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In 2019, I shared a talk introducing Dr. Bob’s Picture of Man (POM) and Picture of Conditioned Man (POCM) to an audience at SAND19. For those unfamiliar with the conference, the SAND (Science and Non-Duality) organization hosts events every year providing a forum for sharing ideas with focus on non-duality. The SAND community is an delightful mix of spiritual teachers and students, philosophers, artists, physicists, cognitive scientists, and others—lot’s of unique voices all expressing a shared truth.

I hadn’t looked at that talk in some time. After discussing it with a friend recently, I revisited the presentation and spent a few evenings word smithing and replacing imagery with new graphics. It’s posted here as a PDF for anyone interested.

The Fall of Man parable as used in the talk inspired the theme for this web site. Although discussion about Conditioned Man is adapted into symbology of the Garden story, the POM and teaching ideas are directly traced to Dr. Bob’s Science of Man.

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A Special Invitation to Gogo

by A Friend

Life delivers invitations in many ways. Sometimes bluntly through dervishes in coffee shops. And other times through more subtle means.

Have you received an invitation too?

Or is it possibly waiting to be found in a busy stack of mail?

Play Video

The poem at the beginning of the video is by J. Rumi. The clip afterward is from the 1979 movie adaptation of G.I. Gurdjieff’s book, “Meetings With Remarkable Men.”

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All spiritual work, regardless of form and method of teaching, aims toward a process of releasing attachment to illusion and remembering our true nature. In the Fourth Way tradition, this process is called Self-Remembering. Rupert Spira expresses this concept using the allegory of an amnesiac actor awakening to discover he is not the role he plays on stage as King Lear.

In the opening lines of the following film, writer and producer Daniel Schmidt describes this state of amnesia using the sanskrit word, Maya:

“We are at a time in history where we have not only forgotten Samadhi, but we have forgotten what we forgot.”

“This forgetting is Maya, the illusion of the self.”

Click the play button on the image below to view the film.

Play Video

Visit awakentheworld.com to view more videographic Xpressions by Daniel.

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In the games of national security, very rarely do intelligence services have complete and empirical information about situations. And mistaken understandings from faulty intelligence collection or analysis often result in costly and dangerous consequences. History is filled with examples of such intelligence errors including assumptions about Iraq’s role in the 9/11 attacks and WMD capabilities, Japanese naval activity before Pearl Harbor, and many others.

Intelligence services dedicate tremendous effort to reduce these errors by collecting information through multiple means when possible, careful vetting of sources, and using highly structured approaches when evaluating ambiguous and often conflicting information.

As one example of this point, intelligence analysts are trained to anticipate the influence of personal biases and the limits of collected information. And when writing reports, disciplined analysts rarely state inferences (conclusions derived from available evidence and reasoning) in absolute terms. Instead, they attribute a probability value (such as 90%, 0.9, HIGH, etc.) to describe their confidence in the accuracy of a statement.

For example, an intelligence analyst might state: “We are 90% confident that Russian military activity on the Ukrainian border indicates preparation for invasion.” Although the analyst may strongly believe this conclusion based on overwhelming evidence, the analyst admits uncertainty and presents the information accordingly.

Perhaps there’s a valuable lesson here for use in spiritual work.

Cultivating awareness of the difference between knowledge and unverified belief is a most valuable practice in the work of self-knowing.

Belief is defined as “something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.”

Knowledge is defined as “facts and information acquired through experience.”

In the previous example, the intelligence analyst’s inference about Russians on the Ukrainian border is, in principle, a statement of belief. Not knowledge. The analyst does not ‘see into the mind of Russian leaders’ or possess a crystal ball of omniscience. And the disciplined analyst reports this belief to the customer (decision-makers reading the report) by consciously acknowledging the possibility of error.

To put this idea into practice, here’s an experiment to try…

Dedicate a sheet of paper to re-evaluating beliefs and information one personally regards as knowledge. Create three columns:

  1. ”I” believe (or call knowledge)
  2. Has this belief been tested?
  3. What is “my” degree of confidence?

As an example, Craig believes Sandra loves him. He’s tested this hypothesis over the years (and maybe in more ways than one). So a confidence value of 99% is attributed to this belief. Although there’s been plenty of evidence observed during their marriage and he often feels love radiating when she looks at him, Craig doesn’t truly know what goes on in the inner experience of Sandra. So he can’t say 100%. Anything we state with 100% confidence is called knowledge (facts and information acquired directly through experience).

Likewise, Craig believes the Earth is round. He was told the Earth is round in school, watched documentaries about astronomy on TV, seen pictures from NASA, etc. There seems to be plenty of evidence to support a belief that the Earth is round. And at the same time, he has never personally viewed the Earth directly through the window of a spacecraft. Therefore, he accurately states “The Earth is round” as a confident belief. Not as a statement of knowledge.

Work with this for a bit and observe any realizations that emerge.  

Although introduced in this post as an experiment in self-knowing, it could also be regarded as an exercise in a beautiful process of liberation described in some traditions as Unknowing.

Additional Comments

Unverified belief is a proxy for knowledge. In the absence of complete knowledge about situations, we rely on belief to ‘fill the gap’ and provide context necessary for action. Although belief is essential to our functioning as humans, in our conditioned state, we often invest absolute faith in beliefs and equate them with knowledge. And this state of affairs results in a chaotic and contaminated spiritual body where illusion and falsehood are indistinguishable from truth and knowledge. And the sense of security and self-image (vanity) reinforced by rigid identification with beliefs demands vigilant defense by pride.

The purpose of this exercise is not to determine the truth or falseness of beliefs. Many beliefs are likely true. Others false. The aim of this exercise is simply to cultivate awareness of the difference between beliefs and knowledge, loosen identification with beliefs, and maybe crack open a door for new discovery.

Likewise, the confidence values we assign to beliefs are not very relevant for this experiment. Whether one is 70% or 99% confident is immaterial. Any statement with a value of confidence less than 100% is recognized as belief and disentangled from knowledge.

It’s interesting to see what may happen when one works with this experiment for a while.

Perhaps three of the most liberating words in the English language areI don’t know.”

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Gurdjieff Mechnical Fourth Way

Make Up “Your” Mind

by A Friend

As Dr. Bob explores in Lesson 1 of the Science of Man series, the first step on the path to freedom is recognizing the absence of choice in our state of being and how suggestion and circumstance dictate our emotions and behavior.

For many, pride strongly opposes this idea when first presented.The notion of being mechanically manipulated by external circumstances is a tough pill for the ego to swallow.

For others, there may be confusion between the topic of ‘choice of inner state’ and ‘choice of behavior.’ Most new students arrive at The Work with the belief they have free agency and choice of their actions. After all, “I make decisions every day.” Or so it seems that way.

If you have worked with Lesson 1’s experiment for while and have not thoroughly witnessed the mechanical nature of your inner experience, try the following as an additional exercise.

Make a conscious decision to be continuously happy for the next three days. Make up your mind that nothing or no one can push your buttons.

And as a tip, consider drawing a smiley face on the back of your hand or tying a string on your finger as a reminder. Remaining presently aware of one’s inner state and remembering “conscious decisions” are often quite challenging early in The Work.

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Some Fun At The Office

by A Friend

Although people rarely perceive anything humorous about their own conditioning, there is something often comical about conditioned behavior when we observe it without identification. And one doesn’t need to be a student of The Way to see the humor.

Take the circus as an example. At the circus, the clown’s act is often just a rowdy exaggeration of Not-I behaviors. The audience, watching the clown’s behavior as unidentified observers, can’t stop laughing as the clowns play out a comedic narrative told by bopping each other on the head and other memed demonstrations of conditioned behavior.

And the Not-I’s are great recipe ingredients for sitcoms too.

For nine seasons, the hit television show The Office entertained viewers with its humorous portrayal of the social circus inside a Scranton paper company office. The show’s success is entirely based in its comedic depiction of the Not-I’s in the interactions of the cast members.

As an exercise, watch an episode or two of The Office and make a game out of counting how many times you hear someone complaining, sticking up for rights, blaming, pleasing others as a means of manipulation, putting on a front, or appealing to an authority.

Microwave popcorn and make an evening out of it. Who says Work can’t be fun!

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As certain scientific truths have come to light, many older forms of religious expression seem no longer tenable. But, rather than lead to an increasingly secular milieu, these insights of science can clearly lead to a deepening of human spirituality.

Through a series of complex selection, this billions-of-years-old, expanding universe has evolved our human organisms to be vehicles in which it can achieve awareness. While the sentient experience certainly exists in variant degrees in other species, there is a qualitative difference in the ability of homo Sapiens to engage in, and act out of, reflective consciousness. It seems likely, this has occurred in other places in the universe, perhaps to an even greater degree, but as of yet, we know nothing of that. We only know the role we have been cast in.

To be this fulcrum, this sentient, cognitive psyche-center, in which the universe can become conscious of itself. What an august privilege, to have been given this role, and what an Atlas-like responsibility it puts on our shoulders. To maintain an appreciation of our ability to sense and reflect. Wanting to see, to hear, clearly–without blemish, without deceit. Wanting to speak words that are true. And translating this underlying sense of the whole in the simplest things we do.

This tie-in to the whole has produced in the history of our species a childlike wonderment – a sense of awe – a sense of what we call, “the sacred.”

In the course of our history, this sense of the sacred has expressed itself in various communicable insights – taking the form of religious traditions. Taoism and Zen being perhaps purer and simpler forms of such expression.

Not so simple a religious tradition is the projection of the whole in terms of a parental-type matrix– an addressable external psyche-center we’ve referred to as “deity.” Even going so far as to give this projected psyche-center attributes such as creator/designer, or even overseer.

Such a religious tradition is certainly being questioned today with our advancement in the sciences. We now know individuation only comes about through the interplay of the whole. Forms are not pre-designed, but evolve slowly in relation to their surround – making the notion of a creator/designer deity seem unnatural. And events in both planetary and human history – make the notion of a divine overseer, implausible.

And not just unnatural, not just implausible–even harmful. By postulating a transcendent all- knowing divinity, we abnegate our role in the evolution of the Universe as a here and now, individuated fulcrum of awareness.

We buy into oppressive, destructive statements like, “there is nothing new under the sun,” instead of experiencing “beginners mind” and spontaneity in seeing and hearing. We adhere to religions based on denial and immolation instead of the affirmation of life. In the social order, we lazily tout simplistic phrases like “god-given rights” and “absolute ethics” instead of working to refine our cultural mindset to actually want to afford a better life for our species and our planet.

In trying to fathom the “mind of God,” we loose direct touch with nature … with what’s really going on here.

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A short extract from The Treatise on Being attributed to Ibn ‘Arabi.

No one sees Him, except Himself; no one reaches Him, except Himself; and no one knows Him except Himself. He knows Himself through Himself and He sees Himself by means of Himself. No one but He sees Him. His very Oneness is His veil since nothing veils Him other than He; His own Being veils Him. His Oneness is concealed by His Oneness without any condition.

No one other than He sees Him. No sent prophet, nor perfect saint nor angel brought close knows Him. His prophet is He; His Messenger is He; His message is He and His word is He. He sent Himself, through Himself, from Himself to Himself; there is no intermediary or means other than He. There is no difference between the Sender, that which is sent and the one to whom it is sent. The very existence of the letters of the prophetic message is His existence. There is no other who could cease to be, or have a name or be named.

Because of this, the Prophet (may God bless him and give him peace) said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He also said, “I knew my Lord through my Lord”. What the Prophet meant by this, is that you are not you but you are He and there is no you; and it is not that He enters into you or comes out of you, or that you enter into Him or come out of Him. He did not mean that you have being and you are qualified by this or that attribute. What he meant was that you never were and that you never will be, whether through yourself, or through Him, or in Him or with Him. You have neither ceased to be nor are you existent. You are Him and He is you, without any of these imperfections. If you know your existence in this way, then you know God; and if not, then not!

Most of those who claim to be knowers (of God) make the knowledge of God dependent on the cessation of being and on the cessation of that cessation. That is an error and a clear oversight; the knowledge of God does not require either the cessation of being nor the cessation of that cessation, because things have no being and whatever has no being cannot cease to be, since cessation implies the prior existence of the thing that ceases to be. If you know yourself as not having being and (consequently) not ceasing to be, then you know God; and if not, then not!

By making the knowledge of God dependent on the cessation of being and the cessation of this cessation, there is an affirmation of polytheism. The Prophet said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He did not say, “He who ceases to be, knows his Lord”. The assertion of something other than God is incompatible with its cessation; or else this assertion is impossible, and it follows that its cessation is also impossible.

Your being is nothing and whatever is nothing cannot be placed in relationship to anything else, whether it is capable of cessation or not and whether it is existent or non-existent. The Prophet alluded to the fact that you are non-existent now as you were non-existent before creation, because now is Eternity-without-beginning and now is Eternity-without-end and now is Timelessness. God is the very being of Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end and Timelessness even though (in reality) there is no Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end nor Timelessness. If it were otherwise, He would not be alone, without anything being associated with Him, and it is necessary for Him to be alone without any associate. His associate would have being through its own essence, and not through the being of God. Then that associate would not need God and would therefore be a second Lord, which is impossible: God has no associate, nor equal, nor like.

For those engaged in The Work as presented on this site, click below for another translation of Ibn ‘Arabi’s text.

Another Translation

No one sees “X,” except “X;” no one reaches “X,” except “X;” and no one knows “X” except “X.” “X” knows “X” through “X” and “X” sees “X” by means of “X.” No one but “X” sees “X.” “X’s” very Oneness is “X” veil since nothing veils “X” other than “X;” “X’s” own Being veils “X.” “X’s” Oneness is concealed by “X’s” Oneness without any condition.

No one other than “X” sees “X.” No sent prophet, nor perfect saint nor angel brought close knows “X.” “X’s” prophet is “X;” “X’s” Messenger is “X;” “X’s” message is “X” and “X’s” word is “X.” “X” sent “X,” through “X,” from “X” to “X;” there is no intermediary or means other than “X.” There is no difference between the Sender, that which is sent and the one to whom it is sent. The very existence of the letters of the prophetic message is “X’s” existence. There is no other who could cease to be, or have a name or be named.

Because of this, the Prophet (may “X” bless him and give him peace) said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He also said, “I knew my Lord through my Lord”. What the Prophet meant by this, is that you are not you but you are “X” and there is no you; and it is not that “X” enters into you or comes out of you, or that you enter into “X” or come out of “X.” He did not mean that you have being and you are qualified by this or that attribute. What he meant was that you never were and that you never will be, whether through yourself, or through “X,” or in “X” or with “X.” You have neither ceased to be nor are you existent. You are “X” and “X” is you, without any of these imperfections. If you know your existence in this way, then you know “X;” and if not, then not!

Most of those who claim to be knowers (of “X”) make the knowledge of “X” dependent on the cessation of being and on the cessation of that cessation. That is an error and a clear oversight; the knowledge of “X” does not require either the cessation of being nor the cessation of that cessation, because things have no being and whatever has no being cannot cease to be, since cessation implies the prior existence of the thing that ceases to be. If you know yourself as not having being and (consequently) not ceasing to be, then you know “X;” and if not, then not!

By making the knowledge of “X” dependent on the cessation of being and the cessation of this cessation, there is an affirmation of polytheism. The Prophet said, “He who knows himself, knows his Lord”. He did not say, “He who ceases to be, knows his Lord”. The assertion of something other than “X” is incompatible with its cessation; or else this assertion is impossible, and it follows that its cessation is also impossible.

Your being is nothing and whatever is nothing cannot be placed in relationship to anything else, whether it is capable of cessation or not and whether it is existent or non-existent. The Prophet alluded to the fact that you are non-existent now as you were non-existent before creation, because now is Eternity-without-beginning and now is Eternity-without-end and now is Timelessness. “X” is the very being of Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end and Timelessness even though (in reality) there is no Eternity-without-beginning, Eternity-without-end nor Timelessness. If it were otherwise, “X” would not be alone, without anything being associated with “X,” and it is necessary for “X” to be alone without any associate. “X’s” associate would have being through its own essence, and not through the being of “X.” Then that associate would not need “X” and would therefore be a second Lord, which is impossible: “X” has no associate, nor equal, nor like.

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The Precious Present

The Precious Present

by A Friend

In 1984, Spencer Johnson shared an Xpression in the form of a short book titled “The Precious Present.” The story describes a young man’s journey to adulthood and search for The Present, a mysterious gift he heard about from a wise old man during his childhood.

Like many engaged in spiritual work, it is only after the young man has searched high and low and all but given up his relentless pursuit that he discovers The Present.

The man chose NOW! And now the man was happy. He felt at peace with himself. He agreed to savor each moment in his life…The apparently good and the apparently bad…Even if he didn’t understand. For the first time in his life, it didn’t matter. He accepted each of his precious moments on this planet as a gift.

“I know that some people choose to receive the Precious Present when they are young, others in middle age, and some when they are old. Some people, sadly, never do. I can choose to receive the Precious Present whenever I want.”

As the man sat thinking, he felt fortunate. He was who he was, where he was. And now he knew! He would always be whom he was where he was.

He listened again to his thoughts. “The present is what it is. It is valuable. Even I do not know why. It is already just the way it is supposed to be. When I see the present, accept the present, and experience the present, I am well, and I am happy. Pain is simply the difference between what is and what I want it to be.”

“When I feel guilty over my imperfect past, or I am anxious over my unknown future, I do not live in the present. I experience pain. I make myself ill. And I am unhappy.”

“My past was the present. And my future will be the present. The present moment is the only reality I ever experience.”

Treat yourself to The Precious Present some time when you’re up for a new read.

Or maybe just choose the Precious Present right Now. 🙂

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Letter to Adam

by Craig

Some time ago, a young man was given a letter as he was departing for college. We’ll just call him “Adam” for purposes of this post.

Adam,

Few moments in a man’s life are as exciting as the day he steps out the door of his parent’s home as an adult. I am sure it’s something you’ve been looking forward to for some time—the freedom, adventure, and opportunity to demonstrate your maturity and capabilities as an independent man. And I realize that step can also be a nervous experience when we recognize the uncertainty of the future and assume personal responsibility for our life.

You’ve been blessed with some remarkable gifts, Adam—not the least of which is an exceptional mind. I have no doubt you will succeed in applying that intellect to mastering any subjects of interest. I was quite like you in that regard when I was your age. If I was interested in a subject, I studied it to the point of expertise. However, as a young man, I didn’t fully appreciate the difference between knowledge and wisdom. It was only after many years that I truly discovered the distinction.

Following are a handful of lessons I learned by the long road. Although my wish in sharing these is to spare you a difficult process of trial and error, I know many of these points only become wisdom when they’re truly discovered for oneself. With that understanding, I hope you will consider these ideas as open hypotheses until proven from personal observation and experience. Perhaps hearing these words at your age will hasten the discovery of their truth.

Be free to be you and don’t measure yourself by the approval of others.

From the time we’re born, we’re continuously subjected to suggestion by society, family, school, and others how we should act, what to believe, and ultimately “what we, as men, should be.” And the way we interpret, assimilate, or reject these suggestions ultimately defines the personality we arrive with in manhood. Some rebel against those expectations in adolescence to assert a sense of autonomy or individuality. Others often find themselves struggling to fulfill those ideals, believing their success as a man is measured by the approval of others.

Despite the implied messages of society, there is no such thing as standards for being a human. Some are tall. Other’s short. Some are black. Others white. And as diverse as our physiology, so it is also true for our personalities and the seamless chain of experiences that brought us to the present moment. And that diversity also extends to the expectations and standards we often use to judge others and ourselves.

No human being will ever comply with the expectations of all others, nor all expectations of any one person. To even try is futile.

You have responsibility for one human on this planet—you. Embrace the true uniqueness of being Adam and let the approval or disapproval of others fall where it does. That’s their responsibility.

Money can buy temporary happiness, but it can’t buy joy.

Many years ago your Dad and I provided protection for a billionaire businessman. By all standards of society, this guy had it all…A beautiful wife, fame and adoration from thousands of people, pride of achievement, and enough money to buy anything he ever wanted. And at the age of 44, that man died depressed and lonely from an overdose of alcohol and pills in the bathtub of his luxurious LA home.

As a tragic irony, some of the most wealthy and accomplished people in the world are the most miserable and depressed individuals on the planet. For some, ambition becomes an insatiable addiction for which specific achievements only provide a temporary fix. For others, boredom becomes a lonely hell when they’ve exhausted all desires.

By contrast, I recently visited Ghana and was completely amazed by the people. Despite an impoverished standard of living and persistent challenge for survival, they are some of the warmest and most joyful people I have ever met. They seem to understand a simple secret to life that escapes so many of us “advanced folks” in the West—Love costs absolutely nothing and offers a richness of fulfillment that can’t be measured. That may sound cliché, but it’s resolutely one of the greatest truths in life.

Bear in mind, I’m not suggesting there’s anything “wrong” or “bad” about ambition or material wealth. Everyone enjoys a new iPhone or better car. Yet when we make fulfillment in life conditional to those things, we set ourselves up for a persistent cycle of frustration and emptiness between temporary episodes of satisfaction—and often at the sacrifice of life’s greatest treasure.

Joy is found in loving others. Not in how others love us.

As part of a recent threat assessment your Dad and I were involved with, we read an autobiographical essay written by a guy who spent most of his youth obsessed with feelings of perceived rejection because he thought others didn’t love him. Watch reality TV on any night and you’ll hear similar complaints from people who feel hurt, rejected, or betrayed because they aren’t loved by their spouse, parents, or others whom they hold in expectation.

It’s a common belief of society that “being loved” is somehow related to our experience of joy and fulfillment. Similarly, many people hold reciprocation as a conditional aspect of love in relationship.

As an experiment, reflect on a time when someone expressed love to you when you, Adam, felt indifferent or upset in the moment. What did you feel? Did you suddenly feel your heart light up with joy because someone stated they loved you? Now reflect on times when you’ve felt genuine love in your experience with others. What was the emotional quality of that moment?

Discover the significance of this point and you may unlock an opportunity to experience a richness of life that’s invulnerable to circumstance.

Trust the River.

An eastern philosopher once described life as a mighty river. And we, as people, often struggle against the river’s flow, getting thrashed against rocks, exhausting ourselves, and sinking as we tense in our insecurity. But if we can learn to relax and trust it, we may find its current naturally takes us around the big obstacles with our energy preserved. We may get skinned occasionally as we brush by a rock, but our head stays above water and we can navigate with its movement.

Your future is going to bring wonderful opportunities you can’t even imagine right now. It’s also going to bring many unforeseen challenges and resistance. Whenever you find yourself frustrated or struggling in opposition to what is, pause for a brief moment and ask yourself if you’re navigating with the river or against it. That won’t make the challenge go away, but perhaps that question can open a new direction that wasn’t apparent before.

Wishing you all the best on your new adventure at school! Never hesitate to reach out if you ever need anything from us. We’re always here.

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