And the angel said, Good morning!
You're beautiful with God's beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you. you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth.
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Child of God.
And Mary said: Yes, I see it all now: I'm here, wishing to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
- Luke 1:28, 30-32, 38 (The Message)
The last two emails have illuminated the human condition by exploring multiplicity(the myriad of personality fragments that take turns speaking in the name of I) and the violence of negative emotions (mechanical, life-denying energy vortices manifesting as thoughts, feelings, sensations and reactions). The Work tells us that both are acquired.
What in us is real and inherent?
"In this [Work], the object is to have what is called 'Christ' born in us. You must not think of the historical Christ but of the fact of what was said in that form of esoteric teaching, that the Kingdom of Heaven lies within you and that means the realization of Real I."
– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "On Practical Work," Dec. 18, 1949, Vol. 4, p. 1348
The term Real I in the Work is a way of speaking about our true origin, nature, trajectory and potential as divine-human beings. Real I is what we truly are – our deepest truth – and coming into contact with Real I is not only our main goal in the Work; it is the essential truth of who we are in our individuality. Real I is another way of saying that we bear the image of God, and that we can Work towards restoring and embodying more fully the likeness to God. This is one reason why it is appropriate to say theologically that Christ is the Real I of God revealed to us, for us, as Way Shower to what we might become. Real-I-ness is just another way of saying that we are on a journey further into becoming Love.
Cosmologically, though inherent in each of us from birth, Real I originates from above – from a higher energetic level. In terms of the Ray of Creation, Real I is at the vibrational level of being of the Sun.
In the Work tradition, Real I is also called Master, and the Kingdom of Heaven. Real I is connected in scale with other high human potentials: Real Aim, Real Wish, Real Will, Real Conscience, Higher Centers. The Work says only Real I can love consciously. When our whole orientation is toward nourishing Essence, we are approaching Real I. Though we are not the agents of our transformation, as we practice consent, receptivity and attention to Presence, we become more able to allow Real I and all its associated gifts to manifest.
As in the Gospels, parable and analogy are used to point to this profound revelation of Real I. It is our willingness to become familiar with, apply, and verify for ourselves the framework the Work offers us that moves us toward the progressive understanding, embodiment and expression of our highest individual possibility – Real I in us, as us. Some important parables and analogies are:
The Parable of the House with Many Servants – In the Work we learn that, hidden within our being, there are many levels of consciousness that compete for dominion. Pondering and applying this parable which was a favorite of Gurdjieff's helps us observe the hierarchy of development of different I's within the multiplicity, that we might discern "who" is useful in the Work aim of self-mastery. Ex. There are I's that wish to work and I's that are not our friends.
TheParable of the Horse, Carriage and Driver – Applying this parable to ourselves can illuminate our process of awakening and becoming balanced in all three centers, that we might begin to "hear the Master's voice." (see Commentaries, "Parable of the Horse, Carriage and Driver, Papers I and II," Dec. 22 and 29, 1945, pp. 823-831, among many others.)
To Awaken – To Die – To Be Born. – We cannot make Real I manifest; we seek to approach it. This Work analogy gives us insight into the meaning and progression of Jesus' prescription for reaching Real I. (Matthew 26:41-2, John 12:24, John 3:3) (see Commentaries, "On Rebirth," Nov. 13, 1943, Vol. 1, pp. 348-51)
Another useful analogy for Real I is motherhood, specifically pregnancy. Regardless of gender identity or whether we've had children or not, the imperatives of conscious gestation of the child (Essence) can be instructive for the journey toward contact with Real I in ourselves. Of course, the analogy of motherhood only goes so far here, for in the case of Real I, in some mysterious way, we are both mother and child. Nevertheless, onward. Here is The Expectant Mother's Prayer:
Oh God … a child is growing within me.
"We were created before we were born on this planet and we were created perfect – that is, with Real I. We were then sent down through descending levels and further descending levels, down to this Earth, and we were born with Essence. At a very early age Essence may be in touch with Real I because, as was said, only through Essence can you get in touch with Real I. G. once said: 'Behind Essence lies Real I, and behind Real I lies God.'" – Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Commentary on Real I," Jan. 29, 1949, Vol. 4, pp. 1266-67
I don't know this child. What will she look like? Who will she be?
We are each individual creations; Real I is unique in each of us, though the intrinsic pattern is the same, in the way that each snowflake is unique, yet has a hexagonal shape.
I don't know whether I will be a good mother. And yet I long to know her and for her to know me. I spend my days and nights communing with her.
"[I]n my view and experience, the understanding of the Work is necessary for the understanding of the Gospels. This is especially the case, I would say, in realizing that the Gospels are not just about 'being good' or looking pious or humble or living in poverty or being poor in spirit. They are instructions about how to make Essence active so that it can grow and make contact at a higher level with Real I. The aim is contact – not being good." – Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Remembering and the Work-Triad," Nov. 15, 1952, pp. 1646-1648
She is small and weak … so tiny. And yet somehow in my being I sense her being … vast beyond understanding.
Though everyone has Real I within, it remains at a higher, deeper level than that from which we ordinarily live, think and feel.
"One mystery about Real I is that it makes contact with what is real, but what is real in us is not developed. The real man or the real woman is at present only a not-grown Essence, but can become a developed Essence; and this is a unity which becomes I in you and you become it, but not the 'you' that is the Imaginary I with its accomplices … Imaginary I is replaced by Real I." – Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Remembering and the Work-Triad," Nov. 15, 1952, pp. 1646-7
I don't feel up to the task, yet she is the sun and the moon and the stars to me … so, God, I am willing.
"But unless we work – really value this Work on negative states, struggle not to believe them, … erect the God in ourselves, the individual spirit … then indeed we are cut off from all inner help and all the deep background that Higher Centers can begin to give …" – Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Negative and Positive Emotions," Oct. 30, 1948, Vol. 4, pp. 1238-1239
Oh God, I would give my life for this one whom you've entrusted to me. Oh God, I need your help. Show me how to serve. Amen.
The Work and Centering Prayer teach us how to nourish Essence and approach Real I.
Listening – Real I belongs to Higher Centers and can transmit their meaning. As a mother-to-be listens to the stirrings within her body, so do we. We cultivate attention and active receptivity through the contemplative practices of Centering Prayer and the Work. What Nicoll calls "a receptive intermediary apparatus" is being formed in our minds and hearts.
Through listening, we learn discernment. We are given eyes to see what is valuable and useful and what is useless and even destructive for the child. Is this food (activity, psychological state, impression) serving the best interests of the child? Is it time to walk or is it time to rest? Is this I holding the microphone serving my Real Wish? If not, can I select something more beneficial?
Obedience – As a prospective mother puts herself under recommended regimens of pregnancy (vitamins, check-ups, balanced diet) in service to the child, so we put ourselves under the laws of the Work in service to making contact with Real I. We self-observe and non-identify with our small urges, preferences or programs for happiness. We practice obedience to what is higher by Self-remembering. In the realm of the spiritual journey, we find that obedience to what is higher in us yields freedom.
Humility – I cannot make this child. I cannot grow this child. I cannot rush this child. I cannot change myself. As we experience the inability to keep our aims, we are brought to a state of humility and powerlessness that can lead to patience and Self-remembering.
"[The] Work teaches that when a man or woman comes to the point of realizing his or her own nothingness, then this nothingness attracts Real I. For if you are over-swelling with yourself and your virtues and value, how on earth can you come in contact with anything real?" - Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries,"Separation and Self-Remembering," Sept. 6, 1947, Vol. 3, p. 1065
"How marvelous it is when a person begins to unknow a little and not always know! How marvelous it is when a man or woman changes, becomes softer, quieter. How marvelous not to have to be what you think you are, to keep up this false personality, this pseudo self! How extraordinary it is to move towards Real I, which is only moved towards by actual separation from false things in yourself, one by one … which [cost] so much force."
– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Unknowing," Mar. 1944, Vol. 5, p. 1758
- Practice listening, obedience and humility,
by continuing the work to awaken from Imaginary I, by observing, naming and non-identifying with recurring I's and any negative emotions they represent.
by trying on the ideas in the parables described here for what they can reveal for your journey.
by working with devotion and delight.
- All are encouraged and welcome to attend tonight's class for a review of these teachings and how they are landing in you: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.