Friday, September 5, 2014

FIVE STEPS TO FREEDOM---OR HOW TO ESCAPE AN UNWANTED SELF


‘Enlightenment is not a fixed place. There is no fixed place.
All one has to do is understand the chaos, the disorder in 
which we live.’ J. Krishnamurti.


All of us---yes, all---are in bondage, some of us more so than others. Some are in bondage to alcohol or other drugs. (I’ve been there. Done that.) Others are in bondage to other sorts of addictions including being addicted to work and other people. (Oh, how we crave the useless attention and approval of others! But why?) Still others are in bondage to mental obsessions and physical compulsions, things that make even their moment-to-moment existence misery. What can we do about all this?


When we get right down to the bottom line all bondage is addiction to self. Yes, addiction to self. Self-obsession, self-absorption, self-centeredness, selfishness. Yes, there may be mental illness as well as physical illness involved as well, but deep down all forms of bondage are bondage to self, that is, to a sense of self that is illusory. I have written often about this subject. We are not a ‘self,’ or those many, many ‘selves’ which are nothing other than mental images. They are not the real person each one of us is. So, what is the answer? We need to ... wake up! We need to experience self-release, which is the ending of illusion. Once we see the false as false---and self is the ultimate illusion---a whole new world opens up for us.

Many years ago, when in very great bondage to alcohol, I read a little booklet penned by the Theosophist and Liberal Catholic bishop George S Arundale [pictured]. I can’t remember the title of the booklet---it was more of a pamphlet---but I do remember something of immense value in it, something has that helped me greatly in my own life, something that I want to share with you now. Of all the bits and tidbits of advice and wisdom I’ve read over many decades, this gem of spiritual wisdom from Arundale is perhaps the best and most useful of them all.

George Arundale wrote of the five stages of true growth---true spiritual growth, that is. The five stages are as follows: discontent, search, escape, discovery, and freedom. Let’s deal with them in turn.

First, discontent. This is the beginning of freedom. You know, there is a phrase ‘divine discontent,’ because discontent can be a most wonderful thing. Without a certain amount of discontent in our lives we would never seek to grow, learn, understand, or escape bondage. The Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti had this to say about discontent: 

Only a mind that is in despair can find reality. A mind that is completely discontented can jump into reality, not a mind that is content, not a mind that is respectable, hedged about by beliefs. ... Though painful, it is a marvellous thing to be discontented ... .

Arundale calls discontent, which is the knowledge and recognition of bondage and limitation, an ‘angel-messenger of Light in the midst of all darkness.’ Take the alcoholic, for example. Alcoholics are never really happy. In fact, they live in misery, as do all addicts. Every alcoholic---and the same goes for any addict---seeks to escape an unwanted self. 

Actually, that is a very necessary thing to do, for we all must learn to escape our unwanted selves, that is, all those false and illusory images we have of ourselves that prevent us from seeing things as they really are. The problem with alcoholism and all other forms of addiction and bondage is that drugs and the like are never the answer. Indeed, they increasingly become the problem, and more and more of a problem, until the sufferer either dies or goes mad. That’s true. Don’t doubt it, even for a moment.

The second stage of true growth is search. Discontent, after varying periods of time, results in a search for a way out. A thought comes to mind---‘There must be a way out!’ There is---always. So, we look for a way out. That may take a long time, although in most cases we make it longer than it need be. We may seek the views of others. We may join a new religion. We may read self-help books galore. I did all of those things. None of them really helped, but for some glorious reason I never gave up hope. But eventually I gave in---that is, surrendered, let go. Only then was it that a power-not-myself---for self can never change self, as self is forever the problem and never the solution---led me to freedom. Sadly, many people never get to this second stage. They die---discontented.

Discontent alone is not enough. Insight alone never changes us. We must want change---I mean, really want it above all other things---and we must be prepared to go to any length to get it. As Williams James used to say, we will always do whatever is our strongest desire. Search begins with desire. The stronger the desire for escape, the more likely the search will not be in vain.

The third stage is escape. We exit the prison. We enter into a new world. Arundale called it a ‘garden.’ Lovely imagery. Then, we make a great discovery.

Discovery is the fourth stage. We take possession of our new world and we discover. We learn. We understand. Gone are the old beliefs that only helped to keep us in bondage. Once, we believed. Now, we know and understand. There is a whole world of difference!

The fifth stage of true growth is freedom. Arundale wrote that we ned to be very careful here. Sometimes, if we are not ever-vigilant, we will find that we have entered a larger prison. True spiritual growth, he wrote, is often a case of freedom succeeding freedom as we draw nearer to Eternity---‘at least to an Eternity,’ wrote Arundale.

Discontent … search … escape … discovery … freedom. That’s it! In many ways these five words are all you need to know to be able to live a long, happy, and satisfying life. Arundale wrote that these five steps encapsulate a certain spiritual or metaphysical law---the ‘Law of Universal Growth,’ he called it. He also wrote that this law of growth is ‘God’s gift of Time.’ Perhaps, but for many people time is running out. We must act … now!

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2), says the New Testament. Yes, right now! Forget the evangelicals. Salvation is all about wholeness and health of mind, body and spirit … and freedom from bondage and limitation of all kinds---in this life. Salvation is all about ... waking up! It's about self-release. It's about freedom from bondage.

Yes, there is a power-not-oneself that can make all things new. That power, as Norman Vincent Peale has written, is 'a spiritual giant within you, which is always struggling to burst its way out of the prison you have made for it.’ The power can restore you to health and vitality, release you from all bondage, and make your life worth living. The power is your 'real self'---that is, the life in you manifesting itself as you ... your very ground of being ... the source and essence of your life, health, strength, and vitality.

May you come to know this power today ... indeed, right now!



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