Thursday, December 10, 2009

Partiality, and the place of the intellect

Even after many years in this work, I get the impression that most people don't study the work of centers very carefully, and readily fall asleep within the idea of working on this question, rather than trying to live it.

Consequently, I see people of extraordinary intelligence completely forgetting themselves, becoming entirely -- or almost entirely -- emotional, and believing that they are being rational.

I equally see people with extraordinary emotional ability using it to interpret events around them with wild abandon, assuming that what they are doing is, once again, rational.

All of this in people who presume that their effort is dedicated to seeing the difference between centers, and understanding how they operate.

Where's the intelligence?

Let's get right down to the nitty-gritty. Most of us believe everything our emotions tell us. We are downright stupid that way. I know some very few people with extraordinarily fine intelligences who reject this way of living. They, unfortunately, are equally lacking, because they fail to see the emotional content in situations. It bites them in the ass every time.

The intellect is an absolutely vital element, and in most men, it is weak and undeveloped. Being smart -- being stuffed full of facts, that is -- is not enough, not at all. We think that stuffing the mind full of facts is impressive, and have developed whole technologies around it. To be smart, however, is not to know a lot of different things. It is to have an acuity of intelligence that allows the intellect to see what is going on around us.

I am generally known as a highly intelligent man, but if I examine myself carefully, I see that the real intelligence in me is usually dormant. What people think is intelligence in me is just a very adept listing, review, and integration of stored facts. Real intelligence consists of seeing how I am in a particular moment, and I don't often do that.

I do, however, do it often enough to see that my emotions, which present themselves with absolute and irrevocable conviction at every step in my life, are basically liars that routinely come up with irrational interpretations of what takes place in life.

Yet, I trust them.

By now, at the tender age of 54, it would behoove me to develop a little bit of suspicion. Don't you think?

My emotions are extremely fast, but they often get things wrong. I spend a good part of every day, for example, watching little fears that have been manufactured by emotional center pop up in front of me. Every one of them is trying to provoke me to be fearful, to be afraid of what is happening. I play whack a mole with them all day long-- I smack one down, and another one pops up in its place.

As this goes on, I have to keep reminding myself (using my intelligence) don't be fearful. I say that to myself quite a few times a day, because I see that an enormous motivator within the negative engine in me is to have fear -- it keeps things moving. Not in a good way, but in a way that passes for living. And it seems certain to me that since my emotional center seems to enjoy fear, I should go against it. "Like what it does not like."

This is just one example. Many of the emotions that I see arising in me are bogus. They are the horse, running around in every direction towards what attracts it at the present instant. Unless the intellect becomes acute enough to observe this and go against it, I will live in relative chaos.

Mr. Gurdjieff certainly assigned the intellect this role. He advised us quite clearly that it can act as a policeman. But the policeman can't do a darn thing if he turns the other way every time the jewelry store is about to be robbed.

This means the attention within the intellect has to be on the present moment, and the work of the other two centers. For example, when the moving center is about to automatically stack two dishes on top of each other so that they may tip over, there has to be enough intelligence there to see what is happening and correct it.

I had a very interesting lapse of intellectual center yesterday which serves as an example of this kind of thing. I was at the ticket counter at the airport in Montréal. I took my wallet out -- that is, the center that is in charge of those things, moving center, took the wallet out -- and then instantly forgot it, because the moving center doesn't have much of a memory about such things.

About 5 seconds later, intellectual center looked in my pocketbook -- yes, I call it a pocket book, not a man bag -- and saw that there was no wallet in it. BANG! Emotional center exploded with fear. "OMG! I have lost my wallet!"

It took a second for the intellect to step in, say, "STOP," and then direct moving center to look on the counter... where my wallet was calmly lying.

This may seem simple, and a mere example of rather ordinary stupidity, but in fact, it is fairly representative of the way everything goes in life. One center does something, the next center doesn't remember it or know about it, and the next thing you know, emotional center is throwing a hand grenade into the situation, because it doesn't know how to handle things any other way.

The intellect can help a great deal by intervening in these emotional explosions. There is a need to step back -- to perform an inner stop-- and let the intellect do the work that it needs to, that is, to calm down the ruffled feathers and be more reasonable about situations.

We are partial. This means, essentially, that the three centers do not speak to one another effectively, and rarely work together. That needs to be studied in considerable detail, within each moment, and some presence. Those who have been in the Gurdjieff Work for 10 or 15 or 20-- or 50-- years and who think that they have somehow transcended the need for this kind of work because of their cosmic attachments to higher energies (which may even be real, by golly, who knows?) are missing the fundamental practice.

The same could be said about the practice of relaxation. There is never a time when it is inappropriate to turn ourselves back towards this question, no matter how advanced we are. The question of relaxation relates, after all, to the question of death, and this is one of the central questions of our existence. I will say no more about that; readers should simply ponder this statement and investigate it from an organic point of view. It is a very big question. Maybe I'll write about it further at some point.

Anyway, we underestimate the value of the intellect. It takes quite a bashing. Over and over again, we hear about how another person is "all in his head," etc.

And it is true -- the associative part of the intellectual center runs off in every direction in people. In an exquisite irony, this commonly happens when we think we are working and "have a good attention." But the intellect itself, that precise and well tuned device that can help balance the runaway work of the other centers, may occasionally remind us to make more of an effort to be here. It truly needs to work with us, and must be allowed its rightful place.

Without that kind of work, we truly are stupid. No one on this planet has a monopoly on such stupidity, but from the behavior of mankind, it certainly appears as though most people wish for one.

On another note entirely, I was looking over the five oblogolnian-strivings today, having printed them out so that they would lie around the house bothering me from time to time.

It struck me once again -- as it has so many times -- that the fifth striving is, in fact, the Bodhisattva-vow, translated into Gurdjieffian terms:

"...the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred 'Martfotai,' that is, up to the degree of self-individuality."

What struck me today is the way it speaks of "self- individuality." We believe that the self exists as a single thing, but the idea of partiality and a separated work of centers teaches us that the self is actually broken into pieces. To develop "individuality" is to become undivided. An individual is a whole being, one who has all of their inner parts unified.

In our quest for self -individuality, the study of our partiality is essential. The very attention that brings us to see it is what can help to make us more whole.

May the living light of Christ discover us.

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