Dealing with False Cause

Task 9

Influx never takes place from the outside to the inside; it goes from the inside to the outside.  Arcana Caelestia #6322

It appears as if things in the world flow in through the senses towards the inner realms of the mind, but this is a false impression.  The inner flows into the outer.  Perception arises from that inflowing.  Arcana Caelestia #5119

I once asked a group of people to list the things, situations and people that upset them.  People wrote for about ten minutes about all kinds of things.  They paired off and shared some of their answers with the other person.

When they finished, I said to them: “I do not want to know what is on your lists, because the fact is that things, situations and people do not upset us.  They may provide opportunities for upset, but the cause of the upset is inside of us, not outside.

Their jaws dropped, and we got into a long and serious discussion, in which they gradually came to reflect on the possibility that what they thought was upsetting to them was not the real cause.  It could be called “false cause.”  This point is important because our spiritual development depends on us taking responsibility for our own reactions to things.

The appearance that things outside us cause our reaction is very strong.  It is difficult to believe that external things do not  cause us to have feelings. When we are upset, we look for something in our environment, or another person as the reason for our upset.

This is not the real cause of our reaction, and so we call it: “False Cause.”  Our states and moods come from inside us.  If we are happy it is because we choose to be happy.   If we are upset it is because we choose to be upset.  Our mood is not the result of the situation, the people or the things outside us.

When people say: “She will make some man very happy,” they are not quite accurate.  If he wants to be miserable she cannot stop him.  When you hear someone remark: “That sales clerk made me so angry,” again they are speaking in the language of appearances.

Take an example.  Driving along in the car, you stop at a red light.  You are feeling fine.  All of a sudden you realize that the car behind you is not going to stop and you’re about to be rear-ended.  Sure enough, you hear the crash.  Now, you are mad.  You’re furious!

Why are you furious?  Because someone smashed into your car!  Your internal dialogue starts:  “That blankety blank person ought to be put in jail.  Those lousy drivers make me sick!”   And you feel as though you’re totally right in being upset.  Furthermore you feel you have to be upset.  You have no choice about it.  It’s because someone ran into you.  Right?

So you get out of the car and you are about to yell at this man and you realize he’s slumped over the steering wheel.  Soon you realize that he is having a heart attack.  What happens to your feelings?  And then you discover that the man slumped over is your father!  Now how do you feel?

The incident has not changed, but your feelings have, because you see the situation differently.  This means that your reactions are not caused by the accident but by how you interpret the accident.

We make up things in order to be angry.  This is why we so easily jump to conclusions.  “That person did that on purpose.”   “What a terrible driver.”  “He shouldn’t be on the streets,” and so forth.

With all these reasons we feel justified in being angry at them.  We have a right to be angry.  It is hard to realize that we are angry because part of us wants to be angry.   Rage has found an opportunity to enter us.  It has nothing whatever to do with what we think is the cause, such as the other person’s driving.  What they do is to provide an opportunity for our anger to arise.  It is not the cause.

Causes are not external, they are internal.  Anger is always an inside job.  Something outside might trigger it, but the answer comes from inside.

I was in England when Queen Elizabeth II was being crowned.  My cousin and I decided to sleep on the sidewalk that night.  So there we were, all laid out on the sidewalk pretending we were sleeping.  The coronation was at ten o’clock in the morning.  At seven o’clock a policeman woke us up.  “Alright, you blokes, on your feet!”  Soon we were all standing on our feet leaning forward and straining to see what was going on.  This was three hours before the Coronation procession, but we were all shoving and pushing.

After some time, a woman off to my right, said to the man behind her: “Would you stop shoving and pushing!”  The man said:  “It’s not I.  It’s those people behind me.”  She said: “But, there is nobody behind you!”  He turned around, looked behind himself and noticed that there wasn’t!  That is false cause.

Imagine, if other people were the cause of your state. This would mean that other people could make you happy or sad.  They could put you in heaven or hell!  All they have to do is act badly or yell at you or talk too long, or not talk at all, or step on your foot and they put you in hell.

No, the universe is not created that way.  You put yourself in hell.  If you are involved in spiritual work, you do not allow your emotions to be controlled by people, situations and things outside of yourself.  You don’t allow yourself to be upset by what you read in a newspaper.  How can a piece of paper upset you?  Only because you choose to be upset by it.  You might say:  “But look at this!!  Can’t you see why I am upset?”

Another person looks at the same newspaper but is not upset in the same way.  The upset is not the result of the newspaper.  It is the result of something inside you.  There is a little beast inside you that says: “Now is the time to be angry.”

A man who was teaching fourth grade took this course and was fascinated with “false cause.”  He wondered if this would work with children.

One day a child came up to him and said: “Johnny made me so mad.  He tore up my paper.”  The teacher corrected him and said:  “Say, I made myself mad when Johnny tore up my paper.  Try that.”  The child looked puzzled for a moment, thought, and then said:  “Yes, it’s true, I did make myself mad when Johnny tore up my paper.”  He went back to his desk feeling much better.

How do you know that negative emotions are an inside job? It is because a person can say the identical thing to you one day and you’re mad.  He can say the same thing another day and you laugh.  He could say the same thing another day and you would fall asleep out of boredom.  You choose your own reactions.  It is not the other person’s fault.

What is upsetting you?   Let’s say that you wake up and it is raining!  You might even tell someone that you are upset “because it is raining.”  I know people who are in heaven when it rains.  Is the rain the cause of one person being upset and the other being happy?  The rain does not make you happy or sad.  It is just rain.  You can choose to be happy or sad when you see it rain.  That is your choice.  It is not the rain.  You could collect a dozen people and they all have different reactions to the rain.

There is a wonderful story in the New Testament about workers hired at different times of the day.  Some workers worked an hour.  Some worked two hours.  People hired at the eleventh hour only worked one hour and then the working day was over.  There was no agreement as to how much money they would get.

The master paid these last workers first and gave them a denarius.  That was the agreed wages for a full day’s work.  The people who had worked all day began thinking: “They got a denarius.  We must be getting much more.”  When the master paid them, they too received one denarius each.  They were furious.  Were they upset because they were paid the amount that was agreed?  The master said:  “Can’t I do what I want?  Is your eye evil because I’m good?”  This meant: “Are you jealous because I’m good?  I do you no wrong.  I paid you what you agreed to receive.”  (Matthew 20:15)

Their upset was an inside job.  They were upset because they began to fantasize about getting more.  They upset themselves.      It is amazing to think of life in terms of real cause versus false cause.  I believe you can be with the most obtuse, ignorant, self-centered bombastic people and still be totally at peace, because their behavior is not the cause of your reaction.  You react the way you want to react.  It must be added that we are not perfect and there are some situations that trigger negative reactions.   I know there are some situations I get into where I will probably be upset.  I will upset myself in some situations, but the situation is not the cause.

Your task this week is to observe upsets from this point of view.  Then notice how you feel.

Whenever you feel upset from a thing, situation or person, stop and remember that upsets do not come from outside of you, but from inside. Observe your reactions to the situation from that point of view.