READINGS and SUGGESTED TASKS
June 2022 thru Current Date
Note: Titles in this color are hyperlinks
November 16, 2022
We need constantly to return our attention to ourselves, toward greater wholeness. Little by little, this practice connects with a sense of vital need. If we consent to go in this direction, there can be established a new relation between our profound reality, which is always there, and our daily lives.
Discovering this new relationship in oneself is at the very heart of Mr. Gurdjieff’s teaching. Between the life we receive inside and the life we lead in the world at large, our search, our work, is situated, and just here a new feeling awakens in us. Dedicating ourselves to this work, day after day we take the measure of what is missing. This is more important than weighing up our little victories.
The reality of our fundamental presence is this inner relationship situated between our two opposite natures.
(Henriette Lannes; This Fundamental Quest; pp. 64-5)
In a moment when I catch myself in reaction to something not going my way, I include in that moment the question, "What do I wish for."
I also try this in a moment of reaction to something that is going my way.
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November 9, 2022
Sometimes I have a strong desire to escape from my ordinary life—with all its resentments, aggravations and waste of energy. Then I have a wish to avoid having anything to do with the world, my job, my family or the neighbors. But I see that inaction is not the way to freedom from the entanglements of action. In any case, I cannot escape from the superficial by avoiding an engagement with 'ordinary' life because I carry my usual and trivial self wherever I go.
Can one really avoid all aggravation and difficulty in life? Or does one need to learn how to be related with something higher in the midst of difficulty? In any case, as Krishna says, one does not avoid the bondage of action by inaction. Only by learning what will make action sacred can I be free of resentment and anxiety. There is an intimate spiral of knowing, doing and being—three threads woven together.
(Ravi Ravindra; Heart Without Measure; p 73)
Task: When I interact with another I try to see myself as I go into reaction.
Do I feel in this moment that I am related to my wish?
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November 2, 2022
We don’t want to give up the notion that basically everything is really alright – only a little flaw here and there which can be put right if only somebody else, this one or that one, would do things according to my specifications. But it would be anathema to admit I had to do anything otherwise than as I do – it would be like admitting I wasn’t right about everything!
What has been said applies to the world in general, you can recognize it everywhere, and the ancient Israelites were not the only ones who stoned their prophets. When we come to this work we must take into account that the wish to not be disturbed is very much there. The work is not to calm us but to help us be disturbed, stir everything up, as was the teaching of Jesus Christ who frankly stated, “I come to bring not peace but a sword…” and goes on to make it all very clear how it was that the authorities at the time regarded Him as a subversive character. If you are feeling mischievous ask the proselytizers to this or that religious sect, the next time they come calling, to explain to you what Jesus meant by this statement. If they don’t avoid the question altogether they will answer in a non-disturbing way – which was not the intention of Jesus. All Teachers are disturbers first and foremost. Sleep and a disturbed state are not compatible.
This wish not to be disturbed is at the bottom of many things I have noticed about myself, such as my avoidance of what sounds like criticism. What are those pictures of myself, all the buffers – even those means of stupefying myself such alcohol, tobacco, TV, reading the paper – but defenses against being disturbed?
So, eventually, as the result of noticing all this and the mess I’ve made of things by my constant battle to ward off those which I fear will disturb me – and how unsuccessful that battle is! – it begins to dawn on me that I have to come to terms with being disturbed. That I have to consent to it – even invite it in. What is so terrifying about being disturbed? But the habit of avoiding it is hard to put aside. The machine dodges automatically and I have many ways that are like rabbit holes I can dash into when threatened, such as self-justifications, the considerings and so on.
I wonder if today some of us can be lucky enough to catch the threat of such a disturbance and let it in before the mind can take charge. You will have to be very alert, as well as being lucky, because it is none too often that passions run high here on a Sunday, but if you do catch the taste of being hurt, insulted, offended, angry, resentful then STOP! Stop before your mind can take over. Let the sensation exist in you purely as it is, as disturbance. Observe it purely as feeling-sensation. Once the mind gets hold of it you have lost the chance, and the energy flows into its usual channels. Then you will have to try again later.
Today we try to experience the disturbance we usually try to avoid.
(A.L. Stavely; Themes II (“The wish not to be disturbed”); pp 92-3)
Question: How SHOULD others treat me?
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October 26, 2022
Internal and External Considering
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October 19, 2022
The more requirements you make, the more internal considering you will have. You will always be disappointed and feel that somebody else is to blame. People who make many requirements make life very difficult for themselves. Nothing is right: they are not surrounded by the right people, they are not treated properly, and so on. In this Work we must gradually feel our own nothingness by observation.
The opposite to internal considering is external considering. External considering is thinking of others. It is one of the few things in the Work that we are actually told to do. We are told not to internally consider and not to have negative emotions, and so on, but we are told to externally consider just as we are told to remember ourselves. When we are in a state of internal considering (and this is our usual state) we are really thinking only of ourselves. We regard ourselves as the centre of the Universe. Like Copernicus, we have to realize that we are not the centre of the Universe. To internally consider gives us only self-emotions and as these increase the character becomes more shut in. You all know people, surely, to whom you cannot speak for a moment without their beginning to tell you what troubles they have, what a hard life they lead, and so on. Such people are ruined. They are dead. You know that the Work says that it is negative emotions that govern the world, and not sex or power. Just think how many people are completely ruined by constantly indulging in negative emotions. Internal considering is a branch of identifying. It is closely connected with negative states in us. You must not think that the opposite to internal considering consists in a hearty, optimistic manner and loud laughter. This is not external considering.
(Maurice Nicoll; Pychological Commentaries Volume One; p 257)
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October 12, 2022
Impartiality is a characteristic of that which is higher. It knows nothing of our petty, ingrained notions of storing up merits which will one day be rewarded, of our credit and debt systems. “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike,” as the proverb says. The credit and debt systems, if you can use the analogy, of the world above is built on a totally different system of values. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of this, and many scriptures spell it out for us. Even then it is only with luck we can see what is meant, and for a brief moment only. This is because we are partial. It takes a moment of impartiality to be able to sense how partial one is, and how that partiality is the basis of my sense of superiority, my feeling that my children, my taste, my virtues, my family, my politics, etc. are forever superior to all others. If I can even approach the fringes of impartiality I can sometimes apprehend the fact that, for instance, childhood is a universal experience of mankind. There is no intrinsic superiority that my child has over others. All human beings were once children and become adults. Instead of being immersed in my identification with my child and my conviction that he is in himself something very special and better then others, the thought may occur to me that he is a trust, not mine, that he needs to be prepared for the life of an adult. When I see this I am, in short, closer to reality.
There is a great deal that could be said about impartiality and the practical ways one can begin to work on this. Some of them we have already encountered, such as external considering. But since this a new direction of thinking for most of us, perhaps it would be better today to try to observe the evidences of partiality – not in any mood of self-criticism and faultfinding, but just in order to see what I’m up against in my work. But I might ask myself in what direction would I have to go if I wished to attain an impartial attitude?
(A.L. Stavely; Themes; p 86)
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October 5, 2022
Yesterday I asked myself: What is my work – my work in general and this week in particular? Each one of us will have a task which is his alone, but we also have the general technique of the work that belongs to us all.
Today I will ask myself a new question: Do I make the best use of the techniques of the work?
Let me begin with self-observation. I know that nothing remains in one place. Everything is either ascending or descending. What about my conception and practice of self-observation? Has it progressed? Have I at all mastered any of the difficulties of this most difficult skill? Or do I still try (if I try) in the same half-hearted, naïve way as when I first began?
I see I need to think about this. We are told we must be clever and intelligent in our work. From the most ancient times we have the command: Man, know thyself. There is not much time. Besides, I do not stay the same. Time alters me. It changes the experiences I can have. It is now too late for any of us here to have consciously the experiences of an infant, a small child, an adolescent. If I do not experience myself here, now, today, tomorrow it will be too late.
I must observe myself in this experience. Now. But is very difficult. I try to observe my anger and at once anger is not there. The same occurs with other states. Either I forget or it seems there is nothing to observe. Still, I know self-observation is possible. Occasionally, unexpectedly, all at once, I see something about myself. It is like a revelation. It has something authentic and vivifying about it, even when it is not very flattering to my self-esteem.
How is it that this is only possible sometimes? Does something in me interfere with my self-observation? Censor, disapprove or approve of my behavior? It seems so.
Today I will try to be clever. I will let ‘it’ do as it always does, but I will observe from further back. Mostly it will be necessary to remember sneakily, quietly – not trying too hard. My whole effort will be not to interfere, not to judge, just to see. I will have to find some way to help myself remember. That is the hardest part. Each one will have to find this for himself.
There are many questions. How to remember? What is observation? Have I progressed – at least in understanding what I am attempting – in the way of self-observation? What is the self I wish to observe? I cannot answer these questions – certainly not all at once. It is too much. I must choose one at a time and study it. But I can’t afford to waste time either. “Our dear time,” as Gurdjieff called it.
(A.L. Staveley; Themes)
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September 28, 2022
"Freedom, liberation, this must be the aim of man. To become free, to be liberated from slavery: this is what a man ought to strive for when he becomes even a little conscious of his position. There is nothing else for him, and nothing else is possible so long as he remains a slave both inwardly and outwardly. But he cannot cease to be a slave outwardly while he remains a slave inwardly. Therefore in order to become free, man must gain inner freedom.
"The first reason for man's inner slavery is his ignorance, and above all, his ignorance of himself. Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave, and the plaything of the forces acting upon him.
"This is why in all ancient teachings the first demand at the beginning of the way to liberation was: 'Know thyself.’
"The principle 'know thyself' embraces a very rich content. It demands, in the first place, that a man who wants to know himself should understand what this means, with what it is connected, what it necessarily depends upon.
"Knowledge of oneself is a very big, but a very vague and distant, aim. Man in his present state is very far from self-knowledge. Therefore, strictly speaking, his aim cannot even be defined as self-knowledge. Self-study must be his big aim. It is quite enough if a man understands that he must study himself. It must be man's aim to begin to study himself, to know himself, in the right way.
"Self-study is the work or the way which leads to self-knowledge.
"But in order to study oneself one must first learn how to study, where to begin, what methods to use. A man must learn how to study himself, and he must study the methods of self-study.
"The chief method of self-study is self-observation. Without properly applied self-observation a man will never understand the connection and the correlation between the various functions of his machine, will never understand how and why on each separate occasion everything in him 'happens.'
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; p 104)
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August 10, 2022
…For the most part the body—as a living being—rarely comes into the field of our consciousness.
We are for the most part simply oblivious of its presence as an existential reality—as a living entity having its own intelligence and sphere of awareness. Except of course when it is hungry, in need of rest or sex, or when it is sending out signals of euphoric pleasure or intense pain.
It cannot be disputed that a remarkable upsurge of enthusiasm has appeared for books and training seminars that offer a wide variety of sensory awareness techniques [that address] the dilemma of the modern era—the mind/body split—[but] we see once again that it turns into the same old song. It is still the mind at work.
For it is the mind that conceptualizes the problem in the first place. And it is the mind that then proceeds to orchestrate one or another program to alleviate this problem.
Once again then, we find that even with such subtle techniques as “listening to the body,” or “following the breath,” or coming to a more “global sensation” of the body, that the implementation of these techniques is undertaken by permission of the mind. And oddly enough, this continues to escape our notice. It is the mind that still holds the baton.
Very rarely do we come upon a truly reciprocal relation, in which there is a sharing of awareness between body and mind—as co-partners. Yet it is precisely this state of rapport with our earthly companion that provides an indispensable foundation for the real work of self-study and self-awakening. And as we become more practiced in this way of relating to the body, something interesting occurs. We find that the living presence of this being begins to make itself known to us through its emanations—which we experience as sensation or sensory awareness—and that this enables us to partake of the body’s own field of awareness. Not as object to the mind, but as subject within its own sphere of influence and awareness.
We realize then that we are no longer associated with a “body.” Rather, that we are in the presence of a living being, a being with whom we share the journey towards spiritual awakening.
What is extraordinary about this way of approaching the body is that the experience of it seems so natural. It is also pragmatic in that it has the effect of freeing the attention from its usual deep identification with the tensions (and thus from the physical, mental and emotional habits that are supported by these tensions).
We discover then that this dynamic state of rapport with our living partner grounds us; it grounds our work. Instead of dreaming of the work of spiritual transformation, we live the work. And because we are thus grounded, we become thereby more receptive to the help from above that is always available to transform us—whenever the inner conditions allow this lawfully to take place.
(Don Hoyt; Gurdjieff International Review; Spring 2002 Issue, Vol. V (1))
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August 3, 2022
It is through the body that all the exchanges of life take place and through which we receive all the energies we need; it may be wise to begin our work with it.
If we wish to study our body or at least, to begin with, its moving function, its movement, we must first of all be related to it. What relates us to the body is the sensation we have of it - the inner perception of my physical being, the physical sensation of myself. But sensation has an even greater importance because, if our aim is eventually to develop a stable presence in ourselves, the sensation of our physical being is an inherent part of this. It is the most concrete and easily controlled part.
We always have some sensation of our body; otherwise our postures could not be maintained, our movements would be made haphazardly, or not at all. But we are not conscious of this sensation, we are unaware of it, except in extreme situations when an unusual effort is required or when something suddenly goes badly or goes wrong. The rest of the time we forget about it. In order to know and observe ourselves and to study our body and later to support our work, we need to have this sensation. This calls for a new relationship to come into existence in me:
I - conscious of - my sensation…
What we need immediately is a stable sensation; that is, we need to develop a more steady and longer lasting consciousness of our body and its situation. The first idea which then comes to mind, of course, is to try to follow this awareness of our body in the midst of the movements and activities of our life. We can try; but we soon see, on the one hand, that the sensation never remains the same so that it is extremely difficult to stay in touch with it and, on the other hand, that our activities distract us and cause us to lose all possibility of following our situation.
In fact, if we wish to experience sensation of ourselves and to develop the possibility of remaining aware of it, we must work in much less difficult conditions. We must put ourselves in specially favorable circumstances which correspond to what is possible for us.
Moreover, in our work on ourselves, it will always be so. This work only makes sense if it enables us one day to go into life in order to manifest there to the full that which we recognize as being and to accomplish what depends on us. There will always be two lines in our work on ourselves: on the one hand, inner work in quiet conditions suitable for the development of certain possibilities, and on the other, putting ourselves to the test in life, to an extent proportionate to the inner development that has been realized. But life is a tempest in which one must be very strong inwardly not to be upset by the opposing elements. And before putting ourselves to the test or taking big risks, it is necessary to have developed patiently, in sheltered and favorable conditions, the forces and faculties (powers) which will preserve us from disaster.
As regards the sensation of ourselves, before being able to follow how it changes as we move about and live, we need to know it in a basic condition where we can immediately return to it, always the same, whenever it is needed for our inner work. Just as a zero or a norm is needed in all measurement, in the same way we need a point of reference in evaluating ourselves, a yardstick, the measure of a situation that is always the same. And for the sensation of oneself, we can find this base only in complete relaxation.
We must therefore put ourselves in conditions where complete relaxation is possible. Having realized this is necessary, we must promise ourselves to try it every day, so far as this is honestly possible, at least once, if not twice, and perhaps even, more.
(Jean Vaysse; Toward Awakening; p 161 original paperback editions)
Once in bed and ready to go to sleep, I spend a few minutes directing my attention to the body, taking in impressions part by part of the muscles relaxing, softening.
I try this again for a few minutes in the morning when I first wake up, before getting out of bed, taking in impressions of the state of my body.
I plan in advance for two other times during the day when, for just a few moments, I will try to return to this same connection with my body.
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July 27, 2022
"FUSION, INNER UNITY, is obtained by means of 'friction,' by the struggle between 'yes' and 'no' in man. If a man lives without inner struggle, if everything happens in him without opposition, if he goes wherever he is drawn or wherever the wind blows, he will remain such as he is. But if a struggle begins in him, and particularly if there is a definite line in this struggle, then, gradually, permanent traits begin to form themselves, he begins to 'crystallize.'
"Let us imagine a vessel or a retort filled with various metallic powders. The powders are not in any way connected with each other and every accidental change in the position of the retort changes the relative position of the powders. If the retort be shaken or tapped with the finger, then the powder which was at the top may appear at the bottom or in the middle, while the one which was at the bottom may appear at the top. There is nothing permanent in the position of the powders and under such conditions there can be nothing permanent. This is an exact picture of our psychic life. Each succeeding moment, new influences may change the position of the powder which is on the top and put in its place another which is absolutely its opposite. Science calls this state of the powders the state of mechanical mixture. The essential characteristic of the interrelation of the powders to one another in this kind of mixture is the instability of these interrelations and their variability.
"It is impossible to stabilize the interrelation of powders in a state of mechanical mixture. But the powders may be fused; the nature of the powders makes this possible. To do this a special kind of fire must be lighted under the retort which, by heating and melting the powders, finally fuses them together. Fused in this way the powders will be in the state of a chemical compound. And now they can no longer be separated by those simple methods which separated and made them change places when they were in a state of mechanical mixture. The contents of the retort have become indivisible, 'individual.' The fire by means of which fusion is attained is produced by 'friction,' which in its turn is produced in man by the struggle between 'yes' and 'no.' If a man gives way to all his desires, or panders to them, there will be no inner struggle in him, no 'friction,' no fire. But if, for the sake of attaining a definite aim, he struggles with desires that hinder him, he will then create a fire which will gradually transform his inner world into a single whole.
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; pp 79 and 43)
Each morning I commit to finding ~10” in the day when I will sit quietly, observing my body and my breathing. I choose something in advance to treat myself with towards the end of the day if I sat, or to withhold from myself if I didn’t.
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July 20, 2022
MATERIALITY & THE HIGHER CENTERS
"All mystical and occult systems recognize the existence of higher forces and capacities in man although, in many cases, they admit the existence of these forces and capacities only in the form of possibilities, and speak of the necessity for developing the hidden forces in man. This present teaching differs from many others by the fact that it affirms that the higher centers exist in man and are fully developed.
"It is the lower centers that are undeveloped. And it is precisely this lack of development, or the incomplete functioning, of the lower centers that prevents us from making use of the work of the higher centers...
"In order to obtain a correct and permanent connection between the lower and the higher centers, it is necessary to regulate and quicken the work of the lower centers...
"All psychic processes are material. There is not a single process that does not require the expenditure of a certain substance corresponding to it. If this substance is present, the process goes on. When the substance is exhausted, the process comes to a stop."
"…It must be noted that the organism usually produces in the course of one day all the substances necessary for the following day. [But] a great deal of energy is spent on work which is completely unnecessary and harmful in every respect, such as on the activity of unpleasant emotions, on the expression of unpleasant sensations, on worry, on restlessness, on haste, and on a whole series of automatic actions which are completely useless. As many examples as you like can be found of such unnecessary activity. First of all there is the constantly moving flow of thoughts in our mind, which we can neither stop nor control, and which takes up an enormous amount of our energy. Secondly there is the quite unnecessary constant tension of the muscles of our organism. The muscles are tense even when we are doing nothing. As soon as we start to do even a small and insignificant piece of work, a whole system of muscles necessary for the hardest and most strenuous work is immediately set in motion. We pick up a needle from the floor and we spend on this action as much energy as is needed to lift up a man of our own weight. We write a short letter and use as much muscular energy upon it as would suffice to write a bulky volume. But the chief point is that we spend muscular energy continually and at all times, even when we are doing nothing. When we walk the muscles of our shoulders and arms are tensed unnecessarily; when we sit the muscles of our legs, neck, back, and stomach are tensed in an unnecessary way. We even sleep with the muscles of our arms, of our legs, of our face, of the whole of our body tensed, and we do not realize that we spend much more energy on this continual readiness for work we shall never do than on all the real, useful work we do during our life.
"Still further we can point to the habit of continually talking with anybody and about anything, or if there is no one else, with ourselves; the habit of indulging in fantasies, in daydreaming; the continual change of mood, feelings, and emotions, and an enormous number of quite useless things which a man considers himself obliged to feel, think, do, or say.
"In order to regulate and balance the work of the three centers whose functions constitute our life, it is necessary to learn to economize the energy produced by our organism, not to waste this energy on unnecessary functions, and to save it for that activity which will gradually connect the lower centers with the higher.
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; edited from pp 194-198)
I bring my awareness to the active part of my body while engaged in some physical activity, trying to find the minimal amount of force needed to do the job. I try this several times during the day.
"I will now point out to you only one aspect of the functioning of the body which it is indispensable to regulate in any event. So long as this functioning goes on in a wrong way no other kind of work, either moral or spiritual, can go on in a right way.
"You will remember that when we spoke of the work of the 'three-story factory,' I pointed out to you that most of the energy produced by the factory is wasted uselessly, among other things energy is wasted on unnecessary muscular tension. This unnecessary muscular tension eats up an enormous amount of energy. And with work on oneself attention must first be turned to this.
"In speaking of the work of the factory in general it is indispensable to establish that it is necessary to stop useless waste before there can be any sense in increasing the production. If production is increased while this useless waste remains unchecked and nothing is done to stop it, the new energy produced will merely increase this useless waste and may even give rise to phenomena of an unhealthy kind. Therefore one of the first things a man must learn previous to any physical work on himself is to observe and feel muscular tension and to be able to relax the muscles when it is necessary, that is to say, chiefly to relax unnecessary tension of the muscles."
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; p 350)
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July 13, 2022
As was said earlier, self-observation brings a man to the realization of the fact that he does not remember himself. Man's inability to remember himself is one of the chief and most characteristic features of his being and the cause of everything else in him. The inability to remember oneself finds expression in many ways. A man does 'not remember his decisions, he does not remember the promises he has made to himself, does not remember what he said or felt a month, a week, a day, or even an hour ago. He begins work of some kind and after a certain lapse of time he does not remember why he began it. It is especially in connection with work on oneself that this happens particularly often. A man can remember a promise given to another person only with the help of artificial associations, associations which have been educated into him, and they, in their turn, are connected with conceptions which are also artificially created of 'honor,' 'honesty,' 'duty,' and so on. But speaking in general one can say truthfully that if a man remembers one thing he forgets ten other things which are much more important for him to remember. And a man particularly easily forgets what relates to himself, those 'mental photographs' of himself which perhaps he has previously taken.
"And this deprives man's views and opinions of any stability and precision. A man does not remember what he has thought or what he has said; and he does not remember how he thought or how he spoke.
"This in its turn is connected with one of the fundamental characteristics of man's attitude towards himself and to all his surroundings. Namely, his constant 'identification' with what at a given moment has attracted his attention, his thoughts or his desires, and his imagination.
" 'Identification' is so common a quality that for purposes of observation it is difficult to separate it from everything else. Man is always in a state of identification, only the object of identification changes.
"A man identifies with a small problem which confronts him and he completely forgets the great aims with which he began his work. He identifies with one thought and forgets other thoughts; he is identified with one feeling, with one mood, and forgets his own wider thoughts, emotions, and moods. In work on themselves people are so much identified with separate aims that they fail to see the wood for the trees. Two or three trees nearest to them represent for them the whole wood.
"'Identifying' is one of our most terrible foes because it penetrates everywhere and deceives a man at the moment when it seems to him that he is struggling with it. It is especially difficult to free oneself from identifying because a man naturally becomes more easily identified with the things that interest him most, to which he gives his time, his work, and his attention. In order to free himself from identifying a man must be constantly on guard and be merciless with himself, that is, he must not be afraid of seeing all the subtle and hidden forms which identifying takes.
"It is necessary to see and to study identifying to its very roots in oneself. The difficulty of struggling with identifying is still further increased by the fact that when people observe it in themselves they consider it a very good trait and call it 'enthusiasm,' 'zeal,' 'passion,' 'spontaneity,' 'inspiration,' and names of that kind, and they consider that only in a state of identifying can a man really produce good work, no matter in what sphere. In reality of course this is illusion. Man cannot do anything sensible when he is in a state of identifying. If people could see what the state of identifying means they would alter their opinion. A man becomes a thing, a piece of flesh; he loses even the small semblance of a human being that he has. In the East where people smoke hashish and other drugs it often happens that a man becomes so identified with his pipe that he begins to consider he is a pipe himself. This is not a joke but a fact. He actually becomes a pipe. This is identifying. And for this, hashish or opium are entirely unnecessary. Look at people in shops, in theaters, in restaurants; or see how they identify with words when they argue about something or try to prove something, particularly something they do not know themselves. They become greediness, desires, or words; of themselves nothing remains.
"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. But in order to learn not to identify man must first of all not be identified with himself, must not call himself 'I' always and on all occasions. He must remember that there are two in him, that there is himself, that is 'I' in him, and there is another with whom he must struggle and whom he must conquer if he wishes at any time to attain anything. So long as a man identifies or can be identified, he is the slave of everything that can happen to him. Freedom is first of all freedom from identification.
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; pp 150-1)
I quietly observe, without inner dialogue, the active part of my body as I go through my earliest morning routines.
What is my experience in trying to remain detached and simply witnessing myself?
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July 6, 2022
STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
"In order to understand what the difference between states of consciousness is, let us return to the first state of consciousness which is sleep. This is an entirely subjective state of consciousness. A man is immersed in dreams, whether he remembers them or not does not matter. Even if some real impressions reach him, such as sounds, voices, warmth, cold, the sensation of his own body, they arouse in him only fantastic subjective images. Then a man wakes up. At first glance this is a quite different state of consciousness. He can move, he can talk with other people, he can make calculations ahead, he can see danger and avoid it, and so on. It stands to reason that he is in a better position than when he was asleep. But if we go a little more deeply into things, if we take a look into his inner world, into his thoughts, into the causes of his actions, we shall see that he is in almost the same state as when he is asleep. And it is even worse, because in sleep he is passive, that is, he cannot do anything. In the waking state, however, he can do something all the time and the results of all his actions will be reflected upon him or upon those around him. And yet he does not remember himself. He is a machine, everything with him happens. He cannot stop the flow of his thoughts, he cannot control his imagination, his emotions, his attention. He lives in a subjective world of 'I love,' 'I do not love,' 'I like,' 'I do not like,' 'I want,' 'I do not want,' that is, of what he thinks he likes, of what he thinks he does not like, of what he thinks he wants, of what he thinks he does not want. He does not see the real world. The real world is hidden from him by the wall of imagination. He lives in sleep. He is asleep. What is called 'clear consciousness' is sleep and a far more dangerous sleep than sleep at night in bed…
"Both states of consciousness, sleep and the waking state, are equally subjective. Only by beginning to remember himself does a man really awaken. And then all surrounding life acquires for him a different aspect and a different meaning. He sees that it is the life of sleeping people, a life in sleep. All that men say, all that they do, they say and do in sleep. All this can have no value whatever. Only awakening and what leads to awakening has a value in reality…
"How can one awaken? How can one escape this sleep? These questions are the most important, the most vital that can ever confront a man. But before this it is necessary to be convinced of the very fact of sleep. But it is possible to be convinced of this only by trying to awaken. When a man understands that he does not remember himself and that to remember himself means to awaken to some extent, and when at the same time he sees by experience how difficult it is to remember himself, he will understand that he cannot awaken simply by having the desire to do so.
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; pp. 142-3)
Each time I notice that I’m daydreaming or in imagination, I open to the impression of how I’m sitting (or standing).
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June 29, 2022
“…you can know consciousness only in yourself. Observe that I say you can know, for you can know it only when you have it. And when you have not got it, you can know that you have not got it, not at that very moment, but afterwards. I mean that when it comes again you can see that it has been absent a long time, and you can find or remember the moment when it disappeared and when it reappeared. You can also define the moments when you are nearer to consciousness and further away from consciousness. But by observing in yourself the appearance and the disappearance of consciousness you will inevitably see one fact which you neither see nor acknowledge now, and that is that moments of consciousness are very short and are separated by long intervals of completely unconscious, mechanical working of the machine. You will then see that you can think, feel, act, speak, work, without being conscious of it. And if you learn to see in yourselves the moments of consciousness and the long periods of mechanicalness, you will as infallibly see in other people when they are conscious of what they are doing and when they are not.
"Your principal mistake consists in thinking that you always have consciousness, and in general, either that consciousness is always present or that it is never present. In reality consciousness is a property which is continually changing. Now it is present, now it is not present. And there are different degrees and different levels of consciousness. Both consciousness and the different degrees of consciousness must be understood in oneself by sensation, by taste. No definitions can help you in this case and no definitions are possible so long as you do not understand what you have to define. And science and philosophy cannot define consciousness because they want to define it where it does not exist. It is necessary to distinguish consciousness from the possibility of consciousness. We have only the possibility of consciousness and rare flashes of it. Therefore, we cannot define what consciousness is."
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; p. 116)
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June 22, 2022
"Man's possibilities are very great. You cannot conceive even a shadow of what man is capable of attaining. But nothing can be attained in sleep. In the consciousness of a sleeping man, his illusions, his 'dreams' are mixed with reality. He lives in a subjective world and he can never escape from it. And this is the reason why he can never make use of all the powers he possesses and why he always lives in only a small part of himself.
"It has been said before that self-study and self-observation, if rightly conducted, bring man to the realization of the fact that something is wrong with his machine and with his functions in their ordinary state. A man realizes that it is precisely because he is asleep that he lives and works in a small part of himself. It is precisely for this reason that the vast majority of his possibilities remain unrealized, the vast majority of his powers are left unused. A man feels that he does not get out of life all that it can give him, that he fails to do so owing to definite functional defects in his machine, in his receiving apparatus. The idea of self-study acquires in his eyes a new meaning. He feels that possibly it may not even be worth while studying himself as he is now. He sees every function as it is now and as it could be or ought to be. Self-observation brings man to the realization of the necessity for self-change. And in observing himself a man notices that self-observation itself brings about certain changes in his inner processes. He begins to understand that self-observation is an instrument of self-change, a means of awakening. By observing himself he throws, as it were, a ray of light onto his inner processes which have hitherto worked in complete darkness. And under the influence of this light the processes themselves begin to change. There are a great many chemical processes that can take place only in the absence of light. Exactly in the same way many psychic processes can take place only in the dark. Even a feeble light of consciousness is enough to change completely the character of a process, while it makes many of them altogether impossible. Our inner psychic processes (our inner alchemy) have much in common with those chemical processes in which light changes the character of the process and they are subject to analogous laws."
(G.I. Gurdjieff; In Search of the Miraculous; p 145-6)
Influences, Magnetic Center
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June 15, 2022
Question: Has free will a place in your teaching?
Gurdjieff: Free will is the function of the real I, of him whom we call the Master. He who has a Master has will. He who has not has no will. What is ordinarily called will is an adjustment between willingness and unwillingness. For instance, the mind wants something and the feeling does not want it; if the mind proves to be stronger than the feeling, a man obeys his mind. In the opposite case, he will obey his feelings. This is what is called "free will" in an ordinary man. An ordinary man is ruled now by the mind, now by the feeling, now by the body. Very often he obeys orders coming from the automatic apparatus; a thousand times more often he is ordered about by the sex center.
Real free will can only be when one I always directs, when man has a Master for his team. An ordinary man has no master; the carriage constantly changes passengers and each passenger calls himself I.
Nevertheless, free will is a reality, it does exist. But we, as we are, cannot have it. A real man can have it [but it] is not an ordinary phenomenon. It cannot be had for the asking, cannot be bought in a shop. p 254
An ordinary man cannot choose, he cannot form a critical estimate of the situation; with him, his external is his internal. It is necessary to learn to be unbiased, to sort out and analyze each action as though one were a stranger. Then one can be just. To be just at the very moment of action is a hundred times more valuable than to be just afterwards. A great deal is necessary for this. An unbiased attitude is the basis of inner freedom, the first step toward free will. p 258
In general, until today all knowledge has been mechanical as everything else has been mechanical. For example, I look at her with kindliness; she at once becomes kindly. If I look at her angrily, she is at once displeased—and not only with me but with her neighbor, and this neighbor with someone else, and so it goes on. She is angry because I have looked at her crossly. She is angry mechanically. But to become angry of her own free will, she cannot. She is a slave to the attitudes of others. To new things one must learn to have new attitudes. p 168
(G.I. Gurdjieff; Views From the Real World)
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June 8, 2022
MAN IS ASLEEP
Gurdjieff was fond of saying “A man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die; and in order to die he must first awaken.” To awaken is to become conscious of one’s present situation. It is here that everything begins. To be born, that is to enter upon the full growth of oneness. To die, that is to become freed from all egoistic attachments and identifications.
If we study the functioning of our organism in its ordinary waking state, study it, that is, impartially, looking simply for the facts, we shall discover sooner or later that we have been living in a world of fantasy. We are blinded to the truth particularly by three illusions about ourselves. We assume – and ask yourself if this is not true – that somewhere within us there is a single, controlling element that we speak of as “I.” We say “I decided to go by plane,” or “I got over the habit of smoking,” or “I like this or I dislike that.” [In actuality,] there is a mob of little partial personalities, for the most part ignorant of each other’s existence, often contradictory, jostling each other for position. We also assume, since we are faced at every moment with questions [we must answer] – that we make decisions. And if we make decisions, obviously we must exercise will. It is true that decisions are reached within us, but with self-study we begin to see how each one has flowed inexorably from all that we have thought and felt and been from birth up to that moment. Instead of choices, which imply freedom, we find conditioned reactions. And lastly, we take it for granted that we are conscious, which to some extent, of course, we are. If I took part last night in a meeting of a committee, I certainly knew that the meeting was going on. Indeed, I was aware of many things – except myself taking part in it. For we do not - in Gurdjieff’s phrase - remember ourselves. The most important part of our experience is left out.
These three powers – to be conscious, to have will, to be a unified “I” – are indispensable if the control that we have to some extent over our environment is to be matched by any comparable control over our own lives. Yet we make no effort to gain these powers because we believe we already have them. But if we are not conscious of ourselves, and if our attention is passive to outer attractions, we are open at every moment to suggestion. The network of conditioned reactions between the suggestion and the resulting behavior are so complex that we imagine we are acting spontaneously. We do not feel that the impetus came from outside. This amounts to a description of hypnosis, and it was for this reason that Gurdjieff defined our so-called waking state as a hypnotic sleep.
We must awaken from our hypnotic sleep; the illusions must fall aside. We must see the mechanicalness of our conditioned reactions and our powerlessness to choose or direct them. This is our nothingness. It is hard to digest, but in the digestion, the transformation of being begins…before we can begin to climb toward [this] higher state, we must live out the anguish of seeing our present disunity and helplessness.
(Lawrence Morris; Is There a Way in Life?)