April 30, 2006 at 6:26 am #13464
I find Novak’s division theory to be an excellent sounding board, a great foundation or blast off point.
Division theory, along with the peice on how the ‘self sense’ part of the brain can be pacified by focusing on an activity, made me think of many related things.
William Butler Yeats was very preoccupied with the question of life’s relationship to death, and of life and death’s relationship to memory; these are the subjects of his book, A Vision (which could not have been written without his wife George).
But Novak’s theory is much more approachable.
The self-sense part of the brain finding evokes ‘zen in the art of’ whatever, and in taoism, engaging in an activity to ‘trick the monkey mind into a cage’. This brain science finding blattantly corroborates the efficacy of such practices.
Of course, the thing of losing your self sense in concentration can also work against us, and against society. Take popular media and news sources for example. Actually it has already long been known that the mind tends to enter into an alpha state of receptive trance when watching tv, or listening to a charismatic leader.
So the rub is to enter into such a receptive state, one that can dip into mind’s deeper resources, including deeper memory powers, without completely losing the self sense.
Which leads to Michael bringing up the idea of the third, reconciling action aimed at in alchemical practices, and in all sorts of practices in the crafty spiritual-cum-magical traditions of the world. In this regard the philosopher-yogi Gurdjieff talked about having ‘two arrows of attention’: one toward what you are doing/observing, and one toward the doer; this leads to, when done right, a reconciled ‘third’ state.
On this topic I just acquired and read an extremely good book called Gurdjieff: Key Concepts
This is the best, most lucid overall guide to the Gurdjieff material I’ve come across, clarifying many obscure things. I’m awaiting another book by the same author, someone with a long experience in the UK Gurdjieff community named Sophia Wellbeloved (quite the name eh?) called Gurdjieff, Astrology and Beelzebub’s Tales. Wellbeloved has discovered that Gurdjieff structured his massive book, Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, according to the zodiac (apparently no one else has noticed this before).
Gurdjieff says some other interesting things that relate to recent discussions (which are made very clear and contextualised in Key Concepts). For example that once one obtains a unified self (as opposed to a state where one mistakenly believes one has a unified self, in which one mostly ‘just reacts’ in complex, seemingly ‘independent self-like’ ways), or in other words, once one attains a stable state of meditative detachment (‘the witness’), which he calls ‘preparing the way for the master’, then the task still remains (unless one has been doing it concurrently to some extent) to build or crystalise a soul (astral body under one’s conscious control), which for him involves developing ‘animal magnetism’… Sounds familiar. He states that one could still be a quite enlightened person without such a body. But he clearly felt that having one was a good thing, a natural step for someone what wants to take things further.
Also interesting is his saying that abstention from sex, or some variation on that, is not always necessary for this process; for him it depends on the person what will help in the ‘crystalisation process’, be it abstention, extra large quantities sex, or some combination; not everyone is the same in that regard, he’s saying (i.e., for some abstention does not create enough spark. Maybe they are naturally asexual and placid. So they should screw like a rabbit for awhile to start a fire. For others abstention creates the spark. Naturally we are all aware that taoism has some clever practices to add to that). For him it seems to be about generating energy, making it available, and then creating the conditions that are ripe for its ‘crystalization’, particularly this reconciling state of having ‘two arrows of attention’: you need both to bake the cake. Very alchemical ideas.
Just some impressions to digest.
SimonApril 30, 2006 at 7:25 am #13465April 30, 2006 at 7:36 am #13467
I was wondering as to your whereabouts. Thanks for info on Gurdjieff. He clearly was into the tinity of Life Force influences behind everything, i.e. his theories of the three Holies, the third of which was the Holy Reconciling.
Many Gurdjieff practitioners have come into the Taoist work, notably Gunther Weil and Ron Diana. I’ve never studied it, but seems that the movement work he developed simply is not as sophisticated as the chinese internal arts, which have thousands of years of refinement in them.
michaelMay 2, 2006 at 12:55 am #13469
I’ve been and still am quite busy with various things.
I got into studying the Gurdjieff material in the late eighties, upon picking up P.D. Ouspensky’s book, ‘The Fourth Way’. Perhaps the main reason I got much out of that extremely arcane text was because I had a good, straitforward yoga-martial arts-zen teacher (with a sufi background…), and so had the meditative energy body thing going for me, so missing in Ouspenky’s presentation (though he was no slouch as a meditator–but his teaching method was too intellectual IMO, in retrospect). I read pretty much everything else I could find on the topic, and approached a local group. I was more attracted to Tibetan Buddhism and magic, in the end, though I’m not closing any doors. Trungpa had close ties to the Gurdjieff community, I found out.
Gurdjieff was very much a yogi, a magician, and greatly emphasised energy body practices; but this was so alien to the European mindset at the time that such teaching became obscured. Whoa!–it’s a big topic really. Sophia Wellbeloved has provided an amazing service by distilling it so skillfully for everyone.
Well, I can only agree that the daoist canon of practices as presented here is much richer with regards to mind-body movement arts. But Gurdjief’s methods have other very skillful things to offer.
Division Theory also makes me think of: the wave-particle duality, Bohm’s ‘implicate and explicate order’, Casteneda’s presentation of the ‘nagual and tonal’, and Qabalah’s ‘the abyss’, etc. Novak’s efforts are great for moving in the direction of providing a nomenclature that modern people can relate to.
SimonMay 2, 2006 at 1:03 am #13471
I don’t if you’ve delved much into the fourth way material, but finding information that is not incredibly dense and hard to put totether into a coherent practice format has been a tall order, so this new text I mentioned is quite a feat I think; it is itself a display of some kind of enlightened poise, so elegantly and coherently is it presented. But I am not someone who embraced a Gurjieff community, so I lack that ‘in’. From what Wellbeloved is saying though, the obscurity carried over into many communities; but she has woven the disparate knowledge bits into a presentation of great clarity.
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