META-NOMAD

Thoughts on Joseph Azize’s ‘Gurdjieff’

 

George Gurdjieff, like the majority of occultists, mystics and esotericists, is someone who is extremely difficult to define. In fact, the very act of definition would be something I imagine Gurdjieff would frown upon. It is an oh-so modern trait to pick up and book and consider a subject ‘complete’; it is the modern trait to consider the possibility of completeness. It is this ambiguity and purposeful inaccessibility which draws me to Gurdjieff’s work and makes me wonder how books can be written about him. There have been quite a few books written about him or his work, though rarely both together. The works that have been written about him are usually written by students or students of students, and the texts on his work are oddly specific. This isn’t the case with Joseph Azize’s Gurdjieff.

Gurdjieff is a Gurdjieffian book. There’s very little pomposity about it, it’s to the point and yet it begs further study. Azize’s method of writing, heavy with references, makes it immediately clear that if we can say anything of our understanding of Gurdjieff it’s that it is always fragmented. One of the overarching messages I get from both this text and Gurdjieffian study is that one should be suspicious of completion, unification and universal conclusions. Gurdjieff’s system wasn’t necessarily a mismatch of other systems, but more a working through of connections, routes and pathways. He understood that it would be ignorant to assume that each system was an island, and that there was a form of circuitry connecting all things, even if this circuitry was ultimately hierarchical.

This brings me to the first two points in my title, modernity and accessibility. The latter can be subsumed into the former in abstract. I always thought one of the reasons Gurdjieff’s work never quite made its way into public light as much as Crowley’s or LaVey’s was because he made it very clear that it was work…very hard work. Arguably another reason could be because Gurdjieff’s systems lack the sexiness and danger of Crowley or LaVeys, but in balance, his systems also lack their stupidity. The idea that something is being purposefully obscure or difficult is no longer seen as a challenge, a bet or quasi-wager by society/modernity, but it is seen as a chore, or insult. If something isn’t immediately accessible in infantile terms then modernity turns its nose up at that thing and declares it useless, hucksterish, too-complex or a waste of time.

The last entry here is of note. A ‘waste of time’ implies a correct usage of time, which within modernity usually means profitable work. Many of these systems are seen by modernity as a waste of time not because of the actions themselves, but because the presumed conclusions should be able to be purchased, and the idea one has to work towards what one already has within them is an abhorrent idea. Both Gurdjieff and Azize’s Gurdjieff make it strikingly clear – The tasks, exercises and contemplative routes are here, work at them, or don’t; either you push through the inaccessibility with the force needed to break into it, or you don’t deserve what’s on the other side. Of course, once again, modernity hates the idea that something can’t be had right now via purchase, and anything that doesn’t fit into this schema is quickly named ‘stupid’.

Azize’s biographical sections on Gurdjieff are as enlightening as any other text on Gurdjieff, that is, rather vague, yet inquisitively intriguing. It often seemed to me that a keen reading of Gurdjieff’s past – what one can find of it – would be an exercise in itself, a reading between the lines of what it is one  is ‘supposed’ to do. And this is the difficulty of accessibility, if I give away all that I have learnt, then what value is it? And not only this, anyone who’s undergone any type of training, whether mental or physical, understands that quickly explaining the conclusions to someone is not the same as undergoing them yourself. This is also the difficulty of writing any text on mystical or occult practice, if the conclusion/answer/enlightenment could be put into words then the practice wouldn’t be needed! Suffice to say, many initiate into many different schools often forget the ‘work’ part of any system.

Yet what can we say of mysticism now? If Azize’s book told me anything it’s that our distrust of anything immaterial or non-profit-oriented is only increasing. It’s clear to me that Azize utilizes many endnotes for need of academic referencing, but it’s also clear to me that this begets a larger picture. That is, the death of the mystic. If such a text were presented without referencing, as if the feats were all real, or at least could be considered real, then such a text falls by the wayside and is deemed unserious. The overton-window of reality is ever-tightening and as each side moves in more and more ambiguities get pushed out. All that will be left soon will be quantifiable material which can be plugged into the economic circuit.

What of the mystics, the monks, the ascetics, the druids, the wanderers, the nomads and the outsiders? The space of modernity expands into the mind and the mind follows you everywhere, even a brand new rainforest can be economized; you’re never free of modernistic thinking, unless you free yourself of patterns of thought. This is the same normalcy routine I often recite, who ever said X and Y is normal? And why do you follow that as truth.

Azize’s text is one of sincerity. There is little in the way of defense, nor discussion on whether there is even an attack. What stands is what is there, what is written. This may seem like nothingness, but almost ritualistically there are introductions and prefaces jumping to the beck-and-call of a constrained materialist history.  What is needed – and what Azize achieves – is a book that takes itself seriously and doesn’t bow to an abstract etiquette authority. There are other routes, they are allowed to be taken and they don’t have to defend themselves against suffocating normalcy.

The Virulent Magic of Modernity

“The black-room problem. If a human being is placed in a completely black and silent room, his mind is totally destroyed in a matter of days or weeks. The reason is obvious. Even when surrounded by physical stimuli our value sense gets eroded too easily. We let ourselves sink into the downward spiral. It is even more so in the black room. Man’s habitual, negative, devaluing tendency now has the run of his mind, unchecked by sudden bonuses of delight or glimpses of misery and danger that restore the sense of reality. It is like placing a man with a persecution complex among people who do rather dislike him.”

This excerpt from Colin Wilson’s The Occult is part of a larger section on the work of George Gurdjieff. I wont venture into his work here, I’ll only state that I’m not entirely sure whether this problem takes precedence in Gurdjieff’s oeuvre, or whether Wilson found it elsewhere, with that said Wilson’s remarks on being surrounded by physical stimuli got me thinking about modernity.

‘Modernity’ is a term I constantly use and my followers and readers seem to understand what I mean by it. Even though ‘modern’ and ‘modernity’ can actually have very specific meanings, especially with regard to Modernism etc. But that’s never been what I meant by it. In fact, come to think of it ‘modernity’ – as I use it – is one of those times wherein the problem of an inability of articulation comes to the fore. I just cannot for the life of me correctly articulate to you what I mean when I write ‘modernity’. The closest I’ve come to being able to articulate it is ‘disenchantment’ or even anti-enchantment, but then of course I would have to define enchantment. Herein is another problem, one of modernity, namely, definition. Why do I feel so compelled to define this all for you? I don’t know, but I believe that perhaps the aforementioned ‘black-room problem’ may help me in my quest to articulate to you, the reader, what modernity is, and why it is oh so corrosive to the soul, to the possibility of essence and to one’s spirit.

Wilson writes of this black-room, and for the life of me I can’t see how that reality is all that different to that lived by your average schmuck. On a purely banal sensory level yes, the reality would be different, for your average person would see black and hear nothing, as opposed to seeing stuff and hearing odds and ends. Perhaps by the end of this you can ask yourself which is better, eternity in black silence, or eternity in noisy mall…

The black-room problem assumes that one steps into this room from another point-of-view. The problem with ‘The Room of Modernity’ is that no one really had this option, did they? How does one know they’re in a room if they’ve never had another room to use as comparison, reaction or haven? Where in the black-room one sees black, in the Room of Modernity one sees what modernity wants it to see: adverts, TVs and TV shows, education syllabi, economic systems, disjointed natural relations, adverse reactions to nature, consumption-as-virtue, consumption-as-entire/-as-identity, the assumption of the construction of identity, trinkets galore, level-based systems of ‘achievement’ etc.

Basically, the Room of Modernity is a self-referential feedback loop pertaining to the idea that those inside the room are within the only room that ever existed, and that one’s options for existence are solely to identify with lesser or greater degrees of modernity. If you wish to understand how deep you have fallen into the trap of modernity, then listen up, this begs repetition, for to assimilate the next few paragraphs into your understanding, into your soul and actions as a being is to begin a personal process of becoming and overcoming.

Your day is not yours. The day is an entirely false concept based upon early agricultural tradition of rising and setting with the sun – once again, nothing new (under the sun). As such you chain your emotions, feeling and physical inclinations to a time-frame that is entirely not of oneself. You feel tired and crave a sleep without a stressful tomorrow, such a tomorrow cannot exist and so tiredness becomes the norm. In fact, you’ve been programmed to ignore those things entirely as if they were indeed…things, which of course they are not. By emotions I do not mean contemporary aspirational virtue wherein one casts forth pithy adoration for the latest piece of trivial pop media. I mean the (lacking) emotional vitality of breathing the sun into one’s lungs, of using your second tongue to melt the most basic of foods into a dream, to not use your body, but understand that your body is secondary to the process of the mind, and so the body flings itself to the rhythms of the spirit. But no, you keep stagnant at the desk-of-desire, moving 100 steps a day at most, and eating the deadened remains of plastic packets! More.

You go to your job. A fact imposed upon all from birth as if it was so. The fact you go is already a problem, but prior to the problem is the problem. The assumptions of modernity: ‘It is just what you do.’, ‘Ah, you’ll get used to it kid.’, ‘Everyone’s gotta do it.’ and my single least favorite sentence of all time (sincerely): ‘That’s life.’.

All those who declare in the assumptive tone of modern man the statement ‘That’s life.’ with the utmost sincerity – as if it meant all was secure, and that all is how it should and will be forever, and that the individual has no means of exit –  should be flailed in the gutter, for they are already dead, quite literally. This is the cry the deceased begging you to join it in a living-death. For what comes of following the apathetic commands of these zombies, to follow their call ‘That’s life.’ is simply to follow the whim of modernity’s lowest bidder with regard to your life. Now back to your job.

Most of these jobs are not work, not in the true sense of ‘work’. This is not another pseudo-Protestant rant from Meta about acquiring a trade and exiting ‘bullshit jobs’. It is along those lines, but continues into something deeper. Work in its truest sense is that which you derive an immanent satisfaction from, it is that which when undertaken feels as if one is attending to the purpose of both their body and mind. The average job nowadays is little more, in its deconstruction, than moving a small piece of plastic with your arm, as a way to make the correct numbers appear in front of those who could remove you from that job. To make sure the statistics are correct so you don’t lose the job you hate. You go to this job too, you use your time to appear at this place which makes no sense to you outside of its own presumptions.

I am not presuming that one and all can acquire the perfect purpose within their life, in fact, such a conclusion of the perfect end to one’s life is completely not what I’m aiming at here. The process of overcoming is exactly that, a process, many forget this. The majority assume a position of completeness given to them subconsciously (magickly) by the Room of Modernity. See, the Room of Modernity with all its things, items, objects and atheistic materialism has inherent within its circuitry a subconscious emanation of completion and conclusion. For what is an object but a definite item/thing, it is fucking done. And one is entirely surrounded by these objects, but not only these objects and items but an idea structure of objects. A job which in its deconstruction equals the means to continue said job and to acquire items of status, security and wealth. These items are connections to groups, hobbies and friends who share their attraction to these items, these conclusions. ‘I do X too!’

The job that gets you money, to purchase land close enough to the job to get to the job easily, so one can afford more items to put into one’s house and prove to one’s friends that you also are ‘in on it’ You have the same conclusions as everyone else, you too are in the Room!

Once again, I do not wish for all to ditch their possessions and become an ascetic, nor remove themselves from society entirely, it is just a matter of questioning. One must perform meditations on even the most simple of tasks, that is where the fragments of the real are found, in excavations of one’s habits (for starters).

And so you return ‘home’ from your job and ‘relax’. Relax from what exactly? Have you ever asked yourself this? For I imagine all readers here have done at least one day of truly hard work. Where when you return home you quite literally have to take the weight off your feet, your entire body pulses with a form of heat and muck, a state one can relax quite easily from. And yet we find that those with the most mundane, meaningless and bullshit jobs are the ones who most commonly shout about their holidays and time relaxing, what must they relax from is the nothingness of their existence. They relax but it is what you do. They go on holidays because it is what you do. They buy big TVs because it is what you do. Fancy cars, fancy clothes, certain ideas, certain opinions, foods, lifestyles, ideologies, careers, motives, principles, all because it is what you do. And if the only reason one has done something is because it is what everyone else is doing, then they have in fact not truly done that thing, not as an act or statement or cause or conviction, no, they have only performed it under the spell of modernity.

The Room of Modernity emanates some of the most potent magic to ever be conjured. Magic which has virulently infected all sensory pathways and become a compound circuitry of control. There is no sense which has not been quite literally effected by the magic of Modernity.  Dion Fortune (Violet Firth Evans), one of the most important magical theorists of the twentieth century, defined magic as “the art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will.” And so what can we say of Modernity in relation to this definition of magic. That the Room of Modernity, Modernity itself is a civilization-based engine of repressive magic, fueled by industry and man’s inherent ignorance and stupidity. It’s got you by the spine my friends and you must shed every single trace of modernity you can and rebuild! By that juncture the idea of ‘rebuilding’ will be entirely new to you. One can learn to use magic to cause changes in accordance with their will, or they can allow the magic of modernity to cause changes to their will unannounced, who’s in control here?

Do not be a creature of habit, that is the attribute that makes you come across as a creature! You state you question things, that you are knowledgeable and ‘well-read’, pah! The buzzwords of a crook. You my friend have drunk the magical Kool Aid of modernity, savored every drop and sought only to explore the deep recesses within the Room of Modernity. For one cannot exit the Room from within the Room, because – if you hadn’t worked this out by now – the Room is not a physical space, it is an ideological fort which you allow to be upheld as the kingdom of your own mind. The foundations of the Room were forced onto you at birth – unless you are of fortunate temperament – and your assumptions, apathy and ignorance allowed for the rest of its walls to be built, and adulthood secured the warming roof of Modernity above your head, solidifying the fact in your mind that all this was of course planned and was meant to be like this, for as you state…’That’s life.’

So wherein can one find the exit? Of course one is within the Room, which as explained is a construction largely (make no mistake, it’s very ‘real’ too) of one’s mind, but of course and always one is still in control of their mind, their will. As such one can with practice, ever-so-slowly, remove layers and layers of Modernity until eventually, one day, realizations happen within oneself and the Room of modernity begins to crumble and decay, never to be built again. Stop attending to things as an escape. No amount of TV, video games, music or food is ever going to allow you to overcome the self. The answers are within, as they have always been. You must meditate on the most banal assumptions until they wither away into a heap of shocking presumptions. You must think for yourself, to ask oneself at each and every turn, however small, if this is the way you wish to go. I repeat these notions of freedom because many still follow the paths of others even when they most certainly think they are not.

You are allowed to do as you please.

Let me repeat that and beg that you meditate of this phrase for at least 5 minutes.

You are allowed to do as you please.

If you want to you may draw intricate 5′ x 5′ sketches of soggy moss, if you want to you can walk and stand in the road, if you want to you can climb a tree and pray for 9 hours straight, if you want to you can deconstruct all your possessions, if you want to you can live in a fridge – you have limited yourself in so many ways – if you want to you can meditate on cooling processes for days, if you want to you can sit and do nothing, if you want to you can sit and do everything, if you want to you can sit and breath in weird ways.

You’re much freer than you ever allowed yourself to be, the magic of modernity is – in part – to blame, but it is up to you to practice exit methods and find your own way out of the Room.