click here for the podcast version
This morning, my wife asked an interesting question that led to some general thoughts about the nature of our ordinary parts.
Her question was, is it possible to study conscience without studying sensation?
The simple answer to this question is no. Any study whatsoever becomes a study from the intellect, and of theory alone, until more than one part participates. Sensation -- by this I mean a full, organic, and living sensation of the body -- is the foundation of any legitimate study including more than one center. This is why so much emphasis was placed on it by Jeanne De Salzmann.
The question of sensation occupies a unique place in the Gurdjieff work. One will not find it discussed in these terms in most other works, because, so far as I can tell, few of them have a clear understanding of its relationship to the nature of the human organism and its parts.
In any event, it's very important to study this question carefully and specifically understand what it means to study a question with more than one part.
In the same way that we can discover an organic and living sensation--thus discovering what it means to be more fully vested, or clothed, in one of our centers -- we can also discover an organic and living experience within the emotions, and within the mind. In each case, these are just the beginning of something real, even though the initial experience of it will be that we have "arrived" somewhere quite spectacular.
But it probably isn't until we experience living sensation in a dynamic manner, interacting with our ordinary life, that we realize how deficient our experience of our various centers is.
There is a tendency, in spiritual work, to always shoot for the moon. Instead of becoming much more interested in this rootedness in the body, which is an exercise of foundation, we have perhaps a few experiences of a miraculous nature related to the action of what Gurdjieff called higher centers. The next thing you know, we want to be there. Ordinary life seems drab and colorless compared to these miraculous experiences. --Or, on the converse, if we have never had a very miraculous experience, we at any rate believe in them, and are convinced that the way we are now is inadequate.
On top of that, we live within a wide range of spiritual disciplines that tell us how we are now isn't so good. There are many things wrong with us. What is often forgotten is the fact that these are exactly the conditions we need to be working -- a place where there are many things wrong. Life on Earth is arranged in that way for a reason. If everything were perfect, and we were all comfy, there wouldn't be any work to be done, and there wouldn't be any evolution, either inner or outer.
So our ordinary parts, and a deeper and more thorough investment in them, are essential to any work that leads us towards a real understanding.
Each one of the centers can provide a spark for the tinder that lights a fire and transmits the energy from a higher level into our ordinary life. Ordinary emotion is not so far apart from higher emotion. Under the right circumstances, if enough material has been formed in a man, a moment that begins at one might call the "top end" of emotional center touches what one might call the "bottom" of higher emotional center, and a transmission becomes possible. Some of us may have had one or two experiences of this kind.
In any event, it is exactly the investment in ordinary life, and forming a more solid and substantial, and more material, connection with our ordinary parts that creates a firm foundation for further growth. Of course it's possible to do this in other ways. But the church built on an unstable foundation is always at risk. The biblical recommendation to establish a church on a rock is a good analogy for this question of establishing a foundation of work in the body.
Coming back to this question of conscience.
Speaking from my own experience, conscience is feeling, that is, an emotion that comes from a place higher than our ordinary emotion. I have never been touched by this experience before an organic sense of Being was already present. There may be those who will tell me that it's possible without that, but I've never experienced that way.
In my own experience, the nature of a three centered awareness consistently expresses itself in the following manner.
The sensation lives, and forms relationship with mind. Together, the two see that there is something missing. They may even have an understanding of what it is that is missing, but they are able to do little about it.
They find it necessary to prepare for the arrival of that third force, emotion, by remaining aware of one another and cooperating as best they can, while putting the question out in front of them as to why they lack the participation of that third force.
In the act of seeing that emotion does not participate, and in the act of preparing a place for it, should it choose to participate, conditions are created that can foster the eventual union of all three centers.
Work of this nature takes many years. It's intended to form a harmonious balance within man that, instead of shooting him in a rocket into a "spiritual sun," allows a groundedness, so that what may eventually reach the sun and receive the light does not topple over.
May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.