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Real life is not by the numbers; it is impossible to “know” and grow at the same time. Yes, one can have a formula for a prescription drug, or a recipe for a good green salad; but there is no system of thought that can stand up to the ever-shifting changes of real life, let alone meet those same changes fearlessly. The self that knows itself through thought can never develop beyond the content of itself, any more than a math equation can suddenly outgrow the pile of figures responsible for its form.
One of the reasons we want to know — in advance — how “to do” certain things, spiritually speaking, is that we want to save time in our spiritual search; we want to “cut to the chase” of how to end the conflict we have in ourselves with others, and arrive at the contentment we’ve imagined; we want to be at peace. Among the many hidden contradictions in approaching the inner quest from such a mindset is the following: the more we try to save time — find the “shortcut” to higher consciousness, the more we actually create and slave beneath the sense of time that drives us through our days, as well as becoming further identified with the level of consciousness that creates the prison of psychological time from which we hope to escape.
The truth is, we can’t know what to do in advance in any given moment. And although we now meet life in exactly this way — that is, with predetermined ideas about how to respond to what unfolds before us — this is not unlike a downhill skier “knowing” when and where he will make his turns before it snows. Add to this idea the fact that whenever ideals or systems of ideas go before us as measuring sticks, they are soon turned into a judge’s bench from which we dispense some form of punishment on anyone (or upon ourselves) for not doing as we think ought to have been done.
Knowledge, regardless of how sophisticated, is a tool. It arises from and belongs to what has passed; it is the past put into a formula. As such it embodies, defines, and relates us to life through what we, or others, have already come to know is true about reality. But real life is not limited to what was; it is always new; it is always now. And while it may bring to light, under law, certain conditions or events that precede its appearance (what we call karma), it is more than just these forms alone…just as a flower in bloom is more than its newly opened petals.
Real life is the expression of living intelligent forces that actively shape whatever they touch, as well as whatever reaches out to touch them. It might be said that each moment appears, as it does — in whatever form or color — hard or soft, dark or light — to teach us about ourselves; and how can we hope to learn what we must from such moments, if we meet them already knowing how they should unfold? No form is free.
And just as one wouldn’t mistake a ladder for being the same as the rooftop upon which he hopes to view the stars, neither should we confuse knowledge for those innermost revelations that can come to us only through self-understanding. This level of genuine self-knowledge is never static; it places no demands on life, therefore it fears nothing that life may reveal; it has nothing whatsoever to do with thoughts, plans, or otherwise imagined purposes. Real self-knowledge, the unshakable ground of enduring peace and security, is born in the union of the present moment with a Presence in us that’s capable of being aware — at once — of what is acting upon it, of what is being acted upon, and what is flowering as a result.