Dish with floral designs on an olive background
Iran, Safavid period (1501-1722)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
The critical point of this diagram is that in it, the mesoteric force– the force which stands between and acts as the reconciling factor between the inner and the outer worlds– is found at the note "do."
To stand between– to see, which is the paramount activity which both Gurdjieff and Jeanne de Salzmann called us to– is to occupy this note, this vibration from a higher level, which both begins and ends the octave. Seeing, even on this level, is already at the same note of identity, the beginning, as the energy from the higher level that opens the initial impulse of the octave. (Readers will recall that Gurdjieff specifically told Ouspensky that every note in an octave is the "do" for an octave below it. See the diagram of the fractal enneagram.)
So when we engage in the act of seeing, even in an ordinary way and on our own level–that is to say, without any pretentious ideas that we're doing something special from a higher level, or experiencing the “look from above” that de Salzmann speaks of in The Reality of Being–we are already engaged in an activity connected, through relationship of vibration, to the entire Ray of Creation–since each note in the Ray of Creation is the "do" for an entire octave of its own.
And the consistent resonance of "do" reaches upwards and downwards through the entire structure.
Astute readers will immediately see echoes here of the many different traditions that do not inherently distinguish between the identity of man or his consciousness and God; the insistence among Zen Buddhists that there can be no essential difference, real or imagined, between enlightenment and non-enlightenment; and so on. The point is that whether or not we are conscious of it, we are (as Dogen repeatedly points out) already representatives of enlightenment— or, put otherwise, share an identity with God.
All of that sounds very nice, but, I'm sure you are thinking, we don't make very good Gods. Look at what a mess we're in.
And that's quite true. The question we face here is our need to strengthen the reconciling force, rather than focusing on our outwardness or our inwardness. That is done by seeing: an intentional act of attention, or mindfulness. Such action is essential in practices ranging from Christianity (such as the philokalia) to Buddhism. And to engage in this action in ordinary life, at an ordinary level, already creates a consonance of harmony between the parts that can help to receive echoes of the higher "do" that engendered the octave in the first place.
A harmonious blending of the inner and the outer by an awareness that participates creates a whole entity that becomes more open to influences of a higher level. This awareness, or mindfulness, is the essential third element; and the law of three is the engine that turns the wheel of the Dharma, providing the shocks that allow the octave to develop.
This means that even the most ordinary activity, with mindfulness, helps our work. It also means that, whether we are aware of it or not, our action and our being is fundamentally inspired by the divine and is always reaching back towards it, no matter how lowly or confused our action is. (This is a point I think Brother Lawrence might be quite in agreement with.) Hence discounting our ordinary action would be a terrible mistake. We need it– it needs us– and the divine influence needs it as well. In reality, there is no way to look down on the ordinary except through hubris.
Withdrawing from a strong, practical exoteric action– trying to eliminate the ego, rather than help it be what it is and help our work– weakens the interaction. One needs a robust and well formed outer life for inner work to become whole. Hence Gurdjieff's absolutely right emphasis on conscious egoism.
To be sure, the tendency is to emphasize too much one or the other. It's the balance that counts–and seeing, self-remembering, helps to naturally establish that balance. Without it, the inner and outer qualities of a man remain locked in a struggle that may cost one— or both of them— their lives.
In the same way that this is true for an individual, it is also true for esoteric works. Esoteric works that lean too hard on the inner nature of work, neglecting outer responsibility– which must always manifest as a form of service– inevitably weaken and fall down, because the part that is supposed to be active, conscious, and seeing, has no strong exoteric material to put demands on it and balance the esoteric portion of the work.
Work, in other words, whether for an individual or a community, must be balanced between these three forces. If one loses any one of the threads here, many things suddenly become quite impossible, no matter how sincere the work is, and no matter how good the intentions are.
Subsequent essays over the next week will be exploring the possible natures and meanings of exoteric work for specific aspects of the Gurdjieff practice. Readers must keep in mind that these are not conclusions: they are questions, suggestions, explorations. What follows, is, in other words, a work in progress for the community.
I respectfully ask you to take good care.