Friday, March 30, 2012

Entering Purgatory

In "Form and Sequence," Gurdjieff advises us that in a responsible existence, one's common presence will contain those precious being-data for feeling which are the foundation of the essence of every bearer of divine Reason, and that the words inscribed over the chief entrance of the Holy Planet Purgatory are as follows:


 Sometimes, I think, we entirely forget this powerful and even inexorable call to empathy. The entire passage transmits echoes of the fifth being-obligolnian striving: the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred Martfotai, that is, up to the degree of self-individuality. (p. 352.) And indeed, as Beelzebub informs his grandson in the course of this chapter, that is exactly what the aim of his instruction has been.

 I've pointed out before that the fifth striving bears a marked resemblance to the bodhisattva vow; and indeed, we find this impulse in nearly every religion, where the salvation of others is both a duty and an obligation. Yet rather than trying to help a man or woman find their own salvation, so often, the ego causes us to try and impose our version of salvation on others. What should be a sacred and intimate process of self-discovery becomes a prostituted action, one's own salvation forced onto others... "for their own good."

The words over the entrance to the Holy Planet Purgatory are a divine commandment, to which the only possible response is obedience. And Feeling—Empathy—is the very foundation of Essence.

Our personality, our outer self, knows all about empathy, from a superficial point of view. It has learned how to mimic it like an ape, and talk about it as though it was understood.  This is why we hear so much about it, but see so little of it. I'm not sure about my readers, but I watch personality in operation churning out contradictory impulses of empathy and hatred during most of my waking hours. It's quite striking, really, to see just how active personality is in throwing everything it can come up with against the wall to maintain a polarization that categorically prevents any real feeling from manifesting itself. And I wonder why that is.

The division between these two parts is maintained by an insistence of the outer; my manifestations are quite different when a more essential part of myself is available. In the one instance, I talk about empathy and the need to help others, but my feelings are limited to pointless and even perversely destructive emotions; in the other, I feel what is necessary quite precisely, yet I see that we don't have the power or the strength to do what is necessary— and that must be suffered.

 At its heart, and in its essence, we see here that Gurdjieff's work is one of compassionate action—compassionate action that begins in the deepest part of one's life, planting a seed that may lead to legitimate compassion, rather than the ersatz compassion of our media age.

 To “enter into the position of the other results" of God's labors is to empathize, surely. It is also, in equal measure, to obey.

In empathy, and in obedience, the first and foremost responsibility is to inhabit the conditions, and one inhabits the conditions with attention, through one's action of consciousness.

 How will I try to understand that today? I will need to be attentive to a more intimate part of myself, that much is certain. And I will need to hold that in my attention, delicately yet firmly, as life does—as usual—everything it can to take me away from such an effort.

Insh'Allah, I will remember.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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