Knowing And Its Hindrances

On the one hand, no one, if asked, would like to get to the end of their life and wonder “What was that all about?”

On the other hand, many people go dancing through life, anesthetizing themselves to their own experience, rejecting the idea that they have a greater purpose than individual and species survival, and have the above experience when they get to the end of their lives.

I think people, when they get to the ends of their lives, would like to say something like the good and faithful servant in the 25th chapter of the gospel of Matthew, who said to the master who entrusted him with five bags of gold, “See, I have gained five more.”

I think people, when they get to the ends of their lives, would like to say something like Simeon said in the gospel of Luke, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Luke 2:29, New International Version)

I think people, when they get to the ends of their lives, would like to say something like what the apostle Paul wrote to his protege Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

So what keeps this from happening for people?  While there are a number of different answers, the answer that Step 4 of Steps to Knowledge offers is “assumptions unfounded in experience.”

“You want what you think you know, and this is what constitutes the basis of your understanding of yourself and your world. In fact, this constitutes the basis of your whole identity.You will find, however, upon honest examination that your understanding is based upon assumptions primarily, and these assumptions have not been founded upon your experience to a very great degree, if at all.” (Steps to Knowledge, Step 4, “I want what I think I know.”)

A commenter on the previous post pointed out that experience was an important part of knowing.  And while I consider the signers of the Declaration of Independence as being an excellent instance of people knowing something, perhaps a less dramatic definition of knowing something might be “an experience of something being self-evident which inspires consistent action.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

What Do You Mean By “Know?”

Step 3 of Steps to Knowledge encourages students to investigate what they know…

“Today ask yourself what you really know and distinguish what you know from what you think or hope for or want for yourself or your world, what you are afraid of, what you believe in, what you cherish and what you value. Distinguish this question from all such orientations to the very best of your ability and ask yourself, “What do I really know?” You must continuously examine whatever answers you give to this question to see if they represent your beliefs or assumptions or the beliefs or assumptions of other people or perhaps even of humanity at large.”

When I did this Step, I was unwilling to stand forth and say “This I know,” because I was unclear that it was really what I knew, or whether it was merely a strongly held belief or opinion.  Was I being weak and fearful by not saying “This I know?”  Possibly.  On the other hand, at the time I did this step, many things I thought I knew at one time had been exposed by events as not being the case.  “Exposed by events” is a polite, diplomatic way of putting it.  “Beaten to a bloody pulp by events” is more like what actually happened.

At this point, I think that by the word “know,” Steps to Knowledge means, “to hold something to be self-evident, and to contribute to the support of that something one’s life, one’s fortune, and one’s sacred honor.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Thrashing And Flailing On The Turbulent Surface

Step 2 of Steps to Knowledge is “Knowledge is with me.  Where am I?”

When I was a child, I had a world globe.  I recall the ocean portions of the globe having many small red arrows on them, describing the major ocean currents.  Between then and now, our ability to observe ocean currents has advanced significantly, as this video demonstrates.

The movement of the ocean is an analogy for the activity of the mind in the New Message from God.  At the surface of the ocean, water is moving about in every direction.  An observer at the surface would be hard pressed to prove that the water is following any specific direction.  But in the depths of the ocean, the ocean currents are much more consistent, so much so that scientists use the phrase “global conveyor belt” to describe the phenomena.

This step drops more hints as to the nature of Knowledge:

“Knowledge represents your True Self, your True Mind and your true relationships in the universe. It also possesses your greater calling in the world and a perfect utilization of your nature, all of your inherent abilities and skills, even your limitations—all to be given for good in the world.”

I take great comfort in this, as I haven’t done a very good job so far of utilizing my nature, in my opinion.  I take great comfort in this, as my limitations have been a hindrance so far in my contributing to the world, in my opinion.

The practice is to spend three 10-minute periods thinking about where I am, not just physically or geographically, but where you are in terms of my awareness of myself in the world.  My answer to the question “Knowledge is with me.  Where am I?” was “Thrashing and flailing on the surface of my mind.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins…

When I was telling my 19-year-old son about this blog, and pondering what should go in it, he suggested “Why don’t you write about your study of Steps to Knowledge, and how it has helped you?”

Thus begins the master thread of this blog.  There will be other threads, but this is the big one.

Some of the wording in a given step is completely prosaic (all quotes are from Step 1 of Steps to Knowledge, “I am without Knowledge now.”)

“There must be a starting point at any juncture of development.You must start from where you are, not from where you want to be.”

I realize someone may be reading this and thinking “What do you mean, ‘I am without Knowledge now?’  I know many things!”  But this step elaborates on the meaning of the word “Knowledge” in the statement “I am without Knowledge now.”

“Therefore, you are beginning now to prepare to be in relationship with Knowledge, the greater aspect of mind that you have brought with you from your Ancient Home.”

I confess that when I did this step, the above sentence flew far above my head.  Each step ends with instructions for practice.

“Three times today spend 10 minutes thinking about what Knowledge is, not merely applying your own ideas, not merely applying your past understanding, but thinking about what Knowledge really is.”

Beginning, middle and end of the day?  10 minutes in three consecutive hours?  It doesn’t seem to matter.

Someone may be reading this and thinking “Here it comes, he’s going to hit us up to buy a copy of Steps to Knowledge.”  I actually do not possess a paper version of Steps to Knowledge.  I use the Adobe Acrobat .pdf file available here.  There are versions of Steps to Knowledge available for well-known e-readers.  I recommend that someone interested in studying Steps have both a paper version and an electronic version.  On the one hand, the paper version could be taken places one might not want to take a computer.  On the other hand, the electronic version is computer-searchable, and I like being able to search for something when I’m recalling something I read.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Everyone who got anywhere started out from somewhere.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

The Man With The Inexplicable Life

I haven’t written in a little while, because I’ve been pondering how to introduce this story.  I felt for some time that I needed to write a post about Khidr, the mysterious guide of the Sufis, but I wasn’t happy with anything I wrote, so I’m going to interrupt this story occasionally.  I first encountered this story many years ago, in the book “Tales of the Dervishes” by Idries Shah.

There was once a man named Mojud. He lived in a town where he had obtained a post as a small official, and it seemed likely that he would end his days as inspector of weights and measures.

One day when he was walking through the gardens of an ancient building near his home, Khidr, the mysterious guide of the Sufis, appeared to him, dressed in shimmering green.

(Khidr’s very name, al-Khidr, means “the green one”  Khidr is a revered figure in Islam, whom the Qur’an describes as a righteous servant of God, who possessed great wisdom or mystic knowledge.)

Khidr said, “Man of bright prospects! Leave your work and meet me at the riverside in three days’ time.” Then he disappeared. Mojud went to his superior in trepidation and said that he had to leave. Everyone in the town soon heard of this and they said, “Poor Mojud! He has gone mad.” But, as there were many candidates for his job, they soon forgot him.

On the appointed day, Mojud met Khidr, who said to him, “Tear your clothes and throw yourself into the stream. Perhaps someone will save you.” Mojud did so, even though he wondered if he were mad. Since he could swim, he did not drown, but drifted a long way before a fisherman hauled him into his boat, saying, “Foolish man! The current is strong. What are you trying to do?” Mojud said, “I don’t really know.”

“You are mad,” said the fisherman, “But I will take you into my reed-hut by the river yonder, and we shall see what can be done for you.”

When he discovered that Mojud was well-spoken, he learned from him how to read and write. In exchange, Mojud was given food and helped the fisherman with his work. After a few months, Khidr again appeared, this time at the foot of Mojud’s bed, and said, “Get up now and leave this fisherman. You will be provided for.”

Mojud immediately quit the hut, dressed as a fisherman, and wandered about until he came to a highway.

As dawn was breaking he saw a farmer on a donkey on his way to market. “Do you seek work?” asked the farmer, “because I need a man to help me bring back some purchases.”

Mojud followed him. He worked for the farmer for nearly two years, by which time he had learned a great deal about agriculture but little else.

One afternoon when he was baling wool, Khidr appeared to him and said, “Leave that work, walk to the city of Mosul, and use your savings to become a skin-merchant.”

Mojud obeyed.

In Mosul he became known as a skin-merchant, never seeing Khidr while he plied his trade for three years. He had saved quite a large sum of money, and was thinking of buying a house, when Khidr appeared and said, “Give me your money, walk out of this town as far as the distant Samarkand, and work for a grocer there.”

Mojud did so.

(Google Maps reports a traveling distance of 2,900 kilometers or 1,800 miles between Mosul, in the northern portion of Iraq, to Samarkand in Uzbekistan.)

Presently he began to show undoubted signs of illumination. He healed the sick, served his fellow men in the shop during his spare time, and his knowledge of the mysteries became deeper and deeper.

Clerics, philosophers and others visited him and asked, “under whom did you study?”

“It is difficult to say,” said Mojud.

His disciples asked, “How did you start your career?”

He said, “As a small official.” “And you gave it up to devote yourself to self-mortification?”

“No, I just gave it up.” They did not understand him.

People approached him to write the story of his life.

“What have you been in your life?” they asked.

“I jumped into a river, became a fisherman, then walked out of his reed-hut in the middle of the night. After that, I became a farmhand. While I was baling wool, I changed and went to Mosul, where I became a skin-merchant. I saved some money there, but gave it away. Then I walked to Samarkand where I worked for a grocer. And this is where I am now.”

“But this inexplicable behavior throws no light upon your strange gifts and wonderful examples,” said the biographers.

“That is so,” said Mojud.

So the biographers constructed for Mojud a wonderful and exciting story: because all saints must have their story, and the story must be in accordance with the appetite of the listener, not with the realities of life.

And nobody is allowed to speak of Khidr directly. That is why this story is not true. It is a representation of a life. This is the real life of one of the greatest Sufis.

Why do I share this story?  Because the word “inexplicable” is a word which rings and sings and resonates in describing the experience of Knowledge.  Mojud was one of the few that entered by the narrow gate, who made the rare accomplishment of finding the true path.  I consider Marshall Vian Summers to be a modern-day version of Mojud. While I don’t consider myself to have an inexplicable life, it is inexplicable indeed that I am on this path.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

And Where Are These “Few” To Be Found?

I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” (David in Psalm 16:3, New International Version (NIV))

“Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (God speaking to Elijah in I Kings 19:18, NIV)

When Jesus heard this [from the Roman centurion], he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:10-11, NIV)

I say that those who find the road that leads to life, like nuggets of precious gold, are where you find them.  I say those who find the true path come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  I say there must be fifty ways for saints to become saints.  I have only written of Christian saints up to now, as that is my faith tradition.  But studying Steps to Knowledge is enlarging my opinions:

“Life is kind to you, for it offers not only the reward but the way to the reward. If it were left up to you, it would be cruel indeed, for you would have to attempt every single possibility that you could conceive of, and then you would have the possibilities that others have conceived of and even the opportunities to reach Knowledge that others have used successfully but which may not in fact work well for you. In your brief span of time in the world, how can you accomplish all of these and still maintain your vitality? How can you maintain your encouragement for Knowledge when so many ways will disappoint you?” (Steps to Knowledge, Step 38, “God knows the way to Knowledge.”)

I studied this particular step in September of 2011, and as I did, I heard a voice in my mind’s ear, asking “Aren’t there any Muslims who have reached Knowledge?”  I thought there must be.  While there is no official sainthood in Islam like there is in Catholicism, people such as Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, (author of the poem “The Animal Soul“) Shams Tabrizi (Rumi’s teacher and close friend), and Kabir (already introduced here, and whose presence hovers over this thread).

I have been impressed with Paramahansa Yogananda and his spiritual upline. I’m not literate with Buddhist saints, but I believe they’re out there.  I say, and I say it again, those who find the road that leads to life, like nuggets of precious gold, are where you find them.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.