The Inner Teacher OM C. Parkin in Conversation with Students
The interview was conducted by the teachers of Enneallionce - School for Inner Work In June 2013 at Gut Saunstorf - Place of Stillness.
OM, we would like to talk to you about the Inner School. When we say Inner School, we assume that there is also an outer school. What is the difference between the Inner School and the outer school?
The wisdom teaching fundamentally divides human development, human evolution, into two phases: the evolutionary arc and the involutive arc. Ananda Coomaraswamy, a contemporary scholar from Sri Lanka (†1947), called them the outward curve and the inward curve. These are different terms that describe these same two basic paths of human evolution. This second part of the path, the actual fruit of human development, is not reached at all by the great mass of people. The Hindu spiritual teachings divide human life into four classical phases: 1. The first phase is the main phase of learning: the life of the student (brahmacharya) 2. Then the person starts a family and expands into the outer world: the family life (grihastha) 3. The life of "pre-retreat" follows: the life of seclusion (vanaprastha) 4. The last stage and, as it were, the fruit of human life on Earth, is the life of complete renunciation, of retreat from the struggle of life: life in freedom (sannyas). The 1st and 2nd phases correspond to the outward curve, while the 3rd and 4th describe transformation, the reversal into the inward curve. These phases are inner representations where each phase is assigned a certain stage of development of human consciousness. The hierarchically superior stages are not accessible to the inferior ones. The life of an ordinary person ends with the 2nd phase.
Practically all people attend the outer school (1st phase of outward curve), at least in our culture, and very few people attend an Inner School. This is because it does not exist until the individual consciousness reaches the pivot point at which the orientation of consciousness reverses. To describe it with an image: this pivot point starts operating when the fruit has reached a certain degree of ripeness. Most fruits do not reach this degree of ripeness; they fall from the tree in an unripe state because they meet with conditions that prevent their ripening, e.g. there is too much wind. These "adverse conditions" are certainly not of an external nature, but consist of active counter-movements of the thinking “I”, the mind.
The linear conception of strictly separated successive phases certainly is limited, nevertheless there is a relation to outer age. That is why experience shows that students of an Inner School have an average age of forty to fifty years. This division of outer and Inner Schools also exists in other disciplines, for example in martial arts. There one also speaks of inner schools and thinks of schools that are more focused on the inner aspects of martial arts. Their movements are softer - one could also say more feminine - less explosive, more implosive, less expressive, more impressive. Strictly speaking, actually every discipline has an inner and an outer aspect, an aspect turned outward and an aspect turned inward, an exoteric and an esoteric aspect. Just like any religion or spiritual teaching in the broadest sense. So every Inner School also has expressive moments, but in any case it emphasizes inner reflection and thus the turn towards that which holds the world together in its innermost being.
In connection with the Inner School you also speak of an inner schooling. Can you say something about who is trained and what is trained there? What is meant by inner schooling?
A person goes to school in order to learn. That is the widespread view, the widespread understanding, and that indeed applies to outer schools. I have just indicated in the first answer that in Inner Schools a reversal takes place. So the training of the Inner School does not primarily consist of a learning process, but rather of an unlearning process.
The training does not take place the way the human mind imagines: that in the training it will accumulate (second hand) knowledge in order to attain a final and complete All-Knowledge, that it will reach the end of the path stuffed with knowledge. At first, it may sound somewhat bizarre to the linearly thinking seeker of meaning when I tell him that the inner training ultimately consists in unlearning all that he has laboriously learned in the first phase: from his father, mother, from the collective. I compare the two paths of external and internal training with the "project sand castle". In the first phase we learn to build a sand castle on the beach. In the second phase we learn to let the sea take it back. For a rationalist, such descriptions truly make no sense, while the consistent walker of the inner, the experiential path digests this paradox effortlessly in the end.
I can say from my own experience that the training I experience in the Inner School is, above all, a training of inner seeing.
Christian mysticism distinguishes Three Eyes of Knowledge and with them three kinds of seeing: 1. Seeing by means of the outer light. This is the eye of the flesh. It just sees the objects of the senses 2. Seeing by means of the inner light. This is the eye of the mind. It sees the objects of the mind, inner objects, which can also appear externally (according to the principle of a film projector) 3. Seeing by means of the transcendent light. This is the eye of contemplation. It sees THAT-WHICH-IS. Through everything that appears. The source of all BEING.
To open the first eye does not require any inner training, no conscious effort of the inner path. Evolution has opened it in the first phase of the outward curve, without this “I”-mind having even lifted the little finger. The inner training opens the second eye, the eye of the mind, by what I call the practice of small self-enquiry. The opening of the third eye, that is the high Inner School, the great self-enquiry.
In simple terms, one could say that the learning process during the outward curve is followed by the unlearning process of the inward curve. The unlearning process opens the higher eyes. Nevertheless, an Inner School naturally also has aspects of training, aspects of learning, which serve the process of unlearning. That goes with Ramana Maharshi’s image of the staff that is used to stoke the fire, only to ultimately be burnt in the fire itself. In an Inner School knowledge is also imparted, tools of inner practice are taught, including the training and the reorganization of the person’s whole focus of attention. We always perceive only what is allowed by our attention, and the world anyway is a consequence of the way our attention is organized. So when our attention reorganizes, the world reorganizes as well.
I am interested in the student. Does a student need a prerequisite in order to be ready to unlearn? To me, unlearning also sounds like the loss of something that may already have been there.
The first phase of life is all about gain. So in the first phase of life, which in other contexts I also call the phase of self-assertion, the ego of the human being is actually exclusively out for gain. In this phase of exclusive orientation towards gain, that is, towards the supposedly positive, which is also a classic characteristic of any exoteric religion, of any faith religion, there is no appreciation of loss, which has exclusively negative connotations. Any loss is threatening to a large extent, because loss ultimately means death. Thus, the power of death plays a decisive role in this second reverse phase of human evolution. And of course a certain maturity of the soul is needed to understand death not as the greatest threat to mankind, but as the liberator. This death is not to be confused with the involuntary physical death to which every human being is exposed. I am speaking here of death as the power that carries within itself the potential to let die what is not true, to let die what is not real. To allow everything to die that prevents human beings from seeing who they really are.
What role does the relationship a student has with you, his being attracted to you, play? Is it fundamental for being a student of the Inner School?
A student's attraction to me is not quite that unambiguous. It is ambivalent. If students are deeply attracted to the soul, they are also attracted to me. That doesn't mean that they do not feel repelled by me at the same time, because there is not only an attraction to the soul in them, but also a repulsion. The inner struggle with these opposing forces within them makes up a large part of a student’s inner path. Students never feel exclusively attracted to an impersonal teacher, they always feel repelled at the same time. A teacher who doesn't have students that run away from him cannot be a master. But let's say that if the attraction is greater than the repulsion, a relationship of trust can mature. For many people the rejection is certainly much greater at first. These are the people who can't hear the inner call. As Papaji used to say, "They don't hear the wake up call."
The relationship with the teacher is in fact a relationship with the Self. However, in the peripheral overlay it is a relationship with one's own mind. And we know that the relationship with one's own mind may well be veiled. An essential feature of this veiling is called projection, which implies that people do not see and know completely that what they see is their own mind. They then have to work through this. A few days ago someone told me in Darshan that he saw in me a father figure and male authority. I answered that it was okay for him to see that in me. I am not male, I am not female either, but the male and the female are certainly within me. And once he sees this aspect of form - after working through it first in his mental world – he will be able to penetrate into everything, including into that which is beyond a father figure (or a mother figure). Even beyond God the Father and the Divine Mother. Experience has shown that most of the students of the Path spend considerable time working on their own father or mother figure, which not only has negative aspects, but which we must also understand as a necessary part of the Path.
Even if it is about unlearning, there exist certain teaching methods or contents in an Inner School. You speak of Inner Work. What does this work in the Inner School look like?
The term Inner Work in the broadest sense is a synonym for inner practice, for sadhana. This means that the term Inner Work does not refer to certain practices; strictly speaking it does not even have a cultural context. All forms of sadhana practiced in Eastern spiritual cultures could also be called Inner Work. I would say that much of the Inner Work, as practiced in this school, is made up of what is called small self-enquiry. Small self-enquiry means, simply put, seeing and exploring inner worlds. Inner worlds that are created by an entity we call the thinking mind. To be able to separate these worlds from inner worlds that are not artificial, not produced by this egoic entity called the thinking mind, but by Being itself, is discrimination, one of the most essential virtues of the inner path. For ordinary people, this distinction does not exist. They simply call everything manifesting within them "I". Then everything is my thought, is my feeling, is my self-image, is my name, is my body, and so on. It is all mine. There is no distinction between “I” and “non-I”. Nor is there any knowledge of who all these inner objects refer to and consequently who the subject is.
The Enneagram plays an important role in this self-enquiry and obviously also serves to distinguish between what is “I” and what is not “I”. Could you say something about what the role of the Enneagram exactly is?
Yes. The Enneagram plays the role of a basic framework in this school, but perhaps not in other schools. Other schools might use metaphysical concepts from other traditions, such as cabalistic knowledge or other forms of metaphysical teachings. I have been taught the Enneagram as a cosmology that, applied to human consciousness, allows for a high degree of discrimination between the two entities I have just described. On the one hand, the Enneagram of Character Fixations describes the “non-I” very precisely, above all the hidden organizational structures of this “non-I” that lie beneath the surface, i.e. below daily consciousness. On the other hand, the Enneagram also describes mental structures, mental characteristics. So there are Enneagrams that refer to the “non-I” (the subjective Enneagrams) and there are Enneagrams that refer to the true “I” (the objective Enneagrams). In principle, it represents an inner map, which is of great importance as a signpost and orientation for the small self-exploration.
Your description suggests that what you have learned, for example, is also brought to bear in the methods of the school, so that you give the school a certain flavor, a certain coloring. Is that so?
This form of the teacher gives the Inner School a certain coloring, yes. A coloring that comes into existence by the personal form and its very special blend. No distortion, but a coloring. To make the difference clear, let us take the following picture: If we describe the personal human form as the special cut of a diamond, then this cut will reflect the light that pervades it in certain spectral colors. One facet of the cut emphasizes blue, another rather red. This is what is meant by coloring. Distortion is caused by a cloudiness of the diamond, which occurs in two basic forms: the blinding and darkening of consciousness through the influence of the mind.
You are also called an Advaita teacher. Is there a particular teaching that you follow, that you transmit?
I have come to call this teaching the Eternal Philosophy, described by an Italian bishop of the sixteenth century as "...those fundamental truths present in all peoples at all times which should constitute together a science of the one principle (God)". There can be no difference between the Advaita teaching - which I anyway no longer understand in an Eastern context alone -, mysticism, whatever religious culture it may come from, and the Philosophia Perennis, the Eternal Philosophy. In the end, these are just concepts that have a slightly different taste, but which look at the same thing from a different angle. I could say that the core of religion is understood as the inward-facing path, the path of reconnection, the conscious reconnection to the eternal Self of the human being. Although the teaching is the same, the forms of transmission can be very different and that is why I do not emphasize the tools being used, why I do not emphasize the finger pointing to the moon, but the moon itself. The Eternal Philosophy assumes that there are basic truths of eternal existence, which can be found at all times and in all places by people who have touched a certain inner depth. This means that the basic truths are the same. They can be confirmed again and again, which is an aspect of science, no matter what place, no matter what time. Only the ways used by the different wisdom traditions to get there may differ.
If I understand this correctly, the term Advaita teacher is not at all essential. It could be a Sufi teacher, it could be a Zen teacher; they are just variations, the bottom line is the same.
I can give you an example. Papaji, who was my teacher's teacher, was certainly an Advaita teacher in the strict sense, but he was and is also called a Zen teacher by many people.
We are talking about an Inner School. A term that might have the same meaning is Mystery School. Mystery Schools have existed for centuries, not to say millennia, and thus have a very long tradition in which the teaching authorization was passed from one generation to the next. What motivated you to found a Mystery School and to serve as its teacher?
One must not imagine that there was a special day when I founded this school after a long period of planning. Rather, the creation of the Mystery School was like the ripening of a fruit within an impersonal, spiritual process. It had pre-forms of teaching. These forms then developed further and further. One must imagine it like a jigsaw puzzle: the first piece of the puzzle was set, then the second and slowly a picture emerged. The puzzle was put together. The puzzle already existed before in a memory that is not of a personal nature. You are probably familiar with the term Akashic Chronicle. There are other terms used by scientists such as Rupert Sheldrake. He speaks of morphic fields. These are all attempts to approach an impersonal, pre-existing memory in which All-Knowledge already exists. That is, it is not put together in that sense by a person, a brain, or a personal thinker, but it is found and translated.
So this puzzle is a rather complex painting that already exists, and the maturing process, the deepening process, the approaching process - whatever you want to call it - is that process of slowly putting this painting, this picture, together. Strictly speaking, there is no complete, fixed picture, but a never-ending process of change. Nevertheless, there is of course a phase in which the whole picture becomes recognizable, even if certain individual pieces of the puzzle are still missing. The essential has been put together. A piece of the landscape detail is still missing here and there, but the essential, the central elements and the Great Order they form, are visible.
So the founding of the school was merely a natural consequence within a process of development that is still ongoing. I did not decide to found a school, but it just happened. One can only speak of a school when the teaching has been rounded off to a certain extent. You cannot found a school and then it only goes up to the second grade. A certain completion must have been reached somehow, an arc must have closed, otherwise you cannot call it a school. Otherwise we would have to talk about teaching individual disciplines, just as the whole market of so-called esotericism is filled with individual methods and disciplines and elements of a larger puzzle.
Now, an Inner School also has an outer form and a certain outer organization and an outer location where it takes place. First of all, I would like to know how it happened that there are different circles, an outer and an inner circle, and which subjects and trainings are taught there.
In the outer, worldly school there are also different classes, which correspond to teaching levels, which all build upon each other. If I have not learned to write first, I do not need to take part in a language class, let alone a foreign language class. In the Mystery School there is an outer and an inner circle and the inner circle builds on the knowledge of the outer. It only makes sense for a student to skip the outer circle if they have already experienced various trainings that replace it. Within the inner circle it is similar: later meetings build on earlier ones.
One could also call the outer circle the Inner School and the inner circle the Innermost School. The small self-enquiry in its entirety - at first an essential element of Inner Work - does not refer to the innermost teaching, but is only an approach to the innermost teaching.
The esoteric aspects of the path are the innermost in the core, and it is the essence of this training that people are accompanied on...from the periphery to the core. Many turn away before, or stop for a while to rest and do another round or whatever. Everyone has their own rhythm. In any case, it is a path that leads from the outside to the inside, and from the inside to the core.
And is there also a kind of completion?
I already hinted at that in the picture of the puzzle. Strictly speaking there is no completed puzzle; the simple metaphor doesn't go far enough here. There is a puzzle that approaches completion. I call this paradox "the perfection of perfection". It never ends.
The beginner on the Path works towards a goal and imagines that enlightenment is in the future, completion, perfection, omniscience - whatever he understands by that - and has no real insight into the koan "the path is the goal". Many people have heard it, but the dimension of this simple koan is really huge and has consequences for people's basic attitude towards any form of inner practice. In the book Intelligence of Awakening, I quoted a Zen master who described in her book how she began to practice zazen and how her posture changed while practicing. At first she sat in order to achieve something. She sat to become more silent. She sat to calm the mind. Then she described how the practice of zazen changed to sitting in order to sit. But this is not something that the thinking mind in human beings can understand or comprehend. "I sit in order to sit." Someone who speaks that way has entered the paradoxical path where there is everything and nothing to achieve and the path has come to an end, although it has not come to an end. The spiritual intelligence of human beings is able to grasp that; their thinking mind is not. Accordingly the mind begins the inner practice linearly aligned to a linear path of advancement and development. First there is progress. Then setbacks start happening. Then difficult times occur and whoever is able to pass through them reaches this sphere where the previous path, with all its progress and setbacks, begins to dissolve. Then it is no longer a matter for the “I” when and where which practice is done. It is then all just a matter of being. There is no one left who is able to or wants to say: "I'm going to stop the practice now; what's the point, it doesn't make any sense" or "I don't need it anymore" or something similar. These are all quite unneeded ideas from the thinking “I”-world, in which this “I” still believes in having a will of its own and accordingly in having alternatives – alternatives to self-realization, which fate intends and how fate intends it.
The perfection of perfection has an end and has no end. Therefore, there can exist no completion in an Inner School. The "completion" is the endless fall into the inner depth. Self-will wants to set an end - after all, it has also set the beginning - and does not want to realize that it was able to set the beginning of the path, but cannot call an end to it.
I still have a question, which is perhaps external, but may also have an inner core. The Mystery School, that is, the students with you as their teacher, over many years have moved from one place to another, hosted in various rented houses. The school has now found a home in Gut Saunstorf, which we call a place of stillness. Does this have a meaning of perhaps even symbolic nature?
I felt it a natural consequence in a process of manifestation. Just as the school founded itself - first in the spiritual world, then descended into the material world - the outer place of the school offered itself as the next step. In my perspective it was (and still is) nothing but a flowing process of creation from the spiritual world into the material world. And as a consequence in the material world the school, which already had a spiritual place, now also has a material place, a home in the outer world. This is actually not unusual, but quite natural.
I have one last question. Do you see a kind of obligation to teach people the ultimate knowledge?
No. There is no moral or other obligation. The bodhisattva vow says that out of compassion a teacher feels the duty to guide other people to freedom, to transmit what has been transmitted to him. But the limited understanding of such a vow rests on the idea of someone who is even capable of making such a vow. The truth is: it just happens. It just happens or it doesn't happen. Who can say?
1. Spirituelles Wörterbuch Sanskrit – German; R. Roloff, p. 138
2. see also: The three phases of the teacher-student relationship in "Intelligence of Awakening", p. 254 - 262