The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
Anyone who approaches meditation or genuine religion feels deep unrest―inquietudes in the heart. This often emerges in the form of tremendous longings, even intense anxiety, profound remorse, dread, or a pervasive dissatisfaction with the daily state of life.
Many of us, when seeking Gnosis, have experienced incredible psychological suffering, moral pain, perhaps from a trauma, a grievous mistake, wrong behaviors from a wayward, earlier life. After we have suffered the maximum, we look for answers beyond the superficial conventionalities of modern science, politics, religion, education, etc., which, if we are honest, do absolutely nothing but offer blind panaceas to very specific psychological afflictions.
To confront the source of our deepest sufferings―the conditioning of our minds that we have engendered through mistakes, through wrong action―usually this produces a cataclysm, a moral crisis. If we are honest, we realize that we are the progenitors of our own affliction. We are merely following the trajectory of our wrong behaviors. We ourselves, in our deepest root, have created the situations we are in now, without exception, even if we are not aware fully how. To recognize this fact, that our afflicted and conditioned mind, our states of suffering― whether it be through pride, anger, lust, greed, vengeance, vanity, arrogance, morbidity, pessimism, despair―these are self-created, and these are the source of profound spiritual pain, which is the remorse of our conscience, our consciousness in recognition of its own responsibility, its culpability.
When we perceive that our hatred, our desires, the deceptions we weave for ourselves and for others, the way we manipulate situations, our defect, our vices, our ego, are completely antithetical to divine law, we suffer incredibly.
When we see the path to heaven, we realize it is extremely difficult. It has nothing to do with what fanatic or dogmatic persons believe. Beliefs really have nothing to do with change. We can think and adhere to any theology, any scripture, any doctrine with our intellect, with our emotions, but if they are not fulfilled in action, if there is no practical basis by which to change, then really it is fruitless.
In our studies, we have to renounce all types of superfluous activities, ideologies. Those who really perceive in themselves their own aggregates, their own nafs, their own defects, realize they have a tremendous work to do. We understand from experience how very few succeed in religion, in yoga, since it is “the straight and narrow gate that leads to life,” but which “few find” (Matthew 7:14). When the reality of our situation is examined carefully, when we really look, when we sincerely introspect into our own psyche and try not to blame our situation, our government, our teachers, our school systems, we witness a collapse in the foundations of a false identity within ourselves.
Such an act is like a demolition. It is the destruction of a very much well-cherished building, one in which we spent our entire beloved childhood in existence. In this metaphor, we have worshiped our surroundings with fidelity, our beliefs about spirituality, about religion, about politics, about identity, about the world. When we see that our most venerated beliefs have nothing to do with reality, we naturally undergo a very necessary crisis.
Samael Aun Weor stated that if the water does not boil at a hundred degrees celsius, then we cannot disintegrate what must be disintegrated. If we do not remove poor foundations, if we do not seek to comprehend ourselves through observable, repeatable, scientific facts, then in reality, we will live in a house of filth, a cage of perdition, smothered by a secret ugliness that we do not even want to recognize in ourselves, even when our exterior is ornamented with deceptive beauty.
Our interior life is what matters, not our appearances. We can appear as gentlemen or ladies of distinction in society, yet if our mind is afflicted with wrath, with pessimism, filled with doubt, contorted with extortion, warped by lies, egotistical states, then we will be what we are. As Samael Aun Weor stated, so long as the ego exists in ourselves, we will be an abomination that should not exist, because in our depths, beneath the respectable persona, the flattering gestures, the words of light within our lumisials, our Gnostic schools, deep down we carry all the abominations of the wars, the tragedies of every conflict, in conflagration, every Holocaust.
We have to remove false foundations, beliefs without evidence, and many of the self-deceptions that we teach and propagate amongst our families and amongst ourselves are within, in relation to who we are. This is a form of a cataclysm, a revelation. That book in the New Testament, Revelations, is about apocalyptic crises, which are not only external, but internal, as we work to really take responsibility for our own faults and not to run away.
It is only through this type of internal work that we can really build a foundation that is true, our real spiritual identity, which is symbolized by the Phoenix being consumed within its own flame, so that it rises with glory from its ashes.
This is why, according to the Sufis, repentance is the first state and station of the path.
The present moment, breathing exercises, sexual transmutation, mantras, sacred rites of rejuvenation, contraction and expansion, presence and continuity of attention, awareness―all of this lead us towards the actualization of repentance.
People look at this term repentance with a lot of disdain, as if it is a moral code, a subjective, imposing law that has nothing to do with the cultivation of one's happiness, because in our society we like to gratify our desires, to get what we want, to glorify the ego, failing to realize that it is this desire that is the origin of all pain.
Repentance is not a belief. It is a psychological attitude of the consciousness. When we really recognize that we are at fault, that we have committed a wrong, we feel the pangs of conscience and we deeply yearn to turn to the Being, to receive help, because really, we are helpless if we do not have that connection with our inner God.
Repentance is something very profound and beautiful. It is the acknowledgement of one's own culpability and responsibility. It is not a means of punishment. It is the means by which we really enter the Mysteries. Can somebody who is arrogant, proud, boastful, manipulative, haughty, deceptive, enter heaven? For as Jesus taught in the Gospels that:
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” ―Matthew 19:24
It is a symbol. Humility is a virtue, to not take a self-aggrandizing position at anything, always promoting our own self above others, even if it means humiliating others, shaming others, so that we can feel exalted. This type of mentality is wrong. It produces a lot of problems. We need to recognize when we are at fault, and this is the basis of, really, every meditative tradition: to be sincere, to look at the facts, to take responsibility and to change our situation, to not repeat our own ideas about what the situation is like and that “Everybody else is guilty and that I am a saint,” we say.
People do not see us the way we see ourselves, and really we need to learn to see the viewpoints of others, because we are very subjective. If you have been studying the sequence of this course, the different dynamics of consciousness, you will realize through the practices, we have taught, that we are very asleep. We don't really see reality, and because we project our mind onto existence, we misinterpret situations and create problems.
We live in lies. That identity we boast of as a kind, charitable, noble person, we really have to analyze this mental construct that we always present to others, even if secretly, and to be honest, to have truth in our interrelations in every aspect of life.
What could be more horrible than to have cancer, and for the doctor to tell you that you are fine, to not tell you the truth? The reality is that we are afflicted with spiritual disease, and only divinity can heal us. This is reference in every single allegory or story within the Old Testament, the New Testament, and many of the Sufi stories, within the diverse religious traditions. The soul is sick with pain, with affliction, with conditions of mind.
Divinity has always been terribly honest about the reality of our situation and humanity, but because people do not like to look at the truth of themselves, they adulterate their traditions. It is the invention of modern people to think that we will all go to heaven, so long as we attend a specific group and pay our fees. The reality is that people are not interested in real religion, only with wealth and power. If the teachings do not help the institution to get more followers, more money, more resources, then basically those teachings become inflated with theories: “the bread and leaven of the Pharisees” mentioned by Jesus (Matthew 16:6), who take the spiritual doctrine and change it because it is not palatable to the public.
Real religion requires the renunciation and repentance of everything that is wrong. It means to recognize our own faults, to have the willingness to change them, and to enact the practical actions that remove those mistakes. If religion is missing any one of these dynamics, then it is incipient. It is not complete. Many religions dogmatically assert the need for repentance and the need for change, and this is very beautiful and necessary, but unfortunately many schools have lost the methods by which to do so.
People don't know how to change. They are told you need to repent, be a good person, belong to this group, help humanity, perform services, and yet we continue to suffer.
So we are going to explain some techniques in this lecture about how to really change, what repentance is, what does it practically look like, and how do we know that we are sincere. In reality, to learn this method, we have to be very willing to break, to shatter, to take all of those conceptions, those beloved cherished ideals about who we think we are, and put it aside. Anyone who enters the highest mysteries of religion, whether through meditative experiences, astral projections, jinn experiences, samadhis, ecstasies, entering the highest aspects of the Tree of Life, they do so because they have a radical honesty, and have really abandoned any belief about what they think they are, but simply to have the courage to look, to examine, to see what we have in abundance and to perceive what we lack.
Rumi taught at best about what we need if we want to enter this meditative tradition:
“My heart had been torn to pieces looking for help. When I understood that helplessness is the only help, I repented helplessly.” ―Rumi
Only divinity can heal us. But this is not through belief, through adopting an external behavior, a code of thinking, and of behaving in a social circumstance or environment. It has to do instead with our own psychological relationship to ourselves, to others, and to divinity.
The Door of Repentance
All traditions are unanimous on one point. To perfect the soul, to enter genuine experiences within all mystical traditions, we must have remorse for our errors.
Again, this is the term that people don't like. It is very difficult for the modern mind, our contemporary culture, to accept or understand, because we are a civilization that is based on the gratification of desires.
We really live in an unprecedented time in which we have available to us the knowledge, the wisdom that can liberate consciousness. There are access to scriptures and teachings that have been closed for millennia. Humanity has a beautiful gift. We are in the age of information, but sadly we are also in an era of misinformation. Because people are so filled with desire, they merely want to get what they want because they want it and they will fight tooth and nail to gratify themselves, and this is why you have many teachings and books and lectures and scriptures or ideologies that interpret these scriptures in accordance with specific idiosyncrasies.
But sadly the majority, the vast majority, is tainted with desire. People think that because we live only once, we should get as much of what we desire before we die, no matter if we walk upon and hurt, destroy others, because we think there is no point to existence. We live in an existential crisis, the absurdity of life, and because there is no moral compass, we think and feel and do what we want without caring for the harmony of our communities, of our relationships.
We are in a world based on ignorance. Our governments, our laws, our entertainment industries, advertisements, education, and politics have absolutely no comprehension about how desire is the root of suffering. People simply want things, and because we want what we want, we fight, we lie, we cheat, we steal, and we kill. There is no integrity left. The fragrance or perfume of sincerity within modern man has been snuffed out.
Simply look at humanity to verify what I am saying. We are not in a golden age. A golden age cannot emerge from people who do not have any humility or understanding, of our TV shows and our doctrines are based on violence, extortion, rape, murder, lies. This is all desire. This is ego, نَفْس nafs, nafas in Arabic. We have built entire societies on desire. Look at the Greeks, the Romans, many thriving empires which must eventually collapse because of the ego, because its people no longer enact or follow the laws of divinity, the laws of divine nature.
If society is corrupt, it's because the individual is corrupt. The individual is an extension of society and vice versa. True change occurs when we confront, eliminate conditioning from our psyche. However, to do this the individual must want to change.
If people don't feel desperate, remorseful, or long to really experience life in a new way, then they will never make the effort to look inside of themselves for the answers, to see themselves for who they truly are.
So why explain repentance within this course? Meditation and transformation begin with sincerity. It is sustained by honesty and is perfected with integrity: how we relate to ourselves and to humanity, to honestly confront ourselves and to observe the causes of suffering from within.
When we work with self-observation, we gather data. We observe the different selfs, the egos, the desires, the nafs within our interior. We perceive that our consciousness, the majority of it, is trapped within ego, within conditions of mind. We perceive from experience that we are a multiplicity. We lack integrity. We are not a unity. We have to understand that we are a multiplicity of selves, which in many different traditions have different names: aggregates, kleshas, veils, observations, egos, nafs, fragments of our psychology, our I's, our defects. If we long to achieve integrity, we need to free the consciousness from conditions. We need to integrate the soul that is split in so many different identities and conflicting and competing desires.
This is the real work of religion. It has nothing to do with attending a mosque, a church, a synagogue. It is about freeing our soul from the psychological states of affliction. To reunite with the Being, the consciousness must be liberated. It has to be free, and this is what every scripture and religion and mystical tradition and story and allegory teach. Those scriptures don't teach about a literal history, such as with the Qur’an. There are historical facts that correlate to the events in the life of the Prophet Muhammad, but the battles that he underwent to defend his life from the black magicians of Arabia are a representation of the war we go inside of ourselves to wage for the redemption of psyche, for the liberation of Israel: those parts of our soul that belong to God that are trapped here in Egypt, in suffering, in מצרים Mitzraim.
So how do we liberate consciousness? We have to see each ego in action. We have to comprehend them, and then we must annihilate them through prayer. But this is a long process, a very difficult one, a very painful one. When we perceive that we created our defects, the monsters of envy, bloodshed, murder, lust, sadomasochism, desire, we feel profound spiritual pain. This type of pain is not the pain of the ego, and we wish to make a very clear distinction about this. The ego suffers because it doesn't get what it wants. It is a type of suffering in desire, but there is a type of conscience and remorse, a different type of pain in the heart that is experienced by the soul.
It is a superior sentiment. It is a conscious expression of superior emotion. It is the repentance of the soul when it acknowledges its errors for the mistake of having created egos, I's, selves. When we perceive that we are the origin of anger, that we created this defect that makes our spouse suffer, our family suffer, our co-workers suffer, we feel pain. We don't want to continue making others suffer, if we are really seeking to change and to help humanity. So that type of conflict is necessary.
Even Nietzsche's said it in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “For truly, how can one create something from within themselves if there was no chaos? Only those who have chaos in themselves shall give birth to a dancing star”―the divine.
That chaos is when we are really sifting for the mind to examine the root origin of every defect that creates problems for us, and practically, daily, working on them. Without this radical zero basis, without seeing the ego in action and feeling remorse for having created it, we cannot enter the mysteries.
For as Samael Aun Weor states in Igneous Rose:
“All the doors are closed to the unworthy, except the door of repentance.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Igneous Rose
…which, is paralleled in Al-Baqarah Surah 2 verse 45:
“Seek help in patience and prayer, and this is indeed difficult except for the humble.” ―Al-Baqarah 45
Qur’anic Verses on Repentance
I especially love the Qur’an, because it is a profound teaching. It expresses principles of meditation, but it takes an educated and experiential eye to really interpret what this doctrine unveils.This book is misunderstood, because like any religious scripture, people read literally, without knowing esoteric symbolism such as alchemy, Kabbalah, and psychology.
Oftentimes the Qur’an is feared as a severe judgment of a tyrannical God, a foreign God that displeases people. Humanity does not want to recognize, however, that there exist immutable, divine laws. When we follow them, we experience joy, limitless happiness, contentment. When break them, when we break these laws, we transgress against the law of our own conscience, and therefore we suffer. This is the basis of the Qur’an.
The beauty of Sufism and Islam is that no matter how degenerated we are and have become, divinity offers mercy and redemption: the transformation of our states and the elimination of the ego, when we have worked towards it and earned it.
There really is no victory without divinity. Our spiritual work is achieved through the help of divinity inside, through experiences, through cognizance of His presence, through contraction and expansion, through continuity of attention, through awareness, through vigilance in daily life.
Here are some verses that are related by a Sufi initiate, a female master by the name of Aishah al-Ba'uniyyah, from her book The Principles of Sufism, not to be confused with Al-Qushayri's text with the same title.
“God the Exalted has said, ‘Turn to God, together, O believers, that you might be successful.’” ―Aishah al-Ba’uniyyah, The Principles of Sufism
So when the Qur’an speaks of the believers, it is important to remember the term being used.
A believer is المؤمن al-Mu’min. Believers (plural) is المؤمنين al-Mu'minun. Mu’min in Arabic reminds us of “water” or مائي mayiy, “aqueous.” ماء Ma’an or מים Mayim, even in Hebrew you find the same etymology and meaning. We know in our studies of Gnosis that we work with the sexual creative waters, the energies of our body, in order to create the Spirit inside, to create a dynamic, Genesiatic, encompassing and empowering force that gives strength to virtue. That energy, which can create a physical child, is the same energy that can create the soul.
Therefore, a real believer knows how “to be” through the power and science of “love,” (be-lieve and this love is sexual, without exception, the sexual energy―to take these waters of life, to conserve, and to elevate them through spiritual discipline. This is how we turn to God. And if you have studied the Qur’an or many other scriptures, they always state that chastity is the foundation of real growth. We'll explain what chastity is for those who are not familiar. But here, I like to relate and continue with these verses.
“The Exalted has said, ‘Seek forgiveness from your Lord, then turn to Him in repentance,’ and the Exalted has said, ‘O you who believe, turn to God with sincere repentance!’ The Exalted has said, ‘And those who do not turn in repentance, they are the transgressors!’ and the Exalted has said, ‘Truly God loves those who turn in repentance, and He loves those who purify themselves.’ There are similar sayings in the noble verses of the Qur’an.” ―Aishah al-Ba’uniyyah, The Principles of Sufism
So repentance, توبة tawbah, has very profound meanings in Arabic. Al-Qushayri and Aishah al-Ba'uniyyah relate some very beautiful teachings about this, about what this term means, practically speaking. Aishah states the following,
“According to the lexicons, tawbah means ‘to return.’ Taba, aba, and Annaba all have one meaning, which is ‘return.’ Thaba is similar: people say, ‘The milk has returned (thaba) to the udder.’” ―Aishah al-Ba’uniyyah, The Principles of Sufism
In Gnosis, we teach that the foundation of real repentance is sexual. You'll find that if you have studied the writings of Samael Aun Weor extensively, he elaborates the teachings of alchemy: of transforming the sexual act into a sacrament; of elevating creative energy, whether we are single or married, single or in a relationship, so that that conserved and sublimated force, that transmuted energy, creates something inside. He teaches that chastity is the foundation of real development, and that without it, there is no change. The Qur’an, as you'll see and many other Sufis, elaborate the same points. So this is not just one teaching from one man. It is a universal doctrine expressed within the secret code and the languages of the different traditions of the world. Here, we are explaining it in accordance with Sufism and Islam.
What does it mean that “the milk has returned to the udder?” If you look at the substance of milk, it is white and it is similar to semen. It is the sexual matter. Milk is from, obviously, a cow, and if you studied Islam, you find that they place special emphasis on the longest surah of the Qur’an known as البقرة al-Baqarah. It is “The Heifer,” “The Cow,” which is attributed to a specific verse in which the limb of a cow can be used to resurrect a person from the dead. Now, this is not a literal statement, which some people or actually many people believe, but instead refers to the power of the divine feminine.
The sacred cow is known amongst many religions as a symbol of the divine eternal feminine power known as Devi Kundalini. The Sufis refer it as al-Baqarah, but also الْبُرَاق al-Buraq, a mystical creature that helped Muhammad ascend the seven heavens, who has the face of a woman, the body of a mule or horse, the wings of an eagle, the tail of a peacock. Buraq means “lightning.” It is the creative energetic potential of our sexuality that can rise within our spinal column and open many abilities inside of ourselves.
It is the light, the vajra of the great Buddhist initiates, the teachings of Vajrayana, Tantrayana in Tibetan Buddhism, or Alchemy in the West, or better said the Middle East, but also the Western Esoteric Traditions as well. There are many interrelations here that are very beautiful to study, but here I like to synthesize just in relation to some verses from the Sufis.
Milk is a substance that nourishes children, and we are children of our divine feminine. Now, in Islam, they, in the public exoteric doctrine, reject any femininity within divinity and this is something incongruent with the interpretations of that tradition, which we abandon in Gnosis. Instead, we look at the symbols that the ascension of the Prophet teach. Muhammed returned to God on riding Al-Buraq, a symbol of the divine feminine power known as amongst the Kabbalists as Shekhinah.
He was meditating at the stone of Mecca, meditating profoundly and falling asleep, and that stone is a symbol, of again, Yesod, the vital energies as you see in this glyph of the Tree of Life on the left. Yesod is known as the stone of the Masons. It is the foundation of our spiritual temple. יסוד Yesod in Hebrew literally means “foundation.” It is the sexual energy. It is the basis upon which we experience all the heavens of the Tree of Life, as Muhammad did in his famous al-Miraj, the Ascension, where he was able to experience many beautiful things and receive teachings from the great masters of divinity: the angels, the prophets, the buddhas, whatever names you wish to give to those intelligences that know the Being, Allah.
So, notice that this Tree of Life has ten spheres. If you count from the top to the bottom, Yesod is the ninth―the ninth sephirah or sphere or emanation, from that gradual descent of forces from heaven, down to materiality, from the more subtle levels of nature, to the most dense. We are in מלכות Malkuth, which is the physical body, which is the storehouse of all the vital forces and spiritual forces that emanate from above, from the heavens, الجنة al-janna.
It is interesting that there is a surah in the Qur’an called al-Tawbah, “The Return” or “Repentance.” It is the ninth surah of the Qur’an. It is a direct reference to how we work with sexual energy. It is a very controversial surah because, primarily, it is a disassociation from the unbelievers.
And who are those unbelievers? It does not refer to people who do not follow Islam exoterically, publicly. The word for disbeliever or unbeliever, infidel, the unfaithful ones, is الكافرون Al-Kafirun. It is interesting that there is a surah in the Qur’an known as الكهف Al-Kahf, which is “The Cave.” What is a كافر kafir, an unbeliever? It is an ego, a defect, a desire, because our egos and desires do not want to follow God, to not want to change. They want to continue behaving in the ways that we have always fulfilled, without any type of remorse or sincerity. That holy war mentioned in the Qur’an is about fighting the ego, and there are many Hadith and different references within the tradition that explain that.
Butin synthesis, our defects relate, our egos relate to what are known as the inferior dimensions on this Tree of Life, which are beneath Malkuth. Notice that there is a shadow, again, nine spheres below beneath this physical world, Malkuth in Hebrew, the “Kingdom.” Those dimensions relate to the interior of the Earth and our egos belong there, to the hell realms, to the infra-consciousness of nature, to the inferior worlds.
Now what are الكافرون Al-Kafirun? Literally, you have here كهف Kahf, cave―our egos and defects dwell on the caves of our mind, but also within those different dimensions that are not separate from us, but are here and now, because we have thoughts, we have feelings, and we have impulses. They are not physical. They are psychological, but they have a type of dimensionality and experience in reality that is not physical, but it is a form of matter and energy, nonetheless. We can experience those states more clearly through dream yoga, astral projection, awakening in dreams, which is very well documented within the Qur’an and many traditions.
So it is interesting, even in myths like The Thousand and One Nights, the teachings of Aladdin, الله دين Allah-Din. دين Din in Arabic is “religion, judgement.” It has to do with our conscious discrimination and judgment of ourselves. It is the judgment of God, which is a psychological and spiritual state. It is repentance. And remember that in the myth of Ali Baba, we find that the great hero must stop the thieves from stealing the gold. Those are the parts of our soul that are trapped in suffering, in error, in conditions. We return to God by going against our ego, by turning away from our negative actions and mental states, and turning to God. This is tawbah.
But also, we really return to divinity when we transmute our sexual energy, when we conserve the creative force and not waste it at all. “The milk never leaves the udder,” so to speak, because that energy is the source of real creative potential. It is Yesod. It is the foundation. It is the ninth sephirah and also the basis of the ninth surah of the Qur’an.
So in the Qur’an is a great conflict that occurs between Muhammad and the unbelievers, a symbol of our psychological work: how we confront ourselves, how we repent.
That surah does not begin with:
بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
“In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
That opening begins with every surah of the Qur’an except the ninth, because it is not guaranteed that we will be successful relating to the ninth sephirah, the work with sexuality, because it is very difficult. Anyone who has worked in this science, has studied Gnosis for some time, understands that it is very difficult to change, especially sexual behavior. But that is the basis of repentance. It is the foundation of change.
Our sexual actions determine everything, because our behaviors of a sexual type have the most lasting impact, and if you don't believe me, simply ask or talk to a person who suffered childhood trauma. Speak to a person who has been raped, abused, violated. Or, on the other side, talk with people who are happily married, meaning: in a cooperative, fulfilling, deep compassionate relationship, a conscious relationship. A wide spectrum―but we are being synthetic here just to reference how that energy is the source of repentance. It is the source of return. It is the first state and station of the path, and we have many teachings that explain how to work with creative energy. We will give you references if you ask.
But in synthesis, according to Al-Qushayri, in his Principles of Sufism:
“Tawbah, repentance, is the first station for spiritual travelers and the first stage of development in seekers. The root meaning of tawbah in the Arabic language is ‘return’―its associated verb, taba, is used to mean ‘to come back.’ So repentance is the return from what is blameworthy in the divine law to what is praiseworthy in it.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
The most blameworthy quality is lust, without exception. It is the origin of many problems, of divorce rates, of marital conflict, and we know from Freud that sexuality is the basis, the machinery by which society operates. It is the most powerful energy in existence.
Even in the Qur’an, it gives two names to this force as representations of divinity, names of God: الخليق Al-Khaliq, “the Creator,” and الودود Al-Wadud, “the Loving.” Where else do we find the power to create through love than in sex?
The Qur’an speaks many times about how “We created you from a sperm-drop.” Physically, yes, there is that relationship there, but psychologically and spiritually, the true human being is made from that very same force, but with different procedures.
All traditions teach that desire is the origin of all pain, and that chastity, sexual purity, is the origin of all happiness. Chasity does not mean abstention from sex. It means purity in sex. The Qur’an always speaks about the need to be purified as an act of remembrance of God. That means that we learn to take that energy and redirect it from its casual, usual implementation, what people commonly believed in think sex is.
As the Qur’an teaches in surah 4 verse 27,
“Allah wants to accept your repentance, but those who follow [their] passions want you to digress [into] a great deviation.” ―Qur’an 4:27
So, many people approach religion and want to repent, to receive God, to know divinity. And yet, they follow their passions, their desires, and this is the opposite of religion. And what is the ultimate desire but sexuality, gratification of sexual sensations and pleasure? It is irrefutable. It is undeniable. We can say that lust is the greatest deviation. It is the culmination of the orgasm. All religions teach, the Qur’an teaches that, one must be chaste. And if you have studied Samael Aun Weor's writings, you know this is very obvious. Without chastity, there is no religion. This is how we return to divinity, and we are going to elaborate and explain how.
Three Constituents of Repentance
Of course, when people hear of repentance, we have to understand that there are levels. As Aishah al-Ba'uniyyah states:
“Outward repentance is the return from blameworthy actions to praiseworthy ones and from foul words to righteous ones.” ―Aishah al-Ba'uniyyah: The Principles of Sufism
At a basic level, some people really struggle with foul language―swearing, vulgarities, inappropriate behavior. Repentance in the beginning can relate to controlling our tongue from not saying those wrong things that create problems.
Likewise, we perform outward repentance when we practice chastity. It means to not engage in lust or sexual misconduct. If you have read the writings of the Sufis, especially Al-Hujwiri's Revelation of the Mystery and Al-Qushayri's writings from The Principles of Sufism, they explain very clearly that lust is the opposite of the Sufis’ intentions to return to divinity. It is repeatedly stated. Desire comes from nafs, egos, שטן Shaitan in Hebrew, or which is where we get the word Satan, the devil, desire, egos.
So our repentance in the beginning of Gnosis and entering the spiritual teachings is that we learn the value of sexual energy, and how sexual misconduct is the origin of many problems, such a sleeping around, committing adultery, and very commonly, watching pornography, ingesting intoxicants, engaging in masturbation, and other behaviors that are stipulated against in pretty much every meditative tradition, because these behaviors condition consciousness. If we feed desire, we make it stronger.
Desire in strict language is ego, without exception, although the Sufis do have a bit of range and interpretation of desire for God, longing for God. It is better if we say that, because what people think of desire really is conditions of mind, aggregates, faults. This is the basis of Sufism and Islam, Gnosis, every tradition. It is ethics. We know from traditions that there are behaviors to avoid and behaviors to enact. This is the foundation for entering meditation. So in the beginning, we learn to curtail these faults. But why?
We avoid intoxicants and drugs because we don't want to condition the consciousness. Feeding desire through those elements stimulates desire and strengthens it. The natural state of meditation is a quality of free, liberated consciousness, and therefore, we do not need to engage in substances to experience the natural state of awakening. They are completely contrary, which is why we are very strict purists in this tradition regarding that.
Likewise, with any act of masturbation, or lust or desire. The more you feed lust, the more it grows. The stronger it becomes. And this is a primary fault that we work against, because expelling the creative energies depletes one of the capacity for awakening our spiritual potential, our divine intelligence. There are forces in that matter itself, as we said, that are very creative. It can empower our genius, and if it is wasted, it can deplete our psyche of vital forces that are very necessary. So this is the foundation.
Outward repentance involves that: avoiding wrong behaviors, adopting praiseworthy behaviors, but more importantly, there is a deeper issue here, which Aishah al-Ba’uniyyah explains:
"Inner repentance with which the Sufi folk are concerned, is to turn away from all things and towards God, mighty and glorious." ―Aishah al-Ba'uniyyah: The Principles of Sufism
So there has been a lot of controversy regarding the Sufis, whether or not they obey the exoteric divine law within the Muslim tradition. The reality is that a sincere practitioner of any meditative tradition obeys both external codes and the inner reality, the inner work of those traditions.
So physically, we can turn away from pornography and lust, from drugs, from alcohol, from mistaken behaviors, but now the real work begins: perceiving and removing the desires for those behaviors, for those actions. Many people struggle. They abandon lust and temptations externally, but in their dreams, in their mind, in their daily life, they can see how lust permeates everything. The “I” touches the senses, everything. So the internal work is a long process, but it begins by first renouncing external problems, external behaviors that condition us.
This master also relates how:
“Repentance is not valid without three things: remorse for sin, abstention from it, and the resolution not to return to it. When one of these conditions is not met, repentance is not valid. This is the rule for repentance for sin between the servant and his Lord.” ―Aishah al-Ba'uniyyah: The Principles of Sufism
So reality we must feel remorse, but what is it? It is different from morbidity and shame, from feeling pessimistic and doubtful―flagellating ourselves that we are bad people. That is not remorse.
Shame is an ego, a defect, that we have to comprehend and eliminate. Shame is inverted pride: a sense of self that feels that it is not worthy and that is a sense of identity that is inferior, that must be seen, comprehended in its nuances, and eliminated.
Remorse is different. It is the power of the soul that really ennobles our deepest sentiment for change. It is comprehension. It is the longing for acquiring wisdom in life. So many people and humanity really don't have that. They have no remorse. Simply look at the news. People are rarely feeling sorry for wrong behaviors anymore. People who do not feel sorry for their mistakes are very far from the law.
Therefore, they must work, according to Samael Aun Weor, with the Rune Rita. And if you study the Nordic yoga, the Nordic runes, the practices of energy and mantra from the book The Magic of the Runes, one can work with the Rune Rita to empower judgment, internal conscience, so that one has a deeper connection with divine law. One can work more effectively.
Abstention means to no longer enact those behaviors rooted in desire, and this is often where people get stuck. We feel remorse, but do not act ethically in situations and temptations when desires emerge. For example, many people we have spoken with suffer with masturbation. People are really inspired by these teachings, by the concept of chastity, by the beauty of how these ideas add up, how sexual purity is the origin of the greatest virtues in humanity, in the human being, how meditation unfolds the strength of the soul, how self-realization is mapped in its very intricate explanations and diagrams of Kabbalah. All this is very beautiful and inspiring. However, when it comes to the facts of daily life, many people go back and forth, vacillating between lust and spirituality, and this is because they cannot renounce their desires.
Some of you may be familiar with the myth of Sisyphus, about a man who carries a stone up a hill, a difficult precipice, and when he reaches the top, lets the stone drop against the bottom, only to repeat the same struggle again with more difficulty. Some people have interpreted that as a metaphor for the modern man, such as with Albert Camus and his existentialist philosophy.
In a psychological and sexual sense, this has to do with working with the stone of sexual energy, caring Yesod up the mountain, the spinal column, but then when reaching the top after practicing chastity for a time, renouncing chastity and engaging in those sexual behaviors that result in the loss of that force. And so the stone drops in the mud again.
There are many people who vacillate like that. They go back and forth. They practice sexual transmutation for a time. They renege. They go backwards, and then they try again and they fail. They try again and they fail. And of course, this type of behavior produces very sour people, a morbid atmosphere.
This type of mentality is represented by Judas Iscariot. Judas is an apostle who betrays Christ, a spiritual fornicator. While loving Christ, he loves desire more, and this is the reality for many people. And we don't say this out of judgment for people who are struggling. In fact, we are relating these principles because we want to help. People who masturbate or engage in wrong behaviors, should really contemplate the beauty of the soul. Lustful people should contemplate the beauty of chastity.
Take a flower, a rose, an orchid, and examine its pedals. Meditate on that plant. Look at the beauty of its aura, its fragrance, its symmetry, its texture, its expansiveness, its purity. That is a representation of chastity―but at the level of a plant. It is very primordial, basic.
In a human being, chastity is much more. It is the virtues and qualities of beings like Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, the prophets, Samael Aun Weor. Those are powerful virtues, powerful beautiful elements that we have inside, and if we struggle with lust and temptations and desires, reflect on that beautiful nature that is in you. Contemplate:
What is the beauty of chastity?
What is the strength of it?
What are its qualities?
What are its principles?
Examine how purity, sexually speaking, is the origin of everything else: the empowerment of the soul, the sword and shield of righteous action. Meditate on those qualities. Examine them. Look at the reality of it in yourself, how better you feel when following this law.
It is a law of nature. There is animal nature and there is human nature, as we have been explaining. Animals follow mechanical law, and if we follow mechanicity, we suffer. The divine law, شريعة Shariah, is precisely sexual purity. It is how worlds, how galaxies, how stars are organized. It is the force of love that originates gravity, chemistry, heat. Everything in the universe is the result of that creative potential at the level of divinity.
We have that potential inside, but it is a spark that needs to be developed. And so, we have to realize that it is not necessary to suffer anymore. The reality is that if people engage in lustful behaviors, it is because they choose to do so. They don't really comprehend in the moment how it will bring them pain. Suffering is really a choice, in many cases. Liberation is a choice. So we have to really evaluate what it is that we want.
If we really comprehend how lust is harmful, then we will develop the resolution not to go back to it. And this is not a matter of following other people's rules, that it is something that is stated in Gnosis or in Islam or Sufism, in Buddhism and Jainism, in Judaism. We don't do this because other people say it's good, but because it has a practical result upon our psyche. It is a lifestyle. It is a conscious way of living with more health or happiness, more integrity, more compassion. We do it because it makes us happy, not because it is repressive or stale or boring.
We have to really evaluate what we want. There is a scientific basis to chastity, and really there have been some studies, scientifically speaking, that are just now promoting and explaining the power of this energy: of how purity is the origin of genius. But we have to really evaluate, again, what we want most of all for ourselves, because everything is a choice.
Just as we examine the virtues of the soul in relation to chastity, in relation to lust, you follow the same procedure for every vice. If there is a problem with anger, we have to contemplate serenity. A problem with greed, visualize and imagine the power of altruism and philanthropy. If we suffer with laziness, examine what diligence is. Look at the opposite. Don't just contemplate the negative, because if you do so at the exclusion of anything positive or real in yourself, you will become very sour, as I said. Learn to contemplate virtues and their practical application to your life. That is how we really build confidence, and this is the essence of sincerity.
Sincerity of the Heart
As we stated, there were laws of within meditation. To experience the state of meditation, it is necessary to have remorse for mistakes and to recognize our conditioned states.
Evaluation comes first. We have to see it in action and have the intention to want to change, to even want to look. The psychological work cannot begin if we don't learn to observe ourselves, if we don't recognize wrong psychological states, and if we don't work to eliminate them. Al-Qushayri states:
“From an analytical perspective, repentance has causes, degrees, and parts. First comes the heart’s awakening from the sleep of heedlessness and the servant’s recognizing his negative condition. He will attain to this if he manages to pay attention to the reprimands of God, the Truth within him, by listening to his heart. This is found in the hadith, ‘God’s counselor is in the heart of every Muslim,’ and in the hadith, ‘There is a piece of flesh in the body: if it is sound, the whole body is sound, and if it is corrupt, the whole body is corrupt. It is the heart.’” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
People often complain that they don't know God, that they don't have experiences, that they don't know the Being, the will of divinity, and this is somewhat mistaken. The reality is: what does our heart tell us in relation to a problem, a relationship, a conflict? What does intuition say? That knowledge in the heart that does not have any intellectual basis, except knowing that one knows. And if we follow our heart, our inner judgment about a situation, the more we feed that discriminative analysis, our conscience, we deepen our connection.
Divinity speaks through the heart, not the head. There are some powers and siddhis mentioned by the yogis that one can develop in the mind as a result of this science, but really, everything is gravitating around the heart. The heart is the solar system of one's very being. If we want to know the health of our heart, our level of being, we begin with sincerity―really examining a mathematical point in our interior. It is not found in the past, reminiscing, not found in day dreaming about the future, but being here and now.
Self-reflection and Resolution
Recognition of our errors is the beginning of meditation, comprehending ourselves. Meditation has very distinct phases and there are three which we study in books like Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology by Samael Aun Weor:
Self-observation we have explained abundantly. We gather data by looking at ourselves, looking at the facts. What are the different thoughts, the different feelings, the different impulses in our daily states, moment by moment?
This is vigilance. This is awareness. This is mindfulness, presence. We learn not to be absent. We have to look at ourselves as if we have never seen ourselves before. We may know that we are angry, but the fact is: are we observing that anger?
Where did it come from?
What are its thoughts?
How does it feed?
What does it relate to?
What are the different selves or egos that accompany it? Because no deep defect or ego emerges on its own.
We can have a difficult situation at work: someone criticizes us, and then if we are observing ourselves, we can see distinct feelings of hurt self-esteem, followed by pride, and the anger of retaliation. In a moment, we can catch, through alert novelty, the different interchanges and exchanges of those defects, how they connect, the thread of comprehension that helps us understand the relationship between them.
We have to learn and see this in ourselves. Analyze the three brains: the intellect, the emotions, and our actions―our movements, our instincts, our sexual drives. Self-observation in Sufism is muhasabah, inner accounting. Gather information. If you want to go to war against a spy or an enemy, you have to observe the spy in action. Look at it. See it. Get data, so that when you go home to meditate, you can judge it effectively.
So, based on your data that you have received in your observation throughout the day, you learn to close your eyes. Withdraw the senses. Go within yourself. Ignore the body. You can work with breath or energy work, mantras, to help calm the mind and the heart, as well as your physicality.
Concentrate and imagine the scenes of your day. Review them. Remember them. Pick an event in which you saw different egos emerge. Look at the facts. See it for what it is, and in the silence of your contemplation, study each ego. Study what you observed. Look at it clearly, and if you feel remorse and repentance while you are observing it, that is a good sign, because you are deepening your prayer and your supplication for help.
Judgment occurs once you have looked at the facts. Do not think about what you saw. Simply observe. Comprehension unfolds as you direct your concentration and your visualization upon the scene.
Look at it. Look at the data. This is not an intellectual process. It is a discrimination of the heart. This is something that you learn only through experience, through practice. When you have truly judged an ego, when you really understood how it emerged, what it fed upon, what it relates to, how it wasted your energy, how it creates problems, where it came from, etc., you can proceed to judge that ego.
It is like judging a spy in court. You go to court. You present the facts, and the law or the judge sentences that spy to death for its crimes. This is execution, the final stage.
Execution has to do with when you pray to your divinity, “Please remove this ego from me! Annihilate it, for I have understood it. I do not want to act upon it again!”
Comprehension unfolds in successive meditations. It is not like in one meditation, we are going to eliminate many egos. In fact, it takes time to process. It is gradual. Nature does not take leaps. The birth of the soul does not occur spontaneously. Repentance has to be deepened, and is successive and progressive.
Some days you may go deeper into an ego. There are levels amongst defects, certain depths that are more profound and others more superficial. Work on what you see and what you can change. This is how we reflect upon ourselves.
And this is how we are resolved not to go back to what we were. When you have really worked upon egos and have prayed for their elimination to the divine feminine, the Divine Mother, al-Baqarah, al-Buraq, the lightning―then, you develop the resolution not to return to mistakes, and you really are dedicated because you are seeing changes. You don't behave the same way you did in certain situations. The actors that perform those tragedies, dramas, and comedies are no longer there. We don't react at all. Only the Essence is pure, there, present.
This is why Al-Qushayri states the following:
“When the servant has reflected in his heart on the evil of what he is doing and has seen the ugliness of his actions, the wish for repentance and for leaving his negative behavior will form in his heart. God will help him by confirming his resolution, his starting to return to good deeds, and his readiness for the steps of repentance.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So, this is the meditation: retrospection meditation. We see how ugly the mind is. We are evaluating the data, and we wish to annihilate them [our egos], to repent. If we are really annihilating egos, we are developing more light, extracting the soul that is trapped in those nafs, those faults. This is how we gradually return to good deeds.
The ego of hatred is replaced by serenity. The ego of lust is replaced by chastity. Selfishness, with altruism and faith. Doubt with knowledge. Our Being can even give us experiences internally about our work. This helps to deepen our resolve. They deepen our readiness for these steps of repentance.
How to Strengthen Repentance
Oftentimes, our depth of repentance depends on our environment. It can be difficult to change certain behaviors when we choose to associate with people and environments that are contrary to our spirituality. Many friends or people can influence us towards certain actions. People are attracted to friendships, relationships, and environments based on their level of being.
Therefore, our level of being attracts our life, and many times when we want to raise our level of being, we face the difficulty of our relationships―loved ones or close associates who do not want us to change. Oftentimes, it can be good to disassociate from certain people when we know they will suffocate or snuff out the flame of our efforts for spiritual change. This is could be a good thing. There is some credence to this, so that we can develop an internal space, a psychological, spiritual atmosphere by which we can develop our deepest longings.
If such people are really our friends, they will respect our choice not to go to the bar. They will affirm our free will. If they don't want to be friends with us because we don't party, smoke, drink, have sex, or do drugs anymore, then they probably weren't our friends in the first place.
The reality is that our environment affects us a lot. If we invest our energy in relationships and behaviors that condition our consciousness, then it is going to be very difficult to transform that. You can spend one hour in meditation, but if for 12 to 23 hours, you are engaging in behaviors that are contrary to your spirituality, then your spirituality is probably not sincere. It's not going to have much depth or force.
It's a law of nature. Is it easier for a rock to go up into the sky or down towards the Earth? Our level of being rises the more we change negative behaviors and adopt positive behaviors. Just as we follow the trajectory of negative actions, likewise, we follow the trajectory of superior actions.
This is how naturally, in accordance with the law of affinities, we can learn to associate with more spiritual people, elevated people, more like-minded individuals. If we are really sincere in our efforts, we will awaken in the internal worlds, in the superior regions of the Tree of Life where we will meet beings who are superior to us, who vibrate at that level of nature. In synthesis, the reality of the ego is that it weakens the more we stop feeding it, but it's always going to fight us in our best intentions.
So, repentance is valid when we not only feel remorse, but abstain from ego, abstain from desire, and we continually apply effort towards our endeavor. We have to do it 24 hours a day. There is no exception. It has to be a lifestyle. Meditation is a lifestyle. It is not a belief system. Of course, in the process of change, we make mistakes. We go back and forth. We are struggling. We are beginners. We extend beyond our own reach. We fall down. We fall off the bike, so to speak, but if we are continually and sincerely evaluating our work, investing more and more energy into virtue than into desire, then we will radically shift our direction.
This is symbolized by the Qibla, which is a niche within a temple, a mosque towards the east, towards the stone of Mecca. It is a symbol of praying towards that sacred stone and, symbolically speaking, Qibla has to do with our intentionality.
Where do we pray?
What do we direct our attention and energy into?
The Qibla represents this. I like the saying from the Sufi Master Bayazid al-Bastami. He states the following:
“When you are separate from the Kaaba [Yesod], it is all right to turn toward it, but those who are in it can turn toward any direction they wish.” ―Bayazid Bastami
So, work with sexual energy. Wherever you direct your attention, you spend creative energy. If you directed it towards virtue, you empower your consciousness. If you direct it towards desire, you disempower your consciousness and suffer the consequences.
Therefore, what is our direction? What is our Qibla? For that determines what we receive related to the Hebrew קבל kabbel, Kabbalah. It is the same etymology there, قِبْلَة Qibla. To receive, spiritually speaking, we have to direct our concentration towards our spiritual efforts.
I will relate at length a quote from Al-Qushayri that explains all this:
“These steps begin with his leaving bad company―that is, people who would entice him to turn back from his purpose and confuse him about the rightness of his decision. Perfection at this level only comes with the diligent practice of witnessing that increases the servant’s longing for repentance and with the dedication of his efforts to accomplish his resolve through the strengthening of his fear and hope of God.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So, witnessing has to do with perceiving directly the results of our work, practically, through facts.
“Then the knot of his persistence in negative actions will be loosened from his heart. He will stop running after dangerous things. He will rein in his ego from pursuing passions or desires of the flesh. Then he will immediately abandon his sin and confirm his resolution never to return to the like of it in the future. If he proceeds according to his intention and acts in conformity with his will, he has been granted true sincerity in his repentance. But even if his repentance has weakened once or many times and only his force of will induces him to renew it―and the sort of thing occurs very frequently―he must not give up hope of repentance on account of such incidents because, ’Surely to each period is a decree established’ (13:38).” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
The Blessings of Repentance
So repentance is a profound state and station that initiates the path, as Abdullah Ansari of Herat states in his Stations of the Sufi Path:
“Repentance is turning to God. God Most High says, ‘Turn to God with sincere repentance’ (66:8).
“Know that knowledge is life, wisdom is a mirror, contentment a protective wall, hope a mediator and intercessor, remembrance [of God] a remedy, and repentance a cure.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
When we have direct knowledge from experience, we have spiritual life, reality, happiness. Wisdom is from the word vis-dom: “the power to see” through vision. This is the Sufi witnessing of the divine, where we experience the states of our Being, which is happiness and altruism, compassion, sacrifice, inner strength.
This happens in our interrelations. This is the power of perceiving our relationships to humanity and the wisdom of knowing how to relate effectively for the betterment of society.
Wisdom, in synthesis, is knowing how to relate to the Being, to ourselves, and the world. It is self-reflection.
Contentment protects us from many things like a wall. Contentment is a shield. It is comfort from poverty, from starvation, from affliction, from sickness, from wars.
If we are really working effectively in this teaching, we are given protection. This is something I have validated many times. So despite facing certain hardships and struggles, divinity provides blessings for those who are really sincere in their work. People often suffer because they always desire more, even if they have more than enough. Meditation can unfold for us when we stop grasping or craving for different experiences or circumstances, but acknowledging that we have everything we need to change. If we have a mind and a heart, the consciousness, and a body, more or less healthy or fit, we can do this work. If we have the sexual energy, we can work.
So, hope mediates many things for us. Hope is the joy we feel because we know divinity is helping us. This is real faith. We know from our life and our daily experiences and our meditations that we are getting insight and direction. This is gradual. It is built. If we suffer from a state of despair and hopelessness, obviously, that is a very deep depression to emerge from, but there are ways to escape it: to comprehend virtue, the happiness of the soul, hope in divine things.
Remembrance helps us in times of danger, to remember right action in moments of crisis, and repentance cures us because we eliminate the causes of affliction and never go back, when we are sincere.
Abudallah Ansari of Herat continues:
“Repentance is the signpost on the path, the leader of the kingdom, the key to the treasure, the intermediary that assists you to become united with God, the condition for being accepted to the divine presence, and the secret of all happiness.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This key is alchemy: the work with the creative energies. It is the secret knowledge that opens the door of the mysteries.
“The pillars of repentance are threefold: remorse within the heart, apology upon the tongue, and severing one’s attachments with evil and wicked people.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So there are degrees of repentance and we will explain them.
“There are three types of repentance: the repentance of the obedient devotee, the repentance of the sinner (‘asi), and the repentance of the gnostic (‘arif). The repentance of the obedient devotee comes from reliance in his own obedience and considering his acts of devotion to be of great import. The repentance of the sinner comes from seeing his sins and acts of transgression as insignificant. The repentance of the gnostic is from ingratitude vis-à-vis God’s conferral of favors upon him.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
There are levels of being and stages of the path. Sinners see that they have made mistakes, but don't comprehend the depth of their transgressions. We can know that we committed a wrong, but we don't really comprehend the depth of it. We don't feel sorry for it. We have knowledge, but we don't have understanding. We can know that we really hurt a person or a friend, but not feel or comprehend the remorse related to that, because we can justify ourselves etc.
Obedient devotees who practice meditation can perform many practices but still feel mystical pride and vanity for their achievements, so to speak.
And lastly, gnostics have deep ecstasies or samadhis, but don't appreciate the value of them because they continue to persist in very subtle conditions of mind that obscure our full embracement in relationship with the truth.
Let's elaborate finally in this last slide about the signs of the devotee in the center and the Gnostic, the degrees of the initiates and practitioners in meditation.
“Setting great stock and reliance in one’s own obedience has three signs. The first is seeing one’s own obedient devotion as constituting one’s savior and protector. The second is regarding with contempt those who neglect their devotions. The third is not investigating the defects in one’s own actions.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So many people, they may practice meditation and they apply too much worth to their own exercises. They feel very proud that they can meditate for certain hours in the day, that they do certain exercises. These are known as Pharisees within the Gnostic tradition, and then the Christian tradition as well―to feel proud and that we are better because of our spirituality.
We have to be humble. We have to practice, but without attachment to the fruits of those exercises, because the reality is that only divinity can provide progress. We can feel mystical pride for people who don't practice Gnosis. This is very common, a very subtle ego that everybody develops in this teaching. And also, this type of pride is not recognizing how we are at fault when we are. So this is something that happens among the devotees, especially beginners, which is all of us.
Now the signs of the sinner is different. Worse, we could say. These are the signs of what one must do to repent of those errors:
“Beholding one’s own sins and acts of transgression as insignificant also has three signs. The first is considering oneself as deserving of forgiveness by God, the second in remaining at peace while still persisting [in sin], and the third is having intimate friendship with wicked people.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
In reality, this is most of us. We commit crimes against divinity and believe that we will be forgiven. This is a very common trope within Christianity that you can just go through life as the prodigal son, and then on your deathbed you can beg for forgiveness and God will absolve you. This is wrong. Real forgiveness occurs when we are no longer capable of committing those crimes, because the egos responsible for them are dead.
Many people even feel satisfaction in their defects and don't even suspect that they are guilty of mistakes. This is your common lay people who may think that they are very ethical or upright, but still engage in behaviors that are problematic.
Also, being friends with people who inspire us towards lust, towards alcohol, drugs, sex, addiction, can often be more harmful than helpful, regardless of how we feel about our attachments
Lastly we have the following:
“Likewise, there are three signs indicative of ingratitude for God’s conferral of favors upon one.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
This is the level of the Gnostic, how the Gnostic must repent. So again, if you are looking at these three degrees, we are looking at the levels of beginners, intermediaries, and advanced practitioners: شريعة Shariah, طريفة Tariqah, حقيقة Haqiqah / معرفة Marifah.
“The first is ceasing to regard oneself as contemptible, the second is considering one’s spiritual condition as of great value, and the third is stepping back from the joy of intimacy with God.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So repentance has levels, degrees. The repentance of a sinner is different from that of a devotee, and especially distinct from that of a Gnostic, a master.
Samael Aun Weor explained in many books that we are miserable slugs in the mud of the earth and that we must never forget that only the Being, Allah, is worthy of praise. Many so-called masters of this tradition place too much emphasis on their mastery. So, considering one's spiritual condition is of great value is something that is very applicable today in the Gnostic Movement. There are many people in Gnosis who go around proclaiming that they are initiates, saints, masters. Sufism teaches that a saint who proclaims their sainthood to the world is in danger of losing their sainthood. As stated by Al-Hujwiri in Revelation the Mystery:
“My Shaykh used to say that if a saint reveals his saintship and claims to be a saint, the soundness of his spiritual state is not impaired thereby, but if he takes pains to obtain publicity he is led astray by self-conceit.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation the Mystery
And Samael Aun Weor also said that one should not accept masters in the physical world, but learn to travel in the internal planes, specifically.
“When the disciple is ready, the master appears.
“‘Beware of false prophets.’ Do not accept external Masters in the physical plane.
“Learn how to travel in the astral body, and when you are skillful in the astral, choose an authentic master of Major Mysteries of the White Brotherhood and consecrate unto him the most absolute devotion and the most profound respect.
“You must walk with much care in the physical world, since there are many false prophets. Do not accept external orders from anyone; you must only obey the commands that “we” give you in the Astral Plane.
“Within this physical plane there exist many good and sincere initiates of the Minor Mysteries, but since they have not yet fused themselves with their Inner Master they are also ‘living dead.’ Consequently, they have serious and very grievous errors, which can lead the student astray and even make him fall into the abyss.
“When we want to make ourselves known to a student in the physical plane, we will give him ‘signs’ and proof in the Astral Plane. But ‘be careful,’ live alert and vigilant as a watchman in times of war, because in these times of the end, the Anti-Christ makes deceptive signs and wonders.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Practical Astrology: The Zodiacal Course
Lastly, Gnostics who approach the joy of intimacy with divinity, yet identify with their mind again, they lose their ecstasy, the samadhi and then they sin against reality. So levels of repentance.
This is just a little outline of where we might be and what we aspire to and what we seek to change. Obviously, the most profound act of repentance is to comprehend the ego daily, to self observe daily, and to eliminate our mistaken aggregates daily, with as much depth and frequency as we can. And I recommend that if you are meditating profoundly with retrospection, that you also reflect on the virtues of your Being, your soul, because that is your true nature. That is how you know what you are fighting for in yourself.
I would like to open up the floor to questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: How do you know when you are fully in touch with your soul?
Instructor: There are levels to this. One basic example is when you are in a difficult situation. This is something that I have reflected on in my own life. Sometimes internal experiences or astral projections don't come readily. We go through periods of absence, so to speak, rather than presence in our internal life, and in the physical world, we might have a difficult circumstance in which somebody confronts us, comes at us with a lot of anger, with a lot of resentment, a lot of hurt self-esteem, and is attacking us with their energy. Now, we know that we are more in touch with our soul, our conscience, when we act ethically to those problems. So instead of retaliating with hatred or self-justification, or pride, we learn to respond with humility and compassion. That is one level.
I think that is the most concrete example I can think of, because I know sometimes we like to think that to really be in touch with your soul, you need to be out of your body in the astral plane, the higher dimensions. There is that reality to that, but more importantly for us, we know that we are really deepening our connection with our divinity and our Being, our soul, when we act uprightly: upright thought, upright feeling, upright action.
Question: What do you mean by going deeper in an ego? Is that having a new point of view in on a situation?
Instructor: Yes, that is one component. To really go deeper into an ego, we may have some understanding at our level about how anger works in a particular situation. We can understand its thoughts and feelings and impulses to act, but on a deeper level, we may not be seeing everything. We can have a different point of view in our meditation whereby we perceive directly how our perspective was originally skewed, such as, we have an argument with a friend. We feel justified. We feel vindicated and therefore we argue back and forth in a heated debate. Now if we are meditating and going deeper on a defect, we might have observed in that moment when we were angry, we can perceive through a vision or our imagination, a comprehension, how we perhaps were mistaken, and that the other person could have been seeing something differently from us.
You can actually have that vision where you see from another person's point of view, because the consciousness is dynamic. It is expansive. It is multi-dimensional. It is not limited to one point of view, but is universal, and therefore you can have actual visions where you perceive states of consciousness, and from that point of view, you can see third person, or literally look at yourself in a new way. So yes, that is possible.
Comprehension unfolds magically. It is always alert and new. There are distinct qualities and flavors to it that only you will apprehend through your own practice.
So it's always good, as one of our students at mentioned in our private messaging, to have a set time in which to practice. Personally, I like to retrospect at night, review my day, and all the moments that led up to when I have gone to my meditation chair, when I am going to introspect and before I go to bed. Usually if we discover really strong egos, it's good to meditate there and then if you can. If you have the time and space and ability to do so, but it is always important to have a set discipline by which we are meditating and practically implementing these tools.
Some people like to get up early in the morning, 4:00 or 5:00 a.m in order to retrospect and to meditate deeply at that hour. It is always very good to awaken at that hour to practice, but if you find that it is easier to stay awake in the night time before you go to sleep, before you dream, you can retrospect at that time too.
Question: Can you explain which sephirah of the Tree of Life the Rune Rita involves to help us visualize them during the practice?
Instructor: The Rune Rita relates to the sphere of גְּבוּרָה Geburah: Justice, or in Arabic, دين Din. Geburah is الله دين Allah-Din, الدين Aladdin, the judgment and justice of God, the discrimination, the intuition, the perception of divinity that knows how to discriminate with effectiveness and clarity. It is our consciousness, our ability to visualize and imagine, to perceive.
So when you are doing the Rune Rita, you pray and you ask to work with that part of your Being known as the Kaom. So internally, in the astral plane, part of our Being related to the sephirah Geburah is known as the Kaom. They are the police of the law. And literally, in an astral experience, you can meet them. Your own divinity, your own conscience that appears in the form of police officers, either to hold you responsible to the law or to arrest you for a mistake, for a crime, is the voice of ethics in your heart.
Personally, I have worked with my inner Kaom many times in the astral plane, where I have had negotiations with them in accordance to the law of karma. The voice of conscience speaks abundantly through the heart of the mysticism of Geburah, the judgment of divinity. It is how we judge ourselves. It is the strength of God, and it relates astrologically to Mars, to iron, such as with the Iron Surah as we mentioned previously. So when you work with the Rune Rita, imagine that sephirah, the strength of divinity in you, helping you to judge your faults or mistakes, and asking the inner Kaom to help you be more accountable to the law of divinity, to Shariah.
Question: I struggle with remembering past sins before remorse sets in. There is a bit of satisfaction and I am horrified by this. I feel great remorse. How can both exist and how to combat this?
Instructor: Both exist because we are not one way or the other, but we are mixed. We have a little bit of consciousness that is free, about 3 percent, statistically speaking, according to Samael Aun Weor. And we have 97 percent conditioned psyche or ego. So therefore, our center of gravity is going to be towards our faults.
It is going to be very difficult to transform that, and of course there is a lot of suffering involved, because as much as we want to follow divine law, chastity, pure things, pure principles, we have a lot of perdition inside, and this is a source of great moral pain. The way that you combat it is not through repression, not by pushing it away, not hiding from it, not justifying or feeding it either, but comprehending it with serenity.
I know some people like to think of this term Jihad in Islam as something as a holy war, in which we exert a lot of effort and fight against demonic creatures, with demonic beings who are oppressing us. The word جهاد Jihad comes from the Arabic mujahadah, which means “to strive,” to work against, to perform effort. But this effort has nothing to do with the mind. It has to do with comprehending the mind. Real effort of the consciousness, of the conscience, is a serene state. You cannot combat chaos with chaos, with repression or justification. You have to look at it serenely. Let the mind settle by not identifying with it.
You can deepen your serenity through exercises in this tradition. We have many practices that can help you give strength and stability to your concentration as well as your serenity, such as the mantras of this tradition, Sacred Rites of Rejuvenation, the runes, especially, are important. The more energy you empower your consciousness with, the more stable, flexible, strong, and serene it will be.
In reality, the best spiritual warriors are serene at all times. This is very well known amongst the samurai, before that tradition had degenerated, where these warriors would defend their homes and their families, their loved ones, their Lords, by meditating before battle. They knew that if they give into agitation, they would be lost. They would make mistakes. In the same sense spiritually, this doctrine of Bushido in Japanese, the way of the warrior, is found within the Muslim doctrine of Jihad: holy war or striving against the ego, internally.
So don't beat yourself up on the fact that we have errors and egos and defects. You could spend a lot of time being pessimistic or morbid about it, or you can work effectively on your defects, what you can see, and develop serenity, because after repentance and really working not to feed those egos, we develop serenity of mind, calmness of thought, equanimity, and stabilization of the Essence. The best weapon is serenity, without exception.
Question: Does shame come from identifying with one of the three parts of repentance?
Instructor: Shame is an ego, is a result of not having resolution to change. It is also the result of not abstaining from desire. To feel shame as an ego, as a defect, is to feel bad about having committed an error, but is an egotistical quality.
There is a very distinct difference between remorse and shame. Remorse is conscience. It is when the soul recognizes its faults, and this is something that only you can recognize through persistent efforts. Shame, if you observe yourself diligently and discriminate in your soul in your observations, is a defect. So learn to discriminate between the two, because shame is inverted pride: a sense of self that feels an identity in being morbid about oneself or self-denigrating. Instead, remorse is liberating. It is conscience.
Question: When one feels remorse or and repents for a wrong action, what part of the Being feels that pain? Does one still have to pay karma if one repents genuinely?
Instructor: This is an interesting question, because in the ultimate synthesis, the Being is happiness. There is no pain in divinity. In the absolute heights of our most profound synthesis, the Being is liberated joy, ecstasy, divine qualities of compassion and liberation and expansiveness.
The one who feels that pain is the Essence. The Essence is the one that feels remorse, because there is a pressure from within, from the Being, that is exerting its influence in our heart, that is telling us that what we did was wrong or that we failed to enact a virtuous action.
Now what is interesting is that we pay karma not only for the wrong that we commit, but for the good that we omit. But if we repent genuinely, meaning: the ego is dead, then there is no karma to pay. Real repentance is when that ego is fully dead. Nothing left. So if you had an ego of anger that was really karmic and repetitive and cyclical, that kept permeating certain aspects of your life that were problematic and then you removed it, then the karma that would have inflicted you regarding that aggregate, for having that ego, is annulled. It ceases. So karma is paid when the ego is dead completely.
Question: With respect to retrospection, I struggle with continuity of thought. Do you have any recommendations on where to start?
Instructor: Continuity of presence is best implemented when we have energy to do so. It takes a lot of energy to awaken consciousness. This is why we have so many practices of breath, pranayama, mantras, runes, sacred rites of rejuvenation, sexual alchemy, because the sexual energy that is manifested and directed to those exercises, helps to give strength to the Essence. If you want to have greater continuity of attention and awareness, to pay attention, spend some time, some significant amount of time working with your energy. With energy you have more light, more force by which to work.
If the battery is not charged, the flashlight is not going to work. If the light keeps turning off here and there, it means that you need more force. So I remember one experience, to kind of help relating to this, where I was in the astral plane around 4 am in the morning, where my Being showed me an oil lamp and the light went off. It was Illuminating a very beautiful room, and then it ran out of oil and ceased. When I woke up, I realized my mind and intellect were tired. I was having difficulty with my practices of self-observation and remembrance. But fortunately, knowing the science and being married as well, I learned to work with the sexual energy, and therefore work with the oil to enlighten the lamp of consciousness.
That oil is the semen. In Hebrew the word for oil is שֶׁמֶן shemen: the oil of anointment. The oil of purification is the sexual energy which we conserve and elevate to our mind, so that symbolically we anoint our heads. We illuminate the intellect. If you want more power to your retrospections, give yourself good energy. Transmute. Spend more time with that type of exercise.
Question: Also, do we rewind playing events backwards from the current moment or press play from the first moment we can remember that day, or could both strategies be useful in different circumstances?
Instructor: Yes, whatever is easiest for you. If you find it easier to review from the moment you sat down to back in the morning, if you are meditating at night. Or you can meditate from the morning up to the moment you entered your meditation space. Either way is effective. What is important is that you do what's easier for you, whatever is more natural.
Question: Can you negotiate karma before facing the Guardian of the Threshold?
Instructor: Yes, you can. Obviously there are degrees of work and development that you can do, but it is not necessary that you have had to face the guardian in order to be able to work out certain situations in your life.
Question: Is it possible to eradicate an aggregate through relationships with family? I have seen an ego that is distasteful. I pray to the Divine Mother and felt that I'd overcome it, but I find that certain situations trigger the ego to come up again. How do I rid myself of it for good?
Instructor: Keep meditating. Keep reflecting. Be patient. We need to be very strict with ourselves. But also, we have to be very understanding as well. Repentance does not mean we beat ourselves with a rod of iron, but instead we learn to be flexible, intuitive, enduring, diligent, patient. You'll understand that ego the more you observe it and the more you reflect on it. There are levels of understanding. There are depths that unfold as a result of our successive meditations and practices. We go deeper each time. So don't weary or cease to persist in your practice, because the more you comprehend, the more you remove until finally after comprehending deeper and deeper, you reach the roots.
So there are levels of the consciousness and subconsciousness and infra-consciousness as well, the unconsciousness, etc., 49 levels. We can understand egos in certain degrees, but it gets deeper the more we work. So have faith in your comprehension and your Being, because it is a very long work and it's very difficult to eradicate certain egos that are very deep. The more repentance we show successively in our exercises, the greater freedom we will experience until, finally, one day, we realize we are liberated from that fault. Trust in your Being, your Divine Mother, because She knows exactly the process that you need to go through to be liberated.
Question: When we recite the rune Rita: RA, RE, RI, RO, RU. Are the r's rolled? Do we open and close the feet and arms in between each mantra?
Instructor: Yes, the letter R or the consonant R is rolled like this:
When you do the mantras, you don't have to open and close the feet and arms in between each mantra. You simply keep the position with your left hand over your left hip, left leg out, right hand at your right side.
Again, I thank you for attending and thank you for your questions. Remember that this is a process. Repentance occurs in degrees. As the first state and station of the path, it is also something that we perfect gradually in relation to the other stations and states of the spiritual path of initiation. So I thank you for coming.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
We spoke previously about contraction and expansion of consciousness. In simple terms, this refers to attention and awareness. We explained that if consciousness is light, that attention is focused like a flashlight. We use attention to concentrate upon different things, such as a progression of ideas in a lecture or in a conversation with a person.
We explained that awareness is different. It is expansive, like a diffused light, the amplification of cognizance. Awareness spreads out towards different phenomena outside.
We spent a lot of time discussing these principles so as to aid our meditation practice, and building off that understanding from the previous lectures, we are going to talk about a very essential discipline that is practiced within every major world religion, every meditative science. This has to do with the continuity of consciousness.
So while contraction and expansion, attention and awareness are important, it is now even more crucial if we wish to really understand this science of meditation, whether from Sufism or any faith, we have to study the continuum, the maintenance, the constant and consistent implementation of the consciousness in the present moment.
We can be attentive in a given instant, in a specific moment. Perhaps at work, we have a challenging circumstance, a trying situation, a life-threatening ordeal. Some people in the midst of a crisis, such as with 9/11, in which the destruction of the Twin Towers shocked the consciousness of everyone present, not only in the United States, but even people viewing the news across the world. Sometimes those instances can produce a very quick awakening, a spontaneous, constant shock that awakens us for a moment, if but briefly.
Many people approach religion, spirituality, meditation, because they want experience. They may have had a taste of that initial flavor of awakening of consciousness, of profound attention, of expansive awareness, but the problem becomes, can we sustain that state? Can we will it? Can we make it consistent in each moment of our life? Can we be cognizant like that, in a state of alert novelty, throughout an entire day?
Continuity of consciousness, in esoteric Buddhism, is known by the term tantra. It is the continuum, the flow, the constant manifestation of the energy of the consciousness within the meditator. Continuity of attention, of awareness, all day, is known as mindfulness in Eastern traditions. It could be called remembrance, presence, vigilance. The Sufis have many beautiful terms that relate to this essential point. One of the many wonderful Arabic terms that explain the nature of this perception, this continuity, is known as مراقبة muraqaba, which translates as vigilance and also meditation.
What is a vigil? People who commemorate the life of someone who is deceased often perform vigils outside their casket, with family and friends, many times enmeshed and concentrated within deep prayer. They don't sleep physically. Many other traditions, such as the Aztecs, the great warrior dancers, the Jaguar Knights of ancient Mexico, would perform beautiful vigils as a ceremony in remembrance of divinity. And likewise, the Sufis, many masters of that tradition would often fast, but also not sleep for prolonged periods of time. I believe Prophet Muhammad was well-known for this. He often stated and many times, referenced in the Qur’an, "It is best to lose sleep over prayer."
More importantly for us, we have to learn to be awake all the time as a consciousness, as an Essence, as a soul. It means that we have to be attentive and aware at all times.
But of course, in the beginning this is very difficult. For those of you who have perhaps practiced a physical vigil, it can be very difficult. Personally, I have done this in the past and often have spent nights deep in prayer, meditating, seeking illumination, especially in the morning hours. Waking up early, but also waking up throughout the night to perform vigil, introspecting, meditating, asking for guidance. Because if we are attentive in our consciousness, not only just one moment, but throughout our entire existence, we deepen our state. We deepen our connection. We augment our remembrance with the divine. It is even stated in one of the surahs of the Qur’an, "the recitation at dawn,” how great it is, for it “is ever witnessed” by the angels, by the divine. For how do you not know that “your Lord shall resurrect you in a praiseworthy station?" (Qur’an 17:78-79)
This has to do with really deepening our practice, because it is not enough to be attentive just for one instant in our life. We have to learn to develop consciousness, its attention and its awareness, but all the time. Otherwise, we are not going to have much depth. People who learn to have insight for a moment, who state that they have a spiritual awakening, but who do not sustain those states, eventually become swallowed by life. They are not practical. There are many philosophies and groups that teach you that awakening is just momentary. But in reality, there are levels and levels upon awakening, of presence with the Being. Heights upon heights.
So we have to be intentional. It is not enough just to have one moment of clarity. We need clarity in every instant of our existence. We have to sustain our attention and awareness with intention, with will. So people often talk about feeling a presence, an awakening, but they describe it as something fleeting. It means that they are not awakened, but they are asleep. They had a shock, perhaps a divine moment, but then the mind intervened, and now they are back again in a state of slumber, psychologically speaking. So while we can have a profound moment of wisdom, it does not mean that the entirety and totality of our life is that.
Where is our center of gravity? Where does our attention, our awareness go? And more importantly: for how long?
All religions teach the need to awaken, yet, they were never explicit in their methods. So they gave clues, but not all of the techniques that lead to that state and its diverse qualities. Every religion has a kindergarten, an exoteric doctrine, a public school, a beginning level. In Sufism, this is Shariah. It is ethics. We learn to be ethical when we are awake. If we are asleep at the wheel of our car, psychologically speaking, we cannot in any way protect our spirituality, because if we are unconscious, we make mistakes. We act upon nafs, egos, desires.
We have to learn to observe ourselves, to do that all day, to be awake, to see what is new inside. But at the same time, we need to be aware of our surroundings. So one of the points we wished to have left you with in our former lecture is that external events and our understanding of their relationship to internal states is how we arrive at comprehension of ourselves, comprehension of the ego. So that we are no longer asleep. So that we are not dozing off, not paying attention to where we are at and what we are doing―thinking of other things, of our fiancé, our friend, our wife, our partner, our family, and not knowing where we are at or what we are doing. So this is vigilance―to not sleep.
When we lose our attention, we don't really have consciousness of the causes of our own psychological states. We can be angry at a person and not know why. This is fundamentally wrong. We need to know everything: the reasons why we exist and why we act the way we do.
This is why in the beginning levels of religion, of Sufism, we work with ethics. We learn to curtail negative thinking, negative feeling, and negative actions within ourselves and in our daily life, all the time. It is not enough to be chaste for a day and to be impure the rest of our existence. Meditation does not work that way. It requires a complete introversion of our consciousness―to not blame the external world, but the look inside, to have presence within the body, to know that we are here, to know what is happening, to know why we are irritated or upset, depressed, morbid, doubtful, lustful. We have to understand our relationship to the world and vice versa, and so we have to ask ourselves, are we really here, and how do we know?
Here is a test for you. When you go to sleep at night, are you awake in your dreams, or do you see nothing? If eight hours pass and you don't know anything, it means that we are profoundly unconscious in our physical life, as we have explained in the lecture The Present Moment, because conscious awakening, if it is continuous, it manifests in our sleep, physically, so that the consciousness, which is trained, which is active, is aware and awake and intelligent and profoundly luminous in the dream world. We stop dreaming. We see those dimensions for what they are, and we can gain even more knowledge about how to change.
And so there are very distinct levels of presence, that flavor of remembrance. I am sure all of us had had a moment in which we forgot something very important, perhaps related with work, and suddenly we have the insight. We remember. We have a shock in our attention. We see something new. We have a clarity and a crispness that is distinct. It is pristine. That is a simple allegory for presence of being, remembrance of our state. It is the absence of distraction. It is the absence of the ego, but a profound presence in our own awareness, which is maintained.
These levels of presence and even absence are mapped in different ways by different traditions. In Buddhism, you have nine stages of meditative concentration or calm abiding. If you want to know more about that very famous glyph within every Tibetan Buddhist monastery, you can study Meditation Essentials on gnosticteachings.org, or our lecture on Calm Abiding: The Stages of Serenity and our course on Gnostic Meditation.
In Judeo-Christianity, you have the Tree of Life, which documents different levels of presence, of understanding, of consciousness. Within Sufism, this marvelous tree of being correlates directly with the states and stations of the esoteric path. All of these are tools. They can help us understand where we are at in our development.
So, how present are we throughout the day, or even when we sit to practice meditation? On a simple level, we can be present for a few moments, remembering our objective during a certain session. We are concentrating on a stone, simply viewing it and not thinking of other things. We are observing the fact of that rock in front of us, and if our mind starts to think or get distracted, we don't repress. We don't justify. We don't get carried along with that associative chain of thought. We simply return to observation. But if we do forget, we get distracted, we start thinking and daydreaming of other things. It means that we are absent. We are physically in front of this rock, seated in an asana, a posture, but our mind is traveling very far away.
This has to change. We forget ourselves more often than we remember ourselves in the beginning. This change is through discipline: remembering the Being, alert novelty, remembering the presence of the Self, the Innermost, observing our defects.
So beginners struggle often to remember their Being, the focus of their practice. Their center of gravity is in the ego, not the consciousness. Masters of meditation are different. Their center of gravity is in the consciousness. It is in the Being even, but this is a gradual development. They have presence or continuity of attention and awareness at all times, even when the physical body is asleep. They are awakened citizens in the internal planes.
We get to that point through consistency in our practices, which is why Abu-I Husayn al-Nuri stated:
“For twenty years I have been finding and losing―when I have found my Lord, I have lost my heart, and when I have found my heart, I have lost my Lord.” ―Abu-l Husayn al-Nuri
If we remember the Being, we forget that we are the ego. Our consciousness shifts. There is a division of attention there. We are the Essence that is free. But if we invest our energy into desire, info nafs, into ego, we forget our Being. We lose our Lord, because we are concentrated on our own egotistical heart.
The Definition of Absence
"Each moment is a golden child of Gnosis" says Samael Aun Weor. "Nothing in life is ever static or dull." However, if we are not vigilant, continuously applying effort to be here and now, we do not recognize the novelty of each instant, each moment.
This is the qualifying characteristic of whether or not we are doing this right. We have to see life in a new way, all the time. If it is repetitive and dull, if we are lax in our attention, if we are ambiguous, vaporous in our awareness, misty, clouded, it means that we are asleep. We need clarity. We need crispness, but this is only refined through application. And when we forget to do the work, we have to remember, bring ourselves back. Part of that is because of our Being pushing us inside, but oftentimes we don't know what is going on around us or even within us.
This is a profound absence of consciousness.
Al-Qushayri, the writer of Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism, stated something very interesting:
“Absence is the heart’s absence from knowledge of what is going on in ordinary human affairs, due to the absorption of the senses in something else that is influencing them. The heart may be made absent from its sense of itself and others by the influence of remembering eternal reward or of thinking about eternal punishment.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Too often people project their mind on to life. We don't really see the reality of things, if we are honest, if we are really analyzing ourselves and being critical, not from a sense of morbidity or doubt, but from seeking to know the truth of our life. So this is our psychological state. We often project our fears, our hatred, our preoccupations, our ideologies, our politics, upon the world, upon others. We often identify with externals, but really don't see any internal cause for anything that happens in the world. Many times people think that presence has to do with perceiving correspondences within our surroundings. Sometimes people look to find numbers that repeat, coincidences, things that seem rather supernormal, but I like to relate to you a statement by Samael Aun Weor in his Revolution of the Dialectic about the need to have a receptive mind, to not project our beliefs unto what we see, to be present.
“If you are eating, eat; if you are getting dressed, get dressed, and if you are walking on the street, walk, walk, walk, but do not think about anything else. Do only what you are doing. Do not run away from the facts; do not fill them with so many meanings, symbols, sermons and warnings. Live them without allegories. Live them with a receptive mind from moment to moment.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Revolution of the Dialectic
We have to be present. That continuity must be maintained always.
So the term absence is very dynamic within Arabic and Sufi mysticism. For most people, absence is our daily state. We are inattentive or unaware of our psychological states and the external environment in which we are. However, there is a type of spiritual absence, but I invite you to reflect deeply on this and not get caught up in the terminology. It is something different than what we commonly associate with absence, as if no one is home. You know, we say that a person is not attentive or is kind of lost, that “There is no lights on at home.” There is no one there. There is no one conscious or present in front of us.
There is a type of spiritual absence. It can refer to a type of profound absorption, internally concentrated and connected with divinity, so much that the initiate seems unaware of what is happening outside of oneself. This type of spiritual absence is an advanced state amongst masters like Samael Aun Weor.
I'll give you an example. He knew how to leave his body at will. He could be talking to a person physically, and yet he could close his eyes and leave his physicality behind and enter the internal dimensions, intentionally, at any time. Other people could be talking to him, but he would be in samadhi. His consciousness was so focused on the internal worlds, his center of gravity was in the internal worlds, and that it was difficult for him to be present in the body. Now, most of us we struggle to be aware of our physical body in the first place and even our environment. Meanwhile, we lack cognizance of pretty much anything. Beginners also do not know. We do not know how to enter the astral world, the internal worlds, the heavens of the Tree of Life, at will.
Meanwhile Samael Aun Weor and many prophets like Mohammed, Krishna, Moses, Buddha etc., are awakened internally. Samael Aun Weor had to exert effort to be in the physical body, because his intelligence was focused, his center of gravity was focused in the heights of the Tree of Life, so otherwise he was absent here, physically, due to his absorption.
We can relate a few more excerpts about this from The Principles of Sufism.
“For instance, it is said that Rabi bin Khaytham was going to visit Ibn Masud when he passed by the shop of a blacksmith and saw hot iron in the forge. He lost consciousness and did not come to himself until the next day. Having awakened, he was asked about what happened, and said, ‘Through that fire, the existence of the People of the Fire came to my mind.’ This is an absence that exceeded its bounds and became a faint.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So these are stories. These are principles the Sufis spoke in a very allegorical way, which people read literally. If they want to, that is fine, but more profoundly in relation to the states and stations of the esoteric path, this has to do with an absence of the body and presence in the internal planes.
So this presence is when we have experiences about the realities of heaven and hell, the Tree of Life, and its shadow, the Tree of زقوم Zaqqum, the hell realms, the infra-dimensions. And when we learn to really walk this path, we have to face many entities that belong to what the Qur’an refers to as the left-hand, the path of demons, sorcerers, black magicians, unbelievers. The term unbeliever in Arabic is كافر Al-Kafir or the الكافرون Al-Kafirun, the unbelievers (plural).
So what does this term mean? There is a surah in the Qur’an called الكهف Al-Kahf, which is the Cave, كهف Kahf, where the unbelievers, الكافرون al-Kafirun, dwell within the caves of the Earth, in the infra-conscious dimensions, which we access in dreams or in meditation―if we are pulled in that direction based on our level of being. Because some people have nightmares, very disturbing dreams, and that is a reality. That is hell. It is not a made-up illusion. It has a real existence, but of course, it is inferior in relation to the multi-dimensionality of existence.
So the people of the fire are those كافرون kafirun, unbelievers, who are not only outside, but inside. Our own egos do not believe in divinity. They fight against us when we want to be chaste, when we want to meditate, to concentrate. So that war against the unbelievers is inside our own defects.
So that is an example of a type of absorption in which something physical reminds one of a profound principle, internally.
"Through that fire, the existence of the People of the Fire came to my mind." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
For those of us who have had experiences of these infra- conscious realms, we can speak with clarity that these are really profound states of suffering, and that we seek to avoid in our work―to confront and to change, so that we don't go to those states permanently. But things can remind us, give us remembrance, give us a shock, so that we forget even what is around us― even introspect inside. In a sense, that is a type of absence, physically, but a presence within our consciousness, a remembrance.
There is also a statement in this quote that is interesting to analyze:
“It is also told that a fire broke out in the house of Ali ibn Husayn while he was in prostration, but he did not turn away from his prayer. When asked about what had happened, he said, “The remembrance of hellfire protected me from that fire.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So again, these are psychological truths. They are not necessarily literal stories where, because he was praying, his house didn't catch fire, because he was remembering hellfire. That metaphor, that symbol, that allegory, for our purposes, has to do with the fact that if we are remembering our Being, we will not get hurt physically. We will face dangers, but we will be protected.This is something we verify through presence, through awakening, through faith, through knowing. It is not a belief. We know the source of our protection from experience. Divinity is the Mighty, the Wise, says the Qur’an, but of course, we have to remember who He is, what the Innermost is.
The Causes of Absence
Absence and presence have different causes that we have to become attuned to, to understand, and even to manipulate at will. Al-Qushayri states:
“Sometimes absence from one’s senses may be brought on by the Truth’s disclosure of an inner meaning. Those who experience this are differentiated according to their states.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So sometimes, we can receive profound insight into a problem, an experience of a dream we had in the morning, or a realization that emerges seemingly from nowhere, whereby we feel a shock of conscious understanding. We become internally absorbed, in that our external circumstances do not really influence our attention or awareness. We are present within, but absent from the cares of the world.
While Sufism might seem to present these terms, absence and presence, as opposites, they in truth represent dynamic qualities, principles with multiple layers of meaning. So what are these degrees or differentiations of states according to Al-Qushayri? We have to remember that there are three levels of meditative science: introductory, intermediate, and advanced, or in Arabic: شريعة Shariah, طريفة Tariqah, حقيقة Haqiqah / معرفة Marifah. Or: ethics, the law, Shariah; the path of meditation daily, which is Tariqah; and the truth and knowledge we gain from experience of reality is Haqiqah (the truth) and Marifah (knowledge, or in Greek, γνῶσις Gnosis, or in Hebrew, דעת Da’ath). They all reference the same thing.
So we have to learn where our center of gravity is in our states of presence. In the beginning levels, it is sporadic. We forget ourselves more than we remember ourselves. In the intermediate paths, we are learning to remember ourselves more. And in the highest stages of wisdom, one does not forget the Being at all.
So we can fluctuate in our meditation practice in a given session through all of these states, from one moment to the next, but a master has their full development in the knowledge and truth of their Being.
We have to begin where we are, and many people have experiences, even though they are temporary, are so profound, that they place them on a spiritual path. For example, you have many initiates of the White Lodge who were once very poor people, had negative character, and were suffering a lot. Because they had a transformative experience, they left behind a life of materialism and entered a life of spirituality. This is allegorized in every tradition, whether from Milarepa in Buddhism, St. Paul of Tarsus in Christianity, and in this example in Sufism, we have the Master Al-Haddad. Let us read an excerpt about him:
“It is well known that the state of Abu Hafs al-Nishapuri al-Haddad (the Blacksmith) began with his leaving his trade. He was in his shop when a reciter of the Qur’an chanted a verse, and an influence came over his heart that made Abu Hafs lose awareness of his senses. He put his hand into the fire and drew out the hot iron. One of his students saw this and exclaimed, ‘Master, what is this?’ Abu Hafs looked at what had manifested through him, abandoned his trade, and left his shop.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is allegorical wisdom. The Sufi language is Kabbalistic. Many people are like this blacksmith. Many of us identify with materialism. But it is a recitation of the Qur’an that opened Al-Haddad's eyes. It is interesting that even names in Arabic have a lot of meaning. Haddad resembles Al-Haddid, which is a surah in the Qur’an known as “The Iron.” Interesting that a blacksmith has the name iron, or a name resembling that word.
Let us read a verse from the Qur’an that relates to this principle. It is from Surah Al-Hadid, The Iron, verse 25:
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah may make evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” ―Qur’an 57:25
The language of the Qur’an is Kabbalah and alchemy. It is symbolism. There are verses of literal meaning and there are verses of symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical, conscious, symbolic meaning.
A balance represents equanimity, serenity, tranquility, the scales of inner peace. Iron is a symbol of willpower, spiritual force, concentration. Haddad, the blacksmith, was so absorbed by the mysticism of the Qur’an that he put his hand on a hot iron and didn't realize it. This is implying that, as with many of the Sufi stories, that he was in this case physically not hurt, but this is a symbol how the fire and heat of lust cannot harm us if we are present with the Being. Lust, ego, nafs, desires, cannot affect the person who is present with God. So in this example, Al-Haddad left his shop. He left behind a life of materialism and became an initiate of esoteric Islam.
So with training we can learn to be absent from lust and present with chastity. These are psychological states, and in the beginning we are often filled and afflicted with desires, and many students write to us complaining and suffering a lot: how do I overcome my egos, my defects, my desires, because we have so much of it? We have to learn to be like Al-Haddad.
Remember your Being. Remember the message of the divinities, such as through the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita, the sutras, the tantras, the writings of Samael Aun Weor. Remember those teachings and practice them to the best of your ability, so that with presence of Being, you learn to even approach the sexual act, your marriage if you are married, the creative energy, and not to be burned by that force, to not be hurt by it. Instead, we transform it and we create the soul.
The Definition of Presence
So let us talk about the definition of presence. This is awareness. The Arabic word for awareness is muhadarah, which is where you get words like presence, حضور hudur. When we say that someone is present, it implies that we are attentive, listening, apprehending the nature or meaning of phenomena.
So the mind needs to be in a state of receptivity, passivity, and the consciousness needs to be active, intentionally looking. If you are not intentionally perceiving your existence, if not providing effort in that regard, if we are not consistently manifesting our cognizance in accordance with the needs of each circumstance of life, it means that we are not awake.
We are in the physical world―in Kabbalah, Malkuth, the physical body―and usually we are not even aware of our physical body itself. As we stated previously, we often forget our breathing. Sometimes we get into an argument or we are angry. We are panicking. We are breathing really fast. We are not even aware of this process. If you control your breath, you control your mind. You control your body. This is a basic fundamental practice within Sufism: to control the breath, to be grounded in where you are at. So if you forget what is happening to you, just breathe, relax, become concentrated in yourself. This is a kindergarten practice, but it is the foundation of everything else.
So let us remember ourselves and our body. Wherever we go and whatever we do, let us not be distracted to the reality of our daily life.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“As for presence, it means that one is present with the Real, because if one is absent from creation one is present with the Real. [The term] implies that [the state] resembles being [physically] present: the remembrance of the Real captures one’s heart, and one is present within one’s heart before the Lord Most High.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
What does it mean to be absent from creation but present with the real? Many students often ask what it means to have presence, to be in remembrance of the presence of divinity.
Examine your conduct. Examine your behaviors. Examine your mental states. Do you act out of benefit for others, with compassion, with equanimity, even when you are being insulted? Do you respond with kindness to the person who has betrayed you? Do you have patience for those who afflict you and hurt your pride? Do you give to your neighbor even though it hurts? Do you forgive the person who betrays you? Who has walked away from your most generous actions? Who doesn't appreciate your best efforts?
Our behavior shows us our level of being. Are we acting with divine principles, or are we reacting to life out of pain in order to produce more pain?
We have to be in the world, but not of it. Be present. Respond to life, but don't react. What does this mean? In a moment, we are afflicted with rage. We are angry. Someone betrayed us, did something very hurtful. Our pride is seeking to express in our words: sarcasm, hatred, wrath. We have to learn how to respond to a situation, but not with desire. So while we previously stated it is important and even necessary to be patient in those circumstances, in challenging ordeals, we always have to respond in some way, with presence of some kind.
Life always demands a response. We cannot live in a bubble and think that we can avoid the problems of existence. The reality is that we need to intelligently deal with everything, with cognizance. You have to do it by being present of your behavior. First, physically, and then internally.
What does your mind want to do in this situation, even if you don't voice what you are really feeling? Our invisible behaviors show us our level of being. What do we secretly want to do? Do we want revenge? Do we want vindication? Do we want the world to embrace us as a hero, even when we are not? When we are wrong?
We have to examine our internal qualities, and when you follow your conscience, knowing the right thing and actually doing it, we learn to end problems. They cease. They evaporate. The real problem is our attitude, our mind, our identification with life, that feeling of “This person really harmed me and I need to get revenge.” We are identifying in those instances. Our sense of self is invested in the problem and it is the problem.
So, don't invest your energy in that, because that energy needs to be conserved and used for the Being. Without energy, we cannot be present. We cannot be awake, even physically. If you don't sleep enough, if you don't have enough vital energy, you can't pay attention. You will nod off. The same with our spirituality. Examine your behavior: how we behave, and think, and act, and feel, and how we exert energy. Where we direct our attention, we spend energy. So, don't invest it in external things. To know divine qualities, we have to really renounce egotistical qualities in ourselves.
These profound states of being that everybody wants are found here and now. They are not in some far distant future. The presence of God is found by doing what is right in your heart―not out of vindication or shame or pride or malice, but for the benefit of the other person, even when they are wrong… especially so. This is Shariah, the basics, the foundation of religion. If we don't do this, we cannot meditate. In fact, we will be wasting our time.
This is why Dhū’l-Nūn Miṣrī stated the following:
"The key to success in worship lies in meditative reflection (fikrat)…whoever persists in such reflection in the heart will behold the invisible realm in the spirit. Whoever contemplates God through keeping watch over the thoughts which pass through his heart will be exalted by God in all of his outward deeds." ―Dhū’l-Nūn Miṣrī in ‘Aṭṭār: Tadhkirat, 154-155
Therefore contemplate yourself, for as the Sufis state, "He who knows himself knows his Lord."
Presence with God
The presence of God, the Being, has degrees. This is why we study the Tree of Life. It is a map of levels of being. Let us read the wisdom of Al-Qushayri:
“Presence with God, is to the degree of absence from oneself and the world. When it is said that so- and-so is “present,” it means that he is present in his heart with his Lord, not unconscious of Him and not distracted, in continuous recollection of Him. In that state, and according to his degree, the Truth reveals to him the spiritual meanings and secrets for which he has been chosen.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Let's examine this glyph of the Tree of Life and this statement by Al-Qushayri by asking a few questions.
How present are we in the body?
Are we aware of energy circulating and flowing in us?
Do we sense our emotions? Do we have control over what we feel, our mood, our sentiments?
Is our mind calm, or is it racing with thoughts, associations, ideas, projects, plans, day dreams, fantasies, commentaries, internal chatter?
This is mapped out on the Tree of Life, this dynamic. The lower four סְפִירוֹת sephiroth or spheres of this glyph on the right represent:
Most people who approach meditation don't even get past the body. We are usually so unaware of our body throughout the day that if one sits to practice, even if very sincere, to go inside, to introspect―the body is agitated. We have an itch. The arm wants to move. There is no control. It is impossible to relax.
Ethics are so important because the physical body must be at peace, and if we are engaging in negative behaviors all day, we are agitating our body. It becomes tense. If we are angry, we clench our fists and our teeth (some people, perhaps). We all have our tendencies, and if we don't know how to relax the body, we cannot do anything. So this is the beginning. After adopting a posture, we relax. We let the body sit. We don't move. Let it be. Let it rest.
In order to aid in this process, we work with energy: Yesod, the foundation of our spirituality. יְסוֹד Yesod in Hebrew means “foundation.” It is to work with the sexual creative energy, and within Sufism, when we work with breath, as in with any tradition, we are circulating that vital force throughout our body, our heart, and our mind. That energy helps us to relax. Deep breathing helps us to calm, helps to be still.
So after adopting a posture, are we really present with the energies of the Being through our breath, through our work, through our pranayamas, our mantras, our transmutation exercises?
As we are examining ourselves, is our mood calm?
We have to suspend emotions and to enact superior emotions through prayer. We have to pray sincerely for divinity to help us. This is not found in some formula or memorizing a complicated prayer. You can do that, and it's very beautiful and wonderful if you can, but more importantly, prayer is sincere and effective when we are genuine―not by mechanically reciting 10,000 Hail Mary’s or reciting Al-Fatihah, the opening of the Qur’an, mechanically, repetitively, without knowing its meaning.
We also have to suspend thought. Don't let the mind dictate to you your life. But this doesn't mean that we repress what we see. We have to comprehend our mind, so that it naturally, by looking at it and not investing our selves into it, it starts to settle on its own, like the waves of a lake that cease its turbulence when we no longer thrash against the waters, so to speak, with negative behavior.
This is all preliminary. When the lower four sephiroth are calm, we can learn to concentrate with willpower, with concentration. This is תִּפְאֶרֶת Tiphereth, which means “beauty,” or in Arabic, إحسان Ihsan, “beautiful action.” It is the source of all beauty and action within our very being.
Without willpower, guided by Geburah, our consciousness, our conscience, we can't affect anything. גְּבוּרָה Geburah in Hebrew means “judgment.” It is our intuition. It is knowing what is right and wrong, even if the mind does not understand.
The thread of that awareness is very subtle in us, very profound, and if we are all listening to this type of lecture or studies, it is because we're following our conscience, which is the voice of our inner Being, חֶסֶד Chesed: “mercy” in Hebrew. Or الرحيم Al-Rahim, as we state in the opening of every surah, except surah 9, in the Qur’an:
بِسْمِ ٱللَّٰهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
“In the name of Allah (the Being), the Compassionate, the Merciful.”
Mercy is Chesed. It is the Spirit. It is رو Ruh in Arabic but רוּחַ Ruach in Hebrew―the same meaning.
We have to follow our inner judgment, to know what is right and wrong from our heart. And as we learn to connect internally by suspending our body, relaxing our body, and calming our senses, the energies, suspending our emotions, withdrawing from thought and concentrating upon our inner intelligence, we learn to follow and understand the voice of judgment in ourselves, with clarity. This is why meditation is essential, to withdraw from the world internally and not to be caught up in the mind or negative emotions or lustful sensations, because they are all distractions.
So judgment in Arabic is دين Din, relating to Geburah, the sign of Mars, astrologically when you related it to this tree [of life]. The metal is iron, so going back to the study of the Iron Surah, verse 25, we can unpack this even further:
“We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.” ―Qur’an 57:25
So what is that clear evidence? It is internal experiences in your meditations, and when you are in the dream world, the astral plane, Hod. So the scriptures all emanated from the internal worlds, from the divine, from the higher sephiroth of this Tree, and it is the force of balance, because justice is the scale of balance―how you balance the deeds of your life with intelligence, which is above, בִּינָה Binah in Hebrew. It is “understanding.” It is a primordial root intelligence that is beyond matter and materiality and energy, but which is the cognizance of the most high aspects of divinity.
We have to use our balance, our judgment in how to live our life with willpower, with iron. Willpower can relate to Tiphereth, the human soul, which is the source of the most beautiful actions, as we stated.
Balance, justice, genuine religion, is a state of meditation, whereby we evaluate the contents of our mind with the scale of equanimity and the iron of concentration.
If you think of iron, it is a metal that is very solid. Is our concentration like that, or do we forget what we are doing when we sit to practice? Let us develop ourselves. Let us get serious. Let us actually develop ourselves consistently. We learn to support this teaching, the scripture, and the unseen messengers when we awaken internally. At that time, no longer are those masters invisible to us, but visible within our experiences.
The Dynamics of Absence and Presence
Absence and presence are also flexible terms amongst the Sufis. We are going to build off this explanation by reciting some quotes here. This is from Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery, the Persian manual of Sufism that is very well renown amongst Sufi circles. Samael Aun Weor, we have to remember, said that the best of Sufism comes from Persia. So this is a very valuable text to study.
“These terms, although apparently opposed to each other, express the same meaning from different points of view. “Presence” is “presence of the heart,” as proof of intuitive faith (yaqin), so that what is hidden from it has the same force as what is visible to it.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
We talked previously about certainty, اليقين Al-Yaqin. We arrive at certainty when we have inner experiences in meditation, in visions, in astral projections.
We have to become totally absent to the ego. We have to escape its conditions so that we can really see. The key is relaxation. Suspend your senses. Work with energy to empower your consciousness. Concentrate and visualize with your perception or imagination, otherwise known as insight, firasah in Sufism.
“‘Absence’” is ‘absence of the heart from all things except God’ to such an extent that it becomes absent from itself and absent even from its absence, so that it no longer regards itself; and the sign of the state is withdrawal from all formal authority, as when a prophet is divinely preserved from what is unlawful. Accordingly, absence from one’s self is presence with God, and vice versa.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So on those highest samadhis, mapped by the Tree of Life, we have no longer any conception of self-hood. We are merely the pure, clear, expansive, profound, illuminated consciousness united with the Being. Whenever we identify with thought, we lose our experiences, but at that point we no longer regard ourselves as a terrestrial person. Our identity is no longer there. There is only the Being. And it is a “withdrawal from all formal authority” because, really, the authorities of this world do not know anything of internal states, the real experiences of the Being. This is very evident if you look at the politics of humanity and all the division amongst religious and social, spiritual groups.
Withdraw from formal authority and gather your authority from your inner experiences. Rely on your own divinity to teach you what is presence and what is absence.
Degrees of Presence and Absence
To be present in our body is different from being present with divinity in the higher dimensions. Each ספירה sephirah, we could say, is a veil for what is more subtle, that which obscures our understanding of the dimensions beyond it. Entering higher worlds is uncovering veils, obscurities―seeing reality in a more profound level of nature.
So the Qur’an allegorizes this very beautifully in many symbols relating to the horizon, the sky, how “Allah makes the heavens a sign for the believers,” whether the rising sun, the setting sun, the moon. These are not literal explanations. These are symbols of qualities of Being, because if you are in the internal planes and you see these astrological bodies, they are teaching you, divinity is teaching you something profound about yourself.
If the sun sets, it means something needs to die. If the sun is rising, it means something is being born. If there are stars, it is a symbol of presence with the Being, unity with divinity at our level, deeper remembrance, clarity, perception. But if the sky is clouded, it means that we are asleep. We have a lot of ego. We are cloudy in temperament and mind.
“‘Present,’ with the sense of being back from an absence, may also be used for the servant’s return to his perception of his own condition and human situations. This, however, refers to the presence with the creation, while the first use of the term refers to presence with the truth. States of absence vary―for some Sufis, absence is not prolonged, while for others it is continuous.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So our degree of development depends upon how consistent we are in entering silence of mind, serenity, insight, our internal worlds. We stay asleep and absent if we don't practice. This is a simple law of cause and effect. For some, absence is prolonged. For others it is short, depending on our level of being. Some of us may wake up more depending on our development, our work, our efforts. States of absence are replaced with states of presence when we are consistent at our exercises.
The Subtleties of Absence and Presence
So in synthesis, the more we are absent to the ego, not identified with it, the greater our cognizance of divinity. The more attention and energy we invest in the ego, the greater our absence of and distance from the Being.
Once entering clearer states of remembrance and divine experiences, oftentimes the methods we use to reach those heights are no longer necessary. This is a very subtle thing that Al-Qushayri really explains. For example, to really be present on an object of concentration, such as a mantra, pranayama, a candle, a visualization, an image, requires that we become absent to distractions. And this is really the value of such exercises. We train ourselves to be here and now, to discover how our mind keeps us asleep, how we fantasize, how we are hypnotized.
It takes tremendous effort and energy to be focused in the beginning. However, by deepening our tranquility, it takes less effort and more familiarization with that state. And when you have achieved perfect serenity, it takes no effort, which is why Al-Qushayri states in Principles of Sufism:
“According to etymology, the disciple is ‘he who possesses will,’ just as the knower is ‘he who possesses knowledge,’ because the word belongs to the class of derived nouns. But in Sufi usage, the disciple is he who possesses no will at all!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very subtle. It means not to have any egotistical will, no desires present, no distractions, no fantasies. After we obtain perfect concentration, we don't need any effort to maintain it. We only need to be familiar with it. This is very well known within Buddhism, especially. When obtaining serenity, we are absent from desire and present within our Essence, the human soul, Tiphereth in Hebrew, Ihsan in Arabic, the beauty of the consciousness within Kabbalah.
Let us read some excerpts from this book, Revelation of the Mystery, (Khashf al-Mahjub):
“...inasmuch as all excellencies are bound up with presence, and as absence from one’s self is a way leading to presence with God, the way becomes an imperfection after you have arrived at the goal.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So when you are fully concentrated in divinity, it does not take any exertion or effort. You simply have to be present. This is a qualitative state you have to become familiar with through a lot of practice and trial and error.
“Presence (in God) is the fruit of absence (from desire), but what light is to be found in absence without presence? A man must needs renounce heedlessness (distractions, novelties, vain amusements, a distracted mind) in order that, by means of this absence, he may attain to presence (with the Being); and when he has attained to his object, the means by which he attained it has no longer any worth.
“The ‘absent’ one is not he who is absent from his country, But he who is absent from all desire.
The ‘present’ one is not he who hath no desire (longing for divinity),
But he who hath no heart (no thought of worldly things),
So that his desire is ever fixed on God.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So desire can be interpreted in different ways. Obviously in the Gnostic teachings, strictly, we use desire to refer to the ego, but some people refer, the Sufis refer poetically, semantically, to the desire for God, which is a longing―better said―for our uses, our language. Longing is different from desire, the Essence from the ego. But here, the Sufis often take the same word and give it multiple meanings in different contexts. This is the beauty of that system, the complexity of it, the subtlety.
Absence of Personality and Presence with God
The qualities of initiates, their presence in divinity, is not understood by common people. Many Sufi stories are, as I said, parables of psychological truths, initiatic principles. Many of them demonstrate not the aloofness of Sufi Masters, but the reality of mystical states. One such master, Bayazid Bastami, illustrated how we have to become lost to ourselves. Samael Aun Weor even stated in a lecture called “The Knowledge of Oneself” the following:
“We must attain a change in order to eliminate all our weaknesses. We must even lose our own personal identity. This means that the change must be radical and complete. Our personal identity, for example, "I am so and so," must be eliminated from oneself; and then one day we will find that we have no personal identity. If we truly want to become different, then obviously personal identity has to be lost. We need to convert ourselves into entirely different creatures, happy creatures; and we have the right to happiness.” ―Samael Aun Weor
I know a lot of people hear that and read that and get scandalized. This does not mean we become zombies. The Essence has a dynamic solar personality. The absence and annihilation of ego does not mean that we are soulless, without life. In fact, it means we are more creative, more brilliant, more intuitive. You possess ethical character that knows how to respond to life in its worst problems, with clarity, with equanimity, with intelligence. We must eliminate egos, nafs, so that we develop the soul that knows how to live life with efficacy and wisdom.
However, people are really afraid of this term annihilation. They run away from this term even though it is essential to every religion. Annihilating the ego is painful for people because they have never experienced anything outside of it. People don't want to approach it because they are afraid. They mistake their personality, their hatred, their impatience, their lust, their vanity, their pride, their envy, etc., as if it is true. This is a mistaken sense of self, these selves, these egos which must be removed, these nafs, these lower animal qualities that the Sufis speak abundantly about eliminating in their doctrine. And in that process we gain understanding that we are not this terrestrial personality. We are not the ego. We are something more profound, and the Sufis have a beautiful story about this:
“It is related that Dhu-l-Nun al-Misri sent one of his companions to Abu Yazid al Bistami so that the man could bring him word of Abu Yazid’s quality (meaning: his level of being). When he reached Bistam, the messenger inquired after the house of Abu Yazid and went in to see him. Abu Yazid asked, ‘What do you want?’ ‘I want Abu Yazid,’ he said. ‘Who is Abu Yazid?’ was the reply, ‘and where is Abu Yazid? I myself am in search of Abu Yazid!’
“The man went away, saying to himself, ‘This one is mad!’ He returned to Dhu-l-Nun and informed him of what he had seen. Dhu-l-Nun wept. ‘My brother Abu Yazid has left with those who go to God,’ said he.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Obviously, the Sufis play with the trope of the initiatic madman: that disciple of God who is never understood by the masses because they cannot comprehend the eccentricities and dynamic profundities of the Spirit, because they [the inituates] don't go along with conventionalisms, with vain religious beliefs and outward adherences.
So this is a symbol of something very beautiful and profound. You know, this initiate was so advanced in his work that he was saying “Where is my personality? I am looking for a self here.” Meaning, he is really scrutinizing and looking for those final egos to eliminate. You know, this is very high work. Obviously, we have thousands upon thousands of egos in the beginning, but as we advance in this process, the ego is eliminated until there are none left. So Dhu-l-Nun recognized this and cried by how beautiful this allegory is, that this initiate is saying, “I am looking for a self here and I don't find one.” This refers to initiatic hierarchy.
Presence Over Absence
However, to be truly present is a very difficult path, which is why the following teaching was given by Al-Hujwiri in Revelation of the Mystery:
“A certain man came to Junayd and said, ‘Be present with me for a moment that I may speak to thee.’ Junayd answered: ‘O young man, you demand of me something that I have long been seeking. For many years I have been wishing to become present with myself a moment, but I cannot; how, then, can I become present with you just now?’” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
You know many people have difficulty in the beginning of our studies knowing how to relate to people even, because they are so introspective and they are learning how to be present for the first time, and learning how to relate to the world in this new state is difficult, because this type of analysis and work requires a complete introversion and transformation of our attitude. But with time we learn. With practice, we learn to be present.
“Therefore, absence involves the sorrow of being veiled, while “presence” involves the joy of revelation, and the former state can never be equal to the latter. Shaykh Abu Sa’id says on the subject―
“The clouds of separation have been cleared away from the moon of love,
And the light of morning has shone forth from the darkness of the Unseen.” ―Al-Hujwiri, Revelation of the Mystery (Khashf al-Mahjub)
So again, that is symbolism from the Qur’an. If you want to know your level of being, how present you are, ask internally and let them show you the sky in the astral horizon. Do you see clouds separating you from the galaxies, from the stars, from the heavens? Or do you see the light of morning shining out of the darkness, rising as a symbol of your birth? Levels upon levels of light, presence in deeper states.
We will conclude with a statement by Samael Aun Weor which synthesizes everything we have said:
“Wherever we direct our attention, we spend creative energy.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education
So, how are we spending our attention?
What are we focused on? For how long, and why?
Why do we invest our energy in certain behaviors, in certain qualities, in certain actions?
What direction do we want to take our life?
If we are really analyzing our behavior from day-to-day, we can sit in a quiet space after our mindfulness practice, our self-observation, and remembrance throughout the day. We close our eyes, we relax, we introspect. We calm the body, calm the senses. We can work with pranayama, breath work, transmutation, mantras, etc., energy work. You can even do runes before you sit to meditate, so that you have energy circulating in you that is going to be conducive for your relaxation. Your ethics combined with energy create a very powerful conduit by which to meditate.
When you sit quietly, relax your heart through prayer. Pray to your Inner Being to show you what you need to work on and what you need to do, to help you understand your daily circumstances, your behaviors, so that you can change. Concentrate inwardly and do not let your thoughts distract you from your goal.
When you are really profoundly concentrated, your mind will be serene, especially if you are working really well with energy. You know, for people who have a very disbalanced mind or imbalanced mind, a lot of suffering, a lot of affliction, it is good to work with sacred sounds, mantras, so that you gain clarity and calm. And when the mind is still, you can focus on whatever you want to understand.
I recommend reviewing your day. Retrospect your day. How present were you in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening? Where did you forget yourself? What did you observe? What did you remember? How present were you in certain situations?
Bring this to your attention in your imagination. See it. Visualize it. Look at it. And look for those gaps in which you were not awake. Try to remember where you were, what you did, what you said, who you were with, what happened, what you were thinking, what you were feeling. We have to learn to understand what happened to us and what led us to sleep. Try to remember everything that happened. Retrospect.
There is a very powerful mantra that you can use in our tradition, in Gnosis, that can aid you in remembering your day and even your dreams, if you have just awakened from sleep and you want to remember what you just dreamed about, and by not moving your body, mentally pronounce the mantras RAOM GAOM.
Samael Aun Weor says this mantra is like dynamite. It will help you blow a pathway into the subconsciousness, the caves of the mind.
At this point in time, I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: Can you recommend a practice for trilling the R's in mantras?
Instructor: I believe you can even go on YouTube and look up Spanish pronunciations of the letter, because R is very common in Spanish. You know, there are a few videos you can probably look up and find that will teach you how to use the pronunciation of the letter R. Basically, it involves rolling your tongue at the roof of your mouth so that you can make the tongue to vibrate, but if you look online for some videos, you can definitely find some.
Question: Don't you have to move in the morning to turn off your alarm?
Instructor: So in reference to not moving your body when you physically wake up in the morning so that you can remember your dreams―this can be very difficult. I know I have had that problem where I had to get up early for work, especially before COVID-19, very early, in which my alarm would pull me out of my experiences and I had to return to my body, but sometimes, I find it difficult to remember what happened.
It takes a lot of willpower. Even if your alarms going off, hopefully, it's not too much of an annoying one. Maybe pick something that is more relaxing. You know, some meditative bells or something that is quiet. That is what I like to use for an alarm. And, I don't move. Even if I have time constraints, I concentrate on myself and do the mantra mentally so that I could remember, especially if the experience is very profound and very intense. That's something that you don't want to forget, what happened internally. And if you move your physical body when you wake up from dreams, the connection between the astral body and the physical body gets shaken, or the astral body and its memories become diffused and don't really enter the physical brain if there is too much movement.
When you wake up in the morning, obviously, there is a connection that is very vital and sensitive, which is why we shouldn't move the body, just in the same way that you can't reflect the images of a lake, of the heavens, if the water is rippling with movement. The same principle applies here. But, if you really want to remember your dreams, I just recommend don't move. If your alarm is really annoying, then as I said, maybe change it.
Question: We have a question about awakening. Does it happen suddenly or is it more like a process happening gradually?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor mentions in The Perfect Matrimony that awakening is gradual. Now, there are moments in which we can gain greater clarity, such as through an ecstasy or samadhi, an experience that is very divine, mostly because we get help. The Sufis spend a lot of time talking about the blessings of the initiates called بركة barakah in Arabic or the Hebrew version of בָּרוּךְ Baruch, meaning “blessings.” So as the Jews say, ברוך אתה אדוני Baruch Attah Adonai, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” and Barakah is the blessings of a master when they give light to us, so that we can have a temporary experience that gives us some kind of illumination.
Now, as for developing that completely in us in its full totality, it happens naturally over a process, gradually. Because just as a tree doesn't grow into a profound oak, from a sapling in one day, it happens through a process, a temporality. It takes time, in conventional language. So the important thing is not to be impatient with wanting experiences or development, because you have to be really tenacious about our exercises and to work even if we feel like we are not getting results, because with time you will see the roots of your practice. So it happens gradually.
Question: Does the degree of ego elimination one achieves in a single practice depend on the complexity of the ego?
Instructor: I would say the degree of ego elimination occurs in accordance with the depth of our comprehension. If it's a really complex ego, obviously, it's going to take more comprehension, which means that if our understanding is more profound and deep, we are going to really eliminate the roots.
But for that, we have to really be absent from the body physically and be present internally, to go inside and even in the higher dimensions to investigate the source of those egos that we have to really analyze.
Comprehension is what grants us the degrees of elimination. How much do we understand? Because if you don't understand the depths of an ego, we can't really eliminate it in its roots. Obviously, there are egos that are very superficial, that exist within the higher levels of the mind, but in the depths we have to go very profoundly into ourselves, and that is a very long work, a very patient work.
Question: My understanding of the Nous atom is that this is the Christic atom of our heart, or in our heart. (Instructor’s explanation: for those of you are not familiar, it is in the left ventricle of our heart itself). How do you reconcile this with your reference to the ego as nous or spelled n, o, u, s, e?
Instructor: So, in Arabic the term for ego is نَفْس nafs: n-a-f-s. νοῦς Nous in Greek is different. That is the Christic atom as you mentioned, but ego is nafas or nafs in Arabic. So different, different terminology. Obviously, the ego has nothing to do with the Atom Nous because the Atom Nous is a very divine spiritual influence in us, which also relates to Geburah, to Din, to justice in Arabic. Allah-Din, the conscience and judgment of God. It relates to our Atom Nous, which is used to judge nafs, the lower soul, the animal egos we have to eliminate.
Question: Explain the difference between general spaciness with absence, for I found it hard to relate with this world anyway. Too much introspection has left me a few friends.
Instructor: So I like that you asked that question, because it relates to a very serious problem amongst many Gnostics. You know, some people can easily read the term absence within Sufi language and conflate it with being spacey or imbalanced, not knowing how to socially relate to others. And of course, the stories within Sufism seem to correlate or explain, or show that dynamic especially, that the Sufi masters are just out there.
I think that is part of the appeal in Western societies, that these Sufi masters have a type of understanding that goes against conventionalities. Now, while there is a level of credence to that, at the same time, if we are learning to be absent from the ego and present with our consciousness, it doesn't mean that we are going to be spacey people, like zombies, not knowing how to relate to other people. In fact, these are states of consciousness in a more profound sense, levels of being.
We have to learn how to be present in our daily life, that is the important thing, especially as beginners. We need to learn how to be absent to our ego but also present in our body, present in our consciousness, so that we know how to relate to the world. There is a very fatal polarity in this term of absence, in such that we can be so introspective that we don't know how to relate to other people, and this is mistaken.
The important thing is that when we introspect, we also have to be aware of the world outside of us, to know how to relate our internal world with the external world. This is why we spent a lot of time in our last lecture talking about contraction and expansion. We have to be aware of our surroundings, expansive in our cognizance of the people we are surrounded with or surrounded by, and also contracted or attentive to our internal states. We have to analyze our personal states and our external events, and the relationship thereof. This is what Samael Aun Weor mentions as the requisites in his book Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology. We have to be present in the body, present of our internal states, introspective, but not being antisocial. That is very different. That is a personality problem, typically.
You know, it is also egos of awkwardness that don't know how to relate to people in certain situations. If you eliminate egos of awkwardness and observe that in yourself and really destroy them with comprehension in your meditations, you are going to learn how to be more social and ethical, and even funny.
I will relate to you an experience I had long time ago, because in the beginning of my studies I had this problem, where I was so introspective that I didn't know how to relate to people, and so I lost a number of friends and was becoming very sour at my practice, until finally my Being came to me in the astral plane and reprimanded me. He showed me some instructional videos teaching me what I needed to do. He said I needed to be, and this is the funny part, “like Bill Murray,” and I was kind of shocked by this answer. What I saw in his relationships, in the video with other people, that he was very social and funny. People liked him, but at the same time, I could see that this representation of this actor was being very serious in his work. Meaning, there was the thread of continuity of attention there, but meanwhile, knowing how to relate to other people in a very humorous way. I mean it's a funny experience, but a very objective one. You know, I have meditated on that for quite a while now, but it really helped me because I was being very negative in my practice, thinking that introspection has to do with not relating to people―and this is wrong.
Being absent to the ego means to enact positive states or qualities of Essence, of Being, and in this way, you develop better friends, better friendships. You know how to relate to people more. You know how to support your community better, how to help others, how to be helped, how to receive help without that morbidity or shame that usually accompanies that type of introspection that is negative.
Question: In comparison, the partial opening of the eyes of Buddha, does it symbolize the need to be aware of the outside world?
Instructor: I am sure there is a lot of symbolism in that, or different representations of Buddha, but yes, that is part of it. We have to be aware of the outside world but also introspecting within. So again, contraction and expansion are represented by that common depiction of the Buddha. Buddha simply means “awakened one,” which is the purpose of our exercises in our studies in Gnosticism.
Question: I am a medical provider amongst homeless communities in Los Angeles. It can be quite stressful during the day as we deal with life and death situations, or situations that deal with heavy drug use and sex work. How can I keep the consciousness awake in these scenarios? I tend to think about my patients in meditation, which I struggle with at times.
Instructor: This is a very delicate thing. It's important that we feel safe, that we feel protected, that we feel awake, and also that we are really taking care of our own health, especially if we have a job that is very difficult. I never worked as a medical provider, but I have had other jobs that have been pretty taxing on my mental and emotional health, and in those situations―where it was not necessarily life and death, but very confrontational or difficult, and in your case, dealing with life and death situations or negative influences―it is important to really work with energy. You know, it could be very draining to be in those circumstances and you can often feel very disempowered, whether by the system one works in or one's own abilities, feeling insufficient or deficient or doubtful. Your profession is obviously a very noble one and it is very much needed, so if this is something that your Being is pushing you to do and if it's able to provide your necessities for your life, then obviously you have to follow your conscience.
But again, if you find that there are difficulties that you can't handle, it's important to be safe, especially, to protect oneself and to create a space in oneself and even one's physical life in order to be able to handle those circumstances. I recommend, if you find that it's difficult to deal with the situations, it's hard to see it and understand it and to overcome the shock of it, to work with exercises like the runes. I remember at one of my jobs where I had to deal with, you know, pretty difficult clients, very difficult people that I had a hard time transforming the impressions of, I would do hours of runes. I would have breaks during my day, sometimes for an hour and a half or more, and I would just, instead of prepping for my day or doing other things, I would do the Rune Fah, the Rune Dorn, the seven vowels, for a long time. I would charge myself with enough energy so that I felt awake. I felt aware, and I felt concentrated in myself.
You know, the Rune Dorn is very powerful for that. It develops Christ will, solar will, so that we can learn to handle really horrible situations with grace. But of course, you have to learn balance. You can work with those runes, really practice them deeply, for a long time if you can. Give yourself enough energy to empower your Essence so that you can transform the situation, and also meditate on your reactions too. But depending on your abilities and your health, emotionally, especially with this kind of work, you need to evaluate or really consider, you know, what is going to be best for you. We have to sacrifice for humanity, but at the same time, we have to take care of ourselves too, so that is something that you need to be the judge of. But runes are especially powerful for that. Study the Magic of the Runes. Those Gnostic exercises, those yogic postures are really powerful. They can really help you.
Question: Are there times where the Being will place symbols within physical life, similar to dream symbols, that speak another language, of intuition? Often times, I feel that my Divine Mother is speaking to me in a circumstance in life where a particular event happens, which helped me to reflect, or even numbers appearing within the physical life or the physical world. Can these have meaning here within physical life, and how can you become a vigilant one without being overly tired the next day? Or perform a vigil without being overly tired the next day?
Instructor: So let's break down this question step by step. “Are there times where the Being will place symbols within our physical life, similar to the dream symbols, that speak in the language of dreams, intuition?” There can be that relationship. You know, some people have reported having experiences internally, and then that same circumstance unfolds itself physically. I have had this happen to myself many times.
Now, typically from my experience, I found that the symbols of dreams have an allegorical depth. They have a profound relationship to physical life. They explain physical circumstances, but not necessarily, you know, we wake up and then we see the same symbol from the dream. My experience has been that dreams show us something much more prophetic, and that the symbols represent qualities of being, but also how different relationships or circumstances can play out. For example, I remember one experience (I mentioned this in the Beginning Self-transformation course) that I had an astral experience where I was driving down Lakeshore Drive in Chicago, when at 4:00 am in the middle of the morning, when it was pitch-black, my mother in the dream, my physical mother, stopped me as I was driving my car. She asked me to get out, so I let her take the wheel and I got in the passenger seat, and then I woke up. Later that day, physically, I had an ordeal or circumstance in which I was at a drive-through in a Starbucks―going out of town from Chicago with my wife, to get away from COVID-19 and get into the woods, enjoy some recreation―when a person in the line had driven past me and rolled down his window. He didn't really say anything extremely offensive. But you know, I took it as an offense, and my ego was, my rage and anger was building up from that moment. And so my wife said, “I see you're getting upset here. Let me take the wheel.” So I got out of the car, she took the driver's seat, and I sat in the passenger seat and was reflecting on my own anger until I could comprehend four egos I need to work on and eliminate.
Literally in the dream, my mother, my Divine Mother better said, took control of my car, which is symbolically representing my mind, but even in the physical ordeal, my wife took the car or took the wheel, and I got out into the passenger seat. So that literally did happen. So it’s possible―more importantly for me, this was a symbol of multiple layers of meaning. Physically is one component, but more importantly, my Divine Mother, my Being, was controlling my mind and helping me to work on my ego, because it was pitch black in the dream. My mind was dark. I wasn't seeing clearly, and that allowed a certain ego to manifest in me, or certain egos to manifest in me that could have created problems.
So let's look at the rest of your question. “Often times, I feel that my Divine Mother is speaking to me in a circumstance in life or a particular event happens which helps me to reflect.”
So yes, our dreams reflect the quality of our daily life. So this is direct correlation.
“Even numbers appearing within physical existence or life, can these have meaning here within physical life itself?” I would say there could be a relationship, but as I related a quote earlier regarding Samael Aun Weor and the struggle of the opposites from The Revolution of the Dialectic, it’s important not to fill our life with too many sermons, symbols, meanings, allegories, warnings. Learn to live with a receptive mind, and in that way you can interpret how your dreams relate to your physical existence without imposing or projecting any beliefs onto what we see.
So how do you perform a vigil without being over the tired the next day? Well, the purpose is to sacrifice one's energy and time to do these practices. They could be difficult. Hopefully if you have time to sleep in later that's good, but part of the constituency of this exercise is that you stay up and meditate and practice, so that you can really go deeper in your work, even though it's going to make you tired. But obviously, find balance in what you do.
Question: I didn't really comprehend the parable of the blacksmith placing his hand in the fire. That his name represents a metal alchemically.
Instructor: Yes, his name was Al-Haddad, which in Arabic relates to Al-Hadid, which is basically almost spelled the same. Al-Hadid means “The Iron,” and there is a surah in the Qur’an called “The Iron,” specifically, where we read a quote or excerpt in relation to that story.
It is a symbol of how we use our willpower, represented by the metal iron within alchemy, to control our mind. It is willpower. We use our will power to work with the fire, the sexual energy, specifically. When he placed his hand into the fire, he didn't get burned. This is the literal meaning of the story, but symbolically it refers to how when we are alchemists, we learn to work with the sexual energy and not get burned by it, because we are in the remembrance of the divine. We are in the presence of divinity. Because in the story, he was listening to the Qur’an while he was working in his shop, and so the meaning thereof is that he was remembering the recitation, because Qur’an in Arabic is “recitation,” and it refers to his remembrance or continuity of remembering divinity. You know traditionally in Islam, they will recite the Qur’an musically, verbally, with a lot of beautiful intonations and expression. That is a practice that is very profound. I like to listen to those recitations quite a lot, because the melodies are very beautiful, but also the power in the verses is very profound if we know Kabbalah and Alchemy. They would recite, and they do recite the Qur’an as a form of remembrance. That is a text that is very beautiful, and like any scripture, we can remember divinity if we are really studying it astutely, very deeply.
When the blacksmith in the story, Al-Haddad was listening to the Qur’an, it is a reference to how he is really seeing the teachings and understanding them and practicing them. In that way, we can overcome many ordeals, symbolically. It doesn't mean we are going to put our hand into a forge and pull out hot iron because we hear the Qur’an, literally. The language of the Sufis is symbolic, so we approach those stories with a lot of subtlety in relation to psychological work: Psychology, Kabbalah and Alchemy.
The following transcription is from an audio lecture on Sufi Principles of Meditation, a course originally delivered live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
Everything in nature is in movement, in flux. Every phenomenon in the entire universe possesses its own rhythm, temporality, and flow.
As we explained in the previous lecture, breath is in a state of transience. This parallels cosmic periods of manifestation, of activity, and of repose. Just as our breath constitutes the flux, the pervasiveness of life, the expression of the soul, so too does the consciousness manifest in different states, with different qualities of being, of expression. If you have studied Gnosticism for some time, we always remember that consciousness has infinite levels, from the most basic, the most primordial, that which is germinal―to the most refined, the most beautified, the most sacred, as demonstrated by the quality of life and mind of the greatest initiates, the greatest meditators: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, Prophet Muhammad, Samael Aun Weor.
Consciousness as we currently possess it is not developed, because our daily state is mostly constituted of negative qualities: distraction, affliction, suffering. All traditions teach that the human being is a germ for sacred individuality and consciousness. We possess the body of a human, a humanoid organism, but our mind, as has been demonstrated, is animal. Our mind always chases after cravings. We run away from unpleasant situations, aversive things. All the while we are ignorant of how our own internal psychology produces pain, produces suffering.
This is why we study and practice meditation. We want to learn how to develop our complete potential, so that we cease suffering. We suffer because we don't readily perceive how our own nafs, nafas, animal defects, egos, keep us hypnotized and asleep. We go through life feeling that we are unitary, when in truth we are humanoids in a constant state of contradiction. We are a multiplicity, and this is something very important to remember, because in Sufism and Islam, those initiates speak abundantly about the unity of God.
This is declared in the Shahadah, the Muslim declaration of faith, that “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.” To state this with conviction is something extremely sacred, very profound. It means to have a concentrated will without any defect whatsoever―no idol, no negative crystallization in the mind, no naf, no ego, no blemish, no fault. This is how we really obey divinity, to reach those heights, and that is the definition of a true Gnostic, a true Muslim, a true Sufi.
We can only really say that divinity is one when we ourselves are singular. We have to unify the consciousness. We have to purify the consciousness. The Essence must not be conditioned anymore, because each ego, desire, vice, error, conditions and traps who we really are. And because of our different defects, which pull us in multiple directions, we are fractured.
We are distracted, moving in many directions at once, and also spiritually going nowhere. This has to change. This is why we study concentration of mind, concentration of will, meditation. God wants to express His perfection in us, but for that, the soul, the consciousness, the Essence, must be pure.
So meditation is the science that leads us to that unity, to the unification of the consciousness To develop consciousness, we study ethics. We practice purity. We work with energy. We work with our breath to empower our consciousness, so that it opens the inner doorway to understanding. As we are working with these preliminaries, we have to really study how the consciousness works, and for this the Sufis speak abundantly about two very important types of consciousness: contraction and expansion. For the sake of clarity, it will be good to define these terms within conventional english.
“Contraction is the process of becoming smaller. Some synonyms include shrinking, reduction in size, shrinkage, decline, decrease, dwindling, down tick; it is the process in which a muscle becomes, or is made, shorter and tighter.” This is similar to “tightening, tensing, flexing, constricting.” ―Online Dictionary
All of these definitions point towards a restriction or limiting, a heightened focus, a type of diminution, to really concentrate and restrict our vision to one thing.
The opposite of contraction is expansion. This definition includes:
“The action of becoming larger or more extensive. This is similar to growth, increase in size, and enlargement, extension, augmentation, development, evolution, build up, build-out, scaling up, spread, proliferation, multiplication, mushrooming, evolvement. It is the extension of a state’s territory by encroaching on that of other nations pursued as a political strategy,” (as an example of what expansion involves or as typically understood). ―Online Dictionary
These definitions relate how something within a small space moves outward to fill something greater in volume, much like smoke rising and filling the sky during a campfire.
We find contraction and expansion in our breathing process. When we inhale air, our lungs expand, and when we exhale, our lungs contract, so that we can expel toxins and waste from the body. Likewise, the heart, when it fills with blood, the heart expands, and when pumping blood through the body, it contracts. This flux or rhythm in our body is essential to daily life.
While this is very true, we also possess, in our consciousness, states of contraction and expansion. These are fundamental and necessary for our spirituality, for psychological balance, for our meditation. All this of course is guided by divinity, for as the great Sufi poet Rumi taught:
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” ―Rumi
Let us explain what contraction and expansion mean in regards to states of consciousness.
Definitions of Contraction and Expansion
So in meditation we study two very profound principles, which can aid us in awakening our consciousness. These are attention and awareness.
Attention is highly focused. It is directed. It is concentrated. If I were to tell you to direct your attention to your right thumb, you would experience a shift in your consciousness. You can try this at this moment.
You may suddenly have awareness or cognizance of your right thumb because you have directed your attention to it. Yet, how many of us were actually aware of our thumb, our hand, our fingers, our body? Probably before I even mentioned it, you might not have been paying attention, because you were following the thread, the continuity of my voice, and the ideas we are expressing.
Let's try another experiment. Become aware of your surroundings. What is your home like where you are at? Are you driving and listening to this lecture? Become aware of the street. Become aware of your surroundings. Become aware of your environment. No matter the time, the weather, the place, the people around you, or if there are no people, become aware of your external situation.
Not only should we be aware of our environment, but we have to be aware of whatever task we are involved in. How attentive are we right now to my words? Are we maintaining a continuity of directed attention towards these ideas that I am presenting to you? Or are we thinking of other things? Are we making a mechanical associations in our mind, such as “I heard something similar to this before,” or “this reminds me of another lecture I heard.” It could be any type of commentary in the mind, in the intellect.
Or as you have been listening to this conversation, this lecture, have you lost the thread of what was being said because you got distracted? Do you remember or did you forget what I said a minute ago?
So this little experiment reveals something very interesting. If we are talking in our heads instead of being attentive to this lecture, it means we are not conscious. Likewise, if we are not aware of our environment, we are also asleep. The Essence is not awake.
This is why we practice meditation, because the consciousness needs training. We typically get distracted very easily, and so in the beginning, we need more focus. We need will. We need concentration on whatever activity of life we engage in. However, many times we also tend to go through our home, the bedroom, our neighborhood, without any cognizance of our surroundings. We do so blindly, because we don't see what is new. We have a representation of our environment in our mind to which we relate, or we are so deep and lost in reverie and thought that we don't notice what is going around us.
What is happening? We could be driving our car in an alley and suddenly come across a person, perhaps someone who was injured lying on the ground, something very unusual. And if I am relating this example, it is because this happened to me today. I was driving my car back to my home after being away from work, and I suddenly realized as I was driving that a group of people were standing near the side of the alley where I usually park. There was a person who was injured or not moving. I was shocked. Obviously, you know, I spoke with the people there, that they had called the police and they were going to get an ambulance. You know, this is such a shocking and alarming thing, disturbing.
In that moment, I felt very alert, because I realized I wasn't paying attention. I was expecting that I was going to go home according to my routine, according to mechanicity, and it took awareness of my surroundings and a person driving the other direction to roll down their window and tell me that something was ahead. So we are very sleepy, and we have to train ourselves to be aware of what is happening at all times.
We have to remember that the consciousness is like a light. It is perception itself. When we lack attention and awareness, it means that the light of our consciousness is diffused. It means that our light is obscured, because our mind, our egos, our defects, keep us preoccupied. We invest our energy, our light, into them. The ego, like a moon, has eclipsed our sun.
So when we talk about these principles, we have to remember that attention is like a flashlight. When you use a flashlight, you direct it. You concentrate it. You focus it.
Now, awareness is a little different. It is expansive. It has volume. It is luminous. It is amplified. It spreads outward in its radiance and radius towards our surroundings, when we do so willingly.
Perhaps with these examples you can see where we are headed when talking about the Sufi teachings on contraction and expansion. So the Sufis explain that contraction and expansion, focus and broad spatiality, are attention and awareness. So contraction is when our attention is focused on one thing. So, as I was driving my car today and a person in the other lane pulled up and rolled down their window, I was contracted in my attention. I was directing my attention to that person, but I wasn't aware of what was ahead of me. I had a shift in my consciousness when I suddenly realized what was going on. So this is an example of how with contraction, we are focused on one thing, but with awareness, it is a broad spatial perception. We become aware of our surroundings.
Contraction in Self-Observation
So contraction also happens in our work of self-observation. This is really important to understand. When we study our different defects, our egos, moment by moment, we are focused on our interior. So while it's true that we have to be aware of what is happening outside of us, we have to divide our attention inside. You know, often times when we make a mistake, we can also feel a contraction in our heart, a state of remorse, and we can feel and exclaim or feel that we have really done something stupid.
As I am explaining these concepts, there is a lot of dynamic range with these principles. Here I am introducing just a few, but basically contraction and expansion occurs in self-observation, especially―the work of the ego. We can experience a state of contraction, of heightened focus, when we catch a defect within our three brains, because we are observing, we are conscious and attentive of our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. Usually we can feel the pangs of conscience, the remorse of the soul whenever we come upon very disturbing egos, very big errors that we created, that we are responsible for.
Self-observation amongst the Sufis is muhasabah, inner-accounting. In this work, we have to take an account of our psychological states, those defects we have in abundance and those virtues we must develop further. This principle is very important. This is the foundation of gathering data about ourselves, so that we can achieve annihilation of the ego, fana, in Arabic. There is only reunion with the Being when the ego is fully dead. So we have to study ourselves. We have to observe ourselves.
Expansion in Awareness
So expansion is awareness, and through it we experience an amplified state, a magnification and a deepening of our perception of everything around us. Have you ever noticed on a rainy day, walking down the street of your home city or town or wherever you may be, and have really contemplated a sunset? The vibrancy and color, the depth, the beauty, the profundity of the moment? The way that leaves shift in the wind, or how puddles form upon the streets, the stones, the architecture around you, the buildings? With a state of awareness or expansion, we are deeply enmeshed, aware of everything surrounding ourselves in the moment. We have to learn to develop that clarity, because it helps us to go deep into our own consciousness. The consciousness is very dynamic, as we are saying.
It can expand outward, but also it can focus on a point inside, which in our works of self-observation, is the work of the ego―understanding the relationship between the ego, personal states, and external events. Both qualities: attention and awareness, contraction and expansion, are often depicted as two poles within Sufism, two opposites. However, they are both essential as Rumi was teaching us, because both principles or qualities of consciousness help us to be well-rounded.
There is an exercise in our tradition, or in many schools of meditation. To learn to cease thinking so much, we can pay attention to our surroundings, whether it be a deep walk in the woods, a hike in nature, in which we focus on the external world and the beauty of our surroundings. But also we need to learn to develop internal insight, focus, attention upon our different egotistical states, and also how our ego relates to the external world. This provides a comprehensive basis by which to gather data for our meditations.
Levels of Contraction and Expansion
So attention and awareness are developed in levels, in accordance with the level of being of the practical meditator. A true Gnostic, a true Sufi, a true Muslim, experiences these states with will, because they trained themselves for many years. Meditation masters also experience these states in an open, receptive way, because the Being determines for them through intuition, through influence, through inquietudes, a hunch, what to focus on and what to become aware of. Our Being can guide us in our daily life when we learn to connect with that inner conscience, the continuity of awareness and self-observation or remembrance of the divine. So bearing this in mind, we can begin to approach this very high level of understanding by examining what the Sufis taught. The following is from Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“Contraction is to the gnostic what fear is to the beginner, and expansion is to the gnostic what hope is to the beginner.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Beginners fear many things, including the exploration of the ego. Many people are afraid to look inside of themselves because of the ugliness that they have, and this is a normal reaction, but we have to learn to overcome our own nausea and disgust, to quote Nietzsche from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So contraction can be focused on very unpleasant things, egotistical, negative states, but we have to learn to look inside, to feel that constriction and contraction of our attention, especially in moments of pain. We have to look at ourselves without running away. We have to not repress what we see, and we have to not justify it either. This is essential to develop maturity in this work.
Also, beginners hope to have awakened states, awareness of the superior worlds, through this discipline, and the Gnostics, those great masters of meditation, also enjoy an expansion of consciousness in the superior worlds through their meditation, their meditative practices.
"The distinction between contraction and fear and expansion and hope, is that fear only relates to something in the future, whether it be the loss of something dear or the onset of something dreaded. Hope likewise only relates to future events―the anticipation of something one likes or the awaited disappearance of something one dreads, the expected end of something one hates.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So beginners, we fear the uncertainties of the future, whether it be material or spiritual loss, difficult situations, challenges in life, ordeals. Likewise, we also hope for spiritual advancement and internal experiences in this path.
Yet, while these are normal sentiments for beginning meditators, we must learn to focus entirely on the moment, to be aware of all of its rich, enlightened, golden mysteries―alert novelties, the truth, the unknown.
"Contraction, however, is a subtle impact produced in the moment itself and the same is the case with expansion. The heart of the one who experiences fear and hope is attached by its two states to the future, while the “now” of the one who experiences contraction and expansion is captured by a feeling that overpowers him in the present.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is fundamental. We have to stop daydreaming. We have to stop thinking of some utopian future where experiences will come easily, by grace, that we must reach some plateau of wisdom and that the work is somehow magically done, easy, like blowing glass. Likewise, it's important to stop fearing the future and to mull over the past. It is important to have remorse and sincere work upon our errors, but not to be hypnotized by our histories, by our tragedies. We have to develop attention and awareness in the present. This occurs through self-observation.
Dynamics of Contraction
Al-Qushayri relates a very beautiful teaching that I would like to share with you:
"As the Sufis’ states differ, the quality of their contraction and expansion also differs. Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains. Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful and profound. There is a lot of meaning here that I'd like to unpack for you. One of the defining characteristics of self-observation, that we are really focusing our attention well, is that we do not become identified with what we perceive. Samael Aun Weor explains that to gather data about our defects, we need a division of attention. We need to separate our Essence, our consciousness, from the ego. This is basic. Without this, we cannot meditate. Without this, we cannot perceive anything clearly.
So the consciousness, the Essence is the one that observes. It is perception itself. It is alert, focused, clear attention. The Essence, the liberated consciousness must observe the ego, our defects, our vices, within our three brains. The ego is what is observed. We have to observe our internal reactions to external life, much in the same way that a director of a film, films an actor in a drama, a comedy, a tragedy. These dramas, comedies and tragedies of life are the external events, the situations, the circumstances of our existence.
We must not invest our energy externally towards anything outside of us. But we must become hermetically sealed. This means that when we respond to situations, we do not waste energy. We don't give energy to negative thoughts. We don't empower negative emotions and we don't hurt ourselves through negative actions. This is an intuitive, qualitative state in which we have to make many mistakes, because we are learning. This is why we meditate. We clear our mind. We review the events of our day in which our ego acted, in which the self, the conditioned mind, emerged within the screen of our attention.
So hermetical sealing, to be closed within, means to not waste our precious, conscious potential, because “Wherever we direct our attention, we expend creative energy,” says Samael Aun Weor. We have to be very clear, and to really be patient with ourselves, because it is not something we are going to master in one day. Instead, we learn to differentiate between egotistical states and conscious states.
You will know it through experience. What states of being produce happiness, liberation, contentment? And what states produce our suffering? We have explained this in depth previously.
So in relation to this quote, for some disciples:
“Under one sort of influence, which is not total, contraction is produced but the possibility of outside concerns remains.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So we can be gathering data about the ego, such as a state of anger when we are criticized. We may still be a little bit identified with the event even though we are observing. We are consciously working not to invest ourselves into that element. So there are degrees of identification and degrees of remembrance, levels of being, “Light upon light,” says the Qur’an [24:35].
However, if we are really working seriously and very well, psychologically, if we are meditating on our mistakes and really working to retrospect at the end of our day, to catch those defects that emerged in certain events, we learn the distinct qualities of conditioning and we learn not to make those mistakes again, because we are comprehending more and more, how those errors manifest, how they feed, how they sustain, and how they pass. So if we are really working well, we do not lose any of our energy through the ego.
As Al-Qushayri states:
“Other people in a state of contraction may find that the influence affecting them permits no access to outside concerns. Thus one of these said, “I am a barrier”―that is, “There is no means of entry in me.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
We become a barrier. No matter how bad things are externally, we do not internalize negativity at all. Samael Aun Weor stated, “Shut your doors to negativity.” This doesn't mean that we abandon certain friends or family members who may be toxic. There is some credence to this. If we need some space, it could be good to associate or disassociate with certain crowds. This is basic. But in reality, this principle relates to how we shut our psychological doors, because we can't avoid negativity at all times. We have to face the reality of life and the social conflicts of our humanity. We have to learn not to identify with any problem, to shut out any possibility of investing ourselves in the world's problems.
It doesn't mean we ignore those problems or don't do anything about them. It means that psychologically we have a space, a clarity, a serenity that is not shaken, so that we can learn to focus on those issues with greater understanding and comprehension. When we are serene and insightful, we can respond to life with efficacy, but this is learned through experience.
Dynamics of Expansion
So these principles also relate to expansion, to awareness. Al-Qushayri states:
“This is also how it is for people in the state of expansion. There may be an expansion in someone that widens his nature but does not cut him off from the majority of ordinary things. And there may be someone in bast who will not be affected by anything at all.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So when you expand conscious awareness, a broad spatial perception, a vividness of your surroundings, you learn to stop thinking. This is not forced. It is not repression. It is the natural quietude and silence of the mind. Our problem is that we invest too much in our internal chatter. By taking in the data of our surroundings, when we learn to have a receptive mind. As I said, such as through walks or hikes in nature, we can enter a very deep state of consciousness in which we are cut off from mundane things.
So the reality is that nothing around us is mundane, but it is rather our projection of our mind. We have to learn to see each moment as a golden child of Gnosis. You can study this in the “The Struggle of the Opposites,” a chapter in The Revolution of the Dialectic by Samael Aun Weor, in which he describes how we overcome the illusions of the mind. And of course, there are degrees. There are levels to this. Sometimes we enter deep states of expansion, of awareness, but part of our mind is still stuck, is identified. Yet, with the most lucid perception according to Al-Qushayri, “there may be someone in expansion (bast) who will not be affected by anything at all.” We can become so aware of the details of life with such awareness, such clarity, like in a lucid dream, an astral experience, a samadhi, an ecstasy of the soul, that nothing can break that continuity easily.
Of course in the beginning, we struggle. We want to experience and maintain these lucid states at will. This is why we have different practices of concentration and awareness to help us focus our attention, but also develop more vividness, an amplification of our perception, our awareness.
The Signs of Contraction and Expansion
So as I mentioned, contraction-expansion are very broad principles. They have multiple levels of application and meaning according to the three levels or degrees of Sufism: Shariah, Tariqah, Haqiqah / Ma’rifah, or the introductory, the intermediate, and the advanced teaching.
So contraction, as a heightened focus, can occur during an ordeal, especially. In the beginning of our ethical discipline, we have to learn to become aware of everything that is happening outside and inside. When we feel remorse for a defect that we have observed in the moment, which is causing us a lot of pain, we have to really see it for what it is. This is impossible if we don't divide attention inward, but also have awareness of our external events.
We also experience expansions of a positive nature when we discover how to use our virtues, when we receive spiritual insight to a problem, that relieves us of a certain suffering and pain. So on one level, contraction feels like a restriction, and it can even sound painful when someone is restricted, is limited. But that inward contraction is necessary in this work, because if we don't confront our defects and feel that pain of remorse in our conscience, we will never change. It is through that introspective work, when we liberate consciousness and really pinpoint the defects we want to work on, that we can really work towards their elimination and expand our knowledge, our Being.
“One of the lowest causes of contraction is the arrival in the heart of a feeling brought on by a sign of divine reproof or a hint that one deserves punishment. This inevitably produces a contraction in the heart. Other feelings may be prompted by an indication, through a sort of kindness and welcome, of approach to God or response from Him. This produces an expansion in the heart.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Degrees of Contraction
There are degrees of contraction and expansion, which again, as we stated, process in accordance with the level of being of the meditator. There are levels to our conscience, a restriction of the heart, whereby we feel a certain intuition, a sudden sentiment that a specific behavior is wrong. The more we listen to our conscience, the deeper we go in our understanding. It is a fundamental principle.
The intellect cannot resolve problems. The heart, our conscience, is what knows how to perceive reality and to understand. The less we follow our states of introspection of contraction, of inner focus, of remorse and analysis, the more we depart from religion, from the teaching, because we disconnect ourselves. We don't listen to what our heart is telling us, what is right and what is wrong. We feel that contraction in our heart, that pain, that deep suffering, perhaps about an action we took in the past that we want to rectify, or feel that we can't. That is contraction, a very deep and profound one. And so these two principles really complement each other. They are both essential, as stated in this scripture, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism:
“In general, the degree of contraction of which someone is capable is the same as his potential expansion and his expansion is to the degree of his contraction.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So think of a heart that is perfectly balanced by its pumping of blood, its restrictive and expanding movements, just in the same way as Rumi said that the two wings of a bird extend and contract in order to create flight.
“There may be a contraction whose cause is unclear to the one who experiences it. He finds in his heart a state of contraction for which he perceives no reason or motive.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So here we may feel remorse, but we don't understand why, and this is why we have to gain clarity. We have to review a particular moment in the day in which we were confused, or we are suffering with a problem, to visualize it and to see it in our imagination, our perception, and to look for the cause, to introspect, to look, and to wait. Therefore, the Sufis state:
"The proper course of action for such a one is submission until that moment passes from him. If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase, and [his efforts] might be counted against him as an infringement of the principles of spiritual conduct.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So this has to do with moments of observation. We must be mindful of the moment. We must be attentive, alert, aware. We have to be receptive to internal states of Being. This is a quality of the heart, the remembrance of the presence of God. We have to remember that distinct quality of communion with our own inner Spirit as we carefully scrutinize the ego.
So again, it is a division of attention. We are observing our defects, where we are remembering that we are the Essence, which belongs to the Being. We have to learn to act appropriately towards each external event with the appropriate internal state. So sometimes in an ordeal, perhaps we are really criticized very hard and we feel a lot of resentment, pride, hatred, and a conglomeration of different egos and defects emerging in that scene. Sometimes the best thing is to wait. Be patient. Learn to see the impression of that person, the aggressor, with serenity, with compassion, with gladness.
We have to really transform our perceptions of life, and this is not easy, because we want to retaliate, to react egotistically. If we react in the moment, we constrict ourselves even more, in a manner of speaking. We make our situation worse, because if we argue back, we create conflict. So it is better to comprehend the situation, to look at it, to not let the ego react, and let anger subside. As Prophet Muhammad taught, "The strongest among you is he who controls his anger." If we don't do this, we do not submit to God, to the rules of the moment.
So Al-Qushayri continues:
“If he were to try to refuse it by his efforts or to bring on the moment [of the conclusion of this state] before it comes upon him of itself, his contraction would increase…” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So as I said, we tend to react to life. Here we need to learn to wait, to be patient, and sometimes in a situation, we have to respond quickly, and this is the great temptation of the mind. The ego reacts and wants to intervene. It is a mechanical reaction to life, but with patience and observation, we can wait for the appropriate internal state to follow our heart, so that we know how to respond with consciousness. To not do so is to contract oneself, to be delimited, to be egotistical, to be vain. Remember that the mind makes a swing between the battle of the opposites, “Should I or should I not retaliate to this critic?” Our mind also goes between how to get revenge, or perhaps we want to run away. Neither are viable, depending on the situation―in most cases. If we are just having an argument or a conflict at work or with a family member, instead, intuitive action, beyond the duality of oppositional thinking, leads the awakening of the consciousness.
"But if he surrenders to the rule of the moment, before long the state of contraction will vanish. As by God, may He be exalted, said, “And God brings about contraction and expansion” (2:245). ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So I know a lot of us may think that divinity is far away, but the reality is that our Being is in our heart and is always telling us what we need to do. The problem is that we have too many veils, too many conditions of mind that obscure that thread that we have to hold on to. This is why in meditation we learn to introspect, to remove the veils of our perception.
Degrees of Expansion
Like breath, states of awareness or expansion suddenly arrived in accordance with divine will in a properly cultivated psychology. So when we train our attention to focus on one thing, to not be distracted, whether it be a candle, observing the flame and not thinking of other things, or practicing awareness of the present moment, this serenity of mind allows for light to reflect within our consciousness, to augment and expand it.
Again, Al-Qushayri states:
“And there may be an expansion that comes on suddenly―the one who experiences this encounters it unexpectedly, without knowing any reason for it. It shakes him and makes him giddy.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Sometimes in our practice, we can awaken in the astral plane. We suddenly have illumination and a vision which makes us very happy. The problem is that we tend to get overexcited, whereby we agitate the mind and lose the ecstasy, the experiences.
“The proper course of action for someone in this circumstance is silence and the observance of correct behavior, for there is at that moment a great danger for him. Such a person must beware of a hidden scheme, a test in the form of a gift.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
How we handle visions is important, because even spiritual experiences can be a test to see whether or not we will act responsibly with light, or whether or not that light should be taken away because we abuse it―we indulge in negative states. It comes to my mind an experience I had in the astral plane, in which my awareness was expanded and I was flying over a beautiful landscape, enjoying the beauty of nature. I knew my God was with me, was guiding me. I landed in a forest upon a hill in the middle of the woods, and suddenly, I saw the numbers 600,000 on the ground, and certain women were approaching me―lustful women.
I intuitively knew that this was related to Arcanum 6 of the sacred tarot [The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah] in which I had to fight against my own lust. So it was a test and a blessing at the same time. I was given a vision, but this was a hidden scheme, a test, an ordeal, because the masters of the White Lodge awaken us in the astral plane to give us experiences and to test us, to see whether or not we will act ethically, because in this vision that I had, this experience, these women were trying to make me fall sexually and I had to throw them off of me in a great battle. Very difficult. I was very exhausted by the end, but that experience relates how we can be given light, amplification, and experiences, and yet, we can make very grave mistakes if we are not careful.
“Thus one of the Sufis said, “A door of expansion was opened upon me. I slipped so I was veiled from my station.” And on account of this they say. “Stay on the prayer-rug (bisat), and beware of delight (inbisat)!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
Or as the Buddhist state, “Don't get drunk on Nirvana.”
We can become very attached to internal experiences. We have to have that type of awareness but not be attached, to be unmoved, to be serene.
This ties into the joy of awakened experiences and the discipline we need to contract or restrain our mind. All meditators must learn to experience the bliss of the consciousness by restricting and disciplining the animal ego.
Fear and Hope in God
Al-Junayd said the following, as quoted by Al-Qushayri in the Principles of Sufism:
“Junayd said, “Fear of God contracts me while hope of Him expands me. The real nature of things (haqiqah) unifies me [in His Presence], while the Truth of His Being (haqq) separates me [from Him in essence]. When He contracts me through fear, He makes me pass away from myself, and when He expands me through hope, He returns me to myself.” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This fear is not egotistical. It is the reverence of the consciousness towards the divine law, especially chastity. We fear to make mistakes and to deviate from the path when we really revere God. So mystical experiences return us to ourselves, to remembrance of our reality, and this is how we learn to have genuine hope in the Being.
"When He unifies me through the real nature of things, He raises me to His Presence and when He separates me [from Him] through His Unique Truth, He makes me witness what is other than myself, and so veils me from Him." ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
So notice how mystical experience, states and stations in the path are governed by divinity. The Being contracts and expands our perceptions of consciousness depending on the need and His decisions, because the Being always manages our experiences, our light.
"He, may He be exalted, in all of that moves me [from state to state], not holding me back. He estranges me [from all else] but does not make me familiar with Him. It is in His Presence that I taste the food of my being. Would that He would annihilate me from myself and so gratify me, or take me away from myself and so revive me!” ―Al-Qushayri, Al-Risalah: Principles of Sufism
This is very beautiful. God determines our path, if we learn to follow His will in our three brains, our human machine. He gives us experiences, but doesn't make us familiar with Him, because many times when we long for the Being, we work harder. There is a very famous saying in Islam how God often withholds divine blessings or experiences as he hears the prayers of the disciple, because the sound of it is sweet to Him.
How do we taste the food of our Being? Meditation. Samael Aun Weor states that meditation is the daily bread of the wise, the bread of being. We gain insight when we are establishing ourselves in attention and awareness. Self-observation of our states and awareness of their relation to external events provide us with holistic data about our internal, humanoid machine, our ego. Through developing serenity of mind, calmness and equanimity of consciousness, we expand our awareness of the internal worlds.
This comes about after we learn to concentrate on one thing. We could focus on a sacred sound, or as we stated in the previous lecture: Breath, Ham-Sah, mantras, etc. We constrict our attention to the object of concentration so that the mind stops chattering. In the silence of meditation, when we learn to focus internally without distraction, we can receive internal knowledge and awareness of the internal worlds.
Three Types of Expansion
We spoke extensively about contraction. Abdullah Ansari of Herat speaks beautifully about expansion. His definition of expansion pertains also to enlightenment, spiritual insight, astral samadhis, conscious experiences within the internal worlds. As he states, citing the Qur’an:
“God, the Most High and Holy [speaks of one],’whose heart God has opened to Islam so that he has received enlightenment from God’ (39:22).” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
We receive enlightenment through submission. How do we submit to God? It is by achieving equanimity of mind. So serenity is developed in degrees. We have to learn to overcome distractions to the object of our concentration, whether we are focusing on the breath, with a mantra, with pranayama, or a statue, an object, a candle flame. Or if you are familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala. You can also concentrate upon the Arabic and Hebrew letters, especially, to focus on a principle represented in that calligraphy, so that the mind stops thinking of other things.
In some of these practices, we imagine and concentrate upon that image. We can see it before our physical eyes, and then we visualize it in our imagination. But in order for imagination to be very crisp, to be stable, we have to not forget what we are doing. So equanimity comes first, when we no longer get distracted, when our attention is crisp and clear. When it no longer takes effort to focus on our object, when we are accustomed and familiar with the perfect state of equanimity, we can learn to submit to God. This is how we receive enlightenment.
Notice how Muslims and Sufis, they bow their head towards the stone of Kaaba, as we see in this image―a symbol of working with the stone of Yesod. We have to bow our head by working with our energies, to calm the mind. We offer our calm, serene mind to the Being, but it is a process.
Of course, enlightenment occurs in levels. It begins with awakening physically, but also achieves or appears internally in our work.
“Expansion is the opening that God bestows upon the heart, the spiritual time, and the aspiration of a servant. And that is of three kinds: the expansion of prayers and invocations, the expansion in service, and the expansion during seeking.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
Let us examine what these entail.
Prayers, Service, and Seeking
“The expansion of prayers has three signs: invocations with reverence, awestruck humble supplications, and beseeching God through Qur’anic divination.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So invocations and conjurations, as we have stated previously, help us to protect our reverence.
Humble supplications are our prayers. We concentrate and pray for the help we need, enter silence, and then when the mind is serene and receptive, we can receive the answers we need.
Qur'anic divination, for the purposes of our studies, is to read and study the doctrine. We pray for help that God gives us understanding through whatever scripture we read, such as in the Qur’an or the writings of Samael Aun Weor. We can sit, close our eyes, and pray, asking divinity to lead us to a chapter, by flipping through the pages, to show us that which we must read and understand, what we must read about to help us in our particular situation.
“And the expansion of service has three signs: lightly carrying the load of plentiful works, abundant prayers concealed from people, and a heart punctual in prayer.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So, sacrifice for humanity without seeking benefits in return. This means to be consistent in our meditations and prayer, that whatever our schedule is, we have a set time in which we enter meditation, silence of mind.
People want experiences. They want expansion without recognizing that experiences are the payment the Logos grants us for good works, for sacrifices for humanity.
Consistent discipline and meditations makes expansions more frequent, since meditation transforms the astral body, according to Samael Aun Weor.
“And expansion during seeking as three signs: minimum audition yet great benefit, minimum service yet great joy, and minimum contemplative reflection yet great contemplative vision.” ―Abdullah Ansari of Herat, Stations of the Sufi Path
So we can listen to classical works of music, spiritual auditions, while being focused on the rhythm and the music as it enters our psyche, such as the works of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Liszt, and many others, which we have outlined in The Secret Teachings of Opera on our website. We can sit and concentrate upon the music, let our focus be entirely on our heart and the influence of those sounds upon our consciousness, which have the power to awaken our concentration and also our awareness, internally, of divine things. Classical compositions and music are Kabbalistic, and teaches many profound principles in nature.
Even when we perform small works of selfless service, sacrifice, the quality that it grants us when it is sincere is tremendous. It gives us motivation and happiness.
Lastly will conclude on one point: “An hour of meditation is better than a year of prayer” according to Prophet Muhammad. So minimum contemplative reflection, if it is very deep and profound, can really open a lot of doors for us. Quality, not quantity, is important. Although it is important that we build up our practices gradually, in accordance with our needs, so that we can train ourselves and deepen our discipline.
At this point in time I invite you to ask questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: How can you find your vocation or do good work, but not identify with your external situation?
Instructor: Obviously, every disciple of this teaching faces hardships, ordeals, and there is a saying within the Qur’an that "All good and bad comes from Allah," the Being. As for finding our vocation, that is something that we have to really meditate upon and reflect.
We can basically sit in a quiet space, close our eyes, shut off our senses from the world, and visualize in our imagination, and reflect upon our positive qualities, our skills. Those skills and those virtues of the soul belong to the Being, and the Being can show you through visions in your meditations, through experiences, what you can do with your life.
I think it's important to remember that when we do find our vocation, our genuine mission in life for the spiritual work, you will realize and will find from experience that it is never just something easy. If you look at Beethoven, his mission was to provide the doctrine of Gnosis in his symphonies, in his works, and yet he suffered tremendously. So, I know sometimes we may think that by finding our vocation, we are going to have everything easy, and that's something that obviously we hope for, but the reality is that there are always going to be difficulties. But the reason that we are able to overcome them, our external situations, to not identify with them, is because we love what we do. That is the key of finding your vocation.
When you are providing some kind of service or work that you really love from your heart and soul, even when you are challenged, when you have doubt, when you are filled with fear, uncertainty and difficulties, you do what is best for others, because it is the right thing. It is an expression of our internal integrity. You find your vacation based off your psychological work. Change your behaviors that are harmful. Adopt virtuous behaviors. Expand your awareness outward. Expand your virtues outward to humanity. Let your consciousness be the one that dictates how you relate to others, because if we are just going along with the flow of life, if we are just reacting to our situation, blaming others for our problems and suffering, we are creating a lot of pain for ourselves and for our neighbor.
But the beginning is, learn to constrict your attention inside. Learn to evaluate in yourself what egos are causing you trouble, because when you eliminate the ego, you develop virtue. You develop comprehension, and then you know as a soul, as an Essence, how to resolve problems. So, internal self-observation is the key.
As you begin to learn about yourself and your abilities, your Being will naturally lead you to situations and environments in which you will expand your knowledge and your experience, so that you learn how to really fulfill your role in society and within the Gnostic teachings.
Question: Why do discursive thoughts seem to always have some importance and relevance?
Instructor: Samael Aun Weor states that the thoughts and the egos of our intellect, our internal psychology, bear resemblance of half-truths. The reason why they seem compelling and important is because the ego is a mis-transformation of impressions.
So we have explained previously how the ego is created, the self is created, through a mis-transformation of consciousness. We use our consciousness in the wrong way, and so these defects always appear to be honest and truthful and sincere and important and relevant. But if you are observing yourself through self-observation, you begin to see the mistake of this, that the ego is a conglomeration of half-truths, mistakes, which take on the resemblance of truthful things.
The intellect is really a machine which we have made into something demonic, something negative, because the ego with its intellect uses thought to convince us to do the wrong things. This is why Samael Aun Weor stated in Tarot and Kabbalah that the greatest weapon that the Black Lodge has to pull students from the path is the intellect. So you learn to see the truth of things by looking inside, so that we can distinguish truth from falsehood, not looking for any justifications or repressing anything we see, but simply observing them―letting our heart be the judge.
Question: It's so easy to rush past sitting quietly with the painful expressions of our actions and go pass to the end, all fixed, and my mind shuts off to any work. So how to make the mind shut down and for me to work on myself?
Instructor: Your comment seems to point towards a tendency in many students, which is to repress what we see. We want to shut down the mind because it is too painful. We see faults in ourselves and aggregates and nafs or defects that are so painful to look at, that we want to become numb. We want to repress what we see. But in truth, this work is a work of suffering. It is conscious works and voluntary suffering. We have to learn to be equanimitous even when looking at the worst defects, and facing the worst ordeals that really bring out
our most hidden defects that we thought we never had. We have to learn to develop that equanimity in our daily life. It's not enough just to sit for fifteen minutes a day to clear the mind or to focus on an object of concentration. Those complement our daily work. We reach silence and serenity of mind by working all day―observing the mind, looking at it, and acting as a consciousness, following our conscience, our heart.
If we feed our desires, we suffer. This is a basic law and every religion, especially Sufism and Gnosticism. If we do not create a space in our interior, moment by moment, instant by instant, we don't have the means by which we can really work effectively.
And of course, there is a lot of components that can go into this process. Obviously, our home environment is important―having a clean, stable, perfumed home, such as one of our lecturers explained in a lecture called Basics of Spiritual Defense. It's important that we make our home a space for meditation, a place that we can really pray and contemplate and work and aspire to these principles, to fulfill them at whatever level we can, because the more we feed our heart through these disciplines and practices, such as in a lecture I referenced, we can protect our spirituality, but also give ourselves strength and motivation.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I had a couple of questions on my mind. I was kind of wondering about the sacrifice aspect as you were kind of discussing it, and I mean I have ideas about what that could be, but sometimes I feel like just like you were saying, it might be a while until you kind of even gain the clarity and openness of mind to receive information about your vocation. For instance, the way that you should be serving.
So I was wondering if it kind of counts towards the sacrifice that we are doing, that we work on ourselves, that we are always observing ourselves and checking ourselves and foregoing our anger in favor of being attentive to our feelings and trying to examine them and understand them. Is that considered sacrifice or is there some other meaning?
That is one question, and another question I have is a little bit unrelated. But I have been listening to a lot of the Rune Course and on one of them it was talking about the seals, kind of like the way people do the sign of the cross, and how it's not really correct. I was wondering if there's anywhere that it shows how you do that, like a video, because I found it hard to follow the movements that were described in words.
Instructor: Thank you. So as to the first question, it is a tremendous sacrifice to learn to be a decent person when our mind is filled with rage, with anger, with negative qualities, with defects, and we are put in situations in which we feel that we are not benefiting, that we are suffering―and yet, we learn to transform our own pain, to be compassionate to our neighbor. This is a form of sacrifice, a very noble one.
Now, obviously there are levels and degrees to sacrifice for humanity. But I think all that is predicated upon an understanding of how we live ethically in relation to humanity.
I know a lot of us may feel confused or lost in relation to finding a vocation in life. Some of us may be more advanced in our years trying to find new careers, and we often think that sacrifice for humanity means to have some kind of job, and of course, this is important, but the reality is that our vocation is something within the Being. Really, we have many vocations that we can fulfill. I mean, for example, you look at Samael Aun Weor: he was a writer, he was a lecturer, and he was a healer. He did many things that his Being called him to do, and so while we like to look towards some kind of job or vocation to fulfill us, to give us not only income but some kind of psychological and economic meaning, the important thing to remember is that if we were working on our ego, we will be guided to what we must do in our life in our daily existence.
As for the sign of the cross, we do not have a video that shows that, but perhaps that's something that we will develop, especially since we have had a video on the pentagram specifically.
Audience: Thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I wanted to ask about some news I heard recently because of COVID-19, the stone of Mecca, that the visiting of that has been canceled. And in that it's an unprecedented event, and I was just wondering if the stone is related to contraction or expansion and if that is causing a lot of grief for people that want to see it. Is that a thing that can be done internally for people?
Instructor: So with the terms contraction-expansion, these apply to our consciousness, and as I provided an overall reference, there are many levels to that. Contraction can mean focus on an object of concentration, a restriction. It also is self-observation, when we feel constricted or our focus is on our internal psychology and what is occurring there. Of course, awareness is the opposite, where it is an expansion of consciousness outward.
Now the important thing to remember is that the stone of Mecca, physically, is a symbol, just in the same way that a cross on a church spire is a symbol. The stone of Mecca is a beautiful representation of the work with the sexual energy―the Kaaba, or the stone of La Vaca, the Cow, which is how you say it in Spanish. But you take the syllables and rearrange them, it is Kabbalah.
So it's a very profound symbol that has a lot of beauty and meaning, but while many Muslims cannot go to perform Hajj or go to the stone of Mecca to perform their pilgrimage, obviously for them that is a cause of great suffering. But the initiates of the mystical Sufi tradition have always known that according to the words of one initiate:
“When you are separate from the Kaaba, it is all right to turn toward it, but those who are in it can turn toward any direction they wish.” ―Bayazid Bastami
Basically, it's a symbol of how there is a great difference between exoteric Islam and esoteric Islam, which is the Gnostic teachings within Sufism, especially. If you are working with your sexual creative energies, your stone, your Kaaba, you are purifying that black stone into a purified white cubic stone as the foundation of your temple―then it doesn't matter if you pray towards the East or the West. It doesn't matter if you travel physically to those places, because really, real pilgrimage for the initiates is in the internal planes. And personally I have been to the Middle East in the astral plane many times. Really our consciousness, when awakened internally, we can see things what the symbols of any tradition represent. You know, those journeys to the Middle East and all the symbols of that tradition are very beautiful, but they are not necessarily meant to be a literal dogma. You know, they are a great reminder of what we must do esoterically, but of course there are levels to religion. If that makes sense.
Audience: Yes, it seems like there's a pointer in that being canceled that we should turn internally toward that stone and instead of relying on the external. Yeah, thank you.
Instructor: You're welcome.
Question: I have experienced my infra-conscious dimensions several times in my dreams, things I would never do or engage in physically. What message is my Being giving me and could this be a part of my past life?
Instructor: Yes, it can. It could be your Being showing you your ego, the things that you need to work on. Remember that there are two moons in the esoteric doctrine. There is the white moon and the black moon, Nahemah and Lilith in Hebrew. These are our representations of the ego that is visible and the ego that is hidden. Now as we awaken more consciousness, as we expand more consciousness and learn to perceive our infra-conscious realms, we begin to understand and perceive things in us, that even if we would not act upon them physically in this life because of our ethics, we still have an element inside that we need to eliminate. So your Being can be definitely showing you your errors that you need to work out.
So here is an example of where your consciousness is expanded. It is a profound awareness of what happened, but also you need to introspect or contract your attention inward in order to reflect on that remorse in your heart, as well as the source of this defect, so you can be free of it.
Question: When we see ourselves psychologically, it's like holding in our breath and indulging in desires gives us air. How should we deal with ourselves and our remorse when we know what we could do or what could and should be done, but do not have the ability to do it? Does knowing what should be done mean we have the ability to do it?
Instructor: This is an important thing to consider. Remorse is a quality of the heart. It is a conscious sentiment. It is very different from shame, from a sense of pessimism, of morbidity, and repression. The ego feels shame and says, “I am a bad person. I did this. I am so horrible! Look at what is in my mind,” and we can become very sour people if we invest our energy into that type of feeling.
Remorse is very different. It is the expansion of the consciousness when we learn to constrict ourselves. We feel that constriction or contraction in our heart, that we have something negative inside, but this is not something that is egotistical. You know, this is not something that is of the mind, because if we just dwell on the mind and not on our heart, on the Essence, we could become very dark people. So this is something to consider.
We have to remember the virtues of the Being. If you feel a lot of suffering for your faults, it is important to be realistic and to meditate on your virtues. So if you feel like you know what you should do and could do, but don't do it or don't have the ability, it's important to really meditate on our virtuous qualities, because oftentimes we adopt a negative skew of things, of reality, because we invest too much energy in our conditions. The reality is that we have a lot of hope, a lot of potential. Don't expect that you're going to be able to do everything all at once, but take the steps that you need, that you know you can do, and to do them.
Fundamentally, the important thing is chastity: save your sexual energy, transmute it. And if you struggle with maintaining this energy, keep trying. As Rumi taught us, "Come, oh wanderers and leavers. Even if you have broken your vows a thousand times, come, join us, for ours is not a caravan of despair." We learn to change gradually, but the important thing is that we repent sincerely. That is going to be an entire lecture in this course that we will give in the future, of what repentance looks like, what renunciation looks like as well.
Comment: We talked about being in the moment, but also we don't want to be lost in that moment through fantasy like watching TV. We are in the moment for hours, but at the same time, we are living someone else's dream, whether the writer, the producer, etc. So this is a form of attention, concentration, awareness, etc. But this is being lost in the moment for the consciousness, taking impressions that are stored in the memory.
Instructor: This is a really good distinction to make. So while we are talking about states of awareness and attention in the moment, we have to be very specific about what is the quality of that awareness and attention. You know, we can sit in front of a television, as was stated, and be entirely focused on the theme of the story, the characters in the drama, and yet, it is entirely egotistical, because the ego knows how to direct attention, but it is through desire―the desire to watch and to receive the impressions and sensations of that moment, that perception from the television.
So real awareness, real concentration, is when we concentrate with complete voluntary will. You know, obviously, sitting in front of a television is very passive. It doesn't take any effort. But when you concentrate on a candle or a mantra or really work to exercise the Essence in you, you will find that it is very difficult in the beginning. It is very challenging, because our free consciousness is very weak and needs to be trained. We find that it is very difficult to voluntarily focus our attention on one thing or to be aware of our surroundings in a clear sense. So we have to learn to take impressions of life, but not passively where our mind and personality and ego is active. We have to put those in a state of suspension, of calm, and equanimity, and instead learn to make the consciousness be the one that is active, that is working.
Question: Do Gnostics have fun?
Instructor: Yes, especially the ones that I know, associate and work with. Yes, while we talk about very serious topics, we do have quite a profound sense of humor. If you come to our retreats, you definitely will pick up on that. So hopefully you can and will be able to meet you in person. That would be nice.
Question: Can you speak a little on the ego of self-love and self-compassion?
Instructor: It's important that we have compassion towards ourselves, especially because we are very weak. We make mistakes and we suffer a lot. But it doesn't mean that we are filled with self-love. A lot of times, in current spiritual movements, people often say that you should love yourself, that you should find yourself beautiful. And really, what these philosophies and polemics often do is reinforce self-esteem, which is a defect, an ego.
It is true that we need to be compassionate towards ourselves and to have a conscious love for our soul, but we have to be very merciless towards our ego. You know, the compassionate thing to do for ourselves is to have no mercy towards our defects. If we have a fit of anger, if we have a defect or a vice that emerges and we don't want to identify with it, we have to be very cruel to ourselves, in the sense that we don't identify or give it what it wants, because this is the compassionate thing, the loving thing. The soul knows how to give love towards others without expecting anything in return. Self-love says, “Other people should serve me because I deserve it.”
So our focus in this teaching is to learn how to introspect and to identify those egos of self-esteem that are particularly problematic, which create a lot of drama in different circumstances of life. So remember, compassion is that we serve others out of love for humanity, conscious love, not egotistical love, not complacency with error. Because compassion can be very strong for some people. Sometimes the compassionate thing is to be very severe with a person, but it doesn't mean that we don't love them. It means that we are enacting divine justice if necessary. Or as Shakespeare taught us, "I must be cruel only to be kind. Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind” (Hamlet 3.4.181-182).
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