There is an old adage in data processing circles which says "garbage in/garbage out." This well-worn computer maxim is also applicable to biological cybernetics (i.e., the mind). Around 1600 years ago, Augustine of Hippo said:
"...the punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder."(2)
and A Course in Miracles echoes:
"Dreams are chaotic because they are governed by your conflicting wishes...." [T350/375]
During the past 100 years, and most particularly the last 30, there has been a rapidly increasing realization that mind is probably the fundamental creative force. Much of the current discovery in quantum physics points to both a fundamental essence which is non-material and the interconnectedness of all things. We are only barely beginning to understand what mind is and how it works. That mind is responsible for our experience has become an accepted theory for at least a significant minority. Many entertain, at least conceptually, that the outpicturing of our life at any given moment is the result of our thinking.

As a result there seem to be three general responses by today's metaphysicians to an event in their lives. First, those who say "there are no accidents"; it was "supposed" to happen. This approach seems to place cause external and almost always seems to imply that it is part of some grand plan, that it has cosmic significance. Not so! Of course it was supposed to happen; of course it was no accident; it is the natural and inevitable consequence of the totality of all the feelings, thoughts and actions that came before it, but that is all. To speculate that it is part of some mystical plan is to avoid acceptance of responsibility and to fail to see cause as it is.

Secondly, there are those who accept and even take pride in the creative power of mind and love to take credit for their demonstrations when things are going "our way." But, when things go "awry", they want to blame fate, circumstances, God, astrology, anything else. It seems to be a source of personal pride to be a "co-creator" unless the results are undesirable.

The third type accepts the theory in all cases but, for the most part, the application is misguided, vague and not helpful. For example, recently I was talking with a friend on the phone and she related that she had been ill with a cold. "I wonder why I chose that?" she asked rather rhetorically. She has seemingly accepted the responsibility for her experience and at least vaguely understands that whatever comes to her does so at her bidding. The problem is her question: "WHY?" is not the proper question. To ask "why" implies that there is some sort of viable explanation as to the reason one would impose illness upon himself. Currently there does in fact seem to be a sort of tacit assumption that we choose difficult or painful experiences to "teach ourselves lessons." What possible logic would there be in self-abuse to learn a lesson? The acceptance of this theory at all demonstrates how perverse our thinking has become. It is a corollary to the "vengeful God" belief or "no pain, no gain". Our belief in the value of sacrifice goes very, very deep. Could it be that "why" is a carefully (though possibly unconsciously) chosen question in order to avoid seeing the real cause? Looking for a specific cause of a specific problem is like looking for the specific cause of a single wave on the ocean. The question "why" but obscures the real question, thereby insuring that the fundamental problem continues unseen and therefore unsolved. In fact, "Why?" avoids the real acceptance of responsibility as cause and usually complicates a situation by adding guilt, doubt and confusion.

"Why?" assumes that we understand the actual process of causation. But A Course in Miracles tells us:

"Our understanding is so limited that what we think we understand is but confusion born of error." [W356/366]
All outcomes derive from our desires and nothing else. We see precisely what we want to see and nothing else. According to A Course in Miracles,
"You see what you expect and you expect what you invite." [T214/230]
If this is indeed so, what is the cause of so much conflict and chaos in our lives? A Course in Miracles points out:
"No one desires pain. But he can think that pain is pleasure. No one would avoid his happiness. But he can think that joy is painful, threatening and dangerous. Everyone will receive what he requests. But he can be confused indeed about the things he wants; the state he would attain. What can he then request that he would want when he receives it? He has asked for what will frighten him, and bring him suffering." [W462/472]
What we fail to recognize is that any momentary outcome (which is, in reality, just a partial manifestation of an ongoing process) is the result of the ongoing totality of our desires, thoughts and actions, not just one desire captured at a particular moment in time or carried at the forefront of our consciousness. We are, for the most part, so unconscious, that our conscious desires and thoughts have very little to do with the form and circumstances of our lives. "Radical!", you may say. You bet! But that is the way it is.

We do many things without recognizing their real purpose. We do not see or, perhaps, refuse to acknowledge, the diverse and conflictory nature of the manifold desires and goals which we carry in our mind at all times. We constantly strive for multiple goals without seeing the fact that they are mutually exclusive. More importantly we remain completely out of touch with the underlying confusion on which all of our desire is based. We consistently refuse to see that all personal goals have at their root a radical conflict. We do not understand the total functioning of the mind. What we are aware of -- the so-called "conscious mind" -- is but a tiny fragment of the totality of our consciousness. In what I believe to be a willful effort to escape responsibility for its power, we have become seemingly unconscious of and actually afraid of the deeper and more powerful part of mind. What we fail to see (once again, I think this is an active refusal) is that the mind, as we know it, is constantly and consistently fragmented, muddled. It is virtually always in confusion, conflict and contradiction. In addition, because of the limited perspective from which we view life, we fail to see the overall implications of our wantings and cravings. We fail completely to understand the nature of desire. And, we go to great lengths to avoid facing the fundamental source of conflict itself.

A more appropriate question would be: "HOW did I choose this sickness?" Here it must be reemphasized that there is no suggestion that one actively wanted or consciously and specifically chose an illness or a car wreck or the experience which it brings. What I am suggesting is that the illness or car wreck is the outcome of many conflicting desires and actions both conscious and unconscious of which we did not see the entire picture, the whole situation. WE DO NOT KNOW OUR OWN MIND! Individually, our world view is exceptionally myopic. We consistently fail (again I say willfully, even if unconsciously) to see how our lives are inextricably intertwined with others, the environment, the planet, the universe. And that all of our own individual actions and desires are mutually interdependent. Quite often we are attempting to manifest conflicting desires simultaneously, or things that conflict with the needs of others. And, therefore, we manifest conflict, what else?

In attempting to understand the process, rehashing past events is of little, if any, use. It may in fact be counter-productive. Memory itself is selective and cannot furnish the total picture of feelings, thoughts and actions which is necessary. It leaves us with only introspective dissection and analysis, neither of which lead to truth. What is most important is that we really, actually "see" and understand that is it I and only I that is cause. And it is not the intellectual, analytical understanding of the specific mechanics of the process that is necessary. What is needed is the direct apprehension, the instantaneous realization, the "aha!", that "I am doing this to myself." If we grok(3) even for a moment the whole process of causation, we will drop all conflict instantly. And, we need to become able to "see" it in the moment that it arises.

"It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. Nothing external to your mind can hurt or injure you in any way. There is no cause beyond yourself that can reach down and bring oppression. No one but yourself affects you. There is nothing in the world that has the power to make you ill or sad, or weak or frail." [W351/361]

Once we really "see" this process as it arises, we discover that sickness, accidents, conflict, loss all arise for one reason only--conflict in the mind, lack of clarity, lack of unity.

There is also fundamental misunderstanding of what it is that we desire. We think we want a new car, for example. Our desire, however, is not for the car, the job, the lover, the thing itself, but what we believe it will bring us, such as power, prestige, pleasure, ease, etc. Ultimately, whatever we desire is what we believe will bring us happiness, fulfillment. Our desires are for experience, a process; not for things, form. The things, in and of themselves, are but perceived means to or symbols of the desired experience. Perhaps, if we trace this process of desire far enough we might find its root. What is the fundamental nature and purpose of all desire?

First of all, it is obvious that all desire must arise from some sense of lack, that something is missing. We perceive many and varied needs and desires, but are they not just symptoms rather than the cause? There must be some basic, underlying feeling that something is missing, that something else is required to bring fulfillment, peace, happiness. At its root, what is this lack? Where does it come from? A Course in Miracles offers an answer:

"A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct. This sense of separation would never have arisen if you had not distorted your perception of truth, and had thus perceived yourself as lacking. The idea of order of needs arose because, having made this fundamental error, you had already fragmented yourself into levels with different needs. As you integrate you become one, and your needs become one accordingly. Unified needs lead to unified action, because this produces a lack of conflict." [T11/14]
Here is where we encounter the fundamental conflict of human existence, the conflict between what we actually are and what we think we are. One simple way of looking at this fundamental conflict, which requires no esoteric understanding, is this: everyone seeks to be special, different, unique and, we all seek to be in relationship. What is little understood or recognized is that these two goals are, however, mutually exclusive and contradictory. The drive to specialness is the drive to isolation. The more special and unique we become, the more isolated we are. The ultimate result of individuation is, so to speak, the boy in the glass bubble--perfectly safe and secure, but completely isolated and lonely. Perfect uniqueness is absolute isolation which is absolute nothingness, oblivion, death. Fundamentally, the drive to specialness is the drive to death, to non-being.

From this, then, we see that to be is to be related. It is impossible to be totally unrelated. Nothing exists in and of itself in complete isolation. Everything which exists does so solely in relationship with its entire environment. Existence requires relationship. So, we can see from the beginning that our drive toward personal specialness and our need to be related are in opposition to one another. They fundamentally contradict each other in purpose.

To be in relationship requires that we have something in common with the other. If we have something in common, we are not totally unique. To be totally and completely in relationship requires that we give up all of our specialness. So, we attempt to compromise by being somewhat unique and partially in relationship, thereby satisfying neither goal completely. A Course in Miracles delineates this contradiction in its use of the oxymoron, special relationship. The use of special is synonymous with unholy and unholy means un-healed or un-healthy, and un-whole or incomplete, partial. However, since mind itself strives for wholeness and totality, both drives aim for completion. Therefore, we are forever vacillating between our perceived individual needs and the need to be related; between the fear of isolation and the fear of loss of self, remaining always in conflict. Once again, A Course in Miracles clearly states the problem:

"Although you are one Self, you experience yourself as two; as both good and evil, loving and hating, mind and body. This sense of being split into opposites induces feelings of acute and constant conflict, and leads to frantic attempts to reconcile the contradictory aspects of this self-perception. You have sought many such solutions, and none of them has worked. The opposites you see in you will never be compatible. But one exists. The fact that truth and illusion cannot be reconciled, no matter how you try, what means you use and where you see the problem, must be accepted if you would be saved. Until you have accepted this, you will attempt an endless list of goals you cannot reach; a senseless series of expenditures of time and effort, hopefulness and doubt, each one as futile as the one before, and failing as the next one surely will." [W167/169]

We continue to live with this fundamental conflict. All human choices and decisions have this underlying contradiction as their basis. Is it any wonder that our lives wind up in confusion and chaos? Yet we continue to believe that this inner conflict can be evaded or avoided, even denied. The Course points to the severity of the problem,

"A split mind is endangered, and the recognition that it encompasses completely opposed thoughts within itself is intolerable. Therefore the mind projects the split, not the reality." [T206/222]
However, the pain engendered by this split cannot be wished away and can only be pushed into sub-consciousness and projected onto something seemingly external. In order to cope, we have developed a very high tolerance for the pain caused by this conflict, which is inherent in our personal existence, and continue to try somehow to make a compromise with it. We even go to great lengths to rationalize, justify, and explain this pain; to give it meaning and value. The whole concept of sacrifice as valuable and necessary arises solely from the attempt to adjust to this interminable conflict. But, A Course in Miracles says:
"Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, or hidden by deceit of any kind, if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted, and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears." [W459/469]
Another way of stating the fundamental conflict in our mind (as we have seen) is as the conflict between individuality and relationship, for neither can exist completely and contain any element of the other. So, where lies the possibility for completion, fulfillment? To be at all is to be related since everything exists only in relationship to the whole of its environment. Therefore, it is obvious that it is impossible to be completely unrelated. The only possibility, then, for completion, perfection, or fulfillment is to be totally and completely in relationship. From this we can see that all of our unfulfillment, all conflict, is but the manifestation of avoidance of relationship. Our drive to specialness, to individual identity (which the Course calls ego) is but the drive to avoid relationship, which, in any ultimate sense, is impossible. Therefore, as long as we persist in the belief in separate identity, we reap the inevitable consequences-
"A separated or divided mind must be confused." [T38/42]
"You may have carried the ego's reasoning to its logical conclusion, which is total confusion about everything." [T124/133]
If real happiness, fulfillment is to be realized, we must begin by seeing that what we call our mind, which is in fact a no-mind, is constantly and consistently in conflict, confusion and contradiction. Even more, in the words of the Course:
"The ego is a contradiction." [T48/53]
The inevitable conclusion, then, is that there is no possibility of lasting happiness or fulfillment for the separated, unique, human personality. All desire, which is ego-based and but the affirmation of poverty and lack, can never lead to fulfillment, happiness, wholeness and peace. Ego/desire is itself the brokenness, the fracture which cuts us off from the Ground of Reality in which truth and peace abide. In any real sense, the ego and its drive to specialness are not even truly possible. If they were, then death and oblivion would be the only ultimate reality. Therefore, the only possibility for completion, fulfillment, happiness lies in total, unqualified, unconditional relationship, which requires the complete surrender of all desire for specialness and personal identity. Perhaps the best statement of this I have seen outside the Course is from The Religious Writings of Leo Tolstoy,
"Surely no arguments can conceal from man this patent and indubitable truth, that his personal existence is something which is constantly perishing, hasting on to death, and that there can be, therefore, no life in his animal personality....
"In whatever the genuine happiness of man consists, the renunciation of the happiness of his animal person is inevitable for him.
"Renunciation of the happiness of the animal personality is the law of man's life. If it is not accomplished freely, expressing itself in submission to rational consciousness, then it is accomplished violently in every man at the fleshly death of his animal...."(4)

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©1992 daan dehn

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1. A Course in Miracles, T48/53

2. Confessions, I.xii(19)

3. from Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land

4. from "Life" in Lift Up Your Eyes, pp. 174-5