Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Work within Being

A reader's question:

Would you say that new age practices such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming, self help in general with its affirmations, and self image exercises are pseudo-teachings, and that efforts in this direction will only increase Personality; and if it’s combined with inner work, will actually put the brakes on, or even halt it?

Response:

I think it’s a bit harsh to refer to self help and new age teachings as 'pseudo-teachings.' Rather than devaluing these many different practices, it might be better to rightly value them, which is, as it happens, to recognize them as worthwhile teachings generally belonging to the outer world, and thus to our outer personality, rather than our inner essence.

The outer world is powerful, and within the sphere and scope of its power of course it produces outer teachings, that is, teachings aimed at outward goals and accomplishments. Almost all of these are "invented," that is, produced by personality and its machinations, or constructed devices. All these practices and teachings emanate from human sources and have specific values related to those same sources and their enterprises.

We pretty much need such teachings; the operation of the outward world relies on them, and for many people, it’s the best they can find, or the best they can do. The fact that they do not come from higher sources (influences C, as Gurdjieff called them) doesn’t invalidate them; it simply assigns them a place and a scope. They may indeed produce outward results; but inner work is always meant to produce inner results, and this kind of result is very different than outer results and, one might say, is even opposed to them, since the inner and the outer are locked in a certain kind of struggle in mankind. There is a great difference between such outer works and a work within Being

Of course, in the end, real inner work, work for our essence, produces a quite good result in relationship to outer life, but it isn’t quite the kind of relationship one might expect, or even necessarily desire; in the end it shears a man or woman of outwardness. In Matthew 13:12, where Christ says, For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath, it is as much a comment on worldliness as anything else, even though the comment is usually taken to mean “to he who has much good stuff shall much more good stuff be given,” provoking images of unfairness.

What Christ actually meant here is that those who are worldly, outward, and devoted to the material will be given more and more of it, because the material breeds and begets the material; whereas a man or woman who goes in the other direction, away from the material—that is, has less of the world in them—they will have more and more of the world taken away from them.

That is, the person who has less of the world in them and truly devotes themselves to inner work will steadily be shorn of the worldly, whereas the person who devotes themselves to the world of personality will acquire more and more of it. Let us remember here that Meister Eckhart's ideal of the spiritual path is one in which we are shorn of all attachments to creatures—such is the nature of a work within Being:

...he who does not abandon creaturely externals can be neither conceived nor born in this divine birth. But divesting yourself of yourself and of everything external does truly give it to you. And in very truth I be­lieve, nay, I am sure, that the man who is established in this cannot in any way ever be separated from God.
—ME, The Complete Mystical Works, Sermon 1, page 36

Although my interpretation of Christ' words may seem novel, I think you'll agree it makes a great deal of sense, on consideration.

I’ll leave it to readers to contemplate this more deeply; but note that it directs us so: the inward path is one that dissolves our belief in the outer, until nothing but a belief in God is left. The aim of self-help works in general is a quite different aim, isn’t it? It leads us to empower and strengthen the self.

There are contradictions at hand here, because we do need a healthy self in order to do inner work; so the outer self needs to be well ordered and disciplined, occupied, as it were, with healthy, non-destructive concerns and non-destructive attitudes. Yet this isn’t enough; and to the extent it becomes an end in itself, it presents a danger. The principle way in which this comes about is through a failure to understand the difference between inner and outer work; to do so, one must have a distinct organic sensation of inner life which is quite different than the outer sense of one’s self which these “self-help programs” are directed at.

I speak here of the difference between what I’d called the sacred sense of self and the secular sense of self. They are not the same. (Even in the best phases of inner work there are times when the sacred sense of self becomes distant, because such tests are necessary, or it can’t grow. It has been known since ancient times that God sometimes withdraws so as to create conditions where a person must strive more towards Him; and this is a right action, on both sides.)

In the broadest sense of the term, self help programs which are healthy and don’t encourage delusions (such as the idea, for example, that one can cure Lyme disease with homeopathy-- something a close friend of mine tried several years ago, with very nearly disastrous results that were only headed off at the last moment after severe neuropathy set in, when an aggressive course of antibiotics had to be applied) are fine. One must, however, measure these ideas in regard to their hypnotic effects, which can blind us to the inward search in favor of the outward trappings. It is, after all, the bells and whistles of outward practices that attract us; and outward practices almost all present themselves, in one way or another, as though one could get something real without paying for it to the last penny.

If one buys into this, one is led away from God; this natural tendency prevails, because we want the easy way out. So it’s important to recognize outer works for what they are and see their limitations.

The aim of inner work is to sense one’s sin objectively, that is, to see it without judgment. Self-help works probably can’t help much with that. Sensing one’s sin objectively is a serious and sobering—and silent—inner activity which takes many years and leads one into completely unknown territory, in a very real sense.

There is no turning back from such a place; which is why it’s best not to embark on the journey unless one is willing to suffer the inner truth of what one is.

Hosanna.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for a v interesting post.
    I value your interpretation of Jesus's words. It's interesting to note tho, that neither Gurdjieff nor Mme, nor Pauline, where shorn of the worldly. Maybe it was rather their 'attitude' to their circumstances....They all lived in, or near to, the most expensive part of Paris, in affluent accommodation. The G work house is a large mansion within walking distance of the Arc du Triomphe,
    I wonder what you would think of Patterson's Kesdjan body workshop!? Now full, at $700+. Worthwhile, or the blind leading the blind. He is v keen to say that he was a 'student' of Pentland for many years....
    I guess we have to learn the art of bullshit detection, or discernment of spirits.

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