March 9, 2020
Let’s see if I can explain. To myself, at least. And perhaps to you, too.
I’ve been working with the Principles as a daily practice for a couple of years now. It’s the central theme of our Message meetings. We go through the Principles, one per month, and try to understand what they are about and how they work—in general, but also quite specifically. That is, we reflect on how applying them or not has affected us in the past, can apply to us in the present, and could apply to our life in the future. These times provide a useful frame to study the Principle-of-the-Month in a focused way.
This approach, and just wrestling with what the Principles say, is proving very fruitful. Keeping them present throughout the day is increasingly becoming a habit, thanks in part to a helpful suggestion by Danny Z, which is to pair the study of the Principle with the daily simple meditation. So when you wake up in the morning, you take a couple of minutes to reflect on the day ahead in light of the month’s Principle. For example, it’s February and you are studying the Principle of not forcing things to an end. And you know that later that day you will have a meeting with co-workers about how to tackle some particular project. So, in those 2-3 minutes at the start of the day, you prepare yourself to remember not to force things to an end with your co-workers, and whatever else you can imagine for that day. Then, before going to bed, you carry out an equally swift review of the day, looking for moments of unity or contradiction, or even more simply, when things were good or bad, and then consider those moments in light of the Principle you’re working with. And that’s it. Five or ten minutes out of your whole day, maximum. The investment is very small, but when carried out regularly over time, I have found the benefits really seem to add up. You’ve done this work before, no?
So, I’ve been doing this for some time now and I’m finding that the Principles have become very copresent in my daily life. I often find myself considering events in their light – even the littlest things, like how I approach riding the bus in the morning, or how to face dealing with the long line at the grocery store, or why I should spend time vacuuming the house. It’s like a new kind of reflex, and a new kind of mental background, and I am discovering that it is having surprising consequences that I would never have imagined. Let me tell you about an experience that made it all pretty clear to me (after thinking about it quite a bit).
A number of weeks ago I felt disappointed with something in my life, and it was a disappointment about which I could really do nothing. So there I was, feeling… disappointed. A little climate of disappointment, maybe even a little touch of sadness, too. And quite soon I found my mind turning to the Principles, in a way, asking myself, “Which Principle speaks to this situation?” Because we know the Principles can serve as great tactical tools for making decisions, as well as for generating understandings. Perhaps this disappointment was about me pursuing pleasure? Or was it about forcing things to an end? Or was I simply going against the evolution of things? Hmmm.
It wasn’t clear to me which Principle applied in this case, but as I was puzzling over this, I suddenly became aware that I was no longer really present in that world of disappointment; I was now located in quite a different world, one which seemed in fact to give little importance to the specific events or details of this disappointment, or of my life in general. This world only cared about two things: unity and contradiction.
It was freaky! The sense of being in a different frame or ‘place’ really struck me – the feeling was unmistakeable and also very odd; a kind of, “Wait, what just happened?” Because it was not as if the situation of disappointment faded away or retreated, as happens in other moments when you pay attention or reflect, or take some critical distance from a problem (like in the Guided Experience, “The Clouds”). It was more like the whole situation became transformed. Kind of like how certain optical illusions work. Like the one in which you look at a figure and then suddenly another figure appears—wait, it’s not a candlestick, it’s two people looking at each other! —and then it’s difficult to return to seeing the original figure all alone again.
So the disappointing situation still existed, for sure, but its significance was now altogether something else. I was no longer thinking about how to overcome it, or what its root was, or even which Principle I could apply to resolve it. What was important now was Unity or Contradiction—that’s all. I could face this disappointment in a way that produced internal unity or disintegration, y basta.
From this new perspective, the disappointing situation became like something… well, let’s not say, of value, but it became like something I could feed on. Of course, if asked, I would have admitted that the situation wasn’t great—it’s not that what was bad suddenly turned wonderful. It was simply that all of that judging of “Good” and “Bad” became rather secondary. In other words, the nature or quality of the situation seemed almost entirely incidental to the real crux of the matter, which was Unity or Contradiction. And this struck me as something very different from my normal approach to life.
So that was one particular experience that made it clear that all this work with the Principles is accumulating and generating within me a very different attitude towards “life and things”. It’s a surprising and even unexpected result, because I think, in a way, that what I had been enjoying about the work was that it gave me a focus for the day, and that it often revealed new behaviours or actions I could carry out that made my daily life better, no doubt. But I wasn’t really expecting a change like this—this feels like a very different attitude, and very liberating.
It’s an attitude that seems to empty out every value and morality and approach normally held up as “how one should live.” It blows them all away, like so many dry leaves. Because it says that all that matters is unity or contradiction. I mean, we all get the basic idea, because Silo said it time and again. But now I feel like I never really took him seriously enough in this regard.
Recall Silo explaining the Asking at the inauguration of La Reja, where he says that one should ask to move away from contradiction, and “ask for your life to have unity.” That’s pretty clear! And in The Inner Look, there’s the phrase, “Different is the attitude towards life and things when inner revelation strikes like lightning. Here are the Principles which can help you in your search for internal unity.”
And in his closing statement from Canarias 1976, he says, referring to the doctrine of the liberation of the mind(!):
If someone asks me what is most important, I will tell her…
You must comprehend the three paths of suffering which are sensation, memory and imagination. Besides this, you must comprehend the possessive root of suffering.
And if someone asks me what she must do besides comprehending, I will tell her:
‘To against evolution of things is to go against oneself.
When you force something towards an end, you produce the contrary.
Do not oppose a great force, retreat until it weakens and then advance with resolution.
Things are well when they move together, not in isolation.
If day and night, summer and winter are well with you, you have surpassed the contradictions.
If you pursue pleasure, you enchain yourself to suffering, but as long as you do not harm your health, enjoy without inhibition when the opportunity presents itself.
If you pursue an end you enchain yourself; if everything you do is realized as if it were an end in itself, you liberate yourself.
You will make your conflicts disappear when you understand them in their ultimate roots, not when you want to resolve them.
When you harm others you remain enchained; but if you do not harm anyone you can freely do whatever you want.
When you treat others as you would have them treat you, you liberate yourself.
It does not matter in which faction events have placed you; what does matter is for you to understand you have not elected any faction.
Contradictory or unitive acts accumulate with in you; if you repeat your acts of internal unity, nothing can stop you.’
And this is the doctrine and the precise proposal: study, investigate, meditate and comprehend progressively the three pathways of suffering and its possessive root while you generate at every instant a new attitude according to these Principles. [italics are mine.]
I mean, how much more clearly could he have said it? “Here is what is important, and here is what you should do.”
Danny Z also pointed me to the Declaration ceremony of The Community from 1980, where it says:
“Officiant: Receive this short instruction. There are three pathways of suffering. The human being suffers from what she believes has happened in her life, from what she believes is happening, and from what she believes will happen. That is, she suffers through the memory, through sensation, and through imagination. But the things she believes are illusory. To break the illusion, the human being needs a discipline that can be practiced in every moment. You must practice this discipline in daily life following these rules or Principles, which are as follows…”
Silo stressed the fundamental importance of the Principles and Unity time and again and yet I feel like I didn’t hear it. It’s as if somehow I thought he was… exaggerating? Or maybe it’s that I thought that he was saying things plainly and simply for other people – people who needed and were looking for simple commandments (“keep these simple commandments, simple like these stones…”). And so I saw the Principles as wise tactics to apply or reflect upon, but not as a path of liberation to work with. Even when he said unequivocally, “Okay, you wanna know what I recommend? Study and work with the Principles!”
Imagine, the guy whose teaching we devote ourselves to says, “Here is what is most important,” and I think he’s just saying stuff that sounds nice. Another good soundbite from Mr. Silo!
For his part, Danny has been going on about this aspect of Silo’s teaching—about having a discipline that can be practiced at every moment, about how we can use the events of daily life as the raw material for our meditation, about this “transferential path” that we can walk—ever since I met him 30-odd years ago. And he’s been holding Message meetings for years where they discuss the Principle of the month and then do ceremonies, and that’s it. I thought it was perhaps a bit limited until I started attending and realizing the depth that this simple format could have. (I wrote about this before, when I wrote about my experiences with Principle No.7.)
Maybe you get the weekly emails about the Principles that he sends out? He wrote recently: “The ongoing meditations on the Principle are not just, or even primarily, about getting a handle on the Principle in question. The greater goal is to turn the Principles into a way of life. Rather than seeing them in terms of objects or objectives, perhaps it is useful to understand them as guideposts that can help to give our lives a certain direction. It is that intangible but vital direction that some of us believe is the most important thing one can have in life. Not something perfected, or finally accomplished, but rather… a finding one’s way towards.”
For sure there have been times in my life where I had this point of view about Unity or Contradiction, where I could look at my life in this transferential way, and use the events of my life as the raw material for my Work. But generally I’d say it’s a concept that has been hard to grasp.
So, okay, it’s not entirely true that I didn’t take Silo seriously when he said things like, “The essential construction of your life is built of contradictory or unifying actions.” And of course Silo said a number of different things were important to practice and study. But I think, to put it plainly, that I didn’t realize that the Principles could be such a profound field of meditation and practice—that working with them could help me adopt a position where I increasingly see that the essential construction of my life really is built of contradictory and unifying actions.
Working with the Principles in this regular and rather simple way (almost stupidly simple! Certainly deceptively simple, and very unflashy; actually quite far from “lightning-strikes of revelation”), I feel like the way I look at my life and the world is becoming very different. To be honest it can feel strange, because sometimes I feel like I’m living a kind of “meta-life” where the things and events of my life are neither here nor there. Fortune and misfortune appear, but more and more they seem to have the same kind of flavour. Like when you’re dreaming and nothing in the dream really matters one way or another, because it’s all kind of interesting, or because there’s a feeling that things are just happening, and why wouldn’t they happen? We live in a world and in this world, things happen, that’s how it is! But in a way one’s internal reactions to those happenings need not have anything to do with the events themselves—not if one is operating from a scale of values based on unity and contradiction.
And it’s made me wonder, how much of Silo’s teaching have we glossed over, thinking that it’s too simple, or thinking that it’s for others but not really for us, because “we know it already” or need something more elaborate, or esoteric? Consider, for example, how he says in The Internal Landscape that realizing how important disinterested giving is “should by itself be enough to change the direction of your existence.” Consider how much is in those short little phrases in The Path. Consider the importance of the experience of the Force in The Inner Look.
Well, of course, I’m talking and thinking out loud here—what do I know? But personally I never imagined the powerful effect on my entire “attitude towards life and things” that working with these twelve little Principles could have. So I wanted to write it down to make sense of it all, and then share it with you, in case if it’s of interest or any help.
A big hug,