This is a transcription of an audio lecture from Gnostic Psychology, a course originally given live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago:
There are many forms of intelligence. It is an inherent aspect of any living thing, down from the smallest microbe, to the atom, to any living thing: animals, plants, human beings.
Unfortunately in this humanity, people like to assume and believe that the human being as we are now is the height of intelligence, the height of wisdom. While certainly we have many advancements in technology, many marvels, the reality is that we continue to suffer and to be afflicted by many problems that our greatest scientists, philosophers, teachers, cannot provide for.
All religions have taught in their heart that there is the possibility for something more and that that development is internal. We have the potential to become something beyond comprehension at this level, of what a human being can be. Our humanity has received many messengers, many prophets, whether we call them angels, buddhas, masters, Gods: people who were once like us, and yet learned to change themselves, to comprehend their own inner conditioning, so that by transforming their negativity, they became what we emulate: Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Krishna, the great prophets—those who exemplified the highest ideals possible in a human being, compassion that is selfless, unrelenting, divine.
When Jesus was crucified, he only said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." He didn't have any malice in him, because all those defects were destroyed in him through a long process of meditation, of purification, of practice.
So contrary to popular belief, a figure like Jesus or Buddha was once like us, afflicted. And yet, they learned by developing their intelligence, their understanding, how to become great beings, great messengers. We can become like them. It is possible to overcome suffering on a grand scale within ourselves.
And all those teachers emphasize that this path is meditation, because it is an introspection, a method of looking, of gaining information, of developing our own understanding of who we are and not assuming that we know.
Oftentimes we say that we know a person. We mention their manners, their words, their language, their behaviors. How often in our lives have we known someone who we assume to be a certain image and yet in the next moment we learn of a great tragedy, a terrible action? We can look at the news to see people like this. Individuals who seem like great saints and then the next moment it's unveiled that they were into very degenerated behaviors, which is contrary to that popular image that people had.
While this is very common in our society, on a more psychological level we do this with ourselves: our own self-image, who we assume to be, what we like to project to the world, to present to others, to show. We like to think that we know who we are: our language, our name, our culture, the food we eat, the people we associate with, the music we listen to, the friends we have.
But, those things are temporary. They are not eternal. They are not our true divine nature. Divinity is not a person, an anthropomorphic figure in the clouds that sits on a throne of tyranny, dispensing lightning bolts to a poor humanity, like an ant hill. That anthropomorphic figure does not exist, which is why even Friedrich Nietzsche, the author of Thus Spoke Zarathustra said "God is dead," because that image does not exist.
Instead, what exists is a type of intelligence which is beyond good and evil, which is terribly divine and sacred. And of course, it is beyond our conceptions of what is good or bad, but is our true nature, our divine being, which is a state of consciousness, a state perception, a state of intelligence.
But in order to understand what that is, we have to learn to strip away that which is superfluous, which we think is us: our sentiments, our sense of pride, our fears, our anger, our laziness, gluttony, greed, lust, passion—these things that we like to assume is us, who we are, but which at the heart of every religion teaches that it is negative, because those elements produce suffering.
When we say something negative to someone with anger, we produce pain. That is not our divine nature and it is not our true nature, because a certain condition brought up that sense of self, in which we said something negative, and it created a lot of problems. But unfortunately, we like to hold onto a sense of image of ourselves. What we think we are. What we want other people to believe that we are. Many times we fight and even kill, or people even kill in the name of this sense of self that is so hurt. When one has betrayed. When one is slandered. When one is gossiped about. When one is lied to.
It is sad, because even people who are filled with great defects have the potential to become something great, but in order to do so, they must use their genuine intelligence, their understanding of what divinity is. To learn to discriminate within the mind that which is positive from that which is negative. That which produces happiness for oneself and others, or pain.
Everyone wants happiness, but not all people are willing to work on their own methods of how to acquire it, because everyone wants to enjoy life, not to suffer, to not be in pain. Yet, our behaviors in many cases are the very means by which we suffer, though we don't see it.
In a spiritual sense, we are not very awake, aware of our full potential, because if we knew divinity in us, moment by moment, without thinking of other things, without being distracted by life, naturally, in any moments of great crisis, when presented with great traumas, sufferings, which affect us, we then learn to engage in life with intelligence, understanding—knowing how to negotiate our spiritual nature with this chaotic world, which does not know any order, which is falling apart.
So real intelligence is divinity. It is spiritual, and in this lecture we will talk about how to develop that potential in us, how to change and how to make others happy, but not in the Hallmark sense. If we sacrifice our own needs, there is a type of negotiation there. How do we help other people without compromising our spiritual nature? Not ego nature, not pride, laziness, fear, defects, those things need to be eliminated so that our true potential can emerge spontaneously in a beautiful way. In a profound way.
Our True Nature and the Four Noble Truths
So our consciousness is in a potential state. It is not very active. Although in this level, we have a certain amount of intelligence and understanding, but that is not the full gamut of what we can become. We can become like a Jesus, a Buddha.
The word Buddha simply means “awakened one,” to be aware, to be attentive. From the prefix budh, which means “cognition,” which can mean intelligence. That is the type of intelligence that knows how to respond to any circumstance without identifying, without provoking the anger of others, or achieving this retaliation of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. It is a compassionate state that can cut through illusion, through ignorance, and in that way help others, but also help oneself.
On a basic level we say that we are awake. We understand, we learn, we speak, we communicate, we interact with the world; but most people do not ever question the manner and method by which one does so, or even think that it is possible to change one's psychological states in relation to problems, ordeals, the sufferings of existence.
Fortunately, there have been teachers who have taught a method and means by which to understand the process, the path. That path is beautifully taught by many messengers, such as the Buddha, who explained that through understanding Four Noble Truths, one can reach the cessation of suffering and the complete development of the human being.
Other teachers knew the Four Noble Truths, whether from other religions, but the Buddha emphasized these four truths in a very didactic way, in a very profound way.
He said that in life there is suffering, which is from the word dukkha. That word can mean many things—displeasure, dissatisfaction, sorrow, pain. It could also mean disgust, and this is a very interesting term because for someone to really understand meditation, and to really access the divine, one needs to be very tired of suffering—to not want to suffer anymore, to reach that rock bottom when one realizes that if one does not change, then one will enter even greater states of suffering.
But it is a type of realization, a type of displeasure with the facts of life—to want to question, "Is there more? Is there something else in this life that will produce happiness rather than a job, marriage, money, bank accounts?” Things that in the end will leave us. But, where will our consciousness go?
Unfortunately for most people, they don't know or we don't know because we haven't awakened our perception. Most people have not. If you are familiar with teachings of astral projection, lucid dreams, out of body experiences, there have been people who by accident, have awakened consciousness in a state in which they were out of the body, physically.
When the physical body goes to sleep, the soul goes out and usually projects its dreams within the screen of that dimension, which we'll talk about in relation to the Kabbalah, the Jewish mysticism, the Tree of Life. For most of us, we go into that state every night when we go to sleep, but not aware. We may have some dreams, we project things, and then we wake up in the morning, possibly remembering some kind of event that one experienced and was very unclear. Usually very vague.
But, when we learn meditation, we can learn to be awake in that dream state and no longer be dreaming, but become aware of that world, which is a whole other way of being. We have many methods you can use to experience that, and in that way we realize that there is something more to life than just going through our grind.
But, when we learn to remove the causes of suffering in us, we awaken consciousness. Most people are not aware of what those causes are, which we explained in our courses of gnostic psychology. The word gnosis in Greek means “knowledge, experiential knowledge.” That which we know for fact. What we perceive from experience, like a lucid dream or astral projection. These things are very real for those who awaken their perception, who learn to meditate. Those kinds of experiences can help to inspire us, to want to know more, to want to change; and in this tradition we study practices to develop that potential, that intelligence, that wisdom.
Samudaya: The Internal Causes of Suffering
So suffering has causes: samudaya. This is where many people become hung up. The causes of suffering are internal. It is the hypnosis of the soul that we commonly experience, where we usually like to blame external life, the external world for our suffering. Material needs, food, clothing, shelter, struggles at jobs, marriage difficulties. We usually just like to project our dreams onto the external world, not realizing that we are not very conscious, we are not very awake, because somebody who is awake will not respond with anger to one's loved ones, in a spiritual sense.
The causes of suffering are psychological, are conditions of mind, negative states that we created. But of course, it takes tremendous courage to want to recognize that in ourselves. That we are responsible for the pains we go through. That our psychological state attracts our life. This is what happens to us in many cases, not all.
But those causes of suffering we call ego. The word ego in Latin means "I." The sense of “me, myself, who I am; my job, my race, my language, my habits, my friends.” The way that we feel about ourselves, which is usually very egotistical, selfish, negative.
Unfortunately, most people never question that self. They like to feed it. They like to indulge in desire, which is a craving for something that once it is given, once it is satiated, wants more.
Contrary to popular psychology, when we feed anger, we don't remove it. It isn't annihilated. It doesn't cease to exist. In fact, it gets stronger and bigger, and more monstrous. So, these are things in ourselves that we can see.
Nirvana: The Cessation of the Ego
Fortunately, those egotistical qualities can cease to be, and that is the third truth: nirvana. In Sanskrit the word nirvana means “cessation. To cease suffering.” If we study Jewish mysticism and astral projection, those types of things, we know that nirvana is also a state of consciousness in different dimensions, which we can access when the physical body is asleep. When we go out in the dream world and learn to be awake in that state in order to ascend those heavens, mentioned so many times by Dante in his Divine Comedy, the Greek mythology, Islam, Sufism, Judaism, the Bible. They are all talking about the same thing.
But if we want to access those states, we have to remove all the luggage from our subconsciousness, that which we are not aware of, because this is a type of baggage that we carry with us wherever we go. Anger is a profound lead of the soul. It is heavy. It brings us down and brings other people down. Unfortunately, we become victim to it many times, if we are honest, but by learning to meditate and to observe ourselves, we become aware of those qualities in us that need to change. We can change, so that the lead of the ego, according to the alchemists of medieval science, can be transformed and transmuted into the gold of the spirit—because part of our soul is trapped in anger, fear, pride, and all that conglomeration of defects we carry.
Like the genie from Aladdin's lamp, we can extract the genie, the intelligence, our divine nature, and then break the lamp. That is a beautiful Arabian myth about how our soul has so much potential. It can grant any wish, but we have to remove the causes of suffering, which are psychological.
We do that through meditation, specifically, and in that way, we learn to vibrate at higher levels of being, ways of consciousness, so that naturally we learn to that astral project every night, have experiences of a spiritual type, learn to meditate, speak face to face in that world, that dimension with Jesus or Buddha or Muhammed or Christ or whatever prophets we have an affinity for.
They are very awake, but we can talk to them like we are talking here or seeing each other here. It is a very real thing, but one has to work for it.
It is not easy to renounce anger, when we are criticized and suddenly, we feel that desire to say something very negative. And then we do. That of course provokes the other person and causes conflict. But, if we learn to be patient, no matter how wrong that person is or whatever crimes they have committed, we can create distance, or a sense of non-identification with them. Not judging them, because we tend to carry many elements in us that we blame in others. But seeing that is difficult.
Marga: The Gnostic Path of Meditation
There is a path that teaches us this process which is marga: the path of cessation. It means “path, a way, a method,” and that method is very specific. It has been in all religions, all traditions before. Of course, those teachings degenerate with time, because when exposed to humanity, obviously people's own psychological corruption adulterates, impedes, breaks apart that message.
That knowledge is known as gnosis in Greek, which is something we study in this school. It is a Greek word meaning “experiential knowledge”—what we verify through facts, and not what we assume to be.
So, as I said, we tend to assume many things about ourselves—if we are honest—but this doesn't mean this type of questioning of oneself should produce pessimism or negativity, but more of a type of inquiry, a type of investigation.
Buddha Nature: Consciousness and the Tree of Life
A lot of people that hear “my anger, my pride, my negativity, my ego… that myself must die,” and people become terrified. “What will I be when that is gone? My language, my name, my personality, my customs, my race?” But, at the same time we have something that is genuine in us, which is pure. The Buddhists call it buddhadatu, buddha nature: the possibility to be awake, to be intelligent, to be spiritual, because we all have that capacity. It is just not developed. It can easily be developed, and it takes a certain method and discipline with oneself. That path is in all religions, especially the Jewish Kabbalah.
You can see here an image of ten spheres, which are known in Hebrew as a sephiroth. This is a map of consciousness. A map of the soul, from the very heights of the divine, to the most basic, most material, most physical. This is a map of our intelligence, our whole spiritual nature.
At the top if you notice you'll see a trinity. There are three trinities here. An upright triangle, two lower triangles and a bottom sphere.
Kabbalah is known as the science of numbers. It is a means by which we can interpret any tradition on the planet. Any scripture, any book, as well as our own experiences in meditation. It is a map of the multi-dimensionality of the soul, from the external to the internal. We have the most divine principles in us, which some traditions have called Christ, which in Hebrew are known as Kether, Chokmah, Binah: Father, Son, Holy Spirit amongst the Christians. Or amongst the Egyptians it is Osiris, Horus, Isis. Or for the Nordics it is Wotan, Baldur, Thor. Different names, one reality.
This is an expression of what we really are in our most fundamental depth. In Hebrew those terms Kether, Chokmah, Binah mean “Crown, Wisdom, and Intelligence.” These are three forces in nature, within us, in the cosmos. This top trinity—these three forces are one but three. They express as three. They create every living thing in this universe. They spread as three points and then become one. Then they concentrate.
On a very basic level we can see that there is a father: a masculine principle, a woman: a feminine principle, and then the third which is the child: the synthesis of the man and woman on a sexual level. So, these three forces relate to creation and especially to what we call the creative energies in us, which, through meditative discipline, we can harness and use for spirituality.
But below that there is more. This divine force in the cosmos descends into more concrete levels of experience, of dimensionality, which again we can experience when we meditate, or when we have a astral projection, or in a waking experience.
We have Chesed in Hebrew and which means “Mercy.” That is our inner spirit. Our own particular Buddha nature, our inner God, which emanates from the top trinity, from the cosmos. That spirit is unique to us, individual in us, but also is a conduit by which we can be one with all things, all beings. The quality of that sephiroth or sphere is love, compassion
On the left, we have a sphere called Geburah, which in Hebrew means “Justice.” That is a type of conscious state that is very pure. It is the spiritual soul, spiritual consciousness, which never mixes with any type of impurity, any defect. It is Justice because our consciousness knows how to judge between right and wrong.
We usually call this voice conscience, like in the story of Pinocchio. He has a cricket on his shoulder name Jiminy who always tells him “this is good, this is bad.” It is a symbol of this: Pinocchio was a wooden boy, a puppet influenced by the strings of life, his own defects, but he wants to become a real human being, a divine being. Even the word Pinocchio in Tuscan is “pine seed.” The seed that could become a pine tree.
This is known as the Tree of Life in the Book of Genesis, in the Bible. It is a map, not a literal plant in the Middle East many ages ago. It is not a literal story, only a symbolical one.
So Jiminy Cricket is always warning Pinocchio, “You needed to do this and this,” but of course Jiminy cricket gets killed at one point, at least in the in the book by Carlos Collodi. In the film, it does a good job of depicting the same truths by Disney, but some things they left out. But of course, Jiminy Cricket comes back because the consciousness is eternal. It always comes back to warn us in our heart, that sense of judgment that knows that a certain action is wrong, but usually the mind interferes. It says, “I have many excuses. I should do this because it's the right thing,” and we rationalize later on, but in the heart we feel the consequences. That is judgment.
Beneath that we have a sphere called Tiphereth, which in Hebrew means “Beauty,” splendor. It is the beauty of the soul. Out true, we could say, Buddha nature. So again, there are unfoldments and levels and levels of divinity in us. But this is really what we call human soul, our will.
When we will something, we do it. It could be either conscious, or for most people, it tends to be unconscious. Even in popular psychology taught by Freud, he often spoke about competing wills, competing desires, subliminal impulses in the mind. So Tiphereth can either reflect the beauty of God or the negative beauty of our own defects, our own hell realms we could say, our own states of suffering.
Beneath that we have Netzach which means “Victory.” That is our mind, our thoughts, our concepts. We can see then that this is becoming more concrete. You can notice here that as we are descending down this Tree of Life, we can start to grasp certain things in ourselves. The mind is more concrete. We are more aware of that because we tend to be influenced or dominated by Netzach.
To the left of that is Hod, which in Hebrew means “Glory.” That is our emotions. What some people call the astral body. When we go to dream at night, we enter the world of Hod, which is known as the fifth dimension. That is a world in which we dream typically, but usually without awareness. It is an emotional plane, emotional dimension, because many people, they have dreams, they start to sense and feel strong emotional reactions and many times we tend to dream about things that happen at work or in our day; the reason being is the life we live here physically is repeated in the dream state. We just don't have any cognition of it. We are usually not aware of it.
So we repeat things, but without knowing where we are about recognizing where we are. But, we have techniques in this tradition that teach us how, when in that state, we can awaken. We will teach that in our courses of astral projection and dream yoga: the science of dreams.
Beneath that is Yesod, which means “Foundation.” This is our creative energy. As I said, the creative energy is divine. We can learn to use our energies and our body and our glands, especially the sexual glands, to learn to take those forces and use them for divinity. That can serve as a foundation by which we can access with consciousness, these higher spheres, these higher sephiroth. We see that Yesod is the foundation. Our energy is the foundation, because without vital energy we would not have life, even physically.
So Malkuth, if you look below, means “Kingdom.” It is our physical body. Our physicality. That is what we typically only know. But Malkuth, the physical body would not exist if we didn't have vitality, enough energy to get through our day, or to live. Some people feel depleted, they say "I need to sleep," because the vital body needs to recharge. That vital energy needs to work in us.
So I am mentioning different bodies, different vehicles by which we express ourselves in different dimensions. It is unfortunate that we tend to only believe that this physical plane is all there is, but when we learn to awaken in dreams, we find that even our vital energies form a vehicle, a kind of body that penetrates this physical body. It gives it life. It gives it the ability to act and move.
There's also an emotional body known as Hod: a vehicle we usually work with in dreams, but unconsciously. There is also a mind or mental body, a mental vehicle. Above that we have more subtle aspects of divinity, which are difficult to comprehend at this level, but we can access those in us through practice. We will see more and more how this glyph represents who we are and our potential.
The Etymology of Intelligence and Understanding
So I mentioned the Tree of Life and a lecture about intelligence. The word intelligence comes from Latin, meaning: “realizing, understanding, perceiving, discerning. It refers to “intelligō”: inter, meaning: “between” and “legō,” meaning “collect,” or “recite,” from the verb.
Real intelligence is knowing the relationship of ourselves to other things, and even within us. It is a profound state of intelligence to know the relationship between mind and heart, mind and body, will and spirit, spirit and the highest divinity.
Intelligence is represented in the Kabbalah, this third sephiroth or sphere Binah. Remember that this top trinity is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Kether, Chokmah, and Binah. Binah is known as “intelligence, understanding.” It is a part of us, an energy that makes it possible to experience the whole Tree of Life and to learn how to work in this physical world with wisdom, so that we may be crowned by divinity through our actions. Rewarded for performing good things, good deeds.
What is interesting is that the word קבלה Kabbalah in Hebrew comes from לקבל la’kabbel, which means “to receive.” It is what we receive from divinity. It is a word that refers to the Greek gnosis. Knowledge we experience. Things that we see for ourselves, that we witness directly.
And in that way, in meditation we calm the body, relax our energies, relax our heart, relax our mind. In that way we can start to learn to direct our will power, our concentration, which if you are familiar with meditation, we often speak about concentration exercises. These are means by which we learn to focus on one thing without thinking.
In that simple synopsis we find the lower five sephiroth of the Tree of Life represented. Our physical body Malkuth needs to relax. We need to understand our relationship to our body, so that we could be healthy and be strong. That is one form of intelligence. Also, we need to learn to work with our vital forces, our vital energies, which we can do so through breathing exercises or mantras, that help to circulate energy by vocalizing throughout our vital depth, our vital body. That helps to stabilize everything, because if you notice that Yesod is the center of the Tree of Life at the very bottom, it's the foundation of all practice.
We have to learn how to conserve energy. Most of the time in our day, we expel energy: physically, emotionally, mentally. That is why many people who begin meditation usually leave, because they are not seeing results. The problem is that they are not working with the foundation. It is important to work with energies, so that it can empower our consciousness, our soul, so that it can be awake, spontaneously, natural, happy.
Likewise in meditation, we calm heart, the emotional center, Hod. We need to understand our relationship with our emotions and not be a victim of them. I believe it was the founder of the Muslim tradition said something very interesting. The Prophet Muhammad said, "The strongest among you is he who controls his anger." Very interesting, because when we learn to control the heart and conserve our emotional energies, we learn to awaken in that dimension. We naturally experience that state for ourselves. We learn to understand and discern with intelligence, to perceive that which is objective from that which is subjective. Real from false. Awake from dreaming. So, we want to stop dreaming in that state. You want to be awake, to be intelligent, to know our relationship with those things directly.
Likewise, we have to relax the mind, and this is very difficult for many people. It is common that when we sit to practice, we find that the mind is thinking. We are always thinking of other things, being distracted, filled with memories or daydreams, concepts, comparisons, contrasts, disagreements, agreements. The mind is always churning. It's a big ocean. It is always in a storm or flux, and when people see this in themselves, usually they get frightened. They see that the mind is so chaotic in the beginning, they get scared and they say, “This practice is harming me, because this is what I see in myself.”
The reality is that one is coming to see for oneself what is already there. It is subconscious. Our mind, as Freud taught, is very subconscious. Likewise, with our emotions and our impulses, our drives.
But, if one is persistent, by working with concentration exercises, by using one's willpower, one's focus to take an object of practice and not let the mind wander, just focus on one thing like a stone or a statue or a painting, then the mind calms. It settles. If you fight the mind, it will churn. It will be in chaos. But if you just observe the mind and relax, everything settles.
So meditation is, or preparation for meditation involves that: relax your body, your energies, your heart, your mind, and then direct your will on one thing.
It could be many things you want to meditate on. Maybe a problem. Asking a question to divinity where you want to receive an answer. Maybe a personal challenge or difficulty. Looking for guidance for something in your daily life that you can't resolve.
It's funny that people think that the mind is going to answer that question. It is a common assumption even in business meetings. There are people who spend hours and hours debating, using their intellect to argue the solution for a problem. Then when they take a break for fifteen minutes, they walk away and they stop thinking of the problem, suddenly the answer comes: the intuition, the insight. And in that way they come back to the meeting recharged, understanding what they need to do.
That is a basic example, but when we learn meditation, the first preliminary concentration exercise is relaxing the mind, the heart, the energies in the body. Then everything settles, so that we can learn to perceive these higher five sephiroth, up these higher spheres with our consciousness, which is Geburah, the sphere on the left.
It is also in that way that we can even have astral experiences, in which we speak face-to-face with our own inner spirit, our own inner God, our Buddha—even higher spheres above that which are very difficult to conceptualize at our level, but they exist in us nonetheless.
So this is a map of intelligence, our relationship to different things in us, and in the multi-dimensionality of nature. It is a process of discernment. Questioning in us what is real. What is factual? Then discarding what is useless so that we can learn to have that communication, that understanding of what divinity is.
Even the word understandan, from old English, to understand, we know is very basic. That is, to grasp the idea, to comprehend. To perceive the significance, meaning, explanation, or cause of something.
Meditation is about comprehension, understanding, so that when our mind and heart and body are settled, we can concentrate and even reflect on our day where we are observing ourselves, becoming aware of what situations in life provokes certain defects, certain problems that we want to change, and then we can concentrate on those moments. Reflect and imagine them, visualize them, see them with our consciousness so that we can get knowledge, understanding. What is the appropriate way to behave in this situation? For example at work I have been reflecting on conflict with some clients of mine who are very aggressive and very disrespectful. I have noticed they have been provoking with their behavior certain qualities in me that are negative or egotistical. Frustration. I want them to be a certain way, to behave in a certain way, because it's the right thing. Or that is the logic that is associated with that thought.
You can see that you have the mind there, but also the negative emotion, Hod, which feels that “I am being wronged.” Also the will to act, but negatively. To say the wrong things, to do the wrong things that make the situation worse.
So, I have been meditating on certain circumstances of my job, and by learning to relax, to concentrate and to ask for help from my inner divinity, my inner spirit, a beginning experience is about what I need to do at my job. Understanding the right way to act, the right way to think, to feel and to do. According to the Buddha: upright thought, upright feeling, upright action.
In that way, I have been able to transform many problems. Now, my clients who in the beginning were very rough, they can still be pretty antagonistic, but they respect me. There isn't that type of distrust anymore from the beginning.
Concentration and Imagination
So things can change, but gradually. Then when we work with our concentration, again, we are working with our consciousness too. The ability to imagine or perceive. This word imagination is often denigrated today as something fake or fantastical, but if I ask you to imagine an apple, you can see it. Not with physical senses, but psychological ones. That is a quality of our consciousness.
When you combine your will, your concentration, your focus on one thing, and imagining your scene in a day where you want to understand something, suddenly the comprehension emerges, relating to the spirit, Chesed. That helps us to become spiritual beings, because a spiritual being has intelligence, understands how to resolve problems, but without thinking. Not rationalizing, but knowing intuitively and acting immediately in the moment, so that it's very profound, divine.
Understanding can also refer to “interpreting or view something in a particular way.” To view ourselves in a new way. To understand something about ourselves that we never thought we had.
It can be negative, but it can also can be very positive, because we have qualities in us that are divine that we have no idea that exist. But, when you meditate you find that true divine heroic nature in you, which knows how to conquer affliction and all suffering.
So, understanding also refers to “perceiving the significance, explanation, or cause of something.” In this Buddhist sense, or in a religious or spiritual sense, it can refer to understanding the causes of our own suffering, our own egotistical drives, which manifests in our thoughts, our feeling, our body and energies, but also our will, depending on how we use it.
If you remember the prayer of Jesus of Nazareth in the garden of Gethsemane, he says, "Father, if it be possible, take this cup of bitterness from me, but not my will, but thine be done." That refers to Tiphereth, the heart. That is a symbol and his Passion is that he lived physically—it was a means of teaching something psychological, because every person needs to face their own types of ordeals and struggles in life, their own crucifixion, in a manner of speaking.
If we learn to meditate and remove the causes of suffering, we can, according to the myth of Jesus, resurrect. The soul is absorbed in the divinity, and then one is self-realized, realizing all the spheres of the Tree of Life. They are integrated. They are one, because right now our thoughts, our feelings, and our wills, tend to be very disparate.
In a moment, we may be washing our dishes and thinking of one thing, feeling another. We have the desire to go out and work out, followed by the desire for eating. “Now I want to read something else.” “Now I want to do something else.” We are always changing, in flux. We are constantly thinking and doing other things, never aware of where we are at or what we are doing.
We call that ego, and the ego is not singular as we like to think, or popular culture likes to think. Ego is egos. Anger, pride, fear, lust, laziness, gluttony—all those faults we carry inside—are multiple. They have their own agendas, ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. But, it's because we are not attentive, we don't really discriminate or distinguish between the differences, between those states. Meditation will teach one how to discern with intelligence, what is going on psychologically. Of course, it is unpleasant in the beginning to realize that this anger, or this fear, this sense of self is not singular. It is a big chaos. Multiple. But, as taught by many myths and as taught by the Tree of Life and through meditation, we can unify the soul. Achieve the realization of divinity in us.
So “to interpret something in a particular way, to be thoroughly familiar with, apprehend clearly the character, nature, or subtleties of something.”
Again, to interpret or view something in a particular way, how do we view ourselves? It's good to ask this question, not from a skeptical, pessimistic, standpoint. Nor a morbid sense of self-flagellation and shame. "Oh, I am a bad person." But just to ask the question and look what is going on in me. “Who am I?” To question and to examine oneself with a psychological sense.
We call it self-observation. To be aware of oneself. To not want to judge or praise or condemn what we see. Just to be aware, awake. And in that way, we gather data about our own faults, so that we can change.
Therefore, our understanding of ourselves will be on a true foundation, because the word understand literally implies that we are standing on something. We all tend to stand on some sense of identity. Our assumptions of ourselves, which other people may criticize and point out are wrong, but usually we feel very hurt. We don't want to be criticized or questioned.
It is good to ask the question when that experience unfolds, “Well, maybe they are right to ask that question. What if they are right that they see something in me that I don't see?” Other people tend to see things in ourselves that we don't see ourselves. Not to be afraid, but just examine. To be aware. This is the foundational method of meditation so that we can stand on strong ground, because when you stand on fact, we are not hurt.
I believe there is a saying in the book Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva where he explains how, if somebody says something to us and it is hurtful, if it is a lie, why get mad? If it is true, why get mad?
If one confronts oneself and is working, it doesn't hurt. It doesn't matter. And in this way, by asking that type of question, we learn to transform our situation.
The Impressions of Life and Internal Reactions
In these studies, we talk about the transformation of impressions. We say that life exists as it does in the form of impressions. We see through our senses, we hear, we feel, we taste, we touch, we smell. We can say that all of life exists in the form of energies or impressions. Whether we are looking outside, we see the rain, people walking. We can say that those people are outside of us, but at the same time, the impressions of those experiences always enter into the psyche, moment by moment.
There is never a moment in which we don't perceive perceptions, or perceive something, even at death, or in sleep, usually. Because, the consciousness is eternal. It always will exist, but in different modalities or formations, depending on how we use it. How we use our mind, our energies, our heart, our will, our consciousness.
So, everything always exists in the form of impressions. You are here listening to me, receiving the impressions of my words. It may enter your psyche, emotionally, maybe feeling or ascertaining something, or thinking of something related to it.
The mind is always reacting to impressions. It is a dynamic thing, and if we learn to be aware as meditators, we realize that the sense that, there is an external world, is illusory. Everything is within us, if we are attentive.
I am sure all of us have experienced, especially in youth, moments in which we are very clear and awake, just seeing life and movement without thinking, without rationalizing. Especially in childhood, we might have had many of those experiences in which we just see the impressions of life without judging, without labeling, without conceptualizing, “This is good. This is bad.”
That tends to be the psychological dynamic of our experience. We are caught in duality. Back and forth. Good, bad. Yes, no. Pleasure, pain. Happiness, sadness. Excitement, fear. Duality. That is a pendulum of the consciousness that puts us to sleep.
We are always running away from unpleasant impressions in life and running towards pleasant ones. But the thing is: why get attached to either a coffee cake or one's family? And want to run away from one's boss when he's angry? The reality is that all that is temporary. Nothing is permanent. Everything is in flux. Impressions emerge and enter our consciousness, our psyche.
But the problem is that we tend to receive life in a very mechanical way. We don't really question what we are seeing, or better said, how we are perceiving those experiences. So physically we may know that we are seated here, but the question is, are we actively observing where we are? Are we aware of the ceiling, the murals, or the decorations, the plants, the equipment around ourselves, the art, the street? Are we really looking at those impressions with a fresh look? Are we seeing it with new eyes, moment by moment? Or, do we just look at things and get lost in our thoughts?
Sometimes we may be walking on the street, such as in Chicago or any city, and then we are thinking and thinking and thinking of a problem. We don't see where we are at or where we are going. It means that we are not awake. We are dreaming. It is that type of psychology that goes with us wherever we go. So, if we are not training ourselves, our moment by moment, or day by day, then when we physically go to sleep or when we die, we are going to repeat the same mechanical habits and go through that delicate transition point without attention, without understanding.
So, I know I mentioned a lot about death in dreams. It is interesting that in the Greek mythology, Thanatos and Hypnos, death and sleep, are brothers. If we are awake in our dreams, we will be awake when we die.
Meditation is a means of preparing for that and the way that we prepare for that is learning to look at life with awareness. To see impressions of life, but attentive, and not reacting all the time, mentally.
The mind tends to chatter. We are always commenting on what we see, what we hear, what we feel, what we do. Someone says something negative, we have the reaction of anger or pride. Impressions enter us and we are reacting.
The way that you enter into comprehension or meditation is learning to receive those impressions of life, whether good or bad, but with neutrality. Neither favoring nor rejecting, but it doesn't mean that one is going to be bland.
Neutrality, we think means neither hot or cold, or just lukewarm, dispassionate, unconcerned. There is a connotation in the english language, but it's better that we say that this type of sentiment or neutrality is very clear, very pristine, very divine. In which one enjoys the flow of life, free in its movement, here and now. It doesn't get caught up with the repetitions of life, the duality, “I must be successful in my job. I must run away from painful circumstances,” but confront every situation with consciousness.
So when we have a problem at work, with our mind training, we are not affected by what happens. We can respond with understanding, intelligence: negotiating our sense of self with the exterior world, and in that way we transform our situations.
We tend to react to life with ego, defects, but in those critical moments at work or in a certain challenging circumstances of life, someone says something negative, but with our mind training, we question the insulters words. They say something bad about us.
I remember at my work I had one client [sarcastically] say to me, "Yeah, he thinks he's really good." About me. I looked at him and I was starting to sense in myself a reaction of negativity, like I was being insulted or hurt, but then I realized that the words of this person didn’t really matter so much as my investment in those words. I thought about what he said. In that moment I comprehended that, well, he has his understanding of what I am and he could be right, or he could be wrong. Then I had a sense of peace in order to respond to him more appropriately. I said, "No, you are wrong. I am not good, I am great!" And being funny about it and joking around dissipated the tension.
So comprehension can work like that. We learn to negotiate ourselves with other people. We don't respond with negativity. But even when people are very bad around us, we don't have to go along with it. But, that sense of self, which is neutral, that attention, our conscious state in which we are no longer thinking, we learn to act with love, with serenity, with insight.
The Nature of Impressions and Inner Transformation
Some people think or get worried that if “I annihilate the ego, my defects, what will I be?” Well, you'll be charismatic or compassionate or happy or patient or loving or funny or humorous and divine—knowing how to respond to any circumstance appropriately.
So, this is what we call a transformation of impressions.
It is interesting if we look at some of the etymology of this word. Impressio: “to impress,” meaning “pressed in,” from the verb, impremere: “to imprint; an effect produced upon someone; a mark impressed on a surface by something.”
It is interesting that we find the word “imprint.” You know when people say things that are bad, if we just identify and invest all of our energy into that comment, those words imprint something in our psyche, that conditions us. We feed our anger and feel resentful, proud, hurt. It is a type of imprinting on the soul, on the mind, and that creates more problems, more defects, because we are investing our energy in a sense of self, which is in the spiritual sense, not real, not objective.
Real intelligence is knowing that the relationship between self and other is illusory, and Buddhism talks about this a lot. That everything exists upon other things. There is nothing intrinsically existing in and of itself. Impressions emerge, we react, and there is always a dynamic interchange of relationships, of problems. But if we learn to see that those words no longer have any meaning, someone criticizes us, we don't invest ourselves in those words. We don't feel hurt.
Maybe psychologically there is something deep down that we need to see, so we go home, we meditate on what we saw, so that we could remove all those latent subtle frustrations or desires which are lingering. Then more and more, we learn to transform our psyche day by day.
On another level, the transformation Impressions exist when we develop our intelligence. Again, intelligence is: “How do we discriminate between phenomena of what we see, of what we sense?”
Another example of this is a person may walk down the street and sees images of a lustful type, of a degenerate type, which is making certain desires emerge in the psyche and which are negative. If one comprehends that this person, which one is attracted to so much, this woman or this figure, if we imagine that well in twenty, thirty, fifty, sixty, seventy years, this person may be dust and bones.
So what is the nature of this lustful intention that I feel in myself? What is it? What is this desire? What does it want? How does it exist? Because our defects, our desires, our egotism, our egos, always feed upon the impressions of life. Always want certain stimuli.
Anger wants to hurt the other person because it is hurt. Pride wants to belittle because it wants praise. Greed wants to accumulate material things or even spiritual things, ideas, fame, attention, energy. Fear wants security. It wants things to be what it wants.
So those defects are always wanting certain impressions of life and the reason why we suffer so much is because we are attached to that sense of self, which wants something that doesn't exist. It is not there. We are always fighting against the reality of our situation. We want things to be a different way.
But if we learn to accept our situation with gladness, things will change, as we are changing our negative states. Transforming the impressions of our psyche that we didn't transform in the past.
This is where traumas emerge. Something happened, an impression emerged and came into our psyche and we weren't aware and it affected us. We can think of something like 9/11. People on the site who witnessed those buildings come crashing down and people dying, were traumatized. They weren't aware of what was going on and obviously that kind of violence is very destructive, even psychologically. Some people are still grappling with the pains of that incident, even from across the world who just watched it on television.
But imagine someone who actually was in that situation, where they receive those impressions, and because they were not aware, they didn't know how to transform it. So that type of experience replays in the mind again and again and again. Those impressions are in the psyche. They form new defects, new desires, new traumas, new problems. The way to resolve that is to develop attention, awareness, and in that way we learn to see suffering and go to the root of our problems. [Editor: Listen to the lecture Trauma and Spiritual Healing for advice].
Meditation in the Gnostic Tarot
In this last slide we are looking at, it is the summation of meditative discipline, according to what we call the Egyptian Tarot. So if you have listened on chicagognosis.org, we have a course that is presently ongoing about these cards. These are images that reflect spiritual principles, spiritual truths. We have the first three arcana, or laws of the divine. These cards represent qualities of consciousness, qualities of being. It also can teach us about meditation, more importantly.
In the first image we have the Magician, a representation of what we call the Divine Father, our spirit, our true Buddha nature, our Being, our inner God. I won't explain all the symbolism of these images in depth. If you are interested in learning more about this, you can study our course, The Eternal Tarot of Alchemy and Kabbalah online.
But you notice that he is a standing figure. He is masculine. He has a staff in his hand representing his willpower, his assertiveness, his masculinity.
Likewise, we have his opposite, the second arcanum, the second law, which is the High Priestess. She is sitting. She is the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother of any religion, whether it be Mary amongst the Christians, Maya, Miriam, Adonia amongst the Kabbalists, Shekinah, Diana, Hera, or the wife of Jupiter.
So all those religions can be explained through these principles, but more importantly, what is interesting is that she is sitting. She represents a feminine aspect of our consciousness, a feminine quality, which is more perceptive, more intuitive, more emotional.
The first aspect of ourselves is will, assertiveness, which we call willpower.
In the last image we find a woman seated with a beautiful ibis bird. She is the Empress of the Tarot. She has stars above her head, meaning that she is illuminated. She has comprehension. She has understanding.
So these three cards are interesting because they summarize the path of meditation and death. In order to really meditate on a problem or issue, or to gain understanding, or intelligence of something, we concentrate, we use our willpower. We focus on one thing at the exclusion of everything.
If we sit to practice, if we want to understand a scripture, a book, we read a verse and we concentrate on it. We can also visualize in our consciousness and imagine what the words are representing. We concentrate, we relax.
Some people think concentration is something over-exertive, like if one is lifting weights. Concentration is a profound state of relaxation. It knows how to act but without exerting the mind, without agitation, without disturbance. It is calm, serene.
Notice that even although he is standing very firmly, he is also very calm. On his right, The High Priestess, the Divine Feminine, is seated and reading a book. It is a symbol of how we learn to read the book of our life, the chapters of our existence. Our mornings, our afternoons, our days, our evenings, and then really reflect with our imagination and see how those circumstances need to be studied.
Through the combination of will and imagination, we gain understanding, intelligence. We learn to discern right from wrong, good from bad, positive from negative. That state of understanding is what gives us real peace. We are no longer afflicted, even if we have problems that can't get resolved. Sufferings we can't change. At least we are not identified with those circumstances, then we are at peace and very strong, because we know that eventually, this body will go and the soul will move on. If we are awake, we will take advantage of those circumstances. If we are not, that is another issue.
The Path of Comprehension
Willpower and imagination make comprehension. So, in the example I gave you, you can concentrate and develop your concentration by focusing on one thing. Some people begin with a stone or a pebble or something basic that doesn't take much effort to focus on.
I like to use a candle when I first started. I would take a candle, light the flame and look at it. Observe the fire. You'll find that the mind will start to drift and start thinking of other things, but the purpose of the practice is: don't think, just look. That is the state of consciousness of attention. When we are no longer thinking of other things, that concentration becomes very profound, so that you can learn to direct it at more elevated things like a scripture, or book, the meaning thereof.
Comprehending a certain defect that emerged in the day, you focus and concentrate on remembering those events. Then imagine, visualize those scenes.
Also, visualization can be developed through that candle practice. Sometimes in the beginning, it is difficult to see things mentally. We don't see much clarity or color or depth, but if you learn to take that candle and observe it for a few moments, then close your eyes and try to imagine that candle in your mind, without vacillating, or letting the mind change it. If you find the mind starts doing that, then just relax, look again at the candle and gently reinitiate the practice. In that way we learn to develop more clarity and depth in our visualization practices.
The combination of concentration and imagination allows us to access any knowledge we want. We can fall asleep while concentrating and imagining a certain thing. Then when we go to sleep physically, the soul awakens in the internal dimensions and we see those states of being with clarity.
In the beginning people will see very vague things and amorphous things. With practice such as with these two exercises, we gain more clarity and understanding. In that way we learn to develop more understanding in our own life: how to navigate this world we live in with patience and serenity, because if we have understanding, we are no longer so troubled or conflicted. We learn to negotiate ourselves with intelligence with this world, with clarity.
If you are interested, I invite you to study the writings we have available. You can view them online and they are full publications of gnostic teachings.org. If there is a particular topic that you listened or hear today in relation to our synopsis or synthesis, you can go online and look at the books we have available. We do have some available in print here, but you can always go online and read them if you are interested and purchase them from online. There is a lot we covered but the synthesis is this: Be aware. Be attentive. These practices can help to elevate our level of being, our way of being so that we learn to find more happiness in our life, find joy, even when circumstances are very painful. Because one who has divinity inside active, doesn't despair. Doesn't fear. Doesn't worry.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is your favorite book?
Instructor: Oh, my favorite book! I do like a lot of classical mythology, especially because those myths teach us Kabbalah. I remember taking a course on classical mythology, classical literature, specifically, which of course the professor didn't know the real esoteric depth of these stories. Some of my favorites are like The Odyssey, which relates to the principles we talked about today.
In the poem by Homer, Odysseus is stranded from place to place after he is victorious in the Trojan War. He was the mastermind that created the Trojan Horse and invaded the city in order to sack it. Then he goes home having angered Poseidon, and Poseidon is a representation in the Kabbalah of Binah, the Holy Spirit amongst the Christians. He angered Poseidon because he took credit for the works that divinity did for him.
That symbolism of war and all that is not literal. It is about the war of the soul against desire, but he has to journey from island to island, again and again, facing death, starvation, assault, and all sorts of terrible things which are symbolic of the spiritual path one has to face. Of course, he gets to the end and his whole crew has been annihilated, basically. They all died, and he was the only one who survived, swam to shore, to Ithaca, his home.
He gets there and Athena warns him, "your wife is under assault here. There are many suitors trying to marry your wife Penelope because it's been twenty years since you've been here. They think you are dead." It is very interesting. All these men are trying to marry his wife, and Penelope is a beautiful symbol of the soul. She is the soul that is being afflicted by many suitors, many lustful elements, egos, defects, and Athena the Divine Feminine, which we can call the Divine Mother, Kundalini amongst the Hindus, She disguises him as a beggar and then he has to gain “intel” about all the suitors who are trying to marry his wife. He can't show who he is. If he gets mad and shows himself that he is Odysseus, they are going to kill him.
But it is interesting that if you look at the word intelligence, even the word “intel” is government slang, finding data about your enemies. So, he is finding all this intelligence, information about how these suitors are working. Who are they aligned to? Who are they? What are they doing? What is their methods? It is a symbol of how one in meditation is working against certain defects, gaining understanding of them.
Of course, they humiliate him, they beat him, they call him a beggar, they mock him for many chapters towards the end of the book, in the poem. But, the crowning moment is when he is in the throne room facing a challenge that Penelope places. She will only marry the suitor or man who can fire an arrow through, I don't remember the number of rings of an ax, lodged in the floor there, but can fire an arrow through all of them.
All the suitors are trying to take Odysseus's bow and pull the string, but it is so heavy and strong that they can't. Here is this beggar Odysseus, or disguised as the beggar and who comes up and says, "I'll take the challenge." Of course, all the suitors become enraged because they have been mocking him the whole time. They don't know who he is.
He pulls the bow, puts the string on easily, and then he takes the arrow and fires it through the rings. All of them are shocked that he accomplished it. Then he takes an arrow and fires it at one of the suitors and kills him. They become terrified in rage and say, "What are you doing old man?" Athena unveils who he is. He says, "I am Odysseus whom you thought was dead. Now I will kill every single one of you for having tried to take my home and squander my property."
It is a symbol of how the soul, our consciousness, goes to war against our defects, and it is very strong at that level, especially. Even the bow is a symbol of negotiating the external with the internal. You pull the bow, you are focusing on what's outside of you, your target, with your concentration. With your willpower, you take the arrow, your perception, see the target, and fire. Concentration and imagination. Then in that way, when we comprehend our defects, we kill them. Then you can extract the soul that has been trapped in there and develop virtue.
It is a symbol of what some people call Buddhist annihilation, which is a term that frightens people, but you know when the ego is annihilated, the soul is born. It is pure.
I love that poem a lot. You know, it's a very beautiful symbol, but people read it and they are very entertained. Yeah, Odysseus gets revenge, they think it is a literal story. Yeah, I mean you can read it that way, but there are a lot of esoteric truths in these fables or stories which are very beautiful.
So, with the bow and arrow, your concentration, your perception, your imagination, you focus on each defect you want to work on. When the moment comes, when the comprehension is full, you can kill that element and be free of it.
I remember The Odyssey is a very beautiful story about that, but there are many more stories that are very profound. But, a lot of the stories that we have been able to study and explain in our courses come from the writings of Samael Aun Weor, specifically. He is a writer on many esoteric topics, whose works are just becoming more familiar in the West, in North America, especially. He was from Latin America.
Some of my favorite books of his when I first started was Treaties of Revolutionary Psychology. He explains many of the principles we talked about: Self-observation, remembering the presence of divinity, learning to gather data about one's faults. It is a very good book to begin with. I know I began many years ago with that book especially. It is one of my favorites. Something you revisit again and because you are always learning. A very deep text and very direct. It has a lot of knowledge there and very rich too.
When you understand that type of teaching, you can look at any scripture, any book, any mythology and you can interpret what is going on. You can use your intelligence to understand the relationship between characters and ideas. It ceases to be some kind of academic, literary thing, but you are seeing things in the book that people don't really understand or know about. They are very profound.
Question: I stopped seeing violent stuff like the media. How do you look at? Is sports demonic? Can one do the work and watch football?
Instructor: It's your business. I know some sports are much more vulgar, like UFC fighting championship, boxing, those that are very violent. Those things are obviously very negative. I mean, I know many people, even instructors in our tradition, who may still watch sports and games. I don't know many who watch UFC, where guys are pounding each other into hamburger. But you know the kind of thing is very negative especially.
I believe Samael Aun Weor was writing in some of his books how certain sports were the degeneration of ancient traditions from long ago. From history that many people don't even know about. Like for example, the bullfighting rings. He talks about how bullfighting was an art that was practiced by a different humanity on this planet before our race emerged, very long ago, which not many people are familiar with, but he stated that those people would not kill the bull in a vulgar way like we see today. It is a symbol of how the toreador would use a lasso, a rope, and a sword symbolically to subdue the bull. It is a symbol of conquering the mind, controlling the mind. But they wouldn't kill the bull because the bull has a beautiful soul. An elemental soul which is pure.
Today you find in Spain, you know the running of the bull, or people killing those animals in the ring. It is very vulgar and degenerated. That tradition came from a long ago. It was a symbolic thing, but over time people corrupted it. So, sports, if you are interested, if you like football, it is your business. It is a violent sport, but when I have seen football games in the past, I don't find that they left any super lasting mark on me in a negative way. [But you know, if you enjoy it, then enjoy it. It is better, though, to take in good impressions that uplift the soul, not just to entertain the mind.]
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