Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Feminine Nature, Part II

Portrait of a Woman
Rembrandt, Risjkmuseum, Amsterdam
Photograph by the author

Paternalistic societies arose, originally, out of an understanding that a man's first responsibility is to honor and defend all the women around him. A man's role throughout life in every way is one of service to all who he has next to him; but especially the women.

 Much of this touches on deep questions of Love, and the extent to which a human being has opened themselves to its influence. It's clear enough from the Wartime Transcripts that Gurdjieff had some distressingly mistaken understandings of Love; and the same is true of some prominent followers who have attained much and are even today considered to be important teachers of his work. 

This is an unsurprising condition; a teacher’s weaknesses are always passed on to the pupils, just as the teacher’s strengths. Much of what Gurdjieff said on this subject (see, for example, transcript number 16 in Wartime Transcripts) was halfway to being correct, but halfway is nowhere near enough. A man who is truly loving cannot steal, or hate, or reject anyone around him; anything to the contrary is a lie, and so we need to take some of his advice on these matters very carefully indeed; it may do us harm instead of good. Too many otherwise good people have suspended their critical thinking on this matter before they reach a truly material understanding of Love and its nature; and in cases like this, inner work produces the precise opposite of what is intended, along with the conviction that it is right.

I have seen this personally in many people who think they understand something real. They don’t know what it is to materially receive Love. Even those who do are subject to constant temptation; the difference is that those who do are overall less likely to succumb to it.

 These matters are very complicated and we aren't well-equipped to contemplate them on our own level. What is useful is to enter an ongoing confrontation against all the parts of ourselves that are unloving (engaging in this is, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the only real point of seeing) within the context of the higher and largely unknown Love our wish embodies— a Love that does not belong to us, but can inwardly form real Love inside us. 

If we come into intimate contact with these forces, if we materially receive Love, we can forever return to a communion with the material nature of Love in any moment where what we ought to do is unclear, or when we are manifesting in a way that is not right. 

If we concentrate enough of the material force of Love, its inner magnetism, in our Being, our inner compass will not deviate from what is right. The beginning effort of returning to sensation in the Gurdjieff practice is the kindergarten activity of an active return to the material force of Love. 

In this practice, we're very lucky if we can even reach the first grade of elementary school.

 Every Being actually wishes to be female and strives, in the esoteric sense, to be female, because every manifestation of material reality wishes to give birth to the Perfection. It is true, at the same time, that all of material reality and creation is a giving birth of the Perfection. 

In this way, all that takes place is an infinite unfolding of flower petals (the Flower Ornament Sutra is a beautiful yet long-winded documentation of this process) in which Perfection begets Perfection. Yet within each Perfection that is begotten (each Being that arises) the wish to beget Perfection yet again is the natural and instinctive reaction. The universe and Being are eternally fecund female entities eternally being impregnated and eternally giving birth. We can catch some of the flavor of this in Meister Eckhart's sermons; and were he but daring enough — he did not live in times that left him the opening — he might have explained this in more detail, because it seems certain he understood it quite well within his own practice.

In this way, we men can understand that we, too, are women, which ought to offer us a liberating window on our masculinity. 

I'm afraid it doesn’t, really; masculinity has acquired a dull and barren stupidity that stains it, and is carried throughout societies all over the world. It's actually a strange form of self-hatred; and if we want to understand the question of sins of the fathers, we can begin here.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

1 comment:

  1. another fine post.
    'In this way, all that takes place is an infinite unfolding of flower petals (the Flower Ornament Sutra is a beautiful yet long-winded documentation of this process) in which Perfection begets Perfection.'

    So you see no end in this 'infinite unfolding'? It goes on and on...unlike the christian dogma which definitely does seem to have an end and a new beginning :)?


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