Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Clear Vision

There are many different types of vision, that is, seeing.

 Broadly speaking, seeing can be put into two different classifications, “outer” seeing, which is the vision of the external world, its form, its structure, and the presumed material nature of life in the cosmos. Machines and instruments can verify some of this kind of seeing, so over the course of mankind's evolution, we have emphasized technologies. They get results of a specific kind, within lifetimes. We are accustomed to extolling those with a grand vision of society, humanity, achievement, philosophy, medicine, etc.

"Inner" seeing, the other kind of seeing, is intimate and personal. Over the course of a lifetime, this is what most of a man or woman's seeing consists of, and yet it gets relatively little attention. Some few contemplative types plumb its depths, but they are relatively unknown, mysterious, and not subject to the same kind of "take it apart and see how it works" analysis that the external world is. Unfortunately, terrible things go wrong inside men and women, producing disastrous results for many. We've had some stunning illustrations of that both over the course of history, and in very recent events.

Seeing—inner seeing— ought to be intimate, and ought to feed a value within ourselves. Yet we don't attend to it, and we consequently don't see that it is a food we need. We can feed ourselves, both inside and outside, with the wrong kind of impressions, which will produce the same kind of effect as the wrong kind of physical food. For example, there are some mushrooms that are good; others will make you throw up or die if you eat them. No one thinks much about the fact that there are ideas and impressions that have the same effect on a man's psyche, until some form of catastrophic event takes place.

 I ponder the effects of inner vision frequently, because the question of what kind of food is arriving in me, and what my relationship to it is, is a daily one. Manna from Heaven is a specific kind of food, related to the Action of God. Yet it isn't always sent; for most of us, it seems to be an allegorical substance, not an objective one, and yet its presence is both legitimate and objective.

 Why doesn't this kind of help arrived always, for everyone, and why aren't we immersed in a flow of Being that consistently and universally edifies?

It's clear there are currents and countercurrents. One doesn't know why one is caught in one, or the other. During the Second World War, as Max Hastings describes in his book Inferno, very nearly everything went wrong, everywhere, and individuals found themselves caught up in disastrous and tragic events, feeling that they had never done anything to deserve the kind of punishment—and even death—that they dealt out or received. No amount of technology (most of which was used to kill people at that time) can rationalize these events, and brilliant scientists of the mind and the body have no idea why things work out this way. It's quite clear it's because man's inner impressions are deranged, but we have no real idea of how to fix them.

As to the karmic questions, overarching philosophies may be able to answer them, but then again, maybe they don't. A person like myself, who finds complete satisfaction and even truth in the explanation offered by relatively obscure masters such as Gurdjieff, Meister Eckhart, and Ibn Al Arabi, stands at odds with the majority of humanity, who have no interest in such esoterica, preferring more public (and often vastly more destructive) forms of religious devotion.

And even though I am deeply immersed in both inner practice, the study of philosophy, and practical understandings of our nature, I can't claim to know the “right” answers either. Every understanding leads to more questions; every practical experience shows not how much I know, but how little.

As I grow older, I become increasingly certain that if if there is any clarity of vision, it must come from within—at least, it must begin there, but it can only be inwardly formed in a right way if it's received from a higher source. That is an action that feeds us with food of a different kind. It blends both with our ordinary outer and intimate inner natures and impressions, and produces an amalgam of what medieval philosophers would have called an alchemical nature.

Most of what we take in as impressions can be classified as lead. It's relatively inert; we aren't present to the arrival of impressions, and no higher substances active in us participate. It's only one a different force begins to act in us that lead can begin its long passage towards the refinement of quality referred to as gold in alchemy.

 There is only one clear vision, and it is both emitted and received by a much higher source. We only see to the extent that we participate, and in participation, it is not we ourselves that see; instead, we join in a seeing.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Great Consequences

What are Great Consequences?

Sometimes one speaks of Being as though it were a thing in itself; as though it could somehow be alone. Yet it is never alone. It is always in relationship.

Being itself is relationship; consciousness cannot have only itself and be aware only of itself. There must be an object; and the material universe is the object in the relationship of the consciousness of God. This relationship is intact, which means untouched. It is whole. The apparent contradiction between the transcendent and immanent is embraced by the existence of both; the action of conscience is the active experience of this condition. Conscience, in other words, is actually a divine manifestation, which is why it is assigned such a high place in Gurdjieff's cosmology. It is the reconciliation of transcendence and immanence on the microcosmic level.

Only the interaction between the transcendent and the immanent, between God and the universe, creates the possibility of Being, which consciously mediates the two.

The self can’t be known without the mirror.

As one lives, one finds oneself in the middle of a great consequence. The great consequence is not egoistic, but manifest. It contains I but it cannot be I, because I in itself is already a contradiction; or, rather, an abbreviation, a contraction of Being.

So Being is not a consequence of life; one can't live, and then Be. Life is a consequence of Being; the great consequence. So first one must Be; then, one lives. Life flows as a consequence of Being, on all its levels. Life is a dependent clause of Being, whereas one usually sees Being as a dependent clause of one's own life. 

It's seen upside down. Perhaps one thinks that life flows into being; that one lives here, and then one wishes to Be — one thinks that one can become Being. Actually, it's the other way around — Being flows into life. There can only be life through Being. This is why life in the state of sleep was referred to as death in the Gospels. Without Being, life is equivalent to death.

It may seem as though something is coming into us when we receive an impression, and that it is feeding our Being, but rather, nothing is actually coming in or going out. The conditions are simultaneous and equal, and they exist within one another. It's the reciprocity that matters; not the action of one thing feeding another, but of both things feeding each other. So we inhabit the condition of reciprocal exchange, which arises from Being, and from which all other manifestations emanate.

Hence all of consciousness is, in a certain sense, the great consequence.

Let's take an example; paint doesn't look conscious. It's just flat stuff that lies on the surface of things. Yet paint itself is already conscious in the moment that consciousness touches paint. Paint and consciousness can't be excluded from one another as things having different properties; they contain one another. The apparent fact that they can appear quite different is an accident.

When paint takes a form, whether intentionally or unintentionally, this is also already consciousness. Every taking of form is consciousness, because there cannot be any form without the perception of form. And only consciousness can perceive form.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Action of God

Every creature is a key that unlocks the heart of God in one's own heart. Yet the heart of God can only be unlocked within the awareness of God's grace. It is His action that unlocks hearts, and not one's own.

If one wishes to unlock one's own heart, actually, one wishes to unlock the Heart of God, which is sealed by God. One has the capacity to unlock that lock, but not the ability.

Only in action that is intact, that is, untouched—pure—can that lock be unlocked. If the action is pure, even a creature as small as a fly could unlock that lock, but any action that is touched by man is drained of itself and has no effect.

To unlock the heart isn't anything one knows, and it happens in an instant. It happens in an instant, and in an instant, it does not happen anymore, because it is only in a moment that the Heart of God can be unlocked. One is unable to bear more than this.

 Gurdjieff spoke to Ouspensky about entering a room, unlocking a door with a key. Truly, he spoke parenthetically about unlocking the whole Heart of God,  because no matter how many thresholds one  crosses and how many doors one opens, this is the threshold one wishes to cross, and this is the door one wishes to open. It's also the same threshold that God wishes men and women would cross and the same door He wishes they would open, for He wants mankind to return to His Heart. It's this surrender, this return to what is most sacred, that is always calling, if mankind could but hear it.

 And it comes in such tiny things. 

 When God enters a man or a woman, He does it with such unbearable deftness of touch that there can be no doubt what is acting. And there is never an impression that the Action belongs to anything the man or woman has done. Actions of God cannot be mistaken for other actions. If one isn't sure, it's not an Action of God. If one doesn't already know, it is no Action of God. The Action of God already knows. It arrives knowing. It does not need thinking, interpretation, or brokerage.

Such Action is called “the Lamb of God,” because of its gentleness and innocence, its assurance of purity. One says it “taketh away the sins of the world,” because it is intact and untouchable, and it takes away everything that one is, only in order to give so much more.

 The sins of the world, after all, is everything man is. Not just the good things; not just the bad things. Men and women are the sins of the world in their own entirety; it's not possible to understand this until man's being is contrasted with the Action of God. When what is Perfect attempts to express itself in man, imperfection is banished for that instant; arguments cease. There is nothing more than the Presence of God, which is sufficient unto itself.

Surely, as one drinks the richness of all the different works one undertakes—all of which are one's own works, and mere shadows of the works of God—one must know that one drinks in the hopes of something like this, else, what is thirst for? 

 Every method fails—and one waits.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wait and See

Dealing with daily life has a way of creating one urge after another.

Some of the urges are pretty simple; another cup of coffee, food, a wish to get some small but unpleasant task out of the way quickly. But other urges arise in the face of more difficult challenges: an argument with a loved one, a difficult child, an inappropriate  (or even perhaps appropriate, yet distressing) impulse towards anger.

 If I watch this action, I see impulses arriving constantly. The entire machine is driven by these things, which arise physically (hunger, for example) emotionally (desire for some serene state that isn't actually attainable) or intellectually (inner arguments and rationalizations.) The machine is cranking it out, 24/7. Even in my dreams, I think these impulses routinely arise as motive forces.

The origin of the word impulse can imply an inward or outward origin of motive force: Latin impellere, from in—"toward" and "pellere"—to drive. Or, conversely, Latin impulsus, outward pressure.

 I usually perceive the pressure, the impulse, the motive force as coming from outside me, but I think all of the motive forces, when I examine them in detail, are actually inner forces. The outer forces exist, but they don't have a propulsive quality unless I allow them to. When I am passive, in an inner sense, I fail to make the choice to be active in regard to objects, events, circumstances and conditions. Being active doesn't consist of what I think it consists of; being active is seeing them, initially (immediately) understanding that they exist, and that I exist, and that we are not identical, but in relationship.  I say initially or immediately because I mean, in the moment, that is, now. Understanding this must, of necessity, be instantaneous, that is, organic and unmediated.

If I see that we (my Self,  as opposed to outer objects, events, circumstances, and conditions) are not identical, but in relationship, my inner state in relationship to the outer conditions may change. In other words, I may discover a more proprietary relationship to my inner condition. I see the inner state, as well, instead of automatically enslaving it to every outer impulse.

 Well, there's no easy way here. I make it too technical; perhaps I think about it and try to analyze it. A good deal of that seems to go on.

Nonetheless, one thing is certain. If I stop, I watch, I observe what is taking place in me—I see how confusing the whole thing is. In attempting to establish relationship, getting into touch with my inner conditions, I reached the conclusion that perhaps I should just wait and see.

This is much against my inner impulse. Every urge creates a reciprocal and immediate desire in me to react. If I have a fight with someone, I want to fix it right away, or revenge myself on them. Childish, I know, but that's how things function in me. If I disagree, I want to either win the argument or repair it by finding common ground. If I find a yellow jacket's nest, rather than walking by carefully and quietly, I'm tempted to destroy it, without regard for the fact that they could well sting me, or that I am disrupting their happy lives, which they have a perfect and well-defended right to.

 So the temptation in me is to always meddle, instead of waiting and seeing.

 There's a great merit in stopping; in waiting and seeing. I find that so many things fix themselves if I don't mess around with them. It makes me wonder why the impulses to do otherwise in me are so strong. I suppose that it's the attachment; that kind of attachment is formed from a relatively coarse understanding and relationship, which is reflexive in me.

 When I seek something finer, it always seems to suggest that perhaps waiting and seeing would make more sense. And often, it does.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It's one thing to understand intellectually that everything in the universe is inevitable and interconnected; that everything is part of a single whole. It's quite another thing to be sensate of this fact.

By inevitable, one means that there are no alternatives, and that all things actually consist of one single thing, reflected in many different ways.

In reflections, the stone is a reflection of the bird, and the bird is a reflection of the stone. We are reflections of one another. Yet we don't sense this, perhaps even intellectually we don't sense it. One thing appears to be different from another, and we don't see or understand that this is one of the secrets of the myriad names of God.

There are an enormous number of practices surrounding the idea of remembering the self, and there are as many theories about what it consists of and what the self is as there are selves to investigate and experience. But all of this activity is actually no more than a fractional expression of a complete and absolute inevitability, which contains everything, and is unable to be anything other than what it is. Man's wish that things be otherwise is an illusion based on a failure to understand that this can never be possible.

The self cannot remember the self, because it is the self, and even the forgetting is a part of itself. (This conundrum is examined and close detail by Ibn Al Arabi in the wisdom of the Exaltation of Noah.) So to know forgetting is to know the self, and to know remembering is to know the self. The self already knows itself, whether it remembers or forgets.

In forgetting, we forget; and remembering, we remember. Both are equal, as long as we see that we remember and we see that we forget. Neither one can be separated from the other because both belong to the sacred action of consciousness, and of life.

This may perhaps seem too confusing or sophisticated, but remembering and  forgetting stand apart from consciousness. Consciousness knows what it is, whether there is forgetting or remembering, and it is a different thing than forgetting or remembering. If this doesn't sound like what the books say, so be it. We are not books, and filling ourselves with them won't help in the end.

What we need to be filled with is sensation, a new kind of sensation. To be sensate of how all things contain one another is quite different than to think about how all things contain one another. To contain and to be contained are equal to remembering and forgetting. We appear to fall in and out of both conditions, but they include one another, so there can be no leaving.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Desert of the Daily Soul

While I was sitting this morning, it rained.

I sit under the eaves of my house, and there's a skylight that the rain drums on during thunderstorms.

It occurred to me that our souls are generally dry. We live in this desert, in this lack of water, which is a spiritual desert, not a literal one. The desert fathers may have lived in areas where it didn't rain much, but the desert that they went out to, the desert that they inhabited and struggled in, is this desert of the daily soul, where so little water falls and few plants grow.

We are so used to this environment we don't even realize that it's impoverished.

The Lord brings water to the soul. A higher energy enters us and transforms the inner desert into a place where something can bloom. But this takes years of work and perseverance.

I think we all want this to happen right now. We are unaccustomed to waiting for satisfaction; in a society dominated by short attention span, and the ability to purchase and consume at will, we expect to be able to purchase and consume the Lord, and to have Him at will.  The right pilgrimage, the right retreat, the right magazine or cushion to sit on; the right practice. If we shop at the right store, we'll get the right merchandise, and take it home happy and satisfied.

We are unaware of the tensions in ourselves that block what we need to receive. Most of them run so deep that they lie well beyond our ability to sense them. It's only when something higher enters us, that something truly gives way, that we discover we never had the capacity we thought we had, and that we can never acquire it. That it can only be given through Grace. Until then, we struggle against the wrong forces, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons.

 It takes decades to understand our lack of capacity. Decades. The incremental nature of work; the very gradual watering of the inner desert, the slow build up of a more fertile soil that can receive what is necessary; all of this is more or less misunderstood. It's in our nature to misunderstand it. We are impatient men and women embarked on a path where the first requirement is patience.

 An organic urge for sustenance needs to arise. Prayer from the intellect is not enough to bring rain; the prayer needs to arise in the body, to belong to the body itself, and meet the mind. We always try to use the prayer of the intellect to awaken the prayer of the body, and yet it does not work that way. The prayer of the intellect does not know the prayer of the body. It cannot know the prayer of the body, because it is not the body.

 Conversely, the prayer of the body can know the prayer of the intellect, and it can help it. How this is so, we can't say. Perhaps it is just the way that the structure is conceived. Somehow, if the prayer of the body is real, intellect can know it. But first the prayer of the body has to be organic.

 When these two prayers meet, the third prayer of a real wish can enter. Each time this happens, we know what it is when the desert receives the blessing of rain.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Within conditions

When I arrived in Shanghai last Tuesday night, I called my wife to let her know I was okay, only to find out she was in the hospital. The company truck had run over her left leg.

 By the time I got to the hotel, I had already advised my company I had to go back to the United States, and—literally— within 15 minutes of arrival, I was booked on a flight back home. What followed was two more days of sleep deprivation and anxiety.

 The good news is that Neal is okay. Her leg, while badly injured, does not have any broken bones—only compression injury (which looks positively awful, let me tell you.) It will take weeks for her to recover.

All of this, and the subsequent caregiving tasks I need to shoulder, remind me once again how essential the life of service is.

We serve ourselves in life; but not in the right way. We serve our egoistic impulses, rather than our humility. We serve our arrogance, rather than our compassion. If there was any presence in us, it would see this immediately in any given moment, yet we have little. And we don't question that—the machine has an endless number of excuses for the way we behave, doesn't it?

There was an article in the New York Times this morning—it's on the front page of the Sunday edition—about how machines are replacing human beings in more and more factories. The question of what kind of work people will have left to do if the machines do it all for us goes unasked—and, of course, unanswered. But it seems clear that human beings without real work will get themselves into trouble. On the scale of societies, it almost always leads to violent revolutions. Unsurprisingly, no one is discussing this. We will, as usual, run over the cliff and then fall screaming to the bottom, rather than stop and think about what we are doing.

Perhaps we can infer that our own automatism, the machine in us, takes work away from the real parts of us that need it as well. There are all these parts that ought to get regular exercise in us—our attention, our compassion, our intuition, our sensitivity, our instincts, our love, our intelligence. Each one of them needs to be directly engaged with the world most of the time in order to get the right kind of exercise, and to have the work that is necessary for it. Yet we put ourselves on cruise control, and let the machine, the factory, stamp out and assemble parts that seem to be suitable for the life in front of us. We force the parts to fit regardless of whether or not they're appropriate for the moment; and all the parts of us that might intervene to create a more flexible and intelligent relationship are left frustrated and wanting.

Who knows how much of this is the reason that men go insane, that they snap and commit acts of violence? And how much of this failure to be present to ourselves, to be mindful of who we are and to be within the conditions we are in, causes the terrible problems we see on the planet today?

Letting machines do all the work, whether inner or outer, seems to be a good, businesslike solution—it's efficient. Unfortunately, efficiency has no emotional quality; all it does is create an atmosphere that is effective. It could be effective at feeding poor people; or it could be effective at building gas chambers for ethnic groups one doesn't like. Both things happen. Without the intelligence, the compassion, the presence that a man or woman can bring to life through inner effort—work he or she needs, work that cannot be done by a machine—terrible things will surely go wrong, and they do. The inner machine keeps stamping out the same parts to interface with life, over and over again, even though the situations are constantly new. The parts don't fit; things go wrong; anger and tragedy ensue.

We need to stop ourselves occasionally and see that our inner machine is doing most of what needs to be done. It's at moments like that that mindfulness can enter, and perhaps change something. Mindfulness helps us to be within conditions; and if we are not within conditions, we are nowhere. We aren't even there.

Conditions may be bad. Maybe that's why we would prefer to avoid them by not being mindful. But every condition is exactly as it should be. We cannot argue with objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. They are an irrevocable part of the Dharma, all constituents of what we call Truth. We have to inhabit that truth mindfully if we wish to know what is true. Machines really aren't capable of that. All they do is stamp out parts.

 I think service consists of using our intelligence to be more than just a machine. We have to bring more of ourselves than the usual reactions to life.

That's something that can only be done in the moment, and can only be done if we stop to see where we are.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Returning to obedience

"The Unmanifest says "No" when the Manifest says "I [am]" and the Manifest says "No" when the Unmanifest says "[Only] I [am]." This is the nature of opposition, but the speaker and listener [in both cases] are One, the Unique. "
—Ibn Al Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, Trans. R.W.J. Austin, Paulist Press 1980, P.86 

This quote is taken from The Wisdom of Holiness in the Word of Enoch.  I chose this excerpt specifically because it concisely embodies all of the principals  of the enneagram which I expounded in my book The Law of Three. ... At the same time, I recommend you read the whole chapter.

  When Gurdjieff said that the enneagram contained everything a man might need to know about the nature of things, according to his level of understanding, he wasn't exaggerating. Most specifically, the universal action of embodiment or manifestation of reality (the manifest says "I [am]")  and the surrender of the manifest back into its origination in the Divine (the unmanifest says [Only] I [am]) are perfectly reflected here, creating a single whole symbolized by the entire progress around the octave, as depicted in the enneagram.
 It furthermore recapitulates the processes of  Holy Denying, Holy Affirming, and Holy Reconciling, and deftly explains how they exchange places with one another as the process evolves. 

  The first conscious shock involves the manifestation of ego, which is a denial of God, and the second conscious shock involves surrender to a higher will,  a return to obedience, a return to the transcendent—as, indeed, the energy passes from si to do, completing the circle and the diagram itself. This principle of circulation was clear to Al Arabi, and the enneagram unfailingly illustrates it.

To view this as a process in the material world, we need to understand this process takes place perpetually and instantaneously, in every manifestation of matter.  We are living through it in the material expression of our being, as well as in the process of our psyche, and the process is unending.

 This is a sensate process, which is why Al Arabi and all the other great mystics insisted it cannot be mastered with the intellect. The organism itself must change so that it senses this process within it. That may seem like a tall order; and of course, from the point of view of us “doing” anything about it, it is, because it is not something that we can do. It's only offered through Grace, and even then only after real effort is made, a lot of real effort. Yet when it takes place, it takes place naturally, without striving, without desire, and without attachment. 

The sensate process of participation is offered freely. But it has to be earned first.

 One first needs to know that one works for such a thing. We are not working to be better people, or to improve our material place in life. We are working to put ourselves back under the obedience we abandoned when we first said “I am.” It's true that we had to say I am, to affirm ourselves; the material has no choice but to come into being and to express  its being. This is in accordance with the will of God. But the remainder of the process is also in accordance with the will of God, and it can't be completed without effort, because to surrender I am, to return to obedience, is not an easy process.

 An alignment with obedience is a thing of a different nature from what we think of as our life. It doesn't take life away; we lose nothing. We gain something immeasurably more valuable, which is added to life, as it is. It doesn't change anything, except how we are within ourselves.

The whole world depends on that, if we but knew it.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Dogs, and My Father's Shoes

An interesting little piece about Dogs by my friend Richard Hodges.

Also, the new Doremishock Blog, which will occasionally publish other material I write.

Shame and Worship

 Gurdjieff referred to contemporary man as having lost his sense of organic shame. One rarely hears this discussed, yet he called it a fundamental being impulse, and the main lever of objective morality. The fact that this concept was not elaborated any further than the expression itself in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson leaves us without a lot to hang our hats on in attempting to understand what was meant by the expression.

I was on the street in Manhattan today, observing many different people, and it occurred to me that all of us perpetually pour ourselves outward into ourselves; and in this way we have no organic shame. We don't know what shame is, because we are not aware enough of ourselves to feel shame.

If we could see ourselves, the first thing we would feel is shame. Not shame for what we are, but for what we've become. The reason I say this is because what we are, fundamentally, has a goodness and purity to it which is endowed by our sacred property as a microcosmic representative of God. This, in essence, is what we are; and perhaps we see a glimpse of it in the innocence of children. But what we become is quite different than what we are; we pour our Being into the vessel of our ego, and it sits there on display for all to see.

 We feel no embarrassment; we are completely blind to ourselves. The idea of organic shame doesn't connect for us.  Men and women who ought to go through life quietly and with respect go loudly, and with arrogance. The Earth will have no inheritors, because no one is meek.
Shame doesn't do a man any good, though, short of providing an impetus. If the impetus is towards guilt (as is so often the case) then the impulse, which appears noble, is actually egoistic.

 Shame should never move us towards condemnation, but always towards worship. This is true of all things, but most especially of those born of true insight. If what we see does not draw us towards prayer, it leads us away from it, because nothing can remain static in regards to prayer.

We can see how we are, and the degree to which an impression has been taken in and understood, by the measure of whether or not it draws us towards prayer.

If the response in us is familiar, and in accordance with what we already wish, desire, or understand, the response is of this world. If the response is otherwise, we can be sure that impulse is from a higher source; and in these matters only what is unknown can be trusted.

So real shame ought not, ultimately, to stain us, but to elevate us, because every sacred impulse (feeling, bestowed by God's Grace) is meant so. It becomes, in other words, an organic impulse to turn our faces towards the Lord; to admit our iniquity, and submit. 

Is there an element of confessional in it? I think so. Yet are we willing to take what we are to the confessional? Perhaps not; anyone who considers this will begin to understand why it is said that we must fear the Lord. 

We don't fear the Lord because the Lord isn't merciful or compassionate; we fear because we are not merciful and compassionate.

We see, eventually—well, perhaps we see—that everything we are, as we are, is lacking. What we fear is ourselves. And only a higher power can help us to overcome this deficiency.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Pray?

Why pray?

This is a question only for believers. A man who believes prays because he chooses to; a man who knows, prays because he must.

In a man who is aligned, prayer becomes spontaneous and even constant. Without alignment, prayer doesn’t know anything, including itself; and prayers must know themselves,They must arise from their own awareness, if they are to be real. In this way, they are the same as human beings.

The direction of a prayer can be determined by its length. Short prayers move towards God; long prayers, away from Him.

Prayer is a living thing that cannot be separated from the world or from God. In awareness, prayer is constant and eternal; its action is everywhere, and can't be avoided. If a man prays, and prays honestly, he does no more than give voice to that which already is. We cannot write true prayers, which are already there; at best, we unveil their existence in actions. Prayer constitutes the bridge that connects the Divine to the material; it represents movement between the transcendent and the immanent. As such, it is one of the qualities of God.

Until prayer acts by itself, all we do is prepare to pray. We can prepare with long prayers; but these distract us, because they immediately become entangled in our thoughts, rather than our action. Hence the essential brevity of true prayer, which consists of very short prayers, such as "Lord have mercy", or "Lamb of God." All spontaneous prayer is more or less of this nature.

Ultimately, we seek to be those who know of prayer that arises by itself; prayers that already exist, and have existed since the universe was first created. These are not the prayers of man, but the prayers of creation. Creation began to pray from the instant that it came into Being, and it never ceases to pray. Those who worship, those who want to pray, seek participation in this internal action. Once one knows the taste of it, one will never want to be left out. This is why the concept of prayer in the church is  a perpetual one.

We might think we can divorce inner work from prayer, that somehow, there is a kind of inner work or self remembering that doesn't involve prayer, but there is no such thing. Everything in the world is either already prayer, or is trying to become prayer. So we can forget about remembering ourselves without prayer. The two are not different. It's a question of understanding what prayer is, not whether it is necessary.

Prayer is intact and inevitable; this means it is untouched and absolute. Untouched itself, and thus pure, it can touch on the Divine; and in fact it cannot be separated from it. 

All material things must be rendered unto Ceasar, but prayer does not belong to this world, and is offered only to God. Insofar as it remains attached to this world, it cannot fulfill its objective.  and the objective of prayer is not our own objective; the minute that prayer requires our own objectives, it is no longer pure. Prayer knows its own objective; it is objective.

There is a difference between attachment and acknowledgment; prayer can acknowledge this world, but our prayers must be unattached, unfettered, in their journey towards God.

Thy bounty infinite; thy truth eternal.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Harmonious Enneagram

Last night, friends were over, and we were discussing the idea that the enneagram can explain almost anything, if one understands the diagram.

My wife Neal said, "All right, then, what does it tell me about where I am in my life?"

I'm not sure she really expected an answer, but there is one, although it may not be too comforting.

 We can view human life from birth to death as a single octave of development. Certain things are supposed to happen during that period; there are whole notes that must be played throughout a life if a man is to develop into a whole Being. This was well known in ancient times, but over time, with the very nearly complete destruction of traditional societies, the science of inner development has essentially collapsed.

One might think that this idea of notes is somehow conjectural or vague, but as with anything regarding the enneagram, it's actually quite specific, and understanding it will help shed considerable light not only on ourselves, but also on modern society and modern psychology practices in general.

 Readers might want to open this link to the enneagram of the Harmonious Development of Man and refer to it in light of the following discussion.

In the enneagram of Harmonious Development, the note "Do" represents the birth of a human being.

Re and Mi represent infancy and adolescence, the first two "notes" of life which are played before a shock becomes necessary. In ancient societies, the shock was represented—both implied, and in some cases even actually delivered—by rites of initiation, something that has passed by the wayside in modern societies. Although the shock, of course, represents conscious labor—a task that has to be performed, in the case of these initiatory rites—it usually also involves suffering, thus acting as a foreshadowing of the entire process the young man or woman must go through over the course of their life. Some fragments of these practices survive in modern times, but because the specific inner purpose of the rite has been entirely forgotten, they are now very nearly worthless.

Initiation— the passage, with assistance, to note Fa— represents the formation of a real “I,” that is, the formation of a real—as opposed to false—personality, or, what Gurdjieff called Conscious Egoism.  As I have explained both in this blog and my own book, The Law of Three, a man cannot complete any further tasks in his own inner development  until he has formed a real “I.” Readers should understand that without this real “I,” there is nothing there to work with further in terms of inner development. Gurdjieff said this to his students over and over.

After passing through initiation, once real "I" has formed, a human being must then form a conscious connection to the essence at note Sol, which, significantly, is on the level of the sun, and  represents the entry of a special emotional, or feeling, quality to inner work. (See my book Chakras and the Enneagram  for a diagram of the way that the ray of creation relates to the enneagram.) This actually represents the beginning of work on a higher level.

 Following this development, we at once encounter the incorrect location of the second conscious shock, which (as always) has an important anticipatory meaning. The shock itself (which is actually located between Si and Do) represents intentional suffering, or surrender—Thy Will be done, or, Islam.

Hence its intimate association with the second conscious prayer, Lord have Mercy.

 At the note La, man balances his ego and essence. The "anticipatory" location of the 2nd conscious shock is meant to indicate, in this position, the necessity of surrender on both the part of ego and essence in order to balance. They each need to give to one another, surrendering some of themselves.

 At the note Si, which every man or woman is meant to reach by the end of their lives in a proper inner development, a human being develops what is called insight, or wisdom, which prepares them properly for the full surrender that takes place when the actual shock, for which they ought to have prepared all their lives, takes place.

That shock is, in fact, death.

This is what we are preparing for. And the blending and balancing of essence and ego is a foreshadowing of our preparation for death, which must actually occupy all of our inner action after the connection to essence is formed.

Let's get back, now, to Neal's question. Where are we in our lives?

By and large, all of mankind never gets past the note Mi. We remain trapped in a perpetual adolescence, no matter how old our body grows, because we don't understand how to apply the shock of conscious labor—which, as in all other cases, requires help from a higher authority (and is represented by the elders in initiation rites)—to ourselves. This is why men and women  interested in inner development must invariably work in schools, where the teacher has a higher authority.

Because there is no real effort made to develop a real "I"— even our religions have almost completely forgotten that this is necessary— American society, and societies all over the world in general, are packed full of adolescents, who behave accordingly—that is, irresponsibly. That's because we have never attained the actual age of responsibility from an inner point of view; all we have done is age physically.

Our psychology is trapped at the same point. Because all of us are, in many senses, perpetually no more than children, we focus on issues from our childhood and adolescence when we examine mankind's psychology; and we act like babies, or spoiled teen agers. It would be unusual for anyone to find a real man or a real woman with this kind of psychological issues, because by the time real “I” forms, the childish issues have, as St. Paul so eloquently indicated, been settled. The heroes of mythology often represent individuals who have formed real "I", sometimes quite early in life, as the myths of child heroes demonstrate.

 One could say many other things on this subject, hundreds of them, in fact, but readers must do their own work with these concepts to understand, for example, the way in which the sub-octaves that lie underneath each note of this octave of the life cycle affect the development of the whole.

We could indicate, for example, that at every note, a fraction of the note may form, but not its whole tone, because the subsidiary octave hasn't developed completely or correctly, and one can thus end up with many permutations of octaves, or lives, with a wide variety of consequent assets or deficits.

Which is, of course, exactly what we see in real life.

One last point ought to be mentioned; as always in the movement of energy through octaves, there is a constant interaction between the notes, as represented by Gurdjieff's multiplications. The implication is inescapable: our life weaves patterns throughout itself between the various times in our lives and the parts that form in us. They speak to one another, and inform one another.

The idea of using the present to repair the past and prepare the future takes on an added dimension when viewed in the context of the enneagram of Harmonious Development. Our life is engaged in an active dialogue with itself, throughout all of its stages; and we must help it to weave a whole tapestry, score a complete song, not a series of disconnected and dissonant notes.

 When Gurdjieff referred to the Harmonious Development of man, he was specifically interested in these questions.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Great Enemy

It's a lawful and natural thing for understanding to become divided, and for various people, all over the planet, who are engaged in inner work to find that they have differences.

Works split up. People disagree about this, that, and the other thing. It's like this; it's like that. Your understanding is not a good one. And so on. Yet it needs to be understood, on a certain level, that in work of this kind, there is no opposition.

To be sure, there is opposition out there, but it is of a much more dangerous and insidious nature than anyone suspects. Throughout history, every religion has caused its followers to undergo schisms and view their brothers as their enemies; versions of this have even arisen within the Gurdjieff Work. This kind of action is invariably because of partiality and mistaken understanding, yet those who engage in it insist, to the last man and woman, that they are not partial, and that they do understand. The humility incumbent upon those who actually work is appallingly lacking in cases like this.

It's impossible for those who truly work to be anything but brothers and sisters in Spirit. The instant that that disappears, that the Compassion, the Love, and above all, the organic sensation of one's own humility disappear, the slope is all downhill.

 Yet if all forces in the universe are equally necessary, why is there disagreement? Why would there be enemies at all? And why isn't there a single harmonious whole that functions flawlessly, in an endless sea of Compassion and Love?

 As has been explained in the past, energy can flow unless there are two poles for it to flow between. Compassion and Love create the two poles because they are necessary. In the universe, which is half (the imminent half) of God's being, everything trends downward unless a struggle is engaged in.

 The supreme polarity is the polarity between consciousness and unconsciousness. God is consciousness, and must struggle perpetually against His own unconsciousness in order to be fully manifest. Even God, in other words, needs an enemy, even if it is born—as it is with us—within Himself. God gives Himself work in the same way that we give ourselves work; He demands of Himself in the same way that He demands of us. We are, in every sense, a microcosmic reflection of this eternal and internal struggle to Be. We may think, in our usual egoistic way, that we contain "the struggle," yet the entire universe contains the struggle.

 So the great enemy is unconsciousness. Any external schism or argument that distracts us from this need to see the immediate in an objective sense serves unconsciousness, and it has many servants. Like the famous herd of swine, its name is legion—it is ubiquitous. And it is, in analogy to the swine, unclean, because unconsciousness fails to honor both the subject, the object, and the moment, the three pillars of Being upon which all experience of consciousness is based.

It may seem ridiculous to bring these cosmic questions down to the point of asking ourselves whether we are present to a blueberry when we pop it in our mouths, but this is the essential point. Everything that arises is there in order to be honored and appreciated. Only consciousness can perform this action; only consciousness can offer prayer, and every object, event, circumstance, and condition exists as a form of prayer and worship, whether it appears to work thusly or not. Consciousness is capable of perceiving this; in its absence, things are just things, and evil (unconsciousness) finds the evil within itself. Evil has it easy; it is a lack of effort, and what could be easier? If we speak of a lack in ourselves, perhaps we could make it just that simple.

 In this way, eating blueberries has the potential to be a sin, or a form of worship. So we confront the great enemy in every instance, within ourselves and the nature of our Being and consciousness, while all the while we think that the great enemy is out there somewhere, assigning it to the external.

 There needs to be a coming together within ourselves, and a coming together in inner work. There is already enough opposition in on consciousness, without us stoking the fire.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Technique and Consequences

Broadly speaking, in writing about inner work, we find bodies of material that speak about techniques, and bodies that speak about consequences. Sometimes they blend; but the principal interest in the Gurdjieff work is often one of technique, because we are focused on “how” to develop our inner lives, not on why one might do so.

My recent series of essays has taken, in broad measure, a look at consequences, because one needs to know where inner work is aimed and why one undertakes it in the first place.  It brings us back to the original question that caused me to start writing this blog. I've always been pretty open about the fact that I study the Gurdjieff method; and what I tell this to people who have never heard of it, they often ask me, “What do you do that for?” I think, actually, that it's a reasonable question, but every time someone asks it, the vast number of reasons that I “do” what I do seem impossible to recount. Five years of writing essays about it proves that impression out.

 Man has a thirst for knowing why we are here, and what we are up to on this planet. This is part of the “why.” Now, it's true, there is a paucity of contemporary explanation in the Gurdjieff work; aside from Gurdjieff's masterful Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson,  and the darker Victorian sediments of In Search of The Miraculous, not much is explained, and the overwhelming emphasis on technique in the Gurdjieff Work, both in its personally exchanged form and in subsequent literature, is evident. Aside from that, what we have is mostly anecdotes about Gurdjieff, and how it was working with him. These purport to convey a taste of what the master was like, but that is the past.  Everything about it ends up being cryptic, and Gurdjieff cannot be resurrected.

We can't afford to make the world too technical—and inner work cannot be made too technical either, or it dies. To be technical means to apply techniques, to have a predetermined formulation, a predetermined understanding. In so much of what we do, we admit that we lack of understanding, and yet then we try to develop understanding through technique, and apply it in a technical way, to reach a place which we already know we don't understand.

 The irony of this is lost on most of us. We talk about a living, breathing work, conducted within the moment, but then we try to use boilerplate to create that work. What ought be continual investigation—the investment within a situation, being clothed by the situation—becomes rote. What ought be improvisational becomes predetermined, according to a set of rules which may not even apply to the moment in question.

This is one way in which the habits of ordinary life take over our work and run it, without us even suspecting that it's so. Freedom is not a technique; it's a state of Being. So there is no technical approach to freedom. Freedom arises in, and as a gift solely from, God. Any freedom we create for ourselves is just another version of slavery.

 There is, of course, a freedom that arises from ourselves, but it arises in us. It is not created by us; our belief that we can "do" is what makes us believe we can manufacture an inner state of freedom.

 When I write about consequences, I do so because in my eyes this gets away, in some measure, from all the emphasis on techniques. We are interested in where we are going, aren't we? Yet so few of us consider ourselves empowered to look at the road ahead and describe it. Perhaps that's because understanding is lacking; it's evident, one without a good understanding cannot give a good explanation, and perhaps we all fear that our understanding is poor. It is; even spiritual geniuses such as Al Arabi and Meister Eckhart recognized and perhaps even emphasized the inevitable limitations of man's understanding.

 This does not excuse us from the effort to know. It's true that we need to know with parts of ourselves other than just the mind; and it's also true that we need to understand the consequences of inner work just as much as we understand technique. There is a hunger in us to understand, else we would never begin to seek ourselves, and a higher principle, in the first place.

Gurdjieff cited the third obligolnian striving as "The conscious striving to know ever more and more about laws of world-creation and world-maintenance.” 

If our work does not, in the end, cause us to shed light on the great questions of mankind, why bother?

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Kingdom of Heaven, part II

There has been a lot of talk about the Kingdom of Heaven over the course of Christianity, and, of course, all the religions speak of such things in one way or another.

Yet Jesus Christ said the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. Why did He say that?

 As explained in the last post, the quality of God is an action of consciousness, and the Kingdom of Heaven is an action of consciousness. Consciousness has both knowable and unknowable dimensions, and we fail to sense the greater part of it, because the greater part of it does not belong to man.

Yet man has the ability to live within the Kingdom of Heaven, because he is, knowingly or unknowingly, a perfect expression of it, as is every arising within the cosmos. Man's consciousness and his material being perpetually inhabit this eternal perfection. Man's capacity or lack of capacity to sense this is meaningless relative to the fact, which has a great deal to do with the Zen Buddhist schools' recognition that there is no enlightenment. The Dharma contains everything, whether everything wants to be contained by the Dharma or not; whether everything knows it is contained by the Dharma or not.
Thus, both knowing and unknowing are encompassed by the manifestation of God, who expects and even demands that both be present.

 This is not an excuse for lack of effort; nor does it mean that all levels of consciousness are equal or equally valuable, just because all are necessary and preordained. There is a movement, a flow, between consciousness and unconsciousness, and the movement itself contains the action of God.

It's possible for the Kingdom of Heaven to express itself directly in the psyche of man, in every instant, or, conversely, in any instant, since clearly we don't know what it would mean to see it expressed in every instant. We think we wish to see it expressed in every instant; this is what higher Being might be, we think to ourselves, or, this is what enlightenment would be. Yet we cannot be separated from higher Being or enlightenment, except in our conscious sensation of it, because it is already there. This is consonant with Gurdjieff's teaching that man already has the higher centers in him, he just doesn't know it.

It's true. This is a truth based simply on the principle that all things contain all other things, that the universe is fractal, and that you cannot extract one thing from another and have anything left.

Consider ten thousand drops of water in the grass, and the moon in the sky. There is not one reflection of the moon in the drops of water, there are ten thousand reflections, and so the moon is contained within every drop of water, and you cannot separate the moon from a drop of water, or a drop of water from the moon.

 So it's true that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us, and that God's Mercy and Compassion are not only infinite and eternal; they are intimate and internal. This means that the qualities of Mercy and Compassion are not just available in the abstract, or on some cosmological scale; they have a wish to express themselves intimately and immediately in life, and we are the vehicles for that action.

It's possible to know this in life, but it takes many years of work. Even then, the expression of Mercy and Compassion, while perfect, remain essentially unknowable, even when in their action they are known.

There is no greater Grace than to do inner work and be given the gift of this action.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

An Unfolding

Every single moment unfolds the Will of God perfectly.

 This may be very difficult to understand, because we fail to distinguish between conjunction and discrimination, and we fail to understand that both are necessary. We live in a world dominated by discrimination—an outer world—and do not create the necessary bridge between the inner world of conjunction and the outer world of discrimination. Jeanne de Salzmann's admonition to place ourselves between two worlds speaks to exactly this issue; it is the same issue that the Zen schools and the Sufi schools studied and study, and you can find discussions of this in both Dogen's Shobogenzo and Ibn Al Arabi's Bezels.

Admittedly, the average reader doesn't have the time or the inclination to plow through these long and unfamiliar texts. Yet the message they bring us is compelling: God does not consist of this thing or that thing, any more than the Kingdom of Heaven consists of this thing or that thing; and, as Al Arabi so masterfully explains in The Bezels of Wisdom, to say that either God or the Kingdom of Heaven consists of either aspect—conjunction or discrimination—limits a limitless entity. (Note how Al Arabi's beautiful poem on the subject magnificently echoes Dogen's best work.)  In both cases, the view is mistaken. The Divine, the Reality, is not an existing quality, it is an action, which by its nature cannot be limited, because it is constantly new and constantly in response. Astute readers may begin to sense some of the basic premise behind Zen if they get a taste of what we're speaking of here.

The perfect Will of God is eternal and ever present. The Kingdom of Heaven, likewise, is eternal and ever present, and each moment both contains and is contained by these qualities.

This may seem like an impossibly bitter and even irrational pill to swallow. I've been reading the book Inferno by Max Hastings, which recounts in agonizing detail many of the atrocities of the second world war. How can we reconcile these awful events with a perfect unfolding of the Will of God?  It's a question that troubled spiritual seekers from all faiths have been seeking to reconcile for thousands of years.

In the same way that the presence of the universe itself is not accidental, but necessary, every action is not accidental, but necessary. In what may seem like a paradox, Gurdjieff's law of accident is not accidental; it is a law, and must conform lawfully to universal principles, like all other qualities. so even that what appears to be accidental is lawful; and in a lawful universe (which, all our sciences agree, is an absolute truth, not a relative one) all events are law-conformable... in other words, obedient. This subject has come up in recent posts, and it is far from casual, because the obedient nature of the universe itself is closely related to the task of man.

Every single moment is necessary. Moments cannot be separated one from another, with the preferential selection of this moment over that one. Yet discrimination specifically consists of this action—the very action that caused man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. We have our own inner Garden of Eden, and we are perpetually and repeatedly cast out of it because of this action of discrimination. The state of discrimination is the outer; and this is where we live, primarily, an outer life. Yet, as Al Arabi so carefully explains in The Wisdom of Exaltation in the Word of Noah,  it is necessary for us to also have an inner state of conjunction; and we cannot invest completely in either state, because each one is static, and merely represents a polarity in our position vis-à-vis existence.  It is the action, the energy, of movement between these two poles that creates Being, and in a very real sense, this is where God creates, finds, and remembers Himself. He has built a house for Himself between the transcendence of His unknowable nature, and the immanence of His material manifestation in the universe.

If there is no consciousness, there is no inhabitant of the house.

 If you sense a connection here with the classic Yoga concept of man's horse, carriage, and driver, you're being sensible.

Outer life itself is a carriage without a driver. It's a machine. The inner life is a driver who has to have a carriage to go anywhere. If the consciousness of the inner life does not inform the machine of the outer life, it's directionless. And it is the act of relationship—creating the connection—that gives a direction.

Every teaching is a map, but the maps are static things. It is only the action of standing between the map and the world that makes any difference.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Colorless Vessel

We are vessels into which the world flows.

This essential truth lies at the heart of Gurdjieff's entire teaching about impressions and the chemical factories. It also lies at the base of the mystical teachings of alchemy. Yet I think we rarely experience ourselves directly as vessels; we have a concept of ourselves as vessels, but not a Being. To Be is to eliminate context, to dispense with it. Inhabitation is not an act of relativity, it is absolute.

Interestingly, Ibn Al Arabi explained the profusion of religious practices and doctrines that arise in mankind by saying that when the divine—as he calls it, the Reality—manifests, it takes on the color of the vessel that it manifests in. In doing so, he explicitly explained that he understood we are vessels. We contain what is expressed; we offer the opportunity for a concentration of actions and principles. Indeed, without material reality, and its consequent potentials (which Gurdjieff expressed in terms of the multiple cosmoses  which flowed from one another following the action of creation) the divine would consist of actions and principles without order.

I haven't thought through the implications of this question, but to be sure, we live within a world of actions and principles under law. These obedient conditions are necessary. It's worthwhile to look around you and see everything that is and understand that all the conditions, regardless of your opinion, are necessary. It may have a profound effect on your interpretation of the need for action; after all, human life is generally understood as an impulse to rush off and change conditions. It's no wonder we are so confused; in a universe of endlessly changing colors, man generates his own universe of endlessly changing aims. What good does this do us? You can see the results. Judge for yourself.

 The color of the vessel, and consequent action, may be inevitable; yet ultimately, actions and principles have no color. Color is only ever a fraction of a whole, and may be said to be incapable of existence divorced from its origin. Fractions are useful, but they never escape from the parenthood of their whole numbers, and every single one of them ultimately refers to the whole number they are born of. If one loses sight of the whole number, the fraction completely ceases to have meaning or purpose. Fractions are, in fact, unable to exist without the whole number they are born from.

In the same way, inner and outer color only exist in the context of the entire spectrum that lives within.  To take any color as an entity superior to the spectrum that it arises from is mistaken.  In the same way, when we assign actions and principles the color of our vessel, when we take them as our own and express them within a context, be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, or anyone of a number of other practices, we obscure the truth within our partiality.

 We have the opportunity of becoming transparent. We may not understand what that means; of course, like the way we think about religious practice, and our own inner practice, it's a concept.  Yet if we truly receive, don't we see that it doesn't belong to the color that we paint our lives?  Yes, at once, we apply pigments, and we might even say that the application of color—the adaptation of the highest understandings and principles into our own lives, the interpretations of the understandings of Reality—is an action of the Lord, since all actions are actions of the Lord. Perhaps this is inevitable.

 Acknowledging all of this, we can still perhaps see that the fondest and greatest wish of the Lord is that we surrender our color. A vessel without any tint receives light as it is, reflecting all of its colors, and gives it back in the same measure, expressing all of its colors. This represents a most honest transmission, rather than one colored by desire, opinion, chance, tradition, and form. The absolute may generate all of these reflections of itself, yet its very striving in doing so arises from an impulse to sacrifice its partiality in a movement back towards its source.

 We, too, have that impulse. It is, unfortunately, overwhelmed by our partiality, which colors even the wish itself.

In moments of full expression of the inner work, perhaps we will understand that we are vessels, and In a single immeasurable instant, the coloration ceases. We have words for this such as stillness and silence; yet this moment is not still, nor is it silent.

Other things are taking place, things which don't have words.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.