The unattainability of spiritual freedom

Old Woman Smiling. As yet unattributed.

Some have referred to it as The Master Game, that grandest of all pursuits which rests upon winning or losing, that is to say, attaining or failing to attain, a mysterious state conceived of as spiritual freedom, and which goes by many names. Whilst the spiritual fainéant plays the game less intensely, casually group-thinking or timidly timing yoga minutes early each morning, others of a thirstier nature may make of it a lifelong contest of quite epic proportions. The gambits and stratagems of the spiritual aspirant are variously natured, being adopted as befits the character, with artifice and sophistry deployed pragmatically in subconsciousness so as to procure or sustain advantage over the player’s occasionally contrarian or doubt-inducing reflections. Stakes are high, and with each earnest investment of personal identity, emotional capital, and inner resolve, can only escalate. It is a contest without frontiers; a test of self-contra-self: The Master Game.

In a bid to escape their emotional and existential lacuna, the participant may devour the pabulum of self-help writings, or strain at obscurantist commentaries upon the alleged utterances of long-dead sages. They may cultivate a sapient and sciolistic presence which infrequently matches its promise in action, humility or compassion. Each of these, though the worst of the matter, are game strategies thought eventually to deliver a certain freedom of the psyche, something beyond the ordinariness of the world-perceiving mind, and which hence is often characterised as being spiritual in nature, whatever that means. The prize is imagined as an object acquired by a subject, or as the subject absorbing into an object. The game player may speak of enlightenment, self-realization, perhaps even God-realization, as if these were objects that could somehow be absorbed by the self, or vice versa, and The Master Game concludes only once such fallacies are realised.

Given these seemingly intractable and specious predispositions, then it’s understandable that some should conclude this can only be a losing game, which it is. That which is lost will not be mourned though, no more than one would grieve over the ending of a perpetually deceitful relationship.  Although finally revealed as ill-conceived, one’s approach to playing the game, if earnestly pursued, will yield many boons, and may yet result in victory, even though paradoxically, it will be known that there is no victor. That is why this is The Master Game; it can never itself be mastered by any, and instead will vanquish all contestants. The aspirant accepts this intellectually, freely entertaining ideas of non-duality, or the dissolution of enduring identity, intensively ploughing their phenomenological reductions as if beneath lay proof that the self was only ever a mythogenic cauldron. Yet the intellect has no capacity beyond thought, no real freedom.

The problem here is not so much that this spiritual freedom, however vaguely conceived, is being sought, rather that we presuppose the found freedom will attach to us, will be acquired and thus become ‘mine’. In other words, we imagine this freedom to in effect become enslaved to the self, which is no kind of freedom at all. Intellectually, we can accept the loss of the self, whilst emotionally, we still yearn for possession. Saying that we do not wish to acquire such liberty solves nothing, because the root of the problem remains, and the self has simply morphed desire into aversion. Besides, a psychological and emotional freedom – abandoning the adjunctive ‘spiritual’ – is far preferable to its opposite. We need to remain earnestly in play, whilst abandoning hope of gaining freedom. This is not to reject the liberation of the psyche, but to accept that by definition freedom cannot be possessed, acquired, forged, or accumulated, by any self-entity.

The Master Game finds its end in the realisation that it was played by the wrong set of rules all along. Issuing its stratagems from inside the self, the imagined subject-entity could not conceive it was no more than a mind-creation. Further, and due to its own presence, the subject-entity knew only of an isolative consciousness which enduringly apprehended awareness as if appearing here not there, as knowing all phenomena as internally possessed or as objectivised and thus forever apart. Then one day, the subject-entity forgot all about The Master Game; in a flash what was an impossible outcome was made possible; awareness realised and released itself; the world realised and released itself, and the futile contest was over. This came as a laughable surprise to the ghost-player left behind, who tried and failed to make sense of it all. Now and again, the phantasm may wander into the deserted arena, scratch its head, and wonder why it ever existed.

129 thoughts on “The unattainability of spiritual freedom

    • I must say, Hariod, the video is rather morbid, but I like it! And, should you read my latest comment just posted to Sonmi’s Cloud, but awaits moderation — as though I’d be anything but moderate – you might know why I like it. It is of course, the drone of the violin, and the morbidity of this above to which I relate, rather too well. The cross bearer and the satisfied look of the Dracula look-alike gives it the final added touch.

      • Thank you very much for coming back and adding your thoughts on the video Peter; I appreciate it. I sometimes like to add a clip here in the comments if in some way I feel it complements the text. Here, the link is rather obtuse I must confess, though it is something to do with how we go through life witnessing what we are subject to, yet responding only in silence to the deeper meaning of it all, and which impacts upon each of us. Perhaps we could say that the spiritual seeker (though I do not like that term), the philosopher, and the artist alone, are those who respond to this witnessing beyond the boundaries of silence? As to the video itself, then I do love the work of Adrian Marthaler, who makes music films, though sadly very few are available online. He directed a marvellous film setting for Darius Milhaud’s piece Le Boeuf sur Le Toit, Op.58. , amongst others. Thank you once again Peter.

        • Drowning by Numbers comes to mind – appropriate perhaps concerning the unattainability.

          I have always loved the ‘minimalistic’ music, and used to compose some in the late seventies.

          There is a final freedom, which is the freedom from mind, but once attained you cannot do what you ‘want’ anymore, since there remains only appropriate doing – or perhaps not. 🙂

          • I assume you are referring to the 1988 Peter Greenaway film Bert, which unfortunately I did not see; although I gather it concerns game playing, not the least of all of them being The Great Death Game, which is more than a little appropriate in the context under discussion here. I should really make a point of watching it, as in the past I have admired Greenaway’s work, in particular Prospero’s Books. I had not realised you were a composer, and would love to hear some of your work if you have anything available online – do please let me know.

            Yes, this piece is not a denial of psychological freedom, contrary to what one or two readers at first thought, and some may even refer to that freedom as being ‘spiritual’ in nature, though personally I find that a rather unhelpful term, and would imagine you do too. One could say it can be ‘attained’ – as you and others do – although the point I make in this piece is that its actualisation does not connote a subject acquiring, that is to say ‘attaining’, an object of knowledge, and that in point of fact the subject is for the first time understood as no more than a mind construct, as well as of course being a social construct – a consensus which is fair enough.

            Many thanks for stopping by Bert, and do please let me know if any of your music is available online. 🙂

            • Always great to visit this place.

              Pré-scriptum: I had seen the image before: https://dianablography.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/old-women-black-and-white/

              I fooled around with a piano between the age of 5 and 15 but never followed that line. Nothing remains, no scores, no recordings; only much later I discovered the minimalists, whose music I had been playing. 🙂 In those days I still believed people, and I stopped playing music or writing poetry, because [they said] it was ‘not good enough’. Perhaps the music of Nyman attracted me to Greenaway’s strange films. I still like them – incredible depth. I never saw Prospero’s Books, only the trailer.

              The unattainability: there are some thresholds in the process. But they come whenever one is ready. If ever. Perhaps ‘to attain’ should be used in a passive form, if that’s possible. Right now the distance to attainment is infinite and infinitesimally small at the same time. 🙂

              • Thank you Bert; you are a true star and a photographic fountain of knowledge. I am meticulous in crediting all the imagery I use on this site, and yet this one image of the lovely old lady I had no reference for whatsoever. I will of course contact Diana and have a word with her.

                On your point about being told you were ‘not good enough’ at musical composition, I was listening to a lengthy interview just this afternoon with the very great actor Anthony Sher. When he came to England from his native South Africa, he immediately applied to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) to study acting. Following his interview and audition, he was sent a letter which not only rejected his application, but furthermore advised him to pursue some other career as there really was no prospect whatsoever of him making a career from his acting. He was also rejected by The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London (Olivier, Pinter et al). Sher has now been acting with the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) for thirty years, and is acknowledged as a truly great lead character actor as I am sure you know. I used a clip of him in the comments of a recent post in fact. ‘Tartuffe’ – http://wp.me/s4wkZJ-tartuffe

                Yes, a sort of ‘passive attainment’ I suppose; although that would be a bit like mixing two levels of understanding I think, given that the supposed ‘attainment’ does not coalesce around, nor is it causally attributable to, any subject or past (notion of) selfhood, and further that it explicitly acknowledges de facto their erroneously given past as actualities. I used the word ‘unattainability’ so as to stir some thinking amongst readers, and I of course know it is a somewhat controversial or provocative term in respect to spiritual seeking, yet maintain it is accurate in the strictest sense. People are entirely free to disagree, of course, though you do not seem to be. The important thing is that it is a challenging idea for the seeker, which is no bad thing now and again. You know, ‘kill the Buddha’: One is only able to see a Buddha as he exists in separation from one’s own Buddha nature, so in that case the seeker’s mind is still holding onto apparent duality, still thinking there is a subject ‘here’ which at some point in the future will attain Buddha-nature, or that which exists ‘out there’. It is all entirely erroneously conceived.

                • As long as it remains a concept, as long as it is mind wanting to attain, no ‘attainment’ will ever happen. [That which is] beyond mind doesn’t need conceptualizations, it doesn’t have or want to attain anything.

                  • Very true, and profound too Bert. My point in this article is to say that the ‘attainment’ desired and imagined by the seeker, is in actuality not in the realm of being a ‘thing attained’; it is not some knowledge or state that the subject absorbs within itself, or which it absorbs into, nor does the subject acquire anything, nor is it brought about by a method or by will. Strictly speaking, it is not in fact ‘attained’, because to be ‘attained’ connotes a subject which does the attaining. Insights are ‘attained’, meditative states are ‘attained’, because in those cases the subject remains as a mind-entity which does the attaining. The end of The Master Game is the end of the subject as a mind-entity.

  1. I’m scratching my head, Hariod. It’s the sort of head that knows it can’t think of itself rightly, if at all – brings me to the end of an existential play, or a movie, perhaps: “The City of Lost Children.” The child burps at the end. Not only does this ‘burp’ not provide closure, it’s adorable; absolutely cute! Maybe the cuteness is the closure?

    Thank you for you, Ka.

    • I’m scratching mine too Ka; especially after going on YouTube to view clips of “The City of Lost Children”. It looks like yet another wonderful film I missed in my deplorable neglect of the cinematic arts over these past two decades. And as regards ‘closure’, I don’t know if there is such a thing in what we’re discussing here. Whilst many claim there is, I’ve always held to the notion that “truth has a sliding floor”, and wondered if perhaps you might agree? It seems to me the phantom still wanders around now and again, yet cutting a remarkably forlorn figure, having entirely lost the capacity to haunt. Still, it can always offer up an enlightening burp:

      Thank you Ka, and I close in offering my gratitude and respect,

      Hariod. ❤

      • Hi Hariod,

        I hope you like the film if you get a chance, or are so inclined, to watch it. [City of Lost Children] It has been one of my all-time favorites, for reasons beyond me.

        I do agree with you, Hariod, truth has a sliding floor. Although, I did read that phrase, originally, as ‘sliding door’. I’m figuring maybe that’s what the movie’s end was suggesting with the burp; not closure, but a momentary digestion of what’s been placed before it. The burp is not really an end, but a blurb, a moment – a very natural event and almost a pause-less pause to experience.

        Thanks for being so receptive to my comment – I just went with what came to me, inspired to reply in some way; maybe the video you posted made me think of the movie? I’m still scratching my head over that video. That’s fine with me; I’m wondering how it connects to the ‘unattainability of spiritual freedom’ – a title I love, by the way. Do I love it because I agree; or is it that I just don’t disagree, for sure? 🙂

        Regardless, I was eager to respond to your well-written and deeply considered post. Also, I was a bit timid, as I did not really know many of the new vocabulary words.

        I especially appreciate your words here: “It seems to me the phantom still wanders around now and again, yet cutting a remarkably forlorn figure, having entirely lost the capacity to haunt.” Agree.

        My gratitude and respect to you, Hariod.

        Appreciating your works here,

        Ka.

        • Thank you very much for so graciously coming back to me with a further delightful response Ka. As to the apparent confusion to which you refer, then I suppose it makes little difference as to whether it is the metaphorical floor or the door that slides, as both open to new vistas what we had formerly taken to be our ‘truth’. I do love your poetic phrase “a pause-less pause to experience”, and it seems so perfectly apt in the context in which you use it.

          As to my peculiar inclusion of the ‘Silentium’ video clip, then Peter Schreiner asked about this too; so if you are interested, then please see the first comment after the video and my subsequent response to it Ka; although it is all rather oblique to be quite frank, and there’s no obvious significance. o_O

          I must apologise for my use of certain English words that are perhaps not in normal currency in North America. Sometimes I use such words simply because I enjoy grammar and the various colour palettes that my native language in particular offers the writer, whilst at other times it is because it is more concise to use the less familiar. For example, to use ‘sciolistic’ and ‘sapient’ as I did in the original article is far more efficient than writing strings of words that mean the same, and I aim to keep my once-monthly posts fairly concise, so showing a little mercy to my dear readers. 🙄

          Hariod ❤

          • Dear Hariod,

            It was my pleasure to return. 😀 Thank you for pointing out the comment and interaction you had with Peter regarding Silentium. I’m still not sure what I make of it. I certainly connected, otherwise I wouldn’t have been inspired to comment, even if I felt my comment may not be entirely relevant to your subject; I just wasn’t sure.

            I appreciate your word choices, and I find them very enlightening, indeed. I first encountered ‘sapient’ and ‘sciolistic’ as admonishments to my own transient claims to knowledge or understanding. I immediately felt guilty.

            “They may cultivate a sapient and sciolistic presence which infrequently matches its promise in action, humility or compassion. Each of these, though the worst of the matter, are game strategies thought eventually to deliver a certain freedom of the psyche, something beyond the ordinariness of the world-perceiving mind, and which hence is often characterised as being spiritual in nature, whatever that means.” Yes, I am with you – “whatever that means” as to “spiritual”.

            I like the essence, or the spirit, of what you write about here. What I feel is the point: to cultivate “humility or compassion”, as you have written. To me, your language is an offering.

            We, that is, those who investigate the depths, are looking for what we can’t see when we try with our “pabulum of self-help books”. This made me laugh.

            Finally, “existential lacuna” was my favorite word construction here. I can also relate to that dark, bone-like enigma – the foundationless foundation.

            Sincerely, Ka.

            • Thank you once again for your generous words of appreciation Ka; they encourage me to continue here with my occasional modest offerings, and well-intentioned feedback of all shades is always welcome of course. If you make a return visit when I post again in a month or so, and which I very much hope you will, I shall try to make a point of being less oblique should I choose to include a video clip. Somewhat surprisingly, the inclusion of such a clip here has elicited some response, though on previous occasions my selections have more or less been ignored. It matters not in the least though, because it really is all about the exchange of thoughts which result from the text I put forward, and for those exchanges, including your own delightful contributions, I am very grateful.

              Hariod ❤

              P.S. “bone-like enigma” – another perfect little gem!

    • Peter, if there’s one thing I’m completely certain of, it’s that I’m a very ordinary person indeed. And anyway, Buddha’s have long ear lobes and pointy heads don’t they? All I’ve got is hairy ears and a double chin. The video clip is far from being a necessary adjunct to the piece Peter, although if you’re partial to a bit of left-field contemporary classical, then you may enjoy it – be warned though; it’s a bit spooky. Take care there my compassionate anarchist friend, Hariod.

  2. I Shall Not Seek, and I Will Not Accept.
    Yet, I enjoyed playing with
    those bound morphemes, Hariod;
    first, to your advantage, then to mine,
    then, considered the possible
    attainment of the impossible,
    after, and only after,
    my mind excused itself
    from the contest. 🙂

    • Thank you David; I find it rather charming that you respond uniquely in verse. The capitalised opening line sounds a little like a commandment, though that would seem at odds with your gently Buddhistic ways, and perhaps I have read your intention wrongly. I am delighted that you enjoyed playing with my fugacious morphemes, and hope you did not altogether shun the locupletative lexemes. 😉

      With metta,

      Hariod.

      • Thanks for your kind unraveling of my comment, Hariod! In hindsight, I was feeling a bit frisky after reading your wonderful post, and parts of what I wrote are like the piece of puzzle that was meant for another puzzle. The opening was from LBJ’s statement that he would not run for re-election. 🙂

        • Aha, that explains the matter David; the opening line seemed to sit a little awkwardly only because I hadn’t recognised the reference, and which of course I do now. I listened to a radio program a few months ago which was made following the release of LBJ’s White House tape recordings – fascinating stuff, with plenty of archived audio footage.

          Smiling calmly towards my Buddhist friend from across the waters,

          Hariod. 🙂

  3. Beautifully written as ever Hariod, and another one to chew over, examining the picked apart pieces as I go. I’d never be able to put into words what you have above, but it resonates gently with me all the same. The video moves through time and questions it/holds it/allows it to be as it is it seems to me – the infamous ‘so it goes’ has jumped into my mind just now too – in a way that fits the piece, and that which you have written above, so well. I watched it, and then had it play whilst I read back your words. It is one of the saddest pieces I have ever heard, and upon the very first hearing has become one of my favourites also. If I were to hear it played live, I highly suspect tears would flow. Having said that, I don’t know many people at all who would watch it through to the end. So many have such small reserves of patience. Having read up on the composer, I shall look into his other works. Thank you Hariod. *smiles*

    – Sonmi upon the Cloud

    *P.S. The count chap eerily reminds me of the Count from Sesame Street.*

    • Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words of appreciation Sonmi; they warm my heart and alone would make the effort of writing this piece more than worthwhile. I think it is true to say that this one is rather challenging to decode, although it would not have been possible to make the point I have attempted to without causing at least some small degree of befuddlement. As we all know, this is paradox territory, and once we begin to discuss life beyond the givens of subjectivity and objectivity, then we either risk making fools of ourselves – which hopefully I have avoided – or introducing what perhaps you would have deemed a tendency to metagrobolize?

      What is the “infamous ‘so it goes’” to which you refer – Kurt Vonnegut, or Nick Lowe, or perhaps something else? You have me a little stumped on that one, and I doubtless am showing my appalling literary credentials in asking the question of you. And if it is music we are on the subject of, then thank you once again, this time for listening to the video clip I included here – apologies for the poor quality by the way. Arvo Pärt is a wonderful composer, as clearly you appreciate, and the setting of ‘Silentium’ as directed here by the amazing Adrian Marthaler was, I felt, in some indefinable way complementary to the text, and as again you appear to understand.

      Hariod ❤

      • My visits here have never failed to leave me wondering, pondering, chewing thoughtfully, but mostly peacefully enjoying the contents. *smiles*. ‘So it goes’ was Kurt’s line in this case. One that feels to me to be an early awareness link. An acceptance of that which has occurred. Not liking it, nor railing against the Gods, being aware of it. I’m not sure I’ll make sense there, nor that a connection to your post will be all that clear, but it appeared and works for me. *nods*.

        – Sonmi upon the Cloud ❤

        • You have made me think of reading Slaughterhouse-Five once again Sonmi, and I do remember enjoying it so much when I first read it in the seventies. Aha, so the ‘so it goes’ business is something to do with stoic acceptance, or facing whatever is, and if that is more or less the case, then there very much is a link with the article.

          Without wishing to melodramaticise, then allowing all that one has identified with to fall away, to discard all status and cherished identity, does require the presence of an unflinching equanimity that visits us only very rarely. Perhaps you might express the matter far better in your own words, which if you are so inclined, I would be keen to hear.

          Patiently yours,

          Montana Wildhack.

    • Much appreciated Val, and I particularly like the way you’ve picked up on the ‘edginess’ which, whilst perhaps running the risk of alienating a few readers, is no bad thing in small and necessary doses, I think you would agree. The spiritual search is in some senses a game, and a rather perverse one at that, especially as for all winners there is no reward, no recognition, and for them alone to see that they are only what they always were from the outset. By the way, you’ll have to tell me how to do those cheerful yellow hearts Val, as I can only do these embarrassing red ones.

      H ❤

  4. Hi Hariod: A beautifully written piece with very deep questions. I wanted to thank you for the comments you left on my Free Fall post today. I was responding to them when, somehow, I deleted both your comments and my response – the danger of working on a laptop in one’s lap I am afraid. I appreciate both the reminder to count the many blessings in my life, and the encouragement to stay centred. Thank you, Kim.

    • Thank you very much indeed Kim; your interest and generous words are greatly appreciated, and both will act as an encouragement to me as I gently continue with my occasional offerings here. Thank you also for acknowledging my comments left at your place earlier, and I do hope they did not come across as either platitudinous or facile; I can assure you that I empathise with the thoughts and feelings you expressed so well. For what it is worth, you have my very best wishes for some early positive news as regards your situation, and I am sure it shall not be long in arriving.

      All the very best to you dear Kim,

      Hariod.

  5. Dear Hariod,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed this piece, several times over, and am savoring the masterful accompaniment of Arvo Part. Your selection has reminded me I have a CD of his compositions, In Principio, I believe, that I pop into the computer at the office from time to time when there are few parties around to disturb. The music here is haunting and provides an exquisite resonance to your piece. I find there is an emotional corollary to this music within me, a type of melancholy and eeriness that accompany initial acceptance of the realization that so much we had once thought real, possible and lasting, will but dissolve. It is the interim feeling right after you have taken up the pill that will disperse illusion, picked up the glass of water, and swallowed it down. What next? Has it happened yet? Will it be anything or nothing at all? Will I find everything, or find myself now convinced of my own petty isolation? It is more than I have words for, this abyss. And yet I find it to be razor thin in its presentation, and with a little courage and willingness to let it simply be what it is, find that it will reshape itself into the fullness of every face and experience imaginable. The other side of the coin, the side without the face, is endless, and yet it is the other side to every face.

    I want to add that while The Master Game is a dead end pursuit, if we are truly willing to pass through this experiential barrier of haunting emptiness and improperly preconceived dissolution, the desire to transcend our various states of suffering has the ability to open up vistas of experience that are peaceful and enduring. Not, as you say, as ‘states’ to be acquired and appended to the resume, but as ultimate acts of vulnerability. And the ways to this place are profoundly unique, are they not? As unique as each of us, perhaps. One of the most difficult pieces I have found, and there are many, is the paradox that we do not stumble into the field of unity without freeing ourselves from comparisons to others. We are each a unique doorway into the same ineffable, and I find it in some way essential to muster the wherewithal to accept that our baffling uniqueness serves the universal. There is another paradox here, perhaps, which is that in accepting who one is, allowing all ideals and comparisons to be discarded, despite sounding like a very dualistic stance, frees us of conforming entirely and allows us to be without boundary.

    It has for me been a delicate aspect of sustaining a connection to the spaciousness on the other side of the coin, whilst landing from time to time face up in this world after being tossed into the winds of time and space.

    Much love,

    Michael.

    • Dear Michael,

      Thank you as always for offering so much to the discussion, and for doing so with your characteristic generosity. For you to have said that the piece deserved re-reading is a wonderful compliment, particularly as I know that this would not have been due to any failure on your part to comprehend what was on offer. Thank you also for paying attention to Adrian Marthaler’s masterful setting for the work of Arvo Pärt, and I am pleased that, along with Sonmi and myself, you found that it somehow chimed with the subject matter. I am only sorry that the quality of the audio was so lacking, but sadly, there is very little of Marthaler’s work available online.

      As to your further point, then the risk I ran in writing this piece was that some might wrongly have imagined that I was being dismissive of setting oneself upon a spiritual path of some kind. This was far from my intention, and my own experience, as well as that of many good people I know, is that the spiritual path can be a very beautiful thing, a quite delightful as well as meaningful way of leading one’s life, regardless of how much or how little unnecessary psychological baggage we manage to set adrift along the way, and regardless also of the inclusion or otherwise of any religious cosmologies.

      Lastly, the point you make about comparison being a ubiquitous hindrance to the aspirant, is, I agree, worthy of particular attention. In the past, I had often looked upon others and imagined how advanced they were in spiritual matters, sometimes by dint of the monastic robes they wore as much as anything, at other times by their displays of intellectual prowess on matters of doctrine. So it was that on occasion I would think I should emulate them, as if that were at all possible. Thankfully, I was not detained too long within these delusions, and came to accept myself as I was, obtuseness and contrariness to boot.

      Much love to you too my friend,

      Hariod.

      • Hello Hariod,

        Thank you for the lovely reply. It is amazing to me that the spiritual journey, beautiful though it may be, begins as a means to an end, and in its fulfillment disappears along with every other means once contemplated to reach an end that never required reaching. And yet, while the end remains in sight, and our lives plagued by the difficulty of being here and not there, something remains necessary about whatever works to compel us to desire the return to unity. A spiritual path can be one such rationally acceptable outlets for this healing process.

        And oh my, comparison has slowed me down more than I care to admit. It comes from lacking confidence in oneself I think, which experiences along the way can slowly build. Then here we go again (…) Once the ‘confident, realized’ self synchronizes with the grace of being, there is a dissolution that comes, as if the plus and minus have cancelled altogether, and the marvelous, dimensionless singularity is all that remains.

        It remains a joy to contemplate these facets of experience through the various lenses (other beings) one finds looking back in the world. Thanks for being such a finely polished one, my friend.

        Michael.

        • Dear Michael,

          I do believe you have identified something of major significance, and which had my article been more comprehensive, I should certainly have included. I mean this: “something remains necessary about whatever works to compel us to desire the return to unity”. Precisely so; it is ‘whatever works’ that necessarily sets the seeker on a path to receptivity, and perhaps ultimately to that point at which the chain of conditionality breaks, the old is relinquished and yet nothing other is grasped at – things can be as they are at last. Whether I am set upon that path through prayer, or yoga, or devotional practices, or imbibing in nature, appears not to matter and each character knows, perhaps after some trial and error, what path might suit them best. I think we have to say that faith has a part to play here, for without that, it is all too easy to give up or fail to set ourselves upon a path in the first place. It would seem that faith and a deep sense of direction – albeit towards the unknown – together constitute a valid path, the one that “remains necessary” if only to lead us back to where we always were, yet had not ever realised. All of which brings us full circle, for how can we ‘attain’ what we already are?

          Thank you so much Michael,

          Hariod.

  6. The Unattainability of a Sufficient Comment

    Having written (by hand) a few ideas and reflections from your article, I decided that none were fitting. Quite a ‘laughable surprise’. Having read and listened, here is a typed representation of silence:

    (Silence starts here . . .

    . . . and kind of ends here, but not really.)

    • Silence is more often than not the most fitting conclusion to one of my ramblings Jessie, and I often am mystified as to how it is that others seem to conjure from my caliginous word-spatterings some intelligible response, which, much against expectations, they frequently do. I had wondered if this piece might evoke some hostility given the rather provocative title, and although it is early days, so far there has been none of it. Then again, perhaps others may be deploying their silence in rather less charming and agreeable ways than you yourself chose to do.

      Hariod ❤

      P.S. Love to Manu.

      • It’s nice when a fellow human can understand the innate depth of such a silence, even on the typo table. Just a murmur of recognition, a hum of having listened [to the] “alleged utterances” of short-lived human animals.

        But your article did give way to much compassion. Everyone trying their best. It’s such a delicate process. Weaving the unwoven thread on the invisible web.

        To “remain earnestly in play” seems to be the most fitting representation of my current reality. It seems, seemingly soughtful, I mean thoughtful, I mean thoughtless, but full?

        I must ask, why is it you always seem to deflate your ability, H?

        P.S. Manu sneezed in recognition. [Birds sneeze, if you never knew.]

        • A beautiful and very sensitive comment Jessie, for which deep thanks. Yes, we all try our best, and whilst a sense of humour is, I think, quite essential at all times, so also is earnestness. That’s a word that some can feel a little uncomfortable with, though earnestness means no more than showing sincere and intense conviction, and who could embark upon a path of self-enquiry without such qualities?

          You describe this path of discovery most aptly in saying that it is “such a delicate process”, and since your previous remarks a couple of commenters have taken issue with me for the way I have framed this piece. It is impossible for the seeker to see that what is sought can never be acquired, possessed or attained. At the risk of sounding obtuse once again, it simply is, and what ‘is’, is not attainable. Let me expand if I may:

          The seeker necessarily conceives of themselves as a (discrete) subject, and imagines that this subject is synonymous with their body/mind system, or perhaps some (imagined) ‘soul’ that is their life-essence. What they seek to attain is an object, some knowledge or state that, as they do not know of it experientially, must exist ‘out there’, discrete and apart from them. The very words ‘enlightenment’ and ‘realisation’ connote a subject that ‘becomes enlightened’ or which ‘realises for themselves’, and this is incorrect. It is the mind that divides the world into subject and object, and once that is seen, then it is also known that the idea of ‘attaining’ this object of knowledge is a nonsense; it is a completely erroneous way of conceiving the matter, yet can only be thought of in that way – until it is no longer. The seeker-entity may dissolve before this point, and not necessarily at this point, as what had been sought is not conditional upon any such entity. So, in short, this is why what we think of as ‘spiritual freedom’ is unattainable. Please note that this is not to say that it does not exist, simply that it is unattainable in the strict sense of that word, and which means ‘not to be attained by a subject’.

          As to the matter of deflating what you call an ability, then I am all too aware of the limitations I have in my writing and hence in my capacity to convey certain ideas with both precision and clarity. One of the problems is that I never want to state things in a wishy-washy way – ‘The Wishy-Washy Way’ (it’s a song!) – because I think that not only is there a surfeit of that type of writing, but that whilst it may make some types feel good about themselves, it doesn’t serve any further purpose. This leaves me at times appearing to some rather laboured or seeming to overly qualify matters, because I don’t possess the capacity to blend precision with fluency, and it is that which I should continue to work at. This blog is very helpful in that regard as I get a lot of feedback, and I can see what’s missing the mark and, on rare occasions, where I’ve got things more or less right.

          Much love to you and Manu.

          Hariod. ❤

          • There’s something about the word ‘beautiful’ that melts me into a puddle of intense conviction – sincerely. You’re very right, such qualities are a necessity for such a path. It is wonderful you have commenters that also have these qualities.

            You are very much capable my friend Hariod, and yes, improvement is always there for us all. I think it’s somewhat brave, talking about such subject matter so clearly. Personally, I get lost in the explanation, and it never reads as I’m trying to convey. That’s why I guess poetry and art help – well, not really help, but kind of ‘fill some gaps’, you know. Maybe one day I will try to logically express such phenomena as you have done so well. Or maybe I won’t, because you already are. Maybe I will just keep doing what I’m doing, even though I’m really unsure of its necessity.

            I’ll leave you with a sweet hum.

          • That is no problem at all H. Informing people of such obscurities is no more a purpose than it is a flower. 🙂

  7. That’s why I warm to your posts Hariod – so challenging, and certainly not for the faint hearted. I remember an old priest once saying to me that a tree that wanders around (in his world trees wandered around) looking for its own sap out there somewhere has absolutely no idea that the sap is within it.

    “Then one day, the subject-entity forgot all about The Master Game; in a flash what was an impossible outcome was made possible; awareness realised and released itself; the world realised and released itself, and the futile contest was over.”

    I love these words of yours, but what is it that happens which brings about this sudden awareness, this realization? Is it something mysteriously beyond and within, free from all our invocations? What enables it to rise up in to consciousness? Do we nurture it in to life, or does it nurture itself into consciousness? What makes it happen, or is there nothing that makes it happen? Does it march to a drum we know nothing about? This has always intrigued me.

    Again, thank you for a wonderfully stimulating post.

    • Many thanks Don, both for your interest and for offering your rhetorical reflections. I very much like your priest’s world of wandering trees, and there seems therein to be a parallel of sorts with certain Buddhist reflections from the past:

      From The Zen Teaching of Huang Po by John Blofeld :

      “Suppose a warrior, forgetting that he was already wearing his pearl on his forehead, were to seek for it elsewhere; he could travel the whole world without finding it. But if someone who knew that he was wrong were to point it out to him, the warrior would immediately realize that the pearl was there all the time.”

      As regards your rhetorical questions, then Huang Po, who died in 850 A.D., referred to the “sudden elimination of conceptual thought”, though I am inclined to think that the word ‘elimination’ may be a slightly misleading translation Don, and that perhaps ‘relegation’ might be more appropriate here. One can ‘eliminate’ conceptual thought through certain practices of course, though this may well do nothing in terms of overcoming false ideas and beliefs as regards one’s own nature. Whilst your questions are indeed rhetorical, then it is perhaps worth a mention that insofar as they may be answered, we would need to look beyond causation, teleology, and the like. Having said that, then certain preparatory work seems necessary for most people, and which almost always entails the development of contemplative awareness through prayer, meditation, art, bodywork, or ritual. By these means we may come to the “sudden elimination of conceptual thought”, yet that is merely training the mind to approach an open doorway; stepping through it either happens, or it does not, and no amount of pushing and shoving with causal laws will do the trick.

      Thank you once again for your valued words of appreciation Don; your presence here is an honour.

      Hariod.

  8. “In a bid to escape their emotional and existential lacuna, the participant may devour the pabulum of self-help writings, or strain at obscurantist commentaries upon the alleged utterances of long-dead sages. They may cultivate a sapient and sciolistic presence which infrequently matches its promise in action, humility or compassion. Each of these, though the worst of the matter, are game strategies thought eventually to deliver a certain freedom of the psyche, something beyond the ordinariness of the world-perceiving mind, and which hence is often characterised as being spiritual in nature, whatever that means. The prize is imagined as an object acquired by a subject, or as the subject absorbing into an object. The game player may speak of enlightenment, self-realization, perhaps even God-realization, as if these were objects that could somehow be absorbed by the self, or vice versa, and The Master Game concludes only once such fallacies are realised.”

    Can you please explain this paragraph more clearly? Thank you, Eve.

        • Ha-ha! XD I thought so. I’m currently wearing a T-shirt with a slogan emblazoned across the front of it which says “I can explain it for you, but I can’t understand it for you”. Are you back from India? H ❤

          • Clever response I suppose. I am sure the dead sages are widely read because they have a rare gift of simplicity of language – that feeds the heart. 🙂 Bye for now. Eve.

            • Simplicity of language Eve? Like Nāgārjuna, or Ouspensky, or Gurdjieff? Should my use of language not be to your liking, that is quite understandable, and I can only apologise for failing to convey my thoughts successfully to all readers. If I may suggest as much, I seem to have rubbed you up the wrong way with my reference in the article to “commentaries upon the alleged utterances of long-dead sages”, though this was not a sideways snipe at any of those great works, certain of which occupy my own book shelves and are amongst the most well-thumbed of all works there. I doubt I can undo the way you have received this article Eve, though I would ask you to accept that the content is offered sincerely, with the best interests of all at heart, and in the hope that the admittedly obscure thrust of it may serve to assist some in the closing stages of their journey.

              With metta,

              Hariod.

  9. Dear Hariod,

    Perhaps I should keep my mouth shut on this one. You have vastly more knowledge and experience in this realm than I will in this lifetime. But I felt anger. Perhaps you are saying that there is no such thing as personal freedom because at the point of freedom there will be no self left. I have read and re-read what you wrote several times and it seems certainly an attack on the guru I am following and others who believe realization of the Self possible. But I will shut my mouth at this point. Nothing good to say or feel right now. Obviously I am a minority of one on this. So be it.

    • My dear Ellen,

      It is important that you speak up as you have, and I would not want you to remain silent merely because you disagreed with what I had written. However, if I may say so, there is a fundamental misconception of what has been stated, and there certainly is no attack on anyone, neither your guru, nor anyone else for that matter. To explain: I am indeed saying that freedom, in the sense that we are both referencing it here, is not personal, and I explained in the article why if it were said to be personal, then that would be a contradiction in terms. Spiritual freedom is not the acquisition of any personal entity – please ask Mooji for confirmation of this. As the Buddha said: “There is suffering, yet no one who suffers; there is a path, yet no one who walks the path; there is enlightenment, yet no one who realizes it.”

      Mooji, your guru, speaks in terms of the Self (capitalised ‘S’ as per your comment), and so do several other gurus. This is a potential source for a lot of confusion, as other traditions, most notably Buddhism, have a doctrine of Non-self, or Anattā. In point of fact, both Classical Advaita and all forms of Buddhism point to the same thing when referring to Non-duality or Non-self, even though the Advaitans posit a Self to be realized. That being so, then you are quite correct, and I agree, it is reasonable to speak in terms of what you called a “realization of the Self”. It should be understood though, that this realization is neither personal, nor does it have any connection whatsoever with what we each conceive of as our self-entity, and which is an internalised narrative construct perpetuated and sustained in mentation and memory. It is the belief in this internalised construct of self-entity that is negated in your “realization of the Self”. Does this make sense Ellen?

      Hariod. ❤

      • Yes, this makes sense, Hariod, and in fact, was what I suspected you meant. Yes, Mooji would agree.

        Don’t mind me, Hariod. I am having a real hard time, switching meds, zero creativity, and I wasn’t sure if you were attacking my only avenue of hope.

        Thanks for clarifying and caring. 💜 Ellen

        • Ah, you know Ellen, we both love and greatly respect Mooji, and I have always supported and encouraged you in your connection with him. I appreciate that you spoke out just as you felt dear friend, and to have done so was a mark of your sincerity and integrity. So sorry to hear that things are difficult at this moment for you; truly I am. H ❤

          • Thank you, dear friend, for your healing heart. Yes, I know you respect and love Mooji, which is why I was wondering why you were saying what you were saying. But it is the big ‘S’ vs. the small. Thank you, dear Hariod. This, too, shall pass. 💜 Ellen

  10. Dear Hariod,

    To be honest, I had to read your post a couple of times to gain some understanding. What you conclude does stand to reason. It is a universal law, is it not, that to play a master game, any game for that matter, neither the rules (process?) nor the strategies to succeed can evolve from within. This very aspect of inner involvement leads to a loss of impartiality, does it not?

    Cheers,

    Shakti.

    • Dear Shakti,

      Thank you very much for your engagement and candour, they both are greatly appreciated, as is your deeply perceptive reflection. This article is very challenging, I know, and to those not familiar with spiritual seeking and related doctrines of Nondualism, would be unfathomable. I do not know to what extent you engage in such matters, and yet you have offered a very deep insight all the same.

      In this instance, the hindering “inner involvement” of which you speak is the subject-entity – the ‘self’ if you will. Even though the spiritual seeker knows on an intellectual/conceptual level that the self as subject-entity is an erroneous construct, they continue to imagine that when this is seen as an actuality, then it will be seen by a subject-entity. This is because the subject-entity, currently configured as the seeker, is doing the imagining.

      Here we have the great paradox of spiritual seeking, and whilst it is necessary for the seeker to embark upon their search on the basis that some knowledge will be acquired, or attained, by them as they currently conceive of themselves, in fact this is not so. The ending of The Master Game is the eradication of the subject/object dichotomy, the ending of self-conception and the subject-entity which had played.

      Many thanks for your insightful contribution Shakti,

      Hariod.

  11. Thank you Hariod for taking the time to answer so comprehensively. I too feel that preparatory work has to be essential, but I love the way you qualify it with your words – “no amount of pushing and shoving with causal laws will do the trick.” I also believe that to be so true.

    [Readers note: Don is responding here to the earlier exchange of May 1st. – see above.]

  12. As everyone has said, your writing here is beautiful and thought provoking. You’ve clearly spent a lot of time thinking about ‘the game’. I don’t know if I have much to add, you’ve been so thorough in your examination. I’ll be musing over this one for a while.

    • Thank you for your interest and kind comment Madalyn; I appreciate both greatly, and I quite understand your reluctance to add further to my caliginous cogitations! o_O This piece is perhaps a little perplexing if one is not familiar with certain esoteric philosophical doctrines, such as Classical Advaita or the Non-self conceptions found in the various schools of Buddhism. The inherent paradox of any teaching which posits a negation of self-entity, or of a mind/body duality, is one that can be difficult to unravel, even when one is inside ‘the game’ as a player.

      Thank you once again, and all best wishes to you,

      Hariod. ❤

  13. Ah! Hariod! It seems you have touched on something here that is most difficult to explain, and very personal in the way your readers have interpreted it. I think I get what your thoughts are, and as words can get in the way, perhaps I should say that I ‘feel’ what you mean.

    I think that [so-called] ‘enlightenment’, at least for me, is shining light on what ‘is’. The thing we so earnestly search for is not something we can find, for it has never been lost, it is here, and then when we try to grasp it, it is over there – elusive yet attainable; apparent yet out of reach; it is everything!

    So good to see you; many blessings dear Hariod! ❤

    • Thank you so much dear Lorrie, for having the patience to unravel this piece, and also for boldly tackling the matter in your own words. The difficulty, in writing such a piece, is that what is being attempted to be conveyed remains always beyond the bounds of reason, logic, inference, syllogism, and so forth. This understandably may call forth resistance, of perhaps frustration, in the minds of even some sincere readers.

      The spiritual seeker necessarily conceives of themselves as a subject in pursuit of an object, and which pursuit results in a so called ‘enlightenment’ of a subject. No matter how frequently they may read that to conceive of the self as a discrete subject-entity is erroneous, and that their task is to realise this, still the seeker holds to this self-conception and can only envisage that it – that is ‘me’ – will at some point attain, acquire, or merge into the imagined object.

      What cannot be countenanced is that the subject-entity may be revealed as a mind-construct alone, and that as such it cannot possibly attain anything beyond mere thought arrangements, beliefs, and the like, and which are of themselves no more than (re)arrangements of itself. This is to say that the subject-entity of ‘me’ cannot get out of the gearbox of its own methods of comprehension, all of which are insufficient for the task at hand.

      When you say that enlightenment is “elusive yet attainable”, I am reminded of an expression that I like which is to say that it is “elusively obvious”. So, my take is that the elusiveness obtains precisely because we believe enlightenment is ‘attainable’, and that once the idea of attaining something which, as you suggest, is already present, is dropped, then the possibility of the obvious presenting itself manifests.

      Many blessings to you too my Floridian friend. ❤

      • Yes! I love, “elusively obvious!” 🙂 It is no coincidence that some inkling of this very idea has been on my mind a lot lately. I am so grateful to have connected with you, Hariod. Your articles always stimulate my mind and make me question myself. Have a super beautiful weekend! 🙂 ♡

        • Thank you once again Lorrie; it is a curious thing that a simple word formulation can invoke so much within and about us, if the time is right. Lots of love to you, Hariod. ❤

  14. Overjoyed to listen in to words and sound, echoing from April, now into May, as I reach the end and finish off to the sound of howling wind. Loving the achey way my eyes and ears connect with a beating heart that you awaken in your vast Hariod(ness). What is the ‘S’ or ‘s’ that leaves a trail so utterly unique? xo! Marga

    • Yes indeed my learned Marga(ness), the ‘howling wind’ is about right as regards this overwhelmingly oblique offering. I appear to have metagrobolized one or two just here, and perhaps left others wondering if I am a Big Aitch or a little aitch. You may note that I have edited your comment so as to capitalise your own good name; although in truth, nothing changes in the doing of it, and neither of us attained anything as a result.

      Thank you and lots of love,

      Hariod. ❤

  15. Dear Hariod,

    At an intellectual level I can entertain the concept of no-self, and nothing to seek; at an experiential level I am far from it. The closest I come experientially is our deep interconnectedness. How does one bridge the gap I wonder? This article brings back for me the memory of similar suggestions by swami Vivekananda that I had come across years ago. The idea of the same consciousness pervading all forms and actions; everything seemed so real as I read, but the feeling never sustained. The text ended saying “If you can’t wake up to your reality then at least dream better dreams”, and I guess I’ve been trying to dream better dreams. 🙂

    Hugs!

    • Dear Precious Rhymes,

      Thank you for your candour, and also for your interest in this rather challenging article. The point I am trying to convey here is not one that the seeker typically wants to hear, because what is sought by them, is thought to be an object attainable by themselves as subject, and this is not so. The seeker necessarily conceives of the totality of all phenomena, including themselves, within a matrix, or dichotomy, of subject and object(s). So, what is being sought can only be conceived in these terms; it is ‘me’ as subject attaining spiritual freedom as an object; or it is ‘me’ as subject absorbing into that same spiritual freedom and which currently exists ‘out there’ as an object.

      No matter how frequently the seeker hears the words of the great sages – such as you have quoted – to the effect that the subject/object duality no longer obtains, and that in fact it never did, still the seeker persists in imagining that their lifetime of effort will result in themselves as a subject-entity attaining, or approaching the attainment of, this spiritual freedom. This is because unless and until the non-dual, or non-self (same thing), is actualised in aware experience, then the entirety of all prior experience remains constricted within the false conception of a dualistic matrix, neither aspects of which can be relinquished because the mind can only conceive in terms of that matrix.

      A final few words on the rather splendid quote you offered in your comment: “If you can’t wake up to your reality then at least dream better dreams”. Here, we can move into more positive ground for the spiritual seeker, because although their path by definition is erroneously apprehended, then at least it can provide a very beautiful journey along the trajectory of life. It is also a very meaningful journey, and one which for some ends in spiritual freedom, or better to say, a psychological freedom. At this point, and in this freedom, there no longer is any seeker, and the individual realises what they never previously could accept, which is that this same freedom is, and always was, completely unattainable.

      Thank you once again for your engagement; I greatly appreciate it Precious Rhymes.

      Hariod ❤

  16. I read this post on my phone when you wrote it, and decided that it was too deep for me to grasp the meaning of. I knew I would read it again on the blog though, so hoped I would understand it better at that time. I’m sorry it took me so long to come back to it, although the timing was actually perfect.

    A half hour ago I read Sreejit’s newest Dungeon Prompt called “Take Me to Church”, so I’ve been thinking about the phases of my spiritual journey. Then I decided it was time to read your post again. And this time, even though there are a lot of words I should look up, I had much more understanding of what you were saying, or at least think I do! And I also think your piece very much relates to what I will be writing about as I respond to his prompt.

    I see the spiritual journey as something that evolves, not knowing, and for that matter not caring, where it takes me; knowing that wherever I’m led is good. I have no goal or destination in mind. I think it mostly requires letting go, and letting be; and enjoying the ride, most of the time.

    • Thank you very much for your interest, persistence, and your considered reflection Karuna; I greatly appreciate hearing from you. The first thing to say is that this piece is not a denial of (what is thought of as) spiritual freedom. A couple of readers have misunderstood the piece and jumped to the conclusion that I was saying the whole process of seeking leads nowhere, that Nibbana, Moksha – call it what we will – are myths. This is very far from both my intention and the truth; it would of course have been arrogant in the extreme to have stated as much.

      As you can see from certain of the comments I have made to readers above, the purpose of the article is to attempt to unpack the false idea that what remains at the end of the path is a subject who has attained something, and which is conceived as some object of knowledge, that object itself being in the seeker’s mind, Nibbana, Moksha – again, call it what we will. So, the seeker, by their very nature, can only conceive of an outcome based in the duality of subject and object. That is to say they imagine they must remain as a subject who has attained an object of enlightenment.

      The seeker either imagines that they, as a subject, will absorb into an object of enlightenment, or that they, as a subject, will acquire this object of enlightenment. All along the seekers path, everything is seen in a dualistic context of subject and object, self and other. Whilst this persists, the seeker cannot possibly conceive of any outcome which is not some juxtaposition of this dichotomy. The seeker as subject can ‘attain’ meditative states and insights, yet the seeker as subject can never attain enlightenment. So, the seeker as subject has to dissolve in negation of its own illusion.

      I very much agree with the thrust of your comment Karuna, and that it is absurd to claim that we can never evolve in our understanding beyond a certain point. Spiritual teachers tend to have quite different takes on supposed stages and end-games, and that in itself is quite telling. The best advice I can think of is that seekers should avoid anyone who says ‘I am enlightened’, which statement of itself demonstrates the very opposite. The Buddha: “There is a path, yet none who walk it; there is suffering, yet none who suffer; there is enlightenment, yet none who attain it.”

      Hariod ❤

      • I believe I took your piece in the way that you intended it! I do believe in avatars, which I see as beings who merged with the God energy in other lifetimes and came back to help us in our journeys and also in incarnations, but I too am very suspicious of any individual seeker who announces that he/she has become enlightened. Big red flag to me.

  17. Hi Hariod,

    I read this post twice and still have no clue what it means, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. 🙂 I’m guessing that means I am very likely playing the Master Game without even realizing it.

    Your command of the English language is superb; although I had to Google the definition of practically every other word, some of which I’ve heard before but just forgot. Some of them I add to my list of new words, like ‘fainéant’.

    • Hi Howie,

      Many thanks for persisting with this somewhat oblique offering; you are not alone in being a little baffled as to the meaning, notwithstanding your repeated reading. The thrust of this article is to tackle the paradox inherent in both Buddhism and Classical Advaita, both of which posit the negation, or transcendence, of the subject-entity – what we think of as the ‘self of me’. As soon as we have anything supposedly self-natured, we by default create another category of ‘otherness’ – a dualistic conception which Advaita explicitly denies and Buddhism pre-empts by stating that no phenomenon is self-natured, all phenomena being dependently originated with other phenomena in causal chains of interdependence. Doubtless, my writing skills, or lack thereof, made the task of apprehending all this doubly difficult, and for which I can only apologise. I could have extended the length of the piece, as to attempt to resolve the matter in five paragraphs was ludicrously ambitious, I must confess.

      The spiritual seeker necessarily conceives of their search in terms of themselves as a subject-entity which, if the end-game is reached, attains, possesses or acquires an object of knowledge – a spiritual freedom known by various names. So, the whole conception is couched in a subject/object dichotomy; this, even though the doctrines followed posit a final non-dual (Advaita), or non-self (Buddhism), conception of ultimate reality. In other words, the teachings explicitly deny the possibility of any subject-entity ‘attaining’ anything, as the entity is a mind-construct, a mere fabrication, a misunderstanding. And the seeker is synonymous with this same fabricated misunderstanding – do you see? If we are able to take on-board the notion that the whole of the seeking enterprise is founded upon a misunderstanding, then we may at least release the mind from its self-made trap of enslavement.

      Many thanks Howie; I really appreciate your interest as well as your candid and helpful reflections.

      Hariod.

      • Please don’t apologize Hariod – I thought your writing was very eloquent and my lack of understanding is really due to my lack of knowledge of Eastern philosophies. If this view of non-self is correct, would it be correct to say there really is no Howie and there is no Hariod?

        • Thank you for your continued interest and question Howie, and I can quite understand how the doctrines of Nondualism and Non-self appear somewhat implausible, even fanciful, upon first encounter. If we take the matter in terms of non-self, which is how your question is phrased, then we can say the following:

          You ask whether there really exists a Howie and a Hariod, and the answer is of course that there is; we are not figments of imagination. Each of us exist as aggregates of bodies and minds, and also as social constructs. The Buddhist concept of self is quite different to that which we encounter in a sociology class though, and in which we are purely concerned with the self as social construct – the personal identity, behavioural patterns, dramaturgical performances, hierarchies of status and so forth. The Buddhist concept is rather more particular in that it defines selfhood as an entity which is both enduringly instantiated (changelessly existent across time), and not dependent upon other entities – it is its own discrete and autonomous being, and possess its own agency (self-determination). To be self-natured is to be effectively a closed system which endures unchangingly in time within a world of otherness. This is why the Buddhist term for non-self (Pali: ‘Anatta’) is regarded as being synonymous with ‘no-soul’, because the putative soul posited in Western Theistic traditions is indeed a changeless, enduring entity. In practise, meaning in everyday understanding, we each of us consider ourselves as an enduringly instantiated entity of selfhood, whether or not we believe we possess a soul. We wake up each morning with the belief that the body/mind we experience is the same in essence as it was yesterday. In actuality, what is experienced is a different mind and a different body, given that logically a change in a thing is a change of a thing.

          Whilst we all accept that the body changes from moment to moment, that it constantly mutates – cells die and others generate – still we persist in regarding it, along with the mind, as ‘the self of me’. In fact, the body is no more than a temporary aggregation of cellular structures with an emergent capacity to think and perceive with awareness, the component parts (cells and thoughts), of which are in a constant state of dissolution, regeneration and mutation. In an adult, 50-70 billion of our cells die each day. [On selfhood: http://wp.me/P4wkZJ-1K ] And of course, our minds are in a constant state of flux, they are never anything other than a constantly morphing ephemerality. Whilst the mind is slavishly repetitive in the thought-patterns it produces, none of this output is changeless or enduring; it is nothing but change itself. Furthermore, each thought is conditioned and arises dependently upon sense contacts past and present. Each thought is also referencing an externality of some kind or another, whether that be in space, or time, or both. If we try to think of something that does not, we simply cannot. So, both the body and mind fail to meet the criteria of being self-natured, of being enduringly instantiated over time and with independent existence. What then, precisely, do we mean when we think of the ‘self of me’? Clearly, it cannot be the mind/body system, and we can only fall back on the notion of a mysterious soul which no one ever in the course of history has ever identified, located, found evidence of, or can explain why it is something more than a fanciful idea created in the service and support of implausible, or at least un-certifiable, religious beliefs.

          If you are interested in a slightly more detailed short essay on the idea of the self as a separate entity, then I might point you to this piece Howie: http://wp.me/P4wkZJ-1X That is a brief examination of how this illusion of a separate self comes to reside within us as an erroneous belief, and will possibly throw a little more light on the matter than I have perhaps managed here in this comment.

          Thank you once again Howie; I really appreciate and respect your engagement.

          Hariod.

  18. Wow, this is a beautiful and eloquent piece, dealing with a very subtle subject matter in a clear and profound way. As I read I recalled the words of my teacher: “freedom is not freedom for the person, it is freedom from the person”. We start the path like shadows trying to perfect ourselves into substance, but ultimately we realise that we were never the shadow at all, but the light in which it appeared. Because we’re so enmeshed in the duality of subject and object, this is transferred to our spiritual seeking. But really, there’s nothing to gain and nothing to become. It’s a cliche but nevertheless true that we were what we were seeking all along.

    • Rory, I am indebted to you for expressing so beautifully the essence of what I am attempting to convey in this short piece. You are quite correct of course, what we are dealing with here is a rather abstruse and paradoxical matter, and unsurprisingly perhaps, some readers have struggled to grasp quite what it is that is being said. One reader even got quite upset and thought I was undermining her lifetime’s seeking efforts. Another became similarly anguished at first, before having the good grace and intelligence to see through their initial misunderstanding, which itself was quite understandable. You clearly comprehend the matter perfectly, and your quote on positive and negative liberty is supremely apt. All that remains is for me to thank you for your kind words of encouragement, which I most certainly take to heart and value greatly, as I do also your interest and subsequent reflections.

      With all best wishes and metta,

      Hariod.

  19. Hariod, if nothing else, I am a realist. Imagine my delight, then, at reading this: “In a bid to escape their emotional and existential lacuna, the participant may devour the pabulum of self-help writings, or strain at obscurantist commentaries upon the alleged utterances of long-dead sages. They may cultivate a sapient and sciolistic presence which infrequently matches its promise in action, humility or compassion. Each of these, though the worst of the matter, are game strategies thought eventually to deliver a certain freedom of the psyche, something beyond the ordinariness of the world-perceiving mind, and which hence is often characterised as being spiritual in nature, whatever that means.”

    I plan on sharing this quote pointing to the article’s link with my social network, and would imagine I will receive some blowback in return. Yet the precision and economy of words to describe the truth of life on earth as I, too, perceive it delights me. Rather than having my ‘beliefs’ shattered or my ‘dreams’ withered, I feel comforted that I am in good company. And though I share quotes and quips on Facebook in order to provoke people to think more broadly, and though I realize all must take their own journey which most certainly may not match my own, I think it folly to assume one has attained ‘enlightenment’ through the channels you describe. I am suspicious of those calling themselves ‘spiritual.’ I would rather know a person through their words and deeds rather than any self proclaimed moniker. As a dear wise friend said just today, “If we’re still here, the learning is not over. It’s over when we no longer are here.” – which keeps the door open to exactly what we have learned and to what purpose, and what we have yet to realize.

    Be well, Aloha, Namaste, and Peace.

    ❤ Bela

    • Hello dear Bela, and I must begin by letting you know how you have made my day, for to receive such kind and generous words from one such as yourself can hardly be more rewarding. So I thank you for this, and also for sharing with your network, which is a gesture I greatly appreciate. When you say that you imagine you will receive some ‘blowback’, I am not quite sure what that expression means, and take it to be synonymous with negative feedback. If that is correct, then I am inclined to agree with your guess, thereby making me doubly obligated to you for the boldness of your stance and your support for the ideas put forward in this piece. Hopefully, we can have an exchange of ideas that enriches each the other’s understanding as a result, for that is the purpose of my writing here above all.

      I do of course understand that the article has the capacity to raise a few hackles, even to evoke dismay in those that fail to comprehend it correctly, or who are not yet ready to. We are acculturated to measuring our lives in terms of a balance sheet – what we’ve acquired or attained – and the suggestion that what some value above all in life cannot be attained is distressing. Do I ‘attain’ the delight of nature, of the blue wide-open skies, or the contentment borne of the smile of my grandchild? In some vague sense we might say that is so, insofar as there is an experience occurring in the awareness of an individual. Yet none of it was possessed, acquired, or ‘attained’ in perpetuity, or even momentarily, by any subject-entity as agent of, or for, that same experience – it simply appeared before me.

      The same is true for so-called ‘spiritual experiences’ – much as we both dislike such terms. Whilst it is entirely possible to, as it were, leapfrog the dualistic fixation in which all is perceived in terms of subject and object, such a state of affairs does not, as you correctly state, signal the end of learning, neither indeed the bringing about of a full psychological maturation. To claim as much would seem tantamount to a kind of psychopathy, and one would have to question quite how such a person could be certain that their claim held water. I think such beliefs are sometimes held sincerely, and in those cases are inevitably revealed as delusional over time. For others, the deceit continues, for we humans do have a quite remarkable capacity to dwell in make-believe, and also in the make-believe of others.

      “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~ C.G. Jung

      Hariod ❤

      • Thank you for your kind words. I recall my mother who, after more than 30 years of devoutly following Mormon doctrine while trying to rein me in to that particular fold, earnestly asked my equally devout sister, upon my mother’s deathbed, if she really “believed in all that.” My sister found it profoundly distressing, yet it simply brought a smile to my face.

        In the end, we are what and where we are, ready or not for consciousness to be liberated from a tired body. Best to explore the wide open spaciousness of mind now, marvelling at miracles all around us with gratitude for the journey that has been, while anticipating the mysteries yet to come. At least that’s how I see it from here.

        Cheers, Hariod.

  20. An overdue thanks Hariod, for liking some of my comments on our common WP friends’ network, as also on a few of my posts. I just read your ‘Master Game’ piece and the bulk of the interesting exchanges detailed here.

    We are obviously not humans trying to attain spiritual experiences, but nano-spirit components of a macrocosm, undergoing human experiences. We are not different beings, only different components, trapped briefly in an evolutionary cycle.

    There is, therefore, no seeker and no sought after extraneous object. The Buddha attained ‘Nirvana’, meaning the state of absolute desirelessness, to integrate, as a nano-spirit component, with the macrocosm. The challenge in the Master Game is essentially one of becoming detached and desireless. It is a long and arduous journey.

    Best wishes,

    Raj.

    • I appreciate your gratitude Raj, though it is never anything less than a delight to read your intelligent and well-informed words in whatever form they may appear. In turn I thank you for taking the time to examine my thoughts here, and those also of some of the readers, as well as being grateful for your insightful reflections.

      We each choose different means and terms for expressing whatever level of understanding has been reached, and I always resist objecting to those that differ to my own, at least in this arena, as largely the subject matter does not lend itself to a completely satisfactory representation by word symbols and conceptual constructs.

      Having said that, you clearly grasp the essence of this piece in your words that state there is “no seeker and no sought after extraneous object”. Both exist as concepts, yet not as actualities, meaning there is no enduring subject-entity which attaches to, or absorbs into, an extraneous object; hence, nothing is attained.

      Coming then to the idea of the Buddha ‘attaining Nirvana/Nibbana’, then this is purely the understanding from the perspective of the dualistic, subject-object dichotomy within which the seeker apprehends everything. As the Buddha himself said “There is suffering, yet no one who suffers; there is a path, yet no one who walks the path; there is enlightenment, yet no one who realizes it.”

      That is the nature of the paradox that faces the seeker, the one who cannot comprehend beyond the matrix of dualism and who is therefore trapped in the belief that they, as an imagined subject-entity, are unenlightened, and that they, as an imagined subject-entity, will one day attain enlightenment.

      Enlightenment is not ‘attained’ by any subject-entity, as clearly you appreciate Raj. Some mistakenly take such statements to mean that there is no Nirvana/Nibbana/Moksha, as if the same is indeed unattainable, then it cannot therefore exist; they conclude it is not an attainable object-entity.

      The latter part of the conclusion is in fact correct, Nirvana/Nibbana/Moksha is not an attainable object-entity, for the very reason that it is not an object-entity. The seeker, meaning the mind that thinks conceptually, cannot envisage what this imagined construct may be if it does not reside hidden within the dualistic matrix.

      Many thanks once again for your engagement and generous reflections Raj.

      Hariod.

  21. Thanks for your informed response, Hariod. The subject is too abstract to lend itself to simple elucidation; thus more the views, greater the possibility of getting to the bottom of it all, or not reaching what in essence is an infinitely immense core of energy, around which all seeking may only end up orbiting. Best wishes, Raj.

  22. Thank you, Hariod, for a challenging yet clear essay! Your reference to “The Master Game” conjures for me associations with Guy Ritchie’s excellent film Revolver. I do hope you are not offended by the comparison as I esteem both sources. Although his apparent inspiration is Kabbalistic, while yours seems to draw more heavily on Buddhism, the similarities are striking, to me at least. 🙂 Have you seen the film? It involves elements of chess – a masterful game and a confidence game i.e. “the put-up job” – as well as [elements of] Ego and Liberation. Your excellent exposition on the difficulty of approaching these subjects reminds me of two of my favourite lines from the film: “You can only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent” and also “Your greatest opponent hides in the very last place you will ever look.” Again, many thanks for all of your writings and please forgive me if I have missed your point or strayed too far off topic. Cheers! John.

    • Thank you so much for your charming and generous response John; I appreciate your interest and input greatly. And far from straying from the point of this piece, you have tackled the spirit of it directly and it seems to me most interestingly too, for which again, many thanks. I have not yet seen the film, and so went to Wikipedia to get the gist of it, where I also found this interesting quote from it, to add to your own pertinent examples: “the greatest con that [the ego] ever pulled was making you believe that he is you.” I will certainly take up your recommendation and view the film at my earliest opportunity John, and appreciate the suggestion.

      This particular article seemed to flummox a fair few readers, and even irritate one or two also. Like yourself, I tend not to shy away from being a little contrarian, perhaps even a tad controversial, if that best serves the point to be made. The spiritual seeker really does not want to hear that the object of their desires is not one that will ever attach to them as they currently conceive of themselves. By definition, they presume themselves to exist as an unenlightened subject which one day may become an enlightened subject. Yet should the best come about, the categories of subject and object are, if not abandoned altogether, then seen as no more than constructs of the mind – there never was an unenlightened subject and there certainly is not an enlightened one now.

      Some have misconstrued this as saying the spiritual path is redundant, which of course it is not. It is simply that the whole endeavour, or game, is embarked upon with false predicates, or rules, and this is inescapable given the pre-existent beliefs in the subject/object dichotomy as actualities. We therefore wrestle with this paradox of the seeker as imagined subject attempting to add to itself, to acquire or absorb into an imagined object. To the seeker, there are only the possibilities as conceived from within the dualistic matrix, yet this matrix is identical to those same false predicates, or rules. So, it is a game that can never be won on those terms; it can only master itself yet never itself be mastered by any subject.

      Many thanks once again for your kind engagement John.

      With all best wishes,

      Hariod.

      • Hariod, thanks for your kind response and I hope you enjoy the film, if you should get the chance. I enjoyed this post (and the next too) a great deal because you are tackling some thorny briar patches! Yes indeed, the word you use in your title, the word ‘unattainability’ can (and was) read with some consternation. “What do you mean, sir, that I can not have it?” One might think of Veruca Salt stamping her foot in the Chocolate Factory: “I want it now!” But you are so right, this darn dualistic matrix is a bitch – pardon my slang.

        Two more sources of confusion, it seems to me, involve our sequential experience and our narrative forms: This happened, then that happened; yesterday my hair was long, then I got a haircut. Most of our earthly experiences reinforce a sense of cause and effect and it tickles us when that chain is (apparently) under our conscious control. Then there is the way we tell a story, with a beginning, middle and end. We want a character arc. And now this guy Hariod is saying that is not applicable in the realm of ‘spiritual freedom’? The very cheek!

        One of the best descriptions I have encountered is that “the mind flops over.” Firstly, it’s a weird phrase that defies direct understanding. Second, nothing is being added or subtracted, yet some sort of order is being upset. Third, turning over a stone is revelatory. Any analogy is never a complete explanation for that which can only be experienced directly, but I salute (like a doomed gladiator) any who try to make accurate analogies. Thanks again, Hariod!

        • Marvellous John, and thank you again for adding so richly and in such an informed manner to the discussion here. I can see why you like the expression “the mind flops over”, and appreciate the way you point to there being an upsetting of the pre-existent order, not so much as a complete abandonment, but perhaps no longer imbuing that old order with meaning and validity. The shift is actually very subtle, and perhaps for that reason is so easy to miss, particularly if we are looking for some ground-shaking experience, which it may well not be at all in the event.

          Someone I respect once likened it to looking though binoculars and then making that tiny adjustment to the bezel which results in everything being thrown into focus. As seekers, we know that the picture we have of the world and ourselves is somehow distorted, yet our corrective measures can so easily overstep the mark; instead of just making that almost imperceptible adjustment to the bezel, we set about building giant telescopes on remote mountain tops and aim our gaze into empty space, marvelling all the while at our ability to see nothing whatsoever.

          With much gratitude and respect to you John.

          Hariod.

    • Well, this one proved quite chewy for a few readers Sarah, so should the mastication not do the trick, then please refer to the comments here for further jaw power. The key point is that spiritual freedom is not being denied, yet how do we account for it being ‘attained’ when what it requires is the utter eradication of any attaining subject? The question tackles the paradox occasionally pointed to by the Buddha: “There is suffering, yet no one who suffers; there is a path, yet no one who walks the path; there is enlightenment, yet no one who realizes it.” Thank you as always for stopping by and having a wander around my thoughts dear Sarah; your presence here is never other than a delight.

      • I can see why you only blog once a month Hariod. You have some wonderful commenters (probably not a real word but you know what I mean), and the comments section is a month’s worth of gristle in it’s own right. Delightful! I would share more of my thoughts but I would need to betray the privacy of my nearest and dearest in order to do so. Plus, I doubt I could add anything worthwhile – the ruts have been well trampled. 🙂

        • Feel free at any time Sarah, and if your inclination is to oppose any of my own ideas then please do not consider that a restraint or cause for silence. As I say elsewhere in my site introduction, I hope to learn as much from readers here as they may possibly do from my own modest offerings, and my experience so far has been just that. 🙂

          • I will try to let you know when I disagree then. Up to this point however, I have agreed with whatever meaning I have extracted from your posts. Whether I have discovered the intended meaning may be in doubt though. I may sometimes have difficulty digesting the message but the truth can be hard to swallow. By not offering my thoughts I wasn’t avoiding confrontation, it’s just that I don’t feel free or qualified to discuss matters like this in a public space.

            I attempted to give you an edited summary of where I stand so that my vague responses will have some kind of a backdrop for you, but I bored myself so have deleted it. Let’s see if I can make it even shorter: I have found meditation and metta practice to be necessary but not sufficient for this flawed little person, so I am now learning about the teachings of the (pre-Vatican 2) Catholic Church. So far, they do not appear to be incompatible with secular Buddhism.

            • Thank you Sarah, for your candour and further elaboration, albeit the shortened version. In my largely uninformed view, the established church still has much to offer even those such as myself who cannot, by their nature, buy into the cosmology or theology. I often attend evensong at nearby Wells Cathedral as I mentioned to you recently, and the warmth of the faithful, together with the tradition and ritual, always bring a sense of peace and harmony at the close of any busy day. I also love liturgical music, and Western devotional music generally, as well as of course the related art, which again we discussed before.

              We each of us have differing inner needs, which can only be met by appropriate means of course. For myself, things like ontology and epistemology – the study of being itself, and the study of knowledge itself – allied to practical psychological methods such as those you mention, have seemed to be of prime importance to me, at least in the past in any case. Then again, having a site such as this means I get to learn from others with different needs, experiences and proclivities, and who follow paths of faith, or devotion, or service, or creativity, or simply their own instinctual and eclectic ways perhaps.

              I think syncretism can be a hazardous endeavour in unskilled hands, leading as it often does ultimately to confusion and a sense of directionless, yet your own hands are far from likely to elicit such risks I feel sure Sarah. In any case, from the little you say I am not clear that a syncretic approach is what you are taking. It fails more so when pursued in response to the ‘pick ‘n mix’ mentality of consumer culture which often finds its way into the spiritual domain. The whole seems to reduce to platitudes, nostrums and ego-support systems which last for a while, yet fail in the end – one thinks of the New-Age movement and its current declining position perhaps?

              As ever, it is a delight to exchange thoughts with you dear Sarah.

              With metta,

              Hariod. ❤

              • There is a lot to be said for the aesthetic experiences of church. Human beings have a deep-seated need for those kind of experiences, I think. That is why I specified “pre-Vatican 2 Catholicism”, because modern Catholicism is becoming more and more stripped of those kind of sublime experiences.

                You say that syncretism leads to a sense of being directionless, but that is what I was finding with Buddhism. Once I had given up the idea of recreating blissful retreat experiences, or striving towards enlightenment, my meditation practice lost its momentum. I know without a doubt that I need Buddhist practices at this point in my life. However, secular* Buddhism has no story to tell about the whys and wherefores, and if it has any devotional practices they seem shallow and arbitrary to me. What it does very well though, is provide lay people with methods for meditation [‘Contemplation’ in Catholicism] and prompts for reflection that the Church does not have. And what the Church offers is an answer to my existential questions and a rich devotional practice.

                Thank you for tempting me into elaboration. It was helpful for me to summarise my jumbled thoughts on this issue. I hope my reply provides something in return (even if it’s just excess parentheses (as you can never have too many of those) 😉 ).

                *(I can’t buy into the Buddhist cosmologies/theologies any more than you can buy into the Western ones.)

                • On the sense of being directionless Sarah, may I ask, is that any easier to bear within a Buddhistic paradigm of non-self or a Christian paradigm of soul possession? It seems to me that such a feeling would be predicated upon the supposedly enduring subject believing themselves to be the experiencer of any such experience. Even though it may only be on the intellectual level, perhaps the Buddhist has the edge in telling themselves that no such experiencer exists; they get over the emotional hump by setting mind against mind. How does the soul possessor do the same?

                  On the secular point, then just to be clear, I never could buy into Buddhist cosmology any more than I could with theistic cosmologies. Call me untrusting, but how could I know in truth; how could I ever discover in my own experience that such cosmologies exist? The argument runs that in certain states of Samadhi, such realms may be visited and so proven, but then one has to have absolute certainty as regards the distinction between imaginative thinking and actuality, though by my lights that certainty is only ever illusory, meaning it remains forever fallible.

                  • More morsels to chew on. 🙂 Having accepted the concept of no-self intellectually without actualizing it, one is left with the problem of how to proceed. Does one live guided by external/internal stimuli e.g. I am hungry therefore I will eat? What is the point of it all? I’m not at the stage yet where I can live without a point. Also, if the Catholic teachings are true, then one would be a fool not to do everything that God requires.

                    The problem, as you pointed out, is how to be sure of the cosmology. I agree that we can’t be certain, but I also know that we can’t be certain of very much at all. We can choose to believe that our religious experiences are significant, or we can choose to ignore them because they may be delusional. Since all of my experiences are in a sense delusional, and since I have no good reason not to, I have decided to take Pascal’s wager.

                    • Chewing back in response Sarah:

                      As regards the problem of how to proceed having accepted the doctrine of Non-self intellectually, then I think we are obliged to make the distinction between that doctrine and one of Nihilism. Even with Non-self actualised, or having directly experienced it deeply and frequently, certain needs remain; we do actually exist as physical, emotional, and psychological beings with many of the frailties that such a state necessarily and inescapably carries.

                      To take up your point about pointlessness, then I would like to respectfully suggest that it’s not so that life becomes meaningless in being free of the trap of selfhood. Having a sense of purpose is, I feel sure, something of a fundamental human need Sarah, that is, until grosser manifestations of selfhood drop away. The former goal-orientation, status-seeking, desires for freedom and shadings of cupidity, no longer obtain, yet are replaced by the deeper meaning of, or perspective upon, one’s participation in life itself. What does that mean? Empathy increases, rigid differentiation and its attendant problems diminish, burdens become easier to bear in their fuller understanding, life flows apparently more freely yet in fact as it always did, what we offer the world is known to be more than we ever had thought, our harmlessness is felt and appreciated, compassion becomes the dominant response to others.

                      Of course, all of those qualities and factors are available to those of any philosophical or religious persuasion, and are far from the preserve of some in particular; they are innate yet sadly obscured for the most part. For myself, the settling-in of firstly the idea of Non-self, and then the more-or-less regular experiences of it, brought with them a palpable sense of freedom. This was a so-called Negative Freedom, meaning a ‘freedom from’, rather than a so-called Positive Freedom, or ‘freedom to’. The slight edginess of subtle yet constant interplays of desire and aversion dissolved and I began to feel more settled into what I always was behind the nervous system’s emotional displays and compulsive inhabitation of mentation. It may very well be that your own experiences echo these, and that the two of us are of the type of character that can access this Negative Freedom along pathways of Advaita or Non-self, which I regard as being synonymous.

                      You are of course correct Sarah, “we can’t be certain of very much at all”, and yet it is only the thinking mind that hankers after certainty, and that, in a world that can never offer it. I must say I am untroubled by that apparent predicament personally, and what does it ultimately matter that I can or cannot hold a thought that regards itself with certainty? Is it anything more than chemicals firing off within the brain that produce these compulsions to seek, or confirm, a certainty, where in truth there is none beyond the same? And what is it that cares about these chemicals other than more of the same? Is what is certain for the human animal also true to actuality? We can never know beyond the limited appearances that present to our particular sentience. And this is where the great quality and beauty of faith comes in does it not? That again is something I cannot be certain about, and for all I know, then faith may be an innate quality imbued within humans for reasons that are beyond my ken yet which serve some teleological purpose, perhaps to draw one nearer to the God which created it, or to knowing God as Nature. Self or No-self, God or no God, then as Wittgenstein said “call it a dream, it does not change a thing”.

                      Hariod ❤

                    • I understand, and have briefly experienced, that things are different when Non-self has been actualized. However, this knowledge has not been sufficient for me to achieve freedom regularly or frequently. In the no-man’s land between being asleep and awake, I have lost my way. Life’s worries, duties, and a sense of pointlessness, have sapped my strength and made me crave immediate comfort over long-term freedom. Without purpose and support, I feel I will languish. I am so glad that you are free from this need, Hariod. ❤

                  • Thank you so much Sarah; I have both enjoyed and appreciated chewing on these matters with you, and must thank you for your sincerity, gentleness and candour. And yes, we all are subject to the winds of fortune, or fate, or causes of circumstance, and our obligations can at times seem onerous and perhaps even oppressive in their bearing. These are things that cannot simply be philosophised away, as we chatter to ourselves about knowledge that is yet to sink deeply into our bones, or as we console ourselves with platitudes, and which seems to be the modern way. There is dukkha, and it comes in more than fifty shades, as too there are more than fifty shades to ameliorate it, if only marginally at times.

                    I thank you once again from the heart for your beautiful presence, and as a famous Irishman once used to say, may your God go with you dear Sarah.

                    Hariod ❤

  23. Brilliant — you provide a most satisfying meal to be savored a bite at a time! Moreover, your elegant form of expression renews my faith that the dark age of ignorance has not completely descended yet. Thank you again for these worthy offerings, my friend!

    • Thank you so much for your most welcome and generous words of encouragement, Bob; I truly appreciate it. Your comment jogged my memory that I’d written this, and if I recall correctly I got some mildly hostile response to it at the time, here in the comments. I may repost it — which would be a first, here — as I’ve been so busy and hence unable to write blog posts for a while. Blessings on the day, my friend, and with my love to you and Maizie.

      • It is a wonderfully absorbing experience to ride along with you in your dynamic explorations, my friend, and I thank you again for inviting me along!

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