March 2011 Edition of Journey to Essence
Making a New World
Looking at The Whole
David Bohm, Physics Professor University of London
"I've developed a way of looking at this [the fragmentation in the world] through the implicate order based on quantum physics. And the way it works is to consider that there is a wave, and you may think of this wave coming from outside the universe which converges to a point and then diverges again. Now this means that everything is internally related to everything else. One of the images I give of it is of a piece of paper that you fold up into a very small piece and then you make cuts in it and when you unfold it you find a pattern. I'm proposing that the basic laws of quantum mechanics can be understood in this way. We can think of some sort of unfoldment into a wave and then a reenfoldment into something more like a particle. And each particle then holds each of the other particles, and in principle, every particle enfolds the whole. It will matter which view we hold. If we have a view of wholeness this will enable us to work differently from when we have a view in which everything is broken up.
The mechanistic view tends to be, at least gives support to, fragmentation, that is, we know that our whole life is now fragmented and we can see intonations of this in so far as with each other into all sorts of professional groups and ambitions. And inside each person are many fragments, different objectives and different purposes fighting each other. If we take the view of mechanism we may regard all of these fragments as essentially real and independent, and then we cannot deal with it. What we have to see is that these fragments are actually the result of our wrong way of looking at the whole. We are looking at the whole as if we are made of fragments, and our very action and response to this helps to break things up even more. For example, if we say that the world is broken up into nations, we see each nation as independent, and that's going on now in the world, whereas obviously they are highly mutually dependent and organically related, and the attempt of each nation to behave independently creates a response which only strengthens the apparent fragmentation."
What is Esoteric Teaching?
David Bruce Hughes
"The Esoteric Teaching is not something new; indeed, it is most ancient. The Esoteric Teaching is simply a convenient name in contemporary language. The same subject has been expressed in different places and at different times in history under various esoteric terms: the Vedas (Sanatana-Dharma), the Word (Logos), the Way (Tao), the Absolute Truth (Satyam Param), the Sacred River (Ganga), Heaven (Svarga), the Land of No Anxiety (Vaikuntha), the Forest of Devotion (Vrndavana), the Ocean of Nectar (Bhakti-Rasamrta-Sindhu), Illumination (Nirvana), Liberation (Moksha), the Life, the Path, the Gate, the Stairway to the Stars, the Kingdom of God, etc. Each of these expressions began as a name for a school of the complete Esoteric Teaching. Over time, the meaning of these coded expressions of the Eternal Teaching were gradually altered by human meddling and incompetence, and lost their transcendental potency. Therefore we begin again in the present time to explain the timeless Esoteric Teaching in contemporary language.
In and of itself, the Esoteric Teaching has no name. It is not really a thing or a place in the ordinary sense, but a process of transforming consciousness. Technically or philosophically speaking, it does not exist, because it is beyond manifested time and space. The Esoteric Teaching exists only unto itself, outside of all dimensions and universes, yet connecting them all together, and giving them meaning and purpose. The Teaching is complete, absolute, self-revealing and self-referential. Even though infinite space, time, energy and meaning emanate from it, it remains undiminished. It is accessible only to those who have the humility to dedicate their lives to learning its methods.
Many otherwise intelligent people deny the existence of the Esoteric Teaching simply because it cannot be perceived with the material senses, measured with scientific instruments or mapped out on a piece of paper. Just because we cannot see or measure the Esoteric Teaching, there is no reason to deny its existence, because it exists in a different dimension from our physical universe. In our universe there are three dimensions of space: length, width and height. There are also three dimensions of time: past, present and future. Beyond the boundary of time lies eternity, which according to the Esoteric Teaching, consists of three dimensions: internal, marginal and external. Beyond eternity is the Esoteric Teaching. Consequently, the Esoteric Teaching can never be perceived or measured by physical means; nevertheless, it is accessible from anywhere by the student who possesses the understanding of these higher dimensions of thinking and being. Having an understanding of these higher dimensions empowers seekers to satisfy their hearts deepest desire by drinking their fill at the eternal, inexhaustible fountain of Absolute Truth.
Because ordinary words or symbols cannot actually contain or describe the Esoteric Teaching, it is easier to describe what the Esoteric Teaching is not. The Esoteric Teaching is not ordinary truth. It is fundamentally different from ordinary truth. Ordinary relative truth is true only for a limited time, person or set of circumstances. But the Esoteric Teaching is unconditionally true for all time, all beings and all circumstances. The Esoteric Teaching has been true for all eternity, even before the creation of this material universe, and it will remain true for all eternity after this material universe has passed away. This Esoteric Teaching is a unique class of truth: Absolute Truth."
Gurdjieff & Christianity
William Patrick Patterson
"Was Gurdjieff a Christian? The orientation of the teaching—is it Christian? Entering the new millennium, some fifty years after Mr. Gurdjieff's passing, it is important to begin to understand the part that Christianity played in his life and in the teaching he brought.
Certainly, as Gurdjieff makes clear in Meetings With Remarkable Men, he was raised as a Christian—"I know the rituals of the Greek Church well," he would say many years later, "and there, underlying the form and ceremony, there is real meaning." His first religious tutor was seventy year-old Dean Borsch, the highest spiritual authority of the region. As Dean Borsch aged, he asked the young priest Bogachevsky to tutor Gurdjieff and confessed him every week. For two years, Bogachevsky tutored the young Gurdjieff and then, when the priest was posted elsewhere, he had Gurdjieff continue his confessions by mail.
It is interesting to note, regarding Bogachevsky’s caliber, that later he went to Mount Athos as a chaplain and a monk. Soon, however, he renounced monastic life as practiced there and went to Jerusalem. Bogachevsky joined the Essene Brotherhood there and was sent to one of its monasteries in Egypt. He was given the name Father Evlissi and later became one of the assistants to the Abbot of its chief monastery. According to Gurdjieff, the Essenes had preserved the teaching of Jesus Christ "unchanged" and that as it passed from generation to generation it "has even reached the present time in its original form."
The depth of what Gurdjieff felt for this man was expressed when, in his maturity, he declared, "Father Evlissi, who is now an aged man, happened to become one of the first persons on earth who has been able to live as our Divine Teacher Jesus Christ wished for us all." Gurdjieff's choice of words would seem to indicate that for himself Gurdjieff accepts the divinity of Jesus Christ. He speaks, for example, of Jesus Christ as "a Messenger from our Endlessness," that "Sacred Individual," "Divine Teacher Jesus Christ," and "Sacred Individual Jesus Christ."
Although Gurdjieff speaks highly of Christianity and of Jesus Christ, there are also many stories of his making fun of Catholic priests, even shouting at them on occasion. For example, his niece Luba reported in her Luba Gurdjieff: A Memoir with Recipes, "My Uncle never taught us how to go to church, or pray, or anything like that. And he never liked priests or the nuns. When we were out driving and he saw a priest, he would say, 'Shoo! Son of a bitch.'"
Gurdjieff certainly knew a great deal about Christianity—not only its religion but its esoteric foundation as well. This can be seen when he came to Russia in 1912 and took the guise of a Turkish prince, calling himself "Prince Ozay." Within a year of his arrival in St. Petersburg he met the young English musicologist Paul Dukes, later an officer in British intelligence. Dukes reports that the Prince wore a turban and spoke in Russian with a marked accent. He was of medium height, sturdily built and the grip of his hand "was warm and powerful." His dark eyes, Dukes said, "piercing in their brilliance, were at the same time kindly and sparkling with humor." After a chess game which the Prince won handily, he spoke knowledgeably to Dukes in English (which Dukes said he preferred) of the Lord's Prayer. The Prince told Dukes it was designed "as a devotional breathing exercise to be chanted on a single even breath."
"I have been in many churches in England and America," said the Prince, "and always heard the congregation mumble the Lord's Prayer all together in a scrambled grunt as if the mere muttered repetition of the formula were all that is required."
Ozay informed Dukes that the incantation of prayers as a devotional breathing exercise was practiced in the earliest Christian Church, which inherited it from the ancient Egyptians, Chaldeans, Brahmins, and others in the East, where it is known as the science of Mantra. This esoteric side, Ozay said, was lost in the Western Church centuries ago.
Gurdjieff had intended to found the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man in Russia, but the revolution precluded this. It was not until eight years later, in 1921, that he was able to establish it in France. At the time, he stated the Institute’s aim unequivocally: "The program of the Institute, the power of the Institute, the aim of the Institute, the possibilities of the Institute can be expressed in very few words: the Institute can help one to be able to be a Christian, that is all." He spoke of a Christian as being "a man who is able to fulfill the Commandments, both with his mind and his essence." St. George the Victor was proclaimed as the Institute’s Patron Saint.
The Original Christianity
The opening of All and Everything, First Series, begins with a prayer: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and in the name of Holy Ghost. Amen." And within, Gurdjieff speaks of Christianity as based on "resplendent love," saying also that among all of the ancient religious teachings none had so "many good regulations for ordinary everyday life." He believed that Christianity is the best of all existing or future religions: "If only the teaching of the Divine Jesus Christ were carried out in full conformity with its original." It is not clear what he means by the words "its original," but presumably a religion or teaching that came before Christianity. Something of the same sort happens with the aforementioned prayer, for he says in introducing it that this "...definite utterance has been formulated variously and in our day is formulated in the following words." He is quite clearly, then, pointing to something that was Christian but which predates Christianity.
It is clear he believes that Christianity—the religion—was mixed with Judaism, and that Judaism by that time "had already been thoroughly distorted." During the Middle Ages, Christianity was further distorted by the fantastic doctrines of hell and heaven imported from Babylonian dualism by the Church Fathers. Christianity, Gurdjieff says, had been "the religion and teaching upon which the highest Individuals placed great hopes." Note how he separates religion from teaching but, as a result of what he calls "absurdities" and "criminal wiseacring," genuine faith in Christianity was "totally destroyed."
Messengers from Above
Perhaps more significant for determining whether or not Gurdjieff was a Christian is that while he obviously held Jesus Christ in very high regard, he does not take him as the only Son of God. Rather, Jesus Christ was but one of a number of Messengers from Above, though of these He apparently holds a special place. Although Gurdjieff speaks of Jesus as a Saint, as he does of Saint Buddha, Saint Mohammed, Saint Lama, and Saint Moses, it is only Jesus and Buddha that Gurdjieff also speaks of as being "Divine."
Concerning religion per se, Gurdjieff tells us there are seven levels. The religions of the first three are subjective and correspond to people who are primarily instinctual, emotional, or intellectual. It is at the fourth level that religion begins to become objective, free from the distortions of personality. At this level, the practitioner is beginning to emerge from the hypnotism of ordinary life and engaging in a struggle with what it means to be a Christian. Only at the fifth level does one have "the being of a Christian," for only at this level can life actually be lived in accordance with the precepts of Christ, because one has now achieved a commensurate unity and will that is free from external influences.
Good & Evil Nonexistent
Concerning good and evil Gurdjieff is quite clear. "The fantastic notion," he says, "namely that outside of them [outside of people] there exist objective sources of 'Good' and 'Evil' acting upon their essence" is without foundation—there is no external good and evil.
Gurdjieff, although raised as a Christian and no doubt baptized, had a deep understanding of Christianity, held its regulations and commandments in high regard, as he did its Divine Messenger from Above Jesus Christ, would nevertheless not be accepted by either the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches as a practicing Christian. And yet Gurdjieff, it is quite clear, would insist that he was a Christian—a genuine Christian.
Clearly, for Gurdjieff, the word Christianity has a meaning different from that of contemporary churches. After his arrival in St. Petersburg, the subject was broached when Gurdjieff was first asked, "What is the relation of the teaching you are expounding [the Fourth Way] to Christianity as we know it?"
"I do not know what you know about Christianity," answered Gurdjieff, emphasizing this word. "It would be necessary to talk a great deal and to talk for a long time in order to make clear what you understand by this term. But for the benefit of those who already know, I will say that, if you like, this is esoteric Christianity."
In this account it is important to note that the first use of the word Christianity is italicized. The word is given even greater stress by making clear that Gurdjieff himself emphasized the word when he spoke. Saying he does not know what the questioner understands by the term Christianity, Gurdjieff adds that in any case he will answer, but "for the benefit of those who know already." On the basis of these remarks some, such as Boris Mouravieff and Robin Amis, have believed that Gurdjieff was referring to Eastern Orthodoxy as it is practiced at Mount Athos.
In continuing the discussion, in the very next paragraph, Gurdjieff speaks about "the desire to be master of oneself, because without this nothing else is possible." Then he addresses the subjects of love of mankind and altruism, and concludes with, "In order to help others one must first learn to be an egoist, a conscious egoist. Only a conscious egoist can help people. Such as we are we can do nothing." In sum, one must strive to become a true individual and to do that one must practice esoteric Christianity.
Rediscovery of Original Christianity
From the remarks discussed previously, it is quite clear that Gurdjieff, in his quest for the origin of esoteric knowledge, rediscovered what he called a Christianity before Christ. "The Christian church," said Gurdjieff, "the Christian form of worship, was not invented by the Fathers of the church. It was all taken in readymade form from Egypt, only not from the Egypt that we know but from one which we do not know. This prehistoric Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the birth of Christ, that is to say, that its religion was composed of the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity."
After rediscovering the essential principles and ideas, Gurdjieff traveled to Persia, the Hindu Kush, and elsewhere to reassemble the complete teaching from the many elements that had migrated northward over time. He then reformulated the teaching, which he called [or was called] the Fourth Way, for our contemporary understanding and introduced it to the West. In first speaking of its origin he declared—"The teaching whose theory is here being set out is completely self-supporting and independent of other lines and it has been completely unknown up to the present time." It is "completely unknown" because its origin is prehistoric—predating the ancient Egyptian religion, Judaism, Zoroaster, the Avesta and the Hindu Rig Veda.
So, in sum, Gurdjieff is, and is not, a Christian. The Fourth Way teaching is, and is not, Christian. It depends on what we know about Christianity, our definition of it. For Gurdjieff, there are two forms of Christianity, its original form, and its contemporary form. The Fourth Way, for Gurdjieff, is esoteric Christianity in its highest form. That is, if it is so recognized and practiced."
Pictures & Imagination
Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
"We spoke last time of imagination and pictures of oneself. It was said that as long as pictures of oneself are dominant no change of oneself is possible in that direction. The reason is simple enough and need scarcely be explained. If you have a picture of yourself as being a person who never tells a lie, then naturally you will never notice that you lie. Your picture of yourself as being the kind of person who never lies will satisfy you however much you actually lie. Now here is something that has to become a personal experience as regards the practical psychology taught in this Work. You have to experience yourself in a new way. Nevertheless this teaching about pictures is little understood, even in theory. One reason is that people do not realize that they have pictures of themselves and that they live by their means a great part of their lives.
Pictures are formed out of the powerful force of imagination and govern us all and can replace the actual by the imagined. As you know, imagination can easily satisfy the centers. We should all know something of this by now. It is not merely that we have imaginary pictures of ourselves, but we have them of others as well. And this is why it seems to us often that the Work is brutal. Some older philosophers have asked whether everything is not imagination. The Work says that the human family is hypnotized and asleep through the power of imagination, but that there are things in us that are not imagination. The curious thing is that much that the world thinks is imagination is not, and vice versa, from the standpoint of the Work. For example, many think that this Work and all esoteric ideas are imagination and that the aims and affairs of life certainly are real. So people live in this century of abnormal war and wonder why it is all as it is. Can we see that all is as it is because the human family is asleep and all the horrors are done by people who are asleep?
I remember Mr. Ouspensky once saying in connection with this idea of the Work that several writers have tried to express it, dimly realizing the situation, and he mentioned the early work of H. G. Wells, called In the Days of the Comet. This fantasy, as the critics called it, speaks of a cloud that passed over the earth and made everyone awaken so that people all suddenly asked themselves what on earth they were all doing—they were at war all the time. It was regarded as an amusing idea.
Pictures of ourselves are formed from imagination and keep us asleep. Everyone has a certain number of pictures that take charge of him or her, blinding people to themselves, making them believe that they are what they are not. This is the action of a picture. All of us live mostly in pictures of ourselves. Now in studying any one thing in oneself from the Work angle, we should connect it with the main teachings of this Work. Suppose that you think the idea that mankind is asleep is all nonsense, then you will never be able to see the pictures of yourself that dominate you. You will never be able to accept the idea that you are largely imagination, largely imaginary, and that the modicum of what is real in you is very small. In order to understand better, more deeply, we must continually realize and re-realize our position on this earth where so much that is obviously evil and certainly unnecessary continually takes place and will continuously take place unless we awaken."
Francois Fenelon, The Royal Way of the Cross
"We must yield to God when he urges us to let Him reign within us. Did you hesitate or resist so much when the world sought to seduce you through its passions and pleasures? Did you resist evil as forcefully as you resist what is good? What are you afraid of? Of leaving that which will soon leave you? What are you afraid of? Of following too much goodness, finding a too-loving God; of being drawn by an attraction that is stronger than self or the charms of this poor world? What are you afraid of? Of becoming too humble, too detached, too pure, too true, too reasonable, too grateful to your Father who is in heaven? I implore you, be afraid of nothing so much as of this false fear, this foolish, worldly wisdom that hesitates between God and self, between vice and virtue, between gratitude and ingratitude, between life and death."
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
"There is no abyss. One of the most widespread errors of our time is a superficial "personalism" which identifies the "person" with the external self, the empirical ego, and devotes itself solemnly to the cultivation of this ego. But this is the cult of a pure illusion, the illusion of what is popularly imagined to be "personality" or worse still "dynamic" and "successful" personality. When this error is taken over into religion it leads to the worst kind of nonsense, a cult of psychologism and self-expression which vitiates our whole cultural and spiritual self.
Our reality, our true self, is hidden in what appears to us to be nothingness and void. What we are not seems to be real, what we are seems to be unreal. We can rise above this unreality, and recover our hidden identity. And that is why the way to reality is the way of humility which brings us to reject the illusory self and accept the "empty" self that is "nothing" in our own eyes and in the eyes of men, but is our true reality in the eyes of God: for this reality is "in God" and "with Him" and belongs entirely to Him.
Yet of course it is ontologically distinct from Him and in no sense part of the divine nature or absorbed in that nature. This inmost self is beyond the kind of experience which says "I want," "I love," "I know," "I feel." It has its own way of knowing, loving, and experiencing which is a divine way and not a human one, a way of identity, of union, of "espousal," in which there is no longer a separate psychological individuality drawing all good and truth toward itself, and thus loving and knowing for itself. Lover and Beloved are "one spirit." Therefore, as long as we experience ourselves in prayer as an "I" standing on the threshold of the abyss of purity and emptiness that is God, waiting to "receive something" from Him, we are still far from the most intimate and secretive union that is pure contemplation.
From our side of the threshold this darkness, this emptiness, looks deep and vast, and exciting. There is nothing we can do about entering it. We cannot force our way over the edge, although there is no barrier. But the reason is perhaps that there is also no abyss. There you remain, somehow feeling that the next step will be a plunge and you will find yourself flying in interstellar space."
What is Repentance?
Thomas Keating, The Mystery of Christ
"Repent means 'change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.' The call to repentance is the invitation to take stock of our emotional programs for happiness based on instinctual needs and to change them. Year by year, as the spiritual journey evolves, the destructive influences of these unevaluated programs for happiness become more obvious and the urgency to change them increases."
I Am Asleep
Jeanne de Salzmann, The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff
"I do not know myself. Who am I? I need to know. If I do not know, what meaning does my life have? And what in me responds to life? So, I must try to answer, to see who I am. First, my thought steps back and brings suggestions about myself: I am a man or woman who can do this, who has done that, who possesses this and that. My thinking volunteers possible answers from all that it knows. But it does not know what I am, does not really know me in this moment. Then I turn to my feeling. It is among the centers most capable of knowing. Can it answer?
My feeling is not free. It has to obey the "me" who wants to be the greatest, the most powerful and who suffers all the time from not being first. So, my feeling does not dare. It is afraid, or doubts. How can it know? Then, of course, there is my body, the capacity to sense my body. But am I my body? In fact, I do not know myself. I do not know what I am. I know neither my possibilities nor my limitations. I exist, yet I do not know how I am existing. I believe my actions are affirming my own existence. Yet I am always responding to life with only one part of myself. I react either emotionally or intellectually or physically. And it is never really "I" who responds. I also believe I am moving in the direction I want to go and that I can "do." But in fact I am acted upon, moved by forces that I know nothing about. Everything in me takes place, everything happens!
The strings are pulled without my knowing. I do not see that I am like a puppet, a machine set in motion by influences from outside. At the same time, I sense my life passing as if it were the life of another person. I vaguely see myself being agitated, hoping, regretting, afraid, bored…all without feeling that I am taking part. Most of the time I act without knowing it and realize only afterward that I said this or did that. It is as if my life unfolds without my conscious participation. It unfolds while I sleep.
From time to time jolts or shocks awaken me for an instant. In the middle of an angry outburst, or grief or danger, I suddenly open my eyes –"What?…It’s me, here, in this situation, living this." But after the shock, I go back to sleep, and a long time can pass before a new shock awakens me. As my life passes, I may begin to suspect that I am not what I believe. I am a being who is asleep, a being with no consciousness of himself. In this sleep I confuse intellect–the thought functioning independently from feeling–with intelligence, which includes the capacity to feel what is being reasoned. My functions, my thoughts, feelings and movements, work without direction, subject to random shocks and habits. It is the lowest state of being for man. I live in my own narrow, limited world commanded by associations from all my subjective impressions. This is a prison to which I always return–my prison.
The search for myself begins with questioning where "I" am. I have to feel the absence, the habitual absence, of "I." I must know the feeling of emptiness and see the lie in always affirming an image of myself, the false "I." We are all the time saying "I," though we do not really believe in it. In fact, we have nothing else in which we can believe. It is the wish to be that pushes me to say "I." It is behind all my manifestations. But this is not a conscious impulse.
Usually I look to the attitude of others in order to be convinced of my being. If they reject or ignore me, I doubt myself. If they accept me, I believe in myself. Am I only this image that I affirm? Is there really no "I" who could be present? In order to respond, I need to know myself, to have a direct experience of knowing myself. First, I have to see the obstacles that stand in the way. I must see that I believe in my mind, my thinking–I believe it is I. "I" wish to know, "I" have read, "I" have understood. All this is the expression of the false "I," my ordinary "I." It is my ego that prevents me from opening to consciousness, from seeing "what is" and what "I am." My effort to awaken cannot be forced. We are afraid of emptiness, afraid to be nothing, and so we make an effort to be otherwise. But who makes this effort? I must see that this too comes from my ordinary "I." All forcing comes from the ego. I must no longer be fooled by an image or an ideal that is imposed by the mind. I need to accept emptiness, accept to be nothing, accept "what is." In this state, the possibility of a new perception of myself appears."
The Fourth Way is Not Based on Dogma
"Understanding should come from one's own experience and not because it has been drummed into you. The one thing that really appealed to me about the Work was that none of this was dogma. Everything was to be tested against one's own experience, that we shouldn't take anything for granted or still less that we should accept what somebody told us because they were more experienced, but that we should always go back and verify what we were told against our own experience. J. G. Bennett in his courses, for example, would say, 'Don't believe this because I am saying it. You have to experience it for yourself.' And even further than that, he'd say, 'It's no good, my telling you because it won't help you. This understanding can only come from your seeing it in your own experience.' The things that I heard early on sometimes took me decades before I could say, 'Now I see what that means, I really see it because I've been through such an experience.' What I can see very clearly about this Work is the idea that there is more than one world. It was as if I was standing on a different threshold looking through a different window, and it was a very striking experience that we can have this experience in our ordinary life of a different world. There is more to life than what we immediately see. As I live my life, I see that this Work is something important. What we can do to help other people, not just individually, but to help communities and to help humanity as a whole; this is our task and particularly now, that humanity can change and we can actually help to make this change come about by what we do in our own individual personal lives."
The Wisdom of Jacob Needleman
Professor of Philosophy San Francisco State University
Awakened Human Beings
"The real illusion is that people feel that God can act in the world of human affairs with only ordinary people who are not developed according to how they are meant to be. So in that sense it's awakened human beings which are needed for God to act in the world. As for one of the proofs for the existence of God I would say, as a philosopher who has studied a lot of the proofs for the existence of God, is the existence of men and women who are inhabited by and who manifest what we call God."
The Inner World of Man
"It is not recognized very much in our society, in our world, that human beings have an inner world and an outer world. We have a world, a side of ourselves which is to act, to manifest, to take care of our family, earn our living, to accomplish things, to invent, to travel, to live, to take care of the earth, to do all sorts of things which human beings can really do remarkably. But there is this inner part, not just the psychological side, the desires, but there is an inner life within us which we have lost touch with entirely. And we sometimes experience it in moments of danger, in moments of crisis, in moments of extraordinary beauty, in moments of great love, when your child was just born, in moments of connection with a loved one. Sometimes you don't even know why but they appear, these moments which you might call the real or the higher where the real self appears. There is a real self inside there, the real I that is covered over, it hasn't been born, it's not able to appear, and that's our real identity, it's connected to that. The thing we call our self has been totally conditioned. It's not that it's bad altogether, it's just a cultural product of outside influences in my own mind, my emotional nature and body, you can call it the ego if you like. It's the surface self, and we need it, it's important in our life but there is this other self that we are born to come in touch with, to open to that which really gives meaning to life. Without that we're just like little puppets, we're born, we are conditioned to get our money and food, we make our babies and we die, and that's it."
What is a Human Being?
"Real philosophy, if I can call it that, is meant to remind us of who we are. Human beings are part of a very big universe, it's not just quantitative but it's a universe of purpose and meaning, and it's meant to help us remember who we really are, what a human being really is, or at least to deeply open that question. And then the question begins to appear, who are we really? One of the terms is remembering oneself, but what are we, what are we meant be, what is a human being on earth supposed to do and be? Is he supposed to drink, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner and have children, and that's it, and then you die?
Or, is there something else? A human being is so extraordinarily created and organized, a completely different plan than the animals and the plants, great as they are, and that question, to open that question, to really open it, not just go into all the reductionism, the biology and economics and all these things, which is sort of just a knee-jerk kind of thing going on. To open that question is what philosophy does. And when a question like that is really opened, time takes on a whole different meaning. Is there something in us that is really timeless, that is, you could say immortal, but not in the sense of immortal, or immortality in linear time? What immortality really means is timelessness, it's now and it's not conditioned by the passage of time. Now, what then is the human being supposed to be? In my view, and I think it has been taught for centuries, that a human being is meant to be a much different kind of person than what we are. In very simple words, a human being is meant to serve a higher purpose. We are meant to serve, we're to give, meant to help, meant to be part of what is noble in the universe. I can put it in other language which may sound sentimental but a human being is meant to be able to love, not just the usual love which is just satisfying our desires, which are very good, but a human being is meant to care in a way that comes from another level, from the Real I."
What is Gnosticism?
"Gnosticism is a term applied to an array of spiritual and religious teachings around the time of Christ, a little bit before and after. But the root of the word Gnosticism is 'gnosis', a Greek term for knowledge that means, in the religious spiritual tradition, a quality of knowledge that transforms you, a knowledge that is intimately related with the transformation of consciousness, and therefore it is something which is not specific to those Gnostic sects which are what is usually meant by Gnosticism. For a long time the Gnostics were considered by scholars as a sort aberration and by Christian theologians as a heresy because they had a bizarre sounding language and teachings. They seemed at their very best to stress knowing rather than faith which was an heretical idea for the Christian teacher. It turns out that they were persecuted, their texts were burned and we have very few direct accounts of their life and their work. And some of them certainly sounded peculiar but later when I started reading about Gnosticism I was amazed to find that they echoed something which I had been so touched by in the Gurdjieff teachings, that there was this idea of the transformation of knowledge, a new kind of knowing, not just a "knowledge" that we call our knowledge in the scientific era, but that there was such a thing as a kind of higher knowledge, and I began to understand the symbolism in what they were speaking of, that these writings were profound and deeply spiritual."
The Fourth Way and the Language of Alchemy
"Alchemy is a system, a practice, a way that existed in the middle ages and a little later. And it's all, in it's authentic form, it's about the transformation of man being very far from his potential, a being who is asleep, distracted, unconscious, full of illusions and ego. This is what the alchemists meant by when they use the word lead and the transformation of lead into gold is the transformation of undeveloped man into the man of full human capacity, a man of consciousness of life, of understanding and wisdom. All the apparatus, all the language of alchemy is a code having to do with interior transformation. And of course there were the imposters, the charlatans, there were imitations and it's completely wrong to think of alchemy mainly as a primitive proto-chemistry. It was an aspect of a school and a way.
There are many paths, there are many ways. A spiritual discipline could be understood to be a kind of a strategy, a campaign against the illusions of the ego that could lead a person to transformation. And this strategy can take different forms. There are different ways, the Sufis, the Zen Buddhists, the Christian Contemplatives. They are all different ways, different paths. It was Gurdjieff who made this distinction that I find very helpful. Basically there is the way of the monk which is a way that starts with the development of a certain quality of feeling and of devotion, a purification of the emotional nature of man. And then there was the way of what he called the Fakir which more involves the body, a certain work with the body, a certain way of overcoming the intrinsic resistance of the body and opening it to something. And there was what he called the way of the Yogi which meant a development of the mind, but all these ways eventually lead to the same thing. And there was another way that he spoke of which has been called the Fourth Way, neither of the other three which was distinctive in that it engaged the human being in life as we live it every day, and a way of developing each part, the body, the feeling and the mind in relation to each other in the midst of our ordinary life.
All of nature is transformation. A butterfly is a transformation of a cocoon or a caterpillar. This inner transformation that we are speaking of is the transformation of a human being from a scattered, multiple illusory state into a unitary being with a different quality of psychological force and energy and capacity, a different intelligence. And this takes place through laws that none of us can say we know. Basically you can say that the transformation of a human being takes place through the allowing within oneself of the action of higher forces acting upon ourselves as we are. And all of the way, all of the spiritual disciplines, the whole meaning of the way is to make oneself available and open to something that comes from another level from within ourselves and from the universe. All authentic spiritual practice is a discipline of opening and of allowing. Even when it is very strong, very rigorous, seemingly very tough, it's all to help make something more permeable, more open in ourselves, in the very tissues of our body and our brain.
This is an idea, a teaching that has been given in all traditions, including our own in the West. And one doesn't recognize it very much but even in Christianity which has the reputation of being hostile to the body. In the early Christians and the great mystics like Meister Eckhart and Gregory Palamas you find very clear indications that one has to know and live from the whole being. Even Gregory Palamas has passages where he speaks very, very strongly that the mind needs to be in the body. He speaks of the need to keep the mind in the body, to keep the attention occupying the whole body. And this is something you don't find in our churches at all. It's been lost. And in Meister Eckhart it's very much a teaching that to go within the self, deep within there you find the source of all creation, of God within. This has been given lip service for some time, the Kingdom of Heaven is within, but what it really means is something which we are just now beginning to rediscover in our time, to understand what the mystics really spoke about.
The important point I think to recognize that what we call generally the mind in our culture is only one part. There are other minds and there are other sources or knowledge and other sources of perception, in the feeling, in the body, and all three parts need to be related together. And each one has its own source, its own kind of knowing. The body knows, the feeling knows and the head knows. Each one of those three brings a certain kind of knowledge and all three kinds of knowledge are necessary for real understanding of anything, the universe, ourselves, anything at all. Only a knowledge that comes from the three parts of ourselves is real knowledge. And we have been living in only one part, the mind."
What is God?
Samael Aun Weor
"We must work toward a constant state of self-observation where we become more and more connected with the observer who is objectively observing "it" (the observed). Self-observation requires conscious effort. The observer is the one who remembers, the one who becomes the doer, who becomes. Through knowing ourselves and changing our defects, we can grow and develop psychologically and spiritually, leading to the awakening of conscience, the emergence of genuine happiness, and the restoration of a humane and just society. Society is the extension of the individual. Therefore, if the individual fundamentally changes, the world will inevitably change."
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The beginning of spiritual transformation is to observe your own psychology in action.
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