Sunday, March 11, 2012

What is an influence?

Thatched Houses and a Mill Wheel
Hanging Scroll, Wang Jian, 1668
Shanghai Museum

Gurdjieff often used to say that we need to come under a different set of influences. He first introduced the idea when speaking to P. D. Ouspensky,  as recounted in In Search Of The Miraculous, when he indicated that man could come under  influences A, B, or C.

 It's important to understand that this question of influence is not an abstract, theoretical, or allegorical one. We are, quite literally, vessels into which the world flows. That is to say, there is a constant flow into the organism. This flow is an influence—an inwardly flowing stream of impressions, which is received by the organism. We call this, in a crude way, information, mostly forgetting that what this word actually means is that which is inwardly formed.

 So we are under influences, meaning, impressions are constantly flowing into us. Becoming aware of this in a specific and organic manner is essential, because generally speaking, without awareness of this condition, we are not under influence, we are under effluence—that is to say, the food we need to feed our inner life is being steadily depleted as it flows out of us, going in quite the wrong direction. This is the way most of us live. We point outwards, and we lose much of our vital force over the course of a lifetime because of it.

 It's equally important to understand this question of influence in terms of Gurdjieff's allegory of a man belonging to one of two streams. Each stream is a stream of influences, but they go in different directions. The idea is much the same.

 The idea of opening is related to the idea of allowing an inward flow of energy from a higher level that helps to inform, to inwardly form, the essence— and, consequently, transform the substance of one's inner work. It's a different inward flow; hence, the different streams, or, the idea of influences A, B, and C. 

Of course this idea is generally an abstraction to us; the part of us that is supposed to receive this energy is dysfunctional. But the idea of influences is all about what flows into us in terms of energy, not about some idea a philosopher or religious figure had. Banish such thoughts; this is the chief reason our minds are an obstacle in the first place. What is needed to support our work doesn't come from that angle; it comes from a sensitivity to and then opening to what comes from above. That, too, is an impression; an impression of the Divine.

Our real work commences when we begin to receive these actual—not psychological—influences from a higher level. It's possible for these influences to be present at all times; for this energy to inform our work every day, all day, and support an awareness of Self in an inner sense. This is how the essence develops a core which is alive and connected to something higher. Without it, the essence is weak and can't possibly prevail against the extraordinary forces of personality and demands of the external world, which press in on a man at all times.

It's worth noting that what Gurdjieff called “sleep” in man is, for all intents and purposes, sleep of essence. Personality is very much awake, extremely active, and needs to become passive. Essence, which touches on our higher parts, must become the active part.

There are caveats. A man or woman who opens to higher influences and has a developing essence isn't, so to speak, “home free.” Personality and ego have a way of badgering even a durable inner state with constant bickering and imagination. Part of self-remembering is to continually remember the Self—the essence, the inner part—as these nitpicking presences attempt to deconstruct one's effort to remain intact. 

This action of "coming back to the self" in inner work is generally understood just that way—, that is, coming back to the self, small "s." This is a reflexive remembering of personality with the part that sees, but it does not include the Self, the essence, that which is true in a man or woman. (see the above links.) The essence, the true Self on this level, can only remember itself if it's receiving the proper nourishment, and it takes, under ordinary circumstances, years and even decades of work in order to create those conditions. A properly nourished essence will have enough strength to help support one's work from its own side. Under conditions of that nature, possibilities undergo a distinct transformation.

  I respectfully hope you will take good care.


  1. 'The essence, the true Self on this level, can only remember itself if it's receiving the proper nourishment, and it takes, under ordinary circumstances, years and even decades of work in order to create those conditions.'

    Yes, I guess this is the diff btwn jesus, krishnamurti and others. They suggest that it can happen right now - not after decades in a special group in special conditions...In fact the curse of the work is that if you scratch deep enuf all followers believe this is the one true way

  2. Lee, you have been talking about the higher for a long time without mentioning that Gurdjieff taught us that we can know something only by seeing THREE levels at the same time. We are NOT the lower. We are in the middle, ands we are built to connect the lower and the higher and vice-versa. Not to receive higher influences for ourselves, but as conduits in BOTH directions.

    There is also the phrase that shows up regularly and is a central tenet of your own belief; that we are vessels into which the world flows. Not as a criticism but as a note of interest, that men are perverse, per-verse, which means that they TURN with no direction (never reach chorus or end - no aim)

    Some of the world flows into us; other influences BOUNCE OFF, just as green color waves bounce off of grass, which "eats" long wavelength red light.

    We should take this into account. Influences are deflected by the personality, which is a defensive barrier. Hardly any influence reaches and nourishes essence, just as many chemicals cannot pass the blood/brain barrier.

    For influences to reach essence and even deeper parts of ourselves, we must reconstruct the outer shells to reject different essence poisons and to align the different centers (Chakras), so that they are in harmonious relation to each other, like overtones in music. This alignment allows "higher influence" to penetrate through the aligned openings, and permits the growth of essence and being -self.


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