Each of the 2 conscious shocks–in the form of prayer–takes on a dual role of both holy affirming and holy denying. This relationship is complex, but important to try and understand.
I am- I wish to be
The first shock, conscious labor, is accompanied by a prayer of affirmation of the self.
This is entirely appropriate, because it takes place on the right side of the enneagram, which is the corporeal, or incarnated, side of the diagram. It corresponds exactly to Gurdjieff's comment that a man must become a conscious egoist in order to work. Embodied in this flesh, a human being's first task is to affirm themselves consciously. This means to take responsibility for one's Being.
This is actually a holy denying action, since one must paradoxically deny the Lord in order to affirm oneself. It's notable that Gurdjieff's mythological protagonist Beelzebub fell from grace in heaven specifically because he affirmed himself and his own ideas, instead of His Endlessness. We see a direct connection here between Beelzebub's actions and the first conscious shock, as well as an explanation of why he is banished–that is, incarnated–in the solar system.
There is, in other words, a little Beelzebub in all of us.
The energy of the first conscious shock is involutionary. It is a folding inward of the higher towards the self, a gathering of energies. This shock is affirming from the perspective of the self, but denying from the perspective of the Lord. Nonetheless, it is absolutely necessary as part of the process. One might say that one has to leave the Lord in order to come back. The parable of the prodigal son comes to mind.
The understanding also casts a light on the ideas of original sin in Christianity; man begins from a point where holy denying (affirmation of the self, which may be perceived as sinful) is a requirement for his existence and development, not an option. This is consistent with some of Meister Eckhart's views on the nature of sin, as well as brother Lawrence's observation that he put his sins between himself and God, to advise God that he was not worthy, and that God studiously ignored him, and continued to send blessings anyway.
The path is fraught with danger because the path must be fraught with danger. (Job 5:7: Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.) No one is exempt from negotiating this territory. The difference between the conscious egoist and the unconscious egoist is that the conscious egoist is aware of the danger; the unconscious egoist blithely ignores it.
Lord have mercy.
The second conscious shock, intentional suffering, requires a movement into the emotional and spiritual side of the enneagram.
The shock that is required here is the exact opposite of the first shock–this is a holy affirming action–that is, it is a surrender to His Endlessness. In other words, it is the surrender of the ego which was painstakingly and actively affirmed in the first stage of work, and an affirmation of the Lord. The shock is, of course, a holy denying action in relation to the ego.
Ultimately, we are required to surrender everything we have gained in order to complete the process. The evolutionary process of the second shock is a returning outward of everything that was folded inward in the first stage. And, in the same way that organic molecules must without fail be correctly folded in order to do their jobs, what was folded inward in the first stage must be rightly folded, lest what is emitted in the second stage during the unfolding be corrupted.
Why does it work this way? Well, Gurdjieff gave us an oblique answer to that in his conversations with Ouspensky. He pointed out that men already think that they have will, and so make no effort to acquire it.
In the same spirit, it is impossible to surrender your ego to God if you don't have one.
As Gurdjieff explained it, what we think is ego, or "I," is actually just false personality. Hence the work to acquire a real ego, in order to have something to give up or offer, makes perfect sense.
The shocks are not one-dimensional. Each shock actually embodies both a yes and a no- the two shocks manifest an internal friction that maintains a dynamic action. The beauty of understanding the system from this perspective is that the reconciling factor always remains "do," regardless of which role the shocks play, and which perspective they are viewed from.
The action of the Lord is always necessary in order to reconcile our contradictions.
May our prayers be heard.