Friday, July 24, 2015

The fifth obligolnian striving: an inner meaning

Bamboo forest, Tenryu-Ji, Kyoto

“The fifth: the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred 'Mart-fotai,' that is, up to the degree of self-individuality.”

This particular striving would, of itself, seem to resist inner interpretations. It seems so outwardly directed, doesn't it?

This striving represents the fifth note, or sol, of the progression.

That is the heart-note; it is the moment of passage into true Being, which confers not only a new freedom, but a capacity for selfless and compassionate action. It is, in other words, a transitional stage, a change in state, representing the potential for movement from inner towards outer. Only when real inner Being is established can change in outer Being be affected. This is where we encounter the heart-meaning of the practice; the deeply emotional territory which Gurdjieff's progressive inner work intends to help us encounter.

The striving echoes the Bodhisattva vow to assist all sentient Beings; and this isn’t possible until one has assumed a different level of inner responsibility, as outlined in the first four strivings.

Each striving requires an inner effort; this one, too, requires something of me from within. The implication is that even with a well developed inner attitude, and meaningful payment for, so to speak, one’s sins, I am still not enough inclined to help others; else, no striving would be needed. Indeed all the strivings represent an inner wish, an inner impulse towards the good; although this isn’t explicitly stated, we can understand each striving as a striving towards the good by default. They culminate in a striving towards the ultimate good; and that ultimate good is an inner wish for the sacred development of all Beings, not just myself. That development should be “most rapid;” an interesting remark, written as it is by a man who warned his pupils not to be in a hurry.

And what of this “degree of Self-individuality?” The organic sensation of Being, we may recall, creates one’s individuality; by individuality, we understand, furthermore, a self which is undivided. This undivided self arises through an inhabitation of Being through sensation. The fifth striving, in other words, confers a sense of circularity on the process, since it refers back to the awareness one seeks within the first striving.

It is not putting too fine a point on it to mention that this question of inner sensation of Being, along with the sense of personal intimacy it confers, is the fulcrum on which the entire premise of inner work is leveraged. It penetrates the substrate of the question, forming a structure that supports all other Being. The understanding that this foundational impulse steadily expands outward from its core, blossoming in the end into a compassionate inclusion of all other Beings, is a magnificent one; it forms both a whole work and a whole understanding where meaning centers around an organic compassion and an organic goodness, different from and superior to our intellectual conceptions of the matter.


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