Inkwell: Authors and Artists
John Shirley (john-shirley) Fri 30 Apr 04 23:59
Chrys and Jay: I don't think you can verify the ray of creation this side of quantum physics maybe --though if you read the physicist Basarab - Nicolescu in "Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and his Teaching" by Needleman and Baker you get a sense that research on the universe's origins may indeed confirm some of his ideas,and in the Breathing Cathedral Martha Heynemann sees parallels in philosophy everywhere, from Plato to Dante to quantum physics. There are parallels in the Corpus Hermetica, if you respect sources like that, Jay. But you can verify his methods for direct apprehension of our state, and for connection to something higher; and his methods for personal liberation. The trouble is, there are things that are only talked about in person. They're an 'oral tradition'--methods for something very like Gnosis. It's quite resonant with the Gospel of Thomas and the GOspel of Mary Magdalene. Glass half empty in Gurdjieff as opposed to half full? You *assume* that there is nothing in the work about seeing the divine spark in people. Actually the Work is about Seeing More. The more you see, the more that spark is visible. Gurdjieff was actually quite compassionate. He isn't really harder on people than Krishnamurti, say, or Milarepa or many of the great Zen masters. The latter'll whack you with a stick if you slump during sitting! If you look at the Philokalia it depicts humanity as being in a horrible state of degraded subjection to dark, worldly influences. The Buddhists are often called 'negative', as they call for people to reject identification with the world of illusion and 'wrong action'. Gurdjieff would try to prod people into seeing not that they're 'merde' but that their STATE at that time was merde. THeir state was fragmentary, was daydreaming,was all blur, was...waste! But he isn't putting them down, he's just saying No, no, no--you're not here with me! COme back to me! Be here! Not being here is merde! No one says you can't kick back or that's bad. He liked a drink; he liked to tell jokes with his friends in a steam bath. There's a place for it. It's about what's appropriate.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Sat 1 May 04 00:02
Re the Ray of creation and Gurdjieff's cosmology, and at the risk of giving you a headache, here are some remarks I put in the appendix of my book that sort of tie in with things we were just talking about: As the Hermetic formulation has it, as above, so below: the lawful patterns of the cosmos are reproduced in Man, who is a microcosmic mirror of the macrocosmos, and these same patterns can be studied within man. Organized along the Ray of Creation each lower world is within the next higher world, like Chinese boxes, every self-contained unit fitting exactly within a largerso everything is here, yet paradoxically the higher universe is in some respects out of reach. All the types of matter in the universe are found in man solar, astral, gross and so on but some are of such a relatively fine quality, vibrating at such an exquisitely attenuated frequency, that they are inaccessible to us as we ordinarily are. Yet there are times we can get help from those highly refined levels. Energies are transferred up and down the ray of Creation: Influences pass from the Absolute, down through the concatenation of energetic transactions to the planets. The Will of the Absolute helps this influence pass down across the barrier of the first interval; after this, the Will of the Absolute is in effect diluted, so that once it passes through All Planets it would then be stymied by the interval of discontinuity between All Planets and the Earth were it not for the organic life on Earth, a kind of biological substrate which acts as an accumulator and transmitting station for forces, bootstrapping the energy over the abyss of the interval... Emanations of a certain quality are needed by the re level and lower levels; other kinds are needed for the evolution of the Planets, the Sun and beyond. Events on Earth, Gurdjieff averred, are affected by the cosmic need for particular energies. When certain kinds of energies are needed, certain organic eventsoften dire, perhaps even great warsare elicited through planetary influences, generating the needed wavelengths through the Earths organ of perception and transmission, organic life, in a manner capable of passing the intervals. Is this yet another cold, grim idea? These effects happen lawfully, according to the innate mechanism of the cosmic structure. Nature, again, has always been quite evidently rigorous, unforgiving, impersonal. Consider, for example, Natural Selection, and the relentless replacement of the old with the young. Yet God does what can be done for us, within the rules and necessities of cosmic balance: great possibilities are always on offer for those willing to pay the price in attention, and work. Gurdjieff moves from this simple scale to a computationally perfect elaboration of a law of Octaves beyond the scope of this book; the reader is referred to In Search of the Miraculous for his marvel of cosmic mapping. Gurdjieffs lectures on the role of the octave in the cosmos, as recorded by Ouspensky, seem to parallel some of the arcane formulations of quantum physics. Basarab Nicolescu, a theoretical physicist at the Centre Nationale de Recherches Scientifique, relates Gurdjieffs teaching to the work of quantum pioneer Max Plank. Plank expressed this as a universal constant, the Plank Constant, and in finding a constant he also found an inconstant, that is, a repeating discontinuity in the overall structure of energy. Gurdjieff, in Beelzebubs Tales, called this the obligatory-gap-aspects-of-the-unbroken-flowing-of-one-whole. As Nicolescu puts it, It is discontinuity which permits unity to exist in diversity and diversity in unity. Gurdjieff perceived in the vibratory spectra a cosmic ladder of seven-leveled octaves, each expressing a discontinuity of vibrations that gives shape to the Ray of Creation, and, by extension, to our spiritual efforts. It is not known for sure whether Gurdjieff knew much about PlankGurdjieff seems to have found a teaching that located the same truth obtained from different sources.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Sat 1 May 04 00:13
Actually I misspoke in 76 above when I mentioned Milarepa--I meant Marpa, Milarepa's teacher.
gary (ggg) Sat 1 May 04 06:35
Very interesting. To continue <71> (and <75>) a moment more, as I hear the question, it isn't so much about the how to deal with the ray of creation, say, as with the panoply of poetic (and idiosyncratic) ... well, vocabulary, let's say. I'm hesitant to say anything beyond 'vocabulary' 'cos that would be overstepping the bounds of my own knowledge of the ... system, shall we call it; I.E., this dimension which seems mythic, symbolic, metaphoric, poetic. (If ever there were a spiritual path where a glossary would be useful, it might be here; yet a dictionary is only a book of words, about other words.) I suspect there are personalities that are more drawn to this type of teaching than others. (I forget the system of ranking personalities that's I believe something Gurdjiffians use, involving numbers, oh yea, I remember, the enneagram; the gal at the caffe said it came from Sufism, originally.) If it weren't a matter of national identity (born into), some people might prefer orthodox Christianity, others Episcopalean, and still others the apocalypticism in which one hears W believes. A chacun son gout. But, to inject a note of drama to our convivium, I wonder what findings your research has lead you to, John, regarding the politics (if any) of Mr G, and of his contemporary scene. There are Buddhists who support the war in Iraq, and military regimes that are nominally Buddhist; yet this seems to contradict the basic teachings. Are there teachings that are interpreted in terms of social or political engagement? Or is it all strictly nonsecular? And given that we are still sorting through the influence of the tremenduum of the second world war (pound, heidegger, et al, for example), how has Mr. G. come through in that regard? (i'm asking in a peaceful way, even 'tho the question itself concerns war; i think often of daumal's piece 'the holy war' these days.)
John Shirley (john-shirley) Sat 1 May 04 12:03
Gurdjieff's politics--I discuss this briefly in my book. He seemed to regard most poilitics as symptomatic of the "mass psychosis" that humanity is prone to. He seemed on the side of individualism and freedom, if anything. He didn't like communism, and made fun of it, in Beelzebub's Tales, but he was not rabidly any one thing. He told Orage that social reform could only happen when individuals were changed. Consciousness expansion made change possible. Was required to happen "first". I'm going to be out of town for a couple days--will try to get to an internet cafe or something. But feel free to "talk amongst yourself! Coffee talk! Like buttah!" (Refence to saturday night life sketch if you're not American).
Jeffrey M. Field (topsy-turvy) Sun 2 May 04 05:33
The shit hit the fan Friday, but in a way I wasn't prepared for. A person I'll refer to as Deep Throat Jr. said we needed to talk. He drove to my house after school and we drank Pete's Wicked Ale and chatted about this and that. Meanwhile, my heart's pounding in my ears. Here's the short of it: I was targeted for dismissal about two months ago. It has nothing to do with my errant blog I mentioned in <29>. But he doesn't have a clue as to why I'm being let go. He said it's "politics". We discussed some possibilities... a disgruntled parent with undue influence, unhappy school board members (I teach two of their kids), the possibility that my blogging offended someone in high places. What the fuck! I'm clueless. The only certainty is, I'm a goner. (If I'd been rehired I'd have tenure.) Friday night I slipped into bed around 7. I wanted to obliterate all consciousness. I awoke around 12:30. That's when my mind unleashed a barrage of ugly crap. I tossed and turned, trying to sleep. No go. I remembered The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment (full text here) http://www.lcars.eu.org/sarah.peter.nelson/lazyman/lazyman.html I repeated the word "love" like you would count sheep. I fell asleep in about 15 minutes and awoke at 5 (which is rather late for me... I usually rise between 3 and 4). My dreams were highly sexual. Saturday morning I took stock, while noticing that my forlorn mood of Friday night had been replaced by an upbeat outlook. I mapped out a plan of attack. Today I'll write the superintendent a letter, listing my past accomplishments and future goals as a teacher. I'll also appeal to the idea of "fair play" since he was a football star and now his son's a star... he quarterbacked the team which won the high school's first ever state championship this year. During the run-up to the championship, I enquired if anyone planned to take pix of the game. Realized no one was, so I decided to shoot it with my trusty Kodak DC50. http://consilience.typepad.com/photos/state_champs/ In the superintendent's quarterly report, he republished a number of the pix, and publicly thanked me for my efforts. In my letter, I will mention those pictures and, that as a favor to me, even if I'm not going to be rehired, I would like to know the reason for my dismissal. I would like the chance to face my accusers. I may be wrong (which means I'm probably still asleep), but I think I have a fair chance of winning over the superintendent and getting rehired. If not, I'll hunt down a teaching position close to home. I'm not even sure of the reason for this post... maybe it was to say that I find The Lazy Man's Guide to Enlightenment a more effective tool in the short run than any other "system" I've tried, though I'm very much intrigued by Gurdjieff and will try to "wake up", even if only briefly. I don't care to read his philosophical underpinnings at this time. I need a pointer to some practical exercises I can incorporate into my daily life. I'd appreciate your recommendations.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Sun 2 May 04 14:05
It's almost all practical stuff with Gurdjieff, Jeffrey, but you get it from the teachers. Still, it's for longer term stuff than therapy--you seem to be looking for something therapeutic. Lazy Man's guide I seem to recall had some good info in it. Sure was no harm in it. They don't want you to sue for wrongful dismissal, is why they won't tell you, probably--whether or not it was wrongful. There are teacher's unions, no? Why not go to yours? If you, bytheway, have been letting some of the 'mild bipolar' issue out of the bag at school, they may be dismissing you due to fears of mental illness (btw there's an essay about mental illness at the fan-created john shirley site, called The Mental State of the Union, under nonfiction in the index, darkecho.com/johnshirley). But all this is somewhat offtopic.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Sun 2 May 04 14:10
Gary - there are those who say that Gurdjieff's enneagram came from the sufis, but no one has provided any real proof of this. Idries Shah claimed all kind of things re sufism and Gurdjieff but I have concluded that he made most of it up and he's about as reliable as Carlos Castaneda. That is, he knows about some general principles but makes things up as it pleases him. Not sure what you mean about how Gurdjieff 'came through' after the war, perhaps you could clarify. Daumal's Holy War piece is as far as I recall about utter and total commitment to inner struggle. Declaring war inwardly on sleep. Sort of like remarks in the Gospel of Thomas about "hating" (so to speak) everything but the search for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus didn't mean literally hating, but just a stance of unmitigated intensity and commitment.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Sun 2 May 04 14:13
Here's something to discuss... What if it's true that immortality of the individual (as opposed to just some little connection we have in us, without any personality or memory to it, to the sea of consciousness) requires inner Work? Whether it's the Gurdjieff work or something found in Buddhism or Inner Christianity (see the book by Richard Smoley), what if it's true that your only hope for survival after death is the struggle to be conscious? What if it's true that if you don't put aside laziness and do what's needed, you simply die...and stay dead? What if it is true? (It's not? How does anyone know, if it's not true?) Just for the sake of discussion.
gary (ggg) Sun 2 May 04 18:09
what john said, in <82>, jeffrey, about what they mean by 'politics': you deserve to find out; I.E., 'office politics'? 'the politics of the war on terror & homeland security'? what!? & have they given you prior warning, about politics? what union could be with you in your corner? sounds like you have allegiance to the institution, which they should respect, in turn. your eagle eye, john, was correct in spotting "came through" as vague ... perhaps intentionally so. i guess, for conversation, it could be focussed two ways. did Mr. G. ever have to associate with people in europe such that he might later be accused of collaboration? & based on dusty sklar's book, i get a sense of political support for hitler including groups with occult interests, and hitler acting as a magnet for same. so was the Work ever in the hands of members of the reich (as, say, some of jung's ideas). i'll pass as to the question of immortality.
Jeffrey M. Field (topsy-turvy) Mon 3 May 04 02:25
Thanks for the advice, John and Gary. There is no teachers union at Hatch. No prior warning was given me. I spent yesterday morning composing a letter to my former principal who's now at the high school. If he can't help me I'll go to the superintendent. That will be my last shot. But, as for fighting it tooth and nail, I'd rather just walk away. Old saying - When one door closes another opens. Sorry. Off topic. Last time. Back to the discussion.
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Mon 3 May 04 10:30
<what if it's true that your only hope for survival after death is the struggle to be conscious? What if it's true that if you don't put aside laziness and do what's needed, you simply die...and stay dead?> This no doubt depends on the individual, but I find - at least at this stage of my life - that I am more compelled by an almost daily sense of a missed opportunity. What could my experience of *today* have been had I been more present to it?
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 3 May 04 11:27
<what if it's true that your only hope for survival after death is the struggle to be conscious? What if it's true that if you don't put aside laziness and do what's needed, you simply die...and stay dead?> Well, in my present state of mind, simply dying and staying dead doesn't strike me as a terribly bad deal. Unfortunately <s>, teachings I respect seem to indicate that one's consciousness -- in some form or other, with what degree of "I-ness" I can't say for sure -- survives one's death and the point of increased consciousness is to be able to better navigate away from being held to astral realms by one's desires and fixations. The ultimate "goal" is Union with God. I associate immortality of one's individualized self after death with the goals of the Lefthand path, ala the Temple of Set, etc. (I'm being slightly tongue in cheek here, but not much.) Heh.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 3 May 04 13:25
I suppose I ought to add that, obviously, normative Christianity and Islam (and some other religions) teach of the immortality of the individual soul as a given, but with the binary choice of eternal heaven or hell. (The Catholic adds in the earn while you learn option of Purgatory for some.) So, it's not just a Lefthand path thing. The Lefthand angle seems to come in with perspectives that assume that one has to _forge_ one's survival after death or risk oblivion.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Mon 3 May 04 19:20
Gary: Gurdjieff not only never collaborated with Nazis, he helped Jews in various ways during the occupation of Paris. He helped them get to safe havens, through intermediaries. He gave them advice. He railed against anti-semitism in Beelzebub's Tales. He speaks highly of Judaism. Accords it more respect than other religions. I don't know the book you reference but rumors about Gurdjieff and the occupation were started, I think, by that unfortunate, confused MORNING OF THE MAGICANS book, and the guy who wrote that stuff describes it, now, and I quote, as "a sin of my youth" and says it was all hooey. What happened was, Gurdjieff made deals with shopkeepers, promising payments (which came!) after the war, and also his students brought him things, so he seemed more wellstocked than other people, which led to rumors he was collaborating with the Nazis. He wasn't. Jay: I don't think the lefthand path people are concerned so much with survival after death, as with POWER after death. They're living in a fantasy world. But there are some truths that diabolists and the like will always distort--though I don't know as they distort more than traditional religion. Jung, I think it was, said that religion gets in the way of religious experience. Exoteric religion is just clueless except for a certain moral-compass value. (EXoteric, outer, traditional, conventional religion; ESoteric is inner spirituality.) Interesting what you say, Jay, about traditions where "the point of increased consciousness is to be able to better navigate away from being held to astral realms by one's desires and fixations. The ultimate "goal" is Union with God." Increased consciousness, to me, equates with increased individuality--but Gurdjieff adds CONSCIENCE. He says that morality is relative, unreal--unless you have *real* conscience, and then you always know what the right thing to do is. You get that by developing a certain part of yourself. It's an infallible inner guide. This has implications for the next life that sets Gurdjieff apart from anything lefthandpath--as do many, many other things.
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Mon 3 May 04 21:07
John, just for the sake of being dialectical, I think I'll argue that exoteric religion - truly lived - is not only not clueless but a crucial support for millions (or make it billions) of people. Of course that "truly lived" bit whittles the numbers down some. Unfortunately, because so many people are involved, the opportunity for hierachies and power plays and misuses of theology and just sheer bullying increases vastly. Still, I have a lot of respect for "simple" Christians or Muslims or whomever, who just try to live honest lives and be good to others. Some days I think that's more important than all the talk and notions of inner experiences or higher consciousness. You note: "Increased consciousness, to me, equates with increased individuality..." Maybe so. I guess I just equate "individuality" with a mostly happenstance intersection of personal history, opinions, neuroses, memories, and identifications, that I'd just as soon be rid of after this life. Whatever profound inner experiences I've had, which have been rather few, have tended to blast me out of my "me-ness" into just an "is-ness." I wouldn't mind more of that "is-ness" but I don't really equate it with individuality. But that may just be my own definitions at work.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Tue 4 May 04 10:34
Organized religion has had a value historically--I'm with WIll and Ariel Durant on that, two unbelievers who feel it's been useful as a sort of time capsule of civilizing ideas, an organizational factor--and I've no doubt it represented a certain step in human spiritual evolution. But oftentimes it did --and does--more harm than good. Especially extremism, Fundamentalism of any kind, going back to King Philip's Inquisition (they'd burn you if you prayed alone at your home!) and right up to modern Fundamentalist Christianity and Fundamentalist Islam. The latter has a propensity for gestating terrorism--and the former has its own brutality and its own terrorists. Timothy McVeigh thought he was doing God's work. And I know what you mean about people who try to live moral lives, in quiet ways. I did say it had value as a moral compass. But what's the real purpose of life? ORganized religion is clueless, so to say, with reference to that purpose--it does not cultivate what esoteric spirituality cultivates, and in fact sometimes suppresses the esoteric. THey burned Giordano Bruno too; they chivvied Meister Eckhart so that he died while traveling to justify his spirituality. THey keep people asleep--they cast a spell of promise making, promises they cannot keep. Some simple humanistic philosophy with spiritual underpinnings can take the place of that benevolent lowgrade religion you speak of; and the doors to those who want to go deeper, in that philosophy, can be kept wide open. I know what you mean about not wanting to keep neuroses and identifications--at least I can see your point. It's a very good one. I have some horrible memories I'd like to do without. But then we learn from our failures, and our faltering. We might jettison the learning too. Still, what the struggle for spiritual immortality preserves is a refinement of that is-ness. What we tend to experience at the times you describe is something like the sprout of the mustard seed. But we have yet to grow the entire mustard tree. When we look at ourselves we find we are, indeed, 'three'--body, mind and heart (aka 'soul', heart-center, heart chakra etc). These can be cultivated as one three-aspected intertwining spiritual organism...
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Tue 4 May 04 11:11
I agree sufficiently with you in general terms on the above that I won't quibble over minor points. Gotta go get a Mother's Day present before it's too late... Honor to the Sacred Feminine and all that. <g>
gary (ggg) Tue 4 May 04 18:56
Thanx for that 411, John. Yes, I'd read MORNING when it had come out; I'd be curious to know where the recanting was published, but no matter. (In the interests of full-disclosure, the other G-critical tome to have crossed my path was THE TEACHERS OF GURDJIEFF, whose veracity is dubious but is amusing in a way.) The Dusty Sklar book Gods and Beasts: The Nazis and the Occult is out-of-print, but provides an interesting look at the politics of the German occultists who backed herr shicklegruber [sic]. If I can shoehorn in a question before your tenure amongst us falls due: having written nonfiction and fiction, do you have any comments on contrast / similarity of such acts? And, squeezing one more onto the shoehorn, do you have any plans yet for your next tome? (respecting all personal superstitions about talking about unfinished books before they're done).
John Shirley (john-shirley) Wed 5 May 04 11:00
Both nonfiction and fiction require lots of research but for me fiction requires less; especially fiction based in the fantastic, or 'gritty crime fiction' which is 'researched' by living an, er, full life (usually in one's youth--I'm 51). Fiction for me, usually, is allegory or parable. SOmetimes it's a bit more...which brings me to your second question, what am I writing now: a "historical" novel called JESUS THE GNOSTIC. He who has ears, let him hear. I *think* that The Teachers of Gurdjieff, attributed to a Lefort, is believed to be the work of Idries Shah, whose whole trip is attributing EVERYTHING of any value to Sufism--he happens to be a Sufi teacher. JG Bennett said that the book "is recognizable as a set of fables written to express a point of view and not in any sense a factual account". Bennett knew Shah--he signed over an estate to Shah, to use as a spiritual center, a grand donation and act of faith indeed, and Shah went behind Bennett's back, SOLD the estate and kept the money! So that should say something about Shah. A better book that criticizes Gurdjieff somewhat is THE HARMONIOUS CIRCLE by Webb. In the first part of the book Webb shows a kind of enthusiasm for Gurdjieff and his ideas; toward the end he starts to cast the thing as a failed experiment, and is rather negative (though he never repudiates Gurdjieff's main concepts). Note that pattern in the book: Webb is thought to have been bipolar, he certainly suffered from manic depression, and he committed suicide. He was never in the Gurdjieff Work but merely an outsider journalist. I myself have criticized Gurdjieff, in my book, the one that started this discussion, Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas (Tarcher/Penguin). I saw it yesterday in Barnes and Noble--in the Eastern Religion section. Close enough, I guess. ANyway, I pointed up Gurdjieff's personal flaws, in my book. He was a human being, and he admitted as much--he didn't tout himself as a little tin saint. But--he was an extraordinary human being. He was a "remarkable man". Even Ouspensky criticizes Gurdjieff, some, toward the end of his book IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS. That book is probably the best single overall book about Gurdjieff's ideas, though it's perhaps a bit harder to take in than my volume. I intended to write only an introductory work. Ouspensky's book is still used in the Work. Maurice Nicoll's "Psycholgical Commentaries" are detailed looks at Gurdjieff's teaching.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Wed 5 May 04 11:50
Someone asked me about politics, Gurdjieff, and 'why this book now'--the Gurdjieff work is about self-knowledge. It's about creating an increase in consciousness so that one can make conscious decisions. If you're making decisions based on fanaticism--either on the part of American right-wingers, Christian fundamentalists, or terrorists of any kind--you're not making conscious decisions. You're acting according to program; you're doing things in your sleep. Part of the reason for the book is the tinderbox feel that the world has today... At my blog I talk about trying to get some objectivity in studying human behavior. People need to be able to see the worst in themselves in order to transcend the worst. We need to see how we're prone to dehumanizing others before we can rise above dehumanization. I really think we're *all* prone to dehumanization. The recent events re abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops demonstrates that very thing. I talk about this and related issues at my blog: http://www.johnshirley.net/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=336
Jay Kinney (jay-kinney) Wed 5 May 04 15:40
John, thanks for a great dialog about your book and Gurdjieff. There's much food for thought here and I hope it encourages readers to seek out the book. Gary, the only book that I'd trust on the Hitler & Occult theme is Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's _The Occult Roots of Nazism_ which was thoroughly researched in original sources (G-C is fluent in German) and includes an appendix where _Morning of the Magicians_ and other books of the genre are debunked. And a head's up to folks that I'll be back in Inkwell in early August talking at greater length about my new book _The Inner West_ and related topics.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Thu 6 May 04 11:41
Some quotes from my book, that I include here to provide a sort of springboard for understanding the Gurdjieff perspective (might be slightly different in printed book since this is from my pre-editing file): ...The psychologist and philosopher William James said: One conclusion was forced upon my mind It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted by the flimsiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. Gurdjieff gives us a simple outline of the basic levels of consciousness. First, theres slumber, the sleep we enter into at night, the lowest state of consciousness. It is a passive state, in which dreams work according to their own logic, without our control. Man spends much of his time in this healthy state of sleep, and he needs it to restore his energies, and to cleanse his body of fatigue poisons. In its deepest form were nestled in some essential, primordial state of being. The second state of consciousness, the next one up from slumber, is the ordinary waking state. This is the state in which we spend our ambulatory days, going about our business. We respond to stimuli with a fair briskness, as weve learned to, and as we are instinctively programmed to, but were only awake relative to slumbering abed. Its difficult, at first, to clearly see this state as being one of only relative wakefulness, until we actively set out to observe our state, to observe when were more and less consciousand then were startled by what we observe. If a man wanders the streets drunk, falls into a stupor in a locked and wintry doorway, he may be convinced hes already home. Before he can actually get to his real home, he must sober up and convince himself hes not yet there. Until then he will sit on the cold stone stoop, with his feet in the rain. Similarly, before we can reach a state of even relative wakefulness, we have to decide were not there yet! Being wrongly convinced that were already self-conscious, Gurdjieff said, is the first great obstacle to self consciousness. And lets be clear: Self consciousness is a level higher than our ordinary, typical waking state. The third state of consciousness, Gurdjieff tells us, is self-remembering or self-consciousness, or consciousness of ones being. This state of consciousness is nothing like mere introspection, or being nervously aware of oneself. Instead, it involves an attention to the self that is constantly refined, compassionate, nonjudgmental and nearly unblinking. It is ideally a constant honest self-appraisal, much of it directed internally, and involving the higher functions of the emotional center a process well talk about, in a constrained sort of way, further on. As the Gnostics have it in the Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said, when you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are sons of the living Father. But if you will not know yourselves, then you will dwell in poverty, and it is you who are that poverty. Self-remembering is a critically important idea in the Gurdjieff Workbut the term seems takes on different shades of meaning, in different contexts and as used by various people, rather like the variability one finds in the use of the term dharma in other traditions. Most basically, as used by Ouspensky in his book In Search of the Miraculous, self-remembering seems to mean simply being present to oneself, in a way that excludes day-dreaming, rumination, vagueness; additionally one observes oneself, senses oneselfand tries to bring conscious decision-making to whatever arises. This is a process of remembering your true self, so that you can strive to rise above your automatic self. There appear to be degrees of self-remembering, as different teachers use the term: from ordinary mindfulness to a profound unification within and with the cosmos. One tool for self-remembering is divided attentionwhich Ouspensky diagrammed with the double-headed arrow, with some attention turned inwardly, in a quiet way, while we continue simultaneous attention to the outer world... The fourth and highest state is objective consciousness. In this state we see things unfiltered, as they truly are, and including a much broader spectrum of the energies of life. This state, were told, cannot be described in words but has various names in various places, most famously enlightenment. Most of us do not experience this state, except passingly. When we do catch a flash of it, we dont understand itwe are not in it enough to understand it; unless weve developed it in ourselves, we lack the spiritual substance that would help us sustain our understanding at that level. The fourth state of consciousness in man, Gurdjieff says, means an altogether different state of being; it is the result of inner growth and long and difficult work on oneself.
John Shirley (john-shirley) Thu 6 May 04 12:00
And this coda from GI Gurdjieff himself: "The most characteristic feature of a modern man is the absence of unity in him and, further, the absence in him of even traces of those properties which he most likes to ascribe to himself, that is, 'lucid consciousness', 'free will', a 'permanent ego or I' and the 'ability to do'. it may surprise you if I say that the chief feature of modern man's being which explains everything else that is lacking in him is sleep."
Kindness does not require an infrastructure (chrys) Thu 6 May 04 22:23
John, what advice do you have for someone who has read your book (and even some of the other books you list,) and now wishes to further investigate the ideas of Gurdjieff?
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