Friday, November 23, 2012
The Great Work
It's not always certain, for mankind, when a mother's work is done. In nature, this kind of thing is more obvious; yet in spiritual work, when a teaching matures, achieves its aim, and it is time for something new to take place, a diaspora takes place. At times like these, many people cling; no one likes to leave a safe place where one has been well fed. Yet it's in the nature of things for children to leave home and to move on.
Gurdjieff brought us a great work. He had aims; he said so. They weren't published in books, but they lived in the hearts and minds of his pupils, not as fixed entities, dogmas, but as potentials that moved forward through time. He pushed students away from him to force them to begin to realize their own potential; how many masters are selfless enough to do that? And he expected his pupils to manifest according to their own aims; he practically insisted on it. What he was looking for was not a temporary result; it was a Great Work. He knew that all he could do was plant seeds.
The Great Work had specific conditions and aims, some of which have been met. Inevitably, under these conditions, new aims must be established and new schools must rise up to engage in new work. Exoterically speaking, I believe, Gurdjieff hoped that mankind might recover many of the lost sciences that he spoke about in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson; sciences that do not belong to a mindless, heartless, and unfeeling technology of materials, but sciences that understand what a compassionate attitude towards humanity would be. Sciences that understand what right action, what real religion would be. He truly wished, in other words, to see science and religion rediscover the ancient principles that gave birth to both of them.
Those who now follow may each one of us feel we are not up to this task. But let's remember, Moses was quite certain he wasn't up to the task when he was given the tablets. The fact of the matter is that the servant is always in doubt about his or her ability to perform the task. It is their doubt that focuses their attention, increases their sensitivity, their eagerness to do the task well.
Is it too much to ask for those of us who follow this teaching and this system to try to undertake a work of this magnitude? Yes; taken on the entire scale of the enterprise, it's an impossibility. Yet collectively, if each man or woman does one small thing to contribute, pyramids can be built.
In any event, when it becomes clear that an octave has been completed, and a school slowly begins to disband — its strings unraveling naturally, because they know they have to, no matter how tightly those in the school who fear the new cling to them — there needs to be a natural grace, an acceptance, and above all, there needs to be a new resolve, a new vision, a new task. Each human being who has benefited from this moment when the master calls all of the servants in from the field and pays them the same generous wages that were promised, from the first who came to the last, is responsible next for carrying the effort onward.
Perhaps my greatest weakness is that I always want today's effort to be brand-new, and at the same time, look exactly like yesterday's effort. I think I need to understand that every effort has to be completely brand-new, that the effort changes constantly according to the circumstances, and that the next effort may not be like the one I just made, but may be an entirely unfamiliar effort.
I have seen this in movements for most of my life, but do I understand it? Can I have the presence of mind to be there, to make a new effort that is truly new, not something I already know?
This question is in front of everyone. It never goes away, actually, whether schools open their doors or close them. In the end, the question is up to me, and what I am willing to participate in. If my vision is a small thing constricted by the fears and familiarities I have always carried with me, my possibilities are limited.
If I open myself to the unknown, they are greater.
I respectfully hope you will take good care.