A Conscious Existence
I have always regarded well mavericks, who are described as unorthodox or independent-minded persons. They keep coming in every age, as if to puncture the balloons flying high in their times, and to point out the limited shelf-life of every dogma. Not all mavericks become prophets and philosophers, but they do serve their purpose of “grounding” the people around them from their mental voyages, into the reality of their existence.
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) was born in Armenia, then a part of the Russian Empire. He rightly observed that most humans do not live consciously, and their minds are mostly not focused on their surroundings. Even their thinking is diffused and instead of following a logical train, their minds keep wandering without purpose, like a rudderless ship drifting in the ocean, or a monkey jumping from one branch to another in a grove.
Gurdjieff described such people, which means most people, as living in a state of “waking sleep”. He wondered if it was possible to awaken them to a higher state of consciousness so that they could achieve the full human potential. Gurdjieff observed that there were three methods in vogue – living in astute poverty, overcoming emotions through ardor, and developing one’s inner being at the cost of undervaluing one’s body and emotions. He called these ways as those of the fakir, monk, and yogi and reasoned that these could be followed/adopted while doing one’s normal work in this world.
This was not an original idea, but an innovative rendering of the desireless work (निष्काम कर्म) advocated in the Bhagavad Gita, and the Buddhist method of mindfulness (स्मृत्युपस्थान). Kabir (1398-1518) promoted the Nath Sampradaya’s yogic exercises for raising the “Kundalini”, while pursuing one’s livelihood in this world. But Kabir’s message was lost, suffering a language barrier, and never reached beyond a part of north India.
Gurdjieff called his method to access a higher level of consciousness without asceticism as the “Fourth Way”. Nature operates upon every individual and to be conscious of these forces, and live following them, rather than be tossed over by them, is the essence of the method. Gurdjieff created an enneagram of nine numbers bound together “as a system”, describing the man-nature interaction.
The Bolivian philosopher, Óscar Ichazo (1931-2020), took the enneagram’s idea forward as a human potential movement. I got introduced to the enneagram (pronounced as any-aa- gram) through a book of the American teacher, Don Richard Riso (1946-2012), on the Enneagram of Personality, published in 1987. Following the book, I saw myself as a Personality of type 2 of the nine, and the description of how it functions, and malfunctions, was most useful.
The realization that we are a spirit in the body is fundamental. This spirit is both, unique and universal. The unique part, inseparable from the universal part, forms the ground for our awareness, and is called consciousness. But it is a small part of our unique consciousness, which was called ‘personal unconscious’ by Carl Jung and it exists, as if floating, over the collective unconscious that envelops everything that exists. This is, perhaps, what Adi Shankaracharya meant by Advait Brahman.
Carl Jung brilliantly called the conscious idea of “I” as Persona, which is like a mask we wear living in society, and our “autobiography”. Our reality is our unconscious – which carries at least three inherited psychic energy patterns that Jung called archetypes, namely, the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, and the Unique Spirit, which Jung called the ‘Self’ and that Hindus call the Embodied Soul (जीवात्मा). Then, there is the collective unconscious that carries information on our ancestors, and the history of our race.
Shadow is that part of our psyche – our thoughts and feelings that we have been hiding from others for a hundred reasons. Anima is the female personality of a man and animus is the male personality of a woman. After all, both genders differ by the absence or presence of just one chromosome and everything else is the same. When husband and wife fight, anyone can see their hidden anima/ animus performing at its best.
Jung declares the purpose of life as bringing our unconscious into the conscious and doing whatever is to be done. In this situation, the unconscious supports you and life starts rolling out as a spectacular success. If this is not done, in the famous words of Jung, your personal unconscious ‘drags’ you through this world, as your ‘fate’, like a hunter drags its killed prey. The process of integrating the personal unconscious into the conscious starts with the Shadow, followed by the Anima/ Animus and finally, manifesting the Self in this world.
Look at any famous performer in this world – leaders, sportspersons, businesspersons, artists, scientists, poets, writers etc. They are all manifesting their selves and their fame is due to the support of the collective unconscious. The enneagram sidesteps the philosophical and scientific jargon and delivers deep insights in a child’s play manner, according to your type, 1 to 9, and what happens to you when you start degenerating in life. This awareness is, indeed, most valuable to avoid setbacks and failures, and prevent disasters.
There is no room for ignorance in the age of the Internet. Google the word “enneagram” and you have before you a great light, which is all that one needs to navigate through the world. In 2005, I read in The Inner Journey Home, written by Kuwaiti American A. H. Almaas (b. 1944), that in the darkness, you will stumble upon the furniture and hurt yourself in your own house. The point is to have light and live with awareness.
I conclude with the words in the book mentioned above (Ed. 2004, p. 82), “There is neither destination nor source, but merely the flow outward of the arising of experience as a continuous flowing fountain of conscious presence. The fountain effect is a sensation, a feeling, an impression of flowing. The streaming fountain is a bubbling stream of experiences, where the bubbles and eddies are the forms, experience is taking… The water emerges out from nowhere; an experience was not there, and now it is there, while the flow is always present.”
That life is ephemeral, transitory and that we all will die is, indeed, good news. See yourself in the becoming of every moment. Throw away the burden of knowing the reason for everything and guessing the results. Why not enjoy the flow, instead of counting the bubbles and eddies in the fountain and the stream? It is sufficient to live through experiences rather perceptively. Understanding ourselves and others and the wholeness of the entire creation will make your life, if not happier, then less hurting, but surely fuller. And like a flower blossoming out of a bud, you will flourish by “becoming” yourself.
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