There Is Nothing “Deep” to Know, It Is All on the Surface
The following recordings are from Jan’s final years, when his voice was diminished and he spoke in a low whisper. Some listeners may find these tapes hard to listen to, or difficult to understand. Thus, as another option, read the transcript below.
Otherwise, turn up the volume and enjoy! Those who carefully listened to Jan during this period consider that he spoke plainly and directly to the matter at hand, “pulling out all the stops,” as he understood that these were to be his last messages to his groups, and to posterity.
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Transcript = See Below
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Notes by TK
There is no deep, dark subconscious to be plumbed to achieve awakening. “Know thyself” is the sheerest stupidity in the context of revealing hidden secret mechanisms, forces, karmic debts etc., for one who would awaken. The huge human fascination w/ spiritual questions is a safety valve, a defense to cloud the unbearable truth: there is nothing to know; everything is on the surface in plain sight! (48:42) #3136
Edited by S.A.
An idea that is inherent in people is the belief that they should study themselves, so that they can know themselves. At least as far back as the beginning of written history, men have had the notion that it is their philosophical or spiritual responsibility to study themselves. Consider the Socratic quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Ancient myths frequently suggest that men must study themselves. People from many cultures repeat their myths for thousands of years, because what the myths reflect is that inside man there is an unexplored, dark and dangerous region. The Greeks spoke of Pluto and the idea of an underworld, the precursor of the Christian Hell. The Greeks and others told stories about someone trying to woo a girl that Pluto had his eye on. Pluto would grab the man and drag him, still alive, into the underworld. Horrible things would happen to the man’s mind, to his soul, and he would return to his own world slightly deranged.
Those few people still living in the jungles of South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia, even if they’ve never heard of Freud and psychiatry, have stories and myths that rival the Greek myths—stories about gods who live in an underworld hidden deep in the mysterious regions of their forests or jungles. Those gods, too, are always pulling people into the dark regions and casting spells over them. When the spellbound people return to their villages, they do bad things. They beat up on women, or they try to kill one of their own relatives. In other words, according to those myths, exploring the mind’s mysterious places threatens a person’s sanity.
Nevertheless, in one form or another, all religions teach the idea of plumbing one’s inner depths. The major so-called mystical schools present that notion as a basic necessity, one of the required steps to full self-realization, to achieving enlightenment. These days, Western psychiatry and psychology teach that at least some physical ills can be resolved by a better knowledge of one’s mental operations, particularly the operations that are said to be active below the level of consciousness.
Everything from Buddhism to Freudian psychiatry says that type of self-study is important. The old Vedic, Hindu, and Buddhist idea is that there is a tremendous amount going on in the hidden regions of your mind, and what’s going on is represented by all of the Hindu gods. Those religions teach that your life now is just one of your many lifetimes, and that during previous lifetimes, you’ve collected a great deal of karmic baggage—deep, dark issues that must be pulled out and worked through in this lifetime or in future ones.
Four or five thousand years later, Freud “discovered”—and invented the word for—the subconscious. There is a five-thousand-year history of what is essentially the same idea, no matter what terms people use to describe it, and we all accept it. Psychiatrists would argue that the best way to explore what’s in our subconscious is to talk about it, especially with a trained expert who is charging us good money. Picture a psychiatrist telling his patient, “That work of exploring the subconscious and coming to know yourself can be completed in this lifetime.” The patient asks the psychiatrist to be more specific. The psychiatrist responds, “What sort of financial resources do you have?” It is so reassuring to realize that if a modern man has some fiscal wherewithal, he might look forward to working out those subconscious issues in his current lifetime—if he and the psychiatrist work fast, before the patient’s bank account is depleted.
All of the Western world, and now some parts of Asia, accept the idea of the subconscious. It feels right that we have not only our conscious mental facilities, but also a subconscious part of our mind. Nobody questions that there is a large, dark area somewhere inside our heads, filled with all sorts of things we’ve forgotten, things we don’t want to remember. Some people still like to talk about a soul or a spirit, but most contemporary people accept that there is a deep, dark, complex something below their consciousness where most of the activity in their head takes place. We feel as if there are all sorts of intrigues, stories, histories, memories, forces, and energies down below consciousness, and that we need to find some way to pull them into the light, so that we can study them.
To anybody with an intellectual inclination, the idea that we don’t know ourselves has got to be extremely intriguing and captivating. Philosophy books are filled with references to the importance of knowing yourself. One of the first things Socrates and the other Greeks said was that coming to know yourself is the point of our existence, the most important thing a man can do. Some religious people believe that the whole point of having a soul is to know oneself. Many of the early sects in Christianity said that God created man and gave him a consciousness so that he could perform his spiritual duty, which was to learn about himself. Through understanding himself, these sects said, man would come to appreciate God.
The idea that we don’t know ourselves, and that we should, is felt by every normal person on this planet. Ask anybody, “Do ever think that even though you are you, and you’ve been you for your entire life, you don’t actually know yourself completely?” Everybody will agree with that statement. People have an instinctive awareness that they’re not even close to knowing themselves, and they feel that there’s a whole other world going on inside their head all the time. That’s one of the reasons why people try to analyze dreams. They think, “Something is in there, and it’s me, and yet I don’t really know what that something is. I should be studying myself.” Not physically. They’re not thinking about indigestion, or a sore throat, or liver problems. They’re thinking about the spiritual, the intangible, the conscious and subconscious side of themselves.
Some so-called definitions of being asleep say that you’re only asleep because you’re not fully knowledgeable of yourself. If you knew you, those definitions claim, you would know what is churning inside you that suddenly flares up and makes you think and say and do stupid things. That feeling is truly instinctive, because it is written about and talked about in every known culture from one end of this planet to the other. The term, “know thyself,” covers this.
A feeling that is so natural that it’s not talked about much in ordinary life is that when people are daydreaming, rambling along on automatic, there is something akin to a quite complex and active cauldron boiling away in their heads, with all kinds of ideas bubbling up—little snatches of dialogue, or pictures flashing past. It seems from an ordinary introspective view, an ordinary consciousness, that inside their heads is a very complex—I can certainly come up with a synonym for “cauldron,” but that word fits. This is so much a part of the human condition that, throughout their lives, people do not have real awareness of what they’re doing. People trying to become more enlightened may look into their own skull as though it were a cauldron. They might realize that they can’t control what is bubbling and churning in the cauldron. They might think that being awake, being enlightened, would be a state in which either the cauldron had stopped churning, or they had some sort of control over it. “I don’t want to keep operating as though I’m a marionette, or a ventriloquist’s dummy, and something down in me is doing all this.”
You, too, may have had the sensation of witnessing a seething cauldron in your head, full of things you’re just barely aware of, as if you were staring at a big pot of stew and seeing bubbles rise to the surface. Perhaps the bubbles burst and let out rank odors, and you wonder, “What’s going on down there that causes me to be so asleep, so unenlightened?”
That is far too childish a version of what is going on, and you can feel that for yourself. Perhaps you are struggling to be more awake, but you have just caught yourself engaged for the hundredth time in some stupid act, such as making an ill-conceived—which means non-conceived—comment to someone. Let us say that you have been reprimanded for your comment, and that now you are, in a sense, licking your mystic wounds. You are marveling shamefacedly at how repetitious you can be, continually saying regrettable things to other people, and acting in stupid ways that you know can prove harmful to yourself. You are thinking, “Why do I do this? I know better. I have resolved to think before I speak, to always observe my own mind at work, so that I’m aware of what’s going on. Then, in a flash, I’m carried away before I can even recall my goal of being more conscious.”
No one knows why you operate the way you do. When somebody asks why you did something stupid, you don’t know. That’s true about everything you do, other than providing your physical body the food, water, shelter, and sleep that it needs in order to survive. If somebody asks you why you did anything else, you don’t know. Nobody knows. “Why did you say that?” “Why did you do that?” You don’t know. You don’t. That doesn’t mean, of course, that people won’t answer the question, but the closest you might get to what it’s really about is, “I enjoyed it,” or “I thought it would entertain me.”
You come home after doing something foolish, and your mama says, “Look at you. You’ve got a broken leg, a bloody nose, and the police just let you out of jail. Why did you go to that wild party?” You reply, “I thought I’d have fun.”
Back to my main topic, the belief that there are things hidden inside you. We’re talking about mental and emotional things, memories that you can’t bear to remember, which makes them part of what you think of as your subconscious. Your belief in those things is the absolute dumbest thing that surely any human has ever believed in his life. The only things going on inside you that you don’t know about are all physical. You don’t need to know about those physical things, the operations going on in your liver or your pancreas. You’re better off not knowing, unless something’s gone wrong.
If you feel as if there are all sorts of things going on inside you that you need to know about, that is dumb. I assume you know what I mean by “dumb.” That it’s not true—but that way of saying it is so weak, to say something is “not true,” I thought at least I’d say, “dumb.” Except if you look out from your ordinary mind, me saying “that’s dumb” is really dumb, because if any ordinary person realized that my point was that there is nothing to know about the intangible stuff going on inside you, and that it is dumb to believe there is something to know, the ordinary person would think, “That’s the dumbest idea I ever heard!” It doesn’t seem open to question that there’s all this stuff going on inside them and hidden from their view.
You may look down into the cauldron of your mind and feel, “There’s a whole underworld in me. The answers to all of my stupidity, all of my prejudices, my ignorance, my hatreds—those answers are right there beneath the surface.” I’ve got to say again, even though “dumb” doesn’t cover it, that has got to be the dumbest comment in the world. That comment is like somebody looking down and saying, “You know, the most important thing you could do in life is get some feet.” The comment is that dumb. There’s not really anything I can explain to you beyond that. There is no twenty-minute follow-up. About as badly as I want anything, I want to convey this, to get you to feel it. Because this understanding alone would lead you to everything that you want to know.
You can’t stop that instinctive feeling. In your ordinary state of consciousness, you will not doubt that the feeling is true—that there is a huge area of the mind’s forest that is forbidden, and inside are hidden all sorts of haints and ghosties and gremlins of a psychological or a spiritual nature. Those memories must be horrible, since you can’t even remember them.
Don’t ever say that humans don’t make progress, because the concept of repressed memories was thought up in our lifetimes, and nobody ever said, “Talk about an oxymoron!” We now accept the idea that we have many, many memories that we can’t remember but we need to remember in order to heal ourselves, which is just part of the benefit of knowing ourselves. I’m telling you once again, that is the dumbest thing a human ever thought.
You may never have thought about this, because at least ninety-nine percent of your consciousness has no doubt that there is a whole world continually active in your subconscious. Look at this now with your instinctive feeling of, “Man, there’s all that stuff in there,” and then try and hear me whispering in your ear, “That is the dumbest thing that’s ever been said!” When you remember me saying that, in essence you’ll have stopped thought while you try to undertake your observation. Whenever that happens, a built-in safety mechanism kicks in.
There is a safety switch, a safety mechanism, built into consciousness, and trying to wake up is trying to disable the safety switch. Waking up, achieving the Great Liberation, all of that, is simply disabling the safety mechanism in order to keep from going gaga when you approach enlightenment. I propose to you that disabling the mind’s built-in safety mechanism is what waking up, what being enlightened, is.
Four thousand years ago, people were writing about that safety mechanism. Commonly, what happens when the safety switch kicks in, is that people just go back to sleep, so to speak. They’re struggling to observe what’s going on, and at some point, they feel, “Wow! I’m about to get it!” Suddenly, something going on in their mind distracts them. Some very ordinary association instantly pulls them back to what the mystics would call a sleeping state of consciousness. Many people simply give up after a number of years. They may decide, “I’ve picked the wrong system. I’ve picked the wrong guru. Maybe the whole thing is a hoax,” and they stop trying. Other people respond to the safety mechanism as if they’re beginning to lose their mind, and that scares them into stopping before they ever reach the edge.
Here’s what I mean by “the edge.” I had a mental picture years ago that I highly recommend to you. Imagine you’re in a science fiction movie. You’re in a spaceship, walking toward the window in front of the captain’s chair. When you get there, you look out at the infinite realms of space. Now, take away the stars. Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon, and gone up to the edge of that precipice and looked straight down? You can see clear to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But in your mental picture, you have walked up to the edge of our reality. You can tell that you are looking into space, but with no little twinkling stars to distract you or give you any sense of depth. It’s just pitch black out there, absolute infinity with no associations, and it’s lovely, and you know that you are at the edge. It’s not the edge of the universe, obviously, but the edge of consciousness. You’ve gotten there. That’s what should hit you when you have that feeling that there are all sorts of things in you that you should know about.
Your mental safety switch prevents you from getting your toes right up to the edge, and won’t even let you get close. Consciousness simply will not let itself move up to the edge of itself, which is what the picture I just described is about. Where consciousness is created, there is a built-in safety switch that makes people feel as if they’re going crazy when they get too close to the edge. I still get email and letters from people who say that they’ve been trying to wake up, or been studying some system, and that sometimes they feel as if they’re getting so spaced out that they’re frightened. That’s the safety switch in action.
Let’s say you’ve managed to bypass the safety mechanism, and now you’re near the edge. You’re about to realize what all of this is about. The answer to everything is going to be right there. If you can get up to the edge and look, you’ll finally see the answer. You know you’re ready, so you boldly stride to the very edge. You peer out—and there’s nothing!
I still remember the first time that picture hit me. I’d spent years and years and years studying this and studying that, and each time, I would think, this is being awake! All right, now this is it! Wait—now I’ve really got it! Then, when I saw this scene, it was as if I were standing at the edge of the abyss, of eternity, of infinity. I was standing there, and it was pitch black, and my toes were at the edge of reality, which is the edge of the mind—and I saw nothing!
There is nothing there. If it were there, you’d think of it. If it were there, you’d remember it right now. The safety switch kicks in, and you quit looking at all that nothing, and fall back into the cauldron. Then stuff appears to be there, because your consciousness is there, away from the edge, down inside the cauldron.
I can’t preach a sermon on this. There’s nothing more to say. I’m giving you my best suggestion, since I can’t force you to see this, and I don’t even know how to say much about it. I don’t know how to convince you it’s true, because your mind instinctively feels it’s not true. You’re in the midst of a living paradox, a non-sequiter, a lie.
People don’t study themselves, because if they could, they’d get to the edge and find out that there’s nothing there. Tut, tut. In other words, the only people who believe that they don’t know themselves—you can fill in the rest, I’m sure. If you could see that trying to know yourself was the dumbest thing in the world, that would wake you up. That’s the punch line.
Jan’s Daily Fresh Real News (to accompany this talk)
IN PRISON: 2 + 2 = WHATEVER MIND WANTS IT TO AT THE MOMENT
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Escapee’s Authentic Math
APRIL 19, 2004 © 2004: JAN COX
To a son said a father:
“Take another stripped down look at that matter of interest to us:
man’s unique feature (and at the core of said matter) thoughts — do two things:
convey information and tell stories;
the first always concerns material matters, and is ultimately (if indirectly)
related to survival,
while the second is entirely about things which have no physical reality,
and is meant to merely entertain:
I describe the latter thus (and with validity) but many of the stories man’s mind tells,
he subsequently takes seriously, indeed, often as much so as he does the former — so: a relatively simple, thought definitive response to the question:
What is: being-asleep; living-in-a-dream — in the dark — in captivity? —
it is: Taking any story seriously.
Obvious from experience: information is often critical and to be taken seriously,
in that (regarding your health for instance) it can spell the difference between
surviving and perishing, but the best that can be said for ordinary men taking seriously the stories their minds tell which have no connection to one’s physical welfare is that
they seem to comfort him psychologically (which is to say):
the stories can soothe disturbing thoughts (a ready example would be:
stories of an afterlife salving his mental fear of death).
Quite a situation: thoughts produce fears that man would not have otherwise,
then they conjure up stories to help allay the fears,
and from this perspective it is clear that for this to work, man cannot be allowed to see the stories for what they are: invented-tales,
but must take them seriously, or else the whole affair is futile.
Some stories men take simply as entertainment (the fictional ones in books
and movies, though, the more civilized a man becomes [that is: the more thought-centered is his life] the more does he subtly suspect non fictional, metaphorical significance to his mind’s stories),
but others he puts in a special, un-analyzed category: Stories that are real:
fiction that somehow gives actual information;
stories which trigger in his mind, agreeable thoughts — which he takes seriously.
Son, if you expect to ever personally get to the bottom of this matter we discuss,
you do yourself good to see as soon and consistently as possible
the simple, indisputable and non prejudicial fact that:
There is no information about anything other than physical objects;
if what you are thinking and talking about has no physical reality
then there is no such thing as: information about it:
it is a story and perforce: anything said about it is likewise story telling;
there is no such thing as actual information about the construction of
Cinderella’s carriage, or King Arthur’s round table.
To be asleep and dreaming (that is: to be in man’s normal state of consciousness)
is to be taking stories seriously:
there in a dozen words or so is a comprehensive diagnosis of what has been
bugging you ever since you began to take thoughts seriously:
there’s your solution in a gnat’s thimble:
The way to stay out of a dream is to not take any story seriously.”
“Except for one?”
__ __ __
In the trough of publicly available ideas it’s always a matter of:
“Buy One — Get Another Free.”
There are those who continue to insist there’s a difference between man’s brain,
and his mind, or spirit,
yet these same people do not doubt their kidneys when they pee.
Objects mean nothing apart from what they do;
boulders can just sit there, or boulders can fall on you;
one part of the brain regulates urine;
another part tells stories.
To be more conscious than the norm is to not allow stories to fall on you.
Another version of: A Creation Myth.
Before man was fully formed (that is: prior to him having thoughts)
all was not merely: “dark and chaotic” — all was obvious! —
and that obviously wouldn’t do because (and you can take it from there.)
On one planet their economy (and thus their lives) depends on twin currencies:
one which everyone sees and handles,
and another which is invisible and no one has ever touched;
yet both are needed for the lives the inhabitants have come to expect.
You can’t have a bacon and grail sandwich without both bacon and grail.
(“Hell! — everyone understands that — right?! —
I mean: any sane person understands fully what that sentence says — right?!”)
“You have terrible credit.”
“I have no credit.”
“That’s even worse.”
“May be — except for the possibility that it might be better.”
Q: Why are birds never overweight?
A: They don’t eat the air.
(“I assume this is totally an allegory of some sort?!”)
The real-deal-man should buy only what he needs.
(Additional Note: Only such a man grasps what: needs means.
“Yeah — but it sure is easy to forget when you’re having fun.”
Your thoughts being entertained, you mean?
One day after a mildly disturbing episode, one man’s cells said to him:
“Everything we have ever done has been on your behalf — except for that one time.”
There is no short-cut to seeing what is going on — only a direct cut.
Wall, oh wall on the wall,
who’s the pointiest blank of all?
Man’s common reflection will not speak to him if he is looking right at it.
To himself, one man said: “Being alive has taught me many things —
but not enough to make me want to stay here.”
The true traveler has but one role model: All the overlooked bits of his thinking.
Everyone suffers kidney damage who tries to pee through their frontal lobes.
Says one man:
“There’s hope for everyone — not much — but some………………………..(I guess).”
Man’s thoughts are so tied to his feet that even an astronomer’s universe
is no larger than his aching bunion.
Only those who actually want to think are prepared to do so beyond the bounds of collective propriety and normal shoe sizes.
Theology, Physiology and Narratives.
Matter To Be Diagnosed: What does a liver believe?
Though not usually realized by the pursuers:
wanting to wake-up, achieve enlightenment; be liberated are all attempts to move
the practice of story telling to a part of the mind other than where it originates;
to either sit the Flying Dutchman onto an actual sea,
or else be completely clear about its native fictional setting.
Everybody wants to wise up — the dumb thing is:
everyone believes they have.