This is one of the most common questions from people who have been on some form of ‘spiritual path’ for a while—long enough to imbibe enough knowledge to become totally confused. Do we apply what we’ve learned in terms of creating our own personal life through the conscious control of Creative Thought; or do we follow the scriptural recommendation to remain content and cheerful with what comes unsought, whatever it is, whether we think we ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ it?
From the perspective of one who has been exposed to these principles, and at the time of this writing studied and practiced them for 53 years, I can tell you that it is very important to master both approaches. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin. Everything is relative—remember ‘the theory of relativity’? Everything must be understood in a certain context.
Depending on the context, we might have to activate will to think in a certain way in order to achieve the preferable conclusion.
Or it might be better to surrender totally and flow with whatever happens, however ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it might momentarily appear to be.
What if a flood or fire or tornado or hurricane were to suddenly take away your home and all your belongings? More than one participant of the Course has experienced this, and we know that this is now happening all over the world. People are having their lives wiped out without any warning, and not only losing belongings, but loved ones as well. Most do not have the knowledge contained in our Course of Training to enable them to put things back together again.
So what would your approach be? Would you use creative concentration and visualization to create your life to be as you desire it to be? Or would you simply accept the reality of the current situation and flow with it by seeing the perfection and beauty in it?
Strangely, neither way is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ approach. There is this pulse of Creative Energy that resolves the whole world back into Itself, and the same Creative Energy created our world out of nothing from the beginning. We can align ourselves with this energy either way: we can create the form from the formless, or we can dissolve the form into the formless.
Most ‘spiritual paths’, or other forms of self-development and inner awakening, focus on one way or the other—one way is meditation to enter the formless space of pure Consciousness and experience that formlessness.
Meanwhile the other side of this is the ray of Creation, going outward from the still, silent center. We create our lives through whatever we think and believe in the moment. Everything considered, I once again insist that both ways be mastered, even if in the beginning they seem like opposites to you.
The whole thing is the play of Consciousness; or God’s playground, or however you care to see it. Understand both perspectives, both paths, which contain the flow of the Cosmos. Ancient yogic texts, written in Sanskrit, refer to this cycle as ‘the in-breath and the out-breath of Brahman.’
This quote by the great Shri Ramana Maharshi, who has never been doubted by any credible source, put it this way:
“Whenever something has to be controlled, some obstacle to be removed or some change necessary, the use of shakti is required. But in the supreme experience of Atman, meaning stetha prajna (the state of being established in wisdom), or the state that is beyond the gunas (the qualities of the mind), the only experience is that of non-duality. In that state there is no other principle that remains arrayed against it. For a jnani established in the Self there is nothing that remains in opposition to him. It is not therefore necessary (for him) to conquer any external things because in that state there is no remnant of anything that is separate. When the Self becomes all-pervasive, the physical world is totally absent. Therefore, in spite of the shakti being in the Atman, it does not become necessary to use it. If one is in a state in which opposition is felt, then to work on that opposition, Atma shakti (power of the Self) is required.” ~Shri Ramana Maharshi
That says it as clearly as anything I could possibly say. Become good friends with that single paragraph, in order to keep your mind clear. We explore this principle more deeply in the Course via email.
In a thread on Facebook, where we enjoy many stimulating exchanges, I remarked that I had no idea how much I help people, and someone wrote that surely I was being facetious to say that. I replied thusly:
I understand where you are coming from, but I assure you I am not being facetious. It is brutal honesty. From my perspective I have written a lot for a long time, as that is what I do, in the same way that Narayana drives a taxi in Manhattan, and sometimes I spoke in front of audiences; yet whatever anyone got out of anything is between them and their inner Wisdom, which might have been wakened by the words, but which existed within all the while. As I’ve said from time to time, the fact that some people actually experience me as a ‘spiritual teacher’ only proves that the infinite power (Shakti) of the Guru and the Lineage is not only real but extremely powerful.
Some of you might remember our old friend Scott Marmorstein, who a few years ago, when he was 30, experienced 5 intense heart attacks consecutively, and he is still pumping. In fact, he will soon be marrying his beloved, Sri Yogini Michelle Synnestvedt. Scott has a sharp and inquisitive mind, and he recently contributed this question, regarding a dialogue on my Facebook page:
“You said, ‘You will always be tested.’ The intimation to me was that the ‘testing’ was sort of an eternal game. And my basic question is: WHY? To be evolved and to fall again and to be evolved again ad infinitum, why? I get it’s a Game, but doesn’t the Game Player eventually figure out a new Game to play? Isn’t this one sort of old-hat by now? Or… does memory play a major role in all this? I suspect it does. And, moreover, we both know the question and answer are just part of the Game and ultimately ‘unimportant’ in terms of ‘answers’, because all answers come back to whatever is in front of us now, as the Truth of the present moment. Basically, my question to your statement ‘You’ll always be tested’ is…’What’s the point?’”
Fully understanding the answer to this question requires a subtle Intellect, which is different from the mind. What first comes up for me is when the Guru was asked by a reporter, “Why did God become all this? Why is He doing all this?” And the Guru replied that if a reporter could ask God those same questions, God would say something like, What are you talking about? I never became anything. I never did anything. I have always remained as I am—this silence, this stillness.
So there is this Play, created by the tandem of mind and ego, that seems to exist as a linear sequence of events in time and space. Yet, from a subtler perspective, it is more like a waking dream. The Yoga Vasishta says that this waking life is only the dream of the jiva (the individualized aspect of the Universal.)
The ‘tests’ you inquire about are only a part of the Game, as you suggested. There is no external power ‘testing’ us, especially in a way that we can ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ the test. You know that in July this year, the day before my birthday, a huge tree was blown over and smashed into the master bedroom of our home. This was obviously a test: Can we live in half a house (which at this writing we still are), while remaining in harmony, with equanimity, regarding all that has to be done?
There has been an ongoing cacophony, and a lot of racket, many of the days since then. Still I write, and Kay still keeps the Course going. That is a simple example of a test. The ‘tests’ show us where we are in our development, and what we need to do next, what needs to be developed or strengthened.
As far as why not come up with a different Game after all this while, it is a mass delusion that presumes all this time has passed and all this stuff has happened. In reality, the Game exists only now; it just got started.
Devorah Feinbloom, healer, nutritionist, and chiropractor north of Boston, writes:
My current lesson says, “As far as knowing our ‘needs’, I for one would prefer to be free of need itself. It would be freer and more expanding to let go of need than it would be to have it fulfilled. A need implies that we are not whole and complete as we are, and we ‘need’ something to be more whole and complete. That is the way the ego thinks, as the ego likes to maintain an ongoing melodrama wrapped around needing ‘more.’
“Give up needs altogether. Once this truly occurs, when we are free of need, we discover naturally and automatically that we are already supplied with all we need, without even having to think of what we need.
“Go through life knowing that all your needs are already fulfilled, and will continue to be even moreso in the future. Feel gratitude that all your needs are met without you even having to inform any Higher Power of your needs, since It knows what you truly need even before you do.”
She goes on...I understand and continue to expand and live more with the knowing that God provides all my needs and I don’t have to worry, don’t need to think about it or remind God, since God knows what I need and I will be taken care of. But every time I read this part of the lesson my mind wrestles with these lines. Is this referring to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs--like food, water, excretion, sex--or are you referring to non-essentials? If your car is totaled and you still have to get to your job, you need to find a way to get to work. You can still have gratitude and know that all your needs will be taken care of and still need to find a way to get to work? Am I lost in semantics here?
Sometimes I think that we have to have needs to create a relationship with the divine - divine as Father who answers prayers. Are you saying prayer has no value but rather we should just KNOW that our needs will be met? In the Jewish tradition we were taught to pray for all our needs, even if it is a shoelace. Interested in your perspective.
That’s the conclusion of Devorah’s question. The quotation marks above note the excerpt from her current lesson of the Course.
The Christ said, “It is not ‘I’ that doeth the works, but the Father within me…the same Father that is within you.”
Since there is no differentiation in Nature, the only true form of prayer is affirmation. There is no need to ask or beg or supplicate. And if you have to get to your job, your car, in today’s world, would be one of the ‘essentials’. If you become conscious of a ‘need’, immediately, without hesitation, KNOW that your need is already fulfilled, and never doubt it. You will prove the results to yourself. There is no reason to take anyone’s word for anything.
Going from my own experience, I could never have created the details of my life. In the same way, I could never have even dreamed to pray for, or ask for, all that I have been given. Physically, I have to make my way through this world just like everyone else. Inwardly, however, I have been bestowed with many treasures I could never have imagined to ask for or pray for. On the inside I have been given many riches, including knowledge of the seven radiant jewels the yogis call chakras, which are much more precious than any physical jewels.
I can only rest in gratitude. Gratitude is the answer to everything. If you want to pray, pray for gratitude for all that you have been given. Gratitude attracts even more of what we are grateful for. Focusing on complaints, on what is wrong, on what is not enough, attracts even more of what we feel those things about. If you learn only one thing from reading this, understand that gratitude is the most important thing.
Thank you for taking the time and the mental focus to read and share this. If you wish to know more about the Course by email, “Living in the Truth of the Present Moment,” and to receive a complimentary lesson, write to:
The Course is also available in Spanish and French.