Peter’s Correspondence on Mailing List B
Correspondent No 18
RESPONDENT: To recap from the ‘Freedom’ discussion –
The first quote, while a beautiful statement of an ideal that many of us hold, is only hypothesis. The latter statement, which some may label cynical, is rooted in direct or secondary observation, and so has a weight we cannot ignore.
PETER: What I did, once I observed that the Gurus and revered sages were still subject to the full range of human emotions, i.e. fear, aggression, nurture and desire, was to turn my awareness on my ‘self’, and my predisposition for ‘self’-aggrandizement, in order to facilitate the ending of ‘me’ and ‘my’ associated blind instinctual passions.
RESPONDENT: My experience is more in accord with the second choice that No 14 gave: ‘Or are they free to not act in reaction to them? Free to choose their actions (or stillness)...’ Even the most powerful of emotions derived from the ego/ self preservation, can be overridden. Think of the Buddhists who self-immolate.
PETER: An impassioned entity will do anything to survive – even kill the body it thinks and feels it lives in. Religious belief in Gods and an afterlife have meant that human beings have readily sacrificed their lives defending their beliefs or fighting for their God against Heathens from other tribes. In many religions it is taught that this sacrifice or martyrdom guarantees that one’s soul goes directly to heaven. Eastern religion takes this a stage further with the concept of spiritual suicide whereby the practitioner deliberately dies – or ‘kills the body’ – so as to transcend into a higher realm. These acts of killing other human beings, or committing suicide, are in fact instinctual passions in action – they are fuelled by a deep sorrow at having to be here at all, a desperate belief in the overarching power of God and the seductive lure of a life after death.
I can think of no more graphic and senseless passionate illustration of not wanting to be here and wanting to go ‘somewhere else’ than a Buddhist monk pouring petrol over himself ... and lighting a match.
RESPONDENT: What is the relationship between ego and willpower?
PETER: The instinctual ‘self’ every human being is born with is pre-programmed with a set of defence and propagation instincts, namely fear, aggression, nurture and desire, which form a primary and automatic impulse and in most cases deep-seated emotions override the supposed free will of ‘who’ we think and feel we are. In spiritual practice one surrenders one’s will to a higher force, placing one’s life in gloried service to God – thus ‘it is not my will but Thy will’. For someone like Ramesh Balsekar this means that if he kills another human being it is perfectly okay ... for it is ‘God’s will’. By surrendering their will to God many people literally get away with murder.
Surrendering one’s will to God is a cop-out that instantly allows one off-the-hook from even acknowledging that one has instinctual passions – let alone begin investigating them, let alone consider eliminating them.
RESPONDENT: Between willpower and pride?
PETER: Any entity, either normal or spiritual, is instinctually and socially imbued with both willpower and pride. On the spiritual path one is encouraged to surrender one’s will to God and to cultivate one’s humility. There are none so proud than those who have humbly surrendered their will to God for they stand on the side of Good, Truth, Right and the Almighty, by whatever name.
RESPONDENT: Is developing one’s willpower an ego trip or a valid spiritual practice (or is there no contradiction at all)?
PETER: Those who achieve Enlightenment do so by stubborn will for it is no easy thing to subjugate or transcend one’s ego, or personal self, and develop a new dissociative God-realized identity, or impersonal Self. It involves denying the existence of evil in oneself in order to become only the Good, who then gets to feel pure and perfect – and above it all.
RESPONDENT: Is willpower derived from ego? I would say yes. In my opinion, once one attains liberation one’s actions are spontaneously derived from / are part of the Divine Will. There is no struggle or need for willpower. Again, in my experience, willpower is essential in overpowering the negative impulses of the ego.
PETER: One has to desire to be God or God-realized with all one’s will. When I had a few major Satoris or Altered States of Consciousness, I knew I was on the way to being a Guru or God-man and it was only by having seen them close up, in action, on and off stage, that I started to question the very nature of Altered State of Consciousness experiences. What I found was that these experiences were not at all unique, they were culturally biased, they were affective only, and while they took me away from the ‘real’ world, they took me even further away from the actual world.
The ‘real’ world is a nightmare, the equivalent of wearing grey coloured glasses. The spiritual world is a fantasy dream, the equivalent of wearing rose-coloured glasses. When one dares to take off both glasses, the actual world – the amazing physical infinite universe we live in – becomes startlingly apparent as having always been here. It was only ‘I’ who stood in the way, or ‘me’ who claimed it as mine in affective/ spiritual experiences.
RESPONDENT: In what way may caring about other people be ego-transcending or ego-supporting affair (or is there no contradiction at all)?
PETER: A psychological and psychic entity, the ‘self’, is imbued with tender and savage passions and is taught to be fixated by morals of good and bad and ethics of right and wrong and therefore all acts of caring, no matter how well-meaning, will ultimately be ‘self’-centred and selfish.
RESPONDENT: Sacrificing for others probably does little to erase the ego. Think of the mother who sets aside her own needs for those of her child.
PETER: Again two aspects operate – one’s social identity of morals, ethics and beliefs and the instinctual drives. Many parental acts of sacrifice for their children are accompanied by a feeling of resentment that often bubble to the surface in times of stress, or in later life when one has done one’s social and instinctual duty.
There is, however, a predisposition towards altruism in human beings that is at the core of many of these acts of sacrifice. It is this propensity that one can tap into if one wants to make the only sensible sacrifice possible in order to facilitate peace on earth – self’-sacrifice or ‘self’-immolation, as opposed to the religious/spiritual senseless and selfish action of killing their own bodies or the bodies of other spirits.
RESPONDENT: Any ‘good’ act can be ego-supporting and not necessarily ego-transcending. Living for others is an outcome of liberation, not necessarily a route to it.
PETER: All of the successful Gurus demand a lot from others rather than give to others. They demand love, loyalty, surrender and devotion. I used to think they gave a lot until I realized that without their followers giving continuously they would be mere mortals like the rest of us.
It takes enormous courage to question the tender passions and the Good, for we have been taught by our peers to believe that without these facets of ourselves we would run amok or become evil. But for those daring enough this very investigation is the key to the door that keeps us trapped within the human condition of malice and sorrow and the duality of Good and Evil.
RESPONDENT: What is that specific element in different kinds of spiritual practice that destroys ego? Keeps it under control? Makes it stronger and more insidious? Makes it our enemy? Makes it our friend on the spiritual path? Or does our Sadhana simply not change anything about ego having other priorities instead?
PETER: Spiritual jargon being as slippery, poetic and illusory as it is, I find the whole argument about ego a bit of a furphy. It is clear that a spiritual person who becomes God-realized or God-intoxicated, or whatever other name is used, has suffered a shift of identity. This can be described as the transcendence of the ego and the ascendance of the soul, but it is all so shrouded in mystique and confusion it is all much clearer if one calls a spade a spade, and calls it a change of identity.
It is time to practice an active question all of one’s emotional identity, all of the feelings that are preventing one from being both happy and harmless.
RESPONDENT: There is no one prescription for a practice that will give you control over the ego, but it seems to me that having an external guide in the process is essential (this has probably been discussed in this group before I joined – I’m sure there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue). I lived in an ashram for 15 years, doing a 2.5 hr morning sadhana every single day. This certainly changed my life for the better, giving me much more control over my mind and emotions, but more importantly it gave me an experience of the Divine which provides limitless motivation for continuing to pursue union with the Infinite, because all other joys pale in comparison.
PETER: I too lived in ashrams, for some 10 years of my 17 years on the spiritual path, and had a wonderful time. I got to be in on the inside, to partake fully and whole-heartedly in the spiritual experience. I got to see it from the early days when ‘we’ were going to change the world and bring peace to the planet. I then saw it all dwindle to regimentation, dogma, religious practice and self-interest and finally to the formation of New Age Eastern religious groups reduced to praying for peace on earth and ‘raising the consciousness’ of the planet
It was, however, invaluable experience to draw upon later in order to make a clear-eyed assessment of how my religious beliefs and affective experiences had blinded me to my own fear and aggression and how surrendering my will to a spiritual Master or a mythical Higher Force, was the antithesis of actual freedom.
By the end of my spiritual years, although disillusioned, I refused to buckle under to cynicism or merely limp back into the ‘real’ world to live out a second-rate life. I knew there had to be something far, far better than the real world or the spiritual world ... and there is, of course.
RESPONDENT: My experience has taught me that the first prerequisite of true knowing is letting go of the intellect. In trying to analyze how ‘I’ am experiencing this moment I am stuck in the mind and prevented from attaining any sort of pure, thoughtless awareness.
PETER: Indeed. Most people have been trained to suppress their feelings and, as such, feel stuck when trying to discover ‘how am I experiencing this moment of being alive’. The ‘pure thoughtless awareness’ experience you are trying to attain is the common affective religious experience as in being there ‘abundantly happy, endlessly grateful and consciously connected with the Pure Source’, as you said further down. What I am talking of is ‘how are you experiencing this moment of being alive’, right here and now on earth as, it is with people as they are, which is 180 degrees different to becoming un-attached, retreating inside and going there to be with God.
Pure sensate-only sensual experiencing is only experienced in brief moments, because human beings are continually tossed about on a raging sea of tender and savage feelings, emotions and passions.
RESPONDENT: The most profound and transforming experiences of life come when we cease attempting to analyze what is happening to us.
PETER: Eastern spiritual teaching is not aimed at finding out what is going on in one’s psyche, investigating these feelings and passions but is aimed at suppressing the bad feelings and savage passions and giving full reign to the good feelings and tender passions. An old, ancient, fear-driven idea that has been tried and found wanting for millennia because it not only fails to address the problem of human malice and sorrow, it prevents one from even finding out exactly what is the problem inside oneself.
I for one was vitally interested in why I was sad, melancholic, peeved, annoyed, angry, unattached, alienated, euphoric, blessed out, humbled, grateful, loving, hateful, resentful, bored, envious, etc. Why all these feelings prevented me from being happy and harmless 24 hrs. a day everyday? But in order to become interested and begin questioning and investigating I had to abandon my spiritual conditioning.
RESPONDENT: For many years meditation was a struggle for me because I couldn’t get out of my mind. I was born into an intellectual family, my father being a university professor. I was very fond of the intelligence I inherited from him. My mind was my most prized possession, opening doors of opportunity for me, giving me power and influence over people of lesser intellect. Thus it was very hard for me to let go of the hold that my intellect had over me. I still cherish all the gifts that God has bestowed on me, but I am no longer ruled by my intellect. Neither am I a starry-eyed bliss ninny. What I am is abundantly happy, endlessly grateful and consciously connected with the Pure Source.
PETER: Indeed. The intellectual person is totally out of touch with their feelings, any common sense, any sensuality and disconnected from world of people, things and events. Similarly, the spiritual person is totally indulgent in their feelings, is totally disconnected to any common sense and any sensuality and is absolutely unattached from the world of people, things and events. It is the identity, the personal ‘I’ inside the head and the impersonal ‘me’ inside the heart that prevents the purity and perfection of the actual world becoming apparent.
To blame one’s woes on thinking, repress one’s savage passions and indulge in one’s tender passions, completely unrestrained by any common sense, is truly a thoughtless exercise, and can only lead to thoughtless affective experiences. It took me months and months of running the question ‘how am I experiencing this moment of being alive’ before I began to see that it was ‘my’ precious feelings that caused my malice and sorrow – and not bad thinking or wrong thinking, as I had been taught.
Feelings are most commonly expressed as emotion-backed thoughts and always has its roots in ‘my’ crude animal survival instincts.
PETER: This new and non-spiritual down to earth path to freedom has only recently been discovered and is now in its initial pioneering phase.
RESPONDENT: The path you describe sounds very similar to what Krishnamurti espoused beginning in the early part of the 20th Century, and thus hardly qualifies as ‘new.’
PETER: I take it when you say ‘sounds very similar’, you mean feels very similar. If you had read what I am saying you would have understood that I am an atheist through and through whereas Jiddu Krishnamurti was a God-man through and through.
To quote the man himself –
He is describing well your desired state of ‘pure, thoughtless awareness’. I find it a blatant deceit for the great and revered teachers to claim they are thoughtless, for it is clearly nonsense. A human being has to think to operate and function at a level of intelligence beyond a dog or a chimpanzee. What they are talking about as thoughtless is, in fact, the training of right thinking – thinking in a certain trained spiritual way so that one can eventually ‘realize’ – as in think and feel – oneself to be God.
RESPONDENT: I too am fascinated by the discoveries in the field of neurobiology but fail to see how an understanding of the origin and functioning of the reptilian brain gives us any advantage in controlling it.
PETER: Human beings have been forever trying to control their instinctual passions and it has clearly failed, for law and order in the world is still only maintained at the point of a gun. Further the Eastern religious practice of Divine Transcendence, whereupon one suppresses one’s bad feelings and savage passions and identifies solely with one’s good feelings and tender passions, does nothing but spawn human beings who believe themselves to be Gods and thus reek even more malice and sorrow on a blighted Humanity. I am talking about a new method that results in the elimination of the blind instinctual passions – not the failed methods of controlling or transcending. I am talking about a third alternative.
PETER: This particular aspect of awareness is not a natural phenomenon, nor one practiced on any of the traditional spiritual paths, and needs to be actively cultivated and persistently practiced in order to ensure success.
RESPONDENT: We are certainly privileged to have contributing to this discussion someone who is well-versed in all the traditional spiritual paths.
PETER: In fact, I have little intellectual interest in religion and the hundreds of spiritual paths and teachings, but at some seminal stage on the path I was twigged to understand what I was following, what the teachings really meant, what they really were saying. This wanting to understand is what the teachers summarily dismiss as being intellectual or being in your head. But I refused to be fobbed off for I was interested as to why, the further I went along the spiritual path, I was becoming more un-attached and disconnected from the actual world of people, things and events. When the physical world started to appear dream like and illusionary and ‘I’ started to live within a world of ‘my’ own creation, I really started to have doubts. That is when I became really interested in the teachings I was following, began to read a little of what was on offer in the spiritual smorgasbord and began to take a clear-eyed look at its effectiveness.
After all, once you become a God-man the delusion is so powerful, overwhelming and convincing it is almost impossible to turn back to normal, let alone to discover what is actual.
RESPONDENT: However, I will have to submit a dissenting opinion on the above statement and proffer that there are in fact many spiritual paths where such ‘self-awareness’ is a prime objective with teachings aimed at achieving just such a ‘self’-less state, arrived at by eliminating all impressions and impulses of ‘who’ we are.
PETER: No, all spiritual paths lead to exactly the same point – realizing ‘who’ you Really are. This ‘who’ you Really feel you are, aka soul, as opposed to ‘who’ you think you are, aka ego, has many names, for spiritual teachers have a personal investment in inventing new words and new ways of saying the same old thing in order that that their particular teachings appear to be original, fresh and new. Some of the more common names for this newly created spiritual identity or ‘self’ is known as ‘original face’, Being, Self, Impersonal Self, Divine, Love, God, Atman, Buddha Nature, True Nature, Is, That, Such, Source, Presence, Intelligence, Spirit, Universe, Consciousness,
The Eastern spiritual tradition of cunningly doing only half the job of ‘self’-immolation is what leads to the creation of a grand Self – a supposedly thoughtless, totally impassioned, fantasy identity.
What I am talking about is eliminating both ‘who’ we think we are and ‘who’ we feel we are – total self-immolation.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.