Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Every once in awhile, one reaches a specific point in one's work where one comes up against a question that is discussed a lot in the work literature, but hasn't become very alive for one.

Sometimes this happens even after 20 or 30 years, long after one accepts and even thinks they understand the term that is used. And suddenly something in them connects in a different way and they see that they never actually understood the term at all, and that now that there is something alive within the being contemplating it, seeing it in ordinary life

--they finally understand what the question was all along.

When that happens, it's usually pretty much of a shock. The first thing we realize is that we don't know what we're doing, even when we think we do. Secondly, we see that a vast area of inquiry has been misunderstood.

Third, the rug has been pulled out from under us. We are starting over.

It suddenly occurred to me yesterday that I'm not sure whether anything I say or do is "true." I found myself in the middle of an exchange with my boss, watching myself speak, and saying things that were quite reasonable and made a good deal of sense from a business point of view. They also served the situation well, because it helped us to reach a resolution, supported her view, and built a relationship. But in the middle of the exchange I realized that I didn't know if anything I was saying was actually true.

Actually, I saw I was lying.

It's a bit difficult to explain this point. Only by seeing yourself in a state of complete uncertainty as you speak, being aware of yourself and the fact you are speaking and so on, and seeing how mechanical and automatic it all is, can you begin to assemble a picture where you see that the whole state of being that we exist in is a lie. This question is closely connected to the idea of illusion, the world of Maya, and so on.

How can I know if I am lying if I do not know myself?

It's quite certain that I don't know myself; by now, so many examples have been given that the doubt has evaporated. Measuring that lack of self-knowledge against the question of truth, I come up a good deal short of the mark.

If the things I say serve others, does that make them true?

If they are factually correct, does that make them true?

What does lying actually consist of?

I'm not sure any of us understand this question very clearly. It struck me today that lying is a much bigger question than anything our ordinary being can absorb. The question of whether we are lying or not goes all the way down to the roots of Being, extending to a place we are not connected to and know very little about.

Lying is not about the ordinary kind of honesty that we use to serve ourselves in ordinary life. Lying, at its core, is a question of relationship to self. If I am not in relationship with myself, then I am lying. It doesn't matter what I am saying; I could say anything or do anything, it could all be very honest and upright and even morally correct, it could follow all of the knowledge in exactly the right order, and it would still be lying if there was a lack of relationship with the self.

In order to not lie, a man must be whole--impartial in an inner sense, all his parts have to be connected and working together. So basically, what I am saying is, it appears to me that all of us are lying all of the time, and we don't even know it. We don't know it because we don't know what lying actually is. We measure and judge what we call our "lies" based on external, subjective factors. We don't see that real lying emerges directly from our lack of inner relationship.

In order to avoid lying, I need to know myself and to have a sense of presence. Only then can I begin to see that how I am is actually within a state of lying.

This question of lying relates to the issue I have brought up on a number of occasions recently about cleverness. Cleverness is very quick, and almost necessarily relatively one centered. It relies on the emotional parts of centers to spit out something that's just right for the moment.
So there is intellectual cleverness, and emotional cleverness, and moving cleverness. There are also blends of them. This use of the emotional parts of centers to avoid relationship is very habitual with us. because those parts are quick enough to have insight into a situation that's deep enough to be appropriate to it. They allow us to insert something that appears to be sincere, when in fact it's quite partial.

It strikes me here, as it so often strikes me, that we should all learn to go a bit more slowly -- to see what we are saying, and how we are saying it, from within the saying itself.

To see how it might be to not lie.

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


  1. I know a very good Work exercise which is related to this topic of lying.

    Since as Mr. Gurdjieff says, we lie to ourselves and to others by reflex, we cannot expect to ask ourselves or others to tell the truth. It is simply "not in the cards."

    We therefore cannot make an exercise out of taking a period of time and deciding to tell the truth during it and not lie. This would be impossible and, as Mr. Gurdjieff put it, beyond an elephant task -- we need instead, the task of a fly.

    When this subject comes up I often suggest the following exercise:

    Take a period of time, such as a half an hour or an hour. During that period of time, use one's powers of volitional imagination (intentional imagination -- not free-flowing imagination which is an enemy to be fought against).

    Anyway, during that chosen period, pretend or imagine that everything one says out loud IS IN FACT TRUE.

    I have had students who have tried this exercise and found themselves utterly unable to speak even a single word other than yes or no.

    For a person who tries this exercise with honesty, it will shut them up, damn quick, and show them something about their inner selves which is quite shocking -- even harrowing. The exercise strips off the veneer and buffer that hides the truth of our nature from us and reveals to us something rather remarkable which to put it simply, is that we don't know what the truth is, and to speak as if what we said WAS the truth would make us RESPONSIBLE; one of the last things we want. Only God can speak the truth, and what he speaks, IS.

    That is what Mr Gurdjieff calls the THEOMERTMALOGOS.

    We would rather play in the sandbox of lies than stand up to the profound verticality of the truth.


  2. Wonderful post. I think this is something that we all struggle with in the work. I have caught myself in midsentance speaking about something I am not sure is the truth and it is a humbling experience. I like your reference of being in relationship with oneself and how this can aid in finding truth. It is like Maurice Nicoll when he says to stay in your center of gravity. I do think silence and slowing down is the key, although it is a challenge.

  3. Work "ruins" several rather tasty things about our behaviors if properly applied.

    This taste of lying you speak of is very very familiar to me after all the self-observation accumulates. We all speak so automatically, and we have to--if you speak with great stereotypical "intention," weighing every word, you can really SCARE people. People expect small talk, they expect wiseacring, dumb little jokes, weather comments, etc. It's not communication, it's vanity recognizing vanity.

    Finding someone (including "myself") who really wants to actually intentionally exchange energies in talking is rare.

  4. well said.

    If I actually make an attempt to be with someone when I speak, it's quite different than my usual manifestation.

    Fortunately, there are others in this work interested in that. I have consistently found that over the years. This is one of the things that makes it good food for our effort.


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