Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Our inner and outer natures
The subject comes up again and again around me and within me of understanding that we have two natures, and the question of inner and outer impressions . Regular readers know that this is frequently discussed in this blog.
We keep coming back to it because I feel it is a rather essential question which I explore on a daily basis.
These two natures I speak of are our inner nature and our outer nature. We can call them natures, because they are conditions we inhabit. Or we might also refer to them as forces, because they can both act upon us. Either term is sufficient, although neither one fully comprehends the situation.
Until something becomes more awake in us, we are unable to sense either of these natures as a true force. Under our ordinary conditions of sensation, we live in a flat, colorless landscape. It is very nearly two-dimensional in nature compared to what is actually possible.
Of course we do not perceive life that way; we're like a creature in Flatland. (Some of you may recall that Ouspensky spoke about this concept of dimensionality at length in "A New Model of the Universe.") So we are actually, in our sleep, unaware of the outer nature that enters us--which we are identified with-- and we are equally unaware of the nature that arises and exists within us--which we are separated from due to our partiality, our lack of relationship.
By experiencing these natures, I mean an actual experience of a rate of vibration. We acquire an ability to sense what Gurdjieff called the "vivifyingness of vibration" of an impression. And what we call reality is, of course, actually entirely composed of vibrations. The organism does not experience inner or outer life as a vibration, or a force, until a new degree of sensitivity appears.
The reason that there is an emphasis, within the formal confines of the work, on the development of sensation is that the way that ordinary sensation touches us can eventually stimulate the awakening of a reciprocal and more durable inner force. One won't find this understanding in other works; it is fundamentally lacking. Allusions to it in other practices- such as "attaining the marrow" in Zen-- have been so aggressively misinterpreted as mental states in recent years that they have ceased to be practical.
I would tend to speak of this "beginning" understanding of sensation as part of our "outer" nature because the initial development of sensation is largely related to the ordinary senses and what they take in: it initially arises out of an effort by the ordinary mind. If attended to properly, however, this work leads to the discovery of the inner nature, and then we begin to physically and emotionally distinguish between the two natures.
This physical and emotional knowing of two natures is what is generally lacking in our current knowledge of "self," which is largely theoretical. I would argue, as it happens, that the first aim of self observation ought to be to discover this specific principle. Until it is discovered, there is no "self." There are instead a series of automatic behaviors that take the place of self. Studying these for too long is a dead end. It's like trying to learn about the biology of the cell by studying a computer motherboard.
Upon the arousal of living experience, the question of self moves into an otherness of territory which we won't cover here. So for those of you who are tempted to engage in philosophical discussions with me here about self, not self, and what does and doesn't exist, please restrain yourselves. These are good subjects, but not for today.
Outer sensations and impressions enter through the gate of the body through the five ordinary senses. Taken together they "create" ordinary life, which at face value appears to be all we can know. Inner sensations and impressions--which are, of course, much subtler, and more difficult to become receptive to -- emanate from the inner sensory organs.
So there are two nerve endings, a point where two worlds almost meet -- but don't.
What is missing?
It's possible to come to experience life as an intersection of forces between the inner and the outer senses, as I have discussed many times. Man, in his ordinary life, ought to function as an entity occupying a gap between these two nerve endings -- these two directions of transmission.
In this juncture, the place where two worlds of different levels meet, man's consciousness- his attention--serves as the acetylcholine (a chemical neurotransmitter) that helps bridge the neural gap and transmit signals in both directions. As such, if we become less partial, our organism should function very much like the meeting point of two nerve cell dendrites--two tiny branches that almost touch each other, but need an outside, catalytic, agent to help transmit the information from one to another.
It is the duty of our awareness--our attention--to occupy this gap, part of the essential work we do as living beings. One of my good friends and readers describes this as being a "nail" that holds heaven and earth together. And when Gurdjieff described "Being-Parktdolg-duty,"he was perhaps alluding to the same matter.
In fact, if all we ever did was this type of work, it would represent great progress over the activities we usually engage in. From a cosmological point of view, not much more is necessary, and at a minimum, anyway, almost all that we do undertake right now in an ordinary sense is absolutely unnecessary.
We all need to constantly deepen our practice in an effort to discover this new level of sensation within ourselves. This is a work that consistently bears fruit with enough effort. We must make the effort to raise the organic rate of vibration to a higher level so that it becomes alive on its own.
Once this takes place, instead of supporting the effort, the effort supports us. This is one point at which help arrives.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.