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Flame of the Search

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Quotes about Flame of the Search

A Flame that Continues to Burn and Deepen with Time

Perhaps you have heard the idea that if you think you need love, you need to love others, be selfless. It sounds good. It’s what the great masters say. But for you it is hearsay, a rumor, a possibility worth inquiring about. It is not knowledge yet. Is it possible to leave your ideas, your thoughts, your knowledge behind, and let the inquiry be? Can you let the question stand? Can you for a while forget all your formulas, all of what you have heard or read, everything your parents said or didn’t say, what all the great teachers have said, and remain alone with the question? Why are you here? Where are you going? What is it all about? Can you let yourself have that question intensely —can you let that flame burn in you without needing to put it out with an answer? Can we let this inquiry deepen in us, in our hearts, in our bellies, in our being? Can we let our being be a question mark, a yearning? It is a motiveless search, a search that does not depend on any ideas about going somewhere. There is no goal in sight, so it becomes a flame that continues to burn and deepen with time. Don’t cover it up, put it out, or let it go; just let it be. Let it consume you. Let it burn away all your ideas and beliefs about how things should be. Let it burn away all your concepts about good and bad. Let that inquiry deepen and expand, so that you can forget. Let go of all you have learned . . . for a while at least. 

Aspirations Originating from the Depths of the Soul and Not from the Mind

Fire or flame usually indicates an aspiration toward something, but this aspiration is originating from the spontaneous depths of the soul and not from the mind. Gold is the color of truth on the dimension of essential experience. Golden flame is then an aspiration toward the truth, and golden fire is a strong aspiration and movement toward truth and away from falsehood and lies. This is a wonderful orientation. It is actually the specific orientation of our work. And we see that this orientation cannot come from the mind—it has to be real; it has to originate from the essential depths of our soul. The mind does not know what the soul needs to aspire to because the mind is influenced from outside. But the essential depths of the soul can be the source of true aspiration without the mind knowing what the aspiration is toward. The flame can be of other colors, with each indicating different manifestations of Essence. The flame can be luminous black, for instance, indicating the aspiration toward peace and inner stillness; or it can be a brilliant flame, indicating the spontaneous aspiration of the soul toward the true intelligence of Being. The flame can manifest in any of the various inner centers. It can manifest in the heart, for example, indicating the aspiration of the heart and feelings. Or it can arise in the belly center—the kath, or hara—and in this way orient actions. It is the aspiration toward true action. 

Brilliancy, pg. 243

Assuming Unquestioningly what Someone Else Says is the Truth Your Inner Flame will be Extinguished

How do you know that the knowledge you get from others is the truth? How do you know that your teachers, or even the great philosophers, have the answer that is appropriate for you? Christ says to love your neighbor. Do you really know that that is what you need to do? Buddha says that enlightenment is the best thing. How do you know that is what you need? Some people say you have to learn to be yourself. It sounds good. Some people say you should be free from your personality and develop your Essence. It sounds great. How do you know it will resolve your situation? You don’t really know whether any of these ideas are relevant or true for you. You can’t know with certainty until you have experimented and learned from your own experience. Until then your action is based on faith or belief. If you assume unquestioningly that what someone else says is the truth, your inner flame will be extinguished. You will believe that you have answered questions when you haven’t answered them; someone else has. And they haven’t answered them for you, but for themselves. We comfort ourselves by believing that others know, and that we can use their knowledge. It’s a very comforting thought; it encourages us to be lazy. We comfort ourselves by saying to ourselves, “Somebody knows, and in time I’ll get around to studying it. It’s already known and always available to me.” But do you, yourself, really know in your heart what is supposed to happen? Do you ever allow yourself to question, to have a burning question—and not put out the flame quickly with the first answer that you hear? You put out the flame so that you can return to your sense of comfort and security. 

Encountering the Limits of the Conventional Realm of Experience

When we feel the desire to know our nature, we may not conceptualize that desire in those words. A flame is lit, and we experience the wish to know more, see more, be more, feel more. We want to become more consciously aware of what we internally sense to be our potential. We want to discover the depth and meaning in life and existence. As the presence of something beyond awakens in us, a desire to be close to that something also awakens; a wanting to find out about it arises. It might begin as an interest, but some sort of desire is present even in an intellectual interest. A little intellectual desire can open us up and become a draw toward experiencing what is beyond our conventional perspective. Regardless of the entry point, you will find that as your inquiry deepens, a sense of emptiness typically emerges at some point. This is an encounter with the limits of the conventional realm of experience. It is a feeling of a lack, of wanting something you don’t have, even if you don’t know exactly what it is. You start to sense that you are out of touch, and you feel a desire or drive to be in touch with something real, in touch with reality. In order to move through this experience of emptiness into a true fullness of love, we need to better understand how the ego keeps us disconnected from our true nature. So let’s go deeper in our exploration of the experience of emptiness and how it can lead us to true eros.

Igniting the Flame

To pursue this search, we need to be interested in the truth of our experience, unhampered by biases about what this truth might be, or even in which direction to look for it. When we sincerely desire to know the truth, we feel that our soul is on fire. We become an aspiring flame, a burning question mark. We aspire towards the truth without mentally knowing what we are searching for. This flame of the search is the soul that has awakened to its existential condition and discovered the emptiness of that condition. We know that something is amiss, and we passionately want to uncover the truth of it. In the very substance of our soul we want to find out for ourselves. The flame of the search is ignited only when we accept our unknowing, and still aspire to discover the truth of our situation. It will be dimmed, even extinguished, if we anaesthetize ourselves with the belief that we know the truth, or if we accept someone else’s explanation or teaching without discovering the truth in the intimacy of our personal experience. When we sincerely acknowledge our ignorance, because we genuinely love the truth, the flame can become a passionate and consuming fire.

Lighting of a Flame

When we allow ourselves to fully experience our wanting, and we trust that the wanting itself has the intelligence to reveal the pure energy of desire that underlies it, we get a taste of what it’s like to feel love and desire as a unified force. We experience both the feeling of love and the power that is in it. And we don’t even have to fall in love for that to happen. Falling in love is one condition that helps us to experience love and desire as a unified force, one of the main ways of experiencing divine eros. But the capacity to experience divine eros is a potential that lives in all of us, whether or not we are sharing love with another person. This loving desire, which is often first ignited by our human relationships, is a characteristic of all real love relationships, including our relationship to true nature. When we feel the desire to know our nature, we may not conceptualize that desire in those words. A flame is lit, and we experience the wish to know more, see more, be more, feel more. We want to become more consciously aware of what we internally sense to be our potential. We want to discover the depth and meaning in life and existence. As the presence of something beyond awakens in us, a desire to be close to that something also awakens; a wanting to find out about it arises. It might begin as an interest, but some sort of desire is present even in an intellectual interest. A little intellectual desire can open us up and become a draw toward experiencing what is beyond our conventional perspective. 

One Way that the Flame is Passed On

The capacity of this teaching to transform your own life can extend out to affect your environment, changing the way that you relate to other people and the world at large. As you come to appreciate and value True Nature and know it for the mysterious and limitless source of life that it is, it impacts and transforms your own manifestation as a person. True Nature can express itself through you more directly, touching others and opening up the richness and possibility of what it means to be human. That is one way that the flame is passed on, that the light is spread. In my experience, this is the most effective way to support a deeper change in the condition of consciousness in our world. Our aim here is to be the realness that we love, to be as human as possible and to take that out into our life. The more of us who actually learn about reality and our own True Nature, the more others will recognize the preciousness and value of just being. Because, in fact, we are not separate, and True Nature is the nature of everyone. Each individual can come to value True Nature not just in themselves, but in everybody and everything. And when this appreciation is embraced and integrated, it will create expanding ripples moving out from each person. And all of this can happen as you learn to simply be yourself in an easy, gentle way—at each moment, wherever you are. 

Questions that are Like a Flame

Why am I here? Where am I going? We need to see how honest we can be with ourselves when trying to answer these questions. These two questions are related; that is, most people think they are here because there is a goal, they want to go somewhere. Where do you want to go? You probably think you know; do you? Do you think I know where you should go? If you think I know, can I tell you? And if I tell you, will you follow? Can you follow? These are questions that you cannot answer with your mind. These are questions that should remain questions. Do not try to simply answer them mentally. These questions are like a flame. If you answer them with your mind, you will put out the flame, because the mind doesn’t, the mind can’t know the answers to these questions. When you answer them with your mind and you think you know, the question is gone. When you believe you have answered such questions, the flame is gone and there is no more inquiry. If you settle for answers on this level, you will live like most of humanity, who assume that they know why they are here and where they are going. Such a life typically feels shallow and insignificant. A life with no fundamental questioning is a life lived according to formulas, according to what one has heard from others. But why should you believe what others tell you about life? You don’t actually know yet what is true for you, what is important for you, what will work for you. It is better to remain ignorant than to pretend knowledge. If you know that you are ignorant and don’t pretend otherwise, there is a question that stays alive and continues to burn in you, a deep hunger for the truth. 

The Fire of Inquiry Needs to be Fed

You might do some work on yourself and have a wonderful experience, a great insight or state. But how do you know that this wonderful experience is what is needed right now? How do you know that the knowledge you think you’re getting will resolve your situation? The flame must continue. The fire of inquiry needs to be fed, needs to grow, to intensify, to deepen. Our inquiry needs to be directed not at trying to reduce it, but to letting it grow. The flame needs to burn away all the rest, to grow until it answers itself by itself becoming the fulfillment. The fire of that inquiry can burn away all the dross, all the resistance, all the ideas, all the accumulation of the past so you can actually see what is really there, the whole picture in the present moment without needing to depend on anything from the past or on anyone else’s experience. When you know in the moment without any influence, then you can completely be alone with your own truth. Without that, it’s obvious that you can’t know with certainty. Only with that certainty can life become significant. If you know, for yourself, who you are, you will know where you are going, and you will be fulfilled.

The Flame is One’s Own and Can be Known Only Directly, Within Oneself, by Oneself

So Socrates is right. Essential aspects or absolute forms can be known only by being remembered, by being dredged up from the deepest recesses of the unconscious and experienced consciously. We have not shown, however, that it cannot be known in a different way, such as from somebody else (the way math is learned, for example.) We won't attempt this. However, it is enough for our purposes to point out that essence is a category of experience not accessible to the logical, “mental” mind. It cannot be communicated by the mind to somebody else. Most teachers, in fact, stress that essence is found inside, that the teacher can only point to it, or at best can ignite the inner flame with his own. But the flame is one's own and can be known only directly, within oneself, by oneself. That the personality has the memory of the lost essence somewhere in its unconscious is evident in the manifestations of the personality in its patterns, dreams, and hopes. We saw this in the last chapter, with respect to the merging essence, in the desire of the personality for the experience of merging with somebody else when all boundaries of the personality are melted away. We see the movement toward the lost merging essence in the desire for closeness, community, or physical contact, just to mention a few.  

The Flame of the Search

Why are we in such haste to have answers? We jump on the first promise of salvation that comes. Why not stay with the question? What makes you think that salvation is the answer, that freedom is the answer? What makes you think that enlightenment is the answer? What makes you think that love is the answer? You might feel that you want these things, but how do you know that getting them is the best thing that could happen in this moment? How do you know whether you’re supposed to be dead or alive, rich or poor, free or enslaved? Is it possible to let your mind be free? I am not trying to give you an answer; I’m just giving you a question. You need to let your being be ablaze like a flame, an aspiring flame, with no preconceived ideas about what it aspires to. To be just burning intensely, deeply wanting to know, wanting to see the truth without following any preconceptions, totally in the present with the question itself, and let it burn away all the ideas, all the beliefs, all the concepts, even the ones you learned from the great teachings. If you don’t allow that flame completely, will you ever rest in your life? Will you ever rest in your life as long as you’re covering up your question, answering it before it’s really answered? Will you ever really be content with someone else’s answer?

The Search is a Very Personal Concern, an Intimately Personal Interest in Your Situation

The desire for freedom, liberation, enlightenment, self-realization, inner development, or whatever it is called is not a response to a call from outside you. It is not that you hear of enlightenment, and then you want to be enlightened. It is not embarking on the journey because others, people you know, are on it. It is not a fad. It is not a desire for self-improvement. It is not an attempt to be some kind of an ideal model you have in your mind. It is not doing something according to some beliefs and opinions you have picked up someplace, recently or in the far past. The search is a very personal concern, an intimately personal interest in your situation. It is a response to a call deep within you. The call at the beginning is a vague, almost imperceptible and mysterious flame. It shows itself as a questioning of the disharmony you live in. It is your disharmony, as you experience it. It is your own questioning. And it is your personal yearning. If you want to be enlightened or realized like somebody else, who you heard was able to attain, then the search is not yours yet. It is somebody else's, Buddha's or Mohammed's. The stirring must come from you, from your depths. The questioning must be of your situation, your mind, not of some system that somebody else has set up. You can use the system to help you, but ultimately it is your life, your mind, your quest. Enlightenment cannot be according to any system. It has to resolve and clarify your own situation. The realization must satisfy and fulfill your heart, not the standards of some system. The liberation must be of you, you personally.

This Flame of the Search is the Soul that has Awakened to Its Existential Condition and Discovered the Emptiness of that Condition

Experiencing meaninglessness without attributing it to our external life situation confronts us with the fact that we do not know what it is really about. We feel it, without completely knowing the truth of it. If we have the support to not resort to incomplete and indirect explanations and avoidances, and the curiosity to inquire into our experience, we will be able to stay with the sense of meaninglessness, especially if we feel a deep aspiration to uncover its truth. Our curiosity about, and interest in, finding out firsthand about the truth of our experience can become a burning, even a passionate question. This is the inner spiritual inspiration, the true motive behind the spiritual quest, the search for meaning, which is actually the search for the essence of the self. To pursue this search, we need to be interested in the truth of our experience, unhampered by biases about what this truth might be, or even in which direction to look for it. When we sincerely desire to know the truth, we feel that our soul is on fire. We become an aspiring flame, a burning question mark. We aspire towards the truth without mentally knowing what we are searching for. This flame of the search is the soul that has awakened to its existential condition and discovered the emptiness of that condition. We know that something is amiss, and we passionately want to uncover the truth of it. In the very substance of our soul we want to find out for ourselves. 

True Questioning, Sincere Questioning Doesn’t Have a Particular Goal

The Work must be done according to your own inquiry; the Work that we do here is only a guidance. Your motivation has to be pure, real and true; your flame has to be there; otherwise you’ll use the Work for the wrong purpose. You’ll get somewhere according to an idea, but it is not necessarily where your Being would take you without constraint. You can develop this and that, become free from this and that, but how do you know whether that will fulfil your destiny? You might think you’re supposed to be more loving, or less afraid, or more comfortable, or more relaxed, or richer, or more beautiful. Maybe you are, maybe not. These are just ideas. But true questioning, sincere questioning doesn’t have a particular goal. If you think you have a goal, an end, and if you think you’re going to go there, you’ve already extinguished the flame. If you’ve told yourself you’re here because you want to be enlightened, you want to be free, you want to be loving, you want to be this or that, that means that you already know. But you don’t know, really. It’s a lie to believe that you know. It’s true that there’s a question and that you don’t know the answer—that is the truth. The most honest answer you can give to the question “Why am I here?” is that I am here because I don’t know. The truest reason for you to be here is to fan that flame of inquiry.

What We’re Doing Here is Activating a Flame

Effort and desire go together. Effort is based on desire. If there is no desire for something, why will there be effort? First there is a rejection of what is now and a hope of something else. That hope creates a desire. Desire hooks into the will. Then the will to accomplish the desire is used by the personality. Will in the service of the personality is effort. I’m not saying desires are bad and you shouldn’t have them. There is no judgment in what I’m saying. I’m saying that understanding is the point of view of reality. Effort is always based on rejection, isn’t it? Effort is always aimed at getting somewhere. At the beginning you use effort, and that is fine. You will continue using effort until you understand at some point that effort is a problem. You’ll see that it’s not a matter of stopping the effort. You cannot stop effort and you cannot stop desire. If you want to stop effort or desire, what are you doing? You’re engaging in the personality’s point of view. The only thing you can do is to understand the movement of effort. What we’re doing here is activating a flame, a flame which loves the truth. I’m not interested in teaching you to reject something or accept something else. There is a possibility of a certain perception, a certain way of living that is not based on anything in the personality—not on desire, effort, conflict, hope, search, past, future, any of that—but is a purely motiveless interest in the truth. 

When the Divine and the Instinctual Become One

Usually, we think of excitement as similar to electric energy, but think here of electricity that has been liquefied so that it is more palpable, more substantial. The substantiality is a more condensed excitement. It is the presence of aliveness. It is life in its purest quality. Our consciousness attains a vigorous quality, as a pure sense of excitation, of aliveness. This pure sense of vital presence can infuse the love, can infuse the desire, and we can then feel that our Being is ablaze. We become a big flame, a fluid flame, a flame of liquid, a liquid that is so excited that it combusts into consciousness ablaze. It shines and radiates but the heat is comfortable; it feels wonderful. You feel that you are alive with an excitement that doesn’t agitate you; instead, it makes you feel good and happy. This type of strong energy, this intensity of aliveness, this fiery quality, is a quality of our Being that needs to be liberated so that we can experience a desire that is powerful, uncontrollable, and that expresses life instead of expressing need. That is when the divine and the instinctual become one. This quality makes it possible for the divine—which is selfless, which is pure—and the instinctual—which is animal, powerful, and more sensuous—to combine and become completely inseparable. You can no longer distinguish between “Do I love?” and “Do I want?” They are the same thing. “Do I want to give pleasure or do I want to receive pleasure?” The mind can’t even think about it. That is divine eros.

When We are Passionate Our Soul is on Fire and the Longing of Our Heart is Like a Flame

People naturally want to spend their life doing what they feel most passionate about. That is the desire of the heart. But whatever they want to do is an external reflection of the deep longing of the heart to unify with its ultimate Beloved. The passionate love that we have been talking about is what propels the soul on its search for the Beloved. As we have seen, passionate desire is not a gentle wanting. No, when we are passionate, our soul is on fire, and the longing of our heart is like a flame. We find that the more passionate our love is, the more we are willing to surrender, to give ourselves up to the truth, to the Beloved. And the more passionate we are, the less we will meander along the way; the less we will be constrained by the barriers we encounter; the less we will get stuck in or distracted by our various positions and identifications and issues. That’s because we’re so passionately in love with the Beloved that we don’t sit around trying to resolve this issue or that problem: “Oh, my husband never remembers our anniversary” . . . “My therapist wasn’t very empathic today” . . . “The other guys at work are so shallow”—all the little things that can grab our attention. Forget all that. That's not it. It's just part of what you see on the road, and you need to keep going and drive as fast as possible. 

Love Unveiled, pg. 211

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