Another thing that people must sacrifice is their suffering. It is very difficult also to sacrifice one’s suffering. A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering. Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything as he is to his suffering. And it is necessary to be free from suffering. No one who is not free from suffering, who has not sacrificed his suffering, can work. Later on a great deal must be said about suffering. Nothing can be attained without suffering but at the same time one must begin by sacrificing suffering. Now, decipher what this means.”
—Gurdjieff, speaking to Ouspensky, in In Search of the Miraculous, by P. D. Ouspensky, pub. Paul H. Crompton Ltd, 2004.
Let's decipher this a bit, shall we?
Just as the world, or cosmos, consists of both the natural and the spiritual, suffering consists of two aspects: inner suffering and outer suffering.
Man was created as a bridge between the natural and the spiritual; the outer world manifests the natural, and the inner the spiritual, just as the inner world manifests essence and the outer personality. Gurdjieff emphasized the development of essence simply because this is the fundamental quality of the inner world; it represents the inner part, the soul, which is fed by the root of a person's love and is the only thing—as Swedenborg explained— that endures after they die.
The personality, which is connected to the outer and the material, withers; it cannot survive on the astral plane because all of it—100% of its being— arises from and depends on the material levels.
In this regard, we can examine suffering and what it means to Being.
Mankind constantly mistakes outer suffering as the essential aspect of suffering. Because material and outer suffering cause so much physical and emotional pain, pain for the body, pain for the ordinary emotion, and the ego, it is a common error to believe only in this kind of suffering—suffering that arises from material actions and material circumstances—and not the inner suffering that affects the material. Our whole world emphasizes this understanding of suffering; and the ubiquity of modern media, which makes its living on it, ensures it.
Outer suffering is the suffering of personality. It is real, make no mistake about it; and there is no denying its power and its terror, no matter what form it comes in. But this suffering is not the suffering Gurdjieff spoke of when he spoke of intentional suffering; because the suffering that leads to the development of the essence of and the soul is inner suffering, that is, a person's suffering of what they are inside.
This can only be accomplished through an intense inner sensation of one's Being; and this takes place as energy connects a person to the root of their being, so that their incarnation itself helps them to distinguish between the outer, or material, world and its suffering, and the inner world, where a much greater suffering must take place.
There is great sin and suffering in the outer world; no doubt. But the suffering of the inner world is the suffering that affects the development of essence. This suffering cannot be formed from, or primarily attached to, outer suffering; because this suffering does not arise from the largely mechanical actions of the outer world, but rather, a person's choices in the face of those actions. That is to say, inner suffering is the suffering that takes place in regard to a person's responsibility for how they are in relationship to the outer world.
On this one point turns a very great deal of Gurdjieff's teaching.
A person who is outward only takes little responsibility for how they are inside; they don't care, and the more outward they are, the less they care about inner responsibility. Ultimately, the more extreme the investment in outwardness becomes, the less conscience can express itself, because conscience—as Gurdjieff explained— is an inherently inward property, and a failure to invest inwardly is, from the beginning to the end, a movement away from conscience. The inward movement, towards inner suffering, moves towards conscience and becomes increasingly invested in the connection to it; hence, Gurdjieff's remorse of conscience, which is a quality impossible to develop in relation to any consistent outwardness.
Unless a person learns to first distinguish between inner and outer suffering, their understanding of suffering is useless.
Yet the understanding is still consistently mistaken, even once one knows better.
More on this tomorrow.