The Great and Ancient Secret – Part Six

The Subtle Trick

As I hope is becoming clear, the many different traditions have a great deal in common. Although they explain things in very different ways, when you examine what they teach carefully, the essential meaning is the same.

But now we are faced with what is done to quiet the mind and to stand before the Secret of Life with ‘naked intent’, like an empty cup, or like a virgin. And here once more it must be remembered that the finger pointing is not the moon.

Throughout the long millennia of human history men and women have done certain things in order to go beyond their usual experience of themselves. Perhaps it was to seek healing, to be capable of conceiving a child, to know their connection with the universe more fully, or to have a clearer vision of their potential and life direction. Everything from flagellation to lonely vigils, fasting to repetition of prayers or phrases, feats of enormous self discipline to whirling in circles like the dervishes have been used. And once again, if you analyse what any of these techniques do, you will see that they break the hold of the habitual state of mind. They lead to an altered state of consciousness. If you can grasp what they are all pointing to it makes the way enormously clearer. In doing that it means you do not get caught in the web of the promotional statements broadcast by the different sects and doctrines.

To make things clear we need to look at some of the major or classic techniques used to experience the Secret. And as we look at them, remember that you already are the Secret. So the techniques are not to develop within you this magical thing; they are not a way of earning God’s blessing by being good or obedient; they are not a means of becoming something other than you already are. Think of it more like having a magical and beautiful lake in the middle of a garden that has gone wild and is overgrown. What you are doing is to clear the growth so the magical shining lake is revealed.

Om mani padme hum – the jewel of your being is within the lotus of your unfolding.

Another way of looking at the way to the Secret is to realise that you are already all that you can be. Like an acorn, you already have the potential of the full grown tree within you. To manifest and know it you need to allow yourself to be all that you can be. The techniques are to remove obstacles and allow unfolding. They are not in any way the jewel within you.

The Many Paths to the One

I suppose the many paths can be summarised by saying they all fall within the description of meditation, prayer, discipline, or a particular way of life.

Almost undoubtedly it is the last one, a particular way of life, that is the most widely practised. This is because whether we look at Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Shintoism, Native American Spirituality, the religions of black Africa, Hinduism; Taoism; Paganism, or even New Age or Humanistic practices, they all end up being things the practitioners change or are asked to change in their outer or inner lives. The person makes adjustments to their otherwise ‘natural’ or habitual way of living and doing things. In this way, even though it might be a very gentle change, they are confronting the habits and feelings that most people are slaves to. As the more rigorous methods are looked at you will see that is fundamental to them all.

I know the word ‘slaves’ is a strong word, but it needs to be. Most of us are without any awareness of why we are doing what we do, or living in the way we do. Of course we rationalise why we act in the way we do, but that is common even to acute paranoia.

But mostly we simply go along with what circumstances or our feelings and urges lead us to do. If that were not so youngsters would not start smoking and drinking to the level they do knowing the effects of those drugs.

But there are levels even within this general layer of proposed ways of life and behaviour. Worship, prayer or meditation, or action of one form or another is general to all of them. They may argue about their differences, but they are all proposing similar aims.

Worship and prayer are easy for us to see the underlying significance. Both of them shift the person’s attention away from their own individual life in some degree, and create an altered state of awareness in which they are open to something beyond their limited life and self. It doesn’t matter what belief system you look at, or what name the spirit or god is given, basically the person is ready to be influenced in some measure by something beyond self. In some cases there is even an active awe or love as part of that opening.

Opening to the possibility there is something beyond the self we know is a fundamental, even in psychotherapy.

Meditation on What?

Meditation is slightly more complex as there are so many possible results and types, but I think it is safe to say there is an underlying aim, and that is to find or create a change. The change might be the achievement of a different experience or a new insight, but the act of meditating aims at changing the state of mind that already exists. Usually it moves from being lost or deeply involved in the state of mind and feelings produced by daily tasks and events, to something that is less involved and perhaps far removed from them.

The methods of meditation are so many it would be foolish to try to look at them in detail, and the point here is to consider those that are directly connected with revealing the Secret. And this is where the subtle trick comes in. So we will look in detail at some of the classic approaches, and also at the strange trick they play.

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