For the Week of September 24 - 30:
Reciprocal Maintenance: Economy of Sacrifice
Christi Testamenta, Jacob Boehme
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters,
by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,
but to think with sober judgment,
each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
For as in one body we have many members,
and the members do not all have the same function,
so we, though many, are one body in Christ,
and individually members one of another.
- Romans 12:1-21
"The entire world is maintained through sacrifice.
Sacrifice is the conscious working
of the Principle of Reciprocal Maintenance."
- J.G. Bennett, from talk entitled, "Sacrifice," May 1, 1972
We have journeyed through the vast reaches of the Work's lovely, mysterious cosmology:
its scope revealing a living, conscious universe of levels of matter-energy ranging from unimaginable power and fineness to unfathomable density, yet permeated throughout with animating impulse;
its laws constating that each seeming impasse or duality contains within itself a resolution of newness through the recognition and invocation of a third, and that no matter the creation, there is a process of manifestation that holds within it even the means of transport across seemingly un-bridgeable chasms;
its revelation of extravagant generosity, inclusivity and need that, though we humans are placed "far down" in this milieu, we are given foods, impressions and influences – everything needed to consciously participate in our own being-arising and that, though evolution on a grand scale seems to progress within immense quantities of time, through the grace of the side-octave, each moment is pierced with the eternal – offering us the possibility of instantaneous uplift of the whole.
Now we turn to an exploration of the flow – the economy of it all – which in the Work is described as the Law (or Doctrine or Principle) of Reciprocal Maintenance.
"[E]very recognizable entity on every scale of existence
participates in the universal exchange of energies –
supporting and being supported by the existence of others."
- J.G. Bennett, The Dramatic Universe, "Preface," 1956
What is Reciprocal Maintenance?
In the ecosystem of all creation (called by Gurdjieff the Trogoautoegocrat), there are no closed systems. Everything belongs, everything is in dynamic relationship, and cosmic harmony is sustained by the giving and receiving of energy by all beings. In his book, In Search of the Miraculous (pp. 322-4), P.D. Ouspensky recounts Gurdjieff's description of the interdependent relationships of different classes of beings. Gurdjieff:
"Above all, … [i]n nature everything is connected and everything is alive. The diagram of this classification is called the 'Diagram of Everything Living' [commonly known as the step-diagram].
"According to this diagram every kind of creature, every degree of being, is defined by what serves as food for this kind of creature or being of a given level and for what they themselves serve as food, because in the cosmic order, each class of creature feeds on a definite class of lower creature and is food for a definite class of higher creatures. …
"'Each square denotes a level of being,' he said. 'The hydrogen [number] in the lower circle shows what the given class of creatures feeds on. The hydrogen in the upper circle shows the class which feeds on [them]. And the hydrogen in the middle circle is the average hydrogen of this class, showing what these creatures are.'"
What is our part in reciprocal maintenance?
"The fundamental purpose for the existence of men and the other three-brained beings of the universe is to serve as apparatuses through which cosmic substances are transmuted for the purpose of reciprocal maintenance."
- Sophia Wellbeloved, Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, p. 119
We can be informed by the Work use of the terms, involution – the creative impulse and manifestation in the descending octave of the Great Ray – and evolution – the possibility afforded to self-developing organisms in the ascending side-octave of the Son/Sun.
"The reason given for human existence is linked to Gurdjieff's teaching that man is obliged to contribute transformed energy to the universe – and that if this is done willingly a person's share of the energy may fuel his own evolution. …
All organic life works for the moon.
Passive man serves involution; and active man, evolution …
Inside us we also have a moon, a sun and so on.
We are a whole system. … (G.I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World, p. 198).
"Here Gurdjieff indicates the reciprocal maintenance process. Radiation of energy for the use of the involving universe [emphasis added] is obligatory for all of organic life, including man. Just by existing, man transforms energies, as do all other life forms. But man also receives the opportunity to use part of his energy for his own evolution.
"Creating 'moon in oneself' symbolizes among other ideas 'a permanent center of gravity' (P.D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Way, p. 264), an allusion to the way the moon balances our physical life. Psychologically this relates to the task of sacrificing our mechanical suffering for 'moon can only be created from our suffering' (ibid., p. 265)." - Bob Hunter and Beryl Pogson, The Very Next Thing: A Guide to Real Conscience, p. 233
As Work students, we serve as living transformers for the transubstantiation of energy in many ways, including:
Working against the outward expression of negative emotions, choosing instead to work interiorly by practicing the Welcoming Prayer in which we welcome feelings and sensations that are arising, as means to be with, release and pray (Self-remember) with them. Work students often refer to this as "burning in it." (Click here for more information.)
Making payment through effort, giving and receiving, which is obligatory in any aim to increase consciousness. "Energy is required to make effort, but the act itself generates a finer energy. Every effort increases Work demands on a person." (Beryl Pogson, Brighton Work Talks, p. 351)
Tithing, an act of reciprocal maintenance, where we intentionally give a portion of our hard-earned money energy to upstream sources of higher influences that feed us.
"On the Fourth Way a man depends both on those immediately above him who are his teachers and those below him whom he teaches … In order to ascend the stairway, he must put another person on his own step, all steps on the stairway must be occupied. Thus those on the stairway are interdependent … (Search 201-2)"
- Sophia Wellbeloved, Gurdjieff: The Key Concepts, p. 195
"Gurdjieff makes the tremendous claim that our Creator looks to Man for 'help in the administration of the enlarging world.' This seems to contradict the doctrine that the ultimate goal of human evolution is beyond existence and even beyond Being.
"There is an ineffable mystery in the doctrine of liberation. For ordinary thinking, freedom is 'from' some state of constraint. Essential liberation is the annihilation of conditions, but not the abandonment of obligations. Our Creator needs Man no less than Man needs [God]; but this is anthropomorphic language. Man, in the very core of his being is already the Creator. He is beyond the distinction of one and many, of great and small. When all limitations are transcended, nothing remains but the One Will which is I."
- J.G. Bennett, Gurdjieff Making a New World, "Appendix 2," p. 18
"By taking the God-world creation as a unified relationship and the science of evolution as our basic description of reality, Teilhard formed a description of evolution as the emergence of wholeness that is at once divine, cosmic and human, so that all life – animal, plant, bacteria – is constantly being recapitulated at every stage of evolution. Christ is the symbol of this dynamic cosmotheandric wholeness. Teilhard described evolution as a process of Christogenesis or the movement of all existence toward the fullness of Christ. Sanctification, for Teilhard, means freely participating in this stream of life that is ascending towards fullness. Fullness is a relational term which describes being incorporated into God’s evolving world. As Teilhard writes: 'We are spiritualized by being carried along by the spiritualization of all things. We are united to Christ by entering into communion with all life. We will be saved by an option that has chosen the whole.' …
"It would not be a stretch to read the New Testament as an open system whereby God is acting in the world through mutuality, forgiveness, nonviolence, compassion and peace, reconciling relationships through the building up of love in the universe, exemplified by the Christ event. Transformation into a higher form of conscious life, however, requires suffering and death (which are the basic pillars of evolution), letting go of individual control for the sake of a new future together. A greater good does not come about by cheap grace. To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer, costly love is making a new future through mercy, forgiveness and sacrifice. There can be no movement toward a new level of existence, however, without a transformation in consciousness, a change in mind and heart."
- Ilia Delio, Omega Center Newsletter, September 2020
Read this email several times throughout the week with a disposition of receptivity and deep listening, allowing the impressions to flow into you.
Explore sacrifice – being a living transformer for the transubstantiation of energy – in any or all of the ways listed above.
What emotions, thoughts, physical gestures or facial expressions might be useful to sacrifice? Self-observe, non-identify, Self-remember.
A further resource: In Gurdjieff: Making a New World, (Appendix 2, p. 2), J.G. Bennett unfolds and expands the step diagram to introduce the dimension of evolution. See here.
Open forum Invitation: As we draw close to the time of completing the segment of our curriculum on cosmology, you are invited to attend an “open forum” with The Journey School faculty in an unstructured time to bring any questions for a time of sharing and conversation. This is especially oriented for those who are new to this Work and haven’t quite found the forum in which to explore the Work ideas on cosmology that you are wondering about. Two opportunities: Tuesday, September 29, 11:00-Noon CDT or Saturday, October 3, 10:00-11:00 AM CDT. To join the conversation, click on the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/9961019778?pwd=aVFLZVQwNGZSNkQ4TDRTUW9yU1Ywdz09. Or enter Zoom and use 996-101-9778, passcode CCH.
Attend tonight's class: 7pm Central Time via Zoom only.