Is Dissolving Individuality Overrated?

There are faith traditions in the world that teach that our individuality, our bodies and personalities, are sources of human suffering, and as such, are things to be overcome or transcended.  For example, Buddhists refer to the five factors or the five aggregates of individuality as root causes of suffering.  They encourage people to stop saying “This is mine” and “This is not mine.”  They encourage people to contemplate what their faces looked like, before their parents were born.

The temptation to look at other individuals and think “I’m better than that person,” or “That person is better than me.” lies at every turn.  As soon as someone starts going down that road, they will suffer sooner or later.  But what if individuality has a noble purpose, a godly purpose, the expression of life?  What if I was here so that life could squeeze something out of me that just wouldn’t get squeezed out any other way?

On the other hand, the temptation to look at other individuals and think “I like what life has expressed out of them better than what life has expressed out of me,” or vice versa, also lies at every turn.  It seems to be important to get out a lot, to experience a wide variety of expressions of life, to have full appreciation for its infinite variety.  It also seems to be important to experience the suffering that comes from yielding to the temptation to judge various expressions of life, so that one thinks twice before judging.

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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.

Maybe We Need To Think This Out Again

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3, New International Version)

What happens when people spend too much time and energy scratching the itches of the animal soul, the itches for survival, pleasure, power, and avoidance of responsibility?  Among other things, we become less magnanimous, we become less aware and expressive of our total inclusion in life.

Step 11 of Steps to Knowledge, “I am not apart from life,” is an affirmation rather than a description of a current condition, as the step says…

“What is mysterious is your mind. It seems to be a distinct point of understanding, but it is as much a part of life as your physical fabric.You are an individual unaware of your Source and your total inclusion in life.Your individuality is a burden now, but it will be a great happiness to you when it can express life itself.”

At this point, I recall the words of the apostle Paul, where he says he makes his body his slave, so that he might be of service to others.  I recall the words of Paul when he talks about taking every thought captive.  I recall the chapter in A Course in Miracles about how the body is a means of communication.

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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.

That’s Where We’re Going

Marshall Summers doesn’t claim to have written Steps to Knowledge from his own intellect and imagination.  He claims to have received it from a source beyond this world.  If this claim is true, then I find it mysterious that this source should select him as its messenger, out of all the people in the world.  If this claim is true, then I find it mysterious that this source should select English as the language of its message, out of all the languages spoken on earth.  If this claim is true, then I find it mysterious that this source should select the word “Knowledge,” to describe the complex of remarkable phenomena mentioned in Steps to Knowledge, out of all the words in the English language.  But there it is.

Step 10 asks the question “What is Knowledge?”  I find it mysterious that this step only gives two answers to this question, out of all the things that have been said about Knowledge so far.  But there it is.  The first answer is “Knowledge is the great mystery of your life.”  The second answer is “Knowledge is your True Self, a Self that is not apart from life.”  I imply from this the claim that a false self is a self that is apart from life.  I imply from this the claim that both false halves of a double life are halves that are apart from life.

At this point, I’m recalling the final verse, the punch line, from the poem “The Scattered Congregation” by Swedish Nobel Laureate poet Tomas Transtromer:

Nicodemus the sleepwalker is on his way
to the Address.  Who’s got the Address?
Don’t know.  But that’s where we’re going.

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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.

Is This A Sidebar, Or Something Essential?

In between step 9 and step 10 of Steps to Knowledge, there is some text that isn’t a step, gives no instructions for practice, comes and goes with no explanation.  The only thing it has is the title, “Why am I doing this anyway?”  It is short enough that I can quote it.

VERY GOOD QUESTION! Why are you doing this anyway?  Why are you asking such questions? Why do you seek for greater things? Why are you exerting the effort? These questions are inevitable.We anticipate them.Why are you doing this? You are doing this because it is essential. If you wish to live anything greater than a purely superficial and unstable life, you must penetrate deeper and not be confident based only upon weak assumptions and hopeful expectations.There is a greater gift awaiting you, but you must prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and physically.Without Knowledge, you are unaware of your purpose.You are unaware of your origin and your destiny, and you will pass through this life as if it were a troubled dream and no more.

This is the only time something like this appears in Steps to Knowledge, and I make no claim to knowing why this material is here in this form.  This is the only time that any material appears between the end of one step, and the beginning of another.  It could be important that the phrase “troubled dream” appears exactly once in Steps to Knowledge, in this spot.

It’s as if the authors of Steps were aware of the investment of time, effort and trust students were making by taking the Steps to Knowledge, and wished to reassure students that this was something essential, not just another spiritual pursuit before the next big deal comes along.

It’s as if the authors of Steps wished to make students aware of the awareness of the authors of Steps, by speaking to students in an alternate, less formal, more familiar voice.

I don’t recall getting the idea that studying Steps to Knowledge was essential at the time I encountered this sidebar (late 2010). I wasn’t even interested in contemplating the idea that I was doing something essential, as I believed I would not succeed if it was something really important.

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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.

This Stillness Thing Is A Big Deal

If Steps to Knowledge were to be considered as an educational text, I believe it would be seen as introducing new ideas with a certain degree of subtlety.  For example, the final sentence of the final paragraph of Step 4

Understanding this [that there is a difference between what I think I know, and what I know] may be upsetting and disconcerting, but it is absolutely essential for you to give you the impetus and the desire to discover your true foundation in the world.

…contains a reference to Step 6 “I have a true foundation in the world.”  A similar thing happens in this step, where the final sentence of Step 8 introduces Step 9 “In stillness, all things can be known.”

Another piece of evidence about the importance of stillness is the association of stillness with not one, but two Uncommonly Capitalized terms in one sentence.

Stillness of mind allows a Greater Mind to emerge and to reveal its Wisdom.

This Greater Mind might emerge during the practice of stillness.  The Greater Mind might also emerge while doing some prosaic task, like dicing onions.  Each time of practicing stillness is building a pathway, building a bridge, between the surface of the mind, where all things are deliberated, and the depths of the mind, where all things are known.  I don’t know that this is so, but it is as if this Greater Mind required an unguarded moment to reveal itself.

Perhaps if I put this step together with the working definition of knowing something that I wrote about in the post on step 4, then perhaps this sentence makes sense: “In stillness, I experience things being self-evident, and receive inspiration for 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.

Be Still And Know

When a student of Steps to Knowledge gets to step 8, she might be thinking “Ok, I get the point.  Knowledge is a big deal.  They’ve called it a Big Deal by speaking of it in three distinct Uncommonly Capitalized terms in two of the seven steps I’ve taken already (Step 1 and Step 2).  They said the point of the first six steps was to hammer home the ideas that Knowledge is something different than what I think or want or believe, and that it is something of which I am in need.  Fine.  What do I do to get it?”

To me, it’s as if step 8, “I will be still today,” answers that question “Glad you asked, friend, glad you asked!”  There are various techniques in the world for stilling the wanderings of the mind, for rescuing the lambkins of one’s thoughts, lost in the wilderness of restlessness.  One of them is introduced in this step.

Some people say “Thus-and-such technique of attaining stillness is surely the greatest technique ever devised!”  Others say “On the contrary, this alternative technique of stilling one’s mind I am using must surely become the technique used by all mankind!”  Kabir says “Don’t get hung up on any particular technique, but instead focus on one’s motivation.”

O, FRIEND!  hope for him whilst you live, know whilst you live, understand whilst you live, for in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him because it has passed from the body;
If He is found now, He is found then
If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.
Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!
Kabir says “It is the Spirit of the quest which helps; I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest.”

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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.

Oh, Where Have You Been?

“Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall”

Bob DylanA Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

Debriefing and reviewing seem to be an integral part of the learning experience.  I’m recalling the 72-member advance team that Jesus deployed in the 10th chapter of Luke’s gospel.  The debriefing session took place in Luke 10:17-24.  But the point I’m approaching is that Step 7 of Steps to Knowledge is a review of the first six steps, both individually and as a sequence.  I consider this to be the important sentence in this step:

“It is very important at this juncture that you not require that you have any conclusions, but that you ask questions and realize the extent to which you need true Knowledge.”

It did not occur to me to make such a word cloud when I did this Step.  I see it saying, “If you wish to approach Knowledge, you must practice, you must think, you must question your assumptions.”

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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.

Better Beyond Hope

In my opinion, any student of Steps to Knowledge who arrives at Step 6 has accomplished something.  Any student who arrives at Step 6 has endured the description of the insanity of the human condition provided by Step 4 (“I want what I think I know”) and Step 5 (“I believe what I want to believe).  If they haven’t run screaming from the room at this point, they’ve accomplished something.

In Step 6, “I have a true foundation in the world,” we are told that not only have we come into the world, but we have not come into the world empty-handed.  I take great consolation in that statement, for in my life, it seemed from time to time that I just wasn’t up to what life was presenting to me.

In Step 6, there is a practice of pondering what my true foundation in the world could be, should be, or might be.  It would be reasonable to consider that the Knowledge toward which I am taking steps, might be that true foundation.  After all, Knowledge has already been called the greater aspect of mind that I have brought with me from my Ancient Home (Step 1).  After all, I’ve been told that Knowledge represents my True Self, my True Mind and my true relationships in the universe.

It should be noted that when I actually did Step 6 (sometime in June of 2010) I didn’t contemplate the text of earlier Steps nearly as much as I am doing in this post.  It didn’t occur to me to do so at the time.

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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 Hope To Get From Your Beliefs?

It would be one thing if humanity’s biggest problem was assumptions unfounded in experience.  I might learn something when my assumptions were contradicted by experience.  But humanity has a much worse problem than that, in my opinion.  We don’t believe things because they are actually happening or because we are actually experiencing them.  We believe things to be true because they feed the appetites of the animal soul.

“Beliefs are primarily founded upon what is wished for, not on what is actually happening and not on what is genuine.They may in fact represent the greater ideals of humanity and in this they bear a true reflection, but on a day-to-day basis, and in most practical questions, people base their beliefs on things they hope for, not on things that actually exist.” (Steps to Knowledge, Step 5, “I believe what I want to believe.“)

And what are these appetites?  Survival, sex (species survival), pleasure (as observed by Sigmund Freud), power (as observed by psychologist Alfred Adler), and avoidance of responsibility (as observed by psychologist B. F. Skinner) As I pondered this step, I thought to myself, “I say, the human condition is insanity, isn’t it? Any connection between what is actually so, and what people believe is so, is purely coincidental, isn’t it?  And we’re in big trouble, up a stump, up a creek without a paddle, aren’t we?”

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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.