Chapter Two – Self-Knowledge

“Know thyself!” – Socrates and the oracle of Delphi

“The Essential is invisible to the eye” – Antoine de St. Exupéry

 “If you do not find, when studying yourself, that you are horrified, then you have not yet seen yourself!”

 my teachers



F COURSE I know myself,” you exclaim.  “I’m the kind of person that …” (please fill in your self-image here).  “I am <compassionate/realistic/spiritual/pragmatic, etc.>  Then why do other people roll their eyes when I ‘explain’ this about myself?”  The main reason is that they see us very differently from our self-portrayal, and that is because we were brought into an agreement of deception at a very early age; for our entire life since then, we have been relying on an enormously false image of ourselves, and everyone else has overtly supported that image, while at the same time unconsciously sabotaging themselves and each other.

            But then we learn to meditate and we start taking self-discovery workshops – after doing these for a few years, we’ve surely achieved self-awareness and understanding, right?  Haven’t you yourself experienced how conceited and self-righteous we are when we have completed these workshops and ‘trainings’?  “Everything is so clear now,” we assert, but as useful as the techniques may turn out to be, it is still a form of brainwashing, and I claim this as someone who has attended a hundred or more of such programs.[*]

            Another form in which we often feel prematurely complete is when we are in the presence of someone who has their own power.[†]  Such people are generally sincere, with no intent whatever to inculcate illusion or confusion in their disciples; yet many of their flock still come away blinded by too many stars in their eyes, and tend to deify the source of their ‘fix’ of shakti (ecstatic energy) or self-confidence or their ability to accumulate wealth.  So the humble beings who received missions to share illumination, ‘love’ or wealth with others, now find themselves the prophet of some new church; examples abound of such gurus who lose perspective and balance, and start ‘accepting’ expensive cars and homes, under-age virgins, and even guns.  And the new wealth builders now have to go around seeing everyone as a sort of cash register instead of as a human being.

            Charismatic or powerful people either have gifts or have stored up enough extra energy that other people feel something extraordinary when they are around them, and these feelings may even continue for a few weeks afterwards – that’s why they have to get new sign-ups quickly, while the attendees are still high from the borrowed energy.[‡]  The leader is not even always aware that this process is going on – they may think it is more about the quality of their subject matter.

            How do genuine masters[§] (let’s assume that there are some, for the purposes of this book) avoid that kind of misdirection?  A lot of them go into seclusion, teaching only (if at all) a very few students, and only occasionally.  The Buddha himself warned that, within a couple of generations, a religion would be made of his teachings and he himself would become an icon.[1]

            So power (in the way that I am defining it) in itself does not guarantee self-mastery.  Self-knowledge is required for mastery, and power can help us to attain self-knowledge, or it can blind us, swelling up our self-aggrandizement.  Look at all the horror stories about people whose power drove them to evil and death: Jeckyl and Hyde, the Lord of the Rings, Forbidden Planet, Sphere, Event Horizon,Star Gate, Fire Starter, X-men, most of the Karloff and Lugosi movies and many of the mythological tales.[**]


Another side of the issue is the tendency for people to look at self-knowledge and personal growth as the means to attaining some external goals or even just feeling good about themselves.  That’s fine with me, and it’s up to them, but I need to tell you that it’s not what I am offering to you in this book.  A friend of mine, Joe, recently completed a well known training workshop for over-riding childhood traumas and programming, and he said that he could not see any reason for remembering difficult experiences, that they might prevent him from doing what he wants now.

            I can see how my friend Joe’s opinion might seem justified from an “A-to-B” perspective, but most people are beset with the wrong results of making decisions without understanding the internal and external consequences of their actions.  I told Joe that I’ve always made completion as my goal, and that complete self-knowledge and mastery seem to be requisites for completion.

            At first, Joe attempted to draw a distinction between spiritual completion (self-knowledge and connection to Universal Heart-Mind) and getting-what-you-want but, when I challenged him on it, he admitted that he couldn’t back up that position.  I also pointed out to him that, the more I went back and recollected my old experiences, no matter how painful they were, the more clear I have become in making new decisions without regrets or wavering, because I have all the affected parts of my consciousness available to me and therefore can act from more of the whole of my self, and not have some denied feeling come bubbling up later to sabotage whatever I’m trying to do.  In contrast, Joe still runs his life by what he thinks other people think of him and expect of him.


            We’ll be talking more about power and integration in later chapters so, for now, let’s continue with identifying what self-knowledge would look like (say, for one of these masters we’ve been talking about) or, perhaps more accurately, what we would look like if we had self-knowledge:

  • Everything we say would be what we mean (we would not be playing the games that ordinary people play, but we might intentionally misdirect or omit[††]);
  • We would have no conflicting desires – that is, all of our impulses would be in perspective, and one desire would be held in focus at any given time;
  • We would know what we are capable of in any situation, and yet still be prepared to go beyond that;
  • We would make every act as a decision with finality[‡‡] (single-minded);
  • We would never have to regret any decision we make or action that we take;
  • We would have no suppressed memories sabotaging us – that is, we would easily remember everything we intend to;[§§]
  • We would see things and people as the are, not as we would like them to be from some subconscious perspective[***];
  • We would know what stories people are coming from, often before they even finish telling their story – that is, we would know their subconscious agenda;[†††]
  • We would be able to see what is invisible to ordinary people – similarly for the other senses;
  • We would be, in some way, directly connected to the others who know themselves.[‡‡‡]


Aside from our habitual self-image stories[§§§] that we keep repeating to ourselves, what blinds us to our essential nature is, first, our systems of identification: the labeling, categorizing, associating and symbolic abstractions with which we organize our personal worlds.[****]  We’ve already mentioned the “formatory apparatus” as a metaphorical mechanism for pigeon-holing our ‘thoughts,’[††††] and we’ve talked a little about the stories which we substitute for our real feelings. 


 “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it …”  In one of the paradigms I’ll be presenting, I’d have to assert that, as with Schrödinger’s cat, it never happened at all – no tree, no forest, no falling, no sound (a bit like the Tibetan heart-prayer).[‡‡‡‡]  I mention this example because it illustrates our basic mismatch with the world (if any): we don’t know what anything is until we’ve named it.  But I promise you that the situation turns out to be the opposite of that: we do not know anything as-it-is after we have named it – what I am saying is that our knowing the name of something is what prevents us from knowing it directly, as if we know our world only through the lens of a metaphorical camera, like the fabled tourist who doesn’t know where he has been until his pictures have been developed.

            I understand that this idea flies in the face of “accepted common sense” (which any new paradigm worth its salt should do), but this is what the Zen idea of ‘new eyes’ is saying: “We can know something for what it is only by seeing it as if for the very first time” (without anyone’s having prepared us for it).  One reason this is difficult to do is that we have a great deal of trouble seeing anything that we don’t have a name for.  Look at how long it takes an infant to recognize even the most obvious shapes (blocks, primary colors, rattles, etc.) – we spend years reinforcing to them both the names and the appropriate attitudes (e.g., yummy, eeeyew, gooooody, prITTie, hurty, baaad).  This becomes our foundational, hard-wired programming, right along with how much we got picked up and cooed to.

            Now let’s talk about how knowing the name of everyone and everything keeps us from knowing them, knowing what they are.  First of all, as we’ve mentioned, learning the names of things is precisely how we were taught to apprehend the world, so it’s very difficult to change that ingrained of a habit.  The second thing we talked about was how we have our whole knowledge and life experience cubby-holed so much that anything that doesn’t fit into its neat little slot is effectively either repugnant or invisible and inconceivable.  So anything new that we do come across automatically takes on the attributes of something or someone we know, no matter how inappropriate, unproductive and unjust.

            Our systems of ‘justice’ attempt to overcome this inherent prejudice by farming out the decision to a dozen of our peers, but there are way too many cases where these ‘peers’ could not see the truth and gave an unjust verdict.  The blizzards of advertisements we encounter most days are specifically tailored to feed into our mechanical associations, e.g., “Somebody attractive is happy with a product so I should also be happy with it,” or “most people like me believe in the given propaganda, so I will be left out if I don’t buy into it.”

            So I am saying that the labels by which we categorize the world are how we buy into the story of everything[§§§§][2] – that is, we know everything by what it means to us personally, regardless of what it wants to be. That’s why we don’t hear what the other person is trying to tell us, and why we keep doing the same automatic reactions to events that could have been new for us.

            Then instead of seeing and hearing what the other person is presenting to us, we turn them into our “mirror of self-projection,”[*****] usually getting back what we most dislike about ourselves.   This stance is also called “the attention of self-pity”[†††††] because, in the usual (societally programmed) attitude, we take everything to be about ourselves, and everything reinforces our incessant internal dialogue about how unfair and cruel everyone is to us or, conversely, what the world owes us.

            I hope it is becoming clear to you how such an orientation limits us, but now I must take it further by saying that it is a life-and-death decision for each of us to take our inventory and then assemble a permanent covenant within ourselves.[‡‡‡‡‡]  Here is what it generally takes to do that (we’ll explain each point in detail as we go along):

  • A daily practice of silence, with nothing interrupting;
  • Pre-scheduling several intentions to meet oneself each day;
  • Changing some small habit each day;
  • Rewinding our recollections;
  • Listening without thinking about how we’ll respond;
  • Seeing with “new eyes”;
  • Letting our dreams reveal themselves to us in their own terms;
  • Surrounding ourselves with reminders of our intentions;
  • Setting up spaces within our reactions (“stops” or “breaks”);
  • Having a support group to reveal ourselves to (confession, sharing, etc.);
  • Some physical discipline;
  • Having someone or something to trust, with more power than we have.


I’ll now explain what I mean by each of these suggestions.


            Silent practice: this could be the zazen method of “just-sitting” or it can be done walking, eating or doing repetitive tasks.  The important thing is that it must be done intentionally and without interruption for fifteen minutes to half an hour at a time – quietly, not trying to do anything else like reading or drawing.  As with all of these exercises, we should not obsess on it or make the practice obvious to other people, because the value of it is in the exercise of personal intent.

            Rationale: the attaining of self-knowledge depends on having room enough in ourselves to observe what we do unconsciously and habitually, so we need to have a sort of platform in our psyche that stands apart and is unaffected by the triggers of the usual flow of experience. That is to say, the practice of silence allows us to witness the unconscious habits of our personality.


            Appointments with ourself: a good time to set appointment times is the night before, just prior to retiring.  What this type of meeting consists of is to “come to” or “pop awake” in the midst of whatever is I am doing unconsciously at the scheduled time.  One word of caution: you can almost never catch yourself at the exact time that you’d set; even if you sit looking at your watch and counting the seconds, you may even see the second hand tick to the appointed minute, but then that will be what you have done, and not met yourself in a conscious moment.  As trivial as this exercise may sound, it is virtually impossible to accomplish; the important thing is to make the effort over and over, every day.

            Rationale: the effort of attempting to catch ourselves gradually fosters the ability to meet the future as it comes to us, rather than watching the past recede away from us, like being in the front engine instead of in the caboose.[3]  This tends to put us in control of our lives.  It is also important practice for finding ourselves and taking control in lucid dreaming, which I’ll explain about further along.


            Changing daily habits: vigilant self-observation quickly shows us that virtually our entire life experience is run by deeply grooved patterns: we use one hand for this, the other for that.  We travel the same routes, we eat our food in a particular order; we even speak to each other by script – our responses are quite predictable.  So the exercise is to take any one of these, no matter how trivial, and assign yourself the task of becoming aware of when you are about to do something the habitual way, and have some different way of doing it ready.  This can be as simple as doing it with the other hand or at a different speed.  Be sure to start with very small habits, because even noticing them can be deceptively difficult.  Please be patient and perseverant with yourself – this kind of practice actually rewires your brain’s neural pathways.

            Rationale: getting ourselves accustomed to spotting and changing our patterns makes us both more aware and more fluid – that is, anything new that we wish to try may come to us easier, and we also begin to think in new ways.  As before, the persistent attempt is the important part, not how many habits we succeed in breaking. In fact, if we get too involved in breaking habits, that in itself becomes a fixation.  We are seeking to attain a lightness of balance.[§§§§§]


            Recapitulation:[******][4] it was more than ten years before I could see much point in doing this practice, and perhaps 20 more before I could recognize any results from it.  In the form in which it was given to me, I was to sit just before bedtime, and recount the events and interactions of that day in reverse order, as if running a film backwards, making special note of opportunities I missed, misunderstandings, things I’m ashamed about or proud of, or messages that I ignored, etc.  Later on the exercise was broken up into mental (thoughts and attitudes), emotional (moods, obsessions and reactions) and physical (postures and actions) parts which would be remembered separately.

            Rationale: When I first began this practice, I found that it was very hard for me to stay awake for it, and I realized that there was a lot that I did that I didn’t want to look at.  But persistence brought me to an awareness of my triggers as they were happening – that is, as if I were recapitulating in advance, at the time of the occurrence.  This allowed me to start changing my reactions and head off contentions and, as far as I’m concerned, it has even allowed certain kinds of miracles to occur (we’ll get to all these).  In many disciplines this practice is said to form a doubled or duplicate soul with many magical properties, including clout in the spirit world, clairvoyance, immortality, being in two places at once and other forms of sorcery.  I can think of numerous mythological and horror stories involving the double, to many of which I can now attest.


            Deep listening: once the other practices are well underway, it becomes possible to listen to other people with the whole of yourself – it is like a lover’s kiss with only its own agenda: to fully know and embrace the other person.  In this position I don’t even care what I will say in response; my response is the listening itself.  Then I also start listening to the wind, the trees, the clouds, the lines of the earth, the planets, the world of the spirits and even the Cosmic Background Radiation, and they all have information and messages for me.[††††††][5]

            Rationale: an obvious case for this is just plain good manners,[‡‡‡‡‡‡] but as this practice deepens and broadens, the world begins to reveal itself in very wonderful ways.  It is also one of the most direct and powerful ways of changing ourselves, and reality too.[§§§§§§]


            Seeing the invisible: Why would the “eyes of a child” allow us to see the invisible?”  Part of the reason is, as I mentioned, that we no longer see what is there, in itself, but only a programmed representation and, of that, only as much as will fit into some mold.  Once we have stabilized a strong silent position in our mind, and turned off the “formatory apparatus,” a vast and strange new world begins to emerge and take shape, in somewhat the same way as “our world” takes shape for an infant while we continually teach it to represent the objects of our world in the sanctioned ways.

            Another important part of becoming aware of the invisible (supernatural) is to stipulate its existence.  As trivial as that might sound, it is an indispensable tool for breaking the membrane of the possible.  It should soon become clear that there is a very fine line between assuming the existence of an hypnotic suggestion or a psychological imprint (habits of thinking and perceiving), and making room for something unknown to reveal itself on its own terms.  Working assiduously with your dreaming, as I will describe, will help you to clarify this distinction for yourself.

            Rationale: opening our consciousness to the mysteries of the world expands our awareness and allows us to see ourselves and our interactions with other people from new and very useful perspectives.  It is also part of the procedure for bringing the supernatural into our service.


            Lucid dreaming: Here are the steps that I give to people who attend my dreaming workshops:

¨       Alternating with a consistent partner, describe and write down your dream as if it were happening NOW.  First person, present tense.  “I am doing <such and such>, I am entering <a place>.”

¨       Notice each character in the dream – what are they wearing?  Sitting or standing?  Where?  In what location?

¨       Take the perspective of each character – who am I?  What am I doing in <your name>’s dream?  What do I want?  What message do I have for <your name>?

¨       Notice all the structures and conveyances: house, building, field, car, bicycle, plane, boat, etc.  Are these in good repair, or neglected?  Number of rooms, features, colors, decorations, etc.  Then treat these as characters similarly to the ‘people’.

¨       Notice time of day, weather, geographical features.

¨       What kinds of feelings are you having in the dream?

¨       How much awareness and perspective do you have?

¨       Watch for anything peculiar or illuminated or attractive or repulsive – anything different or unusual.

¨       As you record your dream, watch for puns or double meanings, even if they seem incidental.  Those may prove to be the key to understanding why you had this dream.

¨       Look for ways to have fun with your dreaming – be playful, form an on-going relationship with your dreaming.  Make a scrapbook with pictures and other elements that you can find all around you – bring your dreaming to life!


            Rationale for dreamwork: Our dreams can be called “the news medium of the subconscious” because from it we can read what issues are occupying us beneath the cognitive level, and we can also regard them as the hallway of doors from Alice in Wonderland, through which we can step into worlds and worlds of alternate possibilities.  The other benefit of dreamwork is that it strengthens the connections among the various parts of our consciousness, making it steadily easier for us to gain access to everything we are made up of and, ultimately, to the whole of our self.


            Anchoring reminders: My studies convince me that this practice is probably the main reason that the trappings of religion[*******] were originally set up – it surrounds the adherents with a prescribed context, one which continually inculcates a mindset and a way of life with some group of desired attributes.  I realize that such a definition won’t give anyone a warm, fuzzy feeling, but it’s just about the most universal way it can be phrased.

            At the elementary level, religious,[†††††††] personal growth[6] and recovery formats[7] will serve the purpose of developing a modicum of the type of discipline we’ll need; unfortunately, these are “one size fits all” methods and they tend to foster dogmatic mindsets and dependencies of their own (i.e., cult mentality).

            More advanced types of anchors are necessary for the sophisticated self-programming needed for mystical and sorceric tasks such as those I mentioned in the first chapter (and more in later chapters).  An intensive study of NLP,[8] the Avatar method,[9] shamanic disciplines, sacred movements[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] and martial arts make a decent foundation for more precise anchors.  I’ll describe anchoring in detail in the appropriate chapters but, in the meantime, they are methods for triggering memory in particular states of consciousness, and they are installed in the physical, emotional and “subconscious” bodies.

            I myself am a great believer in personal anchoring methods like journaling, drawing and composing; I adopted all of these forms and have, for example, composed many hundreds of sacred hymns that allow me to re-access virtually every mystical experience that I’ve had in the past 20 years.  I have also filled up many scrap-books with my dreamwork.

            Rationale for anchoring: As I’ve mentioned, we are driven by whole systems of unconscious entraining and, with those in place, we have not the slightest chance of self-mastery nor of gaining real self-knowledge.  Anchoring new patterns and intentions allows us to systematically change our habits, reactions, thoughts and even our moods and feelings; in fact, it allows us to gradually change our reality.[§§§§§§§]


            Creating gaps of attention: Having several of the above practices firmly installed allows us to develop very fine manipulations of the attention such as making separations and gaps between our perceptions and responses.[********]  When the mind has a sufficiently large lake of silence and the emotions are clean enough of spurious attachments, it becomes possible to disconnect the response from the stimulus, and interpose a new intention.  In fact, this is something that hypnosis endeavors to do.[10]

            Rationale: Hypnosis seeks to interpose the external facilitator’s suggestions as therapy; the mystic sets an intent and then stows the elements of his intent in the gaps he has created in his own attention.  This allows him to gain control of a given situation and even to work sorcery within it, because the gaps are invisible to people in ordinary states of attention.  Later on we’ll discuss the alternate (dreaming or supernatural) streams of reality which become tangible within such gaps.  At the very least, the placing of brief pauses before reacting allows us to have more conscious choices in our lives.


            Finding or setting up a circle: Some schools insist that the right members must come to you, as if by divine providence and, mysteriously, you will recognize each other; and I have seen that occur in many instances.  What is not clear is how long and in what ways you will work together – in don Juan’s lineage,[††††††††] the tradition was that you would have a central man (the Nagual), a central woman (the nagual woman), a warrior man for each direction of the compass, and a dreamer woman and a stalker[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] woman for each direction as well.  That was the basic template, although different combinations were common.  The Nagual was supposed to be able to discern that Spirit was bringing him a sorcerer for his party, and of which type s/he was.

            Gurdjieff’s party[11] came together seemingly more by happenstance, magnetized by the determination of the central figure (Gurdjieff himself) to find the ancient secrets of mankind in central Asia.  In my opinion, these two traditions correspond in a lot of ways: G’s magnetic center compares with don Juan’s power; the right members are placed in the path of the seeker with power, each of whom having complementary skills and knowledge to take a particular position within the group.

            Generally, in normal American culture, we seekers either float from group to group (New Age, support, 12-step, native-shamanic, meditation, sat-sang, etc.) or we stay with something that is either meeting our needs or convinces us that we can’t go on without it (or both).  In my own case, I stayed with a meditational church for most of my adolescence, with a fourth-way school for the next 12 years, then a lucid dreaming circle for about three years, a native-American-spirituality tribe for another three or four years, a group marriage for four years, a loosely knit psychedelic society for about ten years, a channeling circle for about eight years, and an Amazonian mystery religion since the end of 1995.

Along the way, I ran numerous spiritual interest groups and even established a church of my own, adding a newsletter and a radio program.  One of my prime objectives in all this was to find candidates for my own circle.  I did join a four-person intentional community for four years, but that group’s agenda proved to be different from mine, although our mutual explorations of human potential and consciousness left me with valuable resources.


            Rationale for developing and maintaining a power group, or for submitting to a master, a guru or a lineage of discipline: These lineages and teaching relationships have been going on for thousands of years, according to my teachers, and they say that the major churches of the world developed out of such  practices and goals, but now exist largely only in outer form, having lost track of the original foundations.  But they retain an esoteric core which can be divined by a seer or a person of power, and by which such a person can attain greater illumination.

            My teachers have always said (and this quickly becomes apparent from diligent self-study) that we can never see our chief feature[§§§§§§§§] by ourselves, just as the eye cannot see within its own blind spot, nor can we task ourselves to achieve super efforts[*********] because the mask of the personality is loathe to concede its stranglehold on our will.  But a master of an undiluted lineage can force us into the position to see ourselves in stark relief, and to perform in ways and degrees that we could not have considered.

            Once you have sufficient knowledge and enough experience with inner work, you still may not be able to accomplish the tasks of self-mastery by yourself, and so you collect a group or find an advanced and compatible existing group to work with until you either achieve illumination or renounce your life and go off to become a pilgrim.  You may even wish to give up, but there is a “point of no return” beyond which it is very difficult to fall back into ignorance and unconsciousness.[†††††††††]  Whoever does not come to terms with this burden risks suffering horribly, because too much has already changed – reality itself has changed![‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡]  An appropriate group can support us through our moral and existential crises deriving from our self-study and inner work.


            Physical and moving disciplines: I’ve never seen a transformational discipline without a physical component.  This can range from sacred dance to martial arts to sweat lodges to survival courses, and so on.  This makes sense, since new abilities have power only when installed physically – again, I was told this by my own teachers to see if I could verify the fact for myself, so I pass the assignment on to you: Do you now remember how to do anything you learned twenty or more years ago for which you did not have some kind of physical or moving reinforcement, if only the handling of flash cards?  But, beyond that, a physically demanding discipline like yoga, martial arts or sacred dance helps by toning not only the body, but also the apparatus of awareness.[§§§§§§§§§]

            Rationale: Any information that we know only intellectually, or which is nothing more than an opinion or a categorization to which we subscribe, has no power and little connection to everything else.  Real Knowledge is ingrained in the body and in the feelings, and it is an entire context of reliable witnessing to which we always have access.  Yogas, mudras and the positions and postures of the martial arts can all contain a great wealth of retrievable knowledge.  However, this level of Knowledge can often be attained only by re-enacting whatever it was that triggered us into the original storing of the experienced knowledge.  We’ll be examining that point more later on.


            Trusting in an authority: This is more a sea change of attitude than a practice, but it is based upon a very strong decision made on as many sides of oneself as possible.  As with the need for a group or circle (and as a foundational step of the 12-step recovery programs), we can go only so far, and can make only superficial changes, until we accept that, as we are, we cannot make the radical transformations and shifts that we need to without accepting that we are too weak and scattered by ourselves; that we need someone or something in our life that we must obey.

On the religious side, this can be Torah or it can be Jesus Christ or Mah’moud, or a strict, personal moral code, or even the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In Eastern spiritual disciplines the Higher Power can be one’s master or guru, or it can be a doctrine to which everyone there adheres.

I wrote the above as if there were some secular side to Higher Power, and both Ouspensky and Castaneda deviated from their respective masters over the issue of religiosity,[**********] but both of these authors found difficulty in arriving at a proper balance and their students either rejoined those of the original teacher or reached various kinds of dead ends; at least that is my opinion after working in both groups for many years.  On the other end of the pendulum, the adherents of religiously based systems very often fall into rigid, cult-like formations whereby they themselves come to a standstill, or even to dangerous perversions.  And then they may become missionaries or even soldiers of their abominations (I just adore using that word).  Examples of such degenerations abound (including here in this book), so I entrust you to find your own examples.

Then what is a correct way (the middle way of Siddhartha), one which is balanced enough and yet sufficiently powerful to achieve self-mastery, but without all those cloying religious trappings?  If I tell you it’s this, that will be wrong, and if I tell you it’s not-this, then that also will be wrong.  This is not because I don’t know how to construct a reasonable sentence in English; rather, it is due to the fact that the discriminants involved are not properly contained in the ordinary intellect with which you are doubtlessly reading this paragraph (hmm – maybe I can’t construct a reasonable sentence after allJ).

Let’s try that another way, then.  It goes back to what I was saying in the first chapter, about how new (especially esoteric) paradigms require something extraordinary from us, something far beyond an intellectual understanding or an intuitive feeling, or even a realization. I believe it was Timothy Leary who said something like, “By all means, adopt a new paradigm, however nonsensical; it will prepare you for the astonishment of existence.”[12]


All right, then.  I told you that self-knowledge, on the way to self-mastery and illumination, takes a life-or-death decision.  I said this for two reasons: first, because it takes that strong of a decision to create the shift and the power necessary for those possibilities to open within us.  The second reason is that (and I will be demonstrating this) this shift really does open a door to immortality, as hokey as that may sound at the moment.


Now let us move on, shall we?






Exercises for Chapter Two


  1. Continuing the exercises from Chapter One.
  2. As you notice your responses during the day, pay particular attention to what your habits are (this will require changing some of your observational habits).
  3. Attempt to meet yourself at some pre-appointed time, bearing in mind that this will not be possible.
  4. As you recall your dreams each morning, make an effort to discern more detail about the context of the dream, who the characters are in it, and anything that seems to stand out.



References for Chapter Two


[*] As I mentioned in Chapter One, a typical sign of such brainwashing is the mandate to ‘share’ with new prospects.

[†] On one level these would be charismatic leaders, faith healers and some workshop leaders; on a more spiritual level we’re talking about gurus, masters of Eastern disciplines and some shamans.

[‡] We’ll be talking about how to keep and use borrowed energies (‘shakti’, charisma, shocks, etc.) in a later chapter.

[§] That is, people who really do know themselves thoroughly, and are fully self-responsible.

[**] Some mythological examples would be King Midas, the monkey’s paw, all the misguided wishes offered by geniis, those who fought and killed over treasures, and mortals who thought they could best the gods.

[††] Quiz: what would be reasons for doing or not doing such subterfuge?

[‡‡] This is part of don Juan’s definition of a warrior.

[§§] Memory takes on a very different quality in the new condition: instead of just having some blurry B&W snapshots, metaphorically, we would relive whole experiences, and every detail is there for inspection.

[***] In one of the paradigms I’ll be introducing in this book, “as they are” would be meaningless; all we could say about a given perspective is how inclusive or self-consistent it proves to be which, it turns out, is the essence of the standard scientific method, over and above the ‘facts’ that a particular theoretical position turns up.

[†††] We will discuss how we would know their subconscious agenda in the chapter on the Mind.  Another way of saying this is that we would see directly their psychic shape, which is a core paradigm of this book.

[‡‡‡] The depth and intensity of the connection goes beyond telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, etc.; it is empathic, unifying and life-changing at its full potential.

[§§§] We’ll talk more about these stories in our chapter on the Mask.

[****] For one interesting aspect of this, see “Draining the Language out of Color”, Scientific American, April, 2004

[††††] We’ll examine what real Thoughts might look like in our chapter on The Mind.

[‡‡‡‡] This will be developed in the chapter on Mystical Paradigms.

[§§§§] In contrast to hearing the song of everything, as Kaye Whittaker describes in The Reluctant Shaman.

[*****] This is what don Juan calls “the mirror of self-reflection” and Gurdjieff calls internal considering.

[†††††] This is how Castaneda’s don Juan refers to our habitual assemblage-point position of requiring everyone to think of us a certain way, even if negatively.  Gurdjieff calls this general state “internal considering.”

[‡‡‡‡‡] I am using covenant as a stronger form of contract to emphasize how crucial this decision is to our possibilities. Gurdjieff calls this “the setting up of the Deputy Steward” and don Juan refers to it as “the warrior’s impeccability.”

[§§§§§] Don Juan (in Castaneda) refers to the mood of the warrior as being composed of patience, sweetness, cunning and ruthlessness.  Bear in mind that he was most often talking about stalking one’s own nature.

[******] This is the term used in Castaneda for this practice.  A main purpose that he gives is to form a sort of effigy soul, a decoy for the eschaton, the “eater of souls.”

[††††††] Many users of isolation tanks have reported listening on this level, and also those who have had to survive the elements.

[‡‡‡‡‡‡] The old saw: “Nobody was ever fired for listening well.”

[§§§§§§] The thing itself, in one paradigm, or our perception of it, in another.

[*******] Examples are the mezuzah and star of David, the crucifix and monstrance, icons, talismans, etc.

[†††††††] Gurdjieff points out that there are three main types of degenerate (i.e., after the original intention has been lost) religious forms: scholastic, devotional (often monastic) and physical (pageantry and inquests are examples), corresponding to the mental, emotional and kinesthetic personality types.

[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] It is important to distinguish the precise, ancient movements, such as the Dervish and Sufi forms, from the popular free-form expressions currently going around in New Age venues; the latter are very sweet to do, but do not serve our purpose here.

[§§§§§§§] Not always so gradually; often dramatic changes come in surprising bursts.

[********] An advanced form of such a gap is the bardo of the Tibetan Book of the Dead; it refers to the gap between the living and the dead, and also to the levels between states of consciousness.

[††††††††] Although I believe don Juan to be a fictitious character of Castaneda’s narratives, I at least as firmly hold that there is a corresponding lineage in some frame.

[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] Stalking is don Juan’s term for intentionally shifting to whatever specific state of attention is most suited for accomplishing a given task.  Castaneda said that getting his doctorate was such a stalking task.

[§§§§§§§§] Gurdjieff’s term chief feature refers to the central blind spot of false personality, the hub around which revolves all our worst and most unconscious traits; except for very special conditions, we never see this core defect, and yet other people may constantly be taunting us about it, even giving us nicknames to reflect their unintentional knowledge about us. 

[*********] Super efforts is G’s term for the kinds of breakthroughs that a master can force us to make, but which would be quite beyond our normal capacities; they draw upon special reserves to which athletes and performers may sometimes gain access.

[†††††††††] This is what don Genaro was portraying in the last section of Castaneda’s Journey to Ixtlan.

[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] This onus is the subject of biblical and mythological stories and many horror tales.

[§§§§§§§§§] Many spiritualistic schools refer to one’s mediumistic sensitivities as the apparatus, as if it were a distinct body.

[**********] In In Search of the Miraculous, Ouspensky said that this was one of the main reasons that he painfully decided to split off from Gurdjieff and found his own fourth-way school in London; Castaneda several times objected to don Juan’s ascribing his own decisions to Spirit, following which Castaneda started getting lost in the lower worlds.

[1] Suzuki, D.T., The Way of Zen, … .

[2] Whittaker, Kaye, The Reluctant Shaman, …

[3] Castaneda, Carlos, Journey to Ixtlan, …

[4] Castaneda, Carlos, The Eagle’s Gift, …

  Abelar, Taisha, Sorcerer’s Crossing, …

  ??, My Life in the Himalayas, …

[5] Lilly, John, The Center of the Cyclone, …

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[6] ??, Psycho-Cybernetics, A Course in Miracles, The Handbook of …, …

[7] Wilson, Bill, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, …

[8] Andreas, Steve & ConnieRae, Frogs into Princes, Trance-Formations, Reframing,

  ??, Neuro-Linguistics, …

[9] (the Avatar manual)

[10] Erichson, Milton, …

[11] Gurdjieff, G. I., Meetings with Remarkable Men, …

[12] Leary, Timothy, …