Establishing a Proper Relation to the Mind
by Michael Nagel
Published: The Journal of Esoteric Psychology, Volume 4, Number 3, Summer 2008
As the disciple crosses the threshold of the Ashram, a brother calls to him.
“Would you please explain the meaning of this esoteric point?” the brother asks, baiting the disciple.
Ripe with book learning and able to cite volume and page number, the disciple proceeds to expound with remarkable brilliance. His words tumble forth with a rapidity and comprehensiveness that leaves no nuance of esoteric understanding mistaken or unspoken.
As he elaborates, Another, whose back has been turned to him throughout the disciple’s exposition, very slowly turns to face the so knowledgeable disciple. Their eyes meet.
From the vastness of the Other’s silence of Being, there pours forth such compassion that the disciple’s torrent of words slows to a mumbling trickle. And then just stops. Stunned, the disciple relaxes into silence and into Love.
The Need to Establish a Proper Relation to the Mind
“The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real,” (1) says H. P. Blavatsky. “Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.” Of course, what is asked of us is not that we do away with the mind. Instead we are asked to establish a proper relation to the mind.
If the mind of humanity is indeed awakening in this era, then the establishing a proper relation to the mind is an urgent challenge that humanity faces. For the misuse of the mind results in such thought-forms as religious and political fundamentalism which many persons consider more precious than life and civilization itself.
Establishing a proper relation to mind is a task with which esotericists also need to grapple. The misuse of the mind sometimes expresses itself in what could be termed new age fundamentalism. The same fundamentalist misuses of mind can cloak themselves in a new age garb also. Like “Bible Thumpers,” esotericists can thump “Treatise on Cosmic Fire”, citing page and verse whereupon “DK says….” Yet in so doing, like the disciple in the preface to this article, we may miss the point of the Teaching, the Mind, and perhaps Life itself.
We esotericists can contribute subjectively to humanity’s resolving its evolutionary dilemma of establishing a proper relation to the mind by ourselves doing so. Were we to try, there are at least four points which would be helpful for us to consider.
Words are Symbols Only
Truth neither can be found in, nor expressed by words or thought. Just as a two-dimensional being cannot comprehend three dimensions, so too words cannot depict the ineffable multi-dimensional Mystery in which we live and move and have our Being. “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao,” (2) Lao-Tze, the founder of Taoism, long ago warned.
A word is a mere symbol. Every symbol is an abstraction – a caricature of the living, rich, multi-textured, directly experienced Truth that is Being. The word “rose” reveals nothing of the immediacy of experiencing the preciousness of Being intimately revealing itself in your moment as roots, stem, thorns, leaves, the texture of petals, colors, and fragrance. If we haven’t a proper relation to mind, then we may mistake the word symbol “rose” to be of greater value than the direct experience.
A teacher’s civilization, culture, language, education, upbringing, and personal history affect how her living experience will be expressed in the word symbols of her teaching. The minds through which Alice Bailey, Helena Roerich, and Helena Blavatsky perceived their inspirations were products of their times. Implicitly the personal history of those minds influenced the perception of and linguistic representation of their inspirations. And so the Teaching that finds itself encoded as words can only be an approximation of the experiential actuality to which it points. At best those influences upon a teacher’s perception combine to offer a Teaching whose words are symbolic representations that skillfully guide a disciple to unfold within his own experiencing awareness the discrimination of an aspect of Being not previously known to him.
We establish the proper relation to the mind in part by understanding that the thoughts and Teachings with which we identify are not the Truth, they are only symbols. Just as the Zen analogy of the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, so too the words that comprise the Teaching are just jumbles of letters, they are not the lived experience which the Teaching encourages us to discover.
Truth is a Living Experience
When the disciple does experience an unfolding of the nature of Being within his own discriminating awareness, his experience will not be one of words. Words are forms, forms of thought, “thought-forms.” Instead the disciple will simply experience with the immediacy of bare awareness Being revealing itself. He knows, directly experiencing the formless. Words come later.
Knowing in this direct, experiential manner is the difference between standing in awe of a sunset’s majesty and a friend reading your postcard which describes that sunset which you experienced. It is the difference between experiencing a rose and seeing a photograph of a rose. There is direct experiencing, and there is conveying by word forms of knowledge about the experience. The experience of knowing is one of immediacy, of immersion in formless (bare of conceptualization), direct apprehension; by definition it is without words.
This distinction between direct experience and mental conception is not esoteric. Try this experiment: listen just as closely as you can to this moment’s sounds and silences within your very own environment. Really listen. For you to listen to your environment, your mind’s chatter or ideation has to stop. What is left is bare experiencing. How you might describe your experience is conceptualization.
We establish a proper relation to the mind when we understand that living Truth is not to be found in words, but in the direct, bare, formless, living experience of the Eternal Now. Here in the Now, the Disciple transcends the superfluosness of words, and comes to rest in the experiential immediacy of Being. For want of a better choice of words, we might then understand the Teaching to be a relative truth; the experience is living Truth.
Knowing, not Believing; Finding, not Seeking
In this light, to establish a proper relation to the mind requires not only that we disidentify from the thought-forms by which the Teaching seeks to convey knowledge about an intended direct experience, but also it requires that we seek our own direct experience of Truth.
To do so requires that we disidentify from the authority of the Teaching and the Teacher, and instead we become our own authorities, based upon our own direct experience. It asks that we cease being believers, and start being Knowers. Believers attest to the reportage of others. Knowers affirm from their own direct experience. Where would we ever hope to find Truth, if not from within the direct experiencing of our very own streams of consciousness?
To seek direct experience in and through one’s self and to value the authority of one’s own experience over the reportage of another is in psychological parlance to bring the locus of control within one’s Self. This is a basic step of psycho-spiritual maturation. It is the psychological equivalent of the Protestant Reformation wherein the individual assumed from the Church the authority to interpret The Bible with the light of her own soul.
Even the Teachings calls us to this attainment. In Hercules’, the universal disciple’s, development, there comes a time when, as he readies for another Labor, he warns a new Teacher:
“One thing, O Teacher, I must tell you and thus deceive you not. The fact is not so long ago I slew all those who taught me in the past. I killed my teachers, and in my search for liberty, I now stand free. I seek to know myself, within myself, and through myself.”
Imagine the sacrilege of killing your Teacher whom once you esteemed! Not just one murder of a revered teacher, but many! And how does the new Teacher respond to the audacity of Hercules’ declaration of treachery?
“My son, that was a deed of wisdom, and now you can stand free. Proceed to labour now…” (3)
Nicholas Roerich too alludes to this stage of development when she notes that the disciple must leave the bazaar (of conventional knowledge and callings), and enter into the wilderness of the undiscovered self to become a Lion in the Desert. H. P. Blavatsky too suggests this imperative of psychological autonomy:
The Philosophy of that law in Nature, which implants in man as well as in every beast a passionate, inherent, and instinctive desire for freedom and self-guidance, pertains to psychology and cannot be touched on now …. Perhaps the best synthesis of this feeling is found in three lines in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Says the “Fallen One”: –
“Here we may reign secure; and in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell!
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven ….”
Better be man, the crown of terrestrial production and king over its opus operatum, than be lost among the will-less spiritual Host in Heaven. (4)
It is the very Teaching we revere that calls us – more explicitly, calls you, reader, – to kill the authority of the Teaching in deference to that evolutionary duty to know Truth not by words, but directly Truth ‘within thyself, and through thyself’.
Therefore we establish a proper relation to the mind when we understand that being a human endowed with Mind extends to each of us not the occasion to believe others’ reportage, but rather the right and the duty that we ourselves become Knowers. The Teaching is not given to gather believers; it is given to foment Knowers. It is not about being a seeker of Truth, but a finder of truth. Neither “DK says,” nor “Roerich says,” nor “Blavatsky says,” but rather, I say, you say.
If We Have Not Love
Were we to spend our precious spiritual seeking in culling citations in proof of this or that esoteric point, we might miss the point of knowing. Were we to spend our lives in search only of knowing, perhaps we might miss the point of existence. For to excerpt St. Paul (First Corinthians, 13:2), “And though I … understand all mysteries, and all knowledge… and have not charity, I am nothing.”
And so, we establish a proper relation to the mind when we understand that what is to be known is ultimately a revelation of Love.
1. The Voice of the Silence by Helena Blavatsky. Whitefish MT: Kessinger Publishing LLC. p. 1
2. Tao Te Ching, Feng, G., English, J. (tr.) New York: Vintage Books. p. 3
3. The Labours of Hercules, by Alice A. Bailey, New York: Lucis Publishing Co., p. 7
4. The Secret Doctrine, Vol 2., by Helena P. Blavatsky. p. 484
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