The Power of External Knowledge
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THE POWER OF EXTERNAL KNOWLEDGE
Document: 47, November 4, 1982
Copyright (c) Jan M. Cox, 1982
An exquisite little trap for people pursuing This Thing has to do with supposedly correcting your faults. A person may say, “I have a terrible memory and this is a fault of mine — I should be stronger intellectually.” That is no different than saying, “I’m overweight,” or, “My temper is bad.” You can fall into the trap of believing that attempting to correct some apparent fault is an objective effort sanctified by ThisThing. In fact, such attempts will keep you exactly who you apparently are.
But some of you — you know who you are — have already become partially responsible for another kind of memory. Because some of you are beginning to cultivate dangerous little flashes. I’ll have to admit, some of you have already seen the great cosmic significance of a 7-ll store being out of cream filled doughnuts. But seriously — it is a very specific thing for someone to begin seeing and feeling what This Thing is, for themselves. Once you See and can Remember a sufficient amount, all questions about whether you belong here dissolve.
It’s not a matter of suddenly being more conscious. But if you continue here, you will find that you do have to fake it. To milk a little humor from the very human tendency to want to deal in absolutes, I’ll tell you about a little trip I took recently. Five brand new people and one person who has known me for years were about to spend twelve hours in a car together. We were all talking and the new people got the message, without my having to verbalize it, that I’d known this other person a long time. And I implied that they should be able to get some feel for This Thing from being around him. Later on, I got a note from that person who had been here a while. The gist of it was that he understood the funny, human position I had put them all in. He was to spend l2 hours cooped up in a car with five people who had just started here — with all of them having the impression he had ignited the higher areas of his own nervous system. And he wrote, “Thanks a lot.” Do you understand that there was no cynicism in his note? He was saying, “I see what you have done, and I have l2 hours of effort to look forward to.”
The mind wants to define This Thing and to precisely describe the experience of the higher areas of the nervous system. But what we are about here is beyond the mind’s reach. One aspect of the story I just told you is that the person was about to spend l2 hours in a car, in the midst of multiple layers of reality, with five people who very much wanted to know what cannot be told directly.
Real mysticism is not falling on the floor, foaming at the mouth, believing that you see colored vapors or receive secret messages. Everyone tends to imagine that “mysticism” is what humanity has always gossiped about and dreamed about. But to understand real mysticism would be to understand that humanity has always fooled with only the most childish of descriptions. Humanity’s view of mysticism is similar to the old belief, “There are gods looking out for me. At least I hope and pray they are.” Humanity has always known that, whatever mysticism is, it must be very far removed from routine, mundane life. So people have imagined it must have to do with out of the body experiences, hearing voices, or talking with the dead. If you are an ordinary human, that’s all you can imagine that would be absolutely foreign to ordinary life. But real mysticism — well, the real mystery is right here.
This Thing does not criticize people’s ideas of gods. In fact, there comes a time when you must understand how to be truly religious in order to go any further in This Thing. But when that time comes, it is not like whatever you have imagined. It’s not a question of one religion being any better or worse than any other, or of religious ideas being right or wrong. You simply begin to see humanity as spokesmen for a certain type of necessary mechanical energy. All religious ideas originate from a common source: tomorrow is talking about what humanity would be if man were a little more developed — if you had the upper parts of your nervous system ignited.
There is a delightful question tied to exactly what we are trying to do here which you can ask yourself: “What do I actually know?” If you could play Socrates to yourself, the trick would be to ask you, in a non-threatening manner, “What do I know for a fact?”
Try to Neuralize the extreme power of externally acquired knowledge. Notice that you have never thought about this until I mentioned it. Don’t let the ordinary nervous system immediately jump in with an answer; just listen while I describe something.
You and a friend could be out driving and stop at a crossroads where you have not been in years. You’re not sure, but you have a hazy notion that this is the right road. Finally, you ask a guy walking along the sidewalk, “Is this the road to Raleigh?” The guy says, “Oh yeah, just keep going four miles and you’ll see a sign to turn on the Interstate, then it’s direct into Raleigh.” Notice the great difference between that and you merely suspecting you’re on the right road. There is a powerful difference between your own internal guess and the word of an absolute stranger. For someone to tell you, “Yes, you are on the right road,” is much more substantial than anything internal. Externally acquired knowledge wields a power that no one ever analyzes.
Let me carry this beyond what seems to be specific knowledge. Suppose you are walking along the street and you ask someone, “Is that the tallest building in Cleveland?” And the other person says, “As a matter of fact, this building is the largest building this side of New York and east of the Mississippi.” And the two of you continue chit-chatting. The information about the building doesn’t seem to be of any real importance. But there is every likelihood that twenty years from now someone will ask you about the building and, without remembering where you heard it, you’ll say, “That is the tallest building east of the Mississippi and this side of New York.” And you will say it with a certain tone, a certain kind of unanalyzed conviction. And it is knowledge. You never tried to verify it — you never got any measurements on the building or talked to the architect. You never tried to find someone with more reliable information than that friend of yours walking down the street. It is not something you actually know for a fact. Yet it’s the sort of external information that the nervous system at and below the Line requires and sustains.
This is never pointed out in life. But for someone to say, “Yes, that’s the tallest building,” and for you to go, “Is that a fact? I’m glad that’s settled,” is a necessary part of the operations at Line level. And no one ever notices this.
Consider the power that seems to be inherent in externally acquired knowledge. This goes beyond information like which direction is Raleigh or what is the tallest building. Think of news stories you have heard about prisoners of war. A man is captured, held and tortured. After he’s finally released, the press asks him, “All the other prisoners in that camp broke down and confessed to the enemy and participated in a broadcast denouncing America, but you didn’t. They must have tortured you. How did you survive?” And the guy says, “Physically, I almost didn’t make it. But there was one thing that kept me alive, kept me going. I remembered the slogan that used to be on the wall at West Point: ‘It’s better to die an upright American than it is to live as a cowardly dog.'” And everyone understands what he means. As much as an ordinary man can be sincere, he is being sincere. He says, “Whenever they tortured me, that saying would come back and it gave me strength.”
I just made up this as an example. I could make up a proverbial sounding statement to fit any time or place. “It is better to die as an upright Christian, Buddhist, atheist, Jew, Irishman — better to die upholding that standard — than to live as a cowardly dog.” It has a certain ring. Think back to such sayings from whatever religion you’ve been exposed to. Maybe you haven’t been to church in 25 years, but every time you feel as though you are about to die or one of your children is sick, suddenly you remember your prayers from parochial school, a little verse Sister told you, or advice the Rabbi gave. Something comes back to you, and it seems to have special significance; it seems to carry you through moments of hardship. Everyone has experienced some form of this. What I want you to Consider is why these recitations carry such power.
Why are such statements and ideas always from an external source? If they are so real, if they are so significant to the goodness of Man, why can’t an individual man produce them? And an ordinary person cannot. Anything with power in the ordinary world always has an extrinsic source. “It would be better to die as a right-thinking person than be allowed to live as a coward.” That’s not true, if you conceived it yourself. It’s true only when imparted from some external source, whether it be your religion, your father, a plaque on the wall or a book. Now my question to you is: Why?
Within the limits of what I have described for you verbally, it’s an absolute fact that everything you seem to know which has value did not spring from inside, from “in here”. This is true of even those “facts” which seem to be less valuable — like what is the tallest building in Cleveland. If some stranger on the street tells you something, you feel as though, “Aha! Now I know that, beyond question!” There is no knowledge — nothing in this nervous system from the Line of consciousness down — that seems to have any value that you originally thought of. This applies to all information, from the heights of buildings to ideas about the proper way to live and the nature of the gods.
It’s as though you’d been wandering around with a hazy, unfocused photograph of a thought or idea. Then somebody else came along and stuck it in the developing bath and “Pow!” — the image dramatically sharpened. Or maybe you had a suspicion ticket, with a ghost of an idea written on it; then somebody else read it out loud and suddenly your ticket had been validated.
If your nervous system could think every profound thought that could possibly be thought, do you understand that it would not make any difference? You could think everything any of the prophets ever said and that would not change the situation I’m describing. You could spend years thinking everything possible about any subject — say, Asheville: “Asheville is twenty miles from here, try my Asheville, Asheville is like grapefruits, Asheville is down this road.” You could have all the thoughts in the world about Asheville and that still would not have the impact of one person — any person — telling you something about Asheville.
Here’s another scenario. See if you can find a connection. Picture a scene in a movie where a very distinguished looking man in a $500 suit who looks like Mr. Important is standing in some cheap jail cell in the south. A fat deputy comes up, opens the cell and says, “Come on out.” Then he says, “I guess you can leave now, but I don’t want you to ever come around this town again. I don’t care who you think you are just because you’ve got a Cadillac.” And he gives Mr. Important a push.
The reality behind the rest of the movie is that the man in the suit is powerful enough to have the jailer fired. One phone call, and within hours that deputy would find himself without a job. Mr. Important has the power to have the deputy fired or arrested or to have the mortgage on his house foreclosed.
There they stand. Mr. Important looks at the jailer. It can go two ways: one possibility is that he says, “Deputy, you had better pray because you are ruined. By the time I pick up a telephone, you might as well start planning suicide.” And he turns, gets into his Cadillac, and drives off. The other possibility is that Mr. Important just picks up his briefcase and leaves. He doesn’t way a word. He will just get in his car, tell his chauffeur to pour him a drink; then all he has to do is pick up his mobile phone and in a matter of minutes the deputy is finished.
Neuralize the scene and ask yourself, what would he do? And whichever one strikes you, then consider the alternative. I’ve conjured up both scenes. Humanity could operate either way. Let’s say that half the people in the world would play out the first role, and half the other.
The deputy has just finished saying, “You fancy big shots in those cars, you think you can come to a little place like this and speed through and ignore me when I try to stop you. But there are laws in this county.” And the man can turn to him and say, “You better enjoy this because by the time I get out to my car, you are finished.” Or, he can simply, silently, pick up the car phone. In one sense, the second alternative could be described as a man with that kind of power not needing to dirty himself by telling the jailer what he’s planning to do to him. In fact, you could imagine someone like that taking perverse pleasure in saying nothing and simply knowing that an hour later, while he’s on his second drink, the deputy is being fired. It would be a case of, if you have power, you don’t have to flaunt it. Yet, half the people in the world would say something. What I want you to Consider is: Why? What’s afoot here? What energy exchange would lead half the people in the world to play out the first role? Why would at least half of all people be forced to be a mouthpiece for power addressing the powerless? If an elephant is dealing with a cockroach, why would it have to turn around and say, “I’m going to stomp on you.”
Also Neuralize that we are talking about something besides a two bit deputy and a man in a suit. Remember, you must discover the ultimate laboratory in your own nervous system. And Neuralize how this is connected to the first subject I talked about tonight.
I am going to spend the rest of the evening discussing bits and pieces of things people often ask about.
Suppose we decided that the motto here would be, “You cannot be you and do This Thing.” That sounds like it, doesn’t it? But observe that immediately each of you would be saying, “Yeah, very true, there are all kinds of things about me that need to be changed.” I shouldn’t have to tell you that it doesn’t work that way. This nervous system cannot pick up its briefcase, put on its hat and say, “Very good. I will be less pushy. I will try to worry less. That fits, does it not, into my new motto of Do Not Be Myself? I’m working on it.” No, you’re not. You are doing just the opposite. As soon as you say, “I’m trying not to be me, I’m correcting my faults, I’m trying to be a better person,” you’re back in the position of being you, concerned with — what else? — you! I could say, “No, you missed it. What I said was, ‘You cannot be you.'” And you would answer, “I heard what you said and I’m trying not to.”
In order to do This Thing, you have to refrain from hostility of any kind. That includes attempting to correct other people here. If someone tells you that’s the tallest building in the city, and you know it isn’t, keep yourself from correcting him. That, for the time being, is the most beneficial thing you can do because it produces a new possibility. It is a matter of not thinking about the people here — not even yourself. In that sense, you have to internally keep your hands off of each other. And you cannot attempt to help another person here by trying to show them the error of their ways.
Do not try to directly talk about This Thing, what I say, or to quote me or use my words. You can discuss your own observations. That, to say the very least, is proper for any of you who find yourselves together. But do not use my words. Do I have to point out the most obvious danger of that? You can get locked into limited verbal descriptions and cheat yourself out of your own new perceptions. If you are going to talk about your own observations among yourselves, you have to describe them your own way — or don’t describe them.
Someone recently asked me about how people can tell the difference between hallucinations and ordinarily shaped reality. Civilized humanity has a kind of creed — a greater reality — which could be described as a commonly held perception of reality. One way of answering the question would be, “Well, if I am seeing this and nobody else is, it must an hallucination.” If a person continually misses that distinction, someone else will decide that person is hallucinating and they’ll be directed to a mental hospital or a prison. Or, at the very least, such odd perceptions would affect the person socially. They might be continually in conflict with their family, their friends or their employer. What is happening is that their lesser reality conflicts with the greater reality. Everyone’s does to some degree. But when the variation of an individual’s lesser reality from the greater, commonly held, reality reaches a certain point, it is judged to be crazy, criminal or socially unacceptable. That is the ordinary answer to this question.
Yet, if you understood the question, you also understood that the answer is, people cannot tell. Remember I am talking about shadows on the wall. I am talking as if people were people and not walking brain stems with hairpieces. But it seems that people are trying to refrain from letting their lesser reality express too much conflict with the commonly held conception of reality.
How does this apply to the few attempting to do This Thing? They are the only ones who can tell the difference between outright hallucinations and commonly held perceptions of reality. Only people who have begun to ignite the higher areas of the nervous system can see the difference. Then the question is irrelevant because they are freed from the lesser reality and the greater reality. They could be insane and not insane, simultaneously. They know that hallucinations don’t exist and that they do exist, comparing lesser reality to greater reality. From a viewpoint above the Line, you can see both of them for what they are. One is not the opposite of the other; one does not preclude the other. They are just two descriptions of something. And the only people who can see this understand there is no difference.
All of you should have some understanding that talking dissipates energy. You should be able to sense, after talking, a certain kind of fatigue. On the ordinary level, talking doesn’t do anyone any harm, but for someone attempting to do This Thing, it is a loss of energy. In general, talk simply mechanically passes energy along. To just babble on and on is to tire yourself. Nobody knows what they’re talking about, and nobody cares, but that’s not the point. The point is to understand that feeling you have afterwards, to recognize that when you get through you are tired and it’s not like the good tiredness after running. All of you have tasted that wish to back up and undo it after you have mechanically talked on and on. It’s not what you said; it’s what you did. And you can’t go back and wash that .pataste out of your mouth. Talking can be like a gaping wound, where you are losing energy.
You can also lose energy passively. You can lose energy sitting around watching TV, or by mechanically reading. Then you have a feeling of, “Boy, am I tired.” You can feel, “This has very little to do with activating the higher levels of the nervous system.”
Everyone should try to continually “Remember This Thing”. It doesn’t matter how you do it — you can try some trick or task or consider something I said last week — if you can just remember the words, “This Thing”. Doing that serves a quite specific purpose. It is the reality behind the old religious idea of remembering the names of the gods with every breath — a real method. It doesn’t do anything for those who are not attempting to ignite higher areas of the nervous system. But there is a variation of it that is proper for the Few to use in this time and place. A person should, if nothing else, at all times be “Remembering This Thing”. Because you can use that as a method, even when you can’t seem to generate the energy to do anything else. Times when you can’t seem to move — when you feel like you’re in a vat of dark brown jello and can’t tell how to struggle — you can still “Remember This Thing”. I don’t care how. At the minimum, you must do that. This is not just a trick because, once you get to a certain point, I’ll put it to you this way: You can’t forget it so you might as well remember and try to imitate it.
You might as well start to fake it, and that is not meant as a cheap comment. By faking it, you will speed up the process of igniting the nervous system because you are taking energy away from running its normal course. When you remember This Thing, you are diverting energy to that spot where it is needed to remember This Thing. Picture it as a flashing neon sign: “This Thing, This Thing.” And, in conjunction with that image, invite a continual floating, “What is it? What am I doing? What can I do more? Am I doing more? Am I going backwards? Am I going forwards?” But always remember, “This Thing”.
Questions always come up having to do with fear. For the purposes of This Thing, only one kind of fear is real: physical fear. Real fear is that which will keep the organism protected. If you have the sensation that the guy walking down the street toward you is about to mug you, if you’re standing near someone who draws his fist back to hit you, you don’t have to worry about it because within seconds, something will happen. That is real fear. That is proper because the organism has to protect itself. In such circumstances, you don’t have to worry about if and when you’re going to ignite the upper reaches of your nervous system; you have to worry whether you’ve paid off the final mortgage on the old homestead. But anything else — anything that is not a direct immediate response to physical threats to the organism — is not fear.
Remember the rhetorical question, “If I stand aside, where am I going to stand?” An interesting question to ask yourself is, “If I lose all the fake fears, then what am I going to do for fun?” Someone once wrote to me that he even seemed to harbor a fear of losing his fear. Of course, this makes no sense to ordinary consciousness. It’s like telling your nervous system, “We are going to clean you up.” And it says, “Great.” You say, “Ok, here is what we’ll do.” It says, “Naw.” Then it says, “What I really wanted to do was to lose weight.” So, be forewarned. Anything that is nonmechanical, that is not supportive of suffering, engenders fear in that part of you at, and below Line level. A prophet could say to a crowd of people, “Does anyone want to know what it takes to raise your level of consciousness?” And everybody would say, “Yes!” But after he talks, what happens? Ninety percent of the people say, “Naw. You don’t have it. I want to really awaken. I want to learn how to lose weight and keep it off.” The real thing is fearful. Fear of radical growth will drive people to want a new diet instead of new circuitry.
There seems to be a certain lack of nourishment in something after you have done it for a long time. This could apply to a relationship with a lover, a job, some social activity, or that Corvette you bought six months ago. You can vaguely remember how badly you wanted the Corvette, but after a very short time you just get in it and drive and hope it won’t cost you too much in gas or repairs. The car has become simply part of a habitual pattern. There is a reality to this, but it not an excuse for making no effort.
Someone attempting to do This Thing can still use what would seem to be almost a non-nourishing situation. You can apply this to what is popularly called “love”, for example. In the sense of This Thing, you could still use the situation of being involved with somebody, even after it seemed like the fire had gone out. For someone attempting to do This Thing, that is no excuse. To the ordinary nervous system, that seems to be of supreme importance because all of you grew up believing in love and in human goodness and other regular powers out in the ordinary world. The inclination is to say, “I could do a lot more, but the man or woman I’m involved with isn’t interested in This Thing,” or, “I’m just tired of them and they bring me down.” But that is no more excuse than saying, “I’ve got a job I hate. I’m an accountant and I hate being an accountant. I hate all jobs that begin with ‘A’.”
You can always use whatever situation you find yourself in. In a relationship, you can take what at one time seemed to be of great significance between you and your partner and you can still try to focus it. Treat the person as if, “You can do no wrong. If I am in any way critical of you, if I cannot keep from putting my hands on you internally and stop the automatic, internal flow of criticism and hostility toward you, I will do my best to bite my tongue off before I will let it out in words.”
(By the way, as much as there seems to be a great amount of passion and attraction between two people, that hostility is also there at the beginning. It’s back to that old country song, “Love is a hurting thing.” Write that on the wall, put it on a postcard. Those negative feelings were there as part of the original attraction. That’s accepted in the ordinary world, it’s just that you never saw the importance of it. “Part of the reason I guess I love you, looking back on it, was in a way I hated you. Look at all the fights we had. Beat each other up, hurt each other, then we’d always make up and make love all weekend. You know that had to be true love.” That’s ordinary love.)
But you are missing a possibility — a potential powder keg — by not trying to treat another person, especially one you are sexually involved with, as if they could do no wrong. No criticism, never any correction, don’t ask the person to do anything for you. Always make it, “What can I do for you?” It is beyond me having to say much more than this. Just treat the other person, for no reason other than I’m telling you there is great potential value in it, as though he or she absolutely could do no wrong.
It’s not a matter of you putting on an act that is meaningless. You are putting on an act that is meaningless by coming here. You are putting on an act that is meaningless by living out in life. As some of you may suspect, there is no way out, no more excuses. You can’t say, “I would have a higher level of consciousness if I could eat better, but every night it’s cold biscuits.” You have to find out that you can eat a cold biscuit to ignite your higher nervous system on the basis of, “As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing worse than a cold biscuit.” So what could be better.
“Every morning I feel as though I will die if I do not get a cream filled doughnut and that 7-ll store I pass on the way to work consistently does not have them.” You don’t know how lucky you are. Because you know a place that never has them by the time you get there. Do you hear me?