Thursday, December 3, 2009

Utterly human

...A photo of one of my best friends, Tom, at Betty Brown's memorial service.

Regular readers will know that Betty Brown was my group leader. Tom and I worked with her for many years.

It may seem incongruous to see a man expressing this much joy at what amounts to a funeral, but in a certain way it makes sense. Betty would not have wanted us to mope around. It wasn't her style. She was quintessentially human: down to earth, pithy, and a bit wild at heart. She was always totally committed to the Gurdjieff work, but she didn't like the version where the driver pulls harder on the reins all the time in a futile effort to control the horse. She knew how to apply a deft touch at the right moment, and gain an inner cooperation rather than coercion.

I heard it said recently that Lord Pentland once remarked that one of the main aims of the work was to produce genuine human beings.

Such human beings have different qualities than the ones that we men generally display. An egoistic, violent, and shortsighted approach to life is almost universally dominant, but it need not be so. There is an alternative-- born of an inner connection, resulting from a different inner order.

It is definitely possible for us to come in touch with that "finer substance" of Being. In doing so, we unfold aspects of our human nature that otherwise remain forever hidden.

The world talks about--and even craves--a greater intimacy between individuals, but we rarely hear talk about an inner intimacy within ourselves. Yet it is only this intimacy that begins to show us anything about what we are. The action of this force is quite extraordinary, and I find few -- if any -- traces of it in discussions from other works. Without this force, the intimacy we seek between ourselves and others lacks the inner support it needs. This is why so many outer relationships fail. They aren't built on solid ground.

This is not a question of self improvement. It is not about adjusting attitudes -- that comes afterwards, and grows out of intimacy in the same way that leaves naturally sprout from branches. If we do not begin with this more intelligent -- and I mean intelligent, not intellectual -- connection to ourselves, then nothing really grows out of ourselves, no matter how carefully and brilliantly we analyze the situation.

Inner growth is truly a voyage into the heart of what it means to be a human being.

This growth includes the discovery of our polarity: the need for both the positive and negative in ourselves. A discovery of that nature puts to lie the idea of a nirvana; of some idealized kind of self-perfecting that makes us thoroughly wonderful. Instead, we find that it is necessary to have two poles in order for a current to flow between them. If we do not have a negative and a positive side, there is no spiritual energy in movement. We become stagnant, dead, within negativity; or we become dead within positivity.

Either way, no good: one must include both sides for the energy to flow.

It's possible to understand this in terms of our two natures, that is, the relationship of the lower to the higher, as well. Our "lower" organic being forms a negative pole -- characterized in Christianity by the concept of "sin" -- and the divine, the level above us, constitutes a positive polarity.

When we explore the verticality implied by the image of the cross -- and we must always explore this organically, through the experience of sensation, the inhabitation of the body and blood -- we explore not just how we are in our lower, or, as the Christians would have it, sinful state -- we also explore the fact that there is something that lives above us that is indeed sacred and higher.

And although the vehicle through which this exploration takes place is indeed material, is indeed the body, the medium is the energy. This is the third force: the holy reconciling factor between man and God. It lies in action, it lies in the connection of the poles, and the movement between them.

As such, the attempt to sterilize or eliminate the negative, the attempts to "improve" it or deny it, eliminates what is needed to attract something higher. The very recognition of our state through the experience of intimacy is a call directed towards a higher power.

In religious work, there is a great deal of talk about joy. I think we would all like to feel joyful. In fact, just about all of us have, at one time or another. But this is a relatively superficial experience. The deepest joy lies in a union between joy and sorrow; and this is something that only experience and understanding can bring to a man. It is within the unity of positive and negative that real emotion appears.

To know this is to become utterly human; to become utterly human is simply to live.

May the living light of Christ discover us.

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