Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Something for myself

Gurdjieff’s adage that a man must come to know his own nothingness is familiar to anyone who’s studied his teachings. It is, in point of fact, a core principal of his teaching. And yet I sometimes wonder if we truly understand what this means... Or even take the time to examine the divergent currents that influence this question.

To seek to know the self, is, after all, a quest to discover one’s own somethingness- the part of one that is real, the essential part of one’s being. One’s own nothingness is nothing more than a part of that somethingness-a somethingness that includes more than just nothing. If there truly were nothing- if a man had no intrinsic value-there would be nothing to discover, no action to be taken, no responsibility for effort.

There is something.

An inherent recognition of one’s essential, inalienable value is possible- and this is not just an option. It’s a responsibility. Every human being not terminally damaged by circumstances has, in their heart of hearts, an intrinsic value that emanates from the very fact and truth of their arising. This principle is embodied in the heart of the Christian practice, and has its distinct parallels in Buddhism and other religions. Man is not worthless, a piece of garbage to be discarded. Philosophies of annihilation of self (to the uninformed, Buddhism can be mistaken for such) don’t take the great cycles of energy that drive the universe and its own inherent selfhood into account. There’s a need for Being; ”I am” is not an optional activity, but a sacred responsibility. The embodiment of the self is a material requirement for the existence of the universe as we know it- even atoms are selves, identities inscribed on the fabric of the microcosmos.

So the universe needs selves, needs its own self... creation exists for the embodiment and manifestation of the self, as well as the surrender of the self back to the sources it arises from. The great rotation of consciousness through the process of life and death endlessly recapitulates this cycle. It’s the engine that drives creation; a principle firmly embodied in Gurdjieff’s cosmology.

Somethingness and nothingness, furthermore, are reciprocal. You can’t have nothing without something to identify it; you can’t have something unless the alternative is to have nothing. So the two principles, seemingly opposed, are actually both part of a whole that can be fully embraced only by the exercise of consciousness.  

It’s all very well to speak of the sense of one’s own nothingness... And yet perhaps we should not speak of this, since this particular recognition of ourselves belongs to that most sacred part which is in contact with a higher principle. The exchange between man and God wherein a man acknowledges his nothingness is, in its essence, a private matter... An intimate matter... Not one for public display.When we hear each other speak about a sense of one's own nothingness, the only thing we are actually hearing is an intellectual discourse about the subject. Actual contact with this question lies so far down within the inner source of a man's being that only a fool would try to actually explain it to others.

The esoteric source of a man's work—his own work, what lies deep inside him and can never be put on display—is always in contact with a higher level. Work can't begin without this contact; nothing is possible except with help from a higher source. To even begin is impossible without that help; so if one begins, one already knows that that help has arrived, that it is influencing one's being—even if we remain confused, uncertain, and filled with doubt about it. Already, because that contact exists somewhere (we don't know where, but the certainty is that it does exist) inside us, we know that we have a value. After all, the Lord would not make this effort for us if we were not already valued.

If we don’t learn to trust- and to value- ourselves, we are unable to serve in the manner we were created for. True, recognizing our own nothingness is a significant portion of discovering the sacred nature of our somethingness. 

It is, nonetheless, the beginning, and not the end, of an effort to be.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.


  1. I'm not sure that the intrinsic value of each cadacualtic individual is truly recognized in traditions which stress the illusion of separate identity. But it won't stop me worrying about something else.

  2. I am certain that the beginning exercises given to new people are what are called "Convincers"; this is, they are exercises which are designed to demonstrate how little will and control we have over our own general presence and organization.

    This is a necessary step in the realization of our own "nothingness" in the face of the forces of life which have us controlled from the outside in, that is, backwards and upside down. We should as human being made in the image of our Creator, the same authority in scale as does the Creator of all and everything.

    This is not to say that we ARE nothing; only to prove to ourselves that we are subject to the law that St. Paul stated 2,000 years ago "That which I would do, I do not; and that which I should not do, I do."

    As long as we imagine that we can do anything we are taken by forces outside of our only real abilities, which must be strengthened and earned by prodigious efforts... which Mr. Gurdjieff called "super-efforts", the first of these super efforts being the struggle against the bars of our own particular prison, and the discovery that we are in fact powerless. is the first step in the realization that we need to work to gain power over our functions, the wiring between the centers being all messed up by ededumbification (sitting in a chair for 12 years -called education by society) and imitation of the "semi-=somnambulant interlaced hypnotic trance state experienced by most adults"

    Man as he is, living in a surfeit of self-deception, actually believes that he is "awake" (Pali+ Budhha), as state as far from his ordinary condition as the difference between a raw and baked potato. One edible by pigs and the other by humans.

    But his realization, as Lee so deftly points pout, must reside in the secret understanding of a man, who must continue to "play his roles in life".

    A man who has come to the depths of this realization of his own nothingness is already a watered seed of a somethingness which is so great as to be unimaginable to the ordinary man, who, as said before, lives in a contrived self-delusion.

    The full potential of a single man is such that he can become a servant of the solar system and even of the Galaxy, in his vertical growth, much like the "Jack and the Bean-Stalk" fairy tale; fairy tales being essential legomonisms and accurate compasses of direction for real aims, worthy of the life of a Man.

  3. In the transcripts of Gurdjieff's meetings he is quoted to have said: "Your work must consist of two things: Get better acquainted with your nonentityness and remember yourself often, as often as possible, with the sensing of remembering yourself: 'I Am', and of experiencing yourself. And each time that reverberates in your common presence you remember that you are. And when you remember then, say 'I Am' and feel in all your being that you are". Both forces, both questions. Simultaneous mistery

  4. Yes richard. I never knew the term , 'convincers' - we didn't use a term in French - but those were the only exercises we ever had.
    Really never any 'theory' at all apart from this early emphasis. sitting in front of Pauline de Dampierre was enough 'theory' at the time.
    Thanks for your valuable comments

  5. Paul,

    Those were some tough Ladies. You know that firsthand. Theory may be important in that it is the "Third Striving." But there are certainly cases where the sheer presence of a person of Real Being can bring us further than 1,000 years of intellectual study. Our study must be GROUNDED. In our bodies all the way to the marrow, which the Chinese call an extraordinary Organ and the brain has called The Sea Of Marrow.

    We are all so damn weak. But that weakness can become our strength if we "move our brains".
    Sincerely yours, -Richard


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