Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Becoming one's own teacher, part II—life is the teacher

Pala, 11th Century A.D.
National Museum, New Delhi

Becoming One's Own Teacher- Part 2 of 6

 When I say that I need to become my own teacher, I do not mean that I need to become a teacher in the way that it's ordinarily understood. Nor do I mean, when I say that I must become my own authority, authority in the way that it is usually understood. These two points are where my wife's  apprehension about the matter came in; and I had to explain to her quite precisely what I meant before she understood the difference between her apprehension and my meaning.

Let's take the first point first. How do I become my own teacher?

I become my own teacher by not being a teacher.

To become one's own teacher is to see first that one knows nothing; this is the first teaching from an inward perspective. It takes a long time to truly understand this with the feelings and the body. It's much easier to understand it with the mind, and if it is only understood this way then one forms powerful buffers (barriers of denial) that tell oneself one has understood it, when in fact, no understanding at all is present.

This nothingness needs to be understood in a three-centered Way, so that both the feelings and the organic sensation of being participate and one feels, with all of one's parts — which means, roughly speaking, every cell in the body — that one is nothing. This is the manifestation of organic shame, which was one of Gurdjieff's expressions for humility.

When one truly has a three centered experience of nothingness, one knows with all of one's parts that one is nothing. This, of course, only takes place in relationship to a higher energy that becomes more available when the three centers participate; so it doesn't belong to the centers or myself at all. Yet this is exactly the force that we need to open to in order to understand in a comprehensive and cellular manner that we are nothing. This is the moment of transformation in which an actual inward teaching can begin.

At this point, one must see that one learns everything from life. The teaching for the growth of one's inward being comes from life itself and all of the impressions that flow in from it. Now, those familiar with Gurdjieff's teaching (and you don't have to be in order to follow me here) will know that there is a complicated diagram of the chemical factory with many different technical explanations of hydrogens and so on. These are practical diagrams with very real truths in them, but they don't mean a thing if one does not approach practical and sensational — as in, of sensation — experience of what impressions do when we take them in more deeply.

So in order to become my own teacher, I first learn to organically inhabit my life. I can only do this through my connection to sensation, that is, the connection between my mind and my body; and this can only happen if sensation becomes what Mme. de Salzmann called voluntary; that is, it arises on its own as a living thing and comes to meet me, permanently, in all things and at every time.

Yes, that is a tall order, but this is merely a foundational work. Let us suppose one comes to it; one thinks that transformational magic has taken place and that one has "arrived" somewhere. Yet one has, in fact, only taken the first step on a journey where everything in life is inverted and one begins to have a completely different understanding of it.

 At every step in this process, the temptation to succumb to delusion is present; so one must tread carefully and with skepticism. Yet something has, indeed, taken place that is real; and one comes, through sensation, to the initial understanding that life is the teacher.

More on this in the next section.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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