Thursday, August 2, 2012
The Colorless Vessel
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.