Sunday, May 27, 2012

Materialism and suffering

Tibetan Mask
Shanghai Museum
Material reality is the vehicle for the arising and expression of consciousness. Awareness and perception are emergent properties of material reality; from the Gurdjieffian cosmological point of view, it might be said that it is the duty of material reality to perceive.

 Life without mindfulness is not life. It is an illusion. The development of real perception, and inhabitation of material reality, is a painful and difficult process, and we continually turn away from it. The consciousness we believe we have, which we believe perceives accurately, is actually a constant turning away from the inhabitation of the material world. It's an escape from it. Awakening of consciousness is an awakening into the material world, not a transcendence of it. It is a penetration of what is material.

 In our ordinary state, we are solid, and the world is transparent. This is an inverted perception. What ought to happen is that we ought to become transparent, with material reality assuming its rightful place as what is solid.

Suffering—what Gurdjieff called intentional suffering, a term which has spawned nearly endless debate as to its meaning—is the inhabitation of material reality. In order to suffer, we must turn our face directly towards all of the material truths and facts of our existence. Every object, event, circumstance, and condition must be inhabited and confronted fully and wholly. This is not an action for timid souls or weak minds. Because it subordinates the ego to the facts, we resist it.

 A careful examination of the daily inner attitude will find countless examples in which this turning away takes place. Consciousness is perception and inhabitation; mechanical behavior is a retreat from what is into what I wish would be. Since almost all of what I wish things would be comes from my animal nature, my desires, it's always based on fantasy. There may be reliable behaviors in my repertoire, behaviors that don't involve a fleeing from truth, but they are weak behaviors. They don't have the strength to go against my constant desire to turn away.

Jeanne de Salzmann pointed out that we don't understand we want to be asleep. The animal doesn't want to be subordinate; it doesn't want to understand, it wants to overstand.

We can recast the terminology here and say that suffering is understanding; suffering is subordination; suffering is inhabiting life. To just be there is already to suffer.

In being available for impressions as they enter in a state where inner connections are functioning properly, the enormity of this suffering—which arises directly and inherently from the manifestation of material reality—is apparent. One cannot inhabit reality without suffering the fact that one is inhabiting reality, and one cannot suffer this without discovering the fundamental vibration at the base of reality, in accordance with the conditions at our level.

Ah, you may ask. What in the blazes do I mean by that?

With all of the discussion in the Gurdjieff work about the warmer, fuzzier versions that have been blended with other disciplines, alluding to joy, happiness, and so on, we often forget the fundamental message of the chapter in Beelzebub, “the Holy Planet Purgatory.” It is, as he describes it:

“...the heart, as it were, and place of concentration of all the final results of the pulsation of everything that functions and exists in the whole of our great universe."
 "Our Common Father Creator Endlessness appears there so often only because this holy planet is the place of existence of the most unfortunate of 'highest-being-bodies' who obtained their coating on various planets of the whole of our great universe."
 "The 'highest-being-bodies' who become worthy to dwell on this holy planet suffer as perhaps no one and nothing suffers in the whole of our great universe."
 "In view of this, our All-Loving, All-Merciful, and Absolutely Just Creator Endlessness, having no other possibility of helping these unfortunate 'highest-being-bodies,' often appears there, so that by these appearances of his, he may soothe them, if only a little, in their terrible yet inevitable state of inexpressible anguish.” (Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, page 682.)

 It's often asked what we work for.  This uncompromising passage lays it out in black and white.

When we work to perfect our being, when we work to fulfill our responsibilities, when we do everything that we can do to fulfill our obligations to the highest level, we discover that the best we can hope for is purgatory.

If a man knows that the gates to heaven are forever closed to him, does that excuse him from the responsibility of working?

And if he knows that his work can only lead, in the end, to a state of inexpressible anguish, will he rather just die, than fulfill his obligations?

 We must think well, and think hard, on our position here. We don't understand where we are or what we are doing. We are filled with arrogance and misunderstandings.

It would pay to open our eyes once in a while.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.