A consistent theme will run through all these posts, but in case you don’t see it, let me establish its boundaries and signposts, and give a hint, as much as I am able to convey of it to you at this point, anyway, of its nature and its destination, if a theme can be said to have a destination.
This one does, though, as the theme is of a journey, and every journey has a destination, whether or not it is pursued or even how steadfastly. To understand the journey, we start with a piece of the theme, which is this:
There is a way to become safe from harm, in the three senses of safe from bodily harm, safe from mental harm, and safe in one’s affairs. I don’t mean some kind of get-rich-quick scheme or anything like that. I mean there is a way of being in the world and within one’s self that brings these benefits as an automatic by-product. There is a way of doing that is essentially not doing as you have always done, but to take up and train yourself to unhook from the usual ways of acting, or rather reacting, for this is really what we do most of the time. It means first learning to be a mere witness to what you do and what you think, and create a distance between you as an observer and the feelings about what you do and have done. This is not hard to do in the moments you happen to remember to do it; it’s harder to do it all the time—harder, but not impossible.
This is a piece of the theme that will appear here. It’s nothing new, but rather is something so ancient that it’s been all but forgotten, at least here in the West. (In India and some other places, people still know about it.) What is new, though, is the retelling of it in new ways and new terms that are suitable for modern times.
In the beginning, I fear, there’s going to be a bunch of telling, writing by me and reading by you, so you’ll just have to get through it, knowing your attention span is longer than you think it is. This is the first step. The reason for this is there are possibilities for yourselves you’re not aware of because few people are aware of them and hardly anybody even talks about them anymore. These possibilities used to be written about, oh, a century ago, and passed orally from elder to youth back as far as any records exist, and farther back yet. So if we don’t endeavor to find out about them, we’ll never discover this theme, this path—this journey. My job is to tell these things as clearly as I can, with passion, so you can see for yourselves where this this journey leads. Becoming safe from harm is only part of it, as I said. There’s much more, but until you study up a bit, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you straight out. That’s for later, anyway. Let’s go on to the second step.
After a while, the telling and learning from others like myself comes to an end, and the work you do on yourself for yourself predominates. Little victories over ourselves is how this stuff works. You do something on your own and experience the immediate results. Neat; there’s no waiting. And please note that the only thing in this world that’s worth anything, the only lasting thing you can ever do for yourself, is gain this kind of experience. I can’t give it to you. Your mother can’t. Steven Spielberg can’t. Your minister/rabbi/priest/guru can’t. Only you can.
By the experiences you have, you gradually become safe from harm. At first, these experiences are all inner. Yeah, you’ll have to sit down, close your eyes and do some specific mental practices—there’s no getting around this. You’ve got to clear the junk out of your mind that’s accumulated there during your life. This is the witnessing part: you bring things up into you consciousness dispassionately, meaning you don’t relive them, which neutralizes them so you can let go of the emotional charges you have on them. That’s step two. Step three is learning how to turn off the mental chatter inside your head so you become still.
Somewhere between step two and step three the safe-from-harm business starts to work. It isn’t something you attack directly; it’s something you finesse. It’s something you allow to happen on its own. Said another way, you allow the universe to begin to work on your behalf.
Okay, you’re thinking, he just went over the edge. But wait, I reply. Hasty judgments like that one are reactions you’ll have to unlearn. The idea here is to follow along, suspend all judgments, do the work and then see what happens in and around you. Perform some experiments, dispassionately.
Of course, many people already have life systems that work reasonably well. At least they think so, which is fine. My job isn’t to convince anyone. I abhor proselytizers myself and prefer to just shoot them (in the Mark Twain sense). But if you’ve tried some of those systems and have come away cold, here’s something completely different. Gurdjieff said this sort of material is only for people who are disillusioned trying everything else, and that’s still true.
So that’s the story. You listen for a while, then try some stuff out for yourself. Avoid the temptation to judge how this will turn out for yourself based on what other people say or write. The only valid criterion for judging whether this method will work is derived from precisely the experiences it generates, which only you will have. In the end this isn’t something anyone else, including me, can do for you. All I can do is show you what some possibilities are, show you they exist and have existed for a very long time. (Along the way I’ll tell you why nobody knows about them anymore, and maybe you’ll witness yourself getting mad about that.) After that, everything depends on your own practices—how and whether you do them.
This can be a difficult journey, so there’s one more thing I can help you with. You really do need a qualified spiritual teacher for the latter parts of this work. (Not me!) The best sorts of teachers are found on the inner levels, and there are certain things you can do to find one willing and able to assist you. We’ll cover some of these methods. Don’t think of this sort of teacher as someone living in Cleveland, say. Or Bombay or anywhere else. All the best spiritual teachers exist primarily on the inner levels.
Oh! Did I say you may already know this teacher? Do you ever have good hunches? Or an intuition about something that worked out? Maybe you had a playmate as a child who was …
Well, that’s enough for now. That’s the first part, anyway, of what this is all about.