Gurdjieff Dominican Group
Santo Domingo/ Dominican Republic
POINTING A FINGER
J. G. Bennett

All language must come down to the equivalent of pointing a finger. When I use a symbol or sign for something, I am doing the equivalent of pointing a finger at something, but when this begins to concern my inner world, it is a much more tricky process to arrive at the same thing. I can begin to talk about something, which we can recognize.  Attention, for instance, is something we can recognize.  I know the difference, and you know the difference between involuntary attention, when something interests me, for instance when my eyes are caught, or a scent attracts me, and voluntary attention, when I hold and struggle to keep my attention on some object.  When we talk about that, we talk about something we both know.  I can hear somebody speaking, I listen, my attention is drawn towards this, but the other state is one in which I do not let my attention be drawn.  I keep my attention in myself, but I have to keep it somewhere   it is not such a thing that it can .be occupied with nothing.  I can sit and let it be occupied with the automatic flowing of my associations and with nothing else.  I may sit, for example, keeping my body quiet and motionless in a given posture and turn my attention to the uninterrupted observation of the flow of my inner associations.  As I describe this to you, you recognize what I am doing and you could sit down and do the same yourself. Or else, I may say that I sit and look at some object, keeping my eyes focused on it and making the effort to see it, that is, to be aware that it is there and that I am looking at it. I try not to allow my attention to be occupied with anything except seeing this object. I try particularly to prevent my attention from being caught by the associations, which arise automatically in my mind or by any sounds, or moving objects, which might distract it.

When I describe these two situations to you, you can recognize them sufficiently well to be able to reproduce them in yourselves. If I were to give names to them, we should afterwards understand one another pretty accurately whenever we used these names. I could go further and propose to you some more subtle experiment, which you would have to repeat many times in order to be sure that you had carried it out successfully. This experiment might, for example, be designed to enable you to distinguish between attention in your feeling brain and attention in your sensing brain.  Once we all had done this work and verified it by a careful comparison and discussion of what we had found, we should be able to use the words 'sensation  and 'feeling' in such a way that we could all be quite sure that we were speaking of the same thing.

This is the kind of work that must be done to obtain in our inner world the equivalent of pointing with the finger at a water jug in our outer world Little by little we could build up a vocabulary, which might contain twenty or thirty key words and with these we could talk with confidence about very subtle and difficult questions affecting the inner world of man.

Of course, it does not always follow that if you and I make what we believe to be the same effort, we shall obtain the same result. There may be differences of type, of degree of development, of sex, of age, of bodily health and of balance between the psychic functions all of which could affect the result of our effort. To allow for all this, at least one of us must know a great deal about all the factors that operate in the inner life of 'man and be able to allow for them in our descriptions.

I am saying all this in order to bring home to you that conversation about psychic processes are incomparably more difficult and misunderstandings far more likely to arise than in conversations about the material objects of our outer life. It may be necessary to have experienced something not once but ten, a hundred, a thousand times, before one can be sure that the exact quality of the inner state has been established beyond all doubt.

Q.           On that point, is it at all likely that any two people, except in terms of technique, would ever get exactly the same result until some very much deeper state is reached.

Mr. B. It depends of what you speak. When you speak about attention, it is not very difficult for people to come to understand each other when they   talk about what they do with their attention.  I referred to the division, which Gurdjieff makes of the three main psychic functions of man, thinking or intellectual, feeling or emotional and sensing or instinctive moving functions.  It is possible to arrive quite unambiguously at the classification of nearly all our experience in terms of these functions and also to sub-divide the functions, so arriving at quite a good working classification, and a language which people can share and rely on in talking about these things.  Then, more difficult things arise connected with different states of consciousness.   It is quite true that, in general, it is only possible to establish a common language to discuss matters connected with states of consciousness if people have a certain technical knowledge of how this or that is attained. But you must see this is not so extraordinary - it is not 'occult', (whatever occult means) because it is not really so- very different from what would have to be done before you became a chemist to know about chemistry, or a surgeon to know about surgery. Only it is a little more difficult, because one can dissect a body and look inside it and recognize organs, but you cannot dissect another person's state of consciousness The strange thing is that people can understand that they cannot study, say, anatomy, without hard work, and that it is no use talking about anatomical questions without, - having studied anatomy and seen with their own eyes the various organs - the stomach, the liver, the nerves and so on. But they think they can talk about quite difficult things like meditation, contemplation and so on without a hard training corresponding to the study of anatomy.

Copyright belongs to
the Estate of JG and Elizabeth Bennett.
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