Friday, May 25, 2012

Materialism and illusion

Bee swarm
Sparkill, NY
Gurdjieff maintained that everything is material.

The modern world certainly subscribes to a consonant view, since materialism—and its comrade in arms, consumerism—dominate all human transactions and exchanges. Yet we don't seem to manage materials and material things well (the majority of activity surrounding them seems, ultimately, to be destructive) and we don't understand materialism very clearly, because our understanding of what our nature and the world's nature is is so limited.

What Gurdjieff said needs to be restated thus:  everything is material, only to the extent that a man is conscious.

 The difficulty with what we call fictitious consciousness, Maya, the world of illusion, is that it does not acknowledge the materiality of the universe. Unconsciousness—what Gurdjieff called automatism, or mechanicality—does not participate in an awareness of what is material. It lives within its own abstraction, directly removed from a conscious perception of the material world and the fact that all of the elements—the world, the materials, and the conscious perceptions themselves—are material, and exist in this material field of expression.

The material of which I speak is a much finer material than what we “perceive” under ordinary circumstances. Ordinary perception is driven by automatic responses, and is unmindful. There is no practice of mindfulness, the inhabitation of material reality by mind, and the expression of mind by material reality—which are two inseparable properties, in a true state of awareness. So we stumble through life automatically, not participating, not actually being here within material reality. Awakening is, paradoxically, the absolute inhabitation of material truth, material reality, material perception. While it has been said that everything is an illusion in some philosophies and doctrines, the illusion is produced by the failure to inhabit what is actually material—and, and as Gurdjieff said, everything is material.

 To be awake is to have an actual sensation of this property of materiality, a comprehensive sensation that is not just a sensation in the body, but is accompanied by a feeling and an understanding in the intellect. At such moments, the absolute nature of materialism becomes clear, and it is possible to understand that everything we think we know about materials and materialism is mistaken. While the entire relationship and the wholeness of all the parts remains identical to what it was before awakening, an awareness of it now emerges. Everything is exactly the same; nothing is transformed except awareness itself. Yet now, the world is not a series of mechanical devices, which is the way modern science perceives it: it is a living expression of consciousness.

 This is the Dharma. This is Gurdjieff's consciousness. It is the experience of every object, event, circumstance, and condition as a living entity and a living expression of awareness. It's all one thing: material reality is material because it is the vehicle for the expression of consciousness, the place in which consciousness can Be. The purpose of material reality itself is simple. It's therefore the expression of consciousness.

So if a man is not conscious, if he does not develop his awareness to the point where the organism senses these things, nothing is material. This explains our ability to callously destroy one another, along with our environment and the objects we need for our day-to-day existence. If there is no awareness of materialism, if it is all of abstraction in which we do not participate, simply a set of mechanical devices to be manipulated in one way or another, we can see the connections. We can't see what we are within the context of what we are; we can't see where our responsibilities lie.

In this paradoxical sense, the movement towards an inner awareness and a greater sense of consciousness is not a movement away from materialism; it is a movement towards materialism. It is, in fact, the most absolutely materialistic philosophy one could adopt, because it does not try to deny this material reality—it seeks to inhabit it.

Mankind consistently turns away from the conscious inhabitation of material reality. Which will be a subject for the next post.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.