Gurdjieff talked openly about the “terror of the situation”, or as Ernest Becker put it:
“To live fully is to live with an awareness of the rumble of terror that underlies everything.”
We are born, become someone, and then die and become nothing (we assume). Other creatures are spared the awareness of their future annihilation, but man carries it with him all his life. This fact is too brutal for us to bear (read Denial of Death by Becker), and so we sink into imagination. We invent an afterlife, create endless distractions, build “spiritual” traditions, and many other ways of deflecting attention from the fact we shall die. This is not a critical analysis. As someone once said to me, without the ability to sink into imagination we would become insane. However what is dangerous is the belief that our imagination is reality, and what is more, insisting that others should share our imaginary world.
I was prompted to write this short article by a posting on the Corporeal Fantasy Facebook group. Someone quoted a pretty, little, comforting thought that suffering is associated with finite beings, but peace comes through embracing the whole. Generally speaking things like this do not annoy me – it’s whatever gets you through the night. But this insistence that others should accept one’s own quieting notions does annoy. What does “embracing the whole” mean, other than something that is wholly imaginary for us. If people could simply say, “this is how I deal with the terror. I conjure up an imaginary entity called the whole and then imagine embracing it.” Instead we get statements that sound as if they are facts, or indicate knowledge that is only granted to the few.
The only way to deal with the terror is to go through it, and for that courage is needed and not happy ever after stories. The latter is a perfectly good strategy, but a person indulging in such stories will become increasingly neurotic as they battle with the doubts that are associated with the stories they tell themselves.
In realty only a few people will dare to venture into the terror. I have been involved with people who took me beyond my own “terror threshold”, and so there are people out there. But you are lucky if you meet more than a handful in a lifetime. Everything else is just distraction and neurosis – endless cycling between temporary relief and unbearable dread.
I’m in the process of setting up a web site and resources that will offer an opportunity to do real work. Out of the thousands of people who visit this blog and the YouTube channel I imagine that maybe only a handful will have somew interest in this. There is nothing much on the web site yet, but if you are curious you can visit Philosophy Workshop. A couple of people I know have said they are willing to help, but apart from the production of some farily detailed videos I probably won’t have that much involvement.