Who Is in Control?
Life is indeed a mystery to us all. We ask questions about why or how we even exist at all or about the purpose and meaning of life as we move along through it. When we do not get an answer, which we almost invariably do not, we continue on our way. Every now and then, we may stop and consciously ponder these questions as if hopeful that at some point the answers will materialize. Either that or we decide for ourselves what we think the answers are and then live our lives accepting that whatever answers we have are our personal truth. Our answers may or may not be correct, though it really does not matter at all. What matters is what we decide matters, nothing more nothing less.
No one can tell us the answers to these questions we must come to our own conclusions. Further, no one can give meaning to our lives except us. Life is a series of experiences that we go through. We experience what we are “supposed to”, not because it was predestined to occur, rather because what we manifest is a reflection of what we are in any given life. For many, this is hard to accept, as the sources of their struggles seem beyond their control. As many great teachers have tried to explain, each in their own way, this is part of the illusion.
We like to think that we are in control yet continually experience situations over which we have none. This leads us to believe we have no control even though we would like to think we do. In reaction to situations that appear beyond our control, our tendency is to try to exert more control, get angry and frustrated or fight back or we can even withdraw and can become depressed because of our inability to control our lives. These are not solutions to our inability to control outcomes; they are symptoms of the problem. They keep us stuck where we are and can lead us to dig deeper holes with even stronger more emotional reactions.
To get ourselves out of the ruts we have created we must change our attitude. We must change cease to believe we have no control over what happens to us and that we are imperfect; both are fallacies. I get that they sound reasonable on the surface; however, they fail to acknowledge the reailty and do not help us.
We believe or at least like to think we have direct control, as we appear to be able choose and think things independently in the moment and that we are imperfect because we all make mistakes. Yes, we appear to be able to choose, and that being able to choose gives us control, but it is not over outcomes, rather it is in how we live our lives. The problem is this is not control for we actually exist in the now, yet do not choose in the now. We base our choices about what we would like to have happen on what happened to us in the past.
What we like, what we think, what we do are all based on what we liked, thought and did in the past. Even our thoughts about the future have their foundation in our past. This is not choosing, this is living by momentum. Control is an illusion, what occurs in our lives is the direct result of how we have integrated our experiences. We allow our experiences to dictate how we react. I have spoken at great length about the programming that forms our mind. In order to change this we need to act despite what we feel and not let our reactions dictate our actions. We can learn to take ownership through choosing not to let our past reactions dictate how we will react to what is happening now. Of course, this is easier to say than to done and could be humankind’s greatest challenge.
“We feel that our actions are voluntary when they follow a decision and involuntary when they happen without decision. But if a decision itself were voluntary every decision would have to be preceded by a decision to decide - An infinite regression which fortunately does not occur. Oddly enough, if we had to decide to decide, we would not be free to decide”
― Alan Wilson Watts, The Way of Zen
As for our being imperfect, evolution is a process; it unfolds moment by moment, with each moment finding its roots in those that went before. The physical world evolves, as does our consciousness. When we spend our time comparing and evaluating what we have to what we would like to have or had, we lock ourselves out of the moment. By doing this we live in our heads. We allow our thoughts to dictate everything for us.
Thoughts are a reaction to experiences; hence, they can never be in the moment. That means that we are not choosing to make a mistake, we are doing what is natural based on our experiences. Consider these two phrases:
“If I should have and could have I would have”
“Hindsight is 20/20”
What the first statement means is that if we had been able to make a different choice at any given point in time, we would have done so. This is the ‘crux of the biscuit’, as I like to say. We do what we do because it is what we are able to choose at the time. The second one means that when looking back we see what we ‘should’ have done, though it is not quite accurate as it assumes we ‘now know’ what the ‘right’ choice would have been when in fact this is merely supposition. There is no way to know what the results would have been had we chosen differently in the past as you can't change one thing about the past and expect everything will remain unchanged as a result.
I see, or try to see the Cosmos, our lives and all that occurs as perfect just the way they are. I have not come upon this view casually, having spent a great deal of time contemplating and meditating on the nature of our Cosmos and its beginnings. The basis of this view is the following. I believe that the Cosmos has evolved from an initial starting point, one perfectly simply and utterly elegant.
The best description I have come across regarding this initial moment, can be found in the book The Cosmic Doctrine (1), is the following:
“The Unmanifest is pure existence. We cannot say of It that it is Not. Although it is not manifest it Is. It is the source from which all arises. It is the only ‘Reality’. It alone is substance. It alone is stable. All else is an appearance and a becoming. Of this Unmanifest we can only say IT IS. IT is the verb ‘to be’ turned back upon itself. IT is a state of pure ‘being’ without qualities and without history. All we can say of IT is that it is not anything that we know, for if we know anything it must be in manifestation for us to know it, and if it is in manifestation that it is not unmanifest. Therefore the very fact that we can know it proves that it is not unmanifest. The Unmanifest is the Great Negation; at the same time it is the infinite potentiality which has not occurred. It is best conceived of under the image of inter-stellar space.
In the occult teachings you have been given certain images, under which you are instructed to think certain things. These images are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not inform it. Therefore you may think of the Unmanifest as inter-stellar space; and of the Logas as a Sun surrounded by His Solar System of Planets and of the emanations of the Logos as Rays. The Unmanifest is the only Unity. Manifestation begins when duality occurs. The prime duality being ‘Space’ and ‘Movement’.
The first manifestation was a current in space. The metaphor I must use may convey nothing to your mind. All I can say is that space was moving. You will find these clues are the clue to much.
Now when space moves it has a peculiar quality – being frictionless it never loses momentum but continues to flow.
When space moves two forces are at work:-
(a) The force which causes it to move, being the desire of space for momentum
(b) The force which hitherto caused it not to move, being the desire of space for inertia
These two factors are present in all motion, but the desire for movement, being the stronger, overcomes the desire for inertia, and the desire for inertia continues as a check upon the movement.”
The book goes on to describe how the Cosmos unfolds from this initial starting point. What the above implies is that all that follows from this initial movement, which is the desire of space for momentum. This, in turn, implies that all that follows can only be what it is. One movement and a reaction to it. There is no alternative and since there is no alternative, it must be perfect. Therefore, all that flows from perfection must also be perfect. Since we are one of the results of that movement, albeit much later in the proces, then we too are perfect. Perfection cannot lead to imperfection.
We are perfect just as we are. What we see as imperfection is merely our personal judgements of that perfection based on thoughts we have manifest because of our experiences. Our imperfections are not actually imperfect, further, even these judgements are perfect. The Cosmos is unfolding as it should, and though from our perspective it is unfathomable, it is so. What we can do is choose to be different, there is no choosing to be better or more perfect, we already are.
The subtle perturbations in the infinite complexity of the Cosmos we experience or perceive as bad are not in fact bad, they are merely forces that we have manifest. The same applies to those attributes of us we see as flaws; they too are a necessary aspect of our evolution. We cannot avoid them, deny them or find ways around them. We brought these forces into ‘being’ with our thoughts, and our choices and they will be worked out and balanced as all forces must. Yet again, that does not make them imperfect in any way, shape or form.
When you consider your thoughts and actions in this light, you may come to realize that all is as it should be, even what we perceive as flaws. This is why even judging ourselves is not ‘good or bad’ though do not take this to mean that there are not consequences to our choices. Now, try not to let the idea that everything is unfolding as it should to jump to the conclusion that everything is pre-ordained. We do have free-will, which in the same book is touched on in the below two points:
“You now see the significance of the maxim ‘As above, so below’. The Cosmos is the framework upon which all is built up. You start where God leaves off; therefore what was in God is in you, and something of your own which is called free-will though it is an unsuitable name.”
“The Cosmic principles are known and are constant. To these each human soul is obedient as to the fundamental laws of its nature. But the reactions of epigenesist cannot be calculated in relation to individuals because of their complexity, and the number of possible modifying factors. They can only be calculated relation to evolution’s because the number gives the average. Hence it is that epigenesis introduces the element known as free-will; and free-will, in the interval between its development and its synthesis to the Logos, gives rise to the positive evil of the manifested universe.”
As for the term ‘epigenesis, I will quote another passage from The Cosmic Doctrine. Note that you can equate, figuratively, the term Divine Sparks with those great ‘beings’ that manifested the basis of what we refer to as consciousness or self. All forces we ‘see’ in the Cosmos had to be manifest for everything began from the one movement described above. What we perceive as the Laws of Physics and Chemistry and even consciousness had to evolve.
“But as these Divine Sparks cannot advance until the preceding swarm has moved on, they are compelled to remain upon the glove of their evolution after they have exhausted its possibilities of reaction, and the superabundant energies, to whom the evolving channel is closed, make play among themselves. This is the first instance of free-will within the Cosmos, and its resultant activities building individualised reactions into atoms, is called epigenesist. This is the first occasion on which the atoms are differentiated one from another, and this leads to the applying to this swarm of the name ‘Lords of Mind’, because individualised experience is the basis of personality.”
Do not view the word ‘evil’ as being synonymous with what people consider ‘evil’. In the earlier passage, the initial movement of space is ‘good’ and the reaction of space around is ‘evil’. They are terms in relation to one another and not a value judgement on the movements themselves. This is a very important distinction to make and for you to understand. So, we are perfect just as we are, for how else could we be?
In line with this, we can now look at why we see ourselves as imperfect. What we call imperfections or flaws are merely the result of our ignorance, that being how we perceive them. C.W. Leadbeater’s book, “The Inner Life” (2) provides an excellent passage to help us see this.
“It may be objected that in daily life we constantly see people doing what they must know to be wrong, but this is a misstatement of the case. They are doing what they have been told is wrong, which is quite a different matter. If a man really knows that an action is wrong, and that it will inevitably be followed by evil consequences, he is careful to avoid it. A man really knows that fire will burn him; therefore he does not put his hand into it. He has been told that the fire of hell will burn him as the result of a certain action — say playing cards on a Sunday — but he does not really know this, and therefore when he fells the inclination to play cards he does so in spite of the threatened consequences. It will be found that every one who does wrong justifies the wrong action to himself at the time of its commission, whatever he may think about it afterwards in cold blood. So I say that sin as ordinarily understood is a figment of the theological imagination; what really exists is an unfortunate condition of ignorance which often leads to infraction of the divine Law.”
We look at our errors, or wrongs, as mistakes, ones that show we are imperfect. However, as Mr. Leadbeater explains, our mistakes are the result of ignorance, and our ignorance, as I explain is the result of how we integrated our experiences. This is precisely what is meant by “should have, could have, would have”. Nothing or virtually nothing happens by accident. We bring forces into manifestation; these forces then react and in turn lead to other forces. This is the basis of the Law of Action and Reaction.
When we are born, we have no mind to speak of, what we have is a basic set of action-reaction capabilities (3). Some of these we brought with us, some we inherit from our parents and others from what humankind has built up over our evolution. We then proceed to experience life and begin to react to what we experience. This in turn affects, because of the Law of Action and Reaction, our subsequent experiences. Hence, what we experience as imperfect or flawed is not the case as this is a value judgement we assign.
A friend of mine, Alistar Valdez, stated this quite eloquently in the short passage below he shared on Facebook.
“We tend to forget that light can only shine in darkness, to deny darkness is to deny a piece of what’s within all of us. When looking at the yin yang sign, it’s not about being the light side, it’s not about being the dark side, it’s about becoming that line in between, which also wraps around the outer of both sides. It takes a non-dual approach to BE whole and to embrace the entire spectrum of BEing. Choosing one side over the other only creates a false duality, which creates inner conflict, which is You against You.”
My goal with this essay, and I did not have one thoroughly articulated even to myself, is to merely provide some thoughts around the two common ideas that I began with. First is the idea that we are imperfect and second that we can exert control over things. Both are illusions. There is only now, our thoughts cannot be now as we have thoughts about something, which implies that they are a reaction to something and hence are after the fact. We are now our minds, our minds are the ‘clothing’ we wear in a given lifetime, and they are our ‘Puzzle Box’ (4, 5).
What we can do is work to get past our own thinking; we do this by being instead. Being is in the moment and when we are in the moment, we do not have thoughts. Control is something we do because of our reaction to our experiences and the desire to direct the outcome. Control comes from thinking about the outcome we would like to have. Further, it is in the moment that we also see our perfection for our judgements of imperfection are also thoughts. Both of these may seem like conundrums, they are not, they are part of the challenge we all have before us, to be what we are, not what we think we are.
Take your walk down that rocky path,
The You inside is your guard
Don’t hesitate with a first step,
The way was never barred
It appears to be a rugged way
But its barks worse than its bite,
It’s just pangs of uncertainty
They are quite shy of the light
The hisses you hear all around,
Pay them no matter at all,
Their attention is elsewhere,
They don’t hear the call
You may just take a peak,
But really you must plunge right in,
There is no way to move along
Staring back at where you’ve been
There’s a man waving on the corner
His wife, all smiles, along side
They are not there to mislead you,
They will help you find your stride.
The market is less distracting here,
As profits are not the key,
The trick is in the offering,
And knowing when to be
Do no tarry long my friend
For there’s more to see and do,
Every bit your reflection,
You’re in life’s wading pool
That hazy peak off in the distance
Is not illusion, it’s just not the end
Spend your time on your now,
Not on what’s ‘round the bend
The learned know the answer
Lies in their song, not in a goal
Listen to the one around you,
Its author is your soul,
It will raise you up - if you believe
And if you believe - can make you whole...
Lyric copyright © 1984 Allan Beveridge
© 2012 Allan Beveridge
- The Cosmic Doctrine (Dion Fortune, 1995, The Society of the Inner Light, London)
- C.W. Leadbeater, The Inner Life: Online version at http://www.global.org/Pub/CWL_Inner_Life.asp.html
- The Webs We Weave
- Our Puzzle Box – Part 1 of 2
- Our Puzzle Box – Part 2 of 2