2006 09 21
By Michael Goodspeed | Thunderbolts.info
Most spiritual and religious texts advocate the necessity -- and sacredness -- of the teacher/student relationship. Very few human beings are born with the innate discernment required to discover truth amid a sea of falsehoods. So we look to those who have walked the path before us, encountered the barriers that hold each of us in suffering, and have crossed over into the peace and joy for which we all yearn. Without spiritual teachers, life on our planet would likely have descended into irredeemable chaos eons ago.
In introducing this essay, I must list the teachers and teachings that have most influenced my present state of consciousness. Aside from those who have helped me privately, I've learned from many teachers and teachings in the public arena. Those who most bear mention here are:
A Course in Miracles, a three-volume teaching of "spiritual psychology" that seems to feature elements of both Eastern philosophy and the New Testament. ACIM's co-author, Helen Schucman, claimed the books' content was dictated to her through an inner voice that some believe to be Jesus Christ. The foundation of ACIM is forgiveness, or rather the cessation of judgment against life. It states that one's true Identity is not a body or a "concept of self," but as the Holy Son of God, eternally innocent and connected in Oneness to the Creator, and all of creation.
Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, A New Earth, and Stillness Speaks. Like ACIM, Tolle states that one's true essence is clouded by the mind's concepts of self, or egotism. Love, peace, and joy can only be experienced in the present moment. Yet the constant mental complaining of the "little me" (ego) blinds one to the internal rewards that are always available. The Power of Now was a New York Times bestseller, and is one of the most influential spiritual books to have been written in years.
David R. Hawkins, author of several books on a controversial alternative medicine/science called Applied Kinesiology (a method that, Hawkins asserts, can determine the "integrity" of any statement through a muscle feedback test.) While I'm not entirely persuaded as to the validity of AK as Hawkins presents it, I find much of what Hawkins writes about consciousness to be highly resonant. Like Tolle and ACIM, Hawkins' position is that "all suffering is of the ego," "all judgment reveals itself to be self-judgment," and that one creates the world he sees: "Everything you see happening is the consequence of that which you are."
Gangaji, an American-born author/speaker who teaches the tools for self-realization. In her meetings (Satsangs) with spiritual aspirants, Gangaji engages each individual at the deepest level. She describes the spiritual challenge not as a "path" or an "awakening," but as an "investigation." Like ACIM, Tolle, and Hawkins, Gangaji implores the "seeker" to look for the truth nowhere but in his/her own heart. She offers an invitation to self-enquiry, "to stop all movement of your mind away from truth so that you can discover directly, for yourself, this jewel that is alive within you."
I don't believe it is correct to place any of the above teachers/teachings under the label of "New Age." What is being taught is neither New Age, nor "new." These are ancient principles of forgiveness, unconditional love, and awareness of the Divine as the true nature of Self -- all principles in agreement with the teachings of Jesus Christ: "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you "..."Love your neighbor as yourself"..."Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"....
I cite these teachers/teachings not because I claim to speak on their behalf, but because I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. Immersed in a culture awash in meaninglessness, to find those who offer meaning is the greatest gift one can hope to receive. I might not be alive today without the insights I've gleaned from the teachers/teachings listed above.
What I feel I've learned, and what I will try to convey in this essay, is that everything we think of as spirituality probably boils down to a single, uncompromising choice everyone must make. What may seem like a thousand little choices is just this one choice in apparently different forms. It is the choice that determines whether one enters the Gates of Heaven, or remains in purgatory (the human condition). The dilemma is terrifying, because threatened seems to be everything that one thinks of as "himself." In fact, many humans confronted with this choice will elect suicide over choosing.
The choice is this: Will you allow your every mentally-made concept of self to be "destroyed," trusting fully that it will be replaced with Love?
To make this choice correctly, we must understand the difference between a concept of self, and the Self. A concept of self is an image we create both in service to, and defense against, the belief that we are separate. The world breeds and reinforces these concepts from the day we are born. We inherit a body with a name, race, gender, innate talents, and intelligence. As we grow older, a very complex tapestry of concepts of self is gradually woven: I am my accomplishments, my past, my future, my appearance, my relationships, my wealth. These concepts can also be very subtle and noble: I am my charity, my altruism, my charisma, my friendliness. If the world views one's "self" favorably, one of course feel good, and vice versa. And we judge others on the same conceptual bases by which we judge ourselves.
But behind every concept of self is a fundamental error of perception. These errors are 1) the belief that one is separate, and can only obtain love by being "special"; 2) the belief that "specialness" can substitute for love.
The desire to be special is the force that drives most human behavior, particularly in the West. The thought, "I can be better than, or worse than" is enough to send any person into terror. The conceptual self feverishly creates, loses, rebuilds, and clings to its definitions as a defense against nothingness. The effort is continuous and exhausting. Motivating this exercise is the innocent desire to be loved, but the thirst can never be satisfied, because "specialness" can never be shared. This is not a statement of judgment against people who want to be special. It's just the way consciousness works -- nothing of substance is actually exchanged in the relationship between the "admired" and the "admirer." The person who views himself as "special" is performing a one-person act completely alone in the theater of the mind.
It seems obvious that the conceptual self can never truly be "finished" or "complete." It is a holographic house of cards whose foundation is built on things that have never been there, and never will be. The imagined future and the lamented past are hugely important to the conceptual self. What is "self-esteem" except a favorable analysis of past and future experience? But the future never arrives, and the past doesn't exist. So what powers this hologram? The vitriolic belief of the mind that it MUST be real, or death is certain.
The purpose here is not to criticize anyone's lack of "holiness," or vanity, or superficiality. The purpose is to expose the human celebration of and devotion to something that is not real, and never can be. The conceptual self does not exist; it is a phantom in the head that can never share anything, and can never know love. Its perceived "life" is fueled entirely by the defense of and wish to obtain things that are impermanent, vulnerable, and in need of external validation. A lifetime spent in service to this chimera can truly be defined as a wasted life.
It cannot then be a coincidence that so many spiritual teachers have implored the aspirant to ask himself: When my every concept of self has died, who will I be then?
Of course, the answer is: Who you TRULY are now, and always have been.
The Self is infinitely more powerful than the non-existent conceptual self. "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you" can only mean that one IS all the love in the Universe. When John the Apostle said, "If anyone love the world, the light of the Father is not in him," he was, in my opinion, referring to the worldly concepts of self that serve as replacements for love. In fact, Christianity and most religious and spiritual thought systems have as their central teachings the acceptance of death -- not just of the physical body, of every attachment at the level of ego/mind.
Gangaji spoke in a radio interview of this need to allow oneself to "die" at the deepest levels of the heart: "...in this moment, meet the fear of death. Die. Not to physically die, but as if you are at the moment of physical death, and all will be lost. Your body, your hopes, your victories, your defeats, everything that has been won is lost. Your name, your relationships, your spiritual attainments, everything is gone. Die. And in this moment of dying, the promise of death, which is God's domain, is revealed to be here...is revealed to be unable to be lost. So what can be lost will be lost. What cannot be lost is the presence of God, inseparable from the truth of who you are."
But what Tolle calls the "little me" does not willingly die without a violent struggle. When the final choice is being met, the conceptual self (ego/mind), in its pitiable attempt to sustain its imaginary existence, invents all kinds of existential quandaries to disorient and terrify. "Frightening" questions arise that on the surface seem absurd, but since one seems to be facing non-existence, the concerns are all too real. It is no wonder the suicide rate of existentialists is ridiculously high.
No amount of reading or intellectual rigor can prepare one for the trauma and heartbreak inherent in the conceptual self's death. The dying is usually not instantaneous, and no one provides an anesthetic. In my case, the concepts of self were so strangling that it took a prolonged bout with despair to even begin to shake them loose. A relationship that I thought would lead to marriage ended abruptly and shockingly. Upon returning to life, I tried to take comfort in the old familiar places: the concepts of self that made me feel "good." But the heartbreak was so severe that nothing as counterfeit as a mentally made concept could provide any relief.
It quickly became clear that I was grieving more than the loss of a relationship. The world no longer made any sense. The old habit of religiously building and maintaining a self in the hope of future happiness had lost its momentum. Every door and escape route of the world suddenly seemed closed. I felt like an alien walking around on a deserted planet, completely alone and abandoned. I knew that love was the only answer to my despair...but what did I know of love? My pattern of a lifetime was to look for love everywhere but within my own heart. It was a desperate search that had never provided satisfaction.
I began in earnest to search for spiritual truth. I spent countless hours in meditation and prayer, and this only seemed to intensify my grief. Interspersed with flashes of ecstasy and peace were attacks of both terror and sadness. Violent fits of crying became common. I felt I had learned things that no human being should ever have to learn. The promises of the conceptual self were exposed as totally hollow and fake. It became obvious that no strategy for future happiness could ever truly be fulfilled. This led to an even darker realization: the LAST strategy of the ego/mind to retain its imagined existence is to attempt to drive one to suicide.
It is like the jilted lover who says to his beloved, "If I can't have you, no one can." The justification for the homicide is always the same: "I loved her too much."
The conceptual self advocates suicide by inventing existential fears of loss. It says to its owner, "You can be with God if you want. You can know only peace and joy if that is your wish. But you will be LESS THAN you are now! In Heaven, everyone gives and receives love freely. You don't need anything, because you are everything. What kind of life is that? Giving is the same as losing. Everything is the same as nothing. And by the way, haven't you heard of FORMLESSNESS? I care about you too much to let that happen. Kill yourself, and retain your identity."
This squawking little crow in the head becomes more and more pathetic the closer one gets to peace. The questions and fears are endless. "What is 'Oneness'? It sounds suspiciously like a communist principle. If all minds are one, what will happen to my awareness? Will it 'blend in' with other minds, like the dreaded Borg on Star Trek? What of the body? I don't want to be formless! I want to be seen and see others, and enjoy the intimacy of physical closeness. What of my individuality? Will I be like the drop of water returned to the ocean, merged with other drops with no remembrance of who I am?"
It is only at the level of the heart that one recognizes these doubts and concerns as meaningless. Wrestling existentially with the "issues" of spirit accomplishes nothing and holds one in pain. The mental wresting eventually becomes so painful, so unbearable, that one has no choice but to do as Gangaji advises: fall completely on the sword, and let every concept of self be lost. This is less an act of "courage" than an act of love, for oneself and God. When this is done without compromise or hope of escape, revealed is that the conceptual self was born of the child's desire for love in everyone's heart. And as Hawkins has stated, this allows one a measure of compassion for the "dying" self as it is replaced by the Self. The remembrance of oneself as Love -- permanent, invulnerable, and inseparable from God and all children of God -- provides all that the conceptual self had promised but never delivered. It is the return to eternal Home, unscathed and re-born in one's true identity created by God. This process has been described by all of the teachers whose words I take to heart, and I believe it is the process that is unfolding for me now.
The "final choice" surely presents itself collectively as well as individually. The collective concepts of self -- nationalistic, racial, and religious -- are only reflections of the individual ones. The choice to live as Truth or die in vain presents itself globally every day. Now more than ever, for each and every one of us to undertake the spiritual investigation is the noblest endeavor of all. As Hawkins states, "We change the world not by what we say or do, but as the consequence of what we have become." And consider what is promised. Heaven on Earth need not be a fairy tale for a people united in pursuit only of Truth.
One of the most moving statements from ACIM is "My brother, choose again." I conclude with a passage from its text that pristinely describes the grandeur of choosing correctly:
"Let us be glad that we can walk the world, and perceive another situation where God's gift can once again be recognized as ours! And thus will all the vestiges of hell, the secret sins and hidden hates be gone. And all the loveliness which they concealed appear like lawns of Heaven to our sight, to lift us high above the thorny roads we traveled on before the Christ appeared. Here me, my brothers, hear and join with me. God has ordained I call not in vain, and in His certainty I rest content. For you will hear, and you will choose again. And in this choice is everyone made free."
Article from Michael Goodspeed | Thunderbolts.info
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