The idea of the inner self is, after all, so ubiquitous in religion and esoteric practice that one assumes most of us are familiar with what that is; or at least have an idea that the concept is valid. Yet I discovered that friends and acquaintances were asking me what the inner self is, or even unable to say whether they thought they had one or not. This includes people who have spent the majority of an adult lifetime in an inner work.
Do we distinguish between our inner and outer work? Do we have a clear understanding of the idea that both exist?
When I speak of intimate practice, as I often do, I speak of a part within that is quite different than this part that runs life. It is a part that does not fare well, as Ravi Ravindra once said, "under the cold light of analysis." It is that part that can't be expressed in words.
The intimate practice is the silent part of the self that receives. It is the part that is fed most by impressions; it is an inwardly formed vibration that fills the body. It is definitely connected to the organic sense of being; all of the work we do with sensation, which is voluntary from the exoteric side of our work, eventually feeds and, with work, awakens this esoteric side of sensation, which then becomes voluntary from the esoteric side. The inner self, in other words, with enough food, awakens to reciprocally participate in action of the whole.
This part is sacred and intimate, and reaches towards the higher, pressing against the cloud of unknowing. It is active and sensate; it does not think in the way we think, it does not know in the way we know, it does not act in the way we act. Nevertheless, it is the same as us: it is us.
This part does think, it does act, it does know. But it is quite different than that outward part which is so easily consumed by the events in external life. It is not strong: we have been feeding our outer life for many years without attending to it properly. But it is there, a friend or lover that always waits for us, no matter how thick and uncomprehending we are, no matter how unfaithful we are.
This is a side of ourselves that we, perhaps, do not know or rarely see; nonetheless, it is that most vital part that prays in secret and is rewarded in secret. It is what writes the poetry, sings the hymns, and mediates the remorse of conscience. iI there is an inner heaven to lay our treasures up in, it is here. If there is anything that crafts a higher relationship in man, it is here. When there is exquisite joy, it is here. When there is exquisite sorrow, it is also here. Every real pearl encountered in a lifetime is found on this string, and this string alone.
If we don't know this part, it doesn't make us inadequate, insufficient, or inferior. It simply means that more effort is needed on our part. And this exoteric part of us–this outer part, which so clearly and definitely wishes to contact something higher–well, this is the part we have that can do the work to try and help us connect to this inner understanding and this inner experience. The experience is real and true; anyone who works can eventually come to this. It is said that we can come to this Way through five things: trust, certainty, patience, resolution, and veracity. (Ibn 'Arabi, Sufis of Andalusia, p. 23, Suhail Academy, Lahore 1985.)
The part that sees is not the same as our inner self or our outer self. This may not seem easy to understand, or be clear to us, unless we already understand a clear distinction between the inner and the outer parts; nonetheless, as has been indicated in earlier essays on these questions, it is definitely a different element in the tripartite composition of our inner life... one perhaps directly related to Gurdjieff's "deputy steward." Jeanne de Salzmann makes this abundantly clear in her repeated references to the need to stand between the inner and the outer in our work. This place between two worlds is occupied by an awareness different than the awareness of the one world, and equally different than the awareness of the other. That awareness is part of what helps to, as is mentioned in Views From The Real World, "separate oneself from oneself." This standing between two worlds also occupies a significant meaning relative to the work outlined by the author of the Cloud Of Unknowing.
The simplest way to explain this is to refer readers to page 1091 of Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, in which he clearly indicates that man has three brains ("center of gravity localizations.") We can readily liken the inner, outer, and seeing manifestations of a man to this system of three minds, in which the harmonious interaction of the three leads to a fourth, "real," or transcendent mind, which according to the Law of Emergence has properties that manifest on a level higher than any of the three brains or minds can when acting independently.
Human beings readily exercise the exoteric part of their being. That's where most everyone is stuck. Monastics and contemplatives exercise the esoteric part of their being, sometimes at the expense of the exoteric. Take note, for example, the following quote:
"In making bread, water represents the active force, flour the passive force, and fire the neutralizing force. Bread is the independent result, the fourth element arising from the action of these three forces. Each of the three forces is necessary for the bread to be made; if one of them is missing there will not be bread... Once made, bread has a fate of its own."
"What is difficult to understand is the nature of the river we spoke of earlier and the possibility of leaving it so that crystallization can take place. As you are now, you cannot do it; nor do you see the unfortunate consequences of not understanding this idea. It was precisely this lack of understanding that caused an asceticism to arise in many monasteries, where the monks too often exhausted themselves instead of developing.” - G. I. Gurdjieff, from "Gurdjieff: A Master In Life, Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, p. 56-57, Dolmen Meadows Editions 2006.
Until the distinction between an intimate inner and active outer nature is clear, it remains as a vitally important point of our work.
In working, do not neglect this intimate action.
In working, do not neglect this intimate action.
I respectfully ask you to take good care.