The Path is a way of life. It is the way toward our innermost truth, which is beautiful. Some of you may doubt this, because many of the glimpses you took inward showed ugliness and pain and you quickly turned away. This going inward seemed dangerous. Yet, the mere fact that you are here shows that you know the journey is worth taking.
We all have an outer mask. This is what we present to the world. We think that by pretending to be different from what we think we really are, we’ll get the love and the approval we crave for, because deep inside we feel we are bad, unworthy. But when we explore this bad unworthy area in ourselves, we get down into the deepest layer, our center which has all the beauty and all the wisdom and all the creativity. Roughly, we can make a diagram of a circle, the outer layer the mask, underneath the negative traits, and in the middle the light. How do we know this is true? By experiencing it.
In this work, the outer mask is quickly pierced and we come to the question, why do we need it in the first place? If we are so beautiful inside, why are we so ugly, so that we have to cover it up? The ugly layer is the layer of defenses. But what do we have to defend ourselves against, and why with so much hatred and venom?
One of the Guide’s basic explanations for this is that we form misconceptions in our childhood about the world, about people, ourselves, about the nature of life. These he calls images, since they are rigidly embedded in our soul substance. Some of these misconceptions we actually bring with ourselves from previous incarnations, but we can’t work with these and it is certainly not necessary to dwell on this aspect. We work with this life. Let’s say a girl has an overprotective mother and a rejecting father, or at least she experiences her parents in this way. She will grow up believing that she can get everything from women, but nothing from men. This belief will attract to her rejecting men and protective women and she will really believe that her misconception that all men are cruel and all women are kind, and will let her get away with anything, will be confirmed. She will not be able to have a satisfactory relationship with a man until she works out her misconception and thereby becomes open to a different kind of experience. This of course is an oversimplified example. Our misconceptions create very complicated life patterns. To continue this examples this girl will armor herself against the supposed cruelty of men in some way, perhaps by being cruel herself in order not to experience the pain of rejection. She might sell out to other women, play the child and hate herself for it. She might be ashamed of her lack of success with men and play the vamp, or the intellectual woman, or whatever. She will hate herself, more and more convinced that life is treating her unjustly. By now she has forgotten that originally there was this great hurt of not getting from her father what she wanted. She has also forgotten her guilt for trying to get it by betraying her mother, who was good to her, and playing up to the father. Life seems a chaos with no way out. She will have trouble in her job, because she will make her boss into her father or mother. She will be very tight insides because she has repressed the original feelings of hurt, and then she had to repress the feelings of hatred, cruelty and anger. She believes her mask of sweetness is her true self and that people take advantage of her.
Our inner beliefs, our misconceptions, penetrate all the aspects of the human personality: our body, our feelings, our thinking, and our spirituality. Every human being has these aspects, and in order to become whole, united with ourselves and with the Universe, we have to see the distortions in all these aspects and work with them.
When we are afraid, for instance, we tighten our muscles. The original flowing feelings of a baby become blocked also in the body as the child tightens the flow of his feelings. The body shows these blocks very clearly, and John Pierrakos will give a lecture this afternoon on just this aspect of the pathwork, how we learn through the bioenergetic work to recognize and loosen up the knots, to let the feelings through and become connected with our body again. Many people are disconnected – hate their body and live in the head. In order to find out what our real feelings are at any moment, what other feelings those feelings cover up, we work in private sessions and in groups. We use our intellect to incorporate the emotional recognitions into our whole system, to correct our misconceptions, to reformulate our concepts in line with the experienced truth. Also, we learn truthful concepts by listening to the lectures of the Guide. Specifically, we commit ourselves to finding out this truth, we meditate in specific ways to establish contact with our inner core and with the creative and loving forces of the universe.
We learn that there are very specific spiritual laws which govern life and that these laws are just, and that when we violate them, we violate ourselves. The basic law is the law of self-responsibility. We are responsible for what we are, and not our parents or life who “did it to us”. We make choices constantly, we react to outer situations in our own ways and thereby we create consequences that, in turn, will bring about certain events. When we don’t see the relationship of cause and effect in our lives, it is because so many of the causes are pushed down into our unconscious. To dig up those causes from where we have pushed them in order to avoid facing them, is our task. As long as our negative feelings are unrecognized, they have power over us and over our lives. As we recognize them, we can observe them in action, see their destructiveness clearly, and change them.
And here we come to another basic teaching. The universe is an energy system permeated by consciousness, or, rather, energy and consciousness are one, although this is a difficult concept for us to understand. However, the energy of life that is in every cell of our body, that is our consciousness, is good, creative, wise, and abundant. It is this same positive energy that we distort, in our ignorance and ill will, into evil, into pettiness, into hatred, into cruelty, into withholding, into destructiveness. Underneath our pain which we feel when what we want is not given to us, there is a negative intentionality which deliberately distorts and deflects what originally was positive. We can find this intentional negativity in ourselves when we dig deep enough. We find that we want to hurt, to withdraw, to get only, but not to give.
This negativity is embedded in what we call our lower self. This lower self is selfish, self centered. It doesn’t trust in people, in being open, in the universe. It wants to grab everything to itself. It has three basic characteristics: self-will, pride, and fear. It must have everything its own way, right away. It is proud of itself, it sets itself above others. But it is also fearful, because its self-will is constantly in jeopardy, its pride is constantly in danger of being hurt. This is a very childish and underdeveloped part in all of us. This is the part in which our ugliness is lodged and which we cover up with our mask self.
In this work we expose our lower self to each other and take responsibility for it. We do this in our private sessions and in bioenergetic groups, but very much so in our pathwork groups. We will have such a group tonight. In these groups we don’t employ particular techniques. We let the process organically take its course, and we all help each other. Often two people who have some conflict will confront each other to find out what is really going on, and the process will often start with blaming each other, then continue with exposing in ourselves how we really want to put down, or hurt the other person. We get in touch with the pain we are causing and with the pain we have in ourselves; we own up to our destructiveness and see where it comes from: from the frightened, negative lower self. As we release these negative feelings, almost miraculously a change takes place and we get in touch with our softness, our vulnerability. As we accept in ourselves, and in each other, the negative, so we also experience that when we expose the vulnerable, soft part that we have covered up, nobody is going to hurt us. And even if we are hurt, as is sometimes inevitable, we can take the pain. To defend against the pain is the real pain. To let in the pain is a beautiful feeling. It is soft and soothing and regenerative.
The greatest pain is caused by denying in ourselves what is best in us. To repress our love, our giving, our trust, our compassion, our creativity. Because then we go against life. However, we all do this to the degree we repress our negative feelings. It is a law, again, that it is not possible to repress one kind of feeling without repressing the others. Therefore, when we begin to hold in our hatred, our insincerity, our manipulations, our cruelty, and so on, we also put the lid on our good feelings. The more you cut yourself off from your negativities, the more you cut yourself off also from your life-affirming feelings. It cannot be otherwise. The lid fits tight.
And this leads into another basic principle: to recognize our feelings, take responsibility for them, but not act them out. What does this mean?
For instance, I’m irritated by somebody, I think he is doing it to me. Then, in the course of my pathwork, I realize that I’m really very jealous of that person, for my own reasons, and that I hate him. I want to hurt him, and this is the truth of the moment. I recognize this, but what now? If this person is in this work, I can go up to him and say, I’d like to work out something with you in the group and there it is possible to express the hatred, the jealousy, the insecurity underneath, and work out the problem. This is a safe situation. But obviously, I can’t go up to somebody in my office and say I hate you, or just go and hit him on the head. Neither would I want to continue acting out my hatred towards him by covering it up and getting him in other, more subtle ways, as I used to. Either way would be acting out. But by recognizing the feeling I can use my good will and say to myself: I want to kill him, but it is because I have rage and hatred and jealousy in me. He could be the way he is, but if I didn’t have my negative feelings, I couldn’t want to kill him. His behavior may trigger these feelings in me, yet they are my feelings. He is not causing them. When we reach this point, we are one step higher on the ladder toward self-purification.
And maybe I should have started by saying that, essentially, this path is a path of self-purification for the sake of self-purification and not in order to get rid of certain unpleasant manifestations in our lives. It is our spiritual self that seeks this purification, that seeks the union with the creative life force, with God. That our life becomes more fulfilled, that we find ourselves in fewer negative situations, is a by-product of this endeavor. This is, maybe, why this path never ends. We go deeper and deeper, and also higher and higher. The path winds downwards, or upwards, or both, in the form of a spiral. As we go deeper into ourselves, we recognize the same faults, the same destructive attitudes, the same misconceptions affecting deeper and deeper layers of our consciousness, and sometimes it seems we are moving around in circles. But the movement is spiral, and as we raise our consciousness, we liberate more and more energy to flow from the negative into the positive. Also, as we see how we cause what we experience, a new hope comes into our life.
Most people believe themselves to be the victims of circumstances. They wallow in self-pity and think life is hopeless. They are subject to chance. But the minute you see how you create your life, you know that as you change, your creation will change. The experience of this truth comes from working on yourself. The connections become very clear. One of the ways we do this is by looking at our life at present, and analyzing it. In which area am I unfulfilled and frustrated? In the areas where there is unfulfillment, there must be a corresponding negative inner attitude, which, in turn, is caused by an underlying misconception. Often people ask, “Why can’t I ever have a beautiful relationship? I so much want to be loved and to love and I feel I am ready.” You can be sure, that he, or she, is not really ready, that even if consciously he thinks so, the unconscious undermines the conscious desire. This is why we have to find those unconscious distortions. This is also an answer to those people who object to our path on the grounds that we dwell too much on the negativities. Alas, the negative attitudes are there, and they do a lot of harm to us. Unrecognized, unexposed, they continue doing their destructive work. Many people believe that true spirituality consists in the denial of what is negative in us and the cultivation of union with the universal self, with the One. It is indeed possible to cultivate this side, to practice transcendental meditation, to refrain from committing violent actions, etc., and we can get into temporarily blissful experiences. However, where we are unpurified, where we still do hate, we remain the same. We can indulge in cultivating in ourselves that part which is already purified, which is, let’s say, creative in art, spiritual in outlook, with which we have no conflict. But the areas that we disregard will still be there, in abeyance, waiting to play out their dirty tricks at the first opportunity. Therefore, this focusing on the negative is also a very practical method toward establishing a more harmonious and fulfilled way of life for ourselves. Believe me, if you come across a negative aspect in you that you have never seen before, the “‘pathwork” didn’t put it there. The true sign that we are on the way out from a particular problem is always a liberating experience. One feels a door has opened towards a new life. If a recognition does not carry this feeling with it, it means it is only a partial recognition that points the way towards further exploration.
The path is a joyful one. Each further step brings an instant feeling of lightness, of hope. When does one really feel good? When one no longer fights reality, when one flows with the universe, when one thinks, feels and acts in a positive way without effort, in an almost involuntary way, just as the heart beats, and the lungs breathe, as the waves of the ocean roll towards the shore, yet being fully conscious of these movements. It means being receptive and expanding, active and passive, in an intuitive way; not stemming against the flow of the universe, but being with it. For this we have to learn to let go of the little ego with its self-will, and the less we have to defend ourselves against real or imaginary hurt by trusting that we can cope with it, by trusting in the inner guidance that is always at our disposal, the more we can let ourselves be immersed in this universal flow. That part of us which sincerely wants this, which, actually, is part of this universal flow, is our higher self. And this higher self is our best guide on this path. It is always available, if we want it, if we want to make contact with it. We always activate it in our meditations.
Let’s imagine, for instance, that we feel restless in a vague way, we don’t know what’s bothering us. We decide to meditate, but our thoughts won’t let us. In such a situation I can say: I want to activate my higher self to help me to find out the truth. What is the truth of the moment? The answer may be: I don’t really want to meditate, I don’t really want to find out the truth because it might be very uncomfortable. When you express this, which is the truth of the moment, you are already meditating. You can even clench your fists and beat the mattress to take responsibility for the spite, anger, or frustration that you are experiencing. This will activate more energy. Then maybe you are ready to sit down again and express the first wish once more: to be in truth. Why am I restless and frustrated? You can instruct your higher self to let your lower self manifest, so that you can look at it, acknowledge it, and work with what you see. This is a very down-to-earth kind of meditation, but it is most useful, because instead of taking us away from ourselves, from our responsibility, it brings us closer to it. The answer of the moment might be – as it often is with me – that I ought to be doing something and I’m procrastinating. I don’t really want to hear this. I’d really like to hear that it is because when I was a newborn baby my mother didn’t have enough milk, but alas, this is the reality. I ought to be doing what I avoid. So I’m this far in my meditation, in my search for truth. What now? Why am I avoiding doing it? Is it out of spite? Whom am I spiting and why? Is it worth it? What is the price I am paying for this spite? Am I ready to pay it? The answer will probably be, No. I want to get away with it, without paying the price. At this point I recognize in how many other areas I also want exactly this, and what a high price I am paying. Now I have a choice. Either I do it, or I don’t, but then I consciously accept the price I have to pay. In either case I am in truth, I am honest. The restlessness and vague anxiety will have passed.
We consider this kind of meditation very spiritual. It is not difficult to try it out. But to do it, just as to enter this path and stay on it, requires a positive will, a sincere wish to change, a letting go of our little, puny ego, a trust in the Universe, in its abundance, that is available to us, if we open ourselves to it. As the Guide says: to let go, to let God.
We could also say that on this path we work towards emotional maturity, that is, towards the capacity to love and to give. This capacity is in all of us. It is for us to open the doors.
Copyright 1976, Judith Saly.
To my teacher Marieke Mars who taught me self-honesty. To my courageous and loving pathwork helper Dottie Titus.