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Ideas

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Ideas

All of Our Ideals, Our Ideas, Our Projects, Our Worries and Our Fears Become Noise that Overwhelms Our Immediate Experience

In contrast to our modern multiplex cinemas with their Hollywood blockbusters, what many of us would love is to go to an old-time movie theater where the sound is rather tame and quiet and the story evolves slowly, so we can actually follow what we feel about it. And we would love to be able to do the same thing with ourselves in our own experience, to be withourselves in such a way that we can see where we are, notice what is happening, and know how we feel about it. This would let us feel more real. What we miss when we don’t feel that kind of simple quiet is an awareness of ourselves in our experience in its immediacy, in its fullness. Instead, we are hearing echoes, reverberations, and reflections. All of our ideals, our ideas, our projects, our worries, and our fears become noise that overwhelms our immediate experience and the subtle sense of what we are. The preciousness of just simply being here in the moment is forgotten, lost in the shuffle, lost in the noise. The spiritual journey is not about having experiences, interesting insights, or unusual perceptions, although those will often arise as part of it. I am not saying they don’t have their place and value, but they are not the point of the inner journey. Inner practice is basically a matter of settling and quieting. It is about settling into the simplicity of just being ourselves and feeling our realness—being in reality instead of in the echoes of reality.

A Known World is a Dead World

I began by saying that the world we live in is nothing but the content of our knowledge, which is something we have absorbed from our parents and the society around us, which is a part of the history of humankind. So, the world we live in is the product of the history of humankind. All the concepts that have evolved, all the various combinations of ideas, the physical knowledge, social knowledge, religious knowledge, have become the world which is our knowledge. A known world is a dead world. The actual world is in some deep sense unknowable, is a mystery, and is always changing. There is always change, there is always transformation. The exploration we’ve begun today is the exploration of reality beyond mind. To know reality and to discover who we are beyond the ideas that we learned in childhood, we must confront those ideas. On this level the Work is not a matter of exotic experiences, but of seeing the reality of the things we already know. When we see through the concepts
that we already know, we can see the truth that is always there. To see through the concepts that have calcified our minds and our perceptions is to see reality freshly, immediately, to see it the way it is, not the way our minds have defined it.

A Thought is Not Essence

A concept, a thought, or an idea might arise out of the experience of essence, might be generated under the influence of essence. This sometimes happens in expansive ideas of discovery and revelation. But the thought is not essence. The influence of essence on mind is most obvious in certain kinds of poetry written when the poet gets a taste of essence—when the words, thoughts, ideas, and images are generated by essence and attempt to reflect and communicate the essential experience. Very often the poet is not directly aware of essence but is aware only of the idea, the image, and perhaps the emotion produced by the contact with essence. The poet may become so enamored of his words and images that he never moves to the actual direct experience of essence. The words can be beautiful and the images enchanting, but all this beauty and enchantment fall short of the beauty and enchantment of the essence itself.

An Idea can Only Perpetuate its Own Nature

What we find here is that we’re trying to change things but we’re always trying to change them according to our old ideas about how things should go. But your ideas about how things should go are the product of your present condition. How else could it be? The way you go about wanting things to change will only keep them the same. You can’t do anything else. You’re always trying to change yourself, right? “I’m a miserable person. I want to be happy. So this is what I’m going to do about it.” Well, your ideas of how things should go are simply the product of how you are now. So how are you going to feel happy if you are acting according to the understanding of someone who is miserable? You can only continue the misery! If you’re a jealous person and you say you want to be a loving person so you should do this and this, you’re just going to continue being jealous, because your idea of how things should go come from how you think of yourself as a jealous person. Your ideas of how love develops will have rules coming out of jealousy. How can such ideas produce love? How can beliefs brought out of suffering produce happiness? An idea can only perpetuate its own nature. If you’re a frightened person, fear will be a thread running through all your ideas. And such ideas can only produce more fear. It’s an interesting dilemma that we find ourselves in. The general tendency of the personality is to try to change things according to our own preconceptions. How else can we do it? We can only act according to what we already know. And we don’t know freedom and fulfillment.

Concepts, Labels and Ideas that Come From Our Direct and True Knowledge have to be Taken as Pointers to the Realities that they Refer To

If you keep thinking that who you are is an ocean of consciousness, this will disconnect you from your immediate experience, even though the statement is both true and experientially derived. These concepts, labels, and ideas that come from our direct and true knowledge have to be taken as symbols or pointers to the realities that they refer to. They are not the truth. If you talk about your experience of being an ocean of consciousness, the recounting of that experience is not the truth. It is truth only if it is the immediate experience of essential reality now. Your immediate experience might not be of Essence at all, or of Essence manifesting in the same way. If you are holding on to the thought, “I am Essence,” that thought becomes another self-representation, another self-image. Maybe your experience this moment is of being space, or love, or just a clunky body. Even though you have had an authentic experience of Essence, to identify with it through ordinary knowledge disconnects you from the immediate experience of its actuality and presence. This is because the experience of Essence is the immediacy of experiencing your Being and you cannot connect to that immediacy through a remembered concept. Certain concepts such as that of an essential self are useful for certain times and purposes but not for all times. If you take any concept to be applicable all the time, it becomes a rigidity that freezes the dynamism and blocks the openness of inquiry, closing it down.

If You Want to Grow You have to be Willing to Actually be Somebody with Different Thoughts, Ideas, Beliefs and Experiences

If you want to grow, you have to be willing to actually be somebody with different thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and experiences. You come here saying, “I want to be happy.” Fine, you want to be happy. But it might be that to be happy, you will have to become a different person. Maybe the person you are at the present time is an unhappy person. You say, “I want to stay the way I am, but I want to be happy.” Well, maybe that’s not possible. Maybe part of the character of this person you are now is unhappy. Maybe you’re made of unhappiness. How can you be the same person and be happy? To be happy, you have to be a different kind of creature. Everybody has all kinds of ideas about who they are, how things should be, and what makes a good life. If you want to change, you have to be willing to allow these old ideas and beliefs to die. If you say, “I want to grow and still be the same stubborn person,” there is a contradiction. How can you change and still be the same? The essence of transformation can be seen in the process of change that results in a butterfly. There are several stages. One of them is a larva; the larva eventually develops and becomes a butterfly. So when you first come, you’re a larva—small, big, yellow, black, African, European—it doesn’t matter. You say, “I want to grow,” and in your mind, growing means becoming a bigger, happier, more colorful larva. Isn’t that how it goes? You don’t think, “I’m going to be something totally different.” You don’t want to be something totally different. You want to be a bigger, more beautiful, more loving larva. It never occurs to you to be something other than a larva. The concept of butterfly never enters your head. It’s not even in the realm of possibilities.

Our Attitudes, Ideas and Beliefs are Actually Responsible for Our Suffering

The problem is not that we want to be happy, but that we are going about it in the wrong way. When we really see that we are going about it in the wrong way, we quit. And then life can unfold on its own. We cannot make it unfold. We can quit our rejection, our judgment, our intolerance, but we will quit these patterns only when we completely and totally see what they are doing—that they are hurting us. We still don’t understand that our attitudes, ideas, and beliefs are actually responsible for our suffering. We pay lip service to this idea but we don’tknow it completely and totally. So we continue in our old patterns. The work we do here is simply to see the picture completely, seeing exactly what it is you are doing and how that affects reality. This is the way that real freedom, actual change, will come about. To live in freedom and absolute fulfillment, we need a complete, radical shift, and such a shift can occur only when there is a complete understanding of what we are actually doing. All the work you do here is based on understanding what you do and how you interfere with the natural process. If you try to do anything other than understand the situation, your effort will be a blockage, a resistance, an interference. You cannot make yourself grow; you can only cease to interfere. You cannot make yourself happy; you can only stop your judgments. Growth and expansion are natural; they are the life force itself. And you cannot predict its direction.

Personality is Composed of Experiences of the Past, of Ideas, of Notions, of Identifications

Essence was there in the beginning, and it is still there. Although it was not seen, not recognized, and was even rejected and hurt in many ways, it is still there. In order to protect itself, it has gone underground, undercover. The cover is the personality. There is nothing bad about having a personality. You have to have one. You couldn’t survive without it. However, if you take the personality to be who you truly are, then you are distorting reality because you are not your personality. The personality is composed of experiences of the past, of ideas, of notions, of identifications. You have the potential to develop a real individuality, the Personal Essence, which is different from the personality that covers the loss of Essence, but this potential is usually taken over by what we call our ego, our acquired sense of identity. If a person believes himself to be the ego, resulting from identifications, ideas and past experiences, then he is said to be “not in the world, but of it.” He is not aware of who he really is, of his essence. This is difficult to understand unless we are aware of our own essence, at least some of the time. The ego, or the sense of ego identity, takes the place of what we call the real identity, and the personality as a whole takes the place of Essence. The personality is a substitute, an impostor.

Practicing From the Perspective of Total Being will Challenge Your Ideas of What Realization is and What Enlightenment Is

Of course, practicing from the perspective of Total Being will challenge your ideas of what realization is and what enlightenment is. This perspective will challenge whatever you are taking yourself to be at any moment. When I use that expression, “whatever you are taking yourself to be,” I don’t necessarily mean some particular self; I mean whatever the being is at that moment, whatever the consciousness recognizes itself to be at that moment, whether it recognizes itself as an individual or not. Because as Total Being, you are an individual and you are not; you are human and you are not; you are form and formlessness, and you are neither of those. Understanding that you are Total Being opens freedom totally, in all of its degrees. The realization or the illumination that we are Total Being goes hand in hand with the view of totality, because the view of totality signifies that there are many ways that we can experience realization, many ways that we can experience enlightenment, many ways that we can simply experience. Usually, we believe that our mind has to organize our experience, giving it an order that is stable so that we can feel oriented and secure in the next moment. We don’t trust that reality has its own self-organizing force. But it does—it has been organizing and reorganizing all the time. We think that we have been understanding reality, but it is reality itself that organizes and reorganizes our understanding.

To See Reality as it is, to Experience the Truth as it Actually Stands, One Must go Beyond One’s Mind, Beyond One’s Words, Beyond One’s Ideas

Most spiritual techniques are based on the need to go beyond concepts, and beyond the words that reflect them. To see reality as it is, to experience the truth as it actually stands, one must go beyond one’s mind, beyond one’s words, beyond one’s ideas. This is why it has been very important for us here to understand concepts, to understand what a concept is. How do concepts affect our lives, our minds? How do we create our reality through concepts? It is simple but not easy to understand what a concept is. The moment you understand truly what a concept is, you go beyond concepts. You begin to perceive nonconceptually, to see without the overlay of your own mind, your past history and prejudices. In most spiritual traditions and teachings, the ultimate point of view is that you have to go beyond the mind to see and know reality directly, without veils. We work with psychodynamic issues not because working through these issues will ultimately bring us to reality or complete freedom, but because we are cut off from reality by so many entrenched concepts. We believe in the ideas and memories that have conditioned us so completely that we have to focus on some of them and their associations to lighten them up, before we can even entertain the possibility of approaching them as concepts.

We are Generally Kept Apart From Our True Selves by False Ideas About Ourselves

There is a simple reason why seeing the truth, especially the truth about ourselves, leads us to this intimacy and satisfaction. We are generally kept apart from our true selves by false ideas about ourselves. Seeing the truth often involves seeing through these false ideas, allowing us to recognize the deeper reality which we are. Thus knowing the facts will free you from your emotional reactions, and being free from your emotional reactions will free that part of you that is truth. When you seek truth, you seek yourself. The truth will set you free by allowing you to be yourself. In the search for truth, you have to start with reality. Reality is what is here at this particular moment. It’s Sunday, and I’m talking to you. This is the reality. It is also the truth, but it is a certain aspect of the truth. If you feel loving as you listen to me talk about truth, that is the reality of you at this moment. The truth is more what makes you feel loving right now. It’s not enough just to see that you feel loving; to get to the truth, you must see what makes you feel loving at this moment. This distinction between reality and truth is very important. We need to see the reality in order to proceed to truth. Reality is the fragrance of truth, the result of the truth. The relationship of reality to truth is like the relationship of gold dust to solid gold.

We Believe the Content of Our Minds to be Reality

You believe this mind so completely that you invest all your energy in it until after a while it appears to be solid and real. We believe the content of our minds to be reality. We completely believe our thoughts, our ideas, our beliefs, and our dreams, and we make them solid by continuing to see them and believing them to be reality. If you consider the world you live in, the kind of things you pursue, the kinds of things you like, the kinds of things you want, they are nothing but repetitions of the past. There is nothing new in them. Even what you think is new is a combination of things from the past, and since it is a repetition of the past, it is not real, it is not alive, it is not what is there. It is a content of your mind. That content of mind is a prison. But the person in that prison is so mesmerized, the bars appear so powerful and strong, that you take the bars of the prison to be what you want, what you seek, and what you want to strengthen. So you end up living a life in which you are continuously supporting and strengthening the bars of your prison. You will never know these bars as bars, and you will never know what is truly there, until you are capable of throwing off the whole thing—everything that you know, that you’ve ever known; everything that you want, that you like or dislike—until you’re willing to throw away your mind completely. To throw away your mind means to throw away what you think you are, what you think the world is, what you think is there, what is not there, what is good, what is not good—to throw it away, all of it.

You can Crystallize Your Ego Around Very Divine Ideas

Openness includes openness to the mind and its accumulated knowledge, but it is also open to the mind’s being wrong or incomplete. Furthermore, there is openness to going beyond the mind and its ordinary knowledge. Openness of inquiry also means that whatever knowledge or insight we get to, we do not wrap it up in a package and put it on a shelf. The moment you do that, you close the path of inquiry. No insight is an ultimate insight. As soon as you believe that you have arrived at the ultimate insight, you know you are stuck. Gurdjieff called that position Hasnamous, which means a crystallized ego. You can crystallize your ego around very divine ideas. The moment you know reality and then believe your knowledge is final, inquiry stops, the dynamism comes to a standstill, and the old repeats itself. But if our mind is always open, the revelation is endless. Then we are just there for the ride. We merely enjoy the journey itself as an adventure of discovery. As I said, openness is one of the main ways we experience the inherent mystery of our nature, the essence of true nature. The free, spacious, infinite, unencumbered lightness of our nature appears in the experience of the soul as an openness. The experience is literally a lightness, a spaciousness, a freedom, but psychologically it is an openness. Literally, phenomenologically, it is like space; psychologically, it is openness to possibilities. So openness means a receptivity to experience—whatever presents itself, whatever arises in our consciousness.

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