Who and what do we believe, and why?

Who and what do we believe, and why?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

[Leaving my initial thoughts in Roman rather than italic for easier reading.]

5:20 a.m. I think that rather than continuing with the Sayings in the gospel of Thomas, it would be more profitable, more honest, to admit that I don’t know if I have a clue. Writing up my perplexities would be more honest than writing about what I think I maybe, in some way, perhaps, have a glimmer of. The fact is, we may be barking up the wrong tree. There may not even be a tree. After so many years sniffing around.

Well, let’s put it this way. As I reread In Search of the Miraculous – first attempted forty-eight years ago! – I can see that I am not in the same place. I understand things I didn’t understand. But have I actually gained a single step? Doesn’t that depend on whether I’m at the right tree? And that’s where I was in 1971. There are so many confident gurus out there, so many systems of knowledge, ways promising to show how to acquire knowledge, and so many saying “Ours is the only way. Take this path or die” (in effect).

Is it a good thing? A bad thing? You might argue that it is a good thing. So many kinds of people, there must be more than one kind of path, or else all but one are doomed. But can you prove that this isn’t so, even if as a conclusion it’s dismal? Just because a conclusion is disagreeable doesn’t mean it is necessarily incorrect.

Fortunately – I guess fortunately – all the single pathways, all the “only way” pathways, contradict one another. If they all started from the same assumptions, the same revelations even, their borrowed authority would be overwhelming. As it is, you can hardly say that overwhelming evidence or logic or tradition or apparent divine inspiration sustains any of them.

I have gone over the ground so many times. The problem can’t be solved. Referring it to the guys is self-referential, a form of talking to myself even if they truly are other than aspects of myself unsuspected by me.

[TGU] Yet you continue to discuss.

Yes I do, because it is helpful if only to get outside my own conscious frame of reference.

So? What’s the problem? Looking for certainty where none is to be found?

But I don’t know that no certainty is to be found. All I know is that I havne’t found it.

That isn’t all you know. You also know that various books or experiences or interactions with other people or thoughts or lines of thought or mental trends or what you might call spiritual habits or other things have an effect upon you. this should tell you something.

It doesn’t tell me if any of it is reliable.

No, but it does provide you with a place to stand, for you, living your life, solving the problem that your life presents. So you have to run blind, so what?

I’ll give you one thing, you always have a different slant on things.

That’s what you value, is it not? A way for an introvert to nonetheless join the partying?

Odd phrasing. And why am I remembering the vision I had, back in Gateway in 1992?

Because it is relevant, and because it is an example of the fact that you don’t need to know how something relevant appears, in order for you to be able to profit from it. You have the experience written out. Copy it here.

Okay. This is from the computer file for Muddy Tracks, written in 1997-98 though not published for another three years. This was Wednesday, number five and four of the messages on the second tape of the day.


“The second tape directs us to retrieve the five most important messages we can understand at the moment. The messages come, and at the time, the fact that I see distinct images and hear words surprises me, even after months of practice with the tapes. This surprise is the difference between believing and knowing.

“I find the messages profound, and find them equally so now, after the lapse of years.

“They come in increasing order of importance.

“Number five begins as a sketch of a figure turned to stone, like those found in the streets of Pompeii. Then it shows a table with many chairs, all empty. People appear. I’m at the head of the table, the host. More people appear and there is room for them – the table and chairs expand as more people arrive. (All right, I can understand that easily enough. I have been living as if turned to stone, but I need not; I can have a life filled with people, and with joy.)

“Number four. I see a set of stairs seen from above, descending into a room below. I am sitting on the second floor, listening to the party going on below, feeling sad and left out. The stairs become a ramp down into the same room. I descend, barefoot. They welcome me not as one coming from above, not as one who isn’t or is properly dressed, but as me. (This seems to me self-evident, but perhaps it is worth underlining that I see it. I descend from cerebral, disembodied heights into the warmth of life among humans. And, it occurs to me much later, at TMI programs we – certainly I – spend much time barefoot.)”


Glancing at the book, I see that I wasn’t remembering it quite in context.

A good sign, actually. It means you weren’t grasping at it, clinging to it. Instead, it percolated into your life.

For a while.

You are not a good judge of your life. The biblical injunction could be reversed and works just as well: Judge yourself not, lest you judge others. Discernment is always well, but condemnation is not, and neither is too much certainty about your discernment.

So what can we do, in practice, when we are unable to know the truth?

You are making unwarranted assumptions, and they cause suffering. You assume that your life is up to you; that how you conduct it determines what happens; that whether or not you are conscious makes a difference in where you are going.

Mustn’t it? isn’t Gurdjieff’s point that most people are not conscious though they think they are, and therefore most people have no ability to progress in life?

You mean by “progress in life” no way to advance their own consciousness so as not to waste their life.


Then either you haven’t been listening, all this time, or the particular “you” we are talking to this  morning doesn’t believe it, or perhaps even remember it.

But you see, that illustrates the point even better. Gurdjieff says we are communities of many little “I”s, just as you do. But he says if we do not forge a unity among them, we can have no permanent “I.”

And therefore cannot live forever, so to speak? Is this now your ambition?

It always was my ambition not to live and die uselessly.

Do you assume that Gurdjieff was saying that the vast majority of human lives were wasted if they did not forge a unity?

Well, I guess I always assumed so.

And now you realize, maybe not.

Maybe he was working on behalf of a self-selected sample who did want to work on themselves – I always knew that much – but it didn’t matter about the others because there was nothing wrong with them living and dying in sleep.

This will acquire more power of connection if you work it out for yourself: That is, this is you using your thinking center for its proper purpose.

I see. Well, if most of the human race at any given time lives and dies in a state of continual flow, and if there is nothing wrong with that, then I am seeing things wrong.

Or, you are now beginning to see things right, or at least less wrong.

There remains the problem that what Ouspensky reports Gurdjieff saying, or Gurdjieff reports himself, does not square with Seth, say, or the Urantia book with either, or Cayce with any of them, and so on and so forth.

And the problem of squaring any of it with scripture, and one set of scripture with another. You surely see that any belief in any authority is ultimately self-referential.

I saw that long ago. Ultimately, it is a matter of belief. “I believe this is the word of God, because it says so right here. I believe this is the only way to see things, because Gurdjieff or Cayce or Seth or one of their interpreters says so right here.”

What you are left with is that this or that resonates within you – that is, you are so composed as to find it compelling – and you can never go beyond that. Who is going to give you the word that this or that is the ultimate truth? Can God vouch for this or that scripture or channeling? If the Buddha contacts you directly and says, “This is true,” where is your guarantee that it is really the Buddha? If you say, “I know because I feel it,” you haven’t moved an inch. This is Psychic’s Disease but also psychic’s dilemma, for if you do not live by what truth resonates, what are you going to live by? Someone else’s certainties?

Now, here is something to think about. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with this state of affairs, which results in everybody being able to find a truth suitable to the level they are living on, or living at, we should say. if most people are continually shifting ground, whether or not they realize it, isn’t it good that wherever they are there should be some part of the larger truth available to them?

And, this. Isn’t it obvious, when you stop to think of it, that every herd will have its outliers, and every outlier its herd? Doesn’t that suggest that this is a natural and a desirable fact of life? A herd of outliers is a contradiction in terms, like “a herd of cats.” But an outlier without a herd is a stray without something it strayed from, an extension of something that doesn’t exist to be extended from.

All of this is specific to you, and is equally specific to undetermined others, so send it out.

Thanks. I do feel better about it all.


7 thoughts on “Who and what do we believe, and why?

    1. I read “In Search of the Miraculous” years ago. This post is one to mull over and ponder for a good while……..

  1. This is an excellent post. Such good questions!! Isn’t this a lot like asking for a travel itinerary to anyplace in the world? Hello, Universe. I would like a ticket to Anyplace, please! Obviously, the itinerary starts wherever one is at the moment. But which way do we go when there are so many choices, so many different directions and methods of travel? Do we, perhaps unconsciously, all expect that we are all going to the same place – the place of Absolute Truth? Is there even such a place? Maybe there is but I haven’t found it either. And I am not all that sure I want to. I prefer the freedom of being where I am, right now, and knowing I have the choice to go in any direction I choose, consciously or unconsciously. And so does everyone else. I remember having a ‘profound’ thought when I was in my early teens – does the physical universe go on forever or does it end? And is either answer imaginable? I think that the answer to this question lies in the direction of “both – and” instead of “either – or” and a good many of us are heading in that direction. But who knows what we find when we get there, and what other shiny destination waves at us from a distance from that point? I guess we will know as we go. Peace and love, everyone!

  2. I appreciate your transparency, vulnerability and authenticity, Frank.

    Some questions arose as I read the second paragraph of your post:

    “Well, let’s put it this way. As I reread In Search of the Miraculous – first attempted forty-eight years ago! – I can see that I am not in the same place. I understand things I didn’t understand. But have I actually gained a single step? Doesn’t that depend on whether I’m at the right tree?”

    -What does it mean to, “gain a single step?” How would you know if you had?
    -What’s the significance of, “being at the right tree,” and why is gaining a single step dependent on it?
    -What distinguishes a “right” tree from a “wrong” tree?

    You might enjoy this short video of Alan Watts speaking about how we often think of life as analogous to a journey when it’s really more analogous to music: https://laughingsquid.com/life-is-not-a-journey-alan-watts/

    Thank you for posting.

  3. I’m reading The Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy by Dobbs. She quotes Newton saying to a friend: “They who search after the Philosopher’s Stone by their own rules are obliged to a strict & religious life”. The idea of searching the important thing in life by one’s own rules is comforting. Strictness is a way of self- checking when following own rules.

    1. Very useful to think about the concept of alchemy: finding the ultimate structures of reality through experiments in transformations. This mindset was the basis of the real scientific breakthroughs. Newton was looking for the secret structure of reality, not just describing the properties of matter.

      Maybe realigning with the continual attempts to see the ultimate structure beyond the 3D- the alchemical perspective – is necessary. And by jove, the alchemists did disagree. There is in the seeking an impulse to individuation, to bring forth the specific spark that travels in this particular individual. Definitely an individual work.

      Dobbs points out that Jung in his writings happily mixes different periods and traditions of alchemy, egyptian, arabic medieval etc. Quite obviously he chose what resonated and ignored the rest. Just following his inner prompts. So alchemy was the seed both for Newton and for Jung. Pretending only the strictly physical calculations in Newton’s science are relevant is myopic. Alchemy was the soil that nurtured the seed so it could grow. We have been ignoring the soil and our seeds are not growing.

  4. I’m often stuck how the ‘answers’ pop up in the conversation, not just TGU’s or Frank’s words:
    “Looking for certainty where none is to be found?”
    “But I don’t know that no certainty is to be found. All I know is that I haven’t found it.”
    “ … what are you going to live by? Someone else’s certainties?”

    Rilke (‘Letters to a Young Poet’) had some good advice … for me:
    “Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to 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.”

    For me there’s no “Perhaps” about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.