Friday, February 3, 2012

Law, Obedience, and Freedom

Christ and the Virgin
c. 1430-35
Robert Campion (Master of Flemalle)
Philadelphia Museum of Art

We say we wish to be free. But we don't know what freedom is; so to say we wish to be free is like saying we wish to live in some city we've never been to, and know nothing about.

Gurdjieff speaks a great deal about obedience. He does not always use the word, but if one understands this question, one sees it crop up repeatedly in his teaching. It's one of the central concepts in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.

There can be no freedom except through obedience. Man is under laws at this level of the universe; cosmological laws which cannot be violated. True, man can come under the influence of different laws than the ones he usually encounters—but this is not by avoiding or discarding the obligatory laws that affect his existence. The reason that Gurdjieff introduced obligatory movements was, in part, to illustrate this principle. And many of the movements illustrate the inexorable action of law, which penetrates everything, no matter how we would like to imagine it. Every movement, every position, properly understood, demonstrates a law. The study of the movements language in anything other than an immediate physical form has, regrettably, been almost completely abandoned, even though it is quite possible to understand the ideas and even laws behind many of the positions.

In our imagination, somehow, we can get around the question of obedience and be free according to our own ideas. In reality, there is no intention whatsoever in us to do the will of God; we may express the idea in prayers, but our actual intention is to do our own will, and for anyone who truly examines themselves, this point will eventually become quite clear. If you look around you in the world you will see this fact expressed on a moment to moment basis; and if you examine your inner state with any honesty, you will see that the entire action of lying consists of exactly this action—one excuse after another for why we need not obey.

 Above all, as we manifest outwardly, we overly emphasize an outer obedience. Obedience becomes an habit and an identification, and takes on the forms of theater and pride; asceticism, conformity, the unintelligent adherence to rules that we don't understand or perhaps even agree with. The entire practice of adopting and following form—endemic in every religious practice, esoteric or otherwise—is part of the outward expression.

Yet this is absolutely not enough.

What is necessary is an inward obedience. This obedience is an obedience that a man learns within himself in relationship to God. Any effort to put it on display in any way is already a corruption and betrayal. It is the practice that must be undertaken in secret. And it is a deadly serious practice, because it is intimate—it goes right to the heart of a man's essence and helps to spin the thread that can connect his soul to a higher influence. This action is so hidden that unless a man is working, he will never see it taking place—and even those who work may see it rarely, or only after years of effort. Part of what we work for is to see this so that it becomes clear to us that there really is a higher influence at work in us; one that depends not on our attitudes, but on the material in us.

Outward obedience, like outward compassion, has no force, no power, no conviction, and no truth without the proper forming of an inward obedience. All of the questions of discipline in religion begin here. If we do not attend to an inward obedience, if we do not attend to and inhabit the laws that govern our rising, there can be no hope for the slavish pursuit of outward obedience. Outward obedience must arise from and begin in essence. In all of us, however, outward obedience has its center of gravity in personality, and this is exactly the problem.

One of the reasons we are given intelligence is so that we are able to discern the laws and choose obedience. As was mentioned in the comment on the post humility and compassion,  we must trust and question in equal measure. One might say our trust must be directed towards our inner work—and our questions towards our outer.

 Freedom is born within obedience. And one must forget, for the time being, the outer obedience. It's a good thing, but it's simply a mirror in which the real action of inner obedience is reflected. If there's no inner obedience, outer action is empty. It's good to put the outer house in order, but the outer house needs to be put in order from an understanding of what order is, not by following rules someone posted on the kitchen cupboard centuries ago.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.


  1. 'The study of the movements language in anything other than an immediate physical form has, regrettably, been almost completely abandoned,'...

    Well, the whole post is 'shocking'...
    Does the NYC foundation have contact with Nyland's group's - presumably. I have only just discovered this connection...

    I rememember David Kherdian (and what happened to him and his journal-Stopinder - it stopped many years ago) once writing that the only person he liked at the foundation was Jim Wykoff - who I met once in Sydney. An extraordinary thing to say. But there's a lot of ego out there - grist for the mill.

    It's so simple and so hard at the same time...

    Thanks again! Don't stop any time soon.

    Yes, trust towards our inner work. I am writing something on the Paris group in the 80's - a kind of 'closure' as they say.

  2. I wrote this to a woman struggling between Gurdjieff and Christian Science, and thought it might be germane here.
    I'm sure you know the story of Peter walking on the water when Jesus called to him. And then suddenly he realized what he was doing and had to have thoughts like “oh no, this is impossible”, and immediately he was in the water drowning and having to swim. Thus the social consensus of what is possible is constrained by a mutual reality orientation that consists of limitations and “laws”which are essentially falsehood.
    Mr. Gurdjieff told Ouspensky that man's potentials were so great as to be unimaginable. We have replaced the real with an image, and that image conforms to our state of semiconscious hypnotic somnambulance.
    Therefore, a number of the principles of Christian Science might be said to be completely seaworthy, but they require something that ordinary man almost never has, and that is Conscious Faith.
    A man applies for a job and goes in half hoping he will get it and the other half afraid it will be rejected. Measure your thoughts–and find out for yourself what the ratio of negative thinking is to positive thinking, and I am virtually certain that you will see that negative thinking is a massive trump, so that the natural buoyancy of conscious faith hope and love are swamped and swept away.
    There was only one more thing which I have to add because it is true: everything is imperfect at the same time that it is perfect as it is, which is imperfect. This is a very difficult concept to grasp, but I will do my best to explain it in a way which can be understood. Nothing in the phenomenological universe can be perfect, because there is something very wrong about perfection. Anything that is perfect has no reason to move or to change. I will repeat that: anything that is perfect has no reason to move or to change and is therefore static and dead. But there is nothing in the universe that is dead, although we do not understand that at the level where our functions operate–the levels of H48 and H24.
    So I will ask you this rhetorical question: do you know of anything in the phenomenological universe that is not subject to change? Do you know of anything in the phenomenological universe that does not move? In Mr. Gurdjieff cosmogony, this state is represented by the Moon, under 96 orders of law. So those who make carpets such as the Navajo always leave a mistake, understanding that if they make a perfect carpet everything is done–finished–kaput.
    This understanding does not come cheaply. The payment for it consists of one's entire being, and that being, or rather BEING, is completely full to the brim of suffering and bliss, which like the Roman god Janus are the two sides of one coin –-- suffering and bliss being the obverse of each other.
    But we have a choice in the midst of our slavery, and that is in the freedom of our attention and freedom of choice as to our thinking in the functional sense. What we think causes changes in the neurological shape of our brain itself. Therefore thinking “good” thoughts brings good results, whereas thinking negatively creates cascades of cortisol, adrenaline and other neuropeptides and hormones that absent a legitimate threat to the safety of the organism, turn poisonous, and ultimately kill us.
    Hardly anyone knows Mr. Gurdjieff, but he has brought me back to life where I was dead and made those parts of me that were living even more virile and vivid. In that respect I owe him my life, just as I owe Great Nature and I owe God. This world is not a restaurant where you pay the bill at the end. You must pay first, and you must pay a great deal. God is neither IN time or space, and we are, which means that we stand at the border, and which country are we headed for? Being or becoming? Because becoming never comes but moves in spirals.

  3. ignore my silly questions team. Just been out of the loop for a long while (smile).

  4. Paul, We don't know each other, but I feel you are making a strong impression, even in less words than either Lee or myself, who both suffer from a conniption called "Hypergraphia"

    The symptoms of hypergraphia consists of endless writing, usually along religious or spiritual subjects.

    In the loop, out of "the loop" makes no difference to me. You contribute, where others are shy or unknowledgible enough to post. Please don't stop.

    Yours sincerely,
    Richard Lloyd

  5. thanks richard! I'm trying....
    it's a strange world


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