Saturday, January 17, 2015

misunderstandings, part II: the bathtub

 I encountered a person several nights ago who is able, intelligent, and deeply involved in an inner work.

 They explained to me that everything in their life from an early age, when they first encountered it, was "hijacked" by this inner work, and they formed everything in their outer life around it.

Now, I suppose this isn't uncommon. And, in a certain way, it's not only typical of the way individuals approach their inner work as regards to faith, form, and commitment, it's admirable.

Yet it certainly isn't what Gurdjieff called the fourth way; and, I'm not sure at all that anyone understands what the fourth way is, at least, those who generally profess to be in it and engaged in it.

The fourth way is a way in life.

One must, in other words, have a life and then work in it; not find a work and then live in it.

The moment that one turns the fourth way into finding a work and then living in it, one has turned it upside down and backwards, and made it one of the other three ways. And this is exactly what nearly everyone does.

My teacher, towards the end of her life, mentioned on more than one occasion that she had seen far too many people, including some very close to her, make this mistake. She was always adamant about living and then working, not working and then living. She had, in other words, a clear commitment to actually working within the fourth way, that is, forming a clear relationship to life, including all of what life is without any Gurdjieff trappings, that is, an ordinary life, like the laborers in the vineyard.

Then—she instructed me and others with her—one brings the work into that life.

 The misunderstanding here arises in the confusion between inward work and outward work. The fourth way is an inward work. It takes place inwardly, while everything outwardly remains exactly the same. One shouldn't, even, change anything outwardly, one ought to engage in everything exactly as it is and seek understanding from within. Instead, nearly every spiritual work begins with telling people they should change everything outside, including the language they use, the close they wear, the people they associate with, the things they read, the food they eat, the songs they sing, the music they listen to, etc.

I would like readers to think this over very carefully for a few minutes and see if this isn't exactly true, and exactly what outward forms do. Anyone who thinks that the Gurdjieff work, in its present form, is any different is delusional. Outward forms encourage people to imitate one another, all in the service of a created thing. And this action of service to a created thing takes us, at once, away from the inward task of coming into contact with the great force of the uncreated, the force of Being; which, as Meister Eckhart always reminds us, lies above, outside, and beyond creation — in other words, anywhere but within creation itself.

 It isn't the baby or the bath water that is at issue here; babies are always alive, valuable, wonderful, and bathwater is always needed to get rid of the dirt.

It is the bathtub that one needs to worry about.

 Spiritual works, nearly to the last one of them, always advise people to become less and less worldly. And this is always seen as something that has to be broadcast through attitude, clothing, etc. That is — it's always taken outwardly, and no one is attracted to an individual who doesn't display the outward tokens of unworldliness, a detachment. Yet in the fourth way, one is advised to be completely worldly, in an outward sense — 100% worldly. It is within Being that one becomes unworldly — and, as I mentioned in the last post, this is a profoundly uncomfortable and even horrifying process that cannot fail to break a human being down into much smaller pieces.

It is from that detritus that something new can grow. But it doesn't grow outwardly; and the more outward anything is, the more absolutely suspicious one ought to be of it, especially when that outward is one's own outwardness.

Hosanna.


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