Thursday, March 15, 2012
The Essence of Essence
If one sees it clearly is a separate part, one begins to see that it has all kinds of ideas that are, as Mr. Gurdjieff would say, “unbecoming to three brained beings.” Personality wants everything to be its own way, and because it is generally disconnected from any sense of conscience—except theoretical ones, that can serve its plans for world domination—it is willing to take, at least within the context of imagination and fantasy, any action whatsoever to control the world and make it the world that it thinks the world ought to be.
Personality, in other words, has nothing to do with reality. It's an abstraction, a cartoon, of reality, that lives inside us and tries to depict a colorful three-dimensional world with black and white outlines. It's really quite extraordinary to see how much of it arises and resides in imagination.
This part doesn't go away. Part of intentionally suffering is to live with it, allow it its piece of territory, accept the fact that it's just not the brightest light bulb in the pack—that, in fact, when screwed into the socket, it won't turn on properly, is feeble, and casts the wrong colors on everything.
If the essence, that which is true in a human being, isn't present and accounted for—if it is too weak to express itself—there's nothing but personality there, and, basically, that means there's nothing there. When Gurdjieff referred to man as being a machine, he was referring by and large to this exact property. The machine resides in personality. The first and foremost thing that can put a spoke in its gears is attention, in context and relationship to essence.
We might speak of attention without essence, but it would be pointless. There is such a thing as a mechanical attention; and when we begin to work and first encounter the idea of an inner work, that's about all we have to work with. Eventually, a directed mechanical attention—that is, one manifested within a known form that understands how these things are done—may lead to the awakening of something essential in a man, and that is certainly and absolutely a beginning. But we don't understand this; we manipulate form and our own understanding from the territory of personality, and actually find ways to avoid the painful collisions that are required for essence to begin to wake up.
The idea of a golem, an animated simulacrum of life—in essence, an artificial being created not by God, but by man—is what our personality gives us in place of what might be real Being. It manufactures a mechanical Christ child, placing it in front of itself (us) and presenting this ersatz version of enlightenment, constructed through form, as the real thing. It's not the idols, the golden calves fashioned from silver or gold that we need beware of; it's our inner idol, which presents itself as a real human being, when really it's nothing of the sort.
Gurdjieff pointed out that in most human beings, the development of essence is arrested in childhood, and perhaps even fundamentally distorted. Essence not only needs to awaken; it needs to grow up.
Cultivating an intimacy with myself is the practice of nourishing essence. Every day, the first question in me, and the question that I carry all day long, is where I stand in a particular moment relative to essence. This is sensed presence, organic vibration, a plumb line that drops down through the center of Being as a reminder of a vertical direction. Connected to sensation, but not forcibly connected; connected by invitation. Grown, not manufactured; included, not compelled.
Nothing in personality can be relied on; it changes direction constantly, and is forever coming up with ridiculous plans to do this, that, and the other thing based on imaginary futures that will certainly never take place. The plumb line of essence, however—this fine, thin filament that may run from top to bottom through a human being—is real. It can be distinguished because it doesn't have the ludicrous imagination, the self-serving formulations, the inconsiderate and even sociopathic "emotions." It's simple enough to see the world as it is, and inject humility into what is seen.
What is this thing, essence? Can we think it up? No. Does it have anything to do with all the noise in me? No. It stands in opposition to all the embarrassing manifestations I bring to my life. It patiently tolerates them, managing somehow—quite deftly, I certainly don't understand this—to see them without judging and forgive them.
I know it by the taste of it in me; and if this isn't the food I turn to first in an attempt to nourish inner growth, I can't begin.
I respectfully hope you will take good care.