Consensus trance is a difficult state. Too much of our essence, our deep feelings, desires and talent, was invalidated and twisted in the course of conditioning us to conform to the consensus of what is the accepted 'normal' - so the state is full of tensions and strains. In addition, the face a person chooses to present to the world, associated with restraint, politeness and compliance, is covering up the secondary layer of grotesque, dangerous and irrational impulses, fears and fantasies, the nightmare world of the Freudian unconscious - a second area of conflict with the essence. The strain is relieved by defense mechanisms to allow us, and the culture as a whole, to function smoothly. Yet the cost to the individual is very high. And often the tension and strain breaks through with highly inappropriate behavior, where this system breaks down and conflicts with reality. We have created and we maintain a world of stupidity and horrors.
Gurdjieff argued that we act far too much along patterns of fixed habit. We may think we are acting freely, consciously and intelligently, but much of the time we 'run on automatic', not actually choosing our responses. In many respects we live as in a dream. Our concerns for what might or might not happen color our perceptions of the world, often leading us to see things very differently from how they really are.
To be truly awake in Gurdjieff's sense, to be able to use all your abilities and intelligence to realistically assess situations you are in and act as purposefully as possible in the light of your genuine, unique values, requires that you do not become caught in any identity state, particularly one that interferes with your perception of reality. The solution requires a systematic self-discovery of identity states, how they inter-relate and how they are reactivated by the environment, so that bit by bit an aspect of consciousness is created that does not become identified with the particular contents of consciousness at any given time, and can see objectively what is going on. This true 'I' stays more and more in present time and objective, it has more and more integrity and empathy, and gradually full awakening can occur.
The 'spiritual' nature of man is his awareness and manifestation of higher values: beauty, truth, love, compassion - the quality of LIFE. What does expressing your higher, spiritual Being mean in terms of actual behavior? These are eight beginnings that Maslow has set forth:
- Devote yourself to experiencing one moment. Become totally absorbed in it, the way a child would. At such moments of intense concentration, the Self is actualized.
- Think of life as a presenting a continuous opportunity for creative choice, for deciding to progress rather than regress; to try new approaches instead of falling back on habit; to face up to reality and not retreat in fear.
- Listen to the 'impulse voices' inside yourself. Look within your Self for your tastes and decisions. Concentrate instead on how you actually feel about something, not how you think you are expected to feel.
- When in doubt, be honest rather than not. Most of us opt for diplomacy and discretion, rather than for honesty, when we're in doubt about what to say. But if you are honest, you are looking to your Self for answers, and you are taking responsibility for what you find in yourself.
- Be courageous. Dare to be different. Risk making unpopular statements if they reflect what you feel.
- Find out what you really want to do, and work hard to do it well.
- Leave yourself open to peak experiences, those little moments of ecstasy, for they are fleeting moments of self-actualization.
- Identify your defensive behavior patterns and find the courage to give them up. This is painful but necessary, for repressing a problem won't solve it.
Finally, some relevant thoughts from T. S. Elliot (from 'Little Gidding' 1942):
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always -
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one."
Move on to References & Links for Chapter Seven
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