I love this story, and I long ago used it to illustrate another post, which has little to do with this one. The conversation I mention took place five years and two months ago. Time flies. If you’re interested in that post, Click Here.
Note: If you are reading this from the newsletter I sent out, then you’ll want to check out the Articles as well. I’ve been busily putting up short posts lately and there’s a lot of stuff to at least peek at.
As many of you already know from your own so-called “personal experience,” there is no “personal you” present inside the unit that’s reading this line. Given that you either know this from your own experience, or that you’ve heard it and read it time and again from what you probably consider to be reasonably reliable sources, it might be worth your while to try doing that thing you are told to “never do” in nondual spirituality. Why not pretend that it’s true, at least long enough to ask yourself the following question:
“Hmmm… If there’s no ‘me’ actually here, how in the world am ‘I’ going to wake up? Who is going to wake up if ‘I’ do?” Oops. Have you possibly missed something in the logic loop? I did. For a long time. Let’s look at it.
Who is it that’s hoping to wake up? Do you actually know? You might want to find out who it is that’s been trying and failing to achieve enlightenment–whether it’s an initial awakening that you’ve been looking for or a fresh shot of truth to fan the flames of that stale old experience you had weeks, or months, or years ago, but which you still love to think about and talk about to anyone who’ll listen. (I did that too, by the way.) You know that something profound happened and you know that you learned something really important, but you can no longer quite remember just what that important thing was that you’ve now forgotten.
It’s terribly frustrating, is it not? The agony of NO taste of truth can only be surpassed by NO MORE taste of truth. What I like to say in these instances, or in the similar instance where we report that we “know all this stuff intellectually,” is that when we come to clarity we instantly see that the only thing we were previously missing was the only thing that counts. Enlightenment is all about right now. Only. Ever.
In my case, whatever it is that I Am was breathlessly waiting for Fred to wake up for years–10 long winters and summers of them before I got a break. I’m speaking of my first big glimpse, in 1992. It was short, but deep, and of course incredibly sweet. It would be another 14 years of breathless waiting before it happened again. What might be thought of as the biggest disappointment of all is that Fred never did wake up. Not in 1992, and not in 2006. I woke up, mind you, but Fred didn’t.
I remember one time years ago when I was sitting down to host a little satsang inside a local health food store. This was prior to the discovery that I was going to end up with a near zero local audience for this teaching that I was so sure everyone was hot to hear about. After all, I thought, who didn’t want to live FREE? Pretty much everybody, it turned out. Which works out really nicely since nearly everyone will, in fact, end their lives in the very same condition they started them in, by which I mean deep sleep.
I’m not claiming it was skillful, but I was trying to make an introductory point to the one guy at the table whom I knew hardly at all. “Larry,” I said, “if I ever tell you I’m enlightened, run.”
“Don’t worry, I will!” he promised.
“But if I tell you that I’m not enlightened, I’m lying there as well.” I thought it was a pretty cool opener.
I can see now that it wasn’t a skillful way to open a meeting–perhaps I was just trying to be mystical and mysterious. I was trying to make the no-Fred point, and of course, he completely missed it. He never came back to another satsang either. Come to think of it, the first one was so bad that we never had a second meeting! One person there had been a student of mine for a while, but I never saw any of the others again. My point is that this you-no-you, Fred-no-Fred thing can be slippery.
It’s been proven historically that the easiest way to find out what you are is by first finding out what you are not. The Hindus call it “neti neti,” which means “not this, not that.” The Christians call it “via negativa,” which is Latin for “the negative way.” The discovery of what you are not won’t take you all the way home, but it will at least set you up for it. It’ll get you past the sand traps and “put you on the green” so to speak, and then all that’s left is some highly skilled putting.
To get you familiar with what I’m talking about, let’s take a crack at finding whatever it is that I Am not. Let’s look for “Fred.” Oh, what the hell, let me save you a lot of time and bother. It would be sadistic of me to expect you to go through what I went through in order to find myself blessedly empty-handed. You can’t find “Fred” anywhere.
There isn’t one. Never has been and never will be. Fred is nothing more than a projection, a collective agreement, or a common lie, depending on how you want to look at it. We can easily find the tracks of a Fred, but we can never find the thing itself.
Some of you may remember the old Winnie the Pooh story where Pooh and Piglet go around and around a tree in search of mysterious and furtive Woozles. The number of tracks multiplies rapidly and they become more and more concerned until Christopher Robin points to the fact that the tracks are, in fact, their very own. Christopher Robin plays the role of guru in that story, much like I find myself playing the guru in this one. Oh boy.
I remember speaking at a Unity church one night. When I got through, a woman asked me if I thought there was really a mass awakening going on, and if the world was really in trouble. I curved my arm over my head and pointed down at it. “Madam, if this,” I said in reference to myself, “if this is at the front of the room talking, believe me, the world is in trouble!”
However you choose to look at it, Fred is, in the end, an utter fiction that not only is not, but could not have ever been, and cannot ever come to be. Trust me on this; I looked longer and harder than most of you can imagine.
How is it that whatever it is that I Am can calmly sit here and declare that there is no Fred? Given that there’s only One Thing Going On here, where is there room for an independent entity? I would rest my case here, but many of you would remain unconvinced.
If I am sitting in my big chair in the living room, and a friend walks into the room, unless he is presently awake, he is going to see what he takes to be his friend Fred. In that case, I imagine that he would smile and say hello.
If a burglar, a stranger who was not previously indoctrinated into the Fred myth, came through the same door into the same room, he would not see a Fred. He would likely not smile, nor say hello. No. If the Fred unit is lucky, then the burglar will say something to the effect of, “Holy moley! The owner is home!” and skedaddle at a high rate of speed. If the Fred unit is not so lucky, the burglar might just hit it in the head with a large hammer and then go about trying to find something worth stealing and turning a handsome profit on it. Good luck with that, Stranger-Who-Is-My-Own-Self.
Whatever it is that I Am, I know that there is no Fred with absolutely brilliant clarity and unflinching sureness. But that does not preclude a sense of Fredness, a sense which is being experienced by Awakeness through an apparently operational (and totally lunatic) independent entity. When I say “Awakeness” I refer to the Indescribable Mystery Which I Am that is called by numerous names.
You, however, should you so wish, are welcome to call me Tao or Consciousness, Brahman or Awareness, Oneness or even God– whatever floats your boat. It’s also okay to simply call me Fred if you’re referring to this apparent typist. There’s no point in giving the unit something to take on airs about. However, if you wish to be more exacting in your language, then “Fredness” would be more accurate.
Imagine that a suit of clothes was somehow walking across your yard. You could name it anything you wanted, but it would still be an empty suit of clothes, however animated and magicked-up it might be. If you take a close look at Fredness, you’ll notice that the lights are on, but there’s nobody at home. It’s a reserved coach for Awakeness, a vehicle always at the ready to continue going nowhere while appearing to go somewhere. It’s quite a trick.
Now, just to put a finer point on it, Fredness refers to a series of patterns, many of which are discernible–even at a distance–to other units who think of themselves as being human bodies, and thus assume this unit is one as well. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” They are deeply confused units. Just as you are if you think You are limited to being a single human body. Ridiculous!
Granted, this unit walks, talks, acts and appears to think in an identifiably repetitive manner. Thus the confused units will say, “Oh, look, there’s Fred.” But since there is no Fred here–or anywhere else–what they mean is “Oh, look, there’s Fredness.”
Still, whatever it is that I Am, I certainly have a sense of Fred. It was here prior to Awakening taking on a conscious role through this unit, and it’s still here in post-awakening. It will be here so long as there is a body; it’s just a matter of degree. Christ and Buddha had it. I have it, you’ve got it. It’s a universal malady. And even though you are doing as I advised at the beginning of this post and are considering the possibility that there is no individual you, there is still the relative world to be contended with. It doesn’t disappear, however “far” you have come.
If St. Paul had come up behind Jesus and said, “Hey, Jesus, what’s up?” Jesus would have turned around to answer. He would not have done so because he thought he was confined to being a single human being, but because it was the practical thing to do in the relative world. Awakeness was finding Itself experiencing through the Jesus unit. Without Jesus having at least some subtle identification, the unit’s biology would wither and die, which necessarily would mark the end of the Jesus story.
As Jesus himself once pointed out with his “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” remark about taxes, we can likewise say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Why not? I can pretend that I’ve completely transcended Rome, but if I do, it’s a sure sign that I’m up to my butt in it. Not answering to your name is not a sign that you are awake. Denying the value and everyday relevance of the relative world is denying a big part of nondual spirituality, which is neither enlightened nor helpful.
I recently read a fairly detailed review of my work that was generally quite positive, and I’m certainly not sorry it was published. However, I lost “Enlightenment Points,” whatever those are because I give a damn about the relative you, and about our planet. I plead guilty to those charges and let the “Enlightenment Points” fall where they may. There’s no one here to care.
Here’s a video that addresses the paradox we encounter in regard to the relative and the universal views.
Click HERE to watch it.