Friday, December 20, 2013

Making things bad, again

In observing day-to-day behavior around me, I'm astonished at how doggedly people insist on making simple things complicated, and how pervasive negative imagination is.

Gurdjieff had expertise in simplifying things; there was a clarity in his analysis, as evidenced in Views from the Real World.  Let's take a classic example:

M. called  me a fool.  Why should I be offended?  Such things do not hurt me, so I don’t take offense—not because I have no self-love; maybe I have more self-love than anyone here.  Maybe it is this very self-love that does not let me be offended.

            I think, I reason in a way exactly the reverse of the usual way.  He called me a fool.  Must he necessarily be wise?  He himself may be a fool or a lunatic.  One cannot demand wisdom from a child.  I cannot expect wisdom from him.  His reasoning was foolish.  Either someone has said something to him about me, or he has formed his own foolish opinion that I am a fool—so much the worse for him.  I know that I am not a fool, so it does not offend me.  If a fool has called me a fool, I am not affected inside.

            But if in a given instance I was a fool and am called a fool, I am not hurt, because my task is not to be a fool; I assume this to be everyone’s aim.  So he reminds me, helps me to realize that I am a fool and acted foolishly.  I shall think about it and perhaps not act foolishly next time.
            So, in either case I am not hurt.

—Prieure, Feb. 13, 1923.

There is no imagination here: only a careful, intelligent understanding. And it is exactly this careful (that is, filled with care) understanding that brings us to a view of life that is not dominated by negative imagination.

I don't think we see in the least how much of our time is spent making up things that will never happen—can never happen—and convincing ourselves, in an inner process, that they are going to affect us badly. I see this little machine at work in myself all day long; I do my best to ignore it, because I discovered long ago that it is just a small animal in the darkness that is making noises like a big one. 

The more assiduously I ignore it, the better off I am. This doesn't mean it doesn't win out sometimes; and it can have its uses at times, because a little worry is sometimes necessary. It isn't the action of the part that does this so much that is an issue; it's the place I assign it. And this is a matter of discovering a right inner order, a relationship of the parts that acknowledges their relative importance and roles.

Even more insidious is the process of deliberately engaging with this part and applying it to everything that comes along. This can easily become a habit; and then one's thinking and emotional life are dominated by a certain habitual and reflexive negativity which injects fear into most transactions with the outer world. There is a certain kind of awful stimulation and satisfaction that comes of this habit. The reason is simple:it involves the use of sex energy for wrong purposes. So of course it is—quite literally—perversely satisfying. 

I explain it this way because sex energy, which is supposed to be inherently creative, can also be destructive. One needs to see that sexuality can be turned to the wrong end in an inner, esoteric, sense and give birth to these negative creatures that slowly take over the inner landscape. If I really begin to engage in deeper self-observation, generally speaking, I'll discover that the inner landscape is in fact populated with many creatures of this kind—much like Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthy Delights. Each one "delights" in a particular kind of destructive, negative thinking, and each one has attractive clothing consisting of a carefully constructed argument explaining its validity. 

In cases like this, the fear that is created is self-justifying: I believe it to be valid fear, fear based on truth, whereas in fact it's entirely imaginary. The inability to distinguish between the negative real and the negative imaginary is a common inner problem. 

Gurdjieff's above comments in Views try to address exactly that issue.

Do yourself a big favor. 

Watch this habit of making things bad in your inner and outer life, and don't do it. Just seeing it is the first step against coming under its influence.


1 comment:

  1. As referenced above, do you consider self-observation to be more of a retrospective recognition of inner/outer creatures (behavior patterns, etc.) than it is an effortful activity that occurs in the present moment?


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