stove and getting burned. One has faith and knowledge and understanding, that to place one's hand on that kitchen stove is to get burned. That is a very basic level of understanding. But in a more profound sense, we have faith when we verify through meditation what divinity is. What consciousness is. And that certain actions are either the bane or the boon of the soul.
Islam simply means “submission” in Arabic, “to submit.” People like to think that in the public sense, Islam has to do with following a certain tradition or series of prayers, which is beautiful. But in a more profound sense we submit to divinity when we work on our mind. We no longer act on egotism and that is how we act beautifully, Ihsan.
If you’ve heard the Arabic name Hassan, it originates from this Arabic root Ihsan. It means beautiful action. To act with such clarity and intuition in great trials and crises. To do what is right in a moment of great difficulty. That is Ihsan. Actions like that of Jesus, when he was crucified. The love and selflessness he showed to his enemies is perhaps the greatest act of selfless love, a beautiful action, our humanity has ever witnessed.
All of us have that potential to act beautifully and these three blessings are emphasized in the following anecdote:
“[The Angel] Gabriel appeared to the Prophet in the form of a man, ‘O Muhammad,’ he said. ‘What is faith (iman)?’ The Prophet replied, ‘To believe in a God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and destiny—it’s good and bad, its sweet and bitter, come from God.’ ‘You have spoken the truth,’ said the visitor.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So he uses the term belief and in the original Arabic there are meanings which are much more profound. People commonly associate belief with thinking something is true or feeling something is true, but not knowing. Belief comes from be-lieve: to be through the power of love, which is not just an intellectual thing, but is an act of consciousness in which our very ways of acting, thinking, feeling, moving, behaving is done from love and remembrance of divinity. To be present, to be conscious.
“‘You have spoken the truth,’ said the visitor. We were surprised that someone would corroborate the Prophet, both questioning him and confirming what he said. ‘And inform me: What is Islam (submission to God’s will)?’ he continued. ‘Islam is to establish prayer, give the poor their dues, fast during the month of Ramadan and make the pilgrimage to the House of God.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is the public level of Islam, certain prayers that people adopt and fulfill in a type of kindergarten for the science of meditation. Prophet Muhammad was even known to have said: “An hour of contemplation is better than a year of prayer.” But in the beginning it is good to pray. To pray to whatever divinity or form of divinity we have an affinity for. Islam is to submit to divinity through our heart, through our actions, where our very ways of being is a form of prayer. We can pray five times a day towards Mecca or any type of tradition that studies meditation. We can adopt many prayers, which are very beautiful and useful. They are all very powerful. But what's essential is that when we pray, we don't think. We don't rationalize. We open up our heart. We reflect in ourselves how we need help.
And to meditate, because an hour of contemplation, is the greatest prayer. To observe ourselves and to learn about what makes us suffer is the greatest form of prayer. It is also in this way that we give the poor their dues, we help others. All of us are poor or poor in spirit, and humanity also is very poor, and needs help.
“To fast during the month of ramadan and to make the pilgrimage to the House of God.” So fasting has many levels. Many Muslims will physically fast during this period of time. On a more profound level, which we will elaborate in the future lectures, fasting has to also do with how we no longer feed our ego. It is a type of fast. We don't give our desires what they want. It is a type of discipline. “And make pilgrimage to the House of God.” This is the famous Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, which is a very beautiful symbolic teaching about the inner work which we will elaborate in future lectures.
“‘You have spoken the truth,’ he said again. ‘So tell me about doing what is beautiful (ihsan)?’ ‘Doing what is beautiful is to worship God as if you see Him, and if you do not see Him, certainly He sees you.’ ‘You have spoken the truth,’ he said.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
In the beginning we don't see divinity. We don't know what the Being is. But even though we are clouded of mind, the heart is not polished firmly, clearly yet. Divinity sees all of our actions, our inner being. So acting beautifully is knowing that on some level there are consequences to what we do. This is ethics. And in this way, by developing ethical behavior, we calm the mind. We develop peace of heart. We establish ourselves for deeper states of serenity.
This is how we learn to bear witness, to give testimony of the truth, to experience, to know the unity of the divine. The unitary state of consciousness, which in Arabic is called tawhid.
“I heard Abu Hatim al-Sijistani say... that al-Jalajili al-Basri said, ‘For the testimony of unity (tawhid) to be in force, faith is prerequisite…” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Meaning, if we have no experience, no faith, we can not really affirm the validity of any teaching. So we have to really test and validate and experiment with these principles to see what is true.
“‘…for whoever has no faith cannot testify to the unity. For faith to be in force the divine law is prerequisite, for whoever does not hold to the divine law has no faith and cannot testify to the unity.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We develop faith by experience, by enacting the causes that produce the state of meditation, of contemplation.
“‘For the divine law to be in force refined conduct is prerequisite, for whoever has not refined his conduct cannot hold to the divine law, has no faith, and cannot testify to the unity...’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So in synthesis, we prepare the practical foundations of meditation by developing our conduct. If we give in to desire, we can no longer perceive reality, but if we work on our own negative mental states, our own negative qualities of mind, we can in turn open up our psyche and our heart to know the truth.
Questions and Answers
Audience: Hi, I have a question regarding the word meditation. Would you be able to expound or break down the actual word or maybe the root word, and where the word comes from and what are the parts of the word? Because one of the things that I've been exploring are things like meditation involving a certain posture or the idea of meditation involving certain thoughts or certain practices, when often a state of meditation might be achieved looking at a tree or going for a walk. But then the question is, am meditating or am I moving nearer to meditation? My idea of meditation may not be at all that.
Instructor: Excellent question. In Arabic the word for meditation is mushahida, which relates to the term Shahadah, meaning declaration of faith, to bear witness of something. So meditation in it's proper sense is when we witness with clarity, with no condition of mind present, what the reality of a given situation is, or our own internal states. What is actually going on. Because meditation is, according to Samael Aun Weor in his writings, the state of acquiring information. And there are many levels and qualities of that type of introspection, of that witnessing.
Witnessing can be simply seeing in ourselves defect of anger—in a moment when which we are criticized, we are observing ourselves, being aware of ourselves, our surroundings and we see our quality of mind for what it is. Witnessing can also have to do with being aware of our surroundings as well. Being very vivid, very clear. So meditation is about being awake, acquiring data of our experiences. It's a quality that is very dynamic and there are many levels.
Some people have studied astral projection or dream yoga in which one is awake in the dream state. One is no longer in the physical body, but one is experiencing life in the internal worlds. That is a form of witnessing as well. A state of meditation. But the problem is that once we experience that state, even if it just for a moment, our own conditions of mind, our own egotism, pulls us out.
The way we learn to sustain those states is by again practicing meditation, going into ourselves, silencing our mind, relaxing, suspending our senses, looking inside of ourselves. Consciousness is very beautifully explained in many of the Sufi writings, which we are going to explore in this course, which can give you an idea of what those qualities and states are like. But the best teacher is always going to be your own practice. Examining your own mind and what qualities are objective and clear and what are not. Unfortunately, no one can really teach you that. That's something you have to really work within yourself. We can give you indicators and examples, but actually experiencing what that state is like is something very practical and personal.
Audience: Thank you for the presentation tonight. It was very helpful. You mentioned the fine example of a polished heart. It really made and impact on us here. The other thing is, in doing the practices, you also mentioned not to be mechanical. Wouldn’t the use of imagination, after preparing yourself, in the practices be essential and being able to perform them in a way that you can connect to divinity? This would also be carried on over to concentration and focusing and in our meditations.
Instructor: Absolutely. The term imagination is commonly called clairvoyance. For those who are not familiar with the teachings of conscious perception, imagination, it is the ability to perceive imagery that is not physical. And so whenever we do any practice, whether we are doing mantras or prayers and concentrating our minds, we open up our imagination to visualize and to perceive in our mind's eye the result of the goal we seek.
So imagination or perception, which is given the name clairvoyance, meaning “clear vision,” has to do with qualities of perceiving. When we do runes or any exercise of practice, any mantras, we learn to visualize in our mind energy flowing. Or we can visualize any figure within any tradition that truly inspires us, such as an image of the Virgin Mary or any of the Greek Gods. Imagination is essential to our practices. Meaning, to concentrate the mind is important in the beginning. We learn to concentrate ourselves by working in ethics, and once the waters of the mind and the heart are polished and refined and calm, that's when we can start to see things more clearly in us.
That is what the Sufis call witnessing. We learn to witness the truth when we are serene. We're not thinking. And in that exercise of runes or any type of practice that we do in this teaching, we first calm our mind and we visualize, we pray, we try to see in our consciousness any type of energy we are working with, or working with the Divine Mother in the sacred rites of rejuvenation. For those who are familiar, these are yoga postures that we perform along with prayer and visualization exercises. So we perform certain visualizations in which we ask for help from divinity in order to bring down healing energies in our body and our mind.
We have to see with our eyes closed what we are doing. If we're invoking or calling upon these forces, we have to learn to see them, to imagine them, to perceive them. And there are many levels through perception. So it's important that when we are meditating or silencing our mind or doing any type of prayer, we also imagine divinity in our consciousness and ask for help.
So of course imagination is very important. We will be talking more about that faculty as we advance in this course. We will hold a lecture about that topic specifically, but of course we want to see the prayer, relaxation, concentration, imagination. These are the factors that open up the doorway to experience. With the analogy we're providing, when the mind is calm or concentrated and relaxed in the state of prayer, we can start to perceive superior images, which don't come physically, but are internal and are something very dynamic.
Audience: I have a question regarding to the lecture. Throughout the lecture I kept thinking of a part of the Bible. I forgot the part of the Bible where it says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I don't know why that thought kept presenting itself throughout the lecture. Is there something related to that? Because my understanding to that is, having the fear of the Lord is being able to understand good and evil. So is there a way that you can expand a little bit about that?
Instructor: So going back to the teaching of Shari’ah and ethics, we learn to be afraid of acting wrongly in order to obtain wisdom. Somebody who's not afraid of behaving poorly in any type of circumstance—not in the egotistical sense, but from the state of reverence of divinity—that person will not have any real development.
So that statement, "The beginning of the knowledge is fear of the Lord.” That fear in original Hebrew is pechad. It can also mean reverence or awe. The Sufis talk a lot about the awe of divinity and that we have to have awe and reverence for our inner being, especially when we are tested. Situations arise in which we are conflicted and we really have to feel that reference and awe of divinity, knowing that even though we don't see divinity, divinity sees us. And if we act on our mind, we will cause problems. So that is one level of that meaning.
The beginning of real Ma’rifah, witnessing of divinity, is that precise respect we have for our Being when we feel anger is about to emerge and it's about to take over, but we refrain from acting on that element. That's the beginning, but we go deeper in meditation and look to comprehend in even deeper roots what that emotion was about, and we look at the facts of that. But again, relating back to Shari’ah, ethical conduct is the beginning of knowledge. Without ethics, we can't really have experience or knowledge of divinity.
So that term γνῶσις gnosis, in Greek, means “knowledge.” But it does not mean knowledge of a scholarly type, something that we learn by going to university or from reading a book. It is knowledge that we gain from our experience of life, and consciousness. It is personal to each person.
And so every religion, every meditative tradition, teaches gnosis in its depth―a type of experiential wisdom which is beyond labels, and terms―although many different teachers have used different terms to refer to the same thing.
If you have studied meditation from Buddhism or Judaism, even the early Church Fathers of the Christian tradition too, practice meditation. You find that they all refer to the same thing, the same principles. And so at this school we like to go at the heart of what these traditions teach, primarily because some of the techniques from these traditions are very useful, very helpful for answering a particular type of problem that everyone is experiencing on this planet now, and has for many ages― and that is the problem of suffering.
It is very easy to look at the news to see how afflicted humanity is, whether from the East or the West. Despite the great accomplishments of some of our greatest teachers, or philosophers, the efforts of any type of authority figure to resolve this issue of suffering, have always ended badly.
We see that people’s efforts to try to resolve social problems, political problems, religious problems, traumas, psychological issues, we find that many people always like to go to the external world. “If I just fix this situation, if I change my job, if I associate with these people, if I do these things externally, I am going to be very happy.”
But the reality is that, we change situations and tend to carry that type of problem with us, wherever we go. And it is very easy to want to blame politicians and the external world for all of the chaos that is going on, and of course, those people are liable for their own actions, but blaming those people does not necessarily help us to resolve our own issues.
Such as at work. I know in my position at my current job, I work with clients who can be very difficult, very challenging, people who have suffered a lot of trauma, and rather than getting angry at them when they have been disrespectful to me, I have learned to transform my own mind, my own state, because I cannot blame them for what they have been through, and I cannot judge them that they are really to blame for what is going on. But the truth is, by changing who we are psychologically, we can be more serene in difficult situations.
And so, every tradition teaches that suffering comes originally from inside, our own state of mind. I believe the Dalai Lama was interviewing some Buddhist monks who had escaped the Chinese. They were exiled from Tibet, and the Chinese soldiers had done horrible things, crimes against humanity. And I remember that one of these monks spoke to the Dalai Lama, or the Dalai Lama asked him, “While you were imprisoned amongst the Chinese, what was the greatest danger that you faced?” And the monk said very serenely, “losing my compassion for my enemies [the Chinese].”
So I know it is a natural sentiment to want to feel angry at these people who harmed us, who caused us pain, but at the same time, if we hold on to anger, that makes us vibrate at a very low level of being. It is important that, yes, we feel a sense of indignation for the wrongs that are committed, but we can find that being angry and worried all the time does not make us any happier. Why hold on to these emotions that are so painful? It does not mean that we ignore what the Chinese are doing, or what so-and-so is doing, because one can act from a state of consciousness that is free of anger, but is severe, but not angry, not violent, not resentful.
And those are qualities of consciousness that are very elevated, in which we find in teachers like Jesus, or the Buddha, or Moses, or Krishna. These are people who were once like us, but who through the science of meditation, learned to transform their own imperfections and become great people, very wise beings, who knew how to handle situations with a state of equanimity, of calm.
So the question that we are going to ask in this lecture is, where does suffering come from? Where does it originate, and more importantly, how do we overcome it? I know the case of the Dalai Lama speaking with the Buddhist monk is a very extreme case, but some of that is very illuminating. Part of Buddhist practice is that one has compassion even for one’s worst enemies―primarily because, those people who are so violent and angry and terrible, do not want to suffer either. The problem is that they are confused. They do not understand that their actions produce the harm of others, the suffering of others.
And it is a natural feeling to want to demonize those people: “They really are, truly, inhumane,” “They did this and this,” “They are not even human beings,” we could say. But in reality, even the worst people have consciousness. But unfortunately, they have conditioned themselves so much, that they do not understand that what they do is harmful―which is why even Jesus on the cross said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Very powerful statement of profound compassion for one’s tormentors. Freedom or happiness is internal, and yes, while the external world can be more terrible and we can continue to feel so overwhelmed and anguished, and resentful and fearful about what is going on, those emotions do not help us to resolve the problems that are outside of us.
If we learn to be more at peace with ourselves and do not identify with the negativity of others, from a state of equanimity, we can handle any situation, and therefore produce our own happiness. But also, even more importantly the happiness of others: to bring communities together, to bring people to resolutions, at peace.
So in this image we have a human figure with a lock over his head, primarily because I wanted to make the point that the mind in itself, our human potential, is so vast, but we comprehend so little of it, what is possible for us. We have to learn to see that―if we do not know our full potential, you could say, in a manner of speaking, that we do not necessarily know all of that which is possible for us, or who we could be, what we can become. But we do have people, figures like Jesus or Buddha, or Krishna, what ever great luminary from any tradition who exemplified such beauty.
That is possible for us, to have such happiness or selflessness, compassion, altruism, humility, faith, strength in the worst circumstances. Those are qualities that are natural to consciousness, but which we have to learn to find more and more as we go through the trials of our life, but we can develop through the science of meditation.
The Purpose of Meditation
We like to emphasize that meditation is not simply just to relax, but that is the beginning. If you cannot relax your body, cannot relax your mind, you cannot go deep. You cannot examine that which needs to be examined. And so by examining ourselves, we have the key, and meditation is the key by which we can unlock our real potential, our real possibilities.
As I said, the word Gnosis in Greek means knowledge, and you find it in every tradition. It is the wisdom of consciousness. It means to awaken parts of our consciousness that are dormant, things that we do not know of. I believe medical science says that we only use about 3% of our human brain, and that there are many aspects even of our physicality, our mind, that we do not know about. And so, it is possible to awaken more and more and develop more and more beauty in our life, more compassion, more serenity, more strength.
The Four Noble Truths
The way that we can develop that knowledge is by examining this particular model which is from Buddhism, which as I said, we study all traditions. But the Buddhist model of the Four Noble Truths has something very interesting that we can examine.
It says that “in life there is suffering,” and the Pali term is “Dukkha.” The word suffering or Dukkha can also mean “dissatisfaction, displeasure,” sometimes even “disgust.” It means to have a dissatisfaction with the way things are, which is why any one of us comes to any type of tradition to study meditation or religion, or any type of world faith. It is because people are tired of suffering. They do not know what to do.
And he also said that “suffering has causes,” (Samudaya) so there are causes of suffering. And this is the distinction, the step that most people tend to get caught up on―too much externalizing, saying “the external world is to blame.” But we should ask the question about ourselves, and things that we do in our life that may make us more happy or more sad, more afflicted or more at peace. I am sure we all can identify certain actions in our life that really made a difference for others, or even for ourselves.
And so there are causes to suffering, which do not originate from the external world, but, if we are more aware, we can see that. Really in our own selves, we have all the keys to produce the happiness of the world or the pain of the world, and those causes are psychological.
As the Buddha taught, our state of mind produces our life. It is a very revolutionary type of thinking. Who we are mentally and emotionally is what interacts with the world. If our states of being are negative, if we are angry or violent, or resentful, and that radiates out to others, we in turn experience negativity.
Obviously when we are resentful or angry towards our loved ones, our spouse, they react the same way, and then that tension and that pain escalates, becomes more elevated and extreme, to the point that families break, communities fall apart, religions degenerate, politics become scenes of animalistic behavior, instinctual behavior and violence, not just physically, but verbally. So, we see that those causes of suffering are inside: we produced the state of the world that we are in.
So “the causes of suffering also can cease,” and this is the next step, which is very beautiful―that there is a way to remove those causes of pain, which are within us―things that we can control, not the external world. But things that we do in our life that can make us suffer or be in pain, are the things that we can change.
So the causes of suffering can be eliminated, and the term in Sanskrit is Nirvana. Nirvana simply means “cessation,” to cease suffering, to end suffering. It is a state of mind. And I am pretty sure we all can verify that truth for ourselves, that suffering can cease.
I know in my position, where I work, I have had some very difficult people come to me and criticize, and in those moments of being confronted and feeling that tension, and the fear and the thoughts of “Oh, I am being put on the spot here,” that anxiety. From a state of meditation―because meditation is not just sitting to reflect, but also in our daily life, how we are opening ourselves up to the new―I had the intuition and realized that, I have to listen to this person and not be reactive, to not react to that problem, but to learn to be patient. By learning to respond with love and kindness to that situation, those causes of suffering had ceased. I deescalated a situation that could have been bad.
I am sure we all could think of examples of this in our own life. That is a very introductory level of what that truth is, but in a deeper sense, by learning to meditate, we can understand where anger comes from, where fear comes from, where insecurity, fear, resentment, pride, all these qualities of mind which are sources of affliction for us in the long run.
We could find that those causes can cease, and that “there is a path” that leads to that end [cessation of suffering]. That path is called meditation. And so, meditation, as I was saying, is not just about sitting to relax the body. As I said, that is the first step. We want to relax the body to the point that we want to feel that we are about to fall asleep, that we are so calm that the body is ready to enter, we are about to enter into physical sleep.
And it is from that state of calm that we can learn to calm the mind next. We have a calm body, we have a calm mind. And in that way, we can learn to be more attentive and aware of ourselves, either in daily life or when we sit to practice. So that, by learning to go inside, we can comprehend the sources of our own emotional states, our own psychological states.
So a lot of people talk about freedom, and this ties very much deeply into this study of meditation, because meditation is about becoming free. I know a lot of countries and politics and revolutions are very fascinated with this term freedom, and ironically, people even kill in the name of it.
To be free physically is one thing. Especially in North America, we have certain freedoms which are envied by the world. Freedom to eat what we want, believe what we want, marry whom we want, travel wherever. We tend to have a lot of freedoms which are envied by other countries, but this all in itself is not necessarily a real sense of freedom, because all of those things can change, as we are seeing even in our politics, border control, immigration policies, things that are going on that are constricting the life of people in this country, but also in other places too.
So those things can change. Those are temporary, but real freedom is a state of being: to be free from suffering, from anxiety, from fear, from pain, from traumas. And as the founder of the modern Gnostic tradition, his name is Samael Aun Weor, he wrote a book called The Great Rebellion, which is a book about rebelling against one’s own negativities, and acquiring genuine happiness.
Freedom is something that can only be achieved within ourselves. No one can achieve it outside of themselves. “Riding through the air,” is a very Eastern phrase which allegorizes the sense of genuine freedom. No one can really experience freedom while their consciousness remains bottled up inside of the me, myself, the “I.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
So this is a very powerful statement.
Consciousness can experience freedom, but only when it is not bottled up inside of this sense of “me, myself, I.” The desire of “what I want,” “what I crave,” “what I need.”
I know a lot of people like to think that, “I think therefore I am. I think this way. I believe in this tradition, or, I am from this race. I am from this culture. I am from this religion. Me, me, me, me, me!”
Even in pop psychology we talk a lot about ego. Someone with a big ego we think of someone as, like, maybe, in politics, or in a position of authority in our world, “Oh, they have a very big ego. They only think about themselves, do what they want.” And we have many examples of this. But even in a more fundamental level, we all have ego, and the word ego in Latin simply means “I.”
Anytime we say: “I want, I crave, I need, I want to do this. I want to ride my bike. I want to get a new job. I want this, I want that”―this sense of self is called ego, “I.” As I was explaining about the Four Noble Truths, we say that there are causes of suffering, and those causes are internal. So, on a fundamental level, the sense of “I,” “what I am,” “what I want,” “what I crave,” we could say, in Buddhist terms, is the cause of suffering.
But we have something else besides ego. We have that which is called consciousness. And consciousness is simple the capacity to perceive. It is the ability to understand, to know, to experience. For example, you are in your kitchen and there is a hot stove, and you accidentally put your hand on it and you get burned. You pull your hand back, and you become conscious of that experience that you burned yourself and got injured, and so you are now more aware of being in the kitchen and aware of one’s surroundings.
So that is a form of Gnosis, in a very basic level―knowledge. So, this sense of self, “me, myself, I,” does not come first. We can actually say that, the ability to experience as a consciousness is different from ego. We could say that ego is a type of condition, is a shell. It is a type of negative quality of mind. Such as anger, which is a sense of self which is very violent, even not physically, mentally or verbally. It is a sense of self that desires and says, “He hurt me.” “She did this.” “I deserve better!”
What we do not realize is that, in those moments in which we are investing ourselves in that emotion, that we are draining a lot of energy. We feel depleted. We do not necessarily resolve our problems, and that sense of self is a trap.
At least this is what all traditions of meditation teach, that according to Buddhism, desire is a cause of suffering. And desire is anger. It is fear. The logic of fear says, “I need to do better at my job or I am going to get fired, and I am not going to be able to support myself.” That fear has its own thoughts and logic, and the reasons we tell ourselves we have to do “this, this and this,” and we are caught in this wheel of tension and anxiety and pain and fear and uncertainty.
So regardless of the fear, we may be doing excellent at our job, and yet, there is that emotional state that does not want to believe that we are capable or good enough. I am sure many people have that experience.
So where is our freedom? If we are caught in that sense of self that says “I want,” “I need,” “I need to get a better job,” “I am not being treated here well,” “I am not getting paid enough,” “I am not getting what I need when I want,” we are enslaved. So that type of thinking is very exhaustive. I am sure, if we are honest, we can say that we get very drained by this type of thinking. It wastes energy physically. It wastes energy mentally, and it is a state of pain.
So what Samael Aun Weor is saying in this quote, is that our consciousness―that part of us which religions call soul, that which is really divine, that is our connection with the divine itself―is trapped. Our consciousness is trapped in anger, fear, pride, and states of being which are causes of suffering for us.
And this is a very difficult thing to discriminate and to see in oneself because, we like to say, “I know myself,” “I know who I am, where I am from, what I believe in; my gender, my race,” whatever. And yet, despite the fact that we say we know ourselves, we continue to repeat problems.
Or problems repeat that we cannot seem to get or understand: “I do not understand where this is coming from, or how to resolve this,” but what if we ask the question that few people really ask is, “How am I contributing to the problem? What if the problem is not outside but something inside of me?”
I was giving the example of being at work and we could be doing a really great job. People really respect us, really admire us, and yet we have that fear that says “I am not good enough.” This is a kind of common emotion you find in many places that really fuel this machinery of industry―people feeling like they are not good enough. They always have to prove something: “I have to prove myself in this situation, in this circumstance.”
But we do not realize we are wasting energy. We are actually investing our consciousness in these states which, we can say, put us in a state of sleep. We are not really aware of what is going on in the situation. Such as at work, you may feel like “Hey, I am not doing well,” but then people say “No, this is excellent!”
You are being observed, or people comment and make the compliment that they really respect you as an individual, so it is like “Oh! That is shocking.” You know, that is one minor example. So our consciousness should be free, expansive, liberated, serene, peaceful, happy, loving, compassionate, pure states of consciousness that are very divine. Those should be more developed in us, but unfortunately, our tendency in our daily life is to invest ourselves in negativity and reactions and problems.
So that sense of “me” or “myself” or “I” we call ego. And this sense of self, according to Buddhism or any tradition, they say that, this sense of self we tend to grasp onto, is the cause of suffering. So, the question is, how do we resolve that? How do we confront this sense of self we have, and learn to comprehend it better? Maybe even eliminate it, because consciousness, our true potential, is trapped in those states. If we extract them, we can develop more consciousness, and that is what meditation is for―expanding consciousness, working on our imperfections so that we can become truly happy, great beings.
Understanding the myself, “my persona, what I am,” is imperative if we sincerely wish to attain freedom. There is no way we can destroy the fetters of our enslavement without previously and totally comprehending this question of “mine” and all that concerns the me, myself, the “I.” What constitutes slavery? What is it that keeps us enslaved? ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Now of course this is very strong language, but if we are honest, we can see that, are we not enslaved to a certain quality of mind that repeats all the time? Family problems, conflicts with our neighbors, or whomever, or spouse? We tend to be enslaved to suffering. And this is the great dilemma that, I believe even Shakespeare wrote in his play Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” in a kind of allegorical sense.
So it is good to question ourselves: what constitutes slavery? “What are my habits and problems and ways of being that I keep repeating, that other people are pointing at me?” Because sometimes other people see us better than we see ourselves. You know, we tend to think that we are a certain way but, sometimes a lot of people may not agree.
“...What constitutes slavery? What is it that keeps us enslaved? What are the obstacles? We must discover all of this.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
What is the Mind?
Which brings us to the next question: who are we? We have been talking a little bit about what ego is, what the self is. So what is the mind? Even our best scientists and doctors and philosophers have been struggling with this question for centuries, to figure out, what are we, fundamentally? What is the mind? What is thought? What is emotion?
So we have included an image of a man pondering this thought, with a bunch of gears and machinery images of wheels above it. I picked this image because sometimes our ways of thinking can get very mechanical. We tend to go through our day with certain routines: getting up for work, getting up for or going to our job, interacting in certain ways with people, and the thing that we can question is, what are our mechanical ways of behaving?
When certain situations arise, how do we respond? What is our typical attitude? This is something that we can question in ourselves and ask: “Well, why do I react towards this person who is very irritating? Why am I irritated by what this person or what this client says?”
Unfortunately, we do not tend to ask that question. We just feel irritated and we want that person to go away, or to not be associated with them, but it is an interesting question to ask.
“Why am I thinking this way or behaving this way to this person?”
This is what meditation is for, asking that question, “Well, why am I behaving negatively to that person, or feeling like I am justified?” Maybe that person―and this is a Buddhist question that we can ask ourselves―what if that person has some type of concern about us, that we are not treating them well? And the psychology that we kind of go through, the kind of gears, the machinery that we go through, is that we tend to want to blame others, and not look at ourselves.
Whether or not that person is wrong, it would be interesting to ask that question, “Well, why am I reacting to that person? Why am I thinking that? Why do I feel agitated? Why do I want to one-up this person? Why do I want to prove them wrong?” Because usually what we do not see is that, in that moment in which we are criticizing the other person, even just mentally and not verbally, we are suffering. We are stuck in the wheel of life, the wheel of mechanicity.
The mind, we can say, according to Buddhist concept, is where we have thought, experience thinking, even our emotional states. The western psychological tradition calls it ego, “I,” but we also could say it is desire. Again as I was saying, “what I want, what I crave, what I need,” and we always tend to be stuck in this type of thinking that says, “I want to fulfill my desires until the day I die, and whatever happens next, I do not know.”
But, honestly, if we ask ourselves, is that a kind of life worth living? I believe we mentioned that Socrates mentioned: “the unexamined life is not worth living”? Not asking those deep questions about, why are we the way we are? Why are we so convinced that we are right, and other people are wrong? But it is interesting even, in meditation, to ask this question “What am I? Who am I?”―and to constantly examine ourselves.
This is the basic beginnings of what meditation is, so that by learning to develop consciousness, we can go beyond thought, go beyond feeling, go beyond the body. And this is the major distinction that religions or, the original heart of those traditions taught, is that, the consciousness is not anger or thought or even feeling. It is something more dynamic, more beautiful, more profound―something free and liberated. It is spontaneous action that does not need to think.
It is the love of a mother that saves her child when in danger. It is a state of fearlessness, and there is a whole range of emotion and qualities that are not what we like to typically say we experience, but something even more beautiful―love, selflessness, strength. But of course in order to develop those qualities in us, we can learn how to, in moments of great crisis, examine who we are in those moments.
I am pretty sure we had cases in our life where, something terrible happened and we reacted badly or poorly, to the point that we came back and apologized to the person and said, “I am sorry I did not realize what I had done was wrong. I was so overcome at that moment.” And that is a type of hindsight, right? It is better than no sight, but there is a way to have foresight in the moment: we do not react and cause problems and pain for our family or loved ones, or anyone, and learn to transform the situation.
In that way, and by going home to meditate, we can learn to understand why we acted how we did. If you are familiar with the myth of, in the Middle East, I think it is The Thousand and One Arabian Nights, there is the story of the genie and Aladdin's lamp. I mentioned that quote from Samael Aun Weor; he said that “So long as the consciousness is bottled up within the ‘me,’ ‘myself,’ the ‘I,’ we will continue to suffer.”
So in that Arabian myth, that piece of literature, the story is that by rubbing the lamp, a genie can come out and can grant any wish. It is a symbol of our consciousness. It can grant anything we wish and need for ourselves, a state of beauty or, any type of contentment we seek. Of course, the bottle is what traps the genie. You break the bottle, you free the genie. It is a symbol, which we can accomplish in meditation, but first we have to learn to examine the difference between the mind and the consciousness.
I also use the term divinity. I did not use the term God, primarily because the word God has a lot of baggage. There are a lot of traumas associated with that term. When people think of some type of figure like God or a deity, they think of some anthropomorphic old man in the clouds with a beard who dispenses lightning to a poor anthill of a humanity. So that type of God, according to Friedrich Nietzsche, does not exist, which is why he said “God is dead”―at least the idea of some kind of person outside of us, that is organizing everything.
We do not refer to divinity as God, or at least try not to, because where someone had a certain religious upbringing and certain traumas, that can cause a lot of pain for people. Instead we like to use the term Being, and I think this term more accurately represents what divinity is. It is a state of mind, of Being, or a state of consciousness. So Being means to be, to be here and now, to be alert, to be attentive. The Being is not outside, but inside our heart, our consciousness.
Divinity is a quality like love, selflessness, compassion, but is very far beyond our concepts of what love and compassion is. It is a state that we can taste, and that we probably have tasted in our lives at some point, but they were temporary. They went away. That is why certain people, or a lot of people come to any type of tradition, is because they had that experience and they think “Well how do I repeat that?”―and they do not know how.
A state of love and selflessness or compassion, or faith, of understanding, or certain situations working out for one’s benefit. So we want to ask ourselves: how can we earn that and repeat that? That is why we have meditation.
The Being and the Mind
We make a difference between, a distinction between, this Being, our Being, our divinity, and the mind. We could say Being has no form, although all the religious traditions have used forms to represent divinity, whether it be Mother Mary, Jesus, certain scripts or languages, representing, like in Islam, they do not represent God; they just use certain letters to represent Divinity. Or amongst the Aztec and the Maya, they use certain sculptures and images to represent qualities of the Being, which is an infinite spectrum.
This does not mean that there are many gods, separate gods, or that there is just one God. In fact, consciousness is, or the Being can be universal. It is one thing, but can manifest and express in different ways, which is why whether polytheistic traditions or even the monotheistic traditions share the same roots. The problem is that the people of those traditions have adulterated their understandings, thinking that there is only one or the other. But the truth is that, divinity is one light, but can express in many ways.
Those are qualities of Being. We make a distinction between the mind and the Being. The mind is the intellect where we think, and I am sure we can see in ourselves that, if we overthink certain problems, we do not get anything done.
I believe it is a common experience amongst business practitioners where, they will be at a meeting for hours, and try to think out a problem, and they do not resolve anything. Then they say, “Okay let’s take a break, get some coffee for five minutes.” They walk away, and when they are not thinking of anything, suddenly [snaps fingers] the insight comes and they are like “Ah-ha!” That is how divinity works. They come back to the meeting all energized and excited, and many people have that experience and they say, “I know what to do now.”
Overthinking and thinking and thinking does not resolve anything. Of course, we need the intellect to be able to exist in this society, because the intellect or the mind is a machine. It can store information that we need to interact with people, like that previous image we looked at with the gears turning. The mind is useful, but it has to be under the service of our consciousness.
Of course, distinguishing between consciousness and thought in the beginning is very difficult, but something we can develop more and more through meditation.
Samael Aun Weor in the book, The Spiritual Power of Sound, wrote something very interesting about this distinction:
“The mind only serves as a hindrance to the Being (the Innermost).” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
The term we use for the Being is the Innermost, and that term comes from the Western Esoteric tradition. Innermost means, that which is our inner true identity, within us. So as I was saying, thought is a hindrance. We think too much about a problem, we do not resolve anything, whereas intuition or the Being [snaps fingers] knows. We know how to solve a situation without having to think. That is a quality of the being.
“The mind does not know anything about Reality. If thought knew Reality― the Innermost, the Being―then all people would already be comprehensive...” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
Meaning if the intellect was the way, this world would be a better place, but the question is, well if humanity is not getting any better right now, if there is only more wars and conflict and violence on this planet, we have to question our method. What are we doing wrong? That fundamental basis is trying to resolve things with the intellect, the mind, and not more with the heart, with understanding.
“It is completely impossible to experience the Being―the Innermost, the Reality―without becoming true technical and scientific masters of that mysterious science called meditation. It is completely impossible to experience the Being―the Innermost, the Reality―without having reached a true mastery of the quietude and silence of the mind.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
We will conclude with a quote that emphasizes this point. It is from a Buddhist master by the name of Nagarjuna. He wrote in The Precious Garland something very interesting:
“Scratching an itch brings pleasure, but more pleasurable than that is not having an itch. Likewise, satisfying worldly desires is pleasurable, but more pleasurable than that is not having desire.” ―Nagarjuna in The Precious Garland
So again, this is something very profound. The desire or thought, or sentiment, the feeling, the sense of self that says, “I need to resolve this problem”―certainly, that type of thinking can be pleasurable, but in the more higher senses of meditative practice, not having that type of “self” is even more powerful, and more pleasurable.
I know a lot of people get fearful when they say, “Well if I get rid of this sense of ‘I,’ ‘myself,’ ‘me,’ the ego, what I think I am, what will I be?” People get afraid of this sense of, and think of this as a nihilistic thing, but the truth is, when we eliminate anger, we free consciousness that is trapped in anger. We experience love.
I am sure that if we have studied even the Christian tradition, they talk about the seven deadly sins, but they also talk about the seven virtues. Such as, if we eliminate anger, we develop serenity, sweetness and love. We eliminate pride, we develop humility and compassion. Eliminate certain faults, and then we develop consciousness that is more beautiful and pure, unconditioned.
Now I know this is a very rudimentary introduction to some of the principles of meditation but, one thing we would like to emphasize is that, through meditative science, there is a higher way of Being, and that we can use these techniques to transform our daily life, and in that way we have less problems, and resolve things with more understanding.
Questions and Answers
Do you have any questions?
Question: Yeah, I suffer from anxiety and depression…
Question: But I am also suffering from longings…
Question: And it is not going away…
Question: And the mind takes over, and I have these visions, I am going to end up killing myself down the road because I cannot cope.
Instructor: Yes, so I have actually worked with people, I am very close to people in this tradition who have suffered depression. And unfortunately, a lot of people, regardless of being on any type of anti-depressants, it is very difficult to deal with.
One thing we can say about that particular condition is that, it is a state of mind that is inverted. A lot of times we can say the opposite of depression is pride, such as feeling good about oneself, having pride, “I am this way. I am successful. I am this, I am that.” But depression is that type of sentiment inverted: we call it shame. It is a sense of self that says, “I am not good enough,” “I do not deserve this. “People hate me,” or “no one wants to be with me. I do not know how to resolve my problems. I am not lovable.”
The way to resolve that type of sentiment is by relaxing our body, observing ourselves, becoming conscious, becoming aware of our thinking, our feeling, our emotions. We can actually go into the mind to understand the traumatic roots of that sense of self, where it originates from. Because the opposite of shame is dignity. That is a conscious quality. It is a quality of the soul, which is eternal. Our true nature is divine, has a sense of dignity and love, and self-respect and compassion, not only towards others, but for oneself.
The problem is that, when we suffer those type of conditions, which also can not only be neurological, but also something even more profound, coming from psychological roots or traumas in one’s life, which combine to produce the experience of depression―but there are ways to heal that, radically.
I have worked with people in this teaching who have suffered mental illness: schizophrenia, depression, and by using a lot of the techniques that we are studying, in combination with some of the efforts of doctors, they have been able to achieve homeostasis, balance, and get through life with happiness.
I mean I personally know people who have suffered depression, and because of working with these techniques, they have been able to change themselves. But depression is a sense of self or desire that is very inverted. It says it wants to harm itself. But we have to realize that, that sense of self is not our true identity. It is not who we really are.
Question: Right because you suffer “from” it, you do not “have” it? It is not in you… you suffer “from” it?
Instructor: Yes, it is a condition of mind. It is the lamp that traps the genie. If you break the lamp, if you look in yourself and analyze the cage, when you meditate on, “what are these thoughts that I am experiencing? What are these fears? Where do they come from?” It is not an intellectual process, but it is a conscious inquisition. It is a quality of inquiry that we go and we ask ourselves, “Well, where is this feeling coming from?” And then look at it, and it can be very painful and very scary to look at those kind of emotions.
You know, it is a very difficult thing to do, and whether or not someone suffers from depression or any mental illness has that fear too. But of course in those conditions, it can be more difficult, but it can be changed. We have a lot of techniques that we use in this tradition.
There is one exercise in some of the books we have available. We even have a video online on Glorian.org, of a remedy to cure depression. It does not require medication. It does not require anything. It does not have side effects. It is called the magic of the roses.
And in this tradition we use a lot of practices, not only just meditation or relaxation, but we also practice working with some of the magical traditions, which are not just hocus pocus or making things appear, like a rabbit appear out of a hat, but when we develop consciousness we can learn to work, not only with our own consciousness, but the soul that is within plants, or in animals and other Beings, in order to achieve a type of balance and harmony.
You can look online. There is a whole video about the magic of the roses. And personally, when I have suffered any trauma emotionally, real strong situations that were very painful, I have worked with that exercise and that radically healed it. But of course, every situation is going to be different. You may find that in those cases, some people with mental illness, of course, they should get professional advice and seek a doctor and see what medication can work, to help acquire that balance, plus meditation.
So hand in hand those things can help. But I would recommend looking on Glorian.org look up the Magic of the Roses. [See also our course on Spiritual and Mental Health]
Question: What was the first thing you said?
Instructor: It is Glorian.org [formerly gnosticteachings.org].
Any other questions?
Question: In meditation, you are supposed to not do anything or think, so when you meditate on these questions, I get confused.
Instructor: Sure. No, it is definitely, a real difficult distinction to make. What does it mean to be conscious, and what does it mean to be thinking?
Now I know in the beginning we really want to use the intellect to resolve problems, because that tends to be our state of mind since the beginning, before we begin to train. But as you are learning to meditate, you will find that, as you are relaxing your body and just observing yourself, you find that, you will start to see more and more and separate from thought, from memory, from these things.
It is a kind of separation that is needed. It does not mean a dislocation or a type of apathy, or a dull state, or a nihilistic state. I am pretty sure you might have had the experience where, if you are falling asleep sometimes, maybe dream images start to appear. Things just start to happen, like when the body is asleep you start to see places, or people, or things, or sounds. Those are qualities of our subconsciousness. Usually we are not aware of those states, but as you are relaxing more profoundly, you will start to see those things. As you are observing yourself, they will start to appear.
So I know in the beginning it is very difficult but, with training, we start to develop more and more, we start to separate more and more from the mind. And the initial step is relax, and after your body is fully relaxed, try this exercise.
Just observe and become aware of your mood and your thoughts. Even during a lecture we can pay attention to a degree, and then suddenly we are thinking about other things, or make associations or memories about a certain concept that we hear. Then sometimes our train of thinking goes off. We start thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, and then we realize [snaps fingers], “Wait a minute… I am supposed to be listening. I am supposed to be in this lecture!” And we all have that experience, and then suddenly we try to backtrack for a minute or two saying, “Well, what did I miss?”
You know, it is a very common experience. That shows us that our mind tends to be very distracted. But meditation first begins by learning to concentrate. So that realization, “I am not paying attention,” is the very beginning. That is the type of “ah-ha” moment, the comprehension that we realize in ourselves, “Ah, I lost my focus! I am not really aware of what is going on.” We can also say, “I am not really awake.”
But when you bring your attention back to that type of recollection, you find that it gets easier. It gets easier the more you work at it. And some basic practices we use in this tradition, you could take a candle―if you find that you get distracted too easily―take a candle and light it, sit in a relaxed posture, relax your mind and your body, and just observe the candle. Just look at the flame. You will find that as you are doing that, you will start to think of other things, and then you will realize how, we tend to be thinking too much, or we are usually caught up in that cycle, that machine.
That exercise, you just look at a candle, and if you start daydreaming or thinking of other things, just bring your attention back, gently. Some people think concentration is like going to the gym and being really fierce and strong, but real concentration is strong, but it is relaxed. It is calm.
So you see, “Oh I lost my attention,” pay attention back to the candle. But in the beginning, it is okay to, if you are trying to resolve a problem or an issue, to think about it and try to come up with an understanding of what is going on. You will find that the more and more you practice, the more you leave the mind behind, and the more that you can access a state of consciousness that is intuitive. It simply knows. It understands, without having to think, and that is like [snaps fingers] an “ah-ha” moment, “I understand, now I comprehend what I need to do.”
Any final questions?
Question: If we are feeling lonely all the time and then we meditate, will that help the loneliness?
Instructor: Yes, because loneliness is a desire for company. It says, “I need to be with people,” “I need to be social.” And of course, having a social life in important, but feeling lonely does not have to be an affliction. Meditation can help us to resolve that sentiment.
Understand you know, where loneliness comes from. What is it? What does it want? What are we feeling? Why do we feel that way? And asking that question and questioning that. But you also find that as you are, not only practicing meditation, but changing those qualities of being, we learn to associate in the external world with different types of people, you know...
Question: I isolate myself an awful lot so, that is why I am on my own, that is why I am lonely, I have created it…
Instructor: Sure, yeah, and certainly that was my case many years ago, until I found this type of teaching and started practicing. And then I found that I was much more outgoing and more, I guess, charismatic or, just interrelating with people. Because I used to be very solitary and isolated, you know, was struggling with that in myself, and then I learned to change that, to the point where I can get jobs and careers, and fulfill a very, you know, pretty happy career with what I am doing now, with working with a lot of different people.
So that transformation is easy to achieve. It just takes a type of work ethic, you know? But also, being willing to try new things and meet new people, because obviously, you know, as you start to change yourself, you will interact with different people.
It is the law of attraction. If we are developing more virtuous qualities of mind, we naturally radiate and gravitate to those situations where, those people are practicing the same things. And then you feel a sense of a community and strength and affirmation from others that really make you feel that you belong, and that you are respected and are fulfilled.
But the first step is confronting that, of course this is the major thing that, many people do not like to do―to confront themselves. But if we do, we can attain great changes, not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others.
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.
There are many forms of intelligence. It is an inherent aspect of any living thing, down from the smallest microbe, to the atom, to any living thing: animals, plants, human beings.
Unfortunately in this humanity, people like to assume and believe that the human being as we are now is the height of intelligence, the height of wisdom. While certainly we have many advancements in technology, many marvels, the reality is that we continue to suffer and to be afflicted by many problems that our greatest scientists, philosophers, teachers, cannot provide for.
All religions have taught in their heart that there is the possibility for something more and that that development is internal. We have the potential to become something beyond comprehension at this level, of what a human being can be. Our humanity has received many messengers, many prophets, whether we call them angels, buddhas, masters, Gods: people who were once like us, and yet learned to change themselves, to comprehend their own inner conditioning, so that by transforming their negativity, they became what we emulate: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, the great prophets—those who exemplified the highest ideals possible in a human being, compassion that is selfless, unrelenting, divine.
When Jesus was crucified, he only said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He didn't have any malice in him, because all those defects were destroyed in him through a long process of meditation, of purification, of practice.
So contrary to popular belief, a figure like Jesus or Buddha was once like us, afflicted. And yet, they learned by developing their intelligence, their understanding, how to become great beings, great messengers. We can become like them. It is possible to overcome suffering on a grand scale within ourselves.
And all those teachers emphasize that this path is meditation, because it is an introspection, a method of looking, of gaining information, of developing our own understanding of who we are and not assuming that we know.
Oftentimes we say that we know a person. We mention their manners, their words, their language, their behaviors. How often in our lives have we known someone who we assume to be a certain image and yet in the next moment we learn of a great tragedy, a terrible action? We can look at the news to see people like this. Individuals who seem like great saints and then the next moment it's unveiled that they were into very degenerated behaviors, which is contrary to that popular image that people had.
While this is very common in our society, on a more psychological level we do this with ourselves: our own self-image, who we assume to be, what we like to project to the world, to present to others, to show. We like to think that we know who we are: our language, our name, our culture, the food we eat, the people we associate with, the music we listen to, the friends we have.
But, those things are temporary. They are not eternal. They are not our true divine nature. Divinity is not a person, an anthropomorphic figure in the clouds that sits on a throne of tyranny, dispensing lightning bolts to a poor humanity, like an ant hill. That anthropomorphic figure does not exist, which is why even Friedrich Nietzsche, the author of Thus Spoke Zarathustra said "God is dead," because that image does not exist.
Instead, what exists is a type of intelligence which is beyond good and evil, which is terribly divine and sacred. And of course, it is beyond our conceptions of what is good or bad, but is our true nature, our divine being, which is a state of consciousness, a state perception, a state of intelligence.
But in order to understand what that is, we have to learn to strip away that which is superfluous, which we think is us: our sentiments, our sense of pride, our fears, our anger, our laziness, gluttony, greed, lust, passion—these things that we like to assume is us, who we are, but which at the heart of every religion teaches that it is negative, because those elements produce suffering.
When we say something negative to someone with anger, we produce pain. That is not our divine nature and it is not our true nature, because a certain condition brought up that sense of self, in which we said something negative, and it created a lot of problems. But unfortunately, we like to hold onto a sense of image of ourselves. What we think we are. What we want other people to believe that we are. Many times we fight and even kill, or people even kill in the name of this sense of self that is so hurt. When one has betrayed. When one is slandered. When one is gossiped about. When one is lied to.
It is sad, because even people who are filled with great defects have the potential to become something great, but in order to do so, they must use their genuine intelligence, their understanding of what divinity is. To learn to discriminate within the mind that which is positive from that which is negative. That which produces happiness for oneself and others, or pain.
Everyone wants happiness, but not all people are willing to work on their own methods of how to acquire it, because everyone wants to enjoy life, not to suffer, to not be in pain. Yet, our behaviors in many cases are the very means by which we suffer, though we don't see it.
In a spiritual sense, we are not very awake, aware of our full potential, because if we knew divinity in us, moment by moment, without thinking of other things, without being distracted by life, naturally, in any moments of great crisis, when presented with great traumas, sufferings, which affect us, we then learn to engage in life with intelligence, understanding—knowing how to negotiate our spiritual nature with this chaotic world, which does not know any order, which is falling apart.
So real intelligence is divinity. It is spiritual, and in this lecture we will talk about how to develop that potential in us, how to change and how to make others happy, but not in the Hallmark sense. If we sacrifice our own needs, there is a type of negotiation there. How do we help other people without compromising our spiritual nature? Not ego nature, not pride, laziness, fear, defects, those things need to be eliminated so that our true potential can emerge spontaneously in a beautiful way. In a profound way.
Our True Nature and the Four Noble Truths
So our consciousness is in a potential state. It is not very active. Although in this level, we have a certain amount of intelligence and understanding, but that is not the full gamut of what we can become. We can become like a Jesus, a Buddha.
The word Buddha simply means “awakened one,” to be aware, to be attentive. From the prefix budh, which means “cognition,” which can mean intelligence. That is the type of intelligence that knows how to respond to any circumstance without identifying, without provoking the anger of others, or achieving this retaliation of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. It is a compassionate state that can cut through illusion, through ignorance, and in that way help others, but also help oneself.
On a basic level we say that we are awake. We understand, we learn, we speak, we communicate, we interact with the world; but most people do not ever question the manner and method by which one does so, or even think that it is possible to change one's psychological states in relation to problems, ordeals, the sufferings of existence.
Fortunately, there have been teachers who have taught a method and means by which to understand the process, the path. That path is beautifully taught by many messengers, such as the Buddha, who explained that through understanding Four Noble Truths, one can reach the cessation of suffering and the complete development of the human being.
Other teachers knew the Four Noble Truths, whether from other religions, but the Buddha emphasized these four truths in a very didactic way, in a very profound way.
He said that in life there is suffering, which is from the word dukkha. That word can mean many things—displeasure, dissatisfaction, sorrow, pain. It could also mean disgust, and this is a very interesting term because for someone to really understand meditation, and to really access the divine, one needs to be very tired of suffering—to not want to suffer anymore, to reach that rock bottom when one realizes that if one does not change, then one will enter even greater states of suffering.
But it is a type of realization, a type of displeasure with the facts of life—to want to question, "Is there more? Is there something else in this life that will produce happiness rather than a job, marriage, money, bank accounts?” Things that in the end will leave us. But, where will our consciousness go?
Unfortunately for most people, they don't know or we don't know because we haven't awakened our perception. Most people have not. If you are familiar with teachings of astral projection, lucid dreams, out of body experiences, there have been people who by accident, have awakened consciousness in a state in which they were out of the body, physically.
When the physical body goes to sleep, the soul goes out and usually projects its dreams within the screen of that dimension, which we'll talk about in relation to the Kabbalah, the Jewish mysticism, the Tree of Life. For most of us, we go into that state every night when we go to sleep, but not aware. We may have some dreams, we project things, and then we wake up in the morning, possibly remembering some kind of event that one experienced and was very unclear. Usually very vague.
But, when we learn meditation, we can learn to be awake in that dream state and no longer be dreaming, but become aware of that world, which is a whole other way of being. We have many methods you can use to experience that, and in that way we realize that there is something more to life than just going through our grind.
But, when we learn to remove the causes of suffering in us, we awaken consciousness. Most people are not aware of what those causes are, which we explained in our courses of gnostic psychology. The word gnosis in Greek means “knowledge, experiential knowledge.” That which we know for fact. What we perceive from experience, like a lucid dream or astral projection. These things are very real for those who awaken their perception, who learn to meditate. Those kinds of experiences can help to inspire us, to want to know more, to want to change; and in this tradition we study practices to develop that potential, that intelligence, that wisdom.
Samudaya: The Internal Causes of Suffering
So suffering has causes: samudaya. This is where many people become hung up. The causes of suffering are internal. It is the hypnosis of the soul that we commonly experience, where we usually like to blame external life, the external world for our suffering. Material needs, food, clothing, shelter, struggles at jobs, marriage difficulties. We usually just like to project our dreams onto the external world, not realizing that we are not very conscious, we are not very awake, because somebody who is awake will not respond with anger to one's loved ones, in a spiritual sense.
The causes of suffering are psychological, are conditions of mind, negative states that we created. But of course, it takes tremendous courage to want to recognize that in ourselves. That we are responsible for the pains we go through. That our psychological state attracts our life. This is what happens to us in many cases, not all.
But those causes of suffering we call ego. The word ego in Latin means "I." The sense of “me, myself, who I am; my job, my race, my language, my habits, my friends.” The way that we feel about ourselves, which is usually very egotistical, selfish, negative.
Unfortunately, most people never question that self. They like to feed it. They like to indulge in desire, which is a craving for something that once it is given, once it is satiated, wants more.
Contrary to popular psychology, when we feed anger, we don't remove it. It isn't annihilated. It doesn't cease to exist. In fact, it gets stronger and bigger, and more monstrous. So, these are things in ourselves that we can see.
Nirvana: The Cessation of the Ego
Fortunately, those egotistical qualities can cease to be, and that is the third truth: nirvana. In Sanskrit the word nirvana means “cessation. To cease suffering.” If we study Jewish mysticism and astral projection, those types of things, we know that nirvana is also a state of consciousness in different dimensions, which we can access when the physical body is asleep. When we go out in the dream world and learn to be awake in that state in order to ascend those heavens, mentioned so many times by Dante in his Divine Comedy, the Greek mythology, Islam, Sufism, Judaism, the Bible. They are all talking about the same thing.
But if we want to access those states, we have to remove all the luggage from our subconsciousness, that which we are not aware of, because this is a type of baggage that we carry with us wherever we go. Anger is a profound lead of the soul. It is heavy. It brings us down and brings other people down. Unfortunately, we become victim to it many times, if we are honest, but by learning to meditate and to observe ourselves, we become aware of those qualities in us that need to change. We can change, so that the lead of the ego, according to the alchemists of medieval science, can be transformed and transmuted into the gold of the spirit—because part of our soul is trapped in anger, fear, pride, and all that conglomeration of defects we carry.
Like the genie from Aladdin's lamp, we can extract the genie, the intelligence, our divine nature, and then break the lamp. That is a beautiful Arabian myth about how our soul has so much potential. It can grant any wish, but we have to remove the causes of suffering, which are psychological.
We do that through meditation, specifically, and in that way, we learn to vibrate at higher levels of being, ways of consciousness, so that naturally we learn to that astral project every night, have experiences of a spiritual type, learn to meditate, speak face to face in that world, that dimension with Jesus or Buddha or Muhammed or Christ or whatever prophets we have an affinity for.
They are very awake, but we can talk to them like we are talking here or seeing each other here. It is a very real thing, but one has to work for it.
It is not easy to renounce anger, when we are criticized and suddenly, we feel that desire to say something very negative. And then we do. That of course provokes the other person and causes conflict. But, if we learn to be patient, no matter how wrong that person is or whatever crimes they have committed, we can create distance, or a sense of non-identification with them. Not judging them, because we tend to carry many elements in us that we blame in others. But seeing that is difficult.
Marga: The Gnostic Path of Meditation
There is a path that teaches us this process which is marga: the path of cessation. It means “path, a way, a method,” and that method is very specific. It has been in all religions, all traditions before. Of course, those teachings degenerate with time, because when exposed to humanity, obviously people's own psychological corruption adulterates, impedes, breaks apart that message.
That knowledge is known as gnosis in Greek, which is something we study in this school. It is a Greek word meaning “experiential knowledge”—what we verify through facts, and not what we assume to be.
So, as I said, we tend to assume many things about ourselves—if we are honest—but this doesn't mean this type of questioning of oneself should produce pessimism or negativity, but more of a type of inquiry, a type of investigation.
Buddha Nature: Consciousness and the Tree of Life
A lot of people that hear “my anger, my pride, my negativity, my ego… that myself must die,” and people become terrified. “What will I be when that is gone? My language, my name, my personality, my customs, my race?” But, at the same time we have something that is genuine in us, which is pure. The Buddhists call it buddhadatu, buddha nature: the possibility to be awake, to be intelligent, to be spiritual, because we all have that capacity. It is just not developed. It can easily be developed, and it takes a certain method and discipline with oneself. That path is in all religions, especially the Jewish Kabbalah.
You can see here an image of ten spheres, which are known in Hebrew as a sephiroth. This is a map of consciousness. A map of the soul, from the very heights of the divine, to the most basic, most material, most physical. This is a map of our intelligence, our whole spiritual nature.
At the top if you notice you'll see a trinity. There are three trinities here. An upright triangle, two lower triangles and a bottom sphere.
Kabbalah is known as the science of numbers. It is a means by which we can interpret any tradition on the planet. Any scripture, any book, as well as our own experiences in meditation. It is a map of the multi-dimensionality of the soul, from the external to the internal. We have the most divine principles in us, which some traditions have called Christ, which in Hebrew are known as Kether, Chokmah, Binah: Father, Son, Holy Spirit amongst the Christians. Or amongst the Egyptians it is Osiris, Horus, Isis. Or for the Nordics it is Wotan, Baldur, Thor. Different names, one reality.
This is an expression of what we really are in our most fundamental depth. In Hebrew those terms Kether, Chokmah, Binah mean “Crown, Wisdom, and Intelligence.” These are three forces in nature, within us, in the cosmos. This top trinity—these three forces are one but three. They express as three. They create every living thing in this universe. They spread as three points and then become one. Then they concentrate.
On a very basic level we can see that there is a father: a masculine principle, a woman: a feminine principle, and then the third which is the child: the synthesis of the man and woman on a sexual level. So, these three forces relate to creation and especially to what we call the creative energies in us, which, through meditative discipline, we can harness and use for spirituality.
But below that there is more. This divine force in the cosmos descends into more concrete levels of experience, of dimensionality, which again we can experience when we meditate, or when we have a astral projection, or in a waking experience.
We have Chesed in Hebrew and which means “Mercy.” That is our inner spirit. Our own particular Buddha nature, our inner God, which emanates from the top trinity, from the cosmos. That spirit is unique to us, individual in us, but also is a conduit by which we can be one with all things, all beings. The quality of that sephiroth or sphere is love, compassion
On the left, we have a sphere called Geburah, which in Hebrew means “Justice.” That is a type of conscious state that is very pure. It is the spiritual soul, spiritual consciousness, which never mixes with any type of impurity, any defect. It is Justice because our consciousness knows how to judge between right and wrong.
We usually call this voice conscience, like in the story of Pinocchio. He has a cricket on his shoulder name Jiminy who always tells him “this is good, this is bad.” It is a symbol of this: Pinocchio was a wooden boy, a puppet influenced by the strings of life, his own defects, but he wants to become a real human being, a divine being. Even the word Pinocchio in Tuscan is “pine seed.” The seed that could become a pine tree.
This is known as the Tree of Life in the Book of Genesis, in the Bible. It is a map, not a literal plant in the Middle East many ages ago. It is not a literal story, only a symbolical one.
So Jiminy Cricket is always warning Pinocchio, “You needed to do this and this,” but of course Jiminy cricket gets killed at one point, at least in the in the book by Carlos Collodi. In the film, it does a good job of depicting the same truths by Disney, but some things they left out. But of course, Jiminy Cricket comes back because the consciousness is eternal. It always comes back to warn us in our heart, that sense of judgment that knows that a certain action is wrong, but usually the mind interferes. It says, “I have many excuses. I should do this because it's the right thing,” and we rationalize later on, but in the heart we feel the consequences. That is judgment.
Beneath that we have a sphere called Tiphereth, which in Hebrew means “Beauty,” splendor. It is the beauty of the soul. Out true, we could say, Buddha nature. So again, there are unfoldments and levels and levels of divinity in us. But this is really what we call human soul, our will.
When we will something, we do it. It could be either conscious, or for most people, it tends to be unconscious. Even in popular psychology taught by Freud, he often spoke about competing wills, competing desires, subliminal impulses in the mind. So Tiphereth can either reflect the beauty of God or the negative beauty of our own defects, our own hell realms we could say, our own states of suffering.
Beneath that we have Netzach which means “Victory.” That is our mind, our thoughts, our concepts. We can see then that this is becoming more concrete. You can notice here that as we are descending down this Tree of Life, we can start to grasp certain things in ourselves. The mind is more concrete. We are more aware of that because we tend to be influenced or dominated by Netzach.
To the left of that is Hod, which in Hebrew means “Glory.” That is our emotions. What some people call the astral body. When we go to dream at night, we enter the world of Hod, which is known as the fifth dimension. That is a world in which we dream typically, but usually without awareness. It is an emotional plane, emotional dimension, because many people, they have dreams, they start to sense and feel strong emotional reactions and many times we tend to dream about things that happen at work or in our day; the reason being is the life we live here physically is repeated in the dream state. We just don't have any cognition of it. We are usually not aware of it.
So we repeat things, but without knowing where we are about recognizing where we are. But, we have techniques in this tradition that teach us how, when in that state, we can awaken. We will teach that in our courses of astral projection and dream yoga: the science of dreams.
Beneath that is Yesod, which means “Foundation.” This is our creative energy. As I said, the creative energy is divine. We can learn to use our energies and our body and our glands, especially the sexual glands, to learn to take those forces and use them for divinity. That can serve as a foundation by which we can access with consciousness, these higher spheres, these higher sephiroth. We see that Yesod is the foundation. Our energy is the foundation, because without vital energy we would not have life, even physically.
So Malkuth, if you look below, means “Kingdom.” It is our physical body. Our physicality. That is what we typically only know. But Malkuth, the physical body would not exist if we didn't have vitality, enough energy to get through our day, or to live. Some people feel depleted, they say "I need to sleep," because the vital body needs to recharge. That vital energy needs to work in us.
So I am mentioning different bodies, different vehicles by which we express ourselves in different dimensions. It is unfortunate that we tend to only believe that this physical plane is all there is, but when we learn to awaken in dreams, we find that even our vital energies form a vehicle, a kind of body that penetrates this physical body. It gives it life. It gives it the ability to act and move.
There's also an emotional body known as Hod: a vehicle we usually work with in dreams, but unconsciously. There is also a mind or mental body, a mental vehicle. Above that we have more subtle aspects of divinity, which are difficult to comprehend at this level, but we can access those in us through practice. We will see more and more how this glyph represents who we are and our potential.
The Etymology of Intelligence and Understanding
So I mentioned the Tree of Life and a lecture about intelligence. The word intelligence comes from Latin, meaning: “realizing, understanding, perceiving, discerning. It refers to “intelligō”: inter, meaning: “between” and “legō,” meaning “collect,” or “recite,” from the verb.
Real intelligence is knowing the relationship of ourselves to other things, and even within us. It is a profound state of intelligence to know the relationship between mind and heart, mind and body, will and spirit, spirit and the highest divinity.
Intelligence is represented in the Kabbalah, this third sephiroth or sphere Binah. Remember that this top trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Kether, Chokmah, and Binah. Binah is known as “intelligence, understanding.” It is a part of us, an energy that makes it possible to experience the whole Tree of Life and to learn how to work in this physical world with wisdom, so that we may be crowned by divinity through our actions. Rewarded for performing good things, good deeds.
What is interesting is that the word קבלה Kabbalah in Hebrew comes from לקבל la’kabbel, which means “to receive.” It is what we receive from divinity. It is a word that refers to the Greek gnosis. Knowledge we experience. Things that we see for ourselves, that we witness directly.
And in that way, in meditation we calm the body, relax our energies, relax our heart, relax our mind. In that way we can start to learn to direct our will power, our concentration, which if you are familiar with meditation, we often speak about concentration exercises. These are means by which we learn to focus on one thing without thinking.
In that simple synopsis we find the lower five sephiroth of the Tree of Life represented. Our physical body Malkuth needs to relax. We need to understand our relationship to our body, so that we could be healthy and be strong. That is one form of intelligence. Also, we need to learn to work with our vital forces, our vital energies, which we can do so through breathing exercises or mantras, that help to circulate energy by vocalizing throughout our vital depth, our vital body. That helps to stabilize everything, because if you notice that Yesod is the center of the Tree of Life at the very bottom, it's the foundation of all practice.
We have to learn how to conserve energy. Most of the time in our day, we expel energy: physically, emotionally, mentally. That is why many people who begin meditation usually leave, because they are not seeing results. The problem is that they are not working with the foundation. It is important to work with energies, so that it can empower our consciousness, our soul, so that it can be awake, spontaneously, natural, happy.
Likewise in meditation, we calm heart, the emotional center, Hod. We need to understand our relationship with our emotions and not be a victim of them. I believe it was the founder of the Muslim tradition said something very interesting. The Prophet Muhammad said, "The strongest among you is he who controls his anger." Very interesting, because when we learn to control the heart and conserve our emotional energies, we learn to awaken in that dimension. We naturally experience that state for ourselves. We learn to understand and discern with intelligence, to perceive that which is objective from that which is subjective. Real from false. Awake from dreaming. So, we want to stop dreaming in that state. You want to be awake, to be intelligent, to know our relationship with those things directly.
Likewise, we have to relax the mind, and this is very difficult for many people. It is common that when we sit to practice, we find that the mind is thinking. We are always thinking of other things, being distracted, filled with memories or daydreams, concepts, comparisons, contrasts, disagreements, agreements. The mind is always churning. It's a big ocean. It is always in a storm or flux, and when people see this in themselves, usually they get frightened. They see that the mind is so chaotic in the beginning, they get scared and they say, “This practice is harming me, because this is what I see in myself.”
The reality is that one is coming to see for oneself what is already there. It is subconscious. Our mind, as Freud taught, is very subconscious. Likewise, with our emotions and our impulses, our drives.
But, if one is persistent, by working with concentration exercises, by using one's willpower, one's focus to take an object of practice and not let the mind wander, just focus on one thing like a stone or a statue or a painting, then the mind calms. It settles. If you fight the mind, it will churn. It will be in chaos. But if you just observe the mind and relax, everything settles.
So meditation is, or preparation for meditation involves that: relax your body, your energies, your heart, your mind, and then direct your will on one thing.
It could be many things you want to meditate on. Maybe a problem. Asking a question to divinity where you want to receive an answer. Maybe a personal challenge or difficulty. Looking for guidance for something in your daily life that you can't resolve.
It's funny that people think that the mind is going to answer that question. It is a common assumption even in business meetings. There are people who spend hours and hours debating, using their intellect to argue the solution for a problem. Then when they take a break for fifteen minutes, they walk away and they stop thinking of the problem, suddenly the answer comes: the intuition, the insight. And in that way they come back to the meeting recharged, understanding what they need to do.
That is a basic example, but when we learn meditation, the first preliminary concentration exercise is relaxing the mind, the heart, the energies in the body. Then everything settles, so that we can learn to perceive these higher five sephiroth, up these higher spheres with our consciousness, which is Geburah, the sphere on the left.
It is also in that way that we can even have astral experiences, in which we speak face-to-face with our own inner spirit, our own inner God, our Buddha—even higher spheres above that which are very difficult to conceptualize at our level, but they exist in us nonetheless.
So this is a map of intelligence, our relationship to different things in us, and in the multi-dimensionality of nature. It is a process of discernment. Questioning in us what is real. What is factual? Then discarding what is useless so that we can learn to have that communication, that understanding of what divinity is.
Even the word understandan, from old English, to understand, we know is very basic. That is, to grasp the idea, to comprehend. To perceive the significance, meaning, explanation, or cause of something.
Meditation is about comprehension, understanding, so that when our mind and heart and body are settled, we can concentrate and even reflect on our day where we are observing ourselves, becoming aware of what situations in life provokes certain defects, certain problems that we want to change, and then we can concentrate on those moments. Reflect and imagine them, visualize them, see them with our consciousness so that we can get knowledge, understanding. What is the appropriate way to behave in this situation? For example at work I have been reflecting on conflict with some clients of mine who are very aggressive and very disrespectful. I have noticed they have been provoking with their behavior certain qualities in me that are negative or egotistical. Frustration. I want them to be a certain way, to behave in a certain way, because it's the right thing. Or that is the logic that is associated with that thought.
You can see that you have the mind there, but also the negative emotion, Hod, which feels that “I am being wronged.” Also the will to act, but negatively. To say the wrong things, to do the wrong things that make the situation worse.
So, I have been meditating on certain circumstances of my job, and by learning to relax, to concentrate and to ask for help from my inner divinity, my inner spirit, a beginning experience is about what I need to do at my job. Understanding the right way to act, the right way to think, to feel and to do. According to the Buddha: upright thought, upright feeling, upright action.
In that way, I have been able to transform many problems. Now, my clients who in the beginning were very rough, they can still be pretty antagonistic, but they respect me. There isn't that type of distrust anymore from the beginning.
Concentration and Imagination
So things can change, but gradually. Then when we work with our concentration, again, we are working with our consciousness too. The ability to imagine or perceive. This word imagination is often denigrated today as something fake or fantastical, but if I ask you to imagine an apple, you can see it. Not with physical senses, but psychological ones. That is a quality of our consciousness.
When you combine your will, your concentration, your focus on one thing, and imagining your scene in a day where you want to understand something, suddenly the comprehension emerges, relating to the spirit, Chesed. That helps us to become spiritual beings, because a spiritual being has intelligence, understands how to resolve problems, but without thinking. Not rationalizing, but knowing intuitively and acting immediately in the moment, so that it's very profound, divine.
Understanding can also refer to “interpreting or view something in a particular way.” To view ourselves in a new way. To understand something about ourselves that we never thought we had.
It can be negative, but it can also can be very positive, because we have qualities in us that are divine that we have no idea that exist. But, when you meditate you find that true divine heroic nature in you, which knows how to conquer affliction and all suffering.
So, understanding also refers to “perceiving the significance, explanation, or cause of something.” In this Buddhist sense, or in a religious or spiritual sense, it can refer to understanding the causes of our own suffering, our own egotistical drives, which manifests in our thoughts, our feeling, our body and energies, but also our will, depending on how we use it.
If you remember the prayer of Jesus of Nazareth in the garden of Gethsemane, he says, "Father, if it be possible, take this cup of bitterness from me, but not my will, but thine be done." That refers to Tiphereth, the heart. That is a symbol and his Passion is that he lived physically—it was a means of teaching something psychological, because every person needs to face their own types of ordeals and struggles in life, their own crucifixion, in a manner of speaking.
If we learn to meditate and remove the causes of suffering, we can, according to the myth of Jesus, resurrect. The soul is absorbed in the divinity, and then one is self-realized, realizing all the spheres of the Tree of Life. They are integrated. They are one, because right now our thoughts, our feelings, and our wills, tend to be very disparate.
In a moment, we may be washing our dishes and thinking of one thing, feeling another. We have the desire to go out and work out, followed by the desire for eating. “Now I want to read something else.” “Now I want to do something else.” We are always changing, in flux. We are constantly thinking and doing other things, never aware of where we are at or what we are doing.
We call that ego, and the ego is not singular as we like to think, or popular culture likes to think. Ego is egos. Anger, pride, fear, lust, laziness, gluttony—all those faults we carry inside—are multiple. They have their own agendas, ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. But, it's because we are not attentive, we don't really discriminate or distinguish between the differences, between those states. Meditation will teach one how to discern with intelligence, what is going on psychologically. Of course, it is unpleasant in the beginning to realize that this anger, or this fear, this sense of self is not singular. It is a big chaos. Multiple. But, as taught by many myths and as taught by the Tree of Life and through meditation, we can unify the soul. Achieve the realization of divinity in us.
So “to interpret something in a particular way, to be thoroughly familiar with, apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of something.”
Again, to interpret or view something in a particular way, how do we view ourselves? It's good to ask this question, not from a skeptical, pessimistic, standpoint. Nor a morbid sense of self-flagellation and shame. "Oh, I am a bad person." But just to ask the question and look what is going on in me. “Who am I?” To question and to examine oneself with a psychological sense.
We call it self-observation. To be aware of oneself. To not want to judge or praise or condemn what we see. Just to be aware, awake. And in that way, we gather data about our own faults, so that we can change.
Therefore, our understanding of ourselves will be on a true foundation, because the word understand literally implies that we are standing on something. We all tend to stand on some sense of identity. Our assumptions of ourselves, which other people may criticize and point out are wrong, but usually we feel very hurt. We don't want to be criticized or questioned.
It is good to ask the question when that experience unfolds, “Well, maybe they are right to ask that question. What if they are right that they see something in me that I don't see?” Other people tend to see things in ourselves that we don't see ourselves. Not to be afraid, but just examine. To be aware. This is the foundational method of meditation so that we can stand on strong ground, because when you stand on fact, we are not hurt.
I believe there is a saying in the book Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva where he explains how, if somebody says something to us and it is hurtful, if it is a lie, why get mad? If it is true, why get mad?
If one confronts oneself and is working, it doesn't hurt. It doesn't matter. And in this way, by asking that type of question, we learn to transform our situation.
The Impressions of Life and Internal Reactions
In these studies, we talk about the transformation of impressions. We say that life exists as it does in the form of impressions. We see through our senses, we hear, we feel, we taste, we touch, we smell. We can say that all of life exists in the form of energies or impressions. Whether we are looking outside, we see the rain, people walking. We can say that those people are outside of us, but at the same time, the impressions of those experiences always enter into the psyche, moment by moment.
There is never a moment in which we don't perceive perceptions, or perceive something, even at death, or in sleep, usually. Because, the consciousness is eternal. It always will exist, but in different modalities or formations, depending on how we use it. How we use our mind, our energies, our heart, our will, our consciousness.
So, everything always exists in the form of impressions. You are here listening to me, receiving the impressions of my words. It may enter your psyche, emotionally, maybe feeling or ascertaining something, or thinking of something related to it.
The mind is always reacting to impressions. It is a dynamic thing, and if we learn to be aware as meditators, we realize that the sense that, there is an external world, is illusory. Everything is within us, if we are attentive.
I am sure all of us have experienced, especially in youth, moments in which we are very clear and awake, just seeing life and movement without thinking, without rationalizing. Especially in childhood, we might have had many of those experiences in which we just see the impressions of life without judging, without labeling, without conceptualizing, “This is good. This is bad.”
That tends to be the psychological dynamic of our experience. We are caught in duality. Back and forth. Good, bad. Yes, no. Pleasure, pain. Happiness, sadness. Excitement, fear. Duality. That is a pendulum of the consciousness that puts us to sleep.
We are always running away from unpleasant impressions in life and running towards pleasant ones. But the thing is: why get attached to either a coffee cake or one's family? And want to run away from one's boss when he's angry? The reality is that all that is temporary. Nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux. Impressions emerge and enter our consciousness, our psyche.
But the problem is that we tend to receive life in a very mechanical way. We don't really question what we are seeing, or better said, how we are perceiving those experiences. So physically we may know that we are seated here, but the question is, are we actively observing where we are? Are we aware of the ceiling, the murals, or the decorations, the plants, the equipment around ourselves, the art, the street? Are we really looking at those impressions with a fresh look? Are we seeing it with new eyes, moment by moment? Or, do we just look at things and get lost in our thoughts?
Sometimes we may be walking on the street, such as in Chicago or any city, and then we are thinking and thinking and thinking of a problem. We don't see where we are at or where we are going. It means that we are not awake. We are dreaming. It is that type of psychology that goes with us wherever we go. So, if we are not training ourselves, our moment by moment, or day by day, then when we physically go to sleep or when we die, we are going to repeat the same mechanical habits and go through that delicate transition point without attention, without understanding.
So, I know I mentioned a lot about death in dreams. It is interesting that in the Greek mythology, Thanatos and Hypnos, death and sleep, are brothers. If we are awake in our dreams, we will be awake when we die.
Meditation is a means of preparing for that and the way that we prepare for that is learning to look at life with awareness. To see impressions of life, but attentive, and not reacting all the time, mentally.
The mind tends to chatter. We are always commenting on what we see, what we hear, what we feel, what we do. Someone says something negative, we have the reaction of anger or pride. Impressions enter us and we are reacting.
The way that you enter into comprehension or meditation is learning to receive those impressions of life, whether good or bad, but with neutrality. Neither favoring nor rejecting, but it doesn't mean that one is going to be bland.
Neutrality, we think means neither hot or cold, or just lukewarm, dispassionate, unconcerned. There is a connotation in the english language, but it's better that we say that this type of sentiment or neutrality is very clear, very pristine, very divine. In which one enjoys the flow of life, free in its movement, here and now. It doesn't get caught up with the repetitions of life, the duality, “I must be successful in my job. I must run away from painful circumstances,” but confront every situation with consciousness.
So when we have a problem at work, with our mind training, we are not affected by what happens. We can respond with understanding, intelligence: negotiating our sense of self with the exterior world, and in that way we transform our situations.
We tend to react to life with ego, defects, but in those critical moments at work or in a certain challenging circumstances of life, someone says something negative, but with our mind training, we question the insulters words. They say something bad about us.
I remember at my work I had one client [sarcastically] say to me, "Yeah, he thinks he's really good." About me. I looked at him and I was starting to sense in myself a reaction of negativity, like I was being insulted or hurt, but then I realized that the words of this person didn’t really matter so much as my investment in those words. I thought about what he said. In that moment I comprehended that, well, he has his understanding of what I am and he could be right, or he could be wrong. Then I had a sense of peace in order to respond to him more appropriately. I said, "No, you are wrong. I am not good, I am great!" And being funny about it and joking around dissipated the tension.
So comprehension can work like that. We learn to negotiate ourselves with other people. We don't respond with negativity. But even when people are very bad around us, we don't have to go along with it. But, that sense of self, which is neutral, that attention, our conscious state in which we are no longer thinking, we learn to act with love, with serenity, with insight.
The Nature of Impressions and Inner Transformation
Some people think or get worried that if “I annihilate the ego, my defects, what will I be?” Well, you'll be charismatic or compassionate or happy or patient or loving or funny or humorous and divine—knowing how to respond to any circumstance appropriately.
So, this is what we call a transformation of impressions.
It is interesting if we look at some of the etymology of this word. Impressio: “to impress,” meaning “pressed in,” from the verb, impremere: “to imprint; an effect produced upon someone; a mark impressed on a surface by something.”
It is interesting that we find the word “imprint.” You know when people say things that are bad, if we just identify and invest all of our energy into that comment, those words imprint something in our psyche, that conditions us. We feed our anger and feel resentful, proud, hurt. It is a type of imprinting on the soul, on the mind, and that creates more problems, more defects, because we are investing our energy in a sense of self, which is in the spiritual sense, not real, not objective.
Real intelligence is knowing that the relationship between self and other is illusory, and Buddhism talks about this a lot. That everything exists upon other things. There is nothing intrinsically existing in and of itself. Impressions emerge, we react, and there is always a dynamic interchange of relationships, of problems. But if we learn to see that those words no longer have any meaning, someone criticizes us, we don't invest ourselves in those words. We don't feel hurt.
Maybe psychologically there is something deep down that we need to see, so we go home, we meditate on what we saw, so that we could remove all those latent subtle frustrations or desires which are lingering. Then more and more, we learn to transform our psyche day by day.
On another level, the transformation Impressions exist when we develop our intelligence. Again, intelligence is: “How do we discriminate between phenomena of what we see, of what we sense?”
Another example of this is a person may walk down the street and sees images of a lustful type, of a degenerate type, which is making certain desires emerge in the psyche and which are negative. If one comprehends that this person, which one is attracted to so much, this woman or this figure, if we imagine that well in twenty, thirty, fifty, sixty, seventy years, this person may be dust and bones.
So what is the nature of this lustful intention that I feel in myself? What is it? What is this desire? What does it want? How does it exist? Because our defects, our desires, our egotism, our egos, always feed upon the impressions of life. Always want certain stimuli.
Anger wants to hurt the other person because it is hurt. Pride wants to belittle because it wants praise. Greed wants to accumulate material things or even spiritual things, ideas, fame, attention, energy. Fear wants security. It wants things to be what it wants.
So those defects are always wanting certain impressions of life and the reason why we suffer so much is because we are attached to that sense of self, which wants something that doesn't exist. It is not there. We are always fighting against the reality of our situation. We want things to be a different way.
But if we learn to accept our situation with gladness, things will change, as we are changing our negative states. Transforming the impressions of our psyche that we didn't transform in the past.
This is where traumas emerge. Something happened, an impression emerged and came into our psyche and we weren't aware and it affected us. We can think of something like 9/11. People on the site who witnessed those buildings come crashing down and people dying, were traumatized. They weren't aware of what was going on and obviously that kind of violence is very destructive, even psychologically. Some people are still grappling with the pains of that incident, even from across the world who just watched it on television.
But imagine someone who actually was in that situation, where they receive those impressions, and because they were not aware, they didn't know how to transform it. So that type of experience replays in the mind again and again and again. Those impressions are in the psyche. They form new defects, new desires, new traumas, new problems. The way to resolve that is to develop attention, awareness, and in that way we learn to see suffering and go to the root of our problems. [Editor: Listen to the lecture Trauma and Spiritual Healing for advice].
Meditation in the Gnostic Tarot
In this last slide we are looking at, it is the summation of meditative discipline, according to what we call the Egyptian Tarot. So if you have listened on chicagognosis.org, we have a course that is presently ongoing about these cards. These are images that reflect spiritual principles, spiritual truths. We have the first three arcana, or laws of the divine. These cards represent qualities of consciousness, qualities of being. It also can teach us about meditation, more importantly.
In the first image we have the Magician, a representation of what we call the Divine Father, our spirit, our true Buddha nature, our Being, our inner God. I won't explain all the symbolism of these images in depth. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can study our course, The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah online.
But you notice that he is a standing figure. He is masculine. He has a staff in his hand representing his willpower, his assertiveness, his masculinity.
Likewise, we have his opposite, the second arcanum, the second law, which is the High Priestess. She is sitting. She is the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother of any religion, whether it be Mary amongst the Christians, Maya, Miriam, Adonia amongst the Kabbalists, Shekinah, Diana, Hera, or the wife of Jupiter.
So all those religions can be explained through these principles, but more importantly, what is interesting is that she is sitting. She represents a feminine aspect of our consciousness, a feminine quality, which is more perceptive, more intuitive, more emotional.
The first aspect of ourselves is will, assertiveness, which we call willpower.
In the last image we find a woman seated with a beautiful ibis bird. She is the Empress of the Tarot. She has stars above her head, meaning that she is illuminated. She has comprehension. She has understanding.
So these three cards are interesting because they summarize the path of meditation and death. In order to really meditate on a problem or issue, or to gain understanding, or intelligence of something, we concentrate, we use our willpower. We focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything.
If we sit to practice, if we want to understand a scripture, a book, we read a verse and we concentrate on it. We can also visualize in our consciousness and imagine what the words are representing. We concentrate, we relax.
Some people think concentration is something over-exertive, like if one is lifting weights. Concentration is a profound state of relaxation. It knows how to act but without exerting the mind, without agitation, without disturbance. It is calm, serene.
Notice that even although he is standing very firmly, he is also very calm. On his right, The High Priestess, the Divine Feminine, is seated and reading a book. It is a symbol of how we learn to read the book of our life, the chapters of our existence. Our mornings, our afternoons, our days, our evenings, and then really reflect with our imagination and see how those circumstances need to be studied.
Through the combination of will and imagination, we gain understanding, intelligence. We learn to discern right from wrong, good from bad, positive from negative. That state of understanding is what gives us real peace. We are no longer afflicted, even if we have problems that can't get resolved. Sufferings we can't change. At least we are not identified with those circumstances, then we are at peace and very strong, because we know that eventually, this body will go and the soul will move on. If we are awake, we will take advantage of those circumstances. If we are not, that is another issue.
The Path of Comprehension
Willpower and imagination make comprehension. So, in the example I gave you, you can concentrate and develop your concentration by focusing on one thing. Some people begin with a stone or a pebble or something basic that doesn't take much effort to focus on.
I like to use a candle when I first started. I would take a candle, light the flame and look at it. Observe the fire. You'll find that the mind will start to drift and start thinking of other things, but the purpose of the practice is: don't think, just look. That is the state of consciousness of attention. When we are no longer thinking of other things, that concentration becomes very profound, so that you can learn to direct it at more elevated things like a scripture, or book, the meaning thereof.
Comprehending a certain defect that emerged in the day, you focus and concentrate on remembering those events. Then imagine, visualize those scenes.
Also, visualization can be developed through that candle practice. Sometimes in the beginning, it is difficult to see things mentally. We don't see much clarity or color or depth, but if you learn to take that candle and observe it for a few moments, then close your eyes and try to imagine that candle in your mind, without vacillating, or letting the mind change it. If you find the mind starts doing that, then just relax, look again at the candle and gently reinitiate the practice. In that way we learn to develop more clarity and depth in our visualization practices.
The combination of concentration and imagination allows us to access any knowledge we want. We can fall asleep while concentrating and imagining a certain thing. Then when we go to sleep physically, the soul awakens in the internal dimensions and we see those states of being with clarity.
In the beginning people will see very vague things and amorphous things. With practice such as with these two exercises, we gain more clarity and understanding. In that way we learn to develop more understanding in our own life: how to navigate this world we live in with patience and serenity, because if we have understanding, we are no longer so troubled or conflicted. We learn to negotiate ourselves with intelligence with this world, with clarity.
If you are interested, I invite you to study the writings we have available. You can view them online and they are full publications of gnostic teachings.org. If there is a particular topic that you listened or hear today in relation to our synopsis or synthesis, you can go online and look at the books we have available. We do have some available in print here, but you can always go online and read them if you are interested and purchase them from online. There is a lot we covered but the synthesis is this: Be aware. Be attentive. These practices can help to elevate our level of being, our way of being so that we learn to find more happiness in our life, find joy, even when circumstances are very painful. Because one who has divinity inside active, doesn't despair. Doesn't fear. Doesn't worry.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is your favorite book?
Instructor: Oh, my favorite book! I do like a lot of classical mythology, especially because those myths teach us Kabbalah. I remember taking a course on classical mythology, classical literature, specifically, which of course the professor didn't know the real esoteric depth of these stories. Some of my favorites are like The Odyssey, which relates to the principles we talked about today.
In the poem by Homer, Odysseus is stranded from place to place after he is victorious in the Trojan War. He was the mastermind that created the Trojan Horse and invaded the city in order to sack it. Then he goes home having angered Poseidon, and Poseidon is a representation in the Kabbalah of Binah, the Holy Spirit amongst the Christians. He angered Poseidon because he took credit for the works that divinity did for him.
That symbolism of war and all that is not literal. It is about the war of the soul against desire, but he has to journey from island to island, again and again, facing death, starvation, assault, and all sorts of terrible things which are symbolic of the spiritual path one has to face. Of course, he gets to the end and his whole crew has been annihilated, basically. They all died, and he was the only one who survived, swam to shore, to Ithaca, his home.
He gets there and Athena warns him, "your wife is under assault here. There are many suitors trying to marry your wife Penelope because it's been twenty years since you've been here. They think you are dead." It is very interesting. All these men are trying to marry his wife, and Penelope is a beautiful symbol of the soul. She is the soul that is being afflicted by many suitors, many lustful elements, egos, defects, and Athena the Divine Feminine, which we can call the Divine Mother, Kundalini amongst the Hindus, She disguises him as a beggar and then he has to gain “intel” about all the suitors who are trying to marry his wife. He can't show who he is. If he gets mad and shows himself that he is Odysseus, they are going to kill him.
But it is interesting that if you look at the word intelligence, even the word “intel” is government slang, finding data about your enemies. So, he is finding all this intelligence, information about how these suitors are working. Who are they aligned to? Who are they? What are they doing? What is their methods? It is a symbol of how one in meditation is working against certain defects, gaining understanding of them.
Of course, they humiliate him, they beat him, they call him a beggar, they mock him for many chapters towards the end of the book, in the poem. But, the crowning moment is when he is in the throne room facing a challenge that Penelope places. She will only marry the suitor or man who can fire an arrow through, I don't remember the number of rings of an ax, lodged in the floor there, but can fire an arrow through all of them.
All the suitors are trying to take Odysseus's bow and pull the string, but it is so heavy and strong that they can't. Here is this beggar Odysseus, or disguised as the beggar and who comes up and says, "I'll take the challenge." Of course, all the suitors become enraged because they have been mocking him the whole time. They don't know who he is.
He pulls the bow, puts the string on easily, and then he takes the arrow and fires it through the rings. All of them are shocked that he accomplished it. Then he takes an arrow and fires it at one of the suitors and kills him. They become terrified in rage and say, "What are you doing old man?" Athena unveils who he is. He says, "I am Odysseus whom you thought was dead. Now I will kill every single one of you for having tried to take my home and squander my property."
It is a symbol of how the soul, our consciousness, goes to war against our defects, and it is very strong at that level, especially. Even the bow is a symbol of negotiating the external with the internal. You pull the bow, you are focusing on what's outside of you, your target, with your concentration. With your willpower, you take the arrow, your perception, see the target, and fire. Concentration and imagination. Then in that way, when we comprehend our defects, we kill them. Then you can extract the soul that has been trapped in there and develop virtue.
It is a symbol of what some people call Buddhist annihilation, which is a term that frightens people, but you know when the ego is annihilated, the soul is born. It is pure.
I love that poem a lot. You know, it's a very beautiful symbol, but people read it and they are very entertained. Yeah, Odysseus gets revenge, they think it is a literal story. Yeah, I mean you can read it that way, but there are a lot of esoteric truths in these fables or stories which are very beautiful.
So, with the bow and arrow, your concentration, your perception, your imagination, you focus on each defect you want to work on. When the moment comes, when the comprehension is full, you can kill that element and be free of it.
I remember The Odyssey is a very beautiful story about that, but there are many more stories that are very profound. But, a lot of the stories that we have been able to study and explain in our courses come from the writings of Samael Aun Weor, specifically. He is a writer on many esoteric topics, whose works are just becoming more familiar in the West, in North America, especially. He was from Latin America.
Some of my favorite books of his when I first started was Treaties of Revolutionary Psychology. He explains many of the principles we talked about: Self-observation, remembering the presence of divinity, learning to gather data about one's faults. It is a very good book to begin with. I know I began many years ago with that book especially. It is one of my favorites. Something you revisit again and because you are always learning. A very deep text and very direct. It has a lot of knowledge there and very rich too.
When you understand that type of teaching, you can look at any scripture, any book, any mythology and you can interpret what is going on. You can use your intelligence to understand the relationship between characters and ideas. It ceases to be some kind of academic, literary thing, but you are seeing things in the book that people don't really understand or know about. They are very profound.
Question: I stopped seeing violent stuff like the media. How do you look at? Is sports demonic? Can one do the work and watch football?
Instructor: It's your business. I know some sports are much more vulgar, like UFC fighting championship, boxing, those that are very violent. Those things are obviously very negative. I mean, I know many people, even instructors in our tradition, who may still watch sports and games. I don't know many who watch UFC, where guys are pounding each other into hamburger. But you know the kind of thing is very negative especially.
I believe Samael Aun Weor was writing in some of his books how certain sports were the degeneration of ancient traditions from long ago. From history that many people don't even know about. Like for example, the bullfighting rings. He talks about how bullfighting was an art that was practiced by a different humanity on this planet before our race emerged, very long ago, which not many people are familiar with, but he stated that those people would not kill the bull in a vulgar way like we see today. It is a symbol of how the toreador would use a lasso, a rope, and a sword symbolically to subdue the bull. It is a symbol of conquering the mind, controlling the mind. But they wouldn't kill the bull because the bull has a beautiful soul. An elemental soul which is pure.
Today you find in Spain, you know the running of the bull, or people killing those animals in the ring. It is very vulgar and degenerated. That tradition came from a long ago. It was a symbolic thing, but over time people corrupted it. So, sports, if you are interested, if you like football, it is your business. It is a violent sport, but when I have seen football games in the past, I don't find that they left any super lasting mark on me in a negative way. [But you know, if you enjoy it, then enjoy it. It is better, though, to take in good impressions that uplift the soul, not just to entertain the mind.]
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