Friday, May 16, 2014


‘The things which are impossible with men
are possible with God.’ Lk 18:27.

This post is about personal transformation and recovery, but I am not suggesting some method or technique. (I don’t believe in them.) Nor am I some fundamentalist or evangelical Christian who’s out to convert you---far from it. What I am suggesting is a transformative spiritual, and not just psychological, idea---an idea which, if accepted in your consciousness, and actualized, can and will change your life forever. Maybe that sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. So, please read on, if you’re at all interested.

Now, even though I’ve quoted a verse from the Bible, I want you to know that I am not a Biblical literalist. Indeed, I abhor those 'black letter' Christians who always interpret the Bible literally. For many decades now I have studied the Bible, as well as other sacred scriptures, with a view to ascertaining their deeper, ‘inner’ meaning. You see, I happen to think that, for the most part, sacred scripture was never intended to be interpreted literally. Take the Bible, for instance. Much of its contents are written in mythological, figurative, metaphorical, symbolical, allegorical, and spiritual language. True, there are actual, historical events recorded in many parts of the Bible but even many of them were never intended to be taken literally, or only literally. Yes, the Bible is full of myths, legends, fables, folk tales, morality tales, symbols, parables, allegories, and archetypal ideas, and must be interpreted and applied in that manner in the light of reason, contemporary knowledge, and a knowledge of metaphysics and sacred language.

Take, for example, the verse set out above. It’s from Luke’s Gospel. Now, read the verse carefully. For starters, the verse does not say, ‘God can do the impossible.’ After all, that would make no sense at all. If God---whoever or whatever God is---can do the impossible, then it’s not impossible … at least not insofar as God is concerned. No, the verse does not say that God can do the impossible. It simply says that the things that are impossible with ‘men’ are possible with God. Now, what does the word ‘men’ mean in this verse? You may think that’s a silly question, but it’s not. Yes, the word ‘men’ can be interpreted literally to mean men (and, of course, women and children as well), but the word often has a deeper, ‘inner’ meaning as well in many sacred writings. In Biblical metaphysics the word ‘men’ often means thoughts---your thoughts, my thoughts, and especially those of a conditioned, almost non-thinking kind.

There is another Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) expression worth noting---‘men of Israel.’ Now, the expression ‘men of Israel’ can and often does refer to positive and spiritual thoughts and aspirations, that is, thoughts, ideas and sentiments that are spiritually enlightened, and not materialistic or carnal (that is, negatively selfish). Spiritually enlightened thoughts, ideas and sentiments are invariably loving, kind, compassionate, generous, and uplifting. They work for the betterment and improvement of not just the person who entertains them but also others as well. The unqualified expression ‘men’ is ordinarily used in the Bible to refer to thoughts, ideas and sentiments that are negative and selfish and often highly self-destructive, an example being a thought of resentment, hostility, or jealousy toward some other person. All such ‘men’ are the result of conditioned thinking on our part. I will have more to say about what I mean by conditioned thinking in the very next paragraph.

To me, the Bible verse quoted from Luke’s Gospel is saying that there will always be things that, according to our ordinary thoughts and ordinary thinking, will be impossible, but those things are possible when we ‘plug into’ a Power-not-ourselves. Now, our ordinary thoughts and thinking entail nothing other mechanical, reflexive thinking where we react---as opposed to rationally respond---to what happens to us from our conditioned thoughts. These thoughts are sometimes referred to as our ‘false selves,’ which are all those little ‘I’s’ and ‘me’s’ in our mind and daily thinking that we have formed, acquired and molded over our whole lifetime. (Note. Don’t let the word ‘false,’ in this context mislead you. These selves do exist as image in our mind. I am not saying they are unreal. It is simply the case that these inner experiences of mind do not represent our true identity. The latter is the person we are in the world.)

There’s more to it. Our conditioned mind, from which arise our so-called conditioned thinking, consists of all of our various likes, dislikes, attachments, aversions, beliefs, opinions, prejudices, and so on. Over time, these false selves (‘men’), which lie behind every feeling and emotion, harden into mindsets such as habits, addictions (whether to drugs, people, a certain lifestyle, or whatever), obsessions, and compulsions of innumerable kinds, and most people are in bondage to one or more of these things which we experience as strong feelings and emotions. When any of these false selves are active, they are always experienced as feelings and emotions.

As I’ve often said in my posts, these false selves, many of which struggle with each other for dominance in our mind, thinking, and daily life activity, but none of which are the real person each one of us is, have no power in and of themselves. Why? Because they are nothing other than mental images in our mind. To use metaphysical language, these false selves---and we have literally hundreds and hundreds of them inside our mind---are ‘men.’ No wonder the Bible verse speaks of things being ‘impossible with [these] men’! The trouble is that as and when we choose to identify the person we are---the latter being our true identity---with one or more of these false selves, mistakenly believing them to be the real person we are, we give these ‘men’ in our mind and life activity a certain pseudo-power that is invariably negative in both nature and effect.

Now, what is this Power-not-ourselves which supposedly can do what is impossible to ‘men’? Well, your Power-not-yourself may be different from mine. Even atheists have a Power-not-themselves. It may, for example, for them be a source of inward power under the guise of the person they are, in contradistinction to all those little, and often extremely negative and self-destructive, ‘men’ (and ‘women’ and ‘children’) of which I’ve spoken. You don’t have to call this Power God or Jesus or Buddha or anything like that. You don’t have to refer to it as a ‘Higher Power’ or ‘Higher [or True] Self’ as some people do, but that sort of terminology is OK if it means something to you. All you have to do is to accept---I mean, really accept, affirm, and internalize---the following important spiritual truth:

The ‘men’ (that is, the ‘false selves’) within my mind have no power to do anything positive or beneficial … whether for me or for others. These ‘men’ cannot be changed or reformed by themselves. However, they can be dissolved by the transformative power of ‘not-self’ (that is, a Power-not-oneself) which is infinitely greater than all these ‘men’ combined.

What, exactly, do I mean by the word 'spiritual,' when I refer to a 'spiritual truth'? Something is 'spiritual' when it goes beyond both the physical and the psycholgical. Some problems can be resolved only by recourse to a 'higher' (that means, 'other than self,' or 'not-self,' as opposed to some supposed higher level or order) power or principle. For example, just try getting one of these ‘men’ to remove himself from the centre of his own endeavours. It’s impossible. As William Temple said, ‘no effort of the self can remove the self from the centre of its own endeavour.’ Now, that’s a spiritual problem. It goes beyond the physical and even beyond what is ordinarily termed the psychological as well. We need a spiritual solution to solve the problem of the false selves and their consequences---all manner of pride, selfishness, self-centredness, self-absorption, self-interest, willfulness, and self-will run riot. These all result in feelings of self-inadequacy, self-consciousness, frustration, powerlessness, separateness.

To solve a problem of the spiritual kind---the type of problem outlined above---you need a spiritual solution. To rely upon ordinary conditioned thoughts and thinking in an attempt to rid yourself (that is, the person that you are) from the problem is doomed to failure. You need to find a Power-not-oneself---for only such a Power can relieve you of the bondage of self. There is, in Christian theology, an expression for this Power---it’s called the ‘grace of God,’ and this grace is said to be sanctifying in its effect---that is, it purifies. That’s what we need---to be made pure and free from the bondage of self. Again, never mind the fancy words or expressions. As the Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti [pictured left] used to say over and over again, ‘The word is not the thing.’ The reality behind the word or the expression is all that matters.

Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Humanist, atheist, or other, we all need to be set free from the bondage of our conditioned thinking which is a veritable prison-house for us. We need get out of own way by dying to self and rising to newness of life. In order for that to happen we must undergo a spiritual transformation---a psychological mutation of great depth and intensity---but no effort of ourself can remove that self from the centre of its own endeavour. We need to rely upon---and humbly surrender to---a Power-not-ourselves. Only then are we truly able to experience the necessary ego-deflation at great depth.

Yes, the things that are impossible with the ‘men-selves’ in your mind are possible with a Power-not-oneself.

Now, that’s a transformative spiritual idea!

The photos (other than that of Krishnamurti)
were taken in Japan by the author.

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  1. Brilliant and clearly expressed. For me this article is personally
    enlightening, a response from the Universe that observes my sojourn and knows the queries of my innermost being.

    I love and esteem your explanations of "men-self" and "Power-not-oneself" with their dynamic contrasts, and your confession of abandonment of human BS (belief systems). It strikes a resounding answering chord in my being as I am at that same conclusive juncture in my own experience. Kudos to you for explaining it so well!

    Your writings serve as a reliable compass that leads the wayfaring
    sojourner out from the maze of Caesar's world to the labyrinth on the path of Life. Peace upon you and your house, my wise brother Ian.


    1. Bless you, Larry. I greatly appreciate your kind words. Peace, love, and happiness to you. Ian.

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