Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Starting out lost


Over the last few days, I've been pondering questions of Grace and error.

My separation from myself–the lack of connection between the parts–leads me immediately into error. The Masters referred to this sometimes as grave error, because it is error that has gravity, or weight. If the soul should (as the Egyptians thought) be like as a feather at death, then every sin weighs it down. Now, we don't like to talk about sin much in the Gurdjieff work, but Mr. Gurdjieff himself certainly spoke of it, so the idea cannot be walked away from so easily.

Error is everywhere. There's more truth in a single turn of the tide than in all mankind, and yet I think I turn the tides. Yes, this is a metaphor, but in seeing the outward illustration of truth, embodied in nature, even in every insect, how can I avoid seeing how different than that truth my inner state is? If I am truly seeing–if there is any effort in me–then the denial becomes at once apparent.

It is only through denial of how I am now that I arrive in error. If I wish to be–if I intend to exercise the necessary affirmation of Self which the Lord expects me to become responsible for–I must confront this denial.

All of my manifestations, born from sleep and the lack of attention, are already in error. I read about how Jeanne de Salzmann warned Bennett that those who over-exerted themselves had obtained "bad results," but I don't see how I am already in the middle of bad results. Denial is a powerful thing. Encouraged by the immediate presence of arrogance, which underlies everything, I think that I know. And the man who thinks he knows is already lost.

Even the immediate and undeniable presence of Grace–which is a presence that cannot be denied, seeing it as it comes from a higher influence–denial itself does not die. I reach a pivotal point in understanding my position when I see that even when the Lord sends support, I myself am unable. I still construe Grace as a force that will help me do what is necessary–I don't see that Grace is a separate force, having nothing to do with my doing or my ability, which is freely granted. Grace emanates directly from the Lord; it originates in unattachment and arrives in unattachment. Unable in the least to conceive of unattachment, it is already in my nature to seize this.

So even in the arrival of presence, I immediately fall into the grave error of believing that presence is mine, despite perfect proof to the contrary.

If this does not illustrate my lack of understanding, nothing will.

In my own pondering, I continue to deepen my question about the underlying feature of fear in me, a feature which seems to found the cornerstone of all my lack of Being. There is no trust in me. I think I trust, but everything I trust in is in the first place insufficient, and in the second place mistaken. Repeatedly, throughout the ages, all the Masters have insisted that trust must be placed in a new location, that a new kind of trust can arrive. These are excellent words, and men have listened to them for thousands of years, yet we all listen to them with parts that do not and cannot trust.

The irony is apparent.

I think we are all born with an instinct that believes we can carve a path to truth ourselves, and a machete to go with it. Faced with what looks like a thick underbrush of life, we stumble forward hacking a crude path all around us, looking for truth, not seeing that we already inhabit it in every moment. If I move from one blindness to the next, thinking I see, all I have to live within is my denial.

I think I am somewhere. Life has this way of insisting that there is a location of being already, that this, that, and the other thing is happening–my children, wife, job, intellectual and artistic achievements and so on–and that all of these things provide a location that I am in. It is a temporal location triangulated from the events, the circumstances, and the materials around me. Any inkling of a different kind of location–of a location comprehensive enough to contain an intuition of the Dharma, of truth–is absent. Drawing on my belief that all the treasure is on earth, I've always located myself on earth, relative to the treasure. My belief in this location is quite firm, despite all my protestations to the contrary.

It is much more helpful if I understand, every morning when I get up, that I am already lost. We have many parables in the Bible about lost sheep, and they seem to be children's tales, sweetened up with cloying pictures of Jesus dressed as a shepherd. But there is more direct truth in them, I think, than we understand. By more actively see what this idea of being lost means, it might provide a clearer point of understanding.

I have a search–everyone talks about spiritual work this way, about their search.

How often do I see that I am not already here, in a place that is known, a location that is desirable, just trying to acquire more, and see that I am actually starting out lost, and have nothing?

Those familiar with Gurdjieff's music may recall moments during performances where this understanding can be palpably sensed.

May our prayers be heard.