Finding Our True Home

“Man remains a mystery to himself,” writes Jeanne de  Salzmann in The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff.  “He has a nostalgia for Being, a longing for duration, for permanence, for absoluteness–a longing to be.  Yet everything that constitutes his life is temporary, ephemeral, limited.  He aspires to another order, another life, a world that is beyond him.  He senses that he is meant to participate in it.”   Madame de Salzmann, the foremost pupil of Gurdjieff, had her own strong, direct way of speaking.  Those who listened to her in person had the impression that she knew exactly what she wanted to say about the experience of consciousness–and said it, even if it seemed imprecise.   Her seemingly simple words express the awakened state that she calls Presence (needless to say, that capitalization is intentional).  They have the kind of concentration people usually associate with poetry, only more so.  They have the power to lead readers forward towards that other life she mentions to the extent that they are ready to see and hear.

What does that path lead ultimately?   Coming from me, it can only be ordinary words–to the realization of our interconnection with the whole of life, to the love that flows from the marriage of being and knowing, to freedom.  Perhaps it’s best that I stick with one word from the very beginning of the book, “nostalgia.”  This choice seemed a little odd to me at first because I associate the word with the yearning for what is past, often in an idealized form.  I looked it up and learned that the word is a learned formation of Greek compounds, consisting of “nostos,” meaning “returning home,” a Homeric word, and “algos,” “pain” or “ache.”   Anyone with even a glancing knowledge of Homer’s tales knows that the desire to return home is the most powerful and galvanizing of all longings. According to this great teacher, we humans wish for Being  the way Odysseus yearned to see his wife and house and homeland again.  May all beings have that much determination and courage and creativity and skill (certainly Jeanne de Salzmann did).  May all beings know inner freedom.  May all beings find their true home.

7 comments

  1. Thanks for this post Tracy, it has brightened my morning! You have summarised what is, for me, the primary task of our lives.

  2. Thank you for such beautiful, thoughtful post. It speaks so deeply to the way I, and so many others, feel.

  3. So, I followed the link above to Ron Dowd’s work and from there to Mark West’s work. I just love how all these interconnections come together. I makes me think that there is one mind at work, bringing us together to a state of non-duality. We are not separate, both object and subject are indeed one. Hmmmmm! Ommmm!

  4. My first real encounter with Madame de Salzmann was in San Francisco on the occasion of a showing of ‘the Movements’ movie. There was to be a dinner for her at the Gurdjieff Foundation. I was too new to ‘the work’ and therefore not invited. I debated internally all day about going anyway. I thought “they will throw me out”. Then I thought “she is the closest thing to God on Earth I know” and I asked myself if God were here would I go. The answer, of course, was yes. I went. Instead of being thrown out I was asked to cook potatoes. Her’s was not to have butter. I fussed over them and as a result they did not get fully cooked and she was served partly cooked potatoes. After the dinner we kitchen people hung around the door to the dinning room to her her speak. She moved her arms and said: “Everything in the universe is moving, ascending or descending, everything moves up or down”.

    Afterwards she walked through the kitchen on her way to her room. I was standing there as she walked by with some women in front and behind her.

    As she walked past me I saw her ‘higher body’. She occupied it and ‘floated’ above her physical body’, of which she had complete control and awareness.

    I am certain, beyond any doubt, that she knew, without having been told by anyone, that I had struggled much with the decision of whether to come uninvited or not. Helping me to see that higher bodies for man are an actual possibility was her gift to me for my effort.

  5. artxulan,

    Your story gave me a deep thrill. Many years ago I was a troubled teenager struggling with familial abuse. I also had a love of reading and learning. As a high school dropout (sometimes homeless) I found a book by Carl Jung and embarked on a journey of discovery. Jung’s thoughts were my closest companions during a very dark time. Later, when i was studying at university but still struggling with the family issues and lack of confidence, a professor told me about Gurdjieff, suggesting that I would find something valuable there. I didn’t follow through then, and never have.
    Three decades later I read your comment and know that I need to follow through. Thank you for sharing.

    Thank you, Tracy, for another wonderful post.

  6. When I read Madame de Salzmann’s words about man’s longing for permanence and then the Greek origin of the word nostalgia as the ache associated with a longing to return home, I thought about Gandhi and the Salt March. Well, not exactly the Gandhi of history but the Gandhi of Richard Attenborough’s creation. In the film, before what would become Gandhi’s most momentous satyagraha, the movie-version of the Mahatma says, “I have traveled so far only to come home again.”

    Afterwards, with a twinkle in his eye, the Mahatma rises and his reporter friend knows a great story is in the making. But those words have always lingered in my memory: “I have traveled so far only to come home again.” Of course, for Ulysses, returning home is the objective and for the spiritual seeker returning to a true home is the quest. But Attenborough makes the words different – a sort of I have done all of this but have not gotten very far from home.

    Yet when the Salt March begins and the civil disobedience follows, it is clear that Gandhi has mortally wounded the British Empire in India and within less than two decades, the British will hobble out of India. And all from Gandhi’s home.

    Of course, our knowledge of that great success makes hearing Gandhi’s words really delightful. The truth is, of course, that we can never really return home in the physical sense because Madame is right. Nothing is permanent. Even if the setting is the same, our perceptions have changed. Even if the sights are familiar, our thoughts are different. So, yes, there is always this longing for something real, something beyond form that is stable and endures. Something that makes us feel less of a pilgrim in a world without rest and more like a happily settled and contented person. But even, then man is made to grumble.

    I don’t know. I profess no great wisdom but I love a great story and a great speaker and the sharing of such things. Yes, there are times I long for home and then there are times when home seems too confining. But with a twinkle in my eye, perhaps it is true, “I have traveled so far only to come home again.” And maybe there is something delicious in that.

    Thank you for the beautiful words and the time to remember.

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