Sunday, August 1, 2010

life, feeling, and sensation

I've discussed the fact before that man has the capacity to take life in a much deeper way than the way we are usually accustomed to it. Impressions -- which consist of the sum total of all the sensory information that flows into us at any given moment -- usually fall on superficial parts. The analogy might be the difference between a brief rainstorm on the hard, dry soil of the ego-- where the water rolls off-- and a deep, penetrating rain on soft, friable soil that has been harrowed so that the water soaks in and goes right to the roots of the plant.

When the centers are working properly, impressions can fall much more deeply into the body. There are a number of objective consequences. The perception of time, for one thing, flows more slowly. One could say a good deal more, but I won't.

There are, of course, drugs that can produce such states, but the drug-induced state is next to worthless. It is disconnected from the work of centers in unity-- they are all working at higher rates of vibration, but they are for the most part colliding in relative chaos--and above all the feeling, that is, the part of the emotional center that is capable of coming into contact with higher emotion, doesn't participate in the right way.

This question of feeling is essential. Among some Gurdjieffians, it's not uncommon to refer to feeling as distinct from emotion.

"Emotion" in its entirety is a summary of the usual reactive states we find ourselves in. The emotional center is, however, capable of producing finer perceptions in man if it is functioning properly... as is the moving center, which in conjunction with some support from instinctive center (which in most people works more or less well) produces sensation.

"Feeling" is a distinctive experience which does not relate to our normative emotional experience. As with living sensation, which arises from the awakening of moving center and an action which emanates from it using its own force, feeling arises when the emotional center aligns itself correctly and begins to participate actively in what we refer to as wish.

Back in the old days, when Ouspensky's "version" of the Gurdjieff work was either ascendent-- or at least current-- many technical understandings of the centers and their work were studied and exchanged. All of those studies and exchanges, by and large, concentrated on using the intellectual center to do most of the work.

While that branch of the work took on a life of its own, stood up, and walked, Jeanne De Salzmann's line undertook a new, different, more direct (NB. I use that word with reservations) and in any event more practical study of the question -- that is, a study undertaken directly within the immediate physical, emotional, and intellectual experience of the practitioner.

The naturally evolving division between these branches of work may have separated us all a bit both from an understanding of just how specific the distinction between the centers is, and our ability to experience that. A real experience of feeling or sensation is, one might say, just as clinical and objective as Ouspensky's material describes it, and at the same time just as unknown, mysterious, and extraordinary as De Salzmann attempted to indicate with her own work.

It may be useful to explain that these various centers do not manifest in a localized manner if they are working in a right way. In three centered experience, the entire organism discovers itself within living feeling, living sensation, and living mentation.

These three forces, that is, minds, are completely blended, existing alongside each other within the organism in an equal balance of energy and "weight," and although they produce a unified experience, let us call it a "field of being," each one can be properly sensed as entirely distinct from the other two. What we call "consciousness" is, in other words, an unconsciously experienced blending of three completely different awarenesses, two of which do not and cannot use words for communication.

The experience of this can become conscious. That is one aim of inner work.

There are so many gradations of experience that relate and lead up to a conscious experience of this kind that one could hardly list them or measure them. In addition, such analysis doesn't seem useful. Centuries of deconstruction of such questions have, so far as I can see, failed to produce anything useful enough to move seekers forward in any meaningful way. Only Gurdjieff's "subtle system"-- which, I will stress, cannot be understood by just reading the books-- balances such technical work with practice in such a way as to render it truly meaningful, within the limited context that it can be. In other hands and practices, it has certainly produced results, but they are different results, and far from all of them are what one would call "good" results.

Misunderstandings of Gurdjieff's own work, which are all too easy to acquire and apply, can lead one down equally questionable paths.

Perhaps the important thing to remember is that all of the efforts and work one puts into the effort to collect the attention, connect the mind to the body, and awaken what I call the organic sense of being are gradually... very gradually... leading us towards a place where a different level of experience of Self becomes possible.

One might call it extraordinary -- except that it is not extraordinary. To be ordinary means to belong to an order. Anything that is extraordinary falls outside that order. What we are speaking of here is not the banishment of order or the transcendence of order; it is alignment with a new level of order.

So the attempt to re-member--to reconnect all the severed limbs of our inner being-- is an attempt to become ordinary, it's just a different kind of ordinary. It is not a mysterious or magical process, it is a process that belongs strictly to the natural order-- just a different level of it -- and must be understood as such.

We are just trying to reclaim what should rightfully belong to us.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

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