The Fifth Agreement
By don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz
248 pages; Amber-Allen Publishing
Available at Amber-Allen | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

The Fifth Agreement: Be Skeptical, But Learn to Listen

The fifth agreement is be skeptical, but learn to listen. Be skeptical because most of what you hear isn’t true. You know that humans speak with symbols, and that symbols aren’t the truth. Symbols are only the truth because we agree, not because they are really the truth. But the second half of the agreement is learn to listen, and the reason is simple: When you learn to listen, you understand the meaning of the symbols that people are using; you understand their story, and the communication improves a lot. Then perhaps instead of all the confusion among humans who inhabit the earth, there will be clarity.

Once you realize that hardly anything you know through symbols is true, then be skeptical has a much bigger meaning. Be skeptical is masterful because it uses the power of doubt to discern the truth. Whenever you hear a message from yourself, or from another artist, simply ask: Is it truth, or is it not truth? Is it reality or is it a virtual reality? The doubt takes you behind the symbols, and makes you responsible for every message you deliver and receive. Why would you want to invest your faith in any message that is not true? By being skeptical, you don’t believe every message; you don’t put your faith in symbols, and when your faith is not in symbols, your faith is in yourself.

Then if faith is believing without a doubt, and doubt is not believing, be skeptical. Don’t believe. And what will you not believe? Well, you will not believe all the stories that we artists create with our knowledge. You know that most of our knowledge isn’t true — the whole symbology isn’t true — so don’t believe me, don’t believe yourself, and don’t believe anybody else. The truth doesn’t need you to believe it; the truth simply is, and it survives whether you believe it or not. Lies need you to believe them. If you don’t believe lies, they don’t survive your skepticism, and they simply disappear.

But skepticism can go in two directions. One way is to pretend to be skeptical because you think you’re too smart to be gullible. “Look at how intelligent I am. I don’t believe in anything.” This is not skepticism. To be skeptical is not to believe everything you hear, and you don’t believe because it’s not the truth, that’s all. The way to be skeptical is just to be aware that the entire humanity believes in lies. You know that humans distort the truth because we are dreaming, and our dream is just a reflection of the truth.

Every artist distorts the truth, but you don’t need to judge what somebody says, or call that person a liar. All of us tell lies in one way or another, and it’s not because we want to lie. It’s because of what we believe; it’s because of the symbols we learned, and the way we are applying all of those symbols. Once you are aware of this, the fifth agreement makes a lot of sense, and it can make a very big difference in your life.

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