Last month, we reexamined our desire to awaken and labored to extract from it a practical aim. Student’s responses naturally revolved around repetitive psychological patterns that inhibited their awakening. Some formulated aims around fear, others around inner considering, and others around judgment. Since we normally think of aims as destinations to be reached, we might expect that within a year of work, the fearful would become courageous, the inner considering self-assured, and the judgmental compassionate. When we actually dig down into the roots of our psychology, however, we discover that our deeper psychological habits don’t easily bend. They cannot be changed without unintended consequences. If by some extreme effort the fearful forced themselves to curb fear, they’d not only become courageous but also obstinate and disrespectful. Their conquest of fear will have brought to life a new and equally problematic manifestation. Replacing one form of sleep with another cannot count as awakening. Therefore, the step that follows setting aims invites us to change the way we think of aims. Rather than eliminating the habits that inhibit our awakening, can we transform them into something useful? Can we use our psychology as kindling for the fire of consciousness?
Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. In their imagination, subsequent artists portrayed a hovering hero lighting a torch from the sun, flying back to earth, and stealthily distributing his contraband among humans. But if this were the case, then mankind would have received a very vulnerable gift. A flame — an offspring of Prometheus’ original shoot — would have had to be kept alive permanently lest it be extinguished and forever lost. A storm might easily quell this single flame, or it might die out overnight when it’s guards fell asleep, or it might be stolen from one tribe of humanity to another, or lost in numerous other ways. Mankind would then squander their privilege, and Prometheus — who by now has been eternally punished by Zeus for his trespass — would no longer be in a position to help them. No, Prometheus couldn’t have brought a lighted torch to mankind; he must have imported the knowledge of how to kindle fire through churning.
Churning generates friction. Friction emits heat. Heat ignites kindling. This was the principle disclosed by Prometheus, apparently against the will of Zeus. The ability to generate fire obviously civilized mankind. People could now cook food, warm caves, and light darkness. One interpretation of this legend suggests that Zeus was upset by this trespass because it elevated mankind too close the level of gods. Solar traits should not come under the control of earthly beings. But it’s hard to understand how the ability to kindle fire could place mankind on par with the gods. If mankind were ungodly savages, then the knowledge of kindling fire would have only made them more technologically-advanced, not more godlike. Something else about this revelation ignited the wrath of Zeus, some different application of this scientific principle that didn’t only change people’s lifestyle but also their character, their intelligence, their being.
So how can I use my deeper psychological habits as kindling for the fire of consciousness? I must apply Prometheus’ principle of churning. If I aim to observe rather than eliminate habit, then each time the habit reasserts itself, it reminds me of my aim. I judge, I observe, I judge, I observe, I judge, I observe. Let this back and forth movement last long enough, and my sense of ‘I’ gradually transitions from judgment to the observer. My habit has kindled a transformation; my sleep has reminded me to awaken! Regardless of whether or not Zeus intended humans to experience such transformation, when our sense of self transitions from the many ‘I’s to real ‘I,’ we touch the miraculous and become gods of our micro-cosmos. This could well have been the forbidden gift introduced to mankind by Prometheus, a secret that altered their character, their intelligence, and their being. This is the February labor.
“Sometimes it seems to me,” said Rodney Collin, “that the pill which the sly man swallowed, and gained at once what the others worked for, for years, was ‘things as they are, myself as I am’.” Review your January aim. Can you accept your deeper habits? Can you use them to kindle self observation?