Category Archives: Wisdom

Nietzsche on How to Find Yourself – Brain Pickings

How can man know himself?

It is a dark, mysterious business: if a hare has seven skins, a man may skin himself seventy times seven times without being able to say, “Now that is truly you; that is no longer your outside.” It is also an agonizing, hazardous undertaking thus to dig into oneself, to climb down toughly and directly into the tunnels of one’s being. How easy it is thereby to give oneself such injuries as no doctor can heal.

Moreover, why should it even be necessary given that everything bears witness to our being — our friendships and animosities, our glances and handshakes, our memories and all that we forget, our books as well as our pens.

For the most important inquiry, however, there is a method.

Let the young soul survey its own life with a view of the following question: “What have you truly loved thus far? What has ever uplifted your soul, what has dominated and delighted it at the same time?”

Assemble these revered objects in a row before you and perhaps they will reveal a law by their nature and their order: the fundamental law of your very self. Compare these objects, see how they complement, enlarge, outdo, transfigure one another; how they form a ladder on whose steps you have been climbing up to yourself so far; for your true self does not lie buried deep within you, but rather rises immeasurably high above you, or at least above what you commonly take to be your “I”.

Source: Nietzsche on How to Find Yourself and the True Value of Education – Brain Pickings

Encountering the Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Young Man’s Search, by David Ulrich | Parabola

“What Gurdjieff calls the magnetic center represents an inner formation that helps orient us in the right direction, toward what can serve our individual evolution and inner development. Our search is often born from contact with certain kinds of influences—books that may help show the way, other people that touch us in a deeper fashion, inspiring works of art, and one’s own intuition—that, upon reaching a certain force, will attract help to the seeker. Influences that derive from a conscious origin have a different quality, a unique flavor, that resonates with the seeds of consciousness within oneself.

I think of it as a magnetizing force that attracts us to what we genuinely need—and draws what we need to us. It is a reciprocal movement. But, especially in these times, there are dangers at every step of the way. Is this teacher authentic and truly connected to a source of knowledge? Has he or she sufficiently traveled the inner journey, enough to really help us, and not distort or injure our search? Discrimination is essential. And rigorously following the dictates of one’s intuition, and listening to the still voice of our inner senses, is a central challenge in our search. The smorgasbord of spiritual teachings today allows for all manner of distortions and dilutions of great knowledge.

The magnetic center must work with a finer quality of energy than is found in our usual fragmented states of being. The word magnet is very accurate here. We find a resonance with a teaching, a book, a teacher, a work of art that corresponds to something finer in ourselves that we wish to know better and to develop. However, the danger of our search being usurped by our ego is not only ever-present but is prevalent in contemporary times. There is much evidence of a wrongly formed magnetic center or the type of seeking that endeavors simply to become a better, more effective person. Ken Wilber knows this type of spiritual seeking as the “ego in drag.”

The desire for mere self-improvement on an ordinary level, the hypnotic seduction with trance-like states found in shamanism and other exotic rituals, the dangerous work of prematurely opening the “chakras,” the new-age impulse towards abundance and the belief that everything is “divinely perfect,” and that no part of us could possibly be out of step with the divine plan—these are all common manifestations of Chögyam Trungpa’s famous phrase: “spiritual materialism.”

American materialism has affected the spiritual path deeply—manifesting in seeking magical states, instant gratification, and a shallow, results-driven spirituality.

Genuine search places us in the eye of the tiger. It is raw and an anathema to our ego. It demands rigor and discipline, and the striving towards impartial self-observation which brings in its train a certain kind of suffering and discomfort.

Genuine spiritual growth is fundamentally transformative, not merely a rearrangement of our personalities or an increased ability to meet the demands of life. It is learning to serve a different master, our search for higher consciousness and for the awakening of conscience, and placing our ego or our conditioned personality in a secondary, not primary, role.

Awakening exacts a price, and we pay in different ways at different times, at different stages along our path.  The first payment is to follow the dictates of our genuine search, to accept the inevitable struggle and discomfort of turning towards our inner life. We are asked to place our ego and conditioned personality in question, not to blithely follow its insistent voices, but to open ourselves to the deeper impulses that lead us towards the influences that we need, whether in the form of books, people, or a wisdom teaching.

A certain leap of faith is required here, one that we can only resolve from looking deep within.

The seeker in us is authentic; we know by the “taste” of certain influences what it needs, and we must open to those influences and begin to allow them to act on us, like a young plant seeking water and air. And we must stay in touch with the “inner taste” of the influences that we allow into our being. Impressions are food, and to some degree, we are what we eat. Where rigor and discipline is required, is to maintain this discriminating faculty that knows from within what our nascent real selves need for their growth and evolution.” – David Ulrich

Source: Encountering the Teachings of Gurdjieff: A Young Man’s Search, by David Ulrich | Parabola

The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

“The god Horus is a falcon (the word for which in hieroglyphs is qhr, the falcon’s cry). In the third surviving column of text, remarkably, the falcon is marked with a triangle, the hieroglyphic designation for the star Sirius. As if it were a mathematical proof unfolding before my eyes, I saw that if the falcon marked by the triangle is Sirius, the fire is the light of dawn in which the gods—the things marked holy by the hieroglyphic prayer flags—are stars. The baboon’s penis is in actuality a familiar sight: the Sword of Orion (the three stars under Orion’s belt), which rises directly before Sirius on the path of rising stars. The hieroglyphic lines on the wall express an immediate, visual moment in the physical world: the dawn rising of Sirius signaling the rising of the Nile, the key moment of the Egyptian agricultural year. The clear, repetitive, and simple hieroglyphic lines read not as a magic spell but as a finely machined poetic riddle: The Sword of Orion opens the doors of the sky. Before the doors close the gate to the path over the fire Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark, As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire, Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark. They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path. Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius. That this was the case was borne out by the text as I translated further. Beautifully constructed verses presented one vivid astronomical reference after another: Taurus (“Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns. / Come out. Rise.”), the full moon (“the face, the head, the eye”), the North Star (“the axis at the center of the wheel”), the Dippers (“the arms of night”), the Milky Way (“the ladder to heaven”). The verses of the Pyramid Texts map the night sky as a detailed seasonal clock reliably predicting the most critical resource of all: water. Egyptian civilization came out of radical climate change—cattle herders whose grazing land was rapidly becoming desert as the water dried up in the climate shift of the Neolithic, much as is happening in Texas and around the world today.

The verses present a sequence of poetic images in which the human body is transformed back into its elements in the visible universe of the turning sky. The remnant essence of a human life rises as a star in the east: “moses” (the hieroglyphic word for infant) in “the field of rushes” (the eastern stars at dawn). The infant star is the child of “she who gave birth but did not know it” (the sky). The sky is a flood of cool darkness across which sail the stars: Sirius and its evil twin, “the detested wild dog Set,” the second brightest star in the sky, Canopus, the rising of which signals the autumn rains with their deadly flash floods and thunderstorms. Through this glittering wetland of stars wanders the golden calf, the golden crescent horns of the moon.

This extraordinary convergence of poetry, science, and religion resides not only in the writing but in the pictures within the words themselves. Osiris is a phonetic rendering of a hieroglyphic rebus: the seat of the eye, the universal corpse in which resurrection is not a religious mystery but an inevitability of nature. In the Pyramid Texts, hieroglyphic vocabulary is rich with images: The body is a tree. The snake is the life in it. The fruit of the tree is the eye. What is being expressed is the intelligence of nature itself in the ongoing process of creation: the death, decay, and rebirth of plant and animal life in the cyclical year. One familiar religious trope after another appears not as literal historical fact used to proscribe, threaten, and dictate the parameters of human life but as poetic imagery used to bring to life the awareness of our fragile and beautiful world. The richness of these images is echoed in the Book of Job: “As for the earth, out of it cometh bread, and under it is turned up as it were fire. The stones of it are the place of sapphires, and it hath dust of gold.” The Pyramid Texts are not magic spells or religious prescription any more than this. Instead, the text takes up a key question: Where shall wisdom be found?

…over the fire
Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark,

As a falcon flies, as a falcon flies, may Unis rise into this fire,

Beneath the holy ones as they grow dark.

They make a path for Unis. Unis takes the path.

Unis becomes the falcon star, Sirius.

 

Would that the bull break the fingers of the horizon of earth with its horns.

Come out. Rise.

Poetry and religion arise from the same source: the perception of the mystery of life. Early Egyptian writing belongs to this eternal language. The vehicle at work is associative thinking, in which metaphors act as keys to unlock a primeval human sense of the integrated living world. The meaning may not come across on the pedantic level, but on the poetic level it is transparent.”

Source: The Turning Sky | Lapham’s Quarterly

Susan Brind Morrow

Susan Brind Morrow’s translation and analysis of the Pyramid Texts, The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts, was published in 2015. She received a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship in 2006.

Introduction to Boehme’s Threefold Life of Man. By George W. Allen

Introduction to Boehme’s Threefold Life of Man.

By George W. Allen

There is a way, a wisdom, an operation which, taken, searched out and attempted, will lead him, teach him and form him so that he will not only reach the eternal (which all must do), but reach it to find himself in rightful relation to it, at home in it, conformed to it. Harmony with environment is heaven: the contrary is hell.” -George W. Allen

 Dreifaches_Leben Threefold Life

[..] If Boehme has been called the “Teutonic Theosopher,” this is only because he endeavors to penetrate into the depth of man’s nature, and seeks for facts which are not to be found upon the surface thereof.

 

There has been, without doubt, in all ages of the world much enquiry calling itself “theosophical” which has been illicit and disastrous. Ducklings that can safely cross a river might be lost in attempting to cross the Atlantic.

Everything depends on the spirit in which the enquiry is undertaken. If in a self-sufficient pride and confidence in our own powers, or out of mere curiosity and love of the wonderful and obscure, the enquiry is illicit and likely to end in spiritual and moral disaster.

One sort of spirit alone can undertake the enquiry with safety. It must be entered on for the one and only purpose of learning what we actually are, so that by this knowledge we may be enabled to shape our life and form our personal character in accordance with the eternal Fact.

Neither must we undertake to pursue the enquiry by our own natural and unaided reason and intellect. We must seek and expect guidance; that guidance which is ever afforded to those who seek it from a true motive, which is never a mere desire to explore and talk about the recondite and profound.

So narrow is the gate that leads to the real divine truth that no self-sufficiency can ever enter in.

Only the meek and lowly of heart, who desire to be able better to serve, rather than to pose as profound thinkers, can pass it and walk in the straitened way that will be found within. Such are known at once by this: that their whole interest is centered on what can be turned to practical account in life and conduct and character; and if, as they study, they do not find themselves becoming nearer to the divine character in love and sympathy and service, they feel that something is wrong. They are never so filled with wonders discovered as to rest content with this success; for they seek not truth for its own sake, but only for the sake of its good. They watch themselves closely, and turn aside from any knowledge that does not bear fruit in a greater earnestness in service, and in a character growing ever more pure and sympathetic and set on things above.

All this Boehme is careful to say again and again.

 

Understood in this sense, and fenced about by these safeguards, theosophy loses all its dangers, and the man who loves God, and is dissatisfied with the mere notional apprehension of Him with which most are content; who feels that he himself is more than he as yet knows, and would understand for what he was created, and to what end he is meant to arrive; who regards this life as needing to be interpreted rather than no more than it seems; who wishes so to live here that, after death, he may not find himself in a new and “other” world with every fiber of habit, every longing and liking, of a nature which, in that world, is impossible and must prove a torment—such an one need not despair.

 

There is a way, a wisdom, an operation which, taken, searched out and attempted, will lead him, teach him and form him so that he will not only reach the eternal (which all must do), but reach it to find himself in rightful relation to it, at home in it, conformed to it. Harmony with environment is heaven: the contrary is hell. If, of human writers, Kant is the man of philosophical first principles, Boehme is equally certainly the man of theosophical first principles. And if there appear signs (as surely is the case) that our Christian religion is not producing that national righteousness which its aim is to produce, and we suspect that we have not got our first principles right, there is no author (outside Holy Scripture) to whom it will be more profitable to go back.

 

It will be impossible in a brief introduction to enter on a full explication of Boehme’s marvelous system, for this would require a volume to itself. All that can be attempted is to indicate the general lines of that system, and to give some clue to the reader, whereby first difficulties may be surmounted, and the secret of Boehme indicated.

George W. Allen

Link to pdf. (can be read online) The Threefold Life of Man written by Jacob Boehme, 1620
http://www.jacobboehmeonline.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Threefold_Life_of_Man.87135427.pdf

THE THREEFOLD LIFE OF MAN
ACCORDING TO THE
THREE PRINCIPLES
BY JACOB BOEHME GORLITZ 1620
TRANSLATED BY JOHN SPARROW 1650
TRANSCRIBED BY WAYNE KRAUS 2013

P.D. Ouspensky: Strange Life of Ivan Osokin – Ivan-Osokin.pdf

“At six years of age Ouspensky was reading on an adult level. Two books made a strong impression on him—Lermontov’s A Hero for Our Time and Turgenev’s A Sportsman’s Notebook. Lermontov’s book is noteworthy since the ideas it expresses—the plasticity of time and questions of predestination, fate and recurrence—are those that would occupy Ouspensky throughout his life. As a young boy Ouspensky disliked school, finding the work dull. At sixteen he discovered Nietzsche, whose idea of eternal recurrence would remain a lifelong interest. He left school the same year. In 1905, at the age of seventeen, his mother died. That year he wrote his only novel (not published until 1915), The Strange Life of Ivan Osokin.”

3366_P_D_OUSPENSKY_Strange_Life_of_Ivan_Osokin_1972

http://www.gurdjiefflegacy.org/archives/pdouspensky.htm

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin – Ivan-Osokin.pdf. old link didn’t work – updated to add working link

Strange Life of Ivan Osokin is a novel by P. D. Ouspensky. It follows the unsuccessful struggle of Ivan Osokin to correct his mistakes when given a chance to relive his past. The novel serves as a narrative platform for Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence. The conclusion fully anticipates the Fourth Way Philosophy which typified Ouspensky’s later works. In particular the final chapter’s description of the shocking realization of the mechanical nature of existence, its consequences, and the possibility/responsibility of working in an esoteric school.” – wiki