Chapter 6 – Overcoming Our Slavery to Reason
“What we observe is not nature in itself,
but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” – Heisenberg
"Man must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind
him to the fact
that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery." – H.G. Wells
“If we all did what is possible for us,
we would astound ourselves!” – Thomas Edison
“The Essential is invisible to the eye” -- Antoine de St. Exupéry
HAT COULD WE possibly have against reason? Don’t we wish people would be more reasonable? Isn’t it necessary to think rationally in order to understand the world, each other and ourselves? Isn’t reason what frees us from slavery and tyranny? Aren’t poverty, disease and hunger caused by the very lack of reason? Isn’t “being reasonable” the best response to any challenge? Aren’t we the reasonable people?
Let’s tackle each of these “perfectly reasonable” propositions according to the ideas in this book:
1. “I wish people would be more reasonable.” All that means, from our new perspective, is that I am too lazy and self-important to align with other people in their perspective, so I’ve invented a fairy tale that I am the reasonable one, and anyone who fails to see things my way is unreasonable.
2. “It is necessary to think rationally in order to understand the world.” I invite you to ask any modern physicist if this is what they are now finding – I can’t think of a single one who will support a purely rational universe. The nice, neat reasonableness of Newton’s laws have been found to be merely approximations that work well only as long as our object of observation is not too large nor too small, nor too hot, nor too cold, nor too massive, nor too distant, nor too long-lived, and so on. Unfortunately for rationality, most things in the universe refuse to comply with such requirements, and we are left having to treat the remaining fragment of our Newtonian world as if it were a little bubble within some ultimate event horizon.[*]
3. “If we are rational, we will be able to understand each other.” First of all, most people don’t even do their “thinking” rationally. According to numerous studies, more people do their understanding by feeling (kinæsthetic representational system) and by how everything sounds to them (auditory mode). Secondly, even two people whose representational systems are both visual (the most rational of the three modes), they are guaranteed to have many mismatches on the meanings of their symbols. Following that, we have significant cultural differences[†] and the now-famous male-female disjunctures.
4. “Rational thinking will allow me to understand myself.” I know people who actually believe this statement, and they are constantly getting suckered; they continually fall into bad agreements and then think the world is against them. Their problem is that they are missing most of themselves, as I’ve pointed out previously – they think their head is the only part of themselves that counts, but everyone else is reading their unconscious body language and taking advantage of the person’s self-ignorance. They are always making bad decisions because they have lost touch with what they (that is, everything besides their heads) are actually feeling.
5. “Reason is the cure for poverty, disease and hunger.” Somehow, we have developed a tradition for turning science into a religion; by that I mean that some people we regard as scientists make some reasonable-sounding assertion,[‡] and then that becomes a “fact” for us until we can no longer deny its failure to explain things. This is not to deny the wonderful cures for polio, tuberculosis and smallpox, etc., although we are now seeing resistant recurrences. At the same time, more traditional disciplines (that is, less rational) have been producing well documented cures for illnesses still considered incurable by Western science, such as Parkinson’s and addictions.
6. “Reason frees us from slavery and tyranny.” Quite the opposite, I claim. It is by “reason” that we fall for propaganda, and every competent con man appeals to our “reason.” What we don’t realize is that what we have been calling “reason” is simply the manipulation of our entrained symbols, the “spin” or bias that is placed on whatever “facts” are selected, and we are kept in the thrall of these modes of selection by the news and entertainment media to which we expose ourselves, and by sharing our “thoughts” and “opinions” with each other, and our “thoughts” are formed in terms of for-or-against whatever predigested choices are provided for us.
7. “Being reasonable is the best response to any challenge.” Are you joking?! If you tried to meet an emergency (say, a child stuck under a burning car) with “reason,” they would be dead before you figured out what to do, and you would likely have injured yourself in the process. This goes back to comparative rates of centers and the wrong work of centers; that is, we have been given the precise, fast and direct instruments for dealing with the stroke of the future as it finds us in the present[§] (particularly the moving center and the warrior shield), compared with which the intellect is, at best, a device for doing preliminary, rough sorting.
8. “This very book has been written in a rational way.” So you are impressed by lists, outlines and footnotes? The material in this book came to me not by research, but by half a century of deep meditation on the meaning of my life and my death. It happens that I went to a lot of churches, took a lot of classes, read a lot of books and saw a lot of movies along the way, and these gave me some good vocabulary for describing my thoughts to you. But the reasonable-looking form of this book is just how I learned to write expository text, and it is an envelope for a message intended specifically for you, a message which has no form except for that which you yourself can give it. You have your own thoughts, feelings and vocabulary, once you have put aside all the garbage that has gotten loaded upon us all.[**]
9. “We are reasonable.” In the back of this book[††] I have included an essay that I wrote for a magazine, summarizing what don Juan said about the place of reason in man’s consciousness. He said that there are two main points on the totality of man, Reason and Will, and that the main channel of Reason to act is through talking – this is part of why we believe in words so much. So we think that, if we talk enough and smoothly enough, we are being reasonable. Don Juan points out that it is only a rare individual who can attain the exact point of Reason, and that this in itself would be tremendously valuable. But most of us just sort of wander around that point, something like asteroids in their orbits around the sun, depending on a bit of reflected brilliance to seem superficially worthwhile.
10. “Are not my very arguments here an appeal to your reason?” It would seem so, but the masters always say that they have to provide entertainment for the intellect while they do their work on some other level (or that the spirit acts while the forms are going through their dance, or similar). In Castaneda’s case, don Juan left him and the other apprentices a set of conflicting tasks, and it was in their battles with each other that they began to recollect their irrational, “right side” experiences and lessons. For Ouspensky, he kept badgering Gurdjieff with his “reasonable” questions (he was a mathematician and a scholar), but it was only when Gurdjieff shoved him into an untenable situation[‡‡] that Ouspensky got his demonstrations of “facts.”
That last point begs the question, what is it that I am doing to you? How can I be doing anything to you? I am sitting here in my room, in your past, typing on my keyboard, and here you are, in your place and time, reading my words through the lenses of your cognitive apparatus. My first claim is that I am inventing you-inventing-me because this position in my dream requires (or at least desires) a subject for receiving my communication, since it is easier to elaborate an idea in the form of a communication, to another, than internally (and also that “you are all my reasons,” as John Nash said to his wife at the Nobel award ceremony).
My second proposition is that you are the inventor of this book-and-author because you are at the point in your dream where it would be nice to have a guide of some kind, to explain to you what is already (always has been?) in your deep consciousness. And my third postulation is that neither of us (author or reader) exists as individual people, the way we have been taught to regard people, but rather as simply two points within a single, holographic Consciousness.[§§]
Then we can say, perhaps, that it is not I who impacts you, but only yourself in invoking the experience of interacting with this book and, by extension, with me, its author – but we can still say that you are the author of what you get out of the book, especially if you earnestly tackle the exercises at the end of each chapter and read enough of the recommended literature, etc., to compare the different versions of the ideas (and really assimilate them, live them), and not just take my word for it. Feel free to become a monk, a yogi, a swami or a pilgrim for a few decades, to get enough perspective.
But the other part of the issue is that I am writing this with the intent to shift you to a very different awareness and concept of self and world, and I do have a bit o’ power that I’ve stored up – the proof, of course, is in whether “your head gets turned around”[***] and you find yourself in a completely new, yet strangely familiar, world of the other side of your Self. I’ll even be happy if all you get out of reading this book is to live the rest of your life mindfully and vibrantly, believing not in words but in the manifesting power of existence.[†††]
And so, it is not that I am suggesting that you give up your reason, but rather that you acquire the place of Reason in the first place – that is, to systematically switch off all your training and judgments, remove all your shielding, complete your recapitulation,[‡‡‡] and then become the Paragon of Reason: be able to make informed decisions for your whole self that you never need to regret; clearly and elegantly speak exactly what you mean to say; know your own real principles and priorities, and live by them; and know the components of feeling,[§§§] dreaming[****] and seeing,[††††] which are the vehicles of Will.
It is after you have acquired the point of Reason that you can eventually, according to Castaneda, move over to the place of Will, some of whose characteristics, aside from the above-mentioned feeling, dreaming and seeing, are Silent Knowledge, inner unity, permanence and causal power (i.e., magic). In Gurdjieff’s parlance, these are properties of Man #5, Man #6 and Man #7.[‡‡‡‡]
What we have now arrived at is that the problem is not really with Reason itself, but the lack of it impersonating the real thing. Once we actually have reason, many other things become possible, as I just mentioned. So now let us trace out the movement from the place of Reason to the place of Silent Knowledge.
We know that the channel of Reason is talking, or words, so the obvious first adjustment will be to allow our thoughts to become silent. I say it that way because we are always taught to make our thoughts silent, but the attempt actually adds energy to them, making them even noisier. And it is our very thinking that is attempting to quiet itself, creating a feedback loop.
So our effort is to focus our attention on the silent nature of something, on some repetitious pattern or sound, on our breath or heartbeat, on the wind or the trickle of water, until the usual clamor of thoughts somehow evaporates by itself. It turns out that we don’t actually need to go around “thinking” all the time (some say we don’t even start to live until we can be silent witnesses to life). Watch some animal for a while – it lives its whole life without a single thought.
The second adjustment comes from long practice of self-observation, recapitulation, meditation, etc. Such practices allow our power to collect, and it takes the power of the whole of our self to hold the position of Silent Knowledge; this is because it is a position of attention of extraordinary energy and single-mindedness, something like the way a substance becomes superconducting – all its electrons ramp up to their highest quantum states.[§§§§]
The third step is to completely set up your environment to remind you of your goal. Life is full of distractions and temptations, so we have to surround ourselves with a support system, right down to the knick knacks and linen patterns, and including our work environments. I list this step as the third, but it must be done right away, at the beginning of our work.
The fourth step is to systematically replace our habitual attitudes, postures, expressions, gestures and movements with disciplined thoughts, feelings and kinæsthetics. This is why I keep exhorting you to study martial arts, sacred dance or ballet (or any structured dance form), yoga,[*****] and so on, and to sing a lot of hymns, chants or arias every day (that is, songs of beautiful and harmonious vibes). The point is to starve out all our energy-depleting habits by saturating our channels with impressions that harmonize and open our energies.
One point I should make about that is that the replacements must be done with discretion, control and balance.[†††††] For example, I have seen people develop nervous conditions from excessive meditation, chanting or other practices. So the transition we are looking for is quite delicate and elegant, and yet infinitely powerful.
Once we have all these disciplines installed, we can start to engineer our attitudes; this allows us to set up our responses in advance of the situations we will encounter. You can see how this entails that we have a great deal of self-knowledge, self-discipline and purposefulness.
As an example, in my own case, I decided to develop religious, devotional attitudes[‡‡‡‡‡] so that I could achieve certain states of energy and consciousness that are most easily available in such channels. In particular, I wanted to achieve some of the powers and prophetic abilities of certain saints. So I ordered my daily disciplines around prayer (the scientific kind, of course) and the singing of hymns, particularly those of the Brazilian mystery church into which I’d initiated, although I soon found that it worked better for me to compose (receive) my own. That practice adds an additional channel to the singing discipline.
Another important discipline, for the transition to Silent Knowledge, is a practice known as “stopping the world[§§§§§]” or “entering the bardo.[******]” This step depends on having the previous steps down cold, and comprises such a thorough silencing of thoughts and releasing of habitual attitudes that the whole “world” that we thought we knew ceases – it no longer revolves about us, and vice versa.
So then, what is left when the world stops?[††††††] Or is it you that stops, and the world keeps right on going? What is inside the gap between the living and the dead? Or am I already dead? Is it necessary to be dead in order to penetrate the veil? To be alive? To be on both sides of myself? To feel like I am going mad, mad, MAD??!
But then, the most profound peace wafts in, like warm cotton sunshine through the clouds, like soap bubbles warm water easing all my tensions, like the Christ returning just for me, personally taking me all the way across. Across what? To where? And here I am, wherever this is, no matter, no matter – there is no matter here. Nor me. Just … ^@^ … just … ~*~ … just … just … . (Stay where you are in yourself for a few minutes here, before you go on.)
Do you see what I had to ask you to do, just to give you the tiniest glimpse of the direction to go in? That’s because what I have to give you is not information, but experience, or rather, putting you in touch with the secret that’s waiting inside of you – the real reason for our yearning that can never be satisfied with words or things or beliefs, but only with connectedness to the deepest, rawest essence of our self. Of our Self.
One of my teachers used to say, “We cannot avoid being slaves, but we can choose which master we serve.” We used to believe that we were the masters of reason but, in accepting a very crude decoy for reason, we have become its slaves, so what should have been a way to extricate ourselves from delusion has become a trap to sink us even deeper into sleep.
But now, with what we have begun to discover within ourselves, I hope we have learned that we can make some new choices. As I pointed out in Chapter One, the processes of this book can lead to self-mastery – in that case, who is the slave of whom? There is an old model of a human as being four parts[‡‡‡‡‡‡]: a carriage and horse, a driver and a passenger or owner. The carriage represents the body, the horse the emotions, the driver is the mind and the passenger is either a temporary fare or the owner of the carriage.[§§§§§§]
In an ordinary person, the carriage is in disrepair, and can barely run a short groove up and down the same paved street; the driver is a hired hand, and he is drunk; the reins (the communication between the driver and the horse) are missing or broken; the horse has not been fed or groomed; the yoke (the connection between the feelings and the body) is broken and improperly fastened; and the passenger is whatever random fare who hires a ride (this represents the accidental nature of our ordinary thoughts and desires), and whose requests of destination may or may not have been heard correctly by the driver. In turn, the horse may not obey the reins and the carriage may not be ready to move.
In a balanced, disciplined man, the carriage is ready and clean, the horse is fed and rested, the driver is well trained, the reins and yoke have been inspected, and the whole system awaits the commands of the master.[*******] The point is that control now emanates from the top, intentionally, instead of from the accidental; that places the person under a much higher order of law (self-authority), which is another way of saying direct, silent Knowledge.
To summarize, this whole process is a sort of evolution from mechanical awareness (ordinary “reason”), under the Law of Accident,[†††††††] to the level where the centers are all balanced, under the Law of Fate,[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] to the density of the Sun, which is the level of causality and full self-authority.[§§§§§§§]
What that all looks like in practical terms is that we gradually gain control over our centers until they are balanced and working as originally intended,[********] each doing its correct job (the intellect examining and sorting, the emotional center feeling and making fine distinctions, and the sexual center conducting the most intense of our energies and the finest of our alchemies.
As we go through the disciplines and processes that this evolution demands of us, we gradually gain power[††††††††] as we reintegrate all the “subconscious” parts[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] of our awareness while, at the same time, removing the masks and shields that block our self-knowledge. The more power we accumulate, the more shields we can penetrate and the more we can fight against the inertia and “stickiness” of false personality (the masked, or default, state). The more we bring our disparate fragments of awareness into illumination and connectedness, the more we know what to do next, and the more focused our aims and actions can be. And the more we remove our masks and penetrate our shields, the closer we come to fundamental unity and/or universal brotherhood, or return to Godhood, or however you would like to describe this, once you have attained it.[§§§§§§§§]
Now we come to
the Crown of Reason: the
Some teachers prohibit against talking about anything of this level while others say it couldn’t matter because no one can hold the knowledge unless they have attained the necessary level of evolution. The problem is that people start talking about novel ideas before they understand them, and this confuses people about what the knowledge and experiences really are. This is why we have so many popular versions of devices and methods that were intended only for use by advanced adepts, including the tarot, the I Ching, astrological systems, the enneagram, runes, dice[†††††††††] and so on, many of which have now become debased as gambling materials. I claim that it is even the main reason that mainstream churches have become hidebound in rigid ritual and dogma – the original Mystery with which a religion originated became usurped by ordinary reason (that is, the decoy for Reason).
So I will say that my excuse for talking about the Mystery and the higher centers is threefold:
In conclusion, I hope that you now see what a wonderful gift and resource real reason can be, and what astounding degrees of comprehension and power it can lead us to. I also hope that you have gained some idea of what enslaves our awareness, and what can free it.
Exercises for Chapter Six
References for Chapter Six
[*] Modern scientists have become notorious for introducing “fudge factors” (such as expansion theory, superstrings, cosmic constants and “folded-up dimensions”) for explaining the discrepancies between their theories and what they actually observe, although their predecessors made liberal use of their own “epicycles” (a failed attempt to explain why the planets’ orbits could not be predicted well as long as they were assumed to be revolving about the earth) and elaborate explanations about why a witch would float on water or why bleeding a person was the cure for certain illnesses.
For example, American businessmen often take special cultural sensitivity
training before attempting to do business in
[‡] E.g., “The sky is a bowl that revolves around a flat earth,” “There is absolutely no connection between tobacco smoking and lung cancer” or “Modern Western medicine always has the best cures for any disease and, if it doesn’t, then there is no effective cure.”
[§] Castaneda’s don Juan said that it is as if ordinary man sits in the caboose of a train, watching his life recede into the past, whereas the warrior stands in the engine, watching his future approach and then meeting it with whatever is required, with everything he has, everything he is (his last battle on earth).
[**] Gurdjieff makes a similar case in the introduction to his book All and Everything. I invite you to compare that to Mark Twain’s more humorous version, Letters from the Earth.
[††] Appendix 3.
[‡‡] This is what Castaneda writes of as “the place of no-pity,” and a similar shift of conscious state can be found in Zen discipline.
[§§] Some teachers say that there is no God, but only Awareness. Others say, “What’s the big difference?” J
[***] This is don Juan’s term for moving from the caboose to the front engine – that is, from watching the past recede to meeting the future head-on.
[†††] “Even if you don’t learn a lot, always learn a little bit” – Mestre Irineu Serra, “Chamo o Tempo.”
[‡‡‡] If you recall, this is a systematic discipline for retracing every blocked memory that you have and releasing its energy for the whole of yourself.
[§§§] In the sense of directly experiencing.
[****] This refers not to simply having dreams, but rather the lucid, active discipline of using the dreaming attention to receive information, to travel and to find the portals to unknown worlds.
[††††] I’ve mentioned this before, but briefly, seeing refers to perception in higher states of consciousness, giving rise to prophecy, clairvoyance and certain magical powers which we will describe more fully later on.
[‡‡‡‡] I’ve talked about these before, but I felt it useful to tie them in here. In comparison, Man #1 (the physical, or thing-oriented, person), Man #2 (feeling-oriented people) and Man #3 (the intellectual) are all mechanical automata in sleep (even geniuses), according to Gurdjieff. Man #4 (balanced man – that is, a person whose centers are all doing their right work) is the most difficult to describe, because such people never exist by happenstance in ordinary life – they are always the product of an esoteric school, Gurdjieff tells us.
[§§§§] Astronomers speculate that brown dwarf stars effectively behave as if they were a single crystal because their density compresses all their atomic nuclei into a lattice in which all the electrons roam free.
[*****] In reality, the types of yoga ranges widely. Here I am referring to hatha (“male-female”) yoga (“the yoke”), which is the only form (postures, or asanas) that most Westerners know of.
[†††††] Siddhartha had to find the middle way before he could become the Buddha.
[‡‡‡‡‡] My default personality is quite irreverent, sarcastic and skeptical.
[§§§§§] Don Juan’s term.
[******] The Tibetan idea of the gap between one reality and another, or between levels of existence.
[††††††] Appendix Four is what I wrote, one of the first times that the world stopped for me. You decide whether to read it now or when you’ve finished this chapter – whatever you decide will be correct. J
[‡‡‡‡‡‡] Gurdjieff relates this story in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous.
[§§§§§§] The corresponding native American teaching wheel (as interpreted by Swift Deer) has Body, Feelings, Mind and Spirit, corresponding to, in some order, determining, receiving, holding and giving. In a balanced human being (a native tribemember, usually), the mind receives, the body holds, the feelings give, and the spirit determines. In an ordinary (white) person, these are unbalanced, and one of the other directions supersedes the spirit in the determining role (with corresponding mismatches in the other three directions), giving rise to illness and suffering.
[*******] Eastern teachings also tell us that this model corresponds to the higher (immortal) bodies available to perfected man: the carriage corresponds to the physical body, the horse to the astral body, the driver to the mental (once again, not our old idea of the intellect) body and the master is the causal body.
[†††††††] In Gurdjieff’s model, this is the level, or density, of accident, ruled by the Moon.
[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] This density is ruled by the Planets, meaning where the astrologies actually operate.
[§§§§§§§] Gurdjieff says that this is the finest order of law possible for a human.
[********] G calls this stage the Deputy Steward, which prepares the house for the return of the Steward who, in turn, prepares for the advent of the Master. This is a metaphor for, first, balancing the organism, then removing all foreign and disharmonious influences, and then bringing everything under the direct control of the True Self, which is either formed through the crystallizations of long work on the disciplines, or returns from somewhere to take its rightful place; which version you pick is up to you.
[††††††††] Power turns out to be proportional to the degree of integration that we do in this way; don Juan say that power is the very collectedness of our assemblage points.
[‡‡‡‡‡‡‡‡] These are assemblage point positions, according to Castaneda’s don Juan. This means that we can reach any of them (our experienced memories) through an appropriate manipulation of the attention.
[§§§§§§§§] But for some strange reason, most who attain a high degree of perfection choose not to go public nor make much attempt to describe what they have witnessed, with the obvious exceptions of the holy scriptures of the world – the Bible, the Quran, the Vedas, the Zohar, etc. – and also many of the world’s mythologies, of course couched in metaphor and cultural symbols, with many parts lost or fragmented.
[*********] Also referred to as “the tenth chakra” or “the center of the Permanent Mental Body.”
[†††††††††] Playing cards were adapted from the tarot and other types of card systems. Dice were originally ways of understanding the properties of the fundamental geometric shapes: Unity, Duality/Equality, the Trinity, the Quadribalance or the Cross, the Pentagram and the Seal of Solomon.
 Capra, Fritjof, The Tao of Physics, …
Einstein, Albert, ???, …
Sheldon (?), The Whole Shebang, …
Zukav, Gary, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, …
 Andreas, Steve & ConnieRae, Frogs into Princes, …
Grinder, John, (one of his books about communication styles)
 Gray, John, Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars, …
Tannen, Deborah, You Just Don’t Understand, …
 (find some good ref’s with statistics on traditional cures)
 Gurdjieff, G. I., All and Everything: Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, …
Twain, Mark, Letters from the Earth, …
 Psychedelic Illuminations, issue 7 (I think).
 Castaneda, Carlos, Tales of Power, …
 Castaneda, Carlos, The Second Ring of Power, …
 Ouspensky, P. D., In Search of the Miraculous, …
 Scientific American, (which issue?)