April 2011 Edition of Journey to Essence
The Path to Inner Peace and the Ending of Suffering
What is the Significance of Human Life on Earth?
G. I. Gurdjieff, From Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
The teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff speak directly to our most essential questions Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life and of human life in particular? Through many years of searching, Gurdjieff discovered answers and then set about putting what he had learned into a form understandable to the Western mind.
"Owing to the abnormal conditions of modern life, man no longer functions in a harmonious way. In order to become harmonious, man must develop new faculties and develop latent potentialities that can only be realized through work on oneself. There is in our life a certain very great purpose, and we must all serve this Great Common Purpose. In this lies the whole sense and predestination of our life."
- G. I. Gurdjieff -
The above quote is from the chapter "From the Author" in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson the full text of which, along with 37 other works from authors P. D. Ouspensky, Maurice Nicoll, Rodney Collins, and Jean Vaysse, is available at Cup of Nothing. To read "From the Author" click here.
On Sin and Suffering
Tim Cook, Church of Conscious Harmony
Last week we took at the idea of sin. And we attempted to unpack it in a way that made the term useful again. It's become such a pejorative term, such an accusation that most of us have our minds closed to the deep, true and useful meaning of it.
We could say is that sin (Original Greek: hamartia) means "to miss the mark," or "to wander from the path". It is an atmosphere that causes us to do acts which themselves are sinful but sin itself is an atmosphere, almost like the weather, an atmosphere that when we are in it, in the "sinful mindset", we feel that we are separate from God, and that God is unreal to us. Maybe there is a vocal ideal that says, "Oh yes, I believe in God", but as an efficacious fact, as a useful and relational presence, we are "living in sin" if we're not living fully awake to God's presence and fully available to His graces, the graces He would pour into us the second we, like the Prodigal Son, turn toward Him.
So the idea of sin is not an accusation, it's one of navigation where we ask ourselves, "Where am I in myself? Am I in the mind that knows and feels and is aware of the mystery that is God, or am I in the world's mindset where there are causes that make effects, and where there's the economics of scarcity instead of the abundance of spirit?"
So this is a place where we can make distinctions and navigate for ourselves to ask just what kind of a mind am I in? Because it's a world of difference, it's a different world, literally. Our bodies still appear in the same space when we are aware of God, and when we're not aware of God. When God is real to us or unreal to us everything looks the same on the outside, but the interior experience is as different as could be imagined...it's beyond imagination. And so we try to redeem the idea of sin to make it a useful discerning tool to help us step out of that corporate atmosphere that culture calls normative, and into the reality...the blazing reality of the truth of God and His love for His human beings.
I want to unpack another idea, another idea that perhaps is the most difficult of all, especially for people like us Westerners who have just the right temperature they want in their homes: "I can air-condition, I can heat, I can change channels without moving". And this is suffering. It's an ancient idea. It's been known by all cultures in all times because all people suffer. In fact, Lord Buddha's Four Nobel Truths are: life is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, there is an end to suffering, and there is a path to the end of suffering. So, it's known that in life there is suffering, but I don't know if life itself is suffering. I think that's a kind of "life in sin" suffering. It's a life in separation, a kind of mechanical suffering that goes on and on without our will.
There's another kind of suffering, and that's what we teach and what we practice; it's the way of intentional suffering, the way of doing on purpose what we're accustomed to doing by default. Usually when we suffer we enter into some sort of denial mechanism, some sort of pretense or covering for it because it seems inappropriate. "We shouldn't be suffering. Look at the rest of those people, they're all happy. Look at all those people on T.V. with their toothpaste smiles...they're happy!" Look at that actor that's going bonzo and is selling out his life tour with pornography goddesses for his best friends, suitcases full of cocaine...very entertaining. Is that the world we want to live in? Our bodies appear in the same space as the bodies of people who appear to be happy or to be on top of it. But when we go deep within we live in another world, and it's a world that God made for us, and a world He made us for. We're designed for this. Our DNA is made to know Him, and to suffer in a way that is consistent with the suffering of Christ, to join Him. "Pick up your cross", He says, "pick up YOUR cross and follow me." Where? In the regeneration of the human species, in the rising up above this eternal recurrence that King Solomon talked about where "that which was is that which will be."
Over and over again civilizations rise, civilizations fall, but the same old games go on, that we're separate from God, I'm separate from you, there's scarce resources and I gotta get mine...too bad about you. That's not God's world. That's the world of human invention. And though it's customary it's not necessary, and though it's attractive--it calls us...it seduces us--there is a way we can learn to step out of those influences and into the life of God in which we now live by a different standard and from a different place, and offer a witness, not with our mouths, but with the way we carry oursleves to the presence of Christ in His world.
So I want to open with a short reading from Maurice Nicoll's Commentaries. You know that we practice the Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky here. It's one of the foundational texts of the two legs of the Church of Conscious Harmony. One leg of the church is the contemplative tradition that's been handed down to us through the Cistercian monks that Father Thomas Keating represents, and the other is this tradition that comes from Maurice Nicoll who was a Christian, a Jungian psychologist, and a student of both Gurdjieff and Ouspensky who taught inner Christianity, not outer observances, which are fine and very useful, but without the inner part, they become dead and inert.
"This work is interior Christianity. People imagine that they have something to sacrifice. There is only one thing that they have to sacrifice and that's their suffering. A person in this work of interior Christianity must eventually begin to know what conscious suffering is compared with mechanical suffering. Everyone suffers. Cheerful people assure you they never suffer. They're always bright and healthy and so on, yet they suffer in spite of this rather tiresome picture of themselves. Everyone suffers...mechanically. What is mechanical suffering? It's something quite different from conscious suffering. It is something so intricate, so devious, so apparently contradictory, so various, so subtle, so historically long-standing, in short, a habit, that we don't observe it. We don't see its continual inner, private, petrifying action. Like that steady drip of calcium-charged water that builds up those strange pillars in deep caves between floor and roof, this work of inner Christianity teaches that we all inevitably have a mechanical suffering, and that this is the only thing that we have to offer as sacrifice. In order to change one must sacrifice something. Understand clearly and ask yourself, if it ever occurs to you to ask your "self" a question, which means that you've actually thought about it for yourself of the answer. I say, ask yourself this question: "Can I possibly imagine that I can change if I don't give up, don't sacrifice something?' This means simply that you cannot change if you wish to continue to be the same person. To change is to become different. If I want to go to London I must give up being a Amwell."
So with that as an introduction, I want to read from a recent Parabola Magazine. This is "The Metaphysics of Suffering" by Charles Upton.
"The word suffer means both to undergo pain and to allow. Jesus said, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not.' So the word suffer means both to undergo pain and to allow. In the world of suffering, inescapable pain confronts the ever-present possibility of submission to the Absolute which, God willing, may open the door to self-transcendence."
Now here we have the very point of departure from cultural values. Cultural values are about self-enlargement, self-gain, self-promotion. Christianity is about self-transcendence, about transcending what we call the false self, that mask that we wear, which we have one for the office, one for the home, and one for our friends and family, and one for the kids. So that's the false self. It was acquired after we were born by education, enculturation, imitation; it's that socially adaptive personality. So that's the false self. Self-transcendence means moving into the Christ self, the true self, the eternal presence that I am and that you are, and that we will always be, even when we are hidden behind the false self's masks.
Upton continues, "Jean Cocteau (writer: Beauty and the Beast) once wrote in his book, 'A tree must suffer from the rising of its sap, and not feel the falling of its leaves.' He understood the pain of his withdrawal from opium addiction as the suffering of a soul struggling to embrace greater life. Even those who are suffering in extremists, those who are facing death may understand their suffering as the failing attempt of a dying body to embrace a greater life than any body, even the youngest and healthiest, can encompass or withstand. Purgatorial suffering is the suffering of inexorable spiritual expansion against all the fixations and ploys of the ego that wants to control everything and at the same time avoid everything. It teaches the soul by its penetrating rigor how to accept the tremendous mercy of God."
And so this false self that we speak of might be referred to as the self-contraction. God is this totally expansive spiritual presence that is our deepest interior part, and we've closed down on that inherent beauty. We've contracted ourselves in a grip on self. Self-transcendence is opening beyond that into that spacious life of the spirit. And so this contractedness is putting a cramp on the spiritual presence within us. It's holding it in, and purgation means the progressive letting go of the refusal of God, and the progressive letting go of His grace. Inch by inch and refusal by refusal we gradually release the self contraction, and release what's been hidden under it the whole time...the Christ. Now this is not an attainment, it's not a getting better in rising up some mountain of achievement. It's grace, only grace, mercifully present waiting for us to release enough of our egoic hold on self to experience the reality of the true self, the Christ that is our deepest part. So God's mercy is painful because of our refusing the big life that's within us. We're afraid to be as beautiful as God has made us, afraid to be as happy as He has made us. We're looking for a reason to be happy, we're looking for a reason to experience the peace that passes understanding, and it's perfectly unreasonable. There's no reason for it except that you and I, our life, alive, that we have limited that life is the habit of the world. The offering of God is to delimit it, and that delimiting, that letting go, is uncomfortable. Releasing ourselves into the beautiful greater life within us is an uncomfortable process.
But now remember what Mr. Nicoll just told us, that we are mechanically suffering anyway. As we open to God we become conscious sufferers. We intentionally join Jesus on the cross. We intentionally begin to give up the cramp of self and open to the beautiful Christ that then sees herself or himself in every other being and in all creation. So, how can we discern the parting of the ways between the purgatorial road and the infernal road in our own lives, our own suffering? The infernal suffering is that "suffering of hell", which is "Damn it, I shouldn't be suffering! Why do I have to suffer?" It's resisting it, and this resisting is clamping down even further. It fixes us, glues us in place and is itself a hellish torment to remain stuck in yourself.
"In either case, it's only the ego that suffers," continues Upton. "As the beat-generation poet Lew Welch said, 'There is no suffering unless we invent someone to suffer the suffering. The ego that resists and refuses suffering is in rebellion against God's will.' As Fritchoff Shwan pointed out, 'Though we have a legitimate right to struggle against evil circumstances, the point comes where struggle against circumstances becomes a struggle against God. To do all one can to overcome misfortune with will and intelligence on the one hand, and prayer on the other, is both our right and our duty. No one who fatalistically submits to the will of the situation can submit to the will of God. But if the time comes when all of our heroic efforts fail, what then? What good is a struggle that ultimately fails? Wouldn't capitulation have been better from the beginning? The answer is no. If man's extremity is God's opportunity then we have a duty to seek that extremity, to exhaust our powers, not simply to renounce them. But we will not be able to accept ultimate failure, which may actually be our greatest good fortune, unless we are resigned to God's will in the midst of our struggle, and not simply in the hour of defeat.' In the words of Krishna to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita, he says, 'Act, act Arjuna, but dedicate the fruits of the action to me.'"
"If you find yourself after doing all that you legitimately can to end your suffering, rebelling against the fact of suffering, then you've taken the wrong road. But if you are able to accept your suffering as an opening to or invitation from God without feeling persecuted by Him, and with at least the beginning of the kind of faith that can intuit a transformative mystery within the pain and rigor of the situation, if you can say with Job, 'Tho He slay me, yet will I trust in Him', then you've begun to climb the mountain. If we view our suffering as produced by other people we'll take offence and struggle against it. If we see it as produced by blind fate we'll despair in the face of it. But if we see it as authored by God for a greater purpose, then we have a real chance both to accept it and to begin to understand it. Meaningless suffering is unbearable. Suffering in which we can at least begin to discern the intrinsic meaning is not a stone to which we are chained, it's a path that lies before us. We usually think of suffering as afflicting the individual, and this is a good thing. The suffering of a million people in some great disaster comes down to the particular and unique suffering of each one of them."
And this would be a good place for us to hold in our hearts our sisters and our brothers in Japan, and in Libya and all over the Middle East. Human beings are suffering. Human beings are at the effect of technology. We have developed some extraordinary ways to destroy each other, extraordinary ways to exert power over other people, and those people are real human beings like you and me, and they are suffering right now just like we are. Statistical correlations can sometimes blind us to the fact that it's unique individuals, individual manifestations of Christ, that are suffering in every case. If we start to look at suffering statistically instead of individually true compassion becomes impossible for us. One of the afflictions is that individual suffering is precisely the suffering of the collective. As Edgar Alan Poe demonstrated in his story "The Mask of the Red Death," 'No one is ultimately immune to the suffering of others and the suffering of all life.'
"In the Christian universe, Christ freely chose the crucifixion. Even though Christ's manifestation is a free act of God, and an incomparable instance of divine mercy and condescension, it could never have happened nor could it have been effective to save if it were not in line with the nature of things. To follow the nature of things is to obey God, not first at the level of His commands and prohibitions but on the level of His essential attributes of which all things are reflections. Behind "Not my will, but Thine be done," lies not my contingent nature but God's absolute being which is the real."
Now this is the year that we've dedicated to experiencing and studying our oneness, the oneness of God, and the oneness of us with the human race and with all of creation. And so the idea that the suffering of individuals in Japan, and in the Middle East right now, is in some way, over there, is fallacious. We are all being influenced by it. The human species is one creature, it is one Christ, and when one of us suffers we're all suffering. And though the denial mechanisms are very seductive and very powerful, they are very efficacious. The fact is that when some of us are suffering the entire human race is suffering. We didn't get a vaccination against it just because we're Americans in the middle class living in Austin, Texas.
"So, what is real is God's absolute being, His oneness. We know from our own experience that attachment to limited and perishable forms, whether our own or various persons or things, or situations we've identified with, that attachment diminishes our capacity for suffering, and thus increases our pain."
One of the basic Buddhist tenants is that clinging and attachment are the source of suffering. And I might add, clinging to an aversion: "I like, I don't like", all of that is the source of our pain.
"To the contracted soul immersed in the world, that is, to the ego, the slightest irritation is too much to bear, which is to say too much to be impassively witnessed. One implication of God's transcendence is that He is beyond all contraction, identification and attachment, and it is this very transcendence that gives Him the capacity to truly suffer without being diminished, fragmented and lost in this 'experience'. It is precisely because God transcends all things that He possesses the power to suffer with all things, a power that is inseparable from His eminence. Because He is here, because He is present He is present in all of our suffering. And Christ on the cross is simply the visible evidence of the fact Christ is on the cross in every human being who is suffering. His suffering is both infinitely greater than the suffering that any limited created being is capable of, and also in essence, it is no suffering. In this fact lies the mystery of compassion of which Christ's death on the cross is the most concentrated instance of which we have knowledge."
"The self-sacrifice of Christ was, and is, an incomparable instance of God's compassion for the world. It is also perfectly aligned with the nature of things, and thus, inseparable from the intrinsic nature of God. It is unique, free, gratuitous, and never to be repeated. It is also inevitable. 'The lamb,' it says, 'is slain from the foundation of the world.' The doctrine of the eminence of God (and that means He is present, He is eminent, He is here) and the suffering of the divine for all things, a suffering that is, in essence, no suffering, also means that God suffers for the whole of creation in us. Traditional Catholics, for example, believe that it is possible for the living to suffer for the dead, and speak of the practice of suffering for the good of the souls in purgatory. In certain states of consciousness we're able to experience the after-death struggles of the souls, thus allowing them, as it were, to be purified through us, through our very experience of their posthumous suffering as if we ourselves were their purgatory. At the same time we may offer up our own sufferings to God in partial expiation of the temporal suffering of these souls. And these two sufferings, that of our own purgation in this life, and that of the souls who are undergoing purgation in the next, are mysteriously one. This is possible because departed souls who are in an intermediate condition between earthly and heavenly life form part of the psychic plane which is also the objective environment of the soul of the living individual. To work through our own sufferings and attachments is thus to aid the dead in working through theirs. This solidarity of all souls undergoing purgation is one aspect of the Communion of Saints."
And, so again, the suffering of one is the suffering of all, whether in physicality or on beyond this physicality, we are one life appearing or not appearing we are one life and one humanity.
"In any case, though it may be possible to take on the temporal suffering of another, it is certainly not possible to repent for another."
And here we are in Lent, the season of repentance, the season of taking a look at ourselves and seeing where we are at. Am I living in the consciousness of sin, in the feeling of the unreality of the God of love, or am I living in the God of love as an expression of the God of love?
"It is not possible to repent for another even though it's possible to suffer for another. In Christian terms Christ alone can atone for human sin, but effective human repentance and purgation happen only when the penitent avails himself of this atonement. Likewise, the Buddha can save only those sentient beings who are ripe for it and consequently ask for it. Nor can Christ redeem those who, as in the case of Judas Iscariot, reject the offer of this redemption. The forgiveness of sins in Christianity does not contravene the justice of God anymore than the Bodhisattva's vow to save all sentient beings to overturn the law of Karma. Christianity and Buddhism are in perfect agreement as to the fact that no one can repent for another, or avail him or herself of the grace of God, or the intrinsic Buddhahood, or "awakeness of things on behalf of another" as Gautama put it, 'to work out your own salvation with diligence'. Vicariously taking on the burdens of another in order to alleviate their suffering is a psychic act. Though it may take place under the influence of spiritual inspiration, repentance is a spiritual act, and without true spiritual repentance, the best intentioned and most powerful psychic aid and comfort is ultimately of no avail."
In other words, we have to hunger for that other life. We have to own the fact that we've been living like the world lives, by the world's values, attracted to the things that the world finds attractive and that there is another way. Owning it and offering it up puts us in exactly the position of the Prodigal Son. The second we realize that we've been eating husks, the second we realize the emptiness of the world's values and the pain they cause, the second we turn toward home to the center within us, to the heart where God lives, that second the Father comes rushing out to meet us and graces us with all the gifts of spirit. It's an immediate act, but it has to be a spiritual act and nobody can do it for us because it's our will, our very own will.
"The Royal Road to the conquest of suffering is the existential realization of theodicy, the intimate vision of all events and conditions as 'acts of God', and of God as the sovereign good. And this is in many ways a terrible thought. It's easier for us to conceive of God as all good if we turn half of existence over to the devil who we see as continually thwarting God's plans. The idea that the horrendous sufferings of life could be the signs and effects of a 'good' too great for us to bear is hard to bear in itself, and yet this is the simple truth. We want to experience pleasure and avoid pain, yet our very insistence upon this creates an ego to which pleasure becomes less and less possible and pain increasingly inevitable. And this is perhaps the central human irony, an irony and a self-contradiction that only suffering, faithfully endured, can expose and redress. Christ said, "Take up your cross and follow me." The Buddha said, "I come to end suffering." The apparent contradiction between these two statements is resolved in a line from the Gospel of Thomas: 'If you knew how to suffer you would know how not to suffer.'
The realization that God is the 'Absolute Good', and that all our sufferings come from resistance to this Good, a resistance that initially is inevitable due to our very desire to maintain our physical lives on Earth but which can be overcome definitively by spiritual death. It's so powerful that it can even produce, God willing, a love for the rigors of suffering itself. To submit to God's will when it appears as a sentence of inevitable suffering and death is, perhaps, the hardest thing we are called upon to do in this life. But hidden within it is the mystery of a transcendental joy, and the joy that follows upon submission to God's will in the consciousness that ultimately only He is the author of all events, and the performer of all actions is in no way selfish or self-enclosed joy. Rather it is the root and power of compassion. Only those immersed in the divine bliss can have perfect compassion for the suffering of those not so immersed, a compassion by which the pain of the suffering one is fully experienced with no denial, no recoil but one which remains at the same time in its intrinsic nature entirely beyond suffering. Pity for the suffering only increases the pain. A cold indifference in the face of that suffering masquerading as spiritual impassivity increases suffering as well. Only a compassion that fully feels with the pain of the sufferer, but at the same time is totally beyond it and unaffected by it has the power to alleviate that suffering because it neither remains aloof from the other, which is false impassivity, nor does it identify with the other which is toxic pity. True compassion is of God which is why, like God, it must be both eminent and transcendent."
Suffering is a universal experience of all human beings, of all sentient life-forms. If we see it as a meaningless misfortune that science and social engineering will someday eradicate we are deeply deluded. While if we realize the truth that the permanent eradication of suffering is manifestly impossible but still see no meaning in it what else can we do but despair. The massive use of weapons of mass destruction in our contemporary world--drugs, pornography, meaningless sex, the craziness of the electronic media, dangerous and degrading games and sports, fantastic and empty belief systems--these weapons of mass destruction provide clear evidence of the fact that suffering no longer has any meaning for us, and this loss of any sense of the purpose of suffering is further evidence that although we are human beings we no longer know what a human being is. If we see no purpose in suffering, how can we maintain our courage in the face of the hardships of life? Nothing is left for us then but to make a religion as well as an industry out of the need to deny reality.
But if we are able by the grace of God to come to a true sense of the ultimate goal of human life, which is self-transcendence, and the God-given duty to stand as a sign and a mirror of the Deity in this world, then our suffering will be transformed from misfortune into a teacher, from degradation into an ennoblement, from an incitement to hatred and self-hatred and despair into a great power in this service of love. In the words of William Blake, 'We are put on earth a little space that we may learn to bear the beams of love.' And in the words of Yeats, 'Love is like the lion's tooth.'"
Self-transcending love communion with the living God is our crucifixion. The false self doesn't want to do that. It wants to ape the world, it wants to be seduced by the world, it wants to be entranced and hypnotized by the world because then it doesn't notice its suffering. That gesture however puts off to another day the payment that must be made, the letting go of the things to which we are attached, no matter what they are. Thomas Keating says they come in three categories: power and control, affection and esteem, and security and survival. We have clingings and aversions in each of these categories and they are the source of our suffering, they perpetuate our suffering, and they deny the nobility of our humanity or the living presence of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit, would help us join him on the cross, bearing our humanity with dignity, and with will, would give us everything we need to meet that which we are so afraid of...letting go, letting go. But the letting go is exactly the key to the life we've been avoiding.
In the story of the children of Israel leaving the bondage of Egypt and Pharaoh, having been hit by seven plagues, finally is convinced to release these slaves. Now (metaphysically) Pharaoh is our ruling ego. We are slaves to that ego, we think it's us even, we're so identified with egoic value, with the false self. We think it is us. When we realize our slavery and begin to let go of it, and head toward the Promised Land, which is the movement from the head down to the heart, the example given in the Bible is that Pharaoh changes his mind. How many times have I repented? How many times have I said, "I want to let go fully into you Lord?" Well, on the other hand, I think I'll just suffer a little longer in my mechanical way and avoid the suffering that would liberate me. So, Pharaoh changes his mind and he's chasing with his armies the people of Israel and they come to the Red Sea. Their back is to the wall, there is no place to go. The army is coming on one side, the sea is on the other. And what's the instruction that comes from God? "Stand still and see the work of the Lord. You will never see these Egyptians again."
The habits, the addictions, the customs, the cultural inclinations that we are being chased down by and that do not want to let us go will be handled by God when we stand still and let Him handle it. And that standing still looks like crucifixion because when we sit down in the silence every day, when we sit in the silent presence of God, and enter into communion with Him, in His first word, "silence", all the tugging and pulling of the egoic worries and concerns, and wishes and habits pulls us, tugs us, tries to get us out of that silence because it doesn't want to let go, and when we bear that silent presence we are progressively released from Pharaoh and his armies and we see the work of the Lord, we realize all of this is being done by God.
How is my heart beating right now? Where is breath coming from? All of it, this is God's world. The idea that human beings own this is the most ludicrous ridiculous idea of all. I use the example if I can't even remember where I put my car keys, how, and believe me, the people that are running the world, same-same, it's just human beings. These poor people that ran that nuclear project in Japan got a little greedy, and tried to make a little bit too much with a little too little, tried to cut corners. That's pretty human isn't it? Well, what happened? See, they wouldn't accept that God was their source, that God was their abundance, that God was their life. "We've got to do it for ourselves. We've got to make a fortune, have to hold onto it and keep it against other people." Down in the silence every day is the cross, and that cross looks like being here, and letting the past and the future tug at me, letting them tug until they run out of steam, and then I'm born again.
This progressively deeper relationship with the living presence of the Living One is available to each and every one of us every day. But look at what it's going to cost us. We're going to actually have to let go of the world. There is a day coming for each of us, and it may be a lot sooner than we expect, when there is no next breath, when there is no next attraction, when there is no next aversion and this part will be over. We will let go, and we will join Christ. But why would we continue to add our portion of the burden to the world's sufferings? Why would we wait until later to escape from the bondage of the Egyptian darkness? Why would we not, as human beings, accept God's full gift to humanity and become living witnesses that there are better ways to do it, real ways to do it? Of course there will be suffering if we decide to follow God, but there will be suffering if we decide not to follow God. The difference is that my will and my conscious intent join with God to make a harmonious regenerating whole, a resurrected whole. Whereas if I continue my mechanical suffering I may not notice it until I'm called on to let go of it without my will, as it's torn from my fingers when the body stops working.
"It is very easy to believe in the indwelling presence of Christ in the souls of imaginary people. To believe in it in people whom we do not know, but it is very difficult to believe it in the case of our own relations and our intimate friends. Somehow it is difficult to believe that the Holy Spirit abides in people who are not picturesque. When we think of Christ in the workmen we think of Him in a special kind of workman. We do not think of Him in the man who delivers the milk or calls to mend the pipes."
Here is a tool for discernment. We are always projecting our own self-image onto the people around us. How they seem, that's really me. I can't see it directly so I project it outwards. If I'm seeing a world full of jerks and fools and bad people, I'm seeing the unaccepted parts of myself projected out there. If I use that as a tool for discernment I can quickly allow it to let go, and drop into the Christ in myself, the deepest center where my life is. You see, Christ it the way, He is the truth, He is reality, He is the life. If we drop into Life in ourselves we will see that life in our brothers and sisters, and instead of seeing world full of fools, we will see Christ everywhere, on the cross as humanity with us now heeding the resurrection process rather than driving in another nail.
To access more teachings from Tim Cook, visit www.ConsciousHarmony.org. Once inside the site click on the Audio of Services link. You may also want to read The Mark, a free monthly newsletter available at this website.
People Who Hunger and Thirst for Truth
G. I. Gurdjieff, Views from the Real World
"I have already said that there are people who hunger and thirst for truth. If they examine the problems of life and are sincere with themselves, they soon become convinced that it is not possible to live as they have lived and to be what they have been until now; that a way out of this situation is essential and that a man can develop his hidden capacities and powers only by cleaning his machine of the dirt that has clogged it in the course of his life. But in order to undertake this cleaning in a rational way, he has to see what needs to be cleaned, where and how; but to see this for himself is almost impossible. In order to see anything of this one has to look from the outside; and for this mutual help is necessary.
If you remember the example I gave of identification, you will see how blind a man is when he identifies with his moods, feelings and thoughts. But is our dependence on things only limited to what can be observed at first glance? These things are so much in relief that they cannot help catching the eye. You remember how we spoke about people’s characters, roughly dividing them into good and bad? As a man gets to know himself, he continually finds new areas of his mechanicalness—let us call it automatism—domains where his will, his "I wish," has no power, areas not subject to him, so confused and subtle that it impossible to find his way about in them without the help and the authoritative guidance of someone who knows.
This briefly is the state of things in the realm of self-knowledge: in order to do you must know; but to know you must find out how to know. We cannot find this out by ourselves.
Besides self-knowledge, there is another aspect of the search—self-development. Let us see how things stand there. It is clear that a man left to his own devices cannot wring out of his little finger the knowledge of how to develop and, still less, exactly what to develop in himself.
Gradually, by meeting people who are searching, by talking to them and by reading relevant books, a man becomes drawn into the sphere of questions concerning self-development.
But what may he meet here? First of all an abyss of the most unpardonable charlatanism, based entirely on the greed for making money by hoaxing gullible people who are seeking a way out of their spiritual impotence. But before a man learns to divide the wheat from the tares, a long time must elapse and perhaps the urge itself to find the truth will flicker and go out in him, or will become morbidly perverted and his blunted flair may lead him into such a labyrinth that the path out of it, figuratively speaking, will lead straight to the devil. If a man succeeds in getting out of this first swamp, he may fall into a new quagmire of pseudo-knowledge.
The more a man studies the obstacles and deceptions which lie in wait for him at every step in this realm, the more convinced he becomes that it is impossible to travel the path of self-development on the chance instructions of chance people, or the kind of information culled from reading and casual talk.
At the same time he gradually sees more clearly—first a feeble glimmer, then the clear light of truth which has illumined mankind throughout the ages. The beginnings of initiation are lost in the darkness of time, where the long chain of epochs unfolds. Great cultures and civilizations loom up, dimly arising from cults and mysteries, ever changing, disappearing and reappearing.
The Great Knowledge is handed on in succession from age to age, from people to people, from race to race. The great centers of initiation in India, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, illumine the world with a bright light. The revered names of the great initiates, the living bearers of the truth, are handed on reverently from generation to generation. Truth is fixed by means of symbolical writings and legends and is transmitted to the mass of people for preservation in the form of customs and ceremonies, in oral traditions, in memorials, in sacred art through the invisible quality in dance, music, sculpture and various rituals. It is communicated openly after a definite trial to those who seek it and is preserved by oral transmission in the chain of those who know. After a certain time has elapsed, the centers of initiation die out one after another, and the ancient knowledge departs through underground channels into the deep, hiding from the eyes of the seekers.
The bearers of this knowledge also hide, becoming unknown to those around them, but they do not cease to exist. From time to time separate streams break through to the surface, showing that somewhere deep down in the interior, even in our day, there flows the powerful ancient stream of true knowledge of being.
To break through to this stream, to find it—this is the task and the aim of the search; for, having found it, a man can entrust himself boldly to the way by which he intends to go; then there only remains “to know” in order “to be” and “to do.” On this way a man will not be entirely alone; at difficult moments he will receive support and guidance, for all who follow this way are connected by an uninterrupted chain.
Perhaps the only positive result of all wanderings in the winding paths and tracks of occult research will be that, if a man preserves the capacity for sound judgment and thought, he will evolve that special faculty of discrimination which can be called flair. He will discard the ways of psychopathy and error and will persistently search for true ways. And here, as in self-knowledge, the principle which I have already quoted holds good: "In order to do, it is necessary to know; but in order to know, it is necessary to find out how to know."
To a man who is searching with all his being, with all his inner self, comes the unfailing conviction that to find out how to know in order to do is possible only by finding a guide with experience and knowledge, who will take on his spiritual guidance and become his teacher.
And it is here that a man’s flair is more important than anywhere else. He chooses a guide for himself. It is of course an indispensable condition that he choose as a guide a man who knows, or else all meaning of choice is lost. Who can tell where a guide who does not know may lead a man?
Every seeker dreams of a guide who knows, dreams about him but seldom asks himself objectively and sincerely—is he worthy of being guided? Is he ready to follow the way?
Go out one clear starlit night to some open space and look up at the sky, at those millions of worlds over your head. Remember that perhaps on each of them swarm billions of beings, similar to you or perhaps superior to you in their organization. Look at the Milky Way. The earth cannot even be called a grain of sand in this infinity. It dissolves and vanishes, and with it, you. Where are you? And is what you want simply madness?
Before all these worlds ask yourself what are your aims and hopes, your intentions and means of fulfilling them, the demands that may be made upon you and your preparedness to meet them.
A long and difficult journey is before you; you are preparing for a strange and unknown land. The way is infinitely long. You do not know if rest will be possible on the way nor where it will be possible. You should be prepared for the worst. Take all the necessities for the journey with you."
Commentary on Giving Up One's Suffering
Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentarieis on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
"You have often heard before that the only thing that we can sacrifice in the Work is our suffering. The Work teaches that we have to have a new kind of suffering not based on our ordinary mechanical suffering. All change in oneself can only take place by giving up what one was and becoming something different. To change oneself means to become different. I cannot change myself if I remain the same person that I am mechanically. Therefore in order to change I must give up something, sacrifice something. The idea of sacrifice runs through all esotericism. It is quite obvious why. The reason is that you cannot change yourself unless you give up or sacrifice something that you are at present. It has often been repeated in this teaching that change of Being means that you must alter something in yourself, in your Being. You cannot be what you are and at the same time change. Change of Being always involves giving up something and so sacrificing something in your Being. And the Work says that the first thing that you have to sacrifice—and here I may say emphatically the first thing—is your ordinary mechanical suffering. Now unless you see what is meant here you will not start the Work aright in yourself. You will begin from your own ideas of what you have to sacrifice or give up and that will be no good and will lead to no results. A man, a woman, must give up their suffering and sacrifice that first of all, because this can lead to a change of Being. For this to happen one must be able to see through self-observation what one suffers from.
I remember that Mr. Ouspensky spoke very early about this question. He said first of all that everyone without knowing it has fallen into typical forms of suffering from which they derive self-justification—namely, they justify their suffering and so take it for granted as part and parcel of themselves. He called it a kind of thing that you drag behind you all the time or push in front of you. He described very clearly in words that I have not remembered enough how people arc chained to this suffering that they have accumulated according to their own ideas of life and how it has treated them. He said: "All this suffering belongs to the side of Personality." He said: "People suffer uselessly but cling to their suffering. People have not found life to be what they supposed it would be and instead of seeing their forms of imagination and their acquired attitudes to life they only think they have real, genuine suffering and so feel in consequence that no one really understands all that they have been through, and so on. Everyone," he said, "is dragged down by this acquired suffering from which come all internal considering and account-making. All your internal considering and account-making," he said, "is based on this acquired suffering which people value very much." He spoke about the impossibility of escaping from the Personality with its acquired attitudes and buffers save through a force entirely new that can destroy all this litter, this useless mess in ourselves. He said: "We have to begin to think in a new way both about life and about ourselves and this is only possible when we feel a new force entering us carrying with it new ideas, new ways of taking in things. The redemption from suffering is difficult but possible, whereas in life it is impossible. When you begin to understand this Work and all that it teaches and compare it with what you are you will understand what I mean. You will see how what you are is quite different from what this Work teaches that you should be." Mr. Ouspensky used here a phrase that I always remember. He said: "When you begin to be alongside this Work and become conscious of what you are like through self-observation you will see how you are not like this Work, how your Being does not correspond with it." People asked: "Then what should we do?" The answer always was: "You must remember yourselves and the first thing you must give up is your suffering." I think he meant, as regards the latter part of what he said, that as long as you carry your suffering with you cannot do the Work. You have to give it up—that is, you have to sacrifice this strange thing in you that is the basis of all internal considering and account-making. On another occasion Mr. Ouspensky said: "No one can reach a higher level of Being unless he gives up his present forms of suffering." At that time he was talking about our idea of justice and was emphasizing how what we call justice has nothing to do with justice. He said: "Justifying yourself is always from your own idea of justice. For example, everyone justifies their negative states." He meant that everyone has a sense of what is justice for them and finding that life does not correspond to it they cling to this sense of what they think should be justice for them. Consequently we justify our negative states, our internal considering, and our account-making, and if we view the whole thing from the Work point of view we begin to realize that we cannot justify ourselves on our own ideas of justice. We have to act from another sense of justice. Suppose you talk wrongly in this Work and you are brought to the point of having to confess that you have talked wrongly, you will find that you always justify yourself on the basis of your own ideas of justice—personal justification of yourself. And behind that will lie your suffering which springs from the idea of justice that you have acquired and imitated. This has to be broken by something higher, by some higher form of what is justice. You may say to yourself: "Towards life I am quite right in feeling injustice but towards the Work and its ideas I cannot say the same thing." In the Work we are under a new discipline, a new sense of justice—namely, of what is right, of what is just, from a higher level. So we have to learn to serve another set of ideas quite different from those we have acquired from life. Mr. Ouspensky said: "We are like monkeys. A monkey can justify himself in terms of being a monkey, but we are trying to become human beings and can no longer justify ourselves in terms of being monkeys." He constantly emphasized that we are being taught in this Work ideas and self-discipline which were not necessary in life. He said: "We are trying to obey higher laws—i.e. we are trying to become conscious people so that we can live amongst conscious people and learn how to behave amongst this higher level of Beings. This Work comes from conscious people."
Now to return to this question of the first thing that we have to sacrifice—namely, our mechanical suffering—it is quite clear that first of all we all have to become aware of what forms our mechanical suffering takes. Unless we are conscious of a thing we cannot sacrifice it. You cannot start from something that you are unconscious of. The Work is to increase our consciousness of ourselves, of our state of Being. No one can work on his Being unless he is beginning to observe what his Being is like. The Work says that everyone as regards Being has his or her own form of suffering, of negative emotions, of grievances, of sad thoughts and feelings, and so on. This applies to everyone. There are no exceptions. And this thing in ourselves we are told to sacrifice at the very outset of this teaching. Therefore it is very necessary to try to observe one's form of suffering.
You may ask: "What are these forms of suffering that we have to sacrifice?" There is the suffering of man towards woman, of woman towards man. For example, a man may feel that he has never met the woman who really understands him. Or he may feel simply that he has never been properly appreciated or given a chance, and so on. Or a woman may feel that she has never been married—or that she has never had any children—or that she is always having children—and this is her suffering. Then take all the mechanical forms of suffering that arise from feeling that you have never been understood by your parents, your husband, your wife, or your children. I think it would be impossible to enumerate all the forms of suffering that people form in themselves and cling to as the most valuable things in their lives. And it is exactly this suffering derived from life and all its awkwardness that has to be sacrificed. And here I would remind you of what was said recently about 'if only': 'if only I had been given a better chance,' 'if only I had had a child,' 'if only I had met the right kind of person,' 'if only the war had not broken out when it did,' 'if only I had not invested my money in German marks,' 'if only I had been taller,' 'if only I had not got the face I have,' 'if only I had more money,' 'if only I could meet better kinds of people,' 'if only I had had more sympathy in all my troubles'—this 'if only' is connected with all your mechanical suffering that has to be sacrificed. Another form of suffering is a sense of failure. The strange thing is that this can be enjoyed. A person having made no real effort in life may fail and in a curious way enjoy his failure, or a person may think he has done his best to make relationship with someone who is difficult for him and having failed to do so may enjoy his failure. This curious form of suffering cannot be gone into in this paper. As I say, this is a very curious form of suffering whereby some people adapt themselves to life by being failures and liking to talk about it. But in such cases you will always find that they have some form of pride or vanity that makes it possible for them to pretend that their failures are genuine, falling back on the feeling that they are or could have been successes at something else, especially if they have pride in their social position, birth, or something of the same kind—i.e. in something purely negative, not really themselves. I have sometimes thought that this is the most difficult form to deal with when people admit failure, holding always secretly on to something else. This is a spurious kind of suffering. At the same time, it must be seen through and sacrificed. Behind it lies the sacrifice of pride and vanity. But this example only shows how extraordinarily insincere people are with themselves and how self-deception makes it possible for them to carry on their lives. We do not see the other side of the whole matter, the dark, unaccepted, unacknowledged side, but that is why the Work says that uncritical self-observation lets in a ray of light into this dark side which stands in the way of all individual development in everyone. We are all frauds, but we do not see through our fraudulence and in the Work we must begin with this. All our mechanical suffering is fraudulent only we will not admit it. Fraudulent suffering is the keynote to what we have to sacrifice. Real suffering is utterly different and always opens us to a higher level: fraudulent suffering closes us. It is extraordinary how a moment of real suffering makes everything false fall away from you and at such moments you understand quite plainly what this Work is about, but fraudulent, self-invented suffering comes between us and Higher Centres—that is, between us and the voice of the Work that is always speaking to us, and which we have to learn at first from outside, from a teacher, and after a time can begin to hear speaking to us inside.
The extraordinary thing is that you meet people very often who deny that they have any kind of mechanical suffering. They are usually very self-complacent people and quite dead in themselves, and yet if you are clever with them you will soon find out that they have their private forms of suffering derived from life. Now it is a very good idea to try to observe your typical forms of mechanical suffering and here it is a good thing to try to observe your fantasies, i.e. the passive work of the imagination in you. I remember once being very much struck with the idea that at least a million people die every week and probably far more and that many of them think that they are going to a better place. They are all full of their own personal problems, their own grievances, their own suffering on this Earth. How many of these people do you think—suppose that you were some kind of Being on a higher level who had to direct them to different places in the spiritual world—how many of these people would strike you as not being of the ordinary type? Would not each one of them come to you complaining—i.e. bringing to you all their mechanical sufferings, grievances, all these questions about how someone did not say Good-morning to them, and how many would come to you quite clean, without any grievances, without any sufferings from the Earth, and when asked what they wanted, would answer, not that they wanted justice, but that they wanted to know more and be more and understand more. This vision impressed me very much and made me think very deeply about what I might be under these circumstances. We have often spoken about forgiving debts and about how it means cancelling complaints against others. All our Earth-problems are of no value at all at a higher level of Being, and our work is to cancel our Earth-problems, our Earth-suffering, our internal accounting, our negative states towards others, our grievances towards others, our dislike of others and our hate of others. Otherwise we are earthbound and so like those monkeys of which we have spoken. Do you think this is a very harsh idea? I fancy we can gain some idea of what all this means, even from life. If you want to reach a higher position in life, can you bring your grievances in all the time, your personal, petty problems, in view of the position that you wish to reach?
Mr. Ouspensky once said to me, "People do not understand that this Work is about going somewhere and that it lays down definite instructions as to how you can go there, provided you work on yourself, and that therefore, as a person advances, the Work changes for him." He was talking to me at the time about something in myself that was holding me up and he said: "Don't you see that it is nothing to do with me, this, but that it is in yourself, and that as long as you do not work on it and try not to identify with it, it will always hold you back?" He said: "You object to these people, but they are you and you are them." Naturally at that time I did not see that this was part of my suffering. I did not realize that this was one of the meanings of giving up one's suffering. On another occasion he said to me, looking at me sideways: "Why do you enjoy your negative emotions so much?" And I always remember not exactly what he said but this look he gave me sideways. It was, in fact, through this look that he gave me that I began to observe that I did enjoy my negative emotions—that is, my mechanical suffering. I suppose that by now many of you begin to understand how much you enjoy your negative emotions. The Work says that to reach a higher level of Being there must be no negative emotions and that the negative part of the Emotional Centre must be destroyed in us. Otherwise, if with our present forms of suffering Higher Centres came they would simply intensify everything a thousand times. On one occasion I heard G. say: "We must destroy our Emotional Centre." Being still very young in the Work I thought what a terrible thing this would be and how harsh and cruel everything would be if one's Emotional Centre were destroyed. When I became older in the Work I realized so very clearly what was meant. Our Emotional Centre, as it is, is nothing but self-emotions with the resultant negative emotions arising from them. The purification of the Emotional Centre must, practically speaking, destroy the Emotional Centre in us as it is now, with all our little personal, sensitive, difficult reactions, our little personal feelings about everyone, our bundle of sensitive likes and dislikes—in short, our very small petty emotions, that we have as long as self-emotions govern us. When you begin to serve this Work really you have to lose these petty, daily, small self-emotions and you can only do so by realizing that the Work is much bigger than you. We spoke about this recently in connection with the realization of Greater Mind. You have to serve the Work and not yourself. The Work must not be a function of yourself but you must become a function of the Work.
What does serving the Work mean? It means obeying what the Work teaches you. It was said recently at a meeting that you must understand that serving the Work means serving it psychologically, to begin with. Suppose that you were about to pass on some unpleasant scandal and you suddenly remembered yourself in connection with what the Work teaches and did not pass on this scandal, knowing that to do so is mechanical and that it would only do harm —then you would begin to serve the Work. Or suppose that you wish to be negative because someone has not treated you in what you think the right way according to your own form of justice and you remember yourself and do not react mechanically, then you will be serving the Work. To serve the Work means to obey what it teaches you to practice on yourself. You want to be gloomy and moody, to object, and so on, and you observe your state and begin to separate from it—then you are serving the Work. And in so doing you are giving up some of your mechanical suffering. Or suppose you are about to pass into one of your typical force-losing states of worry, of complaining, of being upset about everything, of disliking everything—suppose that you observe this and cease to identify with it because of the feeling of the Work in you—then you are serving the Work psychologically. You are beginning to work on yourself; you are beginning to see what the Work means in yourself. You are beginning to obey something that is not yourself. All this belongs to giving up your suffering. But to work on your typical forms of suffering, close and sincere observation of your Being is necessary, and directing the Work on to those places in your Being through the light of self-observation, and trying not to go with these reactions, not to identify with them, not to put feeling of 'I' into them, and the more you value the Work in which higher meaning is something above the meaning of life, the more will the Work help you to overcome your mechanical suffering."
Understanding and Help
J. G. Bennett, Sunday Talks at Coombe Springs
"We should keep in front of us that we are beings capable of growth, development and transformation, not beings destined to remain such as we are. The meaning of our lives is not to be found in what we are now, but in what we can become. The conditions for this growth and development are in part provided for us, but we have also in part to create them ourselves. We are provided with nourishment of three kinds: Nature gives us nourishment for our bodies; human culture gives us psychic nourishment; and we are provided with spiritual nourishment from a spiritual Source. But we cannot benefit by all this provision unless a certain minimum cooperation comes from ourselves. We have to work in order to pay for and profit from the food that is made available to us by the working of Nature, and this work, in one way or another, has to be done. If we do not do it ourselves, someone else has to do it for us, and we must not forget that in that case we are in debt, because someone has done for us what we were required to do for ourselves.
The same is true of our psychic nourishment. We can receive this nourishment passively, by allowing other people to influence, encourage, support us, but if we do not make our own contribution corresponding to the nourishment we receive, here again we are in debt.
The same is no less true of our spiritual nourishment. This nourishment is being poured into the stream of human life and we can take it out; but there is a difference here from the other kinds, and that is that it is not possible for someone else to do the work for us, or only in a very limited degree. That is, things which draw us towards a greater reality can be given to us, like psychic nourishment, through things that interest and excite us, but when it comes to the true spiritual nourishment, we have to recognize it, value it, take it in and make use of it ourselves.
All three forms of nourishment are for our growth: the growth of our physical body, the growth of our psychic body, the growth of our spiritual body. But this is not the whole story. There is also our will, which also requires something it requires help, which is different from nourishment. This help firstly resides in the conditions which make it possible for us to begin to feel that we are able to meet the call and the hope of our life. It may therefore appear as a challenge, which even sometimes withholds the nourishment so that we are obliged to bestir ourselves in order to obtain it. So that sometimes this help appears to us as if it is something against our growth, as if it was depriving us of something that we need. This we do not understand unless we realize that, without this challenge, this other part of us—which is the part where our will must be present—cannot find itself.
There has therefore to be a certain distinction between the growth which comes from the different kinds of nourishment; and the strengthening of this other part in us. This part is strengthened firstly by overcoming difficulties and secondly by the clarification of what we truly wish for. What we wish for is what we serve. Wish is the magnet which draws us towards something to which we will give our service. Our service depends upon our understanding. The will of man, with out understanding, is like a headless chicken. If we do not understand how to direct our wish, our desire to serve is drawn towards ourselves. It can be service towards our self-love or our fears, or habits, in which case that is where our wish is and that is where our will remains imprisoned. It can be as high as we choose to make it; that is, we can wish to serve the very highest and most perfect aim, that which is truly and wholly Right. But we cannot yet know what this is, nor have we the power or the means to serve it.
Therefore all that we can do is to have an intention towards it. This intention is not nothing however unsuccessful it is, however much we remain in ignorance and helplessness about it. We must never underrate this intention of ours; it is in our power to make it stronger. Again and again we should ask ourselves: "what do I really intend, what do I really wish that my life should serve?" And as it becomes clearer, a transformation accompanies it. That transformation is something other than growth, because it is transforming us from one kind of being to another. Therefore it is not just enabling us to develop our natural powers, or even our spiritual powers.
The possibility of being transformed is not offered to us in the way that nourishment is offered to us. It comes about because there is a higher will. When we have the intention to serve, we are getting connected with Something, or Someone, or we may picture it as a Will or Intelligence that we cannot yet know, but which is really there and, most important of all, which really does need us. Because of this we are given help, to which we at first are not able to respond, and sometimes it appears to us quite opposite to help. People often speak to me about things which appear to them to be obstacles, or events which appear to them to be failures, or states in which they think something has gone wrong with them, whereas it is possible to see from experience that, in many cases, what is happening to them is that they are being helped to make some step. But because they cannot yet understand, this help arouses in them revolt, despair, apathy and rejection. And yet these same people really intend and wish to serve; only they do not understand that help often comes in ways that we do not expect and cannot understand. With more experience these situations or happenings, which seem to us to be difficulties and failures, begin to come into a right perspective. We then begin to see that these apparent obstacles in the way are the very means by which this intention of ours can come to grips with our own need to relate ourselves to something higher. This is the second stage in understanding help. We still do not recognize its true nature, but we do begin to see for ourselves that what previously appeared to be failure and misery is really a means for us to make a step forward.
This help may also come to us in the form of joyful, blissful experiences which we are perhaps afraid of accepting fully because it seems to us that they are going to draw us away from our aim. We do not see that they are given to us in order to have a taste of what is a right relationship to something higher, which is certainly a blissful relationship. And so, as we reject suffering and failure and frustration, we also tend to reject the joys and the satisfactions of life. These can also be a form of help because they, as I said, are a way to get the taste of that state towards which we have to go.
For some people it is even sometimes harder to come to the understanding of this kind of help, and to see what it means, than to understand the other kind of help, that is, the opportunity of making the right use of our failures and sufferings. But one has to realize that this bliss, this satisfaction, whatever it is we may experience, is still only a means towards something, it is not to be taken as an end for itself. It is by passing through such experiences without identifying ourselves with them, that we can come to a third understanding. This is the beginning of true insight into the hidden pattern of Destiny. When we see how exactly timed and regulated the help is that is offered to us, we begin to have faith in the Intelligence that is behind it. The help that comes in this way is not always of a personal kind, we do occasionally get glimpses—perhaps in moments of special difficulty—when help comes that corresponds to our actual needs of that very moment. Even then, we sometimes do not even recognize what has happened to us because it appears to us as luck or accident.
I am saying all this to remind you that, in its early stages, help can reach us only with difficulty because of our own lack of understanding. We are cut off from it by all the wrong ways we have of thinking of almost everything that happens to us. Later, if our progress goes on in this way and we are not satisfied with growth and development, but really wish to be able to serve the purpose of our existence, we begin to develop the power to recognize help in a finer, more inward way, still not knowing where it comes from, but beginning to recognize what it is.
Beyond this there are, of course, further stages. Finally this relationship is seen and understood directly, and then man really knows where he belongs and who he is, and there is no separation between him and the Source from which he gets help. And then he is able to serve that Source fully, with everything he has, because there is no separation.
What I speak about now is the necessity of preparing ourselves to be able to recognize this relationship better. With people who are quite new to what we call Work, one of the earliest things it is useful to tell them about is the power of listening, to help them to see how seldom it is that we hear what is being said by another person. And this will lead to the realization of how little we hear of what is being said within us: how our capacity for hearing ourselves is clouded by our own habits. If you will practice listening, if you will practice simply observing and noticing what happens within you. You are already on the way to being able to recognize better how help comes to us. When you begin to understand how unexpectedness-disturbance of our habitual ways of living, sometimes unexpected bliss and satisfaction, new interests and so on may be means for us to understand differently and better what our lives are for, not just something to be borne because it is painful, or to be grasped after because it is delightful, then you will take another step forward towards deeper understanding."
The Mindfulness of the Absolute
Christ Church Unity Prayer and Intention
"Almighty God, our heavenly Father-Mother, unto whom our hearts and minds are open, all our desires known, and in whose wisdom all secrets are revealed, recreate and purify our hearts; cleanse and renew our minds that we may love Thee perfectly and be Your perfect expression on earth. Glorify Your Name in all that we think, feel and do. Unto Thee we give all praise and thanks through Jesus Christ, our indwelling Lord." Amen
"We are spiritual beings, you and I, dwelling together in the harmony of Spirit. In this understanding we condemn no man. We send forth our forgiveness to one and all. The Christ in me beholds the Christ in you. The forgiving love of Jesus Christ fills my mind and heart. I am now at peace with God and man. We are ready to seek Thy Presence, and partake of the life-giving substance of Spirit. Let liberty, justice, peace, love and understanding be established in me and throughout the world."
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