6. Horizontal and Vertical Lines
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?