Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How thoughts form, part 2- the void

 There is a general and oft-repeated idea that "real" contact with the Divine ends up having no thought in it; that there is a void, or a "perfect" stillness, from within which Being arises, and which we should go back into.

 There is some truth in this, but from my own understanding of it, I'd say we aren't meant to dwell in this place. We occupy this level for a reason; and our function as translators, receivers, and mediators of the divine manifestation of thought requires us to do more than just dwell blissfully in the void. If one has all thought removed, it easily becomes a dysfunctional condition. The whole point that Mr. Gurdjieff tried to bring across to his pupils was that one must engage within life, not flee to some exalted spiritual territory of untouchability.

What this means is that while one is permitted to have contact with the silence and the void, it is a sacred place that ought not to be talked about or pushed towards; and in fact it cannot be a goal. Striving towards this is not helpful; whereas understanding the fundamental relationship to thought as it manifests inwardly and outwardly is very helpful indeed.  One ought not judge those who want to hide their head in the clouds and wallow in bliss, but I think much more is required of us if we wish to grow.

So we have to do more than enter the silence and encounter the void; more exactly, we need to form a clarity of relationship with thought within this life and within ordinary manifestation. This is part of what inner work is about; and this is one of the whole points of self-observation, which is meant to be a very precise examination of subjects like the one we are talking about here.

As I explained in the last post, an exact study is needed, and the banishment of ordinary thought unfortunately prevents such study. The whole point is to be present as thoughts arise, to see them, and to understand their nature as separate from ourselves. We need not raise the obvious philosophical question of why they are different than ourselves; in a certain sense, this study provides this information within the nature of its own action. The perception of the self, that is, self – remembering, is formed through the understanding of the difference between thought and Being; and this understanding cannot be developed if there is no thought—or, conversely, if there is no Being.

The self exists between Being and thought in a certain sense—that is, it is located in the territory between these two entities, one inward, the other outward. Even though thought, when it forms, appears to be an inward thing, it is already an outward thing by the time it takes form. This is how we form our outward aspect: much in the same way that we would take a  handful of snow and pack it into a snowball, before we throw it outwards into the world.

Now, anyone who has packed a snowball knows that you pay attention to the snowball, and you take care to get the right snow, the right texture, form it in the right size and shape, and so on. That is to say, making a snowball, which seems to be a simple thing, actually has a considerable art to it. When we form things inside, we are doing something like that: we're taking a wide variety of interconnected inner factors, memories, associations, etc., each one of which arises separately but is connected by a series of threads, and we're gathering them together into forms which we call words and sentences, after which we put them out into the outer world.

There is an intention behind this, because the outward form that we gather from our inward self is intended to act in one way or another on the outer. It does; and this is what forms a relationship. So we take the instantaneous manifestation of Divine Thought, allow it to break into its constituent parts, connect with all the different inner parts of our being formed through association (and connected, by the way, to both the body, the mind, and the emotions) and form this intention, which is then placed outwardly. Others respond and reciprocate; and this is how relationship arises, and the manner in which objects, events, circumstances, conditions become manifest.

All of it, however, is an expression of the original instantaneous manifestation of Divine Thought.

 The degrading factor at work in human beings is that because of a lack of sensation, there is little or no conscious awareness of this process. Only a connection to sensation can provide a precise and consistent awareness of the way this function manifests in us. It takes place at lightning speed; and left to its own devices, it is impossible for the ordinary mind to see how it is functioning. This is why bringing the centers together is, ultimately, necessary.

 A connection with sensation provides a grounding force or center of gravity from which we can observe the way we form these "snowballs" of outer manifestation and action. We become separate from them; and, in this way, we gain a form of power or mastery over them; another point that Jeanne de Salzmann makes in The Reality of Being. (That grounding force is, as I have mentioned elsewhere, also connected to external "assisting factors," especially the breath, and solar energies.)

This mastery is not gained by banishing thought, but rather by forming a completely new and different relationship to it. Inner stillness, in other words, is a form of separation; and it exists side by side with commotion, not in place of it.

One cannot, after all, know what stillness is without a concurrent yardstick to measure it by.

So we get there first; that is to say, the self is present at the instant thought is formed, in the moment when it is forming, and thus gains some say in its formation and outward manifestation and expression. This is perhaps one of the more esoteric points behind Gurdjieff's peculiar, rambling tale of the Karapet of Tiflis, which he inserted into Beelzebub's Tales (according to Peggy Flinsch) ex post facto— a point she made quite emphatically.

 I might mention to readers here that it is true that thought may entirely banish itself; but only for good reason, and under the right circumstances.

One is encouraged to learn to work in concert with the natural ebb and flow of this condition, rather than seek it as though one ought to have it all the time.


1 comment:

  1. great post...but: 'One ought not judge those who want to hide their head in the clouds and wallow in bliss, but I think much more is required of us if we wish to grow.' Does sound pretty much like a judgement....


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