Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shorn of the worldly

One of my readers mentioned the other day that Gurdjieff and Mme. de Salzmann were—in apparent contradiction to Meister Eckhart's (and every Buddhist's) principle of being shorn of all worldly influences—rather worldly indeed.

At least, that is how they looked from the outside — they ate good food, drove in good cars, lived in cozy apartments, and showed no great aversion to money or worldly possessions.

...It's worthwhile mentioning that Swedenborg didn't deprive himself of worldly things, either. This personal feature does not, in my eyes, put an individual at fault, or even at all determine the nature of their inner work.

I suppose many people prefer spiritual role models who wear robes and carry beggar bowls. It's the fashion—an outward fashion not unlike the effect that Hasidic Jews like to create by all wearing the same black and white clothing — which, weirdly, nonetheless manages to become an expression of personal style, despite the assertion that it is the exact opposite.

This kind of thing is inevitable. Any outward expression of being shorn of the worldly is actually a worldly manifestation; the worldly parts that one needs to be shorn of are all inward parts. It seems to me that anyone who puts on a great show of not having worldly things, not using money, living like a pauper, may actually, under the surface of it all, be putting on an unconscious display of how spiritual they are — a perverse form of reverse egoism.   In the end, in fact, it is in our nature to betray higher impulses — no matter how nobly they begin, we manage to corrupt everything we touch. Only a sincere and relentless doubt in ourselves can, I think, act as a tonic in this matter.

Essentially, the most spiritual person is invisibly spiritual — it's like sound editing. If a sound editor does a good job, they disappear, and you never know they were there.

Spirituality is something like this: real spirituality is completely invisible and consists of a sacred pact between God and one's inner Being. To the extent that we manifest any of this outwardly, already, it's an attachment to the outer; every expression of form which involves either excess or deprivation is just as much an expression of form as those expressions which conveyed mediocrity, that is, a middle-of-the-road experience. It doesn't matter whether one is to the right, left, or in the center of this question; the outward is the outward, and attempting to judge by it is already a mistake.

It's been said by many teachers that a human being who truly develops is so invisible no one will realize it by their outward appearance.

 So this question of being shorn of the worldly is a complicated one; it is an inner action, not an outer one, and one has to engage in it through a contact with Being, an intimate contact with one's inner life.

 This action is a kind of submission or surrender; and it bears little relationship to the outward world. In fact, suffering the actual nature of the outward world is necessary in order to engage in it; if one wants to practice nonattachment, one must first be surrounded by everything one wants to be attached to.



  1. That reader did also suggest that it wasn't worldliness - but rather their 'attitude' towards' things that was important...Pauline d Dampierre (one of the main figures in Paris, and a leading movements teacher) lived in an expensive apartment and was not a greedy person...:) An inner action, as you say...The notion of being invisible is v appropriate....

    1. That reader is also v appreciative of this blog and the efforts of its author. The comments the reader makes are attempts to have a clarifying dialogue...not just to be totally idiotic...which he, nevertheless, often is :)

  2. I appreciate this site as well. Clarifying dialogue would be good, however like most comment sections I find little humility or compassion to be found there.


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