Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fear of the Self


Over the last two days, I've been contemplating once again relationship with the two chief prayers used by Gurdjieff, that is, "I am-l wish to be" and "Lord have mercy."

I had mentioned earlier that one of the esoteric meanings of the first of the
two prayers is to overcome the fear of the Self.

Why do I fear myself? If I dig down deep into myself, beyond the superficial
fears, horizontal fears, all of the ordinary fears that drive my relationships with life, perhaps I can begin to see that at my core I fear my own mortality, and I fear that I do not have Being. Because I manifest in this clearly mortal body, my fundamental fear is that this is all my Self is, that there is nothing more, and that it will end.

I have forgotten my Self. I am unable to realize that the Self is not the body.
Paradoxically, the full realization of this lies deep within the physical and
mortal practice of relaxation and sensation, yet I am unable to relax and sense in the comprehensive way that is necessary. (Only with help from a higher level can that take place.) Because I have forgotten my Self, I no longer sense the sacred relationship that binds me eternally to those higher forces which create the universe. I live only within the constraints of my own fear, the fear of my death, the constant underlying fear that I am not more than this lump of flesh.

The real manifestation of "I am" is an acknowledgment of my conditions,
including both mortality of the body and the necessity of realizing that there is something more. This is why the words "I am" are followed by the words "I wish to be." The first prayer has two actions; and the second action, the wish to be, represents a reconciling force leading me towards a reconnection with the higher.

I was contemplating the parable of the prodigal son yesterday, and I realized that this parable may cast some light on this situation. Let's forget for a moment about the indignant brother who stays home and is a good boy; he seems important, but maybe he's not really the main character.

The son who leaves home goes all the way away from home; he immerses
himself in a life of the flesh, the horizontal life, a life where he has truly and
fully manifested on the lower level. Having done that, he turns around and
comes home. He has manifested "I am," and in returning home, he manifests "I wish to be." Presenting himself, he asks for mercy, and his father is generous. He has completed the cycle; and to the incredulity of the other son, who has stayed home, he is rewarded.

It isn't possible to understand the Self without fully leaving home.

I am manifested in the flesh, confronted by my own mortality, and ever fearful.
My fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between my Self and the
Lord causes me to fail to manifest fully in the first place; and in having failed
to live, to inhabit my life fully, that is, consciously and with attention, I
haven't even fulfilled the first condition that the prodigal son fulfilled. He left
home; in fully leaving, he created the possibility of fully coming back. I haven't
even fully left home. This recalls Zen master Dogen's reference to Buddhist
monks as "leavers of home." It's a koan: I cannot come back home unless I fully
leave it. My own wish cannot be fully manifest, and I cannot try to return home
honestly, if I don't fully leave home in the first place.

The fear of the self, this fundamental paranoia about my mortality, is what
keeps me here at home-in the comfort zone, asleep. As Christ pointed out, the
Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head. Perhaps this is because he has fully
accepted his mortality and the conditions he is within, and works relentlessly
and without rest to surrender himself fully and return home.

This question of overcoming the fear of the self is a deep one. If I examine my
manifestations of my life carefully, I see that it penetrates most of what I do. A
great deal of my habitual inner dialogue consists of creating various buffers and
defenses that prevent me from acknowledgment of where I actually am. A
complete abandonment of this nonsense would of course allow me the freedom
to completely leave home; but that would be a huge step, one I cannot take so
easily. It is easy to theorize about it, but the organic necessity of freedom is
different than the mental picture of it.

And, of course, my forgetting of the self and its connection to the higher
always brings me back to the fact that I don't trust.

This question of the two prayers and their relationship to one another bears a
great deal of fruit for me as I continue to consider them.

May our prayers be heard.

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