On Coming Out of the Vicious Circle

“For quite a long while at the beginning of the path, it seems as though you are going around in circles, always encountering the same scenery, apparently not moving from the spot you started from. This would be discouraging if you didn’t know that it is an illusion. Actually, you are moving on, and the circle is what I call “the spiral.”  This is an inevitable experience on the path.

All your faults, errors, ignorances, and their complexities create one big vicious circle in your soul. This circle consists of individual faults which affect and interact with one another and cause a chain reaction. To break this vicious circle, you have to understand thoroughly the individual faults that constitute your vicious circle. You have to concentrate on one after the other so as to find the link of cause and effect within your circle. The whole circle cannot possibly be understood completely from having made the round only once. When you complete the first round, you start again. Each time you start again, you gain a slightly profounder understanding of the various highlights and individual points in the circle until eventually you see the whole circle in your mind and understand the interdependence of all your negative qualities. Then you will cease to experience your faults as unconnected. Until you reach this perspective, you have to repeat the round often. At the beginning this seems to you like senseless repetition, lacking in progress. It is not!  Without going through this most important part on the path you cannot become free and reach the light. Thus the circle becomes a spiral leading upward very gradually.

Some of you may think you know your faults already. This will be so only to the extent you have been active on the path. You may know some of your faults, but others you have not yet discovered. As I have said before, there is a vast difference between knowing and knowing. To what depth do you know?  How much can you connect your faults with your good qualities?  And your faults with each other?  Can you really grasp and understand your fears, insecurities, and complexes from the point of view of your faults in relation to their deviation from the divine laws?  Until you reach such understanding, you must go around and around in your particular vicious circle.

By now you know that all faults come from pride, self-will, and fear. It is essential that you see and feel how each and every one of your faults derives from one or all of these three basic faults. Find the common denominator. This is not easy if you are to understand it emotionally. For that you have to go through the faults and their connections step by step, again and again; you have to follow the vicious circle through until you grasp it well enough so that you can break it at one point. Every time you conclude one round and start the next, you follow an upward-winding spiral. At the beginning the upward slant is so slight that you do not even notice it. But later on, you will clearly feel that every time you start anew, you have gained a profounder insight into your problems, and you will not be discouraged anymore by an apparent standstill.

At the very beginning you do not know or feel that there is such a vicious circle in you. You experience such confusion that you do not even know where to begin. Although you know some of your faults and all of your outer problems, you cannot as yet connect the one with the other. That is the most difficult part at the beginning. Everything within yourself is still disorganized. You do not know where to begin, what to hold on to. The moment you focus your attention on one complexity or problem, other things come up that apparently have no connection, and you become confused. Only self-discipline and perseverance will get you to the point when you finally can see the whole picture of the vicious circle, how one defect is caused by another in a chain reaction. When you get to the point of clarity, you are moving into a major phase. You must not get discouraged when at first the disorganization is so great that you do not know where or how to start. After a while everything will no longer be running like sand through your fingers. You will have something definite to hold on to, a clear picture of this cycle.

The vicious circle consists of a multiplicity of character defects which, at various points, will draw together and show you major problems that can be looked at and worked with. When you progress further, you will find one major point that is the key to your entire personality and to all your problems. You must find that key yourself, and you must do it through your own labor. To tell it to you would not do you any good.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Prayer, Pathwork Lecture #36

The Illusion Of Action

“Agitation, haste, restlessness lead nowhere. It is foam on the sea; it is a great fuss that stops with itself. Men have a feeling that if they are not all the time running about and bursting into fits of feverish activity, they are doing nothing. It is an illusion to think that all these so-called movements change things. It is merely taking a cup and beating the water in it; the water is moved about, but it is not changed for all your beating. This illusion of action is one of the greatest illusions of human nature. It hurts progress because it brings on you the necessity of rushing always into some excited movement. If you could only perceive the illusion and see how useless it all is, how it changes nothing! Nowhere can you achieve anything by it. Those who are thus rushing about are the tools of forces that make them dance for their own amusement. And they are not forces of the best quality either.”

– Sri Aurobindo

On Spiritual Influences

“Wherever a human being is, a number of spirit beings of various stages of development are also close by. In every sphere there are specialists of all kinds. I have said this before and repeat it here because its significance is not yet fully understood. The world of spirit, in all its gradations, is much more specialized than your earthly sphere. This applies to the divine order and to the world of darkness as well as all the variations in-between. Each one of you attracts those specialists whose particular qualities, good or bad, you possess. For like attracts like inevitably, magnetically. When a human being grows up, he or she is surrounded by guardian spirits who belong to the order and organization of divine worlds, and they can come close to their protege only if he or she asks for divine truth and will, and tries to strive higher. Otherwise they have to stand back and watch from a distance. They will interfere only to protect according to past merits, following exact spiritual laws about which they are very careful and which they do not ever break, because these laws are perfection, love, wisdom and justice. This very same person is also surrounded by a number of other spirits not incorporated into the divine order. Some may belong to the world of darkness. If this person is not a criminal or a really sinful soul, very evil spirits will keep away, for they could not accomplish their specialty with such a person.

However, even the specialists of the so-called minor or everyday human faults belong to the world of darkness. They also operate according to their own laws, and accomplish just as much for their purposes as, let us say, a spirit of murder who influences a human being. If your fault is selfishness, there will be a selfishness specialist attached to you. If your fault is that you are inclined to furious outbursts, you will have a specialist around you of a type who will wait for you to permit it to take over, influence you and thus live through you. This gives it a great deal of satisfaction, not only because it thus fulfills its task, but also because it can indulge in its particular weakness. On the other hand, you may be completely void of envy, so you do not have a specialist of envy attached to you. But another person, not inferior to you in his or her overall development, may have this envy specialist around because of this fault.

So you must bear in mind that it is your own faults that pull the particular specialists close to you in the first place, and that they constantly wait for an opportunity to live through you. Thus you collude with them, and can get rid of them only through your personal endeavor to overcome your faults. But before you can do this, you first have to recognize all your faults, of which you are often unaware simply because you do not want to be burdened with such unflattering knowledge. Few people really want to know their faults. Most people admit that they have some faults, but to admit faults in a superficial way and to become fully aware of them are two different things.

So, for your own protection, each one of you should face himself or herself in utter honesty. You can be sure that whatever your particular faults are, you will carry with you and around you the corresponding spirit specialists who are waiting for an opportunity to inspire you to give in to your particular faults. And since it does not take a lot of pressure to succumb, and it is the easy and comfortable way, very often you follow these inspirations. The stronger the fault is within you and the less aware you are of its full significance, the closer this specialist will be to you! Thus it is at the same time both correct and incorrect for people who know about the existence of the beyond and the spirit-creatures to say that an evil spirit influenced them. When they say this, and mean by it that they are taking full responsibility for their own input, it is correct; but when they say it because they want to absolve themselves of personal responsibility and guilt, it is incorrect.

Between these low creatures and the higher entities of the world of God there are many spirits who are very similar to yourselves in their attitudes. They may be deceased people who mean well and are not particularly bad, but who do not yet belong to the divine order and are thus blind in many respects. They often seek to influence human beings because it helps them in some way, or simply because they have nothing better to do. They can learn from you if you take the spiritual path of self-development. However, if you are not stronger than they are, they will influence you, sometimes not harmfully, but, even though they may mean well, they do not inspire you to the best of your spiritual advantage because they are blind. Sometimes their guidance may be to your material advantage, which may or may not interfere with your spiritual progress, and sometimes their influence may be harmless, or appear harmless, but is ultimately to your disadvantage. When and to what degree this can happen is again no coincidence: their influence is inevitably called forth by your own inner attitudes.

If you meditate about this, about yourself, your life and your desires, you can find out what spirits are around you. Those of you who walk on the path of perfection, which is the only real protection you have, will not be bothered or influenced by spirits who do not fulfill the will of God in all respects. There are other means of protection, but they have only a temporary effect. If you are in disharmony—for instance when you feel a quarrel brewing with your fellow-creatures—and have the presence of mind to bring yourself to pray, to reach out for God within you, or to ask for spiritual guidance, this will surely help, and I recommend it strongly. But it will help only in this particular instance, because you do not always have such presence of mind. Sometimes you will be tired and will let yourself go, and then you become prey to these influences which, as we said, can have an effect on you only because of what is already within you. Therefore, the only definite and permanent cure and protection for you is to tear out the bad growths at their roots. This happens on the path of perfection and self-development, the path of happiness. If you are willing to take this path, you will be guided and helped. But first this will and decision must be clearly formulated within you; then it will be recognized. At that point your divine guidance can automatically and immediately get close to you and can, among other things, guide you to the proper human help which you also need in order to take this path. You will be guided to the place and the person best suited to your temperament and character.

This is how the different spiritual spheres with their respective creatures influence humans. Human beings are not helpless prey to these influences, but determine them. And by rejecting any influence that does not come from the divine world, a person not only takes hold of his or her own life but also weakens the forces of darkness, for the less they have to work with in the material world, the more power they must eventually lose.”

– Eva Pierrakos

Full lecture here: https://pathwork.org/lectures/influence-between-the-spiritual-world-and-the-material-world/

[Habits of Confusion] 7. Choosing out of Negative Motivations

“It is extremely important for all of you who work on this path to find where you fear the negative and therefore grab for the positive alternative. When you find the areas of fear, and see how you want the positive for negative motivations, you will be able to accept the rich abundance of life with a raised head, as a free person. It is this soul movement that makes all the difference.

The soul condition of fearlessness produces the conviction that nothing negative is ever necessary and that the human entity’s fate is bliss, unfoldment, and dynamic life. And where such conviction exists, outer facts must follow suit. Shrinking away from a feared alternative and wanting the positive alternative because of that, makes the latter an unreachable illusion. This may explain to many of my friends why a number of doors have remained closed for them, in spite of much progress and insight. However, it requires an extended awareness to notice the existence of fear, and to be aware of the fine differentiation between wanting happiness for the sake of happiness, or wanting it in order to avoid unhappiness.

I have discussed general aims, but your specific desires, with the fear of their opposites, have to be ascertained in your personal work. Nothing is too big or too little, important or unimportant, when it comes to the human psyche. For anything that may appear to be an insignificant aspect is, in the last analysis, connected with the great questions of life. When you find these elements, new doors will open to you, my friends. Even before you can shed the fear itself, ascertaining it and knowing what it means must make a great difference in your attitude to yourself, to life, and to the particular desire that has remained unfulfilled because you have overlooked the shift in motivation. This is an all-important key.

Don’t overlook either that the presence of a fear of the negative does not necessarily annul a healthy wish for the positive for its own sake. It is absolutely possible — in fact, it is frequent — that a healthy wish exists simultaneously with the distorted motivation.

Once you put your finger on the fear, you can directly treat it in your meditations. This will make a great deal of difference on your path. It can be a solution to many problems that have remained stubbornly locked so far. The mere realization, “I cannot step out into freedom because I want freedom not for itself, but because I fear to be imprisoned,” will bring liberation a great step closer. If you realize that you cannot be free because you fear unfreedom, in that realization greater freedom is yours. This may sound complicated and quite paradoxical, but if you deeply think about it, you will understand how true it is.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Lecture 130: Finding True Abundance by Going Through Your Fear

More here:
https://pathwork.org/lectures/finding-true-abundance-by-going-through-your-fear/

Steps to Handling our Anger

Steps to Handling our Anger
from The Surprising Purpose of Anger
by Marshall B. Rosenberg

“When it comes to managing anger, NVC [Nonviolent Communication] shows us how to use anger as an alarm that tells us we are thinking in ways that are not likely to get our needs met, and more likely get us involved in interactions that are not going to be constructive for anyone. Our training stresses that it is dangerous to think of anger as something to be repressed, or as something bad. When we tend to identify anger as a result of something wrong with us, then our tendency is to want to repress it and not deal with anger. That use of anger, to repress and deny it, often leads us to express it in ways that can be very dangerous to ourselves and others.”

“The NVC approach involves several steps. I will go over these steps in part by using an example of a young man in a prison in Sweden. I was working with this man in a prisoner training session, showing the participants how NVC can be used to manage their anger.

The First and Second Steps

The first step in handling our anger using NVC [Nonviolent Communication] is to be conscious that the stimulus, or trigger, of our anger is not the cause of our anger. That is to say that it isn’t simply what people do that makes us angry, but it’s something within us that responds to what they do that is really the cause of the anger. This requires us to be able to separate the trigger from the cause. In the situation with the prisoner in Sweden, the very day that we were focusing on anger, it turned out that he had a lot of anger in relationship to the prison authorities. So he was very glad to have us there to help him deal with anger on that day. I asked him what it was that the prison authorities had done that was the stimulus of his anger. He answered, “I made a request of them three weeks ago, and they still haven’t responded.” Well, he had answered the question in the way that I wanted him to. He had simply told me what they had done. He hadn’t mixed in any evaluation, and that is the first step in managing anger in a nonviolent way: simply to be clear what the stimulus is but not to mix that up with judgements or evaluation. This alone is an important accomplishment. Frequently when I ask such a question I get a response such as, “they were inconsiderate” which is a moral judgement of what they are but doesn’t say what they actually did.

The second step involves our being conscious that the stimulus is never the cause of our anger. That is, it isn’t simply what people do that makes us angry. It is our evaluation of what has been done that is the cause of our anger. And it’s a particular kind of  evaluation.”

“In the case of the prisoner , when he told me that he was angry and that the trigger for his anger was that the prison officials hadn’t responded for three weeks to his request, I asked him to look inside and tell me what the cause of his anger was. He seemed confused, and he said to me: “I just told you the cause of my anger, I made a request three weeks ago and the prison officials still haven’t responded to it.”

I told him “Now, what you told me was the trigger for your anger. In our previous sessions I’ve tried to clarify for you that it’s never simply the trigger that creates our anger. The cause is what we’re looking for. So I’d like you to tell me how you are interpreting their behavior, how you are looking at it, that is causing you to be angry.”

He was very confused at this point. He was like many of us: He had not been trained to be conscious of what was going on within himself when he was angry. So I had to give him a little help to get an idea of what I meant by how to just stop and listen to the kind of thoughts that might be going on the inside of us that are always at the core of anger.

After a few moments he said to me: “OK, I see what you mean. I’m angry because I’m telling myself it isn’t fair, that isn’t a decent way to treat human beings. They are acting as though they are important, and I’m nothing.” And he had several other such judgements that were floating rapidly through his head. Notice he initially said it was simply their behavior that was making him angry. But it was really all of these thoughts that he had within himself that were making him angry, any one of which could have created his anger. But he was ready with a whole series of such judgements, “They’re not fair; they’re not treating me right.” All such judgements are the cause of anger.

Once he had identified this, he said to me, “Well, what’s wrong with thinking that way?” And I said: “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with thinking that way. I’d just like you to be conscious that it’s thinking that way which is the cause of your anger. And we don’t want to mix up what people do – the trigger – with the cause of anger.

Now, this is very hard for many of us to keep straight: to not mix up the trigger, or stimulus, of our anger with the cause of our anger. The reason that that’s not easy for us is that we may have been educated by people who use guilt as a primary form of trying to motivate us. When you want to use guilt as a way of manipulating people, you need to confuse them into thinking that the trigger is the cause of the feelings. In other words, if you want to use guilt with somebody, you need to communicate in a way that indicates that your pain is being caused simply by what they do. In other words, their behavior is not simply the stimulus of your feelings; it’s the cause of your feelings.”

“If we are to manage anger in ways that are in harmony with the principles of NVC, it’s important for us to be conscious of this key distinction: I feel as I do because I am telling myself thoughts about the other person’s actions that imply wrongness on their part. Such thoughts take the form of judgements such as, “I think the person is selfish, I think the person is rude, or lazy , or manipulating people, and they shouldn’t do that.” Such thoughts take either the form of direct judgement of others or indirect judgements expressed through such things as, “I’m judging this person as thinking only they have something worth saying”. In these latter expressions, it’s implicit that we think what they’re doing isn’t right.

Now, that’s important, because if I think this other person is making me feel this way, it’s going to be hard for me not to imagine punishing them.”

Related image

The Third Step

“The third step involves looking for the need that is the root of our anger. This is built on the assumption that we get angry because our needs are not getting met. The problem is that we’re not in touch with our needs. Instead of being directly connected to our need, we go up to our head and start thinking of what’s wrong with other people for not meeting our needs. The judgements we make of other people – which cause our anger – are really alienated expressions of unmet needs.”

”Let’s go back to the case of the prisoner from Sweden. After we had identified the judgements he was making that were creating his anger, I asked him to look behind the judgements and tell me what needs of his were not getting met. These unmet needs were actually being expressed through the judgements he was making of the prison officials.

This wasn’t easy for him to do because when people are trained to think in terms of wrongness of others, they are often blind to what they themselves need. They often have very little vocabulary for describing their needs. It requires shifting attention away from judging outward, to looking inward and seeing what the need is. But with some help, he was finally able to get in touch with his need and he said: “Well, my need is to be able to take care of myself when I get out of prison by being able to get work. So the request that I was making of the prison officials was for training to meet that need. If I don’t get that training, I’m not going to be able to take care of myself economically when I get out of prison, and I’m going to end up back in here.”

Then I said to the prisoner, “Now that you’re in touch with your need, how are you feeling?” He said, “I’m scared.” So when we are directly connected to our need, we are never angry any more. The anger hasn’t been repressed; the anger has been transformed into need-serving feelings.”

“After I pointed out to the prisoner the difference between getting in touch with his needs and the feelings that he had, he was then aware of his fear. He could see that the anger was because of the thinking about the wrongness of others. I then asked the prisoner, “Do you think you’re more likely to get your needs met if, when you go in to talk to the prison officials, you are connected to your needs and the fear, or if you are up in your head judging them and angry?”

And he could see very clearly that he was much more likely to get his needs met if he were to be communicating from a position of connection to his needs, rather than separated from his needs and thinking of others in ways that implied wrongness. At the moment that he had this insight into what a different world he would be living in when he was in touch with his needs as opposed to judging others, he looked down at the floor and had about as sad a look on his face as I can recall any person ever having had. And I asked him, “What’s going on?”

He said, “I can’t talk about it right now.” Later that day, he helped me understand what was going on in him. He came to me and said: “Marshall, I wish you could have taught me two years ago about anger what you taught me this morning. I wouldn’t have had to kill my best friend.”

Tragically, two years before, his best friend had done some things and he felt great rage in response to his judgements about what his friend had done. But instead of being conscious of what his needs were behind of that, he really thought it was his friend that made him angry, and in a tragic interaction ended up killing his friend.”

“This is a very important step that I have just outlines: To be conscious of the thinking that is creating anger. And as I said, the prisoner at first was totally oblivious to all of the thoughts that were going on within him that made him angry. The reason for this is that our thoughts go on very rapidly. Many of our thoughts go so quickly through our heads that we are not even aware that they are there, and it really looks to  us as though it was the stimulus that was the cause of our anger.

I have outlined three steps in managing our anger using NVC:

  1. Identify the stimulus for our anger, without confusing it with the evaluation. 
  2. Identify the internal image of judgement that is making us angry. 
  3.  Transform this judgemental image into the need that it is expressing; in other words, bring our full attention to the need that is behind the judgement.”

The Fourth Step

“The fourth step includes saying to the other person four pieces of information. First, we reveal to them the stimulus: what they have done that is in conflict with our needs being fulfilled. Secondly, we express how we are feeling. Notice we are not repressing the anger.  The anger has been transformed into a feeling such as sad, hurt, scared, frustrated, or the like. And then we follow up our expression of our feelings with the needs of ours that are not being fulfilled.

And now we add to those three pieces of information a clear, present request of what we want from the other person in relationship to our feelings and unmet needs.

So in the situation with the prisoner, the fourth step on this part would be to go the prison officials and say something like this: “I made a request three weeks ago. I still haven’t heard from you, and I’m feeling scared because I have a need to be able to earn a living when I leave this prison, and I’m afraid that without the training I was requesting it would be very hard for me to make a living. So I’d like you to tell me what is preventing you from responding to my request.”

If we’re sufficiently trained in getting in touch with the need behind the judgements, we can take a deep breath and very rapidly go through the process that I led the prisoner through. In other words, as soon as we catch ourselves getting angry, we take a deep breath, stop, look inside, and ask ourselves quickly, “What am I telling myself that’s making me so angry?” We quickly get in touch with the need that is behind that judgement. When we’re in touch with the need we will feel in our body a shift away from anger to other kinds of feelings, and when we’re at that point we can open our mouths and say to the other person what we’re observing, feeling, needing and make our requests.”

These are some fragments from a short but valuable book (40 pages) that you can find online. Like here.

On Decision Making

Image result for path

Decision Making
Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 32 | June 20, 1958
by Eva Pierrakos

“Now I wish to speak on another subject. The subject of decision-making is very important in everyone’s life, for everything is a decision. This is true not only of your deeds, your obvious and material choices, but also of every emotional attitude a decision holds. The majority of human beings are incapable of making clear-cut, mature decisions. That is why their souls become sick and suffering. Great disorder is created in the soul, which, of course, leads to confusion and conflicts. For you who are on this path, it might be very beneficial to start to view your life, particularly your conflicts, from this point of view. Have you made real decisions? Or do you sometimes make superficial decisions, not weighing or facing what is involved in them, and then thwarted when things naturally do not turn out to your satisfaction? Do you revolt against your self, your surroundings, and life in general?

As long as you are living in this sphere of matter, every decision offers two and sometimes more alternatives. In some cases, there can be several wrong choices and one that is right. Only mature and responsible searching will eventually show you what the right way is. However, in many instances, it will not matter what you actually decide, provided the decision has been made wholeheartedly, awarely, responsibly, not shirking any issues or possible results. Even if one alternative would be better for you than the other, it is infinitely healthier for your soul, strange as this may appear at first, if you choose the wrong way but with the right attitude.

Now what is the right and mature attitude with which to decide? The answer is simply to know what you want and to know what the price is; to realize that you cannot fully have what you want on this earth sphere because there is always a price or a disadvantage to any alternative; and to be wholly willing to pay the price even before it becomes a certainty that the possible disadvantage may turn out to be real. On the other hand, let us assume you chose the right alternative by accident. When I say by accident, I mean that you have chosen as most people do—immaturely, with half-closed eyes, not accepting beforehand the disadvantage implicit in your choice. In this way, you harm your soul a great deal more than by taking on a needlessly more difficult alternative. By deciding with the right attitude, you responsibly accept the price to be paid. So beware of making your decisions half-heartedly like a child, going into them with closed eyes, wishfully thinking that the price can be evaded. Each alternative will have an advantage and also a disadvantage, as long as you live in the world of matter.

In high spiritual spheres and realms, the negative side does not exist anymore. In the lower spheres of darkness, however, no alternative carries with it a so-called advantage. For you, an advantage and a disadvantage will continue to exist until you have worked yourself up to those higher spheres where no disadvantage can befall you, even while still in the body, in the world of matter. To reach such a point you have to go through the laws governing this lower sphere that is rightfully yours for the moment: you have to accept the laws fully and keep them willingly, not because life forces you to do so. Then, and only then, will you reach that point. Trying to avoid the laws of your own world, no matter what spiritual acrobatics you may try, will not work. By the same token, a human being bound to the world of darkness will have to accept the conditions that govern that world, although still on this earth plane.

This ties in with the first words of tonight’s lecture, my friends. To love God means naturally, among many other things, to abide by these various laws—and not only to abide by them, but also to accept them willingly. And one of these laws is that the disadvantageous side of each decision has to be faced and accepted. To make a mature decision means therefore to deliberate each alternative thoroughly; to face not only the advantageous sides of all alternatives in making your choice, but also and equally the disadvantageous. When you have done that, knowing that whatever you choose there is a price to be paid, you can ask yourself which price you prefer to pay; you can think it over, and see if perhaps you prefer to risk a higher price because the possible advantage seems worthwhile. You will then have accepted another one of this earth life’s rules, that the uncertainty also has to be accepted. This includes the risk, the shortcomings of life, which offers you no risk-proof plan. This, too, is important for emotional health, my friends. In that way you act as a mature being and your soul must benefit from it.

No one who makes a decision in this way will ever come to grief because of it! Nor will they ever have to meet the conflicts that result from not making decisions in this way. Conflicts are created not because of a possible wrong or less advantageous decision, but because you go into the decision blindly, not ready and willing to pay the price. This, my friends, happens with each one of you. I do not see anyone who always makes emotional decisions maturely.

I am again giving you strong material to work with on your path. Wherever conflicts exist, in one way or another, you have not made your decisions properly. Do not remain on the surface level; you will have to dig deeper into your emotions in order to find the answer. Within your emotions, sooner or later you must find—provided you search honestly—that you have somehow not made a whole decision; you had somehow hoped to gain the advantage without accepting the disadvantage. And often you even hope—again without thinking it through clearly—to at the same time gain the advantage of both alternatives and to be spared the disadvantage of either. This amounts to cheating life, and the result must inevitably be that life will teach you a lesson and you will reap the disadvantages of both or all sides which you wished to avoid. If you test this emotional, and for the most part unconscious, current, what does this amount to? It amounts to greed.

On this earth sphere most people are greedy, not necessarily in the material sense, but emotionally. And when I say greedy, I mean you want to amass advantages without shouldering the responsibility of paying the price for them. That, needless to say, is a violation of one spiritual law.

Think about the words I have spoken tonight, my friends. This has not been a long lecture, but what I have said will add to the material you need for your progress, if you assimilate it properly and work with it in a very personal way.”

– Eva Pierrakos, Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 32 | June 20, 1958

I recommend reading the full lecture at:
https://pathwork.org/lectures/decision-making/

The Four Temperaments

This article is a collection of quotes by Rudolf Steiner, offering a spiritual/esoteric perspective on the Four Temperaments: the sanguine, the choleric, the phlegmatic and the melancholic.

The Sanguine

“In the nervous system and astral body, sensations and feelings constantly fluctuate. Any harmony or order results solely from the restraining influence of the ego. People who do not exercise that influence appear to have no control over their thoughts and sensations. They are totally absorbed by the sensations, pictures, and ideas that ebb and flow within them. Something like this occurs whenever the astral body predominates, as, for example, in the sanguine. Sanguines surrender themselves in a certain sense to the constant and varied flow of images, sensations, and ideas since in them the astral body and nervous system predominate.

The nervous system’s activity is restrained only by the circulation of the blood. That this is so becomes clear when we consider what happens when a person lacks blood or is anaemic, in other words, when the blood’s restraining influence is absent. Mental images fluctuate wildly, often leading to illusions and hallucinations.

A touch of this is present in sanguines. Sanguines are incapable of lingering over an impression. They cannot fix their attention on a particular image nor sustain their interest in an impression. Instead, they rush from experience to experience, from percept to percept. This is especially noticeable in sanguine children, where it can be a source of concern. The sanguine child’s interest is easily kindled, a picture will easily impress, but the impression quickly vanishes.”

“In the sanguine the nervous system and astral body predominate. The astral body’s inner liveliness animates the other members, and makes the external form as mobile as possible. Whereas the choleric has sharply chiseled facial features, the sanguine’s are mobile, expressive, changeable. We see the astral body’s inner liveliness manifested in every outer detail, for example, in a slender form, a delicate bone structure, or lean muscles. The same thing can be observed in details of behavior. Even a non-clairvoyant can tell from behind whether someone is a choleric or a sanguine; one does not need to be a spiritual scientist for that. If you observe the gait of a choleric, you will notice that he plants each foot so solidly that he would seem to want to bore down into the ground. By contrast, the sanguine has a light, springy step. Even subtler external traits can be found. The inwardness of the ego, the choleric’s self-contained inwardness, express themselves in eyes that are dark and smoldering. The sanguine, whose ego has not taken such deep root, who is filled with the liveliness of his astral body, tends by contrast to have blue eyes. Many more such distinctive traits of these temperaments could be cited.”

“If a child has a sanguine temperament, he will not be helped if his elders try to flog interest into him. His temperament simply will not allow it. Instead of asking what the child lacks, in order that we might beat it into him, we must focus on what he has, and base ourselves on that. And as a rule, there is one thing we can always stimulate the sanguine child’s interest in. However flighty the child might be, we can always stimulate his interest in a particular personality. If we ourselves are that personality, or if we bring the child together with someone who is, the child cannot but develop an interest. Only through the medium of love for a personality can the interest of the sanguine child be awakened. More than children of any other temperament, the sanguine needs someone to admire. Admiration is here a kind of magic word, and we must do everything we can to awaken it.

We must reckon with what we have. We should see to it that the sanguine child is exposed to a variety of things in which he has shown a deeper interest. These things should be allowed to speak to him, to have an effect upon him. They should then be withdrawn, so that the child’s interest in them will intensify; then they may be restored. In other words, we must fashion the sanguine’s environment so that it is in keeping with his temperament.”

“From the examples of these pedagogical principles, we see how spiritual science can address practical problems. These principles can also be applied to oneself, for purposes of self-improvement. For example, a sanguine gains little by reproaching himself for his temperament. Our minds are in such questions frequently an obstacle. When pitted directly against stronger forces such as the temperaments, they can accomplish little. Indirectly, however, they can accomplish much. The sanguine, for example, can take his sanguinity into account, abandoning self-exhortation as fruitless. The important thing is to display sanguinity under the right circumstances. Experiences suited to his short attention span can be brought about through thoughtful planning. Using thought in this way, even on the smallest scale, will produce the requisite effect.”

s.jpg

The Choleric

“In the choleric, the ego and the blood system predominate. The choleric thus comes across as someone who must always have his way. His aggressiveness, everything connected with his forcefulness of will, derives from his blood circulation.”

“People in whom the ego predominates seek to triumph over all obstacles, to make their presence known. Accordingly their ego stunts the growth of the other members; it withholds from the astral and etheric bodies their due portion. This reveals itself outwardly in a very clear fashion. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, that famous German choleric, was recognizable as such purely externally. His build revealed clearly that the lower essential members had been held back in their growth. Napoleon, another classic example of the choleric, was so short because his ego had held the other members back. Of course, one cannot generalize that all cholerics are short and all sanguines tall. It is a question of proportion. What matters is the relation of size to overall form.”

“The choleric child is also susceptible of being led in a special way. The key to his education is respect and esteem for a natural authority. Instead of winning affection by means of personal qualities, as one does with the sanguine child, one should see to it that the child’s belief in his teacher’s ability remains unshaken. The teacher must demonstrate an understanding of what goes on around the child. Any showing of incompetence should be avoided. The child must persist in the belief that his teacher is competent, or all authority will be lost. The magic potion for the choleric child is respect and esteem for a person’s worth, just as for the sanguine child it was love for a personality. Outwardly, the choleric child must be confronted with challenging situations. He must encounter resistance and difficulty, lest his life become too easy.”

“Persons of a choleric temperament should purposely put themselves in situations where rage is of no use, but rather only makes them look ridiculous.”

download (7).jpg

The Phlegmatic

“We proceed now to the phlegmatic temperament. We observed that this temperament develops when the etheric or life-body, as we call it, which regulates growth and metabolism, is predominant. The result is a sense of inner well-being. The more a human being lives in his etheric body, the more is he preoccupied with his internal processes. He lets external events run their course while his attention is directed inward.”

“The phlegmatic temperament manifests itself in a static, indifferent physiognomy, as well as in plumpness, for fat is due largely to the activity of the etheric body. In all this the phlegmatic’s inner sense of comfort is expressed. His gait is loose-jointed and shambling, and his manner timid. He seems somehow to be not entirely in touch with his surroundings.”

“The phlegmatic child should not be allowed to grow up alone. Although naturally all children should have play-mates, for phlegmatics it is especially important that they have them. Their playmates should have the most varied interests. Phlegmatic children learn by sharing in the interests, the more numerous the better, of others. Their playmates’ enthusiasms will overcome their native indifference towards the world. Whereas the important thing for the melancholic is to experience another person’s fate, for the phlegmatic child it is to experience the whole range of his playmates’ interests. The phlegmatic is not moved by things as such, but an interest arises when he sees things reflected in others, and these interests are then reflected in the soul of the phlegmatic child. We should bring into the phlegmatic’s environment objects and events toward which “phlegm” is an appropriate reaction. Impassivity must be directed toward the right objects, objects toward which one may be phlegmatic.”

“If we are phlegmatics, having no particular interests, then we should occupy ourselves as much as possible with uninteresting things, surround ourselves with numerous sources of tedium, so that we become thoroughly bored. We will then be thoroughly cured of our “phlegm;” we will have gotten it out of our system. Thus does one reckon with what one has, and not with what one does not have.”

download (4).jpg

The Melancholic

“In the melancholic we have seen that the physical body, the coarsest member of the human organization, becomes master over the others. As a result, the melancholic feels he is not master over his body, that he cannot bend it to his will. His physical body, which is intended to be an instrument of the higher members, is itself in control, and frustrates the others. This the melancholic experiences as pain, as a feeling of despondency. Pain continually wells up within him. This is because his physical body resists his etheric body’s inner sense of well-being, his astral body’s liveliness, and his ego’s purposeful striving.”

“The melancholic is distinguished by a hanging head, as if he lacked the strength necessary to straighten his neck. His eyes are dull, not shining like the choleric’s; his gait is firm, but in a leaden rather than a resolute sort of way.”

“The melancholic child is not easy to lead. With him, however, a different magic formula may be applied. For the sanguine child this formula was love for a personality; for the choleric, it was respect and esteem for a teacher’s worth. By contrast, the important thing for the melancholic is for his teachers to be people who have in a certain sense been tried by life, who act and speak on the basis of past trials. The child must feel that the teacher has known real pain. Let your treatment of all of life’s little details be an occasion for the child to appreciate what you have suffered. Sympathy with the fates of those around him furthers the melancholic’s development. Here too one must reckon with what the child has. The melancholic has a capacity for suffering, for discomfort, which is firmly rooted in his being; it cannot be disciplined out of him. However, it can be redirected. We should expose the child to legitimate external pain and suffering, so that he learns there are things other than himself that can engage his capacity for experiencing pain. This is the essential thing. We should not try to divert or amuse the melancholic, for to do so only intensifies his despondency and inner suffering; instead, he must be made to see that objective occasions for suffering exist in life. Although we mustn’t carry it too far, redirecting the child’s suffering to outside objects is what is called for.”

“Melancholics should not close their eyes to life’s pain, but rather seek it out; through compassion they redirect their suffering outward toward appropriate objects and events.”

StockSnap_SG78Z5JOFS.jpg