Liberation is not to be found in judging the "bad" or the "good." It is in the disappearance of the ego and the union with everything and everyone. The only bad is ignorance, the only good, awakening. Yet everyone wants to direct or be directed as he likes, to judge and criticize before seeking to understand. This attitude is fundamentally false. What we have to seek is not to impose an order, but to enter into an order, an order that existed long before us. It is the order that is important, not the organization.
—From The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, # 51, To Organize
At the beginning of this discourse on where we are in the action of law (see part I), I mentioned that many people engage themselves with a romantic notion that all paths are different, and so on. I'm embarrassed to report that I have heard this kind of thing so many times that every time someone starts to spout it, the inner critic in me automatically boots my inner “blah, blah, blah”commentary module. People have truly weak minds, it's a common problem; it takes most of a lifetime to develop a strong mind, and human beings are generally lazy about the intellect and the rigors that it requires to properly develop a capacity for a real critical thinking that is creative, rather than destructive. It is, furthermore, the first thing that falls by the wayside when people decide to be "spiritual."
I say that it's a romantic notion basically because most people who talk about this are doing so—I hate to say it—because of spiritual selfishness and a wish to excuse themselves in particular from the rigors of a path — any path — that requires obedience to higher law. Some individuals I work with furthermore make a great show of insisting on telling everyone else that no matter what people say, all of it is always only their own opinion, their own experience, etc.—as though there were no great laws to be observed, either outside us or within us. This is utter nonsense, but it can sound very important and intelligent. (Am I judging? Yes, I am judging.)
We have to see how tiny we are and how absolutely constrained we are by law. Otherwise, we just act stupidly in everything we do. That's okay if all we want to do is stumble through life; but if we want to develop a real intelligence, it has to begin with the fact that we’re constrained by law in an absolute sense. It's not all relative. We may have the right to act stupidly, but it is not an obligation. One can demand more of oneself.
To say that everything is different and everyone's path is different is true within a range, but it's an incredibly limited range. You could say that we all live within a different temperature; there are tiny, incremental temperature differences between the bodies of most living things, and within the range of humanity, human beings definitely cover, let's say, a range of average inner temperatures between 97° and 99°. Everyone has a different temperature within that range; but we all live within that incredibly narrow range. Compared to the range of temperatures that operate in the known universe, which spans many tens of thousands of degrees, we operate inside the tiniest fraction of that.
It's like saying everyone's body weight is different. That's true; yet once again, it operates within an incredibly narrow range constrained by physical law regarding the possible weights of human beings. We will never see, for example, an adult that weighs 3 ounces or 10,000 pounds; yet we see things all around us that weigh micrograms or hundreds or thousands or even millions of tons. So our differences, apparent though they are, are strictly constrained and exist within an incredibly narrow range.
Spiritual work is the same way. The "many different paths" that people want to believe in are all actually constrained by the law of three and the law of seven, and every single path conforms to the evolution possible relative to those laws. So it might equally possible, and is in fact more accurate, to explain spiritual development by saying, "all paths are identical," because all paths are perfectly described by esoteric law, which is objective, not subjective. This, in a nutshell, is a large part of Gurdjieff's message to Ouspensky as communicated in In Search of the Miraculous.
We live in an extremely subjective age and we don’t, I think, in the least see how thoroughly it has polluted everything we think about, touch, and propagate between each other. We celebrate subjectivity; and we guard it jealously. I speak about this specifically because I have been keeping a close eye on my own subjectivity and I see quite clearly how inescapable it is. It has emotional reactions to everything that is foreign to it; and in every single instance, those reactions want to co-opt me into a subjective perspective about my ideas, opinions, and being.
This is an active force in every human being. If one hasn't seen this in operation, one’s self observation is deficient and one needs to do a great deal more work.
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.