Sunday, September 25, 2016

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Part 4.)

Gurdjieff never talked much about the worlds beyond the Gross World—what are called the Subtle World and the Mental World; nor did he talk much about the higher planes of consciousness, though he alluded to them when he said that there were seven levels or classifications of human consciousness.  He named them Man Number One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, and Seven. He said that a human being is born into one of the first three categories as physical man, emotional man, or mental man, respectively. He said that everyone has all three of those qualities in different degrees, but in Man Number One, Two, and Three, one quality is always prominent. He said that with the right work on oneself those three sides of man can be balanced and with that balance the level of Man Number Four is achieved.

Man Number Four could be said to possess hawa. Meher Baba said that one with hawa is permanently connected to the spiritual path, meaning the higher planes of consciousness, or in Gurdjieff’s terminology, the consciousness of man number five and six. Man Number Seven is Perfect man; he has achieved all that can be achieved, what Meher Baba calls God-Realization. Meher Baba said, though near to the path and permanently connected to it, man number four is not on the path, meaning that he, or she, does not experience the Subtle and Mental Worlds, or the higher planes of consciousness that run through them.

But Gurdjieff left these questions and descriptions of higher consciousness and the planes and worlds beyond the Gross World to wait until one could experience them for oneself because, as Kabir said, “Until you experience it, it is not true.” Also too, Gurdjieff was well aware that higher and ultimate consciousness is a given and like a bubble released under water, it nature is to rise, and it will rise, provided that it does not get caught along the way.

For the bubble, the water—life— is essential, but attachments to the water and the things of the water create hindrance. So Gurdjieff centered his work and teachings on achieving the status of man number four because without balance, without hawa, there is no possibility of development beyond the consciousness of the Gross World.

Gurdjieff was not alone in focusing his work on achieving a right balance, a right orientation, to life in the Gross World, the Perfect Master do so as well. All of the yogas—Bhakti, Karma, Raj, etc. as well as all of religions and many of the so called spiritual teachings, really aim at freeing oneself from life in order to experience the higher and then ultimate consciousness, in other words their aim is to be in the world, but not of it—a necessary prerequisite to the real goal of God Realization or Man Number Seven.

One of the things I have always found unusual about Gurdjieff was his interest in low level psychic powers and experiences. I think that as a boy the possible existence of these powers and experiences suggested to him the possibility of something beyond the world as he knew it and was taught about it. The subject opened something in him about possibilities—touched something in him that was more real than life as he experienced it. I also think that he recognized the usefulness of such questions in his work with others, however he never seemed to endorse these experiences and powers as the be all and end all of one’s work on oneself—as did other like Aleister Crowley.

Sarkis Pogossian was the next remarkable man Gurdjieff wrote about. Closer in age to him, the two were more like friends than either Dean Borsch or Bogachevsky. It was with Pogossian that Gurdjieff attempted to further his understanding of supernatural phenomena. They talked and sometimes travelled together to investigate claims of such phenomena. I believe it was Pogossian’s serious interest in such matters and an “original feature of his general psyche” that made him remarkable. He quotes his friend at the end of the chapter dedicated to him:

“I love work and have set myself the task of being able, through persistence, to accustom my whole nature to love it and not my reason alone. Further, I am really convinced that in the world no conscious work is ever wasted.”  Meetings with Remarkable Men, page 107

Many years ago I was talking to Adi K. Irani, a close disciple of Avatar Meher Baba, and Gurdjieff’s name came up in the conversation. Adi asked me, “What was this man Gurdjieff’s work?” In response I said that if one were to ask followers of Meher Baba the same question one would hear as many different answers as there were people asked and it would be the same with followers of Gurdjieff, but for me, I said,” I will answer your question in this way. Gurdjieff spoke about the goal of his work to create in his followers what was called the capacity for Being Partkdolg Duty—or the ability to labor consciously and suffer intentionally in order to help bear the suffering of our Common Father Creator.”

Adi K. Irani responded by saying, “I like this man Gurdjieff, his work was the work of self-effacement.”


(To be continued.)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Part 3.)

There is a statement I heard many years ago; “There but for the grace of God go I.” I think of that statement often when I hear people criticize others. I ask myself that if I grew up in the same place as the one being criticized, under the same influences and given the same situations, would I act any differently than them?

It is common knowledge that modern man is far more suggestible than he believes and cares to admit. Is there anything that can be transubstantiated in a human being that can remain true—true like the needle of a compass that always finds north, no matter if that compass is in the East or the West; in the desert or the plains, or mountains; in a temple, or a mosque, or a brothel?

The third remarkable man that Gurdjieff talks about in his book, Meetings With Remarkable Men, is an early teacher of his named Bogachevsky, or Father Evlissi. It was at his house, seated around a samovar, that certain conversations “about anything and everything” between Bogachevsky and his learned friends —conversations that Gurdjieff was privy to—that awakened in him “an ever-continuing interest in abstract questions.”

Gurdjieff was also influenced by his teacher’s remarkable views regarding conscience and morality. These views lay at the heart of my earlier question—is there something that can be acquired that would be impervious and remain unaffected by such influences as one’s education, culture, and upbringing? Father Evlissi said that there was and he called it objective morality.

Objective morality, as opposed to subjective morality, comes from within oneself, from conscience. Conscience is like the moon that reflects the sun of consciousness. Perhaps it is a kind of moral wisdom that gets distilled over many lifetimes, or perhaps it is something we are born with—something that comes with human consciousness, like the divine part of the Holy Ghost or the divine atma of the Jivatma.

However it gets there, I believe that it takes something to unlock it in any given lifetime, some right conditions for it to flower and become the objective moral compass that can guide one’s life, like the education earlier spoken of by Upasani Maharaj and Dean Borsch. 

Father Evlissi taught the young Gurdjieff that;

 “Subjective morality is a relative conception, and if you are filled with relative conceptions, then when you grow up you will always and everywhere act and judge other people according to the conventional views and notions you have acquired. You must learn not what people round you consider good or bad, but to act in life as your conscience bids you. An untrammeled conscience will always know more than all the books and teachers put together.” Meetings with Remarkable Men, pages 76-77

How would an individual with an untrammeled objective conscience appear to act to others?  Would that individual not embody what Gurdjieff’s father described as “an instinctive aversion to deriving personal advantage for himself from the naïveté and bad luck of others?” Would that individual be one “who never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself?”

(To be continued.)

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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Part 2.)

It is interesting to me that Gurdjieff, like so many of those perfected in consciousness who I have had the great good fortune to learn from, had a very unfavorable opinion of what passes for the education of children and young adults. In a talk given by Upasani Maharaj in 1923 He told those present;

Your present education does not lead to happiness. What you think is happiness is not happiness at all; it is the apparently pleasing prelude to the terrible on-coming pain. In short, your whole present mode of behavior and your present education are and lead to nothing else but all around suffering and pain.
“The present education is unfit for the children. If they are not taught in these schools, they will automatically begin to learn and understand real knowledge that leads to real happiness. The whole world is there to teach them and for them to learn. You yourself find fault with the present educators and yet you put your children in the schools run by them!” The Talks of Sadguru Upasani-Baba Maharaja, Volume II Part A, page 65

A scathing indictment no doubt—one we could easily shrug off as unfair or even untrue, but when we consider that the source of the statement is a God Realized Perfect Master, one who is the repository of Infinite Knowledge, Infinite Power, and Infinite Bliss, it makes me take a deeper look…

It is not that the Perfect Masters are against happiness, Upasani Maharaj said as much in his statement, but Perfect Masters know that on the pendulum of pleasure and pain, pleasure is not happiness. They also know, and this is sometimes difficult to understand, that even while suffering, one can be happy.

Masters are not against suffering either, if that suffering leads to real happiness. But as Gurdjieff often pointed out, there is mechanical and unnecessary suffering and there is intentional suffering—suffering that lead to real happiness, suffering that leads to perfect consciousness, suffering that leads to God. In his book, All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, he used the term, Being Partkdolg Duty, which he explained is the ability to labor consciously and suffer intentionally in order to help bear the burden of our Common Father Creator.

Many times Meher Baba made the same distinction by saying that there are two kinds of tears, warm tears that are shed over the frustration of one’s desires and cool tears that are shed from a longing for God.

So, we began with Gurdjieff’s statement regarding the purpose of his book, Meetings With Remarkable Men, ““To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it.” All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, G. I. Gurdjieff
Then, the first remarkable man he spoke about was his father, a man who “never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself.”

This brings us to Gurdjieff’s second remarkable man, his first tutor, a man he called Father Borsh. Father Borsh, Gurdjieff said, “was a man distinguished by the depth and breadth of his knowledge and his life and views were quite different from the people around him.” Meetings with Remarkable Men, page 51

An educator with worldly responsibilities, he conscientiously fulfilled his obligations, but “gave all his spare time to science, especially to astronomy and chemistry; and sometimes, for a rest, he worked on music, playing the violin or composing sacred canticles, some of which came to be very well known in Russia.” Ibid, page 52

And so here was a man who appeared to be in the world but not of the world—a man who, like Gurdjieff’s father, kept some kind of consciousness—some kind of awareness—back from worldly life—a man, like Gurdjieff’s father who remained inwardly free and always himself.

On the subject of real education, Gurdjieff quotes Father Borsh’s ten requirements for the education of a child:

“Belief in receiving punishment for disobedience.
Hope of receiving reward only for merit.
Love of God—but indifference to the saints.
Remorse of consciousness for the ill-treatment of animals.
Fear of grieving parents and teachers.
Fearless towards devils, snakes, and mice.
Joy in being content merely with what one has.
Sorrow at the loss of the goodwill of others.
Patient endurance of pain and hunger.
The striving early to earn one’s bread.” – Ibid. page 57

I can only imagine a world whose children grow into adulthood with the awareness of these values— indeed what a different world it would be.

(To be continued.)

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Meetings With Remarkable Men (Part.1)

Gurdjieff’s second book is called Meetings with Remarkable Men. By his own account its purpose is “To acquaint the reader with the material required for a new creation and to prove the soundness and good quality of it.” All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, G. I. Gurdjieff

For readers who are unfamiliar with Gurdjieff, his ideas I will try to explain. Sometimes in order to build something better it is necessary to clear away that which is inferior. Gurdjieff’s first book,  All and Everything – Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, was dedicated to that aim, “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.” – ibid.

In other words, with regard to the involution of consciousness it could be observed that when a person begins to question the reality formed in his mind about himself and his world—a reality constructed from the half-truths and untruths of modern education, philosophy, and religion—and begins to intuit that the sum total of his knowledge and understanding, a knowledge and understanding that gets added to day by day by the false-thinking of the mind of man, is no more reliable than a house of cards that assuredly will tumble from the slightest touch of real objective truth; then that person begins to require and seek a new material derived from a more objective truth upon which he can create a new and more real understanding of himself and the world he finds himself in. The book, Meetings with Remarkable Men, was intended to supply such new material.

But Gurdjieff knew that the thinking function of mind, what he called the “mentation” could only go so far in the understanding and assimilation of objective truth and that teachings and discourses could not in themselves trans-substantiate in one’s being the new material he wished to convey. In other words, certain forms were required to transmit this new material, like wine glass enables one to bring the wine to his lips, and that the form of stories and images that were able to bypass, under certain circumstances and readiness of the listener, the thinking function of mind and touch the higher feeling function of mind—that which is often called the heart.

The historic and biographical accuracy of Meetings with Remarkable Men has been discussed and debated, but it should be realized this accuracy, or the lack of it, is itself a matter for the thinking section of the mind only, the very section of mind that Gurdjieff hoped to bypass. Of course, without the thinking section mind, normal awareness would also be bypassed, in other words, one might not be aware that anything new had been heard—had gotten in—had gotten trans-substantiated in his being. But this is not a liability; Gurdjieff did not want his ideas to become the fodder of his student’s egos. Meher Baba put it so gracefully when He said, “The real gift is given by one who does not realize he is giving and is received by one who does not realize he has received.”

So we read the stories and descriptions in Meetings with Remarkable Men, and perhaps we feel something or perhaps we don’t, and yet we wonder, we hope, we wish, that perhaps a seed has been planted and taken root, to eventually flower the material whose “soundness and good quality” will be obvious and unquestionable, and a superior guidepost for sincere seeker of truth and the answer to the question, “who am I?”

The first chapter of Meetings with Remarkable Men is dedicated to his father Gurdjieff of whom he said; “This tendency of his nature, apparently acquired by him when still a child, I would define thus: ‘an instinctive aversion to deriving personal advantage for himself from the naïveté and bad luck of others.’” ibid. page 48

He also said, “In spite of the fact that he often happened to find himself in the midst of events beyond the control of man and resulting in all sorts of calamities, and in spite of almost always encountering dirty manifestations from the people around him—manifestations recalling those of jackals—he did not lose heart, never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself.” – ibid.

 This statement, “never identified himself with anything, and remained inwardly free and always himself,” reminds me of something that Eruch Jessawala said to a younger Baba lover many years ago; he said, “Gary, do you know the difference between you and me? You 100% believe that you are Gary, but there is one little part of me that knows I am not Eruch.”


(To be continued.)

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