In a previous commentary, I closed with Gurdjieff’s report of Father Evlissi’s teaching on conscience, the foundation of objective morality. Father Evlissi (Bogachevsky) is clear that objective morality, as it comes to be understood within the mature human conscience, does not change from place to place and over time. Moreover, it is a special something in this realized, mature form that is not found in the great mass of us. Elsewhere we can hear Gurdjieff say that it is only the seed of objective morality that is present within humanity at large and that there is a special action that is needed to allow this seed to grow. Gurdjieff speaks of this “growth” not as an unfolding out into time and space (involution), but as the letting go, sometimes profoundly disorienting, of the stranglehold self-love and vanity have on the human essence. This letting go does not happen automatically. It is a creative act.
The objectivity that is available to all of us is available to us only automatically. This is the objectivity of the world of bodies. This is the common world that we inhabit. The body is a complete image of this world as a whole. Earth, water, air and fire / body, feeling, thought and the transforming of these are the media of the world of bodies. To enter an objectivity that that is not entirely automatic, a new subjectivity and a new level of intelligence are needed.
If it is possible for one to understand deeply something of the world of this body in particular, then one understands a great deal. Nothing is in isolation. Yet, it is easy to become convinced of something that appears to be objective about this body that nevertheless does not stand up to time and place. Moreover, it is easy to miss factors that one is not even looking for. Though when this understanding is gained, one can begin to speak from the place of a subject that although clothed in the media of this world is yet distinct from it. That is, when one says “I” from this place, there is something of the actual force of “I”, there is something that holds itself together within the world of the automatically objective.
This is the “I” of experience to which self-love and vanity can attach themselves. Even still, it is the only workshop I have for understanding, and this workshop of understanding comes with risks. Seeking to observe how the world of bodies works in me and around me, I seek to be other than a body “standing under” objectively automatic rules. I seek to be me-in-a-body observing how the media pass in and out of existence in this body. Inevitably, this seeking brings me around to approaching the death of this body itself. That is, coming to terms with the objective, I also come to terms with the subjective. Where else could such observation lead? When I able to hold something of this contemplation, the contemplation of my death, in my chest (and I am not always able to do so), I can only say that this objectively opens something in me.
In letting go of even a small something of my self-delusion in coming to know this, for me, objective world of the body, there is a strengthening of the inner “I” whose understanding is always private and subjective. This occasion is not a simple duality of object and subject with each in its separate corner of the room. There is an energetic flow in this encounter of object and subject where nothing can rest in itself. The energetic flow is intelligence. Intelligence has the force to turn the object into subject and the subject into object. The objective, the subjective and the intelligent each strive to re-blend and it is this striving that makes for a dramatic universe. A deeper objective knowledge requires a deeper subjective understanding which requires a deeper being-intelligence.
One of Gurdjieff’s most famous aphorisms runs like this: “To know means to know all. Not to know all means not to know. In order to know all, it is only necessary to know a little. But, in order to know this little, it is first necessary to know pretty much.”