philosophic inquiry into life and meaning

...if truth were not for man the desire for truth would not be as a burning unrest in his heart...

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In Response to: What have you learned about yourself so far on the spiritual path? 5-31-2009


First, something to consider: Imagine you're going to write an essay to the above question. Your audience is someone who has already completed their spiritual path. How would you respond to the above question?




Richard Rose said there are four levels of people (following Gurdjieff's model): The Instinctive, Emotional, Intellectual, and Philosophic.

I used to think I was the philosopher, the highest level, until I gave the other levels a look. I see how in my pride I would think myself the intellectual even when I didn't have the common sense needed for ordinary living. I began to see how the wisdom of the masses worked better than my idealistic fantasies.

The intellectual level is one where a system of study is employed for some pursuit, goal, or the sheer thrill of it -- that mental snap that happens after a difficult puzzle is solved and that last piece fits perfectly into place. 

Because I was told I was gifted intellectually at an early age, it became a belief even until later years. I actually thought I was smarter than your average bear (and human).

What I actually was, was riding high the delusion of praise and lapping it up. I would do what pleased people for praise and avoid what caused commotion. After being involved in the spiritual path (of self-observation) for a time, Rose's mention of an emotional person began to show itself to me.

These pieces are like layers that peel back each time revealing something new, something unconsidered. This time, it was an emotional core behind the need to be praised and avoid punishment that hails back to my childhood. The drive to fit in and not rock the boat, both of which are freeing as they are constricting, was me as an emotional person reacting in the only way I knew how at the time.

Now I'm beginning to see how this emotional level is dependent on the physical/instinctive basis. A body with its pleasure and pain mechanisms is needed for an emotional reaction to take place. Even if I imagine someone in pain, it is my own relating that person's suffering to my own past (and maybe present) suffering that causes a mental picture to act as though it were a physical reality happening now, which sets up the emotional reaction.

So I can say that I act on all these four levels at the same time but generally react from the emotional level. The emotional level I see can get pumped up ready for action very inspired to act (and maybe even act for a short time) one minute then all the steam fizzles out and so to does my will to act. 

It is this swaying of interest, the shifting of desires that I must work with and find a way out of. To not have to want would be the same as to be free of suffering. To be released from the bondage of the mind and body...would be better than to be the slave to both.

Interest is the key I think. If you have an interest in something and it just up and leaves what does that say about the reality behind 1) the something you were interested in 2) the interest itself and 3) the 'you' that was interested?

The 'something' is like all things -- impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not you. All things come and all things go. This means I am not a thing. I am however quite 'invested' in interest as that seems to be something that is not a thing (other than a subjective observation) but is more real and closer than the objects in my reality. What I want or do not want and wanting to know what I want and why...all of this is important because I do not know.

What is your favorite color? Mine is red (and red-orange). Why? I haven't the slightest. It does produce a reaction a feeling inside that is not produced by other colors. But still I choose red even though the real reason is unknown to me. This extends to all things. Why do you work were you work (or don't work)? Favorite foods, stories, people, jokes, places, etc. And all of this doesn't satisfy ultimately but we favoritize suffering anyway. It's a mass delusion that we've bought into. Such are the 'perils of being in 3d' as Incubus sings in their song, Pardon Me.

I can say I decide my own fate. I am the decider. I choose when to get up in the morning what to wear and what to eat. This is saying I am a physical body that somehow decides. But that is not correct. Choices get made to my surprise and the reality that has the rule-set includes the rules of fate...all of which I did not decide. And in not making a decision a decision is made (for you and not necessarily in your favor). Do I choose to inspire the motivations which result in my decisions? Do I choose my framework mental and physical for deciding? No, I do not. I am not the decider of my actions but I still must claim responsibility, as the Buddha said we are the heirs to our actions.

So I have favorites and there are ways of taking the mind off of its hold of favorites, out of its rut. One is to release it and the other is to do the opposite than what you would normally do. 

Doing the opposite means to do something you would not normally do, such as perform in front of many people if you have stage fright or pick something you do not like to get to get another perspective. This is great for shaking the mind out of its comfort zone which is a tendency of the mind. Of any two choices do the one you would not do. There are others who would have made that choice as it is what they normally would have done. Ask yourself why they chose that route. What do they see? Put yourself into their shoes and try out another tack, you might just get another mind altering perspective. This may alter your understanding of your fellow man and put you on the level with him rather than on your high-horse above him.

To release the hold is basically like giving up or surrendering. This is an action that is normally called a 'non-action' or 'non-doing' in spiritual literature. It really is something that is done but instead of taking a normal route from point A, the interest, to point B, the end result, this is taking point A and staying there at point A as point A naturally changes to something else, point C.

This releasing can be affected by being aware of it. It is most noticeable in the body in the abdomen region. A holding there means there is holding elsewhere – in the mind too. A relaxing of this body tension can allow the mind to relax a bit, the clutching to give some space, and in the space the mind is freer to think, the machine operates more efficiently if it's not grinding gears all the time.

An emotional person can get really psyched up about something only later to have something else take it's place of importance. If it is not acted on that is the normal way this happens. Releasing happens on it's own, automatically. You prevent your actions rather than following through. It gives you another option to act, rather than re-act.

I've been mostly writing about emotions and reactions but would now like to write about memory and thoughts. This essay is about what has been learned on this path. What is learning? I believe learning is an integration of experience into one's being that is dependent on memory. Memory is quite often faulty and unless constantly refreshed, volatile. One who learns not to touch the hot stove would not touch the hot stove out of curiosity unless their memory was not with them at the time. Memory acts to prevent the organism from dying of stupidity.

Richard Rose said we don't learn the Truth, we become It. Becoming is not a change in self-definition but a wearing away of the delusion of the current self- definition until only Definition remains. This is becoming by identity, not learning, and isn't dependent on memory as far as I know.

What about thoughts? Your thoughts stream by nearly endlessly from a source unknown and disappear just as quickly. Some thoughts may not be your own. Observing thoughts means they are not you. I am not my thoughts. Thoughts are useful and can be used to create or destroy. A strong thought that is acted on will manifest given time and energy. You may choose to observe thoughts and empower them or turn away and disempower them. Thoughts appear as words and images within the mind. They have their own reality within the mind dimension, and as any lucid dreamer knows, thoughts can change reality, as small 'r' 'reality' seems to be a series of condensed thought forms with their own finite time-frames of 'existence'.

But there is a mechanism watching thoughts, observing thoughts, that is more me, than the thoughts. This seems to the key to my current self-definition (that and the emotional aspect of this). When, randomly it seems, some hold relaxes, there are moments of life acting itself out without me. I was absorbed or forgotten for just a moment and the whole world was brighter and did not need me to control it, it did just fine. This is scary as hell sometimes as my own hands, my own thoughts become unfamiliar to me for a brief instant until my mind takes control again.

Sometimes those moments happen in crisis moments when I or someone I love is about to face death in a immediate manner and for a little while, I am more alive, the world is more alive and everything is right even though it is so wrong to the normal mind-state.

These times may come in periods of meditation. In movement of the body and stillness of the mind. Or stillness of the body and mind. When the body settles down there is a corresponding settling in the mind and when the mind settles down there is a corresponding settling in the body. The mind and body are the same organism and there is a link there that cannot be denied.

I suppose the only learning that can be done is to rule out what I am not. 'Back away from untruth' is the axiom to live by. Rule out the obvious error and by the process of elimination the more real answer remains. There has to be a limit to this as there are infinite possibilities to rule out. How then am I to proceed?

The two [mental] tools proposed we have are the logic and the intuition. The logic is the necessary support for the initial problem solving. We live in a world that is mostly logical and can be reasonably approximated by Newton's laws of physics. But living in a Newtonian world is just that, an approximation, no closer to the real exact truth. At this point a less logical and more intuitional approach is needed. 

When I get interested in something and study it and think about it all the time, eventually I'll get what is meant by something and there is a mental realization of what it means, where the comprehension finally reaches and matches up with what was known all along. The intellect takes time to catch up to reality. But there is a fight going on, the knowledge and the doubt. Behind this is a recognition of the fight, a watcher, watching the mind split in two try to make sense of all the input.

The above has been about trying to come up with a working self-definition as to pare down the obvious 'not-me.' But I would like to take a different tack now and talk about others. Friendship and the search is very important. Sharing a difficulty makes it less personal and allows some room to deself from the process. Having the opportunity to mirror off on another's views is also invaluable. If you get together in a group and do something, say meditation, it becomes much easier to follow through than if you tried to do it all on your own. A group of friends provides the extra incentive (or decentive depending on your friends) to keep commitments, try new practices, read new books, and help one another along the spiritual path.