Wat Pho, Bangkok
We had a bit of a conversation about it, and I thought I would pass my observations on the subject on to readers, since I can share some specifics on the matter that come from practical experience rather than theory.
First of all, one can't get rid of negativity. We absolutely need it. It is one of the polarities that is required if energy is going to flow. In the same way that batteries have both a positive and a negative pole, we need to have positive and negative sides so that energy can flow. An as-of yet entirely unpublished set of comments by Gurdjieff that relate to cosmology specifically describes the universe as being composed of poles of this kind; and everything that exists is, more or less, what "flows" between those two poles.
So we need our negativity. The question is not whether we ought to have it or not, but whether or not we are attached to it. There is absolutely no possibility of becoming unattached to negativity, which will always manifest, with the mind. It's impossible to think one's way out of identification. The only thing that can lead us to a different relationship to our negativity is a change in the inner arrangement, so that our parts are better connected; and this only happens over the course of many years, certainly decades, during which we make many different efforts in our work while finer substances are slowly deposited that can change the work of the organism.
We live, as we all know, in the age of the quick fix: everyone thinks that as soon as you think of this or that, there is some rational and practical way to achieve it. It's like believing that sedimentary rock can be formed in five minutes, or that a human fetus can be brought to term in a couple of days. If only one tries. Of course, the idea is ludicrous when we look at it from this point of view, but if we are in a hurry to get rid of our negativity this is exactly what we are trying to do. First of all, we have misunderstood the question entirely; after all, we can't get rid of our negativity, and even if we did, it would leave us flaccid and unable, because all of the energy that we have to move through life is generated by the flow of energy between our positive and negative poles. Second of all, negativity is a huge help to us as long as we work with it correctly by forming a right relationship to it. Eventually, it can transform into an engine instead of a liability; that is, it becomes a kind of fuel for Being. But that takes many years; and it can't really begin to take place in any major way until after the sensation has formed a permanent kernel of awareness that can attract not just the mind, but also the awakened organic feeling of Being.
Okay, I know this is complicated and seems lofty, that already we are thinking ourselves into knots here. The important points to remember are that we need our negativity; and that we can form a different relationship with it. It's this different relationship that makes a difference.
We live life from within this level. We can't possibly change the influences from this level and the way they act within this level unless we receive material from a higher level. I would tend to call this Grace; Gurdjieff used technical terms such as higher hydrogens and increased rates of vibration; others have referred to it as finer material, higher energy, and so on. The point is that this material is part of the inflow; and one has to consume it for many years, in small amounts, so that it is deposited evenly throughout the body and all of the cells. Of course there are yoga exercises and breathing exercises known to people in the Gurdjieff work, as well as other works, in which one ingests these substances intentionally (usually using breathing) to distribute them all over the body and deposit them; but these are at best instructive and at worst can become manipulative.
All these exercises are meant to do is teach one that this is possible.
This subject will be of interest to those interested in studies of the enneagram and the question of why Gurdjieff said man has six—and not five—senses.
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The Sixth Sense
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.