Monday, February 6, 2012

sensation itself

What is a connection to sensation?

One can spend years working on this question without right understanding. There is sensation, and then there is Sensation. One is invoked; one is alive. One is mechanical; one is intelligent. A person can spend an entire life invoking this question and not understand it properly, all the while assuming that there is  understanding.

Zen Buddhist masters alluded to this question frequently, and quite clearly. Because of the contemporary theoretical weather, their words are not understood today. The expression is “skin, flesh, bones, and marrow.”

Sensation must go beyond skin, go beyond flesh, go beyond bones, and reside in the marrow of the body, in Being. In this case sensation itself is going beyond.

If one's connection to sensation doesn't become permanent, critical elements of work, essential understandings, will remain theoretical and obscure. Jeanne de Salzmann certainly understood this, and emphasized it frequently. Yet those who nowadays aspire to a grasp of inner work prefer to spend time in debates about feeling or thought. Sensation is the forgotten stepchild of inner work. Everything ought to begin there, but for the most part, the attitude is that one will just get around to it— if one has time. This is a house floating in the air.

A tactile, sensate plumb line needs to run through the body, with a solid weight at the bottom;  then Sensation will align itself and remain as a gravitational current that is constantly present.

...Is that enough? Be clear on this, it is not enough at all; it's just a beginning, but this force must be present in order to understand what an inner alignment is, and what it means to experience an intimate connection with one's essence. One can talk all one wants to, but without the help of this force of organic sensation, it's all just talk.

Our intimate attention needs to be intentionally turned towards this question. Sensation is born through such intimacy, and particularly in an observational intimacy of the impression of breathing in air. Now, this is not something one wants to undertake misguided exercises in, or manipulate, but a concise and precisely placed attention is necessary, especially at first. Our development depends on it.

Substances in the air are what feed the connection between the mind and sensation. These are some of the "finer particles" that Gurdjieff describes to Ouspensky in the famous chapter about the chemical factory. Reading about it isn't any good, though; one has to know it and understand it directly, in the body. Essence and personality easily fall into partiality if sensation doesn't support the effort.

In particular, feeling can't be experienced unless sensation first grounds it. There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between any ordinary emotion and feeling rooted in sensation. The mind and the body—intellect and sensation—must come together, and wait patiently. It is only under these conditions that feeling may choose to arrive. The taste of it, if it does, is not like the taste of life the way we know it. One can sense and feel the roots. If there is no understanding of feeling the roots, there's no understanding.

Solar influences are specifically important in this work. When we say that we seek to come under new laws, some of the laws we seek to become available to are uner the influence of the sun. This has a powerful effect on inner work; the sun routinely sends help to the planet and the organisms on it. That particular energy is quite different than what the moon does—which, as I have pointed out before, is not at all, by default, inimical to work, but is quite different than the sun and can't produce the same effect on work.

Energy from the moon, if it is returning up through the ray of creation and we are available, can support our work, and that is very important, but it cannot provide the kind of help that the sun can. So not only do we seek to obey the laws on our own level in order to become free enough to come under other, specifically planetary, influences, we need to understand what the other influences are and how they affect our work. This can't be undertaken as a theoretical prospect. And once again, there is only one ground-floor tool to undertake this investigation. It begins in sensation.

 Don't think we can't know these things. That is what our work is for. To see our place. Not just horizontally, but vertically.

 Why, then, so little contemporary emphasis on this question of sensation, which is so vitally important and yet almost forgotten? Perhaps it is because those who understood this point of work in any depth are, for the most part, dead. We stand as witnesses to a collective and gradual decay in standards of attention and effort, which can be seen taking place almost by the day. We want to have a loose, uneducated work where everything is done through the rather sensory allure of the feelings, and the demands are kept easy. It's all terribly attractive; and it is conforming itself quite exactly to the conditions of our outer life, because that is what is influencing it. We forget that we need that vertical plumb line in us, and that it must stand firm against those influences, even while our outer part accepts those conditions— and obeys them.

 Sometimes that demand is as simple as knowing that we are standing or sitting, and remaining silent when we could be talking like the others. If we do that, maybe we will have a moment where we see the inside and its connection, and the outside as well. One must stop to do that— stop and remember where one is.

 It's quite peculiar, really. Not so difficult—and all right in front of me. Not even not complicated—in fact, quite the opposite. Yet I don't pay attention in this way.

Why not?

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


  1. In reading your blog this morning I had a most wonderful feeling, the feeling of finding someone else when you have been alone in a crowd. It is particularly sad to hear you say that the work we are in is suffering from a downward spiral, where we have to be so careful with each other that we basically learn how to walk on egg shells without breaking them and without noticing that someone has stolen the yoke.

    In Chinese medicine (and I am not talking about the current state of “traditional Chinese medicine”, which is what Chairman Mao arranged so that Chinese medicine could stand and compete with Western medicine––he got a symposium of doctors together and told them to make a Chinese medicine with no mysticism worse, or shamanism in it). Here I speak of Chinese Alchemical Medicine, which aligns perfectly with what you are saying and in quoting the Zen master.

    In Chinese medicine the bone marrow is considered an extraordinary yang organ, which includes the brain (which is called the sea of marrow), the spinal cord, uterus and several other places in the body. So when you talk about bringing sensation through the skin, flesh, bone, marrow, I think to myself, this perhaps, is a man with whom I can converse.

    In the Alchemical arts of which I speak there are exercises such as “nourishing the marrow”, “sheathing the bones”, “palpating the flesh” and “noticing the skin”. These are very real and significant exercises.

    In the Gurdjieff work we have exercises such as “the circulation of the limbs”, “filling and draining” and exercises which are identical to the water and fire paths of the “microcosmic orbit” as well as the “macrocosmic orbit”, and I was once taught by someone who knows and we performed something he called “the zigzag”.

    In Toronto I had the privilege of attending a sitting with an elderly gentleman who had been taught exercises by Thomas DeHartman (sic) which began with the extraordinarily small muscles of the face, and was taught by Gurdjieff in Essentuki in 1917. It was shown exactly as learned, so it was Gurdjieff–DeHartman-this man-myself and others who were there. It was shown completely unpolluted by any intervening wiseacre, and at its conclusion I know that for myself, when I stepped back out into the grounds I had an extraordinary sensation of myself as an organic being completely connected to the earth, the sky and the atmosphere, all of which took on a new and virile life–so deep that I can count on one hand the number of times in this life of 3 score that I have felt such profound sensation. Sensation is the groundwork of remembering oneself.

    Sensation is the groundwork of remembering oneself. One cannot remember oneself in any other way. And it is in no way connected to thinking–in fact, perhaps the other way around completely–what the alchemical worker would call a “fasting of the mind”, completely at home in its own realm with nothing to do and nowhere to go and no reason to be operative in the face of such fullness. May our seed take root as the sapling grows so that we may protect it as in the 2nd line of the Lord's prayer which is archaically translated as “hallowed be thy name”, but which should read “may your name be kept sacred, secret and protected.

  2. this sounds like the right stuff. As Richard notes you are not ecstatic about some aspects of current practice. But you seem to be on the mark? How come, I wonder. Where are you channelling this from (smile). I see you as a charming group leader (smile again).

    From my brief re-encounter it does seem that there is nowadays a lot of theory and study of 'In Search of the miraculous'. In five years with Pauline de Dampierre (including the occass visit to the group by Madame de Salzmann) we never discussed this theory - or talked about the sun. It was all sensation - no theory. Jeanne de S used to make a movement with her hand above her head to indicate drawing something down (a finer engergy) and that was it. The rest was just picking up the vibe - sitting with those people, group meetings, etc. One of my jobs was to accompany Pauline for a stroll in the park now and then. Challenging but fun. We used to drive thru the Bois de Bologne where she would see transvestites looking for work - 'les hommes qui sont comme des femmes' - men who are like women...


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