Most people who encounter the Gurdjieff work are exposed early on to the idea that impressions are what feed the development of the soul.
Unfortunately, even people with long experience in the work tend to habitually forget that all of our work centers around the receiving of impressions. Due to the highly technical nature of much of the information Ouspensky passed on, and the influence of the various charismatic shamans the work has produced, people get distracted in a hundred other directions, and when you raise this question with them, they try to skirt around it, as though you could conduct your inner work without directly attending to the question.
My old group leader Henry Brown made this point about the central role of impressions as food to me many years ago, when I was still quite young in the work. At the time I didn't know what he was talking about.
I briefly mentioned the difference between coarser, "outer" impressions and finer, inner impressions the other day. Today I would like to discuss that in more detail.
It is generally understood and accepted among people that when we speak of impressions, we speak of what is taken into the five sense organs of taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. Occasionally we encounter ideas, such as those in Dogen's Buddhism, where we hear a discussion of six senses. There is argument among theoreticians as to what that sixth sense consists of.
These arguments are based on a misunderstanding about which six senses are being talked about.
In the Gurdjieff work, we understand that it is possible for the body to take in much finer impressions, using the attention. Such impressions, however, are not the "coarse" impressions of outer life entering through the ordinary five senses. Yes, those impressions can be altered by the presence of fine substances in the body, but finer impressions themselves are received within the six inner centers, that is, the six inner flowers --not through the five ordinary senses.
That's because finer impressions have to be received by organs designed for that purpose.
The six inner flowers, belonging to the overall internal structure of the emotional center, (see the development of emotional center) are specifically designed for the receipt of finer impressions. The emotional center provides the appropriate apparatus because it works at a much faster speed, or higher, and thus finer, rate of vibration than the moving or intellectual centers. This is one more reason why Gurdjieff said that no real development could ever become possible until emotional center began to participate in a new way.
When people in the Gurdjieff work speak of "opening," and "receiving," they speak exactly of this kind of work. It is the search for contact with those parts of ourselves that are capable of receiving a different kind of inner impression.
Contact with this inner apparatus is, in fact, contact with our second, inner self -- that part of man which is connected to something much higher, and does not belong to this ordinary nature we inhabit. When we speak of man's two natures -- the dog and the Buddha --we speak precisely of our ordinary nature, and this second, much more sensitive nature, which is the root of our arising and exists not outside us, but within us.
As it happens, our negativity -- a subject I continue to have an intense interest in investigating -- arises directly because of the lack of connection between our two natures, and the consequent disruption of our inner energy. Any belief that our negativity arises because of external circumstances is profoundly mistaken. The negativity is always already there; the gun is already loaded. External circumstances are nothing more than the trigger that fires the gun. It is our inner state that is lacking, and it is lacking because we do not feed on the inner impressions we need to.
It's no wonder we are irritable, dangerous, even violent. The animal half of us, which ought to be in relationship with-- feeding, and receiving food from-- our higher nature, is perpetually starving. Its desperation to somehow collect what it actually needs leads us to all of the flaws described as sins in Christianity, and summarized as desire in Buddhism.
People often ask, "Why are we working? What are we working for?," and so on.
The answers to these questions are not mysterious and inaccessible; rather, they are so obvious and immediate to us that we stumble over them in our perpetual rush towards oblivion.
The reason that we are working is to transubstantiate impressions.
We do that in order to provide food both for ourselves, for the planet, and for the universe in general.
As a bridge between levels, our work fills a vital gap, provides a "shock" between two notes, in that process. We are offered the opportunity to participate in a magnificent enterprise, and the rewards for this kind of effort are considerable.
All of that hinges on a deeper understanding of what it means to receive inner impressions.
Well, enough for one day.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.