Friday, May 2, 2014
Buffers, self will, and sin
Gurdjieff changed the language he used to describe a number of traditional themes, so much so that we don't always recognize them.
For example, he used the word buffers to describe the process within us which engages in self-will. Anything which prevents us from seeing what we are — a lie we tell ourselves in order to avoid seeing the truth about what we are — is a part of selfishness, or self-will. One says to oneself, as he explained, "I'm always on time," and thus one gives oneself a lie which allows one to always be late, to behave as selfishly as one wishes, without regard for how it affects others.
Every buffer is actually a selfish obstacle to the truth. It relies on our self-indulgence and self-will in order to exist and prosecute its actions.
Since Swedenborg explained to us quite succinctly that sin consists essentially of selfishness and self love, this question of buffers, which on the surface appears to be a psychological question, is actually deeply tied to the nature of sin; and Gurdjieff, although he used the word rarely, was always concerned with man's relationship to sin. When people hear that he referred to his work as esoteric Christianity, they always think that the emphasis is on esoteric; but they have it backwards. The emphasis in his work was always on Christianity; and that emphasis rested in great part on his examination of our sins, which is the principal theme — or, at least one of the principal themes, of Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson.
One could easily reconfigure his aphorism to read, "If a man knows something is selfish, and does it anyway, he commits a sin difficult to redress." Buffers are above all selfish; and, as such, they pave the road to Swedenborg's hell.
I don't see my sins; perhaps this is the point of the idea behind buffers. I collect lies that I tell myself that prevent me from seeing that I am, in essence, sinful. In order to correct this, it is just that my own sin be revealed to me, and I endure it. This idea of justice in seeing is important; because I need to see myself within sin, completely, to actually see what I am and how I am, and endure that. Visions of myself within goodness and within nice manifestations that make me feel warm and fuzzy are not good enough; and so, if I pursue a life where I only follow my bliss so that I am happy and feel great about everything, I am not confronting the anguishing and agonizing truth about my nature and the nature of life itself.
I need, in other words, to see myself within my sin, not within my goodness: and those who find themselves blessed with God's grace suffer in this way more, not less. Grace is the seeing; and in fact, even this understanding that I see things in myself is false; because I don't see, God shows. And of the greatest graces is to be shown one's sin. It is actually so difficult to see this; the buffers that Gurdjieff described always stand in the way.