17. Tip Of The Iceberg
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.