What is necessary now is to understand in much more detail what a molecular sense of Being consists of, and how that might be applied to practical work in daily life.
The difficulty with this question is that “one can't get there from here” — that is, one can't get up in the morning and just decide to exercise one's “molecular sense of Being muscles” and thus develop them. Not directly, anyway, because these muscles — that is, the entities within us that can develop the force necessary to mediate this perception — are made of a very fine material that is difficult to assemble at first and can be easily torn or put together in a wrong way.
In order to explain this, I’ll need to invoke another natural comparison, in this case, the very fine mycorrhizae or roots that form a fungus.
A fungus exists as an extremely complex microscopic network of delicate roots. We can think of the human nervous system as a mirror of this same entity. In any event, the roots are invisible and spread throughout the medium they live in (typically, soil or a log, although they can also inhabit other materials.) These roots have to grow for a long time and make an enormous number of connections, form a huge network, before any fruiting bodies in the form of mushrooms emerge.
We have a similar network that can grow within us in our nervous system. The molecular structure of our nervous system is the medium through which all of the information our cells exchange with each other must communicate; and it can undergo permanent changes in its nature, but only if it’s cultivated for a very long period of time. I want to come into an intelligent contact with the molecular sense of being.
An intimate contact.
In order to do this, I need to learn an entirely new language which, in the Gurdjieff work, is called sensation. Unfortunately, word itself is already deceptive; although it arouses associations of a physical perception, it is actually derived from the Latin sēnsus, which is a word that means not body, but feeling.
When we speak of developing a permanent connection to sensation in the Gurdjieff work, we are actually speaking about a connection not just to the body, but to this special quality called feeling. Because of the initial physical condition of sensation, which is a distinctively physical perception, we spend many years making an attempt to connect the body and the mind through this essentially simple understanding, failing to see that what we are ultimately aiming for is a new feeling of the body. That is to say, although it has a physical manifestation, this new sense of Being is ultimately tied to a much finer emotional perception which is no longer an emotion.
Emotion is a word which means to move out, remove, or agitate, from the Latin ēmovēre.
The word feeling, notably, derives not from the Latin but from a Germanic root, felunge, which means something a bit different: touching, or the sense of touch. The way that we might compare and contrast the two is to point out that emotion involves an experience that takes me away from myself; whereas feeling takes me towards myself. In emotion, I go out of myself and am identified with ("taken by”) what is happening; in feeling, I get into touch with what’s happening by going inward and seeing it. This understanding of sensation and feeling, of coming into a much more intimate sense of contact with myself, is the essence of sensation.
I must learn to understand sensation as an experience that is already much larger than the experience itself.
Sensation manifests in utter silence. It contains silence within it; and whenever I come into relationship with it, there’s a whole part of me which maintains absolute silence—even as it lives and breathes (and sensation has its own breath.) So if I am in full relationship with this sensation, this feeling of being in touch with my inner life in an entirely new way, I’m also in full relationship with a silence that accompanies the noise of my ordinary parts and of regular life.
That silence can manifest itself actively. When it develops durability, it is nearly invulnerable, because it is an active force that has a real wish more powerful than the one in my mind.
I understand that this may puzzle many folks; yet this question of a molecular sensation of Being, a molecular feeling that arises as a silent partner in my inner work, is an essential one, and I need to penetrate the veil of my thoughts and opinions to reach the grounded force of this aroused conscience. It is very different than the parts I’m accustomed to; and without this assistant, I remain too weak to sustain any inner effort for long.
This is a common complaint with inner work. People speak so often about a weakness in their attention; about how they "go away."
One has to become obedient to a durable force in Being; only by doing this will one discover the force which prevents one from going away. It is not enough to complain about how one loses one's intelligent sense of self, or describe it to others; and it is not enough to just see it. Seeing it, having an intelligent (active) experience of it is absolutely necessary, but one must go further into the molecular contact. This involves an intentionally more detailed experience of Being, not a vague one that keeps using the word "something" to describe my inner state. A much more definite understanding needs to arise, and for as long as I allow my mind to be weak and not do the necessary work on it, I will always be deficient and unable.
It’s too easy for all the ideas to sit there folded up. In that state they’re inactive and cannot touch one another in the way that is necessary; they can't arouse real feeling.
The ideas need to be unfolded in me through a molecular sensation, which is a risky business. As soon as ideas are unfolded they become more vulnerable, and one needs to take more care with them.
It's the same thing with DNA; everything in the universe that dares to take the risk of reproducing itself to give birth to something new also risks contamination, dilution, the loss of integrity. Yet this risk is necessary in order for fecundity to realize its purpose; and some deviation from the natural order into a new order is always necessary. So I have to go into the molecular sensation with the understanding that I’m not safe here; and at the same time I have to go into it knowing that this is a support which will guide me if I trust it, because it is naturally organized to support my effort.
The Sixth Sense
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.