I

Nobody needs to go anywhere else. We are all, if we only knew it, already there.
If I only knew who in fact I am, I should cease to behave as what I think I am; and if I stopped behaving as what I think I am, I should know who I am.
What in fact I am, if only the Manichee I think I am would allow me to know it, is the reconciliation of yes and no lived out in total acceptance and the blessed experience of Not-Two.
In religion all words are dirty words. Anybody who gets eloquent about Buddha, or God, or Christ, ought to have his mouth washed out with carbolic soup.
Because his aspiration to perpetuate only the “yes” in every pair of opposites can never, in the nature of things, be realized, the insulated Manichee I think I am condemns himself to endlessly repeated frustration, endless repeated conflicts with other aspiring and frustrated Manichees.
Conflicts and frustrations- the theme of all history and almost all biography. “I show you sorrow,” said the Buddha realistically. But he also showed the endings of sorrow- self knowledge, total acceptance, the blessed experience of Not-Two.

II

Knowing who in fact we are results in Good Being, and Good Being results in the most appropriate kind of good doing. But good doing does not of itself result in Good Being. We can be virtuous without knowing who in fact we are. The beings who are merely good are not Good Beings they are just pillars of society.
Most pillars are their own Samsons. They hold up, but sooner or later they pull down. There has never been a society in which most good doing was the product of Good Being and therefore constantly appropriate. This does not mean that there will never be such a society or that we in Pala are fools for trying to call it into existence.

III

The Yogin and the Stoic- two righteous egos who achieve their very considerable results by pretending, systematically, to be somebody else. But it is not by pretending to be somebody else, even somebody supremely good and wise, that we can pass from insulated Manicheehood to Good Being.
Good Being is knowing who in fact we are; and in order to know who in fact we are, we must first know, moment by moment, who we think we are and what this bad habit of thought compels us to feel and do. A moment of clear and complete knowledge of what we think we are, but in fact are not, puts a stop, for the moment, to the Manichean Charade. If we renew, until they become a continuity, these moments of the knowledge, of what we are not, we may find ourselves, all of a sudden, knowing who in fact we are.
Concentration, abstract thinking, spiritual exercises- systematic exclusions in the realm of thought. Asceticism and hedonism- systematic exclusions in the realms of sensation, feeling and action. But Good Being is in the knowledge of who in fact one is in relation to all experiences. So be aware- aware in every context, at all times and whatever, creditable or discreditable, pleasant or unpleasant, you may be doing or suffering. This is only genuine yoga, the only spiritual exercise worth practicing.
The more a man knows about individual objects, the more he knows of God. Translating Spinoza’s language into ours, we can say: The more a man knows about himself in relation to every kind of experience, the greater his chance of suddenly, one fine morning, realizing who in fact he is- or rather Who (capital W) in Fact (capital F) “he” (between quotation marks Is (capital I).
St. John was right. In a blessedly speechless universe, the Word was not with God; it was God. As a something to be believed in. God is a projected symbol, a reified name. God = “God.”
Faith is something very different from belief. Belief is the systematic taking of unanalyzed words much too seriously. Paul’s words, Mohammed’s words, Marx’s words, Hitler’s words- people take them too seriously, and what happens? What happens is the senseless ambivalence of history, sadism versus duty, on (incomparably worse) sadism as duty; devotion counterbalanced by organized paranoia; sisters of charity selflessly tending the victims of their own church’s inquisitors and crusaders. Faith, on the contrary, can never be taken too seriously. For Faith is the empirically justified confidence in our capacity to know who in fact we are, to forget the belief-intoxicated Manichee in Good Being. Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief.

From Aldous Huxley’s Island

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