19 The Giant Misunderstanding About Freedom and Self-Responsibility

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By now, we’re starting to catch on to the real nature of reality, which is made up of more than the stuff we can touch and feel. It includes the forms that are created by our opinions and beliefs, our emotions and our attitudes. The stronger and deeper our convictions, the more substantial are the forms that exist in our soul.

Utopia means we get everything we want, how we want it, when we want it, with no self-responsibility.The soul forms we weave from the truth will last forever—they are indestructible. They simultaneously exist in a Spirit World of light, and shower happiness and harmony down upon us. So when we harbor truthful opinions and feelings, we feel lucky.

Untrue convictions and emotions, on the other hand, have a limited shelf life; they only last as long as the distorted attitudes prevail. But the more strongly we hold onto these mistaken and off-target bits, the more of a hit we take in terms of their impact on our lives. They might be “unreal,” but their form can be quite substantial.

So then we’re not making things up when we describe our spiritual path in terms of a landscape: there will be briars and brambles, steep cliffs and billy-goat ledges; the going will sometimes be tedious and treacherous, and the way will be stony. Thankfully, there will also be restful meadows and light-filled expanses that will carry us forward to the next hurdle we must get over.

This isn’t just symbolic; such forms actually exist. They are the sum total of all we think and believe and feel. So it’s our inner reality creating the obstacles, which means that’s where we must grope our way in the dark. That’s where we must do our work.

Our convictions and wrong conclusions about life become more powerful when they slip down into the fog of our unconscious. This actually makes perfect sense, because anything that is out in the light for us to look at, is open for being corrected if it’s not right. So when something happens in life, it might change the way we look at things.

But if we don’t know what conclusion we’ve drawn, we won’t know to reconsider it and possibly change it when we’re exposed to new information. Down there in the dark, it becomes rigid and therefore even less apt to change. It’s not hard to see then how a form created from an untruth could become a serious stumbling block for us. This is why it’s so important to unearth what’s buried in our unconscious.

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There’s one soul form worth talking about specifically, because it exists in each and every one of us to some degree. This form is shaped like an abyss and it’s made completely out of illusion. We could call it then, an “abyss of illusion.” This abyss isn’t real, but it sure seems like it is—until we take the steps to pull off its cloak and show it for what it is—an illusion.

We might feel like we’ve fallen into this abyss when we can’t accept that this is an imperfect world. Or when we can’t, for the life of us, let go of our self-centered self-will. It’s not even that we want something harmful or bad, it’s just that we want to have everything our own way. When we’re caught in this abyss—and we might not have thought of it quite this way before—we are really in fear of not getting our way. Danger: falling rocks ahead.

Of course, this isn’t all of us, but in some part of our life, this odd inner form—this terrifying abyss—exists. And it’s in our best interest to go hunting for it. When we find it, we’ll know the truth of these words.

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The size of this abyss varies for everybody. But whether it’s a crater or a dip, we can dissolve it only by becoming aware of it and then giving ourselves up to it. In other words, we have to look this threat right in the eye and not blink. And then we can start to see that this illusion isn’t really a threat at all.

So let’s say someone doesn’t like us. Or they don’t behave the way we want them to. This, in itself, is not a threat. Likewise, it’s not a disaster to look at ourselves and see that we are, in some way, inadequate. But we won’t actually know this unless and until we find this out for ourselves.

Once we accept that we are in some way inadequate, or accept that the other is, we’ll be able give up our self-will that demands perfection. But before this, it will feel like we are in grave danger if we yield, if we let go, if we give in to this apparent abyss. It feels like we are trapped inside this abyss, and yet the only way out is by letting go and completely falling in.

When we do, we’ll discover that something amazing happens. We don’t crash. We don’t perish. We float. In the moment of feeling the buoyancy of truth, we’ll realize that what made us tense and filled us with anxiety and fear was as big an illusion as this abyss. With this new reality, we’ll be able to now see that nothing truly adverse ever happens to us.

It’s wishful thinking to hope this abyss is going to disappear by itself. The only way for it to vanish is by taking the risk, little by little and then over and over, to plunge into it. Good news: it gets easier every time we do this.

Every time someone does something we don’t agree with, or someone shows up with a fault, or we feel fear about a frustration we’re hard pressed to rationalize away. All these threaten our world of Utopia. We feel our life is at stake if this is not a perfect world. This is the phantom fear we must plunge into because this is the abyss, and we’re teetering on the edge of it. Remember, it’s an abyss built completely out of illusion.

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So if Utopia were real, what would it look like? To the young, immature aspects of the human personality—what we might call the inner child, that part that gets lost in life-or-death struggles—Utopia means we get everything we want, how we want it and when we want it. But wait, there’s more. We also want to have total freedom—with no responsibility. In the childish parts of our beings, this is exactly what we want.

We want there to be this great, all-loving authority who takes care of us and steers our life in the direction of us always getting what we desire. We get to make all the decisions—to call all the shots—and when everything goes well, we get to take credit for it. But if anything bad should ever happen, it should never be our fault. Then we don’t want there to be any connection whatsoever to what we did and how things turned out.

Actually, we get so good at this type of subterfuge, successfully covering up—at least in our own minds—that we are in any way connected to the bad things happening around us, that now it takes a great deal of effort to connect the dots. All this is due to the fact that to the immature parts of ourselves, we wish to make an outer authority responsible for what goes wrong.

Boiling it down, we want freedom without responsibility; we want an indulgent, pampering god who spoils his children. If we can’t find such a god—and of course, we cannot—we call God a monster and turn away from him altogether.

Then we turn around and take our expectations for the god-of-all-goodies and project them onto the people in our lives. Or maybe we’ll put them on a philosophy, or a teacher. It doesn’t matter who or what we hang them on, as long as we don’t have to give them up. This then becomes a basic element of our God-image, which is made up of all the stuff we unconsciously believe to be true about God, but which has no merit.

We each need to search our own souls for how and where this is true for us, that we desire utter freedom without self-responsibility. It might be extreme or it might be wily and indirect. But there is not a single exception, for this exists somewhere in all of us.

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Now surely, if it was possible that we could be free and totally not responsible for anything—that would be Utopia. But alas, it is impossible. We can’t be both free and have no responsibility. To whatever extent we shift responsibility off ourselves and onto someone or something else, to that degree we curtail our own freedom. We enslave ourselves. It’s as simple as that.

We can see how this principle applies to the world of animals. Our pets have no freedom, but they also aren’t responsible for getting their own food and shelter. Wild animals, however, are free—or at least more free—but they are responsible for looking after themselves.

So this law applies wherever we look. It’s in our choice of work as well as our choice of government. The place we’ve overlooked it the most, though, is within our own souls. If we don’t take responsibility to the degree we can, we have to forfeit freedom.

There are immature parts of ourselves that are specifically avoiding making this connection. Our inner child wants one thing—Utopia—but this doesn’t exist; Utopia is an illusion. And the price we must pay for maintaining this illusion is extremely high. The more we try to evade paying fair market price for freedom—in this case, the price is self-responsibility—the higher the toll. This operates according to unavoidable spiritual laws.

Any time we observe a disease in our soul, which then shows up in the body, there has been an evasion of paying a necessary price. We insist on having our way, and we want it to be easy. But in the long run, we pay a higher price for shirking our part.

Part of this price is the enormous waste of energy and effort we put into shoehorning life into meeting our demands. We would shudder if we could see just how much inner emotional energy we waste on this. But if we let go of this illusion, we could be using that energy quite differently.

We’ve become so afraid, though, of taking self-responsibility, our fear of it has become a large part of our abyss. We fear that if we assume self-responsibility, we will fall right in and be swallowed up whole. So we keep straining in the opposite direction, using up precious personal resources.

So now it appears to us that giving up the world of Utopia is paramount to jumping headlong into this abyss. It seems like a huge danger to let go of our demand to always have our way. We stem against this with all the might of our spiritual muscles, leaning away from the edge of the abyss, and using up valuable strength for nothing. We literally fear we’ll be miserable if we have to give up our demand for Utopia.

From this precarious stance, the world becomes hopeless and bleak. We can never be happy because buried in our unconscious is this mistaken concept that happiness requires utter perfection in all ways. But folks, none of this is true. It’s all part of a grand illusion.

Giving up Utopia doesn’t make our world bleak. There’s no reason to despair over letting go of our childish demands for 100% immediate satisfaction. And yet, this is what we’re all afraid of doing. The only way to discover that this is a total illusion is to, first, feel that this exists inside; notice where it shows up in daily life. And in that moment, we need to plug our nose and leap. Otherwise, it will never dissolve.

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Underpinning our unreasonable desire for freedom without taking responsibility is a general misconception about life, and it will be uber-important for us to see this one. It is this: we believe that harm can come to us through the arbitrariness of life, of fate or of the god-of-our-image, or through the ignorance and cruelty of others.

This fear is an illusion—it’s an abyss. And the only reason it exists is because of the way we avoid self-responsibility. For if we don’t want to be responsible for our life, someone else must be.

If we were not tenaciously clinging to our notion of Utopia—where we enjoy complete freedom without taking on a lick of responsibility—we would indeed be independent. We would be the captain of our own ship; we would be the ones—we would be the only ones—creating our happiness and our unhappiness. By seeing how all the inner connections and chain reactions work, we’d have no fear that we could become a victim.

We would be able to link up every unfavorable incident in our lives with some wrong inner attitude—regardless how wrong the other might also have been. But it was never their wrong that affected us, it was only that their wrong may have had an effect on our already existing inner wrong. Once we would see this, we would lose the fear that we are helpless.

We are only helpless because we make ourselves so when we shift responsibility away from ourselves. When we look at things this way, we begin to see the heavy price we pay for insisting on Utopia. We pay every day with our fear.

But in truth, we can’t possibly be harmed by any wrong action or shortcoming of someone else. This is true, no matter how much it may seem otherwise on the surface. But that is not the level at which we find true reality. We must go to the root of things. We must find the forms that we create.

When we refuse to look below the surface, it is because we refuse to let go of our hope that the world of Utopia can be ours. So then we must go on fearing people and their judgments and wrongdoings. We might like to think we are a victim, but that doesn’t make it true. And remaining in this state of mind is a sign that we refuse to accept self-responsibility.

Even in a mass disaster, of which humanity has seen quite a few, some people will be miraculously spared and others will not. We can’t explain this away by claiming coincidence or by saying it was an act of that monster-god-of-our-image who picks favorites and punishes the rest, or who rewards good behavior and throws the remainder into the fire.

God is in each of us. And that divine, godlike part of us regulates things in such a wonderful way that all our wrong attitudes are bound to come to the surface. Some come more strongly at one time or another, but all are eventually going to come up. All our inner errors and wrong attitudes will be activated by the apparent faults and wrong deeds of other people. We’re like tuning forks, with one note from one person making the other one sing. So it stands to reason that if we don’t have errors inside ourselves that resonate, we won’t respond.

As we do this work of self-discovery, when we find the corresponding note in ourselves that is vibrating due to provocation from another, we’ll stop feeling like a victim. So even though a part of us enjoys pointing fingers, it’s a doubtful joy. It makes us weaker and in the end, it is always bound to make us feel more fearful. And this fear keeps us in chains.

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Once we see how everything fits together, we’ll have to come face-to-face with our own inadequacy. But doing so will serve to make us stronger, not weaker; it will set us free. We must train ourselves to follow this road all the way, finding the twanging notes in ourselves instead of blaming others for making noise. Once we locate our own contribution, no matter how faint, and we travel all the way through the unwelcome inner experience, we’ll no longer be afraid of the world.

If we have done this and we still fear the inadequacy of others, we only scratched around the surface. Maybe we unearthed some contributing factor, but we didn’t get the whole nut. By failing to uncover the whole truth, we failed to surface the importance of self-responsibility; because once we saw this, we would naturally no longer want to shy away from it.

What’s more, if we do this work right, we won’t feel guilty about what we find. With the right approach, there’s just no room for that. Guilt, if we boil it down, is really a form of self-pity. We’re saying ‘I can’t help being the way I am, so I must feel guilty for what I can’t help.’ Without such self-pity, we wouldn’t feel the guilt that does nothing but stifle our efforts to find out more about ourselves.

If we’re going to go digging around in our unconscious, we’re going to find dirt. We’ll uncover errors, faults and unpleasant attitudes. But seeing these requires no guilt on our part. These are our inadequacies that we are perfectly capable of facing and owning up to. Life on planet Earth is not Utopia, and we aren’t perfect. This is not a tragedy.

Part and parcel of being a grown-up and making independent decisions is that we are bound to make mistakes. The child in us who still clings to Utopia, however, believes we must always be perfect. To make a mistake is to fall into the abyss. The antidote is to jump in, make a mistake and discover that we float.

It’s the infantile part of us that thinks we will perish. This part must then also think that making independent decisions—ones for which we are responsible—is a major no-no. We need to look long and hard before discounting this in ourselves, as this might be really subtle and very hidden.

So here we are back at the starting gate where we get taken in by this illusion that we must never be inadequate, leading us to reject self-responsibility while continuing to wish to be free and believing we must never err. Out of our fear of making mistakes and our guilt for being inadequate, we make ourselves miserable. And all of this—truly all of this—is based on illusion.

We don’t need to completely dissolve this abyss to feel liberated to a great degree. It’s enough to see and observe its existence and effect on us, and to make some attempts to connect outer happenings with inner errors. Realizing that the world is not arbitrary will free up so much energy that has been running on the useless hamster wheel of fear. As such, we’ll find more creativity streaming forth from our real selves than we ever thought possible.

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Perhaps we’re wondering, ‘Why haven’t I heard of this before? Why has this spiritual teaching been so obscure?’ Well, there’s a very good reason for this. Humanity has needed to reach a certain level of development, particularly in learning to understand and work with duality, before this knowledge could be used in the right way. For if we misunderstand it, we could certainly misuse it. And that could be quite harmful indeed.

If our Lower Self is out masquerading around in our life, we could say to ourselves, “You know, I can be as selfish as I want and who’s to be harmed? My wrong actions only affect me.” Of course, that is not what has been meant here, but which, in itself, seems like a complete contradiction to what has just been said.

On the one hand, we’re saying that someone else’s wrongdoings can’t harm us. And at the same time, we’re saying that if we go ahead and follow the instincts of our Lower Self, we can be harmful to others. But friends, both things are true. And both can be untrue, if taken in the wrong sense. This is one of those apparent paradoxes that we must sit with in meditation so that we can find the truth behind the words. They are not a contradiction.

Here’s another aspect to consider that may help in resolving this apparent paradox. We are aware that the human psyche is made up of various levels, which some call subtle bodies. On whichever level of our being we send out communications to others, on that same level will they respond. So what comes from our real self will interact with the divine, real self of the other. What emanates from our mask will trigger the mask or defenses of the other person.

This means that what’s in the unconscious of one person is always affecting the unconscious of others. For instance, if a person is being reticent and shy, this causes the person they are communicating with to react in kind, even though it may be expressed in a different way. If we’re not being genuine or are acting out of pride, the other will send something similar back our way. But if we’re genuine and spontaneous, we’ll receive this back in response.

This isn’t hard to observe in ourselves if we are willing to tune into less obvious layers of our personality. Then we can compare how what we gave out matched what we got back. If we start doing this, we’ll stop being deceived by appearances. Maybe our shyness is out in the open while another’s is masked over by brashness. But both are coming from the same inner level.

If we can begin to sort out this kind of interaction, we’ll be able to see how it’s possible that we’re never harmed by another person. And yet it would be harmful to go ahead and act out against others by indulging our baser Lower Self instincts. If we keep following these threads and moving along this path, we’ll discover the truth of these words; then our whole life must change.

But we shouldn’t just accept these words intellectually. Rather, we must put them to good practical use, experiencing them in ourselves and in our lives. Then we can work in the proper direction, aligning with our utter resolve to find and live in truth.

Then we’ll know that nothing can come our way that’s not self-produced, and that this is not something to feel ashamed about. Whatever is being out-pictured in our lives, and whatever hard-to-admit inner errors we must see and correct, we can view them as being good and constructive medicine. We’re not victims, and we don’t need to fight to make anyone perfect. Make no bones about it, with these truths, we can set ourselves free.

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Read Original Pathwork® Lecture: #60 The Abyss of Illusion – Freedom & Self-Responsibility

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