06 May 2009

Cyber-meetings with Unremarkable Critters

11 Jumada I-Ula - Year 1430

I'm at my Facebook account some time ago...say around six months or so. I was going through various bands, writers, etc. and 'becoming a fan' of them (basically pressing a button which adds your avatar onto the page created for the writer, musician, etc.). I searched for G.I. Gurdjieff and found a page dedicated to him. I thought "Yeah, all right - I like what I've read of his philosophy, mostly through Robert Anton Wilson and I'm reading Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson at the moment.." (I'm still reading it - but it's a large book and not the easist to get through--'cos of G.I.'s 'patterned language'). So I clicked the 'become a fan' button.

A few days later, I get a friend request from a critter who sent a message saying "Hello Gurdjieff fan". Cool, this guy seems alright...I accepted. He then sent an invitation to a group called "Views From The Fourth Way", for Gurdjieffians involved in The Work (those involved in it tend to capitalise it, because it's considered very important to do so). I joined up, even though I'm not doing "The Work" at the moment. I may start sometime, just as a cursory exploration - but after I've read a few more books. I didn't post anything at the group board for that reason...I didn't think I had anything substantial to add. The group was 'invite-only', unlike a lot of groups on FB. He had to personally invite you - you couldn't just find the group and join up. Hmmmm..

I started to notice other things about this critter--he seemed a bit grumpy. He would exhort his FB 'friends' to not send him any quizzes or cartoons or anything, really. It seemed weird to me, because FB 'is' a 'social network' site, by it's own definition. To my observation, his behaviour seemed sort-of elitist, as if he were above all of that. Still, I thought, that's his right to request his friends not to send him stuff. He didn't post much of anything, except news stories about the financial collapse, global warming, articles with a vague anti-science bias...topics that were important to him, I suppose. I should point out that he's probably in his 50s or 60s, going by his profile photo anyway. Old enough to fit into a curmudgeon's shoes. Again....fair enough, he can do what he wants with his FB account.

Occasionally, I would comment on one of the news stories he would post. He sent me an invite for another group, something about "Fighting the New World Order". I didn't join that one, because I'm not convinced there "is" a New World Order organisation to fight. That seems like the 'one over-arching conspiracy' stuff, which is a hoot to read about...but not something I believe in. He then started sending out messages saying he was going to kick people out of his "Fourth Way" group if they didn't start participating. I told him if he wanted to boot me, in favour of someone else, that I was O.K. with it, as I hadn't participated at all. He told me not "to be silly" - erm..I didn't think it was a silly statement, but a practical, thoughtful one.

Last week, he posted a column from Stanley Fish, though I can't remember if it was this one. It was basically lambasting atheists, especially scientific ones (Dawkins, et al.), though in a gentle manner. I posted (or made the mistake of posting) a comment to the effect of "Sombunall atheists seem as blinkered as fundie religionists to me." He replied "I believe in levels of religion". I had no clue what he meant by that - but I also didn't realise it was a reference to Gurdjieffian philosophy. I then posted a response, thinking he meant sects within major religions, stating that I like Sufis, Hasidic Jews & Quakers, etc. Uh oh....

He immediately sent a message to me, saying "I thought you were a Gurdjieff fan, but you don't seem to know about the levels of religion" Yep--I was in the principal's office. I wrote back stating "I am a Gurdjieff fan, but I'm still learning. I'm reading "Beelzebub's Tales.." and I like what I've read about him, various quotes and things. What are the levels of religion?" I was told that I had to read Ouspensky's (a student of G.I.'s) Psychology Of Man's Possible Evolution now and that life's too short not to start 'The Work'. I said, "O.K. thanks for the tip. I'll read the book. I'll talk with you later." Meaning, "Thanks, I'm done with this conversation now." Nope--he came back with some smug statement about how I 'just might learn something because he's been doing the Work for forty years and he knows'...he knows. Uh huh. So I looked up these 'levels' - and I found things similar to this. Now, as anyone who's checked out any RAW, Timothy Leary or Antero Alli can tell you - that seems very similar to the 8-circuit brain model, or at least, partially similar. I pointed that out to this critter and he said "No. There is nothing like the levels." That's how would type as well - just these near mono-syllabic one-or-two sentence ripostes. I'd wager that Wilson and Leary's model was partially inspired by Gurdjieff, but I strongly suspect he wouldn't be having any of that.

I began to feel a tiny bit insulted, as if he were trying to lord it over me with his superior knowledge of Gurdjieff's philosophy. The thing is, while I appreciate the man's writings and ideas--he's not the be-all-and-end-all to me. To this critter, though, he seems to be everything. So I asked him how he discovered Gurdjieff and how he came to decide that G.I.'s philosophy seemed better than any other system. I told him how I discovered Gurdjieff through RAW and a Kate Bush (sorry for the pop-ups) song, Them Heavy People. He answered with "I am in The Work. When you know what that means, I may answer your questions." What a pompous, over-serious, frickin', rackin'...*Mumbly muttering* That answer made me laugh, it seemed so self-important and cliched, that I responded with "Ha Ha Ha Ha - you crack me up, ____". I think I touched a nerve. He replied with a mini-rant about how he 'takes the Work very seriously and would never laugh at it' and how there's plenty of resources at the Gurdjieff fan page but how I never seemed to have made an effort to look at them. He asked if I even knew what The Work meant and told me that it had not diminished his 'sense of humor' (bearing in mind that I had never seen any evidence of this alleged sense of humor). He then wound down with "Why do I make you laugh? What on Earth do you mean?"

Now, the temptation to send him that 'restaurant scene' from Goodfellas was almost too great, but in the end, I settled for "I am a Discordian Pope. When you find out what that means, I may answer your questions." Then I told him I'd see him around, sent it off and promptly removed him from my friends list. I guess these critters are everywhere, in every sect of esoteric knowledge...Thelemites, UFO-logists, even Discordians. Ultra-serious and keen to demonstrate how much they're in the know and you're not. C'mon, how can you not take the piss out of them? I try to show most critters tolerance and some respect. I don't like being hectored and preached at, though..and asked to prove my allegiance to a philosophy or idea. I guess, to this critter, being a "fan" of G.I. Gurdjieff means devoting most of your time to the study and practice of his ideas. To me, 'fandom' is a lot less rigourous. I really like RAW, but I'm not about to go around and harangue everyone who even has a casual interest in his ideas and ask them why they haven't read all of his books and why they don't watch the "Maybe Logic" DVD every day.

The whole situation reminds me of an old Dennis Miller routine, back when he was still funny and not a Bush family crony and apologist. He said something like "I don't mind doing drugs. It's not the drugs that mess you up, it's usually the people you have to do them with." Then he went on to talk about how he had smoked some powerful weed and is spaced out when some berk asks him "Waitaminute, waitaminute....how do I know the color blue is the same to you as it is to me?" "I don't know", Miller answers, "Go look at the crayon box - what do I look like, fuckin' "Nova"*?" Sometimes, it's not the philosophy that does your head in, but those who espouse it far too seriously.

*Nova is a show on PBS in the States, which I thought had been cancelled, but looks like it's still going strong. It was (or is) a sort-of science/investigative program.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. What an idiot! This seems to be an eternal problem, no matter what kind of religious or philosophical groups one may encounter. It really is no wonder that so many people are turned off from any spiritual questing. I've met these fools myself in Christian and Buddhist groups. When I was a lot younger, I started going to a small local church and the self-appointed leader of this church had the audacity to ask me if I really 'knew' Jesus. I think he didn't like the fact that I still had an open mind and asked a few questions. Needless to say, I gave up going to that particular church. Very supportive of them, eh? When I was at university I went along to various Christian meetings and, most of the time, there was always some big-shot there who made you feel like your faith was a mere sham compared to theirs. Consequently, you spend more time in the pub instead. When I dabbled in Buddhism for a few years I came into conflict with a number of the ordained (i.e. 'look at me, I'm a REAL Buddhist!') members who just didn't take to you challenging their particular concept of the universe. In the end, I walked away, especially when I began to sense how hypocritical many of them could be. What I'm saying is - I've found the religious world to be full of total morons who don't seem to have taken the teachings they claim to follow to heart. I've come to the point where I don't give much of a thought for such people and leave it all to an on-going, direct-line conversation between God and myself - cut out the middle-men!

I've had some brief encounters with the world of esoteric religion (Gnostics and so on) and have tried a little Gurdjieff myself and, I must say, I think that any philosophy/religion that sets itself up in such a deliberately obscurist manner can hardly be worth the effort. I find it feeds a 'holier than all' attitude and I cannot accept that the truth (or Truth) is to be found in the kind of intellectual masturbation proposed by many such psuedo-religions. Ultimately, for me, the way to spiritual fulfillment will be a simple thing, accessible to all people of both higher and lower intellectaul attainment. I realise that Christianity, as much as any other religious idea/ideal has partaken in such nonsense; I only hope it finds its way out of this mess one day. As for your Face Book mate - there's one born every minute. Keep up the search.

Sorry I haven't expressed this very well and have just rambled on, as usual.