Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saving the earth

Back from a work week, with many new impressions.

One of the peculiar effects of conducting a public enterprise regarding the Gurdjieff Work (this blog) is the need for compartmentalization. According to well-established Work principles, which in my conservative set of shoes I definitely follow, I can’t make public any substantial exchange or discussion that took place. Furthermore, more than once during the week, I found myself having thoughts about my experience—and the work itself—which required a decision. I either had to keep such material private, in order to later make it available to this readership, or speak about it in the course of the week, in which case I would be under obligation not to write about later.

Standing between the public and private faces of the Gurdjieff work in this manner creates questions of responsibility that cannot be encountered under alternate circumstances.

This forced me into a much more intensive examination of what was required in terms of exchange during the week. Fortunately, the distinction between what was appropriate for the moment and what was appropriate for later quickly became clear enough. And there are, of course, some quite ordinary events that took place during the week that fall under no reasonable formal strictures.

Following the past week’s observations, there is little doubt left in me as to whether we in the Gurdjieff work take both the enterprise and the activity too intellectually, and too theoretically. It quickly became apparent – distressingly so, to myself and some others- that we cannot even stand up from our seat at dinner and get as far as the kitchen without losing our attention and forgetting to remember ourselves.

I don’t say this by way of judgment. It is just a heartbreaking and humbling reminder of everything Gurdjieff said about our inabilities. Unless our work becomes more organic, as I’ve said many times, and obtains the support of both the body and the emotions in order to function better, the mind is in no way strong enough to keep us on track. If we don’t learn humility here, on the ground floor of this effort, we won’t learn humility at all. And I do believe our humility is fundamentally lacking. We may well be following in the footsteps of Martin Luther’s adage—since we must sin, sin boldly—but I think we are taking his advice a bit more enthusiastically than necessary.

During the week, I ran into a number of ordinary conversations on the subject of saving the planet. Right minded people in the Gurdjieff work, just like those in other spiritual works, are very concerned about this. We all have this perception –undoubtedly correct –that the earth is being desperately damaged by our activity, and that something must to be done to fix it.

I share this concern. On the other hand, the lessons of this week made it quite clear to me that, for the most part, we can’t even get the dishes done with attention. We want to save the whole planet by heroic effort, but we are unable to carry an intention from one moment to the next. If we’re unable to attend to ourselves, how can we attend to the needs of an entire planet? The situation reeks of the contradictions Gurdjieff pointed out, the huge gap between human aspiration and human ability.

The belief that man can “save the planet” is both anthropocentric and grandiose—certainly, at least, if we take “saving the planet” in the outward form that it is conventionally meant. It is a conceit, a vanity, that puts us (as usual) at the center of events—a fundamental misunderstanding of our scale, our location, and our role.

The real question in front of mankind is whether the earth can save man.

Man was placed here to serve a specific purpose which he is, at this time, in apparent danger of failing. The overall level of consciousness in humanity doesn’t seem to be increasing—at least to me. The species appears to be caught in a downward spiral in which we are degrading both our cultures and our environment. The loudest spokespeople of the moment are, perhaps all too appropriately, the suicide bombers.

In order for man to be saved—to be preserved so that he can serve a higher purpose—he has to be worth saving. This isn’t a new concept: the idea that the hero has to first be worthy is a very old one. And in order for man to be worth saving, viewed from the perspective of our work, he must make an effort.

We can’t be sure—but we do know that Mme. De Salzmann indicated that the future of the planet depended on the quality of our work. If man can’t contribute what is needed by the earth for its own work, it may well rearrange things so that man no longer occupies the position he is in now—because the earth will take steps to obtain what is needed by whatever means necessary.

In other words, we are far less important than we think we are.

We all need to redouble our inner efforts, first for our own sake, but second and third for the sake of humanity, and for the sake of the planet.

In the coming days, I’ll be introducing a number of essays—as yet unwritten—that relate to these questions. Readers will encounter new structural insights that recast my earlier work on the questions of the enneagram, relationship between the centers, and the dynamic of inner and outer impressions in a different, and hopefully more integrated, light.

At the same time, we’ll try to remember together that our collective effort must always be to absorb the theory and then move well beyond it, into practice—as always, the territory where the bones discover their own flesh.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.


  1. I’m the anonimous that has been posting in your blog. Following your advice I’m going to use the name Ed, in honor of my grandfather who is the person that most has influenced my life. Please, do not pay too much attention to my English because it is my second language.
    In order for you and your readers to have an idea of where I come from and in relation to the content of this post, Saving the earth, I’m going to transcribe an exchange I had few monthos ago with a friend in the Work whose name I’m witholding for obvious reasons. This friend has been in the Work for many years and is one of those who wants to save the planet using the Teaching of Mr. Gurdjieff. I have tremendous respect for this friend because I know that this friend’s intentions are the best. I exchange with this friend over the Internet from time to time. Contrary to many people in the Work I, like you, believe in the value the Internet can bring us in the spreading the Teaching. I have no website of my own but I participate in all websites I find intersting, like yours.

    Here is the exchange with my friend:
    My friend:
    “This sacred Antkooano can proceed only in those planets upon which in general all cosmic truths have become known to all the beings.
    “And all cosmic truths usually become known to all on these planets, thanks to the fact that the beings of the given planet who by their conscious labors learn some truth or other share it with other beings of their planet, and in this way all the cosmic truths gradually become known by all the beings of the given planet without any distinction.”

    My answer:
    Observe that Hassein never answers his questions and the answers he gets from Beelzebub are only general directions. There is never any extensive formulation. Hassein is trying to understand, as we all are, and in order to understand we first have to be in a state of questioning, as you are; the answers come later.
    It is an obvious fact that Antkooano cannot proceed on Earth today. Billions of people don’t want cosmic truths; they want to watch the presentation of the Oscars. These are “those unfortunate three-brained beings that breed and multiply upon the face of that ill-fated planet Earth.” This is not allegory but an objective fact, whether we want to accept it or not. In an Ashiatan epoch, assuming that such epoch really existed or will ever exist, it is totally different. People willingly accept the advice and directions of chiefs and director who, by the way, become such not by heredity or election but by objective merits earned through conscious labors and intentional suffering. They are respected and admired by their Beings. But because conditions in this planet are topsy-turvy, the consequence of Kundabuffer, people are respected and admired by their personalities. The more parasite a person is, the more this person is respected and admired. Look at “Time’s one hundred most influential people.” From Beelzebub’s point of view they are nothing more than “Nonentities Titillators.” One of the things we derive from the study of The Tales is to have a real view of the Real World. We can uncover titillation wherever we find it. Americans are masters in the art of make-believe, as stated in the chapter on America. But it is precisely in America where most three-brained beings exist with the possibility of acquiring normal being.

    Of course, there are those who are really working for Real Being, not necessarily followers of the Teaching of Gurdjieff. It is because of them that our planet escapes total destruction. They work for God and God loves them. We now exist by the Grace of God (“If it were not by Thy Grace, we shall not stand”). I once had a crazy idea: Maybe it was because of the Real Being of Gurdjieff that Paris escaped being burned down to ashes as the Germans wanted to do. He loved God and God loved him and his beloved city. I cannot prove this but I feel it to be true.

    My Friend:
    Yes I have read this recently and the question comes up for me about the meaning on page 166 of “a criminally egoistic anxiety.” How do you understand this?

    My Answer:
    You did not complete the quote. It says: “a criminally egoistic anxiety for the safety of my personal existence.” Beelzebub is still working on himself, as we are. He is still attached to his body, as we are. This attachment to the body indeed produces a criminally egoistic anxiety in the face of the unknown. In the state of “I Am” there is no longer “I am the body.” There is still a body and we must keep it in good shape (first striving) but there is no identification with the body, because we are aware that it is going to be destroyed forever. We have to sacrifice our body (“the desires of the planetary body”) and put it in the service of a Higher Purpose, in the service of God. Probably this is the meaning of the Passion of Christ: “I am the body” is sacrificed for the sake of “I Am” (an extreme example for all of us). Look, I am not saying that I am there but I have had glimpses of this.

    My Friend:
    I really wish to understand the laws of vibration in relation to each other, the planet and most specifically ourselves as three-brained beings.

    My answer:
    I think that it is simple once we understand our relation to the Whole. When we work for the self-perfection of our higher being-parts, we radiate the substances (vibrations) needed by the Trogoautoegocrat process of local and general character. Great Nature is not forced to extract these vibrations from the death of two-brained beings (sacrificial offerings) and/or the death of three-brained beings (wars and other calamities). The supply and demand of vibrations are balanced, in equilibrium. Births and deaths are also balanced, in equilibrium. This is the- law-of-the-equilibration-of- vibrations. No need for wars, overpopulation, and all the rest. My neighbor and I don’t have to fight each other since we both are occupied in working on ourselves; we can really help each other. Wars, overpopulation, ecological mess, are not the cause of our problems; rather, they are the effects, the results. The cause of our problems is the fact that we do not work on ourselves. This is what the self-loving and full of pride (in love with his intellect) Kurd Atarnakh does not understand, even though he is a great philosopher. He is unwilling to bear the suffering entailed in being-understanding and opts for the easy way out (another Lentrohamsanin, always looking for the easy way out): the slaughtering of two-brained beings. Compare him to Hamolinadir and the Dervish Hadji-Asvatz and you will see the difference. The dervish Ogly , a Muslim fanatic, sees something wrong in this slaughtering of two brained beings and forcefully preaches to stop it. The result is the First World War. This happens when we do not have a being-understanding of the whole situation and take action. Now we are not working on ourselves and we are getting what we deserve: wars, famines, tsunamis, ecological mess, etc., etc. And the worse is yet to come. We can expect other Transapalnian perturbations. We need shocks from Nature as much as we need personal shocks for our personal work. One wonders, how long is Nature going to put up with us? Our Real Hope is the existence of a sufficient number of three-brained beings with Real Being. Then the Grace of God will keep saving the planet from total destruction.

    My friend:
    Yes I am understanding this more and more – but as I mentioned above there are people everywhere who are acting from conscience and not from greed or self interest. I believe it will be these people who can understand the truths that G addresses throughout his teaching. They don’t have to practice the teaching themselves to approach a responsible science. And yet it is true that work on being can only lead to a real and deep understanding of our part in it and how our attitudes and opinions override common sense. It is a heck of a predicament.\

    My answer:
    During World War II, when Europe was in darkness, Gurdjieff lowered the shades in his apartment and initiated a period of intense work with his French disciples. He also treated them to fabulous dinners when it was difficult to find food (he also helped people who were not disciples). Why did he do it? He did it in order to show them that the work was inner and independent of external circumstances. He summarized the external conditions with these words: “Germans kill Americans for the same reason that Americans kill Germans.” I have to confess that when I first read these words I thought Gurdjieff was a cynic. But after years of studying his Teaching and working on his Method, I think I now understand what he really meant. In any case, he himself said that the worst the conditions the better the opportunities to work on oneself. As followers of his Teaching and his Method, we must pay attention to what he said and what he did. We are trying to do what few others are doing, work for Being (second striving, without which we cannot go to the third, fourth, and fifth). Let others do what they have to do and let us occupy ourselves with what we have to do.

    My friend:
    We do have to work more – but can we examine what our responsibility is together to share with others the real potential we can carry as three-brained beings?

    My answer:
    Our responsibility is to work on ourselves, to help others who are working on themselves, and to help to bring the Teaching into life through our own lives (the three lines of work). You know that I share with others. In my sharing I have established one fundamental principle of work: always to point to The Tales. This is how I contribute to the spreading of the Teaching. It is what I know how to do and I enjoy doing it, a combination of pleasure and duty, as Gurdjieff asked us to do. It also helps me to awaken my “I.” But my first and major priority is to work on myself, to enlarge my Being, not only for my personal benefit, my soul, but for the benefit of the Whole, for God. I think that whatever we do we must first and foremost do it for the Glory of God. This is so because our Being depends exclusively on HIS BEING.

    My Friend:
    Yes I am spending time with my Mother and working on many things inside myself that have arisen during this process.

    My Answer:
    I am sure that this is what Gurdjieff would have advised you to do. It is also what I advise you to do.

  2. Please find the G. I. Gurdjieff fanpage on Facebook.

  3. "We" cannot save the Earth. We are part of the Earth and nothing we do has no bearing on the Earth.

    this is beacuse the Earth itself creates conditions as it needs them. If it needs Men, they will exist. If it doesn't there won't be any. Act INSIDE your perview. Anything else is "imagination", and lleakiing of energy which is needed for real "work".

    Real "Work" is for the solar system and beyond. The 200 conscious people who could save the "world" are already doing so. They are invisible parts of the esoteric circle of mankind, and they do not step onto the public stage. The work of saving the Earth is an inner work on only one human -- oneself. then the entire world will change. There is no change of the masses. They are under different laws.


  4. The Earth doesn't need saving. She needs a conscious awareness of the lifeforce energy that exists within all things on Earth. Those who reach this awareness are more likely to thrive (survive?) as the imminent shift becomes more apparent.

  5. to aaron:

    "the earth doesn't need saving"

    perhaps this is true, but it is not just the earth which needs us; we are needed by the solar system and in some cases even further.

    we are meant to be the conduit of a certain kind of energy -- a conscious suffering. this is far from the desire of the ordinary man, who wishes for comfort.

    in physics it is known that if a large enough mass occupies a small enough space, the force of gravity will be such that not even light can escape, and they are then rightly called "black holes".

    my own definition of a saint is "a black hole of suffering"

    not only does their own suffering fail to leak out in negativity; but those near them, within their "event horizons", feel for lack of a better phrase, the "Peace of the Lord".

    Gurdjieff was such as this; so that those who met him described an intensely strong wish to remain in his presence. Ouspensky talked about jumping for joy and laughing after first meeting Mr. Gurdjieff, and wishing to be in his company again immediately.


    I do not understand why it would be important to reach " thrive (survive) as the immanant shift becomes more apparent".

    Why would survival matter to one with BEING? Being cannot be killed- it is immortal within the confines of it's purview, either of the earth, the planets or the solar system, or even the galaxy.

    Those of us in the "work" are servants of the cosmic goverment, not saviors of the earth, even if that is a collorary action.

    What Mr. Gurdjieff brought us is so much more deep and so much more large in it's scope that the entire world cannnot contain it. he and his friends are polormedectic (sic). We are on the earth but have come to it by our own hands, for to perform our tasks, each with the gifts given us, and the beingparkdolgduties that are assigned us.

    The Earth might not need us to "save her", but she needs a certain "us" to perform an action of cosmic grace, suffering a never ending reminding factor and the gift of intentional suffering and labors, nonstop.

    The Sun doth not cease to shine, so neither will I cease to suffer, for the sake of MR. Gurdjieff's message.



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