Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Tree of the Soul, Part II

Tree from the Garden of Earthly Delights, left panel

The question of how material reality is related to the higher level of the spiritual begins, in some senses, with this idea of the soul as a tree.

In order to understand this we first need to understand that everything material is a reflection of the spiritual; and everything material functions by way of analogy, or what Swedenborg would have called correspondences. That is why all of nature replicates itself, from top to bottom, with material phenomena that mirror one another in both structure and purpose.

Let us recall that plants are the fundamental building blocks or organic life; all animal life depends on plant life to make its food for it. In the same exact way, all of material reality is in a certain sense a vegetative entity, that is, material reality serves as a receiving organism for the emanations of the divine, whereby it receives them and converts them into food for the spiritual level.

The old adage that man is "food for Angels" follows this idea in general, although it doesn't explain it with the precision it ought to. The leaves on the tree of the soul are infused with an active substance akin to the chlorophyll of plants; and it's only through this substance that the energy of the spiritual can be converted to the "inner sugars" so necessary for the maintenance of the spiritual world. The reason that spiritual rewards are so often described by the masters as "sweetness" is precisely because of this correspondence between the sugars created in photosynthesis and the sugars created by the action of Being. They are not different, except by level; and so in the same way that sugars created by plants are sweet, so are the sugars of the soul equally sweet. We call this the "sweetness of the Lord," without correctly understanding the correspondences involved. Yet when we experience this sweetness, it is a true sweetness exactly like that of the taste of sugar, yet received in the soul, not on the tongue—and magnified a thousandfold. Equally, it may be a perfume—or musk, as Rumi called it—equally sweet, and equally real, yet sublime and impossible to explain.

It's no coincidence, in other words, that Christ used parables referring to the growth of plants in explaining the development of the soul. They are more than just analogies; there is a science to it conforming to laws we are already familiar with, governed by the biology of our own level, but subservient to a much larger truth of which they are a single fractal.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Tree of the Soul, Part I

'Man' in the proper meaning of his name in Latin means in one sense one who bows and submits himself wholly to God, all that he is and all that is his, looking upward to God, and not his possessions which he knows to be behind him, below him, and beside him. This is perfect and genuine humility: the name comes from the earth (humus ) .  I shall say no more of this for now. 

—from Meister Eckhart, The complete mystical works, The Nobleman, p. 562

This is a comment that, it seems to me, is worth saying a good bit more about. 

The remark has wide-ranging implications relative to the fundamental nature of our being, both in the physical and the spiritual sense. What is of primary importance, however, is to understand how literally this idea of the earth and being is true.

This perfect humility that Meister Eckhart speaks of is born from a physical connection to the body, in the same way that receiving the body and blood of Christ in the body of man is a literal thing, not an abstract or theological understanding. In both cases, an energy from a higher level is received; and in both cases, it propagates through sensation within the body.

Our life itself is soil, or humus; everything that we encounter and experience falls into us like leaves and decays, is digested by the gut of our soul and our psychology; and this leaves a rich detritus of earth, soil formed by the decay of what was alive (our impressions.) This "soil" is a biome, exactly like the earth in which plants grow; yet it's a biome for the growth of the soul, which is like a tree: a stout organism that receives light for further growth. 

Impressions are deposited in the body in such a way that a finer soil is formed within the organism; and the roots of being quite literally grow down into this soil, seeking out those same finer substances which have been deposited through the receiving and decay of impressions. This proceeds exactly according to the laws of world-creation and world-maintenance; so when Gurdjieff asks us to learn ever more and more about these same laws, he is actually asking ourselves to participate ever more and more deeply in our sensation. 

The roots of sensation, which eventually form incredibly fine and intimate tendrils, reach down into and even below the cellular level to gather the fine substances of inner humus, inner earth, and concentrate them by bringing to the level of conscious awareness through organic channels. These substances feed the tree of our Being; they form a trunk, branches, and leaves which spread out to receive higher vibrations. 

This explains in some detail why Gurdjieff said it's impossible to receive the higher influences without forming a corresponding connection to the lower ones; it's in the nature of the tree of the soul and the way in which it gathers nutrients and grows. The tree cannot grow leaves with which to receive sunlight if it doesn't have roots. 

This whole action brings man or woman into closer and closer relationship with God. Humility is the association with and acknowledgment of earth; the accepting of the intimacy of one's inner soil. By seeing the source from which one draws nourishment and grows, one sees one's place; and this, of course, is exactly what Eckhart's comment alludes to. 


Friday, November 28, 2014

a cosmological sense of sorrow

The Eskimo Nebula- NGC 2392

 Some time ago, I mentioned the cosmological implications of sorrow; this morning a reader asked me if I could expand on that in some more detail, adding some interesting comments about star formation.

The photograph accompanying this post shows the death of a Sun-like star.

 Rather than embarking on a far ranging investigation of the cosmological implications of sorrow as they relate to the mortality of the universe and even God Himself, in so far as He materializes, I'd like to get personal on this question.

Sorrow creates me. At the heart and in the soul of every act of Being is an intense and immeasurable kernel of sorrow, which is generally covered up by innumerable manifestations that coat it, like the layers on a pearl. Sorrow is, however, a pearl in reverse; because whereas pearls are tiny, worthless bits of sand or shell covered with layer after layer of gleaming beauty, sorrow is a grain of infinite perfection coated with layer after layer of grit and mud (creatures: that is, the ordinary world and material being) that obscure its beauty.

The work of Being is to peel off those layers until one reaches the core of this perfection, which is inestimable.

 It's impossible to understand what religious action is unless one touches the core of this perfection of sorrow and encounters it personally within Being. This is, in many ways, one of the highest aims of inner work; and although there's a great deal of talk about detachment, freedom, and so on, to touch sorrow goes beyond any of these things and into the heart of the question of what God is.

Sorrow, at its esoteric heart, is not sorrow — it is something quite different which is impossible to write about. One needs, simply, to penetrate this question deeper and deeper within the marrow of one's bones until the veil is taken away and one knows for the first time exactly where the soul touches God.

This is an inner cosmology, not an outer one; and there is an analogy to the formation of suns and solar systems, because the formation of the inner sun, a light that provides the illumination of this question, involves the collapse of all of one's impressions and Being into the gravity of the soul, much like matter collapses to form a sun.

It is in this collapse that ignition takes place; and only then does the inflow, Swedenborg's description of the arrival of the higher energy, begin to take place in any reliable and consistent manner.

Until then, one "works." One cannot possibly understand how much in vain all of this "work" is until revealed in the light of true Grace, which puts the vanity of everything a human being owns and does themselves in an indelible perspective.  (Consider this idea in light of yesterday's post about organic shame.)

 I have spoken before about the idea that joy — which seems, for all of us, to be the real aim of spiritual liberation — is really just a by-product of the work that brings us to sorrow, and ought not to be elevated to a position it does not belong in. We can never have any joy whatsoever, real joy, unless we touch the heart of sorrow, because joy cannot be known until one has first paid for it through this action.

I speak not of temporal, outer, and ordinary things and the joys they bring here; these are material matters born of creatures.

 Don't get them confused.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Respecting the dog

 Artwork from the Power Station of Art,  new curators exhibition, Shanghai

Gurdjieff once said that a man or woman should work hard enough their life so that they don't die "like a dog."

 I mentioned this to my office manager in Shanghai this morning as we were on our way to Pudong in a cab, and she laughed out loud.

"Give a little credit to the dog," she said.

I think she was right. In a certain sense, we are worse than dogs; a dog simply is what it is, and although it may die having achieved, essentially, nothing, it can die without shame.

On the other hand, every human being brings to their death everything they have ever been, and nothing more; and within this mixture is a definite measure of shame. Gurdjieff referred to the need for a human being to sense "organic" shame— this, by the way, is related for the need  for things such as feeling and intention to become organic. The point is that a man or woman needs to come into relationship with their shame in a deep and intimate manner, so that the feeling – sensation of our sin is something sensed to the marrow of the bones.

When one thinks of death, one thing is certain. We will all die with a sense of shame in us; and as death approaches, this begins to mature, since a man or woman's sense of their own sin is part of what prepares them for, qualifies them for, heaven. If I don't see how far short I fall of the standards that are required, if I don't see my real position relative to God's grace, I have not done the work I am supposed to in this life. So shame is an important ingredient in our effort. The difference between a man and a dog is that we can feel our shame; the dog has no such ability and is under no such obligation.

This brings me to an interesting thought which was not present when I began this essay. Animals, and all of their guises and varieties, represent a kind of perfection, since animals are unable to err from their Being. Only the psyche of man really carries this ability with it. As such, animals other than man constitute the lower mirror of the angelic kingdom. Both kingdoms represent perfection on different levels; mankind stands in the middle. In this sense, we can respect the dog; because for what it is, on its own level, it represents a higher force. Essence-based cultures generally recognize this, leading to the totemic and symbolic function of animals in many myths. Because animals are the earthly and material reflection of angelic forces, alliances with them can produce an alignment with correspondence that draws angelic influences towards a human being.

 Well then. This isn't exactly where I was going with this essay, because although the title implies that it's about the dog, really, it is about shame and death. It's quite important, I find, to come into a much deeper and more personal sense of contact with my own shame. This question resurfaces in me periodically and I see how much of it is related to my sensation of sorrow — a subject which I will get to tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What is called for?

  Power Station of Art, Shanghai — artwork from Memorandum for Gaia

Yesterday  (November 8, as the clock ticks) I was at the Power Station of Art in Shanghai,  an ambitiously huge art museum located in one of the former buildings for the Shanghai Expo.  one could probably put half the art in Manhattan in a building of this size; as it was, only one floor had exhibits, a set of "emerging curators" exhibitions that included a presentation called Memorandum for Gaia.

The show was uneven, and included an excessive (to me) number of conceptual pieces based, among other things, on confusing projection video presentations. Most of the modern art done with projection video is, in its own way, as stupidly empty as the movies Hollywood is producing; both art and entertainment are capable, it turns out, of hitting bottom and starting to dig, although the tunnels may go in different directions.

In any event, in the midst of this artistic subjectivity, which in touching the soul of the creator (in this case, the artist) manages to largely absent itself from the possibility of touching any other soul whatsoever, it occurred to me how incredibly dense, confusing, and overwhelming the world is today. Any organic sensation that begins to comprehend the density and complexity of what we, as human beings, create will immediately come up against how staggering it is.

It is, at the same time, quite true that biology is immensely more complex; and the operations of a single cell during its lifetime probably beggar all of the activities of human beings put together. In a strange way, this idea becomes a refuge for me; no matter how complex biology becomes, it always expresses this quality called life in an irrevocable and unambiguous way, something that is far more tangible to my sense of myself than the abstract thoughts produced by the worlds of art and science, as they emerge as technologies.

One of the strange impressions I walk away from these exhibits with is how strongly people want other people to be other things; and we are all, it seems, tempted to want to be something other than what we are. It is always, in the end, about ourselves, and otherness; the enforced collapse into subjectivity which we participate in, versus the objectivity of relationship and community, which references us whether we want it to or not.

I'm not going to sort this one out; but this impression of the wish to be other seems to be at the root of the artistic question. And the question of whether I wish to be other or not is not an outer one; it doesn't really mean me and myself wanting to be him or her, they or them.

It's a question of my inner self and whether I am willing to be as I am. If I don't want to be as I am, and (or) I don't want other people to be as they are — a common problem when I want to impose my will or view on other people — there is, at the root, an unwillingness to participate. It's like a little child who sits on the sidelines and sulks. I was that little child (and have been that little adult) from time to time; and I would presume it sounds familiar to everyone. It comes back to this question of participation; and whether I agree with the subjectivity (and even the nonsense) of this, that, or the other piece of art, the root question is whether or not it invites me to participate. Even if the art is "bad," this invitation has been issued; and perhaps I should look there, rather than my judgment, in order to see where I am and what is called for from me.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Eighth anniversary

Sunlight, textile factory, Lianyungang, China

 Today marks the eighth anniversary of this blog.

The space has consisted, over these eight years, largely as a platform for notes to myself; it is, in essence, my own diary about my thoughts on inner work for that day. There has never been a real plan for the future here; just a space in which I remark on my observations and ponderings. It has built up like sediment in a riverbed over these eight years, and there is now a thick layer of prose that stretches out behind me from this point. So much of it, in fact, that it would be more or less impossible for me to remember everything I have written.

Textile factories are fixed things made of steel and concrete, with machines in them that do surprisingly complex things, given how simple a thing fabric seems to be.

All of the life in them comes from the light that fills them; not from the fixed things, but from the illumination that reveals them. So I've been fascinated with the light in these huge spaces ever since the first time I started to walk through them nearly 30 years ago.

Textile weaving is one of mankind's most ancient technologies; and the fact that we have modernized it doesn't change that much about it, in the end. One might suppose that the weaving of an inner life has undergone some kind of equivalent modernization; yet the inner life of mankind resists the technology of fixed things, because it consists mostly of the light that falls into our Being, and what it illuminates.

This is a unique process which every human being has to discover on their own all over again.

Or not.

At this writing, I still find myself in China. I lost my father this year; friends are dying, and yet life carries on. I'm forced to confront the reality of today.

I don't like doing this; as I age, I have seen that I vacillate between enormous forces of resistance and a stubborn, stupidly Dutch willingness to thrust myself forward into the unknown and take the blows. It's a contradiction; but then everything in me is.

I've always wished I could be a human being without the contradictions, but by this time, it seems obvious that won't happen. By now, the process is one of accommodation, in which I acknowledge them and try to live peacefully, in so far as possible, rather than forcing conditions which won't really change me, and are more likely to damage.

We all make compromises. It is our awareness of it that separates us from ourselves, if we have that faculty. A man or woman cannot prevent his or her sin; but they can know it.

And I think it is in the knowing it, here, that I begin to live.

 Generally speaking, I change the sign off every year on the blog anniversary date. This year, I am going to dispense with that tradition, since last year's signoff seems comprehensive enough to bear up under another year of use.

It is a word that doesn't wear out.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Letter to a friend from Shanghai

I am beginning the morning here, as I often do, sensing myself and trying to remember that I am a living, breathing creature in the midst of this life. With all of the other distractions, the compulsions, the fears that beset me — and I think I am like everyone else in these things, as we all have them — this experience of myself is a ground floor.

I remember distinctly the night a few days before I was fired in Georgia in 2001. 

That night, there was no way of knowing that that would happen in a couple of days — although I had some vague idea they were going to get rid of me, it was quite frankly an incredible time — the only time you ever fire someone with my job is in June or July, not just before you book your season in February. 


I went outside and stood in my driveway. This was way out in the countryside and I was surrounded by winter wheat fields, with very few neighbors or lights in the immediate vicinity. (The closest neighbor was a quarter of a mile away.) 

There were clouds scuttling over the moon. 

I looked up and the impression fell very deep into me that, as a living human being, I had the privilege and the ability to be taking this impression, this sight which defines us — a living creature, on a planet, with a satellite, meteorology, and all the other extraordinary things that living implies — and which we usually take for granted — and I had this privilege and ability as an inherent right that no government or employer or ex wife or enemy could ever take away from me.

 No matter what happened, this moment belonged to me.

By this time, I had had my divorce, lost my house, most of my money, the custody of my children. I was about to lose my job, although, as I have just pointed out, I didn't know that. In any event, I was at Ground Zero — or very close to it, one of my inner towers had already been hit by a plane — and able to appreciate that no matter how much you lose, as long as you are still alive, it is your personal right to have hope and to be optimistic. 

No one can take that away from you. The world can destroy everything you have, but until you die, you have the right to be a human being and look at the sky and the moon; to me, that is an enormous thing, because it represents the primary and absolute affirmation of our Being, which is who and what we are.

 The great masters have always said that at the root of our existence is this absolute quality of Being. Each one of us has the privilege of tasting that from time to time during a lifetime; and no matter where we go or what we do, we can rely on this as a truth we carry in us, which touches the soul in places that can't be seen.

Don't know why I'm telling you this now except to say that we are alive today, and we can feel gratitude and satisfaction in that without any shame or hesitation.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

The intuition of the body

The intuition of the body always leads me forward.

It's remarkable, really, how intuitive the body is. It knows within itself exactly what Being consists of, in the sense of knowing that it is, and not forgetting itself the way the mind constantly does.

Trusting in this intelligence through relationship always leads deeper into this question of who I am. As I write this, I'm staring out over the city of Shanghai from the 56th floor of the Le Meridien Hotel on People's Square; and yet I am not taken by what is outside, the great city, the air pollution, the rain; I am firmly here, in my body, in this room.

There is a fine vibration that encompasses everything within Being; and it provokes an investigation that does not have any words associated with it, even though I mention it here.

That investigation consists, perhaps appropriately enough, of nothing more than ?

?  is perhaps more than enough to indicate the intuition of the body itself. It is, after all, a symbol; and it indicates a state, rather than a fact or a thing of one kind or another. That is, in itself, it implies a movement and a direct action— forward into the unknown.

In the midst of this, I'm quite aware of the various cravings the body has; and although they are indulged or dismissed according to both desire and will, they seem, on the whole, less important than this inward journey which my intuition invites me to participate in.

 There aren't any specific descriptions of this in Gurdjieff's methodology; he does mention intuition in a few places, but one could hardly describe it as a chief feature of inner work, as presented by Ouspensky.  I rarely hear it spoken about; and yet more than 9/10 of my own work revolves around coming into relationship with this intuitive faculty. It isn't of the head; and this is precisely where its usefulness lies. The exact value of it is that it doesn't come from the books; and if one wants to measure the real weight and value of one's inner work, that is a good place to begin.

If a blind man wants to grope his way forward through the darkness that belongs to him, it is certain that he will use his hearing; but as things grow closer, nothing will substitute for the sense of touch, for that subtle vibration of contact and that direct intimacy that comes from the closest possible encounter with the environment.


Friday, November 21, 2014


It's not hypothesis or philosophy to say that, at times, life requires us to completely let go of who we are in order to rediscover ourselves.

Those moments can be transformational, but they involve a certain kind of trust in the unknown I am often unwilling to broker.

One of the signature features of seeing one's own individuality is the ever-deeper impression that one's being, in the outward sense of personality, is firmly cemented. It's not only inflexible; it is highly resistant to change, and prefers to cross the same territory over and over again. This isn't seen clearly without a deeper and more rooted investment in the organism, the body; and then one finds that one's individuality, one's Being, has been poured into this body and rooted there as firmly as life can do it.

Now, this is a right thing, because as divine energy descends into the earthly level, it must root itself firmly if it is to gain a purchase and grow. Yet roots cling; and if they find themselves so firmly embedded in personality, how can one let go of this?

The irrevocable commitment to life, which is illustrated by every manifestation of my Being, is accompanied by an irrevocable commitment to death. The two forces are complementary; and one cannot be understood without the other. I think, really, we can understand death; we call it the great unknown, but within the depths of the organism, death is well understood. I think that death is well understood not just by the body, but even by the soul, that knows by the very sources from which it draws nourishment that death is both natural and desirable.

 This is an organic as well as a spiritual understanding; yet all of the fear in my personality aligns itself against death.  

If there is a part that I need to let go of, I think it lies here.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

soliloquies on sin, part II: to work in the place where sin lies

So much of the time,  understanding sin seems to be aimed at how I ought to behave outwardly; and indeed, this is what fundamentalism is all about: an outward display of piety. Yet, taken to its extreme — which is the path fundamentalism always seems to want to follow the most — it always becomes a form of vanity and narcissism, disguised as religious fervor.

 This is, undoubtedly, inevitable; because the whole point of understanding sin is understanding how one ought to behave inwardly, and, let's face it, who spends any time thinking about one's inward behavior? That kind of contemplation seems old-fashioned, the kind of thing one runs into in books written by Victorians.

I'm reminded of using a microscope. The microscope ought to be turned inwards; my eyes should be placed gently up against the eyepiece, and I ought to carefully turn the focus until I can see the very small things it's my aim to examine. It's this intimacy, this willingness to attend to the physical inner details of Being — which can, quite frankly, be an intensely physical and excruciating experience — that leads to an understanding of inner behavior. The first thing I understand is that I don't understand.

This inner life, ruled by complexities of chemistry which I experience as physiology and psychology, is under the rule of planetary and solar law. The outward laws of society and humanity are tiny, minor afterthoughts that have no real bearing on my Being, any more than the moves up and down in the stock market affect the grackles that feed at my bird feeder. It is these inward laws, which are certainly beyond my reach, but not beyond my sensation, which I need to come into alignment with and know. They are the laws that actually govern my Being; and if I don't understand them, when I encounter outward law, I will have no center of gravity from which to digest it or understand its relationship to Being. I need to begin there, with this question of inward behavior — and that inward behavior is defined by wordless activities that have to be sensed and felt, not circumscribed by descriptions.

This particular question, that of circumscribing the inner life by description, seems interesting to me. Some folks I know insist on doing this all the time; there is somehow a belief that sin comes from the mind, that there is a rationale behind it that can be understood. I don't think sin is like this at all; it lies deep within the organism, it is organic, like so many other processes, and unless I try to understand it from this point of view, I don't understand much of anything.

If sin is an idea or thought, I can make it whatever I want it to be; if it is organic, it is what it is before I get to it, and I need to know it quite differently than with the mind.

This once again brings me to the idea of getting very close to my sin, of becoming intimate with it; and that doesn't mean that I succumb, rather, that I work there, in the place where sin lies.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Soliloquies on sin, part I: difficult to redress

If you already know it is bad and do it, you commit a sin difficult to redress.

—G. I. Gurdjieff,  Views From the Real World

 Feed no man in his sinnes: for adulation
Doth make thee parcell-devil in damnation.

George Herbert, The Church-Porch

 There is no way to tread any path that leads to one's inner life, and the health of the soul, without seeing that one knows very little.

It's difficult to divorce sin from the idea of a morality; and, in terms of morality, most human beings think in terms of sexuality and puritanism. I see this tendency in myself; and I certainly see it in others. yet there can only be one morality, which stands tall like a firm post in the midst of the inner life; and that morality relates to intention.

 Sin is not so complicated, really. To intend towards God and the good is moral; to intend away from them is not. The above passages relate to the question of temptation; and, as we can see, far from being a relativist, Gurdjieff placed the idea of knowing what is bad, and sin itself, high enough in his practice to include it in his aphorisms.

It is, again, my intention that matters; and in my habitual routine, my mechanical reaction to things, there can be no intention. Intention is only formed if I am aware enough to know the difference between good and bad; and that is the point upon which all sin turns, because it is in this moment, when I intend an action that faces away from my responsibility to God, that the whole deal goes down.  Readers might for a moment think back here to my point about lying: it isn't that complicated either. Lying can only take place if I already know what the truth is, and then misrepresent it — so if Gurdjieff said that we always lie, in a certain way, he implied that we always, in our hearts, know what the truth is, and routinely go against it intentionally anyway.

When George Herbert penned the above words, he may have meant them outwardly, but this morning, when I was reading them in my hotel room in Shanghai, it occurred to me that this is above all an inner action — like all actions which, ultimately, spring from the mind. When sin is fed, it is fed within me; and this idea of adulation, that is, an excessive honoring or valuation, suggests that I willingly turn worship on its head.

Although I'm a believer in accepting my own sensuality — and all that implies, including an inner weakness and a natural tendency towards hedonism — I see there is a point where it becomes the center of gravity, rather than a factor subordinate to my perception and will.

And it is just here, in this place where intention is attracted by desire, particularly physical desire, i.e., desire as a craving, that intention gets turned on its head.

This produces an impressive and prolific series of inner contradictions which Gurdjieff urges us to so carefully examine. Rather than pursue a path of asceticism, a Buddhist or Christian path of renunciation, in which I try to escape sin by eliminating it, the aim in esoteric practice is to get into bed with sin, so to speak, and know it well. The idea did not escape the Protestants; to wit, my favorite quote from Martin Luther, who said, since we must sin, sin boldly.

This idea of becoming intimate with my sin, and honest about it, is interesting, because it is truly a part of my life; and perhaps, even, not an enemy; just a truth about the nature of where I am and what I do. To the extent that I acknowledge it and give it its place, sometimes it seems to have less power over me; and this is the paradox of it, because it seems that the more I attempt to resist it, the stronger it becomes, like a magical creature in some fairytale who grows ever more heads every time I cut them off.

 This experience of sin is in sharp contrast to the perfections, which are an exact mirror of sin, in the sense that they are inspired by sacred energies, not profane ones. The difference is not so great; and so there is a thin line between sin and religious ecstasy, something anyone who has taken drugs will know.

The difference is that sin loves itself, and ecstasy loves God. So once again it comes down to the question of selfishness.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A divine knowing, part II

 It is always, perhaps, dangerous to talk about such things, but  I feel inclined to say a few more things about this Divine knowing which is possible.

Gurdjieff explained on a number of occasions that there are much finer substances penetrating reality than the ones we acknowledge, experience, or discuss in regular life.

This Divine knowing I speak of consists of the actual experience of these finer substances, which express themselves within the sensation of our being and our body. We are, in fact, receivers and expressors of exactly these much finer substances, to the extent that we open our hearts and submit from within the midst of our own sin to the influence of the Divine.

We can't submit to divine influence from outside sin, because it is only from within the condition of material reality and sinning itself, that is, our separation from God, that this influence can reach us. If I think I am going to "become divine" and then receive divine influences, I don't understand much of anything. It is exactly my separation that creates the conditions for my receiving. And it is the feeling action within me (called, among other things, Gurdjieff's remorse of conscience) that attracts that which is Divine in the first place.

Because of the extraordinary fineness of these substances and the extraordinary fineness of their action on me, I may come at once understand the difference between perfection, which lies beyond all creatures (as Meister Eckhart would call them), and my own nature, which is so firmly planted in that which is a creature.

It is the action of the Divine on creation itself that becomes so interesting. In the end, if I know this action, why would I ever be interested in anything else? And why would my soul be turned in any direction other than towards God in all of his magnificence? This is a drink which, once tasted, can never be put down.

From within the inward flow of the Divine—this eye of certainty — everything finds its initial expression.

It emerges, in each tiny detail, no matter how small, within its own perfection. This perfection is exactly what I reach toward, in an inward action — there is, after all, no other place within the human being to reach towards, in the end.

It is the living, eternal, creative aspect of this perfection, which exists in and emanates from beyond me, that becomes the most fundamental of God's gifts in the midst of a mortal life which can know no peace without the support of heaven.


Monday, November 17, 2014

A divine knowing

 This morning, I am struck particularly by the difference between an inner knowing that comes from the Lord and is Divine, and the knowing of my own reflection and my consideration.

Ibn al 'Arabi Points out that this is a critical question; the rational faculty is forever capable of error. In the al-Futuhat-al-Makkiyya (The Meccan Revelations)  he writes,  

Since the Sufis saw the mistakes of those who employ consideration, they turned to the path in which there is no confusion so that they might take things from the eye of certainty..." (Chittick, The  Sufi Path of Knowledge, p. 166.)

Now, this essay and these passages emerge from my own reflection and consideration, but they are influenced by this eye of certainty, which touched me last night in a way that reminded me once again—and (I hope) forever—that true knowing and true understanding of the Divine spring from sources beyond my own Being.

 It is only the touch of such understanding, which comes not from the mind but from Being itself, that contains this eye of certainty within it. It isn't subject to my rational consideration; and although I can inhabit it and perhaps even accept it, I am unable to fathom it — that is to say, it has depths unavailable to me. It is in my sensation of those depths, of themselves, that the certainty arises of the Divine source from which it springs; and, like the surface of water reflecting light, my own Being stands as a thin layer between these absolutely Divine sources above, and the material truths which receive them below.

In this way, the heavens are whole; and the ocean is whole beneath it. I myself am like a skin that lies between the two.

Revelation is given in order to impart understanding; and in humility, all that can be done is to accept. Even the direction that it points in may well be unknown; for the directions are not of my own manufacture, nor can I know what they lead to. In this way, I can inhabit Being and see through this eye of certainty, in which the only certainty is Being itself; how it unfolds into the material is indeed unknown, and this, as well, is entirely correct:

 God has mentioned nothing worthy of reflection and declared nothing productive of heed or connected with reflection without there being correctness along with it... (ibid, p. 165)

I might say that in moments like this, the scales fall from my eyes and I see that I am blind.

There is no path other than submission in the midst of action of this kind; and the action is always inward, in which a command based on love alone leads me forward.

Everything is dependent on my obedience; and yet I am the devil. Why Grace and Mercy continue to flow into broken receptacles is a mystery that only God Himself can never answer; and perhaps this alone is the greatest sign of His magnificence.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Existence by proxy

 Today is my anniversary... I have been sober 33 years.

Yesterday, I used the phrase, that which exists by proxy.

 This idea interests me, because I see that I exist by proxy in my ordinary life. That is to say, my mechanical nature, my habits and my automatic reactions, take the place of agency — they predetermine the script by which I act, and assume, by proxy, the role that a dynamic, interactive, intelligent and compassionate Being ought to play.

 Of course, in the absence of being, something must step in; and perhaps I could see my habitual self as the understudy, the actor that comes in if the lead actor assigned for the role is absent. The difficulty here is that the lead actor has a perpetual malaise, and the understudy has been forced to take on the role instead. This has gone on for so long that the audience has forgotten there is a leader; the less skilled follower is now in charge.

Of course, I like to think by analogy, and so here it is: this existence by proxy whereby my agency is determined by lesser parts, fractions of what I ought to be.

I've noticed that when there is real demand, crisis of interaction, anger, negativity, upset in my life, other parts show up. These are the moments when something real has to actually get on the stage, and it is so on used to the task that it's usually nervous, uncertain, and even terrified. These are wonderful moments; because a man or a woman never sees themselves so clearly as in the moments of terror. These are distinct from moments when a higher energy truly helps to inwardly form a serenity that sets me apart from events; those are quite different, and they shouldn't be mixed up with the wonderful and real demand of terror, which spurs me to an inner understanding that might be quite different than my assumptions and my complacency.

There are no proxies available when terror sets in; and perhaps this is why "the terror of the situation" isn't, in fact, so terrible; instead, it represents the greatest opportunity. If the proxy has to step down, the only person left to step into its place is a real one.

Then, I am forced to engage with my own agency, not the agency of my habits; and what an unfamiliar feeling that is.

Under these circumstances, I may even get a taste of my own helplessness; and that is a sweet taste indeed, since it leads to the possibility that some part of me can recognize my actual place, and ask for help.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Loving- suspicion, part II: the gremlin

Presence involves what one might call a gremlin.

 I say that because a gremlin is defined as a mischievous spirit responsible for an unexplained problem or fault. The gremlin, in inner work, is the one that questions within the context of the ordinary self.

 My ordinary parts are, as the technical explanations of inner work go, mechanical. Well, this sounds important; but it is difficult to experience it directly from within what I am, it's like asking a steam engine to sense that it is a steam engine. A steam engine, let's face it, is a far cry from the computer; although complex and powerful, it can't even be stupid, because stupidity would presume the presence of an intelligence that might be exercised, and it doesn't have one. Something without intelligence, a machine, can't see itself; and the machine just runs on, willy-nilly, without any checks or balances. It operates strictly according to its programming.

 So as I am, outwardly, I operate without any questions, according to my impulses, my self-love, and my consequent intentions, and there is nothing in me that doubts who I am or what I am.

The beginning of presence involves having this gremlin, this "mischievous" spirit, this animated and living quality, that brings the question.

It is like an imp, a sprite, that says,   ...oh, really?   every time I undertake an action or follow an impulse, every time an intention arises. The gremlin sees what is going on; and this is the unexplained problem, or fault, that arises inside the workings of the machine. All of a sudden, the machine doesn't work so well; there is a part of upsetting the apple cart, interfering with the smooth inner workings of what exists by proxy (not under my own inner agency) and is assumed by default.

This is exactly what is needed; a flaw that exposes my mechanicality. So my gremlin helps me. It derails the locomotive that moves me through life; and I have to take a look at how I am in an inner sense.

If this gremlin isn't a living quality, an elemental — that is, a "supernatural" (supernatural, that is, to my ordinary parts) entity or force manifested by occult (hidden) means— then it isn't functional. The gremlin, in other words, has to be its own spirit, not a spirit that belongs to my ordinary parts. This idea of elementals as parts of my own being is an interesting one, which probably has a great deal to do with the many fairy tales that speak of elementals. They are all, in the end, parts of myself; the flounders that tempt with wishes, the witches that devour children, the imps that show me how to spin straw into gold — all of these elementals are actually me, in my various guises, but in the fairy tales, the elementals are sprites that mislead and betray. Not all elementals are of this order; in fact, we should definitely recall Gurdjieff's comment that a man has an angel on his right shoulder, a devil on his left, and, as he said, the devil, you can trust.

 This loving-suspicion is the devil's tool; remember, in Judaism, Satan — the devil in his original form — is an adversary: and what this little gremlin of Presence is is an adversary to my ordinary mechanicality.

 This brings me to the idea that God is the devil of my own sin. That is, from a sinful state, God appears to be the adversary.

And this is, I think, worth pondering large and long; for what else does Gurdjieff's Holy Denying consist of?


Friday, November 14, 2014


On November 24, this experiment of using a blog as my personal blog on my spiritual work will mark its eighth anniversary.

 Enterprises like this one, that begin as modest efforts, can grow over time to be vast, sprawling compendiums. It was never, for example, my intention to write what are now over 1700 posts; every post is written one at a time, and each one merely represents my own search as it arises, according to my interests, thoughts, proclivities, and experience. Above all, experience; how else does a human being interpret their life but through experience?

 The enterprise goes on. I don't look back; at this point, it would be impossible to reabsorb all the thoughts I have had or experiences I have written about. As such, each of these essays is written in this moment, for this moment, and then passed on into posterity. If there is a cumulative result, I'm unable to see it — all I can see is where I am now, and the aim is not to do anything more than to see that.

Yesterday, I asked a friend who is mortally ill, a friend of enormous and in fact astonishing outer accomplishments that most of us could only dream of achieving, whether he agreed with the following statement: with age, the depth in a human being is increasingly measured by the extent to which they are willing to question their own motives. This friend is, to be sure, such a man: and he is standing at a crossroads where this question becomes much more intense.

He and I have been many conversations where we agreed that our intentions are never entirely pure; and readers will know that I have examined this question of intention many times, since the idea of intention plays a central role both in Gurdjieff's practices and Swedenborg's teachings. In essence, after all, we become what we love — this is an inner entity that grows over a lifetime, not one we simply start out with which never changes — and our intentions are the motive force that propels us in the direction of our love. Wilson van Dusen wrote lucidly about this question; and while writing about it lucidly is important, sensing and feeling it lucidly is vital.

If I cannot see my own intentions, experience them directly and organically as they arise, I don't really see my own sin.

There is nothing old-fashioned or formal about this idea of sin. Those who understand it as attached to some absurd moral code, some formulation or set of didactic rules for living, kill it off and don't experience it as the animated entity that it is. Sin isn't a thing outside of me, or even a thing; it is the force of my intention in the wrong direction, intention in the service of self-love, rather than love of others. If I am honest with myself, no matter what I do, I see that underneath every altruistic motive, there is a sneaky part that wants for itself. Every one of the seven deadly sins in Christianity relates to that inner action whereby intention serves the self, not God. And no matter how I want to define God, God has to be bigger than I am — even an atheist has to understand the world from the perspective of something larger than their own interests, else they are nothing more than an egoist alone. Of course, this satisfies a certain narrow and tragically crippled personality — but the human organism was designed to work in community, not alone, beginning with the fact that we generally begin and end life utterly dependent on others for our care and sustenance.

In any event, this outward question, outlined above, does not necessarily elucidate the inner condition, in which certain parts of myself want to serve only themselves. I need to begin to see myself with a loving suspicion; and perhaps this is a better way of saying it than to say I need to see myself without judgment, because that is a lofty piece of territory I am unlikely to reach. Loving suspicion may lead to seeing without judgment, but it needs to begin there, because there need to be two parts, balanced, watching how I am if the opportunity for a third part that can reconcile them ( presumably, that part which doesn't judge) is to arise.

So as opposed to this idea of loving-kindness which both Meister Eckhart and the laudable Buddhist masters bring us to in regard to others, we have this new idea of loving-suspicion, which I direct inwardly. It is not judgmental, cruel, or destructive to suspect myself of sin; it is a healthy analytical process that keeps me on my toes and advises me not to trust myself too much.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

A flight to Shanghai, part IV: The mind and the big bang

Coming back to this impression of the mind inflating my personal universe, and the implications.

The big bang, the event that created the universe, engendered a material set of circumstances that revolutionized the Being of the cosmos. Before, there was no cosmos, no material reality; after, galaxies, suns and planets. 

Thinking is like this, because before it, there can be no self-awareness as we humans understand it. It’s clear enough that animals are not self-aware in the way that we are; the intellect is thus the big bang of the human cosmos—what we, as Gurdjieffians, might call the human octave.

The big bang was accompanied by inflation, the steady and inexorable expansion of everything that is. So the big bang, which in one sense represents the absolute and miraculous coming together of all that is, of everything in creation, also represents in another way the coming apart of everything. Inflation caused material reality, from its inception forth through time, to separate itself from itself. Each of the elements of the cosmos has since the beginning of creation been governed by forces that distance themselves from one another.

Thinking has a similar effect on me. It creates me, paradoxically, in my separateness from creation; but it also distances me from myself. I ought to turn inward towards this tangible sense of the grounded nature of the matter I am made of, but instead I am governed by the forces that fractionalize me.

If I look to the structures in the cosmos for analogies, I see that there needs to be a gravitational force that holds things together and brings them back together. Gravity creates structure and promotes togetherness; without it there is no unity. This is why galaxies have black holes at their centers: in order for structure to emerge and for wholeness to become possible in the midst of these inevitable cosmological forces of separation, a gravity that aligns becomes necessary. The magnificent structure and beauty of the galaxies we see could not be possible without this organizing principle of gravity.

Gravity, in the case of black holes, is manifested by a force that, according to theoretical physics, lies beyond this cosmos and outside of any possiblity for us to observe or fully understand it. It emanates, in other words, from mystery; from the fullest and most complete of myseteries, an absolutely impenetrable mystery that nonetheless exerts a profound and incredible infleunce on our cosmos. The force is understood, according to cosmology and physics, to be one that devours and swallows; yet in that process it emits light in immeasurable amounts, and organizes galaxies to the sublime perfection we marvel at. So devouring and swallowing are not the only nature of a black hole; it embodies both creation and destruction at the same time, wrapped in an absolutely transcendental mystery, an unknown that defies all analysis.

This is exactly analogous to the action of God.

He works the same on every level, and so we see that within us there must be a place beyond us, a place that lies in apparent darkness, from which nonetheless all our inner light emerges.

How it can be so is impossible to understand; and yet the process is mirrored within the depths of our being, so that we see we are exactly like galaxies, according to the structure of our inner process.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A flight to Shanghai, part III: By Grace it may arrive

So I see myself.

If I see myself, already, I see apartness. There ought to be togetherness, but I’m fractional. This becomes apparent in my failure to sense myself as Being within the small world of my own soul, which touches the outer in such limited ways. If I touched the outer with real Being at more times I’d have more respect for it, but this sense of myself, which relies on its apartness, its separateness, to define itself, lacks any sense of respect. It respects itself rather than the other.

This is the peculiar thing; real self respect is not respect for myself, but rather self-respect for the real self, which is not apart, not separated into fractions. Because I don’t know this self very well- and even after years of sensing it and knowing its truth, it does not endure within me in the way that I by now know it should-I am always forgetting it. This is like forgetting God and going my own way in the darkness. I do this so often; and apparently I would rather grope in darkness than acknowledge the light.

I see that help is needed, but within myself, within this part that separates and predicates its being on separation, I forget that there is an agency larger than me. Myself sees only its own agency, despite the fact that it lies in the grip of forces it can’t possibly master.

Sometimes I think that I’m in love with my own agency through habit alone; the ideas and thoughts of a lifetime, along with the concurrent lack of an inner intimacy, have become routine. There is a perverse comfort in my own stupidity, my own lack of sense. If I see this, it comes as a bit of a shock; how complacent I am. I resent it when others don’t care about me, but in fact I don’t care about myself enough. I don’t want to look here, at home, where this struggle must ultimately be recognized, so I look to others and struggle with them instead. Even if I do look here at home, within myself, where the issues truly lie, my struggle at once becomes a psychological one. Turning my inner face towards the silent partner of sensation is forgotten, even though this is the ground floor for my Being. There is an affirmation in sensation of Being that transcends all of the affirmative thoughts I could ever have. Perhaps it’s here that I begin to see that my thinking is Holy Denying, the rejection of the Lord; my sensing is Holy Affirming, the acceptance of God; and my feeling is Holy Reconciling, the joining together with God.

If the sense of inner prayer and sorrow arises anywhere, it’s within this intersection which I so stubbornly resist. I am so stubborn, in fact, that I cannot even bring myself to the crossroads; I need to be led to them, and the only path in that direction comes through a humility that, like Being itself, does not belong to me. By myself, I can never have humility; but by Grace it may arrive.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A flight to Shanghai, part II: The grasp of the mind

As I was saying yesterday, the sensation of the inner life actually lies beyond the grasp of the mind.

If I don’t sense life in this way, I haven’t sensed it properly. To be in question means to come up against this territory where the mind fails and the body takes over. 

Here, I see how incapable I am, in the mind, of grasping what it is to live; and I see so clearly that the sensation has a grasp of life, an inherent understanding of life, that cant be touched by thinking. It touches itself. It knows itself. And herein lies that self which knows itself, as opposed to that self which thinks about itself. The self that thinks about itself is always forgetting itself and its relationship to this small world that lies around me, exactly because it thinks itself. It is lost in thought, and thought has no intimate contact with the sensation of life. Only the body can do this.

The feeling also has a capacity for this; it, too, is sensory in a way that thinking isn’t. Thinking always takes place after the sensory. This is what Gurdjieff meant when he said we ought to put our attention on the place where impressions enter the body; that is, in essence, to put sensation before thinking, to be within the immediate reach of sensation and feeling, which is in fact the place that defines the world I live in. 

The theater I think of myself in, the theater defined by an imagination of the large world I live in and interact with, is a theater or words and concepts, not a theater of impressions and sensations. If I want to play my role, I need to inhabit the role fully, not spend all my time thinking about how to interact with the audience and impress them. So that means living, breathing, sensing the role as a real thing. My heart needs to beat within my own life first, and not the lives of others.

There is an energy that can bring this. It isn’t just up to me; the energy is not my own. It comes from a different level. Of itself, it inwardly forms a sense of Being; that sense again does not belong to me, for I see, if I know and remember the Self, that Being is not mine. Being belongs to itself. I, as I am, have a role to play in conjunction with Being, but I cannot own it. I can come as a participant to share its question, which is worldless and fully informed by Grace; but I can’t take it and make it mine. 

Self remembering involves seeing this, seeing the difference between Self, which is whole and inviolate, owned by God, and myself, which is fractional and defines itself by its apartness.


Monday, November 10, 2014

A flight to Shanghai, part I: the size of my world

 This essay was written while flying from New York to Shanghai on November 3.
 Subsequent portions of the essay will be published for the next three days.

I feel that I live in a very large world. 

Billions of people; a seemingly endless series of national and international events, across vast territories. I have my place in a tangible progression of time that stretches back millions, billions of years; I live in a cosmos reaching out billions of light-years from where I am, governed by unimaginable forces.

All of this is true; yet the size of my actual world, the one of my personal impressions and interactions, is quite small. The number of people who I have daily contact with is really very limited; tiny, even. Measured on the scale of my immediate surroundings, the impressions I take in from moment to moment, the outer world is constrained by the limits of what lies within the range of my senses.

There is depth here, but it doesn’t lie outside, it lies inside.

The greatest expanse of what my life consists of lies inside me. Through my sensation and an inner awareness, I can sense this, but only according to my relationship to an inner energy that gives life. Without this energy, life is two-dimensional, flat. I assign scale to it with the mind, and inflate it, but that inflation is imaginary. I remember here what cosmic inflation implies: galaxies moving, forever, further and further apart.

When I conceptualize the world at large, the enormous scales of society, history, cosmology, and so on, and picture myself within them, the action is impressive but ultimately pointless. I’m reminded of Beelzebub’s advice to Hassein, when he contemplated the nature of the world and his place in it. 

Beelzebub knows it’s impossible for this to lead anywhere in terms of Being; and thus he advises Hassein to sense himself and his connection to his body:

I advise you, my dear Hassein, not to put such questions to yourself yet. Be patient. Only when you reach the corresponding period of your existence for becoming aware of such essence-questions, and reflect actively upon them, will you understand what you must do in return... is indispensable that every day when the sun rises, while watching the reflection of its splendor, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your 
common presence.

 —Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Chapter 7

I come back to this question so often it may seem redundant or obsessive; but it isn’t. The scale of my world is actually measured by my inner state, not my outer one, and the real dimensions of the cosmos can’t be understood until the organism comes into a sense of its own living contact with itself. This is self-remembering; the remembering of the organism by itself, for itself, on an organic level that lies beyond the conceptualizations or even grasp of the mind itself.

This is where life unfolds; within me first, and only after, outside.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

The organic sense of feeling

 Some of you may recognize this as the famous dog Isabel. The picture was taken 11 years ago when she was still a puppy.

Dogs have a terrific organic sense of feeling. This is what attracts us to them; they understand feeling in a way that we don't. This is because, in comparison to dogs, we are basically idiots when it comes to feeling. The parts of us that ought to feel are so atrophied that they don't do much of anything.

I have spoken for many years of the organic sense of Being, which actually has two meanings I ought to clarify here first.

The first meaning is the meaning of sensation itself, when sensation becomes rooted in the flesh, blood, bones, and marrow. This is the organic or cellular sensation of Being, the rooted quality without which nothing else can proceed in terms of inner development.

In the second sense, it is a more global expression related to the coming together of many different parts of being in the organism, but we will get to that in a bit. In the meantime, I'm going to discuss the organic sense of feeling in the same context as the first meaning of the organic sense of being, that is, in its individuality — not the global meaning it also carries. There is, fundamentally, an individual as well as a global feeling — and there is even a universal feeling, although that is much too big for us to discuss. These are the three aspects of feeling which in the end constitute holy denying of feeling (individual feeling) holy affirming of feeling (global feeling) and holy reconciling of feeling (universal feeling.)

In the context of individual feeling, that is, feeling that belongs to the self, or my individuality — that quality which Gurdjieff said could not develop without the organic sense of Being — there is the potential for an organic sense of feeling that arises naturally and organically, inherently, emerging with its own consciousness within the moment, and arriving as a guest — and a partner — in the effort to understand Self.

 Because Self is not understood— and because this is, with feeling, clearly seen — feeling inevitably produces a form of sorrow, which is actually the first tickling of an experience of what Gurdjieff called the sorrow of His Endlessness. There are widespread cosmological implications to this, but I can't go into them all here. The important thing to recognize at this moment is that this sorrow, this feeling, is sacred — it lies at the root and the heart of all experience.

One might daresay that it is impossible to understand the word sacred without experiencing this feeling. It is the force that melts, the fire that burns the Self and destroys what I am in favor of a greater good. If I am lucky, it touches me just a little bit, over and over, over a long period of time, because if it truly touches me in any big way, it is unbearable.

This organic sense of feeling must become as rooted in the body and the Being as the organic sense of being, taken in the sense of sensation. So both sensation and feeling become conscious entities that participate within the organism, expressing themselves in the bodynot in the mind.

 The mind can't do any of this. As you read this with your mind, try to take it in so that it's swallowed deep into the organism where it can be digested by parts that don't think about things. When a concept of this kind is swallowed deeply enough, it can work very far down in the body where the conscious mind can't — and should not — penetrate. One then conducts one's search through sensation, and as the roots of being gradually grow finer and penetrate the nature of sensation itself, eventually, feeling awakens and begins to extend its own tendrils into the fertile soil of inner work.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

More on the question of organic intention

This question of intention needs to be examined much more precisely, because all of the other questions revolve around it. If I speak of awareness, consciousness, real "I", self remembering — in fact, practically anything – it all relates to intention, because to have an intention is to have an aim. And the aim is a direction, the direction in which one points one's attention.

In this way, first, there needs to be an attention — an attention in the body, in sensation, and an attention in emotion. These two attentions have to come together and be accompanied by the light of intelligence; and there has to be an organic intention, an organic aim that arises.

 That is to say, it is not enough to have a sensation. The sensation must have an aim. And it isn't enough to have a feeling; the feeling must also have an aim. By having an aim, or an intention, I mean that these sensations and feelings must be pointed in a direction. They can't just exist willy-nilly, without any purpose. The whole point of inhabiting life is so that a purpose emerges; and the purpose must be pointed towards the good, that is, that which serves a higher presence.

I don't recall hearing anyone in the Gurdjieff work speak about having an organic intention before; and surely, if this point was well understood, it would have come up in the 30 years I have been around. An organic sensation, yes; this is spoken of. When it is spoken of, those who definitely understand the question in more than just a passing point of view generally agree that a sensation is not enough. What isn't spoken of is what would be enough; and this organic intention, this direction, is what is also necessary. It is necessary whether or not one has an organic sense of Being or an organic sense of Feeling — another subject I have not spoken about hardly at all, which deserves much further treatment — because each of the parts that participates in a move towards conscious labor and intentional suffering has to become organic. That is, "I" need to begin to see it from the point of view of it as a force in its own right, not a force which I invoke, create, or govern. If my real "I" develops in the least, it sees that these forces are independent — that is, there is a collective of parts that makes an effort, not just the one that says to me, "this is I." The organic sense of Being and the organic sense of Feeling need to each become a real "I" in their own right — and this brings the center of gravity of experience into more than one center.

This kind of work takes years to adjust to. One can have an enlightenment experience in which one has an extended stay in a widely elevated state, and still not understand all of the work that is necessary to get there, which takes years of research and inner introspection. Gifts like this come sometimes; but work needs to be done always, and relying on serendipity for inner development is never enough. Serendipity may be sufficient; but work is necessary. And without understanding these questions of sensation, feeling, and the importance of developing an organic, rooted, deeply vibrational sense of oneself, one does not begin to tiptoe up to the threshold where the real suffering that is necessary begins.

Of course, everyone wants to get things without suffering. This is, of course, quite impossible; but the disease infects all of us.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Before anything happens

Synteresis (synderesis) is used by St. Thomas Aquinas for 'the habitual knowledge of the primary moral principles,' or the light of conscience which never dies out, even in the damned...

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Worksp. 22

I've had this quote sitting in my drafts for almost a month without getting to it, but the comment (by Walshe, the translator of the Complete Mystical Works) is a compelling one.

 This idea of the light of conscience which never dies out is akin to Gurdjieff's idea of conscience which is buried in mankind in his unconscious parts, thus insulated and protected from the damage which is ordinary psyche inflicts on almost every idea it encounters. These are big ideas; and of course, both Meister Eckhart and Gurdjieff were known for their big ideas. But how does it affect me personally? I'm quite interested, as readers know, about this idea of a primary moral principle, a fundamental truth and a fundamental goodness and rightness, all of which exist before anything happens.

 I am always involved in the happening of things; it is in the nature of perception and of living to be in the midst of happening, of the intersection of what I call objects, events, circumstances, and conditions. Yet there is something within me, that sacred spark or light, which is there first, before the outward takes place. That is an inwardly formed quality; and no matter how twisted or depraved a human being gets — and, as we all know, there are depths here that can scarcely be plumbed— there is always, at the root, a spark that gives life, and has an essential purity that even damnation cannot expunge. Even the Devil, in other words, knows what goodness is; and even the Devil has a conscience. 

What distinguishes the Devil is the fact that he intentionally ignores this.

In this way, once again, intention lies at the heart of our question of inner development. What we intend is what matters; and the premise which St. Thomas Aquinas begins with here is that there is a primary moral principle, a fundamental good — a platonic and Socratic principle, to be sure — which exists before intention does. Intention only chooses a direction — either towards or away from this fundamental moral principle.

In a conversation over a week ago, someone brought up the question of lying and asked what the nature of lying is, as though that could not be known. While it's indeed good to keep this as a living question, but nature of lying is fundamentally transparent if one examines it carefully. Lying involves a choice. I cannot lie unless I know with the truth is and then intentionally go against it; that is exactly what a lie is, it is an intentional misrepresentation of the truth. So lying begins with intention; and if Gurdjieff says we lie all the time—an observation echoed by Jeanne de Salzmann (see The Reality of Being, #73, A Ferocious Ego)— what he is actually saying is that our intentions deliberately go against the truth; that is, that we know what the truth or the right thing is, and we go against it anyway. If there is badness in us, if we are lying, it is willful; it can't be any other way, because lying by default implies willfulness.

Lying is an abandonment of the primary moral principles — of the search for truth. Much of life consists, in one way or another, of an intentional misrepresentation of the truth; and it is the examination of this intention that lies at the heart of understanding what I am as opposed to what I wish to be.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Love and sin

Last night, I was speaking with one of my best friends from college, and I mentioned that I am, in the course of my inner work, expected to keep my sin for myself and give my love to others.

Instead, I do the opposite: I keep my love for myself and give my sin to others.

Keeping my love for myself is called ego in most circles. It means that that force which ought to go outward and govern my relationships with generosity is instead turned inward with greed. Love is a good thing; I want it for myself, and thus try to retain as much of it as I can. But this inward-turning is exactly the wrong thing for love, which does not thrive in isolation. It cannot even know itself in isolation; it depends on others for its manifestation, but I don't see that, inwardly. In my paranoia, I feel unloved; and I try to keep my love—that sacred portion of God which is instilled into each man and woman when they are born—within me in order to have it and be "safe."

In the same way, I thrust my sin outward. Sin consists in this instance of a lack of consideration for the other person; I don't see that my own security and happiness depends on theirs. This is the odd thing, isn't it?—that I don't see how I can't really be secure or loved if others aren't also secure and loved.

My sin turns outward; and this worst part of me, the part that does not know what good intention is, thus becomes my outward face to the world, even though I may be quite clever at hiding it.

To be sure, sin is inevitable—any careful self-examination of intentions will ultimately reveal this snake that lies close to the ground, concealed in the grass next to my own essence. This property ought to be one I suffer myself, within myself—not placing the burden of it on others. In order to do that, though, I need to see how this is within me—and that is quite difficult, because sin within each person is in its natural element—sin inhabits the ego quite naturally, in the same way that a snake inhabits the grass.

The two have a love for one another; and between them they understand their own love for one another better than I understand the greater love which I am called to by a right inner practice.

To keep my sin for myself is to suffer it inwardly.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Organic intention


The head is like an apparatus, it plays the role of police. But the centre of gravity of your presence is in your solar plexus, which is the centre of feeling. That is where things happen. The head is like a typewriter... Your head can only constate, not in any way work. You must work with your sensation and your feeling. As for the head, it can see whether they are together or separate. The head is not a part of the organism, it is separate from the organism. The head is nothing, a function, a typewriter, an apparatus. When you concentrate your attention in your head, you can constate what goes on in you. But the head is nothing, it is a stranger to the organism... It watches how the functions of your presence are working. Do you understand me?

It's sometimes in the moment when things become the worst that one has to have the strongest sensation and intention.

This moment is the moment where intention must be within the body as a living thing; one can't use the mind for it, because the mind is actually helpless. 

Intention itself must become organic in the same way that sensation is organic. This is a different order of work and, so to speak, above the work of sensation — that is, intention cannot be organic unless sensation is also first organic.

The discrimination for this kind of understanding doesn't come from the mind either. It has to do with what Gurdjieff said about instinct. It is only through a solid and instinctive connection to sensation that I can begin to have an organic intention, and that intention is actually an intention towards the binding, the glue, that holds my Being together. Being will fall apart without this glue of intention; intention has to become as alive as the sensation becomes in the organic sense of being.

The phrase "I am — I wish to be" consequently doesn't have much meaning when the mind says it; it is basically useless. It is only when this is born within the body as a result of both sensation and intention that it begins to become a living thing; and by that time, the words don't mean as much, because this is not a thing made of words, it is a thing made of the qualities, the forces, of intention and sensation.

I need, in other words, to see not just this question about sensation from an organic point of view, I also need to understand intention from an organic point of view.

That which is not organic, not rooted, has no values or substance. That which is rooted is invulnerable.

One can definitely say, upon observation, that organic sensation is not "my" sensation; it is its own sensation, that is, it belongs to a different force from the force of my personality. I can say exactly the same thing about intention; an organic intention is not my intention; I am to cooperate with it, form a relationship with it, but it does not belong to me. It is of itself.

This experience of forces within Being as forces of themselves, rather than forces that "I" have some control over, is an interesting one.

Understanding this question of the role of the mind is a policeman allows for the other forces to be their own agencies; this is a new way of being entirely, isn't it?


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Two natures, via meister eckhart

But you might say, 'How can I believe in higher things as long as I do not feel in such a condition, but feel myself imperfect and prone to many things ?' 

Just see. You should observe two things in yourself which our Lord also had in himself. He possessed the higher and the lower powers, which had two different functions. His higher powers had possession and enjoyment of eternal bliss. But His lower powers were at the same time involved in the greatest suffering and struggle in the world, yet none of these works hindered the others in their sphere. 

That is how it should be in you, that the highest powers should be lifted entirely into God, and entirely surrendered and added to Him. Moreover, we should assign all suffering to the body, to the lower powers and the senses, but the spirit should raise itself up with all its strength and plunge unfettered into God. Rather, the suffering of the senses and the lower powers are not your concern, nor this assault of the world: for the greater and fiercer the struggle, the greater and more glorious the victory and the honor of victory.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, P. 510.

Here Eckhart brings us to the classic dilemma of the clash between our lower nature—the descending, or material, side of the enneagram—and our higher nature, the spiritual calling to which we aspire.

He begins his soliloquy on this question with the words,  just see.

Now, those of us who are familiar with The Reality of Being  might think of this as a mere coincidence; and yet it cannot be, for seeing—the action of a concise inner observation—is exactly what he calls us to in his next paragraphs. So Eckhart begins and ends his advice to us with this effort to see where we are.

His understanding of the division on man's two natures, and the need to stand between them, is a precise and unambiguous precedent; what it precedes, by nearly 700 years, is Gurdjieff's and de Salzmann's comments on the same subject. Yet there is nothing technical about Eckhart's advice: or, rather, it is supremely technical, but in a technique seemingly absent from the instructions of the Fourth Way teachers, since its technique rests entirely on a single foundation. That is, without a doubt, the foundation of Love. Eckhart's premise all along is that we must love God, must love the higher, more than anything else; and it is this emotive power alone which may lift us up into a communion with the higher power, or level, within us. Feeling, in other words, is necessary; and that feeling must be unhesitating and unconditional in its embrace of the Lord.

Eckhart poses us quite firmly between these two worlds, and insists they are not to be mixed, in his admonition the suffering of the senses and the lower powers are not your concern. He does not ask that we deny them; far from it. He reminds us, in fact, that Christ found himself faced with the same dilemma, yet invested His Being in the higher.