Saturday, May 12, 2012

Conscience, and the biological imperative

I've spent a lot of time over the last eight months in this notebook discussing the inner and the outer, and essence and personality. This is because it distinctly strikes me, in the midst of this work, that our work is so much an inner work, yet so much of us is under the influence of the outer.

Influences can change. They must change, if we want to experience new possibilities.

Several years ago, in a discussion with the late John Rothenberg, he remarked to me that as one grows older, the work becomes much more inner. If one works for a number of decades, this is certainly true; gradually, one begins to discover that there is an inner life with a living quality quite different than the living quality of our day to day psychology, and it becomes a new locus for living, apart from external affairs... which will nonetheless continue to drive us in many confusing directions. The outer life is relentless; it batters continuously, absolutely demanding that we ought to inhabit it and believe in it. If there is a struggle in work, it is simply an ongoing struggle to maintain an awareness of the inner, and understand the clear difference between the inner and the outer.

We must keep hold of our thread.

 The manifestation of life, and of any higher energy that appears in this life, is a biological function. Higher energy, higher consciousness, cannot express itself without the biology of organic life—at least, it can't do that on this level. So every little bit of biological life is in one way or another an expression of this higher consciousness. Human beings represent what one might call a “pinnacle” in terms of potential for development of this awareness, but we are not alone. Even bacteria express the conscious properties of life, on the level they are on.

So we must become attuned to this biological function, and see that our inner life, while it does not exclusively belong to the body, is expressed through the body, and has a living quality that it could not manifest without the body. This, indeed, is the reason that we have bodies in the first place. The expression of awareness is necessary; and the body makes it possible. What happens before bodies and after bodies is not our business while we are on this level. We are responsible to be within ourselves in this body while we are here.

People talk about “out of the body experiences” as though they were unique and remarkable, but in fact, most of our life is an out of the body experience on a very low budget. We live in our minds—life revolves around us and through us without any real connection to the body, profoundly distracting our inner state and causing us to believe above all in external circumstances—as though they were the aim of life. We definitely don't understand how radical a change in our center of gravity could be; we have countless hypotheses about this, but very little, if any, experience. What we seek is a revolution; instead, we routinely settle for procedural votes on the floor of the assembly.

That is to say, we think that our inner life will change bit by bit, and always resembles something we know and are comfortably familiar with. The idea that the applecart might get turned upside down is a remote one. Everything should remain under our control.

The outer life will always have an enormous weight and power. This may be the principal difficulty we face. Without the assistance of a higher energy, our inner life is essentially weak. Our essence is weak. We focus on the wrong things, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong times, and we use the rational mind to tell ourselves that they are the right things, at the right reasons, at the right times. We don't see this. If we truly saw how completely disconnected everything we do is from the biological imperative of this planet, and the need of consciousness itself, we would probably despair at our own abrogation of responsibility. Life did not arise on this planet and evolve just so that men could make money, dig metals out of the ground, turn them into cars, and so on. There is a higher purpose we have completely ignored.

This itself touches on the question of conscience. The way conscience was described to Ouspensky by Gurdjieff in In Search of the Miraculous is perhaps, for what it is, close enough to an actual experience of conscience, but the words are insufficient. What Gurdjieff describes in this passage is what medieval religious organizations would have called a religious ecstasy.

Ecstasy is not, in fact, ecstatic at all; at least not in the sense most people would take it. Ecstasy is generally understood to be somehow enjoyable.  It isn't; it's an experience of conscience, which is not verbal and does not contain verbal information laid out precisely in the manner in which Gurdjieff described it. It is a whole experience involving all of the centers, and expresses itself primarily through feeling and the emotional parts of the centers, because they are the parts that vibrate at the highest rate and can carry the level of intensity that must be transmitted during these experiences.

Conscience is the exact, precise, and inescapable experience of our position, of where we are, and it includes everything. It includes, that is, more than just our contradictory emotions. The entire condition is laid bare, and we see where we are. Gurdjieff described it as very nearly unbearable; this is an indicator that he wasn't speaking from hearsay when he talked about it.

Ultimately, a whole experience of conscience is an unavoidable requirement for man, and an inevitable consequence of inner work, if enough real work is done.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.