Some Creatures Have the Golden Eyes of Angels
Created digitally on the iPad Pro using Procreate
Lee van Laer, 2016
I'm thinking a bit more this morning about what I said in the last post: in this way, materiality is a world — desire is a world.
The word world has Germanic roots, which were a compound that originally meant age of man. We sense here, perhaps, curious sense of the meaning that nods at a lifetime and all that is in it. Yet today, while it has many meanings, it tends to indicate the material universe or all that exists; everything. So if it reminds us of Gurdjieff's famous title, All and Everything, that would be most appropriate.
What is striking me this morning, this very early morning in a hotel room — I am gifted with more than my fair share of those — is that a world is so often seen by us in terms of the things in it. Gurdjieff asked Ouspensky to consider the meaning of the word world at some length; yet what strikes me about the discourse (check the link, which is edited and does not contain the full text on the matter) is how formally the discussion places the word in the context of things. There is, to be sure, some discussion of ideas; and yet we need to turn to Jeanne de Salzmann's much later writings (see the Reality of Being) to understand the absolutely essential role the question of forces plays in the matter of worlds.
In fact, there is only one world, which is a world of forces. That one world divides itself into the three primary forces, which have various names including the Holy Trinity (which de Salzmann very notably refers to exactly in its religious sense in one of the quotes at the link.) Those forces, in turn, give birth to a subsidiary range of forces according to the law of octaves, creating a fractal universe governed according to the enneagram.
So when we discuss the word world, applying our conceptual understandings and assigning a wide range of things to that word (yes, even ideas are things) I think we are tempted to forget — no, in fact, we aren't just tempted, we actually forget — that we are always referring to forces here. In our passivity (de Salzmann's word), our sleep (Gurdjieff's word), we fail to observe and participate in the evolution of forces; we don't see where we are.
This may seem remarkably conceptual and abstract, occupying some lofty piece of intellectual and philosophical territory, but it's nothing of the kind. This action takes place quite directly and organically, even right now, as an intimate relationship — or lack of it — within the body. Being must come into relationship with this question in order to properly understand. One has to inhabit the play of the forces, the world.
In any given moment, my Being consists of my world — this play of forces. After all the abstractions, concepts, and cosmological correlations are dispensed with, I am in this world of being, and that is the only world there is. It is stuffed full of things in the form of ideas and objects; but it acts only through forces, which are also what give the ideas and objects there being in the first place.
I had a very practical demonstration of how we can't see where we are in the form of an email from a lovely young woman who has many deep issues it is not my place to resolve for her. She is intensely angry about something that has little or nothing to do with me — at least directly — but when I asked her to attend to responsibility she does objectively have towards me, she could not resist lashing out with a horrid and deeply personal comment about me. There can be no doubt that the comment was meant to be personally damaging in an intimate way.
This comment came from a person who openly posts and professes what a terrifically loving, forgiving person she is. The woman engages in this (to me) embarrassingly public activity constantly as a kind of personal marketing tool, but is unable to see the spectacular contradiction between what she professes in her mind and in public, and the way she actually behaves. Which is, objectively said, anything but kind and loving and in fact reaches into a kit of intentionally harmful actions whenever she is in the grip of the forces that cause anger.
The incident is illustrative to me in several ways. First of all, I had to be very aware of both comment and the nature of my response, which was very carefully neutralized so as not to attempt to teach or criticize in any way. The temptation to lash out in return was strong; but if I want to understand what world I live in, I must see the play of forces and use intelligence and compassion to restrain the mechanical actions that want to respond equally to bad force when it is directed at me. This is a tough job, as we all know. It can only be conducted if I take some lessons from Madame de Salzmann about seeing where I am inwardly.
That action of seeing is not, after all, just about seeing things and nothing else. If it does not translate into an intelligent perception of where I am, and then into a compassionate attitude — purification through the action of the force of compassion within Being — then all the seeing in the world is absolutely useless and goes nowhere.
The seeing, you see, has to serve — and it cannot just serve myself (which is the microcosmic application that inner work tends to focus itself down to with the microscope of self observation.)
It must also serve others; and it must serve the Lord.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.