Tuesday, June 12, 2007

quotation marks, and negativity

I'm in one of those conditions today where the absolute, tangible, penetratingly sensible roots of my consciousness find their origins in the spaces between cells.

The kind of energy that makes this possible isn't available all the time. Then again, nothing is possible all of the time, even though anything is possible some of the time, and everything is possible given enough time.

My mother always used to tell me, "make hay while the sun shines." According to reports, William Segal--whom I often saw, but, to my regret, never knew personally-- frequently told people, when they had to accomplish a task, to make do with what they had.

So the idea is to go with what's in the air. We have to build our temples and conduct our rites of prayer from what we have, not what we wish for.

How can I speak from within this connection? I mean, literally, speak, because as is so often the case, today I dictate this blog, so that the words spring directly from the act of speaking.

We are animals. I breathe. We breathe. Every single breath feeds every single cell. This is my condition. I am alive and made of flesh.

What is it, as Mr. Gurdjieff so often said, to be a man "without quotation marks?"

Quotation marks represent not the real thing, but a reference to it. Something someone else said; something someone else did, something that happened elsewhere, at another time.

A man with a quotation mark at the beginning and end of his existence does not live within the crevices in his cells. He does not walk on a planet, breathe a gaseous medium, absorb colors and sounds, taste food, touch hard and soft things. He thinks about these things. He analyzes them, classifies them, and defines them.

But he does not live within them according to the possibilities offered by his organism.

This organic sense of being is not an end in itself. It's just a beginning. What makes it valuable is that it raises so many questions about what we are.

Again and again, the more I practice, the deeper I dig, the more I see that we do not know anything about what we are or where we are. We are all a gargantuan mass of assumptions and associations. All of that has to be completely tossed out, thrown away, left behind in the immediate sense of being here, organically, in order for me to begin to see anything.

These are the moments when it becomes apparent that the entire intellectual and conceptual structure of the mind falls short of the mark.

On a day like today, I stop thinking. I just exist. Every event that arrives, arrives as it needs to arrive. Every response arises as it needs to arise. It's odd; everything that needs to be done is available in the doing. There is no need to worry about it. In business, a request is made, and even though the mind seems empty and stupid, the response is forever in the fingertips.

Where did it come from? I don't know. I do see that I spend an enormous amount of time packing myself with information, worrying in unnecessary ways, attempting to manage, when all of it is just right there.

When Mr. Gurdjieff spoke of tension, he spoke of tension in the body, which certainly takes a great deal away from us. But there is also a great deal of tension in the way that we think. It is only when we get rid of it that we discover how unnecessary it was in the first place.


I am going to take a left hand turn and mention something that occurred to me over the past few days which relates to the discussion I have been conducting on the question of unity.

Mr. Gurdjieff told his followers that there was one thing man could "do." That one thing was to not express negative emotion.

That teaching is often understood to refer to the external expression of negative emotion. That is to say, he was indicating that we can avoid acting negative, speaking negatively, and so on.
He furthermore intimated that this work was preparation for what he called "the second conscious shock," or, intentional suffering.

Let's forward an alternative point of view on this question.

To "express" can also mean to squeeze the juice out of, to extract a substance.

At this stage in my study of negativity, which has been conducted intensively for a number of years, it occurs to me that the place where negativity is "expressed" is within us. When there is tension between centers, pressure arises. That pressure squeezes energy up out of the system into channels it does not belong in: it "expresses" negativity.

Once this imbalanced energy is present in us, it has nowhere to go but outward, where it quickly becomes destructive. This explains why negativity has great power: it comes directly from substances that could have been used otherwise.

From this we see that non-expression of negativity must begin in a much deeper place. Trying to "block" it at the point where it exits the body is much too late.

To not express negativity is to discover how to create inner conditions that prevent it from ever arising in the first place.

All of the discussions I have conducted about the Enneagram and the nature of the six inner flowers relate to this specific question. According to my investigations, it is only through the formation of a new and more complete inner relationship that we can begin to work on the question of not expressing negativity. And this is the one work which Mr. Gurdjieff said man could "do."

So in fact, man is capable of one extraordinarily important -- I daresay invaluable -- work which any man can undertake if he wishes to.

Negativity, however, is just so darned exciting and interesting that the idea of absolutely, positively getting rid of it doesn't seem to occur to us.

After all, if there is one thing we have proven over and over again for thousands of years, it is that mankind is utterly fascinated by destruction.

In this, I am no different than you are.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

1 comment:

  1. I think there is a very specific part of Gurdjieff that has practical application in the terms of negativity. While it is important to understand the channels of inner and outer directions of energy, the pragmatic source of negativity is the key. That happens in ego: very simply we have expectations of ourselves, of others, of our world, that we create through the lens of ego. Anger/negativity always arises from failed expectations. It is something to consider: "Why am I negative?" And this is not a general question, it is very specific.

    If we look, if we are awake enough to see, we will find we create the parameters for negativity in ego. This is described as chief feature (sometimes "chief negative feature"). This "CF" exists entirely to protect the organic self. It has no connection to the spiritual self which is of course infinite and requires no protection at all.

    Always negative, CF is the ego being defensive due to an expectation that has been dismantled. It is good work to catch a negative moment and identify (photograph) "what did I expect" and to then work on the deeper concept of expectations of any kind being linked to the sleeping state.

    What "I" expect is not necessarily what "You" expect. This is true in all instances, whether you have trouble in relationships or you just lost the best space in the parking lot to someone that snuck in front of you.

    Every moment is an opportunity to be man instead of "man" because the necessary catalyst of the body in this incarnation is the ongoing lesson. The thing I think most students miss is that Gurdjieff, as with most Sufi masters (cf: nafs) aid by helping us see that negativity always arises from within and that we create it for ourselves. It has no purpose other than to defend the perceived assault against the body self -- but this is bogus, the body will die... the soul continues indestructibly... nothing can harm us. This is the awake state, and in that state there is no negativity.

    In the east they have long known that mystics are a force for change because they operate out of little or no sense of fear (the partner of anger as negativity). For many martyrs, being burnt at the stake was an ecstatic experience... the most positive expression of energy. Because the path to balanced man has a purpose, not simply to eliminate negativity but to operate out of the positive state.

    For instance, the next time your teenager refuses to do the dishes (or your boss disses you, etc) and you find yourself annoyed, really look at the expectations that you have for this moment and then what the other person has. Observe the collision of expectation. Watch the negativity that forms in conjunction with this event.



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