61 QUESTION: In the last lecture, you stated that the imperfections of another person cannot harm us. How about the imperfections of a teaching, a doctrine, a wrong method being practiced by, let us say, a physician or an analyst? If we are not intellectually so developed or so learned as to judge rightly, we seek an authority because we are weak and in need of help. And the wrong help can make us mentally or physically even more distorted.
ANSWER: No outer influence can ever make you more distorted. This is one of the most flagrant illusions on the Earth plane. Distortions can only be brought to the fore from within. With a good method, a teaching of truth, they are brought to the fore with a direct view as to what is distortion and what is truth.
With a teaching or method of half-truth, this often happens in a more roundabout way. An outer influence may temporarily fortify a wrong concept, just as other influences in life constantly seem to do. This lasts only as long as the person desires to run away from himself. Whenever people decide to face themselves in truth and honesty, no teaching, method or influence can encourage wrong inner concepts any longer.
In other words, the more people tend to run away from themselves, the more will they be drawn to influences which apparently foster tendencies of escape. Or they will pick out especially those aspects of the influence which encourage turning away from the root of the problems, while other parts of the very same teaching, which may help them to turn into the right direction, will be overlooked.
If it were true that any outer influence can really harm you, life would be impossible. That would be such a hazard, so arbitrary and such an injustice that you would consequently have to believe in a chaotic and godless world. You would be constantly prone to injuries you cannot do anything about. If you think things through to the very end, it is inconceivable to believe in a Creator of love and justice, and at the same time assume that ignorance and imperfection on the part of other people can harm you.
I know that it is not easy for most of you to truly understand how you are not harmed by the influence of others. But if your spirit and your soul are to become really healthy and free, the understanding of this truth is essential for you. Without this understanding you stand nowhere, and God will never be a reality for you.
This principle applies also to the physical aspect of your question, although you may find my answer even more difficult to understand. Let me say only this: if you truly want to get well, to recuperate from an illness, you will find the physician who can help you, or you will choose to accept part of the advice of one physician and reject another part. You will interpret the advice in the right way. Lack of intellectual understanding and inability to weigh, judge and discriminate are the very result of a desire to escape from and to deceive oneself.
As to philosophies, religions, teachings and methods of self-development, there are none on this Earth which are one hundred percent truth, perfection and without error, since you are living on this imperfect Earth plane and dealing at all times with the imperfections of people. By the same token, you will hardly ever find a philosophy which contains no truth whatsoever.
It is possible that a person remains with a teaching of relatively little truth, yet will get the maximum of truth out of it because he or she will assimilate what he receives in the right manner. On the other hand, people may follow a teaching of relatively more truth than many another, but they will get a minimum out of it because their inner self does not want to accept it.
In such a case, they will constantly misinterpret truth; and when life and their own disinclination to face themselves catch up with them, they may then blame the actual deviation from truth on that particular philosophy, and hold it responsible for their failure and unhappiness. At first such a person embraces this authority unquestioningly. Then he or she goes to the other extreme.
If a consciously chosen teacher or philosophy or physician could harm you as an adult person, how much more could a parent or a teacher harm you in your youth! A child is hardly able to discriminate, yet it is subject to influences which may be quite far removed from truth. The impressionability of a child is infinitely greater than that of any adult, and therefore the child is greatly influenced for his or her whole life by certain occurrences and conditions in childhood and youth.
Hence, it certainly appears as though the parents had harmed the child, nevertheless, in reality it is not so. The universe would be supremely unjust if this were so. In any successful self-search, the personality will have to recognize that he has blamed one or both parents for his unhappiness, even though this blame may have been unconscious.
The next step must inevitably be to gain the insight of no longer putting the blame where it does not belong, no matter how much the parents were actually at fault. I might say that this is one of the most important criteria in growth, health and freedom. When this has been accomplished, the constant repetition of this unhappy pattern will cease and the proper proportion will prevail in judging other people, principles or whatever.
The solution must always lie with the individual. Whenever an entity is ready to face himself, thereby assuming true self-responsibility, he or she will increasingly be drawn into spheres where one is enabled to do just that, in spite of the inevitable flaws in perfection and truth that exist anywhere on Earth.
As long as an entity is not ready to do this, or only partly ready – which also happens quite often – he or she will constantly encounter damaging influences. These damaging influences have no effect on the person who is ready to grow up inwardly. The very reluctance to assume adulthood and self-responsibility makes a person prey to the fear of harmful influences from outside.
Once people are well established on the road to maturity and self-responsibility in the inner and deeper sense – which might come long after a person is actually on this Path – they will learn gradually to discriminate without exaggeration. They will cease going from one extreme to another.
They will cease fearing forces, influences, people and happenings outside themselves, in the belief that they can harm them. They will be open to the good and the true from wherever it may come, even from a person who may in other respects be more ignorant, and similarly, may reject certain things coming from people who represent authority.
It will no longer matter who said it, the criterion will be what was said. Subjective coloring, due to positive or negative emotions, will cease; in its stead, you will possess real objectivity that never permits viewing anything as black or white. True self-responsibility is the only safeguard and can come only from yourself, from your inner desire to forfeit dependency.
Dependency often manifests in rebellion and complete rejection of that which also contains much benefit. You know that. A really independent person need not be afraid of bad influences. The independent person cannot be influenced. Your security will lie in the calm, serene deliberation, be it accepting or rejecting. You may not wish to reject the whole because you reject a part; and you may not wish to accept all of it, because you accept a good part of it.
Let me stress that this state of maturity does not have to be fully reached in order to be safe. It is sufficient that you are on the road toward it and understand the principle. If safety could only be found in a teaching or method or influence that you know can never err, you could never attain true independence. You would always remain a cripple in the pseudo-safety of utter reliance upon another authority.
This is why you cannot find an unblurred manifestation of truth on this Earth. Your choice lies only in finding it to a greater or lesser extent. The sooner you realize the inevitability of deviation from truth anywhere on Earth, and that this fact can never harm you in the deepest and widest and most real sense, the sooner you will find freedom, independence, and the real and healthy relationship to the eternal Creator of love and justice.
QUESTION: You said in your last lecture, “You are helpless because you make yourself that way by trying to shift responsibility from yourself.” But a child cannot assume self-responsibility.
ANSWER: It is understandable why you would think that it is unjust for a child to be born into conditions so imperfect that it is subject to influences it cannot handle properly. You can understand this only if you realize that one life is but a small part of a long chain. The child brings along unsolved problems which can find solution in the very conditions that bring them to the fore.
When a person grows up, these problems can be solved, but hardly ever during the period of childhood. This is the reason for life, my friends. If a problem does not exist in the soul of a child, the same conditions that accelerate conflicts in another child will not create any disturbance. You can observe this again and again.
QUESTION: Is it not a fact that responsibility can be undertaken only after you have solved these problems?
ANSWER: You can also put it the other way around: by assuming self-responsibility, you solve the problems.
QUESTION: We are all responsible for what happens to us. I can understand that very well if we deal with one person, but sometimes two or three or even more people are involved. Then it is very hard to find who is responsible.
ANSWER: It does not make the slightest bit of difference whether you deal with one person or a hundred. As long as self-responsibility appears to be dependent on the number of people you have to deal with, the truth of this principle has not been understood. In fact, every human being is constantly dependent – in the apparent and manifest way – on a score of people, some of whom you have never even seen.
Government and many other groups of people seem to influence your life. If you think this through, you must see that you could constantly say, “If thus and thus were different, my life would take another form.” All measures, laws and regulations apparently affect you, and over these you have no influence whatsoever. All these conditions are apparently true. They are part of the manifest world of matter.
In reality you are not dependent and influenced. As I pointed out before, even in national or mass disasters, some people are badly affected, others are not. In such cases, there are more than a dozen people who seem to decide your fate. What comes forth from your soul will come back to you. It will affect others you are directly or indirectly dealing with or dependent on.
As I said before in another connection, certain levels of your subconscious will affect the corresponding levels of other people. And if more than one person is involved, it must even itself out, if I may express myself in this way. This means that even though the problems, assets and liabilities, unconscious destructive or constructive desires of everyone concerned, may differ vastly, the outcome must be according to this universal psychological law and, as such, it must work properly for everyone concerned.
QUESTION: But since there is some negativity in all the other people, would it not have to affect the one person?
ANSWER: It cannot affect you if it does not strike some corresponding note in your own soul. Negative does not necessarily mean evil or wicked. It can be self-destructive, life-defeating; it can be guilt or fear. But the negative in you must exist, otherwise the negative in all the other twelve people could not come to you. Then it would not work itself out against you. Then a positive and healthy reaction would come out of the people in question, or the negative decision would turn out to be positive for you.
You cannot try to understand this principle by applying it to the number of people you are apparently dependent on. You must tackle it from the other side, that is, by analyzing your innermost emotions in each individual case. You must find those desires that may run contrary to your conscious desire, or other currents and conflicting reactions in you that will help you understand the incident. This alone will give you the understanding of the principle. Is this clear to you, my friends?
QUESTION: Yes, except in the case of a child and a disaster. Are there within the child already these positive and negative forces which it projects and by which it is affected?
ANSWER: But of course. The child has brought its entire life plan, its cycle of incarnations into this life. Everything is engraved in its soul, what kind of life it is going to lead, its basic design, and also the duration of this life – which can sometimes be altered during a lifetime, but not always. Do you understand?
QUESTION: I understand you. But this brings up the question: if there is such predetermination…
ANSWER: It is not predetermination. I have to interrupt you here because the word predetermination puts an entirely wrong slant on the issue. What I say has nothing to do with what usually people think of as fate preordained by God who determines it that way.
The law of cause and effect is constantly at work, and the individual himself or herself has set it in motion. Let us assume a person commits a crime through which he gets into difficulties. It is easy to see the connection between cause and effect in such a case. In more subtle, hidden and unconscious ways, the same thing holds true, only the person cannot connect cause and effect, unless and until he uncovers his unconscious motives, desires and conflicts.
Then, as you all experience it, cause and effect become apparent. Before these connections are uncovered, you might call the effects of your inner causes fate. Any other label might serve the purpose. Thus you simply explain something away you do not understand. The same holds true from one incarnation to another, in relation to the duration of a lifetime and for certain occurrences outside your control in your present existence. It all operates within the same law of cause and effect.
With the events outside your control, you cannot draw the connection, but this is not even necessary for your self-understanding. For if you are truly on the Path, you will find certain hidden aspects of yourself that have at one time caused the cause, if I may put it this way, of the present effects. And that is sufficient to give you freedom from fear in the knowledge of a just world in which you shape your own fate.
So it is not a question of preordainment or predetermination in the sense these words are usually understood. It is always a question of cause and effect, how you have unwittingly, unwillingly and ignorantly brought it about. When you understand that, the word “fate” will take on a completely different meaning for you, and even the word “karma.”
QUESTION: Is accidental death also brought about by one’s own causes?
ANSWER: Death must come to every human being at one time or another. The very fact that humanity has to go through death and birth and death and birth and so on and on, is the result of many basic misconceptions in the human race. Whether death comes one way or another depends on the individual case.
63 QUESTION: I would like to ask something about self-responsibility. Would not self-responsibility lead to irresponsibility toward others? If I am responsible for just myself, how then am I my brother’s keeper? Wouldn’t it lead to selfishness, being responsible only for my own life and well-being? I would look for that which is best and most suitable for me first, and only then consider the other person. Although I would give the other equal rights, I would consider myself first.
ANSWER: My dear, your question is based on so many wrong premises that it is hard to even begin answering it. Self-responsibility is not only completely incompatible with irresponsibility, but it is the very opposite. By asking this question, it is evident that for you there are only two alternatives: “Either I am responsible for myself, or for the other person.” This is not so.
If and when you are or should be responsible for another person, you can truly fulfill this responsibility only if you have at least grasped the real meaning of self-responsibility. Otherwise, your responsibility toward others will always fall short. It will be a farce and a self-deception.
It is often the case that people feel themselves overly responsible for others, thus deceiving themselves about their own lack of self-responsibility. And now we come to the part of selfishness. This is an important subject in itself, to which I will devote part of a lecture in the near future [Lecture #64 Outer Will and Inner Will – Misconception About Selfishness].
It touches a mass image which says, “Selfishness is pleasant. One must not have it because it is considered wrong, but actually one would be happier to be able to be selfish. On the other hand, unselfishness is considered virtuous, but is really a burden and does not make one happy.”
This is a very common mass image, and to some degree it is part of almost every human being. It is extremely important to become aware of this part, no matter how small it may be. The existence of this mass image is bound to cause compulsions, rebellion, and guilt for the rebellion. It causes all sorts of inner deviations and errors. It leads people into confusion.
It is not selfish to have the right to be what you are. This does not mean giving in to your lower nature. The real you will not desire harmful acts. This work will bring out the real person, hidden behind the layers of pseudo-protection which are always wrong solutions to life. Once the real person is out, it will understand that unconstructive deeds, thoughts or tendencies are unconstructive as such. If you harm someone else through selfishness, you are bound to harm yourself too. This is truth, and the real self is capable of understanding truth, this or any other.
With this insight, unselfishness will no longer be a compulsive burden one unconsciously struggles against, sacrificing one’s happiness in the belief that it constitutes unselfishness. If you are happy, you will make others happy. In fact, only then can you really bring happiness, help or any other constructive contribution to your fellow-creatures. If you are good or unselfish because of the compulsion based on this misconception, you can never contribute constructively to others, at least not in the long run.
It is not true that self-responsibility has anything to do with selfishness. If you find the real you and are true to it, you will unfold all that which is constructive in you, based on healthy motives, rather than on unhealthy ones. Other people are bound to benefit from that. You yourself benefit by becoming a happier person and enjoy the right to be yourself without standing in the way of your surroundings.
If, on the other hand, you become a martyr and sacrifice your innermost and rightful desires – not the crude, undeveloped and destructive desires – and subordinate them because of such misconceptions, you act from erroneous and unhealthy motives from which no one can truly benefit. With many a human being, it would be valuable to explore good and unselfish acts in this light.
On the surface, these acts certainly appear to be unselfish, yet they bring nothing but dissatisfaction. This is a telling sign that erroneous motives underlie such acts, possibly based on this common misconception of responding compulsively rather than out of free choice.
If you are true to yourself, you cannot be selfish, but you will be unselfish in the healthy and free sense, reserving for yourself the consideration that you have a right to.
QUESTION: May I add something? There is a phrase in the Talmud that says, “If not I for myself, who then for me? If I am for myself alone, what then am I?”
QUESTION: [Another person] And self-responsibility means only that we are responsible for our own choice and also for the consequences. It has nothing to do with selfishness or unselfishness.
ANSWER: I know, but I also know what our friend meant. She meant it in a different way, but of course, you are right. Self-responsibility does not mean that you just go ahead without considering anyone. As was pointed out now, it means, foremost, finding out how you caused certain effects in your life and taking the responsibility for them upon yourself.
72 QUESTION: I have been thinking about these things and should also like to know whether the persistent effort of humanity so far was in order to justify its existence and whether humanity’s creativeness was used toward that end. In line with your answer, this creativity abides with the spiritual perception of your remark about removing the bonds that prohibit creativity, so that the soul can freely express itself in accordance with spiritual law.
If we are the highest reality, one in mind with God, then we will truly have self-responsibility. It seems to me, in contemplating the “Abyss of Illusion” and what you have been saying about love and creativity, our self-responsibility lies in the acceptance of the re-expression of that love and creativity, which has it source in God. In this regard, the attainment of self-mastery – there is a confusion here, I cannot express it.
ANSWER: Could you try to clarify where the confusion is? It would be helpful for you to clarify where the confusion lies. Also, I cannot answer your question unless I know what it is.
QUESTION: It is about self-responsibility, and about certain philosophic fixations we seem to have which include both a fear of loss and fear of the unknown. This again ties in basically with love and trust as you mentioned tonight.
ANSWER: You see, what you said here about the fear of the unknown is a very important element in most human beings – to some extent in every human being. But the unknown becomes known as you actually experience all the things I have been telling you in these lectures. This means, of course, a very serious effort in self-search. It is not enough to hear these words.
That will never do anything really substantial, except perhaps serve as an incentive to begin, unless you experience all the emotions we mention here as living within your soul. When you do so, then the unknown becomes known. And where it remains unknown, it will lose its ability to frighten you because now you admit to yourself, “I do not know.” That is an enormous difference.
Realizing all this, self-government will cease to be a must, and will be a privilege and a freedom, whereas the child in you rejects it as unknown danger.
The fear of the unknown makes humans distort true concepts into fixed opposites, thereby diminishing their truth. It was very significant that you put it in these words. Truth is flexible; by its very nature it cannot be fixed. Nothing that is true can be rigid, static or fixed. It is always flexible. This very flexibility appears as a threat to people. They want the fixed pseudo-safety of a stone wall on which they can lean. It was this tendency which caused religion to be distorted into dogma.
Rigidity satisfies the very irrational, unfounded fear in the human soul. Humans think that what is fixed is safe, and what is flexible is unsafe. Since truth is alive, like anything else that is alive, it must be flexible. So people fear truth and light and life. The belief that flexibility is unsafe is one of the great abysses of illusion.
As you proceed in this work, you will find first that this particular fear also exists in you, and that you too cling to the supposed safety of the fixed rule. You seem to feel as though you could lean against a wall. It seems like a strong support while, as you will perceive a little later, it is not. Therein lies the confusion about self-responsibility.
When leaning on the fixed rule, you shift the responsibility to the rule. When you realize that there is no such thing as a fixed rule, you are frightened, because you have to determine each time anew what your conduct and your attitude are going to be. With flexible truth, the responsibility is automatically shifted onto yourself.
When you no longer fear self-responsibility, because you have lost your self-contempt and mistrust in yourself, you will no longer fear the flexible universe. You will not need to cling to a rigid law. You will see the flexible law working and it will not be a danger to you. The inflexible or fixed rule or law is for the child who cannot or dare not assume self-responsibility.
The fear of the unknown really comes from insecurity: “Will I be able to cope? Will my judgement be adequate? Will my reactions be right? Will I make a mistake? Dare I make a mistake?” In other words, the deepest fear of the unknown is not knowing yourself. As you lose this fear, you will not fear self-responsibility and you will not fear the truth of the flexible laws of the universe. Nor will you fear life, which is flexible all the time. By its very nature, flexibility, in the final analysis, is unchangeable yet never static.
QA188 QUESTION: I have a very mixed feeling about women. On the one hand, I have great feelings of repulsion, and on the other hand, I feel attraction. I have recently expressed these inner feelings of anger and hatred and it’s been very liberating. But now, outwardly I feel attracted to women and I’m beginning to feel angry towards men, which is contradictory to how I feel inside. Could you elaborate on this?
ANSWER: Yes. Of course there must be the feeling toward men too. That goes without saying. This is not even new; you have occasionally seen this. First, I would like to say that this realization of your dependency and therefore your ambivalence and your conflict is one of the most important insights you have made ever since you started. And this can be, if you so choose, a gateway for you, a key for you. This is also the answer to the question really, or to any comment, you asked of me.
The crux of the matter is really that you need to truly determine to take full responsibility for living. This word “responsibility” has been used so many times, and when words are used too many times they always begin to lose their meaning. We have to begin to describe exactly what is meant by that in order to make it alive and not just a dead label.
What I mean by responsibility – in many cases, but also in your case – is that you are the master of your fate and you must not expect that others pay the price for your own life. As long as you want that, as long as you want to cheat in this way and go out scot free and have it easy and get something for nothing and not really go out of yourself and provide a life for yourself, you will be in a very grave vicious circle.
Because the underlying reason for this is that you negate your own possibilities. You assume, a priori, that you do not have what you need in order to make your life beautiful, pleasurable, successful, worthwhile and full. You constantly depart from the premise that you do not have these resources or these creative potentialities. And then you do not know that you assume this and are blindly driven into patterns of dependency, which you then also hide from yourself. Then you are in trouble.
So the only way you can dissolve this vicious circle is to challenge this implicit assumption of yours that you do not have either the strength or the possibilities or the resources to live the way you want to live. And my advice very specifically to you is to, first of all – very seriously and practically and specifically – question yourself as what would you really want from your life in order to give you a feeling of fulfillment and of self-satisfaction in a positive sense.
Then question yourself further. Do you believe that you can obtain this, or do you believe that only through someone else’s bounty can you obtain it? Obviously, the answer must be the latter, otherwise you would not have fallen into this pattern. But you must acknowledge that feeling.
Only after you acknowledge it, can you then begin to question the validity of this assumption. That is then where a very specific meditation can come in. You can truly request the inner guidance to make you aware of the potentialities that are dormant within you. And perhaps the dreams of glory will have to be reduced a little bit, so that you can only gradually unfold these potentials and not demand too much of yourself to begin with. In other words, make a realistic evaluation of what you can obtain and then, little by little, expand it.
To the degree you gain contact with your spiritual self, to that degree, your aims can realistically be expanded. This contact with your spiritual being will be a simultaneous occurrence, as you are willing to reap only what you obtain for yourself, and as you question how much can you obtain for yourself.
Once you become centered in this way, in your own inner being, there will no longer be ambivalence toward yourself, toward people of the same sex or people of the opposite sex. You will not have to fear beautiful, expanding, blissful feelings, because you do not need something of the other person, because you can give it to yourself. Do you understand?
QUESTION: Yes, I was thinking of that question, “What do I want?” and I thought that a lot of the things I always wanted, I have on one level. I find suddenly, from the point of view of feeling, that I have these things. I possess them and I’m becoming almost self-satisfied on that level. I suppose that will change my outlook towards why I want companionship.
ANSWER: Exactly. You see, a lot of your energies have been wasted until now by acting and using your actual potentials in an “as if” way for the purpose of obtaining something from the other person or impressing the other person or doing something in order to make believe, when it isn’t really make believe.
If you can really use it in the knowledge that it is you and for your own sake you are doing it – not to prove something – the energies will regenerate, because then it is in the right channel.