Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Alan Watts: Great Teacher Come to the West
[...] you see, we are still talking about the same old problem but we have put it one step up. "How can I improve myself?", was the first problem, and the second problem is, "How can I accept grace?", but they are both the same problem because in each case you have got to make a move that will put yourself out of your own control into the control of a "better." And if you do not believe in the Christian kind of a God you can believe in the Hindu kind of a God who is your inner self. You have a lower self that you call your ego - that is that little scoundrelly fellow that is always out for "me." But behind the ego there is the atman, the inner self, or the inward light, as the Quakers call it; it is the real self, the spirit that is substantially identical with God. So you have to meditate in such a way that you identify with your higher self. But how do you do that? Well, you start by watching all of your thoughts very carefully. You watch your feelings, you watch your emotions, and you begin to build up a sense of separation between the watcher and what is watched. In this way, you are no longer carried away by your own stream of consciousness. You remain the witness, impassively, impartially suspending judgment and watching it all go on. Now, this seems to be something like progress - at least you are taking an objective view of what is happening, and you are beginning to be in a position to control it. But just wait a minute! Who is this self behind the self, the watching self? Can you watch that one? It is interesting if you do because you find out, of course, that the watching self, or the observing self, behind all your thoughts and feelings is itself a thought. That is to say, when the police enter a house in which there are thieves, the thieves go up from the ground floor to the first floor. When the police arrive on the first floor, the thieves have gone up to the second, and so on to the third and finally out onto the roof. Just so, when the ego is about to be unmasked, it immediately identifies with the higher self. It goes up a level, because the religious game version is simply a refined and high-brow version of the ordinary game "How can I outwit me?" So if I find, for example, that in the quest for pleasure, the ordinary pleasures of the world - food, sex, power, possessions - become a drag and I think, "No, it is not that," and then I go in for the arts, literature, poetry, and music, and I absorb myself in those pleasures, then after awhile I find that they are not the answer either. So then I go in for psychoanalysis, and I find out that is not the answer, and then I turn to religion, but I'm still seeking what I was seeking when I wanted candy bars! I want to get that goodie. Only I see now that it is not going to be a material goodie because all material goodies fall apart; but maybe there is a spiritual goodie that will not. Still, the spiritual quest is no different than the quest for the candy bar. Same old story, only you have refined the candy bar and made it abstract and holy and blessed and so on. So it is with the higher self. The higher self is your same old ego, but you sure hope it is eternal, indestructeble, and all-wise.
in The Way of Liberation
Posted by Grant Bishop at 2:11 PM