It eventually turns out that we question some things a lot, and other things very little.
Some questions never get asked at all. Other questions are frowned upon. Not all questions, it turns out, are created equal. It may even be that a wide range of questions is needed, but a narrow range is substituted. Questions, after all, get asked according to convention. Originality may not be rewarded, or even desired.
Currently, I am questioning praise and worship, and their place in the Gurdjieff work.
Now, one might argue that praise and worship are strictly in the domain of religious practice, and that Gurdjieff did not call us to a religious practice, as such. I would, as all regular readers already know, argue the point: Gurdjieff specifically called this work esoteric Christianity, and Christianity is in fact a religious practice. Arguing that the Gurdjieff work is not a religious work is sheer nonsense. Applying hedge clippers of that kind to this work will leave you with nothing but a dead stump when you are done.
In any event, let's get back to the question of worship and its place in inner work, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Are the praise and glorification of creation unnecessary as an aim within this work? Are they unnecessary as a means?
Where is my center of gravity on this question?
On page 55 of "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson," Hassein cheerfully announces to Beelzebub's servant Ahoon:
"Didn't he just say that we must not oppose forces higher than our own, adding that not only should we not oppose them, but should even submit to them and accept all their results with reverence, at the same time praising and glorifying the marvelous and providential works of our Lord Creator?"
One might reasonably infer, reading this quote, that in Mr. Gurdjieff's eyes mankind is indeed under an obligation to engage in the praise and glorification of the Lord Creator and His works.
Said praise and glorification is an ancient practice. It is deeply embedded in the liturgical form of most religions; we know that it has been there since very ancient times.
To be sure, in religious contexts, it is organized--even distinctly Biblical. There are hymns, there are chants, and so on. In the Sufi dervish practices, whirling is construed as a form of worship; we therefore add dance to the list of said practices, and might go so far as to infer that the Gurdjieff movements–sacred movements as they are–are indeed a form of worship. It's fair enough to say that we may experience praise and glorification during some movements–and that's as it should be. But I'm not speaking of what is sent or given–I'm speaking of what is offered.
What are we offering?
I see praise and glorification of all creation as a fundamental requirement in inner work. Not as a rote act, performed mechanically through a sense of automatic duty. No, praise and glorification must become as organic as the rest of my practice.
This may sound like a peculiar concept; yet, anyone who has read the practice of the presence of God may encounter just such an understanding.
My effort is to continually deepen my sensitivity, the way I take the world in, so that what is inwardly formed becomes more whole. In this process, the entire world takes on a new dimension, and the worship and praise of all creation begins to well up from within all the cracks in this crust of personality, until it moistens this dry desert I live in.
In such conditions, when water arrives after many years without rain, green plants spring naturally from the soil. I don't need to ask myself to worship; worship arises naturally.
Admittedly, we can all see that this is a high practice. In my ordinary state, if I want to offer worship, the mechanical form of worship is about as much as I can muster. Nonetheless, if I don't try to approach this question and ask myself where the center of gravity of praise and worship of creation is within me, I will never look for it–and if I never look for it, it may never bother looking for me.
Inner work does not exempt us from ordinary emotional experience, or render it undesirable or unnecessary--even though we do seek to connect to a source higher than that. And the wish to worship and praise creation ought to be a natural and ordinary--perhaps even instinctive-- emotional experience, a reflection of a higher one that may invoke it naturally.
I cannot ignore this question... hence I ask myself what the act of worship that Hassein refers to consists of. (He may be an innocent, but his grandfather looks on him with great favor–in fact, on the following page, he tells him, “You are right, my dear Hassein, and for being right, even before the captain returns I shall tell you anything you like.”)
For me, questions of this kind are more important than ever at this time of year. The Easter holidays do not fall casually in spring; many awakening energies are reaching the planet, and even the crudest of atheists sense something different in the blooming of flowers and birthing of animals. It's incumbent upon us at this time of year to engage in the classic practices of repentance, contemplation, and worship.
We have been given an enormous number of gifts. Not just material gifts; we have also been given gifts of the spirit, which are there, no matter whether we attend to or deny them.
My availability during this period is critical. Much material may try to reach me now that I need; what I am seeking is an unerring sense of gratitude, as I mentioned yesterday.
An unerring sense of gratitude. This phrase came to me over the weekend. I had to roll it around on my tongue, so to speak, for several days to understand what it was trying to communicate to me–and I fear that too much reductionism, too much analysis and picking apart of the idea, might not serve it well. I prefer to just hold it in front of me for now as a question.
What would it mean to have an unerring sense of gratitude?
May our prayers be heard.