Sunday, February 4, 2018

Information for next Meeting - 4 March 2018


Disclaimer and Notes

Every morning, at that moment when you wake up and are in between the world of the sleeping dream and the waking dream, ask Am I here? and then observe if it makes any difference during the day, or during the beginning of the day. Also, once during the day, when at the moment where you have woken up to the fact that you were asleep, ask Am I here? and then think of something you would rather not be the case but cannot change, and accept it, rather than have strong feelings about it.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Three Daughters of Sophia

L had tried this CHALLENGE many times, and observed where he was feeling anxiety, which was quite often around the stomach. Some people might get a headache, some people might feel it in the guts. After he had been doing this challenge for a while, the physical feeling became less marked, as did the anxiety. It was a helpful challenge in that it reduced anxiety from what it might otherwise have been.

RM had noticed that as soon as he thought about desires and fears, 'I'm afraid of this, I want to go there', a tension started to rise in him and he was miles away. His thinking seemed to be incredibly active, but the minute he asked 'Am I here?' all those thoughts seemed to disappear and his anxieties disappeared too, because the anxieties were always attached to thoughts.

When you experience anxiety or fear, be aware of it with the intellectual, emotional, and moving centres.
J said that anxiety and fear visit him but rarely. Unlike L, he isolated the emotional reaction, not to the stomach, but just beneath the chest, and it was quite distinct from the intellectual, which is whatever it was that caused the anxiety. Rarely did anxiety emerge without some cause that he could ascribe to it after he experienced it, but he could hold both, quite separately, in his head; the intellectual concern that he thought had caused the anxiety and the pain that was a result of the anxiety. Unlike L, by thinking about them, he didn't find that the anxiety went away. What actually happened was the anxiety went away when he considered the question of what he thought had caused it and come up with a solution. It was then that the pain, which he would call more of an ache, dissipated. If he didn't consider the intellectual aspect of it, the pain, the ache didn't subside.

D said that thoughts exacerbate the intuitional or emotional response to anything, they make it worse. Thoughts are so powerful they can destroy a person. Be careful what you think!

RG had an additional shock this month because of a sudden bereavement and she had to run to family abroad. She experienced anxiety and fear, but then she stopped, and she started to think that fear, anxiety, tension were all external influences. Now the trick was how to respond to that. When she did meditation she first observed her thoughts which then calmed her down and then enabled relaxation. If she had anxiety and fear, she observed it but didn't let it go inside of herself. The last month had been a lesson for her. She sat down and said to herself, 'I need to calm down. It's happened, we are here' and she just let it go.

The Angel of the North
Sculpture by Anthony Gormley 1998
For "R" there had been all sorts of pressures; preparing a big Christmas dinner for a family of twenty four, working out the seating arrangements, trying to find ideas for gifts for people. All of that built up pressure. She would say that it was not thoughts, it was associations which made her anxious and troubled. She had revisited something which she learned many years ago, which was, when she sat, she did not sit for one minute, she sat for at least twenty minutes, because in one minute she did not even begin to get to a point of letting go, but if she sat with her arms out 'like this' ("R" demonstrated by holding her arms out wide to each side, sustaining this position as she spoke) and at the same time she counted to two hundred, that all of this occupied her attention, and occupied her sense of her body. The emotions were going on during this time but they were not in the forefront, and it became possible to let go of some of the tensions and anxieties. In her case she had a bad back, and things which physically troubled her, so she was never without some sense of her body, but to make an aim of holding her attention, counting with her arms held out wide, she was able, to a certain extent, to overrule the anxiety. However, she also got used to this process and when she became accustomed to it, it didn't work so much.

T had a challenge the last few weeks because of a month of being seriously ill, after finishing work for the holidays. The illness had forced her into her body, experiencing the body in awful ways, her breathing was compromised and breathing is the ultimate link with life. So she wouldn't say it was an intellectual exercise for her, because she was just forced into this connection. Although it was horrible, as she was coming out of it over the weeks, it felt very positive because of that connection with the body, and the contrast with how she usually went about in life, floating around in her mind most of the time and not connected. She had also started doing exercises, stepping, only for several minutes at a time, hearing the orchestration of the lungs, with all the phlegm in them. She felt the aerobic exercise infused the body for those several minutes. So she realised how she had neglected her body over the years. So in that sense she wasn't doing the exercise consciously, she was just sucked into it.

Y asked L how the anxiety reduced. L said it was a phenomenon which he thought worked two ways. If he associated a feeling with part of the body, before he did the association the anxiety might be accentuated, but if he associated it with a location, that cut it down to size a little. By naming something he could reduce its power. It also worked the other way, for example, with a headache there is a technique of three questions: 'What colour is it? What shape is it? Where is it?' then after attempting to answer this to ask the same questions again about 'colour, shape, location'. Often the answers changed, the shape changed, the size reduced, and the colour lightened. D said he had used this technique, and it had worked half the time. The technique was meant to diminish intensity - if colour was black it might go brown etc. He experienced that it could be effective at certain times.

Responding to RG and "R", D said that even if he did not react to external things, his mind and thoughts were still linked to all these things. L said that some thoughts have an independent existence and rather than ignore them as distraction, they can be welcomed as inspirations. He related the experience of the poet Ruth Stone who would do her utmost to grasp such thoughts as they came by her.

T said that, 'Intellectual' was such an intellectual word, 'Emotion' was such an intellectual word; for her these were not really connected with the body and what she felt was that 'Body, Brain and Heart' meant a lot more to her than these different centres, because these were three organs that were actually located in her body, and they did different things, and did they connect or were they all disconnected? Obviously they were not disconnected in the body, but the brain was trying to understand what was going on. All she had with others was language to try and communicate with each other across the void, but language was not very close to the mark.

The reading continued from Chapter 24 of Beelzebub's Tales.

With acknowledgements to Harold Good
this Watch on YouTube

And so, during these observations of mine from the planet Mars through my Teskooano, it once flashed upon me that the length of their existence was, century by century and even year by year, becoming shorter and shorter at a very definite and equally uniform rate, and this served as the beginning of my further quite serious study of the psyche of these three-brained beings who have taken your fancy.

Of course when I first noticed this, I at once took into account not only the chief particularity of their psyche, that is their periodic reciprocal destruction, but also the innumerable what are called ‘illnesses’ which exist exclusively only on that planet, the majority of which, by the way, arose and continue to arise owing to the same abnormal external conditions of the ordinary being-existence established by them, which help to make it impossible for them to exist normally up to the sacred Rascooarno.

When I first noticed this and began to recall my previous impression about it, each of the separate independent spiritualized parts of my whole presence became filled with the conviction, and my essence perceived the mentioned ‘flash,’ that in truth these three-brained beings of your planet had in the beginning existed according to their time calculation for about twelve centuries, and some of them, even, for about fifteen centuries.

Looking at the text, J said there was something somewhat controversial in two of those assumptions that he was making. One, that people were living less long. That was certainly not what was happening now, existence seemed to be becoming longer and longer. The text goes on to say that illnesses exist exclusively only on that planet. J said perhaps that was so, we didn't know what goes on on all sorts of other planets, but the statement which follows says that these illnesses arise owing to abnormal external conditions established by humans. Did we establish the germs that give us illness? Was he trying to say it was our fault that there were germs?

The Holy Martyresses
Vera (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope) and Liubov' (Love)
At the time of my first arrival there in this Center-of-Culture of theirs, they were just preparing that which was afterwards the principal cause of the acceleration of the rate of the degeneration of their ‘psychic-organization,’ especially in the sense of the atrophy in them of the instinctive functioning of those three fundamental factors which ought to exist in the presence of every three-brained being—namely, those factors which give rise to the being-impulses existing under the names of ‘Faith,’ ‘Hope,’ and ‘Love.’

D said that Faith, Hope and Love ought to exist in the presence of every three-brained being, but asked if they did in fact do so.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Three Apes In A Boat

N had mixed experiences with this CHALLENGE, which was about trying to be present in a time of creativity, and whether or not that would interfere with the creativity, or contribute to it. This month he had been doing quite a bit of song writing, and he was not sure if concentration on everything coming together like that was helpful for staying in the zone, if he were trying to concentrate. For example he had a song he had got involved with about two years ago, and he could never get the rest of the verses but one day he said Right, I am going to write this song, because he knew he was going to perform it for the following day at a songwriters meet-up. So he sat down, and for about two hours solid he just worked on it, and had found that was a more of an intellectual and partly emotional thing. It wasn't so much a physical body thing, other than just sitting there. Somehow, in doing what he was doing, he had got into the right kind of mental framework, and at the end of that two hours had something he was quite happy with, and which he could perform. He did not know whether that was what we called being in the zone or outside of the zone, or what was contributing. It was just a question of concentrating, giving that slot of time to it, and not letting yourself get distracted.

Do something creative with mind, body and soul (intellectual, moving and emotional centres), and observe if it helps or gets in the way.
J said that if you were trying to be conscious of your powers of creativity, you were actually impeding those very powers, adulterating the clear screen. Normally in those situations we are quite protean, we can think of what we are saying and be aware of outside stimuli coming in and there were several different levels going on, for all of us, all the time. The particular problem of creativity was that when you have this inspiration, some idea that comes from where one knows not, it is like a river that branches out into tributaries after the processes of creativity in everyday consciousness, but the initial impetus, the creativity, which is the guiding light, is actually something which is not susceptible so much to having this degree of differentiation into other thought processes. It needs itself and nothing else.

RG believed we were all born with some kind of creativity, but that the creativity may somehow have been stopped. A child might draw something, and a parent say don't do that. Once we discovered we were in some way creative, was the time we could get the centres working at the same time, and the more creativity we built, the more chance we had of doing that.

L had tried this challenge, but did find that having to focus on these three centres while composing did seem to get in the way of some of the finer aspects of the creative spirit, butt did remind him very much of the techniques he was using in meditation, which revolved around three kinds of perception - looking at something, being attentive to what he was feeling physically, and listening to whatever was around - and maybe those related to the centres; it did split the consciousness three ways. However it hadn't helped very much with composing. For example he had awoken at night with music in his mind, which he had made a note of. That wasn't because he was concentrating on the three centres, it was because he had let consciousness go completely and gone to sleep. He had been reading Prokofiev's diaries, and an entry from 4 November 1913, in connection with learning piano music by heart, seemed relevant: ... all three sorts of memory are combined: musical, visual and digital, each of them having first been exercised separately and only later integrated.

Sergey Prokofiev 1891-1953

The closest T had got to experiencing what she thought was the challenge was during her weekly life drawing. Thinking of the challenge had helped her to understand a little bit more about how, when she was drawing, it was a complete takeover of everything of her, in order to be in the living present with what she was observing, and trying to interpret through this weird point and line to plane. It was like a glimpse of something, connecting with this meeting and the challenge. It was a few seconds probably, of not even observing but just an awareness of something behind, or different from, this very vital experience, and it made her realise that that was what art meant to her - the live experience of observing and interpreting through this weird mechanism that we called drawing.

Responding to N, RM said that when working on something like music, it was the intellectual or creative centre that was operating. If we tried to use the moving centre, in normal mindfulness, you were looking at touch and taste and the physicality of things, and if you tried to be in touch with that, during the creative process, you would actually lose the creativity, you would be in the wrong space. You needed to be that space where the creation was happening, and letting nothing else interfere. N said we also needed to distinguish between those bits which are like initial inspiration, and what comes after, which is often the hard work. He thought a lot of creativity was sometimes only one percent of inspiration, and about 99 percent of perspiration. That was the difficult thing - to keep going after you had the initial idea. For T the conscious and the unconscious came to mind. The theory that there is a conscious and and an unconscious. It seemed very, very simplistic, actually. When you put yourself into the position of starting to write your story, or draw what you see, it is a conscious effort, but is it unconscious stuff that's coming through? People talked about the stream of consciousness type of writing, but was it a stream of unconsciousness?

Going back to something N had said, about what happens when you work on ideas, and whether it is any good, L cited another extract from Prokofiev's Diaries. It was one of the best bits L had found in this book, and he thought it was relevant.

If a nugget is detected in the sand he quarries away hoping to find an ingot, but all too often the result is that the nugget crumbles away leaving nothing but more sand. The scrap of idea that started it all off turns out to be worthless. But if, on the other hand, it can be crystallized into an original idea meriting some attention, whether it be a theme or a harmonic idea or simply an interesting musical turn of phrase, then the objective has been achieved and the gold bar has been found. It may consist of just a few notes, a sequence of two chords, or even a long idea lasting several bars. Now it can be written down, perhaps to be put aside for a day, or even a month. The precious ingot has been found and carefully salted away; now it is time to look for others, and when several have been unearthed the task of linking them together to make a chain can be undertaken.

The reading continued from Chapter 23 of Beelzebub's Tales.

With acknowledgements to Harold Good
this Watch on YouTube

Well then, my boy, at the period of this fourth sojourn of mine in person on the surface of your planet, I first arrived in the country now called Egypt, and after having stayed there a few days ... with the help of the local three-brained beings, caught the necessary number of ape-beings.

Having accomplished this, I telepathically signalled our ship Occasion which descended to us, it must be said on the first, very dark night; and when we had loaded these ape-beings into that special section of the ship Occasion which had been constructed for Gornahoor Harharkh under his directions, we at once reascended to the planet Mars; and three Martian days later, on the same ship and together with these apes, I ascended to the planet Saturn.

Though we had previously decided to carry out the experiments with these apes only on the following year, when they would have become thoroughly acclimatized and orientated to existence under the new conditions, I ascended then to the planet Saturn so soon because at my last personal meeting with Gornahoor Harharkh, I had promised him to be present at his family solemnity which had soon to take place.

T thought the subplot about the poor apes going out to Mars was on a theme of distraction. He had to become a godfather to the raven, and so instead of acclimatising these apes to the atmosphere, they took them after three days. It was about these multiple pulls as to where you were supposed to be, and what you were supposed to do, and things getting in the way.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bull's Eye

L had got into the CHALLENGE a bit more after a number of days. It had felt very liberating, going through the door and then letting the weight go. It had also made him more aware of posture generally, because if you felt lighter, you tended to stand more upright. It was also generally about how bogged down we were by possessions and by thoughts, and had made him think in a much wider context - about eating less, about having less, desiring less. So he would do it, not just when going through the door, but might do it at any time. He had found it helpful.

For N, it was an interesting injunction to try and become lighter, which had got him thinking about what is lightness, and Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Whenever you open a door, for example coming home, try to feel lighter for five minutes.
Like L, he had also become aware of his posture, and sometimes his shoulders got a bit rounded and he did not always stand up straight. He had made some associations with the Alexander Technique, whereby you were told to think lighter. He thought there was a lot to be said for having that concept in one's framework of concepts to live by. He thought it was very easy to start believing you had all this heavy stuff going on, we all tended to do it at some stage or other, but you could say that none of that really mattered, and just try and be in the moment.

From the novel Dark Matter
by Blake Crouch

The image that came to mind for T whilst she was doing this, was trying to get the bullseye, because it felt a real challenge for her to connect her memory and her everyday life with the exercise and this Meeting, and Gurdjieff Work. She remembered the exercise before going out the door, maybe an hour or so before, that she would have an opportunity to do it, but when she was going through that door it was out of her mind. Also the other extreme happened. She remembered after she had been out of the door, minutes or an hour after, that she had missed the opportunity, and it had started to feel like playing darts. It was honestly once or twice that she hit the bullseye, that she got to the door and remembered, trying to feel light afterwards, and she felt the satisfaction of achieving a goal rather than the exercise of experiencing being in that peaceful moment.

Following what T had said about achieving the target perhaps taking precedence over what the challenge actually was, L thought it was more of a challenge than some of the others which were to be done at a particular time every day, for which you could set an alarm to remind you, and he wondered if that was cheating. Here the trigger was going through a door, for which it did not make sense to set a reminder, so it was question of whether that passing through the door, which happened several times a day, reminded you to feel lighter.

The reading continued from Chapter 23 of Beelzebub's Tales.

With acknowledgments to Harold Good
this Watch on YouTube

‘This emblem of ours constantly reminds and indicates to us that it is possible to attain freedom from what I have mentioned only if we compel our common presence always to think, feel, and act in corresponding circumstances according to that which is expressed in this emblem of ours.

‘And this emblem of ours is understood by all of us, members of the society Akhaldan, in the following way:

‘The trunk of this allegorical being, represented by the trunk of a “Bull,” means that the factors crystallized in us and which engender in our presences the impulses maleficent for us, those we have inherited, as well as those we have personally acquired, can be regenerated only by indefatigable labors, namely, by those labors for which among the beings of our planet, the Bull is particularly fitted.

‘That this trunk rests on the legs of a “Lion” means that the said labors should be performed with that cognizance and feeling of courage and faith in one’s “might,” the property of which “might” is possessed among all the beings of the Earth in the highest degree by the possessor of these legs—the mighty Lion.

‘The wings of the strongest and the highest soaring of all birds, the Eagle, attached to the Bull trunk, constantly remind the members of our society, that during the said labors and with the mentioned inner psychic properties of self-respect, it is necessary to meditate continually on questions not related to the direct manifestations required for ordinary being-existence.

L said it was very interesting that here was one of the very few occasions when Gurdjieff actually mentions meditating.

RM had found the allegorical statements there very useful, because really Gurdjieff was talking about how you could fracture the crystallisation once you became crystallised, and break through it, and you had to do it with persistence, strength, all those symbols of the lion's legs and heart. That said it all to him.

C said Gurdjieff also mentioned indefatigable labors, which really meant how hard this was, because you had to detach yourself from ordinary life to do it, and your mind was always taking you away.

...when they begin to carry out on some part of the surface of their planet the process of reciprocal destruction, then, at the same time, without any deliberate aim, and even without what is called ‘organic need,’ they also destroy everything which chances to come within the sphere of the perception of their organ of sight. During the periods of this ‘phenomenal psychopathic apogee,’ they destroy also all the objects in the given place and at the given time which these same beings themselves, between whom this terrifying process proceeds, have intentionally produced as well as the productions which have chanced to survive and to reach them from the beings of previous epochs.

L said that we had to hope that this did not get reflected in the news.

Source: Wikipedia

One of the things that had struck RM was that we have had this tendency through a lot of these teachings that you have to get rid of all your possessions and destroy stuff, and it was not the point. Being not attached was the issue. You could possess everything in the world, but not be attached. If you were dependent on them for your happiness and your wellbeing, then you had a problem.

L said that two of the component animals on that statue represented constellations, Leo and Taurus, which each have a psychological significance.

RM said they were just representations. They used visible examples of things, but they were not any more meaningful than that. There was no substance to them except just as a story.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Stargate Regulus

L said he liked to read a paragraph anyway, every day, to get familiarity with what we would be talking about and reading through the following month, but the requirement that the EXERCISE be done in the hours of dark made it harder, which was all to the good. If you remembered to do the exercise, it would normally be during daylight, so you would put it off, and might not remember it later. The other twist to it, being aware of the body and having to sit in a different pose made it feel qualitatively different to how he had been reading through it before, which was with the mind, with the intellect.

T had experienced remembering the exercise during the day, and not doing it, and after dark would be completely wiped out for the evening.

Read one paragraph from the next reading every day after dark, connecting with the body that is reading and maybe sitting in a different posture to read.
The only time she had actually managed it was the day before the Meeting. It had been like cramming for an exam, which felt ridiculous, and it was after dark. She had completely missed the part about the position of the body, and remembered it now because of being reminded. She had found it extremely difficult, and would reflect the next day on the fact that she had forgotten during the evening, and about what it was that was getting in the way. She thought she was possibly doing too much, and had too many obligations, apart from things that she was really, really interested in and wanted very much to do, which were right on the back-burner.

The reading continued from Chapter 23 of Beelzebub's Tales.

With acknowledgements to Harold Good
Watch on YouTube

And the second fact, by virtue of the same degeneration of their sight into Koritesnokhnian, is ... they perceive the visibility of objects only when almost next to them.

...Here it is very opportune to repeat one of the profound sayings, seldom used there, of our Mullah Nassr Eddin, which very neatly defines the given case, that is, this degree of the limitation of the perception of visibility of your contemporary favorites...

‘Show me the elephant the blind man has seen, and only then will I believe that you have really seen a fly.’
D asked if the saying about the elephant and the fly was another way of talking about the sound of one hand clapping. TR said it was getting to the idea there was no seer and seen, there was only seeing. RM said that the blind man saw with his whole being, and was there. If you were not totally present, here, now, you would see nothing.

Alice sees the rabbit hole too late

From Alice in Wonderland, by With acknowledgements to Walt Disney Studios
Watch on YouTube

We often only saw something when we saw the outcome of it. You only saw the hole when you had fallen down it, but if you were present all the time, you saw it appear before you got to it. L said it was also about the use of language. We saw chairs and tables, partly through decades of conditioning of what chairs and tables were, but we were not seeing ghosts. There might be things around us that we were not seeing because we equally had decades of training to say they did not exist.

... they placed this Teskooano very deeply within the planet, and they carried out their observations of the cosmic concentrations found beyond the atmosphere of their planet through specially bored, pipelike hollows.

The observatory, I then saw, had five of these hollows.

...They made these observations of theirs through any one of the mentioned hollows which looked out in different directions onto their horizon, according to the given position of their planet relative to the cosmic concentration observed in the process of the ‘common cosmic harmonious movement.’

I repeat, my boy, that although the chief peculiarity of the observatory constructed there by the three-brained beings of the future Egypt proved not to be new to me, since this principle had also been utilized in my observatory on Mars, with only this difference, that my seven long pipes were fixed not within the planet but on it, nevertheless all their innovations were so interesting in detail that, for any case that might arise, I even made, during my stay there, a detailed sketch of everything I saw, and later even used something of it for my own observatory.

T said this sounded partly historic, with some sort of observatory made by ancient people to look at the stars. If you thought of the planet as the individual body, the five hollows might represent the five senses,

which were the antennae we had to the external world, but they were deeply hidden inside the body. C agreed that the hollows might be the senses, but said that the construction on Mars had seven. TR said we may have lost two. L said that the description appeared to be of the great pyramid. TR said that each of the five had their own viewpoint, but it was only when they were consolidated did they make an understanding of the whole. We did not use our sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, to form, to do that whole seeing. We would taste something and label it this, or hear something and label it that. It was only when the elephant was seen by the blind man that it had been seen. It was only when you were concentrating on five that there was a cosmic concentration. GC said that each of the senses was operating on five percent of what was out there, and yet we believed the taste, the sound. It was infinitesimal, and we were just aware of that much, and we based our reality on the senses. We could not see properly - there was a space that the brain filled in. T said it was all we had. TR said it was not all we'd got - there were two more. L asked which were the two senses he thought we had lost. TR said that intuition would certainly be one, and there was something with our relationship to time. L thought this might be connected to being aware of coincidences, synchronicities, which relate things which are separated by time. N said this whole thing was about the limitations of our perceptual system, and how we drew the wrong conclusions from the limited information we had. T said we might also ignore what the senses were saying. She had been walking in central London during the week, and everyone was going about their business, but she could hardly breathe because of the pollution. She was the only one in the street who put a mask on. Everybody was ignoring it - some people were running in it, really taking it into their lungs.   

...It is extremely interesting to notice here that they erected at the chief entrance of that huge enclosure a rather large - large of course in comparison with the size of their presences - stone statue called ‘Sphinx’ which strongly reminded me of ...

The statue I saw in the city of Samlios and which greatly interested me, was the emblem of this society, and was called "Conscience".

It represented an allegorical being ...

The main mass of the planetary body of the said allegorical being was represented by the trunk of a being there of definite form, called "Bull".

L said that the reference to the Sphinx shows that Gurdjieff is definitely talking about the complex of pyramids at Giza. T said that he was also talking about a different statue, called Conscience. L said he might be inventing this statue, unless he knew of one we were not aware of.

This Bull trunk rested on the four legs of another being existing there, also of a definite form, called "Lion", and to that part of the Bull trunk called its ‘back’ two large wings were attached similar in appearance to those of a strong bird-being breeding there, called "Eagle".


...Each part of this allegorical figure gives to every member of our society in all the three independently associating parts of his common presence, namely, in the body, in the thoughts, and in the feelings, a shock for corresponding associations for those separate cognizances which in their totality can alone give us the possibility of gradually getting rid of those undesirable factors present in every one of us ...

T said it was about getting rid of "undesirable factors", and to her she wondered if it was the bull factor, the lion factor and the eagle factor. It reminded L of Gurdjieff's morning exercise:

...every day, at sunrise, while watching the reflection of its splendor, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your general presence. Try to make this state last and to convince the unconscious parts ...

The whole point was that he was thinking of us as composite beings, with parts which may not be conscious, and trying to get those parts to work together. He was seeing us as a mechanism. These composite creatures which he described were depicting that. In the morning exercise he was trying to get the parts to work to a common purpose. T said that did not fit with getting rid of undesirable factors.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Sky At Night

L had been quite slow getting into this EXERCISE, but now, after a month, he was usually remembering himself as he went into and out of doors. Sometimes, when he went into a place, he had a habit of having something go through his mind. For example, when he entered the music studio, he talked to the Muse, in the way it was once a practice, in Ancient Greece, to have an Invocation to the Muse at the start of a play. That would remind him of the exercise, and spur him on in the attempt to be aware as he went through that door. As time had gone on during the month, it had made him a bit more self-aware than he otherwise would be. It was one of those triggers during the day which helped one remember oneself.

H had been really interested in this exercise, and he was trying to remember to practice it, but he never remembered the door except once - coming in, coming out. Mostly he remembered when he was sitting in the kitchen, or out in the tube, or something like that.

Every time you go in or out of your front door, remember yourself.
Practicing self-remembering, he invariably found what before he would have called an attitude, but now it was like a demonic kind of character. By doing the exercise, the word demonic didn't mean just a word. It was like something else that had happened to him recently. The word shanti was just a word before, but then he experienced peace. In the same way, seeing this demonic thing through self-observation made him realise he wasn't that thing, otherwise it could be quite frightening. It showed that if you were practicing self observation you could see things that you never thought you would. Most people thought, when they practiced self-observation, that they were observing some sort of nothing, and calling it nothing, but if you observed the mind more carefully, you saw it was not nothing - there were things behind and behind and behind.

RG had tried to self-remember when she entered the door and was coming out of the door but, like H, it was easier for her to remember herself more when she was walking in the street or going on the tube. She concentrated on walking. She tried to acknowledge her presence with each step she was taking - that was her self-remembering. The self observation is something that can be done after we remember ourself, but the tricky part, the most important thing, is to remember ourself first. and then we pass to the self observation.

C had remembered opening and closing doors about a third of the time. The big question was what was it we were looking for when we were self-remembering, and the only thing he could understand from it was that we were looking for our pure essence, because that was what we brought into the world with us, nothing else. Since then the personality had taken over and tended to dominate ourselves, and the essence had fallen back, and back, and back. He was trying desperately to remember, to still the mind, make the mind really at peace and remember who he really was and what he really came into the world as.

T used to leave lots of things behind when she left the house, and remembered them during the day. Oh my God, I have forgotten to bring that.

So she had started a checklist before she left the house, which got longer and longer, as to what she had to remember to take with her, and to do before she left, and a few months before she had added at the bottom of the list, one minute silence at the front door, timed. So she was thinking - I'm going to do this exercise every day - but she realised, after about a week, that it was cheating. But what was actually happening, when she did the minute, was that she would remember lots of other things she had forgotten, which made it very hard for her to stay at the door - she hadn't turned the heating off, or hadn't closed the window - and she realised that what she was experiencing when she was at the door, just being there, was being back in the body, and all the other times, she was doing something, and the body was a servant to the mind, sadly.

D's guilt was that he always forgot the exercise, but what he noticed, just trying to remember himself, which he kept doing as much as possible, because it gave him peace, a sense of presence, was that the space created by not doing things mechanically engendered boredom. The boredom, from what he could gather, was the mind, was thoughts, and the only way you stopped boredom was to get back in your body. This space between the thoughts, which C called essence and D called presence - was there any difference or was it the same thing? - was causing a bit of a problem.

J said that so far we were all describing the process. We were getting a bit closer. The space between the thoughts, the presence, the essence, there were a lot of ideas there. The main issue he'd found, so far, on this exercise, was that the difficulty came in describing, not the process by which we were trying to reach the essence, but the essence itself, and he was wondering at this point how easy or how possible it was through the use of language? Were we concentrating on something which we were not going to be able to describe? We each understood it in our own way, though we could not know whether our own way was the same as everybody else's way. He wondered if he could go to the next step, or whether it was a doomed exercise.

As RM had done the exercise, walking in and out of the door and being present, it created initially a vacuum, and he knew that nature abhorred a vacuum - as soon as there was a vacuum it tried to fill it with something. That was why the thoughts suddenly rushed in to fill this vacuum. So he allowed himself to ponder things like, what is time?

Agreeing with D, C said the mind was always bored. When you were in meditation, the mind wanted to take you out, it wanted to do something else, it didn't want to sit there and just be. He thought that was where we needed to arrive at.

J said there was an attention span, with a movie, with a television programme, or with anything you liked. The question wasn't so much whether one would get bored watching that day in day out, doing nothing else, but how long one could keep one's attention on this, and the fact that after a certain point one got bored, was not in itself so significant.

It was if one got bored in the first few instants and one got absolutely nowhere, and one didn't want to do it. There was an amount of time you could devote to that sort of question before your normal sensations and preoccupations kicked in. So part of the exercise was in extending that amount of time that you could not be bored, and concentrate or focus. Were any of us either wanting to, or had any of us described, in a revealing sort of way, in words, what we had seen or focused on? It was the process of focusing that we were discussing.

T said that the focus during the month was to remember yourself when you left the front door. That was the thing without words - to be in that position even if it was just for a second, because remembering yourself could happen in a second, and then be gone. The exercise was about experiencing something through the month, then trying to express that and to have some consensual language, because it was such a difficult path to do on your own.

Responding to C, RG said she believed our objective was to find our essence. This was the most difficult thing, in her opinion. In fact she was very intrigued to discover what was this essence, and she had been researching on the Internet, and reading quite a lot of books recently, and what she had come across, was that the essence was to discover what we really were, not what we thought we were. In order to do that, we had to let go all the prejudice we had, the ego and so on. In order to achieve this, self-observation came into play.

H said RG would be very unlikely to discover her real, true self - that would be self-realisation, and what Gurdjieff was calling self-remembering was not really remembering your true self. It was a state where you brought yourself into focus, but mentally, not physically. You did not necessarily remember your physical body - that may be an initial step - then you had to remember this feeling of what you were, and it wasn't a kind of nothingness. It was a sense of self that you had all the time, and it was your non-self mostly. That was what he had found. on almost every occasion that he remembered his non-self, which was a negative thing in his case, and he supposed in everybody. He imagined that for everybody at this Meeting, there was this opposing force, this negative thing that somehow dominated us all the same.

Responding to D's contribution which talked of being bored in the space between the thoughts, L wondered if it was the ego that was bored. We often saw a spider in the middle of web, or expanding it. That spider never got bored, but perhaps it didn't have an ego.

J said this was probably a debate that was not going to be resolved. We were all trying to discover, through one part, one essence, or one remembered self - but what if there were several selves you could remember, several essences, and they were all possibly equally true, and one of the selves was saying I don't want to, and another was saying I do want to. T said, that was Me, Myself and I. J said that the danger in all this, was that in wanting to get rid of ego, we made ourselves more self-important.

Fraser in Dad's Army expressing concern
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D said, that was thoughts - there were so many thoughts there, thoughts. All those thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, and we were doomed. That was the problem.

J said that this indicated that we shouldn't be trying to get at what our essence was, or our remembered self was, through thoughts.

C drew attention to the philospher David Hiume's analysis of this issue. He was looking for the permanent self, but did not find it. In his Treatise of Human Nature (1739), he wrote when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.

It seemed to "R" that D had produced the moment of question, which was really important, it had energy. If you had labels for everything, end of story, but to be in question was really valuable, and that could lead to a real wish to be aware and to find a new way which was based in the body. All these little arguments were resistance, and that was an important force as well, which we needed, otherwise we wouldn't have an incentive.

For T, J's question about egos brought up the dilemma between the tribe, the community and the individual. You had to survive together, but then, when you were an adult, you could have time alone, and that was when the question arose, Who am I?, when there were no people around, when you were on a desert island or in a room on your own. RG said that often people were themselves when they were alone. T had the image of a democracy. It was not just three selves, it was millions of selves. Who was in charge? Was there a government, was there a parliament? Were you allowed to speak? Did the selves have to speak to each other, and was there violence, or was there measured dialogue about difficult issues, in the person?

H said that apart from all these separate things, different identities, there was an I that made real efforts, not pretend efforts, and that was the situation, this I that made the effort, but all these other I's were based on something we did not really know, but presumably what Gurdjieff called the Chief Feature. You could call it ego if you liked, but all these were just words until you experienced them in some way or another.

Following the contributions and responses, the reading continued from Chapter 23 of Beelzebub's Tales.

With acknowledgments to Harold Good
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The three-brained beings of your planet who became members of this society actually did a great deal in respect of approaching objective knowledge which had never been done there before and which perhaps will never be repeated.

And here it is impossible not to express regret and to repeat that to the most great misfortune of all terrestrial three-brained beings of all later epochs, it was just then—when after incredible being-labors ... that, in the heat of it all, certain of them constated, as I have already told you, that something serious was to occur to their planet in the near future.

For the purpose of discerning the character of the anticipated serious event, they dispersed over the whole planet and shortly afterwards, as I have already told you, the aforesaid second ‘Transapalnian perturbation’ occurred to that ill-fated planet of yours.

J said it was often the case you would assume, as in this passage, that before you reached Nirvana, there would be a cataclysm that would get in the way when you were almost there, and this was a common and often repeated idea.

...Such a suitable place they found in the valley of the large river flowing on the north of the said continent and there indeed they all migrated together with their families to continue in isolation the attainment of the tasks set by their society.

"R" said they were looking for a location where, they could continue, with their families but in isolation, the attainment of the tasks. J said it was surprising they would want to go with their families. They would surely want to go with people who were like minded.

This definite part of the surface of the continent which the Pythoness indicated, lay just at the source of the said large river Nipilhooatchi where the beings of our tribe existed all the time the said second Transapalnian perturbation lasted, as well as later when everything had gradually resumed its relatively normal state and when most of the surviving beings had then almost forgotten what had happened and had again formed—just as if nothing had occurred to them...

L said this paragraph described how quickly we forgot ourselves after we became aware. It said the members of the tribe went back to how they were before, "... just as if nothing had occurred to them", which they had thought to be a high state.

Although the expectations that I had formed from all that our countrymen had told me concerning the mentioned new observatory there, before I had seen it with my own eyes, were not justified, nevertheless, the observatory itself and also the other constructions of the beings then of that region proved to be exceedingly ingenious and provided data for the enrichment of my common presence by a great deal of productive information for my consciousness.

J said this was one of the rare occasions, as far as he could see in Gurdjieff, where he was actually being rather positive, as opposed to slating the idiocies he saw all around him, and awaiting the doom-laden end.

D said he was using everyday language, presence and consciousness, which he did not do very often.

And later, ... Great Nature was compelled ... also to degenerate the functioning of their organ of sight ... then thereafter they were able to perceive the visibility of their great as well as their small concentrations situated beyond them only when the sacred process ‘Aieioiuoa’ proceeded in the Omnipresent Active Element Okidanokh in the atmosphere of their planet, or, as they themselves say—according to their understanding and their own perceptions—‘on dark nights’.

L said that Gurdjieff was using an advanced concept. He was talking about an observatory, which could mean a sophisticated way for people to observe themselves. GC asked, why only on dark nights. L said that it was metaphor. When was it easier to see the stars?

T said it was suggesting that there was a sight or a sense that we had lost, or never attained. We did not need this contraption of a telescope, if only we were more sensitive, and in our bodies and our beings.

H thought it was something to do with this three-brained being becoming a two-brained being.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Truth, Reason and Creativity

N had had a month of quite strong feelings, sudden waves of emotion coming over him. His normal thing would be to do music, or write, but this time he started drawing. He drew faces or shapes, maybe symbolically of what he was thinking. He had found it was a good way of transforming the emotion and changing it, working with it, and seeing possible new dimensions in it. The main thing he was doing was trying to observe the emotions that came in, and see where they came from and what they gave him. He did not always have a book to hand to sketch things in, but he did find that when he was drawing it took his mind in to a different place in a different mode, and he thought it was beneficial. So it was an interesting exercise and a useful one.

J spoke of a previous experience, as he had not had any particular pain this month. He had gone through a difficult phase, and without having the conscious intention he did something in an artistic way.

When you feel physical or emotional pain, do something creative in an art you do not normally do.
It was utterly different from anything he had done previously. He had found that the mere fact of it being something completely different, not just a work of creativity, completely took his mind off what was the problem at the time. So it was a very cathartic thing to do, and he could not help thinking that it was also a natural thing for him to do. In a sense the difficulty, rather like the dung hill, produced the lilly, so as an exercise he thought it was a very good one.

T thought the exercise, as ever, was extremely difficult to remember to do, and think about, particularly this month. She usually painted, so thought about composing music, but there was too much in the way - she was too unskilled and she thought that helped the resistance. She did try it, but found it very difficult to relate to, because it was something new that she needed to learn and everything else got in the way. That was her self-observation - these exercises pulled you up short, because the fantasy was that you would do that exercise, no problem, every day, or at least once a week. She thought she did it once.

L's usual art was composing music, so he thought he would do some drawing, but managed to sabotage this quite successfully. He thought he would do it on his phone. He had a new phone.

The old one, which he had broken, had contained a stylus, but the new one did not, so first of all he had to find a stylus which worked with it, which took him quite some time. Eventually he found one, though the tip was too thick. He then had to regain familiarity with the drawing app on his phone, which was quite difficult. Although he had pain a few times, emotional or physical, he had made so many obstacles that he didn't do very much drawing. Of course, he should have got a little notepad, made of paper, and had a pencil with him. So that had not gone very well. It was a difficult exercise, and kudos to whoever managed to do it, because if you were used to working in one art, it took grit and determination to start doing something in a different art and keep going.

H said that although he had not been for a while, he had read about the exercise on the website, and found it very puzzling. He could get to understand it, but at the same time he had to write a poem for a class he went to, on Shakespeare sonnets and related things. He had found it very, very difficult. It was just a seven line stanza, but he had got the whole thing mixed up, and thought the "ABAB..." structure applied to a line rather than the stanza itself. He had eventually broken through that, and had brought the poem with him:

The Sparrow and the Ant

I thought I saw a sparrow in the sky
Swoop on an ant too small my sight to see.

Ant gone in an instant, wingless, not to fly.
Unlike the mating mother soon to be
Laying eggs in the earth in marvellous quantity.

More life for the sparrow's chirping progeny.
For ant, perhaps, a new eternity.

A had just discovered about Gurdjieff a week before. A lot of coincidences were happening, and he kept coming across the name Gurdjieff in a lot of different places. A lot of it was coming through music and dance. He was very interested in the Gurdjieff Movements and the idea of separating your body into sections and being able to follow different rhythms, but then he also realised that the dance goes along with the teaching. Then he discovered the blog and decided to come.

Following on A's description of recent coincidences, L quoted Jung: The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. So coincidences may reflect things that were happening within us, but which we were not expressing or conscious of. T said that synchronistic experiences might feel amazing and unusual, but actually they were happening all the time, and it was about being aware of that, observing and noticing. There had to be a lot of external work, because the universe was giving us all these clues that we were missing.

The reading continued from Beelzebub's Tales, Chapter 23.

With acknowledgments to Harold Good
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...Analyzing himself in this manner, he began to recall just which impulses evoked which reactions ... in his feelings and in his thoughts, and the state of his essence when he reacted to anything more or less attentively, and how and when, in consequence of such reactions of his, he had manifested consciously with his ‘I’ or had acted automatically under the direction of his instinct alone.

RG thought this paragraph was amazing, and in fact she was underlining it. This was exactly, to her, how she interpreted the way Gurdjieff said we have to meditate - that the real observation was to look at the impulses. She did not think he meant to meditate at one hole on the wall - that was more like a relaxation. This was one of the best pages she had read in this book so far. The last paragraph spoke of observing, when we had done something, whether we had done this automatically or consciously.

C asked if the act of self-remembering might in itself be distracting? L said that once you started to congratulate yourself over your success in self-remembering, the ego was already coming in, so Gurdjieff was suggesting there was hardly any "I". L paraphrased the title of one of Gurdjieff's books to say, I am only real, then, when when I create.. Many of the people who came to the Meetings were artists of one kind or another. C said, that when you were creating, you were outside of yourself. L said that when doing art, it was coming out of the inside. L thought that H had been real when he was doing the sonnet. H did not remember this.

H thought that a good way of self-remembering was to become aware of your sense of self, and you were not going to do that easily unless you initially became aware of the presence of your body in space, and a separation of what you were, and not being absorbed in everything. If you became aware of your own sense of self, you were, to some extent, self-remembering. Otherwise what self were you remembering? You were just sensing, generally speaking.

These exhaustive conscious observations and impartial constatations finally convinced Belcultassi that something proceeded in his own common presence not as it should have proceeded according to sane being-logic.

H thought the very last line was really good, it said - not as it should have proceeded according to sane being-logic - and that was something he had been aware of more and more, that he did not always proceed according to reason. Mostly it was just automatic, being absorbed, but even if you were more aware, sometimes the mechanical parts of you proceeded not according to reason, and that was what he seemed to be saying, that reason was not the way we normally always worked. It was usually mechanical in some way or another, like some other world you were working against, as it were.

RM said that the trouble was that our desire for something overruled reason. You want things to be like this but reason tells you they are not. I want to eat more but reason says I am going to get fat. We get overruled by that and get totally into a world of nonsense.

...With that aim he began inquiring among his friends and acquaintances to try to find out from them how they sensed it all and how they cognized their past and present perceptions and manifestations, doing this, of course, very discreetly, so as not to touch the aforementioned impulses inherent in them, namely, ‘self-love,’ ‘pride,’ and so on, which are unbecoming to three-brained beings.

Thanks to these inquiries, Belcultassi gradually succeeded in evoking sincerity in his friends and acquaintances, and as a result it turned out that all of them sensed and saw in themselves everything just the same as he did.

...Soon after, on the initiative of the same Belcultassi, they began to meet together from time to time, and to share their observations and new constatations.

After prolonged verifications, observations, and impartial constatations, this entire group of terrestrial beings also became categorically convinced, just like Belcultassi himself, that they were not as they ought to be.

RM said it was like the reason for playing chess. It was reasonable to make a move, but as soon as you made a good move, your ego goes "Hey, I've done a good job", and suddenly you got caught by that somewhere else, so you had to watch that you did not get caught by these things while you were reasoning things through. L said chess was a very good example, because we used reason to play it, but it was not computable, so reason was not enough, even for a computer.

GM Yasser Seirawan on the late GM David Bronstein (2006)
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T said it was highly emotional - if you listened to people describing the chess moves in the game, there were all sorts of emotive words used, which was a real surprise. L said the passage also implied that it needed a team of people to overcome this problem, because left by ourselves we slipped very quickly into automatic behaviour. So long as a few people were awake at any time, things could keep going.

...later they founded that society which they named the ‘Society of Akhaldans.’

...From the very beginning of the foundation of this society, Belcultassi himself stood at its head, and the subsequent actions of the beings of this society proceeded under his general guidance.

...But as it proved impossible for each and every one of them to acquire the necessary special knowledge, they divided themselves for convenience into a number of groups so that each group might separately study one of these special branches of knowledge required for their common aim.

RM got the sense he was describing here what should happen. There was a need to specialise in various aspects of what was going on without losing touch with what their main purpose was. He thought this alluded to Gurdjieff's own experience. In reality a lot of the groups that left Gurdjieff went off and did their own thing and lost touch with the core principle of self-observation. H said it was also a kind of description of what group he belonged to - The Seekers after Truth - their system was more or less what he had described. RM found the whole book was separated into two larger views. What we had read up to now about what humanity was like now, and now he was getting into the nuts and bolts of what we should be doing and how we should be observing.