The Body as a Womb within a Transcendent Body (Ulbricht, Pt 5)

The Body is a sort of Womb within Great Nature

This post takes something in Ulbricht’s book as a point of departure, but develops just one question.

Most of what Ulbricht says about Jeanne de Salzmann is fine, and the comments attributed to her are sometimes quite deep. There is often a startling quality to her pronouncements, e.g.: “Do I recognize that something is missing in me? I cannot face that situation. Something will answer instead of myself. Not I. I am not there.” [40]

I would not wish to minimise the value of Ulbricht’s description of her sayings, and her ability to administer industrial-strength shocks, [see 8, commencing “I remember nothing …”].

Yet consider how in 1985, she tells Ulbricht how she spoke of working three times a day and “opening to the higher energy, emphasizing first relation of head and body, then posture, and ‘the body must be completely relaxed, then the energy will pass” [146, the bold and italics are in Ulbricht’s text]. A little later that year: “She spoke of the need to become completely relaxed. Henri Tracol challenged her. “Completely? Is it possible to be completely relaxed?” he asked challengingly. For the first and only time I saw Mme de Salzmann looking annoyed. “I can do it,” she replied. She kept on saying that our attention is weak, the body must be secondary, an instrument.” [161]

Can it be that this was the first time he saw her “looking annoyed” because it was the first time he saw her being challenged? Something in her did not like it, and it happened, she gave a short reply and then went on to safer grounds. I have heard other instances of when she was nonplussed: someone I know was once present when there was something friction between Lord Pentland and herself. When Pentland left the room, she turned to this person and said: “I will outlive him!” But what I take from this is that she was surrounded by people who were unwilling to even question her. For that reason, Tracol deserves credit.

Then, in June 1986, Ulbricht mentions a meeting at which both de Salzmann and Tracol were present. Tracol said words to the effect of:

Participation in ordinary life means tension – the functions must tense; even when sitting, some tension is necessary – but underneath, deeper, behind, it is possible to be free and completely without tension. Suddenly, this was very illuminating, a reconciliation with Mme de Salzmann’s impossible demand to have “no tension whatsoever.” [165-166]

Sounds good, but what does it mean to say: “underneath, deeper, behind, it is possible to be free and completely without tension”? In my book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation, and Exercises, I wrote:

In Gurdjieff’s system as a whole, tension and release (whether physical or emotional) must be kept in equilibrium: intentional movement is not possible when there is either excessive tension or relaxation. [190]

I go on to deal with Mr Adie’s recollection of Gurdjieff’s advice in this area. But the point, I suggest, is that physically, we need a certain amount of tension or else, as Mr Adie used to say, we could not even sit upright. To that degree, Tracol was right and de Salzmann was just wrong. But what is also true is that an emotional relaxation is possible, that is, a freedom from emotions of fear, and anxiety. Tracol simply said “underneath, deeper, behind,” but we can be more precise, and that is, I suggest of the essence: if the mind is present as a policeman, calibrating the degree of physical tension and relaxation, then the feelings can be free. Then the necessary amount of physical tension does not hinder the circulation of energies through the body.

This is one reason why we need relaxation: to allow that circulation. But it is not the only reason. Unnecessary tensions distract the attention and feelings. They are also part of a chain reaction with consequences in both mind and feeling. If I can be relaxed more than usual, there is a possibility that the habitual thoughts and emotions to which I am subject may not evoke the same reactions; and that very novelty attracts my now liberated attention, so that I see myself in new circumstances. My state changes for the higher, and I learn about myself. The very experience leaves a trace, which means that it can be reiterated in its own proper way – always fresh.

I think there is something further: if the Gurdjieff system has an aim, it is probably to help people accelerate the crystallisation of their higher being-bodies, and all which that entails. In this respect, the entire body (whether one is male or female), is a sort of womb within the transcendent body of Great Nature. It is the womb in which the higher being-body forms. Consciousness of bodily sensation helps to seal the lining of this womb, so to speak. When the body is sensed as whole, it can operate as a whole organ, the purpose of which is not just to hold our physical muscles, nerves, blood, and organs in place, but also the muscles, nerves, blood, and organs of the astral or Kesdjan body. The proper degree of relaxation allows for this work to take place with less interference, but too much relaxation can be an interference, because it leads to and the collapse of upright form, and to sleep.

The upright form is critical: Mr Adie mentioned it on many occasions. The human form is not just an accident of blind forces which can be called “evolution.” Mr Adie said that it is actually a sacred hieroglyph, designed in that way for the reception of cosmic foods, their digestion, their assimilation, and the formation of the higher being-bodies. We are made to be able to transmute higher hydrogens in the very midst of life, not only when we are sitting in quiet. In other words, the purpose for which we are created can only proceed when there is a physical calibration of tension and relaxation.

This is an endless research for us? What is the complement of “relaxation”? It is tension and nothing more, and even then, what is tension? What of tightness? Is that the same as tension? We can say that there is “tension” between two people when we could not say there was “tightness.” Indeed, between people, to be “tight” is to be an ally and a friend. Physically, sometimes there is a tension which causes a shaking. I am not sure I would call this “tightness.” In the body, tightness suggests a lack of movement, a restriction. Of course, the best place to conduct this research is in myself, but it can also be carried out within a real group, if what I have seen in myself can be brought there.

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