Monday, May 20, 2013


The word freedom is used a great deal. In doctrines of liberation, it is the sine qua non of attainment, what we wish to have, even though we are instructed to become unattached and are definitely not, according to the great Zen masters, supposed to “attain” anything.

For most people, the concept of freedom and liberation in an inner sense is just that. A concept; but a concept they want. I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life listening to people who don't know much of what they are talking about, or know a little bit, expounding on it as though they had some higher level of understanding. For the most part, from what I've seen, the more adamant anyone is, the more certain it is that they know little or nothing about this question. Because arguing about these things is entirely pointless, I rarely say anything to them; it is like giving oars to mountaineers. The certain thing is that the error of understanding on this matter is disturbing; and the more deeply vested individuals become, the greater the likelihood of error.

For my own part, I underwent a distinctive and extended experience a number of years ago in which the nature of this inner condition was revealed to me, along with other material I'm not permitted to repeat in writing. I won't describe it in any detail — or the circumstances under which it was given to me — but I will say that understandings about this state as we read about it or hear it talked about are comprehensively false. The falsehood does not stem strictly from the descriptions, which are already primarily hearsay, and generally inaccurate, but from the idea that this state is the goal of one’s inner work.

Let me state categorically that the state of complete inner freedom is not appropriate to this level; and more so, it isn't enough. Human beings have been sent here to suffer the conditions we are in for reasons, and we are not all meant to be avatars—far from it. On very rare occasions, higher individuals do show up on the planet who embody a much greater level of freedom, but — as in the case of Christ (whose example ought to serve as a dire warning to everyone who thinks they want liberation)— they do not live lives in which they suffer less than other human beings, but in which they suffer more, sometimes, even a great deal more. One must say that on the path to liberation and inner freedom, once one is liberated and free, things get much worse before they get better.  

But don’t take my word for it. Read on.

Bad is, of course, relative; one of the characteristics of inner freedom, to whatever degree it arrives, is that help is sent. This doesn't excuse anyone from continuing to suffer. For human beings, it is only the extent to which we suffer during this lifetime that matters; and I don't speak here of an ordinary or an external suffering.

The pursuit of inner liberation is, thus, in a certain sense a false doctrine, in so far as it may be construed as bliss, nonattachment, satori, and so on. This is what Christ meant when he said, "I bring not peace, but a sword," and, equally important, "the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.” There have been some few uncompromising  and unflinching  Christian and Buddhist masters who reminded people of this, and some rarefied Sufis who hardly anyone pays attention to anymore these days, but they are few and far between. 
The path towards Love is beset by fire on all sides. The one who walks it must suffer it. We live, unfortunately, in an age when the struggle we need to undergo is constantly whitewashed until it can’t be recognized anymore.

Inner liberation of the kind that is appropriate to us on this level is a liberation from the attachments that prevent us from growth. If that is attained, it is just a beginning, because a great deal more suffering and effort is needed from that point onward. Liberation and freedom, in other words, are a starting point, not the aim of an inner work, after which one can rest. 

I stress again, that the suffering is an inner suffering. Understanding this question has little or nothing to do with outer circumstances. It's quite possible that outer circumstances will improve more and more until a person is in absolutely wonderful outward conditions, but inwardly in the midst of the most terrible anguish and suffering. Gurdjieff cleverly painted an elaborate allegory in order to explain this quite exactly in his chapter on the Holy Planet Purgatory; and there is your supporting evidence for why, "liberation or no liberation," things get much worse before they get better.

Hence, when Jeanne de Salzmann speaks of freedom and inner liberation, I believe, she speaks very specifically of a certain level of these qualities which must appear in order to continue one's work. Not an endgame of some kind. I'm not sure those who read her writings quite understand what she is getting at, because most of the references she makes to freedom and inner liberation actually relate to a kind of nonattachment that will not remove suffering, but make even greater suffering possible. She was not trying to lead us to the end of any path, but rather, to set us on the beginning of one. The inner center of gravity — a vital understanding which must be attained in order to move any further — and the quality of inner invulnerability are properties that can assist in this.

Those whose understanding of these questions is theoretical or formed by reading books will undoubtedly continue to believe that what I say here is incorrect. The very idea that anyone would want to make even greater suffering possible in themselves escapes the average seeker, and violates the accepted definitions of the inner path which incorrect understandings have sold us, most especially in the present age. But then again, it is easy to misunderstand if one doesn’t know what is meant by the word suffering.

Mr. Gurdjieff most certainly understood this question, uncompromisingly so, and turns out to be one of the few voices one can listen to and trust in this matter.

May your soul be filled with light.

1 comment:

  1. fine post. 'not permitted' strikes a strange note though....can't see Lee not being permitted by the nyc foundation - so the mysterious injunction stands. Why mention it?

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