Thursday, March 14, 2013

Discernment and intent

 Why does Gurdjieff place such emphasis on conscious labor and intentional suffering?

 The two ideas are not expressed in these terms and almost any other work; and yet, we find their roots quite distinctly expressed in Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell.

 Swedenborg illustrates the fact that power — power great enough to create heaven, the world, and everything in it — is inherent in Divine Truth. He says, "all angels are called "powers" because of divine truth, and our powers to the extent that they are recipients or vessels of it." (p.161.) He goes on to say, "we can illustrate the fact that this kind of power is inherent in divine truth... by the power of what is true and good in us... everything we do, we do out of our discernment and intent."

By discernment, Swedenborg means our ability to discriminate. The action of conscious labor is an action of effort to see, of effort to clearly see and discriminate, our life. Out of discernment, reports Swedenborg, we determine what is true. So conscious labor is discernment; a search for truth, an effort to see and to discriminate. We can equate this to an action of intelligence, an intellectual action related to wisdom.

 By intent, Swedenborg means our intention. " out of our intent," he says, "we act by means of what is good." Intentional suffering, in other words, is a search for the intention of the good. The wish is to allow the good to take place (not to just consciously experience the bad.) This is related to an emotional action of compassion, or love.

These two principles are directly tied to emanations from the absolute in Swedenborg's universe; and, indeed, we see that they form the base of the triangle in the enneagram. So the foundation of the search for the absolute lies in the qualities that emanate from it, which give power or motive force in the form of shocks to the inner search. They form the baseline of the triangle in the law of three; and each one reaches towards the absolute in exactly equal measure, but from two different sides, one, in the first triad (142) from wisdom, and the other, and the second triad (857) from love. Swedenborg wrote the book Divine Love and Wisdom because he understood the foundational nature of these two properties of God.

Gurdjieff's system is actually founded on exactly the same principles, but he named them differently. Swedenborg's conclusion about these two forces is as follows: "in fact, all the elements of our volition are related to what is good, and all the elements of our discernment are related to what is true. On this basis, then, we set our whole body in motion and the thousand things their rush to do our bidding of their own accord. We can see from this that our whole body is formed for obedience to what is good and true and therefore from what is good and true." (ibid, p.161)

 The essential point here is that all of Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson, is an elaborate parable about man's effort to align himself with the requirements of obedience; Beelzebub himself is attempting to do this throughout the process of the book, and succeeds at the end. Ultimately, this obedience is obedience to the good; and what Gurdjieff cites as "objectivity" is what is true.

 As with Swedenborg — who emphatically says that man's whole body is formed from what is good and true — that is, Divine Love and Wisdom — Gurdjieff believes that a man's effort must be formed through the conscious shocks: conscious, because they begin with emanations from God, Swedenborg's inflow; and shocks, because they have the power to inject the necessary energy into man's inner development.

The entire motive source for man's inner search, in other words, it is a search for the true and the good; this fundamentally Socratic vision of Gurdjieff's teaching places it firmly in a traditional — even very traditional — religious and philosophical context. The conscious forces that assist a man in the search for this truth and goodness, described in terms of discernment and intent, or, conscious labor and intentional suffering, emanate from the absolute and are intimately connected with it. There is a unity of concept and intelligence between Swedenborg and Gurdjieff here. And that explains why Gurdjieff man wanted human beings to understand what conscious labor and intentional suffering were, and engage in them. They are, fundamentally, the forces of wisdom and compassion.

And if the higher forces of wisdom and compassion don't act in a man, his inner octave can't develop.

 May your soul be filled with light.

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