I have been re-reading some of the late Keith Buzzell’s books. I wrote a review of The Third Striving for a journal named Parabola. Some of it was quite pretentious, and embarrasses me now. Further, there was much in the book which I had missed. The original article can be found here: https://parabola.org/2014/11/11/book-review-the-third-striving/
I opened the review by saying that: “The nature of wisdom is necessarily esoteric, because it subsists on a level which both transcends and is internal to, anything we can directly observe. Like any organic being, a given tradition knows conception, development, and demise … Neither the birth, life, nor death of wisdom traditions are like those of humanity, yet they are analogous. Wisdom lends strength and purpose to its human members, and yet the tradition cannot fulfill its purpose on this plane unless sufficient members remain whole and hale. … a wisdom tradition is a presence, and to the extent we sleep to this reality, we have not entered the current. … Gurdjieff saw two things with great clarity: first, that to return consciously and consciencely (his word) to God, the Absolute who is All in all, one must become a whole integrated person; and second, that the greatest obstacle to our becoming conscious and being conscious of conscience is the prevalence of negative emotion in us. The question, then, is how do we become conscious? Or, what amounts to the same thing: how do we overcome negative emotion and arrive at conscience?”
Now, however, I wish to return to something Keith had to say about attention in this book, because it is impossible, I would suggest, to attain consciousness and conscience, in any significant degree for even a moment, without what we might call “higher attention”, meaning an impartial attention which is aware, “informed” (as it were), and discerning.
The relevant passage commences on p.33. Keith says that: “Every level of our automatic functioning … includes an ‘attention’ which, however unconscious and ‘mechanical’, is the overall reconciling force … that sees and affirms the most appropriate resolution to the circumstance it is focused on”.
This does not mean that every resolution we come up with must be the best. The “appropriateness” of it must be relative to our knowledge, experience and purposes (although often we are at the mercy of motives, as opposed to having any deliberate purpose or aim). Keith goes on to say that: “As the ‘highest’ energy … it is also the carrier of the reconciling force in the procreation of a new physical being and is also the force behind many manifestations of ‘sex energy’.” Now, I had gone back to Keith’s writings because I had a specific question I wanted help with. This was not quite it, but it is related. It explained to me, from a sort of engineering perspective, why it is that we become so identified with sex and things to do with it. Of course many other things come into apart from engineering, but this is a basic matter.
The art and science of engineering has to do with construction and maintenance. It requires an understanding of the materials one is working with, and how they will operate together. It also requires a particular aim to be realised. Then, the available resources can, with the understanding of an engineer, be used for the realisation of that aim. It is critical, therefore, to understand the nature of the materials we are using.
This higher attention, which Keith refers to, cannot be freed, so to speak, from its affinity with sex energies. But if this is understood, then an even higher attention can, I suggest, appear which is impartial to sexual manifestations. Just as Keith refers to “many attentions” which “operate well below the level of waking consciousness”, so too, there are “attentions” in higher emotional centre (p.34). This includes a “creative attention” (p.35) which can reconcile oppositions within us.
I intend to follow this up in a short posting on identification, but there is another point Keith makes: certain great artists and performers are influenced by higher emotional function, and even by higher intellectual working, without being aware of it (p.35).
We cannot touch these higher centres directly, but we can, perhaps, come more under their influence. We do this in many ways: by coming under the influence of a genuine esoteric tradition (as I said in my review), by constructing thought and thus influencing our feeling, and bringing awakened thought and feeling into contact with organic sensation. So much is needed for this, not least controlling identification with our sexual function. This coming under the influence of higher centres is, I suggest, quite essential if our inner development is to proceed beyond a certain plateau (miracles always excepted).
This can explain why certain expressions of art can touch us so deeply: we feel the working within us of something purer, something more conscious, something allied with truth, goodness and beauty. But if we do not have the proper intellectual training, that is, if we cannot find those happy formulations which enable us to describe an aim, and we have never learned how to work for it, as a labourer works for his bread, how can we have lasting change? Otherwise, we will keep turning in circles: beautiful, aesthetically pleasing, even rapturous circles, but circles nevertheless.
I will finish with Keith’s observations on this art (art produced with the influence of the operation of higher centres): such art, he says, (relatively) free of egoism, is impartial to the personality, and expresses outwards in this world, aspects of the higher world. “This expression,” he says: “may be one of – beauty (in painting, poetry, music, dance, etc.) – common values, of Conscience-guided manifestation (of kindness, generosity, forgiveness) – insight into man’s purposes (of community) and possibilities (in spiritual and philosophical scientific teaching)” (p.36).
If we are impartial to recognise those expressions, and diligent to welcome and cooperate with them, we might, I think, be moving in the direction of a higher and more sustainable consciousness. We would be artists and even engineers of the spiritual worlds.
Joseph Azize, 12 October 2018