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Gurdjieff, Feeling, Work, Livingness...
Feeling and emotion.
Dedicated to Francois Fleury, with gratitude for many genuinely heartfelt conversations which have profoundly affected us over many years.
In one letter to J.G. Bennett, Ouspensky confessed that "man's only hope (was) to work with the higher emotional centre" and added, "we do not know how this is to be done". (Colin Wilson, quoting Kenneth Walker, in "The Strange Life of P.D. Ouspensky".) When several of Ouspenskys followers, including Bennett, returned to Gurdjieff in 1948, the latter goaded them mercilessly..."You must feel, you must feel. your mind is a luxury" (Moore, "Gurdjieff")
There is a basic distinction in the "Work" between 'emotion' and a higher octave of real 'feeling'. 'Feeling' in itself implies in my opinion the awareness of the presence of nascent connection to 'Conscience' in Gurdjieff's specific definition of the term. "Conscience is a state in which a man feels all at once everything that he in general feels, or can feel". “In Search of the Miraculous” abbreviated henceforth as ISOTM P.D. Ouspensky, p. 155
The awakening of ‘Conscience’ as defined by Gurdjieff, is a profoundly important stage in the transformation of the emotional life, leading to an awareness of the higher emotional center (the Heart) and connection with the life of the ‘Common Father’. The possibility for remorse of conscience also prevents the “final degradation” in humankind of the other sacred being impulses of “Faith, Love, and Hope.” The experience of the remorse of conscience and the bearing of the sorrow of the ‘Common Father’ are steps to awakening and transformation. Fortunately, the data are still present within the strange human beings for such “sacred being impulses,” although they have passed into the subconsciousness. That they ( Conscience, Faith, Love and Hope) have “passed into the subconsciousness” is an important point we will return to.
I have collected these quotes to serve as a balance to some quite amazing discussions I have heard of and participated in about the ‘Work’ - but which do not address the "Work" in a felt-sensed or intuitive way. It is fashionable in Western thought systems to elevate 'intellectualism' as if superior in some way to 'feeling' and 'intuition' which are regarded as necessarily erratic, subjective, faulty in comparison to 'intellect', 'rationalism'.
In Sufism, interestingly, 'Real intellect' is a faculty of the Heart, as are creative imagination, conjecture...the beginning of the Way (preceded by years of preparation - or maybe not...) is the opening of the psycho-spiritual organ called "Heart". In Ibn Arabi 'Intuition' is regarded as one hundred percent correct...in the form of mystical intuition or veridical dreams it is the means of direct knowledge (ma'rifat, gnosis) of Reality. Intellect is most certainly NOT so regarded. We can observe that intellectual discussions rarely produce anything, even a satisfactory mutual agreement, and that is hardly surprising as thought as a faculty separates; it cannot 'see' unity except as a collection of parts, is fragmented by its own methodology (this is separate from that). What dislocates intuition for us is our mis-interpretation and "adding on", embroidery...the core 'given' insight, that moment of recognition, needs to be kept pristine, and distinguished by its special 'taste' from imagination and conjecture...the "Work" requires the use and understanding of all our faculties to their highest level, to raise the vibration of the lower centres to the point where contact with the higher centres begins to reach Awareness.
Crompton edition ISOTM, page 235.
"Small accumulators suffice for the ordinary, everyday work of life. But for work on oneself, for inner growth, and for the efforts which are required of a man who enters the way, the energy from these small accumulators is not enough.
We must learn how to draw energy straight from the large accumulator.
This however is possible only with the help of the emotional center. It is essential that this be understood. The connection with the large accumulator can be effected only through the emotional center. The instinctive, moving, and intellectual centers, by themselves, can feed only on the small accumulators.
This is precisely what people do not understand. Therefore their aim must be the development of the activity of the emotional center. The emotional center is an apparatus much more subtle than the intellectual center, particularly if we take into consideration the fact that in the whole of the intellectual center the only part that works is the formatory apparatus and that many things are quite inaccessible to the intellectual center. If anyone desires to know and to understand more than he actually knows and understands, he must remember that this new knowledge and this new understanding will come through the emotional center and not through the intellectual center."
J.G.Bennett ...""another important secret about man, and that is that he is beyond the brains that we can know, our thought and our feeling and our bodily sensations and movements. There is another part of our nature. We have been in the morning exercise (The Gurdjieff sitting) sometimes using the words I and me, and I’ve been careful to say all through that those words are only being used to represent our feelings. It is not that our feelings are the same thing as I, or that one can say I is feeling, because it is not. All that one can say is that I is reached, or the direction of I is the direction of feeling".
Jean Vaysse ...
"But a real feeling would be something quite different. We live with nothing but automatic emotional reactions, feelings that follow each other in rapid succession at each instant of our lives and cause something in each circumstance to please us or displease us, attract us or repel us."
"In my ordinary state, I have no true feelings, I have only automatic emotions, the emotions of reaction, depending entirely on which personage is present."
"The emotional center becomes capable of real feeling only when a stable presence, relatively independent of surrounding circumstances has been developed... The feeling of self that accompanies awakening to oneself is the first real feeling that human beings can have"
This is the reason that Beelzebub's Tales is written in the language of mentation by form. This is the language of essence and feeling. The other form of mentation is the language of mentation by thought which would correspond to the thinking center.
Yes, when the mind finally ceases its internal/ infernal chattering to itself, one can at last see and hear what is actually around one. One is an empty cup...No one, not even God, can fill a cup that is already full...Feeling is elicted by everything...the fall of light on a leaf... like the moment of release from prison. A blinding flash of the obvious.
My Gurdjieff teachers in the London Gurdjieff Society after twenty years or so told me "forget all this nonsense. Go into the mountains and streams and play with the waterfalls..."Unless you become as little children there is no way to the Kingdom"." I have come to regard such de-toxification as a very valuable thing indeed. We don't need to carry all this baggage, but to see it and then, like a jazz musician, just play! The purpose of the teaching is to LIVE... vividly. To be a proper human being. Thats my personal response to it.
Actually I would seek to emphasize even more than this "Feeling"; as the essential key to the second phrase of the work, without which "a proper human being" cannot possibly arise from it. We should consider very carefully WHY the First and Second Series are written in the way they are, and why the second series is elegiac in tone, evocative, simple...in a word, supremely "Felt". The original book ends with Professor Skridlov weeping, looking down on a vista of unbearable natural beauty from a mountain top, with his dear friend Mr Gurdjieff besides him..."On the summit of the mountain was a small hut, evidently for the sale of beer and tea, but that day there was no one there.
We sat down on a rock and began to eat. Each of us, spellbound by the grandeur of the scenery, silently thought his own thoughts.
Suddenly my glance rested on the face of Professor Skridlov and I saw that tears were streaming from his eyes.
'What's the matter, old fellow?' I asked him.
'Nothing,' he answered, drying his eyes, and then added: 'In general, during the last two or three years, my inability to control the automatic manifestations of my subconsciousness and my instinct is such that I have become almost like an hysterical woman.
'What has just happened, has happened to me many times during this period. It is very difficult to explain what takes place in me when I see or hear anything majestic which allows no doubt that it proceeds from the actualization of Our Maker Creator. Each time, my tears flow of themselves. I weep, that is to say, it weeps in me, not from grief, no, but as if from tenderness." In short, whenever I see the beauty of the manifestation of Our Maker Creator something within me weeps of itself...THIS is the "final chord" of the book, in the last two pages.
What shall we call this? Can we say that it is not the opening of the heart?
" The purpose of "Meetings with Remarkable Men" is "SECOND SERIES: To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it.". To input deeply ‘the material required to create a feeling of a new world’, – a feeling which throws a new light on one’s own life. And this only AFTER "FIRST SERIES: To destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world" So "Meetings with Remarkable Men" is an absolutely vital book, an initiation into the Real World "in the hope that these ideas may serve as preparatory constructive material for setting up in the consciousness of creatures similar to myself a new world—a world in my opinion real, or at least one that can be perceived as real by all degrees of human thinking without the slightest impulse of doubt, instead of the illusory world which contemporary people picture to themselves" (Intro to "Meetings with Remarkable Men".)
Allowing for Mr Gurdjieff's fake-bombardistic style some very interesting information is here conveyed, often un-noticed, "in plain sight". In my experience very few Gurdjieffians really heard what Mr Gurdjieff personally advised them, as to the necessary sequence of human evolution. How could it possibly proceed without "Love"? Of course, it didn't...
"Ripeness is all", as Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi says.
The Real Gurdjieff Work
G. I Gurdjieff himself is the centre of any consideration of the nature and intent of the "Work" he brought. What is often called “The Work” is frequently an Ouspensky-based rather intellectual pursuit, decorated with diagrams, carried out in grim and dryly serious circles. This is not Gurdjieff’s own way of working at all, as I intend to show.
To be very simple, we should remember his own response to the question "Mr Gurdjieff, what is the Real World like?"... a laconic "everything more vivid". The intent ...again very simply...is to come to a greater livingness, vibrancy, to truly and undeniably feel completely alive, in short to LIVE, with all of ourselves. At the end of my time as a student of two of his close followers I was explicitly and emphatically reminded of a passage in the New Testament ... "unless ye be as little children, ye shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of Heaven". An inner simplictity..."Be Simple". After this I continued to see my teachers, but in a different way, as wise close friends... Many people have sought, perfectly sincerely, in accordance with their capacities, to 'explain' "The Work". But no matter how sincere, none of them are Mr Gurdjieff...remarkable men and women, certainly; but not 'Spiritual Masters' as Gurdjieff undoubtedly was. In his essay "On Humility", Bulent Rauf says..."and finally, all depends on the Individuated Individual"... Maybe the biggest impression I have from many years of "The Work" is the contrast between Gurdjieff's energy and vibrancy and complete disinterest in talking or pontificating (wise-acreing) except to give specific guidance or exercises, and the miserable people we have all seen in "Gurdjieff" groups, many of whom we may discover by strange occlusions in their knowledge, have never actually read Mr Gurdjieff's own words in any more than a cursory random fashion. Gurdjieff advised initially beginning with "Beelzebub's Tales to his grandson" read three times in a particular manner (I've over the years read it...thirty times?), "Meetings with Remarkable Men", "Views from the Real World"...& "Life is Real only then, when "I Am"... 'Other' books exist like "Herald of the Coming Good" (which Gurdjieff red-flagged by trying to withdraw and remove from circulation every copy and is a very very interesting book), & "Views from the Real World" a collection of edited memorised talks of Gurdjieff. Without "gnosis", and the guidance of an "individuated individual", inevitably the sustainable level of inner insight must fall, the vibration that everything turns around is no longer there, the intimacy, rabbita, connectivity. But given this..."The Work" is doing very important and valuable work, has many good people associated with it, is greatly respected by my Melami and 'Sufi' friends. Bulent Rauf himself probably would disagree with me, saying that really the influx of modern 'Sufi Spirituality' is not an organisation, but "a movement from the side of the Real" independant of anyone or any physical organisation and appearing through many forms. Guidance at this level indeed still seems to inform...in a classic 4th Way manner, a "school of the moment", appearing according to need, people, time and place and then dissolving... Actually I respect Madame de Salzmann's work...and like her "The Reality of Being" and Ravi's book...and admissions are made there (last page "The Reality of Being"..."The "I Am" in all things is the Same "I Am" ") which should startle many looking for "Who am I?". I feel that underlying Gurdjieff's exegesis are many "Sufi" concepts...poorly grasped by Western 'followers' who may never have directly come across them let alone experienced the reality of them. Horrible results sometimes follow...attempts to imitate Gurdjieff, an extreme egoic inflation...thankfully not usually under the guidance of the first generation, who are gentle and extremely full of humility before the Presence of the higher...But I have no doubt that Madame altered the thrust of "The Work", doubtless in accord with her abilities. A receptivity to the higher became much more outwardly made obvious...of course it was there in Gurdjieff..."God helps me". To open a little this inner side of the Work, here are two quotations…Georgette Leblanc, author of My Life with Maurice Maeterlinck, provides an arresting account:
“Great emotion. When I arrived at his apartment, he opened the door himself…. The light coming from the little salon shone on him brightly. Instead of concealing himself, he abruptly stepped back and leaned against the wall. For the first time, he allowed me to see what he really was … as if he had suddenly stripped away the masks behind which it is his duty to hide. His face was imprinted with a charity that embraced the entire world. Standing rigidly before him, I saw him with all my strength and I experienced a gratitude so deep, so painful, that he felt the need to quiet me. With an unforgettable look, he uttered: “God helps me”.”
In his later years Gurdjieff had the custom of playing an old-fashioned harmonium, a small keyboard instrument with a hand-operated bellows. One of his listeners at 6 rue des Colonels Renards in the post-war years was Dorothy Caruso, widow of the great operatic tenor. “No matter how late,” she recalled, each night in the salon after dinner Gurdjieff took his little accordion-piano on his knee and, while his left hand worked the bellows, his right hand made music in minor chords and haunting single notes.
But one night in his aromatic store-room he played for five of us, alone, a different kind of music, although whether the difference lay in its sorrowful harmonies or in the way he played I do not know. I only know that no music had ever been so sad. Before it ended I put my head on the table and wept.
“What has happened to me?” I said. “When I came into this room I was happy. And then that music—and now I am happy again.”
“I play objective music to make cry,” Gurdjieff said. “There are many kinds such music—some to make laugh, or to love or to hate. This the beginning of music—sacred music, two, three thousand years old. Your church music comes from such but they don’t realize. They have forgotten. This is temple music—very ancient.”
Once when he played I thought the music sounded like a prayer—it seemed to supplicate. And then I thought, “It is only my imagination and emotion,” and I tried not to feel what I was feeling. But when he had finished, instead of smiling and tapping the top of the instrument with his hand, he sat quite still and his eyes stood motionless, as if he were looking at us through his thoughts. Then he said, “It was a prayer,” and left us.
Gurdjieff and Rudolf Steiner
Its very very difficult to seek to encapsulate someone as extraordinary as and uniquely himself as Mr Gurdjieff. Much of what he said can of course be opposed by things he said himself...for a simple example, his remarks about giving up your own wilfulness and accepting direction seems on the face of it to be contradicted by his frequently repeated "Don't believe anything I say". If I may tell what my own thoughts are...it is that these seemingly opposed remarks are both simultaneously "true", and that he sought to put people in a condition of contradiction and to face them with paradox, much as the 'Greatest Sheikh', Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi did - a condition of 'wonderment' and opening of the heart in that amazement, not to give facile wooden-top 'logical' answers. My time (40 years) with my Gurdjieff teachers in the London Gurdjieff Society showed me after the initial couple of decades a very different side of the teachings and a genuine warmth, deep humanity, and sense of freedom than maybe most in the more mechanical early stages of group work may never realise might be possible. I say that only to give a context for one remark...by a teacher of mine who was with Gurdjieff in Paris. "It is only in the midst of contradiction that we begin to SEE".
A 'teachers job’ under this consideration is to increase your self-perception of your own inner contradiction to the point where your intuitive faculties begin to function, because only in such intuition is there any resolution and the beginning of understanding. Reality, to mental processes, is contradictory. The mental processes themselves, trying to work with black/ white oppositions and step by step linear processes cannot 'model' reality as a single continuous phenomena and are seemingly incapable of seeing 'sameness' or 'identity'. Contradiction perhaps is an artifact of approaching a complex and diverse, yet single and utterly simple actuality with inadequate or incorrect tools. We live in a unity but we cannot see it, because the main tool we use works by separation, ‘this’ is essentially different to ‘that’.
I do not personally 'believe' that Gurdjieff wanted obedient sapped followers at all. He sought to give access to self-initiated freedom and realisation, and did so to many. He never sought to destroy peoples self-initiative; anyone could could refuse to work and risk being asked to leave. Blind zombie behaviour or submission was not an acceptable response, either.
There is no 'outer face' or public face to the Gurdjieff Work, and no interest in 'true believers' in that 'Work' from the point of view of that work itself, though many false teachers exist who do seek perpetual enslavement, not freedom.
This however is not Gudjieff's fault, having done all he could through his actions and writings to awaken people from their trance and their habituaI responses. I feel we are looking at a phenomena like that he describes in "The Herald of the Coming Good"...where each persons exposure to the fullness and overwhelming completeness of the teaching results in them haring off with some little piece or other...'an intellectual approach', 'the centre of the work is...(whatever these nuts put forward...self-observation, self-remembering, the movements, blah blah blah).' His experience when traveling around the groups set up in his name was that without exception all were “candidates for madhouse”. They didn't understand that there is no centre, and that many lines of work are necessary to produce a complete, full, rounded, feeling, loving, human being. And most unfortunately to set up their very own 'schumacher booths'.
It's perhaps only my subjective impression, but I was for several years 'Artist in Residence' at a Steiner School and have several close friends who went through the Steiner Schools...that Gurdjieff's sights were set on a much 'higher' level, to produce a genuinely free human being, a proper human being, in hock to, mortgaged to, absolutely no-one and no belief, including any belief in himself.
He says in "Herald of the Coming Good" that he sought to escape from the "Aura of Kingship" his followers unwantedly foisted on him. In fact he blamed his motor accident on an over accumulation of such invidious energies despite all his attempts to divert them.
The Steiner Schools have done remarkable work in education and in producing a very different kind of human being, attuned to natural processes and able to see the holistic nature of 'the All'. But over and over again when confronted by the brutalities of 'normal' 'human society' I have seem them to come into big problems on leaving the Steiner environment, and without 'tough love' teachers to help them get on their feet, they can end up as placid but rather disturbed individuals. All generalisations of course...
What always worried me was Steiners drawings and paintings of vapid and anodyne angels and other beings with the general appearance of misty fairies. Oh Dear. Is that what he sees? Then we're in big trouble, and so is everyone who follows him.
I fear he thought the 'spiritual' to be elsewhere, on a 'higher plane', transcendent. Ibn Arabi “it is necessary to transcend transcendence". Mr Gurdjieff was expert at bringing people back to earth...on being confronted with questions about 'triads' by an Ouspenskite...very very long pause. "And how do you treat your Mother?". Gurdjieffs aim was arguably more difficult...very very difficult indeed. He did not leave his followers "between the worlds" like "luminous ghosts" as I find the Steiner product, etherealized.
Apples and Oranges. On the level of being useful and socially engaged it may seem that the more public Steiner 'face' indicates more worldly usefulness and engagement. I fear not, because to them the world is an illusion...and not also "the Truth in Truth". The real effects of a chiefly secret (in various ways and as Sufis say 'The secret protects itself' as well...you can tell many secrets but out of a living context, no one can understand them) initiative (in my view so that people don't interfere...”We're Busy”) are impossible to quantify, but may be very great. Maybe without Mr Gurdjieff's encouragement of real thought the world would be a radioactive slag heap. We don't know, but its certainly possible, that a very pragmatic teaching may have effects that no etherealized 'spirituality' focused on 'higher worlds' ever could. "How do you treat your Mother?"
I don't really know how to express this, but maybe the rejection of a "religious mythology" removes a context reaching deep into human history...a context which permits astounding beauty to appear. Gurdjieff created in effect a complete cosmic myth, in his book “Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson” and I can only presume saw it as necessary not at all as a matter of 'belief' (I doubt anyone seriously believes that he expected or wanted anyone to 'believe' in it..."The Sun is cold", in the book and his frequent repetition of "Don't believe anything I say" etc) but as a means of reaching past intellectual filters to touch the deep subconsciousness, Conscience, to awaken intuitive inner intrinsic 'knowledge', and open the way to a conscious re-connection with the Divine Being-Impulses of Real Hope, Real Faith and Real Love.
“Beelzebub’s Tales” in my opinion, uses a “stealth technology” of stories, neologisms, and seemingly irrational statements to slip a mass of material ‘under the radar’ of fictitious consciousness and it’s filters.
"Within the first 25 pages of his 1,200-page opus, "Beelzebub's Tales to his grandson", in the prefatory chapter originally called “Warning,” Gurdjieff informs us that he will be speaking to both our consciousnesses. In his inimitable, provocative way, he says that our “pure waking consciousness” is “fictitious” and that our other consciousness which we call the “subconscious” is our “real human consciousness.”
Who has taken Gurdjieff’s assertion seriously?"
Jack Cain, "The Possibility to Work".
Mr Gurdjieff does NOT mean the term as used in a psychological sense, but means the totality of the functioning that is not actually present in fictitious consciousness...Our unconscious existence is the real one, and the conscious world is a kind of illusion, an apparent reality constructed for a specific purpose like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it. Carl Jung1
The possibility to work is a subconscious capacity.
Toronto, March 20, 2009
Beelzebub, in “Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson” (BTG) by Gurdjieff : “...although the factors for engendering in their presences the sacred being-impulses of Faith, Hope and Love are already quite degenerated in the beings of this planet, nevertheless, the factor which ought to engender that being-impulse on which the whole psyche of beings of a three-brained system is in general based, and which impulse exists under the name of Objective-Conscience, is not yet atrophied in them, but remains in their presences almost in its primordial state”. Gurdjieff: All & Everything. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1950, p. 359
"Even a momentary awakening of conscience in a man who has thousands of different I's is bound to involve suffering. And if these moments of conscience become longer and if a man does not fear them but on the contrary co-operates with them and tries to keep and prolong them, an element of very subtle joy, a foretaste of the future 'clear consciousness' will gradually enter these moments." ISOTM p. 156
“I decided to consecrate the whole of myself from that time on to the creation here of such conditions that the functioning of the “sacred-conscience” still surviving in their subconsciousness might gradually pass into the functioning of their ordinary consciousness”. BTG Ashiata Shiemash p.36O
It's difficult for me to deny that a loose and lightly held openness to (all) religious expression and religious 'mythology' seems to be a suitable response to a human constant, a human need, for ultimately the expression of beauty; of ourselves as deeply human. ( Not necessarily two different things...The Hadith Qudsi "I was a hidden treasure and I Loved to be Known and so I created the Universes" also applies to us. Of course in Arabic the word 'God', 'I' etc cannot be capitalised...there are no capital letters, and so every 'God' comment has an ambiguity of reference...is it about me or about 'God' ...which ambiguity Sufis love to play with. As Ibn Arabi says "God is never seen in an immaterial form"; for mystics and 'gnostics' the forms of the world are the appearance of the 'Divine' The word 'God' like all words is a form of "signing", a second order coding; only reified by external religions as a system of 'belief' per se.