Monday, December 30, 2013

Entropy, form, and consciousness part III

Gurdjieff pointed out that impressions are the finest kind of food. If you look at part II of this essay and realize how many impressions you take in during the course of a lifetime, perhaps you'll see why he said this: if you tried, for example, to breathe that many cubic millimeters of air, or eat that many grams of food, it would prove quite impossible. Impressions thus form the "granular basis" of reality for mankind; it is, if you will, the pixie dust out of which both personality and essence, the self and the Self, arise.

There is in fact a magical quality to this, because it seems impossible to think of anything organized arising from this process — and yet it does.

Human beings are thus responsible for the manufacture of form within Being, that is, each human life creates a whole form within itself, an inward aspect that slowly grows over the course of a lifetime. This process is complicated and can be arrested at any time; not all parts of a human being develop, and the ones that do, do not develop evenly. This means that Being can become very lopsided. As it develops these insufficiencies, it tends to tip over; sometimes it just falls down and can't get up again. A balanced consciousness, what Gurdjieff called a harmonious consciousness, needs to constantly measure itself and attempt to understand where its center of gravity lies. Like a potter centering a piece of clay, if this isn't attended to with intention, the structure will eventually collapse under its own weight.

In this way, the action of consciousness becomes a ballet in which thought, emotion, and sensation interact with one another to overcome both the inertia and the inherent tendency towards entropy which exist in the context of incoming impressions, which are constantly changing and interrupting the equilibrium of the organism. A strong center of gravity can prevent the interruption of this equilibrium; but that strong center of gravity is only formed through a conscious effort against entropic circumstance.

This all sounds very complicated and scientific, but the simplest way to put it in terms of inner work is that negativity is entropic circumstance. All forms of negativity attempt to break things down, to disrupt them, to lead them to lower states, often through spectacular outbursts of energy. Anyone who has lost his or her temper will begin to understand that this is an event something like a supernova, where a highly ordered system (a star) explodes and dissipates its energy all over hell and gone, bringing it to a much lower state where much less can be achieved and much less work can be done.

If we wish to improve in an inner sense (forgetting, for a moment, about an outer one) we must resist these tendencies. All of the processes we undergo in the course of a lifetime of experience are, in a subtle way, mirrored by all of the universal processes we see: the creation of ordered structures, the emergence of beauty, the explosion of vast fields of energies, clouds that obscure the light, supernovas: every one of them is analogous to the experiences we go through in the course of a conscious experience of life. So when we look up at the stars, especially when we look at the images that have been brought to us by modern space telescopes, we see systems that, in their overall physical structures in action, mirror things that are going on in our conscious processes, even though the analogies may not be immediately obvious.

In this way, ancient societies that projected various characters and images on stars were simply expressing a truth that they didn't have any other way of reaching for: the stars are like us. What appear to be primitive animism, superstition, and wishful thinking turn out to be something a lot closer to the way things actually are than we might suspect.


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