The Conflict Between Conscious and Unconscious Desires

Pathwork Guide Lecture No. 45 | January 30, 1959

Greetings in the Name of the Lord. I bring you blessings, my dearest friends. Blessed is this hour.

My dear, dear friends, you all know that there is no other reason and purpose in life than development and purification. Therefore, the person who follows this path will not have lived in vain. This path is certainly the fastest way to self-knowledge and self-purification. The latter is not possible without the former. You cannot purify unless you know yourself. And although self-knowledge is not always identical with purification, to a large extent you already purify merely by recognizing yourself fully and thoroughly. To do so without resistance or subterfuge, it is essential to have the humility to accept yourself as you are now, and therefore to acknowledge a part of your lower self whose full significance you may have previously ignored. In such self-honesty, you are already in purification, even long before you are capable of changing your emotions.

You so often forget that emotional change is not something that can be commanded. You cannot change your feelings and emotional reactions by an act of will. You can use your will to do the necessary and often tedious work of searching for a clear-cut meaning to your confused emotions. You can certainly use your will to decide fully to follow this path. But your emotions can change only after you have repeatedly had the humility to recognize their lower nature. Therefore, I repeat:  recognize again and again whatever is wrong in your inner reactions. Thus will you cultivate the very change you wish to accomplish.

To know yourself, my friends, to find the real you, the part of you that you have been unaware of so far, is always the aim and the question. I will now try to help you further in that direction.

It is often forgotten that the human personality has many, many facets and, therefore, one seldom understands what is really meant by “knowing oneself.”  Certainly you know a bit about yourself—your conscious aims and reactions, your tastes and idiosyncrasies, and so on. But there are so many other facets you completely ignore, my dear ones. Just think of yourself and of the many people you know in your present life circumstances, as well as in the past. Think how different you are and how differently  you act with certain people, with your family, or friends. In each situation there is a different “you.”  Try to imagine how it would be if you acted toward person “A” as you act toward “B.”  You can go through the whole alphabet and you will find that there are that many facets of you.  And that is only on a superficial level, for many other facets never manifest in your surface personality. How then can you know more deeply who you are?

The first and most important step is to find out your desires, my friends. And when I speak of desires, I do not mean the important aims and goals in your life or the big issues. No, I mean that any small—and apparently insignificant—reaction on your part contains a desire of one sort or another. Think of any unimportant incident on any day when you feel disharmonious, angry, irritated, or, for that matter, joyful and optimistic. In each of these reactions lies a desire. If you wish to find out who you are, you must first ascertain the desires in each of your daily reactions. That is not as difficult as you may think, neither is it as easy. It calls for a certain technique, a training. First you must learn to conduct your daily review, which I have often suggested. The next step, instead of merely acknowledging, “I felt angry or hopeful or unhappy or joyous on such and such an occasion,” is to ask yourself why you felt these reactions, no matter how obvious the reason may be as far as other people and outer circumstances are concerned.

Ask yourself, what might be the desire behind your reaction. Ask yourself, “What do I really want in connection with this situation that makes me angry or fearful now?  I am angry because I want something different. What is it that I want?”  Or, “I am joyful because a desire of mine has apparently been fulfilled. What was this desire?  And if I feel hopeful, is it because the chances seem greater now that some desire of mine will be fulfilled?  What is this desire, in clear-cut, simple words?”

Try to make a habit of such self-questioning, my friends. Take all your reactions, every day, and examine them from this point of view. What is the desire?  That will help you a great deal, my dear ones, to understand yourself much better. It will also help you understand why you became as are now and why you have these desires. But that is the next step, which at this point is premature. One thing at a time. Learn first to establish a concise, articulate awareness of your desires. Then we will examine the reason for their existence.

Your unconscious desires often deviate from your conscious ones. I think you all understand by now that this is one of the main reasons for your conflicts and frustrations. You often create similar conflicts and unfulfillments, while ignoring their full significance. The fact is that your conscious desires and aims that guide your actions are in accord with the goals of your higher self, but simultaneously lower and selfish aims are also present in your motivation. These lower aims find justification in the higher aims, which serve very well to hide their existence. It is very important to find this fact out, my dear friends. Although your actions are worthy and good as such, although the high and noble motives truly exist in you, they lose their splendor if you cannot see the lower motives coexisting with the higher ones in the very same goal. Even long before you can purify yourself to such an extent that these selfish, proud, vain, and fearful motives cease to exist in you, the fact that you simply recognize their existence purifies you to a considerable degree and therefore also purifies your right action.

You are often puzzled because you find out that you want something pure and good, and yet it brings you disharmony. The reason is that you ignore the different motives existing within in relation to the noble desire. The conscious noble motive convinces you that there is nothing wrong with your aim, and yet there is in fact something wrong, namely, that you do not know the other part that coexists in the same desire-current. You are used to an “exclusive” attitude; you think the truth of one motive excludes the truth of another, often quite contrary in nature. It will take much self-realization for you to truly understand that one motive does not exclude another. Purification does not mean merely that you change desires. It means that you separate the good motives from the wrong ones, at first by simply observing them. Do not ever try to force your feelings. It cannot be done. I cannot emphasize this point often enough. But try to become capable of saying, “Here my desire is this or that. The conscious desire is good. But I recognize that this or that selfish motive also plays a role. I will continue to perform the good act, but I will not deceive myself that I am utterly free of selfishness, vanity, or whatever other trend may be involved. I can only pray and hope that these unruly currents will weaken with time. I cannot help feeling that way now, but I hope to become free of them.”

By observing yourself in this way, again and again, the lower currents will indeed weaken until eventually they disappear. You will thus accomplish infinitely more toward your purification than by trying to force feelings away. You try to force your feelings with the best of intentions:  you know certain reactions are selfish or unloving, and you do not like to be that way. It would seem possible to eliminate such trends by simply forcing them away. In reality you only cover them up and therefore give them much greater power than when you recognize their existence. In addition, you deceive yourself, because you believe you are purer than you are. You believe yourself free of lower motives, while they ferment in your unconscious.

Humanity makes a definite distinction between feelings and thoughts. You know that in spirit both are concrete forms of subtle matter. The way we see it, feelings are essentially the same as thoughts. The only difference between thoughts and feelings is in the strength and intensity, not in the characteristic or type. A feeling is more potent and intense than any thought you can harbor. Convictions and opinions unfortified by emotion are weak, and the forms can dissolve much faster than those in which opinions and views are charged with emotion. This principle applies to positive as well as negative thought forms.

The strongest conscious conviction or thought is nothing compared to an utterly unconscious emotional current. You will soon discover this truth in following the path. By making your emotions conscious, you turn them into thoughts, and then, if you wish, you turn these thoughts into actions. Thus you live in a higher degree of consciousness than when you act without understanding why, merely rationalizing it, while remaining under the control of your unconscious thoughts or feelings.

You know that thoughts cannot be changed quickly even without personal emotional involvement; how much longer then does it take to alter emotions!  For instance, you have harbored certain opinions all your life. Even though you may not be emotionally involved—the opinion may be superficial, without any personal importance for you—habit and your surroundings have influenced you to maintain the opinion, so that it has never occurred to you to revise it despite the fact that it has long been obsolete. How much more difficult is it then to change an opinion or attitude in which personal, psychological factors, and your emotions are involved!  How habit-bound the human soul is!  How great the fight to overcome the temptation of sluggishness and pride!  For it also requires a certain humility to change long-held views. We often see that people hold on to an opinion, merely because this has been their opinion for quite a while, despite the fact that deep in their heart they know or feel that a new outlook makes good sense. Changing even superficial opinions requires effort and humility. Changing thoughts that have no emotional impact needs certain skills, not always easy to muster. Much more patience and wisdom is needed to change an outlook or attitude in which deep-rooted emotions are involved.

Not even a mere thought can be changed by force. No one can force you to think differently, not even your own self. You can change an opinion only if you deliberate and weigh it, discriminate, and select. During this process, a new opinion may evolve. Or, after conscious and mature deliberation, you may decide the old opinion seems right. With emotions, which are stronger and more potent than thoughts, force is even less successful—and very treacherous. Do not be dismayed that your unpurified emotions do not change merely because you have finally recognized their unpurified nature. Adjust yourself to the necessity that, for a while, you must just observe their existence. You will learn further from your ability to do this.

Becoming aware of your mixed motives requires humility. It means living in a healthy state of truth, even though a truth may not be flattering at this moment. So make your soul healthy through self-acknowledgement. In that way, slowly, step by step, you will experience a change of consciousness, a change of inner concepts when your emotions really begin to be different. And that will be the greatest victory and relief for you—but it cannot come in one sweep. You can reap the fruits only after having done the tedious work outlined in these lectures.

By doing this work you will understand not only your problems and conflicts, but also your images and how they were formed. To find the images, you have to work from two sides:  (1) examine your childhood and your reactions at the time and (2) examine the desires in your present reactions to daily occurrences. They will form one whole picture. When you search for your desires now, you will understand why some are stronger than others. Some are broken by countercurrents, whereas others flow rigidly in one direction, consisting of several layers of your personality and both good and bad motives. Then you will understand why you felt it necessary to hide the existence of the bad motives from your consciousness.

I would also like to discuss another possibility confronting you when you attempt to find yourself by finding your desires. Although consciously and outwardly your life may appear well directed, within you are in turmoil. You may find that you do not really know what you want. This is puzzling and often upsetting. There is so much confusion in your soul due to the suppression of conflicting or unwanted desires that everything is entangled, and it will take a bit of doing on your part to untie the knots. At first, it may be most frightening to find out that you actually do not know what you want. And because of that, you will try first to escape into subterfuge-desires.

To see your subterfuge-desires, you must pick out the various strings of your inner knot one by one, pull them apart, and then trace their directions. Each of the little strings in the knot represents a little desire. Each has a different motive behind it. Unconsciously, you have believed you could not afford to become aware of all the different motives, because, knowing that you are an intelligent and highly developed person in many respects. How could you admit that you have several completely contradictory desires, that cancel each other out?  Yet the child in you desires two impossibilities, and often more. By hiding this conflict, you thought that you would rid yourself of it. In reality, however, in this hidden nucleus lies the very nature of your disharmonies and disappointments.

The only way out is to have the courage and patience to take each string and ask yourself what you desire in each and every one of your daily reactions. To begin with, simply register the desires. Refrain from judgments and evaluations such as, “But this is silly, this is impossible, this is unworthy of me,” and the like. Such an approach will only make it more difficult for you to untie the knot, and perhaps render the task impossible. Know that your hidden emotions have nothing to do with your outer common sense!  Know that the part in you that could not mature because you kept it suppressed wants just that:  the fulfillment of two or more contradictory desires. The child in you wants an impossibility because of its persistent desire to cover up the nucleus of conflicting desires by reasonable surface desires, while the conflicts ferment underneath. And since your desires, feelings, and thoughts are potent magnetic fields, they attract circumstances that correspond to the inner conflicts. And you never know that your conflicting desires are responsible for your outer miseries and unfulfillments. The latter are a logical result, an inevitable projection of the former.

Perhaps you desire fulfillment of a certain kind. Yet at the same time you desire the advantages of the opposite desire. The motives in the latter, conflicting desire may not be flattering for you, therefore you repress it and keep it under lock and key. The more unconscious an emotion or desire is, the more effect it has in your life. Consequently you get exactly that which you consciously do not desire, but which you want unconsciously. Only you want it without strings attached, without the disadvantages. And then you do not understand!

So in finding yourself, you must consider not only that you need to separate the good motives from the bad ones in a particular aim, but also that you may not know what you really desire. Only after you have found the reasons for all your conflicting currents and understand your hitherto unconscious confusion, will you be able to have one clear desire, going steadfastly in one direction. You will then become mature enough in your soul to realize that the price must be paid. That is the way. It is not easy, but it is certainly feasible for everyone who goes at it in good faith and with perseverance.

My dear friends, we have begun to work on the personal images that formed during your childhood and that are responsible for the mishaps in your life. Those of you who are seriously working in this vein advance a great deal.

I would now like to give you further food for thought. Not only personal and individual images but mass images, race images, national images, historical images exist in each time and civilization. This point is very important, my dear ones, because a personal image of yours may coincide with and be strengthened by a mass image. If you do not have a personal image related to a mass image, the mass image may not affect you, or at least not half as much as it would if you had an individual image that fits in some way with the mass-image of your time. Everyone is affected to some extent by the mass images. They affect you more or less according to the nature of your own images. So it is important for you, my friends, to realize that such mass images exist. This realization will take you a step further toward dissolving your inner conflicts. You will then see how the respective mass image strengthens your own personal one. So many mass images exist that it would be impossible to enumerate even a part of them. But as you go on, you will find out all that is important for you.

Let me give you some examples. There is a mass image about the duration of life. For a long time, this mass image held that humans reach an average of, let us say, forty-five years of age. And the majority did die at that age. Of course, you can say that improved medicine and living conditions are responsible for the longer life span now. I certainly do not deny this. But because of these improvements, the mass image did change, and as this particular mass image began to dissolve, the improvements could be realized. It works both ways. One is not thinkable without the other. If humanity had not improved psychologically and spiritually enough to be ready to let go of the old image or illusion, no technical improvement would have extended life. Another mass image is that when one reaches a certain age, one becomes weak and sick. All humanity is affected by it.

Mass images exist on every conceivable subject. Think about this, my friends. You will discover how many mass images or illusions exist that affect your personal life, and doubly so where a similar or related personal image is involved.

Before we turn to your questions, just one more word, my dear ones. It is natural when you work on this path that many of your hidden emotions come to the surface. Remember that the more conscious your hidden emotions become, the more likely you are to be considerate of your fellow human beings. As long as you are under the tyranny of your unconscious, you often cannot help acting in ways that are unpleasant to others. You may not even be fully aware of this. You could, of course, see it if you really wanted to, even without this process of self-analysis but you often shrink from such observations because they might lead you to the very recognitions that the psyche wishes to avoid. When you have decided for this path, you are obligated to think a little of the effect that you have on others. Recognize yourself, analyze your emotions, but do not discharge them on others. The more self-aware you grow, the more unselfish you must become, the more conscious of your effect on your surroundings.

And now, my dear ones, let us turn to your questions.

QUESTION:  Would you please tell us more about guardian angels?

ANSWER:  I have already spoken about this subject in the past. Let me say this now:  There is no human being to whom God has not given a guardian—none. Many human beings deny this fact. They think it a childish superstition. They are influenced by a present mass image that is a reaction to a contrary, mass image that humanity held some time ago. Then, guardian angels and everything connected with them was distorted to an opposite extreme. Humans put the responsibility for everything on influences from spirit entities, good or bad, and thus tried to get around self-responsibility. Here you have two opposite mass images following one another as action and reaction. Now it is the fashion to smile at such ideas. Yet every human being is given a guardian. The guardian’s strength and power depend on a person’s development and responsibility task in the divine plan. The guardians adhere very strictly to divine law. They interfere only according to law and the personal plan of their protégé. Otherwise they have no right to prevent a mistake in judgment or decision. They cannot prevent mishaps, which may be good medicine, and thus they stand by and observe. It is their task to guide their protégé through life according to their personal life plans, preventing only what is contrary to the law of cause and effect.

As you know, a human being can with his or her free will change the plan made before incarnation. The guardian will not prevent that, whether the change is for the good or for the bad, but will watch over the protege‚ so that they are affected only by what they have brought forth. The guardians know how far they can and should go in guidance and inspiration. If and when the human being makes the first step in the right direction—approaching God in a direct or indirect way—the guardian is free to meet her or him with all that is good for that purpose. If that first step is not taken out of free will, the guardian cannot force the right decision on the protege. The more a person turns toward God, the closer the guardian can come to the protege. The more he or she turns away from God, the farther the guardian stands. This cannot be helped. It is just that way.

There are also many spirits around each human being—unorganized spirits, spirits who are not necessarily bad, as well as evil ones. But do not ever forget that the spirits around you do not come arbitrarily. They are attracted to you by certain basic similarities, even though the degree of good or evil may vary widely and be quite different from your own present stage of development. So you may have an evil spirit around you although you are not an evil person. But certain currents in you are of the same basic texture as the evil spirit attaching to you. The same applies to the divine spirits. How much an unorganized spirit can influence you is again up to you. The more self-awareness you have, the more control you have over yourself, and therefore the more independence from the influence of other beings, spirit or human. A person whose consciousness is not raised to some degree will easily fall under the influence of other people, although he or she may be unaware of the fact. The same holds true of the influence spirits can have over such a person. The guardian is often obliged to look on. In other cases, the guardian may prevent such influence. This depends on so many circumstances that they cannot be enumerated here. But it is all according to the perfection and wisdom of divine law.

QUESTION:  Are all guardians organized spirits?

ANSWER:  Of course. But that does not mean that unorganized spirits are not also around you who may even want something good for you. They may not be evil at all. But the regular guardian has to be an organized spirit.

QUESTION:  According to divine plan, what is the age of a human being?

ANSWER:  That cannot be answered by a simple figure, my dear. The divine plan must take into consideration the mass image that exists at any given moment. It also takes into consideration all details of the incarnation of every being.  So it must vary. The mass image is a strong form. It has to be reckoned with. According to that, combined with the personal plan, one human being reaches a higher age than another. As the mass image changes, the individual plans will be adjusted to it, so that the more humanity develops as a whole, the more each individual has the chance for fulfillment in one lifetime. But there will always be cases when the individual life span is much shorter than the present average life span. One day, the average age will be a hundred years, yet there may be a number of people whose plan it is to die when they are twenty.

QUESTION:  What I meant was, since creation is perfect, what would the age be within perfection?

ANSWER:  But my dear, this human sphere, the earth plane, will never have perfection. It is a temporary sphere, a temporary stage that exists only as long as imperfection exists. When any being reaches perfection, that being will no longer have to go through the process of birth and death. He or she will be an eternal spirit who will be in timelessness.

QUESTION:  Are any of the guardians in-between incarnations or are they all out of the cycle of incarnations?

ANSWER:  It depends on the human being. Many human beings have not reached the stage where they can take such a path of self-development or fulfill a spiritual mission. They are people who just lead what you would call an average life, and learn and develop slowly by their experience, or remain at a standstill. Such people have guardians who are, of course, also organized spirits but who are not yet out of the cycle of incarnations. Someone who develops very fast and desires to take such a path, and ultimately fulfills a mission, is given a higher and more powerful guardian. Such guardians are often—not always—out of the cycle of incarnations.

QUESTION:  I suppose that racial and religious images also form part of the mass images?

ANSWER:  Of course.

QUESTION:  So, in the cycle of incarnations, a soul goes through all kinds of race and especially religious images. Then the incarnations are all mixed up. This would then help in the purification?

ANSWER:  Yes, you are quite right.

QUESTION:  About the hidden desires. One sometimes feels joy, which also contains a desire. Isn’t it possible that one sometimes feels joyous because one has come a little nearer to God?

ANSWER:  Certainly that is possible. You may feel joyous because of a victory in yourself. I do not say that all joy contains low trends. Not at all!  In such a case, a good and constructive desire was fulfilled, or partly so. However, there is no harm in looking at it. If that is the entire answer, fine. At any rate, when you feel pure joy, without fear of losing it again, without any disquieting disharmony, it is not necessary to examine it. All of you on this path should do so mainly with conflicting feelings that contain elements of disharmony. And this can also happen when one experiences a certain joy, but along with it other emotions are also present, if you but listen into yourself.

QUESTION:  Must every mood have a hidden desire?

ANSWER:  Every emotion contains a desire, hidden or not, but not all desires are bad or wrong. Therefore every mood contains a desire, for a mood is the product of an emotion.

QUESTION:  Is it preferable to perform a good act with a bad motive, or should one refrain from performing the deed?

ANSWER:  Oh no, one should not refrain. One should merely recognize that the good act contains a bad motive, without self-deception.  The mere fact that the bad motive is recognized helps a great deal in the purification that every soul must eventually go through. The beginning is always self-honesty.

QUESTION:  Coming back to your answer about guardians, that we attract what we call for. Is that the law of affinity?


QUESTION:  Can you tell us a little bit more about it?

ANSWER:  The law of affinity has already been discussed considerably in previous lectures. Practically everything I say and teach is based on it although I do not always use that particular term. That is what spiritual law, as a whole, amounts to. It is the law of cause and effect and embraces all universal and psychological processes. Take, for instance, the images. When an image exists and brings a person into certain situations in life, certain people are drawn into his life. This is based on the law of affinity, because the forms of thought, feeling, and desire attract that which corresponds. The whole concept of images can be understood only when one realizes the validity of the law of affinity. The emanation of each living creature, which is often referred to as the odic force, the different vibrations resulting from the various types of odic force, all this is based on the law of affinity.

QUESTION:  Regarding the mass images:  Are we then born into a race-image and a creed-image?  What happens, for instance, if someone of a different creed goes on the path, more specifically the path of Christ versus the Judaic one?  In a way, friction and hatred of the former creed are then generated. What is the explanation?

ANSWER:  Some souls are still very much involved with their own race or creed images because their personal psychological factors, that is, their personal image currents, work together with the respective mass image. Then they will not feel inclined to break the image for some time to come. Several incarnations are necessary before a rigidity can loosen up. Others, born into the same race or creed, are already at the point of dissolving their race or creed image. They have already dissolved their personal images to some extent, or they have different personal images that are less interdependent with the respective mass image, or they have none at all. On this point, there is so much controversy and personal feeling that the image prejudice will prevent nearly everyone from hearing anything about the subject. The same applies to nationality. There are some people born into a country where there is perhaps a strong trend of nationalism and exaggerated patriotism. They remain in this country, and it never occurs to them that their own outlook is prejudiced. Others, born into the same country, feel an urge to get out, to see other countries and people and thus broaden their view. It is the same with the religious mass-images. One person is still more involved, the other is beginning to come out of it. One is more developed, at least in this respect. In another respect the one who is still one-sided and prejudiced may be further along. But in this one respect, the former has begun to destroy the effect caused by the mass image of his or her civilization.

What you see going on in your time is a gradual but very definite destruction of mass imagery about nationalism. Therefore, from our point of view, even the upheaval and the dreadful sorrows of war have their good points. For without these upheavals, people would not go from one country to another and broaden their views. This destroys their mass images and, eventually, often affects their personal images. The same will happen in religion. Therefore, it is shortsighted to think that a dreadful occurrence on this earth, even war, does not lead humanity toward development and spiritual fulfillment. The fulfillment is so inevitable that it must happen one way or another. Even if humanity still has not found the way to peace, the wrong alternative must also lead toward the goal of unity and freedom from illusion, or mass images. Certainly, violence and hatred, prejudice and selfishness, all the causes of war, are unspiritual. But many people still find themselves in such a state. Only by going on and on will they gradually lose such blindness. Yet, despite the existence of such currents, development cannot be checked, for the result of wars and similar upheavals is always toward the one end:  spiritual evolvement, union, freedom from one’s own inner chains. If you look at history from this angle, you will think a little differently. As it works in the individual, so it works for humanity as a whole:  the hardship one goes through because one has sown the seeds for it is the very medicine for becoming free of it. That does not mean that you should propagate war.

QUESTION:  Would you consider the proposal of the Pope for unification under Christ as a peaceful step toward that?

ANSWER:  Of course. Regardless of what comes of it, regardless of whether the ideal solution can be found immediately or not, it is a sign of a slow destruction of religious mass imagery, step by step.

My dear friends, I will retire again into my world and leave you with the blessings of God and the love and light of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Receive the strength and love that is given unto each one of you. Be in peace, my dear ones. Be in God!