This is a transcription of an audio lecture from Beginning Self-Transformation, originally given live at the Gnostic Academy of Chicago:
We have been discussing the nature of consciousness. What does it mean to perceive, to understand, to know?—the mysteries of life and death, in a very direct, cognizant manner based on facts, based on direct experiential wisdom born from precise methods.
We spoke abundantly in our last lecture about different states of consciousness, different qualities, and how, in our daily experience, we witness and suffer in many egotistical qualities, many defects which have been categorized in religion as sin or as demonic qualities. So those mythical figures in red with horns and a pitchfork and a long tail are symbols of psychological states, like anger, like resentment, like fear.
But also, just as we have negative states, we also have positive states, divine qualities born from the consciousness, known as serenity, compassion, peace.
We denominated those divine, unconditioned qualities as the essence, as the pure soul which needs to work in order to overcome the conditions of the mind, which make us suffer. And if anyone approaches any type of spirituality, it is because they feel in their heart the need and the longing to know divinity. But also, more importantly, to cease suffering, to cease being in pain.
It is an illusion of the senses to want to blame the external world, our politics, our governments, our schools, our institutions. And it is ironic that we like to fluctuate from job to job, from career to career, marriage to marriage, expecting that we will find some type of happiness by accumulating materialism, goods, bank accounts. But sadly, we fail to acknowledge how we ourselves are carrying the psychological disease of suffering with us wherever we go. And so, while we like to change things externally, it is rare for someone to want to introspect and examine our own negative states to see where is the source of suffering within our mind, within our heart, within our body.
The Sufi poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī taught that “It is not your duty to seek love but merely to find the obstacles we place in the way in front of it.” That love, that pure divinity, is our own inner Being, which religion has called God, but we use the term Being to be more specific, as a psychological state, a quality of consciousness. That divinity is inside within our heart, if we know how to access through meditation, through awareness. But unfortunately, due to the hypnosis of the senses, we tend to go through life in a very unconscious manner, not knowing what that divinity is.
Again we like to externalize, and religious institutions have indoctrinated millions to believe that by following a system, by believing in some external God, one will find a way out of suffering. But the facts have arrived to acknowledge that this is not the case. We carry suffering within us, and if we wish to know those divine qualities, we have to learn to see what in us makes us suffer, to examine our psychological states with consciousness, with perception.
That consciousness, that essence, that soul, is the most noble, charitable qualities we carry within, which is a reflection of divinity, but in us that quality tends to be weak. It is not strengthened enough; it is not developed. And so this path of transformation is about learning to understand and to see our own defects, our faults. So by confronting them in a very direct manner, we learn to liberate the soul and develop our full potential, because as I stated in our last lecture, our consciousness is trapped in each defect that we carry within—within anger, within fear, within pride, within arrogance, within blasphemy. Qualities that we like to ignore in ourselves, but which we learn to see as we are practicing the science of meditation.
We begin to see when we sit to practice that the mind is thinking of other things. We may be surging with anxieties, emotions, passions. Our body may be agitated. We are filled with conflict and with complexity. We rarely have a sense of simplicity and beauty, but the more we learn to practice this type of science, we develop the soul. Or as Jesus of Nazareth taught, “With patience possess ye your souls.” So it comes about by work, by transforming our own states of suffering into divine qualities.
This has been known as alchemy, to transform the impure lead of the soul into the gold of the spirit. It is not a literal teaching of medieval alchemists trying to transform physical lead into gold, but it is something psychological and divine. How we transform, in meditation, anger into love, fear into security, doubt into direct knowledge, and faith, because real faith is when we see the truth for ourselves. We don’t rationalize. We don’t speculate. We don’t fear, we don’t doubt, but we know what divinity is and that light learns to guide us in our most difficult circumstances of life when we are faced with problems, with conflicts, with ordeals. So divinity helps those who help themselves. And the method of learning to develop that potential is learning to observe oneself.
Essence, Ego, and Personality
So we talked about the essence, the soul, the consciousness. We talked about the ego, which is our defects, that multiplicity of errors and conflicting elements that surge within any moment of our experience—resentment, pride, hatred, fear, gluttony, laziness, lust. Then we also talked about the personality: how we interact in our society; our language, our name, our race, our culture, our habits. So as I stated previously, the personality is like a mask, from the Latin persona meaning “mask,” how we relate to humanity as an interface, through which we experience all the comedies, dramas, and tragedies of life, because our defects tend to pull us in many directions.
As I stated also, that we tend to be complex people with many contradictions, many errors, but there is a way to transform all that, to transform suffering, to transform wrong psychological states which produce conflict and discord. In order to achieve this transformation, to gain self-knowledge, to know how to experience the divine is a matter of learning to awaken our full potential: our consciousness, the soul, because there is the illusion that somehow we are awake.
It is true that we have a state of consciousness in which we are perceiving life, but the question remains: how do we perceive life in its full totality within our experience? It is easy to understand that there are different states of consciousness, and when that boxer is knocked unconscious in a ring, he loses consciousness. So that is a very basic level of perception. But there are different qualities of perception, different states, different levels of being, some divine and some very diabolic; love, virtue, happiness, philanthropy, and patience. And then the inversion, which is selfishness, criminality, and desire.
If we want to learn to ascend to a higher level of being, it is important to learn what in ourselves is producing all the conflicts we experience. Of course, this introspection is very difficult because there is a lot of resistance in the mind to not want to see one’s faults. And this is why the great mythologies always depicted the great heroes like Perseus fighting Medusa, fighting a monster, and that monster is not outside, but inside, because when we are arguing with our loved ones and filled with rage, we are like Medusa with a head of serpents. And each serpent represents a different error, a different fault, and all its conglomeration of errors. And to look directly into the eyes of Medusa is to be turned to stone—not a literal meaning, but a symbol of how when we identify with anger, fear, and resentment, we become shelled; we become stone; we become that quality. And then when we cease to learn how to change, we become habitual.
We go through life mechanically on the same tracks, repeating the same mistakes, and seemingly never learning from our errors. But there is a way to break that, like Perseus; he used a shield and the reflection within in order to perceive the image of Medusa from behind him—a symbol of how we learn how to use consciousness in meditation. We observe ourselves looking through the mirror of perception in order to see our own errors. And then with the sword of insight, of meditation, of comprehension, we decapitate the animal, the beast. And then, in that way, Perseus acquires great honors; he is honored by the Gods, because he has conquered himself.
So that path of self-reflection is the path of awakening consciousness, of learning to perceive in a new way. And humanity, as it is as we are now, is asleep. We don’t know our full potential yet.
We may have had glimpses, such as in dreams and certain life experiences and in certain traumas or tragedies, in which we gained a certain insight that shaped who we are and has silently guided us through this maze of existence. The consciousness needs to be awakened. Psyche in the Greek myth was awakened by Eros, divine love, the Being. And the Bible speaks abundantly that we must awake, we must be perceptive. We must be cognizant of ourselves. We must know ourselves.
As it says in the Book of Judges (5:12), “Awake, awake, Deborah! Arise, O Barak and take thy captivity captive, O son of Abinoam.” Awake, awake! Deborah is a symbol of the soul that awakens our inner judgment. How we judge ourselves, how we change ourselves, our qualities, and escape suffering. And likewise, we learn to take captivity captive. We cease being mechanical people, by living life with more cognizance, with happiness even in the most difficult ordeals and situations.
Instead of identifying with life, we use life as a gymnasium, a training ground to gain knowledge and to know divinity. For as the Sufis teach, “He who knows himself or herself knows his Lord.” So we do not know ourselves yet in a full fundamental sense, specifically because if we knew ourselves fully, we would be present with divinity inside of us. We would be a Buddha. The word Buddha in Sanskrit means “awakened one,” to know oneself completely. And in that way, one is no longer suffering, but is in ecstasy of that pure Being which is inside—in which we gain insight little by little. But of course, in order to reach that point, we must learn to confront our inner psychological obstacles so that we can develop consciousness.
Definitions of Consciousness
So there are some very basic definitions of consciousness that serve as a platform for this lecture, for this discussion. People typically define consciousness as “the state of being aware; knowledge of one’s own existence, condition, sensations, mental operations, acts, etc.”
The question is, are we really conscious? Are we really aware of how our own negative qualities condition our states? Or do we really know the purpose of our existence in this life, the reason for being? The reason why we get up in the morning, to do what we do? Is it because we are driven by necessity, or is it because we are driven from a state of compassion for humanity, by engaging with our job, our career, for the benefit of others, with selflessness, with altruism, or are we filled with affliction going through the motions of life and hoping that we can reject or not experience pain?
That tends to be the more conditioning element in our life. We are conditioned by many things, conditioned by states of consciousness, conditioned by these negative qualities, by ego. And so the ego, the self in Latin meaning “I,” is that identity we tend to cling to which, as we stated previously, conditions the full consciousness within ourselves, our true potential.
So we may believe in a religion that we have some type of purpose in life, because Catholicism or Judaism or Buddhism or even Gnosticism says so. The reality is we find meaning in our existence by learning to connect with the Being, with divine, with the true self, who is happiness, who knows how to resolve problems without thinking, without rationalizing, without conceptualizing, but acting from a state of pure attention that is unconditioned, that is unfiltered, in which is the full presence and manifestation of divinity, the pure expression of God, the Being, the Self, or whatever name we want to give to that.
The labels do not really matter. What matters is our level of being, our qualities, who we are and how we relate to others, especially when we are faced with challenges, when we are criticized, we are gossiped about, we are lied to.
Do we retaliate? Do we seek retribution? Do we seek justice? But the question is, what is that sense of justice that we want? Who in us wants that outcome, that wants revenge, that wants payback? Most people never question this sense of self; “what I am; what I desire; what I want; what my language is, my name, my culture, my race, my customs, the food that I eat,” because we like to think that identification with these qualities makes us conscious beings.
But the reality is if we are conscious of what we are, in our fundamental depth of divinity, then we don’t make mistakes when we are awake. We are vigilant. We are attentive. We know how to respond to any conflict with equanimity, with patience, with love.
When Jesus was crucified, he only said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” He didn’t want revenge. He didn’t curse or slander or gossip or complain. He was an example of a very high being who taught us a lot about the nature of psychology. That when we are confronted with great ordeals, to learn how to respond with serenity and love.
That is the state of being conscious, because our true nature, our consciousness, is selfless is love, does not want retribution, revenge, but only wants the happiness of others, the peace of others, even onto one’s worse enemies.
So being conscious is being aware and having knowledge of one’s own existence, one’s conditions, one’s sensations, one’s mental operations. But the question remains, are we really aware of what conditions us, what limits us, what makes us weak? And in that way we learn to remove the obstacles, to change what we are, to become something divine.
So in another level, we may know that we are in a bad mood, but does that mean that we really comprehend the root of that mood, the root of that state? We may know that we are angry. We may be saturated with pain on an emotional and mental scale. But it doesn’t mean that we really understand the root of that.
If we comprehend those qualities, we no longer become the victim of those qualities. We learn to see them and separate as a consciousness, and to study the intimate process, the faults, the feelings, the volitions of each defect, each ego, each “I.” Which, as a multiplicity, traps us and conditions us.
Knowing is not the same as comprehending. We may know that alcohol and drugs will harm us. And an alcoholic or drug addict may know that their habit is wrong, and yet they continue to engage in that addiction. They suffer in that vice, they make themselves suffer, and they make others suffer. But they don’t really comprehend how that habit is destroying them.
Now that is a very extreme example. But that analogy applies to us very well. We have many habits, many states of consciousness, which are negative, and yet we are addicted to those states, to those fears, to those worries, to those angers. And so in that way, we are conditioned, we are trapped.
But comprehension is much more dynamic. Comprehension is when we know something is wrong, and we do not do it. And in that way, we develop our soul, our full potential.
It is also “the immediate knowledge or perception of the presence of any object, state, or sensation.” And the truth is, are we really aware of our surroundings, where we are, where we go? If we are driving our car and thinking of our friend, our fiancé, our job, it means that we are not attentive. We are not aware of what we are doing. It means that we are asleep as a consciousness. This is why people get into accidents. It is because they are thinking of one thing while they are driving. They are not paying attention to where they are at or what they are doing.
If we are honest, we can see that we are constantly daydreaming. We may be at work speaking with someone or listening to a lecture, and yet we are thinking of other things or comparing our ideas with what we hear and rationalizing, and debating and criticizing or something. So if we are thinking of other things but not aware of what is going on, it means that we are asleep. We are distracted.
So this is a very different definition of consciousness that is commonly believed in in these times. But if you are washing your dishes and not paying attention to what you are doing or cutting food, we can slice our finger open because we are distracted. We are not paying attention.
Likewise, “consciousness is an alert, cognizant state in which you are aware of yourself and your situation.”
How often do we go throughout our day, not even aware of our body, our breath, our physical state, not mindful of tension that we carry within? And if we sit to practice meditation, we may suddenly see that we carry all sorts of friction in ourselves, in our bodies. Which is, of course, mediated and helped by learning to relax throughout the day, breathing deep, profoundly letting go of tension, observing oneself, observing the mind, observing our heart, observing our body.
The consciousness must learn to observe, as I said in our practice, like a director of a film seeing the actor of the mind, the actor of the heart, the actor of our body, separating from those demonic qualities we were talking about, those defects, in order to develop the beauty of the soul. So this path of consciousness, of observation, is one in which we look, but without judging, without debating, where we listen to someone speak or listen to our neighbor, our friend, without wanting to say the next thing or wanting to compare or to insert our comments into the conversation, by learning to be receptive as a mind, as a consciousness.
That is an alert cognizant state symbolized in Buddhism by the Buddha meditating with a bowl facing up in order to receive impressions of life, to receive insight of new things, to not go through one’s day mechanically, repeating and daydreaming and being stuck in memories, by learning to see the new even in the most mundane circumstance, so that we receive impressions. We learn to see ourselves as we are, not as we assume to be. So this is an alert cognizant state.
The question is, are we always aware of our surroundings? This is one of the values of martial arts such as Aikido and other practices where they teach the Buddhist concept of attention and awareness, vigilance, so that if we are in danger, we can escape it, but if we are asleep thinking of other things or our friend, we could walk into an alley or be accosted, or go to a bad neighborhood. We are not paying attention to where we are, getting off on the wrong train stop, making mistakes.
People who do not pay attention, as I said, can end up dead on the road. The same principle applies spiritually, knowing what spiritual states are beneficial and those that are not, so that we can choose the right action from moment to moment.
The Powers of Consciousness
There are different powers of consciousness, of attention. Some people confuse mindfulness with attention and other dynamics of the soul. When people talk about awareness, they talk about being aware of one’s surroundings. This is a broad spatial perception in which consciousness expands. We see our surroundings. We are attentive of the color of the streets, the bricks, the moving cars, the wind, the colors of our environment. We see things with clarity, with crispness, with depth. Our consciousness is heightened and expanded. It is a light that is diffused, that fills the atmosphere, that sees all things surrounding oneself.
Attention is a little different. With awareness, when you have consciousness that is spatialized, attention is more concentrated, focused on one thing. So compare the light of a light bulb that expands out and fills the room to a flashlight. When you direct your attention to one thing, you are working with that power of consciousness, such as with concentration exercises.
Mindfulness is being attentive, being aware of oneself moment by moment, and day by day. It is the continuity of perception. So as we are learning to observe ourselves, observe our surroundings, mindfulness is when you are attentive of each state, in each moment, progressively, instant by instant, moment by moment, so that we learn to gather data about ourselves, our own faults, our own conditions of mind.
If someone is practicing this science and is driving the car, they may be attentive on the road, mindful since they got up in the morning and got in the car to go to work, and yet in a moment start thinking of another thing, thinking of a friend, and lose one’s mindfulness of what one is doing, being engaged in that thought, that daydream, that fantasy. That is what it means to lose one’s mindfulness, to lose the continuity of attention of awareness.
Visualization is a much more different quality of consciousness. It’s the ability to perceive images that are not physical. So if I tell you to imagine an apple, you can see it, you can visualize it. That’s a type of consciousness that is, in most people, undeveloped. But we do have the capacity to imagine, to perceive images that are not physical, but are psychic. That is a term used by certain French authors, called clairvoyance.
Clairvoyance is simply “clear vision.” It’s a fancy term people invented to make people confused, to feel that one does not possess a quality that one already has. Because we all have the capacity to imagine, to see images mentally, and we have exercises in this tradition where you can take a candle or a religious object, observe it, focus your concentration on it, your attention, and then in that way you close your eyes, and then you try to imagine all the details. That develops the depth and clarity of the consciousness, so that when we practice meditation, we can see what we are doing, seeing into the depths of the mind like Perseus using the shield of his imagination in order to see the image of Medusa and to confront it.
These are different qualities of consciousness, which the practitioner of meditation develops in order to gain self-knowledge.
The Technique of Self-observation
The term observation, as you see in this image, relates to “the action or process of observing something or someone carefully to gain information.” So we see a woman staring at a mirror and seeing a hidden figure that should be visible to us in the background, but is only seen in the image in the mirror. That is a symbol of the work of self-observation, because we cannot see the self with physical senses.
Many people do like to think that they are the body. They are the brain, they are the physicality, and yet it is more true that our thoughts and our feelings have greater reality than physical objects. We invest more of our attention in ourselves in who we think we are, what we feel, what we think. So thoughts and feelings and will have a type of dimensionality that is very profound, which acts through the physical body, which we study in our courses about kabbalah, the tree of life, and the interrelationship of all the different aspects of the soul and of divinity.
But we learn to gather data about ourselves, by learning to observe ourselves, by having the courage to examine what we are, not to assume that we are a certain way, not to believe anything, but to learn to look, to simply see, not to judge.
It is the ego that says, “I am compassionate. I am merciful. I am a good person,” but have we ever really questioned what that self is, what that “I” is, that sense of “me, what I want, what I crave”? It is by learning to question that self that we get to the bottom of why we suffer.
Such as in certain conflicts at work. Someone says something negative to us, and then we feel hurt. Our heart is in pain. So if we are examining ourselves in that moment, we can learn to see that that sense of self that is hurt really has no value, has no importance. This relates to the Buddhist concept of emptiness, of selflessness. That selflessness of the consciousness is divine. It is peace; it is love. It is empty of desire, of condition. But we must learn to see that state and to taste what that state is, where we are looking at ourselves when someone says something negative, and we want to react with slander or negative words, defending our sense of self, our sense of honor that is hurt.
We should learn to see and to examine. Why should we feel victim of what other people say? Why be a victim of life? People can think and feel whatever they want. Each world is a world of its own, a mind of its own. Why do we want to change other people so much? It is better if we change our own negative states, our own faults, so that we are not victims of life.
So no matter how negative people can be, we do not necessarily have to invest our energy into that identification, by learning to examine, to scrutinize, to see, to gain information about why do we suffer in relation to those events.
What in us is in conflict? This is a path of self-observation, observing the self, observing the mind, the heart, the body. It is a path of monitoring oneself, "watching, scrutiny, examination, inspection; to "survey, surveillance, consideration, study, or review."
All religions teach that we must awaken. We must examine ourselves and to not judge, either way, assuming that we are good people, because while we have good qualities, we also have many faults, imperfections. But the path of love, of experiencing the divine, is precisely as Rumi said, “Seeing in oneself all that which conditions.” That is an obstacle, and by learning to see that in ourselves is very uncomfortable, a very painful process to realize that the self is not singular, but multiple, as we talked about on our lecture on Essence, Ego, and Personality (Discover Your True Self).
We are very conflicted. In one moment we may want to wash the dishes or in the next moment ride a bike. We change our mind, or our mind changes and says no, we want to go eat something; no, we want to go read. We want to do something else. We are constantly moving in multiple directions. We are changing course every moment, but we do not really examine why that is.
Why is it that we are always gravitating towards different things, that there is no continuity of purpose? This is why people begin projects and end them. They do not finish; they do not have continuity of soul. For as Jesus taught, “With patience possess ye your soul.” The soul has to be developed. It has to become singular, with one purpose, to remember the divine, so to end that multiplicity of defects, of “I’s,” of selves, which is so uncomfortable to see, is only achievable by looking into the mirror of ourselves, to see and to look, to study and to ask the question, “what is my state of being? What is my level of being? What is conditioning me right now? Why do I suffer? Why am I in pain?” But of course, there is a resistance that occurs, and it is always a very difficult topic because the mind resists, does not want to cease its errors, its faults.
The Observer and the Observed
And in this path, we learn to develop a separation of consciousness. In this image, we have Saint Michael slaying the dragon, which is a religious allegory of this dynamic. Saint Michael is from the Hebrew מיכאל, which translated means “He who is like God,” that is the soul when it is united with Christ, the divine, Allah, Buddha, whatever name you want to give to your divinity.
So he’s a great warrior, a great angel whom you can meet in the internal worlds, by awakening from dreams, to speak face to face in that state when your consciousness, your awareness is expanded, and you are remembering your self. You can invoke or call upon those divinities and speak face to face with the Buddhas with the angels, the Gods. That is a science known as dream yoga.
But my purpose in showing this image is not to talk about that specifically, but to point out that Michael represents our soul that is a great warrior, that knows how to fight for what is just, in an objective, spiritual sense, to combat anger, hatred, doubt. In this image, he is conquering the devil, the demon, the adversary, which is not a person outside, but inside of all our defects. And so this image is very inspiring, as many forms of religious art show that the consciousness has the potential to wage a very difficult war, and to succeed.
The consciousness must learn to observe, and the question is: to observe what? Saint Michael is the consciousness that is observing the lower qualities of the soul and is stepping in its mouth, to show that the soul is dominating the ego. The soul must learn to separate as an observer, to look at the observed, to look at the self, to look at the “I”—“what I am, what I think, what I feel, what I desire,” moment by moment.
The consciousness that is unconditioned is the essence, as we were saying. It is the observer. It is the director of a film that is watching an actor, that is watching the self, watching the mind. And the actor is the conditioned consciousness, which is fragmented, shelled within many elements, which we call ego, selves, desires defects.
So in the myth of Jesus exorcising a possessed man is a symbol of how the soul, the divine, learns to heal the consciousness, to liberate it, to free it from its state of suffering. And when Jesus asks the possessed man, “What is your name?” He said, “We are legion, because we are many.” That is the uncomfortable truth of the mind, the belief that we are one self.
Again, our contradictions show the facts. We are always conflicted, sent in different directions by one’s selves, one’s desires. So the question is, are we aware of ourselves aware, of our full potential? Are we observing? Are we watchful? Are we looking to see what is in us, without expectation, without anticipation, but just questioning those states, those qualities of suffering?
I would like to read for you an excerpt from a book called Revolutionary Psychology by the writer Samael Aun Weor, who is the founder of the modern Gnostic tradition, where he explains some concepts relating to this dynamic where the soul has to observe the ego, so that by comprehending the ego, the ego can be eliminated. Fear can be eradicated. Suffering can be ceased.
“Internal Self-observation is a practical means to achieve a radical transformation.
“To know and to observe are different. Many confuse the observation of oneself with knowing. For example, even though we know that we are seated in a living room, this, however, does not signify that we are observing the chair.
“We know that at a given moment we are in a negative state, perhaps with a problem, worried about this or that matter, or in a state of distress or uncertainty, etc. This, however, does not mean that we are observing the negative state.
“Do you feel antipathy towards someone? Do you dislike a certain person? Why? You may say that you know that person... Please observe that person; to know is not the same as to observe! Do not confuse knowing with observing...
“The observation of oneself, which is one hundred percent active, is a way to change oneself. However, knowing, which is passive, is not a way to change oneself.
“Indeed, knowing is not an act of attention. Yet, the attention directed into oneself, towards what is happening in our interior, is something positive, active...
“For instance, we may feel antipathy towards a person, just because we feel like it and many times for no particular reason. If we observe ourselves in such a moment we will notice the multitude of thoughts that accumulate in our mind. We will also notice the group of voices that speak and scream in a disorderly manner and that say many things within our mind, as well as the unpleasant emotions that surge in our interior and the unpleasant taste that all this leaves in our psyche, etc.
“Obviously, in such a state we also realize that internally we are badly mistreating the person towards whom we feel antipathy.
“But, unquestionably, in order to see all of this, we need attention intentionally directed towards the interior of our own selves. This is not a passive attention.
“Indeed, dynamic attention proceeds from the side of the observer, while thoughts and emotions belong to the side which is observed.
“All of this causes us to comprehend that “knowing” is something completely passive and mechanical, in evident contrast with the observation of the self, which is a conscious act.
“Nevertheless, we are not affirming that mechanical Self-observation does not exist; it does, but such a kind of observation has nothing to do with the psychological Self-observation to which we are referring.
“To think and to observe are also very different. Any person can give himself the luxury of thinking about himself all he wants, yet this does not signify that he is truly observing himself.
“We need to see the different ‘I’s’ in action, to discover them in our psyche, to comprehend that a percentage of our own Consciousness exists within each one of them, to repent of having created them, etc.
“Then we shall exclaim, ‘But what is this ‘I’ doing?’ ‘What is it saying?’ ‘What does it want?’ ‘Why does it torment me with its lust, with its anger?’ etc.
“Then we will see within ourselves the entire train of thoughts, emotions, desires, passions, private comedies, personal dramas, elaborated lies, discourses, excuses, morbidities, beds of pleasure, scenes of lasciviousness, etc.
“Many times before falling asleep, at the precise instant of transition between vigil and sleep, we feel within our own mind different voices that talk to each other. Those are the different ‘I’s’ that must in such moments break all connection with the different centers of our organic machine, so as to then submerge themselves in the molecular world, within the ‘Fifth Dimension.’” —Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
Which is commonly known as the astral plane in certain writings. So some people may have that experience of falling asleep, being attentive and seeing dream images and hearing sounds and voices of all types while one is transitioning into the internal worlds, as a consciousness, as one is projecting into that world.
The Two Worlds
But of course, to develop that quality, we develop what is known as knowledge of the two worlds. So we included an image here of a man hidden by a mirror or reflecting a mirror opposite to him, which is our position looking within. We must learn to become aware of the internal world, but also in relation to the external.
This is symbolized in The Odyssey, of Odysseus, the poem by Homer, in which the great hero Odysseus kills his enemies who are trying to marry his wife Penelope, after he was exiled from Troy after a voyage of 20 years, to return home to Ithaca, in which he finds his home has been ransacked by certain people who want to marry his wife and take his property. So he is disguised as a beggar until Athena takes him into the throne room in order to kill the suitors.
It is a beautiful symbol of the path of the soul, how we as Odysseus must go into our mind and to confront all the selves: lust, anger, fear, pride, resentment, etc. And so he kills all the suitors in the poem. He does it with a bow and an arrow. He extends his attention outward towards his enemies, but also pulls the string so that he can release each arrow as he is destroying his enemies, which is a symbol of the battle of the soul against the mind. And so the one who helps him is Athena, a symbol of the divine feminine, the Divine Mother in Christianity, the Divine Mother Tara in Buddhism, the Divine Goddess Kali amongst the Hindus.
So we have to observe our psychological state, but always in relation to the external event, understanding the relationship, because we never exist in a bubble where things happen outside, where there is no relationship between our mental states and what happens outside. There is the illusion that somehow we can think and feel and do whatever we want mentally in relation to the other person, and they will not know. But if we are observant, you see that even thoughts influence people.
This is the capacity of clairvoyance and telepathy, to see one’s thoughts and how they relate to people and the exchange of energies, of thinking, of emotion. Nothing fantastic about it. It is a simple state of being, which we can compare to an example of walking down the street, where we may suddenly feel that we are being looked at. We turn, and we see someone across the street looking at us. It is a psychological sense that is atrophied in most people, but which you can develop with meditation.
So our internal world relates to the external world. There’s an interconnection. The self is not isolated but always is contingent upon the impressions of life that enter in our mind, our heart, our mental states, constantly and continuously. And this is where we get the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination, that there is no intrinsically existing self or ego. There are always situations that provoke anger, pride, resentment, etc. And so we are to examine what impressions enter our mind, what is happening in life that makes us react and usually in a mechanical way. Samael Aun Weor explains the difference in his chapter in Revolutionary Psychology.
“To observe and to Self-observe oneself are two completely different things; however, both demand attention.
“When we observe through the windows of the senses, our attention then is directed outwardly towards the external world.
“Yet, in Self-observation, the senses of external perception are worthless, because attention is directed inward. Consequently, this is the factual reason why the Self-observation of inner psychological processes is difficult for the neophyte.
“The point of departure of official science in its practical side is the observable. The point of departure for the work on oneself is Self-observation, the Self-observable.
“Unquestionably, these two points of departure take us in two completely different directions.
“Someone could grow old engrossed within the intransigent dogmas of official science, studying external phenomena, observing cells, atoms, molecules, suns, stars, comets, etc., without experiencing any radical change within himself.
“The type of knowledge that transforms someone internally can never be achieved through external observation.
“The true knowledge that can really originate a fundamental, internal change in us has as its basis direct Self-observation of oneself.
“…We find ourselves then before two worlds, the external and the internal.
“The first, the external, is perceived by the senses of external perception. The second, the internal, can only be perceived through the sense of internal Self-observation.
“Thoughts, ideas, emotions, longings, hopes, disappointments, etc., are internal, invisible to the ordinary, common and current senses. Yet, they are more real to us than the dining table or the living room couch.
“Indeed, we live in our internal world more than in our external world. This is irrefutable, indisputable.
“In our internal worlds, in our secret world, we love, desire, suspect, bless, curse, yearn, suffer, enjoy, we are disappointed, rewarded, etc.
“Unquestionably, the two worlds, internal and external, are experimentally verifiable. The external world is the observable. The internal world is in itself and inside oneself the self-observable, here and now.” —Samael Aun Weor, Treatise of Revolutionary Psychology
So it is like a mirror. We have to learn to work with both, but typically our senses and our mind is more gravitated to the external, but if we want to acquire psychological insight, balance, understanding, we have to learn to observe the external, but also direct our attention inward, so that with the bow of the mind, our attention, we learn to see all things, develop our meditation practice.
The Flavor of Life and the Spiritual Work
All of us know what the flavor of life is. We are distracted on our cell phones, driving our car, listening to music, listening to the radio, thinking about other things. We tend to be, as I said, fragmented, distracted by multiple engagements at once. We like to think in America that we are a culture of multitasking, but this type of behavior tends to distract oneself more and more.
We like to emphasize that there are three states that constitute the flavor of life, which this path is working against, the path of meditation. Identification has to do with thinking that one is thinking, feeling that one is feeling, and doing that one is doing, but without awareness directed attention inward. When we say that we are identified, it means that our identity is enmeshed in that moment, in relation to a sense of self. It could be anything we mentioned previously.
And like in the myth of Medusa, if we are filled with anger and we identify with that anger, we invest it with our energy. We become trapped in stone, habituated. This is why so many relationships fail, because people are conditioned and they are feeding their anger, their lust, their pride. They become trapped in stone. They are identified, and they are worshiping idols.
So people think that in old religious cultures, they were worshiping idols, worshiping statues. It is a symbol of worshiping negative states or qualities. People in these times worship anger. They think it is a good thing. Or pride in our music, our entertainment, our industries, our movies, our books. We even have a show, American Idol, people worshiping vanity, selfishness, competition.
So when we are identified, it means that we are thinking that we are thinking and feeling that we are feeling. We are not really observing that self, like being in a helicopter very high up or on a mountain looking down, where you can see very beautifully everything in a conscious sense, seeing the full potential the soul.
Identification means to invest ourselves into what we are doing, or to be distracted. When we are fascinated, it means that we are experiencing the pleasant or unpleasant sensations of desire, the ego, enjoying what we are enjoying, but unconsciously not really aware, not really looking at what we are experiencing.
And sleep is to be fully inattentive. We like to think that sleep is only when we go to bed for eight hours, and we wake up in the morning. But as I said, we are asleep when we are driving our car and thinking of other things, consciously speaking. We are not attentive of where we are at or what we are doing. So we may be on a road driving, and we are thinking of a problem at work and then suddenly we realize we missed our turn, because we are so identified with that memory, fascinated by our own fantasies of what we were thinking and feeling and what we wanted to do in response, that we are asleep. We don’t know where we are at. We get lost. We lose direction.
That is a very basic understanding of this dynamic. But of course, this applies to every moment of life in which we are not observing. There is a very different flavor of life which we can experience in moments of great serenity, of insight, of peace.
So we included an image of the mountains and a lake reflecting the beautiful landscape. Again another symbol of imagination. We’re reflecting the mountain of initiation, of the Being, of the spiritual path that leads from the valley of suffering up to the heights, which many authors have allegorized in their writings, like Fredrick Nietzsche climbing the mountain in his book Thus Spoke Zarathustra. He is a philosopher who knew this teaching at one point. So the flavor of the work is a different psychological state that we develop as we are practicing meditation. We may experience intensified awareness, greater spatial perception of our surroundings, where we see things in a new way, in a bright way, with great lucidity.
We also may have clarified attention where we begin to see how certain habits in life make us conditioned. We see where fear comes from and why, why it exists, and then we are no longer influenced by that quality. We are transformed. We have strength, because when you learn to separate from the ego, you gain strength.
So it is not like some people think, that one is vulnerable. But of course, in the beginning, it is challenging to separate from that self and to observe and experience divine qualities like contentment, serenity, patience. And so that is developed as we practice the science of meditation. We clarify our attention. We see things with greater clarity.
We also have a heightened perception of ourselves. We see ourselves in a way that is totally new. And anyone who approaches these type of studies has obviously had that experience. They see things that in such a heightened way, they question their life, their existence, why they are where they are at. When we were children, we tasted this quality more commonly before we were more habituated in our culture or conditioned by society as were growing up.
Self-observation is understanding of the cognizance of facts of where our problems originate and why they sustain. How do we make things more complicated and create suffering for ourselves?
Self-observation develops like going to the gym and exercising one’s muscles. It gets stronger with practice. And one sign that one is learning Self-observation is when maybe in a moment at work, we are having a conversation with someone, and they say something negative, and we feel the reaction of wanting to retaliate, as I have been saying, to be sarcastic even, even in a level that is joking. But which, if you examine deep down, you may see that there is some anger there, an edge, a bite. But you learn to separate and to see that self, and you say to yourself consciously, “I do not need to identify with that quality, because to identify with it is to perpetuate suffering, conflict.” And then, comprehension or insight, the understanding of the causes of suffering, is deepened and heightened, where we begin to separate more and more from negative states, to experience higher states of being, higher levels of consciousness.
Of course, the difference between the two is distinct, but we gain more knowledge the more we practice Self-observation, and in that way, we become more awakened, more enlightened, day by day, moment by moment, as we are learning to transform ourselves.
Questions and Answers
Audience: Why do you say that desire is something negative?
Instructor: Because in strict etymology, the word desire is the craving, or saying, “I want. I need. I must have.” While many poets like Rumi use that word desire to refer to something spiritual, he is using it more in an elevated sense. Semantically speaking, we could say that the desire to know God, the divine, is good. And we could say, to be more precise in our language, that this is longing, the yearning to know divinity, and that aspiration, that desire, is holy, is sacred.
But also we have desires that are negative, lower, animalistic, which we are all familiar with and which shape our states of being and make us suffer.
In strict language, we could say to use precision of language, according to Socrates, desire is ego, because the ego says “I must have. I must fulfill. That person insulted me. I need to get revenge. They slighted me. They hurt me. They betrayed me.” That is a desire.
Desire always says, “I want, I need,” and projects itself into the external world and wants to get those impressions of praise or acceptance. But also you have desire in a poetic sense, like the Sufis talk abundantly about. We have a course on our website called The Sufi Path of Self-knowledge, in which we talk a lot about that nature, of that language, about how the Sufis desired God, the Being. They longed for divinity in a way that is so profound, that it is erotic, in relation to the science of tantra, alchemy, as we explained in those courses.
We could say longing, but in most cases, in our mind-stream, desire is mostly egotistical, because we are so conditioned by our states. We talked about this in the previous lecture how we possess, statistically, according to Samael Aun Weor, ninety-seven percent ego and three percent consciousness. That is a very daunting statistic, but easy to see in our life if we are learning to observe.
We tend to be more egotistical. And very rarely do moments of spontaneity and longing of desire for God manifest unless we are practicing to develop that more, instant by instant, moment by moment.
But of course, that is desire in a spiritual sense. Spiritual desire is different. But then there is a muddling, too, where we may be in a spiritual teaching, and yet we are filled with ambition as well. We want to be great saints. We want people to worship us, that we are holy, that we are great masters of spirituality, and that type of desire infects many groups. It infects anyone who is trying to teach other people, because we have ego, and the more one works on that ego, the more subtle it becomes until finally it is eliminated. But of course, it is a lot of work.
The Sufis use that word desire to refer to longing for divinity. But in us, we are typically very conditioned, which is why, in most cases, when we talk about self-improvement or desire, is ego. And in relation to that topic of the three percent consciousness, the consciousness is like a child. In the story of David and Goliath, David was a boy when he fought this great warrior, symbol of our soul, that three percent, that can—with a lot of faith, desire for God, longing—with a stone and a sling , kill his enemy, by being helped by divinity.
It is a symbol in the Old Testament of how one is working in Self-observation in order to eliminate desire, the ego, in a more strict sense. That child became king of Israel. Beautiful symbol. It is a symbol of our potential. We can become kings and queens of spirituality if we conquer ourselves, but of course, it is a very difficult battle, but very achievable. If we don’t have any more questions, we will conclude with a practice.
Audience: From the moment I’m aware of an ego, what would be the most effective way of eliminating that ego?
Instructor: Sure. So it’s a wonderful question, because a lot of people, when they begin to see the ego, they want to run away, because it is very painful to see that we are filled with all sorts of abnormality, desire and defects.
The best thing you can do in those moments, if you feel that you are being tempted by a certain condition or being influenced by anger, you feel like you are about to blow up, so to speak, by being so impassioned, some solutions could be just to step back from a situation. I know when I have had conflicts at work, I would just excuse myself, “Excuse me. I need to take five minutes.” I would go to my office and do a breathing exercise, but in the moment, you need to have the restraint that says, “I am not going to act on this element.” But of course, as the Pater Noster teaches us, “Lead us not into temptation.” Because that condition is very heavy, obviously, it is very easy to give in to the ego.
The best way to begin to annihilating it is do not give it what it wants; do not feed it. And this is what the Muslims call holy war, the word jihad does not mean holy war in a certain sense, but it has become an application in the western culture. It simply means “to strive, to fight against”; it does not mean fighting against someone who is not Muslim or one not in one’s tradition. It means to fight against the ego.
And so you strive against yourself, you do not give your mind, your heart, your negative qualities, what it wants. So the first wonderful step of that battle is do not feed it, and of course, it takes a lot of refinement to know how, to go deeper and deeper and deeper, to restrain oneself in those critical moments. And that’s why in life, when we are doing this kind of work, a lot of problems arise, because those situations will help provoke the worst in us, make us see the most ugly qualities in our psyche, but you gain strength more and more as you are facing those problems and don’t identify with them. You do not invest your energy into them.
Personally, again, when I am having issues or struggles like that in a moment of great crisis, I pray to my Inner Being. I say, “My God help me to not give in to my anger.” It does not have to even be in words; you don’t need a formula for that. It is something dynamic and intuitive. You do not think about it. You just feel it in your heart. “Please do not let me make this mistake and help me to reflect your divine qualities like compassion.” And then the more you separate from the ego, you do not give it what it wants, the more comprehension you develop, because if you are giving that ego what it wants, you are stuck in the flavor of life.
The flavor of life, is again, identification with the ego, fascination; its fantasies and beliefs, and then the sleep of our soul, and we are suffering all the while. So to escape suffering, you have to learn to work with the shield of Perseus, the armor of the great heroes, which is your solar qualities, your spiritual qualities.
Look at it, but do not look directly at it, meaning: do not identify with Medusa. You have to look at it, but not identify with it, and that is the very great struggle we all face, whether we have been meditating for a year or twenty years. It is because it is a very difficult work, but we gain more inspiration. The more we resist the mind, or better said, comprehend the mind—we do not want to resist the mind, “Oh, I do not like what I am seeing; this is very ugly.” And so we like to repress and push that away.
Observation is just looking at it. Do not justify the anger. Do not push it away. And the reason being is, if you push it away from yourself, you are not going to gain an understanding, and in fact, that anger gets stronger when you repress it, which is why psychologists say you should not repress your anger. But they make the mistake of saying that you should just feed it, whatever is going on inside. It’s the other extreme, which is negative. So they are both negative: do not feed it; do not push it away. Just look. Look at it from a state of dispassion, of equanimity, because when you do so in that way, you do not identify, you just look at it.
And it is like Michael putting his foot into the mouth of the dragon. You see how effortless in the image he is doing it? It does not take any effort on his will. He is a very powerful being—a symbol of how, in a state of great equanimity, you have greater strength. If you give in to anger or frustration in a certain ordeal or circumstance, we make things worse. We make our job difficult. We make our clients resist us, whatever it is that we do or people we interact with.
So look at it. Just see it and do not judge it right away. Just do not label it. See it for what it is and follow your intuition, your heart about what is the right action to perform in that moment. That is part of self-observation too.
We learn to observe and see in ourselves what is going on, but in an even more profound level, in our future lectures, we will talk about this is, that we learn to transform the moment, transform the impression. So we have the impression of someone insulting us. We are observing ourselves. We see the reaction emerge and then immediately we say, “Okay, I see my reaction here; it is negative.” I know in a moment, we understand that if we give into that reaction, that mechanical behavior, we are going to create more conflict. So in that moment, we can pray, “My Being, help me!” You so not need formula, or you can use formulas too, like the Our Father, the Hail Mary, or any Hindu prayer. There are many prayers in different religions that all invoke divinity; whatever you have an affinity for that inspires you, and then you pray, “Please help me so I do not give in to that demon, so that I can see it and transform it.”
And then when you do not feed it what it wants, of course, the ego fights back. This is why this is a holy war. The mind resists. So you stop feeding the lion, it gets hungry, which is why many people in the beginning of practicing meditation, they struggle with certain conditions and habits, repeating the same mistakes because, they find that when they are distancing themselves from that anger, in that moment, that desire still wants to feed itself, to be nourished by the impressions of life, by the energies of life. So you learn to start killing the ego by first, observe it. Separate: observer / observed. And then when you go home to meditation, you can reflect and review your day.
Imagine what you experienced. Do not change the facts of what was said, of how you felt, of what you saw, but simply imagine as it was the instant. And then you can go deeper, so that when you are meditating on whatever ego emerged, you can comprehend them. Then that’s the next step is praying for elimination from your Divine Mother, which we will be talking about in our future classes, the process and the depth of it. We have a course on Gnostic Meditation on our website chicagognosis.org. You can look at the lecture at the very end. We culminate it with Retrospection Meditation, which is that process.
Review your day. Examine what you saw. Do not change the facts, because the mind will like to argue and say, “Well, I should have said this, or this is what I really meant.” The mind is always a liar; the ego is a liar. Just as Jesus says to the fanatic Pharisees, “You are the children of the father of lies.” It is a symbol of the ego, worshiping the mind. It does not mean that the Jewish people are evil; it just means he was condemning those spiritual people who think they are holy, but they have a lot of defects. But we talk about that process in that course you can study. We will be revisiting that again and again here.
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