Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Call and response

Is the process of our effort at seeking an artifact of the organ kundabuffer's maleficent effect-- are we seeing the question upside down?

Could it be that we are what is sought?

I raise this question in light of the idea that we are—that all organic organisms are—receivers. As Gurdjieff described it, organic life on earth arose specifically to fill a gap—to facilitate the transmission of energies from planet to planetesimal (earth to moon) which would otherwise not function properly. Life is here to receive energies, process them—concentrate them—and then transmit them on.

The idea isn't just a theory. Sufficient practice in the Gurdjieff method can verify it, providing one is willing to make the effort.

This idea, as an idea, raises questions regarding the traditional understanding of the nature of spiritual search. In searching, it’s understood that we are the seekers—that we are reaching towards something. The traditional paradigm, furthermore, is one of separation: we feel separated, and understand it as our responsibility to reach out, to search, to discover.

How often, however, do we consider the idea that what we so avidly seek may be seeking us?

The inner search proceeds in two directions. Just as we search for what is real, both within us and outside of ourselves, so does the real seek for us. The higher levels of which we are a part—which could not even exist without us—are in just as much need of us as we are of them. The wish to reconnect, to recreate the admittedly metaphysical (but in the end, above all, physical) ligatures that bind the levels together is reciprocal.

When we call out in prayer, hoping that our voice will be heard, all too often we are, by our very effort itself, drowning out the voice which calls to us. Certainly, I have moments like that in my own work: moments when it becomes quite clear that what is required does not come from my end.

This does not excuse us from our own efforts at prayer—no, there is certainly an obligation on our part to seek, to call, to wish and to hope—but it does call on us to recognize that there must be an active respiration to our inner effort. That is to say, there must be inward and outward breath:

call and response.

Call and response is an ancient song form, common in what we call “primitive” (read: more essential) cultures. Anyone who has listened to composer David Fanshawe’s original African folk recordings ,which formed the core of his African Sanctus piece, cannot fail to be moved by the form, which contains something in it so ancient it defies the constraints of any cultural history.

Contained within this form is an inherent understanding that the universal language of exchange consists of call and response. As discussed in the last post, call and response is related above all to deeply rooted biological needs and functions, above all sexual; but the presence of this reciprocity of seeker/sought, caller/respondent at such deep levels speaks to what may well be a primal structural element of the universe. If sexual blending, conjugation and reproduction, is the engine that drives the universe, all the way from the atomic and molecular to cosmological levels, then call and response is the reciprocal seeking that makes it all possible.

So here we are in these bodies, having these experiences: as I have pointed out many times, perhaps one of the few exact things that man can verify at all for himself. In the absence of any further work, or the attainment of what Gurdjieff might call an objective state, the balance of all forms (artifacts of our conceptual mind) become conjecture of one kind or another.

We begin with the body: in our ground--up attempts to verify, this is the only place we can start.

In the context of incarnation and the nature of the body, the energies that seek to be received, expressed, and transmitted are already extant within the body. The very existence of the body and its animating awareness are already, as Zen masters might claim, a “perfect expression of the Dharma,” that is, complete within and of themselves. (A contention the lesser-known U.G. Krishnamurti also offered.)

So in the act of receipt and transmission, the tool—the organism—is already complete and (relatively) functional. It is the awareness that fails us, not the equipment. True, our awareness is part of our equipment: I think the point is that it has forgotten this simple fact.

Hence the Gurdjieffian practice of self-remembering. Here we attempt not just to see ourselves—although that is, to be sure, a great part of the aim—but also to reconnect with the deepest of inner needs to participate more fully in this act of call and response: not just mechanically, as is relentlessly required by Great Nature herself, but consciously—that is, in a manner whereby the energies that are transmitted become actively appreciated, rather than just passively received.

Let us move on to a more specific point of interest. In the Gurdjieff work, we often speak of having a connection to sensation. One doesn’t find this idea very prevalent in other spiritual practices, if it is present at all. We are supposed to seek a connection to sensation, cultivate it, keep coming back to it.

And here is the question of sensation, examined from the point of view of receivers.

Do we seek sensation or does it seek us? What is the implication of the reversal of the process?

As I have mentioned before, there is a turning point in the inner experience of the organism which we can aim for. This is the point at which the call for sensation, rather than issuing from our effort, arises instead directly from the organic wish and need of the body itself. At this point of us, we do not seek sensation: sensation seeks us. And it is in this primary and primeval re--ligature to the very presence of our bodies themselves—the reconnection of the inner tissues--to the re-discovery of what one might call their underlying animal nature—that we first begin to truly understand that there are potentialities within us that call to us from minds we do not know.

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


  1. I am at the moment "in the work" "in life", experiencing success, failure,and all inbetween, but I continue to remain inwardly aware of this strange play, in which I am assigned a role, while my real beingparkdolgduty remain hidden and invisible - a service to the Sun, Earth and Planetary System.

    Human beings are crreated to more effectively radiate heat and other forms of energy back into space. Organic combustion accomplishes this a billion times more effectively as inorganic chemical processes - and human beings, (The True Man), is obligated to send more - a special substance. A conduit between two realms, along the ray of Creation. And we cannot fly away as angels,



  2. I have one question:

    What is the role of will in all this?

    In the last chapter of The Tales, From the Author, Mr. Gurdjieff steps out of character and tells us:

    “Real will is a sign of a very high degree of Being in comparison with the Being of the ordinary man. But only those people who possess such Being can do.”

    The state of Being always demands renewal effort on our part. Of course, this idea of Mr. Gurdjieff is totally rejected by Buddhism where the tendency is more towards the search of a state of no-Being.

  3. to anonymous: forget about will. we don't have real will as we are. we are driven from outside shocks and collisions which determine our knee jerk response.

    take a task for yourself, perhaps something that you already do, like tying your shoelaces in the morning, and allign your "will" with it, that's a "fly task". Do not try an "elephant task".

    Notice what you actually "do" during the day. "Agree" with it and watch it. This will "build will".

    There is not other way for us. If there were, I would tell you, I promise.



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