The Plan of Salvation

April 18, 2010

This is a chapter from my book on the Pathwork which is in “rest” mode right now.  It’s about God, the Divine Community and the reason for the creation of the Earth.  I’m posting it here for any Pathworker who isn’t familiar with the “religious” underpinnings of the Lectures.  I believe all of this.  I have no wish to push it onto anyone else; however, I do think there needs to be a discussion within the institution of Pathwork about how far away we can get from all of this and still call ourselves “Pathwork.”  Or, from a believer’s point of view, the question might be, “how far can we get away from all of this and still expect the Divine Community to help and support us?”

Anyway, the book is in an interview format because I often find that people misinterpret what I say about the Pathwork and object on that basis, and I wanted to give a voice to some of the objections I have encountered in order to clear them up.  However, I’m not going to explain who the characters are or what the abbreviations mean at this point.  Hope you find this useful:

Chapter 4. God, the Divine Community, and the Reason for the Creation of Earth

§4:1.  The Creation

§4:2.  The Fall of the Angels (Us)

§4:3.  How We Were Released from Bondage

§4:4.  How We Get Home and Rejoin the Divine Community; The Plan of Salvation

§4:5.  The Symbolism of the Crucifixion

§4:1.  The Creation

INT:  All right then.  Why don’t we move past the “how do we know this is true” stage and actually talk about the nature of the spiritual universe?

•FSP:  Yes, let’s.  And that discussion really ought to begin with the creation of the Universe, and more specifically, with the creation of the divine community of souls.

It all starts with God.  And as soon as we say even that much, there’s huge potential for confusion.  For starters, there’s the question, “where did God come from?”  And for people who really need an answer they can easily wrap their brains around, I’m not going to be much help.  Because trying to understand God in a time-based framework is impossible.  God simply “is.”  As frustrating an answer as that might be to some, the fact is that it’s the best we can do with our limited minds and our limited capacity for language.  On a few occasions, I’ve just sat quietly with the idea that “God is” and I’ve experienced these flashes of “getting” it, and “getting” how wonderful it is.  But I can’t possibly convey that in words, so I’m not going to try.  Let’s just say that the idea of the origin of God is not something that human minds are equipped to deal with.

Leaving that aside, the next layer of confusion arises around what it is we mean exactly when we say “God.”  Are we talking about a man with a beard?  A life force?  A trinity?

The best I can give you on that, based on my understanding of the Teachings, is that God is a being who exists in two distinct phases, or states, which roughly correspond to God’s masculine and feminine aspects.  In one of these states, which we can loosely refer to as the masculine or “doing” state, God is an individual consciousness, aware of itself, with the ability and the propensity to create.  In the other state, which we can loosely refer to as the feminine or “being” state, God is a force which sustains life in the Universe.  Moreover, in the feminine manifestation, God allows other awarenesses to merge with God’s, creating a vast collective consciousness, in which the awareness of each individual member is shared with the entire collective.  Any pure soul, who is able to merge with God and with other pure souls in this way, has the capacity to shift from the individual to the collective phase at will.  So while it is possible to merge with God, a soul does not give up its individuality by doing so, and can always reconstitute itself as an individual at will.

Does that make sense so far?

INT:  I suppose so.  Are you saying that God is both of these things simultaneously, or does He go back and forth or what?

•FSP:  I’m not really sure.  The key thing is that both phases are equally a part of God, although certain characteristics predominate in one phase of being and the other predominate in the other phase of being.

INT:  So am I hearing you say that somehow God isn’t integrated?

•FSP:  Not in the sense that human beings aren’t integrated.  In other words, it’s not that God has aspects which are split off and somehow no acknowledged by God.  Rather, it’s that God by nature is a being with two complementary phases.

INT:  One of which is understandable as “masculine,” and the other of which is understandable as “feminine.”

•FSP:  Among other distinctions which could be drawn, yes,  That’s true.

INT:  Well, if that’s the case, why is it that so many religions refer to God as a “He?”

•FSP:  Because so many societies and religions are dominated by men, and because people tend to project what they know onto God, thereby creating a God-image which isn’t really related to the true God.  When you see all this reference in the Old Testament to an angry, jealous God, what you’re really seeing is angry, jealous people projecting their own negative characteristics onto a personality they’re not equipped to understand.

INT:  So what’s a more accurate depiction of the personality of God?

•FSP:  This is more of an extrapolation than a direct summary of the Teachings , but I would say that if you imagine all the very best aspects of humanity – kindness, integrity, strength, creativity, etc., you can get a little bit of an inkling.  And even there, the potential for confusion exists.  If I say that God is “kind,” that may mean a noble sort of gentleness to one person, and a touchy-feely overindulgence to someone else.  So the best I can say is, think of the moments in your life when you’ve been most impressed by the capacity of human beings for good, and then extrapolate from there.  And then don’t get too attached to that image, because it’s bound to be imperfect.

INT:  All right.  That’s a little vague, but I get the idea in general terms, and I understand that you’re saying the prevailing notions of God as vindictive and angry are inaccurate.

•FSP:  Totally.  Vindictive, angry people are immature.  How could the Creator of the Universe be less mature than some of the people walking around on Earth?  It really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

INT:  And I think you’ve just hit on a big reason that so many people don’t believe in God.

•FSP:  Yes, but when you think about it, forming a conclusion that way doesn’t make a lot of sense either.  It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.  For example, let’s say you’re living on an island and you see a lot of smoke and occasional lava coming out of a big mountain not far away from you.  Many of the other people on the island are convinced that the mountain will soon spew rocks and lava everywhere because the spirit of the mountain has indigestion.  Sure, it’s ridiculous to someone with a sophisticated understanding of the natural world.  But it’s one thing to reject that uninformed image, and another to say “the people who think the mountain is going to spew lava on us are numbskulls; therefore, the mountain isn’t going to do any such thing.”  What about the alternative, that the islanders might not correctly understand the phenomenon but that their core assessment that there’s danger might nevertheless be valid?

INT:  Right.  That’s pretty similar to the point you were making when you were talking about not rejecting an idea because it’s believed by zombies.  You’re saying that even though the common idea of God seems silly, that doesn’t rule out the existence of a God who makes more sense.

•FSP:  Exactly.  And some of the basic characteristics of God are a desire to create, experience, grow and connect. And that’s why God set out to create other awarenesses with whom God could commune and cooperate in the ongoing processes of creation and growth.  And the very first time that God did this, God actually removed a part of Himself/Herself, and used it as the foundation of another being.  After that, all subsequent beings, including you and me in our spiritual, pre-human forms, were created cooperatively by God and this first created being  The Teachings don’t say much about the specifics of that joint creative process, but they do explain that it required God to part with a smaller portion of God’s divine substance than was required to create the first created being.  So the first created being was created differently than the rest of us were, and has more divine substance than the rest of us.

INT:  So are you talking about Jesus now?   God and Jesus creating humanity?

•FSP:  No.  I’m talking about a spiritual being cooperating with God to create other spiritual beings at a time before any of us were incarnated on Earth.  Eventually, some of those other beings became confused and began incarnating on Earth as human beings in order to regain an understanding of spiritual law, and then the being God had created first incarnated as the person named Jesus.  However, the creation of conscious life initially happened on a spiritual plane.

I’m going to come back to the way all of this intersects with Christianity, but I’d like to hold off on it for now and say some more about the nature of God.  And I think it’s important to acknowledge that here I’m really offering a personal interpretation.  I’m taking bits and pieces of the Teachings, some of which were uttered a decade apart from each other, and I’m piecing them together in a way that hangs together for me.  But there’s something beyond human understanding at the core of all of this, and I think everyone who reads the Teachings is inevitable going to understand the nature of God in a personal way, and in an inevitably limited way, even if there are important aspects of truth in that understanding.

With that reservation out on the table, I will say that the way I understand the Teachings, one of God’s primary objectives is to grow – not physically, but in terms of integrating knowledge and experience.

INT:  But doesn’t God already know everything?

•FSP:  God knows everything there is, but there’s constantly more to know.  Every time you or I have any kind of experience, it adds to the pool of what there is to know.  So if I could give you a simile, which is accurate on one level and yet distorted because it’s bound up with human notions of time and space, God is like a glowing fluid ball of light expanding into an infinite darkness.  And the way God expands is to send out little individual “God sparks” who have experiences as individuals, and then God catches up to those sparks and reintegrates them.  In other words, there’s a process of growth through voluntary fragmentation followed by reintegration into the whole.

INT:  The “whole” being what, exactly?

•FSP:  The “whole,” as I understand it, being the common consciousness which is shared by God and the souls who are merged with God in the being state.

INT:  And those little sparks are us?

•FSP:  On a spiritual level, all human beings are sparks such as those, yes.

INT:  But you’re saying that this image is distorted – it’s an analogy.  Do you have a sense of what the image is actually referring to?

•FSP:  I think that probably takes us at least partially into territory our minds aren’t really programmed to understand.  So, I can tell you how I understand it, but I can’t give you any kind of guarantee that my conception actually clarifies anything.

The way I see it, the void is analogous to the potential for experience.  When we separate from God and enter the individual state, we’re able to have certain types of experiences we can’t have when we’re merged with God.  Then there’s some sort of natural process which brings us back into merger, and when we merge, we bring back with us our experiences, which become directly accessible to God and to all the other merged members of the divine community.  In that way, everything we experience and learn is shared with everyone else.  Everyone gets the benefit of what each of us goes through as individuals.  Essentially, this is how God and the divine community grow.  And while I’m probably speaking about it in a fairly bland, matter-of-fact way, I have a sense that this process of separation and reintegration is something very intense and sublime – very holy, one could say.  There’s courage involved in making the separation, and bliss and gratitude in making the return.  I’m not articulate enough to do it justice, but in my experience, it’s an image that gets deeper and more powerful as one sits with it.

INT:  So then when God “catches up with us,” whatever that exactly means, and we’re reabsorbed into the whole, don’t we cease to exist as individuals?  In this way of looking at things, aren’t we all waves on the cosmic ocean, who take shape and then get reabsorbed and disappear?

•FSP:  Not quite.  According to the Teachings, we’re able to merge with the overall God-consciousness and then re-separate at will.  It’s not like the ocean, where the next wave to appear isn’t the same wave that disappeared before.  There’s an individuality involved which is never lost, throughout successive mergers and re-separations.

INT:  Am I right then that there’s a conflict here with the Buddhist concept of physical incarnation on Earth?

•FSP:  With some Buddhist concepts, yes.  The Teachings acknowledge that the Buddhist notion of suffering as being related to attachment is correct, but they present the soul more consistently with the idea of an individual consciousness transmigrating through successive incarnations on Earth, which is part of the Hindu framework and some, but not all, schools of Buddhism.  We’ll get into that more specifically when we talk about reincarnation.

INT:  All right.  So God is sending out these sparks as scouts, more or less, and then temporarily reabsorbing them in order to absorb their experience into the divine consciousness?

•FSP:  Where it can be shared with any soul who is capable of merging with God.  We’re not capable of doing that at this point, but there are many souls who are.

INT:  Why aren’t we capable of merging with God?

•FSP:  Because something happened which interfered with this reabsorption process, and we’re all still in the process of straightening out the effects of that event.

INT:  So are you saying that something went wrong?

•FSP:  I hate to use that word.  I think it’s more useful to say that we made a choice to experiment with taking separation from God as far as we could take it, in order to see what would happen.  This choice we made interfered with the reabsorption process, and now we’re all working on straightening that out.

INT:  Let me take another stab at it.  Did God know this was going to happen?  Is this all part of God’s plan, or did God make a mistake somehow?

•FSP:  The only sensible reading of the Teachings is that God at least knew there was a risk that this would happen.  And the way I understand the Teachings, God appreciates the opportunity to experience and grow which is presented by this situation.  Certainly, God is absolutely committed to the process of rectifying it, in a way which is true to God’s core nature. Moreover those of us who have temporarily lost this ability to merge, and who are going through some difficulties in connection with that, including taking on some distortions of our divine characteristics and having to incarnate on Earth, are making a huge contribution to the evolution of the divine mind.  God is growing as a result of our wanderings in the darkness, and the rest of the divine community will grow as well when we become able to merge again and we can make our experiences available to everyone.  The Teachings explicitly say that this contribution we’re making to divine evolution is a great source of dignity for us.  That’s a radical contrast with the traditional shame-based perspective on “original sin,” and that difference in attitude pervades everything the Teachings tell us about our spiritual condition.

I know that’s probably all pretty vague, but let me give you more of the big picture and it should start to come into focus.

God and the being whom God created alone, who is referred to in Christian terminology as the Christ, created an entire generation of souls.  Their intention was that each of us would develop into divine, more or less God-like beings – in the same general way that our children develop into adults like ourselves.

INT:  So there’s the kind of New Age aspect of what you’re saying, right?  The idea that we’re destined to become Godlike, as opposed to mere human beings who might progress to being in Heaven and singing God’s praises for all time.

•FSP:  I think perhaps that is a New Age theme, and I know that there are some explicit references in the Teachings to a new age and a new consciousness appearing on the Earth.  Nevertheless, I want to be careful about applying labels to what we’re talking about.  For instance, some people think “New Age” and free associate to crystals and hydroponic marijuana, neither of which are at all relevant to this framework.

INT:  So it’s not a “stoner” cult?

•FSP:  Not at all.  The Teachings acknowledge that we can attain a temporary raising of consciousness through the use of certain drugs, but treat that approach as an attempt to avoid the hard work of raising one’s consciousness permanently.  So while there are some people who have been through that kind of phase in their lives who find themselves attracted to the Teachings, there isn’t any support at all in the Teachings themselves for maintaining a substance-abusing lifestyle.

INT:  Interesting.  But let’s get back to the main thread.  God and Christ create this community of souls and then the next thing we know we’re living on this semi-Hellish planet and God’s nowhere in sight.  What happened?  How did we end up here?

§4:2.  The Fall of the Angels (Us)

•FSP:  I’m going to tell you how we all ended up here, and the story’s going to sound a little familiar.  But, it’s important to listen for the differences. And just by the way, the Teachings are very clear on these aspects, so it’s not like when I was talking about the nature of God and filling in gaps or interpreting.

Every soul was created with a single perfect aspect, and with every other aspect imperfect but perfectible.  So for instance, one group of souls might have been given perfect intelligence, and another group of souls perfect compassion, and so on.  And the task of each soul was to take the perfection in that one aspect and gradually extend it to each other aspect, until eventually they would become perfect, and in some fundamental way Godlike, beings.

INT:  Can I ask a question?

•FSP:  Go ahead.

INT:  Why?  Why didn’t God just create a whole bunch of wholly perfected beings in the first place?

•FSP:  I’m not certain.  But I can speculate that perhaps this was the only viable way to create a large community of souls, or perhaps it’s just in the nature of God to work through gradual evolution, as God has done on Earth.  Maybe God took more satisfaction out of creating beings who would then have a hand in continuing the job of creating themselves.  Maybe God’s generous and open to possibility in that way.

INT:  Hmm.  Interesting.  Go on.

•FSP:  So the one danger, or pitfall, in the way everything was structured was that the basic life force which makes all creation possible has the potential to be used essentially in reverse.  Thus, we have what is referred to as the light, which is the life force, and the darkness, which is the life force in reverse.  And the darkness is a very dangerous power to play with.  And while we were warned against experimenting with it, the nature of all souls is that they have free will, and the nature of free will is that it can be used destructively.  And so there came a time when curiosity got the better of the first being who was created cooperatively by God and the being God created alone, and this soul began to experiment.

Now, the soul we’re talking about is referred to in the Christian story of what happened as Lucifer.  I don’t want to refer to this being that way because there’s so much “baggage” around the concept of the devil that it makes it impossible to communicate effectively.  So I’m going to refer to this being as the “first of our generation,” or FOG for short.

INT:  FOG?

•FSP:  It’s actually an appropriate acronym, because this being is partially responsible for a lot of the fog and confusion in which we find ourselves.  Moreover, just for convenience, I’m going to refer to FOG as a “him,” even though FOG has both masculine and feminine aspects.

In any event, what experimenting with the darkness essentially did to FOG was to separate him from God in an extreme way, and to gradually make him delusional, in much the same way that drug use can make a human being delusional.  And in that unbalanced frame of mind, FOG began creating worlds out of the receptive matter of the Universe and then enticing other souls to visit the worlds he had created to get a little taste of what the darkness was like.  And, little by little, souls were attracted to these worlds, or “spheres.”

INT:  I’m having a bit of a hard time with the idea that a divinely-created soul could more or less go insane.

•FSP:  Because that makes it seem like the soul couldn’t have been divine, or because you think God would have prevented it from happening?

INT:  Both, really.

•FSP:  First of all, remember that each soul had a single perfect divine aspect, and that the goal was to extend that perfection to each other aspect.  So there was a lot more fertile ground for distortions to creep in than there would have been if we were talking about a being who was already divinely perfect in every way.  Second, one aspect of the process of becoming delusional was taking the ability to separate from the collective consciousness and pushing it to an extreme, to see what would happen under those circumstances.  And the result was a loss of a sense of ultimate connection, a forgetting of that state of being and a belief in the ultimate reality of separateness – which, by the way, is the mental state we human beings find ourselves in.  And third, God didn’t prevent this because a fundamental characteristic of God is respect for free will.  Remember from our last conversation that respect for free will is a spiritual law.  And, free will is an essential element of the Godlike perfection we’re all meant to attain, so if God wants us to have that, then God is going to respect it, not override it.

INT:  Even if the results are catastrophic?

•FSP:  Yes, because God understands the law of infinity – the fact that only that which is divine is infinite.  Sooner of later, good has to win out.  So no matter what the path back to perfection looks like, there’s never any doubt about reaching the destination.

INT:  So God doesn’t really need to intervene …

•FSP:  Doesn’t need to intervene in a way which is contrary to God’s essential nature, and wouldn’t want to, because the destructive consequences of that kind of intervention on the development of our free will would far outweigh the apparent benefit.  All the suffering we experience as human beings is eventually going to feel like a bad dream to us as we look back on it.  Interference with our free will would be both more persistent in its effects and more difficult to correct.

Now I said before that the nature of all souls is that they have free will, and that’s because the nature of God is to have free will.  But when FOG made these spheres of darkness, everything that would be true in a sphere of light was reversed.  Free will didn’t operate there, and so the souls who found their way into FOG’s spheres were unable to leave.  In addition, because of all this exposure to the darkness, they gradually began to go delusional themselves, to forget God and the divine community, and to start generating their own dark worlds in which they experienced nothing but suffering.

INT:  This all sounds like the Fall of the angels, with some echoes of the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit.

•FSP:  That’s right.  But let’s be clear about something.  A traditional interpretation of all of that is that Adam and Eve sinned and that somehow their sin rubs off on us and we deserve to be punished for what they did wrong unless we throw ourselves on God’s mercy.  That’s a distorted understanding.  The truth is that we ourselves are those very same souls who experimented with the darkness and who became delusional as a result.  It’s our sin which is at the root of what we’re experiencing now, and remember from our previous conversation that when I say “sin,” I absolutely do not mean “something for which we deserve to be punished.”  What I mean is “a choice with destructive spiritual consequences.”

INT:  It sounds like you’re saying that the Fall of the angels and the eviction of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden are the same thing.

•FSP:  That’s right.  The Fall of the angels has a more spiritual emphasis, while the Adam and Eve story emphasizes the seduction aspect and the resulting human suffering, but the two stories are referring to the same event.  Thus, the traditional understanding of angels and human beings as separate spiritual races, and of demons who were once angels but who fell and now tempt human beings, is fundamentally flawed.  In fact, we’re all the same divine beings.  Angels are the divine beings who never fell, human beings are the divine beings who fell and who are working to return to God, and demons are the divine beings who fell and are still working for FOG and vainly trying to prevent the return.  We’re all members of the same spiritual family, and we’re all destined to be together again when the effects of the Fall have finally been reversed.

INT:  So you’re saying that you and I are both direct children of God, who are incarnating on Earth because we messed ourselves up by experimenting with the life force in some sort of reversed polarity or something.

•FSP:  Essentially, yes, but let me fill in some more detail.  First of all, to be technical, we aren’t souls, we’re half souls.  One of the results of the Fall was that we actually divided into separate beings, and one of the major milestones in returning to the divine community will be the healing of this split and the reconstitution of a single soul.  At this stage, though, there are actually two halves of each of us here on Earth, and that’s why we all have this awareness of and longing for the idea of a soul-mate.

INT:  So when we find the right man or woman, have we essentially just found the rest of ourselves?

•FSP:  No, not necessarily.  There’s a lot of purification and re-education that each half has to go through before reunification is possible, and it’s a lot more important that progress be made in that direction than it is that the two halves be particularly close in their lives on Earth.  So we could marry our other half, or never meet our other half, or something in between.

Also, at the risk of getting ahead of myself, because we’re going to talk about reincarnation in detail next time, I want to say that another significant thing about this split is that it accounts for the male or female nature of our incarnations.  Typically, one spiritual half of us has more masculine aspects and the other has more feminine aspects, and whichever aspects are less dominant in a particular half, that half-soul will have to incarnate as that sex in order to integrate those aspects in preparation for the eventual reunification.

INT:  So the fact that you’re a male means you have predominantly female aspects?

•FSP:  No, but the fact that the large majority of my incarnations have been male does actually point to that.  Let me tell you more about that when we really get into reincarnation.

INT:  Okay, so we’re divided souls.  And how did we come to be here on Earth?

•FSP:  The result of this Fall was that there was a separation between those souls who had fallen and were trapped in FOG’s spheres and those who hadn’t.  Actually, as I understand it, there was also a layer of souls in between – souls who had fallen to a lesser extent, but not so far as to be subject to FOG’s dominion.  And after a time, those of us who had fallen began to feel a longing to be reunited with the divine community.  And, of course, the divine community longed to be reunited with us.  The product of this mutual longing was the Earth plane, where the light and the darkness both exert an influence, and where those of us who have fallen can make a choice whether to continue following our dark currents or to commit ourselves to returning to God.  So we began incarnating on Earth, while at the same time, those of us who were connected to FOG’s worlds continued to be connected.

INT:  What does that mean, “connected to FOG’s worlds?”

•FSP:  It means that when we slept, and after we died, we would return to FOG’s spheres.  We were more or less just visiting here on Earth.

INT:  But you’re saying that this didn’t apply to everybody, right?  Some of us might not have fallen that far?  Or they might have already worked their way back?

•FSP:  Technically, yes. there are a few souls here from higher levels who have come to help.  But I think it’s probably a good idea not to underestimate how far any one of us might have fallen, or how far we might still have to go.

INT:  Well, where do you see yourself in all of that?

•FSP:  I assume that I was trapped in FOG’s spheres and that I have a substantial way to go before I can leave the earth plane.

INT:  But do you ever suspect that you’re really some sort of helper from above?

•FSP:  Sometimes that notion crosses my mind, but there’s plenty of evidence in my life that it isn’t so.  Therefore, I discipline myself not to invest in flattering scenarios that would distract me from doing my work.  In any event, it doesn’t really matter.  Regardless of how far anyone fell, if they fell at all, they have work do to and that’s where it will serve them to keep their focus.

§4:3.  How We Were Released from Bondage

INT:  All right.  Let’s say the vast majority of us were under the influence  of the first soul of our generation and we were unable to escape.  Then Jesus came and died for our sins and set us free?

•FSP:  Then the soul referred to as Christ came and incarnated as Jesus, yes.  But if you mean by “died for our sins” that Jesus allowed Himself to be punished for the sins of humanity so that we wouldn’t have to suffer the consequences ourselves, then absolutely not.  That’s a really important misunderstanding of what happened.

INT:  Do you want to clear that up?

•FSP:  What actually happened was that Christ was very intent on doing whatever was necessary to set us free from the bondage we were in, which included not only separation from the divine community but also a lot of suffering, but it was very important to accomplish this in a way which would ensure that eventually, every single lost soul, including FOG, would return.  So the approach had to be one which modeled the essence of who God and Christ are.  If, hypothetically, Christ had caused FOG a lot of pain until FOG finally gave in and set the lost souls free, then FOG would have had no reason to want to be a part of any divine community where Christ was in some way above FOG, and certainly FOG’s assistants would have had no reason to think that God and Christ were any different from or better than FOG.  So FOG and his henchmen would have become even more resistant to returning Home, and that would have defeated the prime directive.

INT:  I’m hearing a theme you’ve referred to before:  No soul is disposable.

•FSP:  Right.  I mean if God and Christ had been willing to give up a small number of souls, they could have yanked the rest of us free very easily.  But every single one of us is precious to both of them.

INT:  Which makes the idea of casting us into Hell pretty antithetical.

•FSP:  Totally.  Again, that’s a human image of abusive parenting being projected onto the blank slate of our understanding of God.

So, anyway, Christ approached FOG and asked what it would take for FOG to free the lost souls.  And FOG replied that Christ would have to incarnate on Earth, as a man, without any divine protection, so that FOG would have the opportunity to tempt Him – because FOG really believed that under these circumstances, it would be possible to lead Christ astray.  And so we all know what Christ went through as Jesus, and we know that in the end, in spite of everything, He asked God to forgive those who were tormenting Him.  So FOG lost the bet, so to speak, and under the terms of the agreement, the lost souls were supposed to go free.  But, predictably, FOG reneged on the deal, and so it became necessary to have a struggle between the forces of light and darkness.  And the forces of light deliberately handicapped themselves to illustrate the love they felt for those they were fighting, and they still won because light is so much more powerful than the darkness.  And so, FOG was forced to open the gates of his realms.

INT:  I didn’t follow that part about handicapping themselves.

•FSP:  The forces of the light could have crushed the forces of the darkness easily, but they deliberately and conspicuously limited their own power in order to make it clear that they weren’t taking any pleasure in dominating the forces of darkness.  They were drawing a distinction between their motivation, which was to free the lost souls by force only because there was no other way to accomplish that goal, and FOG’s motivation, which was to enslave and dominate everyone forever.

INT:  I’m trying to imagine what a battle between these spiritual beings looks like.  I can’t get this silly image from an episode of “South Park” out of my mind.

•FSP:  Yeah, I saw that too.  I really don’t know how to answer that.  I’m imagining this energetic push of wills against each other, but I really don’t have any idea.  I’m sorry.

INT:  Doesn’t matter.  You know, I wonder if we really should have admitted to watching “South Park”.  Maybe that can be edited out.

•FSP:  Edited out why?

INT:  Well, it just doesn’t seem that fitting.  Here we are talking about these lofty subjects.

•FSP:  Does it embarrass you to admit to watching “South Park”?

INT:  Yes, I suppose it does.

•FSP:  Why?

INT:  Well, it’s an intelligent and funny show in some respects, but I’m sure I don’t have to explain what a low level it goes to in order to achieve humor sometimes.

•FSP:  And all that immature stuff doesn’t turn you off as much as you imagine it would if you were more evolved?

INT:  That’s about right.

•FSP:  So, you’re suggesting a vanity-based edit?

INT:  Well, if you want to get technical about it.

•FSP:  I want to be precise about it, yes.  Because it touches on a great misconception which holds people back in their spiritual development.  Being spiritual isn’t about shutting down or hiding every aspect of ourselves which might be a little immature.  Truly being spiritual is above all about one thing:  being honest.  If I’m still at a stage of development where some silly things can make me laugh, my dignity lies not in pretending that isn’t true, or in trying to force myself to be different.  It lies in being willing and able to say, “this is an aspect of who I am right now.”

INT:  Well, hypothetically, what if an aspect of where you are right now is that you want to rob banks?  Is it okay to do that as long as you’re honest about it?

•FSP:  No.  Robbing banks violates spiritual law, in the sense that it’s an attempt to get something for nothing and it disregards the legitimate interests of other people.  So if you do it, you will create destructive spiritual consequences for yourself according to the law of cause and effect.  However, simply wanting to rob banks, as immature as that might be, is “okay” in the sense that if that’s where you are, then that’s where you are, and freely admitting it will do a lot more to help you grow out of that phase than pretending you don’t have that desire or trying to force yourself not to have it.

INT:  All right.  I won’t ask for vanity-based edits, as you call them.

•FSP:  You can if you want.  But I’m saying that there’s no need.

INT:  Understood.

•FSP:  Anyway, getting back to the main thread, the result of the victory of the forces of light in this sort of war you described is that FOG set the lost souls free?

•FSP:  Yes, but it’s important to be clear.  The gates of Hell were opened, but the lost souls were still in rough shape.  They were completely confused about the true nature of reality.  They had a sense of longing for connection to something, but they didn’t know how to interpret it.  And they had suffered so much that they were very defensive – not really very open to loving vibrations.

INT:  Because they had suffered at the hands of FOG’s demons?

•FSP:  Mostly they had suffered because their basic spiritual aspects had been so distorted by the Fall that they were putting out chaotic negative energy into the spiritual environment, and the Universe was giving them painful feedback to that energy.  Actually, let me try to explain that in a little more detail:  The entire Universe is permeated with a receptive spiritual substance which responds to the creative energies which are directed towards it.  This is an oversimplification, but think of a sort of “magic clay” which takes the form of whatever someone imagines.  This is related to the law of attraction, in the sense that if I’m incarnated on Earth and I’m putting out a lot of hostility, then I’m going to create hostile circumstances for myself.  Hostile people are going to come into my life.  However, outside the confines of the Earth plane, this receptive substance will actually go so far as to create entire worlds which correspond to the energies we direct towards it, whether we direct those energies intentionally or not.  So if I’m carrying some dark, violent energy in the mix of who I am, that energy is going to give rise to a world of violent conflict, or a “sphere” of violent conflict as the Teachings refer to it, and I’m going to have unpleasant experiences on that sphere until I clean up my own internal energies enough that I no longer give rise to such a sphere.  So the bottom line is that the lost souls have been in some pretty dark places, all ultimately of their own making,

INT:  All right, so the lost souls are free, but they’re in bad shape.

•FSP:  Yes, and they’re still generating a lot of negative experience for themselves, and that carries over into their incarnations on Earth – which is why so much of what goes on here is so unpleasant.

INT:  So Christ has set them free, but they don’t immediately benefit from that?

§4:4.  How We Get Home and Rejoin the Divine Community; The Plan of Salvation

•FSP:  Being set free from bondage to FOG is an absolutely magnificent thing, but it’s only a milestone in the long, ongoing process of returning to God which has been taking place on Earth since before the Stone Age.  In order to progress spiritually and start generating more positive spheres, and then eventually join the spheres that are presently populated by the divine community, the lost souls have to integrate their own negativity.  In other words, they have to become aware of it, acknowledge that it’s part of them for the moment, and allow an organic process of maturation and purification to occur.  And most of them don’t have a clue that that’s the way everything works.  So therefore, their learning process is pretty slow.  And by the way, when I say “they,” I really mean “we.”  This applies to the entire human race, with the possible exception of a handful of enlightened souls who fully understand this and are here to help.

INT:  Let me get something clear about that.  You’re saying that this liberation from bondage applies to everyone, not just Christians, right?

•FSP:  Everyone who was in bondage has had the gates of the prison opened, yes.  Whether they’re Christians in one incarnation or another has nothing to do with it.

INT:  So they don’t have to accept Jesus Christ as their savior in order to be saved.

•FSP:  No, they don’t.  The Teachings say that somewhere in the spiritual maturation process, in the course of successive incarnations, each and every one of us will eventually come to an understanding of what Christ did for us and feel gratitude, but there’s no condition attached to the benefit – no pressure whatsoever to view Jesus in any particular way.

INT:  Just this expectation that eventually we’re all going to “get it.”

•FSP:  Exactly.

On a personal level (optional):  Do you have any emotional reaction to hearing that eventually, all of us are going to understand and feel grateful for Christ’s actions?  If so, just hold that reaction in your awareness, with the assurance that this book and these Teachings in no way require you to feel positively about this idea.  Whatever resistance you might have, whether mild or fierce, is welcome and respected as fully as every other aspect of who you are.

INT:  So why is all of this so obscure?  Why doesn’t God or Christ just appear in the sky and say, “this is the way it is?”

•FSP:  For the simple reason that a lot of people aren’t ready to understand the way it is, and no matter what God or Christ told them, they wouldn’t be able to interpret it correctly.  It would inevitably get distorted, the same way the Second Commandment did.  People who aren’t ready to hear something are actually better off not hearing it, so they won’t form a distorted understanding which will block their growth in the future.  This is why, incidentally, Jesus spoke in parables when He spoke to the masses.  The real meaning of the parable would seep into the awareness of those who had an intuitive capacity to get the point, and meanwhile the rest of the people had no idea what He was talking about, so they didn’t form a false conception of important spiritual concepts.

INT:  Did Jesus speak in parables when he spoke to you and the other disciples?

•FSP:  No.  That was a different kind of situation.  We had all sorts of opportunities to ask questions, and He would catch us when we expressed misconceptions in our speech and behavior.

INT:  Is that something you specifically remember, then?

•FSP:  Not exactly.  I have a sense of it, and the Teachings actually mention it as well.

INT:  But you’re saying you still didn’t absorb a lot of what Jesus was teaching, and that’s why you’re still incarnated here.

•FSP:  Well, I was pretty headstrong.  And I liked to think I understood things more fully than I did.

INT:  That’s not so unusual, is it?

•FSP:  No, but some of us are more intense about it than others.  And then there’s the added complication of having denied Jesus three times after he was arrested.  A big motivation for me after that happened and after Jesus died was to redeem myself somehow.  I think my motivation for working hard to establish the Church was as much to make up for what I had done as it was to help other people.  So there was basically a significant aspect of vanity involved.  And then to have the Church spin off in the direction it did …

Sorry.  I got a little lost there.  I guess my point is just that there’s unfinished business which has kept me connected to the Earth plane.  But let’s get back to the lost souls after the incarnation of Christ.  Following the incarnation of Christ, the doors of Hell are open, so to speak, so that we’re not inexorably bound to spheres of darkness.  Nevertheless, each one of us still has to find the way back to the divine community, on our own, using our own free will.  It’s absolutely essential that we develop the capacity to use our free will in the service of the light.  And, it’s absolutely essential that we go through an organic maturation and purification process, which will make it possible for us to inhabit the Heavenly spheres.  So, to make sure that we can do that, God structures things so that while we’re on Earth, the more we violate spiritual law, the more pain comes to us, and the more we follow spiritual law, the more pleasure comes to us.

INT:  So if we violate spiritual law, we suffer.  Is this divine punishment?

•FSP:  No.  The whole idea of punishment is a spiritually misguided concept.  God doesn’t punish, God instructs and supports, all the while deeply respecting our free will.

INT:  So suffering is instruction and support?

•FSP:  Well, it’s instruction.  Divine support manifests a little differently.  Let me ask you this:  are you familiar with aversion therapy?

INT:  Is that where they give people electrical shocks to get them to stop doing certain things?

•FSP:  That’s right – electrical shocks or other forms of unpleasant stimulation.  And generally speaking, it’s regarded as reprehensible, because there’s usually some other way to address the behavior, and because changing the behavior in question isn’t important enough to justify such an extreme measure.  But, the use of aversion therapy is a little more ethically complicated when you have someone who’s a real danger to themselves and/or others and there isn’t any other way to get through to them.

INT:  For instance …

•FSP:  Let’s say someone is smashing their head against hard surfaces and won’t stay focused on anyone else long enough to engage in any kind of therapeutic discourse.  Let’s say everything known has been tried and aversion therapy by shocking this person whenever they bang their head is the only thing left which might get this person to stop putting themselves at serious physical risk.

INT:  So are you saying that this unreachable head-banger represents us?

•FSP:  Yes I am.  Compared to a healthy, pure soul who has the capacity to enter the state of being and merge with God, that’s how far out of touch with spiritual reality and healthy spiritual functioning we are – to different degrees, of course, but even the healthiest ones of us are still carrying some very important misconceptions which limit our ability to connect with our spiritual family.

INT:  That’s a little difficult to accept.

•FSP:  I know.  I don’t know how to stress this enough.  While the core spiritual reality of God’s infinite love for us is a deeply wonderful thing, there are also other aspects of spiritual reality which are pretty unflattering, and there’s a lot of pride that’s going to get in the way.  But if we can get past our pride and accept that we really might be seriously confused, then all sorts of wonderful things can happen for us.  And we end up not feeling that we’ve lost anything by giving up our flattering conception of ourselves.

On a personal level (optional):  Do you have an emotional reaction to this image of the human race as a collection of metaphorical “head-bangers” who require an intervention in order to be brought back to spiritual reality?  Is there something you would prefer to believe about who we are?  If so, just hold this reaction and this preference in your awareness.

INT:  I’m not sure my resistance to believing that is all about pride.

•FSP:  Well, the issue is definitely going to come up again.  For now, would you be willing to grant that we’re all the head-banger just for the sake of argument?

INT:  All right, for the sake of argument we’re all the head-banger.  And so God is sitting there shocking us whenever we start going at it?

•FSP:  No.  It’s more automatic – more built in to the fabric of the Universe.  Remember last time, when we were talking about invisible fencing?

INT:  Oh, yes.  And it’s structured that way because otherwise we wouldn’t develop this vitally important capacity to use free will.

•FSP:  Yes.

INT:  And is pain something real?  Or is it just an illusion?

•FSP:  Pain is based on our investment in various illusions about the Universe, but the experience of pain is definitely a real experience.  An experience which we make a lot more difficult when we resist it, by the way.

INT:  Now, what about people who are obviously and manifestly evil, and yet who get away with it?  Where’s this painful feedback system working in their cases?  Or how about young, innocent children who are sold into slavery or get killed in car crashes?

•FSP:  Let’s take those separately.  As far as obviously evil people getting away with it, the first thing is that they may be appearing to get away with it and actually suffering in some way that we’re not necessarily aware of.  And the second thing is that everyone goes through periods of good times and bad, with a hard or easy period sometimes even spanning more than one lifetime, but eventually everything we do catches up with us.  It’s inevitable.  So you might have looked at Adolf Hitler in 1941 and said he was a perfect example of someone getting away with it.  And actually, this question leads right into the answer to the second question, i.e., what about innocent children who suffer?  You don’t know who they were or what they did in a past life.  You have no way of knowing what might be catching up to them.

INT:  That sounds kind of harsh.  Are you really sure you’re not talking about some sort of punishment?

•FSP:  It’s not punishment.  It’s a matter of spiritual learning and a sense of spiritual justice which we ourselves as souls understand and agree to.  When we’re in spirit, after we have an experience of karma catching up to us, we’re not upset about it in the same way we might be while in the body.  We have a perspective and a sense of how it serves our overall evolution.  It’s like waking up from a nightmare, and then understanding the lesson the dream was meant to convey.

INT:  I’d like to hear more about that, but I’m wondering if that takes us into the specifics of reincarnation.

•FSP:  I don’t know how much more I can tell you.  I guess I would say, suppose you’re a soldier and you get carried away and inflict a lot of suffering on innocent civilians.  There’s a way that being a victim in the next life helps you to understand what the consequences of giving in to that kind of energy are.  And if you are someone’s victim and they eventually have to deal with the consequences of what they’ve done to you and they awaken spiritually to an extent as a result, then you’ve actually done a service to that person, or that soul really.  You’ve given them an opportunity to see something about themselves they needed to see.  So you’ve given something back to the community of souls and there’s a sense of balancing there which feels good – spiritually, anyway.

INT:  You’re talking about a sort of atonement.

•FSP:  Yes.

INT:  I’m glad you said all that because when we started talking about Jesus dying for our sins, I had in mind the traditional interpretation, which is that humanity had amassed this whole negative karmic bank account, so to speak, and Jesus spared us from destruction by standing in for us.  Taking the hit in our place.  And I’m pretty sure you were saying that’s wrong – that we still have our own karmic bank accounts.

•FSP:  Yes, while the traditional interpretation of Jesus dying for our sins is in some ways close to the truth, it’s distorted just enough to make it substantially and importantly wrong.  Our sins – and again, I’m using the word to mean “actions or thoughts with destructive spiritual consequences” – had already gotten us into a terrible situation.  By suffering and dying on Earth, Christ did two things.  First, He modeled a way of life; second, by accepting FOG’s challenge to incarnate on Earth without protection in exchange for FOG’s agreement to free the lost souls, He took a big step forward in freeing us from FOG’s trap in a way which ensured that absolutely everyone would eventually be recovered.  But in no way, shape or form did He repeal the law of cause and effect as it applies to us.  We still have to go through the process we have to go through, and we still have to be willing to work and suffer.  And, by the way, it makes absolutely no sense that God would have wanted it any other way.  The only reason God wants anyone to suffer is so that they will come to their senses and learn to live in harmony with spiritual law.  If someone else suffers “on my behalf,” I don’t learn a thing.  So there’s no point.

INT:  Well, I think the rationale is that the Law is the Law, and it’s vital to uphold it.

•FSP:  The Law is the Law, and it is vital to uphold it.  But the Law is supremely intelligent as well.  So if the story involves upholding the Law in a way that generates a silly result, then the story just isn’t true.  It might be close to true, but there has to be a distortion in there somewhere.

INT:  Okay.  So Jesus opened the doors, but it’s still up to us to walk through, and if we trip and fall and scrape our knees along the way, that’s the way it has to be.

•FSP:  Yes, and our knees will heal, and wonderful things will lie ahead.  This is the essence of what the Teachings refer to as the Plan of Salvation, which is the single highest priority in the entire spiritual Universe at this time.  Every soul who didn’t Fall is devoted to it, and many of us who did Fall are also committed to its success.  And the Plan will continue to be the highest priority until such time as FOG himself abandons the course of separation and rejoins the divine community.

INT:  So FOG is going to be the last one to come back?

•FSP:  That’s right:  “The first shall be last.”  The first to fall shall be the last to return.

INT:  Now am I right that you’re working for the Plan of Salvation?

•FSP:  As are you, my friend, or you wouldn’t be talking to me about this.

INT:  Really?

•FSP:  Absolutely.

INT:  What if I’m not comfortable with that?

•FSP:  Well, you could be uncomfortable on a material level of awareness – on an ego level, that is – and still committed to it on a spiritual level.  But tell me about being uncomfortable.

INT:  I’m not comfortable with salvation-based religion because it seems to me that it’s a short step from “I’m saved and you’re not” to “I’m saved and you’re not and therefore I have a right to convert you or kill you.”

•FSP:  First of all, no one is saying “I’m saved and you’re not.”

INT:  All right.  I’ll grant you that you haven’t exactly said that, but you’re not going to pretend that you don’t see yourself as more evolved than people who reject these kinds of ideas, are you?

•FSP:  The distinction a practitioner of the Teachings might make between themselves and someone who rejects these kinds of ideas might be “I’m consciously and deliberately working on clearing up my misconceptions and rejoining the divine community, and you’re doing the same thing with less awareness and less of a coherent framework for what you’re doing.”

INT:  So there’s no sense of superiority?

•FSP:  There might be a sense of superiority, but that would be material to work with in that person’s personal journey.  The idea that I’m “better” because I have an understanding of something not everyone understands is a manifestation of pride, and that’s an attitude it’s important to pay attention to.  But in terms of what the Teachings actually have to say, the distinction relates to how aware one is of what’s really going on, not to how valuable someone is or whether God is going to accept them.

INT:  Okay.

•FSP:  And let me comment on another aspect of what you said.  I suppose it’s a “short step” from drawing distinctions between yourself and others to thinking you have a right to oppress them if you’re out of touch with spiritual law.  But the Teachings are about evolving towards a willing acceptance of the law of love, the law of respecting free will, and so on.  There’s no way anyone can reconcile that with forcing someone to believe something they don’t believe, or devaluing someone because they don’t believe it.

INT:  I wouldn’t have thought anyone could reconcile Christianity with burning people at the stake, but they did.

•FSP:  Yes, but, as I’ve said before, I don’t think we can allow the ability of deeply confused people to distort a particular concept to keep us from making our own judgment about whether the concept is true.  If you’re suggesting that I should be careful in the way I explain this not to leave room for destructive misinterpretation, I’m very willing to try to do that.  But I would say that’s a completely different issue from whether the actual content of the Teachings is true.  Wouldn’t you agree?

INT:  I agree with that.  I was just expressing how the conversation was affecting me.

•FSP:  Okay.  I hear you.

INT:  And tell me again why it’s important that we know all this …

•FSP:  It’s important that we know that God loves us; that God allows bad things to happen on Earth because it’s the only way for all of us to find our way back; that when we finally do get home, we’ll relate to our suffering as a bad dream we’ve awakened from; and that all the other imagery we have about God is about human beings, not about God.  We need to know all of that so we’ll be willing to trust God and the divine community, to ask for help in finding our way home, and to ask for wisdom and understanding instead of hoping for favors.

INT:  And is that pretty much the big picture?

§4:5.  The Symbolism of the Crucifixion

•FSP:  Almost.  There’s just one more thing I’d like to mention.  When I said that Jesus modeled a way of life, that concept extends to the crucifixion, which actually had a symbolic pictorial meaning.  Jesus’ suffering on the cross and then living on in His etheric body was meant to illustrate the process it would serve us well to go through.  We can allow ourselves to suffer the ways that internally, our energies run at cross-purposes to each other, without any fear that the pain will kill us.  In fact, we’ll live on, in a higher form.

INT:  Help me understand what you mean by our inner energies being at cross-purposes.

•FSP:  I’ll go into greater detail about this when we talk about love, but as an example, there exists at our cores, coming from our higher selves, a powerful desire to connect – to give and receive love.  Coming from a more superficial level of our beings are various misguided things we do to try to force or manipulate others to love us, and to protect ourselves from being rejected.  Ironically, these strategies of ours tend to keep us emotionally isolated, and they bring conflict into the relationships we have.  So there we are at cross-purposes, with a deep desire to connect on the one hand, and a whole system of inadvertently preventing connection on the other.

INT:  And we just have to passively accept that?

•FSP:  Not in the sense that we ought to resign ourselves to our whole lives being that way, no.  But when we bring negativity into our lives this way, surrendering to the pain with the intention of understanding how we ourselves brought it about is the most constructive thing we can possibly do.

INT:  If that’s the case, why didn’t Jesus just say that?  Why does everything have to be so symbolic and obscure?

•FSP:  We talked about that, remember?  It has to do with people back in that time generally not being educated enough or self-aware enough to be able to understand that kind of direct message, and about avoiding the harm which could come from having them attach the wrong interpretation to a direct expression.  The symbolic image gets through to souls who are ready to understand it, without having these negative effects on those who aren’t ready.

INT:  Yes, you just went over that a few minutes ago.  I guess it still frustrates me.

•FSP:  You’d prefer things to be stated more explicitly?

INT:  Definitely.

•FSP:  Then the Teachings would speak to you in a way you might find more satisfying.

INT:  Yes, I’ve noticed in the little I’ve read so far that the form of expression is very direct and detailed.

•FSP:  In any event, I think that wraps up what I was hoping to cover this time around.

INT:  Good.  I’m looking forward to hearing about reincarnation next time.

An Unofficial Summary of Pathwork Lecture #100:  Meeting the Pain of Destructive Patterns

For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/P100.PDF

As children, we suffer from our parents’ imperfect ability to love, and also from being treated as children rather than as individuals, which is equally destructive.  The climate of our upbringing is a continual, minor shock which can affect us even more than a sudden trauma.  We become used to this climate, accept it, and develop destructive defenses in a misguided effort to deal with it.

When the chosen pseudo-solution is withdrawal in order to avoid emotional hurt, we eventually come to understand through doing this work that we are better off feeling the pain.  However, when we work our way through our defenses, the pain we encounter will be unpleasant and will challenge our resolve.

When the chosen pseudo-solution is submissiveness, we become weak.  Moreover, we end up isolated because we are looking for a strong protector when there can be no such person in our lives, since we must protect ourselves.  Also, our weakness and dependency exerts pressure on others to enable us, and to remain strong for our sake.

All pseudo-solutions bring pain to ourselves and others.  The withdrawal solution rejects others, depriving us of the experience of loving them and depriving others of the experience of receiving our love.  The submissiveness solution similarly rejects the weaknesses and needs of others, thereby hurting them.  The aggressive solution also rejects and hurts others by its false superiority.  Whenever we hurt others, we hurt ourselves.

Our pseudo-solutions are part of our idealized self-image, which isolates us through its falsity and its self-aggrandizement, and brings us the very pain our pseudo-solutions were meant to avoid. Our perfectionism make it impossible for us to accept and deal with life, or to really live it.  We can BECOME AWARE of how all this works through sincere self-searching.  Merely observing these mechanisms begins an organic process of dissolution.  Then we are ready to cross over into a new way of life; however, initially this brings pain.  Constructive patterns will gradually emerge as we go through the work of experiencing that which we initially ran away from.  At first, however, we will continue to attract negative experiences based on our old patterns, although we will tend to respond to them in a more evolved way.

As we discover the ways in which we have misguidedly created our own unhappiness, we will discover our ability to create the fulfillment our soul is craving.  The harder we work on this path, in spite of our resistance, the sooner we will cultivate this strength and self-reliance.

More significant than the pain which caused us to institute our counterproductive defenses is the pain of all the unfulfillment we have experience ever since as a result of those defenses.  As we go through our pain, we will first feel ourselves trapped in our inability to achieve fulfillment, but then we will gradually develop the ability.

During the phase of unfulfillment, we will have the opportunity to become precisely aware of our real, basic needs.  We will become aware of our need to receive love.  As a result of having pushed this need into unconsciousness because of the pain of its unfulfillment, we inadvertently stunted our ability to give love, and this kept our need to receive love stuck in a childish phase of development.  As we go through our pain and become aware of the need to give love, we may also encounter frustration because we lack an outlet for this need.  The pressure of these unfulfilled needs is not something new — before we were aware of it, it may have expressed in sickness or other symptoms.  As we experience the pain, it will serve us to BECOME AWARE of our needs to give and receive love, the frustration, the pressure, the sense of helplessness and the temptation to evade the pain.  In the interim period of development, the inner pressure of unfulfillment may be keenly felt, and it will serve us well to REMEMBER that this phase is just a tunnel through which we have to pass.  If we persevere and resist the temptation to avoid, using our relapses as lessons, we will become more mature and versatile.

Questions & Answers:

Fear is often a defense to feeling pain.  It is healthier to face pain than to avoid it.  Running away makes us feel inadequate, and increases the unfulfillment and the pain we are trying to avoid.

Trying to “learn” to feel the need to give love is a self-manipulation.  To get to a place where we genuinely feel the need to give love, it is most productive to OBSERVE our immature emphasis on receiving.  We grow into the feeling intermittently, but our periods of being connected to it gradually get more frequent and longer-lasting.  It will serve us to approach this growth process with patience.

We tend to carry over from childhood the false beliefs that (1) reality is unpleasant and therefore pleasure must be sought in fantasy, and (2) happiness can be attained only through selfishness.

Regarding the Guides’ statement in the previous Lecture that one person who gains inner truth has a greater influence on the entire cosmic development than millions who do not, this has to do with the fact that when we defend, we reject, and this builds up the defenses of others, whereas when we are open and undefended, we inspire others to adopt the same posture.

© 2009 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

An Unofficial Summary of Pathwork Lecture #099:  Falsified Impressions of Parents:  Cause and Cure

For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/P099.PDF

Our lives are empty without the capacity to love.  The capacity to love is not the same as a craving to receive love.  The more fearful, self-involved and dependent we are, the less able we are to let love flow through us, and the more meaningless our lives feel to us.  Freeing the capacity to love requires us to resolve our psychological problems.

As children, we focus only on a few aspects of our parents’ or caregivers’ personalities, remaining completely unaware of the remainder.  This simplified image of these people, which exists even if we know better intellectually, colors our experience of life and restricts the channel which permits to love and experience others in a real way.  It is certain that there is a connection between the most problematic area of our lives and an image we have of a parent or other significant person from our early childhood.

The remedy for the negative effects of this situation is to BECOME AWARE of how we really feel about our family members, and then to CONSIDER whether these feelings might not be related to fragmentary images of such persons.  We would do well to ASK whether we see our parents as complex, vulnerable human beings, capable of having contradictory aspects, or as one-dimensional, artificial and invulnerable robotic beings.    Having an unrealistic image of our parents, whether it is positive or negative, binds us to certain problems in our lives, and limits our power and our capacity to love, until we manage to correct the false perception.  Thus, it will serve us to CONSIDER who our parents really are, with detachment and objectivity, making an effort to see all of their facets — their childhood experiences, hurts, fears, frustrations and so on.

Giving up a glorified image of a parent may be difficult, especially when this parent was the only person we could depend upon in childhood for acceptance and love.  Giving up a hated image can also be difficult, as where accepting the humanity of that parent is felt as a justification of the harm which he or she inflicted.  Our resistance to seeing the truth about our parents is partly about losing the security we thought we had gained by creating a simple, static view of them.  It will serve us to ASK in meditation and prayer to see the truth about our parents.

We need to see the truth about ourselves in order to see the truth in others, but seeing the truth in others also helps us to see the truth about ourselves.

Even where there are practical obstacles to gaining information about our parents, as where they are deceased, there is a way.  For instance, it may by contacting someone else who knew them.  It may even be by nothing more than the sincere prayer to know, which will be answered in some way, as by a shift in perspective which makes one able to understand remembered events in a new and more informative light.

The first step is to DETERMINE whether we want to know the truth.  If we have resistance, simply ACKNOWLEDGING it and keeping the issue in consciousness will cause the resistance to fade organically over time.  If we hear ourselves saying, “I can’t find out,” it is important to ASK whether that really means, “I don’t want to find out.”

Questions & Answers:

Understanding why our parents may have been cruel brings us to an understanding that it was their problem — that they were doing the best they could at the time — and consequently we stop taking their behavior on as being about us.  This enables us to establish constructive patterns which will reinforce our feeling of self-worth.  Whether or not we believe this, or can see how gaining knowledge about our parents would be helpful, it will serve us to PRAY to see the truth in this respect.

The real meaning of the Fourth Commandment is not that we should compulsively superimpose false positive feelings for our parents over our true feelings, which is unhealthy, but that we should see them as they truly are, thereby respecting their humanity.

Spiritually, one person who gains inner truth has a greater influence on the entire cosmic development than millions who do not.

After an image has been dissolved without its root cause being found, the false need for protection may persist, contributing to the creation of a new image.

In the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” Earth refers to the outward material manifestations of our lives and Heaven refers to the inner psychological and spiritual levels.  Doing God’s will requires not only right actions, but an inner intention.

A balance of healthy activity and healthy passivity brings us into harmony with the state of being, which means heaven.

Masochism results from finding pleasure only in the pain of rejection, and giving up on ever finding anything better.  Many other aspects may be relevant to any individual person, and may require exploration, but this core is always present.

Where there is resistance coupled with an unwillingness to look at it, this is where we must focus attention in order to open the love channel within us and lead a meaningful life.

Rejection of pleasure may have its root in rejection of the self.

Sadism and masochism are the same current, directed outwardly in one case and inwardly in the other.  Ultimately they are the same, because we hurt ourselves when we hurt others, and if we hurt ourselves, we must eventually hurt someone else.

© 2009 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

An Unofficial Summary of Pathwork Lecture #098:  Wishful Daydreams

For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/P098.PDF

The ultimate reason for living is to make one’s life meaningful, and this can be done only by merging with the universal life force, from which we keep ourselves separate, in a misguided attempt at self-protection, by our self-centeredness and our cowardice.  Apart from doing our work of self-finding, we can bring meaning into our lives by doing something which benefits others as well as ourselves.  If we PRAY sincerely to be involved in such an activity, the prayer will be answered.  When our lives continue to feel meaningless over time, this is a sign that we are stuck in our fearful isolationism.  GETTING IN TOUCH with our resistance to giving will help us grow beyond it.

Daydreams are symptoms.  Rather than suppressing our daydreams, which will just cause another type of symptom to emerge,  we would do well to OBSERVE and EVALUATE them for what they can tell us about ourselves.

One type of daydream is about gratifying pride.  In such a daydream, we convince those who have slighted us that we are superior.  This is a waste of energy, and the momentary relief it brings us removes our motivation to find our own negative contributions to our relationships with others.

Another kind of wishful daydreaming is about imaginary satisfaction of our unmet needs.  When our isolationism inhibits our ability to achieve satisfaction, we retreat into a fantasy world in which we are in complete control, and the longer we stay there, the less able we are to deal with the real world, and the more attractive the pseudo-fulfillment of our fantasy world consequently seems.  Thus, we remain removed from reality.  We would do well to ASSESS how true this is about us.

When we live in daydreams, we convince ourselves that they will eventually come true, but they never do.  While fantasy seems like it would be more satisfying, reality is far more satisfying when we give up the false need to be in complete control of it.

On the positive side, daydreams may provide an incentive to live fully.  They are also useful indicators of how far along we are.  Moreover, they potentially bring our unsatisfied needs into awareness.

Questions & Answers:

Our psyches may choose to have substitute fears, rather than face the fear of being ourselves.  To the extent that not facing ourselves prohibits our fulfillment, the psyche may choose the substitute satisfaction of daydreams instead.

While “needs” are real and healthy, “drives” come from compulsions which are rooted in misconceptions.

Not daydreaming could be a reflection of stifled creativity, or of hopelessness and passive resignation.  Sometimes we give up unrealistic daydreams as we get older, but sometimes we don’t.

Spiritual law is experienced more harshly by the less developed.  This is not divine retribution; rather, without such hardship, integration could not take place.

The “unconscious” includes everything we are unaware of, positive and negative.  Our whole life experience on Earth is geared towards bringing into awareness that which is already within us.  In sleep or deep relaxation, unconscious knowledge can surface and we can resolve certain previously intractable problems.  We can activate this process with a specific, constructive intention to solve a particular problem, and to solve it in the best possible way, even if this requires us to give up a selfish goal.

© 2009 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

An Unofficial Summary of Pathwork Lecture #097:  Perfectionism Obstructs Happiness; Manipulation of Emotions

For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/P097.PDF

We find God by finding ourselves — that is, by coming home from self-alienation.  One indication of a return to the real self is the capacity to experience and to give joy.

While we understand intellectually that there is no perfection in this life, emotionally we expect perfection and believe that our happiness is dependent upon it.  Often, our intellectual knowledge causes us to suppress our emotional reactions to imperfection, which only increases our conflict and confusion in this respect.  Thus, we are unaware of the extent to which our demand for perfection prohibits a joyful life.  Only by accepting imperfection, in a healthy way, can we be happy.

The demand for perfection impedes our growth by causing us to repress our frustration.  If we were more aware of our frustrations, we could see where we might be able to achieve fulfillment by changing our patterns, and where it might be necessary to come to terms with imperfection.  So a growthful step is to ACKNOWLEDGE where we feel shortchanged in life, and resentful.  Growth demands that we COME TO TERMS with the necessary imperfection of this life, and FACE our state of complaint against that imperfection.

We apply our perfectionistic attitudes to our own growth efforts, blocking our progress by bringing shame and compulsion to what needs to be a flexible process.  We tend to create a false polarity between being perfect already and giving up our striving for progress entirely.  Also, we all tend to strive to some extent towards perfection according to external standards.  When we find instead our own innermost goal, and attempt to grow towards it gradually, then we give up our subtle pretenses and poses, and we come home from self-alienation.

Perfectionism motivates us to superimpose artificial emotions over our imperfect ones.  This prohibits spontaneity.  In some cases, we may exaggerate certain emotions, while in others we may stifle them.  Either way, we are motivated by fear, and we apply a forcing current which is grounded in the pressure of our repressed, unfulfilled needs.  This tampering with the flow of our emotions stunts our intuitive, creative and spontaneous capacities.  Thus, it will serve us to BECOME AWARE, through uncensored self-observation, of what we really feel and want, as opposed to what comes from perfectionistic “shoulds” regarding ourselves or others.  Often when we exaggerate the intensity of our feelings, this reflects an attempt to force another to feel a certain way.  Exaggeration of feelings is connected to aggression, while stifling emotions is connected to withdrawal.  Either alternative leads to shallow, unreal experience.

Sometimes we become aware only after the fact that we have reacted emotionally to something.  While we may pridefully berate ourselves for not being conscious of our reaction earlier, a delayed awareness is better than none, and as we do our work on the Path, the interval between reaction and awareness will shorten.

Questions & Answers:

If, for example, we have an unwanted aggressive feeling towards someone in spite of our intellectual understanding that such person has their own issues and distortions, the way beyond our feeling is to ACCEPT it as a symptom of our own human limitations, rather than getting caught up in the perfectionistic judgment that “I shouldn’t feel this way.”  This acceptance will open the door to the feelings of hurt which lie underneath the aggressiveness we have superimposed out of shame and fear of our vulnerability.  Confronting the hurt will take us even further into genuine feelings which are closer to our real self.

Acceptance of imperfection is not resignation to stagnation.  Rather, it is only when we relaxedly admit our imperfections that we are open to growth.

Perfectionism involves the prideful need to be perfect, the engagement of self-will in the inauthentic effort to be perfect, and the fear (1) that one’s own imperfections or the imperfections of others will prohibit one’s happiness, and (2) that our pretense will be exposed.  Thus, we waste effort in trying to maintain the idealized self-image, which impoverishes our life.

So-called “secondary reactions” are the result of emotional manipulation.

We may relate to a personal failure in exaggerated terms, in which case it would be productive to INVESTIGATE our tendency to exaggerate, as well as both the motives which caused us to desire what we failed to attain and any motives which may have caused us to sabotage our success.

On Earth, there are persons not mature enough to do self-searching work, as well as a few persons who may achieve integration of the self through a path which looks different on the surface from this one.  However, for those in between, who may tend to focus excessively on the areas of their psyches which function smoothly, an organized method of self-searching and self-integration is necessary.  The attitude that “God demands it of me” is a distortion — a healthy approach springs from a personal desire for fulfillment and meaning.  Spiritual growth is inseparable from psychological process.

© 2009 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

An Unofficial Summary of Pathwork Lecture #096:  Laziness a Symptom of Self-Alienation — Questions and Answers

For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/P096.PDF

The only way to become secure is to become one’s real self, through facing one’s distortions.

The previous Lecture discussed various symptoms of self-alienation, such as relating to illusory versions of one’s self and others, or relying on public opinion or on habitual defense mechanisms.  Laziness, rather than being a simple “fault,” is also a symptom of self-alienation.  When we are connected to our real selves, we are in the energetic flow of life, and our life energy is constantly being renewed.  “Old age,” and the loss of energy that goes with it, is ultimately the result of self-alienation.  Compulsive over-activity is simply a superimposed countermeasure to overcome this laziness.  The work we do on the Path will eventually lead us to a joyful state of constant energetic renewal.  Only by FINDING our subtle pretenses and CONNECTING them to self-alienation can we discover our true selves.

Questions & Answers:

When our incentive to develop spiritually is grounded in fear (which stems from an unwillingness to accept aspects of God’s Creation), this is not a productive foundation for growth.  For a person whose growth process is motivated by fear, the essential step in his or her spiritual development is to accept reality as it is — to cease rebelling against it.

The way to the real self requires us to BECOME AWARE of our subtle pretenses, not only in the way we present ourselves to others, but also in the very way we approach life and living, and to risk LETTING GO of these pretenses, as well the rewards we believe these pretenses help us obtain, thereby stepping into an apparent void.  Doing this will relieve us of the sense of helplessness which is a sign of self-alienation.  Whenever we GIVE UP our resistance to taking responsibility for our negative creations — letting go of the effort to prove that our particular situation is different somehow, and not subject to the principle of self-responsibility — we come back to the real self.

Pseudo-solutions and the idealized self-image are based on pretense.  It will help us to DEFINE this pretense clearly.  Using a truth to avoid facing something is one form of pretense.

One can be held back in one’s growth by a fear that if one gives up childish helplessness, one will no longer be protected from pain.

It is counterproductive to stop processing something one has the urge to process merely because one judges that too much time has bent spent on it already.

Sometimes the best homework is to review recent work sessions and OBSERVE and TRANSLATE one’s emotions.

A mature person accepts life’s uncertainties.  However, as we find our real self, we experience a certainty about who we are.  Until we get to that point, rather than trying to figure out intellectually what aspects of us are real, it is more productive to ASK: “Why do I feel this way?”  “What are the productive and destructive consequences of my feelings?”  “What are my motivations?”

When a person is very uneven in his or her development, the inner tension needs to find an outlet, and this may even express as criminality.

Members of a family may be at very different levels of development.

Sickness and sin are the same thing; however, people are more prone to react to a “sinner” with contempt.

Dreams always contain an instructive message about one’s self from one’s own soul, even if there is also, in rare cases, a message from the spirit world.  In dream interpretation, the focus should be on finding the message from one’s own soul, being careful to look for subjective meanings rather than generalizing about dream symbols.  We would do well to resist the temptation to ignore dreams, belittle them, or impute a flattering meaning to them.  Often, we need qualified help in interpreting our dreams, until we develop the ability to do so ourselves.

Impatience with those who are not as far along may come from: (1) a distortion of the desire to help into a forcing current; (2) a need to convince others to allay one’s own doubts; (3) an unconscious belief that one can be happy only if others are evolved; (4) feelings of inadequacy around not being able to reach and persuade others; and/or (5) impatience with ourselves and with the necessarily gradual process of spiritual growth.  It will serve us to OBSERVE the pressure we sometimes feel, and to ANALYZE why we feel impatient in some situations and not in others.

The more real we become, the more effectively we communicate, depending less on words and more on an overall emotional connection with others.  Also, the more connected we are to our real self, the easier it is to evaluate intuitively what the proper balance of activity and passivity should be in any given situation.  Nevertheless, even a mature person feels unhappy at times.  However, this unhappiness is much more bearable when it doesn’t get entangled with one’s self-esteem — when frustration is not longer experienced as proof of inadequacy.  Sadness is healthy (and ought to be experienced fully), whereas depression, self-pity and boredom are not.  If we live life fully, we will become strong and whole.

© 2009 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

An Unofficial Summary of Pathwork Lecture #095: Self-Alienation:  The Way Back to the Real Self


For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/P095.PDF

Whether or not he or she realizes it, every human being has awakened from a previous plant or animal state and is struggling to find the state of being while in awareness, and from there to balance activity and passivity.  We can overcome matter, which is the result of illusion, only by mastering our own personal untruth.

We can be happy only by finding our true selves, and becoming able to connect with the true selves of others.  Even if we see our habitual superimposed false patterns and their destructiveness, we are unable to dispense with them because we lack connection to our authentic core.

Helplessness in any area of life is a symptom of self-alienation, that is, lack of access to one’s faculties.  Getting beyond helplessness does not mean that we will always win — in fact, a person who needs to win all the time is alienated from the self and dependent on the compliance of others.

When we align with reality, we experience the real self’s qualities, such as love, insight, resourcefulness, and creativity, and are able to discriminate and make constructive, effective choices (which are always available in any situation).  This is possible only when we stop experiencing non-fulfillment — which is the result of our paralyzed faculties — as annihilating proof of our inadequacy.  It is helpful to BECOME AWARE of this inner experience, beneath the rationalizations we have for our unhappiness.

Estrangement from the self leads to projecting power and responsibility onto others or circumstances, rather than relying on ourselves.  Also, we may invest too much in some of our own personal faculties while neglecting the development of others.

Our idealized self-image and our pseudo-solutions are selfish and loveless, and thus foreign to the true self.

When we are in touch with our true self, we can be calm, resourceful and confident, without having to be glorious or special.  Simply being human means that we have tremendous as yet unrealized powers.  We do not experience others as “better than” or “less than,” in the distorted and self-referential way we do when we are self-alienated.  We cannot emerge from these distortions until we have first consciously experienced them.

It is useful CONSIDER a situation in which we feel helpless, and OBSERVE: (1) whether we are clear about our wants and open to new approaches, or whether we demand that the solution be handed to us in spite of our unwillingness to change; and (2) whether we relate to others as better or worse, or more or less powerful, than we are.

If we are dissatisfied with our lives, is this not because we have failed to reach our potential?

Pathwork consists of (1) becoming aware of our distortions and (2) changing. Change comes about organically, but when we are far enough along, to where we can truly see the benefit of change for ourselves and others, then we can apply our will to changing deliberately.   Such discipline is eventually necessary to achieve change, but if we apply discipline prematurely, when we are still motivated by vanity or by submission to authority, then anxiety and new destructive patterns will result.  Thus, awareness of our motivations is important.  Anxiety is a sign that more self-searching is required.  It is helpful to ASK: “Why do I feel this way?”

Change is the essence of life.  When we block change in the less developed aspects of ourselves because we prefer to enjoy the developed aspects, then we are unhappy, not only because of the imbalance itself, but also because our potential is unfulfilled.

Our need to sift through our false needs before we can discover our real ones is evidence of our self-alienation.  In that process, we may progress from awareness of needs to receive to awareness of needs to give.  When we accept that these needs exist and are as yet unfulfilled, rather than avoiding this awareness because it “proves” our inferiority, we make progress.  Eventually, while there may be ups and downs along the way, this inner evolution will generate more satisfying outer circumstances.

Questions & Answers:

When we are resistant to disciplining ourselves to change, it is important to FIND our remaining investment in the old pattern.

When a distorted current coexists with a healthy one, discipline should be applied to FINDING the hidden motive for the distorted current, such as pseudo-protection, or fulfillment of a false need.  So long as the distorted current still exists, there is a need to go deeper in finding the motive.

Healthy grief in relation to a separation may also contain unhealthy currents of self-pity.

When human beings don’t understand something, it is not necessarily because they lack intelligence, but more likely because they rigidly hold on to a misconception to which they are attached and which forces them to misinterpret.  All of us are afflicted by this to one degree or another.

All the divine human qualities, and the capacity for joy, exist in us already.  If we live for the truth about ourselves, rather than living for appearances or to satisfy others, we can liberate and enjoy them.

© 2009 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

This is the first part of a proposal to revive the New York Regional Pathwork.  The audience I’m addressing are persons presently involved with the NYRP, and persons who were formerly involved and feel a sense of disappointment and/or incompleteness about their own experience and the evolution of the community. I don’t know that it will be of much interest to anyone without a special connection to the NYRP:

If you search for FriendoftheGuide on You-Tube, you’ll find the rest.  The automatically-generated possibly-related posts which appear below (as of May 5, 2009, anyway) are not related.

By the way, I do intend to complete this project and summarize all of the Lectures.  I’m overwhelmed with some family-related matters right now, but things will come back around in time, I’m sure . . .

This is Chapter 2 of the book I have been writing about the principles of the Pathwork for the past year. I’m in the process of finding an agent to represent me in getting it published. This is a dialogue between two characters. Their designations are abbreviated for the sake of saving space. At this point, I’d prefer not to answer questions about the nature of the characters, but I’d be happy to talk about the substance of their conversation with anyone who’s interested in doing that. The “Teachings” the characters refer to are the Pathwork Lectures.

Hope you enjoy it . . .

Chapter 2. Tuning Ourselves to Spiritual Law

§2:1. Introduction
§2:2. The Purpose of Knowing and Following Spiritual Law; the Law of Connection
§2:3. The Law of Cause and Effect and the Law of Affinity or Attraction; Karma and Self-Responsibility
§2:4. The Law of Proportional Negative Feedback; a Spiritual “Invisible Fence”
§2:5. The Law of Infinity; Divine Grace
§2:6. The Law of Love (and the Concept of Evil)
§2:7. The Law of Equality
§2:8. The Law of Respecting Free Will
§2:9. The Law of Facing Reality and the Law of Paying the Price
§2:10. The Law of Giving Up What We Hope to Gain; Giving Our Lives to God
§2:11. What to Do with Our Knowledge of Spiritual Law
§2:12. What to Do with Our Knowledge of Spiritual Law — Our Moments of Disharmony as Related to Our Imperfections and Images
§2:13. Personal Imperfections as Related to Pride, Self-Will and Fear
§2:14. Avoiding Self-Punishment as We Discover Personal Imperfection

§2:1. Introduction

INT: The last time we spoke, you said, and I quote, “God is interested in supporting us as we clear up our misconceptions and learn how to exist in harmony with the spiritual laws which underlie the Universe, so we can evolve to the point where it’s possible for us to rejoin the divine community.” This time we’re talking about what it really means to exist in harmony with spiritual law, am I right?

•FSP: Yes. We’re talking about spiritual law, and the related topic of personal imperfections, and the conversation is important on two levels: First, the ultimate goal of learning to be in harmony with spiritual law is to stop incarnating on Earth and eventually rejoin the divine community. And second, as we go through the process of aligning with spiritual law, we attract more and more happiness in our Earthly lives, not only in the sense that we attract more positive circumstances, but also in the sense that we like ourselves more and we generally feel better. In other words the experience of just being who we are becomes more pleasant in and of itself.

INT: I’m not sure I know what the terms “spiritual law” and “personal imperfections” mean. Are they defined in the Teachings?

•FSP: It’s probably best to start with personal imperfections, which are referred to in the Teachings as “faults.” Essentially, a personal imperfection is a tendency to feel, think, interpret, act and react which, from a spiritual point of view, is delusional — that is, out of harmony with the actual nature of spiritual reality. The result of a personal imperfection is that, according to spiritual law, it triggers painful feedback from the Universe which will eventually cause us to pay attention to our delusion and learn to perceive reality correctly. We’ll be talking about that feedback mechanism in more detail very shortly, but that’s the basic idea.

INT: I want to pick up on what you said about the choice of words in the Teachings. The idea that we’re going to start this conversation by looking at our “faults” sounds a little judgmental to me. Aren’t higher forms of spirituality more about acceptance, rather than judgment?

•FSP: This is the tonal aspect I was referring to last time when I said that some people will relate to the Teachings as criticism. The Teachings can be a little blunt sometimes, but if we look beyond our reaction to the tone, it’s really clear that the message is all about self-acceptance.

INT: Why would there be this mismatch between the tone and the content?

•FSP: Possibly, the divine community was being blunt because it didn’t want us to delude ourselves into thinking we have less of a misguided or undeveloped side than we actually do. And it’s also possible that the choice of words could reflect a predisposition on the medium’s part, since she was in effect translating a sort of spiritual “picture language” into the best words she could find to express the meaning. In any event, your objection is exactly why I choose to use the word, “imperfections.”

INT: How do you know the medium was translating “picture language?”

•FSP: The Teachings say so.

INT: So the Teachings discuss the process of transmitting this message?

•FSP: To an extent, but ultimately, they always direct attention away from those logistical aspects to the content of the message itself. And if I could do the same thing right now, I’d like to give an example of what I’m saying about a false conception of reality attracting negative feedback. Remember last time when you asked me about the law of attraction and I talked about someone having an image that there’s not enough of anything to go around and that everyone else is out to cheat him of his fair share? That’s a false belief about the nature of spiritual reality. There is actually enough to go around, even though it may not appear that way based on a particular set of circumstances, and not everyone is purely selfish in their outlook. But when we approach the world with this kind of expectation, the behavior we attract from people tends to confirm what we believe.

INT: Wait a minute. Are you saying that if you were to have a conversation with someone who’s starving to death in Ethiopia about the Teachings, you would tell them that there’s actually enough to go around? What if they’re living in a wasteland and their whole community is being wiped out by famine?

•FSP: Well, first of all, if I ever found myself face to face with such a person, I doubt that I would be trying to educate them about spiritual reality. I think it would be more important to relate on the level of immediate physical and emotional needs. But the perspective of the Teachings on a situation like that is that the soul’s pre-existing false belief in scarcity is what causes the soul to incarnate into those circumstances, and that those circumstances don’t correctly reflect the deeper spiritual truth of our existence. We’ll be talking about that a lot more when we get to reincarnation. For now, I’d like to keep the focus on how our expectations about the world attract behavior from others which reinforces our false beliefs.

INT: All right. So how does that work, exactly?

•FSP: If I believe everyone is selfish, then I tend to give myself permission to be selfish, which brings out the selfishness in others because they get the impression that they need to behave selfishly around me in order to defend themselves. Then when I see them acting that way towards me, it confirms my belief that everyone is inherently selfish.

On a personal level: Does this vicious cycle show up in your life to any extent, even if only on a subtle level? In spite of the level at which you know better, is there an internal investment in the idea that there’s not enough to go around, and if so, does this investment create feedback which confirms the belief? Are there any other beliefs you have about life which affect the way others behave towards you, with the effect of confirming these beliefs? If you have identified any such beliefs, gently observe the investment you have in them, as well as the influence they have on your life.

INT: So, looking at it from an Eastern point of view, could we say that a personal imperfection is an investment in illusion?

•FSP: An investment in illusion, and the influence which that investment exerts on our feelings, attitudes, thoughts and actions.

INT: And from a Western point of view, a personal imperfection is a tendency to sin?

•FSP: I suppose so. Again, it’s important to understand a “sin” as a destructive spiritual choice, as opposed to a reason for God to punish us, or subject us to retribution. Rather than connecting to blame, guilt and shame, we’re better off thinking about this more clinically and dispassionately. An imperfection is really a “spiritually erroneous tendency,” or “tendency which attracts painful feedback according to the law of cause and effect.”

INT: Because it violates spiritual law?

•FSP: Yes. Because it’s out of harmony with spiritual law.

INT: So is there a list of spiritual laws somewhere? Or actually, I guess the more fundamental question I have is, what is a spiritual law?

•FSP: There isn’t a comprehensive list of spiritual laws anywhere in the Teachings. There are scattered references which a number of people, including myself, have made an effort to compile. The effort is complicated because some of the laws are interrelated, and a few of them aren’t given specific names, so not everyone’s list looks exactly the same. Laws on my list include the law of connection, the law of affinity or attraction, the law of cause and effect or karma, the law of infinity, the law of proportional negative feedback, the law of love, the law of equality, the law of respecting free will, the law of facing reality, the law of paying the price, and the law of giving up what we hope to gain.

INT: And you’re going to explain all of those?

•FSP: I am, but first I want to address your general question about the nature of spiritual law. Let me start by telling you what a spiritual law is not, because the idea of spiritual law can bring up a lot of resistance for someone who’s holding inaccurate imagery about it.

Spiritual law is not something God wants you to follow because God has certain preferences and enjoys imposing them on everyone else. That image lurks in just about everyone’s psyche, and consequently, just about everyone is caught up in some mix of trying to satisfy God or else trying to rebel against God.

INT: You say there’s a mix of these attitudes?

•FSP: Well, often it’s pretty clear which way a person predominantly leans, but still, there are all sorts of little instances of energy flowing in the opposite direction. So, for example, people who generally try to satisfy God will occasionally cheat on their commitment somehow, and people who generally pride themselves on their independence will occasionally bargain with God when they’re worried about what’s happening in their lives.

INT: What about people who don’t believe in God? Does what you’re saying apply to them as well?

•FSP: People who don’t believe in God still tend to have some sort of internalized authority mechanism which functions the way the image of God does for other people, and they still tend to display a mix of appeasing and rebellious attitudes towards what they think they’re “supposed” to be doing. In some cases the rebellion takes the form of passive resistance, and so it doesn’t feel or look like rebellion on the surface.

INT: Can you give an example?

•FSP: Sure. An atheist who believes that everyone should be honest because the world would be a better place if everyone were, but who doesn’t report all of his or her income to the IRS. There’s a standard of behavior there, and then a subtle rebellion against the standard. So whether it’s a Christian not reporting income in spite of a belief that one should “render unto Caesar,” or an atheist not reporting income in spite of a belief that honesty would make the world a better place, it all amounts to the same dynamic.

INT: Okay, so spiritual law is not a set of arbitrary “shoulds.” What is it then?

•FSP: The spiritual laws are a set of generalizations about the way the spiritual universe works, in the same way as the physical laws, such as the law of gravity, are generalizations about the way the physical universe works. For instance the law of attraction, which can be expressed as “like attracts like,” is a spiritual law. Some of the spiritual laws merely describe relationships or tendencies, as the law of attraction does. Others can be thought of more along the lines of “it’s a good idea to do this, because it will bring you pleasure and growth, whereas doing the opposite will cause the Universe to send you negative consequences in order to get your attention and enlighten you.” So these other laws can be thought of as “prescriptive,” in the sense that they prescribe an approach to life which is in harmony with God’s principles.

On a personal level: How do you feel about the idea of there being spiritual laws which it is to our advantage to follow?

If you’re motivated to learn the laws and follow them, is there any aspect of that desire which is motivated by fear? On some level, are you hoping you can appease an angry God to avoid enduring the negative consequences of God’s displeasure?

If you resent the idea of spiritual law, does this resentment show up in your life as a resistance to doing things you know it would serve you to do? Are you subtly rebelling against spiritual law to compensate for the part of you which wants to comply out of fear?

If any of these questions show you attitudes or feelings you have, just hold those gently in your awareness.

§2:2. The Purpose of Knowing and Following Spiritual Law; the Law of Connection

INT: Can you give an example of a prescriptive law?

•FSP: A good example is the law of connection, which expresses a general preference for interaction with other people as opposed to separation and isolation. The foundation of the law of connection is that creating separation between yourself and others is undesirable because it withholds the potential benefits of your interactions from everyone involved. The idea is that we’re fundamentally social creatures, and that we have needs which can be satisfied only in relationship, as well as gifts which we can give only in relationship. Moreover, one of our most fundamental needs is the need to share our gifts. So someone could hear the phrase “law of connection” and imagine that God is being a busybody and imposing a preference on us, like a host at a party pressuring us to mingle when we might or might not want to. But the truth is that the law of connection is more of an organic principle to keep in mind when we make our choices, just as we keep the law of gravity in mind when we walk close to the edge of a cliff, or we keep our body’s nutritional needs in mind when we eat.

INT: So we want to know these “laws” so we can make better choices?

•FSP: Yes, subject to the qualification that we don’t get anywhere spiritually by forcing ourselves to behave in ways that are “right” in spite of deep contradictory tendencies. The Teachings are not about behavior control, they’re about personal transformation on the deepest level.

INT: So does that mean we can just do whatever we want?

•FSP: Whatever we do is going to have spiritual consequences, in the way we feel about ourselves and in the quality of the experience we attract to ourselves. The more we understand that, and the more we respect both ourselves and others — which we inevitably will if we do the self-realization work the Teachings recommend — the less we’re going to want to do destructive things. So, my point wasn’t “do what you want.” What I was saying was, focus on changing who you are, and your behavior will naturally follow that change.

In that context, the greatest value of knowing the laws is that it gives us a basis for evaluating the tendencies in our thoughts and feelings and actions, so we can begin to understand the ways in which we create the negative experiences in our lives. At some level, everything negative we go through is feedback from the Universe related to a deviation of ours from spiritual law. If we can decode that feedback by drawing the connections between the breaking of spiritual law and the negative consequence, we can learn how our approach to life is misguided, and this knowledge creates organic, spontaneous emotional and spiritual growth. And, as I said in our first conversation, that growth eventually takes us to a place where we can trust our impulses and live truly spontaneous lives, instead of having to tie up energy in controlling ourselves all the time to make sure that immature and misguided energy doesn’t leak out and create problems for us.

INT: Can you make this a little more concrete? For instance, could you relate it to any of the examples we’ve talked about?

•FSP: Well, to take the selfish person I was describing a while ago, suppose he has the experience of having an employee embezzle money from his company. If he applies this framework to the experience, perhaps he realizes that it’s feedback from the Universe, showing him a mirror of his own selfishness and greed. If he accepts the feedback in a constructive spirit, then that helps him to grow out of his selfish attitudes.

INT: Is it always that simple? Is everything just a mirror like that?

•FSP: It’s not always so blatant. The connection can be more subtle, so we have to search around internally to feel into what the connections really are.

On a personal level: Think about an event in your life which has brought you pain, and ask yourself the question, “if this experience were meant to teach me something, what would the lesson be? Don’t overthink it — give the answer time to emerge on its own.

INT: I believe you said a few minutes ago that the purpose of this feedback is to bring our attention to our delusion so we can learn to perceive reality correctly?

•FSP: Exactly.

INT: And why is perceiving reality correctly so important?

•FSP: Until we learn to see spiritual reality clearly, we can’t really understand the organic logic of spiritual law, we can’t be nearly as happy as we potentially could be, and we won’t be able to rejoin the divine community. The members of that community are all in tune with spiritual law. They all get it. If we don’t get it, it’s not even a matter of their not wanting to be in connection with us — meaningful connection between us is essentially impossible. We’re not able to understand the place they’re coming from, because we’re just not mature enough.

INT: So getting to know spiritual law is a maturation process?

•FSP: Coming to understand spiritual law on a deep level, so that we comply with it willingly, and don’t fool ourselves into thinking we’re complying with it when we’re not, is a core aspect of spiritual maturation. In turn, spiritual maturity is a precondition to leaving the Earth plane and rejoining the divine community. And, in the meantime, it’s a precondition to living fully satisfying lives on Earth.

INT: Well, then. I guess if one accepts those premises, it’s important to know these laws.

•FSP: Right. So let’s go through them.

First, let me remind you of the two categories of laws — those which simply describe the general workings of the spiritual Universe, and those which can be thought of as prescribing constructive and satisfying behavior and explaining the ways we attract negative experience.

§2:3. The Law of Cause and Effect and the Law of Affinity or Attraction; Karma and Self-Responsibility

•FSP: The major “descriptive” spiritual law is the law of cause and effect. Essentially, it states that actions — which really include our thoughts, feelings and attitudes as well as our overt acts — have consequences. The law of cause and effect conceptually overlaps with the law of affinity, otherwise known as the law of attraction, which can be simply stated as “like attracts like.” Put the law of cause and effect and the law of attraction together, and you have the idea that “what goes around comes around.” In other words, if I do something negative towards someone, or simply have a negative attitude towards them, then that has the consequence of attracting similar negative energy into my life. People are going to act negatively towards me or form negative attitudes towards me. Add to all of that the idea that consequences carry over from one material lifetime to another, and you have the law of karma: the energy I put out in one lifetime attracts similar energy to me, which may actually come to me either in the same lifetime or in a future lifetime.

I should mention that many students of the Teachings refer to the law of cause and effect as the “law of self-responsibility,” because they want to emphasize the corollary that everything we experience in our lives is somehow the result of some force we initially set in motion, and therefore we’re responsible for it.

On a personal level: The concept of spiritual self-responsibility is going to be discussed further, below, but for the moment, what’s your initial reaction to the idea? Can you sense a part of yourself which welcomes the idea as empowering — as an invitation to take creative authorship of your own life? Can you sense a different part of yourself which doesn’t want the burden of responsibility, and possibly wants to prove that life isn’t really in your control? Spend some time with each of these reactions. Without evaluating which is “right” or “wrong,” or trying to control your reactions in any way, sense and observe the impact of each reaction on your potential for personal growth.

INT: I have a question. I remember you saying in our first conversation that the Bible is true at its core. But the Bible doesn’t say anything about karma. How do you reconcile that?

•FSP: Well, as I think I also said in that conversation, the fact that something isn’t in the Bible doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. But in any event, I don’t think the idea that we’re responsible for our thoughts and actions is really all that foreign to the Bible. For example, the Bible says, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” It’s mainly the reincarnation angle, the idea of consequences carrying over through successive lives, which is foreign, and that’s mainly because the Gnostic gospels weren’t included the Bible.

INT: But wouldn’t a traditional Christian say the Gnostic gospels weren’t included because they were wrong?

•FSP: Well, sure. That’s the official position, and a basic premise of that belief is that the process of including gospels in the Bible was somehow infallible. You have to wonder, though, how realistic that premise really is, especially when you consider the fact that the same organization which chose the gospels later tortured “heretics” and burned them at the stake. I know that’s probably an offensive point to make to someone who is highly invested in Biblical inerrancy, but I’m not really focused on trying to convince anyone that the Teachings are valid, especially if they’re already dead-set in their contrary beliefs. My goal is just to take the vast body of knowledge the Teachings have to offer and boil it down to something reasonably accessible, and then people can make whatever judgments they’re going to make.

INT: And the organization you’re talking about is the Catholic Church, which you laid the foundations for?

•FSP: Of course. Listen — one of the spiritual laws is the law of facing reality. So when I mention the persecution of heretics, I’m facing reality about the history of the organization I helped to create. At the same time, I didn’t bring it up because I want to attack the Church — I’m just saying, in light of the Inquisition, maybe it’s a mistake to assume that the selection of the gospels to include in the Bible was infallible. Do you see my point?

INT: Absolutely. To tell you the truth, my real reason for asking you the question about the Bible and karma in the first place was to try to get a better fix on where you stand in relation to traditional Christianity, given your past-life connection. So I’m very interested in what you just said about facing reality, because it helps me understand your perspective. At the same time, I really have no way of knowing whether the Gnostic gospels are actually true, any more than I’m able to evaluate any of the other gospels for that matter. But let’s move on. Tell me more about the laws.

§2:4. The Law of Proportional Negative Feedback; a Spiritual “Invisible Fence”

•FSP: The next descriptive law is really a refinement of the law of cause and effect. It isn’t given a name in the Teachings, but I refer to it as the law of proportional negative feedback. The basic principle is that the longer and farther we stray from spiritual law in general, the more intense the negative feedback from the Universe gets, and the more miserable we become.

INT: What’s the point of that law?

•FSP: It’s kind of like invisible fencing.

INT: You mean the collars that zap your dog when it crosses over the underground wire?

•FSP: Yes. Actually, like progressive invisible fencing. The further you stray, the more it hurts, until finally you pay attention and decide to turn yourself around. It’s not meant to be vindictive. It’s just a mechanism which leads us to the eventual commitment to learn spiritual law and to channel our free will in constructive directions.

INT: Am I hearing you say that somehow this mechanism hurts us for our own good?

•FSP: I know this could be interpreted in a distorted way which would falsely make God seem sadistic, but I’m going to have to say, “yes.” The basic idea is that God has infinite respect for our free will. At the same time, God knows that the only way we can climb back up the ladder to rejoin our spiritual family and experience divine bliss is to tune ourselves to spiritual law. So God has structured the Universe in this way, and has seen to it that an explanation of the principle appeared on Earth when we were ready to understand it. If we’re willing to take this mechanism seriously and decode the negative aspects of our lives as instructive feedback given to us so that we might learn from it, then we can learn to stop hurting ourselves, and we can vastly accelerate our spiritual growth.

INT: And this mechanism is automatic — built into the fabric of the Universe?

•FSP: Yes and no. As part of the whole framework, it’s necessary for us to have guardian spirits who keep track of what we karmically deserve and what we don’t, and who subtly influence events to make sure that we don’t encounter inappropriate circumstances. They’re the ones who give us that sudden feeling that we should look up from our car radio when we’re about to crash into something, for instance — assuming it isn’t karmically appropriate for us to crash.

INT: When you say, “rejoin our spiritual family,” I get the impression you’re referring to some sort of separation which happened and which needs to be reversed. I think you said something in our last conversation about souls who got “confused and lost?”

•FSP: Yes, and we’re going to talk about that in detail next time.

INT: Isn’t there some other way this reunion could have been accomplished? Some other way to educate us?

•FSP: Actually, no. This is the only solution which ensures that each and every one of us eventually comes back to the divine community of our own free will, with a correct understanding of everything which has happened since we were separated.

INT: And pain has to be a part of this process of bringing us back?

•FSP: Pain has to be a part of it. But as soon as we understand that, we can have a very significant influence on how much more pain we have to endure.

Listen, would it be all right if we just left it at that for now, and then came back to it again when we have the cosmological discussion? I think we’d be able to add another layer at that time, but for now it might take us off track.

INT: That’s fine.

On a personal level: The idea that God structured the Universe as a feedback mechanism which causes us pain for our own spiritual benefit is going to be discussed further in the next chapter. In the meantime, how do you feel about this idea?

Does it touch a place in you where you feel that you deserve to be punished? If so, just hold that feeling about yourself in your awareness, without judgment.

Does it imply to you a God who is in some way unlikeable? If so, are you willing to hold yourself open to the possibility of understanding this in a different way when you have more information?

§2:5. The Law of Infinity; Divine Grace

•FSP: Another descriptive spiritual law is the law of infinity, which states that only the divine can be infinite. What this means is that the divine spark within us is infinite and eternal. All of our misconceptions and distortions, on the other hand, because they are not divine, are necessarily limited. They must eventually cease and reverse.

INT: So good wins out in the end?

•FSP: Good wins out in the end. Guaranteed. On the mass scale and on the individual scale. No matter what we go through, when we have integrated it all, we come back to love, truth, joy, peace and a state of being and experiencing which the Teachings refer to as “pleasure supreme.” This inevitable tendency is what the Teachings call divine grace.

None of that means we don’t have to work at it, though.

INT: And I think I’m also hearing you say that we live forever.

•FSP: On the spiritual level, yes, we do.

INT: As individual conscious beings, or as particles in the divine soup?

•FSP: The best answer to that question is actually “both,” and I promise I’ll explain that next time.

INT: Okay … .

•FSP: And that takes care of what I call the “descriptive” laws.

§2:6. The Law of Love (and the Concept of Evil)

•FSP: Moving on to the more “prescriptive” laws, i.e., laws which can be thought of as prescribing constructive and satisfying behaviors, we already talked about the law of connection. A related law is the law of love, which states that there is a divine obligation not to hurt others, and that this obligation applies to everyone.

INT: Okay. I have a curveball for you.

•FSP: What do you mean?

INT: I was thinking, back when you were talking about us all being responsible for what we experience, that if you and I get into an argument and you punch me in the face, then I’m responsible for that. Would you agree?

•FSP: You are, but that doesn’t mean I’m not also responsible for it. I’ve set a force in motion which is going to come back around to me.

INT: Fine. But in a way, getting punched in the face is not “wrong.” It’s what I had coming to me in some spiritual way, even if someone witnessing the event might think you overreacted and shouldn’t have hit me.

•FSP: Technically, that’s correct. The punch in the face is a message from the Universe being conveyed by means of the invisible fence mechanism. It’s a starting point for an investigation by you which can lead you to some distortion within yourself which it would be helpful for you to confront and come to terms with. And that can be true even if there’s really no excuse from my point of view for having punched you.

INT: I guess my point is that according to the law of cause and effect, I might have gotten back the result of some energy I put out into the world somehow at some time, and yet according to the law of love, you did something wrong. Only it’s not really wrong in the grand scheme of things. All of that just feels contradictory somehow.

•FSP: That might be because there are two different perspectives at work. From your perspective, it’s not “wrong” because it potentially serves a constructive purpose in terms of your spiritual growth. From my perspective, it is “wrong,” because by not following the law of love, I’ve hurt myself as well as hurting you. When I hurt someone else, even by thinking about them negatively, I’m going against my own highest nature, and that’s self-destructive and painful. I get in touch with that a lot when I’m about to say something negative about someone and I get this sick feeling in my stomach which tells me to be quiet or to reframe what I’m about to say.

INT: I’ve experienced that.

•FSP: Well, that feeling comes from the place in us which already knows the spiritual laws.

On a personal level: Take a moment to connect to place in you which already knows the law of love. Just hold an honor that connection, which is where you intersect with spirit. See if you can feel the potential for growth and pleasure which is alive in this place.

INT: All right, I guess I get that. But even though I granted your premise that I’m responsible for that punch in the face, I have to say I’m not really sure I believe it. Aren’t there terrible accidents and injustices that happen where the victims aren’t responsible?

•FSP: In the way that you mean that, the answer is “yes, of course.” And yet even the most unfair-seeming event serves a spiritual purpose, no matter how invisible it might be to an outside observer. It’s an opportunity for the soul who experiences it to learn something important which the soul didn’t learn when the Universe showed it to them at a lower level of intensity. Moreover, it can be an opportunity for the soul to contribute in some way to the spiritual growth of others. But rather than spell that out in complete detail right now, I’d like to ask you to wait until we talk about reincarnation and then give me a chance to tie it all together at that point. It only makes sense when it’s viewed in a reincarnational context. I’m sorry to keep putting you off, by the way, but there are several important pieces to this framework, and until they’ve all been introduced, it’s difficult to talk about anything in any kind of depth.

INT: All right. I’ll be patient about that. So, what if I hurt someone accidentally?

•FSP: “Accidentally” could mean several different things. For instance, it could mean “unavoidably,” it could mean “as a result of your not being really tuned in to what you were doing,” or it could mean “as a result of me not paying attention to an inner voice telling you to be more careful.” Spiritually, we’re responsible for our states of mind, not for events that we don’t have any control over. So if you hurt someone unavoidably, as where they run out into the middle of the highway at night wearing black clothing and you hit them, then you haven’t violated spiritual law. The more deliberate lack of concern for another person is involved, the more of a spiritual violation there is.

And that actually presents a good opportunity to mention the concept of evil in the framework of the Teachings. Unlike the traditional religious view that evil is a separate force, or the view that evil is nonexistent and illusory, the concept of evil advanced by the Teachings is that evil is fundamentally the numbing of the capacity to feel one’s own pain and the capacity for compassion.

INT: How would that apply to active cruelty towards another human being?

•FSP: The Teachings explain active cruelty as an extreme act of compensation by a person who is exceedingly intent on not subjecting themselves to the vulnerability and pain of having a compassionate response. Such a person finds that pushing themselves to a psychic place of active cruelty provides the only possible escape from the compassion experience.

INT: And why would someone be that intent on avoiding compassion?

•FSP: Because allowing the energy of compassion would open that person up emotionally to a lot of suppressed feelings they’re deeply afraid of feeling, based on an unconscious misconception that somehow those feelings would be intolerable.

INT: Interesting … . Okay. What other spiritual laws are there?

§2:7. The Law of Equality

•FSP: The law of equality states that all of us are equally children of God, all deserving of equal respect and consideration.

INT: How is that different from the law of love?

•FSP: It’s only a subtle difference. There’s definitely overlap there. Basically, we break this law when we give in to pride and we consider our desires and our vanity to be more important than the needs or desires of another person.

INT: So it’s about self-importance, whereas the law of love is more focused on aggression?

•FSP: You could say that — again, keeping in mind that aggression includes hurtful thoughts and attitudes.

INT: Well, could you give some examples of how we violate the law of equality?

•FSP: I can tell you how I violate it. I violate it when I race someone to an empty parking space or an empty checkout counter, when I interrupt someone rather than listening to them, when I throw away solicitations from charities that serve the needy without even reading them — just to give you a few examples.

INT: Those don’t really seem like such terrible things. Don’t we all do that sometimes?

•FSP: Yes. Just about everybody does at least some of those things some of the time.

INT: So we’re all violating the law of equality.

•FSP: We’re all violating all of the spiritual law some reasonably substantial portion of the time, or else we wouldn’t need to be incarnated on Earth. It’s just more obvious and pervasive in some people’s cases than it is in others.

INT: Mmm.

On a personal level: How do you react to the idea that you need to incarnate on Earth because you violate spiritual law? Is there a level at which you take offense to this idea? If so, explore the source of your resistance. What is it that you would like to believe about yourself instead? Gently observe this desired belief, and feel the quality of your investment in believing it.

§2:8. The Law of Respecting Free Will

•FSP: Then there’s the law of respecting free will, which we touched on when we were talking about the way the invisible fence mechanism is designed to allow us all to come back of our own free will. God is completely committed to respecting our free will, but unfortunately, we don’t extend the same respect to others. Our attitude expresses itself on a mass scale in the various instances of countries or groups using force to impose their will on others, and then it expresses on a more directly personal level in the sometimes subtle ways that we try to control the other people in our lives.

INT: So on the global level, you’re talking about things like wars of conquest and genocide and so on.

•FSP: Yes. And also things like slavery, or the oppression of women, or the caste system.

INT: That’s all pretty clear, but I’m not sure what you mean when you talk about controlling the people in our lives.

•FSP: It can be very subtle forms of manipulation, such as guilt trips, or pretended helplessness, or it can be much more overt, as in the case of being an overbearing, threatening parent, or dominating subordinates at work. I would say that in the case of people who identify as spiritual seekers, it’s usually something pretty subtle that they can either ignore or downplay the significance of, as opposed to something glaring. For instance, maybe I don’t like to go to the ballet but I don’t want to come out and tell my wife I won’t go with her, because I already feel guilty about others ways I’m not as connected to her and supportive in the relationship as I would like to be. So I go, but I’m withdrawn the whole time, and that gets the message across to her that she ought to stop asking me to go. Or, to flip it around, maybe she acts so hurt and disappointed that I won’t support her in her opportunity to enjoy quality entertainment that I get the message that I ought to go and be pleasant. On a very subtle level, these kinds of things are power struggles, and they’re about control.

On a personal level: Consider whether you might have tendencies towards controlling others, at least in certain aspects of your life. If so, explore the ultimate goals of this behavior. What are you trying to achieve? What are you trying to avoid? Without censoring or evaluating, just observe these personal objectives. Then ask yourself, “do I really need the outcome I am trying to achieve?”

If any of these questions put you in touch with a strategy of avoiding certain painful or frightening feelings, ask yourself whether you might actually be able to tolerate those feelings if you allowed them, and whether there might be growth available for you if you did that.

INT: I see what you’re saying generally, but I want to check in with you about the parenting thing. You’re not suggesting that we should just let our kids do whatever they want, are you?

•FSP: We have to set limits and we have to teach our kids to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. It would be vastly preferable, though, if we could do that without all the resort to forcing energy which often happens. Forcing leads to rebellion and it models forcing as a way of relating. It ought to be more of a last resort than it often is.

INT: All right, then. What other spiritual laws are there?

§2:9. The Law of Facing Reality and the Law of Paying the Price

•FSP: The next two laws are really crucial in terms of the formation of a mature adult personality. If we’re not in tune with these, we’re still living our lives as children, and we’re consequently bound to attract some sort of unhappiness to ourselves. These are the law of facing reality, and the law of paying the price.

INT: I don’t know if I’m going to like these.

•FSP: Yes, there’s a level in most of us where the titles sound intimidating. I certainly relate to them that way.

The law of facing reality is first and foremost about facing the reality of who we are, as opposed to who we would like to be. I’m not going to say a lot about this one right now, because really, it’s what everything in our self-development conversations will be about. We’re going to be coming back to it again and again.

As for the law of paying the price, this is really about facing the reality that, as the expression goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

INT: And this applies to life in general.

•FSP: It absolutely does. If you want to play the violin at Carnegie Hall, you have to practice. If you want to lose weight, you have to exercise. And, most importantly, if you want to be spiritually evolved, you have to do the hard work of honest self-examination and of opening to suppressed feelings. No one reaches spiritual mastery by winning God’s favor through obedience or by looking at someone who is supposed to be a master and imitating the way that person acts. There are no effortless short cuts to maturity.

INT: That’s not the first time you’ve made the same basic point. If I’m understanding correctly, this might be a key defining characteristic of the Teachings — this emphasis on the need for hard work?

•FSP: The need for hard work is a reality. To the extent that it’s emphasized in the Teachings, I think it’s out of a recognition that we’d all like to just flip a switch and be enlightened, and we need to be reminded that it doesn’t work that way.

INT: Aren’t you worried that people might not want to hear that?

•FSP: I recognize it as a possibility, but I have a responsibility to be honest about what the Teachings are and aren’t, and I can only hope that there’s a critical mass of people out there who intuitively resonate with the idea that we have to pay our dues. If not now, I’m sure some day there will be.

INT: So what would you say to someone who starts thinking that they’d rather get involved with something lighter, or more optimistic?

•FSP: I would suggest that they take a moment to feel into the energy within them which wants to push this message away, and then feel into whatever energy within them is attracted to it, and sincerely ask themselves which energy feels more mature. In matters of spirituality, it’s always the more mature inner voice we would do well to trust. Beyond that, I would say there’s nothing pessimistic about accepting that we have to pay a price for our spiritual development. On the contrary, it’s only when we really accept that fact that we can start experiencing the deepest levels of spiritual growth and therefore, the deepest levels of happiness.

INT: I guess I really wonder if that’s an appealing message in today’s “instant gratification” culture.

•FSP: I’ve heard that very same concern expressed by people who work with the Teachings, and I just don’t agree with it. I think those of us who devote ourselves to this material are called to apply it to ourselves deeply enough and thoroughly enough that the transformation in us is inspiring to others, and creates a willingness to invest the time and effort to do the work. I think if people recognize a really dramatic result, that’s going to provide a motivation. And if we can’t provide that example, then we don’t really have much of a basis for suggesting that others should take the Teachings seriously. Ultimately, the proof has to be in the pudding, so to speak.

§2:10. The Law of Giving Up What We Hope to Gain; Giving Our Lives to God

•FSP: In any event, let me move on … . The last law is a little more spiritually-oriented and esoteric. It’s the law of giving up what we hope to gain, and it relates to our relationship to God. There’s a point in every soul’s development when we willingly give our lives over to serving God, which means serving the goal of reuniting the divine community. And while this brings us a lot of happiness, there’s always an aspect of letting go of something — giving up an attachment which up until then has been more important to us than our commitment to God. It feels like a sacrifice, but the beauty of it is that in the long run, God always sees to it that we receive what we gave up in an even better way.

INT: Can you give me an example?

•FSP: I think this is one of those things that we know is true when we experience it, and that each of us experiences in a very personal and private way. For myself I can say that I had an attachment to something which included an aspect of narcissism and self-aggrandizement, and that I had to let the attachment go in order to “burn off” that ego aspect, and that it wasn’t easy.

INT: So you’re not talking about giving up our worldly belongings and becoming monks or nuns or something . . .

•FSP: No, no. Nothing like that at all. I’m talking about some specific attachment which is important to us and which is actually holding us back although we don’t realize it. And it’s going to be something different and something very personal in each case. The only person I could speak about with any knowledge is myself, and it just doesn’t feel right for me to go there in detail. Does that make some kind of sense?

INT: In a nonspecific way, yes. And I don’t need to know the details. But am I right that I’m hearing a bit of a Buddhist theme there, about letting go of attachment?

•FSP: Absolutely. Generically, that’s a big part of the law of facing reality. When we truly face reality, we have to let go of our attachments to the ways we would like reality to be, as opposed to the way it really is. This law just focuses on the fact that the process of giving one’s life to God necessarily involves giving up an attachment which is standing in the way of making that commitment.

INT: Always? For everybody?

•FSP: Apparently so. That’s the way I understand it, anyway.

I’d like to add, by the way, that another important aspect of really giving one’s life over to God is an intention to bring about happiness, not only for one’s self, but also for all the other souls in the world. If there’s a self-centered calculation that I’m going to be personally better off by aligning myself with God, and a lack of concern for the welfare of the entire spiritual community, then that’s really a reflection of immaturity, and it restricts what I’m really able to offer. Even though I think I’m giving myself over, I’m really holding back in my self-centeredness.

INT: And so does that make God angry?

•FSP: God has infinite tolerance for whatever stage of development we’re at. Think of the attitude the director of a hospital has when a patient still needs weeks of treatment before they can go home. If that’s the reality, the director accepts it. It’s his or her business to provide the best environment possible for healing to take place. And, at the same time, the patients have to do their part as well. If they don’t want to heal, that’s an obstacle to progress.

INT: So even if we approach God hypocritically, we’re not damaging our relationship with Him?

•FSP: No, we’re just limiting our own ability to participate in that relationship and we’re manifesting the fact that we’re not ready to be an instrument of God’s plan in a very significant way. Therefore, we’re not likely to receive a lot of spiritual help.

INT: But if we’re underdeveloped, doesn’t that mean we ought to receive more help, not less?

•FSP: I can see where that would make sense, but it doesn’t actually work that way. The basic source of help in the Universe is the invisible fence mechanism we’ve talked about. Sooner or later, every soul begins to learn from this mechanism that in order to be happy, they’re going to have to search for the truth, including the truth about themselves, and that they’re going to have to take responsibility for themselves. Once they get past the beginnings of these basic understandings, and start to get in touch with their intuition and their connection to spirit, then they start to receive more help. But the spiritual world allocates its greatest resources to those who have grasped the oneness of the entire spiritual community, and who genuinely care about helping others to the same extent as they care about helping themselves, because those are the ones who can actually move God’s plan forward here on Earth. It’s all about reuniting the divine community. Until all the lost souls are back on the bus, so to speak, everything else is secondary.

INT: All right. So I think this was the last spiritual law in your list. Is that it for the spiritual laws, then?

•FSP: That’s good enough in order to be able to move forward, yes.

On a personal level: When you contemplate giving your life to God, or giving it over more fully than you already have, what does that look like? Do you imagine it making your life more pleasurable or less pleasurable? Observe your expectations, with the awareness that they may or may not be accurate. Just be aware that these are the expectations you have.

§2:11. What to Do with Our Knowledge of Spiritual Law

INT: So now that we know the spiritual laws, is the focus of our spiritual growth training ourselves to follow them?

•FSP: As reasonable as that seems, training ourselves to act a certain way actually tends to be counterproductive.

INT: How so?

•FSP: If you think about it, throughout all of human history, people have been trying and failing to act the way they aspired to act. When they fail, what do they do? They try harder. And yet they generally end up falling back into the same destructive or limiting patterns, over and over again. Maybe they manage to hide the fact that they’re stuck, but only a small fraction of people actually evolve in a significant way during the course of their lives.

Now, almost everyone misinterprets these repeated failures as the result of not trying hard enough. For instance, think how people generally react when they aren’t able to lose weight, or can’t quit smoking, or can’t stop losing their temper. Or, to take a more charged example, I’m guessing that when a pedophile priest relapses, he probably beats himself up for being weak, resolves to do better in the future, and prays to God to give him the strength he needs or to remove the affliction in exchange for all the good things the priest promises he will do. But at some point down the line, there he is again. And the problem is not that he’s not trying hard enough, but that he’s not being honest with himself about who he is.

INT: What do you mean?

•FSP: If he were honest, he’d say, “I’m someone who at this point in his life has a lot of predatory impulses towards children which I don’t understand and can’t control, and I’m not able to guarantee the safety of these kids, so I’m going to take myself out of situations where I’m tempted until I get a real grip on what’s going on.”

INT: So, he’d quit the priesthood?

•FSP: He’d have to, wouldn’t he? If he were really being honest? Or at least go on a very long sabbatical?

INT: And then what would he have to do in order to change?

•FSP: He’d have to admit everything about who he is. That on some level he only cares about himself. That he’s capable of removing himself emotionally to the point where he has no compassion for his victim. That he uses fear and shame to coerce his victims into silence. And I don’t know what else. I’m not tuned into the pedophile mentality. But I know that when we’re truthful about who we are, then we begin to mature and change organically. By “organically,” I mean not deliberately, not by force of will. The will needs to be applied primarily towards the awareness. If the awareness is maintained, automatic behaviors stop being automatic. There’s a further level of change we can create for ourselves by cultivating the intention to evolve and connect to our higher selves in meditation or prayer, but it’s absolutely essential to create the self-awareness first.

INT: But if the priest were able to admit all of that, wouldn’t he have to confront his own psychic pain in the process? Perhaps some way in which he himself had been abused?

•FSP: For it to be a meaningful and transformational process, yes, absolutely. He could intellectualize the whole thing and it wouldn’t have any deep, lasting effect on him. It’s necessary to let one’s self feel what one really feels, and once one starts down that trail, all kinds of things come to the surface, including powerful experiences of vulnerability, sadness, anger and fear. And the growth process in that context involves allowing those feelings to be there and to pass through, instead of blocking them.

Also, by the way, an important aspect of the growth process for someone who is abusive in any way towards others is to get in touch with the ways in which they’re abusive towards themselves. Ultimately, the relationship to self has to be healed before the relationship to others can really change.

INT: Are you aware of the research which says that pedophiles can’t change?

•FSP: I am. In fact, it may be correct to say that we don’t know how to help pedophiles effectively, and it may even be correct to say that most pedophiles are so immature that self-confrontation would be very difficult for them. But it’s not true of anyone to say that they’re incapable of change. All souls, no matter how afflicted and confused, are capable of returning to God over time through a process of honestly confronting the self. It’s really important for us to remember that. The belief that certain people can’t be changed is primarily the result of a false conception of how the process of change actually works.

INT: I wasn’t expecting you to get into pedophilia at this particular point. I thought we’d get into it when we talked about the organized Christianity.

•FSP: Yes, the issue has been on my mind lately.

INT: Given how controversial the issue of changing pedophiles is, though, could you give me a simpler example of how awareness promotes this organic change you’re talking about?

•FSP: A pretty mundane example would be the smoking cessation program I was in 25 years ago. The most important part of the program was that you had to wrap your cigarette pack up in a printed paper form, and then every time you got ready to light up, you had to fill out on the form what number cigarette this was for the day, what you were doing, how badly you wanted the cigarette, and what felt like the most important reason you wanted to quit in that moment. Then you could smoke the cigarette, but filling out the form interrupted the automatic smoking reflex, and it made it much easier for the body’s natural desire for health to come to the forefront.

INT: So you were able to quit?

•FSP: Six days before the quit date. Actually, another related aspect of the program was that during the last week, you had to watch yourself in the mirror while you smoked. I did that one time. It took all the fun out of smoking. I looked ridiculous to myself. When I brought awareness to what I was doing, my perception of it changed completely.

INT: How about a more interpersonal example?

•FSP: Throughout my life, I’ve had a tendency to be a little sarcastic, to put people down or make jokes at their expense. When I do that, it creates tension in the relationship. Before I understood the Teachings, I used to feel shame whenever I would do that, which would cause me either to beat myself up for it or to push my tendency out of my awareness. But no matter how many times I would beat myself up for it, my tendency to do it never changed in any really significant way.

When I became familiar with the Teachings, though, I began to confront my tendency to do this, without beating myself up for it, i.e., without giving in to the pride-based illusion that “I should be more evolved than this.” I would just say, “I have a tendency to put other people down. I do this partly to compensate for my own feelings of inadequacy; partly because I feel hostile towards other people, which is really an externalization of an attitude I have towards myself; and partly because I get a misguided thrill out of having that kind of tension exist between myself and others. I also feel safer when there’s a little distance in a relationship, and so I like the fact that these sorts of comments push other people away. Those are my motivations. The effect my behavior has on others is to activate their own negative judgments about themselves and to want to pull away from me. The way my behavior relates to spiritual law is that it breaks the law of love in particular, and also the law of equality and the law of connection. So it can’t really be doing me any good to act this way.”

INT: You actually had that whole long conversation with yourself?

•FSP: Not quite. In any given instance, I would probably go through one or just a few pieces of what I just said, and often it was a matter of just holding an awareness rather than having the actual words go through my mind, but in the long run this is the overall awareness that I developed.

INT: And by virtue of doing this, you were able to change the behavior?

•FSP: By virtue of the fact that I did this, and that while I was doing it, I was coming from an attitude of self-acceptance, I became less likely to have the impulse to say something negative, less likely to want to follow the impulse if I did have it, and more likely to own it and apologize if I did follow the impulse — over a period of a few years. But I really want to stress that the attitude of self-acceptance is the key to making the process work, and an important aspect of that attitude is the understanding that self-rejection is ultimately based in pride.

INT: How so?

•FSP: When we self-reject, we’re saying, “I should be better than this.” We’re not accepting ourselves as who we are, because we’re invested in an image of ourselves as being above and beyond that. We’ll be talking about this a lot when we get to the details of the human psyche.

On a personal level: Do you have any behavior patterns about which you reject yourself and beat yourself up? Do you resolve to try harder to break them in the future and then find yourself repeating them in spite of all your resolve? Sit quietly with the possibility that resolve and self-rejection aren’t the pathways to real change, but that the answer lies in self-awareness. How does that way of looking at things affect you?

INT: Okay, so the idea is to watch ourselves and analyze why we do things, and to accept whatever it is we see?

•FSP: The idea is to watch ourselves, to be honest about what we see, and to ask ourselves questions about why we act the way we do and have the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that we do. It’s not crucial to come up with brilliant answers to these questions, but the more we understand our motivations, the easier it is to stop judging and really confront ourselves. Most of us think that we accomplish something by judging ourselves harshly, but all that really accomplishes is to make us less willing to look at ourselves. The focus has to be on acknowledgment, not on self-punishment. It’s constructive to give ourselves accurate information about who we really are at this stage in our development. Then, once we’ve been honest about ourselves in a compassionate, non-judging way, we can look at the effects of our behavior and the relationship of our behavior to spiritual law.

INT: You know, I’m thinking about this from a psychotherapeutic framework, and it seems to me that you’re leaving something out.

•FSP: What do you mean?

INT: Well, you mention your feelings of inadequacy, but you don’t say anything about looking into what might have caused those feelings, or about dealing with the feelings themselves.

•FSP: Oh, good point. That is an important aspect of the process and I probably haven’t given it the emphasis it deserves. There might be a little bit of a difference in emphasis, though, as compared to traditional therapy. From the point of view of the Teachings, the question of “why do I feel inadequate?” is important because if I can tap into early experiences which I interpreted as evidence of my inadequacy, those experiences can be gateways for me to feeling painful feelings I’ve been avoiding since childhood. And allowing myself to feel those feelings will open up choked-off emotional gateways and allow me to experience all of life more fully.

It’s also important in terms of identifying basic beliefs I have about myself and about my life, which subtly govern the way I behave and cause me to attract negative experiences to myself. The more clearly I can articulate a specific negative belief I hold, such as “I am stupid,” for instance. the more I can question its validity, and the more I can observe the way it creates pain for me in my life.

Also, the more I can connect my beliefs and feelings to these events in my life, the easier it is for me to accept them. Without the benefit of a connection to a specific event, I might have difficulty getting past the attitude that I’m “weird” or “messed up” for having a particular psychological “issue.” But when I see that issue in a historical context, it makes it easier to observe it without judgment. For instance, someone might tend to judge themselves harshly about their tendency to eat a lot when they’re upset, and it might make it easier for them to accept themselves when they see the connection to a parent soothing them and rewarding them with candy when they were a child.

Now, all of that is pretty consistent with psychotherapy. Where the Teachings and traditional psychotherapy differ is that while psychotherapy will point to my father’s aloofness when I was a child as a “cause” of my belief that I don’t deserve to be loved, the Teachings say that my belief that I don’t deserve to be loved “caused” me to incarnate into a family with an emotionally withdrawn father. On a practical level, it doesn’t make all that much difference in terms of how we work through our beliefs and feelings, but there is that difference in terms of conceptual framework. The Teachings never frame any of what we experience in terms of our being “victims.” The idea is always that whatever negativity we attract is there for a reason, in order to teach us something.

On a personal level: Think about something particularly painful which happened in your life. When you consider relating to that as something which was meant to teach you a valuable spiritual lesson, how do you feel? Is there any aspect of optimism, or any sense of possibility for growth, in your reaction? Is there any aspect of resentment or resistance around letting go of being a victim of random circumstance? Whatever you find in this inner exploration, just let it rest in your awareness.

INT: So I’m hearing you say that the process is very similar to the process of therapy, just with a slightly different conceptual framework. Is there anything the Teachings have to offer in terms of a process for personal and spiritual growth which is actually unique to the Teachings?

§2:12. What to Do with Our Knowledge of Spiritual Law — Our Moments of Disharmony as Related to Our Imperfections and Images

•FSP: There is a daily process we can go through to make sure all of this doesn’t escape our attention. Basically, it involves looking back at the events of the last 24 hours and paying attention to all the moments in which we felt some sort of disharmony.

INT: Disharmony?

•FSP: Good things to look for are fear, shame, anger, sadness, or subtle variations on those feelings. For example, “stress” might really be broken down into fear for these purposes, or possibly fear in conjunction with some other emotion, such as anger.

INT: And when we’ve identified these things, what do we do with them?

•FSP: Write them down, and then compare them to some information we’ve already compiled about ourselves, namely our list of personal imperfections and our list of images.

INT: So, what’s a list of personal imperfections?

•FSP: Well, basically, one sits down and, as objectively as possible, writes down a list of all the things about one’s self which indicate spiritual immaturity and then organizes that information into a reasonably concise list. As I mentioned before, the Teachings refer to these things as “faults.” I’m more comfortable with the word, “imperfections,” or another word which seems to work for me is “flaws.”

INT: Could you give an example of such a list?

•FSP: Actually, I brought along a personal imperfections list I did for myself. It’s not complete, but it does express a number of my personal limitations. Could I read it to you?

INT: Please.

•FSP: Just bear in mind that when we say we have certain personal imperfections, we’re not talking only about things which consistently rule our behavior. For instance, I’m often able to rise above the influence of many of the things on my list, largely because I’ve made the effort to identify them and take responsibility for them. Nevertheless, they are still subtle aspects of who I am, expressing to some extent in my feelings, thoughts and attitudes if not necessarily in my behavior. And therefore, it’s still very important that I make the effort to be aware of them.

INT: Why, exactly?

•FSP: Why is it important for me to be aware of these things?

INT: Why is it very important to keep working on being aware of something if it doesn’t have a major influence on your behavior any more?

•FSP: Because even if the influence of some personal imperfection is muted at this point, it continues to operate on a subtle level to attract slightly negative experiences, and to cut me off from my higher self.

INT: Did you just give me two separate reasons, or is attracting negative experiences pretty much the same thing as being cut off from your higher self?

•FSP: They go hand in hand, but they’re not quite the same. Attracting negative experience refers to the quality of the feedback the Universe is giving me for the energy I’m putting out into the world. Being cut off from my higher self refers more to the inner experience of being me — the fact that it’s difficult for me to connect to the source of divine consciousness within me. That condition is limiting and unpleasant in itself, regardless of the external circumstances of the moment. It’s like a consciousness-related equivalent of having a cold. Things just don’t feel as good as they would if everything was internally right.

INT: Okay. I’m tempted to ask you all sorts of questions about that, but I don’t want to get too far off track. Why don’t we go back to your list?

•FSP: I think that’s probably a good idea. And we’ll definitely get back to the nature of the higher self when we talk about the human psyche in detail. In any event, here’s my partial list of personal imperfections:

Arrogant; assume I know everything; unwilling to be taught
Assume I’m smarter and more evolved than everyone else
Mock other people (at least in my own mind) for vulnerability, self-consciousness, “stupidity,” dependency
Want other people to know I’m “better;” want to be acknowledged as “right”
Hog conversational airtime; show off
Lazy; procrastinate
Don’t really extend myself to people
Don’t always follow through on commitments
Assume the worst about other people
Blame others for my anger
Subtly punish people for not seeing themselves clearly
Criticize people publicly
Don’t mark my boundaries clearly; lure people into violating
Don’t always say what I think or need
Controlling
Impatient
Don’t listen to my own inner guidance
Don’t respect my body
Don’t live up to my own standards but hold others to them

INT: Wow.

•FSP: What?

INT: I don’t know. My first impulse was to make a joke about what a lot of stuff that all is, but really I think what strikes me is how willing you are to say all these bad things about yourself. I mean, most of what you just said is probably true of me in the subtle sort of way you’re referring to, but I can’t imagine myself just putting it out there like that.

•FSP: Well, first, let me make it clear that no one’s required to share their list of imperfections publicly. I’m doing it right now for this specific purpose. But apart from that, I’m curious about your question. Just hypothetically, why do you think this would be difficult for you?

INT: It just goes against the whole social grain. I’m supposed to be convincing everyone else how cool and pulled together I am. Maybe if I make an occasional self-deprecating joke I can convey the impression that I’m emotionally secure. But to just lay out all this stuff. It feels inappropriate.

•FSP: Are you worried that you might be embarrassing other people if you did that?

INT: Well, it would make them uncomfortable.

•FSP: Why, do you think?

INT: Probably it would just remind everybody of how much stuff about themselves they were keeping hidden.

•FSP: Including keeping hidden from themselves, maybe.

INT: Right. It’s like we’re all on this ocean liner which is sinking and we’re all playing cards and having fun in the casino and then someone reminds everybody that we’re going down. It kills the mood.

•FSP: Yes, but we’re not on a doomed ship. We all have the capacity to return to the divine community. Compared to the spiritual reality, the picture you just painted is notably pessimistic.

INT: Hmm. I suppose I should give that some thought. But let me bring up another objection to your imperfections list. I’m wondering whether this type of stuff really applies to everyone. My wife, for instance, is a really sweet person. She never says anything bad about anyone. If she were to sit down and do a list like this, it would probably have three things on it.

On a personal level: What about you? Let’s assume that on the whole, you want to be a kind, compassionate, honest, “good” person.” Are there levels of feeling, thought and/or behavior which run counter to the type of person you aspire to be? Do any of the imperfections in the former Simon Peter’s list apply to you, even a little bit? Can you think of others? Contemplate one or more personal imperfections or flaws of yours. How do you feel when you manifest this flaw? How willing are you to accept your personal imperfections and love yourself in spite of them? Gently observe the imperfect aspects of yourself, as well as your feelings about them.

•FSP: I think what you’re saying is probably true of a lot of spiritual seekers. Before I go any further, I want to ask if I have your permission to ask just one or two questions and make one or two speculations about your wife. I don’t want to presume or to insult you in any way, but you have brought something up which is really worth exploring. Are you okay with us pursuing this in a very general, not deeply personal way?

INT: Ask me a question, and if I have a problem with it, I’ll let you know.

•FSP: In your judgment, does your wife generally treat herself as kindly and lovingly as she deserves to be treated?

INT: Yes and no. Not always.

•FSP: Have you ever seen your wife act in negative ways that you might think of as “not herself,” when she’s unusually stressed or tired?

INT: I suppose. A couple of times.

•FSP: Is it your impression that she felt guilty or ashamed about those instances? Maybe that she hadn’t lived up to a standard she has for herself?

INT: Probably.

•FSP: Thank you. That’s all I’m going to ask you. Now I’m going to make some comments, with the understanding that while they tend to be true in general, I’m in no position to say for a fact whether or not they apply to your wife. Okay?

INT: Go ahead.

•FSP: First of all, the way someone behaves towards others isn’t the only indication of whether they have personal flaws or imperfections. For instance, “always put the happiness of others before my own” is an imperfection which could appear on the lists of a lot of sweet and lovely people. When someone doesn’t treat themselves with the love they deserve, that’s generally a sign that some sort of misconception is at work and some sort of negativity is being directed at the self, perhaps in a very subtle and unconscious way. So it’s worthwhile to uncover what that’s all about, because it’s only when we are able to observe these tendencies clearly and dispassionately that we can really grow out of them.

Second, when someone who is normally very sweet and kind acts in a negative way, we’re seeing a part of that person which is contrary to their higher self, but which is nevertheless an aspect of their overall makeup. To go back to an image we were using earlier, we’re seeing the dirt on the light bulb. And while it’s true that this negativity is “not who they are” in the sense that it’s not their divine core and it’s not who they aspire to be, on another level, they are in fact carrying this negative energy — just like every other human being on Earth. It’s just that they’re doing a very good job of not letting that energy express in their behavior. It’s only when stress or fatigue diminishes their ability to exert that kind of control — which they may normally be able to do without even being aware of the effort — that the negativity energy slips out. And then the shame they feel is an indication that this negative energy isn’t integrated. It’s not something they accept and forgive themselves for. There’s an internal pressure not to be someone who carries this type of energy. And when all of this is true about someone, they have something to gain from doing the work the Teachings recommend, because in the long run, they’re not going to have to expend all that internal energy to keep the negativity at bay. They’re actually going to grow out of that negativity instead, and that’s going to make all that energy which is tied up in control available for other things, like spontaneous creativity and joy.

None of that is to say that your wife isn’t a very nice and sweet person, and she may in fact be very far along spiritually and carrying a relatively light load of negativity. But it’s important not to let ourselves be hypnotized by someone’s positive aspects. There’s always a dark side somewhere — or we could say a spiritually immature side — and it’s always worthwhile to get to know it.

Was that all okay, from your point of view?

INT: I don’t have any problem with it. It makes sense on a general level, and like you said, it might or might not apply to my wife specifically.

•FSP: Great. Anyway, that’s an introduction to the imperfections list. The other list it’s useful to have is an image list.

INT: And by “image,” you mean what exactly?

•FSP: I mean a false conclusion about the nature of reality which is so ingrained in our minds that we don’t question it, and which is constantly reinforced by the kind of experience we attract to ourselves. So, based on what you’ve said, you might have as one of your images, “I’m part of something which is doomed and the only thing I can do is ignore the coming catastrophe and pretend to have fun.” And that image might be the result of an interpretation of your life situation at an early age, and it could very well have past-life roots as well.

INT: Could you give me some examples of how that image might have come into being?

•FSP: Ultimately, it came into being as a result of the distortion of personal energies which occurred during the separation from God, which is something we’re going to talk about in more detail next time. However, a childhood situation which might have reinforced such an image could have been something like knowing that one of your parents was terminally ill and that there was nothing you could do about it. And a past-life situation could have been that same thing, or, for example, being in a city that was under siege by a foreign army.

INT: Okay. So did you bring along an image list of your own to go with your imperfections list?

•FSP: I did, actually. Again, this is certainly just a partial list:

There is no room in the world for me to be myself
If I really put myself out, I will fail spectacularly and be humiliated
Real pleasure comes from receiving without giving
People are too stupid to understand me
Any group I join will expel me
I am irretrievably polluted by weird and evil impulses I cannot trust
I do not have, and cannot get, enough
I cannot withstand confrontation
Women want to control me
Anger makes me strong and invulnerable
I do not deserve to be happy
If I allow myself to enjoy someone or something fully, they/it will be taken away
I can’t follow through on what I start
Everybody sucks — which really means “everybody will eventually disappoint me or hurt my feelings”

INT: Wow, again. It’s hard to imagine being very happy with all of that floating around in your brain.

•FSP: Tell me about it … Especially since all of these images have an influence on me which actually causes me to attract experiences which confirm my images.

INT: Can you spell that out a little?

•FSP: Well, we’ve already talked about the selfish guy who triggers selfish behavior in others which reinforces his belief that everyone is selfish and that therefore he needs to be selfish as well. In a similar vein, do you remember what I said last time about the image I have that I have to put on a mask or other people will reject me, and how that belief causes me to act in ways which are slightly annoying because they’re not real?

INT: Which causes people to reject you …

•FSP: Which confirms my image that there’s something unlikable about me which I have to cover up with a mask.

INT: Yes, I do remember that. And I see the connection. So how does someone go about putting an images list together?

•FSP: A good way to do it is to spend some time thinking about your entire life, and jotting down all the times that have caused you disharmony of some kind — for instance, anger, shame, sadness, fear, stress — and then looking for the common themes. Just kind of write a caption for the pictures you’re seeing in your mind, or state the beliefs about life which seem to be illustrated.

INT: My whole life? That could take days!

•FSP: It could, but after a few hours, you’d most likely have enough material to be able to come up with a list of your major images. Also, if there’s something that happened over and over, you don’t have to write down each instance separately. One overall notation will do.

INT: Still, that’s quite a commitment.

•FSP: And that brings us right up against the law of paying the price. Real spiritual growth takes work. For some reason, we’re almost always a little reluctant to come to terms with that reality. And yet there’s no way around it.

On a personal level: Take a few moments to get an images list started by thinking about negative generalizations you might have about life. Do any of the ones in the former Simon Peter’s list resonate for you? What about recurring negative themes in your life? Does anything suggestive of negative life patterns come up for you if you complete the sentences “I never [blank]” or “I always [blank]“?

INT: Okay, let’s say I get over my resistance to making the effort required in order to evolve and that I come up with these two lists. Now what?

•FSP: Now when you consider the disharmonious moments in the previous 24 hours, you can see them as repetitions of these basic themes in your life, and you can focus your attention on what it is that you’re spiritually confused about. Not so that you can indoctrinate yourself to believe the “right” thing instead, but so that you can see yourself in the mirror, as in the smoking cessation program. It changes your perspective, and then it gradually changes who you are.

INT: I’d really appreciate a specific example of how this imperfections and images thing could be useful.

•FSP: Okay. Let’s suppose that I try a new business venture. I go into it with a lot of enthusiasm, but then over time my enthusiasm wanes. I don’t do some things I ought to do to make sure the business stays healthy and grows, and it goes under. I lose my investment of time, effort and money and I feel humiliated. The images which are reinforced by this are that I can’t follow through on what I start, and that if I really put myself out, I will fail spectacularly and be humiliated. On top of that, I beat myself up for failing and convince myself even further that I don’t deserve to be happy. Now if I leave it at that, there’s no reason to expect that I’m going to grow or change in a positive way and that my future efforts are going to meet with any greater measure of success.

Now let’s suppose I look at the whole experience more deeply. Maybe I discover that I really didn’t like this business, because it wasn’t really me. Maybe my image that there is no room in the world for me to be myself influenced me to invest in a business I didn’t enjoy. Maybe my prideful belief that I know everything there is to know influenced me not to get guidance I could have gotten which would have made it possible for me to establish the business successfully. Maybe once I discover these aspects, I’m not so convinced any more that I can’t follow through on what I start. Maybe understanding my decision to do something I don’t enjoy makes it easier for me to accept the fact that I didn’t do what was necessary to succeed, and to understand that I failed not because I’m doomed to fail, but because I chose the wrong endeavor. And maybe all of that induces me to think long and hard about what I really want to do in my life, thus preventing me from making the same mistake again.

INT: So in this example the imperfections and images work is really focusing you on understanding your mistakes so you won’t repeat them, instead of punishing yourself and setting yourself up for another round of failure.

•FSP: Exactly.

INT: Well, apart from the resistance I feel to making this kind of an effort, I’m also thinking that if I were going to do all this, I would want someone to check in with about it, to help me reality-test about myself. For instance, am I really as compassionate as I think I am? Otherwise, I could put in all this time and not really get to the bottom of anything.

•FSP: The law of connection applies to doing our spiritual work. While there’s a lot we can do on our own, there’s also a point at which we reach a limit. We need the stimulation and the feedback of working with other people. It could be working with a therapist who understands the principles of the Teachings; it could be working with someone who teaches the principles, either individually or in a group; or it could be a sort of peer counseling situation, in which each participant is doing his or her own work and supporting others in doing the same. Actually, a really productive context in which to do this work is marriage. But we’ll talk more about that when we cover positive and negative approaches to working with the Teachings.

INT: Is there anything else you want to cover about the spiritual laws and personal imperfections?

§2:13. Personal Imperfections as Related to Pride, Self-Will and Fear

•FSP: Yes, there’s one more thing. In terms of understanding our imperfections, or flaws, it’s helpful to know the three basic errors from which all others spring, namely, pride, self-will, and fear. No matter what anyone thinks about themselves, everyone has these three hindrances to perfection at least to some extent, and all other imperfections can be traced back to one or more of these.

INT: Can you provide some definitions?

•FSP: Pride is considering your desires and your vanity to be more important than that of the other. For instance, if you feel the humiliation of another less than your own, which of course almost everyone does, that’s a symptom of pride.

INT: And why is pride such a bad thing?

•FSP: First of all, it’s inaccurate. Spiritually, no matter how misguided some people on the planet might be, you and I are not “better” than anyone else. God loves each and every one of us fully and equally, and we’re all divine at our cores. At the same time, in the grand scheme of spiritual reality, none of us here on Earth really have it together at the moment. We’re disconnected from the divine community and we have considerably unrealistic ideas about what the Universe is all about. When we indulge our pride, we’re pretending none of that is true. And anything which is based on untruth can only bring negative results in its wake.

Second, pride breaks the laws of love, equality and connection. When I’m caught up in my pride, I cause pain to others by reminding them of their own negative judgments about themselves; I treat them as being less important than I am; and I avoid the possibility of real connection between us, which impoverishes both of us.

And third, pride gives rise to fear, because we know unconsciously that it’s a distortion of the truth, so we’re always worried about that humiliating moment when we’re going to be exposed for who we really are.

On a personal level: How does the idea that you (along with the rest of the human race) might be misunderstanding spiritual reality sit with you on an emotional level? Regardless of how you see the matter intellectually, is there an emotional pressure to see yourself as someone who understands everything already? If so, just quietly feel and observe it.

INT: So that leads me to the question, what’s so bad about fear?

•FSP: Did you ever read “Dune,” by Frank Herbert, or see the movie?

INT: Both.

•FSP: Do you remember the incantation that Paul speaks at the beginning when the priestess puts his hand in that pain machine?

INT: “Fear is the mind killer?”

•FSP: Right.

INT: I don’t remember the rest.

•FSP: It says that he will let the fear pass through him, and then when it’s gone, only he will remain. It speaks to the fact that unless we know how to remain grounded in the midst of our fear — which very few of us do — then fear “kills” our higher mind, by taking us out of connection to the divine, and makes us vulnerable to the influence of our lower impulses.

INT: And how would one avoid that?

•FSP: Avoid losing our groundedness when we feel fear?

INT: Yes.

•FSP: Mainly by allowing ourselves to feel it fully. Breathe into it. Stay present, rather than fleeing from it mentally. Experience it without resistance, until it subsides on its own.

INT: Isn’t that incredibly hard to do?

•FSP: It’s definitely hard to do. It’s kind of like not scratching an itch. But most of us don’t even give it a try, whereas the more we attempt it, the easier it actually gets.

On a personal level: What is your relationship to fear? Do you numb it, deny it, suppress it, or rationalize it away? Do you get caught up in it? To what extent are you able to just “be” with fear until it subsides on its own?

INT: Okay. What about self-will?

•FSP: Self-will is the will of the little ego, which blindly strives to get whatever it wants, without understanding that whatever is against spiritual law can’t possibly be of benefit to the self. Whenever we want something which is wrong, impossible, or in contradiction the deepest aspects of our self, that want is an expression of self-will.

INT: And you said that all personal imperfections spring from these basic three?

•FSP: Right. So whenever we feel disharmony, instead of avoiding it or rationalizing it, we would be better off allowing ourselves to feel it without resistance and then tracing the connections to these three flaws.

INT: Could you illustrate?

•FSP: Sure. Let’s go back to my imperfections list, and let’s look at the connections we can see there. For instance, let’s consider the characteristics which might have a basis in pride. For starters, there’s:

Arrogant; assume I know everything; unwilling to be taught
Assume I’m smarter and more evolved than everyone else
Mock other people (at least in my own mind) for vulnerability, self-consciousness, “stupidity,” dependency
Want other people to know I’m “better;” want to be acknowledged as “right”
Hog conversational airtime; show off

Are the way those relate to pride pretty clear?

INT: I suppose, although I can also see where there might be a connection to insecurity.

•FSP: That’s the fear part. Where there’s a prideful attitude that we’re better than other people, there’s also fear that the pretense behind the attitude is going to be exposed, and that we’re going to be humiliated in the process.

INT: Okay, but my point was more that there might be a negative attitude about the self that was being compensated for.

•FSP: No doubt. That’s a piece of the puzzle. But negative self-assessment relates to the existence of pride in the sense that where there’s pride there’s also pretense — in other words, an investment in a glorified picture of who we really are, and a tendency to present that glorified picture to others — and the pretense leads to self-contempt for not being authentic, which leads in turn to more pride as compensation for that contempt.

INT: All right. I guess I’m just wondering which came first.

•FSP: I’m not sure there is a “first.” I think both pride and self-contempt might have originated together in the separation from God, which is something we’ll talk more about that next time. In any event, I’m not sure it really matters.

INT: Maybe not … . Getting more specific, then, could you spell out how hogging conversational airtime is pride?

•FSP: It’s considering my desire to speak to be more important than the desires of those I’m speaking to.

INT: I see.

•FSP: Could I point out some other flaws I see as connected to pride?

INT: Please.

•FSP: I’ll just do a few more:

Assume the worst about other people — This is just the flip side of assuming I’m special. The result is the same: I’m assuming I’m better than others.
Don’t listen to my own inner guidance — I act this way because my ego thinks it knows better.
Don’t live up to my own standards but hold others to them — I act this way because I think somehow I’m entitled to slack which other people don’t deserve.

INT: Okay. I can see all that.

•FSP: Now let me point out some self-will connections:

Lazy; procrastinate — I act this way because I want something for nothing.

INT: Don’t want to pay the price?

•FSP: Correct.

INT: And that’s self-will?

•FSP: Yes, it’s the will of the little ego, which wants what it wants, without being willing to pay the price. Remember that I said whenever we want something impossible, the want is an expression of self-will? Well, wanting to get something without paying the price for it is wanting something which is spiritually impossible.

INT: And tell me again why self-will is bad.

•FSP: Self-will is limiting because it keeps me from getting very much of what I want or need. To the extent that self-will wants things which are against our deepest nature, it makes us like a hungry person in a supermarket who will only buy what’s in the candy aisle. We get a superficial pleasure, but we don’t get what will really sustain us. And to the extent that we don’t want to pay the price, we’re like a hungry person in a supermarket who doesn’t want to spend any of money. There’s all this abundance around us, but we don’t get to enjoy any of it.

INT: Okay.

•FSP: Some other obvious examples of self-will in the list are

Controlling
Impatient

And then there are some more subtle connections. for instance:

Arrogant; assume I know everything; unwilling to be taught — This reflects self-will because being taught means not being in control.

INT: How does the idea of being in control connect to what you said about the little ego striving to get what it wants?

•FSP: If I’m in control, then I can make sure I get what I want.

INT: Okay, but couldn’t there also be a fear aspect, in the sense that if you’re not in control, then something bad might happen to you?

•FSP: Definitely. Good point. And by the way, that really illustrates the interplay among these three flaws. I’m just giving you the quick associations I have to each of these core imperfections, but wherever there’s one, the other two can’t be that far behind. For instance, consider:

Want other people to know I’m “better;” want to be acknowledged as “right” — This is pretty obviously pride, but it’s also self-will because if I’m seen this way, then that gives me a basis for claiming the right to be in control. And it’s also fear, because if I’m wrong, then not only don’t I enjoy the status of being right, but the world isn’t what I imagine it to be and I can’t be sure I’m safe.

INT: I think I get the general idea. At least, I get what pride and self-will are about, and I see how there’s fear around the possibility that the reality of who we are will be exposed, or that we might not get what we want. Is there a separate component to the fear aspect, or is that pretty much the big picture?

•FSP: I would say that’s pretty much the big picture.

INT: All right. Then explain exactly how it helps you to do all this connecting of imperfections to pride, self-will and fear.

•FSP: It helps me to continually bring my awareness back to the core distortions which affect my approach to life, so I can keep seeing the ways they affect all aspects of my life experience. By looking in this mirror and repeatedly seeing the same things about myself, I’m educating myself in a way which promotes my gradual spiritual growth.

On a personal level: Contemplate some personal imperfections you see in yourself. Can you make some connections between those imperfections and pride, self-will and fear?

§2:14. Avoiding Self-Punishment as We Discover Personal Imperfection

INT: I guess I have a reservation about all of this. I see myself going through this process, assuming I could get myself to focus for long enough, and the image I get is that I’m going to feel a lot of shame and beat myself up a lot. And then I’m not going to want to do it any more because it feels bad.

•FSP: That’s a very understandable reservation. You’re expressing probably the most basic pitfall of all when it comes to trying to do this work. Unless we can allow all these things to be true about ourselves without launching into an orgy of self-punishment, we’re never going to get the benefit of the organic growth which comes from being honest.

INT: So what can we do about that?

•FSP: There are two things we can do. The first is to pray for help in approaching the process with an appropriate level of humility. If we really feel into the attitude which fuels the desire to beat ourselves up, we’ll typically find an expectation or a demand along the lines of “I should be better than this.” Fundamentally, that’s an expression of pride — of a refusal to accept the fact that each of us, at our current stage of development, is a confused soul who has a lot of things wrong, and doesn’t even know how much there really is to learn.

INT: I never really thought of that as pride, but I guess I can see where that’s accurate.

•FSP: And this is an aspect of how the spirit world is ready and willing to help us in doing this work. If we ask for help in maintaining a productively humble attitude, one way or another, our requests will be answered.

INT: Okay. So prayer for a constructive attitude is one thing we can do, and what’s the other?

•FSP: The other is to make the effort to understand as much as possible about why we are the way we are. There’s a famous French saying, “tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner” — “to understand everything is to forgive everything” — which is very wise and true. When we don’t understand negative behavior, we tend to react to it with shame. When we deeply understand it, we tend to react to it with compassion, because it exemplifies the spiritual confusion which all of us are struggling with.

INT: And how do we come to deeply understand ourselves?

•FSP: One way is to study the Teachings, which are all about the details of the human psyche, and to apply the general principles we find there to find the specifics about ourselves.

INT: And that’s where we’re going next?

•FSP: Before we get into what the Teachings have to say about the human psyche, it would be good to talk about the nature of God and the Creation and the principles of reincarnation. First we’ll complete the spiritual framework. Then we’ll look at the psychological framework, within that complete spiritual context.

INT: All right. I’m very curious about all of that.

On a personal level: Focus your awareness on the thing you least like about yourself. Feel the discomfort it causes you to hold your attention there. Feel the energy of avoidance and self-rejection, without struggling with it or fixing it.

Now visualize yourself accepting that this thing you don’t like is a temporary aspect of who you are, and giving yourself permission to be this imperfect at the moment, with a faithful understanding that in time, you’ll grow beyond this stage of development. What might you have to let go of to be in that emotional place? How might it affect your life to relate to yourself in this way

© 2007, 2008

Summary of Pathwork Lecture #094:
The True Self Versus Superficial Personality Levels; Neurosis Versus Sin; Split Concepts Creating Confusion

For a deeper, more rewarding experience of these teachings, consult the Lecture itself, available free of charge at: http://www.pathwork.org/lectures/unedited/P094.PDF

Our true self is the divine spark. It is covered up by layers of our artificial, habitual selves which falsely appear to us as fundamental. We are hindered in out growth by our false image of our true self as holy and therefore alien. In fact, there are dimensions of our lives in which we already act organically from our true self.

We harbor an image of the true self as rigidly perfectionistic, and we both rigidly and compulsively aspire to this perfection on the one hand, and rebel against this compulsiveness on the other. The truth is that our motivations and attitudes matter more that the nature of the actions we take. When we do the “right thing” out of fear and compulsion, this is self-betrayal. When we behave imperfectly out of faithfulness to who we are, and we are willing to accept the consequences, this is actually more perfect than doing the “right” thing for the wrong reasons.

Acting from the real self is not marked by confusion, anxiety or preoccupation with appearances or behavioral rules. Rather, it reflects a responsible weighing of consequences in the particular situation. Sometimes we go helplessly back and forth between an alternative favored by the inner grasping child and an alternative favored by the inner obedient conformist, and neither one is satisfying because neither one is grounded in the real self. Incidentally, this applies not only to overt actions, but also to thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and other inner behaviors. When we choose one alternative as the lesser evil, we are left feeling unhappy, and if we repress our negative feelings, they may come out later with destructive consequences. We can find our way out of such a predicament by BECOMING AWARE of our motivations and FINDING the point of relinquishing — the thing or attitude which is the object of a false need and which we must let go of in order to be able to act freely from our true self. Relinquishing what we need to let go of will free us to pursue our real needs and will leave us feeling better about ourselves.

We can understand our real self and our destructive attachments more fully by LOOKING BACK at our lives and observing where we felt confused and dependent, and where we felt free and at one with ourselves. If we observe the attachments we clung to in the first case, and let go of in the second, we will see what it is we need to relinquish, and observe that our true self is not something strange, but rather the familiar in us in the very best sense.

Essentially, neurosis and “sin” are one and the same; however, the Guide has avoided using the term “sin” because it plays to our destructive moralizing tendencies. However, a person on the Path must eventually CONFRONT the fact that neurosis is always some form of selfishness, pride, or cowardice, while continuing to accept himself or herself as he or she is at the moment. We are afraid to do this because we see the self-indulgence which might infect our self-acceptance, as well as the self-punishment which might corrupt our attempts to hold ourselves responsible. When we understand that self-indulgence and self-punishment are both grounded in pride, self-will and fear, while self-acceptance and honest self-confrontation are both grounded in humility, courage and self-responsibility, then we can let go of the former tendencies.

When we are still stuck in the state of confusion and unable to make contact with our true self, we resort to compulsion to do the right thing, which we then project as coming from the outside world and rebel against. This rebellion against rigid perfectionism and conformity has destructive aspects, but on another level it is also healthy. This illustrates the general principle that trends are not good or bad as such, but rather trends become negative to the extent they are misused by the afflicted part of our soul. The fact that there are good and bad aspects to each trend makes for internal confusion in our attitudes towards these trends, and for confusion in communication between people, who may have different aspects of these trends in mind. For instance, “love” can connote unhealthy submissiveness, while “compassion” can connote pity, which involves projecting one’s own weakness and inability to face life onto another, and which tends to paralyze rather than inspire the person who is feeling it.

Questions and Answers:

To let go of feelings for another, one would do well to FIND where one identifies with the other, and the FEAR of what the other is experiencing which underlies this identification.

When we feel an inner stiffening or hardening, this is a sign that our defenses have been triggered. When we become aware of this hardening, we can OBSERVE how it acts against our self-interest.

Doing this work is not about becoming “good” in a rigid, mechanistic “goody-goody” way. There is no “rule” that one is required to become spiritually mature — it’s just necessary in order to achieve our full potential. Doing this work does make us able to withstand that which we cannot change, but this is actually less machine-like than perpetually wasting energy railing against the things we cannot change. There is no need to fear that Christ wants us to submit and give up our free will. The more mature we are, the more alive and distinctly individual we are.

(c) 2007 — All rights reserved (see first post in general orientation category).

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