Friday, December 28, 2007

inner/essence: outer/personality

In our continuing investigation of the question of inhabiting the juncture between the flow of inner and outer impressions, we can tie it to other essential concepts found both within the Gurdjieff teaching and Zen, as well as important Christian parables.

In the Bible, we may recall that Jacob is smooth-skinned, and Esau hairy. In other words, Jacob understands the relationship to the internal- hence his smoothness- and Esau is invested in the outer-hence hairy. (See Maurice Nicoll's The New Man for a more detailed discussion of this.)

By investing in the outer, Esau unintentionally sacrifices his ability to claim his birthright. Jacob has a superior understanding that begins with his inner state, and he claims the birthright as his own--using the way of the sly man, in other words, by an oblique method--not by "going directly."

This doesn't solve all of Jacob's problems, however--in the parable, having an understanding of the inner is just the first step on a long and difficult path through life. No matter how clever, Jacob still has to develop a right relationship with the outer, and he's surprisingly susceptible to naivete and gullibility--right up to the point of accepting the "wrong" woman, Leah, as his bride the first time around. It turns out that Jacob's nemesis Laban is, in some senses, just as cunning as Jacob is. We see from this lengthy parable about Jacob that the inner has a clear and absolute need to be in relationship with and understand the outer. By itself, it is incomplete-and, surprisingly, perhaps even not so smart.

One need look no further than Gurdjieff's magnum opus Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson for examples of the seeming cluelessness of higher forces when it comes to interaction with lower levels. In Biblical tales and mythologies we also find, refreshingly, that God is not entirely infallible.

So while it confers distinct advantages, beginning with a solid connection to the inner isn't the whole answer either. Something more is necessary: the meeting of two worlds, not investment in a single one. The outer must inform the inner in the same way that the inner must inform the outer. A circulation of Being is required. The enneagram is, among other things, a map of the circulation of being.

In the Gurdjieff work, we encounter the ideas of essence and personality. These two concepts are very closely tied to the understanding of how inner and outer impressions interact, as a further quote from the platform Sutra may help illustrate:

"The Master said, 'as for the three bodies, the pure Dharma body is your nature, the perfect realization body is what you know, and the myriadfold transformation body is what you do. To talk about the three bodies apart from your own nature would be to have bodies without knowledge. Once you realize that the three bodies have no nature of their own, this is what is meant by the four kinds of Knowledge of Enlightenment. Listen to my Gatha:

Your nature possesses the three bodies
which develop the four kinds of knowledge
they lead you straight to Buddhahood
if you believe what I'm telling you now
you'll be forever free of delusion
don't follow those people running around
talking all day about enlightenment."
(The Platform Sutra, p. 278, as translated by Red Pine, Shoemaker & Hoard 2006)

Those mystified by the comment that the three bodies "have no nature of their own" would do well to turn to and ponder page 1091 of the new edition of Beelzebub, where Gurdjieff describes the "fourth personality." This January 1924 lecture, by the way, receives far less attention than it deserves, since it almost incidentally discloses essential information about the structure of emotional center (the six inner flowers) which I do not recall Gurdjieff referring to in any other material. Anyway, the fourth personality-- " real "I"-- is formed by the three parts consisting of outer impressions (as received by moving center), inner impressions (as received by emotional center) and active intelligence, acting as the intentional mediator between these two worlds.

When Hui Neng advises us that "the pure Dharma body is our nature," he speaks quite precisely of what Mr. Gurdjieff calls our essence. This substance is close to what Christians refer to as man's soul -- it is given by God, and it comes from "elsewhere." The essence maintains contact with the Holy Spirit, whereas the personality has none.

"The perfect realization body is what you know." This is what Mr. Gurdjieff calls the personality. It is all the information that is acquired over the course of a lifetime. It is quite distinct from the essence for obvious reasons. Because the personality is formed from contact with the world, it is impure. There are deep connections between the concepts of both karma and sin and the formation of the personality through the receipt of outer impressions. Sin can only arise within personality; and then, only according to the ability of the receiver to discriminate. It is in the lack of discrimination itself that we begin to sin.

Essence is closely connected to the idea of the Virgin Mary -- essence has a purity that cannot be soiled in and of itself, because the inner impressions it receives originate from a higher source.

"The myriadfold transformation body is what you do." Here we come to the idea of third force, action as the mediator between the dialectic of inner and outer impressions. In a rightly ordered life, intention and attention, that is, active consciousness, inhabit the juncture and make transformation possible.

As we progress, we begin to see that all of these ideas are tied together into one whole understanding. Essence and personality relate to inner and outer impressions. Inner and outer impressions relate to the intersection of our two natures. Our two natures are defined by the inner and outer senses, and the inner senses are defined by the Enneagram. The Enneagram describes the vessel, the vessel is the crucible which receives the material that forms the being. In the end, it is all about the question of in-formation -- what forms inwardly in the context of consciousness which stands on the threshold between our inner and our outer lives.

I would urge readers to study the question of both inner and outer impressions quite carefully, to try and make an effort to understand exactly what an inner impression is and how one is fed by it. Only by knowing the taste of this particular action within the being can one begin to approach the much larger questions that are raised in the many essays I have written about the Enneagram, the inner flowers as the physical structure of emotional center, and the role of the vessel in the development of being.

In particular, it is important to begin by learning to experience the essence as a living inner force, and to assist it in its efforts to find expression within ordinary life through the organic sense of Being.

At the same time, it is important to stand aside from personality even as we experience it, which is the exercise Mr. Gurdjieff called "separation of the self from the self." Identified with personality, we cannot even recognize it. Once we step aside, we also experience it as a living force in its own right.

Enough for one day. One fish cannot swallow the ocean, even if it wants to. :-)

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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