Sunday, June 3, 2018

We Were Not Created To Reform The Universe, But To Reform Ourselves.

We are coming more and more to the realization that we are all part of a single web of life and that our survival depends very largely upon cooperation with a plan existing everywhere in creation.  Invisible laws govern visible things and perhaps the end of education is to understand these invisible laws?

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We find archetypally in nature that every form of life survives through a plan peculiar to its own kind.  Each division and subdivision of the natural world operates according to some form of instinctual instruction.  Living things fulfill their destiny; with the exception of ourselves, the various creatures around us probably never realize that they are following a patterned way of existence.

They have no defense against the ancient instincts or the early environmental training which they gained during their period of growth.  We are the one being that can contemplate the mystery of life and, strangely enough, we are the one being that can violate its rules.

There must be then, be a pattern of law particularly applicable to the human being?  We are no doubt, part of a natural creation.  This endowment does not justify the violation of those natural procedures even though we have been endowed with a higher degree of conscious intelligence than the forms around us.

The more we come into contact with our fellow men, the more remarkable human behavior appears.  It would seem that there are many inducements to live happily and with due regard for the rights and privileges of each other. Unfortunately, whatever these inducements may be, they are not sufficient.

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In all the billions of years of evolution and hundreds of millions of years of growth on this planet, no other species has developed the same endowments.  We are, therefore, uniquely self-responsible.  Which means we each have a limited determinism to do that which we believe to be right.

It is because we posses this determinism that we are capable of becoming religious, that we do become religious.  But, religion is meaningless unless an individual has the right to determine good and evil, and by which we can raise ourselves above the deportment and patterns of other kingdoms in nature around us which are instinctively obedient.

This means we must become consciously obedient and maintain the rules and patterns suitable for the best preservation of our own kind.  Unless we do this, we are abusing our ecological position in the universe.

Humanity can and should be considered a unit.  The name Adam is a plural, meaning a collective; and the Adamic and pre-Adamic forms of humanity are considered symbolically as individuals, people, composed of a number of separate personalities within their own structure.

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Humanity as a creature under the archetypal pattern breaks down into many cultural groups, racial groups, national groups, but all of these exist under natural law, survive by keeping this law, and we destroy ourselves by breaking it.  Turn back and look along the shores of the ocean of time and we will find many dead shells are found, resulting from the individual or the collective departing from the plan of which we are a part and which we can not violate with impunity.

The ancient orator Cicero defined civilization as a condition in which human beings dwell together in a state of civility.  On that basis we are not doing so well.  We are not fulfilling the needs of our human archetype.  We are not fulfilling ourselves.  We are forever sacrificing what we are to the accumulation of what we want.

It is time for us to accept our responsibilities to human society.  Just as we are now reaching out to try to protect endangered species around us, it is time for us to reach out and protect ourselves.  Unfortunately, on our present course of life we have made ourselves an endangered species.

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The situation that we face is not an instantaneous phenomenon; it is the result of a long antecedent pattern of causes, a long ecological history involving the automobile, the motion picture, the airplane, the computer, the television, the advancements of all our industrial and economic processes until we have gradually become obsessed with our own worldliness.

But we can all do something about some of the problems that face us and recognize that it is absolutely necessary for us to discover the truth in the situations in which we find ourselves.  Unless we are able to do this, we will continue to make the same mistakes indefinitely.

In the ecological identity of ourselves it should be regarded that every individual is as important to the compound as every tiny form of life is important to the earth’s integrity.  If blades of grass fail, the planet will ultimately drop out of orbit.  It is a long process, but it will follow.

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So unless every form of natural product is balanced so that it maintains its integrity and its individuality, the collective must and will suffer.  Each of us a small center within the vast structure of life, and the first thing that we can do is to put our own center in order, take hold of our natures, examine ourselves honestly, and try to find out why we are not as happy, contented, or as well-adjusted as we ought to be.

We will find that we are in need of an incentive if we are going to make any changes.  No one seems to want to be good simply because it is good, anymore than the majority of people want to keep the law simply because it is lawful.  We do things because of incentives, and there is perhaps a bit of ulterior motive in almost anything we do.  The one ulterior motive that may be forgiven is the natural desire to be better, to have a better integration within ourselves.

We like to think of families of worlds, families of galaxies, families of all kinds of magnitudes existing in space, and we observe that the cosmos around us is confidence-inspiring.  Here is a machinery beyond our comprehension, beyond our imagination, something that we must explore inch by inch, and in exploring it we must never fail to explore not only the greater but the lesser, not only the outer but the inner.

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As we look out on this magnificent array of integrities, it is difficult to imagine that anyone’s life is an accident.  It is difficult to assume that in this vast pattern wayward individuals can successfully change the plans of the infinite.  We were not created to reform the universe, but to reform ourselves. It was our duty to transcend and transmute our material personality until we came to understand the reason for ourselves.

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According to ancient legends, while “we” were in a state without sin, Adam lived in a paradisiacal region from which he fell by his own disobedience.  The story may be a little difficult to accept literally, but the fact remains that in a way we have been disobedient.  We are violating the principles that we know to be right.

Great generals and dictators have deliberately broken the law, “Thou shall not kill,” and have justified this because it fulfilled great ambitions of their own – political, social, industrial.  We have covered the earth with blood for the fulfillment of our own private ambitions.

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We have much the Alexander the Great complex.  We look out longingly into space, searching for other worlds to conquer.  Actually, the world we have never conquered is ourselves.

The human being is a magnificent thing, and for the most part this magnificent thing wastes itself. It does that same thing we do with our energy resources.

People are getting a little weary of being unhappy all the time and attempting to escape from this unhappiness by selfish pursuits.

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Most people would like to be better than they are.  Perhaps they are better than they know they are.  Given certain inducements, opportunities, and advantages, human character might even be modified to a considerable degree.  We can grow magnificently then, if we want to, but the average human being does not want to grow and, therefore, growth is forced upon us by suffering.

Ignorance is the primary disease.  It is ignorance which permits an individual to have a bad disposition and do nothing about it.  Ignorance is the basis of unkindliness.

Human evolution must be the victory of enlightenment over ignorance.

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Egotism Is A Destroyer Of Health and Happiness

One of the most universal and “respectable pressures is selfishness.  Some go as far as to say that without selfishness very little can be accomplished in this world.  Experience teaches us, however, that the consequences of such conduct can never truly contribute to the well-being of humanity.

Excessive self-interest lowers our sensitivity to the rights of others and to the common good.  It makes close understanding between individuals difficult and impossible and makes it extremely hard to maintain honorable friendships and constructive affections.

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Selfishness abuses all privileges, including the privilege to live constructively.  Many of us are taught to be selfish, but this is one lesson that must be unlearned, unless we all enjoy suffering.  We may say to ourselves, “every man must think first of himself in this highly competitive society,” but unfortunately self-centeredness can never protect anyone.

Egotism is an aspect of selfishness and a top-ranking destroyer of health and happiness.  Very few people like to admit that they are egoists. They prefer to take on the attitude that they are always right, and superior to others in their opinions, beliefs and convictions.

An egoist cannot afford to admit their own mistakes.  To sustain their self-delusion they must win every argument and dominate every situation. Society conspires against them by letting them have their own way.   No sensible person will bother with a closed mind.

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An egoist is seldom happy, for they live constantly on the defensive.  Their sense of superiority is their most valued possession, and they must protect it at all costs.  Because they cannot be taught, they remain ignorant and inadequate.  Their decisions are usually poor and their conduct often offensive.  He is never able to figure out how he can be so correct in his judgment and at the same time so miserable.

In religion the egotist enjoys privileges not available to them in business, industry, or domestic relationships.  It is very easy to abuse the right to one’s spiritual convictions.  In a religious argument there are few facts available to either of the contestants. Often the person who talks the loudest and fastest can count themselves the winner.  We just note, that most holy wars have been started by egotists willing to sacrifice the brotherhood of man for the sake of winning an argument.

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Such attitudes permit us to resent the self-interest of others, and to accept our own selfishness as right and proper, or at least inevitable.  Through long association with ourselves, we have gained the ability to live in a state of uneasy comfort with our own peculiarities.  The laws and processes operating us are unknown, ignored, or forgotten.  We simply do as we please, whether it really pleases us or not.

But, true happiness can seldom, if ever, be achieved by selfish or self-centered persons. Neither wealth nor distinction can confer real contentment.  It has been said in the old Arabic proverbs that happiness, is always a by-product.  It is an effect, the cause of which is enlightened conduct.

An educated person should not be selfish, for the primary purpose of enlightened education is to educate selfishness out of the individual.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Six Pressures That Make Living Difficult

The pressures that most commonly disturb us are usually environmental. The six pressures that make living difficult are:

  1. Bodily pressures, such as sickness, age, fear of accidents, and fear of death.
  2. Economic pressures, such as lack of training or credentials, unemployment, debt, disability, extravagance of self or family, unusual expenses, unexpected responsibilities, taxes, inflation, cost of adequate insurance, and the needs of children and other dependents.
  3. Social pressures, such as lack of true friends, loneliness, status seeking, the temptation to compromise standards, lack of constructive interests, and fear of society and its demands upon character.
  4. Emotional pressures, such as romantic difficulties, domestic problems, incompatibility, worries over children and other loved ones, fear of marriage or divorce, intemperance, infidelity, promiscuity, scandal, and emotional immaturity.
  5. Character pressures involving lack of self control, worry, vanity, hatred, jealousy, unreasonable ambition, stubbornness, cruelty, short sightedness, egotism, willfulness, and over-possessiveness.
  6. Spiritual pressures such as fear, lack of faith, or a feeling of internal insecurity. Other causes can be conflicts arising from religious confusion in society, the conflict of creeds, various depressing superstitions, and fanaticism.

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All these external factors press in upon us through our sensory perceptions and are then coordinated by our mind; they begin to form a negative psychological syndrome, which in turn becomes pressure, which will then impel our future conduct. The constant flow of pressures into the individual often results in complexes, fixations and neuroses.

One of the mistakes that most people make is the belief that the aggressive conquest of environment is possible. Actually, it is not possible, because no human being can actually control environmental circumstances. Nobody can foresee or dominate the conduct of all other human beings.

The physical body is the receptacle of pressures. The human being, because we are pressure, has no adequate defense against pressure. The degree of self-control a person possesses reveals the degree that the will, conditioned by experience, has been able to reduce pressure. Thus life appears as an infinite variety of pressures setting up an infinite variety of demands, each requiring immediate gratification.

Heredity and environment now come into play. Both of these factors are merely pressures moving in upon us directly or indirectly from other people. As environment consists of many degrees and combinations of pressures and the consequences caused by these pressures, it provides valuable instruction. We must t decide whether we wish to profit by insight or continue to be the victim of our own ignorance.

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Buddhism affirms that pressure is the torturer of life, the true cause of misery, madness and death. We can build all kinds of intellectual deceits. We can argue and excuse. We can draw pictures and develop formulas, but we cannot escape the simple fact that we must reduce the pressure or destroy ourselves.

Those long accustomed to think of pressure as a natural stimulant may have some trouble realizing that it is only a nerve whip. Nature provides pressure for certain emergencies, but life cannot and should not be one long emergency.

We all must recover from the delusion that pressure provides the energy necessary for accomplishment. We are not missiles, and life is not a problem trajectory.  WE can achieve our goals without tension by having clear insight, trained ability and purposed planning. Pressure pushes us on to exhaustion, not to victory.

The most universal therapeutic agent available to us is nature itself. Color, form, sound, and design reveal universal motions and processes.

Evil can never impress good upon the soul, and we must remember that direct action makes the deepest and most lasting impressions.

Not by fighting tension but by cultivating relaxation we achieve the solution to the problem. It is conscious receptivity to the benevolence of the universal plan that helps to heal the sufferings caused by disordered thoughts and emotions.

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Anything, which increases tension, also lowers self-control. Beauty does not increase tension, but deformity does. Violation of conscience creates pressure. Exposure to hatred or violence creates tension. Immoral, amoral art or psychotic music creates tension. That which is in itself not good cannot be a direct cause of good. When we try to overthrow evil by revulsive tension, we create situation, which will lead to further tension. The war inside us can never result in peace.

Tension is merely stress moving into manifestation. Anything, which apparently can be accomplished by tension, can be more safely accomplished by disciplined action without tension. To become tense is the quickest way to make our problems larger and ourselves smaller. A head on collision with tension seldom is the solution. It is usually wiser to direct our thoughts and feelings into more constructive channels and allow the tension to subside from lack of support.

Which brings us to the point that, if a we can be the victim of our environment, it becomes evident that environment can shape our destiny. If bad habits can destroy us, good habits could also then rescue us. A single wrong attitude strengthened by repetition can become a destructive negative force. Conversely a single right attitude given strength and repetition can create a powerful constructive psychological archetype.

If children can be led into delinquency by motion pictures, televisions, and improper books, it is foolish to say that they cannot be inspired by an improved level of entertainment and literature that leads to better character and normalized psychic patterns. But, since it is not likely at the moment that desirable reforms will occur in society, each individual must make the necessary constructive adjustments in their own way of life.

We should remember that the normal state of the body is health, and the normal state of the mind is sanity. The emotions find their fullest expression through love, friendship, and kindness. We must settle down to the serious labor of self- improvement if we want to change our reality. Health like happiness much be earned, and each person must earn their own happiness. Fortunately, we have been endowed with the means for our own perfection. Growth is a do-it-yourself project.  Get to work!

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Find The Facts And Live By Them

We live in a kind of world in which we have created an artificial pattern. We have come to conclude that the troubles of life are real and immediate, and the joys of life remote and reserved for a fortunate few. We have also come to the general feeling that the knowledge necessary for our own enlightenment is extremely difficult to secure.

In a sense, this is true, but it is not true because of the quality of knowledge, but only because of the attitudes we have created within our own natures. We have created a wall between ourselves and the natural life.quote-we-are-at-war-between-consciousness-and-nature-between-the-desire-for-permanence-and-the-fact-of-alan-watts-354905

Let us all think back a little to what was happening twenty or thirty years ago – the houses we lived in, the people we knew, the patterns which made up our friendships and acquaintances. As we look back upon that time, we see many faces in our minds that are no longer with us; we see situations that have broken up and disappeared; we see old houses that have been torn down for freeways; we see gardens that have disappeared to make way for apartment houses. The whole area of our experience has changed.

Now, it is perfectly normal to develop a little nostalgia about this. But, what it really does, is it points out that all things change; that whatever we grasp at vanishes even as we reach for it, and that most of the experiences of life have permanence only in our own memories.

So instead of regarding the world as a permanent place, maybe we should regard it as shifting sands of circumstance.

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Every time the wind blows the sand, its patterns change, and the sand itself slips through our fingers.  And if we think for a moment of the faces we no longer see, we can very quietly remember that some day our own face will be among those that will no longer be seen; but instead of getting melancholy over this, this should be a something that is understood. The moment we can see this other side of things, the moment we can see that the reality of life is its motion and not its stationary aspect, then we can come to recognize that things are really motion, not objects. All objects vanish.  Motion goes on.

Motion is the only fixed thing there is. Motion is that which will continue, which has always been and always will be – a movement of life. It is this movement of life that is its very essence and substance.  It is by means of this that life becomes life.  Life without motion or movement is as the seed before it is quickened.

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Within us, then, is pure motion.  Our self instead of being a fixed ego, is motion.  It is something that is always in a state of becoming what it has not yet attained, and releasing that, which has already acquired.   Motion is from the things that have been to the things that are, and on through all other states and conditions.  Thus we live from what we have been, from what we are, and toward what we will be.

Change is natural to moving things.  Change is only difficult to the person who believes that his own mind never changes.

It is a fact that everything in nature moves.  Everything moves from the state of insufficiency to the state of greater sufficiency; from failure to success; from slavery to freedom.  Therefore, there is in ourselves no impediment to our own motion to completion, except the impediment, which we place in our own minds.

If then, instead of living in a fixed world, we begin to look around us, we will discover something that we already know scientifically, but which in our psychology we do not always admit to ourselves.  Our earth is moving, everything that we have is moving through space rapidly or more rapidly than any projectile that we have yet been able to devise. Space, time, eternity, all is motion.  Cosmic systems are forever moving.

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We are actually not standing still, even on this little planet.  And motion is of two kinds – motion from place to place, and motion from quality to quality.  These motions determine our real growth, our real ability to be great beings.

Stability to us is very largely in terms of status.  It is what we own – our bank account, our income, and the property that we administer.  It is something we can reach out and touch. Or, within ourselves, stability is a thing that we can call stubbornness – the determination to maintain the status quo.  It is our resolute determination to cling to those things that seem to be pleasant, and to build continuing walls against those things, which we believe to be unpleasant.

One of the great impediments to progress, in every area that we know, is this reactionary authoritarianism, and this little more that the continual exertion of the idea that there is a desirable permanence in things.

Take, for example, an area like education. With the exception of a few minor details, the educational theory of today is essentially that which was devised during the Renaissance. In other words, our educational theory actually came into existence in the 15th century. We have undoubtedly refined and advanced the subjects taught, but the theory of teaching remains essentially the same.

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We call this traditional authority. We believe that this fixedness is the desirable thing. Whenever a progressive educator arises who would like to correct some of the old faults, they are regarded as the enemy of education. It is necessary for the great-entrenched pattern of things to rise against them, with all of its authority, and discredit them, because anything, which attacks the continuance of the things as they are, is regarded as the enemy. We do not like to be moved out of patterns or to change our ways. We want to remain in the old comfortable attitudes, which have made us miserable for years and will continue to do so. So when someone comes along and suggests that we take a different attitude, we rise in defense of the old-not because it is good, but because it is familiar.

All over the world, therefore, the progress necessary to the solution of human problems has been inhibited by reactionary pressure.  This reactionary pressure is that the individual or group shall hold on to the advantages that it has.  The thing itself must be preserved.

But, what really must be preserved is motion.  Anything that blocks or stops motion, or stops the process of a thing unfolding from within itself, is bad, and is ultimately going to result in tragedy for all concerned.

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Now, in terms of practical living, this is tremendously important, because many of our troubles arise from our desperate struggle to avoid change.  If however, we believe simply in a moving universe- if we believe that it is perfectly right and proper that things should change, that our own body should age, that our property should wear out, instead of resenting these things; if we recognize the inevitable that the things that we possess will gradually disintegrate, then we have release from this desperate effort to attempt to prevent that which we cannot prevent.

Everywhere we look, things gradually disappear and other things come and take their places.  Each year we watch the garden grow into its winterness, and sometimes we find it necessary in some areas certainly to replant our gardens every year.  No matter how beautifully they may bloom in August, we know how they are going to look in December. There is nothing we can do about it.  We accept this subconsciously, but we do not apply it to our own code of conduct.  We do not release ourselves from this lockedness of affirming that we must defeat the seasons.

If we can find some way to make or force this garden to grow, then we are a success; whereas in fact the substance, these principles cannot be defeated, and we ultimately destroy ourselves trying to defeat the principles of life.

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So we need to remind ourselves as strongly as possible, to become observant, to simply accept those things which time and eternity and the living motions of life, reveal to be true. It is not necessary for us always to believe what we read in books; but we cannot successfully deny what we see unfolding around us in the ritual of nature itself.

We cannot deny the story of the morning glory, although it may not be the same kind of story that we find in the book of history.  We cannot deny the example and the experience of the bird and the butterfly, the flowering plant, the great tree, the mountain, the rivers.  All of these experiences move in upon us, and they become the valid messengers of one fact – namely, that everything it the universe is change.

Actually we have no right to say that change is bad. If change is bad, God is bad; if change is wrong, then the whole universe if wrong, and there is nothing we can do about it. Change is the most blessed of all things.  It is, however, a continuance against which we have built one very difficult barrier, and that is the barrier of death.

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We assume that all change leads to death, and that beyond death, there is only uncertainty.  Even the most theologically minded person with a strong moral argument for immortality, still measures, by means of his sensory perception, the duration of things, and marks this duration with death.  However, all change ends in life, because death is not the end, but a releasing of things from restraint against change.

If we can remove the idea that change ends in death, we will destroy one of the great adversaries to our peace of mind, and we will have greater courage with which to free life, and to live our own lives without this barrier being forever high before us.  Then, motion becomes the symbol of complete freedom.  This motion goes on forever, fulfilling its own purposes, and carrying with it the fulfillment of all creatures; for it is motion that makes growth possible, and it is growth which makes enlightenment inevitable.

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Let us imagine for a moment, that we are trying to sincerely get some peace of soul, to get through this block, which holds so many of us.

Through the love of nature we can develop of kinship with life. We can pick up books on nature study and gain some magnificent insight.  Anyone who has ever read through a book on the life of birds, or on the life of insects, or has considered the stories written on these little lives, will suddenly discover the universality of intelligence.  We would realize that these little creatures, without our faculties or powers, have tremendous existence of their own and that we, by our faculties and powers, has become disorderly, disobedient and has allowed our ambitions to threaten the survival of our own kind and all other kinds in nature.

We have all seen the metamorphosis of the butterfly from the caterpillar; we have all seen life come to the nest in the tree; we see around us all the manifestations of universal energy – motion that make up the mystery of nature; but only a few perhaps have ever come to experience these facts in a way that influenced and modified their own lives.  Most people do not accept these facts as Scriptures to be meditated upon, as mysterious mandalas to be studied and explored.

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We can turn to the sky and the mountains and the moving stream. Here there are no doubts- only facts.  We can explain them in a thousand ways, but the facts remain.  The rivers cannot talk to us; the birds cannot tell us anything; and yet there is nothing that has existence that does not speak.  Trees speak – you can hear their voices when the wind moves through the branches, birds speak with their song. Some things speak in color, and others in motion.

The race of living things speaks in the flutter of wings and little cries at night.  The fish speaks, for you hear the little eddy of water when he swims; he jumps into the air and there is a little splash in the pool- this is the voice of his way of life.  Everything has some kind of voice, and the quieter we become to more of these voices we can hear.  All of these voices together reminding us that we live in a universe of facts, that we live in a universe of things that are just as they are, although we have tried to create out of this a universe of things we believe them to be.

Again the facts as they are will be only our ignorance of the facts; and ignorance is a complex thing, for it includes innumerable prejudices and intolerances and intemperance of attitude.

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What we call evil Is not an evilness of being, but a fixation of wrong attitude.  It is something that arises as the result of tradition, association, temptation and a lack of interior integration.  All ignorant people regardless of how they choose to live are criminals in some degree, because every ignorant person will hurt someone, and this itself is a crime.  Every person who is selfish, or who advances his own cause at the harm of another is criminal.  Everyone who breaks Universal law, is a criminal before the Law.

But this does not mean that such individuals are hopeless; it does not mean that they must be punished forever or cast out of society.  It means that the vortex of attitude by means of which the criminal state arises in the self, must be corrected.

We must remember that we live in a universe of Law; we live in a universe in which the Law itself is beautiful.  We do not live in a universe of frustrating, inhibiting, tyrannizing laws, but of laws causing motion, causing all things to unfold out of their own needs.

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In nature there are infinite forms of life, and each one of these comes to its own blossom.

The universe is not made up of things; it is made up of relationships between phases of motion.  Therefore, we are the ones who create the obstacles with which we confront our own endeavors and purposes.

We must begin to reduce the pressure; because after all, what does it benefit us if we gain the whole world and lose our own soul?

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

We Are Not Going To Be Saved By Our Industry; But By Our Insight

There is no doubt that in the last fifty years, most of our holidays have been heavily commercialized, but this in no way justifies us in turning against the sacred convictions for which most of these holidays stand.

All people have their festivals. They have to have those occasions in order to give an opportunity for individuals to express themselves in a clear and definite manner.

To be honest, we need these types of common activities. We need to get together in the spirit of friendliness, of good fellowship, of veneration and respect for things of value and for the simple enjoyment of the various occasions that nature produces which are suitable to our appreciation.

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Actually, a festival is a symbol of man’s participation in some form of gratitude, appreciation, friendship, kindness, generosity or mutual good feeling.

So when the time comes for us to celebrate any occasion, we should make the most of it. Some might say that such remembrances are childish, but anyone who thinks humanity is grown up, is also making a grave mistake. Because the truth is we are all childish, and perhaps it is our childishness that makes life endurable to us all.

Everything depicts on why we are here.  If we are here to build apartment houses, and great structures of glass and steel, to compete with each other, then the child is certainly at a disadvantage.  But if we are here as a movement in a great journey to build within ourselves a consciousness of great value then perhaps the child is better off than we think.  Perhaps if we could have more of this child quality going into maturity we would not have some of the terrible problems we have today.

Perhaps it is the child that really represents the true maturity of the race, the unspoiled human being. In the child, you have very little of these terrible antagonisms and animosities that can be cultivated only by association with adults.

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The child is not intolerant.  It is not a religious fanatic by nature.  The child is not corrupt by disposition — with a very few examples to the contrary, for occasionally we do find the very difficult child.  But for the most part, children brought up in normal environments, are by nature well intended and properly disposed toward life.  Gradually we destroy this.

But, we need the child life, the child heart, the child joys, and with such a holiday as Christmas, whether we wish to admit it or not, the adults are having just as much pleasure as the children. Perhaps, it is a good plan then, to make the most of every opportunity to express beauty and kindness and to reveal personal generosity. If we do not preserve these values, we really are going to destroy what is left of our civilization.

So much of our religious life is only abstract. We have golden rules we seldom follow; we have beautiful thoughts that we can quietly meditate upon, but which are disrupted by every practical event of life; we have determination to do wonderful and kindly things in a spiritual way, and then our personal feelings step in and we may be anything but kind and thoughtful.

It seems, therefore, that part of religion has always been the process of taking a beautiful idea and making it work, getting it out of the mind and the heart and into our hands and life so that something is actually done about it. But the moment we move these convictions out into visible and physical expression, we subject them to the frosts of circumstance.

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If all our virtues are held only as abstract truths in the heart and mind, they serve nothing.  They do not even serve us.  Abstract truths cost us nothing; they mean nothing to us until we have to make some physical, mental, emotional, moral stand in regard to our convictions.  Unless we prove these things to be real in ourselves, they do not help us, and they do nothing for others.

Let’s pause for a moment. We have holidays on Washington’s birthday, Lincoln’s birthday, Columbus Day, Fourth of July, because they stand for principles that we admire and think about.

Christmas is unique in the fact that it represent’s man’s celebration of the ultimate virtues as he is able to understand them — the highest good, the greatest depths of insight.  They represent the two great mysteries of life: the mystery of eternal giving, and the mystery of eternal resurrection.  These are the great universal truths that touch people of every faith everywhere.

They are not national holidays, they are world holidays, and everyone celebrates them under some name or symbol.  They represent man’s relationship with infinite life, and it is perfectly right and proper that on these occasions, we should restate our relationship with the infinite plan, the infinite good, the infinite love; for these are our securities.  And, until we are able to live always in the right, it is good that there are days, which the light shines especially bright.

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So let us take the Christmas season and try to realize a little more of what it basically means.

We have united two distinct concepts – one is sharing of gifts according to the ancient tradition of St. Nicholas of Myra, and the other is the celebration of the nativity of Jesus.

Actually, Christmas is a symbolic kind of foreshadowing of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, for in the sharing of our goods, coming together in the name of a holy and sacred being to bring joy and friendship and kindness to other people, those who celebrate are really performing a part of the Christian sacrament.

Christmas, therefore, is a time to get certain convictions into practice, and everything actually depends upon ourselves. The Christmas spirit is not something that is bought or exchanged or conferred. It is an awareness from within our own spirit.

Everywhere the Christmas spirit should be regarded for what it is—a spirit moving from within us – a spirit that is going to take things that are not very beautiful and transmute them. If it has no transmuting power, if it simply gets bogged down in the common symbolism we have not achieved much. We must take what has gradually become a physical festival and transmute it again into what it originally was intended to be.

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We do this by attempting in the Christmas season to live the principles operative in our relations with each other. There should be emphasis upon the spiritual meaning of Christmas, an awareness that the giving of presents is a symbol of something.

Actually, it is a symbol of two things: our utter dependence upon life itself for everything we have, and the giving of ourselves for the good of others. While we may develop various agricultural instruments, learn to handle harvest and create an economic systems around the produce that we grow, still, ultimately, everything that we use comes to us first as the gift of the universe.

The refinement and merchandising and distribution of products becomes the basis of expense, but everything that we really need is here for us without a price tag. It was put here by nature itself, which makes it possible for all creatures to live, if they will live together in fraternity rather than discord.

Poverty is not a divine institution; it is the result of the inconsistent administration of these things which nature bestows. We are in a position at all times to make sure that all human beings have what is necessary for their survival – perhaps more. So we should give honor on Christmas to this universal availability of the needs of life. We give thanks that nature in its infinite wisdom has provided all its creatures with everything they require. And if we learn the proper ways of distribution, there can be no real need or poverty in the world.

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In the ancient statement of the Mass, the lines repeat again and again.  “Do this in honor of me,” or “Do this in memory of me.”  All the things that we do in connection with the Christian mystery should be done in remembrance of the power of the Divine Giver.  When we accept with kindness that which may be useless, we are doing this in the kindness of remembrance of the great principle of giving for which the small insignificant package stands.  When we give regardless of the poverty of our material abilities, we give in the name of that which is eternal life.  And there is no time in the year in which we should be more charitable than at Christmastime.

Nature gives us every opportunity to see the consequences of actions. Our scriptures, our great structures of idealism are not based merely on someone’s opinion. They do not arise from a prejudice of five thousand years ago; nor have they become obsolete as the result of the infinite changes taking place in society. Man’s spiritual codes have been built upon the quiet observance of common experience.

They are the result of man living with man for thousands of years, observing his ways of action, noting the effects of his conduct upon not only his environment immediately, but upon the whole course of history.

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The opinions of the ancients have been summarized wisely in the great commandments of the past, and we know beyond all question of a doubt that the path of selfishness cannot succeed; that regardless of the inducements, regardless of the promises, regardless of the apparent immediate advantages, selfishness leads to the destruction of the individual and the collapse of society as a whole. Some day we have to face this.

Perhaps this Christmas can help us in a practical way, for it is one day that stands for the elevation of principle over profit.  Now, it may be that the merchants have made a little profit along the way, but that has no bearing upon us.  In our own lives, we have a conviction, and according to this conviction, we have set aside this day to celebrate what some regard as one the most perfect examples of human character that ever lived.

We have set this day aside for the universal respect and admiration for qualities and virtues we all possess but which this one person seems to have been able to manifest perfectly before men.  So on this day, we are honoring the very principle that we need today for the survival of our world.

We are accepting the concept that spiritual truth is stronger than material benefit and the conviction that beauty and love are the true rulers of the world.  We are elevating and paying homage to integrity, the highest form of honor and honesty.  We are also pointing our that perhaps the most commendable of all virtues is truly that man will sacrifice himself–all that he has and all that he is to the service of his brother men in need.

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We are honoring on this day a person who exemplifies every quality that we consider to be essential, basically right and eternally true.  If we think about it for a moment we would realize how, in a certain way, this person whom we worship or regard is also a symbol of the superiority that we all really seek.

So this Christmas, we should all do everything possible to guard against negative thoughts.  Let us be determined that we are not going to think dark thoughts about anything- not about those around us, or about the world, or about politics. Let us use this season to lighten our own thinking, to make it bright within ourselves.  And for a few days, if we claim to have any religion in us at all, let us put this religion to work, with the conviction that if we can live it for two or three days intensely that we can set up a pattern of gratitude instead.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Filed under: Culture, Holidays, World Tagged: Christmas, divine, Holiday, insight, nature, Sacred, spirit, truth, universal, wisdom

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

In Order To Help Many People, We Must Be Many People

Of all the problems that each person must solve, the complexity of our own temperament is probably the most challenging. Most of us have very little trouble giving other people good advice – we see exactly what is wrong with them – and we tend to develop the attitude that perhaps we have been more fortunate; that through experience or opportunity we are just a little wiser than the others.

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And then a little problem comes home to us, and confusion immediately results. The confusion, of course, arises from the important principle operating in nature that impersonal judgment is always best. It is very true and we cannot deny it, that we can advise others in many areas where we cannot solve our own, simply because personal involvement results in loss of perspective.

We spend many years becoming proficient in some art or science but we must also remember to give some time and thought to disciplining and directing our own consciousness.

Any time we have a feeling that the moods that arise within ourselves are inevitable we develop what might be termed as “blind spots in our understanding”. Several factors can lead to this type of “blindness”. One is prejudice.

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In any area where we have prejudice, we lose sight of facts. Prejudice is a kind of intensity that drives us past what is reasonable. If we study this problem we would come to one general conclusion, which is that each person has areas of his own understanding that has not been developed.

These areas represent fields of activity with which we are not familiar, patterns of life that we have not experienced, levels of understanding that we personally have not known. We must then depend upon advice, or opinions of those more learned than ourselves, “experts” in various fields.

Sometimes those experts are really helpful, particularly on practical levels but no experts can contribute to us their experience; they can merely apply it to our problems, and sometimes this adds further confusion, inasmuch as they are applying a perspective that belongs peculiarly to themselves. They have not experienced our problems, any more than we have experienced theirs. Practice and familiarity and constant work may give them certain advantages, but these advantages also have their limitations.

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So it is important for each of us to experience as wide an area of life as is feasible or practical for us. Our blind spots are nearly always in areas where for one reason or another we may have refused to live, or refused to think through or accept certain ideas that have appeared distasteful or unimportant.

Today it is assumed that we know many things that we actually do not know. It is assumed that in our search for spiritual consolation, we are adequately informed on the principles of religion. This is usually not true. We do not have as much ground work as we might wish. We must develop a greater breadth of thinking in order to meet the challenges of other minds.

The unknown is not or should not be the cause of anxiety. What we do not know should not cause us to be unkind, critical or suspicious. We should assume the unknown is merely an extension of the known. We should realize that the meadows that we have never seen are not different from meadows that we have seen, and that just as surely as the familiar landscape is beautiful so the landscape that we do not know is also beautiful.

Some areas have mountains, and other shave seas; but each has its own beauty. And the same is true of humanity. The people we do not know are not mysterious; they are just like the people we know. Sometimes that is a disturbing thought, but we should accustom ourselves to it. The basic emotions of all people are essentially the same.

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That which we do not understand should not cause us to suddenly pause and tighten. We should approach these things with a desire to understand and an expectation that what we find will be natural, reasonable, and proper. It may not be exactly what we want, but then, what we do understand is not always what we want either.

We must not be afraid of growth or change. We must not fear broader vistas. Of course, we have a right to choose what is most suitable to ourselves, but we should also recognize the right of others to choose. We may admit that tastes differ, but it is very hard for us to really accept this. We have lived so long in the concept that there is only our own good taste and everyone else’s bad taste. Yet, to others, we may be among those with bad taste.

We can gradually correct our tendency to make these generalities. They do not hurt the people or the groups against which we direct them as much as they hurt us. The great danger of a generality that covers a vast area without any deep consideration, and arrives at negative conclusion is that it is continually taking us away from learning. It makes us reject the challenge of that group or situation.

We should remember that we learn most by relaxing; we teach best by listening, we help others in many cases just by gradually coming to understand the total pattern of their kind of life. It creates bridges of understanding.

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Every day we live, we should not only strengthen our strong points of character, but also redeem our weak points. By simply working, day by day to understand and to share, and refusing to permit prejudice or criticism to limit our search for knowledge.

When we decide that there are things we do not like simply because we know nothing about them, or perhaps because we have mistaken one or two solitary instances for a complete picture, it comes time to review the whole situation.

We know for example that today we are having trouble internationally partly because small groups of visiting tourists from a certain country have behaved miserably. They have gone out as ambassadors and representatives and have betrayed their country as far as maintaining any dignity or prestige as far as the homeland is concerned.

As a result, we will find in some small town in Portugal or somewhere the typical Portuguese who does not like Americans. He may also be in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, England, Scandinavia or any part of Asia or Latin America, because they all feel the same way. To them, we are an extravagant impolite, disagreeable, fault-finding, critical, snobbish group, and they know it. After all, they have met six of us.

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The same thing happens here. We do not like a certain religion. We just know it is bad, because we knew two people who belonged to it, and neither one of them was pleasant; therefore, we have all the facts.

Facts about what?

Not about the religion – about two people. But we never seem to be able to keep the points clear. So wherever we have prejudice, we must look a little deeper.

If our prejudice is directed against a religion, for example, we must try to understand why this religion, with perhaps 400 million followers, can survive with our disapproval. Somebody must like it. Some people must find good in it, or they would not believe it. People are not that foolish. Therefore, it is up to us to go a little deeper.

We do not have to join the religion, but we cannot allow it to be a blank area or prejudice in our own consciousness because if we do, it may sometimes cause us to cause a terrible injury upon a perfectly honorable member of that faith. We will not have natural honesty when we come in contact with that person, and this lack of honesty arising from ignorance, will also hurt us because that person might have become a valuable window into a larger world.

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It is the same with every field of learning-art, sciences, industry, politics – all these things have to be understood. This does not mean that we take the Pollyanna attitude that everything is right but we should take the attitude that everything is interesting. In everything there are probably values that we should understand, for we are not even entitled to criticize unless we understand. And usually understanding ends criticism. We have a right to choose what is good for us, but we have very little right to condemn.

We must learn to have a certain amount of detachment. One way to do this is to simply look in the mirror. We shall then observe in all probability that we are not marked by Heaven with any particular symbol by which we are superior to other creatures.

Even under ordinary conditions, even if we are slightly sensitive, our haloes do not show in the mirror, and they do not show to other people. As we observe, as we look at ourselves, we have a somewhat reminiscent similarity to a creature called a human being; that we are just like people. We are people with all others, striving to learn. We were born as they were born, we grew as they grew; we suffered as they suffered; we achieved as they achieved; and in due course we will depart as they departed.

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Therefore, there is nothing about us that demands that we regard ourselves as a peculiar and sacred creation apart from everyone else. We have a perfect right to learn, and to grow and to share, but there are very few persons in this world who have the right to dominate.

It is not necessary that other people agree with us. It is not necessary that others cater to us, or that they should keep their tempers when we lose ours. The thing that is essentially necessary and right is that we shall grow up in the world together, enjoying our own individuality and enjoying the individuality of others – not trying to create conformity, but trying to help people be themselves.

This is real helping, and it means a larger foundation in our own thinking. In order to help many people we must be many people. We must have in ourselves an availability of general knowledge, understanding and appreciation.

We must grow beyond the tendency to criticize or condemn. We may not agree but we can understand; we can sympathize. We can realize the circumstances and conditions that cause other people to be what they are, because we are gradually learning to appreciate the conditions that made us what we are.

Live and Learn.  We All Do.

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Filed under: Culture, Philosophy Tagged: bridges of understanding, change, education, growth, human, humanity, philosophy, prejudice, Self-Help

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