Edited Selections From the Lecture Series Nicoll and Swedenborg - New WillAIM
Peter S. Rhodes
Edited Selections From the Lecture Series Nicoll and Swedenborg - New Will
1991 Peter Rhodes, All rights reserved
I would like to thank:
Without the help of the above people this book could not have become a reality.
Inner Work, or spiritual work on oneself, is something that you do individually. It goes on quietly within yourself. If you're doing it, probably not too many people notice it. There are a lot of sacrifices that go on strictly within yourself. If someone affronts you or talks badly to you, turning the other cheek takes place inside of you. It is a fairly lonely thing. The Lord asks us to gird our self, wash our face, pray in quiet and so forth.
Recently I was watching a Race-Across-America bicycle marathon. That race inspired me as a metaphor of our efforts in doing inner spiritual work on ourselves. This bicycle race differs from competitive sports in that you are competing with yourself. The drama is an internal, personal one.
You see a man start in California. He gets on his bike and he's clean and fresh. He has a new suit, new bike, and he has an aim. His goal is to cross the country. That's his overall aim. Of course there are a lot of little aims involved. One fellow wanted to make Texas before he got off the bike. Pretty big little aim!
So they get on their bikes and you observe them. And as you watch and time goes on it gets dark and cold. There is rain and one rider has some kind of moths attacking him. You look at the faces and you see the effort and their quiet determination. And of course there's a supporting crowd behind them in all of this. Now the riders are starting to come into resistance. And the longer they go and the harder it gets, the more that resisting force is there.
You will see, if you watch, that each person has a different kind of relationship to that resistance. One person had expected to have lots of energy and found he had very little. He was shocked by that. Another person, a housewife with a family oriented support group, had a tremendous amount of energy and she was surprised by that. One fellow had been run over in a previous race, his back had been broken, and he was interviewed about that. Someone's brother who lost a leg in Vietnam had completed an entire race with one leg. Commentators started giving side stories of what kind of things went into making up these people and their aim.
Then the cyclists start going through their trials. They start thinking of whether they are going to do it or not; whether they are going to succeed. And should they sleep? They pass by the crowds and they don't sleep. Some pull over and you see them barely able to walk to a waiting van, people supporting them and rubbing their legs, and those cyclists are out of the race. You see the mother of one rider crying because she hates to see her daughter in this much pain. One fellow who decided he was going to just stay on the bike, went 1200 miles. His only statement was, "I have a strategy. I'm not getting off the bike."
"You mean you're not getting off tonight?" he was asked.
"I mean I'm not getting off the bike at all" he said. Then later during the race he fell and broke his collarbone.
If you watch their faces, you can see the nature of individuals struggling within themselves in relation to their aim. When they are riding it seems as if there is no one there and everything is going on inside themselves. That's where the struggle is taking place.
The most moving part to me was when they arrived at the finish line. What an enormous outpouring! The excitement, the enthusiasm for these people crossing the line, making their aim! Even the people who were rooting for the other team started rooting for this one fellow. Then the crowds came around and found the woman who had only come part of the way and they supported her. It is a tremendous demonstration of what is happening on this planet. People striving towards an aim, making incredible efforts to overcome limitations.
If you watch the Special Olympics, it is a very moving thing to see retarded or disabled children struggling with their limitations to make some aim, whether it's merely to participate in the race, to win the race, or just to get across the line. They have their aim, they have their disabilities, and then the struggle takes place. The Lord says that we are the lame, the blind, and the weak, and we really are, in terms of this Inner Work. We are a very sad crew, in the spiritual Special Olympics. The Lord came down on earth Himself to help us in this, and I think that's why people are so moved when they watch this sort of effort.
It is also important to know that there are lots of angels waiting at the finish line. They're called welcoming angels. There is more rejoicing in heaven over one saved sinner....There is a special kind of rejoicing when spirits from this earth come into heaven. There is something different about people who make it through the race. This is a tough race. It is very hard work, but it is the only race worth running. And if we try, He runs the race for us. In the Word we are told:
The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-30)
This book is about the Inner Work which is necessary for man to be born again. It is about the aim of all aims, "Thy will be done".
The effort is called simply, The Work.
Peter S. Rhodes, Bryn Athyn PA 1991
(Preparation for our journey)
Task: Change a negative reaction to a positive one
(Self-observation and reflection)Task: Sensing MAGICIANS AND THE SHEEP 14
(Seeing from others' perspectives)
(Giving up our negative emotions, and forgiving others)Task: Observe your response to requests SOME TOOLS FOR THE "WORK" ROOM 27
(Reality and appearance - the difference, false cause.)Task: Sacrifice your suffering HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL LINES 34
(Spiritual and natural goals, levels of being)Task: Look for the lie LOST IN THE AQUARIUM 42
(Be aware and experience people newly)Task: Be here now PERSONALITY SKETCH 49
(Associate spirits and negative emotions in us)Task: Describe your associate spirit HARDROCK IN THE BASEMENT 54
(The need to turn down our internal dialogue)Task: Stop thought SHADE OF THE MOUNTAIN 64
(Ask the Lord to remove the mountain of self-love)
Task: What love is active in the negative state?THE INWARD DIVE 68
(Applying truth and experiencing good)
Task: Experience the Lord in youTHE SERPENT'S TEETH 73
(Criticism shuts out your universe)
Task: Give up blame & criticismALL DREAMS BEGIN WITH "IF 76
(Becoming passive to the demands of self)
Task: Refrain from expressing a negativeHOLDING THINGS LIGHTLY 83
(Allowing the Lord to bring about change, by making efforts)Task: Accept the situation and hold things lightly THREE STORIES 89
(Experience teaches us how to live)Task: Give yourself a task A WAY TO WORK 96
(Stages of the Work)
Task: Observe TV lyingTIP OF THE ICEBERG 103
(Thinking from a higher perspective and long thinking) Task: Forgive a neighborBETWEEN TWO THIEVES 110
(We live in the world of our mind)
Task: Change the context of a negative stateFIRE DRILLS 120
(Being prepared for negative emotions)
Task: Make a friend of an enemy.REPORTING A TASK 127
(How to work on oneself)
Task: Let a negative T have its sayI AM AND IT IS NOTHING 142
(The Lord in us is the real person)
Task: I AM, and this (emotion) is nothing
QUOTE 148APPENDIX I, Interview with Peter S. Rhodes 149
APPENDIX II Glossary of terms 160
Peter Rhodes is a United States Probation Officer, an All American Diver, a husband, and a father of four teenagers. Like many of us who experienced the 60's, he became dissatisfied with the pursuit of worldly ambitions and plunged into a search for deeper meaning. His search brought him to the teachings of Gurdjieff which he interpreted in the light of his upbringing in the New Church (the name of the church based on the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg).
He saw clearly that the real aim in life is to live according to what the Lord teaches: "to love one another." In these transcriptions of his lectures you may only hear the voice of a forty-five year old American urging you to come to Tibet with him. Or you may hear, between the lines, the voice of something higher, bidding you to come up above the clouds and shade into the clear light of reality. (Ray Silverman)
Everyone must have aim in this work. He must think about it. His aim may be small or great, but a man should know what his aim is at any moment in time. It gives shape and meaning to his inner life. (Maurice Nicoll)
The Lord regards nothing else in a person but his aim or purpose. Whatever his thoughts and deeds may be, varying in countless ways, they are all good provided the purpose is good....A man's aim is his very life. (Arcana Celestia 1317)
We are going on a trip. We are going from love of self and love of the world to a place, a state, called love of the Lord and love of the neighbor. It is a long journey. It is hard work. It is "The Work."
Now if I gave the first class here and said that the subject of this class is about going from Philadelphia to Tibet, and someone jumped up and said, "I'm ready! I'm on my way!" and they jumped out the door and started, how far would they get? Not very far. If they had just gotten paid and had a full wallet, they might get themselves all the way to New York. Then what? Or if they got to Tibet, what would they do in Tibet? They couldn't speak Tibetan, they'd be too cold, they wouldn't know what to do.
So yes, we are going to move from Philadelphia and we are going to go to Tibet. We are going to change states. But the first thing we have to do, while we are here in Philadelphia, is to realize that we are not in Tibet! We are dreaming that we are already in Tibet. We have been asleep. You will hear the phrase, "We of the New Church..." or "We Christians...." We are not the New Church, we are not yet Christians. Forget it! You are not members of the New Church. You are members of an organization which studies books that talk about the possibility of man evolving to a state that he might be a New Church. We are not in Tibet. We are dreaming that we are in Tibet. So the first thing we have to do is wake up.
When you wake up, you will find yourself, spiritually, in the slums. Then, for the first time, you will think it might be worthwhile to go to Tibet. But once you realize you are in the slums of Philadelphia, you can't just up and go! First of all, you are going to find you are attached to things. You want to make sure you can take your Jacuzzi, that you can take your car, and take all your stuff. "Yeah, I'll go, but I want my stuff." And then you have friends.
"Yeah, but I can't leave Harry. We go drinking on Saturday night." You are going to find you don't want to leave. You like that slum. You are going to have to look at yourself. What resources do I have? What's my bank account like? When would I go? What would be the first step? Would I stay in New York overnight to get the boat?
So, observation just wakes you up. "Mercy! I'm in the slums of Philadelphia! I thought I was in Tibet! I thought I was just reading about Philadelphia. I'm in Philadelphia!" So we wake up and we have this journey to make. It is a long journey.
We will talk about the stages of this journey: Self- observation, Non-identification, becoming passive, and so forth. There are a number of steps that are going to take place in this journey from one place to the other, and they follow in a definite order.
This trip begins when you finally realize where you are and that you are sick and tired of these slums of Philadelphia. You say, "I've had enough of these slums! When is He going to tell us we can leave?" Well, you haven't even packed your bags yet. I'm just trying to convince you that you aren't in Tibet, and to help you see why the Lord can only bring you there gradually.
The Lord cannot take us to Tibet in the state we are in now. If He did we would die in Tibet. Emanuel Swedenborg, in his Theological Works (hereinafter called "the Writings") speaks about certain people who were eager to be admitted into heaven. Some of these people knew nothing at all about what heaven really is - a kingdom of unending goodwill. So they were given a brief experience of heaven, just as much as they could stand until they felt tortured, suffocated, and began to pray for deliverance from that intensity of heat and light. It simply was too much for them. They were not adequately prepared for the journey. If the Lord changed our state all at once; if he forced us to dwell in states of mutual love for lengths of time that were longer than we were ready for, it would feel as though we were dying. So let's not expect to go to Tibet all at once. (See Swedenborg's Heavenly Secrets 537-539)
One of the first things we need to become aware of is that we are in our proprium, or our ego. Our propriums are very active. In the beginning of our journey, our inherited and acquired evils activate our propriums, but we do not see it as evil. In fact, we call it good. So we have a lot of waking up to do. It's a good process. The only game there is. You will find that the material things that make you happy, (or that your proprium thinks will make you happy) are just dreams. There are people who have everything you could imagine, people who have three billion dollars, who are not happy. There are people who have millions of dollars who commit suicide. There are people who have everything your proprium could imagine who are miserable. Spiritually, no matter how many possessions they amass, they are still in the slums of Philadelphia. They are still paying rent to the slumlords. They are still being driven by their egos; their propriums are very active. As you begin your journey this is one of the first things you start to notice.
For example, one of the chief features of the proprium is anger, especially the anger associated with "being right." When this feeling gets activated it can wreak havoc in family relationships. You cannot establish a good relationship with your kids from anger. It can't be done. I don't care how right you are. You will observe that it can't be done. It does not produce good. So, even though they need structure, they need this and that, if you come from anger it will not produce good. So, you start to say, "I want to do something that actually produces good," and the Lord promises you that there are affections that can produce good, but they are not you. They are not those feelings that have been activating your proprium. They are passive, they are in the essence, and they are the Lord's. You have to clean your house first, weed your garden, clean that cup, make it empty, become as a little child, and stop proprial thought. The Lord is waiting to give you so many good thoughts. You can't enter the kingdom unless you stop your own thoughts and open yourself to the Lord. You must become as a little child; stop being so smart. Stop being so right. We are so smart, we are rich men. Rich men cannot go to heaven or through the eye of a needle. We are rich with all the things we think we know. We are so smart. That has to change completely. We must become as a little child knowing nothing. And then the Lord can start to teach us. We must allow ourselves to become passive, to be willing to be nothing and then we allow the Lord to do something for us. It is then that He starts to lead us away from the slums of Philadelphia and we are on our way to Tibet.
Now for a task. Observe during the week if you happen to have a negative reaction to another human being. When you observe this then consciously do whatever it takes to have a positive reaction to that person. Just quick. For instance: I sit in church and watch people walk by and I observe that I am capable of having a negative reaction to every human being that walks in. "His hair is too long," "Her coat is too thick," or, "They are too wealthy," or, "They are too poor...." The task is to just immediately look for something positive. "That is a beautiful necklace." Or "Those shoes are nice." "What good posture." It is as simple as that. End up the relationship with conscious effort and attention, doing whatever it takes for one good feeling about that person, one good observation before you leave that person. Because when you get to Tibet, you are going to feel goodwill all the time. You might as well get in practice, right?
Do whatever it takes to change from a negative reaction toward a person to a positive reaction toward that same person.
And if every time you see a certain person, you remember the time he made fun of you, etc., now look for a positive response to replace your automatic negative response.
I was lucky enough to meet someone who had studied the methods of the great Russian psychologist, Gurdjieff, in London, and who was in the process of helping start a school in the United States, in Virginia. I studied with him for awhile, I went to see the school for a couple of weekends and I did some workshops. They studied Self-observation, which in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg is referred to as reflection. They used tasks. Gurdjieff said, "Knowledge alone is nothing," which means, "Faith alone is nothing. Knowledge alone will not transform you, you must do it." So, he would teach you a little and then he would give you a task and say, "Now go on out and do it. If you do it, then you will know it. You will understand it." So I give tasks with my lectures. You don't have to do them, of course, but if you have a chance to do the task you may find that you will come to better understand this thing called Self-observation or reflection.
My hope for this class is that you come to truly 100% hate yourself. Now that sounds really terrible, but it isn't. As a psychologist I am meant to get people to express themselves and accept themselves, etc. But you never hear a psychologist say, "I want you to accept your neurosis, or express your psychosis. Keep that negative thinking! Paranoia is something you should value!" Even psychology agrees that you must come to shun your negative self.
We know that some people put the feeling of their life in their body and they are called Hedonists. If it feels good, they say it is good. If it tastes good they claim it is good. They say, "When I die it is all over and I'm gone." Of course that is not true. But his feeling of life is in himself so he is self centered. He thinks, "If it's not good for me, it is not good for anyone." But we know that you have to draw up outside of thinking that you are your body. And a thing called reflection demands that you do something even harder than that, which is to draw up so that you no longer think your thoughts are your own, nor are your feelings your own. Your thoughts and feelings flow into you. They flow into the self and you can see them in the exterior man. Each of us is capable of dividing himself or herself. We can come up and draw our attention or put what Gurdjieff calls our "feeling of I" or feeling of life, into our interior man. And that is what reflection is - keeping the feeling in the interior man while you observe what your exterior man is perceiving.
So you can see a thought come in, a negative thought like, "I wonder why my wife is doing that? She makes me so mad!" Now if you are there in the self, identified with it, you think, "she's making me mad," but if you can step up with effort and attention you can see the hells coming in. You can't regenerate automatically, you need to use some effort and attention on yourself. The hell called Hate is coming in and it is going to divide you and your wife. You can see that it uses a thing called Falsity, which is that "she is making me angry." So you can watch this come into the exterior man, but this is not you. You do not own it.
My aim is to teach Self-observation so that you do not identify with your negative emotions. The Writings indicate one use of reflection is to not attribute evil to oneself. Self-observation is simply that. To observe the self and not identify with those things coming into it. 'It' is not you. You have dirty thoughts, they come in, you have angry thoughts which come in, but they are not you. Get back into the interior man. Swedenborg first mentioned in the introduction to The Word Explained what he refers to as "double thought." He was with the good spirits as to his interior man, watching the bad spirits with his exterior man. He was looking at them. His exterior man, his body and thoughts were under their control but he was in his interior man watching them, knowing that "They are not me."
Swedenborg was allowed to speak with the good spirits and of course we cannot do that, but there is, nonetheless, definite instruction that we can begin to separate or divide ourselves.
Now why would you want to do that - to separate from the thoughts and feelings of your external man? The reason you want to separate is because as long as you are in this exterior man you don't see his nature. Evil will convince you that falsity is truth and that evil is good. I will give you an example from the past.
There I was sitting down reading the newspaper. The kids were playing around and making a lot of noise. I have this devil called Impatience and when he entered me I turned around and yelled, "Will you be quiet?! You make me so angry! Now get in that room! Didnt I tell you to be quiet a hundred times before!?"
I sat down again and told myself, "They need that discipline. It's good for them! They need to learn more respect for adults." I thought my state was good. I was in it so how could I see it as bad? I couldn't.
So another day I was again in that state, but I had also been trying to practice the task I am going to give you, and when that impatience entered, just as I turned around to do the usual yelling at the kids, the task helped me realize that good spirits were with them. The kids were having a good time playing together. So what if they were a little noisy? (Maybe there were loud good spirits with them!) My hells were just about to blame them of evil and send them to their room for my hell. When I could see that, and what was entering me, I no longer thought it was good for my children. I thought it was horrible. It was what Gurdjieff speaks of as the "terror of the situation." Until you have seen the terror of the situation, you have not divided yourself.
Swedenborg says you must come to "loathe the self." Over and over again in the Spiritual Diary he comments and says, "I was horrified at the nature of my external man." And it is horrible! But the beautiful part is, 'IT is not me. I am capable of being in my interior man, where the Lord can come in, and rather than punishing my children I can learn to let heavenly loves flow through to them. It is beautiful that one does not have to live with this exterior man all one's life. I don't have to be impatient! I don't have to be embarrassed! I don't have to be shy! 'It' is shy. Gurdjieff makes all students stop saying "I" as in "I am angry," or, "I am shy." He has you say, "'It' is angry," or "'It' is embarrassed," so you don't identify it with yourself.
Once you draw back into observation you start to do something significant; you start to take away your affection and your protection from the exterior man. You no longer have to justify his behavior. You no longer have to make 'IT' seem good. You can see 'IT' for what 'IT' is. NIT' is terrible. There is nothing in the self that is nice. 'IT' only wants to destroy you and others. It is vitally important to awaken and observe this reality. And remember, the self that you observe in the exterior man (as you draw back into your interior man) is not you. 'IT' is not the real you. Truly, we must separate from our negative self.
This separation is what Gurdjieff calls "dividing yourself." Swedenborg also stresses this. He says that a person cannot regenerate (i.e. grow spiritually) unless he begins to realize that the thoughts and feelings that flow into him are not him.
These evil spirits around me, say depression, or boredom, anger, frustration, or impatience are not me. Each of them feels like me and it sure seems to be me, but it is not me. It is from the hells. And you have to stop attributing them to yourself in order to regenerate. 'IT' is not you! The way Gurdjieff says it is that you must stop identifying with the thoughts and the feelings and the actions of the exterior man in order to transform. Swedenborg has told us that from the Lord in the Writings.
The doctrine of reflection teaches that you can start to feel that "this is not me." You can reflect from your interior man and see that your exterior man is receiving these evils. When we do this we can choose to just see them for what they are, and not allow our propriums to be activated by them.
"There is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him, but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile him." (Mark 7:15)
The things that flow into the exterior man - anger, hate, anything - they don't defile, they just come into the exterior man. There is a description given in the Word of the exterior man and the nature of the self. If you feel, "Yes, I have some bad habits, but I am basically all right," you haven't started to observe the exterior man. He is not basically all right. He is filthy, there is no question about it. Every love he has is filthy, from himself, and you better start watching your exterior man until you become horrified because as long as you feel he is basically all right you are still in the self, you are still identified with him. You think he is you! But he is not you. You are better than that. Here is a description of the exterior man: "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually." (Gen.6:5) That is not basically okay!
We feel we are all right from being in the exterior man, or in the self. The interior man is okay because it can receive other things - the Lord can enter into us there - but the self will is not okay and is where evil spirits come in. Evils do not defile a man unless they enter into the will, such as when he says, "Yes, that's me and I like it," and attributes it to himself and keeps it in his will. Evil cannot defile him if he really sees and believes that it does not originate in him. His task is to keep 'IT' separate from himself. 'IT' cannot defile him if he recognizes it for what it is and refuses to own it or identify with it.
You are sure to see emotions such as anger come in. You may come home and find your children yelling and screaming, or maybe they just spilled milk or something - and sure, you can see anger coming in. It always will. That's what your heredity is, your heredity takes things that way. 'IT' is your inherited way of acting, as Gurdjieff says, mechanically. Behaving mechanically takes no effort and no attention; you just do it. The hells love to be with you. You don't have to work to get them with you, they just come right in. But if you don't want them with you, you have to exert some effort and attention to recognize the evil and remove your protection and justification from them by that acknowledgement. The Writings say:
The reason why evil is appropriated to man is that he believes and persuades himself that what he thinks and does is from himself. If he believed, as is really the case, then evil would not be appropriated to him...for the moment that the evil flows in he would reflect that it was from evil spirits with him, and as soon as he felt this the angels would avert and reject it. (Divine Providence 320)
As long as you are attached to this thing called the self, you have affection for it. You justify it and you protect it. The angels cannot take it away from you because you have the freedom to have that in yourself. But if you can draw up and take that protection away and see it is not you, and you wish to be free from it, then the angels can help remove it from you because you have freely chosen to separate from those evils flowing in. Then the angels can work for you. The power of this thought is that "evil spirits cannot endure being reflected upon."
When you are in anger you don't even see its nature. You feel it, you justify it, you feel it is anger, but you feel it's important, and good, and justified. You feel you have a right to be angry. Gurdjieff would say, "You have the right not to be angry." Do you think you have the right to be jealous? You have the right to not be jealous. You have the right to not be bored. You have a right to have this exterior man, this loud and vexatious self, changed and made quiescent. You have a right to have good flow into you. So stop thinking of the right to be angry. Think rather, "I have the right not to be angry."
To believe that you have a right to express negative emotions is actually to make yourself a prisoner. You will be locked in a prison of negative emotions. You need to draw back into the interior man to see that you are there. If you don't do this, you don't see that you are in prison at all, and of course, you do not want to escape.
Self-observation, drawing back into the interior man, allows us to clearly view what is going on in the exterior man. It shows us how defiling thoughts and feelings are constantly flowing in to us. It enables us to free ourselves from personal identification with them. We do not have to get sucked into those thoughts and feelings. We do not have to accept them as our own. We do not have to get locked in that prison. There is a way of escape.
If you have taken the first step and drawn back into the interior man to observe yourself, the time will come when you truly desire to escape from the prison of negative emotions. You will look for a way out; you will come and ask for the map; that's when we go to the Writings, that is when we go to the Word. But most of the prisoners don't even know yet that they are in prison. They are happy. There is a hypnotist who says to us, "There are no walls around you." But there are, and you find that out when you notice that you can't move, and that you can't get away from anger or some emotion that controls you instead of you controlling it. You want to be free and you need to know how to get free.
I am going to give you a task called "Sensing." It is putting your attention on one small part of your body until you can feel some sensation there and continue to sustain that sensation. This is one of the many tasks used in Gurdjieff schools which was taken from methods of the Monasteries. It sounds very simple when I describe it, but actually it is very, very difficult, especially in negative states. What is difficult about it is to act consciously and with attention rather than mechanically from habit and heredity.
The task was taken from the idea that man can divide into the interior man, that he can divide his attention, and that he can direct his love. Since he can do that, he can start to separate from this thing called self, but it takes effort and attention. The first of regeneration is compulsion, not will, and compulsion takes effort and attention. The self, on the other hand, is mechanical; it comes automatically. So when the hells are coming in we need to do something during that active state.
Swedenborg talks about effort and attention as "self- compulsion." At first we do not have any real will, just the mechanical drives that we have inherited. We do things automatically, defensively, selfishly without a whole lot of thought in between. So we need to exert "self-compulsion." We need to act deliberately, to use effort and attention in order to observe mechanical behavior and eventually to stop it. To the extent that we strive to do this, the Lord gradually builds real will in us - "His will" or "Real I."
That's why sensing is a useful exercise; it gives us a point of focus when we observe hell beginning to flow into our exterior man. It gives us an opportunity to do something that takes effort and attention during an active state.
It's like a technique used by the Israelitish people. They would sew a gold stripe around their robe to remind them of their aim.... What's your aim? Always, what is your aim? And if you are in anger, or some other negative emotion, remember your aim now. That is the time when you want to transform or work, not just when you are in church. You want to stop letting the hells come through you. Sensing may be a reminding factor for you as a task. A reminder, especially when a negative state is coming in, that you do want to work.
For now, divide your attention just to prove you can do it. Listen to some sound that has been there the whole time, but now I want you to focus your attention on it. You can read this or listen and hear that sound at the same time, only now you have to use a little effort and attention. Now, rub your forehead. Now put your attention on the sensation in your forehead as you rub it. Can you feel it? There is no question but that you can divide your attention. So keep your attention there and also go on reading or listening to me. You can do that, can't you? Gurdjieff Schools have you divide your attention six or seven ways and once this is proved as something you can do, you begin to feel maybe you have more choices than to be totally identified with one emotion that is coming into you called anger.
You can divide your attention other ways too. You can be angry and focus on your forehead and on your nose at the same time. That doesn't seem very important, does it? But it takes the edge off the anger. You know the difference between a razor blade that's brand new and an old one that you use to scrape paint off windows and such? You can hold the dull one in a different way. And you can hold emotions differently when you divide attention. When the anger comes in all of a sudden you can start dividing your attention all over the place. Then the anger isn't getting your total attention. You are sucking energy away from the hells, or at least not giving them your total self or attributing them to your self by identifying with them totally.
You are starting to do something consciously. Why do you do it? Not because it is a technique, but because you wish to observe this exterior man so that you can be free, so that you can see him from truth. But it takes conscious work. It is not a trick. But it's important because the Lord asked us to regenerate and He asked us to reflect. But He wants us to do something during the active state as well.
The task itself will be to focus your attention on your hand. When you notice that your attention is not on your hand, just put it back again. They say without training you can only do this for about two minutes. Gurdjieff had students say things in their head or do things with their hands for seven years because they wanted to be conscious every minute of their life. They didn't want to just go and live, as they say, from the world. They wanted to constantly keep in their mind that we are meant to be living from truth. And how can a person remember this? By sensing or by some reminding factor that no matter what happens we want to work.
Maybe your new car suddenly stops and you can't get it started. Now you have a right to be angry, right? If you keep sensing at the same time you can let 'IT' be angry because the part of you that is sensing is also watching the nature of this thing called the self (or 'IT') and what flows into it. You start to see the nature of falsity, rationalization, and justification. This part, the part of you that is making this new effort and attention, is closer to your interior man and because this part is making effort and attention for the purpose of regeneration, it will also watch your self and you can start to separate from that self.
Who is still sensing?
I want to start today with an analogy. This is a story for your right brain, one which has no punch line and no ending. It is just a story from the Work. It is not my own.
Once upon a time there were magicians who were hypnotists and they loved to eat mutton. In order to eat mutton you have to have sheep, so they kept sheep. For years the magicians, in order to keep the sheep, would herd them around beautiful meadows, clear streams and hills. But they found this was a lot of trouble because the sheep would occasionally run away and they would have to go looking for them. They didn't like that. And they found you have to give sheep grass, some water, fresh air, and so forth. Being lazy, the magicians decided the best thing to do was to bring the sheep all together. They thought of putting a fence around them but since that took money, time and effort, they didn't like that idea. They decided they would hypnotize these sheep. They actually did hypnotize them and had them dream and imagine that they were running over the hills, drinking out of clear streams, and smelling fresh air. After they were hypnotized, if you looked at the sheep gathered there you could notice the dirty ground with the grass long gone, and how they were being fed the worst of food, just enough to keep them alive, and given filthy old muddy water to drink. The sheep all had their heads down, but if you looked at their faces you would see they were all smiling. They were happy. They were contentedly imagining that they were running around the fields, drinking from the streams and breathing fresh air.
Now the magicians had nothing to worry about. Once in awhile they would take a sheep, slaughter it and eat it and it would serve them. And as I said, there is no end to this story.
Now it is true that you and I are basically nice people. We have faults occasionally, but if we found money on the road we would pick it up, turn it over to the police and put an ad in the paper saying, "Sum of money found on Marlin Road. Call the police to claim." We are nice to people, we don't kill or steal, so in general you know we are pretty decent people. You aren't like the people I deal with on the streets of Philadelphia as a Probation Officer. At least that is our illusion; the dream we are in. The hells have us well hypnotized that we are pretty fine people.
It is very important that through Self-observation we find that the spiritual food we are eating, the thoughts we are thinking and the emotions we are having are often dirty and not necessarily what you might imagine they are.
It is also very important that we don't take the fact that Gurdjieff says we are "asleep" in a heavy way. Swedenborg's description is even uglier. He says the natural man is not asleep, he is dead! But you should not take this in a heavy way either. Children sometimes think the church tells them they are bad, guilty, and even no good. That is not the way to take it because it is not talking about you being bad. It is telling you that the hells are that way, and that they often have you serve them. The Lord has made it so that you can free yourself from that situation.
When Swedenborg refers to the natural man as not only being asleep, but dead, it is a message about where you are, but it is also a message about where you are able to go, so it is a very good message. That is why the Work requires objective, non-critical, Self-observation. Don't be criticizing yourself about the fact that you have a heredity and a proprium, because that's just the way it is. The only part of you that is trying to make you guilty is from societies in hell trying to make you attach to them or attribute those evils to yourself. So it is very important to take the truth that we are "dead and sleeping people" lightly, or not heavily. Don't get worried about that.
There is much to say about preparation, about preparing yourself for those times when the hells try to hypnotize you. I like to go back to the Writings. I think Divine Revelation is the most important thing, because it's the building block that everything is founded on. Anything in Gurdjieff that I find useful has to confirm and expound on what I find in the Writings. You have to differentiate between people's opinions and Divine Revelation. If you are working in The Work, on the spiritual plane, then you have to found yourself in the truth. We have talked about observing ourselves, observing thoughts and feelings, and that we are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings. They come to us, and to identify with them is very dangerous. When we identify or accept as our own the false thoughts and evil feelings that come to us, we attach ourselves to them and there is less of a leverage point from which to separate from them. Instead of identifying with them, we need to observe them and start to separate from them. This is a very important process. The Writings say:
Evil is from man in that he confirms in him the appearance that he thinks, wills, speaks and acts as of himself. Man can think and will nothing from himself. Everything he thinks and wills, consequently says and does, is from influx. If it is good it is from influx out of heaven, and if evil, from influx out of hell, for what is the same, the good is from influx from the Lord and the evil is from man's proprium. Thoughts and affections make their way from one society to another but no one is aware that they do not originate within themselves. I was told from heaven that like others I believed that I thought and willed from myself when in fact nothing was from myself, but if it was good it was from the Lord and if evil, from hell. I was given to perceive and feel it. As soon as an evil afterwards entered my will, or falsity entered my thoughts, I investigated the source and I inquired from whom it came. This was disclosed to me and I was also allowed to speak with those spirits and refute them and to tell them to withdraw, thus to take back their evil and falsity and keep it to themselves. This has occurred to me a thousand times and I have remained in this state for many years and I still do, yet I seem to myself to think and will from myself like others.
I also think more interiorly and perceive whether what flows into my exterior thought is from heaven or from hell. I reject the latter and welcome the former. Yet, I seem to myself, like them, to be thinking from myself. Inasmuch as man does not want to know that he is led to think by others, but wants to think from himself and believes that he does so, it follows that he himself is at fault. Nor can he throw off the blame so long as he loves to think what he thinks. If he does not love it he breaks this connection with those from whom the thought flows. This occurs when he knows the thought is evil and therefore determines to avoid it and desist from it. He is then also taken by the Lord from that society, from that evil, and is transferred to a society that is free of it. (Divine Providence, portions of 286, 287, 290, 294.)
If you read the Word you often find the phrases, "Gird yourself and be ready." "Prepare." "Watchmen awake!" and so forth. You will read of how they built walls around the city and had watchmen or guards. They also have walls around wells. They are ready! Now if you just go out in the desert and put your tent by the well and think you are ready, when the enemy comes you are in deep trouble! If you just wait for the negative emotion to come and then you think you will be ready, you aren't ready! That's like going out in a wrestling match without any practice. Well, guess what? Something bad's coming up. We need to prepare. We need to practice on the little enemies so as to be ready for the worst enemies.
One way to start practicing is by putting ourselves in the place of our neighbor when we notice a negative attitude toward him in ourselves. We are accustomed to seeing the world from our point of view. We feel the world rotates around us and everyone should serve us. Our opinions seem right, our ideas seem right, we have the right of way and so on. If we can learn to Externally Consider, which is to see the world from our neighbor's point of view, it helps us prepare for the onslaught. Try to see life from their center as if you were them.
"Love your neighbor as yourself." What does it really mean to love the neighbor and exactly how would you go about it? In the Work some ideas are given. One way to love the neighbor is to be creatively positive with what you know, see or imagine about that neighbor. First, you imagine being in their body, and you'll be amazed at what you learn when you enter someone's body. Actually step into that person's body and try to imagine what the world looks and feels like from inside that body. Any posture of a person has a tremendous amount to say.
I saw a man at the station this morning, swaggering around, very arrogant. He looked obnoxious, a real know-it-all and I disliked him immediately. So I thought it was time to try External Consideration. So I just imagined walking like that - and with that effort came a lot of memories of when I felt that good! It didn't feel arrogant; it felt good. And I felt good! The negative state just dissipated. So you can do that, and if you did just that physically, you'd be amazed at the difference it makes. The other way to love your neighbor is to use your emotional center. What is that person feeling like? Look at his face and try to figure it out. Is he irritated? What must it feel like to be irritated? Or, if he's in a hurry, like the guy who runs by or slams a door in front of you, imagine what he's in a hurry about, where he's anxious to go. When I feel his feeling, I realize that he's not aware of me. He's not trying to do anything bad to me. He's just in a hurry. What thoughts must he be having? He's probably thinking about getting to work, maybe he's ten minutes late and thinking about getting that document finished, getting to the computer on time, and so forth.
What you'll find is that you are one with him. You're not the King and neither is he the King. You just feel like another human being or child of Our Father in heaven. A lot of negative emotions to which you were attached can't exist from other points of view, only from your point of view and when you give it up, they just dissipate. But you have to enter his perspective well enough so that you think of him as he thinks of himself, getting into him enough so that your opinion of him is his opinion of himself. Now that does take a certain amount of imagination, attention, and effort. There is no question about that.
A lot of people say, "It's phony, your pretending he's thinking thus-and-so and he's probably not thinking that at all." Well, so what? Before that, you were making it up too! When you attribute to some guy the thought, "That stupid, arrogant so-and- so," you are making up all sorts of things. They aren't true and the hells flow right into you. Well, now make up good things. The Writings say the angels attribute the best motive they can to anybody, so we can try to do the same thing. Try it, you'll like it!
Another way of External Considering is to find a time when you did the same thing this other person is doing, and bring that to mind. The Work teaches that "all real love is conscious of another person's difficulties, through finding the same difficulties within yourself." This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Our foes shall be of our own household." First take the log out of your own eye, and you will see clearly to help your brother take the little speck of sawdust out of his.
In practicing these things you will begin to have some feeling of affection for your neighbor, to love him as yourself. That is why you are doing it. And if we don't do something to change our states we get the other thing, which is the natural proprial way of living which is to hate the neighbor.
I assume that the evil spirits make you feel bad and heavenly motives make you feel good. I just assume that. There are many areas you can confuse and there are a lot of questions and a lot of things you have to sort out. There is no simple answer to some of these things, and because we receive influx from heaven and from hell we ourselves are a mixed bag. But our job is to differentiate between the feelings that we receive. It is important to observe and respond to the feelings or societies that are good and start to reject the ones that are from hell. All of it involves spiritual questions and then a decision. That is what we are trying to look at and come to understand experientially rather than theoretically.
We are given Divine revelation to lead us out of prison. It is not theoretical; it is practical. It is not a travel brochure. It is a survival manual given to save our lives as we travel through rugged and dangerous territory. It keeps us alert, awake, and prepared.
Observe when (your proprium) becomes negative to what another person says or does. Then, through effort and attention, put yourself in that person's situation.Feel what his body is feeling. Have the thoughts he is thinking. Try to see things from his point of view. One method to do this is to recall a time when you thought, felt, or acted in the same manner. This is referred to in the Work as "External Considering" because you come out of yourself in order to consider the neighbor's situation.
Opportunity: Someone takes "forever" at the gas pump while you are waiting and in a big hurry. Apply the task to the situation.
4. What Are You Missing?
Gurdjieff would talk occasionally about the horror of the situation. I think it is hard for us to realize the horror of the situation. Swedenborg says if you were aware of your inner states and could see the actual hells after you, you would run for your life. You would flee in sheer horror.
Have you ever been to a football game or a basketball game where a bad coach is teaching children? Let's say a kid just went to kick a soccer ball in goal and missed. You might see the bad coach run over there and say, "You stupid kid. You can't do anything right. I told you a hundred times...." And if you observe the kid's face carefully and you really observe what is going on, there is the horror of the situation. If you have ever seen that and felt how it feels to see a child treated that way, or be that child, you can feel the horror.
On the other hand, you may see a very good coach, when the kid kicks the ball and misses the goal, run over and hug the kid and say, "Come on, you're a great player. You just get back in there. You're doing fine." Then you've seen something different. From the kid's point of view there is a big difference. But if you see it from the coach's point of view, can you imagine the difference in his life? If you took the first coach and you brought him around to where he could have the second coach's experience of life, there would be a great change in his life.
One night I was waiting for the 6:00 o'clock news to start. I wanted to see news of America's Cup Race and I knew it would be the lead thing. So at six minutes before 6:00 p.m., my wife Roxanne asked me to drive our son Luke to where he was invited to stay overnight. So I had this opportunity to work on some negative emotions! As I was walking toward the door my head was down. That is often a clue to myself that I am involved in a negative emotion. I could hear my internal dialogue: "Geez, I was waiting for the 6:00 o'clock news. I'm going to miss it." Then Luke appeared carrying his bag. When we got outside he wanted to find a sled to take along for this Mend of his. So I got in the car and I was sitting there impatiently while he was looking for the sled. I was impatient. Then I thought, "Okay, I better practice doing some "External Considering." So, I pretended I was Luke hunting for the sled. I could see how his body was moving and what was happening to it. I tried to feel how he felt. The minute I did that, I realized he really wanted to get that sled for his little friend - an innocent, nice emotion. He wanted to give the sled to his friend. I had been going to let him fail at finding it. When he couldn't find it I had thought, "Geez, Luke, come on, I've been waiting forever.... Will you just forget it? Come on, just hurry up, will you?" I was rolling that around in one side of my head, and in the other, being in touch with what he was going through, his having a real affection, his wanting to do something nice.
I got out of the car and we found the sled. I gave him the sled and it was just really special. He gave me a second hug and there was a very loving feeling between us. Then I saw and understood that I could have missed that and not even known that I missed it. I could have done the whole ugly negative thing: "Come on, hurry up... blah, blah blah..." and not even known I missed the positive experience.
So, we miss a great deal by being in a negative emotion. We have no idea of the sacrifice we're giving. And we're sacrificing what the Lord wants to give us. We pray, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so upon the earth." He really wants that good coach experience for the other coach, not just for the kid. When you struggle against negative emotion, or you are in one, you don't want to give it up. There is no question about that. But you have to start to realize not only is the negative emotion a bad feeling, even though we like it, but that there is a great price to be paid by hanging on to it. We miss what the Lord really wants to give us.
If you had a stomachache and I said I could get rid of your stomachache, you'd be happy to get rid of it. But if I said, "You're impatient. I can get rid of your impatience," it's not quite the same thing. Yet, if you pay attention to your body you will find impatience is a very negative experience physically. When you start to see the other side, if you have patience with your child, your spouse, or your friend, and have affection for them rather than contempt, you start to see what it can lead into. You start to see what the Work is about. The purpose really is to lead you to a new place, a place where the Lord really wants you to be. A place where He can bless you abundantly with the experience of heavenly life.
So there is a great price to be paid when you don't do the Work. And the Work is hard. When you do it, it feels as though you're giving up everything, and no one knows it, and what is it all about, what is it for? But there really is a flip side. The Lord is not going to fill the new cup until the present cup is empty and clean. So you're not going to get the good right away. But you will eventually - as long as you strive to do the Work.
There is a certain frame of mind that is necessary before one even sees a need or feels an urgency for doing the Work. The British psychologist Maurice Nicoll wrote about this:
A man should be able to see what affirms as well as what negates whatever he is thinking about, and hold them together and see them side by side. And between the two opposite sides, he will find a path for his thoughts. For all genuine thinking leads in some direction in the mind and it should lead to a new place and not always along the old paths to the old places where one has been before, where one can reach without really thinking.... When the Work is understood, then it has formed something in a man that he did not possess before and this instrument, so to speak, thus formed in him, starts to respond to influences of which he was not formerly conscious. You will see, therefore, how important it is to keep the Work alive in oneself and to hear its ideas over and over again and to think of them again and again and try to act from them. It is no exaggeration to say that the emotional center very seldom works in the right way owing to the action of the acquired negative part from which it has become, as it were, infected, from the contact with life. The only thing that can break it is for man to hear, see, understand and realize what negative emotions are, and to start by seeing them in himself. This will only be the case when he works on his negative emotions genuinely from the deepest inner individual perception of the truth and the horror and uselessness of negative emotions....We must try to free our thoughts from our emotions when they are negative. Anyone who has tried to do that separating of one's thoughts from one's emotions when in a negative state, has seen there is a lot involved. You will remember that there is a very hard saying in the Work that it is always your fault if you are negative....
You must realize that people love being negative, feeling they suffer, and so on...To make the effort to work on oneself you must actually feel something is wrong with you. It usually takes years and years before a person can even begin to see with conviction that this is so. The Work has to pass through layers and layers of pride, vanity, ignorance, self-complacency, self-indulgence, self- love, self-merit, and so on. Yet it can penetrate eventually. The first change is in the mind, to think differently. This is metanoia. In the Gospel it is translated as "repentance." It begins with realizing one's situation. (Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. III, Shambhala, 1984.)
Swedenborg helps us to see that it is only our fault if we identify with negative emotions, accept them as our own and act from them. This is called "making evil our own." It is true that each of us has a proprium which we got free of charge. It inclines to evils of every kind. But we are not held accountable (it is not "our fault") as long as we do not identify with it and make it our own. What I'm saying is, it's not my thought! I'm not the source of that thought. That feeling did not originate in me. I did not make that feeling. They, the spirits that are with us bringing those thoughts and feelings, they are the source.
Once you start to see that a thought comes into you and that a feeling comes into you, then you start to see a relationship between a feeling and a thought that marries it. They always come together. But if you have a thought, and can stop it fast enough, it may alter the emotion. Then you start to have a different relationship to the things that flow into you. They are not you! They come to you! Now they are attempting to be you. They want you to take them and act from them. And when you act from them, then you are identified with them and you are making them your own. Then, of course, you have more difficulty separating.
Watch people down the street get into a street fight. You can see the hells operating into their memory and into their proprial will, and combining. Then their behavior changes and they are stabbing and hitting each other as if the hells were them. Now if you turn a round and see that anger come into you, feel it, and see the thoughts that justify it, and separate, then you realize, "Those thoughts come from the hells, that thought isn't me. It is coming into me and I don't wish to act from it. I feel like it's me! It feels like my feeling! It feels like my thought! But it is not me.
So, it takes Revelation to tell us this is an appearance, that things are not as they appear to be. The Lord separated the will from the understanding so you don't have to act from whatever flows in. If the will and the understanding weren't separated, then we couldn't be saved because all sorts of horrible thoughts and feelings would flow right in and you would have no choice but to act from them. But the Lord gave you the ability to separate from those influences that activate your proprium and stir up your corrupt desires. Earlier I referred to this as "drawing back into the interior man" in order to view objectively what is flowing in to the exterior man. This is also known as the separation of the understanding from the will, something the Lord has done for us so that we need not drown in a flood of negative emotions. At a time when "every intent of the thoughts of the heart are only evil continually" the Lord provides a way for us to ride out the storm.
Through Non-identification you start to see from your understanding the nature of influx. You see truly and clearly and are not fooled by appearances. "Oh, I think this, I feel that," "I'm feeling angry," or, "I'm feeling depressed." No. You see, instead, that depressing influences are attempting; to enter you and have you feel their feelings as your own. That is a different relationship. It is theoretical at first, but the more you start to observe, it becomes not theoretical any more. It becomes a reality.
A lot of this work is bringing things that are separated back together again. If you take a person about whom you don't see any excuse for his behavior and keep that picture, somewhere during the week you will find the same thing in your-self in a parallel form. You don't have to wait long! Then you start to see other human beings as just like you. I think the prayer starting with "Our Father" is a reminder that each of us is one of His children. The more you observe yourself in others and observe them in you, the more there is this equaling out and you start to lose your self-importance.
We need to forgive our neighbor for his behavior, for his negative states, and one way we do that is by practicing External Consideration. We don't just forgive them by saying it doesn't matter. We need to Externally Consider to such a degree that we actually free them from our negative emotions and judgments in relation to them. If we have been able to see the same behavior or attitude in our self from observation, by recalling a time when we behaved in a similar manner, then we can imagine what it would be like to be them and we may feel compasssion. Then there is a lifting that actually frees them from our negative state. We no longer have that feeling of resentment against them. Forgiving the neighbor a negative state is an emotional experience;. We also find we are more forgiving toward our self the next time we are doing the same thing.
We must stay awake and not participate in the negative emotions and actions that come to us all the time when we exert no effort and attention to separate from them. One person can make a difference. In the book, The Hiding Place, author Corrie Ten Boom tells the true story about two women in a concentration camp during the Second World War. At that camp they were in, hell was there, with everyone hating each other, feeling they were better than each other. The two women were pulled into this negative state too. Then they remembered their aim and began to read the Word which they had with them. And just by small changes, such as saying, "I'm sorry," as they stepped over each other, instead of, "Get out of my way," within a week or so the entire atmosphere of the camp changed. It took one person being awake, being aware and not being identified with the evil sphere, to make a tremendous change, even in those circumstances. One conscious person can make a big difference in the world.
It is so important to get that elevated view of things, to think from Divine Revelation. That is why the Lord says, "Get up into the high mountains," "Flee to the mountains," "Lift your eyes unto the hills." We talk a lot in the church about starting to regenerate and become available to societies in heaven instead of in hell. We want higher influences operating through us. So that's what you want to do, and of course you want to do this not for yourself, or not just to make your life happier. Remember the bad coach? If he could coach the second way, he would find not only that he's be a happier coach, but he'd also find that he has happier kids, the mothers would benefit, the team would benefit, the league would benefit, the world would benefit. In order to get cosmic benefit of that proportion the bad coach will have to give up his own ideas about what will make him happy - like screaming at kids so they'll try harder. He'll have to see that certain hells get great delight in coming through his external man and screaming at little kids. He'll have to see that this is not the kingdom of heaven.
And all these things will be added unto you. First seek the kingdom of heaven, and all the things you want in life will be added unto you. For example, I couldn't have asked for anything more than that relationship with Luke tonight. What more could I have asked? I wanted that relationship, but I couldn't get it myself. I had to give up what I thought I wanted - which was to watch the news - and then the Lord gave me what I really wanted. I got what I was missing.
What we are interested in here is upward mobility. We are not interested in worldly success. To be upwardly mobile means we have to try and see our own inner state. We must always be turning inside with the question, "What is going on in me?" Then, looking up, and from what we know of the Work, from what we know of esoteric teachings, and from what the Lord has taught us from Revelation, we ask for the help to understand what is going on inside us in regard to our responses. That is what we are trying to be aware of and all the Work is trying to help us do that.
In order to separate from the societies that like to act through us, or the different 'I's in us as the Work calls them, there are some tools we can use. One of the most important ones to start using is Self-Observation. Start to observe yourself objectively. Start to see who you are, how you react and what your proprium is like. Start to observe your automatic thinking. Observe your rationalization and justifications. Non-identification when the hells are acting through you is right effort. Say to yourself, "'It' is angry, I don't have to be. 'It' is irritated. This is not me. These are the hells flowing through me and I will not act from them." To not identify with what is going on is right effort.
It is useful to observe yourself during a day noticing how you respond to things, looking not only at yourself and the impressions that come in to you, but turning around and looking at your reactions to them, which is your internal world. (Your thoughts and your feelings in relation to the external impression.) See that the day of your observation is a miniature of your year and see that the year is a miniature of your level of being or of who you are. Observe the Societies you hang out with in the Spiritual World, the company you keep. To do a task like that you must use Self-observation.
We know there is truth and we know there is good. We know there is thinking and there is willing. So there are two sides of the Work, right thinking and right effort. One without the other is no good, just as faith alone will do nothing for you. Working without truth can get you into a lot of trouble. You are limited by what you understand and what you believe to be true. You also must know that what you believe to be true means absolutely nothing unless you try it; unless you do it. The other entirely different story is truth from good, or learning things from trying this Work. That no one can ever tell you. It can't be yours until you try it.
Right Thinking and Right Effort
I want to talk about some important tools that help in the Work. Right thinking is needed; some knowledge of appearances that we must come to know are only appearances. Swedenborg says there is appearance and there is reality. The appearance of the senses, that the sensual corporeal man believes, the appearance that life is the way it appears, is not the way it is. The truth is given to us from Revelation and without it we wouldn't know what's going on.
All of the following are appearances: I am, I have a self, I am the source of my feeling and of my thoughts. All are appearances! You can behave differently once you know these are just appearances because you are available to different, higher influences. You can have a different relationship to states that come in to you. Another appearance is that man has unity. The reality is that man has many 'I's or many states. The importance of knowing this is to realize that states change. You think, "I'm always a nice guy." Then you see yourself when you are not being a nice guy and you can get rid of what the Work refers to as a "buffer," or a blind spot in relation to your contradictory behaviors and attitudes. Often we act a certain way and yet think of our self as a person who would never act that way!
Another appearance is that externals are causes. The natural man thinks, for example, that a coach treating a kid badly can make him angry. That is the appearance. You get a letter that you think made you furious, or irritated. There is the appearance that the external world is the cause. The external world is not the cause of anything. It is a receptacle of everything and the result of everything and the cause of nothing. The real cause comes into you. So the cause of you being angry is not another person. The cause of you being angry is hell coming into you, using that other person's behavior to justify their existence in you. Think about it. How could a piece of paper with some ink on it "make" you get angry? Paper is just paper. Remember that hard teaching from the work: if you get negative it is always your fault!
Another well known appearance: Life has meaning. Everybody knows you go to school, you study hard, you gather money, you get married and you get a nice house and cars, and a successful position, and that is what life's about. And everybody knows that is not true. There are people who have done all that very well and they generally come to a point in their life when it doesn't mean anything. Life has no meaning in itself. Right thinking on this is that all meaning is spiritual meaning. Love and affection and the opportunity to express love and affection has some meaning. A man can be really happy, but nothing external can make him happy. Money can't make him happy. Life cannot make you angry and life cannot make you happy. Real meaning comes from your relationship to the spiritual world. It is only through that world that we find happiness.
It is another appearance that the ability to reason, or logic, equals truth. Through observing your negative states you will find that the hells are not irrational. They are very logical. They will tell you that this man mistreated that child therefore I have a right to tell him my mind and it's good that somebody should do this. The appearance is that it makes sense. Truths, however, contain good. Truth is the form of good. You can never have a truth that will contain hate, anger, irritation or contempt. It cannot be done because those feelings are not forms of good. It doesn't matter how much sense it seems to make. Don't consult logic, consult what kind of feelings are trying to come through to you. Is heaven manifesting itself? Or is hell going to manifest itself? If you hit your child, no matter how logical it is, if done in anger, it wasn't heaven. (I'm not saying you might not spank a child sometimes from a good affection, but look at the affection, not the form and not the logic.) The basic thing is to rise above the appearance.
If you are driving and you start to have fear, the question to ask yourself is, what is going on spiritually? What is going on? Some hells are trying to enter me. What are they doing? How are they entering? What are they telling me? What is the thinking process they are getting me to go through? Then ask, what is the reality? And what is trust in the Lord? How does trust in the Lord feel? What is the "as-of-self"? Who is right here beside me, helping me drive this car?
When you start to ask those questions, then life is a teacher or an exercise you can learn from. Before that you are just mechanical in relation to what happens in life and life pushes you around, like a machine. We merely react to incoming impressions. But the Lord would have us not merely react. He says "Choose life."
If you took a big magnet and called it life, and you took a bunch of nails on the ground around it, and called the nails people, you would see how it is. If the nails were close to the magnet they would jump around. You would see some nails jump this way and some that way. And you would see clearly that none of the nails have any life of their own. They don't have any choice about it because they are too close to the magnet. If you are an external corporeal man with the hells continually operating through your proprium, letting life cause everything, there is trouble. If that is the way you are looking at things you are just mechanical, like a nail is to a magnet. A baseball coach comes up and yells, you get angry. He comes, he is an influence, and you react. You are just a machine, that's all. The only way to not react to the causes in life is to start to realize that they are not the causes! Start to have causes from the internal. If you let life be the cause of you being happy or you being miserable or you being sad, then you are a machine and at the influence of the hells. It is just like the big magnet and you are one of the nails. If you observe you will see that.
The first part of right effort is what the Writings are all about - right thinking from Revelation. All right effort takes effort and attention. It takes effort and attention to not behave like a machine. Your behavior is going to take effort and attention to not yell at a kid who you have been coaching all year long and who just missed the ball when it's your big game and he's stupid, always looking down instead of looking where the ball's going, or whatever he is supposed to be doing. Right thinking is not going to come automatically. In relation to what is going on, when you are getting upset, or you're getting scared or you're angry, etc., right thinking is to not think from that emotion, to not think from life or those lower influences that pull you like a magnet. Right thinking is to start to think from doctrine. What is going on here? What would the Lord say about it? What does Swedenborg say about it? What does Revelation tell me about this? You are trying to think from those points of view about what is going on in you right now. That is different than just going over there and kicking the ball, or hitting the kid, or yelling at some driver in traffic. It is different because we are letting thoughts come into us from higher influences.
Inner stop. relax and sense
I'm going to put these three tools together because we can use them in order to separate when negative states come into us. A young man who nearly drowned asked me to teach him to swim. He had fallen into the water and in trying to swim he found he could swim in one direction but could not turn around. He started to drown. So he was afraid of the water. He asked me to teach him to swim and I wanted to teach him to swim. But the first thing you have to teach someone who tries to swim when they are terrified is to teach them how not to swim. Because when people are in a panic and try to swim they try to do what's right and it doesn't work. So the first thing I had to tell him was, "Don't swim! Don't move a muscle!" Well, his mind was racing like crazy and his whole body just wanted to start swimming. You could see it. So he was there, not swimming, and all of a sudden a smile started to show up on his face because he realized he couldn't drown as long as he didn't frantically try to swim. He always thought he would sink like a rock. I had looked at him and knew he would not sink like a rock. He would have to work at it to sink like a rock!
Now these three tools are similar to that young man and his need to do nothing, to know the nature of the water before he could learn to swim. He is a metaphor for these three tools of Inner stop, relax, and sense.
When you are beginning to work on your negative emotions, the first thing to know is don't do anything. You make the slightest effort to fight with these hells and they'll kill you! So what do you do? You do nothing, first. You have this tremendous force of negative emotion and what do you do? You stop thinking, relax, and sense. You are going to be coming into your head like crazy. You are going to hear them. Your body will also want to do something other than relax. Instead, stop thought, stop your body. Don't be thinking, don't be moving, except maybe walking real slow and then put your attention on sensing. Stop your mind, stop your body and sense.
In the Work they give the example of the wild elephant being your negative emotion. When you are in a negative state you have a mad elephant. He's crazy. He wants to destroy the huts. The first thing you do is you take the mind away from him (you steal his thoughts by Inner Stop.) The next thing you do is take away the body from him (you relax the body.) With no mind and his body relaxed he can't destroy too many houses. So, here is a big emotion, but now it doesn't have any body and it doesn't have any mind. It can't do much damage. What they talk about is putting a trained elephant on either side of the mad elephant - that's a trained body (you've trained it to relax), and a trained mind (you have taught it to stop thought), and this mad elephant emotion is in the middle just tramping around and he can't do anything. Eventually you bring in Doctrine, a truth to correct the falsity, but first you use these three tools.
The man in the pool asked, "How long do I stay this way?" Until someone rescues you! You will find if you leave him there long enough he starts to feel the nature of the water. He's not trying to swim and he's no longer afraid of drowning, so now he is starting to feel and understand the water and there will be a time when he can swim. So that is the story of these three tools, Stop thought, Relax and Sense. A few years of doing them and you'll be in good shape!
Sacrifice your suffering and self-importance
People say, "How do you do that?" You just do it! You give it up. I'm at a wrestling match and I go to the hot dog stand. I am clearly the first one there. Someone walks up beside me and is asked what he wants. Another man comes and he is asked what he wants. Irritated, I start thinking, "I must be invisible." The guy serving hot dogs is looking right at me! So, how do you sacrifice your suffering and self-importance? You just give it up. Who do you think you are in the order of things? Big deal! Just drop it, that's all. And you sacrifice suffering. All that pity. You have good reasons to be pitied? Give them up. What do you get in return? You get to relax and enjoy yourself. You get to feel good motives. Just sacrifice.
Life is to be met with Non-identification. When this is possible, life becomes one's teacher. In no other sense can life become a teacher, for life taken by itself is meaningless, but taken as an exercise, it becomes a teacher. Nothing can change your being so much as this practice, mainly, to take the unpleasant things in life as an exercise. Imagine someone got a new pair of skis for Christmas and then it snows. And everybody else is complaining about the fact that it is snowing except the person with new skis. That person is really excited.
So now you have a lot of new tools. When you get negative you should be really excited because now is the opportunity! You can't use these tools unless you get a negative state to work on! So as soon as it happens you can be really pleased because now you can try out some of these tools! There is a part of you that can say, "Now is the chance! Let's try!" But be aware, there is also a big part of you that doesn't want you to remember to work. (Nicoll, Commentaries, Vol. I)
Observe and then sacrifice your suffering and self-importance in a specific instance. Just give it up! And come back ready to report what it was like for you to do that.
Example: You start to feel really sorry for yourself because someone didn't notice you or didn't give you a full greeting.
I want to talk about the nature of tasks. We have vertical and horizontal lines we work along, which Maurice Nicoll compares to the cross. He says we have our life line on the horizontal, and then there is a vertical line which represents spiritual growth. Now we know there is such a thing as a natural temptation. There is such a thing as spiritual temptation. So, someone says, "I'm not going to eat anything. I'm going on a diet," and perhaps the reason they do that is summer is coming and they want to look good on the beach. So they go on the diet and all of a sudden they want to eat a lot and they have a temptation coming up. Since their goal is a natural goal, their temptation would be a natural temptation. And if they win, in some regard we could say they made progress on the natural line.
Someone may say, "I'm going to give up drinking." And let's say he does that for the sake of his liver. The Doctor said he might die. So he is really doing it for himself. That would perhaps be a natural temptation and wouldn't really have anything to do with the vertical or spiritual growth line. Now if someone says they are giving up drinking because they have noticed it really interferes with their thinking, their rationality, and it's interfering with their relationships with people, or with their marriage, then they face a temptation that well may be on the vertical line, or a spiritual temptation. It is in regard to spiritual goals. He is perhaps doing it from an understanding of what the Lord has asked him to do. So he is not doing it to gain something for himself; he is doing it because he has been told to do something by the Lord and because it has value as he understands it in his spiritual growth. So, we could say that is a spiritual task, or a Work task.
Anytime you are listening to someone talk about a task, or you are going to give yourself a task, the thing to consider is whether it involves vertical growth. Ask yourself: Am I trying to come from a different place? Am I trying to behave from the Work?
Am I doing this for the Lord and for my neighbor as well as for myself?
Have you read about the three forces called positive, negative and neutralizing force? The positive and negative, of course, is that you wish to do your task and then there is resistance, and then, even though we believe we are in freedom, in order to move from that place of freedom, we need neutralizing force. Now are you going to make that decision from freedom based on life decisions and life values, or are you going to make that decision based on what you know from doctrine and the Word?
If you start to make those decisions from the Work, or from doctrine, (trying to have the Lord's kingdom on earth) then you have started to make the neutralizing factor spiritual values. At that point you are starting to make the personality passive and to make the essence, or the spiritual man, active, because you are trying to act from your understanding of doctrine or the Work. That is called neutralizing force. The Writings say:
What is conscience but not doing wrong to anyone in any way at all or doing well to everybody in every possible way? So conscience is an attribute of charity and never of faith separated from charity. Conscience is also the new person himself. From this it is clear that truths of faith arc the means by which this is achieved, that is by which a person lives according to the things which faith teaches. It is a fundamental teaching, being to love the Lord above all things and the neighbor as oneself. (Arcana Celestia 1076)
I believe that quote is talking about conscience as being where your neutralizing force will come from, since it is formulated from doctrine, from esoteric teachings, from the truth. You start to make a decision from that part of your mind (the rational) rather than from your mechanical likes or dislikes. To do the latter would be called a proprial task. Often people confuse the two. They give themselves a task of running around the block every morning at 6:00 a.m. That is a task, but where is it on the vertical line? In what way does it help you lift vertically? A person may be able to tell you, and he may not. It may be a spiritual task, but only he can tell you.
Often your observation of yourself will be what a vertical move is based on. You start to learn things and as you observe, you will get an idea of where the spiritual values are; what kind of spirits might be with you, and what kind of a relationship is going on. Then you might also be aware of how that affects your usefulness to others, if it does - and how much attention you have on food, money, or such things on the life line that could be given to the family or other areas. I don't know what you are going to find out, but Self-observation can show you the price you are paying for natural goals instead of spiritual ones, and it might create that spiritual level.
In doing Self-observation the first things you become aware of are things that normally you were totally asleep to, so the first part of the work is just waking up. The Work compares our state to a horse and carriage. The Lord is in the carriage waiting for our will to be a wise and willing driver. The horse is meant to be strong and beautiful and the driver is meant to be driving the way the Lord says he should. But the condition now is that the driver is in a bar, dead drunk, passed out, and the carriage has not been cared for, is falling apart, and the Lord doesn't sit in carriages like that. The horse is dying, there are no reins to our horse and we don't even know how to do things.
So the first part of Self-observation is realizing that things you have done habitually have had an impact on you and so have the people all around you who were asleep too. Look at the comments that we make to ourselves and others that we aren't even aware that we are making. When you start to wake up you become aware of how devastating those remarks are to you or to your kids. Then you are waking up to something. You aren't asked to do anything yet. Self-observation is needed before you are asked to do anything. Just stop the internal dialogue and realize the situation for the way it is.
During the first part of the Work there are lots of things that you should not do. Just like the Ten Commandments, a lot of them are "thou shalt nots," and then there are a few things you should do. In the Work one thing you don't do is express negative emotions, and that of course is not the goal, it's just the beginning part. To do nothing in a negative situation is saving a tremendous amount of energy. In terms of the Work it is building energy. In terms of temptation, by resisting some behavior because it comes from hell, I believe you are starting to invite the possibility of separating from the hells. Something is being built up when you are making efforts to resist the hells. A new will is being created in you. In Biblical terms the Lord is giving you "a new heart:"
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes... you shall be My people and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36:26-28)
In some small way part of you wills not to do the negative behavior. And there is starting to be transferred energy from the part that used to just do it, to that part that wills to do something different. And even if it is in a state of confusion and doesn't know what that is that it wills to do different, still it is a start. So it takes a long time and a lot of patience, but not doing is very important.
You start to also observe what impact not doing has on the sound level of your house. What impact does it have on a son or a wife? You're not adding by allowing the hells to come through you into the room. What has that done for the world? Of course Zen talks of the sound of one hand clapping. I often think of that at the table. The kids are fighting and what I can do is not add to that. Just listen and you find the fighting has a level of its own, a gyration, but all I can do is not throw my bit of gasoline on the fire. I can't throw water on it, and I don't know how to put it out, but not adding to it has a tremendous impact. Sitting there calmly has an impact. I think I have observed it.
Start to notice things outside of that negative occurrence; look around the anger rather than from it. You will be very self- absorbed in observation. Start to also include other things that are going on, and try to Self-remember, recalling your purpose for being here on earth, because if you are just totally absorbed in watching the negative behaviors there is a certain negativity to it, because that is where your focus is. If you are focusing on anger, your body tenses, but if you are just lightly aware of anger, you are not getting caught up in it. So broaden your observation. Notice what else is going on in the room and listen to the content of the conversation.
And you find if there is a part of you, an 'I' that wants its say, often that is because it feels it is right. "In this case I am ('IT') is right," right? Perhaps you know there is a negative emotion in you, so you don't express it, but you still believe it, and since you believe it, it has to be said.
So what you want to do in that case is you want to look for falsity in the reasoning. What is false about this 'I's reasoning? Because it is wrong. If you can, find the falsity in your case. You give the kid all those wonderful logical truths you are pouring out to set him straight. If you can find the lie in that, it will dissipate. But as long as you think it is true, it will stay there until it has its say, or you discover the lie. Because if you believe it and it's true, you just have got to say it. It's hard! It is going to take conscious work to find the lie in it because it sounds right.
There are times when kids are disrespectful and inconsiderate and all the rest of those things. The lie is that I have to get mad about that. The kid may need a good thrashing. I don't know, but we aren't talking about that. We are talking about that particular emotion which you have identified as a negative one that has a falsity attached to it which looks true. That is what you want to find the lie in. Now the kid will get a better job if you can identify the lie and then give the kid what he needs, which may be discipline, may be structure, or whatever he may need. But after you identify the lie you'll be able to do it correctly. If you come from that negative emotion, you aren't going to achieve the very thing that emotion says you are trying to achieve. You aren't going to get good fruit from a bad tree. It just isn't going to happen. It'll sound good, but if you observe the kid you will see he is not getting the good message you are trying to give him. He's not getting the fruit, you know. So, just watch.
Pay attention to your internal dialogue and how you set things up, how you view different people, your automatic reaction to them, your associative thinking in regard to them, and your emotions attached to all of that. In general that would be a quick picture of your level of being in relation to the circumstances. Strange how we can acknowledge that a man has more knowledge than we have like knowing more about the computer, but we have a hard time acknowledging or seeing that certain people have a higher level of being than we do. But of course they do. People are at different levels. There are many different levels.
A person of a higher level being at church will have an entirely different experience than a person at a lower level. There is not one church service. There is not only one sermon going on. There are many experiences of that event. A person of high level being can come out and say, "That was the most fantastic thing I've ever heard. I've never heard anything like that." And a person of low level being who spent their time thinking about what they were going to do that afternoon and frustrated because they wouldn't be able to get a movie or something, is not going to have that experience. They'll say, "Oh, church was lousy this morning." They won't get the fact that their level of being was lousy for that hour and created that experience at a very low level for them. So that is why we are trying to get ourselves up into a higher level. We want to receive insights we cannot possibly get from our ordinary level of being.
We always take things in our usual way. We think the world is that way. This guy's boring, this guys exciting. No. We are bored or we are excited. There is no such thing as a boring person or an exciting person. There is your level of being and your relation to that. So that's why we are here. Otherwise we would try to change church service to have the person there that is the most exciting. That is not the point. The point is to change us so we can be anywhere and get value out of that, because value is there.
Let's say you read the Word. Well, there's no problem with the Word. A lot of people say there is a problem with the Word. A lot of people say it's not written right, it's too hard to understand. The same with the Writings - too hard to understand. They wouldn't dare mention their own level of being, but they can tell you what's wrong with the Word even though God Himself wrote it! (You can't do better than that!) So, we are trying to get up where we can experience a higher level than we are now experiencing. In the Writings we read:
People with whom faith is separated from charity see nothing else than the errors and perversities abiding with another person, but those who have faith, that inheres in charity, are different. They notice the good, and if they do see evils and falsity, they excuse them, and if possible, endeavor with that person to correct them. From such presence or absence of charity these two kinds of people are distinguished from each other. (Arcana Celestia 1079)
Now often I think when people listen to a sermon with talk about "these" people and "those" people, they think there are actually such people as "we" and "they." There aren't. That's why it is so important to think of 'I's, or states, or associate spirits. There are associate spirits who will sometimes be active in you who do not have charity. At other times you will notice there are associate spirits active who do have charity. So, it is not people out there that you are asked to be looking at, it is societies in you that have these attributes. You want to start to get close to the ones that have the attribute of charity and start to leave the ones who have the attribute of love of self. So don't think in terms of other people. The Writings continue:
.... In those who have no charity a feeling of hatred is manifest in every single thing. They wish to try everyone and indeed to pass judgment on them. Their one desire is to discover what is evil in them, all the time having it in mind to condemn and punish them. Those who have charity hardly notice the evil in another person, and instead notice all the goods and truths that are his, and on his evils and falsities they place a good interpretation. But in people who have no charity there is unending contempt of others. They harbor such contempt inwardly, but outwardly they produce a semblance of friendship to others. As a result of this they acquire two spheres, which are perceived clearly in the next life. The first, which is interior, is full of hatred; the second, which is exterior, is a mere semblance of good. From these considerations it is clear that with those in whom no charity is present, evil spirits have dominion, through whom man communicates with hell. With those in whom charity is present angels have dominion, through whom man communicates with heaven. (AC 1079)
Of course, at this point, we're in between. Sometimes we're associated with heaven and sometimes we're associated with hell. We just have to start to clearly see when we are Externally Considering (putting ourselves in the neighbor's place; thinking in terms of how this affects my neighbor) and when we are Internally Considering (thinking of ways the neighbor owes us).
So we can see that in a certain way all of life is about "tasks." From moment to moment we are making decisions about how we will respond to the impressions that are coming into us. Will we put the very best interpretation on our neighbor's behavior, will we Externally Consider and "excuse with all our might" ? Will we see that every choice we make has an effect on our level of being and the spiritual influences we invite into our lives? Really, we are constantly choosing our spiritual associations - the heavenly or hellish societies we want to hang out with. But oftentimes it takes very hard work separating from your life (love of material and sensual things; love of complaining; love of criticizing and finding fault; love of self-importance; love of controlling others) to choose what is higher.
When is the time to work? The time to work is always right now, right here. It is always the time to work, whether you're in class, on a bus, at work or in school, it doesn't matter. There's never any time not to work! So if suddenly you get overpowered by an emotion and you think, "This isn't the right time," you can know that it is always the right time to work! Because that's the only kind of work of value. Vertical work - that's what the Lord has us here for - so don't put it off! Remember that with every least effort we make the Lord is building something wonderful within us.
Find the lie that comes with a negative emotion. What is the falsity of that negative reasoning? Observe what happens when you find the lie.
Example: Feeling justified when yelling at the kids. Adults deserve respect. What is the lie?
We see many things in our mind and we think we see each other, but we don't. We see our reaction to each other. What we see is our memory of each other, our emotional reaction and our thoughts attached to them. It is much like looking through an aquarium at another person. The aquarium is really busy. You don't see the other person, you see the aquarium. You see all the thoughts and feelings going between you. You haven't seen the real person for years! You probably saw him the first time you met, then you had a reaction (that's one fish). Then you fell in love (that was a whole bunch of fish). Then you got angry and that was a shark! Then after a while, you got so wrapped up in the aquarium, so lost in all the movement and activity there, that you thought you were looking at the person, but you were really just seeing the aquarium. Oh, once in a while you may catch a glimpse of the person if a big enough fish swims by and startles you, so...be quiet. When you play with puppies they all come around. If you just sit there and don't do anything they start to leave. Fish are the same way. If you are too interested, or feed them, they all gather around. If you start to just look straight ahead to see that person, the fish may swim away and you might actually get a look at the person for a change.
Do you know of the book, "Be Here Now? Here Now Be, Now Be Here? "There is a lot said in esoteric teachings about "Be here now." And for observation, we'll start to show you that there is no other choice except to be here now! We talked about appearance, we talked about reality. There is an appearance of time, and an appearance of space. But we already know there is no time and there is no space. If we start to operate from reality instead of from appearance we are going to start to live differently. So let's say, we are here, now, in the eternal now moment. There are several things we can be doing in the now.
Regretting the past
We can be here, thinking about the past. For example, I was giving a speech and I went for the water and knocked it on the ground. "Oh! I'm so embarrassed." And I actually feel the embarrassment now. I see internal pictures of me doing it, I have internal verbal memories of people laughing at me and then I try to pretend it didn't happen, etc. When am I doing that? I'm doing it right now. That all happened three weeks ago, but when am I thinking about it? I'm doing that thinking right now!
When can I work on it? Right now! You can work on it right now. You can't work on it then. You can work on it right now, so you can change the past right now. You can't change then as it was then, but you can change now as it is right now for you, thinking of then. So, if you find you are thinking about the past, stop. There is no past - there is just you right now, having an internal picture that you think has something to do with the past. It doesn't have anything to do with the past, it is just a picture. Now through Self- observation all of a sudden you observe that you are doing that, reliving a past event. And then you observe your muscles are tight, and you are feeling embarrassment again. You observe that what you are doing right now is creating your life right now, so you start to have a choice about that. Is that what you want to do with this moment? Or not?
Imagine a man who gave a speech afterwards finding out that the whole time he was speaking his fly was down. He may waste a lot of time regretting that incident, running it over and over in his mind. As a result he gave that speech probably 500 times, and 500 times he forced himself to feel the embarrassment of his fly being down. I call that a lot of wasted effort! Observation of the tendency in oneself to relive the past in the present can be a signal, instead, to be here now.
Worrying about the future
We all have another negative tendency in addition to repeating the past. You could be sitting there right now thinking about the future: "Tomorrow I have to go before Judge so and so." "Tomorrow I have to go to class." "Tomorrow I have to make a presentation." "Tomorrow I have to take the kids to the dentist." And you'll notice the internal pictures of what it might be like, what the bad things are that will happen, or perhaps the good things. You notice your body react, and you have certain emotional reactions. When are you doing that? You are doing that right now. There is no future. You're just doing that right now. Self-observation will tell you, or ask you, "Is that what you want to be doing right now?" Because that is what you are doing right now.
Rather than you being in it, when you are not identified, you are observing yourself doing it. So, in family therapy, a family therapist will get the family to argue. The therapist does not listen to the content of the argument. He observes the process of communication. Where does mom sit? Where does dad sit? Where does the kid sit? Who talks first? Who interrupts? The therapist doesn't care about the content. If he gets caught in the content, he is no longer a therapist. It is the same with us in regard to being here now. Don't get caught in the content of what you are thinking about whether its the past or the future. Observe the process that right now you are spending your time thinking about the past or the future - that's the process. Is that what you want to do? Is it doing you any good?
Try to observe yourself sitting there thinking about the future. Then, when the future takes place, you will see that the one had nothing to do with the other. The future is seldom, if ever, what we think it will be. So let's suppose you observed yourself when you were thinking about the future, and then filed that memory for future reference. Now when the future is happening, you put them side by side, and you will see that one had nothing to do with the other! The future did not turn out to be anything like your thoughts about the future. And sitting thinking about it didn't help at all. So the next time you start to think about the future, forget it! Now there is such a thing as planning. Planning is planning right now, and that is very valuable. It is not a negative. Worrying is not planning. There is a big difference. You plan to meet someone next Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. You will be fully there. So don't worry today.
Be here now
The third possibility is, you could be here now. You could be present. Your senses could be open, all five of them. You will actually be looking at what you're looking at, hearing what you are hearing, seeing what you're seeing, and so forth. And you'll be aware of your thoughts, present in the now.
Just as there is no past or future in the now, so in the here there is no space. You can think you are in Paris, or think you are in Baltimore, but you aren't, you are here just now thinking you are in Baltimore. There is no space. It doesn't do you any good to be doing that. So, this made up space doesn't exist. The Paris in your head doesn't really exist. It isn't really Paris, it is just a picture that you have in your head. That doesn't seem very damaging, about places. It certainly doesn't hurt Paris to have you thinking about Paris, even though the thought in your head isn't Paris. For instance, if you had the thought that the Eiffel Tower was 300 feet high and it is really 1500 feet high, that wouldn't hurt the Eiffel Tower. It doesn't care.
Now let's say a new person comes into your town and you are walking down the road and you say, "Hi, how are you doing?" and he walks right by you because he was thinking about something else. Immediately you create a picture, "That person is a snob. What a stuck up!" And then you start to create data to prove you are right: he drives a Cadillac, shows off, and so forth. "That is the kind of person he is. I can tell by the way he treated me." Or, "Look at that dress! She is just trying to show off." Now that family doesn't exist! They only exist in your mind. But when someone comes to you and says, "Did you meet the new people that moved in?" you might say, "Don't even bother. Those people are stuck up." Now the person you are telling that to also has a picture in their head of a family that doesn't exist. The problem with that is, first of all, everything created was created by God, so everything is good, and the interesting thing is, evil wasn't created and it doesn't exist, but evil that doesn't exist can do a lot of harm.
Talk to a paranoid. He thinks everybody is after him. Nobody is after him, but he doesn't leave his house. It is creating a tremendous problem. An idea of something that doesn't exist is creating something that does exist; someone hiding in his house.
So now the family that moved into your community is being ignored - they are feeling rejected, feeling left out. Other people are starting to feel that something is wrong with these people, and a whole reality is being created out of something that does not exist.
What you have in your head right now in regard to places and things is very important. You have to begin to see that it doesn't exist. Then once you see that it doesn't exist, you might want to find out what does exist. Reality rather than fantasy. Truth rather than falsity. So it is important what we carry in our minds.
Now the whole thing, of course, is this: you could, if you wanted to, be aware of all of it. You could be aware of thinking about the past. You could be aware of thinking about the future, aware of making up things in your head about places and people, and that is called Self-observation. You could even be aware of yourself doing all that at once, and that would be called Self- remembering; not only observing it happening, but at the same time being aware of yourself observing it. In a state of Self-remembering you start to see the nature of the exterior man and what is going on and you see that you are as crazy as the next person. Then you start to see the possibility of being here - of really being here now. That means giving up our regret about the past and our anxiety about the future.
A related subject is hurrying because it is based on the illusion that we live in a world of limited time and space. The first thing to do about hurrying is to be aware that you are hurrying. Next, try to experience each sense. First of all experience sight; ask what am I looking at, what colors, what do I see? Then add hearing and try to maintain them both. See if you can get to experience all five of your senses.
Now you can be walking down the road to a train that you have to catch and still be present. Not hurrying does not mean that you can't walk fast. Not hurrying is a state of mind. It is not how fast your body is going. So when you are in a hurry, first of all, try to get in contact with all five senses. Then you can add a phrase to that. There are various phrases that you can use; "I am here now." "This is it." "Let go and let God." Some people use one of these phrases and it helps them have the experience called Self- remembering. Remind yourself I am not running to regeneration. I am not running somewhere. This is it. This is my experience. I am here now.
Once you feel all five senses, add whatever you wish to make you realize that this experience you are having is the experience that you could allow the Lord to change in you. You could allow the hurry to change. It says in the gospel, "Care not for the morrow." In Heaven and Hell we read about innocence and how the children don't think about the future, nor do the angels who are in innocence. If we are to come to that state of innocence we have to first be aware of the opposite; the hurry we have in us, the anxiety we have about the future, and the regret we have about the past. And we have to, in that space, start to allow a change to take place, no longer thinking about it or studying about it, but allowing our self to become different.
Allow the Lord to give you a different experience. Using the five senses is only a means by which you might become aware that there is a possibility that the Lord can transform that anxious state. He's asked you not to care for tomorrow. He's asked you not to be concerned with what you shall eat, what you shall drink and wherewithall you shall be clothed. He's suggested to you that He cares for the very hairs on your head, which are numbered. He takes care of the sparrow, and He takes care of you. We want to give Him the opportunity or allow Him to give us an experience of what He is talking about, not just the idea of it.
So any time you find yourself hurrying or feeling regretful about the past or being anxious about the future, go through your five senses. Be aware of being here now, that this is the time, this is it. See if you can allow the Lord to give you the experience of accepting yourself where you are and what's going on there. Expand your experience, rather than allowing the hells to focus you on that one thing that you are hurrying about, whatever that is, as if it is so important. And of course, the next time we meet, you will be very relaxed and calm. Swedenborg writes in his Spiritual Diary:
This is understood by the passage 'Give us our daily bread,' and that they must not be solicitous about the future as to what they may eat and drink, and that day by day they would receive manna. (Spiritual Diary 2188)
Conjecture about what is to come, and the remembrance of the past, are what take away every pleasantness and felicity of life. (Spiritual Diary 2190)
Examples: The red light seems longer than usual. The cashier is slower than you would like. The children are not moving fast enough.8. Personality Sketch
I want to give you a conceptualization. It is about Non- identification and the nature of one of the 'I's that may happen to be with you. You have many, many 'I's, but I am going to pretend, just for today, that you only have one 'I' or one associate spirit. (It is not true that you only have one, but this is for the sake of role playing). I will be the associate spirit. Someone named Ned is sitting in his car. He was at work and a secretary asked him if he would drive her quickly down to the drugstore because she had to pick up some pictures. Now he had planned to have a nice lunch. He had brought some reading which he really enjoys and he was to have an hour for lunch. But he said, "Yes, I'll do that. It's only a ten-minute drive." In fact, he took off ten minutes earlier in order to get her to the drugstore, help her out, and get her back, and then have his reading and nice lunch. So everything is fine. Ned is happy. And right now Ned is in the car looking out in front of him where he can see the drugstore. He can see the lady inside, and he can see the cashier. He notices his watch. It took him five minutes to get down here, and he figures five minutes for her to pick up her pictures, so everything is okay.
Now I'm the associate spirit. I'm the one 'I' referred to and I have a sphere about this big, say three feet around. My sphere for this conceptualization is irritation, and it may even turn into anger or whatever. Ned's sitting there fairly happy. Nothing's going on. Maybe he's daydreaming, or thinking about his watch. Now as it's getting to be a few minutes before the hour, I (the spirit) start to move in, because I see in the external world something that I can convince him is a good reason to make him feel irritable. It's me! I'm irritation in essence. I am all irritation. I am just irritation waiting to happen. So I see something out there in the physical world that looks like an opportunity for me to manifest myself. It's a perfect situation for me.
Ned's there and now it is five minutes after the hour and I get a little closer. But he's fighting me so I'm not going to rush in there and have him kick me out. Ned thinks, "I still can get back and have forty-five minutes left. It'll still give me fifteen minutes to eat and then time to read. Yeah, it's all right."
Then Ned starts to feel some discomfort. "Boy, geez, look at her! I thought she was picking up her pictures. What is she doing? What's she shopping for? Geez! She's not picking up her pictures at all. See her over there? She's picking out some kind of flowers or candy or something! Golly! I help someone out and...can you believe this? I hope I have time for lunch. This is really getting irritating. WHAT? Look at that! Someone got in line in front of her! Gosh, darn, this is really going to be bad! I should know better! What the hell? The pharmacist is on the phone. Now what? Ah, gosh, this is going to take all afternoon, this is terrible! What's he doing? He's filling a prescription! Geez.." and so on and so forth.
I'm real close to him now, see? My sphere has enveloped him. He feels irritation, anger. The longer she's there, the closer I'm going to get, and the more I am in my element. Now, you heard me talking, but Ned thinks that was his thoughts, but that was just my conversation, my dialogue. That wasn't his thought. I used to say to prospects like him, "Geez, you should be angry!" "You have every right to be irritable!" Then I found it was easy just to talk as if I was him! So I say, "Geez! I'm mad! I'm really irritated! This is really driving me crazy! I hate this kind of thing! In fact I hate her! She always was a lousy secretary. I'm going to get rid of her! I'm not taking this! This is it. I'm not helping anybody ever again in my whole life. I'm going to become a recluse!"
So this internal dialogue is me, the associate spirit, my sphere. Now, if halfway through this conversation, Ned suddenly turns and looks at me, right in the middle of me saying, "Geez, am I mad! This is really getting me angry! I hate this sort of thing. This drives me crazy," then I behave differently. That's because I don't want him to realize that I am using him. When the Work says you have to give up your likes and your dislikes, you have to give up me! I have tremendous likes and dislikes! Because I am irritation. I like what I like and I hate what I hate. And I want to share my sphere with Ned. I want him to identify with me! I want him to attribute my sphere to himself and have him think it is himself.
So, the conceptualization is this: If, anywhere along the line you suddenly feel a sphere, a negative emotion, just realize that an associate spirit has just come and his sphere is starting to hit you. Then if you start to have an internal dialogue, listen to what that spirit is saying, but realize that it isn't you! He will use your voice, but it is a spirit! He wants you to agree, "I'm irritated!" But if you use right thinking you may say to yourself: I don't have to be irritated. I'm giving up likes and dislikes. I'm giving up irritation." And you'll notice the sphere starting to get really different. Right there is Non-identification; it happens the moment you look at that spirit, and see that it is that spirit's sphere, called negative emotion, and that it is that spirit's dialogue, although called your internal dialogue, and that his statements are not yours unless you want to join him in that negative sphere.
Now we cannot change our level of being if we are in the sphere of the same spirits that we hang around with all the time. And after observation you may want to turn around and look for another sphere, a different kind of associate spirit, somebody else you might want to come close to, who you might want to let talk for you. So, just use this conceptualization. When you feel something negative, realize it is the spirit that just got close to you. If it's a negative sphere, listen to the story line, but don't get into it. You'll notice that what's really happening is that irritation spirit doesn't care about that lady in the drugstore, he doesn't care about lunch, he could care less! What he wants to do is be near you! You are a place for him to express hatred. You are irritated? He loves to have you irritated, to have you angry! That is the delight of his life! All that internal dialogue is just trying to convince you that he has a right to continue to have you in his sphere. That's all he wants; to have you in his sphere because that is his delight. Don't try to argue with him - only the Lord could win an argument with him - and as soon as you realize where the spirit or sphere is from, start to separate and find a different sphere. This one you don't need!
...evil spirits are in such deadly hatred, and desire nothing so much as to destroy man both soul and body... most spirits are not aware that there is any other world than the one they are in, and therefore they are unaware that there are men anywhere else and this is why man is not permitted to speak with them in return. (Heaven and Hell 249)
Ask yourself, when you are in a bad mood or upset, who is having the effects of a negative sphere? When you start to realize you don't want to be in his sphere you may think, "I want to be free of him!" Then you might read something in the newspaper that is upsetting and he may suggest, "Wasn't that disgusting?" Thoughts enter you and you feel they are you. You remark,"It is really disgusting how they did that!" Now whose disgust is it? You're the one feeling disgusted, not the paper, not the politician. Do you want to go around feeling disgusted? Is it a good feeling? You will notice that the sphere of disgust is disgusting and there is no reason to be with it. You might want to feel differently. And you have a choice. You can ask yourself: "Do I want to hang around with this sphere? No, no thank you." And then you leave. He'll try to sneak behind you - he doesn't want you to see things the way they really are. But we must want to see things as they really are. Swedenborg tells us how it is:
A man becomes guilty when he believes that he acts from himself, whether in doing good or evil, and not when he believes that he acts as if from himself; for when he believes that the good is from himself, he claims as his own what belongs to God, and when he believes the evil to be from himself he attributes to himself what belongs to the devil. (True Christian Religion 621 )
The task of observing your associate spirits is useful when done in the same way the interior man observes the exterior man. We need to observe the rationalizations, justifications, internal dialogue, etc. going on. Evil spirits are not aware of being with us (when with us they think they are us) and we are told this is a great protection. At times they just flow in, uninvited, at other times we feel their presence when we provide an environment conducive to them. We have, however, the choice to make efforts to separate. Our refusal to maintain an environment suitable for the spirit's delight is usually enough to cause them to leave. The Lord is near and in charge. We can also state a truth from the Word, which they despise. The Lord said, "Get thee behind me, Satan!"
I am going to give you a task, however, in which you just observe the personality and character of one of your associate spirits that you are especially aware of due to his negative sphere. It is important to observe that sphere and recognize where it comes from, because until you are aware, you cannot separate from it.
The following are several short passages from the Arcana that sound intellectual but are extremely important. See if you can hear the importance in regard to the Work and the nature of the direction we are trying to go. These tell us a lot about the direction we have to go in order to change our thinking from the appearance to the way things really are:
....Exterior things cannot enter into interior things just as compounds cannot enter into simple things, therefore that the things which are of the body cannot enter into the things which are of the spirit, but only the reverse. (AC 2588 )
....Concerning wisdom, he said that there is no other wisdom than that which is of life and that wisdom cannot be predicated of anything else but life. I perceived clearly that the interiors of his thought had been opened. (AC 2592)
....By circumcision in the Ancient Church nothing else was represented and signified than that a man should be purified from the loves of self and of the world, and this also gradually and continually especially when he was born anew and made regenerate, for then the Lord flows in by an internal way, that is by the good of his conscience, and separates very gradually and continually those things which adhere to man from heredity. (AC 2632)
The next passage describes the human rational. There is the rational that can assist you in the Work and then there is the human rational which we use for getting around in the world, memory knowledges and so forth, a very natural basis. And if you talked to this very natural man, he would be indignant if you told him certain things. This is the rational which is described here:
The human rational, that namely which is born from worldly things by means of impressions from the senses and cognitions, almost jeers or mocks when it is told that a man does not live by himself, but that it appears to him as if he lives by himself and that a man lives the more, that is more wisely and intelligently and more blissfully and happily the less he believes that he lives from himself. This is the life of angels for they know that no one lives of himself except Jehovah alone.
This human rational would also mock if it were told that a man has nothing of his own and that it is a fallacy or an appearance that he has anything of his own, and still more, if it were told, that the more a man is in the fallacy that he has anything of his own, the less he actually has, and in like manner it would mock if it were told that whatever a man thinks and does from what is his own, is evil, although it may be in itself good, and that he is not wise until he believes and perceives that all evil is from hell and all good from the Lord.
Again this rational would mock if it were told that in heaven they are the greatest who are the least and that they are the wisest who believe and perceive themselves to be the least wise, that they are the happiest who desire others to be more happy, that is, it is heaven to wish to be beneath all and it is hell to wish to be above all.
That man is able to look from within into those things in himself which are beneath, is known by experience to those who have perception for they see so far as to reprove their very own thoughts, hence the regenerate can see what was the quality of the rational which they had before regeneration. (Arcana Celestia 2654)
Now let's say you had an adolescent and he was in the basement where he had a room and he was playing hard rock music through some very loud speakers. Meanwhile, up in the solarium, or upper room of the house, overlooking a beautiful mountain view, there is music, perhaps Pachelbel, playing, not too loud, not too soft, just right, just beautiful.
Now the adolescent in the basement room, after a few years go by, starts to get a little tired of the music in his room. He still has an affection for it, but someone told him, "You know, there are other sounds going on in this house. There is some beautiful music upstairs, if you listen." And he could listen and he might say,"I don't hear any music. I don't know what you are talking about." So he would either have to turn down the Hard rock or he would have to redirect his attention to the upstairs, and then maybe he could hear the other music. Perhaps he would have to move toward the door, and up the stairs, before he would hear what was always playing, what was always there.
The Work says higher influences are always trying to reach us. They are always coming down to us, but our attention is fixed on our worldly concerns, on our loves concerning self and the world. We are fixed next to that loud speaker. It is not that the music isn't upstairs, it is that we are in a place where we can't hear it. We are so full of those worldly loves that we can't perceive something else. So spiritual work is not adding to, it is turning down the natural man. It is starting to separate from the noise and clamor of outer life in order to move towards something quieter. It is an effort to elevate one's self toward something that is already there, but much finer. It is turning our attention away from a preoccupation with life on the natural plane. We can't really turn down the speakers, but we can start to move away from them. We can start to redirect our attention toward something higher than ourselves and our worldly concerns. "Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" (Matt. 6: 25)
Now in terms of the above, we have a lot of likes and dislikes. The Work says one of the places to begin is to start to accept what is. And you will notice the proprium doesn't like what is. It doesn't like other people the way they are. It doesn't like the world the way it is. It doesn't like anything the way it is unless it happens to suit it, which is rarely. So, let's get to acceptance of what is, which is a sort of observation.
We talk about events coming in. You expect the world to go one way and all of sudden you have a flat tire. You thought you were going to a concert or on vacation and all of a sudden you have this flat tire. You can get to where although you see the proprium is irritated you can accept the event as the way things are, and realize that certain things have to be done; you are going to have to pull over to the side, you are going to have to unload your trunk and so forth. It is just an event. That is what life is about, and you will just have to do certain things, but your attitude isn't that it should have been otherwise. The attitude needed is, this just must be done. You can start to have the experience that as unexpected events come into your life things will have to be done; changing tires, pulling over to the side, finding your luggage lost in Chicago; you're going to have to get on the phone, call your lawyer, or whatever you have to do. What you can start to discover from the Work is that the emotions that naturally attach to those things that have to be done, do not have to attach to them. You can stop identifying with them as problems. You don't identify them as, problems. You just take those logical steps and you don't identify with the emotions called irritation, frustration, anger, and all the emotions that wish to attach. You start to detach and just do what is before you to do.
There is another step after that, which is starting to will what has to be done. But that is down the road a bit. So let's say you have to give a class and you are nervous about it. You have to say, "I have to prepare. I have to be there." And you just do it and you start to separate from the anxiety although you are aware of it. There is a change of force that's possible which is starting to change from a negative will to a positive will, to I want to do it. But what you'll find is the proprium doesn't want to make that change because if you will to do it, no longer can you feel bad about it or suffer. No longer can you have self pity, no longer can you complain to your friends about the fact that, "I have to do this report," or "I have to do my taxes," because if you choose to do it and you will to do it, then all those negative things can't happen. You can experience that if you will to do it; all the negativity will drop off.
The next thing you will experience is that you don't want to let go of that negativity. The proprium doesn't want to let go! It delights in negativity.
The acceptance of what is is the beginning of separation, and willing it, is the letting go of negativity. And you will find that your Pharoah of Egypt is not going to let you go so easily. But you will find out that you want to be free and that there is such a thing as freedom and you don't have to be in slavery.
I want to discuss the fact that your proprium can define life as endless problems. You will find in the natural world that life and its problems are unsolvable. The proprium wants to keep solving its problems; "If I can just get through this exam I can relax," "If can just get this car fixed I can be done with it." The proprium thinks that way. But life is just a conveyor belt of problems and they are going to come no matter what, forever. You are never going to get to the end of them so you might as well give it up. What we have to give up is the proprium itself. Life is unsolvable, but it also tells us life will solve itself.
When I was on a trip this weekend to West Virginia we were in a traffic jam in Washington. Now where is it? Where is the traffic now? It solved itself, although it looked like it would go on forever. I knew it couldn't go beyond 7:00 or 8:00 at night because everyone was trying to get home and when they were all home, the road was empty. Life will solve itself although maybe not at the speed that the proprium likes. If you accept it you can watch life solve itself. You got through high school. All the problems that you are so concerned with today, life will take care of and solve. "What does it profit you if you gain the world and lose your soul?" (Matt 16: 26)
At the Cathedral now they are fixing the steeple. That will take care of itself. Five thousand years from now it will be a supermarket, so don't concern yourself. But right now it is a big concern to many of us. Should we spend the money? That is not what we are here for. We are not here to solve life's problems although we have to go through certain motions.
There was a man who had a lot of problems with his hearing and any time he heard a loud noise he would get really furious. When he was a kid they yelled at him a lot. When they got angry they slammed the door. So loud noises were jarring. He had this problem that when he heard one of those loud noises he would get irritated and so angry that he lost a lot of energy.
So he went to a hypnotist and said, "Look, I am having this problem and it is hurting my family and my business." The hypnotist said, "All right, there is help for that." He taught the man relaxation and how to stop thought and how to use an anchor, a gimmick to achieve a nice relaxed state, and he said, "Now when you hear a loud noise you can use these methods to relax." And he also gave him a record, a sound track of cars, loud trains, slamming doors, shooting guns and everything that bothered him. The hypnotist said, "Take this record home and put this record on every morning and practice the things I taught you. When the sounds are coming at you, practice your response. In time your response will change."
So, the man took the record home, and put it on. He heard the gunshots, the slamming door, and he started getting irritated. Then suddenly he thought, "This is silly. I can solve this problem," and he turned the record off.
The Lord put you down here and He said, "I am going to put you on earth where things are going to happen and it is going to bring up the very things you have to work on and change." And everybody says, "Let's change the world so it doesn't come up!" But you can't do it! You just can't do it!
Swedenborg says that fine things can go into gross things and spiritual things can go into physical things, but the physical gross things cannot go into the finer spiritual things. That is a very important fact to realize.
The appearance is that if we do our work we will go into heaven. We can't go to heaven! We have a physical body. We cannot go to heaven and we cannot think our way to heaven, because heaven is fine and we are material. It is spiritual, we are natural. So what does that mean? It means heaven must enter us. That is very important. If you are working hard to get to heaven you are doing the wrong thing. You have to start to empty yourself and make a place for heaven to enter you.
The appearance is the opposite. So I put a picture of a person and behind him a big circle. The circle is his internal man and in the circle you have snakes and tigers and lions and such. Outside of the circle you have heaven wanting to come in. You can't take the circle of lions and tigers and snakes to heaven. You have to start to get rid of those negative emotions, those negative thoughts, and start to become passive. You have to start to let go of self-importance, let go of likes and dislikes, opinions and considerations. Become as little children. Blessed are the poor. Give up your riches and heaven can start to enter you.
Do you think that good spirits can come into you if you have hate for your neighbor and contempt? If you have anger, how can heaven come into you? It can't. Heaven cannot come into you while you are holding onto those things. It can't chase them out if you want to have those delights. You have to let go of those states and as they start to leave, then heaven is attracted and heaven can come in.
First, observing T is attracted by the truth. It loves truth for truth's sake and it brings down certain spirits who love truth. But you have to go beyond that, beyond love of truth. You have to begin to have an affection for the goodness that truth is going to bring, which gives you a horror about the evil and the falsity that you observe coming into your exterior man. And that is starting to be horrified at the situation, starting to see 'IT's nature (and 'IT' is not you.) You start to observe and you wish the heavens to come close so the good can start to lead and can become a true love for others and that process can take place! The whole concept about the fine into the gross says that.
You have to stop thinking about going to heaven, about thinking your way to heaven, about working your way to heaven. You have to allow yourself to be open to heaven, you have to start to listen to the sounds up the stairs and turn your direction away from all your concerns and your anxieties. Heaven is not going to be there. Solving your anxieties, solving your concerns, is not going to bring you heaven. Fixing your car, getting the money, getting the kids through college, is not going to do it, because heaven is not there. Let go of those concerns. When those start to mean nothing to you then all of a sudden something that is real will start to be important to you and change your direction.
We are in a very strange situation. If we want to get to heaven we must realize that the proprium is not invited. Imagine you are fighting the drug situation and you work for the Drug Enforcement Administration. You have fifty or sixty agents in the room and you are going to discuss how we are going to handle this drug problem, and how to deal with the junior black Mafia. So you start to talk about the problem, the strategy and the setup. Everybody is under cover. We could get a buy, we could do this or that. And you make good plans. But then every time you go out there on the street to make a bust or a buy, you find it isn't heroin at all. It's only powder. The charges are withdrawn.
You would have to wonder, "What's wrong? Someone on the task force must be on the take. Someone must be paying for the information. How many do you think are on the take? Five? Out of a hundred, how many? Maybe six?"
Well, out of a hundred 'I's here in this room, how many do you think are Work 'I's ? The Philadelphia police force has much more integrity than we have! A strange situation.
So you have to start saying we are not among friends here. The people who come to this class are the scribes and the Pharisees who want to grab this new teaching and use it for their own benefit. They are the double agents, working for the proprium. So it says you have work 'I's. You have to start to listen to the content of what they have to say! You have to start to get those Work 'I's together. The harvest of heavenly joy and peace is truly great, but the laborers (or Work 'I's) are few.
Who can you trust? You have to be wise as serpents. Start to watch everybody. All your 'I's! Observation is needed. Don't pick your agent, or those few you can trust, too soon. Start to watch. That is the situation. The propriums are here and I think you will find that most of the 'I's are not your Work 'I's. It is hopeless. The Lord says without Me, man cannot do it. He can see that what you think is good is not good, what you think is true is not true, but you think it is, and you are trying to do your best. However, it is the self acting and every time you go active instead of passive, the wrong agents appear! But the Lord is near. And of course, turning it over to the Lord is so necessary.
The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has its job to do even though they know there are double agents. They can't just give up. Every police force knows there are corrupt police and they also have to get to work every morning and do their work anyway. And that is where we are. We have to work, but we also have to understand that we have the problem. We cannot be trusted. We often don't know non-Work 'I's from Work 'I's. Just take that into account. Start to watch all your 'I's.
This week I got furious at someone for the way they were sensing! I was helpless! There I was. All the Work in me came out and was lost in that one experience and it shocked me. Someone else was using sensing in a way that upset 'IT.' I had thought that 'IT' was a Work 'I'! He had seemed one of my best agents. I had been impressed with that guy! In a moment I lost my best worker and was pressed against the wall. Reading from Nicoll about such things:
The whole conception of esotericism is concerning this development of a new man in oneself. It means overcoming the violent man. The violence in you. If anyone says, what are we working for? What is the idea of the Work? We can say the supreme idea of the Work and all esoteric teaching is and has been, that this new being can arise out of the old. If you work on yourself long enough with increasing understanding you will reach a higher level, however small, in yourself and you will know at once that the Work is true. The door into this possibility is your Self- observation. You must understand that when you are in a problem you are in an event. The only way to transcend a problem in life is to transcend it by not identifying with it. You cannot solve your life problems because life is unsolvable. But you can transcend them by not identifying with them. And after a time they will transform themselves. But if you identify with a problem you will become negative and eventually this will lead to violence.
You came down from a very high place and you were not meant to identify with life on this planet, but to take life on this planet as a means to an end and not an end in itself. When the events of life are taken mechanically then there arises in you what is called a problem, but what you have to do with a problem is to discover it, not to identify with it, then you have a different inner world from the external world. The first idea of self-remembering is to bring the work and what it teaches in between life and your mechanical reaction to it. Put the Work between you yourself and life. Then you will take impressions quite differently. (Nicoll, Com. Vol. I)
There are two ways of dealing with events once you become conscious of their mechanical action in you. One is to try to separate from their power by not identifying , for you are under the power of what you identify with. The other way is to will them. I was afraid of a new double- decker bus that would swing around the corners at full speed. One wet day I got on the top of the bus and as we were flying around the corner at full speed I willed it to fall over and the extraordinary thing was that my fear left me immediately. From that I learned that a great amount of fear comes from hoping that something won't happen. Try to will what you have to do. The general idea is that if some event is inevitable you can do two things: either try to separate by Non-identification or will it and go with it. I will also tell you a secret. You have to will one another. This is the beginning of conscious love.
In the Work you cannot murder a person in your heart without suffering consequences. The Work is about developing the internal side of you so that it so governs by the power of the Work that you cannot behave badly to anyone in your mind or your heart or your soul without immediately feeling a loss of force. I want you to get the distinction very clearly. The Work begins in a man or a woman who is beginning to understand that he or she cannot with impunity think or feel mechanically. Higher influences are near or far according to the inner state of yourself. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.1)
Someone asked what it means "stop thought." You will find you can stop thought. You may notice negative emotions and what thoughts go with them, but if you just drop them, often it will stop. And if the internal dialogue continues you can just ignore it, or stop listening as it were, as you might to a radio in the background. Of course sometimes you are enjoying the negative thought. The minute you know you are having a negative emotion or a negative thought, just realize it has nothing to offer you. Just stop all thought.
A negative thought gives you the illusion that it can be of help to you. Say you are obsessing which has nothing to add to your life, and in fact, depletes your energy. Take worry. I could worry all tonight about tomorrow's problem coming up, and if I allow myself I will. I keep thinking if I plan enough and get enough answers I can solve all the problems, but it is not true. With mechanical thinking the only thing to do is the minute you realize you are doing it, just stop it. Will it stop forever? No, but the minute you realize you are doing it, you stop it again. Maybe it will be only five minutes, maybe an hour, whatever. And if you want to do something constructive instead you could make a list. That would be doing something with directed attention and effort; outlining what you are going to do. And what you will find out is that the thought keeps coming back! So stop thought again. Just turn it off like a radio.
You will find in time that there are longer and longer periods when you are not thinking negative thoughts and feeling negative feelings. And then you will find that you don't need to think. That is the hard rock music in the basement, that internal dialogue that we think is our life, or our brain and our thinking. It is not! And in the longer spaces you will find things come to you and you do things more creatively without this activity that we think is thinking, which is not thinking.
Stop thought. When you hear the internal dialogue in your head expressing negative thoughts, just turn it off as you might a radio. If you continue to hear it, just ignore it, and see what that experience is like for you.
Everyone must have aim in this work. He must think about it. The aim may be small or great, but a man should know what his aim is at any moment in time. It gives shape and meaning to his inner life. It has already been said that when man tries to remember himself he must also remember his aim. It enables a man to take incoming life from the Work point of view, and notice the relation he is about to make in preventing impressions from falling on their customary places in him, and producing their habitual reactions. All this involves a struggle between yes and no. A man in such a state can see an impression about to produce a typical response in him and say 'yes,' to it or say,'no.' If the response the impression is about to cause is contrary to the man's aim and the man says, 'no' to it, then he is keeping his aim. He is working on himself. And in that moment lies the fact that he has sacrificed something. What has he sacrificed? The satisfaction of reacting as usual. The satisfaction, let us say, of feeling agreed. All this involves struggle which is very quick. It takes place within a man and has to do with his inner assent or inner refusal. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.1)
Picture this in your mind. There is a mountain. A mountain called love of self and love of the world. And there is the land, or our consciousness. We are in the picture and so is our aim and there is the sunshine above it all. But between us and our aim, there is this big mountain. The hells tell us that what stands between us and our happiness, us and our peace, us and our quiet, us and all the things we want in life, are other people and the world. We may think to ourselves, "Things are interfering with me. That other fellow has the position that I want at work. That's where the problem is, that's why I can't get it." Or we may think, "There's not enough money. That guy has the house I want to buy. How come his grandfather left it to him?" So the big mountain stands in the way and the hells tell us, of course, that the problem is in the world and in other people. The truth, which the Lord alone can tell us, is that the mountain is our love of self and our love of the world.
If you feel the sphere of some negative state in yourself, when it starts to get cold and dark internally, you can imagine that you have just come into the shade of that great big mountain of love of self and love of the world. There is the sun and there is the shadow. You've just come into the shadow. And when something stands in the way you can no longer see your aim. What does the Lord say in the Word? He says, "If you pray, and if you ask, believing, this mountain shall be removed."
There is a tree nearby this mountain and the Lord said if you pray, or ask, believing, this tree will be pulled up by its roots. The tree represents those falsities that support the belief that problems are in the external world, instead of within us from evil spirits. The mountain is the actual love of self, the affections of self and love of the world. So if you pray asking and believing, they will be removed.
The Lord did not say, "You know, if you work long enough on that tree, and if you work hard enough, and if you dig and spend a lot of time, you can get rid of that tree and that mountain." He didn't say that. He said, "If you ask, believing, this mountain shall be removed." That is what the Lord tells us. Only He can remove the mountain. We have to ask, and we have to believe. Then He can remove that mountain and then we can start to see our aim, we can be in the sunlight and feel the warmth, which is our starting to turn towards the perceptions of love to the Lord and love of the neighbor. Then the Work, which is the truth about the situation, that it is not the world in our way, or people in our way, can come through. The only light that tells us that is the Gospel and its esoteric teachings. It enlightens, revealing the truth about the situation. It enlightens our world. That's why we call it "Revelation."
When you find yourself suddenly in an active negative state, one good thing to do is to name the mountain. Immediately you can ask the question, "What love is active in me?"
One day I was sleeping on my porch and some boys decided that a good place to ride their quadrunners was right below my porch. I noticed a very strong reaction come up in me - just a physical, strong negative reaction. I thought, "This is bad." When you say, "This is bad," about a kid, that will tell you that you are in the shade of a mountain. The question is, it is bad in relation to what? To what love? At the time I wanted to sleep. I wanted to sleep. And in relation to my wanting sleep, that quadrunner was bad. Now had the mother been there, and had she just given that quadrunner to the kid for his birthday, and the quadrunner was working and the kid was thrilled, then it would have been good. It would have been good in relation to what? In relation to her desire to make her child happy. The kid thought the quadrunner was good. In relation to what? To his love of having a good time. So, the quadrunner itself is nothing. It is just a motor vehicle. All events are just events.
When you start to have a negative reaction to something, the question is, "This is bad in relation to what love in me?" Now it may be a good love. Say you have a love of helping a child in some way. Someone interferes or hurts the child and then you feel an emotion. "This is bad," you may think. Bad in relation to what? To my love for that child. That's a good emotion, not because it is your child, but because you truly care for that child's welfare.
So, you name the mountain and that is very important. You have done two things when you name the mountain. First of all, you have recognized the situation for the way it is, which means you must be seeing it from doctrine, or seeing truth. You suddenly realize that you are in the shade of a mountain of self-love and love of the world. That is a different state from someone who's identified and really believes that the problem is those kids on the quadrunner. Then you name it. What love? You start to look for the intentions of your will. What love is active? You are doing work. You are trying to identify something correctly from Revelation. Then, if you identify the active love, you can ask and you can pray, and if you believe, He'll take it away. You will observe that is true.
The mountain is mostly underground because we just see the tip of the mountain. Our love of self and love of the world goes all the way down to the lowest hell. That's why we cannot remove the mountain ourselves. We cannot regenerate ourselves. We can resist evil. The Lord has only allowed enough of the mountain to show so that we can resist committing the evil, but even that may not mean today. It may take years and years before we can resist the evil totally. Maybe there is only part of it we can refuse to do now. But the mountain itself is really in the internal world. We are really attached to the spirits who are attached to the societies in hell. It is in the internal world that the Lord does His work. That's why I say the mountain goes way below man's consciousness. The real Work takes place internally and is from the Lord.
Swedenborg says if you saw the number of hells that are out to destroy you, you would see that it is hopeless. But in His mercy, the Lord holds back all evil except enough to leave us in freedom. He is doing all the work anyway, but we open ourselves to His help by observing our active states and naming the mountain. Realize you are in the shadow and ask, "What love is active? I am upset in relation to what?" You name the mountain and it has an impact. And then, if you care to, pray and ask the Lord that it be removed.
If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and cast into the sea,' it will be done. And all things, whatsoever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive. (Matt. 1: 1,22)
...that man should first will, desire, and pray, and that the Lord should then answer, inform, and do; otherwise man docs not receive anything Divine....Besides, we frequently read in the Word that the Lord answers such as call upon Him and cry unto Him...also, that He gives when asked; and yet the Lord gives them to ask, and what to ask; so that He knows before; still the Lord wills that man should ask first, to the end that he may do it as from himself, and thus that it should be appropriated to him; otherwise, if the petition itself were not from the Lord, it would not be said in those places that they should receive whatever they asked. (Apocalypse Revealed 376)
When you observe a negative state come into you, ask yourself, "What love is active?" (This is bad in relation to what?) Try to identify and name the particular form of the love of self or love of the world that is present in that negative state. Notice how it stands between you and your aim.
For most people, even for educated and thinking people, the chief obstacle to their obtaining the stale of consciousness called Self- remembering lies in the fact that they think they possess it already. They not only think that they arc conscious at every moment and aware of themselves, but they believe that they are conscious of their inner lives also, that they arc fully aware of all the thoughts and emotions that pass through them in a continuous stream. It is evident that a man will not be interested if you tell him about a state of consciousness that he thinks he already possesses. Of all the thoughts and feelings that pass through him mechanically, he is scarcely conscious of one millionth of a part. Yet actually, the state of consciousness called Self-remembering, in which a man is aware of himself and all he sees around him, and at the same time aware of his aim and all the thoughts and feelings passing through him, which come to him in flashes, and can only be made more permanent in him by long and special training. This special training begins with Self-observation. It is only by means of observing himself uncritically, and over a considerable period of time, that man can begin to understand that he does not remember himself, and realizes that most of the time he lives in a dream. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.1)
When I started to be a diving coach I had a very promising young girl student. One of the first dives you learn, and one that is difficult for any new diver, is called the inward dive. Standing backwards on the board, facing inward, the diver jumps off the board and jack-knifes down to the water beneath. The first thing you tell a student attempting to learn it is, "Keep your shoulders in front of your hips, keep your head in front of your shoulders, bring your arms down and then throw your hands right down at the board and push your hips over top." And that's easy to say and they all understand it, and they all listen to it and then none of them do it, because they know if they throw their hands right down at that board, and their head's in front of their shoulders, shoulders are in front of their hips, that their head is going to hit the board. It doesn't matter how many times you tell them otherwise, they know that's going to happen, even though you tell them it won't happen. So, what they do is, they think they're going to do it right, and then they don't do it. They drop their shoulders behind their hips, they throw their hips way back, and then they can't do the dive. And you tell them, "Don't drop your hips back," and they say, "Okay, I intend not to do that," "I plan not to do that," and then they throw their hips back and leave their shoulders back and they can't do the dive.
For three years I talked to this girl every time she tried to do an inward dive. After three years she was able to do certain things, cheating, but she was landing very flat, which hurts a lot. She was very frustrated, and every time she asked me what she should do I told her the same thing I had been telling her for three years. So one day I was observing her on the three meter board and she was different. I could see something happening. She wasn't talking to me, she wasn't looking at me, she wasn't planning her excuses. She was very intent and she was making a decision. She had decided, on faith, to risk her life. It's not easy to do that. In diving you have to do that. And so she went through it and I could see her effort; every bit of her muscle wanted to let one of those previous mistakes happen and she refused. She stood over the board and her hips went up and she spun like a top and she came out about eight feet high and cut the water like a knife. She came up, and when she looked at me she didn't have to say a thing! Understanding happened. When they talk about the marriage of good and truth and the offspring, if you had looked in her face you'd have seen something was born! And that relates to the Work.
Thinking about the Work and knowing about the Work from experience are not the same thing! We have at some point to be willing to sacrifice something very valuable to us, and then it can all come together for us. At a certain point the time for practicing is over. There is an ocean of difference between practicing and doing what you are practicing to do. You have to make a shift. You have to go inside and find out what it is you know, and then do it. That is a very important shift. It is an important shift for athletes, for actors or for artisans; it is a very important shift for anybody to make.
That's what this Work is about, the shift from learning to doing, from knowing to understanding; when you put the menu down and you start to eat the meal. It's a big decision. Once you have made that decision you start to go with something else. You get in touch with something entirely different.
We know from the Gospel that you do not learn your way into heaven. When the young man came to the Lord and said, "I've done everything since my youth. I obeyed all the commandments. What else is there to do?" The Lord said, "Sell all that you have." And the man went away sorrowful. We know that is not about earthly goods. We know that is about the pride of our own intelligence, all the things we know.
It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Of course camels can hold a lot of water - a lot of truth. They are really good in the desert. They can go long distances, much like understanding and knowledge. You can accumulate large amounts of that. It can be useful when things are difficult. But it's not easy to get through the eye of a needle. The shift has to take place. All those things are necessary but at some time you have to go sell them.
In Heaven and Hell it speaks about innocence, about the willingness to obey and to be led; the willingness to recognize that all we know is nothing unless it is from the Lord. All we do is not from ourselves. So that shift is a very important one. David turned down the armor when he went to kill Goliath. He went and got five smooth stones, and he only needed one to kill Goliath. It only took five loaves of bread to feed the five thousand.
You always come back to some very simple truths. It sounds very complex: there's Self-remembering, Self-observation; you have the interior man, and you have the interior of the exterior. You have all these things, but that's not it. None of that knowledge is going to get you into heaven. The scribes and Pharisees did not earn their way into charity by all they knew. They had to give that up. They had to be willing to change and become poor in relation to something. That shift had to take place. The Lord talks about innocence. He talks about His burden being light. He talks about the need of coming to Him, and that He stands at the door and knocks. If you want to, come in, but a change has to take place first. What is the door that stands in the way? What is that shift? What has to happen?
We have to become passive to certain things, like our proprial states and love of self. We have to start to let go of these things in us. We also have to start to let go of a certain knowing we have, as if we know how to get to heaven. Let go of knowing about it. Let go of thinking about it. Start to experience it. Make a place for the experience to happen.
You cannot effort yourself into regeneration. You cannot learn your way into regeneration. You can only learn to allow the Lord to regenerate you. Allowing the Lord to regenerate you is something that is an experience. The Word asks, "Who among you if your son asks for bread would give him a stone?" Well, if we asked the Lord for the experience of love to the Lord and love to the neighbor, would the Lord give us theories? No. He's not going to give us theories. He's going to give us that experience. And that is what we want to start to feel. That's the shift. It's like explaining what a mango tastes like. No one can explain it, but you can stop looking for it in your mind, you can stop looking for it in the books. You can start to look for it within your experience. Many people miss the fact that the first coming happened, that Jesus came. They were waiting for Jesus to be born the Savior and they missed it. They missed it because it wasn't what they expected. It didn't come the way they had wished it. It didn't clean up their external world. It didn't solve their external problems. So they said it didn't happen and that He was a liar, and they killed Him!
What are we looking for? What experience are we waiting for? How do we envision this change, this regeneration? Are we looking somewhere where it's not going to be? Are we waiting for an experience that has already happened? He says, "Phillip, how long have I been with you and you don't know who I am? I am the Father."
The experiences are there. There are experiences available to us. There is manna. We may not be in the promised land but there is manna every morning. Those states are available, but we can't store them up or they won't taste good. We can only have them when they are given. Nicoll says:
Sometimes, merely looking out externally, at the heavens at night, at the myriad of stars, produces a momentary state akin to Self-remembering. It does this by withdrawing us from our personal feelings. Everything that takes force away from our personality may bring about a trace of Self-remembering. If we are identified with the reactions of our personality and at the same time we try to Self- remember, we will find it is impossible." (Nicoll, Com. Vol. I)
The serpent is referred to in the Word in the present tense. It doesn't say the serpent "deceived" the world, it says the serpent "deceives" the world. The serpent, or snake, is that part of us that believes in the external world; that the external world causes our anger, the external situation causes our frustration, and that the problems are in the external world. The snake tries to convince us that those appearances are true. The snake has two big front fangs, and they are called love of self and love of the world. That's what I call them, and underneath these fangs he also has two other teeth, which he uses to hold his victim down, and they are called blame and criticism. If you'll notice, that relates to neighbors.
The Lord said we should love our neighbor as our self, but that's hard to do if we are blaming and criticizing him or her constantly. We need to yank the bottom teeth out of the serpent. All you have to do is give up all blame and criticism.
They tell people who do montras and meditation, to do this: as soon as you find you aren't meditating, meditate. Or to stop internal dialogue: every time you are having one inside yourself, just stop it. Pretty soon you find you have it again. Just stop it again. You don't get upset. You don't get anxious. You just stop. Then you'll find you have it again because you forgot about it, and as soon as you realize that, you stop it again.
As soon as you realize you are doing internal criticizing or blaming someone, you stop it. If you don't realize you're doing it, of course you can't stop it. If you realize you have done it, don't feel bad about that! But when you realize you are doing it, internally stop thought. Stop that dialogue - the one gabbing on in your head - dead in its tracks for as long as you remember to stop it. As soon as you forget, well, then you can't stop it, can you? As soon as you realize you forgot - you stop it again. It is simple and you are curbing internal blame and criticism.
I saw a play last night. You could say good things about the play; you could say bad things about the play. You could say good things about the costumes; you could say bad things. You could say good things about the lights; you could say bad things. I went to a church supper. I sat down with some people. The comment was the meat was tough. Well, that was true. The meat was tough. There's lots of other things they could have said. That is a speck in the eye that shuts out the entire universe! One little speck that shuts out the entire universe. It's criticism. If you can see the amount of effort people go to to do good things in this world and all they get is criticism, it will amaze you. These are not people committing crimes. These are not people raping, killing or plundering. They are taking their time to put on a church supper and what do they get? "The meat's tough." If you observe criticism you will find there is a speck of dust that is blocking out the entire universe of the Lord's love coming through to you from other people. So, observe your criticism and you'll see when He talks about removing the plank from your eye why He wants it out of there. Then you'll see clearly.
You might read in the paper that someone was grabbed off the street, taken into a back alley, tied up, handcuffed, and when they were totally helpless, they were abused and assaulted in various ways. Perhaps they were tortured and that might disgust you. Imagine getting someone in a helpless state and then doing that sort of thing to them! That is repulsive.
Well, the Work says that when you drag someone out of the external world into your head, and you start to beat them in arguments that they could never win in person or you're telling them off like you'd never tell them off, or you talk about them or abuse them, make yourself better and them worse, in a you-win-they-lose situation inside your head, that's what you are doing. You're taking someone into an alley of your mind where they are totally helpless, and then you abuse them, assault them and take advantage and do whatever you want with them. Of course in the internal world, you're really doing that! But the serpent tells us since it's not happening in the external world, we don't need to worry about it. We think it's okay. We think at least we are not the kind of person that would talk behind someone's back, or that would really assault anybody. And as long as the serpent has our attention out here, we believe that is true. The belief in the illusion that the external world is where it's at, believing the serpent, is the beginning of man's fall.
So blame and criticism are these two teeth. When you find yourself making internal negative pictures or having an internal dialogue blaming and criticizing people, you can be sure that the serpent, love of self and love of the world, has pinned somebody against your bottom teeth of blame and criticism. You have someone held there without good cause, so watch it!
Give up all blame and criticism of the neighbor for one week. When you experience criticizing, just drop it. See what impact this task has on your relation to the person you were criticizing. You may catch yourself right in the middle of saying something critical about someone. Don't worry about appearing silly - just drop it.
We start with a quote from Nicoll:
The question put to Mr. Ouspensky is, Is there some way in which I could be helped to want to work? His answer is, But who will do that for you? Especially if only one T is interested. Don't dream about things you cannot do. Nobody can help you to want to work. You must want yourself. And you must do what you can. In this way your wanting will increase. But if you don't do what you can, you will lose even that which you have. If you do what you can you will want more and more. How can we increase the power of the Work? Only by working. There is no other way. If you learn to make small efforts, it will give you small results. If you make bigger efforts you will get bigger results. How can we do anything if we don't give any energy to it and if we don't give any time to it?
The question is: Can one store energy? The answer is, Yes, it is absolutely necessary. All the future depends on this. But you cannot begin to think about storing energy before you learn to stop leaks. There is no question of not being able to stop leaks. We spend our energy in the wrong ways, on identification, on negative emotions, all considering, lying, idle talk, and expression of negative emotions. These are open taps from which our energy runs. They must be stopped.
You must understand that many things which you ascribe to external causes are really in you. Take fear for instance. Fear is independent of things. If you are in a state of fear you can be afraid of an ashtray. You are frightened and then you start to choose what to be afraid of. You bring yourself to a state of envy, jealousy, fear, or so on, then you start to look for subjects. If one has the realization of being asleep...there is no "if." If is already a dream. All dreams begin with "If." Try to think about this.(Nicoll, Com. Vol.I)
I want to talk to your right brain for a minute. Do you remember the old Greek myth? Once there was a stable and a worker whose job it was to remove all the manure from the stable. He'd go in every day with his wheelbarrow and he knew just what to clean. He wouldn't have to clean everywhere, he'd just have to clean where the horses were. And every day he would fill his wheelbarrow and he would work all day long every day. The problem was, there were so many horses that they could produce more manure than he could shovel out in a day. So every day he went in, the job got bigger, no matter how fast he worked or how long he worked. Perhaps you know the rest of the story; he had to use a flood of water from the nearby river to clean out the stable. The river cleaned the parts of the floor that were already clean, and it cleaned the parts that needed to be cleaned. It cleaned the walls, and the roof, it cleaned the old hay out, the new hay, and the horses. It cleaned everything, and the worker's life was much better.
Let's pretend that I wanted some glasses cleaned. I gave a dirty glass to Ned and another to Paul to have them get the job done. Have you seen glasses come out of the dishwasher? The glasses are speckled if you don't use that liquid that makes them clear and spot free, all over, you know? Until then they are supposed to be clean but they aren't. Anyway, pretend Ned said, "Oh, I get the idea, but I'm not going to waste my time cleaning the clean part of the glass....I'm only going to wash the specks!" So, he would wash a speck but he wasn't going to waste any time cleaning a spot between this speck and that speck. Paul on the other hand, just grabbed the glass, put it in the dishwater, took a rag and wiped it, took it out, rinsed it, held it up and saw that it was clean! But he didn't waste a lot of time, because he cleaned all the parts of the glass that were already clean, whereas Ned was still hunting carefully for those dirty spots far into the night.
Our formatory mind often wastes our time. You can tell which part of you is the formatory, lower mind, because it always says, "Yes, but...." The formatory mind will "Yes, but..." you to death. You could say something like, "You should never express negative emotions," or "You should never express anger," and the formatory mind will say, "Yes, but what if someone took their car and ran over my brand new dog?" You have to think about that. Or you could say, "You should not feel anger." Then someone says, "Yes, but what about zeal? There is such a thing as zeal, I read about it once." The formatory mind would ask that and you could think about that for awhile. But the truth is, the formatory mind doesn't really care. It has no interest whatsoever in any of those answers. It isn't even interested in the question. It is just interested in piping up, because it wants to have its say and it will always want to have its say, but it is totally useless in regard to spiritual work. If you work with your formatory mind, you will spend your life with a wheelbarrow and you will spend a lot of time cleaning only the dirty spots on the glass!
But there are simpler ways. When the Work tells you, "Never express a negative emotion," just never express a negative emotion. That's simple. A simple truth. Now you may think, "Yes, but I'm going to miss some things that would be okay to express." Don't worry, they will be given back at the end. You will get them all back. There are other things in the Work that are similar.
Do you know there are angels who can actually look at someone and distinguish the good in that person from the evil in that person and they can love the good? There are angels who can do that. There are also angels that can actually experience something called zeal from good affections. A lot of angels are like that.
Consider the phrase, "First remove the beam from your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." Let's say you could and you did take a course in that subject. You could take psychology or something else, but let's just say you took this phrase as a course, in itself, from kindergarten through eighth grade, from eighth grade through high school, high school through junior college and junior college all the way through masters, studying the phrase, "First remove the beam from your own eye." They wouldn't even let you know about the second phrase, they wouldn't even hint that there was such a phrase. Now when you started your doctorate in that phrase, if you had not only understood it, but had started to live it, then they would mention that there is part of it that says, "then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your neighbor's eye."
Now I wonder. Do you suppose that a man who is identified with his proprium and love of self, and love of the world, do you suppose that man can actually distinguish between the good and the bad in his neighbor? Do you suppose a person who is totally identified with negative emotions that are active and is expressing them, could feel zeal? Do you think that would be possible? There is a saying: "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." In our Work, go ahead and throw the bath water out - the baby hasn't even been bom yet! Your bath water is too dirty!
Everything that we do in the Work comes together around External consideration. It is a matter of love of self versus love of the neighbor. Love of the neighbor or External consideration is what it is all about. In the Old Testament we have the Laws of Moses, the Ten Commandments, and so forth. In the New Testament the Lord says, I teach you two commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself." That's it. "On this hang all the Law and the Prophets."
So all the Work and everything in the Writings hangs on loving the neighbor. You may say love of the Lord is primary, but the Lord continues to tell you, "If you have done this to the least of My people, you have done it unto Me." If you love your neighbor, you love Me, He says. So, we focus on the neighbor knowing that the reason we are doing that, which takes conscious effort and attention, is because we wish to do what the Lord tells us to do. Doing it is a form of love to the Lord.
We need to practice External consideration in everything we do. For instance, can a person who has never observed the true nature of his proprium in himself love the neighbor? No. He thinks he loves the neighbor, but if he observes long enough he will find that he only loves himself in the neighbor, or he loves the neighbor loving him. That is what he will find out if he observes. If he doesn't observe, he thinks he loves the neighbor. He doesn't love the neighbor. Can you be identified with your proprium, with its love of self and love of the world, and love your neighbor? No, you can't. Because then the proprium is active and the proprium can never love the neighbor. It hates the neighbor! It can't do both.
So you may ask, "What don't I, or shouldn't I, identify with?" There are a thousand different 'I's not to identify with, because they are all self (or proprium). Can a person express negative emotion and love his neighbor? No, you can't be expressing negative emotions and loving your neighbor at the same time, it is impossible. Can you be caught up in your suffering and self-importance and love your neighbor? No, you have to sacrifice self-importance and suffering because if you don't sacrifice those you can't love your neighbor. Can you be actively attached to your loves and desires and love your neighbor? No, you have to be passive to your self.
The Work says you must make your self nothing. You must observe your self, and you must then not identify with your self. You must become passive to that self, and must make it absolutely nothing and not express things from the self. Then you start to make the glass clean so that something brand new can happen -something that only the Lord can infill, something which is His love for the neighbor, in you, as if it was your love. He is not going to change your love. He is going to give you something brand new. But He says that is not going to happen like putting new wine in old bottles. You are going to have to have a new form and a new will. And you have to get a new way of new thinking, new ways of approaching the new state. Everything of self must become passive. He tells us a man must sacrifice his life to find it. You have to die to find this new life. What dies? Everything we've been talking about in the self. Everything we've observed has to become passive, has to die. We start to be passive to the evil. It is in the self (i.e. proprium), but we don't go with it. We don't make it part of us. We see it's not part of us and we ask the Lord to remove it and replace it with something brand new called love to the neighbor.
All the Work is in context, or relationship, to our neighbor. You will observe that most negative emotions have to do with human beings. If they don't, you will relate it to a human being. You are driving down the road and you hit a pothole. You will blame either the state, the road, the federal government, the guy who built the car, or the guy who made the creosote. Somebody has to be blamed for this pothole, because we look for the neighbor to blame. We feel we are Number One. We are King, the center of the universe, and other people are all below us! We have to reverse that order. And that is what the Work is all about.
So we have the old will and we have the new will. You don't have to worry too much about what we'll do when we have the new will. When the new will comes, you will see clearly what to do - but a lot of people clearly want to see before they can see clearly! We want to see before we have the done the work that allows us to truly see.
If we were our proprium and there was no possibility of a new will, then there would be no point in doing any of this work. But because the Lord separated the will and the understanding, and made it possible to implant a new will through our understanding, that makes it all worth while. You can see the part that is your proprium, and the nature of your proprium, which is never going to change. That proprium is in touch with societies in hell, groups of evil spirits whose very life is love of self and love of the world. But the fact that you can start to separate from it, not be active, but be passive to it, allows the Lord to start the process of implanting a new will - and love of self and the world is not what will delight it. It will be delighted with something entirely different. So, the fact that you can see "IT" is from hell and not identify with it and know that 'IT' is that way, rather than thinking and feeling, "I am that way," is good. It should not be upsetting to you.
The Writings tell you the proprium is that way. The Work tells you 'IT' is that way, so it shouldn't surprise you. You will just find out like the woman in the Word where the Lord told the woman everything about herself. The Lord tells us all about ourselves and you will observe that what He says is true. Don't worry about it. You have no need to be attached to that proprium. You have no need to justify it, or feel guilty for it, or be upset by it. You just need to notice that this is the way your proprium is.
You don't have to make extra efforts to be miserable. There is enough provided. There is plenty of Work, because it doesn't take much to make the proprium miserable. Just the wrong kind of pillow (a foam rubber one rather than a goose down pillow) does it. Now the guy in a cell, in a prison in Vietnam probably wouldn't care, but my proprium, it cares.
Patience. The Lord asks us to have patience and He really, seriously means it. Be patient. He is doing it. Constantly, He is doing it. All the time you are observing things and thinking nothing good is happening, He is doing everything inside. He is purifying your internal man. He does ask us to desist and not do certain things when we are capable of not doing those things. And there are things that we are not capable of desisting from yet, but we are capable of starting to see that they should not be done. And someday in the future we will have the possibility of desisting from these things as well. But today may not be the day.
So, the frustration you feel is something you observe, and you start to be passive to it. And then you start to become patient and you trust in the Lord to lead you through states, and you have that new relationship instead of wanting to regenerate on your own, which is impossible.
The Work says: "Man cannot do, but he must do what he can."
from it, speak from it or act from it, which is to express it. (Remember, 'IT' is not you.)
In the Word it says, "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven," and it also talks about not setting your heart on the things of this world..."for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
If we start to notice the things that we look forward to, nourish, hope for, visualize in pictures, and start to plan for, we will see how we set our heart on them. When you buy the tickets for a game you may have a picture of being entertained. Probably even before you bought the tickets you had a vision. So that love starts to get nourished way before you get to that game or show or whatever. You may notice that a lot of that pertains to love of the world and love of self. When you nourish those loves and then when they don't get their way, don't be surprised if they are pretty healthy and tough.
Let's say you decide, "I'm going to go to the basketball game," and you just have the decision, but you hold it lightly, rather than intensely. Just "I think I will go." Then when you start to visualize how wonderful it will be, you just let that thought go by, you don't put your heart into it, you don't put your affection into it. You just hold it as a possibility, instead of putting your heart into it. It either will happen or it won't happen. There will be a lot of temptation to grab hold of that, but if you can continue to hold it lightly as something that may happen, then if you suddenly find yourself in a traffic jam, and the game is starting, it won't grab you so hard. It is very difficult if you let that love get very healthy and then find out three blocks before you get to the stadium that the game is starting and you hear the opening shots over the radio. At that time it is a little late to start to work on it. The point is to start the Work earlier and earlier.
A lot of times people think, "There is no problem in my life until there is a problem." However, if things all went well you wouldn't have noticed that you had been feeding negative states, because they wouldn't have appeared negative. You would have gotten to the ball game, it would have been great, you would have had a wonderful time. It is only when something stops us, or steps in the way that we see our nature. Start to observe the beginning of a negative state, love of the world or the love of self and then watch what happens.
The Writings say very clearly we are allowed to enjoy the things of this world. But they also say very clearly don't set your heart on them, because that's not the way they are meant to be held. We have to reverse the order of the way we hold things. The whole Work is to change that order.
What we are noticing now is that the order in which we hold things is in disorder. There is no reason to be upset about it or depressed or guilty. It is just important to notice when they say we are upside down men or inverted, that we are here to wake up and know that means us, rather than "them" or somebody else. We notice that the Writings are talking about the truth about us. We also notice the Writings are telling us about stages that we are going through which will change if we co-operate. So there's nothing to worry about.
Perhaps you have a love of controlling others. Many people do. Love of controlling others always gets outraged if it doesn't get its way. Love of dominating is the head of the beast. So perhaps you have a love of controlling others that gets outraged and then it creates something that looks true and feels good. It feels right. So, what is it? You buy it to a degree, don't you? What is it that you buy? Ask yourself what is the falsity about it?
I am talking about the nature of evils we make our own. It says we have propriums, and we have evils we make our own. My picture used to be: if I go out and steal, and become a really good thief and love it, that will be an evil that I have made my own. But it's not like that. The Writings make it very clear that the evils you have made your own are those things that you have come to think are true and believe are good. Those are the ones that you have made your own.
You have to come through a long process until you start to observe that they (the things you have come to think are true and feel are good) are not good and everything that justifies them is false. But as long as we hold them as good and true, then they not only are made our own, but we cannot be separated from them. So when you catch yourself, when something sounds true and seems good, you will notice that you cannot give up the manifestation of that particular behavior. As long as you think there is something true about it and it feels right, you have to express it because good and truth married have an offspring. They strive to manifest an act. The offspring is the act. So, as long as you think it is true and good, there's going to be that striving to manifest, because that is what good and truth do. The evil and falsity of a negative state do the same thing, so you have to find the falsity there. If you find the falsity, the alliance dissipates, or if you find the evil, it dissipates. So you have to consciously try and find what is false about it. And when you find the falsity then you will feel this feeling in your chest that wants to do the evil, suddenly die. Just poom - like popping a balloon - it will suddenly die. It will dissipate. So, try and find the falsity.
The other thing you'll find is, you don't want to find the falsity! You really don't want to find the falsity because of the state you're in. Remember, it is not you. 'IT' is the hells that are operating through you or the society that you are in. They depend for their life on manifesting through you. They don't want you to discover who they are. It is like Rumpelstilzkin, if you name him, he's furious, because all of a sudden his power is gone. The hells continually strive to take your attention away, to divert your attention, to make you think about something else to support the arguments, "yes, but,..." and so forth. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and concentration to keep looking for the falsity involved. Of course the heavens are with you, and they'll try to help you do that, but unlike the hells, they aren't actively encouraging by yelling at you. Angels try to lead you very gently, so it's a very different relationship. Don't feel bad, just see 'IT' for what it is.
If you see an evil in yourself and you say, "This is a love of controlling others," that is a tremendous statement. Now if you say, "This is love of controlling others and I shouldn't feel the love of controlling people because the Lord said it is bad," that is a misunderstanding. The Lord never said you were capable of feeling anything else yet. But you are capable of seeing that it is a love of dominating rather than justifying it. For example: You may say, "That car should be mine. I was the first to bid on it!" That is entirely different than saying, "I bid on that car first," and observing in yourself the love of dominion going on. Now somewhere down the line you might be able to say, "It's okay, let the other man have it." But maybe now you can't say that yet. But maybe the man next to you thinks it is good to dominate. He just went through assertiveness training. He may say to his wife, "Dear, I just did the most wonderful thing. I went and got the car. I didn't deserve it, but I yelled louder and made myself known and I got my way. This assertiveness training really works! This is wonderful stuff." You on the other hand, may come back having gotten the car, and you pray and say to yourself, "I wonder how long it is going to take for that love of controlling others in me to be made passive by the Lord." That is an entirely different attitude. Both of you did exactly the same thing externally and if someone was watching he wouldn't have seen a bit of difference in the behavior. The difference is on the inside. You are co-operating with the Lord who is working on you internally. Your externals may be the same for a long, long time.
The first time someone starts to notice a negative trait in himself, it is there all the time, and it is right in front of his face, and it is intolerable. But there is a change eventually in that relationship. In regard to Non-identification or becoming passive to it, there is a distance that starts to be created that makes it a little more bearable. When you learn to not identify, and you realize firmly that it is doing the damage, the state becomes more bearable. It is like all the kids here in the living room yelling and screaming versus them up in their room yelling and screaming. You still hear them and you still notice it but you are getting some distance. Like raising kids. You aren't going to have two-year olds in diapers all the time. You think they'll be in this stage forever, but they won't. There is going to be a relationship change.
Observe and you may come to see something that I know nothing about, but if you can learn that this negative is something you want to get away from in the future, it wasn't a mistake for it to have been present. It is like skiing and falling. The falling wasn't a mistake. That was where you learned how to stay up the next time. Had you not fallen there you may have fallen when a tree was in front of you. It may be very good that this was the time that you fell. So, you hold the Work differently than a child holds religion. A child may think, "I'm bad and religion says I should be good. I'm guilty" etc. Don't hold regeneration that way. Don't hold the Work that way. That is not the way the Lord is operating. He is teaching you something but he is not Dying to make you feel bad.
In all the negative states that you are stressed about, and in observing all the evil in yourself, I just want to encourage you. Don't feel overwhelmed or worried. At this point it's observation that is needed and you may observe that you feel overwhelmed or worried. You may have a negative reaction. What are you going to do about that? You observe the negative reaction. Just observe, "That is a negative emotion." Then you may have a negative emotion about having a negative emotion and you observe that! And it is endless. It goes from the tip all the way down to the lowest hell. And with anything you observe -'IT' is not you, so don't identify with it.
But there is a responsibility in regard to all of it, and any of it. You are responsible to start participating in the process of having Self become passive and the essence, or the Lord's new will which the Lord is building up in you, become active. You are responsible to co-operate in that process. And the first step is to learn to observe what you are doing, by self observation. The Word says, "Watch. Awake!" The Lord is always working. He will help you.
We must be patient. Spiritual growth is a gradual process. The Lord is building a new will in us, taking us to the promised land, not all at once but gradually, and only with our co-operation.
There are temptations of thought and there are temptations of will. If you are waiting for the thought and it is a temptation of the will - you are in bad shape! The train has run over you and you are wondering if the train is coming. It is too late! Then there are temptations where you can predict it coming. You can sense and do things and so forth, and it won't take you over. There are others, which take you over for years and years before you are able to separate from it with the Lord's help. Either way, the Writings indicate emotions or affections actually start the process:
Affections produce thoughts, but thoughts do not produce affections;they appear to produce them, but it is a fallacy. Since affections produce thoughts, they also produce all things of man, because they are his life.(Apocalypse Explained 1175)
It seems that thoughts produce emotions because we can have an effect on our emotions by right thinking (if we do it early enough before the emotion is too strong for us.) But our inward affection receives and arranges all incoming impressions (including thoughts) according to the society of the spiritual world that we are associated with at the time. That is why we can take as an insult, in one state of mind, what we might interpret quite differently in another state of mind.
So we face different temptations along the way. And when you see that mountain of love of self and love of the world that we have talked about, you pray to the Lord, you beg the Lord for help, you ask Him to remove it and so forth. And He may remove it, and He may not, depending on what's best for you at that time. It is not like once you identify it and say, "Okay, Lord, take it away," that it will go at once. There is a time when if you ask, He will do that. Let's say in the whole process that point in time is like a dot somewhere on a continuous line. The process earlier, from the beginning of the line to that point, during which He isn't taking it away, that too is an orderly process. It doesn't look like it, because it looks like you are giving in to it all the time, but you haven't gotten to the state where the Lord is going to take it away from you yet. But that does not mean you aren't making progress!
Children learning to ride a unicycle never feel as if they are making any progress. You just continue to fall. There appears to be absolutely no progress. You jump on it and you fall. And you jump on it and you fall. And you jump on it and you fall, until one day you jump on it and you don't fall! It is just that way. A lot of evils are that way. You don't feel you are making any progress until you suddenly have a discrete degree change. From hindsight you look back and see that some progress was being made all along the way. The hells try to discourage you; "this is useless, there is no point in doing this, you might as well just give in," etc. It is just a bunch of lies they tell you! If you stop getting on the unicycle then the falling and the learning stop. Defining is good. And the Lord is always working. He is always making progress. But you can't always see the effect immediately.
The changes taking place that are beyond man's awareness are compared to impregnation, gestation, birth, and growth. That is regeneration. But there are years that go by and you don't see anything happening. The main thing is to observe your states, where they are coming from, and do not be disappointed. Do not let the hells frustrate you. Remember, the Lord is always working. He has your eternal welfare in mind every moment of your life and He is in control of the smallest detail of it, as well as the universe at large.
Hold things lightly. Give up trying to control a situation or people. Instead of setting your heart on the way you want something to go, just hold it lightly and accept what is. See what happens.
This is a short story. The first part of the Work is about observing, but you can't do anything about what you are observing, which is a frustrating feeling. You may want to "do" and you may even ask the Lord to let you "do" but He doesn't seem to listen to you. He said He would but He doesn't seem to. It doesn't seem right. That is what this story is about.
There were two fellows, Charlie and John. Charlie was about 5'4" and a muscular little guy. He grew up on the streets and fought a lot, was tough and mean in a way, but he also had a good personality, and was an intelligent fellow and a good friend. Then there was John. John was 6'7, weighed 383 pounds, did a lot of Golden Glove boxing and had a black belt in Karate. He was the kindest man you'd ever want to meet and gentle as a lamb.
Now Charlie and John used to hang around together and they were very good friends. John had noticed, however, that one trait his friend Charlie had which he didn't like was arrogance. Charlie was arrogant and was the kind of guy that if you pulled up too close to his car, he'd jump out and say, "What're you doing? You want to fight? Come on, I'll fight you!" He'd even say it to big guys, and he scared a lot of big guys. They thought this little guy must know something, so they didn't want to bother with him. No one ever confronted him, so his arrogance and his irritation and his aggressiveness continued. Other than that he was a real nice person.
One day Charlie and his big friend John were at the park, hanging around, and John got interested in one of the games going on in the park. Just then these two guys who had just gotten out of prison after doing 17 years, came along and they liked to fight a whole lot, were more than happy to fight. So little Charlie ran into them and started his act. "Hey, apologize to me. You bumped me. If you don't apologize you're in trouble! You want to fight?" And those guys just out of prison were about to give him a fight when John appeared. John said, "Hey, look what they've got over here," and the rough guys looked, and seeing John, they just left. When Charlie saw them leaving he was even more convinced that they thought he was a tough guy, and calling after them he said, "That'll show you! That'll show you!"
Later, in another place, Charlie and John were walking down the street in a bad neighborhood. A couple of bikers were there, and John walked into a store. The bikers came over and pulled their bikes close to Charlie's car.
Charlie said, "Get those bikes out of there! I don't like you being that close! You might scratch my car! And I can't open my door! Hey, why don't you step up here?"
One of the bikers stepped up and said, "Yeah, I'll fight you!" and he took out a chain and wrapped it around his knuckles. Another guy took out a knife and said, "Yeah, we're ready for you! Come on...."
Charlie began to experience pain and then fear for the first time. That was a new feeling for him. The bikers began coming closer to him. Charlie said, "Wait you guys, look... It's not that important to me, I don't care. You didn't scratch my car. Never mind."
Now just as Charlie was half finished saying this, John came out of the store behind him. The bikers looked at John and left. And Charlie, not having seen John behind him, thought, "Geez, not only am I tough guy, I'm a good talker. I can really talk my way out of things!"
The next time they were at a park fishing, the same circumstances and the same thing happened. Except this time, John took a little longer to get there. And Charlie got all the way down to, "Please! Please!! Don't hurt me! You don't need to hurt me. I'm just a guy who has a family and...Please leave me alone."
Just then they saw John and they beat it. Charlie thought, "Geez, not only am I tough, and a good talker, but I can even manipulate these guys. I'm all right!"
Well, the last time came around. It just happened that John had seen the last two encounters and he knew what happened to Charlie. So, this last time, Charlie and John were fishing. Two big tough guys came up and started a whole thing up over again. This time the tough guys finally got their chains out.
This time Charlie was down there and he was begging, "Please! Please! I"m nothing! Look, I'm not a tough guy! I'm nobody. Honest, I"m no good. I just pretend to be tough! I'm not that way...Please, please! John! I'm scared! John! Help me! Help me!! John, where are you? Help! I need help!"
Just then John stepped out. The tough guys left.
Charlie said, "John, where were you? I was yelling for you! Why didn't you come sooner? Where were you?"
John said, "I was there the whole time!"
Charlie said, "What do you mean, you were there the whole time?"
"I was there the whole time!" John said.
Charlie said, "Well why didn't you help me?"
John said, "I did help you. Think about it."
From that day on Charlie was a different man. He was a gentle man. He was a humble man. He had really changed. Something had changed in him. It had been a very valuable experience for him. John was a good friend and had helped him out a whole lot.
There is another story that is really short. It is about another way the Lord helps us feel some self-worth or the "as of self."
There was this man who thought he was worthless, thought he couldn't do anything. He felt he had nothing to contribute to life. He had his job, but he had a job just like everybody else. If he was fired, somebody else could take that job. He had a family like everybody else. He didn't feel very important. He was 48 years old. He had never done anything really significant in his life. So he didn't feel very valuable. He felt useless and worthless.
One day he went fishing. Sitting right beside him was a little kid, a 6 year old boy. Beautiful little kid, innocent and wonderful. And it was a brand new experience for the man, fishing with this little boy. So he helped the boy learn how to fish, how to let out the line, and how to count while you let the line down so that when you catch a fish you'll know where the school of fish is. He took him out in the boat and taught him how to bob the sinker up and down and catch flounders. He spent the day with the boy and came to like him a whole lot.
When they were coming in there was a storm-watch out and waves were getting big and beginning to pour over the front of the boat. There was real danger. They could even see ships starting to capsize, people starting to swim.
The man had told the boy he wasn't much of a swimmer. "I can't really swim, " he said when they had talked about it, "I'd be lucky to save myself."
The boy couldn't swim at all. But the man had said, "Don't worry. You're fine. This is a big ship. You don't have to worry about that."
So, they were coming in and they could see that on the dock stood the big guy who had been the lifeguard for years. The man and the lifeguard had known each other for years, in fact they were good friends. The lifeguard had been doing his job for so long that he could throw the life belt right to you no matter where you were. You wouldn't even have to swim for it; he would throw it right to you. He not only knew the man who had been fishing with the boy, he knew the whole background of his life and he understood where the man was emotionally.
The lifeguard saw the boat start to tip over and saw that they were trying to swim the best they could. The man was flailing around in the rough water and the boy was about 10 feet away. The lifeguard took the life preserver and was about to throw it to the boy, and then he changed his mind. He threw it so that it landed a few feet away from the boy. The little boy couldn't reach the buoy but he was trying awfully hard. Then the man swam over and just pushed it toward him and the boy's hand went on it. And as the boat went by the man pulled himself and the boy into it.
The man felt different from that day on. He felt different about doing the little things in life, different about the little things he had done in life. He felt altogether changed.
When people praised him, the man said to the lifeguard, "I didn't do anything."
The lifeguard said, "Yes, you did. You saved that boy's life."
"No," the man said, "all I did was just push the life preserver an inch or two toward him."
The lifeguard said, "Yes, that's right, and saved that boy's life."
So the man goes to work every day, and he feels very differently about himself and all the things that he does.
I want to tell you a story about Jake and Harry and faith. Saving faith. Jake and Harry grew up in a small town. Both of their families had summer homes, down off the coast of Carolina. Along that coast of Carolina in the summer time big storms come up; hurricanes, thunder storms, and so forth. When that happens, sometimes you get a flood. Both of the boys had their houses on the peninsula and it can be very serious business. They realized that they really had to learn to swim. Not just because it is a pleasant thing to do, but because both of them had experienced seeing their families threatened. Both had seen people drown in the storms. So they were very serious about it. But they were young.
Now in their small town, fortunately, there was a pool with a swimming instructor and the pool opened early each spring. Jake was privileged enough to be able to go take lessons, but Harry had a job and wasn't able to do that.
So once a week the swimming instructor would take Jake and give him instructions on how to swim. Jake listened as the instructor said, "I'm not going to teach you to swim. I cannot teach you to swim. What I'm going to do is, I'm going to give you information and then I'm going to leave. I'm not even going to take you into the water. I'm not one of these people who go and hold you up, see, and then you think you're swimming. No, I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to talk to you about the nature of the water, and if you learn enough about the nature of the water, eventually you will swim. So each week I'm going to tell you something about the nature of the water."
During the first lesson, he explained, "Water has a certain density. You will find, if you spend some time in the shallow end, and you take your hand and you go like this, and you hit the water, that it stops. That's density. Density is only a word, but if you do what I just told you, you will experience density. You will find that if you put your hands in and push the water, that density will actually cause your body to move forward."
Then the instructor left.
The next week he said, "All right. Now I want to teach you about buoyancy. Buoyancy also is only a word, but if you spend some time in the shallow end, and if you sit there with your knees on the bottom and the water up to your shoulders, and wait, you will suddenly have the experience of buoyancy. You will feel what buoyancy is. It is also displacement. If you take a breath of air you'll find the bigger you get the more water you displace. But these are just ideas and I'm only telling you ideas and things. But if you actually get in the water and you do this, you'll have the experience of what I'm talking about."
Every week the instructor would give Jake one or two things for him to practice. Jake listened and took notes, and he had a lot of books on swimming, but he did not find time to actually get into the water and practice. But he faithfully went to every class.
Harry, on the other hand, would always see Jake after the lesson, at the snack bar, and Harry would ask, "What did the instructor talk about?"
Jake would say, "We talked about density and here's what he suggested we do. We should go out and take our hands and go like this - and then we talked about buoyancy and he suggested we get down and lift our legs up and take a deep breath - later it was talk about push in and breath in , and later it was push out, and breath out, and see the difference - and so on."
Every night, after their conversation, Harry, when it was dark and cold, would climb over the fence and go down to the shallow end of the pool and you could see him doing these strange things that Jake had told him about. He would do it for quite a long time, until he really had the experience.
So it did happen that after several weeks of this they both
went down to the shore. And of course they were both there when the storm came, as everyone expected it might. They were together in the same house and put battens on all the windows and then they went to sleep.
Suddenly, in the middle of the night they heard the storm starting to really pound on the house. They got up to look out the window and saw that the footings were starting to go. The house was starting to collapse and in the distance they saw a rowboat coming.
People were yelling, "Jump! Jump! The house is going to collapse. You gotta get out of there!"
So Jake, who knew all about swimming thought, "This is no problem. I know a lot about swimming." And you could hear him say, "Buoyancy! Buoyancy! Thrust! Thrust!"
As he hit the water you could still hear him say, "Buoyancy! Buoyancy! Thrust! Thrust!"
And you could hear him say that until he drowned.
Harry, who was also in trouble, said to himself, "Oh yeah, I practiced that. If I take in a lot of air I'll float...and if I push the water like this...," and he hit the water with his mouth full of air and he sank down. Tlien he waited for that feeling of buoyancy.
All of a sudden he started to lift. He came up and his head popped out. Then he pushed and he pushed and pretty soon someone grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him into the boat.
His rescuer said, "Thank God you could swim!"
And Charlie got down and thanked God he could swim.
Give yourself a task until we meet again. It can be a task that we have had or one that you make up for yourself, as long as it is a task that has to do with the Work and has a spiritual aim.
Where do you place the feeling of 'I' or the feeling of who you are? Someone can say, "I know I'm angry," but that's not Self- observation, that just means they know they are angry. Your awareness of anger is not Self-observation. In order to make it Self- observation you have to divide yourself in two, the observed side and the observing side, and start to put the feeling of 'I' or who you are, into the observing side.
In a previous class we did some practicing of Self- remembering and you were aware that not only were you here looking at something, but you were aware of yourself being here looking at something, and that took a certain amount of attention. So, in order to be aware right now that you are here, you have to put attention to that. And that is somewhat putting your feeling of 'I' into the observing side. So, let's say the side that you're observing is angry or irritated. That side is very active, that mind is racing, that mind is justifying and rationalizing and carrying on like crazy; it wants to talk, it wants to argue. It takes effort to take the feeling of 'I' out of that and observe it. If you don't take your feeling of 'I' out of that part, you just know you're angry and that's of no value. Everybody else knows you're angry too. So, it takes work and effort to pull the feeling of 'I' out of you. To the degree that you do that you are not identified and to the degree you do that, you will find you don't have to justify and rationalize. You find yourself in a place where you don't care, because the part that you're observing is not you. I've never been able to feel a discrete break, which they say is possible ('IT' is angry, 'IT' is upset) but I have felt like an elongated egg - a big rubber band being pulled back. You really want to slide back into it, but the more effort you can put into not sliding back into the negative state, the more distance you can put between you and it, the more 'I' you can place in the observing side. It might seem that we are doing this only for ourselves, but really it is for others. For a long time, because I knew I was angry or impatient, I thought that knowledge was observing. It is not. Knowledge is just knowing.
In life people are always trying to improve one another, always finding fault with one another. This is quite useless and leads to all endless strife in life. Making oneself passive to a person, and working on oneself to be passive, requires constant inner work on yourself and this, I assure you, can effect change in the other person also, because your work makes room for him to alter. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.I)
In talking about raising children, they need a certain amount of input and if you are just working on yourself it feels like you aren't doing your job. In a lot of degrees if you are working on yourself the impact you have on the child is not visible. But it is there. If you are capable of observing what it would be like if you were responding from your negative emotions, you will see that when working you are providing something different to those people, whether they are family, a friend or a client.
To continue from Nicoll:
You may often say that you are to blame for something, but if someone agrees with you, it is startling! You will feel offended. Yes, we all pretend that we are wrong, but to see it directly and unmistakably, this will cause you pain.
Man must never forget what he is doing in the Work. He must, as Gurdjicff once said, reach a state such that in whatever direction he is twisted or turned, or however badly he is treated, he never forgets the Work and never acts save through the medium of the Work. (Ibid)
There comes a point where you keep wishing that you never heard of the Work, or that the Work would go away. There is not much hope of that. You know you don't want to sense, and you don't want to remember, and you want to just give free reign to these negative states but the Work 'I's that are there get strong enough so that they are not going to let you forget. They may not be active, but there's part of you that will be aware of the need to work. That part will be watching what's going on. And for a long time that's all that can be done. What you want to do is gather the Work 'I's together. They will be observing for a long time, observing the non-Work Ts, and the personality, but once you get the strong- enough Work 'I's together, you are just going to have to Work!
Everything in the Work relates to love of the Lord, but we can only identify it in regard to love of the neighbor. The Lord wants us to love Him through love of the neighbor. So we start to use the neighbor as the standard upon which we judge between Work 'I's and non-Work 'I's. We have good associate spirits and we have bad associate spirits. And it is not as easy as some people think to judge which are which, because what we think is good is often evil, and what we think is true is often false, until we start getting clarification through regeneration.
One way you can start to judge between a Work 'I' and a non-Work 'I' (good spirits and bad spirits) is in relation to your neighbor. You know the quote, "Do unto others as ye would have them do unto you." You could even say, "Do unto others as you would have those others like you to do unto them." If you start to become aware of the thoughts you are having in relation to your neighbor, start to think of whether that neighbor would want you to be having those thoughts. If you start to have feelings in relation to another person, think, would that person want me to be having those feelings? Or, would I want that person to be having those thoughts or feelings about me? If the answer is "no" then you can with fair assuredness say this is not a Work 'I.' This means it is time to work! And the Work will be in relation to those feelings about the neighbor. So we are beginning to come away from a place called love of self and love of the world and starting the journey toward that place called love of the neighbor. That is the point of this trip.
Once you have identified that you are not in love of the neighbor then you can know that you are in need of doing work to start the journey toward being there. Once we wake up and discover that we are still in the slums of Philadelphia, we can begin to pack our bags and get ready to go to Tibet. But we must wake up. It does us no good to be dreaming that we are already there.
So I just identified eight different things in some order, which can aid us in the journey: (1) Self-observation, (2) Non-identification, (3) Non-expression of negative emotions, (4) Sacrificing your Suffering and Self-importance, (5) Becoming passive to one's Self, (6) Making Self nothing, (7) Sacrificing Internal Consideration, (8) Using External Consideration and moving toward love of the neighbor.
I put them in order as if that was the order that you would do them. You may find that you do them in a different order. You may find that you add stages, you may find that certain stages are too similar or you don't need them and that it's not important. What you will find is that all those things will play a part somewhere along the line in your journey from love of self to love of the neighbor, from being active in personality to being active in your essence and your personality being passive. Let's take a more careful look at these aids for the journey:
The Gospel talks about emptying the cup, and not putting new wine in old bottles, and so forth. If we don't do something to change ourselves, if all this negative proprial love is going on, how do you expect to have love for your neighbor? Where is it going to fit? It can't be there. You have to start to empty yourself. That is when loving the neighbor becomes a possibility; when you start to become nothing, when you empty yourself. Then you start to have a brand new feeling and a brand new influx.
So, I put some of the steps in that order and the trip from love of self and love of the world can take these steps that we are talking about. But first is waking up, realizing you're in the slums of Philadelphia rather than being in the slums of Philadelphia dreaming about being in Tibet! And when you wake up you start that whole process of making the trip.
One good task is to do whatever is necessary for you to have good feelings in regard to someone toward whom you may have had impulsive negative reactions in the past. They may have been just quick, fleeting little negative thoughts, surfacing for a moment and then gone. But let's take a more careful look at them.
I believe the little annoyances, little irritations, and little judgments we make are important. They are important because they are only tips of the iceberg. Swedenborg says they go all the way down to the deepest hells. And those little reactions demonstrate who we are because they are the mechanical (proprial) reactions the Work is talking about; they come with no effort and no attention and they show to some degree the level of being that we have, or where we are spiritually. I am not saying they are ruining your life, but they are something you can work on. They say if you want to learn to swim, do so in a quiet lake. The little negative states are the ones to start work on because when a big one comes - when someone drives into your driveway and knocks your garage down, or something - then you've got problems. I encourage you to work on little ones, like when they only bump over your garbage can.
Let's say during the day you were annoyed ten times with little annoyances. There is no such thing as a little annoyance. It means that to some degree you are associated with spirits that you don't really want to be associated with. For instance, in regard to a daughter not cleaning her room: it's not that she's right not to clean her room. It's that your response is what you want to work on. And you may very well tell her to clean her room before she goes out to see her friends. That is not the point. The point is not that messy rooms are good, the point is that the negative response you're having is your Work.
One of you said that one night as you watched T.V. there was a boys' choir singing and in it was a little boy with stringy hair. You realized you were picking something out of the picture to criticize. They were perfect strangers on the T.V. Then you changed it around and thought of how hard he must have worked on his music and how he was just doing something nice for people. You were appalled that your first response (from your proprium, of course,) would be to look for what was wrong with him, then you caught yourself and found it easy to turn those attitudes around.
I think if you ask the Lord, eventually He will give you something - usually one phrase - that will transform everything. Sometimes you have to wait though. They talk about how a speck in your eye can block out the entire universe. All that boy with the stringy hair wanted to do after putting in hours and hours of sacrifice, was to please people, but what did he get? People looking at his stringy hair.
We miss so much of what the Lord wants to give us because we choose to let the hells keep us focused on one thing that is so unimportant. It's really sad. You want to improve and you want people to like you in a good way. Someone goes out of his way to do something nice facing a world where the hells are present and all they think is, "His socks don't match." You might spend twenty- five years developing a skill and you wind up with "the socks don't match." And when you realize that you yourself do that to the world, to the people that are going out of their way for others, then the horror of the situation is evident - what we do to each other. Noticing our thought pattern is important - the way we think about people.
The other thing to consider is a level shift. You allow a level shift, for example, when you find you can tolerate an annoying child by thinking of how the Lord loves that child. That shift is jumping out of life and jumping up to the way things really are at the source, where the Lord our Creator is giving life to our spirit. If you argue on the same level as the formatory mind, "Yes, but...yes but...but," you don't move, whereas if you make a level change, it helps. I think that's why when the Lord Himself was tempted He always talked from the Word. He often said, "Ye hath heard that it hath been said..." He didn't argue on the same plane, He just said things like, "The Creator said...."
When you try to think of something nice that you like in the neighbor, if you can think it from a higher level, in terms of the Work or from how things really are spiritually, that is much more powerful than meeting it on the usual lower level. There is something spiritual going on, and you can look for that and what the good is that is going on there. What can the Lord be doing in relation to this, why is the Lord allowing this child to have this behavior, or what could or might He be doing for that child? If you can discover that good, then there is a quiet that results because the formatory mind isn't going to argue with that.
It is a true shift of levels if you are coming out of the serpent position that the external world is everything, and into the true position that we are only a receptacle and that the Lord's providence is overseeing everything. What's taking place is really within or under the providence of the Lord. So if you're arguing or you're complaining about it, you are not seeing the truth, because He is in charge. If you can't see that, go complain to the Author and Creator. Work does take effort, and it does take consciousness. The Work really is work, but it really works!
One of you told how your eight-year old daughter neglected to tell anyone where she was going when she went out for a walk. That left you unable to go to class or where you needed to go, which brought up a lot of negative response and mulling over the situation for longer than a day. The feeling was that a terrible injustice had been done to you and it was hard to sacrifice your suffering. 'IT' (your proprium) couldn't do what it wanted to do. "IT' couldn't get its way. 'IT' wants what 'IT' wants when 'IT' wants it. If you can start talking about 'IT' (the formatory or proprial mind) then you can start to get a little distance and perspective. You start to see that is the way 'IT' always is! And what you'll find is that often you are made servant to that kind of society. You spent a whole day or more in that company because 'IT' wanted its way, and that's the kind of company you don't need to hang around with! 'IT' makes you miserable being in that state. 'IT' tells you that you have the right to feel negative, mulling things over in negativity, just because you didn't yell at your daughter or scream. Those societies will stick around.
They say, "How about we stick around just because you have a right to have us around? Don't we have the right to talk to you? After all, we agreed with you and couldn't you just have us in for tea?"
When you really shun evil spirits they are gone. Their life depends on you letting them stay around. But who you really are, if you'll notice, is the one who gets the experience of their negativity - the tight stomach, the headache, the shortness of breath or tightness in your chest.
Now if someone said to you, "I can give you those sensations. Do you want them?" You would say, "No!" But you have that sensation in negativity and a part of you feels it has a right to have that feeling. A right to have it? If you want it, you do. You also have a right not to have it, to be free of it. The hells are saying, "We have a right to be here!" And what you, the Real You, may say is, "I have a right for you to get out of here! I have a right to not have you here!"
The Lord doesn't want that negative experience for you. That's why when you start to be objective about it, you will want to get some distance. The hells operating through your proprium are making you suffer. 'IT' is making you suffer.
Another thing to consider is that perhaps the child has a good motive. You get angry and say, "You went off for a walk..." and maybe the child was picking a flower for you, or had some other good motive. So the girl had a good motive and you tell her she was wrong. When you catch yourself just about to do that to a child, it is time to do the Work! All such experiences give you the opportunity to go to work.
Meister Eckhart, who was in prison and hadn't eaten for a long period, said in regard to being sent the right things to work on at the right time, that if you could see what the Lord had in mind for you, you would beg Him not to change a thing, because the Lord is seeing from the eternal - and for your eternal welfare - and for Him to ease your pain in the least would be eternally damaging compared to what He is doing for you.
That, of course, is the truth. So he thanked the Lord every day for being in that prison and asked that He not change a thing, knowing that the Lord knows best. Meister Eckhart is asking that "Thy will, not mine be done," because he is thinking of the eternal, not just of today or of money, and so forth. And that's where the good spirits are thinking from - from the spiritual. They aren't thinking about the natural which they don't even see or care about. They care about what is going on spiritually. So, start to elevate your thinking and try to think from a higher perspective. Make a level shift.
Long thinking. I want to talk about long thinking. Swedenborg says a man should read and meditate on the Word of God. I think long thinking and meditating mean the same thing. Long thinking doesn't come automatically or easily. It takes time and effort.
Let's illustrate by doing some long thinking on familiar phrases from the Word. Take a phrase such as, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," or, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Those are nice short phrases. We say them every day, or if not every day, every week. So, you immediately have an understanding of that. Long thinking - start to really think about that.
When it says, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors," is He saying to forgive our debts, the same debts that we forgive our debtors? Is that what He is saying? Or, is He saying forgive them as we forgive our debtors, like in time, or at the same time. Or, is He saying we just suppose that we do forgive our debtors? Well, since most of us don't forgive, we'd be in trouble if He waited until then. Or, is He saying, if a man has done something against you and you resent him, if you forgive the man, the Lord will take away the resentment. Is that what He is saying? If that was true you'd be forgiven the resentment as soon as you forgave the man, and then you would be free of the hells. Is that what He is saying? I don't know.
So, when you start talking about long thinking, what you are talking about is, not only what does He really mean, but what does it really mean in terms of, if I were going to forgive my debtors, how would I do it? How would I do it tomorrow? Long thinking would actually come up with a solution.
"...as we forgive those who trespass against us." What does that mean to you? How do you go about forgiving when someone trespasses against you? Do you think that the things having gone on in their life cause them to do the very thing you need to forgive, just as things in your life make you behave in certain ways? Seeing things from their perspective is External Considering. What else would you do to forgive someone's trespasses against you? You would have to give up negative expressions about it, wouldn't you? You would have to let go of your negative feelings. What truth would you use to do that? In terms of long thinking you want to get to the actual truth. You want to take something from Revelation and be able to think about it in long application. In the Lord's prayer we tell Him what we are going to do and what we want Him to do; but unless we know what we mean by that, what we actually are going to do during the day and how we are going to go about it, it doesn't have much meaning. So if we are going to forgive someone we better know when we are going to forgive them and how we're going to go about it. Then we formulate an idea of how we are going to do one of the things the Lord has asked us to do.
Now let's do some long thinking about another phrase: "Thou shalt not covet." Okay, I'm not going to covet. Well, first you have to know when you are coveting, then you have to know how you go about not coveting. Are you talking about giving up the thoughts? Giving up the feelings? Then you get the best concepts you can about how you would apply it, and then you go apply it. You'll find it probably wasn't very good, and then you're going to come back and work on it again. At first you may say, "I'm just not going to feel covetousness." Well, that didn't work. You're still feeling it. It didn't go away. Now what do you do with it? Ask yourself, "What am I holding onto, what am I coveting, what am I attracted to so strongly that prevents me from experiencing the Lord's forgiveness in this moment?"
You have to pass from one room into another room. If you have to pass from one room into another it is impossible to do so if you still hold onto something in the first room. We are fastened to many things that prevent us from passing to a new level of being. In the Gospel a person who is very much identified with himself is called a rich man. The Work says that until a man reaches the stage of realizing his own nothingness he cannot change. To begin to realize one's own nothingness as a practical experience is to begin to cease to be a rich man. It is the beginning of ceasing identifying with oneself.
At first everything must be observed passively and placed in the light of consciousness without any criticism. If you have a picture of yourself as always being truthful then you must observe over a long period of time how often you lie. Only this inner realization will destroy the power of the picture with which you have become identified and to which you are a slave. Active man calls himself "I." The passive man is the beginning of the path to real "I." But it is for a long time weak and can do nothing. But as the feeling of T is drawn out of the active man, so does the passive man become strengthened till a time comes when the passive man becomes active and the active man passive."Very few of our thoughts are worth following. And in order to begin to think rightly nearly all the thoughts that casually come into our mind have to be rejected as useless or worse. We are not responsible for our thoughts, but we are responsible for our thinking. You can think a thought or not.
If you can realize practically, that is by experience, that you can be passive to thoughts by not identifying with them, you have already reached a very definite stage on your intellectual center. The activities of the emotional center are far more difficult to become passive to than the intellectual ccntcr. A man can think differently far more easily than he can feel differently. It is quite possible to become passive to many thoughts one has become accustomed to, but it is not the same in regard to spheres or emotions or feelings. The reason is that we are identified with our feelings far more than we are to our thoughts. If we could see plainly our usual emotions we would be horrified, but fortunately, we arc not able to see them simply because we could not endure it. It would drive us mad to see the quality of our emotional life. The Work never allows us to see what we can not bear. Its action is very slow, very gradual, very gentle, but we can see the results of our emotions and this is the starting point. We can see, for example, the people we hurt. You must understand that wakening is a very long process and also a painful process. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.1)
So the Work is showing us gradually, gently, the things we covet, the things we need to let go of before we can pass from one room into another, before we can leave our attachment to lower levels (earth) and enter higher levels (heaven).
As a task I am going to ask you to forgive your neighbor. Take the phrase, "Forgive your neighbor," and come to your conclusions as to what that means to you in experiential terms - applicable terms - how you would apply it and then do it. See if what you think that means now, changes over time from your efforts to do it. It may not. You may have a very clear idea now of how you forgive your neighbor (that's wonderful), or you may not. If you don't, do some long thinking and come to a clear idea of how you would apply that. We want you to forgive your neighbor. So decide how you would do that, and then do it, and see if your thinking on what that means changes through your efforts to actually do it.
We start off with a reading from Bishop George de Charms which seems to be talking about the Work:
A knowledge of the human mind is important to the life of religion. Indeed, if one is to apply intelligently the teachings of the Writings concerning the process of Regeneration on which the New Church is founded, you must seek an ever clearer understanding of the human mind. It cannot be otherwise because the inner world of the mind is the real world in which we live.
The real objects of our world are not the material things in our natural environment, but rather the ideas we have concerning them, the way we feel about them, their significance to us in terms of thoughts and affections. It is commonly supposed that everything we think and feel is produced and determined by physical sensation. Man often believes that if he could completely control his environment, remove everything from it that does not please him, and order the rest at will, he could find peace of mind, contentment and happiness. Through all the ages the illusion that the source of happiness and the cause of unhappiness may be attributed to the material world has been the prime factor of directing the lives of both men and nations. Even those who intellectually recognize that this is an illusion, nevertheless think and act as if it were the truth. This is the case in spite of the fact that the combined testimony of Revelation, reason and daily experience is against such conclusions.
On reflection we cannot fail to recognize that the children and the parents dwelling in the same home live in distinctly different worlds. People observing the same event often receive diverse and opposite impressions. Tastes differ widely and what gives pleasure to one may give pain to another. Things once pleasing may become utterly abhorrent even to the same person, solely because of the change of the mental state. From this it becomes evident that if anyone is to obtain true happiness they must learn to control not only the material environment, but above all the inner world of the mind itself. Nor can this be done intelligently unless the laws that pertain to that realm of the mental life are clearly and accurately understood.
Furthermore, the human mind is the arena wherein alone regeneration takes place. Here is the field of conflict between good and evil, truth and falsity. Here it is by means of conflict that man's character is formed, the principles of his life arc formulated and his religious conscience is determined. For this reason, the knowledge of the human mind is not an abstract science reserved for specialists. It is a matter of deep and practical concern to every individual who is seeking a rational answer to the problems of his own life. It has daily applications to all our relations with other people and to any successful cooperation with others in innumerable uses in society. It is vital to the proper education of our children and the young people entrusted to us. It has a most important bearing on the maintenance of our physical and mental health. Above all, it is indispensable to the intelligent cooperation with the Lord and with His Providence and in His work for the salvation of man. This is the primary reason why it is so fully treated of in the Writings. (George de Charms, Growth of the Mind)
What especially strikes me in this passage from Bishop de Charms is the emphasis on seeking an understanding of the human mind. He speaks of this not as something reserved for specialists, but rather as something we must all do because our individual salvation depends on it. It is vitally important for us to observe ourselves!
For a long time I thought observation was a cold unemotional unsentimental place. I thought if you get into observing life you get away from the feelings of life, and you might lose part of life, such as strong affections and the enjoyments. But what Bishop de Charms points out here is that observing 'I' is motivated by the love of truth. It is not a cold, unemotional state, but rather an ardent love for truth. It wants truth for truth's sake. It is capable of looking down on man, seeing the loves and the thoughts and the feelings, but it looks down because it really wants to know the truth of what's going on, because it has a love of truth for truth's sake. And I think the new will develops there. It is there that you start to experience the joys of life in a different way. I think there is an aloofness to begin with, and they say truth appears to come first, but in fact good produces that desire for truth. And later, I think you come in touch with that ardent love of the truth. So, I think there is a period when it doesn't appear to be very ardent, but it really is. Let's hear more about it:
Reason is a more interior kind of imagination. It is a faculty of reflection, calling into view the images formed by the imagination, placing them side by side, analyzing by comparison and contrast, their relation to one another that their distinct quality may be seen. Especially is it the ability to recognize the relation between cause and effect. Genuine reason or the rational thinking, is inspired not by the love of a specific object, but the love of truth for its own sake, that is, by the passionate desire to understand. This love releases the mind from the binding chains of any particular affection or from an emotional bias and enables one to compare various affections calmly and critically, and so to measure their individual qualities against some standard or criteria of truth. Phrasing in the imagination in the light of this higher love, is what is called rational judgment. It is the corrective whereby one may distinguish truth from falsity, good from evil, and the real from the unreal world. (Ibid)
I want to talk to you briefly about the context in which you take the experience you are having, the context that gives your experience meaning.
If I said to you, "It's a hundred and twenty-five degrees out today," what would your emotional response be? Would you respond, "That's hot!"? Perhaps you would say, "I don't want to be in here!"
Of course that was just one piece of data I gave you, saying it is one hundred and twenty-five degrees. What if I told you it's one hundred and twenty-five degrees and you are in a car, stuck in rush hour, in Texas, and you've worked a nine hour day and you know you are going to miss supper if you don't get home. Now what is your emotion or your response? Frustration? Anger? Depression? Everyone has a pretty good idea what their response would be to that situation.
Now let's say it's one hundred and twenty-five degrees out and you just came off of the skiing slopes where it was 6 degrees and you just walked into a sauna where it is so very hot, and you have a nice towel and you just paid three thousand dollars to have that sauna or spa in your own room....Now what is your response? "Whoa! All right!" Do you feel a little superior to the people who don't have one? Feel pretty lucky, and so forth? The temperature is still one hundred and twenty-five degrees, so the context has some meaning on how you determine to respond to that one particular impression coming into you which was just temperature.
Now you could say, "Well, I have other information like the traffic jam, and the car, or the sauna...," but if you closed your eyes you would just have that one experience, the heat.
Let's take a recent experience of mine. I got off the train after having put in a long and difficult day. At work I had to commit someone to the hospital that I liked a whole lot, and when I got home I was going to have to go counsel a client, with only ten minutes between the time I got off the train and time to counsel. So I got off the train and my car wasn't there - I had parked the car somewhere else! I called my wife Roxanne and she wasn't there and my daughter wasn't home either, so I had a response to that! (You can see where my lectures come from.)
Of course, I immediately sensed. So I'm walking through the golf course, sensing, because that's all I could do. Then I stopped thought completely and there was zero context. There was only the external five senses; I could hear, I could see, smell and so forth, but there was zero context.
Then I noticed it was a golf course I was walking through, the trees had grown quite a bit. And what I was formerly calling a cold wind, (because I had wanted to make it the most miserable situation in the world so I could really feel bad) was really only a cool breeze.
Then I decided, here I am at zero context and it is peaceful, so what if I put a positive context to it? So I pretended my heavy briefcase was full of geodes I'd found...and I was glad it was heavy because I had found a lot of geodes! I envisioned I was walking in Bavaria through the pines of the Black Hills and I was on vacation. I had been down picking these geodes where it was very hot and this cool wind was just what I wanted! Of course I was very pleased.
Now of course I was swinging back and forth between what I thought was the real context and this phony one, but I really did notice a different experience depending upon what context I decided to have that experience within.
You may say, well, you had worked a long day etc. So let's take a context that's real, but different than the initial mechanical reaction to that situation: I could say, "Well, I'm walking home from a good job. I'm walking to a nice home. I have a nice family and I live in a free country. I'm well fed, well dressed..." etc. All those things are true in the context, but they give you a different experience.
Now if you make a level shift up to, "I'm being cared for by the Lord, Divine Providence sees everything and the Lord always gives me the absolutely best experience for my eternal welfare, He's really present, and there's nothing that He would allow me to go through that He can't make benefit me," now that is a true context at a higher level.
So my experience differs depending upon the context in which I experience what I am experiencing. If you take an experience mechanically in the context that appears to be the most true, on the natural level closest to the sensory, then you get to be real angry or some other negative emotion. If you do no Work, then you get what the Hells give you for free. If you use no effort and no attention you get it free of charge and there is a lot of delight from societies in hell. Boy, did I feel self-pity and suffering! I received their delight, which is delight in self-pity and suffering.
There is something in the Work called taking impressions and digesting impressions to make higher energy out of them. The impressions I had were: the golf course, the wind, the feeling, the brief case, and so forth. "Digesting" an impression is not just taking it how it comes in, but rather, it is going through the effort to experiment before accepting it. Make a zero context, perhaps, and see how that feels. Then go through a pretend context and see how that feels. Then make a larger context, or a level shift context.
So by the time I got home I didn't only have the experience of just getting off the train and being really angry and arriving home upset. I had maybe five different experiences in the different contexts. I had digested them and gotten something that I never could have gotten if I hadn't gone through some effort - some effort and attention. And that is what is called using the impressions to digest them, and making them higher energy. Then, the next time around when you try doing it again, you'll have that Work memory and you'll have the choice to have a zero context or make it up etc. You start to gain the opportunity to do other things beside have the negative emotion. You begin to understand something about context.
Let's read from Nicoll about taking impressions, the law of the pendulum and so forth:
One of you had some thoughts about the pendulum, that to be in the center between swings might be flat or boring - a tepid bath. But you felt maybe it was your desire for extremes that made it sound like a tepid bath. It is not just remaining in the center that is the desired state, it is being able to see both, or be aware of both swings at the same time. You can be aware of having a tremendous amount of anger and not be angry. You can be aware it is there, if it is over on the side that you are holding it. You can be aware of getting really excited about going on vacation but you don't attach to it because you have learned that if you do, you are going to have the opposite side. So they are both there for you, both swings, but the
main point in being in the middle, where the Lord was on the Cross between the thieves, is to know that neither state is yours; to really come eventually to where you can have an influx of an entirely different kind or experience.
Bishop de Charms referred to this experience as understanding and talked about man's genuine rationality which loves truth for truth's sake. In that state you are going to have an experience that is not nothing, but which is an experience that can only take place in that center. Heaven is not a stock market that never comes down. Heaven has no soul in the stock market so nothing of heaven can enter. It can only enter from a true understanding of the entire picture and remaining in the same and not identifying with the joy and not identifying with the upsets.
The poem by Rudyard Kipling called "IF" reads, "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same..." A true athlete goes out and he wins a match and says, "Thanks a lot, I did my best." And he loses a match and says, "Okay. I did my best." I've seen that. I respect the boy who can do that rather than the one that is all excited when he wins and all furious when he loses. It is not that the boy who is a good athlete didn't enjoy the win, or that he isn't sad if he loses, it is that he doesn't put his Self there. His entire humanity is not based on the one swing of the pendulum or the other. There is something besides that swing and the sport he plays, something that is more important to him. His entire identity is not tied up in his sport. He is a human being capable of regeneration who happens to be wrestling, swimming, or whatever.
Gurdjieff said that attachment to things, identification with things, keeps alive a thousand useless 'I's in man. These 'I's (or states) must die in man in order that the big 'I's may be reborn. But how can they be made to die? They do not wish to die. To awaken means to realize one's nothingness. That is, to realize one's complete and absolute mechanicalness and one's complete and absolute helplessness. And it is not sufficient to realize it philosophically in words, it is necessary for man to realize it as a clear, simple and concrete fact. When a man begins to know himself a little, he will see in himself many things that are bound to horrify him, for so long as man is not horrified he knows nothing about himself. He decides to throw it off, stop it, put an end to it, but however many efforts he makes he finds that he cannot do this, that everything remains as it was. Here he will see his impotence, his helplessness, his nothingness. In feeling his nothingness a man should see himself as he really is, not for a second, not for a moment, but constantly, never forgetting it. This continual consciousness of his nothingness and of his helplessness will eventually give a man the courage to die. To die, not merely mentally, or in his conscience, but to die in fact, and to renounce actually and forever those aspects of himself which are unnecessary and prevent his inner growth. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.1)
I want to tell you a reaction I had to the sermon this week. They were talking about the Lord going through the last days leading up to the Cross. He asked the Father, "Please take this cup from me, but nevertheless Thy will be done." And I was thinking about that in relation to His disciples thinking He was going to be an earthly king, and also the Jews thinking He was going to be an earthly king. Then when He wasn't an earthly king, of course the crucifixion took place.
I was thinking that in terms of the Work, we have the feeling that if you do the Work, if you observe, you non-identify, you do all those things required, that somehow that is going to produce peace in you, and then, when you don't have peace and all the negative states don't go away, you think the Work has failed. But that is not what the Work is for. The Work is not to make peace in our external world (and I don't even mean the outside external or physical world). Our thoughts and feelings are very external compared to the world of spirits. They are truly the external man. And the Work is only to allow troubling experiences to be used by us to see what the Lord is talking about - to see the truth of what He says in the Word and in the Writings - and by using what we see from Doctrine, to allow experience to purify us. He is not going to take turmoil away, but by means of it He will bring us closer to Him. I don't know if that is true, but I believe it is true.
I find so much frustration in people who say the Work is failing. For instance, a lot of you say, "I didn't do the task," or, "I couldn't do the task," or "I forgot." All those remarks are about what the Work tells you that you will experience! That is what Gurdjieff just said: "You will find you are hopeless and you are helpless." That is what the Work tells you. It doesn't tell you that you will remember the Work, and you will be able to forgive. It tells you that you will fall asleep, and that man alone can do nothing. So what we find is that it confirms the truth of what esoteric teachings are telling us, and that confirmation allows us to start to be nothing and allows the Lord to lead us through experiences.
The task is to do just what I was talking about earlier: change the context in which you are having an experience, until you change the experience. When you have picked one that is giving you a negative experience, just change the context, perhaps by going through zero context to begin with, then perhaps to a phony context, (you know, here I am in the sauna,) or you may then want to go to a larger true context, by making a level change in your thinking. It doesn't matter which you practice. But the task is to take a typical negative reaction which you have in a certain context which you think is true, and change the context until you change the experience to a more positive one. Then you will have a choice between the two contexts. When you know you have a choice between two contexts then you will know you have done the task.
Change the context in which you have a negative reaction until the experience is changed to a more positive one.
There is one thing you are told you can do in regard to yourself and that is that you can observe yourself. You can observe when you are internally considering, you can observe when you are negative, you can observe when you are identified, and you can observe when you are justifying yourself. For this reason you are taught first of all to observe yourself and then to observe yourself from a certain well defined angle. The Work must be practiced. In every wrong state it is absolutely necessary to review oneself in what the work teaches and try to see where one is. If you never call upon the Work to help, you will not be able to be helped. For a long time the last thing we think of doing is the work on our self in accordance with what the Work teaches. We wriggle about as if like a big fish on the end of a line and will not submit to the gentle pull of the line which will lift us above our self. We get into a bad state and we identify with it right away. Then we see everything through the medium of this bad state, but we do not think of practicing non-identification with this bad state and seeing that it is not Everything lies in relationship, in how you relate yourself to things. You cannot change the things themselves, but you can change your relationship to it. All this work is about changing our relationship, both to our self and to life. We can change our self through the medium of higher influences providing we recognize them, that is, provided we recognize that there is an existence greater than ours. But we cannot change life in general, nor can we change other people. Remember that the whole question lies in changing our relationship to things, in taking things in a new way and so in thinking in a new way about everything. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.I)
I would like to talk about "fire drills." There is a Fire Drill Week and the Fire Company has open house and tells everybody to practice fire drills with their kids, and some of you may, and some may not. Mostly you go and you think it is a great idea and then you come home and you plan to do it and then you go to sleep and you don't do it. Now if you haven't had a fire that probably doesn't bother you much, but let's say you woke up and there was a fire. If it was a very small fire, you might call the Fire Company and they might put it out - then you wouldn't be aware that the fact that you didn't have a fire drill wasn't very meaningful. But should you wake up and the flames are very hot coming through the door and there's a lot of smoke, you may find that your mind is in total confusion. Thoughts will run through, "What should I do? What kid should I go for first? Should I go for the money? Should I try to get my wallet? What should I do?" You are running around, you are doing nothing effectively and you are in a bad state - deep trouble. Well, that also applies to the work.
The work always tells you, prepare beforehand! So a lot of us think, "I know the work. I read the work. I heard it, I read the task. When a bad state comes, I'll be ready." And a little bad state comes and you are ready. A big bad state comes and you find your mind racing, you don't know what to do and you get confused. You forget to work - you forget what you should do. You can't work and then maybe a half hour later you wake up and the house has burned down; you slapped a kid, or broke a thing or you yelled at somebody, or whatever. So, the thing to do is to do a fire drill. What I am going to give you is just a fire drill that I do. You can do any fire drill that you want. If you woke up in a fire you might go for your money before your kid, you might go for your kid before your money. You might go for your youngest first and your oldest last, it doesn't matter. It is up to your values and your plans. I am just going to give you a drill that I go through. Long thinking prior to a negative state is important - to have a plan of what you are going to do. So here it is: (and I am talking about large negative emotions.)
The first thing I would do when contending with a large negative emotion is to Sense. I would immediately put all my attention on my left hand and try to get a sensation developed. Once I can start to feel that sensation what that has done is establish the fact that I wish to work. That just states, "This is a time I wish to work." It's a reminding factor that I'm going to work. Now in some bad states, like I was talking about the rabbit in the jungle, the only thing I can do throughout the entire state until it changes and the sun comes up, is keep my attention focused on my left hand. That may be the only thing possible. If I can do that and maintain that, it takes a certain amount of energy away from the negative state. It changes it.
The next thing: Let's say I am able to do something. I would become passive. I would stop internal dialogue, because that stops the thinking center from contributing to it, or falsity contributing to it. I would do my best to stop internal dialogue. Of course I would probably continue to hear internal dialogue, but I would give it up as fast as I could or ignore it, and I would not believe it, or try not to believe it. I might listen to it and get some pretty good ideas, but I would mostly try to stop it and be passive.
The next thing I would do is pray. A quick prayer. Often one phrase is helpful, like, "The Lord is my shepherd," or "Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with all thy heart...." I would make some statement that I cannot possibly do this without the Lord. That is the first acknowledgement. If anything is going to be done it is going to have to be done as if of myself, but the Lord is going to have to do it. Without Thee I can do nothing. With Thee, everything is possible. And it will be a phrase that has real meaning to you.
So, I sense, I stop internal dialogue, and if I'm capable of continuing to work, I say a prayer.
Then, I would start to try and observe myself - and of course observation is not just knowing you're in a negative state, it is to actually observe your negative state, which is entirely different. I would start to try and observe my body, the state of my emotions, and I would start to try and pull my experience of who I am into the observing T.' The further I could pull the feeling of who I am into that which is observing, rather than that which is having the state, the more work I will have done. You make yourself available to higher influences. Then, if you are able to do that, what is happening is you are starting to not identify. When I am observing, what am I observing from? It says observe from an angle of the Work. The angle I observed from is that this, (what I'm observing), is a mirror of my internal state. So I get out and a guy slams his car into my brand newly painted car. I sense, I pray, and then I start to observe. I observe from the saying, "This is not about my car. What's going on now tells me about my internal state, my level of being, and where I am in the spiritual world. It is telling me about what I can change. What change has to take place in order for me to become different?" And you can observe from anywhere you want, but you should have an idea of what you're observing from, what angle of the Work you are going to watch it from.
If I was successful in pulling the feelings into the observing part (if I was really able to do that), I imagine I would start to feel what they call Self-remembering. I would start to have an awareness of myself in this situation - not only what's out there, but my reaction and an awareness of being in the state doing the Work. Briefly, you will be given gifts of Self-remembering.
That would be my fire drill. And depending on the size of the fire is how far I would get through the drill.
When I say pull the feeling of who you are into the observing T we could also talk about the church teaching one should elevate one's thinking - elevate one's rationality. In order to observe the world from doctrine, one must elevate his thinking. In church you elevate your thinking. The minister's talking to you about spiritual things, he's talking about elevating your thinking, and you probably do. You've probably had that experience. You feel elevated; your mood changes. Well, you could go to a meditation and do the same thing. Elevate your thinking. And that would be a true experience.
Who wants to do an experiment? This box that looks like a present here, represents your present state, and is something I want to see one of you come over here and elevate. Try to elevate that box. (A woman lifts it up.) That was a real experience, wasn't it? You could feel the shape of it, the size of it, the weight of it, etc., right? Now, in regard to elevating your thinking: You are in church or you are by yourself or you are at a religious retreat and you have an elevated state. It is fairly easy, like lifting a light box such as the one you just lifted or saw lifted, and it is pleasant.
What the Work asks you to do is to elevate your thinking during a negative emotion. Say you have just driven your car into the parking lot and it is newly painted or it is brand new. You arc coming out of the grocery store and someone pulls up next to you, fairly close, and just as he gets there he opens up his car door real hard and scratches your paint. You step over and you expect him to turn around and say he's sorry. Instead he turns around and says, "Why the hell can't you park your car further away?"
Now, you sense your hand and you say to yourself, "Oh yes, I'm supposed to elevate my thinking...." (group all laughs.) So now, one of you come up here and we'll pretend you are picking up a similar present box in that state. (The woman tries to pick up the second box and finds it too heavy to pick up!) See, there is a real experiential difference between working in an active state (that's called Self-Observation in the Work) as opposed to elevating one's thinking in an abstract way.
If you imagine lifting a light box 20 times a day, and then imagine lifting a heavy box 20 times a day, which do you think would lead to strengthening you more? Right, the heavy one! So, you get a lot of benefit out of really working during a difficult state. That is the time to work! That is the primary time to work. The benefit you get is determined by how hard you work and how hard you are willing to work. It takes effort. Trying to elevate your thinking during a negative emotion is a good fire drill. Gurdjieff calls it super effort.
All of us have had this experience: You start on a new exercise routine - say you are going to jog every morning, you are going to eat healthy food. You start out real good and then in about three weeks you start thinking, "I'm really tired this morning. I don't think it's good to run every day. I heard someone say you should run every other day and give your body a chance to change and adapt to it, you know."
Then later you might say, "You know I've heard that running too often might hurt your ankles." And then your direction changes and you find you are sleeping every Saturday morning instead of jogging. Maybe a year later you suddenly say, You know, I think I'll try to get in shape this year..."
Whether you're trying to study, read the Word, diet, exercise, or change this or that, things go in circular patterns. It happens with eating, drinking, anything.... Gurdjieff says that is due to the nature of things and if you don't make super effort - conscious effort and attention - then everything goes in a circle. Man repeats his life over and over and he doesn't change because at the time of change it takes super effort. But it can be done if he is willing and starts to practice the Work in the ways he can.
The level of Work is the same way. If you hear about the Work and you apply the small tools then you have small success. All of a sudden the time will come when you have an opportunity to do great Work. It will be the time when you least want to do Work. It is like you've been jogging for two years and you've been doing good work, and now it is February and not only is it raining, it is ice raining and about 8 degrees out and you had a horrible night. You just got to sleep, the baby has been crying and you just fell asleep and then your alarm rang and it is the time to jog. Now is the time. It's up to you.
The reason people stand up and applaud when great athletes come across the finish line is because they are applauding those people who are willing to use super effort. That housewife coming in during the last Olympics (1987) was an outstanding example of someone who made great effort. And that is what we all have to do.
We are leaving you these thoughts and giving you something to work on. Lift up the two packages, see what you have ahead of you and do the task, of course. The task is to make a true friend of someone for whom you mechanically have a dislike. Now that doesn't mean you have to talk to them! It is not like you have to end up best friend to this person. However, you will be lifting up a heavy box since your dislike is a negative state. That is the time to work!
The Lord and the Work throughout talk about loving the neighbor as yourself. To learn to do this as a process is very important. It establishes that this is the real aim; to come to a true appreciation for your neighbor, for the Lord in your neighbor, and for all the things the Lord has created.
One of you was saying last class that you noticed your mechanical reactions to people in church. With some work, something took place and you were able to see the people for the first time when you gave up your negative reaction. With work, you may come to where you have a positive reaction for those people. You may find you have a very strong positive reaction for someone you used to have a negative reaction to. I don't mean make a good friend, I mean get to a point where you truly have positive reactions to someone that you didn't have positive reactions toward before. We have studied many tools to help you in this task. And if you can do it with one person, it shows it is possible for you to do that kind of Work.
You can do the task with everybody. Watching people come into church and observing yourself is one of the greatest ways to observe your mechanical man that there is. You will observe that your reaction has absolutely no truth in it in relation to that person. The proprium does not like anything about the neighbor! But you can use effort and attention to change your association with the sphere that is present.
You can start to have positive reactions by consciously choosing to think: "Oh, isn't that a nice dress." "What a healthy looking person," or "Boy, he is a good business man," or whatever! If you choose to, you can try to find a higher level positive reaction ("She is so thoughtful" rather than, "What a nice dress,") but as long as it is positive instead of negative, that is a good result of effort.
Slowly you may start to develop a true appreciation for people. If you find one person that you really had a strong negative reaction toward and by the end of the season you have a strong positive reaction, you will know you have gone through a true change. And like I said, only the Lord can do that for you, but you will find that He can do that! With Him it is possible! That is what the Work is about.
Make a friend (even if only in your mind) of an enemy, or someone you formerly had a strong negative reaction toward.
Remember available tools and use as many as needed: sensing, stopping internal dialogue, praying, observing, not identifying, external considering, forgiving, changing the context, or any other tool.
I want to read from St. John of the Cross. It is just a small piece of his work. It is in relation to the formatory mind. I think a lot of people are so used to their internal dialogue that they believe it is their thinking or their rationality. When you ask people to give up their internal dialogue they think, "Well if I give that up, how do I know when to get to work or what I'll do Saturday afternoon?" They think that is their thinking power. So if you say, "Give up your internal dialogue, give up your likes and dislikes, give up your opinions and your self-importance," they somehow feel that they are being asked to give up an important part of their intellectual mind or their rationality.
The Writings talk about the rationality being higher than the natural mind. The Work talks about the formatory mind and that it should be there to record information. Instead, it got stuck on play. So it keeps giving back things you have already heard and you get entranced. You think it's pretty intelligent because it sounds like you, but of course it is always saying things you have already heard. But there is a higher level. There is a kind of knowing, a perception, that is higher than our thinking. We get there by getting our formatory mind to stop talking and start doing its proper function of recording. St. John of the Cross refers to this as giving up the part of the mind that talks and talks and seems to know so much. If you read St. John of the Cross you know he spent a lot of his time giving up that part of his mind. He writes:
I entered into unknowing and there I remained unknowing, transcending all knowledge. I entered into unknowing, but when I saw myself there without knowing where I was, I understood great things. I shall not say what I felt for I remained in unknowing, transcending all knowledge. That perfect knowledge was of peace and of holiness held at no remove and profound solitude. It was something so secret that I was left stammering, transcending all knowledge. I was so whelmed, so absorbed and so withdrawn that my senses were left deprived of all their senses. (Juan De La Cruz, The Poems of St. John of the Cross, p.59)
We have good states and bad states, good feelings and bad feelings, good days and bad days. We often may compare this to success and failure. On this subject Meister Eckhart writes:
Keep your eye on the functioning of your inner life and start from there. If you have faults, then pray often to God to remove them from you if that should please Him, because you can't get rid of them by yourself. If He does remove them, then thank Him. But if He does not, then bear them for Him, not thinking of them as faults or sins, but rather as great disciplines, and thus you shall merit reward for the exercise of your patience, for He does give to each according to what is best. Truly, I am so content with all God does, whether he gives or withholds, that there is not a cent worth of difference between my condition and the best condition that I could imagine for myself.
A good man never complains of his misfortune or his diseases. He may only complain of his complaining, that he should even be aware of it. It is for a man to take everything that comes as if he had asked for it, nay, as if he had prayed for it. (Raymond B. Blakney, Meister Eckhart, A Modern Translation, pp.37,38,49)
You can see that St. John and Meister Eckhart are describing states that perhaps we haven't achieved, but they are within us and possible for us.
We talked last class about the context in which you have your experience. You will remember that I was walking along the golf course and my context was that I had worked hard all day, left my car at the wrong place, was going to have to work further at night and I was going to have to miss my supper. Within that context I was miserable. So the question is, how did I remember that that was the context when I was in the middle of the golf course? I wasn't on the train, I wasn't home, the day had ended and I hadn't started with my client. How does one maintain that context?
The spiritual world has no time and no space. It is very fluid and flexible. For instance, if you have affection for someone they are there. If the affection changes they disappear. Everything is a manifestation of your state, so it's fluid, unlike this world. So, I had that context and I noticed that in order to maintain that negative context, I had to work very hard. And if you'll notice, you may lower your head, your eyes stop focusing and you actually have to maintain that memory of having worked all day, and imagining being home and not having had your supper and having to work, and thinking about the fact that you left the car somewhere, and you maintain that context for yourself. It takes effort to do it because what you are maintaining is actually a spiritual thing that has no reality.
If you stop internal dialogue, it all starts to crumble. But you may experience yourself pulling it back together, because there is a certain amount of pleasure in those negative emotions. As it starts to crumble, you start to lose that pleasure. So you pull that back: "Oh yes, I've been abused. Poor me." And you build up all those things that define it. I did want to mention that you have to actually maintain that kind of picture.
Now we'll go around and review how some of you did on your task of changing the context during a negative state:
wants to be attached and prevents us from finding the falsity. 'It' is just as happy to sit there and have that attachment. To really work to get rid of something that is pleasing, is hard. It is impossible for those 'I's, the non-work 'I's, to do that. They are very gratified in feeling, say, contempt of someone, or superior to someone. So it is not those 'I's that will work, and for a long period of time the Work 'I's may not be able to work - all they can do is to observe the truth that if you are still believing it you are attached to it and that you can't separate. But then there comes a time when you can start to work and with long thinking if you wish to be free, you can be free. Even if it is something simple to work on, it is worth doing because the process of working until you find the falsity involved in that reaction, and then having the experience of being freed, is the exact same process that you would use in working on something that is very difficult. So that's why they say practice swimming in calm water or practice the Work with minor negative states because the steps are the same although the content may differ. The process is the same, so that is why it is so important to work on the little things. Usually the proprium feels the little things are too little to bother with and the big ones are too hard to work on!
Woman #3: I got really upset. Really upset! I couldn't believe it. I didn't know why. I was really hot, the house was stuffy, all the porch furniture was still sitting with a big cover over it, and I didn't have the energy to clean it. And I just noticed how I was and I really worked at trying to stop those terrible feelings and they wouldn't go away.
Peter: How did you work to stop those feelings? What steps did you take?
Woman: I was trying to stop thinking - to Stop Thought. I couldn't do it. Then I decided well, I will just let go of how I feel. What I wanted to do was sit on my porch where it was cool and I also realized that I was very disappointed about something else that I wanted to do. I wasn't getting what I wanted. I saw all those things, but I couldn't get out of the bad state. The only thing I could do was to take one piece of furniture and I sat there and washed it and concentrated on that job I was doing. I didn't think of anything but scrubbing that furniture and about 3 hours later I wasn'tacting cross any more, but I couldn't stop the horrible feelings and I couldn't get myself into another place.
Peter: In a large negative state, let's say what we'd call an overwhelming negative state, Ouspensky talks about the rabbit in the jungle. He says there are times when a rabbit is in a jungle and the rabbit's only defense is his camouflage and not moving. If he makes any movement he will be devoured by the predatory beasts. He compares that to very big negative states. At that point, often the only thing you can do is to do nothing. So focus your attention on one thing at hand and wait for the daylight to come in the jungle when the predatory beasts go back in their holes. But if you try to do anything more than doing nothing, you will just fail. There's an awareness of that - if I move I am dead meat - but if I stay still and wait for the light, wait for the change of state, which will come, then I don't get killed. So I don't bring about great changes, but on the other hand I don't expend a lot of force on those negative emotions. I put my energy on one task and then stop wallowing in the negative. The negative sphere is still around me, but I stop wallowing in it. So that is very good work and in a lot of states that is the best work you can do.
Woman: I did realize that Iwould get out of it, and I even told the people around me, "Just back off. I will be fine, sometime."
Peter: There is a saying in the Work: "This is a state and this state will pass."
Woman #4: 'It' wants to pass, instead of taking my turn! Once, through no doing on my part, I did the task. I mean I noticed that I did it. It happened. It was a very repetitive reaction I was having. I mean by that it was mechanical. I've had it often! The task was very effective in removing the negative state. Changing the context took the negative feelings away, it took the negative thoughts away, but without much work. It just happened once or twice. I hadn't been aware enough to really put much concentration on it or work into it, even though I love this class and I love your description of doing this task. I had thought, 'Oh that's going to be so great. That's really going to work!" Well, it will.
Peter: But itdid work for you once, right?
Woman: Right, it did once.
Peter: That shows something. If you're perceiving something from an evil society or an evil associate spirit, the nature of what you are receiving appears to be one way and it appears to be real. If you shift and see that, (you can't see it differentlyfrom that state) but in your case you noticed a shift and saw it from a different point of view. So if you see it from a good society, or a less evil society, it will immediately have a different emotional feeling to it because of where it comes from. What that shows you is that the place from which you perceive, determines the nature of your thoughts, so it isn't caused out here, it's caused from where you are perceiving it. You noticed the shift and the shift did produce an emotional change - an affectional change, in you - which confirms the reality of where your world really is. So it doesn't matter that it is not a big thing. It matters that it happened and that for you it's real. You had a real experience and it is not theoretical anymore.
Woman #5: I began thinking I didn't have a very good imagination for getting into another place or context. I would be going into a situation that I knew would be putting me into a bad mood, and just by knowing that it would put me in a bad mood, it helped the bad mood go away, but I couldn't really change it. I could say, "I don't want to be doing this," and realize what I was doing to myself, but I couldn't see it and make changes.
Peter: So you still have a passive relationship to it and haven't been able to be active and really change it, but the first thing to do is to check it out, from what you are observing. They say before you make any changes, check it out really well. It's like if you are breaking out of prison, you don't just run to the gate and jump over, or you might get shot. You might spend a year studying the guards' behaviors, when they smoke, which ones walk fast, which ones don't pay attention, when they get a drink, when they daydream, when the shadows are here, when the moon's there, etc. I just read a quote that someone sent me of Lincoln who said, "If I had 8 hours to cut down a tree, I would spend the first six sharpening my axe."
So, that observing stage is extremely important. People who grab and immediately try to change a state often come back and say it is impossible. So observing is a good stage.
Observe that you were allowing it to be a bad state and how you go about that and know that there will be a time when you can work on it.
Woman: Generally, I noticed similar things to what has been said. But I have almost a habit now of shifting the negative thoughts to something more positive before they really get into my feelings. I feel very grateful about that because I use to live in a negative place almost all of the time. And so in a two week time span there aren't many times when I got into a big negative frame of mind. One of them, though, was settling in as I brought in the groceries. I'm not real crazy about grocery shopping and I have this routine that I go through in my mind about, "How many times do I have to touch these stupid groceries after getting them from the store?" I like to play this tape in my head, like I'm really working hard. As I was doing this, I just shifted the context to, "My goodness, look at this incredible abundance that you have here! Look how easy it is to get - you just walk into this building where everything you ever thought of and more besides, is there. You don't have to go outside and hoe or dig, you just get out some of this green stuff that comes from your husband..." So that really finished off the negative state really well.
Peter: That's great.
Man: I found it to be a very effective tool and I want
to thank you for all the tools that we were taught. I used this task frequently. I had three examples of where it worked very good. In the first one we were upstairs saying prayers with the boys and one of them was fooling around and I immediately got furious. I said, "Come on!" and then I suddenly switched the context and thought, "My teenage boys still come to say prayers with us - and want to!" Thinking of that fact just changed the whole thing. I was no longer irritated with him at all. That change was instantaneous. Another time was when I was with the fellow who was going to be my summer task [Make a friend of an enemy, or someone you formerly had a negative response toward]. I was trying to be friendly with him and he said, "Get lost!" All these examples of contexts are actually the truth, and the truth of that one is, or the context that I tried to put it in, was that I'm not trying to get him to like me,I'm trying to like him. And this is going to be much better for me because it will put me more to test. So I got a lot of good out of it without it upsetting me. And then there was last night. And this is one that will be an all summer job. It's called soap box cars. There is nothing I hate worse than putting things together or building. My son wanted to go to this meeting, so we go there, and I find out it's going to cost a lot of money for us to build a soap box car. I said, "Well how long is this going to take?" They said, "Supposedly 50 hours, but you better plan on 100." There were people there who I know are handy with their hands, so I was not very pleased, but my son wanted to do it. Afterwards I said to him, "I don't know if I really want to do this. Do you really want to do this?' And it's a battle since I'm still trying to change the context so I will see this as an opportunity for me to work with my hands. There will be people who know how to do things and I will be able to get advice. I'll also be working with my son and I'll be able to get some good time in with him but it is still going to be hard work for me.
Peter: One way to approach a large negative like that, over time like the hundred hours you spoke of, isnot to approach it over a hundred hours. I know that the writing-up of presentences at work, for me is an overwhelming task. So when I have to do presentencing I say to myself, "Let me know when the part comes that you can't stand." And then I only focus on every little new part. So now I'm taking out the paper. Can I stand that? Sure, no problem. Now I'm taking out my pen. Okay, that's not hard. Now I'm calling the U.S. attorney. Is that a problem? No, that's not a problem. Now I'm talking to the defendant, is that a problem? No, that's not a problem. And I find absolutely nothing during the whole process that can't be tolerated. It is thinking of the whole job that I can't stand, and find intolerable, but there is no single thing within that procedure, that I can't stand by itself. If you can break it down into moment by moment work, it becomes possible as an overall task, just as climbing a mountain starts with one step. So that's one way to do it, other than trying to change the context of the whole event. Isolate it down to that one-or-two-second experience of which you may say, "This is it! This bothers me!"
The other thing you found out is that during the other two times you did the task you got a gift. When you asked for a change in the context the spirits immediately flowed in giving you the affection you felt for those thoughts. The Lord said if you knock, I'll come in. And He really means it! The good societies are really there. Nicoll keeps saying there are higher influences. You have to believe that or otherwise there is no point in working. But if you listen and you open yourself to higher influences, they will come in, and you will find that a change actually does take place. That is what it is all about. Observe the context. Listen to it and think "Is this a time to use the exercise?"
One thing to listen to is that part of you that starts to sound like an attorney making a case. You know, when one of you was describing, "My porch was hot, I was tired etc." Realize that you are making a case, self-justifying why you are so angry, or why you deserve pity, or why you have been abused. Listen to 'IT' say, "You know, I go to work and my supervisor...I can't believe it, he gave me another job...." When you start to hear that, you are developing your context to justify your emotional response.
Here is Maurice Nicoll talking about listening to ourselves:
We are told in this work to try to listen to ourselves, and to listen to things coming to ourselves. Of course if there is nothing to listen to outside of ourselves this would be absurd advice ....You have to remember always that there are higher influences playing on us at this very moment, but that if we are glued to our senses, completely identified with all that we are doing, we cannot become aware of these influences. ... You can easily get into the stage in life, and most people remain in this stage of life, of making for yourself a pit of negativity, hopelessness, self-pity, internal consideration and also contributing everything to external circumstances to outside people and finally, of being totally identified with outside things that have really no value. Also one can go down into the pit of making no effort in oneself. When you are talking, you are liable to get your feet in this mire. You must have all noticed that when you have been talking at random, saying all sorts of things about others, you lose force. But if you have not been doing this, you feel stronger in yourself. Silence means that all sorts of mechanical "I"s in you have been checked and deprived of their desire to speak. If you do this, you will understand what strength means.
We reach a certain stage, perhaps of personal work, and then fall again into the mire. At first we may not have noticed it, but after a time we really become aware of our inner state and then if the Work means anything to us we begin to feel that we cannot bear to be in this state or this mire. This means that the inner taste of this Work has begun to work on us. Then we are no longer made unhappy simply by adverse external conditions, but we begin to be unhappy in quite a new way, namely with regard to our inner state and to where we are in ourselves. When this stage is reached we may be sure that the Work has begun to work on us directly.
There are many other ways of getting oneself out of a bad inner state. You must understand that no work is possible unless you get into a bad inner state, because these are tests, (if you like they are temptations) which are absolutely necessary. You will not learn to swim well unless you are often dropped into the water. And it is always surprising that some of you think that if you pass into a bad state it is because you cannot do the Work. It is just in these states that, in fact, you can do the Work.
Now in conclusion, as regards the Work finding a way for yourself when you begin to give it a place in yourself, let me say this: Everyone has problems and troubles. No one is without them. We try to find solutions and we try to find final solutions as if afterward there would be no further trouble. Remember that there are no final solutions to anything. To try and find the final solution to anything is like trying to do away with the waves of a storm. You have to have a good ship, a good rudder, and a good compass. The solution is learning to become a good seaman. (Nicoll, Com. Vol.III)
We must start to put the feeling of ourselves in that part of us where the Lord builds the new will, while we separate from the external imaginary 'I' that feels so real, but is not, it being our exterior, proprial self. We must die as it were, and be reborn.
Imaginary 'I' is the external corporeal man, he is not real 'I.' However, there is a real 'I' in us the real 'I' is already there; it already exists. We have to start moving the feeling of who we are into this real 'I,' put the feeling into this observing part where the new will can be born.
You then no longer feel you are the negative emotion when the feeling of who you are is in a part that is looking at the negative emotion. That part is in the rational and is love of truth for truth's sake; that is the manna you get while you are in the desert. At first it is very cold and doesn't have a lot of feeling about it, just like the manna, but you do have some love of truth, some insights and good feelings about what is the case. However, it is not like mutual love, or real love yet, but is that love of truth for the sake of truth. You are in the desert for a long time and need that manna. You have to come to die to the corporeal man so you can be reborn into real 'I,' where the new will and the new understanding is being formed.
Now it is easy to say you have to die to something, but to actually die to something is very hard. You may have the idea, "I'll give up this external corporeal man here, and I'll be glad to go join the internal new will man there. I'll just move right over there."
People might want to go right from the land of Egypt to the promised land, with no problem. But of course, there are those 40 years in between where everybody who left Egypt dies before they get to the promised land. It talks in the Word about how a piece of corn or a cornstalk has to die, how it falls to the ground and gets trampled into the mud, and then winter comes. If that doesn't happen, nothing new can happen. In that period called winter it looks like the cornstalk died and nothing is happening. It's cold, it's
still, it's lifeless. It looks like nothing in the world is going to be produced by that death. It feels like you are giving up absolutely everything that you are. It feels that way and that is exactly the truth.
But then, of course, spring comes and you find out it isn't dead. What can really be born, now that the old has died, can start to give birth. And it isn't just one piece of corn that pops up in the spring. It has multiplied - there might be ten, twenty, thirty pieces of com from that one piece of com! But first that one piece of corn has to die.
A lot of what we do in the Work we come to experience and think of as good. Then later in the Work you look back and you see that what you thought was good was only an intermediate step. What they call positive emotions in the book, The Witness is unbelievable. There was an experience the author, John Bennett, had when he felt a truly positive emotion for the first time in his life, and John Bennett was a hard working individual! What we think of as positive emotions, like storge' and loving your kids, are probably not completely positive. We think we love our kids, but we probably just love ourselves in our kids! Often we don't love our friends, we love our friends loving us! But it's as close as we can get for now and it is used by the Lord in His mercy. But when we get to experience a purely positive emotion that is going to be an entirely different thing.
So, just as Gurdjieff talked about being between stools, you may find there is a big desert between here and the promised land. If you are going to empty your cup, before the new wine is poured in there is going to be a time when it is empty. He called it being between stools. Remember the Lord said don't look back or you'll turn to salt. There is that time when we feel why can't we have the flesh pots of Egypt, at least there we had food. Here we have nothing. Manna is not real filling and there's a lot of the time we don't have it. So there's a dead feeling where you aren't what you used to be and you aren't what you're going to become, and you wonder if it's worth it!
And then you, just like the children of Israel, complain, complain, complain. Life was miserable with snakes biting them, and killing them. So it's not like they were in paradise - they had some reason to complain! So, between chairs, as Gurdjieff says, is tough. That is where the Lord tries us, and our faith is tried.
We have to keep going. The Children of Israel who started out were not the ones who entered the land. 'I's in us who begin the
Work are incapable of going to heaven. They are just capable of beginning the Work. They will introduce us to 'I's that are born on the way that can really go to heaven with us. And even the leading 'I's who we think are the stewards and so forth are only going part way, perhaps. Moses wasn't allowed in, was he? He was allowed to look from the mountain. So, even the 'I's that the Lord uses are not the ones that will go to heaven. They just get us started on the way.
Moses represents the intellectual part that can see the truth. Just before he died on Mt. Nebo Moses was given a glimpse of the promised land. But a sight of heaven, an understanding of heaven, is not heaven. The menu is not the meal. It was Joshua who had tasted the fruit of the promised land, who was willing to fight the giants - willing to do the Work - who actually went in to the promised land. Swedenborg therefore says that Joshua represents "truth fighting." We call it "doing the Work."
The Lord says, "I AM that I AM," "This is the I AM." The Lord resides in real T.' And while real T is not the Lord, the Lord Himself resides within real 'I.' The Writings tell us that good spirits know the Lord is in them and that everything from the Lord comes through them. And they feel as if they have something which is called the heavenly proprium. It is not the old proprium, it is a new heavenly proprium that has wonderful qualities. So we are moving towards this.
There is, however, a state when you are still here, immersed in the external man, when everything around you feels bad and you are identified with it. You don't feel like anything new and it feels like you are being annihilated. All you have to do is keep watching these states and keep separating from the negative ones, and realize they are not you.
We must learn to Self-remember, which is, to put a feeling of "I AM" or the Lord being with you, deep inside you. Now it is a funny thing; there is the false 'I' which you have to give up - you have to become nothing - and yet, at the same time, the Work says to remember yourself. And what is remembering yourself? The "I AM" part is that I have a vessel in which the Lord can not only live but through which the Lord can be active. I have that - the Lord has given me that potential. So its "I AM" which means, "I have a vessel that the Lord can be active in," (remember, that's being passive, but you are the vessel and the Lord can be active in it.) "I AM and 'IT' is nothing." Real 'I' is something and proprium is nothing.
Think of yourself as having two images. One is the real you - the heavenly self-image or the heavenly proprium. The other figure is man's proprium and is bondage. When you are in externals you are in bondage to all those states, all those likes and dislikes.
When I say we are getting rid of this proprium, we are allowing ourselves to be freed from it. The Lord is annihilating your captors. He is taking down your prison. We are like a man in prison holding on to the bars, saying, "Don't take me away from here!" We don't even recognize that the thing we are holding onto is the very thing that we are imprisoned by. If we hold on to the old, we are going to find that nothing in the proprium can ever be gratified. You can never have anything the proprium wants. You can't even have the pleasure that it promises you. So, if you keep holding onto something that you're not going to get anyway, your spiritual life is in jeopardy.
So, yes, we are asking you to totally give up this old way because it imprisons you. There is nothing good in here for you. The pleasure of anger is not pleasurable. The pleasure of having contempt over others and feeling superior is not pleasurable. The feeling of being richer than your neighbor is not good. That feeling is not good, it is bad. You are asked to give that up. Now some of it may appear good, like the kind of love for people that is based on their love for you, but that's not true love, it's just love of self.
When you are in a negative state start to Self-remember with the feeling or the words, "I AM" followed by, "and 'IT' is nothing," ('IT' being whatever you might experience in the proprium: anger, fear, jealousy, irritation, contempt, etc.) Lets say a state of impatience. You are in a car, or you're waiting for a train, or you're waiting for your wife, whatever. You are in a state of impatience and you Self-remember, "I AM and that impatience is nothing." Or you drive by a nice house and you feel covetousness, and you say, "I AM and that wanting is nothing." You get angry. Hold it. "I AM and this anger is nothing." I exist. The Lord is within me, and that concern is a nothing! That is a freeing experience. You are freeing yourself from all those negative states which the hells induce on that thing called the proprium which appears to be something. If you give that up, what are the hells going to attack? Swedenborg said he had nothing, so what could they attack?
But mutual love, which alone is heavenly, consists in a man's not only saying of himself, but acknowledging and believing, that he is utterly unworthy, and that he is something vile and filthy, which the Lord from His infinite mercy continually withdraws and holds back from hell, into which the man continually strives, nay longs, to precipitate himself. His acknowledging and believing this, (that he is vile and filthy) is because it is true; not that the Lord, or any angel, desires him to acknowledge and believe it for the sake of his submission; but that he may not exalt himself, seeing that he is even such; for this would be as if excrement should call itself pure gold, or a fly of the dunghill should say that it is a bird of paradise. So far therefore as a man acknowledges and believes himself to be such as he really is, he recedes from the love of self and its cupidities, and abhors himself. So far as he does this, he receives heavenly love from the Lord, that is, mutual love, which consists in the desire to serve all. These are they who are meant by 'the least,' who become in the Lord's kingdom the greatest. (AC 1594 )
The Lord says, "The world doesn't know me, but I'm going to send someone to you." Then he says again, "The world doesn't know me, but you know me." Now who is he talking to? He just said the world doesn't know me but you know me.
The external corporeal part of us does not know the Lord. It is incapable of knowing him or of loving him. It is incapable of understanding the truth. "But you know me." The internal man, the new will, the I AM. The heavenly proprium that the Lord has created so that he can reside in you and become one with you - that knows Him. This is a statement, to me, about that movement from where He is not to where He is. It is a spiritual journey from Egypt to Canaan, Philadelphia to Tibet, earth to heaven, from love of self and the world to loving the neighbor and the Lord. It is a journey that begins by striving to keep His commandments:
If you love me, do my commandments and I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, Whom the world cannot perceive because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him, but ye know Him, for He dwells with you and He shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world seeth Me no more, but ye see Me. Because I live, ye shall live also. (John 14: 15-19)
What we are trying to do here, is to make a house for the Lord where He can live in us. And what we are grasping and holding onto so tightly is the very thing that is keeping us from moving toward that place where the Lord is trying to prepare a mansion for us. So it seems as if what we are observing is negative (the proprium), but the fact that we are looking at it and starting to move away from it and to know that it is not us, is very good. I AM and it is nothing. And it really is nothing.
When you become aware of a negative state in yourself, start to Self-remember, feel the Lord's presence with you, and say the words, "I AM," followed by, "and 'IT' is nothing" ('IT' being whatever you might experience such as anger, fear, jealousy, contempt etc.) "I AM and this (emotion) is nothing." Use that statement whenever you become aware of a negative state. The Lord is all powerful.
Q. Peter, you've been interested in a certain Russian psychologist, Gurdjieff, for a number of years. Would you share something of this man's background, and then tell a bit about his teachings?
A. There are books that deal with his childhood and upbringing, but the main thing that interested me was that he had a tremendous interest in what he calls esoteric Christianity. He was searching for the truth, and his premise was that the truth has been lost over time so the further you go back in time, the closer you get to a purer form of truth. As a young man he organized a group called the "Seekers of Truth," and after a long time he came to a book in Tibet which he describes as being written before Egypt had sand. (I don't know how old that is, but it must be quite old.) He studied the book and formed an organization which started to bring these teachings to London, Paris, Russia, and elsewhere. I was introduced to his teachings through a book called In Search of the Miraculous, by Ouspensky, who was a student of Gurdjieff and who was undergoing a similar search. Ouspensky had immediately recognized that this man, known only to him as "G," had something he had been looking for. It was something entirely different than just a psychology or other various theories and philosophies that he had previously studied. There was something unique in what Gurdjieff had found and taught. His teaching helped me for the first time
to make a connection between what the Writings talk about and the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that I was becoming aware of in myself. I wanted to be free of many of my reactions to other people, my prejudices, anger, frustration and irritation, etc. This man was talking in ways that I could understand and he told of actual changes I could make by doing what he taught. A real change did take place in the way I responded in life.
Q. Would you give us an example of how this applied in your life?
A. I first came across Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and also Maurice Nicoll, a student of Gurdjieff who studied the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, when I was raising young children. Anyone who has raised children knows that a lot of the things children do produce very strong responses in the parent. The children may not be doing something that we would term "bad" in terms of motive - for instance, when a child inadvertently spills a glass of grape juice on a new rug. There's no evil operating in the child; the glass is big and his hand is small, and his coordination is just starting to develop. Nevertheless, as a parent who just purchased a new rug, you may have a lot of anger; irritation and frustration occur. The immediate mechanical response may be to discipline the child. "I told you to be careful! Can't you pay attention?" A lot of anger comes out and the child, of course, gets upset and cries, and there is a lot of negativity that takes place. Gurdjieff's first statement to any student was, "You must not express negative emotions." He says that you do not have the power to nothave negative emotions; you have no choice in regard to having negative thoughts and negative feelings, but a man must start by non-expression of these negative emotions. He also stressed that the negative response comes from within and is due to a man's "level of being" and only appear to be caused by the event, i.e., the child.
So I began not expressing negative emotions to my children and to observe that these negative emotions werein me. It became clear that any real change would come through a change in my reactions and not through trying to change my children or others. The child had just spilled the grape juice. The negative reaction was caused by the hells in the internal world, in my proprium trying to come through me to love of the world, in terms of the new rug, or love of dominion, etc. and if I gave in to negative responses I would see a live demonstration of the hells in me. I started to see what took place if the hells didn't operate through me. I saw the child and I could pick up the dropped glass, and be with the child. I could observe the tender emotions going on in him - his own concern, his own frustration, his own fear - and this would make a definite real change in my relationship to my family and others. This could only take place through what Gurdjieff calls, "the Work," i.e., work on oneself.
I remember one particular incident with my son. It was sort of like waking up for the first time, or coming out of water and seeing clearly through the air. I could see how young and how tender he was. He was just about to be very injured by emotions in me, and I could see very clearly that the hells were going to come out and interfere with my relationship with him, my love and concern for him. I could see what Gurdjieff says is the horror of the situation. Swedenborg talks about this a great deal. He says if you could see things the way they really are you would be horrified. I started to see that things that I took as natural (it's natural to get angry, frustrated, etc.) arenot natural. They are things the Lord has been telling us about. He really wishes His kingdom to come on earth, and He wishes His children to be raised by people who are open to His leading. But it takes a lot of conscious effort and work and it takes the understanding that we can only get from Revelation, or what Gurdjieff calls "higher influences." These things are not gained from natural reason but have to be explained to us by doctrine.
I experienced that through "the Work" real changes can take place in our internal world, for that is where all causes are, and the natural world is only the world of effects. Rev. Don Rose, in a doctrinal class, spoke of the serpent trying to convince us that all causes are external, whereas the Writings teach us that all real causes are internal. If we start to observe our own external life on a minute-to-minute basis then we will have many examples of causes being internal. Mr. Rose also stated that the Arcana can be summed up as teaching that man is not life but receives life. Gurdjieff teaches this also and how we can begin to live differently, from knowing and living this revelation.
Q. Could you tell us how we should intelligently react if someone next to us does not know this and does allow the hells to attack him and in turn is attacking us?
A. Gurdjieff's teaching is that we always turn around and observe and work on our own response and not on the neighbor or "apparent cause." Observing our response does not necessarily change our response. He stresses that for years all we can do is observe our proprial response. It's not that by observing, you respond differently at once. It can, on the other hand, make it obvious to us that the hells through our proprium are in charge. He calls it being mechanical. Swedenborg tells us that we are servants to the hells, that our spirit may be in hell and may be captive. Through observing these things objectively a transformation starts to take place. It's like a new skier - he may get upset when he falls, but if he can realize that falling gives him the same amount of information as not falling - then he can learn. But if he gets angry and frustrated at not being a good skier, then it's going to take a longer time for him to become a good skier. So the first thing we observe is that we derive our life through our proprium and love of self and of the world. We respond to other people by reacting in anger, etc. Observing these things starts to bring about change. If you immediately observe your response to a person, you will have a picture of your place in the spiritual world. This will show you your level of being, giving you some idea of what loves are operating within you, so you can see where you are, compared to where you wish to be. Before observing their reaction, people believe that another person running into their car causes their anger, and that their anger is justified. At that point, according to Gurdjieff, you are "asleep." You're not even free to work because you don't even know what work is. Observation just brings you to the point of choice where you may wish to work or change your "level of being."
Q. Since we know we can't really change our own feelings - they just inflow from the other world - and we want to change, and we want the Lord's help, how do we go about seeking the Lord's help to bring about a positive reaction, and eventually to get heaven flowing in instead of hell?
A. The first step explained by Gurdjieff and Nicoll is that through observation one starts to see that one's reactions, one's feelings, are not good. The Writings tell us that whatwe think is good, is often evil. And what we think is true, is often false. We might say, "Well, I've learned to be very assertive," or "I've learned to be aggressive, and now that I express these feelings I'm starting to get my car repaired on time." We justify it, feeling this anger is justified. So, as long as we think that these are good responses and that our thoughts are true thoughts, no change is possible.
The beginning is that through observation one starts to see the real nature of feelings and of his thoughts. Then comes an awareness that they are not in fact good but evil. Through observing, we come to the possibility of not expressing what we observe. What Gurdjieff says is that it becomes possible to not identify with it and not to respond from it. We think evil, we feel evil, but we refuse to do it. Once we recognize it for what it is, and refuse to do it, then we are available to higher influences, heaven can begin to flow into us. We must first empty the cup before it can be filled with something.
Gurdjieff talks about how to participate in the process of becoming nothing. (Swedenborg tells us that of ourselves we are nothing.) We start to sacrifice our moods, our mechanical or proprial responses. For instance, if we are so wrapped up in love of self that we have envy of the neighbor, or hate, or irritation, or contempt, then we certainly couldn't feel love for the neighbor, or have what Gurdjieff calls "external consideration." But if we feel contempt and see that it's within, that it has nothing to do with the neighbor, and refuse to go along with that feeling, then at that time we may be able to feel for the first time some compassion, some love, some joy in relation to the neighbor. So Gurdjieff is really talking about the first process, which is emptying the cup. Then positive emotions become possible for the first time.
There's a long process and many techniques and exercises that Gurdjieff talks about. But it all comes down to the same thing, which is to give up one's own will, and to do so actively through conscious effort and attention. Then we become available to an influx from something higher. We make a place for heaven to enter.
Q. Peter, you said something earlier about learning from your experience in, for example, skiing - that falling down can be a learning experience. Would you elaborate further on that? I know that you are a teacher of diving. Does this apply there?
A. Well, I certainly use it in teaching diving. More and more, psychology has come to observe that the process of learning does not have to be between failure and success. They have observed children learning to walk or to talk, when the child's too young to know about success and failure. In taking a step, if he falls, given he doesn't hurt himself, the information he gains is as valuable as if he didn't fall. Swedenborg says that if man wouldn't attribute either evil or good to himself, regeneration would be very easy. And that's why Gurdjieff talks about objective observation. He says, if what you observed causes you to feel guilty or feel upset or impatient, then what you're doing is interfering with the information you could have received through your observation. When you observe that you have anger or irritation, that shouldn't be any cause for further negative emotions. It just helps verify and confirm that what the Writings say is accurate and true.
Revelation teaches us that regeneration is a gradual process. The frustration and irritation at not becoming immediately a new person is really the impatience of the hells, our love of our own understanding, because we tend to think we can regenerate ourself. This is impossible. In the beginning all we can do is observe the hells in us, and refuse to go along with them. This is the process by which we are being made new by the Lord. Non- critical Self- observation is extremely hard to do, because we tend to identify with those things we observe. The Writings call it attributing them to ourselves. Gurdjieff explains the conscious process of drawing our feelings out of what we observe and how that starts to bring about change. It's much easier to teach people who are willing to learn from any response they get. I think that's true even in the process of transformation, repentance or regeneration.
Q. Is it possible, Peter, to make this a pleasant learning experience as we gradually withdraw from the influence of the hells, recognize false ideas, evil feelings, and invite their opposites?
A. Initially I think it's a lot to ask, to want it to be a pleasant experience. Of course, the stage where one starts to become aware of positive loves and new feelings, real appreciation of, and love for the neighbor, would be positive. But on the other hand, I think it's difficult to say that being aware of one's jealousy, anger and frustration, etc., is pleasant. There is a certain excitement that exists in observing that something that has been told to you is actually taking place in your life. When the Writings start to talk directly to you in regard to experience, then there's an excitement.
I was reading recently something that Bishop de Charms had written about the rational not being a cold and purely objective thing, but that it's actually the love of truth for truth's sake. So there is part of you - what Gurdjieff would term Work 'I's'- that can be very excited about observing things taking place. There's also an excitement when actual changes start to take place in the relationships that are important to you, whether it be with your spouse, a child or a very good friend. When you start to see, even to a small degree, that these relationships improve, that's very exciting.
Q. Temptations are often associated with despair and anxiety and we are keenly aware of those, but how do you relate Gurdjieff's teachings to the peace and tranquility that come at the end of temptations?
A. Fortunately we don't have to regenerate all the way in order to have the process take place in relation to one particular state. Often Gurdjieff talks about big angels and big devils, and little angels and little devils. There are states, or what he would call "mechanical" reactions, that we refuse to respond to and thoughts that we refuse to think and emotions that we refuse to identify with and with which we struggle. Over time - and time varies, depending on the size of the state you're dealing with - you start to feel less and less identified with these thoughts and emotions. You start to feel a distance from what you are resisting. Then separation takes place; the hells may rage but the feeling of who you are is separated from those hells. There begins to be a tranquility in regard to that particular state, and a freedom that you realize was brought about only by something that is higher than yourself. You know the Lord is doing it, and that tranquility in regard to that particular evil encourages you to continue working on other evils. You may see the storm raging, even be surrounded by its fury, but you may still feel peace. A friend gave me a pillow with the words on it "Serenity is not peace from the storm, it is peace amid the storm." There's a peaceful place, a safe harbor available to us at all times, if we really want it. It's where the Lord dwells.
Q. Would you say a word to our readers about how they might introduce themselves to this remarkable man through his books - titles and where they can get them?
A. The first thing I would recommend is a book by Maurice Nicoll, who studied under Gurdjieff. I was searching for about five years and was coming to the end of reading everything I had seen written by or about Gurdjieff. I was reading a book called The Mark by Nicoll and near the end of my reading was a phrase suggesting to me that if the reader had further interest in these things, he could consult the tremendous work on the internal sense of the Old Testament by Emanuel Swedenborg. Of course that brought me back to where I had been all the time and hadn't realized it. I went to the Writings and for the first time understood them in a way I could apply to my life. Nicoll's five-volume work titled Psychological Commentaries on Gurdjieff and Ouspensky represents his effort to teach Gurdjieff and Ouspensky to his students. At the same time he was writing these works, he was also a student of Swedenborg. Between the first and the fifth volumes he started to make the transition from the terms Gurdjieff used, to Swedenborg's terms. I personally find them extremely applicable and easy to understand. Many people may have already read The New Man by Maurice Nicoll, which explains the internal sense of the parables. One might start with that - it's a very small work. If you find that applicable you could certainly go to his five-volume work, The Psychological Commentaries. If you have a further interest in more pure Gurdjieffian work there certainly are other works that I could direct you to - In Search of the Miraculous by Ouspensky would be one of them.
Q. If you have the Writings, why would you be studying this philosopher?
A. I remember going through math class in high school, and I tried to learn as much as I could. I had the books, I had excellent teachers, but there was some connection that wasn't being made in my mind. I guess I was a slow learner. Then I took "Zero Math" with Ken Rose, and for the first time understood what the books and teachers had been saying. It wasn't that they hadn't taught correctly; in fact, they were very correct. It was my ability to understand that was lacking. I found the same process in reading the Writings. I understood intellectually what the Writings were saying, but not until I read Nicoll did I understand how to apply them to my life.
LRS: It has been a most inspiring interview, Peter, and I thank you for introducing our readers to this intriguing subject.
Interview of Peter S. Rhodes by Rev. Lorentz R. Soneson, New Church Home. 1987
Appendix II: Glossary of Terms
From the Work:
The object or end that one strives to attain.
Putting oneself in the neighbor's place, seeing from their point of view. Going out of oneself to consider how it feels to be that neighbor, from their point of view, place, or experience. To see ourself in another, or find another in our self. To find in oneself a time when we did the same or a similar thing on any level.
Thinking that an external event or situation is the cause of a negative state in yourself or others. (All causes are internal.)
The difference between having aims on the plane of external life (horizontal) and aims on the plane of spiritual life (vertical).
Keeping count or "making accounts" in the mind, of what you feel the neighbor owes you. Unforgiveness for big and small imaginary insults and slights.
To not identify with a state. To remain conscious of the fact that the state with you is not you. To realize, believe, and acknowledge that the thoughts you think and the feelings you feel are not you, but are those of spirits or societies with you.
A part of you within which the new will can be born. A non-critical, non-judgmental, observing part which can look down on your behavior.
Observing the behavior of the proprium, noticing what it thinks, says, and does. Looking impartially at one's own behavior from Observing "I."
Being here aware of impressions coming into you and your responses to them - and then being aware of yourself being aware of doing that. Also, it is to feel the Lord's presence with you - the "I AM," knowing that only He lives. "In Him we live and breathe and have our being." To remember the aim, end or purpose of your existence, is also to remember yourself.
Putting attention on one place in your body until you can feel sensation there and sustain it as long as you can. Sensing is used to divide your attention in a negative state, and as a reminding factor that, "Now is the time I will to work."
To turn off the internal dialogue that you hear going on in your head, as you might turn off a radio. If you still hear it, just ignore it. Stop thought is often used to separate from a negative train of thought that precedes or accompanies a negative emotion.
Inner, spiritual work on one's self. Spiritual growth; the work of regeneration.
Things that seem real to the natural eye or natural mind, but are actually illusions. For example it is an appearance that the sun rises and sets. The reality is that it is constant. It is an appearance that God sometimes forsakes us. The reality is that He is always with us.
To take credit or blame for something; to make it your own. For example all good flows in from God and all evil from hell. If we believe that we are the source of good or evil we wrongly appropriate it to ourselves ("make it our own") and take on those unhappy states called "pride" and "guilt."
The ability given to man by God to act entirely as if by his own power, while acknowledging that all power to do is from God alone. The "as of self" principle also acknowledges the Work principle that man cannot do, but he must do what he can.
Literally this word means to be "with knowledge." Knowledge received from Revelation is taken into the understanding and becomes a perception of what is and what is not to be done. Conscience is to act in accordance with the teachings of one's religion, but these teachings must first be acquired. A conscience therefore is something that is "built up" in a person.
The part of a person's mind that is relatively exterior or external, concerned primarily with the outer, material world, the self, worldly ambition and so forth. It is contrasted to the interior man which is concerned with higher, finer, more spiritual things. The exterior man reasons from appearances in the world, while the interior man reasons from the truth of Revelation.
That which flows in from heaven or hell. Higher or lower influences; heavenly or hellish influences.
Selfishness; loving self alone and not others except for selfish advantage. (Note: there is a good love of self which is self care and self-preservation so as to be more useful to others. The interior of this love is really love to the neighbor and love to the Lord.)
Pre-occupation with success in worldly ambitions, good fortune, fame and wealth. While material pleasures are not wrong, the proper order is for man to love heaven and spiritual things more than earth and material things. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
Believing in and doing what the Lord teaches. "If you love Me, keep My commandments."
Striving to see the good in all people; putting the best interpretation on their actions; excusing with all our might. This does not eliminate the need for civil discipline, but it does mean giving people the benefit of the doubt and imputing the best motives to them. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Receptive; able to be acted upon. Man is so created that he might be a passive recipient of the Lord's love, but in order to do this he must actively resist evil.
Man's own will apart from any higher influence. Selfish desires, pre-occupation with self and the world rather than the neighbor and heaven. (Note: there is a "heavenly proprium" which is graduallybuilt up in man as he freely chooses to withdraw from