Katinka Hesselink's always-interesting blog alerted me to an exceptional article in the January 2010 issue of THE THEOSOPHIST.


“Manifestation of Intention Through Visualisation” by Pablo D. Sender starts right off in an exceptional way: “In THE SECRET DOCTRINE, Madam Blavatsky wrote that, at the root of the manifested Cosmos, there exist two fundamental principles: Universal Mind and Cosmic Matter.”


While I usually like to refer to this pair as “Undifferentiated Consciousness” (Purusa, Atman, Self, etc.) and “Substance” (Prakriti), it is a treat to see a modern Theosophist who recognizes that HPB, at least, was likely fundamentally oriented toward the
perhaps more “esoteric” Sankhya or Yoga philosophy rather than the simpler, but
perhaps less useful as a “psychological analogy,” Vedanta philosophy.


This observation alone would be more than enough to make me a fan of the author; however, Pablo D. Sender further seals the deal with his astute analysis and criticism of the “self-affirmation”/visualization techniques which have become a very common
feature of the “New Age”: “This is a materialistic and self-centered philosophy, because it considers the personality as the real Self, and that happiness is attained through the
fulfillment of its desires.”


Yes.


And furthermore, self-affirmations may be even more screwed-up and disfunctional than that.


The following is from a little writing of mine called “Chief Bemidji Syndrome”:


{Anyway, Simple Psychotech #5 is pretty much the exact opposite of the positive-assertions/fabrications commonly known as “self-affirmations” that Guy W. Ballard’s I AM decrees may or may not have evolved into. Accordingly, here (unless the statements are true) are probably some examples of what NOT to say to oneself: “I am confident. I am powerful. I am popular. I am productive. I am in perfect physical and mental condition. I am energetic. I am a money magnet. Every cell in my body vibrates with vitality and good health. I attract romance in the most magical and unexpected ways.”


A virtual psycho-cash New Age industry has grown up based upon using similar
affirmations, and there is no shortage of individuals ready to give revival-tent
testimonies that such I-am-lies have produced miracles for them. Simple Psychotech #5 does not deny that such false affirmations may sometimes produce positive results; it only suggests that they may be short-lived while the frequent and possibly more profound bad results can go on and on.


Furthermore, self-affirmations could be a good example of just how pretentious and “Godless”—in terms of psychological usefulness—modern society has become. Apparently, it is not now enough to merely try to impress our neighbors by living in houses and driving cars that we only pretend we can afford; now we must also try to plant lies in our own psyches so that we may be able to impress ourselves as little
Houdinis. The old saying let go, let God may no longer apply; it may have been replaced by let go of God, let ME.


Take for example a person who is depressed and suffering. What actually happens when he or she tries to assume control and lie this condition away by saying “I am cheerful and feeling great in every way” over and over again?


Interestingly, it seems that many things, perhaps almost anything, repetitively verbalized for an extended period of time will have some “positive” result; this may or may not be associated with changes in Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta brain waves and/or the release of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Tibetan Buddhists advise repeating Om Mani Padme Hum; many Hindus just like the syllable Om; Ramana Maharshi and perhaps Shankara recommend Aham; Dr. Herbert Benson (THE RELAXATION RESPONSE) of Harvard Medical School prefers the word One.


Gandhi, however, perhaps tops them all with his enthusiasm for Ram or Rama: “The recitation of Rama's name for spiritual ailments is as old as the hills. My claim is that the recitation of Rama's name is a sovereign remedy for our physical ailments
also. To take Rama's name from the heart means deriving help from an incomparable power. The atom-bomb is as nothing compared with it.”


There is at least a possibility that many of the perceived benefits of self-affirming may simply be the result of its similarity to mantra repetition. Naturally, it is also tempting to think that there may be some “purposeful tricking” of the “subconscious” involved, and perhaps there is. From the perspective of an important Theosophical doctrine, however, this might not be such a good thing. If the overarching purpose of incarnation is to gradually eliminate all differentiated egoic delusions generated by “psycho-Spiritual maturation,” what sense does it make to add even more Self-deceptions to the ontological mess one already has to deal with?


All of this is just theoretical carping, of course; the biggest pragmatic complaint
is that affirmative benefits often quickly disappear once a person stops affirming—in
other words, if you want to keep walking, you better keep talking. . . .


But if a person does manage to keep walking and talking, perhaps he or she might also want to consider the possibility that some self-lies may be producing the opposite of what they intend—and that if such psycho-gremlins happen to show up only in the longer term, no cause-and-effect connection might ever be made.


Curiously, the mental realm does seem to have a “natural contrarian component.” For example, it is a common observation of Psychology 101 that if you tell a person “don’t
think of pink elephants,” that is precisely what a person will start to do.


One might try an informal experiment with self-affirmations that may reveal something similar: wait for a time when you are very, very tired and then say out loud, “I am completely refreshed and lively.” Re-focus your attention inward, and it is quite
likely you will immediately hear your own private contrarian “voice” whisper silently,
subtly, but emphatically, something like “NO YOU’RE NOT!


I am confident.” (“NO YOU’RE NOT!”)


I am powerful.” (“NO YOU’RE NOT!”)


I attract romance in the most magical and unexpected ways.” (“B*******!”)




Even using self-hypnotic strategies, these immediate nay-sayings may sometimes be powerful enough to undermine affirmations; however, even more powerful may be the “little evidences” the world can later give you that it is not being fooled by your psycho-lies. When surprises happen in daily life which are not in concert with what you have been repeating over and over, your misery may be further perfected by the frustrating realization that you are nowhere near being a Houdini-grade magician, after all.


Although truth should be what one strives for when making affirmations, it is probably far better to be surprised that things in daily life are not as bad as you have been over-kill-affirming rather than the reverse.


And at least one historical category of powerful magic involved truth and humility
rather than the reverse. Old-time religion. Here credit must be given where
credit is due. The great influence, achievements, and expansion of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam may have resulted, at least in part, from a type of prayer-life which seemed to produce amazing energy, motivation, and sharply focused purpose in many who practiced it. Traditionally in all three religions, it was not a puffed-up “I-am [great in some way]” pretense; rather, it often included some sign of subordination to the Deity and a humble, honest admission of unworthiness, general powerlessness, and/or open admission of the specific help which was needed. There could also be intense
emotion. For example, the human dynamo Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, was said to weep so profusely for his shortcomings and undeserving character during masses and prayer sessions that his doctor told him he would have to stop or otherwise go blind.


Regarding the use of truth, humility, and God as a resource, mention should probably also be made of the 12-Step Program. It is still at or near the top as the most
admired and effective approach to a wide variety of human problems. In 1999, Time Magazine selected Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (along with Dr. Bob Smith) to be in the top 20 of its Heroes and Icons of the Century.


After introducing oneself in the truthful manner of “I’m Michael. I’m a/an
[alcoholic, over-eater, sex addict],” a person verbalizes something relating to
one of the Steps--Number Three of which reads “Sought through prayer and
meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God,
praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out
.”


God as we understand God. Thus, even if one is convinced that Jehovah has left the cloud he was supposed to be sitting on, one should probably not hesitate to experiment with the cloud itself if it is suspected that it was there where the growth-promoting rain actually came from in the first place. And as a “General” Theosophist, one should especially not hesitate to psychologically experiment with Absolute Vacancy should it appear that both Jehovah and the cloud have moved out of heaven and into mythology. . . .


Baudelaire once said, “God is the only being who, in order to reign, doesn’t even need to exist.” Change one word: “God is the only being who, in order to help, doesn’t even need to exist.”



Here might be a general “truth-declaration”: “I am weak, pitiful, and pathetic; help me in every way.Simple Psychotech #5 recommends that something like this should be repeated for a minute or two at the beginning of every meditation session—basically just because it is “true” within the largercontext of human vulnerability and mortality.However, if a person has identified some specific problems, for example being depressed and suffering, he or she should specifically truth-declare, “I am depressed and suffering; help me in every way.” Another example: “I am unproductive; help me inevery way.” Another: “I am aging quickly; help me in every way.


The principle of analogy might be involved here as well. Just as the immune system and/or other natural correctives of the human body are not set in motion until a pathogen or other problem has been recognized by it, so too might it be necessary that a person psychologically accept and affirm the existence of some animating, physical, emotional, or mental difficulty before some “root” psychological mechanism—or perhaps even the restorative “Solvent” of Undifferentiated Consciousness—can automatically begin working on it.


Furthermore, the “help me in every way” is undoubtedly crucial. Call this requesting assistance from God if you wish—either old-time-religion Jehovah-God or new-time-General-Theosophical YHWH-God which, like the original Hebrew, no one can even pronounce the name of, much less describe or reveal the Divine motives of in any smug televangelist way.


Conversely, it is possible that promiscuous use of self-affirmations may require Undifferentiated Consciousness to first spend additional time dissolving a
person’s newly added, self-designed egoic pretenses before It can start solving the actual problems.


In any case, it is important to note that Simple Psychotech #5 is often more of a long-term investment rather than a quick slot machine payout. This cannot be emphasized enough. For example, if a person has, so long ago that he or she has forgotten about it, declared, “I am declining as an athlete; help me in every way,” he or she might someday otherwise inexplicably find himself or herself investigating the virtues of kettlebells as an exercise aid.

Indeed, like old time religion, there is a certain amount of faith required for truth-declarations. Look back after a day, a week, a month, or longer, and only then may one recognize its marks and miracles. . . .}

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Comment by Michael A. Williams on September 11, 2010 at 7:26pm
Thanks, Richard, for your response. I'm not especially concerned with Ken Wilber nor the Intregal Life Institute, both are doing very well. Some of ideas I find of value. A full examination of Wilber would show he's not "meat cleaverest" and quite discerning. For brevity, I'm obviously condensed things here. And, there are a plethora of practical exercses and approaches in all the 4 categories in a number of his books, if folks need help in that area.

It doesn't matter who says it, Shadow work is important, in my view. Wilber's far from the only one saying this. If others disagree, that's fine. I won't belabor the point.

You're right, who can know for sure about other's unconscious drives, etc. But, I think it's a good intuitive insight that holds water in this instance. The interesting thing is, unlike you thinking Wilber is too uptight about some sex going on with various "gurus" or there being power or money issues, quite the contrary. Other have criticized him for defending, for awhile, the likes of Trungpa's antics and heavy drinking and the sexual situations at Da Free John's island ashram. He back off of that, I believe explaining there is a point where it reaches a point of irresponsibilty and people being harmed psychologically.(my words, but close to his).

I do go along with his - and others - insight into the "Unique Self" and I only quoted a paragraph from an entire chapter on the subject. If others see differently, fine. There'll never be a univeral agreement on everything.

As for Jesus, that's a whole quagmire. With all the shenanagans that took place at the Council of Nicaea back in 325 A.D. that's it's impossible to know what really happened in the life of Jesus - if even there was a historical Jesus. Certain writings thrown in, all sorts of writings thrown out, misinterpretations, both deliberate and by mistake, and so on. Then the Gnostic Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls and who knows what else may still be preserved in caves. That's a whole discussion thread in and of itself. I don't have the time nor interest right now.

Meantime, I'm getting tired of Ken Wilber! Let's move on!

We do apparently have something in common in that I was quite involved in neo-paganism for awhile. I'm going back into the Hermetic Tradition at the moment as well. I heard a fine Internet show on Alchemy on Blogradio last Thursday night. You mentioned Aleister Crowley, I'm familiar with him, both pro and con. - I also believe in the "Do what thy will, but do no harm to others." I notice you put in "to yourself, also" which I would go along with also.

To close off here, I'm interested in what your definition of "Adept" is and along what lines of cultivation are you working on? If its not too personal.

Great to inter-act with you. Take care and have a great evening, wherever you are. I'm in the Los Angeles area.
Comment by Richard Ihle on September 11, 2010 at 3:19pm
Greetings, Michael, and continued good wishes.

Thank you for your interesting post on Ken Wilber. I think you did an excellent and important job.
Frankly, if I ever knew very much about his “Integral Method” (. . . mostly just for “Generating Even More Words . . . ?”), I have pretty much forgotten it. (I read SPECTRUM OF CONSCIOUSNESS, THE ATMAN PROJECT, and the lesser known, non-philosophical, but still my favorite, AMAZING GRACE.)

I agree with you that Wilber is pretty impressive in many ways. However, I think the reason I set him aside was that where I did not find him at least slightly off-track or meat-cleaverish (e.g., “Body, Mind, Spirit, Shadow”) I could not find him useful enough in either a practical-life or “psycho-technological” (cultivation of Adept abilities) way.

Furthermore, a couple of the things you quoted brought back some of the “flavor” of Wilber which I still find a little annoying. For example: “. . . spiritual figures have been marred by scandals, involving sex, power, and money, engendered (sometimes subtly and paradoxically) by their unconscious shadow impulses."

Is it possible that Wilber can definitely and precisely know what-if-any “unconscious” psychological feature of others “engender” their scandals?

(Also, since my general moral point of view runs along neo-Wiccan-but-not-Aleister-Crowley lines—Do anything you want, but do not harm others or yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, or Spiritually—I cannot help but wonder if, beyond a proscription against harmfulness, Wilber may actually find something fundamentally wrong with individuals at a high Degree of Self-awareness having too much sex, power, and/or money (—all three of which Wilber almost certainly has more of than I . . .).

Furthermore, this more than slightly “know-it-all” approach may also apply to the segment you quoted where Wilber rattles off what saints and sages are like—how they are comfortable in their bodies, how they accept their destinies etc. All these things may be true, but what kind of super-saint, super-sage, or super-psychological study would it take to actually know these things about all saints and sages? (And anyway, isn't it the case that Jesus, at least, didn’t seem all that comfortable in his body or accepting of his destiny when he asked his Father in Heaven to “remove this cup” if possible?)

Well, Michael, I don’t want to go overboard on the negative, because I still do admire Ken Wilber in many, many ways, and you did Teach me a good deal in your Masterful post. . . .

As they say in the East, “Teachers and Masters come in many disguises.

And as they say in General Theosophy #6, “Sometimes Teachers and Masters disguise so well that they no longer even recognize themselves. . . .
Comment by Michael A. Williams on September 11, 2010 at 2:30pm
Thanks, Katinka, for your input. I looked over the discussion on your blog. My only response is that the "Law of Attraction," or whatever you want to call it, is working all the time, whether we realize it or not. Generally, we manifest what we ARE, not necessarily what we want. Used for negative ends, the bad karma will come back to roost, for sure.

It seems the efforts to repress or kill off our desires is fruitless and only leads to more problems in the long run. Here's a quote from Human Potential Teacher Harrison Klein, that sums up an approach I would endorse:

"Whatever it is you desire, desire it for all of humanity. For the greater good of yourself and everybody else."
Comment by Katinka Hesselink on September 11, 2010 at 10:48am
Just wanted to add that the article Richard is talking about is: Manifestation of Intention Through Visualisation, by Pablo sender: http://www.katinkahesselink.net/other/sender-intention-manifestatio... which has sparked an interesting discussion on my blog: http://www.allconsidering.com/2010/manifestation-intention-visualis...
Comment by Michael A. Williams on September 10, 2010 at 11:45pm
Thanks, Richard, for the kind words, but I really don't feel nor present myself as a Teacher or Master.

Getting down to particulars, I'm not trying to sell Ken Wilber or his organization(I'm not a member), but present ideas and insights I think are worthy of consideration. I don't think that Ken Wilber aims to be any kind of "Theosophical Therapist." He has his own organization, Integral Life Institute, and it's doing quite well. He is a friend of and cooperates with numerous groups and people, including Theosophy. The Editors at Quest Books like him enough to have published his first book, "Spectrum of Consciousness" and a current offering "Ken Wilber In Dialogue" - talks with various Transpersonal Thinkers. If anyone feels he doesn't dovetail with Theosophy, I kindly suggest they take it up with Quest Books.

Second, I found a few things that clarify what I'm getting at. I couldn't hunt down the place where Ken Wilber talks of traditional spiritual practices "flattening the personality" in hopes of doing away with the problems thereof. But, what he is getting at is the dealing with the "shadow." Here
is his definition:

"There term 'shadow' refers to the 'dark side' of the psyche - those aspects of ourselves that we've split off, rejected, denied, hidden from ourselves, projected onto others, or otherwise disowned."

He has four modules, as he calls them, to work on, the first three the usual: Body, Mind, Spirit, plus the Shadow. Wilber's contention, and I agree, is: "One of the big mistakes the spiritual traditions make...is to assume that practices, such as meditation, can transform the whole individual, whereas in fact they generally leave out some very important aspects of the self, including and especially the shadow. The result, all too often, is a realization of higher states of consciousness, without a correspondingly rigorous and conscious integration of the practitioner's 'dark side.'"

Wilber, a little later, goes on: "Even spending many hours in high meditative states won't necessarily turn the shadow into light. The reputation of many otherwise wonderful spiritual figures have been marred by scandals, involving sex, power, and money, engendered (sometimes subtly and
paradoxically) by their unconscious shadow impulses."

As a personal aside, an illustration of this would be the numerous scandals (Muktananda, J. Krishnamurti, Trungpa, et. al) and in one case, poisoning a small town(Rajneesh) that rocked so many of the Gurus, Teachers and Ashrams.

"Meditation helps us with the Big Self, but it does not directly deal with the problems of the finite self."...There's a big difference between advanced meditators who have meditated but neglected shadow work and those who've practiced both." - Ken Wilber

He does offer and suggest approaches and techniques to deal effectively with the Shadow, but I won't go into those here.

As for your comment about "personality" vs "personalities." It's a matter of definition of "personality." What you call "semi-selves" and Gurdjieff "separate small I's", Wilber refers to a the coming and going of desires, wishes, images, thoughts, etc.(monkey mind). I can't seem to find the quote I had book marked this morning! Oh, well, I think everyone here is referring to
the same phenomena, just using different terms.

I'll leave off with what Wilber and others call the "Unique Self.":

"Thus, you are not only pure Awareness. You are also a uniquely, constituted and very particular refraction of universal light, a unique flavor of universal consciousness, a uniquely shaped embodiment of universal awareness and passionate life energy...The most awakened saints and sages are not bland and homogenous beings. They are very much themselves, at home in their
bodies and in their uniqueness. Their personality is a vehicle for their
transparency to the impersonal. They in inhabit a certain locus in space-time, and they accept their destiny. They are not ashamed of their uniqueness."..."The transpersonal manifests most fully through the personal. Thus to awaken to the transcendental, we do not have to put ourselves
through a process of erasing our uniqueness." - (Both Blavatsky and Gurdjeiff come to mind, among many others, of those that operated from their Unique Self ) - "Our uniqueness need not be
viewed as a sign of the most constricted aspects of the self that are sometimes negatively associated with ego."

These comments have been longer than I anticipated, but I'm not trying to promote Ken
Wilber, but present the insights he offers for consideration. Thanks again for your indulgence. Best to you, Richard, and anyone else who reads this.
Comment by Michael A. Williams on September 10, 2010 at 1:14pm
Richard, thanks for the reply. I'm busy right now, but will give a quick response. I'm sure Ken Wilber is fully aware of what you say about "personalities" and the quote of Gurdjieff via Ouspensky. I was quoting Wilber by memory and may have got it wrong and didn't get the full context. I'll look it up later when I have time.

Best to you.
Comment by Richard Ihle on September 10, 2010 at 11:45am
Greetings, Michael, and continued good wishes.

I certainly consider you a teacher and Master of at least some degree.

RE: "Ken Wilber . . . pointed out the traditional Eastern way of "flattening the personality" as the only way to Liberation is rarely suited to modern times. . . ."

If Ken Wilber were an advanced Theosophical psychologist, he perhaps might have used the plural (personalities) rather than the singular (personality) in reference to the "flattening" which he thinks may be unsuitable . . . for a big problem for most individuals is that they are psychologically "infested" with ego-formations (semi-Selves, egoic delusions) coming into "being," sometimes only momentarily (one-at-time, please), at all levels of consciousness and then passing away, only to be replaced by others.

Gurdjieff expressed it this way:

“Man has no individual I. But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small I’s, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible. Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking, ‘I.’ And each time his I is different. Just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. Man is a plurality. Man’s name is legion.” --IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS (Ouspensky)
Comment by Michael A. Williams on September 9, 2010 at 10:05pm
Richard, thanks for taking the trouble for the explanations. I'm familiar that there are different types of yoga and so forth. I understand what you're saying, I just didn't know the exact terms you're using.

Sankyha Yoga is a good, valid approach. I've often wondered if this is the best for all Westerners,though. For some, yes, but not most. Then I ran across Ken Wilber - whose first book Quest Books published, plus some others of his - and he pointed out the traditional Eastern way of "flattening the personality" as the only way to Liberation is rarely suited to modern times, east or west. His Integral Approach of the 4 Quatrans includes the meditative, yogic way, but also embraces Western approaches, Jungian and so forth. You'll have to read him to get his full explanation, I'm not presenting it very well. I'm not a doctrinaire follower of him, but do feel he's got an all embracing view to be considered.

I'm sure Shankyha Yoga is working great for you and I learned some good things through your comments. I'm not a teacher or Master or trying to tell folks what path they should be on. I'm just sharing here.

And, Dominique, it certainly looks like any kind of affirmation work is not for you and the particular path you are following. Best to you.
Comment by Richard Ihle on September 9, 2010 at 6:53pm
Oops #2,

The sentence should read: "(Ramakrishna once described the FORMER type of meditative experience something like this: “The purpose of this meditation is to taste the honey, not to become the honey.”)
Comment by Richard Ihle on September 9, 2010 at 6:47pm
Oops,

The line should read: " . . . difference between savilkalpa samadhi and nirvilkalpa samadhi—the LATTER would be the condition of consciousness where there is no longer an 'observer,' and the FORMER would be the blissful condition where there still is one."

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