Sunday, December 22, 2013

The creative force of doubt

Gurdjieff spent much of his life driving those who wanted to slavishly follow him away; yet today, we have a "Gurdjieff work" which, at times, dangerously resembles a cult... and looks like one to outsiders. It has in some ways lost its inner ability of self-criticism—a property Gurdjieff not only treasured but made central to his teaching—and its ability to doubt itself.

Observing this tendency, which, let us remind ourselves, inevitably arises in every organized form of practice, leads us to some interesting hypotheses.

Doubt is a powerful organ. I call it an organ because various capacities of thought form organs within the body of thought. We call any such collection of thoughts a "body" of thought, seemingly in the abstract; but this idea is extremely value in a material sense.

Thought is an organism, a Being of its own within us, and its parts approximates all the organs of a biological body: it has organs that act by eating, that breath, that circulate; it has a heart that pumps and a liver that cleanses, organs that accumulate and distribute, and organs that excrete. All of the processes a human body undertakes also take place in thinking; yet they are not evident, because thinking is a body that is constructed a bit differently than the material body that interacts with matter. Nonetheless, the principles remain the same in every instance, because the structure conforms to certain laws (iterated in the enneagram) which apply to everything living, whether it is material, emotional, or intellectual. Let us note here that emotional Being also forms its own body, adhering to the same principles.

People don't conceptualize of thought in this way because they don't actually think; instead, they allow an automated process of associations to rule them. If they truly thought long and deeply and observed the process of thought within themselves a much better understanding of this would arrive.

Diseases arise within the bodies of both thought and emotion because they aren't fed and cared for properly and aren't healthy. These appear as aberrations (sometimes horrific) in emotional or thinking Being and we attempt to treat them, but we know very little of the kind of medicine that's needed. Gurdjieff comes across as a spiritual teacher, but he himself would have told you he was actually a kind of physician for these parts, attempting to develop a therapeutic correction for the body of the mind and the body of the emotions.

Doubt is the most important organ in the body of thought to revitalize, because it addresses all of the incapacities that develop as the result of ego. If it is active in a right way, it becomes an ever-present force that is not destructive—in the way both our inner and outer institutions understand it—but creative.

Doubt is seen as a threat by all established orders, inner and outer; it questions everything. In the inner kingdom, where the evil-commanding ego now rules, this kind of activity is suppressed, often even violently. We see the same kind of repression in outer systems of society and government—yet we rarely suspect, as Swedenborg would have reminded us, that every outer arising is the precise reflection of an inner condition.

So our congresses and governments... the very ones we vilify and hate... our heartless corporations, our predatory banking systems... all of them are an exact reflection of how we all are inside.

What an exquisite irony that we collectively rush towards judgment, liberals and conservatives alike, not suspecting that what we truly hate is... ourselves.

We actively repress doubt in ourselves; yet doubt is the creative force in us, the organ that can lead us to something new. Doubt is the unappreciated liberator. It creates new possibilities; it enriches every experience, if rightly applied, by lovingly allowing alternatives. It is the best salt for every dish; and it seasons by defying our expectations.

In order for this to happen, doubt cannot be constrained; it is a dog that must be let off the leash and allowed to sniff into every corner of our lives. Put in more direct and, for this essay, consistent terms, doubt secretes hormones that must be allowed to circulate through the entire body of thought. It is what exercises the "muscles" of the inner system of thought and imparts the tone they need to properly respond to outer conditions.

The form that we adopt over the course of our lives needs to be thoroughly exposed to this substance. We begin to question everything; and we aren't done until we even question the very act of questioning itself. And we don't speak of ordinary doubt here; we speak of an objective doubt, a doubt which is loved and loving, a doubt that operates creatively outside the constraints of our assumptions.

Not this, we say inwardly; and it leads us onwards, not into the known territory of our practices, our dogmas, our assumptions, but into the unknown; which is where the inner journey, rightly taken, always and forever leads us.


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