The question of chief feature comes up when we discuss negativity. My friend Kathy (see yesterday's comment) frequently refers to this oft--forgotten aspect of the work. She sees it as a central question.
There's no doubt that an understanding of how chief feature manipulates us, and how it manages to remain invisible as it causes us anguish and keeps us in a state of fear, is helpful in beginning to understand that we don't have to be that way. I forget that sometimes, so I'm glad she's around to remind me.
One of the most compelling things about the work that Ouspensky and Nicoll did with Mr. Gurdjieff was that they continually reminded us that we have a right to not be negative. That is to say, negativity as we experience it is not a natural state for men. It looks like it is, because the world is immersed in a sea of it at most times, but that is a delusional impression. The world is also paved with an enormous amount of asphalt and concrete, but that is not a natural state. We have just come to accept it as one as we continue to destroy the environment which sustains us.
Jared Diamond had some pretty interesting things to say about that in his book "Collapse." Basically, no matter how degraded an environment becomes because of man's interaction with it, to the current inhabitants, it looks normal. So no matter how depraved our inner conditions are, by the time we get there, they seem to be entirely logical. The conditions, whatever they are, seem to be irrevocable and inescapable. And to compound matters, we engage in an elaborate inner dialog to sustain that impression.
Why is that? Why don't we want to believe that there is an alternative?
I've been pondering that. Simply put, sleep cannot see sleep. From within our negativity, from within our hypnosis, there is no alternative, and there is not even the possibility of doing much more than imagining one. Chief feature, buffers, denial -- put them all together, they are powerful.
We don't have to be that way. But in order to find anything else, we have to actually believe it is possible and wish for it.
Oddly enough, when I tell people that there is a way to begin to understand one's inner negativity, understand where it originates, and feed oneself so that one can begin to extinguish it, no one seems very interested. I have not figured this one out yet. All around me, I see people who are angry, depressed, frustrated. They snap at each other, they feel unfulfilled in life, they don't get what is wrong with them. A lot of them ask me why I am happy most of the time, especially at work, where we are all under a lot of pressure and the situation keeps changing in unpleasant ways.
In order to tell people why I am like that, I would have to tell them everything, and that takes a way long time. No one is patient enough to listen.
Besides that, no one wants to know all of this. Hearing that you would have to undertake a long-term work involving meditation and self-study seems too complicated to them. They want to get rid of their negativity by turning on the TV.
And of course, that works, if only for a little while.
Perhaps we could say that the first step is to take responsibility for our negativity. This is exactly what alcoholics learn to do when they want to recover from alcoholism. And in the end, speaking as a long time experienced alcoholic who has been in recovery for over 25 years, I can tell you that negativity is an equally addicting substance. It's powerful, it's exciting, it can be fun. I have watched people fall in love with their own negativity until it consumed them. It feeds on and ultimately destroys their essence.
Negativity works the same way as alcohol, in that it creates an incredibly powerful denial mechanism to keep itself alive. That is because this state keeps itself intact by feeding on higher energies that belong to other parts. It is strictly parasitic. Like all parasites, it is not particularly concerned with the effect it has on the host, as long as it can earn its livelihood.
Taking responsibility involves taking a cold, hard look at the negativity and admitting that it is ours. First we have to take possession, and we never do that.
Take a look -- isn't it true? Whenever we are negative, it is because of what someone else did, isn't it?
One can undertake a work that will lead one out of this mess. That much is certain. But, as I said before, people just don't want to. Their negativity is so much a part of what they are that they cannot conceive of themselves without it. It preserves their separation from everyone around them, from the rest of the world, and reinforces the ego.
This makes them feel important. And for most people, that's what it's all about.
May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.