As many of you know, unlike many sites, we quote only rarely from existing material. However, we will show certain material here, either because it is not well known or seems particulary interesting to our current endeavors. It is presented for you to ponder and consider. Especially material that comes from our direct initiate line of teachers from Mr. G. I. Gurdjieff.
Seeing: The Endless Source of Inner Freedom
Michel de Salzmann
Presented at the Harmonia Mundi Conference, Newport Beach, California, October 6, 1989
When I was invited to come here, I at first declined, because once before when I had tried lecturing in English, I really couldn't find my way with the language. But the invitation was so warm and so appealing that I finally accepted. And I must say that, now that I'm here, not only have I no regrets, but I'm very grateful to be part of what is going on here. And so I'll try to contribute as much as I can. It reminds me of something - sometimes you find very beautiful things in Freud - I remember he was bitter about not being able to arrive at a consistent formulation of his theory, and he quoted from a Moslem poet, saying, "We would like to have wings in order to fly toward God; but it is not forbidden to go in that direction, even limping." So will it be in my case.
The activities of everyone here, in this microcosm, seem to reflect what is going on all over the world. I was sitting this morning and picturing to myself the life on this planet: people going here and there, responding to all of life's necessities, being part of an immense, uninterrupted movement of exchange, yet at the same time as though driven by what might be called the hypnosis of life - including modes of thought, beliefs, and so on - which every - one has been immersed in since childhood. And I also recalled that there are places in the world having something like large antennas directed upward, through which another action seems to take place - allowing meaning and mindfulness to enter one's life.
But to really allow for this action, one has to stop, to make room for the sense of wonder and the appearance of a real search. Scientists today sometimes describe where we are as being in front of a double mystery: the infinitely large and the infinitely small. In between these, there is man, a third mystery, with a brain of infinite complexity. This image, perhaps, lacks the element of invitation to direct experience, and I would prefer to say that we are between two mysteries - the outer world and the inner world - and in order to be open to both of these worlds, man has to know himself, to know himself totally.
To stop, that is to say, to really question, to reach a contemplative mind, seems important for both science and religion. Science acknowledges certain kinds of fundamental interactions-as of now four fundamental forces have been identified - and the ultimate aim of science is to arrive at a unified theory which would allow us to see all phenomena in the universe within one integrated perspective. Evidently religion - in the larger and not the restricted sense - points in the same direction, that is, toward oneness or unity, toward seeing oneness in the midst of diversity. So perhaps we could follow this line, trying to understand this search for a broader or more unified world view, and starting from the periphery move symbolically toward the center.
We are inheritors of an ancient knowledge that has been handed down to us throughout the ages. Many words that we use automatically are in fact a living testimony of this knowledge. As we have forgotten the real meaning of such common words as "Catholic" or "university," which could turn us toward the one, toward the universal, toward the unique, we have to invent new words such as "holistic" (derived from the Greek holos which also expresses the whole or the totality) to remind us of the danger involved in the fragmentation and scattering of knowledge.
More and more throughout the world, the need is felt for the two worlds of science and religion to come together, realizing however that each approaches life from a different point of view. One, based on an extraordinary proliferation of knowledge linked solely with the mind's - or brain's - activity, seems to be leading us into increasing complexity; leading us outward, especially outward from ourselves. "The other world and its knowledge seems to be related to the" being, "to something that brings you in and discloses the mystery inside." This is exactly what Dr. Roger Walsh expressed in his article, "The Paradigm Clash," showing that there are two kinds of knowledge, and that there is an absence of communication, of understanding, between these two realms. There is a "state-dependent knowledge," which shows us things we cannot see in an ordinary state of consciousness; it requires an inner experience of a definite quality. The other knowledge doesn't need a special state; it is always at our disposal no matter how we are; it is there in our memory, in books, in classrooms and even in computers.
It is probably impossible for someone who hasn't actually explored the possibilities inherent in "inner knowledge" to accept this kind of knowledge and not to suspect it or reject it as being magical, irrational, primitive, emotional, or whatever.
I believe that the purpose of a conference such as this is essentially to try to bring these two kinds of knowledge together. But perhaps the most difficult thing of all is to bring them together in ourselves.
Only in recent decades has science recognized the importance of the subject, the searcher, the observer, and stressed the need to understand better the way the observer himself subtly influences the objects of his experiments. It becomes important therefore to know the searcher, the subject, as well as the object of study - important to go toward the unknown both outside and inside, both the world and the field of the inner being. And what is so striking is that this inner search itself also requires extreme rigor and discipline. It, too, is a science, a science one could call the "science of being." Psychotherapy today, while continuing to develop its specific corpus methodology, also seeks to foster inner inquiry and individual analysis, which requires at least as much a special education. To show how difficult it is to enter into this other kind of experience, let me tell you of a man in France who was greatly revered for his work and writings, even to the point of being elected to the Académie Française. Everyone marvelled at his insight and the brilliance of his psychological portraits. Several films have been inspired by his books. One day he brought in his son for a consultation. It was clear he didn't understand a single thing about his son's situation. He could only describe - charmingly, to be sure - the most superficial details. He had observed everything from outside, unable to live and experience another's life from within himself. This example showed me how difficult it is to go into oneself. Such a practice needs a guide; it needs special conditions, help of some kind.
The fundamental contribution of psychotherapy, whatever its form, has been the scientific approach to entering into oneself. One can spend a lifetime looking at oneself from the outside, that is, solely from the mind - thinking about oneself, rationalizing in all its many forms - but that is not really an experience. The experience of self-awareness requires that one "come inside." To come inside can be seen as the first threshhold of self-initiation. It means a shift, a drastic change of orientation, of inner listening, until suddenly the event, simple and obvious, is revealed: what takes place in this body begins to be perceived from inside. So simple, but we are so far from it in our usual state!
We can find in many spiritual traditions symbolic accounts of this progression toward inner knowing. The Hindu temple, for example, is built as an image of both the universe and man, and entering the temple points us toward entering into one's body, into oneself. There are innumerable stages along the way of "being in oneself." But eventually you arrive at the altar, where the lingam is; it represents Atman, the real Self, which pervades every individual and all of nature. You can take the lingam superficially, as sexual symbolism, but I think its meaning is much greater and conveys a sense of going inside, into the Mother, into the dark night, so that from there a new birth can take place. As you may know, the orientation of the Hindu temple is opposite to ours - it is turned toward the West; and the sun, like the lingam, disappears into the darkness, and later is born from this mother of night. The same symbolism and mystery appears in Christianity; one of the most esoteric prayers, the Ave Maria, tells of the eternal Maria, the Black Virgin, giving birth to the child of light.
So let us go back to the beginning, the first step of entering one's body; with that experience, the question arises, “Who sees that?" One begins to sense the body, not from outside as is usually the case - as for instance in introspection - but, instead, one is aware of being inside. This is where the psychotherapeutic condition takes us. One is led inside, no longer from the outside, yet still from the periphery of oneself. One begins to see things that one never wanted to see - all kinds of forces, and the resistance and fear that are bound to all of this. We are reminded here of Dante's first initiation, the descent into Hell. But there are conditions which enable and support this experience - the child of light. Beatrice, or the psychoanalytic protocol, for example. One lies relaxed, everything is allowed to come in, and immediately one is confronted with all kinds of contradictory movements. At first you don't know what to do; you are enclosed in silence, trying to escape. Our usual way out, of course, is finding solutions to our myriads of problems, acting o ut in one way or another, above all finding a way for the ego to be comfortable, without anxiety, without pressure, without problems it cannot solve. But the encounter we are speaking of really appears in the seeing of oneself. And the healing potential issues from this very seeing, and not from anything else we might attempt to do. Little by little we begin to realize that it is seeing that will change us, gradually, as we go deeper inside. Then it is not only that we are seen from another location, but that another quality appears and gives us a taste of reality.
One can affirm that as soon as one practices entering this body, and having contact with all these mysterious forces which are usually so completely separated and unrelated, they come closer together. And one begins also to see all the forces and influences which were in fact unknown - such as the instinctual drives, and everything that has been incorporated through education and social conditioning. An attitude of seeing begins to prevail, instead of the ego's usual attempts to find a compromise between all these forces acting upon it. But still, in this first stage, what one sees is felt as more important than the seeing itself. Observation at this level inevitably entails a reaction. Immediately one wishes to change, to cover over what is seen, to find a solution to the unveiled problems. These "problem - solving" compulsions are strongly linked to very old habits in oneself.
Further on, a certain confidence appears through letting go - a suppleness, a distance, a kind of autonomy. One is no longer completely taken by the forces interacting in oneself. We are speaking of a long, patient work - staying present to oneself, and feeling the need to come back when lost in some seemingly innocuous association. In the Gurdjieff teaching this is sometimes called "self-observation": finding a sensitive place where one can receive impressions, and letting things be as they are. And this, needless to say, is extremely difficult, because, as psychoanalysis has shown, there are innumerable mechanisms which interfere and prevent us from openly receiving these impressions. We are in a jungle of defenses, and it is very difficult to be there, right in the middle of what is. But there is something new: one sees that, up until now, one was only thinking about what is. Now, one is receiving what is. And this is, in fact, unknown: it has never been approached openly, has never circulated openly. And so one's confidence is greater; seeing is no longer a compromise in the lawcourt of the superego, but is itself the instrument of liberation, and progressively the center of gravity of seeing changes. One doesn't try any longer to see in the old way; one lets the seeing be there.
There is an interesting principle in psychoanalysis that was formulated by Anna Freud. The terminology here is not the main thing; what matters is that she speaks of the need to be able to stand in a place equidistant from the id (the instinctual forces), the ego, and the superego. Something comparable exists in the Gurdjieff teaching: once these functional aspects of the being - these qualitatively different energies - have been recognized, one is called to stand in the place where one can be simultaneously open to the process taking place in the mind, the body, and the emotions.
Yesterday we heard a presentation in which it was said that a certain quality of feeling can be a means of real knowledge and understanding. Indeed, feeling is also a specific energy which can be perceived. There are other energies, or drives - mainly instinctual and sexual energies - which are also vehicles of knowledge but have not yet been generally recognized as such. As one begins to realize that the fundamental aim is to become aware of the whole of oneself, then the sacred quality of "seeing" becomes as important as what is seen, and a balance begins to appear.
Coming back to psychoanalytic practice, we see that, in line with Anna Freud's ideas, in order to really understand the patient we have to stand between, or equidistant from, all of these parts which are operating. And, at the same time, we have to let things be, to show no preference for this or that aspect, but instead, simply to put the accent on becoming conscious of what is seen taking place in oneself.
Such an approach is not directed toward resolving problems or difficulties, because that would just be trying to escape. There is a kind of screen surrounding each of us, separating us from reality - a way of unconsciously refusing to see more fully, because we are absorbed by our problems. But progressively we can come to a point where the seeing embraces the whole being, where a "consciousness-of-the-consciousness" takes place. Our interest turns to something mysterious hidden behind that in us which always "knows" - an observing seer behind the seer, so to say. This is really a new stage, where one has begun to value this consciousness - this seeing that sees behind - even more than having to deal with what is seen. There is a recognition of a new dimension. And, although what is seen is not neglected, it becomes secondary, because one begins to appreciate that authentic human power resides in this act of inner seeing.
One then reaches another, extraordinary, stage in the life of a human being: a deeper work ... taking enormous involvement, over years. This stage engages all of one's life, leading toward joining and merging with this mysterious seer. We can give many names to that, or relate it to many traditions, but what actually takes place is something quite specific. One enters into a battle, a decisive confrontation. We all remember the innumerable fairy-tales where some fearsome beast is guarding a precious treasure and the hero has to confront this situation. It is in fact our "heart" which is locked up, and this hero, or prince, needs a great wish and determination to face that which closes the heart to the secret and most unreachable part of oneself. And actually, I believe that the great spiritual traditions and religions speak of the same thing - of the deep loneliness of man in front of this challenge - when, for instance, Christ meets the devil, or the Buddha meets Mara, or Indra faces the dragon, Vritra, in combat. In each case there is no one there to help; each hero finds himself entirely alone.
The extraordinary mystery surrounding all of this is how such a battle can take place in deep, perfect sleep. We are not speaking of ordinary, physiological sleep here. I remember the story of Mara entering Buddha's chambers and being chastised: "Who are you to come in here in your ordinary state; can't you see that the Awakened One is asleep?" So that, among all the stages of being awake and asleep - including some dreams which must be taken in an entirely different way than the ordinary - lies the ultimate state; and it is in this tranquility, the heart of sleep, that the great battle must be met - entirely alone.
For instance, Indra has to bring back all the "pranas" –in effect, all of the breaths or subtle forces which have gone out into the world of "creation" and been lost. Indra needs to return them and drink them all in. This tranquility is reacheď when all of these energies and forces which have been expended are brought back and concentrated. So within this deep sleep, this special state, the dragon is vanquished, and the heart opens, and the pure waters of felicity begin pouring through the body. Of course, these moments relate to the principle of sacrifice - in that, by imbibing the soma, and sinking these forces within, one makes the sacrifice, and that allows the inner Self to appear, It is the blind forces of the ego which are sacrificed and transformed in this battle. And then a new feeling appears, like a new substance, which irrigates the body and makes it more permeable to finer energies - it creates a sensitivity well beyond that of our usual perceptions.
I have been struck by the analogy between these processes and what is said about superconductors. You know that when an electric current passes through an ordinary conductor, such as a wire or cable, the electrons meet a resistance due to frictional forces, heat appears, and a great deal of the energy is dissipated. The electrons collide with the metal atoms and randomly bounce around, much like the complete disorder of a noisy schoolroom letting out. But the materials of the superconductors permit the electricity to pass with loss of practically no energy - and, in effect, the electrons file along quietly two by two, as in a wedding ceremony. It is the same with the body. The body can be transformed into a conductor of forces which otherwise would not pass or penetrate, or would be expended here and there - reacting because there is not an open space for them, nor the quality which would allow them to pass.
We are evoking here higher states of consciousness, thanks to which the whole being is opened, finer influences are allowed to pass, and a transformation of the body begins with the successive awakening of different centers, or chakras. You know, it is not enough to seek Nirvana, or liberation - to remain isolated from all the allures and difficulties of the world. There is a kind of "nirvana" which entails a complete cutting off from the world, where one ascends to the ultimate stage and then stays there, but it is not real nirvana. The most difficult stage of all then is to descend - that is, descend into the world and participate. And to understand that, one has to understand it in the body. The mind can be eliminated in a way, the feeling also, but the last and most difficult step is the descent and incarnation in the body, so that transformation can take place completely. And this leads then to a state of complete participation in the meaningfulness of life.
Finding a way to discuss these experiences is extremely difficult; I feel as if I have been barely limping along. I don’t know if you feel how challenging it really is to enter into this process. But for me it gives meaning to both therapy and life. One becomes more normal. But why do you ask this question?