Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Emotions, Impressions, and Memory

Readers will recall that Gurdjieff routinely advised his followers that nothing real could begin to proceed in a man's inner work until emotion participated. Emotion, he maintained, was at a higher level of vibration that intellect or physical (body) responses. Consequently, taking in impressions with the participation of the emotional center, as well as the intellect and the physical body, created a finer kind of food for Being.

 There may consequently be some interest in this recent article from science news about vividness of perception. It turns out that the participation of emotional areas in the brain has, in fact, a very great deal to do with how deeply impressions fall into us, and how clearly they are remembered.

Anyone engaged in a long-term process of inner work will already know this; and, of course, it has  many additional dimensions that are not alluded to in the article. The important point is that Gurdjieff's contentions are once again supported by objective scientific research. Not only that, we may be called to remember that, when he was asked what the results of inner work and the development of man would be, he said, “everything more vivid.”

 What Gurdjieff referred to as sleep is, in fact, a flattening of perception. The failure of more than one center to participate in taking in an impression bulldozes the landscape from both an inner and an outer point of view. A great deal of the tactile and sensate quality of the moment falls by the wayside. What enters us is a dramatically impoverished sense of what is around us and what is happening, along with a consequent loss of understanding. Things don't fall deeply into us; and we don't bother participating. It's enough to get us by, and that's about all we generally do.

I find it interesting that we don't know any better. Our sciences are unable to measure what happens to a man when impressions truly begin to fall into the body in the way that nature intended them to. It lies beyond the reach of instrumentation, which is the only thing science knows how to use. And it certainly raises the question of why a relatively uneducated late 19th/early 20th century man from Armenia knew things which we are only catching up to almost 100 years later, and at that still don't understand as well as he did.

The practice of mindfulness, the practice of Being in the moment, the art of self remembering; all of these concepts and ideas need to be replaced in us by a legitimate organic action. The sensation of that organic action is what's important, not just the idea that it could take place. This requires a consequent investment in the sensation as it arises, an understanding that it exists—which, admittedly, is not something one just snaps one's fingers and achieves—and a willingness to invest in it, to go into it, to support it as it supports us. The work of centers is, after all, not just cooperative—it's reciprocal. One center needs to learn to support the other, to help it, so that the law of reciprocal feeding takes place within us, not just outside us, where its actions and consequences are obvious.

 I've pointed out on a number of occasions that the quality of breathing is intimately connected to the action of sensation. This doesn't, as I hope readers know, mean we should do breathing exercises. But it does explain why all of the conventional yogic chakras are associated with one or another kind of vital breath. That question is worthy of investigation on a practical, as opposed to theoretical, basis.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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