Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not really about Gurdjieff's Enneagram

I had occasion to work on some artwork incorporating the enneagram over the weekend. It turned out nicely, so I have newly incorporated some of the results on this blog.

However today what I had prepared to write about is Dogen, so. Instead of Gurdjieff we will be getting a little Buddhism. Call it false advertising if you will.

In Dogen's Shobogenzo, "Uji"- "existence-time"- Dogen says the following:

"We can never measure how long and distant or how short and pressing twelve hours is; at the same time, we call it "twelve hours." The leaving and coming of the traces and directions [of Time] are clear, and so people do not doubt it. They do not doubt it, but that does not mean they know it. The doubts which living beings, by our nature, have about everything and every fact we do not know, are not consistent; therefore our past history of doubt does not always exactly match our doubt now. We can say for the present, however, that doubt is nothing other than time. We put our self in order, and see [the resulting state] as the whole universe." (P. 92, "Master Dogen's Shobogenzo," Translation by Gudo Nishijima & Chodo Cross, Dogen Sangha books 2006.)

What is a state of doubt? A state of not being sure. As it would be put by those in the Gurdjieff Work, a state of questioning.

I happen to dislike that last phrase, because the formal branch of the Gurdjieff Work I am in uses it so habitually it has become, in my eyes, entirely mechanical and all but lifeless.

Nonetheless, it's very useful here. So let's give the devil of questioning his due.

"We can never measure how long and distant or how short and pressing twelve hours is; at the same time, we call it "twelve hours." The leaving and coming of the traces and directions [of time] are clear, and so people do not doubt it. They do not doubt it, but that does not mean they know it.

What is twelve hours? It is nothing other than experience. A collection of impressions drawn into the living vessel. They exist- we know this- but they have no real measurement outside the context of the vessel. There is no twelve hours in the universe. There is, and can only ever be, only twelve hours in man. It is sheer artifice.

We label it with conviction nonetheless. "Twelve hours." Now-having dispelled our doubt with a name- we think know what Time is.

"The doubts which living beings, by our nature, have about everything and every fact we do not know, are not consistent; therefore our past history of doubt does not always exactly match our doubt now."

Even our present doubts are inconsistent. If we do not even know how to doubt, we cannot know how to not doubt. We are not consistently in question- we make assumptions. In our everyday experience, Time itself is an assumption. We are forever assuming many things about time: there is too much (we're bored), not enough (we're harried), it's running out (there's only a fixed amount, damn it) and so on. The one fact that escapes us is that we don't really know anything about time.

"We can say for the present, however, that doubt is nothing other than time."

Here Master Dogen reduces the entire question of time to the act of questioning itself. His suggestion seems to be that we remain within question- a state of not making assumptions- as we take in this flow of impressions we call time. There is an direct implication of unconditionality about this act.

"We put our self in order, and see [the resulting state] as the whole universe."

Here we are at the subject of yesterday's blog. "We put ourselves in order." In the act of attempting to become whole, to form an inner unity (something described by the symbol of the enneagram, by the way) , we are attemtpting to reach a state where we gain the insight that everything- including time itself- is a function of the experience of consciousness.

There isn't room for that kind of experiential thinking within the ordinary self. It is on the order of prophecy, this act of seeing all time as one time- and as Christ said to the congregation that loved his graceful words (right up until he said this one last thing, that is,)

"A prophet hath no honor in his own home."

That is, the congregation within us wants to have consciousness on its own terms, whereas there simply are no such terms to be had. After Christ said this the congregation decided it might be nice to throw him off a cliff. Fortunately he escaped.

The implication is clear enough to me- my inner congregation, set in its ways of misunderstanding, labels and rejects. In this way I trivialize time- in my imagination, I turn this great mystery into a thing I can manipulate with ease. Even dismiss with contempt, as in "I have not time for that."

If there is participation in the form of always asking a question about where I am and what is- the presence of doubt, the banishment of mere assumption- then time changes into a living thing to be experienced, not a static entity marked with numbers on the face of a clock.

And in the end it's always my lack of relationship that breeds the death of living, breathing experience.






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