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Gurdjieff's Work in Relation to Jaynes'

Posted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 10:15 am
by aesthetician
I'm surprised no one has brought this up yet. Gurdjieff (in his own weird stuff and more accessibly in Ouspensky's work) discussed in depth the various "I"s that intersect to form what we call human being. He insisted that humans possess definite, perceptible and (most importantly) functional distinctions between Physical, Sexual, Emotional, Instinctual, Intellectual, Moving, and Intuitive/Spiritual "I"s or identities, all of which can at any moment, depending on the situation, assert themselves as the "I" in charge, unless they are appropriately coordinated by specific processes of MASTERY--which, by the way, were not generally forms of "master-slave" mastery, but mastery as an artist, craftsperson or athlete masters, i.e., through conscious, nonjudgmental observation (which he called self-observation), and another activity he called self-remembering... and determination to go beyond theorizing and BE the experimental laboratory in one's life and choices. In Gurdjieff's work, the nonjudgmental Observer eventually becomes the "I" and gets all the others to coordinate rather than antagonize and supercede each others' needs and wants. It seems to me that Gurdjieff's Observer/Rememberer "I" is indeed Jaynes' introspective consciousness in its fully emerged, mature, UNhypocritical adult form (which we actually rarely use or exhibit still as a species, despite what we like to say or believe in order to feel "in control" and "safe"). With this form of consciousness in operation, the Intellect can actually think because it registers and validates (and does not merely suppress and/or blindly act-out) what the Emotional Identity is feeling, the Physical Identity is sensing, the Sexual Identity is desiring, etc.. These various "I"s could easily be translated to thumos, psyche, noos, etc., as well as Chakras, as well as the energetic bandwidths of Wilhelm Reich, by the way.

Re: Gurdjieff's Work in Relation to Jaynes'

Posted: Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:12 am
by shrimperdude
When I decided to order William Patrick Patterson's Ladies of the Rope through the Inter-library Loan program, and then was forced to find something to do while awaiting its arrival from Louisville, KY, was when I started to write about G. I. Gurdjieff. I had just re-read Meetings with Remarkable Men, and in researching this topic an idea took root; some of the sites returned in my searches concerned the possible meeting with Joseph Stalin while in Tbilisi; I guess my mind became obsessed with the possibility that the transfer of psychic energies from G. to S. had an impact on History; an idea that had not been seriously explored. Psychic energy indeed!

My research into the Ladies, and into Patterson's history was leading me to believe no such meeting had ever taken place; probably just a poorly executed internet hoax. My writing at first amounted to better defining the problems to be solved if I was to write something scholarly on this subject; the act of writing Gurdjieff Project turned on the learning process that for most of us occurs in an inaccessible part of our brain. The more time I spent writing, the more I facilitated the process where my right brain began recognizing patterns in the data I was accumulating. That's my egocentric representation for what was in effect channeling Gurdjieff's spirit.

Another influence that I should not ignore here is my egocentric reaction to Brian McConnell(I'm sure Bri would love for you to google his name!) bailing out at church; he moved on and now meets with a Sunday morning group at the Unitarian 'place' which is seriously involved in their meditative practice. I have remained behind and am still involved with the Brethren, teaching Sunday School and meeting with a 'small group' that's just men on Thursday mornings. Brian says that, because I do not practice meditation, we have little common ground whereby we might share an understanding; that our attempts at communication issuing from different levels of consciousness fail to convey meaning to one another. Of course his level, due to his meditative practice, is the higher one; I guess I would like to prove him wrong.

Still waiting for the Rope book to arrive, I began to write a piece on Followspot Operators; writers should always write about what they know. Anyhow, that piece took on a life of its own(more channeling); in describing the learning process I went through, I began to see how my consciousness had often been changed while running my spot; how those changes facilitated not only job-related problem solving, but a deep penetration of that thing we refer to as theater. The writing began to facilitate a penetration of the very aspects of Gurdjieff's teaching method that had drawn me to him, instead of some charlatan like Aleister Crowley. I also got a dim glimpse of what was really lacking altogether in Brian's TM.

As the Spot-Op Project continued changing shape, I decided to write a blurb for promoting the financial potential for a book that was about Show Business and Human Consciousness at the same time. I went to the internet to get my facts straight, and that's when I noticed the similarities between what Robert Pirsig had said in his Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Gurdjieff's methods that comprise The Work. That is, the 'sorcerer's apprentice' must remain firmly grounded in mundane processes that have value for other members of his society or can become the victim in dangerous encounters with the spirit. I also remember that Don Juan often encouraged young Carlos to continue with his incessant note-taking while under the influence of the Little Smoke.

Taking a closer look at Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality sort of had an enforcing effect on the change in direction my operator piece had already taken, but eventually this forced me up against a block wall(writer's block!); I would need to accumulate more data to break the impasse. Then serendipity kicked in; I found an interview with Richard Powers(author of The Echo Maker) where he talks about two full years of reading neurological research papers and case studies that had resulted in the success that eventually resulted from his drive through Nebraska. One of the questions got him started on spatial functions hidden deep in our brains and how they were related to the 'space' that the high plains were in his story, and even an unsuspected relationship with the flocks of cranes that feature so prominently.

More research into the neurological theories that are so nearly convergent with what the many other disciplines are proposing with regard to Human Consciousness brought me eventually to something I think will be useful going forward with all my projects; I found Julian Jaynes and his online organization.

Jaynes's central idea is that our modern type of consciousness is a recent development; indeed, that it began no more than 3,000 years ago. In earlier times human mentality was characterized by auditory and sometimes visual hallucinations, in which people heard the voices of the gods speaking to them and telling them what to do. Only when this process became internalized and recognized as coming from within the percipients' own minds did truly modern consciousness begin.

The minds of 'preconscious' humans were split in two (the 'bicameral mind'), probably as a result of a dissociation between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Jaynes finds evidence of this in Homer's Iliad, in which the characters continually receive orders and advice from various deities. This, he claims, is no mere literary trope but is an accurate description of how people really experienced the world at the time. In support of this view he cites the eminent classicist E.R. Dodds, whose book The Greeks and the Irrational provides him with plenty of evidence for his thesis.

The heroes of The Iliad do not have the kind of interior monologue that characterizes our own consciousness today. Instead, their decisions, plans, and initiatives are developed at an unconscious level and then are 'announced' to them, sometimes by the hallucinated figure of a friend or a god, sometimes by a voice alone. The Iliad, Jaynes believes, stands at a watershed between two different types of human mentality and affords us an insight into an older mode of being. Once we have begun to see history in this way, we find the same process at work in the art and literature of other ancient civilizations: for instance, those of Mesopotamia and of the Hebrews (in the Old Testament).

While these ideas were not well-recieved by his peers when they first appeared in print, his book is now in its third printing; someone is reading his stuff, even if they do so while 'under the covers;' it's not hard to percieve a wide acceptance of his theories by today's investigators. Another hopeful for wider acceptance in the very near future is Torey Zoltan. He was blinded in an industrial accident when only twenty.

His physicians advised him, when surgeries had been unsuccessful at restoring his eyesight, that he'd have to re-train his mind and learn to ignore the visual 'hallucinations' that would be his only experience of light. He rebelled at the thought, and instead trained the rest of his mind to use the 'new tool' he'd been given to explore its own inner space. Fifty years of such unique methods of experiential inquiry culminated in his publishing The Crucible of Consciousness : An Integrated Theory of Mind and Brain.

When I came to Organelle, via a link found on the Jaynes Society site, I, for just awhile mind you, allowed myself to be duped by my own expectations. I had found there an utterly enlightened treatment of some ancient scripture(Genesis) in an article on Cain and Abel written by the mysterious 'Translator-dude' whose 'voice' is 'heard' throughout this difficult-to-navigate website. That writer(for he certainly is that, at least) claims to have accessed some hard-to-disseminate 'knowledge' while experiencing some sort of 'unity' with what he calls NHI(non-human intelligence)!

Before I had digested even one third of the material in the article on the 'first brothers,' I examined(and shared with some others around me) this 'translator's' ideas about how our limited concept of what the sun we observe in the heavens is had passed the character of that error along to all the dependent concepts which must rest upon it and which underlie such a great part of our generally erroneous concept of 'reality.' He said that we must repair such rudimentary concepts in order to begin to fathom the depths of our error, or to even begin to fashion language even weakly descriptive of the greater reality that can be accessed if we 'harness' some/all of the unused capabilities our minds have; capabilities effectively excluded due to these extremely limited erroneous foundational concepts.

My experience(so far), with the borrowed phrases that represent, but are not the actual expanded concept of just what the sun may really be, is this:compared to the ideas which so easily infect those who read Jaynes(his most vehement detractors seem to have contracted the most virulent inftections), this expanded concept of Sol that I have been 'toying' with seems to be devoid of the 'truth,' resonance or whatever it is that great ideas seem always to have. In this man's defense, he has carefully made all the 'proper' disclaimers, and had(once I finally found it) indeed cited the source for the unusual insights into the hermaneutical values of the scraps that make up the Cain and Abel story which had drawn me deeper into that Organelle site than I would have ventured otherwise.

With respect to Jaynes' ideas, I'm beginning to think that with too many who have been drawn to them(commentators, Neurological researchers and even some other off-the-wall theorists like Terrence McKenna for instance) there has been a tendency to romanticize the pre-conscious state, even unto fostering an earnest desire to somehow return to that powerful mental 'place.' Almost none, that have admitted to the probable reality that at some point in our past(if recent is the only source of your discomfort here) there were men whose state of consciousness differed qualitatively from that which we(as adults) experience in this modern world, have concluded that the evolutionary forces that have brought about these developments(be they hardware- or software-related) are not experimenting with something that must end in a dead end(extinction of mankind and probably much more that has developed down the vertebrate limbs that connect him back to the 'tree'), but have much more probably set the stage for the next sea change in human consciousness that may be one that incorporates all the mental powers imagined by some of these romantics to have been qualities of that pre-conscious state into a more highly evolved post-conscious state that will be much more romantic in very real terms and perhaps creating real value for the entire planet and all of its inhabitants. If in fact Jaynes has gotten it right with respect to the much more recent advent of consciousness(my personal preferrence here), then we should be a little less anxious about the dangers which always have accompanied the exploration of a new eco/socio-logical niche to the species going about those novel explorations. With respect to the invention of potentially destructive thermo-nuclear devices for instance, I am seeing powerful 'external' forces at work here tat have, so far, prevented the more animal urges certainly present in humankind from destroying the best chance evolving life on earth will ever have from going prematurely awry.

Re: Gurdjieff's Work in Relation to Jaynes'

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:09 pm
by shrimperdude
The writing project 'hinted at' in the original post has morphed/is morphing into something quite un-intentioned.

See what is developing in the now at ; perhaps there is a journey waiting for you.

Re: Gurdjieff's Work in Relation to Jaynes'

Posted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:43 pm
by ZeroZero
Speaking only of the orginal poster's question about the analogies between Gurdjieff's ontology and Jaynes. I recommend people compare Gurdjieff's discussion of the "centres" specifically the moving, emotional and intellectual centres. A good description can be found in Ouspenskys In Search of the Miraculous.
Early on Gurdieff talks of seven centres but later he refers chiefly to these three.

Self remembering is a form of excercise where the light of conscious (impartial non acting) observation is cast on a part of one's behaviour that normally goes on in a "mechanical" way. There is a second form of self remembering which is more profound than this. Gurdjieff saw himself as an esotericist, some of his ideas are highly obscure and at least quasi religious - including his first book. In part this is intentional. The ideas in his "Work" do relate to Jaynes though they are not scientific. For example he states that man is born 'mechanical' and only by work on self observation does he become able to truly control his actions and aims (beyond a basic level) . He develops methods for this, these are admirably explained in The Psychological Commentaries on the Work of Gurdjieff - by Maurice Nicholl a psychologist that studied under Jung and Gurdjieff.
In the origin Jaynes seems to miss the mechanism by which a conscious instruction is developed into a habit - which can then become subconscious. This is done by repetition. Using Gurdjieff's framework one would say that the "formatory apparatus" (a part of the intellectual centre). So, in playing the piano, first a particular passage is learnt intellectually, one learns a sequence and the psychomotor components of the actions, then by repetition, the "Moving Centre" (think habitual centre) gradually takes over components of the task until the whole task (passage) can be delivered without any conscious intervention - purely by habit. Gurdjieff's model of consciousness seems to me to have more explanatory power, though Jaynes also has some fine insights. IMO.