Tuesday, October 21, 2008
living forward into mystery
I just finished Stuart Kauffman's book, "Reinventing the Sacred."
This book is a superb piece of work, well worth reading. Gurdjieffians will probably not agree with all of his premises or conclusions, but he is close enough. The only thing lacking from his understanding seems to be the question of levels. He has, at the end of the book, managed to posit a God that bears a striking resemblance to Gurdjieff's model of the universe.
This book may well be, for its age, the new "A New Model of the Universe."
One phrase that he uses frequently throughout the book is that we "live forward into mystery." He points out that this is more or less an "essential truth" of understanding what we're up to--no matter whether we are scientists, philosophers, or those of a religious persuasion.
And it fits so well with the general Gurdjieff philosophy, doesn't it?
Anyway, go buy the book and read it. You will be glad you did.
Readers will probably notice that posts are less frequent nowadays. I'm very busy personally, and, consequently, I am restricting my writing activities to specifically significant situations. That is, unless a particular question brings an insight that I think is worth bringing to the attention of the readership, I'm not writing. There is, after all, more than enough material here to keep any average reader busy for quite some time.
So now a note on that. When I began this blog, one aim was to put the Gurdjieff ideas in front of the general public from one man's contemporary perspective. The aim was never to regurgitate the ideas, but rather to express them from personal experience, and offer one individual's personal work for evaluation. As it happens, I have probably regurgitated a bit, but we all do. One thing I have, however, tried to avoid as I write this blog is to read the worthy works of other commentators, notably Maurice Nicholl, whose works are (arguably) some of the finest commentary available on the Gurdjieff work.
I avoid reading other commentary specifically because I am trying to create a body of work that springs from my own organic roots and my own investigations.
When I began this enterprise nearly 2 years ago, I had no way of foreseeing where it would lead, how long it would last, or what it would consist of. I undertook it as a personal work effort because I felt there was a need for someone to offer the public modern, real-life insights (insofar as possible) into just what it is that people who study the Gurdjieff work "do."
My hope has always been that kindred souls may be attracted to the Gurdjieff ideas by this enterprise, and that existing Gurdjieff students may find material to inspire their own efforts at the same time. The blog's current worldwide readership suggests that it has so far succeeded--at least in some small measure.
Periodically, I review the situation. Last week, I made a copy in word format of all of the posts from November 27, 2007, through October 2008 (excluding, of course, this post.) I posted that document at Doremishock.com along with the Word document from the first year. The two of them are now available together in download format. The public is welcome to download them for personal use only.
In the process of doing this, I "took measurements." That is to say, I checked out the word count. (It's a perverse fact that we are all interested in quantity, even though quantity by itself means absolutely nothing. I am no stranger to this vice.)
It turns out that I have now written 486 essays, comprising over 370,000 words in total. As I believe I said the last time I did any "public counting," I never intended to create such a massive body of work. Writing individual posts, one simply does not see the way they will build up.
However, here we are. It is safe to say, I believe, that this may now be the single largest available body of publicly available contemporary commentary on the Gurdjieff work anywhere in the world.
That is an achievement at least of scale, if not of direction. Every reader has to measure the value -- the direction, if you will -- of the material relative to their own work and their own interests. There have certainly been some enthusiastically negative readers along the way who have asserted that what I am doing is utterly valueless. (Of course, it's not possible that they read all 370,000 words, so one would suspect they are making a rather large judgment based on a very small sample. Nonetheless, there they are.)
OK then. Enough of tooting my own horn, and the horn of other authors who I admire. Let me move on to a slightly more interesting subject, which is that of scale versus direction.
It's common in this work, and other works, to refer to "horizontality" and "verticality." This is akin to asserting that heaven is "up" and hell is "down."
Our association of inner development with direction -- that is, up, or down-- is unfortunate. Any responsible investigation of the universe will immediately reveal that direction is always relative. When we study the question of the higher and lower, we are inevitably studying scale, in the sense of vibration. To imply directionality or physical location is to imply that we are here, and "it" -- whatever "it" is that we seek -- is "over there." The only way to get past this rather limiting concept of a location is to begin to understand that levels are built out of scale (or vibration), not direction.
Gurdjieff made this fairly clear when he explained that the higher and lower all occupy the same space. All "lower" matter is penetrated by the finest substances of the highest matter. All of the levels inhabit the same space simultaneously. It is the scale of relationship that creates different levels. the levels are not actually "up" or "down." They vibrate at greater or lower frequencies, and exist in greater or smaller concentrations. That is the long and the short of it. And, one might add, he made sure that was always in front of us by introducing the enneagram.
The reason I am bringing this up is that I so often hear people refer to "the higher" and "the lower" as though with these were actual locations that could have a little pin stuck through them on a map. The expressions betray us, because they imply that we know.
And we don't.
Personally, I subscribe to a controversial concept of the universe in which everything is everywhere. This isn't, presumably, specific enough for most people, but I am trying to learn to live with it in the most expansive sense possible, which is to say, in the spirit of "All and Everything."
Perhaps the best that can be said is that we live forward into mystery. And even if it's not the best, well, it's pretty good.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.