Friday, October 1, 2010

Technique and Feeling

My Birthday Post. I am 55 today.

It's said in the work that nothing significant can take place in terms of man's development until emotion begins to particiapte.

In the Gurdjieff work (for those unfamiliar with it) we generally use the term "Feeling" to distinguish this "finer" emotion from our coarser, or more ordinary, emotional quality. The distinction only becomes palpable once one has had an
experience of what we call a finer emotion; nonetheless, it is a legitimate distinction.

I've written extensively in the past on the development of emotional center, drawing on both personal experience and the considerable amount of technical data available in writings by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. (some of this essay material is available at In summary, a great deal of insight into the technical--that is, biological and physical processes--that create the conditions necessary for the inner evolution of a finer emotional capacity can be obtained simply by correlating various pieces of information from these sources.

Putting these various pieces together leads to some fairly cogent explanations of "how it works," and points towards exercises that ought to facilitate the process. Those exercises, furthermore, share a consistency of both aim and method with various yogic and tantric techniques, underscoring the overall validty of all three systems, and reinforcing the legitimacy of Gurdjieff's technical observations relative to traditional practices-- the underpinnings of which, a thorough practice will reveal, he often understood better than the practitioners themselves.

All of this technical data, while fascinating, has become of less and less interest to me over the years. In the first place, I find, "manipulative" exercises of any kind--even the ones which claim to be "non--manipulative"-- are of limited and temporary value. Everything we seek is in constant movement, and the temptation to fixate on specific exercises which produce interesting "results" encourages us to stay where we are, rather than attempt to move in concert with where things are going.

De Salzmann actually addresses this issue in several places in "The Reality of Being," so she must have been sensitized to this issue from experience in her own work.

The second difficulty with this "technical approach--" the cogent (or otherwise) explanation of such matters, including my own-- is that it depends on the ordinary mind for its origin and impetus.

One can, of course, accuse practitioners of "the mysteries"-- that is, efforts that are aimed at points of origin "outside the mind"-- of shamanism; that is, in other words, a primitive, obscure, and perhaps even annoying kind of subjectivity. These "mysteries" are the point where Zen begins; they are the foundation of the investigations Meister Eckhart undertook; every esoteric practice, no matter how technically it may cast itself (the various yoga schools, with their highly elaborated systems and techniques, come to mind) must eventually come to grips with these unredactable territories.

They apear to be subjective, but only to "outsiders." In reality, the penetration of ordinary being by Being--and this is what we all seek-- can never be subjective; its manifestations, as well as their consequences, lie firmly and forever outside the analytical and essentially corrupted Form of our ordinary being and intelligence.

To experience a real manifestation of Being is to see and understand, over and over again, the anguishing contradictions between our ordinary self, and what is actually possible. Said quality of Being is of a different order... It's as different from "me," as I am, as the divine might be from the human. Our Form, as we have constructed it within (Gurdjieff referred to it as "personality," but he used that term, I think, intending a much broader scope of meaning than we understand by contemporary association) is the only truly subjective element in life, and one of its dismissive techniques is to subjectively label things which threaten it as subjective... it has enormously powerful defense mechanisms and a survival instinct which rivals that of the body.

These survival instincts, by the way, lie in all three centers. The habits of the mind, the emotions and the body all have an equal wish to survive and defend themselves; these mechanisms drive a great deal of our day-to-day reaction.

Readers may see the irony implicit in this rather technical discussion of the inherent limits of technicality. Nonetheless, we need to examine this question--from within the question itself, so to speak--in order to understand, at least rationally, that what we are attempting when we attempt to move towards an inward Being
isn't rational, in the sense we usually use the word.

I am reminded of the first words (as I recall them) of John Krakauer's fine book, "
Into Thin Air:"
"Climbing Mount Everest is not a rational act." One might say the same of climbing Mount Analog.

How, then, to call... to evoke... to invite... the appearance of a finer emotion, of feeling? Is there a way to approach this from the reductionist perspective of the intellect... the reactive perspective of ordinary emotion... the hungers of the body? If we perpetually dwell within all three of these limiting circumstances, what lies outside the circle?

What impresses me more and more about Gurdjieff's work--as it is practiced by those in direct lines of work, i.e., individuals who studied with Gurdjieff himself and received tacit permission to pass the work on--is the immense subtlety of the practice. As Dr. Welch used to say, "The Work works." That is to say, it is a living entity in its own right... it may take many years for this entity to awaken in a man or woman, but when it does, a profound and very nearly self- sustaining inner transformation begins... this living soul knows how to heal itself, and to grow.

Attempts to study the effects or results of the work from outside, relying on texts, documentation, or even testimonial, are doomed to failure. Attempts to study the effects of work from any point of view, inside or outside the doors of the Gurdjieff Foundation, are doomed to failure for as long as they rely on the intellect... on convention... on predictability, technique, and assumptions.

The only way to experience and study this work is from inside... inside one's Self.

And it is the very question of this search for Self which allows for the creation of conditions under which Self... "real" Self, as Gurdjieff names it... may slowly emerge from beneath the deep sand that covers it.

This can never be done mechanically, that is, according to a rote set of principles... which is why it's so vital to work in actual groups, participate in community, and in the presence of older and more experienced people, if one wishes to engage in real work. "Question everything"... this constantly active stance of inquiry is in itself, perhaps, the most essential seed practice of what Gurdjieff called "self remembering."

Real emotion... Feeling, as we refer to it... develops in a man or woman only after very many years of such immersion in inner work. It's quite distinct from the many (perhaps even laudable) temporary results which can arise and manifest themselves in a human being during shorter time frames over the course of a lifetime of work. Many folks give up too soon, because they feel they aren't "getting what they want."

As though it were up to us, and our own egoistic demands of the divine, to decide what we "get," and when we get it.

What we refer to as Feeling is in the bones. It can only arise through a firm and well grounded foundation established over many years of trial and error... it does not arrive without a great deal of payment, and even then not always. And it only arises when and if one has done enough work to attract the forces which are necessary for its development. That is, it only comes when help arrives.

These conditions generally arrive only after one has reached the absolute conviction that everything one has attempted and is attempting is utterly hopeless. In some senses, the best thing that can possibly happen to a man or woman is to lose everything, because we have to lose everything in order for anything new to enter. Like Dogen's home-leavers, everything has to go.

As such, it may well be that the Gurdjieff Work... and sister works such as Sufism and Zen... are poorly suited for the modern world. Today's attitude is, generally speaking, that everything ought to be available on a hard-cash basis, answers must be given at once, without any real work on our part, and that results and gratification ought to be delivered either immediately on payment, or very shortly thereafter.

...Ideally, in fact, enlightenment ought to be offered on the internet as a free download.


May the living Light of Christ discover us.

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