He said, 'I will give you a rule, which is the keystone of all that I have ever said, which comprises all truth that can be spoken of or lived.
'It often happens that what seems trivial to us is greater in God's sight than what looms large in our eyes. Therefore we should accept all things equally from God, not ever looking and wondering which is greater, or higher, or better. We should just follow where God points out for us, that is, what we are inclined to and to which we are most often directed, and where our bent is. If a man were to follow that path, God would give him the most in the least, and would not
—ME, The Complete Mystical Works
The subject came up in regard to this quote of taking in impressions. (And thank you, SG, to whom so many very great things are owed, and whom I will never quite repay.)
Taking in impressions.
In reality the term is a bit misleading, because every organic experience we have is a taking on of impressions. We can’t pretend there is any other action; it’s thus so generic it becomes, in a certain sense, meaningless; while at the same time sounding important enough that it poses as meaningful. There are many things like this around us; and we spend very little time thinking about it. A superficial impression (there’s that word again) that we understand something is all too easily created; and once we have it, everything is over.
Let’s think about “taking in impressions” as food, which is the way that Gurdjieff originally presented it.
In order to understand this question in more intimate detail, think of it in terms of swallowing. There is an action related to food whereby it is taken in intentionally; and the sensation and emotional experience related to this action has roots much deeper in Being than the thought of swallowing. The action provokes a three-centered, organic and integrated response in which even the instinctive and sex centers participate.
So its action lies beyond three centers and incorporates all of Being. The entire psyche feeds on the sum of all the organic experiences it receives, which are a totality of relationship. In the end, every instance, every simultaneous relationship between every atom in the body finds its summary somewhere in the totality of experience.
Our attention is capable of extending downward into the body — which expresses the totality of Being — and sensing much finer levels of interaction between atoms and molecules, but that is only if sensation becomes very active indeed. Until that happens, this idea is entirely theoretical. Once it does happen, we understand the question of attention and lower levels much more thoroughly — which teaches us, ironically, that we do not understand the question of attention and lower levels. I will refer you back to what I said in the second paragraph of this essay, “a superficial impression that we understand something is all too easily created.” Only real (organic) sensation and Being can correct the superficial impression we have of what sensation and being mean.
Now, this is an intimate and sexual action. That cannot, once again, be understood unless one is within the state. But there is a sexuality, a reproductive activity, that takes place on the cellular and molecular level which can be sensed once one develops connections to Being. I often use the word intimacy to describe this because it is an extremely intimate relationship with both the lower and the higher level at the same time, which take place together and in the same place. They are not separated. It is my awareness that brings them together in the union that they are always supposed to be in; and this is a creative action that gives birth to a new attention. The attention is not mine, nor is it for me: I simply become responsible for it.
To experience finer impressions is to engage in a level of intimacy that does not just imply, but rather invokes, a sacred action. In meeting life’s incoming flow, should the impressions flow deeper into Being, this is the meaning of water being changed into wine. It isn’t a spiritual allegory, but the organic transubstantiation of substances that feed us.
The sacred action relates to the law of reciprocal feeding, because in ingestion of these very fine details of life, which are embodied in the least things, we are in turn fed by God in repayment for our service. This binds us to the Lord; we swallow one another, for as I eat, so am I eaten.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.