Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Alignment and will

In regard to development of being, Gurdjieff sometimes spoke of "wrong crystallization," which, it seems, turns spiritual effort into some kind of mineralization.

He had this habit of science-ifying spiritual terms; and although the practice stemmed from what he claimed was a more scientific and exact definition of spiritual processes, in the end, it sometimes seems anything but. Inventing new terms, but avoiding specifics, he often left it to his followers to figure out just what he meant; and while the exercise may be of merit, the resultant confusion usually doesn't seem to be anywhere near as precise one might wish.

Eckhart may help us cast some light on this question. Both Gurdjieff and Eckhart proposed, as the result of the development of Being, an ultimate reunion with the divine; and each of them proposed will as a point of leverage.

Here the two seem to deviate; for Gurdjieff appears to indicate a man ought to develop his own will, whereas Eckhart asks he surrender it.

The indications are, I think, superficially misleading. In the first case, Gurdjieff directs us to intentionally turn our attention inward, in an action he calls conscious egoism. This unconventional expression of inner awareness is meant to turn the soul towards God.

Eckhart, on the other hand, presents his presumably more pedestrian audiences (his various congregations) with the more familiar and conventional advice to go away from their own will. Both directions, in other words, are the same, although they are presented from different perspectives. The one is a going towards what we ought to become; the other, a departure from what we are, reminiscent of Dogen's leavers of home—a classic Zen expression of those on the path.

Gurdjieff's idea of crystallization relates to the inward formation of "real" will. What he means by this—as does Eckhart—is, I think, a will in alignment with the divine; this is after all what crystallization consists of: an alignment of molecules, an order. The analogy may be more apt that first meets the eye, since crystals can transmit light; and it is this same relationship with light that Eckhart proposes.

In any event, the question is one of our own will; and it’s investment in our own will that prevents us from entering heaven. Gurdjieff populated his Holy Planet Purgatory with those whose wills had crystallized to a very high level, but were nonetheless unable to expunge the final and most critical impure material that prevents final union. This material, we have to presume, relates to the final dregs of one’s own will; it is that last hardened nodule of self-will, of ego, which even the most spiritual among us just can’t seem to let go of. And it is this selfsame obstacle, in the end, which Eckhart proposes as the reason we are not completely open to God.

Perhaps the most critical question here evolves around the nature of the inner and the outer will. We equate the two; as we do the inner and outer natures in man, treating the two as though there were no real, let alone practical, separation between the two. Let us propose this: a human being has an inner and an outer will, in the same way that he can engage in conscious and unconscious egoism; and one has, in the end, little to do with the other in terms of its essential nature.

Outer will forms in conjunction with personality and ego; and if ego is the vehicle that carries personality into action in the outer world, will is the force that pulls it. These three forces influence man’s outer actions; and to the extent they define the sole parameters of a man’s action and being, the emptiness of a man’s nature is measured.

Only when the three forces of the inner world inwardly form the premises for outer action does a man lose Gurdjieff’s quotation marks. In this inner or spiritual world, essence, conscious egoism and inner will form a mirror-image triumvirate of Being, all of which are in relationship to the soul—a higher force with an intimate contact with the divine. And it is this selfsame inner will that must surrender itself completely to higher forces.

How inner will forms itself in relationship to outer will is a vital question. A man whose inward self is aligned, crystallized, with the divine speaks, acts and exists within an entirely different range of being than the man whose entire world and will is outward. 

Because of the failure to distinguish clearly between the inward and outward wills, a man or woman is confused about what part of themselves ought to be given up. The outer will is already turned away from God; and because it is of the material world it cannot be offered as a sacrifice, or surrendered to God, in the first place. It is only the inner will that truly has this capacity.

This question no doubt bears further examination.


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