It was posed to a group of friends the other day that concepts (on their own without proper elucidation) can be misleading.
That knowledge, without discernment, can just as easily confuse and misguide as it can edify.
Knowledge should indeed be a means of clarification for a seeker/student and not a hindrance.
There are many avenues of expression, and good reasons for sharing/receiving knowledge, but I was asked to write fairly broadly on how usage of concepts is at times unhelpful.
So to do this I’m throwing a few concepts down to hopefully illuminate how and why it might be true that on occasion – and with undisciplined means of thinking/reflection/right action…
‘A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.’
[A quick aside: There comes a point on the path where we’ve been hoodwinked by our own naïve assumptions and my attempts at positive thinking and dreaming gone sour.
We start to get real and our once rose-colored starry-eyed search goes cold, or we begin to get more serious and stop kidding ourselves.
Do not think that there aren’t a great number of ‘spiritual’ persons and endeavors that aren’t motivated by more primitive and terrestrial desires.
Some may be well aware of their deception, but a great deal as well assume they do not deceive as they assume they were not deceived either.]
We’ve all at times heard conventional or folk wisdom, idioms, parables, and occult dictums that speak to our people and times.
Those that illuminate some essential truth of the human experience in relatable ways. The mind grabs at the significance of these.
The majesty and marvel of words communicate aptly, with grace and simplicity, with humor, with beauty and clarity the transferring of information.
One might find, in a single concept, something that cuts through mountains of laborious action and thought.
A concept CAN short-cut the otherwise difficult processes and complexities of thought and action, and without missing the essence and wisdom found by those who endured through difficult experiences.
In observing such a thing, we may deduce that a person needn’t suffer through as much labor and hardship to obtain wisdom.
Wisdom gained through hard experience is indeed valuable. Yet we also seek to save time, headache, heartache and needless suffering.
As well, we seek guidance through concepts as a means of accounting for the fact that we only have so many good years of seeking.
We wish to make wise use of time, and a student wisely seeks that which may be revealed in a simple concept where otherwise it would only be revealed from hard-won experience, blood, sweat, and tears.
In so doing, we might also share these concepts to others…maybe as an insight or gift, if someone’s mind is fertile ground for those seeds to germinate, to take root and grow, etc.
Sometimes a concept is heard and applied correctly. The student/seeker can perceive the importance and direct virtue (or value) of it without requiring tedious means to the end of wisdom by trial and error.
Other times, the seeker may require a harsher experience for a lesson to penetrate deeply enough.
Some time spent ‘in the weeds’ and the thick of worldly drama and conflict often helps one to appreciate why or how the concept is of value in truth.
And yet other times, it is worth observing, the concept(s) may be met with resistance, or with a laugh or snicker…maybe outright scorn or violence. So you have to be discerning.
In any such case, what the concept attempts to point out, it will only be fully grasped if the thinker on it comes to find it true through some considerable life experience.
Often it will only be acquired amidst the lessons this world offers through hardship, trial, and error, failure, humility, insight, overcoming vanity and arrogance, acceptance, making peace with what cannot be, and so forth.
There’s much wisdom even around what concepts you should and should not share depending on the person, the circumstances, etc.
A CATCH: So, in all of this a student might say “If that’s the case, if me doubting a wise concept, or struggling with a wise concept will lead to my suffering, then I will NOT EVER doubt the wise…I’ll never doubt the words of my teacher, my faith…” and so on.
However, this also will not do. Extreme attitudes and reversal of attitudes to win-lose situations do not always return a favorable outcome.
So while it may seem a remedy or a logical, reasonable notion to mind, such attitudes are the basis for mental rigidity. It is indistinguishable from what we call “blind faith” or “belief.”
It is an unquestioning allegiance to doctrine, goose-stepping, indoctrination that results from such thinking.
You know the sort…those who will not ever question their path, their teacher, etc. even when they have very good reason to suspect error in understanding (whether due to fraudulent teacher/teachings, or failure to understand what is taught).
And all of the previous points, on any path intended to lead a seeker straight and high as expeditiously as possible, SHOULD discourage singular allegiance to any doctrine or concepts without rigorous examination and personal applicability.
Wise counsel through concepts is greatly beneficial to us, especially when we see others paying a heavy price for not following it.
And yet there are so many concepts…too many to know. Many of which perhaps do not seem to be of use to us, or do not apply, or are too constrictive to allow us to live, to experience for ourselves. Mindfulness is required here, discernment is required.
So in discerning – the seeker may ask, “Is the concept of any value at all if it only feeds my intellectual curiosity but never illuminates my effort?
Will I only ever gain crumbs of knowledge or is there a way to transcend knowledge?
A way to stop always seeing Truth little by little and instead become that which is True?”
A seeker may wonder which concepts are worth challenging, which are worth acceptance/adherence without question, and how do we come about a formula or a method?
Of course, this is unique to the person. It is difficult to say from one to the next what will be a point of difficulty in recognizing concepts of a more universal nature (one that illuminates a higher truth within).
We find people taking different approaches and it’s worth noting that mystics, metaphysicians, physical/chemical scientists, philosophers, psychologists, theologians, and so on approach answers in ways that are available to learn about, to find the essence of thought – by which concepts are formed.
We might as well observe that while any seeker may have varying degrees of success in any of these areas (or they may be laymen), no field of study may seem any closer than the other in capitalizing on a universally true method.
None appear to give simple straight-forward steps that will guide one to a final realization of truth.
Were it so, were it that anyone HAD achieved such a grand work – let them share it with the papers, with the entirety of academia and humanity for evaluation that we might end the need to struggle and forge ahead for answers.
Many will make claims they will promise much but deliver little, and the student will bounce from one thing to another, always feeling defeat at finding no clear solution.
Yet, intuitively we all may feel that whatever answer to our greatest questions, it is presently, and always seemingly outside of the paradigm of our mental understanding and calculation.
We encounter the attitude that a finite mind may not contemplate the infinite, and so on. That line of thinking is defeatist.
It presumes (wrongly I’ll add) that there’s no relationship between greater universal truths presenting among people who have shed limited and finite ways of thinking – be it through either effort or a convenient and a fortunate accident.
Persons may indeed surmise for themselves and postulate “I have found the answers, the Truth (with a capital T)” and yet still evidently struggle for a way to explain, or for any single one of them to illuminate such ‘Truth’ for others by words and concepts alone.
Of those seemingly few people who claim to have found, we find little evidence that even the most capable communicators of deep and illuminating thought have made a dent in the problem of mankind’s suffering by ignorance and delusion.
The ‘guru’ or teacher of higher truths might be observed useful, might even sell millions of books or have many who credit them.
Yet how many illumined creatures have they created in the process?
Consider a favorite author on spiritual matters for example:
Is that person turning out enlightened individuals?
Or is it closer to true that they are giving more and more ‘work’ and information that requires the purchase of more books and classes to attain to ‘higher levels’ etc.?
These are the sorts of things a seeker must be mindful of.
If there is a need to go on endlessly explaining things in further editions of books, of contending with contrary systems of thought that keep one fighting for a particular doctrine, it’s clear that while the author/teacher may have great knowledge and indeed even be sincere, he/she is not necessarily producing a means for a final answer to be had.
And so we come to rare cases of people who have claimed to find Truth, to find an answer that totally settled their ‘soul’.
That puts them at ease and has ‘illumined’ them.
What do we observe such people?
Is it not true that most great teachers and seers of bygone times, as well as those presently living among us today, will openly indicate knowledge of their own insignificant place?
Jesus, for example, famously is claimed to have said: “I have not life (greatness, wealth of a living light), but that God lives within me.”?
As well we find in most sages and mystics, present and past, a tendency to demure when asked for evidence to substantiate an illumined life.
It may seem that the most sincere of such truth-tellers also appear to be among the most humble of souls – unconcerned with seemingly superficial attributes of greatness, and perhaps even lacking the affectation to share much information, revealing little in the exchange of often hidden or overlooked truths.
In short, the aim of this and any subsequent writings I undertake might only hope to accomplish something of a more personal usability to the reader.
Not to make use of assumptions and ‘postures’ that a seeker SUPPOSEDLY needs to take.
Not to have the seeker enter into empty hopes, or any preconceived dream worlds or concept models about expanded consciousness.
It is not the intent to build complex conceptual systems and structures that will make empty promises; that proclaim “follow these chronological movements or thought-sequence, and lo, the angels may descend upon you and the gateless gate of the beyond will sling wide open” and so forth.
The truth is that you already have all that you have gained from your life experience and this work will not direct the addition or subtraction of any of it, except that you personally notice, and observe that addition/subtraction is necessary for you.
Each individual is endowed with incredibly unique qualities. Each has a fascinatingly original state of mind from which to work, and to take that away or change or add to it may hinder any meaningful self-knowledge.
If you wish to allow truth in, a means of search should catalyze you into the kind of action that will oppose any desire (conscious or not) to delude yourself.
It should fortify and bolster the foundation from which you avoid soothing yourself into sleep and submission (particularly by means that promise comfort, ease, ‘love’ and acceptance etc. at the expense of your freedom of thought/action).
In effect, it will bid you move AWAY FROM any attitudes that do not erode “untruth” and leave you in a place from which you can separate reality from fiction and ego-desires.
By Jeff Jackson