Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One urgent matter

Plate depicting a woman playing a tambourine
 Turkey, Iznik, Ottoman period, ca. 1600
 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

I think we can all agree it's clear that we don't value things rightly. If we take a look around ourselves, we see that we systematically destroy not only individuals, societies, and even the very ecosystems we depend on to survive, we also destroy relationships—and, as those of us recovering from addiction will attest, even ourselves.

This is because our valuation has no gravity. It's established in our external self, our personality—not our essence. And we don't understand that right inner valuation, a sense of the self as an organism, is in fact essential if anything else at all is to be rightly valued.

How much, for example, do we value our inner work? Not much. The way I forget myself is an old story; I talk about it a lot, as though it were a casual matter, good for reporting. I bring it to meetings and discuss it with others so that I will have a picture to hang on my wall, something to chat about. The sense of urgency? It's not there. I don't see that life is slipping away, that the sand is running through the hourglass, and that there is only one urgent matter to clarify.

 If I don't clarify that one urgent matter of who I am, inside, in myself, in my essence, I will never value anything properly . We may say the words, “I am,” but the words are very nearly meaningless, a robotic action. The words “who am I?” are the ones that have the motive force. No amount of “I am” will go anywhere if it exists only within the inertia of my personality.

 Hence the emphasis on establishing a right connection with the body. The body, at least, has a better sense of the fact that it exists than my mind does. There is nothing abstract about having the lawful requirements of chewing food, breathing air, and excreting imposed upon it. It knows it will die. The rest of me, I might well argue, doesn't. Or, at least, doesn't consider this fact significant enough to render any action necessary.

 This one urgent matter is a matter of wholeness, of sensing that thread that runs through one's Being. There is something; we are. And all of our wish, all of the longing and caring that we taste in ourselves for a return to something more real, more vital, more true, stems from an echo of this urgent matter, ringing through all the accreted layers of ego and our personality, rising up from a source so deep and so ancient that we have forgotten its name.

Yet we still recognize its tone.

As long as I don't care, as long as I don't value rightly, as long as I don't sense the absolute vitality of this thread that runs through me, nothing goes anywhere. This should be a question that I wake up with every morning, and a question that follows me through every minute of every day.

 At a certain point, it's time to stop fooling around. The intellectual, the philosophical, the psychological games must end. And I need to use the very critical faculties that Gurdjieff referred to in his aphorism  to see that. The critical faculty is there to dress down this tendency to think a lot with one part. Thinking needs to take place actively in all three parts; yes, the body can think, and the emotions can think.  When they do, a great deal of the nonsense that gets bantered about is put to rest.

 Instead of fooling around, I need to live. To directly inhabit my life. This isn't a question of analyzing my parts, of cataloging the various aspects of my personality, or reaching conclusions (which I have learned to disguise as "questions") about how I am this way or that way. Forms, disciplines, and literature may all give me a context for believing that that's the aim of inner work, but it isn't. The aim of inner work is to live—to be alive. Artificial constructions of the mind aren't going to achieve that.

So there is this one urgent matter: to live. To inhabit life. What animates me? What animates my wish? What am I going to do today—what am I going to do now—to remember to live?

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


  1. Lee, another excellent post, helping your readership to think actively with a connectivity between it's various parts, esp: body, mind and emotions. Without these three on the same thought the thinking fades quickly into the rush of the currents of the common day.

    I only want to comment on one thing you wrote, and that is:
    " I need to use the very critical faculties that Gurdjieff referred to in his aphorism to see that. The critical faculty is there to dress down this tendency to think a lot with one part."

    This is a very god definition of the hypnotic condition"

    "A bypassing of the critical faculty of the conscious mind, and the introduction of ACCEPTABLE suggestions".

    Suggestion for readers is lecture five in the Third series, "Life is Real Only Then, When I AM", pages 132 and 133. for the benefit of those who lack this book, I will quote from it the pertinent passages:

    "The first of the aforementioned secrets is that as a means for self perfecting a man can use a certain property which is in his psyche, and which is even of a very negative character. This property can serve as an aid to self perfecting and exists in people in general, particularly in contemporary people, and especially in you, and is none other than that which I have many times condemned and which people themselves consider an unworthy manifestation for a man who has reached responsible age–of course in this respect also excluding themselves–and it is called “self–deception”.

    Such an, at 1st glance, illogicality and deduction not corresponding to any human sane reasoning, namely, that such a property unbecoming to the psyche of a man of adult age can consciously be made use of for such an immeasurably high aim, is obtained owing to the fact that the cognizance of truths concerning the possibilities of self–perfection, and the real forming in oneself of what is required for this, must proceed not in the ordinary consciousness of a man, which for the given case as almost no significance, but in what is called the subconscious, and since, thanks to all kinds of accidents ensuing from the various abnormalities of our ordinary life, it has become impossible for a man, particularly for a contemporary man, to take in anything at all in so to say “digest” it directly with his subconscious. Therefore it is necessary for him, as has in the course of many centuries been experimentally proven by persons of Pure Reason, to use a special means for inculcating in his subconscious some reasonable indication accidentally grasped by his ordinary consciousness and not contradictory to his instinct, and this can be done only by means of this self–deception imaginative-ness inherent in him."

  2. Pt 2: Mr. Gurdjieff goes on to say that one must often imagine, but imagine only, that this is already present in you.

    By those who know, this meets all the requirements for self hypnosis, which is a rendering of acceptable suggestions directly to the subconscious by bypassing the usual falsely directed critical faculty of what is called “reality orientation,” said reality orientation only confirming within us imaginary limitations upon us, and preventing us from any real change or progress towards the kind of person capable of seeing real reality through the delusions set up why the conditions of life and the remnants of the malevolent effects of the organ which Mr. Gurdjieff names the Kundabuffer, a term which represents the sleeping kundalini and her phantasmagoria which we call ordinary life.

    What is crystal clear is our need to escape this phantasmagoria in order to have a glimpse of reality as it actually is. Without this glimpse, which gives us a sense of direction and aim, we turn along the outer circle of the exit was magic circle of the Enneagram, never even reaching the left-hand side of it, which is blocked by the cosmic sacrificing Satan, or in musical terms, the flatted 5th which stands between the 4 and the 5, or as is used in the solfeggi, the Fa and the Sol.

    Our conscious mind only follows the simple triad of do re mi - do re mi - do re mi, where each new fa is taken as "do", thus leading us in ever descending spirals, somewhat like a slinky, that spiral of little metal which will walked downstairs by itself, given a little push.

    Well, wonder of wonders. Richard has once again turned a simple idea or picture into 1000 words. Let's see who hath ears and eyes pay attention, because between the original post and this comment is a synergy difficult of discovery and worthy of pondering by anyone who wishes to become a real man outside of quotation marks. --RL

  3. Would it be fair to say that the aim is not only to be 'alive' (pretty impt) but to in fact engage in our cosmic function of bringing that famous higher energy into play - here on this planet...so that things don't completely fall apart. It's not just about me (smile, again). Maybe the levels do get mixed up after all. Easter wiseacring


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