Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Organic Shame, part II
'Shame' without the qualifier is an ordinary, outward thing; it is generally attached to ego, and often manifests as embarrassment. This kind of thing can be a motivator, but it is not an inward teacher. More likely, it reinforces the way I already am.
Organic shame, however, is an inward thing; and I cannot understand it without understanding the organic sense of being. When something is organic, it is inner; and, furthermore, it is not just inner, it is in or in a way that is all lies, not just psychological. That is to say, it penetrates the bones; as the Zen masters would say, when one has organic shame, one has got the marrow of the practice. It is a living quality of vibration. Part of the aim of my work is to come to this.
This kind of understanding can be quite a shock if one hasn't seen it before; and it penetrates to the core of being itself with the question about what I am and why I manifest as I do. We are all fallen creatures; this is the theme Gurdjieff brings us in Beelzebub, and the overarching premise of Christianity, Islam, and other major traditional religions.
Yet despite all my education, I only sense this from an outward point of view.
The impulse to ponder this question came to me while watching television this morning at my hotel room in Shanghai. I don't intend to pontificate about the media at great length here, but it seems important to mention that everything in our media is outward; our culture is a celebration of the outward, and inward introspection — which might lead to objective morality — has been very nearly exterminated in modern culture. There is a kind of force-feeding of outwardness that goes on in our media. One can note, without much difficulty, that blatant shamelessness of every kind, on the part of politicians, terrorists, celebrities, and the newscasters themselves is on perpetual display. "Let's all be shameless," our media seems to say; and there are few voices that go against it. In a supreme irony, even the religious fundamentalists are shameless.
Well then. We need to understand organic shame from an inner point of view; it can be understood as the penetration of Being by the divine, such that the innermost part of the soul is touched by the lowermost part of heaven and of God, by the angelic forces that might lift our inner Being up.
Paradoxically, this uplifting begins with the downward movement of humility: and organic shame is, once again, deeply linked to this principle, which is so essential in much of Meister Eckhart's teaching.
The word humility, oddly enough, is barely found in Gurdjieff's writing. There is only one instance of it in Beelzebub, and it is in reference to false manifestations of humility. Gurdjieff, it might appear, did not put much stock in being humble. Yet when we come to the principle of organic shame, and understand what he meant by it, we do see that he well understood the principle, albeit from a different and perhaps more unique point of view than other masters.
So how can I come to an understanding of organic shame within myself?
There's a moment of seeing where there is a real shock. Not a psychological shock; a physical one. My perception and my Being penetrate to the heart of the matter, and for an instant I see the real world. This is, of course, a relatively seldom event; but in these instances of penetration, perhaps I see for a moment how another person is shameless; and way that I know that this moment of seeing is real is when I see that that is exactly what I myself am. In such a moment I see the mechanical, judgmental action of ego; but at the same time, I see the truth about myself, my inner nature, and an anguish arises.
I admit this anguish; I suffer it intentionally.
This is the moment at which compassion, the shared understanding of our shared condition and struggle, becomes a living thing as well. I can't experience humility unless I see that this shamelessness is not just how that other man or woman is; it is me, myself, being reflected towards me in a mirror which I generally ignore.
It's only in this shared experience, this experience within community, that I can gain this understanding; and this is almost certainly why Saint Buddha said that intentional suffering had to be practiced in a community, in the company of other beings.