Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Commentaries on the wartime transcripts: transcript two, part I read only with your head. Do an exercise. Read only a little— a page at a time. At first you must try to understand with your head, then to feel, then to experience. And then come back and think. Exercise yourself to read with your three centers. In each book there is material for enriching oneself. It doesn't matter what you read and it doesn't matter the quantity, but the quality of the way of reading.

—Meeting Two, page 6.

 Why is this kind of work necessary?

My relationship to the world is determined by what is inwardly formed in me. Generally, I'm completely unconscious than anything whatsoever is being inwardly formed in me; everything just happens. Like Napoleon  and the other generals in War and Peace, I sincerely believe that I am in charge of affairs, whereas I am actually being carried along by a current much more powerful than anything I can imagine.

In order to take any real responsibility for my life, I have to be responsible for what is inwardly formed in me, and this involves what Gurdjieff called three centered work. Impressions don't fall deeply into the body unless all three centers participate with one another in effort; and things are not inwardly formed without a deeper relationship to the impressions of life.

This holds true with reading as much as with everything else. The reason that words seem quite different if I read them one year and come back to them four years later is because what is inwardly formed has changed; and thus the understanding of the words is different. I need to read with more of myself participating if I'm truly interested in taking things in more deeply.

It is much better to read a little bit and get a lot out of it than to read a lot and get a little bit out of it. Poetry is based on this premise in exactly the same way: a little bit of poetry that contains a lot of good within it is far superior to a lot of prose that contains a little bit of good in it.

It is the essence of things that matters; and if something has a good essence, one does not need much of it to be fed well. In the same way that the essence of what is written is important, the essence of reading it is equally so. So if I understand, in reading, the way to bring it to my essence — an action which doesn't happen very often, trust me, even with wiseacreing literary types such as myself — then the manner in which it is dealt with becomes more than superficial.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A perfect faith, part II

When Christ spoke about the lilies of the field, and asked us to consider them, most certainly, he wanted us to consider the idea that the most perfect faith is clothed in nature itself, which arises from the heart of truth and expresses that truth in every crevice of its Being.

 There is no greater thing than our relationship and consonance with natural things, if the impressions of them fall deeply enough into us. From when I was a small child, I recognize that there was something in nature, in the beauty and perfection of its structures, that transcended the ability of the human mind to comprehend; and the no matter how we pick it apart with our sciences, we can never touch the beauty of the whole. I can never forget this; it has been ingrained in me always, a subtle, underlying cellular texture that is present to my inner sense of touch.

It brings me to this: thinking so much seems wearying at times. I'm investing in sensation; or, rather, it's investing in me. 

It strips away much of the need for thought. There is an openness in it that invites a participation of feeling quite distinct from my tendency to analyze. 

My interest in nature develops here. We pay far too little attention to our impressions of nature, which are the primary impressions we originally evolved to take in. There is a subtle relationship here which has been either romanticized or intellectualized over the centuries; and both of these forms of interaction ultimately represent a corruption of the need to take the impressions deeper into the body.

Here we discover the primal relationship of self to planet; and this question of "serving the planet", which all too often serves as a merely theoretical premise in inner work, delivers itself instead as a fundamental and practical engagement.

This isn't born from  the attitude or philosophy of John Muir or Thoreau, nor environmentalism or naturalistic theism; it is born in sensation and the living energy of the body, which is a part of nature, not apart from it. 

So here I am. How is this? 

Perhaps it is enough and does not need the additives of thought, which so often become preservatives, instead of nutrients.


Monday, August 25, 2014

A perfect faith

...perfect faith is far more in a man than mere belief. In it we have true knowing.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, P. 510.

Perfect faith comes from a direction and an inner source that does not belong to me.

I have to understand that beliefs all belong to me. Because I am an egoist, I think that everything I believe is good and true; and I pit my beliefs and truths against those of others. It's like a cock fight: we put spurs on and hack at each other's beliefs and truths. Take a look around; see the violence and dissent in the world. This is where all of that begins: in me and my beliefs.

Eckhart makes it clear that I do not have true knowing within the context of my belief. He calls belief "mere" belief; belief is trivial and not a thing to be taken seriously. Yet this is exactly the problem; I do take myself and my beliefs seriously, very seriously indeed. I will do anything — even kill for them.

So what is this perfect faith? And how come I can't distinguish it from belief?

 I must bring a practical example from my own life; for no other example will do.

It is a Sunday morning; I am irritated and impatient, for reasons that don't matter much. Suffice it to say that I could see I was negative this morning, and understood where it would lead; things have come to pass exactly as I understood they would, because my negativity has habitual components that express themselves the same way every time. It's not catastrophic; but I am identified with and unhappy about a number of things, and preparing to go on a trip to China tomorrow. Not a good combination.

Things are quiet outside; it just stopped raining and the sky is beginning to clear. I go outside to sit on the front porch. I'm on a swing bench; it's a place I have sat many times in the past with pleasure, although less so of late. I sit down, and take some time to just stop for a moment.

Unexpectedly, a vibration takes place within the abdomen. I'm well familiar with these arrivals; every one of them signifies a particular Grace of the Lord, arriving in one part of the body or another, and always with more or less the same result.

A huge wave of relaxation passes through me as I surrender to it.  My own efforts of relaxation are orders of magnitude smaller than the force of this gentle storm which passes through me.

I drop my arms into my lap and recognize, incontrovertibly, that the power much higher than myself is in charge. I distinctly see the difference between myself and this higher level; and it suffuses me, reminds me of my insignificance.

For a moment, I let go of everything.

Not much later, I am at the kitchen sink, and am overcome with a sense of sorrow. This sorrow isn't any specific sorrow; it is sorrow from everything, about everything, and for everything. It's a ubiquitous presence, a substance that penetrates all of Being. It is, improbably, perfect; and it is this perfection, the perfection of sorrow, the perfection of understanding how temporary life and everything in it is, that constitutes a perfect faith.

This is a truth that transcends all the teachings, the forms, the formulas, and the prescriptions for life. It is a truth that is whole; it contains all of who I am and all of everything that is.

It won't last, I know; I am pulled through life by tides much larger than me, and it is merely privilege and grace that allows me to be touched for a moment by these sacred forces, reminding me that I am so often powerless.

I am outside in the garden now; and the wild senna is in bloom, yellow flowers attracting the bees.

There is a graceful dance here, and it isn't mine.

Inside, there is a similar dance that takes place: and perhaps, at times, I can sense that.

It never belongs to me; but at times I can be a participant.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Eckhart, on sensation

But you might say, 'Alas, sir, I feel so bare and cold and lazy that I dare not face our Lord !' 

I reply, All the more need for you to go to your God, for by Him you will be enflamed and set afire, and in Him you will be sanctified and joined and made one with Him, for you will find such grace in the sacrament, and nowhere else so truly, that your bodily powers are there united and collected by the precious power of the physical presence of our Lord's body, so that all a man's scattered senses and his mind are here concentrated and unified, and those which especially were too much inclined downward will be lifted up and duly offered to God. 

And by the indwelling God they will be so inwardly trained and weaned of the bodily hindrances of temporal things and limbered up toward divine things, and so, strengthened by God's body, your body will be renewed. 

For we should be turned into Him and become fully united with Him, so that His own becomes ours, and ours all becomes His: our heart and His one heart and our body and His one body. Thus our senses and our will, intention, our powers and our limbs are borne into Him so that we sense and become aware of Him in all the powers of body and soul.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, P. 509.

Only a proper and practical understanding of the organic sense of Being and the inward flow of the Divine Presence will reveal how precise Eckhart's words are here.

He is describing, in a few brief paragraphs, everything Jeanne de Salzmann attempted to transmit in her own notes; and the unity he speaks of is directly related to Gurdjieff's explanation that sensation is the source of one's sense of individuality. We cannot mistake, here, the gathering of attention within the body and within Being; and its uplifting effect upon the soul.

It's impossible to divorce any of this understanding from Swedenborg's explanations regarding the inward flow of the Divine; there can be only one understanding on these issues, even though words always come to it from so many different directions. The inward sense of God's Presence is an objective quality; and no matter how it is described it is always sensed in exactly the same way, just as each man who reaches for an object in the darkness will sense that object through touch in exactly the same way. This is why sensation (and the subtle yet pervasive sense of touch itself, which is a part of sensation) is such an important factor in the understanding of God's Presence; unlike thought, which can turn and twist in many ways, sensation is a straight thing which under any ordinary circumstances does not deviate.

This is also why pain and pleasure can be such accurate teachers; a man or woman can think anything he or she likes, and recast it in a thousand different lights, but we all feel pain the same way.

And again, in a different manner, sensation always begins in silence; for silence is its nature, and silence is by its nature the most feminine and receptive of qualities.

Things that are sensed, in other words, carry a truth the mind cannot interfere with; and perhaps this is why God comes to us so certainly, first, within sensation; whereas in our beliefs and in our minds, there is no such quiet, and hence no unerring chance of experiencing His Presence.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

An exercise in sensation


...Sometimes when I wish to sense myself or see myself or work, my mind tells me that that is just a technique and that I'm just escaping the real which is the thoughts and problems in the mind. 

How do I handle (reconcile?) this lie?


The key to what you're asking lies within your own sensation of your body... with the mind of your sensation. Not the mind of your thought.

Invest in your sensation directly, simply, openly, and honestly, without any argument.

Try this: put a number of objects in a bag: small, medium size, different types. 

Then reach in with your eyes open, but not looking in the bag, and sense how you select a particular object you are looking for: say, metal nail clippers, this is a good one; with touch. You use touch to see; you see with your sensation. 

This may seem to be useful only in a limited way, but actually its usefulness is universal.

You can learn to see the difference between the mind of sensation—which knows through sensation what is—and the mind of thought and the effects of vision. 

Discriminate carefully and learn to see what sensation is; then let it acquire gravity within you relative to thought.


Friday, August 22, 2014

The root is love

 I wake up every morning wondering about God and my relationship to Him.

 This isn't a relationship of the mind; it is a relationship of the whole Being, and it always begins with the incorporation — the embodiment — of energy within sensation. There is a deep, heartfelt, honest, and inescapable vibration that emanates from heaven, and enters the body: this is a force one cannot argue with. It asks questions; and at the root and heart of those questions is always, every time, love. There isn't really anything but love; and yet despite the fact that it runs the universe and is the engine that drives life itself, I forget that quite often.

So it's in the morning that I try to sense what life is and remember this love that begins everything. When I try to do it with my mind, conceptually, I dream up fabulous universes and before you know it arguments ensue; thought juxtaposes things, and as soon as juxtapositions arise, there is conflict.

In sensation, and in Being, there is no conflict; only a quiet sense of wonder that asks who I am and why I am here.

Readers who follow these essays know that, when I am in the country (and not boxed in some hotel room in Shanghai) I get up very early and walk the famous dog Isabel. This is always at dawn and often in darkness; and there is a quietness and majesty on every path to the river, as well as the ones along it. There are times when I wish I could erase everything but nature and the presence of God within it; this is, of course, impossibly impractical, but there is a wish for the perfection of God and the expression of His will that pervades all of creation, and it is only in the quiet time, alone, that I can begin to remind myself of this premise, from which all of the roots, tendrils, trunks and branches of my life emerge.

I'm reminded of how small I am. I've mentioned it before; Peggy Flinsch once began a sitting in the 1980s in New York City — it was a Thursday morning, she sometimes came in at 7 AM to sit with us then — by saying, "we are tiny little creatures." Anyone who knew Peggy will know how absolutely objective and incisive the inflection with which she said that was; it was an uncompromising truth, and it went into us all, I think, like a sword, although I can speak only for myself.

This is the whole point of the Gurdjieff work — to understand that we are tiny little creatures, that we are nothing.

The whole point of real inner understanding is to understand one's insignificance; this can touch conscience in a way that arouses real feeling, whereas the arrogance of our ego is merely a ball peen hammer with which we put dents in ourselves and everyone around us.

 When I sense myself, and I sense the love that has created us, there is no doubt something more real is born. It is always in touch with this mystery of life; and it is in touch through the body, not through the mind.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

The wild fruit

My teachers—who were orthodox, but not completely orthodox—always felt that a spiritual work, an organization, existed only as the starting point for a real inner work.

One joins the organization to get one's beginning in spiritual life. The organization is not the end in itself; life itself is the end in itself, and this living-within-life consists of a full, inherent, organic, and conscious relationship to life. Spiritual organizations are like greenhouses; they ought to be places where seedlings are started. From this point of view, they are vital and necessary; and we ought to deeply respect and nurture them.

But the seedling can't grow properly if it's kept in the greenhouse forever. It may produce fruit; but everyone knows greenhouse fruit is never as satisfying as (for example) berries grown in the wild, which are undoubtedly the best, no matter how small, misshapen, or tart they may be. The whole point of the wild fruit is its uniqueness, the strange and wonderful character of its Being; and its Being is formed by a dense, complex, rich, and unexpected interaction with so many influences of life: rain, wind, sunshine... even pests and predators. None of these exist in the greenhouse.

The soul is like this: a wild creature destined to interact with all of creation. The greenhouse may seem like a safe place—we may think it will produce beautiful souls in perfect rows, well groomed, without any spots or blemishes; and the fruits may be fat and sweet. This is, of course, just a dream; but we fall in love with it.

Is this really what nature intended? I doubt it. The soul ought to be tested; and a soul that grows in the light of the sun with bugs crawling on it, offering its fruits to other creatures and sacrificing a part of itself to great nature: this is what is intended, at its root, by the nature of life itself.

In this way perhaps I begin to see that I cannot live in the greenhouse forever. I have to take the risk that my soul may not grow in the way I expect it to; that it may need to encounter many unexpected forces I cannot predict and have no control over. This is its real environment; a wild place of testing, a place that constantly demands interaction with a creation that does not agree with it, that tries it. This is never going to take place in the greenhouse, that place where neat rows of plants are tended by gentle gardeners.

We cannot rely on protected environments for inner work. The habit of fleeing to retreats, of flocking to temples and institutions, only reinforces our domestication; and the domesticated animal can never know what it is to risk itself, to run free, to suffer its own life for what it is in the context for which it was designed.

It's this creation of artificial context we must, I think, be wary of. I create enough artificial contexts for myself as it is; all of society, all of enculturation, is an artificial context. It's tempting to rely on that; it's what's expected, and that always seems so safe, doesn't it?

Yet there is nothing artificial about my inner life; it's an organism, a living thing, my Being, and that needs to be respected, not kept on a leash. Being has to learn to sniff the earth and root through the bushes; not walk neat, manicured paths.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love cannot lose faith cannot lose faith but always trusts in the good.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, P. 502

Meister Eckhart uses this phrase in his Talks of Instruction; and it pertains to understanding the certainty of eternal life. Yet the critical point is universal; and what interests me this morning is the question of trust in the good.

Yesterday I had a rather exasperating discussion with a highly intelligent friend who trusts abundantly; but he trusts in the intellect. I often find the smartest people the most frustrating; excessive intelligence tends to obscure everything except itself , and engenders its own special kind of stupidity.

Now, make no mistake about it, it is essential to have a very sharp intellect; essential, that is, in terms of an intellect with a critical facility. By this I mean an intellect with right order and an internal consistency. That order must be formed by the inflow and not by my own will; a point amply made in the Talks of Instruction. Yet the intellect in us is formed by our own will; and we are loath to see the inconsistencies in it. Our ego drives intellect in almost every instance, yet intellect carefully adjusts itself to conceal this. Intellect has, in and of itself, become the chief tool of the ego in its efforts to subvert the divine inspiration of the inner order.

The intellect cannot, in a word, be trusted; and the very best way to understand that is to have the intellect extinguished by revelation. This does not need to go on for very long before one sees the intellect for what it is; it is the emperor's new clothes, an invention of the imagination. Of course it "loses" faith; it has no real faith to begin with, because its faith begins with itself, and this kind of faith does not ever rest in God.

If the intellect is extinguished, ah! Then I am in the desert; and in that emptiness love rushes in, because in the end, if I am empty of myself, the first thing that rushes in to fill that vacuum is love; love naturally seeks every corner and crevice of creation. There is no place it will not fill if room is made! And love, once it arrives, trusts—because it begins in the Lord and, having its origins in what is good, it never doubt the good. The intellect, however, has its origins in a mechanical arrangement, a structural premise, and of itself there is no good in this. Only feeling, only love, can produce the good, because it is rooted in it; and intellect cannot have such roots, because it is arranged to reveal hierarchy, structure, and relativity. It has, of itself, no evaluative ability or function; and yet I wrongly ascribe such functions to it. In this way I continually attempt to evaluate using a part that cannot perform that task.

Trust in the good ought to arise in me naturally, just as love does; yet when I begin with the mind, instead of from an inner desert, no trust appears. It is in this inner desert that I abandon my own trust; and there I find solace.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An inward desert, part III

 I suspect, like me, that you ask yourself why you are the way you are.

I usually speak of myself; and yet if I speak of you, I also speak of myself, because we are no different, except for some measure of experiences and varying degrees of inner connection. So today, perhaps I will speak of you, keeping in mind that it is also me I speak of.

Let us think of it as me, speaking to myself. Because I generally dictate in this space, I am actually speaking; so I am just having a little talk with myself, which you are privy to.

You are the way you are because you love yourself too much. You love yourself; but in all the wrong ways. You love all the suitcases you have stuffed inside yourself over the course of your life; you love your opinions, your moods, and your demands. You love everything, in a word; and you say you love God. But in fact, all of this is incorrect. In order to love anything in a real way, you must go away from it, not towards it; because the real world lies within, and only by going inside, in a direction directly away from everything you love, can you find the real love that is born in hearts from the spark of the divine influence.

This means you must stop loving. It seems odd; yet all of the love for the outer is misplaced. To love God and God alone, you must go inside, to discover the spark that animates. That is where God begins; and if you even touch His toenail, already, that is a huge change.

Now, you go within; and where is this God?

God arises through sensation, that is where He is. Anything you think of God with your mind is pointless; it isn't God. You must sense God with the body, sense God with the feelings, and then maybe God can speak. But until then, as long as you conduct a dialogue with God — which is really a monologue, mind you — nothing is happening. And when things begin to happen, they will destroy what you are. You know that already; it is constantly taught. But you forget it all the time, falling back in love with yourself and what you are.

You should know that the mind can stop. Where the mind stops, the desert begins; and the desert is a vast landscape inhabited by God alone. This is such a perfect place; there is no need to think of your own things here, because all things you need are already present. Everything is still; and although it seems strange, because the landscape has none of the objects you expect to see in it, all that is necessary appears effortlessly when it is needed. So there is no need to do anything except stop and be present.


Monday, August 18, 2014

An inward desert, part II

 Into this inward desert flows the Lord.

So there is no emptiness here; there is, in this desert, the essence of life itself, and it brings water to the desert in the same way that the rains bring water everywhere; gloriously, in abundance. The inward flow is the source of life itself; and although it is always in me, it is when I sense it that I understand the glory of living, before anything else happens.

My outward this perpetually tries to convince me that it is what is glorious; but all of its glory comes only from the inward flow. The dirt is glorious; the rain is glorious. Every single instance of outwardness is glorious, but all of that glory is infused, informed, created by the inward flow of the divine. It is only when that flow can't be sensed that the outward acquires the flat aspect that I usually assignment, and begins to seem as though it is the motive force of life. But inwardness provides astonishment; and astonishment is a quiet thing that penetrates to the bone.

Into the sacred silence of this inward desert the Lord flows; and wisdom flows with Him. Wisdom, and all the other things that are needed to support life, before the outward aspects of being meet me. In so far as I turn inward, to this open and empty space where the Lord meets me, so I have Being; and that Being begins before outward being. Outward being is, in fact, nothing; of course, it is everything, and a certain sense, relative to my impressions, but it is only a mirror of Being itself. It is a reflection of consciousness; so everything that is encountered is the mirror, not the object. Our impression — my impression — that everything outward is what is real is an inversion. There can be no real thing without the inward.

As you read this, I hope you will ponder the idea that there is nothing more important than coming into relationship with an inner energy. There is no other purpose in life; and a life lived at 100% of everything else is still equal to zero if the inward flow does not open me and I do not form a strong, intimate, and lasting relationship with it. This is the only way that life acquires real meaning, as opposed to the false meanings that are assigned by outer events. All of the real meanings are born within; and all of the real meanings are born within relationship to the Lord, who flows inward in all of His wisdom and grace and love.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Inward Desert

That man finds greater praise before God, for he takes all things as divine, and as greater than they are in themselves. Indeed, this requires zeal and love and a clear perception of the interior life, and a watchful, true, wise, and real knowledge of what the mind is occupied with among things and people. This cannot be learned by running away, by fleeing into the desert away from outward things; a man
must learn to acquire an inward desert, wherever and with whomever he is.

Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 492

When I hear the word desert, I usually think of a place that is barren. No people live there, there are no villages or towns, and plants do not grow there. No water can be found. Yet this is the place that is so often cited as a place to go in order to seek spiritual alignment.

The desert is often understood to symbolize a kind of asceticism, a willingness to abandon material things; yet Meister Eckhart maintains that nothing of the kind is the case. This outer abandonment, all of the outer symbols and forms, both the adoption of those symbols and forms or the abandonment of the symbols and forms, is useless. It reminds me of things that Jeanne de Salzmann says about seeing (See Seeing is an Act, from The Reality of Being, pages 205-206.)

 In pondering this question, I see that the desert does not mean asceticism. It does not mean barrenness, or even a lack of attachment or nonattachment. To me, contemplating this question this morning, it seems quite simple: the desert represents discipline.

And indeed, both Meister Eckhart and Jeanne de Salzmann emphasize a continuing and relentless need for discipline in inner work. Discipline is not a form; it is an obligation. Gurdjieff dismissed people who lack discipline, calling them tramps and lunatics. Neither one had any chance of becoming anything real within themselves. To go into the desert, to acquire an inward desert, is to acquire a place that has a great demand. There is nothing empty or unpopulated about it, nothing that is barren or lacking. On the contrary — as anyone who studies the desert carefully will know — it is a rich environment, but an incredibly demanding one. One has to have one's attention, ones wit, active and around one at all times to survive in these conditions.

I recently read an essay in which a very respectable gentlemen was maintaining that one need not commit to a particular spiritual discipline. He presented a dreamy, colorful image of flitting from religion to religion like a butterfly, sipping the nectar of each one in a rapture of joyful understanding. It all sounds very nice, but in my experience, absolutely nothing can come of such activity. It is like bacon and nuclear physics. Nuclear physicists eat breakfast:  They cook bacon and eggs, and so on.  If you go cook bacon and eggs with a nuclear physicist and have breakfast while he discusses physics, it doesn't mean you understand nuclear physics; or that you ever will. It takes many decades of discipline to understand nuclear physics and come to any real new understanding regarding the question.

Everyone in today's cultures wants to get things for free. Especially in the last 20 or 30 years, the idea has arisen that one can achieve spiritual depth by paddling about in shallow water. This is absolute nonsense, nothing more than the evil inner God of self calming. One has to be willing to pay with everything; and if this sounds severe, it is because it is. Soft peddling the situation so that people believe their comfort can serve their soul serves no one.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sensation and objectivity: the second mind, part II

So sensation is objective.

 Why do I say this?

Sensation of the body, the second mind, is active without associations. Now, I say that with caveats: there are associations with previous pleasurable sensation, so we might say there is a form of associative thinking. That is, this exists, but only for unconscious, that is, involuntary sensation, which functions — much like the associative mind — as a series of buttons that get pushed, causing actions. This is why Mr. Gurdjieff referred to our actions as mechanical: all three of the minds in us are automatic to the extent that they are unconscious, that is, they function strictly according to associations.

The mind of sensation, however, has an inherent ability to awaken in a different way and become conscious. When this takes place, and it combines with an even marginally conscious intellect, the center of gravity in Being changes completely. I say marginally conscious intellect, because the intellect has a wide range of conscious functions which can be precisely defined by its passage around its own octave in the enneagram. When it is reinforced by a conscious sensation, a passage takes place in which one enters, for the first time, the spiritual side of inner work. This is because the conscious mind of sensation has—due to its nature and its unusually strong connections to the instinctive center (connections which, in the intellect, are largely atrophied)—an enormous amount of power to support inner work; a power the mind alone can never produce.

It is, in fact, impossible for the mind to produce such force, because it does not work with the parts that contain such force. It is, in fact, quite weak — an observation Gurdjieff often made about the minds of his pupils, and an observation they made themselves. Exercising the mind alone will not really strengthen it much — but connecting it to sensation gives it a powerful foundational support.

An active or voluntary sensation is objective. It does not bring its own associations to the moment; it is vibrant, alive, and actively passive — that is, it becomes the magnetic field, the magnetic center or inner center of gravity, that draws impressions into Being.  it does so without interfering with them intellectually, because its capacity is not intellectual. When one is within the center of gravity created by a voluntary sensation, one can see quite easily how the intellect constantly tries to interfere with impressions as they enter: it is the habit of intellect to do this. The ability to see this consciously — that is, with the mind of sensation, which is a different and new kind of consciousness — raises all kinds of questions about the activity of the intellect, and creates a kind of balance that allows one to see that the intellect is usually off-base in its assessments: selfish, egoistic, and processing incoming impressions according to associations that serve lower impulses of a wide variety. This kind of self observation is, in my experience, relatively impossible unless a voluntary sensation is active; and it is only this kind of self observation that truly brings a question from the second mind to the first mind, whereby the first mind has a critical faculty applied to it.

Until this takes place, the critical faculty in the first mind, the intellect, is always self reflexive, that is, it is mind critiquing mind. This kind of critique is circular and, in my opinion, inherently worthless, because it never goes outside itself. It just hypothesizes about it.

Only with the participation of a second center, the second mind, can things begin to change in this regard.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Sensation and objectivity: the second mind, part I

Self observation becomes, in the end, a careful observation of my intentions.

If there is one thing I have learned from many years of relationship to an active sensation, it's that I can't trust my intentions. When I am aware of them — when any conscious mentation accompanies them — I see how self-serving they are, and how utterly uncaring of others they appear to be. Although there are parts of me that know this is wrong, still, the mechanical manifestation of egoism is relentless.

It's a strange experience to see that part of one wishes for what one knows is wrong. This is the kind of thing, I feel sure, that Gurdjieff was talking about when he spoke of actions unbecoming to three brained beings.

Yesterday, while teaching a class on in our yoga, I stressed the idea that sensation, the second mind of human beings, has an objective property.

This takes some explaining, I think, because the conventional understanding of sensation does not include the manner in which it becomes an active mind.The difficulty is that people think of sensation as a thing — that is, some kind of object. Remember, you can think of nothing, but you can't thing a think. Thought and material objects are quite different. Sensation is a form of thought; it just doesn't assume an aspect we are familiar with, so we think of it as a thing; that is, the associative part, the intellectual center, classifies it as existing outside itself and being of a different order, that is, not thought, and not a conscious mind, but some subset or aspect of thought and conscious mind.

 The premise that sensation itself is a form of conscious thinking — the conscious thinking of the body — is a foreign one. As is the premise that feeling, real and deep emotion, is also a form of thinking. We have compartmentalized our understanding of consciousness in such a way that only associative thinking is understood to be of the mind; and so the second mind (the mind of the body) and the third mind (the mind of feelings) are not just misunderstood, they are sidelined, devalued, and classified as entities inferior to the noble intellect.

 Take note, in passing, that these two minds — moving and emotional center — are both found in animals, whereas the intellectual center isn't. This is the probable reason for the overvaluation of intellect in man; and we do not see how it removes us from our essential nature by dominating.

When Mr. Gurdjieff gave his pupils the exercise of intoning, "I am — I wish to be," he presented it is something that we say, more or less, with the mind. That is, we understand it and say it with the intellectual mind.  And this is the only part we can take it in with, at least initially. The other parts — the body and the feelings — don't really enter into it at first. And so it has a flat, one dimensional quality.

We gain some inkling of what he was getting at when we read that he judged the man or a woman by where in the body they sensed these words while they were saying them.

Sensation, in other words, is the key component in understanding what these words mean to me. The words are meant to awaken a connection with sensation; and they only acquire depth in so far as this awakening takes place.

Teaching the class I was working with yesterday, it occurred to me above all that students of inner yoga need to understand just why the thinking mind is subjective, and the mind of sensation is objective; and what the implications for Being are, in regard to these two things. The question of why the second mind is so vital to inner work, and the very important connections it has to the question of the formation of the second Being-body, the astral body, are manifold. I'll pursue these greater length tomorrow.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Of obedience and being, part II

The most powerful prayer, one well-nigh omnipotent to gain all things, and the noblest work of all is that which proceeds from a bare mind. The more bare it is, the more powerful, worthy, useful, praiseworthy and perfect the prayer and the work. A bare mind can do all things. 

What is a bare mind ?

A bare mind is one which is worried by nothing and is tied to nothing, which has not bound its best part to any mode, does not seek its own in anything, that is fully immersed in God's dearest will and gone out of its own. A man can do no work however paltry that does not derive power and strength from this source.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 487

 This instruction echoes the point of yesterday's essay, which is that I must empty myself of all things, everything that is attached to creation, in order to become truly obedient. Obedience takes place when I abandon everything except my participation; and my participation is obedience.

When I align myself inwardly through discipline, that is, the inward and self-created practice of attention, effort, and demand, then there is a true inward alignment. I can never actually align myself through outward forms; all they are just templates. To the extent that I am drawn to the outward form, and believe that the outward form provides this or that which I need for my inner discipline, to that extent, I am deluded, because my inward discipline must always begin inside me, with and from myself, and it must always begin with the demand that I work inwardly. Not that I work according to how others have taught me to work, or the way that outward forms tell me to work; my work must be formed inwardly through grace, obedience, and effort, where I abandon all concepts of outward form and attempt to open myself to a higher energy.

Those who read The Reality of Being would do well to consider how assiduously Jeanne de Salzmann attended, in her notes to herself, to this question. She well understood how much her work relied on her own effort to be not as she was.

I see that I am always attracted to outward form; and yet I never see that this should always be a mirror of inward truth, and that inward truth must come first. When inward truth is present, all form and outwardness is equal; and in this way, colors, cushions, automobiles, jobs and loved ones — all things— become equal not because they are actually equal in terms of outward form, but because all are equally and exactly a part of a whole life.

In this way, equality is understood quite differently than it is in the outward world, where we see that such equality as we presume or attempt to assign is in fact impossible and imaginary. The principle of equality of all things—an idea shared in common by a range of disciplines— can only be understood from an inward point of view, and this is only when something is understood inwardly from the point of view of the inflow, the divine principle.

So I cannot judge outwardness through mankind's intentions, but only through God's.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Of obedience and being, part I

In true obedience there should be no trace of 'I want so-and-so,' or 'this and that,' but a pure going out of your own. And therefore, in the best prayer a man can pray it should not be 'give me this virtue or that habit,' or even 'Lord, give me Yourself,' or 'eternal life,' but 'Lord, give only what You will, and do, 0 Lord, whatever and however You will in every way.' This surpasses the former as heaven does the earth. And when such a prayer is uttered one has prayed well, having gone right out of self into God in true obedience.

—Meister Eckhart, The Complete Mystical Works, p. 487

True obedience, as Eckhart calls it, can never be given to some thing, to something created, or to an outward form. I cannot be obedient first to objects, events, circumstances, or conditions; because obedience is first and foremost an inward quality.

Obedience is generally misunderstood, because our thinking mind always and invariably attaches it to outward form. This is a profound misunderstanding, but it is a ubiquitous one. Obedience is, in its first instance and in the origin of all obedience, always obedience to the inflow. That is to say, obedience begins with obedience to the divine principle which flows inward into Being.

 This principle has no character other than Being. So as soon as one thinks one is being obedient to this thing or that thing, already, obedience has become attached to small fractions of the question. In reality, obedience is obedience to the whole of one's life; everything. And the whole of one's life, if we sense it properly, is comprehensive and consists of a universe — an entity which is a living organism, and far too vast to comprehend with one's intellectual mind.

 When I say that one's entire life is a living organism, it may seem obvious — after all, I am a living organism, am I not? And yet I don't see that my thinking mind, and the moment I am in, are just a fraction of a whole living being, a body, which is actually a body that exists through time and has a wholeness that belongs to God. The entire life I live itself is a Being, all of which does not belong to me, but belongs to God. It may be helpful, for conceptual purposes, to understand that the consciousness "I" experience in this instance which I call myself is not "me" at all, but an instantaneous construction that represents a single and infinitesimal fraction of the whole of "I," which consists of all Being experienced throughout the organism and the course of its life. 

This is one of the reasons that Gurdjieff described conscience the way he did, that is, more or less, the sensing of everything, of one's entire life and everything in it. The practical aspect of this experience — which is impossible to invoke or create, but can only be encountered — is mediated by the feeling quality, that is, the entry of higher emotion into Being. Much of what Meister Eckhart spoke about regarding the idea of God rushing in to a place where "I" abandon myself and empty myself completely of all ideas of myself relates to this. The talks of instruction (from which the opening quote is taken) discuss this idea in some detail in the first sections.

In any event, my obedience must be an inward obedience, and the obedience is obedience to my whole life, as it is. This life, with every single one of its constituents and components, is exactly and precisely the intention that God has for me; and to the extent that I try to manipulate, control, or invoke it on my own, to the extent that I attempt to touch it, rather than experiencing it, so I abandon true obedience.

 In regard to this, another quote from the complete mystical works, taken from the next page:

In truth, if a man gave up a kingdom or the whole world and did not give up self, he would have given up nothing. But if a man gives up himself, then whatever he keeps, wealth, honor, or whatever it may be, still he has given up everything.

This idea of keeping everything in the midst of abandonment seems, of course, quite impossible; yet taken from the point of view of higher feeling, conscience, and the inward flow of the divine, it is exactly right. It can't be rationally processed; and there is no point in trying to do so. The only absolute point is to come into touch with the inward flow and to derive understanding from this, which is a complete understanding, not any of the partial understandings we attempt to arrive at in this analysis through mind.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Commentaries on transcripts: the first transcript, part III

I suppose the question at this point may now be, why would an organic sensation of being give one a sense of individuality?

Our ordinary sense of individuality — of being a person — is almost invariably formed by our personality, that is, the associative thoughts which form and flow in relationship to external events. We take personality for granted; so much so that it is nearly impossible for us to think of being an individual as connected to any other part of what we are, of any other thing we know.

In this way, Gurdjieff's concept of essence is almost entirely forgotten in modern psychology; so one never hears psychologists and analysts talking about getting in touch with one's essence, and so on. Or, if one does discuss an essence of anything, it is the essence of personality that people infer. Essence as a separate conscious (or, more correctly said, unconscious) entity unto itself is either not understood or misunderstood.

When I say that it is misunderstood, what I mean is that people conceive of essence through personality; and it isn't possible to experience essence through personality. It is like saying that you can experience Beethoven by listening to Prokofiev or Mahler. The very idea is absurd; and yet it persists, because the experience of essence is unknown.

When Gurdjieff says that everything a personn thinks and does are lies (and he already brings up this concept on page 2 of the transcripts) what he means, at the root, is that one has no experience of essence; because essence is closely connected to sensation, and sensation cannot lie. Its mind is connected to instinct, that is, its roots lie at the deepest part of what it is to be; and as we shall see, later in these commentaries on the transcripts, instinct is perhaps the most important part with which one can make an inner effort.

In the arousal of sensation and the investment in the organic sense of being, we experience individuality in this sense: we are not divided into two; indivi— not divided, and dual— two parts.  The two parts come together; one is of the intellect, and personality, and one is of the body, of sensation, and essence.

The idea that one cannot think about sensation in order to understand it is made clear enough in what Gurdjieff says in this first transcript; what is necessary is the experience of and investment in it, which immediately brings one to a part of oneself that does not lie.

The reason we cannot invoke this or make it happen is because one cannot just tell a liar not to lie; the liar will always lie. It is in his nature. So it is in the nature of associative thinking to lie; and the only way to change the center of gravity on this issue is to bring to the table a part which doesn't participate in the lying. Now, the liar loves to run the show; he's used to it. So the minute a recognition of the lying takes place, the liar says, "Okay. Don't worry. I'm going to tell the truth now," which is automatically a lie, because nothing else can come from that part. The liar even invents imaginary parts that supposedly don't lie, and presents them saying, "Here you go. Look. I'm not lying! Isn't this great?"

The part which tells the truth — who engages only in being — is essence, tied firmly to organic sensation. Only this part doesn't lie; and since it is unknown, we buy into every statement the liar makes. It is only when the one who tells the truth shows up unambiguously and with his or her own authority than anything begins to change; and then the liar is astonished. 

He or she discovers that they were only ever half of the picture; and that the other half has all the authority in this area of not lying. 

If one is a smart enough liar, one immediately sees the advantage of forming an alliance with this part, since it can help one achieve things that are impossible under one's own volition. Suddenly one becomes capable of seeing a new kind of unity which rises above the trap one has been locked in for so long. This can be a subject of fascination; and it takes considerable study, because the organic sense of being needs to be welded to personality, and that takes years of practice. 

Just putting two people in the same room, who suddenly notice each other and become attracted, this does not make a marriage. Even having a priest officiate over it isn't enough; the marriage only takes shape over many years of hard work.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Commentaries on transcripts: the first transcript, part II

 It is something which makes you independent when you are with other people.

 — transcripts of Gurdjieff's wartime meetings, 1941 – 1946, page 5

The organic sense of being makes you independent when you are with other people.

 What this means is that one does not have a definite sense of "I" — of real Being — until this develops. The whole aim of inner work is, first of all, to develop this real "I", and one cannot have a real sense of self until at least one other mind is awakened.

 That being said, it must be pointed out that the feeling mind cannot awaken before the organic mind of sensation awakens, because the hierarchy of consciousness works according to laws. The three centers have to awaken in order if they wish to find conjunction and act in harmony; so feeling can't awaken on its own, or with any functional stability, in the absence of a connection between mind and body, simply because the functional relationship between the three is built on a range of harmonics that reinforce one another. There isn't enough strength for feeling to enter if intellect and sensation aren't already acting in concert together.

The understanding of this is quite distinct and very different from an understanding of the way the lower parts of the ordinary centers act — that is, intellect, the physical body, and emotion. These three properties belong to the material, or right side, of the enneagram, and their manifestation is what the alchemists called a relationship of coarse substances. Only the enlivening property of a higher energy can inwardly form the awakened consciousness within each center that is necessary for a conjunctive harmony between awakened centers to develop; and the progression is a logical one, based on law, not a random collision of hopes, beliefs, and wishes.

This is why so many decades are spent building an intellectual foundation, which event has to be translated into sensation of the body, first through effort and suffering. Then, once sensation becomes a living thing that is awakened, a prepared ground comes into existence—into which the awakened manifestation of feeling can manifest.

There are varying degrees and levels of sleep, as Gurdjieff pointed out; and they, as well, have distinctive hierarchies that can be identified. A man can be asleep in his intellect, or asleep in his emotion, or asleep in his body, or asleep in all three, as is, in fact, very common, in fact routine and almost the default. And there are degrees of sleep within that; they, too, are formed according to law, and I will simply give the most obvious initial explanation, that is, the intellect can be asleep in its intellectual part, its emotional part, or its physical part. Those who study and ponder these questions will begin to understand that it is not too difficult to see which parts are asleep in people if we understand that each center has three parts... and so on. These matters operate according to sciences which are nowhere near as obscure as those who insist on mystifying the Gurdjieff practice would have us believe.

In any event, an awakened intellect — that is, an intelligence that has come into direct contact with higher energy through effort and suffering — can assist in effort to undertake more suffering, up until an awakened organic sense of being arrives. I've said before that I don't think exercises can do this; and an astute reading of the first transcript verifies that exercises are not the point. It is the suffering that plays the central role in the acquisition of Being; and it is suffering that always and forever plays a central role in the awakening of the organic sense of being.

This goes some way towards explaining the unusual role of physical suffering in monastic and yogic practices; yet these are quite limited in their effectiveness, because physical suffering alone can be tolerated, and one may even learn to enjoy it, as masochists and sadists so amply demonstrate. It is emotional suffering, above all, that has to be engaged in; hence the practice of the non-expression of negative emotion, which has a direct effect on this area—unlike mechanical demands on the body, which look very impressive and cause great anguish, but have considerably less effect.

The harmonious interaction of intellect and sensation, if awakened, leaves an opening for feeling, but its arrival is not guaranteed. This once again takes years of effort and suffering, although a prepared ground is far more likely to receive the benefit of the feeling parts.

When these three parts act together, the transformation of Being begins. I say it begins here, because there is a difference between the acquisition of Being and the transformation of Being.

The acquisition of Being only makes the transformation of Being possible; and it is not guaranteed. So the creation of real "I," which seems to be such a vital aim in inner work, is merely the beginning of any real inner work for a human being.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Commentaries on transcripts: the first transcript, part I

 This is the first in a series of commentaries on the transcripts of Gurdjieff's Wartime Meetings 1941 – 46.

 I suppose that in embarking on such commentaries, one might as well point out that all published books are subject to critique and evaluation. Few are left who knew Gurdjieff the man personally; not only have I worked with a number of people who did, there are some few still alive who are friends of mine. Yet in the increasing absence of any living people at all who have spent time with him, it is left to us to try to understand him primarily from the records that are left.

Of necessity, and inevitably, these evaluations arise from opinion; any pretense to objectivity is foolishness. Nonetheless, those of us who have followed Mr. Gurdjieff's teachings for many decades, and who stand in a direct line of work that descended from him personally (I am a member of Dr. Welch's group) have a responsibility to carry on the efforts of understanding the work and passing what we can glean on to others.

As such, readers will have to understand that what follows is derived from my own understanding, which is, once again, inevitably partial. Nonetheless, having spent many years and countless hours not only pondering the sense and aim of existence, but living within it according to the principles, intentions, and manifestations which the work attempts to passed on to individuals, I have at least some meaningful sense of these matters.

Each of the transcripts contains a wealth of material that could be commented on; and, as loquacious as it appears I am — there is no sense in denying it at this late stage of my life — I could probably comment at great length on individual sentences in the book, and probably on most of the sentences, at that.

I will attempt to restrain myself, and keep my comments to the things that strike me as most interesting.

Let us begin with an overall observation about the first paragraph in the book, on page 1. Mr. Gurdjieff says, " must learn to work. Not only for yourself alone, but for others... You must work for yourself through the aim of being able to help them."

He follows this on page 2 with "Love of your neighbor; that is the Way."

 The theme of love of others comes up more than once in this book. The overarching premise is that our egoism is a damaging factor, that our selfishness destroys; and this principle is identical to the principle which Swedenborg advances in his description of heavenly versus hellish behavior. Gurdjieff's doctrine, which is an essential doctrine of unselfishness, can't possibly be divorced from Swedenborg's understanding of what the forces of the divine wish for us.

A second point that struck me in meeting number one derive from the following comments: "I will explain, but it is for later. In our solar system certain substances emanate from the sun and the planets, in the same way as those emanated by the earth, making contact at certain points in the solar system. And these points can reflect themselves and materialized images which are the inverted images of the All Highest — the Absolute." 

Gurdjieff goes on to describe these manifestations as, among other things, personalized. And he ascribes astral powers to them. But there can be no mistaking the initial premise, which is the doctrine of correspondences, an ancient doctrine which Swedenborg also wrote about at considerable length. Everything in the material world is, in one way or another, a reflection of the divine; this is a Sufi understanding as well, but is generally taken to be allegorical. There are much more literal interpretations of this doctrine which have deep roots in the sciences, roots which Swedenborg understood. Gurdjieff, a man also deeply interested in the sciences, manifested enough genius to grasp the principles which Swedenborg expounded on in more detail.

 The point I wish to make here, a point I have made before on many occasions, is that the connection between Swedenborg and Gurdjieff runs unusually deep, and has never been subjected to sufficient critical analysis, especially inside the ranks of the Gurdjieff practice itself. This is a work that ought to be undertaken by a group of people willing to dedicate themselves to examining the connections, as it will perform a great service to esoteric understanding in general. I would undertake it myself at greater length, but I currently have too many tasks on my plate, most of which involve drawing threads from an even wider range of fabrics together.


Perhaps the most important and singular remark made in this first transcript is a comment that corresponds to my own understanding of the organic sense of being, a subject that has been mentioned so many times in my essays readers probably feel it has been beaten to death.

On page 5, Mr. Gurdjieff  remarks, " must try to keep constantly the organic sensation of the body... Our aim is to have constantly a sensation of oneself, of one's individuality, this sensation cannot be expressed intellectually, because it is organic. It is something which makes you independent when you are with other people."

It has come to my attention that almost everyone I speak to has little or no understanding of the type of sensation that Gurdjieff speaks of; that is, an organic and a voluntary sensation, such as described by Jeanne de Salzmann in The Reality of Being.

This kind of sensation is not like ordinary sensation, and I do not try to have it. If I do not have it, I must try; because the effort is necessary. But I can't "do" it: and de Salzmann's efforts and writings stand as the most important coda and testimony to Gurdjieff's remarks on the matter, since she spent so much time trying to impart this foundational understanding to her pupils.

I know for a fact that the idea of voluntary and organic sensation is poorly understood, simply because I heard about such things for decades and did not understand them — although I thought I understood them. I'll never forget the time my own teacher challenged me on this in the 1980s, and managed to transmit something to me which made me see, for a moment, that I definitely didn't know what she was talking about. She definitely understood this question, at least from a particular point of view — and there is more than one. But at that time, I didn't, and I realized that. It took me another 15 years to gain a direct understanding — that is, a permanent understanding, not a temporary one or a flash of insight — on this matter, and it was only after suffering almost unbearable conditions in life, and absorbing them.

It brings to mind one of the other comments in this particular transcript, "without fire, there will never be anything. This fire is suffering, voluntary suffering, without which it is impossible to create anything. One must prepare, must know what will make one suffer and when it is there, make use of it."

 The difficulty in understanding the organic sense of being lies specifically in the fact that it cannot be expressed intellectually. One must be within the experience; and the experience of the organic sense of being emerges from what I call the second mind, that is, the mind of the body, which does not express things intellectually. It is unable to express things intellectually; and although the intellect can serve as a translator for it, translation is in many ways functionally impossible, because the languages are so fundamentally different that they are describing not different continents, but different planets, or perhaps even solar systems or universes. That is, ordinary sensation and voluntary sensation are completely divided by the difference between unconscious sensation and conscious sensation.

Conscious sensation is conscious by itself; I do not make it conscious. And this is the point Mr. Gurdjieff  attempts to make here.

 This essay is running a bit too long, so I will have to take up the question of the last sentence — it is something which makes you independent when you are with other people – in the next post.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Countdown, part II

In establishing valuation, I understand it according to aim or intention.

Then I measure objects, events, circumstances, and conditions to see how they align with my intention, and assign them value accordingly. This is an external evaluation, or, valuation of active manifestation in the material world.

However, before valuation takes place outwardly, it also has to take place inwardly. This is where the creation of aim and intention arises; inwardly, I make a decision about what my aim and intention are. These decisions relate to the perceptual intake and my comparison of the external world with my inner understanding (see the series of posts on organizational skills, July 28 through August 1.) In choosing, before I ever encounter valuation or the ability to apply statistics, I have to make intelligible decisions about what I wish for, about what my aim and intentions are.

A question arises for me about whether these deep inner wishes, these impulses which lie close to the core of Being, the values of the soul, can ever align properly using statistics.

I think I would apply here what I call the principle of the utmost wish; that is, the absolute inner wish of a man or a woman as they come into contact with their own soul.

To come into contact with the utmost wish, the great wish which is not just the wish of mankind but actually the wish of the Lord, of God, is a sacred action. This action is hidden from man under ordinary circumstances, because our psyches are too corrupted to contact it safely. Some of the secret teachings about chakras, and the hidden locations around the heart chakra ( at the center of the spine in the body) are about this; and adepts who have had this particular location opened in them will know the absolute value of both ecstasy and anguish, as they exist together simultaneously in an annihilation of what we understand, and everything we "are" in our ordinary minds. But a man should never undertake to do this themselves; it isn't safe. If this part is opened, the utmost wish may be revealed for a moment; but we do not have the strength of being to sustain such a thing. That kind of work is left to figures such as Buddha and Christ.

Nonetheless, the utmost wish, if a soul opens, provides a thin trickle of current into Being; and that utmost wish does guide the hand towards right action, no matter how unsteady the hand itself may be. The utmost wish relates, in fact, to the fifth obligolnian striving; this is the ultimate or final striving, to which all other strivings ultimately point,  and—as I have pointed out before—is actually Gurdjieff's version of the bodhisattva vow.

The current, once transmitted, is often lost in translation; one can only do one's best. But the deep inner wish emerges, and, through the translating mechanism — consciousness, to whatever degree it is developed — comes into an expression of aim, the birth of intention. To the extent that this is aligned with the utmost wish, it is always an intention or an aim for the good; and to the extent that it deviates from the inner path of righteousness, it falls by the wayside and can even create chaos and destruction. This is because the utmost wish always has power, even if it goes off the rails.

Statistics, numerical evaluations, can be a valuable tool in keeping things on the straight and narrow; yet they cannot be used as a substitute for choice and decision making. We cannot turn the process of choice into a machine and then walk away, trusting it to run smoothly; we cannot take a question of the exercise of morality and presume to apply a cookie-cutter template for it, then expecting it to function well. This is what fundamentalist religions do; and their weaknesses and flaws are evident. Although they would deny it if challenged, in a strange way, their approach is just as mechanical and unfeeling as the application of statistics alone, because they apply a formula; and a formula does not have to be made of numbers in order to be rigid and unyielding.

There is no intelligence in numbers, but only in the understanding of them; and the understanding of them is always relative to intention and aim. The understanding of intention and aim is always relative to the understanding of the utmost wish; so unless one understands the utmost wish, one's innermost love and desire, one's most righteous and sacred impulses, all of the tools that derive from it will be useless. They may have outer effects, but none of them will ever produce the kind of results that ought to accrue when acting from the sacred impulse. This is the terror of the situation; and this is the reason that societies and people will go down.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Countdown, part I

Given the struggle to understand what is good, what is moral, where I fall short, and how to choose, I wonder if statistics alone are good enough.

To some extent, we measure everything by the numbers in our society; statistics, it would seem, is supposed to provide us with objective answers. We use statistics to decide what kind of medical treatment to dispense; to decide what salaries should be, to decide where taxes should be spent. Statistics also dominate our sciences; it seems we live by averages and attempts to establish optimal outcomes.

I think metrics are a good thing; I use them all the time in business to determine priorities. For example, a program that is worth more money to the company ought to become a priority in terms of attention. It's not that different in personal life; the expenses that represent the greatest liabilities are the ones that have to have the greatest attention paid to them. Even in the life of a beehive, statistics dominate; its livelihood depends on how many workers the queen can produce, how much honey it can store, and so on. We measure everything by numbers.

It's impossible to conceive of a universe without numbers, since they seem to dominate everything we do. Numbers are all about counting and measurement; and it does seem as though counting and measurement, although they are abstractions produced by consciousness, run the universe. Perhaps the odd thing is that if consciousness ceased to exist, in a certain sense, statistics and numbers would still run the universe; they seem to have an existence that transcends consciousness itself, and is embedded in the nature of the material. Or, perhaps better said, expressed by the nature of the material; because the numbers themselves are not material.

Numbers, like time, don't actually exist; they are simply an expression of relative quantity. Subjectively – and perhaps even objectively — this is governed by numbers, yet we can all agree, I think, that we have made the numbers up. The relative quantities, just like the juxtaposition of objects and the exchange of properties between them (time), are all that actually exist. One could make up an uncountable number of ways to count them, and in the end, it would just be a relativity of quantity.

As such, it is probably peculiar of us to believe that we can derive a manifestation of good, or of bad, from the manipulation of numbers, yet we do this all the time. When you are selling things, under ordinary circumstances, a big number is good, and a small number is bad. The same can be said of profits; or lives saved. We measure by quantity; and we measure success by quantity. A lot of success is, supposedly, better than a little success. On the other hand, measurement alone does not imply success, failure, goodness, or badness; a lot of bad behavior is worse than a little bad behavior. And a lot of death in a war is worse than a little death.

Efforts to say that one death and a million deaths are equally bad (or good, if the deaths are "the deaths of the enemy") don't seem to fly, in my eyes. Scale does, to some extent, determine value. So we value through measurement; and valuation must come first, because we need to know whether the valuation "a lot is good and a little is bad" applies or not in any given situation.

In this way, we determine that valuation trumps numerics. First we determine what our values are; and then we begin counting. It is, it would seem, in our nature to count; we can hardly resist it.

 Thereby, I think it has been reasonably demonstrated that statistics alone do not provide any determination of valuation; valuation comes first.

Valuation derives from intention, or aim; first, I must know what my intention or my aim is, and only then can I determine what valuation is. That which serves the intention or serves the aim must be called the good; and that which frustrates or obscures or blocks the intention or aim is the bad.

Once again though, I must go back down through another layer of the onion towards the core; because there are two levers at work here, one an inner and one an outer lever.

 I will explain this tomorrow.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The impulse of charity, part V

 I want to come back to an idea I don't think I treated sufficiently from the first installment in this series; that is, the idea that we aren't actually moral, that we just want to look moral to others.

Swedenborg made a great deal of this problem; and he couched it in the context of intentionality. We might, here, be called to remember that Gurdjieff made a great deal of intentionality; and to this day, those who follow his practice try to understand what it means to have an intention. The fact that Swedenborg made this a central part of his teaching is lost on most Gurdjieffians, who (in my experience) for the most part haven't ever read his material, if they have ever indeed heard of him at all; and yet it is in my eyes certain that Gurdjieff's teachings on the matter are directly related to Swedenborg's understandings.

One can, in other words, understand exactly why Gurdjieff placed such great emphasis on intention by reading Swedenborg.

 Swedenborg's contention was that the majority of people do things the way they do them outwardly simply because they don't want to look bad to others. There is a general agreement within relationships, societies, and cultures that one ought to do things in such and such a way; and people generally conform to them because they don't want to look like they are nonconformists. Morality, above all, forces people into these niches; no one wants to look amoral, so everyone behaves as though they were obeying the morality of the moment, the day, and the time. They do this not because of any fundamental belief in the morality; it is basically not much more than a form of codependency. Most people believe little or nothing of the moralities they are taught by rote, a fact that is illustrated over and over again by the overwhelming preponderance of crime in society, whether petty and white-collar, or violent. People obey the morality of the moment in their society in order to disguise their real feelings and actions, which are almost always selfish and crude. We are all like this; anyone who issues themselves a chit excusing them from this classroom is delusional.

Everyone has inward intentions that are different than their outer action; everyone lies. Gurdjieff's seemingly harsh statements about this subject, where he said that we lie about everything, were specifically aimed at the way that we conceal intentions and are not truthful about what we intend, either to ourselves or others. We wear masks; we pretend to be things we are not. We too often construct a shining, polished personality, that covers up a corrupted and perverted essence. Hieronymus Bosch's  Garden of Earthly Delights is, among other things, an allegory of this condition.

The point about our lying is that our intentions are all about what we really wish for; the façade we present to people, our personality, is just a construction we use to conceal ourselves from others. Swedenborg reported that the personality evaporates after we die, leaving only our essence; and that the condition of our essence, which houses our real intentions, determines whether we go to heaven or hell.

So just conforming to what is expected externally is not enough when it comes to charity; we must never do things just because of how it looks to other people. Yet, if one examines one's inner conditions and actions carefully, I believe one will find — as I do — that so much of what takes place is done exactly to impress other people.

The distinction between this particular kind of action and a real action that is born of an intention that has a freedom, and independence, is a definite one that can be seen. That is to say, the action of the ego is specific enough to be identified, as long as one is not completely identified with it.

Morality and charity that depend on how things look are not real morality and charity. If mankind wishes to be moral and charitable, we must move past that which looks good into that which costs something; and the first thing it needs to cost is our illusions about ourselves.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The impulse of charity, part IV

 In seeing where we are, what we are actually capable of — what we can do — and the objects, events, circumstances, and conditions around us, we discover we can't do that much.

Even Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, with billions upon billions of dollars, can't affect the world that much. It seems clear enough by now that with trillions of dollars at one's disposal, one could not save all the people that need saving, feed all the children, cure all the diseases, or correct all of the evils that are done. One could not stop the wars. The forces of evil are, essentially, unstoppable; because they are part of the machine that runs the universe, part of what is real. As I have pointed out a number of times during the course of this year, the bad is a servant of the good; it defines it. According to Swedenborg, Ibn al Arabi, Meister Eckhart, Sri Anirvan, and other significant esoteric authorities, things are arranged this way so that we will be required to make a choice.

We must, in other words, choose to be moral: not have it imposed on us. This is vitally important. Swedenborg maintained that choice was so important that God, in his wisdom, never interfered with the man's right to choose. Miracles are so rare because they are, in essence, coercive. If a human being witnesses a miracle, they are more or less compelled to believe in God; and God never wants man to love Him or believe in Him through force, any more than a man wants a woman to love him, or a woman wants a man to love her, just because he or she forces them to.

Love cannot be demanded; love cannot be forced. Love must be voluntary. It has to be chosen.

Readers may recall that the whole nature of inner presence is predicated on voluntarism; that is to say, the various centers of consciousness must come together voluntarily, each conscious part of one's being must arrive of its own volition, not because it is coerced, forced, or demanded to be there. These principles are actually closely related, even though the inner and the outer may seem different; and it is profitable to study this question carefully.

Our morality must come together in an inward way where we choose it. This takes place because we suffer; it takes place because we are willing to examine who we are. When we engage in this action, when we question who we are and we suffer for it, the morality that emerges in us is a real one; and then we can make real choices, based on an inner understanding, rather than that which others tell us is right or wrong. If our inner understanding is properly formed, it is always formed around the divine seed of the sacred within Being; and so a real morality can almost never get things wrong, although it may become quite messy in its collision with the confusions of external life. Yes, we may engage in error; but our impulse will be righteous, our impulse will be pure and emerge from a right thought and a right action, and that is the most important thing. Moral impulses that emerge automatically based on form, without struggling and suffering the realities of choice and the limitations of ability, are crippled from the beginning. They presume impossible abilities; they propose impossible solutions.

Moral choices themselves involve sacrifice. One cannot engage in any act of charity without already sacrificing something; because it is automatically true, before one starts, that one can't feed all the orphans. One can't give all of the children in Africa medicine. It simply isn't possible. And so every action one takes inevitably takes away from some other action one might have taken. This is the devil of the details; this is the anguish-in-fact which we must deal with. In the face of this situation, we have to make intelligent choices that weigh the alternatives and do, if nothing else, the least harm, even if they don't do the most good. How often have we seen charitable and morally valid impulses fail because of unrealistic expectations or naïve action? It is all too common. We have to suffer our choices in order to make them real; and suffering our choices will always involve disappointing people on both ends of the spectrum who want the impossible, either for themselves, or for others.

This question of volunteerism is essential. I can and must suffer and choose what is moral for me; this inner work, which precedes any outer work I do in the area, is my sacred responsibility. But I cannot do this for other people. Although I can bond with like-minded individuals who share my moral impulses; I cannot tell others how much they must share, because this would be coercion. The whole JudaeoChristian ethic is based on teaching through action and the personal assumption of responsibility.

We ought not tell others what they must do, we ought to show them what we do. In this way, through introspection, suffering, and then the setting of examples, we demonstrate right action, rather than trying to legislate it.

The very belief that we can legislate right action first, before we understand it properly or engage in it, is a dangerous one. It's true that our government is founded on such ideas; but we can see how well that is working. As Gurdjieff maintained throughout his objective critique of mankind, it is the inward condition of man's Being that is broken; and everything else he does is broken because of it.

 Into this comes the agency of choice. And the agency of choice develops and grows through seeing and suffering.  So in our impulses to be charitable, our impulses to be moral, our impulses to help others, we always and forever come back to our own willingness to see ourselves and suffer ourselves for what we are: this is what can help us in these aims.

If we do not begin here, there is no beginning.