Turning Inwards

April 27, 2010

 

This is a transcript of a talk I gave in Darlinghurst, Sydney quite a few years ago. It is my understanding of the need for Self Observation and Self Remembering which can only truly begin when we turn inwards.  Everything written below is based on my understanding of the Gurdjieff Work. I gave the talk as part of the Sydney Group.

Stavros

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 We always imagine ourselves to be much higher than we actually are. We take it for granted that we are individuals, that we have consciousness and that we can ‘DO’. But there are moments in our life when events and situations might shock us into recognition that we do not know where we are going and that our own efforts to control and direct our lives have been in vain. In these moments we feel an emptiness, a void which cannot be filled by social position, friends or wealth.

It is in moments like these that we are given an opportunity to re-evaluate our so called individuality, consciousness and will, in other words, to re-evaluate the image we have of ourselves. If we are sincere in these moments we recognise that the image we have of ourselves is not us at all but rather a mask which we very rarely see through. Life through our sincerity has brought us to the question of ourselves. If we are not individuals with the power to be conscious of our actions and thus direct our lives, then who and what are we? Who am I? What is my place in the scheme of existence? In the face of such questions, we realise that we have a need to know ourselves for ourselves and through ourselves.

 If I wish to know myself and through this knowledge to know the real world, how do I begin? How do I make the right effort to turn inwards to myself and what is the right effort? It is at this point of our own search that we recognise the necessity to study the methods of self-study, which lead to understanding and eventually knowledge of ourselves. Whether alone or with others we have found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. In this region of the unknown we may hope that the forces active on this level will send us the help we need.

To have any chance of reaching our goal of self-knowledge without losing ourselves we need a guide. Here, as elsewhere, we must learn from those who know and accept to be guided by those who have already trodden the same path.

The guide cannot walk our journey for us, the guide cannot turn my attention inwards to myself. All that the guide may do is to point out the pitfalls and obstacles which lie along our path and whether we understand the methods of self-study. On this path understanding is our only currency and our only means by which we may pay for the help we need. The understanding spoken of here is completely different to the intellectual knowledge which our modern science has accustomed us to. It is for this reason that real self-knowledge requires a school. It cannot be found in books, which can give only theoretical data, mere information, leaving the whole of the real work still to be done – to turn inwards towards our own inner experience and transform information into understanding through consciously living what we are.

 If the turning we are speaking of is not only of the mind, but the whole of us, and if we realise that we are not the image we have of ourselves then what can the words ‘the whole of us’ mean? Here we come across our own doubts, confusion and resistance. The words come easy but the turning required is not as easy as hearing and saying the words. We listen, we speak, but over and over again we are taken by the disorder of outer activity and find ourselves falling prey to doubts, fantasies and sterile words. This is the beginning. It is this awareness which will provide the experience of a real wish to resolve this inner confusion.

When we try to observe ourselves we see that we have to remain attentive both to ourselves and to a particular aspect of ourselves. We realise that this turning is not given to us spontaneously and that the attempt to turn with the whole of ourselves is dependent up the participation of three factors or forces. These are ‘I’ who observe face to face with what ‘I’ observe within myself and the third factor which connects the two – our attention.

Taking these three factors into consideration we will speak firstly about attention. Our usual state of attention is one in which we lose our identity in some activity – be it reading a book, talking to a friend, listening to music, hammering a nail, or just simply daydreaming. This is known as identification. Identification has different ways of manifesting within ourselves depending upon the activity. One of these ways is when we drift from object to object, from sight to sound to thought to a sensation with no apparent aim, no apparent direction: it is automatic. Or, our attention is attracted by something which exercises a strong hold – an argument, a beautiful face, a memory of some place or person. In this way we are drawn by our interest and the situation takes over ourselves. Another way in which our attention is spent is when we direct it by a simple effort for a certain time intentionally – making something, studying, playing a musical instrument, cooking, sewing. The common element we find in each of these ways of paying attention is that we are aware only of one thing at a time. This is our ordinary state. We can be aware either of the person we are talking to, or of our own words, of a pain in my body, of a scene, or of my thoughts about the scene. But, except on very rare occasions, we are not aware simultaneously of our own words and the person we are addressing, of my own pain and someone else’s, of a scene and my thoughts about it, of my situation and my feelings of it. The attention which is needed to turn inwards so that a self study may begin is such a divided attention.

 Divided attention is from another level within ourselves. It is the attention which at the same time of observation takes into account everything we are. This two way attention requires an attitude very different from our usual one. When we first make the effort to turn inwards our attention goes one way, then another, sometimes towards what I observe in myself, alternating at a faster or slower speed. This happens as easily in one direction as another. Though this attention is not given to us naturally, the attempt to observe oneself generates the energy for divided attention artificially. This very attempt is an exercise which develops the needed attention and makes it possible so that it can grow to the point where self-study may begin. In the beginning there is no stable support on which our attention can be based. Real self-observation appears to us to depend as much on this support as on the attention itself. From this we understand that the three forces that must be present are closely interdependent.

The second factor is “who” observes. We said earlier that self-observation requires “the whole of ourselves” and not just our analytical mind and we realise that with our usual attention and attitude we become identified with the situation at hand. When we are identified we are not present to the situation. We become totally attached and there is no space for the sense of myself. With our normal attention there is no ‘I’ which is the stable support to observe particular aspects of my life. For real self-observation to be possible ‘I’ must be present while the observation is going on. The sense of ‘all of me’ is the ‘I’ which is able to take into account in the field of attention directed toward myself a greater number of elements. The ‘I’ who observes has a field of vision analogous to that seen through a fish eye lens which has a more global perspective when compared to the normal natural view.

When ‘I’ is not present (which is our normal state) we forget ourselves almost uninterruptedly. In us things do themselves – speaking, laughing, feeling, acting – but they do it automatically and we ourselves are not there to witness. One part of ourselves laughs, another speaks, another acts.

There is no feeling that: I speak, I laugh, I act, I observe. Nothing that is done in this way can be integrated into a whole. Life lives itself through us and we are not there to partake of it. From this we understand that what we truly seek is more abundant life.

If our usual state is one of forgetting ourselves then the need to have a stable presence of ‘I’ may be fulfilled by trying to remember ourselves.

 This stable presence is not given to us by merely knowing about it. It can be acquired after long work on ourselves but even now we can have a relative degree of presence, a certain coherence of all that we can collect in ourselves.

Self-remembering is the attempt to have global awareness of oneself. It is the state where I am conscious that I am here in these surroundings and feel a connection with the surroundings around me in the overall presence of something higher. This sense of something higher is connected with the valuation of our own essential question. It may be our own aim in the light of our search, it may be the Sun from which all life on this planet has its on-gen, it may be our own meaning of God, or our own teacher. What is important in this effort to remember oneself is that it must be attempted by the sense of “the whole of ourselves and not just thought about. It is only when we try to make this effort that real self-observation can begin. When we try it we discover that without it we are constantly changing, constantly taken by events both within and without. We discover that all that we have gathered within ourselves is dispersed at the slightest distraction. We also find that in practice nothing is more difficult for us than to be there with enough stability for an observation.

The third factor which is needed to turn inwards is the object of our ob¬servation – the elements of ourselves, what we are. These elements constantly change and escape us altogether.Though the elements are in constant change the field in which these elements move is always there. When we notice other people we see their external behaviour which we all perform as a response to the demands of life. This external behaviour is directed by the functional structures comprising the field towards which our attention is directed. These functional structures are the same in all circumstances and are the result of what we are and what life has made of them. We see through our eyes and hear through our ears, we don’t see through our ears or hear through our eyes. The seeing and hearing are the functional structures of our eyes and ears respectively. Likewise, within ourselves certain behaviours, such as thinking, emotionalising and moving, are possible due to the functional structures which allow them to happen. However, the way things take place in us, the interaction of our functions and the manner in which they associate to produce our personalities and responses, all this goes on in the dark with out our knowing it. So, to observe the elements of ourselves we must do something special to make them visible.

When we strike a match against the chemically treated part of a matchbox the friction between the two creates a spark which becomes a flame, and we have light. For us to see the elements of ourselves we must likewise have friction between the ‘I’ who observes and the field which contains the elements.This inner friction is the struggle against the automatic aspects of ourselves: those moment by moment personages which are always there. The struggle is against the habits which give us the false image of ourselves.

 This struggle arouses the light of double attention which we need and forces us to confront those habits which keep us asleep, automated and engulfed in constant self-forgetfulness.

Self-forgetfulness, sleep, is our lot without struggle with our automatic selves. Mechanicalness and dreams replace our true birthright of freedom and reality. What am I saying?

I will illustrate with an example. I find myself waiting for a bus to take me to the bank. After buying the bus ticket my hands begin fidgeting. Soon my fingers begin to fold the ticket over, and over again, until it is a tiny cube like they have done hundreds of times before in the same manner. My head and left arm, in perfect synchronisation, move to the exact spot where my eyes can see the time on my watch. There is no real need to know the time since a moment earlier this same action was performed. My head is full of associations which whirl by in a random manner – a half-eaten memory of words exchanged over the breakfast table, an image of a television commercial, a song picked up from, I don’t know where, provides the background muzak. The bus arrives. Find my self at the middle of the bus bumping a man who grunts at me. Anger rises – there is no rebuke in words but my posture and face express it all the same. Sitting down, the realisation dawns that the bus ticket is no longer in my hand. My hands search my pockets, my eyes search the floor directly beneath my feet, my body is in all sorts of positions looking for the bus ticket. Simultaneously, the thoughts and emotions race through to the tune of “What will I say if the ticket inspector boards this bus?” No ticket. Soon memories float by and that time on the beach in North Queensland returns. While daydreaming I miss my stop because I find myself two blocks further than the bank which was my original destination. The button is pressed and the bus stops.

The above is what is meant by mechanicalness and sleep. This is how we are living most of our lives, and this state of consciousness which we call ‘normal’, is what we have sold our birthright for. Where is the man here? Where is the ‘I’ which if present and active would make my life real? Below is a description of what struggle with oneself may be.

I find myself on the street. I begin walking back towards the bank, I remember what happened on the bus. From somewhere within me the feeling ari¬ses that there is something wrong with myself. I, who can create grandiose plans for my future life, even to the place beyond the grave, can’t even re¬member to get off the bus in time. The words of Gurdjieff cut through my as¬sociations, ‘Life is Real Only Then When I Am.’ It is remembered with my mind that it is possible to turn inwards so that I may live and be present to my life. I see that I am not present but I know that I can be present. What I am can be remembered by who I am. The matchbox can be struck by the match. Oh! But it is so pleasant, so easy, to remain within my automatic nature, fully asleep to myself and the world. The effort required to struggle with myself is something more than the effort to earn my physical livelihood. Besides, it is an effort not required for my physical survival so why should I bother. Let me sleep on. And yet, if there is no effort, no struggle, to be . I am dead and only an automaton of flesh, bones and memory exists. I wish to live. I – the all of me – wish to be. The emptiness of what I am is passive – it is easily comforted with illusions and imagination that already I am and that I can do.

I long for life but where this longing stems from I don’t know and what this ‘life’ is which is longed for, I don’t know. This longing, this yearning for something which is unknown draws a part of my attention away from the surface associations and for a moment the heat of the sun is sensed on my face and hands. I have a body which is real, concrete and here and now. My body is the anchor of my longing. It is possible to turn inwards. The walking continues back to the bank. The longing for life is now expressed by a wish to see through my own eyes, to sense with my own skin, to hear through my own ears, to feel the ground beneath my own feet. I wish to move with my own whole body.

 It is remembered that the easiest functional structure to attempt to study is the moving part of myself. I wish to be, I wish to struggle with myself, I wish to slow down my walking pace so that the walking part of myself can be seen. My hand reaches for my coat pocket searching for a cigarette. That part of myself which longs for life gives the strength to say no to my hand but I promise a cigarette later if it allows presence to fill it. My mind is once again occupied with associations which pass through it automatically. I struggle to place in my mind a conscious image of myself being fully present at the entrance of the bank. My walking becomes faster. To be present at the entrance of the bank my walking pace must slow down again. Intimations of the shoe around my foot, sensation of heel touching ground, then the front part of shoe, slight pressure of my trousers around my knee as it bends, the sensation of my collar around my neck comes and goes, a breeze returns my face to myself via sensation. My pace is slower. Emotion arises – it is connected with what happened on the bus – anger with myself. My mind reminds me a little later that the only way to struggle with emotions at first is not to express negative ones. Associations arise with this thought, my mind continues in its deviation from the conscious image of myself being present at the bank’s entrance but the awareness of my walking and the growing sensation of my body keeps some attention on the elements of what I am.

 My body reminds me of the Sun for its heat is once again sensed on my hands and face. The longing, the wish to be, now evokes a decision to try with the whole of myself, with the awareness of my walking, with the denial of the cigarette, with the struggle against self-pity and anger, with the effort to control my thoughts, I now try with the whole of myself to place and feel myself and the immediate surroundings of the street under the Sun. For a split second time slows down and something which connects me and the external world opens and within the traffic noise, within the milk bar sandwich sign, within the garbage bin beside me, within the shop windows displaying goods and the people around me, within my footsteps and the body that senses the clothes on it, within the associations running through the mind, within it all the sense of another realm, a realm which seems to give Life to life enters and the question “Who am I?” echoes back to myself. This sense leaves me with the memory of an otherness and I find myself at the entrance of the bank understanding that I know nothing when it comes to the Real World.

With this effort of struggling with our habitual nature we must remember that the original aim for making the effort is so that the elements of what we are become visible. This is of fundamental importance because at this point lies one of the biggest obstacles on the path of return to ourselves. For something to become visible means that it becomes seen and nothing more. So with turning inwards all that is required at the beginning is that we see ourselves and simply record what we see and nothing more. Within the more lies the obstacle and this more is manifested within us when we try to analyse what we see. This analysis is the deviation of our attention from the whole of ourselves towards the relatively small part of ourselves we call the mind. Once we begin to analyse what we see we cease to observe and begin to imagine that we are observing.

We must also be careful that in hearing about the process of turning inwards and the methods of self-study that we do not fall into the trap of the rational, logical mind and reduce the real meaning of the words self-study, self-observation and self-remembering to mere psychologising. These words are signs on the path back to ourselves and since we do not know who we are, have meaning which goes beyond what contemporary psychology may imbue them with. It is for this reason that Vaysse in his Towards Awakening calls self-observation the secret ally. In a similar vein Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda that the warrior who follows the path of the heart has an ally which is a power a man could bring into his life to help him and give him the strength necessary to perform certain actions. This ally, Don Juan says will make a man see and understand things about which no human being could possibly enlighten him.

At the beginning of this talk we saw that life through certain circumstances brought about a shock which forced us into recognising the futility of living from a false image of ourselves. We have seen that by making certain efforts we may turn inwards consciously. This turning inwards is dependent upon our own essential need and longing for our true home. Sincerity is the key which unlocks the door to ourselves and this door becomes visible through turning inwards. By turning inwards we see what we are and through this seeing we are given the help with which the search for who we are may begin anew with renewed strength and real hope.

 I finish this talk with the words of Rene Daumal which, I believe trace the journey from the false image of ourselves towards the values of our real self:

 I am dead because I lack desire

I lack desire because I think I possess

 I think I possess because I do not try to give

In trying to give, you see that you have nothing

Seeing you have nothing, you try to give of yourself

 Trying to give of yourself, you see you are nothing

Seeing you are nothing, you desire to become

In desiring to become, you begin to live.

stavros

PS Check out the 3 pointed attention idea in my post on Kites and Attention

https://dodona777.wordpress.com/?s=kites+attention


The Triumph of Triviality – John Schumaker (from New Internationalist)

March 31, 2010

The triumph of triviality

John F Schumaker asks if consumer society is too shallow to deal with the deepening crises facing the planet.

The results of the cultural indoctrination stakes are not yet in but there is a definite trend – triviality leads, followed closely by superficiality and mindless distraction. Vanity looks great while profundity is bringing up the rear. Pettiness is powering ahead, along with passivity and indifference. Curiosity lost interest, wisdom was scratched and critical thought had to be put down. Ego is running wild. Attention span continues to shorten and no-one is betting on survival.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Half a century ago, humanistic thinkers were heralding a great awakening that would usher in a golden age of enlightened living. People like Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Rollo May and Viktor Frankl were laying the groundwork for a new social order distinguished by raised consciousness, depth of purpose and ethical refinement. This tantalizing vision was the antithesis of our society of blinkered narcissists and hypnogogic materialists. Dumbness was not our destiny. Planetary annihilation was not the plan. By the 21st century, we were supposed to be the rarefied ‘people of tomorrow’, inhabiting a sagacious and wholesome world.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower

Erich Fromm’s 1955 tome, The Sane Society, signalled the début of the one-dimensional ‘marketing character’ – a robotic, all-consuming creature, ‘well-fed, well-entertained… passive, unalive and lacking in feeling’. But Fromm was also confident that we would avoid further descent into the fatuous. He forecast a utopian society based on ‘humanistic communitarianism’ that would nurture our higher ‘existential needs’.

In his 1961 book, On Becoming a Person, Carl Rogers wrote: ‘When I look at the world I am pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic.’ While acknowledging consumer culture’s seductive dreamland of trinkets and desire, he believed that we – those ‘people of tomorrow’ – would minister over a growth-oriented society, with ‘growth’ defined as the full and positive unfolding of human potential.

We would be upwardly driven toward authenticity, social equality and the welfare of coming generations. We would revere nature, realize the unimportance of material things and hold a healthy scepticism about technology and science. An anti-institutional vision would enable us to fend off dehumanizing bureaucratic and corporate authority as we united to meet our ‘higher needs’.

One of the most famous concepts in the history of psychology is Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, often illustrated by a pyramid. Once widely accepted, it was also inspired by a faith in innate positive human potential. Maslow claimed that human beings naturally switch attention to higher-level needs (intellectual, spiritual, social, existential) once they have met lower-level material ones. In moving up the pyramid and ‘becoming’, we channel ourselves toward wisdom, beauty, truth, love, gratitude and respect for life. Instead of a society that catered to and maintained the lowest common denominator, Maslow imagined one that prospered in the course of promoting mature ‘self-actualized’ individuals.

But something happened along the way. The pyramid collapsed. Human potential took a back seat to economic potential while self-actualization gave way to self-absorption on a spectacular scale. A pulp culture flourished as the masses were successfully duped into making a home amidst an ever-changing smorgasbord of false material needs.

Operating on the principle that triviality is more profitable than substance and dedicating itself to unceasing material overkill, consumer culture has become a fine-tuned instrument for keeping people incomplete, shallow and dehumanized. Materialism continues to gain ground, even in the face of an impending eco-apocalypse.

Pulp culture is a feast of tinsel and veneer. The ideal citizen is an empty tract through which gadgets can pass quickly, largely undigested, so there is always space for more. Reality races by as a blur of consumer choices that never feel quite real. We know it as the fast lane and whip ourselves to keep apace.

Rollo May described it accurately in his 1953 book, Man’s Search for Himself:

‘It’s an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when they have lost their way.’ So it’s largely business-as-usual even as the sky is falling.

Some critics did predict the triumph of the trivial. In his 1957 essay, ‘A Theory of Mass Culture’, Dwight MacDonald foresaw our ‘debased trivial culture that voids both the deep realities and also the simple spontaneous pleasures’, adding that ‘the masses, debauched by several generations of this sort of thing, in turn come to demand trivial cultural products’.

Today, the demand for triviality has never been higher and our tolerance for seriousness has never been lower.

In this dense fog the meaningful and meaningless can easily get reversed. Losers look like winners and the lofty and ludicrous get confused. The caption under a recent ad for men’s underwear read: ‘I’ve got something that’s good for your body, mind and soul.’ Fashion statements become a form of literacy; brand names father pride and celebrity drivel becomes compelling.

Not even God has been spared. Once a potent commander of attention and allegiance, God has been gelded into a sort of celestial lapdog who fetches our wishes for this-world success. Nothing is so great that it can’t be reconceived or rephrased in order to render it insubstantial, non-threatening or – best of all – entertaining.

The age of trivialization has left its mark on marriage, family and love. In a recent AC Nielsen survey, when asked to choose between spending time with their fathers and watching television, 54 per cent of American 4-6 year-olds chose television. The same study reported that American parents spend an average of 3.5 minutes per week in ‘meaningful conversation’ with their children, while the children themselves watch 28 hours of television a week. To which we can add cellphones, computer games and other techno-toys that are inducing a state of digital autism in our young people.

Out of this cock-up comes the most pressing question of our age. Can a highly trivialized culture, marooned between fact and fiction, dizzy with distraction and denial, elevate its values and priorities to respond effectively to the multiple planetary emergencies looming? Empty talk and token gestures aside, it doesn’t appear to be happening.

Some of the great humanists felt that there are limits to a culture’s ability to suppress our higher needs. They assumed that we are ethical creatures by nature and that we’ll do the right thing when necessary – we will transcend materialism given the freedom to do so. That seems far-fetched given the ethical coma in which we now find ourselves. Yet the ultimate test is whether or not we can do the right thing by the planet and for future generations.

Ethics and politics have never sat well together. When ‘citizens’ changed into ‘consumers’, political life became an exercise in keeping the customer happy. The imperfect democracies we have today have never been tested with planetary issues like global warming and climate change, which demand radical and unsettling solutions. In the race against the clock, politicians appear almost comical as they try not to disturb the trivial pursuits propping up our dangerously obsolete socio-economic system.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class. Soon centre-stage will belong to culture-change strategists who are able to inspire leaps of consciousness independently of hapless follow-the-leader politics. One such person is Jan Lundberg (www.culturechange.org). Lundberg is an environmental activist and a long-standing voice for pre-emptive culture change. He understands that hyper-consumerism trivializes reality and numbs people, even to prospects of their own destruction. In his essay ‘Interconnections of All in the Universe’, he writes: ‘Unless we broaden and deepen our perception of both the universe and our fellow members of society, we all may perish in persisting to manipulate each other and our ecosystem with materialism and exploitation.’

Culture-change strategists all agree about the urgent need to promote ‘global consciousness’ or ‘cosmic consciousness’ – a broad worldview with a high awareness of the inter-relatedness and sacredness of all living things. It is thought that such a universality of mind leads not only to intellectual illumination, but also to heightened moral sensibilities, compassion and greater community responsibility.

Behind the scenes some noteworthy organizations are working toward the goal of global consciousness, including the World Commission on Global Consciousness and Spirituality (www.globalspirit.org), whose members include Nobel laureates, culture theorists, futurists and spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. The group points out the huge backlog of positive human potential that is ready to unleash itself once we assume control and carve healthier cultural pathways for people’s energies. According to their mission statement, the fate of humankind and the ecosystem lies in our ability over the next couple of decades actively to revise our cultural blueprints in order to foster global consciousness and create new, more ‘mindful’ political and economic models.

Global calamity is forcing us into a post-political era in which ethically driven individuals and groups race ahead of the political class

Even in the formal education system, a small but growing number of teachers are incorporating a ‘global awareness’ perspective into the curriculum, aimed at dissolving cultural barriers and building a sense of global community (www.globalawareness.com). Some are even encouraging a ‘global grammar’ that links students both to other human beings and to the entire planet.

In the war against trivialization some groups speak of ‘planetization’ – an expansive worldview that can slow our cultural death march. It was the French philosopher, palaeontologist and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who coined this term in calling for a global mind that fused our ecological, spiritual and political energies, and thereby paved the way for harmonious living and lasting peace. The organization Planetization Rising (www.planetization.com) sees this next phase as the only means by which we can ascend to a higher knowledge and thereby find a life-sustaining path for ourselves and the Earth: ‘It’s the next watershed mark in our evolutionary journey which alone can provide us with the empowerment and insight needed to overcome the gathering forces of ecological devastation, greed and war which now threaten our survival.’

The cultural indoctrination race is not over. The losers are still winning and the odds for a revolution in consciousness are no more than even. But is there an alternative – other than to drown in our own shallowness?

John F Schumaker is a US-born clinical psychologist living in Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. His latest book is In search of happiness: understanding an endangered state of mind (Penguin, 2006).

also by…
THIS AUTHOR

The happiness conspiracy
What does it mean to be happy in a modern consumer society? John F Schumaker argues that the elusive state has more to do with culture than genetics.

In greed we trust
John F Schumaker takes on the philosophers of greed.

Dead zone
John F Schumaker now lives and works in Aotearoa/New Zealand. But on a recent trip back home he came face-to-face with the monster of American consumer culture. The sobering encounter left him questioning both human greed and the pursuit of materialism.


Time Body

August 23, 2009

 “Being in the timeless moment without the coercion of time is to dream, while lacking any sense of the timeless is to be only a machine.” Anthony Blake, “A Seminar on Time”

I have been long thinking about the Time Body since I turned 40. My interest in this was not only aroused by my entering the 40’s Chamber but also because I have read in the esoteric / occult tradition that the Path of Initiation cannot truly begin until the aspirant is at least 40 years old. So, all the Sufi practices, all the Gurdjieff exercises, all the attempts at the Jesus Prayer in Rhythm to the Breath, all the quiet desperation in a cube, all the immobility of mind, “Stopping the World” and the sacred wish arousing in the Heart….all of these things and more are only a preparation. Note, however, that when we speak of 40’s we are speaking of 4 to a number of degrees. Four is not 40 but shares attributes of four-ness with 40 as does 400 and 0.04 and 0.4.

Preparation for what? For the next phase of one’s life – the 40’s and the next few decades left in the mortal coil of three score and ten and beyond. Let’s remember that women, generally go through menapause in their 40’s, and men go through a “midlife crisis”. Why then? There’s something happening to us, just as powerful as puberty but this time it is the “puberty of old age”. What I mean by this is if I live to be 84 (a good number to work with because of the 12 X 7 connection), then 42 is the mid point (6 X 7). During the period of the 40’s we are laying the foundation (if we wish to) for a healthy, vibrant old age – my 60’s and the rest.
So, who is it that sees someone in the mirror that isn’t them? It’s me and all of us who are in mid life. In me there is a cry for the youth that I was and a fear of what I may be in old age. I have decided that this decade will and is the decade of consolidation. Actually, this is pompous. I didn’t decide anything, it’s more that there is a period of consolidation in one’s Time Body. The Time Body is the body of your mortal coil, it is the moment of your birth, like an Ourbouros, eating the moment of your death..this whole picture of one’s life/body is spatially perceived as 0 – 84 years long.

Pythagoras

Pythagoras

Taking the Time Body as 84 and working with a hint from Schwaller de Lubicz’s insight into Ancient Egyptian understanding we will enter a realm of geometrical/numerological correspondences. Though one is inclined in this Age of Techno-Scientism to use words like “mathematics” to denote a respectable regard for dead abstractions, I like to think that the magico-mythico-Pythagoro Number is where I’m working from. Status quo respectability, when it comes to such life and death considerations such as,  “Where am I going? Why am I here on this Earth? Who am I? Is there Life after Death?” can go in the dustbin of history. The danger of leaving the table of consensus reality – the current technoscience rationalism, is that you may end up sitting alone at  the table of insanity. An unbending intent, a purity of heart and a constant need to grow will at least provide some assurance that one’s understanding may not be crazy, but just the way things are if we live in an onion layered world.

Let’s get back to de Lubicz’s hint.  His insight is to consider that at every 7 years of one’s life a “life” has been and a new 7 year lot is coming up. Like layers of skin, each layer 7 years thick is a time-onion-skin where each skin is a period of 7 years. Consider that at 7 years old – the Church and Institutionalised understanding has it that a child has reason. Let’s go to 14 – puberty ….21 adulthood…..
A few clues: get Dane Rudyar’s  “Astrology of Personality” and read about The Dial of Life. It is interesting because he considers the language of Astrology as the Algebra of Life. Read P D Ouspensky’s account of the Enneagram in In Search of the Miraculous. Also Ouspensky’s “Tertium Organum”, a classic book which gives some semblence of “rationality” to the mystic vision and his other classic “A New Model of the Universe” where he introduces the idea of Eternal Recurrence (not the same as Nietzsche’s concept). My account of the onion skin layers of time is dependent on all of the above and a generous helping of experience.
Try this as an experiment:  Write out in 7 year lots X 7 a table like this:

time body table

To make it “user friendly” you can include the year of the age eg 1(1962)   2(1963)   3(1964)   4(65)……etc
As you write the number and year beginning from your birth year try to notice any images/memories arising and what year they pertain to. These memories as they arise become “key symbols”, they become in a very personal sense the x,y,z and the a,b,c ‘s of one’s own algebra of life. If focussed enough you create your own memory body. Now, look at your “algebra of life” through the prism of your meaning/memory. Like, what happened to you when you were 7,14, 21, 28, 35, 42 ? Looking across and down the table: what happened at 4,11,18, 25, 32, 39, 46 ? You will find that there is a corresponding change in “motion” for each layer of 7. With each lot of 7 years there is a noticeable change and experience that suggest layers of octave experience. Each year is a note in the scale Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do. What is interesting is that there is a discernible signature for each octave period. Later on you can then put the table of years onto the Enneagram.

Enneagram

Enneagram

The Circle depicts daily life, the life of the diary - sequential time.

The Circle depicts daily life, the life of the diary – sequential time.

The inner movement 1-4-2-8-5-7 depicts the "notebook", the method and know how, the Sadhana. In the events of one's life, this is where synchronicity resides.

The inner movement 1-4-2-8-5-7 depicts the “notebook”, the method and know how, the Sadhana. In the events of one’s life, this is where synchronicity resides.

The Triangle depicts the idea of a creed, one's faith. It is Timelessness.

The Triangle depicts the idea of a creed, one’s faith. It is Timelessness.

The Enneagram with all three aspects of one's experience together as a whole. See A G E Blake's "The Intelligent Enneagram" for a detailed discussion of this symbol.

The Enneagram with all three aspects of one’s experience together as a whole. See A G E Blake’s “The Intelligent Enneagram” for a detailed discussion of this symbol.

I have done all this and more with my own life numbers. If you are astrologically inclined, do the Solar Returns of each year and see what you find. The whole purpose of this is to focus the mind onto one’s own life stream. This focussing is not analytical, indeed, the process abhors analysis. It is the realm of imagining and then self remembering – or at least a preparation for this. The exercise itself is another version of “Recapitulation” which Carlos Castaneda refers to. Indeed, you will, if you delve a little deeper in what I’ve just given above,  find not only clues to the notion of Fate but also clues to one’s Destiny. These clues are not uttered in any way by me, but rather by the very simplicity of the gods – Numbers. The Ancient Egyptian concept of Neter is close in meaning to the Pythagorean concept of Number.

The cover of R A Schwaller de Lubicz's magnum opus "Temple of Man"

The cover of R A Schwaller de Lubicz’s magnum opus “Temple of Man”

What are you looking for in the numbers of the years of your life? Just a few hints that can help name the years. Maybe then, your heart will play around with mystic circles and triangles with the Numbers of Life turning off and on like a  light show.
All this may sound weird, but I can assure you, if you try this experiment, you will be pleasantly surprised by the octave “correspondence” you will see in your life experience. It will be as if there is a pattern, unknown to you, unfolding in a manner totally unexpected. A kind of music of your life, a hidden melody that you were not able to hear notes of until this moment. At times you may experience a déjà vu  , the feeling that you have been here before,and this is interpreted exactly as that through the Great Idea of Eternal Recurrence as expressed through P D Ouspensky in his “A New Model of the Universe”. A good summary of this idea & its connection with Nietzche’s and Steiner’s take on it is here.

I’ve been influenced much by the 4th Way – through Gurdjieff and other teachings. Is it any wonder that I have become a middle aged Gnostic seeker carrying the lantern of wonder?

Try it  and see if it isn’t true. You will find a pattern that will truly spook you. If you follow the clues and hints you will see the synchronicity of events

and

maybe the big question will arise:

WHOSE SHOW IS THIS ANYWAY?


Freedom from restriction.

April 21, 2009

 

Why do I always restrict myself?  Why do I always lose courage in being myself?

The world eats me but I starve. I look into the world, the matrix made of non locational neural connections and the lattice of social mores, culture, language and structures – the whole “catastrophe”. I ask myself is it important to grasp the lattice bars and call myself a responsible and reasonable citizen? The answer comes like a wisp of sacrificial smoke – let go these bars of so called “adulthood” and come home.

Home?  Where is HOME?

The restriction is within the mind. The way of opening lies in a different direction. Restriction and its opposite –  expansion, in and out can be seen as the rhythm of life, the breath of life. The way of the heart is the door both into and out of life.

I hear a voice within saying,

 “Become what you are, blossom from your own stem. This blossoming is nothing other than the freedom you seek from restriction. The Heart is the Way, the way to the centre of everything, follow it and all the worlds will be yours because the centre of the Heart is All the Worlds.”


A Wish to Pray – Donald Petacchi

February 15, 2009

Below is a copy of a hand written poem by Donald Petacchi taken from his book,  “Work for Being in the Machine Age”.

 

A Wish to Pray, by Donald Petacchi

A Wish to Pray, by Donald Petacchi


Musings on a cube within a cube.

February 10, 2009

We are the laboratory where chemical transformations occur. As we work in an alchemical manner we are networking our total functional behaviour with a larger one making it a  possibility to influence even  blades of grass and the clouds above. One demonstration of this possibility is when a drought is ended by a shamanic rain dance. In a very real way we perceive the world inside out. The so called “outer” world, the world of the senses is really the inner world – like  a cave. The cave exists in a mountain or under the ground. The world of cars, trees, sun and planets, the world of telecommunications and the nervous system, the world of spices and jasmine flowers, cooking oil and garlic – the worlds of our senses are resident in this cave.

emblem_alchemy06

 

The temporal mode, our existential situation, this cubic measure of time-space, our cave is within a big mountain – Mount  Analogue. Or one can liken the place of the inner to the outer as a cube within a cube, a sphere within a sphere, a doll within a doll, human within Anthropos. The larger is the external and the smaller is the internal. Our being is embedded within a bigger being. The crossroads, the twilight of nervous excitation, the synaptic gap, the pause in the cycle of breath are all cracks between the worlds. Along these lightning cracks, Earth is imagining her self aiding  the quickening of the transformative next stage in her evolution. Do we work with her or against her, do our steps resonate with  Earth’s purpose? These questions are not metaphysical ones, they are very physical. Do our physical actions accord with the larger destiny open to all of us in human form? Are we aware of our breath, and the sensation of the breeze on our face, are we aware of the other and in some act of heart can be the other so that compassion replaces fear and alienation? If we move inwardly and see the much bigger world that is perpendicular to this one, not in outer space but within, we may be able to participate in a bigger life. This life is invisible in 3 D world, its results may extemporise into the visible realm or remain alive invisibly present.

alchemy_light

alchemical-marriage

Alchemical Medal

Alchemical Medal


Caught up in a Duality – Within or Without Me?

January 3, 2009

 

 Below is something I wrote a few years ago after bumping into a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time. The feelings expressed, I think, are just as relevant today as they were then, when I, along with others, was preparing for the Woomera Action in Easter, 2002 with Hope Caravan. Check out the Hope Caravan yahoo group by clicking here. 

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When I saw him yesterday, he seemed so at peace with himself. He was sitting in a half lotus with his bare feet crossing over each other on his sofa. The mandala tattoo just above his ankle balanced with the diamond shaped crystal dangling from his neck. We shared some green tea and he smiled gently as he closed the book before him.

 

He was an old friend, someone I hadn’t seen for a long while and in that time our paths had diverged. He found spiritual bliss and I found more reasons to struggle for peace. He found inner peace, so he told me, whereas I found inner warfare, so I told him. His holy war had been won, mine had just started as it had done so continuously for a long time.

 

“You are caught up in a duality,” he said smiling with a humility that seemed calculated, “You think that you can change the world but all that you can change is yourself.” 

 

He was referring to the fact that I had asked him to join me in action, an action to support those who cannot speak or act for themselves because of their current circumstances. I asked him to join me and others to act in support of the refugees imprisoned in the concentration camps of Australia. In particular, to join others in the Festival of Freedoms at Woomera in Easter, 2002.

 

I replied, “But what if my self is larger than that circumscribed by my skin? What if my self includes the whole planet? In that case when I see suffering and injustice outside of my body, then it is still within me.”

 

He laughed, “Well, in that case your ego is bigger than mine!”

 

He adjusted his posture by letting go of his half lotus and allowing his leg to fall straight down over the side of the sofa. He leant forward placing his elbows on his knees and his dangling crystal now swayed like a pendulum between us.  Incense smoke spiralled upwards from the joss stick burning on the coffee table before us.

 

I could see his point but somehow it still didn’t feel right. I said, “Ego, big or small is always going to be here. Tell me what do you do if you see your neighbour’s house burning down? Do you say that your house is OK so why worry about your neighbour’s?”

 

“I would immediately help extinguish the fire. For me the plight of refugees and wars on the other side of the planet are things I can’t do anything about. I aim for inner peace through my meditation and this in itself will do far more for the refugees and war than anything your protests and actions will ever do. Why? Because I am changing myself, I recognise that all true change must start with my self. Your protests and actions add more ‘noise’ to the whole situation. Create an oasis of silence and peace within yourself. This will have far more impact than going out on the street or facing the razor wire of the camps. Change yourself – that’s all you need to do!”

 

He took another sip of his tea and stared me in the eyes…. or was he staring at the point between my eyes in my forehead, the so called third eye? I couldn’t tell except that I felt a certain intensity of effort from his gaze, that he was trying to change my perspective by using subliminal energies directed at me. Of course, he was kidding himself if he was trying to do this.

 

Yes, our paths had diverged. While I saw that it is important to work on one self and to recognise that what goes on inside, behind your eyes, affects what goes on outside oneself, I also felt that one could not just rest in one’s relaxed navel and allow others to suffer. Can one carry the “oasis of silence” found within to external places of sorrow and injustice, to share the peace? I asked myself.

 

 

 

 

Ouraboros resting on a relaxed navel.

Ouraboros resting on a relaxed navel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met his gaze and then wondered if it was within or without me as I walked away.

 

stavros

 

 

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.” – Dante

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr