Thursday, June 13, 2013

The heart of knowledge, part V

  This line of inquiry, which began with a question about knowledge and exactly what it consists of, leads us to a contemplation of Gurdjieff's five Obligolnian strivings.

 It might be worthwhile, here, to note to readers that the first striving is a physical one, related to the moving center; the second one a wish related to the emotional center; and the third one a wish related to the intellectual center. They all relate to the right or material side of the enneagram, that is, the notes Re, Mi, and Fa— from a Sufi point of view, materiality, desire, and power.

The combination of these three forces — these three distinct kinds of knowledge— leads one inexorably to the note Sol, that is, the position of Being... and it is exactly here that we discover the need for an inward payment — an intuition — in order to "pay as quickly as possible for one's arising and individuality."

 Readers of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson have wondered for many years exactly what this particular phrase means.

How does one pay?

The implications here are clear. One pays inwardly — one pays by attending. This is intimately connected to Jeanne de Salzmann's adage that we must "see our lack." To be watchful, to see, involves placing ourselves in the middle of this struggle of yes and no — this forceful  play of desires within us. We must suffer this. Here, at this point, is where Gurdjieff himself indicates that intentional suffering must take place.

In this context, we see that the effort of acquiring knowledge is what conscious labor consists of. Once this acquisition of knowledge has been undertaken, a struggle takes place between the "old" and the "new" knowledge in a human being. (As it happens, one report I've heard from someone who knew Gurdjieff personally has it that Gurdjieff said, on his deathbed,  not the words, " I leave you all in a fine mess"—Henri Tracol said he did not actually say this—but rather, something to the effect of: "I go back  now to planet Karatas. After this, the war begins between the old ideas and the new ideas.")

When this interaction of old and new impressions is nothing more than an intellectual struggle, very little can result. But when the struggle takes place between old and much deeper and more balanced new impressions, which consist of physical, emotional, and intellectual impressions in a combination, a very new kind of chemistry results. The mysteries of the holy Trinity are involved with this process; and, ultimately, this kind of payment, this intentional suffering, puts us in a position to suffer not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of God.

 So here, perhaps, is one of the hidden keys to the fourth striving.

 In seeing our own lack, and intentionally suffering it , we are called to what Ibn Arabi referred to when he said "The regret of ignorance is the greatest of regrets."

 So we see that this idea of intuition does not allude to instincts about material events in the conventional way that we usually take the word; instead, it points us towards a much higher function. This isn't to say that instinctive intuitions don't exist; rather, taken in the context of spirituality, intuition involves a form of attention that is willing to stand in the center of things and sense what is taking place.

To be sure, it is of a different order of intelligence; connected to conscience, it has the chance to steer us rightly in a way that our intellect and our desires can't. But first, we have to be in touch with it — and we have to be willing to suffer it.

 In a certain sense, having any instinct whatsoever about material events is hardly the point. It is the inward effect, always, that we seek when we seek understanding; just as we seek knowledge for its inward action, not what we can do with it to fix (or break) the material world.

 May your soul be filled with light.


  1. These latest posts are very well written and add up to something of value. Thanks for your ongoing work. It enhances my own. -Richard

  2. And I KNEW Gurdjieff had never said that awful quote about leaving anybody in a "fine mess". It just wouldn't fit in his mouth. Hearsay. Thanks for giving us a much more realistic and probable quote.
    Yet he is still here, in his teachings.


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