Thursday, March 8, 2012

Higher Education

Folio from the Kathasaritsagara
(The Ocean of Streams of Stories)
India, Mughal period, ca. 1590
Metropolitan Museum of art, New York, Islamic Collection

The process of consciousness and understanding the psyche is a complex one that takes place over the course of one's entire lifetime, and can't be easily sorted out. Some of the difficulties in doing this can be ascribed to the competing cosmologies, religions, and influences that one encounters, each one of which becomes part of a whole that has to be digested—with many different pieces that don't necessarily fit together or properly illuminate one another.

We grow up, in other words, in the midst of contradictions, internal, and external influences, without any absolute compass pointed in the direction we need to go in to understand ourselves.

The overall possibility, of course, hasn't got much to do with what happens on this level. Within the context of this level and this life, this whirlwind—this whirlpool—this revolving circulation around the perimeter of the enneagram is what it is, and it does what it does. The question in every man's life is what higher influences—those emanating from the law of three—are, and how they can help.

 The lower part—that is, the part with which you are experiencing life, and with which you're reading this text—is essentially uneducated. It doesn't matter how much information you acquire in this lifetime. You could be a nuclear physicist with an intimate knowledge of quantum mechanics; you could be a tribal shaman who knows every plant and mushroom that can be eaten to heal people. You could understand every aspect of baseball statistics, or be an expert in business and the creation of jobs and value.

It doesn't matter. Every one of these parts is uneducated.

The higher exists to educate the lower. Overall, this principle is well understood in religious practice, but it seems to barely touch us anymore in modern life. We don't see that what we are lacking is an education from our higher parts. None of the lower parts make any sense when contextualized against one another, which is what we nonetheless keep trying to do. It's only what Jeanne De Salzmann characterized as the look from above—what Gurdjieff would have referred to as the influence of higher centers, and what most of us would call God—that can truly educate us.

Under the ordinary set of circumstances, from where we are, what we lack above all is an emotional understanding influenced by higher centers. To be sure, we think we have such an influence—but we don't. To think that one has such an influence is already to be under the influence of ego; and of course this is where we generally find ourselves.

 The higher must educate the lower, and the education consists first and foremost of discovering that the education we think we have is not an education. This is not to say that we abandon the education, the formation of personality, that we acquire during our lives. It means that it needs to be informed, inwardly formed, in a new way, such that it sees its place.

 This process of education involves taking in the whole of one's life, digesting it, digesting it above all in the context of the additive process—that is to say, each day is added to the whole, and everything has to be digested all over again. It may seem like the task of Sisyphus, and yet this is exactly what must be done. An offering to God—which is what we are here for—is an offering of the entire life, every instance and aspect of it, not just a small portion of it, for example, yesterday.  We must help the higher parts by sensing our entire lives, not just a fraction of them.

 It's interesting to take this question in the context of sin, because sin is essentially a lack of education. The idea that man is fallen echoes forward from the moment that Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden—and remember, they were cast out for what they perceived to be a knowledge attained: acquired from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Perhaps the most important point of this story is that the tree was not from a higher level—although it contained the knowledge of good and evil, it contained it on this level. That's where it grew—and that's where the knowledge of good and evil that it contained resided. The knowledge from a higher level, which is what is necessary in order for man to evolve, to grow: that was forgotten.

 We consequently find ourselves in this state of sin. This state of not knowing, this state of thinking that we know. It's an uneducated state; and only the emotional influence of a higher level of vibration can change us. This is what we don't see; and this is where our lack begins. Only the submission to, and obedience to, a higher level can lead us forward.

 You may ask yourself how it might be possible to recognize influences of this kind. It's not that difficult. In Matthew 7:19-20, we are told, “by their fruits ye shall know them."

Not to put too fine a Judaeochristian point on it, but as the bible also says, "consider your ways."

This understanding of a higher level of vibration is not an allegorical one, and it can't be confused or mixed with the ideas or understandings of this level. These are questions we must approach with the most sensitive, innermost parts of ourselves, and understand in silent places that are untouched by the confusion of our ordinary personality.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


  1. Lee, I have noticed in the past year, since the book of Mme De Salzmann'a private notes came out, that you have taken her as someone who advanced the teaching with her own presence and being.

    Although I have no intention of denigrating the tasks which she fulfilled in compliance with Mr. Gurdjieff's wishes, I want to remind you of something she said long ago: "I CAN ONLY TAKE YOU AS FAR AS I HAVE COME"

    Mr. Gurdjieff worked through many channels: Mr.Ouspensky as Man # 3 with theory and lecture; Thomas De Hartmann on music and the emotive qualities it can produce, and with Jeanne De Salzmann, who was a dancer, and helped principally in that arena.

    Although Mr. Gurdjieff I have great difficulty placing her contributions on anything like a level worthy of following. Those are MY facts, verified, that her path is NOT my path, and as your friend and confidant and fellow seeker, I am compelled to speak up regarding the pedistal she has been placed on, not by you per se, but by many who think that she continued Mr. Gurdjieff's line of Spiritual dispensation.

    It has become my considered opinion that she in fact degraded the teaching with the formal sittings and endless movements classes; whereas Mr. Gurdjieff was unpredictable. The work as it exists in the cloister of the Foundations has codified the ideas and teaching into a palatable consolation - I for one cannot bear it without witness.


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