Thursday, September 18, 2014

Essence and egoism, part III

 Now some people use up all the powers of the soul in the outer man. These are people who turn all their senses and their reason toward perishable goods, knowing nothing of the inner man. You should know that the outer man can be active while the inner man is completely free of this activity and unmoved.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical WorksP 571  

Following the train of thought that began this group of essays, I suppose readers will ask themselves why ego would ever have two parts, as I've described it. It doesn't sound doctrinaire; and of course we can't find places in the Gurdjieff literature where essence and personality are linked to ego and conscious ego in the same way I describe them. 

To me, it seems quite obvious that Gurdjieff's conscious egoism absolutely has to be a mirror image of my mechanical egoism; and of course it makes perfect sense that one faces inward, and the other outward. It's not that complicated to see this. 

Yet the idea that egoism and conscious egoism are nothing more than a bipolar construction is incorrect. Egoism, like all other forces, is subject to the law of three: that is, there are three aspects to egoism in the way that it arises in human beings. 

Conscious egoism is Holy-affirming, that is, it affirms God, or, what is sacred and holy. The reason essence needs to grow is that this part of us needs to gain stature during our lifetimes. Eckhart, if he were here now to comment on this, would certainly explain that this causes us to think more of God and less of ourselves – an activity he lauded.

 Mechanical or ordinary egoism is Holy-denying, that is, it denies God in favor of itself. The more powerful it becomes, the less we think of God and the more we think of ourselves. This is Swedenborg's path to our own personal hell.

The third, or reconciling, force, of egoism is Being, or consciousness. This is the part that sees in us; it is the mind that lives in the moment and in fact flows from a divine influence to bind the two opposing forces together. It is why a man or woman has two natures; and why a human being has to consciously inhabit the territory between them. 

So egoism is not in the least a single thing; it is a complex entity that within it contains all the forces that create a triangle or triad, and that drive the power of the law of seven, which represents the complete manifestation of a human being.  

Just thought I'd get that clear.

In this particular iteration (for once, I'm not going to draw the diagram — readers should sketch it for themselves) egoism occupies the place of the first shock in the enneagram, conscious egoism the second shock, and Being actually occurs at the note Do as the reconciling force. There is a particular reason for this arrangement; and I will hint that one can understand it better if one sees the diagram from the point of view of the right hand side as the natural or outward side, and the left said side as the spiritual or inward side. (Much more about this could be explained here, but I am just not in the mood for it tonight. My apologies, really.)

 This idea of egoism as an entity with an enormous dimension, a longitude and a latitude, that has the potential to span our inner and outer world, takes it off the shelf we've placed it on, where it is all bad and essentially just something to be expunged, and, if possible, obliterated, is an encouraging one. It helps to explain why Gurdjieff actually gave egoism a place of primacy in his term conscious egoism. We need egoism; all of the force that drives our being, both natural and spiritual, comes from it, as was explained in the earlier essays. In a certain sense egoism represents the horse within being, the emotional force, the feeling. (Be careful here, because there are subtle complexities to the suggestion; in this case, the roles egoism plays can change. Don't assume, in other words, that this represents a static assignation.)

There is another aspect of this I ought to at least mention. When I say, I wish to be, that can be taken from three different points of view:

Firstly, I wish to be outwardly.  In this way the force of my ordinary ego serves my outward being; and if I can't be outwardly, well then. I have no force; everything becomes useless.

Secondly, I wish to be inwardly. In this way the force of my conscious ego can learn to serve my inward being; and it is a very different activity than outward being, completely different.

Thirdly, I wish to be through my own being and within my own mindfulness and consciousness. This conscious wish bridges the gap between the first and second wishes to be — we might simplify it in some ways by just saying that it means I wish to be here now.  

Most everyone is familiar with these three different ideas in one way or another, but perhaps expanding in this manner helps to put them in a relationship with one another in a more specific and coherent manner.


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