It’s good to have an enthusiastic correspondent who sends me strange presents and parcels full of thoughts & ideas from time to time. For some reason, she does not believe in the hoarding of books and so I, being a constitutional hoarder, am so fortunate when she sends me her castoffs.
One of these recent strays was a book she found by chance in some secondhand box – Heart without Measure by Ravi Ravindra (Shaila Press, Halifax, Nva Scotia 1999), an account of meetings & discussion with the heir to Gurdjieff’s empire, Madame de Saltzmann, going right up to 1990 when she died at the age of 101. The book consists of a partial unpicking of ‘…the need to understand the movement of energy – to sense the life we participate in. Not the ordinary life but une autre vie dans la vie ordinaire…’
She asserts that ‘…the important thing is to experience…’ You can read all you like ‘…but you must see your dispersion & fragmentation, you must see the need of a thorough relationship between mind & body. The energy of the mind – of the higher part of the mind – must descend and embrace the energy of the body. You have to stay in front of your [inadequacy]. Without that nothing is possible. One can use big words, read a hundred books and write a hundred books. It means nothing…’
As though to prove what Madame de Saltzmann says about reading books – they will never yield up what has to be derived from experience – you can, unfortunately, read the whole of Ravi Ravindra’s book but still be completely ignorant of how the descent of the ‘higher part of the mind’ towards the ‘energy of the body’ is to be accomplished. She was right! You might understand the notion of the ‘energy of the body’ – it can get you from A to B, might even power the next thing you think of now – but, though it certainly does sound as though it might be something worth having, you are more than likely to remain completely ignorant of what a ‘higher part of the mind’ could possibly be . We are warned off becoming fanatical about any idea or expression and so it seems important not to get hung up on the concept of the ‘higher part of the mind’, or the Higher Energy, before trying to figure out what it might be – mere words are not enough. As for how it might develop, presupposing it exists, in concert with the bodily energy that presumably drives these fingers on the keyboard, for example,… Well!
In the face of these problems, acknowledging our ‘dispersion & fragmentation’, we must first of all, says Madame de Saltzmann, STAY IN FRONT OF THE LACK (any lack whatsoever, but in this context the lack of understanding of the abstraction ‘Higher Energy’, say), gather up all our experiences of it connected with some important word or idea, some concern or other, and search for connections between them, remembering that all ideas & practices can become mechanical and therefore useless.
Madame de Saltzmann is true to the master: ‘…Mr G always wanted us to be bewildered about what was said, so that we would turn to what we understand truly, what we know ourselves, to be able to go on further from that…’
What is the lack then? A little bewildering since we do not normally consider ourselves to be lacking in anything much – we think we are perfect, otherwise we would try to be different. In order to stay in front of it, as Madame de Saltzmann frequently reminds us to do, one must first of all understand what the ‘lack’ might consist of. Here’s a possible understanding, one of several maybe: ‘I’ am not the unity that the word ‘I’ suggests that ‘I’ am; ‘it’ (a preferable word for it, the ‘I’) is dispersed into a million parts, each a minor ‘I’ that causes my mind to dash around all over the place, identifying first with one thing then another without stopping all day long and into sleeping dreams, losing energy all the time through engaging in ‘high energy’ which is not at all the same as the higher variety. Or else we lose energy by lamenting that we do not have enough of it, or we beat ourselves up with nettles and lose energy that way.
In this Glob, I aim to stand to stand in front of my lack and develop a few practical ideas. You might like to stand around for a moment with me.
What if we had some notion of Vastness, of the stars in the night sky, say, and could then find a way of entering into it to become the Vastness ourselves? Unfortunately it cannot ‘…be bound by any laws, forms or concepts however ingeniously devised…’
Then take the feeling of Vastness all the way back to ➀ and BE the Vastness…
But nothing lasts long. One has to begin again and again. In order to stay with it
the mind needs to be quietly occupied
otherwise it will re-engage itself
with the fluctuation
of the price of cotton in Egypt
or the current status
of a whirlwind in Mesopotamia
you cannot stay too long
inside the temple
where the Mysteries are playing –
you might as well stay
in the general precincts
and make measurement
of the thickness of the walls
Found Poem from Ravi Ravindra’s prose…
Another way of approaching Vastness is to have in mind one of the Great Forms (as it might be Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, a steam engine in full pelt, Beachy Head, for example). What effect does that have on you?
What is a Great Form anyway? Something made by human beings, designed to capture the Vastness; or it might be a natural something or other that seems somehow to encapsulate the notion of Vastness. The contemplation of a Great Form annihilates the ego, its vanity, all the A Influence distractions it is prey to, its defects; it raises Being & energy to some other level.
One has to ponder how to connect with the Higher Energy and then explore the journey.
It seems that another way of getting into a Great Form is to engage in the Gurdjieff ‘Movements’ – to the onlooker they are beautiful, stylised, smoothly angular moving pictures of the human shape consorting with its neighbours; to the participant I imagine they are physical entrances into the Great Form of what it is to be a complete human being; one can do it mentally but it’s also the reason why it’s best to do the
exercise by striding it out – that way engages the whole brain/body experience.
Madame de Dampière said :-
There are two categories of Movements and they proceed in opposite ways. In quiet Movements one can be related with a Higher World and one sees one’s remotness from it; and one has remorse. In these Movements one has been freed from the usual worldly movements and the music and slow gestures all help one relate with the Higher World and one is quiet & receptive. The stronger Movements do the same by affirmation: I affirm myself, but only because I am related with a Higher Energy…
To relate the Higher to the Lower:-
It’s important to repeat the process until you feel the energy flowing – first waken the energy in the head and then get the sensation of it coursing down your back, feel it going underneath you and up into your chest; this is called STAYING IN FRONT OF THE LACK… Everything is contained in the body somewhere… The energy of the Higher Mind comes from above the head, outside the body and can work its way down & up creating feeling.
I think that Mr G’s Observer-I, what I call Meta-I, that which goes beyond any smaller kind of ‘I’, with the help of which you can contemplate this energy cycle, probably equates somehow with Higher Mind. What are the pre-requisites for Meta-I?
• gaining a perspective
• Active Attention
• the capacity for Divided Attention
• appreciation of Nothingness
• reception of Pure Impressions
• no associations, no emotion
• gaining the Specificity of the Ordinary
• freedom from Multiple-I’s
When the Centres work together in a kind of harmony, thinking-feeling-doing becomes anchored in one energy. To do this effectively we have to notice when attention falls into passivity and return it to being active without thinking about it too much.
How can we possibly know for sure when the energy of the body is connected with that of the mind or with what we imagine to be the Higher Energy? None of this can be done by the ego, or by thought alone. We have to understand that we are not at all important in the process, just very ordinary beings but always in the strong position of being able to get hold of something otherwise than the normal state of things. It is necessary to develop the ability to act well on the ordinary level, within the general rough & tumble of life, in order to raise oneself up a level otherwise there is no base starting point.
All the great teachers come back to the world after understanding something very high in a monastery or under a special tree but there is nothing in the way of brain surgery here; all that’s needed is to economise the expenditure of energy, be mindful of one’s breathing (time is breath…) and constantly sense the workings of one’s body, then pass it on to others.
Anybody free from the level of like/dislike can find every person and every situation of some value and use in the comprehension of things. Staying in front of it is called ‘Pondering’.
Can one see whether another person is in harmony with themselves? One can certainly see disharmony: when a person is in pieces they are physically all over the place. For oneself, intensity of attention promotes an explosion going deep inside. Madame de Salzmann said: ‘One needs to learn to work consciously in order to pay for one’s existence…’ – anything else gets it on the cheap and it’s not worth even tuppence ha’penny for a thousand neurons. The explosion happens in a charming and comfortable sort of way when you deliberately say to yourself: THIS IS ME HERE NOW BEING ME HERE & NOW. (This is called ‘Self-remembering’…)
We have a moon inside us as well as a sun… We are a whole system. When you know what your moon is and what it does for you you can understand the entire cosmos. (Mr G)
What gets in the way is the acquired Personality. It’s useful in some respects – keeps us going from day to day on the necessary things, helps us get the right message, earns some cash, helps maintain relationships, keeps the roof on… But it can drift into self-importance, tit-for-tat behaviour, making out that one is more important than one is, self-justifying. It’s ego-stuff, wishing to be liked & admired, fearing it will be disapproved of, imagining it does (or will do) a good job. Something has to be abandoned: the picture of oneself as a self-important Somebody is the greatest obstacle to self-development. Along with many others, that picture has to go.
Who am I? What am I doing here on this planet? You can dive into the easy things of the False Personality and go back to sleep or you can be a seeker after something higher and ask questions like
• How can I engage in purposive action?
• How can I do without self-interest? Without egoism?
• How can I be a real self but entirely without selfishness?
• How can I find a centred self without being self-centred?
• Which ‘I’ wants to know?
Pure Impressions, what Mr G called the highest form of food, are the most important thing. It is not easy to receive impressions, visual, gustatory, olfactory, auditory, tactile, before they become contaminated with associations. Active attention, the abandonment of labels, holding words at arms’ length helps. Active attention is thinking without words – words make associations – it is the energy of the mind located throughout the body; it is not associative thinking, more like deep, visionary thinking. One could start by developing non-attachment to one’s name, the label of vanity & self-importance. Pure Impressions come without association of any kind.
Real ‘I’, Meta-I is an indifferent entity, the awakening ‘me’. The energy of the mind is active attention; the energy of the body is its unique sensation.
As things are the body does not understand the mind does not understand the feeling or the instincts (whatever they are…). What if there were understanding all round?
Have in mind an issue you are contending with right now. Stand in each section of the diagram in turn and separate out how the issue seems from an Emotional point of view, then from an Intellectual stance; think about what’s to do by Moving around; what does your Instinct or Gut Feeling tell you? Whenever you find emotion mixed with intellect or intellect with movement, separate things out. Ideas are never enough, old associations may have to be discarded. One has to make an effort but then let go.
And so we return to the fundamental question raised by Ravi Ravindra’s book on Madame de Saltzmann: how do we know what somebody else is talking about when they refer to the concept of ENERGY? What can it possibly mean as shared experience? Perhaps it’s just active attention: I listen to a great symphony (pick one for yourself); I get multiple pure sensations, sound & movement, colour & tone, something inside me dances. It is necessary to turn up the volume of conscious attention – to remember yourself in the process. If you find attention drifting or becoming passive, stay in front of your fragmentation, relish it. Remember yourself always and everywhere. Always come back to a sense of self – how you walk, how you breathe, how sit, how conduct (yourself and the music) and so on.
And then the Higher Energies – what are they, for goodness sake? Higher Intellectual Energy, Higher Emotional Energy. Total conscious awareness, conscience for all things.
What is the action that will get you to Higher Energy? Connection with Energy which seems to come from elsewhere, from another galaxy perhaps. Remain connected.
At our current level of being, we are imprisoned in how things seem to be, the ticking clock, the lying politician, the cat miaowing, the clouds moving. Break the moment, break with it. Notice all its separate parts. Avoid identification and reactivity.
Be wholly alert but sit quietly doing nothing.