Thursday, January 19, 2012

What are the Movements?

Following immediately on the moment I wrote the previous essay, the question of the Gurdjieff Movements and their possible relationship to cosmological questions came up.

Over the years, I've heard many discussions about the Gurdjieff Movements and what they represent. Being married into the Movements end of the work, I've also had the privilege of hearing many movements teachers during off-the-record discussions about the Movements; in addition, I've been  fortunate enough to take classes from some well-known and very experienced movements teachers.

The Movements are a sacred art form. What does that mean?

 The words don't necessarily mean much to us anymore; although Gurdjieff described the idea theoretically in both Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson and his conversations with Ouspensky (see In Search Of The Miraculous) few, if any, sacred art forms actually exist anymore as living traditions in any society. We see faint reflections of them in some sculpture and painting; hear echoes in some music, especially sacred hymns; and there are, of course, sacred principles embodied in the rituals of a number of religions, although many of them are simply executed by rote nowadays.

A sacred art form serves, on a larger scale, the same purpose as the small objects on my desk: it recapitulates the entire action of the universe in an interactive, living form. It embodies material: the physical objects and human beings involved, the music being played. It moves through time. And, in the wholeness and entirety of its form, it creates a harmonious relationship between those material objects through time, the entire interaction and movement thus engendering a third force that binds matter and time together. As such, every Movement– it doesn't matter which Movement, they all do this– embodies the principles of the Universal Octave in a living, real-time form.

 Movements, in other words, are each and every one of them a model of the universe.

 Sacred Movements such as the ones Gurdjieff brought us reenact the continual interaction of quanta, atoms, and molecules; they breathe life into the relationship of material over time; they reveal the sacred and evolutionary nature of form by putting it in a context that demands of us that we immediately and deeply ponder the nature of life, death, and relationship.

It's no accident that so many of the Movements incorporate elements of the enneagram and the multiplications. Gurdjieff brought to us a form that allows a group of human beings to collectively experience the concrete expression of these laws, so that instead of remaining as theoretical or  philosophical abstractions, they become proximate allegories– an expression in the immediate moment– of the forces that animate everything at all times.

It's tempting to see the Movements as "things" that exist separate from us: special activities living in a sacred, secret bubble, protected from the rest of the world, that confer magical principles. We don't see that they are, in essence, the immediate expression of life as it always is, wherever we are. A deep connection to sensation in the body will sometimes speak in that way to a man; but this is unusual. Our perception of the Sacred Movements as separate from our ordinary lives doesn't necessarily help us in attaining the kind of understanding they are there for in the first place.

 Gurdjieff used to perform the Movements very publicly. It was a way of attracting people to the work. They could see there was something different about them; and indeed there is. Unfortunately, public performances of the Movements by Gurdjieff Foundation branches have all but ceased to exist over the last twenty or thirty years. The reasons for this are many; yet how can it possibly be right?

 One might reasonably presume that Gurdjieff's behavior was to serve as a model for how we ought to handle things. We certainly take it that way when we see the examples he set us for how to work. Now,  it is just the plain fact that he had a  vigorous exoteric side to his work. He performed movements and music in public. He advertised them with flyers.  He was, in other words, not someone hiding behind closed doors.

In a day and age when every work is opening its doors, and its so-called “secrets,” to the rest of humanity, intuiting that we are at a critical moment in the work of mankind and the planet, and sensing that those of us who do work need to share everything we can in these desperate times, do we really have a right to keep this work as secret as we do?

Perhaps the answer is yes; but perhaps it isn't. This matter may be a question of life and death not just for the work itself, but for humanity. Art, after all–and perhaps, above all, sacred art–is there to be shared. It is, in point of fact, an essential exoteric form of sharing. Art that is kept secret and not put in front of others so that they can learn from it isn't art at all. It becomes a form of selfishness, denying the impulse and intent that created it.

 Hiding the Movements films in closets has not protected them, or the Movements.  Anyone can see that they are all over the Internet, and that hundreds of defecting Movements teachers have continued to teach Movements without the Foundation's permission, all over the globe. The cat, in other words, is long out of the imaginary bag we are still stuffing it in.

Furthermore, hiding such material in closets is not laying our treasures up in heaven, where they need to be laid.  I wonder- are we emulating the man who buried his coins in the field, afraid to invest them, and afraid to spend them on anything, thus earning the wrath of his master?

[Our archives are most certainly not located in heaven; I know this, because, at least in New York, I know where they are, and if that particular place is heaven, well then, hell must at the very least be a great deal more spacious; which is a good thing, judging from the number of candidates for it.]

 In order to serve the exoteric branch of the work and strengthen it, it may be time for the Gurdjieff Work to release some of this Movements film material to the general public, so that they can see what real sacred art is, and know-  at least in their heart of hearts– that not everything has been lost. Right now, the best of what we do is entombed; perhaps for the best of intentions, but I think this particular interment was unfortunately premature.

Even more to the point, it may be time to put on live public performances of the Movements again.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stories of the whole earth

Everyone has their own little habits, and one of mine is to collect natural history specimens and small, appealing objects– up to and including what are, more or less, ordinary stones and beach pebbles– which I select specifically because of their aesthetic qualities. Sometimes those qualities are subtle and not immediately apparent. It can take some time to penetrate past the surface of appearances and understand that a single fold in a carapace or the rounded curve of a piece of glacial debris may speak in a language I am not familiar with.

I arrange these in front of me on my desk, so that they are just under my gaze as I work on my computer. Each one of them ultimately serves as an object of contemplation of one kind or another, and I refer to them repeatedly throughout every day.

Each of the objects that I keep in front of me is, in its own way, a complete representation of the entire cosmos. They all represent objects, events, conditions, and circumstances; each one of them contains a conjunction of elements, formed over time, arranged through conditions, meeting in circumstances, to form objects. Every one of these objects contains all of the thoughts about the whole universe in it: the fact that the human mind is unable to encompass all of that information, that inwardly formed quality, at one time does not mean it is not there.

In a state of what is called “enlightenment”–which is what Buddhists would insist is only just the ordinary state that the mind always ought to inhabit, but doesn't–the mind could and would comprehend this. Bokusan says, "As one dharma is no other than myriad dharmas, whatever you realize embraces all the ten directions. In this way, to intuit... intimately" is essential." (Dogen's Genjo Koan: three commentaries, p. 54, Counterpoint-Berkeley 2011. The entire commentary in section 7, pp. 51-54, expounds on the subject of this essay.)

Perhaps my fascination with each object is that, unique as it is, it can't exist without any other objects or all other objects–it is in irrevocable relationship to them through the confluence of time, matter, and the reconciling force of love.

In some ways, each of these objects represents that reconciling force to me, since each one of them, whether it is man-made, naturally formed, or the product of evolutionary biology, expresses a perfection that is unique unto itself. Each of those perfections has a tale of billions of years behind it that includes the collapse of cosmic dust clouds, the formation of stars, the forging of elements, the creation of planets from those elements, and the re-arrangement of those elements into forms which go against the force of entropy to discover expressions that would remain unseen, unknown, and nonexistent but for the arising of consciousness to perceive them.

 Consciousness arises specifically to perceive these things; it is not an accident. There is a need for all of these expressions of perfection to be perceived. In a subtle way, each one of them– every single thing, no matter how small– is both worthy of perception and has a wish to be perceived, just as the perceiver wishes to see. It is where the wish to see comes into conjunction with that which can be seen and wishes to be seen that the whole of the universe exists.

Without consciousness, you see, there is no universe–there is nothing. This is a philosophical conundrum that materialists generally fail to address, because reductionist materialism and atheism are fundamentally unable to come to grips with questions this subtle.

Small things in life are often dismissed. Few human beings look at an ancient seashell on a desk, scrutinize the many tiny marine worm holes in it, the rounded grains of quartz, and understand that the entire universe is unfolding itself in these apparently insignificant records. The original Zen schools in China understood this; perhaps this is why they held ordinary rounded stones from riverbeds in such high regard, putting them on pedestals as single objects for contemplation. We have few such parallels in the West. We have far more of an interest in coercing objects to do what we want them to than in appreciating them for what they are.

Scientists of the West do appreciate that the contemplation of any single object, rightly undertaken, can open a set of questions that unfold into every corner of the cosmos. Nonetheless, most of them have taken an unfortunately materialistic attitude towards this property; they fail to see that a sense of wonder is a sacred property, and that that sense of wonder itself is transcendental. Like religion, secularism brings a set of great strengths to the table that are offset by an equal number of weaknesses.

Our technology and reliance on consumer goods  is progressively separating us from any understanding and contemplation of the natural world. We lose this sense at our great peril.

 So the next time you pass something small and apparently insignificant, take a moment to stop and study it and ask yourself questions.

You may be surprised at where they take you.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Beelzebub's Tales: Cosmologies In Literature

  This essay is part of a series of discussions on the exoteric nature and aim of the Gurdjieff work, and inner work in general. That portion of the work may seem unimportant to some; and indeed, it is often neglected, especially in the Gurdjieff work. However, the old saying, “weak in life–weak in the work” indicates that a strong exoteric practice is in fact essential– a fact often lost on those who sink into themselves into a rapture of contact with the divine. It might even be argued that understanding this point of work is in fact essential to everything that both Gurdjieff and Jeanne de Salzmann were trying to teach.

 Readers encountering the following material should consequently understand that this is not about the esoteric sides of the book, Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, which are vitally important and, for the greater part, not subject to verbal redaction. The book is, however, one of the most important and powerful faces put on the exoteric side of the Gurdjieff work, and a failure to both understand and value that side of its nature is a profound disservice to the effort at large.

My daughter Rebecca is a PhD candidate in English literature at Brown University. One of her associates is also in the PhD program, and a Milton scholar. Over the last few weeks, the three of us discussed the subject of major works in the Western literary canon containing complete cosmologies. We were speaking specifically of works of fictional literature, not treatises or philosophical discourses.

The list of works in this category is surprisingly short. What we were able to come up with as definitively belonging were Milton's Paradise Lost, Dante's Divine Comedy, and Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. There may be other works of this nature, particularly in the modern world of science fiction, but they are inherently disqualified, since inventive cosmology is a prerequisite of science fiction, and is rarely– if ever– based on any presumed connection to actual reality.

Given that caveat, we discussed the inclusion of C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, but more or less disqualified it, because this is essentially a mythological reconfiguration of the story of Christianity, not a revelation related to the structural nature of the universe. In addition,

The only other work that comes to mind is a recent one- Carlos Castaneda's A Separate Reality and other books in the series.

Very few authors, in other words, have had the audacity or the vision to present a complete cosmology of the kind that Gurdjieff advances in Beelzebub. Thus, although the work does not stand alone literature, it finds itself in relatively rarefied company.

I've pointed out before that Beelzebub's Tales  is not, in fact, a unique and completely unclassifiable piece of literature, but, reasonably considered, firmly planted (and planted very early) in the genre of magical realism. The character of Beelzebub uses one of the typical devices of this genre: a protagonist who lives far longer than ordinary humans. What sets this particular work apart from other magical realism is its comprehensive focus on cosmology; one, furthermore, deeply tied into religious traditions from all parts of the world. It is, in other words, magical realism with an open stated aim and purpose, rather than just a work of fantasy for entertainment. It certainly careens in and out of didactic territory; nonetheless, any cosmological expose does so.

Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson bears more kinship to Dante's Divine Comedy and A Separate Reality than it does to Paradise Lost, because both Dante, Gurdjieff, and Castaneda employ the device of first-person narrative, presenting the reader with an unmediated, self-aware narrator. Milton, on the other hand, presents us with a third-person narrative more on the order of an imaginative and theatrical recapitulation of Christian doctrine, cast in a mythological atmosphere.

Both Gurdjieff, Dante, and Castaneda, on the other hand, present structural cosmologies with an intimate critique of contemporary human behavior. Their protagonist's intersections and interactions with our own world engender more immediate, practical, and powerful metaphors.

This is not to lessen the enormous achievement Milton sets before us, but rather to highlight the differences between the texts. The purpose here is not, in any event, to justify or evaluate Milton or Dante's place in the canon of Western literature, but merely to point out that Gurdjieff and Castaneda rightly earn a place beside these two giants with their work.

Although Castaneda's books certainly contain a legitimate literary cosmology, and present many fascinating ideas, they seem to me to lack the essential mythological core underlying the other three works. One's concern would center around the feeling that these books are more a form of pop art–works of popular culture, cast in the new age mold–than they are serious, world-class literature. On the other hand, being a product of their own time, perhaps this is an entirely appropriate guise for them to assume. Only the test of time will tell.

 In the meantime, it seems apparent that the literary world has not properly or appropriately evaluated Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson  in the context of Milton and Dante, even though this subject seems to have the potential for more than a few PhD theses.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What is the inner life?

Maybe I am clueless–in fact, it's certain that I am clueless, in many situations–but it never occurred to me, in the past series of posts, that any confusion would arise between what inner and outer Being might consist of, or that questions might arise as to whether we do in fact have an inner and an outer Being.

 The idea of the inner self is, after all, so ubiquitous in religion and esoteric practice that one assumes most of us are familiar with what that is; or at least have an idea that the concept is valid. Yet I discovered that friends and acquaintances were asking me what the inner self is, or even unable to say whether they thought they had one or not. This includes people who have spent the majority of an adult lifetime in an inner work.

 Do we distinguish between our inner and outer work? Do we have a clear understanding of the idea that both exist?

When I speak of intimate practice, as I often do, I speak of a part within that is quite different than this part that runs life. It is a part that does not fare well, as Ravi Ravindra once said, "under the cold light of analysis." It is that part that can't be expressed in words.

 The intimate practice is the silent part of the self that receives. It is the part that is fed most by impressions; it is an inwardly formed vibration that fills the body. It is definitely connected to the organic sense of being; all of the work we do with sensation, which is voluntary from the exoteric side of our work, eventually feeds and, with work, awakens this esoteric side of sensation, which then becomes voluntary from the esoteric side. The inner self, in other words, with enough food, awakens to reciprocally participate in action of the whole.

 This part is sacred and intimate, and reaches towards the higher, pressing against the cloud of unknowing. It is active and sensate; it does not think in the way we think, it does not know in the way we know, it does not act in the way we act. Nevertheless, it is the same as us: it is us.

This part does think, it does act, it does know. But it is quite different than that outward part which is so easily consumed by the events in  external life.  It is not strong: we have been feeding our outer life for many years without attending to it properly. But it is there, a friend or lover that always waits for us, no matter how thick and uncomprehending we are, no matter how unfaithful we are.

This is a side of ourselves that we, perhaps, do not know or rarely see;  nonetheless, it is that most vital part that prays in secret and is rewarded in secret. It is what writes the poetry, sings the hymns, and mediates the remorse of conscience.  iI there is an inner heaven to lay our treasures up in, it is here. If there is anything that crafts a higher relationship in man, it is here.  When there is exquisite joy, it is here. When there is exquisite sorrow, it is also here. Every real pearl encountered in a lifetime is found on this string, and this string alone.

If we don't know this part, it doesn't make us inadequate, insufficient, or inferior. It simply means that more effort is needed on our part. And this exoteric part of us–this outer part, which so clearly and definitely wishes to contact something higher–well, this is the part we have that can do the work to try and help us connect to this inner understanding and this inner experience. The experience is real and true; anyone who works can eventually come to this.  It is said that we can come to this Way through five things: trust, certainty, patience, resolution, and veracity. (Ibn 'Arabi, Sufis of Andalusia, p. 23, Suhail Academy, Lahore 1985.) 

 The part that sees is not the same as our inner self or our outer self. This may not seem easy to understand, or be clear to us, unless we already understand a clear distinction between the inner and the outer parts; nonetheless, as has been indicated in earlier essays on these questions, it is definitely a different element in the tripartite composition of our inner life... one perhaps directly related to Gurdjieff's "deputy steward." Jeanne de Salzmann makes this abundantly clear in her repeated references to the need to stand between the inner and the outer in our work. This place between two worlds is occupied by an awareness different than the awareness of the one world, and equally different than the awareness of the other.  That awareness is part of what helps to, as is mentioned in Views From The Real World, "separate oneself from oneself."  This standing between two worlds also occupies a significant meaning relative to the work outlined by the author of the Cloud Of Unknowing.

The simplest way to explain this is to refer readers to page 1091 of Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, in which he clearly indicates that man has three brains ("center of gravity localizations.") We can readily liken the inner, outer, and seeing manifestations of a man to this system of three minds, in which the harmonious interaction of the three leads to a fourth, "real," or transcendent mind, which according to the Law of Emergence has properties that manifest on a level higher than any of the three brains or minds can when acting independently.

 Human beings readily exercise the exoteric part of their being. That's where most everyone is stuck. Monastics and contemplatives exercise the esoteric part of their being, sometimes at the expense of the exoteric.  Take note, for example, the following quote:

"In making bread, water represents the active force, flour the passive force, and fire the neutralizing force. Bread is the independent result, the fourth element arising from the action of these three forces. Each of the three forces is necessary for the bread to be made; if one of them is missing there will not be bread...  Once made, bread has a fate of its own."
 "What is difficult to understand is the nature of the river we spoke of earlier and the possibility of leaving it so that crystallization can take place. As you are now, you cannot do it; nor do you see the unfortunate consequences of not understanding this idea. It was precisely this lack of understanding that caused an asceticism to arise in many monasteries, where the monks too often exhausted themselves instead of developing.” - G. I. Gurdjieff, from "Gurdjieff: A Master In Life, Tcheslaw Tchekhovitch, p. 56-57, Dolmen Meadows Editions 2006.

 Until the distinction between an intimate inner and active outer nature is clear,  it remains as a vitally important point of our work.

In working, do not neglect this intimate action.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The question of outer action

It is sometimes said that every religion or work has three natures: an outer nature, an intermediary nature, and an inner nature.

When Gurdjieff described these three natures to Ouspensky, he called them the exoteric, mesoteric, and  esoteric circles of a work.

 While I was pondering this question this morning, it occurred to me that there are parallels in Buddhism–and in Christianity–that may help inform us on the structural nature of the question. The Buddhists have a well-known saying: “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sanga." The Christians refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Either way, there is the idea of a Trinity of investment: the inhabitation of three different aspects.

The inhabitation of three different aspects is a union of three different aspects. In the case of the Buddhists, the Buddha is an intercessor or–an intermediary–between the community (Sangha) and the absolute (the Dharma.) I believe we might agree that the concept of Christianity is not that different. Christ is the intercessor between the community of the Holy Spirit, and the Absolute, that is, God the Father. In each case, it is recognized that the full inhabitation and relationship of all three forces is necessary, and that a personified, objective, or intimate, intercessor or or agent is necessary. (I use the words personified, objective, and intimate because they each have a different nature, and all of them are true unto themselves, within context.)

Exoteric action is the action of the community. We can call it the Sangha; we can call it the Holy Spirit. Both are valid. In each case, there is an external action, an action of relationship in community, which we must inhabit in our spiritual work. In a certain not so abstract sense, this is actually is the locus of work for any Fourth Way work, that is, work in life. So we cannot ignore the community.

Mesoteric action is the action of the individual and the intercessor. An agency of help from a higher level that helps us see becomes an active force in the intersection of exoteric action and esoteric action. We are called to stand between two worlds: and we call on the example, or help of, the Buddha or Christ to support us in this work. It's another facet, another aspect, of the Lord have Mercy prayer. It is also the very work that Jeanne de Salzmann calls us to in The Reality Of Being. We are asked to stand between two worlds, to help join the inner and the outer, which need to be in relationship. This relationship cannot arise without the intercession of a third force– and we become personally responsible for the action of that third force. The two worlds cannot join and create a whole without our action. So we have to exert action in three directions: we are required to exert exoteric action, in the community; we are required to exert mesoteric action, which joins the community to the higher; and we are required to exert esoteric action, which is a deep inner personal effort to come into relationship with the highest possible principle.

Esoteric action is an action directed towards the higher. Of course this is essential, but it is powerless without the other two elements. It might as well be locked up in a cave. And this is hardly where it wants to be. The esoteric has every wish to come into a full relationship with the exoteric, but it can't do so without the action of the mesoteric- that is, our own effort.

I took up this line of questioning specifically because my question to myself this morning was exactly what the nature of the exoteric work the Gurdjieff work ought to be engaged in is. It strikes me that Christians and Buddhists both have a strong sense of what exoteric work in their community, in relationship to other communities, consists of.  The exoteric face of a work may not be where the romance lies, but it is what confers cultural strength, and without cultural strength, a work dies.

We must ask ourselves whether there hasn't been a gradual weaking of vision in terms of the understanding of exoteric action on the part of the Gurdjieff work over the last thirty or forty years. Gurdjieff himself had a strong understanding of it, but corresponding shocks to maintain that didn't arise, even though shocks that preserved and grew the esoteric end of the work were consistent and powerful.

Consequently, while a deep understanding of the aim of esoteric work and what it means to the individual has grown considerably over the years inside the Gurdjieff community, there has been an overall lack of concerted attention to exoteric work, and there is consequent confusion about what it should mean and what it might consist of.

The work has deep esoteric aims related to higher levels; that is one thing. But, as the essay on escape from conditions points out, this does not issue an excuse from action in the ordinary world. We need to ask ourselves what our action here, in the ordinary world, on a horizontal level, ought to be. How do we put our community in relationship with the spiritual community at large? This needs to be understood from several points of view, not just the point of view of responsibility, but also the point of view of aim. What is the exoteric aim of the work? And if we don't quite know— well, isn't it our responsibility to form one?

Or should we just wrap ourselves in warm blankets and sit together quietly?

One exoteric aim of the work might be to help other paths see how we are all joined together. (And that is, indeed, the heart of the effort undertaken by Parabola magazine for over three decades now.) We are uniquely positioned at the heart of a higher understanding that emanated from what Gurdjieff called influences "C.” At this level of understanding, we're told, all religious efforts are one effort. A compassionate and intelligent exoteric action on the part of the Gurdjieff work could be to make every effort to help all works see one another as one. Of course it's a lofty goal, and an unattainable aim; yet every step in that direction intelligibly serves, and service must be one of the chief considerations in undertaking a legitimate exoteric work.

Because of its comprehensive nature, and its sensitivity to the question of wholeness and partiality, we're in a unique position to use our skills and insights in service to the religious community at large in this manner. There is no need to "sell" the Fourth Way or act as a recruitment center; instead, using our own efforts to understand in light of Mr. Gurdjieff's teachings and system, we may be able to help others in their own search, by connecting it to everyone else's. We may, with the tools and insights we've been given, be able to help put the humpty-dumpty of mankind's religious practice back together again.

Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson is, at least in some measure, a step in that direction; and since Mr. Gurdjieff clearly intended this book to be a serious part of the exoteric, public face of his work, part of his exoteric aim for this work must have leaned in that direction.

The ideas in the Gurdjieff work are like ligaments. Do we each personally represent agents and forces that can help those ligaments do their job to reconnect the spiritual parts of the body of humanity?

It's worth considering.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Next essay: Jan. 14: What is the inner life?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Look From Above

Dish with floral designs on an olive background
Iran, Safavid period (1501-1722)
 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The question of exoteric, mesoteric,  and esoteric work is intimately tied into the Law of Three and the Way that it acts.  Before readers continue with this essay, they ought to take a look at the following diagram of the relationships between esoteric, exoteric, and mesoteric forces.

The critical point of this diagram is that in it, the mesoteric force– the force which stands between and acts as the reconciling factor between the inner and the outer worlds– is found at the note "do."

To stand between– to see, which is the paramount activity  which both Gurdjieff and Jeanne de Salzmann called us to– is to occupy this note, this vibration from a higher level, which both begins and ends the octave. Seeing, even on this level, is already at the same note of identity, the beginning, as the energy from the higher level that opens the initial impulse of the octave. (Readers will recall that Gurdjieff specifically told Ouspensky that every note in an octave is the "do" for an octave below it. See the  diagram of the fractal enneagram.)

So when we engage in the act of seeing, even in an ordinary way and on our own level–that is to say, without any pretentious ideas that we're doing something special from a higher level, or experiencing the “look from above” that de Salzmann speaks of in The Reality of Being–we are already engaged in an activity connected, through relationship of vibration, to the entire Ray of Creation–since each note in the Ray of Creation is the "do" for an entire octave of its own.

And the consistent resonance of "do" reaches upwards and downwards through the entire structure.

 Astute readers will immediately see echoes here of the many different traditions that do not inherently distinguish between the identity of man or his consciousness and God; the insistence among Zen Buddhists that there can be no essential difference, real or imagined, between enlightenment and non-enlightenment; and so on. The point is that whether or not we are conscious of it, we are (as Dogen repeatedly points out) already representatives of enlightenment— or, put otherwise, share an identity with God.

 All of that sounds very nice, but, I'm sure you are thinking, we don't make very good Gods. Look at what a mess we're in.

And that's quite true. The question we face here is our need to strengthen the reconciling force, rather than focusing on our outwardness or our inwardness.  That is done by seeing: an intentional act of attention, or mindfulness. Such action is essential in practices ranging from Christianity (such as the philokalia) to Buddhism. And to engage in this action in ordinary life, at an ordinary level, already creates a consonance of harmony between the parts that can help to receive echoes of the higher "do" that engendered the octave in the first place.

A harmonious blending of the inner and the outer by an awareness that participates creates a whole entity that becomes more open to influences of a higher level. This awareness, or mindfulness, is the essential third element; and the law of three is the engine that turns the wheel of the Dharma, providing the shocks that allow the octave to develop.

This means that even the most ordinary activity, with mindfulness, helps our work. It also means that, whether we are aware of it or not, our action and our being is fundamentally inspired by the divine and is always reaching back towards it, no matter how lowly or confused our action is. (This is a point I think Brother Lawrence might be quite in agreement with.) Hence discounting our ordinary action would be a terrible mistake. We need it– it needs us– and the divine influence needs it as well. In reality, there is no way to look down on the ordinary except through hubris.

Withdrawing from a strong, practical exoteric action– trying to eliminate the ego, rather than help it be what it is and help our work– weakens the interaction. One needs a robust and well formed outer life for inner work to become whole. Hence Gurdjieff's absolutely right emphasis on conscious egoism.

 To be sure, the tendency is to emphasize too much one or the other. It's the balance that counts–and  seeing, self-remembering, helps to naturally establish that balance. Without it, the inner and outer qualities of a man remain locked in a struggle that may cost one— or both of them— their lives.

In the same way that this is true for an individual, it is also true for esoteric works. Esoteric works that lean too hard on the inner nature of work, neglecting outer responsibility– which must always manifest as a form of service– inevitably weaken and fall down, because the part that is supposed to be active, conscious, and seeing, has no strong exoteric material to put demands on it and balance the esoteric portion of the work.

 Work, in other words, whether for an individual or a community, must be balanced between these three forces. If one loses any one of the threads here, many things suddenly become quite impossible, no matter how sincere the work is, and no matter how good the intentions are.

 Subsequent essays over the next week will be exploring the possible natures and meanings of exoteric work for specific aspects of the Gurdjieff practice. Readers must keep in mind that these are not conclusions: they are questions, suggestions, explorations. What follows, is, in other words, a work in progress for the community.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Briar Patches

Parabola recently published a link to Bob Thurman and the Dalai Lama's discourse on the Kalachakra on the Parabola Facebook page.

A few of the comments in it are worth examining relative to my recent essays on the law of three and the nature of time.

Thurman remarks (see 2:40 onwards) that time is, in the Kalachakra, viewed as infinitely compassionate. Gurdjieff, on the other hand, characterizes time as the “Merciless Heropass”– not a compassionate force at all, but, instead, an objective one.

The difference is interesting, given that some of Gurdjieff's cosmology appears to be derived from Tibetan sources. For example, one distinct connection between the Kalachakra and the Gurdjieff work is that, in the tradition, the Kalachakra originated as a work in life (see the “history and origin” section in this Wikipedia link.) The Kalachakra tantra, furthermore, emphasizes the similarities and correspondence between human beings and the cosmos–yet another striking point of similarity to Gurdjieff's cosmology as he expounded it to Ouspensky in In Search Of The Miraculous.  Finally, we might consider Thurman's remarks about time as a machine (3:50) whose ultimate action is to liberate Beings from suffering. If we are going to characterize the universe and the flow of time as a machine, I believe we can agree this at least presents a more optimistic point of view than Ouspensky did in his treatment of the same subject.

How could these exalted sources possibly get it wrong- or, to put it more bluntly, how dare a slug like me exercise so much chutzpah as to suggest the Dalai Lama and Thurman are mistaken?

 Well then, dear readers.  Put your incredulity aside for just a moment and allow me to try and explain. While most of what they say about compassionate practice and a positive view of time is quite wonderful, understanding this question without understanding it from the point of view of the law of three and the universal octave may cause us to fall into the briar patch.

The Dalai Lama is entirely correct in referring to a universal force of compassion; nonetheless, Thurman ascribes this force to the action of time, instead of understanding the action of time as the formation of intelligence, which informs, but does not create, compassion. Compassion belongs to Love, which stands at the apex of the triangle in the law of three and is the reconciling force between matter and time.

Time is indeed a devourer, but this is not a negative characteristic, as suggested in the video. Nor is it a characteristic that needs to be "overcome." It is merely an existing characteristic, assuming- like Love and Matter- positive, negative, and reconciling roles by turn, in relationship to conditions. (In the action of the law of three, these three characteristics are not fixed, but fluid. Love, Time, and Matter each represent what Gurdjieff would have called "completed triads," that is, each one by itself is a harmonious blend of positive, negative, and reconciling elements. Each one has the capacity to express one of those three qualities in active manifestation, as necessary and appropriate in relationship to the actively expressed character of its partner elements in the triad.)

Manifestation and dissolution (form and non-form) are both real, and inescapable, as expounded in Dogen's Great Practice, found in the Shobogenzo. The action of going beyond– an essential Buddhist understanding– is where the question of compassion enters, as it balances the universal forces of creation and destruction.

What can we learn from this?

The law of three never excludes. It always integrates. Hence, every force is folded in to an action in relationship. There is no need to understand time as positive or negative; it is included in the whole of the force needed to turn the wheel of Dharma. It cannot act, however, without relationship to both matter (material reality) and compassion, or love.

 Understanding time as a being food of the universe, in the Gurdjieffian tradition, helps us to understand that awareness outside of time is not intelligent. Information–that which is inwardly formed–cannot act or produce a result in relationship without time. One might say, in some senses, that the wisdom, or intelligence, needed to inform compassion is discovered and developed within the properties of time. It's equally true that the power of expression is embodied in material reality.  In other words, the shocks in the universal octave describe and embody the three main paths Gurdjieff laid out as the foundations of yoga– the Way of the Fakir,  the Way of the Monk, and the Way of the Yogi.

Combining all three Ways into a “Fourth Way” gives us the path of the whole dharma– and Gurdjieff's law of three is the engine that turns the wheel of dharma.

While I liked the video and its overwhelmingly positive message (it's a little difficult to take a position against world peace, try though we may) its overwhelming emphasis on the "total positivity of time" raises some questions for me.  To indicate that the ultimate action of time is to liberate beings into their "highest bliss" or their own “deepest reality” may be true- readers must decide for themselves- yet we might consider resisting the temptation to label this as “positive,”  since it implies a polarity, an inherent duality, rather than an absolute objectivity, which– like the Dharma– encompasses everything, all Truth.

Here, I think, the message departs from both the deepest and most esoteric Buddhist doctrine, as well as Gurdjieff's vision of the universe. To say that everything is working towards a final “positive” outcome, rather than an outcome which is simply whole, appears to be a message designed more for its populist appeal than an objective vision of transcendence. Transcendence, after all, goes beyond positives and negatives–one of the main points of Zen Buddhist discourse, as expounded by Dogen and one, I believe, that even Tibetan Buddhists may agree on.

And we cannot come to grips with Gurdjieff's ideas about the Sorrow of His Endlessness if everything is ultimately going to turn out, as he would say, “roses, just roses.”

 Don't get me wrong. I am all for a universe of loving compassion, and positive outcomes. These constructs are, however, inventions of the conceptual mind. In the end, what we seek is a mystery, and that mystery transcends the limitations of our ordinary understanding.

My overall concern here is that presenting Buddhist practice, one of the most deeply esoteric and richest traditions in the world, as some kind of fairytale where “everything comes out all right in the end” may play well to audiences, but has the unfortunate potential to sell both the practice, and its meaning, short.

Buddhist philosophy and practice– like the Gurdjieff work– is not merely a facile means of ensuring a final positive result.

Its aim is to help us see Truth.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Escape From Conditions

Today, a comment on the Parabola Facebook page about war criminals had me pondering questions of ethics, and the thought occurred to me that we are all war criminals.

This may seem like a ridiculous proposition to readers; nonetheless, if you follow my line of reasoning, I believe you will understand the proposition.

My family moved to Hamburg, Germany when I was seven years old. The first week I was there, I met a middle-aged woman with a tattoo on her arm who had come out of the concentration camps.  Wide-eyed and innocent as I was, she was wise enough to compassionately explain to me why she had this tattoo. The explanation boggled my young mind. And at nine years old, my parents took me to see Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank died; this provided a permanent shock which cannot be described in ordinary words. 

In summary, the question of man's inhumanity and our collective moral imperatives has been a living one for me since I was a very young person. 

 We begin this line of questioning with the question of whether or not there are war criminals. If there is no right or wrong, there cannot be any war criminals– everyone does exactly as they please, and all things are equal. 

If there are war criminals, however, right and wrong indubitably exist. (See the post on intuition and conscience–link below.)  

Let us presume there are war criminals. We will now examine this question from the point of view of the Holocaust.

Once we agree right and wrong action exist, let us propose, for example, that it is wrong to exterminate innocent Jews in gas chambers. It is, in fact, so wrong that one must stop this by any means possible.  Eventually it becomes clear- as it unfortunately did- that merely discussing the matter over a cup of tea will not stop it.  Only applying extreme physical force will work.

At this moment in time, a man who fights–who kills other men–to prevent this misdeed is not taking a wrong action. So he's not a war criminal. He fights on the side of the right. And the man who refuses to fight is in the wrong on one of two counts: either he is passively refusing to stop the crime, thus becoming complicit in the mass death of Jews, or he is outsourcing the fighting to others, thus becoming complicit in both their death and the death of the Jews, which, one might conceivably argue, is even more criminal. 

In other words, to take no action whatsoever and still end up on the side of the “right”– attempting to escape conditions– is essentially impossible. This is the point that Krishna tried to impress upon Arjuna at the beginning of the Bhagavad-Gita; so it is an ancient question. It raises deep questions about the legitimacy of absolute pacifism from any moral point of view: and to propose or presume the possibility of an absolutely pacifistic planet is an absurdity. Conditions are not so, and they will not be. To presume otherwise is naïve at best, no matter how many arguments get thrown at it.

 In our own society– and traditionally, throughout history– if a man kills to prevent other men from doing wrong, suddenly, he is issued an official excuse – and, even more, he becomes a hero. Yet he has still killed. 

So apparently, there is an escape from the conditions of the morality of killing, because there are other conditions. Here discrimination pits one condition against another and excuses one evil because it was necessary. Examining this case, we see that even from the most ordinary point of view, that of the human moral imperative of right and wrong, redemption is possible: that there are transcendental conditions, that is, conditions that allow escape from other conditions. In other words, even in a polarized world "limited" by the dualistic ideas of right and wrong, higher and lower principles must exist.

 Gurdjieff pointed out that we live in a universe of laws, and that a man is always under some law. It is up to a man to understand this and decide which laws he chooses to be under. There is no absolute escape from conditions. Pacifists, in other words, want to escape from conditions, but they can't. All of humanity–being born into this essential condition, which does as a matter of objective fact contain violence and inhumanity–  is already complicit. We begin that way. The action of discrimination must become our guide; and we cannot deny at least the possibility of redemption under conditions of this kind. 

This is, at least in part, the reason that Europe abolished the death penalty; an action the United States, due to its punitive moral attitude, has not seen fit to agree on. (Ironically, authorities generally agree that the traditional Tibetan legal system in place at the time the British originally invaded Tibet was rife with extreme punishments and human rights abuses, suggesting that we have sold ourselves a romanticized, Shangri-La version of what the actual conditions in Tibet's religious society were, up until the West  and the Chinese began to interfere with them.)

I pointed out in an earlier post that the question of intuition and conscience comes into play here. We cannot control conditions; we can only become responsible to them. Responsibility is a complex question, not easily answered with reflexive emotional responses, which are partial. The reason that Gurdjieff used the analogy of a horse, carriage, and driver (concepts he took directly from an ancient yoga Sutra) for the being of man is because the horse isn't that smart. It's a horse. It is tremendously powerful and can run in any direction with great force, but it lacks intelligence. It is up to the driver to provide the intelligence needed to direct the horse properly. So knee-jerk reactions to the idea that so and so is a war criminal may be appealing, but they fail to examine the fundamental premise.  One has to think about these things; thinking, however, is difficult and may lead one to painful realizations that don't fit with one's opinions. Hence, we usually avoid doing it.

This brings to mind a comment that Krishnamurti made at a meeting in Holland in the 1960's. One man maintained that the Nazis were more responsible than others for the crimes that had been committed. Krishnamurti admonished the man by saying that we are all personally responsible. 

Each of us, individually, he said, is responsible for the conditions. Not some other person.  

One response we can choose to make in response to conditions is compassionate action– something that the Dalai Lama would surely endorse. (Highly recommended reading: Tattoos on the Heart, by Gregory Boyle, featured in an earlier issue of Parabola.)

So how can one escape from conditions? Transcendence– the action of the higher, third force, a reconciling factor, the Buddhist action of going beyond– is always an action from a higher level. We cannot escape from the conditions of contradiction on this level. Something else is necessary. A divine influence, which has a property often referred to as Mercy, must enter into the action of this level in order to reconcile. At the moment of death– the moment of surrender to the higher, which is the  required second shock in the octave– Gurdjieff's prayer is “Lord have Mercy.” This is the action that Christ took on the cross when he forgave the criminal being crucified next to him. 

In other words, by Christ's example, even as we ourselves are crucified– brutally nailed to the horizontal action of this level– we can choose to discriminate by taking a compassionate action that shows mercy.

 Students of the Gurdjieff system interested in the enneagram might here take note of the fact that the second conscious shock is located in the "wrong" place on the enneagram.  This shock is actually supposed to be located between the numbers eight and nine–that is, between the notes "si" and "do." 

The prayer of "Lord have mercy," in other words, must be invoked as man stands at the very threshold of the Lord– it is his last and most necessary prayer before his encounter with the Lord, that higher principle to which we must all answer in the end.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A definite moment of intimate practice

Some personal notes.

Epiphany is at hand; this is a definite moment of intimate practice.

Intimate practice cannot be put on the table and served. It does not fit in dishes, and is never seen in the grocery stores where we exchange goods and services. The truly esoteric aspect of work is the quiet work of the inner self. It remains ever hidden; as it gains intelligence, it conceals itself naturally.

To hide naturally is to understand. All of the outward self is naturally unhidden; this outwardness is in its nature and is entirely right. The open nature of outwardness is a true nature, just as the hidden nature of inwardness is a true nature. So we have these two natures, and they are both true natures. There is no need to judge them; we need only inhabit them.

 To discriminate is to see the difference between what must be outward and what must be inward. Outwardness and inwardness belong together; each must know its own nature and be whole unto itself. Perhaps the great difficulty is that we are confused about this question. To be inward and to be intimate is to practice and to pray in secret. This practice and this prayer belong to the inner nature, and are a matter strictly between God and a single soul. The relationship of the soul to God is like the relationship of a wife to a husband, or a mother to her child. Nine tenths of it need not be explained; it knows itself and does not need the knowing of others.

We live in an age where the outward display of everything is routine and expected. Men have forgotten what inwardness is, and don't understand what it is, as the parables say, to drink wine instead of water. Nowadays, men drink water and declare what wonderful wine it is. We compare vintages.

But there is no wine here. There are many glasses, and bottles everywhere, but this wine does not come in glasses and in bottles. Today's glasses and bottles are filled with snake oil.

To be intimate is to be precise. It is to put one's attention on a single very fine point, perhaps something that is very nearly insignificant and cannot be seen at all by anyone else. It is at the heart of the body and the heart of the mind and the heart of the feelings; it is a single, small thing, like the eye of a needle. The soul is a thread that can pass through that eye, if enough love and attention is paid to it.

So there is this opportunity to be intimate and to be precise, but it can't be squandered. It mustn't be advised or advertised. It needs to take place as though one had one small grain of sand between the thumb and the forefinger; it is an act of love that is found only in the details, and not in the gross movements of life.

It is here–immediately here.

One practices as though one's hair is on fire without anyone else ever seeing it. Practice is like this; it is always within, never coming, and never going away. In the same way that the left hand and the right hand turn away from one another, so that one does not know what the other is doing, eyes look in two directions at the same time. Prayers live in the midst of sin; and hearts are open even though it looks like the doors of the house are closed, and no one is at home.

Men believe ten thousand things, yet nothing we believe is intimate. To understand one thing that is true is to become intimate. To have one thing that is intimate is already ten thousand things and more. There is no limit to intimacy; yet every object, event, condition, and circumstance is limited.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Time and Necessity

On Jan 1, I went upstate and stood at my sister's grave.

Less than three months ago, she was still alive. Aside from my own premonitory dream, there were no indications that she was about to die.

Blending seamlessly with the experience of standing there, knowing that the elemental remains of her body were under the earth in front of me, were the results of my numerous recent contemplations about the nature of incarnation and time.

We learn from the  story of Christ–and other divine parables– that divinity repeatedly incarnates itself and is made manifest in the midst of man and his affairs. It seems like a special occasion; furthermore, it often seems, the way the story is told, as though it is a favor being done for us.

In fact, the incarnation of divinity is a necessity. The Divine must manifest in the midst of material reality; if there are any cosmological lessons to be learned from the vast expanse we traverse when reading Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, it is that the higher must repeatedly descend for contact with the lower. Not only do all the messengers who visit Earth to try and straighten mankind's affairs out do this; Beelzebub himself recapitulates the process over and over again during the course of the book.

The nature of existence and the flow of time required the creation of material reality, and required the manifestation of the Divine within it. All of this because of the nature of Time. Time inexorably consumes everything; As Gurdjieff tells it, only by balancing the relationship between divinity and time with the material universe was it possible to preserve the nature of divinity itself.

The entire Passion of Christ, in which he ultimately- and unconditionally- accepts his fate in the garden of Gethsemane represents an acknowledgment of the inevitability of incarnation and all its consequences. God accepts his own suffering through expression and material reality in order to make the universe whole. In His effort to overcome the destructive nature of Time, all of God is repeatedly and forever given to us in this sacrificial act of embodiment and, afterwards, surrender.

In examining the history of known religious avatars over the last three thousand years, no other single act has ever more fully recapitulated the relationship between the divine and man, or completely illustrated the functional nature of the cosmos in relation to its ongoing creation and destruction, than Christ's sacrifice. The passion does not belong to Christianity alone: incarnation and surrender are at the heart of the universal order, and Christ's action, on an esoteric level, describes not just the parameters of Christianity, but also that of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and every other legitimate religious practice.

 The Divine incarnates in order to know itself, integrating both the understanding and actual process of time into Its own nature. In the original nature of the universe, before the establishment of the cosmos, Divinity and Time were opposed to one another in separation. A third force became necessary. The universe as we know it is that third force; and in its entirety, it is the complete expression of the Divine, manifest.

Matter is the eternal incarnation and reincarnation of living truth. Here we come close to touching on one of the overarching meanings of the Dharma.

 Is this all theoretical? I think not. Go stand at the grave of a loved one, sense yourself, and contemplate.

We are all immediate and perpetual participants in this process; it is not an abstraction, but the immediate expression of every moment of our own lives. Our sensory tools– the body, thought, emotions– are specifically designed to collectively sense the nature of this question and our relationship to the whole.

These questions stand close to the nature of being-foods and the universal octave. They are also directly related to the Buddhist investigation of form and non-form. In order to visually clarify the relationship between Gurdjieff's enneagram, form, non-form, and the Dharma, I have created the following diagram
 (click the link) which is directly related to the diagram of being-foods in the universe.

As readers will see, the enneagram provides a useful visual reference for the nature of relationship in the central questions of form and its meaning.  This graphic should put to rest, in some ways, many of the questions about whether there is– or isn't– a form in spiritual work. The question is much like the beginning of a Persian fairy tale: there is a form, and there isn't a form. Both of these things are true, and both are quite necessary.

But there is also something else.

 We talk about Time, the Merciless Heropass, as though it were somewhere else, and us not already in it. We talk about the Divine as though it were something other than ourselves, and the universe as we encounter it.

Yet here we are,  right now, in this very moment in the middle of everything– right at the heart of the action.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Sacred Beginning

Bowl with Hare, Spain, 14th century 
Metropolitan Museum
on loan from Hispanic society of America

Here we are, at the beginning of another year.

This morning, I was pondering the role of beginnings and the note "do" on the enneagram.

 Beginnings may look quite ordinary to us. The first note in the octave looks like it's at a low level. We tend to get the impression that when we begin, we start at the "bottom" and work our way "up."

It isn't quite that way. Every beginning is a sacred beginning that emanates from a higher influence. Remember, the note “do” is located on the apex of the triangle representing the law of three. It's actually the highest influence that affects the entire existence and process of the octave. From that initial note, as the octave develops, the energy has to descend and incarnate itself before it can begin its journey back to the higher source it came from. The use of the terms up and down is relative; change in rates of vibration are omnidirectional. The enneagram is, in a certain way, a diagram of a cosmic electrical circuit. In the multiplications, we see a complex field of interaction where higher rates of vibration continually inform lower ones- and vice versa. Energy doesn't evolve in a linear fashion- 1,2,3,4,5,6,7- but in a much more complex one: 1,4,2,8,5,7.

The beginning of every moment,  every object, event, circumstance, and condition, is a sacred moment. Reality always begins as it emanates from a higher source. The cyclical process whereby it recognizes itself and then returns itself to the source that it came from is not a journey from down here to up there. It is a journey through relationship in which all directions have a value and each one supports the others.

Our dualistic view of our own lives and relationships contradicts this truth. We don't see that every relationship and direction we engage in–or that engages us–is part of a mutually supportive whole, that in its collective nature expresses the Dharma. The whole point of Dogen's Genjo Koan is to express this wholeness of relationship, which is most certainly part of what we have forgotten when we say we do not remember ourselves.

In a certain sense, the beginning is the most sacred moment of all. If it is rightly recognized and valued, we start out by sensing the divine origin of every action. To truly be aware of this would create a  fundamental inner transformation of attitude. That is, of course, an extraordinarily high aspiration which we can't speak of except theoretically.

 Everything is under divine influence, higher influence, entering each octave of relationship from the highest possible point within that octave, and then returning to it. It is the iteration and expression of that energy as it develops that determines a man's right work and right action. When we consider this, we can perhaps begin to glean an understanding of Meister Eckhart's contention that all actions originate in God, serve God, and return to God. In the end, there is nothing but the Dharma–there is nothing but God. Every human being, in the course of all of their actions and their entire lives, is a steward of this sacred process that begins at the first note. Hence the overarching emphasis on service and stewardship that permeates the New Testament in the Christian Bible.

 To live in the moment– presuming one had the faintest clue of what that means (and although we talk about it great deal, we do not have much of a taste of this) would be to eternally and consciously sense the sacred nature of Being.

 It's a ridiculously tall order, I think you'll agree. Here we are, helpless little "slugs," as Hassein described us to his grandfather Beelzebub. Yet we have a wish to sense the sacred nature our existence and the sacred nature of every action. We're very fortunate slugs indeed to have this impulse.

Everything is sacred. Do we know the taste of that? These are not just words; and the inadequacy of words does not take anything away from the truth here. Man is created with an organic ability to know this, to know that he stands at the note “do” at every moment of his life. And to know that life emanates from its first to its last instant, in every expression and iteration, from a sacred source.

A right valuation of this could mean everything to our work. Doesn't the world look quite different if it is all precious, instead of something shrink wrapped and disposable, which is the way most of our culture presents everything to us?

 Yes, a tall order indeed. Yet perhaps we could all join one another together this year in an effort to understand this forever arising, forever existing initial impulse and its sacred nature.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The three realms: Dogen's Genjo Koan and Gurdjieff's Law of Three

Dogen's Genjo Koan, constituting his most essential expounding of the Dharma- opens with three sections:

"When all dharmas are Buddha dharma, there are delusion, realization, practice, birth and death, buddhas and sentient beings.

"When the myriad dharmas are without a self, there is no delusion, no realization, no Buddha, no sentient being, no birth and death.

"The Buddha way, basically, is leaping clear of abundance and lack; thus there are birth and death, delusion and realization, sentient beings and buddhas. Yet in attachment blossoms just fall, and in aversion weeds just spread." (Dogen's Genjo Koan- Three commentaries, P.23, Counterpoint, Berkely, 2011.)

These three propositions accurately mirror Gurdjieff's Law of Three. Dogen's first paragraph describes Holy Affirming; the second, Holy Denying; and his third expounds the principle of Holy reconciling.

Interested readers who pick up a copy of the book will discover that much of Bokusan's commentary on the nature of Genjo Koan is closely related to this question. Genjo Koan, loosely interpreted, means "the hidden, whole action of impartiality." (See pages 13-14.) Bokusan's detailed iteration of syllabic meaning notwithstanding, the interpreted gist of the title is broadly consonant with Gurdjieff's "impartial being-mentation." And, indeed, a close reading of the text as Bokusan's commentary develops reveals just such a thrust.

In Dogen's Zen, the resolution of conceptual thought, and consequent duality, is attained through the action of third force, Gurdjieff's Holy Reconciling. This is "going beyond."

Bokusan comments: "Buddha dharma is like this. As being, non-being, form, and emptiness go beyond being and non-being, form and emptiness, there are distinctly being and non being, form and emptiness. Sentient beings, Buddhas, delusion and enlightenment are all like this... This is something that can only be understood by those who have departed from all views and attained true liberation. It cannot be seen with the eyes of those who are eager to be enlightened. Genjo Koan comes forth when this eagerness is removed. What happens in the place beyond being and non-being? Only after going beyond do the three realms come together and sentient beings come together. This is Genjo Koan.

To tell you the truth, even when we are deluded we are within the three realms. Even when we are enlightened we are within the three realms." (ibid, p.36.)

The three realms can be understood as three forces of Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, and Holy Reconciling. Only by the action of third force- going beyond- can the three realms be brought together within the manifestation of sentient (three brained) beings. Just like Gurdjieff, Dogen indicates that we are third force blind- we don't understand going beyond. This blindness towards third force is both a central tenet of Gurdjieff practice and an overarching theme in Buddhism.

Broadly speaking, the forces of cause and effect- a perennial question in Zen- can be understood as related to affirming and denying forces. Reconciliation comes through action- and that action can, perhaps, furthermore be broadly understood as understanding. Understanding- insight- is repeatedly presented in Zen practice as a transcendental action that resolves the paradox of causes and effects- which cannot be denied, but are not in fact separated. Readers who pick up a copy of the book will find that throughout the text, Bokusan's commentaries repeatedly bring up points that are very strongly consonant with comments and observations made by Jeanne de Salzmann in The Reality of Being.

This raises interesting questions about de Salzmann's trip to Japan with William Segal, her meetings with Suzuki and Nakagawa, and later consequences for the Gurdjieff work. Her insights- though undeniably and inseparably in a direct line that evolved from her work with Gurdjieff- unmistakably echo Zen insight and Zen practice, and her introduction of Zen-type sittings to the everyday practice in the Gurdjieff Foundation's work must have followed directly on her discovery of the similarities between Zen understanding and objective understanding, as taught and practiced by Gurdjieff himself.

De Salzmann, in other words, understood both aim and practice in Zen, and how closely related they were to Gurdjieff's own work and aims.    

I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Universal Octave

In my general ponderings about the enneagram, essence, conscience, and related topics, this morning, my questions came around to an old subject–that is, being-foods in man and the universe.

 Because, as Gurdjieff taught us, man is an accurate model of the universe in miniature, we can readily understand the idea that the universe has three being-foods, just as man does.

It's not difficult to relate man's three being foods to the law of three on the enneagram, and I have done so in this diagram. (click on the link.)  Each type of food, having a different rate of vibration, is appropriate to a different center, whose rate of vibration is at a corresponding speed.

What we see is that each center has a food appropriate to its own work.

 What makes the subject more interesting to me is what happens when we look at the same diagram as applied to the universe. Readers can see this diagram at the following link, which also allows you to interactively toggle back and forth between being-foods of man and being-foods of the universe.

 Readers who have been following my recent musings will know of my essays about the connections between the creation and nature of material reality, the flow of time, and  my consequent inferences about the  relationship between the consciousness of man and the consciousness of God. Let's just say that these subjects are all intimately connected.

 The bottom line here is that the universe, like human beings, feeds on the material around it, and is constructed of it. The law of Trogoautoegocrat– I eat myself– is wholly expressed in the enneagram.

Matter itself–elemental matter–is the first being-food of the universe, the material food of the universe, which represents the initial incarnation of the divine in the flow of material downwards through the rate of creation. It's easy to understand how this works: the physical body, or moving center, of the universe, the vehicle through which all of the universe is expressed, is composed of matter. Matter itself represents the Holy Denying force: energy, emitted from the wholeness of God, manifests itself as its own “I am–I wish to be”– a separate entity from God.

Time is the second being-food of the universe, playing the same role that air plays for man. Gurdjieff said to Ouspensky, " Time is breath– try to understand this.” (In Search Of The Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky, page 213, Paul H. Crompton Ltd. edition 2004.)  Given that air is, in man, the "food" of intellectual center, let's take a shot at it, presuming that time plays a similar role in the universe.

The intelligence of the universe, its character and everything it knows, develops only through time. It is the progressive and interactive nature of relationship that creates meaning. The intellect of the universe, its ability to see, think, and understand itself, can only be developed by consuming the medium of time. Matter must surrender itself back into God through time: everything submits itself to time, creating its relationship to the second prayer, "Lord have Mercy." (See the diagram at this link for the position of the two prayers on the enneagram.)

The prayer "Lord have Mercy" is located on the diagram at the same place where Time, the Merciless Heropass, acts as the second shock in the universal octave. Time has no mercy... hence the prayer to the Lord to provide it.

The third being-food of the universe is Love.  This force is at the highest rate of vibration, representing the point at which Divine Influence initiates and informs the entire octave of the universe. It corresponds to the food of impressions in man; and indeed, in the essay on the flow of time and its nature (see the above link) it turns out that the consumption of impressions is essential to the identity of Divinity,  in its ongoing effort to know itself fully. This subject is treated in more detail in the essay on Chakras and the Enneagram.

 Anyway, I thought readers would find this line of inquiry interesting. It's far from a complete work; nonetheless, the suggestions are provocative. I have added a complete page of diagrams of various kinds to my Doremishock website so that readers can browse through the iterations of the enneagrams I have created in my various essays without having to read all the ponderous material that accompanies them. (I have to confess that I myself find it painfully difficult to slog through endless pages of esoteric material– an exquisite irony, isn't it? ...Just looking at the pictures should provide an easy browsing experience that won't drive you completely nuts,  and, in some cases, if you truly think about them, you will figure out much of what is said in the essays.)

In summing all of this up, it occurred to me that it's possible to distill Gurdjieff's approach into a very few concise words. The Work consists of the following efforts and responsibilities, each one related to its own position on the enneagram in the law of three:

Always Beginning (note "do")
Always Working (first conscious shock- conscious labor)
Always Giving Back (second conscious shock- intentional suffering)

These three principles, applied throughout the development of any object, event, condition, or circumstance, are what we might call right action.

 There are some further important inferences to draw here from the nature of time, its position on the diagram, and the sorrow of His Endlessness, but they cannot be addressed in this essay, which has more than enough theory in it already.

On a more practical note, it's hardly a theoretical exercise to try and have a conscious impression of the digestion, breathing, and impressions (especially as they may arrive under the influence of forces above the top of the head.) We are always in the midst of taking in all three being-foods.

To be human– to be a man without quotation marks– is to sense this organically.

 I respectfully ask you to take good care.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Essence, Intuition, and Conscience

In the earlier post on conscience, I examined Gurdjieff's contention that conscience was the only undamaged part of man's psyche- an element, furthermore, that embodied attributes of the divine- and that it had submerged (like the continent of Atlantis) into his unconscious.

Conscience is a discriminatory mechanism which in ordinary life- as well as in his attitude towards higher influences- can allow a man to choose what the Buddhists would call "right action."

In late Middle English, the word intuition originally connoted a spiritual insight or immediate spiritual communication; today, we use the word to indicate an instinctive understanding or action. Either way, we can understand intuition as being connected to our submerged conscience. I don't mean this by way of psychic activity, that is, the paranormal sensing of events (as in seeing the future, for example) but rather in the sense of knowing what is right.

Cosmologies without an inherent understanding of, and discrimination between, right and wrong are, in my eyes, next to worthless. The entire text of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson is, by and large, an exhaustive discrimination between right and wrong practices within the sensory range, psychic, and social  manifestations of mankind. There is a right and there is a wrong in Beelzebub's universe; having himself fallen afoul of the borders between right and wrong practice-which, by the way, are determined according to universal cosmological Laws-, he is banished to the solar system to reflect on his transgressions. In the course of things, he uncovers an opportunity to delve further into, perhaps, the same sort of questions that plagued his own misunderstandings, by examining mankind.

The general gist of the book is that humanity has, over the course of thousands of years, lost nearly all of its ability to practice such discrimination in a manner proper for three-brained beings. The one part of his psyche- conscience- that man is yet able to trust lies buried in him- hidden- not participating in his day- to- day life. According to Beelzebub, this part may, with effort, yet become reactivated in man, participating once again in his conscious Being.

Discrimination involves making choices. Every human being is inevitably, as a result of events, circumstances, objects, and relationships, required to make discriminating choices in life. These choices play a role as reconciling factors, mediating the opposing forces he or she encounters. And the whole point of life, according to Gurdjieff, is to learn how to make choices that embody the characteristics of responsible individuals. The five obligolnian strivings emphasize it; Gurdjieff's remarks to Ouspensky about the behavior of tramps and lunatics underscore it.

Conscience- and therefore intuition- play no small part in the awakening of such impulses. As Beelzebub says, per the understandings of the Society of Akhldanns, "Every deed of a man is good in the objective sense if it is done according to his conscience, and every deed is bad if from it he later experiences remorse."

A right attention towards life is necessary; a clarity whereby one sees where one is. Following this, the action of an inner part must come into play. This part is closely connected to essence; essence, as the innermost part of man's psyche, and the one having an ability to make a more direct contact with higher influences, acts wholly in concert with conscience, which has (appropriately) secluded itself in close proximity to essence.

The association makes perfect sense; conscience being a divine impulse, it belongs most properly to that portion of the enneagram circumscribed by the law of three. I thus propose the following addition to yesterday's diagram, placing conscience in the center of the stable triangle described by essence. Conscience must be under divine influence; accordingly, I can't reasonably assign it any other position on the enneagram.

The salient point is that essence, conscience, and intuition have a close relationship to one another. Intuition, moreover, ought to be an essential and spiritual sense of what is right and wrong, not a moral one. Moral choices are only able to describe themselves within the horizontal action of the multiplications and the perimeter of the enneagram. Intuitive, or conscience-based choices, are always born from emanations that originate in higher influences. This is why the folkloric understanding of intuition and its value has always placed it higher on the scale of man's understanding than rational thought, which belongs to a different and subordinate sphere.

Freedom of action involves freedom from the centrifugal force of personality; a cessation of erratic rotation. That rotation must be balanced by the counterweight and shocks of essence. Anchored in an organic state of being, conscience can express itself through the absolute freedom of intuition, which in an unmediated state lacks the capacity for error. So in a sense, when we speak of "being free" and "inner freedom," we speak of being in touch with our native, informed (inwardly formed) intuition, which does not need the interference of the mind to understand or manifest right action.

This capacity, like Zen's "going beyond," transcends action of the conceptual mind and the dualistic formulations of enlightenment and delusion. The intuition of conscience is able to strike a single blow that penetrates to the heart of the matter. Meeting the moment, it knows at once what is needed.

Why do we need attention?

Solely to make it possible for this element of our psyche, acting through essence, to be allowed to discover its rightful expression.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.