Lester Levenson: Self-Realization

This Session was recorded in New York City, September 21, 1964.

We try not to be intellectual. That knowledge may be gotten from reading books. Most of us already have the intellectual knowledge and yet are not Self-realized. What we want is knowledge through experiencing it, through feeling it, through realizing and integrating it into our very being. The only knowledge that is useful for growth is the knowledge that we realize with our inner sight and feeling. As we contemplate, knowledge should fit in with our feelings, i.e., feel right, and should integrate with our whole Beingness. Then it is a realization, a revelation. Then we know, and we know that we know.

A realization is seeing something really for the first time, although you’ve heard it again and again. When it’s realized, it’s as though you’ve heard it for the first time. It’s like an electric light bulb turning on in the mind and you say, “Oh, now I see.” It is something that you might have heard a hundred times before, but this time, on seeing and experiencing it, it’s a realization. It has become real to you.

This perceived and experienced knowledge is the only knowledge that does us any good. We can read everything on the subject but it doesn’t help and our life doesn’t change much. And it doesn’t because we don’t integrate the knowledge into our beingness through realization.

Realized knowledge is non-intellectual although the means we use are intellectual. We use our mind, we direct our mind toward the answer. But you will discover that the answer does not come from the mind. It comes from a place just behind the mind. It comes from the realm of knowingness, the realm of omniscience. By quieting the mind through stilling our thoughts, each and every one of us has access to this realm of knowingness. Then and there you realize, you make real. You know and you know that you know. Is there any question about what I just said?

Q: Is knowingness and feelingness the same thing?

Lester: No. The feeling comes just before the knowing.

Q: Is knowingness beyond feeling? Is knowledge that which feels true?

Lester: The answer to both your questions is “Yes.” It’s something you’ll have to experience. There’s a feel to things, and also there are times when you just know and you know you know, and there’s no feeling to it. Knowing is really a higher level. We start with reasoning, thinking, in the realm of thinkingness. Then we move into the realm of feelingness. The top realm is the realm of knowingness.

Q: Is ego implied in feeling?

Lester: Yes. The ego does the feeling. It is a higher ego state. Therefore there’s duality: I feel emotion. Knowingness is awareness. When I said: “You know and you know that you know,” you’re aware and you’re aware of the fact that you are aware. There’s nothing conditioning it. The very top state is the state of all awareness, of all beingness. Beingness and awareness turn out to be the same thing when we get there. Before that, it seems as though they are two different things; but when we move to the top, beingness, awareness, consciousness are all the same thing, because the awareness you are aware of is of beingness being all beingness. We see that we are not only this body, but that we are every other body, every other thing and every atom in this universe. So, if we are every being and atom, we are all beingness.

Q: You mean I am That?

Lester: Yes, definitely! It’s “I.” The top state is “I.” That’s all, not even “I am.” Just below the top it’s “I am.” A step below that is “I am what I am.” A step below that is “I am unlimited.” A step below that is “I am great.”

Q: Or one with God?

Lester: Well, where is “One with God?” One with God is not a top state because it’s in duality. If I am one with God, there are “I” and “God.” In the ultimate we discover that “I” is God. There’s only a singular oneness in the universe, and we are, we must necessarily be, that oneness. That’s what we discover at the end of the line, or the beginning of the line, whichever way you look at it. We are unlimited beings covering over this limitlessness with concepts of limitation, the first of which is “I am an individual separate from the all.” That’s the very first and a very big error that we make– “I am separate, I am a personality, my name is Lester, I have a body.” And I spiral right down. After we assume a mind and a body, then we assume all these troubles and all these problems, and they’re nothing but assumptions. They are only a fiction, which we see after we go within, quiet the mind, and discover all this truth right there.

This whole world, as now seen, is nothing but a dream illusion that never was. The truth is just behind the outward world. So why create trouble? The growth is simply the eliminating of all the concepts of limitation. That infinite perfect being that we are must always be infinite and perfect, and therefore is perfect right now. That’s one thing we can never change–our unlimited Self. That is all the time. But I, the unlimited Self, can assume that I am limited, and that I have a mind, I have a body, I have problems. However it is only an assumption.

Q: What’s the technique for cutting through all that, for getting right to that state where you have that total awareness?

Lester: Pose the question “Who and what am I?” and wait for the answer to present itself. The thinking mind can never give the answer, because all thought is of limitation. So, in quietness and meditation pose the questions: “Who am I?” “What am I?” When other thoughts come up, strike them down. If you can’t, ask “Who is listening to these thoughts?” Well, I am. Well then, who am I? and you’re right back on the track of “Who am I?” Continue this until you get the answer to the question “Who and what am I?” regardless of how long it takes. The answer is the unlimited Self. The only way it becomes obvious is when the mind stills almost completely. The only obstacles to immediate full realization here and now are the thoughts, every one of which is limited. Eliminate those thoughts and you’ll see this infinite Being that you always were and are and always will be.

The difficulty is the past habit-patterns of thought, the unconscious constant turning and churning of thought in a mechanism we have set up that we call the unconscious mind. The unconscious thoughts are simply our thoughts now that we do not look at, and so we call them unconscious. This is the enemy we set up. To lessen these unconscious thoughts, we first make them conscious. When we make them conscious, then we may let go of them and they are gone forever. This quiets the unconscious mind. Now, the more we eliminate the thoughts, the more obvious our real Self becomes. The more obvious our real Self becomes, the more we are able to scorch the remaining thoughts, until the mind is totally quieted.

Q: You have to still the conscious thoughts before you can get to the unconscious thoughts?

Lester: The conscious thought is only the unconscious thought made conscious.

Q: They come through dreams, too, at that state, don’t they? The unconscious thoughts?

Lester: Yes, but it’s only in the waking state that we can eliminate them and thereby grow.

Q: How many minds do we have?

Lester: There’s only one mind. What we are looking at this moment is what the world calls the conscious mind. The part of the mind we’re not looking at this moment the world calls the unconscious mind. It’s the mode of mind that we give a different name to. That which we are talking about now, that which we are aware of now, is what we call the conscious mind, the conscious thought. The unconscious mind is all the thoughts we are not interested in at this moment. What some call super-conscious thought, there’s really no such thing as super-conscious thought. The superconscious, that which is above consciousness, is already out of the thinking realm, that’s the omniscience, that’s the realm of knowingness. The super-conscious realm is all awareness, all knowingness. There is no thinking when you know.

Q: Is unconscious different from subconscious?

Lester: Subconscious and unconscious are the same.

Q: Do you agree with Jung’s collective unconscious theory?

Lester: I only agree with truth. And this is one thing I emphasize: truth is the only authority for truth. Accept nothing until you can prove it for yourself. Don’t even accept what I say, no matter how much I speak as though I know. If it doesn’t fit into your knowingness at present, you can accept it in order to test it. But only that which you can prove for yourself, only that should you accept. This is very important. It is absolutely necessary to prove all of this knowledge for yourself. Otherwise it’s hearsay to you. You must make this knowledge your knowledge.

Now, there’s only one truth, one absolute truth, so putting names to it doesn’t mean anything. Whether so-and-so said it or I said it doesn’t mean anything. Is it true? Does it integrate into your understanding? That’s the only thing that matters. That’s the point in which we [Lester] are different: we try to make this very practical so that you can use this knowledge and move toward total understanding as quickly as possible.

Q: Is it necessary to go through stages?

Lester: No. How long should it take infinite power, infinite knowledge to know that It is infinite?

Q: It wouldn’t take any time.

Lester: Right. When man so wills with full intensity of will it happens quickly. If you would want this more than anything else, you would have it in a matter of weeks or months.

Q: Is there any way of making yourself want it more and more?

Lester: Yes, make yourself want it by experiencing the wonderfulness of it.

Q: Or make yourself more and more miserable?

Lester: Well, there are two incentives; misery is one, but not the best. The sweetness of it, the wonderfulness of it, the glory of it should make us want it more than the misery should.

Q: The glory in what sense?

Lester: The glory of it, of knowing what you are. It’s a tremendous experience, it’s an ecstasy, a euphoria. There are no real words to describe it because, well, we’re in an age where these things are not experienced and therefore not understood, so how can there be words for things that are not understood? There are no words to describe these feelings, they’re so beyond present understanding. So you pick the words you know best to describe it and that’s it. Paramhansa Yogananda uses the words “ever-new joy welling up every second,” and that’s a practical way of describing it. At first it’s a joy that spills over every second, just keeps pouring out, pouring out, you feel as though you can’t contain it. Later on, it resolves itself into a very profound peace, the most peaceful peace you could ever imagine. It’s a delicious peace which is far more comfortable than ever-new joy. But please, get the ever-new joy!

Q: But don’t stay there.

Lester: That’s it. It’s very easy to get stuck in the ever-new joy state. That’s what they call the ananda sheath. It’s the last veil we have to remove. It is the last wall we must break through. When you start this ever-new joy, it’s so good you just want to continue it. Also you have no feeling of need to change, everything is so wonderful. But it isn’t the final state. The final state is “the peace that passeth all understanding.” It’s a deep, deep peace. You move in the world, the body moves, but you have absolute peace all the time. Bombs could be dropping all around you and you have that perfect peace regardless of what’s going on.

Q: How do you maintain that state?

Lester: If you get it you don’t have to maintain it, because you have it, you are it.

Q: Well, in that particular state then, you are really omniscient and all the other things, and there’s no necessity for thinking.

Lester: Right. That’s the top state. Now, it is possible to dip into this state to a certain depth that’s very deep and not maintain it because the habits from the past, the habits of thoughts that have not been eliminated, re-emerge and take over. We can feel this infinite being that we are and it’s a wonderful experience, then the next minute, “Oh, so-and-so wants me to do this and I don’t want to do it,” a thought comes in and there you are, identifying with unhappy limitedness. You, the Self, are trying to be this unlimited being through a very narrow ego, a very limited ego, and it hurts. That’s all it is.

Q: How do you bombard that ego and get rid of it?

Lester: First and foremost, an intense desire to let go of the ego. Second, listening to someone who knows the way and following through on the direction, especially if that one is a fully realized being.

Q: That’s hard to find.

Lester: No, they are available right where you are. Wherever you are, they’re right there. I can name some of them: Jesus, Buddha . . . But there is no need for a physical body when you can get the others wherever you are, because they’re omnipresent. All you need to do is open your mind’s eye and see them. They’re omnipresent so they must be right where you are. Also, they, wanting to help you, must necessarily come to you if you open yourself to them. They have no choice—they have made a commitment. So all you need to do is to ask for their help and guidance and open yourself to it and it is there.

However, since we think we’re physical bodies, sometimes we more readily accept a fully realized being when he is in a physical body. Therefore we will receive more help, because in our physical sensing, he seems to be more real. Because of that it’s good to have a fully realized being in the flesh. However, if we don’t have one, it doesn’t mean we can’t receive the guidance of those who are omnipresent.

Q: Some aspect of the Hindu thought says you can’t do it without a living guru, but I think they’ve evolved beyond that now, and you’re confirming it.

Lester: Yes. However, a guru is alive, whether in physical body or not.

Q: Do people need a living guru?

Lester: People need a guru, a teacher. He doesn’t necessarily have to be alive in a physical body, but he has to be accepted as being alive. He doesn’t have to be in a physical body. The reason why we need a guru is that we are in a very difficult age. It’s an age of materialism where everything, everyone, is shouting at us: “This is a material world. This is it!” We have been in this world again and again and again. So we really need the assistance of a fully realized being to counteract that constant weight of the world that says we are physical, limited bodies.

We should want the Truth more than we want air. Then we would get full realization very quickly.

Q: Did you coin that, is that yours, an aphorism?

Lester: Nothing is mine. Anything I say will have always been said before. I might just twist the words around this way or that way, in my own style, but there’s nothing new. Truth always was and always will be.

There’s a story in the Eastern writings of a master and his disciple. They were bathing in a river and the disciple asked: “Master, how can I know the truth?” And the master took him by the hair and held him under the water until he was about to go unconscious, and then he let him up and said, “Now, when you want truth as much as you wanted air, then you’ll have it.”

They have some great stories.That snake and the rope story is an excellent analogy of the physical world. I guess every one knows that, don’t they? A person walks along the road at dusk and sees a rope on the ground, mistakes it for a snake, goes into an intense fear and a complete involvement as to what to do about this awful snake. Well, the snake is only an illusion. The real thing is a rope. So he spends a lifetime of maybe sixty-five years struggling and fighting this snake-world, and then takes a rest on the astral side and comes back and fights it again and again and again until he wakes up to the fact that the snake was only the rope, and it really never was. And that’s exactly what happens to this physical world. It’s just like that snake, it’s an illusion.

The example I like best is that what goes on in this world is exactly the same as what goes on in a night dream. While we’re in the night dream it’s very real, we are there, there are other characters, it’s either beautiful or ugly, and when it’s a nightmare, we’re being killed. It’s a real struggle. All the time we’re in the dream, it is real to us. But when we awaken we say, “Oh, my gosh, it was only a dream; it never really was.” And that’s exactly what happens when we wake up out of this waking-state dream of the world.

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https://youtu.be/zvIOuG45r18  (10:50)

Lester: Why do you stop? Why don’t you go all the way?

Q: I don’t know.

Lester: You don’t think it’s so. You don’t think it can be so.

Q: No, I know all things can be so. “As a man thinketh . . .”

Lester: Intellectually, theoretically you accept it’s so; but if you really thought that, you’d never let go until you became desireless, and then you would instantaneously materialize anything and everything you need. Why would you do it the hard way the way you do it now? Why work for a living? Why punch a time clock? Why have difficulties in life?

. . .

Lester: Life in most of the universe is lived the way I’m speaking about.

Q: Robins still go out and scratch for the worm, though.

Lester: He’s like we are, only not nearly so bound—he’s far freer. He never worries about making a living. But he’s in a physical realm, too. He’s in the slowest, densest realm there is.

Q: The hardest one, hand-to-mouth.

Lester: But I’m making a point here of, why don’t we go all the way and have things happen instantaneously, have a constant state of joy with never any sorrow? Why don’t we do this?

. . .

Lester: But you’ve got to see your not wanting it (liberation) before you will let go of your not-wanting it. This is the point I’m trying to make. If we did not not-want it, it would very quickly be. But we’re holding on to not-wanting it all the time: that’s why we’re not getting it. Does that make sense? We’re holding on to the not-wanting of it, of this perfect way of living.

Q: By seeing obstacles, seeing limitations.

L: By seeing that we are limited, and therefore cannot have things instantaneously. Even a little worm—what is it, a glow worm?—they cut it in half and it grows the part of the body you cut away from it. See, now, we all have to learn how to do that before we gain our immortality. We have to learn to be free from this body before we are not compelled to come back in a body through the womb, through nine months’ incubation and then starting off as a totally helpless infant. Here’s a prime example of probably the grossest stupidity in the universe. For an infant who is basically unlimited to be that incapacitated, how silly can we get? But we do it again and again and again. And if you remember back to your first days of life you’ll find it extremely uncomfortable. You can’t get up and you’re totally un-free. And we’ve all done it this lifetime. We’ve made made ourselves totally incapable of doing almost anything except when food is put in our mouth we take it.

And what I’m saying is face these things, confront these things, and maybe you’ll let go of them and go all the way. And you’ll do it very quickly, because you’re unlimited right now. You’re assuming all these limitations. I guess the thing I’m trying to get into you is the desire to go all the way. Because our growth is directly proportional to our desire for it. If we desired to be unlimited as much as we desire to be limited in the world, we’d get it very quickly. Your desire to be in the world is very intense. I’ve said, if you want to find out how attached you are to this body, how would you feel about throwing it in front of an automobile? Then you’ll discover how much you think you are this body. But you’ve got to confront these things; you’ve got to look at them.