Monday, September 30, 2013


 It may seem paradoxical, after embarking on an examination of time, habitat, psyche, and how these various features of man's being are tied together, to follow with a discussion of timelessness, but the two subjects are related quite exactly by the juxtaposition of the immanent and the transcendent natures of reality, which do not just exist side-by-side, but interpenetrate and balance each other.

 The transcendent forever forms the immanent. We can understand the immediate moment, in this instance, as the immanent, that is, the objective manifestation of objects, events, circumstances, and conditions.  Here I am, dictating this; here you are, reading it. But this immediate moment, which is perfect, irreplaceable, and unique, emerges from the transcendent — the past, which is put forever beyond our reach by the passage of time — and flows into it, again, because time exists after this moment and every moment flows into it.

In that sense, this instant is always timeless. It cannot have time except as an assigned characteristic experienced by the nature of the consciousness that inhabits it. So time does not actually exist, as Gurdjieff said to his visitor in Glimpses of Truth (page 37 of Views from the Real World.) It is a function of the manifestation of consciousness.

In Zen, and in Buddhism in general, the eternal now is a highly valued concept. The apogee of commentary on this conjunction of the transcendent and the immanent may well rest, however, within Islam in Arabi's Futuhat.

Yet perhaps the complex and fascinating, even brilliant, philosophical implications of the situation as expounded by Ibn Arabi aren't enough. And perhaps even practice-based Buddhist discourses inadvertently gloss over the question through their own fascination with the state — that is, the conversion of experience of the state itself into a construction or philosophical body of understanding.

The practice itself exists as an extraordinary truth that can only manifest within consciousness and never be transmitted in words or other forms. This is what inner work is for — to discover and experience of this timelessness within the context of time, which is a product not of reality, but of our own abstraction within it. That is to say, what we call reality is actually a psychological, intellectual, cultural, and philosophical abstraction derived from reality which never does anything more than reflect it.

To live within the actual experience, the ultimate aim of the birth of the inner life, is a completely different action that instantly divorces itself from the construction that describes it. The divorce is irrevocable, that is, psychology, intellect, culture, and philosophy are unable to exist within timelessness and the Truth of the instant, because these qualities all belong, ultimately, to that which lies in the immanent. In this way, we might say that all religious practice is an attempt to move outside of religious practice into a territory it describes, but can never reach.

To the extent that we inhabit timelessness, our inner lives are aligned more closely the inflow, the divine manifestation of God. This, like the cycle of myth, is a circular and cyclical process that waxes and wanes according to many different forces, among them planetary ones. The best that we can do is hope to align ourselves within so that we receive what can be received when appropriate, and take all of the actions that are needed to manifest right effort in the outward world when we are less available.

This brings me to the question of intention, the central proposition of Swedenborg's, which I intend ( If you will excuse the pun) to examine in the next post.

May your soul be filled with light.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The psyche and the long time scale

Because we're in the habit of separating scientific and religious questions from one another in the present age, we don't seem to understand that they are deeply tied to one another.

Anything that has biological roots has spiritual roots; and anything with spiritual roots has biological ones. The natural world is, in reality, a reflection of the spiritual one; a world of correspondences which exist as separate entities, but can never be fully separated.

So the existence of the long scale of time in the natural world, which is an inevitable consequence of physics and the flow of time, has its mirror in the psychic world of man, who was equipped to serve as a bridge between the two realms.

 The psyche of man needs myth, an understanding of the cyclical nature of time, life, and Being, and an understanding of the concept of recurrence — the repeating of events over geologic time — in order to attune itself to the fact that it is not alone and can never stand alone. Human beings exist as much as a quality as a species — the quality of knowing, the quality of understanding, the quality of awareness. This is an essential quality of the universe, but it only reaches an expression of understanding at the level of man. At the levels below us, awareness is much more limited.

Man has to be made aware of his existence through the long timescale in order for him to have an respect and appreciation for where he is now. If man only cares about the present, he acts heedlessly and without regard for the future. We can see this from the development of modern society and the damage it's inflicting to both the human psyche, culture, civilization, and the planet itself. Short-term thinking, short attention spans, the distraction of the understanding of cycles, leads human beings directly into a repetitive process of destructive acts that lead to short-term gain and long-term loss.

The examination of this question so far has told us something about the way that myth and religious understanding affect the relationship between man's natural, or physical, body and the natural world. but there is also an inner question related to timescales we need to examine here.

Man's psyche evolved, in its "perfect" state, to be in full relationship with God. Both Ibn Arabi and Swedenborg, standard fixtures in this blog,  have a good deal to say about that. What this means, in the standard terminology of Zen Buddhism and modern esoteric practice, is to "be in the moment," or to have an attention of the immediate, as Jeanne de Salzmann taught.

 This kind of awareness does represent a certain form of perfection, and an inner freedom, but it does not exist independent of the long timescale within a human being, that is, in terms of the inner life. The more closely aligned attention is with the immediate, the more the inner life ultimately aligns with the presence of God and not just the intention, but the actual inability, of doing things that have a negative effect on the long timescale.

This is a very different relationship than the outer relationship, where material physical reminders (meaning, in this case, myth and religion, which may seem ephemeral, but are actually material manifestations) are necessary. In the inner arrangement of the immediate and the long time scale, we encounter the instantaneous intersection of personhood (the proximal manifestation of God) and divinity (the distal manifestation of God.) That is to say, God is both right here, and everywhere. This simple phrase is the elastic version of the immediate and long timescale, in their ultimate expression.

 This union of what appear to be opposites brings man into a state where the contradictions of the immediate and the extended nature of reality no longer oppose one another.

 We have to consider these questions because the experience of the soul, of the inner Being, in the course of day-to-day life in the physical body is one separated from the long timescale, and yet the natural habitat of the soul is, of course, the long timescale in its entirety.

Ancient Egyptian practices surrounding the question and nature of eternity are closely related to this idea. This society had an acute awareness and understanding of the long timescale, which informed its nature for thousands of years before it was finally forgotten and destroyed.

May your soul be filled with light.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cycles of Myth and the Long Time Scale

The human psyche wasn't built to think in a long time frames.

While it has the ability to do so, because of our intellectual capacities and our memory, the fact is that it evolved to deal mostly with the immediate. Time frames over hundreds and thousands of years simply aren't meaningful to human beings; they are, that is, theoretically meaningful, but they don't have any immediate effect on survival from day today. The long time scale is not a part of our ordinary psyche. It lies in the realm of the extraordinary; that is, outside the boundaries of our own lives. No matter how we parse it, it brings us to the edge of the unknown, and drops us off there as time marches off into territories where we can never follow.

Only man is, so far as we know, capable of having such thoughts.

This has both phenomenal and noumenal implications. The awareness of both short and long-term thinking are necessary in terms of biological survival; but they affect our emotional, our spiritual, life as well—those parts of us that don't yield so easily to the cold probe of the intellect.

We need short-term thinking in order to know what to do in the next minute, or hour, or day. This ensures survival in the moment. But precisely because of our ability to impact the environment and our overall surroundings over millennia— after all, we are the species that evolved complex culture as the means of passing technology on — long-term thinking is absolutely necessary.

Nature, which serves higher purposes we can't be quite aware of under ordinary circumstances, understood this, and produced mechanisms in order to provide the psychological underpinnings for a long-term thinking. We know these underlying thought structures as religions; as mythologies. Their mutually supportive traditions of storytelling and the positioning of man in eternally recurring cycles of event and experience are the mechanisms that position man in the landscape of time.

This is important because man needs to know where he is not only from the point of view of his immediate surroundings, but where the culture—where the tribe, the species—will be 1000 or even 10,000 years from now. Our romantic attraction to Native American traditions, for example, is because they see the big picture — they understand the long scale of time. The long scale of time, passed down through myth and tradition, connects us to the landscape, and to the natural environment we are currently in the process of destroying.

The advent of the so-called "modern" psyche, with its increasing and ever-accelerating emphasis on the short-term, on soundbites and fractured attention spans, is in the process of destroying this mechanism. 

With it are going most of the natural systems that keep us alive.

Human beings, in a word, have forgotten where they are. Both the philosophies and economics of modernism are in the process of destroying that which created them; and Western societies are unable to see this. 

The terrible violence we see emerging from tribal societies is almost certainly an immune system reaction from the planet to this distraction of the awareness of the long scale of time. They are, without a doubt, a terrifying thing; but we must imagine for a moment the desperation that births them, which is a misguided, last ditch attempt to defend essential and vitally important traditional cultures from the destruction of the long time scale of myth and religion. 

We don't see our behavior, in any set of circumstances, as connected to survival mechanisms for the species; yet all of them are. Even, as paradoxical as it may seem, terrorism. We may not understand that until we consider that the body will kill its own cells if it identifies them as containing pathogens. Cultures act in much the same way; right or wrong, these mechanisms aren't a unique aberration of the psyche. They mirror well known inner processes on a different scale, and in a different way.

In order to survive, it's vitally necessary to know where we are; and only the cycles of myth and a deep, religious understanding can bring us to that place. These traditions have an emotional, not intellectual, appeal; and it is precisely this appeal to the emotions that makes them work for human beings. The intellect is clever, but it doesn't have enough force to reach into the depths where the real decisions are made.

This is why we ignore the cycles of myth and tradition at our peril. They are not just romantic tales; they are deeply tied to our understanding of our long-term presence in this landscape, this habitat, that supports us. 

Both the inner and the outer habitat are bound together by the soul; and we must know this if we wish to live, on any scale of time.

May your soul be filled with light.

Note to readers: this post is also found at my new bio-blog, the microbial octave, which features posts on man and the environment.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Notes on a Meeting with Peggy Flinsch

These notes are reported verbatim from the original document which I wrote in 2008.

As I have explained elsewhere, I was one of the principle sound editors on Ms. Flinsch's recordings of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. These notes were taken directly after the luncheon she hosted to celebrate the completion of the project.

 Notes on a Meeting with Peggy Flinsch

We met with Peggy Flinsch on Sunday, June 29, 2008 to celebrate the almost-conclusion of the recording project in which she read the entire new edition of "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson."

Before the meeting began, she made the remark that the book is meant to feed the two minds.  I mentioned the meeting Peter Brook attended, in which he intimated the need to stand between the inner and the outer.  She asked me what I understood by that, and I explained to her that my experience of it is that we have a set of inner impressions that are received from a higher place, and outer impressions which are received from the more coarse material of an external life.  She said “Yes, that's one way of expressing it.” 

She was specifically curious as to whether this was a theoretical position on my part or whether I had an actual experience of it.  I believe I satisfied her question in this regard, upon which we agreed that the experience of it is what needs to be relied on and practiced.

During the luncheon, she offered a number of comments that relate both to the history of the work and the significance of the text itself.

Peggy expressed a concern that listening to a recorded version of this text becomes a passive activity.  She felt that the material in the book must be taken in in a very active manner, which the recorded medium may not allow.  

She felt that it served well as a document of the text and an example of how to read it, but she did not appear to share the vision of the team members and those who initiated the project that it would be widely listened to and disseminated, or used as a tool for understanding.

Her chief point about this text was that the understanding transmitted in it is not an intellectual understanding.  The act of listening to the text with attention -- whether reading it to oneself with an effort of attention, or listening to it be read-- results in the text itself penetrating past the conscious mind and into a much deeper place in the body.  The text, she pointed out several times, was meant to inform the two minds -- and when I queried her about this, she confirmed that one way of putting it would be to understand it as the inner mind, or, the mind connected to the organic state of being, as opposed to the external mind, the intellectual mind, which is attached to the external.

She underscored this when we were discussing the question of listening.  She asked us what listening consisted of.  They were a number of different answers around the table.  

When I tried to bring in the question about listening as practiced in community -- which I planned to tie in to that question -- she interrupted me and said, “you're beginning with the external.  Why began with the external?"

I felt she was right, and so I maintain silence on the point, instead examining my own state.  Her whole point was that we always begin with the external.  We misunderstand the meaning of this text, and its value, because we do not understand that the text is meant to feed the internal. Only with a right attention can we take in this text with a part that is not of the mind.

She was asked about how many different people read this text in the early days.  Apparently there were only about three readers, herself, Rita Benson, and another gentleman whose name escapes me (I'm sure someone else at the meeting noted it.)  She used the discussion as an opportunity to mention that Mr. Gurdjieff spent a great deal of time, during the readings, observing how people were listening.  From her perspective, it appears that he felt that the most important thing about this text was not about how it was being read, but how it was being listened to.

She mentioned that today, this is still a great concern, and that people do not see that it's much more important to understand how to listen to Beelzebub's tales to his grandson that it is to understand how to read it.  She also discussed the book in contrast to Ouspensky's writings. I will paraphrase her words here.

"When people are preparing material for a reading in the work, they discuss reading Ouspensky or Gurdjieff, Gurdjieff or Ouspensky, as though they were of equal value and it doesn’t make much difference which one you are reading. They don't see that one of them -- Ouspensky -- simply gives us material for the intellect.  It's a very good material, of course, like a lot of other good material for the intellect, but it's very different than what Gurdjieff wrote, because it's ordinary.  Beelzebub's tales to his grandson is not food for the intellect.  It is food for other parts of ourselves.”

She went on to say that Ouspensky left Gurdjieff, because he didn't get the point.  There were, and are, those who think Ouspensky was the center of gravity of the work – Mendham, she mentioned, was all about that.  

"Madame Ouspensky," she said, “never left Mr. Gurdjieff. She was a dutiful wife, of course, she followed Ouspensky, but she never left Mr. Gurdjieff.  She said it a second time with emphasis to make the point clear. 

For myself, it was apparent that she felt that with all of the brilliant intellectual work Ouspensky did, he ultimately had missed the mark.  All of the theory about the work -- which does, of course, have a value – nonetheless missed the mark. Gurdjieff was, in the end, up to something much subtler and more difficult to understand.  In fact, I believe her whole point was that using our ordinary minds, it is impossible to understand what he was up to. Other parts have to come into play, and the important value of Beelzebub's tales to his grandson is that it is constructed in such a way that it can penetrate to them and help us.

She intimated on at least two occasions that we should read the Tibetan book of the dead.  The inference was that the beginning of that book makes points that need to be made about the nature of listening and hearing things, points that relate directly to the question of how to listen to Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.

Jim Metzner asked her about her first encounter with the book, explaining that for him, it took him a while to understand where its value lay. She said to him in what sounded like a witty reply, "It wasn't like that for me.  I was much more prepared for it than you were.” There was general laughter around the table.  Peggy looked at everyone with those fiery eyes she still has at over a hundred years of age and said, indignantly, "it wasn't a joke. My sister had just died.  Nothing made any sense to me at that point.  I had just lost the person I loved most in my life.  I was 16, she was 15.  Nothing made any sense at all.  The church didn't make sense – of course, it had stopped making sense some time ago by then.  Then I found this book and these ideas, and it made sense. Nothing made any sense at all, but this made sense."

She made a number of other interesting comments in relationship to the current structure and nature of the work.  She was asked about Michel deSalzmann and the way that he brought the idea of peer groups and work in community to us.

"Of course," she said to us, "I knew Michelle from the time he was a tiny little boy.  Michel was a very dear man, and I loved him a great deal.  He did very good work.  But he was not my teacher.  He was never my teacher."  She didn't elaborate, but it became clear, I think, that she felt the only allegiance she could ever owe in the work was to Mr. Gurdjieff himself.  In her eyes -- admittedly, conservative eyes, but eyes that did set themselves upon Mr. Gurdjieff personally many times -- only Gurdjieff himself could be considered an authority on his own work. 

So here we had, in front of us, perhaps the ultimate conservative in the Gurdjieff work.  A true disciple and pupil of Mr. Gurdjieff, a hundred years old, and still unwavering in her inner and outer insistence on his method and authority.  There was no mixing here; no evidence of deviation.

She mentioned that when Jeanne DeSalzmann first brought the idea of groups to New York, she didn’t get it. “What do we need groups for?”  she asked. “After all, we had been working for a long time.  We had a foundation.  We had people working.  But nothing was ever organized into groups.  What do I need a group for? After all, this is my immortal soul.  I am responsible for it.  No one else. I have to take full responsibility, no one else can do that for me. So I questioned it.  What do we need groups for?” She paused for a moment, and then smiled at us, conveying a question in the expression itself.  "Of course," she continued, smiling in that inscrutable manner , "in those days, we questioned everything."  

There was a slight emphasis to the word everything at the end of the sentence, which for me unquestionably implied that she feels we have lost that art in the current generation. 

One anecdote which she related to us several times was the change in the first chapter of Beelzebub's tales to his grandson.  "When he first brought it to us," she said, "The Karapet of Tiflis wasn't even in there.”  The way she said it, it was as though the idea itself was astonishing every time she came to it. She twice made a reference to this first chapter ending with the suggestion that the reader might "stir water with a stick until it got thick,"  or something to that effect. I can't recall the precise words, and was unable to trace it in the book.  

She announced a suspicion that it was a story that Thomas deHartmann had told to Gurdjieff. According to her, he was an inveterate collector of such stories, many of them off-color, and Gurdjieff took great delight in hearing them. 


May your soul be filled with light.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rejection and lying, part two: kitten killers, and other dangerous individuals who dispense unwanted advice

 Hunter and Tiger
From a 3rd-4th century Roman Mosaic originally found in Turkey
at Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington, DC

One of the reasons I find this question of rejection and lying so interesting is that I notice how people squirm when you bring the truth directly into conversations with them.

I'm known for being "politically incorrect," that is, I often just come right out and say something that's true but uncomfortable to hear in the middle of a conversation. I have very little patience with lying and prevarication in the middle of personal exchanges, and I will often just directly ask a person whether they actually mean something they are saying, when it's clearly false and based on a failure to see how things are.

Watching how people squirm away from such statements and refuse to face the moment honestly is quite amazing, if one makes a practice of this. One example I recall quite clearly was when a woman from an animal shelter helped us look at several different kittens and we finally selected one. During the conversation where we were supposed to wrap it up and take the kitten home, she suddenly discovered that I let my cats go outdoors. 

Instantly, this woman who had been so nice to us up until now was visibly outraged. She advised me that she would never,  ever, under any circumstances adopt out a kitten who would be allowed outdoors, so I couldn't take this kitten. (Not a word, mind you, of this was briefed to us during the first 15 minutes of the exchange.) Instead, she advised us, there was an animal shelter down the road that would be more than happy to let us adopt kittens which could go outdoors. She emphasized this several times. I didn't respond for a while, but she went on for so long it became annoying to me. And honestly, it wasn't my fault she kept urging me to go down the road to the other animal shelter, which is what I found most especially irritating.

"So what you're saying," I finally asked her, "is that you're worried about these kittens getting killed outdoors?"

 "Yes, exactly," She said.

" Then what you're telling me is that you're okay with me going down the road and getting some other kittens to kill, not just this one, right?"

The woman was outraged. But what could she say? This was, in fact, exactly what the exchange consisted of, and I just wanted her to be honest and come right out and say that. Thinking back on it, I feel bad for forcing honesty on her. It was probably unkind. Nonetheless, her refusal to let me adopt the kitten — who probably would have done quite well with us, as most of our cats  Live unusually privileged lives — was equally unkind, and deserve the return of the favor.

 Readers should pause for a moment here to feel sympathy for my poor wife Neal, who had to witness this exchange in quiet horror. A gentle person, she can't possibly approve of such shenanigans, And objectively speaking, I shouldn't irradiate her with them, but sometimes, my impulses just get the better of me.


I go through this kind of thing all the time with people, where you just try to be forthright and get them to speak directly to the point, and no one wants to. The art of deflection, denial, and refusal to just say what is actually happening has become a disease is so endemic that no one can say anything truthful anymore. If we live in an Orwellian society, it is not one the government has thrust upon us; we thrust it on each other and ourselves because of our habit of constantly lying and refusing to just face life exactly as it is, and be truthful with ourselves and others.

Telling the truth is a dangerous habit. It's reported that Gurdjieff said that the most important possession for a man who told the truth was a fast horse to get out of town with. This means that one has to be intelligent in truthfulness; one can only employee this method of exchange when one knows that the energy in one's being is grounded, and one knows exactly where one is coming from, because it is a kind of swordsman's dance, and if one lunges in the wrong direction, things may not go well, even if they stay on the straight and narrow in terms of honesty. The interesting thing about the practice is that it requires so much absolute attention in the moment.

All cute little details and stories aside, the essential point is to see how we lie. We need to use our intelligence to carefully cut through the baloney we deliver to ourselves; our emotional force should be a force that allows us to move gracefully and fluidly through the feeling – territory of personal exchange; and our physical presence, that is, our sensation, must keep the system grounded so that we do not lose our equilibrium when faced with lies and dishonest representations by other people. The center of gravity of being, if one is in touch with it, serves as the perfect touchstone and anchor for this kind of inner action. But it requires, above all, being honest with oneself first.

There are many times, in an effort towards right and honest action, when others are lying and presenting the most ridiculous kinds of false thinking and nonsense, but one must just agree with them, especially if they are power-possessing beings of one kind or another. The tai chi of stepping aside, knowing when to simply avoid the onslaught of lies and nonsense from others, is an inner art that involves being, for all intents and purposes, egoless. 

The minute that your ego gets involved with an exchange of this kind, you are doomed, because you will instantly fall prey to exactly the same kind of lying the other person is using to conduct their affairs. One must become entirely indifferent to one's own feelings and simply put them aside in order to negotiate the waters and achieve the objective—not by force, face to face confrontation, anger, aggression, or meeting lies with more lies. 

One must be clever enough to affirm, smart enough to avoid, honest enough to tell the truth where one can, and to say nothing where one can't. 

In a word, steadfast.

 None of this is possible without seeing where one is in the first place, and using intelligence to discern what is actually true, as opposed to what the emotions tell us.

 I'll wrap this post up with a comment one CFO (a human being of real quality) often made to me when I talked to him about circumstances and conditions in the business we were running.   The company was plagued by internal conflicts and fuzzy thinking. Things would go off the tracks, and I would call him up to discuss the problem. 

"There you go again," he would reply after I was done. "You're confusing the situation with the facts."

May your soul be filled with light.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rejection and lying

From a 3rd-4th century Roman Mosaic originally found in Turkey
at Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington, DC

 In pages 126 through 130 of In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff explains the principles of development in octaves at some length, and discusses the way that notes get deflected.

All of this material is rather complex, and I'm not at all sure we need to understand the technical implications of it. What is needed is to understand how we reject the life, and how we lie, and these two things can be understood quite directly, in action — at which point the implications of Ouspensky's material become clear.

We reject life. Life arrives as it is, without any attitudes. It just is what it is. But we have an octave of attitude in us, that is, there can be an ascending, affirming element in us, or there can be destructive and untruthful forces that don't want to meet life as it is and tear things down, inside and outside.  Don't ever make the mistake of thinking that you are somehow special, and don't have this in you. You do.

Many systems call the destructive or untruthful forces ego; and this is essentially correct, because selfishness — the "false personality" which Gurdjieff said ruins man's inner life, and thus his outer one — uses attitudes to serve ego. Ego doesn't wish good for others or wish for right things; it wishes only for itself. All is well and good when its own wishes coincide with the good or the right; but the moment they don't, the good and the right go out the window, which is why human affairs look the way they do from day to day.

This rejection always begins in the instant when life enters, at the point where impressions enter the body.  When Gurdjieff explained that that moment was critical for developing what he called higher hydrogens, what he meant was that placing the attention at the point where impressions enter the body is what makes it possible for the octave of the good to develop. Higher hydrogens aren't just some magical chemical substance for inner power; they have a purpose, and that purpose is to help us serve God and the good.

 These impressions can be inner ones (which we are generally asleep to, that is, insensitive to or ignorant of) or outer impressions — it doesn't matter. What needs to be seen is that there is a turning away at that instant when they arrive, a will to make things bad. That is, our attitude instantly turns what we encounter into something that ought to be deflected, ignored, or devalued, because it doesn't suit ego and our image of ourselves. One of the principal reasons for this deflection is that human beings always think they are more important than everyone else around them, in point of fact, that they are important in the first place, when nothing could be further from the truth. We are, as Peggy Flinsch once said to us, tiny little creatures. Yet we think we are huge.

In any event, it's this instance of lying that takes place constantly when we are confronted with Truth—that is, things as they actually are— that ruins us. All of us have crystallized insanities inside of us, hard, cold places that Truth bounces right off of the instant it touches it, and we deploy them at the front of our being in order to keep reality from coming in. If we aren't present to our lives and we don't see these attitudes and how we reject,  no inner work can possibly take place.

 The tendency is for human beings to be snotty, cruel, nasty, rejectional, selfish, and contemptuous of others. The ego wants to tell us that we know more than everyone else. Interactions between people are dominated by this kind of attitude, which may express itself outwardly, but is always an exact reflection of the inner conditions. And we can never know our inner conditions unless we fully understand that our outward manifestation shows quite clearly what they are.

One doesn't need technical diagrams or esoteric explanations of octaves and chemical factories to understand this. Putting it in a technical framework may be helpful — since in modern times we (like Ouspensky) prefer to favor things that appear to be scientific, it may satisfy us to understand it from that perspective — yet it doesn't matter in the least. 

We just need to show up in the instant one we are alive and let life come into us honestly.

Coming back to the beginning of this piece, the point is that that moment of deflection of the octave is the moment of lying. The instant that the negative attitude, the lie, arrives, it prevents any shock from helping the octave to continue in a harmonious direction of development. So when we say we want to see, in a certain sense, what we want to see is the lie,  the moment of rejection, how automatic and mechanical it is in us, and how it tries to get there first in front of everything else to determine the direction things take.  This idea of "who gets there first" is perhaps the most essential point of Gurdjieff's parable about the Karapet of Tiflis. See the link for both the story, and my own commentary on what Margaret Flinsch told us about it a few years before she died.

My full notes on the meeting with Peggy will be published at this site in a few days.

This lying goes on constantly in people, so much so that they can live the vast majority of their outer manifestations in life completely identified with and engaged in this kind of activity, and never once suspect that everything they do is lying.

It's a shame we are like this. One of the principal reasons for it is that we don't use the intelligence to think; we deploy emotions in the place of thinking constantly, and erroneously believe that it is thinking. This destructive habit—the failure to understand properly through the thought process—is grinding man down. 

The difference between developing a truly sacred intensity of feeling and trying to run life through the "feelies",  that is, our habitual, mechanical, and automatic  emotional reactions —which are nothing more than various forms of emotional masturbation — is a vast one.

 In any event, we need to see this moment when we lie, and I will explore that a little more the next post.

May your soul be filled with light.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

the immediate instance of Being

The action of inner seeing is essential. yet what do we actually seek to see?

What I don't see is that sin is actually quite casual. I think that sin must be some special thing, some particularly bad thing I do, a specific instance of something that's morally wrong which I express outwardly. Yet this isn't quite the case.

Sin is an everyday thing; it is day to day, in fact, it is immediate. It is now. And it is active within me in the way in which I lie. I say one thing outwardly; I pretend to be this and that kind of person. But if I am watching carefully to see exactly how I am, how my thoughts trend, the selfishness and egoism which actually permeates every aspect of my Being, I begin to see that I am actually nothing like what I project outwardly — and in fact, I'm not even anything like what I think I am.

Because, fundamentally, I somehow excuse myself and think that I am good.

We're not talking about big, obvious things, like being a murderer or rapist or whatnot. We are talking about the minutia here. In what Gurdjieff called sleep, it's the minutia that gets missed. The immediate instance of Being which expresses itself in a lower way, from a lower level, is flawed and sinful.

This is something that the Christian saints tried to get across for generations. The holiest of them were perpetually confronted by their own sinfulness and talked about it; this may seem puzzling to those of us to understand them as individuals who were less sinful than the majority of others; but they were confronting their sin, and saw how ubiquitous and bone deep it is. Marrow deep, in fact. And when I speak of the deepdown, that part in us which is most sacred and closest to God — touching God — I speak of a part that ought not be touched by such wrongness — yet it is.

 In the case of sin, what begins at the surface goes deep, and the surface here is not a surface of the intersection between the inner and the outer — although that is where the interaction takes place. The surface is the surface of time, of this immediate moment, where sin takes place. When Jeanne de Salzmann asks us to be in the moment and confront our lack, she is asking us to be in this immediate moment where sin takes place and to see how the mechanical action of ego and selfishness automatically thrusts us into the dark territory of personal sinfulness. This is where we actually live, not in some imaginary playland where we are nice to people and take care of them properly.

  I struggle with this question every day, because I see the action of sin within me constantly, and invariably want to squirm away from it. I watch it manifest in ordinary situations; it rears up like a maggot. In this sense, Self-observation is actually a horrible and most unpleasant task, because it comes up against this question in every moment, and raises the question in every moment of who I am, how I am, and how I got this way. There isn't any unity; in addition to the part that sees, there are so many parts that want to drag the inner condition downwards, not towards the deepdown where there is something sacred available, but towards other, darker crevices in Being where only corruption can be found.

 This is the antichrist; this is the polar force that opposes goodness and what is sacred, and what I forget is that it is active in me — and in everyone — constantly, because the universe was created to contain and manifest this conflict. It's only a constant effort to see that can bring this question and this issue into awareness in such a way that at least I know I am fallen.

 It is an art, not a science, to carry this question alive within oneself and not destroy one's own self-esteem and self image. There is goodness here; we are not all bad. Yet I need to see the badness in me, and understand how much of me is selfish. I'm not going to clean that mess up by myself, no matter how much I may think I can. Only a much deeper contact with a much higher energy can bring me to moments where that might be possible... and in those moments, I discovered that very little, if anything, of what I usually think of as my Self are involved.

May your soul be filled with light.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I have opened a new blog, which will focus strictly on questions regarding biology and the environment.

The Blog is called The Microbial Octave.

Initial essays will be about invasive species and species diversity, but there will also be an interesting series of essays about man's impact on microbiota (microbes and bacteria) examining the fundamental and largely unseen changes in our environment due to chemical pollution.

The subject is poorly understood and few people seem to appreciate the extent to which the visible plants and animals we encounter are dependent on the microscopic life forms around us.

My essays will attempt to examine and explain what's happening to the underpinnings of our natural world in relatively plain, accessible language. I intend to try and make this blog educational, interesting, and fun to read.

Please share the link with your friends.

Reciprocal feeding

"Iraniranumange," the law of reciprocal feeding, is the obscure term Gurdjieff coined to describe the process of inner digestion. Although it might seem he cast it largely in terms of the outside world, the law of reciprocal feeding takes place within us as well as outside us. 

In other words, both biologically and psychically, literally and figuratively, man feeds himself with himself.

This may seem so obvious, once stated, that one wonders why it even need be said; but this idea of taking one's self and eating it isn't really discussed much in esoteric circles.  The understanding of inner impressions, their action, digestion, and the role they play in the creation of Being is largely neglected.

This is because the process is quite impossible without the participation of feeling, which is closely linked to remorse of conscience. One can never begin to swallow one's own life-which is actually the most essential and intimate form of questioning one can undertake-unless feeling, a higher level of inner vibration, carries the existing and new impressions of life into the deepdown, the inner recesses of Being where contact with the highest principle is possible. It is only deep inside, in this sacred place where the single seed of the Love of God resides in man, that the fire that can purify and transform our impressions can be found.

This is not a hot fire but a cold one; and it does not emit light in the sense that we ordinarily undstand it, because the light it creates is the vision of feeling, not the vision of the eyes. Feeling is a sense perception that encompasses a whole Being in itself; that is, it has eyes, ears, a nose, skin, and a tongue, so that it can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste, but on a different, a new level not interpreted in the coarse generalities we understand associatively through the physical senses.

When Gurdjieff spoke of coating higher inner parts, and of creating higher bodies, he implicitly described the action of inner feeding. Ouspensky's chemistry notes demonstrate that the ancient yogic schools came a very long way towards understanding the exact technical processes driving this matter; yet it turned out that precise technical knowledge, although attainable, didn't truly serve anyone, because it invited theoretical understandings that were unsuitable for the inner work of most people. It became, in other words, a distraction. The tactile and intimate nature of the actual work that is done-as opposed to the many technical details and theories- is paramount.

No amount of studying diagrams can prepare one for the actaul arrival and re-ingestion of a past moment, with a conscious attention and the conscious intention of taking that impression in all over again, sending it deeper into being and allowing it-without judgment-to contact the deepdown. It's this willingness that we sometimes refer to as intentional suffering; and that term is as good as any to describe something which is actually impossible to describe.

When a human being dies, this process accelerates exponentially, which is why people report, during near death experiences, that one's whole life flashes before one's eyes; but this is not a process to be rushed through at the very last instant. Much preparation is recommended; and this is what inner work is for.

Studying the work of the chakras as a digestive system is an interesting exercise readers might want to consider. The question is closely tied to the function of the enneagram, which also recapitulates this inner process according to the lawful form it has to follow.

May your soul be filled with light.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Making things bad, part 4 – letting life flow inward

Tibetan Mask, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, China

We make things bad principally because we don't let the divine inflow act within us.

This part is blocked; and we don't even know it's blocked, because we are unaware of how it feels and the way that we ought to sense it. Perhaps we get touched lightly by it, but generally, it's a mystery.

Opening to Presence, to an Energy from a higher level, is the aim of inner work, because this is the only thing that can help us to choose the good. In end by ourselves, we don't have the capacity to do this; this is why all of the ancient sciences of inner life and all of the ancient religions teach man that he must turn towards God.

Modern scientists and atheists who claim that God doesn't exist are so far away from this understanding that it's pointless to argue with them. They are locked out of heaven, and our own efforts cannot bring them into it. But the man or the woman who forms a right relationship within themselves and enters into a right action in regard to the Higher will of themselves naturally manifest all of the qualities that are supposed to befit a human being in their action as a representative of God.

Secularism and humanism cannot possibly open a man to these values, because they know nothing of what it is to allow the divine to flow into a human being and melt all of the crystallized insanities that live within them. This idea of melting the crystallized insanities in human beings can't even be understood, philosophically, metaphysically, or otherwise, until one comes right up against one's own crystallized insanity and then sees that a force higher than oneself can melt it.

Throughout ancient literature, moments of this kind were called divine ecstasies. What was happening, technically, — this melting of crystallized insanity — was never fully explained. Instead, people have used a great deal of flowery language and rapturous description. But what was actually happening, in the end, was the melting and transformation of all the sinful qualities so that they faded away. 

When this happens, the only thing left is God. In any instance where crystallized insanities are destroyed by divine action, the Divine shines through, and human beings suddenly discover that life is completely different than they thought it was. The Sufis spent a great deal of time writing poetry to try and describe this, but perhaps they didn't put it in simple enough terms — that the entry of the divine is the melting of crystallized insanity — even though they alluded to it poetically many times.

This may seem like a rapturous or magical process, but it is scientific, natural, and flows from divine principles and laws that are inexorable and cannot be broken.

There are so many crystallized insanities, blocking so many of the channels that need to be opened in man, that this melting process has to happen many times, in varying strengths and degrees, in order for energy to flow into a human being more correctly.  All of the Tantric and yogic sciences attempt to explain this action. There aren't any quick fixes; and there are many who complete part of this process and think they are done. They actually represent a danger, because they think they have arrived somewhere.

Anyway, my point is that inner work is there to help you dissolve your crystallized insanities. Almost any strong conviction you have which causes you to be angry, obsessive, outraged, or too outward is attached, in one way or another, to these crystallized insanities, because they freeze up inner parts of the being that ought to be flowing fluidly and lock up the outward manifestations connected to them so that they are habitual and mechanical.

May your soul be filled with light.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ouroboros- the second lifetime

In inner work, one needs to live twice. The reason for this is a bit complex, but I'll try to explain it.

When one is young- and up until one gains enough conscious impressions to actually engage in any inner effort to understand one's Being- all impressions of one's life, which are actually, in their totality, essential in order to form Being itself, are taken in mechanically. This is inevitable; and lawful, unavoidable. 

Yet it isn't enough, because in order to be truly useful, truly integrated into Being, all of those impressions will ultimately need to be re-ingested and digested all over again with the conscious participation of Being, in relationship with a higher energy.

This means one must re-experience the essential moments and events of one's life and take them more deeply into one's being a second time; otherwise they can't properly form the material the soul needs to engage in true Self-examination and the consequent process of remorse of conscience. It's impossible, you see, to experience real remorse over mechanically ingested impressions; they have never touched or come into contact with the higher parts of Being that exist in the deepdown, and can't have any action on the inner parts they were meant to transform.

Each impression of one's earlier life ought to be performing that role; but they have to be brought into relationship in order to do that. When Gurdjieff explained that older people often began come to a real understanding of inner work, but only after it was too late to help, this is what he was referring to, because this process is a lengthy one. It can't be rushed or organized according to any special set of principles, but must, rather, take place naturally and within a rhythm that is established by the harmonious resonance of the various parts of one's inner being.

Gurdjieff's recitation of his life events in Meetings with Remarkable Men was part of his own such process; he wrote the book after understanding the matter, although he did not objectify it, instead offering it as a form of storytelling or mythology. This is largely because he could only set the example; and he always was all about having us explore and discover for ourselves.

Our inner effort, once we understand it, needs to be to confront these impressions (stand face to face with them) and take them in through the feeling-centered action of the inner energy centers. This is one of the higher functions of what yogis call the chakras; although they are generally celebrated in esoteric work because of their vibrational and emanative properties, they are actually part of the inner digestive apparatus. That is, although one may experience them as radiant, they are actually meant to be organs of absorption.

The vibrations and "emanations" (absorptive actions) of chakras take place during the moments when deeper impressions are correctly digested; and the science behind this is too complicated by far to be covered in books or essays. It is a sacred inner science and needs to be measured by feeling-experience. Real yogis won't attempt to explain the detailed actions because they cannot be explained in any ordinary terms, that is, any terms at all. Only the inner sense of being can engage in and understand this digestion of life, which proceeds in conjunction with newly arriving impressions.

In this larger inner sense, we eat our own lives, both as they occur, and within the context of everything that has already occurred. We are food for ourselves; and this is is one of the secret meanings of the symbol of the work ouroborous, the snake that swallows its own tail.

May your soul be filled with light.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Making things bad, part three — the Rejecting Machine

 Votive bowl, Herculaneum
photo by the author, 2001

 It's important to see that the good lies in personal relationship, not in things. A painting can't be good on its own; a bird can't be good, a flower can't be good by itself. A man or a woman can't be good. The good only exists in the relationship and the manifestation of meaning between consciousness and the object.

This means that human beings are personally responsible for creating the good. God makes a universe that exists; the manifestation of his conscious being within human beings —Ibn Arabi's vicegerents of God, his appointed representatives — is what creates the good. In other words, if you don't stand up within your self and take personal responsibility for the creation of the good, it cannot manifest.

Creation of the good never consists of forcing others, or harming them. It consists of finding a way to help them manifest positively, and to manifest positively with them. The Buddhists call this compassionate action; there is really no difference. But the point is that only by manifesting relationship and not making things bad can the good arise. When one finds fault, and is constantly griping, complaining, and attacking things around one is insufficiently good, one is actually making things bad. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness; and this is because we are responsible for making things good.

Of course the bar is set much too high. No one is actually good, and all of us spend plenty of time griping. But we don't take the ruthless look at ourselves that we need to. We don't admit that we are like this. As a friend of mine said some years ago (a good friend in the work, who has struggled with cancer and attained some insights that most people just don't get) we think we're not negative.

So it's this intimate moment where I need to be present — this moment with the other person, where I see that I should not reject them. And thereby hangs a short tale.

There is the possibility, in a human being, to reach a moment where everything changes. When every cell in the body changes. This usually can't happen unless there is a disaster that strips one of everything in life.  Sometimes, then, if one has been engaged in inner work and one accepts it, this change can come. 

Such a change is permanent. If such a change comes, one can't say exactly what will happen, but one can of a certainty say that nothing will ever look the same again, because a change of this kind cannot be undone. It's really just a stepping stone; all it represents, in the end, is a fundamental change in the receptivity of the physical body to the divine inflow. So much work remains to be done after that than anyone who mistakes it for enlightenment is subject to grave error.

If one reaches such a moment, one will almost certainly see that the majority of the personality is designed like the prowl of a vessel made to break through ice — an immense, armored thing that evolved and exists to crash through everything in front of it, to, in other words, reject everything it encounters. This is how we are made; or, rather, this is what we have acquired in the course of what we call "being," which is not actual Being, but a simulation that prevents us from understanding real Being.

This rejecting part, as I call it, deploys itself constantly. Its action is reflexive and mechanical. Gurdjieff often talked about men being machines, and Ouspensky reported it with what is very nearly a perverse enthusiasm; but they never talked about what kind of machine man is. 

And this is the essential point: man is a rejecting machine.

What else is there to really see about oneself but this? Nothing, essentially. 

Fear is the fuel, the gasoline, that runs the rejecting machine. 

And the rejecting machine tries to crush everything in its path, because it thinks that it is the only thing with any real meaning, the only thing that has a right to exist.

 Making things bad is a habit of the rejecting machine. Keep it in mind; because if you can see some of this every day, you'll change inside. And you don't have to make things bad. You have the choice.

May your soul be filled with light.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Deepdown

There are places within us we are forbidden to see into. We may think we know ourselves, but there are realms within that forever belong to God and the things that happen there can't be looked at with mortal eyes, or thought of with mortal minds.

From that place—as you may hove noticed, I've coined the word the deepdown to describe it for myself—emanate the echoes of divinity which we are allowed to hear, if we listen carefully. And into that place—if we attend very specifically and very intimately—flow the results of the impressions that are returned to God.

It's possible to take impressions directly into the deepdown, but only with conscious participation; even then, it's a delicate thing to ingest life in this manner without forcing it. The impressions fall into the hidden places that touch on heaven; and heaven, knowing the effort it takes, reciprocates by way of increasing the inner rate of vibration. This is a fine kind of food which one isn't privileged to eat very often.

The returning of the impressions of life to God is a human being's most essential task; and to return them in the same degree as the sweetness of honey, with the same degree of dedication as the labors of the bee, is most rewarding. The deepdown waits for us to send it this nectar; we may think we are here to drink the nectar of God, but in fact the savor of this food of impressions lies strictly in the sensible reciprocity.

I've said many times that we are vessels into which the world flows. Perhaps I haven't emphasized enough that this process ought not flow passively; passive impressions can't flow into the deepdown, they are trapped at the surface of life and never reach the core of Being where God touches the world. This inner place, the deepdown, is the only place in a human being where God does touch the world, and this sacred point of contact is, in its entirety, the reason that Ibn Arabi named man as the vicegerent of divinity. God can't touch the world except through the living, breathing Being of intelligence, of man and woman; and unless a right inner relationship is formed, that contact is never able to manifest consciously.

So although we can't actually see the deepdown, we form a relationship with it. It lies behind the cloud of unknowing; and we have to extend the tendrils of our Being out into that darkness to form a thread that connects us.

Into this exact same piece of territory flows the sorrow of His Endlessness; and we cannot possibly come into this relationship without participating in that higher emotional work. So it is difficult. Very difficult.

No one should undertake an inner effort to understand this organically unless one is prepared to pay for it.  It is a work of many decades and never to be confused with anything other than suffering; for this is what it requires. Intentional suffering; for one has to have a wish to suffer. Not a masochistic wish; not an outer wish; not a visible wish. It is an inner wish.

And that path is most certainly not for everyone.

May your soul be filled with light.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Making things bad, part two — worshiping the bull

  Mithraic cult statuary, Ostia Antica, Italy
 photograph by the author, 2001

One of the most amazing things about Mr. Gurdjieff was how incredibly simple and pragmatic he was. Anyone who reads Views from the Real World  will pick up on how straightforward his comments to people were. There was no BS allowed; and that in a BS world. Human beings began by worshipping the bull; now we worship its crap.

 The point, I think, is that all of us make things far too complicated. Simple ideas, like the idea that many things aren't in and of themselves bad—that we make them bad with our attitudes—escape us, because they are  so straightforward and go directly to the heart of the question.

 No one wants to go there anymore.  In the modern cult of the self, the public admission that one is wrong has fallen very far out of favor.

This morning, my wife and I were discussing the subject of making things bad, and she wanted to go to the root of it. I suppose this may be interesting, but we know already that the root of this habit is fear. That is a huge question, a global and universal question, and we are unlikely to be able to come to grips with something that massive in our day-to-day life. We can, however, see when we are trying to make things bad by applying a mechanical attitude to them.

For myself, I can tell you that I get up every day with a tremendous amount of resistance to everything. I don't want to work; I don't want to get out of bed, because I'm still tired.  I could think of 100 things I have negative attitudes about without trying too hard. 

I have to muster my forces to surmount these 100 different kinds of making things bad before I even get to breakfast. Some of them win; some of them don't. The fact is that I have to fight this battle because I am not a good person. it doesn't mean I'm not a valuable person, or that I have low self-esteem; it means that I am essentially sinful, in a habitual part that resists the inflow, the divine contact with God.

 In a way, the worse one is, the better it is for one's work. If you are a truly horrible person, and you learn to go against it constantly, you are engaged in a much more serious effort than someone who isn't so bad and doesn't have to try so hard. It is the measurement of our going against the bad within us, the tendency to destroy, that determines how good we are. Good is always only measured in proportion to bad, and if there is a lot of bad, and one pushes back at it hard, this is a lot already.

 It's difficult to explain the exact difference between thinking one is a bad person and going against the sin in oneself. They aren't the same thing at all; and I don't know how to explain this very accurately using words. The bottom line is that one has to come in touch with the area in the deepdown where one is in essential touch with the divine spark that creates one's being. From this point, a quality can emanate that suffuses the being and gives us the ability to choose the good. But we have to come  into contact with it first; and that is suffering, because we don't really like being in contact with something greater than ourselves. It is that exact point — that we don't like it — upon which the question turns. Our desire is to turn away from God; and this is why Gurdjieff said our non-desires must prevail over our desires. 

The good has to be chosen; and this is what we are passive about.

We want quick fixes. We want slogans, philosophies, and complicated explanations for everything. The simple, direct, and unembarrassed actions that alone could help us — the admission of how we are — are both too painful and too obvious to be bothered with. Recovering alcoholics will know what I mean; the whole point of Alcoholics Anonymous (an organization which Peggy Flinsch, as I have pointed out before, thought was real, far more real, and in many ways, than our various safe, polite little parlor groups of inner studies) is to bring us right up against the simple realities. 

We have to, as alcoholics, see exactly what we are, and not squirm away from it; and we have to go against it quite directly, using simple tools, in every moment of every day. An alcoholic in recovery who makes it last and succeeds in staying away from the bottle will be able to tell you exactly how this is; but the majority of students of inner work, because they haven't come up against a life-and-death struggle (or, that is, they don't think they have, even though the struggle for being is exactly that kind of struggle, and fought on much more treacherous territory) are like alcoholics that want to go to meetings and stand up and admit that they are alcoholics, but then sneak out for a drink as soon as the meeting is over.

The simple action of seeing how one makes things bad through one's attitude on a moment to moment basis can bring one to a sense of oneself that one has never seen before. 

I can personally recommend it.

May your soul be filled with light.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Real I and the truth, part III

Earlier, I mentioned that tension and lying are related.

I think of lying as coming from words and outer misrepresentations of truth; indeed, all of this takes place, but in myself I don't see that this is relative lying, that is, lying that positions me against the world, and which measures various ideas against one another, choosing one and favoring it over another, and so on. I find myself pulled in various directions by ego and, wishing to serve it (for I am inevitably its slave) I do this, that and the other thing, picking from all the relative lies I have at my disposal to select the ones that best serve the ends of ego.

This kind of lying is one thing; and it certainly conceals my true intentions, which lie at the heart of what I am and, as Swedenborg points out, ultimately determine the truth of the matter as to whether I dwell in heaven or in hell—both temporally and spiritually. Hell, after all, consists fundamentally of selfishness and, on this level, a dishonesty that attempts to conceal that. (If I truly begin to see how mechanically and awfully selfish most of my actions are, I'll see them at work all day long.)

But the kind of lying that produces the inner tension that blocks the inward flow of the Divine is not relative lying. It isn't based on a set of argued premises or disguised behaviors; it absolutely lies. And when I finally see something in me which absolutely lies, perhaps I have finally seen something real. Until then, what I see is lies about lies. Every one of them gets adjusted to make it more palatable, to rationalize it.

When Gurdjieff spoke of lying I feel certain he spoke of this lying at the root of Being, not the lies that arise and are prosecuted by the associative center which are, after all, just accessories to the inner crime.

The inner crime, as I refer to it here, is my essential distrust of myself, and my unwillingness to look at it. Within myself, I always turn away; and this is because of the great discomfort it produces to engage in an inner confrontation. This inner confrontation isn't some grand battle on the scale of the Mahabarata; it's the simple act of using the attention to look, and to see how I am.

Ah! How I squirm in order to avoid this. I'd have to be honest with myself in order to undertake this simple action, that is, allow all of the untruths that I begin with to be exposed. And, speaking strictly from a personal and intimate experience about this matter, I struggle with this every day. It is just not any fun to have to see how I am inside. It raises questions; and it highlights how distant my ordinary self, this "wonderful me" I inhabit and supposedly cherish, is from any real sense of self, and from God.

Jeanne de Salzmann spoke often about this inner confrontation, because it is so necessary. And she graciously reminds us over and over that out physical tension is a clear and present evidence of our condition. Inner lying, absolute lying, is present in the initial stress of the body. If the conscious mind allows and instructs so that even the superficial tensions (which is all I have command over) can be temporarily suspended (and, again, this much alone is the best I can do) are let go, already the groundwork is laid for the inflow to begin: and even a trickle of it can help to open the Being to a truth that erases the nonsense: the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.

It's always interesting to me to come to this moment and see the physical tension; it's so immediate, and once one meets it, it is so obvious that it blocks. Some may suggest this isn't lying; but in my own experience, the connection between this condition and all my lies seems evident enough.

It raises a question at the beginning of all inner activity that must be confronted.

May your soul be filled with light.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Making things bad

 This has been on my mind a lot lately.

We are supposed to turn towards the good within ourselves first, and then bring that outwards into life.

 In her book Homo Aestheticus, Ellen Dissanayake explains that what sets human beings apart from other animals is our ability to make things special. That is, man has a creative impulse that confers meaning upon things around him. While Dissanayake focuses on the biological roots of that impulse, it originally springs from the divine impulse within man. But human beings are separated from this impulse, and so, perversely, they end up doing the opposite of what they were intended for.

That is to say, people make things bad.

This is all about attitude. Human beings get up out of bed in the morning and start assigning badness to various things, elements of their life around them. This situation is bad, he doesn't pay attention to me, she is an idiot, and so on. These impulses arise constantly in human beings, about everything, all around them. There is no point to any of this; we are supposed to make things good, that is, bring positive and creative attitudes and impulses towards life.

So why don't we do that?

Jeanne de Salzmann was adamant about this; we need to change our attitude.

We need to see how we are. This habit of making things bad is a ubiquitous one. If you look around inside yourself, and examine your actions during the day, you will see how making things bad forms the motivation for so many attitudes and actions people take up in their lives. It stems from fear; we are afraid we are not in control, and things that are not under our control end up looking bad to us. All of it stems from the selfish impulse that this life is all about me, and that life ought to serve me.

We ought to accept life as it is. This is a much better path.

If I get up out of bed with the understanding that I am already valid, and that I ought to serve life, maybe I'll begin to see that everything isn't bad; it's just how it is. How things are is what is important to see; not an assignment of badness to them. Seeing has nothing to do with seeing that something is bad. It's just seeing.

Be careful about this. Individuals who insist on making things bad are driven by ego, and don't want to serve others; they serve themselves first, and everyone else is just a thing to help them get what they want.  They fail to understand relationship. And in this failure, everything fails. If you want to guarantee a collapse into unhappiness and a miserable life, go that way. It may look like success, but in the long run, it is a horror story, and eventually that becomes evident to every thinking and feeling individual around people of this nature.

If you see this impulse in yourself — you definitely ought to, if you are seeing anything at all — go against it. See that it is not actually part of you, but part of a machine that wants to destroy things. This machine that wants to destroy things — it works at a very low level, and exercises its destructive impulses subtly, at the root of events — is present in everyone. What separates a conscious man or woman from a machine is the impulse towards the good. Consciousness is not just an end in itself; it is meant to serve the good, and so serve God. It's about relationship, not things. It is about helping to build people up, not tear them down; to support, not to destroy. This is as important in the little things as in the big ones.

Negativity is the constant tendency for things to move downward. Our job, if we wish to be real human beings, not tiny instruments of destruction, is to help lift things up and move towards the good. The challenge in our lives is to do this even while we have these tiny instruments of destruction in ourselves, working against it. These instruments don't want to be seen; the minute we look at them, they lose some of their power.

In the end, all of the impulse towards the good belongs to God; and service towards this consists of prayer and hope for the good. It's easy to make things bad; it takes more energy to lift life up towards its source, which is a source of love and goodness alone.

When people around us try to make things bad, it helps to point this out to them directly, just as it helps us to point out to ourselves directly when we are trying to make things bad. This impulse serves no one, and it lowers our Being. If we keep trying to make things bad, we can't come into touch with God.

 May your soul be filled with light.

Note:  Tomorrow Real I and the truth part 3 will publish, completing that series of essays.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Real I and the Truth, part II

Informed trust is necessary.

One must learn to trust, from within. In order to do this, one must open to a higher energy; and alone, this will help to form the individual who doesn't lie.

This may seem like a platitude; after all, we expect to have to "do" inner work, and we believe that we can and will do that work. We think that through our own efforts and super-efforts we'll achieve the fusion of our inner parts and create real "I." All of these ideas (mostly promulgated by Ouspensky's accounts of Gurdjieff) mislead us into thinking that what we are now—a consummate pack of accomplished liars—can somehow produce an honest man.

We need look no further than the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to realize that it doesn't work this way. Only a higher principle can form real "I" in a human being; and all of the work one does in the direction of real "I" is nothing more than preparation. We can prepare; we can exercise patience; we can wait. But what we wait for is the inflow, the inward flow of the divine, which is what forms the honest kernel of Being that comes into right relationship with God and can receive the material necessary to form real "I."

Even then it's not guaranteed. Real "I" forms slowly, because when one first opens the strength of the thread that connects to a higher principle is slender and subject to disruption by the combined forces of the inner corporation. If we're looking for the real inner meaning of Jihad, Holy War, it's the struggle between these lower forces and the influence (inward flow) of a higher force that begins to take place. One must steadily cultivate one's inner eye to gaze upon the higher. This inner eye is never just an eye of sight; it is also an eye of sensation and feeling, that is, the inner eye sees with all three parts. So what it sees and how it sees is at best poorly translated into words. Yet it does see; and this essential action of coming into relationship makes it possible for a Being—an inner I— to be formed that can be trusted.

This is the informed trust of which I speak. It's an organic trust that isn't so easily violated by the corporate forces, who are generally dedicated to fracking Being until the last vestiges of its real worth are crushed and pumped out into external life, instead of remaining inward where their energy can feed the processes that take place deep with Being, where real growth is needed.

I have written before about Peggy Flinsch and her insistence that real work depended on trust. Towards the end of her life she sensed these questions quite actively and an interesting change came over her. I saw this; sometimes a single action by an individual can summarize everything they have learned during their lifetime, and as she neared 100 there were times where silently—with a single gesture that began inwardly but translated into a simple outward moment—one learned nearly everything one needed to know about work from her. She embodied it; it was no longer necessary to pretend in any way, and an extraordinary humility emerged. (This is how real truth always expresses itself once it firmly takes root in a human being.)

In any event, this inwardly formed trust must flower in a human in order to become a human Being. This is not trust in one's self; it is trust in the Lord, in this higher energy, this principle of divine influence or inward flow. Instead of attempting to discover a trust in the Lord from within the ordinary self, one must seek to see how one's ordinary self might be trusted by the Lord. This is a different order of experience.

And if one doesn't understand this picture in its entirety, organically, one's concept of work and one's work itself become corporate exercises in philosophy.

May your soul be filled with light.