This was originally written in response to an email message received by Nancy. Of course, all personal references have been removed.
You wrote to me at a moment where your questions were very apt to my own life, so you will get a pretty long winded response, I am afraid. It doesn’t matter how long one struggles with one’s own “issues”, they recur, over and over again, in a spiral like effect — each time less intense ideally and hopefully, but each time, the same issue. Some writer once described the evolution of consciousness as a spiral — this is proof, to my mind. Of course, those issues are always a result of some stuck ego-centric neurosis that can’t seem to allow itself to let go, however hard one tries. This of course is a case of letting the fox protect the hen house — the problem itself is the ego — how can the ego which is damaged goods in the first place, possibly repair itself?!
Regarding blame, good or bad, and no blame, the key line in your considerations is “albeit their definitions regarding good or bad are usually pretty personal”. That is the key — “personal”.
When I spoke of no blame, of everything being pre-set, and so forth, I did so from the perspective of a liberated mind that does not burden itself or others with “personal” definitions of good and bad. Sometimes we can see the world from that perspective, sometimes not. It is often a seesaw kind of thing. So long as we view the universe from a distinctly separate and personal point of view, then there IS personal responsibility. In other words, you cannot approach a buffered individual who believes adamantly in separative thinking, and tell them that they are not to blame or responsible for their lives. That would be not only irresponsible, but unkind to their own spiritual development. Indeed, you can pretty well ascertain the extent of ego-centricity by the extent to which an individual cannot, or will not, consider or embrace the concept that there may ultimately be no blame, depending upon the perspective, AND at the same time cannot attribute that blamelessness to all others as well. The ego bound personality simply is unable to fit its mind around the idea that ALL is blameless, and ALL is perfect, whatever the outward appearances. And that of course is because the mechanism of the ego is precisely to preserve separateness.
To my mind, this is the real division between fundamentalist religious perspectives, including fundamentalist Christianity, and less fundamentalist approaches, for example, mystical. This is not to say that there is not a place for fundamentalist religion, indeed there is a great need for an authoritarian church that helps the individual control his or her urges, instincts, and neurotic behavior. The Roman Catholic church is an archetypal example of this kind of guidance and direction, and interestingly enough, it also has a tradition of protecting and nourishing its more mystical members. But equally interesting, if those mystics get a little too “uppity” and “democratic” — telling the folks about the ease of communicating directly with God, they are censored!
It is, to my mind at least, the normal evolution of the soul to begin at the fundamental level when all else has failed her — we turn to a power greater than ourselves when we recognize “ourselves” can’t cut it. We usually initially turn to clear, easily grasped dos and don’ts with little wiggle room in order to feel safe. What turns us to God usually in the first place is fear — fear generated by a sense of vulnerability and impotence in turn generated by a sense of isolation and separateness. This fear is legitimate, if all we are is a separate ego-bound entity. So a tight restrictive religious base is warranted in the beginning. Unfortunately, the inevitable greed for power seeps into religious groups, and the group then steps in and squelches the natural tendency of the mind, guided by the soul, to evolve OUT of that restricted mode of thinking into a more inclusive, loving way of thinking, and, as I see it, that’s where we are today, all over the world, in all sorts of religions. That inclusive inclination is NOT encouraged, often rejected, and seldom celebrated, precisely BECAUSE it removes power from the organization, be it a church or whatever, and returns it to the individual soul. If fear turned most of us to God in the first place, fear keeps us stuck together way beyond the usefulness of the early religious group protection. Even those churches that claim to encourage inner communion, control their members consciousness by means of demeaning other methods of inner communion, and thus, continue to pump up the ego, and its unique perspective in that church, only this time, dressed in “spiritual” clothing. (It is a slippery slide we walk when trying to extricate ourselves from the prison of the ego!)
So, discussing blame or non-responsibility can only be done “responsibly”, and with those who have already stepped out of the protective armor of the small self and are beginning to experience the “Big Self” or God flowing through them. To be sure, God flows through them, through each of us, all the time, but most of us are so encapsulated by self absorption that we can’t feel that Reality. To tell those that they have no blame is essentially to liberate the “fiends” that are feeding the ego — it is not a wise thing to do. And as you wrote, “If I spoke of giving up ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ I think I might be in line for stoning”. Just so! And until one gives up that small self — and mind you, doesn’t substitute that small self with a “Big God Out There Somewhere” who is STILL separate, only bigger and stronger — in other words, MY God, not your god (unless, of course, you join my separate and separative group, and accept MY God as your God, too) — we still have the problem of an ego-dividing entity, only this time it has extended itself to be part of “God’s chosen”. Dreadful! To confuse God with separateness is a fatal step in truly knowing God. Too often, this “Big Out There God” becomes a substitute for or a projection of the individual ego, and permits, even encourages, oppression and coercion, something no loving God would ever do.
You also wrote, “Is there really no blame — no consequences (that’s good news) no responsibility by anyone for anything — sounds similar to my recent musings that things are more predestined than we think, that free will is not as free as we think, although when I share this with others I don’t get much reinforcement. I have therefore begun to keep it pretty much to myself.”
Yes, there are no consequences, and no, there are. But that again depends upon the position you are standing in at the time. So that, the further along you move, you will discover that your perspective on good and bad shifts, and you find yourself more and more apt to forgive a situation, and recognize that there is truly no “good” or “bad” position any longer. The ego will still flare up, out of habit, but you will be able to disengage, in other words, a kind of discrimination automatically develops which allows you to see from a broader perspective. Ultimately, it is my understanding that you come to a place where disengagement is no longer necessary, you ARE that broad perspective, willy-nilly. Automatically, you check the old programs of “me, me, me” from acting out. It is an unconscious thing. It’s a good guide as well as to how expanded your consciousness is or is not, as the case may be. In other words, to what extent can you simply live life joyfully, and take its good and bad indifferently. To what extent have you surrendered to your circumstances, and loved them? This is a tough one, I grant you — and struggling with it never ceases — well, it does, so I am told …
As for karma — there IS karma for those who need it. It applies, once again, to the continuum of consciousness that we all slide along. If you take credit for good deeds, and you don’t take credit for the bad ones, then, that “you” who is taking credit, either good or bad, WILL suffer karma. Karma is another way of saying that so long as you believe in the separateness of life, then you will be buffeted about by that separateness, and the laws of a dual universe, informed by that basic separation, will prevail, naturally, and affect you. But, instead, if you are at a point where you are not so sure that there is any you that can take any of that credit, that you are instead just a vehicle of God consciousness, even just a creature of God, and the little you that postures itself as the doer, the separated ego, may still be there, but is pretty well laced up in a straight jacket!, THEN karma begins to fade away — because, after all, to whom will that karma confer? It all depends upon how much of you you think you are, and how much of you has been given up to God. When all of you is gone, and all of you has been given up to God, then, karma disappears, as does all the blame, credit, good or bad and whatever. You see? So, in advising you to reject the blame game, I was speaking from the ultimate reality, if you will allow that presumption for a moment, because, from the true perspective, as I see it, there was nothing else you could have done than what you did, because, in the final analysis, none of us is anything at all other than conduits.
So, the process, as I personally have experienced it at least, is an incremental one. Yes, there are eureka moments when ecstasy and certitude prevail, but they don’t last. I am speaking of the progressive and irrevocable transformation of ego mind, the mind that is inculcated in each child as she is educated out of the bliss of non-ego into the suffering of ego-centricity. This ego mind is simply learned through the developmental process of a child. It is arbitrary, and it is insidious. It is the legacy of our parents and culture. It holds centuries of admonitions. It — the ego in its basic construction — is also necessary for survival, but it has evolved to such an absurd extent that its OWN survival is its most important project, and it will sacrifice everything to survive. Indeed, suicide is probably one of its most perverse acts in its effort to survive, even to the extreme of destroying its own home, the body.
To transform oneself from an ego dominated individual to a conduit of God takes time, and takes sacrifice, and takes constant surrender, and perhaps most importantly, it takes Grace, meaning it is ultimately God-motivated. (In reality, the statement should read: to rediscover that we are only conduits, and to purify the ego which obstructs that obvious fact, takes time! But even that is inaccurate, as the reality is that right now, we are THAT, and it is only a kind of hypnotic state induced by a misguided idea that we are separate egos which obstructs this vision.) But, for most intellectual Westerners, it does take time, more than likely because we are so intellectual, and thus so closely indebted to our minds, that we sacrifice our “hearts”. There are those who in a flash of light lose themselves in God forever, but it seems to be rare, precisely because the mind is so overwhelmingly dominant in our culture. In many ways the Oriental approach helps in this regard, and perhaps explains why there are so many God intoxicated saints associated with those traditions. They have in part side-stepped the imbalance we find in our culture because of the great success of science and all its artifacts characteristics of the West. We have lost sight of this other side of ourselves, so it seems.
Finally, but not insignificantly, I applaud the following from you: “I have pretty much forsaken the idea of heaven and hell — I keep thinking of that scripture that says, ‘If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will God …’ I have a daughter, and I know that no matter what she did I couldn’t punish it with hell — thus I don’t see how God would punish us. I share this idea frequently and often I think I’m not the only one that believes it. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.”
Precisely. This suggests that heaven and hell are no longer in your consciousness, “as it no longer makes sense”. Heaven and hell have always been used to control the crowd, the uncontrollable, the basic, unreachable consciousness that cannot be controlled otherwise. We all have it (heaven and hell) in us, and until we grapple with its ramifications, we probably need a projection of the concept. It should not surprise you to know that despite your recognition of the strength of love you feel for your daughter, there are many, many parents who do not feel the same, and many who would, will, and did reject their children for any number of reasons, some willingly leaving their children to a kind of hell. So, just because you find that resolved in your own life, does not mean it doesn’t exist for others. The fact is, it DOES serve a purpose in some lives. This is a rather clear and simple example of what I am talking about when I refer to the continuum of consciousness, and how various, apparently conflicting perspectives can coexist, and ultimately, they all make sense, if we only had a wide enough vision. That is the wonder and awesomeness of a God who “so loved the world” that it was created with ALL possibilities, and even those we have not yet discovered. Who but an all gracious being could have done such a thing?! Every possibility and every remote concept manifests itself right now AS God, in all its terrifying implications and wondrous possibilities. Good takes on a considerably wider meaning when you begin to embrace this idea.
This was originally written in response to an email message received by Nancy. Of course, all personal references have been removed.
There is an interesting sentence in your message that you may be unaware of having written, but which indicates to me that you are doing just fine in this transition. In the sentence you write that the process has driven you “to the edge of sanity”.
I believe you meant to write “to the edge of insanity”, not “to the edge of sanity”! I suppose that is what may be called a Freudian slip ’ and you actually expressed where you truly are. That is, you are more sane today than you were before, and you can thank yourself (and your guru) for bringing you to this point. Sanity is the capacity to look reality in the face, understand it, and walk away from it with more understanding and truth. In this sense, sanity is maturing or maturity. Clearly, you have done this through your shift of focus from the outer into the inner. The shift to the inner is the destiny for all of us, eventually; but it is a scary shift and a profound one, frequently creating enormous emotional upheaval, but all in the pursuit of sanity and clear thinking. You are well on your way toward that.
Just remember that you cannot see in any outer teacher — or anyone or anything else — what is not already within you. This applies to both the good and the bad, of course, but focus on the good, because in this case, the good is the direction you wish to go, and that is why you “found” a teacher with all those good attributes which were, and already are, within you. It is adjusting and learning to understand that you were and are considerably more than anybody in this culture has told you, taught, or allowed you to know. It is the unraveling of all that conditioning and programming that you are doing to discover that diamond that you always were. And that can be sometimes difficult, but oftentimes exhilarating.
In particular, with your reference to sanity (or insanity, as the case may be), there ARE indeed moments when the mind is so confused, so angry, so up against the wall, due to the process of spiritual seeking, that it will try to create confusion and havoc in its effort to remain the guiding principal in your own life. It is a devious master, and will try all kinds of tricks to remain on top, particularly in the spiritual process, because the entire point of the spiritual process is the ultimate defeat of the mind and its games, so obviously, it is going to fight hard. Combine this with the loss of an authority figure, and you have a real mix of chaos in the mind and the emotions. The loss of an authority figure recalls our childlike helplessness and dependence upon parents to solve our problems of living. It is therefore not surprising that all those childlike emotions will resurface and torture us whenever there is a similar loss, even when we are adults. I have found that the resolution of this discomfortis not so much in rationally understanding what happened in the loss of an authority figure, but in understanding that we are, at that time, reliving a childlike experience, and that, perhaps, the problem lies in our own hearts, and our unwillingness and sometimes inability to simply grow up, mature, and accept the pain and loss which growing up implies. I cannot tell you how many people I know, including myself, who have resisted knowledge, maturity, and peace and happiness, not because of the apparent reasons, but because of unwillingness to mature, and to accept the responsibility which maturity entails, not to mention the failure to accept that life has both bad and good times. Only mature adults recognize that human life as separate beings is both good times and bad times. It is our effort to avoid that realization that keeps us infantile and dependent on authority other than our own.
At the same time, the inner authority to which I refer here is not the small, separative, ego-centric authority of an individual human being. It is the light, logic, and understanding that is within the heart, those moments of certitude and possibility, the more quiet, less intellectual, inner voice that directs us when we cease distracting ourselves with our mind’s desires and willfulness. It is surrender of the small self to the larger, greater universe of Godliness, holiness, and love that resides within each of us, indeed, which IS each of us. It is that authority that we all have, and are, but have been conditioned to believe we are not. It seems to me that this is the authority that you have turned to as a result of your past loss of your faith in your teacher. This is a good thing if you are growing up, or in another paradigm, if you are “building your soul”, which it sounds to me as though you are. Don’t be hard on yourself, this is a new way of being, and it takes a little time to get accustomed to it.
Listening to an American Tibetan monk the other day, he made a remark which got me to thinking about celibacy, and the pros and cons to that practice. He said that despite the monk’s vow of celibacy, he did not agree with it, and as he was not celibate, he was comfortable with the position in which he stood. While I do not know much about this person, I admired his character, and thus took his statement seriously, and at his word.
Having lived through my own monkish practices these thirty years, I looked over my own past, and that of my husband’s, and our own position with respect to celibacy, and came away with a conclusion which, while obvious now to us, may not be so obvious to others on a similar path.
Since almost all spiritual paths some where or another advocate celibacy, there must be some kind of value to it, or it wouldn’t be so universally advocated. Spiritual disciplines are not arbitrary, there is always a sound rationale for them. I think, as usual, these admonitions are useful, usually, and normally only, at a certain point in the disciple’s progress when he is on a edge, where he will either fall back, or move forward, and it is at these times, in particular, when celibacy is important and useful.
In other words, celibacy, if enforced too early within the disciple’s progress, is, to my mind, extremely harmful to the individual who practices it. And yet, celibacy, if not enforced at a certain point in time, can lead to straying from the path, an attachment to passions, sensuality, and all the rest of it. As usual, it is a razor’s edge of decisions and disciplines. And of course, ultimately, within true liberation, there is neither celibacy nor sexuality that is practiced by the liberated one, because the expressions of both these states are not considered, nor imposed, nor advocated, nor accepted, they are just natural, and depending upon the circumstances, will, or will not be, expressed.
The practice of celibacy, as all other practices by monks, is modeled upon the behavior of the enlightened ones, who generally, but not always, are essentially celibate because there is no need any more by them for sexuality. Thus there are all sorts of practices and admonitions based upon the natural behavior of a liberated, or enlightened being, including, of course, the practice of celibacy, because the liberated ones seem to be celibate. But that is quite a different matter from a struggling disciple, who is still possessed of drives and desires, not to mention instincts and hormones, of a worldly and egocentric nature. In other words, modeling oneself after a liberated being has its pros and its cons. And it is important to keep in mind that the model is the goal, and may not necessarily apply to the present state of the seeker.
Thus, in the case of celibacy, which is abstention from sex, which is a huge drive, and which is at certain points in life, a driving force that is in fact addictive, similar to the addiction to any other stimulant, and to enforce abstention can cause all sorts of problems, both psychological and physical, if enforced before it is time, and is not easeful. Thus, I am against celibacy if an individual has an overwhelming desire for sex, since it will only create complexes and in the worst case, obsession with the very thing that one is trying to evolve out of.
In other words, the word “evolve” is the key word in this practice. A serious seeker will eventually evolve out of sexuality, by virtue of the fact that he or she is transforming that huge energy into other venues and modes of expression. But it is an evolution, not a coercion. It happens naturally. However, at the same time, there must be the willingness to do so. The “willingness” is the key word. With willingness, or desire to evolve, comes the impetus, the desire, to evolve, and with the evolution, comes the continuing willingness and eventual desire, to evolve, and a spiral begins to develop. Soon, one finds sexual desire begins to wane, and a desire of a different kind, every bit as fulfilling, replaces it, or better, stands upon its shoulders. And it is this kind of celibacy that is natural, evolved, and willingly embraced. It is not enforced, nor is it unnatural, but instead it is natural and normal progress upon the spiritual path.
It is this kind of celibacy that becomes incorruptible, and it is the opposite, enforced celibacy which is always open to corruption or seduction, and may in many cases explain the “fallen” spiritual teachers, who advocate celibacy, but practice sex in secret. While of course many of these teachers are exposed to sultry young men and women, in particular western disciples, and thus the temptation is great. However, were the celibacy anchored and an evolved type of celibacy to which I refer, for example, the kind to which Ramakrishna referred and lived, where it was natural and not enforced, these wiles would have little effect upon the spiritual teacher. Likewise, a spiritual student will, in her or his own way, find similar circumstances and temptations. Of course, depending upon the student’s standing along this path, he or she will fall to those temptations, or simply not notice them, each position depending upon the student’s evolution along the path.
So, I am opposed to celibacy if an individual still hankers after sex, just as I am opposed to fasting if the individual still hankers after food, neither effort will achieve anything but frustration and disappointment. That said, there is a moment, or a threshold, on which each seeker finds himself or herself many times throughout his or her life, where the choice is obvious, the strength of willingness outshines the addiction to pleasure, and it is at those crossroads that we can take leaps forward, or remain stagnated. The trick is to recognize those moments and take the step right then, and if done, it often results in great strides toward evolution of consciousness.
In concluding, from a strictly psychic or metaphysical perspective, the case for celibacy is conservation of psychic energy, or consciousness, which in turn, accumulates and feeds the spiritual search, which if done seriously, consumes great amounts of psychic energy. There is no question that sex, if engaged in frequently, drains the body of psychic energy, and often requires a re-building of that energy in order to do internal work. Physiologically as well, there is a draining of energy from sex, which probably explains why it is so pleasurable, because the bodily tension is released at climax. That said, it consumes physical energy as well, and if the Chinese are right about their theory of the meridians, it also drains the kidney meridian, which is the source of Chi, which is the source of our life energy. There must be something to this theory, because very frequent sex often results in ringing of the ears, a peculiar kind of languor, befuddled thinking, and other kidney meridian related ailments. While none of this is life-threatening, all of these effects can alter the focus, intention, and progress of a spiritual seeker if engaged in to excess.
One of the Buddha’s basic tenets is “moderation in all things”, and this applies to celibacy, as well as all other aspects of living the physical life. With moderation comes discipline, with discipline, comes focus, with focus comes increased energy, with increased energy, comes transformation of consciousness, and with transformation of consciousness, comes evolution, and with evolution, comes liberation.
At the end of his life, Thomas Aquinas said about his life’s works and his many writings, “It’s all straw”. While intellectually, I have been able to understand how he arrived at that conclusion, emotionally and experientially, I had some trouble. Today, I do not.
Today, I have considered removing all the entries from Nancy’s Page, my page, due to this personal discovery about my own thoughts, considerations, opinions and advisories; but instead, have decided to leave them up as a kind of biography, or diary, about the progression of one human’s consciousness, and the struggle with the inability to arrive at a satisfactory answer to life’s problem which is “How do I stop being afraid?” That is, in my own opinion, the core problem that generates ALL the other questions, both great and small, that are expressed by human beings, seekers and non seekers, and that are addressed by pundits, teachers, gurus, and humankind generally throughout history, both in outer human activities and in inner human dialogues. Ultimately, there is only one answer to all questions, and addressing each of them as though there were a separate, unique answer, misses the point, and doesn’t solve the problem, which is, again “How do I stop being afraid?”
I can speak only for myself: I am afraid because I feel powerless and helpless. Indeed, I AM powerless and helpless, not unlike an infant, subject to all the world’s uncertainties and catastrophes, both great and small. By powerless, I do not mean unable to act, think, or manipulate my world, since I can do that with my mind. By powerless, I mean I am unable to escape my destiny, which is to try to survive at all costs, and to eventually die. I have used a mind to attempt to coerce the universe into being benevolent, loving, altruistic, good, all definitions flawed by virtue of being formulated concepts within an imperfect and frightened, mind. I have supported, embraced, and created philosophies, and turned to those who expounded philosophies and spiritual concepts coincident with my needs, in order to avoid having to grapple with the bare realization that I am powerless, and thus, so are they. Indeed, much of their “power” derives from their promise to give me power, “their” power. It does nothing of the sort; it simply distracts me from my fear.
It is this prime directive, to survive against my inevitable death, that submits me to struggle against that prime directive because I cannot tolerate the tension of that paradox, that dilemma. And I am powerless to escape it. In my desperation, I have turned to others, whom I have authorized to “give me power”, either through their words, or through my submission to their words. I have integrated those ideas into my own consciousness which, consequently, perpetuated the distraction and apparent comfort of the group mind (who was it that said “there are no original thoughts”?).
I have discovered that the only way out of this dilemma is to accept myself as I am, with all that fear, and all that desire to survive. To honor that is to allow myself to be human, to accept myself with humor and compassion, to enjoy my life presently as it unfolds. To let it happen, and to let me happen. This is holy, this is life, this is acceptable.
In this discovery, all my authority returns to me, back from those many teachers and teachings on which I projected my authority. I become divested of concepts, all of which I have accumulated throughout my life in an effort to gain power, to control my universe. I realize that no one can help me, nor guide me, nor teach me, nor save me from my destiny, and that’s acceptable.
From “The Mystique of Enlightenment …”, conversations with U. G. Krishnamurti —
You can never understand this; you can only experience this in terms of your past experience. This is outside the realm of experience. The natural state is acausal; it just happens. No communication is possible, and none necessary. The only thing that is real to you is the way you are functioning; it is an act of futility to relate my description to the way you are functioning. When you stop all this comparison, what is there is your natural state. Then you will not listen to anybody.
—more to come—