[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next]

Re: Slay the Slayer - or make friends? (etc)

Aug 31, 1996 04:12 AM
by Murray Stentiford

[I sent this a day or so ago to theos-l under a different subject heading,
and would like to beg the indulgence of theos-news subscribers who have
already seen it there.]

Keith wrote a few days ago

>The first page has the interesting injuction:  "The Mind is the Slayer of
>the Real.  Let the Disciple slay the Slayer." - HPB
>All that capitalization implies personification or divinity or both.

Or maybe principles that generalise what each individual goes through.
Milestones in the core curriculum, so to speak.

>"Kill thy desires ... strangle thy sins ... kill in thyself all memory of
>past experiences." - HPB
>Isn't this a little violent?  This self-abuse and flagellation of the
>products of consciousness can be seen in poetic or allegorcial, yet it
>still seems a little morbid to the modern mind.

I'd agree completely. Taken literally, the result could quite possibly be
worse than the desires you're trying to kill. Are we really being called to
engage in violence? In not-love? I think not.

It's got to be all in the understanding of what those words are pointing to,
given that they are already in a language that is foreign to the environment
these aphorisms grew out of, and is not well equipped for the job at that.

>The modern view is to sit down with your desires and sins and have a nice
>chat.  They are only archetypes and like members of a dysfuctional family
>can "recover" and enter into more harmonious relationships.  Is this
>ascetism necessary?  I hate to harp on the theme of misguided purity, but
>hating your sins? Hate seems to breed hate and focusing on sins would only
>make them have more power, in today's lingo.  Transform the base into gold
>maybe as in the alchemical mode.  Couldn't these senses and sins be
>harnassed for some higher purpose/
>I think she probably has somthing more subtle in mind of course, but she
>does insist on KILL, KILL, KILL past hope of resurrection all our little
>human frailites etc.  What an order!   I can't go through with it!  I am
>glad I have seven lives to go.  (Cheshire grin:)

Good on you, Keith. A bit of a smile can dissipate an otherwise grim
prospect! And lead us nearer the truth as well, I'd bet.

This all reminds me of something Geoffrey Hodson used to say, that whenever
you come across violence or obscenity in ancient scriptures, it's often a
hint to go beneath the surface and look at a deeper level. A breaking point
for the shell of intellect, not unlike a Zen koan.

We could start digging with desire. Think of the quality as well as the
end-goal of the following which can all come within the scope of the word
"desire" in ordinary useage:=

1   To get money from somebody else to buy more drugs, to the extent that
you don't care if you club them senseless in the process.
2   To have more drugs so as to experience relief from life or withdrawal
symptoms, or to change your mind state.
3   To want to be in love, more than loving the specific person.
4   To protect the people in your family.
5   To be creative and experience creativity.
6   To wield power over others.
7   To do a job well.
8   To be loved and liked by others.
9   To help in building something for your community.
10  To feel the power of sexual experience coursing through you.
11  To experience union with the divine.
12  To rescue all living beings from the illusion and pain of life.

So when we think of killing out desires, do we mean ALL of these? If so,
we'd knock the motivation for the Bodhisattva vow out of the running, for
one. There's clearly a vast spectrum of kinds of desire. Some are negative,
dark small and destructive, and others are positive, light-filled,
wide-ranging and nurturing in their effect.

Another factor is, who or what is doing the desiring? Psychogenesis has a
very powerful explanatory or at least descriptive value, here. Your fragment
of the universal consciousness is temporarily trapped in states such as "I
really want a cigarette", while they last. On the other hand, the focal
point of "your" consciousness can shift and widen immeasurably when you are
resting in a beautiful natural environment and begin to feel at peace, and
one with, all that is around you. Likewise with meditation.

This trapping is typical of addiction in all its forms, even to little
things which are normally never called addiction, and are what I believe the
word "attachment" is referring to, in yogic and other texts.

Now, what about "killing"? Surely there are skilful means for ending our
thralldom, and they must be underpinned by love taken in a wide sense, ie a
deep understanding of the life-manifestations that make up a human being,
coupled with a life-nurturing attitude and feeling. This is not the same
thing as pandering to all the impulses that might arise, but is a healing,
unifying, harmonising thing. If it seems to come from outside yourself, like
grace, as it often does in the beginning, that's OK; it's just a matter of
where the centre of your awareness or point of identification is for the
time being.

These means might need to include some very practical things such as taking
part in an anger-management support group, or therapy to modify abusive
behaviour patterns, because it seems that addictions and ingrained
destructive patterns involve the most material aspects of our makeup. An
example is the way that drugs alter brain cell receptor sites so that we
physically crave the drug. Consciousness, or the I focus, can be imagined as
being embedded in the complex of feelings, behaviours and attitudes that are
this multi-level trap or funnel that we can't get out of for the time being.
In theosophical terms, addiction structures manifest at physical, etheric,
astral and mental levels. I'm generalising here, and it would be interesting
to go into this in more depth.

There are other ways we can mobilise energy within ourselves, or invoke it
from "above", in our search for emancipation. And, having made a case for
love above, I have to say there ARE times when a strong "no" or current of
applied energy, are just the right thing to dissipate a recalcitrant
formation, in yourself or in your children. This isn't necessarily killing
anything, or even doing violence, but rather rearrangement and
transmutation, matching the amount of energy to the resistance.

Have pity on the poor stuff you are made of! It could be quite a release for
the elemental substance in your vehicles from pathological structures and
states that you have subscribed to for years, if not lives, as well as for
you yourself!

So I'm not saying to love yourself in the usual meaning of that phrase, but
rather something more all-encompassing and life-affirming.

I was putting my mind back, fancifully, to the time when something like
"Kill out desire." was first said to a pupil, and it struck me it probably
had a lot of surprise value in the context that killing was something that
people did readily to others, but never dreamed of doing to something inside
themselves. The liberating power of surprise, again like a koan.

A thought on strangling your sins. First, as many of us will know, the word
"sin" meant originally a falling short of the mark, but a clear and likely
meaning for this (to me) is based on the observation that where attention
goes, energy flows. If attention, ie the focal point of our consciousness,
is withdrawn from a complex, a major source of energy for sustaining it will
be cut off - strangled, so to speak. Not done with violent intent. It's
rather like Patanjali's admonition to "think on the opposite".

Re the memory bit, in Keith's quotation above, one of the characteristics of
"spiritual" awareness is the transcendence of memory, for instance seeing
everything as if it were new, even if you've seen it every day of your life.
So what dies here, would be the ability of memory to trap your
consciousness. Hmmm. Interesting stuff.

Well, that's about enough for now. I can't help feeling that it's easy to
forget that our mystical traditions are based very firmly in ordinary
reality (whatever meanings you like, for that), and relate to real things in
the field of consciousness of ordinary people. A bit of mystique and
obscurity almost inevitably spring up when the time, or the level of insight
are far from where we perceive ourselves to be.

After all, one of the main things about theosophy, as a human endeavour and
capacity, is gnosis - the coming, unfolding ability to KNOW for ourselves.
Our beloved ancient texts are maps of the way to that place.

Member TI and the TS in NZ

[Back to Top]

Theosophy World: Dedicated to the Theosophical Philosophy and its Practical Application