The letter E (lower case)
Metropolitan Museum, NY
Photograph by Lee van Laer
I woke up this morning— as is generally the case — in the midst of active sensation, which always forms the ground floor of living experience. With the experience of life emanating from this organic place, the usual active ponderings of the mind are present. And there are many things on my mind this morning. It reminds me of this gentleman, in a contemplative pose, who has all of these beasts battling inside his head. We try to reason things out. To what practical effect? It's not always clear.
I've spent the last week studying various questions on conscience and objective conscience in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. It's a complex subject; and yet in the end I want to come back to my own practical experience of the things that are discussed in this regard; especially in regard to the relationship between remorse of conscience and the particles of sorrow of His Endlessness, that is, God.
I've written and said a lot about objective conscience lately, most of which will not be published in this space, since the article — presuming it is accepted — is intended for presentation and publication at the annual A&E conference. (Should it not be accepted, readers will be offered a copy in this space.) Yet this is an academic pursuit, which, while valuable — we do need to study and try to understand with the mind, as well as the other parts — seems limited in its grasp, it's comprehension, of the question of our practical work.
Gurdjieff described remorse of conscience quite succinctly in the following passage from Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson: desires and non-desires. Yet the passage, with all that it says, is obscure without a specific, intimate, and direct experience of what it means to have a "localization of the particles of sorrow of His Endlessness," that is, to receive the material substance of God's sorrow which is so thoroughly and completely expressed in the passion of Christ.
Let's be clear on this. One isn't going to understand this passage by trying to understand Gurdjieff and his "system" (presuming there is one, an assumption challenged by the factions, opinions, and obfuscation that follows in its footsteps.)
Presuming there is anything at all to what Gurdjieff said — and, in fact, there absolutely is —one is only going to understand it by receiving the material substance of God's sorrow and knowing what it feels like. Understanding it theoretically from the book means almost nothing.
I would like readers to be clear on this because focus, the center of gravity, of inner work can't be located within Gurdjieff or his ideas. It has to be located within Being and experience. By this, I mean living being, and living experience. not what you read in the books. One can fill one's head with just about anything; again, to what practical effect? One must not fill one's head; one must fill one's Being.
With this in mind, we will go forward into a few other essays on this subject.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.