Claiming Your Power

Before I get into this I was contemplating, and it really is possible that some people don’t know when they are bullshitting anymore, they have bullshitted so very much that they can’t remember what it was like before. It is a staggering thought but not beyond the realms of possibility.

In claiming power, I am not talking about positional power, nor monetary power or power over other people in any way. I am referring to power in the sense of knowledge whereby some piece of knowledge, some intellectual understanding, is tested and found to work. In one sense stringing together some sentences to verbalize something in a coherent way, is to claim some knowledge about it. If you don’t understand it, you cannot verbalize from a standpoint of understanding. You might re-hash together stuff other people have said or written, but you would not grasp it yourself. There is the cut and paste essay, or plagiarism. Maybe you get a good grade, but this is not claiming power it is claiming marks. It this context it demonstrates that maybe you do know how to get around the rules. It does not demonstrate any mastery over the subject at hand. In this scenario one would know, hopefully, that one does not grasp the matter at hand.

There are activities humans engage in which are symptoms of the times. And one of these is lurking. This is, if I understand it correctly, an activity associated with social media. It did not exist in its current form until relatively recently. So not only are we monitored by state but by each other. It is a bit creepy.

It is a kind of closeted behaviour. People do this kind of thing for a whole host of reasons. They may be “I am not going to give X the satisfaction of knowing that I am reading his posts” or “I am cunning and clever” or maybe they are simply very introverted and seek not to interact beyond that. But like all types of closeted behaviour it has consequences. It is a lot easier for a gay man to be out than be in the closet. Many find in claiming their power as a gay man and coming out, a massive weight is lifted off their shoulders. What it says is that I have the right to be gay and live in an open way. As a rite of passage for gay men it has significance for the quality of life. It removes a furtive sometimes fearful element. There can be some unpleasant consequences, but they have stood up and that is a good feeling. They claim their power as a gay man. I have helped facilitate this on a couple of occasions.

Openness can be a very liberating experience.

But if one is habituated to shadow dwelling it can be frightening to stop lurking in the shadows and seek the light of day. There is a kind of glamour associated with being unseen and unnoticed. Perhaps we are all SAS or ninjas at heart, always on some secret mission? Only we aren’t. That glamour can be attractive and misleading.

To stand up and say I am here, this is me, warts and all; is to claim power. It is the kind of power which does away with the need to hide, to lie and to over-egg all the time. I am just like this and that is OK. I am not a superhero and do you something really secret? I have to a take a shit from time to time. Whether you believe me or not, this acceptance of how we actually are, is very relaxing. There is no need to spend hours putting on the make-up, so to speak. We get less fearful of comparisons and it is very good for our psychological well-being. We can drop the bullshit and the pretence, open the closet door and walk out. There is less need for endless drama, and if want it our boa is still there in the closet whenever we need it for Mardi Gras.

The fear, the terror, of exposure has passed. Overnight life becomes so much simpler and we have much more head-space because the congestion caused by all our paranoia is dissipated.

In this context we have to stop being covert and start being overt and open. This is a huge step for some, but it is one of the most liberating things which we can do for ourselves.

To claim power, we have to face a fear.

We may think we can do it, but until we do, there is no harvest. That power remains untapped out there as a theoretical possibility, it is not in our hands. When we have harvested we can benefit from the well-being that ensues.

Having cued this up:

Are there any fears which I think I could face but don’t yet know for certain?

What stops me from testing this?

If I do this could I find out if this geezer on the internet is making sense?

Types of Knowledge

There are many different types of knowledge and we can use Dr Castaneda as an example. He at some stage submitted a thesis and was also under the tutelage of don Juan. These are two radically different types of knowledge.

I have participated in the ritual magic of more than ten and less than twenty Ph.D. examinations. In that you get given a book, in principle you read it all and then formulate some questions. There was a marked variance in ability amongst the candidates I examined. Yet all of them ended up with the Ph.D. badge, eventually.  Some of them were not at all adept at thinking from first principles and developing the models they used. They often quoted formulae but were unaware of the process that led to the formulae, they had not checked the derivations themselves, merely quoted a paper as fact. In the space of a few hours you get to decide if someone knows enough for that badge. This is a type of knowledge tested by talking and writing.

If you are off your face on peyote or mushrooms with some weird Nagual in the desert at night, then that is a long way from a Ph.D. viva. The academic establishment might look on Juan as a “whacko” and he might look at them with a view markedly different from their self-image. Juan’s knowledge was of a more applied bent, it was tested there and then in the moment and not by talking or writing. If you read the books he found it odd that Carlos was always writing and seemed to need to talk so very much. The knowledge of Juan was of a much more life and death nature.

Having cued this up:

What knowledge do I myself have?

Where does it end?

Am I confident in that knowledge?

Are there perhaps other types of knowledge outside of my sphere?

Are they any use or does what I have suffice entirely?

What Does Knowledge Look Like?

This is an interesting question because it is possible we all have some preconceptions. If we are seeking a personal trainer, then it is unlikely we would pick a middle-aged guy with and can of Stella in one hand, a cheeseburger in the other and a fag (cigarette) in his mouth. If we are seeking to learn Asana yoga, we might expect a bendy woman in Lycra and a crop top perhaps smelling of something fragrant. If we seek to meditate we might want some dude in Buddhist robes or some Indian guru type, maybe they should have a groovy name. If we seek to learn quantum mechanics, we might imagine a boffin with wild hair and spectacles. You get the idea…

The trouble is that if the packaging and the branding is not to our taste and our preconceptions, we may not be willing to learn. We may be quite sanctimonious. We judge the book by its cover and public relations statements, we may look at the on-line reviews and star rating. We might expect some evidence of popularity and this lovely thing “success”. They would have to have some reputation and/or status.

If someone pushes our buttons, they are unlikely to be all that popular. People get angry and pissed off. You may have noticed that I bang on about smoking, this pushes people’s socially conditioned buttons. It is one of the A number one soap-box topics in our modern times. Why?

If something does not challenge our preconceptions can we learn from it? Well maybe, but what are we learning?

So here is a question for you:

What does knowledge look like and would I recognise it if I came across it?

The Gift of Power

Today, in one way or another, I have been alluding to the gift of power, power in the sense of knowledge or potential knowledge. When Carlos met Juan, (see earlier) he felt the urge to try to sell himself and spin the depth of his knowledge to Juan. Little did Carlos know of the events that were starting to unfold. Carlos being more than a little full of himself very nearly missed forever what was to be a life changing experience for him and as it turned out later, many other people. One never knows for sure when a gift of power is right under our noses. Many times, we squander these gifts even when they might be available to us. In this sense power or knowledge does not feel the need to oversell itself. If you are asleep you may miss it. Which shows that you are not yet ready for it.

There is some kind of prejudice in regard of how power or knowledge might dress itself and the locations where it might be found. Certain kinds of knowledge might be found in say universities, other kinds in monasteries and yet further types on a building site. Knowledge comes in many different flavours. Two men who taught me a great deal were called Spider and Tembo {elephant}, they were house servant and gardener respectively. I was less than 13 and they were ~ 50 and ~70. As a child they let me sit with them. When other men came to consult them, the wise men, I a white boy, got to sit in on occasion. Quite why they did this was a mystery. We just sat under the tree.

There was a trend for indigenous knowledge a while back. It has perhaps passed its peak in popularity, but wisdom is wisdom and in some cases, it stretches way back. It touches something else. Many look down their noses at this kind of thing.

Who people are willing to learn from, is often related to status. People won’t take “lessons” from others unless they are of a higher “status” and even then, some resist. The person from whom we might learn must be recognised as a bona fide expert, for some peculiar reason. And so, we might get into a status pissing contest. How we measure that status is moot. The thing is that one of the things we might need to learn, is that status isn’t everything. Which is a lesson we may never avail ourselves of, if we have a status fixation. These days qualifications are big news, they do say something. But there is a tendency to forget that qualified can also mean limited. I do not have qualified teacher status, but I am pretty good at teaching A level science. I am not limited to that level alone.

There is a potential gift of power in many situations where we might expect there to be none. A Ph.D. in chemical physics does not help over much in unloading a hay wagon. But I learned a great deal in working with my neighbour to do this. It was bloody hard work and rhythm was the answer. To be perennially alert for the gift of power is to harvest what the universe offers us. It need not be dressed all fancy and with postnominals.

On so many occasions I have offered, and that offer has been brushed aside. The person doing the brushing discarded a gift of power often because of perceived status and sometimes because it did not present in quite the way they expected.

In this respect it is sometimes useful to consider why a being comes into your life. There may be a face value explanation and there may be a deeper one. If you are hooked to the face value, you may well miss the truer deeper meaning. If someone appears in your life, then in one way or another you have called them forth. What might be the gift of power or knowledge? It may take a while to find out.

If you are looking for the gift of power, without obsessing and having massive internal dialogue about it, then it might make itself known. You could argue that this is an elaborate way of saying to be open minded. It is, but there are things other than intellect too, strangely enough.

Even in the apparently darkest of situations, a gift of power, can be found. The universe has a bounty of learning, to offer us. This can manifest in our fellow beings for us to see, should we be awake and willing.

The gift of power does not always come wrapped and with our name tag on it. Not all gifts come from DHL or Parcel Force. And the person bearing the gift may have no status whatsoever.

Assumed Understanding

About twenty years ago I started to go off piste. It was then that I started exploring various philosophies, and different schools of thought. Whatever else I may be, I like to think that I am thorough. My understanding of what thorough means goes beyond most, or so the wife says. I have a fair deal of patience and can stick at stuff. When I started to go off piste I thought that I knew a lot and had a comprehensive understanding, I assumed that I understood a whole bunch of stuff, I was a smart young scientist after all. I was wrong about the extent of my understanding and by a long way. Wherever possible I like to get source documents and if there is a translation, then at least a few translations. I also try to apply stuff. I have a fairly eclectic book shelf with titles from “Quantum Optics” through “The Deciphered Indus Script” to “Tarot Meditations”. Only recently I found out that the person who signed the recommendation for my half-uncle’s MBE in Malaya 1950-51 was the head of Military Intelligence. Which kind of suggests that my uncle was a spook. I have a copy of that citation now. There are some things that I will never know.

So many people assume that they understand more than they do. And it is from such positions that they make decisions. I suspect that many have more confidence in the extent of knowledge than is warranted. I am a little older now and know more than I did back then. My level of arrogance and omniscience in my thirties was high, not as high as some, but high nevertheless. One of the problems in being a specialist is that the knowledge is tight and highly specific. I can talk to you about high resolution rovibronic spectroscopy if you would like. It is easy to get into silo-thinking. It may not transfer out of the silo. I am reminded of a punishment I received as a 10-year-old. I had been “naughty”, and the teacher held us back. We had to write a 500-word essay about the inside of a table tennis ball. Try it… and see how easy it is. Detailed knowledge about the inside of a table tennis ball does not mean that you know a whole bunch of other stuff. Yet expertise in one area can confer a sense of general assumed understanding which is in error.

If one starts from a position; “there is a whole bunch of stuff I do not know, appreciate or understand”, then one has a better chance of learning. Some things are hard, such as Quantum Optics. Other things have subtlety, such as Aikido. If one is prone to rush and take short-cuts whatever understanding one garners will be surface level only. The onion metaphor applies to many but not all things. I have found knowledge and understanding to be very layered. Sometimes you cry peeling off a layer. The true test of any understanding must be in application. Only when one attempts to test knowledge does one find out, if it exists or not. It seems to me that there are many experts in our times; there is a lot of opinion but not as much application. Opinion is an onion pi and can also make you cry, this is because opinion can both damage people and prevent learning. Much opinion comes from an assumption of understanding. The prevalence of opinion is increasing, I am not so sure about the levels of knowledge.

It is my opinion that assumed understanding is not a good thing.

The only way to test understanding is through inquiry, this can mean asking or applying. Over the years, I have met many people who talk a good game and are up with all the buzz-words. They might at first glance appear to be experts. This species is not on the extinction danger watch list. It is impolite to subject them to Ph.D. viva style questioning, though I have been tempted on a number of occasions. I did this with a consultant medic once and he shit bricks, I had questioned his deity and he did not like it. I had thoroughly researched the subject before the consultation. He had an assumed understanding about the nature of his patients.


It is a weird thing this assumed understanding…


Isolated Unity – Illuminated Union

IV 25

As soon as one can distinguish between consciousness and awareness, the ongoing construction of the self ceases.

The Yoga-Sûtra of Patañjali translated by Chip Hartranft

Note: Atma can mean essence which has a different meaning to self as we understand it now. There is a difference between self and Self, one is “lower” than the other.


The state of isolated unity (withdrawn into the true nature of the Self) is the reward of the man who can discriminate between the mind stuff and the Self, or spiritual man.

This state of isolated unity must be regarded as the result of the attainment of a particular state of mind, rather than as a separative reaction. All meditation work, all moments of reflection, all affirmative exercises, all hours of recollection of one’s true nature are means employed to detach the mind from the lower reactions and tendencies, and build in the habit of a constant realization of one’s true divine nature. When this realization is achieved, the need for such exercises ceases and one enters into one’s heritage. The isolation referred to is the detachment of the self from the field of knowledge, the involving of the refusal of the self to seek outward-going sensuous experience and its standing firm in the state of spiritual being.

The man becomes conscious of himself as the knower and is no longer primarily concerned with the field of knowledge, as in the early stages of his unfoldment; neither is he engaged with knowledge itself, as during the stage of mental development either as an advanced man or as a disciple. He can discriminate between all three, and identifies himself henceforth neither with the field of knowledge, life in the three worlds through the medium of his three vehicles, and the five senses plus the mind, nor with the knowledge gained nor the experience undergone. He knows the self; he identifies himself with the true knower, and thus sees things as they are, dissociating himself entirely from the world of sensuous perception.

He does this, however, whilst functioning as a human being on earth. He participates in earth experience; he involves himself in human activities; he walks among men, eating and sleeping, working and living. Yet all the time he “is in the world, yet not of the world,” and of him it can be said as it was said of the Christ,

    “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil., II, 6, 7, 8.)

He is at-one with the soul of all, but isolated off, separated from all that concerns the form or material nature. The next three sutras should be read as one, giving as they do a picture of the gradual growth of the spiritual nature in the man who has arrived at the state of discriminating detachment, and through utter dispassion, knows the meaning of isolated unity.


The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Book 4 – Illumination

Alice Bailey & Djwhal Khul


The Yoga-Sûtra of Patañjali translated by Chip Hartranft