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The Trojan Horse

Advanced Listening

by Michael Maciel

I’m sure you know what a crescent wrench is. In England, they call it an adjustable spanner, because you can set the jaws to different widths. The tool is designed to tighten and untighten threaded fasteners—nuts and bolts. An inexperienced person will take this "tightening" principle at face value and apply pressure without regard to the force being transferred to the fastener, more often than not snapping the head off or stripping the threads. The expert, however, understands the true principle involved, namely torque, or twisting force, and he or she "listens" for feedback as pressure is applied. The novice only knows that you put it on and twist it off. The expert knows that the wrench is a tool for applying force in a particular direction, and therefore works with the force and uses the tool.

The novice has his attention on the wrench, the expert on the force being applied. In this way, the novice listener has his attention on the words being spoken and not on the sound of the speaker's voice. This might sound like an obscure notion, so I will illustrate. A primitive who has never heard someone speak through a telephone might think that it is the phone itself speaking and not the person on the other end of the line. This is hard to imagine, because we are so used to using telephones. But in the same way, we often place more importance on the words a person is saying instead of the sound of their voice. We are taking the principle of communication at face value instead of using it as a tool.

Now, while no one would dispute the importance of the literal content of spoken communication, neither would they argue with the fact that it is the intention behind the words that conveys their true meaning. You might think that I’m going to say that advanced listening is merely understanding that intention. But there is much more to it than that.

Let’s look at what really happens when someone speaks to us. First we identify who it is that is speaking. Even if we do not know him personally, we fit him into a category, which we have already defined, such as "police officer" or "telemarketer". These titles exist as icons on the screen of our consciousness—pictures that represent the concept we have formed about the category. As soon as we assign this person who is trying to communicate with us to the appropriate icon, an interesting phenomenon takes place. Instead of their words reaching us, they energize the icon, and whatever attributes we have assigned to the icon overwhelm what the person is saying. He becomes the icon. We then start interacting with the icon, instead of the real-live person. In other words, we are not communicating at all, except with our own preconceptions.

Does this sound familiar?

Let’s go back to the wrench for a second. The expert "listens" for what the bolt is telling him about how much force it can withstand before it will break. Most types of steel have a certain amount of flexibility, so the information that the expert is receiving is rather complex. How much will the bolt flex before it flexes too much? Obviously, there are layers of information hidden within the feedback he is getting, such as what kind of steel the bolt is made of, what grade, what rating, etc. Knowledge of these factors will help the expert determine how hard to push, how much torque or twisting force to apply. As long as the expert understands these factors, everything should go well, and the bolt will start to turn. But every expert knows that it doesn't always turn out that way. Sometimes there are unknown factors that cause the head of the bolt to snap off anyway. Perhaps the threads were corroded with rust. Maybe there was a microscopic flaw in the steel, a weak spot. Or maybe the ambient temperature was off, causing the threads to grip tighter than usual. Who knows? The point is that all of this information was being conveyed to the expert through the wrench to his hand, and from there to his brain. Why didn’t he pick up on it? Why couldn’t he hear everything that the bolt was telling him? These are the questions that we want to ask as we look at Advanced Listening.


Behind every mental icon there is another icon. Every preconception pasted onto the wall of our consciousness contains within it deeper levels of preconceptions. Sorry, but this is the nature of the mind. These preconceptions are the go-betweens, the mediators of all of our communications with the world "out there". To the extent that this is true, we are trapped inside a box, a world of illusion limited by the concepts we have invented about the sources of communication impinging upon our senses from the outside. The real question is how do we bypass the icons and deal directly with the contents of that which is being conveyed through them? How do we hear what is really being said? The answer to this question comes as we practice Advanced Listening.

When someone speaks to us, he activates the icon that we have assigned to him. It is as though his very words cause it to vibrate and give off sounds of its own. Actually, it does no such thing. The sounds that it appears to emit are really projections of our own thinking that we cast upon it. The icon "lights up" as a result of the incoming communication and grabs our attention. We immediately begin to dig through our inner file drawer for the indicated icon and pull out all of its related material. Every time a new input comes through, instead of hearing what it is, the associated material jumps to the fore, and we hear it, instead of what is actually being said. We project it back onto the icon automatically and instantaneously, so fast that we think that the icon is animated—an actual representation of the person speaking. Instead, it is our own projection being energized by the raw energy of the communication itself—the sound of the words, the feelings behind them, and the circumstances within which they occur. This is what we are "interacting" with, not the real-live person. Is it any wonder that communication is so difficult?

Advanced Listening requires that we learn to differentiate between emanations and projections. An emanation is a source of energy; a projection is a reflection of energy. The information that comes to our awareness through the icons in our mind is an emanation. It radiates. It has within itself all of the information sent consciously and subconsciously by the person who is communicating with us. If we permit that radiation into our awareness, instead of letting the icon absorb it, Then we can analyze it without it first having to go through all of the interpretations imposed on it by the icon.

A candle radiates light, it does not reflect it. Light emanates from the flame and disperses in all directions in a continuous stream of energy. In this sense, it has a "life of its own". It exists. A reflection, on the other hand, depends on an external source of energy, which gives it an apparent existence—a virtual image.

All reflections are altered by the medium reflecting them. A dirty mirror, or a colored lens (refraction, in this case) will change the nature of the energy passing through it. The sunlight reflecting from the moon does not look like the sun—it looks like the moon. In the same way, when we observe the reflection of our own projections bouncing back at our awareness off of the icons in our mind, we see the icon and not what we are projecting. We think that our projections are the icon. And since we cannot distinguish between the icon and the person who is actually speaking to us, we think that they are the icon as well. Instead of entertaining the person and what the person is saying, we are entertaining our thoughts about the person, our own projections of what someone coming through that particular icon would say.

In this misshapen environment, the meanings of words get distorted and confused. "What you think you heard is not what I think I meant." Fortunately, our database for understanding is not limited to our "personal" mind, but reaches far deeper into the infinite mind, which we all share. Advanced Listening is utilizing that infinite mind to analyze the contents of communication. We let It listen, instead of trying to listen ourselves. The "personal" part of the infinite mind, which is the mind we call "our own", is nothing more than the icons we have erected around our awareness. They hang there like holograms held in place by our intention. They comprise our understanding of the world, the cosmos. Everything that comes toward us, every type of energy is filtered by this array of icons. They act as portals or doorways. Nothing gets through them except those things that they recognize, much like receptor sites on a cell membrane. They are amazingly adaptive, so much so that if something comes through that they do not recognize, they will change it so that it resembles something they do recognize. This is why we can look directly at something, whether an object or an idea, and not see it, or see something entirely different.

Advanced Listening focuses on the energy instead of the icon that the energy is passing through. It is relatively easy to do. It only requires a degree of concentration, which is the ability to hold our attention on one thing. The real communication we are trying to hear is right under our nose. The only reason we do not hear it, or think that we do not hear it, is that we are looking at the icon instead of the energy it’s conveying. Actually, we hear everything, but we filter out that which does not fit the icon. Everything is laid out before us. We pick and choose what we will hear, or see. In this sense, there is no such thing as the "unconscious" mind—there is only that which we are not looking at.

Here is an easy way to begin Advanced Listening. The next time someone speaks to you, listen more to the sound of their voice than to what they are saying. You might have to ask them to repeat what they said to make sure you got it, but pay attention to the sound behind the words. If you kept the sound and removed the words, what other words could you substitute that would match the sound more closely? If the clerk says, "Have a nice day!", what is he really conveying? If the realtor says, "You’re gonna love this house!", what is the nature of the energy pushing the words out of her mouth? Pay more attention to that than to what you think she means, what you are expecting her to mean, what those words normally would mean when they come through that icon. You probably do this anyway, at least some of the time, but you might not be doing it consciously or with understanding.

The purpose of Advanced Listening is to prepare us for meditation—real meditation. Just as the flame of a candle has "existence", so are there other sources of radiation (light) in the space on this side of the icons, that area "within" us that does not have to pass through the portals of our understanding, and that are not subjected to the filtering of the icons. These are the communications from "above", the manna from heaven, that "daily bread" that Jesus told us to expect from God. They are our inner lights that guide us through life, that whisper wisdom at every turn, that feed us and keep us warm. Get familiar with these and not even death will be able to evict you from your sacred space nor keep you from enjoying eternal life.