Friday, July 18, 2008


One of my readers mentioned a few posts back (like what it does not like) that they didn't understand the language I use. They indicated, however, that they felt they understood Mr. Gurdjieff's language, and were definitely more comfortable with it.

The comment came along with some rather disturbing editorial remarks about people who had been in the work thirty or forty years who spoke nicely about attention in the moment, but then went home and beat their wives.

...If you happen to be one of those people, please stop.

Beating your wife, I mean.

I have been pondering this anonymous contributor's remarks for several days now. My pondering runs thus. One option we all have is to stay with what we understand -- or think we understand -- and what we are comfortable with.

But what can we really learn, then? It is what we do not understand, and what leaves us uncomfortable, that urges us forward into the unknown, where we can learn something new, instead of leaning on the crutch of our own personal known.

For myself, when I come up against what I do not understand, that is where the interest lies. And as I get older, I begin to see that everything falls into this category. The parts of me that really need to understand something need to understand something that is not understood. The parts of me that think they know something are all mistaken.

And it is in this contact with that which is not understood -- this cloud of unknowing -- then I begin to learn humility.

Not a sentimental humility, but one that penetrates to the marrow of the bones, helping me to understand--as I cannot help myself--that this vessel, this flesh, and even this being itself, are nothing more than a seed and its leathery husk.

This morning, in my sitting, I once again found myself up against the questions of inner unity, and exactly what it means. Not in an intellectual sense, but in a physical one.

I have repeatedly expressed the sense that we are unable to use words to describe or define the effort that needs to be made to cross the bridge between our external state, and everything that it represents, and the inner mystery which might, among other possibles, be described as the inconceivable and incomprehensible state of a Buddha.

We live our entire lives unsuspecting, rubbing right up against this state. To us (to our intellect, our form) it seems both tangible, intellectually understandable, and incredibly distant, impossible, conceptual -- a goal to strive towards, or a distant land to be reached.

We don't understand that it is right here, already touching us--if only we knew.

What would it mean to truly open the door and invite something real to share this table?

This is a question that needs to be pondered from within the innermost depths of the being, seeking the nectar of flowers that only open in darkness. Relaxing the body, the mind, and everything in them--letting it go. Making room for something entirely different to enter.

Well, there's something else I don't understand very well.
Starting tomorrow, I am on vacation & attending a work week with Neal, so ZYG blog posting will be mostly suspended.

Thanks to my new iPhone -- a device I recommend to everyone who finds technology useful--there is the off chance I will get an opportunity to sneak in one or two posts. Ergo, for those who prefer forward motion to archives, keep one eye on this space.

Regular readers, as well as new visitors, are invited to explore the sizable library of earlier material until posts resume, on or about Saturday, July 26.

Until then, may your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

be well!



  1. There is an understanding among certain spiritual traditions regarding the sacred transmission and initiation. you image of the dessicated spore which comes to life when it meets with water is very good and will help me to explain this very difficult concept.

    Just for the sake of argument we will use some Tibetan Buddhist School. Its originator we shall say had huge BEING, and thus he established a vibrant school where a great number of students made incredible progress, but unequal progress, because every person is different -- has had different experiences and preparation.

    The master must pick one disciple to be his lineage holder, and so he does so. This lineage holder receives the initiation and is then and thereafter the representative of the master. Over the course of years this continues -- sometimes the lineage holder is a master himself, sometimes he is a dunderhead who has no spiritual insight at all. In the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, this has no bearing whatsoever. A string of initiation lineage holders might all be idiots and the entire lineage might seem to dry up, but the spiritual transmission is still real albiet desiccated. It might be being 15th incarnation of the lineage holder in which the true enormous spiritual power again reveals itself.

    People do not understand this. They think that the elders should be further advanced, and when they see their feet of clay, go away disheartened. Those who go away disheartened are certainly not very clever or "sly."

    I am certain that there are people in the work who manage that trick, that they are "together" and advanced, and then they leave the building and turn into horizontal morons. Maybe they beat their wives, maybe not. Maybe they drink too much, and maybe they gossip. That makes no difference to the sly man, who has gathered up the knowledge and understanding that other men have thrown away.

    The world is at war. This country is at war. The people in this country evidence a pugnacious and belligerent patriotism, which means that they are under the spell of social hypnosis -- a very powerful trance.

    But Mr. Gurdjieff himself said that these were exactly the times in which those who understood could work more successfully; advance more quickly; perhaps prepare the Little Pill he speaks of; perhaps extract common sense from the air as those others throw away their sense, exhaling it while inhaling emotional poisons.

    Remember what Mr. Gurdjieff said on the train. He was asked what business he was in and he said that he was in the "Solar Energy Business". This was in 1915 -- there were no solar energy batteries then. And the man sitting next to him on the train asked him about the great war which was then taking place and made an inquiry as to whether or not he thought he could make a profit out of this war.

    Mr. Gurdjieff replied, "war, or no war, it makes no difference. We always turn a profit!"


  2. I have been in the Work for many years and I’m still in the Work. I did not leave the Work because I knew of “group leaders” who beat their wives; I also knew of “group leaders” who behaved very respectfully to everybody. It is like that and it could not be otherwise. The mistake we may make is to think that the Work is different from Life: the Work is Life and Life should be the Work; that is one of the things Mr. Gurdjieff told us. What did I learn from those I knew beat their wives? I learned not to beat mine. Not physically but psychological, which is the same or even worst. I think that is part of the way of the “sly” man

    Mr Gurdjieff said, “For an exact study, an exact language is needed.” He taught us an exact language and I have seen how his exact language is now not being used by those who called themselves his followers. I think that is exactly what he meant in The Tales by the distortion of Buddhism by the first and second generations. I feel that it is my duty and obligation as a follower of his teaching to use the exact language he left us in my exchanges with others. I must strive to maintain the purity of his language because it is part of my own purity. This is not nor can it be a point of argument; it is a point of inner striving. I was practically thrown out of a Zen Buddhism center because I began to speak about “intentional suffering,” something that for them is anathema, given the third vow “I vow to cut off endless vexations.” Even in our attempt to penetrate the unknown rather that staying in the comfort of the known, as you say in your post, I can use his language, at least until I get to the point where no language at all is needed, which is still far from me. Does any one really understand what Divine Objective Reason is? I doubt it. But I can mediate on what it may mean and that can open for me the doors to the unknown. I can also meditate on the Sorrow of our COMMON FATHER ETERNAL CREATOR. What does it mean? Again, this meditation may open the door to the unknown. I can be in the comfort of this language, which makes more sense to me that other languages, and still be “in this contact with that which is not understood,” as you put it. At the same time I strive to maintain its purity.

    Mr. Gurdjieff asked his disciples a very simple and innocent question, “When you remember yourself, what is it that you remember?” To a disciple who complained about the fact that he did not understand what self-remembering was he said, “Today you are my brother.” He was always pushing his disciples into the region of the unknown because he knew, as you put it in your post, that this is the only region worth exploring. But he also challenged us to live a conscious live from what is revealed to us as known. And what is revealed to us as know is Conscience. It is known because we already have the data necessary and sufficient for its arising in us and because it is already the Representative of the CREATOR in us. It is the voice of Conscience that tells me that it objectively wrong to mistreat another human being and even two-brained beings. I think it is more objectively wrong to be in the search of the unknown oblivious to what is known that the other way around. I think this fact is one of the meanings of another aphorism, “It is better to be temporarily an egoist than never be just.” And I think that there is a strong warning for this lack of oblivious to the known in us, namely, the words placed at the entrance of Holy Purgatory. This is all I meant with the fact that one can be totally immersed in working for attention of the moment trying to penetrate the region of the unknown and at the same time totally oblivious to the known in us, which is Conscience.

  3. The comments left by anonymous are refreshing and for the most part quite cogent. There certainly comes a time in any science where ordinary words must be delineated so that they have technical meanings. This is no different in spiritual work, which is a science of "being". Science uses ordinary words and also makes up neologisms just as Mr. Gurdjieff did. In quantum physics you have made up words like quark and, tring theory has words like strange and color, which have nothing to do with their ordinary use by civilians.

    I would like to help by translating some of the terms anonymous used, because I think that when he speaks of the Buddhists third vow “I vow to cut off endless vexations,” is speaks directly of getting rid of inner considering and what Mr. Gurdjieff called "requirements" and the expression of negativity in general. It has nothing whatsoever to say about suffering, only about inner grudges and complaints.

    Conscious suffering, which is a Gurdjieffian term, is extremely well suitable for use in any authentic Buddhism, because the very first of the statements of the Buddha was that "all existence is suffering"; and the very name Buddha has a specific meaning which is so incredibly Gurdjieffian that if anyone understood the translation they could not fail but to "get it"

    After the Buddha's success in his attempts to achieve his objective, he began to teach. This was in India -- Northeastern India to be specific. He taught like very many other itinerant teachers who could be found with varying ragtag groups of disciples, all vying for a bigger audience.

    The Buddha turned out to be a huge success, and many left other teachers to follow him. This "vexed" the other teachers (notice that the use of the word vexed in this sentence is conscientious) so they approach the Buddha and they asked him the following questions:

    "Who are you that you attract such a following, are you a God"

    The Buddha said no.

    "Who are you then, an avatar (an incarnation of an aspect of the godhood)?

    The Buddha said no.

    "Who are you then, a reincarnation of some great sage?"

    The Buddha said no.

    "Then speak of whom you are!"

    The Buddha said (whose real name was Siddhartha), "I am Buddha"

    This is not an endless recursive trick. Buddha is the active tense of the word Buddhi, which translates best as "consciousness", and the term Buddha, as the Buddha put it, would be best translated into English as:

    "I am one who is awake."

    Now it seems to me that this resolves or should resolve all the troubles between Buddhism and Gurdjieffianism -- they are the same thing. Of course the Buddhists like the Catholic Christians turned by law into it's opposite, so that there are now myriad sects with a thousand Buddhas and endless saints and bodhisattvas.

    But at the bottom we have the same trumpet; that of the Angels ascending and descending the ladder of Heaven, and saying unto man: "Wake up!".

    Any Gurdjieffian who does not begin to study the other religious and spiritual transmissions is painting himself into a corner. It might be a pretty corner, but it's a corner nonetheless. Mr. Gurdjieff used the language he did not because he couldn't have used other language (in fact he despaired in the beginning that he had to bring everything down to the level of his students, and he lamented that he had no one to talk to about the things that interested him).

    But as St. Paul said, "In the beginning one must feed the infant milk, when he is grown, meat."

    Lee, this is your blog. It is called Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff. Use any language that you want to use. Those who have ears to hear will hear. Those who are sly will be able to translate. Those so fallen into stricture and scrupulosity in ANY particular spiritual tradition will suffer the consequences of their own scruples -- they have become as stupid saints, to use one of Mr. Gurdjieff's phrases



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