Conduct and observance

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Human beings love the idea of change. Often we use this special word, "progress," to describe change, and accept it as having an unconditionally positive meaning.

I am not sure it is appropriate to refer to the word progress as either positive or negative. It means change of state, or a transition from one form or moment to another. The entire universe is engaged in this activity at all times, and it is only mankind that imposes the perception of "good" or "bad" on this process. It seems highly unlikely that planets, animals, or microorganisms have any idea that what is taking place from moment to moment is good or bad.

It is all just true.

Human beings are in love with the idea of change. This idea is bandied about a great deal. Politicians, psychologists, social and mechanical engineers, doctors, lawyers, and so on all talk about the need for change. But what we end up with is not actual change; instead, we collectively endorse a hypnotic state which convinces everyone that change is taking place, while everything resolutely continues to proceed exactly as it always has. Lyrics from the song "We Won't Get Fooled Again" by one of my favorite rock bands, the Who, come to mind: "Meet the new boss: same as the old boss."

This certainly takes place in an outer sense. As Gurdjieff pointed out, "civilization" has not really progressed in many thousands of years. The technological trappings of man's existence have become more sophisticated, but men still kill each other and destroy everything around them with little regard for common sense.

Just the other day, for example, I drove past the local Costco store. For five years now it has been surrounded by several acres of woodland. All of that was torn down in one or two brief days over the last week. In the process, hundreds of trees were cut down. Tens of thousands of individual plants of various kinds were destroyed--in fact, the number is probably closer to the hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions. We can be certain that hundreds of small animals and millions of insects lost their homes. Billions, perhaps even trillions, of microorganisms were destroyed as the environment changed from one of cool, dark, moist woodland to a smoking, barren wasteland that looks like an entire division of the Nazi army just rolled over it in tanks.

Soon this devastated landscape will be paved with concrete and asphalt and yet another shopping center will be born. Never mind the fact that 80% or more of the landscape here in the Edison, New Jersey area is already paved, destroyed, and crammed full of redundant shopping centers.

People call this "real estate development."

I call it habitat destruction.

It can be guaranteed: no one ever stopped to think about the fact that billions of individual lives were destroyed in this process. The fact that it amounted to a holocaust of unimaginable proportions to this many organisms never entered the minds of the people who are making the money doing it.

If we stopped taking processes like this for granted for even a moment and consider them, we would see how unbelievably arrogant man is. To us, we are the only thing that matters. Even more striking is the manner in which man runs about wailing and moaning if nature returns the favor. Anything that happens to other organisms is "progress." When we are destroyed by a natural event-- for example, an earthquake, or a tsunami -- it is a "tragedy."

Let us now reverse the focus and discuss inner change.

"Inner change" are the perpetual buzzwords of spiritual work, but the entire psychology of our organism is designed to prevent it. No one actually wants any inner change.

What we want is a hypnotic state in which we discuss change and agree that change is taking place.

Every form eventually falls into this trap when it is practiced.

Chief feature, which we were discussing yesterday, is the central point around which a man's being revolves in his ordinary state, and it is fundamentally opposed to change. Its entire existence is devoted to various means of self preservation. It manages to produce an enormous number of circumstances where what presents itself as change is actually a clever way of preserving the status quo. It is the hypnotizing factor that keeps everything real in us proceeding in a repetitive circle around it. It looks like everything is going somewhere, but it keeps deflecting back upon itself.

In order for real change to take place, a tear-down on the scale of what happened outside Costco last week in Edison, New Jersey would have to take place. The entire habitat of the ego, along with every organism that it supports, would have to be destroyed. In this particular case, the analogy is reversed -- something that was built needs to be torn down so that the organisms can begin to grow again. In seeking inner change, we're seeking to get back to the green- that which is alive, organic, and vibrant within us.

Jesus Christ said, "I bring not peace, but a sword."

In light of our resistance to change, it's worth thinking that one over.

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