Friday, December 14, 2012

compassionate action

 When I speak about the inversion of intelligence and emotion, I speak about the fact that one grasps life with intelligence, and reacts to it with emotion. This means that one has, in essence, an unfeeling understanding of life, and then overreacts to the events that take place.

 What one is supposed to have is an emotional grasp of life, which one then reacts to with intelligence. This is exactly what compassionate action is. The compassion is the emotional grasp of life — what Gurdjieff called outer considering, which is, both in its gross features and its details, nothing more and nothing less than compassion.

He said, in other words, that we must always use compassion — putting ourselves in another's shoes, feeling what they feel — when dealing with others. Dealing with life must begin, he maintained, with compassion. This means he said that we must deal with outer circumstances by using an emotional grasp of them.

 Action takes place afterwards, and action must be intelligent. The intellect must act after compassion has grasped the situation. It's capable of using its deductive powers to understand how to react once compassion has evaluated. Without compassionate evaluation, it will always be mistaken in its action; with compassionate evaluation, it begins with an outwardly considered approach, and it responds appropriately. It doesn't respond shooting from the hip in the same way that emotion does; it uses its faculties to augment the compassionate perception and follow through on that with intelligent action that can support it.

This is a complicated way of saying that if we start out having sympathy for others, we will act intelligently towards them. An analysis of human behavior reveals that none of us are adept at this; we generally have sympathy only for ourselves (Gurdjieff called this inner considering) and act quite stupidly towards others as a result. This is not compassionate action; it is not an emotional grasp of life, followed by an intellectual understanding of what must be done to deal effectively with it. We have it backwards; consistently so, and yet we persist in this behavior.

Putting compassion first changes everything, but it requires a non-egoistic perception of the world. This is quite difficult, because the ego is inserted vigorously into every situation the moment it arises. This is why one has to discover a practice of "abandonment" of ego in order to begin compassionate practice. The ego must take a back seat if outer considering, compassion, is to take place.

This deduction is in fact obvious; if we are going to consider others outwardly, we can't do it by considering ourselves first. Yet the relationship between the two is not often explored in the Gurdjieff practice, because obscure expressions such as "outer considering" itself have replaced fairly straightforward concepts which are very current in the spiritual world, such as compassion. A dogmatic insistence on preserving what are now outdated terminologies originated by Gurdjieff has put his work further outside the realm of accessibility than it ought to be to people who are interested in compassion, but not in some weird thing called "outer considering."

An examination of this problem ought to be undertaken.  Gurdjieff's intentional obfuscation of language may have had its rationales — and certainly has legions of justifiers among the faithful — but to the extent that they render his work inaccessible, they are useless.

Consider this. Compassionate action and outer considering both involve, among other things, the critical faculty of understanding the impact one's actions have on others. If one is using obscure and difficult language that confuses others, perhaps one ought to think that through and find a better way to communicate. (That would itself be an example of outer considering and compassionate action.)

 In any event, it's quite important to understand that all of Jeanne de Salzmann's exhortations (and they are legion) to abandon our egoistic manifestations and our inner form in order to find a new way of responding to life are directly related to this idea of compassionate action.

There is no point in having freedom if it does not invoke this capacity for compassion.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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