“There is a nice German word, hintergedanken, which means a thought in the very far far back of your mind,” says Watts. “Jung had a hintergedanken in the back of his mind that showed in the twinkle in his eye. It showed that he knew and recognized what I sometimes call the element of irreducible rascality in himself. And he knew it so strongly and so clearly, and in a way so lovingly, that he would not condemn the same thing in others, and would therefore not be led into those thoughts, feelings, and acts of violence towards others which are always characteristic of the people who project the devil in themselves upon the outside, upon somebody else, upon the scapegoat.” And so, whether we enter into this field of thought through Watts, through Jung, or through anyone else, it always seems to comes back to the ancient Greeks: “Know thyself.”
There are two kinds of suffering. Suffering imposed on us by the outside and suffering created by ourselves. All we can do with suffering imposed by the outside is share it in the human family and show compassion, love and empathy for those who’ve been hurt. Suffering created by ourselves is referred to as neurotic suffering i.e. ‘inauthentic suffering’. At bottom, neurosis is a moral and ethical problem.
In other words symptoms like neurotic anxiety, depression, compulsions, ulcers, headaches etc. occur primarily because we try to manipulate others.
We do this in a variety of ways…i.e. blaming, withholding feelings and affection, using guilt to have others do our bidding, temper tantrums and primarily abusing power. The opposite of love is power, not hatred.
[ … ]A calling may be postponed, avoided, or intermittently missed. It may also possess one completely. Eventually it wins out and makes its claim either in a soulful life, or if ignored, in meaninglessness, cynicism, hoarding, loneliness and alienation.
The dragon we must slay is no more that the monster of everyday expectations about how we “ought” to live our lives. If we realize this, we will be back in the world, but “no longer of it”. We will be able to interact with others without submitting to their definition of who we are supposed to be! This precious pearl that is one’s individual worth can only be found when we are willing to stand alone. By consciously choosing to pursue the inner journey, we transform impersonal fate into our own personal destiny.
“More abstractly, it’s a method of consciously entering into a dialogue with the unconscious, which triggers the transcendent function, a vital shift in consciousness, brought about through the union of the conscious and unconscious minds. Unexpected insights and self-renewal are some of the results of the transcendent function. It achieves what I call that elusive Goldilocks’ condition, the just right’ of having the conscious and unconscious minds work together, rather than being at odds. In the process it produces a third state more vivid and real’ than either; in it we recognize what consciousness should be like and see our normal’ state as at best a muddling-through”
by Gary Lachman
“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.”
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
I’m re-posting this old nugget as it is directly related to the 2 most recent that I have posted; Know Thyself: self-observation for the purpose of understanding ourselves “both as Individuals and Part of the Whole.”
This was Tavaglione’s introduction to his tarot deck. In creating the Stairs of Gold Tarot, he was inspired by these words from Dante’s Paradiso, “I saw a stair the colour of gold, on which shone a ray of Sun, which raised itself so high that my eyes could not see the top….”
“I would do nothing else but pick flowers, and wander through meadows and gardens, gathering all the beautiful and most coloured my eyes and my spirit could see…but it happened that when I picked the first coloured diamonds, my curiosity flew up and I would “know” and I would “learn”. And while at first my questions were limited only to their aspect, and I would know many Petal-Facets had the Diamond-Flowers I was picking, later I would know their Inmost Secret Light, their Why.As I could not study all the Flowers my eyes took in, I devoted myself to the nearest ones, trying to understand with them, all the others, seeking inside them the Key that would permit me to open every other Door.And then I realized that the more I penetrated the “Particular”, the more I descended to the “Depth”, the more I rose to the “General”. So to understand that infinity of the Flowers around me, I began to study, with great care, One of Them, that could mean the most to me, the nearest one: myself.And I tried to discover how many facets had that Flower-Diamond; its Cut, its Axis, it’s Colours, its Transparency, its Scent, to penetrate its innermost recesses, the “Secret Rooms” where are preserved the Most Intimate Values, the Hidden Treasures concealed by Veils.To reach them I found it was anything but simple, because still before entering, I should curb the Beast that guarded them, the Animality always excluded from any Architecture, and any Rationality of Thought, bestial and resentful, because of its inferiority, it must be subdued by Fight and physical Strength or by Command and Moral Strength: once curbed it will be a tractable companion, but like every subdued wild beast, it will always assault us, when hesitating.After the Beast, there is the Labrynth, consisting of 78 rooms, and 3×7 = 21 Gates; in every Room there are Prizes and Traps, Traps playing on what remained inside us, of the false ideas or the mental distortions that follow us from the preceding rooms, with which we must do away, and the Prizes playing on our Intuition and Illuminations that let us know, on the grounds of what we have learnt till now, what awaits us in the next room and that will be clear only in the future.The 21 Gates are unforeseen gleams on the future and though one can find some difficult ties to reach and pass them, he has the Certitude of his Growth and the Consciousness of his accomplished conquest, that instill new life into his desire to go on Knowing and infuse him with new courage to face future difficulties.The Utmost Gate, that closes the Utmost Room, the Sancta Sanctorum, is the Gate of Totality, the Conclusion that leads to our Essence, complete of everything Spiritual and Material. When we will overcome that Utmost Barrier, we will be Ourselves, at the height of our Beings conscious of our Liberty, both as Individuals and Part of the Whole, Then behind the Veil, stretched between the Two Colums, the Black one and the Red, we will foresee the Roots of the Tree, that through its 10 points, will lead us up to heights where neither the most presumptuous of men can imagine, because those heights are not conceivable or comprehensible by minds not completely free.”
Formerly, I had been quite satisfied with myself, but I had taken very little trouble to increase my self-knowledge; from now on, I would stand outside myself, watch over and observe myself; in my diary I had long conversations with myself. I was entering a world whose newness stunned me. I learned to distinguish between distress and melancholy, lack of emotion and serenity; I learned to recognize the hesitations of the heart, and its ecstasies, the splendor of great renunciations, and the subterranean murmurings of hope. I entered into exalted trances, as on those evenings when I used to gaze upon the sky full of moving clouds behind the distant blue of the hills; I was both the landscape and its beholder: I existed only through myself, and for myself… My path was clearly marked: I had to perfect, enrich and express myself in a work of art that would help others to live.
― Simone de Beauvoir
‘Withdraw into yourself and look; and if you do not find yourself beautiful as yet, do as does the sculptor of a statue … cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is shadowed … do not cease until there shall shine out on you the Godlike Splendour of Beauty; until you see temperance surely established in the stainless shrine-(Ennead, 1, 6, 9).
“…our first steps towards freedom require us to “remember ourselves” and in doing so “separate ourselves from ourselves”. As I understand it, this means in my psychological language to dis-identify with the reactive places we are caught in. In other words to make an object of the part of that is caught into whatever reaction is happening now. This is also what Robert Keegan’s 1994 “Subject / Object Theory” is all about, making objective, i.e. clear to ourselves, what we are identified with, bringing our unaware ground into consciousness so that we can relate to it, so that we can develop our awareness around it and start to understand it. So that we can start to look after ourselves in a new way.This is what therapy is all about, facilitating this movement of separating ourselves from ourselves in order to develop our awareness and understanding around that part of ourselves. This in the service of healing the unfinished trauma in its widest sense that we hold from our pasts and which unconsciously drives our compulsive reactive identifications. Just making this step into seeing that we are caught and that this is not the whole of ourselves, is such a profound and powerful one. ‘Remembering’ ourselves, i.e. connecting our split self back together again, opens the door to not only self-knowledge and understanding, but also to all the possibilities we have of being.Held trauma inevitably splits the heart and mind and body, and it is re-connecting these aspects of our whole together again that facilitates “self-remembering”. Or is it ‘remembering ourselves’ that enables them to re-connect? I’m not sure which way round it is, maybe both work simultaneously, or maybe we can get there from using either our ‘intention’ or ‘attention’.
Continuing the theme of “Who am I?” today I’m going to focus on relationships. Often in a relationship, we can feel a bit lost. We’re told that relationships are a compromise, but we also need to make sure that we don’t make so many compromises that we end up asking “where did I go?”
We can lose oursleves pretty quickly in a relationship, for many reasons which I’m sure we’re all aware of. We may at some point find that we have agreed to an entire life plan, whether consciously or not, either to keep one person happy or, as a compromise whereby neither person is actually fulfilled.
One clue as to when this has occurred, is when people start to think “I have everything I always wanted but…” or “I am doing what I always wanted but….”
It is likely they may even only use the word “we” instead of “I”. Some people still use the word “we” years after a relationship has ended: “We went there.” They stop seeing themselves as an individual, and in some cases, their memory only sees the other person, and their feelings about a place or situation is completely based on their memory of how that other person felt about it.
Paulo Coello has summed this up brilliantly in a passage in his book The Zahir.
“Marie, let’s suppose that two firemen go into a forest to put out a small fire. Afterwards, when they emerge and go over to a stream, the face of one is all smeared with black, while the other man’s face is completely clean. My question is this: which of the two will wash his face?”
“That’s a silly question. The one with the dirty face of course.”
“No, the one with the dirty face will look at the other man and assume that he looks like him. And, vice versa, the man with the clean face will see his colleague covered in grime and say to himself: I must be dirty too. I’d better have a wash.’What are you trying to say?’I’m saying that, during the time I spent in the hospital, I came to realize that I was always looking for myself in the women I loved. I looked at their lovely, clean faces and saw myself reflected in them. They, on the other hand, looked at me and saw the dirt on my face and, however intelligent or self-confident they were, they ended up seeing themselves reflected in me thinking that they were worse than they were. Please, don’t let that happen to you.”
This is akin to the Jungian concept of the animus/anima. Author and Psychologist Peter O’Connor explains this beautifully, when he writes that “Narcissistic and idealised longings for paradise exist in all human beings”. He explains that we often project the qualities of this fantasy person who fulfills our every need, onto real mortals with whom we “fall” in love. If we lack self-awareness, we don’t understand that we were or are seeing this person as a symbolic expression of part of ourselves. Some people never realise this, and insist that the other person has “changed” if they begin to express themselves in ways that don’t fit this idealised version.
Another analogy Coelho uses is that of a railway track. The two tracks are always the same distance apart, no matter how the route twists and turns, both have to go side by side, exactly the same distance. Do relationships have to be like railroad tracks? Who says?
As I’ve written in some of my earlier blog posts, when we learn to Know Ourselves, understand ourselves and love ourselves, we learn the purest kind of love, and we can bring that unconditional love into our relationships with friends and with partners/lovers.
Paulo Coelho’s The Zahir is a wonderful example of how one man comes to learn this.
I’ll finish this with some of his words:
“Esther asked why people are sad. “That’s simple,” says the old man. “They are the prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.”
[if people ask themselves why they are unhappy] “If we ask that question, it means we want to find out what makes us happy. If what makes us happy is different from what we have now, then we must either change once and for all or stay as we are, feeling even more unhappy.”
“Esther, however, was the only woman who understood one very simple thing: in order to be able to find her, I first had to find myself.”
Continuing on from my previous blog post Who Am I? All the World’s a Stage and All the Men and Women Merely Players
In the Natural World, we can observe a harmony that is at the same time both simple, and yet sophisticated. We see different insects, plants, trees and creatures evolving into their own sophisticated form of life in order to maximise their chance of survival, and to find their own unique place in the eco-system. Different species rely on each other, and sustain each other.
There are of course conflicts, struggles for survival, and hierarchies.
In the human world, things are no different; we are very sophisticated life forms, with the same conflicts, struggles for survival, and hierarchies. The difference is, above and beyond the natural way of things, we have also created our own very sophisticated conflicts, false hierarchies, and have created a system whereby we cause entire sections of our own species to struggle to survive, in many cases simply to sustain others.
What is the cause of our living increasingly out of harmony with even our own species and out of balance with the rest of the eco-system?
At birth we are unaware of any divisions in life, but as we become more self-aware and aware of our surroundings, we learn our name, who belongs to our family, our group, our town, our country. In many respects, this is the same among other life forms, and can be useful for helping us to fit in with our culture and to become a useful and productive member of our own society. However, to these we can add the particularly human traits that we choose to believe to be part of our identity – “I am a doctor” or even things such as “I read this newspaper” and “I go to see these types of films”, “This is my enemy, this is my friend”, “I need this, I don’t need that”.
As we become adults, we are now fully conditioned by our family, teachers, friends and society, and are keenly aware of the qualities we have which are considered weaknesses by society, and those which are considered strengths. We are judged or praised, rewarded or punished depending on our emotions and actions; we learn to ignore or hide the parts of our self that are not approved of, or do not fit in with our culture or society’s conditioning and programming. This is reinforced by so many people around us, that we come to believe that this is all I can be, and we forget or bury the other aspect of ourselves.
In many disciplines, this self is considered the false self. What can make it even more difficult, is if we are also aware that this self we are presenting to the world IS false. In the outside world, we may think we need this false self to fit in with the system, trying to go about our business within society just as others do but inside, privately we have remained in touch with some aspect of our true self underneath the false self. We may have lived as this false self for so long that we may also not approve of what we percieve to be our true self, due to the conditioning. We even begin to think we are some kind of freak. We have learned not to trust, even doubting those who want the best for us, as we have been betrayed by others when we have confided our feelings or shown aspects of our true self to them. Is there a way back to the You that you already knew before you got so tied up in the physical world, in the expectations of society and the belief that it was the only way to exist or survive?
Yes, this conditioning and programming can be undone; it is a mistake to believe that it can’t.
We can start by unravelling our thoughts, each time we find ourselves thinking “I am this” or “I’m no good at that” “I can only do this in such a way”. Ask yourself, do you REALLY believe that? And if so, why? Who told you that? or when did you decide that? Our thoughts are made up of stories; our mind contains so many stories from the past that shape our thinking and assumed beliefs – some from events that actually happened, and others that we made up ourselves at various points in our life, for protection or to boost our self-esteem. Because our mind has turned these thoughts into stories, we use this inner library to reference the way we act or approach the present, however much we might wish to behave differently.
By turning an inner light on these thoughts and stories, we can shed awareness on past conditioning, we can expand our consciousness and begin to rediscover and recover our true identity. We can then begin to rediscover the harmony that can be found with members of our own species, to rely on one another, to sustain one another, and even further, find our place within the eco-system. We have a choice.