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