Darrick Dishaw is a fellow student of G.I. Gurdjieff’s Work and is also knows as Venger Satanis, leader of the Cult of Cthulhu. On Friday April 28th, he posted a blog entitled The Asshole Quandary and he invited me to give it a read via private message on Facebook. I am re-posting his article and my response to provide an example of two distinct interpretations and expressions of the Work, which may serve to clear up some misconceptions about the pursuit of self.
The Asshole Quandary by Venger Satanis
Assuming you’re not an asshole, I’d like you to tell me why you’re not an asshole. Why? It’s probably not a question you usually ask yourself.
Some may think that it doesn’t make a difference. I disagree. I believe it makes all the difference in the world – and at its root such things can tell us if we’re right(eous)… if we’re well suited to the Work. Esotericism needs favorable circumstances, that’s true; however, it also requires us to start with good material. A student of the Work is deemed good material if he has both a positive attitude and aim.
Attitudes and aims come in all shapes and sizes. Negative ones discount the possibility of ascending the current Octave. Those with a negative attitude feel that life is what it is, achieving smaller goals of limited scope is perfectly acceptable to them… especially if they don’t have to put in a lot of effort. That’s fine. Such individuals have little time for Octaves, Higher Forces, or transcendence and, as such, don’t have a lasting interest in esoteric pursuits.
Those who have a negative aim want to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve because they are emotionally damaged in some way. Such folk would rather harm their enemies, for instance, than focus upon their own shortcomings and how to overcome them. In other words, they are not good material. People who say, “The end justifies the means.” have a negative aim. It’s difficult to imagine a lot of external consideration coming from such individuals.
All this goes back to the asshole quandary. Asshole: briefly defined as A) a stupid, mean, or contemptible person. B) the worst part of a place or thing. C) a worthless or annoying person.
A blatant asshole, like the expression of a negative emotion, is a red flag – easily recognized and thrown out. A non-asshole can go one of two ways. He can either not be an asshole because he’s trying to survive, perhaps even flourish, in this prison we call a world. Such a person is just as much programmed to not be an asshole as he is operating from learned behavior. “When I’m an asshole to others, sometimes others are assholes back to me.”
The other kind of non-asshole is the aforementioned good material which the Work is seeking, those who can find the Way and travel it. This third type makes effort towards not being an asshole because it’s the right thing to do, it’s in his nature. Instead of trying not to attract suffering, he tries to be good, to alleviate suffering. Now, a lot of us are sucked into bad situations populated by worthless people (worthless from an esoteric standpoint). Even if not being an asshole is in our nature, there are times when one has little choice in the matter. Under those circumstances, do the best you can… and find better circumstances ASAP!
For those curious about this, go ahead and try it. Imagine the difference. Start with negative emotions. Instead of destroying the negative – create positive. That doesn’t mean one has to be naive. It’s ok to be cynical, jaded, and skeptical. Yet, and this is important, one must strive to see(k) the good… no matter how much bad there is around us.
Positivity is defined here as… A) characterized by or displaying certainty, acceptance, or affirmation. B) Measured or moving forward or in a direction of increase or progress. C) Composed of or characterized by the presence of particular qualities or attributes; real.
Positivity is active whereas tearing away at the negative is reactive. Start with the latter, at first, if you find it easier, but always keep an eye on the former. Being positive is just as cleansing as becoming the void, and it makes those exterior parts of the self, such as false personality, transparent. That’s what we want. Too much filter robs us of illumination. Who can do careful, precise work – especially if we’re unsure of exactly how to perform it – in very poor light? Get rid of the filter so there is nothing obstructing or obscuring the view of our essence or soul – the part which needs our attention.
Lastly, I’m not going to sit here typing away and tell you that I’ve never been an asshole. I have been, I can be. It happens to everyone. That’s not the issue. The issue is that some of us occasionally make efforts not to be an asshole… and for the right reasons. Without allowing yourself to be taken advantage of, ask yourself if you’re truly being a positive force in the world. Would you rather be a decent human being because it benefits you or because it will benefit someone else?
Venger As’Nas Satanis
Cult of Cthulhu
Jason Sorrell’s Response
Thanks for the link. I think your post is an excellent introduction to the ideas of right-thinking, right-action, and the struggle to be self-aware. Some of the points presented might be a bit over-simplified, but I am assuming you are trying to speak to an audience unfamiliar with the pursuit of self via the Work.
For example, a “negative attitude” is any attitude which denies the potential of self, usually based on external influences which are incorrectly incorporated into the self-identity. “I’m not good enough, so I won’t try.” Being responsive predominantly to external influences with no consistent self leads to reactionary behavior; vengeance vs. justice and “the end justifies the means”. When your identity is the composite of external influences, your rationales will also be based in external precepts.
Suggesting that a “negative” attitude or aim is the result of emotional damage might lead some of your readers astray. It isn’t a matter of emotional damage per say, but rather it is the common state of any machine that lacks real emotions. The emotions are not damaged, rather they are unrealized or under-developed. Again, being externally influenced and responsive almost exclusively to those influences, their focus is also off. They are only really damaged relative to the possibility that they might operate more efficiently, or more correctly, but in their current configuration lack the tools or even the awareness that other possibilities exist.
Being an asshole may mean to many of your readers that someone has an acute self-interest. Usually it is a condemnation we make of others rather than an assessment of our own behaviors, especially when someone acts on their own behalf and in the process denies what we think we needed from that person. That kind of self-interest is sometimes necessary, as is the sometimes pointed expression that results in that opinion of our efforts.
Your blog may lead your readers to attempt to access and grade the behavior of others (“he’s an asshole”) more than making an assessment of themselves (“did I need to be an asshole?”). Your analogy of good vs. bad material may lead to some thinking that if they determine another to be an asshole then the asshole should simply be “recognized and thrown out”. Since the only mind we can know is our own, such assumptions are incorrect. As you point out, being an asshole is not a constant state. The most we can say is that their behavior is not favorable to our needs at the moment, or that they are not in a place that is conducive to where we are at. That may change in time. The most we might do is be aware and on-guard against such outbursts and attitudes in ourselves.
Still, a very good primer. I am certain you will have plenty of opportunity to clarify these points to your students as they arise in the future.
I feel that these two examples present a nonobjective and and objective perspective on the work. Darrick presents what might be seen as a kind of agenda, he wants people to treat one another better as well as not letting those people who might treat you poorly get you down. While that is a noble intention, the Work requires a kind of obsessive self-interest. Gurdjieff warns against being overly concerned about the opinions and attitudes of others, and especially against trying to assume or ascertain another person’s relative personal development. The only person you can know, and truly serve, is yourself. You may act on the behalf of others along the way, but always with your own goals at heart.
That level of self-interest means you sometimes will be perceived as an asshole, even a self-righteous asshole. This is just the way of things. The trap is in becoming wrapped-up in another person’s trip, which is often harder to avoid than one might think.
There is a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.