Monday, October 15, 2012

Conscious Labor

Perhaps no single concept I hear about on a regular basis among those engaged in efforts on inner work seems to be more profoundly misunderstood than the idea of conscious labor.

 Conscious labor does not belong to man as he is. This was made abundantly clear over and over again in In Search of the Miraculous. The enneagram furthermore clearly assigns the influences of both conscious labor and intentional suffering to be action of the law of three; in other words, higher influences emanating from "do" of any given octave, and entering it from the outside in order to provide assistance from a higher level.

Man cannot do. We hear this phrase over and over again in the Gurdjieff work, and yet everyone indubitably thinks they can do. The impression is that our own efforts — efforts that belong to us — which are, somehow, magically conscious, even though we all know we ourselves are not, are going to be manifest by us and lead us forward into reality.

How are we, unconscious as we are, going to do this? By lifting great weights; performing feats of mental agility? Seeing ourselves? I think not. We are unconscious; this is in our nature. The limited range of ability we have is to prepare for a conscious influence to arrive and allow us to participate in conscious labor. Thus, almost nothing of what a man engages in — or doesn't engage in, producing guilt about his work in him — consists of conscious labor. What it is is the delusion of conscious labor, the belief that somehow I'm doing this, I'm doing that, and if I do it, well, that's conscious labor, and if I don't do it, well then, I'm screwing up and not working.

Ah, yes.  I am bad. I don't work. And so on.

Does all this sound familiar? Don't feel bad. This is a bear trap with stakes at the bottom of the pit that everyone falls into.  Over and over, in most cases. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

 I need, instead, to begin to understand that conscious labor begins only in the moment, after many hours, days, weeks, months, or even years of long effort and work, when something real finally takes place. I actually see something. I receive an impression in a new and much deeper way.

That is conscious labor. Only to the extent that I prepare myself for it, and am available to it as it arrives, can it have any meaningful effect on me.

Much could be said about intentional suffering, which also does not belong to us and is always and only help sent from a higher level. This idea, too, is frequently misunderstood as something I can "do," rather than a force I am invited to participate in with enough preparation.

 Some may think that intentional suffering is engaged in in order to develop what Gurdjieff called "real Will."  An exercise, in other words, that will toughen us up, make us real men or women with a purpose.  Hence, when they meet spiritual leaders who display authoritarian, oppressive, abusive, pushy, or other Hasnamussian characteristics and influences, some are inclined to believe that these "tough cookies" are the real thing, that they somehow have Will. Legions of "Real Candidates for Inner Work" have been tragically misled by such spiritual bullies, largely because of misunderstandings about this idea of Will.

As Ibn al Arabi and Meister Eckhart would (and do) succinctly explain, man has no real Will — and he can never have any real Will. The idea is a Chimera put in front of us by consistent misinterpretation of just what will consists of. There is only one real Will, and it is the Will of God — of Allah,  as al Arabi would tell us. A man can only develop real Will to the extent that he aligns himself with God, through submission — Islam — and service. In this action, the only Will that is expressed in him, if there is any, is the will of God.

 Gurdjieff's views on will are complex and easily confusing, and may give the mistaken impression that somehow a man can build this thing up in himself, like a muscle he owns. Or that there are religious practices that act like steroids, to impart it to us. Ideas of this kind are laughable, yet the ego tempts us to accept them at every step on the path, because it puts our lives and our work under our control—a very appealing prospect. Extremes and asceticism of every kind are based on these ideas. I don't see their purpose, and I never have.

You can't use a whip to drive yourself into the arms of God. If you do, when you get there, I feel sure He'll be disappointed in you.

 In order to offer those interested in a more strictly doctrinal interpretation of some of these ideas, in particular, the contrast between the two realms on the diagram, I created what I will call an Ouspensky enneagram, found by clicking the link.

 I respectfully hope you will take good care.

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