Friday, April 24, 2015

The gatekeeper

April 14

One of my readers asked me today, when we struggle with the inner demons in us — in this case, addiction — who is the gatekeeper?

 That's an encapsulation of the question, but it raises an interesting point about who in me has authority.

The only real authority comes from the action of Being and life itself. If one is in touch with life through sensation and the inward flow, life has the authority — and the "I" that deals with it is not so important. One invests and inhabits — one doesn't spend and do.

In this way, one follows the inward and outward rivers with some ease, because they go naturally in the direction that is necessary. If I was truly present to myself, I would understand that this natural direction is possible; but when I live only in my mind, I don't even know that there is a natural direction. I think that the natural direction comes out of the mind, not from Being and from life.

There are astrological conditions, especially solar ones, that govern this and make it far more possible to invest in Being; yet I fear these particular points of work are little known and even less understood. Everything that one works for is, in the end, to come under such influences so that help arrives; yet we always think that help will come from external things such as philosophies, material goods, and so on — not from planetary emanations that are from a much higher level and can actually help our inner state on a more permanent level.

 In the meantime — we are on our own. As my mother always used to say, God helps those who help themselves.

 This idea of a gatekeeper, of one who has authority, reminds me of Gurdjieff's statement that the mind is a policeman. If it is active, it can at least try to remind me when things are going off the rails. The voice may be small, but even one voice is better than none at all.

As far as the question of the addictions goes, and how an inner authority goes against this, one has to first of all understand that addiction is a life or death matter. One can think of this theoretically; one has to know organically that one is engaged in a struggle between what wishes to be real and what wishes to destroy. This has to enter like a lightning bolt, a shock that transforms attitude and creates an absolute conviction that work, real work — not philosophizing and theorizing — is needed to save the day.

There is no artificial substitute for this kind of shock. Most addicts don't seem to get it; and so they go down. One has to first of all care about one's self enough; else, nothing else helps.

The gatekeeper, in other words, has to be a part of one's Being that cares. If I look through myself in a real inner inventory (there's some addiction-recovery language for you!) I see that so many parts of me don't actually care about anything. That gang isn't worth anything. If I let them run the show, forget it.


Thursday, April 23, 2015



That isn’t what I planned to say.

It never is. An emptiness
Is necessary, else my words are empty.

When I try to know the next thing,
It will not come. Life anticipates

Anticipation, and denies it.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A finer vibration

April 12.

A finer vibration is always available to feed me; but if I want it to feed me, I need to come in to a specific and intentional awareness of it.

This isn't so easy; because even when Presence finds me as I am, I am not so willing to be specific about my relationship with it. That requires an intention; and the intention has to be born organically, whereas I usually try to find it with my mind.

This morning, I am sitting at my computer rather quietly, concentrating my attention very gently in the roots of the sensation were finer energy arises and is present. It's very easy in moments like this to see how it is a food of Being; and to take it in this way, quite precisely, is a meal in the same way the food I will eat later this morning at breakfast is a meal.

The breathing is a part of this; and it's important for me to see how the breathing helps facilitate the development and digestion of this finer energy which arises in the vibration between the cells.

...It arises, in point of fact, from somewhere beyond that; yet it doesn't do me much good to think that over. My effort lies simply in this very gentle attending to relationship here. It's in exactly that place that I mention so often in my diaries, where there is an intimacy between the conscious effort, Being, and the organism. This intimacy is accompanied by a willingness to invest organically and directly in the generosity of this Presence, which flows directly from the heart of God into all life.

Although I am a very small thing, I am sustained by this Presence in a way that touches everything that exists, and I am able to sense how this particle of Being is a singular, infinitesimal manifestation of that wholeness. It reminds me of the impression I had several years ago that the entire universe is contained in every grain of sand; or, more recently, blue light falling through a simple and objectively worthless piece of plastic on the sink in my bathroom. It is in these fine details, in the most intimate and seemingly unimportant encounters, that God is present; somehow, I so often sense this more in the small things, instead of the grand gestures, the things that take place around me on great scales.

When I engage in this intimacy, I begin to understand that—in the same way the cells in my digestive system are designed to work in a very precise way on a very tiny scale, absorbing molecules with an intelligence and an insight that sorts things out far better than my coarse consciousness, at this level, could ever do— the awareness of human beings at this level is meant to examine details, to see the fineness of things, to sense and to feel and then, with some effort, to understand how the small things fit together and how every detail of life ought to be rightly appreciated.

This food of a finer energy helps me to do that every day. Of course, I'm not in enough relationship to do justice to all of this; but to be in relationship at all represents a hope, and that hope breathes the life of a further effort into me.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The rain falls

The Rain Falls

I come to this moment of return
Without a pale breath to feed me,
Without warning, without
The threads that got me here.

I am picking up a thousand instances
Where I dropped time on the floor, astonished
By what it said:
That it dared to speak to me.

That I dared to listen.

And altogether, I am helpless
In the art of living;
I thought I knew 
The way things ought to be

As though what in them were preserved
Unbroken, undistorted
Even though I touched them
And hurt them with my cares.

Where is my trust, my trust
Where are the ones who loved me,
Held me up?
Geese cry in the morning

As though they, too, are lost.
Yet their light
Has not yet begun to fail;
They know their Way.

I do not know mine.
This is the fate of those,
Who go into the unknown.

The rain falls.


Monday, April 20, 2015

A hierarchy of sensation

 During the walk with my wife — the first walk since I have returned from China with the famous dog Isabel, who is elderly but still very game! —I was pondering the question of sensation yesterday.

Gurdjieff mentions sensation some; and of course, I frequently speak about the organic sensation of Being, which is essential to Being itself. When Gurdjieff originally described this property of living within Being to Ouspensky, he described it an unusually scientific terms: he referred to the sensation of various higher hydrogens, the fact that a person needed to learn what each higher hydrogen was and the effects that it had. What he did not say, straight out and in plain language, is that all of this  revolves around and depends on sensation, that is, physically received impressions within the organism that do not consist of thoughts, but, rather, physical sensations of one kind or another.

Jeanne de Salzmann made a great deal more of sensation in what she taught in terms of presence, using the word quite precisely. This is important and significant; yet she never created a descriptive bridge between the essential action she urged us to understand, and the original, "chemistry-oriented" remarks that Gurdjieff made about the subject.

Now, having been immersed in the question of the organic sensation of being for many years, and having had the opportunity to collect what is, based on my proximate experience with others, an unprecedented amount of data on the subject, I realize — engaged in the type of reflection I mentioned in the last post — that one does not really find much, if anything, in the literature about these matters. In any spiritual literature, for that matter, although there are hints and peripheral understandings, specific understandings that relate to specific traditions, that treat the subject in one way or another.

By and large, there are a number of different levels of organic sensation, each one of which is stimulated by a specific and particular higher hydrogen, as Gurdjieff would have called them. I'll confess that I haven't been able to sort exactly which hydrogens are involved in various types of higher sensation (actually, not that interested in doing so), but the sensations themselves are consistent, replicable — in the sense that when they come, one always recognizes them as belonging in a particular class — and have varying degrees of action on the presence of Being.

Having understood this, it occurred to me to try and sort out the various different types of organic sensation that may arise in the context of spiritual work on Being. There are, inevitably, limitations on these types of analyses, because one has to use descriptive words for them, and the words always fail.

Various classes of organic sensation at levels outside the ordinary include the following:

1. A powerful sensation of "grounding" inner gravity. This provides the anchor for vertical awareness of self. It always involves downward movement, and is strongly associated with help from the sun, which is always available when solar flares take place. It can arise under other conditions, but various solar influences produce different versions of it.

There are a number of essays in The Reality of Being that discuss this.

2. The sensation that is atomic, that is, allows each atom in the body to assume an individual consciousness of vibration that can be sensed by the whole, as a global phenomenon, but also as an individually particulate experience.

 Descriptions of this are included in a number of Gurdjieff's talks with Ouspensky and others.

3. Sensations in individual chakras. These usually involve the arrival of a powerful and ecstatic energy in a specific location, commonly abdominal, but also occasionally thoracic. Energies of this kind release substances that produce involuntary and powerful relaxation, which illustrates for the adept the difference between voluntary relaxation, which is something Jeanne de Salzmann asked her pupils to engage in, and relaxation through Grace, which is of a much higher order.

 Descriptions of this are frequently found in books on yoga.

4. Ecstatic sensations in individual peripheral locations, frequently the fingers.

 Swedenborg described these and explained them as inspections of being by angelic forces.

5. Piercing sensations. Sharp, knifelike pains in specific places, often the spinal column (base, center, and top) which represent temporary piercings of the knots, or granthis,  that block the flow of higher energy.

 Descriptions of these are also found in books on yoga.

 6. A sensation that feels like worms: all over the body. This can be localized or general. This is accompanied by the arrival of a beneficent energy.— a sensation of lightheadedness. This can be quite unpleasant and often takes place in the initial surge of energy as it reaches Being.

 Exercises invoking this particular sensation are described in yoga and Tantric Buddhism.

7. A sensation of pins and needles. This is a lower order sensation that can be quite unpleasant, but is also global in nature, and arises whenever energy penetrates into the body to relieve microscopic, atomic level blockages in the nadis.

 Not described in most literatures.

 I have attempted to arrange these in a very rough kind of hierarchy, from the "highest" orders of "hydrogens" to the lowest. There are subclasses of these different kinds of energy, so one can experience greater or lesser versions of each; and some are related to one another.

The above descriptions are meant to describe day-to-day sensations that arrive and stay for extended periods of time, not religious ecstasies, which are of a different order and cannot be classified in the same way. In particular, the first two in the list ought to become permanent in Being to one degree or another. The remainder generally assume peripheral presences, and are intermittent in nature.

 There are also a range of spinal energies that involve circulation of energy, which fall into a different range of experiences and practices not dealt with in this essay. Many of the intermittent energies and sensations relate to the breaking up of inner blockages and improved circulation of energy in general.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Gentle into me

Gentle into me

The stillness of the stars
Waits for me where I cannot deny it,
After the day is done, the agitation
Filling me—released;

Into a sky that waits each night
For the end of things, the wrapping
Of frayed threads,
The hesitations of uncertainty.

There is a pause.

If light can pierce
The heavens, lasting long
Past the entanglements of living

Into greater moments,
That speak of elements;
If it falls straight into secrets
That I call my own, well then,

It can go anywhere:
Into the tips of fingers.

Into the heart itself,
And all its promises.

Each star goes gentle
Into me; and I the better for it.
What use this struggle?

Life is given.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

What gives life life

April 10.

I come home to a cold spring; it was a cold spring in Shanghai, as well.

In my 60th year, I gather together the many threads of my life; and I see, gradually, what we are supposed to come to, even though we do so reluctantly and with dragging feet.

In youth, I raced to get somewhere; in middle-age, I thought I was somewhere — even though I was not sure where that was — and now, as I reach the maturity of that middle age, moving across the crest of the hills I have grown in myself, I see that I have been places, but I am not sure what those are either. Location is no longer a sure thing. The only place I am is within myself.

I try to gather old threads of my life together, to see the entirety of my Being and all that it has been from a high perspective, taking in the good and the bad, and trying to evaluate both the inward and the outward quality. More and more, as I grow older, the quality of the outward seems unimportant. It is only the quality of the inward, of the inner impression, that matters, because everything outward is determined by it. So much of the damage that I see in the past is damage I did to myself, damage that comes from my lack of understanding; and all the goodness that there is comes from the objective truth of the fact that we are and that life is.

The goodness is, in other words, an inherent quality, that I don't understand very well — although I do encounter it with my feeling parts.

Gurdjieff said we use the present to repair the past and prepare the future. The past is a complicated piece of fabric; yet I sense the wholeness of it in me, even though I am unable to grasp its full significance. What marks do any of us leave in the sand of this beach, anyway? If there is any permanence, it must lie in the life of the soul, because there is no other place for it.

Here is the unspoken coda to Gurdjieff's advice: I prepare for a future that is both unknown, and finite. The future that I prepare for is a future in which, on this planet, I do not exist anymore.

How do I prepare for that?  What does it mean?

 I consider my ways.

The weight, the inner gravity of Being, exists, I think, just to hold down the soul in a single place where it can drink itself into itself and know what it is. Life falls into me; I am filled with it, like water in a vessel. All of these impressions, everything that I am, resides in a wholeness that can be read, like a book. A record is left; and the angels will read that record when I die.

I forget that I contain myself; I forget what I am. Yet within me, organically, is that wholeness of memory.  Gathering it together, now, strikes me as what is vital, what gives life life.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Emotive meaning and the lack of right feeling connection

I recently came across an article about meaning in ancient art, and whether we can "recover" what the original artists meant.

 The article acts as though ancient people were substantially different than we are — which is not at all true. They were different technologically; and their intellectual understandings of the world were different. Yet emotively and physically, they were identical to us, and they felt the way we do; there is no difference between their neural impulses and our own, and if they heard the word "hippopotamus" it would sound exactly the same to their ears, whether they understood what we meant by it or not.

Meaning in art is not just embedded in the intellectual understanding, the set of associations, that it evokes. Art touches the feelings; and there is an emotive meaning to it that is sensed, subliminally, beneath the thick compost of intellectual material we bring to every viewing. I say compost because the emotional content of art, any kind of art, is actually much more important than the intellectual interpretations we bring to it. If we begin with that emotive understanding, only then can the intellectual interpretation of art make sense — because it begins based on the premise that we are attempting to understand deep, emotive, feeling-based concepts of Being and society, rather than just rote constructs that present rigid ideas about gods, goddesses, hunting, and so on.

In this sense, it is far more important to first intuit the meaning of a piece of art by using one's feeling function, and only then understand it intellectually.

What does the art say about who I am? What I think of myself? How I feel about the world?

I am cut off from a deeper understanding of many of my feeling functions; music and images can help me to reconnect with that. The rich, deep time-based structure of the collective unconscious of mankind, the complex heritage of everything all of us have ever been in terms of our emotive life, is accessible through these mediums — in a way that the intellect cannot make them so. We need intelligence to interpret; but intelligence doesn't feel. Feeling feels; and I speak here not of our average coarse emotional feelings, the obvious ones that arise from reaction and whose nuances are so often transmuted immediately into exaggerations, but the finer feelings which relate to a connection to one's inner Being, to one's soul.

 Our souls need food; and they are fed by a right relationship to feeling, else they do not grow. The lack that so many people feel in the modern world, where everything is based on the consumption of coarse material things, is a lack of the right feeding of feeling center. When Jeanne de Salzmann says, in her notes to herself (the book The Reality of Being is notes she wrote to herself, not to us), that we must "stay in front of our lack," the lack is above all other things a lack of right feeling connection. One ought to have a much better connection to one's feelings, so that one's hubris was dissolved in a more real attitude towards life; but ordinary intellectual activity doesn't do this, on the contrary, it is very nearly destructive in its lack of understanding. We don't value emotive meaning in the way that we ought to. Only emotive meaning can impart the appreciation of the sacred, which is so utterly lacking in the material culture of the modern world.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The unfixing

This essay is illustrated with a 
photograph of an Apsara from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

 One might assume, that somehow, under the force of Grace, things will be different and everything will be fixed.

 I certainly used to believe that, when I read about these matters as theories and philosophies. But I don't know anything, really; because when it comes, I see that it is exactly the opposite of what I thought I understood.

Grace unfixes me.

 It is something like this. Everything in me is set, in stone, like cement. I am fixed; I hold to my habits, what I am, my assumptions, all the nonsense that I have filled myself with for what are now nearly 60 years of life. There are some good things in there, to be sure; yet it's confused and jumbled, there is no order to it — and it has set in me, it has crystallized.

I don't really see this (and oh, how I need to suffer it!), because I like living in my orderly stone cathedral, which carries a representation of the world that is purely egoistic.

I need to live with that every day; and I do, so comfortably that I don't even notice I'm living with it. It's only when Grace enters, when something from another level inspires me like the breath of God itself, that I see how I am in a life and have Being.

 This tears me apart. I put it as follows in a poem on this trip:


 This is how I live:

Inside, I get torn apart,
into small pieces, each one showing 
no more than a letter or two, 
perhaps a syllable; 
and the pieces are thrown
into the errors of my soul, my breath.

They spiral, fluttering slowly
downward towards the bottom of my heart
like confetti, as though snowfall
were a benediction: all the words I use made sacred
by destroying them.

Down there, in darkness
where I can’t reach them,
small creatures find the scraps; 

Gather them with nimble fingers,
folding tiny resurrections 

In the shape of birds. 

This unfixing dismantles me as I am; yet even as that happens, the parts of me that are set remain set. It isn't that the old goes; but a new certainly enters. 

I need to remind myself to return to this intimacy in this sensation, which is always available, as often as possible so that I come back into relationship with that which is already given and already there — which I just forget, throwing my pearls in front of my own inner swine.

 To see this is to understand that it's as though God and his angels are always in the room with me (they are) and that I have been given the extraordinary and perverse ability to studiously ignore them at almost every moment. I treat my whole life that way; and the way to fix my life would be to come into relationship with this other world, which is within, in the same way that the kingdom of heaven is within. 

It is an unfixing of the external; it takes it apart without touching it, so that in deconstruction, it is transformed.


Monday, April 13, 2015

The rain falls

The rain falls

I come to this moment of return
Without a pale breath to feed me,
Without warning, without
The threads that got me here.

I am picking up a thousand instances
Where I dropped time on the floor, astonished
By what it said:
That it dared to speak to me.

That I dared to listen.

And altogether, I am helpless
In the art of living;
I thought I knew 
The way things ought to be

As though what in them were preserved
Unbroken, undistorted
Even though I touched them
And hurt them with my cares.

Where is my trust, my trust
Where are the ones who loved me,
Held me up?
Geese cry in the morning

As though they, too, are lost.
Yet their light
Has not yet begun to fail;
They know their Way.

I do not know mine.
This is the fate of those,
Who go into the unknown.
The rain falls.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sorrow, part III

This essay is illustrated with a 
photograph of an Apsara from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

A friend pointed out this morning that, while they felt the second essay in this series represented what sounded like an intelligible extension of the things that Gurdjieff said on the subject of sorrow, he had never experienced this emanation, and wished they had a practical example of what I'm talking about.

One of the reasons it is so important to come to a much more intimate sensation of one's being — and I use the word sensation to speak of a higher physical vibration, a cellular vibration, an atomic vibration — is that this intimate sense is the place where it becomes possible to receive these particles. 

That only takes place, in the end, after years of work of being in a more serious and sobering relationship with sensation. It is the root of Being; and although it is in the body, which serves as the receiving vessel, it is not of the body. We can only come to a real understanding of the way that the higher nature intersects with the lower one by opening the vessel to sensation in this way. Yet that's not something we "do;" and although this inner work bears a relationship to works that presume the Yogi can "do" something, it comes equipped with a paradox.

One only develops will in order to use will to surrender itself. One must, in the end, have will in order to give it up. As long as one does not have real will, one is the property of one's impulses; and that is slavery.

Of course, we remain slaves of the material world in this life. That's the way things are arranged; perhaps it's our resentment of it that alienates us from God. Yet it is possible to bring one's own inner intimacy far enough along a path that leads to a point of contact between the soul and God so that a taste of freedom arrives, so that higher vibrations arrive. This only takes place through intimacy, because what needs to be seen and surrendered is so close to one's own being that it is sexual in a higher way, that is, it relates to the reproductive powers of the soul, which are very different than the reproductive powers of the body. A close reading of Meister Eckhart's texts will teach, after long years, the way in which the fecundity and creativity of the Lord enters and answers Being; and although he did not speak of it outright as a sexual encounter, the inferences are clear enough.

One should be careful not to confuse this with various teachings about sex energy and the sex center, because we touch here on subjects whereof those are only crude analogies. Most of the things that are said about sex energy and its transformational ability hold some water, but one has to be very careful with this, because the coarse analogies available here are only a blurred mirror of the interaction between the soul and God.  One comes up against the mystery of the virgin birth here, which means something quite other than the outward or literal appearance of the matter.

I am constrained from saying more about that. One has to look deep within oneself and come into contact with these mysteries in order to begin to form a relationship to them.

I've mentioned a number of times over the last months that Grace is the only force that can truly bring change within Being. This Grace acts with an intimacy that needs to be invited without restraint, requiring a very perfect and detailed scrutiny of the inner state. One has to look; one has to see. Yet here again, looking and seeing do not mean what they appear to mean; and nothing is ever so crude and obvious is the way words make it seem.  

We love our own coarseness; be suspicious of it.

 One has to come to the place where one has the most to lose, and perhaps has already suffered the most loss, and be willing to take it directly into the heart; then, something new becomes possible.


Friday, April 10, 2015

The wrong in myself

This essay is illustrated with a 
photograph of an Apsara from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Only to the extent that I know the wrong in myself can I stand against any wrong in the world.

 In the imagination, I know what is wrong; and I know what ought to be done about it. But this is always a selfish view, and it is about what I think is wrong, and what I think ought be done. I don't see that I'm not always right about some things, even if my track record is a good one; and it is only through examining myself and the way that I am that I can begin to see any of this more clearly.

Just thinking about myself is not enough. I need to examine myself with all of my conscious faculties, that is to say, I need to examine myself through the sensation of my body, and the experience/sensation of my feeling. Only when these two parts begin to participate with my intelligence is there a real, tripartite intelligence active in me.

It's only then that I can begin to discriminate; and even then, there is much work to be done, because wrong hides itself quite well. That is one of its characteristic abilities, the ability to be sly.

In the end, if I see what is sly and wrong and myself, then I know what sly things and wrong things look like. I can only understand them personally, from within, intimately; when I try to understand them through outside people first, I am continually deceived and mistaken, and my judgment is bad. I have to develop an inner capacity for knowing the wrong in myself in order to be more sensitive to where it lies in anyone else.

The same thing goes for situations. If I can see myself in situations, and I understand what is wrong about my Being—and only then my action, my behavior, which both emanate from Being alone — then I begin to understand what is wrong about external situations.

The likelihood is that I can't fix anything. But at least I can see what things are. And if it stays one harmful action in me, that is for the good.

Even one harmful action stayed is better than none; and if that's the best I can achieve in a single day, at least it is something, no matter how small and pathetic it may seem to be.


Thursday, April 9, 2015


Pet market, Shanghai

I brought up the question of trust in my post on April 7; and this post follows directly on the heels of that one, since I am writing it the same morning here in Shanghai (April 4, for those of you who like to keep track of time.)

I'm sitting on the 59th floor of the Le Meridien hotel looking out over People's Square in Shanghai; it's a strikingly foggy day, with clouds blowing through the city at a steady pace. The view from my window alternates between complete whiteout and bleary glimpses of the park and streets below me. It reminds me of my inner landscape: blank spaces punctuated by an occasional perspective from a high level.

My teacher Betty Brown often used ask us what we trusted in ourselves. I think this question of trust is critical; yesterday, as I was examining my life — I was in the elevator area directly outside our Shanghai office — I saw that I really don't trust my life as it stands. I'm a suspicious creature; send me all the Grace and love in the world, and I will persist in my belief that something is wrong, that life isn't the way it should be, and that there may, at any moment, come some awful event that will really screw me up.

As if I weren't already there.

I suppose one can hardly blame me. Such things have happened. Yet every supposedly awful event led me onwards in life to something that I needed; a change that had to take place, a lesson I needed to learn. My paranoia when it comes to change doesn't match up with the facts; all of the changes I've encountered, even the most apparently catastrophic ones, have eventually been for the good. I feel sure death will also be like that. 

But I don't trust; yet if I take to heart the lessons of the Masters, as well as the influence of Grace itself, which has taught me equally—in fact, even better, much better, since Grace does not come from books — I ought to trust implicitly. I am like a little kid who has been told this over and over and still won't listen.

This is the contradiction between me and the authority of God. I really do think I have the authority. I think I know what should be done in my life; and yet when these significant and extraordinary things are done they are emphatically not things I would ever do to myself. 

If someone came up to me and said, "you really need to go marry someone who will abuse you for 16 years", or, "you really need your sister to die now," or, "now you need to be fired from your job," I would tell them they were insane. 

If I told myself such things, I would tell myself I was insane. 

Yet these are the things that did happen; and every one of them had enormous benefits in terms of deepening my understanding of life. There were benefits for others in these objectively difficult situations, as well; so it's clear that I don't know, in the context of life, exactly what good and bad things consist of, or what ought to be done. Really, I don't know a damn thing. I'm pretty good at navigating business situations; and I'm pretty good at predicting risk and mitigating it — but I don't know where stress and disaster can be usefully applied, which is an art and a science unto itself. (Read Antifragile, by Nicholas Taleb.)

I don't trust. 

I don't trust God, and I'm afraid He is going to play horrible tricks on me that will cause me to lose things, or even die. 

Well, of course, He is going to do those things; but they aren’t tricks, and they aren’t horrible – they are simply what is necessary for the development of my soul. I myself — and those around me — are categorically incapable of knowing what those things need to be; so one has to trust in God and allow life to happen as it happens, meeting it over and over again with a willingness to stand up and go on every time one is knocked over.

This lack of trust in me is interesting, because Betty brought it up so many times when I was younger, in my late 30s and early 40s. I don't think any of us knew what she was talking about then; by that time, she was into her 70s, and had a perspective one can't gain except through age. I recall Peggy Flinsch bringing up exactly the same subject to groups of generally consternated individuals (what is she talking about?... and of course they were right, no one actually trusts anyone... with good reason!) in later years.

Really, none of us get it.

What do I trust?

Well, it's evident, I can't really trust myself; and the point I made about finding a niche of inner presence that I can take refuge in in the midst of my own insanities, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and the emotional weather of life brings up the one place and the one circumstance that I can trust: a relationship to a higher energy that manifests within me and offers me sanctuary.

This isn't a way of hiding; it's not that kind of sanctuary. It is simply a place where the real Self, the one I don't really know very well, but which is alive and organic, preserves its integrity and remains intact as everything around it is a whirlwind. 

There are Gurdjieff movements that illustrate this, particularly movements based on the enneagram; and no matter how complex the activities in some of these movements are, it is always the one who stands firm and tall and still in one place that represents this opportunity to be present, to receive something real, and to come into relationship with the Lord in the midst of life, no matter how difficult life may be.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Decency, part IV—what is to give light must endure burning

This essay is illustrated with a
photograph of an Apsara from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

The title of this piece is a quote from Viktor Frankl.

We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us.

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.

Frankl, after enduring the horrors of the concentration camp, came away from the experience with the impression that there are only two kinds of people in the world: decent people and non-decent people.

 What I find so extraordinary about this quote is the way that the man expresses enduring our sufferings in the right way — an honorable way — as a real achievement. 

 it's an inner achievement, not an outer one — and if we could achieve this one thing and an inward way, it would be greater than all the outward things we can ever do. One thing. It would be that great.

It astonishes me — perhaps it shouldn't — that insights of this nature came from such objectively evil outward circumstances; and yet, I think, this is the only way that good can ever be born — directly in the presence of evil, in its face, so to speak, rising up to look it in the eye and in goodness itself, in sheer defiance of what evil is. This is what the devil is for.

I was born in 1955, over a decade after these horrors finally ended. It was another nine years before my parents took me to a concentration camp, where I was able — in so far as it is ever possible — to look this evil in the eye and know it for what it was. I'll never forget standing there in the halls of Bergen-Belsen looking at the photographs of the dead and dying; the difference between what is decent and what is not was clear there, and I realized that this planet is nothing like what we imagine it to be, just as we are nothing will like what we imagine ourselves as. This — this horror — is actually what we have inside of us, and every human being is called at one way or another during the course of their life to stand up in the face of it and say no.

It may seem like a long way from being cruel and angry towards another person to the concentration camps, but I'm not sure that it is that far at all. The distance always lies within ourselves, and so it is always an intimate one — a step that is crossed without any physical, outward evidence. One does not have to go from New York to Paris to be evil. It all happens inside the parameters of being.

If I want to find love, I have to suffer what I am. 

And in order to do that, there has to be a fire in me.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Better than entertainment

After an unexpected series of events, I found myself staying in China for more than a week longer than I planned.

This happens from time to time; yet it's always difficult. One lives much of a business life of this nature surprisingly alone; apart from  family, friends, and colleagues, eating solo dinners at restaurants filled with other people socializing; walking streets by oneself, rather than with a companion one can chat about life with.

It gives a person a great deal of time for contemplation. One sees, eventually, that no matter where one goes, one is always and forever with one's self.

And yet one does not know quite who one is.

I see how I rely on the external—yet everything that takes place in life comes from within me. And I don't trust the conditions I am in; even though they are completely objective, and just to take place, no matter how I feel about them or react to them, I always suspect that the conditions aren't quite right, that something about them should be different, better, and so on, and that if only they were just how I want them to be I see, furthermore, that much of me is devoted to a hypothesis that consists, more or less, that a little later, everything will align itself to be just like I want it to be – if I do the right things now.

All of these things take place more or less automatically in parts of me that are, for all intents and purposes, mechanical. They consist of countless clockwork gears, all turning somewhat randomly, producing results that don't necessarily make much sense. I watch this go on with consternation; I am unpredictable.

All of this stands in marked contrast to my opportunity to be in relationship with a more sacred energy, which is clearly the point of my life. That energy is always present, but not in the same degree; there are times when it is very present, and times when its influence is less prominent.

Early this morning, I woke up and experienced a more unusual and powerful inflow of energy than usual. It suffused my entire body with a tangible sensation. It's interesting to note the quality of such energy is eventually experienced as distinctive; one can distinguish the level energy comes from by its nature. Some energies have deeper and more long-lasting effects than others; some are intended to transform physical states within the body, to effect changes at the cellular level which do not have a direct impact on feeling or intellect. This energy was one of those energies. Some of these physical energies have very fine and detailed work to do, and they can at times create quite unpleasant sensations, although this wasn't one of those times. 

One is required, as always, to submit; there is no way to manipulate such things, since the motivating forces that drive them come from levels I cannot understand.

One needs to learn, I find, to both distinguish and accept various energies as they flow inward, to embrace them. This helps in life; because eventually, a part forms that continuously reminds me that devotion to the Lord and to these sacred energies of Grace, an inner devotion, is really the center of gravity of life; and that I do have the capacity to live within my anxiety, fear, and Angst without allowing them to overwhelm me. 

These emotional conditions come and go like rain showers or thunderstorms, as long as I am willing to stand fast within Presence and await each one of them out. It may be that only a small part of myself finds shelter in the lee of these winds; but that is enough. As long as one stays in relationship, there is a refuge.

I've been more or less dreading this weekend, since it was the prospect of two days more or less alone in hotel rooms, and wandering around the city by myself. 

Now that it is here, I see that the conditions are tolerable; I will just have to find enough activities to occupy me.  Like everything else in life that comments, I just have to get on this bicycle now and ride it. I always have my inner work with me; and that is far better than entertainment.

So I have the opportunity, on this Easter weekend in Shanghai, to stay a little closer to myself; and I will try to take that.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Decency, Part III— a profoundly uncomfortable place

This essay is illustrated with a
photograph of an Apsara from Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

 So I think, when it comes to this question of decency, that we are, perhaps, all drunkards; and what we are drunk on, the addiction we serve, the draft we cannot stop swallowing, is ourselves.

It's often said that money is the root of all evil; but this is merely a foolish adage we repeat to ourselves to distract us from the real problem. 

Love of self is the root of all evil; and it is terribly difficult to pull up.

We live in an age of self worship, where self-fulfillment is supposed to be the most important thing anyone can hope for; and yet how utterly barren that territory turns out to be. How, the society and the media ask us, are we to fulfill ourselves? By buying stuff, piling up money, and partying. The partying takes the form of wine, women and song; wealth, expensive vacations, golf games, ski trips, and fast, overpriced cars; but no matter how it is pitched, fulfillment always consists of consuming outward things, like the coneheads from Saturday Night Live.

In the end, after the binge is over and the lights get turned on, there is nothing in the least fulfilling about any of this; and, in what is perhaps a faint but hopeful sign, some people are beginning to wake up and smell this rotting flesh, even though they cynically try to replace it with a new pile of flesh that hasn't quite started rotting yet. 

There is only one kind of higher calling, and one kind of fulfillment worth having. 

It doesn't come from corporations.

It comes, as Swedenborg so often pointed out, not from love of self, but from love of the other and of God.

 The unfortunate difficulty in this begins with the fact that we always try to love the other and love God from ourselves, that is, from our self-love. This is exactly like alcoholics that show up at an AA meeting drunk to profess how anxious they are to be sober. It's an old story; and a true one. The fact that it is a bizarre contradiction doesn't stop it from happening countless times around the world every day. In the same way, I get up in the morning thinking — with my intellect, the weakest part of myself — that I ought to love God, without coming in touch with my sensation of the body and my feeling, which are absolutely necessary in order to even begin taking any inward action towards the love of God and the other. 

So often, I just think about it — whereas what is actually necessary is to discover the organic humility that arises at the base of one's Being: an organic impulse towards decency that begins with my own shame and my own sin. 

Even then, discovery alone is not enough. Should I discover it, I then have to live within that organic experience of humility— Gurdjieff's organic sense of shame, a profoundly uncomfortable place, to be sure — perpetually and without respite in order to begin to understand why I ought to be decent to others.

I see, that as I am, I can't be any other way, other than this person who cares only for themselves. It is only the Lord that can remind me of my smallness, my nothingness, through His Gracious Presence. When this Presence is available, I suffer; but I suffer gratefully, because it at least makes it possible for me to see what I am, and I can't discover any inner humility towards others unless that happens.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

A collective betrayal

 This action of collective betrayal takes place not outside me, but in the context of the many different selves, or "I's", that dwell in my personality.

When I expand the question, I am the Jewish authorities, accusing; I am Pontius Pilate, washing my hands; I am the crowd, condemning; I am the apostles, drawing swords, threatening violence, denying.

I betray decency; I betray peace.

The things I betray, which I will later (when I admit how i am to myself) profess to ignorance about, aren't actually so complicated to see. If I were honest — remember, I can only lie, as I always do, if I know what the truth is and then fail to admit it — I might easily enough see how I betray in each instance, all day long.  It's sadly transparent, really; at a glance, almost.

I see these betrayals as individual things; but they are collective.

Indeed, when I see myself, not just in the way that a higher energy makes possible — and this, of course, is the most vital way of seeing — but in a very ordinary way, if there is any conscious intelligence behind me (by this, I mean the participation of more than just the intellect, or an emotional reaction) I see how I am betraying. I ought to stay quite close to myself; and yet I am distracted by every instance that arises. That distraction consists of an outwardness and an insistence in investing in the outer situations, the outer circumstances, instead of being present to the need to turn my inner face perpetually back towards God.

In these situations and circumstances, I'm forever negotiating something for myself. I want to be safe; I want to strike a bargain with the devils that beset me so that I can feel good, have something material, be protected. To stop lying and to get out in front of all of this would be a tremendous risk; in my foolishness, I think I could lose something through honesty. Maybe even my life. And that's true; but I lose my real life with every step I take when I betray. This collective betrayal within me is the death of a thousand cuts, and I don't see it.

In seeing Christ's example, I see how he sets the standard for forgiveness—one hundred percent forgiveness— in the midst of this collective betrayal.

A higher inner principle must enter to forgive; and it can never come from the same level on which I act, because anything that is manufactured on this level — and yes, it is always manufactured, not a living, organic thing — is as false as the rest of the things within me on this level. Yes, the truth is in there somewhere, like fine particles of gold in the midst of sand in a stream bed — but it needs to be sifted out, purified, because there is so much dross in the way I live, in the way I experience.

In this, as in all things, Christ is my master. There is in the end nowhere else to turn if I wish to discover Being; and although the path of the cross is a long one, although I start out so far away that Christ's example and his Presence actually exist in a distant land, far from anything I know, I have to tread that path throughout an entire lifetime.

Perhaps never seeing Him at all, or even never truly feeling his Presence: yet in a steadfast faith that there is a Way, and that I can find it.

 I wish that these truths would take root deeper in me, so that I never forget them.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Decency, part II—Lord have Mercy

 This question of decency comes down to a matter of sin. The way that others are in this matter puzzles me; and yet perhaps it shouldn't. 

After all, I don't know who I am, and I don’t know what my life is. Why should others be different?

I remember when I got sober. It was in 1981; I was 26 years old. I stopped drinking in November; so a lot of the initial suffering and difficulty, the anguish, that I went through, took place in 1982.

My drinking was destroying my life and everything in it. I was destroying my relationships; and to this day, I still feel the deepest shame about the way I treated others while I was drinking. This is what disturbs me the most. I wasn't decent to anyone; I was, in my eyes, worse than an animal. One can't take these things back; decades later, long after it is all over, one sees what one was really like — and, those parts are still in one, they can't ever be taken out. One is forced to live with the filth and be honest about it. That's what sobriety is all about. I sometimes tell people that I'm not proud about my sobriety — I'm deeply ashamed it was ever even necessary. And this is why.

I remember lying awake in bed every night, waiting to fall asleep, realizing what a mess I had made of everything.  

I would lie there on those lonely nights in a cold sweat, on a mattress on the floor of my best friend's apartment in Sunnyside, New York. 


I didn’t know which way to turn; I didn’t know what to do. Everything I had assumed up until then revolved around alcohol; everything I did revolved around it. So I didn’t know a life that wasn’t centered on this. I didn't know anything about having a real job, I don’t think; I didn't have a plan for life. All I knew was that I was destroying myself, and I had to crawl out of the hole.

So I lay awake each night, waiting to fall asleep, saying the Lord’s prayer. It was the only place I could turn; I turned entirely to God, because there was nowhere on earth that could help me, I knew that. Everything that was wrong with me was of the earth; and I had known ever since I was quite young that the answers didn’t ultimately lie there.

 I still do that, you know. I still say Lord have mercy — Christ have mercy spontaneously during the day, sometimes many times during the day. I’m constantly turning in that direction, the direction of the heart, because I feel so utterly worthless and sinful. In some ways, one might say that being blessed with Grace has been the worst thing that ever happened to me, because the more Grace one is given, the more one sees one’s deepest sin. This is a penetrating matter, not a matter of the mind.

Christians talk about seeing their sin, but I don’t think anyone does it too often. It is so terribly painful. One feels destroyed; one feels worthless, and even more so in the light of God’s sight. This radiant love that creates me is so unconditional, I cannot bear it. I have to live with this inability, this sorrow, the impossible nature of my sin every day; and I see that I am utterly helpless to address it. 


People think there are remedies; they think there are prayers. But there is nothing that can really help. Only God’s love helps; and in helping, even it hurts. Gurdjieff’s Holy Planet Purgatory is not an allegory; it is a real place.

 I know it may seem distracting to digress into a soliloquy about Grace in the midst of two essays on decency; yet I don't know that any of us can be decent without Grace. It is the one higher force capable of penetrating directly into ordinary life, like a knife through soft butter, to fill the flesh and the blood, and strike into the marrow of the bone, with a humility that reminds me I ought to be decent. 

It isn't enough, in other words, to just listen to the angel that tells me so; there has to be an even greater power that motivates me, one that I accept — without resistance, one that I yield to unflinchingly, suffering what I am and suffering my own ego—in the light of God's Grace.

 This force ought to be concentrated in me and have its way with me: I ought to serve it. Yet I have to put myself aside in order to do that, and I cannot put myself aside just once. 

All of me has to be put aside, over and over.

Decency, somehow, begins with this action of putting myself aside, over and over. And it brings me back to Gurdjieff's adage that we must consider outwardly always, inwardly never.

 I don't remember this too well without help. I'm too small; and too weak. The only reason I even know I am like this is because of the struggle I went through to recover from my drinking. It seemed like an ordinary thing to do that; and indeed it was, it's just what any responsible man ought to do for those around him — realign himself so that his behavior is decent. 

Yet it turns out that the heroics of that one action were far from enough; because even after one gets rid of the drinks, one still has the drunkard.


Friday, April 3, 2015

A singular betrayal

This morning, as I was in prayer and meditation, the question of betrayal came to me as something more than a theory.

I've experienced betrayal — and, I am sure, have betrayed — in many ways and forms over the course of a lifetime. I try not to betray others, as best I can, because it hurts so deeply when it is done to me. Certainly, I fail — but there is an intention.

In any event, I experience betrayal as a singular thing, a series of different individual events, each one discrete and distinct from the other.  So betrayal is a singular thing; I don't see or understand it collectively, it seems incidental. That word can mean pertaining to each incident, or, casual and not of great note: and I mean it both ways here.

The lesson of Christ's crucifixion centers around betrayal. Superficially, one wants to blame Judas; how convenient to have a central villain. Yet everyone is guilty: Pontius Pilate, the crowds, Christ's own disciples. These appear to be singular betrayals, each one of them emanating from the personality of the individual who betrays; yet the betrayal is a collective betrayal of God and His goodness, of His principles. Christ's lesson leads us, I intuit, to understand betrayal in this collective sense; and in doing so, our own sense of betrayal involves from the idiosyncratic, the egoistic, the personal, into a much greater sense of a condition that mankind inhabits.

 Christ's absolute lesson is forgiveness. 100% forgiveness, in the face of collective betrayal. This is a very hard lesson; no matter how good my intuition to forgive is, no matter how good my intuition to not betray is, there is always something I want to hold onto. I forgive 99%; well, let's be honest — often, it's maybe 49%. But the point is that my intentions are not strong enough, not pure enough, not good enough. My intentions always fall short of true forgiveness, collective forgiveness. I want to reserve some blame and keep it in a little vial, close to my heart.

 If I really want to suffer what I am, I need to approach forgiveness from the point of view of collective betrayal, and understand myself from this point of view. That is a tall order; and it can't be approached through my intellect at all, it has to go much deeper into the marrow of my being where it courses through my blood and becomes a feeling that cannot be denied.

This feeling is a feeling that brings suffering; because it is a truth, not the serial lie I have told myself about who I am for my whole life: that somehow, I am good, I am good to others, I am not selfish, and so on. God shows me my lack; and it is a lack of goodness. I betray.

How am I, really, in the face of that question?


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Decency, part I — thieves and murderers

One of the things that has baffled me my whole life is why people aren't just plain decent to one another.

 There's a simple, wholesome decency that ought to spring from the soul; a consideration for others. Gurdjieff called it outer considering; one might just as well call it unselfishness. Any way you look at it, it ought to be our default point of reference for relationships; and yet most of us leave a life of wreckage behind us in regard to this point of Being.

 It's such a simple thing. Really. Never mind all of the efforts at consciousness, the exercises, the heroic attempts to develop will. How hard is it, really, to just treat another human being in a proper and respectful way? I've watched people around me violate this principle so many times I can't count them. Now, I can't say that I am really any better than others at this — but I do try. I see my impulse towards cruelty and anger constantly, because it is a constant impulse, and over and over again, every day, I demand of myself that I go against it.

I say no to how this is; and although I want to attack, fight back, revenge myself, I find myself over and over again with an inner advisor who is next to me reminding me that I ought to treat others better than this, no matter what they do to me.

That advisor was around even many years ago; I think it came along sometime around the time I got sober, although I do seem to recall it as an active presence when I was quite young. Let's call it an angelic advisor, for the lack of a better word — a part that seems to come from somewhere else, and remind me of my smallness.

It occurred to me, a few days ago, that old saying that there are even thieves and murderers in a real spiritual work. I'm not sure at all that this was meant to be taken literally, and aimed at describing people other than myself. I think the thieves and murderers are thieves and murderers of the soul; that is, we are all thieves and murderers. We have this element in us. I certainly know I have it in me: the capacity to destroy. It is a hateful quality; and yet it is here, in large measure, and powerful.

Are we all like that?

Is that what we need to see about ourselves?

 It's one thing to listen to teachers about how we must stop being in relationship so much with the animal, the lower part, and come into relationship with the higher mind. It's true, of course; and yet this is a very difficult and high level task. How can we think about such things if we can't just treat others properly? If we can't do this ordinary thing, imagining that we are capable of work on a much higher level is both foolhardy and dangerous. It leads to delusions; and we can see them in action all time, as so many supposedly spiritually developed people engage in horrific acts of destruction in relationships, marriages, jobs, and even the religious organizations they are members of.

It doesn't take a village to manage relationships this way; it takes a village idiot—and unfortunately, our inner villages have a surfeit of them.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April fool

Today, I was checked out of the hotel and on my way to the airport, more or less, when I found out business conditions required that I stay in the country for several more days. So I'm unexpectedly still in China, despite the fact that I timed my entire inner clock, all my plans for the week, around going home today.

April fool! One day early.

It was an emotional hump that I needed to get over—objectively, spending the rest of the week here is a considerable sacrifice for me personally. It is, however, what I have to do in order to get business done; and this is the life, for better or for worse, that I chose. It's true that I fell into it to some extent by accident; although fate had a very specific and major part to play in that, so much so that I am sure forces well beyond me put me exactly where I am today.

So the question of whether any of it is accidental is a serious one; probably, on second thought, none of it is... in any event, after three years of being on the serious international business travel circuit, in about 1990, I had a moment on an aircraft in the Philippines where I saw what this life consisted of, and I made a conscious and intentional choice that I could handle it.

Even today, I live with the consequences of that decision. To outsiders, this life of travel to Asia looks exotic, exciting, and enticing, yet for those that do it regularly, it is a difficult condition. One lives in a gilded cage; and I know many intelligent businessmen who eventually begin to see this, once the bars go up.

I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself. I saw that today; and I allowed that dog off the leash for a few moments, so that it could stretch its legs. But it is my responsibility to quickly adapt and find an emotional equilibrium that will allow me to function effectively for the next few days; mostly, I've done that. This is just another condition for me to meet.

About 20 minutes ago, I received an email from a reader who was interested in a wide variety of exercises that involved, more or less, changing who they were, what they were thinking, and so on, in order to see what could be manipulated and what the results would be.

It's interesting that we don't think there is enough strange thought and odd behavior in us to study just as we are; we seem to believe we need to create new and novel conditions in order to find something to study. Much is made, in the Gurdjieff work,  of "special conditions." Artificial circumstances are everyone's favorite for self-study; one goes off to a retreat, engages in silence practices, participates in a work day, this that and the other thing.

All of this after we are firmly told that the whole point of this inner study is to work within ordinary life.

In my experience, seeing how we are in the midst of changing situations and absolutely ordinary events is very instructive, more so than studying the artificial people we invariably become the moment we begin to put on the pancake makeup of the spiritual student.

 That is, anyway, my impression for this evening.


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sorrow, part II

Sarcophagus from Cyprus
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 Regret is not enough.

When I feel regret, it's a selfish thing. I feel bad for myself and what I did. Perversely, and in a peculiar paradox, I feel bad about feeling bad. It's all about me, no matter how I measure it.

Sorrow is a completely different thing than regret. It's impersonal. It has an objective nature that transcends my personal trials and actions; real sorrow, the sorrow that forms the particles of God, is divorced from creation.

This may sound odd, but sorrow exists before creation. It is uncreated; it has an objective existence that underlies the manifestation of everything that takes place. It is, in other words, an emanation of God, and although we define it in created terms and encounter an experience it from within creation, it is of God Himself.

 That which is of God Himself can't be created, because God is uncreated: and this leads me to an insight into the question that was asked of me at a presentation on the enneagram last week.

 The question was how we can encounter the transcendent.  Given that it is transcendent, that it has no  apparent connection whatsoever with any reality we can experience or understand, how can we possibly know we have had a contact with it?  The matter seems impossible.

Yet there are clues; and there are objective experiences.

This matter of organically understanding and receiving the particles of the sorrow of God— a phenomenon which only Gurdjieff, so far as I know, ever accurately reported on or described — is exactly just such an encounter. That is to say, even though the transcendent is essentially, before all other things, un-manifest and uncreated, nonetheless, these emanations arise directly from it and penetrate all of manifest creation. So in receiving these particles, one comes the closest that anything in creation can come to encountering the transcendent, the  un-manifest, the uncreated.

 This is an intimate contact, and the human organism is exquisitely designed and tuned to contain this possibility; which may be, in the end, one of the greatest and most profound possibilities available to mankind from a spiritual point of view. There is little difference, in the end, between the receiving of sorrow of God and Bliss; only the taste of it can explain this paradox, yet it is absolutely true. And it is the taste of it that one wishes for, once one has it in the mouth of one's soul.

One must taste sorrow in the mouth of the soul and swallow it whole. The mouth of the soul is the whole body and all of Being itself; one ought to mark this well, because it represents a truth that can be understood with all the senses and all the faculties of consciousness. That kind of understanding can never be taken away from a man or a woman, once it is earned.

Gurdjieff, of course, indicated that these particles can help "coat" the inner parts of a human being— what he means is that they are deposited,  at a sub-atomic level, more or less, that is, at the material point in the body where the quantum state collapses— in such a way as to form objective conscience.

 This makes some sense, because my conscience is entirely subjective. This is where regret comes in; it is formed from my own conscience, which is material, created, and entirely of this level. Receiving material from a different level makes it possible for a completely different and impersonal kind of conscience to arise; and that conscience, inspired — breathed in — through God Himself makes it possible for the expression of divine, or heavenly, conscience to be manifest.

This passing of conscience from un-manifested and uncreated Godhood into manifest, created Being ought, in my view, to be one of the chief responsibilities of Beings; yet the matter is so obscure it is barely understood, isn't it?