Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Essence and Egoism, part II

  One should first know, and it is in fact obvious, that man has two kinds of nature: body and spirit. Accordingly it says in one book, 'Whoever knows himself knows all creatures, for all creatures are either body or spirit.' Thus too the scriptures say of man that there is in us an outer man and another, inner man. 

To the outer man belongs all that is attached to the soul but embraced by and mixed with the flesh, and co-operating with and in each bodily member such as the eye, the ear, the tongue, the hand, and so on. And scripture calls all that the old man, the earthly man, the outward man, the hostile man, the servile man. 

The other man who is within us is the inner man, whom scriptures call a new man, a heavenly man, a young man, a friend, and a nobleman. And it is he whom our Lord means when he says, "A nobleman went away to a distant country, and gained a kingdom for himself, and returned." 

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 557

My writing tends to follow my ponderings, and after yesterday's post, I got to thinking about this question of essence a bit more.

The whole point of contact with essence, of the inward facing ego, the one that faces towards God — and which pertains to conscious egoism — is to see who and what one is. The motive force that points from within towards God looks within, that is, it actually is able to see within, so to speak, from the surface of the skin inwards.

This is the part that can examine the inner being.

The whole point of examining the inner being is to understand exactly who one is outwardly, with all the boils and blisters; and one can't understand how damaged and delusional personality is without inhabiting it fully while, at the same time, the inward part looks inward. This is how one begins to see one's contradictions; and if one tries to get rid of one's contradictions by any means before this process begins to take place, the process becomes hopeless, because instead of seeing one's contradictions, one buries them — that is to say, one erects buffers, obstacles, so great that they become nearly impossible to see. This kind of thing often happens, unfortunately, the exactly the same time that a person thinks they are "developing" spiritually.

This is the danger in seeking some place of blissful tranquility. In order for essence to undergo a process of purification, it has to see the most painful parts of what I am — which is, of course, the point of the essay I so highly prize on this subject, not for happiness. Of course, this idea of conscious egoism is hardly part of the Buddhist lexicon; they probably call it mindfulness, but the way mindfulness is discussed in Buddhism, it doesn't, to me, at least, convey the precision that the expressions conscious egoism and essence do to describe the situation, just as the (Buddhist) expression attachment is not, for me, as precise as the word identification. The one implies that the self glues onto objects; the second one implies that the self loses itself in them, which I think is much more to the point.

In any event, this question of the development of essence, the connection to something that is real and alive in oneself in a completely new and different way, is — well, you will have to forgive me — essential. I seek to become connected in a new way to my life — to inhabit it, every single part of it — and to become human in a way that is at once quite simple and at the same time goes much deeper into what it means to be human than to just do things and get stuff.

Shockingly, I can't go deeper without doing things and getting stuff; I can't go deeper without fully participating in everything that's going on.

This is the meaning, to me, of work and life; and this is why I become increasingly suspicious of cloistered environments, retreats, long periods of meditation and silence, and so on as I grow older. I find that my work is most alive and my questioning is most profound and disturbing — and yes, I want to be disturbed by my questions, otherwise, how real are they, really? — when I am in the middle of life, in the most ordinary of circumstances. There is an incredible amount to see here. Going on retreats and special weekends and sitting in well-behaved little groups of people who have well-rehearsed modes of expression and exchange just doesn't do it. It's too tame. I find my work is most alive when some other person is absolutely horrible to me, or I to them, and then I have to deal with it.

Whether I respond with compassion, intelligence, and tolerance, or blow my top, that is where the rubber hits the pavement — that is where I find out how I really am in all of my reactions, or — conversely, if I'm blessed with some presence — I suddenly recognize how helpless we all are.

And if I am really seeing anything, when someone else is truly horrible to me, the first thing I see is myself. That is, I am exactly this way. But I usually don't admit it.

Inner work is supposed to be conducted in the midst of the most terribly confusing situations, where events are unpredictable and messy. It wonders me at times that we want to make it beautiful by conducting it in serene environments, surrounded by beautiful objects, where things are controlled and polite. I often wonder whether this isn't just a way of putting us more soundly asleep while we dream that we are working.

 So essence, this inward vision, this conscious awareness of self through sensation, has the potential to look inward from the surface of life that contacts Being, and see how the inner parts are arranged relative to all the outside influences.

This is really the question all along, anyway, isn't it?

The more that this vision penetrates, the more remorse of conscience begins to arise.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Essence and Conscious Ego, part I

Question from a reader.

I've been reading Nicoll commentaries vol. 1. 

He talks about how essence continues to grow at expense of personality. I was wondering: is what is meant by personality, exactly, "ego" as it's called in a lot of other places?


This idea is easily misunderstood in an outward way; that is, what usually hears it and interprets it is personality. 

Personality and essence are not so much opposing forces (which it kind of sounds like here)  as entirely different creatures. Each one is a creature; that is, in addition to Eckhart's quite precise meaning of the word (creations of God) they are organisms, much like living animals. They are joined in the body, and are symbiotic. That is, actually, on this level they definitely need each other because they ought to be mutually supporting each other's growth, and personality is the outward being through which essence manifests its inwardness towards an outward world. 

The difference between them is that essence is spiritual; it begins in and is of God, and touches Him at its most intimate point; whereas personality cannot do this, because it belongs to the natural world. 

Essence has a completely different nature than personality, and personality (which thinks very highly of itself and would never believe what I'm about to say) can't conceive of or understand it. 

They are as different as eyes and ears; you can't teach an ear to see yellow and you can't teach an eye to hear b flat minor. Being-your consciousness- can do both at the same time. So essence is the organ that touches God; personality is the organ that touches the world; and Being stands between the two. 

But they don't quite know one another's worlds. When essence is strong, personality seems mystifying; and when personality is strong essence is entirely theoretical. One has to have been wholly in both, with a thread to the other, in order to understand this. Dwelling in essence is like coming home. You won't meet too many people who have actual experience of essence; but it's an unmistakable manifestation. It is the difference between being alive and being dead, in the way that Christ used the terms. 

The reason essence needs to grow is that it's badly atrophied; personality dominates because we are so outward. The idea of going strongly inward to combat that, however, is mistaken, because there ought to be a balance; and personality being as strong as it is, if you try to fight it or force it, it will win. That's because of its allegiance to ego. Ego is more or less the muscle or power of personality; it is what imparts force, and the more it believes in itself the greater a force it can produce. 

To say essence grows "at the expense" of personality is first to presume essence grows at all; and it usually doesn't. The organic sense of Being is closely tied to essence; it is the force or motive power for essence and is thus the polar opposite of ego. 

Another way of putting this would be to say there is an outward ego connected to personality, which is a mechanical muscular reflex of force against the outer world; and there is an inward ego connected to the active sensation of Being; which is why Gurdjieff said that the organic sensation of Being creates your individuality. 

The outward ego is natural and dies with the body. The inward ego helps create what lasts after death. One is turned outward, facing away from God; the other turns inward towards Him. This is part of what conscious egoism means- it is inward egoism, as I have just described. Perhaps this helps clear that up a bit. The term is heard in the Gurdjieff Work, but a precise understanding can be hard to come by, especially when it is simply latched on to by personality without any real experience of active essence. Many speak of these things without an exact understanding... often no understanding at all. They are just repeating things they have heard. It takes years of being in relationship with one's active essence in order to begin to understand the question correctly. 

When essence grows-a more accurate expression might be to say it awakens- it is only at the "expense" of personality to the extent that personality acquires a balancing factor. It's still there... You still need it. It can help you by becoming a major tool in understanding your own nothingness; and so rather than attempting to overcome or banish ego, it's a good idea to engage it and turn it to useful purposes. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good, Bad, and Suffering

In the same way I say of virtue that she has an inner work: a will and tendency toward all good, and a flight from and a repugnance to all that is bad, evil, and incompatible with God and goodness. And the worse an act is, and the less godly, the stronger the repugnance; and the greater the work and the more godlike, the easier, more welcome, and pleasanter it is to her. And her sole complaint and sorrow - if she could feel sorrow - is that this suffering for God is too little, and all outward, temporal works are too little for her to be able to find full expression, realization, and shape in them. By practice she becomes strong, and by giving she becomes rich. She does not wish to have suffered and to have got over pain and suffering: she is willing and eager to suffer always without ceasing for God and well-doing.

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 540

I have recently been appointed senior editor at Parabola.

Readers familiar with my writing may already know that the Parabola mission is a central and essential element in my interests and work; for those that don't, I encourage you to check out, and subscribe to, the magazine. It serves as a vital extension of what we all search for; and the wide range of material it provides for seekers broadens questions I examine here in this blog on a daily basis.

In preparation for the upcoming issue on goodness, I have spent a deal of time contemplating the question. Now, it may seem odd to link this question of suffering with the question of goodness... and yet Eckhart does so without hesitation. He furthermore intimates that it is necessary to suffer for the good.

If I question God about the terror in the world, or blame Him for its suffering, or even—as a result of all the suffering I see—even deny that there is a God (however I may understand that term) I mistake myself. After all, there is goodness in the world—there is no denying it—and that goodness begins with an inner correspondence to what is good, not to the perceived goodness or badness in the outside world. In a very real sense, nothing in the outer world can be good or bad but for the inner correspondence to it: so good and bad begin in me, and in fact, yes, I know the difference... or at least I try to. What Eckhart describes above takes place not in some abstract heavenly hall of philosophy; it takes place in me, insofar as I struggle for the good and attempt to understand the good. It is, in a nutshell, my own soul that forms the good of the outer world; and the bad, too.

This is what responsibility consists of; to make an effort to know the good and suffer for it, because in knowing the good, I must come to know the bad as well. Gurdjieff put it thus:

Every deed of a man is good in the objective sense if it is done according to his conscience, and every deed is bad if from it he later experiences remorse.
Beelzebub’s tales to His Grandson, p. 315

So I cannot know what is good and what is bad without suffering; it is impossible, for the good is defined by the bad. In this way, I welcome suffering; it defines my wish for the good, which I cannot have without it. Thus, without engaging in a masochistic desire to torment myself with suffering—which is already an outward thing anyway, and ultimately useless—I become willing to suffer inwardly, in my essence.

This essence-suffering, if you will, is akin to Gurdjieff's intentional suffering—because it is suffering with an aim, suffering that helps me to develop conscience. The purpose of conscience is to sense and know the good; else why have it? Here I see how Gurdjieff's work in fact revolves not just around some ephemeral "consciousness," which might otherwise become some kind of clinical exercise in a higher intelligence, but around goodness itself, and my organic sensation of it.

When I begin to touch on these questions in myself, then my work becomes less theoretical.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

As surely as we breathe

Today, I'd like to come back to the subject of why I work.

It's a question Dr. Welch would frequently ask us as a meeting began. He would settle his considerable bulk into his chair, gather himself for a few moments, and then take a stern but loving visual inventory of the group.

"Why do we work?" He'd finally intone, asking it in a way that implied no one could be sure of the answer.

I must come once again, as always, to the question of what the point of any inner or outer work is if it is not for the good. All persons work, in the end, for the good as they see it and as they understand it; even terrorists believe they are working for the good. As such, it is clear that it isn't the good that is deficient; for we all know there is a good. This is born in mankind as surely as we breathe. The difficulty is, rather, with our understanding; a subject that will be returned to shortly.

So our understanding is poor; and poor understanding always leads to violence. First to inner violence and then to outer; for the outer always proceeds from the inner as surely as I breathe. I say as I breathe, because breath is life; and I surely live.

I need to return to the sense of the immediate not in my mind, but in my body and my Being. These things are more whole than mind. There is truth here; and truth has no plans, makes no assumptions. It is willing to inhabit life unconditionally.

I don't see too often how in the mind, everything is conditional; this is different than being within conditions. Conditions are truth; and yet they are in no way as mutable as I think they are with the mind. They simply are; and coming into relationship with them bereft of my own, of myself, is a different action than coming into them with a belief in my own agency brokered through the mind.

I see this in how I fail to inhabit; instead, I think about inhabiting. I see, furthermore, the difference between inhabiting and thinking of inhabiting, because in one the case life is not mine, yet I am in it; yet in the other, I am in my life. These are not the same thing; for when organic sensation and the inward flow are active, agency does not belong to me, yet I am more alive than ever and I participate; life is effortless, because it is God's own life I inhabit, and it permits no obstacles.

The moment I return to my own life, everything is an obstruction: forces oppose one another, instead of acting in unity.

Imagine if breathing was like this, such that everything was opposed, instead of natural. Breath is a natural good that flows naturally and without impediment in every creature; yet when it is blocked, terrible struggles take place.

The inward flow of the divine presence is like this; when life derives directly from it and a person has no resistance, life is effortless, because it belongs to God; and everything becomes the same joy Eckhart refers to in the Book of Divine Consolation.

So I work to come into relationship with the divine; and for no other reason. This is an action toward the good; and I forget this principle at my peril.


Friday, September 12, 2014

The dimensions of inwardness

The inner work contains in itself all time, all magnitude, all breadth and length. The inner work draws and derives its entire being only from God and in God's heart; it receives the Son and is born as the Son in the heavenly Father's womb. With the outward work it is not so: this gets its divine goodness through the channel of the inner work, produced and poured out in a downflowing from the Godhead that is clothed with distinction, quantity, part, all of which and the like of which, even likeness itself, is far from God and alien to Him. 

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 541

When we turn our gaze outward, either laterally towards the surrounding landscape or up towards the stars, it's easy enough to see how vast the outer world is.

The dimension of our inner world, which is far less immediately tangible, is equally vast, but its landscape can only be revealed by the penetration of Being. Not, I should emphasize, by the penetration of mind: which is the tool whereby we almost invariably attempt to penetrate both the inner and the outer.

  The mind can describe both inner and outer landscapes; but it can't grasp them. This came to me this morning as I woke up, before the sun came up or any lights were turned on. I saw how immense the dimensions of a single day are; and it occurred to me that no matter how strong my sense of presence may be, I fail to properly appreciate the dimensions of life, due largely to this interference of mind.

Without the interpretative agency of Being, I can't really see how large life is; and I can't really see how much of it is lived inwardly, in places I truly don't understand. I ascribe agency to myself and my actions; yet with so much of the iceberg hidden, it's impossible to assign any agency. If there is any, it lies outside the realm of my thinking parts.

I see this when unexpected emotions arise; they often appear to come from nowhere, and emerge full-blown into this landscape like meteorites passing through the sky. I am perturbable; each streak provokes a reaction. Yet the whole nature of this action escapes me, as do the reasons for it. So what I call "I"—my external manifestations— emanate from a realm whose interactive forces are generated by an inner solar system I can't see, except maybe through a telescope. Perhaps this was Gurdjieff's idea when he came up with the analogy of the teskooano in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson.

To Be is to be alive; if I wish to be, it is life that I wish to be, and not any other thing. Life is life in and of itself; and it is not made of all the things (Meister Eckhart calls them creatures) which I encounter and which surround me; it is of itself. That is, it is a force of agency, and not the things that agency acts on.

This force of agency is the realm from which all the dimension of life emanates; it relates strongly to what Swedenborg calls will and understanding. Ultimately, of course, all of this traces its origins back to the root of all things, which is God; and this is the point that all esoteric understanding leads to. The reason that this inner understanding (that is the root meaning of esoteric, which derives from the Greek root esō, a comparative meaning within) opens on to such a vast landscape is because the landscape is the spiritual dimension of God, which Eckhart calls us to recognize: re-cognize, that is, see again, or remember.

The Kingdom of God, this immense inner landscape, is within, but we have forgotten it.

This is of interest, because any inner connection whatsoever begins to open up the dimensions of life; and those dimensions are unfathomable. When we open, the action Jeanne de Salzmann so often called us to (and the action my own teacher so emphasized to me when I was young) we open to this dimension. If there is any fundamental characteristic of life, it is its depth; and without a direct and living sensation and appreciation of that depth which is born from our organic understanding, there is no beginning.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beating the Dog

Question from a reader. 

Gurdjieff said, 

You must educate your body with your head, consciously. It is very simple. Never allow it to do what it wants. You make it do everything contrary to that which it loves. It likes sugar; you do not give it any. One must inure it to struggle, you are always right when you resist your body. It is simple. Everything contrary; it is, so that God created your body and your intellect. It is a very simple thing. For this it is not necessary to read. The program is very simple. Under all conditions, in all political situations, man must educate his body to be submissive to him. Your personality can educate your body. He in which the body is strong and has the initiative over him, this one is null.

So man must resist the yearnings of the body. Is this what's meant by physical temptations?

... Can you tell me if I'm missing something vital on the question of will?

My response.

 Well, this may be what Gurdjieff said.

But the advice is suspicious. After all, he did a lot of things the body likes. For example, he smoked tobacco. (This is entirely unnecessary for an individual in which certain faculties of the air octave are properly developed.) So he talked a big game; but I would challenge him on many things, because we are not supposed to take everything he says for granted anyway. He himself told us not to; and sometimes he told people nonsense just to see if they were smart enough to resist him.

 Nowadays, people eagerly swallow even the nonsense. Remember, just because a spoon is silver does not mean it can't have shit served in it.

 In my opinion, bullying the body around in this manner is just stupid. My own teacher never ever gave advice like this—if anything, she gave the opposite—, and if I were you, I would be quite careful before I accepted it. 

Better to form a friendly relationship with the body and make it your assistant. The poor thing is mortal anyway; it is going to die; do you want to just condemn it to death after a lifetime of punishment? It isn't a criminal, after all. Stop treating it that way, I would say.

It's the same as people who would make a crime out of masturbation. This obsession with believing that the body is our downfall is nonsensical; it is our soul that causes problems, not the body, and cruelty is no way to respond to a gift God gave us which has its own sense and its own rights. You might as well beat your dog to make it obey. Well, some people like beating dogs—both their own dogs and other people's.

There are times when one has to go against the body; but the body has all the power, an enormous amount of power, and one is not going to win every argument with it. One has to pick one's battles, make demands of it, but also use it as an ally and a friend.

That's my opinion. Some other person might tell you something else. But I'm not posing as a teacher. I'm just a human being sharing my own observations about my work with you. 

More on this. Question:

Do you ever think in terms of "duty" or "purpose" when doing work/trying to get closer to God? 

my response:

No. One has to live these things as organic emanations from one's inner Being, not think about them. 

When Gurdjieff said not to do things the body wants, what he basically meant, I feel, is that you should always put yourself under terrific personal demands and work very hard. This often applies to the inner attitude to ordinary outer work.

For example, let's say I am working on a project. I want to stop and drink some water or eat food. But I never do, I push and push myself to get the project done, and I deny myself any comforts till it is finished. I make this my ordinary way of working; maybe I even work this way all the time out of sheer instinct, because the work must be served first. Later, I can have a reward.

There ought to be an enormous amount of work, and very few rewards, and eventually I need to see that the work and the effort themselves are the reward—and the things that come after are just to be nice to my body.

It doesn't mean I punish myself. It just means that I push myself very hard to be everything I can, to fulfill every duty, to always be responsible — and I do all of that because I love it; because it is right, not because I expect recognition, or want the results, or people expect it, or anything else. It is wanting it because it is right and loving it because it is right that's important.

In other words, I have to love the principal and the effort. 

Love the good. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The world of appearances

Bumblebee on goldenrod, Sparkill, NY

We look around us, and everything seems pretty familiar. One way or another, things look like pretty much what they look like; and we come to everything with a great big bag bag of assumptions about it.

The majority of these assumptions are formed from things we've been taught. This is this way because of that, so on so is like such and such, and so on. Gurdjieff called these associations.

From the time I was a tiny child, I always presumed that there was something behind this associative world, something bigger than that world, which formed the world we are in. It seemed as though there were a set of magical or higher principles that emanated themselves into this world, creating the extraordinary things we see. I remember being fascinated with plants like the Jack in the pulpit; mesmerized by beetles and frogs, astonished by the variety of the natural world. My mother is a scientist; and even though, from when I was very small, I knew that science purported to explain these things, it was evident to me that they couldn't actually be explained. As a child, I imagined fantastic kingdoms that existed only for the blink of an eye, and manifested when my eyes were closed, disappearing in an instant once they opened again.

Everything that we see in this world is the manifestation of another and much higher truth. That truth manifests itself through emanations; and the emanations are not a physical substance like radiation, which can be measured. They are the emanations of thought, feeling, wisdom, and Being itself. The Sufis would've called at the manifestation of the names of God; emanations emerge from the absolute unity of heaven and fragment into an infinite number of miraculous manifestations, each one of which is divinely influenced and unique. 

 So what we think we see isn't, in fact, what we see at all; and anyone under the influence of higher energies will immediately understand this. One of the things that amazes people so much about hallucinogenic drugs is their ability to reveal this; science, of course, thinks that what hallucinogens do to us reveals imaginary worlds, whereas the irony is that they reveal, by and large, real ones, although the revelations are profoundly confused.

What is perhaps more important about what I'm saying here is that all works of art and all works of man's creation in general represent things that the people who create them may not even be aware of, because emanations of the names of God have a way with the world in which they say what they wish to, regardless of the wishes of the artists. 

That is to say, the will of God is immutable and unstoppable, and no matter what an artist creates or thinks they intend, higher principles are always at work which express intentions that may have nothing to do with what the artist is thinking of or imagines they are doing.

Because of this property of appearances and correspondences, it's often possible to see things about a work of art that may never have been intended by the artist; and indeed, there is a degraded form of this awareness present in the entire world of criticism, which makes its living seeing things in works that were not in the least evident to the maker of the works themselves.

In a broad, sweeping sense, one can understand from this that the earth is not subject to the laws of man; even though we think it should obey us.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spiritual Calisthenics, part II: the Truth and the Sky

 One of the women who knew Gurdjieff and worked with him directly lived in my neighborhood.

I ran into her many times at the Gurdjieff Foundation, and we frequently used to give her rides here and there at times. She was unusually animated and had an intensity within her that spoke of an organic understanding of life. You could see it in her eyes.

There was life in them.

Inevitably, she died. One of the last things she said in her final days was when she got out of the hospital and saw the sky again.

"The sky," she said, and that was all that was necessary.

 The truth of God is like the sky. No one needs to do exercises to see the sky and have it come into them. It just isn't necessary. Even if you raised a child with no words, when they went outdoors they would look up and know that the impression of the sky was falling into them, because this truth is acquired effortlessly. All truths that relate to the essence and to the spiritual fall into Being this way, according to the grace of God. A great deal of sacrifice is necessary in order to make this possible, but everything that is sacrificed belongs to me, and not to God.

Readers might want to refer back to my symbolic dream of January this year; it refers to this question of effort, exercise, and what is needed to both reach and understand the spiritual side of one's being. There are innumerable vanities to the natural and material side of our being; and every one of these vanities plays in one way or another to our belief — our opinion, the accepted attitude — that we can control things. The idea that I can exercise my way to God is just one more vanity, and perhaps one of the chief vanities, since it arrogantly presumes that this, that, and the other thing can be done, both physically and energetically, to bring me to God.

My teacher Betty Brown  talked about this often as she reached the end of her life.  She counseled against believing that inner work was some strange kind of spiritual gymnasium, where one works out under the tutelage of instructors who purportedly know regimens to improve the muscle tone of the soul.

 I see people around me believing this, and even loving it. It is disturbing.

If I want to understand where God is, and how to get to Him, I need to understand how the energy is in me. Without a relationship to this, without seeing how I am, there is nothing; and yet the instant I see, already, God is much closer than I ever thought.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Spiritual Calisthenics, part I: only God is the teacher

If there's one thing I've noticed in forty-plus years of study in esotericism, it's people's stubborn belief in exercises.

This disease of exercises has infected modern yoga so thoroughly that the entire practice seems, at times, to be predicated on a kind of spiritual boot camp, in which arduous physical effort and workout becomes the aim of the practice. It becomes, subtly and without fanfare, a form of body worship, investing great effort in "feeling good" physically. Time and time again, when I attend yoga classes or listen to those who do, I hear them talk about how great they feel after doing yoga.

It rarely dawns on folk that inner work isn't there to make one feel great; and in fact even outer work shouldn't be performed because it makes one feel good. Work is performed out of duty and obligation, out of obedience to a higher principle. Here's the issue: if work of any kind, inner or outer, made one feel bad, it would still be one's obligation to perform that work.

Christ's work was to die on the cross; and He did not shrink from it. Yet all of the work we do today seems to be aimed at feeling good, as though that were the only intention God could have for us; and the question of what feeling bad, of inner and outer suffering is for, falls entirely by the wayside.

Exercises cannot bring us to God. Opening one's heart to spiritual practice is not achieved through workouts, inner or outer; and yet this delusion infects everyone in esoteric practice, including yoga. Gurdjieff, we note, "sterilized" yoga and removed much of the language in order to objectivize it. Yet even he offered exercises.

Belief in exercise takes us away from belief in God. It becomes a talismanic activity, leading us into belief in the exercise, not understanding. The fact that one should engage in exercises sparingly, cautiously, and only in order to gain a specific understanding, after which the exercise ought to be given up entirely, has been forgotten, because the people who teach exercises these days are, in large part, not real teachers.

Only God is the teacher.

I feel quite confident that Meister Eckhart would entirely agree with me when I say that if a human being were to abandon all exercises, but instead devoted all of himself unreservedly to God, God would rush into him at once without hesitation, and fill him at once with everything that God is. No exercises would be necessary. All of the exercises come from my own will, you see; and I say this speaking from my own experience. The critical point in inner work is to see my own nothingness; and there are no exercises for that. My exercise regimen stems entirely from my own will. In other words, it emerges as a sales agent from that very part of me which cannot do anything at all; and that is my own will and my own willfulness.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

A pure force for the good

There is no better moment in the day than to awaken with a full sensation of one's Being; and to invest inwardly in the nature of Being itself, which, in the early hours of the morning, is far more easily distinguished from the outer phenomena that distract us.

For me, it always raises the question which is most essential to the day itself: what is this thing called Being?

I have, as is common in one's late 50's, a range of minor but persistent maladies to remind me of my mortality. This morning I was feeding the dog as I contemplated that reminder, which is gentle but emphatic.

Consequent to this moment, it occurred to me that I have little fear of death these days; and I asked myself why, since the idea used to terrify me so much when I was younger.

I reminded myself of the moment, a few brief minutes before he died, when my father silently rallied from his hours-long, nearly motionless struggle to simply maintain his breathing, raised his head a few inches off the pillow, and opened his eyes—which had been closed for a full day or more— in an unmistakable expression of sheer astonishment, as he looked across the chasm between life and death into the light of heaven.

I have seen across that void more than once; and I know what he was seeing. I'm sure that for him it was the first time he had ever seen the truth; and he consistently denied the afterlife, so it's no wonder it affected him so profoundly when he first encountered it.

The moment was, for me, a reminder of the difference between belief and faith. Belief emerges from supposition and the ego; and the hypotheses of belief can cause one to believe in anything whatsoever, up to and including (paradoxically) nothing. Given the deteriorated nature of mankind's psych, belief is for the most part utterly delusional; no wonder it has acquired such a bad reputation.

Faith, on the other hand, is a pure force for the good; and it is the capacity for understanding and knowing —chief among the vital and most essential capacities that have degenerated in humanity—that brings one to faith. Faith, once acquired, is unshakeable.

In the midst of my faith, then, in the kitchen this morning, I was thinking and understanding from a place within myself that does not believe.

It knows.

And I asked myself how it is even possible for human beings to not believe in God.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Suffering from within, part II

Perhaps the strangest thing about most—perhaps all— of us is that we learn not only to focus on outer suffering, to become attached to it, but that we can often even come to love it. Gurdjieff was alluding to this when he referred to the fact that a person isn't willing to sacrifice their suffering.

It might seem to us that a failure to sacrifice our suffering is a personal flaw of some kind; but the machine of outwardness is powerful and relentless, and this attachment to outer suffering is actually just a reflex. It is so completely unconscious that those who experience outer suffering feel any response whatsoever to mitigate or respond to it is absolutely justified, even the creation of reciprocal outward suffering; and this leads to an increasing spiral of outward suffering, a vortex that draws outer suffering into itself and intensifies it. This is how and why we are ultimately served up videos of people beheading others on the internet; and war begins here, too. It appears to be a function of terror, but at its root lies little more than the stubborn stupidity of unconsciousness.

The whole point of Mercy—which is supposed to be the most fundamental quality of God, according to Islam— is to transcend this unconscious impulse, and to suffer inwardly— which is exactly, in its essence, what mercy consists of, since in any act of Mercy one first gives up one's outward, or material, attachment to suffering.

The strange quality of Mercy in this regard is that in the surrender of outward suffering, and the assumption of inward suffering upon one's self, one is automatically elevated, since any such surrender and turning inward (which is exactly what Christ illustrated when He died on the cross) by default brings one closer to every heavenly quality, and to God Himself.

The value of suffering, then, is predicated on inwardness; and it is, as I explained yesterday, predicated on personal responsibility. The responsible person may first, like the obyvatel, learn to be responsible to the material world; and this is excellent practice, because it prepares a person for (and in some cases even introduces a person to) inward responsibility. Ultimately, though, the insight that must come is the insight of inner responsibility, which has three aspects. These are responsibility to one's self, responsibility to society, and responsibility to God.

This question of responsibility is paramount; and it relates to Swedenborg's emphasis on choice.

First, one must make fit choices on behalf of and in support of one's Self; this is conscious egoism.

Then, one must make fit choices on behalf of and in support of others; this is compassion.

Then, one must make fit choices on behalf of and in support of God; and this is submission, Islam, or, as Gurdjieff would have put it, help for God.

In every case, we must learn to choose the good, without falling prey to the dangerous intellectual illusion that everything is relative, a falsehood which is positively demonic—but steadily on the rise in today's world.

None of this is possible to come to without suffering. Only in inwardly suffering the selfishness of one's own impulses and Being can one begin to come to anything real in relationship to this question.

Eckhart says a great deal about suffering in The Book of Divine Consolation. I have a nascent intention to revisit this question in light of some of his comments later this month.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Suffering from within, part I

Another thing that people must sacrifice is their suffering. It is very difficult also to sacrifice one’s suffering. A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering. Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything as he is to his suffering. And it is necessary to be free from suffering. No one who is not free from suffering, who has not sacrificed his suffering, can work. Later on a great deal must be said about suffering. Nothing can be attained without suffering but at the same time one must begin by sacrificing suffering. Now, decipher what this means.”

—Gurdjieff, speaking to Ouspensky, in In Search of the Miraculous, by P. D. Ouspensky, pub. Paul H. Crompton Ltd, 2004.

Let's decipher this a bit, shall we?

Just as the world, or cosmos, consists of both the natural and the spiritual, suffering consists of two aspects: inner suffering and outer suffering.

Man was created as a bridge between the natural and the spiritual; the outer world manifests the natural, and the inner the spiritual, just as the inner world manifests essence and the outer personality. Gurdjieff emphasized the development of essence simply because this is the fundamental quality of the inner world; it represents the inner part, the soul, which is fed by the root of a person's love and is the only thing—as Swedenborg explained— that endures after they die.

The personality, which is connected to the outer and the material, withers; it cannot survive on the astral plane because all of it—100% of its being— arises from and depends on the material levels.

In this regard, we can examine suffering and what it means to Being.

Mankind constantly mistakes outer suffering as the essential aspect of suffering. Because material and outer suffering cause so much physical and emotional pain, pain for the body, pain for the ordinary emotion, and the ego, it is a common error to believe only in this kind of suffering—suffering that arises from material actions and material circumstances—and not the inner suffering that affects the material. Our whole world emphasizes this understanding of suffering; and the ubiquity of modern media, which makes its living on it, ensures it.

Outer suffering is the suffering of personality. It is real, make no mistake about it; and there is no denying its power and its terror, no matter what form it comes in. But this suffering is not the suffering Gurdjieff spoke of when he spoke of intentional suffering; because the suffering that leads to the development of the essence of and the soul is inner suffering, that is, a person's suffering of what they are inside.

This can only be accomplished through an intense inner sensation of one's Being; and this takes place as energy connects a person to the root of their being, so that their incarnation itself helps them to distinguish between the outer, or material, world and its suffering, and the inner world, where a much greater suffering must take place.

There is great sin and suffering in the outer world; no doubt. But the suffering of the inner world is the suffering that affects the development of essence. This suffering cannot be formed from, or primarily attached to, outer suffering; because this suffering does not arise from the largely mechanical actions of the outer world, but rather, a person's choices in the face of those actions. That is to say, inner suffering is the suffering that takes place in regard to a person's responsibility for how they are in relationship to the outer world.

On this one point turns a very great deal of Gurdjieff's teaching.

A person who is outward only takes little responsibility for how they are inside; they don't care, and the more outward they are, the less they care about inner responsibility. Ultimately, the more extreme the investment in outwardness becomes, the less conscience can express itself, because conscience—as Gurdjieff explained— is an inherently inward property, and a failure to invest inwardly is, from the beginning to the end, a movement away from conscience.  The inward movement, towards inner suffering, moves towards conscience and becomes increasingly invested in the connection to it; hence, Gurdjieff's remorse of conscience, which is a quality impossible to develop in relation to any consistent outwardness.

Unless a person learns to first distinguish between inner and outer suffering, their understanding of suffering is useless.

Yet the understanding is still consistently mistaken, even once one knows better.

More on this tomorrow.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Spiritual and material virtue, part II

People behave honestly and fairly toward their colleagues in a similar outward form when they are acting from a love of what is honest and fair. Some of them do it because of the truth of faith, or obedience, because it is enjoined in the Word. Some of them do it for the sake of the goodness of faith or conscience, because they are moved by religious feeling. Some of them do it out of the good of thoughtfulness toward their neighbor, because one’s neighbor’s welfare is to be valued. Some of them do it out of the goodness of love for the Lord, because what is good should be done for its own sake; so too what is honest and fair should be done for the sake of honesty and fairness. They love these qualities because they come from the Lord, and because the divine nature that emanates from the Lord is within them. So if we see them in their true essence, they are divine. 

The deeds or works of these people are inwardly good, so they are outwardly good as well; for as already noted, the nature of deeds and works is entirely determined by the nature of the thought and intent from which they stem, and apart from such thought and intent they are not deeds and works but only lifeless motions.

Emmanuel SwedenborgHeaven and Hell, pg. 513-514 (new century edition)

 There is nothing greater than spiritual virtue, and yet we have forgotten it. Every news report we read is a reminder of this. Now the murderers claim they murder in the name of spiritual virtue; things cannot sink any lower.

There is a higher good. Relativists who claim there is no definite good and evil are fools; all of them should be sent to the site of concentration camps in Germany and stand on that ground to see what this kind of thinking leads to. If they have any inner sense of being at all, they will instantly know the difference between good and evil: at Bergen-Belsen, at Auschwitz, it is stamped into the very earth itself. These are not abstractions.

The higher good is absolute; and the highest good is the absolute. It's interesting that Swedenborg says anything done apart from the thought and intention of the higher good is not a deed or a work, but a lifeless motion. What, we might ask ourselves, is the commonplace object around us that indulges in lifeless motions? Why — it's a machine! And this is exactly how Gurdjieff described human beings who do not struggle for conscious Being. We are machines.

What separates Being from non-Being, the human being from the machine, is, according to Swedenborg, the nature of our intention and thought: and this is exactly what Gurdjieff said. So the two differed not a whit: a human being is a machine, and only through deeds and intention — conscious labor and suffering —  can a person become anything else.

You will notice that Swedenborg's description of those who act on the half of the higher act on behalf of principles, not things; that is, their understanding derives not from the material or natural world, but from the world of understandings which inwardly forms the material and natural world. In the sciences, these higher principles which inwardly form all of creation are called natural laws; and yet they are not "natural" at all, since they derive from a set of agencies which are heavenly in nature—they come from a higher level.

These understandings, or laws, are pure and wise, because they emanate from the Lord; and adherence to an abiding love for these emanations, these higher ideas, is the essential duty of three-brained Beings.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Spiritual and material virtue, part I

Take for example behaving honestly and fairly with an associate. One person can behave honestly and fairly with someone else in order to seem honest and fair for the sake of self and to gain respect; another person can do the same for the sake of worldly profit; a third for reward and credit; a fourth to curry friendship; a fifth out of fear of the law and loss of reputation and office; a sixth to enlist people in his or her cause, even if it is an evil one; a seventh in order to mislead; and others for still other reasons. But even though all of their deeds look good (for behaving honestly and fairly toward a colleague is good), still they are evil because they are not done for the sake of honesty and fairness, not because these qualities are loved, but for the sake of oneself and the world, because these are loved. The honesty and fairness are servants of this love, like the servants of a household whom their lord demeans and dismisses when they do not serve.

Emmanuel SwedenborgHeaven and Hell, pg. 513 (new century edition)

Some objectively horrible events in my personal life caused me to observe to my wife not so long ago that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who decide what is right, and then figure out how to manage the costs, and those who decide how much something will cost, and then make a decision on whether or not to do what is right.

 Swedenborg's description here applies to the latter kind of person: they are materialists, and each thing that takes place in their lives is loved only as a thing.  What is good and what is right doesn't matter to them; what matters to them is what they can get. In every instance, their greatest interest is in gaining things for themselves, of indulging in the material. This is a picture of a life lived wholly in the natural, as opposed to spiritual, world. It is all about transactions, and getting the most out of them. Make no mistake about it – every one of us has this person in us, and it is our sacred duty to learn how to resist that as best we can.

Temptation is always a line drawn between the natural and spiritual world. In the natural world, the material is valued; and in the spiritual world, from the beginning, higher principles are put first. We are thrown into the material world and expected to make choices about which world we truly care about. The temptations of the material world are enormous; and it is nearly impossible for any of us to remain indifferent to them. We forget that everything we do will ultimately be revealed after we die; and we think that we can conceal our lust, our greed, and our selfishness as we pursue the many temptations that are put around us.

But what we are and what we love is inscribed in us, and added to what are called the Akashic records after we die. We are books that life is written in; this is something that both Swedenborg and Gurdjieff said about us. And insofar as the book is a book about grasping, desire, and materiality, it represents nothing more than squabbling over temporary things that will inevitably decay.  Hence Christ's advice to put our treasures up in heaven.

In the end, the summary of our intention and its direction are what rule our souls: if our intention is towards the material, we go down. If our intention is towards the spiritual, we go up.  There is nothing arbitrary or relative about this; one direction is in the direction of selfishness, the other one is in the direction of love. And, applying the logical translation, what Jeanne de Salzmann meant when she said that everything must either go up or down — nothing can remain in the same place — was that every action always tends towards selfishness or towards unselfishness, that is, love.

No action can be taken that is indifferent, that follows neither direction.

Interestingly, when we read Meister Eckhart, we see that he understands an indifference towards worldly things is essential. This sounds like a copout; but it isn't. Indifference towards worldly things is not a static condition; it is a recognition that the spiritual is superior, and actually constitutes a move in the direction of the spiritual, that is, towards love. Every movement toward selfishness, greed, and the material world is a movement away from the love of God, of heaven, of humanity, of the spirit, soul, and of other Being. Every movement away from these material things — every movement that is even indifferent to them, which is already a move that resists temptation — is a movement back in the direction of heaven.

The point of angelic impressions received through sensation is to help us turn our hearts towards the good, away from the material. And this doesn't mean that we don't engage with the material; it means that we begin to understand the real value is always the inner value. And, ah! What a terrible struggle that is, isn't it?

The sensation of an angelic presence, of love, is an essential help in this direction. My teacher, Betty Brown, certainly understood the organic sense of being — she spent years helping to bring me to it — and she insisted over and over again, long before I understood, that we had real, personal angels watching over us.

It was not a theoretical proposition or a belief for her; and eventually, I understood exactly what she meant. But this is not an easy thing to come to. Human beings rarely sense the angels who watch over them; and this is because of the material temptations that distract us from the spiritual well-being and inner glory that ought to be our birthright.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sensation and Angelic Presence, part IV

I realize that this "dharma teaching" of sensation and its connection to angelic presence probably sounds less-than-doctrinal to those who are familiar with the Gurdjieff ideas; so I suppose yet another important point needs to be expanded on, lest skepticism ultimately prevail over what is in fact an essential point of work.

It's a point of understanding, among older and senior members of the Gurdjieff Work, that developing a permanent connection to sensation — what I refer to as the organic sense of being — is a function of the development of the astral body. Said development is, of course, a vital initial aim of inner work that Gurdjieff made a serious point of with Ouspensky— and, of course, an important feature in yoga understandings and various derivative new-age teachings.

Although this idea — the idea of the astral body being connected to a permanent, voluntary, and active sensation — may not be familiar to everyone, it is a point of common knowledge within the circle of those Gurdjieffians who have a direct and practical understanding of it.

What hasn't been clearly delineated, so far as I know—and there is surprisingly little discussion on the matter, aside from the hypothesis itself— is that the astral body is, from a practical point of view, connected to the heavenly levels, and most specifically the angelic level of Being. That is, the nature of the astral body is not vague, and its potentials are not unknown—its nature is specific, and its nature and even purpose can be known.

I should explain here that the astral body is actively connected to the physical body through sensation. There is always, of course, a passive connection; but no conscious energy flows through a passive connection. The whole point of what is called "opening" in the Gurdjieff practice is to open the astral channels, that is, the points of sensation, or nadis,  that connect to Being to the astral body. The influx of angelic energies that results is, as I have pointed out, an essential support to the action of inner seeing. That, for a living human being, is the function of the astral body; and the reason that the astral body is a temporary stage, not a permanent entity, is because its dual functions of seeing and conducting of an inner inventory are just steps on the path to purification, which is the "body" developed at the next stage in the progression around the enneagram (la, or 7).

Another point that seems to bear further explanation is this idea of seeing in regard to ethics, morality, and so on.

Those who don't understand the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous and who have never been through the 12 steps can't properly understand why this practice is a higher practice, formed from understandings that have deeper esoteric significance. Peggy Flinsch understood this quite well, and spoke about it with me at some length when she found out that I was a sober alcoholic. She had a tremendous respect for AA; her comment to me was that it was a real inner work... unlike, she intimated, the work she saw people undertaking at the Gurdjieff Foundation.  She knew that AA is a painful, messy, complicated, emotionally intense life-and-death struggle—not a prim-and-proper circle of "respectable" people sitting around in comfortable parlors with their hands folded neatly in their laps, sagely exchanging platitudes. It has, in a word, intensity: that very quality people so often complain is lacking in their inner work.

 One of the most important points of the 12 steps is to conduct a fearless moral inventory. This may seem like a simple thing, but it is in fact the most difficult thing a human being ever undertakes, and it comes  only with a willingness to lose all the lying, hiding, obscuring, and covering up which Swedenborg says most of our so-called morality consists of. One has to be willing to look at one's misdeeds straight in the face, ruthlessly, and without any mercy. One submits — one intentionally suffers. And anyone that thinks this just takes place on a superficial level, the same way that ordinary mechanical work and life takes place, has never been an alcoholic or struggled with the despair, the addiction, and the deep sense of wrongdoing that arrives once one starts to become sober. This is work that goes directly into the organic roots of being — and you can't understand it if you haven't done it.

Conducting an inventory, a moral inventory, seeing how I am, is impossible without a tremendous struggle and an enormous amount of suffering. The energy of sensation, angelic energy, and a connection to the astral level brings the kind of support that is necessary; without it, attempting to conduct a moral inventory and bring what is needed out into the light of day where it can be seen is nearly impossible. This is because we hide everything. We spend our entire lives lying to ourselves at hiding what we actually are.  This is, of course, exactly what Gurdjieff said about us; and Swedenborg points out that a man needs to face this mercilessly during his life, because if he doesn't deal with it while he is alive, it will be impossible to hide it after dies.

If you want to think about why we do inner work, this should be contemplated carefully and with a great deal of attention and thought.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Sensation and Angelic Presence, part III

So I would like to come back to this question of organic sensation by explaining that (a) it is a cosmological manifestation of the angelic orders; that (b) it actually represents the manifestation of an angelic order of intelligence; and (c) that it constitutes the penetration of our Being by angelic introspection during life, as opposed to the introspection which Swedenborg describes after death takes place.

The energy of the organic sense of Being is essential to what de Salzmann called seeing, since seeing as she describes it does not belong to the natural or mortal level, but the angelic orders.

Our mistake in this matter is that we always take everything as coming from ourselves; yet one must, in other words, acquire a definite amount of angelic energy—energy, as she called it, from a higher level—in order to see. Everyone discusses seeing as though it belonged to us, on this level; yet what sees belongs to a different order, one which can never actually be described except within a human Being's innermost, most secret and most silent soul. Close to where it touches God.

Seeing is that precisely, exact, and scientific process whereby one sees all of one's being exactly as it is and categorically cannot escape one's manifestations any more; and it is well known that Madame insisted that both the inflow of a higher energy and the manifestation of a voluntary, or self-conscious, self-aware, sensation was necessary. She insisted this simply because the angelic order must be contacted and actively expressed in order for seeing to begin. Anything else is a manufactured sham.

This process of seeing, which takes place in the angelic inspection of the soul after death (according to the Egyptians, it had to be lighter than a feather to properly qualify) only takes place in life through the active and tangible presence of that same angelic manifestation; which is rarely experienced except in brief moments. More properly, this presence ought to be in one at all times.

The organic sense of Being generally arrives only after long-term suffering and the arrival of what Jeanne de Salzmann called "the big energy." (See Heart without Measure.) That is, its arrival is accompanied by personalized angelic visitations, which same are, at least—unlike many more spurious psychic manifestations—rather difficult to misunderstand or misinterpret, bewildering and frightening though they may be.  

 Real "intentional" suffering generally begins in the moment when one's organic sense of Being puts one in the place where one sees that one is unable to go against one's own wrong manifestations even when one is aware of them.

Mind you, spiritual development so often presumes that we'll somehow become "free" of wrong manifestation if we develop inwardly; but in fact the opposite is true.

Freedom does not consist in freedom from our wrong manifestation; it consists in freedom from our lies and illusions about it. One suffers directly one's helplessness; that is freedom.

It takes a very long period of suffering this state—decades or more—before anything else emerges. And the suffering is intentional not because "I" intend it, but because there is an higher intention behind the suffering.

The intention is angelic or heavenly in nature; and this intention is the purging of selfishness, the dissolution of the ego. But that intention can never come from this level; it is categorically impossible. So when we hear the words "intentional suffering," if we think that the intention has much of anything to do with our own intention, we are simply adopting our usual egoistic usurpation of power and applying it to even this most sacred idea.

Meister Eckhart does what is perhaps one of the most thorough and exhaustive jobs of attempting to purge us of the idea that any intention other than God's is sufficient;

yet the belief persists, because we love ourselves so much more than we love God.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sensation and Angelic Presence, part II

I should like to add to this something noteworthy about the memory that we keep after death, something that convinced me that not just the general contents but even the smallest details that have entered our memory do last and are never erased. I saw some books with writing in them like earthly writing, and was told that they had come from the memories of the people who had written them, that not a single word was missing that had been in the book they had written in the world. I was also told that all the least details could be retrieved from the memory of someone else, even things the person had forgotten in the world. 

The reason for this was explained as well; namely, that we have an outer and an inner memory, the outer proper to our natural person and the inner proper to our spiritual person. The details of what we have thought, intended, said, and done, even what we have heard and seen, are inscribed on our inner or spiritual memory. There is no way to erase anything there, since everything is written at once on our spirit itself and on the members of our body, as noted above. This means that our spirit is formed in accord with what we have thought and what we have done intentionally. I know these things seem paradoxical and hard to believe, but they are true nevertheless.

Let no one believe, then, that there is anything we have thought or done in secret that will remain hidden after death. Believe rather that absolutely everything will come out into broad daylight.

Emmanuel SwedenborgHeaven and Hell, pg. 498(new century edition)

In reviewing the question of sensation and the organic sense of Being, I must once again emphasize that this matter relates to the infusion of angelic energies into the body. De Salzmann referred to this as a "higher" energy; but of course it's an angelic energy.

Calling it "higher" simply tends, in my eyes, to obscure the point. One cannot understand what this "higher" energy means without understanding that it comes from a level of real Being, populated with other real Beings. We must, as well, be reminded that this higher level is a level not just of location—we're not dealing in mere geometries here—but of a greater moral, ethical, and spiritual authority. Hence Swedenborg's succinct comment:

I could therefore see that our overall nature depends on the nature of our intention and consequent thought, so that evil people are their own evil and good people are their own good. (ibid)

We do not seek inner development for any other reason than to serve the good; and this is an action of unselfishness. Whatever we love the most, we are; and whatever we are, we own. The essential action of awakening the organic sense of Being is to give ourselves the opportunity to see what we are within this life, so that we can make informed (inwardly formed) choices about ourselves while there is still time to change. Angelic inspection, you see, can be used to effect inner change while we are still alive; but once we die, those changes are no longer possible, because a final then reckoning takes place. Gurdjieff alluded to this on a number of occasions.

When I explained this to my wife, she asked about reincarnation and recurrence. My reply to her was that this doesn't matter; regardless of how we wish to view that question, it represents nothing more than a turning part in the engine. It isn't the whole vehicle; or the destination. Perhaps this is why Gurdjieff showed so little interest in the question.

In receiving the angelic energies that impart a new level of connection to sensation, I agree to participate in this inspection of myself from the inward perspective; and all of the things that make me, both in the past and now, come together within the organic manifestation of this energy which can see. It sees not with the eyes, or the mind, but with subtler parts which connect to heaven; and this sense is a part of the nervous system itself, which has both spiritual and natural elements. The human nervous system is (as both Gurdjieff & Swedenborg recognized) connected to both the spiritual and natural level. Gurdjieff preferred to describe it mostly in terms of chemistry, but Swedenborg understood from the point of view of neuroanatomy and correspondence.

No matter. From either man's point of view, what we are —and everything we ever have been—is indelibly inscribed in the nervous system of the body, and remains available as a comprehensive organic impression of Being. That comprehensive organic impression, however, remains unavailable for as long as we lack an organic sense of Being. And only this process of angelic inspection can help weld the various impressions of "self" and "I" into any kind of unity, since—exactly as in the process of death and its aftermath—only the stripping away of all the artificial, false, and outward parts of one's nature (the revelation of the truth, the exposure to broad daylight, as Swedenborg explains it)—can reveal any meaningful inner truth to a person.

Sensation, in other words, is the essential element in self-remembering: and yet it is understood far more as a mere mechanical process in humans than as any kind of intelligent—let alone angelic—action.

The organic sense of Being is, if properly sensed and understood, immediately sensed as an angelic presence. It is, at that, one of the coarsest and most basic forms of angelic manifestation, yet it is already immeasurably higher than our ordinary level of Being.