Ask and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you.
- Luke 11:9
"If creation is to move forward toward its completion and transformation in God, what took place in the life of Jesus must take place in our lives as well. God evolves the universe and brings it to its completion through the cooperation of human beings. Thus, it matters what we do and how we live in relation to God, for only through our actions can we encounter God."
- Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being
"I Am. I Wish. I can Work."
- Work Aphorism
As we begin a new year, we are blessed with a new school, a new theme and a new beginning. Nevertheless, our theme, The Way Draws Us Deeper, points not to something new, but to a continuum, something ongoing; miraculously, we are the beneficiaries of the confluence of two of its ancient streams: contemplative Christianity and the Work.
The Way Draws Us Deeper also points to the possibility for change, for evolution, for fullness. We were not born complete.
"The central idea of the Work is self-change, and the central teaching of the Work is that Man is an unfinished creation, a self-developing organism, one whose only real task is to complete itself."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "On Obeying the Work," December 8, 1945, Vol. 3
What is self-development and what is its aim?
Though books by Work teachers may be found in the self-help section of bookstores, the Work is not concerned with the culture of self-improvement, which promises keys to more success in finances, relationships, health and much more. For those who seriously engage it, the aim of the Work is Self-development into Christ, and provides a practical set of tools to help us reach our highest, God-given, potential as human beings.
"All religion, all esoteric teaching, is about the fact that we are born as self-developing organisms … in order, by a certain kind of work on ourselves, to reach something inherent in us (as a new being is inherent in an egg) which is called Real I … the object is to have what is called 'Christ' born in us. … the Kingdom of Heaven lies within you and that means the realization of Real I. … Now the application of the Work to yourself is all about making it possible to go on a journey, spiritual or psychological, towards what is really you, Real I in you."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "On Practical Work," December 18, 1949, Vol. 4
We learn that, though humanity is hypnotized by inherited forces of negativity, duality and violence -- what Fr. Thomas calls "the human condition" -- each of us, by applying the Work to ourselves, has the possibility of freedom from these forces. Simply put, we have the extraordinary opportunity to participate in our own expansion and evolution.
"[L]iberation leads to liberation. … The meaning behind these words may be explained as follows: By liberation is meant the liberation which is the aim of all schools, all religions, at all times. This liberation can indeed be very great. All men desire it and strive after it. But it cannot be attained without the first liberation, a lesser liberation. The great liberation is liberation from influences outside us. The lesser liberation is liberation from influences within us."
- G. I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World, "Prieuré, February 13, 1923"
"Who’s" doing the developing?
One of the Work aphorisms that unfolds its meaning for us over time is, "Man cannot do." We learn that asleep in the human condition, we cannot by our own volition free ourselves. Many of us can confirm that, despite our best intentions to live according to the Gospels, we still find ourselves in mechanical reactivity and recurring disappointing interactions. We are probably reading this email because we realize that if we could have freed ourselves by this time, we would have. Serious spiritual aspirants eventually understand that the spiritual journey entails what the Christian tradition calls kenosis – or self-emptying – allowing the movement of the Spirit of God within to heal, open and awaken us. It is not us who are evolving us; it is God. We are junior partners in our transformation, but necessary partners. God is immanently respectful of our free will.
So what can we do? What is our part?
"You cannot make a man awaken by external force or compulsion. A man can only begin to awaken from his own understanding and his own will to awaken — which begins when he sees his state. … [A] man can only grow through his own choice and his own understanding and from inside, because it is the individual man in himself, the essential man, that the Work and all other esoteric systems seek to awaken."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "A Note on the Difficulties of Giving Out and Receiving Esoteric Teaching," March 9, 1946, Vol. 3
It is with our deep longing for liberation, through our consent, that we signal our willingness to be drawn deeper into the life for which we were born.
"The spiritual journey is a training in consent to God's presence and to all reality. … This gradual training in consent is the school of divine love in which God invites us to accept the divine plan to share the divine life with us in a way that transcends all that the human imagination can foresee."
- Thomas Keating, Invitation from God
As Fr. Thomas suggests, consent is a commitment to ourselves and to God that grows in us over time. We commit by showing up — by keeping our daily practices of Centering Prayer and reading and applying the principles of the Work. We commit by Self-remembering: continually turning our attention and intention toward God, the Source of all good, all beauty, all creation, all love and striving to remember that we are beloved of God and capable of being transformed into fullness of Being. We commit with our Wish.
A Wish, according to the Work, is more than a preference or a small desire for something. A Wish is born of our profound longing for ever-deeper relationship with, and service to, God, our sisters and brothers, and all creation. More than an intellectual prayer, a Wish comes from all three centers — the mind (ask), the heart (seek) and even the body (knock).
Life is School
One of the gifts that the Work brings us is the recontextualization of our whole lives as opportunity to Work, and awaken, and grow in awareness of and union with the Living God. Relationships, events, and difficulties – large or small – become transformed from annoyances or reasons for hopelessness to part of our God-given curriculum. Life becomes school.
And so we begin our journey. Though we know not where we're going, we set out on the Way, expectant, joyful and companioned by one another.
I set before you life and death … choose life.
- Deuteronomy 30:35
"A few conscious people can produce more energy of high quality than thousands, or even millions, of people who exist automatically in sleep. … It doesn't usually occur as the result of a single moment of self-abandonment, but rather as a repeated choice to respond to the impulses that reach him from his own higher nature, of which [one] is not yet fully conscious."
- Maurice Nicoll, Centenary Fragments
Homework: A Wish is a powerful prayer; it is how we ask, seek and knock; it is a ferment by which we animate our participation in the Trinitarian life that is our destiny. It is important. It is said that our deepest Wish is actually God’s Wish for us. So, Wish big! Whether you are new to the Work and activating a Wish for the first time, or are a long-time practitioner re-discovering and re-grounding your Wish, take time to ponder: "What is my Wish?" Then take time to plant that Wish deeply, by praying it in all three centers with deep intention. Think it, feel it and sense it in your body. May it be so. Amen.
- For more about Self-development and Wish, attend tonight's class at 7pm in The Church of Conscious Harmony sanctuary or via Zoom, using one of these connection options:
Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778
Please plan on connecting at least five to ten minutes early. For further tips on using Zoom, please see the bottom of this email.
- Read more about Self-development by reading the Commentaries cited in this message in their entirety. Others can be found in the index.
- We urge you to not forward this email to friends as it is for those we have said Yes to an invitation, to this particular path of access to the Way. The messages are intended to build upon one another and create a container of high intention and purpose.
- Journey Groups are where this and all messages can be engaged in a small group for greater depth of Work in all three lines of the Work. Registration to join a group is now available and you may sign-up for a group here.
Resources for Further Study:
- From the tradition of the Work, our primary reference will be the five-volume series, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, by Maurice Nicoll. We will abbreviate this reference as simply Commentaries when citing. These can be downloaded as PDFs from: https://selfdefinition.org/gurdjieff/maurice-nicoll-directory/. Additional sources in the tradition of the Work will include writings by Beryl Pogson, Bob Hunter, J.G. Bennett and Rebecca Nottingham, among others.
- From the tradition of Christian spirituality, transformation and evolution, we will be drawing from the works of Thomas Keating and others, such as Thomas Merton, Bernadette Roberts and Ilia Delio.
- There is a free Centering Prayer mobile app timer available for both iOS and Android platforms. Search your app store using "Centering Prayer."
In The Journey School emails and Thursday night class, we are limited in language by convention and by context. The word "God" is our usual reference to what some call the Ultimate Mystery, That Which Is, the Infinite, the Creator, the Atman, the Source, the Unknowable, the Divine.
Further, modern languages are marked by the patriarchalism of both the past and the present. Often, God is referred to as "he" and the totality of humanity as Man. With a wish for the evolution of more inclusive language, whenever possible, gender-neutral terms will be used.
There will, of course, be gendered language in others' quotations. We realize its limitation, however we will not try to change it. We are sensitive to language — and yet limited by it — with no biases intended.
Tips for Connecting via Zoom
A device with a larger screen, like a desktop, laptop or tablet, provides the best visual experience.