Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Hope of Good results, Part II: One must try

So in inner work, we make our efforts in the hope for good results.

Is ambition out of place here? Ambition, after all, could well be construed as a wish to do; and one of the standard adages of the Gurdjieff method is that man cannot "do."

The meaning of this statement is complex, not simple; and has layers and levels built into it. Yet one must admit that man and woman, in the Gurdjieff system, are advised to try and do a very great deal indeed—at least for creatures who are from the outset advised that they can’t do anything.

The egregious contradiction here has rarely, if ever, been examined by those undertaking this work, at least in my experience, and the statement must thus be relegated, in the most immediate practical sense, to the dung heap, not matter how metaphysically correct it may be.  One is, after all, advised to do movements; to do exercises; to do sittings; to see; to observe; to do this, that and the other thing ad infinitum… all without doing anything, and without working for results.

One might excuse the potential for confusion here, all of which arises from a lack of clear thinking (or, for that matter, thinking of any kind whatsoever) on the matter. 

Let's face it: the sheer weight of facts contradicts the dogma. Whether man can do or not, one cannot just sit on one’s ass reading books and watching movies.

One must try.

In trying, there are possibilities that lie beyond glib words and misleading, if not openly false, statements about the situation. One can try without attachment; and I believe that this is what people actually mean when they say one must work without expecting results. 

It's the attachment that creates an impediment, not the prospective result; yet in labeling the situation as we do, it is the potential result that is ultimately tarred and feathered, not our attitude towards the activity that attempts to achieve it. 

To try without attachment creates an objective atmosphere; this is effort without presumption, working (more or less) without opinions. This form of agency need not, in my estimation, eschew ambition; for of course we have a wish… wish itself is in a certain sense a form of ambition. 

Even if one’s wish is construed in the propositionally narrow terms of “consciousness alone,” that in itself is a goal. 

The whole of ambition covers a range of agency which needs, in this sense, to be divorced from itself. Natural or material ambition, subjective ambition, needs to be divorced from spiritual or objective ambition. In distinguishing between the two, the determining factor needs to be whether or not the ambition is selfish.

Ambition is at heart a trinitarian manifestation. One must have ambition for one’s self; but this must in the end serve ambition for others, and that in the end must serve ambition on behalf of God. There is, in other words, a hierarchy of ambition; and as it evolves, ambition must become more and more selfless—as the fifth obligolnian striving points out. While considering this, it's worthwhile seeing that the strivings themselves represent a hierarchy of ambition, which begins in a (relatively) selfish place, but ends with a striving that is selfless. They reflect, in other words, the point I am trying to make here.

Perhaps we are better off, after all, if we turn to Eckhart’s proposition that God alone is the goal; for God represents a quality (and, were he but material) a quantity that transcend all words—and perhaps even consciousness itself. Every concept, after all, is a created thing—anything manifest or that can be named (cf. Ibn al ‘Arabi) falls into this category—and thus represents a barrier between us and “God alone,” which lies above and beyond all creatures, and time itself.

Insofar as there is a “universal” goal in inner work, then, it is God; and of course an unattached effort is the only effort that will suffice—anything attached to creation and its universe of concepts must be abandoned.


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