Wednesday, December 31, 2014


St. Luke Drawing the Virgin and Christ Child
Rogier van der Weyden
Glory: magnificence, splendor, resplendence, grandeur, majesty, greatness, nobility; opulence, beauty, elegance.

 All of these words are supposed to mean glory, yet every one of them is of this world.

They are all creatures — that is, they describe what is created. Yet real glory rises above creation and illuminates it; and thus there are no real words for it but the word Glory itself, which shines into the soul directly from God under His everlasting light.

 When this light shines into the soul, one wants to cast oneself down in abjection and humility, because one is so low and the Lord is so Glorious that no other action seems possible.

This light shines on everything I am; and all of what I am is fallen.

Even in its fallen state, it is good, because all of creation is directly emanated from the heart of the Lord, and is good in itself; yet as I am, I can't be good. And when I am exposed to Glory, for the first time, I understand this.

No one talks directly of these things anymore, because they lie beyond the words and the technologies we are enslaved by in these days. We love our machines more than we love each other; and we love ourselves more than we love God. Just as the law in the hands of fools becomes a weapon, so religion and philosophy in the arms of the blind become hammers, and are used to drive nails, instead of open us to God's love.

There are moments when I find myself deep within this Glory, and I clearly see there can't be any other real meaning to life. The prophets and the Saints speak of how God flows directly into us and offers us His Glory; we sing hymns about it in church. Yet it has to be much more than the form I follow; it has to be something specific that takes place within me, in which the relationship to the Lord's Glory is fully established according to His Will.

This is an action, not an aspiration; a willingness, a submission.

For some strange reason, many human beings seem to think that "consciousness" or "enlightenment" is something different than this; well, actually, people think a lot of things about such matters, but very few know the Truth, which is a secret unfolding from within.  This comes into me in such a way that I feel today it must be said to everyone: that the Lord is good, and filled with Glory.

But this is not a matter for the public market; it is a matter to be tucked into the pockets of one's soul and carried with one through the day, in the hope that one can remember to reach for it when one's being and attitude come from low places, and need the elevation of the Lord's Glory to restore health to this life within.

 This is why the Lord sends His Glory; that we may put it up inside ourselves for the moment when darkness is apparent, and light must enter lest we fall even from this low place we already occupy. And we are always falling; only the hands of the Lords can catch us.

In representing such things, there are countless imposters, many of them outrageous and audacious. Even the most sincere may, in the end, become proxies who have forgotten the essentials. We are all in danger, because one cannot remember the Lord by oneself, no matter how hard one tries.

Yet in every day the glory of God is unfolded within; and yes, there is truly a kingdom of heaven, even though we, unfortunately, have been assigned the role of the devils in it.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

deep in the bones

In the last post, I quoted the following passage:

Life is so desirable in itself that we desire it for itself. Those who are in hell in eternal pain would not wish to lose their life, neither devils nor souls, because their life is so noble that it flows direct from God into the soul. And so, because it thus flows immediately from God, they want to live. What is life? God's being is my life. If my life is God's being, then God's essence must be my essence, and God's self-identity my self-identity, neither more nor less.   

M.E., The Complete Mystical Works, P. 330

What does it mean that life flows direct from God into the soul?

 All the philosophical esoteric work in the world, all the writing, all the pontificating and the sitting about discussing things are actually meaningless. This one phrase, though, has real meaning; and that real meaning is embodied in Truth, which is not distinct from life that flows direct from God into the soul. This life that flows into the soul and this Truth are one and the same thing; there isn't any difference.

It doesn't matter what religion one studies or what form one thinks is correct. The only thing that matters is to receive Life directly into the soul. This is a unique and impossible proposition; not until it takes place can one understand the difference between one's own, ordinary (under an order) being, and the Being of Truth and of Life. 

I capitalize these properties of Being, Truth and Life so that readers will understand that they are different than what we mean by the words when we comprehend them intellectually or emotionally; they represent a different level of experience which is not my level. 

I can participate; but I do not own.

 In general, whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, or the Gurdjieff practice, one forms attachments to an idea of how this or that should be, and what one's aim is. One forms a large collection of ideas of what all the terms and these practices mean. But one can't form an idea about Life or Truth, because, as received, they are much greater than ideas. They are the living Presence of God. 

Although they can assume as many aspects as there are stars in the universe, every aspect is a perfect and exact reflection of the Lord; and this is an inner understanding. This is why Christ told us that the kingdom of heaven is within us. In receiving Life and Truth, we have the potential to understand the last sentence in Meister Eckhart's comment:  God's essence must be my essence.  

In receiving the Lord, in receiving the Life and Truth that flow from the Lord directly into Being, one understands how this is true; yet not with the reason alone does one understand. Not with the feeling alone does one understand. 

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. 
—Matthew 22: 37-28

 In truth, no matter how one wishes to reject, and what one wishes to reject, one cannot understand these questions without understanding what Christ meant here. When one loves the Lord with all of one's heart, and all of one's soul, and all of one's mind, one receives the Love of the Lord with all of one's Being; and since this is the only real, true, and pure Love — ours is always and forever fallen from Grace — only then can one perfectly reciprocate, since it is from within Grace that that perfection which can reciprocate arises.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Sin and missing the mark, Part II

The spider, redux

We know Gurdjieff did not discount the concept of sin. His aphorism reads: When you know it is wrong and do it anyway, you commit a sin difficult to redress

Yes, one may call this missing the mark; but the mark is for the good, that is, for the right, and not the wrong.

We furthermore know Gurdjieff had a movement called ‘I wish to be for the Good,” so we know that the concept of goodness was not foreign to his work either, no matter what relativists may say about the subject. One must, in the end, admit that Gurdjieff proposed what is called an objective good— that is, a good which is goodness itself, not an invented, human version of goodness. This is that same higher goodness referred to yesterday; and this idea of objective goodness permeates the cosmic atmosphere of Beelzebub’s universe.

I don’t, in the end, believe it’s even possible to separate Gurdjieff’s concepts of sin and redemption from those of Christianity-at-large; they stem, in the end, from the root presumptions of the Abrahamic religions he was raised in and around. Beelzebub’s descriptions of mankind depict humanity as essentially sinful; while assigning the blame for this to an abstraction (the organ kundabuffer) the results remain nonetheless concrete and tangible; and the responsibility for correction rests squarely on the shoulders of the individual. Mankind plays, at the outset of Beelzebub, the role of an innocent victim; yet in the end, to be complicit in the malevolent results of the organ kundabuffer does not allow complacence; in the end, we are responsible

The idea of intelligence (whether conscious or not) begins with an intelligence of responsibility: if there is an objective reason to be attained, it lies here, where the individual learns to actively discriminate between their own self-interests, i.e., their criminally irresponsible ego, and the interests of God—that is, a higher principle.   

This idea of goodness-in-itself is invested in the idea of Being. 

Being (forever vested in the opposing natures of manifested immanence and unmanifest transcendence) is an inherent goodness unto itself, encompassing both its own goodness and the measurement of its goodness, as embodied by the bad. 

This may seem like a logical pretzel; but if it is, it’s a chocolate-covered pretzel, simply because the experience of Being, if engaged in wholeheartedly and unreservedly, is Godly unto itself; its inherent goodness is inevitably revealed. To Be is already goodness itself; and we can conceive of no alternative. 

Meister Eckhart reminds us thus: 

Life is so desirable in itself that we desire it for itself. Those who are in hell in eternal pain would not wish to lose their life, neither devils nor souls, because their life is so noble that it flows direct from God into the soul. And so, because it thus flows immediately from God, they want to live. What is life? God's being is my life. If my life is God's being, then God's essence must be my essence, and God's self-identity my self-identity, neither more nor less.   

Sin, therefore, exists not in defiance of goodness and Being, but in support of it. It is unable, in the end, to eclipse or obviate the good; and so one comes to an acceptance of it… 

even if that acceptance requires all the very real discomforts not only of conscience,  but also the darkest tests of the soul itself.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sin and missing the mark, Part I

Jumping spider with freshly killed prey, the author's home, Dec 2014

I write this on the morning that the Taliban have attacked a school in Peshawar, killing over 140 people, most of them children. 

There is an idea in circulation, in the traditions, that the concept of sin means “missing the mark.”  

Is today’s event “missing the mark?” I don’t think the phrase makes any sense here; neither do lofty philosophies of relativism and exoneration. The ancient traditions, for the most part, do admit a world of good, bad, morality, and sinfulness; and the idea that man both lives in and participates in that world is fundamental.

Though the concept of missing the mark may be technically accurate, I fear it whitewashes the matter; sin can’t be construed as a matter of mere inaccuracy. Inaccuracy is lamentable, but carries no moral weight; murder and measurement are not the same thing, and to be off center by an inch is very different than to betray one’s husband or wife, or one’s faith.   

The word sin, I think, must acknowledge a morality; and good and evil cannot be rendered ambiguous simply because one has a philosophical wish (no matter how well-meant) to “transcend our world of dualism,” to achieve a blissful indifference to the world, etc. 

It is, of course, a path fraught with pitfalls and dangers; in any moral world, man is tempted to arrogate the presumption of morality to himself—while claiming, always, the authority of his own God, whatever mask that God may wear— and of course reserve the right of punishment, which, taken to extremes, too often becomes an exercise of sin in its own right.   

To miss the mark is to turn away from God. Yes, to an extent, it’s true; this is an inaccuracy. Yet to turn away from God is, in its essence, to turn away from Love: and this is to turn away from the good. 

So sin is a turning away from the good.

The conundrum lies in this: everyone believes first in their own good, not God’s good; and thus each person thinks they turn towards the good, when in fact what they turn towards is their own selfishness. In this way, anything at all can be construed as good; and much of what the selfish person thinks is good (thinking from themselves, and not from God) is actually bad, since it comes not from the unconditional Love of God, which is (as the Sufis would remind us) all-forgiving and all-merciful, but self-love, which is conditional and punitive. It is this conditional and punitive love that runs our world; and it is where sin begins. 

Technical terms such as missing the mark cannot apply here. Sin is a turning away from the good; and the good is of and from God, that is, a principle higher than man. What comes from mankind may imitate good or approximate good, but it cannot be good; man exists below the absolute state of good. Hence mankind is called “fallen,” that is, beneath the good. We exist within sin; this is the default condition of mankind not because of some inherent pessimism or an indelibly evil nature (“original” sin, as some might have it) but because of our position in the cosmos. 

Arguing that we should strive to be without sin would be like arguing that bacteria ought to think more about being squirrels. It is not in the bacteria’s nature to be a squirrel; and it is not in man's nature to be without sin.

Gurdjieff made this clear enough in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, in which he proposed (or, perhaps, merely documented) the Holy Planet Purgatory, a planet where all Beings, regardless of their arising, efforts, or development, must eventually end up in order to be purged (most painfully purged, it appears) of their sin—that is, an inarguable and ineradicable flaw which lies at the root of their Being. If this flaw isn’t a lack of unconditional dedication to divine Love, I can’t imagine what it might be. 

In the end, purgatory is there because we cannot be good; and purgatory itself is a divine (not earthly!) mechanism whereby one may, perhaps, achieve the final catharsis from sin.

Gurdjieff’s remorse of conscience, a critical aspect of what mankind needs within his inner Being in order to develop (to turn towards God), cannot exist without the idea of what is good and what is right;  what is good and right cannot exist without what is bad and wrong to illustrate it. For this reason I often say the bad is the servant of the good: it illustrates it. Sin is needed, in other words, to help define God

This may sound peculiar, but it is, I think, entirely accurate.

More on this in the next post.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Forever present in all Being

So we see that this parable in Matthew 20 is quite unusual indeed. Like so much of what Christ says, it only makes sense from an inner point of view. This is because the inner point of view and the outer point of view are often at odds with one another.

There are many ways of saying this, and, as Cynthia Bourgeault's The Wisdom Jesus  points out, we can't really understand Christ's teaching if we keep thinking of it as a literal or outer teaching. Yet in a certain sense, we can't understand Christ's teaching if we think about it, either. Because it is not just about thinking; one has to sense one's spiritual nature with the whole of one's being, through the roots of one's physical and sensory experience. This is an awkward enterprise without a real sensation of one's body; it always keeps the box locked. Thinking does not have a key with it; and the emotions are often equally confused. One must begin with an inner sensation of oneself, which is always and forever the first inkling of the presence of God, who is forever present in all Being.

 This is particularly important to remember, not by reminding oneself in one's thought, but through the direct experience of life itself — the labor in the vineyard — within the organic sensation of being. It is here that God begins and where God's consciousness touches our own; and it is a subtle and beautiful thing indeed, which encompasses all truth. It is far more complex than the things that are said about it; and it extends its roots and tendrils not just into the crevices and cracks where good feeling and the warm compassion can be extracted, but into every crevice and crack, so that the wholeness of being, including both its goodness and badness (think of all the laborers in the vineyard) are present and accounted for. There is a distinguishing between the two; and it cannot be undertaken if one only goes towards the good. The wholeness of being includes all of the parts, even, yes, the ones whose eye is evil (see the parable.)

 I bring this up not to try and encourage us to dwell on the bad, but to understand the wholeness. Understanding the wholeness involves residing within it, and not dwelling on the good or the bad. To dwell is to be stuck in a certain place; and where we need to dwell is in Being itself, not in the goodness and badness that accompany it. When we dwell in the goodness and the badness, we are inevitably stuck to them, one way or the other, as though they were glue.

It reminds me of the story of Brer rabbit and the tar baby; in the end, the way to get free of attachments lies through the thorns — which is, as it happens, where Being belongs in the first place.


Friday, December 26, 2014

The laborers in the vineyard, part III

Continuing our discussion of Matthew 20, the idea that all the laborers are paid the same wage, regardless of how long they have worked, can only be understood as correct if we understand the inner, or spiritual, meaning of this parable.

The workers who came first supposed that they should have received more. Yet this is, of course, impossible; because the parable is about our whole being, all of our inner parts together. The whole receives a single benefit here.

If one wants to take the superficial and most literal inner interpretation of this, one would refer to Gurdjieff's many "I"s;  and yet this is not enough. The parable is subtle, because it does not just refer to the divisions of our personality, but the many inner parts — instinctive, sexual, emotional, intellectual, and physical — which make up our whole being, along with all of their subsidiary and auxiliary parts.

In other words, the wholeness of our Being — our entire physiology, psychology, and spirituality — is addressed by the work of the kingdom of heaven. When the day is done and the work is over and a reward comes — in this case, not even a reward, but, in fact, nothing more than the standard wage that is deserved for standard work when laboring for a standard householder — the reward comes to the whole of our Being, not just the parts. Every part of ourselves benefits from the labor, regardless of when it was recruited; and of course, it's not only fair, it's impossible for it to be any other way.

The parable is beautiful, subtle, and extraordinary, because it points out that even when right labor is done in the right way for spiritual purposes, to benefit our inner selves,  there will always be dissenting elements in us that argue that they didn't get enough out of it. Does this sound familiar? It ought to, and I am sure that to most of you it does.

 There are parts in us that will have to sacrifice more. They will have to bear the burden and heat of the day. It behooves us to discover a place of resignation in us to understand with all of our Being, all of ourselves, that from the beginning we agreed in an inner sense that we would work in whatever way necessary to reach an understanding of God.

In this inner effort, some parts of ourselves have to work much harder than others; and they have to give up much more. The parable is a reminder that no matter how elevated we become — and the parable reminds us, by the way, that there isn't any elevation, just a return to the ordinary state, which always ought to be one of proper inner service for a proper inner wage — some parts of ourselves will argue they didn't get a fair deal. Our apple, in other words, always has a worm in it somewhere.

The householder in this parable is, in fact, a man suffused with the generosity of heaven: remember that the men who came in the third, the sixth, and the 11th hour all received the same wage as these griping laborers who came first. This generosity is in fact typical of the reward that comes to those who pursue a just spiritual life; and the analogy does eventually extend not just inside, but outside as well. Yet one must live within the kingdom of heaven, inside one's spiritual life and the rewards that it brings for this ordinary labor in the ordinary vineyard, to understand how all of one's Being, even the parts that perpetually complain about what are essentially good things, are worth every bit of the labor that goes into them.

Take note of this last, because the good householder in this parable reminds these complainers, didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

These parts of ourselves that agree to engage in inner spiritual labor, sacrifice, in exchange for a benefit, a wage, always begin agreeing that the transaction is fair and that the wage is just. In other words, from the outset, they see what is essentially a good thing, and they agree to work for that good thing. It is only at the end of the day when they see that the good thing benefits everyone that they decide to make things bad. This is, in fact, a habit everyone shares; and it is always the resentful workers who come first in ourselves and think they have done more than others and deserve more than others — in other words, those who are not generous, but selfish — who take this bad attitude.

Christ more or less sums it up with the last words the householder leaves us with:

 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

 Here is the moment where that which is selfish in us condemns the generous and the good.

 And that, in its essence, is where the only unfairness in this parable lies: in the parts of ourselves that, no matter the wage, in the end don't want to share the wholeness of our Being, which is of God.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

The laborers in the vineyard, part II

Today, we Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.

May God be with you, regardless of your faith.

Yesterday, in our discussion of Matthew 20, we left off where the householder was organizing his laborers.

There is an organization to the kingdom of heaven, to our inner spiritual state; and the effort that that takes — which is what this parable is, among other things, about — has a hierarchy. More effort and more laborers need to be recruited as the inner work progresses. The work, moreover, takes place in the vineyard — that is, a place where grapes (fruit) will eventually be harvested, and wine (as opposed to water) will ultimately result. Other parables also refer to fruit and fecundity, which is a principal characteristic of the kingdom of heaven — the capacity of the inner soul to give birth to an endless bounty and abundance.

In any event, as the householder adds to his workforce, he does so at specific times: the third hour, the sixth hour, and then even the eleventh hour. Here, I take exception with translations that attempt to say that the times were specific, such as noon, 3 PM, and 5 PM, because there is a symbolic and esoteric meaning to these particular times.

The third hour represents the first shock on the enneagram, Gurdjieff's conscious labor; and the sixth hour is the second shock, intentional suffering. At both of these points, in an understanding of the enneagram, a new and additional kind of shock is required, work from outside the system, so to speak, and that's precisely represented here. Interestingly, the shock— the additional workers — comes from those who were standing idle in the marketplace, that is, parts of ourselves capable of work, in the midst of life, who are not occupied in the midst of very active transactions.

In this sense, the parable reminds us that we have to remember ourselves in the midst of the marketplace and recruit the inner parts that can do work to help in the overall effort. One has to do this at the appropriate moments, when the shocks are necessary. This indicates that within the inner teaching which we seek to bring to ourselves, we have to remain active and conscious and use those parts of ourselves which are capable but unoccupied.

At about the 11th hour — that is, metaphorically speaking, the last minute — there are other parts that still haven't participated. Remember, all of the laborers here represent quite ordinary parts of ourselves, not parts that are privy to secret esoteric teachings — just those parts of ourselves which are sitting around in us, so to speak, doing nothing. This point takes a great deal of pondering, but I think readership will find that to be worth it, since almost any part of ourselves is worth intense scrutiny in light of this teaching.

The householder says to those parts that are idle in the 11th hour, go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

 He says, whatsoever is right. In other words, Christ tells us that what will take place with these laborer's wages is, in fact, fair, it is right. The point is specific enough to obviate any arguments about what takes place later not being correct.

 In the evening, the end of the day (representing the full cycle of the enneagram, or the inner process whereby a higher energy is received within) all of the laborers receive a penny. Now, let's remember, these are common laborers — that is, it is all of the ordinary parts, each of which has sacrificed something in order to earn their wage.

The laborers who were hired earlier in the day — the first, in this case, you will note that the second and third wave are not even mentioned — don't think this is fair. And of course, it isn't, taken from the ordinary point of view, which is why there is so much argument about this parable.

Tomorrow, we will discuss exactly why it is so, from an inner point of view, and why it is entirely fair.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The laborers in the vineyard, part I

 This morning, I was reading Cynthia Bourgeault's  The Wisdom Jesus, which is, I think, a fine book for those looking for an introduction to some of the inner meanings of Christian teachings.

In it, she brings up one of the more difficult — she thinks, the most difficult — parable to understand, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1 – 15.

 Cynthia sees this parable as an example of "consciousness-training." And this analogy is a good one, presented in light of her suggestion that Christian teaching is an operating system, or an inner technology.

After reading her commentary, I found I wanted to make some remarks of my own about this parable.

Most interpretations of the gospel devolve towards an outer level — this is our inevitable tendency. And we must always, first and forever, remember this particular phrase of Christ's whenever he speaks of the kingdom of heaven:

 the kingdom of heaven is within.

 So, as always, this parable is a teaching about our inner state and our organization. However we characterize it, it is a spiritual teaching — one aimed at the transformation not of any outer understanding of community or labor, but an understanding of the soul and how it functions.

In this case, the kingdom of heaven is like a man who is a householder. Already, this is interesting enough in itself; because a householder is an ordinary man, Gurdjieff's obyvatel. That is to say, although the kingdom of heaven may look very "special" to us from "outside", everything about it is actually quite ordinary. In this way, with a single deft comment, Christ reminds us that the kingdom of heaven ought to be our ordinary, and properly ordered, relationship with ourselves and with God.

This ordinary man, this householder – who by implication is simply a man responsible to himself and others, that is, one who takes responsibility for who they are and what their relationships consist of, in an inner sense — goes out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard.

To go out early in the morning is to get there first — which is exactly what Gurdjieff's Karapet of Tiflis does, albeit in an arch and roundabout way. The point of this is that one has to start out from the beginning with the intention of inner work, that is, the kingdom of heaven carries with it not only an ordinary attitude, that of the responsible householder, but also the ordinary aim of taking care of business in a routine way, and finding the right labor — the right inner parts — to take care of the business of the household. In this case, it is tending the garden — which dovetails back into the parable of the sower and other parables about seeds and growth. This parable, in other words, is a part of that group of teachings about helping the inner roots of one's Being to grow deeper.

The laborers agree to "a penny;" actually, a denarius,  the standard wage for an unskilled day laborer. The householder isn't special, and neither are his laborers; everyone is going about their business in a quite ordinary and workmanlike way, for ordinary wages. So this inner work of the kingdom of heaven, this inner work of the soul, is once again not some elevated territory of superior position, faith, understanding, and so on; it is, in a certain sense, the daily inner life of the soul, that is, all of the ordinary and routine experience that takes place within.

In the parable, the householder continues to organize labor throughout the day, and add to it. That is, there is first of all of an order; and as soon as the organization takes place — the initial hiring of the laborers — the owner goes out to recruit more labor.

Now, we will get to something very interesting indeed about this parable in tomorrow's post. Don't forget to come back!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

An inner presence

 An inner presence of God is not a set of words or ideas. It isn't a thought.

 God is a living Presence that comes to us. We do not bring it. He does not come according to our whims or demands.

This Presence arrives under its own authority, when it wills it so.

I don't remember this; and I am always caught in my assumptions and associations, which fail to take this into account.

Most of what one reads about religion and God is deeply confused because it does not understand this question of the inner Presence, which I call the divine inflow. There is no truth greater than this Presence, which is truth itself, and puts everything else in proper order. In the moment of this Presence, I do not make any sense at all; but the world does.

Christ, whose birth we celebrate this week, asked us to come to this Presence in humility and receive it. It has since, inevitably, been turned into an outward thing which we use force to express, force to describe, force to thrust on others. Almost never do any of us turn inward, gently, and with the intimacy that is necessary.

Yet in that movement, it might be possible to understand who Mary is, who the Christ child is, and how He may be born in us at any moment to receive the Lord.

 It is very, very important to carefully—and always—study what it means to be inward and to have an inner Presence, not an outer one. This is an active and a living thing, born of a certain kind of organic attention that does not just come from the mind.

When I am confused about the difference between the outer world and my inner Being, I can't see anything, and nothing is possible for me in terms of my soul, no matter how much the outward parts of me acquire.

I need to remind myself every day that the first task I have in front of me is to feed my Being, not the beast who craves. It's a question of what I wish to put first in front of myself: the world, or God.

 I hope, today, I can remember this. I already know that that will only be possible with Grace; which oft seems distant.

Yet Grace is much more available than I give it credit for.


Monday, December 22, 2014

The Lord and His influence

 I suppose there can't be a more appropriate time for discussing the Lord and His influence than right about now, since we are about to celebrate the annual remembering of His passage to earth.

Yet the Lord passes into us at all times and in every moment; He is forever present. Our own absence in an inner sense is the only reason we don't realize this. One must come to one's understandings through much suffering and prayer in order to destroy the material within us which prevents us from being in relationship with the Lord; and even then, such a task is never completed.

One of the reasons spiritual food, the receiving of the inward flow, is called manna is because there can be nothing sweeter than the taste of the Lord. This is a greater thing than words can mention; and whatever sweetness or goodness one finds in life, there is nothing sweeter or more good than the arrival of the Lord within Being. This is, in the end, a private or sacred matter, and perhaps of little use in outward or worldly things; yet one can desire nothing else, once one tastes it, because one knows what generosity and love and mercy taste like once one tastes the Lord.

People often ask me how one comes to this; everyone wants a technique or a method, a secret key that is turned in a secret lock. Yet there are no such things. There is only suffering and prayer, each one of which is the best possible thing, and not any kind of negative, if they are properly understood.

Yet people persist in seeking the secret locks and the magical keys; and they always want some other person to give them those secrets, as though they existed in books, or even in the minds of men.

But nothing of the Lord's can exist in the mind of man; and thus, no man's mind can give it.

Ponder this.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

The divine inflow

 I suppose that using the words "the divine inflow" might seem mysterious.

We might remember, however, that Gurdjieff often spoke about influences; and these are, indeed, things that flow inwardly, inward flows.

People generally understand the word influence to mean an outward thing that comes into us and holds us under its sway in one way or another; yet the esoteric understanding of the word influence is that which flows within — from within, to within. That is to say, there are mysterious, unseen, and sacred energies that flow in currents that pass from being to being without any visible outward affect.

In earlier ages, up to the present day, these types of influences are referred to as "psychic" influences, but this ascribes them to psychology and to outward things, which is quite incorrect. Psychic influences are, essentially, psychological influences, which is what all outward objects, events, circumstances, and conditions produce. They flow from the outside to the inside. They concern themselves with outward events, such as, who one's next lover will be, when grandmother will die, what horse will win the race, and so on. And of course people are fascinated by this kind of thing — All useless, because none of it adds to Being, not a single whit. Only inner and inward influences can add to Being, and these are much subtler forces that need to be encountered in a very different way than psychic forces. They are, in point of fact, spiritual influences — and this is what the divine inflow is.

There are a wide range of spiritual influences, and not all of them are benevolent ones.  Some of them are even real vampires which take our energy away from us. (See Gurdjieff's Wartime  Transcripts, chapter 10.) One needs to learn to discriminate in a very precise manner inwardly in order to see exactly what an inner or spiritual influence is, first, and one can only exercise this discrimination first through an active sensation, which grows very deep roots in the body. After one becomes aware of this, one has to understand which influences are positive and calm into direct relationship with them  intentionally when they are available. This is not always possible; one must work when work is possible, not any old time. But in any event, one must come into relationship with the divine inward flow in order to receive the Lord.  ( See The Reality of Being, page 260.) This is a kind of higher energy; and it manifests in many different ways.

One must submit. This energy which flows inwardly informs the body, and through it, the emotions and the mind, actually, in that exact order — because once the body is properly informed, that is, once a higher energy inwardly forms a right understanding in a specific part of the body, which may be limited to an area as small as the tip of one's little finger — that right understanding sends a message to the entire state of one's being which brings, first of all, a real emotion — as opposed to the petty fears which dominate most of our ordinary state — and then, and understanding in the mind that one is encountering the real authority in both life and the cosmos, and that one is under that authority.

When I say the energy manifests in many different ways, what I mean is that the Truth of the Lord can come into us anywhere, at any time, and in any part. Only this divine inward flow can teach real and true humility, which otherwise is just a word that rolls off the tongue or attitude that is manufactured by lower parts. The energy is what was referred to as manna from heaven in the Bible; it is a food. What it feeds is our soul; and our soul lives in the desert and has nothing to eat without this food.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The meaning of the Lord

 One reader asked recently that I explain what I mean by the words "the Lord" and "divine inflow."

Speaking as one with experience of these subjects, I must say it's a challenge. One can't know what the Lord is without a direct experience; and the Lord is not anything that one can imagine.

Let me first say that we all want to come to the Lord, I think, principally through one of two faculties: reason (the intellect) or emotion — that is, desire or desperation. Desire, if we have a fervent wish for a higher authority in our lives; desperation, if we feel so besieged that we feel we must have such an authority, if only to save us.

It is, however, just as impossible to reason out the Lord as it is to crave Him; and I use the traditional masculine appellation here simply because it is traditional.

I am reminded of what my own teacher said when I told her I had been touched by the Virgin Mary in Rome.

"...How did you know it was Mary?" she said.

And this is exactly how it is with everyone: one thinks one can reason out who or what the Lord is, "know" it, come up with a set of rational explanations or thoughts that explain it. As it happens, this is not only impossible, but entirely unnecessary. The authority of the Lord arrives without brokerage, and there need be no thought about whether it is the Lord or not when it arrives.

Such an authority is absolutely not my own authority, and there can be no confusion about it; nor can I think up such an authority within myself.

 Part of the great difficulty is that everybody wants to have an authority that they can contradict if they absolutely have to — that is, we always want authority to be invested in human beings, their principles, institutions, and so on, even if we overtly claim that they are representatives of God. In the end, covertly, we always know in some secret place within ourselves that these authorities are still human, and if we really, really need to, we can reject them — in other words, the entire psychological structure of man and woman, such as they exist in the average individual, always reserves the right to be the absolute and final authority.

There is no room for God in this structure; we see ourselves as the Lord. It reminds me of one of my relatives by marriage, who is a professed atheist. This particular individual does not see that they do worship a God; the God just happens to be themselves. And so, to one degree or another, it is with all of us.

 Yet the authority of the Lord can arrive in us through sensation. That is to say, the authority of the Lord is a subtle force that flows into the body — leading us to the question of divine inflow. Divine inflow is the mechanism whereby the Lord makes Himself known. There can be no ambiguity of understanding in receiving this: and, in fact, this is exactly what we are supposed to do — receive the Lord. We do so, furthermore, quite literally within the body and blood of Christ, that is, within our own body and blood, which Christ took on by taking on our own body and blood, and which we share with Him. There are other analogies and correct interpretations belonging to other religions, but I will simply offer the Christian one here, since it is quite specific and very illustrative, if it's properly understood.

The Lord is an authority unto Himself. In so far as I receive him — receive this force of Truth, which is absolute and does not need my interpretation — to this extent am I under the influence of the Lord. The entire set of notes published in its edited version as The Reality of Being is, in fact, about exactly this question, and although it deals with many other issues, everything in it centers around this question of receiving the Lord.

 I will state unequivocally and categorically for the readership that it is entirely possible to know the Lord, not just occasionally, or once-in-a-lifetime, but every day. The Lord has absolute authority over the affairs of man, yet the authority is an inward authority. One has to become open to the divine — that is, sacred — inward flow of the authority of the Lord in order to receive the Lord. And that is the subject for the next post.


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Gospel of Mary, Part II

 Today is my sister Sarah's birthday. She would have been 55 years old today. 

The Savior said, "all natures, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

— The Nag Hammadi library in English, Harper & Row, 1998, page 524

 We can easily take this from the atomic and mechanistic point of view: everything which arises and manifests in one form, ultimately depends on and returns to its constituent elements — for general purposes, what we call atoms.

 The word resolve,  however, means to be loosened and dissolved by a force. So we see the action of a higher force on lower ones: it not only brings lower forces together, ultimately, it releases them.

Another meaning of this is that we return to ourselves. This phrase is a common one in speaking of self remembering; yet in this case, returning to our self means returning to the roots of our nature alone.

This can be construed as an instruction toward sensation, in which we sense the very molecules and atoms of our body itself. This sensation is directly related to growing a root of Being within the body, which is not actually one large taproot, so to speak, but an infinite number of very fine tendrils that extend throughout the organic body and create an atomic and molecular sense of life. This deeply inner question, which cannot be understood without certain unusual conditions for development, changes the entire state of Being. It isn't, as it happens, what is referred to as enlightenment; that particular state can exist without the root of Being, and the root of being may bring a human Being to certain types of work that are different than what is traditionally referred to as enlightenment.

We might mention here that enlightenment is, like consciousness, not a single thing. Enlightenment proceeds according to the law of octaves, and it is entirely possible for myriads different enlightenment conditions to arise, an extraordinary number of which are partial in one way or another. Because mankind's development is generally unbalanced, this type of enlightenment — non-harmonious development, as Gurdjieff might have referred to it — is more common than the durable states proposed by the type of work which Gurdjieff advocated.

Each one of these enlightened states is enormously attractive, and there is no doubt they are quite satisfying for some. Yet one ought to be a bit suspicious; and in the end, for those who want to go further, a call to a much deeper suffering is the way to liberation, which may not look like the pictures or be found on the maps.

To be resolved into the roots of our nature is to become more human. In order to understand that, it's probably necessary to understand first that we are inhuman.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Lord of the Rings: a synopsis

A friend of mine not familiar with the books or movies asked me for a synopsis, which I'm sharing today as the final installment of Peter Jackson's six-movie rendering of the saga appears in theaters.

The Lord of the Rings represents an archtype of the battle of good and evil, writ large, yet with small fry—diminutive, relatively helpless creatures called hobbits—as the central actors.

All of the powerful forces aligned against one another, many of whom are all but immortal—elves and walking, talking trees (ents) for example—in the end depend on these apparently insignificant players to provide the critical fulcrums on which all the events are leveraged. Even wizards have to rely on them to execute the most important tasks... and although there are a lot of other, perhaps technically more capable, players eager to assume that role, in the end most of them have some deep and vital flaw, always related to vanity and ego, that disqualifies them.

In some cases their vain ambitions end up serving positively in some other way... but never when it comes to the ring, which can't be touched by any but the purest, simplest soul. Anyone with aspirations to power is ruined by it—and even hobbits are not immune to its charms, because sin (the ring is, in its essence, the original sin)—corrupts everything it touches. The ring ultimately devours the soul of anyone who falls under its spell.

Hobbits live a decidedly pastoral life, emphasizing the role of farming as a primary civilizing factor in the world. It establishes a populist base for the action. The various nobilities that struggle in an epically Tolstoyan manner, each of whom seems themselves as "the" major player in the conflict (the dwarves, the elves, the ents, the goblins, etc: all have what they perceive as some major piece moving on the chessboard) are all actually revolving around the hobbits; but no one really sees this except Gandalf, who plays the role of the saint, the one who has insight: although even his insight is not infallible.

A fallen angel orchestrates the conflict: Saurumon, who waxes under the spell of the devil (Sauron.) At the time the story of the hobbit opens, the conflict is already an ancient one. The premise is that evil is vested in a materiality (the rings) and that the one who controls this materiality will gain power over everything. The rings are, in other words, talismans representing a great power, but it's a power of corruption; and that power is in abstract the immanent world, the world of things. This world of things is, by and large, a world of glittering treasures (whether gold, or kingdoms) all of which turn powerful engines of desire in the various characters.

It is a world of attachments: and the singular voyage of detachment that progresses throughout the trilogy (throughout the plot, everyone else is doggedly pursing their attachments) is Frodo's selfless quest to destroy the ring, which carries him through all the worldly fields of action pursued by a golem (Gollum), effectively his own personal demon—whom he has, surprisingly, a complex and touching sympathy for. This is a sophisticated mechanism, indeed, and Jackson did a masterful job of rendering this rather impossible character in the movie, not just as regards CGI, but also his schizoid, bipolar persona. Frodo is also accompanied by his good alter ego, Sam, who remains loyal; even when he is rejected by Frodo's frustrating acceptance of Gollum.

The hobbits represent the ordinary within this multi-dysfunctional world, an ordinary element which is, essentially, not corrupt: and it is their apparent insignificance, the fact that they can be so easily overlooked and discounted, that becomes the weapon that defeats evil in the end. In this sense, it is a story of everyman against forces much larger than himself: again, a form of populism, but a populist movement against evil on a monstrous scale.

The appeal of it from the point of view of inner allegory is apparent: it's the smallest and most ordinary parts of ourselves that serve as the most important footsoldiers in our struggle against the lower parts of ourselves: an illustration of the saying, "the meek shall inherit the earth." Hobbits are nothing if not meek; yet their courage and fortitude is inspiring, along with their loyalty and willingness to risk themselves on behalf of a greater cause. Their quest is, in the end, ennobling not because they defeat evil—this always happens in such myths, and is hardly worth mentioning—but because they are true. It's their affirmation of goodness on the simplest of levels that triumphs in the end, regardless of the wizards, elves, and giant orc armies that mill around them in a gigantic, whirlwind war machine.


The Gospel of Mary, Part I

Angkor, Cambodia

Last night (December 6) Parabola Magazine hosted a salon at which we discussed the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, specifically, the question of ignorance and its relationship to sin, which is the subject of the upcoming issue of the magazine.

I haven't read this gospel in a number of years, so I opened it this morning. I found some striking remarks.

The gospel begins in the midst of a discussion; the pages that introduce it are missing.

"... will matter then be destroyed or not?"

 The Savior said, "all natures, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another, and they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its nature alone. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

— The Nag Hammadi library in English, Harper & Row, 1998, page 524

  In discussion about the inner teachings of the Gospels — that is, teachings Christ passed on which are meant to be taken as inward teachings, that relate not to the outer world, but to inward being — it's worth mentioning that whenever Christ says, he who has ears to hear, let him hear, he means, the teaching is an inner or esoteric teaching, that is, it cannot be taken literally or interpreted according to the rules of the ordinary world.

In order to understand this better, we have to reconfigure our understanding of what it means to listen, and to hear. To listen and to hear is not just a matter of listening and hearing with attention. One can have a very good outward attention and listen and hear quite well, and take in an enormous amount of data and have sophisticated intellectual exchanges, a strong memory of everything that's been said, and so on. This isn't listening and hearing as it is referred to in the Gospels; nor, as it happens on it to be the understanding of listening and hearing as it relates to inner work, be it Sufi, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, or otherwise.

 As it happens, the inward parts that listen and hear are much deeper within Being then our ordinary parts. When we encounter the words,  he who has ears to hear, let him hear, we encounter an admonition that the impression of the ideas be taken deeper into Being.

 Now, this may seem like a new idea... what precisely does that mean?

It means that one must have an organic sensitivity, a connection to sensation, and that the understandings must flow inward as a result of that connection and relationship, which creates a transparency. This transparency represents a kind of clarity. It's extremely difficult to explain this clarity in words, but generally speaking, in this clarity one will distinctly feel that one receives things more deeply. Personality is far more passive in this condition, and essence is active.

 We can't know precisely what the condition under which matter might be destroyed was; the questioner may have been asking about the durability of the material world, or the nature of experience after spiritual enlightenment. Nonetheless, Christ's message on the subject is fascinating.

Essentially, he discusses a condition I have mentioned in past posts.  All natures, all formations, all creatures exist in and with one another.  Everything contains everything else; all objects, events, circumstances, and conditions are so directly and deeply connected to one another that a grain of sand objectively contains the entire universe, if this were properly sensed and understood. The idea seems ridiculously inflated, but there is a sacred truth within it: the absolute and entire expression of God and Being find perfection within each instant and instance of manifestation.

Christ expands on this fundamental truth, which is certainly expressed in Buddhism, by pointing out that  they will be resolved again into their own roots. For the nature of matter is resolved into the roots of its nature alone.

 I'll ponder this point and attempt comment on it tomorrow, after allowing it to digest more deeply during the night.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Roots and parables, part IV: the parable of the weeds

Angkor, Cambodia
The Parable of the Weeds, Matthew 13:24-30

 Christ explains this parable to his disciples in Matthew 13:36-43, but it doesn't read correctly to me. It's too apocalyptic, and contains an element of bombast, fire and brimstone, that obscures the  delicate and beautiful nuances of the story.  It is an outward explanation of an inward parable.

I'm offering, therefore, my own interpretation of it below.

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 

But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Readers may wonder why I have put a link to the word tares in the above passage; it ought to be followed, so that one can understand tares represent a vetch, which is actually an edible crop which would, in biblical times, have been understood as a last resort for consumption in times of starvation.

The use of the word is absolutely intentional; the enemy comes and sows seed not just for some casual weed, but for an actual food in the wheat crop—only it is a bitter food, traditionally reserved for desperation, and for the abject poor.

The idea here is that the enemy (representing the oppositional inner part of ourselves manifested in ego) continuously sows seed for an inferior kind of food that competes with the sacred food of heaven.  This takes place while we are asleep. That is, while engaged in inner work, it is inevitable that this kind of food will continually be mixed with the sacred food needed for development of the soul. It happens in every moment when we are sleeping, that is, not making a conscious effort to align ourselves with higher forces.

We're not saints; all of us are going to have tares in our field. Here, readers may recall that Gurdjieff cited wheat as a food that is sacred all over the universe; certainly, in this passage, it plays an equivalent role, because it is likened to the word of God, that is, the good word that feeds us well from within.

In the second passage, we see that the both the servants and the householder— who are engaged together in the act of the cultivation of the good seed, the seed of inner Being — recognize the difference. This is a form of seeing. In fact, it exactly represents the action of seeing how one is within without interfering, which is so roundly emphasized in The Reality of Being. The servants see what is wrong; yet the master instructs them not to touch anything.

This is notable; it is precisely and exactly the same as the instruction that de Salzmann gives that we must see ourselves without trying to change anything. several things can be understood from this passage. First of all, even the lowest kinds of interactivity are a food, albeit a poor one. Secondly, in inner work, we learn to discriminate between them and understand that some of them come from lower levels. Third, we understand that we are to allow these things to exist side-by-side within us with the work of our truthfulness and our inner effort, because if we try to root them, it may well damage the roots we are growing in our proper crop.

Now, this may seem paradoxical; after all, shouldn't one get the weeds out so that the crop will grow healthy? Apparently not — under conditions of inner work, at the time of harvest, it becomes possible to distinguish clearly between the higher and the lower works, the parts of us that bear the fruit of personality and the parts of us that bear the fruit of heaven, and then to discriminate — to make a choice — and discard that which is worthless. But, take note, this can only be done at the time of maturity — else, the activity may be damaging.

 One last note. The person attending the field isn't a wise man, a priest, or any other kind of special authority. He or she is a householder. That is, he is Gurdjieff's obyvatel, an ordinary person who does nothing more than attempt to meet his responsibilities. This is the person in charge of attending the field which is likened to the kingdom of heaven: an ordinary human being.

These may seem to be subtle points. They do, however, show how extraordinarily sophisticated Christ's parables were, and how deeply entwined they are with the esoteric teachings that Gurdjieff passed on. It is part of a comprehensive and ancient works; and the understandings of it are always consistent, if they are understood properly. Take note that despite how well concealed these esoteric aspects of Christ's teaching are, they came down to us through over 2000 years and find expression in an exactly correct manner in Jeanne de Salzmann's understandings and notes.

It is worth thinking about, isn't it?


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roots and Parables: The Parable of the Sower, explained: part III

Angkor, Cambodia

The Parable of the Sower Explained... twice.
(Matthew 13:18-23)

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Here Christ advises us that in real in our work, it is possible to receive seed into the good ground.

 This is an inner place; not an outer one. There can be good ground in our Being; it is inherent, although it is well concealed by our upbringing and the way we form ourselves as people.

What is this good ground?

When He refers to hearing the word and understanding it, the hearing is an inner hearing. The word needs to be heard by our soul itself, not just the mechanical or automatic parts that are formed through habit. It is, in other words, a conscious and a living thing, an organic part of the organism and of Being itself. When we speak of the living Word of God, we speak exactly of this inherent quality of life, this organic state, which includes a sensation of one's atoms and an inherent comprehension of the sacred, of the presence of a higher level, of angels — even of God. This ought to be a naturally occurring state, yet we are bereft of it.

To receive this see, this word, into the good ground is to have the tree of the soul grow healthy, grow strong, and receive not only the influences that come from deep in the earth, the minerals, the darkness, and the water — each one of which is, mind you, an analogy for the way that impressions fall into us and the substances they form, which found expression in countless ancient myths, including the underworld of the Maya — but also the influences of the sun, of a much higher level. Both sets of influences are, exactly as in a plant, necessary for the growth of the tree. And it is only through the interaction of these forces within the nature of being itself that the fruit Christ speaks of can be brought forth.

Even this fruit is not an outward thing. It is an inner bearing of fruit, that is, sustenance, a sweet food that can be eaten and bears more seed. This is not to naysay the outer effects; yet our attention on to be turned always to the inward first, because if it is tended to properly, the outward takes care of itself.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Roots and Parables: The Parable of the Sower, explained: part II

Angkor, Cambodia

The Parable of the Sower Explained... twice.
(Matthew 13:18-23)

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Having roots in one's being isn't enough; and this example of Christ's, of a man who receives the seed among thorns, is one in whom the seed is planted; it begins to grow. But it is overwhelmed; after all, the seeds of being are planted amidst the sharpness and strangulation of the many different influences of personality. We're filled with all kinds of material; most of it is misleading, although it comes with conviction, mediated and moderated by centers (all three of them) who are used to self-serving and contradictory work, the usurpation of material for themselves, and the dissipation of things that don't satisfy them.

This is why He refers to the deceitfulness of riches: the very phrase itself reminds us of Gurdjieff's contention that we lie to ourselves constantly. The lies are rich; every one of them seems convincing and beautiful, but, as I've pointed out before, each one of them represents an intention to go against the good, since one can't participate in lies unless one knows what the truth is in the first place. Lying is, after all, always and above all an intentional misrepresentation of truth.

There's an important and consistent misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Christ's words on a particular point here. When he uses the expression, he that heareth the word, the word that is being referred to is an inwardly spoken word. Now, in gospel Christianity, which is the overwhelmingly dominant form of Christianity being taught and shared in today's world, the word is always taken to mean the gospel in its outward form, that is, the good news of Christ's mission to mankind, and the word of God as found in the Bible. It is always seen as some kind of outward message, and all the interpretations regarding the matter consistently revolve around this idea.

 Yet there can't be any doubt that Christ is talking about an inward process here, and that the word of God is what we hear within ourselves, within our Being and our souls. This word is always being spoken and always present; because the divine truth is always flowing into us, even if we are in fact covered with concrete, resistant to it, and even willing to actively deny it.

It reminds me of something that Gurdjieff said:

When a possibility is there, within reach, and we do not actualize it, it continues to exist but for us it is lost forever. We must make use of it at once. And this is what it is to become a man, it is to respond, to make use of the possibilities that present themselves, but we live like irresponsible children.

This action of the inner word is, quite frankly, exactly that possibility of which he speaks; and we need to come to it immediately as a possibility, a willingness and an intention to not lie to ourselves, at the instant that this word arrives within our soul. As both Meister Eckhart and Swedenborg so eloquently remind us, again and again, this inwardly spoken word is arriving forever and in every instant within us; our life and our being themselves emanate from it and depend on it. Yet we choke it with thorns; our inner garden is filled with weeds, a subject treated in the next parable we'll take a look at. We ought to seize the opportunity to come into relationship; but we'd rather saturate ourselves with the nonsense of the outer world. We are unfruitful; instead of our being growing into a plant that gives fruit, that produces new material and a positive result both internally and externally, we become slaves to the external and are parasitized by it, so that the outer world feeds on us.

This is the normal condition of mankind.

This particular post took a bit longer than I expected it to to get through, so we will have to deal with the last passage in tomorrow's post.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Roots and Parables: The Parable of the Sower, explained: part I

Yucatan, Mexico 
The Parable of the Sower Explained.
(Matthew 13:18-23)

Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the wayside. 

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 

He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 

But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

 The idea that Christ spoke so much about sowing seed in parables is no surprise when one considers the idea that the soul is a tree which grows roots in the body and then reaches towards heaven. We see how absolutely these parables are connected to this idea when we see Christ mentioned the man who hath not root in himself

Like many comments Christ makes, it's tempting to believe that the statement is allegorical. From an esoteric point of view, however, he means it quite literally. The man literally does not have the roots that grow down into being, and so he is not durable. It's like a plant which has been pulled up by the roots; some of the cells continue to photosynthesize, and it remains green for a while, but it has no durability, because there are no roots. One must develop the roots within the body and have the sensation of self — the sensation of one's individuality, as Gurdjieff called it— in order for any inner work to be durable.

In this parable, we can see four different stages of work. In the first one, nothing whatsoever takes place. The lack of understanding here is not a lack of intellectual understanding — it is a lack of inner understanding, that is, a certain kind of spiritual understanding of the soul. The word of the kingdom is the inner truth that arrives through what Gurdjieff called conscience. This is, perhaps, one of the only uncontaminated sources whereby a man can receive the seed of truth; without conscience, we see, the wicked one takes the inner truth. While this deserves extensive contemplation, I believe readers can see exactly what is gotten at here — and it is decidedly an inner process.

In the second stage of work, a man does not have roots — there is an intellectual understanding of the ideas (hence the joy) but it does not sink deep into being where the seed can plant itself fruitfully in the heart. Unplanted, it does not grow; it can't extend its roots to provide the nourishment that would sustain it.

 When Christ says when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, by-and-by he is offended, what He means is that when the arrival of this seed, this awakening of conscience, takes place within a human being, it causes troubling inner conflicts. Let us be clear: the tribulation and persecution He refers to is an inner process, whereby a human being struggles to reconcile what conscience and a higher principle indubitably tell him is true, and the corrupted nature of his own personal preferences, desires, and selfishness. The person who is offended is the one who dominates; that is, personality. Because there is no root, no real food for the seed of truth, personality becomes offended and crushes it. We can liken this to the process of rationalization in our ordinary being, which is a mirror of the greater process that takes place in the struggle between spiritual forces and temporal forces in our spiritual Being.

Inevitably, the Word— the seed of truth— creates these conflicts. Only with roots that create a durable connection to sensation, sustaining the action of conscience, can the truth grow in us. Perhaps this gives readers another clue as to why Jeanne de Salzmann placed so much emphasis on sensation. We can see here that it plays a much greater role than we suspect. It may seem like a mechanical force in some ways, if we connect to it; but it is a very conscious one, and it nurtures in ways that are not apparent to the ordinary mind.

 Tomorrow I'll discuss the other two stages of inner work as outlined in this parable.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Perhaps a little less significant? You decide.

Mayan temple at Hochob, Yucatan, Mexico. 
The Maya conceived of the underworld as an extraordinarily powerful force. 

The idea of the possibility of broadening man’s consciousness and increasing his capacities for knowledge stands in direct relation to the teaching on cosmoses. In his ordinary state a man is conscious of himself in one cosmos, and all the other cosmoses he looks at from the point of view of one cosmos. The broadening of his consciousness and the intensifying of his psychic functions lead him into the sphere of activity and life of two other cosmoses simultaneously, the one above and the one below, that is, one larger and one smaller. The broadening of consciousness does not proceed in one direction only, that is, in the direction of the higher cosmoses; in going above, at the same time it goes below. 

“This last idea will, perhaps, explain to you some expressions you may have met with in occult literature; for instance, the saying that ‘the way up is at the same time the way down.’ As a rule this expression is quite wrongly interpreted. 

“In reality this means that if, for instance, a man begins to feel the life of the planets, or if his consciousness passes to the level of the planetary world, he begins at the same time to feel the life of atoms, or his consciousness passes to their level. In this way the broadening of consciousness proceeds simultaneously in two directions, towards the greater and towards the lesser. 

—Gurdjieff, speaking to P.D. Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous

Another passage I hit on during my research on a different matter, which struck me as a second example of statements that appear to be forgotten or glossed over in the rush to develop a magical astral body, Shazam!

I've spoken many times about growing roots within our Being, and feeling oneself through the organic sense of Being.

The above passage gives some specifics about why this takes place, and how it is necessary. We can't understand where we are unless we sense the very atoms in our bodies, which becomes a certain kind of vibration and cellular sensation. This kind of activity is only awakened by the inward flow of being from the sacred sources that connect to the soul. The subtle passages of these energy or so extraordinary that limiting them to the top of the head (the seventh chakra, the traditional yoga location of higher energy, also referred to quite often by Jeanne de Salzmann) is a disservice. The suggestion can lead to profound misunderstandings, even though it has its place.

The point is that the inward flow comes from everywhere within. It isn't physically limited, and it is not subject to the laws that I try to describe. I would say that we are, for the most part, coated in the psychic equivalent of a thick layer of cement, from which every real influence bounces off. Our cement protects us effortlessly, and we love it.

The cement has to break in order for anything real to enter, and this is a psychically horrifying event which destroys everything we believe in and have assumed up to that point. It requires catastrophe; and catastrophe is not built into spiritual programs. On the contrary, almost all of the spiritual programs I've encountered consist of warm, fuzzy ways of making people feel good about themselves in life, or, at least, provide generic platitudes to calm us down.

Anyone who doubts that it is possible to sense the atoms in one's body needs to settle down and spend a lot more time working inwardly. It takes many years to understand this directly, and only then does one begin to see what a fool one is, no matter what one does add no matter where one is.

There is no substitute for finding oneself pinned between the sensation of God and the sensation of atoms, as a helpless individuality.

This is where the sensation of one's own nothingness begins. It cannot be a psychological idea or an intellectual concept; it cannot be a feeling of sorrow about how worthless or useless one is. It has to be an actual sensation in which a form of three centered consciousness and understanding arises: the sensation of atoms, and the sensation of God, as the lower and higher influences — and the seeing of the way in which consciousness lies between these two immense and mysterious forces, subject to laws from both directions, and, for the most part, uncomprehending.

This is not a bleak place, although my mother-in-law characterized it as such over Thanksgiving. (To be fair, what she said was bleak was the idea that man is a machine, which is perhaps slightly different than being nothing—which, I presume, she would find even more bleak.)

In any event, this is one of the richest pieces of psychological and spiritual territory one can occupy,  since it is indubitably real and based in a sensation of the body, which is the only real foundation any seed can grow in.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Of Definite Significance?

Mayan Figurine, Yucatan, Mexico

The fourth way differs from the old and the new ways by the fact that it is never a permanent way. It has no definite forms and there are no institutions connected with it. It appears and disappears governed by some particular laws of its own. 

“The fourth way is never without some work of a definite significance, is never without some undertaking around which and in connection with which it can alone exist. When this work is finished, that is to say, when the aim set before it has been accomplished, the fourth way disappears, that is, it disappears from the given place, disappears in its given form, continuing perhaps in another place in another form. Schools of the fourth way exist for the needs of the work which is being carried out in connection with the proposed undertaking. They never exist by themselves as schools for the purpose of education and instruction.

—Gurdjieff, speaking to P.D. Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous

I came across this passage while doing research on a different matter during my most recent trip to China.

It's worth considering. We ought perhaps to ponder the inarguable fact that the Gurdjieff work, as it exists today, has established an institution. The teachings and understandings that he left behind him have, furthermore, spawned a wide variety of subsidiary, auxiliary, derivative, and referential teachings, none of which appear to conform to the above conditions in any recognizable way. 

This fact is, so far as I can see, egregiously overlooked.

 Let's break it down in detail. First of all, he says that it is never a permanent way. That is, it eschews form— he says that specifically, it has no definite forms —and is thus in a constant state of change and evolution. It does not attempt to cement itself into a particular routine or configuration.

Secondly, there can be specific aims for work, but the point is that they are specific. The work of definite significance has to be, furthermore, work along three lines: work for the individual, work for the community, and work on behalf of God, that is, the higher principles that guide mankind. So a school of the fourth way has to have an intelligible aim; and I doubt it is anything so generic as "helping one to achieve a higher level of consciousness." No, this is too global to be considered significant or specific; rather, there need to be inner aims, and outer aims, which are tangible; concrete objectives, with intelligible, identifiable, achievable limits.

The purposefulness of a real school is defined by this statement: never without some undertaking around which and in connection with which it can alone exist.

That is, the existence of the school is dependent on the aim — and not the other way around.

I don't have any answers for the readership on this question, but it ought to be carefully and deeply examined by the Gurdjieff community at large, since it seems so strikingly absent from contemporary, so-called Fourth way schools and Gurdjieff teachings.

 Perhaps some think it's too much to ask that people come to grips with the uncomfortable questions—but should we not challenge ourselves with them?

I think so.

 I note with wry amusement that I am, by myself, hardly a school or a teaching, of any kind. I am, for that matter, just barely an actual human being... by the skin of my teeth, so to speak.

However, I believe that for myself, the current specific aim of my own inner work, and the outer work I engage in with others and by means of these writings, is to help people understand several specific things about inner development, particularly, how to grow roots within one's Being, and how to come to the organic sense of Being — that is, how to undergo an inner change so that one can sense one's atoms, as well as God. 

So at least there is something specific afoot here, even if it is guilty of adopting the definite form of this blog.

 More on that in the next post.