Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Selection from a Flower Scroll
Watercolor, Wu Changshuo, 1905
Shanghai Museum

With all of the competing philosophies, ideologies, and cosmologies available on this planet, it's understandable that we find ourselves confused. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry appears to have an opinion about how things are, and how they ought to be.

One of the points of esoteric understandings in general is that Tom, Dick, and Harry are a distraction. We won't find what is true and what is real by looking outside ourselves; the journey does not begin there. The journey begins only with an examination of our inner self, and if we can't find what is real there, nothing else the self finds can be real.

What we lack is a sense of gravity. This sense of gravity isn't an attitude; it is an organic experience. If the words sound unfamiliar, that's because the experience is unfamiliar. Human beings have lost the capacity to have a center of gravity, arising from what has been called a “magnetic center” that attracts life.

What does it mean to attract life? There are a number of meanings to this expression, according to level, but in the simplest sense, from where we are now, it means having the capacity to take in impressions in a quite different way than we are accustomed to. This capacity involves an organic center of gravity that is rooted in sensation and awareness, expressed in the weight of the body, and connected through relationship in action. It is begotten, not made; that is, it is born of relationship, not manufactured by us. We don't invoke it, we don't will it, we don't control it; it is born of relationship.

If we don't become responsible for our inner relationships, nothing can be born of them. Parents can't have a child if the two of them are separated and live on different continents. So in a sense we become an inner matchmaker; in this way, by introducing our parts to one another and at least advising them that they exist together, they can perhaps begin to form the relationship that's necessary.

Attracting life involves allowing impressions to flow more deeply into the body. Some readers who have experimented with psychedelic drugs (not a recommended course of action) are probably familiar with the extraordinary sensation that impressions create under the influence. What is poorly understood is that this effect ought to be quite normal—the body, after all, evolved to be sensitive to the psychedelic drugs in the first place because it can produce the substances that take impressions in this way naturally, that is, on its own. Our experience of life, in other words, ought to mirror the deep and spiritually feeding effects that are reported by researchers conducting careful scientific investigation of the effects of psychedelic drugs and modern laboratories—as opposed to the chaotic experimentation of the 60's and 70's generations.

The inner self undergoes a transformation when it receives this food, the food of impressions, correctly. It's fundamentally impossible to describe the sensation in words, but the sensation is objectively true, and once it takes place, one understands that there is an objective reality, a reality that exists independent of Tom, Dick, and Harry. The fundamental truth of our material existence is revealed; the potential for inhabiting that existence is revealed.

This does not reveal what it means, only that it exists. Our difficulty is that in our own state of consciousness, we don't even realize that an objective reality exists. We firmly inhabit a subjective reality, and are convinced by it. It's only by changing the nature of work within the body so that it takes in impressions correctly that we can begin to understand what an objective reality might consist of.

To discriminate and discern the meaning of objective reality after this process begins is to set out on the path that the very saintly Ashiata Shiemash laid out for mankind in Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson. Undertaking one's sacred duties must begin from a real place within oneself, not from the launching pad of our subjective consciousness. 

All this means that we can't understand the questions of responsibility, duty, and service without a right inner connection.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Beelzebubby

Full moon reflection on the Hudson River
as seen from Palisades, NY
In the last post, I discussed the fact that Gurdjieff offers a proposal about the nature of suffering which is, on the whole, almost impossible to squirm out of, try though we may.

Some time back, I mentioned that it's difficult to reconcile the basic tenets of Buddhism—that the ultimate aim of enlightenment is the cessation of suffering—with Gurdjieff's proposition on the matter as expounded in The Holy Planet Purgatory (see the last post.)

 There are any number of cop-out positions one might adopt in order to try and reconcile these two opposing cosmological views, including the idea that everything Gurdjieff said was allegorical, but I don't think it works. What we probably ought to say is that it is not only very difficult, but probably impossible, to reconcile Gurdjieff's premises regarding mankind and the nature of suffering with the Buddha's teaching.

This is a peculiar feature in a work that so clearly shares many features in common with Buddhism; and it's notable that Gurdjieff claims Buddha himself was the one who originally introduced the practice of intentional suffering. (Beelzebub, pg. 222.) Yet our irrepressibly cheerful narrator (Beelzebub himself) indicates that Buddha's followers completely distorted his teaching by the 3rd or 4th generation, until “only information about its specific smell” remained. (ibid, p. 221.)

One consequently suspects that Buddha said some very different things about suffering than the way we understand his teaching today.

Perhaps I'm a reactionary. Perhaps it's the fact that I've grown up as part of the flower child generation, surrounded by people who want everything to be soft and warm and fuzzy and groovy, and I question that. Perhaps it's all of the talk I hear about joy, and peace, and love, which started out as things the Beatles sang about in pop songs, and ended up grafted onto every New Age religion and Western version of Buddhism one can think up. Call me a curmudgeon (the accusation is well-founded) but I don't buy it. What we have is the Beatles being channeled by Buddhists; the 60s generation grafted on to the Christian church; 67 varieties of sweetened table condiments to make us sleep more comfortably while we think we are doing inner work.

No, Gurdjieff had it right. Others may agree or disagree, but I speak here from my own certainty and within my own personal authority. Facts are facts; all this wishing for joy and freedom and liberation are wonderful things, but they don't change facts. We are here to assume a burden and a responsibility, in the same way that Christ did; at least that aspect of Christianity bears itself out in a relentless picture of honesty that people are unwilling to look directly in the eye anymore.

Only by suffering together do we work. Only by seeing our lack together do we work. And this particular law—or set of laws—holds through from the bottom of the cosmos all way to the top. Everything lacks—everything falls short of purity, everything has a flaw in it that cannot be expunged. There's the premise of purgatory in a nutshell—and it would be a familiar concept to any student of Islam, which contends that only God is perfect.

All of this takes place in the context of an endlessly loving and endlessly merciful Creator, who Himself feels endless anguish at the catastrophe that befell His creation after the calamity referred to as the chootboglitanical period.

 The difficulty here is that one has to kick the entire underpinning of the Buddhist discipline out from under itself in order to understand Gurdjieff's teachings. It turns Buddhism upside down. In an odd twist, the Buddhists are probably the only religious group that could handle having that done to them; and in a certain sense, some of them might relish it, especially the Zen masters. If you told Dogen that the aim of inner work was to suffer, not escape from suffering, he might agree with delight. I don't know.

In any event, it's highly unlikely that any modern man or woman will agree with delight that suffering is the point of the whole enterprise. When you read it, you don't like it, do you? No, no one likes it. It's not likable. It's a crappy idea and a poor way of selling anyone on the reason for inner work, isn't it? We should always be working for rewards, for candy, for joy, 60 is flatscreen TVs, BMWs, love and kisses. Whatever. The point is that we want good stuff, not bad stuff.

Yet human beings never produce anything worthwhile in the face of "nothing but good stuff." It is the struggle to live, the effort of existence, and the need to go against that which is going down that produces greatness in man. The good cannot produce greatness; all it can produce is more (and flabbier) goodness.

But the bad—now that can produce greatness, because a man who rises to overcome it develops strength and character that it is impossible to get any other way.

And what of the notion that there is no escape from suffering?

Perhaps that notion alone is what might produce compassion, fortitude, endurance, and courage in a human being. Perhaps it is the only thing that might cause a man to understand and appreciate what love is supposed to be, as opposed to what he usually thinks it is.

 I don't know. I'm just asking the question.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.



Sunday, May 27, 2012

Materialism and suffering

Tibetan Mask
Shanghai Museum
Material reality is the vehicle for the arising and expression of consciousness. Awareness and perception are emergent properties of material reality; from the Gurdjieffian cosmological point of view, it might be said that it is the duty of material reality to perceive.

 Life without mindfulness is not life. It is an illusion. The development of real perception, and inhabitation of material reality, is a painful and difficult process, and we continually turn away from it. The consciousness we believe we have, which we believe perceives accurately, is actually a constant turning away from the inhabitation of the material world. It's an escape from it. Awakening of consciousness is an awakening into the material world, not a transcendence of it. It is a penetration of what is material.

 In our ordinary state, we are solid, and the world is transparent. This is an inverted perception. What ought to happen is that we ought to become transparent, with material reality assuming its rightful place as what is solid.

Suffering—what Gurdjieff called intentional suffering, a term which has spawned nearly endless debate as to its meaning—is the inhabitation of material reality. In order to suffer, we must turn our face directly towards all of the material truths and facts of our existence. Every object, event, circumstance, and condition must be inhabited and confronted fully and wholly. This is not an action for timid souls or weak minds. Because it subordinates the ego to the facts, we resist it.

 A careful examination of the daily inner attitude will find countless examples in which this turning away takes place. Consciousness is perception and inhabitation; mechanical behavior is a retreat from what is into what I wish would be. Since almost all of what I wish things would be comes from my animal nature, my desires, it's always based on fantasy. There may be reliable behaviors in my repertoire, behaviors that don't involve a fleeing from truth, but they are weak behaviors. They don't have the strength to go against my constant desire to turn away.

Jeanne de Salzmann pointed out that we don't understand we want to be asleep. The animal doesn't want to be subordinate; it doesn't want to understand, it wants to overstand.

We can recast the terminology here and say that suffering is understanding; suffering is subordination; suffering is inhabiting life. To just be there is already to suffer.

In being available for impressions as they enter in a state where inner connections are functioning properly, the enormity of this suffering—which arises directly and inherently from the manifestation of material reality—is apparent. One cannot inhabit reality without suffering the fact that one is inhabiting reality, and one cannot suffer this without discovering the fundamental vibration at the base of reality, in accordance with the conditions at our level.

Ah, you may ask. What in the blazes do I mean by that?

With all of the discussion in the Gurdjieff work about the warmer, fuzzier versions that have been blended with other disciplines, alluding to joy, happiness, and so on, we often forget the fundamental message of the chapter in Beelzebub, “the Holy Planet Purgatory.” It is, as he describes it:

“...the heart, as it were, and place of concentration of all the final results of the pulsation of everything that functions and exists in the whole of our great universe."
 "Our Common Father Creator Endlessness appears there so often only because this holy planet is the place of existence of the most unfortunate of 'highest-being-bodies' who obtained their coating on various planets of the whole of our great universe."
 "The 'highest-being-bodies' who become worthy to dwell on this holy planet suffer as perhaps no one and nothing suffers in the whole of our great universe."
 "In view of this, our All-Loving, All-Merciful, and Absolutely Just Creator Endlessness, having no other possibility of helping these unfortunate 'highest-being-bodies,' often appears there, so that by these appearances of his, he may soothe them, if only a little, in their terrible yet inevitable state of inexpressible anguish.” (Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, page 682.)

 It's often asked what we work for.  This uncompromising passage lays it out in black and white.

When we work to perfect our being, when we work to fulfill our responsibilities, when we do everything that we can do to fulfill our obligations to the highest level, we discover that the best we can hope for is purgatory.

If a man knows that the gates to heaven are forever closed to him, does that excuse him from the responsibility of working?

And if he knows that his work can only lead, in the end, to a state of inexpressible anguish, will he rather just die, than fulfill his obligations?

 We must think well, and think hard, on our position here. We don't understand where we are or what we are doing. We are filled with arrogance and misunderstandings.

It would pay to open our eyes once in a while.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.



Friday, May 25, 2012

Materialism and illusion

Bee swarm
Sparkill, NY
Gurdjieff maintained that everything is material.

The modern world certainly subscribes to a consonant view, since materialism—and its comrade in arms, consumerism—dominate all human transactions and exchanges. Yet we don't seem to manage materials and material things well (the majority of activity surrounding them seems, ultimately, to be destructive) and we don't understand materialism very clearly, because our understanding of what our nature and the world's nature is is so limited.

What Gurdjieff said needs to be restated thus:  everything is material, only to the extent that a man is conscious.

 The difficulty with what we call fictitious consciousness, Maya, the world of illusion, is that it does not acknowledge the materiality of the universe. Unconsciousness—what Gurdjieff called automatism, or mechanicality—does not participate in an awareness of what is material. It lives within its own abstraction, directly removed from a conscious perception of the material world and the fact that all of the elements—the world, the materials, and the conscious perceptions themselves—are material, and exist in this material field of expression.

The material of which I speak is a much finer material than what we “perceive” under ordinary circumstances. Ordinary perception is driven by automatic responses, and is unmindful. There is no practice of mindfulness, the inhabitation of material reality by mind, and the expression of mind by material reality—which are two inseparable properties, in a true state of awareness. So we stumble through life automatically, not participating, not actually being here within material reality. Awakening is, paradoxically, the absolute inhabitation of material truth, material reality, material perception. While it has been said that everything is an illusion in some philosophies and doctrines, the illusion is produced by the failure to inhabit what is actually material—and, and as Gurdjieff said, everything is material.

 To be awake is to have an actual sensation of this property of materiality, a comprehensive sensation that is not just a sensation in the body, but is accompanied by a feeling and an understanding in the intellect. At such moments, the absolute nature of materialism becomes clear, and it is possible to understand that everything we think we know about materials and materialism is mistaken. While the entire relationship and the wholeness of all the parts remains identical to what it was before awakening, an awareness of it now emerges. Everything is exactly the same; nothing is transformed except awareness itself. Yet now, the world is not a series of mechanical devices, which is the way modern science perceives it: it is a living expression of consciousness.

 This is the Dharma. This is Gurdjieff's consciousness. It is the experience of every object, event, circumstance, and condition as a living entity and a living expression of awareness. It's all one thing: material reality is material because it is the vehicle for the expression of consciousness, the place in which consciousness can Be. The purpose of material reality itself is simple. It's therefore the expression of consciousness.

So if a man is not conscious, if he does not develop his awareness to the point where the organism senses these things, nothing is material. This explains our ability to callously destroy one another, along with our environment and the objects we need for our day-to-day existence. If there is no awareness of materialism, if it is all of abstraction in which we do not participate, simply a set of mechanical devices to be manipulated in one way or another, we can see the connections. We can't see what we are within the context of what we are; we can't see where our responsibilities lie.

In this paradoxical sense, the movement towards an inner awareness and a greater sense of consciousness is not a movement away from materialism; it is a movement towards materialism. It is, in fact, the most absolutely materialistic philosophy one could adopt, because it does not try to deny this material reality—it seeks to inhabit it.

Mankind consistently turns away from the conscious inhabitation of material reality. Which will be a subject for the next post.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why do we work?

Stained Glass
Grace Church, Nyack, NY
Dr. Welch was just about famous for opening up meetings with one of two questions: either “why do we work?” or “Why don't we work?”

 There are many answers for these questions. Everyone will come up with a different angle on it. Today, what strikes me is the fact that we work on behalf of those older than ourselves. We work, as it were, in three lines: we work for ourselves, we work for our community, and we work for the universe at large as servants of God.

These three lines exist within each context as well. When we work for ourselves, we work for the "I" that is currently manifesting, all of the "I's" that form our inner community, and on behalf of the higher self. And so on.

In the context of work for the universe at large, we must understand this question in light of the statement that Mme. de Salzmann made at the beginning of the Movements film from the 1980s which is, regrettably, not available to the general public.

As she put it, nothing stays in one place. Everything is always going up or down. One cannot, in other words, tread water in this life. There are no placeholders, no holding patterns, no cruise control. One has only two choices: one can work, and have the hope of holding things up, or fail to work, and watch, as it is said, "everything go down."

 The merciless Heropass, Time, manifests itself specifically through the action of entropy, that is, the tendency for everything to lose its energy and become more disordered. All of material reality is engaged in the struggle to counteract this force, which is, as the name implies, merciless and relentless. Even the hero cannot survive its onslaught.

Perhaps the name tells us something as it is. Heroes are heroes, whether they are triumphant or not. What characterizes heroism is effort in the face of overwhelming odds, courage when all hope seems to be lost. And if there is a call that has been issued to us in this life, it is to get up in the morning from the moment we awaken and work without rest until the moment we go back to sleep; to work on every line, in every direction, in every way we can bring ourselves to it, to go against the forces of entropy and keep things from going down. This work must be both inner and outer work. An unflagging devotion to effort.

This means we are responsible for working even when we are weary and want to give up. We are especially responsible for working when it seems as though our work is going nowhere and it's hopeless; the moment when everything seems impossible is what defines real work.

The hero redoubles his efforts even when it seems certain the cause is lost. Hence Jeanne de Sazlmann's admonition that we must, in our work, attempt to do the impossible.

We must support everyone, do everything. There has to be an inner attitude of responsibility that, as Mr. Gurdjieff put it, allows a man's efforts to sustain ten other people.

This doesn't mean working with fanaticism, or working with tension. And it doesn't mean we won't feel negative about the effort in our service at times. The tension will come; we must see it and go against it as best we can. The negativity will come; we have to see it, allow it to express itself, suffer that part of ourselves—the unwilling servant, who in the face of all the grace and beauty that has been given to him, still shirks his tasks and resents his work—and after we see it and give it its due, we need to move on.

Before Betty Brown, my teacher, died, in the last year for life, she felt quite weary. She said, “you know, my whole life has been one of work. I have always had to work, and work, and work.”

She never gave up. Even when she was tottering down the hallway at the extended care facility for elderly people that she ended her life in, she was making efforts to have an attention between the door of her apartment and the elevator.

There were tendencies in the other direction in her. We all have them. But we have to stand straight and shine our eyes at the sun, remember that we have a responsibility and a task to help the universe so that things do not go down. We are all warriors enlisted in the fight against entropy. In this battle, one is either for the forces that build or against them.

There is no middle ground.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Monday, May 21, 2012

one small thing



Tallman State Park, Palisades, New York

It may seem obvious to state that life is assembled out of parts that come together—materially, this is obviously true—and yet we don't have much of a sense of this, even though our psychology and spiritual nature depends on it. It's taken for granted, like so much else around us.

Subatomic particles make atomic particles. Atomic particles assemble into atoms. Atoms make molecules; molecules form complex structures such as proteins; proteins form organs, organs form animals.

 Out of animals arise a series of responses, interactive reactions to the environment which are all, at their smallest scale, the interaction of subatomic particles. Ultimately, it is the arrangements between those smallest particles of reality that keep changing. All of the macroscopic changes at the levels above them ultimately serve that lowest level; and the lowest level equally serves all the levels of it in a reciprocal manner.

This may seem excessively technical or biological, but it places our consciousness in a context. We, too, and all of what we are emerges from this process.

When I wake up in the morning, my parts have been disconnected for some time. Each one of them has a separate and unequal state; they are not in a dialogue with one another. This has all kinds of physical and emotional consequences. If the right energy is present, there can be an immediate sensation of the body upon awakening, a deep one, one that can provide a foundation for assembly of a Being which is more connected. That isn't always there; only after years of inner work can one legitimately hope to start the day on a foundation like this in any reliable way. Nonetheless, there is always an opportunity of one kind or another upon awakening. 

We re-create ourselves each day. 

In the morning, the various parts or centers must come into synchrony of one kind or another, a relationship to themselves and each other. It's particularly important to try and be sensitive to this, to see the process, and to understand that I arise out of it and that what I call “I”: this self, such as it is, higher or lower, good or bad, arises out of the process of reciprocal relationship and the reassembly of the connections between these various parts. This must be actively seen.

Centers and parts are rarely in any good kind of synchrony throughout the average day. It's as though there were a delicate machine that were assembled to be exquisitely sensitive to a wide variety of situations, which is then subjected to an environment where it is constantly battered, thrown off of its equilibrium, having its energy drained and parts damaged. The machine needs to become tougher; but we don't know how to do that. We probably think that reinforcing one part or another will do the trick; but it doesnt. In reality, all of its strength derives from its interconnectedness. It's very much like a wooden structure. If one connects just three or four boards, one has a wobbly frame, but as more and more boards are added, a three-dimensional rectangle is formed, supports are inserted, all of a sudden there is a durable  and much more stable structure. It is the dimensionality that adds the strength.

 I need to see this process and participate in it in the morning. So I need to acquire dimensionality; be more aware of my body, my mind, the relationship between the parts as they arise. It's this attention to the small things that matters.  The sensation, one might say, of being within a dimension.

This morning, I was eating a piece of dark whole grain bread, what the Germans call Bauernbrodt. It was a half a slice of the bread; I'm on a Spartan diet these days. The small quantity made me appreciate much more the exquisite taste of this bread, and the butter on it. 

Taking in this impression, and understanding how the body forms relationship to food, is an important part of my work in assembling myself for the day. It's only one small thing, but that's already a lot in a life where very little attention is used. One small thing may make the difference between a good awareness later in the day, and a complete lack. So it's worth investing in at least one small thing.

 It's helpful to our inner work to see how we assemble. Little of the divine can express itself through fragments of ourselves. There is always something of the divine present, to be sure; nothing can fully separate itself from the divine. But the awareness of God, God's own awareness of God Himself, can only be present up to and within the measure to which our parts are in relationship.

This means that this reassembly of ourselves into life, an action where the parts are brought together, is a sacred responsibility requiring our attention and our understanding. It's not an abstract philosophical discipline that will lead us to enlightenment later, where we will live in a groovy state of bliss forever. It is a task, a piece of work, that needs to be engaged in actively during the day. 

This is the labor that the Lord has given us. 

We must consider this as part of what Gurdjieff called Being- Parktdolg Duty, that is, three kinds of duty. We are responsible for becoming the architects of the sacred within ourselves, beginning with the small things, like a piece of bread.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Something Like Being Bitten by Many Fleas

Daisy Fleabane
Sparkill, NY

Thursday night it occurred to me—as it has more than a few times in the past—that I hate this work.

All of my ordinary self doesn't like working. I don't like meetings; I don't like work days; I don't like movements. Like everyone else in this work, there is an outward part that nobly professes an affinity with all of this, but in fact, 99.9% of me resists this work, as it resists everything else in my life. I am, in other words, a pathological liar about this situation, lying not only to everyone else, but also to myself.

 The fact is that most of me is an opposer. It starts out saying “no” to everything, and I have to overcome that in order to take even a single step forward. This week, for example, I got up on two different mornings and watched an inner dialogue insist for the entire day that I needn't bother going into the city for my meetings and movements class. It was only by assiduously ignoring this insistent clamor that I got myself out the door. Stuff like this goes on all day long, in a dozen different areas... well, a dozen is probably conservative. It probably takes place every ten seconds, but a man can only spot so much when there are this many incoming rounds. Know what I mean?

This may seem like a paradox in a man who seems to "do" so much, and who appears to have so much drive, but all of that comes about almost exclusively as the result of overcoming passivity and negativity. In a certain sense, I agree, as Jeanne de Salzmann once said, that all of my energy comes from my negativity. It's this powerful, negatively polarized element in me which I have to go against that provides me with all of the motivation I have.

And there is an even further paradox: because I am naturally oppositional, I suppose, I am naturally predisposed to oppose this "inner-oppositional element."

It's an odd and inexplicable inner construction, I'll admit it. Somehow, negating the negative ends up being a positive, as it does in mathematics, and here I am—strangely functional, although everything in me apparently tries to prevent that. And, as I tell people, anything good in me only arises because of my efforts to overcome all the bad, which over the course of my lifetime has seemed to predominate, usually by a very wide margin.

I think that just about everything we tell ourselves about wanting to work is a lie. The ordinary self doesn't want to awaken; it loves sleep just the way it is.

Think it over. Why do we want to see ourselves? It's a distinctly uncomfortable experience, isn't it? And isn't the organism—the animal—naturally dedicated to seeking its own comfort? We all talk a good game, but when it comes right down to it, all of the resistance, all of the “no” in us—that's where the action is. If I'm not invested in that, seeing that, and saying no to that—then what am I doing?

Gurdjieff said “like what it does not like.” It's a famous saying; it gets repeated a lot, but how often do we really discern the action of this question in us? As in, right now? There is always a part that says no. That doesn't like what is going on. That part is powerful, and it's strongly connected the ego, which wants to control everything. It is so ubiquitous and so relentless that we perpetually inhabit it without even seeing that it's there. It's so well hidden that it disguises itself as a yes. There's the essential problem in a nutshell.

And the minute we see it—well, then, now we are really in trouble. We are messing with the fundamentals, all of the machines that keep us comfortable.

Perhaps this is why it said that if we stay in front of ourselves: in front of what we are, in front of this perpetual “no”—then, and only then, do we suffer.

We suffer because we have to confront this inevitable fact. Otherwise, we are just trapped in this circle drawn around us, the circle of our comforts—the circle of our imagination. It's the same circle that the Yezidi in Meetings with Remarkable Men can't escape from—an apparent barrier that exists only in his imagination. The only thing that can break the spell is something real that comes from outside the imagination. When the circle is broken, when reality intrudes, that is the shock that allows an escape from imagination.

We rarely think about the counter-proposition which logically follows from Gurdjieff's original aphorism: Do not like what it likes. There is no doubt whatsoever—in either example of this formulation, it is what I am.

For the most part, then, surely we must go against ourselves—oppose everything we are. After all, all of what we believe in—including this work—comes from a part of ourselves that cannot really be trusted. 

If the part that says no is the devil, then, at least I can trust that.

It, after all, is being honest about the situation, instead of pretending to work.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Becoming more human

Landscapes of Huashan (detail) by Wang Lü
Ming Dynasty (1332-1384)
Shanghai Museum

A longtime student of the biological sciences, I picked up a copy of Edward O Wilson's The Social Conquest of Earth and have begun reading it. Students of esoteric religion might think that biology and science have nothing to do with spiritual interests, but actually, they have everything to do with one another.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, the reasons that life arose on this planet are intimately related to questions of cosmological development. It takes a special kind of ignorance (one commonly found in the sciences) to misunderstand this fact. Anyway, Mr. Wilson touts the superior intelligence of the human species early on in the book, as though it were a given.

Unfortunately, being a genius of the modern order—one with vision that can see through keyholes, but no more—is not enough. We must temper this enthusiasm for man's smarts with the late Stephen Jay Gould's assessment of human intelligence. He pointed out that if we extinct ourselves (certainly a possibility, considering our ongoing and clinically insane destruction of our planet) it will turn out that our supposed intelligence wasn't intelligent at all, but rather, just an immensely spectacular form of stupidity.

It looks more and more like Gould may have the last word on that one.

 Perhaps the essential point is that we are all saturated with hubris. We think we're intelligent. That's well over half the problem. Only a Socratic approach, in which one's intelligence is used first and above all to establish that one is ultimately ignorant, will suffice; yet this kind of objective thinking, so prominently on display in Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, is entirely lacking in modern society.

 Perhaps we shouldn't feel bad about it. After all, in this allegory, human beings at much higher cosmological levels than man are seen to make spectacular mistakes. Lack of foresight, it would seem, is a common problem for everyone but God. In point of fact, one could even mount (heretical) arguments that God himself displays an odd lack of foresight in certain circumstances, judging from some biblical tales.

The process of inner development is strictly the process of doing something we think we don't need to do. That something is becoming more human.

We human beings think that we already represent a pinnacle; but all we are is the seed of a potential. All of the ideals, all of the noble aspirations, goals, and aspects of the human heart and soul are on prominent display in human societies; we tout the better aspects of ourselves as though we owned them. The process has become so routine and vulgar as to be almost repulsive, yet the media, politicians, philosophers, religious figures, and others continue to shovel how wonderful humanity is at us.

In reality, we aren't any of these things; we aren't human. This is what Gurdjieff was alluding to when he referred to us as “man in quotation marks.” We think we are men; but we are not human beings, we are simply seeds with the potential of becoming human beings.

 Evolution did not create such seeds casually. If you take a look at flowering plants, you'll understand that it took millions of years to reach a point where plants could produce seeds. Seeds are special things, representing all of an extraordinary future that can be achieved by the next generation. They are responsible for growth and the passing on of their potential to yet another generation. This takes place mechanically in the vegetable kingdom, but in man, a much more conscious responsibility is required.  We aren't plants; we don't know what we are, but it's fairly clear that we're not vegetables, although some of us do a fair imitation of them when presented with a sofa and a television set.

When we assume we are human beings—when we don't come to every moment in life asking ourselves whether or not we are behaving responsibly—we aren't human beings. Nothing can be assumed in this enterprise. A true human being must question every move he makes, every motive he has, and examine every action that he undertakes from the point of view of compassion. The biological imperative—man's responsibility to assume his right place in nature—includes this three-centered effort to become human. Becoming human is, in a nutshell, the process of questioning.

The process of questioning is an excruciating one, as I pointed out in the post on killing a rat. In the midst of that experience, right after I shot the rat, it became necessary to go down to the garden with a shovel and dispatch the rat, who was gravely wounded but not dead. This objectively awful encounter between myself and this poor creature came down to me looking at it right in the eyes, and it looking at  me in the eyes—it knew I was somehow involved with this situation, and was desperately crying for help in its pain.

I stood there poised with the shovel, questioning everything, and the task of executioner now became a grim task of compassion, of taking the rat to the point of death and beyond. So at the same time one part of me cringed in criminal horror, the other part had an understanding that this is how we are on this planet, this is how we all are, participating in this process of life and death which so distresses the creator.

And I did what had to be done.

 Standing in between these moments and suffering what we are and where we are is perhaps the most essential act in becoming human. No wonder great wars and great trials produce so many insights into the human condition; we wouldn't have extraordinary books like Victor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning if we didn't have concentration camps.

This isn't to excuse the concentration camps, or to celebrate them. It's simply to point out that we suffer together in the midst of a great struggle to live, and that only our effort to become human counts for anything.

 Every religion is a search, an effort to become human. The moment that we think we are human, the moment that we think we are intelligent and compassionate, is the moment we lose the ability to see how we actually are.

And it is only in seeing how we actually are that intelligence and compassion may emerge in us.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sensed by Otherness

Paul Reynard
Untitled Banner, Acrylic on Canvas, circa 1974-76
Private Collection

Last night I had an odd dream. I was in a movements class.  My wife was there. The class was being led by Paul Reynard

There were many people in it; we all began a movement that involved turning, and yet, as I came out of several intimate turns, the rest of the class was suddenly involved in a very advanced movement I was completely unfamiliar with. 

I was so lost I had to step aside. I watched the class, which was doing a sacred exercise showing community, which did not take place in the conventional rows and order all those of us who have done movements are familiar with; there were flowing lines, processionals, nuclei that formed and unformed, interacting with one another. The class was a fluid organism with many different connections, and the movement most perfectly expressed that, even though the order was wholly unknown and could not be perceived immediately by the naked eye.

There was an intimation that this movement would be followed by a special movement that involved positions of the hands, but we didn't get to that part.

I awoke sensed by otherness, and an energy had arrived. In that vision of community, of an organic relationship, of a fluidity that interacts and inhabits relationship, and the intimation of a future defined within hands with the potential to express meaning and build something greater than ourselves, an unknown truth was contained. It was an evocation of mystery, both where it was, and where it was going, but it nonetheless contained a palpable and immeasurable value. 

There's an impression that “I” will come to something new in myself: that inner work will produce a new quality within my old quality, that a new me will emerge.

I'm unable to understand anything about inner work from where I am. I don't quite understand how it works or how it will work; I read books about how it has worked for others, perhaps, or maybe just sheer conjecture from those who pretend to understand it. Yet the part I am in, this construction I call “myself,” while indubitably real, so far as that goes—is insufficient. This personality is a somewhat dreamlike machine that builds itself mostly out of beliefs, not factual experiences that are directly perceived.

I don't sense a different quality. I don't sense otherness. If there is a change, it doesn't exist from where I am in myself now. I don't sense otherness—I am sensed by otherness.

This different quality that is sought senses me. It doesn't emanate from where I am; it may be part of what is real, and I may be part of that, yet the emanation of a higher vibration, the arrival of a different sense of order, comes from a place that is unknown and can't be known from where I am. Certainly, it's necessary for me to yearn and pray for connection to an otherness; to have, as Jeanne De Salzmann puts it, a nostalgia for Being.

  There is a memory of otherness that echoes through Being, even on this level. If my sensitivity is more active, perhaps I can remember that I came from somewhere else, that there is an otherness. Perhaps I will even get an intimation of the fact that Self-remembering is a remembering about otherness, not just a coming to attention within this self. All of the attention from within where I am can only serve; and it can only serve as a preparation for otherness, which may sense me as I am.

What is this otherness? My imagination works overtime on that, but all it can manufacture is what is here; it's unable to penetrate the cloud of unknowing. This is the greatest dilemma; unknowing saturates everything, it is the essential quality of where truth can be perceived from my current state. Perhaps that's the summary of the situation; the truth is the unknown.

Perhaps the significance of my dream was, above all, the participation that it expressed, and the understanding that from where I am, I don't know where I am in community or in relationship. 

I must accept my place, see where I am, and try to allow myself to be sensed by otherness.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.



Monday, May 14, 2012

Killing things

Killing Fields Memorial
Siem Riep, Cambodia

 I killed a rat today.

It was a truly excruciating experience. We have rats living around the house who have been coming to the bird feeder, and on principle, one just doesn't want to have rats around. I have a pellet gun which I keep handy for instances like this; I shot the rat, not as cleanly as one might wish, and then dispatched it with a shovel.

Death and killing are such routine things on this planet that we very nearly take them for granted. Let's admit it—most of us have been to movie theaters and actually enjoyed watching movies where people and other things get killed, willy-nilly... we call it “entertainment.”

Call me what you will, but despite this perverse impulse I just don't see how any thinking, feeling creature can actually enjoy killing another creature. Our inner parts, the sensitive parts that are connected to something, ought to absolutely sense how grave and terrifying this action is. It's not just a matter of sentimentality; the entire nervous system might actually be physically attuned to the life of other creatures, and when one kills, one pays a price for it, whether one realizes it or not.

This isn't an ethical or theoretical premise I am discussing; I'm talking about the organic experience of life and death. If we don't receive the organic experience of life and death as an understanding, everything is theoretical. Everything. How can we understand life and this planet if we take such things for granted, and have no feeling-sensation of them?

It isn't, of course, practical to live without killing things; like most people, I eat meat, and I've certainly dispatched my share of dangerous spiders (black widows, for example) mosquitoes, and so on. I used to be a game fisherman (I am a reasonably good surfcaster), and I killed an awful lot of large fish during that period. Evidently I have no strong leanings towards Jainism.

 There comes a point in inner work, however, where one can't possibly enjoy this. There is something absolutely horrible about dispatching another creature. I don't know how to explain the effect on the nervous system, but if one senses anything rightly, one senses that this is a terribly difficult thing. It's why I gave up fishing. One can begin to understand practically why more essence-based cultures, such as the Native American culture, apologized to animals before they killed them. We ought to. We don't have a right to destroy everything around us. This question goes back to the question of conscience, my last post about the biological imperative, and what we are doing here.

We don't have a right to destroy everything around us just because we don't understand it. Every tiny life out there—even the smallest insect—has a purpose for being here. We should think about that quite carefully. Small things are not useless things. Every big thing is made of small things, and when we neglect or damage the small things, we neglect and damage everything.

Everything works together; everything is tied together by invisible relationships that are not even remotely understood, even by the most sophisticated biologists. We don't really know what we are doing when we kill things and destroy things. We take on the responsibility for every one of the deaths we are involved with. There is a great difference between doing that unconsciously, and doing it consciously. It's much more difficult in the latter case.

Readers will recall that Mr. Gurdjieff referred to mankind as “biped destroyers of nature's good.”

The term seems all too appropriate.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Conscience, and the biological imperative

I've spent a lot of time over the last eight months in this notebook discussing the inner and the outer, and essence and personality. This is because it distinctly strikes me, in the midst of this work, that our work is so much an inner work, yet so much of us is under the influence of the outer.

Influences can change. They must change, if we want to experience new possibilities.

Several years ago, in a discussion with the late John Rothenberg, he remarked to me that as one grows older, the work becomes much more inner. If one works for a number of decades, this is certainly true; gradually, one begins to discover that there is an inner life with a living quality quite different than the living quality of our day to day psychology, and it becomes a new locus for living, apart from external affairs... which will nonetheless continue to drive us in many confusing directions. The outer life is relentless; it batters continuously, absolutely demanding that we ought to inhabit it and believe in it. If there is a struggle in work, it is simply an ongoing struggle to maintain an awareness of the inner, and understand the clear difference between the inner and the outer.

We must keep hold of our thread.

 The manifestation of life, and of any higher energy that appears in this life, is a biological function. Higher energy, higher consciousness, cannot express itself without the biology of organic life—at least, it can't do that on this level. So every little bit of biological life is in one way or another an expression of this higher consciousness. Human beings represent what one might call a “pinnacle” in terms of potential for development of this awareness, but we are not alone. Even bacteria express the conscious properties of life, on the level they are on.

So we must become attuned to this biological function, and see that our inner life, while it does not exclusively belong to the body, is expressed through the body, and has a living quality that it could not manifest without the body. This, indeed, is the reason that we have bodies in the first place. The expression of awareness is necessary; and the body makes it possible. What happens before bodies and after bodies is not our business while we are on this level. We are responsible to be within ourselves in this body while we are here.

People talk about “out of the body experiences” as though they were unique and remarkable, but in fact, most of our life is an out of the body experience on a very low budget. We live in our minds—life revolves around us and through us without any real connection to the body, profoundly distracting our inner state and causing us to believe above all in external circumstances—as though they were the aim of life. We definitely don't understand how radical a change in our center of gravity could be; we have countless hypotheses about this, but very little, if any, experience. What we seek is a revolution; instead, we routinely settle for procedural votes on the floor of the assembly.

That is to say, we think that our inner life will change bit by bit, and always resembles something we know and are comfortably familiar with. The idea that the applecart might get turned upside down is a remote one. Everything should remain under our control.

The outer life will always have an enormous weight and power. This may be the principal difficulty we face. Without the assistance of a higher energy, our inner life is essentially weak. Our essence is weak. We focus on the wrong things, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong times, and we use the rational mind to tell ourselves that they are the right things, at the right reasons, at the right times. We don't see this. If we truly saw how completely disconnected everything we do is from the biological imperative of this planet, and the need of consciousness itself, we would probably despair at our own abrogation of responsibility. Life did not arise on this planet and evolve just so that men could make money, dig metals out of the ground, turn them into cars, and so on. There is a higher purpose we have completely ignored.

This itself touches on the question of conscience. The way conscience was described to Ouspensky by Gurdjieff in In Search of the Miraculous is perhaps, for what it is, close enough to an actual experience of conscience, but the words are insufficient. What Gurdjieff describes in this passage is what medieval religious organizations would have called a religious ecstasy.

Ecstasy is not, in fact, ecstatic at all; at least not in the sense most people would take it. Ecstasy is generally understood to be somehow enjoyable.  It isn't; it's an experience of conscience, which is not verbal and does not contain verbal information laid out precisely in the manner in which Gurdjieff described it. It is a whole experience involving all of the centers, and expresses itself primarily through feeling and the emotional parts of the centers, because they are the parts that vibrate at the highest rate and can carry the level of intensity that must be transmitted during these experiences.

Conscience is the exact, precise, and inescapable experience of our position, of where we are, and it includes everything. It includes, that is, more than just our contradictory emotions. The entire condition is laid bare, and we see where we are. Gurdjieff described it as very nearly unbearable; this is an indicator that he wasn't speaking from hearsay when he talked about it.

Ultimately, a whole experience of conscience is an unavoidable requirement for man, and an inevitable consequence of inner work, if enough real work is done.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.




Thursday, May 10, 2012

Superstition

 The word superstition means, quite literally, “over standing.” It's derived from the Latin root super, indicating “over,” and stare, to stand.

It is, in other words, the exact opposite of understanding.

 Religions began as instruments of understanding—a way of seeing that we come under a certain set of laws, that we are subordinate creatures. All understanding is a process of seeing this subordination, the presence of a higher order of which one is a part. Walt Whitman's poetry is, in my opinion, an excellent literary example of this phenomenon. The reason he is revered as a poet is because his poetry reflects understanding. He incorporates his individuality, his self, into a vast landscape of objects, action, and principles, and indicates the relationship between human beings, nations, ideals, and societies. Such understanding is present in many levels in Leaves of Grass. It leaves respect for both the human being, and a higher order of which they are a part, acknowledging each one's place.

In any event, religions run off these railroad tracks of understanding with great ease. The malaise we see in so many religious movements today—a cramped fundamentalism dedicated to destroying the rights of others, terrorism in the name of God—is the direct result of superstition, an effort to overstand. In this type of inner action, instead of submission to a higher order, man believes he is the higher order. He  narcissistically appoints himself as the agent of God, one who knows God's will.  Religions, unfortunately, are hardly unique in this kind of arrogance; atheists often seem to revel in it, from a perversely different perspective, and extraordinary egoists of every stripe from every walk of life routinely comfort themselves with the idea that they know better.

This idea of actually knowing God's will from within what we are now is antithetical to every esoteric understanding of religion. It is an overstanding of religion, an overstatement of religion, an assumption of powers and privileges that ought to belong only to God. The Lord, as the Sufi saints and Meister Eckhart taught us, is unknowable and cannot be understood by us. We must, in a certain sense, be extinguished if the will of God is to become present. The Buddhists, although they don't speak of God, see it in much the same way.

 Men, in their superstitious practice—which has, like any process, many facets—often adopt a submissive role which masquerades as humility. I think we all do this at times. We pray to God, for example, to grant us wishes. It's believed that the first time any Muslim on the Hajj lays eyes on the Kabaa, any wish they make may be granted. Catholics, Hindus, and Buddhists  have similar ideas about sacred sites and objects. The practice, in other words, is universal. I've seen it in action many times in many different countries.

My questions regarding this practice arise from the fact that I think it presumes we understand God's will and God's action, when, in fact, to do so is quite impossible. It's a form of overstanding, of superstition, because it arrogates abilities to us which we don't in fact have. Most practices of esoteric religion, including the esoteric practitioners of Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, would agree that a man can only, in reality, pray a single prayer for a single aim in a single way, and that is for the Lord to have mercy on him.

This prayer is the ultimate prayer of submission, of Islam, because it presumes no demand on God, rather, it is an admission of helplessness and a request for assistance. It is not asking for God to fix what is wrong with ourselves or the world, it is an acknowledgement of our position.

And that is what understanding means.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book announcement



My first e-book "The Law of Three" is now available for purchase from the Apple bookstore.
The link will take readers to a description of the book.

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 A second e-book entitled "Chakras and the Ennneagram" is also available on the Apple Bookstore. Click on the link for more information.

For those who do not own Apple products, the books can be purchased in .pdf format at the following link:


Please be advised, some of the functionality available in full format ebooks is not enabled in .pdf format, but all text and photographs are coherent.

Fictitious Consciousness

April 23. Some general musings from the place I am in today.

Yesterday, a friend of ours in the work died of cancer. I found myself walking the Famous Dog Isabel up the driveway, thinking about my sister, who died last October.

I thought to myself, what would I be doing if I knew I was going to be dead a half an hour from now?


 None of us live as though a catastrophe of this nature were possible; yet it is, without any doubt, absolutely possible. It's not that we ought to be morbid and sit around depressed about dying at all times; understandably, no. Yet at the same time, in the face of this irretrievable fact, we have no sense of urgency; we seem to blot out what we are and where we are.

We might care about what we are doing; but we don't. There is a lot of earnest blather about caring; everyone engages in it. One may occasionally end up in a room where lightning strikes, but don't count on it.

Do I see that everything I experience is filtered through what Mr. Gurdjieff called “fictitious consciousness?” I have more than an inkling of this by now; through grace, I have some ideas about what real consciousness is, and more than a passing contact with something real in life on a daily basis.

Yet it is not enough.

We all think that what we do is enough. Yet it isn't. Everything that we experience, our entire inhabitation of life, takes place coming largely from this fictitious consciousness which we so firmly believe is real consciousness. Even 99.9% of “our” work comes from this fictitious consciousness. It's a machine that manufactures illusions from dawn to dusk.

 The contrast between our higher and lower nature could not be clearer; yet there is no resolution. Increasingly, I find, daily activities seem to be somewhat pointless. One does them, yes; one can't just sit around. Yet I sense how futile most of my rather childish efforts to be recognized and to achieve something are... I realized today that the only thing I ever actually wanted to do in life was to perceive; I knew this quite clearly as a child,  but I couldn't articulate it, and even had I been able to, of a certainty, no one could tell me how to do it. Ultimately, this wish to perceive drove me to become a visual artist; I mistook the process of recording perceptions for the act of perception. I still do that. I think perhaps we all do.

 As children, most of our consciousness isn't fictitious. It is uneducated, but real; it perceives. In a supreme irony, the “education” of our consciousness is what causes it to become fictitious in the first place. The reverberation of the living, breathing, vibrant quality of the world, in which everything is extraordinary and even magical, is gradually extinguished, until only a vestigial remnant echoes in us.

In my own case, the sound of that note survives in any number of places, even though the sound of the bell faded long ago. My interest in the creative arts; my appreciation of music, my fascination with the natural world. Even the simplest things like trying to get tasks done in a responsible manner, or my relationship with animals. All of these small things—and it is, irrevocably, the small things—remind me of the fact that life can be real. More real than all the machinations I go through in conducting business, fixing dents in cars, and so on.

Maybe death could give me a sense of urgency about this; but given the track record, I doubt it. It is by now indubitably clear that only influences from a higher level can truly help bring about transformation, and even the thought of death does not call these down to me by some act of magic. The higher is available according to its own rules and laws; I don't know them. Fictitious consciousness can't know them. And when consciousness is no longer fictitious—that rare moment we impatiently await—one does not need to know rules and laws.

Consciousness is the rule and the law.

One must question everything. Absolutely everything. Every dogma, every idea, every assumption, conclusion, instruction, person, and saying must be questioned.  One must question until everyone else gets upset. If other people aren't upset with our questions, we aren't questioning. The surest sign of a situation where everyone has decided that they can agree on everything and go back to sleep is one where no one is irritated. I myself, like almost everyone else, spend a lot of time trying to adjust everything around me so that irritation is minimized and sleep can proceed accordingly.

 Do you see how we do this?

Perception—perception unattached to all the verbal garbage—lies beyond all of the fictitious elements. It can be real. Sometimes it is real. And an unadulterated perception is the gold of the alchemists.

 A continual return to the organism seems to be necessary, because the taking in of impressions and all of the attendant sensation that can accompany it takes place here. Perhaps taking in impressions alone can, if one is active, produce the stillness in centers which is needed in order for us to gain some real food in our work. Certainly, Henry Brown intimated this to me many years ago; every decade or so, I think I understand what he was getting at, and then, a decade later, I see that there is yet another layer, yet another depth within this truth that I need to penetrate.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.




Sunday, May 6, 2012

Facts

It occurred to me today that we generally think of facts as specific pieces of information, conveyed verbally, that express truths about science, philosophy, art, or this that and the other thing. Chemistry is facts. Mathematics? Those are facts. (Never mind that it's possible to build entirely consistent mathematics based on postulates that contradict the basis of our own mathematics, for example, a postulate which states that two parallel lines always meet.)

Yet real facts actually have nothing to do with the process of the intellect. Real facts arise as organic perceptions, not intellectual deductions.

The function of sleep in man—our failure to have any form of three centered consciousness—leads us to a condition where we are unable to see legitimate facts in any form. A fact is a condition where a man receives an impression in a certain way; it falls into him much more deeply than an ordinary impression, in a process that may take only an instant. It could be as simple as driving down the street and seeing a house that he has seen a thousand times, yet now, suddenly, sees as though he were seeing it for the first time.

He sees the house.

It is this moment of actual relationship with the environment, with the surroundings—yes, with the people—that constitutes a fact. A fact is reality perceived, not reality analyzed.

Taken from this point of view, life presents an endless series of absolute facts, sequential (from the point of view of our experience of time) and irrevocable. Yet all of these facts—which may indicate quite clearly what the state of things is, and what direction they are headed in—are blithely and even deliberately ignored by the ordinary mind, which believes that it can use analytical deductions to determine "facts." What it does, in actuality, is manufacture tens of thousands of completely subjective points of view and opinions about the nature of things, all of them abstracted from the actual facts directly and even blatantly in front of us. This creates a fantasy world that has little or nothing to do with the actual facts around us. Men manage to mismanage their affairs at spectacular levels because of this proclivity. Terrible things that go wrong in government, in economics, in war—all of these are a result of a failure to see actual facts.

In extremis, when real facts impinge on people's consciousness so violently that they have no choice but to recognize them, they generally wake up for a few brief moments and are horribly shocked by the realization that tsunamis wash cities away, wars kill innocent civilians, and bankers steal everyone's money and run off to the good life, cynically leaving their own nations in the dirt scrabbling desperately to stay alive. Everyone acts as though it's a big surprise that these things take place; yet they are routine.

 While all of this is true, our problems hardly arise that far out on the timeline. Our own need is to see facts now, in front of us as they are, in this life, and that takes attention and three centered being. With work, life can fall into much deeper places in the body, changing our perception of it and our understanding of who we are, where we are, and what we are doing.

If we are very lucky, we will realize we are not who we think we are, we are not where we think we are, and we are not doing what we think we are doing. Just being smart can't get us there; we need to come under higher influences, and that is through Grace. If ever there was a reason to pray, this is it.

It's helpful to stop thinking of facts as facts the way we think of facts; it's helpful to stop thinking of emotions the way we think of emotions. It's helpful to realize, with the intellect that we do have, that it lacks. To recognize this on an organic level, within the context of seeing the inner and the outer part. To see that the outer part is deficient. Not trying to fix it; not just coming up with Band-Aids and duct tape to apply to all the leaking joints.

I'll confess, it's hardly in my nature to do this. I am the original “identify the problem and fix it immediately” guy. That's what I do professionally: I try to head off problems and fix everything. Without that ability, I couldn't earn a living, but it doesn't work that way inside one's Being. To Be is to Be; one mustn't confuse it with the functional art of business executives, efficient though that may seem.

Back to Mr. Gurdjieff's citation of "fictitious consciousness" at the beginning of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson; our fictitious consciousness perceives fictitious facts.  It can never be capable of anything more than that.

Think about it. We do have the tools to see facts; but they are not what we think they are.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stillness, and vortexes

In the last post, I mentioned that for centers to work together in what Gurdjieff called “three centered being,” it's first of all necessary for centers to be balanced within themselves. This may sound peculiar, but if a center does not have the right balance and relationship within itself, it can't form a right balance  outside itself, that is, with other centers.

 Each of the principle centers, or “brains”—that is to say, perceptive intelligences of man—referred to in the expression “three brained beings” has, in and of itself, three parts. That is to say, our emotional or feeling part has an emotional, and intellectual, and a moving part. This is true of all of the seven centers in man—the five lower centers, and the two higher centers.

Each one of these centers has an inherent energy in it, which is conceived of in Yogic tradition as "spinning." There is a constant inner motion, and unless all three of the parts are in the right relationship with one another, all participating in the work of the center equally, the center is not balanced. We can think of it much like a piece of clay on a potter's wheel which is not properly centered.

When a piece of clay is properly centered,  all of the off-center movement in the clay ceases, and it appears to become still, even though it is rotating at a high rate of speed. When, in yoga, the aim is stated as the "cessation of spinning" in the chakras, it actually means the achievement of balance within the centers, whereby motion appears to cease. While each of the centers, within its own internal structure,  is balanced by the law of three and "rotates" under the law of seven— yes, even the individual centers have an essence, a personality, and a part that sees within themselves—all seven of man's centers come into relationship with one another under the law of seven.

 If the centers become “still”—perfectly balanced—they cease to interfere with the energy passing through them, because it does not bleed off in erratic movement when it enters the center. The center has, so to speak, “completed its own octave," or become transparent (still.) This causes it to cease offering resistance to energy seeking to pass through it.

The whirling dervishes seek to emulate this particular condition by achieving perfect balance when they spin. The entire dervish practice is in fact, for all practical purposes, a visual expression of the achievement of perfect stillness within the centers, leading to a completed octave.

Keeping this in mind, understand that when one experiences a center which is properly balanced, the sensation is that it becomes quite still. Its center of gravity shifts to the center of the center, so to speak, and instead of wobbling, it stands upright within itself. This produces a specific sensation in the body, which can be called inner gravity. Gurdjieff's movements have the potential to produce this effect, most particularly in the body, but also in the intellect and the emotions, if they are engaged in in a right way, and the correct energy participates. Each of the centers develops a specific gravity of its own if it becomes more balanced. These effects are quite tangible, and not in the least psychological.

All of this may seem very technical, but the point is that when centers come into right relationship with themselves, they can then come into right relationship with each other. A stillness ensues in which the centers can properly inform one another about where one is, and what one is doing. All three of the brains then begin to act in a reciprocal relationship that produces a whole quite different than the individual parts, because they are suddenly in cooperation rather than conflict.

Admittedly, the whole question becomes rather complicated when examined from the point of view of theory, which is why I opened the discussion in the last post with a practical example taken from real life. In real life, we don't go around analyzing and redacting the action of our centers one by one, or picking them apart to see how they tick. People may try to do this, to be sure; yet it's a misguided way to work. Work has to proceed in a holistic and intuitive manner, not a technically sophisticated one.

In a certain sense, the ordinary intellect has to be completely banished from an inner work effort in order for it to achieve any progress. The intellect itself as we generally experience it is, after all, a product of furious and even violent spinning—most readers are familiar with the term “turning thoughts,” that is, the incessant manufacturer of nonsense by associative parts in the intellectual center. It's not balanced, and it doesn't even pretend to try for balance. Only forces from outside the intelligence can help to do that, principally a grounding in the body.

When the intellectual center is in right relationship, the nonsense stops. This is a moment when one begins to sense that very nearly every product of the mind has nothing whatsoever to do with facts or reality, but is rather exactly what Gurdjieff called it—fictitious. This can really pull the rug out from under you, but it's also generally refreshing. It turns out that 99% of the nonsense we use to prosecute life is exactly that—nonsense.

 “Ah,” you say, “but how can I do that?”

Well, we can't do that. You can't get there from here, as the old saying goes. All one can do is hear these ideas, digest them, and hope that they percolate down through cracks in our ordinary being to the places where they will ultimately become useful—in some cases, perhaps, many years from now.

This is a work where we water plants we can't see.

Recommended: my fellow group and "family" member, Germaine Fraser's, blog: Integratedmedphiladelphia.

Germaine's posts often complement the material in this space, and add the perspective of a professional RN with many years of healing experience.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Being, in three places at the same time

There needs to be a clear sensing of the fact that there are two different natures in us, and that they are quite unlike one another.

And that this clear sensing itself has a quality of its own that contributes.

One can't make one nature "be" like another nature; one nature is dispersed, external, connected to all of the events that take place outside and is irrevocably committed to interacting with them. It contains the seeds of Being; one might say that is the dispersal method for Being, a tool for Being to move into life. Yet it has forgotten how to serve that way; it is so tangled up with the ideas of its own action that it forgets it is a servant.

The other nature is internal, collected, and more still; it is fed by influences from a higher level, but it needs to be in regular contact with both that level and with itself, under a conscious attention, in order for it to strengthen itself and to grow.

Both of these natures coexist. I was strikingly reminded of this fact yesterday (April 21st), in the middle of a day that started out with many negative attitudes in me, principally a business meeting I was more or less forced into by a friend, despite the fact that I repeatedly told him I wasn't particularly interested in it. Quite firm though I was vested in myself, the negativity was nonetheless insistent.

The day collapsed into a series of mishaps where, during the unwanted meeting, my son had the symptoms of an apparent heart attack (it was not a real cardiac event, thank goodness) while in the car, and had to drive himself to the hospital. I cleverly managed to run my Prius up over a large rock at my friend's house, requiring quick thinking on how to get cars off of rocks (sometimes, you dig a hole under the rock and let it drop down, rather than lifting the car up off the rock.) The damage to the car was mostly cosmetic, and I made it to the hospital in order to counsel my son while they did the necessary tests verifying he was fine, and had just had a panic attack.

 As the situation developed,  two parts of me were clearly present.  My inner nature was quite still, receiving the impressions of what was taking place—including my outer agitation. My outer nature was extremely distressed. Nonetheless, it did not manage to prevail overall; the inner part was functional enough to calm me down, extricate me from the car dilemma, and get me to the hospital, where I was able to ground myself effectively, be there for my son, and offer him some intelligent advice on what he could learn from the situation.

 Trying to "blend" these two natures in us won't quite work. One comes from a higher level; the other comes from a lower.  One is of personality, the "fictitious consciousness" we usually inhabit. The other is from essence, a consciousness that could be real, but is in infancy at best.

They can inform each other, and influence one another, but they are clearly separated, and only my conscious awareness of both of them can allow them to interact in the way that is necessary in order for life to become more whole.

 It's often said that one can't be in two places at the same time; yet this definitely isn't true. In inner work, one not only can be in these two places at the same time, one must be in these two places at the same time. And it's quite a striking experience to discover that one is not only in two places at the same time when this takes place; one is actually in three places. Our Being, if it's active and fully expressed, has all three qualities of manifestation: inner awareness, outer awareness, and awareness of inner and outer awareness. This is what we call “attention” or, as the Buddhists would have it, mindfulness.

  In order to explore this more thoroughly, perhaps we need to reformulate our understanding of what Gurdjieff's famous "three centered being" consists of. Perhaps this term has dimensions we haven't explored yet, in an inner or outer sense.

Conventionally, we understand the meaning of “three centered being” to be some amalgamation of our mind, our emotional state, and our body; yet the three states of awareness I speak of here are wholly analogous. The inner awareness, the part that is still, is a feeling awareness—the mind of the emotional part, when it is fully expressed and balanced in all of its own three parts. The outer awareness, the part that engages with the external world, is a physical awareness, of the body. And the conscious awareness is the intellect's awareness.

 I say “fully expressed and balanced in all of its own three parts" for a specific reason, which will be explored in the next post.

 I respectfully hope you'll take good care.