“If you’ve stayed this long, and followed along, you should be ready for more of the song.”
Our ditty, indeed paean, to find the Origin of Man.
Our method is one of Cartesian doubt, questioning what we have heard sung to us in the past, realizing 90% of what we think we know might very well be false, or in my words, bullshit.
Despite our knowing that success, good grades, advancement, publication, etc. come with being adept at repeating, nay, regurgitating what others have told us, we have taken an oath – not be PARROTS and just believe what is told us, not to blindly repeat what we hear.
Paradoxically, in order to be really honest with ourselves and what we think we know, we and what we consider our “knowledge” must come under scrutiny, a scrutiny we can only hope be guided by an informed self that is doing the scrutinizing. We want to question everything, and in so doing, even while doing so, we have to admit that the self, the judger who is entertaining and evaluating the history and merits of his beliefs, must also himself or herself become the ojet d’arte. The existence, prejudices, trainings the self has undergone, they too must face scrutinization, intense judging.
And lo and behold, despite all our advance, when it comes to searching for the Truth, whether about the Origin of Man or anything else, the Delphic Oracle‘s “KNOW THYSELF” becomes still the ultimate question. This Self – by which we mean that which undergoes or experiences impressions and sensations both in the world and in the mind, whether in the form of ideas, images, and/or concepts, must be completely and totally objective about ITSELF, in order to come to know the Truth, or really, in order to just begin at all so important a task. “Itself” is a good word to use for what can also be called in English the Ego, the Soul, the Heart, maybe even Spirit, cannot even “think like a man” or “feel like a woman” or their converse. The Self we must try to know must not be limited by gender, or even age, and perhaps this is why what is essentially YOU, if you reflect on the matter, you will find to be the same as it was since your earliest memories. What has changed has been the words and the experiences that you have acquired, the ideas and images you have entertained through the years, the sum total of which constitute literally the limits of your imagination. Your mind provides the tools with which your Self has to work.
As we age, our minds fill with information, symbols, facts, beliefs, and the like. These experiences become material with which our true Self may think and express itself. Complicating matters is that when we acquire this information we receive it through the screen of our development up until that time. In other words, think rosy-colored glasses – we see things through a certain sort of prejudice, this prejudice being our experiences up until that time.
G. I. “George” Gurdjieff, perhaps the only person to advance on Plato in these regards, has said that all search for Truth will inevitably lead the seeker back to himself. I can tell you from experience (haha) that this is true. The cycle works like this. You find yourself a seeker, you want to learn, to know the Truth, so you go to school, or become an apprentice, or study on your own. You become a good student, read what you are told, do what you must, master the craft, then after a time find yourself thereby knowledgeable. Reflecting afterward, you only then begin to question the things you had so mimicked and then parroted. As you question these things, you are also questioning yourself and your own belief system. As you change your beliefs, or “change your mind” as they say, about what you have learned, strangely THE DECIDER, what performs the evaluations (or as Aristotle would say, calculations) the true Self, never really changes. THAT self, the true Self, the Oracle’s Self, and the Holy Men’s Soul, etc. changes its beliefs, its favorites, its mind, to large and small difference alike – but it Itself never changes. The Self is like an overseeing viewpoint, always objective, limited only by the material with which it has been given to work. Once its native objectivity is recognized and allowed to function in an individual prejudices fall away. We no longer want what we want for any other reason than because it is the best. The difference between objectivity and subjectivity in such an individual does not exist. To use some words of the times, SUBJECTIVITY BECOMES OBJECTIVITY. I want what is the best, I don’t care what it is.
Our search for the Origin of Man, for instance, has taken a course through which and during which we have had to question many things we have heretofore taken for granted. We’ve had to jettison silly ideas such as what is newer is better, or that God has a preferred people, or that God and, say, sex are incompatible, or that one people are better than any other. The Self in these cases has entertained ideas and impressions about the subjects, and using the simple logical rules intrinsic to it, unique because of its own “frequency” or “temperament” (or speed, or vibration, or polarity….it could be any such), chosen those which seem to come that much closer to the Truth. Plato wrote that no man does evil willingly, the implication that in the mind of the evildoer he is doing something good, for instance he might rationalize his burglary by entertaining the belief that he is being like Robin Hood. Ignorance, for Plato, causes evil. For our purposes, at this point, only individual honesty can be relied on, because if you are in touch with your true Self, it knows the import of your actions and the validity of your beliefs. Considering this, then, our Robin Hood above is not being guided by his Self. Like too many today, he is being guided by a creation of his mind alone, the pseudo-self he has postulated in lieu of the real one he doesn’t want to confront. When this is done long enough, it is possible the “inner voice” of the true Self becomes buried under so much fiction that it ceases to function in that individual. That person has “lost touch” with his Self, instead becoming just another character, in the words of the psychologists of the 1960-s, stuck in this or that persona (nice old movie here). A living lie, as Sartre would say an individual in Bad Faith (mauvaise foi), and individual who lies to himself. When the individual is aware of the predicament, he is simply a poser and a liar. When he is not aware all the time of this predicament, he is lost: brainwashed, hypnotized, a robot, or insane.
In one degree or another too many operate in this way for too often. They are one person at work, another at play, another at church, another in the nightclub. Persona after persona choosing and being what is popular or expedient, or correct for the times, saying one thing believing another, repeating mantras and cliches as if they are substitutes for understanding. This is the often misunderstood difference between “ego” and “egoism”. An “ego” is the true Self. The misnomer “egoism” which many use interchangeably with the word “ego”, refers rather to this or that persona, or false self. I believe that only such a pseudo-self could be egotistical in the derogatory sense in which the word egoism is usually used.
As we continue our search for the Origin of Man we are going to be journeying to comparatively unknown lands, entertaining comparatively strange ideas, many of which by their novelty alone might seem to be taking us further away from the object of our pursuit. I emphasize then in this introduction the need for you to remain objective, to be guided by that part of your psyche which calls up and entertains ideas, rather than one or another of the personae that too many of us too often mistake for our true Self. If you do this, I guarantee that in what follows this Self of yours will come to recognize many “new” Truths, and able to make better sense of what exists already in your mind. Put it another way, remember two things in life. First, remember that everything you do or say is, in a sense, being recorded. You are never by yourself. Second, remember that someday you will die. This last sounds like nonsense to you maybe, but you would be surprised how many people have never even entertained the thought. When you realize these two things, and live by them, you will act rightly, and believe correctly. Gurdjieff, towards the end of his Beelzebub’s Tales To His Grandson (email me for an ecopy .pdf file…it is very long…), talks about how humans can only be saved today if they get instilled in them something which always reminds them of their own impending death. I will quote the passage:
“Only such a sensation and such an awareness could destroy the egoism
now so completely crystallized in them that it has swallowed up the whole of
their essence, and at the same time uproot that tendency to hate others which
flows from it—the tendency that engenders those mutual relationships which
are the chief cause of all their abnormalities, unbecoming to three-brained
beings and maleficent for them and for the whole of the Universe” (BTG end Chapter 47).
We researchers then must be pro-ego, anti-egoism, and always aware we are ALWAYS being watched, and that we will some day die, and our friends and enemies alike will die. If how all this will fit in is not clear to you just yet, that’s OK. But it is these two things – people thinking nobody will see them, and people never envisioning their own death – that are the cause of perhaps all the harm caused by humans in this world. In our search for Man’s Origins, we cannot be guided by preconceptions, and we can’t be honest with our Selves, indeed even know our Selves, unless we come to grips with the fact that we will inevitably die. As we continue our quest, why this is important will come into brighter light.
Now quickly about our plan of attack: Erich Von Daniken is perhaps the most controversial figure so we will consider him first. He is noted for a thesis that beings from other planets came to Earth many times in the past, and indeed continue to do so today. He is alive and well with a thriving website. I first ran into him in the 1970s, forgot about him for a good long time, but ran into him again when I began reading Zechariah Stitchin, who follows a similar thesis. I am not a big fan of the UFO thesis, however one must give him his due because of the line of thought he continues to propound. Stitchin passed away very recently, but is a perhaps the most well-known author behind Von Daniken. He was quite prolific, a top scholar, and one of very few interpreters of cuneiform left to us. He was expert on Sumeria and the Sumerian, the Indians of South America, and the history of Mesopotamia. He is important because of the scholarly credence he brings, and so the most convincing argument for, the supposed extraterrestrial origins of Man. Immanuel Velikovsky died in 1979 and is for me the last great cosmologist, whose catastrophic theories about the Earth and the rest of the Solar System have shattered conventional notions, and whose theories, though contrary to an established science which has since stolen several of his key ideas, expose for us the extent of corruption, prejudice, and in general and un-scholarly approach too often used by modern science. He will be third. Finally, I will present Gurdjieff, as he has provided for me a refreshing, new approach to living. Because really, I am a seeker of Truth not so much to know God, or God’s plan, or what will happen when I die. I study because I want to know the right way to act, what to do, how to live my life properly, and what direction to go toward. Gurdjieff provided this “Fourth Way”, a new way based on old teachings, delivered by a man who is brutally honest about even himself and his own search.
As usual, feedback is welcome and encouraged. I look forward to your input and corrections.