Friday, October 24, 2014

Liquid Silver

Commentaries on Transcripts of Gurdjieff's meetings, 1941-46

Luc: I was exhausted by my negative emotions organically. Today, I have never felt so well, so animated.

Gurdjieff: Never have you had, previously, any liquid silver. You must feel that you have today some liquid silver.

Transcripts of Guirdjieff's Wartime Meetings, p. 26

It's quite difficult to describe the exact nature of the inward flow of the divine Being— the substance of Self— with ordinary words. To refer to the organic sense of Being, or Presence, is quite correct, and more often than not, when Gurdjieff says that one should have a sense of one's Presence, he is referring to the organic sense of Being, which is so closely tied to cellular sensation — a sensation radically different than ordinary sensation.

Yet the arrival of sensation itself—taken as a permanent, and not ephemeral, condition—is not at all enough. Although sensation has a living quality, there is also an energy that feeds it, and not all of this energy is derived from air — the second being food, or, "help for the moon," as Gurdjieff claims the citizens of Atlantis called it:

The beings of the continent of Atlantis then named the second being-food 'amarloos,' which meant 'help for the moon,' and they named the third being-food the sacred 'amarkhoodan,' which signified for them 'help for God.'

—Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, p. 718

The energy that feeds all of the processes of living in Being within a conscious state — which is a state related to the manifestation of all centers above all specifically in relationship with a higher energy— is a part of that living inflow of energy depicted in the fountain on the left-hand side of the Garden of Earthly Delights.

This object shows a process that takes place within human beings—the inward flow of the substance of the divine as it manifests on this level.

This is the "liquid silver" Gurdjieff refers to in is comment to his pupil. The expression is a good one; I have worked for many years to describe the phenomenon as it arrives, and although there are other analogies, I'm unable to come up with a better one.

He describes the energy as liquid because it is ubiquitous, flowing throughout the body with prejudice, entering into all of the elements of Being and enlivening them.

And he calls it silver because it is a precious element—let us be clear about that, because it is an element in the strictest sense of the word, that is, an entity which is whole and unified within itself and cannot be reduced to any lesser components. As a precious element, it enhances everything it touches; and indeed, we need this for our inner work, as he indicates.

What he is instructing Luc to sense here is that he has this liquid silver in him, this inward flow; it is what is sustaining him and animating his Being.

The need here is to come into a direct sensory contact with that inward flow: Gurdjieff tells him he "must feel it," that is, it is his responsibility to feel it; he must respond to it by consciously sensing the nature of the inner energy.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Can't be explained.

 The darkness gives way to perfection; the sun rises into perfection, and it sets into perfection. It is all a whole thing; and it is one day. It may be this day; for me, it is. But it is every day.

This day and every day are filled with nothing but impossible things, all of which exist. I can't explain that. I can't, in fact, explain anything; yet I am intelligent. What I do see is that I can obey — I can open to these impressions, obey this life, and come into alignment in such a way that I express a right obedience in my Being.

When this takes place, all of the perfections belong to me as much as they belong to those things which are perfect. I'm not significant; but the perfection is, and my awareness makes the relationship possible in which it is acknowledged.

Ah — so difficult to explain. How can one take the yellow leaves, the blue sky, and print them in letters anywhere? They are printed in the soul, and nowhere else. That is good enough; and yet one wants more, one wants the soul to not only take in the world, but to pour it back out with generosity. One wants to both hold the world and let go of it at the same time. Can't be explained.

 I wish I could learn to love perfectly in the way that creation loves perfectly; but, of course, that perfect love is merely a reflection of even greater love that births it. I see that my own self, as it flows through me, is flawed; and yet even within this flawed nature, it participates. Even the flaws are correct; can't be explained.

I wish to be within myself so much that I am not myself anymore; I sense a much greater truth than anything my mind can think of here, within this Being.

I can't eliminate what is outward and ordinary in me; they are the canvas on which Being is painted.

Sometimes, I can even feel the colors being applied to me.

 Can't be explained.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Being and manifestation

Underneath every active external manifestation, Being.

 There is nothing but Being, which is forever born within. This is the understanding I wish to come to — and the understanding I participate in all day, every day. If life doesn't begin here, there is no living.

In order to come into contact with Being, Being must be a living thing — not an idea in my head. Reading books about it and discussing with other people all happens after the fact, if the fact happens.

 Life is such a precious thing, which begins from within, and takes in what is outward so deeply, if it is given the opportunity. There is a richness here, a beauty, a deep love that never fails, as long as I am present to it.

One could ask for much more, I suppose; and indeed, there is much more available, according to how available I am myself. Yet even to begin, this is enough. In this is the beginning of gratitude; the beginning of prayer, the beginning of love. As long as these things begin in me, there is an endlessness available to them. These qualities aren't meant to be finite; each one is an active exploration of Being, and none of them has limits within themselves, only the ones described by how available I am.

 I find it unprofitable to complain about how one can't put anything real into words. I think that this idea simply arises because many folk lack imagination; words are as good as anything for what is real and what isn't. They are an external manifestation, it's true; and yet they belong to Being as much as any part of me. Why throw them out or alienate them? Every rejection is a devaluation. It is, I find, surprising to see how many rejections of this kind slip on a mask of spirituality in order to pretend they are valid. Taking life in — that is real.

There is nothing to reject in life, if I accept what life is.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 16

Third anniversary of my sister's death.

Look, my dear,
The sky is lightening—
I am no longer in the dead of night:

My fear now somehow softer
Than the sin of my transgressions.
Perhaps now I can love
Without the thoughts of retribution.
Lay vengeance-laden ways aside,
In favor of a better world,

Where honest sorrows are the kings and queens,
The night a womb, and not a crypt.

I'll slip each care into its daily coffin,
Loving the lady—

She is with me even now.

Slip soft wings of prayer around my shoulders.


Monday, October 20, 2014

The clockmaker's dilemma, part II

So there's this "system," this game plan, consisting of a teaching; a form. It isn't quite adequate; and there are even teachings that take the form of espousing no form, admonishing us, with words, not to engage in the use of words. The contradictions are striking; yet they get swallowed whole. People discuss them in all seriousness without appreciating the irony; and for the most part, it seems as though the ironies, the contradictions, are not understood exactly because these teachings, forms, and words are all outward aspects of an inward form.

The outward parts are evident enough; they can't be any other way. Trying to tell them not to have words or not to have a form is futile; that is their very nature in the way of their outwardness. So already, if I tell outwardness not to have a form, I am misunderstanding the nature of inwardness and outwardness, and mixing them. I might as well tell ice not to be cold, or the sun to emit darkness. This simple and inescapable point is entirely glossed over, because it sounds so much more mysterious, impressive and important to speak about not speaking and utter words about the banishment of words. People widen their eyes in awe and amazement; how profound it sounds!

This focus on making the outward what it is already not and can never be distracts us from turning our inner eye inward, because we are so involved with the outward and how we ought to deny it, banish it, change it—in other words, basically, devalue and diminish it. This via negativa of the outward may purport to turn us towards the inward—but I doubt it. We cannot make the leopard change its spots; instead, we might want to consider the idea that there is another leopard, which is spotless.

It's this inward form, this unseen mechanism of Being- which is not a thing, but a force-that marks the increments of time and change, and sets the measurements from which all outwardness flows. Getting into touch with that may indeed be formless and wordless—but this makes no shame of forms and words, it simply reminds us that they are not quite enough. Alone, they are partial.

We can't get rid of them; but they can be incorporated—taken into the body of Being—rather than expropriated from the outwardness they rightly belong to.

To have outwardness incorporated, taken into the body, is another way of saying that I allow my outwardness to come into me as an impression, not rejecting it or judging it, but allowing it.

I let my clockmaker do his work; it is an intimate work.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The clockmaker's dilemma, part I

Dutch Burr-Walnut clock by Rutgerus van Meurs,
18th century Amsterdam
Private Collection


Do you connect everything in life to the system / the work? Do you look to the teaching of the system to all things in your life when necessary? For example, when handling un-useful habits or negative emotions and you notice them arising, are you reminded of what the system "says" about it, and can you thus 'do the right thing?' 


There is a fine old clock in a train station. 

It is gummed up and untuned, and isn't working correctly; and so all the trains run late, or early, or not at all. 

The public, seeing how confused the trains are, raises a huge outcry, and great energy is turned towards fixing the trains, the schedules, and the layout of the station. Politicians get involved (they always do.) No one thinks that the issue begins with the fact that the clock isn't working properly. The dysfunctions it is causing are great, and they absolutely get all the attention.

Finally, the clock problem is recognized by a few more perceptive but relatively minor bureaucrats, and after a lot of effort and argument a very young, somewhat naive clockmaker is employed.

At once, instead of allowing him to work quietly on the clock, dealing with the very fine details of machinery that are absolutely necessary in order to correct the time, the public demands that he participate in the rewriting of schedules, rerouting of trains, and so on. He isn't even capable of doing that. What he can do is slowly and quietly make very fine adjustments to the clock so that eventually, all the trains will come back onto schedule; but he's young and easily influenced and distracted. Instead he succumbs at once to the pressures of the outside world, and his energy is wasted on all the uproar that started the need for his work inside the clock in the first place.

Sometimes he dies before he ever actually gets to open the clock and make any adjustments; but because he becomes completely identified with the uproar, even convinced of what the others have told him, he thinks he's accomplishing something.


This is a very interesting question to me. 

I think it begins with the fact that people generally confuse everything about inner work. The moment they hear the words, they hear them outwardly; and everything that ought to become inward is automatically and mechanically turned outward.

In part, this is because people's thinking is actually very weak; all the thinking is generally outward, that is, automatic and mechanical, whereas thinking ought above all to be inwardly inspired, and begin there.

Outward thinking turns inner work into outward action; this is adultery and mixing of the worst kind. All inner works can be perverted in this way; and they generally are, because so few understand what it is to work inwardly, that is, according to the actual influence of a higher energy.

This idea that any system of inner work can be "used" to fix outward life and "do" things is to misunderstand both the direction and nature of inner work. Inner work is intended to change essence; and this is an inward quality that exists and influences action before anything ever takes place. As such, inner work is turned to the origin of causes, not the amelioration of effects. If I turn my attention to the origin of causes, that is, the original self, the effects will take care of themselves. But this doesn't produce the immediate results that people demand, and think is their right.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

The roots of sensation

I've been talking about the organic sense of being and the roots of sensation for many years now; I originally used the term in May 2008 to describe a permanent and complete sensation of Being, as opposed to ordinary physical sensation.

Of course, my initial comments were almost a year before the publication of Transcripts of Gurdjieff's meetings, 1941-46; and I point this out to readers so that they understand I didn't crib the term from the existing literature (as per meeting transcript # 2) as various suspicious souls may be inclined to think.  I called it that because that is what it is; and Gurdjieff used same words, because there aren't any other words for it.

The organic sense of being is an objective condition, not something one can make up; and no one can mistake it for anything than what it is if one has it. Of course, I have said this before as well; but I want readers to well understand that they should make no mistakes in understanding, that is, one absolutely has to see that this question is entirely different than one's ordinary conception of sensation.

We have the ability to become rooted in the body in a quite literal sense, that is, to have an experience of the roots themselves, so that we are the roots, we become the roots. The roots are what feed Being; and one doesn't experience Being without these roots, because the plant of Being can't be nourished if it isn't tapping into the level below it for its nutrients. Without this, everything remains theoretical and hypothetical; and of course this is the center of gravity for a very great deal of so-called inner work. Nothing becomes practical until one knows the difference. Theory can pose as practice under ten thousand different conditions; be wary of it.

 Practice fundamentally begins with the organic sense of being, which is rooted, and this never happens until and unless one comes into relationship with a higher energy. That relationship waxes and wanes in exactly the same way that the moon does; and indeed, initially, these influences are under lunar rule. Over time, as roots deepen and the experience of Being grows, the influences shift and become predominantly solar; this represents a different kind and level of action. It does not eclipse the lunar action, so to speak; the action of the roots of being always remains, but different actions take place in terms of the solar influences.

 The important thing to remember, I find, is that I can't work without this energy.

I find that one of the greatest mistakes I see people make in inner work is in thinking that they can work without relationship to a higher energy. That relationship must always come first; and unless the energy is there, and there is an intimate connection to it, that is, a fecund, procreative, and essentially fearless and loving relationship, there is no food for real work on Being. In the absence of such food, the mind can get itself up to all kinds of nonsense; and it does. Everything that leads up to receiving of the energy which feeds Being is preparation, only. One can't really call it "work." It is just setting up the furniture in the studio. But one can sometimes set up furniture for so long that one thinks the whole point of effort is to set up furniture, not to have guests come in and sit on it.

 In order to begin any inner work, I need to seek the root of Being; and I need to hope that the root of Being will seek me. It is only when we join together here that anything begins. Here, there can be a kind of continuity in Being that is lacking in the temporary nature of mind.

That is the thread that connects us to what is real in life.


Friday, October 17, 2014


The difficulty with understanding an organic sense of Being is that almost everybody I know seems to confuse this question of the word sensation with an ordinary sensation.

That is to say, there is an ordinary sensation that arises that is tangible to the mind. The mind perceives it; and the mind sees it as existing outside the mind, that is, it is owned by the mind, and is not understood as its own event and its own action.

This kind of "mind-sensation" is what all of our senses bring to us. We have a wide variety of sensations in us; they are biological. There is a sensation of organs, such as hunger in the stomach; the sensation of pain in the foot, of movement in the arm, the sensation of touch and the skin, hot and cold, of seeing things and hearing things, and so on. But these are sensations that take place on this level, and they are mechanical biological functions, not an active awareness of sensation. The active awareness sensation begins rooted deep in the body, down in the cells, and it is no exaggeration to say that a real, a living, sensation extends to every cell such that every cell speaks of its own being within the context of life itself. In a certain way the whole point of this sensation is that it contacts us from a lower level — and that is a critical understanding, because if we do not have contact with this lower level, it shuts off contact with any higher levels. We are a system that connects levels; not a level unto ourselves.

To be sure, the overall effectiveness of living sensation waxes and wanes according to the inner structure and energy levels of the organic body; but this kind of sensation is like a gentle fire that burns forever down at the bottom of life, where it gives warmth to everything that exists. The origin of life and being are connected to this sensation; and it is not the same as the biological sensations we are accustomed to. Merely developing an awareness of those sensations, a greater attention to them, is not at all enough. It is quite different than the kind of sensation that Gurdjieff and de Salzmann asked us to understand.

Most of the attention exercises, and almost all of the attention that goes in the sensation, end up contacting this biological sensation, rather than living sensation of Being; whereas the sensation that ought to arrive is completely different than that in the end. This is the danger of exercises. One can do sensation exercises for decades and even become an adept at them and still not understand what the sensation of the organic sense of being consists of. This is, unfortunately, "normal."

Allowing the mind to conceive of this from any ordinary point of view and use its ordinary understanding to touch the question is ultimately useless. One has to open to a new kind of sensation, a completely different sensation, that creates an inner revolution in terms of awareness — a revolution of inner energy, not the action of thinking about inner energy.

Real inner energy thinks on its own and for itself — not because of me, and not on behalf of me. This particular kind of sensation which gives rise to organic being is a part of that revolution; in fact, as I said before and have said many times, it is the roots of the revolution, the place where everything begins.

In a certain sense, one has to begin by dismissing everything one thinks one knows about sensation, and starting over. One has to know sensation from sensation itself; that is, sensation must become the knowing—

which balances the knowing of the mind in an entirely new way.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Self-remembering, part IV

Let's put this question in Christian terms.

In manifestation in the material world, the divine self divides itself into an infinite number of particles that are emanated from divinity into the fractured nature of the universe as we experience it; and some measure of those fractured particles, according to level and order, assemble themselves into reflections of God's consciousness.

In diving Himself, God surrenders His divine form in an act of abject sacrifice. This enables Him to be born and to manifest on this level; but in a severely reduced state. His emanations arise and flow through the heart, the center of the spine, into the Being that gives each of us life; and in doing so, God is made man in the same way as Christ is made man-all the attendant suffering and sacrifice exemplified by Christ's life and death thus utterly incumbent upon each individual manifestation of God. God denies Himself in order to give us life; our own life is, in other words, a sacrifice of God's very own life on our behalf. In this way Christ has already died for our sins before we are born; it is in the fact of our birth itself that Christ's sacrifice is already implicit, since God dies that we may be born.

This is one of the esoteric meanings of the Holy Denying force. In denying Himself, God gives birth to us; and in self-remembering, we return (if and insofar as we are able) to God, returning the favor of His Mercy by giving himself back to himself (one of the esoteric meanings of the worm ouruboros.)

Christ's sacrifice objectifies this action by demonstrating that just as God dies for us, so we must die for God. The fact that the divine emanation of self, of Being, takes place within us in each moment of life as the divine inflow enters us and creates our being places an action of divinity at the heart of our lives; and this is why Christ calls us to be as He is, that is, to return to the sensation of this inherent divinity. This, in the end, is what self remembering is: the remembering not of myself in this life, but of God in this life. One is reminded of Ibn 'Arabi's remark that we are vicegerents of divinity. It is an essentially Swedenborgian action; we realign with the inflow, and rediscover the essence of our own Being as the essence of God.

It is, as well, no different than what Meister Eckhart calls us to. We are meant, as Christ did, to become God; not as the tyrants of our own Being, but as servants of His.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Self Remembering, part III

Because the self, on this level, has a precise nature—an emanation of divinity according to the physical and spiritual laws of this level, seamlessly blended within a human being—self-remembering consists of remembering that nature.

This means that self remembering always begins with a conscious relationship to the divine emanation that initially creates self and being, at the center of the spine. The awareness needs to invest itself within self, that is, sense the eternal and continuous arising of life and being from this inner "point" of origin. All of life radiates outward from this point through sensation into the rest of the body.

Self-remembering is, unfortunately, a degenerate science in its present form because it has so often been inadvertently turned into an outward science, deeply tied to various psychological theories that have little or nothing to do with the essence of the question. One cannot in the least remember one's self without coming into relationship with a higher energy; and yet people think they can "do" this in ten thousand different ways, none of which begin with a sensation of the higher energy, the actual emanation of the original self, which is constantly and eternally re-created within the heart of Being at every instant.

The correct remembering of self begins with sensation, because the emanation of self into being through the divine inflow finds its origins and understanding rooted first in the sensation of life, not in the thought of life. (There is, to be sure, a thought of life, but it is a higher entity, and we are not on a level where that can be properly comprehended, even though most people obsessively seems to think it's possible.)

If all this is true, one might ask, what are the relevant natures of energy at the top and the bottom of the spine?

The energy at the top of the head is a separate energy which comes as help. This energy does not belong to self as we know self. If and when we can open to it, it is quite critical in terms of lending assistance, but that assistance stands apart from our responsibility to come into relationship with our own Being through the sensation of self at the center of the spine.

The energy at the base of the spine is actually a root into the sensation of the body, which anchors being; but this also serves as a point through which the energy we serve flows outward into lower levels.

In this way, we come to understand that self, as referred to in the words self-remembering- is actually a radiant inner force of Being which creates this life, emanating directly from a divine source. When we remember the self, we do so by understanding its energetic nature, and the fundamentally generative and creative role it plays in our inner being. In order to understand this we need to come into relationship with a higher energy which, although it is higher, is properly of this level. That is to say, it functions according to the laws of this level.

The organ kundabuffer took this fundamental ability away from man. It tied his sensation first to pleasure, and only afterwards to service; and this is why Gurdjieff said that it caused man to perceive the world "topsy turvy." The correct order of Being, as it emanates from the divine, is to understand the principle of pleasure serving; and mankind was rearranged to service pleasure. This inversion needs to be corrected.

The action of self-remembering is, in other words, an inner action in which we turn the face of our soul back towards the divine—and we do this through sensation of Being, not through outward action and psychology.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Self Remembering, part II

In order to understand what the self actually is on this level— which is entirely proper and possible, since in dealing with self on this level we deal with the self of this level first—it's necessary to understand what the self of this level consists of first, before we consider why we ought to remember it—or why, in fact, we ever forgot it in the first place.

In order to do this, we'll need to make a wide-ranging excursion through a variety of subjects. First of all, we need to understand that the self manifests primarily through "receivers" of energy within the spinal column.

The reason that the organ Kundabuffer was originally created in man was because if he retained the normal sense of Being that creates a Self capable of objective reason, upon seeing that his efforts would all merely serve a form of cosmic slavery, he would on principle destroy himself; that is, simply  put, the circumstances in which he dwelt would be seen as intolerable.

In order to prevent this, the organ Kundabuffer was implanted; and, while its chief effects were material and measurable, above all the effect it had was to cause man to be unable to properly sense his self.

Now, the cosmic individuals who installed this aberrant factor in man ought to have foreseen its consequences; but they did not. The location in which the organ was implanted was the base of the spine; and the sense of self is located specifically in the spine.

In order to properly understand this we need first of all to understand that the sense of individual self is the holy denying property of the universe. The reason is simple: to experience one's self as separated from God, one denies God; self affirmation can only come at the expense of unity, relative to the unity of the absolute. All manifestation of Being short of God Himself is a denial of God, since it separates from that selfsame unity.

Man, as a microcosmos ( a tiny model of the entire cosmos) reflects that system through the nervous system, connected by the vertical structure of the spinal column.

The head represents the holy affirming force, that is, unity of all selves; the spine, holy denying, that is, individual self; and the nerve nodes which convey sensation are, in the case of mankind, the holy reconciling force.

What is most important to understand here, in the midst of what might turn out to be a rather complicated story, is that the sense of self on this level manifests in spinal energy. The serpent, in ancient art, ultimately represents the self; and the serpent that tempted Eve is, in essence, self will. Self will tempts us to pick and eat the material fruits of existence without respect for the higher. In a certain sense the whole history of mankind follows on this action.

The spinal column of a human Being receives and transmits the energy of Being through three principle locations; but the energy of self and of Being which manifests on this level—which is the part we are primarily concerned with right now—is in the center of the spine, where the "heart" is located. Generally speaking, people reading about and discussing the heart confuse it with the actual organ that pumps blood, whereas the spiritual heart of human beings- which is the heart referred to in all esoteric practice—is actually a central point that has no actual physical dimension, located in the upper chest and more or less in the exact center of the spine, "inside" the spine. I say "inside" in quotation marks because the physical location is radiant and can't be limited by a definition.

The spiritual self, or Being, of an or woman radiates outward from this precise point, where it is received on this level according to the divine inflow, or influence, which flows into man and gives Being life. This emanation of life itself, and the consequent arising of one's created, living Being, is forever arising and being birthed from this source of inflow. It is the radiant creation of Self by God that manifests on this level.

More tomorrow.




Monday, October 13, 2014

Self Remembering, part I

Art in the Periphery of Empire

The word self means a person's essential being; the part that distinguishes one from others.

It's important to understand this word first by being precise about its ordinary meaning. People in various kinds of inner work often seem to want to begin from the extraordinary and dismiss the ordinary; but this is like trying to understand advanced calculus before one has mastered simple arithmetic. We must first understand from the context in which we are in before we start imagining how we will fly with angels.

So the word self has a quite precise and specific meaning; and if we want to remember the self we are attempting to remember our individuality,  what sets us apart from others. Some readers may recall Gurdjieff's statement that the organic sensation of Being is what creates our individuality; and indeed, in other remarks, recorded by Ouspensky and never published, he makes further statements to this effect. No matter; what I write on the subject is already quite enough, since it does not derive from third party quotes, but my own direct understanding.

There are, however, other dimensions to the question of self-remembering. The term has an exact meaning that can be explained very precisely indeed; and it may not mean what readers expect it to mean, a point we shall soon get to.

Self is the qualities that make an individual unique. What exactly are these qualities?  Usually, we ascribe them to personality; and perhaps this outward understanding is sufficient for most folks. Yet one doesn't see how utterly this dominates; and how absolutely divorced it is from actual self, the part which is rooted in the original manifestation of Being.

In mankind, this original manifestation of Being takes place along the vertical axis of the spine; and the nature of being in relationship to this manifestation can be exactly described because it conforms to an esoteric scientific principle, that is, there is an objective nature to the self which is not so far removed from ordinary understanding as to defy description.

This is another soft spot at the heart of esotericism, which easily attracts weak minds. There is above all a wish to rise above this level; and an egoistic wish to sound very important by making self important noises alluding to the fact that one can't understand, there are no words, etc. These things are true; but they belong to a level other than the one we are on, and our understanding must begin here. We cannot understand outside of the level we are on; to do so is to arrogate to myself qualities and responsibilities I do not have and can never have, because I am on this level. I emphasize this because so much of esoteric thinking and work-effort seems to be directed at the idea that I can transcend this level instead of inhabiting it. Yet if I am on this level, and there is a meaning to it, perhaps I belong exactly here.

Being on this level comes with a specific set of restrictions, limitations and laws I must work within; and while I may be able to become free of some few of them, I will then simply come under other laws. Until I die, I remain here on this level. The inner work that has to be done is on this level, not on the higher levels I enjoy prattling on about as though I were already on them, picking sweet grapes and berries to pop into my mouth. (There are an awful lot of these berry-pickers around. Watch for them, they are the ones with rose-colored glasses on.)

I will discuss this precise and eminently definable aspect of self tomorrow so that we can better understand what self-remembering actually is and truly consists of.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Woman and Man

Question from A.P.:

On pg. 154 of 'To Live Within', Sri Anirvan says the following:

"A woman can reach this awakening state through "natural intelligence," that is, through her essence, whereas a man can reach it only through voluntary sacrifice and personal discipline. there is no other way for him."

How is this to be interpreted? Is it simply due to the nature of the feminine/masculine essences that they benefit more from one work more than the other?

"There is no other way for him" ... why?


Good question.

Women and men are fundamentally different. A woman's essence is closely aligned with her emotions. A man's isn't. This is a natural condition; and in some ways it makes man the weaker of the pair.

If we study Eckhart, we will understand (intellectually, at least) that the essential nature of God is fecund. When we have a practical encounter with a higher energy as a formative quality within Being (if it is a real and durable one) we will understand that it is also essentially fecund—that is, generative, creative, nurturing and forever giving birth (again, Eckhart's eternal movement into birth of the divine—a Leitmotif of his sermons.) For example:

When the spark of intellect is taken barely in God, then the 'husband' is alive. Then the birth takes place, then the Son is born. This birth does not take place once a year or once a month or once a day, but all the time, that is, above time in the expanse where there is no here or now, nor nature nor thought.

The Complete Mystical WorksSermon 31, p. 188

Women, since they are the naturally created receivers of the materially manifested fecundity of God, are directly aligned with this creative principle in a way that is forever barred to men. This is why women are emotional adepts. Men are aligned not with the creative intelligence of the universe, but the structural intelligence. These two intelligences are fundamentally different. 

The creative intelligence is more intuitively able to find God because of its emotional nature. God is Love; and because this is a feeling quality, a woman is naturally inclined to it. Men, whose structural intelligence is related to wisdom (the next-highest quality) have to complete an emotional octave which is already in a definitive sense already present in women. I say definitive, because it is what defines them.) 

In this men and women balance one another, because women are always inclined to be more loving than men; and men are inclined to be more wise than women. This never takes away one from the other, because they are meant to be in relationship and find balance, and women are actually superior to men, because Love forever trumps Wisdom. Nonetheless, we see an unwise love can be nearly as destructive as an unloving wisdom. Structural order is as essential as love; it just comes second (it is the chicken, not the egg.)

In today's world, we are dominated by unloving wisdom, which is, in a nutshell, what technology consists of. You may love your cell phone; but it will never love you.        

Because of their essential and very physical separation from the eternally fecund, eternally emotive (and inherently loving) root of being, men must suffer much more in order to discover their true inner Being. Voluntary and intentional sacrifice is needed, because wisdom without love is essentially willful, that is, it follows its own counsel. Discipline and sacrifice are necessary in order to change this; in other words, a man must much more go against what he is in order to develop a connection to God, because his inherent condition is one of opposition to God—holy denying—whereas a woman plays the role of holy affirming.

The child (the generative result of union between man and woman) is always the reconciling function in this duality; hence the Christ. Inevitably, Mary was the receiver of the Christ Child, not Joseph; and not by biology alone.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Seeing from within sensation

Hieronymus Bosch, Fragment of a Triptych
Yale University Art Gallery

When I try to see who I am, from within this level — which is the level I must live on in this life — I have these three parts that can see. One of them is the intellect; and it has the whole box of crayons, that is, I allow it to color everything that it sees according to all the material it has already ingested and arranged in the way that it sees fit. This is called subjectivity; it's a personalized vision of life dependent on a manipulated set of values and ideas.

The emotions have some issues of their own. They have been bullied around since I was tiny, and came with their own deficiencies to begin with (just like my mind did); and so they have these automatic responses to everything that takes place, a direct conflict with the mind (which is constantly telling them to feel things they don't actually feel and probably cannot even feel), and a confusion about how to operate.

Of the three different parts that can see, the sensation is perhaps the most objective; it has the advantage of being part of the operating system, that is, it is very close to the instinctive parts and deeply connected, in its own peculiar way, to the intimacy that is needed in order to understand that I am alive. If I want to understand life, after all, I want to know that I am alive first, to know it in controvertibly and without any doubt, and to know it at all times

If I don't know it at all times, then whenever I don't know it, I am asleep. I'm not conscious. And the consciousness of sensation is in fact the consciousness that can inwardly form a connection to this fundamental truth, which is needed in order to begin to understand life.

I ought to be waking up, as I have explained before, every morning looking for the connection to sensation so that I can have a fundamental understanding that I am alive; and from that understanding everything else can flow. For one thing, with that understanding, a tiny crack opens towards the inward flow of the divine, a higher energy that is attracted by this relationship to sensation. Once the relationship to sensation is formed, the relationship to life is formed; and life itself, at its root, springs from a divine source, so a conscious connection to the root of life is a conscious connection to the root of the divine. They aren't separated. This rich inward flow that can result from a connection to sensation is essential to understanding where one's work should begin.

Make no mistake about it, all of this discussion is about where one's work begins. This is not an advanced subject. This is not about higher levels; it is about coming into a fuller and more complete relationship with this level, before any of these other things are considered.

I've noticed that the longer people engage in inner work, the more they think they are at some advanced place where this kind of work isn't necessary anymore, whereas by and large, it seems as though everyone encountered it early on, batted it around some, didn't quite understand it, and then left it in the road and moved on to what were presumably more interesting things. 

The understanding that a direct and permanent connection to sensation is perhaps the most interesting thing that can happen in life is thus glossed over completely.

Sometimes I think that this was the only thing my teacher wanted me to understand when she spent the 20 years we were together working with me. She knew that if this was understood, all the other necessary things would follow; and so at the end of her life, the last time I saw her, long after we had reached agreement on this subject and I did finally have some understanding on the subject, she was still bringing me back to this point of work, because it is where reality can be separated from imagination,—at which point some form of actual inner work can begin.

 So it's this seeing of my life from within sensation that I'm interested in this morning. I will take that out into the day with me. It's kind of simple and stupid; it doesn't present any high ground from a philosophical point of view. But all day long, I know, with this action taking place within me, I will be asking myself:  Who am I? What am I doing? Where am I?

 This won't be taking place with words. The action will be within the sensation itself, which is already a questioning.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Putting all of the action of the mind directly into question

 Crucifixion, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

So let's talk about this more.

The action of an organic sensation of Being is to put all of the action of the mind directly into question.

 I say all of the action of the mind, because the intellectual mind is comprehensive in its action within life; for the most part, it dominates everything, even when it is strongly influenced by a more powerful center... typically, the emotions. Everything that I think about life, myself, all the concepts about inner work and false personality and self remembering and so on, all are of the mind. They go into the mind; they live in the mind; they come out of the mind. The intellectual mind processes everything with words and concepts, and this is where the center of gravity of my understanding lies, because the other two mines are not trained to be active or understand.

In a certain sense, the mind of the body and the mind of the emotions — these two intellects or brains that are quite different than my intellectual brain — are frightened creatures, because they have been sidelined and are rarely offered the chance to really participate in life. They blunder about in one direction or another blindly, unable to speak the language of the intellect and confused about why it is constantly instructing them to do things that are clearly, from their own point of view, absurd. All three of our centers, if they are acting in concert, suffer from this problem. This is why we are such tormented creatures.

We can't discover anything real or true about the mind unless there is a center of gravity, a strong weight, in which the attention centers itself that is oppositional — not in the sense of trying to fight with the mind, but in the sense of balancing it. There needs to be at an investment of being in a second place that has a strong weight and gravity to anchor the mind, so that the mind can actually be observed as a separate entity.

Now, because of the way that inner work (whichever one you want to discuss) is constructed, one uses the intellectual mind, the thinking mind, to try and observe the other parts. A bit of pondering ought to reveal the fact that this is a profoundly ass backwards way to understand things, because the other parts also have a full and comprehensive ability to observe from within their own center of gravity, and yet I place all my efforts in the mind. It may take years for me to understand that it's actually possible to have sensation or feeling come along and participate in an action of conscious observing that is separate and equal to anything that comes from the mind. If and when I do have an experience like this, I often mistake it for an experience of higher consciousness — and to the extent that it has informed me that my other parts are also real brains with a real sense of "I" in them, it is. Yet it is indubitably just an experience of this level, albeit a quite different one that I am completely unfamiliar with. If I do have such experiences, it may take me years to understand that they are just rather ordinary tools that ought to be functioning at all times and integrated into this understanding of being that I form almost exclusively with my intellect.

Once the center of gravity for consciousness and understanding of self acquires strength and objectivity through its manifestation in a center other than the mind, it puts the mind directly into question. Sensation is particularly useful for this, because it does not "think" in words; it's unable to rationalize or fiddle around with things. What it does is plant me right here in this body, now — and once I see how that works, once I see from within the sensation, I observe the mind at work and I begin to get the sense that it is an idiot in many ways... I could explain this further, but perhaps not here. But if you want to know more about Gurdjieff's science of idiots, there is a clue.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

More practical perspectives

Perhaps readers think I write and speak too much about sensation; but, as regular readers know, this is my diary, and I write about what is specifically on my mind and within my practice at a particular time.

 Hardly anyone properly understands the question of sensation. Sensation ought to be a living thing, and it ought to be permanent; folks hear this, and it seems theoretical or abstract. It seems unreachable. It seems like a mystery that is being presented. Yet the organism ought to be firmly and irrevocably rooted in a permanent sensation of being, otherwise, the rest of one's efforts at work are nonsense. So in the beginning, all of the work that one does — the exercises, the self remembering, etc. — ought to be turned towards developing this initial and fundamental sense. It is not a high level piece of territory; it is a foundation. One's inner work cannot be turned properly into a direction that is meaningful without this foundation; yet people work on it for a year or two, have little experience with it — or none — and then move on to other, more lofty subjects which seem to be more interesting and afford greater possibilities.

This is a deeply mistaken attitude, because what it does is lead one past what is absolutely necessary in order to begin into subjects, attitudes, experiences, and efforts that are much too sophisticated and complicated to understand without a permanent root of sensation in the body. What folks don't realize is that sensation is an objective sense; and because it is so close to what we are within ourselves, it is the first objective sense a human being can develop. Of course there are others; but you can't play tennis if you don't get a racket and a ball out first. People want to go to Wimbledon before they put their sneakers on. It just doesn't work that way.

Why is sensation so important? Not, mind you the kind of sensation where I make efforts to sense my legs, or to sense chakras (much too advanced, generally speaking) or what have you. No, I'm talking about the kind of sensation that is a living thing, that is me. It is so important because one is unable to get a more complete sense of one's Being and understand how helpless and confused one is unless this organ, this brain, is active. By active, I mean, functioning under its own energy, not the energy that "I" bring from my mind by telling it it ought to do this, that, and the other thing. Once sensation is functioning under its own energy one has the carpet pulled out from under one's assumptions about life. One actually has to live; and the first time that this happens, one will see immediately that one has never actually been alive in any real sense on until sensation becomes alive. Then, all of life seems like a flat and uninteresting landscape, a piece of cardboard, unless one is in active and intimate relationship with one's sensation.

Is that enough?

It isn't. Under these conditions, one sees that life is still a flat piece of cardboard; but one knows it now. And one also begins, slowly, over a period of years, to understand that it does not gain dimension without the participation of feeling, which without exception produces anguish, not the blissful joy everyone thinks they want in life. Don't get me wrong here; I want blissful joy as well, but every real joy and real happiness that is acquired in life is only acquired by paying for it in advance by suffering.

If this sounds too severe for you, well, don't try this inner work. It's not for you.

Sensation is the active quality that can help a human being to begin to understand that they understand them nothing; and by counterbalancing the action of the mind, it raises a question — without words, because sensation does not use words — about what it means to live that puts all of the action of the mind directly into question.

 I'll speak about that more tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Stop theorizing

Triceratops Sculpture

 It's okay to theorize. Whole schools were formed around studying theories; and without theory, esoteric practice in general would find itself deeply lacking. So I am in favor of studying theory; and I do it myself.

There is, however, a huge difference between theory and practice; and without a sound understanding of what it is to live within the sensation of one's own Being, one doesn't understand the difference. Theory has a way of inserting itself into everything; it belongs to the outer part, to personality, to ego, and to the mind. There is a possibility of objective theory; but it's relatively rare, because the mind and personality seize everything that comes along.

In working with others, there's a great danger that one ends up firmly wedged into theories. The only way to avoid this, in my experience, is to keep coming back to the ground floor question of what it means to live, right here, right now, within the immediate sensation of this body, before the mind starts to interpret it.

Above all, I shouldn't try to sense. Trying to have sensation is already not having proper sensations; sensation needs to come of itself and be present as its own part of me. For as long as I try to have sensation, no matter what way I do it in — thinking about it, feeling that I lack it, doing exercises to invoke it, feeling it in one limb, and so on — I am conceiving of sensation as separate from me, that is, I don't understand that sensation is me, just as much as thinking and theory is me — just as much as feeling is me. When I say that "I" have sensation, or "I" have feeling, I already set these two things apart as though they were not whole parts of my being with an equal weight and value to this "I" that has them. This is absolute nonsense— and yet look at how convinced I am of this. I try to sense; I feel. When will I wake up—that is, out of this unconscious and mechanical state—and understand that I am feeling and I am sensation?

When consciousness is located in a different part, it's dangerous for me to take it so literally as to understand that it is now located in the chest, for example, or the abdomen. Those experiences are, of course, possible; in fact, consciousness does not even actually need to be located in my body — but that is another subject entirely. The point is that consciousness needs to be relocated so that it resides within sensation, so that it resides within feeling, and so that the full experience of consciousness and life begins to find the center of gravity in these parts other than the mind.

This is the moment when a voluntary sensation or a voluntary feeling participates in such a way that I truly understand what three centered being means; otherwise, I am thinking about what three centered being means, theorizing it, hypothesizing it, and laying out various plans and machinations, various exercises and plots, to achieve it. All of that material comes from one center and is, in a practical sense, quite useless. It is like trying to paint over black paint with more black paint in the hopes that it will eventually become white.

This trying to sense is what stands in the way of sensing. It comes from the wrong part. There has to be a relaxation, a letting go, not just of muscular tension, but of the mind itself and all its excessive effort to control everything.

Then the sensation may have some room to enter; and then Being may have a chance to begin to manifest.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A perpetual question, part II

So this perpetual question that I am interested in does not come from my mind.

It emerges from a sense of  individuality and Being that is organic.

It arises from an inner vibration that can not be denied.

The other night, someone asked me how one comes into relationship with this. It's a puzzling question; in fact, I can't do much of anything. In my own experience, there is no secret formula outside an intense and protracted suffering of who one is and one's own life.

In my own experience, I had to suffer for many decades through an almost endless series of indignities and personal failures, each one of which I was required to tolerate and work through in one way or another, facing each one of them as honestly as I could (in other words, not very honestly.) It was only after I had been (metaphorically) beaten into many tiny pieces, had submitted to the forces of my own life, admitted to myself that everything was, in the end, my own responsibility — and when I was willing to forgive all the other people who I blamed for this, that, and the other thing — that something changed inside me.

So I think that I come into relationship with this quality through my own suffering. That is, I go intentionally towards my suffering and I try to understand it by admitting it. I don't run away from it; I don't deny it or repress it. I try to look at it right in the face, with all of the anguish it brings, and admit to myself that this is how I am. I don't try to be happy or to get away or to manufacture an imaginary life or world where things are good and I am a good person; I just try to meet everything exactly as it is. In order for all of this to happen, the don't worry – be happy factory needs to shut down.

Mr. Gurdjieff had a number of interesting words for things like this; the phrase remorse of conscience comes to mind. In my own case, I think there is something wrong with me if I don't see how ungrateful and difficult I am in relationship to the life I have been given. There is a supreme irony to me in the idea that others think I am some kind of good person; every goodness I have in me has only emerged through a struggle against that which is not good. So in almost every case, where something positive takes place, it is not that I have goodness, but merely that in that place I lack badness.

 An organic sensation of Being removes one of the avenues of escape. The whole point of having an organic sensation is to find oneself in a place from which one cannot turn away. It is not so easy to sleep under this condition; and the idea is that one looks at what one is more clearly and more ruthlessly—that is, with less of the excuses that one usually uses for everything.

It reminds me of something I said about my skill with ethics: the fact that I have expertise in the area of ethics does not mean that I am an ethical person, it simply means that I know when I am not ethical. In the same way, sensation helps me to know what I am not; and knowing what I am not helps to remove imagination and assumptions from the way I live, so that I can try harder to acquire things it's clear enough I don't have.

If I want to be, I need to have a wish to be that does not die from minute to minute, but that is eternally reborn within the sensation of Being.

The mind can't sustain this kind of action; so it is up to the vessel receives something higher to remain open, and participate with it.


Monday, October 6, 2014

A perpetual question, Part I

I've been discussing, lately, the ground floor of practice with various loved ones, friends, and acquaintances.

Theoretical premises are all very interesting; I have some facility at discussing them, and so do many of the people I live around and work with.

But none of them have any meaning if I do not inhabit the ground floor of my being.

The fundamental point is that one has to come into relationship with a higher energy and understand exactly what that means. One has to come into relationship with an energy that is humbling, that is greater than myself, that teaches without saying anything how to understand how hopelessly small and helpless I am. This is a place from which I can actually begin to see something about life; how essentially tragic position we humans have put ourselves in is, and how all of our prattling on about love conquering everything doesn't apply to the level we are on or the things we actually do to one another.

This isn't a negative philosophy; it is just the realism infused by a genuine sorrow of Being, which is the only real emotional experience I can begin with if I want to understand what life is. This feeling experience has nothing to do with depression; it is simply truthful, and the truth is in its own peculiar way a joyful thing to encounter.

In any event, I ought to wake up seeking a relationship with an inner energy every day. It ought to be the first thing that comes to me as a question when my awareness emerges from sleep, before the eyes are open; it ought to infuse the body and energize the inner question of what it means to be alive and in relationship, before anything else is done. It ought to help me conduct an inner inventory and a search at once, before anything else starts.

That relationship ought to never leave. It ought to remain as the undercurrent, the background emanation, of every object, event, circumstance, and condition I encounter, all day long. This sensation which brings its own question mark ought to be permanent; it should never leave me, it always ought to be in my being so that there is a certain part of me which has a perpetual attention invested in the act of questioning. It ought to follow me through the day and bring me to my bed at night.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Not technical. Not an exercise.

 Sensation is not a made thing. It isn't an imagined thing or a thought thing. It is not an invoked thing. The word itself is deceiving, because it implies a static entity, whereas what one speaks of is a living experience.

This experience isn't technical. All the exercises in the world aren't sufficient to bring it into being; and I am not trying to work.

I am just living.

This idea of working and trying to work is ubiquitous. There's so much speech about inner work. Yet one doesn't really wish to engage in inner work; one wishes to live. This isn't technical either. It isn't an exercise.

The mind seizes the idea of working so firmly. It practically chokes it. Yet the voluntary sensation of Being is just that, voluntary: and the engagement is in life and in living, not in thinking and in planning, not in organizing and executing. Life shows up on its own, not because I command it to.

Once one lives, then one can organize and execute, think and plan: but until one lives, if one organizes, executes, thinks, and plans, then one forgets to live. One can't remember to live; because self remembering is remembering to live, not remembering some technical thing.

Discussions, hypotheses, and arguments about this are essentially pointless. Every single one of them is a trap of one kind or another. Living is just living, as simple as that; and it carries within it all of the compromises, as well as all the benefits, that are conferred by both our own lies and the grace that follows them. I am a liar; but grace does not lie. Things will be half bad, because that's how I am; but the better half that meets me from the voluntary manifestation of life does not know badness.

Sometimes I am out in the rain with the dog and this is all there is.

Other times I am in the office with a problem, and this is all there is.

In each moment, successively by moments, this is all there is. I can live within that to one degree or another; life makes that possible.

Being in relationship with the organism raises a nearly endless series of questions about what this relationship means. It is sensory; and yet all of the sensory phenomena are deeply organic and deeply energetic, that is, they are inwardly formed by an energy that meets them.

Do I know this? I don't; or I resist it. Even if I know it, I resist.

 So I don't actually want to work.  All of that idea belongs to some stale kind of habit. I want to come into relationship with living as a force, not a theory.

Then, I don't know what will happen. But I am willing to suffer it.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Note to a friend

Well before dawn today.

Contemplating the question of our lives. This challenge you have of an exit strategy is of course not just material. It's our very being itself, AKA the soul, that has to find a pragmatic and objective center of gravity in regard to its own existence.

Our lives are a book we have inscribed ourselves. There are good passages and bad ones; a real man- one without quotation marks, as Gurdjieff would say- faces the truth of who he is and what he has done and is willing to suffer it. Eckhart would ask us to suffer it gladly, even; there is an objective merit in such suffering, since it brings the heart closer to God. This is what the master says; and like any good and truly German soul, he is quite practical about it.

I think we all fear ourselves; the reasons for this are complex and deep rooted. Is there a shame at the heart of my being I don't want to face? Probably; yet even with that knowledge, such matters do not yield easily to the eye of introspection, whether it is sharp and penetrating or soft and gentle. So there aren't any tricks as I reach inward towards this understanding; only persistence and a willingness to press forward will help me.

Every human being who actively thinks - as opposed to those who just react- has to ask this question of an end game, in fact, at all times, whether one thinks the end far or near. It is the essential question that ought to motivate every act in life; our agency itself ought to turn on it in each instance, as though a higher morality circumscribed by the inevitability of our own death defined the parameters of our deeds. It sounds like a high calling, but in fact perhap's it's the ground floor.

We can't say whether we're accountable to God (let us leave that mystery for our passing itself) but we can become accountable to ourselves. That is the task set for the soul in this life; what atonement consists of, only we ourselves can measure, because only we ourselves can measure from within the extent of our own sin.

This isn't to say we do not have good in ourselves; but we must find it. It does not just come knocking.

Those, my friend, are my thoughts this a.m. for the both of us on this grave matter you have put forth.


Friday, October 3, 2014

The Confusion of Doing

The confusion of doing resides in the difference between inner and outer doing.

Like all the other lawfully polarized affairs of mankind on this level, doing is divided into two realms, the spiritual and the natural. These are the inner and the outer realms. Because of the nature of the arising of Being and the intersection of inner and outer action (which are inevitable and cannot be escaped, no matter how convoluted philosophical or religious arguments for escape may become) doing is always separated into outer doing, under the rule of personality (generally speaking, that is) and inner doing, which ought to be under the rule of the Lord, but is repeatedly and ubiquitously subject to the wrong action of personality turned inward.

Personality and ego are fine things, precision tools, that under the right circumstances ought to work very well indeed in outer, or material, doing, but they inevitably get confused and think they ought to take over inner doing as well. Now, you might ask yourself why this gravely abnormal condition has arisen; and well you might.

When consciousness loses the sense if itself in the sense of its inner Being, the place of its arising—which is the source of life itself, the inflow—it begins to believe quite readily that it is all there is. Personality, the outer world, and outer doing become gods unto themselves. It's this initial loss of the sensation of Being that leads to this aberration. If there is no inner sense of essence, if it has no capacity to sense the truth about the inner nature of Being, personality rushes in to the fill the gap.

Well, one can't blame it too much; it thinks it is helping, but outwardness, personality, and ego are rather crude and stupid things, really, when measured against the living presence of Being, so one can't blame them too much. It's like blaming a hammer for being a hammer instead of a watch. You can roughly beat out time with a hammer; but that isn't what it's for. One ought to use the watch; and yet one hasn't been told that there is a watch in the first place, let alone that it can tell time, or how to tell time with it. In this way the inner tools that ought to be used to measure one's outer Being and outer Doing are not even known, let alone employed.

It is this inner doing, which is not doing but done, in the sense of Thy Will Be Done, that one seeks to understand in the terms of Gurdjieff's expression on the matter; and it is that which is done—not by me—in which a real measurement of outer Being can begin, and a real spiritual doing can begin to take place.

Insofar as one align's one's Being with this inner doing which does not belong to me—insofar as one submits— thus far can one's outer doing (which is quite real and belongs precisely to the right action of outer doing which one is, lawfully, quite capable of) take place in a right context.

But, ah! The confusion that arises.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Not my thing

When Gurdjieff said "man cannot do," the phrase seems to have been widely interpreted as related to the idea of will. That is, a "human being" does not have real will; but if a person undergoes inner development, they will acquire real will. This is functionally related to the ideas of agency and power, ultimately conscripting ideas from hatha yoga and other spiritual disciplines that presume one can force the gates of heaven by one's own developed powers.

I've recently run into a number of people engaged in inner work at various stages of their lives who believe exactly this; and I'm pretty sure most students of inner work—esotericism—secretly presume this is possible. It is, after all, our fondest wish—to be the gods of, if not the whole world, at least our own lives.

It occurs to me over the past two days first, how absolutely and profoundly mistaken this idea is, and second, how equally absolute the secret inner belief in this is.

The inward flow, and the arising sensation itself, can do. These are not my properties—and if I think they are, it's certain I haven't ever actually experienced this energy; in this case, anything I have experienced is imaginary and egoistic. Ego can mask itself in an extraordinary number of ways to mimic real higher energy; it is a shapeshifter or chameleon in this regard, and one must be forever on one's guard in relationship to this question.

Again, I'm called to a question from a reader who recounted a range of experiences and asked, "is this and that or such and such what you mean by an organic sense of Being?"

If you need to ask, I told them, you haven't had such a sense; because if you do have it, you won't need to ask what it is; you'll know. Conjecture, in other words, is dispelled by real action; and real inner action that can do is an absolute that diminishes. I ask readers to ponder that phrase if they don't know already and quite instinctively-prayerfully what it means.

There is no part, no capacity, in humanity that can do. There is a capacity for receiving that which can do; and yet even that capacity is emphatically not under our own agency. A kind of passivity entirely unfamiliar to the ordinary parts of being (those horizontal parts under this order and hierarchy) is necessary; and any touch whatsoever, even the slightest part, that attempts to physically, psychologically or emotionally impose those conditions of receptivity begins at once with a contamination by ego that blocks the action of the higher energy.

The energy is under its own volition; it is voluntary, that is, it arrives under its own agency, not mine. This mistaken "understanding" that my agency can invoke the energy is sheer foolishness; and if the energy arrives at once I know this. I can meet it; but this is as much as I can do, and when it meets me, then something is done, but it is not my thing. It is not a thing, anyway; but I think strictly in terms of things (this is all the mind is capable of) so I turn it into a thing, and then already I am wrong.

The meeting point is the place described in the Lord's prayer: Thy will be done. We call it the Lord's prayer because the Lord has will and agency, and the Lord can do. This is worth thinking about, because we generally think we are the Lord, even as we actively profess to ourselves and to others that we don't think this.

This is in itself a lie; and seeing how I secretly believe I am the Lord isn't really even possible unless the Lord arrives within me, because by myself I am quite blind, really.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Unspeakable Nature of Presence

Osprey, Sparkill, NY 

Today is my birthday (I'm 59.)

Apophasis is a term sometimes used to describe language employed in an effort to resolve the dilemma of transcendence — the impossibility of saying what is, in essence, unsayable.

I was recently given a copy of what appears to be a fine piece of academic work on the subject, Mystical Languages of Unsaying, by Michael A. Sells. Having recently finished Meister Eckhart's The Complete Mystical Works (Walshe) in its entirety, the subject is much on my mind – although, it must be confessed, this is not exactly where the question of transcendence ought to be examined (with the intellect, that is.) 

Yet we are perpetually confronted with the dilemma of the transcendent, because we are invariably forced to communicate with it using words.

While contemplating this particular subject, comfortably parked in the business lounge of Le Meridien Hotel in Shanghai, it occurred to me that there is territory much closer to hand than we might think that helps us examine this question from a more practical, as opposed to hypothetical, theoretical, or intellectual point of view.

This particular perspective arises from the difference between thinking, which is an activity of the intellectual mind, and the two sibling activities of being, sensation — which is emphatically of the body — and emotion, which is also experienced as physical sensation, but has a heightened nature referred to, in spiritual work, as feeling.

Human beings are accustomed to interpret their life through intellect, of which words are a direct function — and yet these two other faculties for perception, sensation and feeling, are sidelined, as though they did not represent a full two thirds of the activity of being. Neither one of these faculties, as it happens, is verbal in any way, shape, or form: and each one of them conveys intelligible, meaningful, and in fact vital and even (so to speak) earth-shattering facts about the state and nature of being, as well as the environment one is in. 

So perhaps the faculty for directly experiencing the unsayable does not actually lie in any abstract philosophical territory whatsoever; instead, it accompanies us so routinely that it is completely overlooked.

One might ask whether it is in any way, shape, or form possible that the Masters who spoke of the transcendent — a piece of territory reserved, to all appearances, for some divine state of being completely inaccessible to mankind, as is maintained in The Cloud of Unknowing — could have possibly had any recourse to this particular perspective in their discussion of such lofty ideas. Perhaps that matters; perhaps it doesn't. I think the point is that we need to have recourse to it here, because to leave the question of the unspeakable and the unsayable on the table as a perpetually irresolvable dilemma cedes the territory to an argument that no progress in understanding this matter can ever actually be made.

In understanding the question of these two nonverbal forms of communication, each of which maintains a comprehensive validity within its own right, we need to understand the intersection between the inner and the outer natures of man, a subject that has been treated by a wide range of mystical thinkers. My own background, of course, has concentrated on a small group of masters to examine this question, specifically, Ibn Arabi, Dogen, Meister Eckhart, Swedenborg, Gurdjieff, and Jeanne de Salzmann; but many other names could be mentioned.

This question of the inner and the outer is a distinctive one that has to be appreciated quite precisely in order to understand the difference between the outer, which is emphatically and forever immanent, and the inner, which is transcendent. This transcendent nature is exclusively an inner experience, which can never be effectively externalized, objectified or expressed in words; everything that emerges into the outer world from the inner is a translation of sorts, and a poor one at that.

The inner life is transcendent in that all of it emerges from a place that both Swedenborg and Eckhart would have been entirely familiar with: and that is the emergent property of life and consciousness itself. This emergent property of Being, which is in and of itself inviolable, impossible to break down, and from which all experience of consciousness and nature arises, is at the root and the core of human life and understanding. Many different masters have pointed out that this inward experience comes from the inward flow of life itself, which is not at all the result of physical process (as modern science would have it) but a metaphysical property. Swedenborg, an accomplished scientist who achieved groundbreaking insights in the physical science and on the material nature of anatomy,  laid this understanding as a cornerstone of his mysticism. He attributed that inward flow of life not to nature, but to God, as does Eckhart; and in both cases, this transcendent and unknowable level begins with the inward flow of Being as an experience of life, which has a primacy that cannot be trumped by any other phenomena.

This inward flow of life begins within the neural anatomy and neurological experience of the organism; it is, in other words, fundamentally organic, and arises from territory which, while it can be described mechanistically and in terms of physics and chemistry (molecular structure such as DNA, neurons, organs, etc.) is fundamentally impossible to break down into parts without losing the understanding that emerges from it. DNA, to put it in other terms, cannot understand itself on its own level. In this view, all of the material becomes a reflection of the inner, since the inner is what gives rise to all perception and interpretation of it. There is an absolutism to this position that effectively resists denial, whether or not one wants to invoke deism or theology to explain it.

So when we begin to examine the unsaid, the mystical language of unsaying, the mystery of silence, or whatever we want to call it, it always begins with sensation — a sensation of self that arises organically, and that exists before we apply the word sensation or the word self. In this way, we see that there is nothing mystical or inaccessible about the nature of what is unsaid— it is where everything always begins. That is the mystery we participate in. There are no exceptions to this rule; and only the intellectual mind, with its extraordinary ability to seize everything that it encounters and interpret it, pulls the curtain across this fairly straightforward situation. It is that selfsame curtain that masters such as Dogen and Jeanne de Salzmann ask us to pull aside; and, as Gurdjieff himself noted to Ouspensky, the territory behind the curtain is actually right next to us and not that difficult to get to, if one only knew how. This isn't far off what the Zen masters have always said about the nature of enlightenment.

We are, in short, not close enough to the organic sense of our own Being; and this organic sense of being, two-thirds of which is mediated by parts of ourselves that are distinctly nonverbal, represents the intersection with the transcendent that mysticism has always attempted to access. The irony of it is that it is always right in front of our eyes, so to speak, or, more properly put, behind them; because it is within this body and its already inherent nonverbal abilities that the access to the transcendent begins.

This admits of an unspeakable presence in mankind — a presence that is always there, but perpetually forgotten. The Self that needs to be remembered, in Gurdjieff's self-remembering, is this unspeakable presence, this organic nature of Being from which the actual fact of Being emerges, before Being begins to interpret itself. If one wants to engage in a bit of sophistry, of course, one can argue that this, too, is an interpretation; yet the simple fact of the sense of touch, or the presence of an emotion which is understood before one tells oneself, "Oh, I am sad,", belie that particular argument. One knows what one knows before the words know it; and that is the secret behind the nature of sensation and feeling. It's a simple secret, really; yet the intellect masks it so effectively that it is perpetually forgotten.

When Gurdjieff spoke of three-centered being, it was a call to return to an understanding of the very primary nature not just of the mind, but of sensation and feeling as well – thereby restoring a balance in which the majority of our life experience comes from unspeakable and unspoken faculties and territories.

This primary root of experience always begins within the inner nature and experience of man; and all of the outward designations, including language, speaking, writing, and all of its consequent results in the form of analysis and understanding, remain forever outward. A human being who wants to sense themselves wholly must understand the difference between these inward experiences and outward designations. There are two lives here, not one; and the critical faculty of consciousness, that which is able to perceive, without judging what is perceived, is the only mediating force that can have both an unspeakable and speakable presence that bridges the gap between these two parts of man's nature.

I'm irritated on principle by people who enjoy speaking about "the silence," that inward experience which is in fact unspeakable. There are parts of me that think it ought to simply be respected and left alone to do its own work; picking at it with the dental tools of the outward mind may appear to be removing plaque but, more often, is just puncturing the gums of the experience and causing an entirely unnecessary internal bleeding. There is a moment, as I have pointed out quite often in this space, where a sacred intimacy must be preserved; what is inward ought to be permitted to remain inward, within the depths of a man's or a woman's own soul, and not be put on public display in any way.

When we do display it — and I speak of myself as much as any other — we are, perhaps, guilty of the sins of both vanity and narcissism; an infatuation with how wonderful we are, rather than a respect for how wonderful God is. 

This needs to be as carefully examined as any other question in regard to the inner and outer condition, and especially in regard to the question of Presence of Being.