Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reality, revisited


I'm still in China, finally, fully over jet lag (of course... It's almost time to come home) and 120+ pages into "The Reality Of Being.".

The book is a fine... no, essential... piece of work for those involved in the work. Pragmatic, realistic, honest, unassuming... a study of the process of the art of Being.

Looking "out" from "in here"- how else does one describe what it is like to live, as I am?- one occasionally catches glimpses of the fact that our consciousness-such as it is-which seems to us, within the moment, to occupy a fairly specific and limited (but admittedly often rich) niche, is in fact part of an almost incomprehensibly vast landscape, filled with all of the impressions that we have ever encountered. A whole planet-an inner solar system.

It's in moments like this that I begin to sense, perhaps, that my life- this mysterious process which I so easily categorize and dismiss with that simple, four letter word- is a much more extraordinary, unusual, and complex phenomenon than I am able to imagine, limited as I am within partial understanding. It's only when a physical connection is available, and feeling enters, that any more comprehensibly accurate understanding of my situation arises... And it's only then that a state of unknowing becomes possible for a moment.

Such a state is what one might call a poetic state... an energized state... A state in which objects and events are seen not for what they appear to be, but something much more magnificent and intangible... An embodiment of what we call, in the work, "the higher."

That perspective can remind me of what I'm working for.

As I wake up, as I encounter life, as I see the negativity, the resistance in all three centers, the inner argument and the lack, I begin to sense that in the effort itself lies a possibility. Life is a constant struggle against the forces within me that wish to go downward. And there are many. The wish to be passive, to succumb to sleep, is powerful and wears many masks. It is, furthermore, firmly wedded to denial: in this sense it functions in exactly the same way that denial works in alcoholics.

I wish to go down, to be passive: it's an addictive drug. My negativity- whether physical, intellectual or emotional- is a kind of drug that gives me pleasure. First, I don't really see this- second, I LIKE going down, it's easy, it's familiar, it's normal- third, I tell myself I'm not going down, that there's nothing wrong with this.

If anything tries to take it away from me, I resist it. And I will attach every lie I possibly can to the process. In this, I am truly an adept.

Those who haven't struggled with addiction probably won't quite understand what I am talking about. But the understanding that we are addicted to our habit of going down, and that we are literally in denial about it, is what's needed. The effort to be aware enough of myself to stand in front of this problem, to see how it is, over and over throughout the day, is the inner equivalent of a man standing in front of a bottle of alcohol which he wants to drink- it's a craving that comes back again and again, no matter how many times he pushes it away- and saying "no" over and over. It's painful- but only by engaging in the process can he ever become sober.

The difference between recovering alcoholics and spiritual students is that alcoholics know they are struggling against death itself- they SEE the enormity of the need for real work, and they know they cannot afford to relax. When we are working on our inner state, however, we don't take it anywhere near as seriously. We think this struggle is casual and can be engaged in... well, later, when we feel like it.

We don't see that it is a struggle against death, just like alcoholism. The death I speak of is death not of the physical body, but within the moment.

In "The Reality of Being" De Salzmann reminds us that this struggle isn't, in fact, a struggle in the conventional sense of the word. It has to be understood differently. I won't try to quote or paraphrase her here, but my own impression of it goes back to a comment I made two posts back: it is the via negativa, posed negatively: the negation of the negation. I must say "no" to my "no." so what appears to be a struggle is actually an affirmation- an upward movement. Not a battle, but an effort.

The trick here is that addiction and denial cause the "no," the downward movement, to appear as though it's a "yes"- an upward one. I am well familiar with that sensation from my years as an alcoholic- but I also see that I'm well familiar with it all the time, because this is also how I perceive and experience my daily state. Only by rising above the denial through an inner affirmation, by going against what appears to be my "yes," can I begin to see anything real.

This is, undoubtedly, directly related to the famous Gurdjieff admonition- "like what it does not like."

May the Living Light of Christ discover us.


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