Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Further notes on the deconstruction of the second striving

Metropolitan Museum, New york

In December, a close friend in the Gurdjieff Work contacted me with the following comments about the deconstruction of the second striving:

Not sure quite what to say here. That is, what you say is true but it seems to be said in the tone of an attack. So while I agree in principle and personally feel quite strongly that consciousness is attention is love, and that it's time to wake up to the fact that it is everywhere around and in us, I can't go along with attacking myself or the rest of us for not being perfect lovers Jeepers, Geez, I'm only human! G himself often attacked us for our failings and I did the self-attack thing into the ground years ago and ended up sick, learning it is easier to try to be perfect than to be who you are.

My response was as follows: 

Let's remember first that it is Gurdjieff himself who brings up this issue of "self-perfection"—not me. So if anyone has to be charged with the issue of making perfection the goal, it's him. If you find the idea of perfection is distressing, I would suggest your fundamental quarrel must begin with what he said, not my comments about it. 

I explored the question on the terms he laid down when he made the remark. I happen to agree with his idea about perfection being a goal; in other words, my examination of the question is doctrinaire in the sense that it accepts his statement and then attempts to understand it.

Your own core issues are a struggle with a tendency towards perfectionism. Since that's a trigger point for you, you tend to have a confirmation bias that reads this struggle into the material you encounter. I believe that's worth thinking about. (This question of our confirmation biases is a fascinating one that we all ought to look at more often than we do, I think.) 

At the same time, I honor your question, and agree with your conclusion — we should not (ever) engage in self-examination that becomes self-destruction. Indeed, our whole point of life and living is to build positive value — which is more or less the point of my contention that we ought to become perfectly loving. I think, oddly, that we are both saying the same things here, each in our wildly different way.

As it happens, if you were following the long thread of my writing on the subject — which I don't expect or ask you to do— you would know that I have recently begun to speak about The Perfection, which is my own phrase for my experience of what Ibn al Arabi refers to as The Reality, or,  more concisely put in Christian terms, God.  

We all inhabit this Perfection, which is eternally loving and eternally knowing (that is to say, wholly loving and wholly knowing, outside of time.) That Perfection is available to us as a daily and permanent inner experience, according to the level of inner magnetism we develop and the degree of inner sensation we acquire. It is an undeniable and ubiquitous condition that the organism was designed to receive and concentrate in the form of greater and greater love, as it develops. (Being exists to concentrate Love through magnetic attraction, which is a material and organic process related, at its root, to breathing and organic sensation.)

The Perfection coexists with ordinary life, but stands outside and aside from it as a separate influence — in other words, it is the second nature we oft talk about, but don't really understand. Perhaps one ought to point out here that we won't understand it and can't understand it — the whole point of it is to become the active source of our question, which needs to migrate out of our minds and directly into the energy from which it draws all its life and power.

In gross metaphysical terms, the Perfection by default arranges everything so that it is already perfect — even apparent imperfection. A right relationship to organic sensation can lay the foundation for understanding this in immediate terms that get past the inevitable dilution with words, allowing the mind of sensation and the mind of feeling to more fully participate in a direct, active, three-centered experience of this perfection. I fear this question of the other two minds is poorly understood, in general.  From what I can see, people don't generally understand what I say when I speak about the two of them becoming much more active.

One of the unfortunate — to us — consequences of understanding the Perfection better is to understand that everything, arranged exactly as it is — with all of the woe, anguish, fear, and destruction that it also contains — dwells equally within the immediate and absolute Perfection of God.  (Every time a person has what we call, in the work, "a moment," they have for an instant brought the centers close enough together to experience, to a greater degree, the Perfection— which was always already there..)

In other words, everything we fear, deny, or struggle against is actually perfect, because it is there to help us. 

This is a confusing conundrum our (I include myself here) ordinary parts aren't able to process; and I doubt they ever will be. (Again, I am hardly the first person to say this — Ibn al Arabi, Swedenborg and Meister Eckhart all got there first, each in their own inimitable way.) But the three-centered process of Being can help us to encounter this in a way that includes understanding from a different direction.

 Oddly, this leaves us in a peculiar position, metaphysically speaking, because all of our progressive doctrines which presume we going from "here" to "there" and in which we "improve" are somehow wrong; again, something that can't be properly processed. The irony here is that we already dwell within Perfection, and just don't know it.  (Christians who speak of being held in the eternally loving hands of Christ and God are speaking of this, whether or not they have anything more than a theoretical experience of it.  We don't go from anywhere to anywhere; we go from now to now.)

I think the majority of your own personal struggle has been a growth into greater awareness of where we are, in these same terms. That's what I intuit about you, anyway, and from my perspective that growth has been a healthy, powerful, and positive one that has allowed you to transcend many self-created obstacles. I'm in the same boat, struggling with a similar class of self-created obstacles, so your process and results inspire me and give me hope. 

This kind of process is reciprocal and, I think, why we work together in groups, after we strip away all the blah blah blah.

Things have changed in me since last fall, radically in some ways, and I now spend my days contemplating this state from a more direct and practical perspective, inwardly formed through these other two minds—which can become much more alive in us, according to magnetism.

 I make no call as to where that will lead, except to here, or what it means, except what it means now. The most delightful and intriguing thing about it is that it brings me to a sense of immediate presence where I don't know the meaning, but know that I can help "create" life as it stands—on the fly, in this moment. 

That process can be filled with love and effort, which I always need as companions to overcome my perpetual and immediate limitations.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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