The Path to No Path

Some books that may be of interest

Throughout my progress along what I guess some people might call the spiritual path, several books have been of great value to me. I review these briefly below.

If you feel you have benefitted from this web site, you might consider buying my book, Ramblings on the Path, reviewed below. Or, if you use Amazon.co.uk, and would like to buy any of the books reviewed here, please click on the relevant cover image or link to be taken to their web site.

Carl Rogers

I suppose that the first of these books was Carl Rogers' On Becoming a Person. This book is subtitled A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy, but it is certainly not as dry as this subtitle might suggest. Carl Rogers emphasises in his own gentle way the fact that everybody has a natural urge to grow, and he describes conditions which are particularly favourable to helping people who have become stuck in their growth.

When I first read this book, one chapter struck me in particular. This is Chapter 7, in which he describes his view of the process of therapy in seven stages. A person who is in the first stage feels totally stuck, if he feels anything at all. He is totally rigid in his approach to life, viewing it purely intellectually and in black-and-white terms. Such a person is very unlikely to enter therapy.

I would say that such a person lives in a most terrible hell realm and scarcely knows it. This is not living at all. He 'lives' forever in the dead past.

The final stage, the seventh, is characterised by the person experiencing events in their newness, and feels that they are a self flowing in a process. Such a person does not cling to her beliefs. She knowingly lives in her feelings, trusting and accepting them.

Carl Rogers seems to have met few people who have reached this stage, and seems to suggest that this is one's final destination as a person. This stage can certainly seem to be a very pleasant stage to have reached. However, I would add that it is still a stage, and that one can go beyond it, beyond being a person, beyond the belief that one is a person. Compared with what lies beyond, Rogers' seventh and final stage is still a hell realm, but one needs to have gone beyond it to be able to see this.

Another good book by Carl Rogers is A Way of Being. In particular, the chapter on Do We Need 'A' Reality is worth reading, especially for those people who consider that there is one reality and we each see a part of it, and for those who have never asked “What really is the real world?”

Eric Fromm

Eric Fromm: The Fear of FreedomThis book, The Fear of Freedom, was first published in Britain in 1942. It is about the mind's search for security, and the effects that this has on the personality and on society in general.

Fromm points out that the personality is an expression of societal attitudes and beliefs, attitudes and beliefs that are created (and maintained) by the persons in that society.

However, Fromm does not reach as far as he might, to the idea that the feeling of insecurity, from which the mind is trying to escape, is in fact the result of the mind's desire for security. Drop the seeking for security, and insecurity will drop with it. Freedom comes from not clinging to security. No, Fromm does not reach this far.

Instead, he suggests that the solution is to devote oneself to spontaneous and creative activity. This strengthens the 'self' and helps a person to feel related to the world. He writes that the experience of the activity of the present moment is the only satisfaction that can give a person real happiness. Clearly, Fromm knows nothing of meditation.

So why did I even mention this book, let alone recommend it? Well, apart from an insightful analysis of how a person remains trapped in societal norms, there is one particularly noteworthy paragraph which seems to sum up the most important message of this book, reinforcing Rogers' later claims:

It would seem that the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed. By this we do not refer to individual frustrations of this or that instinctive desire but to the thwarting of the whole of life, the blockage of spontaneity of the growth and expression of man's sensuous, emotional and intellectual capacities. Life has an inner dynamism of its own; it tends to grow, to be expressed, to be lived. It seems that if this energy is thwarted the energy directed towards life undergoes a process of decomposition and changes into energies directed towards destruction.

So the next time you hear in the news of someone committing violent acts, remember one thing - these people are desperately unhappy. Their lives are agony, and they were trying to express themselves, no matter what the cost, in the only way they felt able to at the time. Read Fromm's The Fear of Freedom, and it will change your perspective on life.

Bernadette Roberts

Bernadette Roberts - The Path to No-SelfAs a child, Bernadette Roberts was a very devout Christian, and she later was a nun for some years. After returning to lay life, she continued to go to church, to sit there quietly and go into the silence. Yet the silence would disappear when she rose and left. Then one day when it was time to leave, the silence remained, and remained with her ever since.

She describes what happened to her and her understanding of what her experiences meant, in her three books The Path to No-Self, The Experience of No-Self, and What is Self? These books go deeply into what it means to go beyond the personality, and further, beyond the belief in one as a self.

I struggled with these books, due to Bernadette's constant attempts to explain her understanding in terms that the Christian Church apparently uses. The Cloud of Unknowing (author unknown) She herself seems to have difficulty with fitting her reality into Christian mythology and propaganda.

In this, though, she is following an old tradition. The unknown author of the medieval The Cloud of Unknowing, and Julian of Norwich in her Revelations of Divine Love also contorted the expression of their truths in order to fit Christian dogma. In fact, they went further than Bernadette Roberts in this, in that they tried also to keep their identities hidden from the church.

I am sure that it is not an accident that the identity of the author of The Cloud of Unknowing is not known to us, and Julian of Norwich swore her followers to secrecy, to not divulge her identity until several years after her death.

It is clear that Bernadette Roberts writes genuinely and with great sincerity. What she writes about is fascinating. In spite of my occasional difficulty in understanding Bernadette Roberts' language, it is clear to me that she goes beyond my current level of understanding.

Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti - Freedom from the Known Krishnamurti wrote many books, and even had some wonderful diaries published. Here, I just want to focus on one small book of his: Freedom From The Known. This is a small paperback of only 124 pages.

I picked up my copy second-hand. When I acquired it, it was still in reasonable condition. Over the years, I have read it and studied it and pondered it and tried to apply in my life some of what Krishnamurti writes about. I took it with me on my last trip to India, and read it four times during my five month stay there. It is now falling apart, but I keep it on my bookshelf, close to hand.

The book opens with the statement that:

Man has throughout the ages been seeking something beyond himself, beyond material welfare—something we call truth or God or reality, a timeless state—something that cannot be disturbed by circumstances, by thought or by human corruption.

Man has always asked the question: what is it all about? Has life any meaning, at all? He sees the enormous confusion of life, the brutalities, the revolts, the wars, the endless divisions of religion, ideology and nationality, and with a sense of deep abiding frustration he asks, what is one to do, what is this thing we call living, is there anything beyond it?

The theme of this book is that the known is the past, the known is dead. What I 'know' is based on my past experiences, on memories. The present situation is not the same as any other, and my memories are not relevant to it. If I try to live my life according to what I know, then I am forever missing the present moment.

(Here, as in everything that I write, I am not referring to the sort of knowledge that could be described as scientific, or things like 2 plus 3 make 5. No, I am never concerned with such matters. Such knowledge is a wonderful tool, but it is not what I am writing about.)

Anand Shraddhan

Anand Shraddhan - Ramblings on the Path And so we come to my own book, Ramblings on the Path - Beyond the Tyranny of the Mind. This is the story of how I came to escape from the hell realms in which most people live. You might well object to such a description, saying that you do not live in a hell realm.

Seen from your perspective, this may well be true. It is only after you have found yourself free of the hell realm that you fully realise that you were in one. This is the first of the Buddha's four noble truths: There is suffering.

People who do not understand this brief sentence point to it as an indication that the Buddha had a pessimistic view on life, claiming that he was life-negative. This is a complete misunderstanding.

The Buddha's life is thoroughly recorded in the massive Pali Canon, by my reckoning eleven ten times the size of the Bible. A quick look through these volumes will show that the Buddha was certainly not a miserable, dour pessimist as some people would have us believe. Time and again, people flock to hear him. They feel comforted by him, uplifted by him. Some challenge him, and have their mistaken beliefs gently overturned. Nobody walks away muttering “what a miserable old sour puss”.

My book contains passion, and pathos. And it also contains humour. It speaks of mysteries which I cannot explain, and it explains things that many others seem to be unaware of. I write of my own suffering when I was younger, in order to provide a perspective, to help the reader understand my passionate striving for something less unpleasant than the life I endured.

And yes, I was successful in this venture, far more successful than I ever dreamed I might be. I did achieve freedom from suffering. And permanently.

So my book is my song, an expression of my bliss. I hope that everybody who reads it will find something of value in it. I think that it is a fascinating book. And it does not try to preach to you.

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If you should wish to contact me about anything you have read here, especially if you feel strongly for or against what you have read, or if you feel that something is missing, I offer you an opportunity to share.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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