Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trust and Sorrow


Pondering, in the midst of life, as the leaves change along the Hudson River.

Mr. Gurdjieff used to speak of “impartial" mentation. Impartiality was, in his eyes, a highly valued quality.

The dictionary definition of this word means to be “fair and just.” But that is not quite what he meant, I think.

To be impartial, in the terminology of this work–this inner effort we engage in–is to be whole. I am not whole; but I don't see that.

Identifying with each part as it manifests, I believe that it represents something whole. I am puzzled when it doesn't give good results; my assumption is that my being functions wholly and in a consistent and coherent manner, but that isn't the case.

We spend years in this work milling around both within and outside ourselves, observing the established and irrevocable fact that we are not whole, and asking ourselves why. Why, why, why? Why am I fragmented? Why don't the things I do work out well? Why do external influences have so much power over me?

This business of questioning is good. It is powerful. It needs to be applied, ruthlessly, to every single aspect of my investigation of life–up to and including the question of whether or not this endless questioning is what is needed.

Is it? And do we really question everything? Or are we actually quite selective in our questioning, and very careful not to touch our dogmas?

I submit this. The questioning isn't primary.

What is primary is seeing.

I need to see exactly how I am. I don't need to see how I am in a vague, philosophical, or insubstantial manner. That's how my mind usually functions; the mind, which is capable of significant acrobatics, puts on a rehearsed show which looks spontaneous and spectacular, but which is, in fact, totally predictable and, as Gurdjieff said, mechanical.

The mind is, in fact, quite weak. It's not doing its job. It is forever fooling around, and it rather enjoys it.

So there is a need, in the approach to this effort of seeing, to be much more specific, in a non-thinking kind of way. A different quality of mind needs to arrive--one which is much more interested, and much more active, than this part which deals with ordinary day-to-day nonsense (and which is actually quite passive, despite all the noise it makes.)

This precision, this act of being quite acute and detailed in my immediate, active seeing of how I am inside: a seeing which is born both of the mind, sensation, and feeling–this very act of becoming intimate in a specific way, putting, so to speak, the point of a needle directly into the center of how I am in this body, of how the energy manifests in this organism– this is what is needed.

I can't afford to monkey around. I need to get right to the point here. This exact point. Do you understand what I am saying? It's a question of roots that grow into the very bones themselves.

Thinking about how to work is not working. Thinking about how I am not working is not working. One comes, eventually, to the conclusion that almost everything that involves “thinking” is thoughtless: thoughtless in a bad way, that is, without substance.

There is a kind of thoughtlessness that involves escaping my insubstantial thought; by releasing the critique and the analysis, and simply trying to be present and empty of such material, a new experience can come.

That experience defines both my fragmentation and my dwelling within the fragmentation; I see that I am, myself, in the middle of different parts which are not united well, not harmonized.

The quality of "thoughtless," yet living, attention that arises here in this specific point is a good tool for investigation. It questions not by definition, but by its nature. It is impartial: fair and just in what it sees, whole, not glued together using artificial methods and tension--efforts I call "working," although of course they are anything but.

I need so much for a new emotional quality to enter my work. This quality of feeling is required. But it can only be invited, called; I cannot force it to the point.

If I truly see, what I see is this.

I do not trust.
I always fall short.
I am in pieces.

Each one of those observations could be expanded on at great length. I mentioned that I do not trust first, because it is the greatest and most egregious failure in me. Without trust, nothing is possible, and I lack this first, before I lack anything else. The other two simply follow from it.

There's a great deal talked about in spiritual literature, poetry, even in the work, about ecstasy. Happiness. Freedom. All of this is wonderful material. It sounds good. But it is an intensely dangerous thing.

Why do I say that? Because all of these things sound like they are pleasurable. And they are, up to a point, but each one of them is a kind of deception, a lie we believe out of ignorance.

It may sound peculiar-- or even threatening-- for me to say this, but ecstasy, happiness, and freedom are not ecstatic, happy, or free. There is only one Truth, which lies above and beyond each of these defined qualities.

When that Truth penetrates a man, it begins and ends its work as Sorrow. A Sorrow which is deeper, more penetrating, and more profound than any other potential experience of feeling.

I have said before that one of the most unique characteristics of the work that Mr. Gurdjieff brought to us was the potential to experience this level of Truth, which passes all understanding.

It may sound grim or bleak; it may sound as though it is the opposite of what we want; it may sound like a goal not worth pursuing. What I am speaking about here, however, is an experience of a different level. It does not--cannot-- correspond to the understandings we have.

In a life lived in many wrong ways and for many wrong reasons, this is one thing that, when it arrives, is-- irrevocably and forever--right.

It is what we were born to receive.

May the living Light of Christ discover us.

1 comment:

  1. My belief is that Mr. Gurdjieff's use of the word "impartial", is very close in meaning to the Buddhist concept of "Nirvana", which is a compound word meaning no (Nir) wind Vana). Nirvana means without wind, nothing more nothing less. It certainly does not mean nonexistence.

    A candle flame blows hither and thither in the wind of desire and aversion. Nirvana is the absence of influences from the outside having any effect on the person in a state of nirvana. There is neither like nor dislike, but an acquiescence to reality which still allows for freedom of current and future action, but without regard to any previous conceptions, reservations or requirements.

    Mr. Gurdjieff referred to this as the lesser freedom. The greater freedom he reserved for freedom from influences within oneself. It may be that Nirvana includes the greater freedom as well as the lesser freedom, but it is certainly synonymous with impartial.

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