The enneagram of questioning versus doubt


Original Commentary

By Lee van Laer


From the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff Blog, Feb. 10, 2012


There's a significant difference between having a question and doubting.

Doubt belongs to the outer circle of our being—in other words, to the realm of personality. It's a powerful force, one driven by engines beyond our control. Mankind's preoccupation with theories, philosophy, and matters of the intellect are a doubt creation machine; it leads to endless battles both within individuals, and between cultures.

Our own doubt belongs to our own level, subject to the law of 7, and it circulates around the perimeter of the enneagram—that is, it perambulates through the octave. It can't go any further than "mi" without a shock. Generally speaking, when considered in relationship to inner work, it's consequently aimless and destructive.

Questioning, on the other hand, belongs to our inner self. In its purest form, it emanates from essence, and thus comes under the law of three. Those who have studied this subject through essays on this site over the course of the past four months should understand why this is a completely different action: a stabilizing one. Looking at the diagram, and assigning it its proper place, one can see that questioning arises from a position of balance, in which three forces interact equally. Question isn't partial; it involves the whole presence.

We may see doubt and questioning getting confused with one another in ourselves. The reactive engine in us (us, in other words) is rooted not in questioning, but in doubt. To complicate matters, doubt and fear are inextricably linked; together, they're capable of inflating one another in a negative reciprocal relationship (if you think the law of reciprocal feeding doesn't also apply to our negativity, think again.) If you want to seek the roots of war, look here.

In particular, doubt in relationship to the higher—and to one's own work—is a destructive force, yet we all have it in us. It's good to have questions regarding faith and regarding higher influences, but to have doubt about them won't serve.

Yet it's there, isn't it?

When Ouspensky first encountered Gurdjieff, as he recounts in In Search Of The Miraculous (chapter 1, p. 23), he was searching for facts. He sought facts because facts dispel doubt; they're incontrovertible. Gurdjieff promised him that there would be facts; and there are facts, but until one encounters them in a concrete and essential way, they aren't facts.

I might, for example, assure each and every reader that the existence of God is an absolute fact... Let's suggest I then claimed I know this because of a personal experience which permanently erased all doubt from me, and that I furthermore announce I'm not capable of doubt anymore. People ask me if I believe in God, and I say no, because belief does not rely on facts—it's merely a supposition or conviction. I know absolutely and for certain that God is real, so I have no need to believe.

But that does not do others much good.

Take a look—presented with this hypothesis, you are already suspicious... already doubting. Perhaps rightly so; you don't want to play the fool, now do you? How could anyone truly know such a thing for certain?... Ridiculous. If I came up to you on the street (or in my blog) and said such a thing, you would have the same reaction I would—you would turn away from this lunatic— undoubtably some dubious fundamentalist— who was accosting you.

Now you see what I mean. Even if a man knows the truth, truth is not transmissible. I can't give you a pill that will fix what is wrong with you and your doubt. You have to make your own pill, and swallow it yourself—or, at the very least, find a better doctor than me.

It's absolutely necessary to learn to distinguish between question and doubt. It's absolutely necessary to go against doubt, because doubt comes from a part of us that wants to destroy our work. All of those demons that tempted St. Antony? They were doubts. The force of personality often dedicates itself to the rape of essence. That can, in some cases, lead to insanity.

The parable about Jesus healing the Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-13) may help illuminate this a bit. The man is among the tombs—a sacred inner place where the soul enters its final communion with God. He is terrorizing the passersby, breaking his shackles, howling and bruising himself with stones, disrupting the sacred silence of this place. None is able to restrain him. When Jesus asks him his name, he says he is legion—that is, he is the many "I's" of personality. And Christ casts them out, assigning them to the place where the "I's" properly belong, the outer realm of personality—the place of swine. (readers will recall from an earlier post the suggestion that the swine we must not cast our pearls in front of are within ourselves.) The swine, furthermore, promptly run to the lake and drown themselves, symbolically (and voluntarily) undergoing a ritual purification of baptism and cleansing by water. In this way, the doubt that was trying to destroy the sanctity of an inner communion with the Lord is purified.

One of the reasons we cultivate a contact with the higher is that only the purifying force of a higher influence can, in the end, truly dispel our doubt. This erasure of doubt doesn't lie within the sphere of our own abilities; in the end, it only arrives through divine Grace.

Work efforts, conforming to obedience and under law, can earn that—that is itself a law.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.