Thursday, June 28, 2012


To strive means to make a great effort; to struggle vigorously and relentlessly to achieve an aim. This kind of activity is common in external life; men strive to achieve political freedom, they strive to win the heart of a loved one. Perhaps above all, in the current age, men strive to gain wealth, almost always mistakenly conceived of as money. 

Yet the idea of striving for something in an inner sense is, overall, a relative rarity. There's a vague idea about it, but money is more interesting. Even those who have apparently genuine religious strivings in today's world usually direct them outwardly; their idea of religious success absurdly consists of forcing other people to believe what they believe, rather than the development of a legitimate inner quality.

In the age of Ashiata Shiemash—in Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, a near-mythical "golden" age of spirituality— men understood these questions in terms of the five obligolnian strivings. As we encounter them, embedded in a dense and apparently philosophical text, they appear to be a group of intellectual premises; ideas.  

Yet these principles are not just ideas. They're meant to be experienced as motive forces for life, the very engine that drives us. All of what arises within the organism, all of the energies that cause it to manifest, ought to turn around this axis. So, in a certain sense, these strivings ought to become our chief feature, a chief feature which replaces our Nafs, the ordinary egoistic impulses that drive us.

 How can that happen? These words appeared to just be ideas. They sound noble, to be sure; yet encountered as ideas, they simply carry the same weight as all the other religious or philosophical ideas one encounters, such as the idea that Joseph Smith found golden tablets in upstate New York. The five strivings need to become more than just ordinary ideas; they have to become active principles within us, and this is an alchemical process that takes many years of heat and refinement in order to occur.  The five obligolnian strivings need to become organic within us; they need to become so deeply embedded in us that our utmost desire is invested in them.

A tall order, perhaps; yet the whole point of developing conscience, of a tactile and immediate relationship with feeling, is to become invested in a different feeling than that of ordinary life, a feeling that arises from contact with energy of a higher order.

That's the aim, the initial aim, of inner work; to experience feeling that arises from contact with energy of a higher order. This is in and of itself, at once, transformational; there's no need to conceive of what that transformation might consist of, because such contact transcends conception.  It's the taste of oranges.

 This kind of action is what turns societies upside down; in the allegory of Ashiata Shiemash, his ideas—which come from a higher level—do in fact turn his society upside down. The entire order is rearranged and turned towards God. This is exactly what needs to happen in us; yet an intellectual assessment of the situation, while useful, is essentially impotent. The invocation of feeling, of conscience, must take place; the arrival of life force with a higher level of vibration.

 It's not enough to think about this; we need to feel it in the marrow of our bones.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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