Sunday, March 10, 2013

Obligatory actions

 Gurdjieff explained that man has numerous sacred obligations which he ought to sense instinctively. Perhaps the most famous of these are the five oblogolnian strivings; but in addition to these, he also instructed his pupils to engage in many other absolutely necessary activities.

Among others, in reference to what he called inner considering, he said,

The chief means of happiness in this life is the ability to consider externally always, inwardly never.
(Views From The Real World, E. P. Dutton, 1973, p.282: Aphorism #9)

 The overarching point of inner considering is that it consists of self-love, that is, a conceit that is directed inwardly, towards oneself and how important one is.

Outer considering, on the other hand, is what one might call compassionate consideration of others — and it represents a form of love that values others first, not oneself.

The question of inner and outer considering and the way Gurdjieff presented it become important in the context of ordinary life because it takes a man away from what he referred to as identification, that is, forgetting his own inner Being and allowing it to be absorbed into external circumstances — roughly equivalent to what the Buddhists call attachment, but in fact a more sophisticated understanding of the phenomenon.

While the technical explanations of inner considering and outer considering are important, and the place that Gurdjieff gave them in the superficial, or external, evaluation of his work is without a doubt essential, the esoteric meaning of the terms, the situation, the action, and its consequences may not be so evident.

Every action that Gurdjieff gave his pupils has an ordinary action in the real world, attached to his techniques and the intellectual understandings of his work; but each action that he recommended, each obligation or striving, also has an esoteric meaning and effect on the inner work of the individual who undertakes it. That is to say, Gurdjieff's practice works on multiple levels in a man or a woman, and there are many subtle effects related to the formation of a soul and its eventual fate that are not clearly explained.

Nor need they be;  because if one, like the obyvatel or the good wife, merely attends assiduously to their responsibilities, already, much can take place that is good. Right action is always right action; it does not matter in what name it is undertaken; and wrong action, undertaken for any reason under any name, always produces bad results. Socrates drank the hemlock because he unerringly knew the right from the wrong, and obeyed it without regard to the consequences for his mortal body. He was well aware of the fact that the hemlock could have no effect whatsoever on his soul; whereas his actions could.

 As the Buddhists have pointed out, bad results may not be evident in this life. This is rarely considered in human affairs; yet bad results will inevitably obtain, even if they happen later.

The later we will speak about today relates to Gurdjieff's practice of inner and outer considering, which have a special esoteric action of essential value in the formation of the soul. In order to understand what this action is, we must turn to the great European master of the dharma, Swedenborg.

Swedenborg explains that the fate of the soul is determined by the direction in which it faces: those who face the Lord in love for the Lord face the light, and those who face themselves in self-love face towards darkness.  This is true, he reports to us, of the whole heavenly host, both angelic and demonic. "We ourselves, in spirit, are also turning in the same fashion — away from the Lord if we are caught up in self-love and love of the world, and toward him if we are in a love for him and for our neighbor." (Heaven and Hell, p. 153.)

 It is no coincidence that Gurdjieff's instruction to his pupils on considering follows Swedenborg's formula. Outer considering is designed, within ordinary life, to strengthen the parts of man that fosters love for the Lord and love for one's neighbor; and this is done precisely because this part will be judged and valued at the time of death.

It forms the inner compass, that part of essence, that determines the direction a man or woman can go in after he or she dies.

So outer considering is not just a nice thing to do; it is a matter of life and death.

 Every one of Gurdjieff's instructions for action in outer life serves a similar esoteric purpose; and his entire book Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson  overflows with instructions regarding the behaviors required to turn a man back towards his sacred duties.

 May your soul be filled with light.


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