Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I have been pondering something that was said some weeks ago to the effect that we live in contradiction.

Now, those of us who've been around the Gurdjieff work for a while have probably heard this before; in this case, however, I heard it from a unique individual who, at the time he spoke, I saw as a real master. Most of what he said I had heard before, but the way he said it, and the effect of his presence, caused me to hear what he said differently.

The reverberations of that experience are still with me. In this particular instance of reverberation, over the weekend, I began to contemplate the nature of my psyche and the inherent contradiction that arises within it.

The contradiction, as I see it today, centers around themes that have been developed for some time in the blog. The dialectic forms around a contradiction between the thinking mind, which formulates, and the organic experience of Being, which exists.

Back at the end of the 18th/beginning of the 19th century, there was a preacher named Dominie who lived in Tappan, New York--that is to say, right in my neighborhood. He was known as an eccentric, an odd man who did odd things. Some of the tales about him remind me of stories of Zen masters.

He was well loved and deeply respected by his congregation. He had a saying that he repeated often: "Do not do to be; Be, then do." He considered this teaching important enough that he made it the point of his final sermon.

If, as Gurdjieff maintained, the world produces one-half a saint per century, this man may have been one of those halves. He was the epitome of what one might call colonial Christian Zen, and his message was simple.

We've got everything ass backwards.

We have a choice in front of us to experience Being in order to formulate, or to formulate in an attempt to experience Being. We almost always choose the latter; it's the top down approach. We start out with a set of assumptions, and then interpret everything through it.

A recent example that comes to mind is the video on youtube of neuroanatomist Jill Taylor speaking about her stroke experience. Neal and I watched this last weekend. Not to take away anything at all from her rather wonderful message, but she interprets everything that happened to her based on a set of assumptions about the nature of left brain/right brain symmetry. (And let it be known, not everyone in the scientific world completely agrees with those assumptions--they are probably an oversimplification of what is a very, very complex organ.) If she was a minister, for example, everything would have been interpreted from the point of view that God spoke to her. And there is nothing wrong with any of that, as long as we understand that the message was filtered by a set of preconceived notions.

Everything goes that way with men, and most especially with scientists. Perhaps no other class of supposedly objective people gets more upset when something comes along that challenges their assumptions.

Anyway, the inherent contradiction within me arises thus: my experience is immediate. It arrives at my doorstep without a formulation. The formulation gets slapped onto it as it enters my awareness-field of being.

So when I examine the contradiction between my immediate experience and my intellectual interpretation, I see that they are quite different. There can be no doubt, immediate experience contains far richer sets of information, and feeds the body in much deeper ways (our friendly neuroanatomist Jill speaks about this rather eloquently.) My conventional intelligence -- i.e., my formatory apparatus -- sterilizes life in a most effective way, and then selects specific dead items to arrange according to a preconceived set of notions.

So the way that I live is in direct contradiction to living itself. It is as though all of life gets put in a killing jar so that it can be stopped, sorted, and analyzed, instead of lived.

Another way of describing it is that imagination dominates most of what takes place in me. I see that I imagine everything, everywhere. The psychological formulation of life is, for me, more powerful than the experience of it, most of the time. The only thing I have going for me is the organic sensation of being, which at least serves as an anchor to keep bringing me back to the question of just what is going on here.

It is a continual, recursive movement back towards this experience of life-within-vibration that we are called to. That experience is not subject to contradiction. It simply exists. Anything and everything may invoke themselves within the range and context of that experience; we cannot say what may or may not happen. We can experience a connection to ourselves that takes it in a different way. And thanks, Jill, for telling us that in the terms you understand it by.

Here's to the life-within-vibration, rather than the life-within-reduction.

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

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