Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Active and reactive intentions

 In the last post, we engaged in further discussion about the nature of the three minds in man and their effort to acquire a conscious expression.

This leads us to the examination of what intentionality means. Intention cannot exist without Being. Locked within the three ring circus of material, desire, and power, intentionality cannot arise. It's like a pinball being repeatedly bounced around between three low yielding bumpers. You can score 10 over and over again thousands of times, but that's all you can score.

The reason for this is that the these qualities are folded in upon themselves. Material knows only materials; desire knows only desires; Power knows only power. They need to come into relationship not only with themselves, but with all the other qualities or forces within the octave in order to acquire any understanding or knowledge of properties other than themselves. Only Being, the emergent property of a conscious entity, can help these three qualities to reflect upon themselves and see their relationship to other things.

And only through this reflection and the seeing of relationship can intention form.

To be sure, there are mechanical intentions, reflexive intentions, which we call habits. Habits are actually a coarse form of attention and intention. This is why Gurdjieff advised his adepts to cultivate their habits, at the same time that they went against them. To form a good habit can be quite helpful, because a habit is the seed of an intention. This can be contradictory or confusing to hear until we understand it in the context of levels and forces. As Ibn 'Arabi makes quite clear, every force at a lower level is a reflection of a higher property of itself, at a higher level. This means that lower levels can help us to discern both the nature of higher levels, and the path towards them.

 Intention is always formed in regard to relationship. Nothing is ever intended except in relationship to another thing. So in order to form real intention, first, one must discern relationship, and while there is such a thing as unconscious discernment of relationship — which Gurdjieff referred to using the word "mechanicality,"a somewhat overused word which I feel is no longer specific enough for today's work — it is conscious discernment of relationship, what the Buddhists might well call discrimination, that we must exercise.

Being can exercise this property; non-being cannot. This is because Being represents the arrival of agency, the property of "of being able to do things," which, as Stuart Kauffman points out, emerges through evolution but cannot be deduced through physics (see Reinventing the Sacred for an in-depth treatment of this subject.)

 The action of agency, aka Being, cannot be understated in importance relative to the existence of material things, because it represents a conscious force, both in Gurdjieff's cosmology and in other esoteric systems. Unconscious forces react; conscious forces act. Only conscious forces can truly form intentions, because they are able to perceive relationship in a new and different way, at a higher level. The conscious force has an awareness of itself — it remembers itself. The unconscious force does not; it merely exists.

This means, for the most part, that all the intentions we form are unconscious, or reactive, intentions. An active intention is of a wholly different nature and can only emerge in concert with a different level of Being. It's important to understand the difference between reactive and active intentions, because if we don't, we will constantly mistake our reactive intentions, which are many, from our active ones, which are few. Reactive intentions are always formed in relationship to materials, desires, or power (momentum and force.)

Active intentions do not have outer aims; they have inner ones. This is because an active intention recognizes, first of all, that nothing outer can change unless inner conditions are different.

It is, I think, safe to say that we have a limited experience of this kind of agency. The majority of what Jeanne de Salzmann attempted to teach, and wrote about in her journals (as recounted in The Reality of Being) relates to agency of this kind, which is able to act because it has obtained a level of freedom — and that freedom is, quite specifically, freedom from material, desire, and power, each one of which represents an attractive level of identification in man.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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