Thursday, January 20, 2011


In the Gurdjieff work, one frequently hears discussions about “seeing one's own nothingness.”

It's one thing to talk about seeing my own nothingness. Anyone can discuss it. I do it myself.

It is another thing entirely to begin to have an inner understanding about it. It's the threshold where levels intersect.

In the day-to-day business of talking about spiritual work, the words “seeing my own nothingness”--like so many other things I talk about--amount to a psychological exercise. Any clever man with experience in the jargon of esoteric work can speak about this as though the term were meaningful; as though he had experience with it. And from an intellectual point of view, measured against the scale of the cosmos, I come to the realization with relative ease. So much ease that, in the course of day-to-day life, it deludes me into believing I actually have some kind of a grasp of this question.

But today I see I can't grasp this question with the mind.

Like so many other aspects of the search for Being, no understanding whatsoever is possible without the participation of feeling–real feeling, not emotion–and this is only mediated through the arrival of a higher force: a force that descends from above, and informs–realigns what is formed inwardly. (Perhaps to speak of it this way is misleading; after all, without a higher influence, little or nothing is formed inwardly. What exists is chaotic, and lacks form. Attempts by the order of this level to sort that out lead nowhere.)

There is no substitute for the sorrow and the remorse that arises in conjunction with such seeing. Without help, I can't see; without seeing, help can't reach me.

How can I inhabit the experience and understand more fully–immerse myself deeper and deeper in this question of my nothingness, my insignificance, and the absolutely tangible, physical depth of my lack, in every regard, of the ability to correspond to what is truly sacred?

There are no instruction books for an encounter with such feelings and such forces. Gurdjieff and DeSalzmann gave us guidelines for how to approach such moments, but not how to live them. This living of my own insufficiency is part of what was alluded to in the last post; these moments of real feeling, naked before the eyes of God, are the ones which cannot be measured with rulers or weighed with scales.

Here is what I am called to, what all the ancient prayers and supplications allude to: a surrender, an admission, an acknowledgement of my helplessness. Perhaps this is the very root of the prayer, "Lord have mercy." Maybe it isn't; I don't know how others feel about it. Certainly, for myself, this is at the heart of my own plea for help.

And it's something quite solid: it settles in the body, penetrates through the flesh, blood, bones, and marrow, until the gravity of the situation is reflected physically, as well as emotionally and intellectually.

May our prayers be heard.

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