Friday, April 6, 2012

What do you want to know?

We think we want to know what we are, and yet everything we think we know is based on misunderstanding.

Since we don't know that, how can we know that our wish to know something will lead us to things we actually need to know?

Gurdjieff wanted to call men back to a practice that takes them down through the many levels of experience and being to a ground floor which has been entirely forgotten. It's a practice that goes beyond. It goes beyond Zen Buddhism; it goes beyond the basic understandings of conventional Christianity, and it goes beyond Islam. It includes all of these good practices; it informs them: it helps them to become inwardly formed in a more correct way. But at the heart of this teaching lies a secret no one really wants to know, and which is perhaps misunderstood by almost every practice.

Liberation and freedom are not about joy, happiness, and so on. It's not a casting off of the negative so that one can dance in green meadows, play the flute, and admire the sun, blue sky, and puffy white clouds.

Liberation and freedom are instead the assumption of a burden, and that burden—willingly taken by any soul that truly begins to understand this question—is to take on a portion of the sorrow of God.

Gurdjieff explained this exquisitely in the chapter entitled “The Holy Planet Purgatory” which is found in Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson. Any being that begins to “perfect” itself eventually comes to the point where no matter what it does, an inevitable and unavoidable flaw that prevents final reunion with God is expressed. In a certain sense, the implication is that although there is an infinite amount of Love and Mercy in God for his creation—and nothing, repeat, nothing can transcend that Mercy and that Love; it lies outside the realm of human conception, and even tangential contact with it would  for all practical purposes annihilate us—there is no way for us to reunite with the Lord.

The endless sorrow that penetrates the universe—a sorrow that arises strictly from this endless and endlessly creative Love— arises exactly for this reason, and the infinite amount of Compassion that extends throughout the universe and saturates the holy planet Purgatory is there for the same reason.

The longing to return can never be expunged.

This is the search, the hint and the taste of something missing, that one always hears in the best of Gurdjieff's music. And it is that Feeling quality, above all, that might lead us to an understanding of where we are and what we are.

Christ, as it's said, was a man “well acquainted with sorrows.” Any real Feeling that arises in a man must ultimately connect with this sorrow.  Joy is a wonderful thing, but it's not the same. One can feel higher joy as well; some feeling, real Feeling, makes that possible, but that's still not the same. Joy and sorrow aren't separated properties; they share the same identity. Not a philosophy; a Truth. The human organism is designed to sense this quite exactly; yet it doesn't. Why? I can't tell you. Gurdjieff gave us ten thousand reasons. Perhaps all of them are true.

We have lost the ability to distinguish between what is pleasurable and what is right. This needs to be considered very carefully, because for all men, they believe that what is pleasurable is what is right. That one point in itself might explain the mess the whole planet is in right now, don't you think?

All real Feeling leads us in the direction of Purgatory, and nowhere else. There is no path to heaven from where we are except through Purgatory—not a place, but an inner state. And all of this action is so distinct from ordinary emotion that trying to understand it from this side, from where we usually stand in our emotional being, is utterly pointless. Everything, repeat, everything ends up being philosophical discussions. We end up having philosophical discussions in which we firmly assert that we are not discussing philosophically. Keep an eye on that. I suspect you will encounter it today, tomorrow, and the next.  Even worse, our fundamental dishonesty and the buffers that we use to insulate our egos allow us to accuse everyone else of doing exactly what it is that we are doing, while not seeing in the least how we are.

Surely anyone who does see this must hang their heads in shame.

The point is that none of this involves a real contact with the self and with Being, and all of the speculation, hypothesizing, and pontificating has nothing to do with an actual emotional sensation of our state or where we are, which can ultimately lead nowhere but to the most profound and absolute sense of anguish.

I suppose readers will think that this is a supremely pessimistic philosophy; yet there is absolutely no pessimism whatsoever in it. It is not only wholly objective, but also absolutely optimistic, in the sense that we do have the chance to connect with truth, and fulfill our sacred obligations... and if there is any kind of joy at all, there can be no greater joy than this.

We can know what we are. We can know our nature, and we have the opportunity to repent.

 Perhaps this idea of repentance sounds too Catholic or even Calvinistic for the reader, or perhaps readers suspect that I am delivering some kind of Easter-ish soliloquy here, in keeping with the season. It's true that at this time of year, the vibrations of the planetary atmosphere are filled with the need for this type of action; yet that doesn't belong to the Christians alone. The vibrations are there for everyone who can be helped by them, regardless of their religious inclination. Even, perhaps, for all mankind.

 There is nothing ecumenical about repentance. This is an organic duty, an obligation that can only be truly sensed through a contract with one's higher parts. It isn't an outer repentance; and perhaps more importantly, one must understand that no action one undertakes in the outer world can achieve it.

But in order to understand this, one has to turn everything in the cart upside down.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.


  1. Lee,
    I wonder if you wrote this very deep understanding based on my comment of yesterday about going from man 7 at birth down to man 0, a lower score being better, as in golf. I wrote that it was a joke, but it really wasn't; something very powerful being encoded within that concept.

    Today you wrote: "Gurdjieff wanted to call men back to a practice that takes them down through the many levels of experience and being to a ground floor which has been entirely forgotten."

    This seems to be the very same gnosis, which is almost never understood by our ordinary self, which seeks for body mind and emotions, pleasures and recreations.

  2. One of my favorite quotes comes from Fritz Peter's book " Boyhood with Gurdjieff”, page 96:

    2nd paragraph:
    He went on, then, to say that life was a “two-edged sword.

    “In your country, you think life is only for pleasure. You have saying in your country: “pursuit of happiness”, and this saying show that people not understand life. Happiness is nothing, is only other side of unhappiness. But in your country, in most of the world now, people only want happiness. Other things also important: suffering important because is also part of life, necessary part. Without suffering man cannot grow, but when you suffer, you think only of self, you feel sorry for self, wish not to suffer because this make you feel not comfortable, make you wish escape from thing that make you feel bad. When man suffer, he feel only self-pity. Not so if real man. Real man also sometimes feel happiness, real happiness; but when he also feel real suffering, he not try to stop this thing himself. He accept this because he know is proper to man. Must suffer to know truth about self; must learn suffer with will. When suffering comes to man must make intentional suffering, must feel with all being; must wish with such suffering that it will help make conscious; help to understand.

    “You have only physical suffering, suffering of body because of pain in leg (Fritz had hurt his knee). This suffering also help if you know how to use for self. But this is suffering like animal, not important suffering. With other suffering, suffering in all self, is possibility understand that all people suffer this way, is possible also understand how depend on Nature, on other people, on everything, for help in life. Cannot live life alone.

    Aloneness–not loneliness, which is bad thing–but aloneness can be good thing for man, very necessary for life, but also necessary learn not live alone because real life depend on other human being and not just on self. Now, you still boy, cannot understand what I talk–but remember thing; remember for time when you not thank me because I save life.” (Gurdjieff had returned just in time to treat Fritz's knee, which threatened his life through infection).


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