Last night, as I was falling asleep, I was pondering my daily experience of seeing the ego in action in every detail.
It's really quite extraordinary how every single action in life arises from desire; and it is even more extraordinary to see how closely desire is tied to ego. Even with some separation from this issue, one sees that there is a constant impulse, and energy, a motive force that comes out of ego — which is, in the end, a mindless little creature which simply does everything reflexively and, as Gurdjieff said, mechanically — and causes all of the behavioral manifestations that emanate from me.
This sounds pretty clinical and technical, but there is nothing clinical and technical about seeing how this impulse functions at a ground floor level. It is an intimate and uncomfortable experience, and one has to see the actual mechanism itself in action in order to understand why Gurdjieff said it is mechanical. It needs to be seen in a exact operation in order to understand what he meant; taken of itself, and on the level we generally understand it (things made of material, with gears and electrical connections in them, and so forth) it barely does the subject justice.
In point of fact, the question of our mechanical nature is directly tied to Will, as it was understood by Swedenborg and, as it happens, the ancient yoga schools. What I don't see is that real Will is quite different than this mechanical impulse of will that drives life. The umbilical cord of will as we experience and understand it, and as we mindlessly allow it to drive us through desire, is directly tied to ego; it is self-will. There is, I should note, a kind of Will that is distinctly formed by an inwardly flowing principle much larger than self-will; and the difference between this and my own will is unmistakable.
I'm quite interested in an intimate experience of self-will, because I'm interested in why so much of the motive force in life is connected to this automatic impulse, which can form many things — both good, indifferent, and bad — independent of my intelligence. Here, by intelligence I mean all the parts of my real Being, as opposed to the inherently selfish machine ego has constructed in me.
Things arise, and are then manifested outwardly without questioning them — whereas, when one is present at the arising of things, there is a sense of wonder at the fact that they arise at all; and then there is a question about whether they ought to arise in that way in the first place. There is, in other words, the question of intelligence and obedience; what does the intellect inwardly form in me, and what do I obey? This is where I begin to exercise discrimination.
In questioning the arising of motive force, I ask myself whether the outer action it calls for is necessary; and in many cases, I see that the connection between the inner arising of motive force and the outward expression of action have a certain inevitability to them, that is, I am obliged by circumstances to act according to this motive force, even in some cases where I don't specifically agree with it.
There are times when I choose to alter the response intentionally; but I'm not sure that this escapes the action of ego either, because it is so ubiquitous.
One needs, in the end, to adopt an intuitive approach to these things. The intuition, however, can't be a theoretical one; it has to be born in and stem directly from this act of seeing. One has to stay on one's toes; one never knows exactly where this will go, and one has to be ready to change direction in a heartbeat, according to the many and various uncertainties indicated through direct observation.
Again, it's a shame that this has to sound so technical; because in the end it is nothing more than an organic involvement with the actual process of one's life, as opposed to the abstraction one generally projects on the movie screen.