Class Project: Needleman on Love
Posted by Perk Clark on 05/04/2008 12:46:43
“The possible love relationship between human beings must now include, and even be
principally constituted by, the help that one human being can give another toward the aim of
inner self-development. To love one’s neighbor is to regard him/her as a being containing
the spark of divinity…who is, at the same time, in need of help in order to actualize his/her
-Joseph Needleman in Gurdjieff
Holy Cow Eddie, you really know how to throw a party! Greetings to those who have and have
not posted and to those who will one day. It’s true I’m a workin’ man (licensed clinical social
worker) and so, unlike our Dearly Departed Coach, I’ve got my time all tied up trying to make
hay for the horses and keep my dear wife smiling. My apologies for showing up late to this
gathering, and for only posting on the topic on these next three Sundays (May 10, 24th, and
31st). I’m suggesting a time-limited participatory dialogue among us, and I very much like
Eddie’s choice of a quote. The posts already in place are a great way to begin.
Rob’s mom was right – and she somehow knew how to “reflect back” to him who he was.
Not only that, she accepted who he was. A very gifted and unusual mom, I’d say, and I could
end my commentary right here on that note!
That is certainly an action step that Needleman would include in ‘loving.’ How to do that
without wounding an other? That is the question. Coach would always tell me I was too
harsh. I’d tell him he was too soft. I’d suggest between our two postures you can find such a
loving pose to aid another with ‘inner self-development.’ (Tip: loose the victim language:
‘you really hurt me.’ Practice the language of one who creates his own emotional reality:
‘when you do that I admit I get frustrated with you.’)
Scot, there is that theme of helping, love, and divinity. And to your point (how to help
without manipulating), Idries Shah used to write that there were three ways of helping:
giving others what you want them to have; giving others what they asked for; and giving
others what they need. For me, the first and second methods are simply my personality in
the way, and this latter form of giving is what Needleman refers to.
How to know what they need? Sometimes you can see-hear something (see Eddie’s fine
post 5/3/08 to sorrisi about working with muscular tensions). Sometimes you intuit such a
need. In my own work with clients, I have to clear away my thinking in order to get closer to
what a client needs. I do this in the sessions by my maintaining a concentration meditation
(mantra repetition), or by simple mindfulness practices (like breath observation). The less I
“think I know” what they need – the better. Pictures rise up in my head, making no sense. I
ask the client: it leads us to something they need to grow with.
Some folks, upon arriving at the monastery, are told to begin building a wall over there
by the garden. They do that for months. Other folks are given exercises, Some are told to go
out and get a job. Some others are simply turned away from the training.
Every one of these gestures on the part of the teacher can aid in inner-self
development, and my curiosity has always been, ‘did it? How do we ascertain that?’ Most of
what I see in myself, and see in all my companions who are students of inner self-
development, is that we are trying to help one another practice in an on-going way the
disruption of personality (whether in the muscles or the cognition – emotions – behavior) so
that this ‘inner spark of divinity’ might be allowed to shine. The great religions have terms
for all this (in Islam: the inner jihad), and Needleman has helped in his career to keep the
Using the interpersonal terms, Coach was more of a lover in this regard, and I have
always been more of the dictator. (Note my early-on declaration of how I’d participate in
class.) Coach embraced Fritz Perls’ “awareness is enough!” dictum. I on the other hand see
the need of more effort and action in operationalized love that fosters development. In my
thinking, Eddie, mindfulness perhaps will teach us to be free, but in my experience, actually,
it helps me repeatedly identify and disrupt my unfree, conditioned, repetitive behavior,
persisting and returning over decades. Suddenly I’m free for a while. Then, just like sorrisi’s
tense shoulders and The Terminator, I’M BAAACCCCCKKKKKKKK.
So – it is great to have you all as companions on the hunt. I do urge you to find real visceral
companions to have these dialogues with as well. But I appreciate your efforts, and your
attention here now. I’ll see you next Sunday and react to whatever is here!