Whenever we think or feel that things shouldn’t be the way that they are then we create the self. Whenever we resist something we create the self. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t ever think that things ‘shouldn’t be the way that they are’ because that creates the self too. That creates the self just the same. Resisting resistance doesn’t help matters – we’re not really getting anywhere this way! Thinking that the self shouldn’t be the self creates the self; thinking that that the self shouldn’t be the self (or thinking that there shouldn’t be a self) only complicates matters further. Thinking that there shouldn’t be a self is a way of creating all sorts of nonsense and if we think that we shouldn’t think that ‘the self shouldn’t be the self’ then that’s another complication too. We can go down this road as far as we like but we won’t find any improvement – the road will be just as bad further down as it is here. This particular road (the road of resistance) is always terribly bumpy so whilst we are saying that ‘peace and relief from the complications of life come from not resisting whatever it is that we are resisting’, there is absolutely no way that we can turn this awareness into a means or method for doing something about it. We can be aware that ‘resistance creates the self’ but we can’t turn this awareness into action. It’s not an awareness that we can capitalise on – who is it that wants to be making the capital after all?
With regard to what is called ‘the spiritual path’ this awareness (which is to say, the awareness that our awareness cannot be capitalised on in any way without automatically creating an ego) is generally somewhat unfamiliar – for the most part we tend to think that there are things we can do to help us as progress along this path – we can engage in meditation practices, for example. We imagine that there are ‘spiritual’ and ‘non-spiritual’ ways of behaving and all the teachings seem to be saying this. It seems very obvious to us that there are ‘spiritual’ and ‘non-spiritual’ types of behaviour – we are told this all the time and what this comes down to is good, old-fashioned ‘moral pressure’. What we almost always do in response to this pressure is imagine that we have to try to adopt a more spiritual way and this results in us thinking (understandably enough) that the reason we are engaging in these practices is in order to attain a more spiritual mode of existence than the one we presently find ourselves in. This little word ‘reason’ gives the game away however because whenever a practice is done for a reason it is done for an ego. Wherever there is a reason there is an ego, and where’s the sense in multiplying egos? Haven’t we got enough of them already?
The ‘paradox’ that we run into when we start becoming aware of the greater possibilities exist for us is that as soon as we do so become greedy for these possibilities. The self want to avail of them. We become greedy for them because they’re so much richer and finer than the possibilities that we are currently living! ‘Where we are now’ is pretty crappy and ‘where we could be’ is incalculably greater and so we start – naturally enough – straining in this direction’. We start leaning heavily in this direction and that means turning our backs on the way that we actually are; not only this but we also – almost inevitably -start falling prey to the delusion that we are already improved in the way we want to be improved and as a result we feeling good about ourselves on this (false) basis.
The whole business of ‘spiritual aspiration’ is a minefield therefore – it exacerbates the craving of ‘the sense of self’ to be other than it is, which happens to be a craving that it already possesses in large measure. A richer and more wonderful universe is suddenly perceived, a universe that is so much richer than the one we know and thus our painful ‘craving to be otherwise’ is exacerbated, not lessened. Instead of being ruthless materialists, we become ruthless ‘spiritual materialists’ (which isn’t really an improvement). The difficulty facing us is for us to be aware of this world of wonderful possibility without automatically trying to avail of it and to be aware of our somewhat miserable state of existence without either hiding from this awareness or castigating ourselves for it. It could be said therefore that the only ‘genuine’ path open to us is the path of carrying on living as we actually are even as we see all the tremendous possibilities that lie all around us. We see all the wonder and splendour of the universe but we don’t ‘let it go to our heads’, either in the sense of us becoming terribly ruthless and ‘spiritually ambitious’, or in the sense of us becoming ludicrously deluded into believing that we have already achieved some sort of spiritual merit.
The trouble is however that this just isn’t how it happens. This is a pipe dream! To be able to genuinely live our own life as it actually is, in the awareness of all the fantastic potential that is out there and yet not grasp for ‘a bigger slice of the spiritual cake’ is to live a life with zero resistance in it, and whilst this isn’t impossible, it is the hardest thing there is or ever could be. If we imagine that we can live our lives like this – in this supremely graceful fashion – then we are in for a lot of disappointment (not that disappointment is a bad thing, of course). It’s not that we have to strain to ‘reach above ourselves’, or be ‘more than ourselves’ – which are ideas that we like very much – but rather that we live as the unredeemed person we actually are, and this is far harder thing than we might think it is. To consciously live as ourselves (and not as our fantasy of ourselves) is the one thing we don’t want to do. The one thing we don’t want to do is face ourselves, as Jung says somewhere.
This presents us with what seems to be an impossible difficulty therefore – our usual understanding of the spiritual path is that we have to ‘do all the spiritual things’ for the sake of ‘making ourselves into more spiritual people’. This just isn’t ever going to work, of course – it’s just a little fantasy number that is being run for the sake of the ego. It’s ‘ego entertainment’ pure and simple. A deeper understanding of what it means to be to live a spiritual life is – paradoxically – not to try to be better people, not to strive to be what we are not. We live as ourselves, as we ordinarily are, without putting a spin on what’s going on, without fooling ourselves that we are something that we aren’t. This proves – however – to be all but impossible. We are excitedly expecting to see ourselves transformed into spiritual beings with no more darkness in us but what we find instead is that we are obliged to continually witness ourselves as we actually are – which is not like that at all. What we are obliged to witness is invariably ‘not a pretty picture’.
Whenever we turn our backs on ‘the ugly side of ourselves’ (or ‘the demons that live within us’) what’s happening is that we are avoiding pain and it is avoiding pain that creates the self. It is pain (of whatever sort) that makes us take the position that ‘things shouldn’t be the way they are’ – we think that ‘things shouldn’t be the way they are’ and then we take the next step of investing in methods or techniques for changing the situation. These methods or techniques can never really work in the long run but they can – generally speaking – give us some kind of apparent ‘favourable result in the short term (favourable, that is, within the terms of our agenda for things to be different from the way that they are). When things seem to be changing in a positive direction then this creates the euphoric self and when things revert back again (as they eventually will do) to ‘the way they shouldn’t be’ then this creates the dysphoric self. Either way we are creating a self therefore and so we can see that the whole manoeuvre is actually a highly effective way for creating a self or ego!
This whole business isn’t therefore really about ‘making things be the way we think they should’ be (or ‘not be the way we think they shouldn’t be’) – that’s just the cover story, that’s just a pretext. What it’s really all about – as we have just said – is ‘creating a self’, or ‘setting up the game of the self’. When we do well in the task of achieving whatever it is that we trying to achieve then we attain the cosy reward of vindication and validation and this is the ultimate commodity that we are seeking in the game (i.e. the self gets to have a ‘good buzz’), and when things move in the opposite direction to this then we obtain the reverse of vindication and validation and so the self is on a ‘bad buzz’ instead of a good one. We think that we are trying to change things in a permanent way of course but that’s only the story we tell ourselves. The truth is that it is only the polarity we are looking for – ‘the polarity of the game’.
We’re never going to get anywhere in the long run – things are always going to revert back to ‘Square One’ – but because we never look beyond the goal, which is the ‘positive pole’ of the game, we never see this. We’re fixated upon the goal as if it weren’t just ‘a trick of the light’, as if it weren’t just ‘a thing that keeps on turning into its opposite‘. In ‘creating the self’ we have created a vibration, that’s all, and ‘the vibration’ is our fail-safe way of making sure that we never become conscious.