“now i want to tell you this. as everything in the universe is one, so, consequently, everything has equal rights, therefore from this point of view knowledge can be acquired by a suitable and complete study, no matter what the starting point is. only one must know how to ‘learn.’ what is nearest to us is man; and you are the nearest of all men to yourself. begin with the study of yourself; remember the saying ‘know thyself.’ it is possible that now it will acquire a more intelligible meaning for you."
this excerpt is found in “glimpses of truth, views from the real world: early talks of gurdjieff as recollected by his pupils", new york: dutton, 1973.
a few years ago - on a whim - i took apart a pablo neruda poem, selecting those phrases that spoke to me and reassembling them into a poem that also spoke to me.
(pablo neruda deconstruction) starry child of earth, soft as lascivious velvet, spiral-seashelled and full of wonder; your glorious spring dress bursts through the earth like a plant, walls crumble, a song is born, as light illuminates the senses; translucency, a chorus of discipline, an abundance of flowers.
the wind is crying peering tight and lonely through every crack and opening. blindly finding its way - feeling for the little spaces where its curling silver breath fingers can reach with soft cold claws inside those gaps and tongue lick cleave its way past the doors and rattling windows to the guttering blue-yellow leaf of light where the candle's keening knife-edge of waxy smoke kisses the little dancing flame.
let it play with your hair, this gentle breeze blowing from the seven seas. if only you knew how lovely you are the way you gaze at the edge of the night steeped in the grief of exile and longing, in sorrow.
neither you nor i nor the dusk that gathers in your beauty nor the blue sea. that safe harbour for the distress that assaults the brain- we spurn the generation which knows nothing of the soul's pain.
mankind today brands you merely a fresh slender woman and me just an old fool. that wretched appetite, that filthy sight can find no meaning in you or me nor a tender grief in the night nor the sullen tremor of secrecy and disdain on the calm sea.
you and i and the sea and the night that seems to gather silently, without trembling, the fragrance of your soul, far away torn asunder from the land where blue shadows hold sway, we are forever doomed to this exile here.
that land? stretches along the chaste regions of imagination, and a blue nightfall reposes there for all; at its outer edges, the sea pours the calm of sleep on each soul...
there, women are lovely, tender, nocturnal, pure. over their eyes your sadness hovers, they are all sisters or lovers: the tearful kisses on their lips can cure, and the indigo quiet of their inquiring eyes can soothe the heart's suffering. their souls are violets distilled from the night of despair, in a ceaseless search for silence and repose. the dim glare from the moon's sorrows finds haven in their immaculate hands.
ah, they are so frail- the mute anguish they share, the night deep in thought, the ailing sea ... they all resemble each other there.
that land is on which imaginary continent, and dimmed by what distant river? is it a land of illusions- or real, a utopia bound to remain unknown forever?
i do not know ... all I know is you and i and the blue sea and the dusk that vibrates in me the strings of inspiration and agony, far away torn asunder from the land where blue shadows hold sway we are forever doomed to this exile here.
ahmet hasim (1884-1933) translated by talat sait halman
the range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. and because we fail to notice that we fail to notice there is little we can do to change until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.
the burdens we carry . . . so much weightiness! each little parcel of expectation carefully wrapped and then added to the bulging sack of our shadow. the shadow that for whatever reason(s) we choose to ignore, simply adding to its mass and overlooking its effect on our thoughts and deeds.
the shadow - some points of reference from carl jung:
unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. if an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. but if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected. "psychology and religion" (1938). In cw 11: psychology and religion: west and east. p.131
there is a deep gulf between what a man is and what he represents, between what he is as an individual and what he is as a collective being. his function is developed at the expense of the individuality. should he excel, he is merely identical with his collective function; but should he not, then, though he may be highly esteemed as a function in society, his individuality is wholly on the level of his inferior, undeveloped functions, and he is simply a barbarian, while in the former case he has happily deceived himself as to his actual barbarism. psychological types (1921). cw 6: p.III
when we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. we wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness. but to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer. "the stages of life" (1930). in cw 8: the structure and dynamics of the psyche. p.752
to confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light. once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self. anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle. "good and evil in analytical psychology" (1959). In cw 10. civilization in transition. p.872
a man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour. "the philosophical tree" (1945). In cw 13: alchemical studies. p.335
projections change the world into the replica of one's own unknown face. aion (1955). cw 14: p.17
the "other" may be just as one-sided in one way as the ego is in another. And yet the conflict between them may give rise to truth and meaning-but only if the ego is willing to grant the other its rightful personality. "concerning rebirth" (1940) In cw 9, part I: the archetypes of the collective unconscious. p.237
"the drawing-room, to which we had now withdrawn for the rest of the evening, was on the ground-floor, and was of the same shape and size as the breakfast-room. large glass doors at the lower end opened on to a terrace, beautifully ornamented along its whole length with a profusion of flowers. the soft, hazy twilight was just shading leaf and blossom alike into harmony with its own sober hues as we entered the room, and the sweet evening scent of the flowers met us with its fragrant welcome through the open glass doors.
("my sanctum" carrick siddell)
how vividly that peaceful home-picture of the drawing-room comes back to me while i write! outside, on the terrace, the clustering flowers and long grasses and creepers waved so gently in the light evening air, that the sound of their rustling never reached us. the sky was without a cloud, and the dawning mystery of moonlight began to tremble already in the region of the eastern heaven. the sense of peace and seclusion soothed all thought and feeling into a rapt, unearthly repose; and the balmy quiet, that deepened ever with the deepening light, seemed to hover over us with a gentler influence still, when there stole upon it from the piano the heavenly tenderness of the music of mozart. it was an evening of sights and sounds never to forget."
excerpted from "the woman in white" wilkie collins
at all times through my life after i realized i was aware of something other, i've lifted my nose and turned my sails in the direction of the fine fine wind that courses throughout this world. a sweet fine wind that carries the soul on its journey far far beyond land and sea!
each moment, an opportunity to remember the human condition presents itself. with attention to the significance and value of those moments comes the opportunity to address your place inside them. to see the mechanistic, the impulsive, the reactive, to locate their necessity, to assess their merit or to acknowledge the damage they are doing. my experience is that with consistent practice of this awareness comes the opportunity to move from awareness to sorrow, and from sorrow to wonder.
not i, not i, but the wind that blows through me! a fine wind is blowing the new direction of time. If only i let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me! if only i am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift! if only, most lovely of all, i yield myself and am borrowed by the fine, fine wind that takes its course through the chaos of the world like a fine, an exquisite chisel, a wedge-blade inserted; if only i am keen and hard like the sheer tip of a wedge driven by invisible blows, the rock will split, we shall come at the wonder, we shall find the hesperides. oh, for the wonder that bubbles into my soul, i would be a good fountain, a good well-head, would blur no whisper, spoil no expression.
what is the knocking? what is the knocking at the door in the night? it is somebody wants to do us harm.
no, no, it is the three strange angels. admit them, admit them.
i am aware of and can define in my perception of myself, an outward and an inner expression of that perception. i can also acknowledge my awareness of the dialogue between the two areas of self and then again of the creative force that issues out of this dialogue and describes features of my actual self.
one such dialogue sees the outer person ask the world for forgiveness for the inner person through acting the role of "fool" in the classic use of the role - the king's fool who describes the king with detail and accuracy and in so doing pokes fun at the power, the accoutrements, the ambitions of someone gifted with earthly power.
this has been my primary role in relation to the outer world since my childhood. it has provided me with security as it is a feature of the world's expectation of me and so easy to play into. it has provided me with a place to hide.
i learned the deep value and significance of induced or prepared joy. the kind that can sustain a person like myself past the unsustainable.
i have also learned through the course of my life that this giving of hope and joy carries a price tag. in part, the price is the expectation that there is an unlimited quantity of this joy.
it is actually limited only by my ability and willingness to pay the price.
in part there is also the misperception that the joy describes the person providing it. this form of joy describes the needs of the person providing it.
this is clear in my personal and professional lives to those who know me in the real sense of knowing.
the outer person is my lifeline to my meal ticket. he acquires material goods, power, relationships, intimacies, acceptance.
the inner person is the self i have dialogue with, the sometimes grieving, sometimes truly joyous, sometimes immersed-in-the-truly-wondrous-goodness-i-have-been-gifted-with person that i am and am to be becoming.
through my life i have quieted the inner person, and quickly acquired items incuding image reinforcing roles and relationships; all of these to remind myself of my sense of myself as a worthy person.
these are things i want. these are things i have. these are significant and signify not only what i am and what I am capable of but also signify what i can get. these are measures of success in the material world.
and so, like the fool whose entirety is described by mimicry they are defined entirely by the foreground while the richness of the background is overlooked or carefully tucked away, peeking between the shutters of the fool's perceptions and needs.
it is possible that to seem - it is to be, as the sun is something seeming and it is.
the sun is an example. what it seems it is and such seeming all things are.
the past is a place of description - whole experiences reduced to pointillist depictions that resolve into form when we stand back from them. the tiny speckles of coloured moments merge until forms appear and from these little forms come relationships and in that we articulate our knowing of what has been.
from that knowing of what has been - coupled with what is - we articulate our expectations of what might be or what we wish to be.
it is in that space - between the selective remembering of our known experiencing and our anticipation that what has gone before must necessarily repeat itself to some degree - that we articulate the suffering attached to unfulfilled expectation.
the arced line of connection that we draw through past and present experience is compromised by its apparent discontinuity when extended into the future becoming present, and that is where so much disappointment is focussed. our apparent entitlement to expect what is not "seeming and it is" to