the boy in the middle was a Yezidi… (a) circle had been drawn round him… he could not get out of it until it was rubbed away. The child was indeed trying with all his might to leave this magic circle, but he struggled in vain.
—Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men
How does one come to understand one’s life?
There's a current that flows into us from God which provides complete understanding. That understanding is God’s understanding, not our own; and because we are not aware of the existence of that understanding, we rely on our own, which will always be a thing defined by the material, whose limits are circumscribed by the material. It's the same circle described in the quote. This circle represents our life and who we are as we are, without God’s influence.
The paradox here is that the understanding from our life, which appears to be everything we are and all that we know, is actually the precise thing that prevents us from experiencing real life, which exists outside the circle. We create within ourselves a thing, an abstraction, that represents life, and we sign onto it with all that we are. Everything in our being. It even comes back to us in our dreams in an endless set of iterations that reflect the confusion we’re in.
There's a different understanding. This complete understanding actually dials everything we are down to zero, because it isn't our understanding and has in fact nothing to do with the construction we’ve made. It’s an understanding that moves within the present moment and brings a new relationship to it. It’s an understanding that informs according to what is, not my dreams.
Someone asked me a while back how one acquires this understanding, and among the circle of friends engaged in this conversation there was a sense of laughter. Basically, a disbelief that there could be any answer to this question. There was also, of course, the tired old Gurdjieff trope that there are no answers hanging in the air. This fossilized idea continues to be regurgitated no matter what one does to counter its toxic effect on inward investigation. Folks who sign on to it as a mantra and cling to it like a life preserver repeat it because perhaps it makes them feel important. In fact, it's categorically untrue. Remember — answers are responses, and everything in the universe is a response of one kind or another to a corresponding arising. This means, in objective fact, that there are nothing but answers. The whole universe is an answer.
We are answers.
In any event, there was a response available here, as well, and I made it.
The way we acquire this understanding is organically.
This organic response which leads to understanding is the reciprocal response from Being engendered (note this word up in your dictionary and ponder it, because it is used very intentionally here) by the inflow of God’s Mercy. A whole thing takes place here which is not susceptible to verbal interpretation; one has to be within it to understand such understanding.
The point is that it exists, not that one can define it.
True understanding is not acquired by the physical organs, who are mere middlemen. The metaphysical organs have to participate. These metaphysical organs of being relate to Gurdjieff’s higher being bodies, which are in fact metaphysical entities: the astral body, for example. It’s interesting that you never hear people speaking about these entities as metaphysical entities, even though it's quite obvious.
The metaphysical organs receive vibrations from metaphysical sources. The vibrations they receive do not even register on scientific instruments, because they are metaphysical. Gurdjieff alluded to this when he spoke of emanations.
If your metaphysical organs are atrophied, they don't sense:
Blödsinn, Blödsinn, du mein Vegnügen...
Stumpfsinn, Stumpfsinn, du meine Lust
If I try to understand my life physically and from the objects, events, circumstances, and conditions that surround me, I'll fail. All of these things – which begin quite easily, from an early age, to appear as though they are everything that I am and all that is — are essentially beside the point in the question of understanding my life from the metaphysical point of view.
It's only the force of God’s mercy that flows into me that matters.
There is no other force from which the true nature of life can be understood: and all the things in life become a distraction from that fundamental truth.
Notes on the Next Attention by Fran Shaw is a good place to begin if one seeks active commentary on this question. It defines the condition that such work ought to rediscover itself in within us better than any other book from the Gurdjieff work.
and God close to your heart.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.