Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Over the course of my career in the Gurdjieff work, I've run into pundits who knew what the work was. Or didn't know. I've listened to people define it, avoid defining it, and claim that it can't be defined. I've heard a litany of people describe it in a catalog of different ways.

We might say that inner work is a revolution. That is, a re-evolution, or, put differently, a movement of re-discovery.

No one actually knows what "the work" is, but we mostly all think we do. Mr. Gurdjieff passed on many different fragments of one great teaching, and left us with the task of reassembling it. The fragments themselves, however, continually tempt us to create dogmas--mostly intellectual dogmas--surrounding them. And, as always, our opinions, our assumptions, and our dogmas are our downfall.

One Work dogma is that everything must remain a question, and that if we seek answers, it "kills the life" of our work.

What is an "answer?" An answer is a response. That's it's primary meaning.

The entire universe consists of cause and effect, or, stimulus and response.

So "answers"--responses--don't kill the life of our work. In real science, answers lead to more questions. Responses lead to more new situations. In other words, to misunderstand the nature of answering is to misunderstand everything. Answering consists of response. And responsibility is a central concept in Gurdjieff's work.

The way that I would explain this question in rather more detail is that it is not the answers that are a problem. It is not responses that kill off our work. If we are really working, really living within our work, we are constantly responding, we are acting as consciously as we can within a sense of responsibility, which means that we are always attempting to answer a call to consciousness.

I will repeat that. We are attempting to answer a call to consciousness. Consciousness, we are taught in our work, in the "original state" of man, but we have fallen asleep. The parallels between this and Zen, in which there is an effort to return to "original mind," are striking. We are engaged in an attempt to re-discover our true nature. To become human in the original sense.

It isn't answers that "kill" a living work. It is our dogmas, our belief that something can come to an end and be settled. Perhaps it is even our belief that we "understand" what Work is.

We all want everything to be safe, and safety consists of a static state where things don't change. No such state, of course, ever exists anywhere, so seeking it is pointless. Yet this is the nature of habit. It wants to repeat over and over in the same way, rather than evolve.

The essential nature of evolution discovers itself in constant change, where the assumptions of the moment--the current state of the organism and its development--are tested against its environment. And, quite literally, evolution of any species is a struggle for survival. This is worthy of comparison to the inner effort for awareness, which must continually be tested against the moment.

The work is a living thing: it is in movement. It is a dynamic, constantly evolving organism, and every individual plays a role. There is a valuable lesson to be drawn from biology in this regard. Any evolutionary biologist could tell you that as organisms evolve, they gradually speciate, that is, they turn into new species. There is no one moment where one can draw a line between, for example, a dinosaur and a bird on the evolutionary tree and say, "here's the dinosaur, and this next one, well, that's a bird." So spiritual work can, will, and must morph into new forms which may be radically different than others. At any moment on the line of the evolutionary path, one may not be able to say, "oh, look, this was Judaism, but now, here, we have Christianity." The tension between Jewish and proto-Christian communities as evidenced in Paul's writings are clear-cut evidence of that.

So what is the Gurdjieff work? At every moment the answer to that becomes different. Incrementally different, indeed, but nonetheless different. Remember that even the organ Kundabuffer had its final day in the sun and was retired from service, no matter how vital it may have been to the common-cosmic effort during its tenure in humanity.

To try and hold back this process of constant incremental change is futile. A static dogma that presumes it knows what the work is, and how it ought to be be conducted, is the worst enemy of real work.

The question should always be, what is the work now? Because the work and now -- and now -- and now -- will be different in every now. The change is eternal and constant. It takes place in every moment. It is similar to Dogen's point about the path to Buddha -- the first step on the path and the last step on the path are equal, and both steps are steps on the path.

The work itself exists within each moment in the intersection of forces in the effort to be aware. It can't be damaged by "answers" if real work is taking place. Anything can happen within the context of the ordinary and the ordinary mind and still not necessarily affect the effort to work. The work engages with forces that lie beyond the ordinary.

Yes, it is our ordinary mind, our formulations, that prevent our experience of the dynamism of life and the organic experience of life. Even the belief that there are or are not answers is part of that formulation. It's more useful, I think, to view the question as one of movement and response.

In my post on the Law of three several days ago, I pointed out that the three centers -- body, intellect, emotion -- provide a motive force. These three forces, each an aspect of the law of three itself, provide motive force from the top of the universal structure to the bottom. Each one represents a mind- a form of consciousness. and each of those three aspects of consciousness is what helps to impart a necessary shock to what would otherwise be a relatively inanimate materiality.

Consciousness, in the form of the impetus provided by the law of three, is what allows the universe to evolve. This is why it is needed, and this is why the participation of consciousness in the action of material exchange (response) at every level is so vital.

It's the responsibility of consciousness--its ability to answer a call--that helps create the universe.

We, as three-brained creatures, are given a unqiue and brilliant opportunity to participate in that dynamic mystery.

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

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