Sunday, May 8, 2016

Becoming one's own teacher, part IV — an inward authority

Yamuna, a River Goddess
8th Century A.D., Madhya Pradesh
National Museum, New Delhi

Becoming One's Own Teacher- Part 4 of 6 

In spiritual work, as in temporal life, teachers always take on the role of some kind of authority.

This is a natural thing, because I always hope for some outward authority for guidance, don't I? ...Well, of course that's a bit complex; some significant percentage of me which is firmly rooted in what Ibn al Arabi called "the evil commanding ego" wants to be the authority; and the other percentage, which in many cases may be the more significant one, is terrified of being the authority and wants to be a slave.

The division between these two contradictory impulses in human beings is why Gurdjieff said that everyone wants to be either a slave or a master; and so it goes. But this is true inwardly as well as outwardly; and when he made the remark, what he primarily meant was our inward state.  One only becomes a slave outwardly, in the gross sense of the situation, if one is already a slave inwardly.

 This is a tricky thing to understand. Don't jump to conclusions about it. I could write a great deal more about it, but the constraints of this form forbid it.

If we are outwardly directed, immersed in the natural and sensual world, we love being slaves; our desires drive us. If we are inwardly directed, then we have an interest in being a master of ourselves and the world; and yet this confers a tremendous power which the ego just absolutely loves to get hold of. Destruction usually ensues; take a look around you. The whole world runs on this downward trending principal.

I digress here. The important point is that when I speak about developing an inner authority, it is authority not in the sense of direction and dictatorship — control and perhaps even tyranny — it means having an essence- emanation that emerges in an unfettered (free) form from the inward flow of both spiritual and natural impressions, in the center of gravity where they mix together.

That authority — which means, original nature of Being — only forms from the confluence of the spiritual and the natural which come together in the cyclical circulation of forces depicted on the enneagram. Now, this may be heady spiritual stuff, but one need not study diagrams in order to understand it. One needs to become intimately sensitive to the inward flow of one's being in order to discover how an inner authority arises.

An inward authority is never abusive, critical, or destructive. It may resist that which is wrong or egoistic; and such action is right action. Yet it finds ways to do this without harming, in so far as it is able. None of us are good at this; and everyone harms from time to time, but the aim is to develop in such a way that this inward authority becomes more intelligent, more sensitive, more compassionate, and uses that intelligence, sensitivity, and compassion to attempt to honor and obey the conditions of life in every way as they arise. Honor and obedience are critical factors in this kind of inward authority, which involves the sacrifice of one's own egoistic authority in exchange for a much greater authority that is, as I say, anti-egoistic.

Anti-egoistic authority is not my own authority. It arises at a higher level; and I become a receiver for it, to the extent of my capacity. Once again, this anti-egoistic authority is in fact the most powerful and important teacher, since it knows everything I need at any given moment within my inward development and outer conditions. If I trust it, many extraordinary things become possible — things that are not at all extraordinary or even visible outwardly, but that change my inward attitude when I am in relationship.


Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.

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