I arrived home on Wednesday to the November issue of Parabola, and the newly published material from Jeanne de Salzmann's journals.
Reading the material caused me to ponder one again what it is that can truly "help" us in our effort to understand what inner work is. There's no doubt, these readings can be helpful. But at the same time, one cannot transmit the body of the work effectively in words. Not written ones, at any rate. And that means that no matter how "superior" De Salzmann's words may be, relative to what can be brought from my own work to this page, in the end they occupy the same territory, on what is in some senses a level playing field. Both are, after all, just words, and it is only in the living experience of an organic connection that any real experience of what it is to engage in inner work can arise.
We live in a bookish (and now increasingly media-driven) culture. Our slavish devotion to acquiring knowledge through the written word, and, now, through electronic media, steadily removes us one step further from the immediate, the now. It's possible to retain a sensation of many inner and outer parts of the body as I write this, but it is seen (as the reader may, upon examination of their own immediate inner state, also see) that there is a strong tendency for the head to dominate--which is exactly where we always find ourselves in relation to this question, and to life. The abstraction of life into the "head space"--a vacuum which, it might be argued, draws our awareness in to fill itself at the expense of our (potential) three-centered being--perpetually takes us away from the question of what this life is and how we can actually live it.
This requires a greater attention within the organism, and a greater sensitivity towards the workings of that organism. A delicate balance must be struck between outwardness and attention to ordinary life, and that inwardness which includes an awareness of the inner vibration of more subtle energies, which are fed by our impressions.
It's a tricky thing; the awakening of such an awareness is there by varying degrees, and our intention will not and cannot always be even partially present in relationship to those sensations. It's up to us to remember as often as we can, and to study the partiality of the organism-- the "not-connectedness" of the parts--in relationship to the potential wholeness we all might inhabit.
To have an inner sensitivity is one of the aims of this work. To be sensitive to the inner being at once draws us towards a greater outward sensitivity--both to the impressions we receive, and the interactions we engage in. It's only with inner vigilance (another word, perhaps, for self-observation) that we can bring more attention to the moment. And that inner vigilance cannot be supported or carried by the intellect. The intellect is not strong enough to do this kind of work.
Our mistaken impression that it can do such work is the very seed of our undoing. Reading words often brings us to a belief that we know or even understand something, when it is in fact very far from the case. It's only through a desperate act of living (I call it desperate not in the sense of despair, but in the sense of great need or desire) that we come to understanding. Understanding is a living, breathing quality never conferred by mere collections of facts or clever words. Understanding derives from a new sensitivity to the immediate surroundings of our being-- a sensitivity to a new kind of energy, a tangible inner vibration that is active, that seeks relationship with these fragmented lower parts we inhabit.
There is little need, in the end, to become tangled up in the complex metaphysical and cosmological questions that fascinate us. Many of the insights we may gain into these overarching principles are available in a new (and decidedly less intellectual way) if we simply educate ourselves to a sensitivity to the conscious inhabitation of ordinary life. The life that is worth living is often revealed in the nuances and details.
May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.