Sunday, October 18, 2009

A discussion of levels

A number of different encounters over the last week have repeatedly reminded me of how poorly the idea of levels is understood in science, in the general population, and even in spiritual seekers.

I thought I might take the occasion to write an essay -- and perhaps several essays -- investigating this question of levels and how we experience it.

On Friday night, I was discussing some of the implications of the enneagram with someone who recently read my 2003 essay, chakras and the enneagram. We were discussing the implications of the conscious "shocks" and what it means that they emanate from the law of three, as is clearly depicted in the diagram.

One could say many things about this, but perhaps the simplest thing one can say is that the shocks come from another level. The "source" of the first and the second shock which help the octave to develop emanate from do; the energy needed to accomplish this comes from a higher level.

This much ought to be obvious to everyone who studies this subject: we aren't "conscious" in the sense of the way that the Gurdjieff work uses the word conscious. That is, we are not even able to engage in conscious labor, i.e., the first shock.

Conscious labor is something that works in us and is on the order of help sent to us which can move us forward.

The second shock is no different.

Man's belief that he can "do" relates exactly to this question. If man were able to provide these shocks, they would be coming from his level. And they don't. So anything that leaves us under the illusion that we are in control of the process of our inner development is -- to put it bluntly -- an illusion.

We cannot develop without help from a higher level.

Mankind makes a specialty of ascribing magical and miraculous powers to himself. The world has been treated to thousands of years of charlatans parading so-called "abilities" to heal, to cure, control, command, compel, and manipulate people and objects. The last two centuries have seen installments and sequels of this perpetual comedy, as increasingly media-savvy gurus and spiritual masters appoint themselves to supervise the development of hordes of eager pupils.

All the while, the esoteric core of every single religion has always reminded man, quietly and in a sober way, that we can't do anything without God's help. Of course, the exoteric memberships of the churches, temples, and mosques take this quite literally, but it is most important to understand it from an inner point of view, and this is exactly where we are getting it wrong in today's world, where works are mixed up like alcoholic drinks in a blender and served up in four different flavors at once, with a sprig of mint leaf. We are perpetually doomed, it seems, to seize the circumstances of this level and pretend that they can address the questions we need answered.

So the question of levels is not understood. It is not understood even by esoteric groups who think they understand it, because the only way to actually understand the different level is to encounter it in person. This is a rare and terrifying event, if the door to another level truly opens any more than a crack. That kind of experience puts a shock in a man that will humble him permanently.

My wife brought the question of levels up this morning when she began to discuss inner considering. We talked about the difference between inner considering -- which is, most of the time, a kind of self judgment -- and a sense of one's own nothingness. The two are quite different, because they are connected to different levels of experience.

Inner considering, the action of judging ourselves (or others), is a negative emotion that springs from this level. If we judge ourselves and decide that we are "bad," because we have done bad things, thought bad thoughts, and so on, we are engaging in a kind of destructive behavior that stems from automatic associations and emotions. We may feel worthless as we do this, but that is not a sense of our own nothingness. It's just feeling crappy.

To sense one's own nothingness is to have an experience that touches on another level. This is a deep and organic experience that takes us to a connection between the higher level and ourselves. It is, in other words, a religious experience, not a prosaic experience. Inner considering will always prevent us from having this kind of experience, because it is actually a form of egoism. Inner considering always puts us in front of everything else. We are the center of the universe. If we are worthless, we are the worthless center of a worthless universe, but no matter how we pitch this to ourselves, it is egoism.

To sense one's own nothingness is the beginning of a loss of egoism. It only comes when the action of higher substances in a man begin to act in the right way, so that the ego is weakened. If the ego does not become weaker, if it does not pay out some of its energy to help the essence develop, we can't become more open to higher influences.

It's a little difficult to approach this idea, because we can't go there on our own. Only many years of inner work and self observation, and the incremental deposits that that puts a man, can lead him to a place where something more becomes possible. More often than not, our impatience, our unwillingness to go well past the point where one wants to give up, is what stands in our way.

Most of the delusions that man engages in stem directly from his failure to sense quite clearly the fact that he is on this level, and that there are levels above him and below him. Unfortunately, mankind has little or no sense of this whatsoever, and an intellectual understanding of it is the next best thing to useless. One must sense this question in the organism and feel it with the emotions, not just think about it.

We need, in other words, to acquire a little humility.

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

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