This is a transcription of an audio lecture from Introduction to Gnostic Studies, originally given live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
So that term γνῶσις gnosis, in Greek, means “knowledge.” But it does not mean knowledge of a scholarly type, something that we learn by going to university or from reading a book. It is knowledge that we gain from our experience of life, and consciousness. It is personal to each person.
And so every religion, every meditative tradition, teaches gnosis in its depth―a type of experiential wisdom which is beyond labels, and terms―although many different teachers have used different terms to refer to the same thing.
If you have studied meditation from Buddhism or Judaism, even the early Church Fathers of the Christian tradition too, practice meditation. You find that they all refer to the same thing, the same principles. And so at this school we like to go at the heart of what these traditions teach, primarily because some of the techniques from these traditions are very useful, very helpful for answering a particular type of problem that everyone is experiencing on this planet now, and has for many ages― and that is the problem of suffering.
It is very easy to look at the news to see how afflicted humanity is, whether from the East or the West. Despite the great accomplishments of some of our greatest teachers, or philosophers, the efforts of any type of authority figure to resolve this issue of suffering, have always ended badly.
We see that people’s efforts to try to resolve social problems, political problems, religious problems, traumas, psychological issues, we find that many people always like to go to the external world. “If I just fix this situation, if I change my job, if I associate with these people, if I do these things externally, I am going to be very happy.”
But the reality is that, we change situations and tend to carry that type of problem with us, wherever we go. And it is very easy to want to blame politicians and the external world for all of the chaos that is going on, and of course, those people are liable for their own actions, but blaming those people does not necessarily help us to resolve our own issues.
Such as at work. I know in my position at my current job, I work with clients who can be very difficult, very challenging, people who have suffered a lot of trauma, and rather than getting angry at them when they have been disrespectful to me, I have learned to transform my own mind, my own state, because I cannot blame them for what they have been through, and I cannot judge them that they are really to blame for what is going on. But the truth is, by changing who we are psychologically, we can be more serene in difficult situations.
And so, every tradition teaches that suffering comes originally from inside, our own state of mind. I believe the Dalai Lama was interviewing some Buddhist monks who had escaped the Chinese. They were exiled from Tibet, and the Chinese soldiers had done horrible things, crimes against humanity. And I remember that one of these monks spoke to the Dalai Lama, or the Dalai Lama asked him, “While you were imprisoned amongst the Chinese, what was the greatest danger that you faced?” And the monk said very serenely, “losing my compassion for my enemies [the Chinese].”
So I know it is a natural sentiment to want to feel angry at these people who harmed us, who caused us pain, but at the same time, if we hold on to anger, that makes us vibrate at a very low level of being. It is important that, yes, we feel a sense of indignation for the wrongs that are committed, but we can find that being angry and worried all the time does not make us any happier. Why hold on to these emotions that are so painful? It does not mean that we ignore what the Chinese are doing, or what so-and-so is doing, because one can act from a state of consciousness that is free of anger, but is severe, but not angry, not violent, not resentful.
And those are qualities of consciousness that are very elevated, in which we find in teachers like Jesus, or the Buddha, or Moses, or Krishna. These are people who were once like us, but who through the science of meditation, learned to transform their own imperfections and become great people, very wise beings, who knew how to handle situations with a state of equanimity, of calm.
So the question that we are going to ask in this lecture is, where does suffering come from? Where does it originate, and more importantly, how do we overcome it? I know the case of the Dalai Lama speaking with the Buddhist monk is a very extreme case, but some of that is very illuminating. Part of Buddhist practice is that one has compassion even for one’s worst enemies―primarily because, those people who are so violent and angry and terrible, do not want to suffer either. The problem is that they are confused. They do not understand that their actions produce the harm of others, the suffering of others.
And it is a natural feeling to want to demonize those people: “They really are, truly, inhumane,” “They did this and this,” “They are not even human beings,” we could say. But in reality, even the worst people have consciousness. But unfortunately, they have conditioned themselves so much, that they do not understand that what they do is harmful―which is why even Jesus on the cross said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Very powerful statement of profound compassion for one’s tormentors. Freedom or happiness is internal, and yes, while the external world can be more terrible and we can continue to feel so overwhelmed and anguished, and resentful and fearful about what is going on, those emotions do not help us to resolve the problems that are outside of us.
If we learn to be more at peace with ourselves and do not identify with the negativity of others, from a state of equanimity, we can handle any situation, and therefore produce our own happiness. But also, even more importantly the happiness of others: to bring communities together, to bring people to resolutions, at peace.
So in this image we have a human figure with a lock over his head, primarily because I wanted to make the point that the mind in itself, our human potential, is so vast, but we comprehend so little of it, what is possible for us. We have to learn to see that―if we do not know our full potential, you could say, in a manner of speaking, that we do not necessarily know all of that which is possible for us, or who we could be, what we can become. But we do have people, figures like Jesus or Buddha, or Krishna, what ever great luminary from any tradition who exemplified such beauty.
That is possible for us, to have such happiness or selflessness, compassion, altruism, humility, faith, strength in the worst circumstances. Those are qualities that are natural to consciousness, but which we have to learn to find more and more as we go through the trials of our life, but we can develop through the science of meditation.
The Purpose of Meditation
We like to emphasize that meditation is not simply just to relax, but that is the beginning. If you cannot relax your body, cannot relax your mind, you cannot go deep. You cannot examine that which needs to be examined. And so by examining ourselves, we have the key, and meditation is the key by which we can unlock our real potential, our real possibilities.
As I said, the word Gnosis in Greek means knowledge, and you find it in every tradition. It is the wisdom of consciousness. It means to awaken parts of our consciousness that are dormant, things that we do not know of. I believe medical science says that we only use about 3% of our human brain, and that there are many aspects even of our physicality, our mind, that we do not know about. And so, it is possible to awaken more and more and develop more and more beauty in our life, more compassion, more serenity, more strength.
The Four Noble Truths
The way that we can develop that knowledge is by examining this particular model which is from Buddhism, which as I said, we study all traditions. But the Buddhist model of the Four Noble Truths has something very interesting that we can examine.
It says that “in life there is suffering,” and the Pali term is “Dukkha.” The word suffering or Dukkha can also mean “dissatisfaction, displeasure,” sometimes even “disgust.” It means to have a dissatisfaction with the way things are, which is why any one of us comes to any type of tradition to study meditation or religion, or any type of world faith. It is because people are tired of suffering. They do not know what to do.
And he also said that “suffering has causes,” (Samudaya) so there are causes of suffering. And this is the distinction, the step that most people tend to get caught up on―too much externalizing, saying “the external world is to blame.” But we should ask the question about ourselves, and things that we do in our life that may make us more happy or more sad, more afflicted or more at peace. I am sure we all can identify certain actions in our life that really made a difference for others, or even for ourselves.
And so there are causes to suffering, which do not originate from the external world, but, if we are more aware, we can see that. Really in our own selves, we have all the keys to produce the happiness of the world or the pain of the world, and those causes are psychological.
As the Buddha taught, our state of mind produces our life. It is a very revolutionary type of thinking. Who we are mentally and emotionally is what interacts with the world. If our states of being are negative, if we are angry or violent, or resentful, and that radiates out to others, we in turn experience negativity.
Obviously when we are resentful or angry towards our loved ones, our spouse, they react the same way, and then that tension and that pain escalates, becomes more elevated and extreme, to the point that families break, communities fall apart, religions degenerate, politics become scenes of animalistic behavior, instinctual behavior and violence, not just physically, but verbally. So, we see that those causes of suffering are inside: we produced the state of the world that we are in.
So “the causes of suffering also can cease,” and this is the next step, which is very beautiful―that there is a way to remove those causes of pain, which are within us―things that we can control, not the external world. But things that we do in our life that can make us suffer or be in pain, are the things that we can change.
So the causes of suffering can be eliminated, and the term in Sanskrit is Nirvana. Nirvana simply means “cessation,” to cease suffering, to end suffering. It is a state of mind. And I am pretty sure we all can verify that truth for ourselves, that suffering can cease.
I know in my position, where I work, I have had some very difficult people come to me and criticize, and in those moments of being confronted and feeling that tension, and the fear and the thoughts of “Oh, I am being put on the spot here,” that anxiety. From a state of meditation―because meditation is not just sitting to reflect, but also in our daily life, how we are opening ourselves up to the new―I had the intuition and realized that, I have to listen to this person and not be reactive, to not react to that problem, but to learn to be patient. By learning to respond with love and kindness to that situation, those causes of suffering had ceased. I deescalated a situation that could have been bad.
I am sure we all could think of examples of this in our own life. That is a very introductory level of what that truth is, but in a deeper sense, by learning to meditate, we can understand where anger comes from, where fear comes from, where insecurity, fear, resentment, pride, all these qualities of mind which are sources of affliction for us in the long run.
We could find that those causes can cease, and that “there is a path” that leads to that end [cessation of suffering]. That path is called meditation. And so, meditation, as I was saying, is not just about sitting to relax the body. As I said, that is the first step. We want to relax the body to the point that we want to feel that we are about to fall asleep, that we are so calm that the body is ready to enter, we are about to enter into physical sleep.
And it is from that state of calm that we can learn to calm the mind next. We have a calm body, we have a calm mind. And in that way, we can learn to be more attentive and aware of ourselves, either in daily life or when we sit to practice. So that, by learning to go inside, we can comprehend the sources of our own emotional states, our own psychological states.
So a lot of people talk about freedom, and this ties very much deeply into this study of meditation, because meditation is about becoming free. I know a lot of countries and politics and revolutions are very fascinated with this term freedom, and ironically, people even kill in the name of it.
To be free physically is one thing. Especially in North America, we have certain freedoms which are envied by the world. Freedom to eat what we want, believe what we want, marry whom we want, travel wherever. We tend to have a lot of freedoms which are envied by other countries, but this all in itself is not necessarily a real sense of freedom, because all of those things can change, as we are seeing even in our politics, border control, immigration policies, things that are going on that are constricting the life of people in this country, but also in other places too.
So those things can change. Those are temporary, but real freedom is a state of being: to be free from suffering, from anxiety, from fear, from pain, from traumas. And as the founder of the modern Gnostic tradition, his name is Samael Aun Weor, he wrote a book called The Great Rebellion, which is a book about rebelling against one’s own negativities, and acquiring genuine happiness.
Freedom is something that can only be achieved within ourselves. No one can achieve it outside of themselves. “Riding through the air,” is a very Eastern phrase which allegorizes the sense of genuine freedom. No one can really experience freedom while their consciousness remains bottled up inside of the me, myself, the “I.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
So this is a very powerful statement.
Consciousness can experience freedom, but only when it is not bottled up inside of this sense of “me, myself, I.” The desire of “what I want,” “what I crave,” “what I need.”
I know a lot of people like to think that, “I think therefore I am. I think this way. I believe in this tradition, or, I am from this race. I am from this culture. I am from this religion. Me, me, me, me, me!”
Even in pop psychology we talk a lot about ego. Someone with a big ego we think of someone as, like, maybe, in politics, or in a position of authority in our world, “Oh, they have a very big ego. They only think about themselves, do what they want.” And we have many examples of this. But even in a more fundamental level, we all have ego, and the word ego in Latin simply means “I.”
Anytime we say: “I want, I crave, I need, I want to do this. I want to ride my bike. I want to get a new job. I want this, I want that”―this sense of self is called ego, “I.” As I was explaining about the Four Noble Truths, we say that there are causes of suffering, and those causes are internal. So, on a fundamental level, the sense of “I,” “what I am,” “what I want,” “what I crave,” we could say, in Buddhist terms, is the cause of suffering.
But we have something else besides ego. We have that which is called consciousness. And consciousness is simple the capacity to perceive. It is the ability to understand, to know, to experience. For example, you are in your kitchen and there is a hot stove, and you accidentally put your hand on it and you get burned. You pull your hand back, and you become conscious of that experience that you burned yourself and got injured, and so you are now more aware of being in the kitchen and aware of one’s surroundings.
So that is a form of Gnosis, in a very basic level―knowledge. So, this sense of self, “me, myself, I,” does not come first. We can actually say that, the ability to experience as a consciousness is different from ego. We could say that ego is a type of condition, is a shell. It is a type of negative quality of mind. Such as anger, which is a sense of self which is very violent, even not physically, mentally or verbally. It is a sense of self that desires and says, “He hurt me.” “She did this.” “I deserve better!”
What we do not realize is that, in those moments in which we are investing ourselves in that emotion, that we are draining a lot of energy. We feel depleted. We do not necessarily resolve our problems, and that sense of self is a trap.
At least this is what all traditions of meditation teach, that according to Buddhism, desire is a cause of suffering. And desire is anger. It is fear. The logic of fear says, “I need to do better at my job or I am going to get fired, and I am not going to be able to support myself.” That fear has its own thoughts and logic, and the reasons we tell ourselves we have to do “this, this and this,” and we are caught in this wheel of tension and anxiety and pain and fear and uncertainty.
So regardless of the fear, we may be doing excellent at our job, and yet, there is that emotional state that does not want to believe that we are capable or good enough. I am sure many people have that experience.
So where is our freedom? If we are caught in that sense of self that says “I want,” “I need,” “I need to get a better job,” “I am not being treated here well,” “I am not getting paid enough,” “I am not getting what I need when I want,” we are enslaved. So that type of thinking is very exhaustive. I am sure, if we are honest, we can say that we get very drained by this type of thinking. It wastes energy physically. It wastes energy mentally, and it is a state of pain.
So what Samael Aun Weor is saying in this quote, is that our consciousness―that part of us which religions call soul, that which is really divine, that is our connection with the divine itself―is trapped. Our consciousness is trapped in anger, fear, pride, and states of being which are causes of suffering for us.
And this is a very difficult thing to discriminate and to see in oneself because, we like to say, “I know myself,” “I know who I am, where I am from, what I believe in; my gender, my race,” whatever. And yet, despite the fact that we say we know ourselves, we continue to repeat problems.
Or problems repeat that we cannot seem to get or understand: “I do not understand where this is coming from, or how to resolve this,” but what if we ask the question that few people really ask is, “How am I contributing to the problem? What if the problem is not outside but something inside of me?”
I was giving the example of being at work and we could be doing a really great job. People really respect us, really admire us, and yet we have that fear that says “I am not good enough.” This is a kind of common emotion you find in many places that really fuel this machinery of industry―people feeling like they are not good enough. They always have to prove something: “I have to prove myself in this situation, in this circumstance.”
But we do not realize we are wasting energy. We are actually investing our consciousness in these states which, we can say, put us in a state of sleep. We are not really aware of what is going on in the situation. Such as at work, you may feel like “Hey, I am not doing well,” but then people say “No, this is excellent!”
You are being observed, or people comment and make the compliment that they really respect you as an individual, so it is like “Oh! That is shocking.” You know, that is one minor example. So our consciousness should be free, expansive, liberated, serene, peaceful, happy, loving, compassionate, pure states of consciousness that are very divine. Those should be more developed in us, but unfortunately, our tendency in our daily life is to invest ourselves in negativity and reactions and problems.
So that sense of “me” or “myself” or “I” we call ego. And this sense of self, according to Buddhism or any tradition, they say that, this sense of self we tend to grasp onto, is the cause of suffering. So, the question is, how do we resolve that? How do we confront this sense of self we have, and learn to comprehend it better? Maybe even eliminate it, because consciousness, our true potential, is trapped in those states. If we extract them, we can develop more consciousness, and that is what meditation is for―expanding consciousness, working on our imperfections so that we can become truly happy, great beings.
Understanding the myself, “my persona, what I am,” is imperative if we sincerely wish to attain freedom. There is no way we can destroy the fetters of our enslavement without previously and totally comprehending this question of “mine” and all that concerns the me, myself, the “I.” What constitutes slavery? What is it that keeps us enslaved? ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
Now of course this is very strong language, but if we are honest, we can see that, are we not enslaved to a certain quality of mind that repeats all the time? Family problems, conflicts with our neighbors, or whomever, or spouse? We tend to be enslaved to suffering. And this is the great dilemma that, I believe even Shakespeare wrote in his play Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” in a kind of allegorical sense.
So it is good to question ourselves: what constitutes slavery? “What are my habits and problems and ways of being that I keep repeating, that other people are pointing at me?” Because sometimes other people see us better than we see ourselves. You know, we tend to think that we are a certain way but, sometimes a lot of people may not agree.
“...What constitutes slavery? What is it that keeps us enslaved? What are the obstacles? We must discover all of this.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
What is the Mind?
Which brings us to the next question: who are we? We have been talking a little bit about what ego is, what the self is. So what is the mind? Even our best scientists and doctors and philosophers have been struggling with this question for centuries, to figure out, what are we, fundamentally? What is the mind? What is thought? What is emotion?
So we have included an image of a man pondering this thought, with a bunch of gears and machinery images of wheels above it. I picked this image because sometimes our ways of thinking can get very mechanical. We tend to go through our day with certain routines: getting up for work, getting up for or going to our job, interacting in certain ways with people, and the thing that we can question is, what are our mechanical ways of behaving?
When certain situations arise, how do we respond? What is our typical attitude? This is something that we can question in ourselves and ask: “Well, why do I react towards this person who is very irritating? Why am I irritated by what this person or what this client says?”
Unfortunately, we do not tend to ask that question. We just feel irritated and we want that person to go away, or to not be associated with them, but it is an interesting question to ask.
“Why am I thinking this way or behaving this way to this person?”
This is what meditation is for, asking that question, “Well, why am I behaving negatively to that person, or feeling like I am justified?” Maybe that person―and this is a Buddhist question that we can ask ourselves―what if that person has some type of concern about us, that we are not treating them well? And the psychology that we kind of go through, the kind of gears, the machinery that we go through, is that we tend to want to blame others, and not look at ourselves.
Whether or not that person is wrong, it would be interesting to ask that question, “Well, why am I reacting to that person? Why am I thinking that? Why do I feel agitated? Why do I want to one-up this person? Why do I want to prove them wrong?” Because usually what we do not see is that, in that moment in which we are criticizing the other person, even just mentally and not verbally, we are suffering. We are stuck in the wheel of life, the wheel of mechanicity.
The mind, we can say, according to Buddhist concept, is where we have thought, experience thinking, even our emotional states. The western psychological tradition calls it ego, “I,” but we also could say it is desire. Again as I was saying, “what I want, what I crave, what I need,” and we always tend to be stuck in this type of thinking that says, “I want to fulfill my desires until the day I die, and whatever happens next, I do not know.”
But, honestly, if we ask ourselves, is that a kind of life worth living? I believe we mentioned that Socrates mentioned: “the unexamined life is not worth living”? Not asking those deep questions about, why are we the way we are? Why are we so convinced that we are right, and other people are wrong? But it is interesting even, in meditation, to ask this question “What am I? Who am I?”―and to constantly examine ourselves.
This is the basic beginnings of what meditation is, so that by learning to develop consciousness, we can go beyond thought, go beyond feeling, go beyond the body. And this is the major distinction that religions or, the original heart of those traditions taught, is that, the consciousness is not anger or thought or even feeling. It is something more dynamic, more beautiful, more profound―something free and liberated. It is spontaneous action that does not need to think.
It is the love of a mother that saves her child when in danger. It is a state of fearlessness, and there is a whole range of emotion and qualities that are not what we like to typically say we experience, but something even more beautiful―love, selflessness, strength. But of course in order to develop those qualities in us, we can learn how to, in moments of great crisis, examine who we are in those moments.
I am pretty sure we had cases in our life where, something terrible happened and we reacted badly or poorly, to the point that we came back and apologized to the person and said, “I am sorry I did not realize what I had done was wrong. I was so overcome at that moment.” And that is a type of hindsight, right? It is better than no sight, but there is a way to have foresight in the moment: we do not react and cause problems and pain for our family or loved ones, or anyone, and learn to transform the situation.
In that way, and by going home to meditate, we can learn to understand why we acted how we did. If you are familiar with the myth of, in the Middle East, I think it is The Thousand and One Arabian Nights, there is the story of the genie and Aladdin's lamp. I mentioned that quote from Samael Aun Weor; he said that “So long as the consciousness is bottled up within the ‘me,’ ‘myself,’ the ‘I,’ we will continue to suffer.”
So in that Arabian myth, that piece of literature, the story is that by rubbing the lamp, a genie can come out and can grant any wish. It is a symbol of our consciousness. It can grant anything we wish and need for ourselves, a state of beauty or, any type of contentment we seek. Of course, the bottle is what traps the genie. You break the bottle, you free the genie. It is a symbol, which we can accomplish in meditation, but first we have to learn to examine the difference between the mind and the consciousness.
I also use the term divinity. I did not use the term God, primarily because the word God has a lot of baggage. There are a lot of traumas associated with that term. When people think of some type of figure like God or a deity, they think of some anthropomorphic old man in the clouds with a beard who dispenses lightning to a poor anthill of a humanity. So that type of God, according to Friedrich Nietzsche, does not exist, which is why he said “God is dead”―at least the idea of some kind of person outside of us, that is organizing everything.
We do not refer to divinity as God, or at least try not to, because where someone had a certain religious upbringing and certain traumas, that can cause a lot of pain for people. Instead we like to use the term Being, and I think this term more accurately represents what divinity is. It is a state of mind, of Being, or a state of consciousness. So Being means to be, to be here and now, to be alert, to be attentive. The Being is not outside, but inside our heart, our consciousness.
Divinity is a quality like love, selflessness, compassion, but is very far beyond our concepts of what love and compassion is. It is a state that we can taste, and that we probably have tasted in our lives at some point, but they were temporary. They went away. That is why certain people, or a lot of people come to any type of tradition, is because they had that experience and they think “Well how do I repeat that?”―and they do not know how.
A state of love and selflessness or compassion, or faith, of understanding, or certain situations working out for one’s benefit. So we want to ask ourselves: how can we earn that and repeat that? That is why we have meditation.
The Being and the Mind
We make a difference between, a distinction between, this Being, our Being, our divinity, and the mind. We could say Being has no form, although all the religious traditions have used forms to represent divinity, whether it be Mother Mary, Jesus, certain scripts or languages, representing, like in Islam, they do not represent God; they just use certain letters to represent Divinity. Or amongst the Aztec and the Maya, they use certain sculptures and images to represent qualities of the Being, which is an infinite spectrum.
This does not mean that there are many gods, separate gods, or that there is just one God. In fact, consciousness is, or the Being can be universal. It is one thing, but can manifest and express in different ways, which is why whether polytheistic traditions or even the monotheistic traditions share the same roots. The problem is that the people of those traditions have adulterated their understandings, thinking that there is only one or the other. But the truth is that, divinity is one light, but can express in many ways.
Those are qualities of Being. We make a distinction between the mind and the Being. The mind is the intellect where we think, and I am sure we can see in ourselves that, if we overthink certain problems, we do not get anything done.
I believe it is a common experience amongst business practitioners where, they will be at a meeting for hours, and try to think out a problem, and they do not resolve anything. Then they say, “Okay let’s take a break, get some coffee for five minutes.” They walk away, and when they are not thinking of anything, suddenly [snaps fingers] the insight comes and they are like “Ah-ha!” That is how divinity works. They come back to the meeting all energized and excited, and many people have that experience and they say, “I know what to do now.”
Overthinking and thinking and thinking does not resolve anything. Of course, we need the intellect to be able to exist in this society, because the intellect or the mind is a machine. It can store information that we need to interact with people, like that previous image we looked at with the gears turning. The mind is useful, but it has to be under the service of our consciousness.
Of course, distinguishing between consciousness and thought in the beginning is very difficult, but something we can develop more and more through meditation.
Samael Aun Weor in the book, The Spiritual Power of Sound, wrote something very interesting about this distinction:
“The mind only serves as a hindrance to the Being (the Innermost).” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
The term we use for the Being is the Innermost, and that term comes from the Western Esoteric tradition. Innermost means, that which is our inner true identity, within us. So as I was saying, thought is a hindrance. We think too much about a problem, we do not resolve anything, whereas intuition or the Being [snaps fingers] knows. We know how to solve a situation without having to think. That is a quality of the being.
“The mind does not know anything about Reality. If thought knew Reality― the Innermost, the Being―then all people would already be comprehensive...” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
Meaning if the intellect was the way, this world would be a better place, but the question is, well if humanity is not getting any better right now, if there is only more wars and conflict and violence on this planet, we have to question our method. What are we doing wrong? That fundamental basis is trying to resolve things with the intellect, the mind, and not more with the heart, with understanding.
“It is completely impossible to experience the Being―the Innermost, the Reality―without becoming true technical and scientific masters of that mysterious science called meditation. It is completely impossible to experience the Being―the Innermost, the Reality―without having reached a true mastery of the quietude and silence of the mind.” ―Samael Aun Weor, The Spiritual Power of Sound
We will conclude with a quote that emphasizes this point. It is from a Buddhist master by the name of Nagarjuna. He wrote in The Precious Garland something very interesting:
“Scratching an itch brings pleasure, but more pleasurable than that is not having an itch. Likewise, satisfying worldly desires is pleasurable, but more pleasurable than that is not having desire.” ―Nagarjuna in The Precious Garland
So again, this is something very profound. The desire or thought, or sentiment, the feeling, the sense of self that says, “I need to resolve this problem”―certainly, that type of thinking can be pleasurable, but in the more higher senses of meditative practice, not having that type of “self” is even more powerful, and more pleasurable.
I know a lot of people get fearful when they say, “Well if I get rid of this sense of ‘I,’ ‘myself,’ ‘me,’ the ego, what I think I am, what will I be?” People get afraid of this sense of, and think of this as a nihilistic thing, but the truth is, when we eliminate anger, we free consciousness that is trapped in anger. We experience love.
I am sure that if we have studied even the Christian tradition, they talk about the seven deadly sins, but they also talk about the seven virtues. Such as, if we eliminate anger, we develop serenity, sweetness and love. We eliminate pride, we develop humility and compassion. Eliminate certain faults, and then we develop consciousness that is more beautiful and pure, unconditioned.
Now I know this is a very rudimentary introduction to some of the principles of meditation but, one thing we would like to emphasize is that, through meditative science, there is a higher way of Being, and that we can use these techniques to transform our daily life, and in that way we have less problems, and resolve things with more understanding.
Questions and Answers
Do you have any questions?
Question: Yeah, I suffer from anxiety and depression…
Question: But I am also suffering from longings…
Question: And it is not going away…
Question: And the mind takes over, and I have these visions, I am going to end up killing myself down the road because I cannot cope.
Instructor: Yes, so I have actually worked with people, I am very close to people in this tradition who have suffered depression. And unfortunately, a lot of people, regardless of being on any type of anti-depressants, it is very difficult to deal with.
One thing we can say about that particular condition is that, it is a state of mind that is inverted. A lot of times we can say the opposite of depression is pride, such as feeling good about oneself, having pride, “I am this way. I am successful. I am this, I am that.” But depression is that type of sentiment inverted: we call it shame. It is a sense of self that says, “I am not good enough,” “I do not deserve this. “People hate me,” or “no one wants to be with me. I do not know how to resolve my problems. I am not lovable.”
The way to resolve that type of sentiment is by relaxing our body, observing ourselves, becoming conscious, becoming aware of our thinking, our feeling, our emotions. We can actually go into the mind to understand the traumatic roots of that sense of self, where it originates from. Because the opposite of shame is dignity. That is a conscious quality. It is a quality of the soul, which is eternal. Our true nature is divine, has a sense of dignity and love, and self-respect and compassion, not only towards others, but for oneself.
The problem is that, when we suffer those type of conditions, which also can not only be neurological, but also something even more profound, coming from psychological roots or traumas in one’s life, which combine to produce the experience of depression―but there are ways to heal that, radically.
I have worked with people in this teaching who have suffered mental illness: schizophrenia, depression, and by using a lot of the techniques that we are studying, in combination with some of the efforts of doctors, they have been able to achieve homeostasis, balance, and get through life with happiness.
I mean I personally know people who have suffered depression, and because of working with these techniques, they have been able to change themselves. But depression is a sense of self or desire that is very inverted. It says it wants to harm itself. But we have to realize that, that sense of self is not our true identity. It is not who we really are.
Question: Right because you suffer “from” it, you do not “have” it? It is not in you… you suffer “from” it?
Instructor: Yes, it is a condition of mind. It is the lamp that traps the genie. If you break the lamp, if you look in yourself and analyze the cage, when you meditate on, “what are these thoughts that I am experiencing? What are these fears? Where do they come from?” It is not an intellectual process, but it is a conscious inquisition. It is a quality of inquiry that we go and we ask ourselves, “Well, where is this feeling coming from?” And then look at it, and it can be very painful and very scary to look at those kind of emotions.
You know, it is a very difficult thing to do, and whether or not someone suffers from depression or any mental illness has that fear too. But of course in those conditions, it can be more difficult, but it can be changed. We have a lot of techniques that we use in this tradition.
There is one exercise in some of the books we have available. We even have a video online on gnosticteachings.org, of a remedy to cure depression. It does not require medication. It does not require anything. It does not have side effects. It is called the magic of the roses.
And in this tradition we use a lot of practices, not only just meditation or relaxation, but we also practice working with some of the magical traditions, which are not just hocus pocus or making things appear, like a rabbit appear out of a hat, but when we develop consciousness we can learn to work, not only with our own consciousness, but the soul that is within plants, or in animals and other Beings, in order to achieve a type of balance and harmony.
You can look online. There is a whole video about the magic of the roses. And personally, when I have suffered any trauma emotionally, real strong situations that were very painful, I have worked with that exercise and that radically healed it. But of course, every situation is going to be different. You may find that in those cases, some people with mental illness, of course, they should get professional advice and seek a doctor and see what medication can work, to help acquire that balance, plus meditation.
So hand in hand those things can help. But I would recommend looking on gnosticteachings.org look up the Magic of the Roses. [See also our course on Spiritual and Mental Health]
Question: What was the first thing you said?
Instructor: It is gnosticteachings.org
Any other questions?
Question: In meditation, you are supposed to not do anything or think, so when you meditate on these questions, I get confused.
Instructor: Sure. No, it is definitely, a real difficult distinction to make. What does it mean to be conscious, and what does it mean to be thinking?
Now I know in the beginning we really want to use the intellect to resolve problems, because that tends to be our state of mind since the beginning, before we begin to train. But as you are learning to meditate, you will find that, as you are relaxing your body and just observing yourself, you find that, you will start to see more and more and separate from thought, from memory, from these things.
It is a kind of separation that is needed. It does not mean a dislocation or a type of apathy, or a dull state, or a nihilistic state. I am pretty sure you might have had the experience where, if you are falling asleep sometimes, maybe dream images start to appear. Things just start to happen, like when the body is asleep you start to see places, or people, or things, or sounds. Those are qualities of our subconsciousness. Usually we are not aware of those states, but as you are relaxing more profoundly, you will start to see those things. As you are observing yourself, they will start to appear.
So I know in the beginning it is very difficult but, with training, we start to develop more and more, we start to separate more and more from the mind. And the initial step is relax, and after your body is fully relaxed, try this exercise.
Just observe and become aware of your mood and your thoughts. Even during a lecture we can pay attention to a degree, and then suddenly we are thinking about other things, or make associations or memories about a certain concept that we hear. Then sometimes our train of thinking goes off. We start thinking and thinking and thinking and thinking, and then we realize [snaps fingers], “Wait a minute… I am supposed to be listening. I am supposed to be in this lecture!” And we all have that experience, and then suddenly we try to backtrack for a minute or two saying, “Well, what did I miss?”
You know, it is a very common experience. That shows us that our mind tends to be very distracted. But meditation first begins by learning to concentrate. So that realization, “I am not paying attention,” is the very beginning. That is the type of “ah-ha” moment, the comprehension that we realize in ourselves, “Ah, I lost my focus! I am not really aware of what is going on.” We can also say, “I am not really awake.”
But when you bring your attention back to that type of recollection, you find that it gets easier. It gets easier the more you work at it. And some basic practices we use in this tradition, you could take a candle―if you find that you get distracted too easily―take a candle and light it, sit in a relaxed posture, relax your mind and your body, and just observe the candle. Just look at the flame. You will find that as you are doing that, you will start to think of other things, and then you will realize how, we tend to be thinking too much, or we are usually caught up in that cycle, that machine.
That exercise, you just look at a candle, and if you start daydreaming or thinking of other things, just bring your attention back, gently. Some people think concentration is like going to the gym and being really fierce and strong, but real concentration is strong, but it is relaxed. It is calm.
So you see, “Oh I lost my attention,” pay attention back to the candle. But in the beginning, it is okay to, if you are trying to resolve a problem or an issue, to think about it and try to come up with an understanding of what is going on. You will find that the more and more you practice, the more you leave the mind behind, and the more that you can access a state of consciousness that is intuitive. It simply knows. It understands, without having to think, and that is like [snaps fingers] an “ah-ha” moment, “I understand, now I comprehend what I need to do.”
Any final questions?
Question: If we are feeling lonely all the time and then we meditate, will that help the loneliness?
Instructor: Yes, because loneliness is a desire for company. It says, “I need to be with people,” “I need to be social.” And of course, having a social life in important, but feeling lonely does not have to be an affliction. Meditation can help us to resolve that sentiment.
Understand you know, where loneliness comes from. What is it? What does it want? What are we feeling? Why do we feel that way? And asking that question and questioning that. But you also find that as you are, not only practicing meditation, but changing those qualities of being, we learn to associate in the external world with different types of people, you know...
Question: I isolate myself an awful lot so, that is why I am on my own, that is why I am lonely, I have created it…
Instructor: Sure, yeah, and certainly that was my case many years ago, until I found this type of teaching and started practicing. And then I found that I was much more outgoing and more, I guess, charismatic or, just interrelating with people. Because I used to be very solitary and isolated, you know, was struggling with that in myself, and then I learned to change that, to the point where I can get jobs and careers, and fulfill a very, you know, pretty happy career with what I am doing now, with working with a lot of different people.
So that transformation is easy to achieve. It just takes a type of work ethic, you know? But also, being willing to try new things and meet new people, because obviously, you know, as you start to change yourself, you will interact with different people.
It is the law of attraction. If we are developing more virtuous qualities of mind, we naturally radiate and gravitate to those situations where, those people are practicing the same things. And then you feel a sense of a community and strength and affirmation from others that really make you feel that you belong, and that you are respected and are fulfilled.
But the first step is confronting that, of course this is the major thing that, many people do not like to do―to confront themselves. But if we do, we can attain great changes, not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others.
This is a transcription of an audio lecture from Introduction to Gnostic Studies, originally given live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago.
We start with the quote from the Oracle of Delphi:
“Man, know thyself and you shalt know the universe and its Gods!”
For most of us, we do not have a deep understanding of ourselves. We have a superficial understanding of ourselves―our name, our race, our job―maybe what we like and dislike. When it comes to a deeper understanding, we ask: what does it mean to be a human being? Does it mean we have a soul?
We might have ideas about it, and we might have beliefs, but how does one come to know themselves? How does one know themselves so profoundly that they then experience, directly, the universe, the gods, our own inner divinity, our connection with all the rest of life?
It’s important to ask ourselves where we seek knowledge. For seeking knowledge externally, in classes, in documentaries, scientific studies, or books, that knowledge might help us to survive in the world, and man’s struggle has often been a struggle for survival.
But once we have those basic needs met, and we find ourselves feeling purposeless or aimless, we have to ask ourselves a deeper question, which is: why do we exist?―not just the search for survival, but the search for meaning.
To really understand that, we have to start by knowing ourselves.
So, we have to ask ourselves what we want from life. And if we want from life just a bunch of money in a bank, a nice car, a good job, well, then we’d probably never be here in a group like this. We want something more. We want to really understand directly the truth, something that is beyond pleasure, entertainment, or comfort.
We want to know: what is the meaning of all of this? Why is everything like this? Why do I exist? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What is the purpose of it all?
Then we have to evaluate how we have been using our time and our energy. If all of our time and our energy is caught up in the struggle for material success, beyond just covering our material needs, but to really investing our whole life into entertainment, pursuits of pleasure, money, and comfort, and investing no time in our spiritual search, our own spiritual development, then we will never come to cultivate the self-knowledge that we are looking for―the knowledge that can go so deep that it can show us the root of our own existence.
We talked a lot about consciousness, and that is what we are seeking to understand: where does our consciousness come from?
Some very materialistic scientists will tell us that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. We are all just walking chemical reactions. But in these teachings, we believe that consciousness is actually the root of our experience of all life. It’s only through consciousness that we can experience thoughts, or emotions, or physical sensations. So, that is what we are going to work with.
The Purpose of Studying Gnosis
So, we need to know why we are here. Of course, in a deeper sense of why we exist. But also why we are here studying spiritual teachings. And so the founder of the modern Gnostic movement, Samael Aun Weor has a quote about this. It is very meaningful to me, and it says very directly:
Obviously, we need to know our purpose in gathering ourselves here, in these studies, and for what. If curiosity is the simple motive that moves you, listen: there are many things to be curious about, i.e. in city entertainment centers, in cinemas, the bulls in the arena, etc. Yet, to enter in these studies is something very serious [...] Indeed, to emancipate the Essence (which we’ve talked about before is our own consciousness), to disassemble the mind and will (from our conditioning), is not an easy task. ―Samael Aun Weor, Cosmic Ships
The Gnostic work, to really get that deep into the Gnostic work, to really experience our true nature, is difficult. When we’ve talked in the past few months about different barriers that we have, we’ve talked before about how we need to struggle to awaken our own consciousness. Most of time our consciousness is asleep, and we are going around in our mechanical habits: same thoughts that we thought many times before; feeling the same emotions that we cannot seem stop feeling, even if they are negative, even if it is sadness or anger. We cannot seem to get out of it―our same habits, our same routines. If we really want to wake up, and experience life in a new way, experience life in a more profound way, we have to overcome certain barriers.
Balancing the Three Brains
So, one of the first things we talked about was the three brains: that we have an intellectual center, an emotional center, and a motor-instinctive-sexual center―that we need to work with our physical energies, our emotional energies, and our intellectual energies in a balanced way. By balancing, and achieving that equilibrium in ourselves, in this moment, but also in our daily lives, then we can begin to awaken consciousness.
When we awaken consciousness and work with self-observation, and we are truly observing not only our external life but also our internal states, our states of mind, our emotional states, then we begin to see what is false in us.
We distinguish between consciousness as pure perception in each moment, and then the egotistical filter that prevents us from seeing situations as they are―seeing situations with equanimity and serenity. Instead, we become very upset, angry, or unhappy, or displeased with many situations in life because our own egotism.
Once we finally established a basis of equilibrium to an extent (we have to begin where we are) and we’ve begun to absorb what is false in us―how do we move beyond that and begin to have those higher experiences of the truth? Today, we are going to talk about this: the experiences of our consciousness free from any delusional, egotistical ideas we may have about ourselves.
But to truly understand our own nature, we are going to talk about how we can form our foundation to those types of higher experiences today.
So, do we spend most time observing reality? I gave some examples last time about how, maybe you meet somebody, and the first time you meet them, you think they are a really nice person. Then later on, you find out that was not the case. Or vice versa: you think somebody is a jerk and then later on, you may find out they are a great person and one of your best friends.
But if we extend this little problem, we see that filtered perception extends to our whole life. How much of the time do we spend actually directly perceiving the situation as it is?
So, I already have been talking for a few minutes and probably most people's minds have drifted, begun thinking about other things. We can do that at many points in our life: when we are sitting there in a meeting, or at work, or we are sitting with our family, having a conversation, doing some task. How rarely are we actually focused on that task? Are we actually present and engaged with it, attentive to that conversation without some kind of mental filter, without many other distractions of what we should be doing or what we wish was happening instead, or what we have to do later, but to just be present and enjoy our lives?
If we spend most of our time in that state that I had mentioned, of mind wandering, then how much are we really living? How are we going to understand the true nature of the reality and ourselves if we are never there, consciously speaking? We are asleep. If we are hypnotized by our own ideas about life, our own perceptions that are not true, then how do we begin to see reality?
So, take an average day, today. How long do you think you spent worrying about things, or fantasizing about things, daydreaming? I see this in myself a lot when I am driving. I am not really focused on driving. I’m thinking about all the other stuff that I have going on.
It is not to condemn mind-wandering, but to say that if we are really seeking to wake up, consciously, to begin to perceive life in a profound way, in a new way, in an alert way, then we can’t be always seeing life according to our habits.
Many of us have somebody in our life―I think this happens a lot with family members―where we already know how they are going to act, and what buttons they are going to push. You might go to see somebody. For example: you might go to see your brother and you already have this idea: "Oh, my brother always gets on my nerves in these particular ways.” So, even when you are walking in the room, in the first few minutes of talking to him, you already have in your mind “This is going to be an unpleasant encounter.” It is going to go the same way it always goes.
Comment: You’ve already analyzed it and tried to come to a solution.
Instructor: Right. So you are not giving each situation a new chance, and what happens, interestingly enough, we see this in psychology as well, is that when we have our own preconceptions about somebody, we end up treating them in a way that causes them to continue responding to us in the same way.
These types of cycles can happen in our relationships. They can happen in our jobs. “Oh! I am already dreading going to work today and it is going to be a terrible day!” And then you show up having that kind of attitude and it ends up being a terrible day.
So there can be some feedback loop there. It is very important to check ourselves up a little bit, psychologically―to perceive each day, and each moment, and each person in a new way―to really see the reality of that. To do that we need to be awakening our consciousness.
The Key of Sol and Self-Observation
And so, one way we can awaken consciousness is self-observation. We talked about that before, that there is a specific technique that we use in Gnosticism called the Key of SOL. As taught by Samael Aun Weor:
Gnostic students must learn to divide attention into three parts: subject (which is us), object (which is whatever we are focusing on, in this moment, in the external world), and location (which is where we are right now). ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
So we can go ahead and do this right now:
Subject: to not fall into the forgetting of oneself before any representation. ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
Whoever has watched a movie or a TV show, and you get so sucked into it that somebody can be talking to you in another room and walking behind you, and you do not even hear them, because you have completely lost focus.
So, we forget about our physical bodies. We forget about our emotional states, and our intellectual states. We just go along with things and the next thing you know, you’ve gotten so caught up in your anger, that you are shouting at somebody before you have even been able to catch yourself and realize: "I am getting angry!"
It can happen. We are not aware of ourselves. So, right now, if we become aware of ourselves, we can use the tree brains as a point of reference that we talked about before.
So, physically, “How am I feeling?” In my physical body. This is not an intellectual process, but just to consciously observe it, to feel your body.
Emotionally: "How am I feeling?" So, even if you do not have a label for your emotional state, become aware of it.
"What am I thinking?" Become aware of your thoughts, and that creates a space of separation from ourselves, from which we can observe ourselves in a more balanced way. So, after we become aware of ourselves, we need to also be aware of the object of our attention. So, Samael Aun Weor says:
Object: To observe every representation, every fact, every event, no matter how insignificant the latter may seem, in detail, without forgetting oneself. ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
So maintaining awareness of ourselves is to be aware of the person we are talking to, or the thing we are listening to, or the task we are engaged in, no matter how meaningless it seems. Maybe we have a job in a factory where all you do is to push a button all day. So, no matter how meaningless it seems to be awake to that moment, to be alert to it, to be perceiving this as new, and not allowing your mind to drift off into autopilot―but to wake yourself up. The more we work with them, the muscle of self-awareness, the muscle of consciousness, the more we begin to perceive even more of reality.
And then also being aware of our location:
Location: The rigorous observation of the place where we may be, and to ask ourselves: "What place is this? Why am I here?" ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
So, for most of us we walked into this room. We have not looked at it. We found a chair. Since then we have forgotten about the room we are in. So, what we want is not the tunnel vision of consciousness where we are only perceive a speck of our experience. We want to expand that consciousness out. The way to do that is to work with consciousness―to wake yourself up.
Throughout the day I try to catch myself. If I am at the computer, working away, and then suddenly I am: "Oh, I am not self-observing!”―to catch myself, to work with a practice like the key of SOL, to make myself aware of myself, aware of what I am doing, where I am―and gradually your consciousness begins to expand so that you can be aware.
I have a walk to work where I walk across a really beautiful green space. Usually I am there in my tunnel vision and I am really focused: “Ok, I have got to get to work. These are the things I am going to do,” but I will wake myself up like this and I use to practice like this. Suddenly my experience of life becomes much fresher, much more profound. I notice the people walking by. I can hear the birds. I can smell the freshly cut grass, or whatever might be.
So, if we really want to have a really dynamic and living experience of life and not sleeping like robots, then we can work with this type of practice. It’s a spiritual practice, a spiritual exercise working with our own consciousness, our own perception.
That is distinct from an intellectual understanding. It is not: "Oh, I hear the birds. I smell the grass." It is not in the mind. It is just being aware of it. Just being alive to it.
Samael Aun Weor also wrote about that:
“Whosoever wants to awaken consciousness must work here and now. We have the consciousness incarnated and that is why we must work with it here and now (in our body, in our daily lives, not to be off fantasizing about other things, but to be working right here, in this moment, in every moment of our lives, with our own consciousness). Whosoever awakens consciousness here in this physical world awakens in all the suprasensible worlds.
“The one who awakens consciousness in this three-dimensional world awakens in the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh dimensions.
“The one who wants to live consciously in the superior worlds must awaken here and now.” ―Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Treatise of Hermetic Astrology
The Tree of Life: A Map of the Superior Worlds
We are going to talk a little bit about what the superior worlds are, but I want to point out: what is the foundation for having higher experiences, for experiencing the truth, our true nature, the root of our existence, our inner divinity?
The basis for this is: pointing out, to begin working with our consciousness here and now. If we want to sit in meditation and to really awaken in higher states of being, we have to begin by awakening in our daily life, all the time, moment to moment.
We can use this diagram of the Tree of Life―which is also in your handouts, if it is easy to see at there―to perceive what we are. We talked about the bottom part of this before, the bottom sphere of this diagram, Malkuth, our physical body. So, if we are aware, conscious of our physical body, we can know that part of our consciousness is here, acting in the physical body.
We have also to talk about having an energetic body, the vital body. And that is the energy that moves and circulates blood and air and keeps us alive allows us to move around. Without the energetic body, we would not be able to exist, physically. So, we have an aspect of our consciousness that we may not be conscious of from moment to moment, but we do have an aspect of our consciousness that is animating our body, keeping us alive.
We also have what is called an astral body, related here with the sphere of Hod. The astral body is all the emotional energies that move through us and keep us functioning in the emotional plane.
And then, we have a mental body here in Netzach that transforms all of our thoughts.
Finally, the human soul, or for us, the essence of the human soul, which is related with the sphere of Tiphereth.
There are higher spheres on the Tree of Life as well related with our divine soul and Geburah, and our Innermost Spirit as Chesed.
And so, those are the things that we want to start experiencing.
We may have a sense of our physical body, a sense of the energy moving in our body. We may be familiar with our emotional states and our mental states. We may even feel a little bit conscious of our own willpower. How do we become conscious of our divine soul? Of our Inner Spirit? Or even higher in this Tree of Life?
We have these three top sephiroth that are related with the tree primary forces that in Christianity we call them the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In order to be aware of those, we have to awaken here and now.
Also, I want to point out that there are lower dimensions. So, if this is the Tree of Life, so we can consider these spheres at the bottom are an inverted Tree of Life, the shadow of the Tree of Life. Last time we talked about the ego, that we have many delusional states that we get caught in. Perhaps walking to a room and we are very afraid of everybody is going to hate us in that room. Even if that has nothing to do with reality, even if you are walking in the room, people do not even notice you are there, you can have your own psychological state about it―that would be experiencing a lower state of consciousness, a state of consciousness that is not free, that is not experiencing reality, but is conditioned by our own psychological habits.
In order to ascend to higher states, we need to become aware of these lower states.
In talking little bit about the Tree of Life, there is a quote from the gnosticteachings.org website:
“The primary symbol of the Tree of Life is a structure of ten spheres called sephiroth in Hebrew. These spheres have many levels of meaning. Macrocosmically, they represent dimensions or worlds. Psychologically, they represent aspects of our consciousness [...] The ten spheres are but a simplification of a much more sophisticated and complex rendering of the many dimensions found in existence and non-existence.” ―A Gnostic Instructor, Glorian Publishing
Just this can represent psychological states or aspects of our consciousness, they can also represent higher, superior levels of nature, in which nature becomes more rarified, more divine, more pure and sacred. If we want to experience higher dimensions, what might be called heavens in some religions or Nirvana―in order to do that, we have to awaken―we have to liberate ourselves from lower states of being.
You can think of the consciousness as a seed that has been planted in physical matter. We actually have a teaching about the ray of the creation in Gnosticism. But up here, we have the Ain which is the Nothingness. And from the Ain emerges the Ain Soph, which is the Limitless.
Another Instructor: Ain is the Nothingness, while the Ain Soph means “No limit” because Ain means “No” or negation and Soph means “end.”
Instructor: From Ain Soph emerges the Ain Soph Aur, which is the “limitless light,” the light of the Christ. As that is the light that descends through these different dimensions, these different levels of nature, it is gradually is going to be planted here in our physical body.
Whatever we choose to do here and now with our consciousness, with that little seed, will determine if we are going to grow as a Tree of Life or going to descend into lower states or being.
It is very important to learn about our consciousness, to work with it, to understand it, to meditate, to self-observe. And as we work with that energy, to be able to begin understanding higher dimensions as well.
If we have already got all the elements that we need, how can we experience those higher states of consciousness? Just, in that analogy of planting a seed, a seed needs certain conditions in order to be able to grow, right? A seed needs water, light, air. So, we already have the seed planted in the earth. But do we have the light? Do we have the teachings and the doctrine that help us, the scriptures, the Word of God, whether it is the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist scriptures as well?
Do we have that type of nourishment coming into our life? Or are we feeding our hearts and minds with lots of garbage, other junk food that is not nourishing the soul?
And do we have the water, the water of the life, the energies that we need? Because in order to self-observe, all day and all night, to be awake in the dream state, as well, you need a lot energy.
Awakening and the Conservation of Energy
We have to talk about the conservation of energy. And it begins by just observing yourself and see how you are using your energy.
If observe yourself through the day:
How do you use your physical energy?
How do you use your vital energy, emotional, or mental energy?
Volitional energy is the energy of the willpower.
The energy of your consciousness, your spiritual energy. How do you use all of that in a given day?
Do you use it wisely?
Do you over-exert the mind, the heart, or the physical body out of balance with the other centers?
Much of this is building off what we have already talked about.
But in order to conserve it, we have to first see how we are using it and where we are wasting it. So, if I am spending ten hours a week, out in bars, drinking a bunch, and laughing with my friends and doing that stuff all the time―is that ten hours of energy that I am conserving for my spiritual practice or is that ten hours of energy that I just kind of binged on and it is gone? It is never coming back.
Comment: It got spent elsewhere.
Instructor: Right! If we want to use this life wisely, we really want to ask ourselves: “What do we want from life?” And if what we want from life is something more than just entertainment, something more than pleasure and money in our bank accounts, but we really want to know divinity, we have to start being serious about looking how we use our life.
If we are using our life in ways that do not achieve that type of outcome, then we can’t be surprised. Everything in nature works on the basis of cause and effect. If every cause that we are putting into motion is creating effects that are wasting our energy, well, then we are going to get to the end of our life and we should not be surprised that point that we have not cultivated our soul, because we have not put the causes into effect that would have created the awakening of consciousness.
We have a really valuable opportunity that we have teachings like this. Now we have access to all the world scriptures, access to a variety of teachings, especially here in the United States. Many of us have more time to study religion than has ever existed in the past, but how are we using that time and how are using this precious lifetime? We have a chance now to really know ourselves, and to know divinity directly. If we do not take that seriously, no one will be to blame but us.
An important piece of conserving energy is ethics. A lot of time people talk about morality, and morality can change depending where you are, what country you are live in, the time period.
For example: I was living in South Korea and many of the morals of Korea are different from the morals that we have here in America. Who is to say which moral is better or worse?
But when it comes to ethics, this is really something personal. Yes, in the Ten Commandments or in the ethical foundations of Buddhism, or in yoga: Yama and Niyama, that we are going to talk about―in all of those teachings we are getting a sense of ethics, but truly we have to go deeper than just doing something because “Somebody told me to do it. Because my priest says so, or my teachers, or whoever told me to do it.”
We have to find the ethics in our own heart, in our own conscience. So, we know when we are doing something that is wasting our time. We know when we are doing something that is harming others or harming ourselves. And if we choose to ignore that and waste our energy, like I said, we are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences.
Ethics is not about following some strict dogma that has been imposed upon us, but ethics is about really working with the energies of nature, and the energies of our own consciousness, and the energies of our soul. It is the reason that we have a conscience that knows wrong from right. It is because we are longing to awaken to something more. But if we do not set the right foundation, if we do not have the causes that help us to awaken in higher dimensions, then we will not be able to do it.
So, another quote from the Gnostic Teachings website is:
“Ethics are not just mechanical laws that some external authority is trying to impose upon us. These rules, commandments, or vows have a very specific function, which must be clearly grasped, and that is this: If you perform actions that are harmful, you create disharmony not only in your environment but in your mind. Yet if you follow these (ethical) "observances," or positive practices, you create positive energy, not only into your environment, but in your mind. So the purpose of Yama and Niyama or the Commandments of Moses is to stabilize our psychology so that we are no longer vibrating with so much negative emotion.” ―Gnostic Instructor: Meditation without Exertion: Ethics
In every religion, if someone is going to become a practitioner, like a monk or a nun, they have to take certain vows, ethical vows, renouncing harmful behaviors, and this is not just because somebody wrote a rule book and said that you have to do it.
This is because when we work with spiritual energies, we need to be aware that disharmony will create an inability to see the truth.
If you go and are lying to people all the time, eventually, you yourself become unable to perceive the truth yourself. Many people justify…
Comment: Because you told so many lies that you don’t know it anymore!
Instructor: In your own mind you become confused. People justify that. I have heard many people say: "Well, everybody lies. It is no big deal!" But if you really make an effort to be honest, you begin to see things in a very different way.
When we lie, we actually come to hate ourselves. We come to feel that we have no integrity as a person. We become confused in our own mind about who we are, because we said so many different things to so many different people that we do not even know anymore, “Who am I?” And lying is just one little example of ethics, right? There are much more profound types of unethical behaviors that we can give in to.
It is serious in this work. If we want to experience directly divinity, and higher states of consciousness, then we cannot just skip this step. People want to jump right into the highest levels of Tantric Buddhism, and all of those high aspects without establishing their own ethics.
So, people get very confused. They start working with energetic practices and they create more harm for themselves and for others.
What we need to do is to cultivate stability of mind, in which then divinity can express to us very directly, because the mind becomes like a serene lake. But each time that we are doing things that in our conscience we do not feel right about, we come to disintegrate ourselves so that we do not have even a good sense of our character.
Well then, how can we go and sit in mediation and prayer and bare our souls to God and expect that God’s going to show up? We do not have that sincerity with ourselves in those cases.
Ethics in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras
To highlight just one example of ethics from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras: the first two steps of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras are Yama and Niyama, which are “to-do” and “not to-do.”
So, certain behaviors that we should be doing that are harmonious with other people, harmonious with ourselves, harmonious with divinity and our environment and that generate a good energy, a positive energy that can help us to awaken.
Then there are actions to avoid, because when you do those types of actions, it is like throwing big rocks in a lake, and so of course, you have to wait for those effects to dissipate.
Under Yama we see:
I am going to point out that these are not just physical actions. It is really good to avoid physically being violent, to physically say the truth, not to steal, to be chaste: to conserve our sexual and vital energy as well, and not to be greedy, or jealous. But in our mind, we can also do that, in our heart.
So, I may be angry at my friend and I say: "Ok, well, I am catching myself. I can see this anger. I should not be violent. So, I am not going to punch my friend.” But in my mind, I am sitting there, criticizing my friend, and in my heart, am I hating my friend, this person who I should love, who I should feel compassion for?
It is not just to get caught in the physical actions. That is where we need to begin, checking out, “What I am doing with my physical actions, with my daily life?” But then, as we are working with self-observation and we are going into those deeper states and truly seeing ourselves, we will discover many states in ourselves that are unpleasant, that we do not like to see, that we do have hatred in our hearts even for our family members, or the people that we are supposed to love. There are moments when we truly hate them, when maybe we think we want to kill them. It is terrible, but we have those thoughts. We have those feelings, and we need to observe them. We need to become aware of them, meditate on them so that we can change, so, we can pray and get the help of divinity to become better people.
Because every time we are acting on it, we are fueling our envy: "Oh, I just hate that guy. I really hope he loses his job!” Every time we are feeding our energy into those types of thinking, in that type of emotion, we are creating more disharmony in ourselves, and more unhappiness. We cannot be calm, and we cannot be able to experience higher states, higher emotional states of compassion and truth, love, and serenity. We cannot feel that as long as we pour our energy into those negative states.
Here in the other column we have Niyama:
Saucha: freedom from egotistical desire, desire of I want and I do not care who has to suffer for me to get what I want.
Comment: Or wanting to be on top!
Instructor: Yes, entitlement as well. So we need to let that go, to not be so consumed with "I wish that reality was a different way! I wish that my life was a different way! I wish these people treated me differently than how they are treating me!" Because that is making us very unhappy. We need to learn to accept reality, and to let go of our own egotistical wishes to change everything because that is a cause of our misery.
We talked about Noble Truths of Buddhism and that suffering is caused by desire. So, if we want to stop suffering, we have to let that go. We need to have contentment with what one has.
Also, work with austerities or spiritual practices, so we can begin with prayer and meditation. Or as I mentioned, self-observation. We have many other spiritual practices, in this tradition that we can work with as well.
Study of scriptures and continual remembrance of God. There is that light that we need. To nourish our soul, to awaken.
By continually remembering God, we can avoid actions that we do not feel are truly ethical. Because if we really remember in each moment, divinity is here in my heart, in this temple, then, how can you continue to be cruel to your neighbor, and to hate the people around you? To be filled with all kinds of defects. You want to change. You feel remorse.
You can test this. I have had many times in my life where, rather than trying to change an unpleasant situation, I just start tried to change myself. So, I will be honest with you, guys: I have had a bad attitude about many jobs that I had in the past. Realizing like, as I said, that there is a cycle there. I am going to work with this attitude: "Oh, these coworkers are going to annoy me, and my boss is going to be a jerk! I am going to have these problems with customers!” And so, rather than trying to always run from one job to the next job, to the next job, and finding ourselves again in an unhappy situation, in our new job…
Comment: It follows you everywhere you go!
Instructor: Your problems follow you exactly.
Because the problem, most of time, is with you, not with your external circumstances!―even if the external circumstances are very bad. I mean, some people have very difficult lives, very challenging external circumstances. Sometimes the only thing that we have control over and power to change is ourselves.
I work with this, and I try really hard: "Oh, I am catching myself. I am not going to lie, even though right now my boss may be mad at me if I tell the truth. I am going to catch myself,” and forcing myself to do it. It is difficult. It is a challenging work. But if you put it into motion and test it out, you will see the results and you are going to see in your meditation and your practices as well, then you will have that faith from your own experience that putting ethics in motion really work, and really helps you to awaken and decreases your suffering. It puts you in harmony with the people around you and harmony with yourself. Then, you do not need anybody warding over you or telling you what to do.
You want to do what is right because you know that it brings is your happiness. You see the link there between cause and effect. But, because most of time we are totally, psychologically asleep, and we are not aware about what we are doing, or what effects are coming from what we are doing, then we go around with an attitude of entitlement. "Oh, why are not things the way I want them to be?" And we do not accept responsibility. And we do not see that we are putting the very causes into motion.
Comment: Yes, doing things my way instead of your way.
Instructor: Yes. We do not see that our own thinking is flawed. That we think that reality should succumb to our will, our wishes. And our ideas about reality, rather than being conscious of: "OK, reality functions on a basis of cause and effect, and it is found by working putting the right causes in motion, then there is no way I am going to have positive effects.”
You go around and you hate people, and you are mean to people, and you lie, steal, murder, cheat, and all of those things, you are going to have an unhappy life.
But, sometimes we do one good thing, and then we feel: “Well, how come I did one good thing, and I am not getting all these results?” We ignore that the other ninety-nine percent of the time we are doing a lot of harmful things.
We need to be really sincere with ourselves―a radical kind of sincerity with ourselves. Moment to moment, what kind of causes am I putting into effect? Slowly, tip the scale back, so, that you are putting more positive actions into place: turning the other cheek. I mean, do not endure abuse. Have common sense, but if somebody insults you, not getting into a huge fight with them, forgiving them, having compassion. Maybe they are having a really bad day. Whatever the situation may be, putting positive causes into motion every moment, and we then gradually start to see the effects.
And so, another quote from Galatians, in the Bible:
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” ―Galatians 6:7
Instructor: Yes. It is karma. Cause and effect. Karma means action and consequence, cause and effect.
So, sometimes we think we can trick God into having mercy on us: “I’ll just wait and I am on my deathbed and then I’ll beg for forgiveness and I will just be fine!”
Comment: The problem is, you never know when you are going to die! You can get killed in a second in a car accident…
Instructor: Exactly! And we do not know how much time we have. That each moment in life is valuable. And God is always watching you, even if you forget God, he does not forget you.
Divinity is very alive, very intelligent. That the law of action and consequence is an intelligent law. It is not mechanical. Laws of nature might be mechanical, but the superior laws, the laws of divinity, are laws that have a balance of severity and mercy.
If you are acting in ways that you know in your consciousness that are wrong, that law is going to be severe on you for your own good, so that you see that you need to listen to your heart, your inner divinity, to do what is right. But if you express sincere remorse, if you want to change, if you want to become a better person for your own benefit and also for the benefit of everyone around you, then the law of mercy can help you, can elevate you into those higher states that we saw in the Tree of Life.
We do not want to be like the Pharisee, going around and telling everybody: "Look how great I am! I am such a poor person! I am so noble. I do all of these great things"―and then in our own mind be full of impurity, be full hatred, be full of envy, and greed and lust.
We want to really be sincere with ourselves and humble to see ourselves as we are.
There is another quote from the Bible, one of my favorites, from the first book of Samuel that says:
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. ―1 Samuel 16:7
When we look in ourselves, we take such good care of our appearance how I am going to look? How are people going to perceive us? What kind of job do I have? What kind of car do I drive? These types of outward things. When we are really working spiritually, we want to develop our own spiritual growth, our own soul, we need to look on our heart, the way that God does, to weigh our heart in a scale and to see, “I really used today wisely,” that “I really used today in a way that I feel good about," that “I feel that I was trying to become a better person.”
In the beginning, it is not to strive for perfection, that is unrealistic, but to just to be sincere, “Did I take the next step that I was able to take?” Sometimes we see things that we didn’t, that we missed opportunities. That is OK, as long as we are learning from them and we are trying to change, asking for help from our inner divinity to be able to change.
That is gradually working with self-observation, working with meditation, seeing these things in ourselves, and being sincere, that we can begin to ascend into higher states of consciousness and come out of those states of suffering, and even have experiences directly with divinity.
The Four Principles of Karma
When we work with action and consequence, with this law of karma, there are four rules that we should remember and keep in mind [as taught by Tsong Khapa in Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment].
The first is that:
1. Action produces related consequences.
So, it means that whatever you are doing is going to have a consequence. There is no action that is not going to produce a consequence. To not think as some people do, to not fool ourselves as: "Oh, I can cheat and get my way through this! And nobody will find out. None of this will have a consequence."
Even if you are lucky and you get away with whatever it was that you did, physically, internally you did not get away with that―and internally, in your own conscience, know, you are going to think less of yourself as a person for having done that.
But the thing is not only physical consequences, but they also have emotional consequences, energetic consequences. Consequences in our mind.
I gave the example of lying. Lying does not just have the consequence of hurting the people that you lie to. It also imbalances your mind. It creates disharmony and confusion in your own mind.
If you really work to tell the truth from moment to moment, you begin to see how much clearer your mind becomes.
The second rule is that:
2. The consequences are greater than the actions.
You might say one word, just one word, even if it is a hateful word. It is cruel word. It is a loving word. The effects of that word can be much greater. We see them in people that have written a book. Or somebody tweets a wrong thing. Twitter is pretty popular right now. So, somebody just tweets the wrong thing and the consequences can be enormous, that they can lose their job. They can lose their entire reputation, in an instant, right?
Being aware that the consequences are greater than the actions is important. It is not to delude ourselves: "Oh, this is just a little thing!” But you know that little things are going to produce much greater consequences.
This can work in our favor. When we work with positive actions, when we work with ethical actions, sacrifice for others, compassion, good behaviors, virtuous deeds, then the consequences as well are great. We will be rewarded in our work, in our life. People will like you more if you are kind to them. (I don’t know guys if you have figured that out). Usually, if you are jerk to people, they are not going to be nice to you. They are not going to want to work with you. If you are kind to people, then you can get along better with people.
Comment: Then they can get cooperation from you.
Instructor: Right, and people will want to cooperate with you because you are a nice person. Even on a superficial level, we can see that, that the actions have effects. But when we are talking in a more profound level, on the spiritual effects of our life, then this becomes even more important to us.
How am I using my emotions, my mind?
Am I using them in a way that is in accordance with what God wants from me?―you know, with this loving neighbor, loving God―or am I using them to hurt people? This stuff that we should not be doing.
The third rule is that:
3. You cannot receive the consequence without committing its correspondent action.
If you want to experience higher dimensions, or heavenly dimensions, talking with divinity or angels, you can expect that if you have committed the actions that allow that to happen, since nothing is given for free.
You sacrifice and you help others, you perform virtuous deeds, you do in your daily life what your own conscience your inner divinity is guiding you to do, then you will be able to have those higher mystical experiences. But you cannot just expect to go with the flow and continue on in bad behaviors and then suddenly your life changes in an instant. We may have a fantasy about that, but that cannot happen, unless we begin to work.
4. Once an action is performed, the consequences cannot be erased.
After you said some really cruel thing to someone that you love, you cannot ever take it away. That is an example of this.
However [There is a fifth principle of karma that has not been taught until the writings of Samael Aun Weor]:
5. A superior law always overcomes an inferior one.
So, if are sincerely remorseful, you may be able to go and apologize to that person and they may forgive you.
Comment: And then maybe the law of mercy will want to take over instead.
Instructor: In that merciful exchange, you might be able to repair the damage from the bad behavior, but you can’t erase the consequences of actions that have put in motion. However, we work with superior laws here. We work with the law of sacrifice, of doing kind things for others without expecting anything in return. That is what Jesus has modeled for us. He gave everything with his life―a beautiful, a perfect example of love as sacrifice.
If in our own little way, in our own interactions with others, our daily life, our work, whatever our situation may be, if we are working to turn that into a service, to do good for others―not because we want everybody to like us, and to praise us and think we are great, but just genuinely out of love for others―we can overcome our defects. We can overcome the consequences of the mistakes we have made, because we sometimes, being very much asleep, just say stupid things, which can be discouraging to see in ourselves, but as long as you are conscious, you are trying to use that to do good things.
The effects can be more powerful. We have talked before when we do things consciously, whether positive or negative, the effects of those actions are going to be more powerful. So, we want to make sure that we are awakening consciousness, conserving our energy, putting positive, virtuous, harmonious actions into motion so that we have positive effects.
The Training and Work of Initiation
Finally, we are going to finish with a long quote from Dion Fortune. In many esoteric schools, they talk about initiates and imitates are people who enter into the mysteries of divinity, the secret teachings.
Now, in this tradition, many secret teachings are openly taught, so we do not have to wait other person to come and to initiate us. But we ourselves are the initiators. We ourselves have to take these teachings in our own daily lives, in our own spiritual practice and work with them. So then we are able to enter into higher aspects of consciousness, in our own meditation, in our own experience.
We have to initiate something new, create new circumstances for ourselves by working with our own consciousness. When the consciousness is free, when the mind is free of conditioning, when the will is free of conditioning, then we have freedom in our life to see things in a totally new way, to make choices. As long as we are caught in that, the cycle repetition, sleeping mechanical consciousness, then we do not have any power to change.
As we start to wake up, we have to master equanimity and equilibrium in our circumstances, because life is going to bring hard, challenging circumstances in your way. Many of us are experiencing this right now. We are here in these type of studies is because we are suffering, and because we are trying to find a way that transcends the suffering. In order to do that, first we have to begin by accepting suffering, not in a way that is passive or complicit with evil, but in a way of the integrity of the soul.
In this quote Dion Fortune says:
“The initiate may accept his lot with a calmness which amazes men whose impulse it is to curse or pray according to their nature, but his acceptance does not necessarily imply passivity. To accept one's fate without murmuring does not pledge one to make no effort to better it. Knowing the power of concentrated thought, the initiate makes use of it in all the problems of life (that concentrated thought is our conscious awareness). His method, however, is not that of direct attack in which he "wills" the change of the unpleasant condition, but is directed to bring about certain changes in his own consciousness, for he knows that it is his own temperament which is the real instrument of karma. It is only through those factors in his own nature which react that karma can affect him. He knows that certain conditions come to him in order that they may provoke certain reactions in his own nature, and according to his handling of these reactions will be his karma, even in the present life. When he has harmonised these reactions, he has worked out his karma.” ―Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of an Initiate
If we break that down a little bit, it is everything that we have been talking about. It is about establishing a really deep sincerity, a deep ethic in yourself then no matter what everybody does you, you are going to be a good person. You are going to be a person that can feel dignity with yourself, integrity, because you know you try to do what is right, by your own conscience.
No matter what circumstances throws at you, your reactions to the circumstances is going to determine what happens next. So, if you respond positively, with virtuous actions, sacrificing and helping others, then your life can slowly, gradually ascend into better circumstances. If you respond to life with negativity and make things worse, getting into arguments with people, hurt people, then little by little you are going to increase your problems, and descend to lower states of being.
So, she goes on talking about the initiate:
“He knows, therefore that although he cannot determine the conditions under which his life must be lived, he can determine his reaction to those conditions. It is this fact which he bears constantly in mind in all his dealings. It is this realisation which enables him to raise his head above a sea of troubles and view them from the standpoint of cosmic law and spiritual principles. Although he cannot command the conditions to which he awakens from the sleep of birth, he is nevertheless the master of his fate, for he can manipulate those conditions in such a way that they shall bear him whithersoever he will, just as a ship can tack against a head-wind; and the worse the conditions and the stronger the wind, the swifter his progress.” ―Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of an Initiate
In this teaching we are trying to transform our life by using it in a superior way, by using life as a school for our spiritual development. That is very different from a common mindset: "Oh, well, I can’t control anything in life! Life just happens to me,” and so. “No, if life is terrible, there is nothing that I can do about that. I do not have any power to make it better!"
We accept responsibility for our life, and we work with higher principles, with spiritual principles, not with the laws, the worldly, common sense of average people. When we are working with the spiritual laws and with that by working with our own consciousness, we realize that the worse the conditions of life, the better for us. Because we are able to define ourselves, to develop ourselves, to see new things about ourselves, to become stronger in our own soul.
The soul is like a warrior, and as a soul, without any battles, cannot train, cannot develop itself. Then look at the ultimate example of this: Jesus Christ, right? Or we can look at saints or buddhas. People who endured terrible persecution, and Jesus was crucified.
If that is our ultimate goal, if someday we would like to gradually ascend towards becoming better people, with equanimity, truly spiritual types of people that can endure suffering and still love others, still have great compassion and serenity with our circumstances, then we have to begin by looking at our own life and in our ability to tolerate the little unpleasant things in our life.
If Jesus could handle being crucified, can I take an insult from our neighbor and respond with love? And that is where we have to begin. Little things that right now in our life are training us so that we come to handle bigger things.
So, there is one more quote I am going to end with by Dion Fortune:
“The discipline of the path cannot be learned from books. It is experience alone which brings realization. Let us therefore accept our karma as the first initiation. Let us strive for a mastery of ourselves in our circumstances which shall give us serenity under all conditions. What cannot be cured must be endured. This is the first lesson which karma teaches us. The adept is a man of unruffled serenity. For he is a man of perfect self-control. Let us strive for mastery of the inner astral kingdom of the emotions (having serenity of the emotions); once we have acquired this, we have the key of the astral plane in our hands ready for the time when the initiator shall bring us to the door.” ―Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of the Initiate
So, if we seek those higher experiences, we need to establish the causes here in our own emotional states of being, our mind, our heart, our body. So that we’re ready, that when the moment comes, we’re given key to enter into higher states of being, we have the necessary preparation.
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