Thursday, April 5, 2012
People who aspire to spiritual development think they can develop. We have this sense that we could be better than we are; all well and good, so far as it goes. Yet what is really going on there? We want to get something. It's not that we want to get something selflessly; no, we want something for ourselves. Even if what we want seems to be “good”—being, for example, like the Dali Lama—that would be good, right?—somehow, secretly, way down inside where no one can see it our ego wants it for itself. If any kind of purification is needed in a man's inner work, what needs to be purified is his secret sense of greed.
Even greed for the good has to go.
Gurdjieff used to say that a man could develop to be man number 4, man number 5, or even man number 7. This sounds pretty good, too. Higher numbers are better, right? I want a bigger number for myself. I'll be more important. Can any of us really say that there isn't some secret part of us that thinks that way?
The essential fact is that no matter how much a man develops, he is always still a man. No more revealing example can be cited than the behavior of Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, where he had to confront the fact that his own wish was still desperately in opposition to the will of God, which he had to submit to. Even at the level of Jesus Christ, in other words, one is still a man, and one must still serve and obey.
Men often use the words freedom and liberation as though they might somehow mean freedom from service and liberation from obedience; yet they mean the exact opposite. Real freedom and real liberation can only be freedom and liberation from the inner slavery we have created for ourselves. If such a thing ever happens, however, one will still be a man or a woman, and one will still be under the conditions that universal and cosmological (not societal) laws impose on life.
At that point, service and obedience have not left the stage; they are finally at the center— where they always belonged while the supporting cast and the chorus were strutting about usurping the spotlight.
Man at any level must serve. We have a specific purpose in the ray of creation; at every level of our development, we still need to fulfill our duties within the context of our position. Only through a recognition of this obedience—and, one might argue, all that inner development is is an ever-deeper recognition of duty and obedience—can we honor our own value. Here we touch on yet another allegorical meaning embodied in Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson; and the unambiguous expression "Being parktdolg-duty," which means (being said in three different languages) "Being duty-duty-duty."
One cannot, in other words, emphasize the question enough.
Cosmologies, hierarchies, scales—we see progressions from A to Z, or from Do to Re to Mi to Fa, and we think that being further along or higher up is better. When Gurdjieff pointed out that a man always wants to get to the Place D'Etoile, when his aim needs to be to get to the next lamppost, he was alluding to this habit of ours. If we don't attend to where we are now, the rest of it is meaningless; yet we love to romance the big picture, and gloss over the details. Our inner work becomes sketchy as a consequence. Being here is better—but here rarely looks better to us.
Real freedom and real liberation are not an escape from conditions; they are an investment in conditions. And I don't want to invest in conditions; that condition over there is better than this one, the condition later on today will be better than the one right now, and so on. My conditions are better than your conditions; I'll defend them. This is how it always goes with us. If there is a struggle, it isn't one imposed from outside; it is a struggle with our own obstinacy and refusal to do the simplest thing, which would be to inhabit conditions.
This is a big suitcase filled with dirty laundry, that needs to be picked through, sorted, and washed. Until that happens, I can't understand how much it weighs—or even the fact that I am perpetually carrying it around with me. If I take responsibility for it, I may be able to clean my garments, fold them up properly, and put them in the drawers they belong in, where they will be available for use as they are needed.
Until then, I'm going to keep pulling out dirty clothes, willy-nilly, and putting them on in every situation.
I respect fully hope you will take good care.