Central Park, New York
My friend Paul, whose comments serve as a counterpoint to this space, asked the following questions in December:
On reflection one thing that does seem to be missing in g's remarkable psycho-spiritual cosmology is any kind of 'ending' or second advent that we find in the christian faith. There is ultimately a 'new world' in the gospel good news.
Also in the traditional g teaching this finer material energy (or love) is in limited supply and simply not available to slugs en masse. This is also seems quite distinct from the gospel message wherein everyone can be 'saved'. Certainly g's son Dr michel salzmann made it v clear that for him this 'nectar' should not be wasted on the masses....for whom there would not be enough anyway - they would have to make do with Oprah Winfrey - or the like....
The question remains did g see an end or culmination to life on earth - in which we are serving something higher or lower than ourselves - autoegocrat...etc?
I believe the first remark seems to be incorrect. Gurdjieff did indeed propose a "second Advent" or "New World," which consisted of a rebirth of man within a cosmological scale marked by his original (and in some ways actually unimportant) numerology. The rebirth is a regeneration of consciousness, entirely comparable to Swedenborg's Regeneration. Although the men spoke in different languages tailored for different times, their teaching actually came from the same inner tradition, a fact which any discerning reader who studies both men carefully will eventually see quite clearly. The premise of regeneration is a rebirth within a world of spiritual Being, rather than material being. I have written much about this process from a practical point of view in this space.
As to the second point, I believe the point of doctrine is incorrect. There is an unlimited amount of finer material energy. It is only unlimited supply relative to those who can receive it; the number of those people is indeed extremely limited, not because the energy is limited, but because the human beings are limited. If one understands Swedenborg properly, one sees that one's ability to come into relationship with the energy of love and receive it is related to one's wish. Most people just don't want to be loving, which is certainly the cardinal and original sin. If one looks around oneself one sees this quite quickly, which ought to be alarming — but we are by now numb to it. Readers who have an inkling of this and want to understand a bit more about the relationship between Gurdjieff's practice of the growth of essence (instead of false personality) and Swedenborg's comments about what happens to personality after we die need to read part two of Heaven and Hell, in which certain things about Gurdjieff's practice become very clear indeed relative to what takes place after death.
So why did Gurdjieff imply there are such limits to a substance so powerful and ubiquitous? It is a simple matter of human psychology. He wanted us to wish for God, to wish for love; and, like will and every other potentially conscious feature in mankind, we don't wish for it, because we think it is abundant. It is only if we perceive it as scarce and desirable that we strive for something — again, take a look around you, it is this way with humans in everything, so much so that the mechanism barely need be described. He deceived his pupils in this regard; but by doing so, he was doing them all a favor. Besides, anyone who truly attempted his work would eventually discover it was a lie, anyway, by which time it would not matter. I only tell you this because it's true and I know it's true. It can't change anything for you or anyone else, because one still has to develop the real wish and be willing to suffer, whether there is a lot of love, a little love, or even — as is pretty much the case right now — no love at all, relative to the "masses" of humanity.
Misunderstanding of this point, which arises strictly within the ego and asserts itself in a bogus form of superiority and elitism, leads people to strut about making impractically stupid remarks about it. I say, impractically, because through practice, anyone who receives love in a right way automatically knows there is no truth to such things; yet egoists love to boast about them. It makes them sound important and it makes them appear exclusive. One ought to be where of people who do such things, because without exception, people who want to sound important and appear exclusive think they are God.
Need we have a discussion about how grave an error this is?
I think not.
At the same time, it's distressingly true that it's pointless to share love with those who are unprepared to receive it; and it's distressingly true that almost no one alive today, with the rare exception of those who engage in serious inner work — and there are less of such people than one might think, to be sure — is interested in changing. Mr. Gurdjieff himself recognized this and acted accordingly, displaying quite intentional kindness to people who he knew had not a whit of interest in his work and would never undertake it. This is the best we can do for people who are satisfied with themselves as they are; and it is absolutely required that we still love them regardless. Many a spiritual toe is badly stubbed on this point.
I will have to address the second point in another post on Jan. 23.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.