In an ancient Hindu legend, the creator Brahma creates the world then
rests each of its four corners on the back of a celestial elephant. The
psychologist William James asked an
holy man to explain what supports each of those four celestial
elephants on the backs of which rest the four corners of the world.
"Each of the four elephants" said the holy man "stands on the back of
James paused, and then asked "And what supports those
"Each of those four elephants" replied the holy man
"stands on the back of another elephant.".
"And what" asked James "supports those elephants?".
"Ah!" said the holy man. "I can see where your inquiry is going. The
answer is: there's elephants all the way down.".
* * *
You could say it's bad news there's elephants all the
way down because no matter how deep you go there's always one
deeper. Let's say, for want of a good game to play, each elephant
in our lives. Each
inauthenticityskews the one it supports. Or, in other words, each
in our lives is underpinned by the one supporting it.
Furthermore (as the I-Ching may have said) the superior
man realizes he can't change an
underpinning. But he can be authentic about where he's being
It's like a
koan. That's how authenticity is restored.
is underpinned by another
the restoration of authenticity is always only temporary. There's
elephants all the way down, therefore we're
inauthenticall the way down. And that's the good news. If the way to
restore authenticity is to be authentic about where we're being
then we have an endless supply of raw material to work
Pretty soon you realize the temporary restoration of authenticity
doesn't suffice. It's not a life worth living. Pretty soon you realize
it's the ongoing endless inquiry itself into
that suffices. That's a life worth living.
Any out of reach
keeps total Self expression at bay resulting in a loss of
power ie disempowerment. You know you're disempowered
because you're disempowered. But you can't tell by what.
Eventually, when nothing else works - not avoidance, not pretence, not
making excuses, not even enough beer - you start the inquiry, you start
examining your life.
I've noticed in my own life it doesn't take much to get in touch with
the things I'm not being authentic about. I may be saying it doesn't
matter whether or not I spend time with the people who are dear to me.
It does. I may be pretending my life would have less hassle if I had
It will or it won't. And each time I tell the truth about where I'm
I can see what being inauthentic that way costs me.
In the case of not spending more time with the people who are dear to
me, it costs me love and affection. In the case of pretending my life
would have less hassle if I had more
it costs me not living my real calling in life.
Once I've gotten the cost, in an almost spontaneous occurrence the next
possibility for my life falls out of my mouth. In the case of
not spending more time with the people who are dear to me, the
possibility of being open and available comes forth. In
the case of pretending my life would have less hassle if I had more
the possibility of being generous comes forth.
That's what there is to know about elephants:
they're supported by other elephants;
each has a cost;
getting clear about each elephant and it's cost creates space to
invent a new possibility;