There is Someone I Think You Should Meet

I want to introduce you to someone.

His name is Douglas Harding. He was a kindly, well-spoken Englishman, born in 1909 and died in 2007, but for reasons you’ll soon understand, that doesn’t really matter.

I have wanted to write about Douglas Harding for a long time, but I hadn’t yet because I think his ideas are so important to my life and to humankind that I wanted to make sure I had the time to do them justice.

Most readers of Raptitude have a pointed interest in learning simple ways to improve their quality of life. That’s what this blog is all about. Harding’s teaching is so profound, that once you really get it (and it’s not hard!), you will experience, to say the least, some of the greatest improvements to your quality of life that you’ve ever had. It will tie up loose ends you didn’t know existed.

I left some cryptic hints about this teaching in the comment discussion that followed my April 12 post, Die on Purpose. Those of you who were at all intrigued by that post should not miss this.

In this post I just want to introduce you to Douglas, and I’ll really get into the teaching in subsequent posts. For now all I will say is that I will be writing a lot about Douglas Harding in the future. Those of you who are intrigued enough to look into him will understand why.

The video below is an excerpt from a talk given by Douglas in 1991 in Melbourne, Australia. I won’t explain any more about it today, but I urge you to invest 12 undistracted minutes watching this.

Many of you might not know what to make of it at first. Some will find it moderately interesting, but won’t find anything really compelling in it, and will soon forget about it entirely. Some of you will hit your boredom threshold sometime before the twelve minutes video is through, click it closed and go busy yourself with something.

But a minority of you will catch a hint of something extremely profound here, something markedly more concrete and less ambiguous than most “spiritual” talks. Those few will follow this up, investigate Douglas’s work, and discover something incredible about themselves — something they never suspected yet, paradoxically, always knew.

I’m sounding a bit mystical here, I know, so don’t worry if you don’t see what I’m getting at yet. In upcoming posts, I will explain.

I’m not talking about something that’s hard to ‘get.’ In fact, it’s so unutterably simple, that it’s at tremendous risk of being overlooked. It’s so obvious that most people will try to find the metaphor behind it — a poetic analogy of the sort behind all Zen sayings and Bible verses — but there isn’t one. It’s a plain, obvious-in-hindsight realization, with colossal implications.

Harding’s teachings center around a deceptively simple method for identifying and overcoming the misunderstanding of all misunderstandings — the fundamental cognitive mistake that causes every human being all of their troubles. Here’s a clue: he describes that mistake precisely at 7:12.

I am so intrigued by Douglas because he completely nails what so many other spiritual teachers seem to only graze. I’ve had many breakthroughs over the years, but no other discovery has brought more richness and meaning to my life than this one.

Some of you will be baffled, uninterested, or unsure at what I’m talking about and why I’m so excited about this, at least right now, and that’s okay. There is a lot to talk about here, and we have the time.

If you cannot see the video, watch it here.

R


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{ 72 Comments }

Jess August 12, 2010 at 3:39 am

Looking forward to seeing where you take us with this one : )

Jess

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Jessi August 12, 2010 at 4:15 am

This is a very interesting man, and that is certainly a very interesting video. I am glad that I took the time to watch that, and I am also looking forward to seeing where this goes.
The one thing I can’t shake off is a familiar confusion. I often find myself feeling this confusion when I’m becoming a little wiser, so that’s something to look forward to. :) What keeps playing in my head is “Where you thought there was a man, there you find God.”
My brain keeps fighting against this, instead saying, “Where you thought there was a man, where you hoped to find God, there was evil and destruction.” I spend my days seeing that humans are instinctively selfish and destructive, and I look for the rare moments when I can find the good, which is what I see as “God” because it often overtakes any lists of bad that I’ve seen for a while. One small glimpse of God to me up against a whooole lot of bad still seems to make living worth while. The light at the end of the tunnel is ALWAYS worth it, and I always find that I appreciate things and that I feel the GOOD so much more than I ever have after I’ve experienced the bad. I guess I tell myself that we live to fight against our own selves and our own desires and instincts, and that in order to be the best human, you must become well, for lack of better words, “not human.” I suppose what I am saying is that I’ve never ever ever thought that where there is a man, there you find God. It’s playing over and over in my head and to me, it’s describing something that my brain can’t possibly comprehend. So really, I don’t know whether I’m just trying to type my way into comprehension, or if I’m arguing against this, or if I’m asking for something, or if I’m just thoroughly thanking you for posting this in the first place.

We’ll go with the last one. Thanks for posting this. :D

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David August 12, 2010 at 6:51 am

His last statement is a cryptic one, but I think it will be clear after the next post.

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Michael August 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

A very interesting talk, quite. Though it might not be what he meant, I have grasped one of the interpretations, mainly the one that most directly relates to myself. I too wonder what will come of this henceforth. No doubt something worth reading into.

That phrase too stuck to my mind, but in a sense we have always known that to feel truthful. The idea that God is in all of us, or the energy of creation if you do not believe in a God entity, has always been part of our thoughts.

However, I did not have your issue. For you see, contrarily to what the world believes, to me, God is not benevolence. My reasoning follows a certain logic: God is supposed to be a perfect being. Following my own reasoning influenced by Ancient Greece, perfection is, to me, symmetry. Therefore, God is just as Good as He is Evil. It may seem odd, but think about it – it just means that, in other words, God contains everything, whether it be good or bad. God is all, including us. That makes much more sense to me than the common reasoning that God is an independent and incomplete entity.

This applies to ourselves in this manner: we need evil in our lives; it constructs us as people, makes us better, stronger human beings. A world of only good would be a terrible one. Imagine a world where you would be sentenced to death for littering. Though not necessarily good, it is a world of law and order taken to the extreme. Even when not like so, a world without bad things would be a broken one.

I also believe everything happens for a reason. Thus, the evil and destruction you mean occur because they must. A theory states that the universe will develop itself in the best possible way – perhaps, say, natural disasters are required for our world to be the best possible. Or even war. You never know – it could be worse. Perhaps it could not be better at this time. If I had to choose between a “best possible” painful murder or an alternative-that-wasn’t-meant-to-be like, say, being eaten alive by alligators, I would much rather prefer the first option. Even the utmost evil cannot be judged mercilessly, for you do not know what would happen otherwise and you do not know what universal weavings were put into that event.

Come to think of it, accepting good and evil as a part of our reality brings much more peace to us than to see evil as the unfortunate and good as a glimpse of hope. Let it feel as it would, let it be as it should. Even if it hurts; that is also a part of life. To reject a part of life is to create resentment in life itself.

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Edward February 19, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Most human beings ARE NOT instinctively selfish or destructive. We evolved with other human beings and have social morality just like other primates. We practice altruism like other species. We recognize fairness like other primates. We say that people who do not have these qualities are defective in some way, i.e. sociopathic or psychotic.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) August 12, 2010 at 6:55 am

1:46 ~ Sovereignty!

I think many of us seek to avoid our greatness a lot; I know I have. Nowadays I’m quite accepting of my Godessnessness ~:-)

Tangent: I met this woman once at a store and was so happy to see her and was saying hi…when realised it was me in the mirror.

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trish August 12, 2010 at 7:35 am

Very nice. I have to think about this, and watch it again (and again, and again.). Looking forward to where you take us with Mr. Harding.
Best,
T

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Haider August 12, 2010 at 7:49 am

Hi David,

I think he touched on an extremely profound idea, but wrapped it up in mystery, when he could’ve explained it a bit more clearly.

I can’t describe the liberation I felt when I realized that I’m not my self-image (i.e. the man in the mirror), but my Self. Not the impressions people have of me, or the impressions I have about myself, or the past decisions that I’ve made.

We see ourselves as the decisions, and not the one who made those decisions, which is why we continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. We identify with the mistake, and not the one (the Self) that made the mistake, who is able to decide whether to repeat the same mistake, or not.

The idea that we can choose what we think, what we feel, and what we do, without having to conform to the mold (i.e. self-image) that characterizes our past decisions is extremely liberating. It makes us realize that our free-will is free from the many constraints we tie it up with.

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm

There is a lot more to the idea than just this excerpt, and he does get more explicit. I just wanted to touch on it for now.

Like all spiritual teachings (I really wish there was a better term than ‘spiritual’ for matters of human consciousness) it is about liberation from the ego. But his method — which I haven’t discussed yet — is so simple and powerful. I will get to it soon.

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Evan August 12, 2010 at 8:30 am

I did watch the full 12 minuets and am looking forward to more of what you have to say about Mr. Harding, or what he said himself.

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Angus Stocking August 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

Thanks for this David – Douglas is an interesting man. Do you see any overlap between his ideas and Steve Pavlina’s idea about subjective reality?

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Hey Angus! Good to hear from you.

I haven’t quite taken Steve Pavlina’s subjective reality model on board yet. I’ve read plenty about it, but I just don’t feel it, at least not yet.

Harding’s teaching deals with matters of subjectivity, but it isn’t related to the law of attraction or intention/manifestation.

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MasonKulbaba August 12, 2010 at 9:37 am

I’m afraid that I can’t pretend to understand what Harding’s point is here.

I realize that it was just a short 12min clip of a longer lecture, but I just couldn’t see where it was going. Surely your future posts will reveal it to me in good time.

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Oh hey Mason! Good to hear from you too.

It is pretty vague, if that excerpt is all we have to interpret. It isn’t meant to tell the whole story, only to pique interest. I will get down to the nitty gritty over the next three posts.

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Torrie August 12, 2010 at 9:55 am

I am familiar with this kind of teaching and I do believe in it. One thing about it though always leaves me feeling very sad and therefore wanting to continuing clinging to my “ego self”. With this philosophy it seems impossible to really know another person. The best we can do is interact with someone’s projection of themself, but never the true them. What a lonely feeling this gives me!

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm

I know what you mean. Letting go of the ego means we are not just letting go of the trouble it causes, but to ourselves as we know us to be.

But I don’t agree that it makes it impossible to really know another person. In fact, I think it allows us to finally know who they really are, because we can know for certain what they are not.

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Twan August 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

Looking forward to a Douglas Harding for Dummies© translation!

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Haha.. it’s coming!

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Brenda (betaphi) August 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

“I’m sounding a bit mystical here, I know…”

I wouldn’t object if you sounded a lot more mystical.

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm

It’s good to get mystical now and then ;)

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Erin S. August 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Wow. Looking forward to the continuing story. We are spiritual beings. We can see the greatness in ourselves if we look. But I think we are taught we are not. We find what we look for and if we look for hopelessness, evil and destruction, that is what we find. If we look for hope, for significance, for a voice or power to make the world better; then that is what we find. You are complex man David. Sometimes I read a post from a man from the “Age of Reason”, sometime from a mystic. Both are good.

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DerzaFanistori August 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

I have before, what now seems a looong long time ago, read his “On having no head” in Hofstadter and Dennet’s “The Mind’s I” and I was shocked, intrigued and enamored with his wonderful display of idea so simple yet so unimaginable.
I’m looking forward to see where you’re going with this. :-)

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David August 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Ah, On Having No Head is one of the most profound books I’ve ever read. I am surprised it isn’t well known. It really is shocking, and unless the reader grossly misunderstands what he’s getting at, it’s undeniable.

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James M. Convey August 12, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I believe he is touching on the practical realization that comes to all us old farts eventually, at least those with some degree of self awareness “……. That all mankind are essential and infinite spiritual beings, experiencing a finite human journey. One that will surely end and for which there really is no logical human explanation……” As I age and as I learn more and more, I have come to realize that the theistic humanist religions, are all limited by the same inability to explain this simple equation adequately, and subsequently have participated in driving men into a form of madness, subjected to rigid and dogmatic mysticisms without any real answers.

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David August 13, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I have come to realize that the theistic humanist religions, are all limited by the same inability to explain this simple equation adequately, and subsequently have participated in driving men into a form of madness,

I think you’ve absolutely nailed it here James.

Explanations will always be inadequate, because it is not logical and not rational. It is an experiential understanding that cannot be communicated with words. Harding’s method is all about doing simple physical experiments that help people to have experiences that show them this truth — without beliefs and without taking anyone’s word for it.

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James M. Convey August 13, 2010 at 10:03 pm

One is reminded however that it is also folly to expect maturity and complete understanding of ones “context” until one has “lived” a life, or walked upon ones own ‘experience’ pathways. These are the constant tests of how we apply choice, and also how we deal with our results. O’Leary in the 60′s did excellent work, as regards this personal “true concept” of reality, as well as the dangers of false gratifications (escapism) or Gods if you like. The form of transference away from our own accountability, makes little difference, whether it be a God or a chosen mystic, or even a Harding or maybe a Dr Phil or Dr Dyer etc. All certainly having some form of valid philosophical truth to entertain us as we journey. But again although all may be nurturing in some way, they are no substitute for ones own personal reality. For instance at my age I would venture that I can better understand Hardings concepts than I did 20 years ago. I believe the lesson is to beware of any guide that enthralls…I believe the old and new testaments as with other teachings, talked of “false prophets” in this regard. The 60′s had the Gurus from the indian traditions for instance. With each generation the philosophies never change, only the messengers and their ability to “enthrall”. kindest regards James M. Convey

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David August 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

All certainly having some form of valid philosophical truth to entertain us as we journey. But again although all may be nurturing in some way, they are no substitute for ones own personal reality. For instance at my age I would venture that I can better understand Hardings concepts than I did 20 years ago.

Understanding Harding’s concepts really isn’t the point of what he is teaching. It’s not a conceptual teaching, it is an out-and-out practical one — an exercise that is completely physical and requires no thought at all, yet it’s bound to trigger all sorts of philosophical thinking once it is experienced. But I haven’t gotten to that part yet.

I agree, if you are wrapped up in the charisma of any teacher, you run the risk of missing the teaching. Harding, as endearing as he is, isn’t remotely as important as what he is teaching, and he’d be the first one to say so.

Eric | Eden Journal August 12, 2010 at 10:03 pm

My first thought on seeing this video is that Douglas looks like Socrates. Regarding his closing line. I think that the populous is not aware that Man is God, because those in power would cease to hold power.

I’ve been experimenting with some of Steve Pavlina’s ideas of Subjective Reality. I’m gathering details for a post next week. I think it will be interesting to see if any of the ideas here cross into some of the things I’ve been thinking of lately. The timing seems impeccable.

I look forward to hearing more of Douglas and his ideas, and of yours.

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Michael August 13, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I look forward to read and mayhap watch more about Douglas.

However, I wonder. When one realises that he is not what he looks like, the self-image, he may grow to resent his own physical form. I have long grown to differentiate my self with my image; they are distinct things in many, many ways.

In my case, I often disdain my physical form as not important because my self is so much better to me. Others, though, may come to hate how they look instead. Even Douglas said something along the lines of “thank God I’m not what I look like.” But is it really that kind of idea we should have? We should learn to like what we look like, not disregard it.

That may liberate us from the ego but it will shatter our self-esteem. The path of self-analysis and reshaping our conceptualization of the self is a very dangerous one. Lest we are careful, we may well cause more damage than not.

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Michael August 13, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Sorry, I meant “we must be careful, lest we cause more damage than not”. Minor conjunction confusion. :)

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David August 13, 2010 at 7:55 pm

I’m glad you mentioned this. This is interesting, because your comment illustrates the problem his method is meant to address. He often jokes about the “little man” in the mirror, and expresses his great relief that he isn’t confined to that finite, fallible creature he sees in his reflection.

For someone to hate how he looks in the mirror, he must be convinced that what he sees in the mirror is himself. If he wasn’t identified with that image in the mirror, its appearance wouldn’t cause him any more distress than the appearance of somebody passing on the sidewalk. He suffers because he has laid claim to the image he sees, and he insists it must please him.

The “self” in self-esteem is the ego. Nobody liberated from the ego has any issues with self-esteem.

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Michael August 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Ah, I see. Perhaps I misunderstood his remark. The “man in the mirror” is finite, it is merely physical and it is mortal. What we are is not, in a way, or perhaps in all ways, we shall yet see. I would not want to think of the entirety of myself as that; it is much more.

Hmm. Perhaps “you are more than what you look like” would better express what I mean. Our body is our shell; though not our essence, it is our vessel, and it is the only one we have got, so we must learn to appreciate it. Whether we would be better beings in a non-physical form or not, that is another subject, but for all contemporary purposes, we could have not done our great feats had we not this boring lump of ours.

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David August 15, 2010 at 11:50 am

Perhaps “you are more than what you look like” would better express what I mean.

Closer, but from my perspective that won’t do either. Just by calling it “our” vessel, we have identified it as having an absolute importance greater than the environment that surrounds it — which is an inseparable part of how it all unfolds, at least a big a player in the outcome as the body itself.

Like you say, there is a definite circumstantial importance to the body, but ultimately it isn’t any more what we are than the air it breathes or the pavement it walks on, IMHO. We do need that boring lump, not that we need everything else any less.

Paul August 14, 2010 at 9:34 am

Thanks, David, that was a beautiful video. His words have a very authentic feel and his message completely matches the message of my own spiritual teacher, Eknath Easwaran.

Thoughts on a couple of previous comments:
The Self/God/Origin in you is *the same as* the Self/God/Origin in others, so if you find that within yourself, you then know the deepest core of everyone else! A wonderful way to get to know every person and creature.

The body is transient, is perishable, but it/we are here for some purpose and we each have some special skills in this body/mind that we can use to make this world a little better place. So when we get to know our real Self, we take very good care of the body because it is the instrument of our service in this world.

Thanks, David — looking forward to more on this topic.

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Michael August 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Indeed, we share our essence with every other human being. I have had the immense, delicious pleasure of experiencing that and still do every know and then when something new presents to myself.

When you know that in the heart you and every other person alive is the same, it brings me the utmost peace and compassion for others and suddenly understanding others becomes innate. By realising this, one becomes more empathic than ever and in harmony with the others. It is a simple but outstanding way of synchronizing with those who share this plane with us and yet it is so obvious that it misses most people.

If we all developed this knowledge, though the battle of interests may still instil conflict within civilisation, many issues would be solved as we learn to understand one another and, then, to properly love one another.

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LeeShand August 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

David, I was left sitting here with chills. I want to hear more. Thank-you(as always) for sharing.

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Chris August 14, 2010 at 10:06 am

Thanks for making me aware… I’ve not heard of him before. The idea of becoming aware is always presented in a cryptic form. Like riding a bike… easy to do… but only after learning balance and control… step by step… piece by piece. Awareness is best presently wrapped in cryptic thoughts and metaphors. With study the same message presents itself but the mysticism is gone… only the simplicity remains.

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David August 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

Yes it is always cryptic… isn’t that interesting. It must be, because if awareness is spelled out as an idea, then it just becomes mistaken for a concept rather than an experience, and nothing is learned. Metaphors work well because you can say something like, “X is to awareness, as Y is to (blank).” That blank space is necessary, because if the teacher fills it with anything, then awareness is being misrepresented and misunderstood as whatever is in the blank. That blank is the proverbial “sound of one hand clapping” that Zen teachers try so delicately to communicate.

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Ashley August 14, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I was rather confused by this at first, but after reading some of the comments, I think I’m beginning to understand. You are not your body, and the concept of “self” does not exist. You simply are. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me it almost seems like if there isn’t a cliche that describes an idea, then it’s hard to understand. This has opened my mind a little bit more, and I definitely look forward to hearing more about this.

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Jason August 14, 2010 at 9:42 pm

A modern Alan Watts…

Don’t we all want to hear how special and God-like we are underneath all the muddled mess…just like all Americans grow up thinking that we’ll one day be rich and famous…there’s a phrase for this…comforting delusion.

If you really want your hair blown back, read/watch some Jiddu Krishnamurti.
http://www.veoh.com/collection/neonstein/watch/v6541370MyXekbfS

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David August 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Don’t we all want to hear how special and God-like we are underneath all the muddled mess…just like all Americans grow up thinking that we’ll one day be rich and famous…there’s a phrase for this…comforting delusion.

It sounds like a comforting delusion because the contemporary conception of God is an enormous misunderstanding. It’s been made out to be an external, material resource, quite like money. If you subscribe to that contemporary conception of God, I’m not surprised you would say that. I will talk about what he means by God in the future, but suffice it to say it is not what you think.

Krishnamurti and Harding are barking up the same tree.

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Angela August 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

This is so intriguing. I have so much to say about this. I am looking him up now and learning more.

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Hayden Tompkins August 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

You always find a way to open my heart.

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Jason August 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

David, I have to disagree.
Though charming, Harding is of the same lot as many preachers of quasi-New Age, feel-good metaphysics whose ultimate message is that you are not “you” but some core Self that is actually the Divine.

You can trick/entertain yourself with pretty metaphors and clever arguments but the reality is that this is repackaged Eastern philosophy/religion.

Krishnamurti had something quite a bit different to say and would have rejected much of Harding’s message – especially the idea that there is some sort of divine core at the center of the mess that is the human personality.

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David August 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Harding doesn’t propose a message, so much as a method for disidentifying with the ego. I find it incredibly useful. He doesn’t ask you to believe anything regarding the properties of human consciousness, only suggests that you take a look at what first-person consciousness is actually like without taking anyone’s word for it, to see what is indeed self-evident about it, and he gives a method for doing that. It is not about belief systems or philosophies or really anything on the level of interpretation, so it can’t really be at odds with Krishnamurti’s or anyone else’s philosophy, because it is only a method.

But clearly you are already convinced that there is nothing here for you, and there isn’t much I can do about that.

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Jason August 15, 2010 at 5:39 pm

It is certainly a philosophy/belief unless you choose to evacuate those terms of their meaning…mainly a belief that we are not what we appear to be.

I’ll contradict myself and state a clever, non-sensical argument:
The search for a method (from whatever authority or guru you find most appealing) to achieve “enlightenment” or whatever else you may be seeking is the creation of a barrier between you and the truth. You may find some satisfaction and stimulation but it won’t take you far.

I realize this is an annoying and pretentious post. Like the site by the way.

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David August 15, 2010 at 6:33 pm

The search for a method (from whatever authority or guru you find most appealing) to achieve “enlightenment” or whatever else you may be seeking is the creation of a barrier between you and the truth. You may find some satisfaction and stimulation but it won’t take you far.

^^This is quite presumptuous of my intentions here, and it’s clear from this comment that you’re neither familiar with the methods I’m talking about, nor interested in becoming familiar. I don’t know what else to say except that you don’t sound like you know what you’re arguing against.

As for your intentions, I can only guess. Is it really important to you that I read more Krishnamurti? Do you reckon you’re saving me from my leading myself astray or something? I already know what value Harding’s work has for me, and evidently you don’t.

It’s probably not worth my saying that it is not necessary to believe that we are not what we appear to be. Harding’s work is about testing that assumption, among others. Falling on deaf ears, I know…

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Michael August 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Oh, Jason, but we are all entitled to our own views of reality. Is that not our prerogative? We all feel and see things differently and we’d do best in understanding every view. Perhaps the “real” reality is just that – the convergence of all viewpoint realities.

As we grow to believe that God is an ever-unreachable almighty old man in the sky, we develop this inferiority complex that we may never reach Him, that we are not good and worthy enough. Why, perhaps that is true. Perhaps God is just that. But also, perhaps he is not.

The New Age you speak of has a purpose – it is to instil in the human race a sense of well-being and peace, much like good old Christianity, before it turned horribly wrong, that is. It’s goal is not, or should not be, to become the absolute truth about everything. It is a way of living that you may choose to follow, disregard or adapt into your own lifestyle.

Oh, we are not a mess. Do you really think that? If you try long enough, and believe me for I have done so, you can read anyone as easily as a book. I won’t lie to you, however: some pages are quite illegible, others mayhap written with “invisible ink”… Some may be so frightening you will dare not even peek. But if you try, you can read into all of us and realise that we are not a mess because every single action we take is a product of how we were programmed, whether by God or Nature or even ourselves. And you know the saying – computers are never wrong.

Still, I do agree with you on one point – we should not take others’ words as truth, for it is not absolute. With every religion, with every spiritual movement, with every website, every blog, every piece of information, every video, every word, you run the risk of indoctrinating yourself without even realising it. I did watch the video, but do you think I immediately agreed with all Harding said? I simply considered his points of view, analysed them and evaluated them as a valid possibility.

It is all a possibility. I follow little tidbits of tenets from all ideologies around the world – does that mean I blindly believe in all of them? In any of them, for that matter? Of course not. I simply choose to agree or disagree with each of the theories. That is true enlightenment: from that which you learn externally, create your own internal ideology. Ah… In the end, enlightenment is just like art. But I should’ve known that already, silly me.

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jl August 15, 2010 at 6:45 pm

find some peace. teach, make a living, contribute. we can always get more aware. the picture is to big for me to even try to foresee what will come out of it, searching for some peace to be able not knowing is what i’m on to. what to do with it all.
i don’t think it’s about adapting “methods” jason. most of what you hear you already know, these guys just help pointing it out for you, in manners that works for them, basically saying the same things. listen and take on what of it that works for you. never heard the word divine in this vid. sure it’s not your own interpretation? divine surely sounds a tad bit to much, wouldn’t work for me.

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Drew Tkac August 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Douglas Harding’s teachings are wonderful. I believe that his message has been told, and needs to be told, a thousand times in a thousand different ways. But his message is not really meant for the mind. It is meant for the other part of us that is not the mind.

If I may offer a quote from Joseph Campbell’s book “Myths of Light.” Anything that you can name about yourself is not it. Therefore, when you have erased all that you can name and have broken through, then you have come to it. In this equation, a is you and x is the mystery (God) and a = x … you are that mystery, but not the “you” that you think you are. The you that you think you are is not it and the you that you can’t even think about is it. This is the paradox. It was based on an old Sanskrit phrase Neti, neti or “not this, not this.”

The way I see what Campbell and Harding are saying is that yes we are god but our minds cannot conceive of it.

I would be very interested in what others think of Campbell’s statement.

I would also like to comment on the “god is good” “god is bad” discussion. The concept of good and bad are our mind’s concept. Think about all the things in life that are dual opposites, or opposite pairs. Up down, good bad, male female, fact, fiction, the list can go on and on. God is beyond the opposite duality. But our mind cannot conceive of a world without dualities. Does that mean that it does not exist, or, that our mind just cannot conceive of it. So this refers back to the previous paragraph.

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Michael August 15, 2010 at 9:56 pm

We can conceive dualities, therefore I would rather think they are not limited to our reality alone. We cannot conceive absence of dualities, therefore it is likely it is present beyond our plane. Perhaps the answer is both duality and its absence – can we conceive *that*? Sounds inconceivable enough to me.

Think Schrödinger; perhaps the God-plane is every possible state at the same time. And of course by that I mean all of creation. Maybe we just live on one of them, where you have dualities. Although that is a tad more Many-Worlds.

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David August 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I think you’ve nailed it Drew. There are limits to what the rational mind can understand, but that limit isn’t the limit to our intellect.

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David August 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Awesome comment as usual Drew.

I think Campbell is right on. The rational mind works by comparisons and equivalencies. It makes heavy use of the verb “to be” in all its forms: _____ is ______, I am _______. These equivalencies are always troublesome, because how can any one separate form be truly equivalent to any other? Yet that’s what that verb does — states that X is the same as Y. There is a whole version of the English language, called e-prime, that purposely forbids the verb “to be” for this reason.

To ever say, or even think, “I am _______” must be false, because what could possibly fit into that blank that is equivalent to the “I” part? Any thought we come up with will be false, and that is why we cannot possibly be what we think we are. We must be something we cannot think of, cannot understand with the rational mind.

That’s the point where science fails us, because its method requires rational comparison. Someone who believes science is the only tool for understanding the universe (Richard Dawkins comes to mind) will dismiss anything that cannot be independently verified, which effectively tosses out the significance of any personal experience that cannot be directly communicated. Too bad.

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Michael August 16, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Oh, but of course! The “I” entity is unique in its own and though may seem akin to other entities we observe, it is not them and it is something of its own.

When we analyse an entity, we give it adjectives, thus we compare it to another entity to give it meaning. Therefore, we can never perceive the innate form, the identity, of an entity. What it is that nothing else is. If I were to ask you to define an entity without comparing to another, I reckon it would be a hard, if not impossible task. Even if you do not explicitly state the comparison, your own brain is doing so even if you did not want that.

It’s just like any belief system: it is there to give you peace, true or not. Our descriptions of entities are there to simplify reality to us, whether they are true or simply an appearance. I shall think about this. I wonder where I will be led into, as I had never seen things through this prism.

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Jason August 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm

David…
No intention to save your soul and you are right – I am not overly familiar with what you are trying to promote…except self-exploration/discovery.

No, I am not trying to evangelize J. Krishnamurti to you – I just find what he says refreshing as compared to Harding and the like.

It is interesting how one person/message resonates with some while others fall flat. I suppose I have a negative reaction to the clip of Harding because he claims to be an authority giving a message that boils down to…”you are what you think you are but when you get past that, you are actually God.” I used to be drawn to that too but it now seems a bit silly and narcissistic.

Maybe there is more to it than what I am hearing…what do you think the main message is?

Michael…
Or perhaps there is no God or enlightenment at all and we are all just entertaining ourselves to hide the horrible fact that this really is it…

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David August 16, 2010 at 4:59 pm

If I had only seen the clip of Harding that I showed, I might have had the same impression. Historically, references to God have tended to make me roll my eyes, because so many of them are ambiguous or wishful-sounding. It turns out that his references to God are quite different that the contemporary conception of God, and it makes sense to me.

The main message is to recognize and test the assumptions we have been living under, so any insight is discovered directly by the student and nobody needs to take the word of any authority for it. That’s what makes Harding so different in my eyes — he doesn’t ask you to believe anything.

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Michael August 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Perhaps so, Jason. Perhaps we are all alone in this world. Perhaps God is dead, has died or has always been so. We do not know. But is that a worthwhile way of living? A life in such beliefs would be a rather hopeless one. Hope was given back to men for it is the utmost necessary evil – without it, we wither. Metaphorically or not, this is indeed verifiable.

Our existence is made primarily of choices. Thus, I choose to believe that we are not lost, that we have a purpose other than being. I choose to believe there is someone home “up there” waiting for me, someone I can return to. If I did not, then why bother living? Life is short and pleasures, though wonderful, are little compared to what we should rightfully have, a proper purpose. Perhaps we are too meaningless – but some illusions are best kept. If the ultimate truth is ultimately deceptive, then perhaps the ultimate lie is too a necessary evil.

And why not be silly and narcissistic? If it is our will, then let us be so! It is our prerogative – we may choose to be what we desire. That no one can take away from us, not even God or the realities themselves. And knowing how the Human race is, should they try, oh how we will fight back.

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Jason August 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm

David,
True – It was a hasty judgment on my part based on only the one clip. After all the inspiring and witty argument, it comes down to the hard work of awareness, meditation, etc that is so difficult to cultivate in a life full of distraction. Attachment to any speaker, writer, or belief is ultimately a crutch.

Michael, I think one has to be careful not to lose grasp of objective reality and critical analysis. I often find that people will quickly throw out reason and replace tired, traditional belief systems with a hodgepodge of New-Age ideas that have no greater merit. We are all seeking purpose in our lives but if you are just following a clever idea or making something up, the danger of delusion is ever-present.

For example, a friend of mine thinks that god-like extra-terrestrials created human beings and control them via a shadowy government/corporate alliance. He awaits the 2012 Mayan disaster/rebirth with great anticipation as he listens to podcasts of channeled Masters from the other side. Meanwhile- war, disaster, poverty, disease-these are all okay because the souls of the victims chose to experience earthly evils to “grow.”

I assume you’d say that’s great for him because it’s his choice and his “reality.” But where does that line of reasoning take us if not into isolated fantasy bubbles where we all make up our own private, absurd metaphysical systems…

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jl August 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Hey Jason. I think, on the flip-side of your argument people are just as fast to take to criticism of a person based on one or more ideas that doesn’t respond good with their own beliefs, maybe cause it provokes the ego and we all hold very hard to the things we think we know. And I think that is the reason we sometimes misses vital information, instead of keeping an open mind we clinch together to focus on protecting our own “safe” beliefs. I know I’ve done it.

But ultimately, what is real? I think the line is crossed when our actions directly hurt someone innocent. Especially ourselves.

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Michael August 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm

I understand your point but you have to understand also that when people develop their reasoning, they may acquire different mindsets.

You seem like a very rational person that only sees as real what you can perceive or find agreeable. I, in contrast, am a very abstract person that sees as real all of possibility. Therefore, your friend’s example, for instance, though not entirely comfortable or something I would enjoy, is something I accept as possible and, therefore, real (as a possibility – not a fact, though I cannot prove whether it is true or false).

As you cannot prove what is real and what is not – and you know this, for if you think a little you can find many examples of how our lives could all be an illusion, theories analysed to exhaustion to the point where they are seen as verisimilar – you cannot really say that the traditional beliefs are right and others are all “hodgepodge.” Perhaps traditional beliefs are hodgepodge. The origins of the Bible itself, for instance, are very fairytale-like if you think about it. And yet, it could all be true. Even if you think of the Big Bang, no one can say what existed before or even what created it. It exploded just because? You really think that is reasonable? Even as a random event, there had to be something there to explode, otherwise you are indeed going into fairytale domain. And of course, that something must have appeared there somehow.

We are not just computers. There is a reason why we have imagination – we do not simply analyse and reason, we also imagine and recreate what we see. There is little point in ridiculing such behaviour for it is in our own nature and reality is made in a way that allows us to wonder about it. We know so little of it that there is a grand unknown we can simply muse on. That ground does not allow anyone, not you nor myself, to define it for we cannot define what we do not know.

Of course, in a practical sense, if you show me a grey cubic box, there is little point in me saying that it is actually yellow, of an irregular shape and it actually doesn’t exist. Perhaps it is true and we are all seeing it grey and cubic and there, but for all practical purposes, what we see is what it is. But if you can’t see it, then you can say it is whatever you want to. No one’s been to the end of the universe – I can say it smells like blueberry and is actually made of cheese. How can you prove otherwise? Not even with a law due to a funny thing called exception.

In the end, my point is that we are certain of nothing. Thus, any conviction is acceptable until proven universally wrong. Don’t be that presumptuous to think you know what reality is because the universe has a funny way of showing us wrong when we think we are so right.

Oh, and about delusion – first of all, following a scientific belief system is just as delusional since, as you know, Science is not exact and is constantly being proven wrong. The only difference between Science and religion or spiritual movements is that they have more to work with. They can experiment. But in the end, they are just as guessing as religions are. You could believe in all Science has to say only to realise, perhaps after death, that it is all an illusion as well. Deception is a part of our lives. We’ll never know the truth about reality until the very end. Perhaps not even then. Perhaps we never will. I prefer thinking and joining tidbits of theories to make something that makes sense – that way, life seems enjoyable. If I just throw all of that away, then life becomes survival, and I’d rather die, honestly.

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Michael August 17, 2010 at 7:33 pm

By “they” I wanted to mean Science there. Just to clarify. And yes, I do write long comments. I cannot help myself. Seriously. xD

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Jason August 18, 2010 at 11:54 am

Michael,

I strongly disagree with many of your comments about what science/rational inquiry is and what it CAN say about reality versus religious beliefs but rather than write a long rebuttal, I will just refer you to a favorite book of mine – The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. It outlines why science is actually very different from subjective belief.

I agree we aren’t computers, we certainly aren’t strictly logical machines—we have emotions and evolutionary traits that dictate much of our thoughts and behavior. Is there a spiritual component? Maybe. I certainly can’t rule it out. Nor can I rule out the invisible pink, polka-dotted dragon in my garage. But choosing to believe in something just because it feels good or appears a certain way strikes me as wrong and deceptive. There is plenty of room for imagination and musing about reality without going to the point of believing anything that floats your boat. There should be a standard…the constantly evolving body of knowledge that rational inquiry provides is that standard.

Seems like the discussion has strayed off-topic from the message of the video so I’ll leave it at that. Cheers.

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Drew Tkac August 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I feel compelled to offer a few words because I have felt like you have in the past. I feel differently now.

Among other functions, the mind exists to protect us, and I think that this is just the mind refusing to get out of the way, or to let go. I have had many experiences in sports where you play your best when you just get your mind the hell out of the way.

Your reference to the probability of a dragon in your garage. Remember the anything with a non zero probability given infinite time will happen.

I do not think we “believe” to make ourselves feel good, though that may occur. I think belief is something that bubbles up from deep inside of us, the non rational, non mind part of us. Religion was not handed down by god, (though many will differ) we created it from those bubbles. I think religions are a way of communicating stuff that can’t be communicated with the mind and logical thought. Consequently it must not be taken literally!

The mind can speak but has no soul and the heart has soul but can not speak. Religion comes from the heart.

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Jason August 18, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Just to clarify…I am not saying there is nothing to religious belief (literal or otherwise) or “spirituality.” I just think we should approach all truth claims with a healthy skepticism and evaluate critically our own “reasons” for wanting to believe in things/people without evidence. In other words, I advocate a non-faith based spirituality somewhat akin to Sam Harris in “The End of Faith.”

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Michael August 18, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Oh, but then you must have misunderstood me. I did not say I “believed”, for that requires seeing it as true. I said I “accepted” it as possible. It is different.

Though in the end it doesn’t really matter, allowing yourself to wonder about the unknown part of reality and creating your own theories about what it could be like gives you a certain sense of meaning and adventure. By just living a “normal” life without thinking beyond what is in front of you, at least to me, is insufferably boring. I imagine there is more to life beyond normalcy. I may suffer from deception in the end but it is worthwhile for me because at least I can live in a certain “peace” that it may be possible that I am right. And if I am not, well, too bad. It doesn’t matter. By then I will know. The “now” is what matters and right now, I want to imagine that our existence isn’t just survival and that this imagination has a possibility of being true.

mikeull September 5, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Very interesting post! I stumbleupon’d this and it’s gotten me really excited and interested in this website.

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Lewis January 25, 2011 at 11:25 am

Wow. This is amazing! This is just what I needed to see. I must look into this man’s works more deeply now, because that was a very moving video!

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Tobi March 8, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I noticed that at 7:12 he said “that’s you” I immediately wrote it down (on my hand since I didn’t have paper). I think I have an idea of what this all means, but we’ll see. Thank you David!

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David March 8, 2011 at 7:01 pm

When he says that he’s referring to when our parents tell us that we are what we see in the mirror. That’s how we begin to develop an ego that we feel we have to defend our whole lives. More on that here:

http://www.raptitude.com/2010/08/what-is-the-ego-anyway/

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Jack September 14, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Read “On Having No Head” by Douglas Harding. Its the most succinct of his books. You can read it in a day. If you want a real brain blower that’ll keep you poring for years try “The Heirarchy of Heaven and Earth”. (I’m sixty two and only halfway through the condensed version! The essence of Harding is that you have no head. Not metaphorically but literally – that thing that you think is on top of your shoulders – its not there, never has been, its a chaining hellish delusion. Douglas will blow your mind (err… head). Try http://www.headless.org

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Renee November 6, 2013 at 12:35 am

i have to ask, what part of “and where you thought there was a man, there you find god” is not at the crux of narcissism?

and being the origin of the (or my?) universe, does that make me both the creator and created? at the same time?

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Joseph Ratliff January 6, 2014 at 9:28 am

We are the origins of the universe? That our mortal “shell,” the one we see in the mirror, is an illusion… a temporary container of sorts?

Interesting.

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