In the song, If I Were Brave, singer Jana Stanfield (4) answers the question, “What would I do today, if I were brave?” with, “If I were brave, I’d walk the razor’s edge.” In the song, If I were brave is a reference to learning to follow our spiritual instincts. The Razor’s edge represents the path we follow while obeying those instincts.
The Implicit Cosmology (1) posits that we inherit a spiritual urge to gain understanding about the nature of reality. This urge is as compelling as our human’s survival instincts, but as a practical matter, it is the human instincts which drive much of our thinking. In practice, we must come to the realization that there is a need to consciously seek progression, as our instincts urge. Even though we are often reminded of the need to follow our spiritual instincts, most of us who do, come to this realization late in life. This essay focuses on the concept of informed regret. The original title was “I Could Have Had a V8.” The intention of this essay is to help you decide before there is need for regret.
Remember the advertisement: “I Could Have Had a V8”? The idea is that you already knew about the good-for-you wonders of the V8 brand drink, but without thinking, you had something else to drink like a less nutritious soda pop. Consider the sense of regret the phrase is intended to evoke.
Focus on the feeling that comes from realizing you have made the wrong decision. Perhaps you just realized you should have bought the blue car, rather than the red one you were driving when you got a speeding ticket. Perhaps you realized that you just said something mean to a friend that can never be taken back.
Try to enter into that consciousness for a moment. It is a sense of lost opportunity. A foolish, perhaps unthinking decision that cannot be undone. Yet, there is the promise to yourself that, next time, you will remember to have a V8!
This is about the emergent feeling that can be found at the edge of your conscious awareness. In contemplation, look between your unconscious and conscious awareness; the region in which your lucidity is developing. That is where, in your mind, those urges to act first emerge.
Here, I wish to evoke that sense of lost opportunity in your spiritual life. Assume for a moment that you have lived your life thus far without stepping onto a path of deliberate spiritual progression. Sure, you have taken a few courses and read a lot of books about things spiritual, but if you have not consciously decided to follow a particular way of learning, perhaps you are really just dabbling.
Everything changes when (if) that moment comes in which you realize that you really are an immortal being. As the implications of that realization sink in, it must become evident that seeking is for your immortal self, and not just to improve this lifetime. The ultimate meaning must come, that what you do now matters the rest of your eternity.
As it Happened for Me
Other than the promise of Santa Clause and tattletale elves my mother claimed were always watching me, my first real brush with a formal system of thought came when my mother made me attend Sunday School. The church’s preacher lived in the house next to ours. My brush with faith abruptly ended when I saw his wife run out of the house, only to have him grab her and literally kick her back in.
Faith quickly gave way to science when I talked my kindergarten teacher into reading books to me on astronomy. It seemed important to know about astronomy if I was to be the first person on the moon. It took me decades to realize that, in many disciplines, science is just another form of faith. Over time, my sense of world order changed to be the convergence of scientific theory with engineering principles. Science became learned speculation for me while engineering became clever application of science.
In 1987, Lisa introduced me to Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). Then in 2000, we assumed leadership of the Association TransCommunication (ATransC) and I became deeply involved with the study of the survival hypothesis.
While I mingled my engineering career with the study of metaphysics, my focus was always on the practical aspects of human potential. Think of it as personal improvement, which is a body-centric pursuit. Even though I studied telepathy, out-of-body travel and such, it never really occurred to me that I was an immortal being only temporarily enjoying the human condition. I was told that very thing by many teachers, but I was told otherwise in hundreds of different ways. Information about my immortality had little effect on my sense of world order.
We published 57 quarterly ATransC NewsJournals through the Spring of 2014. As we developed articles for them, the realization dawned on me that EVP are not just interesting phenomena like ghosts and Astral projection. They represent a kind of revelation about our immortality.
I think the Mindfulness essay I wrote for that last NewsJournal was my “I could have had a V8” moment. I was 71 by then and becoming aware of my physical mortality. Rather than looking for ways to increase my potential as a human, I should have been seeking ways to improve my lucidity by consciously purging lazy beliefs. I had been told, but the warnings were abstractions that had little effect on my sense of order until I realized that the voices in EVP could only have been initiated by immortal personalities.
Humankind Has Been Told Many Times
Here, I want to give you a few references which will help you understand the difference between dabbling along the seeker’s path and purposefully traveling the mindful way.
The Katha Upanishad is a 4,000 years old ancient Hindu Vedic Sanskrit text which explains how the god of death explained the nature of life to a seeker. As explained by Swami Krishnananda, the god of death explained that there are two paths in life from which we must choose: The Good and the Pleasant. (2) below is, first, Panoli’s Sanskrit-to-English translation of lines 1-11-1 and 1-11-2 of the Katha Upanishad, followed by the Swami’s explanation:
The Panoli Translation: Different is (that which is) preferable; and different, indeed, is the pleasurable. These two, serving different purposes, blind man. Good accrues to him who, of these two, chooses the preferable. He who chooses the pleasurable falls from the goal. 1-11-1 Katha Upanishad (3)
Swami’s paraphrase: “There are two things in this world, and people pursue either this or that. These two may be regarded as the path of the pleasant, and the path of the good. Most people choose the former, and not the good. The pleasant is pleasing, but passing, and ends in pain. It is different from the good. But while the good need not necessarily be pleasant, the pleasant is not good.”
Swami’s explanation: Both come to a person, and we are free to choose. But we choose the tinsel because it glitters. An experience seems to be pleasant because of the reaction of our nerves. A condition that is brought about as a result of a reaction is passing, and not being. Lack of discrimination is the reason for choosing pleasure; confusion of mind causes a wrong choice. When you grope in darkness, you fall into the pit, but you know it only after the fall. Similarly, the senseworld is darkness, and sense-objects come to ruin you, but the misguided mind cannot understand this. “Good comes to a person who chooses the good. But he who chooses the pleasant falls short of his aim.”
The Panoli Translation: The preferable and the pleasurable approach man. The intelligent one examines both and separates them. Yea, the intelligent one prefers the preferable to the pleasurable, (whereas) the ignorant one selects the pleasurable for the sake of yoga (attainment of that which is not already possessed) and kshema (the preservation of that which is already in possession). 1-11-2 Katha Upanishad (3)
Swami’s paraphrase: “The dull-witted person chooses the pleasant: he wants to pass the day somehow. He does not know where or how the good is. The hero who is endowed with the power of discrimination, chooses the ultimate good.”
Swami’s explanation: When the pleasant and good come to us, they come together, in a mixed form, so that you cannot understand them. The best example for this is the world itself: you can use it as a passage to eternity, or for your pleasure. Yama (God of death) tested Nachiketas (The Seeker in this Upanishad) in the same way as this world tests us. Temptations come every day, in everything we see. We are caught in them because we are unable to distinguish between right and wrong. We do not know what will happen tomorrow. But our ignorance is so dark that we expect more pleasure, forgetting that death may come any moment. Death is the best teacher; there is not a better one: Understanding dawns by meditation on death. Suppose death comes to you in five minutes. Suppose you know it. What will you do? Will you act as you act now? You will act differently. It is true that we may die any moment. Yet, we do not think of it. Who prevents us from choosing the good? It is lack of understanding, which hides the defective side and shows only the pleasant aspects.
The Razor’s Edge
The second stanza of If I Were Brave by Jana Stanfield, (4) has the words:
If I were brave, I’d walk the razor’s edge,
where fools and dreamers dare to tread.
And never lose faith, even when losing my way.
What step would I take … today, if I were brave?
What would I do today, if I were brave?
The razor’s edge is a phrase also found in the Katha Upanishad.
Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones, for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable, and hard to go by, say the wise. 1-III-14 Katha Upanishad (3)
As taught to me by Paul Twitchell, (5) spiritual seeking requires courage. The best illustration I can give is the first time a person experiences what Twitchell referred to as darshan, a Sanskrit term (darśana) related to coming in sight of a deity or a holy person. In practice, it is experienced when a person undergoes a difficult exit during what is sometimes referred to as an out-of-body or astral projection experience. Some people simply move into that dissociated awareness, but for some, it is like pulling a cork from a wine bottle.
It can be very fearful when a person suddenly enters into such a dissociated state for the first time. An important function of a teacher is to prepare the seeker for this, because if the experiencer’s mostly unconscious mind goes into the “Stranger! Danger!” mode, it may be difficult for the student to be open to future experiences. In effect, a fearful response can cut of further development for this lifetime.
Another example of the dangers of seeking is how difficult it is to remain on the path while managing our human’s instinctual responses to life’s situations. It is said that, even an advanced personality that has chosen to enter into a lifetime for some purpose, is apt to slide into ignorance of the mindful way because of the appealing nature of the physical world.
The mindful way is traveled moment-by-moment. Every action, every decision has the potential of moving us further from understanding. As we progress, our judgment becomes more in tune with the mindful way, but it takes time and there is always the unexpected challenge which might distract us from the way.
What Would You Do?
Taking the question of “What would I do today, if I were brave?” in the context of the first stanza of the song, the answer is that, if I were brave, I would be a seeker. Here, I define a seeker as one who realizes the need to consciously seek spiritual maturity. In the context of the Katha Upanishad, this means to wisely select the spiritual way, rather than seeking fame and wealth. In the context of our current reality, it means to learn to habitually live this lifetime while turning toward opportunities to gain understanding, seeking understanding in all experiences while allowing that understanding to influence our choices.
In ancient times, taking the mindful way may have demanded making a choice between seeking material success and spiritual progression. Our consciousness has changed since then, and we seem more able to find progression without rejecting a prosperous way of life. In our time, this means living the life in a mindful way … wherever life takes us.
While I might judge other people’s actions from a rational living or good citizenship perspective, I am not prepared to judge those actions from the perspective of spiritual seeking. It is clear that we sometimes need difficult experiences to gain important understanding. As Twitchell often noted, a wealthy businessman might well be a spiritual master, as might be the janitor serving his building.
The measure of good rather than pleasure, as discussed in the Katha Upanishad, is not material versus spiritual. It is probably best described as an ethical one. I have written about a personal code of ethics for mindful living. (6) From my experience, by seeking to follow such a code, I find myself also turning toward a more spiritual perspective in my daily living. Mine begins with Seth’s “Do not violate,” which is elaborated on with such ethical principles as respect and judgment. Those are expressed as such ideas as “just because I can, doesn’t mean I should” and “I will not impose my will on others.”
Develop such a code for yourself and then apply it to every aspect of whatever you do in life, be it living in a cave or seeking success in the corporate world. This is at least one version of that V8 drink you can have, should you decide to consciously seek spiritual maturity.
My Learned Point of View
Your mindful way will not look like mine. You live in a different personal reality and have had different experiences which are leading to future experiences which are different from my future experiences. Even so, I can act as a role model for you in the spirit of teach me as I teach you. Here is an overview of the way I have come to deal with my world. You can think of this as what to do, or what not to do, depending on how you view my example.
I should preface this by saying I began dabbling with seeking in my teens, but did not begin seriously considering the reality of my immortality until I was in my early forties. By now, I do have a good sense of the wisdom of lucidity, but have not learned to integrate it so that I can consider myself anything like an adept. I am a role model because of my book learning more than because of my wisdom and spiritual maturity.
A Pragmatic Point of View
Part of writing Your Immortal Self, (7) was finding a way to explain the implications of survival. The most important consequence of survival is that our mind is not in our body. We are an etheric life form which has joined in an entangled relationship with a human body to experience the physical aspect of reality. This has been a gradual realization for me. It has taken many years to even partially integrate the implications into my view of reality.
To become entangled with our human avatar, we are born into this lifetime. Because we share worldview with our human, our first few years are spent populating worldview with learned things from our family community and the media … and learning to cope with our human’s instincts. The result is that we naturally develop a body-centric perspective of reality. We think we are our body, and for most people, we think our body’s urges are our urges.
For many of us, our senior years brings the realization that there is more to us than our body. Even fewer of us consciously become a seeker of greater understanding about our etheric nature. When this happened, the process of changing point of view from body-centric (we are our body) to an immortal self-centric perspective can begin.
The first lesson of the immortal self-centric perspective is that our conscious self is our experiencer and our mostly unconscious mind is our judge. We always experience reality from the perspective of our experiencer as a video camera-like perspective. This is true when we are awake and when we are disassociated as in meditation, dream or delirium.
I say that our mind is mostly unconscious mind because, as judge, it includes our perception and expression functions. The judge uses worldview as a standard to decide if our conscious self will experience incoming information. (8) It also colors how we experience that information by changing it into a familiar form. The result is that we, as conscious self, tend to experience reality as we think it is supposed to be, based on experience … what you have been taught.
Worldview only changes in small increments. The one influence we have on it is our conscious intention to understand the implications of what we think is true. Part of learning to experience reality as it is, rather than as we have been taught, is the long process of examining everything we think. Is it true? Does it make sense? Do we understand the implications of what we think is true? Do we agree with those implications?
When we believe something, it is important that we also believe the implications. What are the consequences of our beliefs; of our actions?
If we are persistent in questioning our beliefs, in time, we develop a clear sense of reality that is more in agreement with its actual nature. The more this is true, the greater our lucidity. That is how we begin to see further into the mysteries of reality. We do not become enlightened beings by wishing it so. We do so by doing the work. We accept responsibility for what we believe to be true and work very hard to align our beliefs with the actual nature of reality. That is the way of the Spiritualist.
- Live your life by engaging with it, rather than avoiding potentially stressful experiences just because they might get your blood pressure up.
We are here to gain understanding about the nature of reality through experience. Some of the most important understanding comes from the most challenging experiences. Think as an immortal self, not as a person living in fear of death. Being killed is not the worst thing that can happen to us.
- At least intend to get a good night’s sleep without cluttering it with a lucid dreaming to do list.
For me, lucid dreaming is a lot of work for little gain. I can make better progress simply by paying attention to life and habitually contemplating daily experiences. Any understanding you think you gain from lucid dreaming is apt to be just your worldview offering bits of memory to answer your requests. There is no way of knowing if your conclusions are the right ones. For me, dream interpretation is a game of stump the chump.
- Never forget the influence of cultural contamination on your experiences.
Experience through your senses and not through those of your teacher. Observe the influence of cultural contamination on the thinking of your friends and opinion setters.
- Be pragmatic. Belief is the safe harbor for those who wish to abdicate their self-determination.
It is not necessary to be sure about the choices you make. There may be many ways to the same end. All you can do is pick the way which seems best and try it out. Living is all about testing what you think is right. That means a good life is one in which a person seeks understanding without preconditions of right and wrong, correct or incorrect. It is not a the last one with all of the toys wins kind of life.
- Accept that stuff happens.
If, in retrospect, you made the wrong choice, admit it, clean up the mess and look for the lessons as you move on. Bad mistakes are the stuff of great life lessons.
- The implication of pragmatic is that it is good to unburden ourselves of those keep in case they are useful fragments of our life.
Our consciousness changes as we gain in understanding. Relics tend to hold us back. Pragmatism means making useful decisions and moving on.
- You are a creator. Take responsibility for your creations.
It is true that we live in a shared venue for learning, but we are ultimately the creator of our reality by the way we react to our circumstances as victim or student. It is not about what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us. Resist being attached to a particular outcome of your creative efforts. Do this by focusing on the basic intent rather than a particular solution.
- Meditation is important, but as a tool, not as a haven.
Undertake a course of action in which you decide to develop a channel to a deep meditative state, whatever that means for you. The Monroe Institute Hemi Sync is a good approach for that. (9) The more familiar that deep state of mental relaxation is to your mind, the more useful it will be as a tool.
- We are all deep-trance mediums.
By that, I mean in those moments in which you pause to think of something, you slip into that deep trance state … and then so quickly back that you do not notice you were disassociated. The more familiar the path to that deep state, the better access to your collective, friends and teachers on the other side. The alpha frequencies of mind are your working level of awareness. Seek to make that part of your waking awareness.
- Learn to think from the perspective of an immortal being temporarily entangled with your human during this lifetime.
This is important! Think about what it means.
- We experience the world based on information that has been translated by our worldview.
This is not a New Age idea. It is solid science that will likely serve your seeking better than any way of meditation. Also, remember that your worldview includes your human’s instincts. Strong emotions such as fear, anger and envy are your human’s reaction. As you learn to understand this, you will find ways to enter into one of these emotional states as needed, but then as quickly return to balance with relatively little discontent.
- The first secret wisdom of the ancient way is balance.
- The second is that the teacher is also the student.
The hidden way is the narrow way which requires suspended judgement to tame the inner judge. Judgement is easy and swift, but once a decision is made, it requires much effort to undo.
- There is no magic, only the influence of organizing principles.
Learn to recognize the fundamental principles governing the operation of reality and to use them in your life. Baseless belief too often appears to be wisdom. Increasing lucidity means increasingly seeing actual reality. Hyperlucidity is thinking we see actual reality, when in fact, we only see what we have been taught to see.
The reason I warn away from gaining wisdom through lucid dreaming, meditation and the help of mediums is that the information must come first to our mostly unconscious mental perception which wants to color it in familiar terms. Thus, the narrow way is followed by testing everything, thereby teaching our perceptual processes to be less judgmental.
- Your mediums, teachers and friends probably do not realize this.
Learn to understand the concept of coloring in mediumship.
- Learn to practice suspended judgment.
It is important to learn from those who have come before. But, while using that information to further your understanding, resist taking it as truth or rejecting it as false. Civilization is based on the teacher-student relationship. Assuming you know more than your teacher denies you of opportunities to learn. As we are told in the Katha Upanishad, find trusted teachers.
Of course, there is always more, but these are some of the lessons I have learned. This does not mean I have learned to follow them, but part of my learning to integrate these lessons is teaching them, so I thank you for being my student and look forward to being yours.
- Butler, Tom. “Implicit Cosmology.” Etheric Studies. 2016. ethericstudies.org/implicit-cosmology/.
- Krishnananda, Swami. “Commentary on the Katha Upanishad.” The Divine Life Society Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, India. swami-krishnananda.org/katha1_0.html.
- Panoli, Vidyavachaspati V. translator. “Katha Upanishad.” Vedanta Spiritual Library. celextel.org/upanishads/krishna_yajur_veda/katha.html.
- Stanfield, Jana. If I Were Brave. 2014. janastanfield.com/2014/09/if-i-were-brave/.
- Twitchell, paul. The Flute of God. First. s.l. : Eckankar, 1969. p. 94. ISBN is for second edition. ISBN-13: 978-1570430329.
- Butler, Tom. “Ethics as a Personal Code for Mindfulness.” Etheric Studies. 2016. ethericstudies.org/code-of-ethics/.
- Butler, Tom. Your Immortal Self, Exploring the Mindful Way. s.l. : AA-EVP Publishing, 2016. ISBN 978-0-9727493-8-1.
- Carpenter, James. First Sight: “A Model and A Theory of Psi.” James Carpenter. 2014. drjimcarpenter.com/about/documents/FirstSightformindfield.pdf.
- Butler, Tom. “The Monroe Way.” Association TransCommunication. 2008. atransc.org/monroe-way/.