Sunday, October 14, 2012

A precise observation is needed

Perhaps it's not quite clear to me why I am observing myself.

Why bother?

I need to see what I am. But I don't just need to see that I am this thing or that thing; I need to see how influences arise in me and the effect that they have. So the observation is not an observation of outward behavior, which may be colorful, but is not the essential issue.

The observation is an observation of the inner state. Outer behavior may be quite explosive or energetic, without losing the ability to see the inner state. I can practice this, if my attention works both inwardly and outwardly.

 Every impulse within, which could be called energy, is also an influence. It is a force that flows inwards, into the being, provoking what Gurdjieff called associations. But the associations are not what's interesting. It is the influence itself. The influence that arises could be called desire; many influences provoke desire. The influence could be a wish for purity, or a wish for power.

All of these influences relate, in one way or another, to the six principal elements of inner work. The point is that these influences, or forces, arise within the context of being on a regular basis in a man. If he has no awareness, the influences take him and do what they will with him.

 If I am aware, I see an influence, an energy, as it arises. I see it specifically. And a precise observation is needed for this. I am present to myself; whether I believe that I lack something, or I don't, this almost doesn't matter. I am here. And I see this impulse arise.

The rate of vibration can only go in one of two directions here. If it descends, I am under the influence of the impulse. I am subordinate to it; it rules me. I do what the impulse says; I am enslaved by it. The best it can ever do is affect the level it is on. It is, in biblical terms, cast down: it moves in a descending spiral of increasing disorder.

If the rate of vibration ascends — and this can only happen if I am actively aware of the influence and see it arising in me — then the influence can serve my work, and perhaps even come into relationship with a higher level. And when influences serve my work, because I am active and aware in relationship to them as they arise, I understand their consequences. This is because every influence has an inevitable and lawful set of consequences, according to whether I am active or passive in relationship to it.

This means that every casual impulse that seems to arise randomly or by accident can become an intentional encounter within me, but only if I am there to precisely observe it. Most influences spend quite some time working on me, so if I keep making efforts throughout the day, sooner or later, I may be there to see how a particular influence is working on me. Then it becomes possible to use that influence in my work. The moment that there is even a small amount of conscious intention in relationship to the influence — and that intention relates to seeing the influence, not picking it up like a roofing nail and hammering it into a shingle — already, the influence has a completely different action in me.

In order to understand this, it's necessary to move beyond what is called "rote" self observation of behavior, and see quite clearly the way that impulses and influences arise within Being. This may sound too complicated; but it really isn't. Understanding the six principal elements of inner work can help one to see exactly what kind of influence is working. One needs, after all, to work with an active intelligence, inside the context of a system. This is how science works, and inner work is a science.

Even the most negative impulse or influence can become a tool for inner work under these circumstances. All influences should serve an inner effort; and all of them can. A negative influence can serve an inner work in a positive way, if it is seen, but a positive influence can equally serve something negative if it just happens in me any old way. So there needs to be a vigilance, or an attention, that does not just come from the mind alone in this work. And there needs to be a precision in observation, that is, an understanding that one is looking to see the movement of energy, or influence, within Being; how each force affects awareness and action. I come back again to this question of consequences. I suffer outer consequences; but do I see how outer consequences always arise because of inner consequences that preceded them?

To be present to an influence, to a force, is to be present to an energy. The energies are always acting in me. Either I act in relationship to the energy, or the energy acts in relationship to me. In the one case, I am used; in the other, I use.

This work can become more distinct if I take impressions in more deeply. But I need to see quite precisely how this energy works in me, otherwise, I won't understand how it affects me, and what is at stake in my work.

I respectfully hope you will take good care.

link related to the comment: The Work of the Body


  1. Would it be over-simplifying to use an example such as the impulse to have an icecream here? In that, if unaware, I'll most probably just eat it; if aware, I can see precisely this impulse, which then presents choices. This is liberating to some degree. Or is this an incorrect use and understanding of the words 'impulse' and 'influence' as used in the above essay?

    May I also extend best wishes that your wife is recovered fro her accident of some weeks ago. I have just returned from a three week visit to England, so am catching up on your essays which are very welcome indeed. Several members of the Endless Search website read this blogspot regularly too now. Your readership increases.

    Kind regards,

  2. Judith,

    every instance of awareness, conscious or unconscious, is a movement of energy. Hunger and eating are impulses that arise in the context of materiality (the body) and desire. The desire of hunger arises in reaction to the material condition of the body. The enneagram demonstrates that this connection is quite mechanical and reflexive, looked at from a strictly linear point of view. And a lot can go wrong here, as anyone knows. Anorexia and obesity are the extreme examples.

    Power (Gurdjieff's Will) always ought to be involved here, as the triad 142 demonstrates. Only Will can regulate this energy we call "hunger;" but these lawful and necessary relationships usually don't arise. First of all, we don't understand that it's an energy; we need to experience that fact organically, and already this kind of seeing takes a different effort of awareness.

    Only such a conscious shock can invoke Will (G. told O. that Will does not operate in ordinary man: see Fragments, chapter 2.) The matter you bring up relates precisely to this; and understanding this apparently trivial example from this point of view tells us a great deal about why Gurdjieff said that men could develop their emotional or intellectual parts to rather high levels on their own, but that the body prevented this. (See the quote at the additional link which has been added to the original post.)

    1. Lee,
      Your detailed explanation has given a renewed freshness to the wish to observe today and a motive to vigilance. Time for me to revisit In Search of the Miraculous seriously too.
      Thank you.


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