"Billiards is a path of passion that cares the soul." - Fred Fechter

Obstacles to Grace


     The Bible states that "the Kingdom of God is within you." Let us explore what "within" means and clarify it. We are so used to thinking organismically and psychologically that we assume that within means inside the body. Even if we don't admit it, that's how we think. This seems to be the natural way, but actually it does not make sense. Where is the Kingdom of God located? In the lungs? In the nervous system? In the brain? Where within you? Someone suggested that it is in the heart; what does the heart symbolize? The heart symbolizes consciousness. We then speak of consciousness rather than of heart, and so within means in consciousness. Where is consciousness? Neurophysiology would locate consciousness in the brain, but we know that the brain does not really have consciousness; it is just a relay system. Therefore consciousness cannot be localized. Consciousness is not in the organism; the organism is in consciousness. Awareness is what religions call soul, and it is a synonym for consciousness. Soul is the faculty of awareness.

     Consciousness is a unique faculty of man, enabling him to be aware of himself in a transcendent manner. This is the divine element in us. To fully appreciate it is very important, because until we have learned to appreciate the Divine in us, we are undeveloped and we live below the level of our potentialities. Heidegger speaks of being-in-the-world as transcendence. The more perfectly we realize being-in-the-world as transcendence, the more spiritual we become.

     It is interesting to consider the development of knowledge in general, because there is a parallelism in this field. If we take, for instance, the development of astronomical knowledge, we see that first there was the flat earth viewpoint, which is called the geocentric viewpoint. This indicates a primitive and narrow mental horizon. The geocentric viewpoint assumed that the earth was the center of the universe. In psychotherapy the intrapsychic viewpoint assumed that everything can be known about man by looking inside of him, into his body and into his psyche. The idea was that studying the dynamics of the psyche would help us to understand man. This viewpoint is just as primitive as was the geocentric viewpoint in astronomy. After Kepler, Galileo, and Copernicus, we gained a broader perspective in astronomy and we attained the heliocentric perspective, which meant that the sun was the center of the universe, a center around which the planets revolved. After the heliocentric perspective, we attained a galactic knowledge. We have realized that the sun is one of an infinite number of stars which make up a galaxy. From the galactic viewpoint we have attained an intergalactic viewpoint. Here we suddenly see that there are many galaxies in the universe. The intergalactic viewpoint led to a cosmic consciousness. Every schoolchild today is already free to develop a cosmic consciousness. This is a tremendous step forward. Today we are able to conceive of an infinite expanding universe. Some astronomers have advanced from cosmic consciousness to a cataclysmic consciousness. This is based on the discovery of black holes in the universe and the matter-antimatter phenomena which indicate the possibility of cataclysmic events taking place in the universe. There are exploding galaxies and black holes which swallow up planets, and then there is the issue of matter-antimatter collisions. Wherever matter comes into contact with antimatter, it disappears. It turns into nothing.

     Analogously, in the area of the knowledge of man we have the intrapsychic, i.e., anthropocentric viewpoint, then the interpersonal, then the socio-dynamic viewpoint, then the interactional viewpoint, the transactional viewpoint, the mythological viewpoint, then the existential viewpoint, indicating an ever widening context of perception. The existential viewpoint is a largely expanded viewpoint, going beyond the socio-dynamic perspective. In the socio-dynamic viewpoint society is the context, which can be socio-economic, sociopolitical, cultural, etc., but in any case it sees man in a much broader context than the original psychotherapies. The existential context sees man in the context of existence. What is the context of existence? In this viewpoint we speak of modes of being-in-the-world. Therefore the context of our study of man in existentialism is his mode of being-in-the-world. How does man express his essential potentialities within the context of the world around him, which includes everything that preceded but goes beyond it? Here the world itself becomes a manifestation of existence. Here man is not only in the world but also beyond the world — that's what Heidegger means by being-in-the-world as transcendence — we are "in the world but not of it."

     What school of thought corresponds to that cataclysmic viewpoint in terms of the study of man? The last book of the Bible is called Revelation, but its other name is Apocalypse, which means cataclysm. This corresponds to the cataclysmic viewpoint in astronomy. St. John's description (vision) of the "new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away" (Revelation 21:1) indicates a total spiritualization of consciousness. There exists here a remarkable parallelism, and interestingly enough, there is a similar parallelism in atomic research as well, but going in the other direction. In physics the movement of knowledge goes from matter to molecules to subatomic particles to high energy physics, where there are no more particles, there is just pure energy. This reveals the true nature of Reality as pure energy (spirit=energy) and the disappearance of the phenomenal world. This, too, is an apocalyptic, cataclysmic realization.

     Something happens to us when our perspective expands. The Bible refers to this by stating: "As he [man] thinketh in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). The broader our perspective on Reality, the more understanding, the more compassionate, the more inspired, the more perceptive, and the more capable we are to benefit people on all levels, even if they are in the stage of believing in a flat earth. Even then we have the intuitive wisdom of communicating with them in a beneficial way. But if we don't have that perspective, we are as the psychiatrist who has certain preconceived limitations within his specialty from which he cannot get out. He is boxed in, so to speak, in a particular knowledge in which he was trained.

     No matter what wonderful contributions to psychotherapy were made by individuals in that field, it does not mean that they have already attained ultimate knowledge. The danger is that we can get attached to a particular frame of reference. There seems to be a fear in many to go beyond these viewpoints. They are afraid to expand their mental horizons. We may ask, What is this fear? This fear is an indication that we are cherishing what we already know and leaning on it for a false sense of security. The trouble with this kind of subjectivity is that it misinterprets reality and generates a great deal of anxiety. We cannot rely for information on feelings.

     In this connection it may be helpful to consider the "five gates of hell." The "five gates of hell" are (1) sensualism, (2) emotionalism, (3) intellectualism, (4) personalism, (5) materialism.

     What is sensualism? It is a mode of being-in-the-world where the primary preoccupation is with sensory awareness: pleasure and pain. It judges reality purely by sensory awareness. This is a very troublesome condition, for it leads to all sorts of disorders: disorders of the senses, of the skin, sexual problems, etc.

     Emotionalism is a mode of being-in-the-world which is primarily preoccupied with emotional experiences and seeks to cognize reality on the basis of feelings. Emotionalists try to use their feelings as sources of information concerning what is and what is not real. Feelings provide misinformation, but they seem to us very valid. We are convinced that things are really the way they feel, which of course is a mistake. We cannot rely on feelings to provide us with valid information. Furthermore, people who become emotionally based have a tendency to develop anxiety neuroses and a wide variety of emotional disturbances.

     The third gate of hell is intellectualism. Intellectualism is knowing about things and placing great importance on being known as knowing. Intellects can be easily recognized in their manner of speech as they are forever saying, "Let me tell you..." and, "I'll tell you..." and "You know... you know..."; which all means to confirm in themselves to others that "you know..." - (that I know). Intellectualists are living filing cabinets and they like to display their contents. They are on a continuous "head trip." Various difficulties stem from intellectualism, such as contentiousness, headaches, high blood pressure, and various other somatizations. So the sensualist leans on his sensory perceptions, the emotional man uses his feelings as a source of information, and the intellectual tries to figure things out in their heads.

     The fourth gate of hell is personalism. Personalism is thinking about what others are thinking about what we are thinking. It can be very painful and disturbing when one is caught up in such ruminations. Personalists have difficulties with people, conflicts with friends, family, etc.

     The fifth gate of hell is materialism. Materialists are involved in accumulating material objects and possessions.

      The process of obtaining an open mind can be very frustrating and painful and even anxiety provoking. Besides the "five gates of hell" which have specific pathogenicity, there are three more factors which we must become aware of, namely, what we cherish, what we hate, and what we fear. The gates of hell comprise the things we are inclined to cherish: a sensualist will cherish his sensory perceptivity; an emotionalist will cherish his feelings; an intellectualist will cherish his knowledge; a personalist will cherish his relationships; and a materialist will cherish his possessions. So, then, the underlying common denominator in these modes is that we are inclined to cherish that which is familiar and that which other people cherish, because if two people cherish the same thing, they have something in common and it makes them feel good. It gives them the impression that they are on the right track. This is the basis of group formations, school loyalties, and loyalties to various ideologies. Anything that would threaten to deprive us of what we cherish, or invalidate what we cherish, will provoke fear and resentment. The more we are inclined to cherish any one of these "five gates" — or all of them — the more vulnerable and insecure we shall be in life, and the more we shall be given to anxiety reaction, resentfulness, frustration, and even hatred. Therefore, the Zen Master says: "Above all cherish nothing." In our language this saying translates as "Cherish only God," because "nothing" is a Buddhist God. In other words, God is no thing, and the Buddha nature is love, beauty, intelligence, harmony, peace, serenity, assurance, joy, health, freedom, perfect being. The Buddha nature is a synonym for the Christ consciousness. Thus, the gate of Paradise is to cherish nothing. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3) and "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind" (Matthew 22:37).

     The Bible says: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isaiah 40:3). What does that mean? We cannot produce grace, but we can study and meditate, and listen to some teachings which show us how to get rid of the obstacles to grace. And that is what we are engaged in here. Our aim is to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a highway in the desert. Every mountain of selfishness must be brought low, and every valley of sin shall be exalted; the rough places must be made plain, and the crooked straight, so that we may become receptive to grace and inspired wisdom. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain" (Isaiah 40:4). This is what we call being spiritually integrated and enlightened. We have an open and receptive consciousness where Divine Intelligence has the possibility of reaching us.

     Righteous judgment requires inspired wisdom. Every moment of the day and night God is pouring out His love and wisdom to anyone who is receptive enough to hear it. Jesus was struggling with people who had various kinds of impediments to receiving the word of God, or who were hampered in their spiritual perceptivity. For instance, at one point he said: "For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their hearts, and should be converted, and I should heal them" (Matthew 13:15). This points to an epistemological problem. The knowledge of God requires us to purify our consciousness of all the things which we have been miseducated to cherish, because as long as we cherish certain things which we are accustomed to, we cannot receive, and we cannot perceive spiritually. Under such circumstances we do not know what is really going on; we only know what someone else is saying about what is going on.

     Essentially the question boils down to this: What does it mean to be religious and what does it mean to be spiritually enlightened? It is said that religions are more often than not involved with moralism, formalism, even ethnicity. For instance, a Polish Roman Catholic may find it difficult to be accepted in certain Catholic churches which are predominantly, say, Irish; or blacks may feel unwelcome in a prevalently white Protestant congregation, etc.

     Unfortunately, religions in the past have tended to divide people and to foster intolerance, fear, guilt, and other forms of conflict. In contrast to this, spiritual enlightenment is concerned with existentially valid universal principles to enable man to love his neighbor as himself and be transcendentally compassionate to all.

     The religious results in operationalism. Operationalism is concerned with mastery, influencing, and inevitably with manipulation, bribery, and fear. Existentialism is concerned with understanding what is in order to live in harmony with the Fundamental Order of Existence.

     In the history of religions and civilization there have emerged from time to time certain exceptionally gifted individuals who hit upon the right questions and found right answers. These individuals appeared to have exceptional powers and wisdom, and they tried to convey their knowledge to the world, but the world always found it hard to hear the message and to learn to ask the right questions. Jesus is known to have exclaimed — perhaps somewhat despairingly — "Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?" (Mark 8:18). And again: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). It is possible to surmise that the word "deeds" refers to operationalism.

     Enlightened man actualizes within himself the principle which Jesus formulated the following way: "I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:30); "But the Father that dwelleth in me [omniactive Mind], he doeth the works" (John 14:10). By this, Jesus is proclaiming that he and no other individual has personal intelligence or personal power. This he stated many times. Omniactive Mind expresses itself through man in specific types of necessary and useful activities from moment to moment. Therefore, man who is involved with mental busyness of falsley claiming personal intelligence is disregarding the impulses of omniactive Mind.

     We do not worry much about Western or Eastern thought. The question we are concerned with is, "Is it existentially valid or not?" Here we have the principle of existential validation. This is a very useful idea which unifies all cultures by transcending them, and makes it possible to evaluate them in a pragmatic way. The values which come to us from various parts of the world, from various cultures, times, and ages, can be known as to their validity.

     The principle of existential validation comes to us from Jesus Christ. Jesus formulated this principle of existential validation the following way: "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). What does that mean? Any idea, or system of values, or religious system, anything that impinges on individual existence, can validate itself or disqualify itself by its consequences for the health and fulfillment of the individual. That which is existentially valid is subject to existential validation. If it is life enhancing, health promoting, increasing the capacity for love, wisdom, and beneficence of the individual, if it makes it possible for an individual to realize his inner potential, if it brings man into greater harmony with the Fundamental Order of Existence, it is valid. If it has a disruptive, pathogenic effect, it is not valid. This principle of existential validation liberates us from sectarianism and cultural isolation. It makes it possible to know what to consider seriously and appreciate and what can be dismissed out of hand. "Ye shall know them by their fruits." If this marvelous principle were more universally understood, there would be no more intolerance or prejudice, xenophobia, fear, religious hostilities, or political strife. It would be a unifying principle.

     In Metapsychiatry, where the primary objective is the health and the fulfillment of the individual, the principle of existential validation is very important. The art of the healing dialogue is based on clarification of certain values which individuals have consciously or unconsciously espoused and which have resulted in a misdirected mode of being-in-the-world. If we grow up in a certain culture, we tend to accept unwittingly certain values which may be socially and culturally acceptable but which are existentially invalid. The result is that we wind up with a misdirected mode of being-in-the-world.

     Pathology and sickness are considered manifestations of misdirected modes of being-in-the-world.

     Let us be clear-about the fact that there is no such thing as a person. Person is just a concept. "God is no respecter of persons," says the Bible (Acts 10:34). Man is not a person. He is an individual consciousness and this consciousness can be imbued with certain ideas. If these ideas are existentially valid, they manifest themselves in health, harmony, freedom, and fulfillment. If the ideas which fill an individual's consciousness are invalid, he will find suffering and various forms of disturbed and frustrated ways of being-in-the-world. The healing dialogue is based on a method which is called hermeneutic clarification of the underlying value system which governs the thinking and the activities of an individual. We have already mentioned ambition, for instance, as an invalid value. If we subject ambition to an existential analysis, we discover that ambition, while socially approved and accepted, is existentially invalid because it really creates a conflict within individuals. It is moving in two directions at the same time, forward and backward. The same applies to the idea of personal success; it is not possible to pursue success without, at the same time, courting failure. So the success-hunting individual has a misdirected mode of being-in-the-world.

     Every one of us is like a sponge which has absorbed certain ideas about what is good, what is desirable, and what is important; and it is these ideas which determine our mode of being-in-the-world. The question now is, How can we discern the ideas which govern an individual's mode of being-in-the-world? This is accomplished through a method which is called phenomenological analysis. Phenomenological analysis requires us to be trained in phenomenological perceptivity. Everyone has the faculty of phenomenological perceptivity, but it needs to be developed through training. The basic requirement for this faculty is the open mind. The father of phenomenology is Edmund Husserl, the German philosopher, who called this feat of the mind epoche, which translated from the French means "bracketing." It refers to the need to put everything that we already know into brackets and put it up on a shelf, so to speak, so as to be able to confront whatever reveals itself in a nonjudgmental open-minded way. Once we have learned to confront situations and individuals in that manner in an interview situation, we will find that suddenly things reveal themselves and we have a clear picture of what makes an individual "tick" — what values, what objectives, what ambitions, what wants, what desires, what misconceptions, what mis-education, what ideas, govern his mode of being-in-the-world. Jesus spoke of the need for this kind of open mind when he said: "Except ye [be converted, and] become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3), which means in order to be receptive to inspired wisdom and to realize spiritual values and Spiritual Reality, this capacity for the open-minded confrontation of that which reveals itself from moment to moment is an absolute requirement.

     Self-confirmatory ideation is a mental process whereby we are constantly seeking to reassure ourselves that we exist. It can take physical form, it can take emotional form, or it can take intellectual form. The essence of personalism reveals this universal tendency toward self-confirmatory ideation (ideation means persistent thinking about something). When we are involved in personism or personalism we ruminate over our thoughts about what other people may be thinking about what we are thinking. The essence of personalism is self-confirmatory ideation and it can result in paranoia.

     Some people do not like the term "self-confirmatory ideation," and they prefer to talk about egotism instead, but actually this is not just simple egotism. The basis for self-confirmatory ideation is the dread of nonbeing. Everyone is scared of nothingness, of nonbeing, of annihilation, of being nothing, of dying, of being ignored. This is a universal fear and is called "existential anxiety." It is this existential anxiety which we try to combat through a process of self-confirmatory ideation. And the more scared we are, the more intense the desire to confirm ourselves in one form or another; there are a million ways in which we can reassure ourselves that we really exist, and so it is an almost inseparable aspect of the human condition. Of course, it can be healed.

      How can existential anxiety be healed? How can we be liberated from this dread of nonbeing? Salvation, liberation, resurrection, healing, enlightenment have a common objective, namely, to help us to be unafraid and to live with a sense of assurance that we are not alone, that we are not separated, that we are not what we seem to be, but that "neither are we otherwise." It is possible to know ourselves in a larger context. In proportion that we come to realize this existential fact, in that proportion the "dread of nothingness," as Heidegger calls it, will be mitigated, or diminished, and the compulsive urge for self-confirmatory ideation will leave us, and it will be possible to live in PAGL, which is peace, assurance, gratitude, and love.

     A more advanced understanding, based on existential research, has abandoned the concept of "person" and sees man as an individual consciousness. Personhood implies self-existence, whereas an individual consciousness is an aspect of the divine consciousness. We can have great appreciation of each other as individual manifestations of divine consciousness. This may appear strange to some people because all the great knowledgeable people in the field of theology and psychology speak of personhood. But, of course, there is progress going on and progress in understanding often requires us to revise our ways of conceptualizing. Great progress is being made in understanding the brain, for instance, and the nature of reality. A group of scientists (Bohm, Pribram) has developed a new way of looking at reality which is quite revolutionary. They have developed a holographic paradigm of reality. Holography is a form of photography which uses laser beams to project three-dimensional pictures into space; the projected image seems real and seems to be there in three dimensions, while it is only illusion. The idea is that the human brain is a hologram and what we see is not really what is. The material world is but a holographic projection and the brain functions as a lens which transmutes certain frequencies of vibration coming from the Infinite Source and projects them as material forms. These scientists' claim is that there is no such thing as solid matter anywhere, that this is a phenomenal world, and everything that seems to have form and shape and solidity and texture is just a holographic image. The brain interprets reality and the universe as material and finite.

     When the question was asked, How is it possible that we all see the same thing? the point was made that our brains are conditioned by the culture and our common assumptions. Thus we have very similar lenses and we interpret what we see in a similar way, with only subtle differences. It is said that mystics were able to perceive reality not through their brains, and they could see what ordinary people cannot see, because most of us rely on our brains to interpret what we see. The mystic can apparently transcend this holographic instrument and discern reality in a nonfocused manner. ESP, psychokinesis, seeing at a distance, and other phenomena are also explained by this research. Time and space are explained as results of the brain's way of interpreting reality; that is, there is no such thing as time and space. For instance, if someone through ESP becomes aware of something happening, say, in California, the explanation is that California is simply not there but here; if there is no space, then there is no such thing as "there," and there is no such thing as "was." There is only "is," because there is no time.

     Thus we go beyond the concept of personhood and endeavor to see one another as individual divine consciousnesses, and that is just another way of saying that man is the image and likeness of God. The only reality about us is consciousness. It is becoming more and more evident that consciousness survives the body. Therefore, the more clearly we shall understand ourselves as consciousness, the less afraid we shall be of dying. The less we understand this, the more we are pushed by fear into self-confirmatory ideation and out of that push come all sorts of problems.

     So far we have spoken of the "five gates of hell" and of self-confirmatory ideation, and now we may consider the four "Ws." They are: (1) Who am I? (2) What am I? (3) Where am I? (4) What is my purpose in life? As can be seen, this is a meditation in our "closet," the secret compartment of our consciousness. The answer to the first "W" is: I am an image and likeness of God, a manifestation of Love-Intelligence. Omni-active Love-Intelligence is an existential name for God. God is also omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. The second, What am I? is answered by: I am a divine consciousness. Where am I? I live and move and have my being in omniactive Divine Mind. The fourth "W," What is my purpose in life? is answered: My purpose is to be a beneficial presence in the world. We must meditate on the four "W's" daily. People sometimes ask what the distinction is between the first and the second "W." The first refers to identity; the second refers to substance.

     What is the value of meditating on the four "W's"? It establishes us in the awareness of the right context. To see ourselves and others in the right context is very important. For instance, the question was asked, How do you encourage your children or praise them without indoctrinating them in self-confirmatory thinking? If, for instance, a child brings home from school good marks and the parent wants to praise him, how does he praise him without making the child proud or egotistical, vain or self-confirmatory? If a parent criticizes a child, he is teaching him to be self-confirmatory in a negative way. If he praises the child, he is doing the same thing because then the child will be self-confirmatory in a positive way; if he tells the child he is great, it is the same as if he tells him he is no good; in all cases the result is self-confirmatory thinking. And we know that self-confirmatory ideation is the basis of all problems in life. It was said before that the four "Ws" help us to see ourselves and others in the right context. Unless parents are able to see the child in the context of God, as an expression of Divine Love-Intelligence, no matter how they phrase their words, it will lead to self-confirmatory thinking in the child. But if they have the right viewpoint on the child, then implicitly it will be communicated to the child that God is manifesting Himself in the good work. Clearly, it is not a matter of handling things; it is a matter of seeing and knowing something. When things don't work out, we know that it was a manifestation of ignorance. The child made a mistake. He was not sufficiently aware of who he is and where he is and what he is. Therefore he made a mistake. So we do not blame him. We blame ignorance. And when we praise him, we do not praise him. We praise the Lord for making it possible for the child to do well. The context of parental seeing and thinking is crucial in being able to praise and criticize without ill effects. Without that, no matter what technique and what words we use, they will always be personalized anyway. And that is how meditation on the four "Ws" can help us.