David The Death of Socrates

The point of our life is to discover the truth about ourselves.  This is exactly what Confucius was saying when he wrote that

“The object of the Superior Man is Truth”

Confucius, Analects, bk. xv., c. xxxi.

In our Gnostic studies when we talk about the truth we are always pointing inside, in our mind and our heart, within our soul .  And what is true is emanating not from external phenomena, but what is true is always something deeply within ourselves. 

We often think that the goal or purpose of life might be something to do with success, prestige, or education, or bettering our situation, or maybe something like leaving a legacy behind for our family.  Perhaps making our parents proud, fulfilling some ideal.  Some of these things that we strive for are better than others, some are more noble, some are more superior than others.  But the point of these studies, the point of the teachings that we are giving is to discover the truth within ourselves.  And everything else comes after that. 

If we place anything before that discovery, before that inquiry, before this pursuit or enterprise of discovering what is going on inside of ourselves, then everything else that we strive for ends up being flawed, being stained by our own misunderstandings or faults.  So, to place anything in front of discovering yourself, knowing yourself, is the proverbial “putting the cart before the horse.”  Because it is yourself which you strive for anything.  If you are trying to achieve something, you are doing it with yourself, with the vehicle of you.  If you do not know what you are or what is going on, then everything else you try to do will have a problem.  You will leave your signature or your mark of all your flaws or misconceptions, misunderstandings upon all your pursuits.

When we talk about the Truth, we are talking about something inside of ourselves. And this is also what Confucius really meant.  A lot of times people think that searching for the Truth is something outside.  Searching for how some events unfolded, what really happened, what was truly said or done.  When talking about religion or spirituality, all of that is secondary to what is going on inside of ourselves.

These are Gnostic maxims.  Socrates was famous for saying that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”  And he is depicted in this painting (The Death of Socrates (1787), by Jacques-Louis David) pointing upwards because that is a symbol of the truth.  He does this while he takes the hemlock, which is his own poison.  He has been sentenced to death. So, we say things like know thyself, which is “gnōthi seauton” in Greek; or in Latin: “nosce te ipsum”.

All the ancient philosophers agreed with this.  If you do not know yourself, you do not know anything.

Everything that you experience goes through yourself.  Everything that you strive for, everything that happens is happening through yourself.  It is like driving in a car: if you have never cleaned the windshield, you cannot see where you are going or what is happening.  This is the same thing with our psychology.

These gnostic maxims are not new, they are ancient. Part of the problem with talking about them today is that a lot of people try to search for their truth, search for their happiness, their bliss and they do it in a very superficial way.  We are going to see what it means to know ourselves both from a standpoint of day by day living our life, and from our practice of meditation.   Without meditation you really cannot discover certain things about yourself.  Because if you do not pay attention in a particular way about what is going on inside your mind, you can go through your whole life and never find out what is really happening.  And therefore, you never really find out why you might feel unfulfilled.  You might have an idea, you might blame a person or blame a circumstance, that might give you an excuse but then you will find yourself blaming another person and then another circumstance.  And the only common denominator of all of them is, of course, our own self.

All of these times when we are looking outside for “why did not I really get what I wanted” or “why did my enterprise fail, why didn’t I really achieve what I wanted to…?”  It is so easy to find the closest person or situation and place the blame on that side.  That is what we are paying attention to, externally.  In our studies we want to look at what is going on inside, because then everything transforms.

Along with these Greek philosophers there is often the talk about four basic states of consciousness.   Plato talks about them in his dialogues. 

So, we have some Greek words here:  Eikasia, Pistis, Dianoia and Nous.  Most introductory type of philosophy courses will talk about this.  The problem is most of the time when you hear this type of information, they have really lost the main essence because most people today particularly intellectuals and academics, believe in a very narrow understanding of what consciousness is, a very skeptical limited understanding.   They believe that consciousness emerges from brain cells and neurons.  If you believe that then what the possibilities are of consciousness is completely tied to a brain, a structure inside the brain.  So, they will base all the commentaries kind of on that foundation.  This leaves us with an extremely impoverished understanding of what these four states of consciousness actually are. 

Starting with the lowest form of consciousness, we have Eikasia, which is a state of dreaming and delusions.  The word Eikasia means, more literally it means imaging, imagination, but in this sense a negative imagination.  We often talk about the positive aspect of imagination and creativity, but this type of imagination is inferior.  These are our subjective dreams, our nightmares, chaotic, confused wanderings, a vague darkness of what is happening in our dreams. And then sometimes it is very clear what happened, but when we get the clarity what we see is something very vile, or violent, or scary, or frightening.  Having nightmarish experiences whether it is some type of demon chasing us, or it is an experience of some tragedy unfolding in your life, or the people you love are dying, or your house is on fire, or there is a tidal wave coming, very frightening events. 

Eikasia is related to that level of consciousness which is very unconscious. We are not cognizant of it.  When we are in that level, it appears that something external is happening to us. It is still coming fundamentally from or through our own self, we just do not recognize that situation.  We become identified with those events.  We do not remember ourselves in the dream. We do not normally awaken when those events are happening in our dream.  We take them as literally happening.  And only do we wake up physically do we have some type of perspective that that was a dream.

Eikasia also exists when we are awake, physically awake.  This is all the periods of time when we really have no remembrance of ourselves.  Particularly when we are driven by instinctual urges and we are completely asleep from a psychological standpoint.  The type of mentality that can form very quickly like in a crowd, like a mob mentality. These are situations where people normally fairly rational in making decisions, suddenly are overcome with a mob mentality, and everybody’s consciousness sinks into those inferior fears, those instincts that can end up harming others and creating violence.  And normally we think “that would not happen to me,” but that level of our consciousness is quite powerful and if we are not familiar with ourselves, very quickly those types of instincts and urges can take over.  People then wonder how they ended up doing something terrible.  Eikasia is related to subjective, sleeping fantasies, have really no reality. 

Next, we have PistisPistis can mean different things but in this context, it is related to beliefs and opinions. It is commonly associated with the “vigil state.”  We place quotes because it is not a good way of understanding this.  We are often in a state of Pistis when we are physically awake and going about our day.  But the reality is that we are not totally awake.  We are mostly still sleeping.  We are in an identified state.  We do not really see things rationally.  We are just sort of reacting, and we are reacting in accordance with our beliefs and opinions, very subjective things.

Commonly, this is what we will see within our life. Most of us are at this level, constantly reacting and interacting at the level of Pistis, beliefs.  All these beliefs that we have that normally, unless we do a special work on ourselves, we do not even recognize we have them.  Many things to do with our culture, many things that do with our religion, with tradition that have not been questioned. For example, what does it mean to be polite versus not polite is completely  variable throughout the world.  And this is because it is just based upon history, random accidents that this part of the world believes it is polite to do this and another part of the world believes it is polite to do something else.  We can get very offended just because someone acts in another way. 

Pistis is where we find most of our self identity.  Pistis we have some level of coherency. The ‘self’ that we carry throughout the day is more or less a set of beliefs we create a narrative about… we’re able to get up, get ready for the day, go to work or go to school or do what we have to do for the day, and we have a continuity that move through life with.  Whereas the state of Eikasia is very much more chaotic and almost unknowing of oneself. 

Eikasia is very much like a sleepwalker, where even if you were to try to talk to them, like if you get extremely intoxicated or drunk, people totally forget themselves.  They do not know what happened, they do not even know how they got from one place to another.  When you intoxicate yourself in that way, you are submerging yourself to lower levels of consciousness.   What is left is just this state of Eikasia, wandering around. Part of the reason why it is so difficult understand these states in a practical way is because we normally have a simplistic understanding of what our inner content is, what our mind, what our soul is.  We think of ourselves as a simple object that is maybe in Eikasia but then later maybe it is in Pistis and later it is in Dianoia as this whole, solid object. This is a naïve unexamined sense of self.

We are more like a jar full of water with different elements in it.  At the bottom there is mud and muck, and as you go towards the top it may get cleaner or more transparent.  But really there are all these different levels in there and you can almost imagine when you have oil and water, they separate in different levels.  But we are that whole jar. 

The reality is we have a tremendous amount being in Eikasia, less of it in Pistis, a small amount in Dianoia and barely anything related to Nous, which we will get to. Even when we are in the state of Pistis there is still a tremendous amount of content or activity happening within ourselves related to Eikasia, which is our unconsciousness.  That level of Eikasia bubbles up or kind of emerges like a crocodile out of the waters up to the state of our consciousness that we perceive.

For example, we may have a very unconscious reaction to somebody, the state of Pistis just says, “well I don’t like that person, they’re not good.” A belief is formed about it.  The belief is this thin wrapper around what is a deeper instinctual motivation related to Eikasia.

Then we have the false convenience of thinking we really understand why we do not really like that person, but really it is this more instinctual level.  Many people will spend almost their entire life no higher than Pistis.  For most, there are very few times being in the state of Dianoia because the demands of life for most people do not require to be in the state of Dianoia.  You could have a successful life in terms of making enough money and having a roof over your head and things like that, success in this world, and never have moments of Dianoia.

The state of Dianoia is really where we begin to have some semblance of objectivity, some semblance of being rational.  People who are in the sate of Pistis always believe they are very rational.  But it is particularly that, a belief.  The state of Pistis is the state of group-think, the state of wanting to be in a collective, to be protected by being in a group, to being in a herd, to being “I’m part of this group”, or “I’m a part of that group”, political group, religious group, cultural group, where we grew up, the people that are around us, being part of that group, tremendous amount of feeling of self, a feeling of safety emerges from that.  But really, it is the state of Pistis, it is the state of just believing in it. A self encapsulating attitude: I believe in the group because that is the group I belong to. 

There is not a tremendous amount of rationality about that.  So, all the states of mind that have to do with us versus them, the states of mind that wants to protect oneself against the others fundamentally based on fear, and fundamentally rooted in Pistis.  And if you observe your mind or if you look at most of the conversation and dialogue particularly what is on the media, you will find it is all about these groups.  What group are you in, and can you be in this group, or that group, and who is attacking us, and how do we need to bolster our group and defend ourselves from the other group, the enemies. 

So, the state of Dianoia is extremely different.  To truly be establishing yourself in the state of Dianoia means you must recognize who you are within that group.  What parts of yourself have been sheaths or clothing that you just acquired from the group that you have been part of.  And what part of yourself, what have you examined?

Because with Dianoia becomes a revision of beliefs.  So, Dianoia begins by revising everything about yourself.  Everything.  Questioning it.  More than that, that questioning is coming through self cognizance.  In other words, a state of remembering oneself, or observing oneself.  So, what does that mean?  What that means is you are aware that when a strong emotion appears in you, you are aware that it is just your emotional state.  And that what you are fundamentally is not just an emotional state.  It is a remembrance that when you have a strong belief or some theories, or you have some idea in your head, some thoughts, that the thoughts do not totally encompass who you are as person. 

Because normally when we have thoughts, well who is the one that thought them?  Normally the thoughts are already there. We do not know why they have arrived.  We may have some beliefs about it.  We think about stuff most of the time because there is something going on that is bothering us, or there is something that we want, we want to achieve something, and we are trying to but the pieces together, we are trying to lay out the pieces and be rational about it.  To understand by breaking things up and putting things together, to figure out how life is actually working so that you can be better or be better at being a parent, be better at work, to get the things that you want.  Maybe sometimes it is very selfish, maybe sometimes it is a good cause.  Or often what we do is that when we have these feelings that we do not like, or do not enjoy, we can end up using the intellect to justify why it is good that we feel that way. Or we can use the intellect, like we have a feeling that we do not like, and we could find a reason, we can point that reason at a million things in the world. 

It is interesting about that, we reflexively like to find the source of blame, “this is why I feel this way.”  But it is very superficial.  Maybe there is someone in your life who is very annoying, or they are causing problems.  Superficially you can say that that is the reason why I am annoyed.  But what do you do with that?  The only option you have is to try to get away from that person, or to force that person to be different, or to blame that person.  The reality is, ok they are annoying you, but you do not know why that person annoys and this other person does not.  You do not really know why.  You may say, I do not like that person, and I do like this person.  But that does not get you any further either.  You must see what is coming up within yourself.  It is usually something it would not immediately recognize.  We like to think of ourselves as generally good people, but what is coming up is something rather ugly. 

To look at that, to see that clearly, that is a revision.  That is a beginning to revise your beliefs.  It is not just a cold intellectual analysis of what you like and do not like.  It is really looking at yourself and not immediately accepting everything that arrives within your attention.  So, you immediately sense that you are angry.  What do we normally do? We normally find a rationality – “it is because they did that, I asked them not to do that and they did it anyway.  I have been wronged.”  And we might be satisfied with that, in the immediate sense.  But in the long term that type of repetition does not change anything.  And in fact, a lot of people grow resentful.  Because they keep having that feeling, they keep blaming the other person, the other person does not change.  So now you turn the crank again and you become a little more resentful against them.  It happens all the time.  And because we do not really understand how to change ourselves, we do not know how to really enjoy or love that person.  We literally do not know how to be compassionate, and sincere, and joyful in the presence of this other person, so the only thing we are left with is to blame them and be resentful.

Part of that is because we have not been taught how to change ourselves, how to go into ourselves and really go deep.  Because if you believe that you are fundamentally the thoughts that you have, and if you believe that you are fundamentally those emotions, you will always cling onto them. You will never abandon them. You must abandon them.  As much as your thoughts and feelings tell you what and who you are, they are also extremely superficial.  It almost sounds hurtful to say that, but when you begin to examine yourself, you will see that one day you will feel something very strongly and the next day you do not.  So, what does that mean?  It means that there is not a lot of substantial truth related to those emotions. 

So, we should not be placing our truth or ending our search for the truth inside that emotion.  Likewise, with the thoughts that are arising, which many times we cannot even stop the thoughts that are coming up.  We believe, “that is who I truly am.”  Not necessarily think it literally that way, but we are captive to it.  We do not know what else to do except just, like I said, turn the crank on those thoughts over and over again. We do not know what else to do.  We are trapped in them.

That is partly because we have not been reflecting on what is deeper than that.  No one ever really talks about it in common dialogue of what is deeper than the brain and thoughts and feelings.  Nobody really… not very many people have a particularly good idea about that. 

Moving beyond Pistis into Dianoia is a work of self reflection, becoming aware of ourselves.  And this awareness is the principal thing we need to grasp onto.  There is awareness, I am aware of these thoughts, I am aware of these impulses, these feelings.  Just like you are aware of the television set.  You are not the television set.  You are aware of the television set.  You are not the thoughts, but you are aware of them.  The thoughts came about … your thoughts have something to do with who you are, but they are not what you are.  Likewise, your emotions have something to do with your life and what you are going through, but it is not who you are, it is not what you are.  That awareness to deeply remember, to keep attention on the fact that there is this play of thoughts and emotions cascading in front of you, to focus in on that.  You begin to realize deeper and deeper that it is your awareness that is what you are.

That awareness itself brought to the maximum slowly pulls all that energy away from your thoughts and emotions and just like climbing to the top of a mountain, you finally climb above the treeline and you climb above even the clouds, you can finally see with tremendous clarity.  Where before you were just in the woods, you could not see anything but the trees in front of you.  But to get to the top of the mountain, it is not easy.  People say, “well I try to meditate but it doesn’t really work for me”.  The reality is you must be very persistent.  What would you tell somebody who said, “well, I tried to run a marathon, but I just couldn’t, it didn’t work”?  Did you practice, did you train, did you get a trainer, did you figure out how you are going to make your body capable of doing that?  If they said no, and you say, “well, that may be the problem.  You have to train for that.

We are incredibly impoverished with our understanding of what meditation is.  We do not realize that, just because it is hard today doesn’t mean it is wrong for us, or that it is not helping us.  Just like beginning to train to climb a mountain, it is going to be painful, but you get something out of it.  It is not like nothing is happening.  What often happens you get the little bit of attention and you all of sudden see with a lot more clarity that you have a lot more thoughts, a lot more anxieties, a lot more sadness, a lot more chaos going on inside than you thought prior to that.  That is not a pleasant experience.

In the immediate sense, it is a very unpleasant experience.  This is another fundamental flaw that we must clarify.   People think meditation is about being happy and getting a blissful state of experience.  It is not.  It is about knowing the truth about yourself.  Now, if you get to the top of the mountain, now you have that incredibly beautiful view.  Yes there is that experience in meditation enjoyable. All the way from nice, pleasant experience, to a transcendental experience.  Those things are part of meditation, but it is not the goal, not the reason why you to meditate. Those are just results. 

Jesus states: “the Truth will set you free.”  But Jesus did not say that the Truth is easy, or that it is not painful.  It can be extremely unpleasant.  So, we have to orientate, maybe think about: “what do I really want?”  And in the immediate sense, “what am I willing to give up?”  Because all these beliefs that we have are like little houses that we like to live in.  And we shelter ourselves in them. They feel safe and secure, certain habitual ways of thinking.  They are what we know.  They are what we go back to.  We feel safe and secure with them.  And to try to get out of them, it is not a very pleasant experience.

We must turn our mind over in these ideas again, and again, and again.  Because habitually we are going to go back to being cranky and moody and not wanting to meditate and all these things.  We must continue to turn our mind to you know, “what really matters is that I learn how to extract myself from these lower states of mind, so I can have just some clarity.  So I can understand what is going on in my life…”

As you begin to do that the state of Dianoia becomes more and more established.  You do not just one day magically pop into the state of Dianoia.  It is better to state that little by little you are establishing yourself in Dianoia.  Being able to see with a lot of clarity, the dualism of the mind.  See the word Dianoia has D-I in front of it, meaning seeing both sides of an argument, like a dialogue, dialogic, dialectic – it means seeing both sides. 

And you read the dialogues of Plato, you see the way he dissects the thoughts and the feelings and of all the characters in those works, getting to the ground of something.  You really can only engage in a dialectal manner of thinking if you can see both sides, which means you see what it is, you see it is opposite and you see its synthesis of clarity.  Thesis, antithesis and its synthesis - you see it very clearly.  And you can navigate through all the concepts and ideas without a lot of problem.

The reason why we fail to do that is because most of our consciousness is still in Pistis.  When we try to see it, what we are really seeing is a lot of irrational beliefs and fears, and things about ourselves that beguile us.  We are not really prepared for the reactions that come up.  We are not really aware of what is coming up within ourselves so what we think is kind of an objective analysis, really is not.  If we are constantly being identified with our emotions, if we are constantly identified with our pride, or how good we look, or how much prestige we have or if we are always identified with states of fear and anxiety, or with how depressed we feel, you cannot really be achieving, you cannot be establishing the state of Dianoia.  But little by little you work yourself in the world of Dianoia to eliminate all of those problems.    

When we go into meditation, we temporarily can elevate our state of consciousness and then we can work on those lower levels that are still there.  Dianoia is related to dialectal manner of understanding the world, and it is also related to self cognizance.  Cognizance means to cognize, to see yourself, to be self-aware, to be self-conscious.  It is a weird phrase that we use - self-conscious.  Sometimes we say, “oh I got on stage and I got really self-conscious.”  And actually they are pointing towards “I got really anxious.”  Because we are so unfamiliar with being conscious about ourselves, and our thoughts and our feelings sometimes it makes us feel strange to be conscious of what is going on within ourselves.

The immediate reaction to that is this: “what can I do to put myself back into Pistis or Eikasia?”  We have a lot of worries.  A lot of people turn to alcohol or drugs because they are anxious about the world.  They want to submerge themselves.  They want to get out of being self-conscious about their problems.  They want to get that by having an escape, by intoxicating themselves.  Dianoia is being extremely rational, truly rational.  Dianoia means ‘ratio’.  Ratio is to compare two things.  A ratio is like 1 over 2, to compare two things.  To be rational means to be able to compare things.  The supposed Promise Land of any intellectual or academic is to be super, hyper rational, to see everything rationally.  Certainly, that is better than seeing everything with just irrational beliefs.  But the world of the Dianoia never totally satisfies us as a human being. 

Dianoia is just a stopgap between the final state which is Nous.  In Nous is direct intuition, to just know, not based on prior phenomenal logical experiences in our lives, but just to know something.  So, from time to time many of us feel like we have had that, even if it is just a little spark of knowing something.  But any true rationalist, intellectual, again believing that the consciousness is arriving from the brain only, would not believe in intuition.  So, they stop themselves at Dianoia.  But the reality is that Dianoia is like a false Promised Land for all of those intellectuals because they do not find the peace and happiness that they are looking for.  What they find is a never-ending, competing carnival of different theories.  Every theory is combatted by it is opposite.  And the truth is not anywhere to found in there.

Many intellectuals, very rational, smart people, are more depressed than the people who are not at that level.  According to surveys, the more intellectual you are, you are more likely to have depression, sometimes anxiety.  You can examine the world and take it apart and see things very rationally.  It is good, but you will find that there is not absolute truth in it.  You never reach the absolute truth there.  So, you are always left with thirsting.  And if you think that is it, that there is no higher state than rationality, there is nothing left to do in life, then that is a very depressing state.  So, to get out of that state, again, people go to the bar. They do not believe in Nous. There is no way out of it, so you might as well just intoxicate yourself.

But Nous really is the fourth state, the final state.  This is the state that we are all looking to get to.  First and foremost, we need to establish ourselves in Dianoia, which is not a simple or easy thing to do.  It takes a lot of work.  We should not assume it because everybody in Pistis believes they are in Dianoia already.  They believe it, but who is for real?  We can only through a tremendous amount of work and reflection, raise our level of being.  But just because we have a belief about how self-aware we are, does not mean that we are.  And we know that we are not in Dianoia every time we get annoyed with other people.  Every time that we have these discursive thoughts, these unhealthy beliefs or emotions or impulses to get even and hurt other people, to feel superior, to feel better than someone else—that is not the state of Dianoia.  We like to live in fantasies. We like to believe we are in one state and ignore all this other stuff going on.

Nous is related to direct intuition.  We all have a connection to our inner God, our inner spirit.  It is like an inner star that is shining its light on us.  And every time we have a true impulse, a true piece of intuition and we actually follow it, it brings us closer to the truth.  Once again, it is so easy to mistake what is truly instinct and we think it is intuition.  Because instinct is sort of just there and feels so powerful and so strong.  So, we often confuse instinct with intuition.  And this is exactly the great chasm that we need to cross.  Because our extraordinarily strong impulses are almost always instinctive.  And we need to take all that power and energy and bring it across to the other shore, to the other side of the river, which is where the power of intuition is.  And little by little, again this is a self-work, we have those impulses and if we are meditating a lot then that capacity for a clear sky, to see the stars shining on us in meditation is a great analogy.  That the sky is like the state of your mind.  If you have a cloudy sky, that means you are very cloudy inside.  If it is hailing and thunder storming and raining, it is a very chaotic mind. 

But when the clouds dissolve and you see something very bright shining on you, that is like having clarity.  And in meditation, when you are persistent, you have these times when it is like the clouds dissolve and you are at a place where you are much more awake, and aware, and at peace.  Because the light is shining, you are bathing yourself in that light, which is your own awareness, which is your own divine intelligence.  The more time you spend in that place, the more opportunities you are giving yourself to having these intuitive impulses.  And just like those three wiseman that follow the north star to the Saviour.  Inside of us we need to be like that, always following our north star. But in order to follow the north star, we have to pay attention. We have to reflect and look within and find it. 

In the times that we want to do that the least, are the times when we need to do it the most.  Because when we are in the most wrapped up in the challenges, in the unpleasantness of life is when we need those states the most.  And it is also when we forget the most to do it, or we do not believe in it.  We just do not want to do it ‘right now’.  But when we learn that worse your situation, more reason to look within, then we will begin to heal ourselves and pull ourselves up.

So, the state of Nous is extremely profound.  Someone who has established in the state of Nous, and by established, I mean there is none of those other levels active.  We are truly established in the state of Nous, then you are a prophet or an avatar, you are type of individual directly connected to divinity like Jesus, Moses, Buddha.  So Nous is almost out of our understanding, but we can get there. 

First, we need to be establishing ourselves in Dianoia.  The more we are establishing ourselves in Dianoia, the more we can begin to get those intuitive impulses towards Nous.

Samael Aun Weor states about Eikasia:

Eikasia is ignorance, human cruelty, barbarism, exceedingly profound sleep, a brutal and instinctive world, and infra-human state.

Regarding Pistis, he states:

Pistis is the world of opinions and beliefs. Pistis is belief, prejudices, sectarianism, fanaticism, theories in which there does not exist any direct perception of the truth. Pistis is the consciousness of the common level of humanity.

Dianoia:

Dianoia is the intellectual revision of beliefs, analysis, conceptual synthesis, cultural intellectual consciousness, scientific thought, etc. 

Finally, Nous:

Nous is perfect awakened consciousness.   Nous is state of Turiya, profound, perfect, interior illumination.  Nous is the legitimate, objective, clairvoyance.  Nous is intuition.

Let us now talk a little bit more about levels of truth.  Those four states of consciousness are inhabited along what we call the Tree of Life.  The Tree of Life is a symbol that we use related to the Hebrew Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, because it is a very powerful tool to understand the various parts of ourselves.

tree of life levels of truth

We see at the top three, a triangle at the top which is the Trinity.  Below that we have seven sephiroth, seven aspects.  And seven plus three is ten, so we have a total of ten aspects here.  In each one of these aspects contains its own relative level of truth.  So, what we are, like I said before, we commonly carry a very naive understanding of what our self is.  We are just thinking that we are this self… we said this, said that, did this, did that, we got angry, got happy over here, we like this, we don’t like that…

We are very undefined.  It’s like this box we labeled ‘self’, but we haven’t actually looked at what is inside. 

Using a tool like the Tree of Life you can separate all those layers.  At the bottom we have the physical body, which we are often very identified with.  We instinctually and reflexively look at ourselves in the mirror and think “That is me.  I am myself.”  We do whatever we do to take care of ourselves.  We could be very identified with ourselves, identified with our appearance.  In any case, there is a relative truth, of course to that aspect of our self.  We carry this body around.  There is a relative truth that if you eat the wrong types of foods it is going to impact your state of mind a little bit.  If you do not have good nutrition, there is a relationship there with your mental health.  We know that if we skip a meal sometimes our blood sugar gets low and we just get a little more irritated, for example.

Learning how to take care of our body, learning how to keep it relatively healthy, eating the best food that we can, is good.  But there are a lot of people who go very extreme and think that if they can take their body with perfect health, that that is a way to find happiness.  The body is going to die anyway.  We are only here temporarily.  The physical body is like a pair of clothing.  And every pair of clothing is eventually worn out.  You throw it out, and that is what our body is like.  While we have it, we should use it like an extremely precious, beautiful gift because it is exactly that.  We should take care of it, but do not think it is our true self.

A physical body has its vital energy, its chemistry, its biology. Many traditions talk about the vital body, the body of Qi [chi], the energetic aspect of our body.  And when we are in meditation a lot of times we sit down in meditation, the first thing that we need to do is relax our physical body.  So, maybe we are told to sit in a good posture. We sit and try to relax but we have pains, our body is in pain.  Or we try to sit and not move but out of nowhere our face starts to itch, or some part of ourselves gets irritated.  It was not irritated before when we were not trying to relax, and now we are trying to be at peace and suddenly different parts of our body are irritated.  A lot of times it has to do with our vital body, our energy being very chaotic. 

What stirs up that energy is the levels of our emotion and the levels of our mind spinning, they stir up a lot of energy into even our biology.  And we know that if we have anxieties or different ways that our emotions can impact our digestion. They can impact even physically; you can get ailments due to stress.  So, you see how those levels of our self can impact the energetic level.  And then when we go to meditate, our body rebels… we cannot relax.  So, beyond our vitality, which of course the very center or root or most powerful aspect our vitality related to our sexual center, and beyond our energetic body, our vital body, we have our vehicles of emotion and mind which are our thoughts and feelings.

And as I was saying before, normally when if we try to relax those aspects of ourselves are now becoming more apparent.  Especially if we close our eyes, we are taking the attention away from the external world.  We are trying to relax and see what is going on inside.  Immediately we might have these emotions, thoughts appearing.  And this is a difficult aspect when we are talking about meditation it is difficult for people to extract themselves or see what is beyond that.  Because our emotions and our thoughts are like tempting serpents in us.  They are always tempting us to feel that way.  We are sort of fascinated.  We do not think of it as fascination, but when we are afraid of something and we cannot stop thinking about it, it is because we have a fear which is instinctual, because we do not feel safe or secure.

Then our mind takes that and tries to work with it and pull apart into pieces and see where do I solve this, and put it back together in a different way, and maybe if I do this or and maybe if I do that, and lays it all out, and does not see a very good solution so it does it again.  It does it again.  And that is us going around and around.  And we are identified with that sense of insecurity.  Because when we say, “just stop thinking about it,” it does not really work that way.  You cannot just stop thinking about it, normally. If you are very identified with it, it does not work that way. The way through that is to recognize, to cognize, to see what is really beyond this intellectual rumination.  What is the emotional content?  A lot of times it is related to fear, insecurity.  And you might say, “that is irrational, I shouldn’t be that way.”  Yes, it is good to recognize that level of irrationality but sometimes this does not remove the irrationality.  You are still stuck with it, even knowing it is not good.

To move through that you must keep your attention on the fact that you can observe the qualities of your state of mind.  Observing, just like sinking, into those waters of your mind.  Sometimes you just must be very still to see how deep that goes.  A lot of times we have an aversion to sinking into that unknown, whatever that might be, that fear, that state of mind that is anxious.  Because if you believe that you are fundamentally that emotion, that insecurity, that fear, that pride, whatever it is, you will not want to sink down into it.  You do not want to find out what is underneath that.  A lot of people are afraid underneath that might be something even worse.  Fear of the unknown.  Because it is a fear there, a fear of the fear.  We must get through that.  It is important to know that you are not that, in essence you are not that ball of anxious or depressed energy. You can go through it.  But if we are sort of anxious, if we do not to look at it straight on, we do not want to sink into it, we want to avoid it in any sense, you will not get through it.

Can you see that we have gone from the physical, to the vital, and now through the emotional and mental? Each as a level of truth, but none of them are, in essence, the ‘self.’

Beyond the mind is our volition, is our willpower. 

You must want to move through the mind.  But it is like a wave, it is like a huge wave coming.  And you may respond, “This wave is going to crush me. I do not know what is going to happen, but this wave is going to crush me and I am going to go tumbling in the waters and I do not know which way is up and I do not know which way is down.”  A lot of times we sense that, and we simply lack the will to go into it.  We just do not want to go in.  If you believe that you could be crushed and annihilated inside of meditation, then you believe that meditation can kill you or something.  But if you sit, and just sit, and be present and aware, and seeing that avalanche just take you on, the emotion feels like doom is impending.  Someone once told me, “I look at myself and I feel this doom.”  Yeah! Your mind is doomed.  You must be aware and just see that.  If you observe the qualities of that experience, those strong emotions just come straight through you, and eventually they will calm down and you will be on the other side of it.

Now if you have never experienced that, then you can only have some type of belief about it. But if you have any trust in these teachings, then that is the technique, when faced with that intense emotion to just see it straight through.  Of course, appealing to some higher power if you are really, really having a difficult time.  Invoke God, pray, ask for something more because you can make it through those difficult emotions, and then you find yourself more established, with willpower.

Now you may not always succeed.  This all happens in degrees and a gradient. I am not saying that you will immediately be in a state of perfect willpower.  But eventually if you persist, a master of meditation gets to a state of perfect willpower. In that state, the mind, emotions, and the physical body, and the physical body’s energy are totally dormant like a sleeping animal. Then, you do not have to worry about any of those levels distracting you.

When this is achieved, you now have perfect serenity and direction on what you want to do with your consciousness.   In the beginning, we just must recognize, no matter how strong our emotions and thoughts are, it is not what we are.  But again, me saying and someone hearing it just once might not really connect, but to turn your mind over into that again and again and again, and keep going back, to contemplate: “Why do not I trust the fact that I am my own awareness, why do not I trust that, why do I keep entangling myself in these ruminations?

Well beyond our volition, which is related to the sphere of Tiphereth, beyond that we start getting into divine consciousness.   Beyond Tipereth is Geburah, where we find a source of intuition.  Also, Geburah is related to power and strength.  So, our very, we could say, human consciousness is very pure.  It has volition.  It can do its own will, our own human will.  But the power behind that is always God.  That is related to Geburah.  And the human will, if it is doing the will of God perfectly, it is seeing these higher levels of consciousness and then acting on it.  Because God is our inner divinity, is a type of perfection related to our inner divinity.  We have a type of perfection inside of ourselves.  The problem is we do not recognize it, we do not see it, we do not know how to make it out.  We confuse our intuitions with our instincts. So, beyond our own will we have our inner Geburah, our strength, our power, our intuition.

And beyond that is Chesed which is truly our inner sprit.  Chesed means mercy.  Chesed is also related to love and compassion.  And we have overwhelming serenity and love and compassion.  We are vibrating with these higher truths.  Of course, beyond that we have the three, the Trinity, which is beyond even our inner spirit, which all of these very divine principles, cosmic principles are within ourselves.  And in any particular practice of meditation, someone can elevate themselves all the way up to the very top, Kether, which is Father.  That is possible on any particular meditation.   And any particular meditation someone could get stuck at the level of the vital body and feel the twitches and itches and the pains and not be able to get beyond that. 

We need to find our particular truth and meditation, so we might be able to achieve a of truth beyond our mind and emotion for that particular meditation.   And because we are able to achieve that, we are able to work on those states of consciousness, establishing them, those four states, in our life.  The way that our life unfolds, whether good or neutral or unpleasant, we take all of those things and we bring them into meditation.   And this is how step by step we balance our life by going within ourselves and finding our inner truth within a meditation, and then we take that type of experiences and live our life, live a deeper truth in our life achieving Dianoia and Nous

The Tree of Life seen here is a little bit incomplete because really below is all these states of consciousness, which are inferior, are below Malkuth. They are related to Eikasia and Pistis, so our subconsciousness.  Sometimes we say subconsciousness, unconsciousness, infra-consciousness.  Subconsciousness means things are just below our consciousness, sub, just right below. With a small amount of effort you can begin to see some of those things.  Unconsciousness is much deeper, and really, although it is very, very, very present, and it takes up a lot of our inner activity, it takes directed amount of work to begin to see into the unconscious.  And beyond that is the infra-conscious, which is related to our animal, instinctual nature.  It is extremely infra-human.  But all of that through our Gnostic work, we eliminate, we bring all of that into consciousness.

Just like that analogy where they say an iceberg - most of the content of the iceberg is below the water and only a small amount is above the water.  Related to our consciousness, most of our consciousness is one of these types – sub, un or infra-conscious.  When we live on a small little layer, carrying our self… when someone says our name we know to respond to our name.  And we have our life thinking that we are so self-knowledgeable but really most of our self we don’t even know about.

These layers of unconsciousness we often put them below Malkuth but in a sense they encompass our emotions and our mind.  And really our willpower, our volition is trapped inside our emotions and our mind.  That is why it is just not easy to do some things.  Some things are extremely easy especially when they are self fulfilling, self feeding our desires, it is really easy to do some things.  But other things we know that they are very healthy for us, and we know that they may be part of our goals but it is just not easy to do them.  We have a resistance.  We find other things to do instead of doing that and it is because the willpower to just do it simply and easily is trapped in our ego which is subconscious, unconscious or infra-conscious.

In terms of these four states in Buddhist philosophy they have in the Yogachara school there is three modes of knowledge or three types of truth.

The lowest one being the world of fantasy: Parikalpita.  And again, it is imagined reality based on ignorance.  It is very much related to Eikasia, fantasy, images, projections, conjuring of things but they do not have anything to do with objective truth.  They are fantasy. They do not have a substantial truth.

And the often this is symbolized or allegorized as seeing a rope in an occluded or shady corner like if you opened up a closet, or a shed and saw a snake in the corner of the shed but really it’s just a rope.  You see it and you instinctually react as if it is a snake.  It is coiled, maybe it looks like that, but really it is just a rope.

That quandary, that paradox happens in our mind all the time.  The story is something you can think about physically, but really, we see things in our mind all the time.  “Oh, I know why she is doing that, she is jealous,” we think of these things which is based within the shadows of mind.  We see something and we build up some fantasy of some scenario, “people are out to get me,” “why does this always have to happen to me,” all sorts of narratives we tell ourselves. It is really just that we saw something and we projected our own fantasy on top of it.  It is a fantasy that usually corroborates some larger narrative that we like to tell about ourselves.  “I am always the persecuted one…”, “I am always the one who needs to be responsible,” all these things that we tell ourselves that is going on in our mind.  We have to analyze them and see, is it a projection?  Do the facts of what is happening fit this narrative that I am superimposing on top of it? 

When we begin to do that, that is moving into this second mode of truth which is called Paratantra – which is the world of phenomena.  Again, this is beginning to actually see how the world is unfolding in front of you without fantasy.  But seeing that all things are chained together in causes and effects, and that all things that are existent came to be existent because of many different factors. They are composed or a composite of many things.  And more over all things are composite, all things are composed of other things.  And everything that is composite breaks down.  There is no thing that was brought together that does not fall apart.  And that is not a sad thing, that is just the truth.  Everything will fall apart.  But if you believe that the world of phenomena, how things come together, if you think that is the final truth, it feels like a very depressing truth. 

But to live, to have the mode of Paratantra (in this sense tantra means continuum, chain of cause and effect), to actually see the world in that way, this is to see the rope as the rope, so to speak.  To see things rationally, to see it as a cause and effect.  Things are happening because of a series or a chain of causes in events and things do not just happen for no reason. 

The world of Paratantra though goes a lot further than just rationality because you might say I do not know why this happened; I do not see any reason. But the world of Paratantra goes into many of those upper sephiroth’s, into layers and dimensions of space that we are not normally aware of, that are not just related to the physical world.  Because causes and conditions are related to the world, the internal world, the superior worlds, nirvana, heaven whatever you want to talk about. Those worlds are also related to cause and effect. This is another thing that Jesus stated: Heaven and Earth shall pass away, is what Jesus states. Meaning, Heaven was created, Heaven will pass away.

We also said that the word of God will not pass away.  And that is related to the highest Truth, which is this Absolute Truth - Paramartha.  Ultimate truth which is unknowable to our normal state of mind.  It is only knowable to that pure consciousness, that pure awareness, when it unites with divinity.  This is related to the emptiness, the void, the illuminated void, transcendental experience.  A type of experience which cannot be conveyed with any words because the words would just disfigure it. 

This is the type of universal cosmic intelligence where subject and object are merged as one.  The rope and the experience are the same effulgent beingness, which is that illuminated void.  A spacious, unbounded, or limitless consciousness in light within which everything possible is there in potential.  Anything that could be created is created out of that.  That is a state not just a philosophical truth, but it is a state that we can experience.  This is the very highest levels of meditative, transcendent experience. 

We are going to end with this quote form the gospel of Thomas:

“When you know yourselves then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves then you live in poverty and you are that poverty.”

Truly we are impoverished, searching. Whether we know it or not we are always searching for our inner truth, whether we think we are or not.  Because we are always impelled to act.  We have these reactions to the way the world is happening, the way the people in our life are treating us.  We have these activities going on and we react, and we respond in whatever way comes up in our mind.  But it is all based upon this core yearning to know the truth, to know the truth about the world and about ourselves.  When we do not know about ourselves, we live in a psychological poverty.  This is not about physical poverty, this is about our psychological poverty.  We are very poor within ourselves.  I know they say that we should be poor in spirit, but we are very rich in our mind. We can not enter those higher states of mind being very enriched, very puffed out in all these ideas that we have. 

Do you have any questions? 

Q: Regarding Pistis, which is really beliefs [inaudible] not only rationality.  How do I associate that with Sophia, Pistis Sophia which is one of the main books where the word Pistis is there?

A: The word Pistis is in a very profound Gnostic book – Pistis Sophia.  When in the state of Pistis, you are always empowered, you think that you have this power to act based on this belief.  So, there is this emboldenment, there is this sort of power there. But it is the wrong, inverted type.  So, this Pistis that we are talking about in this lecture is not the same Pistis of Pistis Sophia.  Pistis is related to the left column, Sophia, is the word that means wisdom.  And wisdom is related to Chokmah, Chokmah means wisdom, related to the right column.  So Pistis Sophia is the combination of both columns being completely upright.  And in this case in Pisits Sophia, Pistis is related to the power of God, the power of Divinity and Sophia is related to the Wisdom, so that wisdom and power are perfectly united.

When you talk about Pistis in terms of the four states of consciousness, it is a power but it is inverted, because when people are in the state of Pistis they go off and do all sorts of things, they try to change the world, they are very emboldened but with an infra or unconscious state of mind.  So, beliefs, we feel very powerful when we are believing in ourselves, so it is like this left column side of the Tree of Life but inverted. 

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