Tuesday, February 26, 2008

True rootedness of being

The intellectual mind believes that it can apply a top-down approach to the development of awareness.

According to this idea, we use our minds to point ourselves at "targets of awareness," as defined by cosmologies, ideas, and beliefs, and achieve something. Most religions function this way; and most intellectually constructed conceptual approaches to spirituality end up using this technique. That includes ones such as Zen, which--in an exquisite irony--claims outright that the approach itself is invalid.

The concept, of course, fundamentally violates one of Gurdjieff's primary principles: "man cannot do."

For all its sophistication, the base line of the Gurdjieff work, however, steps into to the very same bear trap. This is especially true of work modeled on the earlier teachings of Gurdjieff, as transmitted through Orage and Ouspensky. Despite the rather different methodologies G evolved later in his teachings, it's not all roses now, either. Generally speaking, efforts aimed primarily at attention, intentionality, and the development of will--which presumably involve a faculty "above", or superior to, that of the ordinary mind--also fall victim to absorbtion by the mind.

It's quite a dilemma. How can we circumvent the mind's habit of seizing every opportunity to interpret and run the show?

Anything that comes from the intellectual mind will belong to the intellectual mind. Evidently, we need to recruit a new kind of conscious force to our efforts.

We need to begin to discover an effort that is born from the bottom up-- an effort that originates not in the mind as we currently, and usually, know it, but in the organism itself. I have referred to this quite often as the organic sense of being, but in this case we'll try a different phrase, that is, true rootedness of being.

I use the word "rootedness" because of a personal observation I have made about the nature of consciousness itself.

We recently examined the idea that consciousness is a force which finds itself in association with the vessel of the body. This force of consciousness is not ultimately dependent on the body: it arises independent of it and then inhabits it. It is invested in it; clothed in it. Our mental identification with the organism itself convinces us that the body is the source of the arising of consciousness but, as I pointed out in the earlier posting, consciousness ultimately arises as a consequence of quantum interaction itself.

Consciousness, in other words, is not limited to the body. It is a fundamental property of the universe rooted in the body. There are several different ways of understanding this, no one of which appears to me to be entirely accurate.

One way is to understand that consciousness "extends" into the body from what we would call "another level." It is attached to the body by many billions of tiny rootlets, so completely individuated that one might say there is a rootlet attached to each cell (which may well be the case.) That's a "top down" view which retains an essential validity.

A second way of understanding this is the "bottom up" view: consciousness "arises" from the action of the quantum, atomic, molecular and ultimately cellular nature of the body itself. This view, which is strictly reductionist in nature, presumes that consciousness is entirely dependent on the physical constructions (bodies) which manifest it. The viewpoint is what we would call an emergent one, in the sense that consciousness at its so-called "higher" levels (such as human awareness) "emerges" more or less out of nowhere from the aggregate actions of the support structure.

This second viewpoint does not of necessity admit of a possibility for the de facto existence of an irreducible "unit" of consciousness from which the aggregate emerges, even though it seems clear enough there has to be one.

Either way one wants to view this question, the fact is that Being is rooted within the organism. Unfortunately, the parts of man that can sense the rootedness of Being are, for all intents and purposes, completely atrophied.

In seeking for a deeper understanding of our true nature, it's necessary to move beyond the psychological, beyond the intellectual, in a direction not even visceral, but which is the basis of the visceral: this, in the hopes of awakening the parts of ourselves that have a direct sensation of the roots of Being.

This involves taking a much more precise approach to the examination of the inner state. We must become very specific indeed in our inner investigation of the construction of the inner organism, what its parts are, and how they are related (or not related.) This examination needs to be conducted on a regular basis with the assistance of attention, and the breathing.

The awakening of a sense of the rootedness of Being can support inner work from the ground up, which brings me to another point.

We often find that we are 'dry' when it comes to what we call wish. That is to say, our mind, our current state of being, finds little of interest to motivate it to participate in a search within the present moment. Experience usually proves that no amount of intellectual leverage or intent can improve this situation much. It's something like trying to push a car forward when there's no gas in it. Safe to say we've all been there, in an inner sense.

In order for our wish to become more active, it needs to awaken, to become more alive--and this can only take place if the other minds within the body begin to actively participate in work effort.
In this way, parts of us other than the intellectual mind contribute to wish. When this takes place, a new interest level in our inner nature arises by default-- it emerges from the aggregate experience of the parts, in the same way that our consciousness arises from the aggregate experience of the parts. Because the origin of the wish now corresponds to the rooted and emergent property of consciousness itself, it has aligned itself with the conscious effort. In alignment, a great deal more becomes possible.

This is all a rather elaborate way of saying that the promotion of inner unity is central to our understanding of aim, wish, and effort. But the understanding that we need to seek carefully within the interstices of our physical being for the physical roots of our awareness may be of conceptual help.

If we are looking for joy--for bliss--for satisfaction, for understanding, or for any other life-force that can feed our effort--it all begins deep down below, at this root of the lotus.

It's this investment in the rootedness of Being that life begins. As Paul said,
"For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." (2 Corinthians 5.4)

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


  1. I'm just dropping to say thanks again for your continuing posts.

    I've often thought of an aspect of this rootedness from the point of view of a person trying to reach into the sky....

    If you are grounded, you can push against the ground and gain height.

    If you are floating in the air, you'll just displace yourself in space.

    Poor analogy, but it works for me!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.