All of our ideas about what liberation consists of, all of our ideas about what will satisfy us and what will make things right in our lives, emanate from this level. We use everything that personality and our accreted being has in it to make assumptions and draw conclusions about where we are, and where we're going. Even the idea that there is a place to go is a made-up idea that comes from personality. There is, in fact, nowhere to go—we are here. That's it. We never go anywhere. If anything, anywhere perpetually comes to us.
All of our ideas, then, about satisfaction in life come from the external part of ourselves. We don't understand what would satisfy essence, because so little of us inhabits a relationship to it. The concept of satisfaction itself is based on false premises. Happiness and joy don't fall outside of this dilemma; they are firmly embedded in it.
The point is that the center of gravity of our satisfaction has to change.
One of the aims of Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson is to reveal that all of the premises we base life on are fundamentally flawed. Yet we, as readers, read it and immediately start interpreting everything in it and adapting everything in it to what our personality understands. Inevitable, perhaps—yet Mr. Gurdjieff had the fervent hope that much of this material might penetrate down into lower layers of our being, where essence does express itself, parts that are not yet damaged by personality.
The only true satisfaction in life has little to do with happiness or joy. It's true that happiness and joy appear as byproducts of the fulfillment of real being-duties; it's not as though one labors in vain. But mistaking the byproduct as the aim is like undergoing a refining process to create jet fuel, and then mistakenly thinking that the polymers one can make plastics with were the point of it all in the first place. It produces a powerful "pink cloud" effect—overwhelming the inner effort of he or she who experiences it, convincing them that "this is it."
If one stops there, believing that one has attained enlightenment, one cannot go beyond.
Essence can only be satisfied by fulfilling its responsibilities to the divine; by obedience and service. That obedience is obedience to the lawful relationships in the universe; and that service is to take on a portion of the Sorrow of His Endlessness.
Inner work, in other words, is not just about feeling good.
Back to the question of the center of gravity of our consciousness; a point brought up in the very first chapter of Beelzebub (see page 23.) Our center of gravity is located in personality, and absolutely—I emphasize this, absolutely—all of our ideas and understandings about satisfaction begin and end here.
Essence-satisfaction is located in a completely different part of our presence, which is completely foreign to the personality. Personality is not even connected rightly to the parts that can sense this kind of satisfaction. It has a superficial connection to the least developed part of the nervous system, and stimulates it endlessly, the way that rats in an experiment step on a lever in a cage to deliver themselves food rewards. This is all it knows; it completely lacks an education on the matter. So, as I pointed out at the beginning of this essay, our understanding of satisfaction begins with a flaw we are blind to, because we take what we already know for granted.
Mr. Gurdjieff warns his readers about this at the very beginning of the book, when he refers to our consciousness as a “fictitious consciousness” (The Arousing of Thought, page 23) and advises us that his writings “might affect you very, very cacophonously, and thereby you might lose… Do you know what?… Your appetite for your favorite dish, and that special psychic feature of yours which particularly 'titillates your vitals' on catching sight of your neighbor, the brunette." (Ibid., pages 15–16.)
He couldn't make it clearer—yet all of these warnings are forgotten in our rush to assume that our fictitious consciousness knows what we want, and what is good for us.
Essence-satisfaction, in other words, is something very different than what we think of as satisfaction. It is an organic process born strictly and solely of suffering; and suffering itself, as our fictitious consciousness understands it, doesn't have anything to do with actual or real suffering. The word itself means something other than what our associations can bring us.
Essence-satisfaction is only born of an inner effort to receive the substance of the Sorrow of His Endlessness, which is a material property of reality that penetrates the entire universe and is implicit in its arising. As I've explained before, the nervous system evolved to receive this kind of material; in being sensory tools on behalf of a higher consciousness, organic bodies are designed to help higher consciousness sense itself. (This particular point will be the subject of the next post, two days from now.) Essence can't be satisfied by ordinary things; in fact, nothing in the world of materiality that personality participates in is even remotely capable of satisfying essence, because essence can only be satisfied by inner action.
This is an important point, because very nearly 100% of what we are has no understanding whatsoever of that question. When people speak of “a taste of something real” in their inner work, they are tasting this question of essence-satisfaction through inner action. Our sense of longing for God arises because of contact with this property of Being. It is the only thing that is actually real in terms of a wish, a direction, and aim; it's connected to what is real, because the thread of essence connects to the higher centers. The lightbulb we are able to turn on in our basement is so dim we can barely see by its light...there is a whole banquet in this pantry, but personality can't quite see what's on the shelves.
The materiality of sorrow and the objective fact that this material is woven directly into the fundamental fabric of the universe is essential to understanding why men work. Work cannot just be a self-centered series of questions about who I am, and why I am here. This may be where work begins, but it is a self-referential trap. Work is not about me. It isn't for me. Inner work is ultimately undertaken on behalf of a much vaster enterprise, and if my vision does not grow—as Walt Whitman's vision of poetry grew—into a vision of the whole world, even the whole universe, then I just live in a petri dish where I perform little biological experiments to see which bacteria are eating each other.
The essential point of work is to work on behalf of others. To work on behalf of the Lord Himself. And if the aim of what Mr. Gurdjieff called “self perfecting”—a lofty aim indeed, if there ever was one—has any point whatsoever, it is to begin to sense this question of the materiality of sorrow.
This is worth investigating.
The next post will expand on this question from a cosmological point of view, because there are specific objective understandings about the nature of reality connected to this.
I respectfully hope you will take good care.