Meeting the Machine in UsOct 06, 2021
Just because we think we aren’t a machine does not mean that it is true.
Getting to know the machine within ourselves is eye-opening. To study it is also difficult and elusive because of its intrinsic nature. Our thoughts and actions can be quite sophisticated and fool us into thinking we are aware. If we can learn to recognize our mechanical nature at work, great things can happen for our transformation.
We take for granted that we are conscious and present, but in actuality, we often operate as mere machines, doing things automatically. If we don’t learn to see this within ourselves, our essential nature is not strengthened. Our path on this earth is to awaken to our divine essence, so recognizing our very baseline outer existence helps us do that.
We must learn to recognize the machine within ourselves.
We can learn to observe this very habitual and mechanical aspect of ourselves, but that machine can be rather sophisticated, so much so that it “thinks” it is aware.
We can drive to locations while thinking of a million things.
We can type in passwords from body memory alone. We don’t need to tell ourselves how to ride a bike every time we get on one. We can invent H-bombs. We can do complicated things like play the piano or say a speech all in “waking sleep.”
Consider artificial intelligence and how much it can do… but it is not aware of itself. It is devoid of sensitivity. It is trained by data collected from records of human behavior in order to act like a digital model of us.
Because we have a solid body, we relate to the world in a specific way. We are not gaseous or weightless. We come into contact with things and objects. Our bodies learn ways of doing things without having to use mental exertion. We also have a certain mechanical part of our thought that can do complicated activities because of logic.
We need this mechanical part. It protects us, but it must not run the show.
In the Practical Awareness course, we have an exercise called “visitor in the body” in which we watch aspects of our being in a body that we literally take for granted, like how our body operates. It is a miraculous machine!!! To see how automatically it can run on its own can tell us a lot about its mechanical nature. It is also capable of even higher functions, but to see its machine-like function helps us see more about ourselves.
We also teach about the “formatory apparatus,” which is Mr. Gurdjieff’s word for the filing system that can be considered the mind in its most mechanical aspect. It labels, analyzes, calculates and recalls. There is nothing awake about it, and, unfortunately, it can come to have a will of its own.
“Its activity is mechanical, but unless we look closely, it can deceive us into thinking it is a conscious being” says J. G. Bennett in A Spiritual Psychology.
The frightening thing about our automatic nature, something Mr. Bennett called the Material Self, is that it has power over all sorts of things. It can operate quite efficiently out in life. When the mechanical mental part of us operates as our predominant interface with life, we are not in our Essence. We are not “awake.” We need this mechanical part for safety and protection. However, this functional part of us creates havoc when it is the only thing informing our experience.
“It can make and unmake things; it can bring into existence all kinds of things that were perhaps not in the scheme of creation at all. But it is only a thing-God. It has no feelings, no power to understand other natures different from its own.” Bennett from A Spiritual Psychology
So this is how things can get really scary. We are capable of devolving into our more machine-like nature and the collective will reflect it.
Consider the advanced level of artificial intelligence operating in our world. It can do high levels of analysis, tracking, and give the right responses. Try saying I love you to Siri, and she will answer…”I love you too.” If we are operating on a mechanical level, we too can give “the right response” devoid of feeling or connection.
Consider our ever-growing attachment to our phones. Our identity is fed by how many likes we have from a computer. We have become addicted to this stimulation for it fulfills something in us that is also quite mechanical. We are mesmerized at every moment of pause, in every line, at every stoplight, and at every opportunity to be self-aware...awake and conscious. We walk around like zombies constantly looking at screens instead of interacting with each other, with nature, or with ourselves.
We become slaves to the machine.
The material self has no level of awareness of itself; there is reaction, but no real feeling; and that is what makes the difference. It is unable to empathize or understand something different than its own nature. When we observe something very mechanical in ourselves, we are no longer operating as a machine. We are then operating with another level of sensitivity. We are developing something within our essence that has consciousness.
If we can recognize the degree to which this mechanical way of existence dominates our lives, we have a chance of developing higher levels of consciousness. Our sensitivity to life is what distinguishes us from being machines.
Orient yourself to noticing the machine in you. It recognizes that putting your finger in the fire burns and remembers that. It also unfortunately may see very inner experiences and interactions in a logical way, feelings either this or that, when in fact those things are much more complicated and nuanced.
When you know the machine well, you will recognize it acting in the wrong context.
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