Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Conscious or unconscious?

Today, a note on the question of consciousness.

Man does not exist in only two states — "awake" and "asleep." Maintaining that this is so contradicts everything Gurdjieff said about the matter. It furthermore completely contradicts all of the implications of both his chemical factory and the enneagram.

 Nonetheless, individuals studying the Gurdjieff ideas frequently invest themselves in an idea that there are just these two states of consciousness for man.

In reality, man's consciousness slides up and down on a scale — often, to be sure, quite low, but also capable of various meaningful elevations. This can happen, as Sri Anirvan points out, even in ordinary life; and to dismiss or denigrate such types of consciousness or such events is to miss the whole point of inner development.

 Inner development represents a unity of consciousness, a bringing together, another point that Gurdjieff made quite clear in his talks. It has little to do with the banishment of various lower states of consciousness—a mistaken, yet persistent, idea—but rather their inclusion in a tapestry or fabric of consciousness, something achieved primarily through Tantric practice. Tantra, you may remember, means loom in Sanskrit. The concept is that we weave the various threads of consciousness together through inner effort. Not that we dismiss ones we feel are inferior. If there are a few bad threads, okay, perhaps one throws them out. But one keeps weaving.

It is this weaving together of the inner and outer self that men and women must pursue in their inner work. The outer self is incapable of it. Only an action initiated within the inner self can begin this process. This is true not only at the beginning of an inner journey, but it is true in every actual moment of life. We must learn to be directly in relationship with our outer life, all of the parts of it. To restrain or control their manifestation does not help. To participate in them and see them can.

 It's all too easy to feel contempt for our lower states. Parts of us that we think are "working" — but which are actually deeply dysfunctional — may promote themselves onto haughty pedestals where they believe one need not honor the lower; but we must form connections between the lower and the higher, not discount that which is lower in us. This is what my teacher, Betty Brown, meant when she said we need to make friends with our mechanicality. She received this teaching from Mme. de Salzmann, who made similar remarks to her pupils.

 Let's not dismiss our efforts.  If others prattle on about how unconscious we are, ignore it. That is already a known thing; repeating it over and over is pointless. What I am interested in is how I might become conscious; and that is what I ought to be discussing. To sit around with others discussing how I am unconscious is like men in prison sitting around just discussing the obvious—how they are in jail. Well, they already know that. They aren't ever going to get out based on a discussion of that nature.

The ones who sit around just asking questions aren't going to get out either.

Only the prisoners who share practical insights and advice with one another about their effort to become free have a chance of escape; And only in so far as they share what they know—not their speculations.

Remember that Gurdjieff said, if you cannot do something or be something, pretend to do it or be it. The effort needs to be there, even if we fail. If we are not compassionate, we can pretend to be compassionate; let others decide if there's a difference. We should make efforts in every area to reach the highest possible standard, whether we understand it or not. And we should never, never, beat ourselves with the whips of judgment over the idea that we are not conscious.

What matters is how conscious we are, not how conscious we aren't.

Consciousness has an inherent wish for some freedom and light and joy; if I make a dank prison for myself and sit around in it, moping because I'm not conscious, why would it want to visit me there?

Perhaps the door isn't even locked.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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