“I” Is Always At the Center
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“I” IS ALWAYS AT THE CENTER
Document: 36, August 19, 1982
Copyright(c) Jan M. Cox, 1982
When a person first encounters This Thing, he has absolutely no basis for understanding what it is. In the beginning — which may be months or even years — everyone still harbors ideas that they picked up in Life: ideas of where this may lead, ideas of some imagined secret reality, of a hidden source fueling This activity. Even though I tell people that, “Everything you know is wrong,” or that “Nothing you have ever thought before is of any use to you in This,” in the beginning it makes no difference. It cannot be heard.
The kinds of writings that are available in Life, and which pass for being some form of This Thing, are nothing more than recountings of people who accidentally stepped in a place for which they were not prepared. Such writings serve a purpose in the ordinary world, but they have nothing to do with what This is about. Nothing available at Life’s commonly-shared level has anything to do with This. It’s a fact, but an absolutely incomprehensible fact for someone meeting This for the first time.
Thus when people first come into contact with This, I do not expect anything of them. In the beginning, there is nothing that can be demanded; and there is, in a very real sense, no one to demand anything of. But after awhile, I do expect something from you. You must begin to See on your own that This is not just a game. There is much, much more to it than just listening to me talk.
For a long time, all the energy that keeps This going has to come from me. As the number of people grows, the energy required grows as well. I become responsible for you in a way that defies words. In a sense, I have to remember you constantly, day and night. I am always on duty. Assuming that you are in the right place, that This is where you belong, then you should sense something I put into words for you once: if your Aim is to do This, then in truth I’m the only friend you have. But I am not your “mystical buddy”; I’m not some kind of super-tolerant strange friend. If you think the way in which I’m the only friend you have is that you can let yourself be “you” in front of me and watch your tongue with everyone else, then you’re still looking in the wrong direction. It may well be true that I’m the only person you ever met who has no imagined complaints with what you take to be “you” — your ordinary, life-produced “I” — but that is simply beside the point. You must begin to See, in a very definite way, that you cannot continue to be you, and do This.
Once a person begins to See, he’s almost left with my being his sole audience. You should be able to Hear as soon as I say it, that you cannot go out in Life and tell someone about This. It doesn’t matter who it is — your best friend, your mother, or your kid brother — you cannot take whatever you have gotten from This and give it to someone — not in words. No one can formulate in words the Aim of This. And those who try, do not know what it is.
For the time being, you may assume that there are three separate aims: The capital “A” Aim of This Thing itself, which is what no one understands until they taste it; the aim of what seems to be the activity of the Few as a group; and any personal aim you may feel you have. The last aim is always open to continual reinterpretation. The next to the last one is open to whatever changing interpretations I make of it, but you must be aware — you must have a tangible sensation — of the fact that without a group of people, This would not be here. I wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be here were there no group. What is possible within and through a group could not be possible with any of you people individually. If for some reason — to make an example — I just stopped all this and moved away somewhere, and one of you found out where I lived, I would not sit around and talk to you about This. It can only happen in a certain context.
The immediate reinterpretation I want you to remember and Consider, is that being among the Few gives you the freedom not to be you. Many of you still have questions about what I mean by “Consider,” or about how I use the term “objective.” The way I use them, they mean almost the same thing. And both terms are almost synonymous with the freedom you have Here not to be you, which is a back door way of saying you cannot be you. But I don’t want to say it that way. I want to say it the way I said it: you have the freedom not to be you.
That kind of freedom, and what I mean by Considering and objectivity, is a freedom from your own expectations. It is the freedom to allow no expectations. In the beginning, it seems that whatever This is, it is something that happens here. It’s something that happens when we’re together, when you’re listening to me talk. But some of you have gotten glimpses of a greater reality. You’ll be talking to someone, at work or at the grocery store, and you’ll find that you are conscious of him but you have no expectations of him; you are not thinking about him. It doesn’t sound like much when I put it into words, but the first time this happens it’s absolutely astounding. It’s the first taste of freedom, a kind of freedom you could never have imagined.
It is not possible for an ordinary person to be objective. And remember, when I speak of “ordinary people” that includes all of you from the Line down. The closest any human under the ordinary control of “I” could come to what I call objectivity, would be complete disinterest. But of course, that’s not quite it. Because if you were completely disinterested, you wouldn’t just be impartial about something — you wouldn’t even know it existed.
This creature that seems to be you, that does your thinking and feeling and reacting for you, cannot be objective. It is built upon prejudice, and that is the only basis upon which it can operate. Just as the body has a prejudice against sticking its hand in a fire or walking in front of a truck, so is the entire system built on prejudice. What you take to be you is nothing but a particular collection of prejudices; it is your likes and dislikes. It is a set of automatic reactions.
As long as we’re just talking about the body, or what passes for “emotions,” even an ordinary person could hear something in what I am saying. But when we move into what seems to be the domain of the intellect, into “thought,” into the realm of what seems to be “I”, there is a universally held belief that everything is somehow different. Line-level consciousness believes that it can be objective, that it is limitless, that it can be expanded. Consciousness assumes that “I” can change. But you have to begin to See very shortly that the belief in easy change is a dream. It’s good only for a laugh, once you See. If “I” could be truly objective it would have the stability to look on something, to participate in something, and allow no expectations. But the entire nervous system — every part of your Life-produced, hard-wired “I”, everything at Line level and below — is built on nothing but prejudice.
There is no distinct line between one’s body, one’s emotions, and one’s thoughts. There is only the gradual process of the nervous system growing throughout your life and the life of man. It is all your nervous system, and you cannot separate one part from another. There are ways I can describe this, things I can have you do, that make it possible to see aspects of yourself which almost seem to work in isolation. But such artificial circumstances are merely to push you to See things in a new way. I give you temporary maps. But once you begin to See, you no longer separate one thing from another. You See that your thoughts and your emotions are absolutely based on the same kind of self-protective prejudice that makes you jerk your hand out of the fire. Then this is no longer just a theory or an “interesting idea”. You See it — and it’s all the same thing.
I am going to give you a temporary map, a new description. The struggle to separate yourself from the mechanical process of the Line, the effort to find the loose wire that reaches above the Line — all this could also be described as the attempt to extract yourself from the center of things. If you ever get a glimpse of that, it is impossible to absolutely forget it. Your Line level system operates on the basis that whatever happens, “I am at the center of it.” This simple fact is as integral and pervasive a part of ordinary existence as water is to a fish, and just as unrecognized. Remember this has nothing to do with everyday notions of spirituality or morality, or with so-called egotism. Such ideas are as much a part of the mechanical transfer of energy required by Life as the behavior they attempt to describe.
If you ever get a glimpse, you will See that absolutely everything that issues from “I” is based on it being at the center of things. Even when “I” formulates what seems, on the face of it, to be some kind of “spiritual” question — “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” “Is there life after death?” — the question is always based on “I” at the center: “I believe…” “I think…” “I feel…” “I am convinced that the only decent, humane, proper, loving, spiritual and meaningful way of looking at this is…” An ordinary person cannot see that if you extract “I” from the center, the answer is right there, contained in the question. It’s the same thing, looked at in different ways. But “I” can’t look in different ways, because “I”, itself, is in the way.
What is required is not simple, direct destruction of “I”, of mechanical Line-level consciousness. Such ideas have been in common use throughout the world’s religions. Man has believed that what you have to do to become “good” is to destroy the “evil” part, to fight and struggle to overcome your selfish, worldly nature. Now I describe the reality of this more properly, and more directly to you. It’s not simply that this little Fred or Mary in you is evil and must be destroyed. It is that there is no Fred or Mary in there. There is nothing to destroy. And on the other hand, neither is there an admirable, a virtuous, Fred or Mary. No matter what Fred or Mary is doing, whether praying or plotting their greatest revenge, it’s not them doing it. Because there is no Fred or Mary.
Someone here told me about a party he went to a short time ago. The substance of the story was that this person discovered a certain ability — the ability to remember where he was. While he was at this party, he found himself remembering things he would ordinarily never have noticed: who had come in and who had gone out; what people had been eating or drinking or who they had been talking to; what kind of cigarettes had been in the ashtray before it was emptied. I’m not going to use much more of this, but there is one thing that the person tried to express in several ways: that he wasn’t trying to do anything out of the ordinary. He just looked around at someone or some thing, and .paremembered all these other things as if they were right there in front of him, without trying to.
Now this is not some kind of parlor trick. That is not the point of this, although there are many pseudo-groups whose members and followers would be enthralled with such an “ability.” Such people have a crude suspicion that, “If I could somehow bring this internal process under control, to where there was great clarity of thought, to where I could remember where I was, and what I saw and heard all the time, or even for a few hours…” If I described something like that, there are people around who would say, “If you can teach me to do that, I’m ready. Where do I sign up?”
When this begins to occur, you See that it is not just a matter of “I remember, I was there.” It is that, “I was there because I remember I was there.” It is, as opposed to ordinary existence, a kind of stability that is not mechanical. In the beginning, many of you feel that what is missing in you is stability, that you are constantly at the mercy of the winds of change pushing you this way and that. But that’s because you can’t See: this thing that seems to be “I” is absolutely stable. It tells you it is not stable because it cannot see its own outlets, much less its source. It cannot see the places where it transfers energy continually, in the same absolutely unchanging, absolutely stable manner.
“I” cannot be changed. It is only once you’re freed from it that you can understand what I’m saying — that Line-level consciousness is not only mechanical stability, it is absolute prison. The taste of freedom, the glimpse of Life from outside the prison walls, is what makes This Thing utterly addictive for the Few. It is the taste of a stability that is not Life-induced, it is the feeling that “I am here, and it’s irrelevant,” or “I am here and I’m not even thinking about being here — and therefore I can remember I’m here. I can remember things that are of no consequence because I was not at the center of it.”
There is a great feeling of strength that comes from this extraordinary kind of remembering; a strength and power that is irrelevant and unnecessary, because it’s not based on personal prejudice. But it’s not the kind of strength your system dreams of in the beginning; it’s not the power to influence people and push them around against their will, or to get rid of all your vices and bad habits, or to become immune to having your feelings hurt. It’s a strength that is incomprehensible to the Line level system. You simply See that everything which operates on the ordinary, mechanical level is irrelevant. Then you understand what I mean by allowing no expectations. You simply no longer have any. And you know what they all are.
The special kind of strength which This Thing requires has nothing to do with the belief that: “If I just knew the Secret, I could push Life around; I would be Superman or Superwoman.” There is a validity to such ideas, but not in the way you believe. Down in the ordinary system, the interpretation would be, “I’ll get what I want. I’ll be invulnerable — people won’t be able to hurt my feelings and make me suffer. I’ll be able to see through walls and read minds…” The belief in this kind of superhuman ability is not all imagination. It’s what all of you started out with, whether you used these words or not. And I could have used such a description: I could have described This as the attempt to become superhuman. But the reality of it is not what you have always imagined.
Ordinary consciousness believes that superhuman ability would be the ability to get its hands into the machinery of Life and change things, or at least guard itself against unwanted change. But some of you should be able to seriously Consider that what would be truly worthwhile would be to reach the point where all such notions are absolutely irrelevant. Then you can be objective about it, and it is not just some mechanical ploy of trying to pretend that “I don’t care.” Ordinary consciousness cannot “not care.” The only things it can “not care” about are those things which, for it, do not exist, things which are forgotten as soon as they are heard or seen. If the system below the Line knows about it, it must care, just as the body must care whether the hand is in the fire or not. It cannot operate on any other basis. It cannot treat things as being irrelevant.
If I could give you some kind of magic pill that would make your ordinary “I” impartial — that would make you objective below the Line — it would not help you. It would in fact kill you; it would disable the mechanism that literally, physically keeps you alive. You must do This Thing for yourself. You must develop the ability to be objective about the mechanical flows of energy that move through you, and through all of Life. But it has nothing to do with some artificial cutting off of the flow, with “I don’t care.” You become objective in the sense that you could go to a movie, or watch the nightly news, and actually learn something from it. When you can do that, you begin to teach yourself. Because when you can truly look at something objectively, you See it for what it is. And whatever mundane thing you look upon, you See Life itself in action. You See it because “you” are no longer at the center of it. That is being superhuman.
Someone asked if it would be possible for religions to function without an enemy, without someone to blame. Try to Consider this: anyone who believes in some kind of god also believes in a devil. And anyone who believes in some kind of good must believe in its opposite, in evil. Nothing can exist on the ordinary level without its own opposite. And the greater the imagined good, the greater must be its opposition. This is not just limited to religion. Nothing in Life could function — be it religion, the laws of physics, the stock market, or pumping gas into your car — absolutely nothing happens without resistance. That is “satan.” It’s just Second Force, and it is absolutely necessary.
Some of you should have begun to have some unusual observations about time. You should have had the opportunity to see how subjective is this thing that seems to be time. I once gave you a description of how changing a pattern of habit produces a “timely jolt.” And I have pointed out that what seems to be “I” — the Line of ordinary consciousness itself — can be seen as being synonymous with time. When you affect one, you have affected the other. I could tell you something like, “If you drink coffee, then for a week don’t drink any coffee until noon.” And it’s not because there’s anything intrinsically beneficial in not drinking coffee until noon, although I’m not saying there’s not. What you should See when you interfere with your ordinary habits in this or any other way, is how it interferes not only with time, but with the ordinary workings of “I” as well. If I were to describe this much further, it could begin to appear obvious and simplistic: “Of course, you take away coffee from someone who’s used to four or five cups a day, and they’re gonna get moody, irritable. I could’ve told you that. It’s obvious. But that would be missing the point. It is not obvious, and it is not simplistic. But that is easy to overlook if you continue to look in the ordinary way.
One of you mentioned and tried to describe, as this person put it, “…some kind of understanding that has occurred from a different place in the mind.” Can any of you Hear that this is what I have been talking about? It is the ability to get oneself out of the center.
The reality of Considering — of being able to look upon someone with no expectations — is not in a book, and neither is it somewhere down the road or in a cave on the other side of the planet. It is closer to you than your own armpit. I might give you a method to help you approach it — a trick to get you started, such as trying not to think about someone when you are dealing with him — but it’s just a trick. It has a purpose — in fact, there are all kinds of purposes — but it’s still a trick. It’s just something to get you rolling. Considering, in the sense I mean, is when you can find that place in you where you can begin to turn back and look at the process going on, which you think is you, and not put your hands on it. That’s what the trickery is all about.
The attempt to follow my descriptions and directions, the effort to make living sense of This that is ordinarily inconceivable, is the process of pulling yourself apart. If you could See, you would See that in everything that passes for being thought or emotion, “I” is always at the center. Without the sensation of “I”, neither thought nor emotion — as you know it — would exist. Even in a question which seems to be as theoretical, as abstract or intellectual or philosophical as possible, an ordinary man always has his “I” at the center. Otherwise, there would be no question. If you get “I” out of the center, you suddenly begin to look upon things as if you do have x-ray vision, because you can See what’s going on. But as long as “I” is at the center of the inquiry, you’ll See nothing and learn nothing. Because “I” is prejudice. It is the expectation, the desire that the answer, the outcome, will be one way or the other.
When you begin to have flashes of objectivity, you will find it unexpectedly enjoyable in a way you never imagined. One of you described it as “a bursting kind of laughter that seems immense and limitless, like an ocean. It is both gentle and powerful, and has nothing to do with anyone or anything.” That is a very proper observation, and many of you are quite familiar with the feeling. After the first few times it happens, you begin to notice something else: “But there also seems to be a dense, heavy cloud that moves in afterwards and seems unshakable.” And so the question becomes, “What can I do about this dense cloud.”
Everyone experiences some form of this. Quite simply, growth and progress and effort do not proceed in a straight line. This Thing is not a linear, sequential process. You begin to have moments wherein you can think in a way you never thought before. You actually begin to experience the reality of Considering things. But then the moment fades away and the rush of new energy is followed by something that seems terrible. It seems like “a dense, heavy cloud” that was never there before has rolled in. All that has happened is that you’re back to your ordinary state. It just seems worse than it ever did before. You’re back to where you’ve been all your life, but now you have some basis for Seeing what it has always been.
“Like a dense, heavy black cloud.” That is the ordinary state of being alive. You just can’t see it, because ordinarily you’re too busy being it. The normal state of consciousness is to be troubled, to worry and suffer. Even good times are limited by the expectation of trouble. You can be happy only so long before you hear that familiar voice: “Something’s wrong. This is not natural. I’m gonna pay for this. Right over the next hill is a dense, black cloud just waiting for me. I can feel it already; I’m nobody’s fool.” And of course, on the ordinary level, that is absolutely correct. You don’t know it, but your main hobby is thinking and suffering over the past, and dreading new heavy, dense black clouds on the horizon.
One common form this ordinary dread can take is the feeling that, “There are some things I just can’t do. I know there are other people who do that stuff all the time, but I just can’t. I would die if I had to do that.” And you have to find out that it’s not true. There is nothing in Life that any ordinary person does that you could not do. You turned out to be what you were, and you ended up here, because you had faulty wiring to start with. You were never completed by Life; you could have been anything. Anyone who is properly here must have had the potential to be anything. And what you should See is that you can be anything — that there is nothing in Life that is foreign to you. And then you find out that it’s all irrelevant. You just go out and do it, whatever it is, and that’s all there is to it.
You must begin to See that you cannot be satisfied with being you. You cannot continue to allow yourself to suffer, to seriously believe that you have personal problems. The bottom line is that you cannot do This and continue to be you. We are not here to simply speculate about “interesting possibilities.” This Thing creates an unnatural magnetic field, and it acts as a shield of freedom. It allows you to not be you. You must all begin to take advantage of this shield, and contribute to it by your own effort to allow no expectations. It seems weird, even dangerous, to ordinary consciousness. But if you belong here, there is nothing dangerous and nothing weird. Except for the fact that it’s all extremely dangerous, and unbelievably weird.