This is a review of A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility, by William Samuel
Biography: A Baker from Alabama
William Samuel never received the attention he deserved because he wasn’t part of the Zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s. Unlike his contemporary, the popular Alan Watts, Samuel was not involved in psychedelics, Zen, the Human Potential Movement, San Francisco spiritual subculture. Nor was Samuel associated with TM, the music of the times, Woodstock, or war protests. Bill Samuel live in Alabama, for gosh sakes, where he owned a bakery. He spoke simply and in an old-fashioned manner about awareness or God, basically.
Yet Samuel spoke a very modern nondual message. In fact, let’s face it, he was, and probably still is, ahead of his times.
A Teacher of Teachers:
It’s not to say William Samuel never had a following, even though he didn’t encourage it: “Most tenacious among those beliefs is the insanity that one must be either a leader or a follower. Allness leads what? Singleness follows whom?” He was considered a teacher’s teacher. With a genius IQ and a gift for communication, “he would get the most earnest and dedicated students of Truth. Quite a number of Taoists and Buddhists had found William’s message and came to study–even some who were called Masters.” Samuel saw fierce action in World War II, studied with a Taoist monk, traveled around the world seeking spiritual truth, was the first American to sit with a sage in India who would become world famous. (The information and quotations in this paragraph are from a short biography of Samuel at williamsamuel.com.)
Like Walking on Beach Stones:
This book is collection of brief letters, conversations, lectures, writings. They are organized into chapters, yet each short selection stands alone as a confession of awareness, as awareness, from the Identity of peace and tranquility.
Every book has its own texture and this one is like walking on a beach carpeted with smooth but hard and not comfortable beach stones. It’s not easy to walk on such a beach. At the same time there’s a pleasure in stepping onto each stone, compressing it into the stones and sand beneath and finding that you stand on a place of interest and substance.
Each writing is like that: compact, hard, and substantial. It’s not an easy, flowing stroll over the stones. But each writing is also sure and satisfying in its wholeness and firmness.
Besides confessions or claims that there is only awareness, Samuel addresses many practical issues. He brings the practical and the confessional together.
Confessions of Awareness and Tranquility:
First let’s look at the confessions, claims, reports, descriptions of awareness and tranquility.
“Awareness is who we are! Awareness itself! We are not the ego, the personality or body, who says Awareness is ‘mine.’ THAT is the incorrect identity, the ‘old man,’ the ‘liar from the beginning,’ the ‘deceiver,’ the devil himself. THAT is the one to be ‘put off.’ That is the one to ‘come out from … and be ye separate.’”
“Tranquility is ever present as our very Identity. It is always ‘here,’ but we cannot be very well aware of it while battling the external picture, and we cannot be aware of it at all while believing that Identity is dependent upon, and dictated to, by a world of ‘things.’”
“Many have come here thinking the discovery of Identity is to be an ‘illumination.’ Oh, how many times we have talked about that! Well, it is an illumination, but it has nothing to do with wild or unearthly emotions. It has to do with a joy quite beyond sensation.”
Samuel covers many worldly topics, including the ones illustrated below: charity, materialism vs spirituality, and racism.
Question: What are my obligations to other people? That is, as Awareness, what are my obligations to images and objects of perception?
Answer: From this standpoint, we have no obligations to other people. We simple do all that seems to be the sensible, honest thing to do. We do this while aware that the Identity ‘they’ are is That which is being this Self-same Awareness. What ‘they’ call miracles appear everywhere for everyone to see.
“In order to see Truth as Truth is, it is only necessary to be the Truth one already is – and cease from the false identification, from the one who uses, manipulates and ‘possesses’ Truth. … ‘But how do I do this?’ … We do this by simply being motiveless Awareness only – which, among other things, is to perceive without opinions (judgments), without saying ‘this is good’ and ‘that is evil,’ ‘I like’ and ‘I don’t like.’ Inevitably, the first step is to end judgment, then to perceive that our real Identity is Awareness itself, not the ego-container. It is as simple as this. Words cannot tell of the wonders that become apparent when this effortlessness is put into practice.”
“The proof is not things! Never! If it were, the United States would be overflowing with saints. Doctors would treat only the poor. The judgment that the presence of ‘things’ is ‘proof’ of one’s understanding is only the other end of the same dualistic nothingness that claims a lack of health, wealth or harmony is real! Do not be trapped into believing that the presence (or absence) of ‘things’ is either proof or disproof of Suffiency, Tranquility, Being.”
It was Alabama in the Sixties. Samuel wrote the following in this book: “About the judgment and classification of people: about color, nationality and religion. Ultimately everything boils down to the fact that Reality is all and that personality, racial identification, body-ego and the like are nothing.” Two full pages of writing follow that opening statement. Who is ready to hear that now, let alone forty years ago in the South?
Samuel covers other topics: attending church, grief, depression, business, money, death, love.
Refers to the Teachings of Christ:
Though this book is not a work of nondual Christianity, Samuel does show how his teaching of awareness and tranquility is supported by Christ’s teaching:
In a discussion on the limitations of positive thinking, Samuel writes, “’Who by taking thought can add one inch to his stature?’ Jesus asked. ‘Take no thought…’ said He. We have done with all personal thinking, positive and negative alike!”
“We need only insist on being tranquility to feel tranquility! ‘Ask and it shall be answered. … behold, I come quickly,’ says the Comforter. Reader, try for yourself and discover that this is so.”
You will encounter Christ not infrequently during your walk along this stony beach.
William Samuel plays Dear Abby in answering people’s letters about life problems. To a wife who is distressed that her husband does not share her interest in Truth, Samuel reminds her that “We are in the beholding business, and not in the business of judging how certain images are supposed to act or respond. To free them of such obligations is to find ourselves free of any dependence upon them for our happiness.”
“Those who mistakenly identify themselves as the old man – that silly spectre – inevitably spoof themselves into playing the role of the Spook Inspector. In addition, they find themselves being the spurious spectator of other Spook Inspectors; Spook-self, self-spooked, or, Spectre-self completely spoofed. Of course, all of this is a fantastic fantasy of farcical foolishness, false, from the first, and powerless – but funny, after it is seen for what it is.”
“If we are to discover the Tranquility that is already our here-and-now-Identity, we simply must – and effortlessly can – stop attempting to play the part of that stumbling, fumbling, bumbling, trembling, untranquil, phobia-filled phantom called the ‘old man,’ the judge.”
I hope you now have a sense of the beach full of smooth rocks which this book is. Perhaps the tide will come in and wash you away.
A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility, by William Samuel