Machinery of the Soul 06: Gnostic Revolutionary Ethics
Initiation is a process that is very intimate to the soul. Initiation has nothing to do with the development of our personality or how intellectual we might become, or how eloquent we can express our thoughts. Initiation is the stages of developing all of the capacities, all of the virtues and powers of the Soul. We often talk about initiation because it is very important to understand that our present state, our present condition is not something that is complete. We need to perform a work, and we need to walk upon a path, a path of initiation.
The word itself, initiation, comes from initiate which means “to start something, to begin”. So we need to begin that development, but there are many different aspects or levels and in each of these aspects we need to initiate a development. So many students wish to acquire certain powers of the Soul, but the reality is before we can traverse or truly walk on the path of initiation we need to develop a psychological equilibrium within ourselves. We need to develop balance. This is a process related to psychological death and, of course, related to birth. We need to give birth to numerous faculties within ourselves in order to become balanced.
In the book, Fundamentals of Gnostic Education, Samael Aun Weor writes that,
“The truth is that before the individual acquires new faculties or powers that he does not even remotely know about and which he does not possess, he must first acquire the faculties and powers that he mistakenly thinks he has, but indeed does not”.
We speak in very direct ways, and the Master speaks and writes in very direct ways, about powerful methods of awakening and certain experiences which can occur. The student is inspired to want to walk on that path, and develop those capacities, those qualities, but the reality is it takes a lot of preparatory work before we can legitimately walk on the path of initiation. If we want to walk on the path of initiation we need to know what that basis is.
This is why Samael writes in The Perfect Matrimony that love is the basis and foundation of initiation. It is necessary to know how to love. Now, love is a word that is passed around like its something ordinary and common. We talk about loving a meal that we ate or a dress or outfit that we bought, that we just “love” it. Such language really waters down what we actually are trying to truly to point to when we talk about love, because love is something that is truly transcendental. It is something that is related to the Soul, and related to true happiness and bliss. We have been miseducated and conditioned to really forget about what true happiness is.
In order to develop love we need to talk about ethics. Ethics is often understood as rules or certain protocols of behaviour, and in our modern time there are many aspirants who think that to have lots of rules or precepts that one must follow represents a type of inferior or unnecessary type of teaching. The truth is that we need to follow our own inner Being ultimately, but it is also a fact that we are completely lost, we are in the darkness, we are not awakened and, therefore, to naively believe that we can know how to walk on the path, that we can recognise what true liberated states of consciousness without following any type of guidance, well this is absurd, it is ridiculous. There has never been a teacher or any prophet who did not have a teacher of their own that guided them and that such teachers always listened to the Law, to the true ethical conduct that is necessary.
We need to understand that when we say “ethics”, we like to say “revolutionary ethics”, in order to differentiate it from a type of mechanical moral code that is often proliferated as being what is the right way to behave or what makes a good person to simply follow a set of rules. So revolutionary ethics is always pointing towards a psychological understanding of the human being. We need to understand ourselves psychologically. Instead of looking at ethics as a set of rules that sort of limit one’s behaviours, ethics is actually the structure that allows our true Being, that allows our consciousness to manifest itself unobscured and unconditioned. Our consciousness, our soul, one of its innate natures or qualities is that of happiness - true happiness, blissfulness - and one of complete love.
Now, that is nice to say, but the reality is moment-by-moment we have a manifold set of factors which prohibits the natural and spontaneous flow of that blissful and living nature that we inherently have, and, such nature that we have is all that we need to have for happiness. We don’t need anything outside of ourselves in that respect. So, therefore, if we can accept this notion, which all of the scriptures state - that “happiness comes from within” - then we must logically conclude that all these desires that we have, the cravings we have and all the reactions we have that are not compassionate and happy, or related to contentment, then all of these things that we have - like anger and jealousy and pride - those must not be our real self. Therefore, if we were to express ourselves in those elements we are never going to achieve happiness. We are going to actually condition ourselves to be more mechanical and locked in that conditioning, into that suffering. So when we talk about ethics, we need to talk about it from a psychological standpoint. We need to understand that ethics are the structures which set us up with a balanced psychology, which allows our inner qualities of beauty, strength, willpower, compassion, etc., to spontaneously flow out into the world.
Samael Aun Weor writes in The Spiritual Power of Sound that
“It is clear that in order to disintegrate the “I,” a revolutionary ethics based on psychology is necessary…”
We can relate revolutionary ethics to our Three Brains and state that: revolutionary ethics are the thoughts, emotions and behaviours which transform or revolutionise the energy of life in ways that are conducive to our psychological liberation.
Often the new student that is very interested in these teachings wants to have all the profound experiences and all the profound capacities, but they sort of skip or don’t realise that they need to look at the very moment of their life now, and understand what is going on in this exact moment, instead of trying to achieve some future moment to develop something which they do not have any comprehension of. If you don’t comprehend who you are today, you can never develop those suprasensible powers.
So true love can only manifest through true ethical conduct. In the beginning, all of the precepts of ethics, ethical conduct, all of the things that we should be doing, at first they are conceptual because we have not done them yet. But as we begin to live them, we start to embody them, and instead of them being these external rules, they become very natural. Now, what we do not do is list a bunch of rules and just say, “follow these rules”. This would never work. This basically is what many religions do these days, and even if an aspirant is very motivated to follow all of those rules, what eventually happens, more often than not, is some type of loss of interest, or some type of crack in the person occurs. It can even be quite traumatic, because it is almost impossible to live these extremely lofty goals in life, of the teachings as they are stated. So if you don’t become psychological in your application of the ethics, they are impossible to actually achieve. For example, the teachings such as those which Jesus states on the Sermon on the Mount. Without becoming psychological in your ethical work, you end up usually becoming more complacent and perhaps even thinking that it is even impossible to achieve a transformation.
In order to deal with ethics in a psychological sense, we can contextualise the necessary realizations in a couple of statements. The first one, of course, is that we need to comprehend the reality of our psychological condition. Maybe not the full, complete reality of what our psychological condition is, but we should understand that we have a multitudinous set of factors which prevent us from being spontaneously happy or compassionate in any particular moment. If I were to ask you to simply drop all of your thoughts, and empty your emotional sense of all content, and now embody complete and total compassion for the entire world, all day, from now until the day that you die, it would be impossible. This is because we don’t have the freedom to do that. We have many factors, we have many obscurations and afflictions. In other words, we have the ego which is really a set of egos.
So the reality is that we are psychologically imprisoned. We are not free. If we don’t accept that we have some type of psychological imprisonment, some type of suffering that is going on because of that, then you are never going to truly have the motivation to want to emancipate yourself from that condition. The first thing that we need, to not only accept but begin to accept but comprehend, is the reality of our psychological imprisonment. Certainly if someone is not interested in a spiritual work, they probably don’t accept this. But even if we are in these teachings and we accept it, we might only accept it on a superficial level. In other words, we become very complacent with our situation in life. Sometimes there is not a lot of outward or very acute levels of suffering going on, so we may not really embody or remember that our state of consciousness is asleep, and that our true capacities are undeveloped and unable to be expressed, and that we are not really psychologically free.
In order to comprehend the reality of one’s psychological imprisonment you have to begin to look inside yourself. You have to begin to meditate, and to use mindfulness and self-observation throughout the day, to see what your psychological processes are. In the simplest of terms: if thoughts arrive without your prior endorsement, with just a spontaneity, and they are thoughts that do not embody the principles of life that you wish to embody, then why did that thought appear? If those thoughts are appearing that are related to being identified with material things, being jealous, being proud, anger, etc. etc., all of those things which just appear, if those things are appearing in your mind, you have to understand the process little-by-little of why they are appearing. So we need to comprehend the reality of our psychological imprisonment.
This leads to that next step which is that not only is that psychological imprisonment a reality, but there are causes and results that are occurring in that process. That our current condition is not a random, nonsensical state. That it is actually a result of all of these prior conditions coming together, moment-by-moment, forming our state of mind. Likewise, there is a way to apply some set of forces that could cause the unravelling or disintegration of all of the conditioning factors which produce suffering. So, not only are we psychologically imprisoned, but there is a cause and effect relationship going on. Therefore, there is a possibility to undo these negative patterns of behaviour, negative patterns of emotions and negative patterns of thinking. So it is possible to be emancipated. We have to accept that.
Fourth, and finally, that not only is it possible, but there is a teaching of how to achieve this emancipation. Of course, these are all the true, authentic teachings of religion and of various spiritual traditions. Really these four statements are just a different way of stating the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. It is easy enough to be presented with these Four Noble Truths and automatically believe that we are embodying the reality of those statements, but actually it takes a great deal of effort and discipline to really know those four statements as a fact within yourself. It takes a decent amount of work.
The easiest thing to come to knowledge about is the reality of our psychological imprisonment, obviously. The second thing is that there is a cause and effect relationship. In other words, the world appears to us, and in some way the impressions of life comes into our psyche, and something about that causes a reaction to occur within our mind and within our emotions and within our impulses. So the way that we respond reinforces our patterns of thinking, etc. We begin to learn the First and then the Second Noble Truth, and then the Third is that because we are beginning to see there is a relationship going on - that our thoughts are not just randomly appearing and because there are relationships existing - we begin to realise “yes, there is a possibility that I can transform my state of mind”.
Then the Fourth, of course, is the exact knowledge of how to achieve that emancipation. And little-by-little, as you achieve level-by-level of greater degrees of liberated consciousness, you know that it is a fact and, of course, we can quote many teachers. Jesus stated that we must be “born again”. He stated that, “I am the way, the truth and the life” and that “in your patience possess ye your souls”. So he was pointing to the development of the soul, a re-birth of our soul to give birth to an authentic soul. The Buddha stated, “Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering: it is this noble eightfold path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration”.
And in the Bhagavad-gita Krishna is talking to Arjuna, “The divine nature is deemed for liberation and the demoniacal for bondage. Grieve not, O Arjuna, for thou art born with divine properties!” So in this case Arjuna represents our soul and Krishna represents the same principles as Christ. We have those divine properties. Those divine properties are the properties of our soul, of our psyche, of our consciousness. The demoniacal properties or bondage, well those, of course, are egos, our afflictions.
What is being liberated from suffering?
That brings us to our next topic, which is to understand exactly what is being liberated? We can point to the whole Tree of Life and there are various aspects of the Being represented there. At the lowest aspect related to Malkuth is our physical body. Then we have the soul which is related to our emotions, to our mind and to our willpower (human consciousness or human soul). Then the Spirit is related to the Spiritual Soul and Innermost. Above the Spirit is another level called The Logos or Christ.
The part of the Being which falls into suffering is the soul. The Spirit represents divine principles which are already “Be-ing”. You see the Being already is, but there are certain qualities which can only be developed through a process of the unfoldment of the soul, for the soul to go through all of the drama of having a consciousness which is asleep and overcoming the temptations of desire and learning basically the forces of good and evil as it is stated in the Bible. Through the work of the soul it liberates itself from its own conditioning, from its own karma, and a cognizance of all the properties of the Spirit are known. The Spirit has this innate happiness and bliss, but there is the missing element of the cognizance of all of those properties, and the soul develops that. The soul does all of these works and the vapours or perfumes of cognizance rise to the Spirit. The Spirit is all that which already is. The Spirit has all these beautiful qualities, but the one essential quality that is missing is self-cognizance of exactly what all those qualities are, and the only way to develop those qualities is for the soul to go through all the dramas the soul goes through. The soul falls into suffering and into karma because there is this lack of self-cognizance. There is a type of fundamental ignorance, and that ignorance is represented as not knowing good and evil in the Bible.
The soul is what accumulates the knowledge of good and evil. It has to be acquired. The Soul is an element, and that element is our highest principles of what we presently are, because certainly we are not our physical body, we are not our personality or our name; all of those things go away, and we are not even our thoughts or our emotions. In a similar analysis through reflection, through self-observation, we can see that we are not really those things either, because our thoughts change constantly and we don’t really have control over them. Our emotions likewise. But when you get beyond all those things and you start tapping into the consciousness, the Essence, the psyche, the soul itself, it is that soul who through its dealings and all of its works accumulates that cognizance of good and evil, and then that cognizance begins to develop the full happiness and potentials of the Being. It sounds odd, but the Spirit needs the soul as much as the soul needs the Spirit.
It is the Soul that needs to be liberated, not our physical body, not our sense of identity that we grow up with in a very naïve sense. People think that they are going to achieve initiation with the sense of self that they have and which they carry with them every moment. That is just not true. Initiation is related to the soul and to the Being. It is not related to our personality. Our personality is born and develops in this physical body. Our soul is not only related to this existence, it has been around for much longer than that. The soul has had many different bodies and many different personalities, but if the only sense of self that we know is our personality, then this is an obstacle because we need to go deeper. We need to go deeper than those elements. We need to understand that all the ideas of our self that are related exclusively to this three-dimensional world have very little, if nothing at all to do with our consciousness. We can become conscious and awake within this physical life that we have and that is exactly what we need to do, and through that process we begin to discriminate between what is strictly the personality versus what is truly the consciousness.
False Methods of Liberation
It is also good to talk about false methods of liberation because this helps us clarify our position. It helps us to understand why we need to walk on the Path of Initiation. In every day life you are going to find a lot of theories and ideas about what the human condition is, and what the purpose or point of life is, which have nothing to do with the Path of Initiation.
The most basic thing is that people just deny that there is any type of work that needs to be done. They don’t believe that there is any type of psychological effort that needs to be applied or that it is possible to achieve true liberation or transcendence in any way. This is basic denial or ignorance.
Modern academic theories and research are almost exclusively locked within a materialistic framework, and that necessarily means that the idea or understanding of the human being is just a material, physical body. And if we are nothing more than a material, physical body then what the purpose of life is, cannot be anything to do with liberation of the soul because the soul does not exist in that context, in that world view. You have to understand that when research is coming out or ideas are coming out about how to live life and what is important in life, a lot of people are only concerned with this physical world. They only have a concern for maybe making progress in this physical landscape and they completely ignore or don’t believe there is any reality of psychological transformation. So if you believe that there is not a possibility of developing a state of consciousness which has nothing to do with the physical world, then you would never have any interest in it. If you are very motivated, you might develop and want to transform society in different ways in the external world. That is not an issue so there is not a problem with that per se, but we can become overly identified with it. We need to find a balance. The things on this planet that are going on, a lot of it is very difficult to transform, and what can happen is that people get overly identified with these scenarios, political scenarios, and issues that are going on in the world, while forgetting - or at the cost of - their own psychological work. It is not that we need to ignore the world outside of ourselves, it’s that we need to make use of that intelligently to help our work.
A classic example of looking at the exterior world would be something like Marxism which believes in social transformation through the redistribution of capital. In this system of Marx there is no soul, there is nothing else besides the material world and, therefore, if we are all reduced to material beings, the only thing that matters is that distribution of that material. People get enamoured with that type of philosophy because it rings a certain truth, basically, that society should have some type of equality. The reality is that the problems with equality, the tremendous disparities of wealth that are going on in the world, cannot be solved with external laws. They can only be solved through proper Ethics. So we need to become governors of our own psychological landscape. We need to have proper government of our own psychology. If we lack that then we become a part of society which becomes chaotic. In other words, our lack of governance of our own psychology manifests as society which needs more external rules and controls. This is why we see exactly the situation unfolding on a global landscape that many times more and more rules are needed in order to keep society from imploding on itself. Others say they want liberty from central governance - yet the liberty to as one wishes is something terrible if everyone has a big ego. Likewise, without restrictions, big corporations end up acting like big egos which causes suffering for everyone. There is no solition to politics if we do not address our ethics in a personal, individual way.
So anyway there is a lot of ways to just have a basic denial or ignorance about the need for liberation. Many different doctrines – some are philosophical like Marxism or many other types of philosophical systems – and, of course, many are religious as well because so many traditions have watered down, or for some other reason, forgotten the true methods of liberation. They get replaced with very insipient and naïve efforts. Someone might be very sincere in their efforts to try to achieve liberation, or access into Heaven or Nirvana, but they are doing it in a very naïve way that is not actually going to help them. That is really the biggest problem with so many doctrines, false doctrines, and rationalisations are the most difficult and the most subtle of things to realise whether they are right or wrong. They take the most effort. It is not an easy thing to know whether or not the doctrine that you may be following or enacting is really achieving liberation. That is the one that you really have to put to the most test.
The third one, generally speaking, of false methods of liberation would be hedonic pursuits. Hedonic pursuits means to pursue the things in life which are pleasant or pleasurable. This is not just the sort of extreme types of pleasures that we can think of, but it is also the type of saying, “just enjoy the good things in life”. If we live a life that is only concerned with pleasant experiences, this is not a path of liberation. For many people, because they may not know of, or they do not accept true spiritual liberation, they believe that really what you should do with life is just enjoy all the nice things. Again, there is nothing wrong with nice things. We should enjoy when it is opportune to do so. The best thing for our mental health sometimes is to take a walk, to take a vacation, to learn how to garden, or have some type of hobby, do some art, play some music. All sorts of things which are very pleasant. They can be a great antidote to our afflicted states of mind, but to pursue just endless vacations and endless accumulations of wealth as the point of life, represents something very shallow and hollow, because at the end of all those pursuits the psyche is always the same. This is because nothing has happened to liberate that psyche and, in fact, what’s usually happening is that those hedonic pursuits are occurring mechanically, so there is no conscious element really there and active in what’s happening. Instead it is a reinforcement of those habitual patterns becoming more and more mechanical. So, people essentially distract their afflicted states of mind with hedonic pursuits because without them one feels quite empty and hollow and shallow as I said before. This is because if you spend your life only pursuing those things you become more detached from a true content state of consciousness.
Of course, there is an opposite end to the hedonic pursuits which is extreme asceticism which, of course, the life of Buddha illustrates. Not only was the Buddha a Prince and lived in opulence and extreme wealth, he also went to the other extreme. For a time he was living on just a grain or two or rice a day. He became extremely weak and was almost like a bag of bones attempting to find total liberation. Extreme methods of asceticism weaken the body, and we need the body to be healthy and fit in order to receive the elements which we need for our alchemical transmutations. If the body is too weak it cannot transform the energy it needs to transform. The body is very necessary for our work so we need to keep it healthy and there are times when it needs to take a rest. There are times when we work too hard even in our spiritual work. If we are trying to study too much or if we are trying to push our self in a certain way which is out of balance, this can cause an issue. Each of us needs to find our middle way to work on our consciousness, to awaken our consciousness. What that middle way is, is always being refined every step of the way. What one person may find extremely ascetic today, in the future one might find that type of lifestyle to be very pleasant.
These false methods of liberation are what you find everywhere in the modern culture today. Modern culture will deliver all of these types of messages and none of them are really pointing towards liberation. You have to know how to live with discrimination and realise what type of influences are really inconsequential on your psychological work and what type of influences may be impacting your psychological work in a negative way.
Related to our gnostic tradition, even within our tradition there are many false types of rationalisations and ideas related to liberation. It simply is not enough to be associated with a particular school. Even if the person is well liked, and even if that student goes to every lecture and all of the activities. If the student is not working psychologically and changing as a person, none of those other factors matter. To have a spiritual community is a beautiful and wonderful and a helpful thing for our psychological work, but it means nothing if we don’t do the psychological work. And for many people it may actually be an obstacle, a distraction, a hedonic pursuit to be amongst spiritual, or so-called spiritual friends, if they are not doing the work, or, if you get caught up in just being more of a friend than a spiritual student. We need to learn how to discriminate, which in itself is a property of the consciousness.
The Perfection of Ethics
Something we need to understand is that we develop our ethics to a certain degree, we do our best, and then we need to reflect and meditate. Only through that meditation do we achieve superior levels of ethics which then allow us to have deeper realisations, and, to develop that type of discrimination and other qualities better. The only way to have perfect ethics is to have perfect wisdom and knowledge. We can read and study and listen to lectures in order to have an idea, and, we apply how we understand those ideas, but it is critical to reflect on the results and to see if they are leading towards the right direction. It is on-going throughout one’s path. So although ethics is our starting point, it is also our end point because it is only the perfected soul that can perfectly enact ethical conduct and behaviour. And we need to understand that ethics is what sets us up to have freedom. As I said earlier, it is usually almost seen as the exact opposite because ethics is taught as a very incipient set of rules and morals. We are not talking about that. We are talking about a knowledge, a knowing of how the energy of our life flows and how to become very skilful with it so that we can achieve what we are looking for.
It is not good enough to just practice basic mindfulness. The modern mindfulness movement has a lot of positive benefits for many people, but we need to understand that it is not a path. There is a quality that we need from it on our path – basic mindfulness – but we need to know how our mind is actually operating. We need insight. Mindfulness is to stay attentive to that which is important – to be mindful – but we need to develop insight using discrimination. We need to know what is helpful for us on the path. This is why some people who stay in a certain type of basic meditation practice, they don’t develop the insight to really progress on the path as they should.
The product of good ethics is a balanced psychology. If we are becoming more balanced in our life then we know we are developing our ethics. A balanced psychology means that we know how to manage all of the impressions of our day in a way which is related to our consciousness, to our conscious values ,and places more harmony in the world outside of our self. If a day is very difficult and presents us with a lot of challenges, we are able to transform those situations psychologically and behave in a way that is very beneficial not only for ourselves but for the world outside of ourselves. Of course, the opposite of all of that is all of the qualities of the ego, all of the capital sins. If we are responding to difficulties with anger, if we are jealous, if we have hatred, if we are proud, if we are looking to acquire, we crave things, if we are afraid, all of that is representative of qualities of the ego which are manifesting in relationship to what is going on in the outside world. The world appears to us in some way which then manifests these qualities within ourselves, and all of the qualities of the ego are wastes of energy, because instead of the consciousness being able to use that energy, it is being used by the ego. Even laziness is a waste of energy even though we associate laziness with just laying around on the couch. Actually that is a big waste of energy - not in the sense that you just sort of idly waste energy - but that you are actually preventing superior levels of your consciousness from manifesting, because you are suppressing them by not engaging in different impressions and doing what you should be doing with your life.
When we have that balanced psychology, not only is it balanced, there is a cognizance of that balance. There is an awareness of that relaxed and content state of mind. Of course, all of this happens in degrees, little-by-little and it is relative. We begin to approach psychological stability step-by-step. It becomes more and more common that psychology stability and a contentment, a type of peaceful, relaxed happiness starts to appear more and more in our daily life and that appears to be more of our base state of mind throughout any particular day and fewer events in life will cause these negative reactions to stir up. This does not mean that one has eliminated the ego. Not at all. It just means that the most coarse aspects have been worked upon. There is still a tremendous amount of work to do. But some of the most harmful habits or egos begin to be reduced or eliminated in order to provide at least this base equilibrium which then allows us to move forward on the path. So these types of extreme levels of guilt and shame, extreme types of hatred and inabilities to let go of things – things like racing thoughts, inability to sleep, addictions to not just chemicals, but addictions to our computer or our phone and many other things that all need to be worked upon – and through the work those things, if one is really working upon oneself, they get better.
We achieve that basic level of psychological equilibrium and then we begin to really manifest what love is. We don’t have love because of the world giving us something. We manifest that love because the right conditions are present in our mind, in our soul, to allow that expression out into the world. So love is a quality that we already have innately. We just need to put all the conditions in order and then we begin to express those qualities.
This is a difficult and long work. It is not something that happens just because we want it to and it doesn’t happen quickly, but it is absolutely worth it. We will end this lecture with a quote:
“People with subjective psyches are absolutely utopian. They mistakenly suppose that they can be enlightened without having achieved the death of the ego in a radical and categorical way. These people do not want to understand that as long as they are self imprisoned, genuine, objective enlightenment is completely impossible. The price of enlightenment is paid with one’s own life. In the sacred land of the Vedas there are chelas (disciples) that after thirty years of intensive work are only at the beginning, in the prologue of their work”. Samael Aun Weor, The Mystery of the Golden Blossom
The instructors who teach the lectures and courses are volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds. Each has years of experience teaching and working with the practices and exercises that awaken the consciousness. Since the goal of dharma, yoga, or gnosis is to follow our inner Being, and to focus on divinity not terrestrial personalities, the lecturers remain anonymous, and do not broadcast their names, faces, or personal information. They do not have spiritual titles or names, do not accept followers, and live their lives anonymously like any other person in society.