So far in our exploration of humanity, we have come to understand that we are self-developing organisms capable of unlimited growth and development, indeed, capable of being deified into Christ, as birthright and destiny. We have essence, the divine center capable of development, and we have personality, the interface between essence and life – an organ of digestion for the transformation of impressions into the energy needed for us to awaken and arise through levels of consciousness. We have centers of energy and reception: intellectual, emotional and moving; and we have higher centers, the innate capacity to receive and transmit impressions from the highest level of consciousness. We have Real Conscience to serve as an inner compass of discrimination, the Truth-sensor. Now, we must take our part in the Work to rightly use what we have been given by the Giver of life to fulfill what is ours to become.
For this command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, "Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may do it?" Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?" No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. I have set before you life and death … Choose life … that you may live.
- Deuteronomy 30:11-14, 19
"Gurdjieff's message is clear. The human predicament cannot be resolved by exhortation or organization. It is no use telling us what to do if we cannot do it. … The way out is through the transformation of individuals, who in their turn can guide and help [human]kind through the perils ahead. If we wish to take our part in this Work, we must be prepared to not only make sacrifices but to make intelligent sacrifices. It is not enough to be willing – we must also learn 'how to be.' We must set ourselves to understand the 'sense and purpose of our existence' and then devote ourselves to its realization. For both stages, we need to know how. … It is now 52 years since I first met [Gurdjieff], and I am more than ever convinced that he has a message of hope for this distressed world. …
"The choice between life and death is not a matter of another life in which we only half believe. It is the ever-present situation of every moment in the life of man. … [I]n contemplating our own personal destiny, it is the choice between the doubt whether our life has any meaning and the certainty that in the scheme of things we have a necessary part to play. … [and] the peace and satisfaction of him who quits the scene with his debts paid and his duty done. …
"Those who understand the necessity for working on themselves and achieving the second destiny find in that state of tension the greatest possibility of incentive and force to make them work harder."
- J.G. Bennet, Is There"Life" on Earth?
Work on Oneself
"In the Bible, Christ descends into hell to 'save sinners.' If I understand that Christ is a synonym for God or the true Self, then it is clear that his descent is one into his own nature to order to transmute and raise it to oneness with himself. In order that I may 'receive' the descent of my God-nature, I must know Who I Am and prepare for its Coming by the work of self-purification. I must enter the dark unknown called by psychologists the 'sub-conscious' or the 'unconscious,' the labyrinth of the inner world of my mind. … Paradoxically, the way out is the way into myself. The deeper I go, the more I realize Who I AM. I know myself and at the same time discover God. In the process of becoming God, my lower nature is redeemed because it is illumined slowly by … descent. … This process may be called perhaps, 'the passing through Purgatory.' Then indeed Hell is transfigured into Heaven."
- Anne Gage, cited in Centenary Fragments, teachings from the Work groups of Beryl Pogson during the 1950's and 1960's
Another Look at Self-observation
"Self-observation is an act of attention directed inwards – to what is going on in you. The attention must be active – that is, directed. In the case of a person you dislike, you notice what thoughts crowd into your mind, the chorus of voices speaking to you, what they are saying, what unpleasant emotions surge up, and so on. You notice also that you are treating the person you dislike very badly inside. Nothing is too bad to think of him, to feel about him. But to see all this requires directed attention, not passive attention. The attention comes from the observation side, whereas the thoughts and emotions belong to the observed side in yourself. This is dividing yourself into two. There is a saying: 'A man is first one, then two, and then one.' The observing side, or Observing I, stands interior to, or above, the observed side, but its power of independent consciousness varies, because it may be submerged at any moment. Then you are completely identified with the negative state. You do not observe the state but you are the state. You can then say that you know you are negative, but that is not to observe it. If the Observing I is supported by other 'I's which value the Work and recall it and wish to become more conscious then it is not so easily submerged by the flood of negative things. It is then helped by – and a part of – Deputy Steward. All this is quite different from merely knowing one is negative. Passive knowing can be said to be mechanical in contrast to self-observation, which is a conscious act and cannot become mechanical. Mechanical self-observation has nothing to do with Work self-observation."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "Self-Observation," January 9, 1943, Vol. 1, p. 213
"[Self-observation] brings about a complete change of the feeling of oneself and begins to dissolve Imaginary I. At the same time, while the process … is taking place, we begin to feel influences reaching us from another source of meaning. These influences could not reach us before because there was this thick darkness intervening. We can think of this dark side as the 'other person' in us that we tend to see in other people. When you begin to make this other person, this dark self, more conscious to you, it is no longer projected on to other people and your whole relationship to other people begins to change. …. Do not start with the idea that your neighbor should change and release you. You must release him."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "The Reasons Why We Have To Observe Ourselves," March 31, 1945, Vol. 2, p. 663
A Gilded Invitation
"The first result [of self-observation] is that you cease to blame life and other people and the second result is that you deeply wish to become another person, a new man, or a new woman. But, as we are, fastened to our imagination of ourselves, we find for a long time difficult to realize that we are the chief malefactor – and this is because we do not know ourselves and live unconscious of ourselves and so never think that most of our own life-problems, which we blame on others, are due to our level of being – that is, the kind of person we are, which, as was said, we leave out of every situation. We do not include ourselves in the equation of life. We leave out X – that is, oneself – and X remains an unknown quantity. And it is as if all the hosts of heaven were waiting in breathless silence to see whether any man or woman will begin to study this unknown thing, called X, and so start on the path of the inner evolution of a new meaning that alone explains our existence on this insignificant planet. Now this factor X, missing from our equation of life, can become increasingly active and balancing only through direct self-observation."
- Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, "This Work is About Change of Yourself – Not Change of Your Life," July 2, 1949, Vol. 4, p. 1314
Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself – only with yourself. Therefore, thank everyone who gives you the opportunity.
- Aphorism inscribed in a special script above the walls of the Study House at Gurdjieff's Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, Château du Prieuré, near Fontainebleau, France
- When evoked, observe sources of blame, or the dislike of another. Observe in three centers: what are my thoughts, feelings, sensations around this thing/event/person? Consider writing them down, referring to oneself in the third person; that is, "X is thinking this, feeling this, sensing this." Referring to oneself in the third person can bring separation and facilitate self-observation and non-identification. If you already do this often, consider letting go of the practice for now and focus on digestion of the impression in a new way, through practicing first conscious shock.
- 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. Use this NEW ZOOM ROOM connection to join.Note that everyone attending via Zoom will now be visible on video and have the opportunity to share and ask questions.
Open Zoom, click on Join Meeting and enter this meeting ID: 996-101-9778
Resources for Further Study:
- Read more about self-observation by reading the Commentaries cited in this message in their entirety. Others can be found in the index.
- Definitions to specific Work terms are linked within this email and a complete list of terms discussed thus far may be found here in the glossary archive.
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