Saturday, May 16, 2015
A brief history of inner work, part II: the experiment undergoes some corrections
The experiments failed.
Gurdjieff, in his autobiographical writings, confessed more than once that he had failed not only his students, but even himself; and indeed, although many offspring peeled off from his entourage and founded various interesting, valuable, and different "flavors" of Gurdjieff-work lineages, Gurdjieff was, by his own admission, unable to produce any durable results in his pupils. Theoretical results, yes; practical ones, not so much. And yet durable results were essential for real inner work. (Let us not forget in passing that his magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales, is also a history of one cosmologically spectacular failure after another, many of them on the part of "highly developed" angelic beings.)
lacking, damn it.
He could not put his finger on it; but there was an essential element that was not connecting, and even his best pupils seemed, over and over again, to miss the mark. Distressingly so, as he told them, one after another.
Towards the end of his life, one pupil finally did form something quite durable in herself, and that was Jeanne de Salzmann. She did, I think, what Zen pupils are supposed to do: she went further. There were interesting consequences resulting from this; but let us first note that something quite extraordinary developed in her.
It was extraordinary because it didn't go away so easily.
Gurdjieff recognized this; and the two of them sat down, metaphysically speaking, to decide just what to make of this result.
The fact is that de Salzmann correctly identified the fundamental problem Gurdjieff had struggled with during his life. She did this when he was, so to speak, old and gray; and she was henceforth tasked with taking "the method" (the one that doesn't exist, LOL) forward and applying the results of her understanding—in which rested the now-real hopes of correcting Gurdjieff's deficiencies (for yes, they were deficiencies: acknowledged by the master himself, and in need of remedy.)
My premise is this: the deficiency in Gurdjieff's methods, which were laid in thick pastes over successive layers of students without every making a cake that decisively held together, ultimately sprang from the fact that that nothing durable can form unless an organic connection to sensation develops.
Now, Gurdjieff may have realized this earlier in his life; one can't be sure. The subject surfaces, however, decisively and in that language only as his wartime meetings during the 1940's progressed, and records of them show, I think, an increasing awareness of this specific problem. De Salzmann, in both her work with people and her notes (in The Reality of Being) brought her pupils back again and again and again to this fundamental question of sensation.
In the course of things, she also fell under the influence of William Segal (although he was probably more under her influence than the other way around), a Zen aficionado, and was thereby exposed to and became enamored of Zen techniques, which deeply influenced the future course of the Gurdjieff work (a finding John Rothenburg emphatically agreed with when I ran it by him some ten years ago.) This combination of Zen meditation techniques with exercises in sensation, some of them specifically and unabashedly yogic in nature, still predominate in circles that arose from her lines of work.
Like everything else that is attempted, it is not good enough; but it is as close as one can get for now.
The point of all this is that without the organic sense of Being— a firm and permanent connection to the cellular, and even atomic nature, of one's Being—no inner work one undertakes can become durable. This is because without that connection, impressions are forever unable to flow deep enough into Being to produce any permanent results. The reason, of course, that sensation of this kind is associated, in esoteric Gurdjieffian circles, with the development of the astral body is that the astral body is, of course, a permanent result, at least relative to the earthly or material body.
As I have explained several times over the course of the last two months, the only reason one needs to form an astral body is to suffer more, and longer, than is possible in the physical body; though it is reasonably certain this will strike the uninitiated as a perverse and masochistic aim.