Between Two Mysteries
The activities of everyone here, in this microcosm, seem to reflect what is going on all over the world. I was sitting this morning and picturing to myself the life on this planet: people going here and there, responding to all of life’s necessities, being part of an immense, uninterrupted movement of exchange, yet at the same time as though driven by what might be called the hypnosis of life—including modes of thought, beliefs, and so on—which everyone has been immersed in since childhood. And I also recalled that there are places in the world having something like large antennas directed upward, through which another action seems to take place—allowing meaning and mindfulness to enter one’s life.
But to really allow for this action, one has to stop, to make room for the sense of wonder and the appearance of a real search. Scientists today sometimes describe where we are as being in front of a double mystery: the infinitely large and the infinitely small. In between these, there is man, a third mystery, with a brain of infinite complexity. This image, perhaps, lacks the element of invitation to direct experience, and I would prefer to say that we are between two mysteries—the outer world and the inner world—and in order to be open to both of these worlds, man has to know himself, to know himself totally.1
Michel de Salzmann
Out of Balance
To be out of balance is my greatest help if I only realize it and see that “I” cannot balance myself. This egoistic wish to which I cling is just the continuation of what keeps me out of balance. It needs to be understood in a new way. “I” cannot make it myself, and as long as I stick to the wish to be balanced, the imbalance goes on. Again, only when I am overwhelmed, when I cannot face the situation, can something entirely new appear that helps me to understand what is really needed.2
Michel de Salzmann
Waking from Our Dream
This dream is the natural state of man. We live in this dream as we live in the air, and it would be hopeless if we were not able to realize sometimes that we live not only in this world, but also in another world, where it is possible for us to awaken to different perceptions, to another way of being, of thinking and of feeling. The act of waking up can change everything: it is to be born to another world within oneself. . .
To awaken is not to isolate oneself from the world, it is not to cut ourselves off from the ensemble of relationships with which we are called to exist. Very much the contrary: this awakening is a broadening, an enrichment. It is the possibility of living at the same time on different levels, of facing the demands of several levels simultaneously: That is not a minus, it is a plus.3
Your Animal Is Law-Able
Again and again he [Gurdjieff] stressed the importance of remembering our exercises, of doing them daily no matter where we would be or in what condition. “Not once will you do them,” he said, “not one hundred times will you do them . . . but one thousand and one times you will do, and then perhaps something will happen. Now it is imagination, but sooner or later it will be fact, because your animal is law-able.”4
“Stay in Front!”
Madame de Salzmann came to the day of work at the Maison and went to all the places—the kitchen, the sewing room, the movements hall, the library and the workshop. It appears as if she wishes to authenticate all things, all activities and to affirm all those who take responsibility. The work is all this but, she says, “At the same time, what is most important is the connection with higher energy. And when one is not related, one must stay in front of the lack of connection. Stay in front of whatever is taking place: stay in front of your connection or the lack of it. Stay in front.”
I feel that ‘Restez devant!’, ‘Stay in front!’, is the mantra which Madame de Salzmann is giving us. It needs to be constantly kept in mind.
Madame de Salzmann came to the workshop where there was a great deal of noise from the saws and the drills. I was struggling with a large piece of wood on the table saw. She came close to me and smiled. Over the din, she said loudly, “Do you see it is the same here as in the sitting?”5
Jeanne de Salzmann
(recounted by Ravi Ravindra)
The Aim of a Koan
The aim of [a] Koan is to enable the pupil to resolve what the mind cannot resolve. There is the ability to be engaged very actively in life, but at the same time to be non-attached. One does what one does with full enthusiasm: I love to drink coffee, to paint, to dig a garden or chop wood. But can I be wholly in the act but not attached to it? And at the same time, be in relation to this “other,” this stillness, which is in me, in you, in everything. This requires discipline, which one reaches through various methods. It’s not only meditation, and it certainly isn’t through scholastic studies or through prayer of the ordinary kind, although prayer can be a cessation of thought, a giving up, a letting go and being here totally. Now, perhaps, to be that way does require a great preliminary doing; I’m not sure about that. As an old man who has been through a lot of that sort of practice, I don’t think it’s really necessary. I don’t see the sense of it now. I think if I were in the hands of a master today, he would simply tell me, “Look, mister, just be still. Watch your breathing. Get your center of gravity down here.” And then this appears. This is in you, it’s always here. All one has to do is open to it. So I don’t see the sense of all these schools and all these disciplines. I do see the sense, because one is unable, one is not capable as one is, in ordinary life.6
Work in Everyday Life
Thank you for your letter describing your attempts to make a practical work in your everyday life. They all seem to be positive and well directed.
You are right to work in several directions at once; life is too short to take only one study at a time. To the ones you enumerate you might add: to observe your postures and gestures—which often help to know your inner state, because they often reflect it, as well as aspects of personality.
While you take several studies at once, make one your special study or task, for one or two weeks—then another one; this way you refresh your interest in new discovery.
Try to be clear for yourself on your own personal impulse, your personal wish and aim; no one else can give you theirs.
Some reading, as you mention, is good; but do not read too much—you yourself are the book to study—everything is there.7
We Are on a Spaceship
We are on a spaceship; we are traveling with Beelzebub, his kinsman, the captain of the ship, and old Ahoon and Hassein. These are Godlike beings, in a sense, relative to us. This is important—to get this understanding. While we are traveling, we are discussing and being educated by Beelzebub . . . who is one of the great observers, one of the great beings, one of the highest beings in the universe.
What is important is that being on this ship as mere human beings exalts in us the recognition of our humanity, and it gives us a handle by which we can have evaluation both of ourselves, and also of others like ourselves. . . The spaceship is not a fantasy, not something that we imagine. It is a reality in the sense that it exists in this way—for the purpose of enabling us to study and observe under guidance of the greatest of all possible observers.8
What is Work?
I am going to talk this morning about a subject which is appropriate for the New Year and that is Work. We use this word and, I suppose, slowly the greatness of it begins to dawn on us. We use it in various ways. We use it as a verb to say: “I work” or “I wish to work” or “I don’t know how to work” and we use it also as a noun when we talk about “the Work.” And when we use it as a noun we sometimes just refer to this general activity that we expect—or hope—will bring us to the goal we are all seeking. Sometimes we also use it, and rightly so, as a something to which we belong in which we have a place. So ever since this word Work came into our vocabulary we have spoken about being “in the Work,” or “belonging to the Work.” But we have also noticed over the years that it is unfortunately possible also to take this word in these ways: of assuming that people who do things such as coming to these meetings, or doing various exercises, are superior to others because of that; and then make a distinction between people who are “in the Work” and people who are “not in the Work”—and even talk about people who have “left the Work” with sadness!
But what does it really mean? . . .
Work isn’t just an abstract idea, or a process, or an activity, or something like that. Work is my home, my reality. Everything that is of real value I find in it: wife, children, friends, interests, studies, everything. All are “in the Work.” . . . It is the most intimate reality. It is the reality of our innermost self. When we find ourselves, we find that.9
Little by Little
To separate from the associative level, we have to contact finer energies. The higher part of the head is full of fine energy—there, there is silence—no words there—no struggle.
Where the feeling of myself connects with the finer energies, they become concentrated. This energy must never be used for anything other than my inner world. The outer world does not need it.
Little by little, and it is a long process, I keep some of these finer energies. I collect them and try not to pour them out. Then they may crystallize and they cannot become mixed with coarse energies. It is slow, patience is needed, and it is the only way to a change in the centre of gravity.10
A Point of Reference
Each individual cell—with its nucleus, protoplasm and membrane—is a structure. Similarly with each individual person, our centers are part of a cosmic structure and they are the means of transmission of a descending higher order.
Our essence is born of the stars and is at the level of ‘all suns.’ From that level there is a transmission to our centers, which in turn creates our functions; and our functions create forms.
Contrary to what is generally accepted as fact, human beings have a cosmic origin and that origin descends into our functioning. Our centers receive the energy that needs to be transmitted through them. Through the centers, we can receive this energy. If we could look at the stars and forgo our usual self-centered perspective of seeing them as separate from us, and instead see ourselves as an integral part of the whole structure, we would be more able to understand the purpose of our centers and of ourselves.
This is the idea of incarnation: the ray of creation becomes embodied. It incarnates in our centers, and, as a result, the centers become a means of cosmic transmission. Without this global vision it is difficult to have a direction. This idea constitutes a point of reference that imparts orientation and direction to my search. This broader perspective allows me to learn about my functions without attachment to them, an attachment that arises when I do not look from a place that is higher.11
How Serious Am I?
I think I wish something in a certain direction, but how serious am I? I was at Chartres this summer where I felt so powerfully the quality of feeling that was necessary to produce what I saw there. It has an effect on even the most frivolous of people. What was necessary, even possible, at that time? What is possible for us now?
How could we be as serious in trying to reach the mystery that exists in all of us as they were at that moment, when Chartres was constructed? It still vibrates today. If there is something serious in you which corresponds, it is set in motion. I wish at this moment to be as serious as they were. They left evidence that can still touch us if we are not too covered over with theories. I recognize that I am not serious now or even most of the time. To me it is such an extraordinary thing that a Way exists in which one does not have to leave one’s life. But is life only a distraction? And how can I strengthen the wish to be serious? . . .
Part of my work is to make my way in the real world, as we call it. We are on the earth; we are earth beings and have to make our way here. How do we go about that? If I wish to build a cathedral in myself it has to be on this earth.12
~ • ~
1 Michel de Salzmann, Material for Thought, No. 14, San Francisco: Far West Editions, 1995, pp. 12–13.
2 On the Way to Self Knowledge, edited by Jacob Needleman and Dennis Lewis, New York: Knopf, 1976, p. 77.
3 Henri Tracol, The Taste For Things That Are True, Rockport, MA: Element, 1994, p. 83.
4 Kathryn Hulme, Undiscovered Country: A Spiritual Adventure, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1966, pp. 106–107.
5 Ravi Ravindra, Heart Without Measure, Halifax: Shaila Press, 1999, p. 153. A new paperback edition with some additional material is also available from Morning Light Press, Sandpoint, ID, 2004.
6 William Segal, Opening: Collected Writings of William Segal, 1985–1997, New York: Continuum, 1999, p. 114.
7 A letter to a pupil from Christopher Fremantle’s, On Attention: Talks, Essays, and Letters to His Pupils, edited by Lillian Firestone Boal, Denville, NJ: Indications Press, 1993, p. 165.
8From an unpublished talk of Paul Anderson titled, “Comments on the Fourth Sojourn and the Fifth Flight of Beelzebub,” Conway, MA, August 14, 1977.
9 John G. Bennett, Sunday Talks at Coombe Springs, Santa Fe, NM: Bennett Books, 2004, pp. 305–307.
10 Henriette Lannes, Inside a Question, London: Paul H. Crompton Ltd, 2002, p. 201.
11 Ricardo Guillon, Record of a Search: Working with Michel Conge in France, Toronto: Traditional Studies Press, 2004, pp. 73–74.
12 From the unpublished transcript of a meeting with Louise Welch in Toronto, September 27, l975.