c. Relativity on a larger scale
The idea that a cosmic body such as the earth has consciousness may seem strange or ludicrous.
But what is the world for this earth which is our world?
the solar system. And for this sun, what is its world? The galaxy, which we call the Milky Way, is its world.
The Milky Way itself is but one of a countless number of galaxies.
Then, coming to the ultimate conclusion, if we could but see the world of all the galaxies as one whole, this would be the one world, the universe (megalocosmos as Gurdjieff calls it), itself arising from and contained in Endlessness, the unknown center from which all creation originates. This megalocosmos, the universe including all its dimensions and levels of consciousness, is our real world.
Such concepts are beyond us. We never think about our universe as a living being, created by the working of specific laws, a cosmos that is born, grows, develops, matures and becomes more or less conscious, exactly as a person is born, grows, develops, matures and becomes more or less conscious.
We think about the universe as an inanimate, inert object, a kind of gas in different states of condensation. And so we never try to establish any communication between us and our larger world. Yet we must become connected and communicate with this universe in which we live and move and have our being.
If we wish to study and comprehend the universe, we must begin by studying it in ourselves, because each man and woman is a universe, a cosmos, Endlessness, but on a different scale. This is the meaning of the expression you have likely heard that the human being is a microcosmos, a smaller reflection in scale of the macrocosmos, the name that Gurdjieff gives to our Milky Way galaxy.
d. The ray of creation
e. The law of the three forces (the sacred triamazikamno)
f. The law of the octave (the sacred heptaparaparshinokh)
the moon is not a dead thing, but a young living being, still a child, capable of growing to maturity if it receives the necessary nourishment, the right food for it to survive and develop normally. For this it is dependent on the terrestrial biosphere. The biosphere of earth produces vibrations from all organic life as this organic life dies and decays. If the moon continues to receive the right food of vibrations as it revolves around earth attracting earth's cast-off vibrations essential for its maturation, it will ultimately become a planet.
g. The enneagram
Gurdjieff said: "The enneagram is the fundamental hieroglyph of a universal language which has as many different meanings as there are levels of men."
h. The human chemical or alchemical factory
in order of increasing states of fineness: 1) the physical, 2) the etheric (a kind of shadow of the physical), 3) the astral or emotional, and 4) the mental body. These four "lower" bodies are the product of this lifetime in which we each find ourselves. The three so-called "higher" bodies are: 5) the intuitive (often called "higher" mental body) and two further bodies, the Sanskrit words for which are 6) buddhi and 7) atma.
We can think of the three "higher" bodies together in the term that Gurdjieff calls essence. Essence is that with which we come in at the beginning of this life.
the four "lower" bodies, the physical, the etheric, the emotional, and the lower mental, known collectively as the personality, are products of this lifetime and are therefore not permanent. The three "higher" bodies, intuitive, buddhi and atma are permanent and in that sense immortal.
Let us return to "man/woman" and our lack of consciousness. What must we do to become more conscious? The person who wishes to become more conscious must learn what to do in order not to waste all the energy his or her body can produce and transmute, and how to use part of this energy to become more conscious. Nature has made us as we are, with our many abilities. We can build bridges, wage war, make love, write poetry, compose music, walk on the moon. But if we want to develop ourselves and become free and independent individuals, if we want to have the power to choose our thoughts, our feelings, our sensations, if we want to acquire unity within ourselves and have a will of our own, then we must learn how to make and use energies higher than those needed for the life we live ordinarily.
For our body, the needed food is the ordinary kind we already eat, but which we must learn to take in and absorb differently.
For our emotions, the right food is the air we breathe, and we must learn to breathe correctly so as to receive from the air the special rare elements destined for emotional development.
For our intellect, the food is all the impressions perceived by all our senses. Instead of accepting all impressions indiscriminately, we must learn how to take in, and absorb in a particular way, those that bring us the special energy needed to expand our consciousness, to make possible the establishment of the connections with the higher centers, and to acquire our own permanent "I."
Digestion, like all processes, functions in accordance with the two great laws of world- creation and world-maintenance.
i. An exercise in consciousness: a "stop" in the doorway
During the week following the reading of this lesson, each time you pass through the front door of your home, physically stop while in the doorway and sense your left leg as you include it in your attention. Observe yourself: your sensations, your thoughts, your emotions, as you stand in the doorway. This stopping to self-observe is part of the process of disengaging from identification with the personality Always ask yourself the question in the moment: who is doing the observing? This leads toward recognition of our true nature.
Lesson 4: The conservation of energy
a. A third experiment in attention
How many of those times did you remember to stop? Even once out of every five times would be very useful. If not, or if you forgot to attempt the exercise altogether (and it happens frequently), this is again an important observation. It allows you to verify the state of your consciousness and the extent to which you have will over it.
This time place your attention on your face. If you accept to do this, accept it freely. Choose to do it not because it is has been suggested to you, but because you have decided, of your own free will and accord, to do this experiment. You are quite free to accept or to refuse. If you choose to place your attention on your face, at the same time try to relax, especially to relax the small muscles of the face. If you have chosen to do this experiment, you have immediately noticed sensation in your face because it is called to your attention. Hold the sensation of your face in your attention for as long as you can while exploring this lesson. Remain relaxed and attentive, including the sensation of your face in your attention while continuing to read or listen. If your attention to your face disappears even after just a few seconds this is not unusual. Suddenly you will remember this exercise and in that moment of remembering begin again to include the sensation of your face in your attention.
b. The importance of energy conservation
ingesting the three categories of nourishment that are available to us: 1) physical food and water, 2) air, and 3) incoming impressions. We spoke of the proper way to take in the most potent nourishment, incoming impressions, through the technique of dividing the attention to include both the awareness of ourselves and the impressions coming into our organism, either from outside through the senses or from our stored memories.
Also mentioned in the previous lesson is the need to stop the leaks through which energy continually pours out of our organism. This happens when most or all of our attention is attracted in identification to outside stimuli. Here, we shall take a closer look at this and see what can be done about it.
In addition to the continuous effort to be self-conscious, which aids in the transmutation of energies, the Work requires that we try to find out how the energies available leak from us, and how to plug these leaks. Our behavior during our ordinary state, the state of "waking sleep," leaks energy in many ways.
The common element that is present in the many ways in which energy leaks from us is identification. We do not realize that we are always identified.
Our attention is always taken by something: by an idea, a person, a fear, a desire, by what we are doing or saying, or by what someone else is saying or doing. This identification is nothing other than an inner slavery. When we are in this state, and in ordinary life we are in this state most of the time, we are no longer ourselves. We are not normal men and women in the sense of having real will; we are really automatons controlled by external stimuli. We have no real will of our own, although we do not realize this. One can say that we cease to exist. If we want to be conscious, we must not be totally identified with anything. If we are totally identified, we are no longer conscious. This is why it is of the utmost importance to divide our attention so that we are not totally identified and so that the witnessing consciousness is present.
Gurdjieff spoke to Ouspensky and others about the evil of identification. He called it "one of our most terrible foes." He went on to say:
It is necessary to see and to study identifying to its very roots in oneself … Identifying is the chief obstacle to self-remembering. A man who identifies with anything is unable to remember himself. In order to remember oneself it is necessary first of all not to identify … Freedom is first of all freedom from identification.
We know from experience that it is impossible not to identify except for very brief moments. Our attention is always attracted to something or other, and it is that with which we are identified. For instance, you see something blue while passing a shop window, you like the color blue, you stop to have a better look. This is the first stage of attracted attention. You recognize that the blue thing is a coat. You continue looking at it, forgetting where you were going before you stopped to look; this is the second stage. Then, you like the coat so much that you go into the shop to examine it more closely and perhaps to try it on. This is the third stage. And finally, the fourth stage, in spite of its price, the fact that you have little money to spare and had no intention, when you set out, to buy anything, let alone an expensive coat, you purchase it. This is a general picture of the course of identification.
However, we also can verify that it is possible to divide the attention. So that even though a part of the attention is identified outwardly with whatever attracts it, the blue coat in the foregoing example, the remainder of the attention can be turned back inward for the purpose of self-consciousness, and Gurdjieff suggests that we sense the physical body in whole or in part as an aid for this purpose. It is in this way that we can become free from being totally identified. It is the dividing of the attention (or including ourself in our attention) that is the gateway to real freedom and to what Gurdjieff calls the real world.
d. The doctrine of "I"s and the role of "buffers"
One of the ways to observe identification in ourselves is to observe what Gurdjieff called all the little "I"s of which we consist. The major illusion we have regarding ourselves is that we are "one," a "unity;" that we have a permanent "I," an "I" who decides on and begins all our actions, and an "I" always responsible for our whole behavior. This belief is totally wrong. We are not a unity, we are a legion, an army of conflicting "I"s, each of which calls itself the whole. A coordinating "I" is missing in the man or woman as he/she is. Gurdjieff calls such a person a "man" or "woman" (in quotation marks) and, therefore, not a real person.
"Man/woman" does not have a unique will directing all he or she does. Everything in "man/woman," each thought, each sensation, each passion, each movement, each manifestation, each emotion, each desire, each act, is the manifestation of one of these small "I"s. When a "man" says: "I am thirsty," "I shall be late," "I want to buy this book," "I hate this," "I want this cake," "I am in a hurry," "I like that," "I love you," "I do not like this man," "I shall kill him," etc., it is a different "I" who is speaking, and each one of these small "I"s is unknown to all the other small "I"s. They appear at random, called by exterior events onto the stage which is this life. Each one of these "I"s plays its habitual part in accordance with its type and the fragmentary, often wrong, education it received. When it is finished with its part, often only a minute or two, it disappears. Then another "I" appears and replaces it on the stage. This is the real portrait of "man/woman" as he or she is.
We all live under the impression that we are responsible, that we can tell the truth, that we can choose our actions, that we can keep our word, and that we are capable of doing this and that. But self-observation demonstrates that this is not so. All this is completely false, imagination, illusion. In the world of "men" and "women" (in quotation marks) no one does anything and no one can do anything. Everything happens in reaction to external stimuli.
How can we always tell the truth with all these "I"s we do not even know, and which do not know one another either, but each one of which rules us as the king or queen for a minute? Which one of these "I"s can really speak for us, in our name? One "I" says "Yes!" and another says "No!" One "I" says "I promise to do this!" but the one who replaces it does not even know what was promised and does something quite different. How can we, composed of so many "I"s as we are, choose? Who would do the choosing? It is not the whole of us who chooses, but an unknown "I."
The role of what are called "buffers" in the Work plays an important part in shutting off all these "I"s from each other so that we do not see the inner contradictions going on. The idea of buffers in the Work comes from the example of railroad cars which have cushioning devices attached to the ends of each car to lessen the shocks when they bang against one another
Buffers are inevitable and important in every person because they are formed during the creation of personality, and personality is important to give the experience that human life requires. But if personality is not eventually made passive and subservient to essence, then the buffers normally created continue with the strong personality and prevent us from coming in touch with our real conscience.
Examples of buffers are all the justifications that an active personality puts forward to defend its importance. For example, I justify my angry reaction to the shop clerk or restaurant waiter whom I perceive as rude because they do not give me my due. Justifying my anger prevents me from putting myself in the other person's position.
The method of doing away with such a buffer is the dividing of the attention so that all my energy does not flow into identification with my angry reaction. The portion turned back within helps me to observe the situation dispassionately and to conserve energy. If anger is required to accomplish something, I can act as if angry. But if I am identified with the anger, then the buffer of self-justification remains and prevents me from seeing the real situation.
e. The "man/woman machine" and the terror of the situation
Because we have no permanent and controlling "I", we do not do anything that is directed from within, from what is our real conscience and which has been buried in the subconscious. We mistakenly think that we "do," whereas in reality our actions are all reactions to external stimuli.
Each day we hear about suicides, murders, accidents, rapes, wars. How can such events be the product of human actions?
How could "responsible" people allow such things to happen? This is possible precisely because "man" or "woman" does not do anything from within. All our so- called doing is in reaction either to external stimuli or to stored memories. In this sense, Gurdjieff saw us as machines that are controlled from without, from external stimuli or memory that is stoked from without, and not from within.
Every machine is made for a specific use. There are many kinds of machines, from a simple hammer to a computer. We are a kind of complicated computer. The only difference is that we have the possibility of becoming something other than just a computer. But to do this, we must work and pay. Nothing is free in life.
First, we each must realize that, as we are, we are a machine, nothing more. As a machine, we are not our own master. If we never learn that we are only a machine, we cannot get to work to stop being a machine, to escape from the fate of remaining a machine all our life.
If we do not become conscious of our slavery, if we do not become aware that we are at the mercy of these small "I"s, if we do not begin to observe them, to study them, to find their weak points and the way to get rid of the dangerous "I"s, how can we learn to harmonize them? Teach them? Regulate them? And finally master them and combine them into a single permanent "I?"
Until then, any one of these small "I"s can, in 10 minutes, do enough harm for the "man" or "woman" to suffer the consequences of what was done and to be forced to expiate it for the rest of his or her life. Consider the example of a "man" or "woman" who in a moment of reaction, in a moment of "rage", "bravado," "lust," or "patriotism" commits the entire organism to an unnecessarily dangerous and lengthy enterprise or servitude.
Commitment to military service or to marriage is an example of one small "I" having possibly committed the entire organism. Such is our situation, and we do not even know it. But it need not be our situation if, through work on ourselves, we develop a real will, a single, permanent, and controlling "I."
The first stage of the work of a "man" or "woman" who wishes to develop his or her consciousness is to become conscious of the existence of these "I"s, to observe them, to learn all about them, to get into contact with them. We must find out which of them are useful and which are dangerous: in other words, which of them waste energy and which act in a desirable fashion, or even in an absolutely essential way for our survival as an entity who can become a man or woman without quotation marks.
Do you see now the enormous advantage there is in knowing what is "man" or "woman" in quotation marks, in knowing it deeply and not only superficially, in knowing it in one's feelings and in one's body? Do you appreciate the immense power such a knowledge would give "man" or "woman?"
But what must we do with this power? What can we do? The power is here to become more conscious, to really "be." We cannot simply kill all the small "I"s. Many of them are not just there, but are absolutely essential, and in any case many others are deeply rooted and will remain, whatever we do. But in a person who is sufficiently conscious, these "I"s can no longer act as they please. They become obedient. Then it is a different picture. Our situation is no longer what it was before. We can change.
All identification uses energy, so that even if we identify with something pleasant, the desire, for example, to possess the blue coat, that is still a drain of energy. All identification can be classified as either a desire or a fear. Engaging in this Work, we observe the different kinds of desires and fears to which we have given labels, and we observe ourselves, making the effort to be self-conscious. This helps us to retain some of our energy that would otherwise be expelled through identification, and we transmute the energy retained into the finer substances necessary for the coating or crystallization of the higher-being bodies.
Categories of desires to which we have given labels include: avarice, bragging, conceit, gluttony, greed, lust, pompousness, pride, self-love, and vanity. There are many more.
Categories of fear to which we have given labels include: anger, anxiety, hate, irritation, internal considering, lying, negative imagination, rage, self-importance, unnecessary talking. There are many more.
Gurdjieff points out that the really heavy drains of energy are the drains that come from identifying with negative associations. These are all aspects of fear. He lumped all these into what he called "negative emotions" and said that it is imperative we do not identify with any of them and that we do not express them either inwardly or outwardly. There are many categories of negative emotions and within each category there are several different types. Let us turn our attention to examining a few of these categories, while at the same time including the awareness of ourself in our attention.
First, there is lying. Everyone lies and we all identify with our lies. We lie to others and to ourselves. Even when we want to, we cannot stop ourselves from lying.
In the Work, to lie is to express not only what we know to be falsehoods, but also to make statements about matters we do not understand as if we do understand them. Gurdjieff calls this "wiseacring."
In ordinary life, small lies are often necessary and anyway seldom important. But in the Work, the lies we tell ourselves are the most harmful lies of all. Such are, particularly, the lies justifying our behavior. To see and convince ourselves of the truth of this, we must observe ourselves at all times. So let us not forget to remember that we must observe ourselves right now! But for best results we must observe ourselves in a special way. We must observe ourselves with our attention divided. Are you still aware of the sensation of your face included in your attention?
This lying is, at least partly, a consequence of our dispersion into many small "I"s and the impossibility of knowing which one of them speaks at any given moment. The "man/woman" in quotation marks is only a machine, a robot, controlled by external stimuli and by accidental events each of which triggers one of these "I"s. You meet a friend, she flatters you, you are happy. A little later she says something one of your "I"s considers to be offensive, and you are hurt. When your happy "I" is active, you speak at length with your friend and waste a lot of energy in small talk, believing this to be a good use of your time; when your other "I" is hurt, it sulks and thinks evil of your erstwhile friend. This also wastes energy, but you think you are right in feeling thus. This is a small picture based on our everyday life.
g. Unnecessary talking
A common way to waste energy is talking. We talk too much, constantly in fact, and not only to others, but to ourselves. We often talk not because we have something important to say, but simply for the sake of talking, to avoid the silence often felt as embarrassing, and by habit. Incessant talking is more often than not a manifestation of fear, fear of silence, fear of embarrassment, fear of insecurity, and so on.
Our small "I"s talk all the time, to everyone and about everything. If an "I" cannot find someone to talk to, it talks to itself. This internal talking continues every day the whole day and this endless, seldom interrupted, soliloquy wastes much energy. So, if I need a certain amount of energy to solve a problem, it is no longer available: I wasted it in talking and the problem remains unsolved. It is essential to learn to save and store one's energy and to keep it intact for when it is really needed.
h. Internal considering
Another frequent state unworthy of a human being is called "consideration." It is the state of being concerned by what others think of me, and especially of being unhappy about not receiving from others the admiration, love, etc.
I think are due to me, this so very important personality whom I imagine I am. This is another type of inner slavery, another type of identification. I am tormented by what people think about me and by their behavior towards me. I am not given the credit I deserve. I am not respected enough. I have not received the answer I should have received. I have not gotten the job I applied for. I have not been noticed, and so on. So long as I am in that state, I am not free. I am conditioned by what I imagine others think or feel about me; yet, often, what I imagine is not at all what others really think.
i. Negative and idle (not constructive) imagination
Through this work I discover that I live in a fantasy world created by my imagination, influenced by my projection of others' imagined opinions. This is another drain of energy.
Usually, people think that imagination is admirable, a creative quality that should be encouraged. However, can a person who is not even conscious of him or herself create something worthwhile? Or even simply create? Although I think I am a "creator," I am only a machine. A thought enters my mind at one end and something containing that thought comes out at the other end. Did I create it? Imagination as fantasy is not healthy. Instead of being present to myself and my surroundings here and now, I imagine this or that and pat myself on the back as being "creative." Alternatively, in a state of negative imagination, a person can fear thousands of fantastic imaginary things, believing them to be real.
Fantasy imagination is not to be confused with insight, which occurs in all of us from time to time when the turning thoughts are quieted, whether unintentionally for brief moments or intentionally through meditation for longer periods of time. In the state of the quieted mind, insight from what Gurdjieff calls the "real world" has led humankind to profound discoveries.
Nor is fantasy imagination to be confused with intentional creative imagination usefully employed by a person who has divided the attention so that there is self-consciousness. In the state of self-consciousness, constructive imagination is possible. When we constructively imagine something that is objectively true, even if we do not yet experience it, the imagination of truth can bring it into our real experience.
Related to negative imagination is daydreaming. We daydream all the time. We do not realize it but, behind our behavior, our talking and our reactions, our dreams are constantly unrolling, tingeing, and falsifying our perceptions of all the events around us. Daydreaming about negative things is a tremendous drain of energy, and intellectually we know this to be so. Since the motive for the kind of daydreaming that we call negative imagination lies in the emotional center, our intellect is often powerless to stop it.
However, daydreaming even about pleasant things is also a drain of energy, although we usually do not realize this, not even intellectually. In fact, we often consider the reverie of a pleasant daydream to be not only a harmless enjoyment, but a useful mental activity leading to creativity. It is nothing of the sort and is really just a kind of intellectual laziness that is very different from creative imagination.
Both negative and pleasant daydreams are leaks of energy, leaks that we must plug if we are to have sufficient energy for inner development. The method of plugging the leaks is, as always, to divide the attention. In doing so we become conscious of ourselves and can observe ourselves more objectively.
k. Identifying with and expressing negative emotions
The worst kind of the poor functioning of our machine is the expression of disagreeable, negative emotions. Everything disagreeable that happens to us causes us to express ourselves negatively: to complain, to have a tantrum, to sulk, to weep, or to show in some way the emotion, the passion that has seized us, often through imagination. We wish to go for a walk in the park, it begins to rain, and we are angry. We lost at the races, we are unhappy. We offer a gift to our wife or husband, it is not well received and we are irritated, hurt. We are furious. We identify with these negative emotions and this drains energy. When we express negativity inwardly, the drain is great. When we express it verbally, the energy drain is even greater.
l. Chief feature: our big button
Chief feature has been called our "big button," the pressing of which causes the strongest reaction by our organism. The more strongly we re-act, the less is our real will.
This feature is almost always the result of early childhood conditioning, and for this reason it is, as Gurdjieff says, "necessary to see and to study identifying to its very roots in oneself." The psychological self-examination necessary to discover one's chief feature is a long-term process, and the nature of our chief feature is difficult to discover without outside help.
The study of our dreams for the meaning of symbols exposed in dream stories is an important aid in discovering our chief feature. While the outside help of a trusted advisor can be of benefit in discovering chief feature, the Work is always one's own work, and we can ourselves learn the language of dreams and how to work with them to uncover their meaning.
When we perceive this truth, we can begin to understand why nothing goes right in our world. Such is our inner world, the fantastic dream world in which we live without even knowing it and therefore without taking these phenomena into account. On this is what we base that which we call our "actions." It is the world of our inner slavery. However, we can get out of it as we find the means to know ourselves and to become more conscious.
m. External considering
it is something that is not accessible to us in our usual state of identification with some aspect of our personality. It is only when we are in the third state of consciousness, self-consciousness, and aware of being aware of ourselves that we can begin to approach external considering, because it requires a detachment from identification.
External considering is literally putting oneself in the other person's shoes. It is entering into the position of another in such a way that we are really able to understand and feel what another person thinks and feels. It is the stuff of which saints are made. This does not mean that it is a state not possible for us, for what we are after in this Work is something very big.
Gurdjieff tells us, are the words: "ONLY HE MAY ENTER HERE WHO PUTS HIMSELF IN THE POSITION OF THE OTHER RESULTS OF MY LABORS."
n. An exercise in consciousness: internal considering
During this next week, as a Fourth-Way exercise, let us look at one of the categories of identification that drain us of energy, the category of "internal considering." When you go into a supermarket or restaurant, notice your impatience with the slowness of the service, the uncaring attitude of the assistants, the lack of the merchandise or food for which you came, any of the other irritations that are commonly found in this situation. Or, when you are working, the rudeness of your clients or customers. Observe yourself and the thoughts and emotions that are going through you: "How dare they treat me this way, I am an important customer and I am not being given my due," or "I am doing my best to help these people and they are abusing me," or similar thoughts and emotions. This is internal considering. Observe it. Divide your attention so that the experience of yourself is included in your attention at the same time as the negative emotion of internal considering is included in your attention. See what happens.
Does the effort of Work ameliorate the negativity and if so, can you verify that energy is being retained?
Lesson 5: Meditation
a. First, a look at internal considering
Part of your attention was employed to include yourself in the experience and a part of you was observing the whole scene.
Can you understand what Gurdjieff meant when he said that as long as a man or woman does not separate himself from himself he can achieve nothing and no one can help him?
You have already begun to separate yourself from yourself. You have begun the process of freeing yourself from the tyranny of the false belief in the permanence and objective reality of your personality.
Remember again that if you forgot to attempt the exercise altogether, this is also an important observation. It allows you to verify the state of your consciousness and the extent to which you have will over it.
As we read this fifth lesson let us try to include a global sensation of our entire body in our attention. The technique will be explained more fully as we examine the Gurdjieffian meditation technique. Remember that this technique requires including sensation in the attention. It begins with a thought but then moves to sensation of the physical body, part by part.
b. The theory of esotericism
"The theory of esotericism is that mankind consists of two circles: a large outer circle, embracing all human beings, and a small circle of instructed and understanding people at the center. Real instruction, which alone can change us, can only come from this center, and the aim of this teaching is to help us to prepare ourselves to receive such instruction."
In meditation, when we have sufficiently observed ourself and been able to separate ourself from ourself through the techniques of the Work, we are able to sit quietly, devoid of ordinary thought and ordinary emotion. This is the preparation to which Gurdjieff refers. In this quiet state, real instruction from the inner planes of the psyche can be received. Whether this instruction is seen as intuition or insight, coming from a higher part of ourselves.
The meditative state, when all other conditions are met, provides the ground for the unitive vision. This is the vision of seers who have the overwhelming and wordless experience of the unity of all being with its freedom from all fears and desires.
c. Gurdjieffian meditation
"And only, when, thereafter, I had finally attained complete freedom from all the bodily and spiritual associations of ordinary life, I began to meditate how to be."
Is similar to nidra yoga meditation, or vipassana meditation. This is a meditative technique that centers around using our attention to include in it the sensation of our physical body in order to avoid all our attention being taken away by turning thoughts and emotions.
Meditation of this kind leads to a freedom or detachment from identification, to a vacuity from thoughts and emotions.
- Inclusion of a global sensation of the body in the attention, including the breath.
- Absolute silence: There is no chanting, talking, or listening to music.
- The eyes are kept closed. There is not the so-called "soft eyes" condition of slightly open eyes.
- There is no visualization.
- There is no attention given to a so-called "seed thought."
- There is no demand for any particularly rigid or unmoving posture. What is sought is a position that is sufficiently comfortable to allow sitting quietly for an extended period of time without falling asleep.
What we are attempting in meditation is to arrive at a very quiet place where there is not even a fleeting thought that stands in the way of our perception. It is in this extreme quiet, when the attention is taken by neither ordinary thought nor ordinary emotion, that the window of vision clears. In this clarity, call it insight if you like, we may experience the unitive vision, another name for enlightenment, or in the Gurdjieffian terms, "objective consciousness" and the "real world."
We should regard the meditative period as the most important part of our day.
It is a time that we have intentionally given over to something else, a "something" that we may not as yet understand, but which we know is completely separate and apart from our ordinary life activities.
Many practitioners have found that it is necessary to sit quietly for at least 20 minutes to arrive at a place of sufficient quietude so that the turning thoughts and ordinary emotions will have ceased, and a vacuity is experienced in the moments before a new thought arises.
In addition to the primary meditation period, one or two shorter quiet times during the day will prove useful. Sometimes, as a self-imposed exercise, the exact timing of these quiet times may be determined during the morning preparation. Such periods are then called, "appointments with oneself."
Obviously, if we can engage in two primary meditation periods, this will further enhance our work on self. But we should remember that this teaching is the Fourth Way, a way in life, not in a monastery, so we have to engage in meditative practice within the time constraints of our ordinary life. We each need to find the time period or periods that work best, and we should not be reluctant to experiment.
It is important that the meditation period becomes a regular, natural and primary part of our existence. At the outset, 15 minutes of sitting daily is much preferable to sitting for 2 hours once each week. Even if 15 minutes of sitting is insufficient to arrive at true quiet, it is the primacy of at least one daily appointment that is most important. If we are new to meditation, we must realize that this demand to make the sitting period a primary part of our day will not come easily. But if we stick with our resolve, a change in us will occur over time, so that meditation does become regular, natural and primary.
There should be a special place set aside in our home where meditation is usually done. A special room is good if it is available, but just the same corner of a room used for other purposes is quite satisfactory. The pillow or seat should likewise be special, the same one being used regularly. It has been asserted that we create an atmosphere of unique vibrations around us and that these vibrations remain near to our regular location. Even if this cannot be verified, whatever we can do to make the experience primary and of importance, like using a special place and/or a special pillow, adds to the primacy.
The meditative technique that will be introduced here is a device for intentionally deepening the experience of the third state of consciousness, called by Gurdjieff self- consciousness, or self-awareness, or self-remembering. The frequent and prolonged experience of this state in waking life while making our ordinary rounds is helpful to us in entering into this kind of meditation when we sit quietly. Therefore, regular work on ourselves to be self-conscious during our ordinary life activities prepares us for the deep meditative experience in which we wish to engage. Conversely, regularly engaging in this type of meditation enhances our ability to reside in the state of self- consciousness in the midst of life.
e. Quieting the mind
The first purpose in meditation is to still the mind. "The mind is the great slayer of the real," Madame Blavatsky rightly says in The Voice of the Silence.
She is speaking of the lower intellectual center and lower emotional center or ordinary mind, the chattering machine that goes on in us all day long, throwing up one thought after another, one fear or desire after another, in endless succession. We each need to discover that it is so.
all meditation techniques seek as their first purpose to quiet the mind, and there is no one method that can be claimed to be better than another. For each of us, one or another of the tried and tested techniques may work best.
Any of the following methods may be useful to still the mind. The first two methods are particularly Gurdjieffian as they involve the use of bodily sensation.
- By including the sensation of part or all of the physical body in the attention.This is the primary method used in Gurdjieff groups. It will be explained here in detail.
- By including the sensation of breath in the attention. This is a widely used technique and is part of the Gurdjieffian body sensing method.
- By directly controlling thoughts. A few people are able to control thought directly.
- By watching thoughts detachedly until the entire thought process quiets down.
- By tracing thoughts backward, seeing how each thought has arisen from a previous thought all the way back to their source. Arriving at the source thought, it can then more easily be let go.
- By tracing the thoughts backward with the question, who is inquiring? This technique moves the attention away from the thoughts and toward the inquirer.
- By forcing the mind to stick to a mantra, repeated silently, not aloud. Mantra drowns out thought, but eventually the mantra also must be stopped.
- By noticing the repetition of thoughts. This method moves the attention away from the thoughts and toward the noticer.
f. Preparing myself for meditation (sitting)
It is early morning and still dark outside. I have intentionally awakened more than an hour before my day's activities will begin. I need this time for myself, for a different experience of my life, for another possibility about which I understand little. I relieve myself, drink a little water, and do whatever else is necessary before I go to my accustomed place for meditation.
I go to my special place, the place where I meditate. I have a place within a room that is used for other activities during the day. But now, at this early hour, I am the only one in this room. I check to see if there is adequate ventilation and if the room is at a comfortable temperature. I may need a blanket over my shoulders, and whatever else is helpful so that my sitting will be unimpaired. There is a pillow on which I regularly sit. I position it to my liking and sit down upon it. I make certain that my sitting position is comfortable and that the sphincter muscle at my rectum is comfortably closed. I make certain that the clothes I am wearing are loose so that they will not bind or otherwise discomfort me during the meditation. If needed, I sit against a wall in order to support my back. I may use an additional cushion or pillow between my back and the wall. I do these things to provide some reasonable comfort for my body so that it will more easily accommodate the demand that I shall now make upon it.
I cross my legs and place my hands one in the other in my lap. Now I am ready to begin to meditate.
I slowly and with intention close my eyes. I notice immediately that the majority of outside impressions are cut off. I also notice that sounds still enter my organism through the ears and that other outside impressions such as smells, the texture of the atmosphere, and the sensation of heat or cold, also enter and attract my attention. While these impressions may initially attract my attention, I discover that by using the body-sensing exercise described below, I am able to let go of them, and they continue mostly unnoticed in the background.
I make a tacit agreement with my body that having already ministered to its needs, I will minister to any of its further needs and wants at the end of this meditation period. But for the next period of time, be it 15 minutes or an hour, these things, itches, irritations, urinary pressure, flatulence, thirst, etc., will be held in abeyance.
I take a moment to reflect on why I am doing all this. I may have had a taste of the "something else" through previous meditation, but more likely I have not. So what I have is a theory: something I've read in a book, something that someone has told me, something that I intuit. This something has to do with another possibility for humanity in general and for each human being in particular. This something, which I confess I really do not understand although I have my opinions, is about another reality. In Gurdjieff's terms it is about the fourth and highest state of human consciousness, that which he called objective consciousness. Gurdjieff said that this state could be entered into, other than by happenstance, only through the already intentional existence in the third state of human consciousness: self- consciousness. So, I shall try through this meditative exercise to exist more deeply in the state of self-consciousness, and from that maybe something more will happen. I cannot make anything happen and I must avoid expectations, but I can put myself into the recommended conditions where something more is possible, and this is what I now attempt.
g. Describing the global body-sensing exercise
"I begin this exercise by sensing the very top of my head, not thinking about it, but actually making the effort to have a sensation of it. Although a thought is required at the outset, the actual experience is one of physical sensation. As I go through the subsequent steps, I try to include each new sensation in the expanding attention, holding them in the attention."
"I next include the sensation of my forehead with special notice to its center. This is the location of the "third eye." In The Secret Doctrine, earlier humanity is described as having a functioning third eye, the eye of intuition.
For most of us as we are now, it is only vestigial in the pineal gland, but careful observation of this area reveals a vibratory sensation that we are able to include in the attention. At the same time I recognize that thoughts, such as speculation on something like the "third eye" while in the midst of the exercise, are a diversion of the attention into identification with the thought. So, I simply lay the thought aside and continue the sensing.
I then include the sensation of the back of my head. At this point I have a more complete experience of my upper head.
I now move my attention to my eyebrows and then to my eye sockets. I sense my eyes in their sockets. I may wish to move them to the left, to the right, up, down, center, behind the closed lids. This helps me to be more aware of my eyes. I sense my eyelids as they touch each other. I inhale deeply through my nostrils several times, noticing the sensation of the inhalation of air into my organism and its subsequent exhalation. I do not interfere with the breathing. I simply observe and sense it.
I sense my ears on each side of my head, and I see that it is possible to have a sensation of them, sensing even each earlobe in addition to the upper ear.
I sense my cheeks. I may notice muscular tensions here in the small muscles of the face or, indeed, at many other places in the body as I proceed with the exercise. Wherever I encounter muscular tension, I simply, as best I can, intentionally relax those muscles. Relaxation of muscles as I proceed is a critical part of this exercise, because tensed muscles use up energy, energy which I wish to contain. My body must be relaxed if I am to transcend it. (Note: Many people find it easier to relax muscles after first tensing them as hard as they can.)
I notice the various parts of the mouth and include them in my attention: the sensation of my lips touching together, my tongue touching against my teeth and/or my palate, the moisture of the saliva in my mouth.
I sense my chin and jawbone. Here again, I may especially notice muscular tension, and if so, I simply try intentionally to relax those muscles.
At this point I realize that I have a more complete experience of my entire head. It has shape and it has weight as it rests on my neck, and I notice these things also.
I continue down the body, sensing my neck, especially its center front where I may also notice a slight vibration. This is the so-called throat chakra, described in the Hindu chakra system as one of the seven energy centers of the body, just as is the third-eye energy center mentioned already. The vibrations of energy are real and although I may notice them, I try not to go off into identification with thoughts about chakras or energy centers. I simply observe, sensing whatever there is to be sensed.
I sense the connection of the neck to the torso, again noticing the entire weight of the head and neck resting on the torso.
I continue further, down the left side of the body, including more and more in my attention. I could just as well have chosen to go down the right side of the body first.
I may especially notice muscular tension in the shoulders and upper back, and I simply try to relax those muscles. I sense my left shoulder, upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, and left hand with all its parts. I sense my thumb, forefinger, middle finger, fourth finger, little finger. I may notice moisture in the palm of my hand and the sensation of one hand touching the other.
I sense my left buttock as I pass my attention farther down the left side of the body. I notice the weight of my body on it and perhaps the texture of the cushion below it. I sense my left thigh, knee, calf, ankle, top of the left foot, heel, instep, arch, ball of the left foot, and each of the toes in order, from the big toe to the little toe, as I pass my attention down the left side of my body.
At this point it is clear to me that I have a considerably more inclusive experience of my head, neck and left side of my body than of the right side. I can verify this through my experience.
Now I circle up the right side of the body sensing each toe of the right foot in order, from the little toe to the big toe, then the top of the right foot, the ball of the foot, arch, instep, heel, ankle, calf, knee, thigh, and buttock.
I continue up the right hand, sensing the little finger, fourth finger, middle finger, forefinger, and thumb. Then I sense the palm of the hand, back of the hand, wrist, fore-arm, elbow, upper arm, and right shoulder. If I have been sitting with my hands together, I notice again the sensation of the one hand touching the other.
I continue to check for muscular tensions and when I notice them, I try intentionally to relax those muscles.
There is, at this time, a more complete global experience of myself. However, I wish also to more fully include the torso in this experience, so I intentionally breathe deeply, again noticing the inhalation and exhalation, and especially experiencing the movement of the diaphragm as my chest expands and contracts. I sense the air as it passes through my nostrils and into my lungs as I inhale and exhale. If I am a person who has learned to breathe abdominally, I also sense the movement within my abdomen as it contracts and expands.
I pass my attention down the torso from upper to lower, continuing to include more and more in the attention, sensing the solar plexus, the lower abdomen, the genitalia. I may then also wish to pass my attention from lower to upper, paralleling the spine and sensing each part of the torso in the reverse direction. I may notice a flow of vibratory energy coursing through the body rising from the area of the genitalia. I may possibly notice an additional flow of energy that seems to descend through the body from the head. Whatever I notice I simply include in my attention. All the while I am still holding the global experience of my physical presence including all my limbs, in my attention. (Students of hatha yoga may recognize the vibratory flow as the awakening of kundalini, the vibratory force usually paralleling the spine. Sometimes this is called kundalini yoga. Students of tao may understand what appears as a circular vibratory movement as the so-called “microcosmic orbit.')
Now, here I am in this place, in this moment, relaxed with this more complete experience of myself. Included in my attention is the global sensation of my physical presence, the awareness of certain external impressions that continue to come in to the attention, the experience of vibratory energy, and even thoughts and emotions that I watch detachedly. I am here now! I hold still in this state of expanded and pure attention, mind quieted, and constructively imagined or actually experienced energy coursing through the body. I am in this state and aware of being aware of myself. I am self-conscious with not even a fleeting thought in my attention.
h. Holding still in preparation for the unitive vision (objective consciousness)
Physical discomfort often sets a limit to the period of undisturbed meditation. We may, therefore, have to learn to change our position occasionally (not fidgeting) without disturbing the state of mind. This, incidentally, is one of the side benefits of getting accustomed to physical work, with all the aches and pains that must be tolerated and lived with. Thus, we learn to put up with a fair degree of discomfort before feeling forced to move. When the mind truly withdraws, the body and its discomforts are forgotten.
Another obstacle to long meditation, is the sheer habit of sleeping a fixed number of hours, with the accompanying belief that we must have our full sleep in order to be bright and alert in the competitive world. The actual need of sleep for an individual on the Fourth Way is about 4−5 hours with possibly an odd 10 minutes (or longer if possible) of withdrawal into meditation occasionally during the day, in addition to the morning meditation period. Recent medical studies insist that most human beings do not get enough sleep. Many practitioners of the Work find the opposite to be true. The point is that the state of true meditation is as restful as sleep and often more so. What we are really fighting is not the body's demands for rest, but the fixed mental belief that those demands must be satisfied. Supporting that "belief" is the conscious or subconscious knowledge that sleep is an escape. Meditation is not an escape.
Meditation exercises such as this can temporarily still the mind, but we remain, as it were, in the midst of a stilled mental process that can and does start again at any moment. Adequate stillness usually requires a period of prolonged sitting.
If we hold quiet, the next thing to look for is a slight dissociation from the thinking process, which makes it relatively easy to stay in this quiet state. It is peaceful but eventually unsatisfying. This state can deepen into the state where the body passes into sleep and we are awake within it. Deliberately invoking sleep, while keeping in a position that discourages sleep, is an aid in this process. It also points to the fact that this movement is not, initially, anything that we can achieve by intention. In practice, we have to hold in the quiet state and let ourselves get tired.
After sitting quietly for a sufficiently long period, there will occur a "shift" from the intense awareness of the body, to a total detachment from it. Here we begin to "back out," using the attention to move further and further back in our awareness from the detached body.
At this moment, through the above suggested techniques or something similar, the chain of thought will have exhausted itself, and a kind of vacuity exists before the next chain of thought begins. In this critical moment, an emotional yearning (not a thought) for self-transcendence may be set up. This moment in between chains of thought does not seem to be in time, even though it is measurable in time, because the potential experience is of a different order. This has an emotional component but it is without thought. To pass beyond into the unitive vision requires:
- Prolonged effort.
- The help of maximized energy garnered through transmutation and conservation.
- Grace, or what appears as grace, because we have no direct control over it. Persistent perseverance without actual expectation of this "grace," which sometimes is called "help from above," is a sort of indirect control.
This effort is like leaning with our back to a door. We hold steady, steady! Eventually, the door will open of its own accord and we'll "fall" through. It is a falling through the "barrier" to the real world, free of all fear and desire. There will be a moment of unconsciousness, but then one becomes conscious in a different state. It is like falling to sleep except that in falling to sleep you just go unconscious and stay that way. Here, after the moment of unconsciousness, one is conscious of standing in the bigger self, of seeing things from a more detached perspective, the perspective of the unitive vision. Passing through the "barrier" can be an ecstatic experience, but it does not necessarily happen to all people as some sort of dramatic thing. Some people do just ease into it.
i. The unitive vision
The unitive experience or unitive vision is the ultimate objective of meditation. But the different terms used to describe it: the "real world," "objective consciousness," "enlightenment," all lack specificity in helping us to understand just what it is. It has been said that the unitive experience cannot be described in words, although numerous people have attempted a description. Thomas Merton, the Christian mystic, was one of many people who have tried to describe the ecstasy of his awakening into the unitive vision. His description of it is representative:
We enter a region which we had never even suspected, and yet it is this new world which seems familiar and obvious. The old world of our senses is now the one that seems to us strange, remote and unbelievable …
A door opens in the center of our being and we seem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us; all eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact …
You seem to be the same person and you are the same person that you have always been: in fact you are more yourself than you have ever been before.
You have only just begun to exist. You feel as if you were at last fully born. All that went before was a mistake, a fumbling preparation for birth. Now you have come out into your element. And yet now you have become nothing. You have sunk to the center of your own poverty, and there you have felt the doors fly open into infinite freedom, into a wealth which is perfect because none of it is yours and yet it all belongs to you. And now you are free to go in and out of infinity …
And you, while you are free to come and go, yet as soon as you attempt to make words or thoughts about it you are excluded − you go back into your exterior in order to talk.
we may have to go on sitting and watching for longer than we need to at first. We cannot make something happen. We simply make ourselves available for the experience.
This step of "passing beyond" is that for which earlier work should prepare us for un- termed periods of sitting. Although we may be able to arrive at a sufficient quietude after about 20 minutes of sitting, we need to allow sufficient time after that, during which we make ourselves available to further experience. It is best not to set up a predetermined time limit.
It must be remembered that the sort of instruction being given here is for people who have practiced long enough to have formed a degree of self-consciousness through the preliminary exercises. Only then is there something to stay awake when the barrier is passed.
j. An exercise in consciousness: meditation
Meditation must be practiced every day at least once each day, preferably upon arising. It is a daily reminder to function in self-consciousness as we proceed through our day. Its quietude provides us the best conditions to experience the dividing of attention. Dividing of the attention is necessary to commence the separation of the real self from the personality. Remember Gurdjieff's dictum: "As long as a man (or woman) does not separate himself from himself he can achieve nothing and no one can help him." During this next week, let us take it as an exercise that every day we will go somewhere in our home and sit quietly using the meditative techniques that have been suggested here or something similar. It is important that this morning sitting become a primary and regular part of our day, something that we will not want to skip.
"Meditation may be the one essential practice, without which nothing of significance will happen."
But we need to caution ourselves that more is required of us than just sitting in silence once or twice each day.
"The requirements of total self-dedication cannot be met by an hour or two's practice. One cannot be totally "given" at some times of the day and following one's own self- ish interests at other times. The attempt has to be made to bring the totality of one's nature into harmony with one's perceptions of the nature and source of being."
Lesson 6: Gurdjieff groups
For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them. (Matthew, 18:19−21)
a. Am I able to meditate?
Let us examine and share our experiences with respect to meditation. Was I able to sit quietly each day since the exercise to meditate was given? What technique did I use? For how long did I sit? At what time of the day? What did I observe about forces that prevented me from sitting regularly? Observations about our effort to meditate are especially useful in showing us the extent of our will.
Even if we do not yet understand the importance of daily meditation, we should take it as an exercise that we shall attempt each day. However difficult we find this exercise, we must decide to attempt it every day. We must intentionally give over a portion of each day to a different experience of ourselves, to engagement with our inner life. And we must make this effort primary, giving it value and putting it ahead of all external activities. Frankly speaking, it is unlikely that any change will occur in us if we do not accustom ourselves to sitting quietly for a time at least once each day.
Now, for the remainder of this sixth lesson, let us take it as an exercise to sit with both feet on the floor. Notice while examining this material how often we revert or attempt to revert to the habitual posture of sitting with our legs crossed. Going against habitual postures helps us to be conscious of ourselves. We need to resolve to always go against such habits and certainly when we meet as a group.
b. The importance of a group
Gurdjieff viewed Jesus as one of several great historical figures, including the Buddha, who were enlightened beings. By this he meant that such a being knows that there is no distinction between him or herself and that state which Gurdjieff calls "Endlessness." It is in this sense that Jesus is "God" and so are we all. The only difference is that Jesus knew who he was, but we, identified with our personality, do not yet know who we are.
It is our task, through the Work, to discover who we are. In that discovery we find that there is no one: no priest, no minister, no rabbi, no imam, no Gurdjieff group leader, who is delegated to stand between us and our true nature, that nature which Gurdjieff also calls permanent "I." It is that state in which we are present to ourselves, that condition in which we are self-conscious and that condition in which we are conscious of who we are. We can verify that we are rarely in that state without making intentional effort. Having attempted the self-consciousness exercises that have been suggested, we know how difficult it is to remember ourselves. We are completely identified with our personality, that tissue of sensations and memories that we mistakenly call "I." This leaves no room in our attention for the experience of ourselves.
Much of the time we will have entirely forgotten the exercise to remember ourselves. This is to be expected because such as we are, we have no real will. But when we commit ourselves to meet with others, to meet as a group, it is the group itself that provides the will that helps us to be self-conscious until we are sufficiently conscious to have developed real will.
There are exceptions to the need for a group. We have heard or read of great beings who have done the Work on themselves in a solitary fashion. The great Indian saint Ramana Maharshi was known to have had a profound experience of enlightenment at the age of 17 years. After that experience, he was content to live in the courtyard of a temple in south India. With others or alone, it made no difference.
But for the great majority of us, having verified our inability to remain self-conscious for more than a moment, we discover that we need others to remind us and to make a demand upon us to work on ourselves. The group meeting, usually weekly, at which we discuss our observations of ourselves, makes this demand.
c. Existing groups and payment
Gurdjieff said that there were three lines of work. First, there is work on oneself, by which we study the ideas, and engage in all manner of exercises in the effort to be self-conscious. Second, there is work with others, which is facilitated by participating in a group. The work with others, in addition to sharing our observations in relation to a weekly group exercise, supports the effort of each of us to be self-conscious, and helps us to observe our negative identifications as we "rub" up against others, enduring their unpleasant manifestations. Third, there is work for the Work. This has to do with organizing and maintaining the Work through groups and other activities so that the Work remains alive and can be found by others. The more of these three lines of work that we engage in, the greater the demand for consciousness that is put upon us and the less is the waking sleep in which we are enthralled.
Unfortunately, there are people who, knowing something about the teaching, organize groups for their own ego aggrandizement and/or for the power and money that such a group may bring to them. Gurdjieff called such people rogues and charlatans. In looking for a group, be careful! Use your good common sense and beware of any extraordinary demands for money. A demand, for example, that you pay to the group or its leader a percentage of your income or other such inappropriate financial scheme is a tip-off that you may be about to get fleeced.
d. Organizing a group
In fact, the person who undertakes to organize such work benefits the most because of additional demands for self-consciousness made upon that person.
- A group must meet regularly, preferably weekly.
- A group reads and discusses together Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.
- A group encourages its members to meditate.
e. The three categories of practical exercises
The first category of exercises can be seen as principal exercises or, to use Gurdjieff's term, "strivings." Unlike the second and third categories of exercises, which need to be changed from week to week, these are to be practiced always and everywhere.
We need to remember to engage in them. They help to shake us loose from the erroneous idea that we are the personality and from our identification with it. Practiced over a long period of time, these exercises or strivings free us from this erroneous identification and we come to realize that the personality (our body, emotions and thoughts) is only a tool. It is the vehicle, physical, emotional, and mental, through which we manifest as human beings for the experience of self-consciousness. We encountered one of these principal exercises in attempting to put ourselves in the position of another person.
The second category of exercises refers to those that remind us to be aware of being aware of ourselves. They can be called reminding or "stop" exercises, because they require us to stop, to sense ourselves, and to be aware of being aware of ourselves in the moment. We encountered this category of exercise in the exercise of making a stop before commencing each meal, and in the exercise of stopping in the doorway of our home as we go in and out.
The third category of exercises comprises psychological exercises in which we observe a particular feature of identification in ourselves, usually a type of so-called negative emotion. These psychological features take our attention and our energy, the very energy that is needed to stand in objective consciousness. The exercise of the self-observation of internal considering in which we have already engaged is a typical example.
f. Principal exercises or strivings
- To strive to have everything satisfying and really necessary for our planetary body.
- To strive constantly for self-perfection in the sense of being.
- To strive to know ever more concerning the laws of world-creation and world- maintenance.
- To strive to pay for our arising and individuality as quickly as possible.
- To strive to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to ourselves and those of other forms.
- To strive to watch the reflection of the splendor of the sunrise every day in the state of self-consciousness. Its significance becomes clear when we do this because we realize that it is a daily reminder of relativity. It puts earth and all the events upon it in perspective as less than the significance of a grain of sand in the universal plan.
- To strive to meditate each day.
- To strive to consciously labor. In all our activities we must always strive to act or labor consciously.
- To strive to intentionally suffer. This is to compel ourselves to be able to endure the displeasing manifestations of others towards us.
- To strive to put ourselves in the position of other beings, both those similar to ourselves and those of other forms. In essence we are all other beings.
- To strive to constantly sense and be cognizant of the inevitability of our own death as well as of the death of everyone upon whom our eyes or attention rests.
- To strive to manifest "as if" we already stand in objective consciousness.
g. The reminding and "stop" category of exercises
He would shout "stop," for example, to a surprised group of people engaged in sacred dance. In that moment of "stop," the dancers have a profound experience of self-consciousness, self-observing their thoughts, emotions, and postures, and conscious of themselves in their attention.
h. Psychological exercises for observing identifications
the self-observation of psychological states of identification that keep us from self-consciousness and that drain us of energy are a major part of the Gurdjieff Work.
The exercise of observing internal considering that was given earlier is an example of such a psychological exercise.
i. Gurdjieff music
Certain types of people will never open a book, others cannot sense rhythms, still others are tone-deaf. Gurdjieff attempted to reach them all.
Our consciousness is not made up of mental concepts and ideas only; it also encompasses our feelings and our spiritual impulses. Our real feelings and emotions are mostly strongly hindered in ordinary life, much more so than we can imagine. But we can come closer to them through objective music which affects all people similarly.
Gurdjieff often used music, especially in relation to the music accompanying special movements and the sacred dances he apparently had witnessed during his travels. Early on, he attempted to transmit his teaching through these methods to pupils for whom they were suited. He was able, with the help of an early pupil, the musician Thomas de Hartmann, to reproduce the sacred objective music.
Gurdjieff's music, conscious, objective music, touches our deepest impulses and liberates them from their chains, not all at once, but gradually and surely. Some of our inner knots, our complexes, our tensions, and bad habits, even the most deeply rooted ones, are also touched and freed by this special music. It is an objective, conscious, music because it has a conscious aim.\
the purpose of such music is to help us to become more conscious of ourselves. This expansion of consciousness, if we obtain it, whether through music or in any other way, is not limited to the development of our mental capacities.
Objective music improves the perception of our normal bodily sensations, and of our true feelings as well as our capability to think consciously. And consciousness of feeling is connected to "conscience," which also is rarely free to manifest itself. The aim is a global expansion of consciousness.
j. Sacred dance: the Gurdjieff Movements
For some Gurdjieff groups, they are the centerpiece of Gurdjieff's teaching, and participants engage in Movements classes once each week or more.
Without actual participation, a student cannot properly appreciate the Movements, and descriptive words are generally inadequate.
How to describe them − perhaps there's no better way than the answer Gurdjieff gave to his pupil Ouspensky, when he told him to imagine that there was a mechanism for studying the planets which represented visually the laws governing their movements, reminding the onlooker of all he knows about the solar system. He said there was something like that in the rhythm of the sacred dances.
The first requirement is for the correct pure position; otherwise the meaning is lost. The position becomes something less unconscious. Schematically, let's say that it's a firm, balanced position, that allows the person to maintain an inner presence while making a simple gesture, followed through without tension, without any useless or involuntary expenditure of energy. One has to feel the position, having a living impression of it, for it to be right and pure …
Again and again, while making the movement, the pupil tries to return to himself and to remember the direction of his search. He must have a deeper, more relaxed, more sustained attention …
But if this attention is sustained, a new energy appears which is higher and more active, which awakens him to himself. The body relaxes completely and begins to participate in a freer way; a new intelligence accompanies the movement. At the moment, the pupil approaches the "exact doing" of which Gurdjieff spoke.
k. Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
l. Toasts to the idiots
m. For whom is the Gurdjieff Work suited?
The Work is not an escape. Consequently, most people studying Gurdjieff's teaching tend to be in their thirties, forties, fifties, and even older.
n. How long is the duration of this Work?
It is only when we are completely free of all fear and all desire, and our personal selfhood is integrated into the all-consuming unity of being, that we experience the sacred-being impulse of genuine love.
In that state we know that we are Endlessness, as is everything else, and our love therefore extends to everyone and everything because they are all us.
"Love is the light and love is the way. Where ere love's camels turn, the one true way is there."
To sum up: we attribute to ourselves consciousness, free-will, willpower, the ability to choose what we want, and the power to do what we want, when in fact we have none of these capacities. If we do not first realize the lack of these attributes, we cannot begin to remedy the situation. However, as soon as we become aware of our lack and the realization that we manifest only as personalities, the impermanent and therefore not objectively real entities who have none of the qualities we thought we had, we begin then to perceive the obstacles standing in our way and to look for the means to overcome them.
We also search for a way that will bring us back to what we should be, that is, we set out on the quest for the "path of return" to the realization of our divine nature, the source of consciousness. If we search diligently, we find a mentor or a group. If need be, we find others and organize a group. Then we can go on our way step by step, and ultimately reach the desired destination where we will discover what we thought we already knew: who we are and what is our purpose.
For humankind's survival, our sorry state must be made known to us, so as to make us seriously think about who we are and who we should be. Especially, it must be revealed to us that a true teaching and a practical method exist, enabling anyone who sincerely follows it to become a free and independent individual, a real man or woman (without quotation marks).
But first we must realize that we are only slaves to external stimuli, and therefore in prison. If we do not know this, we will not make any effort to escape and become free. When we realize it and desire our freedom, then and only then, will we have the possibility to escape, to free ourselves.
Beelzebub answers with the hope that if every human being could somehow keep in front of them the inevitability of his/her own death and the death of everyone around him/her, then this might destroy the egoism that is the hallmark of the personality and that prevents realization of the truth.
Sadly, it is only too true that almost all those whom Gurdjieff calls "man" or "woman" (in quotation marks) are unaware that they are in prison, the prison of identification. Consequently, these "men" and "women" do not make effort, and most of them are satisfied with the security of being in prison. Tragically, most do not even know they are imprisoned. If, as Beelzebub suggests, we could continually be cognizant of our mortality, we would then be inspired to work for our freedom.
This introduction to Gurdjieff's teaching might give the impression that the Work is something that can be written about, talked about, and engaged in as an ordinary endeavor. For the most part we do use the techniques suggested in a straightforward manner to approach reality. But a finger pointing at the moon is itself not the moon. What we are after is something quite subtle, and while words can point to it, the words are not it. Whatever we can put words to, is not it. When we speak of knowing who we are, whether we call it Endlessness as Gurdjieff prefers, or by any other word, that is not it, at least not in any way to which words can be put. It can be experienced, as in Thomas Merton's attempted description given in the lesson on meditation. But as Merton says, "As soon as you attempt to make words or thoughts about it you are excluded."
Ultimately, we are confronted with the mystery of being:
"The root of the mystery of being lies at the root of the awareness which perceives the universe. Every human being is human by virtue of that awareness. Every human being is or can be aware that he is aware. When that self-awareness is traced to its inner source, then only can the identity of the individual with the universal be found, then only can the mystery of being be solved"
Appendix 1: Who are you Mister Gurdjieff? A speculative enquiry
a. What makes a master?
"Who are you Monsieur Gurdjieff?"
"Who could pride himself on ever having met Gurdjieff? A master meets you for the sole purpose of showing you the direction, the way to the inner master which is called conscience. He helps you to discover that you are already its subject, but that you were not aware of it. And then he disappears. He melts into the sky as the mountain does the moment you believe you have set foot on it"
b. Blavatsky and the concept of masters
c. Gurdjieff enters the scene
d. Writing Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
e. The Mahatma Letters connection
f. Blavatsky's prediction: an instructor in dancing
Appendix 2: Gurdjieff and the study of dreams
a.The importance of accessing the subconscious
Gurdjieff defines a human being as being divided into two primary components: personality and essence.
He speaks of three lower centers: the moving-instinctive, the emotional, and the intellectual centers as constituting the personality. Sometimes he spoke of the moving-instinctive center as itself being composed of three centers: the moving, the instinctive, and the sex centers. These three (or five) lower centers represent the growth, education, and experience of this lifetime.
The two higher centers of which Gurdjieff speaks, the higher emotional center and the higher intellectual center, form our essence, our essential and higher nature.
objective consciousness and objective conscience. Gurdjieff tells us that the higher centers are always transmitting wisdom to us, only we cannot hear them because, as he explains in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, objective conscience has been suppressed into the subconscious.
It is important to understand that essence is who we really are and is eternal, whereas personality is time-bound, arising at birth and ending at death or shortly thereafter. In describing who we really are, Gurdjieff has used interchangeably a variety of terms: Endlessness, essence, higher centers, objective conscience, and objective consciousness among others. The coating of the spiritual body, which Gurdjieff tells us is necessary, refers to our ability to stand in essence rather than in personality.
The importance of receiving wisdom from the higher centers is recognized in the writings of two of Gurdjieff's most prominent students, Maurice Nicoll and Margaret Anderson.
Gurdjieff places vast importance on our need to access the subconscious so that we can receive the wisdom of the higher centers. He explains the importance of accessing the subconscious.
Studying identifying to its very roots in oneself and cleaning our machine of the dirt that has clogged it in the course of our lives is work of a psychological nature. For this reason, it is necessary to use psychological tools, and in particular, psychological tools to access the subconscious so that we can bring the wisdom of objective conscience into our ordinary consciousness.
Hypnotism, psychological probing, and the analysis of dreams.
Because objective conscience is suppressed into the subconscious, it speaks to us through dream in symbolic form to avoid censorship by the personality, as is well known in modern psychology.