Madonna of Humility
Giovanni Di Paolo
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Every once in a while, I find it necessary to act as a policeman and speak out against reprehensible behaviors that I see taking place around me in the community. I hate doing this, because it always sounds like a rant, but really. If we all just let unacceptable things take place and don't say anything about them, where are we going?
Recently (this was written some time ago, and subsequent remarks will make it clear why I prefer not to reveal the exact circumstances in which this happened), I was having dinner with a fairly close "friend" who delivered to me a classic putdown I have heard used on so many people by pompous asses who think they know how to conduct inner work.
I was explaining the relationship between sensation and death as expounded in Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson.
"What you are saying is amazing," this person told me, "and I would actually respect it so much more if you were saying it from someplace other than your head." Or words to that effect.
I managed the situation reasonably well, I hope. So I don't bring up the following points on behalf of my own injured self-esteem. (It took damage on the order of a hangnail, if that.) I do it on behalf of the many more delicate or less experienced persons who may feel battered by this kind of nonsense, either now or in the future.
I've heard this type of insult many times. It's a classic Gurdjieff trope, which consists of a complex way of building one's own ego while tearing down the other person's spiritual well-being.
The people who deliver it are, invariably, acting in an unloving and unconscious way, imitating behaviors they have seen other so-called "teachers" exercise on pupils; behavior which is supposedly stern, unyielding, and powerful, but which is actually egoistically stupid, cruel, and hurtful.
There is an incredible amount of stupid and intentionally hurtful behavior not only engaged in, but actually taught, in spiritual communities. Such behavior is part of what has earned some members of Gurdjieff organizations the reputation of being pompous jerks... a reputation which is, sadly, all too often justified, and reflects badly on the entire community of the Gurdjieff work.
Let me explain this particular insult in detail so that those who have been subject to it will understand just how nefarious and underhanded it is.
First of all, the individual who says such a thing is already presuming that they know what the inner state of the other person is; that is, that they are on a higher level than the other, and can magically sense their emanations and know whether or not they are "working." I've heard this kind of nonsense spouted over and over again by individuals who are, almost invariably, clueless about the inward state of the people around them... as well as their own inner state... and actually not even interested in it. They do, however, have inner buffers of absolutely magnificent proportions which tell them they know how others are inside, by what they are emanating.
I feel an obligation to my readership to just mention here in passing that 99% of what is "emanated" by people, no matter what situations they are in, is bullshit. Remember that the next time you think you know what is being emanated by another... you yourself are probably emanating bullshit, and— unfortunately— also consuming it inwardly with an eagerness that Gurdjieff would have said was unbecoming to three brained beings. If you think you are personally exempt from this 99% rule... well, you are definitely swallowing your own bullshit. ( It's not for nothing that I illustrated this post with the Madonna of Humility.)
Secondly, the individual is presuming that they know better than others how information and work should be exchanged, and that they are qualified to judge the quality of the other person's work in the exchange.
Thirdly, the individual presumes that they are correct in saying that the other person's presence isn't up to snuff in that moment.
Fourthly, they aren't really interested in what the other person is saying. They just want to demonstrate their own superiority. They do by "correcting" the other person... the other person's inner presence isn't "good enough," and, um, they need to be told that. It serves, in other words, as a subtle "fuck you and how you are right now" delivered to the underbelly of the situation =by way of a Trojan-horse compliment.
Fifth, the destructive nature of their comment, which actively devalues what the other person was trying to offer, is unimportant to them. The fact that it might hurt the other person's feelings— or even be entirely wrong, and I will get to that in a minute — is immaterial.
Now I ask you, is this how you treat people in an intelligent, conscious, and loving manner?
The arrogance of remarks like this — which also, by the way, devalues intellectual work, which is serially shat upon by the self-appointed shamans of the "real" inner work — basically defies belief.
On a personal note, it is even more incomprehensible and irritating when it is delivered (as it was last night) by someone who is an alcoholic by nature, and drunk.
Now, to be entirely fair, I know many people who are real teachers and who would never dream of saying such a thing to anyone, even if they thought it was true. They have kind hearts and are loving and intelligent in their treatment of others, even when the others are clearly working in a poor way and even, sometimes, saying things that are objectively stupid. My teacher did that with me when I was young — she was tough, but she was never destructive or abusive.
So where do these insulting habits come from?
They certainly don't come from conscious Being.
Beware of crap like this. The people who do it cannot help your work, because they are unable to conduct their own work in a solid way. You will have to associate with them; but it doesn't mean you have to be like them.
Let us all try to set a higher standard than this when we exchange with one another, please.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.
PS. ...As to comments of this kind being entirely wrong.
If one is working within one's Being in such a way as to have a right connection to the inflow, it is nearly certain no one else will be able to tell. Unless one is "leaking" such energy, it is nearly always completely invisible to others— as it should be:
...do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.