Having just finished a book by a deeply thoughtful friend, which is — to my surprise — more deeply about himself than anything else, even though he is capable of much greater and more comprehensive thoughts — and perusing the latest issue of Shambhala Sun magazine, I'm struck by a certain sameness.
What I mean by this is the tendency of everyone engaged in spiritual work, whatever the flavor of the inner popsicle, to keep coming back to the same thing, the same theme, the same ideas, over and over again, to the point of obsession... it is all, weirdly, about me, me, me, even though it inverts itself and points itself outward as though it were actually about everything else.
I say the inner popsicle, because one often more or less seizes on one's own inner work and then sucks on it as though it were some kind of treat, and one were going to derive some kind of nourishment from it, if only one could figure out how to suck off the ice-cold-but-sugary coating and get to that deliciously creamy inside.
Inner work is supposed to be about everything — it ought to touch on a comprehensive understanding, an understanding that can enlighten and illuminate any object, event, circumstance, or condition, and that brings insight to all of these things, not just one insight, but many insights, where all things are linked together in an experiential relationship that continually expands both in content and in meaning.
It should not just be about itself... about me and how I am. If it doesn't come into relationship with the world around it, it is worthless, no matter how amazing it may seem. The whole point is to come into relationship.
One cannot do this alone, as Gurdjieff so pointedly illustrated with his deeply disturbing and profoundly cautionary parable about the self- tamers in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.
We Americans live in the age of the self — and we seem to have produced spiritual works that collapse on the self, all the time ironically professing an aim of transcendence and annihilation of that very same self. It reminds me of one friend's comment about life: everything in inevitably becomes its own opposite. In becoming consistent and self inflected, spiritual works — which ought to be glorified, messy, colorful, and extraordinary — become bland, dull, unimaginative, and egoistic. Every individual who falls into this pit thinks of themselves as being exactly the opposite of all those things, and this is precisely what Gurdjieff was talking about when he said that people have buffers. Buffers, for those of you unfamiliar with the term (if you are reading this, that's rather unlikely, I admit) our inner obstacles that prevent one from seeing the truth about how one is.
Spirituality cannot become a consumer product. A human being's inner life can have nothing to do with marketing, salesmanship, feel-good philosophies, and the external trappings that get thrown at us a mile a minute. The inner landscape is so rich and unusual, so dark and mysterious, that it can't actually be fathomed — and trying to use the external to fathom it is a hopeless proposition, even though we seem to live in a society that is fanatically dedicated to just that action.
Well, those are my thoughts on this for this evening, brief as they are.