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The Essential Message of the Ancient Traditions
The Cross, an Ancient Symbol

The Role of Messengers

"Eldest of my grandsons! Listen and always remember my strict injunction to you: In life never do as others do." p. 27 All & Everything: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by G. I. Gurdjieff

Gurdjieff was a contemporary Messenger who used the power of his deep understanding of the human psyche and the operative conditions in our lives that we might cognize that we have higher possibilities which will remain undeveloped so long as we remain passive. He used the power of his Being to awaken in us the Wish to act upon this knowledge, and he provided us with practical tools to do so. Gurdjieff's System, though, is certainly not the first in humanity's long history.

The chief obstacle to attaining inner peace and the development of our higher possibilities is egotism. Our worldview, conditioned into us by virtue of being born into an egoistic society, is comprised of a set of beliefs whereby we view ourselves to be the grandiose center of the universe. We perceive our existence as separate from and independent of others, deluded into believing that there are no consequences for our insatiable greed and self-centered pursuits. This view of the world assigns blame and causality for one's life experiences to external circumstances. All experiences are filtered through this lens of helplessness, concealed by self-pity, so that no responsibility is assumed for anything, justifying our belief that we should be held blameless for everything. Our attention becomes so locked into this view that we cease to notice any other alternative. What began as a view is now perceived as solid, unchangeable reality. From this moment on we become little more than machines, driven by the whim of external forces and internal drives.

Egotism, when it encounters a System derived from an alternative worldview based in humility, immediately claims to understand it, regardless of whether the System is Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Sufism. Egotism "translates" selected elements of the System into its own "language" so that they serve its interests. Egotism also inserts its own elements into the System, while denying that it is doing so. And finally, it conveniently ignores all elements that do not conform to its view of reality. Before long, the System is so diluted and distorted that it has become its own opposite. Instead of being a potent tool for breaking free from the prison of the the egoistic worldview, it has morphed into yet another system for strengthening egotism. Hence the need for a continuous stream of Messengers.

The Message

All the Ancient Traditions tell us that our notions of having control or will power are illusions. We have become such nullities in the sense of Being that all we can hope for in the beginning is to transform our worldview -- and even that happens only through Grace. Variously the sacred writings say that mankind is "asleep" or "deluded" or "ignorant". This flies in direct contradiction to our arrogant opinion of ourselves, and the vast majority of us will turn away from this message, unwilling and unable to face the idea of our nothingness. Why?

There is another worldview possible to us, but it remains unseen. Though not deliberately hidden, it is so thoroughly missed by everyone that it may as well be hidden. This worldview is grounded in Reality, visible only through the lens of humility, that total recognition of one's place in the universe as simply one of many interdependent parts of an interactive, mysterious Oneness. This view acknowledges the power to choose, the power to acquiesce, and assigns causality for one's experiences to one's own beliefs and actions, and assumes response-ability for all interactions with life. This view recognizes that choices arise out of the placement of the attention on selected elements within one's inner and outer environments, whether the selections are made consciously, or subconsciously, due to our inner fragmentation.

Those of us who manage to hear the Message about an alternate worldview quickly discover that it is not so simple to drop the egoic view. We have become so debilitated from years of living under its influence that we find ourselves surprisingly unable to free ourselves from the elements upon which attention is locked merely by wishing to do so. Hence the need for a System of Principles and Practices to guide us moment by moment as we struggle to re-learn how to navigate our lives.

I Wish To Be. Egotism wishes to "appear to be". Immersed in the egoistic worldview, one pins one's hopes on appearances and lies as one's chosen life strategy. The idea of committing oneself to a System of principles and practices grounded in Truth seems overwhelming. The sad reality is that no more effort is required to Work for Being than is required to work for appearances. The difference lies only in the intent, the strength of one's wish, and the degree of one's awareness and self-knowledge.

Self-observation is the chief tool for acquiring self-knowledge. A great deal of humility is required even to embark on self-study. This is due to the subconscious belief that self-observation will lead to the horrific discovery that I am not worthy of being alive, much less being lovable. Therefore egotism "defends" me from this painful "reality" and leads me to believe that I already know myself quite well, thank you just the same. However, the "I" knows better. The "I" also knows that I do not have to "earn" worthiness, that I am already lovable by virtue of the fact that I am alive. The ego's core beliefs effectively hide this innate knowledge from me. However, these beliefs can be unlearned through the practice of correctly conducted self-observation.

Gurdjieff emphasizes that self-observation must begin from the proper foundation. I must intentionally take the attitude of being in question, always, about the nature of Reality and who I Am. I must withdraw my sense of identity from my opinions and beliefs. I must continually disrupt my habits if I am to re-perceive myself and the world. Gurdjieff states that only by disrupting habits do I gain the detachment necessary for the unseen grooves of egotism to be revealed to me for observation. Hence Gurdjieff's Grandmother's advice: "In life, never do as others do." Otherwise my efforts are the pure fabrications of egotism reinforcing its worldview, posing as self-observation.

Egotism is centered in the mind, which operates on the principle of duality. Divisions enable labeling, comparison, and analysis, all of which are necessary for communication and problem solving. These mental functions are only a problem when they are used exclusively to define reality, and when they function exclusively under the influence of egotism. Then everything is assigned a judgmental value based on perceived alignment with like-or-dislike, good-or-evil, right-or-wrong, success-or-failure. Suddenly my worth as a human being is at stake, and even my right to breathe the air is in peril.

Meanwhile, perceptions from feeling are so thoroughly excluded that they are not even registered. Feeling becomes completely dissociated from consciousness except in the form of reactions reflective of the egoistic worldview. These reactions cause untold suffering, yet they are entirely needless, as they are triggered only when I am immersed in the egoistic worldview. I need to verify through my own efforts at self-observation that when I accept the healing suffering that comes through facing truth with sobriety, I can drop the needless, debilitating suffering that comes through the drama of egotism. This is what is meant when Gurdjieff states that he teaches only "conscious labors and intentional suffering".

I begin by detaching from judgments and evaluations, analyses and comparisons of myself and others. I then practice the art of "taking an impression". I practice using my inner eye as a camera lens and simply take a snapshot of the totality of myself as I am in the moment, inclusive of everything, impartially.

What does it mean to be impartial? I need to cultivate the ability to discern the balance point between success and failure, praise and blame. I search each moment for the place in myself between conjoining and rejecting, where I am neither indulging nor repressing. That is the "straight and narrow path" to inner freedom. I let go of the learned need to project the appearance of conforming to an ideal that was conjured to offset the learned perception of myself as unworthy and defective. I learn to accept myself as I AM. I learn to simply BE in each moment, to accept life as it IS.

One time later in his life Gurdjieff was asked yet again to summarize what his work was about. He responded: "I teach: when rains, sidewalk wet."


Created on 12/03/2005 12:02 AM by admin
Updated on 12/03/2005 01:15 AM by admin
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