Friday, October 5, 2012

Initiates

 In Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Ashiata Shiemash establishes a society of initiates, where a serious candidate, having become convinced of the fact of his own insufficiency, and the consequent need to understand the existence and impulse of Objective Conscience, must go out and convince one hundred other people of the same thing.

 It sets the bar high.

How can any of us imagine becoming proselytizers on this level? Let's be honest with one another– most of us detest proselytizers in the first place; pushy fundamentalists, whackos who try to recruit us to a dubious cause. No one wants to go out and be branded as a salesman for their religious practice... at least, not in esoteric works. There are, of course, the Mormons, who have institutionalized it. And televangelists not only revel in it, they collect huge sums of cash.

 Gurdjieff was, to all appearances, a bit closer to the televangelists than any of us are comfortable with. He was a show man; he enthusiastically advertised his work, extolled its virtues (read the text of the flyer!) and unabashedly collected money from his followers. There were posters, there were movements presentations, there were public demonstrations of hypnotism, this, that, and the other thing... would he have gone on television, if it had existed in his day? Of course he would have! His appearances might have ranged from sublime to outrageous, but they certainly would have drawn attention. He would have wanted his movements movies shown in major theaters to attract pupils.

 There are, instead, strong countervailing currents. One can hardly argue that the Gurdjieff work, taken as a whole worldwide, has had too much of a public face since he died.

And perhaps there are reasons.

 Once a teaching—a book, a philosophy—or a teacher—Trungpa, Gurdjieff, who have you—gets put up on a pedestal, and the progenitor is gone, fear immediately arises. No one, the prevailing (and probably correct) opinion states, is as good, as capable, as the teacher. So one mustn't try to teach the teaching, or carry it on, because one just isn't good enough. Power possessing beings within various teachings further discourage dissemination; perhaps the most classic paradigm of the collapse of religious practices is that when the founder dies, all of his or her successors immediately begin a power struggle to control the organization and the continuation of the teaching. This kind of activity is seen so often it may seem ludicrous to even mention it; yet every organization goes through it, and all of them delude themselves with a dogged insistence that it isn't actually happening, even as it takes place. The process is nothing if not lawful.

Gurdjieff was prescient. He embedded instructions to his students and pupils to go out and work to spread the teaching in one of the most important chapters in Beelzebub. (For those who don't quite understand this question, every chapter is the most important chapter in the book.) It could well be argued that Gurdjieff was issuing instructions... giving permission... to his people–to anyone who wished to follow his teaching–to both work on themselves, and support others in their work.  (This right impulse, of course, was also recapitulated in the fifth obligolnian striving.)

The chapter in question—The Order Of Existence—presents, after all, a whole society whose  fundamental principles are founded on the question of Being— not just a secretive little group of insiders. This, we can certainly presume, is how societies ought to be organized.  It's a daring—even revolutionary—vision on Gurdjieff's part.

But I've never met any daring souls thinking this big in the Gurdjieff work, sad to say. Or, to be fair, anywhere else, for that matter. The very idea is so extraordinary as to require immediate Dismissal. Impossible, no?

 One might surmise from this chapter that students of Gurdjieff's method—students of Haida Yoga, accelerated yoga, that is—are under an obligation to work to spread the teaching, not hide it. Yet how many truly take this upon themselves? And how many people are actually willing to go out in public and speak about such things? The desire of any hierarchy or oligarchy to retain control over this process (and the dialogue that ensues) is doomed to failure in the modern age, with the massive amounts of communication media available to human beings. Once these particular cats are out of the bag, you can't stuff them back in.

 So we can't hesitate to offer our work wholeheartedly and unstintingly to others, just because we fear it is inadequate. There is no need to fear our work being inadequate... it is inadequate. We can be confident about that. It is in the recognition, and in the very shadow, of its inadequacy that we grow.

 We have to grow in the midst of efforts that fail; of things that go wrong, of words that don't say quite the right thing, of messages that fall off the tracks and end up crashing. Without all of these wrong efforts, we will never learn how to make right efforts.

 Nor I think, can we hesitate to offer our work wholeheartedly and unstintingly, just because some supposed authority believes we don't understand it well enough. You can be certain, every authority fails somewhere—as I've pointed out before, this is one of the primary themes of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.  Beelzebub himself  starts out the book as a failed entity in exile, and heavenly beings bollix one major affair after another in the course of his history of Earth.

 Authority, in other words, has its limits. We must work to develop our own personal authorities, not live in the shadow of someone else's.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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