Ocke de Boer, Higher Being Bodies: A Non-Dualistic Approach to the Fourth Way, With Hope.
Mount Desert, Maine: Beech Hill Publishing Company. Foreword, 19 Chapters, 264 Pages, Afterword, illustrated.
Reviewed by Paul Beekman Taylor, Emeritus Professor, University Of Geneva, Switzerland.
Author of G.I. Gurdjieff: A New Life and Real Worlds of G.I. Gurdjieff. www.paulbeekmantaylor.com
This is an extraordinary record of one man's understanding of "The Work": the "System" of Gurdjieff's teaching. What makes it extraordinary is its clarity of language, its apparent simplicity and directness of approach. It is eminently readable, and constitutes a veritable guide or manual for self-help and development. The author, Ocke de Boer, is himself extraordinary. He displays in his writing as he does in his personal relations with others, a generosity of spirit without reserve. He eschews obfuscation; that is, he neither poses as a scholar examining a metaphysical enigma nor as one who knows more about Gurdjieff's teaching than his audience. He presents his own, and very personal understanding in a manner that encourages his reader to follow the same path. What is remarkable is that he brings to his subject a broad understanding of sources and analogues to Gurdjieff's teaching that are not found so succinctly presented in any other works I know. Ocke knows Gurdjieff's Eastern Sources in Hinduism and Buddhism. His portrait of the chakras of the human body and their relation to its psyche is clear and convincing. He is particularly convincing in his comparing Gurdjieff's ideas with fundamental Christian thought, for he believes that Gurdjieff was, as was Jesus Christ, "sent from above" for man's benefit. His aligning Plato's allegory of the cave with Gurdjieff's description of the illusions of truth that are stereotypical to man is graphically illustrated. For Ocke, Plato reflects "man in chains."
Let me mention briefly a few points he makes that strike me as particularly significant. First of all, his order of presentation leads his reader clearly from definitions--Higher Being Bodies, A, B and C influences, senses, feelings, thought and mind---to directions for self-work--Conscious Labor and Intentional Suffering, purifying thought and emotion--and concluding with the practice of Unity-Thinking. This path is through thresholds of self-awareness. Along the way he makes many important observations about the human body, thought and behavior. Early on his way, he repeats in a fresh manner Gurdjieff's important contention that truth is often delivered by a lie. This remark is part of an instruction on role-playing. A conception new to me is Ocke's conception of man's "thinking in disparities ." His comparison of one's "it" from his "I" is illustrated with views of Jane Heap and Jessie Orage. For Ocke, "it" senses while "I" feels. What one sees when one looks in a mirror changes as man's wisdom and age develop. I am struck by his differentiation of emanation from radiation of being. He treats the topic of "self-initiation" in an interesting way. Gurdjieff called me a "candidate for initiation" who would initiate me when he found me worthy of joining his "work."
Ocke's description of man's seven states of being is a welcome breeze in its optimistic view of his reader's possibility to lift his self to a higher level, man number four to begin with on the way to obtaining a causal body. Ocke encourages his reader by assuring him that he already has extraordinary possibilities already in his nature. He explains the nature of negative emotions and the dangers of dualistic thinking; mistaking a fly for an elephant, or oneself for God. In doing all this Ocke avoids scientific jargon that tends in other works on Gurdjieff to obscure his ideas, uses the views of other writers on Gurdjieff with respect and understanding. In a sense, he clarifies much others have written.
There is much more in his work to recommend in a brief review. For me I found refreshing the fact that Ocke makes work on oneself appear a potential source of pleasure. As he proclaims; "Absence of joy is slow suicide." Nothing could stir one's appetite to work on the self more than this statement. Understanding his own joy so transparent in his work, is the most persuasive reason to read his book. The book contains many other "homey" statements of this sort that speak well to the reader who is not deep into Gurdjieff's language. For example, Ocke suggests how to put meat on the skeleton of consciousness. He would free his reader from the prison of identification. He contrasts the head brain's radiation with the heart brain's emanation. He tells us the difference between inner and outer memory. the solar soul that can be developed over the lunar body that is destined to dust.
This is finally. a book written by one who knows and cares for those who care but do not know yet how to work on themselves.