Sunday, April 29, 2007

Conflict

Human beings all engage in conflict.

There's a pervasive tradition in most religious practices that teaches we can rise above this; that with enough work, enough prayer, enough grace, we can enter a state where we are so well balanced that we are always peaceful, always serene, ever mellow and ever gentle.

Anyone out there reached that state yet?

I didn't think so. As one of my friends said to me a number of years ago- this is a man with a years-long, deeply spiritual practice- "the trouble with us is that we think we're not negative."

And there's the rub. What is produced by the mind is part of the illusion. One cannot think one's way out of how one is. The whole physical state and nature organism would have to change in order for us to truly "lose" our negativity.

So there we are- stuck in this condition which, inevitably, produces negativity and conflict. It is a truth. Even if we did somehow rise above it all, others would not: that is to say, we would be surrounded by it and would still have to deal with it. There is no way out of having to confront the conditions imposed by inhabiting a body, living here on earth.

So we cannot actually avoid being negative- we cannot avoid conflict. We are going to encounter it. The very idea of trying to avoid it is illusory: in fact, we are meant to make an effort to inhabit this state as much as any other state, to experience it, to understand it, to accept it.

I suppose this sounds like heresy. After all, negativity and conflict are damaging to others, correct? Therefore they are "bad" and to be avoided.

Of course this labelling of the whole phenomenon as "bad" falls into the trap of a duality that Truth does not admit to, but let's just say, for the time being, that it's useful to agree that negativity and conflict are "bad." Destructive, unhelpful for our relationships with our spouses, our children, our society.

At the same time, we cannot avoid the "badness." We find ourselves filled at times with "badness." Immersed in "badness." It is all to reminiscent of the Christian concept of sin; the Buddhist idea of "bad" Karma. (can there really be such a thing? Interesting question.) Inevitably as we manifest negatively, if we are engaged in inner work of any kind, we find ourselves struggling with questions of conscience and guilt, culpability and the difference between an aspiration for divine consciousness and the brute reality of what Christians would call our "fallen" nature.

So what are we to make of this?

Here's a suggestion I have been exploring for the past week in examining this question. It is not in the act of "going into" the badness that we should ask our questions about how we are, or what is lacking in us. We cannot prevent ourselves from going into it. It is going to happen, no matter what we do.

It is the act of getting out of conflict that we take the true measure of a man. It is not about how or why we get into trouble. It is about what inner resources we draw on to get back to a place where things make sense.

So the important questions are how we exercise forgiveness and contrition. How we admit our failings, both to ourselves and to others. Alcoholics Anonymous knows this lesson all too well: the twelve steps include taking a fearless inventory of ourselves and making amends. This act is needed in every area of life: just as much in public policy as in in private engagement There is nothing more damaging than refusal: a refusal to admit the damage one does. In the moments where we refuse to admit what we are, what we have done, we invoke that deadly sin of pride.

The way in which we face up to and apologize for the damage we do is one of the paths we must fearlessly tread on the road to a more complete self knowledge. There is no shame in failure; we are all going to fail. If there is any shame, it is when we refuse to admit our shortcomings.

In public, this takes us to the place where we must admit without prejudice to another that we were wrong, and fearlessly, willingly accept the consequences, whatever they may be.

In the deepest states, this leads us to where we find ourselves on our inner knees, naked in front of the Lord, prayerful for His acceptance and forgiveness.

It's a tough work, but we can take comfort from the fact that we are all in it together. Let's treat each other that way- it's a step towards a road we must all travel together, for it cannot be traveled alone.

That road is the road of compassion.

May your deserts yield to rain, and your inner flowers bloom.

Love,

Lee

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

announcement

New web site Doremishock.com is now up and running, after a fashion. Check it out !
www.doremishock.com

Rates of vibration


I have been pondering what the word "perception" means, as experienced within this context of what we refer to as "consciousness."

No matter how we understand or view "perception", there appears to be a subjective element in it. How can any individual know that what is perceived is accurate, or "true?" They cannot. As I have said before, the best "fact" we can come up with regarding our experience of consciousness is that we are in this body, having these experiences. All of the ideas, assumptions, and conjectures that follow this fundamental recognition are speculative. The very act of assessing our experiences is speculative.

What the heck. Let's speculate a little, shall we?

Extrapolating from this, I attempt to arrive at an asessment of what this thing called peception consists of: where does it arise, and what is it?

Here's a proposal: "perception" is nothing more than relationship, arising as a consequence of the correspondence between organic rates of vibration.

So all perception is relationship. By perceiving, we mean entering into relationship with.

This formultaion posits that every interaction of vibrations in the universe is in fact an act of perception. The vibratory elements in our universe, from quantum strings (if they indeed exist) to atoms, to molecules, to organisms, to planets and galaxies, are all engaged in a comprehensive act of perception.

Let's leave aside for the time being the complex question of the differences between self-aware and non-selfaware perception. The quantity and quality of our own perception- that is, what type of relationship with our surroundings we can enter into- is determined by our own organic rate of vibration. That is, the level at which the various inner parts of the organism resonate in relationship to each other determines what they are able to correspond to outwardly. Another way of looking at it is to understand that everything in the universe is actually a musical symphony of unimaginable complexity. Once we realize that, Gurdjieff's statement that the entire universe runs on two major laws- the law of three and the law of seven (that is, the law of octaves) begins to make a great deal of practical sense.

What we receive in terms of outer vibrations depends on what we have in terms of inner vibrations. Just as every developing musical structure incorporates new vibrations according to its own established inner logic (pattern and rate of vibration,) so it is also in man.

In an existing musical structure not every note can be admitted if the structure is to retain its existing integrity. As new vibrations arrive, some vibrations will conflict with each other and cancel each other out; some will introduce chaos; some will fit in harmoniously and develop the logic of the structure further. Some will be inert and do nothing. Some will be too loud and overwhelm an existing structure; some too quiet to have any effect.

This is, by the way, exactly the way that chemistry and biology works. If you ponder this for a while you will see that every phenomenon in the observable universe follows this set of laws.

Gurdjieff's enneagram depicts the lawful development of any given octave by describing the progressive rates of vibration that can be allowed to enter based on the starting note. It's interesting to apply this diagram to phenomena on other levels, but the information it gives us about ourselves, what we are, what we can become, is perhaps the most interesting.

What it tells us is that every man is an uncompleted symphony. We have within us an "inner orchestra" that has the lawful potential to progressively develop its level of perception based on the rates of vibration between inner parts. What we perceive- the kinds of conscious experiences we have (which is equal to the relationships we are able to enter into) is determined by our organic rate of vibration.

Gurdjieff's system is a system designed to raise the inner rates of vibration of the human body in a progressive and harmonious manner according to a set of laws. Those various laws and their interactions are actually described by the multiplications, that is, the six iterations of the numerolgical values of the enneagram:

142857
285714
428571
571428
714285
857142

Every state of consciousness that a man can enter into- and there are many of them- is determined by the inner rates of his various vibrations. This understanding was passed down in the yoga schools using the concept of spinning wheels, or chakras. However those schools lost the enneagram, which was and remains the only legitimate key to any objective understanding of how rates of vibration interact in man. Undertaking the study of the flow of our inner energies without strictly applying the information contained in this diagram is useless.

It is in the careful study of our own inner rates of vibration that we can begin to cultivate something "more real" in ourselves. We seek to connect with the organic state of Being, in which conscious residence in this organism is acknowledged. Then we begin to take a more direct interest in the physical processes, that is, vibrations, that determine our psychological state.

Thus we can slowly discover a new relationship with ourselves, and with the world.

This is spring- the flow is on, and the good food of life abounds! May your hives thrive, and your combs fill with honey!

Love,

Lee

Monday, April 23, 2007

Too much information

By the time I finish this piece, all of you will be aware of the inherent irony in it. But perhaps we can be forgiven our ironies; it is, after all, supremely ironic that over the course of humanity's residence on this planet, so many words have been used to describe that which cannot be grasped with words.

And here we are, together- still attempting it. It gives me pause.

Lately I have been contemplating the vast explosion of shared information that mankind is engaged in. We have passed, over the past two hundred years, into an era where electric media makes it possible to share information on an unimaginable scale and at breathtaking speeds. Beginning with the use of electricity to send telegraphs, and ending with the nanotechnology of computers and the internet.

Here's my point. We are sharing too much information.

The pursuit of information as an end in itself is a vice. We are slowly losing human contact with nature, losing contact with each other, losing contact with the vital, living currents that form and sustain the planet, in favor of a virtual world where everything is in the head. Everything is about ideas and theories and concepts. The act of breathing in and out is forgotten.

Where is the poetry, the heart and soul, of this enterprise? Where is the perfumed air of life itself, that ambrosia too subtle to describe and too fine to comprehend with words?

When there is too much of a good thing, it loses its value. If he is buried in diamonds, a man can suffocate and die.

I took a walk in the woods with the famous dog Isabel tonight and was struck with how real everything is- as opposed to how virtual, how constructed, the majority of what I encounter every day is.

One step ahead of us is an alien world filled with wonders beyond description, yet we sit in chairs and stare at computer screens.

One step ahead of us in this life we can immediately abandon everything, and the whole world can change.

Feed your tissues, your cells. Get out there and sense. Get out there and breathe. Know you are sensing and know you are breathing... and see how good it is.

May your trees bear fruit and your wells yield water.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Poison


The events of this week left me stunned. It wasn't until today, as I browsed through the pictures of the people who were killed at Virginia Tech, that I really began to cry. To cry in public, at lunchtime, at my desk in the office.

It was appropriate.

Characteristically, our media descended upon this event like sharks at a feeding frenzy. Every news site I opened up had one picture after another of the killer- as if one wasn't enough, thank you very much- until I was positively sick of seeing him.

It all culminated with the obscenity of NBC airing portions of his hate-filled video, which objectively speaking should have been consigned to the garbage and destroyed without even one person ever watching it. This man did not deserve to have his voice heard.

This type of fare is the darkest kind of pornography available on the planet, and thee media served it up warm. Are our news organizations now competing with Al Jazeera to give air time to murders?

I consciously avoided listening to it or trying to see any of it. Impressions of this kind are a poison that does not belong in human minds. Passing it on to infect others with its paranoia, its negativity, its inhuman cruelty, is a downright criminal act.

Not that you'll see anyone prosecuting our news media. Freedom of speech means freedom to say anything, no matter how disgusting and poisonous it is.

Today was a relief, because I was finally able to turn from those repeated images of the killer and take opportunity to share in mourning all these fine lives cut down for the most selfish and narcissistic of reasons.

As I paged through the various photographs, I felt that these people were not just strangers- they were part of my own family, of all of our families. Each and every one of them represented us, as we are, each one of us struggling to survive and make a life for themselves on this planet. Little people, just doing our best. Not rich people or bad people, just ordinary people.

What is this darkness that reaches out to slake its cold, bloody thirst on the warm flesh of innocence?

They say no one knows the answers, but perhaps the answers are not so hard to come by.

Darkness grows in a man when his wish for goodness gets lost and twists itself around. This whole event stemmed from a desperately mistaken wish that the world somehow be good- which it is not. This pathetic, misguided young man actually thought he was on the side of good- fighting against a perceived evil that was perverting the world around him. And in the end he fed the tiger of his inner anger until it grew so large that it ate him.

This is how negative emotions work. They consume us bit by bit. If we don't work against them, eventually they can consume all of us- even our soul. And once they eat our soul, there are no boundaries any more.

Every day has to become an effort against negativity. It's a battle we cannot always win, and one that will never end, but we must, each one of us, hold up that one candle instead of cursing the darkness. For whenever we curse darkness, no matter how right it seems, the darkness finds ways to turn it back upon us...

and we are transformed from its adversary into its servant.

God bless all of you-

May your trees bear fruit, may your wells yield water-

and may we all move closer to that moment when we will dwell within Truth in the joy of the Lord.

Love

Lee

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The snake

Visitors to Dekalb Junction in St. Lawrence County, which is waaay upstate New York, will be familiar with this twisted piece of frozen magma, which is locally referred to as the snake.

It's a terrific example of the remarkable things that go on in rock when it's hot- as most of the interior of our planet is, starting not very far down.

We tend to forget that we live on a very thin crust of cooled rock. 99% of the rock on this planet is hot, molten, and seething with movement. Our impression of rock as a static substance is at complete odds with the facts.

In fact, most of our perception of nature is formed inside a very narrow band, where much of what we observe and take to be the status quo is anything but. Another good example: the vast majority of the organisms on this planet, both by numbers and by weight, are tiny creatures living under its crust. We don't ever even see them, although--as some geologists might tell you-- it's entirely possible that the oil we use every day is a by product of their life cycle, given the very extraordinary amounts of it that we find under the surface.

So we don't see the status quo on earth: we see a small, special set of conditions and we presume that's informative as to what is normal. And we owe a very great deal to what we do not see.

Our lives are much like this. We each see a tiny slice of all the things that go on on during life on this planet and try to draw conclusions about it, not remembering that everything we see is fragmentary, partial, divided: just the surface of a molten pool that has hardened in front of us. This normal, "ordinary" life is a thin crust we skate on. We're always separated from the incandescent reality of what our situation is by this thin crust. It lulls us to sleep. We don't understand how uncertain, how fluid everything is: we do not see that we inhabit a landscape of perpetual change.

Instead we grasp the few frozen icons that protrude above the surface and adopt them as sacred; in our desperate attempts to worship some kind of permanence, everything becomes a graven image. Even things that we declare are not graven images become graven in the act of declaration.

Let us hope we can, at times, refer ourselves to the ground under our feet--

and accept the fact that it is prone to change.

May your trees bear ripe fruit and your wells yield cool water-

Lee

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Uplift

When continental plates collide, two things happen.

One is subduction. One plate is sucked under the other, drawing its bedrock down into the mantle of the planet, where it slowly melts, sinks downward, and circulates in a movement that takes sixty to a hundred million years or more to complete, before it rises again as a plume of magma in a distant location thousands of miles away.

The other is uplift. The top plate, whatever it is composed of, rises. This is how fossil seashells ended up at the top of Mount Everest. That massive scarp in today's picture is now in the middle of the Arizona desert. It, too, was once seabed.

The collision of great forces, which takes place everywhere in the universe, invariably produces naturally opposing results of this kind. Some things go up; others go down. In fact, something has to sink in order for something else to rise. Everything is composed of circulation. Something must go down, soften, and melt in order for the other part to solidify and be lifted.

In our spiritual quest, we are all interested in uplift. We want to rise, to discover new inner heights and see the view from above. Who is there in the world of spiritual work who isn't reaching for heaven? (With all due respect for their-- to me-- very questionable choice, we'll leave the Satanists out of this discussion. Sorry, guys.)

In reaching for heaven, we may forget that things have to go down as well as up. We forget gravity.

This Saturday I met with a good friend of mine- a real essence-friend who I don't see too often, probably because he lives less than a mile from me and we take each other for granted, as is too often the case in such circumstances. We work on the same kind of things in our work and we speak the same language in so many ways it seems uncanny to me at times.

This man happens to be an adept Hatha yoga teacher, although his real work lies in realms beyond such a facile definition. He understands the body. That is much bigger than the kind of Yoga you learn in a classroom. Because of this he has an authority I listen to.

He was speaking this weekend of having a new relationship with gravity. Becoming aware of it as a force. He wasn't speaking of doing this intellectually; it was about the sensation of gravity, the organic awareness of gravity. In becoming more attuned to this force, he believes, we can approach the idea of uplift (he doesn't use that term, but it's entirely appropriate.) That is, by sensing what our relationship is to down, we begin to discover our real place. That happens through the organism, and in no other way.

It's only then that we can begin to consider what up might mean.

Plates within what we call "Being" collide; what we call consciousness is the intersection between the dog and the Buddha, between man's lower and higher natures. Human nature is formed in the ground where these two points meet. Human nature, the nature of Being, is a pivotal point where choices are made and directions determined.

Man needs subduction in him, as well as uplift; the forces are reciprocal. He must go down as well as up; dive into the roots of his cells as well as the lofty realms that feed him from above.

In fact, I think, it is better for men as we are to work to assist the subduction, the gradual melting of this massive crust of what we are, and to leave the uplift to other parts--

The ones that know more about how to find the sun than we, in these little minds, do.

Trees and fruit are not trees and fruit, they are trees and fruit. Wells and water are not wells and water, they are wells and water.

So, may your trees bear fruit and your wells yield water.

--Until tomorrow!

Lee

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Just stop thinking


Of course it's impossible to stop thinking...

...right?

But just what is thinking? Is this massive barrage of intake, evaluation, analysis, conclusion thinking? The answer may seem obvious, but I am not at all sure it is.

If we study the parts that "do" this for long enough, we eventually reach the conclusion that they are indeed, as Gurdjieff advised us, mechanical. That is, there are automatic parts that are, so to speak, "hard wired" which mediate this process.

All too often, at work, someone asks me a question and a part of me that knows the answer spits that answer out almost instantly, while something else in me-- something that is not part of the "thought" process- sits back and watches and says to its self (I speak figuratively here, because this observing part seems to be for the most part strictly "non-verbal") "Wow. Where did that come from? That is way cool."

So there are all these parts inside the machine that act automatically. 99.9% of my manifestation arises from and is filtered through these parts.

Here we segue into the recurring theme of this blog, and my own work.

There is no "I", there is only truth.

For our purposes, we must understand that everything that thinks is "I." Whatever thinks is not Truth. To state it positively, it may be a fragment of Truth, but it is only a bit of what's actually going on. We become identified with that bit and so we are that bit. We're back to the "discrimination of the conceptual mind," which Ch'an master Ta Hui described as worse than poisonous snakes or fierce tigers.

There has to come a moment when we stand in front of this blackboard called life, called "I," take the eraser in hand, and boldly, ruthlessly, confidently sweep the entire slate clean in, as my father says, "one swell foop."

Bang. The clutter is gone. There is NOTHING there.

The blackboard is now pregnant. We take one baby step forward into a realm where there are no definitions. A realm where all things live and breathe, where all conditions are unconditional. It's a realm of 100% not knowing, where everything is understood as it is.

Truth.

Could it be?

We're all sitting right on the edge of enlightenment, all the time. It's just... over... there. Not such a big deal. But our minds are too short to reach it.

There are a lot of moments in the average day when everything is so obviously crappy I wonder why I don't just throw it all away. As I just said to a friend of mine (the famous rlnyc of Doremishock blog fame) my diapers all come pre-tizzied.

The dilemma arises: do I really like holding all these smelly diapers so much?

Or should I immediately abandon them?

It's time for a change of pace.

Today is a day to water the trees and throw fruit down the well.

Love to you all

Lee












Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Abandonment issues


We all run into resistance in our practice, in our lives.

Resistance is the moment where what arises within is attached, identified. In this sense we could say we all dwell in a perpetual state of resistance. In the same way that we can acclimatize to bad smells, our resistance becomes so familiar, so normal, that it does not appear to be resistance any more. We form this hard shell around us and become extremely comfortable in it.

Eventually-now- our life is all about building the shell, protecting the shell.

Resistance is this mind itself.

What if we made the ruthless decision, as we continually encountered life, to attempt to immediately abandon the shell? To leave behind, at once, every manifestation that opposes. At the moment we saw a distraction, an attachment, an identification,

a thought,

if we immediately went in the other direction,

--
how would that be?

Of course this raises the question of what the other direction is.

The direction is in the direction of nowhere, towards nothing.

We stand on the edge of a truth, a clarity, which we do not admit. Right here, at the very edge of my perception, one step beyond where I am in an inner sense, lies a clarity that is not born and does not die. I can smell, it, taste it, sense it- but it lies just beyond where this consciousness called I dwells.

To step one step beyond is to leave everything of this I behind; to immediately abandon what is know and enter that mysterious place where everything is-- without words.

This may be what Castaneda meant when he discussed the way of the warrior as being a way where one is without personal history.

The interesting thing about this act of immediate abandonment is that it is possible at any moment. We could wield it like a sword, cutting through identification, attachment, to sever the umbilical cords of desire and ego which bind us so firmly to our negativity.

I'd like to try that more. When I see my emotional attachments, I wonder- can I immediately abandon them? That would be a big thing indeed.

Like that ocean of clarity that lies just beyond the threshold of this perception- I am not there yet, but at times, if the wind blows in my direction, I can smell the salt spray.

Are we bold enough to dare to immediately abandon everything, seize nothing, and dwell in it?
Here, we have no choice but to apply the three cardinal principles:

Investigate. Investigate. Investigate.

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

Monday, April 9, 2007

Gurdjieff, on the heart

Tonight we are going to have a post that will be of specific interest to people who study Gurdjieff. I understand there are many readers who are not immersed in this particular subject. My apologies to them. Tomorrow I am going to discuss a personal practice which has, in some senses, nothing to do with Gurdjieff (ha ha ha), and might thus be of more use to a wider audience, but for tonight, let's talk about the subject of pianos.

Some of you are familiar with my essay on the meaning of the enneagram with relation to centers, or chakras. Bits and pieces of it have been introduced during the course of this blog. (Anyone who is specifically interested in getting the essay can contact me by leaving a comment and I will be glad to send it to them via e-mail. Be forewarned, it is not light reading.) In any event, what I am about to discuss will be more meaningful if you are familiar with the idea of the chakras and to the specific relationship between the notes on the enneagram and the physical centers of the human body.

I refer you now to page 795 in the new edition of "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson," from which the following quote is taken.

"On this piano, 'vibrations of extraneous origin' arise from different 'shocks,' 'noises, 'rustlings,' 'and for the most part from what are called,' aerial momentum vibrations,' which are generally formed in atmospheric space from the natural vibrations already present there."

Here Gurdjieff is likening the work of the human body to a piano. It is an instrument that works to create its music, its inner rate of vibration, from an aerial medium. In case we do not get the point that he is talking about the second being food, air, let's take a look at what he says just a bit later.

"Just as the first being the food cannot acquire its vivifying power until after its transformation into 'being-pentoehary,' so on this piano, the vibrations of the string do not acquire a corresponding vivifying power until they have been fused with the preceding vibrations, starting from the totality of the center of gravity vibrations of the tone 'sol.'"

He discusses the first being food here so that we will not miss the point- unusual, for a man who is known to have enjoyed burying bones so deep that the dogs cannot sniff them! We can only presume he was about to make a point he felt was rather important.

Just what is he getting at?

There are a number of important understandings contained in these few sentences. Gurdjieff is talking about and comparing work of the first being food -- what we eat -- with the work of the second being food -- what we breathe.

Both of them need to hit the point "5" on the enneagram in order to begin their most essential work. Until the work within the octave reaches this point, the food that has been ingested has not "acquired its vivifying power" -- it cannot help to enliven the organism.

Som as in food we eat, the beginning of the "big" work- the work that enlivens- of air in the body begins with the tone 'Sol.'

If you refer to the essay on the enneagram, you will see that this note corresponds to the heart. So he is saying that the work of the upper story (857) with air begins with the heart. (Those of you attentive to details will have noted what it says in the upper right-hand corner of my blog.) So Gurdjieff tells us that, as my own studies have verified, the connection between breathing and work of taking material in through the heart is a vital one.

This underscores a certain kind of esoteric body work, as well as the central place of emotion as the fuel for spiritual work. And that, of course, is an idea that Gurdjieff drove home on more than one occasion.

What is even more interesting to me -- after all, those who, along with me, have studied this question of centers and their relationship to the enneagram will probably not find what I have just said all that surprising -- is the manner in which every tone must contain all of the vibrations of the tones that go before it in order to manifest itself fully. This is another piece of information that has so many avenues which can be explored that we cannot go into it in the blog. It points us towards the inner "string of pearls"- a series of notes that can be sounded within the organs of the body.

That contains within itself a beauty that can only be explored, and not contained.

One last note, if you will excuse the pun.

Last night I had a dream in which I was in a field with an essence-friend of mine from Arkansas. Mr. Gurdjieff was there, sitting a few yards from us in an overcoat. I suggested to my friend that we go and say hello to him. There was some hesitation on his part, but I felt that it would be perfectly okay. Mr. Gurdjieff got up and began to walk towards whatever work event it was that had been scheduled. I followed him, fully intending to say hello, but never quite caught up with him.

In recounting it, I see there is a poignancy to this dream.

It reminds me of Newton's comment: "if I have seen far, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."

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

Lee

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Big View

This morning in church there was a black woman and her two children sitting right behind us in the pews.

I know it's the fashion today to speak of them as African-Americans, but I used the term black with the deepest respect. Black is a good thing. Let me explain this.

I took in this impression of the woman and her very beautiful son and daughter as human beings with black skin. They are different than me, and they seemed to have an essential beauty that was greater than anything I could understand. It struck me all at once how incredible these people are, how they exude a vitality and spirituality with a purity and an honesty that I don't seem to be able to achieve as a white person. The black races have been blessed in an excess measure with a heartfelt understanding of God that they bring to the rest of us as a gift. They have a spiritual genius that leaves me in awe.

They bring far more than this gift to us; they make us what we are. What is jazz, that most American of all musical forms, but a black invention? Where would baseball be without the great black players? What would America have been without the Civil War, the crucible that formed what we are today? In every instance, it is the blacks that have been at the center of the questions of our culture. They have brought us the questions, they have lived the questions: they have confronted all of us with who we are, what we want, and where we are going.

Along the way, they have paid a terrible price in blood. Great sacrifices like this always produce the great moments in cultures, and in this case it is no exception. These people, who were torn from the heart of their continent and brought here against their will, have informed us with their art, with their understanding of God, with their willingness to struggle in the face of adversity and stand up proudly to declare that they, too, have meaning, despite the fact that they do not look like we do. Their continued dignity in the face of inhuman abuse stands as a lesson in how to be for all of us.

And when I see them at worship- as I did this morning- I think that perhaps, in the end, for all our pompous bluster, our guns, our germs, our steel, like Gunga Din, they are made of a better stuff than we are.

Every minority informs the white Europeans in this way. As we encounter those who look different than us, we discover rich new ways of understanding ourselves as well as those around us. The blending of cultures, the exchange of different values in different peoples, brings us all to the ground floor of our humanity, where we have to confront our mortality and value each other.

White people practically invented the idea of seeing themselves as the center of the universe. We are stupid that way. Repeatedly, as the white man "settled" (destroyed) other societies, he bewildered the people he encountered with his arrogant ideas of entitlement and superiority.

Not only did he bewilder them; if they resisted, he killed them.

The problem echoes all the way down to modern times, when other equally misguided peoples become so desperate that they feel like they have to ram airliners into office buildings to make the point.

I think we can all agree there has to be a better way. But let us ask the question: how many airliners do we ram into ourselves?

The outward metaphor of accepting the other, finding a way to understand their humanity with a real and heartfelt compassion, has a parallel in our inner work. Those parts of us that seem to be most different than what we think we are may be the pivot around which our work turns. There are so many ways of working on this idea that I cannot even begin to speak of them here in the blog. It is simply something, like a sweet bonbon, that needs to be rolled around in the mouth and tasted for a while to appreciate its savor.

Every once in a while, in rare moments during a lifetime, we see a tiny glimpse of the truth, as I did this morning when I saw this woman and her children. We see that the other is our self, that we are all here together as one, and that only compassion and love can serve in the exchange between us.

As Christ taught us, we are all fallen beings who have forgotten this lesson. In his own day, he stretched himself out on a cross and died in the hopes that his sacrifice could serve as a reminder.

I can only hope that my compassion, my capacity for what Gurdjieff used to call outer considering, deepens. Instead of living through the mind, I hope that I will remember to live through the heart. Chinese Zen master Ta Hui said over and over again that what is sought cannot be grasped with the mind.

But if it comes to the heart, then we at least have a ghost of a chance.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water. And today, may the power of the Holy Spirit fill us all with the hope of a new life, a new compassion, a new understanding.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

This is a painting I completed in 2000 called "the infinite light of the soul."

I have been very busy this weekend. Among other things, I met with a good friend today and we discussed the questions of the organic sense of being, and attaining a cellular sense of self. These things seem to both of us to constitute the roots of a new sense of being.

Tonight my thoughts are on the many messengers God has sent to this planet to help us return to the heart of His bliss, and the terrible sacrifices many of them have made on our behalf.

Let us turn our thoughts to Jesus Christ, who died so that hope might be born for all mankind.

Christ lives.

I earnestly pray we find that subtle path of glory that opens our hearts to Him so that we can, together, reunite with that infinite light I tried to capture with the crude tools of paint and canvas seven years ago.

May your trees bear fruit and your wells yield water.

Lee

Friday, April 6, 2007

Blossoms

I'm tired. Tonight we went to pick up my son at the airport and got back late. All I have to offer is this uplifting picture of cactus in bloom, and the observation that we consistently have to get through the prickly parts of life to get to the blossoms.

Stay tuned. More blog tomorrow.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Nectar

As we progress in the work of connecting our inner parts, we gradually become more and more aware of the fact that we work under planetary influences. In ancient times, this was understood in a far more comprehensive way, and gave rise to the science of astrology, which has de-involved in modern times into what is essentially a set of superstitions.

Gurdjieff made it clear that man is under multiple planetary influences, and that many of the events he thinks he initiates, such as war, have absolutely nothing to do with him, but are produced by forces so much larger than he is that he cannot even begin to comprehend their operation on him.

As we become more sensitive to the energies which saturate our environment, we may begin to realize that planets have an effect on our level of consciousness and our state of being. One outward and acknowledged way in which this is well understood is the effect of the moon; even modern science has to admit-and be baffled by- the fact that human behavior is influenced by the full moon. What is less understood is the effect that the other planets, as well as the Sun, have on our state. All of them have profound effects, but our sensitivity to their emanations and radiations has deteriorated so much that we don't even know what is happening to us when they affect us.

The energy that flows through the planets is a kind of nectar. That is to say, just like the nectar that plants produce, it is a higher substance created by the work of higher organisms (in this case, the planets themselves) to act as an attractant. It's reasonable to suspect that the purpose of this attractant is to assist in reproductive processes, just as it is with plants. That is to say, it has a sexual nature, and is involved, in a mysterious way that we are unable to appreciate, with generation and procreation. This "nectar" is, in its essence, God's love-- distilled into a substance that is more available to organisms, in the same way that photosynthesis in plants creates sugars which can be used by higher organisms.

We are like bees, which can gather that nectar, drink the ambrosia of its sugars, and even store it against lean times. It makes many things possible for it if we learn how to acquire it.

My father is a beekeeper. He used to be a businessman, and it surprised me when he took his hobby up late in life, but it has served the two of us well. I have dabbled in the art myself, and learned a good deal about bees along the way.

One of the things one learns in beekeeping is that there are two major honey flows during the year. One is in the spring, logically enough, and the other one is in the fall. At other times of the year, the bees do some work, or rest, but the greater part of what they can gather for themselves occurs in these two periods.

It is also generally understood in practitioners of esoteric science that the energy of the planet -- the nectar of God's bliss -- flows more readily in the spring and in the fall. This is true in both hemispheres on planet earth. The point I am making here is that there is a strong parallel, once again, between the esoteric work of higher levels and the work of simpler organisms on this level. We have a greater opportunity to work on ourselves in the spring and in the fall when this energy becomes available. In my own work, I invariably find that rich and deep experiences come during these two periods when the seasons undergo their major changes. Something tangible and substantial takes place in the energy fields on the planet at those times, and it affects all the organisms that participate in this thing we call life. Passover and the passion of the Christ are traditional seasonal signposts that this process is about to begin.

As we work, as we learn, as we make efforts to increase our sensitivity, we discover in an inner sense that our conditions are planetary, our possibilities are planetary, and that our work needs to take this into account. This is not a shamanistic prospect; it isn't part of Wicca, or some animistic concept of nature. It is physics and chemistry, writ large.

It is also art, and literature, poetry.

Look to the bees. They gather sweetness in the light, they store it in the darkness, and wherever they go, they speak about it by singing and dancing amongst themselves.

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

all the best today,

Lee

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


So here I am, sitting at my computer. There is a direct sensation within the body; there is the sense of breathing; there is this truth of being that rises up from the solar plexus and connects to some of the centers in the upper part of the body. Of course this is just one of many important connections that can take place. This is the particular connection that is taking place now, for reasons that it understands better than I understand it. My role here is as an observer of this phenomenon, not the orchestrator of it.

There is a fundamental failure in me to understand that my role in most areas is one of observer. I have been educated over the course of a lifetime to believe not only that I can animate and orchestrate, that I should aspire to being an orchestrator, and that in fact the only meaningful thing to do in life is to orchestrate.

We are all educated that way. Civilization and society are all about the exercise of control. It's rather laughable, when you think about it, to realize that nobody controls anything, least of all themselves, and that almost every enterprise man engages in careens off into unexpected directions, to create unexpected disasters, which call for further unexpected solutions.

Everything is unexpected, including the unexpected itself.

So here I sit, once again, observing myself as I comment on observing myself. The act may seem to be redundantly reflexive, but if we inhabit ourselves in a place that is a bit quieter, perhaps in a place that is balanced between the connection of several centers, which ever ones they may be, there is nothing redundant about it. It is not an exercise in philosophy; it is an exercise in organic satisfaction as we receive the impressions of our lives. I do not do this all day long, or even a part of it, but I do do it a little bit every day. Every time I am fed in this way I realize that attending to the inner work of the centers has a much greater value than the things that I do with materials, with money, and so on.

Some years ago I realized that in its highest form, art consists solely of perceiving. A man who has a real relationship within himself, who simply perceives his environment, his circumstances, his being, is a work of art in itself that is so supremely consummated it can never be expressed and in fact cannot even be communicated. Of course we try to -- here I am, offering these clumsy words -- but in the end, this particular understanding of art is too radical to deconstruct, no matter what tools one brings to it.

In some ways music brings us closest to this, because it begins without words, and the structure of its vocabulary speaks to our emotional part, reaching down into us to awaken organs we have forgotten we possess. Much has been made recently in the sciences about the connection between music and language. One of the books I read about this was called "The Singing Neanderthals,"or something along those lines. The book made some good points, but it was written by an academic and ultimately turned out to be stultifyingly boring. It was surprising to me to see something as beautiful as a connection between language and music reduced to a list of facts. Too much of science is used to sterilize life in this manner. Maybe that's why religious people are in such a strong reaction to it a lot of the time.

To understand without words -- that is an idea that music leads us to. Ellen Dissanyake, who wrote the book "Homo Aestheticus," is another academic (a scholar of aesthetic criticism) that spoke about this question of words in a different way. She is also highly technical but has a livelier matter to her work. She argues that the written word has actually gone further towards destroying what art really means than just about any other instrument man wields. One would have to read her book to understand just what she's getting at, and I suggest you do so if you want to really understand something new about what art means to man. I think the point here is that although we worship words as our gods, they have seduced us and have become our very devils.

On my last CD, I included a song entitled "Words are the Enemy of Truth." The inherent irony here is pleasing to me.

Words are created by our breath, but cannot touch it. Words can describe what we see, but they are blind. One of the songs on my next CD -- a song I have not even begun to write yet -- will be called "The Color Blue, to a Blind Man."

My whole life blue has been my favorite color, but I don't know what the color blue is. My life is "blue," and I am blind to just what that means. It is only by searching for a new connection within my sensory organs, beginning with the inner organs, that I can receive anything that might lead me towards an understanding of what this favorite thing, which I do not know the real color of, is.

Oops. There I go again, indulging in my penchant for poetic imagery and metaphor and so on.
Perhaps because it's a rainy day, and the water invites a melancholic fluidity.

Or perhaps it's because I, like all the rest of you, am a dreamer.

Until tomorrow,

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Dogen and Gurdjieff, on work and schools

Those of you familiar with this blog will know that I frequently refer to Dogen, since I am currently engaged in reading most of his major works.

Today we're going to discuss something that is in a sense a bit theoretical. However I found it so interesting that I believe you will forgive this deviation from my usual efforts to write specifically about my own practice.

Many of you will be familiar with Gurdjieff's discussions about esoteric schools. Gurdjieff maintained that religions and religious practice are divided into three kinds of schools: exoteric, mesoteric, and esoteric. He also referred to four Ways: the way of the Fakir, the way of the Monk, the way of the Yogi, and the Fourth Way. Those of you who are interested in more about what Gurdjieff had to say about this would do well to go refer to his literature.

Today I am going to offer you down a quote from Dogen's Sansuigo, or, Sutra of Mountains and Water. As always, the translation is taken from the Nishijima and Cross 1994 edition as released by Dogen Sangha.

"Again, since the ancient past, there have been from time to time sages and saints who lived by the water. When they live by the water, there are those who fish fishes, those who fish human beings, and those who fish the state of truth."

This appears to me to be a clear reference to the three types of schools: exoteric, mesoteric, and esoteric. Those who fish fishes are in exoteric schools. They may have a real wish, but they find themselves in ordinary life, taking ordinary food.

Those who fish human beings are in mesoteric schools, that is, they are feeding themselves on the question of what a human being is, in schools under what Gurdjieff would call influences B, which have come from influences C.

And those who fish the state of truth have finally found themselves in true esoteric schools.

Coincidence? Perhaps. You might argue that I am reading too much into this brief paragraph. However, let's take a look at what Dogen says next, which is the icing on the proverbial cake:

"Each of these is in the traditional stream of those who are in the water. Going further, there may be those who fish themselves, those who fish fishing, those who are fished by fishing, and those who are fished by the state of truth."

Here we have a description of the four ways.

Fakirs are those who fish themselves: they work on the body to find truth.

The yogis are those who fish fishing; they work on theory and philosophy in order to achieve perfection by means of the intellect.

Those who are fished by fishing are the Bhakti yogis, the monks, that is, those who seek to become open to God's love, which actively seeks us.

And finally we have those who are fished by the state of truth, that is, they are in the Fourth Way, where all other ways are combined.

I doubt that this is coincidence. The interpretations seem too reasonable, the juxtapositions too refined.

A daring thought: I believe that Dogen may have come from a branch of the same school that Gurdjieff found and worked in. According to him, such schools can remain in existence for hundreds or even thousands of years.

When we find links like this in Masters whose work is separated by centuries, we can pause in wonder. To me, it seems to underscore and verify everything Gurdjieff said about lines of Work and Schools: entities that lie hidden beneath the surface of life and traverse vast spans of time essentially intact, while mankind's societies destroy everything of value around themselves, over and over.

It is noble; it is majestic; it is mysterious. Here, together, we take up a dangling thread from this immense tapestry that has been woven by so many people over so many generations,

and as we hold it,

perhaps we can be touched by a bit of humility, and the taste of awe.

God bless all of you today. May your trees bear fruit and your wells yield water.