Monday, December 23, 2013

Captives II: Bitter Awakening


The Screen (Edvard Munch)

In response to the two questions raised in the previous post, and anticipating the Christmas theme, which symbolizes a "higher birth", one would like to present an incredibly concise and lucid passage, almost of compulsory reading for any Western seeker. It is contained in a famous book that gathers lessons of the master of dances George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff to his pupils. It says the following [1]: 

"To begin with, let us take the well-known text about the seed which must die in order to be born. 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but, if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.'
"This text has many different meanings and we shall often return to it. But first of all it is necessary to know the principle contained in this text in its full measure as applied to man.
"There is a book of aphorisms which has never been published and probably never will be published. I have mentioned this book before in connection with the question of the meaning of knowledge and I quoted then one aphorism from this book.
"In relation to what we are speaking of now this book says the following:
" 'A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake.'
"In another place it says:
" 'When a man awakes he can die; when he dies he can be born.'
"We must find out what this means.
" 'To awake,' 'to die,' 'to be born.' These are three successive stages. If you study the Gospels attentively you will see that references are often made to the possibility of being born, several references are made to the necessity of 'dying,' and there are very many references to the necessity of 'awakening'-'watch, for ye know not the day and hour . . .' and. so on. But these three possibilities of man, to awake or not to sleep, to die, and to be born, are not set down in connection with one another. Nevertheless this is the whole point. If a man dies without having awakened he cannot be born. If a man is born without having died he may become an 'immortal thing.' Thus the fact that he has not 'died' prevents a man from being 'born'; the fact of his not having awakened prevents him from 'dying'; and should he be born without having died he is prevented from 'being.'
"We have already spoken enough about the meaning of being 'born.' This relates to the beginning of a new growth of essence, the beginning of the formation of individuality, the beginning of the appearance of one indivisible I.
"But in order to be able to attain this or at least begin to attain it, a man must die, that is, he must free himself from a thousand petty attachments and identifications which hold him in the position in which he is. He is attached to everything in his life, attached to his imagination, attached to his stupidity, attached even to his sufferings, possibly to his sufferings more than to anything else. He must free himself from this attachment. Attachment to things, identification with things, keep alive a thousand useless I's in a man. These I's must die in order that the big I may be born. But how can they be made to die? They do not want to die. It is at this point that the possibility of awakening comes to the rescue. To awaken means to realize one's nothingness, that is to realize one's complete and absolute mechanicalness and one's complete and absolute helplessness. And it is not sufficient to realize it philosophically in words. It is necessary to realize it in clear, simple, and concrete facts, in one's own facts. When a man begins to know himself a little he will see in himself many things that are bound to horrify him. So long as a man is not horrified at himself he knows nothing about himself. A man has seen in himself something that horrifies him. He decides to throw it off, stop it, put an end to it. But however many efforts he makes, he feels that he cannot do this, that everything remains as it was. Here he will see his impotence, his helplessness, and his nothingness; or again, when he begins to know himself a man sees that he has nothing that is his own, that is, that all that he has regarded as his own, his views, thoughts, convictions, tastes, habits, even faults and vices, all these are not his own, but have been either formed through imitation or borrowed from somewhere ready-made. In feeling this a man may feel his nothingness. And in feeling his nothingness a man should see himself as he really is, not for a second, not for a moment, but constantly, never forgetting it.
"This continual consciousness of his nothingness and of his helplessness will eventually give a man the courage to 'die', that is, to die, not merely mentally or in his consciousness, but to die in fact and to renounce actually and forever those aspects of himself which are either unnecessary from the point of view of his inner growth or which hinder it. These aspects are first of all his 'false I,' and then all the fantastic ideas about his 'individuality,' 'will,' 'consciousness,' 'capacity to do,' his powers, initiative, determination, and so on.
"But in order to see a thing always, one must first of all see it even if only for a second. All new powers and capacities of realization come always in one and the same way. At first they appear in the form of flashes at rare and short moments; afterwards they appear more often and last longer until, finally, after very long work they become permanent. The same thing applies to awakening. It is impossible to awaken completely all at once. One must first begin to awaken for short moments. But one must die all at once and forever after having made a certain effort, having surmounted a certain obstacle, having taken a certain decision from which there is no going back. This would be difficult, even impossible, for a man, were it not for the slow and gradual awakening which precedes it. 
"But there are a thousand things which prevent a man from awakening, which keep him in the power of his dreams. In order to act consciously with the intention of awakening, it is necessary to know the nature of the forces which keep man in a state of sleep.
"First of all it must be realized that the sleep in which man exists is not normal but hypnotic sleep. Man is hypnotized and this hypnotic state is continually maintained and strengthened in him. One would think that there are forces for whom it is useful and profitable to keep man in a hypnotic state and prevent him from seeing the truth and understanding his position. 

There is an Eastern tale which speaks about a very rich magician who had a great many sheep...

Well, the rest for another occassion. There are numerous ancient traditions which have a lot to say about the hypnotic state of man and the dark forces which cause it. 

Now let´s focus on that which may help us directly to "die" and "be reborn" spiritually. So, the next Christmas day, if nothing prevents it, we will listen to ancient advises about one of the most powerful tools that exist to evoke purifying sentiments, and whose art was forgotten, although preserved and rescued by the Fathers of the Desert.
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[1] G.I.Gurdjieff in P.D.Ouspensky´s Fragments of An Unknown Teaching. Ch 11.

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