“In the deep stillness
of your formless being, the clarity of watchfulness emerges and the boundaries
of separateness dissolve. You are free to withdraw your dependence on the illusory,
objective model of reality and remain as Infinite Consciousness.” –Anon I
There is a very famous poem written by the third patriarch of Zen, Seng-ts’an, called the Hsin-Hsin Ming, which translates as Verses in Faith Mind. In this poem Seng-ts’an writes these lines: “Do not seek the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” This is a reversal of the way most people go about trying to realize absolute truth. Most people seek truth, but Seng-ts’an is saying not to seek truth. This sounds very strange indeed. How will you find truth if you don’t seek it? How will you find happiness if you do not seek it? How will you find God if you do not seek God? Everyone seems to be seeking something. In spirituality seeking is highly honored and respected, and here comes Seng-ts’an saying not to seek. …
The task of any useful spiritual practice is therefore to dismantle cherishing the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that make up the false self, the self that is seeking. This is the true task of both meditation and inquiry. Through meditation we can come to see that the only thing that makes us suffer is our own mind. Sitting quietly reveals the mind to be nothing but conditioned thinking spontaneously arising within awareness. Through cherishing this thinking, through taking it to be real and relevant, we create internal images of self and others and the world. Then we live in these images as if they were real. To be caught within these images is to live in an illusory virtual reality.
Through observing the illusory nature of thought without resisting it, we can begin to question and inquire into the underlying belief structures that support it. These belief structures are what form our emotional attachments to the false self and the world our minds create.
This is why I sometimes ask people, “Are you ready to lose your world?” Because true awakening will not fit into the world as you imagine it or the self you imagine yourself to be. Reality is not something that you integrate into your personal view of things. Reality is life without your distorting stories, ideas, and beliefs. It is perfect unity free of all reference points, with nowhere to stand and nothing to grab hold of. It has never been spoken, never been written, never been imagined. It is not hidden, but in plain view. Cease to cherish opinions and it stands before your very eyes..
I can’t count how many times I have recommended this lecture to aspiring magicians. Some lovely fellow has gone and transcribed it, so now you can read it right here in its entirety.
– Scroll of Thoth
The Philosophy and Practice of Magick
by Peter J. Carroll
Some general considerations on the philosophy and practice of magick now follow: The effectiveness of magick depends heavily on the skill and subtlety of those performing it, and on the careful choice of, and preparation for, a desired effect. In general, one should try and bring about events which have a measurable probability of occurring by chance alone, and one should not be too proud to do everything possible on the physical plane to help it occur. Thus, magick should be something thrown in to tip the scales of chance in one’s favour when all possible physical action has been taken. By neglecting to maximize the probability on the physical plane, one sets up an internal conflict, in which magick is expected to make up for poor preparation. Thus, in divination, one should not shy away from first exhausting all mundane sources of information that might be relevant, and in enchantment assist the spell both before and after casting by all possible ordinary means.
The purpose of performing magick is not to test the efficacy of magick. If it is performed in this spirit of challenge, the subconscious challenge for it to fail will be the only result which manifests. Magick is to be performed to get results, and even if one at first achieves results only a little better than chance, then it at least provides an edge which can be turned into a considerable advantage if subtly employed.
One should always look for an avenue of reasonable probability through which chance can be bent towards desire. For example, the probability of spontaneously materializing a substantial fortune is rather low, and even doubling that probability by magick is unlikely to lead to success. On the other hand, even a small advantage in gambling or business can produce a decisive effect. Similarly, divination should be regarded as a means of distinguishing the correct information from amongst those alternatives of which one is aware or able to imagine. In magical acts of illumination, it is better to conjure initially for modest specific improvements, or even arbitrary changes to oneself, rather than for ill defined or grandiose modifications.
Although the lore of magick is peppered with tales of really extreme and improbable events, remember that even the best of the magi rarely pull off more than a dozen such events in a lifetime. The aspiring magician should seek to work on the simpler schemes first, and to immerse himself in the belief structures of magick, and the really great acts of power will gradually begin to manifest in his work.
At any time in life, but most commonly in late youth, when we have the vague intuition that there is something profoundly bizarre and inconsistent about life, the universe, and everything, there may suddenly be a horrifying or ecstatic certainty that one’s own self is illusory, and that reality is also an illusion. One’s carefully defended identity seems to be a pointless pretence and an empty shell. The world becomes a cacophony of meaningless sensations. Most people will reject this initiation, and manage to fill their lives and identities with sufficient concerns until perhaps an awareness of mortality reminds them of it again. Those who do drink the poison must seek stronger medicine or become sick or mad.
Compared with Buddhism, Christianity has several distinguishing features that show that it deserves consideration.
First, while both Christianity and Buddhism have an historical central figure, namely Jesus and Buddha, only Jesus is shown to have risen from the dead. Many people in history have been wise teachers. Many have started religious movements. Siddhartha Guatama, the historical Buddha also called Sakyamuni, stands out among them for having special wisdom and a profound philosophy of life. But Jesus also stands out, and He has confirmed His spiritual teachings with a test that only divine power could pass. Jesus’ body of teachings is confirmed by the death and resurrection of His literal body—a fact which He prophesied and fulfilled in Himself (Matthew 16:21;20:18-19;Mark 8:31;1Luke 9:22;John 20-21;1 Corinthians 15). Jesus deserves special consideration.
Second, the Christian Scriptures are historically outstanding, deserving serious consideration. One could even say that the history of the Bible is so compelling that to doubt the Bible is to doubt history itself since the Bible is the most historically verifiable book of all antiquity. The only book more historically verifiable than the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) is the New Testament. Consider the following:
1) More manuscripts exist for the New Testament than for any other of antiquity—5,000 ancient Greek manuscripts, 24,000 in all including other languages. The multiplicity of manuscripts allows for a tremendous research base by which we can test the texts against each other and identify what the originals said.
2) The manuscripts of the New Testament are closer in age to the originals than are any other document of antiquity. All of the originals were written within the time of the contemporaries (eyewitnesses), in the first century A.D., and we currently have parts of manuscript dating back to A.D. 125. Whole book copies surface by A.D. 200, and the complete New Testament can be found dating back to A.D. 250. Having all the books of the New Testament initially written within the times of eyewitnesses means that the books did not have time to devolve into myth and folklore. Plus, their truth claims were held accountable by members of the Church who, as personal witnesses to the events, could check the facts.
3) The New Testament documents are more accurate than any other of antiquity. John R. Robinson inHonest to Godreports that the New Testament documents are 99.9 percent accurate (most accurate of any complete antique book). Bruce Metzger, an expert in the Greek New Testament, suggests a more modest 99.5 percent.
Third, Christian ethics has a stronger foundation than Buddhist ethics. Christian ethics is founded in the personal character of God. God is personal and moral. His nature is good, and therefore all actions which align with His goodness are actually good. Whatever departs from His goodness is actually evil. For Buddhists, however, ultimate reality is not understood as personal. But morality by its very nature requires personality. To illustrate, consider the morality of a rock. One does not blame a rock for being used in a murder since it is not a person with moral duties. Rather, the moral duty lies with the person who used that rock for evil purposes. Buddhism lacks the personal framework for moral duty. With Buddhism, karma is the framework for morality. But karma is impersonal. It is akin to a law of nature. Breaking a karmic “rule” is not intrinsically evil. There seems to be no significant difference between error (non-moral mistakes) and sin (moral wrongdoing).
Furthermore, many Buddhists even assert that the dualities of “good” and “evil” ultimately break down. “Good” and “evil” would be part ofmaya, the illusory world of sensory reality. The categories of morality are not grand enough to map onto ultimate reality, and enlightened individuals will see that good and evil blur into one. But such a position means that ultimate reality would not be “good.” It wouldn’t be “evil” either, but then what assurance exists that “ultimate reality” is even a worthwhile pursuit? And what grounds would there be for living a morally good life as opposed to an amoral life without regard for moral distinctions, or an inactive life avoiding moral choices as much as possible? If Buddhism asserts that reality is not ultimately personal and the distinctions between good and evil are not actually real, then Buddhism does not have a true foundation for ethics. Christianity, on the other hand, can point to the character of God as personally founding morality and providing a basis to distinguish good from evil.
Fourth, Christianity rightly appreciates “desire.” Buddhist ethics seems to have a core difficulty at this point. Sakyamuni taught thattanha, “desire” or “attachment,” is the root of suffering and is to be dissolved. But some admittedly good things are based on the idea of desire. Love, for example, is “to desire the good of another” (John 15:13;1 John 4:7-12). One could not even love unless one had a degree of attachment in desiring someone else’s well-being. In contrast, Christianity teaches that desire is good when it is properly directed. Paul urges Christians to “desire the greater gifts” of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31;14:1). In the Psalms, we see pictures of worshipers longing for and desiring fellowship with God (Psalm 42:1-2;84). And, of course, God does not simply act loving, He is love (1 John 4:9;Psalm 136;John 3:16). Sacrificing desire altogether seems to throw out the proverbial baby (love) with the dirty bathwater (suffering).
Fifth is the question “What do you do with your sin?” Buddhism has at least two ideas of sin. Sin is sometimes understood as ignorance. It is sinful if one does not see or understanding reality as Buddhism defines it. However, in Buddhism, there is still an idea of moral error termed “sin.” To do something deliberately evil, to break a spiritual or earthly law, or to desire wrong things, these would be identifiable sins. But, this latter definition of sin points to a kind of moral error that requires real atonement. From where can atonement rise? Can atonement come by adherence to karmic principles? Karma is impersonal and amoral. One could do good works to even the balance, but one cannot ever dispose of sin. Karma does not even provide a context whereby moral error is even moral. Whom have we offended if we sin in private? Karma does not care one way or the other because karma is not a person. Can atonement come by prayer or devotion to a Bodhisattva or a Buddha? Even if those characters could offer forgiveness, it seems like sin would still be left unpaid. They would forgive sin showing it to be excusable; it is not a big deal.
Christianity, on the other hand, has the only adequate theological view of sin. In Christianity sin is moral error. Ever since Adam, humans have been sinful creatures. Sin is real. And it sets an infinite gap between man and bliss. Sin demands justice. But it cannot be “balanced out” with an equal or greater amount of good works. If someone has ten times more good works than bad works, then he or she still has bad works on the conscience. What happens to these remaining bad works? Are they just forgiven as if they were not a big deal in the first place? Are they permitted into bliss? Are they mere illusions thus leaving no problem whatsoever? None of these options are suitable.
Concerning illusion, sin is too real to us to be explained away as illusion. Concerning our sinfulness, when we are honest with ourselves we all know that we have sinned. Concerning forgiveness, to simply forgive sin at no cost treats sin like it is not of much consequence even though we know that to be false. Concerning bliss, bliss is not much good if sin keeps getting smuggled in. It seems like the scales of karma leave us with sin on our hearts and bliss either cannot tolerate us, or it must cease being perfect so that we can come in.
Christianity has an answer for sin. No sin goes unpunished, but the punishment has already been satisfied in Christ’s personal sacrifice on the cross. God became man, lived a perfect life, and died the death that we deserved. He was crucified on our behalf, a substitute for us, and a covering, or atonement, for our sins. Furthermore, He was resurrected, proving that not even death could conquer Him. He promises the same resurrection unto eternal life for all who put their faith in Him as their only Lord and Savior (Romans 3:10,23;6:23;8:12;10:9-10;Ephesians 2:8-9;Philippians 3:21).
This is no “easy believism” where God, like a janitor, just cleans up all our mistakes. Rather, this is a life-long commitment where we take on a new nature and begin a new relationship with God Himself (Romans 6:1;Ephesians 2:1-10). When a person really believes God is who He says He is in the Bible, and really believes God did what He says He did in the Bible, and a person puts his or her life on that belief—that person is transformed. He becomes a new creation by the power of God (2 Corinthians 5:17). You cannot stay the same once you have that belief. One could just as easily continue reading the morning paper after realizing his house was on fire. That knowledge (the house is on fire) motivates action and changes your life (stop reading the paper and do something about the fire).
Nor is Jesus simply an answer among many others. All the world’s religions have some level of truth in them, but ultimately, Jesus is the only answer to the human condition. Meditation, works, prayer—none of these can make us worthy of the infinite and eternal gift of heaven. None of these can undo the sin we’ve done. Only when Christ pays our sin debt and we place our faith in Him can we be saved. Only then is sin covered, hope assured, and life filled with eternal meaning.
Finally, it is only in Christianity that we can know that we are saved. We do not have to rely on some fleeting experience, nor do we rely on our own good works or fervent meditation. Nor do we put our faith in a false god whom we are trying to “believe-into-existence.” We have a living and true God, an historically anchored faith, an abiding and testable revelation of God (Scripture), and a guaranteed home in heaven with God.
So, what does this mean for you? Jesus is the ultimate reality! Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for your sins. God offers all of us forgiveness and salvation if we will simply receive His gift to us (John 1:12), believing Jesus to be the Savior who laid down His life for us, His friends. If you place your trust in Jesus as your Savior, you will have absolute assurance of eternal life in heaven. God will forgive your sins, cleanse your soul, renew your spirit, give you abundant life in this world, and eternal life in the next world. How can we reject such a precious gift? How can we turn our backs on God who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself for us?
What do you see around you? What do you read? It rather perplexes me that I read different interpretations and versions of essentially the same thing time and time again. It seems rather ordinary and ‘conventional’ to read news about the Trump Administration, the Republican Party now being in complete disarray, the sheer amount of rhetoric, and obviously, the Russian investigations being conducted against the Trump campaign. Just this morning, I was reading the New York Times, when I clicked on the headlines, and realized the trap I had fallen into. It was declared that President Donald Trump’s own lawyer, Michael D. Cohen had connections with Russian authorities.
Since the Cold War, normalized relations between the United States and Russia has been nothing but an illusory reality that many Presidents have only promised. Donald Trump, in particular, has parroted this throughout his campaign trail. Yet, when we take a look back at the progress of the Trump Administration thus far, we simply do not seem to see the materialization of any promise or success on this front. The recent Russian investigations being conducted by Robert Muller and the entourage of FBI agents are ongoing and White House criticisms only continue to aggravate.
When we take a look at the striking turn of events since Trump took office, the future of Russia- U.S.- relations indeed seem quite bleak. In the past few months, Congress has resolved to tighten international sanctions against Russia even further. In retaliation, Vladimir Putin has also severely curtailed the power of the U.S. consulate in Russia and cut down the number of foreign diplomats and advisors in the country by a record number. Russian officials recently proclaimed that they would respond to the U.S. shut down by closing down their Consulate in New York, Washington, and San Francisco. Moreover, President Trump continues to argue and prolong wars with words between GOP senators. Not only is this making him more isolated and entrenching the divide between the President and Congressional Republicans, but it also questions his authority and power to make good decisions that favor and safeguard the interests of the United States.
Critics of the Trump Administration, journalists, reporters, political analysts, governments, Republicans, Democrats only seem to think about how the Russian Investigation could potentially accentuate and bring to light the threat of hacking and international espionage by foreign hostile governments. Yet, no one really seems to pay heed to the fact that the sheer magnitude of media attention, controversy, and rhetoric only serve to discredit the system of democracy in the U.S. and the office of the President of the United States. The current state of affairs only serves to trigger yet more suspicion and mistrust within the government and the public.
While a whole nation partakes in this rather pointless debate, Russia continues to capitalize on the chaos. It’s almost business as usual for them, as they continue to follow status quo and stick to the foreign policy they have been following under Putin since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They are at the forefront of an investigation that does not seem to hurt them domestically and Putin’s approval rating in Russia continues to soar. International attention to the U.S. has also now turned quite sour as people question why an inexperienced, misinformed demagogue occupies the hot seat of global governance and international discourse.
What did Trump promise his fellow Americans? The crime he seems to have allegedly committed seems to be going more and more against him as we speak. Perhaps, losing the elections would have cast less doubt on his competency, blasphemy, and character.
There is no cause of illusion,
For illusion is unreal.
For an unreal effect,
There cannot be a real cause.
Causality itself is illusory.
Illusion itself is illusory.
The Reality alone ever is.
There is no cause of illusion.
Many thanks to madfatty, whose handholding and cheerleading and encouragement keep me coming back to the page, even when it seems impossible . Please don’t let the intangibles get you.
“Tell me.” He
says, and his voice is still velvet smooth against her skin.
“No. It’s stupid.”
“Tell me anyways.”
She clutches the phone a little tighter against
her face, the heat from the screen flushing her cheek. Her eyes are shut, and
she wants to squeeze them, but it’s easier to see him if her lids stay soft.
It’s all easier when she makes herself stay soft.
She still sleeps on the left side of the bed,
still keeps that opening on the mattress for when he comes back. It’s stupid,
he’s been gone six months already. He’s spent more time not in this bed than he
ever did sleeping in it. She can barely even think of it as his bed, even to
herself. His bed is some shadowy, negligible thing in some faraway corner of
the world. When she pictures it, it’s all sharp angles and shades of gray, like
an old film. His bed is grainy in her mind, flickering and popping in eight
So she keeps him in hers, tells herself it’s
theirs. She keeps her lashes soft against her cheekbones and her eyebrows
smooth over her forehead. She imagines his pale skin glowing faintly in the
moonlight pouring in from the window. She leaves the shutters open a bit
because his skin looks otherworldly in the silver light; he’s a dragon tamed by
her fingertips, leather rubbed smooth like stone.
In order to seek, you must first have an idea, ideal, or an image, what it is you are seeking. That idea may not even be very conscious or clear but it must be there in order for you to seek. Being an idea it cannot be real.
That’s why Seng-ts’an says “only cease to cherish opinions.”
By opinions he means ideas, ideals, beliefs, and images, as well as personal opinions. This sounds easy but it is rarely as easy as it seems. Seng-ts’an is not saying you should never have a thought in your head, he is saying not to cherish the thoughts in your head. To cherish implies an emotional attachment and holding on to.
When you cherish something, you place value on it because you think that it is real or because it defines who you think you are. This cherishing of thoughts and opinions is what the false self thrives on. It is what the false self is made of. When you realize that none of your ideas about truth are real, it is quite a shock to your system. It is an unexpected blow to the seeker and the seeking.
The task of any useful spiritual practice is therefore to dismantle cherishing the thoughts, opinions, and ideas that make up the false self, the self that is seeking. This is the true task of both meditation and inquiry.
Through meditation we can come to see that the only thing that makes us suffer is our own mind. Sitting quietly reveals the mind to be nothing but conditioned thinking spontaneously arising within awareness. Through cherishing this thinking, through taking it to be real and relevant, we create internal images of self and others and the world. Then we live in these images as if they were real. To be caught within these images is to live in an illusory virtual reality.