Pleasure | General

82 QUESTION: Those of us who do not consciously believe in existence after death, and do not consciously desire existence past death very much, like to enjoy and take pleasure in this present physical life – meaning the body and the pleasures and sensations of the body. I would like to ask a question concerning such a person: given talent and a certain personality, including the need to sublimate, is the desire to produce art and by that creation become immortal, the same thing as a belief in life after death? I’m not asking about whether there is life after death.

ANSWER: I know you aren’t, and I am not going to attempt to answer that, for whatever I or anyone else might say would not make any difference. You can arrive at it only through your own experience. If you superimpose a belief that is not genuinely yours, it is much more unhealthy than admitting an unbelief. That is just one of the points I stressed in the last lecture [Lecture #82 The Conquest of Duality Symbolized in the Life and Death of Jesus]. Now I will answer other aspects of your question.

In the first place, let me make it quite clear that real knowledge and experience of the continuation of life after physical death – if it is genuinely arrived at through development – and the right and healthy attitude as described in these lectures, does not, cannot, and will not sacrifice the bodily pleasures for the sake of a spiritual life to come after the physical one. It is quite the contrary.

Only those who cling to religious faith out of fear and weakness will come to the conclusion that one opposes the other. In fact, if these two lectures [Lectures #81-82] are really understood, this will become quite apparent. Since the freed-up life force must flow through the body, it makes the whole person more receptive and capable of pleasure on all levels, including the physical one. However, this complete pleasure can be experienced only if the soul is healthy. An unhealthy soul is incapable of experiencing pleasure.

At the same time, if a person heals unhealthy aspects and attitudes of the personality, that person not only becomes capable of experiencing greater pleasure, but also leads a fuller life. Almost as a byproduct, there is also an increase of creativity.

People like that begin to experience the reality of the spiritual laws and truth. It is no coincidence that people who go through a successful analysis often come to believe in the reality of spiritual laws and truth. This rarely indicates acceptance of a denominational religion, but rather, the presence of their own private realization, experience, inner proof and knowledge. These are all byproducts of healing the soul of its misconceptions, distortions and deviations.

The true experience of pleasure on all levels, the unfoldment of creative abilities, and the inner knowledge of spiritual truth, all result from inner health.

At the same time, the sicker or more distorted a soul, the less it is capable of real pleasure, and the more will its inherent creative abilities be paralyzed. The fact that some people are very creative in spite of tremendous inner conflicts does not contradict this statement. In these cases, the creative talent is so great that it is expressed in spite of the soul-problems, and shows how much such a person is cut off from reality on all levels. This means, not only, that cosmic laws and spiritual truth are disregarded, but that reality as it manifests on this Earth plane is also ignored.

The desire for immortality through art is just another variation of the human entity’s longing for life eternal and its struggle against death. One person will be a religious fanatic who has accepted a belief out of fear and weakness, and not through inner knowledge. Another believes to be stronger than the former because he or she does not need such faith. But this form of expression, through the work produced, emerges from the same root: the desire for immortality.

Neither wants to let go; they want to hold onto life. They cannot give up. This holding on, this inability to give up, whether manifest in the big question, or in little everyday issues, holds the soul imprisoned. It prevents growth and produces some form of stagnation on all levels of the personality. Only the generous freedom which comes from giving oneself up and going into the unknown, without any assurance of retaining what one cherishes, can produce true growth.

So the wish for immortality through art, or science, or any other expression is, in essence, not that different from the way of the religionist who clings to faith out of fear. As I explained in the last lecture, the atheist too, goes off the path and meets death in the wrong way, just as the ungenuine religious person does.

The latter says, “I want to believe because I am afraid of death. I do not want to let go, to give up.” And the atheist says, “The person who believes is just weak. I am so much stronger, I do not need all that.” But this person too wants immortality and thinks it is a show of strength to seek immortality through creation. It is another way of clinging to life and fighting against death.

This type of person is so afraid of ceasing to exist that he will not risk believing and then being disappointed if the religionists are wrong. Both types are incapable of admitting that they do not know, and that they have to accept the unknown.

Now, my friends, the many people who outwardly admit this ignorance do not necessarily mean it, feel it, and live it. They too, may manifest the flight from death in their innermost attitudes. It is not what one professes and thinks one believes that determines a healthy attitude; that is only an indication.

So you must beware of evaluation based on a person’s professed belief and attitude. The desire to die, for instance, does not necessarily indicate a true belief in the life after death, or one’s reconciliation with non-existence. It may merely be an expression of being tired of coping with life, which is, of course, the result of not knowing how to cope with death.

Now we come to the matter of sublimation. Sublimation can be, and very often is, entirely misunderstood and is a very unhealthy phenomenon. It can be a distorted and harmful process in the religionist’s as well as the psychoanalyst’s concept. The religionist sublimates when he says, “The life of the flesh is sinful. It opposes the spirit. It represents the devil and therefore I must sublimate my fleshly impulses and spiritualize them.” This leads to repression, and when you view repression with a fresh outlook, you will see that it is nothing more than dishonesty, self-deception, an ostrich attitude, and a lack of self-awareness.

On the other side, the psychologist asserts that “reality is so dismal, so hopeless, so despairing, and stands in such contradiction to my pleasure drives, that I have no choice other than to sublimate. I choose it out of compromise, as a lesser evil. On the one hand, I would have to live according to the most unchanneled and primitive instincts, if I wanted to realize my pleasure drive. But on the other hand, this would bring me into conflict with my environment, and therefore I would be stopped from pleasure a priori. So the situation is hopeless.”

These unchanneled, primitive instincts are not more conducive to the pleasure principle than is the spiritualized rejection of bodily pleasure. In a mature and healthy soul, the pleasure drive can never interfere with one’s environment. This is not due to sublimation, resignation or repression. It happens because the instincts grow within the rest of the personality and therefore become, as development proceeds, all the more receptive to pleasure in a much higher form than the primitive, unchanneled instincts.

This heightened pleasure includes the physical level. Such inclusion comes, in turn, from facing death and suffering. It happens through eliminating negation and slowly, bit by bit, melting away the duality. In doing so, reality, as you know it on Earth, begins to change, first subtly in your own inner world, and then slowly in the outer world.

It is entirely wrong to say that creative ability is the product of sublimation or, to put it in a different way, that it comes from shifting the pleasure drive to another area of the personality. The healthy human personality, as it was meant to be, is rich enough to contain both, as well as many other modes of expression in life.

Only the limited and distorted soul has to make such choices. It is quite true that if you repress your pleasure drive, it must still express itself somewhere else, and often does so in the area of your creativity. But that does not mean it could not be expressed more clearly and powerfully if your personality were whole and integrated, functioning healthily on all levels. It would manifest in a more constructive and full way, not as a substitute for, but as a completion of life.


87 QUESTION: Why is it that one is often more restless when pleasant things occur? In depressions one may be calm. In happy incidents, one becomes over-stimulated, and in a way, disharmonious.

ANSWER: The obvious answer would be self-punishment, guilt feelings, fear of success. But such answer will not bring you further understanding. Although some of these factors may contribute to the complex, in themselves they do not clear up anything for you. You will understand their origin and their erroneous purpose only if you become aware of the more basic reason.

I am quite sure that each one of you is experiencing such emotions; if you question yourself truly, you will ultimately find that if a happy incident makes you feel restless, over-stimulated and in a way, disharmonious, it is because the goal you attained, whether in a little or in a big way, represents a false value. That does not mean that the goal is wicked or wrong in itself. But it must be somehow connected with your search for glory, with your idealized self-image, no matter how subtly or unobtrusively it may mix with true aims.

When your false aims and values are gratified you are bound to be left feeling empty. False aims are illusions, and even if, at times, they materialize, they will not really satisfy you. These aims and values are resorted to as pseudosolutions. When such an aim is actually realized, it becomes obvious that the solution was misguided – and the soul is stunned and confused even more.

If you pursue a goal, believing that its attainment will solve your problems, in a sense it feels better to believe the goal itself is still valid, but for one reason or another, you were prevented from attaining it. On the other hand, if you actually do succeed and then the victory turns sour on you by its failure to solve your problems, by leaving you still insecure, frightened and restless, you are at a loss. You feel worse because now you do not know what to do, where to turn.

Since this entire process is vague, and utterly unconscious, you are unaware of its implications. You are even unaware of the acute disappointment of now having attained a partial goal. You still feel not so different than before when you thought that attaining the goal would make all the difference in the world.

Even small gratifications of this sort – let us say a success in social life – will generate this reaction in your unconscious. Only close analysis of the incident and your reaction to it will reveal the truth of the matter, and prove of utmost importance for your further development. Because it will bring into clear focus the false value and pseudosolution, and show how illusory both are.

Depression sets in because the pseudosolution and the goal seem difficult to attain. You believe you have an aim, even though it may be wrong. But when your aim is proven wrong, whether or not you consciously realize it, you become more frustrated, and an inner haste and pressure is generated. It seems more pressing than ever to find a solution, only now you do not know where or how.

Let us suppose the false goal of the pseudosolution that you attempt is to be approved of, admired, envied, and feel powerful. Now an incident occurs where you receive this gratification. People do act according to this desire of yours. Consciously you may feel you had a very pleasant time. But if you analyze your feelings, you will find that the goal of your idealized self was actually partly gratified in this pleasant situation.

This may very well happen along with the real values that are being attained and lived up to. But it is enough that the gratification of a false value occurs to make you restless and disharmonious. Now the psyche feels, “I have received what I thought I needed and I am still unhappy, alone and insecure. I still lack something, I still have nothing secure to hold on to. Where do I have to go now in order to alleviate this condition? What should I do now?”

So insecurity and inner haste increase just because the false value and desire has been gratified. Outwardly you may be quite content, but the inner restlessness is a sign of the process I just described.

These are subtle processes and when explained in crude language they appear exaggerated. You have to uncover, feel and experience the truth of these words. When you really question yourself honestly, you are bound to find the answer in the form of an inner truth.

QUESTION: Is this something similar to what is called “Weltschmerz”?

ANSWER: Not necessarily. Usually in “Weltschmerz,” self-pity predominates, while the emotion we just discussed is joy without harmony. It applies to happy incidents not causing sadness, but rather the opposite, while still being in a state of restlessness, inner haste, impatience, and a kind of nervousness.


91 QUESTION: Would you care to elaborate on the distinction between pseudo-euphoric states of elation and genuine elation? The question has been answered by many authorities, but may we hear what you have to say about it?

ANSWER: The first and most important measure in order to establish the answer to this question is to ask oneself what was the motive for wanting such a state of elation. Of course, the first answer will always be “because I wanted to communicate with God. I wanted it in order to develop myself.” But do you really develop because you experience this state? Not if it is artificially produced.

The only way to distinguish between genuine and pseudo-elation is the honest answer to whether or not an escape from the difficulties of life played a role; whether there is a desire for pleasure supreme that cannot be attained through healthy means because too much fear and inhibition exist in the soul. A true answer can always, and only, be found if one goes to the roots of oneself and finds these factors.

If you have a particular preoccupation with this subject, this in itself should give rise to suspicion. The predominantly healthy soul will have no particular desire for such euphoric states of elation. Your desire will rather be to procure all the pleasure this life contains by making your soul as healthy as possible. You will find God in that way.

You will not need, nor want, to skip a full life-experience under the well-sounding pretext that your aim is communion with God. If you want this, there is a fear in you to meet life full face, and you therefore want to avoid it.

True spiritual states of elation come undesired and unexpected. They follow suit after life has truly been lived, and not avoided. They are very rare indeed. They do not represent a shortcut. They are not the result of avoiding life and still desiring development and progress. Many wish this very impossibility. They try to accomplish it by forcing themselves into states of elation that cannot be genuine.

The person who walks the stony, narrow road of real self-facing will, for the longest time, have no such experience whatsoever. He or she will not even crave it. If there is no longing for it, this might indicate a healthy state of mind.

The absence of longing means an acceptance of life and a healthy ability to cope with life, or at least a confidence and intention that the ability to cope with life will be gained, in all its favorable and unfavorable aspects, acquiring thereby the ability for happiness, love and pleasure. Super-states of euphoria usually avoid all that. If they are genuine, they come, as I said, only after having tackled life with all its facets.

However, my friends, it is also possible that such a state is a combination of escape and a real foretaste of genuine spiritual experience. A combination of mixed inner trends may have led to this mixture. If the genuine element is there at all, it will lead you away from seeking such experience for the sake of an unconsciously wanted shortcut.

You will rather be more determined than ever to give up all inner resistance to face yourself to the utmost. You will recognize that your desire for communion with God existed because you wanted to avoid a communion with yourself. Courage and humility to face oneself with all one’s limitations will have increased if only a particle of such an experience were real.

I repeat: to the extent that such experience was genuine, to that extent must the subsequent road lead away from such euphoric states. Does that answer your question?

QUESTION: Yes. But, for instance, in prayer and in meditation one gets, at times, such inner peace and inner happiness, a borderline elation.

ANSWER: Peace, calm and happiness could not possibly be called a euphoric state of elation. Again, as in the question regarding the two kinds of conscience, you should examine what you feel about this peace. Account for the feeling. In other words, is the peace a result of an unhealthy passivity? Does it contain elements of giving up inner or outer action? Does it mean you now feel that you do not have to do anything further in order to make a go of life?

Such unhealthy passivity is as much an indication of distortion as an unhealthy overactivity, haste, pressure and compulsion. The truth combines activity and passivity in a relaxed way. The knowledge and intent to live life actively does not include inner unrest. When the feeling of healthy peace exists, strength gathers and results in confidence that you will overcome your obstructions and live life fully. Then the peace is genuine.

If, on the other hand, the peace is a momentary, pleasant, relaxed feeling, but after it is gone, no strength remains which is constructively used, then the peace was a false one. Real peace and strength usually follow unpleasant self-recognitions that one has accepted fully.

QUESTION: Isn’t lasting improvement also a yardstick?

ANSWER: Yes. What I said before leads to lasting improvement. Such lasting improvement is bound to come if such an experience strengthens the intent and execution of finding one’s obstructions and finally resolving them.

To expect lasting improvement simply because you have had such an experience is a misunderstanding. The truth is that the experience influences one’s actions and attitude to obtain improvement through one’s efforts, courage and humility. There is a subtle but important difference in this outlook. In addition, such an experience is almost always the result of serious efforts in the right direction, and these in turn must produce further efforts.

Moreover, it is certainly not easy to judge what constitutes improvement. As you all know, actual change is such a very gradual process that it passes by almost unnoticed, and you only discover it much later. A quick change in one’s personality is rarely to be trusted. On the other hand, it may mean great improvement if you can begin to accept yourself as you are, for this is the basis on which to work. This may be unnoticed by anyone else. Real improvements are often subtle.


100 QUESTION: I discovered in my work that, mixed in with healthy and productive pleasure, is also destructive or self-destructive pleasure. The latter can’t always be recognized as such and is difficult to get rid of. There seems to be in me a confusion between the pleasure principle and rejection, as well as between happiness and selfishness. What can you suggest?

ANSWER: Apart from the question of masochism about which I have spoken considerably in the past, and also in answer to a recent question, I have this to say: here the either/or attitude of the child prevails. The child in you feels that if you are in pursuit of pleasure, you are not in reality. Reality means rejection and unpleasure, therefore you escape from it and build your pleasure in fantasy. This then seems to confirm the contention that reality and pleasure are incompatible.

To a lesser degree, this can be found in every human being, but to a greater extent it is found in emotional and mental illness. If, to begin with, this misconception did not exist, if one knew that being in reality is not only feeling rejected, but also being in pleasure, one would not need to seek pleasure only in unreality. This is the confusion.

By the same token, the confusion between happiness and selfishness is also based on the principle of either/or. The child in you feels that if you are happy, you must be selfish, while all unselfishness automatically goes against your interest and gratification. Needless to say, this is not so in reality. Only the process of growth will give you the inner understanding and conviction that happiness and unselfishness are not incompatible.

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