Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The birdmaster

 Last night, a reader asked me what I meant by the heading in this blog: "There is no I, there is only Truth. The way to the Truth is through the heart."

 The question was asked in relationship to Gurdjieff's doctrine of acquiring real "I"... which is a complex subject. And because the statement I make (it's not my statement, it was given to me as a mystery to penetrate) cannot have any real answers from this side of Being, one must live it, not define it.

Nonetheless, some things can be said.  Gurdjieff's search for real "I," put in the terms he put it in, finds its closest parallel in the idea of Purusha, the higher self which pervades the universe. This Vedic concept is certainly the way the idea is understood today — in so far as anyone understands it — within the context of those I work with.

 So it has nothing to do with the self we usually experience; and to discuss it as though I could actually acquire it is an extremely problematic idea.

Once upon a time, a wandering birdmaster came to a land with no trees, where no one had ever seen a bird.  All the trees had been cut down in ancient times, leaving only memories of the way the skies were once filled with birds.

The population had many books about birds, and some people drew fanciful, but completely inaccurate, pictures of birds. Whole sciences and academic disciplines had arisen surrounding the question of birds, but everything was conjecture.

The birdmaster did his best to describe birds to the people who lived in that land, but no one quite got the idea. Finally, he said to them, "The only way you can understand what a bird is is to get your own bird."

"That sounds wonderful," said the people. "How do we do that?"  Already, they had misunderstood him — they thought that they could have a real bird of their own, not realizing that a bird is only a bird through the inherent nature of its freedom from restraint.

"You have to build a birdhouse," said the birdmaster. "The bird has to have a place to live, or it won't come or stay."

 The birdmaster began to teach the people how to build birdhouses, but it turned out that the enterprise was complex and time-consuming; the possibilities for types of birdhouses were nearly endless. He died before he could ever teach the people all they needed to know.

 An endless series of birdhouse schools arose; they split from one another. Arguments ensued about how to build a birdhouse, because no one knew how big it should be, or how small; how large the entrance should be,  how high it should be hung, or what kind of perch ought to be on it.  No one knew where they should put it to attract birds. A huge number of birdhouse candidates appeared, mounted on houses, trees, in the woods, the fields, and even near the ocean. Some people tore down other people's birdhouses in order to make room for their own. Others made a great deal of money charging for their birdhouse "expertise."

 But few birds came. It turned out that no matter how well one made birdhouses, this did not mean birds would come; and even if they did come, there was no guarantee they would stay in the birdhouses. Besides, despite all of the energy put into attracting birds, still, only one or two of those building birdhouses had actually ever seen birds or enticed them to roost; and since, unfortunately, there were many different kinds of birds, what one individual did to attract a bird did not necessarily work for others, who were of necessity forced to build their own birdhouses of different materials, and put them up in different places.

 The biggest problem, it turned out, was that birds don't stay in one place for very long. The very few that came departed quickly; people caught glimpses, and reported them to others.

  Not long after he died, the words and instructions of the birdmaster began to be misinterpreted; and people began to believe more and more things which had nothing to do with the actual life of birds, which are free creatures. The basic problem was that no one had any idea of what a bird actually was. And no one even knew this.

Nonetheless, they did know some few things. Those who studied birds seriously soon began to recognize the fact that real birds can come and go as they please; and so they began to build cages to keep the birds in, if they ever caught one. The art of cage building became a refined one, a question of purely practical matters; and no one saw the contradiction in it.

 May your soul be filled with light.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lee,

    Your use of the word Purusha is what really inspired me to comment. As you know, I am something of an avid Orientalist, and just as the three forces or Gunas (the holy trinity of three forces required for anything to manifest)... come from the philosophy known as Samkya, which translates as enumeration, number or ratio (by the way, the word ratio is a Greek synonym for the word logos; Logos can mean Word, Symbol or Ratio)

    According to the Samkya, there is an essential duality between Purusha (The word actually means "Person") and Prakriti, which includes ALL matter,energy or force fields – in other words, the entire phenomenological universe or cosmoses.
    Now Purusha is considered male and is represented by the deity Shiva,absorbed in the deepest meditation - pure unsullied awareness requiring no motion or change.

    Prakriti is represented by the deity Shakti, which refers to all energy, all matter, all space and time and all force fields. She is Shiva's consort.

    So when Mr. Gurdjieff said that he was a materialist – that statement alone would've indicated that he was aware of the Samkya and its recognition of Purusha (unmoving awareness existing everywhere and 'everywhen' throughout, and Prakriti, everything else. The sound phenom 'K' indicates movement and action and is in words like activity or action quite literally. This viewpoint postulates matter as highly congealed energy, and energy as highly attenuated matter. And the third is fields (force fields).

    So Prakriti is all of that, which then includes thoughts, feelings and actions (or manifestations) can be said to be material in the pure physical sense, that is to say, according to what we know about physics as a science. There is a wonderful sentence in the Upanishads that talks of birds:

    "Two birds are on a branch, one each from the fruit thereof; the other simply watches."

    These understandings were bestowed upon The Seers of Yore, thousands of years before the common era we are in today. And the word Upanishad means "to sit near", so as to hear the words that came out of the seer's mouth.

    I daresay Mr. Gurdjieff knew all about this. As I began to study him, his life and his teachings I recognized him as a bodhisattva.

    Once, a woman asked him to explain something to her, and he said: "I make ore, it is for others to refine."

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