Sunday, January 22, 2012

To Stand Between

One of the most ubiquitous themes in Jeanne de Salzmann's The Reality Of Being  is the idea of standing between two worlds. This idea comes up over and over again, presented in multiple contexts. (Chapter 43 stands as one outstanding example of such material.)

Above all, it's quite important to see that there are two worlds. Our experience may seem seamless– or we may at least think it is seamless– but it is in fact divided between two natures. When discussing this matter, it's not uncommon to think of the two natures as a "higher" nature and a "lower" nature, or to think of it as the difference between personality and essence, as Gurdjieff might have put it.

In this realm where words become difficult to apply, it's just as accurate to understand this as being an inner nature and an outer nature which meet the world... and each other.

To see is not to use one part to see the other part. "Does a dog have Buddha nature?" is not to know about dogs and their nature, and it's not to know about Buddhas and their nature; we just see both dogs and Buddhas.

We are not in the business of using the inner nature to see the outer nature, or the outer nature to see the inner nature. What sees does not belong to the outer nature or the inner nature. It belongs to itself. In the same way, the inner nature belongs to the inner nature, and the outer nature belongs to the outer nature. They belong to themselves, not to each other, and although they come into relationship with one another through the part that sees, they must not be confused with one another. If three things blend harmoniously to become one thing, that one thing is different than the three things that engendered it.

Even if there is some understanding in us regarding the two natures, there is still plenty of room for confusion. We may think the inner nature is "better" than the outer nature. It isn't; it's just quite different. The outer nature is equally vital in creating Being. Because the inner nature has definite qualities bringing it into contact with higher energies, we romance it–or let it romance us–instead of understanding it in an objective relationship, which is what seeing consists of. All of the emphasis we see around us today on new age esoteric science, yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, etc. is part of that romancing. The inner search becomes a glamour, instead of a work in relationship that requires something more of us. The grooviness of it all, one might say, is just the enemy with a nice set of clothes on.

Even more, the belief arises that the inner nature should influence the outer nature, and even direct it. Well, that is like trying to use God as a fishing pole on Sunday afternoon. When we try to make the inner go out, or we try to make the outer go in, we always end up in a mess.  We cannot do anything:  and when we begin to intervene in this way, instead of investing our effort in seeing, in standing between, many things go wrong. There are results; they are not harmonious. We need to have two natures, and not try to make one nature become another. This is the difference between the red-bearded barbarian and the barbarian with the red beard.

When we speak of seeing our lack, it isn't necessarily a lack of inner Being or a lack of outer Being. Above all, it is a lack of seeing. When seeing is weak, the belief that I can do is strong.

If I see, I don't worry so much about this. I just see.

When I see moss, it's green. It looks like it is an outer event and condition; but it is an inner event, if the impression comes in rightly... so already, even with a simple activity like looking at moss, I'm probably confused about what is inner and what is outer.  I need to be clear about the difference between the inner sensation and the inner life, and the outwardness that is inevitably and constantly required of me. I can't begin to stand between these two questions of manifestation and existence if I'm not aware of both of them at the same time.

 Perhaps a strong impression arises in meditation that somehow the meditation is addressing this question. Overall, there is a belief that sitting a lot, meditating with vigor, immerses me in what is necessary. It's not so clearly seen that what this immerses me in is largely an inner impression, which, although it definitely needs a great deal of strengthening in most cases, is just one partial element in a system of three forces.

I don't ever begin to balance this question until I act in life, until the seed of that meditation dwells actively within at the same time that all of the ordinary– and, I would like to stress this, not manipulated– activities of life are carried on.

This is a tricky thing, because the habits of every form encourage people to enthusiastically manipulate behavior to conform. The next thing you know, everyone is walking around with some variety of sage-like exterior that has been pasted over an inner and outer being that haven't actually changed very much. It's consequently possible that there are more masks and lies at work behind the closed doors of the foundations, retreats, and ashrams than there are when two ordinary people sit down for couple coffee somewhere in a shop in, for example, Manhattan. Perhaps this is why Gurdjieff valued the obyvatel—the ordinary "good householder"—over those touting lofty aspirations.

 It is impossible to stand between the inner and outer qualities we wish to nourish, to have any real sense of presence, and to see what we are if we keep dressing it up so that it will look good both to ourselves and others. If we wish to stand between and to see, we must see what we really are. This requires a willingness to relax the fa├žades and just be freer and more natural.

In other words, to stand between involves being ourselves, being exactly what we are, and not presenting the "adjusted version" that makes us nicer, groovier, or more spiritually intelligent and magnificent. It's all right to relax within life, and to be there as it happens.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.


  1. nice. it would be good to just be here without any illusions.
    I guess that g. was being a little optimistic with the 'good householder' routine. yes we have to pay our bills etc. but realistically there aren't many average householders in this business...Your post about the movements was on target. all this secrecy...i remember taking Pauline de Dampierre to a filming of the movements in paris in the early 80's. We arrived at the studio in a v old VW beetle (mine) her collegues were horrified (smile). Later we saw the film and she asked what we thought. I said that the make-up was a bit to brown and the headband with the disk thing was a bit cultish. Pauline replied that Jeanne de Salzmann was v. insistent on that...
    As for secrecy, once Michel de Salzann seriously scolded me for my admission that I talked about the work to my friends! What a paradox...after all we were supposed to 'recruit' after a couple of years...
    It's a strange world.
    On a separate 'note' I remember Pauline laughing about how the NYC house was continually repainted to keep the students busy.
    Maybe a soup kitchen would have been better? But not the right circumstances for 'work'.....

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  3. yes... hiding those coins in the field costs more than one thinks.
    In my own experience, most people are so uninterested in the work that there is no need to keep anything secret... they would ignore the ideas even if someone wallpapered their bedroom with them.
    All the real secrets belong to God, anyway. And as the author of "The Cloud of Unknowing" well understood, it's actually quite impossible to betray them. We believe our attempts to plumb the depths and scale the heights of the divine are sublime and heroic, but we are mere lilliputians, measuring the ends of our eggs—which passes for activity as we wait and hope for something real to happen.


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