Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Buddhist Path




 It may seem like a reach to claim that Gurdjieff's enneagram has anything whatsoever to do with Buddhism, but in fact, it's not a reach at all, as I will demonstrate.

Zen master Dogen's expressions regarding how advanced his students were on the path included expressions such as "Leavers of Home," "Patch Robed Monks," and so on. It's not always obvious that these particular expressions aren't random, but they actually describe a hierarchy directly related to the path of the Yogi. The enneagram laying out this particular concept is at this link, The Buddhist Path.

 Readers might also want to relate this to the enneagram of form and non-form to understand some of the other Buddhist concepts that dovetail into this.

 Leavers of Home aptly denotes the initial separation of the material from its origins in the absolute. On the level of the Buddhist path, it represents the aspirant who has separated himself from everything he knows in order to pursue his spiritual destiny. This aspirant has achieved a material manifestation of the initial wish to return to enlightenment.

 Leavers of home are, furthermore, outside.  Although they have developed an aspiration, their work is essentially an external work.

Patch Robed Monks are aspirants who have developed a wish— that is, desire— symbolized by the fact that they are now no longer just Leavers of Home, but monks. The external work has begun to clothe itself in an inner work, symbolized by the robe,  but the work is still essentially external, visible, and is furthermore not well organized — it's in patches, bits and pieces, instead of made of a whole cloth.

 The four levels that Zen monks most frequently speak of in terms of serious accomplishment are attaining the Flesh, Blood, Bones, and Marrow.

Flesh represents power, that is, the material ability to express the teaching. This requires what Gurdjieff called conscious labor to attain, which, in Zen, is composed of what is called "skillful means." The reason that skillful means are not considered to be sufficient is because they only represent the force necessary to complete the material side of the path.

 This stage is the culmination of the external work, in which it becomes solid and real, and can potentially transition to a true inner work. It marks the final step on the path before the transition to an esoteric understanding.

Blood represents life force, which is the equivalent of Being or Agency.  It marks the birth of a true inner work, on the level of the sun, the note sol. From this point onward, work is increasingly inner, at greater and greater depth. In Zen, the attainment of this level marks the ability of the aspirant to begin the real work of abandonment, or, an approach towards going beyond.

Abandoment, or the leaving behind of all things, is, in Buddhism, the shock represented by the force of what Gurdjieff called intentional suffering. There are specific esoteric reasons for understanding that these two actions are actually the same thing.

Bones represents purification. Once the aspirant has attained the Flesh and Blood, he must surrender them, stripping himself down to the pure white of the bones.

Marrow, the most essential stage on the path of Zen, represents the sweetness, the incomparable nutrition, that arrives with true wisdom.

 As in the Sufi cosmology of Ibn al 'Arabi and the hierarchic Path of the Yogi, Zen follows the same inexorable requirements for inner development, using what initially appears to be obscure  allegorical language. The language, however, clearly indicates the same hierarchy we see in the other systems, with the same inner obstacles and challenges that need to be assimilated and overcome.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A commentary on triads in the Gurdjieff system


Readers will find it necessary to consult the linked diagram when reading this post.

The below text is also printed as commentary on the diagram, and contains a few hyperlinks not present here.

Readers will note that the first quality of the first multiplication in each triad corresponds to the man number in Gurdjieff's system; thus, man number one corresponds to material (body), number two, emotion (desire), number three, intellect (power), number four, real "I" (agency), number five, higher emotional man (purification) and six, man with a developed higher intellectual connection (wisdom.) Each level defines an inner order which (in the case of the first triad) exists and can be worked with, and (in the case of the second) must be completed before the next stage can be reached.

Man number seven represents completion of the path, and thus lies "outside" the realm of the multiplications.

The chart indicates the character, properties and challenges facing man at each stage on the path of inner development. As Gurdjieff explained, the diagram is constantly dynamic, with the same elements (notes) constantly changing their relationships to one another in a harmonic interaction of inner principles. The scale of inner development reflects this.

One can furthermore predict the weaknesses and strengths of man according to his level of development. Readers familiar with the tarot may notice that this system is related to some of the conventions associated with card order, indicating a common origin at some time in the distant past.

Each triad hence represents a specific step on the path of inner development, with consequent iterations of vibration and defined obstacles. A great deal more could be said about each multiplication, both about the indiviual triads and their relationship, along with the obstacles and intervals they incorporate. In general, on each level of development, the first multiplication represents what is given, or, the initial environment under which the work on the path takes place. The second defines the aims that must be undertaken.

The point is that treating the diagram as a completely impenetrable mystery does it little justice. With careful study, the elements and principles it incorporates can absolutely be known. The ennegram defines an ancient science of Being, whose principles are today almost completely lost; and this explains Gurdjieff's succinct remarks to Ouspensky about the diagram.

To take one intriguing example, the story of Faust represents 428 / 571.  Faust fully embodies the first triad in his embrace of wisdom, and his desire for power. Unfortunately, his failure to understand his own personal responsibility for himself (agency), his lack of purification, and his misunderstanding of the material nature of his quest, cause him to lose his soul, because he doesn't know what he's doing. He has arrogantly reached into and even past the level of development represented by the second half of the octave he is in, in a deal with the devil, presuming that the power he gains will be enough to offset what it costs him.

The iteration of each first triad in a multiplication represents a danger, because within its own context, it represents what one would call the mechanical side of that level of development, in other words, one with an extended interval (the first stopinder) that requires a special kind of conscious labor to pass it. Failure to do so will always cause the initiate to overestimate their ability; and each, in a different way.

The second iteration of each triad represents qualities that must become completely acquired and incorporated into being, purified, understood, and then surrendered. So each left side triad of the enneagram represents a heroic labor made without any expectation of recompense; in other words, service. The results of that service, furthermore, must be completely surrendered as an offering to God.

Readers may be interested in considering the possibility that Beelzebub's error lay in the multiplication 857 / 142,  which is the rough equivalent of the development level of man number six. (Within each octave,  at each level, there is an equivalent progression of development from 1-6. Entities such as angels are subject to this law, just like everything else.) Like Faust, he thought he would be able to master the second triad because he overestimated his progress in the first.

Beelzebub had real "I" (agency); He was wise, and he had purified himself. Unfortunately, he had not conquered his egoistic desire to exercise power over material reality (rebellion against the natural order, where God is the only entity with this ultimate power.)

This carefully crafted character intentionally represents the last temptation of Christ by the devil, which gives us some intimations of what level Gurdjieff felt Beelzebub was on.

This final iteration of development represents the ultimate submission to God: material, power, and desire, all practice Islam, that is, they  must be surrendered after they are attained.

 It's important to stress this consistency of the development of vibrations within octaves at every level. It doesn't matter whether you are a molecule, a man, or an angel: within your own octave, the given material conditions, the necessary shocks, and the obstacles are consistent for each level of development. They don't change over and over. Although different language would be used to describe the conditions within each triad, or multiplication, depending on the level, the overall principles underlying the situation remain absolutely consistent.

Gurdjieff stressed this consistency of principle across multiple levels of the cosmos over and over again in In Search of the Miraculous. Even if one argues that the enneagram somehow means something quite different than what has been proposed in these studies, one cannot escape this particular conclusion.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Respect

People worry about being respected. I think we all do. I fear not being respected; and I demand respect.

Oh, dear. There's something wrong there, isn't it? Everything in me is being driven by urges or extracted by force. I think that the ego generally deals with these issues this way, don't you?

While I was on a retreat recently, one of the questions I pondered was the question of respect, and exactly what it means. This pondering came up because I was treated by another individual, a power possessing being who supposedly has some kind of authority (I don't see much of it, though others firmly claim to) disrespectfully.

I spent time and money to go work with others, and in general, the idea of working with others, at least in my narrow little universe, involves compassion and respect for the other. Not snotty and outright dismissive remarks coming from people of supposedly meaningful spiritual status, of which I saw more than a few over that weekend.

Don't these people, I asked myself, know they will have to stand before God at the end of their lives and answer for this kind of behavior? Sometimes I think people in spiritual works assume that because of their imaginary elevated status they will get some kind of a hall pass from God, a little slip of paper that will let them off from their sins. People in positions of authority begin to dream, inevitably, that their authority is real. This disease spares no victims.

 Anyway, what is respect? I asked myself that because I was trying to understand whether what took place was actually disrespectful, or just a set of my own egoistic reactions. To be sure, it's very possible that both were in operation.

The word respect means to look back. That's its literal meaning; to go over something again, to reconsider it. Of course, we don't necessarily understand it in exactly that way; it often manifests as some kind of deference, or even a fawning belief, in the case of some person of authority, that they are higher than us.

I think respect first has to stand its own ground. If it fears or demands, it isn't respectful. If it is anything, it is examination; and examination need not fear or demand, because the impulse in examination is to see, not to be afraid, or to want.

 I do recall that in the moment when I felt the person who spoke to me didn't have the proper amount of respect, I saw the situation. I didn't fear him; but probably, there was something in me that demanded he do better than he did. So in fact I was in the grip of a reaction, no doubt, and it repercussed through me for several days. But the place of respectlooking back — is a different question, and I find that for me it's actually grounded in the action of compassion, not just seeing.

It's just like the question of sensation — these things are not unrelated. You can sense all you want. You can sense everything in your body. But this isn't enough. You could sense totally and be stupid and lack compassion; what good would that do you? You could be incredibly intelligent and lack compassion — and what good again would that do?

In each case, being a man with all the great powers of a perfect Fakir or all the great powers of a perfect Yogi, if you lack compassion, your capacity for destructive action is enormous. And there are many people and authorities who develop significant amounts of inner power without having the requisite amount of compassion needed to use them intelligently. Yes, intelligently. Because compassion is a form of intelligence.

When one looks back, when one sees, when one ponders and considers carefully, not in the sense of inner considering, but in the sense of evaluating and discriminating, one eventually comes to see a person or situation from many points of view. And in this insertion of the self into the multiple points of view, one sees how confused and fearful and discriminating we all are. This arouses, if it's rightly sensed, a compassion. So respect is, above all, compassionate, because it does not condemn or judge the other, it recognizes our congruently. It acknowledges our quality.

As I consider it carefully, looking at a photograph of my teacher Betty Brown, who watches me all day long from the one-inch margins of a little picture frame at the edge of my desk, I recognize that she had respect. It wasn't that she didn't come down very hard on me; in fact, she did things to me that were much more anguishing and terrifying in an inner sense than anything that was done to me over the past weekend. But she always did it compassionately, that is, with love; and when we know each other well, we can do that.

But the myth of the other, the complete stranger, who walks into the room with magical powers and instantly knows us?

They say Gurdjieff was like that. Maybe he was. But I have never met anyone in the Gurdjieff work that was truly like that; I've just met people who thought they were, and in the end, I've watched more than a few of them do damage to those around them because they were arrogant, in the end, and didn't actually act with compassion or respect.

 Over the years, those of us who work in a certain way have developed the capacity to love one another in a different sense; and we all recognize, collectively, our inability. How much more sensitive this is, how much more sensitive it is becoming, than an organization where there are leaders or followers, slaves and masters, sheep to be shorn by those who think they are good with scissors.

I must say that this particular retreat benefited me enormously. I came up with a whole new appreciation and valuation of all of those generous and wonderful souls who have respected me and tolerated my manifestations, even though they've often been of a lower than necessary quality. We may all be idiots; but if we have to be idiots, let's be compassionate ones. If we don't start there, we are all doomed.

 The two principles that struck me as being essential for understanding coming out of this experience were first, everyone else first. That is, I should make an effort to see everyone else as coming before me, and defer to them constantly, in order to remind my ego that it is a small thing. Second, above all do no harm. Each truly (or, even marginally) conscious action should be informed to the extent that I see it will not harm the other. I should not harm myself; and I should not harm my fellow man. My verbal cruelties and my impulses are often harmful; I need to see how I am in every moment so that I regulate these matters and do not express them.

These are practical and intimate practices. When Gurdjieff called such practice "non-expression of negative emotion," I think he used a term more suited to the Victorian sensibilities of his Ouspenskian pupils, than any language we can understand today. The concept, today, would most likely be called mindfulness, and  I think that many Buddhists are perhaps a bit better at practicing this than people in the Gurdjieff work.

They have a deep wish to understand this need for compassion.  We could learn from them.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Like a Lover

I've mentioned before that the word attention is derived from the Latin attendere, to stretch — hence, to reach towards something. And it makes some sense. After all, if I wish to pay attention, I am reaching towards the reality of my life. The action, already, implies that I know I don't live within the reality of my life; I am not inhabiting life. So attention functionally begins with an awareness of a lack; this new awareness of myself is implicit in the effort.

Attention acknowledges within the fact of its existence that a reaching needs to take place, an effort towards relationship.

But what is this attention that I seek? Am I supposed to strive, to push? It's not clear.

 So perhaps I can think of it in a new way, a different way. Maybe attention is an intimacy with myself. Everyone has had a moment in their lives, I think, where we were with a lover — perhaps we can remember the first time, or perhaps any time. In any event, let's use the imagination... let's remember.

There is an extraordinary moment between lovers where it seems as though every molecule in the body has a wish to move towards the other, to be one with the loved one, and a tenderness arises that has no equal or parallel. An organic sensation that leans gently, lovingly, tenderly in the direction of the loved one, anticipating that to embrace, to touch, would be a miraculous event.

And indeed it is.

There is an inner part in me that is also a lover of a different kind. It has an equal need for my attention; and to come into contact with it could be just as rewarding, just as miraculous. Maybe I don't know about this part; or maybe I have tasted it, or caught a whiff of it here and there when I saw something quite remarkable around me, perhaps something simple, which nonetheless told me that there is something other than the ordinary going on at every moment. In any event, there is this part that I might reach towards. Gently, quietly, with great sensitivity — could reaching of this kind be a new attention?

 This kind of reaching, this kind of attention, begins in me with an enormous sympathy towards myself. There is no fear; there is no perjury of the kind of that I usually inflict upon myself. There is simply me, with myself, seeing the sensitivity that arises within Being. And I reach out towards it — carefully, gently, perhaps tentatively, but I reach out to come into relationship with it. And I find that it is receptive.

This intimate and innermost part is available. It's a real thing. Or, rather, a real event, since calling it a thing falls far short of its existence as a phenomenon. Yet I can only respond when it comes; for this lover is shy, she does not yield her charms to just anyone or at any time. She is always there, and she always loves me; yet she will not traffic with the coarseness that I usually bring to my life. There is a refinement to her; perhaps even a sacred quality. I need to respect that.

So I need to reach like a lover towards myself, with that active sensitivity, that trembling preparation for a touch, a brush of the lips.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Work, Suffering, and Grace

A good friend of mine made the following remark today about a general criticism leveled at the work of Jeanne de Salzmann. I felt the remark was worthy of some observations.

What he said was this:

"It seems counter-strategic to say 'we have worked enough'—if people believe that, why work any more? "It has been accomplished", to quote Jesus Christ, all that remains is to receive grace. A criticism that has been leveled against Mme De S is that that she converted the Work from a way of work and suffering to a religion of grace."


In my response, I told him that the principles of work, suffering, and Grace were consonant; in other words, that nothing essential had been changed.

He asked me why. Below is my reply, with a few judicious edits.

Work, Suffering, and Grace


Work, suffering, and Grace are all—to an absolute certainty— conventionally understood elements of the Christian path.
 
Christians, for the 2,000+ years since Christ, have never stopped working, and it has always been understood that Christians suffer in this life—not drawing Gurdjieff's distinctions on the how, where, or why. For them, the principle is perhaps more universal in nature—less a matter of consciousness and more one of karma.
  
In any event, work and suffering can attract Grace. Mme. says essentially the same thing throughout her teachings, if they are properly understood. 

The idea that a man number 5, 6, or 7 is being sent to help us has nothing to do with whether or not anything is "accomplished" or not. Man will still always have work to do; all of the universe, "saved" or "unsaved," works and will always work. The matter of Christ's accomplishments for mankind on the astral plane (where He performed the absolutely traditional job of a guru by taking on the karmic debt or "sin" of His charges, in His case, because of His level, all mankind) is a different matter. What this did (from the traditional yogic point of view) was to free mankind from the law of karma, opening much greater possibilities- but not alleviating suffering or eliminating the need to work. It's difficult to conceive of how Christians (or anyone else) could be confused about this after looking at the example of Christ himself, who worked, suffered, and died, but somehow, some manage it. Don't ask me how; I don't have enough expertise in the art of the obtuse to explain it.
  
In any event, all work done is done within the body of God- thus, both its origins and actions lie within the domain of Grace, which is an originating element emanating directly from Love— a second-order phenomenon of the all-pervading universal. All matter and all action are suffused by it. 
  
Al Arabi would have described Grace as a second-order attribute or name of God. The distinctions between his definitions and G's are actually minor, once one understands the principle. The (major) disconnect in the Gurdjieff work is that people don't understand that "energies" are attributes, that is, not just sensations, but tangible actions of intelligent forces we can recognize, as I have tried to explain in numerous recent essaysWhen people hear the word "energy" they often don't seem to understand it in these terms. There is a terrible imprecision in the language people use when discussing these matters. The word "something" is used almost obsessively. Really, we ought to try and do better than this.  If it were absolutely forbidden to use this word in discussions, something more practical might finally begin to take place.
  
  As to sensation, it's not enough. One can work on sensation, (possibly) arrive at bliss, and stop there. But it's a partial result; only one third of an understanding, at best.
  
Anyway, because of this unity of all manifestation, work and suffering- which are arising phenomenon within the body of God- are all structural elements of Grace. Actually, they are Grace: Grace originates them as gifts for man, and is, not incidentally, concentrated by their action. Hence, if a man works and suffers, the substance of Grace concentrates, or, as G might have said, the fundamental material of Grace acquires intelligence, that is, greater desire, power, agency, and an ability for action at the level we are on. It's necessary to understand that the increase of rate of vibration represents an increase in intelligence. Not just a change in the quality of a sound, as in music.
 
We don't see work and suffering as gifts because we're attuned to oppositional understandings of things, and don't understand that imperfection itself is a gift sent to us to help us. Al Arabi does a rather impressive  job of explaining this in The Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom. I don't find anything in his teachings on this contradictory to Eckhart's teachings on the same subject— and both teachings are, by the way, patently true in my own experience. 
  
We exist within the objective, or factual, manifestation of these principles. Mme. was sensible of the situation and saw that there is a "middle path" that focuses on the Grace, rather than the work or the suffering. Although all three are connected, an excessive emphasis on work and suffering is unhealthy and easily leads to negative results, since the emphasis exaggerates the action of subordinate principles (work, suffering) and loses sight of the principle elemental action involved (Grace.) 
  
If we actively inhabit the elemental condition (Grace) and stop considering work and suffering as requirements conceptually or functionally separated from it, we open the possibility of understanding that all actions are actions of Grace—which, in a sense, is what Conge meant when he said the entire universe was prayer. 

De Salzmann's understanding—which she did not express outright in words, perhaps because she may not have been able to articulate it concisely— is that our opposition to Grace, which arises through a radical misunderstanding of the existence and purpose of adversity, suffering, and the need for work effort, may be overcome by what the Buddhists call skillful means. These are the means she expounds at length in The Reality of Being.

  This is another meaning of the acceptance of work and suffering, and tied to the understanding of intentional suffering.  Intentional suffering is intentional because it emanates from the Divine Will; imperfection and the consequent suffering are both sent by God, and are part of His Will. To accept this is to align with His Will and see them as gifts, at which point we intentionally invest ourselves in these conditions, instead of resisting them. It requires a considerable degree of consciousness to truly absorb this as anything more than an idea. 

  An incomplete understanding of Mme. de Salzmann's premises and methods can result in a serious misreading of her teachings, which were highly refined and based on an extremely sophisticated— in fact, divinely informed— understanding. Because she was so eminently practical, she didn't spend that much time trying to explain the theory—but there is a theory; it's entirely unified; and the idea that there could be separation between these principles is incorrect.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.


The Siddhis, or perfections

Following the post on imperfection, I thought it might be interesting to share a few notes with readers about the nature of what yoga calls Siddhis, or perfections. These are supposedly magical or supernatural powers that confer extraordinary abilities on a yogi who achieves them. They are only  manifest at the highest levels of development.

As I've explained in some detail (readers who want the details can check the enneagram resource for them) the enneagram represents a fractal structure, in which each note of an octave represents the "do" or first note of an octave below it. What this means is that the attributes or names of God — which corresponds to Gurdjieff's "centers" — each have a complete octave of development proper to themselves.

 Each note within an octave affects the octave only to the extent to which it is developed in its own octave. So, for example, if we look at desire, it might develop only to the level of re, or 1,  which represents urge, an instinctive or animalistic desire, a material desire. In this case, that is the highest influence the note mi could exert on the octave above it; whereas, if it  developed to the note sol,  it would have what is called a real wish, or aim, which is associated with Being, or real "I". In this case, desire would exert a much higher influence and have a proportionately greater effect of expression in a man's life and work.

Unfortunately, it's a very rare for desire to develop to this level. Under ordinary circumstances, even though we may think we have a wish, it is always attached to one of the lower manifestations or attributes, that is, urge, lust, or passion. Each one, under the right circumstances, may be appropriate to  a particular situation; and yet in a well ordered Being, the appropriate level of desire is always applied to the appropriate circumstance, and man as he is is not generally arranged in that way. Al 'Arabi explains this quite specifically in his work The Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom, even giving a clear indication of what Gurdjieff would have called right work of centers.

 The point is that while we need every iteration of every note both in the superior and subordinate octaves to function properly, they need to function according to right action. In the state we are currently in, we are constantly trying to use an urge, lust, or passion in the place of what Gurdjieff called wish, which is a conscious influence. Real Wish can, logically enough, only arrive with Real Being, which is why they are so closely associated in the prayer for the first conscious shock: I am, I wish to Be.

It's interesting that although it's vaguely understood, in inner work, we must surrender our wish, it is not understood that there is a specific reason for it, which you can see quite easily when it is detailed in the enneagram in this manner. This is why Gurdjieff said the diagram was so useful for men who understood how to use it. Of course we don't have real wish! The situation is lawful. Once we admit that to ourselves, perhaps we can begin to let go of some of these precious wishes we have, all of which are attached to lower influences — very useful and quite necessary under the right circumstances, but otherwise, completely and absolutely an obstacle.

It is in the action of discrimination — that is, understanding what is necessary in these matters — that a man orders his inner kingdom.

The given iteration of desire is but one example. If desire was developed to the highest levels — which are very difficult to describe in a diagram, let alone words, so I have approximated as best I can — what one would get would be a Siddhi, or perfection. That is, a note in an octave developed to the level of what al 'Arabi called Knowledge.  But there are other principal attributes. Thus, the six absolute perfections available to the Siddhas are related to the six principal attributes of God, that is, perfect material, perfect desire, perfect power, perfect being, perfect purification, or perfect knowledge. Attaining any one of these levels would represent an absolutely extraordinary individual with what we would consider to be magical powers; yet only a yogi who completed all of the notes in all of the octaves would reach to the highest possible level; and that is almost unknown.

This phenomenon only takes place when the energy from the absolute is sent backwards through the diagram, that is to say, in our own words, God becomes incarnate. Action that begins from this direction can perfect all the Siddhis automatically, because the energy that influences the development has an unerring understanding of every level, beginning from the top. So, one sees, the diagram also explains exactly why Christ and Buddha were able to achieve what they did. Again, their action was not mysterious or supernatural, but entirely lawful.

 One should remember, over and over, that the hierarchy depicted by the enneagram does not indicate that one note is "more important" or "better" than another. In the system, although there is a hierarchy, and influences beget and affect one another, the essential unity of the system itself cannot be contradicted simply by favoring one element over another.

The post would not be complete without a mention of the fact that different systems propose different Siddhis. (See the Wikipedia link above.) While one could have lengthy arguments about this point, because of the basic principles embodied in the enneagram, we can understand that there can only be at most eight principal Siddhis: six related to the notes in the octave, one related to conscious labor, and one related to intentional suffering.  The six which are related to the actual notes, I must insist, must be in direct relationship to the six principal attributes.  Some of the traditional Siddhis from the Hindu tradition do indeed appear to reflect that; but sources that attempt to analyze or understand this without a fundamental grasp of the cosmological principles will definitely end up with a confusing array of definitions – which is exactly what we see, overall. Once again, the enneagram provides us with a succinct organizing tool. We might call the fundamental perfections "objective" perfections.

How these objective Siddhis might manifest as a matter of conjecture, because their actual presence is so rare. Everything that we read about them is hearsay and probably not second or third hand, but passed down through one hundred sources before it reaches us. One thing that is accurate is that, of course, each principal siddhi  has subsidiary siddhis  under it, which represent varying constituent aspects of its nature.

 One peculiar consequence of this is that there are perfections of this kind at every level of the universe. In other words, some perfections are quite ordinary and even familiar to us, because they are appropriate to this level.  And this — for the astute reader who contemplates it — will bear a great deal of fruit to ponder in relationship to the last post, because the entire nature of  the manifestation of what we call reality is folded into this question, which is not actually separate from any other question.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Incomplete


Everyone is incomplete.

 We should be very careful of those who would have us believe they are above us, because all men are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Some think they are teachers or leaders; and each man or woman thinks what they are of themselves.  We begin to tell each other stories about how so-and-so is such and such. Before you know it, there is agreement that so-and-so is indeed a leader, or that someone else is indubitably beneath us. Everyone of us does this every day, all day long. It's quite confusing, really, because the nature of the human condition very nearly requires it. An enormous amount of posing goes on. 99.9% of it successfully camouflages itself as authority. Those with authority of any kind — even spiritual authority — end up with the same delusions... The delusion of significance, rather than the recognition of one's own nothingness. 

Only those who take a vow of inner poverty can change things; and this involves embracing exactly what appears to be most worthless.

All these things we can think we are do not necessarily mean that it is what the Lord thinks we are. We are not formed by ourselves, but by the Lord, and what we are in the mind of the Lord is quite different than what we think we are here on earth.

Each imperfection that exists in us is actually a perfection; because all that is imperfect in us is given to us by the Lord to remind us of His presence.  They are, in other words, perfectly suited to their task, like all things in creation. Thus they are in fact perfect, no matter what they look like to our egos. 

If we didn't have imperfections or see imperfections, we would forget that we are servants, and that there are higher principles. The ego, in fact, constantly demands that we forget such imperfections, walk past them or fix them, so that we can preserve the illusion that perfection might somehow be under our own command. We don't often stop to think of the purpose for imperfection — why it might be there, or what it does for us. We would rather think we are lords.

Rather than looking to the imperfections of others, we ought always to look to our own; to try to understand them, to love them, to value them, and not judge them. It is only when we inflict our imperfections on others that they do not serve us. Insofar as an imperfection moves outwardly from us, it tends to do harm; in so far as an imperfection moves inwardly towards us, so that our soul takes it in, tastes it, and appreciates it, it tends to do good, because as we see our imperfections, they remind us of our station, and they help us to heal our attitudes. But this is only if we are aware of them and take them in to us. And that is not a common action in us. No one likes to eat the things one does not like. And yet this inward digestion of our imperfection is what Gurdjieff was alluding to when he said "like what it does not like." What, after all, do we not like, if not our imperfections?

To remember the self is to remember the wholeness of the self, not just the parts we prefer. To take ownership of the wholeness of the self, without adjusting it — with all of what we think is good and what we think is bad — and to do this lovingly, within ourselves, is a real action. Real actions are actions that affect the state of the soul.

All outer action that involves the material world is just moving things from one place to another. Although it's what seems to be real, it always ends the same way: people are forever the same, and things go horribly wrong. Life can be lived from the beginning to the end without any of this changing. It usually is.

 Changing the location of money, objects, or even people is hardly the point of life. It's changing the location and condition of our inward state that matters; putting the inner kingdom in order so that those who dwell on its lands dwell in the right places and do not damage them; so that enough food is produced to feed all the individuals in us; so that they are ruled justly and with kindness and compassion.

When we say the words "Thy kingdom come" it is an intimation of this kind of inward order that might exist: one that exists under the watchful eye of the Lord, with an awareness of His Presence. The awareness of the imperfections in us is always a help to remind us of this Presence; and the more we accept these things in ourselves, inhabiting them with kindness instead of anxiety and anger, the more the Lord sends us the support we need in order to digest them ourselves, instead of using them as weapons to interact with others.  When Jonah tried to flee the imperfections of his inner kingdom (Nineveh), the Lord continued to bless him; He magnanimously sent a fish to swallow him, imperfections and all. 

But Jonah, curmudgeon that he was, didn't get it; even after this spectacular display of compassion (God sent a whole whale! How obvious could He make it?!) he decided he would still rather die than accept his imperfections. This is what Gurdjieff was getting at when he said that the one thing a man would refuse to sacrifice was his own suffering.

 Oddly, the more deeply we embrace our imperfections and acknowledge them, holding them up to the Lord to let Him know we have seen them, the more help we receive.  We can never begin to know the true Glory of the Lord, no matter how many cathedrals we build or beautiful hymns we sing, except through this inner experience of our poverty. The true glory can perhaps be reflected in the works of man, but the only place where the reflection can, for a moment, truly capture the image of God in the mirror is within the soul; and it is only there that we see all the cathedrals in the world are tiny little things, incapable of expressing the Truth. 

The Truth is in every object, event, circumstance, and condition; and the present moment of life is always the true cathedral. It's never a place where we go; it's always where we are.

It's only in the anguish of this acceptance, this swallowing, of my imperfection that I can become anything. With some luck, it can go very deep indeed. Gurdjieff called that remorse of conscience; but that is not an action I undertake. 

It's a blessing sent to help me see more deeply.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gurdjieff and Yoga, part II



Image from Ajit Mookerjee's "Kundalini," 1986 edition. 
Reproduced with permission of Destiny Books

Having recently picked up a copy of Harish Johari's "Chakras," a reasonably definitive work, also published by Destiny books (see the above link), I found so many of the remarks he makes about the yoga system consistent with Gurdjieff's teachings that I thought a number of specific passages were important to recognizing the relationship between the two systems.

Johari, a staunch traditionalist, delivers a straightforward modern interpretation of classic yoga understandings. One need not go further than the introduction.  He begins with the already cited reference that we take in through breathing on page 1: "...our organism draws prana into our nostrils as we breathe...".

 On page 5, Johari states: "...one of the two hemispheres in the human brain is visual and the other verbal."  one cannot help but cross references to Gurdjieff's statement in Beelzebub,  found on page 14,  which, although characteristically convoluted, says essentially the same thing.

On Page 6, Johari states: "the aspirant has to see himself or herself as a microcosm." This material was repeated so many times in In Search of the Miraculous that citing specific references is unnecessary for anyone who has read the book.

 On page 7, he states: "for balanced functioning, proper harmony should exist between the two brains: the upper brain (the organism of consciousness) and lower brain (the seat of the subconscious mind.) Here he touches on two principal premises of Gurdjieff's teaching: first, that harmonious development is necessary, and second, that the subconscious mind plays an important role in this kind of work. He goes on to say "a basic requirement for spiritual development is a systematic study of the  activities and functions of the human organism at work."

Once again, this so precisely mirrors the texts in ISOTM that there seems to be no point in citing the many references to this. In essence, it's the whole point of the book.

Johari continues on as follows: " The word yoga is described from the Sanskrit root yum, which means "to unite," "to join," "to add." If considered at the gross physical level, the union is between the upper brain and the lower brain, the conscious with the subconscious. At a subtle level union is between one's individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness... According to yoga, individual consciousness is an expression of cosmic consciousness...  in essence, cosmic consciousness in individual consciousness are one, because both our consciousness which is indivisible. But the two are separated by subjectivity, the I - consciousness of the individual." (page 8.)

  After 40 years of study, I'm hard put to find any significant difference between this and any of Gurdjieff's system.  in order to argue that these two systems are not the same, one has to begin by wanting them to not be the same; and this is never a good premise from which to begin when one is testing a question. One must never first want one thing, or another thing; one must only want first for that thing which is true, and then search for it.

So one must never search for things; one must search for truth.

 I think it's certain that Gurdjieff was an innovator in yoga — and yoga, like all spiritual systems, needs constant reinvention, for it is an evolving entity. Practices that remain in the same place go nowhere. In particular, the fact that Gurdjieff gained access to some of the most important esoteric knowledge from the hidden yoga schools, especially the enneagram, marks him as the preeminent yogi of any recent generation.

Why, then, might we ask, did he change all the language in his work and obscure its origins? The answer is not so difficult to come by. Yoga, over the thousands of years of its existence, became a practice contaminated with any number of confusing and erroneous doctrines, folk beliefs, fairy tales, and shamanistic practices grafted on to the original structure. A grotesque amount of manipulative nonsense and bizarre physical practices wormed their way into what was once a pure and extraordinary doctrine; and why should we be surprised at that? Every religion falls victim to influences of this kind. If we can truly believe that swallowing rags and drawing water into our anus (see Johari's book) can really lead to spiritual enlightenment, well then, we get what we deserve.

Gurdjieff's work was not a derivative work of yoga; nor was it an abandonment of yoga. It was a restoration of yoga to something much closer to its original form. He prudently changed all the language because he knew that associating it with the language in its current form could never serve such a purpose. There are times when the only way to heal is through divorce.

Ultimately, though, Gurdjieff's efforts to distance himself from the yoga schools was as impossible as his attempts to expunge the roots of his Christian practice from his work. Both these influences form undeniably powerful currents in his direction; and he furthermore managed the at first glance unlikely task of unifying both of them with the understandings of the dervishes, an unabashedly Islamic source.

We have, in other words, an entirely new conjunction of three of the world's most important teachings in this work. And perhaps it's no coincidence that Jeanne de Salzmann, working with William Segal,  reestablished deep ties to Zen Buddhism, folding another main world tradition into Gurdjieff's effort to reunite the world's religions. Some have argued that this was a corrupting influence; yet Buddhist teaching is deeply integrated into the structure of his work, beginning with the fact that he ascribes the origin of the work of intentional suffering to Buddha. How, then, could integrating valid Buddhist practice into the work be anything but common sense?

  Reuniting the world's religions? An impossible task, you may say. Yet I'm reminded of the famous saying: "The difficult, we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."  Gurdjieff, coming from schools where work was measured not in generations, but millennia, was willing to take a little longer, even though he said his version of yoga was "hurry up" (haida) yoga.  And, of course, correcting mankind's exigencies is without a doubt an impossible task. Yet he took it on.

 Reuniting the world's religions was almost surely one of Gurdjieff's aims — none which he ever laid out in plain words to the general public. And, judging from the results of his work, it was certainly his exoteric aim — that is, the aim he set himself as a service to humanity at large.

 This leads us to another essential question.

There always has been, of course, an esoteric aim to the work, but that aim had a more immediate, urgent, and far more important goal, whose conditions have now been met.

 Whether that means that the Gurdjieff work as it exists today will actually disband remains to be seen. Gurdjieff said the following:

"“But no matter what the fundamental aim of the work is, the schools continue to exist only while this work is going on. When the work is done the schools close. The people who began the work leave the stage. Those who have learned from them what was possible to learn and have reached the possibility of continuing on the way independently begin in one form or another their own personal work." - In Search of the Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky, Paul H. Crompton Ltd. edition, P. 313.

 We may well have reached that point. This does not mean the end of the teaching; it represents a new beginning, but it may not continue in the way we expected to, or the form we are accustomed to. Once the aim of the school is met, those who cling to the old are merely constructing an imitative entity, as he points out later in the same passage.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gurdjieff and Yoga

There can be little doubt that  major portions of Gurdjieff's teaching are derived directly from yoga sources. He changed the language, but the understandings are fundamentally identical.

I thought it might be worthwhile to review some of the specific instances underscoring this fact.

Let's begin with the classic yoga Sutra from the Upanishads recounting the tale of the horse, carriage, and driver. (Click the link to read it in its original.) This story is repeated no less than nine times in various places in the three most well-known sources: In Search of the Miraculous, Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, and Views From the Real World. (Once again, click the link to review the passages.)

In Beelzebub, Gurdjieff furthermore saw fit to expand on the analogy until it filled a colorful nine pages; and that, at the very end of the book, where he felt it necessary to append an editorial with a number of very specific references, including one which is obviously about the six lower chakras, which he called  "receivers of vibrations of different qualities."

 His extensive chapter on the chemical factory includes obvious and unambiguous references to Prana, which is concentrated through breathing in the practice of Pranayama. And the rest of the book this particular reference comes from is rife with yoga concepts, including the idea of the centers, which has just about everything to do with yoga's idea of chakras. The correlations between the yogic system and Gurdjieff's own are extensive.

 There can be no doubt that Gurdjieff considerably expanded on the ideas in yoga, especially with his introduction of the ancient symbol that used to connect all of the ideas in the yoga schools, the enneagram. The importance of this diagram can't be understated, since study in depth will reveal that the diagram is everything he said it was. Nonetheless, the ideas presented by his system and this diagram are complex, and an entry-level understanding of the basic concepts surrounding the diagram, the ray of creation, the 27 types, and so on represents only a scratch on the surface. Remember, ancient schools (one of Gurdjieff's numerous examples is the "Adherents of Legominism" in ancient Babylon) studied these ideas for thousands of years.

 My own impression, shared by some scholars, is that almost all "modern" religions — and by modern, I mean any contemporary religions which have left discernible traces in the art and writings of ancient societies — are descended from a prototypical, Ur- religion, a root form of yoga, which was practiced somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago or more in the civilizations of Turkey and countries lying to the east, most probably in the very ancient Indus River Valley civilizations, of which relatively little is known.

By the time we encounter the first very large examples of organized religion in major civilizations such as Babylon and Egypt, it had begun to separate from its original traditions and, as both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky maintained, degenerate. That is to say, its ideas had become fragmented and were no longer intact. Certainly, this is the context that Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson presents religion in; and it need hardly be important, whether or not a civilization called Atlantis actually existed or was submerged under the ocean. We can fairly say that the story of Atlantis ably serves, in Beelzebub, as an allegorical vehicle on several different levels; one might also say that today, the myth serves a far greater purpose than any reality could.

 In any event the point is that what we know of history emerged from well-developed and sophisticated civilizations with intricate philosophies and detailed understandings of both the natural world and man's nature.

To believe that these understandings only emerged recently — by recently I mean within the last 3,000 to 4,000 years—starting with Egyptian and Babylonian civilization is to vastly underestimate the ability of earlier cultures to think, and to question their existence. One of the conceits of modern civilization is to imagine ourselves as intellectually superior to earlier cultures; whereas the exact opposite may well be true.

 So yoga, as a practice, probably underlies the origin of Egyptian religion, Judaism, Christianity, Sufism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, all of which emerge on the scene much later than the original civilizations in which yoga practices are clearly recorded in art. As such, it does represent what one might call the "esoteric core" of all religions, which — not coincidentally — is what Gurdjieff said his teaching was.

 As if all of that weren't enough, we are left with the following quote from the man himself:

"The fourth way is the way of “Haida-yoga.”

... and there's yet a bit more to come on this subject.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.




Friday, October 19, 2012

An Extraordinary Sorrow


Today marks the first anniversary of my sister Sarah's death.

 This may seem like a morbid note; but morbidity per se is not on my mind. Last Friday, we hosted a Parabola event at the Orchard House café; editor Tracy Cochran and I told some of our personal "ghost stories," which, although they contain elements of the paranormal, really serve as indicators that we don't know much about this life, and the nature of living and existence itself. As Mme. de Salzmann said, "there is no death," and although we are, of a certainty, unable to understand this fully, there are tastes of it from time to time.

 It does not, by the way, taste like pumpkin.

The question of death always brings me back to my search for God. Ever since I was a child, I was terrified of death. The idea that I could somehow stop being and not exist any more seemed monstrous. Later in life, after some years in the Gurdjieff work, my group leader Henry Brown — a  very quiet and truly extraordinary man who never would have called himself a teacher, although he certainly was one, for me — told me that he, also, had once been afraid of death, but that as he grew older, he realized that it represented a great hope.

I move a bit closer to that. But I move closer to it not through any certain knowledge; in fact, I move closer to it through unknowing.  And that unknowing is suffused with an extraordinary sorrow.

 I've brought this question up before; and yet, it is impossible to understand the difference between extraordinary sorrow and the ordinary sorrow we experience at the death of a loved one, except to know that the ordinary sorrow may — may — serve as a touchstone that, if contemplated long enough, and deep enough in the soul, bring us to this extraordinary sorrow, but only then if the grace of God allows it. Only then. This is because, as the author of the quote points out, nothing but the grace of God can bring us the true sorrow which is needed to expiate sins of the soul.

Much of Gurdjieff's teaching was aimed, ultimately, at the expiation of sin, although he never put it in quite those terms. He didn't need to; for those who listen, his allegories and admonitions will suffice. A diligent practice of the teaching leads a man relentlessly in the direction of an understanding that the influences in him are destructive; and, as is framed within what might be called the climactic chapter of Beelzebub's tales to His Grandson (insofar as the book has a climax) a man must purify himself: live through both the transcendent pleasures and the unbearable anguish of the Holy Planet Purgatory. Gurdjieff's understanding of the need for purification was so profound that there is even a specific movement (Multiplication number 1) that illustrates it in detail, for those who know how to understand the language.

 Gurdjieff's emphasis on the materiality of sin caused him to assign its origins to a physical organ (kundabuffer) rather than a psychological aberration, underscoring the concrete nature of these otherwise abstract concepts, and the need for an organic, that is, systemic, understanding of the need to become whole and cleanse oneself. The idea of intentional suffering is intimately tied to this question, as it is to the material drawn from The Cloud of Unknowing in the quote at the above link.

 Perhaps this seems to stray a long way from the death of a family member, but one can't encompass grief without understanding its place in life; and one can't wrestle with an understanding of life unless one comes to terms with grief.

Grief, a necessary emotion, is a name of God belonging to the lower orders, no matter how rightfully intense it becomes. Perhaps this is why the Masters (Meister Eckhart comes to mind) emphasized so thoroughly why the terrible things that happen to us, and the consequent emotions, are nothing more than a Grace sent by God to help us.

 Ah, but I resist this so!  When terrible things happen, I would rather blame God than love Him. I worry more about the clothes Mercy is wearing than its action. And as long as my attitude is like this, how will I know Mercy if it comes? We say, Lord have Mercy, but we truly know not what we ask for. Mercy does not always come dressed as a rich man; more often, She comes in the form of a beggar.

For as long as I rely on appearances, I may not know Her when she comes.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.




Thursday, October 18, 2012

Made perfect

I've heard the phrase "to be made perfect in the Lord," but like most religious sayings, I rarely have an experience that informs me in the least about what this might mean, no matter how much reading or intellectual study I do on the matter.

Yet this certainly has to do with a kind of energy. I see that.

I begin with an exact study of how the energy in the body is. It's possible to be precise; it's possible to see what is latent and what is active. That energy could be anywhere; I don't need to limit my experience, conception, or understanding of it to the spine or the hara. What I need to do is be present to it; and I can be present to it not on my own terms, but on the terms of the energy itself.

 I follow this motion and I am exactly present to it. The attention does not direct it, but inhabits it.

Then I see how I am.

 This practice connects to a different understanding of love, because it is not conditional. I want to love the Lord; God is within me, and I feel a great love for God, because God, as I can sense within every cell of my organism, is both perfect, infinitely compassionate, and infinitely merciful.

Yet I don't really know what love is; truly, I am none of those things. When this is properly sensed, it's a source of great anguish; unbearable anguish. Yet I have to live with the contradiction of this powerful impulse of love for God, which I don't understand, and my lack of love for myself and for others, which I could try to understand, but usually can't be bothered with.

I want to make myself perfect, but I am unable. Only the Lord can make me perfect; and it is not my perfection that I seek, it is His. So when I sit in prayer, even though I begin by thinking that I will somehow do this and do that, and make myself more acceptable to God, I don't see that I already begin in the wrong way. God makes me acceptable through and within Himself; everything that comes from myself, but wants to be acceptable, has already misunderstood something.

 This misunderstanding seems to lie at the core of existence itself. When I study the energy, when I follow it, there is no fraction of myself left available to meddle with these questions, and I begin to inhabit something quite different than what I think I should be or expect myself to be. I don't inhabit a better self of the future; I don't inhabit a bad self of the past. I just inhabit a self which consists of this relationship between consciousness and the organic energy that creates it.

There isn't any need for theology here, although God is eternally present in this practice. The presence of God does not demand the thought of God. Perhaps my mistake is that I always begin by demanding the thought of God, as though God could not get along without my thinking.

So I begin to see inside myself that to be made perfect in the Lord consists of a different and new kind of relationship. The Lord makes Himself perfect within the Lord; I am neither the architect nor the builder of this mystery. If I allow myself to empty myself of myself, what is left no longer tries to plan or to build. It allows. And to allow is a creative act, an action that opens the generative process within  to a different kind of force, a force that isn't force as I understand it. It is an intelligence; an influence.

 Perhaps I'll never sort out this contradiction between what I think love is, and what I know the Love within God is.

The distance between my own manifestation and this perfect Love will always be measured by an anguish, in every instance that I sense it.

And perhaps this anguish is the only real offering I can bring.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Many truths, one path

 Because of the diversity of practice, we glibly say, many paths, one truth, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 There is only one path, but it has many truths on it. No one can carry all the truth, so individuals select all the truth they can shoulder, and carry that. Each man and woman, carrying his or her burden, wants to believe that they are capable, and doing the right work, so each one reports that the burden they carry is the right burden.

No one wants to be accused of having collected the wrong truths on the path. Everyone wants a full basket; and everyone wants the basket to be filled only with goodness. Men forget that truth comes in many forms, and not all of them are good ones. Many truths are difficult or ugly or even terrifying, as Ibn Al Arabi reminds us. Yet we persist in our naïve belief that it is otherwise.

 Why are we so? Isn't the infinitude of truth self-evident? This subject alone is worthy of a book.

So each man or woman, presuming they are intelligent enough to know the difference, fills their basket and carries on on this single path called life, which each one of us traverses, insisting that they have the right basket filled with the right truth. Arguments ensue. Cudgels are employed. None of it does anyone even a bit of good; kings and paupers are on the same path, and every one of us ends in the grave.

As I pointed out in the last post, the object is to reach something real in oneself before death, rather than having death do our work for us. Believing that there is one truth but many paths is delusional. Coming to a sense of one's own nothingness, and being ever aware of our own death—Gurdjieff's timeless adages— these keep us focused on the fact that there is only one path. Sometimes, great shocks in life can remind us that we are on this one path, but generally, when we are asleep, we have all the attention of butterflies distracted by every new flower that opens.

 The path of the Yogi is the only real path, and it's recapitulated in every myth and every practice in one way or another. It embodies material cosmic truths that are unavoidable given the inevitable consequences of materiality itself. This isn't a complex technical matter; it's simple enough to be transmitted in fairy tales, if people only understand them correctly. It belongs to the collective unconscious, and every man or woman ought to have an organic sense of these truths in the first place. The fact that we delude ourselves with the belief that there are an endless series of options is peculiar.

We want to be that way; we want our basket to be the best basket with the best truth, and we want to believe that the truths we have selected were the only right ones, even though looking around this, it's obvious there were countless alternatives. This is what ego is all about; filling our basket up with as much stuff as possible and then bragging on it.

Well, we are all like that, aren't we, by and large? I think the impulse is natural. It starts out from a wish for things to be good, and to be right. The difficulty is that it's our wish; and we all know what happens in the fairy tales where the person gets their own wish... so often, it goes horribly wrong.

In the end, perhaps, we should admit to ourselves that this practice of thinking that we have the only "right" practice is foolish.

The real practice, the sacred practice, lies deep within ourselves, and it is the forever unknowable practice.

We do not and cannot know God, no matter how we know Him by His names.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Follow the energy

There is a certain energy in me.

Sometimes I sense it; sometimes I don't.

If I am available, if I make efforts, perhaps the energy will become more available. Perhaps it can even always be available. There is a current in me that must awaken.

Then, I can follow it. I think I am a leader; and yet I am not the leader. The force, the energy within me is the leader; it has an intelligence I don't have. It already knows what is necessary in a way that my ordinary mind can't know. It is informed — inwardly formed, and whole. So no matter what my opinions are about how the energy should move, what it should do, the effects it should produce, this doesn't matter. The energy itself is sufficient.

  In the Surangama sutra, Buddha referred to it as "the true essence of mind and its self-purifying brightness." The energy is pure, and even at this low level of myself where I first encounter it, already, it has all the qualities necessary for inner work — the qualities I generally lack. Yet I want to be the authority instead of following the energy.

The energy must be allowed its independence. It understands exactly what is necessary in a way that I don't; and if I relax and just come into relationship with it, it will produce what is necessary. It won't produce a repetitive series of events I am familiar with; it may not do what I want it to, or what feels good. But it will do what is necessary; and this is what I need to learn to follow. I must follow what is necessary.

Because I am always committed to my own will, I don't want to be a follower. Yet in this, I need to be a follower. It's only in the depths of the surrender, the participation, the relationship, and the intimacy that I begin to understand the kind of work that is necessary. The work is not a work I direct; it is not a work I initiate. It is a work that arises naturally from the consequences of the energy. And if I come into relationship with the energy correctly, the consequences will also be correct.

Forcing, manipulation, and agendas all lead to relationships with energy — at least they can. The difficulty is that the consequences don't form themselves properly. In right relationship, the energy conforms to the difficulties, the deficiencies, of the body, the mind, and the emotional Being and begins slowly and gently to adjust each one of these things so that a harmonious relationship begins to arrive.

But if I try to decide what the deficiencies are, and what needs to be corrected — or if I decide I just want what I enjoy, what I am already familiar with, or what others have told me I ought to have — the energy cannot act according to its own intelligence. A tension prevents this.

In this case, I lose something. I always think I'm gaining something in these situations, because I don't want to allow the movement to be natural; I want to be in charge of it. But there is no gain here, because the movement becomes unnatural. In this case, I obtain only what I think I know, instead of what is necessary.

And it is certain, isn't it? I don't know what is necessary.

 So the action of this energy needs to become a process of discovery, and the discovery isn't my discovery. It belongs to the movement of the energy, and its action. I stay behind it; I follow it.

So I am here, I am present, but first, the energy moves, the influence moves, and then, I go with it as it leads.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Conscious Labor

Perhaps no single concept I hear about on a regular basis among those engaged in efforts on inner work seems to be more profoundly misunderstood than the idea of conscious labor.

 Conscious labor does not belong to man as he is. This was made abundantly clear over and over again in In Search of the Miraculous. The enneagram furthermore clearly assigns the influences of both conscious labor and intentional suffering to be action of the law of three; in other words, higher influences emanating from "do" of any given octave, and entering it from the outside in order to provide assistance from a higher level.

Man cannot do. We hear this phrase over and over again in the Gurdjieff work, and yet everyone indubitably thinks they can do. The impression is that our own efforts — efforts that belong to us — which are, somehow, magically conscious, even though we all know we ourselves are not, are going to be manifest by us and lead us forward into reality.

How are we, unconscious as we are, going to do this? By lifting great weights; performing feats of mental agility? Seeing ourselves? I think not. We are unconscious; this is in our nature. The limited range of ability we have is to prepare for a conscious influence to arrive and allow us to participate in conscious labor. Thus, almost nothing of what a man engages in — or doesn't engage in, producing guilt about his work in him — consists of conscious labor. What it is is the delusion of conscious labor, the belief that somehow I'm doing this, I'm doing that, and if I do it, well, that's conscious labor, and if I don't do it, well then, I'm screwing up and not working.

Ah, yes.  I am bad. I don't work. And so on.

Does all this sound familiar? Don't feel bad. This is a bear trap with stakes at the bottom of the pit that everyone falls into.  Over and over, in most cases. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

 I need, instead, to begin to understand that conscious labor begins only in the moment, after many hours, days, weeks, months, or even years of long effort and work, when something real finally takes place. I actually see something. I receive an impression in a new and much deeper way.

That is conscious labor. Only to the extent that I prepare myself for it, and am available to it as it arrives, can it have any meaningful effect on me.

Much could be said about intentional suffering, which also does not belong to us and is always and only help sent from a higher level. This idea, too, is frequently misunderstood as something I can "do," rather than a force I am invited to participate in with enough preparation.

 Some may think that intentional suffering is engaged in in order to develop what Gurdjieff called "real Will."  An exercise, in other words, that will toughen us up, make us real men or women with a purpose.  Hence, when they meet spiritual leaders who display authoritarian, oppressive, abusive, pushy, or other Hasnamussian characteristics and influences, some are inclined to believe that these "tough cookies" are the real thing, that they somehow have Will. Legions of "Real Candidates for Inner Work" have been tragically misled by such spiritual bullies, largely because of misunderstandings about this idea of Will.

As Ibn al Arabi and Meister Eckhart would (and do) succinctly explain, man has no real Will — and he can never have any real Will. The idea is a Chimera put in front of us by consistent misinterpretation of just what will consists of. There is only one real Will, and it is the Will of God — of Allah,  as al Arabi would tell us. A man can only develop real Will to the extent that he aligns himself with God, through submission — Islam — and service. In this action, the only Will that is expressed in him, if there is any, is the will of God.

 Gurdjieff's views on will are complex and easily confusing, and may give the mistaken impression that somehow a man can build this thing up in himself, like a muscle he owns. Or that there are religious practices that act like steroids, to impart it to us. Ideas of this kind are laughable, yet the ego tempts us to accept them at every step on the path, because it puts our lives and our work under our control—a very appealing prospect. Extremes and asceticism of every kind are based on these ideas. I don't see their purpose, and I never have.

You can't use a whip to drive yourself into the arms of God. If you do, when you get there, I feel sure He'll be disappointed in you.

 In order to offer those interested in a more strictly doctrinal interpretation of some of these ideas, in particular, the contrast between the two realms on the diagram, I created what I will call an Ouspensky enneagram, found by clicking the link.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A precise observation is needed

Perhaps it's not quite clear to me why I am observing myself.

Why bother?

I need to see what I am. But I don't just need to see that I am this thing or that thing; I need to see how influences arise in me and the effect that they have. So the observation is not an observation of outward behavior, which may be colorful, but is not the essential issue.

The observation is an observation of the inner state. Outer behavior may be quite explosive or energetic, without losing the ability to see the inner state. I can practice this, if my attention works both inwardly and outwardly.

 Every impulse within, which could be called energy, is also an influence. It is a force that flows inwards, into the being, provoking what Gurdjieff called associations. But the associations are not what's interesting. It is the influence itself. The influence that arises could be called desire; many influences provoke desire. The influence could be a wish for purity, or a wish for power.

All of these influences relate, in one way or another, to the six principal elements of inner work. The point is that these influences, or forces, arise within the context of being on a regular basis in a man. If he has no awareness, the influences take him and do what they will with him.

 If I am aware, I see an influence, an energy, as it arises. I see it specifically. And a precise observation is needed for this. I am present to myself; whether I believe that I lack something, or I don't, this almost doesn't matter. I am here. And I see this impulse arise.

The rate of vibration can only go in one of two directions here. If it descends, I am under the influence of the impulse. I am subordinate to it; it rules me. I do what the impulse says; I am enslaved by it. The best it can ever do is affect the level it is on. It is, in biblical terms, cast down: it moves in a descending spiral of increasing disorder.

If the rate of vibration ascends — and this can only happen if I am actively aware of the influence and see it arising in me — then the influence can serve my work, and perhaps even come into relationship with a higher level. And when influences serve my work, because I am active and aware in relationship to them as they arise, I understand their consequences. This is because every influence has an inevitable and lawful set of consequences, according to whether I am active or passive in relationship to it.

This means that every casual impulse that seems to arise randomly or by accident can become an intentional encounter within me, but only if I am there to precisely observe it. Most influences spend quite some time working on me, so if I keep making efforts throughout the day, sooner or later, I may be there to see how a particular influence is working on me. Then it becomes possible to use that influence in my work. The moment that there is even a small amount of conscious intention in relationship to the influence — and that intention relates to seeing the influence, not picking it up like a roofing nail and hammering it into a shingle — already, the influence has a completely different action in me.

In order to understand this, it's necessary to move beyond what is called "rote" self observation of behavior, and see quite clearly the way that impulses and influences arise within Being. This may sound too complicated; but it really isn't. Understanding the six principal elements of inner work can help one to see exactly what kind of influence is working. One needs, after all, to work with an active intelligence, inside the context of a system. This is how science works, and inner work is a science.

Even the most negative impulse or influence can become a tool for inner work under these circumstances. All influences should serve an inner effort; and all of them can. A negative influence can serve an inner work in a positive way, if it is seen, but a positive influence can equally serve something negative if it just happens in me any old way. So there needs to be a vigilance, or an attention, that does not just come from the mind alone in this work. And there needs to be a precision in observation, that is, an understanding that one is looking to see the movement of energy, or influence, within Being; how each force affects awareness and action. I come back again to this question of consequences. I suffer outer consequences; but do I see how outer consequences always arise because of inner consequences that preceded them?

To be present to an influence, to a force, is to be present to an energy. The energies are always acting in me. Either I act in relationship to the energy, or the energy acts in relationship to me. In the one case, I am used; in the other, I use.

This work can become more distinct if I take impressions in more deeply. But I need to see quite precisely how this energy works in me, otherwise, I won't understand how it affects me, and what is at stake in my work.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.



link related to the comment: The Work of the Body


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why Be Mindful?

Mindfulness practice is popping up all over the country in spiritually minded communities almost as much as yoga studios are proliferating. The idea of being mindful is forwarded to repeated so often that it's in danger of being worn out. One hesitates to say it, but use of the term has become almost... unmindful.

I can liken the idea of being unmindful to Gurdjieff's idea of being asleep, or his idea of being mechanical, which is a gong he hammered on relentlessly when speaking to Ouspensky. Things which are not mindful, not conscious, proceed mechanically, that is, automatically. They can't change direction. If there is a wall in front of them, they smack into it. So to have a lack of attention is to have a lack of direction.

 Yet this can be taken in both an inner and an outer sense. The danger of emphasis on mindful practice the way it is being passed on today is that the emphasis seems to be on using it to deal with daily life, to fix things.

It is directed outwardly. The understanding is that it will help me be more compassionate, more patient, more considerate towards others, and so on. All of this is an excellent goal; and it speaks to the impulse human beings have to fix what is wrong with themselves (and, in most cases unfortunately, others.) Yet  suddenly, I see that I am employing it to try and get things I want, or think I need, whereas it actually needs to exist quite independently of desire.

This outwardly directed action obviates the entire inner point of the practice.

 Mindfulness, as practiced in an inner sense, is meant to direct the soul towards God. Towards this end, it has no connection to the outside world; not directly, anyway. And all of the effects that it has on one's outer manifestations and actions are incidental to the aim, which is solely and exclusively to move one's heart towards an openness to God. What all the masters tell us, after all, is that man's great purpose in life is to become conscious of God, and our relationship to Him. Mindful practice, attention, directed towards this effort is not directed towards being a better person in life. It has a different, sacred, secret, intimate, and inner purpose that is not attached to life.

This doesn't mean that I throw my life away, or that I chop my practice into small pieces which are separated from one another. It doesn't mean that exoteric, outer, practice is unnecessary. It doesn't mean I should not try to be a better person. But it does mean that there is a sacred thread, a golden thread, that is supposed to tie my mindfulness to a relationship with a higher energy, in an action that is not attached to the outside world.

 When I understand mindfulness, in most instances of its arising, as a practice tied to this or that external moment, I both understand and don't understand at the same time. I have half of it right; but the half that I have right is the half that is easy to understand. With all due respect to my own practice, I need to remind myself that even monkeys can understand this kind of thing.

I am called on to be more than a monkey. This means that mindfulness needs to be directed inwardly towards the unknown; towards a gentle attention which values and participates in mystery, not stress reduction and being nice to poor people. Mindfulness must be practiced, in other words, on more than one level, and the levels that touch the unknown are the levels that I need to be most attentive to.

 It's important, I think, not to vulgarize the practice of mindfulness—to make it common and coarse by tying it too much to worldly goals and circumstances.

It is, after all, so decisively intended as a form of prayer.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.