Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What the heck are we, anyway? Part II- A Play of Forces

Man and Woman
Artwork by Lee van Laer, 2016

To put an exact point on it, Jeanne de Salzmann said that everything — she used that word, everything — is a play of forces. 

This is not only a spiritual adage delivered by her — it is a material fact provable in the world of both quantum physics and relativity.  Everything is, absolutely, a play of forces — forces which are in constant movement and relationship, and which, while they exchange positions, relative energies, and concentrations,  have definite  features of localization, are all actually part of one great field of force.

 Gurdjieff alluded to this when he said that there is actually only one thing; that is a message which has been delivered in countless different versions by countless different sages. Realization involves a recognition of our inclusion within that one great force, of which we are a localized concentration (think of Gurdjieff's megalocosmos, with all of its subordinate cosmoses, which is a neat little picture of the matter.) So both things are true: we exist as discrete, individualized localizations of cosmic forces, but we also inhabit a continuum which we perceive ourselves as divided from at our spiritual peril. It is a perception of and reunification with this totality that we seek; we wish to transcend this fractionalized, adumbrated rootlet of consciousness that expresses "I", in so far as we experience it, and return to something much greater — religion, the reconnection of the ligaments — the forces — that create the movement and relationship which we express.

The paradox of our psychology is that we believe we create the movement and relationship — that we are the ligaments. The spiritual being understands that the ligaments are made of much finer and less perceptible substances, golden threads that penetrate everything and connected at levels that cannot be seen with the coarse substances of the ordinary mind. It also has the understanding that we are part of a much greater whole. This understanding is located in the “higher centers” that Gurdjieff spoke about — changing the language a bit in order to bring a different kind of clarity and focus, hidden and essential yet very alive and real spiritualized parts. 

Every human being has these in them, and if they are opened, extraordinary results will ensue.

An inward opening makes it quite clear that this perception of separation between the energy and myself is a false one. For as long as that perception of separation, with me as one thing is the energy as a another, persists, I am in the position of a dentist — I drill holes in the parts of myself which appear to have cavities, and I try to fill them in with gold or silver. We are all like this. But everyone knows how much fun a trip to the dentist is. 

Anyone who has held a bar of gold or silver in their hands knows how absolutely precious and fascinating the stuff is. Anything fixed can become an object of attraction; and the more beautiful it is, the more attractive it becomes. Every spiritual practice is like this. We believe we are here, God is out there, and we will take him into us — much like the practice Gurdjieff described to his followers which you can read the quotation of in the comment section of the post "the singularity of being.” The entire premise of kundalini yoga, as it was practiced all over the ancient world and is still practiced today, is one of manipulating energies in the body which appear to come from outside. Jeanne de Salzmann presented them to us in just this way; and anyone who has had an experience of them will understand that there is a certain external quality, as though there were a force entering us. I have had many such experiences, and others I know are on the same page.

Yet all of them represent nothing more than an awakening to a force that is already present, which I participate in. This is why the Buddha said, "I am awake.” What we experience as an arrival of force or a flow of force is really the awakening to a force. We are already present in that field of force — that field of influences — and we simply concentrate it more. Hence all of de Salzmann's emphasis on a concentration of force and a concentration of attention: that, and a balancing of same, which was one of the principal points of Gurdjieff's teachings.

The force is not part of a set of fixed entities; yet we comprehend the world in these terms, and so we assign such entities to our spiritual experience. 

The force always arises in relationship and in movement, which is the whole point of the enneagram: a diagram which, Gurdjieff pointed out, appears to be a fixed entity and yet represents a set of forces which are always in movement, and, in fact, three (and actually even four—or more)  dimensional in nature. 


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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