As soon as we enter a teaching, we begin to receive specific knowledge intended to help us overcome many of the obstacles to being present. We call this new knowledge ‘esoteric’—that is, hidden—because such knowledge does not circulate in ordinary life.
As we begin to transform esoteric knowledge into practice, we develop new understanding and new attitudes toward life and toward ourselves. This practice not only increases our ability to be present, but simultaneously permits us to shed many life-long attitudes that do not support our spiritual evolution.
Among the old attitudes that hinder our work are those related to negative emotions. A perfect illustration of a transformed attitude in this area is given by Abu Bakr, a close companion to Mohammed. He said, “The spiritual warrior has no outside enemies.”
Throughout our lives, when we became negative we complained about others or about the external situation: “He made me angry,” or, “She said something bad about me,” or “I didn’t have any choice.” We simply blamed others or our circumstances for our outbursts of anger, and sleep-walked in righteous indignation, certain that our negativity was not our fault.
Yet, when we examine Abu Bakr’s quote, we see that esoteric knowledge teaches just the opposite. The responsibility for controlling our negative emotions lies with us. We no longer have the luxury of blaming others for our own lack of control. Thus, every negative emotion that we express returns home to ourselves, as this is where the enemy truly exists.
While the esoteric teaching of the non-expression of negative emotions may sound harsh or impossible to accomplish, those who are beginning in earnest the moment-to-moment struggle to penetrate the present need to embrace this principle as soon as possible.
Abu Bakr is not the only one who professes this idea; it can be found in almost every esoteric teaching. For example, Shakespeare wrote, “The fault lies not within our stars, but within ourselves.”
Rodney Collin taught, “In this system [The Fourth Way] it is considered hypocrisy to blame others for what takes place in oneself.” In Judaism, it is written, “Who is strong? He who controls his passions." And lastly, from the Sufi poet Hafiz, “Blame keeps the same sad game going. It keeps stealing your wealth, giving it to an imbecile with no financial skills. Dear one…Wise up!”
As the spiritual warrior goes through the day armed with just this single esoteric teaching, the external world begins to loosen its grip. The ability to experience moments of presence grows. The student has learned to place esoteric thinking above ordinary thinking.
By persevering in this practice of esoteric thinking, we begin to create within ourselves a “New Man”, which is a wonderful topic for another time.