Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An impossible transaction

This evening, I was reading Paramhansa Yogananda's latest biography—which is, by the way, quite good and, for the most part, worth reading—when I came across a passage describing the idea that we have to surrender our ego, to allow it to be burnt away in the divine fire of God's Love. This romantic notion crops up a lot in the context of spiritual development; yet the idea that the ego has a value, that a transaction can take place with it in which it is destroyed and something new is arrived at, satires me as  a falsehood.

The ego—false personality, that which we think we are—doesn't exist. The entire construction is an illusion, so there is no trading to be done with it. One might as well show up with baked goods at a Las Vegas gaming table and try to place a bet with it.

“Here,” I say. "Here's my ego. I'm staking a bet on Higher Consciousness.”

"Nonsense," replies the croupier. “That's a biscuit, you idiot—not money.”

 The question has been puzzling me since this morning, when, during my sitting, I saw that my eagerness to give myself up was essentially hollow. There isn't anything here God would want, or that "I" could give to Him. Nothing here is solid; the “I” I want to surrender, everything it is, bears no relationship to that which belongs to God, and wants to return to God.

What is of God already belongs to God, and doesn't need to be given back... however, can it be returned to, perhaps? The prodigal son comes to mind.

So in a peculiar way, a way that confused what I am and raised many questions, I saw that my search is, in a certain way, useless... don't take this the wrong way—I'm not saying we should all give up our search. I'm just saying that in essence, with all of what I believe is there of me, there is nothing there. There is not even, as Gertrude Stein said, any there there.

 Readers will have to be patient if they feel that this explanation is clumsy, because it is. There is no definite way to express this question. I can only say that it seems to me throughout a lifetime, and endless pages of spiritual texts, conversations with other seekers, teachers, religious practices, etc., this idea of surrendering the ego comes up over and over again. Yet no one I know has ever seen an ego; and, as I pointed out in my last post, it is a chimera in both senses of the word. First of all, as a mythical animal, and second of all (in the context of surrendering it) as a thing that is hoped or wished for, but is in fact illusory and altogether impossible to achieve.

 To put it bluntly, in a truly higher state, the ego and all the questions about it simply cease to exist, disappearing in a single instant, analogous to what the Zen tradition calls “dropping off.” There can be no question of enlightenment or non-enlightenment here; the point is moot. And, in some peculiar way, we already inhabit this point of intelligence, but we do so unintelligently. The consciousness that could clarify the matter is not present.

Perhaps this points us towards an inkling as to what Meister Eckhart was getting at when he said that in order for God to be present and for God's will to be done, not one iota of ourselves can remain behind in us. I think of myself as a blackboard that needs to be erased; but there is no blackboard. Even the "surface" upon which the script of my personality is written isn't actually there. Something else quite different is there; and I stand forever on the edge of it, suspecting—yet blithely ignorant.

Yes, the conversation leads us into convoluted texts and ideas that fold over one another like pastry dough. Yet it all comes back down to the masthead for this blog, which is been there ever since I established it:

“There is no "I", there is only Truth. The way to the truth is through the heart."

Some of my readers, notably Richard, will probably be inspired to get out the gridiron and start heating it up after that remark. But I'm making it anyway.

That which inhabits us which is real is already fundamentally of God, with God, and in God. All of that which is unreal never existed in the first place. In that sense, we can't "do" anything with it, since there is nothing to be done with nothing.

Perhaps this was one of the meanings Mr. Gurdjieff meant to impart to us when he said that man cannot “do.”

We think we have something we don't have. We think we can do something with it. We think it has a value that can be traded off for something greater.

And yet all of this is illusory.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

5 comments:

  1. Lee,
    Your points are well received herein. Perhaps in such a case one hopes change, being from within, would not cause an old overcoat to be given the Lord, then expecting a new one in return, but rather that with the proper Wish, conditions and catalyzing faculty, I would as it were, grow that new coat from inner to outer..

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  2. Here I am on the gridiron, but I find no fault with your statement. In the cosmos, where everything is relationship, you're saying has validity, and there is no reason for me to joust against it.

    First of all, I wish to review for myself some ideas and concepts that have to do with the emergence of different aspects of the organism. In the womb we are aquatic creatures and have a certain amount of freedom which we lose at birth in the floatation of the fetus within the womb. Then we are birthed, and the fetus, had been in the womb of heaven, becomes Noah's Ark, when the mother's water breaks, and the contractions turn this heaven into a kind of hell from which we must escape. 2 entities suffer–the mother trying to exude the new child, and the baby, which is desperately struggling for its life against the hellish contractions which threaten its survival.

    Then, we emerge. First there must be an exhalation of the primeval waters of the womb, followed by an enormous SHOCK–the inhalation of the atmosphere and of the air. As most humans cannot remember their birth in any real detail, they quickly forget the enormity of this SHOCK, which indicates a complete change of state. Now, there is the infant which begins to explore through its incomplete senses, what it imagines as one with no delineations. Yes, it responds to the mothers voice and to the human faces were for the most part it considers that it is now in a new heaven consisting entirely of itself in two states which alternate – the satiation of the mother's touch and her milk or the frustration of hunger or of a dirty diaper. There can be no other emotions as such at this time. It is the beginning of the formulation of the ID.

    The ID is the root of identity and of identification, and this ID grows to include the body as well as anything else within the grasp of the senses. This egoless state continues into early toddler-ship, where it is well-known that children will play near each other but not with each other, and if the ID is strong, the child will take the toy of another child and assume it is theirs for the plucking. It may be rather astonished to be told that it belongs to someone else and must be returned, because with only the formulation of the ID, everything is self.

    Slowly lines of demarcation are drawn which causes the beginning of the formulation of the EGO, the idea that there are “others” who may resemble us but who are “not us”. This period of growth of the EGO is absolutely essential because without which, the child will become an idiot in the pejorative sense, and may need lifetime care or institutionalization.

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  3. When the caretaker began taking away the purloined toys or ice cream cone from the confused toddler, and gives it to another child to whom it rightly belongs, there arises the concept of the “SUPER-EGO"; a kind of police man which develops in the child as the result of its caretakers demonstrating the delineations between objects and people, as well as the child's own investigations, which confirm that some things, such as its toes, and body belong to it, while other things do not. There is a stage where it is suggested psychologically not to allow the child undergoing toilet training to observe the flushing of the feces, because it has not understood that this is not part of themselves yet.

    This triad exists both in essence and in the formulation of personality, and they represent the 3 forces which prayed together to create a all phenomena. None of the 3 can be attenuated into nothingness, or the entire organism dissolves into a puddle of mush, so to speak colloquially. But all spiritual traditions advocate the eradication of the ego. The ego is not the problem - the balance between ID, EGO and SUPEREGO is the problem, and in the Western world it is often the super ego that is relegated to obscurity, leaving the EGO and the ID to make decisions for the whole which are almost completely self-centered in vanity and self love. This is a short sketch of a different way of looking at mankind's main failure. The self, neither the essence nor the personality has been taught properly, and the body is considered an immortal disposable, that each person has the right to squander or use its energies willy-nilly.

    There was something else I wanted to discuss concerning my kundalini experience in Osaka Japan which herniated my ego to the extent that the only analogy I can find is the loss of identities and separateness in Bose-Einstein condensates. I hope I can find time later in the day to address this, because it speaks directly to your recent thoughts and work. Yours,–Richard

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  4. It was in 1990 when I was on tour with my band Television in Japan when I had an extraordinary event take place. In Osaka, I was in my hotel room doing one of two inner exercises–one was a 40 min. kundalini exercise utilizing hatha yoga, with bandas (knots and hydraulic movements of various sphincters), while contemplating the various correspondences of the chakras with their yantas (shapes), animals and gods attributed to each chakra. This all had to be done sequentially and with varying degrees of dynamics. I might report that some looks require heavy keys while others require delicate keys some as flimsy as a feather. And like a safecracker, one needs to know how to work approach this entire enterprise to gain success at it.

    If you can imagine all the practitioners of yoga in the West and establish a ratio of those who succeed to the aim and goal of yoga, which is a perfect aloneness called Kaivalya, not meaning loneliness– but a state where all opposites coalesce, and the 3 forces which braid together to form the phenomenological universe are untied as the energy of the kundalini awakened roars up the spine, or sushumna nadi, stopping the rotation of the chakras and piercing the 3 knots of identification called granthis; one near the base of the spine which causes an identification with the body, the 2nd in the middle of the back causing identification with the emotions and the knot at the back of the neck resulting in identification with the mental apparatus and the so-called “self”, I think you would find that the ratio is in the same ratio as the speed of the centers as the lineages by Mr. Gurdjieff at 30,000 to 1, or, as might as well be said, infinity.

    Well, I had done my kundalini exercise for the day and was sitting in the afternoon doing my breath attentiveness when suddenly it seemed as though in my lower abdomen there was struck a spark, almost exactly like flint and steel–this set off into motion a huge outpouring of energy down through my legs, and perineum through the floor and into the earth, seemingly gathering strength until it hit something like a trampoline and turned and began rural ring upwards towards me, which thought “ah oh!"

    I was actually close to a state of terror as this energy came up towards me gaining strength and speed until it seemed like a runaway train. When it hit me it came up through my legs and perineum and continued until it left through the top of my head.

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  5. My breathing had stopped and my heart beat was in a kind of synchronized defibrillation, barely beating at all. I was sitting in the chair Egyptian pose and I took my right hand and moved it over to touch the top of my left hand which was as cold as marble, i.e., as though dead. My entire body was this way except for these soft spot at the top of my head, which still seemed warm, in the place where the Jewish where thier yarmulkes. Having read all of the translated yogic scriptures such as the Siva Samhita, Geranda Sanhita, The Yoga Priadikipa of Svatmarama and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, I remember stating to myself in a kind of astonishment–all that they had written was literal and not metaphoric.

    My ego had herniated, so that my identity was everything that entered me as extraordinary vivid impressions. I can only by analogy state that I had reached the human equivalent of the state of what is known in physics as the Boose-Einstein Condensate. This is a phenomenon that only occurs at such low temperatures as to be fractions of a degree above absolute 0 Kelvin, and what happens at this temperature is that the various strings and sub nuclear particles lose their identity completely. The entire condensate appears as though all of the particles and waves ARE each other–they merge into one homogenous soup where none of the particles can lay claim to separateness.

    This was the condition I found myself in–everything I touched was me; everything I saw was me, or perhaps better said, I WAS everywhere at once.

    The thought came to me that if I had a few months to sort this out, I could arrive at a condition in which this state would be my natural state–but I could not have held a conversation with anyone or interacted according to any social norms. All that would have been left behind. I had a performance that evening, so after about 20 min. I tried to bring myself down into the body, and to my reason told me that I should eat the heaviest food I could possibly find in order to act as ballast and help return me to a condition in which I would be able to perform the functions of life which were demanded of me. I remember getting up and leaving my hotel room and taking the elevator down and going out into the street where I was the streetlamps, the pavement, the sky and even other people who were walking this way and that. This posed a very short moral and ethical dilemma, so I decided that the inside of people deserved privacy and that I would not observe into them.

    I walked several blocks not being able to find anything open until I found a shop where I could buy yogurt–I had wanted meat, but couldn't find any. So I ate a bunch of yogurt and a banana and drank several cups of coffee and slowly begin to feel acceptable.

    I must report that to stop these movements into samadhi, sometimes feeling like a sexual pinball machine gone amok. I could not look up towards my “3rd eye” without going close to an unconscious reverie. I was having these experiences even during my horizontal nighttime sleep. But little by little I managed to turn off the experience, using my objective reason that asks the question of anything I've experienced, “could this be useful to anyone else?” If the answer was no I would back up. It turns out this experience of mine has been enormously helpful to others who have had these types of phenomenal experiences. I no longer need a map, because I have been there.
    Sincerely,–Richard

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