» Fourth Way Perspectives
    » Essays
    » Interviews
    » Working in the World
    » Meetings
    » Film Reviews
    » Book Reviews

Recommend This Page:


Fourth Way Perspectives

Kundabuffer and the Personal Self
"A property such that they should perceive reality topsy-turvey"

There is a latent force of meaning hidden within this idea of Kundabuffer which, at certain moments, when we pause long enough for it to touch us, can penetrate to another level of our consciousness—to a level where it is able to disturb us. To disturb us in a way we know and intuit that we need to be disturbed.

Yet such moments are rare. Why? Because the shock inherent within an objective truth so easily gets deflected, neutralized, by one or another form of buffer—that is, through that unseen predisposition by means of which we are 'protected' from the discomfort of having to deal with what otherwise would be disturbing to our familiar and cozy frame of reference.

The various and sundry forms of these buffers are beyond count, but, for our purpose here, two will suffice. One is to inwardly genuflect to the authority of the personage who has communicated the shock, thereby sidestepping its intrinsic awakening force. The other is all too readily to 'agree' with the formulation within which the shock of a newly revealed truth is hidden—on however superficial a level. After all, who of us is not able to generate a virtual litany of absurdities of human behavior? Having thus 'agreed', we are then at liberty to proceed as usual, and thus to escape the thrust of the new revelation.

Is there not then some kind of 'strategy' by means of which we are less susceptible to this unseen form of evasion? There is. One that enables us to hear Gurdjieff's intended meaning; that allows us the freedom to take his words at their face value when he states that the three-brained beings on earth "perceive reality topsy-turvy." Taken thus, taken non-metaphorically, these words become painfully clear—that within the arena of our perceptual reality we invert the fundamental order. We literally turn it on its head.

Here an inevitable question arises. If we are dealing with the inversion of a fundamental order, what is this order we unconsciously invert? About what are we actually speaking? A tempting yet facile reply might well be that what Gurdjieff must have had in mind is the maleficent factor of egoism within the human psyche.

However, it is indeed a facile answer, since egoism appears as one among innumerable other maleficent consequences of the organ Kundabuffer (which consequences continue to predominate, says Gurdjieff, even though the organ itself has long since been removed). In other words, egoism is subsumed within the much larger context of what Gurdjieff sees as a deep underlying flaw in the way the human psyche perceives reality.

How do we proceed then? A fundamental starting point is to begin from where we are. Our being IS. The beingness of each of us IS—an a priori primordial datum of existential reality. By contrast, the personal self is an expression (perhaps one among many) of this being, deriving its primary force of meaning from within the context of human relations; from within the matrix of the social order.

To acknowledge this is to acknowledge that our being, having prior claim to what each of us is, cannot ever become one more item on the table of discussion—as a subject of discourse. Yet we persist otherwise, because unwittingly we ascribe to the personal self a position of pre-eminence whereby it is at liberty to speak—as though it could—on behalf of what is vastly beyond the scope of its comprehension, namely our very being.

And the personal self? What does it signify for us? Some years ago I came across a surprising statement by a leading spokesman for the Gurdjieff Foundations in which he alluded to the "metaphysical essence" of the Gurdjieff teaching "whose purpose," he said, "as well as its origin, is self-realization and the development of corresponding capacities for manifestation." As is often the case in pronouncements of this kind, the nature of this self—the self destined to be realized—was never raised. The substratum of its existential meaning was simply assumed, as a given.