Lecture where Alan Watts goes into the control freak tendencies in our individual mind and as a society. Then the lecture shifts more into unmasking religion, spiritual practice and such.
This past weekend, in Seattle, was Bruce Lee Weekend and thousands of martial artists and friends showed up to pay their respects and honor his memory. For me, I saw many pictures of Bruce Lee in our Reyes Family photo albums taken in the ’60s with my father-in-law, Master Aleju C. Reyes, of the original hard-style Kajukenbo school known as Reyes Kenpo Karate in California.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” ~ Bruce Lee
~ Aloha Ke Akua!
For most people, when you say that suffering is Grace it seems off the wall to them. And we’ve got to deal now with our own suffering and other people’s suffering. That is a distinction that is very real, because we may see our suffering as Grace but it’s quite a different thing to look at somebody else’s suffering and say it’s Grace.
Grace is something that an individual can see about their own suffering and then use it to their advantage. It is not something that can be a rationalization for allowing another human being to suffer. You have to listen to the level at which another person is suffering. When somebody is hungry, you give them food. As my guru used to say, God comes to the hungry person in the form of food. You give them food and then when they’ve had their belly filled then they may be interested in questions about God. To give somebody a dharma lecture when they are hungry is just inappropriate methodology in terms of ending suffering.
So, the hard answer for seeing suffering as Grace, and this is a stinker really, is that you have to have consumed suffering into yourself. There is a tendency in us to find suffering aversive, and so we want to distance ourselves from it. Like if you have a toothache, it becomes that toothache. It’s not us any more. It’s that tooth. And so if there are suffering people, you want to look at them on television or meet them but then keep a distance from them. Because you are afraid you will drown in it. You are afraid you will drown in a pain that will be unbearable. And the fact of the matter is you have to. You finally have to. Because if you close your heart down to anything in the universe, it’s got you. You are then at the mercy of suffering.
To have finally dealt with suffering is to consume it into yourself. Which means you have to, with eyes open, be able to keep your heart open in hell. You have to look at what is, and say Yea, Right. And what it involves is bearing the unbearable. And in a way, who you *think* you are can’t do it. Who you *really* are, can do it. So that who you think you are has to die in the process.
Like, right now, I am counseling a couple who went to a movie and when they came home their house had burned down and their three children had burned to death. Three, five and seven. And she is Mexican Catholic and he is a Caucasian Protestant. And they are responding entirely different to it. She is going in to deep spiritual experiences and talking with the children and he is full of denial and anger and feelings of inadequacy. In a way, that situation is so unbearable and you wouldn’t ever lay that on another human being but there it is. What may happen is she may come out of this a much deeper, spiritual and a more profound, more evolved person. And he, because the way he dealt with it was through denial, may end up contracted and tight because he couldn’t embrace the suffering. He couldn’t go towards it. He pushed it away in order to preserve his sanity.
There is a process of suffering that requires you to die into it or to give up your image of yourself. When you say, “I can’t bear it”, who is that? In India, they talk about their saints as being the living dead, because they have died to who they thought they were. And they talk about the saints for whom all people are their children, so that everybody that is dying is their child dying. In that way, suffering leads to Grace.
Ram Dass first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, a prominent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary. He continued his psychedelic research until that fateful Eastern trip in 1967, when he traveled to India. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means “servant of God.”
Everything changed then – his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” ever since. Ram Dass’ spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying along millions on the journey, helping to free them from their bonds as he works through his own.
Alan Watts’ seminal text first published in 1966, here read/narrated by author Ralph Blum (who in 1982 wrote the Book of Runes and kick-started interest in runic magic). Of all his brilliant texts, this one just… nails it, over and over again. Ouch.
1. Inside Information
2. The Game Of Black-and-White
3. How To Be A Genuine Fake
4. The World Is Your Body
5. So What?
“Money is a way of measuring wealth but is not wealth in itself. A chest of gold coins or a fat wallet of bills is of no use whatsoever to a wrecked sailor alone on a raft. He needs real wealth, in the form of a fishing rod, a compass, an outboard motor with gas, and a female companion. But this ingrained and archaic confusion of money with wealth is now the main reason we are not going ahead full tilt with the development of our technological genius for the production of more than adequate food, clothing, housing, and utilities for every person on earth.
It is not going to be at all easy to explain this to the world at large, because mankind has existed for perhaps one million years with relative material scarcity, and it is now roughly a mere one hundred years since the beginning of the industrial revolution. As it was once very difficult to persuade people that the earth is round and that it is in orbit around the sun, or to make it clear that the universe exists in a curved space-time continuum, it may be just as hard to get it through to “common sense” that the virtues of making and saving money are obsolete.
It is an oversimplification to say that this is the result of business valuing profit rather than product, for no one should be expected to do business without the incentive of profit. The actual trouble is that profit is identified entirely with money, as distinct from the real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings.
To try to correct this irresponsibility by passing laws would be wide of the point, for most of the law has as little relation to life as money to wealth. On the contrary, problems of this kind are aggravated rather than solved by the paperwork of politics and law. What is necessary is at once simpler and more difficult: only that financiers, bankers, and stockholders must turn themselves into real people and ask themselves exactly what they want out of life — in the realization that this strictly practical and hard–nosed question might lead to far more delightful styles of living than those they now pursue. Quite simply and literally, they must come to their senses — for their own personal profit and pleasure.”
What does wealth mean to you?
Can you share a personal experience of a time when you understood the “real profit of living with dignity and elegance in beautiful surroundings”?
What do you want out of your life?
“To go out of your mind once a day is tremendously important, because by going out of your mind you come to your senses. And if you stay in your mind all of the time, you are over rational, in other words you are like a very rigid bridge which because it has no give; no craziness in it, is going to be blown down by the first hurricane.” ~Alan Watts
In order to come to your senses, Alan Watts often said, you sometimes need to go out of your mind. Perhaps more than any other teacher in the West, this celebrated author, former Anglican priest, and self-described spiritual entertainer was responsible for igniting the passion of countless wisdom seekers to the spiritual and philosophical delights of Asia and India.
Thousands of years ago on a warm summer’s morning a human being walked amongst other men the beaten path to the distant village where the day’s work would begin.
The suns warmth penetrating the flesh and warming the blood within always calls for a moment of appreciation, inward.
“Every morning you have walked this path, I have been there to greet you, touching your cheek and warming your soul”
Unconsciously slowing their walk to momentarily savor the morning presence, a sound is caught in the webbing of the silent mind, a faint distant buzzing rapidly approach’s from behind and peaks to a sudden eruption of rhythmic pattern and as quickly as it came it fades into the distance. In an instant one takes in the shape and form of a dragonfly passing by.
“Because you were with me in the moment you savored my touch upon your cheek a window of truth was opened and you reached out to the dragonfly drawing it to you, as it passed your mind was so fast the dragonfly had become so slow. Your eyes met as they crossed paths and in its reflection you seen reality truths”
The dragonfly echoes a feeling within that seems to remain longer then it should. Holding their mind to it as they observe themselves experiencing its fleeting impression.
A loud bellow vibrates through the air breaking the moment of reflection. To reveal it’s self on the banks of the river as a water buffalo being bathed by its master.
The sun dancing on the surface of the broken water although familiar this time it’s as if triangles were shaped as light pieces between the waves, seeming interlaced as a hidden design that draws the minds attention to investigate further. The water settles and its mystery with it.
They become aware of the sudden breath inward they take as their mind is released from the moments captivation, for a moment acknowledging that perhaps they had not breathed during the entire observation?
Walking the long and distant path they observe their feet, bare and naked pressing into the soft dry powdery earth. Admiring the detail of the veins, muscles and bones orchestrating each changing step… rhythmically… Each step imprinting into the earth, pushing small mounds up and around each toe and each mound having crumbling grains separately rolling down from the top.
The eyes dilating and awareness expanding wider the patterns on the ground reveal the treaded path of man and beasts have taken for years. Mounds of dry soft earth dipping and lifting all around each foot. Slowly revealing the waves in the water and then the shimmering triangles in-between them?
Shaking their head, and breathing in suddenly to clear their mind they return to normal…
Emotion becomes perplexed and the mind engages to wonder and the chest feels full….
Along the river the forest has a twin reflecting back at it. There is a small old bridge that crossing a line between the banks and today it calls their name. Crossing the bridge looking forward they see the path fading into the forest and decide this day they will take the risk and the consequences of not arriving in the village center if only for a short while.
The presence of the trees towering from above makes them feel ever smaller in their presence, as if they were fading away into them. But the beams of sun light in between the leaves draws them upward.
There before a grand tree dancing with light beams the earth calls out invitingly. They sit into a meditation position. Closing their eyes, breathing deeply and releasing the weight of day with their breath. They surrender into the divine.
After sometime they slowly open their eyes upon seeing a wonder. Ever so still one settles upon their lips ever so gently breached a whisper is spoken from them… Reality is an illusion….
“Only now are you ready to do the work you are needed for.”
~ Eric Pepin, “Handbook of the Navigator” (excerpt)
Before one can begin to understand the possibilities of universal self-consciousness, one must grasp in principle and at a simpler level what is logically involved in the transcendence of any pair of opposites. Take, for example, any two points and draw intersecting lines through them that meet at an apex. Then draw a third line horizontally connecting the two original points. In relation to these two points on the base line – which is analogous to substance – the apex represents that which enables one to transcend a particular field, which is represented by the enclosed triangle formed by the three points. This is a simple enough idea but it must be applied to those five pairs of opposites, cited by the Maha Chohan, which are so perplexing to human beings. To take the simplest, consider pain and pleasure. Most human beings are stuck in the basement of human evolution, wrestling with the pain-pleasure principle. Yet it is possible to overcome the oscillation of the two opposites and to move to a point of balance, indifference or neutralization between them. If one is really willing to think it out, one will be amazed to discover the degree to which one can neutralize one’s propensity towards pleasurable sensations and thereby one’s corresponding aversion to painful sensations.
Moving to the moral plane, the neutralization and transcendence of egotism and altruism is the toughest challenge for those high souls truly struggling in spiritual mountain climbing. As soon as these souls take birth, they are burdened with the obligation and the temptation of taking on the karma of others, the problem of wise non-interference. They are also stuck with the principle of self-assertion for the sake of self-preservation. Though a difficult dichotomy, this is, in principle, no different from any other pair of opposites. Ethical dichotomy, having to do with right and wrong, must be understood in terms of metaphysical distinctions between good and evil. These, in turn, have their application in all relationships, social, political and otherwise, which give rise to the dichotomy of liberty and despotism. It is possible, with each of these dichotomies, to find a mode of neutralization. One may take as a starting point the simplest mode of neutralization, which is to find the mid-point between the extremes. In Buddhist terms one should seek out the Middle Way. If one can discover a moderating principle within oneself, one may begin to moderate one’s preoccupation with right or wrong, good or evil, pleasure or pain, one’s tendency to dominate or to be submissive. By continually engaging in self-correction, guided by the principle of the Middle Way, one may avoid both pitfalls and extremes.
This teaching of Buddha is accessible to all human beings. It is always possible for anyone to slow down, to cut down, to moderate. But in doing so one must avoid any tendencies to become passive, escapist or vague. To fall into these traps is not to follow the Middle Way but merely to flee reality. Thus, while remaining fully engaged in the field of dharma, one must also learn to moderate. One should begin with an appreciation of the principle of the Middle Way – lying between the extremes of unedifying self-indulgence and equally unedifying self- mortification. Then through meditation one must go beyond this initial point of departure, taking advantage of the teaching of the Aryan eightfold path as a bridge between metaphysics and ethics. One must, in practice, come to experience through meditation neutral states. The entire cycle of the eightfold path, beginning in right views and concluding in right meditation, requires a continual process of formation and dissolution of perspectives and assumptions. Whatever one’s present mode of perception of the Dharma, whatever one’s present practice of the Dharma, one must be prepared both to affirm and negate this framework. Only so can one pass through a neutral condition to a renewed and regenerated understanding of the Dharma. Whilst this will be understood at first in terms of one’s solemn perspective and strenuous actions, owing to the salvationist tendency to project the idea of a path outside oneself, in time there will dawn a sobering realization that in fact this process of formation and neutralization is occurring within one’s faculties of perception, within the substance of one’s vestures.
It is not easy to master this mature understanding of the path, wherein there is no external travelling and the aspirant becomes one with the path itself. There is no room for haste or pretense. Rather, one should approach the task a day at a time. Those who attempt to jump ahead at the start, because they know nothing better, will quickly despair and abandon the path. That opens up the even worse risk of making judgements about the path and about those who authentically are attempting to follow it. Anyone finding himself or herself in this self-begotten predicament should immediately stop engaging in such self-destructive behaviour and try to make a fresh beginning. They should get back to the basics, find a different rhythm, follow it out each day and each week, learn to act incrementally as Nature does. Then they may discover that though the process of enlightenment and self-transcendence is slow, it is authentic. There will be moments of exhilaration and joy, moments of freedom and beautiful insight, as well as moments of pure love and true compassion. Above all, there will be moments of true selflessness when, in thinking of other beings, one reduces oneself to a zero. One’s eventual goal must be to thread one’s life together out of such moments, learning how, through daily meditation and right mental posture, one can be of service to humanity.
If this is the immediate and existential meaning of the teaching regarding transcendence as well as the significance of the zero principle, the ultimate metaphysical meaning of the idea lies in the unfathomable bosom of the unmanifest. The mysterious neutral axis within the cosmos and within man, around which coil the diverse powers of dual manifestation, is also a luminous thread leading to the core of the mystery of the individuality. By discovering the more and more abstract aspects of the zero within Nature and Man, one may draw closer and closer to the universal basis of spiritual immortality. All the hosts of spiritual monads on all the many planes of existence in the manifested cosmos derive from a single hebdomadic Logoic source. Preceding the differentiations of consciousness and form in the solar and terrestrial worlds, that fount of immortality radiates through seven centres from one eternity to another.
The seven Laya centres are the seven Zero points, using the term Zero in the same sense that Chemists do, to indicate a point at which, in Esotericism, the scale of reckoning of differentiation begins. From the Centres – beyond which Esoteric philosophy allows us to perceive the dim metaphysical outlines of the ‘Seven Sons’ of Life and Light, the Seven Logoi of the Hermetic and all other philosophers – begins the differentiation of the elements which enter into the constitution of our Solar System.
The Secret Doctrine, i 138–139
At this level the degrees of plenitude, self-sufficiency and self-regeneration connected with the laya principle are so profound that they have no comprehensible analogue within human life. This is the realm of Initiates. Nevertheless, every human being, as an immortal ray of the Central Spiritual Sun, has the opportunity and privilege of meditating upon the idea of Fohat, which is an emanation of the Seven Sons of Light. Whatever plane of self-consciousness a being inhabits, it is always helpful to a group of monads held together by an irresistible ideal and an overarching transcendental vision of the good to come together and strengthen their collective capacity to reduce themselves to zeros in the service of their common ideal. Training in this magical power of transmission is the essential meaning of the Sangha. When people come together, truly forgetting themselves and united by the magnetic attraction of the good, they emulate and serve in some small measure the Teachers of Humanity, the great galaxy of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
The highest beings learn to do this ceaselessly, invoking the Fohatic principle which is present potentially at every point in space. Even at the level of ordinary, unenlightened human beings, it is possible to take advantage of the zero principle at some elementary level. The integrity of human nature itself assures that every human being can mirror the transcendental beneficence of the highest beings. Ultimately, all the potentiality of the zero, of shunyata or the void, is present throughout the plenum. The void is the plenum. All of Nature stands as an open invitation to every group of human beings to take conscious advantage of the Fohatic potential that exists everywhere throughout the body of Nature, but which is most powerful in the realm of ideation, the realm of Mahat, universal mind or Aether-Akasha. This is an invaluable lesson for any group of pilgrim souls to learn if they would constitute themselves true helpers of the servants of humanity in the coming decades and in the dawn of the Aquarian Age. In all relationships – in one’s household, at work and in the greater society – one may participate in the unfoldment of the ascending cycle that will stretch right into the next century.
To ally oneself truly with other human beings on behalf of the cause of humanity is to touch upon a much greater richness in human nature than can ever be experienced otherwise. Apart from the activation of the germ of spiritual self-consciousness, human beings are mostly semi-conscious, unconscious in relation to themselves and the potential in humanity. Once one learns to neutralize the lower self to some degree, thus transcending the opposites at a preliminary level, one will immediately discover what a fruitful diversity there is within oneself, between any two human beings, much less amongst larger groups. One will begin to see the profound importance of the plane of mentality – the plane of intellection – which is broader in its scope than any other plane. One will also begin to grasp the grandeur and magnitude of the vast inheritance of all human beings over eighteen million years.
Access to the plane of Chit – the vast and inexhaustible realm of boundless possibilities – inevitably depends upon self-conscious assimilation of the Law of Sacrifice. Within the planes of manifest existence there is a continual giving and receiving between all atoms, monads and beings. One may view all of this in terms of a calculus that seeks to measure how much one is getting in relation to how much one is giving. But the arithmetic of the marketplace is not easily applied to human affairs; moral calculus is tricky. It would be most unwise to perform this moral arithmetic inefficiently and on behalf of one’s ego. When human beings edit, forget and fall prey to ingratitude, they generate a tragic inversion of the principles of karma and justice. They think that whatever good they experience is self-generated, whilst whatever is bad comes from outside. In the end this amounts to a denial of the compassion at the core of the cosmos. In effect, by becoming obsessed with personal ratios of giving and receiving, one cuts oneself off entirely from the well-spring of one’s own true being. Instead of succumbing to such a tragic fate, it is far healthier and much more human to learn to enjoy giving generously and wisely at all times. By stepping outside the realm of petty calculation, one becomes a creative participant in the universal wisdom-sacrifice, the jnana yajna, of the cosmos.
Each breath is a sign of involvement in the Great Sacrifice. Each thought is itself a part of that sacrifice. How, then, can human beings impose some narrow view, whether egotistic or bilateral, upon the boundless stream of universal sacrifice? Instead of ensnaring oneself in the unnecessary tensions of a pseudo-sense of justice, which is merely a noisy mass of humbug that will leave, at death, an ugly rupa, one should reduce oneself to a zero. No amount of self-inflation and fearful grasping, no adherence to concretized images of oneself and one’s possessions – physical, mental or even spiritual – can contribute one iota to one’s well being as a soul. It is not prudence but folly that leads human beings to store up treasures in the realm of manifestation. From instant to instant the entire cosmos passes through a neutral point, a metaphysical zero point, and instantly and effortlessly it is regenerated in all its vastness. If the universe itself continually depends upon the mystery of All and Nothing within the Zero, there can be no greater wisdom for human beings than to cooperate self-consciously with the zero principle. Living from day to day and moment to moment in calm assurance of the ontologically boundless plenty of the Great Sacrifice, the neophyte can learn to rest upon the bosom of the infinite waters of Truth.
Hermes, February 1986
Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge. — Carl Sagan
Passion … is the element that makes it possible for a real breakthrough in thought to take place. And beauty … goes a long way in establishing the bona fide results of scientific experiments.
Where do you see beauty when you take a closer look?
Take a moment to write down one small (perhaps even microscopic) thing for which you are grateful.