In my life there have been three influential men in my life. Initially, I thought this meant nothing significant but that they only had a quality that influenced me for some reason. But now, after all these years, I tend to think differently. I can see that they had great and tremendous influence to the point that they, really, helped determine the direction of my life.
THE THREE MEN
In actuality, as I reflect on it, I can see that these three men did not necessarily cause a change in me but, rather, they represented a quality that was already in me. Because of this, I ‘identified’ with them and, in a sense, saw myself in them. In this way, they became a reflection of me, more than anything else. In my ‘identifying’ with them they gave a ‘means’ for these inner qualities to appear, allowing them to come out. In this way, my ‘identification’ with them helped to give these inner qualities a direction and meaning. It is for this reason that they have had great power in my life.
The three men are:
(Isaac Newton. Painting by Godfrey Kneller, 1689)
1. Isaac Newton
It was in grade school that I saw a documentary on Isaac Newton. This was some time in the late 1970’s. For some reason, there was something about him that attracted me. I began to like him and have ever since.
For years, though, I thought that I liked him because of his intellectualism and how he thought about things. Recently, I’ve begun to realize that there is actually another reason. Interestingly, it took 40 years to realize this (it shows how slow I am). The quality I admired in Isaac Newton is that he inquired for the sake of inquiring. In other words, he had no ulterior motives. He did not seek money or fame or even a desire to make a discovery. In other words, what attracted me to Isaac Newton is his honest and pure inquiring for the joy of inquiring. When I look back on my life I can see that I moulded my life on this idea. I have sought, for 40 years now, to inquire for the sure joy of it and for no other reason. Its rather interesting that I’ve only realized this after a lifetime of following it.
As part of this inquiry I cannot express the importance of honesty and purity here. That is to say, it must be done to satisfy an inner need only, not for social benefits (like status) or monetary benefit. This makes it a very personal and deep affair, hitting to the depths of ones soul. These qualities of honesty and purity I have never seen in any other person. As far as I know I’m the only one who “preaches” it.
(Sigmund Freud, 1921)
2. Sigmund Freud
In the mid 1980’s I became interested in psychology and, subsequently, in Sigmund Freud. I even intended to become a Psychoanalyst for a period of time. Naturally, I would practice a ‘self-analysis’ as part of learning psychoanalysis. This would have great effect on me.
Looking back on it now I can see how Sigmund Freud and ‘self-analysis’ taught me a number of things:
- The free association of psychoanalysis taught me to let things come out naturally. This emphasized, again, the importance of honesty and purity in what I was doing. I could not distort things but let them happen in a natural way being pure and honest about it.
- Analysis taught me to watch for whatever appeared. I had to be observant and watchful for the things I felt, thought, said, and did.
- It taught me to find a meaning out of the things that appeared. I had to put what often appeared as a bungled mess into an order with meaning and value. I also had to put them into a greater context.
- Analysis taught me inner inquiry. I had to be an ‘observer of myself’ and look within myself.
In other words, what attracted me to Freud was the means for inner inquiry and the use of a technique and the putting of everything into a greater meaning. These have had great impact on me to this very day.
(St. Antony the Great of Egypt)
3. St. Antony the Great
My interest in monastacism, beginning in about 1990, introduced me to St. Antony the Great, who was the first hermit monk in Egypt. He had great influence on me and still does. His life I admire and respect.
Looking back on it now it seems that I was attracted to several things in St. Antony the Great:
- He abandoned the world. This taught me that one can go beyond the world and look into areas one did not realize was there.
- He revealed to me the power of mystery. I was able to see that things were beyond me and to appreciate it. This taught me a whole new way at looking at the world.
- He taught me courage. All this required a courage as one is as if walking blind in the world.
- He taught me contemplation. Through him I would begin to see what contemplation is.
He was the one who helped me to ‘turn away’ from convential logical thought and to go beyond ones society, viewpoints, and self. This is because he, of course, abandoned everything and went to live in the desert. As a result, St. Antony became a model for ‘pushing the limits’ and ‘facing the unknown’.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LOVING MENTORS AND THE CREATION OF THE ‘GREAT INQUIRY’
Each one of these men I loved. That it to say, they weren’t just “guys” to me . . . they were like mentors. I loved who they were and what they did. I would learn about their lives and looked up to them. Looking back on it now I can see that this love was, perhaps, the most important aspect of them. Without it I don’t think they would of ever had the impact that they had.
I should point out that this love was not for the person himself (all of who died before I was born and of which I only knew through books). I loved what they represented within me. In this way, I actually loved the representation. This made it so that the representation became, in a sense, my mentor.
Because it was a representation it went beyond the person and what they did. As I got older, I began to find that these representations actually referred to something in particular . . . they referred to an association with the world. That is to say, each mentor represented a specific way of relating with the world. Not only that, the representation each represented referred to an active me-world association. Because of this, the associations they represented had the effect of “opening the world” to me. This made it so that the love I had for the mentors became a love for these associations and, accordingly, the world. In effect, the love I felt ended up becoming a combination of many things:
A self-love (or, rather, a self-respect).
A love of another person (mentor).
A love of an active association with the world.
A love of the world.
All this is as if combined into one. This turned this love into a very broad form of love ranging from me to the world. In so doing, it as if united me and all the world into a single “entity” to love. This gave the three mentors a unifying quality and an avenue for a love of the world and a way to love the world.
The particular avenue of love that appeared to me, and which they represented (which reflected me deep down), is what I call the “great inquiry”. This form of love began with Isaac Newton, who initiated it. He began a process of the “great inquiry” which included these qualites:
- A “looking into”, of inquiry, of searching, of questing.
- A finding of “wonder” in things.
- A “making sense” of things.
- A participation, a doing.
In this way, one could say that he initiated the seeking and questing that makes up the inquiry.
I should point out that the “great inquiry” is not really an “inquiry”, as you’d normally think, but much more. In the “great inquiry” I am not inquiring to “learn” or to “find things out”, nor am I trying to find information or knowledge. This isn’t some school research project. In actuality, the “great inquiry” is more of an expression of love. This gives it a whole new quality. Over the years I’ve found that its this love that I am actualing “inquiring” about. I seek and quest for it. In that way, in the “great inquiry” I am actually inquiring for a means or avenue to associate and love the world. In other words, I am seeking to continue the association with the world that the mentors started . . . I am continuing off where the mentors ended, and in my own “special way”.
Keep in mind that a significant part of the “great inquiry” is the means of associating with the world. In actuality, this association with the world is the avenue for love . . . its how the love is manifested and displayed. This is why the mentors were so important as they showed me this association and, through this association, I had a means to love the world. This makes it so that the “great inquiry” is actually an inquiring or seeking for the ‘correct’ way to associate and love the world.
Not only that, anything that comes from the “great inquiry”, such as any “insight”, “discovery”, or “learning”, is just a confirmation of that love. Its as if the world is saying, “yes, we love you too” by giving me something in return. This makes this association:
In this way, confirmation as if “completes” the association, making it whole. As a result, a big part of the “great inquiry” is that I need to gain “something” as a form of this confirmation. This usually is a form of discovery of some form (be it “insight”, “knowledge”, or whatever). Because of this, the “great inquiry” is a perpetual endless discovering of things. In some sense, its this “discovering” that makes it like an “inquiry”.
To me, the greatest form of this “discovering” is inspiration, the seeking of things that seem to “come from nowhere”. Because of this, the “great inquiry” has become a seeking of inspiration for me (for aspects of inspiration see “Thoughts on Seeking Inspiration“, “On how I really don’t know what I’m talking about – the seeking of inspiration, ‘active knowing’, and character“, and “Thoughts on how I perceive the world – inspiration and the “I don’t know” – with remarks about Socrates, philosophy, Odin, and belief“. In general, knowledge, facts, and information are not something I look at highly. They are just ‘things’, inanimate and dead. They do not entail “participation”, just “integration” of these things into ones mind (that is, you just “know it” or “learn it”). Since the “great inquiry” is about association, as I said above, it needs more than that . . . an association needs “participation”. Inspiration entails a “participation” . . . it comes from within and one must bring it out. In that way, its like a creation of something and a pulling out of something that lies within. One of the effects of this is that inspiration causes a transformation. That is to say, it requires a process where it becomes “a part of you” and changes you (for example, see “Thoughts on the process of comprehension“). Knowledge, facts, and information, on the other hand, are things that one only “knows” and they do not create transformation. As a result of this, the “great inquiry” becomes an inquiry into the transformation of ones self. So we see that the “great inquiry” is more than inquiring after facts and information but a change in ones self, to become a different person.
Another thing thats unique about the “great inquiry”, I’ve found, is that it is actually a seeking of an awareness. In other words, its like an inquiry to find a new awareness of life or, more properly, a specific state of mind. I often speak of this specific state of mind as ‘poesy’ (see “Thoughts on what I call Poesy” and “Thoughts on how I am not an intellectual – the coming of ‘Poesy’ and the seeking of a state of mind“). In this way, I am not inquiring for information or knowledge. In the “great inquiry” I am actually inquiring for a specific state of mind. This awareness and state of mind becomes a great avenue for associating and loving the world.
Its interestingly that the last mentor ends with St. Antony the Great, who devoted himself to the love of God. This is not surprising as the world and God are really the same. As a result, the love of the world is the love of God making the “great inquiry” a form of loving God. In this way, it can be very profound and deep in nature.
All in all, the “great inquiry” places me in the world as part of an existing and living world. It establishes me, as a person, in the greater context of the world and with an association and means to associate with the world. In that sense, the “great inquiry” is an inquiry into myself, the world, and myself-in-the-world. As a result of all this, we see that the “great inquiry” entails many different qualities such as:
- A seeking of an assocation with world.
- A seeking of inspiration.
- A transformation of self.
- A seeking of a specific state of mind.
- A love of god.
- A placing of me in the world as a living reality.
All these are under the “blanket”, so to speak, of a generalized love that began with the love of the mentors.
So, you see, the love toward the three mentors was instrumental and crucial . . . without it, what use would they of been? Through the love of them, and what they represented to me, I was able to discover a specific way to associate with the world which became, for me, an expression of love and an active association with the world.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen