17. Scared To Be Honest
Q: Hello, Robert. I am scared to be honest with myself in regards to God and religion. I’m working on that. I know it’s important to let that fear go, but how?
A: All of us have been taught things by our parents and other authority figures before we reached the age of reason—before we could subject those ideas to any critical examination—so that those ideas were etched into our brains immediately and without ever being doubted or called into question.
Those ideas are part of our parental imagoes. Imago is a term in psychology for images of mommy and daddy which are introjected. Research those words if you want to go more deeply into it.
These imagoes feel to us as if they were part of our essential selves. Unless we are able find our own authenticity and freedom apart from inherited belief systems, which many humans never arrive at finding, we rely upon the imagoes for a sense of security. That is why it can feel so frightening to have introjected beliefs called into question, even by one’s own logical aspect.
The belief that God is my “heavenly father” who “hears my prayers and cares for me” is an extension of, or a projection of, my actual father’s imago — the image in my mind of my actual daddy — which may explain why otherwise intelligent people often seem so childish on this one subject.
As for your own honesty, there is no hurry to any of this. Things happen in their own time, and when the fruit is ripe it will fall from the tree on its own. Allow your understanding to unfold organically without, insofar as possible, clinging to anything—and this includes clinging to the idea of “awakening” or becoming “enlightened.”
“Awake” and “enlightened” are just more ideas, but prior to any ideas at all, life unfolds as it must. Enjoy it for what it is while you are part of it.
Q: U.G. Krishnamurti said, “The fact is that we don’t want to be free. What is responsible for our problems is the fear of losing what we have and what we know.” Thank you, Robert, for explaining why this is so.
A: You are most welcome. Freedom is here right now. It is only our clinging to lies — and most of us know in our hearts that they are lies — that prevents us from seeing that. When I say freedom, I mean psychological freedom. Physical freedoms such as freedom from hunger and thirst, or freedom from incarceration, are, of course, a different matter.
Q2: Freedom is knowing who and what one is.
A: I don’t know who I am. We all have certain thoughts and feelings that we may believe are somehow qualitatively different from ordinary thoughts and feelings, but it is quite a stretch, by my lights, to call such thoughts and feelings, “knowing.”
As I see this, mind is conditioned by everything ever seen, heard, or otherwise experienced, as well as congenital tendencies encoded in DNA. Part of that conditioning is having heard about “enlightenment” and “transcendence,” along with a desire, most likely inborn, for mastery of one’s environment and explanations for events. Picture, for example, a prehistoric primate hearing a noise in the night and needing for survival to know what made that sound.
Does one ever really know what “I” am? Probably not, I say. One may be driven by the desire, installed perhaps by dogma, to find a kind of “myself” that is not bound by space and time, but in my view, such a self has roots in idealism, not facts.
To me, it seems factually undeniable that we human beings are a species in the animal kingdom, and as such are limited in what we ever can know. Based on your assertion about freedom, I feel fairly sure that you will not agree with this at all, but that’s fine. That’s just how things appear to me. I don’t claim to be “right.”
As for the liberation which so many seem to be seeking, and which they imagine will be obtained by finding who or what “I am,” that came to me long ago, and it did not, and still does not, involve knowing “who I am.” Quite the opposite, as I am saying here.
Q2: OK. I can see what you are saying. Here it is seen not as directly knowing that I am that, but more like being unable to see a line between me and other.
A: Yes, I can agree with you there.
Q2: The freedom here is experienced merely as the complete end of the search for personal relevance. There is a profound peace in simply knowing that nothingcan be known.
A: Good. I like Rilke on this:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Q2: Robert, I think working backwards by self-inquiry helps. Who or which energy is illuminating all these thoughts and contemplations? It is that allpervading energy pulsating in everybody, in all nature, that is gnawing in our heads as I, I, I, my, my, my? That Thou Art. Just think this over until thoughts drop and the energy remains.
A: Hi. I am not sure what you mean by “helps.”
Q2: I mean clears confusions.
A: Oh. Did you think I was confused?
Q2: You may not be confused, but still a nagging feeling may exist that the search is not complete.
A: You may be searching. I am not. Not for anything. If you like to focus your intention upon searching for something and finding it, you certainly have that right. I don’t see things that way.
For me, each moment is complete in and of itself. Each moment of awareness is what it is, cannot be any different, and is entirely fleeting. One either enjoys the moment for what it is, knowing that it has no permanence whatsoever — including whatever thoughts and feelings may obtain in that moment—or one fails to enjoy it for what it is.
One may be missing out on this unique moment because one’s attention is focused elsewhere, focused upon some imagined future when my “search is complete,” when finally I understand everything, when at last my suffering ends, or when I am “one with God.” Such a focus upon imagined perfection is what I call “fantasy.” I mention this because in your words I hear some of that. I have no interest in that kind of fantasy.
As far as your search being “complete,” I have no idea at all what that would mean.
There are some Rilke fans on board here, and as I am one too, let me quote him again:
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
Q2: Very nice thoughts, Robert. All my respects for them. By the word “search” I did not mean abandoning the moment at hand and looking for something else. As you yourself have mentioned, I meant enjoying the moment with the realization of its impermanence and yet the recognition of a permanence that is allowing the impermanence to play on it. The “foundation” that is allowing the building to raise over it. The cinema over the screen attracts everybody and entertains everybody, but seldom do we realize the support of a screen behind that that has accorded space for the play of the cinema or the projection of it.
A: With all due respect, your analogy of the cinema is an update of an old concept from the Vedas that considers the world we know to be only mithya (illusion) whereas only Brahman, the supposed “supreme being,” is satya (truth). Many people take that for gospel. I do not.
The movie screen analogy could be useful, maybe, to someone who is completely hypnotized by the material world. Or, that analogy might be employed to point out that we only experience what we experience due to the awareness upon which or within which all of our knowing arises. In my short period as a “spiritual teacher” — now, thankfully, seen only in the rear-view mirror — I used it in that second way.
But when taken too far, that analogy leads to all kinds of trouble, such as imagining that the material world is not “real,” as so many Hindus like to believe, and so many foolish Westerners try to convince themselves. And one has no way of knowing that awareness is a permanent “foundation” either. What you are calling “awareness” might be as temporary and transitory as anything else for all you really know.
I wonder if you have ever had a moment in which you knew absolutely nothing. No god, no “I Am,” no “enlightenment,” no guru, no path, no treasure hunt which becomes “complete” when you find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—none of it.
I mean a moment in which you had no idea whatsoever of who or what you are, what anything means, what the point of life is or if there even is any point to it besides awakening every morning to a new day.
A propos, I have always liked this by George Carlin:
“I want to live my next life backwards.
“You start out dead and get that out of the way.
“Then you wake up in a nursing home feeling better every day.
“Then you get kicked out for being too healthy.
“Enjoy your retirement and collect your pension.
“Then when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day
“You work 40 years until you’re too young to work.
“You get ready for high school: drink alcohol, party, and you’re generally promiscuous.
“Then you go to primary school, you become a kid, you play, and you have no responsibilities.
“Then you become a baby, and then…
“You spend your last 9 months floating peacefully in luxury, in spa-like conditions — central heating, room service on tap, and then…
“You finish off as an orgasm.
“I rest my case.”