From: brian stacy queen email@example.com
Subject: beginning again
Date: Tue, 03 Sep 1996 10:16:11 +0000
Is a beginners task as simply put as "waking up"? Or is there a simpler, preliminary task for the beginner, since waking up seems to be so very slippery.
Can a student's voyage on this Way be usefully broken into phases?
Boy has this one been said a lot by many!
I'm sure there will be many who are glad you voiced it.
This statement may be one of the things that helps us to understand how it is that so few ever really get what conscious living is.
We are so completely conditioned to believe that our potential has already been realized -- that is, we believe that realizing our potential is an effort to add skills to the ones we already possess. Thus potential simply becomes another possession. Yet one of the greatest teachers to ever visit this little mud ball said that one must give up or renounce everything that one possesses to become a true student.
And we make such incredible assumptions about where we are starting the journey from. Few consider this for more than a moment, but: how will I get to Paris if I think that I'm in New York -- when I'm really in Los Angeles?
This is so obvious in the man-made world of objects and things and time and space that we rarely consider it. Unless something happens to really disorient me, I almost always know where I am physically located on top of this more-or-less sphere, don't I? So to question where I am seems silly, since I already know that.
But getting directions always implies ``from here,'' doesn't it? Just about everyone has heard the story of the city slicker lost in the country. When he finally sees an old farmer and stops for directions, the farmer says, ``Well, first you -- no, that won't work. Let me see. Well, maybe you should -- well, no that won't work, either. Try going -- well, no: you know, I don't believe you can get there from here. Why don't you try starting from somewhere else?''
So just about everyone wants to start waking up when they hear the idea, I suspect because the idea of being asleep is so unattractive to them. Of course, they don't know the language yet, really, so they don't know that the word for their current state (where they are starting from) is not really asleep. These are technical words in a very precise science that are rarely described for some reason that is unknown to me. And the proper technical word for where we are is not asleep, but rather it is dead -- not New York, but Los Angeles. (This is not an attempt to make statements about the relative merits of these two cities. I just picked them off the top of the head.)
There are three words to refer to man's state in this sense, not two. Dead refers to someone who is living in the lower states without the knowledge that it is a lower state of existence. Asleep is someone who has discovered their death and found the way to a higher existence and experienced being awake for a while but has temporarily gone back to a lower state of existence. In other words, asleep implies the possibility -- potential -- of awakening. Until I have been raised from the dead and started living in a higher state at least some of the time, I have not even experienced being asleep.
To get there from here, one does not make efforts to wake up. One makes efforts to see the depths of one's death, which one mistakenly calls living. (I have the potential for living, but not the realized experience.) That in itself tends to wake one up for a moment, so one becomes a person who is sleeping and now has the potential to awaken, whether it is a realized experience at this moment or not.
We live on a planet of the walking, talking, breathing dead. There are a few around who are sleeping right now, and may awaken at any moment -- and then will probably fall asleep again for a while, and awaken again, and so on. There are a very few who are awake (in a higher state of existence or being) most of the time. And for almost all of even these few, there is always the unrealized potential to fall asleep again, for a moment, that must always be recognized and watched for: that it may not be realized but stay potential.
Many, many of these walking dead imagine themselves to be ``spiritually awakened,'' just as almost all of them imagine they are not dead but living. One day their death will become a physical fact, just as it is already a spiritual fact. Sooner or later the inner world reflects itself in the outer world. It is an incredible testimony to the design of the human form that it can survive for so long when the inner being inhabiting that form is already dead.
Before I even found the fourth way, I realized that I was in deep shit. I take no credit for that. Due to some pretty strong circumstances it was necessary that I look at the life style. And I realized that I had died and gone to hell on the inside. And (fortunately for me) that inner hell was being very dramatically acted out and demonstrated in the outer world of the so-called life. After dealing with the circumstances, I left and found someone with whom I had a single contract or agreement: that he would assist me to never be able to forget again that I was identified with a dying machine called the body and its personality. I still experience an incredible sense of gratitude to that person for assisting me in that effort, even though when I left him to find the way to some other kind of existence I was in the most terrible place I have ever experienced. I was in such a state that I always knew that I was asleep, completely identified with the conditioned personality, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was trapped, and I could never forget it. I agonized over everything the machine did, because it was never what I wanted to do. When I finally found a teacher of the fourth way, I was ready.
I didn't pick nits about anything that was said. If it was said to do this, I did this. If it was said to do that, I did that. I didn't believe everything that I was told, but then I was told that to agree or disagree with an idea was to not hear it. So ``my'' beliefs meant nothing to me, either way -- they were just the way the personality functioned. I was told to take each idea and check it out for myself, and that's what I did: slowly, one idea at a time. Of course I was desperate, but I'm grateful that I acted on that desperation.
I never complained that it was hard, although it was the hardest thing I've ever done. Because I wanted it more than life itself -- that is, I saw that it was life itself. All I had known until then was death: I knew nothing about living.
So how's about starting with something much harder, but simpler to do: by starting where one is, rather than where one imagines one would like to be. Instead of trying to awaken, make an effort to see the depths of one's sleep -- that one is dead to the very real Life that is within. Make an effort to see one's identification with the body and the body's personality. It has been said, and has yet to be disproved, that doing so will provide moments of awakening -- very brief moments. But now one can say that one is asleep: for one has experienced being awake, even if only for a few minutes. Just doing the work of self-observing brings one into a new state of existence that was only potential before one started.
It is evidently the nature of children to always wish to have that which is properly given to adults.
When a child realizes there is more to the world on the other side of the street, their first impulse is to want to cross the street and experience that. But the adults entrusted with their care know that crossing the street alone is too dangerous for them -- they don't yet realize that automobiles are not just convenient means of individual transportation, but also the most deadly weapon on planet Earth. So the adults tell them that they must not cross the street alone yet, and the child chafes at this (to them) ridiculous limitation on their freedom, and longs for the day when they will be permitted to cross the street on their own.
But, the fact is that by being a child, they will most likely develop into one who can understand about cars, and be able to cross the street on their own. They may even come to the realization that being allowed to cross the street alone is not something given to them by the adults, but a recognition by all concerned that they have grown and developed.
Being a little one in the inner world is quite similar. We hear of a great kingdom, a greater state of existence, that we are told is our birth right on the other side of the inner world. So one begins to make the journey through the slums one is living in now to that greater place. And one often chafes at the limitations that currently just are. One wants what one has only heard about. So one forgets that one was also told that those limitations are from conditioning, the personality, not being. As long as one is identified with the limited self, one experiences the limitations of that self. So one begins to work at not having those limitations and forgets that the way to grow and develop is to be what one is now, fully, with all the attention that one can bring to bear at this time.
Physical growth does not come about by a child wanting to be an adult. It comes about because that is the nature of a child (unless something is physically damaged or other forces prevent it). Inner growth is the same. One of the best ways to damage that growth is to imagine that one is not a child in the inner world and begin to imagine that one has already grown up, or at least begun to grow up. Then one takes on the imagined attributes of an adult within the personality, as an act, as conditioned behavior. And one may never experience the development that would have brought these about as a real experience of limitations removed by conscious understanding of what I am not: a body or a personality.
Our most prized possession is of this world, not the world of living beingness: the personality. It is a physical construct of the way the body functions. Thus it might properly be said that there are very few human beings on planet Earth: it is mostly populated by humans. Again, human being is a very old technical world that we use without even thinking about what it refers to. It basically means ``God (or Spirit if you prefer) in physical form with awareness of individuality.'' Spirit is here, in the physical form, as long as Life remains to that form; but is identified with the personality and has forgotten its individual beingness.
As a side-effect, Gurdjieff did us the great favor of pointing out the ways that the body functions and brings that personality into existence; and the fact that it is potentially able to function differently and bring about an entirely different state of existence: awareness of individuality, of the real Self, in relationship with Life. It has even greater potential, but that is rarely realized -- probably for very good reason.
The personality is a wonderful and necessary part of wearing a body. For one thing, it saved my life. It protected me from things that I could not possibly understand as I was growing up. And it is just like everyone else's: it has no individuality. We don't see that because of the way that it is formed.
It gets its form by ``crystallizing'' around certain aspects of the true individuality of beingness, as well as certain experiences as it is being formed. So it appears that each is an individual if one can only see the way that the personality crystallized -- in other words, one can only see its form, not its essence.
That personality, like the untransformed body, is dying. Do not die its death! If one does not end the identification with the personality, one becomes subject to its fate. The source of death in a human being is another of our most prized possessions: vanity, which brings about the need for pride. These are technical words. Vanity is our self-image -- the way we see ourselves -- which is illusory when we are identified with the personality. (Self-remembering is the lost of vanity and the ability to see both Self and self objectively, with very few illusions.)
Pride is the constant defense of that false picture of self, including the constant pointing out of our own flaws. We believe that by seeing our flaws that we can then work at improving ourselves. But they are all the ``flaws'' of the false self, the personality, not of me. I am not flawed. Nor are you. Nor is anyone, whatever the personality does or does not do. Do not work at your own death and attempt to bring about a better state of existence by ``fixing'' the personality, either in fact by changing behavior or in imagination called vanity.
The personality has served its purpose, and served it well. It contains the habits that you require to live in a physical form, which would be quite overwhelming without the advantage of habitual action. To pay attention to action, even though it is the habits assisting in that action is beneficial. To take charge of the formation and repetition of habits is beneficial when one is no longer identified with the personality and does not imagine that one is ``improving'' one's self by doing so. But to have to actually make every action without the assistance of habits would render us unfit to survive in a physical form and world.
The personality saved the life when I was a child and could not understand what was going on around me. It created powerful defenses against things that were more than I could bear at that time -- because I didn't understand.
Now I am an adult. I can understand. I don't need those defenses. But the personality goes on defending me anyway. And that will be the death of the real I. Instead of dying with it, die to it. Disidentify. Let it die: just don't die with it. The most valuable effort for one starting on the journey to conscious living is the constant walking meditation: ``This is not me.''
(By the way, the technical word for one dead to the self is humble. Thus the process of dying to the self is called humiliation. When identified with the self, this humiliation is an incredibly painful experience, since it is the personality that must be humbled. Without identification it is one of the most wonderful experiences Life has to offer.)
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