Module 3C

#3 WHAT ENDS IT? Is there a way out?

3C: Remember Who You Really Are: Reversing the Momentum of Fragmented Craving


As our attention moves back and forth between wanting and not wanting we soon visualize the Self that that wants to drink facing off against that wants to drink we realize they are both the same self with the same needs and desires who chose two different roads—to cut off the person that wants to drink makes as much sense as cutting off our arm because its broken. As we honor both selves a witness to the battle is born that is neither wanting nor not wanting.


3A Beginning with the Solution 3B Forget Who You Think You Are 3C Remember Who You Really Are
A spiritual experience of sufficient power will temporarily break the mental obsession for the first drink. An end to the physical phenomenon of craving is currently unknown. The Passive Forgetting of Who We Think We Are requires the Knowledge of Seeing Simultaneously and the Power of Forgiveness. The Knowledge that results from Seeing Simultaneously keeps new Momentum from Ambivalent Grasping from arising; the Power that results from Forgiveness extinguishes previous Momentum from Ambivalent Grasping. The Active Remembering of Who We Are requires the Knowledge of Seeing Directly and Power of Repentance The Knowledge that results from Seeing Directly keeps new Momentum from Fragmented Craving from arising; the Power that results from Repentance extinguishes previous Momentum from Fragmented Craving.

The Knowledge that results from Seeing Simultaneously and Seeing Directly keeps new Momentum from arising
The Power that results from Forgiveness & Repentance extinguishes previous Momentum

The Passive Forgetting of Who We Think We Are requires the Knowledge of Seeing Simultaneously and the Power of Forgiveness
The Active Remembering of Who We Are requires the Knowledge of Seeing Directly and Power of Repentance

Active Remembering

To reverse the momentum of self-centered desire, we continue at our second point of attack:

Strategy 2

Before we introduce our second strategy, we examine “Craving” a little bit further:


All Experience Leaves a “Remainder” of Craving

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

Postcards from the Edge, 1990

Reminder #2: Factual Memory elevates Feeling to Craving: wanting to experience what is pleasant, avoid what is unpleasant, and ignore what is of no interest—because we have done so in the past.

What began as an efficient partial picture left by Perception continues as a cascade of deficiency that is compounded as we move through Craving and Grasping. When we look at the world we sense that something basic is missing because there is always something basic missing in the Images that Body-Mind observes and records. Our very corporeality creates an existential movement to replace whatever it is that is missing and our brain, with its primary impulse for order, is all too willing to oblige and fill in those gaps. But our situation gets much worse. Not only does the economy of sensory modulation cheat us of holistic experience, but our awareness is also constantly lagging behind what we do experience. We get partial information about the world, and we get it late. By the time we actually recognize that we are having an experience it has already happened, and the perception has moved into the past as memory. The gap is so small that we do not normally notice it, but we are always slightly behind direct contact with the World, just as the Addict is always slightly behind direct contact with their addiction.

The gap between what the Self experiences and what the Self-Image records guarantees that “we” cannot be aware in the present: built into memory through perception, the Self-Image is the past; it cannot spend time in the present. If this seems counter-intuitive, remember that the Self-Image that we are discussing is not the all too real sentient Body-Mind that lives by default in the present. The Self-Image is a mental projection that we identify as being “us”—the content of that projection matters little. And because we are part of the World we observe, we are always slightly behind direct contact with our Selves. So we may stumble through our lives blissfully unaware that the way the Self appears to us is not the way it actually exists.

Our first two points about The Insatiability of Self-Centered Desire—”All Feeling is Partial” and “All Experience Leaves a ‘Remainder’ of Craving”—guarantees that we are constantly being cheated in our most basic transactions with our World and our Selves. The way that the World and the Self appears is not the way they actually exist. The way our addictions appear to us are not the way that they exist.

Imagine catching a glimpse of an Image of great beauty; then as we move towards it to get a better look, it moves just out of our sight—over and over and over again. Such frustration becomes auto-catalytic: Memory supplies us with an endless reservoir of images to feed into the interdependent chain of Feeling → Craving → Grasping. An existential hunger taints everything we do, and our continued attempts to catch up with our own experience manifests as a Remainder of Craving that separates us even more from that experience. To understand this conceptually is difficult: we can only verify or falsify this separation by observation, by watching the psychological movement of Craving for ourselves. As I have “verified” many times, it is not only impossible for the Self-Image to be aware in the present, it is impossible for the Self-Image to experience Craving in the present. Put another way, it is not the present you that craves, it is a past you—even when that past you is projected into the future, as in Grasping.

The results for the Addict are ruinous: it becomes almost impossible to directly experience an addiction as it is happening—only its effects become subject to scrutiny. We are always slightly behind direct contact with our Addictions. The Addict as acute Self-Image is a Body-Mind filter, removed from the very thing that gives him so much pleasure and so much pain. His deprivation becomes lethal when the addiction can neither satisfy him nor hurt him enough to break through his behavioral impasse. The results for the “non-Addict” are just as tragic: they never experience the World or their Selves directly; they only experience a picture of the world distorted by their Self-Image. Human beings end up trying to relieve their existential hunger with a picture of food —and left-over crumbs at that.

EXERCISE 3C: YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN. Do not try to change conditioning, understand how it is that we are conditioned in the first place.
Second Strategy 3C Remember Who You Really Are: Reversing the Momentum of Fragmented Craving
“We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 24.

In Anne Fletcher’s Sober for Good many of the problem drinkers she interviewed cited “keeping your memory fresh” as a positive tool in preventing relapse. This idea is consistent with exoteric AA slogans such as “Remember Your Last Drunk,” “Think the Drink Through,” and “Keep Your Memory Green,” but the passage cited above absolutely contradicts this notion. The Factual Memory of suffering and humiliation is of no use to the alcoholic because it cannot be recalled “at will” at a crucial time—it is concealed within a fragmented Factual Self. The Self who is recovering the memory is not the same Self who retains the memory; the addict who was humiliated is not the same addict who tries to recall the humiliation. There is continuity of the SELF-IMAGE, but fragmentation of our FACTUAL SELF—we cannot selectively remember bad and forget the good.

Our Factual Memory is set up with psychological buffers that portion off pieces of who we are, an emotional necessity that allows us to see an acceptable image of our Selves: if we were to see all of who we are at once before we saw the impermanent and interdependent nature of the Self we would be overwhelmed by the contradictions. Self-remembering requires actively removing the buffers that fragment Factual Memory—a seemingly impossible task. But we are afraid of seeing ourselves in totality only when we see the Self as unchanging and isolated, forever locked into those nasty little versions of who we are. When we instead understand ourselves as dynamic processes of creativity—a field of interacting choices— we are safe to see our Selves in totality because we are no longer defined by any particular cross-section of who we are—not attached to any particular Self-Image. Active Remembering is a psychological sleight of hand that allows us to pull the plug on the Self rather than overpowering it, aligning it with a higher power, or transmuting the energy of its manifestations. (Module 4A and Module 4B)

If Factual Memory does not fragment Craving, then Feeling lives and dies in the moment
—the Self that has the Craving would now be the same Self that resists the Craving.
A mental blank spot could not arise

Now turning towards the complementary aspects of Remembering the Factual Self—Repentance and Insight—we will see that they are both active strategies that in their highest form do not create Psycho-Physical Momentum; we are simply learning the skillful means to both understand and care for what we are, rather than a picture of who we think we are:

Extinguishing Previous Momentum: The Power of Repentance

The power of Repentance is taken seriously in AA, and the preparatory 5th step is a huge event in the life of a Twelve-Stepper: “If we skip this Step, we may not be able to overcome drinking.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 72.) Many experienced sponsors that I have known divide AA, perhaps unfairly, into those who have taken Steps 4-9 and those who have not. Those who have are often remarked to possess a higher quality sobriety than those who have not.

At first glance, the not so subtle Twelve-Step emphasis on cash-register Repentance—“making a list”—underscores that much of AA’s planned Path of action addresses compulsive behavior, the Level of Pathological Ambivalence (Module 4C). As we look deeper, however, the Step 5 phrase, “the exact nature of our wrongs,” suggests that we are not simply to catalogue how our instincts for sex, security, and society have gone astray. To dig into fragmented thoughts at the Level of Manifestation (Module 4C) we must understand that the intent surrounding our transgressions is just as important as the transgressions themselves. The doctrine of Karma has recognized that for thousands of years—as do most modern systems of punitive justice.

Even if we are successful in addressing the intent surrounding our transgressions, we must also realize that Psycho-Physical Momentum also accumulates around our decisions to improve the Self, which distort future choices whether or not our intent was honorable. No clearer place is this seen than in the often dreaded “making of amends,” where a premature or poorly considered course of action can turn disastrous. Even if we manage not to injure anyone while we are directly making our amends, our thoughts and actions in the execution of Step 9 create a new set of Causes and Conditions with their own proliferating Momentum. With skillful means gained from the guidance of a sponsor steeped in AA’s Oral tradition, the Twelve-Stepper learns the patience of waiting for the proper set of Causes and Conditions for making an amend to arise.

The 10th step absorbs Steps 4-9 because in AA one can never finish taking personal inventory:

Step Ten: “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Perhaps without consciously acknowledging it, Step 10’s continuing prompt inventory recognizes that new Causes and Conditions that feed our character defects are constantly being created in the present and, the Twelve-Step program having no solution for this, offers only to remove the imprints of these Causes and Conditions as soon as they move into the past—the prompter the better. But if our wrongs are manifestations of Self, then their “exact nature” would be hidden in the manner in which the Self is constructed, not within the details of those manifestations. That is why we must dig deeper; the imprints left by the Momentum of Choice—previous thoughts and actions—lies in wait for a new set of Causes and Conditions to spring them to life.

To simplify our excavation we might characterize Repentance as “self-forgiveness.” Forgiveness and Repentance—like Seeing Directly and Seeing Simultaneously—have an interdependent relationship: it’s impossible to be unforgiving when you are honest about what a bastard you’ve been. We might also follow the biblical meaning of “metanoia,” which characterizes Repentance as a full “turning around”—we fling our sordid past away in one single movement of renunciation reminiscent of our blanket, extreme Forgiveness. That is the essence of being “born again” through the death of Self. But no matter how we characterize Repentance, at the exoteric level we find ourselves asking, “How does one repent?” Unfortunately, with fragmented Factual Memory there is no unitary Self that is asking that question.

As we are speaking of it here, Repentance has nothing to do with ego-deflation, and we can now propose that within our model, Repentance is remembering the Factual Self—all of it. True Repentance does not maintain, expand, and propagate a Psychological Self, not even a benevolent one. True Repentance results from remembering the factual harm that we have done to others without any psychological attempt to accept, reject, or deliberately ignore that harm. There is no protection against the immensity of seeing ourselves in totality without Repentance. Only with full, unequivocal Repentance are we safe to see what we are, be what we are.

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely”
—Carl Gustav Jung

Extinguishing previous Momentum through the Active Remembering of Repentance is a positive teaching in that it involves a direct engagement of those psychological buffers that we create to hide the most painful contradictions within our lives—to erase Fragmentation. But to keep new limiting Causes and Conditions from arising while we are engaging those buffers, our actions must be a natural extension of what we are rather than any well-meaning intent that could feed new buffers. The Catch 22, of course, is that when Repentance is a natural extension of who we are, it is usually because we have already had at least a partial insight into Self that we are trying to acquire. With this caveat we are nearing the end of our ability to explain ourselves and our world in terms of simple Causes and Conditions. Our resolution of this contradiction cannot be found within a world in which human beings are composed of a Body, Mind, and Spirit that interact causally, but only in a world in which human beings co-arise from a field of processes that engage creatively. In such a world, Repentance and the reversal of Fragmentation co-arise interdependently along with Insight: it is impossible not to repent when we see the truth about what we are unfiltered by our Self-Image.

From Factual Remembering comes an even deeper challenge, to remember our face before we were born—not our physical birth, but the moment to moment psychological re-birth of the endless manifestations of Self—our personal genesis. For the Sufi who “recognizes and remembers” what he once was but has since forgotten, the details of his Self-Image clouds his vision of Self. We must all move past the surface details of who we are into the core of what we are. And what we are is not a thing, not an authentic Self buried under the perpetually shifting details that we impute with static identity, but a living process that resists conceptual capture. But to understand that, we need a new type of Self-Knowledge:

Stop New Momentum from Arising: The Knowledge of Seeing Directly

“But the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly any exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge. This is a point we wish to emphasize and re-emphasize, to smash home upon our alcoholic readers as it has been revealed to us out of bitter experience.”

Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 39.

Bill Wilson was correct in that we “will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge”—he just didn’t understand why. The self-knowledge of which Alcoholics Anonymous speaks is knowledge of how the Self manifests: my anger, my desire, my pride, my jealousy—not how the Self is constructed. With that stipulation we could easily expand the AA characterization to include “non-alcoholics”:

“We will be absolutely unable to change ourselves on the basis of self-knowledge.”

Why? Because the Self-Knowledge referred to here is the knowledge of being, not the knowledge of becoming—the latter being instantaneously transformative. And because there is no stable base of Self from which to make those changes or gain that knowledge—a devastating message to the cult of Self-Improvement, but one whose time has come. Not only are our choices unstable over time, but choice itself is unstable over time because the Self that chooses is unstable over time. This is not a rhetorical trick: selflessness speaks cogently to the transitory, contextual nature of the Self—and therefore the Addict—over time. Nothing outlasts Causes and Conditions.

Because of its instability over time, our primal consciousness of Self is extremely tenuous; although, paradoxically, our memories of Self—congealed into a Self-Image—appear to us as quite stable. Do not take my word for it. At any time you can prove to yourself that your common experience of self-awareness is transitory and contextual by simply watching the ebb and flow of your own internal world. If you take a quiet moment and try not to focus your observations on anything in particular, your awareness will gently settle on the fact of a “you” separate from “not you.” But very quickly some trivial thought—a Response of Memory—will distract your attention. You are self-aware, but not all the time. When it comes to your most fundamental experience, you are constantly forgetting that you are. Instead, your awareness gets hijacked by a constant parade of mental images that you learn to identify as “you”—who you are—but have nothing to do with “you” at the moment—that you are. This sloppiness can have life-threatening consequences, for you have missed the crucial transition—the sleepiness, the inattention—that lets primal self-awareness lapse and allows the ego to create its own version of the Self, the Self-Image. And one of those versions of the Self-Image is the “Addict.”

The Knowledge of Seeing Directly, therefore, has nothing to do with moral inventories or knowledge of the manifestations of Self gained from any limited program of personal transformation. Knowledge of Seeing Directly is knowledge of how the Self is continuously and consistently reconstructed in the renewing present—not easily seen for that very reason.

Buddhist Tarthang Tulku describes the self-manifesting watcher:

“The experiencer himself is the new thought…I say I see my thought. But actually, I am not seeing a thought separate from myself. There isn’t any such thought there: the watcher is self-manifesting…But the thought itself is actually not separate from the watcher…When you totally become the watcher, it no longer exists as a separate entity. The thought disappears and the watcher disappears.

And 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume chases the Self:

“For my part, when I enter intimately into what I call ‘myself,’ I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I can never catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe anything but the perception…We are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in a perceptual flux and movement.”

We can create two extraordinary extrapolations from each of these subtle and difficult passages with simple substitutions of terminology: (We will be using the term “craving” in the commonly used sense of the term.)

From Tulku: The addict himself is the new thought…I say I see my craving. But actually, I am not seeing a craving separate from the addict. There isn’t any such craving there: the addict is self-manifesting…But the craving itself is actually not separate from the addict…When you totally become the addict, it no longer exists as a separate entity. The craving disappears and the addict disappears.From Hume: For my part, when I enter intimately into what I call the addict, I always stumble on some craving. I can never catch the addict at any time without a craving, and never can observe anything but the craving…The addict is nothing but a bundle or collection of different cravings, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity and are in a perceptual flux and movement.

We follow these great teachers quite closely with an elusive point—difficult to express in words:

  1. Any attempt to look past the manifestations of the Self and “see” the Self directly results in an automatic dissolution of the “seer” and the experience of “seeing” now becomes (Or the act of “seeing” now creates…) another manifestation of the Self. This is the ultimate defense mechanism of Self.
  2. Any attempt to “see” the Addict results in an automatic dissolution of the “seer” and the experience of “seeing” now becomes (Or the act of “seeing” now creates…) another manifestation of the Addict. This is the ultimate defense mechanism of the Addict.

In the thousands of years that the transforming Events of ego-deflation and spiritual experience have been available to us as human beings, they have failed as a general method to produce lasting results exactly because a progressive and irreversible realization that transforms the Self cannot be experiential. We must move beyond experience because, as the two just quoted passages suggest, we cannot observe an unchanging center of experiencing in the Self—just as we cannot observe an unchanging center of Craving (or Grasping) in the Addict.

That we cannot observe an unchanging center of experience or craving does not prove that one does not exist, only that it does not exist as it appears. Likewise, that we can observe what appear to be the effects of an unchanging center of experience does not prove that one does exist. What we can be sure about is that the very act of Seeing Directly this dynamic process for ourselves dissolves the grip that such a center—even if it did exist—would have on us. We can have practical knowledge without theoretical certainty. We can argue theory; we cannot argue results. And what better evidence could we submit than the irreversible extinction of addiction that arises from a simple direct seeing—not a reversible experience or awakening—of the transitory, contextual nature of the Self.

Congratulations! YOU ARE FINISHED STAGE III, LEVELS A, B, & C: What Causes It?


START AT THE BEGINNING OF Stage IV: 4. What Means Will End It?


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