The elevenfold liberation
by Douglas Harding

Whatever our background, we have all been blunted and shrunk by society into small, limited, perishable things called human beings, separate, lonely, full of all sorts of fear, locked up in the prison of our conditioning.
It seems that various escape routes lie ahead of us, such as hard work, entertainment, shopping, sex, drugs, spirituality. We imagine there's no simple and straightforward release from our prison, but in fact it offers no fewer than eleven wide-open doors to freedom, as we are about to see.

What I need is liberation from guilt and every kind of selfishness and delinquency.

The overriding aim and passion of my adult life has been conscious union with its Source. Yet I seem to get worse all the time instead of better! (Probably what's really happening is that I'm becoming more aware of the ingenious tricks the ego is playing in order secretly to survive and flourish.) Anyway I'm increasingly appalled at Harding's nastiness, if that's the word for it. He'll take some saving! No ordinary rescue bid will do.

What I get is eleven lifelines, eleven distinct liberations, any one of which would be sufficient to haul me to safety.

Such is the loving kindness, the overflowing generosity, the sense of humor, the thoroughness, the sheer prowess of my Source and Centre. It's impossible to exaggerate the combined force of the Eleven, as I find, to my utter astonishment, that already I already am.


1 - I'm boundless

When I point to what I'm looking out of, to my 'Original Face', I find it goes on and on and on endlessly, in all directions - up and down, left and right, in front and behind, with undiminishing energy. Almost as astonishing is the fact I can be this big, this burst-asunder without ever noticing it, let alone valuing it.

To be the super benevolent sub nuclear explosion that's forever would have been liberation enough and to spare. But for good measure there are at least ten more in the pipeline, each eagerly awaiting its turn to pop up!

2 - I'm pure

'Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.' So sings the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament.
The forgiveness of sins is, of course, one of the chief themes of the New Testament. What it's all about, you could say.

In his book Intuitive Awareness, Ajahn Sumedo, who heads Theravada Buddhism in the UK, writes: 'Consciousness is already pure. You don't have to purify it, you don't have to do anything... Our true nature is pure. When we begin to realize and fully trust and appreciate this, we see that this is real. It's not theoretical, abstract or an idea - it's reality... You've always been pure.'
As for myself, I have only to turn my attention round 1800, and look in at What's looking out, to see that it's absolutely uncontaminated and un-contaminatable.

3 - I'm Free

By which I mean spontaneous, unpredictable, at liberty. I don't know - no one knows - what I'll get up to next. Furthermore there are clear signs that creatures of all kinds are as free-range as I am, whether they realize it or not.

For example, I watch the zigzagging flight of the butterfly as it flits from flower to flower, the erratic behavior of the housefly as it darts back and forth on the windowpane or the tabletop, the random gestures of this hand as it waves you welcome or goodbye. God knows what sense or nonsense this pen of mine is about to divulge. Correction: He doesn't know! If He did know He would have shackled me hand and foot. He would have turned the free spirit that I am into a robot, a cybernetic automaton vastly inferior to a housefly.

'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,' says Jesus of Nazareth. And the Tao Te Ching - that ancient Chinese classic - attributes to the enlightened sage the spontaneity of a newborn babe.

But apart from such clarion calls to freedom all the great religions, each in its peculiar tone of voice, teach that true piety is submission to the all-powerful will of God. If slaves and slave drivers have a religion; this is it, this is it. No wonder our churches are empty!

To put the matter crudely, God has changed his mind. And instead of surrounding Himself with servants, He's looking for friends - dear friends who have freely chosen that superb relationship.

4 - I'm One

Not fragmented, all-of-a-piece, whole.
'Tell the mind there is but One', says the Katha Upanishad, 'He who divides the One wanders from death to death.' And the message of all the great Upanishads - those ancient scriptures of India - is that you and I are none other than that strictly indivisible One, the One who heals and wholes us.
How can I make quite sure of this?
Well, I have a wonderful teacher who confirms it absolutely and unceasingly.

Twenty, fifty, a hundred times a day I hear myself saying I AM. 'I AM tired, I AM lonely, I AM very well thank you very much, I AM rather busy, I AM sad, I AM anxious, I AM quite tranquil today' - and so on and on and on endlessly. And as Meister Eckhart points out, only God has the right to say I AM. Which means that essentially and at root I am Him, QED.
The awesome truth is that I can't be without being BEING, without being the Only One Who IS.

5 - I'm Here

When I say that something is located here, what do I mean? How close is it, how handy, how intimate? When I describe something as this something, what are its limits? Where does it start and stop?

It all depends. In the very same breath I can speak of this lung, this country, this group of galaxies. In fact, my this and my here are limitless in their bigness and smallness. I'm infinitely elastic.

And I take this fact seriously. I ask myself WHO it is that at will expands and contracts so effortlessly and smoothly and naturally. What is the true identity of this miracle-worker?

I realize there is only one who fits the bill, and that is the One who is my Source and Centre. This realization isn't an idea for entertaining occasionally: it's an experience for getting the feel of throughout my life.

6 - I'm Now

Similarly, when I say that an event is happening now, what do I mean? How much time (if any) does the present moment bite off and masticate?

Again, it all depends. I hear myself talking so glibly of this lightning flash, this week, this decade, this millennium. The truth is that I'm as capacious of time as from time to time I need to be. And the paradox is that this capaciousness is my mastery of time, and I can enthusiastically endorse the words of Ludwig Wittgenstein 'Death is not an event in life; we do not live to experience death... Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits'.

Let me sum up the whole matter this way: I am the consciousness that observes that it has no beginning, no interruption, no ending, and I shall never die.

7 - I'm Self-Originating

This is the big one, the crux and climax of the Eleven. All the rest is anticlimax: necessary anticlimax no doubt, but downstream of the Source.

Let me outline the Earthly history of the One who 'impossibly', with no help and for no reason, gives birth to Himself before He is, before even Nothing gets going.

(a) In December 1945 an earthenware jar containing 13 leather- bound Gnostic books was accidentally unearthed in Upper Egypt. These books comprised 52 'secret' texts written in Coptic. Probably the monks of a nearby monastery who feared their discovery by the Catholic Church had buried them some fifteen centuries ago.
Among these 'heretical' texts was one attributed to the Barbelo Gnostics. All honor and praise to their anonymous teacher who, not many decades after Jesus' crucifixion, was the first to speak of the Self-originating One.
Quite a number of the later Gnostic texts tell the same story. For instance: The Gospel of the Egyptians: ' This great name of Thine is upon me, O Self-begotten One who art not outside me'. In general, the Gnostics addressed such questions as the meaning of life, where we come from and what we are and where we're going, and the origin and nature of the universe. Though most of them were Christians, they were virtually exterminated by the Catholics well before A.D. 500.

(b) Around 8OO A.D., in the court of the Emperor Charlemagne, the Irish philosopher John Scotus Erigena taught that it isn't WHAT God is that's crucial, but THAT He is.

(c) The famous German philosopher, Leibniz (1646-1716), with his doctrine of the Monad, was of the same opinion.

(d) In 1935 another German philosopher - Martin Heidegger - wrote: 'Why is there anything at all rather than nothing? Obviously this is the first of all questions... Each of us is grazed at least once, perhaps more than once, by the hidden power of this question, even if he is not aware of what is happening.' And he goes on to tell of the Ground of Being that gives rise to this fundamental question. (Introduction to Metaphysics, Yale University Press)

(e) Around the same time Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian philosopher who I've already quoted, wrote that it's not WHAT the universe is that is mystical, but THAT it exists.

(f) Over the last half-century I've shared with many people the wonder of the Self-originating One. Their number runs into at least three figures. No surprise! It's a small part of the realization that's springing up in the most unlikely places and a reason for abounding joy in a world that's short of joy. It's also my end - which means my purpose and my ceasing, my deliberate vanishing in your favor.

8 - I'm Baffled

I'm the One who has no idea of how He gives rise to Himself. Not that his abysmal ignorance worries Him. On the contrary, it's heavenly bliss for sharing with his friends. To know the secret of Self-origination would be to strip it of all its fascination and charm and power, and plunge us headfirst into a hell of everlasting boredom.

9 - I'm All Seers

What is the scorpion, the octopus, the chimp and the young child looking out of, in its own experience?

Certainly not out of a scorpion's face, or an octopus's face (if it has one), or a chimp's face, or my own face as a young child and a grown-up. All creatures who see are looking out of One and the Same Empty Space. Not out of empty-for-empty space but out of empty-for-filling space, space that's vacant accommodation for other faces. This primordial and self-denying Capaciousness is the bright and charming Original Face that Zen Buddhism is all about.

10 - I'm All Sentient Beings

Am I then denied entry into and union with the deaf and dumb, the blind, the creature who's in any way handicapped? Of course not. No sentient being can be without being me, without being BEING ITSELF. In fact it's impossible to overrate the cumulative power of this elevenfold and all-embracing rescue bid.

11 - I'm You

What I'm looking AT is my problem, and What I'm looking OUT OF is its solution. And - paradox of paradoxes! - the real solution is that you, along with all the others, and certainly not myself, are my Cure, the Antidote for my ingrained self-centeredness. Right Here, I Am You!

In the beginning I promised you no fewer than eleven wide-open doors out of the prison of our conditioning, and I've kept my promise. So let's step out into the Open!

More on Doulglas Harding: www.headless.org.
N.B. Some nice movies with Douglas' exercises can be found on: movies.