—From The Reality of Being, Jeanne Salzmann, # 51, To Organize
This little series of essays about law, subjectivity, and our wish to escape any kind of obligation ends up being, as it must, about obedience.
When I say that we wish to escape any kind of obligation, I speak about how we are—both inwardly and outwardly. The ego rejects obligation of any kind, and it’s crafty in its efforts to construct ways of avoiding it. It certainly doesn't want to be obliged to others, and it doesn't want to be obliged to ourselves either. It is a fundamentally disobedient creature, a child. One might see it as the part of us that has never grown up and only wants for itself.
Obedience is an essential part of understanding. There will always be undisciplined and childish parts that want to run the show; and they will always manipulate emotion in order to try and get their way. Emotion is their number one tool and their modus operandi. This is why it’s so important to develop a relationship to feeling, which has an entirely different center of gravity and is an objective force. But feeling cannot arise without obedience. Feeling is intimately related to obedience and it can only enter once the parts become more obedient to one another—and to a higher force.
This week when working with other people I spoke about our effort to become obedient in language that didn't really use that word. It involved the observation that we must become much more detailed in our work.
We need to focus our attention on the granular material, the molecular stability, of our physical relationship to Being. This idea of molecular stability is one that has come up a great deal this week, because the molecular stability of our attention— which is a physical, not mental, property we can acquire—is what creates durability.
All of the complaints that one hears about being unable to stay with oneself, unable to have a good attention, and so on, are about the fact that I am disobedient. My obedience, my attention, needs to acquire durability; and this has to be done through a very fine kind of work with the attention that lies in the details of Being, not in the grand gestures.
Ego loves to focus on the grand gestures; and in its sneaky efforts to undermine real inner work, it’s constantly inviting me to speak about the big things and how wonderful they are; to rhapsodize about working together and magical energy and so on. It's a very subtle thing, but such emphasis on the miraculous implies an ability to escape from law, instead of submitting to it. The "freedom" we talk about too easily becomes some kind of an excuse not to have to discipline ourselves or be critically intelligent about our inner work.
Focusing on the tiniest things, which can't be celebrated with grand language or exchanged with one another as some kind of secret magic we share, becomes a kind of discipline in itself, because it builds the work in us molecule by molecule, which is what’s necessary. It can easily take ten— twenty— thirty years to attain any real durable quality of Being in a person, because of the molecular and incremental nature of this work.
No one wants to take that long to do anything, of course, because we would rather get results over the weekend.
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.