Monday, June 30, 2014

To just sense goodness

Back to this question of just sensing goodness.

When I forget myself, I forget Being; and since all goodness lies within and arises from Being, when Being is forgotten, goodness goes with it. 

So to remember the Self is already to remember goodness, although it may not seem like that from within the abstractions of an active mind. The mind is too active, I see; and that takes me away from this essential goodness which lies at the heart of things, that is, where Being rests within me.

I’m back to this issue whereby goodness is of itself and owns itself; I can’t find it or be within it except to the extent that I open to this question, and that is done through body, not the mind. If I just relax and sense the nature of Being, goodness flows in naturally, because it is inherent and naturally seeks every crack and crevice within itself, if an opening is presented. But tensions prevent this; and oh, my, am I ever full of them.

Interestingly, once Being gains a toehold, it can exceed the resistance of tension; but this is unusual and can’t be counted at first; nor perhaps even after many years in inner work. There has to be a fundamental breaking of inner resistance for this to take place; and then I see both the power of Being and the power of my resistance together, whereas usually they are separated. Being has tremendous power, actually; it isn’t this weak, tenuous and ephemeral force which I think is Being, it’s a real power, a noble power that is actually greater than me by many orders. It's my own smallness and inability to Be that causes me to believe Being is weak. I simply can’t take it in.

To sip even some small taste of it, however —a taste which may be ever-present, if I will let it — is to know goodness; and to know goodness is to know one’s wish, not from the perspective of the coarser forces that drive desire, but the finer ones which inspire something more pure.

So perhaps I can just sense goodness, and allow that.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

A complexity of depth: on the question of the good

There is a difference between life and Being.

I so often seek goodness from my life; and there is goodness in life, but the goodness is not of life. This is where I get confused, because the goodness is not in life itself, but in Being. 

Being encounters life, which is an objective force without any inherent goodness of its own; everything in life just happens. It is in Being that goodness arises; and the goodness is in Being itself.

So if I attempt to get a sense of my life from life and within life, I may not get much of a sense of goodness; but if I seek goodness in Being, if I sense the goodness as emanating from Being, there is a more durable and inherent sense of real goodness.

So in trying to remember myself- in trying to sense myself- if I try to sense the pure, simple goodness of Being- as opposed to all of the very complicated things I bring both to my ordinary life and to inner work itself- there is more availability. Perhaps I can relax into Being; that might be possible, too. Certainly I can’t whip myself towards it; that would never do, yet I move towards Being through a mistaken attitude of tension more than in any other single way. That tension is born of intentional complication; I’m attracted to it. What good does that do? None; and yet I persist.

In relationship and in Being, there is an enormous complexity and a depth that can’t really be described properly; but it is nothing like the complexities of ordinary life, which are manifold but shallow, and largely destructive of one another in one way or another. A complexity of depth exceeds any complexity of circumstances. It is vertical, not horizontal, and so its measurements differ. I need to see that more often.

This morning, for example, on the way to the Hongqiao airport in Shanghai, I saw two birds over the wetlands outside the airport. It was a very simple and ordinary moment; yet it contained everything in it. Immediately the mind decided to interfere with it, but no matter. The birds contained all the truth of Being itself within them, both mine and their own, and in fact all Being, and there was no action of mind that could remove or negate the depth, the fullness, the wholeness, of that Being.

So it is in these very simple moments of Being that are not complicated by the manufacturing facilities that construct my inner conflicts that I find goodness; goodness that exists of Being, and is not mine. It is its own goodness, and I just encounter it.

In this way, no matter what I am trying to see, if I make an effort to just sense the goodness of Being, that's enough.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

A settled attitude

This morning, while speaking to my son, I mentioned to him that while it is impossible to change outer circumstances — I think I can, but this is my ego speaking — I can change my inner circumstances. That is, I can change my attitude.

My attitudes are fixed and settled, and above all my attitudes are habitual. They repeat themselves over and over again; and anyone who has carefully studied Mr. Gurdjieff's description of the infamous organ Kundabuffer— literally, the organ that prevents the vessel from receiving — will remember that its chief characteristic was that it caused people to derive a perverse satisfaction from doing the same thing over and over again.

This is exactly how my attitudes are. I enjoy them. They are a sweet food for my ego, a doughnut I keep munching on. It makes the ego fatter and fatter, but I could care less. It tastes good. All my attitudes taste good to me, and it isn't until I begin to question them that I begin to understand that I am completely enslaved by them.

The path towards understanding myself from within is to see that my attitudes are repetitive, that they come up again and again, obsessively, like tire tracks.  They have an attractive pattern to them, but in the end, they are just records of a heavy vehicle that has crushed everything in front of it on its way to nowhere.

I have to follow them quite carefully and tolerate their repetitive nature in order to see just how stupid they are. Yet still, while I'm doing this, I'm in love with them. I need to see that too.

While I was contemplating this question, I looked up the word attitude in The Reality of Being.  The concept is discussed a great deal; and always in this context of knowing myself, in seeing how I tilt in one direction or another, how my center of gravity is off kilter. Every one of my attitudes is attached to one thing or the other; and it's only when a finer energy is present in me that I am freed from them to one degree or another. I don't, as Jeanne de Salzmann points out more than once, do this or make it happen; I become open to it. And my tensions resist this opening.

The more I see myself, the more I see how fundamentally confused and conflicting my attitudes are. They are a jumble of ridiculous ideas, postures, judgments about others, not one of which is actually connected to the reality of who I am and where I am. If I am looking for the dream I live within, they comprise a good part of it — perhaps the greater part of it. And yet I must tolerate this; because that is who I am, and it is only in encountering this that I begin to admit my helplessness and the fundamental flaw embedded in my sinful nature: my own dreams of divinity and goodness pervert those things. I think I know them; but they only know themselves, and I am not of them. If I am very fortunate, if I receive an allocation of grace, then I can know something real; but on my own, no, that doesn't happen.

Yet the seeing and suffering of my attitude is exactly where an opening might take place, if only I am there for it.


Friday, June 27, 2014


In the sister essay to this piece, I examined thinking. Today, perhaps I will examine not thinking.

Sensing cannot be written down. And feeling cannot be written down. These two things are forever divorced from the page, no matter how many words I write about them. The absolute experience of sensing and feeling — which is an objective experience divorced from the mechanical or automatic ordinary action of sensing and feeling — are quite different than unconscious or ordinary experience. They are voluntary; that is, they appear on their own without any overt or covert direction from thought, and they participate without being thought; furthermore, they are distinctly separated from thought and act within their own agency, each of them, which is identifiable and unusually (for our ordinary “consciousness”) free of what we call thought. That is to say, they are thought; but thought formed in different realms.

To be free of ordinary thought is very, very unusual. One ought to understand, if one could, that thought is so absolutely persistent that it is like concrete for buildings: everywhere, and at the base of everything. It is a consistent pollutant, a contaminant that filters through all of ordinary action. It is only the voluntary and objective presence of feeling and sensation, if and when it arises, that can fully highlight and define the difference between thinking and the other two brains of Being.

 This question of voluntarism, of the other two modes of existence or “brains” becoming active in their own right and taking an unassailable place in the manifestation of Being, is constantly misinterpreted. Yet the independent action of these other brains, if it begins to participate, defines an area, a territory, of Being which is influenced by a finer rate of vibration. Every time that finer rate of vibration touches ordinary life and ordinary reality, it is degraded, because lower vibration of its nature automatically corrupts and destroys higher vibration.  (This is, incidentally, much of what Hieronymus Bosch’s painting Garden of Earthly Delights is all about.) So it is up to the aspirant to first clearly see the difference between these forces, and then do one's best, within the limitations of one’s own manifestation, to carefully separate and segregate them so that they do not mix. Mixing — which was called adultery in the Old Testament and in ancient traditions — already produces wrong results, and yet this is by far the most common response to finer energies, in all of us.

 Sensing cannot be written down. Feeling cannot be written down. I say this a second time, because the reader is reading just as I am writing, and one needs to be fully invested within a clear understanding — informed by sensing and feeling, if at all possible, and as much as possible — about the difference. Otherwise, one becomes increasingly enamored of books and writing, and thinks that the words contain what is true. 

Words can only contain what is true about words — of themselves, they cannot contain sensing, and they cannot contain feeling, because these two realms of experience and manifestation are separated forever from words, as they must be. Only the experience of the inward flow of a finer energy can bring one to these particular qualities of other-mind, and even then, words want to come in and interfere, whereas the three centers should each participate precisely and exactly within the range of their ability, two thirds of which is not dependent on thinking and words.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

A celebration of insufficiency

Readers know I am a somewhat concise thinker, at least, at some times. 

I've been known for my ability to think throughout  the 58+ years of my business and personal life; and indeed, I come from a family of thinkers, including a grandfather who was a bona fide foundational quantum physicist. So my thinking credentials are established and solid, if not irrefutable. ( Mind you, no one's ability to think well is irrefutable — even the best thinkers fail at times.)

 Being a thinker, with the acquired range of experience I have outside the realm of thought, I have the ability to recognize thinking for what it is with my other parts, and discriminate in a manner that understands the difference between thinking, sensing, and feeling, and the moments when thinking is clearly divorced from them, and lacks what is necessary to contribute to a full experience of Being.

As I grow older, I notice how insistently dominant thinking is in the exchange that people conduct on the question of Being. Friends of mine, many of whom are concise and incisive thinkers, think deeply on the matter, quoting Heidegger, Derrida, and so on. Now, these men (it's almost always the men, you know) are very smart indeed, and are good thinkers – but their limitations are never obvious within the prescribed range of what thinking is. Nonetheless, because they are so very smart, their thinking is often considered to be somewhat definitive on the questions they examine.

Let me make this as clear as is possible.One cannot think of the presence of God. 

One ought to be clear about this; and yet one isn’t, not at all. In encountering large bodies of work that think about the presence of God — because all written work thinks about the body of God rather than experiencing the body of God (“body” in this sense meaning the entirety) — one at once forgets that thinking is thinking. Thinking, in other words, cannot remember itself. 

Even in writing this— and for the reader, in reading it— one is already disconnected from the actual sensation and presence of God by the translation, which is outward and disconnected from the inward flow, the influence, of the presence of God. So unless one has this action active in one — at all times, and specifically enough to sense one’s lack — the words sound wonderful, and that is about all they can do. Words, I would caution, sound far less wonderful on the one hand when the presence of God is sensed — and, on the other hand, they sound far more wonderful in the sense that their very insufficiency becomes a celebration.

 This celebration of insufficiency has of itself become a fairly large piece of territory for thinking on things. Yet the celebration ought to be an inward one, which is conducted in feeling and sensation which form strong conjunction to thought; and instead, all of that pours outward into thought-forms which we encounter in various writings, verbal exchanges, and so on. The fact that the quality of the inner energy is degraded at once when it encounters any such material expression is already forgotten. People are mesmerized by words.

 Even Meister Eckhart —  and if he were alive to speak, I think he would agree with me here — was unable to avoid falling prey to this problem; and in some of the few encounters he had with actual critics he freely confessed to it. His own ego is involved in his sermons; everything we write always has our egos in it, right up until the point of death. And everything contaminated by ego falls short of this sensation of presence, which is shorn of any such influence, in and of and by itself.

 This question of being shorn of influence of ego is a delicate one, because presence, although it defines it, always ends up being interpreted through it. This is the weakness of the immanent, the material, the natural, that the vehicle itself is weak, and that the forces seeking to express itself through the vehicle are strong. When strength is filtered through weakness, what comes through is no longer strong, even though in its origins, it is pure. So if one is looking for an explanation about why the force and action of purification is so central to the growth of the soul, to the spiritualization of Being, one need not look further than this.

 Many of Eckhart’s sermons treat this question in various ways; and it’s interesting how much hyperbole he had to resort to to try and come to grips with it in any meaningful manner. His tactics, in the end, mimic the tactics of so many other mystics in that he attempted to negate and abandon everything in order to express the transcendent. 

Although the position is technically correct, it attempts to sidestep what can never be sidestepped, and that is the fact of our own existence and expression of the presence of God. 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nothingness and helplessness

Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff frequently told his pupils that they needed to acquire a sense of their own nothingness.

This is not a sense one acquires early in life; no matter what one comes to, it is a process measured in many decades; and even then, it is generally theoretical. The feeling aspect of the process—the one whereby one recognizes how absolutely helpless one is, not in the mind, but in the feelings themselves—does not yield readily. We're too hard; and if there is one thing I am convinced of, it is my own effectiveness.

This takes on perverse dimensions, because even in a confession of my ineffectiveness, I still ascribe agency to myself. If I am ineffective, it's just as much my own action as if I am effective; in blaming, I take ownership, I still identify. So both inner and outer failure, and inner and outer blame, become a form of inverse egoism. I don't see this; and without a doubt I am in love with my own perceived effectiveness, Whether it is the effectiveness of the via positiva— a positive attitude in which I can do – or the via negativa—a negative attitude which I cannot — in both cases, my agency is the active principle. When I am ineffective, I am effectively ineffective.

 Perhaps this dilemma is at the root of Meister Eckhart’s sermon 87, in which he preaches the complete extinction of everything that I am, including any propositions I have about God. The sermon is an excellent one; and it certainly urges us to move into indescribable territory, although it does so — as such missives always do — in the firm grip of an explicit irony. After all, strictly following the instructions of his sermon, both the describable and the indescribable must cease to exist in us, along with everything else. The sermon contains, in other words, the seeds of its own negation through transcendence.

This raises the question, of course, of whether transcendence can even exist under such circumstances, since it presumes a negation of immanence, which ought to be dismissed a priori, rather than invoked as a starting point from which to transcend. According to Eckhart, everything must go – the bathwater, the baby, and the river and the womb that they came from. 

While there is a certain intimate truth to this that (in a continuing and perpetual irony) demands description as indescribable, the fact is that on all other territory — and there is a wide swath of it between here and Eckhart’s landing place (well, in point of fact, lack of landing place)—we find ourselves in all the places where the indescribable simply leaks through and acquires descriptions. 

The proposition that one transcends even the understanding of God working in or through one in the midst of absolute transcendence presumes that prior to the moment of absolute transcendence, nothing of it is knowable or can be known. I think we can allow ourselves to be located on more digestible and understandable territory, since even Eckhart himself advises at the beginning of the sermon that few will ever properly understand it.

 Eckardt’s exhortation to transcend the created and all creatures beggars the question. Creation and creatures must have purpose within the presence of God, or they could not and would not exist; thus, the complete extinction of creation and creatures from the point of view that looks towards God becomes a form of senselessness. Indeed, Eckardt seems to advocate this senselessness, in some senses (if you will allow the pun); yet within the actual state of unknowing everything, forgetting everything, losing everything, and becoming nothing, presence is still absolute, despite the fact that the word is essentially useless.

 Presence of God itself is, in other words, paradoxical; and if there were one word that could be used to define what “I” am in the light of this revelation, it would be helplessness, because to be helpless is to have no recourse whatsoever, whether it be recourse towards what is or recourse towards what is not. One is suspended; and in that suspension, presence appears.

 I would argue with Eckhart here. God is not so entirely intangible as he would have it; and even the loftiest discourses are, in the end, fragmentary when it comes to such questions. He has, perhaps, succumbed to a temptation to overcomplicate the question of sensing God's presence...

 which ought to be quite a simple thing, after all.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Looking in the gutter

God's gifts flow endlessly.

To be sure, these are just words; and I destroy them as easily as any truth mishandled. It is the easiest thing, after all, to take all things for granted and dismiss them; my eyes do not meet the morning freshly, and my heart does not engage with the moments that could most nourish me. 

It seems, somehow, that I am forever turning away; and this is all I have in me. Grace, now; that is too familiar, and it has all the things I lack. Yet I can't invoke it; and I am left bereft from moment to moment hoping for it, since without I'm lost.

Grace: some call it attention. Yet this is dangerous; it makes it sound as though I could have it, when really it belongs strictly to itself. Through itself, it leads me directly to worship; and no one who has not tasted it can appreciate how inexorably this line is drawn within, from a lack of self, to the deep and committed praises of the Lord. I would be within this all the time, if I could; for in those moments nothing is more right and pleasing than to praise the Lord. But I am withdrawn; and left to wonder why.

Every formulation of these principles to me seems false; the forms, as beautiful as they are, are stale too, as are the ones who prosecute them. Even the believers fall short, simply by believing; they do not suspect that their faith ought to lead them past belief and into the unknown paths of love, where even belief itself is a sin, because it falls too short and carries a suspicion in it. And I? I know the difference between these things, yet still it isn't enough. If the Lord, through Grace, removes my doubt, it is only one room half-cleaned in a house full of dirt. Here I stand, not believing, but knowing; yet I am still indequate, and there is no way of my own towards heaven.

One would think. One would think the knowing would suffice; and yet sin must be purged throughout. This is not a task for days or months or years, but lifetimes; and yet I want everything now, even though I know I need to be brought gently to the many moments of my penance. Time flows the way it does for this reason; it carries me past what I lack over and over again. At its best, it brings me to my worst. Not once, but over and over again, and most especially when I think I have become good. Then something happens that pulls the wool from my eyes; and once again, I am reminded of my mortality, and all its implications. I can think the good; but cannot do it. To do the good is only from God and through God; I forget this constantly.

To that extent, a hypocrite I remain, and a coward. These are the most silent sins; for who would own them? Yet I think we are all there together, in these things.

To turn Oscar Wilde's famous quote on its head, we are all under the stars; but some of us are looking in the gutter.


Monday, June 23, 2014

The great terror: meditations on Death, part IV

Love was the reason of her standing,
Sorrow of her weeping.

-Meister Eckhart, sermon eighty-six

According to the tradition, so said Origen; and the emotive states are of themselves here, not of Mary Magdalene, or of God, but just of themselves. 

The tomb represents all created things; and it is empty because in the resurrection of the Christ, all created things are surpassed. 

We stand, in an inner sense, before this moment together; and it is carefully defined by sorrow. I say carefully, because this simple image is exquisitely constructed to convey so many truths in the most minimal of brush strokes. Here is the sorrow of His Endlessness, deftly rendered in the muted shades of death; not just the apparent death of Christ (which is ultimately defeated) but the death of all things, of all creation; and, as it happens, even the death of God Himself, in an apparent violation of both the natural and supernatural order. For God to die, you see, everything would have to not be; and of course this is impossible, although our sorrow cannot sense it, due to the intellectual—not-feeling— nature of the premise.

 Here we have the bare bones of the proposition, before it is expounded (see sermon 87): an empty tomb, a weeping woman; and all of her emotive forces purified, existing now of themselves alone, as natural emanations of divinity. 

This Spartan, purely emotive/feeling landscape is perhaps too far a reach for me; yet in our personal encounters with death, enough of the premise arrives for me to intuit understanding. A wordlessness emerges in me in the face of this mystery; no grief is sufficient, even grief finds its own stillness within itself. 

In this territory, no analysis or words can fully process what has taken place; it lies in the poet's realm, the realm of love and death, and as every poet can tell you, this realm belongs to God alone. That which is fished from its dark waters is fished through luck and grace alone, and not by any doing. It is the doing, in fact, that stymies me; yet in love and death, it is truly done, this thing of itself which is the unadulterated Will of God.

So I must have love, and I must have death; else I could not be human, for these two polarities define me. Birth is nothing more than a celebration of Being; love creates it and motivates it, and death defines it. Of the two, love is the greater; but without its dark sister, there would be no life, and no Mercy.

The strangest thing is that death makes Mercy necessary; death is the servant, and Mercy the master. So, in the story of the tomb, death—the great terror—becomes the absolute servant of resurrection.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Death is Just: Meditations on Death, Part III

The reverberations of my father's death continue to echo through me. It is a meal to be digested slowly; and so many flavors in it take time to be known well.

Our deaths are just; we are not good enough. We should remember men and women not just for their good deeds, but for their bad ones; and more so in death. I was never much for the funerals held by hypocrites, where sinners are whitewashed to accomodate all the grieving relatives. Far better—or at least more truthful, to be certain—the anti-celebrations described by Mr. Gurdjieff in his third series, whereby those who knew the dead gather for three days to remind one another of their mortal sins.

We are not good enough; and mortality is given to remind me that I grasp too hungrily this paradise of life, which I breathe in and use as though it were my own. I'm barely able, even in a life of prayer, to come to a tiny fraction of appreciation for the miracle I'm given; I may catch whiff of it now and then, if I'm lucky, in a blue jay's liquid warble or the flight of an oriole; but by and large the beauty and wonder of it all escapes me. Even if Grace allows me to touch it for a moment, Grace comes and goes by its own laws and tides, and my shores are wetted and dried only by its own motion, not ours. Something is taken from me when loved ones die; and if I am truthful with myself, I deserve the loss. It's only by that loss I can know how far short I fall.

In a certain sense, we are all good men and women; and yet the fundament is soiled and broken. Born in the pure ground of God, I lose sight of it; and spend a lifetime trying to return.

My father was in some pragmatic sense an apostate—he did not believe in an afterlife, and groused about it so frequently the minister (a man of potentially disturbing practicality) brought it up at his funeral, not once, but twice—as though the congregation needed a proper shock, to be delievered by remembered irascibility. I think the contrarian spirit of my father moved him then; but no matter. In the last half-hour of his life, gasping his way into eternity one belabored breath after another, my father, propper up at forty-five degrees, suddenly raised his head off the pillow and opened his eyes.

This was remarkable because he had had his eyes closed for nearly a full day by this time; he was uncommunicative, unresponsive, motionless except for the occasional nervous spasm that ran through his body in an electric current, contracting his arms and fingers. There was little or no strength in him; yet he raised his head, and his eyes— ravaged for years by diabetes until he could no longer see— opened wide,

and they saw.

They saw, oh, they saw; and one could see the light they saw in them, could see the absolute astonishment and the unequivocal comprehension that dawned in those eyes as they looked out over the abyss of the grave into the other side.

This moment includes everything one has been; there is the instant where one comprehends not only what heaven consists of, but what one's own Being is made of. In that moment, we're all found wanting; and it's only the mercy of death that delivers us from this life of sin into a world where we have, perhaps, a chance of reconstruction: a resurrection into life of the spirit where we can finally reconnect with the divine, much better than the flesh can do.

So what strikes me, a week out from my father's death, is not the ordinary, banal nature of it all; although that element is there. It is the sheer nobility of death; and this comes in a measure most difficult to appreciate. It isn't possible to understand why Gurdjieff called it a sacred process—the scared roscooarno— unless one experiences it firsthand in such a manner. 

Only then does one realize how carefully orchestrated the process is; and how well met.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Meditations on Death, part II

If death, both literal and figurative, is the dominant force on the left, or spiritual, side of the enneagram, what does this tell us about the nature of life?

The enneagram’s divisions assign the notes re, mi, fa to birth and life; sol, la, and si are related to spiritualization and death. 

This is logical enough to be considered obvious once seen, since these two opposing and reciprocally dominant forces are the two faces of the great engine of existence; and if the enneagram can explain “everything,” as Gurdjieff indicated, surely it must explain this cycle, not just implicitly, but explicitly.

In understanding this cycle, we find the note la, or purification, in the middle between being and wisdom, occupying a reconciling, intermediary position. Desire occupies this position on the other side of the diagram. This too makes absolute sense, since, in all the great teachings, we learn that desire corrupts; and corruption requires purification. The mirrored structure of the diagram locates both the sin and its ultimate solution in reciprocal, perfectly balanced positions.

The same balanced reciprocities exist on the other notes. Wisdom (si) surpasses and corrects for its reciprocal force of the material (re), and Being (sol) surpasses and corrects for power (fa.) In this way, the forces dominating the left side of the enneagram surpass, in all qualities, those of the right; and yet these forces relate to death, not life. In this way the enneagram illustrates the principle that dying to all that is represents the superior path, even though the process of death seems, to us, to be the negative one. In a sense, the diagram stands everything we believe about life on its head, because it turns out that the point of life is to die. Not a concept that will find much traction in today’s world, but in esoteric traditions it is a common one.

All the higher good belongs to the death of the material, the death of desire, the death of power; the higher good is embodied in the opposite of the material world and of earthly life. 

We are born to surrender; but we must surrender consciously. That is to say, a surrender that is not made voluntarily has no value. Everything ultimately surrenders mechanically through the organic process of natural death; and this is clearly represented by the passage from si to do. Here, we meet the inevitable; not a proposition, but a fact: everything dies.

Let us remember that Gurdjieff wrapped up his magnum opus Beelzebub’s Tales with a soliloquy to the effect that only a constant sense of one’s own death could help mankind to evolve and escape their inner slavery; and that all of life was a preparation for death—an idea shared by other authorities from Swedenborg to Sufism.

The positioning of this selfsame shock of death itself in the wrong place on the enneagram indicates that the process of dying, and the need to die, begin in the passage from fa to sol; the passage from Power to Being. 

Among the many explanations and interpretations of the enneagram, particularly the question of the incorrect position of the second conscious shock, this one stands as, for me, the most definitive one. The shock represents death; and we must die to ourselves in order to be born. One can’t think up a more logical or definitive point for the diagram to address; and it does so not casually, but comprehensively, since the entire structure of the cycles it embodies are turned to an ample illustration of the principle, not just in its gross outlines, but in the details of its particulars.


Friday, June 20, 2014

The Dominant Force: Meditations on Death, part I

Death is the dominant force on the left side of the enneagram.

While this statement may sound bold, I will explain. It all came up as a result of an essence-friend who asked why the second conscious shock is in the wrong place on the diagram. His question, in part, read thus:

I have an enneagram question which I hope you may shed some light on for me. I am considering what Ouspensky indicates in a “Lawful Incongruity” in the enneagram at the point 6 = sol-la.

I do not understand why this point in the inner triangle is “in its wrong place” (Mister Gurdjieff, Search, 292) when it would seem to belong nowhere else but that place in order to make an equilateral triangle. If it were in fact at si-do (point 8) this wouldn’t make sense in terms of the Law of 3 and the inner triangle. Why shouldn’t it be at point 6—and why is this considered a “wrong place?” I’m not clear on this.

I believe I have a grasp of why it is in fact at point 6—the point where Impressions enter into the food octave—and even what is required of me here, in terms of not expressing negativity or reacting to impressions. So Lawfully it appears in fact to belong here, this interval.

Why is it considered out of place? Mister Gurdjieff continues: “The final substance in the process of the food octave is the substance si (‘hydrogen’ 12 in the third scale)
Which needs an ‘additional shock’ in order to pass into a new do” (Search, 292).

OK, so this “additional shock” would appear to be needed at the point “si” or 8—but then the triangle would be all thrown out of kilter—and thus why is it a point 6 (impressions) and how does this affect the food octave at point 8?

My initial response to him included this link, which is an extract from my book, The Universal Enneagram.

The Unbalanced Enneagram

As to the greater questions on the matter—why, for example, the shock being in the wrong place says something about the nature of the work required to pass from si to do— the following.

First, let me say that trying to understand this question from the point of view of impressions relates to the idea of non-attachment, gleichgültigkeit, or, what Eckhart called equanimity— that is, all things are of equal validity. (Do not confuse this with the incorrectly sometimes-used term "indifference," which in my ears rings as a lack of proper sacred-feeling capacity, not a spiritual asset.)

Yet my interests in this question are more macroscopic in nature, as you will see. I fear the minutia of the food octaves distract us from the overall questions of Being, which are not for the scientists but for the artists. I have already made a choice that puts me in the latter category, so trying to be a scientist here is laudable but futile.

I don't expect readers to bone up on the relatively huge amount of material I covered in my book, the universal enneagram. So they will have to take my word for it when I say that both the yoga and Sufi schools, from which the diagram is originally derived, understood the point sol to indicate the moment at which real Being appears in a man. 

This only happens after the transition is achieved from the right to the left-hand side of the diagram. Everything on the right-hand side is material, everything on the left-hand side is spiritual.

The passage from si to do represents the final surrender to the absolute. It is the passage from the immanent back into the transcendent. It thus represents absolute and complete surrender, or, death, which is the subject at hand anyway. 

In metaphysical terms, it is the death of the ego and the ordinary being which has been invoked (but not completed) in the spiritualization of the left side of the diagram.

The note la represents purification; it also represents intonation and prayer, through which purification is achieved. This is why it is in the position of the throat chakra, through which sound is emitted. Sound is vibratory, and it is understood that the nature of purification is a purification of vibrations. One will notice many essays in the Reality of Being are about this, if the point is understood.

Locating the shock in what appears to be the wrong place here indicates that between being (sol) and purification (la), a surrender must take place. 

That is to say, we cannot just assume we're going to surrender between si and do when we get to it; after Being is developed, the entire progression from that point consists of surrender. So in a very real way, what the diagram is telling us is that after we develop Being, everything we do consists of dying in one way or another.

Intentional suffering is, in other words, a way of dying. It is the dominant force on the left side of the diagram. When Meister Eckhart says (see sermon 87, The Complete Mystical Works) that a man must become nothing, he is speaking about this — and in fact, that sermon may be the most important single esoteric work from early Christianity on this subject.

This relates to a question I currently have, which is about our helplessness. We are actually in the way of dying once we develop being; and so digesting death, both in its objective material processes related to the body, and in its processes related to the soul, we must confront it directly.

 More on this tomorrow in the second installment of this subject.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The measurement of desire

Some notes and observations from my walk with the famous dog Isabel this morning. It was spitting down rain, and an impressive dark front formed over Westchester county, across the Hudson river.

Note the first:

I never want to do enough. 

I am always measuring myself by my desire; and my desire is always to somehow allow myself to fall short.

But I try to handle my inner life by asking myself to go one step past what I desire. There is no need for a superhuman effort, even though these are sometimes important; what there is a need for this to go one step past what I want to do, which is almost always selfish in one way or another. This needs to be looked at; it's so habitual, really, that I rarely notice it. I take my selfishness for granted; and that marks the line where hell's property begins.

That last step is a step over the line that separates selfishness from my duty. For some reason I cannot precisely explain, I see that my duty generally lies just one step past my desires; and this is where the whole idea of demand comes in. Outer demands are everywhere, constantly trying to capture my attention; but they don't mean anything, really. It's only the inner demands that account.

In this way, anything that goes past the point of what I like — what I desire — even a small thing, is already a large step. 

I have to take this step with an indifference towards my ordinary self; getting involved with my ordinary self always leads to rationalizations and (in a way that so often secretly motivates me) self-pity. 

This doesn't mean that I am cruel and merciless towards my ordinary self; no, I take this last step over the line into selflessness with love and compassion, knowing that in the end my ordinary self will also benefit, even though it doesn't think so.

This is because there is a satisfaction in the fulfillment of duty. I have been brought to this planet to learn how to take one step past what I want, into what is good for others. It's this service that counts.

Note the second:

I usually speak of desire as though it were good thing; I am supposed to follow my dreams, my bliss, etc. This kind of nonsense prevents me from seeing how urgent it is for me to suffer my desires.

If I want to know who I am, I have to see my desire; and this always involves looking ego straight in the eye, something I almost never do or want to do. 

Why, after all, what I want to be honest with myself and admit how selfish I am? That wouldn't do, not at all. 

Selfishness relies on not being looked at to accomplish its goals.

Note the third:

Be careful not to practice inner work as a solitary vice, something for yourself. Make sure that it is always practiced relationship, with an attention to the other.

I'm tempted to live in a secret, personal space. It has many comforts; and many things that help me are imparted there. But the intention of inner work is to bring me into relationship, first with myself, of course — but then, always, with the outer, into which I ought to bring a little of the light I am sent.

If I keep the light to myself, I am doing what Christ called hiding my light under a bushel. This is signifies a failure to be in proper relationship with the outer; love cannot be expressed unless there is relationship to express it in.

Love, furthermore, is never important when it is expressed in the easy situations, but only in the hard ones. 

When love is easy, there is almost no need for it; it is only when it becomes difficult that it's true value is revealed.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Be, then think

Over the last week or so, I've pondered this idea of selectivity several times. Yesterday, I discussed it in terms of ratings, evaluation, and measurement; and about a week ago, there was an essay about how we want to reject some things in life, but not others, so that we cherry pick our life for the things we like and the things we feel okay about.

This morning, walking up the stairs to the office, I was distinctly impressed by the fact that I have a destructive tendency in me. I think all human beings are like this. We have an impulse towards destruction which comes, perhaps, not even from the animal; it comes from deeper down, from some deeply irrational part that wants to destroy for no reason whatsoever other than that destruction can be accomplished. These unfeeling and unthinking impulses are hard to explain; perhaps they emerge from some universal force that requires destruction.

In any event, my impression is that there's a connection between the rejection, the selectivity, and this impulse for destruction. All of them are unfeeling and mindless; every one of them is automatic. And when I cherry pick, when I select, when I evaluate, I am always missing something. There is, after all, a distinctive value in the bad as well as the good; and each one can teach me. Yet when I reject the bad, I don't see the teaching in it — and because I like to reject the bad, I miss half the teaching, since, without a doubt, fifty percent of everything is bad, give or take.

I cannot cherry pick existence. I am here to inhabit it fully. The question is what kind of sustenance I draw from it; how it feeds me. There is a reciprocal feeding that takes place between the finer energies that penetrate my existence from within, and the coarse energies that enter from outside the body in the form of various impressions. In categorizing, and conceptualizing, in — for all intents and purposes — creating objects, events, circumstances, and conditions (for in the end I make them in my mind) I devalue.

This is a strange concept, because in the categorizing and conceptualizing, I steadfastly believe I am engaged in the opposite action — that I am valuing. This is a product of the intellectual mind, and it is so powerful that it overwhelms even the most intelligent people, ones who ought to be able to see that there is a very distinct difference between Being and thinking.

This confusion between being and thinking characterizes mankind, in fact, for everyone thinks they Are, instead of understanding that they Are, and then thinking.

 In this peculiar way, then, the intellectualization of existence and the outwardness of life have a destructive action on Being; by now, it is so obscured that I am not even sure what it is.

 But encountering a different energy can help.

 The Dharma is a single thing, a whole thing. This business of dividing it is a dangerous one.

In sermon 84, Meister Eckhart advises us:

The third thing is that the soul should ascend for the same she finds in God, for there is no different. Wisdom and goodness are one in God. What wisdom is, that very same is goodness, and what is mercy is the same as justice. 

If goodness in God were one thing and wisdom another, there would be no satisfaction for the soul in God: for the soul is by nature inclined to goodness, and creatures all have a natural longing for wisdom. 

For a soul overflowing with goodness, if goodness were one thing and wisdom another, she would have to abandon wisdom with pain; and if she wanted to pour forth wisdom she would have to abandon goodness with pain.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Unattached to attachment

Some months ago, a person gave me an extensive set of notes taken from group meetings I was in some 25 to 30 years ago.

The notes from the meetings were interesting; yet one of the things that struck me the most was how someone had written notes on the notes. "Excellent meeting," said one note. And so on. 

The temptation to evaluate, it appears, extends to everything and everyone. Nothing is exempt from it.

It seems impossible to absorb Meister Eckhart's teaching that everything is of equal value (gleichgültigkeit.) He expounded this on many occasions; and the concept is hardly foreign to other teachers or spiritual works. 

Yet we insist, don't we, in saying that some things are more equal than others?

The reason for this, I am convinced, is psychological, and not rooted in any real sensation of Being. To the sense of Being itself, all things are equal; all events flow past me, and each one can be let go of in one way or another. Even those that appear to be attachment I simply accept as I move through them and go by them. In this sense, I have to understand something new, and that is the idea that I must become unattached to the attachment itself.

The attachment does not go away; but the personal investment in it can become untethered, so that it is not dragged from moment to moment with me, but just arises. This frees my attention to invest itself specifically in the sensation of Being, rather than objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. 

Within this context, there is always a certain goodness; the value comes from the sense of Being, and the lack of value comes from not having it.

Right now, as I dictate these notes, for example, I am walking the dog. It is very early in the morning. 

I pass a mass white roses near the creek; their fragrance fills the air, and at the same time — in that very instant — I realize that my father is dead. 

Each of these conditions provokes a response, but neither one of them is actually bad, even though one response is sorrowful and the other one is joyful. They coexist instantly and simultaneously; just as this moment where I climb up the rocks on the hill does. 

I think; and then there are these emotional, sensory, and physical experiences, all valued through the sense of Being. They are all excellent, in a certain sense. They surpass the good and the bad and move into Being, which is a form of food that is eaten; not good or bad, but necessary.

All food that is necessary produces a sense of well-being when it is ingested; that is, a sensation of health and of rightness. This is part of what the sensation of Being ought to be associated with. It is an acknowledgment of the vigor of life and its truth. 

I don't need to rate it; just experience it.



I've been watching... with alarm... how casually cruel we are. Unconsciously, unthinkingly, automatically cruel.

This kind of thing goes on without a second thought. You can smell it on folk; and there are those who seem to be sincere, but in fact have a thin veneer of attractive decency laid out over a depth of cruelty and bad intention that penetrates to the bone. Such individuals are everywhere; and they are terrible influences, yet we seem to tolerate them as though there were something normal about cruelty, as though it were acceptable and in fact even the price we pay in order to get the lives we have. No one speaks out about it, either; why do we tolerate lies and cruelty? I suppose it's because we are afraid.

Individual bad deeds and disasters are bemoaned; yet I think it is the death of a thousand cuts through small acts of cruelty towards one another that builds the sociopaths. We ought to do better than this, really; and yet who has a really kind word for the next person?

Watch the small actions in life, because betrayal does not begin in foreign lands through the intrigue of double agents; it begins right here at home, in the inner life. If we don't become responsible for ourselves, we become cruel and unfeeling; this kind of behavior needs to be observed careful over a period of many years in order to understand it better.

I can't think of anything more destructive or insidious than the small actions which destroy others. They are wielded so often; and these weapons act on every person, make no mistake about it. These things which do harm to the soul do a far greater harm than any harm which can be done to the body.

 How can I be forthright and not harm in this way? It's a question that ought to be in front of me more specifically, and more often.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Drawn to the outer

I'm not sure any of us see how we are continually drawn to the outer.

Outer events seize us; so often, they draw us to discord, conflict, and war. Yet we turn to them over and over again as though they hold the answer to what our lives mean.

It is categorically impossible to know what life means except from within; and in the same way, it is impossible to have a real morality except from within, or to know truth except from within. This is because real truth and real morality can only be perceived by and develop in any human being as a result of the inward flow of the divine.

Throughout the course of life, an impression arrives that everyone categorically believes they know what this means, whereas no one actually does. People read a great deal about these matters, and here then discuss them in universities, churches, temples, and mosques, and assume that their outward parts understand them. Everything gets interpreted through these outward parts; and those parts provide assurances that the understanding is good.

But the understanding is not good. It's attached to the outer parts; and they can't understand this question.

The inward relationship to Being must form before the words come and before the understanding is assumed; it arrives in the breathing and the pulse, in the organic sensation. This is the foundation and the fundament of the inward flow. A good connection with this will begin to open the door; and if we go through that door, there, perhaps we can begin to see what is good. Before that, everything we think is good is attached to the wrong things.

Temptation always draws me towards the outer; and I don't see this. It's possible for me to gain a proper understanding of this, but only by letting go of the outer. The outer is of the ordinary self and of selfishness; everything that comes from it is selfish in one way or another. The inner part, because it belongs to essence, and, ultimately, to the soul, its intellect, and God, is unselfish, to the extent that the self it belongs to is greater than me.

Readers who have read widely in Gurdjieff's material will recall that he confessed, in his third series, that even he could not remember himself; and it is this inward remembering of the inner self, the soul, that he referred to. Even powerful yogic abilities did not help him to remember this part. And he saw, always and everywhere, that only this new relationship to being could have a real and permanent meaning in his soul.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

One's whole life

Beach at Sunrise, Kitty Hawk, NC 
One's whole life is the teacher.

Every object, event, circumstance, and condition—and above all, every person—that one encounters is part of the teaching. The temptation is to be selective, to pick this or that person or event as the teacher or the teaching, but this is an erroneous view. Everything is the teacher, and to mistake it and think otherwise subverts the process.

The teaching of one's life—the complete flow of everything that enters over the course of a whole lifetime—always forms itself as a single entity that has to be comprehended as a single entity, and taken as that whole, it is the teaching. Yet one always wants to split it into pieces and then select only the parts one likes—then that is construed as the teaching, while what one rejects isn't.

To reject one part of the teaching, however, is to reject all the parts, because life is a whole thing which must be swallowed whole in order to accept the teaching. Once one starts to pick and choose one sacrifices the most essential parts of the teaching, because it is the parts we do not like that make all the difference.

This is one of the reasons Gurdjieff said, Like what it does not like. He was alluding to the wholeness of the teaching; and this is the essential nature of his teaching, that it takes place in life and that all of life is the teacher. He wanted his pupils to sit up and especially take notice of the parts that they did not like; because these are the exact parts that teach the most.

What they teach us, of course, is how we reject; and if there is any one thing that sleeping man or woman does better than anything else, it is reject. One rejects others; one rejects the parts of one's self one does not like; one rejects religions, businesses, philosophies, sciences, just about anything. With this rejection comes a kind of cynicism about life that few escape; and it's only in beginning to see life as the teacher that this cynicism, this hatred, in many cases, of life itself, of one's self, and of others begins to be seen.

So how does one swallow one's whole life, and begin to see all the people in it as teachers? It's quite interesting, really; think about others and what each person can teach one about one's self. Every reaction one has is, if seen, part of a teaching about who I am; and perhaps I begin to get somewhere once I see this.

The life of rejection creates an atmosphere of automatic and intentional cruelty; this needs to be seen carefully, because it is our cruelty towards others for which we are held accountable. None of us do well in this area, which is why we must penetrate our sin to the bone and see it clearly.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Put something good in the world

Shoreline, sunrise: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, June 7, 2014

I am still in the same morning filled with yesterday's echoes of my father's death. I woke up at 3:30 am and could not get back to sleep; so I found myself on the beach early, with the sun to meet me. A number of poems came to me this morning; although, as I told my wife, there are no great poets; only God, and attentive scribes. 

As minds often wander after a great shock, so does mine; and I found myself contemplating my mother's piano, thinking of Mr. Gurdjieff's collaboration with Thomas de Hartmann, and the glorious music it produced. I know something of how this worked; Mr. Gurdjieff was capable of bringing the energy that made the work possible, but the energy—and the work, and the music itself—never belonged to either one of the men; all were of God. Later, people who don't understand this argued about whether Gurdjieff or de Hartmann wrote and "owned" the music; but no one owns God, although everyone is part of Him.

This is why we are given energy; and if we cultivate it, if we try to open it, it is never for ourselves, but only to put something good into the world. Else, why live? The energy of itself has no use; and to use it just to feel one's own goodness, or to exalt in one's own inner freedom, would be criminal indeed. No, it only comes so that we may have the power to do good; and by this I mean true good, not the accidentally cruel ersatz moralities of mortal men. The use, such as it is, is in relationship.

We do have this power; and if we share it, it is always with love.

 It always brings love, too; for that is its essential property.

Never forget this as you work; as and if it comes, we are given such Grace only to share it for the benefit of others.


Friday, June 13, 2014

The elements of Heaven, Part II

As I mentioned yesterday, I sat with my father for the last three days as he died.

This is a kind of inner and outer work that can only be appreciated through experience; the impressions one takes in are ruthless and uncompromising, and attention of the utmost kind is required. It reminded me quite exactly of attending the birth of children; but there is no need to rhapsodize about either event. Neither is brutish or elevated; they are simple facts to be appreciated, each of which brings a depth of experience to respect and even cherish, since without them we cannot possibly begin know what this life is.

At both birth and death, I realize I cannot know what this life is except only through the living of it, which is, the ancient sages and masters recognized, the one absolute. I can only know Being itself; all else, I graft onto it as an accessory. Yet it's always the grafts I treasure, thinking that blossoms and fruits alone give justice to the vine. The vine is where all the strength lies; the rest is sweet but temporary.

My father's struggle, of course, made a great impression; but so too did the enormous compassion and support of all the souls that gathered around him as he died. At our best, we humans have capacities for love so great that even angels look on in envy; why, then, do they so often fail us? It is a mystery. Perhaps it's our mortality itself that lights this fire in us, and nothing else will do; if so, death's well met, since it produces so much wonder.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

From within, part IV: the elements of heaven

Our bodies are sacred, and have an elevated quality to them; so we value them, although perhaps not quite as we should.

The body has power; and anyone who wishes to understand this better can handle a dog, or any other animal, just to appreciate the enormous physical presence and power of bodies. Animals have a much better, fully intact connection with their bodies, which the sheer vigor of their musculature expresses. We ought to have nearly the same qualities, yet they're lacking; humans have nowhere near the proportional strength of even very small creatures.

Human beings become very attached to the body without understanding its nature, except through the coarse nature of its sensuality... its sexuality... its cravings. I'm identified with the body; powerfully so, and this identification is to some extent inescapable during the course of ordinary life.  Even when I speak of the soul, I speak of it through the body, and interpret it (as illogical as it is) through the body. So naturally when I say "yoga," I think of yoga of the body, and I practice yoga of the body. It fits well with what I am and who we are, both as individuals and as cultures.

This addiction to physicality is ubiquitous. In failing to be connected with the body, the mind fails to understand it; and even when the mind and the body develop quite well over the course of a lifetime, they do so without the mutual understanding and relationship they ought to have. They are like a boy and girl, next door neighbors, who cordially grow up together, mature, get jobs, and become effective in life without ever becoming engaged, marrying, and having children. The attraction, the intimacy, the romance are lacking; they don't even suspect that such things are possible. It is almost as though the mind and the body never reach inner puberty; a quality it is difficult to describe, but that relates to the experience of a finer energy in the body and its fundamentally procreative nature. No matter how clever the mind gets, and no matter how adept movement becomes, they remain, in this esoteric sense, rather sterile. Both are hence accustomed to a form of inner masturbation which is—unlike the outer form— legitimately unhealthy, because it prevents a right relationship that allows the seed of sacred feeling-qualities to enter a human being.

I do very much need the body; it's the fundamental vehicle for expression of Being on this level. Yet it is made of coarse materials, and the finer materials it can encounter, ingest, and deposit in itself for the edification of the soul are too subtle to affect it under casual circumstances.

The body is the foundation of Being; yet because it makes the doors and windows possible, I mistake it for the house. In doing this; I don't honor it properly; and the loving, intimate investment I ought to make in it doesn't mature. The structure I erect on it is flimsy, really. Unless I encounter, cultivate, and pay attention to the finer energies of Being—the inward flow—I'm always disconnected from the true potential of my body, which lays down its life for me like a brother or a sister in order to help my soul grow.

This sacrifice is a great one; and I ought to have the deepest respect for it, because the body always pays the ultimate price, whether the soul grows or not. At the end of life it struggles enormously because of its inherently sacrificial nature. Yesterday (June 6) I was at my father's bedside as he died—actually I have spent the last three days at his bedside in a deathbed vigil—and this fact came home to me in a way it never can, unless one holds the hand of a dying person, looks into their eyes, shares their struggle, and feels their pulse as it slips away.

I remember my teacher Betty Brown explaining some small part of this to me in the last year or two of her life; she clearly saw this need to support and help the body as it came to terms with its mortality in the end of years. Yet the way we need to pay respect is long before the final moments; and we pay it by seeking, then cultivating, this relationship with the finer energies we are here to discover: these elements of heaven which penetrate being, as we become receptive. We don't truly anticipate the manner in which only the angelic elements of Being are carried into heaven; and so we don't honor the right inner work of the body in our lifetimes, which is so important to helping it fulfill its function.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

From within, part III

 Some might wonder why I am giving away these very specific esoteric secrets at this moment; yet readers who visit the space regularly know that it is in my nature not to be greedy with what is true, but to share it. As I write this, my father lies down stairs in our family room, dying; and this sobering experience, so filled with love and extraordinary light, reminds me that we have a sacred responsibility to one another not only to work together, but to share the results of our work, and to tell the truth about the spiritual fruits and love that emanate from heaven. 

Those who would hide these things commit real evil; and we should wish only good for our fellow men, even though every one of us is stained in one way or another with untoward behaviors and attitudes.

We need the higher energy, this finer energy, to fill us because there is no possibility of achieving any of the goals that Mr. Gurdjieff set for us without the assistance from a higher level. The separation of oneself from oneself,  for example, can never be achieved by the mind. The mind will try, for certain, to achieve it; and it will run around in circles chasing itself and reading itself dialogues and inventing texts and exchanges to try and justify and ferret out the necessary secrets.  The mind is, after all, a very complicated and conniving animal. 

But it is a hopeless situation.  It's impossible to separate oneself from oneself unless a different kind of energy is also involved; otherwise, nothing but psychology is in operation, and psychology is not the same thing as spirituality. When Jeanne de Salzmann says that we must become spiritualized, she means we must participate in the action of a higher energy in order for our inner state to change.

The reader who asked me the questions in the first part of this series of essays asked whether or not a sensation of Being "cut off" the bad-thinking process at the root, that is, relieved us of the struggle with our ordinary selves, lives, and reactions.

Of course this isn't the case. Our ordinary self is on the order of what we bring to purgatory; the punishment we live with for what we are, and, as I have pointed out many times, a just punishment. Gurdjieff himself alluded to this fact when a man did something wrong to others in the work and they asked him to punish the man. "He is who he is," Gurdjieff replied. "That is punishment enough." We are punishment enough for our own selves; but we only absorb this lesson of our personal purgatory if we are conscious enough to see ourselves and become separate from this punishment which is our ordinary being; and we only do that with the assistance of a finer energy. 

All of this is related to the path of conscience and the path of sorrow, and there is no other high path to follow. All the paths of bliss, ecstasy, peace, and happiness are lower paths; this is why Meister Eckhart said, For a man to have a peaceful life is good, but for a man to have a life of pain in patience is better; but that a man should have peace in a life of pain is best. (Sermon 69).

 The point is that the higher energy provides what Gurdjieff called, allegorically, a teskooano;  a telescope through which we can see what takes place on a lower level. That is to say, everything that proceeds, still proceeds; but the inner parts have gained a distance from it that can see the proceedings objectively.

 This is simply one of the utilitarian, or practical, reasons that we need to become open to the inflow; put in Christian terms, which are more religious and less technical, it enables us to see our sin. It does not free us from our sin or eliminate it; rather, it highlights it. And it is naïve of us to presume that we do not have sin, that there is no subjectivity, no ego, or that these things can be easily repaired within this life. This life is there for us to see those parts and tolerate them, not get rid of them, overcome them, and then stand triumphantly on a hill of blazing light showing others how good we have become. I know there are inner works that seem to aim at this; but I am not part of the feel-good crew, as many already know. I am reminded of the Tibetan master Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse,  whose extraordinary article not for happiness in the January 2013 issue of Shambhala Sun,  actually told the truth about such things for a change: a shocking condition indeed.  

I urge every reader to read this article. You will understand how truly serious Buddhism can be once you are finished.

 Well then, we open to this finer energy not for ourselves — at any rate, not so we will feel good or be better people — but so that we will see just what kind of bad people we are. This is not a depressing action if we are supported by grace; rather, it is liberation, because it is only in discovering the actual bad in us, as opposed to the imaginary bad — which is what we are almost always hypnotized by — that we can turn our faces towards the good. 

As Swedenborg explained, the bad always exists to turn us towards the good; and in this strange way, we can be grateful for it.