S4/E14: Dealing Positively with Negativity
Published January 7th, 2022
Dealing Positively with Negativity
In this episode, we continue to narrate question and answer dialogues with Russell A. Smith. We address the topics of oneness, dreaming and imagination, the mind and brain, attention, suffering, how to deal with negativity in people and the world, and what Gurdjieff’s Hasnamuss means.
Welcome to a series of talks about objective consciousness, an objective universe, and an objective way to awaken.
We expand upon the works of George I. Gurdjieff, with Russell A. Smith’s THEDOG teachings, and describe ultimately, an objective way to awaken. All material discussed is drawn from Russell Smith’s book, Gurdjieff: Cosmic Secrets - The Teaching Guide, and this and all supporting material may be found on our website at thedogteachings.com.
In our last talk we went through the first part of an actual question and answer dialogue session with Russell A. Smith of a conversation with a student seeking knowledge in order to become a qualified teacher of Russell’s work. In this podcast, we address the topics of oneness, dreaming and imagination, the mind and brain, attention, suffering, how to deal with negativity in people and the world, and what Gurdjieff’s Hasnamuss means.
Q. How would you describe Oneness?
A. I suppose we could describe that as having functions which have a common agreement. If I look at my inner world like a large classroom and propose a course of action to the class, there will be some students that say, “Yes, let’s do that”, and some students that say, “No, let’s not do that.” And, since we are in a democratic world, we will usually follow the majority. Now, imagine a oneness where everyone wanted to do the same thing. Everybody agreed; nobody disagreed. There is a common course that everyone wants to pursue, so the machine begins to function as one instead of functioning as a majority. All my parts love my neighbor, which allows me to function as one; just like all the parts of my automobile function as one. They join together to produce a common function and it’s only when one of the parts isn’t together with the rest that the car has problems. The wheels are out of alignment and the car pulls to the left instead of going straight. When I look back at recorded history and wonder how the Egyptians built the pyramids, something in me says perhaps they were unified, and all wanted to build the pyramids. Then it would not be hard to have a thousand guys all pulling on the rope at the same time. They would be functioning as one. Kind of like a beehive that all functions as one.
Q. Could you explain some about dreaming and imagination?
A. Let’s start with dreams. You can forget dreams. Dreams have no connection. There is no purpose to dreams. There is nobody driving. Dreams are fragments from memories that are connected by the mind because the mind wants to make sense of things. But, in truth, it is just random data coming from centers. But if we wake up in the middle of the dream, we remember it and in our awakened state we want to question, ponder, and give it a meaning. What was this? Why were those things taking place? It is best to realize that dreams are just the random associations of centers, concocted into some story that makes sense to the mind.
As far as imagination goes, imagination is a very powerful thing. Many people live in their imaginations. However, we do not want to live in our imagination. Instead, we want to use our imagination as a tool because we know that “as a man thinketh so is he” and, as such, we want to use this very powerful tool, called imagination, and try to imagine ourselves conscious. That would be the right use of imagination. We certainly do not want to let our imagination run random and take the next impression that comes in, and imagine something about it, and sit back and try to analyze our imagination. We want to be directors of our thoughts. We want to deal with reality. We do not want to deal with imagination. I do not want to imagine that I am a lion and there are rabbits in the field. I want to know that I am a lion and that there are rabbits in the field so that I can find a way to catch them and eat them. So, I would say, pay no attention to imagination. Only seek what is real; but use the power of imagination to imagine yourself becoming real.
Q. Isn’t it true that our centers are always in the brain and it just depends on how we experience it?
A. It is all in the perception which is all in the brain.
Q. What is the difference between the brain and the mind?
A. First thing is that man has many brains. We have the instinctive brain, the moving brain, the emotional brain, etc. If we look at a human being’s brain, we will find the medulla oblongata, which controls instinctive functions; or the limbic system, which controls behavior and the emotional functions. We will also find the brain of a lizard in there as well because we evolved from that. It is the core of our moving center. And I suppose that the idea of mind that was referenced to is where we cogitate thoughts. That would go along with our formatory apparatus. We are given a model from work that the formatory apparatus is where everything is recorded. That there is this central office, which is hooked up to monitors that come from all the other brains, which monitors the rest of the machine. If something is crawling on my arm, an impulse is sent to the monitor in the formatory apparatus and the observer in me says, hey, there is something crawling on my arm! That may be what you are referring to as the mind. We call it the formatory apparatus, where all the data is recorded that is coming from all the other brains and which keeps me in contact with the body. But, as to the observer, we do not have a permanent observer. In our model the observer changes constantly. Only in moments of self-remembering do we have those unique moments of, “Wow, I am here!” or see ourselves in some circumstance or situation and have this feeling of how strange it is that I am here. That is when there is an observer present. Apart from that, our observer changes, and we forget what we observed from one day to the next. But in terms of mind and brain, we get hung up on definitions. Ouspensky says, be careful of definitions, because they will lead to confusion. So, do not try to distinguish the difference, just realize that we are a multifaceted structure that has many brains: From the brain of our immune system to the formatory apparatus, where all the data that comes in gets registered. The place where the secretary, which reflects our education, works. That, according to Gurdjieff, is usually a young girl of romantic persuasion who spends a lot of time looking at herself in the mirror; and, at five o’clock, when she goes home, leaves behind only an empty machine.
Q. I have a question about attention: What does, “The degree of blending of that which is the same in the impulses of observation and constatation in one totality’s processes with that occurring in other totalities.” mean?
A. It is really an easy model. You are in your living room and you have the radio on and there are various songs playing on the radio. All of a sudden one song comes on and you have an impulse to turn it up. Why? Because you know the tune to it, so it is in your instinctive center, and you used to dance to it, so it is in your moving center, and you know the words to it, so it is in your intellectual center, and you even fell in love listening to it, so it is in your emotional center; and, since it is in so many of your centers, there is a blending of that which is the same that lends itself to you having attention towards it… and thus, you want to turn it up. Furthermore, Gurdjieff says that one center will take the lead and that the other centers will wholeheartedly support it, depending on which center you happened to be in when the song came on. That is, if you were in the instinctive center, you might find yourself humming the tune. If you were in the moving center, you might find yourself dancing. If you were in the intellectual center, you might find yourself singing the words. If you were in the emotional center, you might find yourself in melancholy thoughts of lost loves or of the pleasures of your youth. So, attention is simply the degree of commonality between centers. That is, if a song comes on the radio that you have never heard, you will find yourself having no attention on it at all.
So, it is the degree of blending of that which is the same in the impulses of observations and constatation in one totalities processes with that occurring in other totalities.
Q. Is there no distinction in the Work between listening and hearing?
A. The Jacks’ function without attention, so that would be, “Wow. Look at all the things that go on in me that are going on without any attention whatsoever: I’m pumping blood, I’m making bone marrow. I do not have to do any of this.” This is done by a part that is totally automatic. No one says, “Ok, breathe,” and no one says, “Ok, digest.” These things just go on incessantly all by themselves; but my receptors to the world, my senses, are done with drawn attention.
Q. Tell me why ‘eyesight’ is drawn, in the Queens, and not in the Jacks.
A. The model we get from Ouspensky is that the instinctive centers emotional part are our senses, because our senses are our connectors to the outside world, and they function with the attention coming from the outside world. There is movement, there is a sound, there is a smell and that immediately draws attention to that. All the rest of the time I have ears, but I do not listen to the sound until there is a sound. I have a nose that smells but I do not put it up in the air and take a whiff until I sense a smell reaching me. I could be sitting in my living room, and in a sense daydreaming and I am not really looking at anything, and if something started to move across my countertop, I would have drawn attention. My eyes have these receptors that would pick up this movement and my attention would go to it. So, senses are simply the inputs of connection with the world and that is drawn attention. Remember, the queen has parts; mechanical, emotional, and intellectual. That means that you might be able to look with the mechanical part of drawn attention. All of our sensations, all of what we call our senses, are in the queens.
Q. In The Fourth Way it says there are many types of lies but it does not say what they are. Could you please explain.
A. Yes, there are many types of lies. We think that the basis of lying is in saying “There’s a bear outside,” when there isn’t. That certainly would be a lie because there is no bear outside. Then, there are other kinds of lies where I say that I know something about something or use the word “I” and I think that it means all of me or believe that I have the will to make a decision, however, in truth, I am asleep, and I am a machine; and, as such… “I don’t know”… “It is not all of me”… And “I do not have the will to make a decision”. Those too are lies. But I do not see them as lies because I believe that they are true. I believe that I do have the will to make a decision. I believe that I do have a permanent “I.” I believe that I do know something about which I do not. And, by golly, if I say I am going to get up early tomorrow, I am going to get up early tomorrow. That is, I believe that to be true, but then, when tomorrow morning comes, and I wake up and decide that I am still sleepy, and end up staying in bed, that means that the “I” that expressed itself the night before was lying. So, that is what is meant by lying. And please take note, the many lies we don’t see are far more detrimental to our work than the many lies we do... like, “There is a bear outside.”
Q. Do you think that suffering is the attachment we have to our sins?
A. Suffering is such a big model. Only conscious suffering has any sense. We suffer mechanically for a lot of things. We suffer because we have remorse over our manifestations and the things that we have done, what you call our sins. But in truth, if we were asleep and got up and were sleepwalking, and say, broke something, would that be a sin? No, of course not. According to Gurdjieff there are four states of consciousness: sleep, waking sleep, self-consciousness, and objective consciousness; and the one in which we live is called waking sleep. Which means, if we spend most of our lives in waking sleep… then in truth, we cannot have sinned. We would, most likely, never do any of the things we did, which are considered to be a sin, from a place of self-consciousness. But, in waking sleep, where one “I” rules the carriage, where we are susceptible to the suggestions of others, or where we blindly follow the crowd, we may say, after some event, “Oh my, that was wrong. We did bad. Woe and grief to us. We are sinners.” However, nobody intentionally sets out to sin. Nobody intentionally does bad. So, in truth, there are no sinners, there are just the manifestations of sleeping machines. Did you ever have a car where the tire blew out while you were driving? Did the car sin? See, you just had a bad tire. It was a mechanical function that went wrong. The steering mechanism didn’t work right, or the brakes didn’t work right. Aphorism number 8 says, “If you already know it is bad and do it, you commit a sin difficult to redress.” That means a conscious person can know what is right and what is wrong, and a sleeping person cannot. So, quit blaming yourself for what you didn’t do.
Q. Could you explain about useless suffering and real suffering?
A. Most of the suffering we go through is because we blame ourselves for what we have done. But again, Gurdjieff said that man cannot do! So, we have not done anything. Things just happened. There is no reason for us to blame ourselves for the things that just happened. We lost our temper and yelled at our children and now we are suffering because we called them bad names. But, in truth, we did not consciously do that. We did that mechanically. We suffer a lot for things that are done mechanically.
Q. I have a problem with a person that I had befriended with the idea of helping but have found that she just wants to rehash her sad stories and she is taking up hours in my day. What is the right action in this case?
A. That seems to just be part of life, that we have people in our lives that are that way, that have a story in their world and want to share it with somebody and don’t know any other way to be. You know we use to be that way too and maybe in some parts of ourselves we still are. Okay, we have to understand that. Now what do we do about those moments? What do we do about that person? Block them? Throw them out? Smack them when they are down? Or do we try to direct and create conditions. We try to bring the conversation back to work terms. It is okay for us to say, “Oh, I’m sorry there’s a lot going on. Hey, have you read any of The Fourth Way this week? Have you picked up any ideas? There are some great ideas in Views from the Real World, how to do active reasoning. You ought to read that chapter on influences and that might help you there. Oh, I have got to go. I have got something coming up in a few minutes. I hope I get a chance to talk to you later. Have a nice day.”
We try and put a good seed in there of where they might investigate, or they might spend some time trying to overcome their discords; but we have got to be a sounding board. Golly, I am a sounding board for everybody’s discords and problems. Okay, that is going to happen. That is the way people are going to be. They get down, they get hypochondriacal, they get all out of whack; and they do not know what to do and they’re looking for some help. They are looking for someone to listen. So, we listen, to some extent, and then we try and give them a direction, and then we find someplace to go so we do not have to listen anymore. You are going to have to deal with those things in life. There is no way to escape those people.
Q. I just feel like there is no point in continuing with this woman.
A. I don’t know what to do except to try to direct and create conditions. So, they call and say, “Oh, my kidney’s hurt. My heart’s palpitating. I have got to go to the doctor. I’ve got diarrhea today, the worst I’ve ever had in my life”; and. you hope they’ll pause for a second so you can say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Hey, guess what? I was reading today in Views from the Real World, there is this marvelous chapter on formatory apparatus. You ought to give that a read. I’ve got to go someplace, and we can talk about it later.”
Q. I have a friend that I love but she is so negative and twists everything I say. How do I change her?
A. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change! I suppose, in those tough models, the only thing we can try to do is to direct and create conditions, even though we cannot help. So, for example, if I know, after some time of being with a person that they like cooking, and then they get distressed and negative about something in life, maybe I can bring up something about cooking. So, that they will be diverted into having attention on cooking, since there is a degree of blending in them about cooking; and they will start explaining to me the many joyous way that they have made a leg of lamb, which will at least occupy them for a while and negate the depressed state that they were in. And, when that wears off, and they are once again back to their models of hatefulness and depression, I will again ask them a question about something to do with cooking and, hopefully, their negative state will once again be gone for a few minutes. And, when that wears off, and they are once again back to their models of hatefulness, evil, upsetedness, and holding accounts, I will bring up some other cooking model, or something else, which I know from my contact with them, that they also have an interest in. For instance, I could start talking about sports, “Hey, do you think our team is going to win the game this weekend?” And, once again, I will try to pull them out of wherever they are, because they have a degree of blending with sports as well; and, suddenly, they start talking about sports and have forgotten the grievance with their neighbor.
Q. It just takes a lot of energy on my part to keep her engaged.
A. It should not take any more mental energy than it does to do anything else. The flow of your associations is going to be the same, whether you are listening to them talk about their problems, or talk about cooking, or sports. It will not be any different. But you can try to make it different for them. I suppose if you allow her negativity to influence you, it’s on you, but in truth, it does not take any more energy to sit there and listen to her whine and complain than for you to say ask, “What is that recipe you make with the chili peppers?”
Q. When I find myself in a negative emotion is that the ego?
A. Ego is the sense of self-importance, and when something touches or bruises our sense of self-importance, we may become negative towards them or towards ourselves. So, we have to learn to forgive others and ourselves, especially since nobody did anything; but forgiving is a very strange thing. Forgiving means, first of all, that we have to place some blame on something or someone for what they did, and as I just explained, people cannot do. Therefore, when the car gets a flat tire, we would have to first blame the car, and then, we could forgive the car; but you see, when a car gets a flat tire, we can’t blame the car… because the car didn’t do anything, it just happened. So, when we are dealing with a machine, or maybe with an animal, there is no need for forgiveness because there is no blame assigned in the first place. We leave the dog locked up all day in the house and when we come home, we find that he has used the bathroom on the floor; but, since we do not blame him, there is no reason for us to forgive him.
Q. Gurdjeiff said that there were Hasnamous people out in the world and you cannot do much about them?
A. Yes, he was speaking of the external and yes, we cannot do much about them. How do you convert an Osama bin Laden or a Hitler or a Mussolini?
Q. He also said you cannot destroy them and a lot of them end up killing themselves.
A. Yes, they do; but, if they are killed by somebody else, they become martyrs. Their image does not die. We certainly have that in our world. We have people who believe it’s all about them and their ideas. They see their ideas as right, and they are not afraid to slaughter thousands or tens of thousands of people to keep their power and their stature. Everyone else must bend a knee to them and their will or die. It takes Hasnamuss “I’s” to strap a bomb on oneselves and walk into a bus full of people and blow it up. That cannot be done from good householder “I’s” or from tramp “I’s”, it’s even hard to do it with lunatic “I’s”; but Hasnamous “I’s” are capable of doing that.
Q. Is there a conscious effort on the part of society to stimulate Hasnamuss “I’s”? Some societies, like terrorist organizations, seem to encourage those “I’s”.
A. Yes, that is what they do. They feed on the weaknesses of people and they try to create Hasnamuss ”I’s” in them. You have to be a Charles Manson type person to do that; I don’t think he ever killed anybody himself, but he certainly got other people to follow his will, and convinced them of his cause. He preyed upon their lunatic “I’s” and tried to turn them into Hasnamuss “I’s”.
Q. I think it would be good if we all offered the same answers and opinions to students when they asked us a question.
A. Yes, that would be grand. Just quote them something from Gurdjieff’s books, Ouspensky’s books, or my books! But until you are able to do that, learn how to direct and create conditions. That is, keep pointing. You know, “A school is like a compass; it doesn’t claim to make you go anywhere, it just keeps pointing in the same direction.” There are several snipits in many of those books on how to not express negative emotions. Thus, if a person is wanting to work on themselves they have many places to start… someone just needs to direct them there, or they may need to be reminded of their aim. Sometimes they just need someone to express their difficulties and fears to; someone who can show them compassion and understanding. You have got to give them some of that time too. You cannot always say, “Well, I don’t want to hear your negativeness.” You have to balance it rightly. You have to try and be present, and not be influenced by it. But, you know, if they are calling you six times a day wanting to whine and complain for hours, you have the right to do something about that too. So, learn to say what needs to be said, end the call, and go about doing what needs to be done. I will modify a Gurdjieff Aphorism for you, “Know that this house can be useful only to those who have recognized their nothingness and who believe in the possibility of other people changing”.
Thank you for listening.
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Goodbye until next time.