Saturday, July 13, 2013

Will and the reality of being

"The material of my thought keeps its authority, and prevents the automatic movement from stopping. My body is not sufficiently touched. In order to provoke a stop, suffering is necessary so that a third force can appear. Then the attention becomes voluntary—I wish not to be taken, I wish to remain free. At this very moment I feel I must have the freedom to be. I experience a will for freedom. The degree of this will of the attention produces an opening of my body to a finer energy."

The Reality of Being, P. 185

When de Salzmann or Gurdjieff speak of developing a will, of having a will of the attention, it sounds, for all intents and purposes, as though this will is mine, something I acquire, which belongs to me.

Yet this isn't quite the case at all. Here, the idea of will relates to a higher force that informs me — that is, which forms something inwardly in me.

"I" don't have real will. Real will belongs to a higher level; and my efforts, my work inattention, is to open myself and become receptive — to prepare myself — for that will to arrive. I don't make it. I don't create it. And it doesn't belong to me. I am not a maker or a Creator; those properties belong to the very highest level.

Yet the instant that the ego hears these words, and begins to interpret them according to its (my) own understanding — which is, of course, both lawful and inevitable at the level we are on — the idea of will becomes mine; I think that I can have will, or get it, make it by my efforts.

This entire set of mistaken understandings is tied directly to my ego, and the idea that things are mine. Rather than understanding myself as a participator in what is created, and a receiver of life, I think that I am the thing itself.

So when she speaks of opening to a higher will, of developing will, what she means is developing a sensitivity, an inward receptiveness, to allow a new kind of will which exists in a much larger sphere to enter. In a certain way, I am already an active expression of that will, but I don't sense it, because my ego forms a barrier between me and this understanding.

This is why, at the end of the passage, she specifically cites the problem with the ego and the way that it forms itself in reaction to everything around it:

"When we can remember ourselves, be open to ourselves, for long enough, we are put to the test by the intervention of the subjective "I" in the face of other people's manifestations toward us. At the moment the impression is received by the mind, I react. It is with this reaction that the notion of "I" bursts forth. I identify with the form projected by my thought. So, if I wish to go further, I need to be shocked, shaken, by seeing the selfish reaction of my ego, defending itself out of fear of being denied. In order to be free from this fear, I have to experience it, to wholly live with everything it entails." (Ibid, p. 186.)

Seeing the ego-inflected moments that she speaks of here at the end are critical to understanding the kind of emotional work that is necessary in order to see how I co-opt things from higher levels and try to put them in myself, as though they belonged to me.

I live in a world of ownership. This is what life has sold me ever since I was a small child; it's all about getting things, owning things. Often by taking them from other people; but, at any rate an arrogation of everything to me.

Conscious labor, which takes place as the result of the appearance of real will, doesn't belong to me. It is done in me, as the phrase, "thy will be done" implies. This phrase is found at the beginning of the Lord's prayer because conscious labor is essential and necessary in our lives; yet that conscious labor is not done by us. We simply ask to be the receivers of the will of the Lord, that it may be done in us; and any idea we have that our own will, something we own or can make ourselves, might have this action, is a mistaken one. Yet this misunderstanding is a common one.

I must allow something new to enter me; and this is exactly what doesn't happen. For as long as I think I am going to make something from within myself, and this impresssion mills around in my thinking, my ideas, and my concepts in this way, I am blocked. Getting the idea of conscious labor tangled up with something I do is a deep mistake in this work. "Man cannot do," says Gurdjieff; and yet I think, when I hear of conscious labor, that I can somehow do it, don't I?

Already, at once, it consists of mixing levels in a way that prevents me from understanding the higher.

May your soul be filled with light.


  1. I guess this post hits the nail on the head. I'm not convinced that it was always that clearly presented by some group leaders...mme de Salzmann used to do it with that archetypal gesture of the hand indicating something coming down into us

  2. of course I'm not personally claiming to have been able step aside and receive that....


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