I was exchanging e-mail with Tracy, one of my fellow Parabola editors, earlier today on the subject of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. I pointed out to her that, although I'm certainly sympathetic in many ways towards their movement (as vaguely defined as it is), the root causes of our current plight are extremely complex and confusing.
It's true that outward action is needed. Nonetheless, if my outward action does not spring from a prior inner action, an action that moves me in the direction of occupying the ground of my own Being, that action cannot be sincere. It has perhaps a sound emotive impulse, but it lacks intelligence and force, because it comes from what Gurdjieff would have called a formatory place–a churning sea of impressions based on opinions and superficiality. Granted, almost everything that happens in this world arises from just such a place–yet more is definitely possible in me, and if I continue to indulge myself in the reactions that usually rule my daily life, I am little more than a hamster running on a wheel in its cage.
This dilemma cannot be used as an excuse for inaction, but if action does not begin with the question "Love?"–as I pointed out in a post about a week ago–it cannot be real action.
And this word, "Love"–what does that mean? Some readers have cheerfully complained to me that I don't know what I'm talking about when I use the word. Well, we are not going to ban this word Love! Not in this blog, anyway. And since I must use it, I use it boldly.
Love is a universe unto itself. Let us say, to limit it for the time being to a tangible set of possibilities for examination (in reality, its meanings are limitless) that it refers to a universe of Attention, Intimacy, Compassion, Questioning, and Prayer.
We live in a world of corporations and acronyms. Things get reduced to soundbites, slogans are invented in order to encapsulate and convey ideas and principles. Should spiritual works succumb to the same apparently facile and simplistic techniques?
Maybe they aren't all bad. Maybe we should keep the acronym AICQP in mind.
Attention, Intimacy, Compassion, Questioning, Prayer. These are the elements I need to contain within my effort to remember myself, to occupy Lee. and if I don't occupy Lee, the "corporate forces"–the machine which runs my reactions and my generally opinionated attitude towards life–will continue to have ascendancy over me. It is a direct reflection of exactly what's happening in the world out there: of course it is, because what is happening in the world "out there" is in fact what is happening in the world in here. In other words, the problem isn't some external agent called "Wall Street"–the problem is an internal agent whose name is legion, that is, it is the name of every human being, because we are all "doing this" to each other together.
Why do I cite these 5 forces- Attention, Intimacy, Compassion, Questioning, Prayer–as essential? It sounds dangerously like I am trying to suggest that we should actually try something tangibly practical in the Gurdjieff Work, doesn't it?–Well, maybe we need to. This is supposed to be a work in life, not one that gives us permission to stand aloof from it, while we watch Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and everyone else out there make efforts that are somehow beneath us.
Let's take a look at it.
In action, I need to have the Attention of my intelligence–an Intimacy with my physical body–the Compassion of my heart–the affirming Question of "I am" (for us, "am I?")–and the surrendering Prayer of "Lord have Mercy"–all active within me, simultaneously and in the moment. An effort at three centered action must come first: not a strained effort, but a natural effort. Then, both the affirmation and the surrender of the self, which are not separate actions. They are two "higher" actions-shocks- that come together within each moment.
I know all of this sounds complicated and technical, but in the end, this so to speak "5 centered action" aspires towards action centered not in the gravity of my own confused and weak will, but in the Will of a higher principle. We can't do that- but we can aspire towards it.
Reading once again from a book I have quoted extensively in recent days– Early Fathers from the Philokalia, as translated by Kadloubovsky and Palmer, Faber & Faber 1954- we find St. Mark the Ascetic saying the following:
"So let us begin the work of prayer and, gradually making progress, we shall find that not only hope in God but also firm faith and unfeigned love, absence of rancor, love for one's brethren, self-mastery, patience, the innermost knowledge, deliverance from temptations, gifts of grace, heartfelt profession of faith and fervor and tears are given to the faithful through prayer. And not only these gifts alone, but also endurance of afflictions, a pure love of one's neighbor, knowledge of spiritual law, acquisition of God's righteousness, infusion of the Holy Spirit, the gift of spiritual treasures and all that God has promised to give the faithful here and in the future life– (all this they receive through prayer.) In short, it is impossible to reestablish the image of God in oneself other than by the divine grace and faith, granted to a man who with great humility remains with his mind in undistracted prayer." (page 74-75.)
To pray is to live.
Perhaps the greatest mistake humanity makes from moment to moment is believing, fervently and without doubt, that the inequalities, cruelties, and injustices that arise are caused by external agents. Collectively, we are the external agents, and without right inner action, no right outer action can ever be possible.
Does this set an impossibly high standard? How high the standard is isn't the point. It establishes the only standard. There is no alternative to right inner action. Action that begins anywhere else has already deviated from what is actually necessary.
Only the effort to occupy my own ground of Being and take it back from the Corporation in an inward sense can end up having any right effect on the outer world.
May our prayers be heard.