I have just had a chance to catch up on a wonderful new book on the Gurdjieff work by Jeanne De Salzmann called “The Reality of Being” (2010). She talks a lot about two modes of being, that of our personal reactive, driven selves and that which is connected to a more “objective” consciousness with its experience of ‘Being’. To quote from page 283 –
“An attitude of vigilance leads us in the direction of a more objective life. It is difficult to accept the idea of having both an objective life and at the same time, a personal life – that is, to be subjective, to let oneself live a personal life. It is even more difficult to accept that, in a sense, we have to pay with our personal life. Of course, we cannot be otherwise than personal – subjective, with our body, our likes and dislikes, our personal feelings. This subjective life will always remain. Yet I must know it, I must experience it. My subjective life is what I am, it is me. At the same time, there is something in me that enables me to be objective in relation to it. If I am also to open to what is higher, my subjective life must be put in its place, sometimes give more, sometimes less. I cannot have new strengths on top of all my weakness. I can never come to quietude if I do not sacrifice my agitation and my tensions. I cannot have free attention if I do not sacrifice what keeps me enslaved. Everything I wish has to be paid for. If I wish to have a new state I must sacrifice the old. We never get more than we give up. What we receive is proportional to what we sacrifice.”
“Being is always working in us, trying to break through the hard crust of our ego into the light of consciousness. The primordial impetus animating human will is the striving of being towards this light” (p.280)
This is wonderful, and it reminds me of Rumi’s “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
But what is clear to me is that therapy is a powerful way of getting to know our emotional self, of coming to terms with, of knowing and understanding what drives up to be the way we are, of “experiencing” our emotional make up. Therapy is also getting clearer and clearer about how we need the support of our head (our understanding) and our body (our sensation).
I am not sure about her use of the word “sacrifice” above, the word ‘reconcile’ makes more sense to me. As I understand it, in order to move past our enslavement to unaware reactive aspects of ourselves we need to face the fear, and the unbearable feelings behind the fear, that we have habitually avoided. It is only through fully facing and accepting the hurt, anger, distress, ‘badness’, depression, anxiety, whatever is the nature of our ‘wound’ that we are protecting, that enables us to live with it in a different way. This is what allows us to find compassion for ourselves. Otherwise we are always caught unconsciously defending what is felt as intolerable.
The idea of “paying” for ‘presence’ makes sense in terms of the work necessary for us get free of our reactivity, and we do have to let go of our identification with our false image of ourselves with its narcissistic ‘specialness’.
Anyway, my sense is that the Gurdjieff work still needs to embrace the “shit” of the emotional work of therapy. They need to get down a little from their high precious horse of trying to connect to “objective consciousness” with the feeling that they represent the only ‘real’ way this is possible for human beings. It needs to get stuck into the messy work of exploring our motivations, looking at what is behind our defences. As I see it, it is by going through the fire of facing our worst fears and feeling the depth of our pain that we forge a new freer self. “Spiritual bypass” is so common, this process of using a connection to a different level of ‘being’ in order to avoid the emotional bear pits we refuse to look at.
To be fully a “fourth way”, knowing our emotional centre at depth must surely be included alongside the work of developing and connecting up sensation and understanding into a limited ‘presence’. It is by owning and holding our own insecurity with compassion that opens our hearts to love and therefore a fuller connection to the “light” of that “primordial impetus”.
Surely this is an ‘and’ situation rather than the ‘either or’ attitude to therapy that has historically prevailed. Therapy is a really effective tool for self-knowledge and if the ‘work’ embraced it more fully I am sure change and transformation would deepen and accelerate.
As Ken Wilber put it recently in his work of the “fourth turning” in Buddhism, “And that’s what is so amazing. Nirvana is not something away from samsara, nirvana is the transparency and the openness of samsara, its innate luminosity and care. And that is just astonishing. It’s absolutely beautiful.”
This is exactly true of the process of psychotherapy, with the movement from identification with our difficulties in victim mode, to the freedom of acceptance and self-compassion for being the way we are. There is the separation of self from self, so that we can see, know and understand the wounded parts of ourselves, and then the re-integration into a new self-structure of acceptance and forgiveness, where the very insecurity that was the source of our painful ‘illusion’ becomes the gateway to allowing our hearts to open to love.