Last night a good friend in the work- a woman whose mother knew and worked with Gurdjieff personally--came over and we had a let-your-hair-down discussion about "where the work is at" these days.
Much of what she said ought to (and will) remain confidential, as private conversations should. One thing she did mention, however, struck me and seems reasonable enough to pass on.
Her comment was that Michel de Salzmann had the impression that the work in the United States was more "hard line" than in Europe: that is, that Americans seemed to him to pursue the Work with more intensity, and perhaps more tension, than in other countries. He felt that Americans were positively puritan in our effort.
It's unsurprising to me. I had the same impression of the work when I joined the New York Foundation many years ago, and it is a positive relief to me to see that we are finally, perhaps, learning to relax and breathe a little easier. Maybe our center of gravity is rediscovering the compassion--both for ourselves and others-- that is so essential to any real inner work.
Anyway, discussions of hard-liners and soft-liners aside, I wanted to discuss a point or two that I have been pondering over the past week.
One of the consequences of working "under" others: those in seniority, those whom we feel respect for, or even awe of, is a tendency to direct our work outward, in the sense of working "for" someone else's expectations, to satisfy someone else's direction, to become more worthy in an elder's eyes.
The outright danger here is that we unwittingly place ourselves in the role of children seeking to please a parent. The arrangement is all too common both in life and in the work. And I can think of nothing more crippling, in the long run, to the development one's own work- a work which truly stems from within a personal inner impulse, and which is inwardly directed--that is, a work in which we attempt to sense what we are, and not what others would have us be.
It's essential, absolutely essential, for us to embark on an inner voyage of discovery which we make ourselves the proprietors of-- which we absolutely take responsibility for-- and not a work initiated and directed by others.
In the end, a man who has a wish to be can accept no other authority figure but God Himself, and should not settle for less.
Ravi Ravindra mentions a comment to this effect from Jeanne de Salzmann in his fine new book The Wisdom Of Pantajali's Sutras. (the book is well worth buying for your library, offering as it does numerous insights Ravi gleaned from his years of association with both De Salzmann and J. G. Krishnmurti.) One must, she suggests, settle for nothing less than "identification with God."
The gradual but steadily increasing emphasis on the community of work in formal Gurdjieffian circles reflects an evolving understanding of this question. I believe we are seeing a fundamental change in the work here which is a consequence of the development of evolutionary forces that are slowly lifting it out of the territory in which it spread its roots. As this development takes place, the work Gurdjieff began may well acquire aspects that were inevitable, but not self evident, at the time he was alive.
In the process of such evolution, purists (and puritans) will definitely level accusations that such and such or so and so has "changed the work."
What is missed here is the point that people do not change the work.
The work changes itself.
This work is a "collectively conscious being" composed of a series of living organisms, developing within an esoteric ecosystem.
Now, you may have never heard that term before, and if you haven't, it's because I just invented it. (Presuming it's indeed a new term, I hereby formally lay claim to first authorship. Put me in Wikipedia!)
An esoteric ecosystem is an adaptable, living environment that exists within the general sphere of ordinary life, but follows a subtly different set of rules for development, being as it is under the influences of finer degrees of vibration and other forces not readily evident on the surface of things.
It evolves according to the general laws of ecosystems everywhere-- that is, gradual but steady adaptation to changing events and circumstances, and the development of new organs of perception and transmission according to surroundings, need, and the process of natural selection.
In understanding this we accept the general idea that esotericism--taken in its gross sense as the "inside" effort to connect with the higher--must still obey the same natural laws as mesoteric and exoteric works.
In seeing the Gurdjieff work--as well as other paths-- this way, we bgin to understand why static works cannot survive, and why change is actually necessary if any work is to preserve its vitality--pass its genes on, so to speak-- in the midst of dynamic and changing environments.
It's worth mentioning that although no one has ever, to my knowledge, used this term in regard to the stories in Beelzebub's Tales To His Grandson, the successive and regularly re-focused and reinvented efforts by "messengers from above" to find a method of freeing men from the results of the effects of the organ Kundabuffer describes just such a process.
The idea of "esoteric ecosystems" need not only apply to spiritual works in general. There is a truth in regard to this idea that applies to each individual's own inner work. Sp perhaps this idea is worth pondering in a personal context as well.
I may well explore this idea a bit more in subsequent posts.
May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.