Monday, December 8, 2014

The skin of the devil

Winter field, High Falls, NY

Recently, someone cited the sins and transgressions of Gurdjieff as examples that somehow invalidated him, or his teaching... I’m not sure which. Perhaps both.

It’s pointless to bring such matters up. The whole point of man’s existence is that we are full of contradictions, every one of us. Expecting anyone, even a teacher, to be different is unrealistic. Even the saints have sin; the difference is that they acknowledge it.

What has been on my mind lately is the nature of my own sin.

A man or woman should never seek a relationship with God if they don’t want to know their own sin, for He will surely show it; the truth of it will be known. In this kind of work there is little room for the vision of the sin of others; it is there, but of no concern to me. One of my sins is that I concern myself with the sins of others, instead of looking to myself; there can be no profit in this.

I’m filled with sin... Criminal egosim, as Gurdjieff might have called it. The situation is a dilemma, because it seems no life can be properly lived without a generous dollop of selfishness, a selfishness that all too often spills over into questionable territory. The point, I find, of the life examined is to see this; and to suffer it.

It raises questions. If I see the reflexive part of me that wants to draw blood for itself, to harm, I see the devil in me... And I think we all have a devil in us. It’s just that most of us keep him hidden from ourselves by wearing his skin so close we can no longer distinguish between the two of us. We become the devil; and we do so unquestioningly, perhaps even enthusiastically. As long as we are the devil, we need not see him.

The first and most noteworthy characteristic of my devil is that he thinks himself an angel; the devil begins in me right where I believe in my own good. Once I begin to doubt that, then there may be a glimpse of something real. 

I don’t do that often enough. It requires something personal that I generally don’t want to give; no one wants to be a devil and know it. 



  1. Some folks make the same move in regards to Chögyam Trungpa, dismissing him as a teacher due to his alcoholism and relationships with students. They miss out on some very deep and potentially transformational teachings by doing this.


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