Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tramps, lunatics, morality


It's quite certain that Gurdjieff said over and over again that there is no such thing as morality for ordinary men. He seemed, perhaps, to hold ordinary moral behavior, as we ordinarily understand it, in something almost like contempt; and he was certainly no paragon of virtue himself, measured by ordinary means.

Yet, paradoxically, he celebrated the values of the ordinary man, the obyvatel; and he asked his followers to respect all religions — which are, undeniably, moral institutions.

Followers of the Gurdjieff ideas have, for over a century, presumed that when he asked them to verify his ideas, they were to verify them to confirm that they were correct.

But what of the idea of verifying that something Gurdjieff maintained was wrong? Surely, he couldn't possibly be right about everything; and once we can admit that he could have been wrong about one thing, we must admit he could have been wrong about anything.

His ideas, in other words, are subject to open critical evaluation on every single point—and he would have preferred we understand it that way, both in regard to his thoughts, and our own.

This leaves it to the individuals who study his ideas to conduct a critical evaluation; to find out whether or not the things that he said were, in fact, true, or whether some of them were simply wrong, even perhaps deliberately wrong, and thrown out there as an overt challenge to those who would just gullibly believe in him. He was known, after all, to intentionally misdirect his pupils, just to see what they would do. He demanded that human beings think for themselves — not act like sheep. And, as a master of the via negativa, he not only expected people to be suspicious of him — in a stroke of sheer genius, he demanded it.

In this matter of morality, if Gurdjieff truly meant to have us believe that there is no morality, or that ordinary morality has no value, then surely, he is wrong. To believe otherwise is to invite the law of the jungle into ascendancy; and although it may well be the law we are all subject to, that does not mean we must lie down and expose our soft underbelly to it as helpless victims.

It is impossible to attain an infallible consciousness; even Gurdjieff, by his own admission, failed at that. In the same way, we cannot attain an infallible morality. Nonetheless, given the choice between a (purportedly) conscious morality, unconscious morality, and no morality, we must choose the best we can get— understanding that fallibility is inevitable. Choosing no morality is not a reasonable option; and to choose to be immoral simply because some outside authority appears to have given us an excuse for it is equally wrong.

We must hold ourselves to the highest possible standard, not allow ourselves to sink to what appears to be the lowest permissible one.

 In the exercise of discriminating consciousness, any old thing is not enough. We are expected to meet a standard on the ordinary level, as well as any higher level. Those who believe that they can meet some standard on a higher level without being capable on an ordinary level are delusional. We must stand  upright within ourselves and examine our actions carefully. There is indeed such a thing as what the Buddhists call right action; and it is our duty to sense it, as best we can.

The conditions of outer life are a reflection of our inner state. We do not have the right to be tramps or lunatics; that is, people who believe whatever they are told.

 If one practices and intelligent and active observation of one's state and actions, one will see that temptations constantly arise. This is the condition of life. One must go against this constantly; this does, in fact, constitute an inner morality, and an outer one at the same time – which is the subject of the next post on the matter.

 May your soul be filled with light.

1 comment:

  1. I am happy to see you return to some of the special words that Gurdjieff used to describe several "failures at 'being'" such as Lunatic or Tramp. It's worth returning to that old trusty "Fragments of an Unknown Teaching" (ISOTM) to clarify whet he meant be each of those descriptions.

    But we should remember that an increase of Consciousness is really only a strengthening of will and ability to unearth the "Divine Conscience" which exists independent of and societal ethics or morality.

    Gees, our own conscience should shudder and revolt even at the thought of littering in the street, even if it inconveniences us and "everybody else does it".

    I think I am on the right track to declare that none of us should even TRY to follow the ethical mandates of society or the morality of anyone other than ourselves. Of course this statement is predicated on our having learned to trust ourselves. That's what the Consciousness is about. Conscience without Consciousness may turn us into "milktoast", whereas the acquisition of both Consciousness and Conscience enables a cross-check that otherwise always grows lopsided.

    We must needs be have ego, and "person-ality", but they both should be subject to being passive under the authority of our own Consciousness and Conscience. I don't even think that we can truly acquire one without acquiring the other.

    It seems to me that these two are married, Consciousness the groom and Conscience the bride, in an alchemical marriage that shows us our own laws -- much stricter than the ordinary civil law, but accompanied by a sense of bliss to be found nowhere else on Earth.

    When we reach that point, we are within the famous "Inner Circle of Conscious Humanity".

    That "Inner Circle" is not a place. It is a condition. Devoutly to be wished for.

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