Monday, July 4, 2022

God's Goodness

 


An experience from last night reminds me quite powerfully that it is objectively possible for the goodness of God to fill a person.


Those who reject God will never have this experience; it is not that God does not want them to, but the goodness of God cannot fill a person who does not love God first. Those who deserve God get God; and those who deserve themselves get themselves. It is very easy to make a mistake between the two, because the human mind is weak and always favors itself first. This is its constant habit.


God could easily send those who prefer themselves His goodness, but they don't want it; they prefer their own goodness. Because all of creation is allowed to choose on this matter, their choice is acceptable; yet it carries its own consequences, and the first is that the goodness of God does not fill them. Without that, life is as nothing; and yet it's so powerful that it seems to be something great and meaningful in and of itself. People fall under its spell and believe that first, compounding the problem. This is the paradox. Once tasted, life is nothing without gods goodness; yet without that taste, life is everything unto itself. Herein lies one of the secret meanings of putting your treasure up in heaven. Life carries its own lesson; it will corrupt everything if you leave life to itself. It’s not enough to believe in God; by itself, even that can corrupt. It is necessary to know God, to be filled with God’s goodness. To come to a moment when this is the only thing that matters and that you would give your life in order to have.


It takes many years to humble yourself enough, to ask enough questions and to suffer enough, so that you destroy the parts of yourself that are hardened against the love and goodness of God. When, in the old testament, it says that Pharaoh  "hardened his heart,” it means that he did the opposite of this. He used his self-importance and his thinking and his power to reject God and His will. He was repeatedly offered the chance to do the right thing out of love, and refused. He put love of himself before love of others. 


This is a simple lesson not about religious politics or temporal power, but about how human beings care for one another. If we don't care for others in the moment—not in our imagination, but in the moment—God's goodness will not fill us.


God's goodness is an eternal gift: it lies outside of time and man’s affairs. It comes with the inflow, the arrival of the influence of God. Many destructive forces have learned how to imitate this experience; and many are the paths whereby a man can twist the ways of God into his own pretzels.


I was reminded earlier this morning of the numerous times in which Jeanne de Salzmann said, "the only thing you can change is your attitude." This is exactly true; and yet the one thing that human beings refuse to change above all else is their attitude. People love their attitudes even more than they love themselves, even though it’s commonplace for almost all of their attitudes to be imparted to their Being through infections, destructive ideas imported from the outer world. Spiritual practices emphasize discrimination and mindfulness because of this; but few understand how to discriminate with all three of their parts. Folk think with their minds that discrimination with the mind is enough; but the mind is far too easily deceived to be relied on in this action. It needs guidance from feeling; and the exact description of corrupted feeling comes from the phrase "the hardening of the heart." Feeling that loves itself is just as destructive as the mind that loves itself. The body that loves itself also brings this problem with it.


There are some men who teach of God's goodness, but not many. We live in a world that worships the goodness of man; and you can easily see from man's deeds how much goodness is in him.


Yet I insist, as I did before, that God's goodness can fill us; and with it, all the love and compassion that God is composed of. This is not without its price; and its price is our attitude towards ourselves and others, which must be sacrificed in order to reach a new understanding. The one thing we do not want to put on the altar as an offering is everything we already believe; and so we do not make a room in our souls for God's goodness to enter. Without that place, there is no room at the inn, and nothing new can be born in us. We’ve already filled every room with our own attitudes. The only place left for God to enter is in a lowly place, a place that is taken for granted and far too easily forgotten.


Last night, a very personal and destructive insult delivered to me by an unfeeling someone who poses as trustworthy, sank deep into the flesh of my bones. It reminded me of how we so casually betray one another, as if it were normal and acceptable. 


I worked on it for some time from within and realize that I have to let this go, because I am not really that different in the end. 


While I was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep, the inflow became active. God's goodness came and filled me and reminded me again that it is possible to love, despite betrayal. This is something that Christ taught us on the cross, and that we ought to remember always, because He was willing to give His life for love. Not the love of things or power, but the pure and unadulterated love of God for creation, which filled Him even as he died in the same way that it filled Him as He lived. 


We are here, like all of God’s creation, as vessels created to receive that goodness. 


I have said before that we are vessels into which the world flows; and this is an essential inner understanding, because it marks our place in God's creation as receivers of His bounty and goodness. Yet it can equally be said that we are vessels into which God's goodness flows – if we let it. To know that goodness is to be reduced to the smallest thing; and to be reduced to the smallest thing is an introduction to the greatest action of the heart, which must lead first in any path to understanding.


These are my thoughts for this morning.


Hoping that you find yourself in good relationship today,











warmly,

Lee

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

Friday, July 1, 2022

The Concentration of Being, Part III: Wrong Concentration of Being

 


There's little difference between the phrase "wrong crystallization" and "wrong concentration of Being." They mean essentially the same thing. The second phrase, which is of my own coinage, gets, I think, a bit closer to the heart of the matter by defining it more exactly. 

Being becomes concentrated in every creature; but when it becomes wrongly concentrated, the results can be quite disastrous. For the most part, it isn't possible for being to become wrongly concentrated in lower animals, because the nature of their psyches and being function at relatively automatic levels. In the case of human beings and other three-brained creatures, however, voluntary actions are necessary in order for crystallization to proceed in the intended manner. The way in this takes place is in extraordinarily complex structures, as those familiar with microbiology will already know. 


Once things begin to go wrong in arrangements this complex, it becomes very hard indeed to put them right again; and this explains the great difficulty of inner work, the “struggle” which is so often spoken about. The greater action of the spiritual psyche itself is attempting to turn its energy inward and work at the microcosmic level. From a certain conceptual point of view, this is much like using a bulldozer to attempt to fix the gears on a watch. The two devices are on completely different scales. The bulldozer has to learn to think in terms of tiny flywheels. Not so easy; bulldozers are bulldozers and they like being bulldozers. Not only that, wrong crystallization produces very powerful bulldozers which are very impressed with their own power. Nothing is ever more determined to prosecute its own opinions and beliefs than such a wrongly crystallized bulldozer. Do not get in its path.


Because of this situation, one needs to learn to take a very careful measure of everything that goes on in oneself. Our struggle is not so much (as we think it is) with the gross psychic features of our minds or the absurd and repetitive habits, desires, urges, lusts and vices we engage in, but with the molecular structure of our bodies, which can only be rearranged by deep contemplation, a retraining of the psyche to be silent for longer periods of time, and the effort to connect with the body in a new way. 


The psychic and spiritual bridge between our ordinary being and the deeper levels we need to have an influence on is the sensation. This force is already properly aligned with cosmic needs; and if we invest in it on a regular basis with the respect that it deserves, with a good attention and with the understanding that we know little or nothing about it to begin with, it already knows how to undertake work that can help to repair broken mechanisms in us. It will even do it itself without the participation of our "conscious" mind; the word “conscious" is in quotation marks simply because most of the part of the mind we refer to by that word is in fact unconscious. 


If the ordinary mind begins to interfere with this process, immediately it ceases to function properly. Folk can fiddle around with the work on sensation for decades without understanding it properly because of this propensity to interfere with it the moment it begins to take place in any meaningful way. Once it awakens, it can be invested in through participation, but it must be strictly left alone to do its own work, because on its own it will rearrange molecular structures in the body in a right way. Attempts to force that process through special exercises are dangerous unless undertaken under the strict supervision of a real master; and there are almost none of those available. 


The beauty of Gurdjieff's method is its subtlety; he knew all along that there would be no masters in later years to guide his pupils, especially those who lived after his lifetime, and he brought a work which would address the issue by creating a foundation that has the capacity for self-repair from within. This is not something, however, to be rushed. And at any point along the path, even during the process of repair, forces that interfere and derail, that block and stop it, can intervene. This is because before the capacity for real feeling and loving forces of sorrow, humility, conscience, and compassion are developed, the ego is always attempting to assert its outer role as the director of these delicate inner processes. It drives the bulldozer; and the bulldozer has great strength, which is — perversely — magnified through the concentration ofB. So the dangers increase along the path instead of decreasing. One must be perpetually on one’s guard. 


To be on guard, in this case, is to be suspicious of one's motives and actions in every case. The good news is that increased concentration of Being and an increase in the capacity to allow the feeling to lead the inner work – as long as it is real feeling and not that which poses as it — enhance the ability to question one’s efforts. This comes about through an acceleration of the impression of one's nothingness. In summary, anything that argues against this impression must be evaluated as false. That action ought to be a natural one that equally develops without impediment.


One way to consider this question of nothingness is to view it from the question of the present moment. 


All of my opinions, thoughts, memories, and beliefs are centered around my ego in the way I am, and each one of them, in this moment, wishes to convince me that I am something. 


Yet every one of them is in a certain sense of product of my imagination, and not of the physically sensible and tangible force of love and compassion that embodies me hear as I sit and read or speak. 


If I’m here, now, in this moment, I am nothing — and that is the single action of freedom that cuts all of the ties to those things that would convince me not to love and not to feel compassion. There is, in other words, an act of liberation in the negation of all that I think there is, as opposed to what there actually is. The concentration of Being turns on this point.



 with warm regards,




Lee

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Concentration of Being, Part II

 




There are questions here that need to be examined at the deepest levels of Being, which takes many years. I think the point of the discussion is that the concentration of Being is essential to preparing the cells for the receiving of The Sorrow. Only through this action can true humility and true compassion begin to grow in a person. These two faculties, which are metaphysical and psychic faculties, not ordinary human ones, are essential. 


Because it's possible to write about these qualities and analyze them, we make the mistake from the beginning of thinking that they belong to us and are expressions of humanity. Yet they are expressions of humanity only to the extent that they are an exact reflection of God’s nature, and thus have a much higher quality than we understand in our day-to-day exchange with the world. If we truly understood them, they’d be held sacred in every way; and the fragment of true religion which is still alive in each church where people pray with sincerity, this is still done. Yet, as we know, wrong crystallization can fundamentally pervert even that holy action.


The Gurdjieff work, then, actually has a single aim from the perspective of where we are now. Casting all else aside — all the cosmology, all the prattling on about self remembering, about attention and consciousness, and so on —it is aimed at developing the sensation that assists in the concentration of Being, in order to prepare the molecular substrate for its spiritual work, so that it can receive particles of the Sorrow and begin to concentrate them.


This has the capacity to produce real love in human beings. But that is only done through receiving The Sorrow—we could easily call it The Essential Sorrow — of God’s Being. All of creation, in fact, is designed to undertake this work. Humanity has completely forgotten it. We only see vestiges of it that have been handed down from the ancient cultures where it was well understood; and one could easily argue that the entire 366,000 words in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson are all aimed at conveying this, and not really much more.


Anyone who undertakes the Gurdjieff work without understanding these fundamental propositions about the concentration of Being and the purpose it serves has undertaken it more or less by accident—most likely for selfish reasons, and with selfish aims. I suppose that’s inevitable; after all, we all start out broken. But right crystallization in any being will inevitably produce this understanding over the long run, and I don't see any harm in explaining this, so to speak, "up front." I have seen so many deviations and profound misunderstandings in the Work that it seems it must be the time to state these things plainly.


Without a certain understanding, what I’m speaking of will be taken in the wrong way and, of course, argued about and turned on its head. Any objective understanding can be abused in this way by those in the grip of subjective identifications. Yet the absolute results of the Work, if it’s undertaken with sincerity and in a heart dedicated to the pursuit of real understandings, can only begin here at this point of a concentration of Being, and the meaningful way in which it serves the development and evolution of love and compassion throughout the universe. We’re vehicles for those forces; and in every way, in every action and in every life, to the extent that we fail to serve these forces and develop them responsibly for comprehensive and universal exercise within life itself, we fail the very reasons for our existence itself.


If this isn't a sobering proposition, there aren't any. 

 with warm regards,




Lee

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Concentration of Being, Part I



One certain way to identify those who are wrongly crystallized is that one can see they have not felt The Sorrow. To feel The Sorrow is the most important and inevitable result of right crystallization. It's impossible to feel The Sorrow properly, in the marrow of one's bones, for even one single moment and not be inevitably changed in regard to the questions of humility, compassion, and love. 


These very sacred properties don’t belong to human beings; we’re merely able to experience and express them, and we only do so if our molecular and cellular arrangement has developed to the point that we can receive the particles of real Being that engender these real feelings.


Generally speaking, the ideas of humility, compassion, and love are just that: ideas. When human beings hear these words, they want (for the most part) to have humility, compassion, and love, either because their instincts have not been damaged and they still understand these are very important qualities of being human, or because they need them in order to disguise their true and evil nature. But the problem with them is that every human being wants to have their own humility, compassion, and love. They’re unable to separate these things from the understanding of what they are in God’s eyes. 


Only The Sorrow can help to bring God’s humility, compassion and understanding to us. Until we encounter it and begin to incorporate the particles of its nature into our own molecular being, we can only have simulations of humility, compassion, and understanding, each one affected to one degree or another by the wrong crystallizations within us. The Sorrow acts as a purifying force that can help to expunge these wrong data of Being.


What is generally very poorly understood is that inner work exists on every level. That is to say, the molecules in our body have both an outer and an inner work in the action of their Being. There's no part of creation that does not have both a physical and a metaphysical, a natural and a spiritual, side to them which are combined in the act of their individual Being. Now, we don't understand our own inner work that well; so imagine how much less we understand the inner work of the cells. The secret here is that the molecules in us can become spiritually active; and when Michel de Salzmann speaks of receiving a finer energy that can act on us, he’s speaking not just of our own inner activity on this level, but also the inner activity of the spiritual energy of our cells and the molecules in them.


This action begins with sensation, which exists not just as an experience or a phenomenon, but as a force that is meant, through relationship and attention, to concentrate the particles of being in such a way that they can receive the influences that awaken the inner activity in them. This, mind you, is just the beginning of a spiritual work; because the inner work of the cells and the molecules in this way is a preparation.


That preparation consists of rearranging the molecular material in the cells so that they have energetic qualities that can receive particles of The Sorrow. This is what forms the core and the seed of inner work and spiritual growth in any Being. Analogous processes exist in each part of creation; so an atom, on its own tiny scale, does this as well. Even the individual quanta of creation carry out tasks and receive enlivening energy from without themselves through the process of this exchange and concentration of Being. 


The concentration of Being doesn’t always proceed correctly, however; because if the universe were arranged so that crystallizations could take place only according to the will of God, free agency would be taken away and creation would become a form of compulsive slavery, rather than a creative action. Creation has to be allowed to produce not just the results that God wants or wills, but also results that stand opposed to Him. This is because love cannot present its choices or prosecute its arguments in the midst of compulsion or slavery. The hope, as always in creation, is for that which is created to choose love over other things; for if it isn’t a choice, it is not of love in the first place.


 with warm regards,




Lee

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Wrong Crystallization, Part II

  




Wrong crystallization has numerous features that can be identified in an individual, and those who have not wrongly crystallized in the Gurdjieff work have a duty to study such individuals and understand them better, because many of them are able to disguise themselves, even within the Work itself, and use cunning, subterfuge, deception, and outright lies in order to sabotage the efforts of others. They do not do this voluntarily, but because they are hasnamusses; they must hate that which is not themselves. This core feature of selfishness, which they disguise by any means necessary, is the magnetic center around which all of their other features polarize and are organized. Above all, in regards to the Gurdjieff work, they harbor a secret hatred for it, and most especially the hatred towards the idea that the Gurdjieff work is meant to bring human beings back into alignment with God. It is lawful that the Work have individuals like this in it, because they act as the Satans in its own microcosmology; every cosmos must have Satans in it or there are no opponents, and without opponents, frictions don’t arise, and energies do not develop. 


Wrong crystallization produces individuals of remarkably clever nature; and they employ arguments of a wide variety in order to twist the work, which was originally (and its origins pre-date Gurdjieff by many thousands of years) a work meant to bring man back into proper alignment with the cosmological forces on the ray of creation that put him in a right relationship with God. If this can be achieved — and it is by no means a done deal by any measure and in any way, for anyone —  then a man or woman by their very nature crystallizes in such a way that they actually do have compassion, love for others, and love for God. These properties become real organic things in them, due to the rearrangement of the molecular order of their quanta, atoms, and molecules; and that is what’s meant when we say a property, such as sensation, becomes organic


Due to the immense complexity of the Microcosmos from which we are formed, it’s a Sisyphean task to rearrange things so that these qualities truly become organic; but the crystallization of the inner structures of humanity have an interesting property in this regard: if enough substances can be formed that are correctly aligned, they are self-propagating. That is to say, once the inner Microcosmos is sufficiently organized, it can begin to undertake this work on its own; and Gurdjieff alluded to that in a number of passages. [See Beelzebub’s Tales, pp 1107-08 (first edition) or pp 1106-07 (second edition.)] 


In this way we can understand that elements of right crystallization, if properly developed, acquire the properties of prions, molecules with the uniquely special agency of being able to recruit molecules around them and reconfigure them to adopt their own structure. This is a good thing; but as with prions (which in human biology produce Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome, aka mad cow disease) what ought to worry us about this is that if these inner molecules form wrongly, they also have the ability to recruit fellow molecules to conform to their wrong shape, and thus reform the inner life of an individual in the wrong way, and with bad intentions, yielding bad results. Jeanne de Salzmann warned Bennett about this when he was pressing himself through extraordinarily strenuous yoga exercises. (See Idiots in Paris.)


Because of the molecular nature of this transformation, the individual psyche who undergoes it may have little or no idea that it is taking place, and be absolutely convinced that everything that’s taking place in them is according to a right order. There is ample evidence to show that this takes place even within the ordinary affairs of mankind, as well as in spiritual practice. Since ordinary affairs exactly reflect the inner spiritual condition of mankind, of course this does indeed happen.


One of the signature characteristics of wrong crystallization is that the individual who undergoes it is quite certain that what they think, believe, and engaging is correct, and that it is others who are wrong. Proceeding from this premise, we see that the majority of we human beings are the victims, already, of wrong crystallizations. The first thing that esoteric practice is supposed to do is to “break the mold” so that this kind of thing stops happening. Compassion, love, kindness, and all of the other properties of right development can’t manifest if there is wrong crystallization at their root. 


This alone is why it’s so important for us to recognize the results of wrong crystallization in us, to surrender everything that we know, question everything we believe, and above all discover within ourselves an organic capacity for the absolute certainty that we are flawed and broken creatures, and need — as Alcoholics Anonymous advises its membership –to turn our lives over to a higher power. Wrong crystallization leads us to be drunk on our owner ideas, our own being, our own wishes and desires; and the only way to a cure is to swear all of those off. Any inkling of the idea that one is superior to others, that one has better ideas than others, that one knows more than others or is more perfect than others, and so on, must go straight into the dustbin. 


Of course we’ll have these thoughts. Wrong crystallization maybe collective, but it takes place in a localized manner throughout any being; and in the course of development, the reservoirs that  produce these wrong attitudes, wrong thoughts, and unloving conditions are remarkably persistent. They linger in every crevice they can find, attempting to propagate themselves and retake lost territory. Eventually, over the course of a lifetime, as more of the organism – God willing – regenerates itself in a right order relative to love, kindness, compassion, and God, these reservoirs of ego go into hiding to preserve themselves. They continue to ambush us in the course of our ordinary lives when we’re least prepared. One must remain on one’s guard against this, because these little demons of the soul can’t be eliminated. They’re part of the DNA, and it would be too much for us to expect that all of them can be completely eliminated in a lifetime.


We should be on our guard, within our lives, and try to identify those, both within and without, who would undermine and destroy good work and right work. With sufficient sensitivity, one can identify those with good hearts, and distinguish between them and those who hide from crystallization behind a façade of congeniality, intelligence, and well-ordered behavior. Those who compete to show you they are better; those who wish to bend others to their will; be wary of them. Many are they who are not of God and in fact secretly—or publicly, since it is now very fashionable—want no God, but still wear a mask with God painted on it. 


If you look carefully, you’ll see that the painting is always one of themselves—dressed as God.

with warm regards,




Lee

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Wrong Crystallization, Part I

 


Piermont, NY. Jan 26 2022

"Fusion, inner unity, is obtained by means of 'friction,' by the struggle between 'yes' and 'no' in man. If a man lives without inner struggle, if everything happens in him without opposition, if he goes wherever he is drawn or wherever the wind blows, he will remain such as he is. But if a struggle begins in him, and particularly if there is a definite line in this struggle, then, gradually, permanent traits begin to form themselves, he begins to 'crystallize.' But crystallization is possible on a right foundation and it is possible on a wrong foundation. 'Friction,' the struggle between 'yes' and 'no,' can easily take place on a wrong foundation. For instance, a fanatical belief in some or other idea, or the 'fear of sin,' can evoke a terribly intense struggle between 'yes' and 'no,' and a man may crystallize on these foundations. But this would be a wrong, incomplete crystallization. Such a man will not possess the possibility of further development. In order to make further development possible he must be melted down again, and this can be accomplished only through terrible suffering.

—In Search of the Miraculous, P. 32


Gurdjieff used the term "wrong crystallization" to describe individuals who embark on a spiritual path and reach a point from which they can develop no further.


The term is often seen as being allegorical in one form or another; but he meant it quite literally, because from a technical point of view, seen from the perspective of microbiology, all of the cellular structures and substances that make up our bodies are crystals of one kind or another. That is to say, they’re molecular entities which create solid substances with regular forms and symmetrically arranged atoms. DNA, for example, is a crystal, albeit a very flexible and elaborate one. 


When we deposit substances in our bodies, they create these regular arrangements, and spiritual work that changes the psyche relies on the change in molecular relationships in the body to effect that. (See related material in In Search of the Miraculous). This kind of work, even if it isn't done for spiritual purposes, is remarkably and even—as the book’s notably revised title implies— miraculously complex. All of the thoughts, the ideas, the feelings that form your personality and your essence arise from energetic exchanges initiated by these molecular structures. At the root of this arrangement are quanta, individual packages of energy which manifest their potentials in highly organized manners, according to laws that we only vaguely sense and certainly do not understand.


So this is the way the Microcosmos arranges crystalline structures and behavior; yet we inhabit what is, for them, a Macrocosmos of truly vast size relative to theirs. The fact that we are infinitesimally small creatures in yet another Microcosmos far greater than ourselves is beside the point for now. The question is, what does wrong crystallization mean in terms of the psyche; how can we identify it?


The idea that something can crystallize in a "wrong" way directly implies that there is also a right way. Putting aside specious arguments that there is no right and wrong and that everything is relative — a product of mechanistic rationalism with absolutely no objective value relative to human development and human affairs — anyone who has even partial "right" crystallization knows at once that the right way to crystallize is in such a way as to honor, love, and value one’s fellow human being, the gift of life itself, and God. 


Human beings that do not have this capacity – and there are many who are like this, but secretly hide it and manage to pretend they do by imitating others and following evil, self-serving scripts they have written for themselves — are examples of wrong crystallization, and go against everything that esoteric science and the practice of spiritual development seeks to realize within the world. 


Gurdjieff never used the word with Ouspensky, but the term that he used in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson was xachamyc, phoentically, “hasnamuss.” The word has multiple potential roots in Turkic languages, inferring qualities such as vile or bad (Persian khass), peculiar (Turkmen xac), and naked (Kurdish xac) that are connected to the Kurdish Namus, which means honor or reputation. So those who are wrongly crystallized are “vile people of nakedly dishonorable reputation.“ Yet in exploring the origin of this word, we should remember that Gurdjieff did not necessarily make up all of his special words exclusively from roots in eastern languages. His personal secretary, Louise March, was German, and in German the word mirrors two verb roots from German: hassen, to hate, and müssen, must. They’re joined by the colloquial German conjunctive, “na”, which is a very flexible device meaning, in this case, “there you are,” or, “it’s so.” (Cf. the Duden German-English dictionary.) 


This meaning yields us a person who not only hates, but has no choice. They are crystallized: the results in them can only yield this. 


The chief feature of the one who is crystallized is that, in his or her present state, they’re irredeemable: only by being broken apart, reduced to constituents, and starting all over again can any new results ensue. 


with warm regards,




Lee

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Jan. 23, morning


 Jan. 23

One inward breath.


Allow the breath to go outward.


Do it once more. Let it flow out gently according to its own weight and rhythm, follow it into the solar plexus.


Take a third breath, deeper. Attend to the inward flow of the breath as it arrives. Then take note of the moment when it turns around and begins to feed the sensation at the top of the breath, and begin to participate just a little bit more actively in that, without touching it: just feeling it, just allowing it.


I want to come into relationship. The word relate comes from the Latin root —relat, to be brought back. This in turn comes from the verb referre, to be carried back.


Both of these roots are interesting. If I am brought back to myself, do I do this myself through my own effort? And if I am carried back to myself, is it because an outside agency helps me? Either one could be true? But in each case, it implies that relationship means I return from somewhere else. 


If I return from somewhere else, where was I before the effort at relationship began? My attention wasn't here. I was identified; involved with myself and my thoughts, not being brought back to my immediate circumstances and the other objects, events, circumstances, conditions, and people and other beings around me. For example, my cat. Or any other being.


I practice relationships through outer considering, through the action of paying attention to other beings instead of myself. Inner considering is always some form of self – involvement, a collapse back into the ego and its concerns about itself. So outer considering is an effort that goes against the ego, that weakens its grip on me. 


If I return to the body, already, I begin to see the body as another part of myself, different than this mind I am in. By attending to the breathing, I attend to its needs; when I exercise or I go to the bathroom I am also attending to its needs, which are generally a bit different than my own plan for things. I can learn from this.


I can also learn from the cat who has a different plan for everything. The cat is it own cat, not my cat, and in an interesting way, if I study it carefully, the body is also its own body, I happen to inhabit it, but it would be wise of me to form a good relationship with it and see the difference between my mind, my feeling, and my body. If the body's needs are properly taken care of and attended to, many things will go better than if they aren’t.


So here I am. There is a sensation in me; and if I attend to it, it feeds a kind of relaxation and there is perhaps a bit of an opening at the top of the head. then something new and more vital than the ordinary energies can flow into me and inwardly form a different quality of attention. Very, very little of this higher energy — a fraction of a milligram – is all that is needed, so little that it weighs less than a feather; yet it has as much power as all of being in its self, and that fraction of a milligram can change the entire state, beginning with sensation and initiating a circulation that brings the parts together into a more intelligent whole.


To attend to this, this morning. This is a task worth the effort.


with warm regards,


Lee

Monday, June 13, 2022

Khemia

 


January 18.

Beginning life all over again this morning. 


Of course it contains all of the elements that are already here, the memories of the past, the objects, the conditions. But it is new and immediate and there is nothing here but this life and the breath that begins it with each intake. 


I felt tired and drained all day yesterday and it reminded me of how dependent I am on the chemistry of life and what it brings.


 We think we are the masters of the world we are in, yet tiny things like viruses and bacteria can bring us to our knees in helplessness. Occasionally, we find ourselves on our knees in helplessness through the act of prayer; and perhaps this is just an acknowledgment of the truth, writ larger. In our imagination, only things greater than ourselves can master us; yet anything can master us, because we are weak creatures. Only our psyche, which is of itself a very thin tissue indeed, leads us to imagine otherwise. We draw that tissue over everything around us and believe it signifies; but death will have us all in the end. 


In monastic practices, as well as the Gurdjieff work, it was commonplace to contemplate these things: "A monk is a mourning soul that both asleep in a week is unceasingly occupied with the remembrance of death." (From “The Ladder of Divine Ascent" by Saint John Climacus.) It might be said that life is actually for the remembrance of death, for this is the salt that makes the Love that is given all the more worth eating.


I remember looking at a stone statue of the Buddha in the backyard yesterday and realizing that these inanimate objects symbolizing concepts and effort outlast those who make them in almost every instance; wondering whether to resent that in some abstract way, but also appreciating the fact that these objects are inanimate —they have a life much longer than our own, but it’s a life frozen in hell, where awareness is too thick and heavy to participate except in the most microscopic ways.


Everything takes place in the chemistry of our life: that chemistry is the chemistry of transformation, from the Greek khēmia, the art of transmuting metals. To taste the sweetness, the goodness, of the ordinary is a very big thing; one remembers Gurdjieff's remark after they crossed the Caucus mountains in Thomas de Hartmann’s memoirs, a trip filled with great deprivations and near-starvation, where a tiny bit of bread was perceived as manna from heaven. "The whole trip was worth it, if only because we tasted bread," Gurdjieff remarked, or words to that effect. 


And it is indeed true: our sensation of life is blunted and incorrect, and only, it seems, through deprivation can we come to a moment of need and wish that is so great that we actually experience the molecular encounter with life which our body is so perfectly and exquisitely attuned to sense.


Yet in this act of khēmia, the transmutation of our being, we can come into touch with forces that awaken and enliven us in ways that we otherwise never understand. Again, as Gurdjieff said of true awareness, "everything more vivid;" yet this is a subtle thing and much greater than some colorful hallucination. It takes place in the vibration of our molecules themselves. Our cells become different creatures. We begin to know that they, as well, are aware and participate; that they have as vital a role to play in the cosmos as the angels do. We need to know both the molecules in us and the angels over us; because they are not so different except in terms of scale.


It's interesting to me that I have so many people who reject God around me. They think that this is some form of sophistication or superiority, that it represents a greater "fact" than any fact that includes God or bows down to God. 


In doing so, they never seem to see that their ego is the source of this attitude, that it is strictly a function of pride. One always hears the self-pride first in the rejection as it comes. If they do see that, surely, they never mention it for the infection it actually represents. 


For the deeper thinkers around me who feel this way—among whom I count some of my closest intellectual and spiritual friends—I’m always told that they find the word "God" offensive, because it has been so thoroughly corrupted by those contemptuous “religious people;” fundamentalists, presumably. 


I hear this with quiet amusement, noting the way that it judges, while presuming the judge himself is not already just as corrupt. Almost all of the people I know who speak this way tend to be men, although there are some few women. (The few woman of this ilk usually deliver a softer sell on this question.) In this way, the holiest of words and the most sacred of ways is ironically corrupted by those who would not be corrupt, just as much as it’s corrupted by the ones who eagerly embrace corruption.


 The word corruptus in Latin derives from the roots cor, “altogether,” and rumpere, “to break.” So to be corrupt is to be all together broken: for everything to be broken. It is the Humpty Dumpty of Being. We are all the king’s horses and all the king’s men: the whole of our emotional being and the whole of our intellectual being, unable to reassemble the molecular foundation of the sacred within us. We pontificate over it and mourn the loss of our being; and yet the very last action we ever take, which might — in the naked light of its contrition and remorse —lead us to a real understanding, is to admit that we are helpless. 


That we need to fall to our knees and contemplate our mortality, how very tiny we really are.


Our ego always tells us this is a place of unacceptable madness, because it has no power here. 


And yet that is exactly what is necessary and true.


These are the things I think upon this morning. 


May God be with you.


with warm regards,


Lee

Friday, June 10, 2022

Saying Yes to the Good


Serrabonna, interior

 I'm currently reading the doctoral thesis of Alejandra Novoa Echaurren, from University of the Andes, Chile, on Simone Weil. 
She makes an interesting comment regarding this question of yes.

In regard to transformation, she says the following:

“The greatest activity that we can do is allow God to transform us: “We cannot transform ourselves, we have to be transformed, but we cannot be so other than if we want to” (Weil, 1995d: 93). 

This implies allowing the death of the old man, clinging to his self, to give way to a true desire for God. It is necessary to despair of everything that is not God, to empty the soul of partial goods, to accept being raised to the true divine life. In that absolute, perfect and eternal Good the goods of this world are integrated and elevated. We just have to give our consent. Until God considers the καιρός (kairos), just time for it,  "The most that a human being can do, until the moment is near, is to keep intact the ability to say yes to good."
(Weil, 1995c: 56).

Her comment on the idea of a "just" time was expanded in a footnote as follows:

“As well as the word υπομονή (hupomon), which Weil liked so much, καιρός (kairos) is also a beautiful word full of meaning, since it unites those of good and time. It can be translated as "opportune time," but it seems to me to be more than that. However, I consider that it is the right word in this context. Jorge Peña (2002) exposes it as follows: “On the other hand, kairos is the propitious moment, the season, a point in which time is full of meaning and loaded with meaning precisely because of its relationship with the end. On the one hand, we have simple time in its homogeneous and constant flow of time (chronos) and, on the other, the decisive time of God's advent, the fulfillment of time (kairos, Mk 1, 15) and that of the signs of the times (kairos, Mt. 16, 2-3) ”(127).”

I find this phrase, "to keep intact the ability to say yes to good" to be an interesting commentary on our position between the higher and lower. It is so easy, after all, to lose this ability; and on a daily and even momentary basis, there are so many. 

Of course the ability to say yes to good is vitally important to the spiritual path from the carnal perspective of our temporal flesh and bones, and Alejandra brings that up in her thesis. Weil, like Swedenborg, believed that the desires of the soul, so close to God as they are, do not attain realization unless they manifest in the flesh, that is, in ordinary life: so the call of the spirit is only validated through its immersion in the life of the flesh. The flesh, the ordinary body and the ordinary desires, the ordinary thoughts, are the medium through which union takes place. (Swedenborg, who thought much the same way, called Weil’s conception of the death of the old man to make way for the new regeneration.) 

Weil was remarkably consonant with Meister Eckhart on this subject insofar as the absolute totality of its necessity is considered: the action must be within ordinary being, and uncompromising. This is reminiscent of more than a few of de Salzmann's comments on the question; and because of Weil’s friendship with Daumal and her mention of de Salzmann in texts, we can presume she was familiar with Gurdjieff's ideas.

Having just finished Fran Shaw's new book, "I am stories,” it reminds me strongly of a somewhat more esoteric understanding of this idea, the ability to say yes to good. 

This relates most directly to Michel de Salzmann’s work leading others to remain open to a higher energy. 

That work was, of course, a continuation of his mother’s work, but it was also an elaboration, refinement, and deepening of that work which appears to me to remain under-appreciated – perhaps not so much so by those who worked directly with him, who will at once understand what I mean, but by the Gurdjieff community “outside the work” in general. In this sense his contributions to Gurdjieff’s legacy remain yet to be measured; they were subtler, and yet perhaps the most compelling.

We’re not excused from the demands and trials of the flesh. Yet we’re called to remain poised, forever and in this moment, on the edge of receiving "the good" – that energy which descends from above to transform us in the very molecules of our being, opening us to an influence that quiets the cacophony and brings a new silence to our in our life. 

The call to experience this all the time is a huge demand which perhaps seems impossible, from the perspective of the flesh, for us to meet. 

That opinionated and inflected belief sometimes eclipses Michel’s consistent message that it can be experienced at any time. 

That time would be, whenever it comes, kairos—the fulfillment of meaning in time, the propitious time—which could also be called consciousness.

I have not finished reading Alejandra's thesis, but if there are more interesting remarks in it I’ll pass them on.

with warm regards,


Lee

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Notes, January 13




 There's a tendency to engage in assertions about myself, who I am, what I am doing.

I suppose I need these in order to affirm myself, in order to inflect meaning. All the ordinary parts need meaning in exactly the way that they are ordinary — of an order of some kind. That's what the word means.


Yet there’s a part of myself that is different and doesn't need those things in order to understand what meaning is. It understands meaning and order organically, through the already existing arrangement of the molecules of my being and the energy that enters them and vibrates. 


At the root of all this order is not the certainty of order, but the probability of it: an uncertainty that leaves order flexible and able to discover itself in any way that is necessary in a given moment. It's necessary to understand a bit about quantum physics in order to understand this, but not too much. Just enough, perhaps, to understand that determination is indeterminate, that we don't know what will come next. Much of what has already taken place is a pretty good predictor — but not always. There are surprises in store.


I woke up this morning at about 5 AM and my Himalayan cat Dojo, sensing that I was awake, came over to visit with me while I lay in bed. He purrs very loudly and it was dark; all of our communication – which had a great deal of meaning in it — was conducted through vibration, through sound and through touch. There wasn't any need to define this or put an order to it. It was relationship in its purest form. There was nothing to think about; there was just understanding of togetherness. 


I wonder whether subatomic particles have snuggly moments like this together. They must, in a sense, because all relationships are built of them and it seems to me in this moment that the relationship I have with my cat has to have a bearing on, in fact be a reflection of, the entire nature of relationship and the potential around me.


Relationship is, in the end, the first and the final assertion. Relationship automatically implies responsibility, because relationship is about proximity and response. Things in the universe are built so that other things that are closer to them in space time respond in one way or another. That's a simple enough fact that doesn't have anything to do with my opinions about the world. So each little quanta (discreet unit, or package) of energy has responsibility – the ability to respond to others like it. What we call reality is built of that. 


Responsibility reaches all the way up the food chain to me. 


First, I can attempt to be responsible to myself. 

Then I can attempt to be responsible to my planetary being-duties, responsible to my place on this earth and its ecosystem. 

In doing that, of course, I become responsible to my community and others around me. 

In the end, of course, I attempt to become responsible to God, but that is a much bigger and more private question, in the sense that it is not my business to tell others to do this or, for that matter, really, quite how to do it. Only to ask the question, “how?” To describe potential approaches to it.


Ultimately, in a way that’s a bit difficult to explain in words, I’m responsible not to the certainty of what I determine or assert, but responsible to the uncertainty of everything. For me, this is a more interesting responsibility because it lies closer to the root of what takes place in the universe. It's better aligned with the way things actually are than my assumptions and assertions, many of which are based on things that are almost certainly false. 


That's the downside to having an imagination.


So I pause here for a moment at the end of these thoughts. 


The French clock is ticking. 


I breathe in. I breathe out. This takes place quite naturally because my body knows everything about this task and it doesn't need my mind or any interference in order to take care of it. There is a vibration of a higher order in every cell. That vibration carries elements of silent and receptive gratitude in it. 


Why that's the case, I can't say. I just know that it is because I can feel it. I don't need to explain why it's there.


This day is an entire new universe. Everything begins again. I will build the universe of this day from within as I speak and breathe, as I move and am still. 


There is an opportunity to go deeper today, to be a bit more present, to try to understand the fabric, the warp and weave and even the threads of this thing called love that’s so much bigger than the word itself, and leaves so much room for goodness to manifest itself within it.


These are my thoughts for this morning.


with warm regards,


Lee