Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can everything be different?


The question of what it means to develop humility and to understand compassion go to the depths of a practice. People think they understand compassion (and everything else) when they are in their 20s, and that older people don't. Then we hope to understand it in our 30s, and our 40s and 50s, by reading books and going to workshops, or by sitting on cushions for countless hours.

What isn't appreciated is that this is a lifelong work, a substantial work, that is to say, a work that involves experiencing new substances and a completely different materiality.

A practice takes decades; it takes lifetimes. It involves a constant attention to the taking in of countless impressions, many that we don't even wish to be present to. It is this insistence that we give ourselves on being present to impressions that makes a difference, because we need that food, whether the parts of us that want to reject it know it or not.

We say Lord have Mercy because we wish to attract help from above us. If Mercy is sent— here is the heart of the question I wrote about in my last essay— maybe we can learn humility. If not—maybe not. The body itself must change. The physical body must change. This is what isn't understood, and what Gurdjieff tried to teach people.

The consistent taking of compassion as an attitude or concept is impossible. With us, everything is an attitude or a concept. Nothing is in the body; we don't understand what it means to receive a finer energy, except almost by sheer luck.  Then it lasts no longer than the sitting we were in. We don't nourish what we are given; we are not brave enough to take it out into life, which is the only place it could be made stronger. Like cowards, we take Grace and hoard it. This needs to be examined very carefully in a man's work. Beauty is never there by accident; but we come to presence by accident, which is not enough.

The fundamental transformation that changes the nature of the body and its material is, furthermore, both a technical work and a work that is not technical at all. It is no use getting buried in an analysis of the ideas. It's very important to study them; but ideas are just ideas. We are made up of one attitude after another, but we need to be made up of our organic materiality, and this is perhaps what we need to know the most. To be conscious of the organism, and to have the organism be conscious of us—now that is something different. Then maybe we can discover our relationship with one another.

The quality of Mercy is, like humility, a substance. It is a physical substance, an actual and sensate material that must penetrate us. This is not a metaphor or analogy. It is a chemical and energetic fact. The whole point of understanding the higher hydrogens is to be able to understand this; and yet, what good does it do to know all the facts; or even a few of them? Nothing. It does no good at all. Because in the end, all real work is contingent on a finer emotional substance that does not submit to chemical analysis on sheets of paper. Remember that the next time you are in a meeting with people noodling around, hypothesizing and arguing and discussing this, that, and the other metaphysical question. Take a look at your body and your mind and how they are. Put yourself between the inner and the outer. It is very different than all the talking. This point must be seen and be seen clearly. Otherwise, our work is useless.

 We are all the same here. Mr. Gurdjieff had the same problems, and he spoke about it to Jeanne de Salzmann when she asked him.  Don't fall for the charismatics and the gurus. We're all responsible for coming under our own laws, because we own the laws that create us and that we inhabit. Laws from our level are personal, in the case of our own consciousness. They aren't some other laws from outside us; they are actual active presences, always alive within us. We can only become free of them by inhabiting them fully. To obey the law is the one way to become free of the law. An obedient man has the opportunity to experience a higher order of law, because he's not in violation of the laws he is required to live under. Think of the Centurion who wanted his servant healed in the parables of the New Testament. This question of obedience is essential; yet who speaks of it today?

I was walking the dog this afternoon and I realized that I have never known what I was doing. I am on this planet with a mission; yet it is vague. Most of what I have done, I have done mindlessly, or incorrectly. I have clear jobs set before me that might have meaning, but I don't put myself to those tasks. Am I doomed to stumble about for most of a lifetime unclear about where I am and what I am doing? Others think I am focused and directed, and that I do an enormous amount of stuff. Yet it isn't like that at all. Those are all outward appearances and have nothing to do with the inner state that I must constantly confront and examine. I struggle to be present to my cats when I feed them in the morning. They, like my dog, deserve more than what I can give them. And every person around me is like that too. They all deserve more than what I am capable of giving them.  Living with that in front of oneself on a daily basis goes a long way towards explaining why one would rather be asleep.

Well, we're all much like that. And perhaps we've missed the point. We're here, after all, simply to take in impressions—to act as a sensory organ. One could erase the blackboard of all of the nonsense we are up to and that would be enough of an explanation.

If we truly saw what we are, and truly experienced humility, everything on this planet would fundamentally change. Nothing we are currently doing would be possible; society could not be organized the way it is, politics would not function the way it does, food would be grown differently. A man who knows this organically already knows something very different. Work needs to come to this point.

 Even in this work, which is a work in life, if a man doesn't devote himself completely and utterly to God, and does not have the thought of God present with him at every moment, his work is also useless.

 Mr. Gurdjieff famously told Ouspensky that a particular situation could not change; for one thing to be different, everything would have to be different. He said it as though the world were set in stone; and, in what is essentially a deterministic universe, perhaps that is true.

But nonetheless, Gurdjieff brought us a work where he said that everything can be different.

And it is true.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

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