Me and my Monkish Ways

In the rich and varied path that I have traveled as an erstwhile spiritual adventurer, there was a period when I longed to don the brown robe of St. Francis in order to become a monk. When I talk to friends about this desire, those who know me well are rarely surprised. They seem to see in me certain traits or passions that are still present even having been with my partner for over 20 years and having two children.

So I’ve got to wondering what they see in me and how this might fit with Gurdjieff’s depiction of the way of the monk. In the 4th Way schema the Monk is viewed as being the path of the second “room” or centre and as being connected to the heart and the emotions. In this realm, the aspirant channels the multiplicity of emotions towards the greater goal of devotion or bhakti. For me this made a lot of sense: the identity turmoil that I experienced in my early teens to mid-twenties was largely contained by a devotional fervor that I directed towards Jesus and the Saints.

I still feel that the path of the heart is vital. While it can risk sentimental naivety and the maintenance of the “believer” in the position of Child, to ignore its call is hazardous. Large parts of the Western Buddhist and Magickal communities are at risk of becoming overly intellectual in their bookish pursuit of wisdom. Perhaps we have confused true gnosis with simply knowing about stuff.

Now it’s not all doom and gloom! The collective unconscious is a beautiful thing. Whether via the discovery of more devotional meditative traditions (e.g. Pure Land) or via the excellent work of Scarlet Imprint (cf. Peter Grey’s the Red Goddess and the Devoted anthology), we can see the development of true heart depth borne from practice.

Devotional practice may take many forms

Devotional practice may take many forms…

For me the path of faith and devotion were ultimately not enough. I needed knowledge and an internal language or yoga so as to journey into inner space. As a Psychonaut needing to explore, I was no longer content with being spoon-fed certainties. To use Scott Peck’s trajectory I had to move from childhood, through the rebellion of adolescence and towards the integration of adulthood – but maturity without passion, emotion and longing? No thank you, not for me!

Gurdjieff believed that each person by disposition would tend to gravitate naturally towards one of the three ways of being and the nature of the “Work” was to access those aspects of Self that came less naturally. As we work towards spiritual holism via integrating the insights of body, mind and heart, I think that the nature of love’s expression is transformed.

Whether via deepening our grasp of “Agape” or wrestling with the implications of “love under Will” as we reach towards that more integral position is it possible for the expression of the heart to become more expansive? In response to this wondering, a beloved magical sister Lilavirananda 108 has articulated the idea of “Big Love”. Borne from a heady fusion of tantric sadhana, chaos praxis and integral insight, Big Love asks us to expand ever outwards; to move beyond love as a limited power exchange between enamored egos. Love as an expression of devotion to “the other” (whether human lover, friend or deity) doesn’t cease, rather via a process of continually folding back in it becomes more refined and responsive.

Whatever the focus of our devotion on the vertical axis, whether our passion is for an ideal or a personified archetypal form (“God”), from an integral perspective any claims to spiritual advancement are hollow if they fail to engender great “Metta” or loving-kindness. For our Magick to grow-up, it has to extend to those beings on the horizontal i.e. other creatures.

During the Magickal revival much has been made of the way in which our forebears used sorcery to “nobble” those in their way. Defensive and indeed aggressive magicks may well have a valid role in a world in which injustices give the oppressed few other means of redress. If however, we fail to evolve beyond “an eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth” we may all end up blind and eating through a straw! Traditional Witches may rightly point out that the Wiccan Rede’s “and it harm none, do what thou wilt” is Gardner’s own very modern re-working of Crowley, but I still think it points to a way of living that is worth pursuing. So mote it be indeed!


8 thoughts on “Me and my Monkish Ways

  1. Alex Jones says:

    There is spiritual, and there is also religious. Spiritual is a way of life of always being connected in the moment with nature, self, family. Religion is the enslavement to dogma, or the intellectual, with no connection to the concrete experience of living the path. The difference is alike to Gnosticism to the Roman Catholic Church.

    • Ren says:

      Alex, I disagree slightly with your comment – religion and spirituality can marry quite happily, religion being a more social or organised part of a belief that can give benefits for more than one person. True, religion can be a source of bigotry and dogma, but so can so-called spirituality – you only have to flick through a few pages of ‘enlightened’ new-age books that tell us The Only Way To Do Magic Correctly to see this. Finding enlightenment or gnosis can take many routes, and there are many genuine seekers within religion – for some it’s a calling and it’s their cornerstone to worship, pray and find answers in a pure and non-hypocritical manner; love for everyone equally comes with the territory and can be felt strongly. It can be (and often is) personal, even within a large community of Christians for example, whatever the denomination. Ignore the haters, there are genuine seekers getting on with it quietly in the background, and if one doesn’t agree with the methods it doesn’t mean either side is wrong. Gnosis can be found at the back of a church just as easily as in a witches circle.

      Take away the love and benevolence for others and we are left with lip-service and an arrogant approach to faith that judges others as being inferior due to a lack of ‘understanding’ of not being in on the ultimate truth of God / knowledge / whatever. If we really want to put the idea of Big Love around, it kind of defeats the whole process when we start segregating anyone else because of their choice of devotion(s) – having an approach that shows a little humility and love from time to time can only be a good thing.

  2. sean dotcom says:

    ….& beware of dying by 3rds

  3. […] path was to undertake the way of jnana yoga. As we’ve seen already (via the ways of the fakir and monk) in the fourth way teaching the “sly man” must integrate the best of this approach so as to […]

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