Thursday, January 29, 2009

intelligence, feeling, sensation

Intelligence, feeling, sensation.

These three words form the cornerstone of a unique inner understanding of ourselves that would be more whole than what we have now.

What makes them different than intellect, emotion, and body?

When we speak of intellect, emotion, and our body -- when we consider them, or even when we use them as "tools" in our ordinary life (and they are tools, because each one of them is a piece of equipment which we use to establish a relationship with external life) we treat each one as though it were a single thing.

As Mr. Gurdjieff pointed out, each of these "centers," that is, centers of gravity for functioning, has three parts in it. The intellect has an intelligent part, an emotional part, and a physical part. The emotions and the body are no different. Ecah one is an entity, a planet, so to speak, with an inner gravity of its own.

Because of the abnormal conditions inside of us, we almost never sense these parts that way. It takes years of study to even begin to have the beginning of an understanding of this question. An even greater challenge lies in the fact that the understanding of this question cannot be gained through the intelligence. One can hear about this idea, and even believe in it, and yet understand almost nothing about it. One might write a rather lengthy essay on technical matters connected to this idea. It would not, however, offer readers much progress in an actual understanding of the question.

This underscores the limits of technical explanations.

Nonetheless (forked tongue firmly in cheek) I find myself interested in a bit of technical explanation this morning, because I've been examining the consequences of my partiality from a number of points of view in the last month. All such questions are connected. Threads are beginning to come together to form a new bit of fabric.

Intelligence, feeling, and sensation are the cornerstone of real inner work. Each one of them represents a wholeness of the center in question. If the center is fully functioning with all of its parts -- if for example, the emotional part functions with both its intelligence, its emotionality, and its physical presence -- then that center reaches a different level of vivifyingness. A more simple way of saying this is that the center is more alive. Its level of vibration becomes much finer, because its parts are harmonized. It is very much analogous to an engine that is firing with all of its spark plugs in synchronization. Such an engine runs with much greater efficiency than an engine that is not properly timed.

One of our chief difficulties is that all of our centers function with very poor timing. Most of our lives, we don't even operate with even any one center fully functional. We are in a part of the center. For example, we find ourselves in the emotional part of emotional center, which (I suspect) offers us the ability to be sentimental, but not much more. Sentimentality is chiefly characterized by a failure of the critical part of emotional center.

Many ancient disciplines -- yoga, Zen, Christianity, Sufism -- have created forms and exercises that, without attempting any direct work on the organism, gradually change the tempo and functioning of the inner organism so that the centers begin to operate in a more harmonious manner. Man can't approach this work directly. When he does, generally speaking, he automatically tries to use the intellect for it, and everything collapses. One difficulty with our society today is that we try to use the intellect first to do everything. It may be a good effort, but it is too one-centered to produce any lasting results.

So we are left, from the point of view of our inner work, with the need to approach everything obliquely. That means, for my readership who are not experts in the English language, that we have to come at it from sideways and sneak up on it.

The moment that our mind sees what is going on, it grabs onto it, and automatically a part of one center -- the intellect -- which believes it has authority tries to take over and "do" things. It's worth considering this idea in light of Mr. Gurdjieff's famous statement: man cannot "do." That statement, of course, has many levels of meaning, but the specific meaning here is intriguing.

So our aim, through multiple efforts of different kinds -- prayer, the pondering of facts and circumstances, dance and movement, music -- is an effort to help each center find food that will help it to harmonize its functioning. When we rediscover ourselves in spiritual work, any kind of spiritual work, it's helpful to remind ourselves that every action we attempt with even a part of our presence -- and that's all we can do, we don't have a whole presence -- is an effort to feed ourselves. If we can assist the organism in acquiring the right kind of food, that is, impressions that fall more deeply into the correct parts of the centers that need to receive them, the centers function with increasing harmony.

When and if we function with real intelligence, with real feeling, or with real sensation, we offer ourselves the chance to be fed much more deeply with the impressions of our life. This work will eventually produce extraordinary results. But it takes many years of work to even have a real taste of it.

This means we must be patient, caring, and tolerant in our inner study of ourselves. We must demand enough, but not too much; we must critique, but not fault; we must discover hope without naïveté.

I will leave you with one other thought. This morning, when I awoke, and examined my inner connection, a prayer arose in me which is significant for me on this particular day:

Help me find a path to thee, oh Lord, from the depths of my iniquity.

Later this morning, after sitting, I was reading the last chapter of Mr. Gurdjieff's third series, "Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am'," which I undertook following the recent request of one of my closest essence-friends in the work.

On page 159 (Triangle Editions, Inc., New York 1975) Mr. Gurdjieff reminds us of an ancient tradition.

After a man died, as his friends gathered to contemplated the inevitability of their own death, at certain intervals, the leader would say to all present the following:

"Do not forget how he has lived, whose breath has not yet vanished from this place, how he behaved unworthily for a man and did not accept the fact that he, as well as others, must die.

"After such an utterance by the leader, all those present had to sing together the following:

"Oh ye holy, higher forces, and immortal spirits of our ancestors, help us to keep death always before our eyes, and not succumb to temptation."

Earlier in this same chapter, Mr. Gurdjieff mentions the "noticeable coincidences" which take place in our lives.

This particular event was, for me, a "noticeable coincidence." Leaving me to ponder once again the mysterious content of life, as opposed to the obvious.

May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.

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