I remember that Henry Brown once told our group the Gurdjieff Foundation wasn’t a school.
He said it was preparation for a school. That is, through the Foundation and its methods, we were hoping we’d come to a point in our inner work where we found a Way.
Now, from what I’ve seen over the course of a lifetime, folk generally treat the organizations they join and participate in as their Way. The outward form becomes the path. Yet according to Gurdjieff (See In Search of the Miraculous, Chapter X) this can’t be right; because in the end it’s our inner life alone that makes us what we are.
Everything else comes afterwards.
The depth of our impressions, our organic connection to our Self and its living nature; these are in the end the signposts that mark a possibility, a Way.
The inward path can lead towards a Way; and that Way, for me, is Christ. But this is not a superficial Way; it leads into the deep. One can’t fathom the Passion without fathoming, in the end, all the anguish that God feels for His creation. That anguish is inextricably bound up with the Love that created everything in the first place; and of course at its heart it contains all the joy a universe can hold.
These are substantial matters, that is, all of these forces—which are emotional in nature, that is, they impart values—are material things. Emotions are material things; values are material things; and good and bad, however one wants to understand them, are material things. That is to say, they are bound into the very fabric of the universe itself. This is why Gurdjieff referred to particles of the sorrow of His Endlessness.
When Gurdjieff spoke of “higher hydrogens” being “deposited” in mankind, he was speaking (putting it in simpler terms) of the ability of human beings to concentrate more of these finer emotive substances ("hydrogen 12") in their bodies so that what one would call the universal emotions can be better sensed. The octave of emotion, like all octaves, has levels, and each note consists of a finer (or faster) rate of vibration in its material. So we seek to become more attuned to these universal values, or emotions, as we rise through the musical scale of Being.
In a general sense, in other words, as we spiritualize, we seek to become more emotional, though we seek to do this in a material way— and according to influences from a different level. The Way consists of aligning more and more with the Passion of Christ, which represents, for us on our own level, the summation of all the emotional values expressed by the universal octave of emotions; and it represents this specifically because Christ’s passion represents a completed emotional octave, which is something one almost never sees.
We might recall here just why the emotional octave is the Way; this is because (as Gurdjieff told Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous) the emotions have, for us, the highest rate of vibration. They are hence superior to the rates of vibration of the physical and intellectual octaves, and thus the most vivifying (they impart more force.) They can bring us closer to the higher vibrations of the octave above us.
If we don’t move closer, within ourselves, to the sensation of these powerful emotive forces, sensation does us little good. It’s only through an increasing relationship with sorrow that we can begin to receive the particles of God which awaken conscience in us; so the Way is not a happy path. In point of fact, if what one seeks in life is happiness (which we all have a desire to find) alone, one can’t come to deepest form of inner work that is needed on the Way. One has to be willing to suffer; and this is why Ashiata Shiemash said that man’s life must consist always and everywhere of suffering— a message that won’t go over well with our generation of New Age teachings, even though numerous esoteric forms know it well, in one way or another.
What escapes us, I think, in our search for this Way (which is the way we don’t, in our devotion to happiness, want to find) is our attachments to external form, which encourage us to discover theoretical ways, outward ways, ways that consist of agreement with ideas rather than the inner experience of the anguish which must be endured in order to become whole.
That anguish is a very private thing; it has to be swallowed and digested bit by bit over a lifetime. The bitterness increases over time; and the symbol of bitter herbs in the Judeo-Christian tradition symbolizes, in the inner sense, the need to swallow this sorrow. One of the secrets is that we must learn to savor the bitterness; not in a perverse way, to punish ourselves, but in order to become just a bit closer to God and his suffering.
If we are not willing to suffer on behalf of God, after all, why should God suffer for us?
I turn, as ever, to Christ’s Passion, which can teach us so much about these things, if we are willing to learn.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.