Saturday, April 14, 2012

Illusions

"Transylvanian" Carpet
Turkey, 17th century
Metropolitan Museum, New York

One of the persistent ideas that crops up in yogic understanding—an idea that also features prominently in Buddhism—is that the world is Maya, an illusion. Or, to put it more precisely, our perception of the world is an illusion. What we see isn't real.

 Well, of course, this is entirely incorrect. What is is, after all, absolutely real. It is what sees it that is not real. And it's possible to offer an explanation of this—not that anyone wants explanations, mind you, since they have been formally banned in the Gurdjieff work—that is consistent with the difference between essence and personality.

Our consciousness, you see, isn't anything like we think it is. Consciousness itself has no self in the way that we understand self; it does have a self in terms of a higher understanding of self, but this is different than the cramped little box we understand self from. There are even individuals at higher levels; distinct individuals, including the astral bodies of those who used to live on this level, if they developed. Anyway, all of this is doctrinaire and consistent with what Gurdjieff said, despite the fact that it probably sounds like the rantings of a deranged individual. You'll just have to trust me on this one; I am not speaking from book learning.

So the self that we understand as the self is not the self. The personality is actually an accretion, a crystallization or a hardened concretion of substances, like a kind of calcite or plaque, that has developed around our essence-consciousness as we grow up.  Essence–consciousness is the thread connected to the real consciousness that inhabits this body from a higher-level. When Gurdjieff spoke about the fact that man has higher centers in him, he was referring to precisely this inhabitation of the body by consciousness from another level, which has been covered up by "sand," like a forgotten civilization. And the enneagram is, of course,  the famous "map of pre-sand Egypt."

Personality, as much as we love it, isn't even real. The whole ball of wax is the illusion—what we believe, how we are, the things we are attached to, our aims and goals, and so on. There is, in other words an ersatz or illusory being in us that has grown up in a hardened ball around the real Being of consciousness that extends down into this level. The entire world of this being is illusory. It is incapable of seeing anything real, because it has no inherent reality of its own.

Consciousness arrives in bodies and penetrates them as an expression of itself. It doesn't arise in them; it exists before the body and it exists after the body. The body is a vehicle, in the same way that Vishnu rides Garuda. This idea is, in fact, a rather exact expression of the relationship between the body and the higher self.

 Personality dies at the end of the body's life. There's not much anyone can do about that; it is an artifice in the first place, and only useful insofar as this level goes. Yet we are totally wrapped up in it: we cling to it, not understanding that it is a bogeyman.


WE are the illusion. Ourselves.

When Jeanne de Salzmann explained that consciousness ought to be experienced as coming from behind the body or from above the body, she was referring to an initial—well, admittedly, perhaps not so initial—realization of the fact that consciousness exists independent of the body.

Clinging to the self, which has a completely illusory idea of absolutely everything—an inescapable idea of everything—is the chief source of our inability to achieve real understanding. Reading the words about it may seem to make it facile enough to grasp, intellectually at least, but it doesn't do us much good. And an enormous amount needs to be paid before an organic sensation of Being can begin to lead us in the direction of a right understanding here.

 So this world I see—in the way that I see it—is completely illusory, because the artifice that I inhabit, which interprets it, isn't real. It's certainly possible for "me"—which does not exist—to become transparent enough for something real to take place. This is what inner work is for. Eventually, the stuff that personality is made of becomes thin enough for some light to shine through it.

Maybe then something real can be sensed.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.




7 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Lee, this is a beautiful post, and very much appreciated. I would however, like to mention some technicalities with regard to the words you use which are Sanskrit or Pali, and are considered "Hindu" (There is real scholastic debate as to whether such a things even exists at all, but that's for another time).

    Within "Hinduism, there are six philosophical "windows" or modes of perception through which reality may be at least glimpsed, and the main obstacle is that ALL SIX must be seen at the same time.

    They are called by the following terms, and several of them have dissolved through the ages into very hidden perspectives.

    According to tradition, there is only One Ultimate Reality, but there may be six interpretations of that reality.
    These are called the Sad Darshanas or "six insights", because they give man sight of the sensible verities and enable him to understand in the light of reason the super-sensible Truth attainable only through the revealed scriptures or through the experience of rbis Seers or Sages). Darsana comes from the root - drs "to see" and is the word used in Sanskrit for philosophy.

    The six are traditionally grouped into pairs, with one side the outer and the other side the inner sight which brings clarity about:

    Yoga -- Sammy
    Nyaya -- Vaisesika
    Mimamsa -- Vedanta

    Yoga is the subjective penetration of the constants of the "Self" and of Consciousness, which leads to Kaivalya, or "perfect Aloneness and reveals the Samkya (Ennumeration), wherein all things are considered as real, but containing two realities, spirit and matter/energy.

    Vedanta means end of the vedas and conjectures that anything subject to change or movement cannot be real in the ultimate sense, and has various levels of understanding, the highest of which is Advaida Vedanta (Non-Dual end of the Vedas, or ancient teachings) and as such stands as opposite to Samkya only in the sense of being two ends of the same stick. When Mr. Gurdjieff declared himself a "materialist" in "Views From The real World" he could only have been referring to the Sankya, which translates as Enummeration, leading to the three forces (Gunas) and the seven states of consciousness.

    The name Samkara and his commentaries on the vedanta have lead to the highest non dual monism of the Advaita, (Lit: Not Two), so that all phenomena is considered illusion, being subject to change. Maya is the term for illusion., and Lila is the word for the play the play of the gods as enjoyment of creation (Bhoga).

    Nyaya serves as the philosophical aspect of scientific proofs.The word signifies "going into a subject"

    Vaisesika means the characteristics that differentiate a particular thing from all other things. It is the source of the theory of elements, nine eternal entities: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Aether, Time, Space, Soul, and Mind.

    The Samkya is derived from a word meaning number, or enumeration, because it enumerates the principles of cosmic evolution (involution) by rational analysis. It also postulates two distinct properties of existence: Consciousness (Purusha = soul) and Prakriti (matter and energy both). It states that Prakriti is composed of three constituents, powers called Gunas, a word derived from the Indo European root 'gere',= "Twirl, Wind" . These three attributes braid together to create the phenomenological universe, and are the basis of Mr. Gurdjieff's three forces, as well as the origin of the Christian concept of the Trinity.

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  3. There may be said to be a Seventh Darshana, Kashmiri Shaivism, which couples all the other six into one coherent whole. A description of this view is beyond the scope of this comment.

    The great "war" which has taken place in the subcontinent of India among Pundits (learned scholars) seems to have been born of the struggle to understand and reconcile how everything can both exist in fact (Samkya), and at the same time exist only as Illusion (Advaida).

    Although through knowledge of the single source of opposites, and of the third component of anything existing, one can reconcile the Gunas, which braid together to form all recognizable phenomina.

    Mr. Gurdjieff and his teaching falls decidedly on the side of the Samkya, declaring even imagination and dreams to be real.

    But as we have seen, from this tiny exploration of these various philosophical approaches to a glimpse of reality, we would need to be so open as to have the eyes of a fly, to even approximate what the six darshanas bring to light even when seen, digested and acknowledged at the very same time within a man.

    It's no wonder that Gurdjieff chose Beelzebub, Lord of the flies, who's manifold eyes and the mechanism whereby they form a cohesive worldview have eluded science to this day.

    A out of print book which delineates this study and goes much more deeply into these subjects would be "HINDU PHILOSOPHY" by Theos Bernard. Philosophical Library, 1947.

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  4. An idiotic typo which my spell correct made was to align Yoga with Sammy. That should read Samkya.
    Whoops. Sorry. --RL

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  5. I'll stop saying 'always valuable' - or whatever (smile).

    You're being serious about explanations being formally banned?! Certainly Pauline wouldn't have been interested in our explanations.
    Also any invention or new movements are effectively 'banned'.

    One thing I would be interested to clarify is whether you see 'consciousness' as some general stuff that gets formed into individuals - or whether there are, rather, just individual consciousnesses - each one not another i.e. cadacualtic.
    The Argentine tradition would agree with you about postmortality - but not premortality - you don't pre-exist your eclosion or coming into being....
    'Thus I see nothing from preventing postmortal finite existentialities in a bodyless condition from keeping themselves semoviently operating,
    with the objects differentiated in their respective onticity, in the same operational allowances of the sensory and spatial dimensions where they learned – while they were bodily circumstanced – to conserve operationally those objects.' (Mario Crocco, Palindrome). He is using the language of Piaget here....Trust me.

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  6. Paul,
    Lee should properly respond to your questions and not I, but you have set off a cascade of images and recollections that may be of value. In the Indian traditions, the concept of a single self, like a broken holograph, or of multiple selves, as in a broken mirror, has been aflame for at least 2,800 years with no conclusion, as it seems an uninsurable question.

    When I was between the ages of 5 and 8 I had a mantra stuck in my head that played over and over, and went:

    "I AM the same IAM that you are, when you say I AM"

    Excepting for conditions of birth, which "color" or make shape of the internal being, or ID (as in identity), and the conditions of the surrounding people and circumstances, that result in seemingly different people. This infant ID has very little boundaries so that it is normal for one child to grab the ice-cream of another, not realizing until the development of Ego, that there are boundaries to self and others.

    The presence and irresponsible influence of "parents" and other socially hypnotized adults manufacture the Superego, which acts between ID and EGO to form a kind of policeman, preventing the ID from becoming Idiotic, that is; having no sense but self.

    Of course I am NOT using the terminology of Mr. Gurdjieff; only in my own way trying to reason certain facts out of the skein of human affairs, which otherwise remain incomprehensible.

    There is quite a few objects of study that are "banned" in the Foundation, such as serious studies of hypnotic states and behaviors, but psychology knows that we act (re-act), and only AFTERWARD do we rationalize our behavior.

    This is the same phenomena which can be observed in the "post hypnotic suggestion". If while in trance it is suggested that after coming out of trance one will untie and take one's shoe off and then replace it, and then the subject does so, if the hypnotist asks the subject why he or she has done such a thing, they will deliver a completely displaced rationalization, such as "I felt there might be a pebble in my shoe", or "I felt the tie was too tight on that side". Clearly showing that actions precede "conscious" interpretations. This fact, may be the cause of enormous trouble in social structure, where people are for the most part run by an unknown sub-consciousness which acts prior to rational thought (not formatory apparatus). --Ricahrd

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  7. And thanks Paul, for your participation in commenting on Lee's blog. It adds an immeasurable quality to the pondering that the blog posts themselves bring to mind.

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