Thursday, February 24, 2011

Solioonensius redux

I was frankly surprised at the heavy amount of additional traffic my last post generated. One would have thought the connection between Gurdjieff's teachings on this matter and current events were glaringly obvious.

Studying real-world events and correlating them with various elements in Gurdjieff's teaching to see if the teaching can be verified (verified, that is, for one's self) is, absolutely and inarguably, an activity that Gurdjieff specifically instructed his followers to undertake.

If one does not engage in this activity, one fails in one of the most essential tasks he gave- "verify everything for yourself." Of course, this particular verification (of solioonensius, that is) represents a verification--if you agree that it is one, a matter I urge all readers to decide strictly for themselves-- of outer circumstances, and is as such nowhere near as significant as inner verification, a much deeper and far more important process.

Nonetheless, if a coincidence, it's a rather spectacular one, on the order of Gurdjieff's contention that the moon was formed when a comet hit the earth (an event seemingly unknowable and unproveable in G's time, but now conclusively verified by modern science) or that a second fairly large fragment (which he named Anoolios) also still orbited around the earth-- an even more obscure and seemingly even utterly pointless proposal (relative to Beelzebub's elbaorate story line), which was nonetheless verified by astronomers in the early 1990's, and noted at the time as such by senior Gurdjieff Foundation members.

Anyway, because some readers may not have their own copies of Beelzebub, or may not be inclined to slog through it unless it is, so to speak, "made easy for them," I am posting a judiciously edited link here to the relevant passages regarding the process of solioonensius. (This material is under copyright, as stated in the document, and reproduced only for reference reasons.) Read it, if you have not already looked up the material yourself.

Of course the important point of solioonensius isn't at all the way it affects a mob of Egyptians past or present, but, rather, the finer material it makes available for inner work.

Reading the words will not magically create material in us that properly corresponds to any finer energy. It does, however, elucidate a potential connection between contemporary events and ancient science... which was, of course, a favorite hobby for even Beelzebub himself, and one of the chief themes of the whole book.

Savor this correspondence, or scoff at it, as you wish.

For skeptics who reject the idea that cosmological events (or finer energies in general) may affect human behavior, one may cite the well known effects of lunar gravitational forces on the human psyche. Gravity is, in fact, an energy so fine that we're yet unable to exactly determine what particles (if any) mediate it; nonetheless, it's well known that it produces effects not only on man's body, but his mind. And the fact that science has insufficiently studied the effects of solar energies--outside, that is, the strong evidence for seasonal affective disorder-- on human behavior is no reason for categorically denying their existence. It is, rather, a call for further investigation... which is, after all, exactly how science is supposed to serve us, although it selectively fails in this enterprise whenever it so suits itself.

In the end, scientists aside, higher vibrations and finer energies will always remain imaginary to those who are only able to imagine them, and be real only to those who are able to experience them. It is difficult, as Dogen said, to put oars into the hands of mountaineers.

Regular readers of this blog already understand that this is not in any way a space devoted to politics or external current events. The aim is to question and investigate the manner in which we can deepen our own sensitivity to a finer quality of inner attention.

Those of you who are new to the space may mistakenly assume that the blog is an attempt to "teach" something, or project some inadvisably assumed or erroneously presumed authority, but that just isn't the case. There is nothing to sell here; we're just investigating questions about life, and the process of living itself, from an unabashedly Gurdjieffian perspective-- suggesting, not instructing-- and without settling on any answers.

In the process, inevitably, we occasionally touch on outer events, because of the seamless connection between the inner and outer (well, of course, it ought to be seamless, and would be but for our own obtuse natures) and because according to the understandings of the Gurdjieff system it is man's responsibility to serve as a corresponding link between his inner energies, and their actual manifestation in the outer world. Our consciousness (or lack of it) is the tool that mediates this action of standing between the inner and the outer.

Form the Gurdjieffian perspective, and in my own experience, there are indeed finer energies reaching us.

How they affect us, and how we attend to the matter, is another question.

So never mind all those excitable Egyptians.

May our prayers be heard.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Solioonensius

One might call this a public service announcement, of a sort.

Students of Gurdjieff's "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson" can hardly have failed to come across his description of the process called "Solioonensius," in which the sun emanates radiation that serves, among normal societies of three brained beings, for the acceleration of their spiritual development. It does not, unfortunately, have the same beneficent result when it affects human beings who are not conducting an inner work-- in fact, it produces opposite results.

If you click on the above link, you will see a QuickTime animation of the intense solar flare that erupted from the surface of the sun on February 15. This spectacular flare was preceded by a period of increased solar flare activity culminating in additional smaller flares on the 13th and 14th. Individuals interested in tracking solar activity relative to events in the middle east over the past two months can refer to the following charts:

It is not coincidental that this dramatic escalation of solar activity took place at the precise time that the middle east erupted in revolt; not only did Mr. Gurdjieff specifically explain that among individuals who are not working on their spiritual development, solioonensius produces a desire for "freedom," accompanied by the processes of reciprocal destruction, i.e. violence, he also specifically said, in his magnum opus, that this particular tendency erupts very frequently in this region, since it has been for long periods of time one of the "center of gravities of radiation" for Earth.

It would require too much quotation space to cite all of the passages about this process-- for the record, some relevant passages are found on pages 569–571 of the new edition, in the chapter "Beelzebub in Russia"– but there is absolutely no doubt that we are in the middle of the exact process that he described, and that it is following the exact course that he said it follows, and in the geographic location he said it is most common in (see p. 578 onwards in Beelzebub for this specific citation, and further commentary on the process of Solioonensius.)

What does this mean? Of course it explains quite exactly why we are seeing a period of increased political instability and violence. This is an absolutely lawful result of the process, which we do not, because of our complete ignorance of cosmological processes, tie to events like solar flares.

Mr. Gurdjieff laid it out in black and white. There are no coincidences, especially not on this scale.

What we can also be certain of is that for people who wish to work, this is the very best possible time to work. An enormous amount of help is being sent. That help-- that higher energy– is tangible in the very air itself; every one of us who has a wish for ourselves, for our community, for the planet,must attend to ourselves more carefully and more sincerely at this time. The hopes of this planet are pinned on that effort.

One can only hope that our worldwide community will, in these troubled but nonetheless extremely hopeful times, turn our efforts ever more inward, towards a more intimate relationship with those sacred higher sources which emanate love, and wish for us.

May our prayers be heard.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Forward" movement, and contradiction

Readers, it is said, generally read blogs because they are forward moving; the regular posts create a momentum that takes things forward, and this is something interesting to people. Bloggers lose audiences if they don't post regularly. So, static conditions are not that interesting to today's audience.

Maybe static conditions are not that interesting, in general. Human beings are always in movement, as is the entire cosmological environment we dwell within. We are naturally drawn to movement; and we usually describe “positive” movement as "forward" movement. There is an impression of progress.

This question of forward movement and progress is, once again, transactional. Time appears to us to be linear, but maybe it isn't; what appears to be progress may just be change. In any event, what more appropriate venue to bring up discussions about the Gurdjieff work than in a blog? It has characteristics that published books cannot share: it has the potential to be in movement, and, if it is attended to, continually updated.

It doesn't "progress;" I don't write, and you don't read, along some magical line that will lead to our higher development and save our souls. It is more than anything about being here, in the moment: and it is this moment, the one in which we first encounter what we write or what we read, that the interesting things take place.

I am here. I had no idea of what I would write when I began this. It emerges from what might be called nothingness; and, yet, clearly, there is something here.

This is how all of life appears: it is a process that emerges from itself, into itself, constantly.

With those musings in mind, I need to mention that I have been pondering all of the distressing news that reaches us these days: unrest and death in the Middle East, earthquakes in New Zealand, economic difficulty, rising prices of food and other commodities. Damn! The whole world seems to be falling apart–doesn't it?

I contrast this with the contradictory state of being here. Being here-- right here, right now– has nothing whatsoever to do with all of these external events that are, at almost a 100% level, delivered to me by electronic media. They are, in large part, imaginary, relative to the actual immediate experience within my own environment. To a certainty, they are real in a much larger context; but that does not have, in the end, that much to do with this instant of experience and being.

My breathing in and out right now–this isn't imaginary. The sensation of my body? That's not imaginary either. The associative thoughts I am having, on the other hand, are in large part imaginary. They seem to be a burden. It might not be such a bad thing to see if it were possible to forget about all of them, to just go outside, watch a cardinal or a blue Jay at the bird feeder, sense the temperature of the air (it's cold again here in New York.)

There is a contradiction, in other words, between the reality of what I am, who I am, where I am, and all of the "information" -- that is, the “thought facts”-- that flow into me here as I encounter the various devices that “feed” me with all of the stuff going on all over the planet. I sense, from within the organic state of my being, that I would be much better off just limiting my hearing, my vision, my sense of smell, my sensation, and even my thinking to where I am right now–

yet all of this outward information has a definite attraction.

I doubt I am going to sort this one out. I can, however, make some kind of an effort to be a human being–to feel, to sense, to ponder–instead of being one more paranoid cog in the 7-billion plus piece "disaster machine" humanity has built for itself on planet Earth.

It strikes me now that there aren't any easy escapes in being a human being, either; all kinds of difficult choices have to be made. I am very reactionary; I get angry at people for abstract, theoretically ethical reasons, chew on this kind of negative nonsense for weeks and months, and then I finally come to a moment where I have to be a human being and do the right thing, regardless of all the garbage I am filled with.

A moment like that came last night when I took care of a financial matter I had been resisting for months. In the scheme of things, it wasn't that big; and, in fact, there was much right on my side, measured objectively. Nonetheless, in the end, I had to write someone who I have a very close personal connection with-- someone who I have, you might say, a love/hate relationship with–a rather large check. At least one more zero than I like on a check, unless it is made out to me.

How did it happen?

There was a moment when I actually discovered, to my own surprise and perhaps even bewilderment, that I was not in emotional reaction over this matter any more... praise Allah!-- and I said to my wife, "I'm writing this check and bring it next door now." I put the pen to the paper without even a whisper of the four months of angry ruminations my various "i"'s had devoted to the matter up until now.

I marched over and presented the check, and I didn't have all the garbage–the fear, the anger, the reaction–in me in that moment. There was just the simple fact that I was being a human being, in relationship, and it was possible for me in that moment to dig myself out from under all of the crap I fill myself with and just do what was, in the end, both necessary and right. There was, to put it in shorthand, a moment of inner presence that made the action possible.

What a magical moment. What a relief. I don't have to be a bastard, I thought to myself. There are ways for me to get around that.

Does this relate to higher work? Or is it just more ordinary nonsense on the life level... a little bit of self-pity, a dash of bogus humility, a smattering of egoistic self-congratulation?

In my experience, it is exactly this ordinary kind of real human moment that does relate to higher work. In the instant that I surrender the baggage of my negativity, which I have been so carefully nursing, watering, and pruning for months at a time, I actually experience a real moment of freedom. There aren't any heavenly lights; no angels descend. It is just me, experiencing what one might call a quite ordinary and absolutely leveling moment of humility.

Yet this simple ordinary moment is the moment where I discover that I am human, and that to be human means something much more than to be petty, mean, vindictive, greedy, grasping–

Well, it means to discover that I have a heart, and that it is possible to use it,

if I am patient enough to wait for the moment when it's possible.

I think we will leave it at that for today.

May our prayers be heard.

Friday, February 18, 2011

transactions

Before we get started on today's post, I just want to announced that my travelogue, “notes from the Yucatán,” is now available for browsing and download (click on the link.)

This travelogue features of some of my poetry (as well as prose & photographs) which is rarely seen in published form online, except at Parabola Magazine.

This morning, while I was sitting, I was initially engaged in an activity that I have been undertaking almost every day for 10 years now, which is to make the effort to consciously recite and understand (as if that were possible–I think you know what I mean) the Lord's prayer from an inward point of view, with sensation, feeling, and thought.

This particular exercise, which anyone can undertake, and which becomes highly personal and raises an endless series of questions about the inner state, constantly yields new insights. I highly recommend it to any reader.

In any event, this morning, there was a glimmer of insight regarding the section of the prayer that says:

“Forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Now, as you may already know, the word “trespass” is an incorrect translation. The proper translation of the word from the original prayer is "debt."

I was pondering this from an active point of view this morning, and it struck me in this sitting that to forgive debts–and to offer forgiveness of debts–is an essentially, if you will allow the term, inhuman thing. Everything that we humans do is calculated: transactional. That is to say, there is an internal quid pro quo in all of human affairs. I see myself measuring my life in this way all day long in a thousand different ways. Most of my ego is wrapped up in measurements that regard transaction: this is fair, that isn't. He deserves this, she doesn't deserve that, I deserve everything.

Or, conversely, I don't deserve any of this! I'm getting screwed!

~Ah, dear reader, perhaps you recognize such thoughts. You may have even had a few yourself!

In any event, to forgive debts in any manner–let alone the comprehensive one that Jesus Christ suggested we undertake when praying–is an unusual, nay, impossible thing. We are, above all, transactional.

This brings me to the question of freedom. To forgive debts, and to have debts forgiven–this is truly to become free of the idea of living within the context of transaction. Instead, it is a prayer directed at the idea of living within the context of experience, which is not so much a transaction as a relationship.

It isn't calculated: it is fresh, it is new, it is unexpected.

Of course, this is a theoretical position, like all of the things that we manufacture with our mind. It can only serve as a guideline, a direction in which to point ourselves, in the fervent and earnest hope that the ship may actually turn, that its sails may catch some wind: that we may actually discover some of the freedom and movement and life that is bogged down every time we slap a value and a demand on it.

Value within the context of experience is endless. Value within the context of transaction is strictly limited to the narrow parameters defined by the mind.

Yesterday, I was walking along the Hudson River with the famous dog Isabel, when I encountered a moment that was far more weighted by experience than any transaction. The below poem flowed directly out of that spirit like water, with little mediation on my part.

The poem itself is part of a series of poems some 20 or more in number now, all of which have been written in the environs of the Hudson River, that is, right here in my own neighborhood, and consisting of the direct impressions conveyed by this one small corner of the planet. None of the other Hudson River poems have ever been published before that I can recall.

Sky
From the Hudson River series

Will I ever come back
To sky so sweet as this sky
To geese in the air
And a spring time
That is not here yet
But hovers in the faded afternoon?

There is no heart deeper than the heart that listens
With its eyes
Yes, and with its skin,
Its hands, its feet

Today I am that good heart
But only now–
And only for this moment.

This is the day of the sun on snow
And the gold of Solomon;
Of sycamores
Brides in the pearly blue
And the head of the sparrow
Left by cats
Every feather perfect.

I would that life would call some nobler thing to me
Than what I am
But I do not know that thing.

Hold me then, here where I am
Oh sacred day
By the river, by the river once again
Where reeds rise
Stones tumble down
And branches fall
And none can note the hour of their passing.

May our prayers be heard.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

communicating

We are back from the Yucatán, and immediately, into the rhythm of day-to-day life.

Everything on this planet works in a tidal manner; that is to say, according to either a lunar or circadian rhythm. There is an ebb and a flow to the energy that is available within life.

We are familiar with this in the context of ordinary sleep and awakening; most people have heard of biorhythms. There is no doubt, however, that higher energies which can inform us are also subject to these cyclical ranges of availability.

When an inner energy becomes more available, I generally notice that it has little to do with whether I am trying, or not trying, to be more available to a certain finer quality of attention. That certain quality, that je ne sais quoi which mobilizes an inner force of a different nature, is not under my control, and generally doesn't respond to my prompting. (& it certainly cannot be forced.)

It increases and decreases according to the forces of the planet, not my will. If we wanted to put it in more Christian terms, we might say that the Holy Spirit comes and goes according to its own schedule. Here is yet another facet of the prayer, “Thy will be done.”

It is my own awareness to, and respect for, such forces that matters. When they arrive–am I sensitive enough to receive them in a meaningful way? After all, it's perfectly possible to ignore the most extraordinary things! I know that. I do it every day. There are extraordinary things in front of me here on my desk–a belemnite I found on the banks of the Elbe River as a child in Hamburg, Germany; a pyritized brachiopod; an emerald crystal from Brazil; a number of cut heliodor gemstones; a cicada I found several years ago, nearly perfectly preserved.

Each one of these objects is miraculous, but unless I put my attention on it quite clearly, and make a sincere and legitimate effort to appreciate it by specifically focusing my various parts, the object, for all intents and purposes, doesn't even exist. It is, in fact, quite possible to study my sleep by looking at these various objects intentionally for a moment and then letting that drop. It's almost like turning a light switch on and off.

The fact is that the light switch is almost always off.

Well then. A finer impression arrives. It may be quite fine indeed, but it is partial, because it is more than likely one centered. I may have a very good impression of sensation, quite deep, very feeding, and it may even attract my other parts, but I don't quite understand how to inhabit or invest myself in this quality. It hovers: I seek a connection that will help it to become more whole. This generally involves bringing the thinking part or the intelligence to it. One might have some success with that; what one will certainly not have any success with is trying to invoke an emotional quality.

In another case, a quality of feeling, uninvoked, appears. Again, it has a quite fine quality. Commonly, it has the character of sorrow. It isn't an ordinary emotion, that's clear right away. But I am unable to bring it together with my other parts.

It's difficult enough to understand that in my ordinary parts I don't actually have the capacity (perhaps we could call it the will, but I'm not sure I am willing to go that far) to engage in three centered activity or Being.

It is even more difficult to actually see that when help arrives, my capacity for making use of it is very limited indeed. For the most part, because of my essential nothingness, I am limited to accepting it as a form of Grace.

To a certain extent, that's the point of it anyway. We are supposed to accept Grace, to receive Grace. Yet I so rarely make a legitimate effort to meet it and invest in it, so that it finds a welcome home. It's much like a parable in which a good man knocks on the door, but is turned away.

A great deal of inner work is conducted in darkness. I don't know who I am; I don't know where I am; I'm not sure what I am doing. The disjointed efforts of my various parts do their best, as limited as it is, to establish a dialogue, to come together and communicate in a more effective way. But, for all intents and purposes, I am not yet even simply lighting one candle. All I have done, so to speak, is stop cursing the darkness, and instead decided to find a way to work in it, since that's the only condition available to me right now.

These glimmers of light from another level, which are more generous than I have a right to deserve, are always gently trying to remind me that I have a capacity I do not use and usually forget about. They are attempting to break through this coarse and unpleasant crust I have covered my Being with, to allow something lighter and more compassionate to appear.

The work of helping the parts to receive such help graciously, and in a constructive way, is a lifelong enterprise. I hope and live for the moments in which I can shed this rough old snakeskin, and breathe through a new set of pores.

May our prayers be heard.


Monday, February 7, 2011

In search of the lost soul

Hormiguero

Neal and I are in the Yucatán Peninsula,visiting ancient Mayan sites.There are so many cities here --the vast majority of them unexcavated --that it's nearly impossible to comprehend the scale of this civilization, let alone how completely and absolutely it disappeared.

They had their own rich esoteric spiritual traditions, their own symbolism, their own art, unique and distinct from almost every other art. Yet almost all of this is forgotten, unappreciated. Modern societies still marvel at the pyramids in Egypt,but for the most part, the equally or perhaps even more astonishing achievements of the Central Americans (after all, they moved their stone and built everything completely without the use of the wheel!) are a footnote to our histories. Nonetheless,they are absolutely a part of the whole--a part of what has made this planet, a part of what we all are as human beings.

It's a crash course in contrasting realities: last week at this time, I was in Dallas, Texas, a sprawling megalopolis occupying a depressing landscape, degraded by modern "improvements:" gargantuan shopping malls and and dehumanizing international chains. America's corporate megalomania is dismantling the heart of civilization to replace it with a bright, shiny, consumeristic nothingness.

This week I find myself in the middle of our "backwards" neighbor country, Mexico-- a place still populated with real human beings doing things that are not, from start to finish, orchestrated by corporations--traveling from one small, dusty, poverty-stricken town to another; eating modest but delicious local food; truly pondering the sense and aim of my existence, and of existence in general.

I see myself seeing Mexico; I see the endless dialogue of critique that takes place; a constant patter of inner commentary on everything and everyone, most of it mindless, banal, off-center. The machine is truly a machine; in the nature of machines, it has programs that emulate compassion and love, but it doesn't know what they are -- it just imitates. When Gurdjieff spoke of the need for real emotion to enter in order for any real inner work to begin, I believe he spoke of the need for this imitation to be seen and suffered, so as to issue an invitation for something more emotionally real to arrive.

This morning, I awoke in a relatively negative state, which is not unusual for me. I constantly find that my parts don't begin to see things in a more positive way until they have come up to speed with one another, allowing more harmony. The speed at which things work from center to center has a lot to do with this. Centers working at different speeds don't come into relationship with each other very well; there has to be a relationship in tempo in order for the negativity to lessen.

This disconnectedness, this lack of relationship, has everything to do with my negativity in general. I don't observe this accurately enough; there is an overall lack of seeing at the levels at which things need to be seen.

What I am speaking of here is a much more specific kind of seeing. Most of the seeing I do is superficial; I can be sure of that, because it is all mediated by language.That is to say, my associative parts are cataloging it, processing it, analyzing it. Perhaps you know what I mean.

This is not a bad kind of seeing--all efforts are indeed useful--, but it is superficial. It is partial. I can't really see anything in a deep way that is truly meaningful unless my parts are in relationship--and when that happens, what is seen is no longer susceptible to redaction by verbal descriptions and language. In other words, I begin to know what it is to truly see when I cannot describe it in words anymore. My understanding of what it is to see cannot stay in one place. It must grow.

This kind of much deeper seeing, a seeing in which the impression of the inner self is much more inner, is more connected and more whole, marks a rediscovery of that lost soul, that lost civilization, which has left its traces all around me in my Being, and which is nonetheless invisible to me.

In a certain sense, to talk about such seeing is dangerous. Seeing is a sacred activity, a form of prayer which ought not be made public. We live, unfortunately, in a world where the dilemma of helping one another to come to this action requires a form of outwardness which works against the work itself.

Hence I end up where I must speak of not speaking; and I must see that I cannot see.

The direction in which my seeing needs to go is in this much more intimate direction, which requires (among other qualities) a sensitive and gentle approach to, and embracing of, the actual fear that dwells within. I am, after all, afraid of everything: afraid of life, afraid of change, afraid of myself. Fear is the foundation of so much; fear, and distrust.

This kind of seeing becomes a most disturbing exploration. It doesn't become disturbing because of the "bad" things that are seen, no; it is not disturbing because of the uneasy emotions that are encountered.

It is disturbing, above all, because of the action itself, which brings absolutely everything into question. In other words, it disturbs my passivity towards my inner life.

There is a temptation to try and encapsulate this now, sitting here in a relatively more collected (I use the term liberally) state, by the side of a hotel pool in Campeche where the sun lights ochre walls, and grackles probe the water. There is a richness to the immediacy of the impressions that belies the inability of my personality and my mind to grasp anything.

It is only here, from within the context of receiving my life, that things begin to make sense, and they only make sense in the absence of all the baggage that plagues my ordinary lack of relationship.

I'm unable to encapsulate anything right now. I'm only able to be within the process, living the experience.

That in and of itself is rare enough, but it does at least represent a hope of consciousness.

May our prayers be heard.