Voice of Knowledge
 by Don Miguel Ruiz
Book review by Rio Cruz

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The Voice of Knowledge by Don Miguel Ruiz did not have the same monumental impact on me as did The Mastery of Love and The 4 Agreements.  At least not yet.  But books are alive and constantly adding new growth, so you never know.  Nevertheless, it is another great little book from someone who knows how to speak directly to me.  Yes, on a very personal level, these books are all about me and for me and it would be impossible to abstract their importance out of my personal context.  I think all books that affect us in an important way are just for us, so I seldom recommend books to others including this one.  Even so, I really, really, really liked it!
From my reading of the NDEs found in books and, especially, the NDERF website, I came to the conclusion that we are all perfect beings just as we are, including what we perceive as "the good, the bad, and the ugly."  We don't need the intervention of some religion or self-help program or therapy session to make us perfect.  We simply are everything we need to be.  Always have been.  Always will be.  This point came beautifully to me one day as I was holding our new kitten, Scout, in one of my hands.  As I held him in my palm, I looked at him and he gazed back at me in such an open, pure way that it seemed as if the veil between him and me was lifted and I saw him in all his perfection and beauty.  He was perfect just as he was.  There was never anything he was going to do that would destroy this perfection--not even the stalking and killing of hummingbirds or the playful mutilation of small, furry mammals.  And, at that moment, I realized he stood in proxy for me and all of us--all of creation: we and everything in existence are whole and perfect just as we are.  All is as it should be, including the feeling that we often have that things need to be improved and we act according to this feeling to improve that which is already perfect.  It sounds sort of paradoxical, but it doesn't feel paradoxical to me.  It feels like truth, like love.
Nevertheless, it is quite obvious there is precious little in our culture, on the news, in our bibles, in our interactions with others that reinforces this concept of universal perfection.  On the contrary, everything seems to broadcast just the opposite: human beings are degenerate, hellish creatures that lay waste to everything spiritual, godly, beautiful, or of good report around us. We are not good enough, we are not bright enough, we are not talented enough, we are not beautiful enough, we are too tall or too short or too evil or too...too...  We are, in fact, degenerate beings in need of some outside transformation in order to return to paradise.
Nevertheless, into this gruesome maw steps good ol' Don Miguel Ruiz to assure us that all is well and that we are perfect beings just as we are.  In The Voice of Knowledge, Ruiz makes the idea of our perfection central to his discussion.  He takes the Garden of Eden myth and analyzes it in such a way that the meaning seems completely clear.  His analysis is that we were and are perfect, within paradise, but we have been listening to the lies ingested through our acculturation process (the Tree of Knowledge) that have been growing in our mind since childhood and we now accept them as truth.  We can, nevertheless, change these lies into the truth of love and allow our perfection to shine once again.  Thank you, most kind of sirs, for that reinforcement!
Another reinforcement for me that comes from Don Miguel, is the idea of verbalizing our love to others.  My reading of the NDE accounts has also prompted me to speak my love for people who are in my life...even if I have just met them.   Five years ago I was drawn into being a Hospice volunteer because of my reading and contact with people who have had NDEs.  The dying seem able to accept these expressions of true emotion and warmth with no problem at all, even if I have just met them.  Such is not the case with the "normal," where my expressions of love are often perceived as strange to those who do not see things the same way I do.  And, once again, there is little in our surrounding culture that reinforces the notion of expressing love to those we have just met.  Except for the writings of Don Miguel Ruiz:
"I am not afraid to tell you, 'I love you.'  Your mind will say, 'How can you love me when you don't even know me?'  I don't need to know you.  I don't need to justify my love.  I love you because this is my pleasure.  Love coming out of me makes me happy, and it's not important if you reject me because I do not reject myself."  The Voice of Knowledge, pp. 165-166.
Ahhh...thank you, kind sir, I needed that!
Oh, and here's one more example of personal support from seņor Ruiz...  I have, for many years, carried on long, internal conversations with invisible people who live inside my head.  No, I'm not schizophrenic, despite what some friends and loved ones may say!  There are just people I carry with me in my head wherever I go and with whom I converse at any given time.  Even while in the company of other people I can engage in long, interesting, fun, and funny internal conversations with one of my invisible friends, complete with hand gestures, the nodding of my head, smiling, laughing, and other signs of animated discussion.  I realize that these discussions are often rehearsals for conversations I will in fact have at some future point with flesh and blood people, so when I bring up something I have been working on in my head with my invisible friends, voilā, it's already worked out.  But whatever the case, these dialogs are always fun, entertaining and positive for me.
Now we are almost universally told that talking to ourselves is bad, and we must stifle the internal dialog in order to connect with higher spiritual planes and to gain a greater sense of well-being and peace.  Certain forms of meditation are touted as having a very beneficial effect toward this.  They are designed to shut off the cacophony of negative buzz we have going on in our mind.  But what if you are someone like me who gets a lot of peace and well-being from these internal dialogs?  Huh?  What then?  Well, dandy Don Miguel says this:
"One agreement you can make is to treat yourself with respect.  Introduce the agreement of self-respect, and tell the voice in your head, 'It's time for us to respect each other.'  Many of the judgments will end there, and most of the self-rejection will end there, too.  Then you can allow the voice to talk, but the dialogue will be much better.  You will have all of these great ideas, these great dialogues in your head, and when you express them to other people, they will love what you are saying.  You will find yourself smiling and having fun, even when you are just by yourself." (p. 167)
Now, then, you heard it from the Don himself.  I feel much better...and thank you once again, kind sir!!
As a reflection of my personal journey, The Voice of Knowledge has helped open new, exciting, and altogether unexpected doors for me.  I have a neurological condition called Dystonia which causes seizures in my eyes, throat, and neck.  I've had this condition for the last 5 years and it is slowly getting worse...to the point where I can no longer drive freely and do lots of things I used to be able to do.  Well, c'est la vie, no?  When I was first diagnosed with Dystonia my initial reaction was, "Well, I see you have come calling.  Come on in and tell me what you have for me."  There are no good medical approaches to the thing so my approach is just as good as any other.  I see it as a teacher of sorts and I'm just trying to understand what it's teaching me, if anything.  It isn't easy because the language skills of The Beast are woefully lacking.  Or, maybe I'm just not good a good listener.  At any rate, what I have learned so far is that there are certain activities that calm it down and certain things that rile it up.  One of the things that calms it down is sleep.  When I'm asleep, all the symptoms disappear.  Many neurological conditions work like this.  I also noticed that they disappear when I am in that space between waking and sleeping.  Call it the "trance state," "hanging out in the twilight zone," whatever.  But the point is I figured there must be a connection between that twilight state and hypnosis and turned to hypnotherapy in order to gain greater management abilities for taming The Beast.
Well, simultaneously, I have been on a spiritual path of learning to master unconditional loving ever since reading The Mastery of Love. From my point of view and for me in my universe, this is the "Path of All Paths."  And since my spiritual guides are those who have had NDEs, Don Miguel Ruiz just naturally has my attention since he, too, had an NDE and tells what is was like for him in chapter 11 of The Voice of Knowledge. And what he tell us is that it is possible to increase our capacity to love by visiting the place where NDErs find themselves.  In that place our spiritual eyes are opened and we see and feel love EVERYWHERE.
Now, truthfully, I've never felt the need to have an NDE or any other experience of that sort because it has always been enough for me to go on the testimony of those who have been there. Besides, death is not something I am interested in right now.  Living is still too much fun, even with The Beast upon me.  However, after embarking on my "twilight zone" experiences I started reading The Voice of Knowledge and, lo and behold, Don Miguel talks about that zone as a place where the NDE can be experienced without having to go through the dying process.  What a dandy deal!  I can go to a place where not only my dystopia symptoms are put to rest, but where I can gain greater ability to love unconditionally...all at the same time.  And while I've just begun to explore this direction and have no expectations or timetable or anything else, I'm excited to see where it takes me.  Carpe diem!
By becoming aware of what we really are and seeing ourselves and others through the eyes of love instead of lies, we can gain a far better appreciation and love for all creation.  The Voice of Knowledge helps us gain this awareness.  One of the chapters I found to be most valuable in helping to create awareness was chapter 7:  "EMOTIONS ARE REAL.  The voice of knowledge is not real."  Don Miguel points out that one of the few authentic expressions we have are our emotions because they come directly from our spiritual integrity.  There are no good emotions or bad emotions.  Even anger, jealousy, envy, guilt, and shame can serve to assist us along our path towards love.  What provokes those emotions is often not real because the provocation comes from the Voice of Knowledge or Voice of Lies rattling on and on in our head.  This is a very valuable awareness for us.  For me it means when I feel an emotion like fear or anger or guilt or shame, etc. that makes me feel less than the perfect, loving being that I am, the reason is because I have agreed to accept some lie that has nothing to do with the truth of my perfection.  By accepting this lie, I diminish my joy, my happiness, my love.  So even what we perceive as negative emotions can be teachers to help us monitor our choices or agreements, and keep us on the path of love.  We know we are on that path because we feel the love, the joy, the happiness coming from us.  This helps me to understand one of the poems by Rumi that I used to think somewhat bothersome:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes|
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,|
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the sham, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Yes.  That is what Don Miguel is saying, too.  Our emotions are there to tell us how we are doing and to what degree we are walking in love.  When we feel what we perceive as negative emotions, we know that these feelings come from a place of lies and abuse.  When we perceive positive emotion like happiness, joy, compassion, understanding, we are in that place where love abounds.  That's a good place to be!
The Voice of Knowledge shows us that our return to paradise is within each of us.  As good ol' Jesus said, "Heaven is within you."  We simply have to listen to the promptings of truth (love) instead of the lies of fear --especially the lies about ourselves and others--that constantly bombard our mind.  At that point we leave the hell of this existence and enter back into paradise where our love increases and radiates from us throughout the universe. Always a nice thing to do for ourselves and all else.
Rio Cruz