Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of May 24, 2010

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World 7: Delusion

(Part of the series Worlds of the Spirit)

We think of ourselves as free. But there are forms of inner slavery to which we voluntarily and habitually succumb. When we hand over the reins of our inner experience to passing impulses and habits, we lose ourselves into the World of Delusion.

We see the cake. Blinders descend on our awareness, so that we see only the cake. We take it. We gobble it down, hardly tasting it. We are identified with the cake. The cake controls us, becomes us. We abandon ourselves and the cake eats us. It may satisfy our impulse, but it doesn’t satisfy us.

Jealousy strikes fear into us, fear of losing our relationship, fear of another taking what we have, fear of being a fool, fear of being less than another. The jealousy and fear overtake us and rule our inner world in desperation.

We buy a lottery ticket and imagine what we would do with the jackpot. But for some of us that dream takes on its own false reality and interferes with, prevents actual steps toward our goals, financial or otherwise. We daydream about future wealth, while we miss the richness of living fully present to this moment.

Someone crosses us, crosses ME! Anger and indignation flare. Our pulse and our breathing race ahead, as angry thoughts trample our mind. Awareness narrows. The anger and its object consume us. We are lost in anger. We may even say and do things dictated by the anger, things we later regret. The anger burns up our inner energies and leaves us flat.

Yet not all our descents into the World of Delusion are so fiery and extreme: many are almost subtle. Our inordinate concern with appearances drags us into a self-consciousness that assails us when we enter a party where we don’t know anyone, when we have to speak before a group of people, or when we interact with someone whom we envy or who has authority. Our overriding and debilitating question is “what will they think of me?”

When things fail to go our way, we may lapse into whining to ourselves, into inner complaints about our life, about the people around us, complaints that cast everything in dull grays. In all of this our awareness narrows to reflexively seeing only our most superficial self and its desires.

These and other forms of temporary inner slavery embroil us in the World of Delusion, where we see reality inverted, where what truly matters doesn’t and what doesn’t matter does, and where our awareness collapses into a very constricted arena. In this world we are not ourselves. We become our burning impulse of the moment. This world is the hell realm that some seek to escape by abusing drugs or alcohol. If we get stuck in this world too often or for an extended period, we may well need to turn to professional psychotherapy or psychiatry for help in extricating ourselves. Fortunately, most of our descents into these deluded states are brief, though costly.

In the World of Delusion we abdicate control, fragmenting our will into our dominant impulses or desires of the moment. This leaves our functions of thoughts, emotions, and body overrun with the anger, jealousy, greed, urgent self-centeredness, wasteful dreams, and wasteful actions of this world. Our being diminishes as our energies are rapidly consumed for no useful purpose, leaving us spent and shallow.

What inner work can there be in the World of Delusion? The best begins before we fall into that muck. We see those impulses taking hold and we let them go before we slip into that vortex. Experience, bitter experience, teaches us not to buy into our tendencies in that direction. We learn to see ahead of time that if we let ourselves stumble into that upside-down world, the result will be worse than the sacrifice of letting it go before it begins. We see our anger or jealousy rising and we immediately let it subside. We see the cake grabbing us, imagine how we will feel after eating it, and forgo the actual eating. We see our whining start up and realize that it leads to nothing but enfeebling waste and further disappointment.

Now this is not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy a piece of cake. The issue is doing so with some choice. We eat the cake, if we so choose, and do not allow the cake to eat us. If someone has wronged us, perhaps we take some action in response. But we drive this action by our own choice, not allowing our anger to choose for us.

Seeing how we fall into the World of Delusion can help free us from it. And that matters, for it keeps us from the mistakes we make in that world, it prevents the significant loss of energies that we need for our inner work, it protects the integrity of our will, and ultimately it makes us a little freer and happier.

For this week, notice the seductive pull and the bitter taste of the World of Delusion.


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