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There are a lot of people who don’t understand the critique that the Eastern wisdom traditions make about the world, and they confuse it with nihilism by thinking, “Well, if the world is not real, it has no meaning.” No, that’s nihilism, the death of meaning. What the yogis say is, the world has intense meaning, in fact, infinite meaning, and we are here in order to grasp that meaning, to understand it in its fullness. But the world does not have being. And the only way that you can understand the meaning of the world is to be in the state that transcends meaning, which is being.
The world is a fiction, but fiction contains a tremendous amount of truth. There is more truth in most novels than in most documentaries—truths about character that can’t be expressed or formulated logically, or in terms of propositions, but only be expressed in terms of interaction, and the reflection upon action that remains subvocal and even subconscious, that can be transmitted by a great novelist, who develops character more than plot, in order to understand how meaning becomes the unfoldment of the plot of the drama of this world. So we are here to maximize meaning. And the ultimate meaning is the transcendence of meaning itself, into being, into the authorship of this meaningful creation.
So I took some dictation this morning that I’m supposed to read to you to transmit some ideas, so I’m going to do that. Let me start with—for those who haven’t studied Sat Yoga or Indian philosophy much—the psyche is analyzed in its most simplified form. I’m not going into kundalini yoga in that map right now, but into the structure of the psyche as manas, the conscious mind, buddhi, the intellect, and the ahankar, which comes from the subconscious—which causes thoughts, emotions, projections, reactions, fantasies, and drives based on fantasies, to arise and to want to be acted out.
And the ahankar also plays the role of censor, because of what it doesn’t allow to arise, what it keeps suppressed. But there’s a fourth element that often is explained by the ancient sages, and that is chitta. And chitta is the database upon which the manas builds its narratives. So there is all of this information that you have gained from your experiences in life, from your readings, from your viewing of all the media that you take in, all the messages, everything that you have interpreted—it’s not raw data, it’s always interpreted data—it’s structured in the subconscious as a language, but it’s there for the manas to connect the dots in the way that suits its conscious narrative, and to justify, and rationalize its projections about reality, to always be able to say, “See, I knew it!” And often it has to provoke people to act in a way that will produce the effect of, “I knew you would say that. I knew you would do that to me. I knew this would happen!” Right?
So it projects, it provokes, and it picks people who will fit those narratives. But there is always the possibility of putting the dots together in a different way; that’s the margin of freedom that is possible. But it’s not possible to the manas itself—the manas doesn’t have free will—it works on a set of algorithms that will produce a result, no matter what the data that is put in, the output will always be in accord with the preconceptions, the prejudices, the predispositions, that are in the subconscious mind. And this is why growth is very difficult—no matter how much you learn, somehow you don’t change. Why is that?
There is a way that all of it is resisted, and appropriated by the ego, distorted, forgotten when one needs to remember it, projected on others, but not taken in to apply to oneself, etc., etc. So the key to success in psychospiritual growth, the key to success in life in general, is the development and refinement of the buddhi. The buddhi is the intellect that has the capacity to discern when what we are saying has validity, and when it does not.
So we have to learn how to weigh evidence. This is one of the most important things that one should get in one’s education. One has to be able to see through false arguments, and illusory concepts that might be based on white swans, and reject the idea that there could be a black swan, and then one is suddenly shocked and devastated when it appears. So there has to be a mastery of logic, inductive, deductive, and abductive logic. But logic is not even sufficient, but at least the buddhi has to start there, and eliminate cognitive errors from its own discourse.
It has to recognize when it itself is saying something that is not logically valid, or defensible in the face of a rational objection.
So it is this refinement that should be part of our growing into adulthood, but in the dumbed-down education systems we have at the end of Kali Yuga, that rarely happens. So the buddhi doesn’t develop, and therefore we have to develop it ourselves. And this is the purpose of a wisdom school—the development of the intellect to its highest possible point—because without that intelligence operating in an accurate way, we cannot achieve liberation. We won’t even be able to achieve success on a phenomenal level. So we want to go beyond that, beyond adulthood, into our divine nature. But to do that, we have to have an intelligence that is as close as possible to God’s intelligence. That requires great humility. Before you can do that, you have to see that your ego is deceiving you, that your conscious mind, ninety percent of the time, is creating a rationalization, or a justification, for ideas, for behaviors, for actions, that are not justifiable, not accurate, not in accord with the dharma, not in your own best interests, but that are often influenced by the lower death drive, and by lower chakra energies, that actually hold back your growth and development, when they should be sublimated, but instead they are de-sublimated.
So we have to understand that underneath the rationalization, there is an agency of censorship that won’t even let us know the truth. And that agency has to be overcome. And until we have the authority to be able to dismantle the censor, the conscious mind has no legitimate power to do that, because it’s simply a product of the censor—it’s what the censor throws up to be thought and spoken. But the conscious mind of the ego is not your Real Self, and has no free will.
It’s controlled by the censor for its purposes, and it’s a compromise formation between what Freud called the “pleasure principle” and the “reality principle”. But underneath both of those is the death drive. And so the conscious mind is in a very perilous situation. The buddhi must recognize that before it’s willing to take any action to grow, it has to know that it’s on this boat that’s heading over a waterfall, and it’s soon going to be too late to change its trajectory. And if it doesn’t recognize the conflicting drives that are underneath all of this, and de-potentiate those drives, and the desires, then, that they create at the conscious level, then one will not be able to succeed, and one will not be able to reach a state of presence to our divine nature, that can then receive downloads from the Real Self.
So the buddhi must purify the manas, and eradicate the ahankar, which is the subconscious arising of the ego’s death driven thoughts and emotions. But until we have developed the ability to think coherently and cohesively in a sustained way, our thought patterns will be interrupted by those very energies of resistance, based on the censor and the unconscious drives, and we won’t be able to think our way out of the paper bag that the ego is in. And that’s part of the problem: you have to be able to first think very clearly, and powerfully, before you can transcend thought.
If you try to transcend thought before you have done that, you’ll be totally overtaken by the subconscious.
So this is part of the problem with people who want instant enlightenment and are not willing to do the work. But it takes tremendous deep training of your intellect, and purification of the manas, and eradication of the ahankar, to get to the point where you can even make the decision to transcend the ego. So, all of that requires honesty, and the willingness to be transparent to oneself, not opaque, to not let the censor hide ulterior motives, and subconscious drives, from you, so that you are not governed by prejudices, and biases, and other elements that cause your judgment to be inaccurate. And you have to become completely free of superficial sentimentality, which is a terrible plague that the ego suffers from, and the ego’s tendency to be opinionated—the ego has opinions about everything, but none of them are usually based in the Real. They are just ways of trying to prove a point in conversation, or have a particular style, or attitude, that one uses for effect in a social realm—but they do not get you to the Real Self, and they are tremendous obstacles, when your mind is constantly producing that low quality thought.
So one must be free of all delusions, obviously, but one must have no taboo against knowing the truth. It’s those elements of forbidden knowledge and unbearable knowledge, that become the real obstacles to growth. You have to be willing and strong enough to bear the truth, and the truth is often very ugly to the ego, and weakens the ego, and insults it. And you have to be willing to go through that in order to become a trustworthy thinker, and someone who is capable of becoming Real.
In a healthy social order, you would have to have proven this trustworthiness of your capacity to think beyond the ego’s rationalizing tendencies in order to be given any position of management of any division of the social order or leadership. You have to have displayed that, proven that it must have been not just rational thinking—it’s not reason alone, but reason in the service of goodness, in the service of beauty. And so it’s that trinity that has to become, in a way, the ideal of the buddhi: of truth, goodness, and beauty, and the desire to gain mastery of those three principles, if there is going to be transcendence of the false self.
So in classical times this was already well known, and it was a part of the curriculum in every wisdom school. You can read it in Pythagoras. It goes back that far, which is why you have to enter the Pythagoras Pass in order to get to the ashram. If you don’t pass that course that he originally taught, which was the Trivium and the Quadrivium, you couldn’t even be admitted into the wisdom school. That was the threshold condition.
And those were what constituted the Yamas and Niyamas for the Western world. And it’s there in Plato, very clearly, it’s there in all the Greek philosophers. So in the original classical Trivium, you started with grammar. You had to learn the mechanics of language, because language is the currency of social interaction. Then you had to be able to turn the grammar into logic—you had to be able to think logistically, according to the Logos. You had to be able to put together valid syllogisms. You had to be able to deduce realities: “Where there’s smoke, there may be fire.” You have to be able to put that logic together in terms of empirical reality, so you can function adequately, and you know how to respond to events. You have to diagnose what is happening, in the same way that a doctor diagnoses symptoms, you have to diagnose all the symptoms that appear in your reality, whether in your own body, or in others, or in relationships, or situations, or messages that you’re getting from synchronicities—you have to be able to learn to read the world. And you have to be able to logically put all of that together.
And then logic then becomes rhetoric. In the final stage, you have to be able to create an ordered set of logical propositions that create a discourse, that create an ability to produce a trajectory, a strategy, a program, a project of life, and to be able to carry it through. And it is the capacity for rhetoric that displays the ability to think coherently, and to step-by-step prioritize what must happen in any particular project, or in any particular logical progression of thoughts, that will lead to a deeper understanding of the Real. Right?
So, that was the Trivium, and that worked for a long time, until the twentieth century, and then it was proven false by Kurt Gödel. He proved that logic is actually inaccurate—logic always comes to a point of failure—any logical system does not correspond to the Real. You will always get to a point where your thoughts will not be able to answer a question that you have to face, or they will give an answer that doesn’t make sense, or that is false. That point of incompleteness of any system, and its inadequacy, and falsity of answer is the problem with the Logos; and the West became based on the Logos.
And this, I think, was the flaw even in the Gospel of John, that Christianity carried forward by equating the Logos with God. But the Logos is not God. The Logos is a much lower level. God is beyond logic, and until we are able to transcend logic, after we have mastered it, we will not be able to get to the ability to navigate the Real, in true accuracy without creating karma, because otherwise logic will always produce a karmic residue, based on that which is incomplete within the system.
So, the Quadrivium, then, for those who pass through the rhetoric, and were able to give a discourse that satisfied the teachers, to prove one’s coherent capacity to think, then one passed into the Quadrivium, in which you move from word into number. And the first subject is arithmetic, where you study number in itself. What is the number system? What is number? Is number something real that we discover, or is it from the mind that we superimpose upon reality? The whole philosophy of number was the focus of the first stage of the Quadrivium, and it’s still the subject of tremendous controversy within the philosophy of mathematics. In fact, philosophy writ large, because your whole ontology and metaphysics often depends upon the ontological status of number and of quantity.
So from arithmetic, which is number in itself, you would move to geometry, which is: how does number appear in space? How can space be mapped? Topography can happen through the geometrical understanding of the world, and without that, you can’t build—literally; an architect requires geometry, right? It’s an essential element. But any kind of surveying, anything that requires an understanding of the lay of the land, requires geometry.
So how number functions in space, and how we master our capacity of spatial intelligence, is the second phase. Then we go from there into astronomy—astronomy is number in the outer space. It’s number in time as well, because the sky moves, and so you have the number in the cosmos, you have the order of the galaxies, of the constellations, and the precession of the equinoxes—all of the understanding of astronomy that points to the necessity of understanding our relationship to the cosmos. Where are we in all of this? What part do we play? What are the messages we’re receiving from the stars? How are we related to that cosmic intelligence? All of this is developed.
And then finally, the last study of the Quadrivium is music. And music is really where truth meets beauty. The two come together because music is mathematics—it is number in time as rhythm and melody and harmony—it is totally mathematical, but it’s the mathematics of beauty itself, and beauty as containing meaningfulness—meaningmoreness, because you can put meaning into music, into sound, that cannot be put into words, which is why most movies have soundtracks and music backgrounds—because you cannot transmit the same information through logic that you can transmit through music.
And so that harmonization of beauty and truth becomes, really, the portal into adulthood in classical education. And through that becomes—one realizes that all of reality is musical. All of it is motivated by beauty, and quantity, and quality, harmonized, integrated together, in time, in every moment. And we want to make our lives musical, our language musical—this is how poetry develops, and how we want to make our lives poetic, in every sense. And to have poetic justice, and to have a poetry of understanding of karma, that can grasp all of the nuances of the events of the world.
And so it’s this whole development of poetics that then leads us into the deeper development of all of the arts, and into, then, taking that information into the field of politics, and making politics poetic, so that truth and beauty and goodness become the principles that sustain a society—a social order. Once that has been lost, then you have what we have today: a disordered, ugly, social order that is oppressive, not fair, not just, not good, and that serves very negative and anti-life and anti-growth aims. And so the social order, rather than encouraging the growth of its members, discourages it: it weakens them, it disempowers them, it dumbs them down, it makes them lose even their curiosity or interest in growing beyond the ego. And it normalizes oppression.
And so we internalize that normalizing, oppressive tendency, in terms of the attacks upon ourself that the ego then suffers, and a feedback loop between the social order’s collapse into the death drive and destructiveness, is mirrored by that which happens within each individual, and vice versa.
So in recent times, there has been a very interesting shift just in this postmodern period, starting from around the 1970s, with the insights of a French philosopher named Michel Foucault.
How many people are familiar with Foucault’s writings? OK. In the 70s, he went to the Collage de France, and he gave a series of lectures on the birth of biopolitics. And he showed how the political system had moved from a feudal system, in which you actually had total freedom, because the government didn’t care about what you did in your life—they wanted taxes, you had to give them a certain percentage of your produce, you had to tithe to the church, but in other ways, there was actually freedom and there was no worries: you were taken care of from cradle to grave, you didn’t have to buy life insurance or health insurance; life was much freer of pressures and of the kinds of anxieties that we feel are so normal today and take for granted. But there was none of that kind of pressure.
But then the society changed with industrialization and capitalism and colonialism and imperialism, and the society became ever more—the elite became ever more obsessed with the control of the biological reality of its members, and it began to medicalize life, so that everyone had to go through, and was subject to, the expertise of the so-called “medical profession” and psychiatric profession. This is where madness also became something that could be a cause for your being locked up into an asylum that was not very nice, and to be rather horribly treated to cure you of your so-called “madness”. And madness was simply believing anything the social order didn’t want you to believe, and we are now again in that state.