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Jan 5

Written by: nanzo
1/5/2009 4:38 PM

The only real problem in life is the problem of self-definition. According to several well-known esoteric teachers, if one realizes this with one’s whole being—body, mind, and heart—spiritual progress will be made. Regrettably, most spiritual seekers do not feel this problem with their whole being and will flounder about for years without result. In a moment of clarity, the seeker will make an initial commitment to find self-definition. But then gravity will set in. Let’s cite a hypothetical example: A youthful seeker will make a lifelong commitment to find self-definition when in a particular mood. While in this mood, he realizes the need to reverse his vector. But later, in a different mood, the commitment will wane as perceived personal problems become an obstacle to his spiritual search. For instance, he will have feelings of failure and inferiority, and will want to compensate for this by achieving certain goals that prove his self-worth. He may feel deprived over being denied the gratifications life has to offer: career achievement; business success; financial security; relationships; travel; fame; good food and wine; etc. Various forms of rationalization will be employed, impeding the seeker’s ability and willingness to reverse his vector and conserve energy for the spiritual search. Such a seeker may spend years in a quandary, swaying, on one hand, between moods of enthusiasm, and on the other, hopelessness or failure. Before he knows it, he finds himself in advanced middle age or beyond. Such a seeker was not honest with himself. He spent many years chasing after unreal problems formed by his rationalizations.

What went wrong with this young seeker? His commitment was followed by feelings of failure, inferiority, and deprivation, which became the dominant forms of rationalization. How did these feelings affect his body, mind, and heart? His body sought various forms of gratification to alleviate the feelings, instead of making a concerted effort to reverse the vector by consciously delaying or eliminating the need to fulfill those gratifications, by going within. Not doing so resulted in a lack of bodily attention, adversely affecting the mind. Here, the seeker could have read about and studied esoteric philosophy extensively, but to no avail. He did not make his body the “laboratory” that Richard Rose talked about. For all his reading and studying, he put none of it into practice. Consequently, he did not develop his intuition. Instead, the seeker’s mind followed the wayward body in spite of his extensive readings and studies, and so his heart was not really on an authentic spiritual search. The seeker was fooling himself. Now, in his middle age, he is confronted with his lack of honesty.

It was Richard Rose who said that the only real problem was that of self-definition. He said so during a discussion in which I was a participant, after reading his poem “The Three Books of the Absolute.” During that discussion many years ago Rose stated: “We bounce from one illusion to another—one obsession to another.” This is the story of humanity—a never ending bouncing about from illusion and obsession to more illusions and obsessions. To realize we bounce from illusion and obsession, and then to feel with our whole being that our only problem, and solution, lies in our need for self-definition, is what I believe to be the key to making genuine spiritual effort. The seeker as a young man did not grasp the fact that he was not a failure, not inferior, and not deprived. Those issues were the “problems” he was dealing with; they were not the problem of self-definition. His feelings of failure, inferiority, and deprivation propelled him into an endless round of illusion and obsession. Indeed, you could say this seeker was addicted or “hooked” on his illusions and obsessions. If he attempted to reverse his vector and develop intuition early on, perhaps he could have seen that even if he was not deprived of what he wanted or aspired to, he was traveling on a dead-end road. All of his wants and aspirations were of a transient nature. Instead, he could have spent considerable time and refection asking himself the questions: “What is the real problem in life?” and “What is the only real problem?”

To be sure, in the course of our lives we will face many unavoidable problems requiring our attention. There are basic survival needs. We need to feed, shelter, and clothe ourselves and our families. And, for a period of time, we need to have an ego that will motivate us to fulfill those needs. Our ego has legitimate aspirations towards maintaining our bodily survival, success in our livelihood, and providing for our loved ones. Life will also bring problems such as sickness, catastrophe, and many other uncertainties that are part of everyday existence. These cannot be avoided, and we must face those circumstances as they come. But ultimately, our body and our ego do not survive after death—at least as far as we know. There’s been speculation to the contrary, as some metaphysical systems postulate an afterlife, reincarnation, etc. But even assuming there is merit to these speculations, there remains the problem of defining the self who experiences such an afterlife state. So then, all the problems of everyday life, and those of a possible afterlife, pale before the only real problem—that of self-definition.

Why then, do we not pursue passionately, with our whole being—body, mind, and heart—the resolution to the problem of self-definition? After all, everything we achieve in life, every pleasure indulged in, everything that gave us our identity while living, is lost at our death. Why do we place so much stock in these? We think they are us; they give us ego-gratification; they define our perceived self while we are alive. But when we ponder over our imminent death, we realize they are not our real self. Yet we are afraid of losing what has given us our identity. In our fear, we become inhibited from letting them go. To this Rose said that what we are afraid of is “losing a coward.” We must let our perceived identity die. It is a false identity. When we let this false identity die, then, according to Rose, “something magical occurs.”

What is failure? What is deprivation? What is inferiority? Do they really exist? The young seeker did not think through the answers to such questions. As a result, he identified with those feelings, seeing them as the problem, instead of self-definition. Subsequently, he was caught in their particular traps of illusion and obsession. And you, the reader, are caught in your own respective traps. No doubt you are more trapped in illusion and obsession than you realize. You have your own dominating forms of rationalization which prevent you from seeing your situation clearly and from seeing that the only real problem you have is the problem of self-definition. You are afraid of losing a coward. For most of you, it will take years of self-observation to see this.


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