Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Museum of Self-Remembering

My friend J. recently had an encounter with a senior member from one of the Gurdjieff  foundations who quite wisely told him that the most important point of the work was to work in life, to be present in life.

 Of course, although this direction — or instruction, if you will — is correct, so little is truly understood about how necessary it is to sense oneself within the body, to truly have an aware sensation of Being. An organic sensation of Being. Even after decades, people who pursue this type of inner work constantly mistake actions of the mind and invoked sensations as being of this order. They can’t understand why it’s so difficult to bridge the gap between fa and sol; even though one quick glance at the enneagram would make clear that one can never pass directly from fa to sol, but only by transition through other notes in the octave.

 What this means is that several parts have to come together and assist one another for an active or voluntary sensation to arrive. And that sensation senses me; I don't sense it. This was the gist of something said by another senior member in April at the New York Foundation; and it is very true, but, as I keep pointing out, not properly understood.

 Sensation must become alive.

 Perhaps I sound judgmental when I speak in this manner, even though there is no such intention. I sometimes have a tone that begins to as though I’m criticizing other people’s efforts. I apologize for this.

 In point of fact, my heart goes out to everyone with this problem. That's because the question is so difficult to explain in words, and so impossible to "teach" someone about. The only way to approach an active and organic sensation is to have it within Being oneself; and the down payment for this is quite enormous—a fact that’s rarely acknowledged. Down payments on an organic sensation can take 20 or 30 years. Do we understand that? 20 or 30 years. Harmonious development takes 30, or 40, or 50 years just to begin it. You can't begin it very late in life, or go about it lackadaisically, halfheartedly, and hope for miracles. One has to be quite dedicated, in a gentle and non-forcing manner, to this work for many decades in order to allow the seed to grow.

 If it doesn't grow at the right rate and in the right way, the stem will be soft and fall over; or it will be too hard; or 10,000 other things can go wrong. There is no substitute for slow, gentle growth.
 That growth takes place in life. It doesn't take place while I am sitting with my legs folded and my eyes closed. It doesn't take place when I am in a group having a philosophical conversation with other people, or pretending to have a deep inner work in myself while really I am just sitting there in a relatively blank space, not knowing what to do or what to say, and afraid to open my mouth because I don't really have anything to contribute.

 No, I don't reach anything real that way. It's far more likely I reach things that are real when I am in states of extreme discomfort, out in life, where I'm required by circumstances to confront my own contradictions in action — not examine them post-event in a philosophical haze of intentional misdirection and rationalization (a.k.a. lies.)

 Analysis is also an obstacle when I’m in action. There’s nothing wrong with an intelligent philosophical analysis of exactly where I am and what I am working on, in relationship to the ideas and the structure of the system, when there’s time to do this and I have the leisure to contemplate the hierarchies and structures I participate in. Yet most of the time I can't possibly think of this usefully— any more than a musician who is playing a jazz solo has time to think about the structure of the solo he is playing. He has to just play it; there's no time to think about playing it. The more he thinks about playing it, the worse it sounds.

 Well, you know exactly what I mean. This is how it is in life. It's a jazz solo. One has to be on one's toes; one can’t think about the work. One has to have an organic sensation of the work in oneself and allow it to happen from within, without any words to support the effort.

 Something that has struck me lately in life, especially with the men I know, is how consistently we all play the fool without knowing it. We are silly little creatures; anyone who doubts this need only look around for a little while to see. The gravity we ought to have — a gravity that goes down through the bones and the marrow into the planet itself; – is rarely present. We’re frivolous; we’re self interested. There could be so much more of an anchor in us just where we are, doing what we do, being present to it in a quiet and subtle way that does not involve any heroics. A weight that does not involve analysis of the parts, in which various manifestations are shoved into a group of shoeboxes and stashed under the bed which say this part, that part, association, identification, and so on.
 This is being the curator of a museum of self remembering. Forgot about it. The Museum of self remembering ought to close. No one should visit it, ever. It is only full of dead things and skeletons.
 Don't “remember” the self. Be within the self, organically.

 Discover the many variations in it, the nuances and subtleties of consciousness, without attempting to explain them. Simply come into intimate and loving relationship and see… and see… and see.
 See from that quiet, still part that is carried within as everything else is in movement without. See from within that heart that maintains its own silence in the midst of company. See from that part which is intelligent when the rest of me is foolish.

 See, see, see.

 Every action of this kind is the ingestion of a very fine food that goes deeply into the silence of the inward night. It goes into me like the vision of every leaf on every tree as they unfurl in the spring; it goes into me as does the mist on top of the Palisades on a gray morning. It goes into me like the Hudson river, broad and deep, which I cross in the morning on my way to work.

 Over and over again, there is one single truth: it flows into me. This is how life is. If I participate, and I'm actively receptive to this, believe it or not, everything else will take care of itself.

 There are actually no needs for charts and diagrams, hydrogens or instructions. Life knows how to live; it's human beings who have forgotten it. We can rediscover it in every outcrop of rock and branch that spreads if we look. But first, we must look organically, with the parts that don't use this insidious weapon we call language to interpret the world around us.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed. The foundations may have been useful - but a lot of damage has also been done....not unlike the catholic church.
    But I have to remember that some amazing people stayed with the foundation all of their adult lives - such as Pauline de Dampierre. Interesting tho that her husband was never a signed up member.


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