The Devil, at St Foy in Conques
In the end, as we encounter and digest the things people say… and write… about their own inner work and inner work in general, we need to form a sound judgment about whether the things we hear and read are in fact reasonable or not.
The word sound derives from the German gesund, that is, healthy; and judgment is the ability to come to considered decisions and come to sensible conclusions. I won’t bore you with the convolutions, but consider may come from the Latin sider, —star. In other words, a considered judgment is perhaps one more informed by the stars, or, in alignment with heaven, than by thoughts tangled up in one’s own thick wad of inner chewing gum.
If we buy this explanation—and I am not telling you to, I’m merely putting it forward—then we need to carefully think over whether what we hear about inner work is aligned with heaven or its less compassionate counterpart. This isn’t, in the end, all that hard to do, in my own opinion. That which is loving, intelligent, sensitive, caring, and humanitarian in its impulse and its root is heavenly. That which is angry, selfish, aggressive, narrow, and arrogant inclines more towards hell… however you may want to interpret that word, metaphysically or otherwise.
So when we read things we can discern their center of gravity quite quickly, as long as we’re making a legitimate attempt to assess the material instead of starting out with a predetermined negative (or positive) point of view.
This leads me to a comment about the many internet spaces devoted to Gurdjieff discussions (this space is, quite intentionally, not a forum for discussions of that kind) and the rambunctious and even rancorous tone that such discussions sometimes take on: divisive and oft even accusatory.
This is not, in my own experience, the best way to work. Conflict is not of itself a bad thing; but inner work is meant to bring folk together, not divide them. It ought (yes, ought) to engender a gentler and more attentive form of love towards one another. Not rage and dissent. To be sure, anything can happen between folks; but an organic sense of being promotes compassion over all other qualities. That compassion can, surely, be sorely tested; and there are times when one has to exercise utmost restraint in order to avoid lashing out at individuals who seem to have set themselves the inner and outer task of being nasty in one way or another—whether towards others in general, or those in the Gurdjieff work more specifically.
I’d like to remind readers that none of us know each other all that well; and this is especially true of those of us who only know one another through the internet, and have never sat, for example, in a room together for even one minute. Hurling accusations towards others in this environment is a deeply misguided action, because the folks who do such things have, objectively, absolutely no idea whatsoever about—in my own case— ”what I'm really like,” or what my interests are. One can spend decades, for example, married to someone and despite that proximity understand—and one will, if one works—more and more deeply that one doesn’t even truly understand much about one’s spouse, for goodness sake.
We’re mysteries to one another. We might consider respecting that more.
So how can folk exchanges posts on the internet or email possibly presume to think they know anything, really, whatsoever about the other? This simply isn’t possible; and sound and considered judgment ought surely to take this into account first.
If that were done, perhaps an appropriate humility would prevail.
But, you see, it doesn’t, because generally speaking people just aren’t working; they are reacting, they are posing, they are blathering, and getting overexcited, but they are not working, which requires an inner repose within the texture of Being that has nothing whatsoever to do with slinging trash talk at one another online.
Everyone who engages in this is demeaning themselves in one way or another.
Wishing the best for you on each of our days,
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.