Today we will be discussing the hermit, which is a spiritual archetype often associated with an initiate: a person who enters a spiritual path seeking to initiate or begin a new life, a new spiritual development within themselves. As a hermit is often associated with solitude and loneliness, it is also interesting that today's talk is going to cover the importance of relationships, not just from a mundane perspective, but especially from a spiritual perspective of how relationships can help us on our spiritual journey.
The basic idea of relationships in psychology is that they can be extremely important and helpful for your mental health and your physical health as well. If you have really good relationships in your life, you are at a greater advantage of healing faster, living longer, and having better health outcomes with regards to mental illness or physical problems as well. In addition to that, if you have got a lot of toxic, negative, or stressful relationships in your life, then that can hinder your physical health. People who are extremely withdrawn and isolated also tend to live shorter lives, to have more health problems.
So how do we understand this seeming contradiction between becoming a spiritual hermit―a person who is advancing on a higher level of being and living seemingly in isolation―with the idea that relationships are really important parts of life, that we are living in a society where we need to interact healthily with other people?
Regarding Abusive Relationships
All of us have relationships at different levels. It is also important to say up front that sometimes relationships can be abusive. So what I am talking about today is living a healthy spiritual life and having healthy relationships that aid our spiritual development. I want to be very explicit, up front, that if anyone is in an abusive relationship, we are not condoning staying in an abusive relationship. If you are in a relationship where someone is threatening to harm you or to harm others, if someone is exhibiting controlling behaviors, or of course, if there is physical or sexual violence in a relationship, then it is very important to seek community resources or professional help to determine what is the best way for you to safely remove yourself from that type of relationship.
Sometimes people will stay in a relationship thinking they are doing the right thing because they love their partner and they want to sacrifice for their partner and serve their partner, even when they are being abused. But in an abusive relationship, not only are you harming yourself by staying in that relationship, but you are also allowing the other person to continue to commit a harmful action that is not good for their spiritual journey either.
So just to state up front and very explicitly that the relationships we are talking about today and overcoming difficulties or criticisms in relationships are not pertaining to abusive relationships, which we definitely believe that people should seek resources in their community, to get help and to get out of those types of relationships.
Why Study Our Relationships?
But abusive relationships aside, we all probably have at least a few relationships in our life that have some unpleasantness in them, where people can really push our buttons or criticize us, or people are not giving us what we think we want or deserve from them, like respect, or admiration. So many people who are seeking a spiritual path are sometimes seeking a chance to escape from relationships or family obligations and say, “Well, I am above that because I am on a spiritual path.” That can be a problem because we are in relationships for a reason.
Relationships are an opportunity to learn about ourselves. Many times we can not see ourselves clearly and other people see things in us that we do not want to see. So criticism can be the best way to start propelling our spiritual journey. Tests and ordeals with other people, conflicts with other people, if we know how to transform that, if we know how to study ourselves and our behaviors in meditation, to really understand what is going on in our dynamic with another person or a group of people, we can see something new about ourselves that can give us the choice of if we want to continue with that characteristic or behavior in ourselves or if we want to change it and adopt something healthier.
That is the whole journey of spiritual transformation right? ― finding what in us we would like to change, we would like to get rid of, some of what we consider to be harmful, or negative, or dragging us down―not in other people, not in the relationships as much as in ourselves. We never really have power over other people, so we have to maximize the power that we have over ourselves to be able to change our lives.
I have verified in my life that when I significantly change my own attitudes about people, my own tendencies and behaviors towards people, that it radically changes the relationship that I have with those people. Not every relationship is going to change in a huge substantial way, but at least in small ways, we can make a big difference in our relationship if we are trying to improve ourselves, rather than just getting frustrated and just blaming other people all the time.
Karma and Relationships
So where do relationships come from? Well, there are two sorts of relationships in life: inherited relationships, like the family that you are born into or that you are raised by, and then relationships that we choose or at least we seem to choose.
We feel a connection to a certain person and we think, “I am going to become friends with them,” or “I am going to date them.”
So these relationships, of choice or inheritance, really have their root in karma. In this esoteric tradition, we talk a lot about past lives and how the actions of past lives can be carried over, how that energy, the consequences of past actions, carries over when we incarnate into a new physical body.
So with our relationships and our family especially, there are very important karmic ties. The past actions, whatever wrongs we committed, or whatever good deeds we did, can determine the quality of what relationships we have in this life. Also, the character that we carry with us from life to life can determine which relationships we choose or whom we feel attracted to, what we are looking for.
If we had a really strong desire in a past life to be with a certain type of person, we can carry that with us and then seek out that type of person in this life. Sometimes this can be to our benefit, but a lot of times this is to our detriment. We are caught in a cycle of pain and are being drawn to the wrong types of people, whether as friends or romantic partners, and we do not know why we can not break out of that cycle.
It is really important to understand the origin of our relationships. Through meditation and some serious work on oneself, you can start to penetrate into the memories of your past lives. But even if we can not do that, we can study our present life to really understand something about what has drawn us into these relationships, whether by choice or inheritance. We can understand what we need to change in ourselves in this life to have better relationships in our future lifetimes.
Samael Aun Weor is the founder of this modern Gnostic movement, and he wrote in his book Beyond Death about three types of marriage bonds. I think this applies to all relationships, even beyond marriage. But of course, the person that you marry is a very significant bond, so that is kind of the archetype that we are looking at here.
Here is what he stated:
There are three types of marriage bonds: first, karmic; second, dharmic; and third cosmic. The first type consists of pain, misery, hunger, nakedness, disgrace. The second consists of success, happiness, love, economic progress, etc. And the third is only for the chosen souls, pure, holy: the third brings as it is natural, inexhaustible happiness. ―Samael Aun Weor, Beyond Death
So if we are thinking about karmic relationships, they bring us a lot of pain and they have important lessons because, probably, there were some traits that we brought with us from this lifetime or actions that we committed in past lifetimes that are causing the same cycle to repeat in this lifetime. By studying the nature of the relationship that brings you pain, the role that you are playing in perhaps perpetuating or causing more pain in that relationship, and then choosing to change―even if in this lifetime you can not salvage the relationship, even if something happens to end that relationship or it is necessary to end that relationship if it is abusive―it could mean that in a future lifetime your relationship with that particular person could be very different, because you acted from a place of compassion or wisdom rather than just unconsciousness, repeating the same frustrated desires and selfish intentions.
The second would be what would be the outcome of those types of changes: dharmic relationships where we feel real inspiration from the other person, support and success and happiness with the other person.
Finally this type of cosmic relationship would be a relationship had by an initiate: a person who is really on another level, a person who has really tapped into that divine path and is really going beyond the mundane idea of a healthy good life and is really stepping into a spiritual life that is superior to that.
I would like you to take a moment to reflect on your most important relationship. Which of the three is it and what would you like it to become?
It is really important to take some time to apply teachings to our real life and not just think about them as an idea, but to see how any type of spiritual teaching gives us an opportunity to understand our own struggles, our own suffering, and gives us an opportunity to change.
The Relationships of an Initiate
The key to healthy spiritual relationships is the whole purpose in the work of an initiate. It is interesting that the hermit symbolizes solitude. That does not necessarily mean that if we become an initiate, we are going to run away to the mountains and escape all of our problems and never see our family and friends again. We may be an initiate living anonymously here in the world, fulfilling our obligations in society and helping people without anyone being aware.
The key to that is the renunciation of self-interest. It is not just to have healthy relationships which we can learn through basic psychology, but to really go above and beyond that and to be a spiritual servant to all the people around us, whether they are an enemy, a friend, a family member, or a stranger. It means to really see that one person has the power to make an extreme difference in the world and in other people's lives, if they are a person who has been able to develop some spiritual virtue, a strong character, and the willingness to sacrifice for others.
That is why we hear about a parable "The Great Pearl,” where a merchant went everywhere searching for a pearl of great value and then when he found it, he renounced everything and gave up his life for this pearl. It does not mean that we are going to give up our physical life and our relationships, but rather that we renounce our psychological attachment to relationships.
A lot of times when we are seeking a relationship or a friendship, we are thinking about “what I can get out of it,” “what is this person going to give to me?” and “what are the benefits I am going to get from this relationship?” That is the opposite of what an initiate would be thinking if they were to enter into a relationship. An initiate coming from a place of compassion does not need anything from the other person, but has their own inner strength coming from divinity.
When we have been really able to establish ourselves in our spiritual connection to divinity, then whatever misfortunes or fortunes might befall us in life, we know that all of that is temporary. Relationships will come and go. Even the strongest, longest-lasting relationship will end with death. We have to have a more permanent relationship, and the only permanent relationship is the soul's relationship to divinity. If we are establishing that, then we would have the courage to renounce the desires for worldly things: fame, money, lust, pride, vanity, all of the things that we might think are going to give us what we want from life.
When we renounce our desire for those things, then we stop hurting people, because when you think about the people who have hurt you the most or the times when you have hurt people the most, it is often because you have been driven by a desire. You wanted something from them or they wanted something from you. If we can get that self-interest out of the relationship, then there can be a true harmony of souls, even if the other person is not at that same level and they are still self-interested.
You can see it so much more clearly when you are not blinded by your own egotism and your own self-interest. You can really see what their intentions are, and you can have compassion for them, and you can approach the relationship with wisdom, and prudence, and understand a better way to have a healthy interaction with them.
But most of the time, people who enter spiritual paths struggle a lot with their relationships. Maybe they are going through a lot of changes. Their spiritual journey isn't understood by their current friends and family, and so a lot of people just give up. They say, “My family does not understand me,” “They do not support me in what I am trying to do now,” and they just try to end all of their relationships. Rather than changing psychologically and changing their attitudes towards the people who are not understanding what they are going through, they decide to just physically remove themselves from those people.
If that is an abusive relationship, that could be a really good idea, but in a lot of cases, people just can not stand the criticism, or that people are not respecting, or understanding what they are experiencing in their spiritual life. But we lose through that action the opportunity to grow and change with the people who are in our lives for a reason. They are in our lives because of some kind of previous action, relationship, or cause, and so instead of understanding: “Why are these people in my life? Why do I have this conflict with them? Why do I have these attitudes towards them?” ― people just run away, and that is really a disadvantage for spiritual life.
Question: How do you deal with people who do not have compassion, and by being a compassionate person and unconditionally wanting to help them, you feel you become drained and exhausted? When do you get to the point where you say, “I can not take that!” and I have to look out for myself?
Instructor: So what is important if we do not have that kind of spiritual strength yet, we all have spiritual aspirations. We want to get that connection to divinity. But maybe we think “I am not there yet, and these people are really draining me,” or we are around people who are toxic, and they are trying to drain you, because they are trying to manipulate you, and get something from you.
So as I mentioned earlier, if we do not have self-interest involved, then we have no problem stepping away from a person like that. Even if it is a family member, we might lessen the amount of time that we have to be around that person, but take advantage of the times when we do have to be around them, to learn something. If we need a break, if that person is sucking us dry, we can step back and take some time away from that person.
Really, it is aspirational that we get to the point that we get everything that we need from divinity. But on the path, there are going to be a lot of those types of ordeals, and questions like “How should I be interacting with this person?”
Well, we can never really sacrifice our own well-being for the sake of serving someone else's desires. The problem is people say, “I want this from you,” and we think the right thing to do is to give people what they want, and that is service for that person. But many times people want something that is not actually good for them. If people are wanting to just have somebody around that they can beat up on, or have somebody around that they can use to get everything that they want from them all the time, then it is not in our interest to be that for someone.
We have to recognize that the right thing to do is to step away from that person and to stop giving them our energy, because if we are giving all of our energy to a person who is abusing that gift, then we are not using that energy to develop ourselves. I will talk in a few slides about changing where we are directing our energy and how that helps us a lot in those types of situations. But if our relationships are not that bad, if our relationships are not draining us dry, and we do have a place where we can kind of have our sanctuary, our home, a space where we can separate from people for a while to be able to do our spiritual work, then we can also use the obligations of our ordinary life as a chance to develop our character.
Spiritual work is very difficult and requires a lot of strength of character, and a lot of willpower. We might need a break from people to really heal and to restore our energy. A healing retreat can be a way to do that. But if we go away on retreat for ten years and then we re-enter society, and we still have all the same problems that we left with, it is because we have not really changed.
That is why I advocate for a reciprocal notion of healing yourself, taking the time to do your spiritual work, and maybe that is in isolation, or maybe that is with a spiritual group, but also to not run away from the world and the duties that we have to be a good citizen.
Responsibility in Our Relationships
Gurdjieff gave a teaching about this that I would like to share. Gurdjieff was a teacher of western esoterism. He talks about the common man as a sort of archetype that many people look down upon. Here is exactly what he said:
People who are definitely thinking about [spiritual] ways, particularly people of intellectual ways, very often look down on the obyvatel [common man], and in general, despise the virtues of the [common man]. But they only show by this their own personal unsuitability for any [spiritual] way whatsoever. Because no [spiritual] way can begin from a level lower than the common man. This is very often lost sight of in people who are unable to organize their own personal lives. Those who are too weak to struggle with, and conquer life, dream of the [spiritual] ways, or what they consider are [spiritual] ways because they think it will be easier for them than life. And because this so to speak justifies their weakness and their adaptability, a man who can be a good [common man] is much more helpful from the point of view of the [spiritual] way than a tramp who thinks himself much higher than a [common man]. I call ‘tramps’ all the so-called intelligentsia-artists, poets, any kind of bohemian in general who despises the [common man], and at the same time who would be unable to exist without him. The ability to orientate oneself in life is a very useful quality from the point of view of the [spiritual] work. A good [common man] should be able to support at least twenty persons by his own labor. What is a man worth who is unable to do this? ―Gurdjieff, quoted in P. D. Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous
I was mentioning about people who look at spirituality as a way out of life and a way out of their problems rather than seeing that life and the problems that it presents to us, whether through our job, or our relationships, or our family, is actually the way into the spiritual world. The spiritual world is not somewhere floating outside of our world and we are trying to escape there, but rather that we are using the challenges of our life to be able to develop ourselves and our spiritual strength.
We see this echoed in another passage from the founder of this tradition, Samael Aun Weor, when he talks about the requisite, the requisite to become a spiritual initiate: a person who really is trying to transcend just the common man, the good ordinary common person that can contribute a lot to society. Not only can he or she care for their family and make a difference in the world in a small way, but make the sacrifice to perform a higher service.
To become an initiate is the ultimate sacrifice that a human can make. We can look at a person like Jesus or Buddha, prophets and saints who really gave their lives to God but also in service of humanity. Any person who gives their life to God but then runs away and escapes from society and never deals with people again is not really achieving the goal. The goal of developing spiritually is so that we have something to give back to the world. That takes a lot of preparation and a lot of work.
Just like if you wanted to become the best at a certain job like a doctor, you would have to study extensively. You would have to train and practice your skillset for years to become the best at that. For some reason, people think that being an initiate is different from that, that it is just innately, “I am better than other people and I am a spiritual person,” when really, the work of an initiate requires a lot of training, a lot of practice, a lot of self-reflection and knowledge over the years. That all begins with our current life, with our challenges, with our relationships most importantly, and having a mirror to look at ourselves.
He mentions that we need to become a good head of household. So even if we are not currently in a relationship, or the head of a family, how are we being a good head of household towards other people?
It is also important not to get too fanatic. We get excited about our spiritual life. We get excited about the journey that we are on, and then if we get fanatic, we try to force other people to be in a place where they are not. That can be harmful to our relationships and it can be harmful to other people.
The most important rule of white magic is that you respect the free will of others. You are not here to seek power to control other people, to get everything that you want from other people, but you are in this spiritual work to improve yourself, to benefit yourself, and then thereby to be a benefit to others because your level of being is always improving and elevating.
In the beginning, it can be hard to just establish the foundation in our physical life. Like I said, the aspiration we have to become an initiate might seem unrealistic from where we are sitting today, but all of that begins by gradually day by day reflecting on our lives, reflecting on the choices we are making, the relationships we have, the attitudes we have, and transforming that, transforming ourselves. Samael Aun Weor wrote:
The crude reality of facts demonstrates to us that many are those who have not comprehended the transcendence of the Gnostic esoteric work, and that great majorities are not good heads of households.
So if we find ourselves feeling a lot of anger or animosity towards people, if we find that we constantly struggle with wounded pride, like people are not respecting us enough, that is where we need to start, by converting ourselves, by changing those vices into virtues, and finding out:
“What is good in this person that I can really love, to transform this relationship?”
“How can I have humility with this person and compassion for this person?”
Or if it is a situation where the person is draining us, and it is not a good relationship, then:
“How do I develop the strength to stop this person, to remove myself, or to stand up for myself in a healthy way that does not allow the person to continue harming themselves and me through their wrong actions?”
We think of the spiritual path as a sort of vertical line through life, that one can go up spiritually, and that one can go down spiritually. While we are progressing through our physical life, which is the horizontal line of life, we are aging. We are maturing physically. We are developing.
But are we maturing and developing spiritually? Today if I am at one level of being―let's say, hopefully, I am a decent person, I am a good common woman―then ten years from now, will I have developed in my spiritual life? ― when I am at a higher level of being, when I am experiencing happiness and genuine love for others, strength of character, virtues, and able to live that in my life? Or ten years from now, will I be at a lower level of being where I am immeshed in suffering, where I have all kinds of attachments and desires to people or worldly situations that are never going to be fulfilled, and just cause me more pain by wanting them all the more?
It is good to reflect on why we are starting off with a good foundation, and also where do we intend to go. If we are only seeking worldly things, we may accumulate a lot physically in our life, but when we die, all of that is gone. If we are seeking spiritual development, then whatever we accumulate we will carry with us into future lifetimes. This is the goal and it is also the work.
The Three Tools of the Hermit
We aspire to become the initiate, the archetype that is represented in Arcanum 9 in the tarot, the Hermit. The Hermit encloses the secrets by which we can gradually become like that. Nothing in nature occurs overnight, so we should expect that just like with any other skill, or any other level of development, that it takes time and it takes effort. Meditation especially is a very important science for those who seek to really know and to understand themselves, and to change.
The three tools of the Hermit can give us a clue into what we are working toward, and also how to work toward it.
The first is the lamp of Trismegistus, which Eliphas Levi explains, “is reason illuminated by science.”
The second is the mantle, or the cloak of Apollonius, which is “full and complete self-possession.”
The third is the staff of the patriarchs. It is the “help of the secret and everlasting forces of nature.”
The Lamp of Wisdom
When we are working on this path, we need first to begin with the lamp of Trismegistus. That reason is related to our intellectual brain or ideas or understanding.
Do we have wisdom, or do we feel constantly confused and in ignorance?
The real illumination of our mind comes from divinity. So working with prayer, working with spiritual practice, working with meditation, is what is going to allow us to gain that lamp, that lantern, through which we are guided.
Most importantly of all, we are guided by our conscience, and if we ignore our conscience over years and years and years, that voice can become very silent. We need to work to reactivate that voice of the conscience, and spiritual practices and prayer are a great method to do that.
Really dedicating some time every day to divinity, towards your relationship with divinity through that practice and prayer, is really essential to reawaken our conscience. Then when we have our conscience awake, we allow that to be the light that guides us through life―to know what is right, to know when we need to end a relationship, or when we need to go and heal a relationship.
All of that comes from our conscience, and all of that can vary by situation. That is why no one can give you a one-size-fits-all. You know your relationship best of all. You know yourself, and you are the one that can meditate and have divinity guide you on what you should do in that relationship.
The Mantle of Prudence
The second tool that the Hermit has is the mantle or cloak. Eliphas Levi states that the mantle of Apollonius is “full and complete self-possession, which isolates the sage from blind tendencies.”
When we are controlled by our desires, we are blind, spiritually speaking, because those desires can guide us into all kinds of problems and difficult situations. We do not know how to get out of it because we are just driven by desire, and that is what keeps it spinning, keeps the cycle going, turns the wheel of suffering as we learn about in Buddhism.
To have full and complete self-possession is to not only not be controlled by other people, but most importantly, to not be controlled by our own desires. Perhaps someone comes along and they tempt me with a proposition. For example, they are going to give me a promotion at my job where I will have a lot more power, and a lot more money, but in order to get that promotion, they want me to manipulate or hurt someone else, maybe their enemy. Well, if I am driven by the desire for power and control, then I am going to give in to that demand. I am going to maybe get what I want materially, but lose something of extreme value to me spiritually.
If I am in full and complete self-possession, then no matter what temptation that person might offer to me, I follow the lamp of my conscience and I do what is right. That is a truly powerful person. That is a person who is not manipulated by their worldly desires and attachments. That person can not be controlled by anyone. They might be killed, dying for what they believe is right, but they have true power in that they are self-possessed.
That is really important in relationships because when we talk about that renunciation and the self-sacrifice that is necessary to have a really healthy spiritual relationship with someone, that is only possible if we also have this full and complete self-possession. As long as we want something from the other person, then we are at risk of being manipulated or falling into the trap of our own desire.
The Staff of the Patriarchs
The final one is the staff of the patriarch. In this teaching, we talk about the forces of nature, and how nature is constantly creating. We see cycles of birth, growth, maturity, decay, and death. Nature is always creating and destroying. In the same way, we have a force of creation within us, which is talked about in a lot of different lectures. But to summarize, our force of creation, to create life, is in our sexual energy. If we work with practices to redirect our sexual energy, inward, up the spinal column, and into the brain, this can illuminate us. This can re-establish our connection to divinity. That is the staff. The staff is the symbol, esoterically, of the spinal column. The magic wand of the magician is the spinal column.
When we have that help of those secret (because all of this knowledge has been occult for a long time), everlasting forces of nature, we develop true willpower. We develop a willpower that can stand against the world, even when the world is fighting very hard to force us to do what is wrong. If we think about where we direct our energy, a lot of energy is expended chasing desires. There is a certain amount of energy we have to expend every day for our physical life, to fulfill our duties and our obligations, to work at our job, or to go to school, or take care of our family, or our partner. That requires energy, but when there is no attachment there, when there is not a ton of egotistical desire that is craving, we are losing a lot less energy than would be normally expended.
For many people nowadays, our mind is always running, running, running, and our emotions are always being stimulated by one thing or another. That causes a lot of burnout and drain, where we have nothing left to give to our spiritual work. We sit to meditate and we are just exhausted. It is really important to look at the things that we really desire and to lay them on the altar before divinity, and give up our desire for those worldly things as the payment for the one pearl of great value, which is our soul.
If we really want to claim our spiritual development to the highest pitch, we can not have competing interests. We can not have a bunch of other things that we want along with it. Now that is the reality that we are at. We want a bunch of other things. We need to work on that over time. We need to look at what we want, and ask ourselves if it is really going to produce benefit.
If I have a lot of anger towards a certain person and “I really want revenge,” “I really want to hurt them,” and I continue to act on that for ten years, what is going to happen? What is going to be the outcome of acting on that desire? Well, a lot of pain for me, and for them, really nothing of spiritual benefit. In fact, a lot of spiritual detriment in this case.
But if I have a longing to become a better person, to do better in my job―because I have a job that is serving other people in one way or another, and I continue to invest in that longing, that natural longing of the soul over ten years―who will I become, and what will be the outcome?
So every day we can meditate on what we see in our day, what kind of emotions come up, what are we seeing in our relationships, and to reflect and ask ourselves from the point of view of our own conscience: is this really helping us on our spiritual journey, or is this harming us?
The Four Conditions to Attain the Holy Kingdom
In addition to these three tools, Eliphas Levi taught four conditions to attain the sanctum regnum, which is the holy kingdom, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven that exists within our physical life. That even within our physical life as we are moving along that horizontal line of existence, we can be also ascending into heavenly states of consciousness, increasing our wisdom, increasing our spiritual wakefulness, and our ability to see the truth of things, even spiritual powers.
The four conditions that Eliphas Levi teaches us help us to attain the knowledge and power of the magi. They are:
To know, to dare, to will, to keep silence; such are the four words of the magus inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx. ―Eliphas Levi, Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual
“To know is an intelligence illuminated by study.” Not just study of books and scriptures which can be helpful, but especially study of ourselves, because that is how we can really transform. As much as we might believe or feel inspired by something that we read in a book, we will never really verify it unless it is something we ourselves have lived.
That is why the best way to study spiritually is to study each night by meditating on our day.
What did we see in ourselves?
What did we see in other people?
What suffering did we experience or what suffering did we witness?
What good deeds did we witness or do, and what were the effects of that?
That is where everything begins, and that is what re-awakens the heart and the conscience, and allows us to really change as a person in a positive direction. It is to not try to become a better person because we want more from the world, but to be less self-absorbed and therefore establish a greater character of the soul. It is to allow the soul to grow and thrive, instead of an egotistical sense of self.
The second, “To dare, which is an intrepidity which nothing can check.” So this does not mean to just argue with everyone and to be stubborn and never do what everybody else wants you to do. Sometimes that can actually be a big problem. What might be the right thing to do is to sacrifice what our pride wants, and to find a compromise, or to find a way to be agreeable with other people.
This type of daring that he is talking about is to dare to do what is right―to not be stopped by any kind of threat, temptation, or desire that we have from the world, but rather to have the courage to do what is right, to have the courage to sacrifice even some of our most longed-for dreams if we really come to understand that they are not going to produce real benefit for ourselves or for others.
We need a lot of willpower for that. “A will that can not be broken” is unified will. That is why we see again and again the symbol that the hermit renounced everything and only dedicates themselves to spiritual development. Because as long as we have our will going in fifteen different directions, then we are never going to really be able to advance consistently in the direction of spiritual development. We might take two steps in that direction and then one step on a side path, and then we will never really get to where we are trying to go. That will is really related to the power of the staff in the spinal column.
Finally “to keep silence” doesn't just mean to not talk about the things that we are experiencing, although sometimes it is very prudent to not talk about the things you are experiencing if other people are not going to understand, and it is not really going to benefit them. If we are just talking about what we are going through because we are excited about it and we want everyone to know what we are experiencing, then that can be a very harmful choice. Many initiates kept extreme silence and privacy in their lives even if they had worldly obligations that they were fulfilling, because they understood that talking about spiritual things with people who are not in the same place, or not interested, can create a lot of conflict, problems, and even persecution.
But importantly, this means “to keep silence” as an act of emotional and intellectual self-possession, to be able to be prudent and not be corrupted by things in the world, to not be intoxicated by our own desires or what other people might offer to us, but rather to always keep our heart and our mind focused on being a benefit to other people.
This is a constant process of renouncing―renouncing what we want every day for the benefit of someone else. That does not mean that we will never experience happiness, or that we will never have positive relationships where other people are admiring or loving us, but that we renounce the attachment to it so that if the person that loves us today, tomorrow says, “I hate you and I never want to see you again,” we allow that. We understand. We have the psychological hermitage, in which we can separate from the world and understand that everything in life is temporary. What is wonderful today could be bitter tomorrow. That is ok as long as we are learning from both of them and changing spiritually.
So to conclude I would like to take a look at these two archetypes here from the tarot. We have the Hermit, Arcanum 9, which we have been looking at, and we can see that he is a wise old man, wise with age. And on the left, we have a picture of the Fool, a young man.
Well, some of the key differences to reflect on here are first the lamp. The Fool has no lamp, and in fact, he is right on the edge of the cliff, because he is not illuminated by divinity, or by his own conscience. He could very easily fall to his death.
The Fool also carries a staff, but that staff has the baggage of the world: all of his attachments, all of his desires. Rather than supporting himself on the staff, the staff is weighing him down. He is carrying those desires with him and is setting off on a journey, but without a real understanding of where he is going.
Finally the clothing; we do not know what the Hermit is hiding underneath his cloak. He is prudent. He is keeping the mystery of his Being and his development hidden from the world, and doing that work in secret, whereas the Fool is showing off and wearing beautiful clothing, trying to make an impression with everybody with how great he is.
I say this as a warning, not just to reflect ― “Which one are we more like?” ― but also to understand there are people in the world who are on spiritual paths, but are the path of the Fool, spiritual paths that seek power and have a lot of worldly attachments and investment, people who will show off to try to gain followers.
If we are seeking that from our spiritual work, that we can become this beautiful figure with a lot of power to manipulate and control other people, and get what we want or gain worldly things, then that is considered black magic. That is considered using all the gifts and resources at our disposal, but doing something that is going to harm people, and in turn, will harm us.
Whereas, the Hermit is the path of white magic, the path that is not seeking to gain any glory or fame for himself, but is sacrificing everything, is renouncing everything psychologically in order to lean on the staff of divinity, to use all of the illumination and resources that we are given by divinity to walk the bitter, lonely path of spiritual development.
This path can produce the real lasting happiness of the soul. But if we ask ourselves: “Why is the Hermit in solitude?” ― it is because the spiritual work can be painful.
There are parts of us that do not want to give up the things which we cling to in our lives. Even if we recognize that when we die, we are going to lose all that anyway, something in us does not want to give it up, does not want to let it go. When the Hermit cuts away those attachments to the world, that can be a very painful process. The spiritual path can be very lonely, because even if you have relationships, you are always aware that your self-interest and your attachment to that person is of harm to them. You are always separating from that person to protect them, and also to protect yourself and your spiritual development. That can be a path of loneliness and solitude. But it is the path on which we can enter into a higher level of being. So that is where we all begin.
Questions and Answers
Question: Do you believe that the Hermit can have a healthy relationship and love?
Instructor: Yes, absolutely! I am glad you asked about that. So, we probably will have relationships in our life that are healthy, especially as we are changing. As we are becoming better people, we attract people towards us who might be resonating at that level. As we change our behaviors and start in healthier behaviors, we are going to be around other people who have those healthier behaviors, and that is good. That can really be of benefit to us in our life. But the question is, are we attached to that?
Because at any moment that could change, or that could be lost. Are we going to lose everything we have developed in our self as a result of losing that relationship? If we are really taking the benefit of the relationship and making sure that we are not developing a strong attachment, then we can take all of that with us throughout our life. But our own development, and our own character, can not be dependent on whether other people are treating us well or not.
Question: So for me to understand, basically the Hermit can enjoy love and relationships and marriage, but they see it as an experience that is an extension of their spiritual journey rather than an attachment of their desires?
Instructor: Yes. So a hermit can have relationships, but the question is: why are we in the relationship? Is it driven by, “I want to learn something for my own benefit,” or is it driven by, “I genuinely feel love for this person and want to care for them and be with them long term”?
Question: So it is servitude?
Instructor: Yeah. Real compassion though. That can be really tricky, because we find ourselves in a lot of situations where we think we are doing what is compassionate for people, but maybe we are being deceived by our own desire, or what we are doing is not actually for their benefit. But yes, a hermit can have relationships if that is what life brings us. If life is bringing us certain people, then we should try to figure out “Why is this person in my life? How can I be of service to them in a real way?” But never expect that that person is going to be there permanently.
Question: That picture of the hermit showing solitude, obviously, like to become brave from the rock in the way, and the light following his foot, keeps sustaining him. Would you say that is him at a high pitch?
Instructor: I would say that it is a symbol. So the fact that he is isolated, grey, and kind of turning off all of the desires―like the world can be very bright, can be very intoxicating, very tempting―but he is turning away from that. He is going into the night, and like you said, only carrying the lamp that guides him. The spiritual night is a pretty common story or allegory that we hear about where we have to go and look at the dark parts of our life, in order to get there.
I do not think that the Hermit is the end goal. I think that Christ is the end goal, right? ― a person who can really channel divinity and be a light in the world. But the Hermit is the starting point at the beginning of the path.
Question: You mentioned Gurdjieff and the harmonious development of man's relationship with developing the bodies, and how he professed to be interacting with the lower realms of society as a tool. He would say, to use that virtue to develop that permanent, divine “I.” But P. D. Ouspensky had all these lavish situations. So how would you relate that to developing sincerely amongst the lower realm, and wouldn't you need to surround yourself as Gurdjieff did with the highest intelligentsia or the highest pitch of people?
Instructor: Yeah, it is a really good question, because Gurdjieff is very controversial. I also think he was at a level past maybe the Hermit that we are trying to work through. So in order to get to the level where we can make those kinds of decisions, like what he made, we have a little bit more development to do. But I will say, like you mentioned, he hung out with people who were considered the lower echelon of society, and also did attract some prominent intellectual figures to him. That is because we do not have to discriminate on people based on their worldly situation, but really to see the heart of the person. If somebody is brought into our lives, and they can benefit from what we have to give, then it does not matter if they are poor or rich, or famous or infamous, but like you said, really focusing on what is the purpose of that relationship for my development, and for their development.
Question: You mentioned to attempt to conserve energy so that when at the end of the day we have sufficient energy to conduct our work. My question is, I am in construction. I went through a stage of sitting to meditate, and struggling within fifteen to twenty minutes. This occurred for many months. What can I do to get through this obstacle?
Instructor: Yeah. So if you are feeling physical discomfort when you are sitting to meditate, lie down. Lie down in a posture on your back that will help you to stay awake, because meditation is really essential. We should be trying to do it every day in one way or another. But if we are feeling a lot of physical pain, that can be a big obstacle.
So as well, if you are working a very difficult physical job and you are feeling drained by that, maybe do some meditation in the morning instead of waiting until the evening. Physical labor certainly can drain a lot of energy, but also pay attention to your emotional and intellectual energy, and how you are spending that in the time that you are not at work. Find ways to balance, to rest physically, but also to continue to develop your heart and your intellect through some kind of esoteric practices or studies.
Comment: This is not really a question, but this has been incredibly validating. I had no idea what this was even about, even with the discussion on meditation and spirituality. I am literally separating from my husband and moving to a city that I do not know as a way of healing and exploration, and it feels really transformative in a way that I have never really felt before, and feels like this is part of the journey of my life that I need to do. I do meditate on a regular basis, I have done Vipassana meditation retreats, and I want to make sure I am not speaking from a place of ego, but it is about piecing all of this together. Everything you are saying just makes a lot of sense in terms of being able to conserve your energy and pull yourself from relationships. I have just recently connected to my family in a way because I was separate from them, but now I am able to connect with them in a way that has boundaries, and still confronting a lot of fear and confusion in terms of what to do. But in terms of the divinity, all of this journey has made me not necessarily atheist ― it is atheist, that is kind of what I have been claiming, but not so much atheism as much as just wiping the slate clean in terms of what I believe to get to that place of understanding.
Instructor: So instead of carrying any beliefs with you, you are trying to know for yourself what is the truth. That can be a good starting point.
Comment: So we will just see… I am literally doing this in about two weeks!
Instructor: Yeah! Well, good luck, and meditate on what you have learned. Meditate on your relationships. Even if they are behind you, there is a chance to learn.
Comment: But it is about creating new relationships with people, but not doing it in a way of like separating yourself and doing this in a way that's self possessed, but not isolating.
Instructor: Yeah. You are finding ways to intentionally and consciously create new connections with family or other relationships that are healthy. We have to do that in small doses because if we try to make a massive change right away, everybody is going to resist that. But be intentional about your relationship and to reflect on “why did I end this relationship before?” ― or maybe you did not have a choice, and “How do I want this relationship to go? What actions do I need to be taking that are going to make it a healthy relationship?” If we were contributing in a way to make it toxic, then we have an opportunity to change. Thanks for sharing!
Question: How come the Fool is Arcanum 21?
Instructor: In the Gnostic tarot deck that we use [The Eternal Tarot from Glorian Publishing], which is different from the one that I was showing here in the PowerPoint, the Fool is Arcanum 21, also known as Transmutation. The reason that it is right before Arcanum 22, the completion of the work, is because all of us experience an extreme ordeal right before we reach the end. This is an opportunity to fall back into all of the temptations that we have overcome along the way, or to triumph and to reach the end of the work, to finish the self-perfection. 21 is also synthesized to 3, and we see in initiation, the Arcanum of the Hermit, the 9, which is 3 x 3. So you should also study about the three brains, and conquering those three brains, if you want to understand the Fool.
Question: Is this the three brains that Gurdjieff talked about, or the subconscious, unconscious, and infraconsciousness?
Instructor: The three brains that Gurdjieff talked about: the intellectual center related with the physical brain, the emotional center or emotional brain in the heart, and then the motor-instinctive-sexual center related with the body as well.
Question: In initiating our hermit journey, what would be some tools in order to have an understanding to make connections, to get the information to continue the journey? What are some recommendations?
Instructor: Well, the most important tools are going to be our spiritual practice. In this tradition, we use these three forces for the transformation of consciousness.
The first is death and that comes through meditation. Death is the practice through which we look at what is causing our suffering, and that is meditating everyday on what you are seeing in yourself and your life.
The second is birth, which relates to pranayama for single people, transmuting your sexual energy and conserving that force in a way that allows you to awaken spiritually and to change.
The third force is sacrifice, which means in our physical life, we see a way that we can do something good, something of really profound service for others. While we know in our conscience that this is right (but it is very difficult and it is something that we think, “Oh yeah, but I could also just not bother doing that”), we still take the action to do that.
If we are working with those three together: meditation, transmutation, and sacrifice, we can advance very quickly and learn a lot. But of course, scriptures have a lot of veiled symbols that teach this path, and in our tradition, we have several books like the one you have there [Tarot and Kabbalah], which start to unveil the secrets of the path. So if you are studying that closely, it should open and unlock many other scriptures from a variety of different world religions and traditions. You will see them referenced there. But you will also understand the symbols and world religions in a different way. So that is the study of the initiate: to really understand the ancient science of spiritual transformation.
Question: I have a friend who I have known for almost fifteen years. We entered Gnosis about the same time, but over the last year or so she has slowly left the path, secured a job, bought a home, and found love. It seems everything fell together for her when she left. Do certain karmic laws apply to people devoted to the path that are different to those who are not? Also, I do not know how to reconcile our relationship now that our purpose in life is so different as I do not want to hurt her. Thank you!
Instructor: Yes, there are two laws when it comes to karma. There is a superior law of karma for initiates and that law is more severe. So if you are entering into the spiritual work, you can be subjected to very difficult ordeals because they are going to advance you. You can suffer the consequences of harmful actions from past lives very early on in your life if that is what is required to help you to develop spiritually.
For people who are not interested in spiritual development, they will still have to suffer the same kind of karma for their actions, but it might come in a different way. They might get a period of bliss or material happiness only to find suffering later on.
So the law of karma, which is action and consequence, cause and effect, applies to everyone, but for initiates it is going to be more challenging early on because you need those ordeals to be able to really develop the strength of character for the spiritual work. It is a tremendous sacrifice to do the spiritual work, and so we have to go through that early on.
In terms of the second part of the question, about how do we relate to someone when now our interests in life are very different, we have to take our self-interest out of it and find a way to still be a good caring friend to that person. But yeah, we might not be spending as much time with them. It might be naturally that people grow apart, and we can accept that. But the times we are with that person, we should, as much as we might want to talk about what we are into, and where we are at, we might need to sacrifice that to find a way to be a benefit to the other person.
Question: Let us say that you are experiencing some karma and it is physical pain. Should you seek ways to alleviate that pain or should you just endure it?
Instructor: That is a good question. I would say, do not suffer needlessly, but at the same time be careful, because if the method to get rid of physical pain, for example, is using some kind of very addictive drug, then that could really have a significant impact on your life, and ten years from now, your life could be in a very bad place. So it is important to seek some kind of alleviation of physical pain.
Question: If you alleviate the pain, is it just going to extend the karma?
Instructor: Yeah. Ok, so if I have a headache and I take a Tylenol, does that mean, “Oh no! I still owe karma?” Well, now you owe karma for taking the Tylenol, right? So yeah, every action is going to have an effect. So I guess you have to trust your own instinct on that, but to just suffer needlessly, like some priests used to self-flagellate themselves and hurt themselves, that is not going to be helpful for spiritual development.
Sometimes karma, experiencing physical pain, can be a way to pay karma and could be a benefit. Sometimes pain teaches us more than pleasure. But do not allow yourself to just kind of like beat yourself up with it, I guess is what I am getting at. If there is a simple way to get out of that, and then you use the benefit of not being in pain to do more good deeds, then that might be expedient. I guess it depends on the situation.
Question: How does your vocation and calling in life relate to the Hermit?
Instructor: Well, our vocation could be circumstantial, that it is just a matter of where we happened to end up as a result of our previous actions. But the vocation as well could be related with our own idiosyncrasy of our spirit.
Divinity has its own character and has ways that it can serve on a profound level. You can look at the music of Beethoven, the art of Michelangelo. You could say that their spirit was very well developed and very awake, and was bringing through their vocation a lot of benefit to humanity. So in our vocation if it is circumstantial, it is not really what we are passionate about, or what is resonating with us on a spiritual level, then our vocation is a great way to serve, and to begin changing as a person.
If we are changing through our job, and we are becoming of more benefit to people in whatever way that we are serving them (because every job can serve people), then that is going to radically transform us, and when we change internally, the external life will change. As we learn about ourselves through becoming better people in our vocation, then we might get a better sense of how we could be of more service and find that spiritual vocation that we are seeking.
Question: What are some helpful advice to completely transmute a bad relationship into a good one when both persons really do not like each other? What is the best thing to do?
Instructor: [Laughter from audience] Yeah! I guess the question there is, first, what do you want from the relationship that you are going to really be attached to transforming that relationship? Sometimes you have to let a relationship go if it is not of benefit. But if it is a relationship where two people do not really like each other, but there is some kind of real love there that connected them as friends, or family, or whatever, then I would say to study that part of yourself that is real love for that person. By reflecting on that and strengthening that, rather than strengthening your resentment and blaming the other person, that is going to really change your behavior.
There is a simple technique in psychology from the REBT approach, which is the ABC's. So when you want to reflect on yourself and your relationship to this person, you can look at it through ABC.
A is the activating event, which is whatever that person did, or whatever happened in the environment that produced a reaction in you, that activated your emotions.
B is your belief. What belief did you have about what that person did? So if that person maybe took the last soda in the fridge, is it your belief they did that on purpose because they did not want you to have that soda? Or is your belief, “Oh, they were just thirsty and it just happened to be the last one.” That can make a really big difference. How do we interpret the other persons actions? We should always recognize that our belief is just that―it is only a belief. It is not the truth of the situation. It is just our belief our interpretation.
The C is the consequence. What did we do? What actions, feelings, or behaviors did we have as a result of what we believed about the situation? If we are able to change our belief about the other person or their intentions, how would that change the consequence? How would that change our reaction? That is a really simple technique that you can use to reflect on things.
Question: I have always been on an experiential journey, and I thought that I worked a lot on getting rid of attachments, desires, and things like that, that were conscious within me, as far as just things that might be conceived as negative by others, like actually trying to work on getting rid of those desires. But what I found out in my ten years of marriage in that I am currently separated―we still live with each other, and we still love each other, but we are working on our issues―what I found out is that my desires came from a subconscious place which were actually from my childhood. I lost my mother when I was younger, and I had a very tough childhood, so basically my desires were not a negative thing. It wasn't coming from that place. It was coming from more of a place that wasn't healed from within me. Is that also sometimes what those desires can be?
Instructor: Yeah, so that is a really good point. So we are talking about two different levels here. So there is the mundane basic human needs that we need, and especially when we are children, and we are very vulnerable. There are a lot of the conflicts in our relationships when we are adults that come from unresolved trauma from our childhood.
So what I am talking about in the lecture about the Hermit is kind of a level above that, when we have already established basic mental health. But yes, so if we have conflict, deep rooted traumas, or needs that were not met when we were children, then that unresolved and unconscious pain within our selves can lead to painful cycles in our adult relationships. That is why reflecting on oneself you are going to see that. You are going to understand things about yourself that you did not see before.
So the ignorance of the Fool, the young man, kind of rushing into things, that is youth, right? Maturity is when we have understood something about ourselves and what was driving us. Maybe it is a natural need like we were neglected and we need love. Somebody comes along that can offer that to us. When we understand that and we are no longer attached to it, because we have seen that from a mature place, then we are able to have a healthy relationship. When we are just unconscious, we do not have that illumination, where blind tendencies all over the place are coming out. That is when we can have a lot of problems in our relationships even when there is love there, even when there is something really good there.
Comment: That is exactly what happened. I basically took my emotional needs. I did not even know I was doing this and this is my awakening. I am going into the next level of my awakening with this. I was the Fool in that marriage, blissfully in love, but I was putting emotional burdens on him to be a fulfiller of love. He also kind of triggered some fears of abandonment, because he really loved to go out a lot with his guy friends. So when I was alone, I took that as rejection or fear of abandonment, and then basically I just did not know that was within me. Now I am healing it and I am working on that, and now I feel like I am in this transition basically. It just takes that awakening to realize that and then you can move forward, but I never thought of desire as being also coming from a very innocent place too. Like you just needed desire to be loved, or to nurture some old wound or something.
Instructor: Yeah, it is a common experience.
Comment: Yeah. He fulfilled the need for a long time, but then he was like, “OK, this is too much. I need to focus on myself.”
Instructor: That is what is really important too, because in our spiritual immaturity, that is where we are at. We are still seeing things from the world and from other people, our basic needs. We are like infants. We do not have anything. To get to the point where we are totally reliant on God, divinity, is a process. It is not going to happen overnight, but sometimes that means that when we bring something to light―if you do not mind me to use your example―so you have recognized in that relationship, “Oh, what I was actually doing was I felt this unfulfilled need, that I need that love and attention all the time,” and it became a burden. So when you become aware of that, it is not easy to let go of that need. It is still there, but maybe you are sitting at home and you are praying and you are renouncing that desire to get what you want, to give your partner the chance to get what he needs―maybe that is some time out with friends or whatever―that is where we start to move our center out from the world and into divinity. We are redirecting that energy that wants to claim something from the outer world and we are sacrificing it. It is painful, and that is the solitude. That is the loneliness. So it is a really powerful example and very common, unfortunately.
Question: How do you detach yourself from your own desires?
Instructor: Well, I was just talking about that. First you have to see it. First you have to see what you really desire. A lot of us on a conscious level just think, “Oh, well, I am doing the right thing. I am doing what is good. I have totally altruistic motivations for what I am doing,” and we have to be really sincere with ourselves and dig a little deeper, and really dig into what actually is driving this behavior. Sometimes it is painful to recognize that it might be something selfish. Something that is normal in a child, like the longing for affection, but when we become adults and we have to stand on our own, we have to renounce the ways of the child. That can be painful. So it is a process.
Question: Should we make time daily to exercise the body? Does this take away from our energy or the spiritual path of meditation?
Instructor: If you are the person working in construction, then you are probably getting enough exercise. But yeah, if you are in a job where you are not getting a lot of physical exercise, then yes, it is important to take care of our physical body, absolutely. Health is holistic. It happens physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So taking care of your physical body can be important, but do not over do it. Do not overexert yourself to the point where you are exhausted, and recognize if what is driving you to take care of yourself is really because you want to be healthy, or if it is vanity, because sometimes we have other intentions when we are working out.
Comment: I actually have something that might be semi-relevant from school. Some forms of exercise such as Tai Chi and Qigong, those exercise the body, movement, flexibility, and those things, but are benefiting the body by building energy, depending on which organs you are doing the benefits for. This can actually help to support meditation, spiritually practicing with that type of energy. So they might want to look into something along those lines.
Instructor: That is a good idea. So if you really want to take care of your physical body, Tai Chi, Qigong, the Gnostic runes, the Gnostic rites for rejuvenation, which we have on the website as well, those can be really good ways to do that and awaken yourself spiritually at the same time.
In the Gnostic teachings, we talk a lot about suffering. In fact, if you are familiar at all with Buddhism, the first of the Four Noble Truths is that life is suffering. That in our existence, in our craving and desiring after different aspects and experiences of life, we are actually suffering intensely, but we are asleep to this. We are not aware of it.
Today, will be talking about trauma, and trauma is unique in that it is an experience that cannot be easily denied and that brings us directly into consciousness of suffering. If you have ever experienced something so traumatic, that the pain stuck with you even after the event had passed, or maybe now that pain has shaped your life in a very impactful way, then you understand that you have some consciousness of what suffering truly is. So you, in your own sense, have awakened some level of gnosis.
Gnosis γνῶσις is a Greek word that means knowledge, but not knowledge from a book. It is knowledge that is experiential. In this tradition, we often talk about striving for gnosis as direct experience of divinity. How do we have awakened experiences internally in the astral plane? How do we see and talk to God face-to-face and receive answers, not just pray but actually have that connection alive and awake within us?
So when we talk about cultivating gnosis, it is something that we really deeply know not just intellectually, but with all of our being. A trauma is interesting, because it is an experience of suffering that often manifests itself in the body. Even rationally we might say, "Well I should be over that, or that shouldn't have impacted me that much, or I don't want to act like this and respond with this much intensity to experiences anymore just because I was traumatized in the past.” Even with that rational resistance to it, we still tense up. We still feel the bodily sensations associated with the pain that we have gone through, and emotionally if you have known anyone who has been traumatized, or if you yourself have experienced trauma, it carries a heavy weight as well.
That is why I say it is a type of knowledge or gnosis that cannot be denied, no matter how much our rational mind tries to deny it and say, “This didn't happen to me! This wasn't a big deal. This shouldn't have affected me this much.” It really is a chance for us to wake up. In many ways, trauma can be a wake-up call: a chance for us to say, "There is something in life, in my life, that is fundamentally wrong. This suffering needs to be changed."
Trauma can be a chance for us to explore, to seek more answers, to try to find a way to change. For many people, they seek more existential routes to solve their problems. They seek to find a spiritual answer for why people have to suffer some horrible things such as rape, sexual assault, child abuse, even things like divorce: things that can be so painful emotionally, physically, etc.
So on the one hand, trauma presents us with an opportunity to radically change our lives, but for many people, it is very difficult to find answers or things that really work to make a change in their life, to really address their suffering. In those cases, trauma often becomes more of a burden, or an obstacle―something that only pushes us deeper into suffering. Perhaps a parent's problems with addiction, when we were a child, now causes us to struggle with addiction, as an example. How do we take the risks associated with trauma and try to transform them through a form of spiritual alchemy, into an opportunity for us to rise above suffering to become stronger, to become more wise, more aware of ourselves and of the mysteries of life?
Medical and Psychological Correlations of Trauma
When we talk about trauma, there are some interesting correlations between a medical or psychological, you know, mainstream definition of trauma, and the more esoteric or spiritual significance of trauma that I am going to discuss today.
Starting with a conventional understanding of trauma, we can look at the causes of trauma. In the field of psychology, it is often referred to as “Big-T” Trauma or “little-t” trauma. We acknowledge that sometimes events that seem not so significant to many people―for example a break up when someone is a teenager and feels very unloved―can often be dismissed as not a big deal by adults who don't really have that same perspective on life at that point. That would probably be considered a “little-t” trauma. It still has an impact on us. It still has an effect and many lasting effects often on the way that we would look for, in this example, at relationships in our future.
But it might not be considered a “Big T” Trauma. “Big T” trauma would be something like going to war and watching your best friend killed beside you, or experiencing a sexual assault, or perhaps being in a terrifying car accident. These types of long-term abuse or very traumatic incidents can be both considered trauma.
Now many times different people can go through the same event and have a different response to it. What this is frequently associated with is the characteristic of resilience. Resilience still remains a bit of a mystery for psychologists, but there is a lot of research pointing to the family structure and the early childhood environment as a major factor in terms of trauma, resilience. So if someone had a very stable and loving family environment, then they might experience traumatic events with more resilience, especially if they had at least one adult figure that was a stable caregiver in their life, versus people who had a lot more instability. Perhaps neglect or abuse in the home can make it much harder for victims to have resilience in a variety of different difficult situations.
Situational and Chronic Trauma
I also want to point out that trauma can be both situational and chronic. Now this impacts the brain in a very different way. Situational trauma is usually when someone is already an adult and they have an experience, that is a situation or maybe a few situations, that produce post-traumatic stress disorder. As given in the example, seeing someone's best friend die right beside them will be an example of situational trauma, and that this actually does damage the brain. It does have a psychological impact on the brain, but it is different from chronic trauma.
Chronic trauma is usually associated with childhood. It happens over a period of years. It could be years of childhood abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, etc. This actually changes the whole structure of the brain and the way that the brain develops, so that that individual's personality now has a new structure, so the way that they even interface with the world will be very heavily impacted by the trauma that they went through over the course of those years.
Much of that has to do with the fight for survival. If you are coming home to an abusive home as a child, there is a feeling of helplessness. There is a feeling of never knowing what to expect, if today is going to be a good day or a bad day. So that puts tremendous stress on the body, on the nervous system. In that case, the brain has to reorient itself to find a way to survive―to find adaptive coping behaviors that, perhaps later on in life, will seem maladaptive to new situations where the threat isn't so real.
Commission versus Omission
Finally, there is trauma that happens via commission or via omission. Often we think of trauma as someone committing an act to me that makes me feel out of control. Being assaulted on the street would be an act of commission that could be traumatic for people. Give people a real sense of helplessness, and “I don't know if I have control over my life. How can I know that it is safe anywhere to go?”
Trauma of omission would be a lack of the needs that a person has. Omission could be childhood neglect or constant blame and that feeling of not being good enough. The absence of what someone needs also gets processed into the brain as a trauma and changes our brain structure.
As I mentioned here on the slide, trauma affects the nervous system and the neural structure. One good thing is that neuroscience now has so much evidence that even past the age of our mid-20s, we are still able to restructure our brain and meditation is a tremendous tool to be able to do so. So even though trauma codes itself and creates neural pathways that are very deeply ingrained through prolonged and continuous work, one is able to redirect and to kind of cut away those negative pathways, and produce new positive pathways that change your whole perception of reality, that also, by changing your outlook on reality, change the way that you respond to it.
Fight, Flight, and Freeze Responses to Reality
So perhaps you will not have one of these fight, flight, or freeze responses to situations. Take for example a woman who was in a domestic abusive partnership, where you know, continually, she had to be on her guard in order to defend herself from potential attacks from her partner. Now later on, she might enter into another relationship where the partner is loving and supportive, but little things may set this woman off to respond in a very aggressive way―that would be the fight response. To become completely withdrawn and cold towards her partner would be the flight response―or to freeze, to just totally dissociate, to become emotionally numb to the situation that she is in. So that is just one clear example of how that might manifest, but depending on the trauma, these responses can look a little bit different as you can imagine.
Given that those types of responses are what are programmed into the lower levels of the brain, the more instinctive levels of the brain, which is what becomes activated, it affects the entire nervous system and produces instinctive reactions without the ability to truly think consciously. To have that higher thinking process where you say “Hmm… maybe I'm overreacting about this situation; I should calm down; I should look at it more objectively”―when the amygdala, or the lower part of the brain gets activated, it is actually very, very difficult to be able to control oneself and to override that response, because it is such a deep primal part of the brain.
However, we do know that through meditation, as I mentioned before, we are able to gradually develop pathways and strengthen pathways that do allow us a bit of separation in those moments, and to repair the damaged parts of our brains so that we can respond in better ways.
For many people, trauma leads to what seemed to other people as irrational reactions. In that person's shoes, perhaps they don't even realize that they are traumatized. Perhaps they feel genuinely in this situation, “It is life or death for me. I need to defend myself. I need to survive,” and so they respond with an extreme reaction to the situation. But for someone else who standing around, who doesn't have that same experience of trauma, they may not understand why this person is freaking out about a certain situation.
The Spiritual Impact of Trauma
Now if we step into a more esoteric understanding drawing upon teachings from the Gnostic tradition―which we have many lectures about as well, if you'd like to learn more about these―we understand trauma and the way that trauma happens in a different way. So yes, it is true all the stuff that I just talked about―the biological impact of trauma―but more importantly for our concerns is the spiritual impact of trauma.
When we experience life as a consciousness, as a soul that is perceiving different aspects in nature, we experience a variety of sensations as impressions. Now you can live for certain amount of time without food, without water, and even without air, but you can't exist without impressions. Even if you go off to one of the sensory deprivation tanks, still in your mind, there are impressions. There is an impression of darkness where there are thoughts.
Impressions both come to us from our environment externally and are impressing upon our consciousness and our perception, but they also come internally. So it may be that we almost step into the road and a bus coming by scares us, and that is an impression that strikes the consciousness, but the result that is produced within us, the fear, the instinctive pull of the body back, you know, the thought of “Oh my gosh, I could have just died right there!”―all of those things are also impressions.
This shows us that the consciousness, that which perceives within us, is separate from the body, separate from the heart, and separate from the mind. It perceives these aspects of ourselves: thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, experiences in our external world, but it is separate from them. This is very important, because when we try to meditate, meditation is not just to sit on a cushion and to zone out, but to activate the consciousness that is beyond thought, feeling, and body.
We have to have that fundamental understanding that we are not our thoughts. We are not our emotions. We are not our bodies. We are perceiving them, but they are impressions, and we do have the conscious ability to take a step back from them and perceive them without being so identified with, “I am angry. This anger is me. I must act on it!” I have no other choice but to separate a little bit and to realize, “I am feeling anger. I am experiencing anger and right now I have the choice if I want to believe that this anger is worth doing these acts and maybe later on I'll regret, or if this anger is something I can let go of and choose a different path―using my free will.”
When we talk about the human machine, we understand that for most people, probably all of us here, we are much more mechanical than we are conscious. Like in the example I gave of the bus driving by―that happens in a split second and you react to it. There is no conscious choice in, “Am I going to jump back from that bus? Am I going to feel afraid? Am I going to think these thoughts afterwards?” It just happens. The impression comes in.
The brain, which we would call the intellectual center or the intellectual brain, is one part of us. We also have emotions, the heart, the emotional brain, emotional center in the body, and the motor-instinctive-sexual center of our body related with the spine. With those instincts in the lower brain, those three centers respond immediately, instantaneously to those reactions.
In most cases, the motor-instinctive-sexual center is the fastest brain, and we know that the nervous system is throughout the entire body and responds instinctively before your brain can even think or send a message. You touch a hot stove. Your hand pulls off before you can even think about it. That is the fastest brain.
The emotional brain is the second fastest. Emotions often come before we have time to process what is really happening to us and think about it rationally, and you know, there is a lot of research on how the heart is actually sending many more messages to the brain, and can actually have a bit of precognition. It can actually respond to something before it even happens.
Then finally, the intellectual center of the brain. So, most of us think, “Well, I am a rational person. I respond to life from logic and I am not going to act irrationally. I am not going to respond emotionally or instinctively, you know. I am an educated person” or whatever the case may be. But the truth is, given a certain experience, you will see that we are designed to survive―that we are designed like machines.
A stimulus comes in and we respond to it without thought. Why this is important is because the part of us, the consciousness, the part of us that is our soul, that is eternal, is the part we want to activate, because with the consciousness we can achieve that separation and we can respond to life with free will, with choice―not just according to our conditioning―not just “this happened to me when I was kid and this is the way I was raised and so I have no other choice but to respond in this pre-programmed way.”
We actually have a choice about “who do I want to be” and “how do I actually do that in the moment.” The consciousness, when it is awakened, is much, much faster than any of these three centers, but awakening the consciousness requires certain conditions that we are going to talk about in a few minutes.
The Transformation of Impressions and Psychological Disequilibrium
Now, when we receive impressions in the consciousness and it is not awake, this produces a disequilibrium in us, and especially over time, since most of us are running on autopilot much of the time. We are not even aware of this deep disequilibrium. We think, “Well, that's just the way that I am. If I perceive somebody to be disrespecting me, I am just going to respond like that because that's my character.”
But truly, it may be that throughout our life, we have received impressions and never transformed them. We have never looked within ourselves to say, “What is happening in me when I perceive that somebody is disrespecting me and what is causing me to respond? Do I have a choice to perhaps sink to their level and respond in kind, or to rise above it and be the type of person that maybe I'd prefer to be?”
That is why I say here, and we teach in our tradition, that untransformed impressions lead to conditioned behavior and thoughts. If we want to live as a free-willed individual, we cannot be living according to the program that has been conditioned into us. If we want to have the choice to pursue a path of enlightenment, just like Buddha or Krishna, Moses, Jesus, any of these great spiritual figures who at one point were just like us, then we need to begin to radically take control over our situation. We need to stop being who we are and open up the pathways of action that allow us to become someone new.
That is why meditation is essential spiritual practice.
Now, if you are not from an eastern religious tradition, meditation may take the form as contemplation or prayer, but regardless, we say that meditation is not about necessarily your posture, although posture, incense, those types of things of course can be helpful. Meditation is really about your state of consciousness. You may be walking about through the world and have the consciousness awake, and this can be meditation. If you have experienced a very intense situation where you suddenly felt extremely awake, that may be spontaneous experience of meditation, but we want to, of course, work with the science of meditation to learn the conditions to be able to produce it regularly.
So here, our problem of trauma is that we have we have impressions coming in all the time that aren't transformed and they are conditioning us to feel certain ways, to think certain thoughts, and to respond and behave in certain ways. If we don't want to spend our lives on repeat, feeling the same emotions day after day, thinking the same thoughts day after day, repeating the same reactions and behaviors day after day; if we really want to create a new life for ourselves, then we need to be able to wake up our consciousness.
The founder of our Gnostic tradition, Samael Aun Weor, makes a very powerful and simple statement about all of this. About receiving impressions in our life.
To change one's life is really to change one's own reactions towards it. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
A lot of us have the mentality that life is just happening to me―and yes, it is true that our environment, our situation, the different systems in our world, do have an impact on our life, absolutely. But, what really determines the quality of our life is our response to it.
So if one impression strikes us in a certain way and produces negativity, then we are having a negative experience of life. If we can take that same impression and experience something more positive, like gratitude or understanding, then we have changed our experience of life. Fundamentally, life is not about what objectively happens to us out in the physical world. It is about the way that we experience it.
We see individuals who have been through intense hardship―war zones, like I said, trauma, childhood abuse―who have been able to transcend that and really have gratitude and experienced a lot of positive emotions in their lives.
Then we have individuals who have been, you know, born into wealth, and you can see that they are really miserable people. They can complain about a lot of things. Now, of course, there is every gray area in between. Not everybody who is rich is miserable. Of course, I am not going to say that, but we see that it really depends on the quality of the person in that experience, more than it depends on the situation. So, we have a habit of thinking, “Well, I am only going to be happy if this and this and this situation happens to me,” which is most of the time, out of our control.
The Gnostic Esoteric Work
In our spiritual work, we are trying very hard to flip that mentality into, “I am going to be happy if I can really come to understand my situation in life and consciously choose how I am going to respond to it.” This is a process. This is not just wishful thinking of, “Oh, okay I have been traumatized and I am just going to be happy about it.” It is not about belief. It is something much deeper.
So, to get into that, we are going to talk about: what is this work? I say it is a work because it requires a lot of effort, especially deep traumas that happened over the course of years. This is not something that is going to be erased overnight. Even, you know, from a materialistic psychological standpoint, to reverse the effects of trauma in the brain as you create new neural pathways takes a long time and a lot of work.
If we have experienced trauma and have a genuine longing to be free, we are willing to do the work. We want to be free from the suffering and we genuinely say, “This is a point in my life where I am turning it around. I am going to radically try to take control of my life and try something new.” Then we can begin to work with these methods.
The methods themselves are quite simple in theory, but to truly put our conscious effort into it is what depends on us. It is not about whether the method will work as much as it is about our willingness to continuously apply it and to give it, you know, give it the time it takes to work.
The Magic of the Roses
In Samael Aun Weor's book, Esoteric Medicine and Practical Magic―as you can see we have copies of the books over there―he teaches one remedy that is called the magic of the roses.
This is what I give as a precursor, because many people who are experiencing trauma, if they even begin to think about that trauma, or if some situation in their life comes and triggers the pain from the past, they are overwhelmed with emotion and pain. From that state, it is very difficult to cultivate the stability needed to be able to truly meditate and try to go deeper into changing ourselves.
So, this remedy is a natural remedy for us to heal spiritual and emotional pain and trauma: you know the loss of a loved one, a painful breakup, or even dealing with the after-effects of abuse, self-hatred, etc.
To work with the magic of the roses, one takes three glasses or water, pure water, of course, being better if you're able to, and then places one rose in each glass.
Position one glass facing the north, one glass facing the east, one glass facing the west.
Ideally if you have an altar or a spiritual place where you like to meditate or pray in your home, you would place these glasses there and you would sit and you would genuinely pray―reaching out to your inner divinity, whatever form that may take for you that is most powerful: Jesus or Buddha or the Divine Mother, Divine Father, whatever that may be, and pray for healing. Pray to bless these roses and to give you the healing.
Then, drink in the morning before breakfast the glass facing the east, and in the afternoon before lunch, the glass facing the north, and before dinner the glass facing the west.
You can refill the glasses and repeat the process for as many days as needed, until you feel like you are feeling better.
Now, what is important to point out here is that this is the magic of the roses. So, if we are seriously trying to work with magic or a mystical practice, an esoteric practice, we need a certain type of energy. This is not just based on belief, but it is based on our own quality of consciousness. For one thing, it matters how much you are really conscious and sincere in your prayer to be healed. For another thing, you also will need to utilize a very powerful force.
Sexual Energy: The Most Powerful Force for Healing
When we think about the most powerful energy within our bodies, it is the sexual energy. What can move people to chase after a desire so passionately, with so much energy over such a prolonged period of time, as much as sexual desire, right?
Sexual energy is the synthesis of everything that we are physically, emotionally, mentally. The things that we have experienced, the things that we have seen and thought, all get coded genetically into the DNA of our sexual cells. This sexual energy is not just the synthesis of who we are in a physical level, but holds a very special spiritual power.
The spiritual power of our sexual energy is the power of God, the power to create life. And yes, we understand this on a basic level, physically. What many people are not aware of is the sexual energy's power to transform and give birth within the psyche to new states of consciousness, the ability to awaken in higher state of consciousness, or if used in a negative way, the sexual energy can be used to awaken in lower realms of consciousness.
That is why I put here in the slide about transmutation that we want to transmute the sexual energy with purity―not with lust, but with love. Sexual attraction for most of us is always associated with lust. "If I feel desire for someone, it's in a very lustful way and that's just the only way I can think about that person." But what we are trying to do is take lust, start where we are at―you know, we all have lust―and to transform it through different practices. These are called pranayama in yogic traditions, breathing practices where you consciously take that energy and raise it up the spine into the brain to awaken our consciousness.
To use that energy helps us to move from being a lustful person to a truly loving person. Lust is “all about me and what I want in this relationship” or in this exchange with another person. Love is about the concern that “I feel for my partner” or this other individual. Love is being willing to sacrifice “what I want in order to support the happiness of both of us.”
Being able to move from that is not an automatic process. It requires a lot of consciousness, and being able to do the work of really changing ourselves into a new type of being is not an automatic process and requires a lot of work. This type of energy gives us the ability to have the equivalent of rocket fuel in our spiritual practice and to awaken in that way.
These practices are talked about at length in the book The Perfect Matrimony by Samael Aun Weor. He talks a lot about sexual alchemy, sexual transmutation, sexual purity, and being able to be with one's partner in a way that is loving instead of a way that is lustful. I don't have time today to really dive into it, but we do have the book, or you can read it for free online at Glorian.org [formerly gnosticteachings.org]. I'm just going to take one quote from this book. He says:
Here, we are not dealing with a matter of believing or disbelieving, of considering oneself chosen, or of belonging to such-and-such sect. The question of salvation is very serious. One must work with the grain, with the sexual seed. […] Only from the sexual grain is the Inner Angel born. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
We look at masters like Jesus, Buddha, Moses, people who had power over nature. This was not an accident. They worked to cultivate it, and from their sexual force was born a tremendous power.
All of us have this capacity within ourselves, and it is not a matter of whether or not we believe it's true. It's a matter of if we do the practice and we really work with it, we see the results. We see the changes in our physicality, in our emotional center, in our mind. We see the changes in our conscious experiences: being awakened in the astral plane or in dreams, etc.
And so, it is not a matter of belonging to any group. You can be in any type of religion that you want, but it is a matter of really working sincerely with this science.
I begin with this practice, transmutation, as the basis, because although much of the work is in the next two practices I am going to talk about when we are trying to resolve our trauma. Without this basis, we can only go so far. Meditation will be helpful, magic of the roses might be helpful, but in order to create a truly permanent change in our consciousness, not just in our mind, or in our mental pathways within our consciousness, in the part of us that will move on to another lifetime, we need something much more powerful. Sexual energy is the root of who we are spiritually and physically.
Meditation as Therapy
The real intense work of trying to overcome trauma is in meditation. It is only through meditation that we can deeply comprehend the causes of our suffering. If we have experienced any impression in life, and it seems to be stuck and we are going around and around and around in circles over it, maybe we are thinking about it or we can't stop feeling or reacting to it. Being in meditation―calming the three brains, the mind, the heart, and the body, sitting in relaxation, and achieving the awakening of that consciousness and separating enough from the experiences that we are having emotionally, mentally, or physically―allows us to see what is truly happening to us in a more objective way, to experience it with more consciousness.
There is a whole book about this as well, The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor. He points out many different techniques for being able to meditate, because if you have ever tried to look at your mind, it is a very complex place, and for most of us when we begin meditating, it is a very chaotic experience.
It is like, “I can't pay attention for 5 seconds, how am I supposed to go deeply into comprehending the causes of suffering in my mind?” It takes time to develop relaxation, to find a posture, and you know, an ability to create relaxation within yourself in those three centers.
It also takes time to develop concentration, to be able to concentrate on our mind and our experience with such vividness and alertness that we can stay awake even as the body relaxes into sleepiness.
Countertransference: The Resistance of the Mind
But in addition to that, we have other challenges, and when it comes to trauma there are a lot of these challenges. The mind has infinite defense mechanisms to protect itself. If you are trying to work on trauma or something that is very painful for you―a wound that you have carried for a very long time―the mind will try to guard itself so that you can't go there.
There is a reason that many traumatic memories get repressed, or that we don't like to think about the past and the bad things that happened. It is because the mind is trying to protect itself from pain, you know, this instinct in us, to go automatically towards pleasure and to go away from pain.
Unfortunately, just by ignoring something, we don't resolve it. We don't fix it. Meditation, like I said, is really diving in to do the deep work, to create a lasting change in ourselves because our unconscious mind will respond and react to situations before we have time to think about it. So we go deep and we remove those unconscious structures and mechanisms within our consciousness, our psyche. Then we can respond with free will instead of as machines.
Samael Aun Weor writes in The Revolution of the Dialectic:
The difficulty of profound introspective analysis (of our mind) lies in counter-transference. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
Countertransference, when we think about this in a therapeutic setting, a clinical setting, is about reflecting a past trauma on to someone or something outside of us. Let's say that that in that situation of the woman who was in an abusive partnership, in that case she might try to repress that and move on, but when she enters into a new relationship, even if it's a healthy partnership, that will transfer all of that trauma, will transfer onto the new person or transfer onto different traumatic situations and produce the same reactions.
So even though objectively, these are two very different people and these situations may be very different, subjectively, within that person's experience of life, it is the same experience.
They are not conscious of this. They say, "No, no,” that “it's this guy. He's treating me bad, just like my ex-husband,” or whatever, but really, it is within ourselves that is projected onto life. I want to go back again to that earlier statement about “to change one's life is really to change one's own reaction towards it.” That is the flip side. Even if we have been victimized―which many of us in life have been… there are bad people out there right?―it is to take responsibility for our life and how we are going to react to it anyway.
To say, “Even though these terrible things happen to me and these people did this to me, I am not going to sit around and blame other people and persist in my pain. I really want to be free. I really want to say that no matter what happened to me, I want to be free from this and I want to choose how I respond and not be conditioned.” That is why the difficulty is countertransference. Countertransference tries to look everywhere else, but at “me and my experience and how I am responding to this.” It does not want to look at the paint.
Samael Aun Weor goes on to say that:
This difficulty of countertransference is eliminated through structural and transactional analysis. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
It sounds very technical, but if we are sitting in meditation and we have achieved enough relaxation, concentration and stability to separate consciously from our experience, from our thoughts, to observe our thoughts―this is not to have a completely silent mind, but to have a silence that observes the mind, observes those thoughts, and observes those emotions in the bodily sensations―then we are able to see that the mind has a certain structure. It has its defenses. It has its walls.
In an example, if a man experienced a break up and his partner did something to really hurt him, and then he responded by shutting this person out, trying to put it all in the past, then in that case, one of the structures is, “I don't think about that. That is over. That is in the past. I am over it―all right.” This is one defense. There is a certain structure, and if this person sits in meditation and he tries to look at that and he says, “Well, maybe there still is some pain there; maybe I am not as over it as I thought, because something reminded me today about it and maybe there is some pain there”―the mind will have a transaction.
It will move on to some other defense. It will say, “Uh oh! He's getting through this wall.” So what is this other wall? Anger might come up and say, “Well, really I didn't do anything wrong in this situation. She did everything wrong and she was the bad person.” Again, we see the countertransference and the repression, or the ignorance gets transferred over to anger. We think, “Okay, well, I don't want to be this anger. I don't want to blame the other person. I want to be the better person,” then that transaction can move over to pride: “But really, I am a good person and I was so good to her,” and you know, whatever the case may be for any variety of situations.
We have to sit there and have gnosis of our own experience: to become deeply conscious of our experience of what happened, not by analyzing in the mind, but observing the structure of the mind and observing the transactions and the movements of the mind, until finally the mind has to stop deflecting and has to just let you look at the thing that you, perhaps, for a long time had not looked at.
That is why Samael Aun Weor goes on to say:
It is important to segregate and to dissolve certain undesirable psychic aggregates that are fixed in our mind in a traumatic matter. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
The aggregates in our mind would be something like that structure of anger, or that structure of repression, or that structure of pride, and they work together like friends. That's the transaction. So we want to set segregate them, to say, “Ah! Okay, well it just deflects it over here, but I am going to go back and I am going to focus on that until I have been able to dissolve it,” to say “I see this for what it is. I recognize and understand why this is here and I can consciously choose to eliminate it; to let it go; to say it's just not true and it has no power over me anymore.”
So as I mentioned before, belief, and just pushing it down and thinking positive thoughts, is not enough. We need comprehension. We need to go deeply in meditation and really see it for what it is in order to achieve lasting change. That is why this is a work of months or years, because continually, in our daily life, trauma resurfaces, and continually we have to make that choice: that our work to change ourselves is a priority, and that we are willing, again and again, to go and eliminate the different unconscious mechanisms within ourselves―things that have been fixed there as part of “who I am” in a traumatic matter. We want to make a change to them.
Self-Observation and Comprehension of Trauma
Going hand-in-hand with meditation is self-observation, because as I just mentioned, traumas resurface in our daily life. It said in the psychological community that trauma forces someone to live, permanently, stuck in the past. So even if they are somewhat present to their daily life, a part of them is trapped in the past and still responding to the past, trying to prevent from happening what has already happened.
If I have already been assaulted, I live constantly trying to prevent getting assaulted rather than being able to go back and look at the pain that is there and heal it, and let the wound heal. Comprehend it for what it is. Truly grieve for “what I have been through” and be able to let it go, rather than living as if it is still a threat currently “happening to me.” And so when we go in meditation, this is based on our self-observation: on the things that we see come up in ourselves every day.
The Traumatic Causes of Karma in Past Lives
In Tarot and Kabbalah, Samael Aun Weor writes:
We need to make ourselves conscious of our own karma. This is only possible through the state of alert novelty. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
Alert novelty is being conscious and being awake to “what is happening to me,” not just externally, but “what am I feeling? What am I thinking? How is my body responding?” Becoming aware of your body in the chair and how you are feeling emotionally? And what thoughts are popping into your mind? Not just now, but in every moment. That takes tremendous energy, which again, is another reason why sexual transmutation gives us the fuel that we really need to be able to stay awake consciously throughout the day.
Now when he is talking about karma here, karma comes from the root karman, which means: “action and consequence, cause and effect.” So maybe our mainstream idea of karma is just, "Oh, you did something bad to somebody; something bad is going to happen to you!” But a much more scientific understanding of karma, for our terms, is that there is no action that does not produce a consequence.
You can't throw a rock into a pool of water without producing ripples. Now the shape of that consequence may take, or the time it may take for that consequence to fully bloom, that can be variable. But everything you do, everything you think, everything you feel has an effect. If you feel anger and you think angry thoughts, even if you don't act on it, it will change the way that you interact with the person you are angry with. At some point it might even bubble up and express itself fully, may be in a worse way for being repressed. Everything in our life produces some consequence, and that is why it is even more critical to be able to become conscious of our response to life, because we might not be able to change what we have done in this life up to now, or even in past lives, but we can change what we are doing now that will alter the future of this lifetime and future lifetimes.
He goes on to say that:
Every effect in life, every event, has its cause in a previous life; but we need to become conscious of this. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
If you are really working with meditation, and I say this from my own experience, and you meditate on a trauma, and you go deep enough, you will see causes in previous lifetimes. I can give an example of a painful relationship that I was in where, again and again, no matter how much I tried to change this person, this man and I would continually repeat the same types of behaviors towards each other. As much as we might have cared for each other, it continually remained a toxic relationship.
And so, you know, years after the fact when I am trying to go on and live my life, this keeps resurfacing for me. I am studying the Gnostic teachings. I am working with these practices, transmutation, meditations, etc., and I say “Okay, well, here is a perfect example. This is something I definitely want to change” by going deeply in meditation and understanding, on a regular basis, you know, really working on this day to day until I could get deeper and deeper.
First getting through the defense mechanisms, then getting into “Well, how am I really feeling?” Because I have pushed it down and denied it for so long, I haven't even objectively seen my experience, until finally going deeper into what caused this. Why would something like this happen? Why did I have to be stuck in so much pain for so long? And being able to see through astral experiences the exact actions that I had done in multiple previous lives, and that this person had done in multiple previous lives, that caught us in that pattern.
Now this was something that I didn't necessarily believe in or expect to happen. I totally felt like, “Well, this just happened to me, whether or not I believe in past lives. This happened because he was a bad person and I was young” or whatever. But to truly go and have an experience so vividly where I saw, instantaneously, those multiple past lives―with those multiple transgressions in different bodies and different times, but seeing the same energetic cycle―was shocking for me.
It produced a type of comprehension that really was so deep, I was able to fundamentally alter the way that I looked at myself, because I never saw myself really, deeply, as the aggressor. As much as I might have said, “Well, yeah, I did bad things… I really felt victimized,” it hurt. But when I saw “Oh my gosh! I did that in past lives” and I knew from the experience and how vivid it was, how true it was that I was really there, I wept with remorse, because I would have done anything I could to have changed that and to not have hurt this other person that I cared for.
But you know, we have to work from where we are at now.
So when we become deeply conscious through self-observation, through what is coming up in our current life, and also through meditation, through going deeply, day after day, into deeper states of meditation, deeper states of consciousness and comprehension, it can produce a fundamental shift. I say that, and I probably still have more work to do on that particular one, but I have profoundly changed, and in a permanent way, which wouldn't be possible for me to react in some of the ways that I had before.
He goes on in Tarot and Kabbalah, saying:
The law of action and consequence governs the course of our varied existences, and each life is the result of the previous one. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
Now we see repetition on a daily basis. We see that, “Yeah, you know, when I get in these types of situations, I tend to act the same way. Even if I am trying to change.” We see this in our current life, but even more fundamentally, in past lives, we followed very similar trajectories, because the same energy propelled us. The same desires, the same fears, the same vices, and even the same virtues, in some cases, provoked us to repeat the same patterns.
What we want to do is become conscious of what is propelling us in this lifetime, in this moment, and to have a conscious choice over “which direction do I want to go? Do I want to continue to get stuck in deeper and deeper suffering, to keep doing things that hurt others and hurt myself? Or do I want to change the trajectory of that energy so that the rest of my lifetime or future lifetimes is much improved from this one?”
Samael Aun Weor writes:
Karma is the law of compensation, not of vengeance. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
It is cause and effect. It is not some evil old man in the clouds trying to shoot down lightning bolts at you because he is mad at you, because you are a terrible sinner. It is cause and effect. You send an energy into motion to be angry at someone and to hurt someone, and that energy produced effects in that person, produce effects in the environment, and at some point in time, those effects come back. Because when you are angry at somebody and you hurt them, unless they are very awake and they can transform them, that unconscious effect on them produces effects that they want to respond to you with anger, with pain, to make you feel what they feel. This happens in all actions.
There are some who confuse this cosmic law with detriment and even with fatality, believing that everything that happens to the human being in life is inexorably determined beforehand. It is true that the acts of the human being are determined by inheritance, education, and the environment. Yet, it is also true that the human being has free will and can modify his actions to educate his character, to form superior habits, to fight against weaknesses, to fertilize virtues, etc. Karma is a medicine that is applied unto us for our own good. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
Karma is an opportunity that comes with risks. Karma provides us with the opportunity to see ourselves in a new way―to wake up to our suffering and to change. What did I do to produce this? Maybe not in this lifetime, but in previous lifetimes, and what can I do to change it, if I awake consciousness and respond in a new way? But it also comes with the risk of just getting more identified with that intense pain and going deeper and deeper into suffering, continuing the downward spiral.
And he concludes with quite a bit of severity:
Disgracefully, instead of bowing with reverence before the internal living God, people protest, blaspheme, they justify themselves, they stubbornly excuse themselves and wash their hands like Pilate. Karma is not modified with such protests; on the contrary, it becomes harder and more severe. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
No matter how much we might resist karma or be mad about our situation or say, “Well, I was a good person and I didn't deserve this,” and “Why is this happening?” and yell at our inner God―it won't change cause and effect. It is not going to change the energies in nature that are coming to manifest for us. We will reap what we sow. If we do good deeds that produce harmony in our environment, that produces happiness and other people, they will respond to us with that happiness.
Now, maybe not immediately, but it is a given that any energy you put into motion has an effect. A lot of times, it takes months or years for the good effects to manifest. So, we have to really stick with it and be tenacious because, we have done, you know, all of us have done bad things in our life; thought bad things about bad things; acted in harmful ways; hurt people. So, you know, unfortunately, I said, we can't undo the past, but we can choose right now to respond to our present life in a new way to change our future.
Selfless Service and Sacrifice: The Transformation of Suffering
Finally, the last force that we work with, to truly transform our trauma, is sacrifice for others, particularly those who suffer similarly to us.
We have talked about how we need transmutation to have the energy and the spiritual power to become someone new, to become conscious in new ways.
We need meditation to go deeply to get rid of the conditioning that makes us the same old person, on repeat, all the time.
And finally, we need the power of sacrifice, because these are the actions that help us to create those new energies in motion, so that we don't encounter those same negative experiences that re-traumatize us, but so that we can get the healing that we want.
As you sow you will also reap. So, if we want to heal from our trauma, we need to begin by healing others.
I want to preface this with a bit of caution, in that if you are in a very traumatized state and you are feeling overwhelmed, be careful what types of situations you put yourself into until you have some healing. If you have healthy and stable relationships in your life, you can begin to really do this work and go deeply in yourself, but if not, it can be unsettling especially early on.
It is very difficult to manage unless we have a real strength of consciousness in our meditation practice. If you don't have anyone you feel is a stable and healthy support in your life, it can be helpful to see a therapist, or to see someone that specializes in trauma, who understands the process and can be there to support you. You have to do the work, and every therapist will agree that you only get out of therapy the amount of effort you are willing to put into it.
But it is really necessary to have some source of stability, because as a consciousness, most of us, are very weak, and there are a lot of Impressions coming in our lives, so we want to keep ourselves, in the beginning, in situations that are positive impressions: healthy places to go; good people to be around; healthy types of music or activities or yoga, things like that, that bring us stability, rather than, you know, going into bars, or places where you know it is dangerous, if you are able to.
Not all of us have that luxury, I understand, so doing what we can to produce stability before we really deeply dive into working on our trauma, sacrificing for others, it depends on us and our situation and our willingness. What am I willing to really do to serve other people ? If we have the strength and we start to work on ourselves and we get to a good place, what am I really willing to do to not just serve other people, but to sacrifice for other people? To go above and beyond what is expected of me as a good citizen and to really expend something of my heart, or my time, or my talents, in the benefit of other people―this is what is the true power that produces great change.
However, as stated in Tarot and Kabbalah:
Many people who suffer only remember their bitterness and wish to find a remedy. But, they do not remember the suffering of others; neither do they remotely think of remedying the needs of their neighbors. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
When we are in intense pain, that is usually all we can think about: how much I am suffering as a self. Now, if you get into some of the more esoteric teachings of Buddhism and Eastern teachings, you come to understand that there is no such thing as a self, and yet we deeply believe ourselves to be an individual who has such and such experiences, who reacts in such and such a way.
The psyche itself is egotistical. It maintains an illusion of “This is who I am” and “this is how I feel” and “this is what I think.” The consciousness is beyond that, but when the consciousness is asleep, it is fused with the psyche in such a way that it feels very strongly that “This is who I am. That is my existence.” And again, that is why it's important to be able to separate the consciousness a little bit in meditation, to observe the self, not as me, but as a structure or as an entity that can be separated from me. That can be observed as its own individual person with its own feelings and wills, and to be able to do that requires a good deal of stability, concentration, relaxation, and meditation.
So when we are trapped in that egotistical prison, a feeling like, “Oh my gosh, everything bad is happening to me! This happened and then years later this happened, and this keeps happening!”―that pain is so intense it is nearly impossible to think about anybody else and anybody else who is suffering. Yet, we should take the time to really think about how much other people are suffering, not as a way of comparing: “Oh, well, I have got it worse than those people or they are worse than me” and making ourselves feel guilty, but to just truly comprehend it and feel it deeply in ourselves. This is to feel the pain of other people, empathize with that, and wish, “I wish things on this planet were better and not so many people were suffering.” We see that we have the power in our limited free time or with our limited gifts to be able to go and help someone else, to say, “Man, if all of us have to suffer this much, I at least want to produce something good for someone else!” Then we are able to break out of our prison of egotism a little bit, and it actually lessens our sorrow. It actually lessens our experience of being so enmeshed and ingrained in our in our own individual pain.
The Cessation of Karmic Suffering
I will conclude with a final point from the same book Tarot and Kabbalah:
If those people would think of others, serve their neighbors, feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, dress the naked, teach those who are ignorant, etc., then it would be clear, they are putting good deeds on the plate of the cosmic scale [of karma]. The scale would incline toward their favor. Thus, they would alter their destiny, and good luck would come in their favor. In other words, all of their necessities would be remedied. But people are very selfish; this is the reason for their suffering. No one remembers God nor their fellowmen except when they are in desperation. ―Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
Again, I want to emphasize that this is not a matter of belief and believing, “Oh well, if I just superficially do a couple nice things and superficially wish good things for others, then all of a sudden my life is going to be perfect and great things are going to happen.”
It is a matter of action. You don't have to believe in this cosmic law of karma and cause and effect for it to have an impact on you. You don't have to believe that you are going to get wet when it is raining in order for you to step outside and get wet. This is the same way. We have a big obstacle in American society and that is cynicism. People genuinely don't believe that if you do good things, then good things are going to happen to you. They think “Well, the only people it works out for are the ones who get ahead and step on everybody else.”
This is an obstacle. This is a belief that changes the way we perceive reality, that changes the way we respond to reality. If we are deeply a cynic, we respond to reality with that conditioning and with that negativity and we act in negative ways as a response to it: hopelessness―you know―nihilism. So for us to really change that, we need to be open to trying new things, open to genuinely saying, “Okay, for the next month, I'll go volunteer someplace and I'll do something good in my free time that otherwise I wouldn't do.”
We have the free will to choose that, but do we have enough conscious will power to actually do it and stick with it even when it gets ugly, and we are really seeing the suffering, the intense suffering of other people? Are we really willing to stick with it and to see the impact it makes on us? Because that action will not be without consequence. It will change you. It will change your emotional state, your thoughts. You will see the world in a new way if you go into that type of environment, if you do that type of work, if you give of yourself, even when you are tired, or you don't feel like it, etc.
As I mentioned, it is a way that we can change things, but to have true faith in karma doesn't come from belief. That faith in karma comes from being awake: observing our life; observing the effects of our actions; the effects of our thoughts, emotions, etc. And that is how we produce a lasting change. It is by deeply knowing that. If I do this, it will produce this result. Then we won't want to produce negative results for ourselves, not just because we believe and we are scared it is going to produce something negative, but because we have seen it happen multiple times in our lives we have experienced it. We have gnosis of those consequences, and so we are not going to do it. You are not going to stick your hand in the fire if you know that the fire burns.
Questions and Answers
Question: I found it interesting when you were talking about the cycles that we repeat in as far as our defense mechanisms or past lives. So how does that, in this tradition, rectify with attachment theory? The big thing in psychology now is attachment theory: that a lot of your personality, all these defense mechanisms that you are talking about come from age zero to seven, things that have happened to you: how your parents dealt with you, whatever happened. How much of that is what you are dealing with now as an adult, compared to all the past lives and stuff, or is that an aggregation of all that?
Instructor: Attachment theory, for those who are unfamiliar, is that if we have stable attachment, a healthy safe environment in which we grow up, we experience relationships in a different way, and are much more easily able to have healthy relationships later on in life. If we have an unhealthy or unstable, dysfunctional family or environment as a child, it changes the way our brain is wired, and we have much more anxiety and fear and withdrawal and relationships later in life.
Those formative years, not just for attachment, but for all kinds of things in our personality, have a tremendous effect on us, and science has shown us this. How much of those formative years is causing the problems we have now in life versus past lives? And yes, you kind of answered your question. The formative years are the compressed aggregate of many previous lifetimes. So, the formative years is where we see not just lifetimes, you know, like, “Okay, my past ten lifetimes,” but very ancient lifetimes, things that go back to previous civilizations.
Things that happened not just as an individual, but as people, as a collective, are encoded into even the way that a fetus forms. If you have ever looked at a human fetus, you know, it goes through phases of evolution, almost looking like a lizard at certain points, and then becoming more human.
All of our biology, our DNA, our physical existence, is a code based on our spiritual existence. It is the physical manifestation of the internal existence. So, when we see early childhood traumas and pain like that, it is often from an ancient past of being caught in a cycle with that person's family, with those other souls or individuals that are in that family of harming one another. It is very sad.
But you bring up a good point. We shouldn't get too caught up with past lives right off the bat. It is actually more important in the beginning to look at your life and to look at previous experiences in this current lifetime: to just look at what you can observe. You don't want to get caught up in a fantasy of trying to imagine your past lives and then producing more delusion for yourselves. Really, focus in the beginning on just observing this lifetime and what I can remember from this lifetime, and sitting in meditation and allowing those memories to naturally come up spontaneously.
You may be sitting, meditating on something, and some seemingly unrelated memory pops up from when you were six years old in kindergarten, and then you are like, “How is that related? That doesn't make any sense.!” So then you can choose: “Okay, maybe I take a break and I'll meditate on that experience in kindergarten and try to comprehend what that was all about.” Then as you meditate on that, you may have an inspiration of, “Oh, now I see, it's not in the mind. It's in the consciousness!” This understanding. This comprehension is much deeper than an intellectual, “Oh, A plus B equals C.” It is a very deep knowledge, like I gave in my example of knowing, vividly, in the experience of seeing my past lives that they were real and that that had been me.
Even though I was in different bodies, I knew exactly which one was me, and that is something that is not an intellectual, “Oh, that must be me because she looks like such and such.” It is knowing. In the same way when a memory comes up and you sit with it, and you sink into it, you are praying for guidance from your inner divinity, that can come through. It might not happen in the meditation session. It might happen three hours later when you are washing the dishes. It suddenly clicks. This is the way it is. When our mind takes a break, consciousness can bring us results.
Question: You mentioned a tradition that correlates with the Buddhist tradition... What tradition was that?
Instructor: Vajrayana tradition: the most esoteric levels Buddhism. If you go into the essence of those scriptures, you see they are very similar to ours.
Buddhism, in general, has many sects, but in general, it has three levels of traditions. Shravakayana would be the lowest level, the most fundamental based on just the literal teachings of the Buddha. That is a very introductory level for people who are just coming into Buddhism. It is where they usually start.
Mahayana, known as the greater vehicle, has more of these mystical elements into it, and at the heart of Mahayana is the service, the sacrifice for others―trying to strive for a lifetime of becoming an enlightened being in order to help humanity, which is suffering so much. So we build on that root of: life is suffering, and I want to escape my suffering by transcending that and going into, “I want to transcend my suffering because I want to help other beings transcend their suffering.”
Then Vajrayana, or sometimes called Tantrayana, from Tantra, is the highest level of the teaching, the most esoteric. It has traditionally been the most hidden, although in recent years, a lot of this has come to life because of the internet. It is about expedient methods in which to achieve that enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. So, it builds on the other two, and Tantrayana talks a lot about working with sexual energy and transmuting sexual energy. So that is the direct correlation with our tradition.
Another Instructor: The Dalai Lama, in relation to this topic of trauma, related an experience in which he interviewed a Buddhist monk, who was exiled from Tibet after the Chinese had invaded. He was put into prison for 18 years. He was abused and experienced many of the traumas and difficulties of that particular region. And to tie into this discussion of trauma, there was an interesting comment the man made to the Dalai Lama, who asked him, “What was your greatest danger when being in prison?” And the monk said, “Losing my compassion for the Chinese.” So a question we can reflect upon is: how does the force of compassion help to overcome trauma? (especially tying into this need to serve, to sacrifice for humanity and what that does for the individual psyche). As you said, if we are focusing on trauma, if we are focused on our pain, you don't really think about other people, but how is it that compassion unlocks, unties that Gordian knot of suffering?
Instructor: You remind me of another quote that is quite popular: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to realize that the prisoner is you.”
When we let go of our grudges against other people, even if we feel totally justified in them, and even if those people did very evil things, we free ourselves in a very deep way. It can't be expressed in words. It can only be experienced. If you have ever had a time where you were so angry at somebody and you held on to it for so long, and then finally, somehow, you were able to forgive them, the weight was lifted and you were able to perceive life, even that person, without so much pain. Then you have experienced it and you know it's true.
Compassion for others is a way of liberating ourselves from suffering. It works with this principle: sacrifice for others. When we do good things for others, we forgive others, so we can be forgiven. It puts into effect powerful causes that transcend previous causes.
But when we hold on to anger, when we hold onto pain, we are poisoning our ourselves. It is not pleasant to feel anger. As justified as we may be in being angry, it is suffering to feel that anger and it is freedom to feel good will towards other people, no matter what they have done to you.
Keep your distance from people if you need to, absolutely. Keep yourself safe. Don't stay in a situation where you are being abused, but with that prudence, to also be able to not let not let that pain linger with you―to do this type of work and go deep into healing the pain.
It doesn't happen overnight, but through that process we say that the law of karma, of action and consequence, is the second law. It is the law of nature, and there is a first law, a superior law which can transcend karma. So, all these bad actions we may have done, which we may be freaking out of like, “Oh man, I know I did bad things in this lifetime, who can imagine past lifetimes!” There is a much more powerful law that we can work with in order to create effects and causes that are even more powerful than those that can, in many cases, overcome the effects of those laws. They can't erase it, but they can be more powerful than the effects of those other actions. It is the law of sacrifice.
To do good things for others is a law. It is an intelligent law, is that divine law. It is a law that works with superior principles. The laws of nature are mechanical, karma. Karma has an intelligence, or I should say, it is managed intelligently, but it is like physics. It happens. You can believe whatever you want, and it is still going to happen to you, but sacrifice is a very special divine law.
Again, it is something that you can only truly experience the effects if you have done it, if you have given it a try. Like I said, going for a month and really sacrificing, then you experience for yourself, when you sit at the end of that month and you reflect back on it, you know from your experience the effects of that. You don't have to believe in it. Many times, we have in our imagination or in our fantasies, “Well, if I go do that, it's just going to be like this.” And we never actually do something. We just have our projection of the future, a projection of what a situation will be like.
Without having experienced it, we think we already know. We need to question our mind because the mind and the imagination are very powerful and condition us, producing the effects it wants us to do, but an action, actually, is much more powerful.
Question: So trauma, not properly addressed and not transformed, would you say that it would carry over into another life?
Instructor: Absolutely. Yeah, because trauma itself, even if it's something good that happens to us, can carry over to future lives. So good things that happen to us that we become very attached to, like having a loving relationship with a child, you know, even in a future lifetime again, we are going to find that same individual and whatever new relationship and have a strong attachment. So even good things, good attachments, which carry over to lifetime to lifetime, are still unconscious and mechanical.
We want free will, both from the traumas and the pains that have conditioned us to respond to people or certain people or certain situations, and in the same way, we want to separate from that and free ourselves and also from any kind of unconsciousness. It doesn't mean we stop doing good things or loving people or having kind relationships, but it means we have a conscious choice about it.
So trauma, as I mentioned before, is just a really powerful experience of gnosis that prevents us from denying suffering. But other experiences, good experiences, can have that same kind of un-transformed or un-digested impressions, that same effect on our structure of our psyche.
And even though the physical body doesn't carry on from lifetime to lifetime, what we call the astral body, which is made up of our emotions, or the mental body which is made up of, you know, more finer mental substances, they carry on from lifetime to lifetime in the form of the ego. It is a type of matter that is more protoplasmic, that is more malleable than physical matter, and it can exist outside of the physical world. That is why with astral projection, you can go outside of your physical body and you can still have experiences. You can still walk around and talk, but it's not with your physicality.
After death, those different aggregates of ourselves can move on lifetime to lifetime. What is important is that if we wake up, we can become very conscious of that experience, not just when we go to sleep, but also after death. We can have more power and more choice in our future lifetimes.
Also, we can become a different type of being in higher planes of reality, planes that are more ethereal or subtler planes of nature. They are just as real as the physical plane; in fact, in some way, very much more real, but we are not conscious of them because we are so asleep and so hypnotized by our physical nature.
We want to be aware of our physical nature, but also aware of these other aspects of ourselves. So this can be both higher aspects of our emotional and mental nature, but also lower aspects, because we have a lot of unconsciousness, subconsciousness, infraconsciousness trapped in negativity. And that, for us, is hell. If we are trapped in the negative states: anger, pride, greed, lust, etc., we are continually tortured by those desires and pulled in different ways from one minute to the next. It can be completely contradictory desires. This is a state of confusion and suffering.
Until we become conscious of it and liberate the consciousness out of that, then we can't really move fully up. We might have parts of ourselves that are up in higher states of consciousness and parts of ourselves trapped in lower states of consciousness, but generally speaking, for most of us, the majority of us are trapped in negativity and lower states of consciousness.
That is the work of meditation, not just with trauma, but with everything. It is to enter in meditation into the lower states of our mind, to perceive them not as real and “that is who I am,” but to perceive them as structures in our mind that project images, that project emotions, or fantasies, or plans for the future, and to just perceive it without becoming hypnotized and identified with it. We must comprehend it for what it is, to turn and look at what is the source of this fantasy that is playing, or this fear that is playing, and to be able to comprehend that source and eliminate it through the power of transmutation, which can give birth to something new.
Question: Based on the answer it sounds like as far as trauma goes… does the work to transform that energy, that experience prior to death so that you are not going into the next life with that baggage, so to speak. What would be the complete set of things that you need to be looking to do by death so that you are in the best space for the next life?
Instructor: Great work, that is, a truly deep work. We do as much as we can, as much as we have the willpower to do. But, it's these three things:
These are the three factors for the revolution of the consciousness.
So on a daily basis, doing good deeds, performing good actions, meditating on the unconscious parts of ourselves, whether seemingly positive, negative, or neutral, meditating on them and comprehending them―becoming awake and aware of what is controlling us beneath the surface.
Birth is working in transmutation to give birth to new elements in your consciousness and to eliminate those negative structures. Primarily, if we are not working with transmutation, we do not have very much of the substance which can destroy the roots of trauma and of karma. When I act in a certain way, I fuel energy into it, and a lot of times, even if this isn't a lustful situation, even if it's for example, pride or anger, that takes my creative energy, that takes my life force, the essence of who I am, and invests my energy into that.
That is being born in me as a living type of substance, a living entity, almost of itself, and that entity is anger, and that anger has a will of its own―a will to speak a certain way, to think a certain way, to act a certain way. And so, until I take that same force, draw it out of the anger―through comprehension and use my own life force to say, “I am eliminating this”―then nothing can be changed on a permanent level.
We might be able to do some superficial change, but to really achieve a deep and lasting change, we can't do that. And if you read the book, you'll see that that work with the sexual energy is the work with the Divine Mother.
I didn't want to get too much into it today, but we are working with the power of the Divine Mother, or the power of the Holy Spirit. The Third Logos is that power of creation and destruction, of birth and death. And so, that is the power we work with when we utilize that energy. Doing as much as we can before death will radically change us.
It is like an exponential curve. The more that you are able to do, then the more that you will be able to do. “If I do this much, then exponentially I'll be able to do that much more, and from that point, I'll be able to do so much more.” Karma really restricts us, and the more unconscious we are and the more karma we have weighing us down that hasn't been transformed, our actions become very limited by our circumstances, by the types of people around us, by our environment, etc. The more that we work with the little three percent of free will that we have to break that karma, to transform that karma, to work with sacrifice and conscious actions, then we get five percent free will. Then ten percent free will, and you know, exponentially the more free will you have, suddenly you have a lot more control over your situation.
We see people in the world who have way more freedom than many of us. We also see people in this world who have very difficult situations. You know, to have mental illness, for example, is a type of karma. It is a structure that conditions your ability to act and feel, and you know, there are medications and things we can do that can help, but the very conditioning of our psychology is a part of our matter, a part of our experience of life, and is formed by previous actions and karma.
Another Instructor: I would also say that the more we awaken our consciousness, physically and in the internal planes, the more prepared for death we are. In Buddhism, they teach to prepare for death by meditating daily on that inevitability, and by becoming more conscious and working on our traumas, those negative states of anger or pride, the more we will remember and be awake. Because for most people, especially in the West, who have never had any type of training, they don't remember where they came from―their past lives. So, as we were talking about the theory, or what people think is a theory, is not a theory for people who can experience that for themselves. The more we awaken, as we were saying, and the more freedom of perception, and then if we take another body, we will remember where we came from or the level of work we obtained, and in that way we have more opportunities to continue to go deeper and to resolve those traumas that trap us.
Instructor: The capacities of our consciousness are practically infinite, but we are not aware of that because we utilize the consciousness so very little, as compared to our intellect, or our physical body.
Question: There are so many versions of meditation and different physical ways of experiencing meditation or practicing meditation. Would you say that they are all innately trying to achieve the same thing or are they based on different types of practices that you do or trying to awaken a certain level of consciousness or area?
Instructor: That is a good question. Do all different forms and techniques of meditation produce the same results, or strive for the same results? No. I do believe that there are a variety of genuine meditation techniques that can, regardless of which one you work with, if you work with a diligently enough, it can help you along the way to achieve the awakening of consciousness, but much of that is determined upon your own conscious effort.
Even if you use the genuine meditation technique from a given tradition, that has helped lots of people to awaken, to become enlightened, if you are not active in consciousness, it is not going to work for you.
As the internet proliferates all kinds of things, there are some meditation techniques which could be harmful from a psychological perspective. Meditation techniques that say, “Okay, go and fantasize about your ideal life and really invest in that,” is not going to awaken your consciousness, but it is going to further hypnotize your consciousness, and could even inhibit your ability to see reality, or make you more dissatisfied with reality. We should be careful.
Also, different techniques produce different effects. So when I talked about pranayamas as an example, we have a variety of different pranayama techniques from different traditions. Many of which are genuine pranayama techniques, and each of which would achieve this transmutation of sexual energy, but also with slight variations. I believe that meditation is much the same way, you know. When I work with different mantras or different meditation techniques, I can achieve different results, but all of which if they are a good technique, awaken my consciousness. But perhaps one awakens my consciousness so that I am more aware of my heart and activate my heart and feel more compassion, whereas another awakens my consciousness and helps me to astral project. Or, another awakens, you know my ability to try to perceive a past life.
So we have hundreds or thousands of techniques in our tradition that you know, many of which also come from other traditions, religions around the world, all in the books. So, we are happy to refer you to books that have those practices if it's helpful.
Another Instructor: Another point too is that, as we are mentioning, in Buddhism, there are three schools, and every religion has its systems. In Buddhism, Shravakayana, the introductory level; Mahayana, the greater vehicle; and the most expedient Tantrayana.
So meditation, as taught within the introductory levels, are geared with a specific focus. They teach the beginning practitioner how to concentrate, work with ethics, upright action, upright thoughts, and feelings and deeds so that the mind becomes stable. If you think of the mind like a lake, if we keep throwing stones, negative thinking, impressions into the lake, it is going to be churning, unstable.
From that point of view, we can't address any trauma, because in order to see clearly, your mind has to be perfectly still. So in the introductory levels of Buddhism or any tradition, we teach ethics, karma, serenity. To develop a serene mind, the meditative practices of that tradition, or any introductory level, will teach you how to develop stability. As it was explained in the lecture, we have to balance our three brains and a brain in esoterism has to do with any type of machine that processes matter, energy, and consciousness.
Our intellect is not just the only brain, because we have many forms of intelligence in the heart and in sex. In fact our entire physiology is a marvelous machine that can transform energy, but if we don't use or balance those centers through ethics, upright thought, feeling, action, we can't really enter a state of meditation. We need to really go to the heart of our problems.
Once we have that type of serenity developed, then you can start to develop more compassion for others, because you see that other people, who don't have that training, are in tremendous suffering and affliction. That is the Mahayana level, the middle ground, the greater vehicle, and the meditations taught in that tradition are more profound and demand a type of diligence and foundation.
So in all the meditations, they lead towards the highest stages, in which we are meditating not just for ourselves, but for humanity. That is when we can do practices like Tantra, or as we say in this tradition, the perfect matrimony: to utilize energy in the highest way, to transform not only yourself, but others, and that is what we are leaning towards.
It is important that when we approached meditation, we, in our tradition, have many practices. Work with where we are at and, in most case,s we have to start at the very bottom. Because if you sit to reflect on your mind, you can see that it is difficult to concentrate, or we have no serenity in the beginning. So in our school, we teach all three levels of Buddhism at once, because students are at different levels and have different needs. If you look at other traditions, you may find some schools will only focus on the basics. Some very high, but the problem becomes not having a practical foundation in the steps, because they help to build off one another.
Instructor: A great explanation, because everybody wants to jump right to Tantra, and right to the most advanced practices, like “Oh, I want to get out of my body and speak to the Lord of Karma, Anubis or whatever the case may be,” but if we don't have the ability to relax physically, emotionally, and mentally, to separate our consciousness from it, to awaken our consciousness from those three brains, and to have concentration, to maintain our attention and our awareness on the object of our meditation, then we're not able to even work with those more advanced techniques. We are going to try them, and they are not going to work, or if they do work by chance, it could end up being a harmful situation.
So really establishing ourselves in the basics allows us to then gradually work our way up to those more advanced practices. Like the example I gave about going deeper and deeper and deeper in meditation, and finally into, you know, a past life experience―that was built on months and years of really working with meditation and basics, working with concentration and relaxation. If you stay for the optional meditation after this lecture, you will be able to try out a basic technique with us in which we're going to meditate exactly on balancing those three brains and working with relaxation and concentration.
Another Instructor: Maybe to finish on how the magic of the roses work, because I know especially in North America and the West, when we hear of magic, we think of right circus tricks, or all sorts of people who perform illusions. But how do roses or the magic, the soul of the plant, go with the practice?
With that practice, in our tradition, we use a lot of exercises that work with nature. Magic, in its true sense, is how we as a consciousness can communicate with divinity and interact with the soul of nature. All the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom, the animal kingdom, has this type of soul, in different gradations of complexity. So, minerals are obviously very simple. Plants more involved. They process and channel energy in nature. Animals, of course, are more developed. They are collectively developing a type of will, which is different than plants, until finally we have humanoids, or the intellectual animal. The human being, the soul, anima, with intellect.
We work with plants primarily because the souls of those types of creatures have power. We learn to work and communicate to command the souls of plants to help, because every plant and nature has its type of properties, which can heal. It can perform medicine. We know this very extensively from indigenous cultures, which still retain a type of wisdom that our modern orthodoxy and medicine does not support.
The rose is a very elevated plant. It is the queen of flowers. If you know astrology, each plant relates to different planets, because each plant channels the forces of the cosmos. It transmits. So, as you see that the human being is a machine that transmits forces, likewise, minerals, plants, animals. That is why you have such diversity in nature, because each living entity channels force.
It is interesting that the rose is especially powerful for healing the heart. Even conventionally, we may give roses to our loved ones in order to show love, especially, romantic love, because the rose, we know instinctually, has a marvelous presence. Even within the internal planes, the soul of that plant is very elevated. We can command the soul of the rose to work with the divided hierarchies of the angels, related to the planet Venus, the star of love, to invoke that intelligence, bring it to our home and deposit medicine within the glasses.
So you notice that you have a glass facing the East; you drink this before breakfast; the glass towards the North, before lunch; then the glass towards the West, before dinner. That sequence parallels the trajectory of the Sun, and we know that Venus is the star of the dawn. It channels the forces of the divinity we call Christ, which is a force, particularized in any person who is prepared.
So, you pray to your inner Being, “My God, my Divine Mother, command the elemental of the rose to work and deposit healing within these glasses,” by invoking the angels of that force, that bring the particular influence of love, so that we can heal trauma―to at least gain stability to the point that we can meditate further. And you drink in that sequence. Very simple. Healing is very simple. Prayer, relaxation, concentration, faith. Not belief.
We have experiences we know, if you awaken in the dream state, you can personally converse with the elementals of nature. Personally, I have been in the habit over the years to meditate on certain elementals, the plants that I have in my home, in which I have been able to communicate with those entities, those beings who are still in Eden. They are innocent. They haven't entered into all the complex problems that we have in the humanoid kingdom through the process of evolution. So they are very simple. They are like angels, but in a very small degree.
You can pray and with faith, you have the experience. You know that these elements exist and that the rose can heal pain. Personally, I have used the roses when I have had traumas, in certain betrayals and conflicts that I could not reconcile, and by working with the glasses, you drink, over a sequence of a few days. When the roses wither, you can remove them. Then your pain is alleviated, at least at the surface, to the point that we have enough stability where we can meditate and then look at the problem, because in the moment when we are afflicted, we can't think. You can't concentrate.
Those elementals or souls of nature are very powerful. They work and obey divinity. The rose is, of course, held in very high regard in certain traditions, such as the Rosicrucians, the first Gnostics, the Rosicrucian Gnostic Church. The rose is a symbol of the transformation of the soul into the beauty of God. Of course, the rose is very effective for that. You can work with it however much you need.
It’s simple. Pray, relax, and concentrate. You drink it like medicine. The good thing is that there are no side effects. Of course, some people in this day and age have traumas and illnesses in the mind, of the heart, that, because that karma is crystallized in the body, some people need to take a drug to be able to find balance. But the wonderful property of this practice is that there are no side effects. Water. Roses. Magic. Because those substances that divinity places are not physical. They are etheric, astral, mental, spiritual, internal.
In conjunction with whatever people may have to do to find balance, whether it be medication and therapy, the roses are exceptional. Simple, but profound. That ritual is as effective as your prayer. Prayer is something simple. You don't need formulas when you talk to your inner divinity. You say, “My Father, my God, help me!” Use your words and just ask for that healing and experiment. That practice is of course effective when we are working in transmutation. Work with your creative energy, because your prayer will be empowered when you use that force, and that way it opens the doorway into the internal planes.
Throughout our experience of teaching Gnosis, we have had the privilege to correspond with many Gnostic students, some of whom have and continue to suffer from very debilitating mental illnesses. While it has been sad to hear so many personal stories of mental deterioration, suffering, and decline, we have witnessed many miraculous and joyful victories, all due to the courage and efforts of students. Rather than giving in to disease, many aspirants have decided to face the burden of stigma, confronting their own crippling, inner demons with nobility and heroism.
This course has been inspired by such conversations, instructions, and testimonies. For those who may suffer from mental illness or if you know someone with a diagnosis, we hope that you can apply these techniques for the comprehension and alleviation of suffering. Such exercises in our tradition can be very useful, complementary with the advice of mental health professionals.
Psychology is a very deep topic, a very deep science that has profound roots within diverse spiritual traditions and the ancient mystery schools of all continents, all cultures, and all religions. Basically, ψυχή psyche in Greek signifies the consciousness or soul, which strives for union with divinity, the λόγος logos. This is a Greek term denominating the sacred word, divinity, or beingness. Genuine psychology is very concerned with the relationship of the consciousness with divinity. It is not the mere study of intellectual or mental processes but of the entire constitution of the human being.
But sadly, due to materialistic skepticism, science has often rejected the transformative possibilities of religion and spirituality. There is much to learn from the psychological teachings of yoga, Buddhism, meditation, Kabbalah, Sufism, Rosicrucianism, and Gnosis. These can complement the work of modern psychological professionals. Understanding a person’s spiritual orientation, their background, their identity, is promising for treatments. Spirituality can help professionals assess the psychological and spiritual roots of a given problem.
Not too long ago, spirituality was considered “woo-woo” for approaching mental health concerns. However, there are more people now who are beginning to realize that merely addressing the physical needs of a person and not their heart is insufficient. In fact, many understand that it is very narrow minded. Many argue against integrating spirituality within mental health practice. Some want to maintain consistent parameters―understandably so―for applying spirituality to mental health concerns. These are often difficult to determine with current criteria, when spirituality deals with realities beyond material existence.
However, the problem is not that spirituality or religion is superstitious, but that its discipline requires a new type of training with which psychological professionals are not typically trained in. Now the desire for facts should not be exclusively limited to mere material means, since human beings operate within multiple spheres of experience, beyond just the body. This is verifiable through the practices of the Gnostic tradition.
In this lecture, we will demonstrate how lasting psychological change arrives through practical spirituality. Through consciously applying proven methods for mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, individuals suffering from imbalances can realize a conscious state of inner equilibrium. We will offer some basic suggestions for learning how to initiate such a psychological work, one that can aid individuals suffering from mental illness who are working with qualified mental health professionals.
The Divide Between Psychology and Religion
Unfortunately, there have existed tensions, animosity, and even outright suspicion between modern psychology and religion. The seemingly irreconcilable differences between science and faith, and the efforts of psychology to distinguish its self as a science and not an art, have led to many mental health professionals divorcing their practice from spirituality. Sigmund Freud, a devout atheist, declared in The Future of an Illusion that:
“Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis,” a “defense against childish helplessness” whose “infantilism is destined to be surmounted.” ―Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion
He viewed religion as an escape from the reality of suffering, psychosis and its causes, rather than as a means for recovery. He also believed that science possesses the keys to treat individuals with mental illness.
Now there are many commonly held stereotypes regarding mental health and religion, that religion is repressive, reductive, dogmatic, or even irrational. However, there exists a large body of research demonstrating the positive role of religion in recovery from serious psychological disorders. There are also abundant empirical studies that show how religious communities are often the first places that people go when people are confronted with a serious illness.
Why is this the case?
Religion can offer optimistic world-views. They can provide ethical behaviors that promote a balanced lifestyle. Many benefits of a religious life include the restriction or prohibition of smoking, drinking, substance use, suicidality, crime, and sexual promiscuity. Likewise, religion and spirituality can provide comfort for those suffering from mental illness, in that communal and emotional support can help all people, regardless of whether or not they are ill.
Religious and Spiritual Psychopathology
However, despite the promising rise of medical research about spiritually integrated mental health treatments, there exists some problems.
Often times, people with mental illness adhering to a religious system have often mistaken what is known as psychopathology with spiritual or religious experience. By psychopathology we mean both the scientific study of mental disorders but also their expression within individuals. This can often take on a religious, spiritual, or mystical flavor. In the words of Dr. W. Patrick Sullivan in “Spirituality: A Road to Mental Health or Mental Illness”:
Discerning the content of delusions and distinguishing them from true spiritual experiences is not an easy task. ―Dr. W. Patrick Sullivan, Spirituality: A Road to Mental Health or Mental Illness (2009)
In the Gnostic teachings, we learn to awaken. We learn to strengthen and expand our conscious possibilities. In that process, we learn to discriminate between the falsity of our own subjective perceptions, while verifying the nature of objective testimony. By questioning what we experience, we can arrive at a deeper understanding of reality and our relationship to it.
This is why Samael Aun Weor wrote the following in The Perfect Matrimony:
We disseminate spiritual intellectual culture, decency, refinement, logical analysis, conceptual synthesis, academic culture, higher mathematics, philosophy, science, art, religion, etc. Therefore, in no way whatsoever are we willing to continue to accept the gossip of hallucinating people nor the madness of dreamers. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
The questions become:
Do such spiritual experiences impair one’s functioning, or do these insights empower an individual’s capacity to excel, to continuously improve in all aspects of life?
Are individuals cultivating a rich understanding of religious and spiritual traditions?
Are they effectively applying practical techniques for comprehending and removing the causes of suffering?
Or on a very simple level: are they decent, respectable, and respectful people?
Individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness or who proclaim to be enlightened need to seriously examine their level of being and quality of their states, since if their perceptions are causing their personal, occupational, and social life to deteriorate, then they must come to terms with the fact that they have a problem.
However, we will say, just because an individual’s psychosis resembles spiritual elements, such as paranoid delusions of religious persecution or communicating with angels, this does not guarantee that all reported incidents of spiritual experiences are delusions. Individuals suffering from mental disorders must distinguish the reality of religion and a delusion.
Even if we are relatively sound in our mental and emotional wellbeing, average persons all have delusions about mundane things too. Even an atheist can have delusions about reality and not religion, whereby their psychosis matches their cultural, secular upbringing. Religion does not cause delusions. Delusions occur spontaneously and they take on the form of one’s idiosyncrasies, including one’s religion or culture.
So as you can see, there are a lot of nuances to this issue that require a lot of analysis, a lot of comprehension, and especially a lot of meditation, because while the mentally ill must be exceptionally critical with their delusions, with their perceptions, with their attitudes, this should not discount the possibility of true divine communion.
Culture and Diagnoses
Despite the prevalence of spiritual experience throughout religions and cultures, many skeptics conflate genuine mystical perceptions as symptoms of mental illness. However, to quote Dr. W. Patrick Sullivan:
First and foremost, what is considered delusional thought and belief is heavily influenced by culture. ―Dr. W. Patrick Sullivan, Spirituality: A Road to Mental Health or Mental Illness (2009)
This is very important. Culture has to be considered within mental illness diagnoses. For example, in some societies ghosts are an accepted part of their belief systems. For others, it is talking with angels. Therefore, clinicians will often compare individuals to the rest of their cultural group when they want to determine a diagnosis. Each case must be examined within the context of a patient's cultural norms, to understand what the norm is and is not. That is how you can better diagnose what is going on. It is a frame of reference. It is a starting point.
For many of us, materialism dominates the Western psyche to the point that it rejects the mere possibility of any experiential verification of spiritual truths. However, while our modern culture goes to the extreme of materialistic skepticism, the Gnostic tradition suggests that we should also not go to the other end of the pendulum, swinging between extremes by believing everything we perceive. This is especially the case for individuals who suffer from some type of mental illness.
Mental Health and Faith
So, what is the solution? How can patients benefit from the modern mental health system without divorcing themselves from guiding principles, from ethics, from conscious spirituality?
In Gnosis, we seek to find balance, the synthesis of oppositions, so that we can enrich our quality of life. Samael Aun Weor mentioned something very interesting in The Revolution of the Dialectic. He stated:
Mental health is not possible if conscious faith does not exist. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
As evidenced by this quote, we have a very different psychological and spiritual orientation within the Gnostic teachings. Rather than merely adopt a concept to believe in, an ideology, a theory, a belief, we prefer to investigate the truths contained within religion. We seek to experience what divinity really is. In this, we leave beliefs aside. The main method is meditation, where we can learn to access the direct experience of the truths contained within all traditions.
Direct experience of the truth, of reality, of divinity, is the best medicine. People who suffer from mental illness are afflicted by many negative emotions, disordered thoughts, agitation, dis-ease, dissatisfaction, uncertainty. Genuine spiritual experiences provide optimal mental health. They ground one in a stable state. These experiences are qualified by their very distinct psychological and spiritual flavor. We call them states of compassion, altruism, spontaneous joy, freedom of mind, heart, body; patience, diligence, perseverance, resilience, the endurance of hardships with the utmost ethical character. There are many virtues cited throughout religious traditions. They all point toward a balanced state of mind. This is predicated upon faith, having an awakened consciousness, a serene, intensified awareness and directed attention that is unwavering, that is clear, that is spontaneous, that is joyful. That is our true nature, and those who suffer from any type of disorder are disconnected from that, with varying levels of intensity.
So faith, the experience of these principles, is something we can verify for ourselves whether or not one has a mental illness. But in the context of mental health, this is especially important. It is a fulcrum for convalescence, for healing.
We have to state that in reality, genuine spiritual experiences inspire order. They provide cohesion in life. They demonstrate a profound integrity, a motivated purpose within a chaotic physical and internal world.
Delusions on the other hand produce pain. Very simple. They are the origin of confusion, despair, disenfranchisement, alienation, suffering, and especially the corrosion of one’s relationships, whether personal or professional.
Now, individuals who suffer from forms of mental illness may be convinced that their perceptions are real. However, we have to ask about the quality of their daily state because that is the best measurement, the most sure evidence.
Let us elaborate on this.
Can these people keep a job? Can they relate to others? Are they a decent parent? Are they a good sibling, child, or spouse?
Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” If individuals act on delusional states of mind expecting the best while convinced that they are infallible, their life will reflect the consequences. This is why in our tradition we rely on the tremendous, inescapable, and incontrovertible facts. For students who have suffered from mental illness, we always emphasize, “Examine yourself. Study your behaviors. Look at the results of your actions. Where have your ideas, your knowledge, and your beliefs taken you? Do you have greater stability in your psychological states? Is there greater harmony in your relationships? Is your financial situation in order? Your occupation? Your daily life?” Unfortunately, the proclivity of most people is precisely imbalance.
To understand genuine psychological equilibrium, it is important to study the three brains of our human machine. In esoteric studies, a brain constitutes a physiological and psychological transformer of energy.
We have an intellectual brain in our cranium that processes the energy of thought.
We have an emotional brain in our heart that processes the energy of feeling.
We also have a motor-instinctual-sexual brain in our spine, which processes the energy of action.
While these are physical machines in our body, they are also vehicles through which our consciousness operates and is modified. If we are honest, we can see that our modern culture and way of life is very imbalanced. Many occupations exclusively require engagement with the intellect at the expense of the other brains. We overuse the intellectual brain and its energies to indulge in our bad habits: too much intellectualizing, reading, reasoning, theorizing, analyzing. Our education system is also heavily focused on the knowledge of the mind, rather than the qualities of the heart.
A typical person also abuses the emotional brain through negative emotions like anger, through resentment, pride, and fear. We also saturate our heart with negative emotions when we argue, when we fight, when we ruminate. These types of behaviors drastically deplete our emotional brain of energy.
Lastly, we have the motor-instinctual-sexual brain where we process movement. It is where we have impulse, desire, instinct. This brain is also greatly abused today in the modern world, whereby we put too much strain on the body either through excessive exercises or violent sports, and most importantly the abuse of sex. Sexual behavior has the most long lasting and serious consequences. Everybody knows this, but sadly people ignore how sexual misconduct is the primary cause of imbalance. People who constantly pursue and consummate sexual relationships are never satisfied. They are never happy. After one partner to the next, they go through the ups and downs of relationships, always trying to satisfy their appetites for more, for more pleasant sensations. This is like throwing fuel into a fire. Desire will never be satisfied, no matter how intense, and once it gets what it wants, it wants more. This is a tremendous disequilibrium.
This is why in our Gnostic studies, regardless of our suffering from a mental, emotional, or physical state, or those who are suffering from a form of illness relating to the three brains, we always seek to conserve our energies, since without fuel in the three brains, the consciousness cannot operate optimally. Psychological, emotional, and creative energy are necessary if you want to drive your car. If you want to drive your spiritual destination, you need to use your three brains in balance, with conscious awareness, with ethics, so that you do not get hurt. You do not hurt yourself. You drive safely on the road. This is why Samael Aun Weor wrote in The Perfect Matrimony:
Perfect mental equilibrium is of vital importance for those who want spiritual progress. Almost all the aspirants of esotericism easily lose their mental equilibrium and usually fall into the most absurd things. Whosoever yearns for direct knowledge must ensure that their minds are in perfect equilibrium. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Perfect Matrimony
The reason that people get sick, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically, is due to the abuse of the three brains. What happens to an engine the runs out of fuel? It stops working properly. Or you give it the wrong fuel. You put rocket fuel into a car. We do this all the time with our diet, with our habits, with our addictions. When an engine runs out of fuel, it does not operate. It is the same with our psychology and our body.
If you want examples of this, people who exhaust their mental energy become delusional. They become paranoid, schizophrenic, insane. Those who waste their emotional energies become depressed. They become manic or bi-polar. Likewise with the motor-instinctive-sexual brain, by wasting our vitality we become paraplegic, paralyzed, a host for sexually transmitted diseases.
Therefore, to avoid getting sick students must learn to conserve their energy, to do it wisely, so that the consciousness can awaken to its true state.
The Reality of Gnosis
But sadly, many skeptics conflate mystical states with madness. They equate it with delusions, hallucinations, and disequilibrium because in their materialistic worldview it is impossible to experience divinity, to know reality, the truth. Such a possibility is just not afforded within their worldview. Also there have been many people who approach the Gnostic teachings with incredible psychological imbalances, who later blame Gnosis for making them sick. It is strange, and it is sad, because they ignore how their own actions have exacerbated an underlying condition.
The truth is that all of humanity is imbalanced and sick. It is a disease to be afflicted with pride, to be motivated and driven by anger, to be enmeshed and saturated by laziness, to be addicted to lust, and many defects that our society venerates and worships. People need instruction regarding how to identify, how to comprehend, and how to remove psychological conditions. Actually, the people who are the most sick deserve the most attention, for as Jesus stated in the book of Matthew:
They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick… for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. ―Matthew 9:12-13
Also, the reality is that no one ever enters the Gnostic teachings from a state of balance. It does not happen that way. Therefore, it is not unusual that many who attempt Gnostic practices discover just how sick they really are, because Gnosis is mirror. It shows you who you really are. It forces you to confront your real level of being, your condition, your state. It is factual. If you are not ready to confront the reality of yourself, then you might obviously want to run away and even blame the mirror for how ugly it is. This is how most people approach genuine spirituality. Whether or not they are diagnosed with a severe condition, everyone is imbalanced to a degree, but obviously people who are diagnosed by professionals obviously have a more intensified version of a common problem.
Despite how priceless this gift is, many people blame Gnosis for the fact that they finally recognize their underlying psychology. It is very disturbing, so they leave and choose to follow a life path that involves a greater and accelerated deterioration and devolution.
Now while having a mental illness is a serious obstacle, it can be overcome with proper tools and techniques when combined with professional help.
It is truly rare to find healthy, balanced, and integrated people. It is also very difficult to find Gnostics who are living up to the ideals of this tradition. It is very challenging, precisely because it is very demanding, very rigorous. Authentic spirituality is difficult, because it requires that we renounce all of our bad habits. It is difficult to practice because, for many, they lack a basic foundation, which is being a proactive, a humble, a decent individual.
There is a very common trend within spiritual groups where people proclaim great advancements or enlightened states, and yet their etiquette, common, social graces are lacking. While many people aspire towards the heights of mystical consciousness and the greatest methods for spiritual transformation, a lot of people fail to master and perfect the basics. A house cannot stand on faulty foundations.
This is why Samael Aun Weor stated the following:
The crude reality of facts demonstrates to us that many are those who have not comprehended the transcendence of the Gnostic esoteric work, and that great majorities are not good heads of households.
While many Gnostics might not suffer from mental illness, there are others who are sick with fanaticism, who are diseased by envy, who are consumed by spiritual pride, and petrified within dogmatism. So long as they are attached to the concept that they are the only authentic spiritual group or that they are enlightened, that they have done it and that no work is left for them, they will not advance. They will not develop.
Likewise, persons who are whimsical―you have got to love this word here―who open their sail to any wind, who just allow themselves to be moved by any impulse, they likewise demonstrate their disequilibrium. They are not stable. Now the thing is that we should be careful not to go to the other extreme, just repressing whatever psychological elements arrive or whatever one fears.
This is why we meditate. Through developing a clear, serene, and unwavering observation of our psychological states, meditators gain essential knowledge of their internal conditions, so that through deep comprehension, very painful and traumatic states of mind can be transformed. They can be healed.
People who are really sick can be radically healed with meditation. Obviously, working with professionals, with whatever particular condition that they might have been diagnosed with, meditation is a beautiful complement, a wonderful training, because it is through this exercise that people gain enough control of their mind. Their mind does not push them around.
Also, with enough training, one can be like Jesus here in this image. He is praying before his Passion, his Crucifixion, his martyrdom, and obviously someone with that level of discipline could remain calm and serene even while being crucified. This means that for individuals who suffer from a condition or merely have a lot of problems and suffer a lot and want to have inner balance, one can learn how to endure difficult situations, how to face the triggers of life, whereby stimuli no longer provoke a negative reaction. This is the goal, to respond with equanimity in the face of hardship.
You cannot necessarily change the situation outside of yourself, but with training your mind, you can endure the negative reactions that inevitably emerge as a response to those ordeals. One can learn to respond with perfect equanimity in the face of hardships that really seemed in the past insurmountable. This is how internal conflicts can be resolved.
The World of Relations
Researchers have recently studied a concept known as religious struggles, whereby an individual experience conflict relating to spirituality. These exist along three levels:
For some people suffering from mental illness, religion and spirituality can become an intrinsic source of radical change. It can become a means of developing more personal, fulfilling relationships with others. It can also help one to integrate socially within larger communities. This can help foster a really deep and lasting sense of self-worth, but also an ethical orientation towards a higher purpose.
However, for others, religious thinking can exacerbate psychosis, such in the case of severe depression whereby a person can blame God for their suffering, their disappointments, their failures, their disillusionment. What these conflicts reveal about a person is a lack of connection with the Innermost Being, our divinity, who is perfect serenity. The Being, your true identity, is perfect happiness. It is a state of plentitude, in which there is no deficiency or lack. It is joy. It is compassion. It is altruism. Divinity is not the source of conflict. A lot of people like to blame God for their problems, ignoring their own agency and the fact that every action has a consequence.
A real spiritual person takes responsibility for their mistakes and does not shy away from the facts. It is a very brutal, difficult thing to do, to be honest with oneself, especially when other people show us our errors. However, by learning to face these adversities, these interrelations in life, by observing oneself, by becoming aware of our conditions of mind, one can access the genuine, divine root of our consciousness, a true state of joy.
The Being, divinity, is not tyrannical. The Being does not afflict anyone. What happens is that individuals with perhaps a mental illness, they distort and utilize metaphysical concepts, ideas and thoughts to qualify subjective experiences. A sick mind skews reality. It does not perceive the facts. It is sees things in a way that is personal to the individual, and is seeing connections and relationships there, and causes that are not really, fully observed and understood.
Now, regardless of having a condition or not, this is very difficult for people to do. However, it is possible through consciously applying effective methods. We talk a lot in our studies about the practice of self-observation. We will build off this idea throughout this course, but also if you go onto our website, especially Beginning Self-Transformation, you can learn about this technique in more detail. It is very extensive. I highly recommend you study and practice self-observation, for those who are not familiar.
Now, Samael Aun Weor provided some insights about this dynamic that I am talking about in his book Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology, and there are some connections and correlations between what modern mental health professionals are calling religious struggles in relation to different types of connections that we can have, with ourselves, with the body, and with humanity. I would like to read this chapter for you at length. It is from Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology.
The world of relationships has three very different aspects that we need to clarify in a precise manner.
Medical science has dedicated itself to treating the material symptoms of any condition. However, without exploring the internal, psychological reality of a given person, it is impossible to address and cure the root causes of different symptoms.
Studying the brain has provided many valuable insights into the material expression of mental illness. However, the brain is not the mind. It is a vehicle of the mind. In the same manner that a person can drive a car and eventually leave it, the same with consciousness in the human body. If you are interested more in that topic, you can study our course Dream Yoga and Astral Travel, especially.
This is why we study Kabbalah, the Tree of Life. It is a map of consciousness in varying levels. While it is considered a distinctly Jewish phenomenon, Kabbalah is represented throughout all religions, although in different forms. All traditions share the same principles that are specifically illustrated here. While this glyph might appear complicated, in truth it is rather simple. It represents everything that you are from the most divine, abstract, refined, subtle, and liberated spheres above to the most selfish, conditioned, condensed, and material below.
It is not our intention to explain the various nuances of each sphere represented here. Instead, we are introducing this graphic to emphasize an essential point. Mental illness must be considered in light of a person’s entire constitution, including the material, the psychological, and the spiritual. This is why Samael Aun Weor wrote in his book Sexology: The Basis of Endocrinology and Criminology:
It is impossible to know the fundamental cause of any mental disequilibrium without expanding psychiatry with Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism, yogic philosophy, and high Gnostic esotericism. This is how expanded psychiatry can discover and cure the alienated. […]
So in synthesis, Kabbalah describes precisely all of that. Kabbalah describes the levels of the mind and all of its various manifestations, its depths, its intricacies, its functions. So rather than merely just treat the outward, corporeal form of a person, their body, psychological professionals can learn to intuit the internal causes of illness.
All illnesses emerge from an internal cause. While there is a biological and chemical component in our physical brain, our emotional brain, our motor-instinctive-sexual brain, the truth is that people who suffer from illnesses do so because there is something much more deep than just a physical cause. The Tree of Life explains this. Illnesses originate from actions that we are not even able to begin to apprehend or understand with just our physical senses. Instead, it requires psychological investigation. This is why we practice meditation.
Many diseases originate from these internal causes, and by learning to suspend our senses, relax, introspect, go within, we can learn to apprehend the real nature of a particular problem, the origin of a condition, of a trauma, of a disequilibrium within our body, within oneself. This technique applies to people who are patients but also any practitioner of Gnosis who wants to understand more about their internal sufferings.
So, these diseases manifest in the body, but they come from within, much in the same way that a creature can disturb the waters of a pond from its depths. We do not see the origin, yet we can recognize the ripples on the surface. Anyone can detect the symptoms of a problem, but to really determine the spiritual cause of illness, the psychological causes of illness, is very different. It requires a lot of analysis and a lot of patient work, but it can be done. We have personally worked with people, students who have suffered from different types of disorders and, in combination with professional treatment, by applying Gnostic techniques, have been able to remedy and address their issues, gain equilibrium, balance.
By learning to still the waters of the lake of the mind, one can go within and see the depths for what is actually there. Now as I said, people might not see the origin of a particular phenomenon, yet one can recognize the ripples in the surface. If mental health professionals could really access the inner causes of their patients’ external behaviors, they could go a long way to help and heal a lot of people. Kabbalah is just one such tool. We will go back to this graphic later on in this course. I am just introducing it here to synthesize a few points.
So through the daily discipline of meditation, practitioners can gain knowledge that is inaccessible to the senses, as I said. As aspirants, we can go deep within the mind to discover why we suffer. For an individual suffering from mental illness, meditation when combined with professional help can aid one in establishing inner balance.
We recommend that you study and apply the techniques provided in this course: Meditation Essentials by Glorian Publishing, because it provides very clear steps for how to cultivate a rich spiritual life. This can complement professional treatments of mental illness to help one experience happiness, vitality, health.
At this point in time, I would like to open the floor to questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: How do we distinguish schizophrenia symptoms and mystical experience? Is it only evidence and proof or something else?
Instructor: Meditation is required and a lot of self-criticism. Individuals who suffer from schizophrenia often attribute meaning to situations or circumstances that are subjective. They are personal to the individual. They are not objectively there. For example, a group of people could be having a conversation at another table at a restaurant, and a schizophrenic person would think that their conversation is about him. That is an example of paranoid schizophrenia. Now, any type of perception in oneself has to be judiciously analyzed within meditation. It is not enough merely to just go with the flow. Perhaps a person who suffers from this condition has these very convincing perceptions and believes in them. It is important for that person to develop a lot of prudence in what they perceive. This is advice that not only applies just to people with schizophrenia, but to anyone, because every person, due to their egotistical conditioning, possesses some type of flaw in their perception of things, a bias or prejudice.
Mystical experiences are very distinct from hallucinations. The problem with a schizophrenic person is that they do not discriminate what they see. They could be having these perceptions in their physical body or even in dreams that they take and mistake for reality. This is why meditators who are in this tradition develop a lot prudence, discrimination in what they see. It is not enough to just assume that what one knows or sees of a vision is authentic. It has to be proven with facts. It has to be in alignment with the highest spiritual principles, ethical conduct, discipline in oneself.
A person could have a dream that is authentic, in which they have a type of prophetic vision about what is going to happen later that day. Now, the dream occurs perhaps in the early morning. It is very common to have that type of experience when one is practicing Dream Yoga and Astral Travel, in which one perceives a type of insight or guidance from divinity. Now, what happens is that one has to be patient with those experiences, and to test them, to not assume that they mean one thing or another, but to let the evidence unfold of itself, and to meditate. Meditation is essential because one has to strip away all of types of obscurations, prejudices, assumptions, biases from one’s judgement. One has to suspend the senses, to abandon all type of intellectual deliberation, of thinking about the issue or the problem, wanting an experience to mean a certain thing. Instead, one has to concentrate upon and visualize that experience with patience, and empty the mind. Do not think, to relax. Comprehension unfolds when we put the mind aside. Hallucinations occur because the mind is active.
There is a very distinct quality to people who have schizophrenic hallucinations and genuine mystical experiences. One of the most basic is that the person’s physical life reflects the highest spiritual principles of conduct. If a person is having visions and believes that he or she has to commit an act that contradicts the religious stipulations given by the prophets, then one can be assured that such an experience is egotistical because it contradicts basic ethics, basic social etiquette, social norms, how to be a good person, how to behave in society, how to interact with others.
Now, what is interesting is that with a mystical experience, those reinforce and validate not only physical events in the material world, but also they inspire one to greater order, compassion, cohesion, structure, discipline, integrity in one’s thoughts, in one’s feelings, in one’s actions. By their fruits you will know them.
It is a very subtle thing. I cannot discuss all of the nuances to this type of problem. It is very complex and very difficult. We are going to give a lecture in the future that talks specifically about this topic, so I thank you for bringing it up now because that is going to preface into when we have the time and the opportunity to really go into all of the difficulties of this. So, hopefully this is just a cursory explanation that can hold you off in the meantime, so in future we will talk more about this. Any other questions?
Question: Can you consider that many factors determine mental imbalances within the human family: poor diet, incest, family karma, personal karma, as well experiences which each person has in their life, family socialization and adult experiences?
Instructor: Yes. There are a lot conditions and factors that come into play. All of that you mentioned here really goes together in terms of addressing a psychological reality.
Physical illnesses, whether in the intellectual brain, the emotional brain, or the motor-instinctive-sexual brain, all have some type of psychological cause. There are some defects or egos responsible for creating that disequilibrium. Now, the reason why people get sick in their body is because they have wasted certain energies related to their different physiological and psychological centers, the three brains. This has to do with karma. People, for example who suffer from schizophrenia, obviously have abused their mental. They have wasted their mental energies, whether in this life or in previous lives. This is why when one experiences the onset of schizophrenia, there is a crystallization within the physical brain because the karma is so severe, depending on the person, that it crystalizes and materializes within the physicality. So there is a biological and chemical component to their imbalance. The issue comes when one has to treat that type of condition, one should obviously rely on professional assistance but also work to understand the egos that are hyper-intellectual, that are paranoid, delusional.
Diet can obviously affect a person’s mental health, can exacerbate problems. It is important that people who suffer from certain conditions treat their bodies well. Get good rest, good sleep. Take care of themselves, because their deficiency or lack thereof can really heighten symptoms, make a person much more prone to illness. So there are a lot of factors here.
Now, in relation to family karma, people who have mental illnesses or some kind of sickness obviously are born into families where that genetic condition or those genes are present. So, while there is a genetic component, people are in the families they are and receive the type of bodies they have based on previous actions and their consciousness before they are physically born.
There are a lot of factors here that come into play, but primarily the one I want to help us focus on is the ego. The ego is the origin of illness because it takes the energies of the consciousness and the three brains and uses it within desire, within errors. So, that is what makes people sick, and that illness crystalizes in the body in many ways.
It relates to the karma of a family because one is attracted to situations and people and families as a result of their internal psychology. We call this the law of attraction. As I said, people are born into families that resonate with their level of being. So if there is family who drinks a lot or are depressed, who have chronic depression, it is more likely that the children born of those households will have the same condition because obviously there is a genetic trace there. But behind the genes is the consciousness.
We obviously follow the trajectory of our former actions, so this is why meditation is really important for understanding why perhaps one could have a certain problem.
Also, karma comes into play within a person’s life. For example, a person could suffer depression because they experienced a lot of trauma growing up. Maybe they were abused in their family. Now, there are certain causes that underlie that type of situation that one has to investigate―not to accept at the mere physical level but to really consciously comprehend why that situation is unfolding, why one is suffering in that household, or has inherited a certain family, a certain lineage. It is important to reflect on that because there a lot of things that go beyond just the mere analysis of the intellect, making associations in this physical world. Instead, one has to go into the internal worlds. This is why Kabbalah is really important.
Question: You mentioned a practice for working through trauma. Can you please go over that once again?
Instructor: Yes. There are a few practices that you can do. We talk a lot about self-observation, learning to observe ourselves, to examine the qualities of one’s mind: their thoughts, feelings, and actions so that one can gather data about certain defects, flaws of character, and conditions, such as traumatic feelings or experiences that one might have faced before.
Meditation is really the primary method we use to comprehend deep psychological states. Now, for people who suffer from trauma, obviously, it can be very difficult to relive those experience within meditation. That is why it is a balancing act. One of the other lectures in this course talked about Trauma and Spiritual Healing. You can find it on this course, Spiritual and Mental Health. She goes into a lot detail about how to work through trauma, some practical techniques for understanding one’s traumas, and also how to remedy them with spiritual methods. They go very deep, and have very lasting and profound effects.
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