Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Essence, Intuition, and Conscience

In the earlier post on conscience, I examined Gurdjieff's contention that conscience was the only undamaged part of man's psyche- an element, furthermore, that embodied attributes of the divine- and that it had submerged (like the continent of Atlantis) into his unconscious.

Conscience is a discriminatory mechanism which in ordinary life- as well as in his attitude towards higher influences- can allow a man to choose what the Buddhists would call "right action."

In late Middle English, the word intuition originally connoted a spiritual insight or immediate spiritual communication; today, we use the word to indicate an instinctive understanding or action. Either way, we can understand intuition as being connected to our submerged conscience. I don't mean this by way of psychic activity, that is, the paranormal sensing of events (as in seeing the future, for example) but rather in the sense of knowing what is right.

Cosmologies without an inherent understanding of, and discrimination between, right and wrong are, in my eyes, next to worthless. The entire text of Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson is, by and large, an exhaustive discrimination between right and wrong practices within the sensory range, psychic, and social  manifestations of mankind. There is a right and there is a wrong in Beelzebub's universe; having himself fallen afoul of the borders between right and wrong practice-which, by the way, are determined according to universal cosmological Laws-, he is banished to the solar system to reflect on his transgressions. In the course of things, he uncovers an opportunity to delve further into, perhaps, the same sort of questions that plagued his own misunderstandings, by examining mankind.

The general gist of the book is that humanity has, over the course of thousands of years, lost nearly all of its ability to practice such discrimination in a manner proper for three-brained beings. The one part of his psyche- conscience- that man is yet able to trust lies buried in him- hidden- not participating in his day- to- day life. According to Beelzebub, this part may, with effort, yet become reactivated in man, participating once again in his conscious Being.

Discrimination involves making choices. Every human being is inevitably, as a result of events, circumstances, objects, and relationships, required to make discriminating choices in life. These choices play a role as reconciling factors, mediating the opposing forces he or she encounters. And the whole point of life, according to Gurdjieff, is to learn how to make choices that embody the characteristics of responsible individuals. The five obligolnian strivings emphasize it; Gurdjieff's remarks to Ouspensky about the behavior of tramps and lunatics underscore it.

Conscience- and therefore intuition- play no small part in the awakening of such impulses. As Beelzebub says, per the understandings of the Society of Akhldanns, "Every deed of a man is good in the objective sense if it is done according to his conscience, and every deed is bad if from it he later experiences remorse."


A right attention towards life is necessary; a clarity whereby one sees where one is. Following this, the action of an inner part must come into play. This part is closely connected to essence; essence, as the innermost part of man's psyche, and the one having an ability to make a more direct contact with higher influences, acts wholly in concert with conscience, which has (appropriately) secluded itself in close proximity to essence.

The association makes perfect sense; conscience being a divine impulse, it belongs most properly to that portion of the enneagram circumscribed by the law of three. I thus propose the following addition to yesterday's diagram, placing conscience in the center of the stable triangle described by essence. Conscience must be under divine influence; accordingly, I can't reasonably assign it any other position on the enneagram.

The salient point is that essence, conscience, and intuition have a close relationship to one another. Intuition, moreover, ought to be an essential and spiritual sense of what is right and wrong, not a moral one. Moral choices are only able to describe themselves within the horizontal action of the multiplications and the perimeter of the enneagram. Intuitive, or conscience-based choices, are always born from emanations that originate in higher influences. This is why the folkloric understanding of intuition and its value has always placed it higher on the scale of man's understanding than rational thought, which belongs to a different and subordinate sphere.

Freedom of action involves freedom from the centrifugal force of personality; a cessation of erratic rotation. That rotation must be balanced by the counterweight and shocks of essence. Anchored in an organic state of being, conscience can express itself through the absolute freedom of intuition, which in an unmediated state lacks the capacity for error. So in a sense, when we speak of "being free" and "inner freedom," we speak of being in touch with our native, informed (inwardly formed) intuition, which does not need the interference of the mind to understand or manifest right action.

This capacity, like Zen's "going beyond," transcends action of the conceptual mind and the dualistic formulations of enlightenment and delusion. The intuition of conscience is able to strike a single blow that penetrates to the heart of the matter. Meeting the moment, it knows at once what is needed.

Why do we need attention?

Solely to make it possible for this element of our psyche, acting through essence, to be allowed to discover its rightful expression.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.





1 comment:

  1. I feel about today's post a great fondness for the 1st half, being so well textured as to allow even those who are unfamiliar with Mr. Gurdjieff's work to benefit because if we really look inwardly we will see that we have betrayed our conscience until it has been suppressed into the unconscious. Then the outer part of our personalities do as they please, and there is a very old saying which tells us that if we keep doing the same thing we will keep getting the same thing.

    There must be an entire realignment of our inner selves so that conscience becomes our most perfect compass, never steering us into conflict but ultimately allowing a real sense of love to radiate from us. This reminds me of the prayer of St. Francis where he asks to understand rather than to be understood, and to love rather than to wish to be loved.

    And in your 2nd portion of your blog you speak of Mr. Gurdjieff's most difficult book in a manner that reaches its core very quickly and in a manner that is easy to understand. I was astounded to see that you had spoken of 2 of the 3 forces which bind us and you may not even have known it, because the 2nd of these forces you mention is the one that people cannot see and to which they are blind.

    You wrote: “Freedom of action involves freedom from the centrifugal force of personality; a cessation of erratic rotation”

    In terms of physics the holy Trinity can be defined as centrifugal, centripetal and rotational. One moves outwardly from a center; one moves inwardly towards the center, and all the while every individual aspect of the whole rotates around the center.

    If people could just see that their lives are simple spirals through time, and as you say, “erratic.”, They might be able to get somewhere–if they have a goal or an aim. If I want to go to Boston from New York I must go north–not West; not South or East–I must go north and then veer east. Which means that we arrive at another problem: most people after reaching adulthood and finding employment stop having aims or goals as they did in childhood. Those who do not keep an aim or goal which is separate from their survival activities slowly after feeding and die, most commonly in parts: curiosity slowly ebbs and their inner life slowly atrophies, so that they get old and crumble.

    Not so for a man who keeps his childhood alive and thriving–never ceasing from a quest and real questions which generate life. The words I have used in this comment to your post are also easy to understand, and can even bring one back from the dead.

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