Jefferies, Gurdjieff & NLP –Tipping out My Mind’s Content

When my father died in 1971, I read The Story of My Heart for solace; I found it abundantly in its pages: ‘It is useless to fill the heart with bubbles. A loved one gone is gone…’ And I have continued to think of him since then at least once a day, using his spirit in me as a way of making sense of the world’s absurdity – I know he would have seen it thus… And the bubbles float away.

a puff of air
blows a leaf aside –
there is the star I sought (found haiku SOMH)

Everything is ‘in my existence, in my soul…’ says Jefferies. The Kybalion ends with ‘Everything is mind’ and so it is – capable of being addressed by a certain something in the mind more or less objectively: everything we see, hear, feel is an internal event which we somehow manage – by making sense of it, ignoring, savouring, pondering, digesting, developing into a system or philosophy, looking again, exploring the feeling, writing it down, repeating it, holding it up to the light, comparing, setting one thing against another internally, speaking about it even though the words are inadequate to convey exactly what is meant. ‘Clumsy indeed are all words the moment the wooden stage of commonplace life is left…’ says Jefferies. Or else the meaning changes as you attempt to say what you mean – the Heisenberg Effect: the words are a way of measuring meaning but the very measuring will change the meaning as old associations with the words you choose come into play. In any case ‘the words we have at our disposal create the world in which we imagine we live’ (the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). Even the notion of ‘time’, just a word, is an internal event: on a clock face it seems only too manageably linear, one thing after another, a minute then another ticktocking away; but it’s not linear at all, just an internal event – in the scientific art of NLP some people are ‘in-time’ in the sense that they carry their time with them while others are found to be ‘through-time’, running their lives on what’s in their diaries or on the calendar. An in-time person will say, “This will only take me five minutes!” while the through-time fan, tapping the clockface savagely, wanting to be up & at it, will know that their friend will still be doing whatever it is five hours later. ‘I cannot understand time. It is eternity now. I am in the midst of it…’ Jefferies was a thoroughgoing in-time person. His time was his own.‘To the soul there is no past & no future… the clock may make time for itself…’ It’s immortality now: ‘the supernatural crowds around me… I live it now … while I hear the burring of the larger bees, experience the sweet air in the grass & watch the yellow wheat wave beneath me. Sun & earth & sea, night & day are the least of things. Give me soul-life…’ ‘Time is breath’ said Gurdjieff. On the other hand, there is ‘nothing human in nature. The earth would let me perish…’ The sun & the sea represent complete indifference to my existence; whether I am here or not is of no consequence to trees & grass; we project our own meaning into such phenomena and imagine they have the same sensations & ideas that we have – the Anthropomorphic Delusion. Perhaps we have to imagine something like that since all observable things, including people, are an infinite mystery to us; but there’s nothing ‘mystical’ or hidden about the things out there – they’re just the fundamental thinginess of things (the istigkeit) which just happen to be around the place. Jefferies says ‘Everything happens by chance’. Gurdjieff says ‘things just happen’ and then go on to affect other things in systemic interconnectedness. In Jefferies’ model the soul or Psyche is an existential starting point, imagining it has some kind of intangible control, giving the impression of Immortality which there’s nothing whatever to prove; governed by a Deity, whose sadistic enterprises alone are proof of his non-existence – and then there’s something way beyond the projection of the super-ego on a universal scale: ‘go out and look up at the night sky’, says Marcus Aurelius, ‘and simply know that there is something much larger than yourself’. Meister Eckhart exhorts us not to bother about divinity but just to look at the heavens and marvel. Sixty years ago I heard Donald Soper on Tower Hill one dinnertime say, “Don’t bother about Christ’s divinity, just look to his humanity!” Everything is ‘in my existence, in my soul…’ Jefferies made a daily pilgrimage to some unique spot he had located – one of many – to be by himself, to experience mind ‘living its own life apart from other things…’ Gurdjieff recommended that one make self-remembering (‘This is me being me here & now’) a regular once a day habit. The oak Jefferies sat against worked as the NLP notion of ‘anchor’ for living his own life here & now – he just had to look at it for true Consciousness to be present. That he had many such thinking spots meant that he worked with the result of ‘chaining anchors’ – they all supported one another in the consistency of effort, turning manifestations of rooks, chaffinches, ants, otters, hares, rabbits into part of his being; sun & sea & moon likewise, in spite of their total indifference as to whether he did or not. No contradiction here. Jefferies ‘pondered’ just as Mr G did. Not ‘thinking’ but ‘pondering’ which has a far more weighty feel about it – ideas put into the scales with a pound weight or two – ‘poundering’, pounding is attention. ‘…I am attention. Where my attention is, there am I. If the attention is weak, I am weak, if it is mechanical, I am mechanical, if it is free. I am free.” (Michel Conge) Jefferies’ great stream of observation is the pounding of his attention. Like Mr G, though he’d read a few books in his short time, Jefferies didn’t have much time for book-learning; you just have to attend to the entire cosmos with soul-life, with whole-life 3-brained being, as he did, physically  – walking long distances, rowing, splitting wood with an axe, swimming – intellectually – pondering, recording daily trance-life, linking past & present, asking What-if? into the notional future, moving from here to there, antview & starscape – emotionally – embracing sunlight, becoming as nothing, self-noughting. ‘We must do everything for ourselves…’ I’m not sure that what I identify as my own DIY mentality came before or after Jefferies but what he wrote must have had an effect on me just as did everything he was & said – the existential Absurdity of things – ‘Earth itself a fragment of floating seaweed…’ And nothing has evolved, just as Gurdjieff said – we are more self-important but the body-cogs are fundamentally just the same as they were when we lived in caves – everything is as it has always been; steamers & airplanes, tanks & computers, railway trains, nuclear bombs & politics, instant communication – all irrelevant to soul-life; ‘nothing is of any use unless it can be associated with the human ideal… Let the house be plain & simple… a cave would be enough…’ This I used to say to my adolescent girl-friend and she seemed to agree that we’d live in a cave but I’m not sure she believed she agreed. There is no MUST BE… ‘The only idea I can give is the idea that there is always another idea…’ There is this and that and always much else besides. So often people sort the world by moving from this to that when the best place to be, the most generative place, is one that incorporates the power of ‘much else’. In NLP that’s called a metaprogram, the standing apart from the way things seem to be and applying some personal sorting principle. On the last page of The Open Air, referring to what’s probably a rush hour in wet London, Jefferies describes humans as being ‘reduced to mere hurrying machines’ which is what Gurdjieff asserts that we are – mere machines, doing the same things over and over again, repeating the same patterns of language, the cogs keep on going round, we play the same old song at the same speed on the gramophone of our being, stuck in a groove, living in the same old way thinking it to be the only way there is (otherwise we’d change it). We are asleep and cannot therefore get out of the prison of the mind. We can’t think straight being more fond of internal cognitive rummaging than gaining balance by looking at things as they might really be. We need to look at things, experiencing with our senses fully opened up, free from the burden of the past, says Jefferies, starting afresh, to get the most important food of Pure Impressions, a phrase he could have used had he been around in the 1920’s when Gurdjieff suggested the idea. To get Pure Impressions, free from ratiocination, we need to be able to be aware of the mental rummaging we indulge in, arguing with our many selves and, having successfully stopped the habit (at least from time to time) work hard to gain a balance between Intellectual construction, Emotional relevance and Active engagement with things as they really are. Had they been up to this, Marese & Theodore in World’s End could have avoided their fantastical, unbalanced, excesses; likewise Godwin in The Dewy Morn. But they were in the all-consuming vanity of Personality as Gurdjieff might have said, working hard to gain ambition & advancement, money & prestige – the Bread & Circuses tossed to us by the Power Possessors to keep us quiet. ‘It is the well-to-do who are the criminal classes…’ says Jefferies. He takes it that education & upbringing have moved us away from who we really are, away from essence, the higher soul-life which can be ours when we discard the easy attractions of sport and spectacle of one kind or another – the things Gurdjieff calls ‘A Influences’ as opposed to Influences B & C – B, the teaching of wise humankind & C, the association with wise people. For me, Jefferies is a strong B Influence. A fundamental thing that stops us from developing away from the prison of self is that we are more than content with imagining that we are one single unified ‘I’. To run with the belief that we consist of only one ‘I’ causes confusion and makes for our not being able to develop in any way. In Sartre’s Existentialism it’s called Bad Faith: ‘I am a waiter…’ and that’s that – such a statement implies that ‘I’ am nothing else; denies the existence of Being-a-father-I, say, Being-enthusiastic-about-vintage-cars-I, Travelling-the-world-I or any other of the hundreds of other possible ‘I’s the notional waiter might have in his repertoire. Say you’re miserable one day and over the moon the next it is confusing – how can the same ‘I’ shift between the two inexplicably? The mystery dissolves when you realise that it’s not one ‘I’ subject to change but at least two separate ‘I’s – Being-miserable-I and Being-over-the-moon-I governed by many other ‘I’s in between. Thus on a wet London evening a particular male Working-in-an-office-I steps into a Being-mechanical-I to trudge home over London Bridge but when the owner turns the key in the door of his house he steps into Being-a-loving-husband-I and later, maybe, into a Watching-the-telly-for-the-evening-I or Playing-the-violin-I. Building a repertoire of more resourceful ‘I’s promotes change; asking yourself periodically what ‘I’ you’re in can help you to step into a more useful ‘I’. To subdue Being-a-machine-I Gurdjieff recommends a moment of what he calls self-remembering – ‘this is me being who I really am here & now’; it can be the birth of true Consciousness – that which Richard Jefferies found himself aiming for – more & more soul-life, waking up from the sleep of life. In Restless Human Hearts Heloise begins to get into her real self by recognising that she is more than one ‘I’ – then she begins to think more clearly: her Making-purely-emotional-responses-to-the-world-I finds a Thinking-more-carefully-I, Tossing-away-the-sneering-Louis-I, and then, finding happiness with Noel, Becoming-a-mother-I. Getting rid of what Gurdjieff calls ‘Buffers’ is useful too. A buffer prevents us from noticing contradictions in our psyche, holding it to ransom. Heloise’ father, Pierce, has a buffer: on the one hand, he cares deeply for all natural phenomena – {BUFFER} – but he hosts murderous hunting on his land. The buffer stops him from fully recognising the contradiction in his being. Thus Iden: ‘…the strangeness of the thing was in this way: Iden set traps for mice in the cellar and the larder, and slew them there without mercy. He picked up the trap, swung it round, opening the door at the same instant, and the wretched captive was dashed to death upon the stone flags of the floor. So he hated them and persecuted them in one place, and fed them in another…{BUFFER} From the merest thin slit, as it were, between his eyelids, Iden watched the mice feed and run about his knees till, having eaten every crumb, they descended his leg to the floor…’ Though obviously only too well aware of it, Jefferies had the same problem, swinging, pendulum-wise between observing the incredible beauty of a hare {BUFFER} to treating it as a mere object to be shot; he seems to teeter on the edge of stopping in the middle of the pendulum swing to simply enter into the spectacle, observing, without becoming trigger-happy, the sheer elegance of continuing motion. Reverence for life. It’s all in the mind. All mind-work in favour of individual development has two sides – ‘…something old in us has to be killed and something quite new has to be born…’ (Rodney Collin) Buffers prevent the two contradictory sides from clashing. When we learn to experience both fully, their power over us weakens as we begin to observe ourselves without let up. Judgement is often the first reaction when seeing shortcomings in oneself, in other people. The way out is not to make judgement but to embrace all the contradictions in order not to allow them to be a distraction. ‘Gradually out of the tumult of angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what I am picks its way…’ (Walt Whitman). The diagram is how I come to terms with Jefferies’ own Buffer. Gurdjieff talks about using a pendulum model – to start by swinging between the extremes of contradiction and gradually settling at some point of synthesis:-Scan0003

One can understand that very well!

Everything is mind…

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