Author Topic: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff  (Read 15630 times)

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #150 on: October 11, 2018, 03:33:47 pm »
I started Movement classes last night. If you'll recall, the Sacred Movements are one of the things which originally got me interested in studying the Gurdjieff work.

It's a commitment - learning the movements will take a full year of Wednesday night classes. And it's a challenge to get there. The classes are in Manhattan at 9 PM, so I've gotta take an hour long train into the city, wait around for an hour, do the class, and then race for another hour long train ride home. If I miss that second train, there's another 45 minutes of waiting tacked on. So now I'm giving up two nights per week to Mr. Gurdjieff, and the rest of my life rankles at the sacrifice.

After complaining about this, the teacher said to me "Maybe this isn't the right year to do it."

On some level, I was hoping she'd convince me, but she so easily let it drop. They're really not forcing anything. The desire to attend has to come from the self, or it will erode.



The class began at 9 PM in the upper floor of the Gurdjieff Foundation. The Movements have an aura of secrecy... No one has ever told us what takes place here, anything I've said about the Movements has been my own conclusions based on the fragments I've observed. We got changed into movement clothes (that is, clothes that are easy to move in, not some sacred-movement-specific uniform) and stood on a large Enneagram painted on the floor.

I expected some discussion, some explanation, some background... but there wasn't anything like that. We just began. Our teacher started by arranging us into a circle, and had us all raise our right hand to eye level. We practiced doing it in sync, feeling the shared energy -- as if it's not us individually moving, but the group moving.

After a few similar movements, she arranged us into rows and columns. We practiced different movement routines. All of them require a lot of concentration and attention. I have no grounding in theater or dance, so remembering a sequence of body movements is very difficult for me. I found myself frustrated and chagrinned. I tried not to identify with that feeling, so that I could use it as fuel for Being. When one is challenged, one must work through the frustration.

The music helps. The piano player brings us to another world.


Last summer, I wrote about a concentration exercise they gave us... As you walk, you count each step your right foot makes, from 1 to 50. And meanwhile, with your left foot, you're counting each step down from 100 to 50. Eventually they meet in the middle. The feeling of this exercise is like two cogs in the mind acting independantly. Eventually, something appears between them.

A lot of the movements felt like that. You're trying to repeat a series of steps which is 8 beats long. Meanwhile, you're repeating a series of motions with your arms that is 6 beats long. They do not sync up. Your habitual-mind tries to memorize the pattern, and fails. Through repetition, you eventually just start doing it. I couldn't explain what I was doing, but my body seemed to know.


One of Gurdjieff's explanations of Self is the "carriage metaphor".

There's a carriage (the body), a horse (the emotions), and a driver (the mind). They're all connected to each other. They all "speak" different languages. The carriage can't move without the horse, the horse will do its own thing without the driver, and the driver needs to convince the horse to move the right way. The driver must also groom and take care of the horse. But this group is missing something--the master. The master tells the driver where to go (if they understand each other).

The master can't talk to the horse or the carriage, they don't speak the same language.

There is the potential for this group to act harmoniously, not resisting one another, but to coordinate and arrive at a destination intentionally--that is to say, non-accidentally. Not just based on the momentary whims of the driver, the meanderings of the horse, or the limitations of the carriage.



When we began the movements, I expected an explanation. I expected the teacher to talk to the driver (my intellect) and let him know where to lead. But she ignored him. She was talking to the horse and the carriage. The movements are a kind of language. There is meaning encoded in them. I could explain this here, in text, but I don't think it would actually be conveyed.

At the end of the class, I didn't feel like I had learned or mastered anything. I didn't feel any differently. I was actually really frustrated at my inability to learn the steps and keep in sync with the group. But I'm going to keep trying.


Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #151 on: October 11, 2018, 04:11:41 pm »
When you get some time, would you mind expanding on the self not being the ego?

It's very difficult to put into words. Talking about it doesn't do it justice. I will not be able to communicate it in writing, it won't make sense to you unless you experience it yourself. So I apologize that this is might sound like woo woo nonsense, (the truth that can be spoken is not the eternal truth...) but maybe I can lay a few fingertips on the elephant.

William James says it like this: the mind is just a fragment of the overmind.

I can say that this Truth (and I am comfortable using the capital-T there) is accessible through a few different traditions.  It's available via zen meditation. It's present in the AUM meditation. All genuine mystical experiences reflect it too. Most Gnostic traditions draw from it. It is quintessential, ancient.




In the brief (sacred) moments of ego death I've experienced, there is an awareness that there is this electric spark animating me. It's the organizing principle behind my thoughts. It's present in every voluntary act and motion. And it's ancient, like, as old as cellular life. That first cell, way back in the beginning, with its primordial desire to survive, was the first particle of consciousness. Each living being has passed the spark on to its descendants, like a torch lighting another torch, since the dawn of organic life on earth.

The brain is the CPU, the spark I'm talking about is the electricity inside of it. That electricity is not ours, it's given to us. It's something we share. It's the true self. Hidden away, drowned out, inaudible amidst the cacophonous order and disorder of everyday life.




In the Gurdjieff work, there's a listening exercise. Listen to the world around you. Don't use your intellect, separating and labeling these different sounds. Listen to it as if it's not individual instruments, but one harmonious piece of music.

Eventually, I develop an awareness that the self is one of these instruments, and lose it in the exchange of figure/ground. The ego is the instrument, the self is the music.

We Discordians describe this music as 'Primal Chaos'. The raw universe exists outside of our petty preferences and labels  like Order and Disorder. This is what it means to see Chaos, the raw unformed stuff of the cosmos. It is what it is. We're all just toys that the Eternal plays with.

Quote from: The Rubiyaat of Omar Khayyam
Life is a checkerboard of nights and days
Where Destiny with men for pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, mates, checks, and slays,
And one by one back in the closet lays.”
« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 04:18:41 pm by Cramulus »

Cain

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #152 on: October 11, 2018, 04:16:03 pm »
When you get some time, would you mind expanding on the self not being the ego?

I'm not Cram, but I think it's basically the Higher Guardian Angel concept from Crowley, which I believe you're probably familiar with.

The self is the "true self", the highest expression of your being and nature, whereas the ego is essentially selfish and base desires that have been rationalised.  Freud likened the ego to a man riding a powerful horse, guiding it in the directions he wishes to travel.  But the horse acts on the rider as much as the rider does on the horse...it sets a path that the rider then has to correct or work around.  The true self would be liberated from these constraints.

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #153 on: October 11, 2018, 04:27:52 pm »

After a few similar movements, she arranged us into rows and columns. We practiced different movement routines. All of them require a lot of concentration and attention. I have no grounding in theater or dance, so remembering a sequence of body movements is very difficult for me. I found myself frustrated and chagrinned. I tried not to identify with that feeling, so that I could use it as fuel for Being. When one is challenged, one must work through the frustration.

The music helps. The piano player brings us to another world.
So they are inducing you into hypnotic trance and training your bodies to be acrobatic and flexible. Maybe it's grossly offensive to say, but if you start going all Manchurian candidate on us, losing time, disappearances of political and industry figures in the newspapers, I am calling it now.

One of Gurdjieff's explanations of Self is the "carriage metaphor".

There's a carriage (the body), a horse (the emotions), and a driver (the mind). They're all connected to each other. They all "speak" different languages. The carriage can't move without the horse, the horse will do its own thing without the driver, and the driver needs to convince the horse to move the right way. The driver must also groom and take care of the horse. But this group is missing something--the master. The master tells the driver where to go (if they understand each other).

The master can't talk to the horse or the carriage, they don't speak the same language.
I really like this metaphor, especially the driver and the carriage, the horse is the only part that is hazy to me. If you calm the emotions and get them to be driven by your will, is it still the horse that is propelling the carriage, is emotion the only thing propelling the carriage, could memory be another horse, it is that something that can set off emotion in conflict with the driver? 

May you find your worth in the waking world

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #154 on: October 11, 2018, 05:31:36 pm »
So they are inducing you into hypnotic trance and training your bodies to be acrobatic and flexible. Maybe it's grossly offensive to say, but if you start going all Manchurian candidate on us, losing time, disappearances of political and industry figures in the newspapers, I am calling it now.

I told you guys I was losing my shit, and none of you stopped me, so I hold all of you responsible for the assassinations to come.

Quote
I really like this metaphor, especially the driver and the carriage, the horse is the only part that is hazy to me. If you calm the emotions and get them to be driven by your will, is it still the horse that is propelling the carriage, is emotion the only thing propelling the carriage, could memory be another horse, it is that something that can set off emotion in conflict with the driver?

All the parts have friction until they learn how to work together. It's difficult to coordinate them because are independant and speak different languages. If they work together, they are a harmonious whole.

A more concrete example of this can be found in the body's tension. The body is like its own brain, it processes inputs in its own way. When it gets cold, it shivers. When it's hot, it sweats. Sometimes it gets sent data from the emotional brain -- it tries to process these data, but its only able to work in its own way. This is one way of looking at how emotions manifest as muscle tension. Your body is trying to work through these emotions but all it knows how to do is squeeze.

In a properly organized human,
   the emotional-brain processes the emotions and
   the intellectual-brain processes ideas and
   the body-brain processes physical inputs.

By default, these inputs are all crossed up. We try (and fail) to rationalize our way through emotional problems, our emotions suck at solving intellectual problems, and your body wastes a lot of your energy working on the wrong stuff all the time.

This is why (for a lot of things) you do your best work when you're relaxed. Muscle tension is a waste of energy--releasing it is a small way of reorganizing the work being done.



To answer your question about memory - in this model, memory is not a processor (ie another horse), it is material that gets used in a process. Like, I'm deciding where to get dinner - my memories are fuel for the emotional calculus, intellectual calculus, and physical calculus which results in a decision.

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #155 on: October 11, 2018, 07:15:55 pm »
As always, Cram, thanks so much for sharing these ideas and experiences with us. The metaphor of the Carriage here, in particular, resonated with me strongly. I haven't been attending properly to my emotions for a while now, instead favoring my mind/intellect and body. Frankly, it's taking a toll holistically and I need to start rectifying things.

Time for some changes, and I appreciate your role as a catalyst in helping me realize that.

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #156 on: October 11, 2018, 07:46:11 pm »
I'm not sure where this is going, but as a drummer and a dancer, you're learning "isolations".  The brain can separate body movements 'independently'.  Of course, the brain is doing all the work, but it's now in charge of independent conscious movements, in the same way it's in charge of independent unconscious movements.

It's not conceptually hard, as we walk and use our cell phones without thinking about how the brain is doing both of them without a hitch.  But when we try to force it along a pattern its not used to, sure.

But I can move all my limbs independently to play a beat, and I used to be able to follow intricate choreography that literally called for the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, so I can't wait for the next lesson.




Also, I need to point out that you're only spending 52 hours on this movement class.  That's hardly anything when it comes to training the body for physical movement.

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #157 on: October 12, 2018, 02:58:33 am »
It reminds me of how sport teams learn to operate efficiently. In say, football for example, you run plays over and over again, you tend to eventually forget the specifics of the play an you just -do it-.  When i was a server, I'd get into a habit of tossing a rolled up wad of paper or something and toss it into a trash can from afar.  I learned that I was most accurate when I stopped 'trying' to make a basket but just tossing the wad without thinking...without lining it up and all the details associated with it. My body had a feel for it better than my mind did.

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #158 on: October 12, 2018, 06:17:33 am »
what you are talking about reminds me of playing syncopated music on a guitar (mississippi john hurt) or piano (scott joplin) 

the thumb and fingers (on the guitar) or the left and right hand (on the piano) play completely* independent rhythms.  it is very challenging to learn and you have to be in the right state of mind to play it.  you can't pay too much attention to either melody or you will lose the other.  it becomes easier when it feels like you are listening to someone else play it.

edit: i guess they're not completely different, as they follow the same tempo, but they're certainly very independent.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 06:52:41 am by rong »
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Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #159 on: October 12, 2018, 02:35:38 pm »
Quote from: 1924, ‘Gurdjieff’s early talks’
Sacred dances have always been one of the vital subjects taught in esoteric schools of the East. They have a double aim: they contain and express a certain form of knowledge and at the same time serve as a means to acquire an harmonious state of being. The combination of unnatural movements helps to obtain certain qualities of sensation, various degrees of concentration as well as the directing of thought and senses.

This dancing has another meaning than we are accustomed to. Ancient dance was a branch of art, and in ancient time art served the purpose of higher knowledge and religion. Knowledge was expressed in works of art, particularly in dances, just as today we give out our wisdom through books. Thus ancient sacred dance is not only an aesthetic experience but a book containing a definite piece of knowledge. Yet a book that not everyone can read who would, which not everyone can read who will.

The Sacred Movements aren't just about body movement or concentration, though that's a big part of it. The movements themselves contain knowledge. I get the sense that concentrating on two different rhythms at once is kinda like learning how to hold the pencil. We haven't even gotten to the alphabet yet.

There were a few movements for which we were given a specific meaning.

In one movement, we were told to express "up". When you get into the posture, your shoulders should rise, your hips should rise, your eyes should rise. And when you take that step, try to "go up" with your entire being.

Another movement was a bold step forward. We were told to put our entire being into this step. As if to say I AM HERE. While we made this step, the instructor reminded us to feel our presence in the world, where are we? when is it? what's happening right now?

In one movement, we held our hands straight up in the air, hands pointed vertically, parallel to each other. Our teacher said that when we do this, we should think of it as trying to connect to The Above. Using that as a key, it helped me understand the meaning of a few related movements. After the vertical, you recenter yourself, and then reach out left and right, arms parallel to the ground, straight, horizontal, the earth. Then you recenter yourself. In the next motion, you point forward, one arm at a time.

It felt like establishing coordinates. Here I Am in 4 Dimensions. This "meaning" was not given by the instructor, I inferred it myself -- which gives it a different quality than something you are given. While we're doing this, we're chanting.

Gurdjieff's version of "prayer" is not devotional (Praise God!), and it's not transactional (Dear Santa!). It's about focusing oneself on a goal. The one you're addressing is the inner self. You intone a phrase, focusing entirely on each word and the meaning of that specific word.

I AM (think about who you are, your presence in the world, and as the word vibrates in your throat, FEEL that self)
I WISH (feel desire, the feeling of wanting something, not just momentarily like a craving, but something you want in your whole being)
I CAN WORK (the ability to struggle past difficulty, to overcome the machine... the feeling of being a person who can overcome)


There was a movie called "Meetins with Remarkable Men", made in the 70s, based on the Gurdjieff book of the same name. You can find it on youtube. Towards the end, young Gurdjieff is in the mythical Sarmoung monastery and is being shown the sacred movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVgLNo6ZMX4&t=1h36m14s

He asks: What is the real meaning of these movements?
The master answers: They tell us of two qualities of energy moving without interruption throughout the body. As long as the dancer can keep in balance these two energies, he has a force that nothing else can give.


Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #160 on: October 18, 2018, 08:33:33 pm »
At the meeting on Tuesday, we discussed one of Gurdjieff's opinions about child rearing.

In typical Gurdjieff fashion (ie absurd absolutist statements) he said "You should never praise children."

What he means is that when you praise a child for doing something, the information "goes to the wrong place." It's best if our actions are independant of the opinions of others, we should do things (or refrain from doing things) because in our hearts, we believe it's right. So when you raise a child using a lot "that's good" and "that's bad", implicit in the signal is that they're working for your approval. This grows into an adult that works for others but does not have his own center of action.

Gurdjieff would say that it's better to say something like "You did it! Doesn't that feel good?"

I can relate to this personally.. When I was 8 or 9 years old, there was this school fair. There was a game where you could pick a lollypop, and if you pulled a lolly with a red dot on the bottom of the stick, you won--and could pick another one. I figured out some way of cheating - like waiting until the adult was looking the other way, then peeking. I spent all my tickets there, cheating up a storm. When we got home with my huge bag of lollypops, I told my mom how I did it.

All she said was "How did it make you feel?"

I still remember that, turning inward... understanding...



The movement class this week was much better. Becuase a lot of the class built on movements from the previous class, I had a lot easier time getting in sync with everybody.

There was a very powerful moment, where I was in a trance - or maybe what I was feeling was the absence of trance - mind focused like a laser, emotions quiet, body moving perfectly in sync...

It was a different way of being. Like nothing that happens in everyday life.



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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #161 on: October 20, 2018, 08:23:50 am »
I had a thought, probably due to reading these.

Free will is something that is exercised when you don't know what is the best choice.
With perfect knowledge human being could navigate through his life always taking the best,
most fulfilling option every time they're presented with choice.
Like how particles choose to follow straight path, because changing the course would lose energy
and therefore shorten their lifespan.

More we see into the future,
more we see the consequences of our actions,
more we are bound to follow the path of least resistance.

That's why science has felt sinister to me for a while.
It ends up abstracting people,
first as cells in the body of the machine,
then some chemistry that fuels the planetary consciousness,
weird particles that speed around the interplanetary space,
and some strange interaction between stars
until we ultimately fade out into the background noise.
sqos dnd ou os 'snq ooz uo punos ou

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #162 on: October 21, 2018, 04:10:05 am »


The future is not something into which we can see.
The future is that which allows me to to think 'I can',
In the first place
Hic Salta?
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Constant Eso-Opthamologist of Elicited Stopped-Clock Illusions, brings it back, or sinners just repent______

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #163 on: October 21, 2018, 04:25:12 am »
Quote
In typical Gurdjieff fashion (ie absurd absolutist statements) he said "You should never praise children."

Statistically, this is the correct form of conditioning given how performance should be expected to decline after any 'exceptionally positive' incident worthy of praise.
Hic Salta?
________
Constant Eso-Opthamologist of Elicited Stopped-Clock Illusions, brings it back, or sinners just repent______

Cramulus

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Re: Reality Safari: Gurdjieff
« Reply #164 on: October 22, 2018, 01:39:09 pm »



Free will is something that is exercised when you don't know what is the best choice.
With perfect knowledge human being could navigate through his life always taking the best,
most fulfilling option every time they're presented with choice.

When we can apply a heuristic to a decision, the outcome presents itself automatically

performing a function                 f(n)
always feels like you made a choice


Quote
That's why science has felt sinister to me for a while.
It ends up abstracting people,
first as cells in the body of the machine,
then some chemistry that fuels the planetary consciousness,
weird particles that speed around the interplanetary space,
and some strange interaction between stars
until we ultimately fade out into the background noise.


Down here in the Everyday, on the sidewalk, the vast cosmic process is invisible.

To me, the recognition of the larger identity, the larger process, to which my ego is a component --- is humbling. Awesome.

Carl Sagan entered through the "third way", that is, viewing the Big Picture using the intellect. He said "we are made of star stuff",  "We are the universe attempting to know itself". Yes, this view it collapses the individual into little particles in a rolling sea of quantum foam. But it isn't sinister, is it? That's just how it is.





Consciousness is a powerful substance. Like soap cutting through oil... it only takes a little bit.


If it's happening down here, there's potential for it to happen up there.