Thursday, November 26, 2009

blaming the object

In past posts, I've discussed attachment--as it's described by Buddhists--and identification, which was the word Gurdjieff used to describe the phenomenon, as analogous concepts.

Attachment is a concept common to both Buddhism and Christianity. In the Christian faith, attachment is indulgence in what would be called "sins of the flesh," the outer world. In the Philokalia, we are presented with the idea of turning away from the outer, i.e. attachments to the world, and towards the inner. And in Buddhism we also find that attachments are generally considered to be attachments to things of the world.

In pondering this over the past few days, it occurs to me that attachments, or identifications, are provoked by what we would call "things of the world," but in the end they are all exclusively inner phenomena. That is to say, every identification or attachment both arises and exists within ourselves.

This may sound so obvious as to be worthy of a "duh-" but I'm not so sure. I doubt that I truly appreciate how this sits in me.

We might examine the question from the point of view of center of gravity. Every identification represents such a device- a locus around which an inner attitude turns, a fixture which has appropriated the vitality of Being and redefined it. So when we become attached, or identified, our inner attitude has become the weight of the matter. It draws the psyche into it, and instead of "belonging to itself," Being orbits this new, and aberrant, central point. (Incidentally, let us be reminded of Gurdjieff's idea of Chief Feature here, and ponder it a bit.)

Extending the analogy of the inner solar system (one of the earliest posts in this space), it's as though all of a sudden Mars or Jupiter thinks it is the sun, and develops the mistaken perception that the rest of the planets--and, yes, even the sun-- rotate around it, not unlike the medieval view of the earth relative to our own solar system.

So we have what might be understood as planetary misconceptions. Our inner center of gravity is mislocated. Our identification or attachment may appear to have something to do with the outer event-- and it's easy to view it that way-- but this idea is a turkey (for those of you not familiar with American slang, that expression means, more or less, that it's silly and worthless.)

In the end one hundred percent of the issue is an inner issue, having little or nothing to do with what happened outside of us. Speaking for myself, I see that I have an almost obsessive need to "outsource the blame" for attachment and identification and blame the object. Doing this allows me the luxury of abjuring the responsibility for the whole mess.

I don't have to face what I am, how I am: it's the fault of this outside matter.

This creation of a subject-object duality where the object (what took place outside of me, which is now a thing rather than an event) becomes the "participant at fault" is where everything falls down. And here, indeed, may be precisely where my inner subjectivity arises--in my acceptance of the outer as the object.

Outer events thereby develop a powerful center of gravity. They, not this body and this sensation, appear to be the locus of life. This despite the fact that any careful examination within the moment verifies that the actual center of gravity is within this body--that the arising of consciousness and life resides here, and not within what is taking place relative to this place of arising and sensing.

The ego invests itself quite powerfully in forms that have developed around these aberrant centers of gravity. We take in impressions of life and develop planets that force us into orbits around conceptions of ourselves based on "I am an artist," "I am a doctor," and so on. All of these "I ams" are attached to, or identified with, outer objects-- art, medicine, or what have you--and they are so well entrenched that the illusion that they are "the sun" is nearly impossible to dispel.

Perhaps this is why my old group leader Betty Brown said to me once, "the things we love the most are the first that have to go."

In the discovery of the inner sun-- the realignment of our inner solar system so that the true center of gravity is recovered-- tremendous perturbations are necessary. Our conceptions of ourselves are utterly wrong, based on premises created by what Gurdjieff would probably have called "false personality."

And what, exactly, is false personality? Another "duh" concept: it is a false person created within us. Do we really see that our personhood is false? Can we see that?

Our attachment to this false person is terribly powerful, and almost all of it revolves around this identification with, attachment to, the outer. So these ideas about "what we are:" our upbringing, our skills, talents, abilities, and place in life--well, the whole damn ball of wax is causing us to orbit around a planet, not our inner sun.

And it all has to go for something new to appear.

So in the end, we come once again to the organic sense of self, without which it is quite impossible to begin to sense what attachment and identification consist of. We must first see what we are--where the locus of our awareness arises-- in order to begin to understand its relationship to what lies outside us.

Until this new connection takes place, all of our understanding is trapped in orbit around external centers of gravity.

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

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