In order to do any kind of inner work whatsoever, a human being must form an aim.
Aims can center around almost anything, and because at the beginning of our lives, almost everything in us is formed from thinking in the natural world, and impressions of the natural world, our aims almost always start out as natural aims — that is, we attempt to affect our lives, the things in them, the people around us, and so on.
Attachments of this kind are extraordinarily powerful and generally become quite permanent in people. They also disguise themselves quite readily, almost always posing as loftier things. Works such as Buddhism, which attempt to destroy egoism — actually the aim of most spiritual works — are an attempt to counteract this problem, as was Gurdjieff's magnum opus, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, which, as he said, he wrote
"To destroy, mercilessly and without any compromise whatever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world."
The reason that these beliefs and views need to be destroyed is because they are all formed from within the natural world, not the spiritual world; and in order for us to open, we need to remove this powerful obstacle to the inward flow of Divine Love.
Let me be very clear about the fact that until this obstacle is destroyed, what we always love first and before everything else is ourselves. That self-love obscures the inward flow of Divine Love in the same way that walls prevent sunlight from entering a room.
As I said in the last post, Emmanuel Swedenborg, in True Christianity, said the following:
The will in us is a vessel for love and becomes its dwelling place.
There's no doubt that human beings use what they think is will to do this, that, or the other thing in the natural world. Our attachments make it so. Yet the point of becoming unattached, or non-identified, with the world is so that will can then re-attach itself to an aim of Love, and become a vessel to receive it.
Until this takes place materially within a human being it's impossible for them to have any definite or correct understanding of how substantial Divine Love is, and how materially it acts within a human being. More often than not, before adepts form a strong enough magnetism for Love in themselves, they get glimpses of its action and are enraptured in one way or another. I remember going through this myself many years ago, and I was always convinced I understood something real.
It took decades to get over that.
The practical and permanent effects that the material receiving of Divine Love can create are at this stage unclear; and everyone underestimates the great struggle that takes place once Love begins to materially enter the vessel in greater amounts. At this point, a powerful opposition to it arises from lower and objectively evil levels. There are many forces, largely unspoken of in the Gurdjieff work, that directly oppose the receiving of Divine Love and will do everything they can to stop it. They have little work to do for as long as a human being is unconscious and has not devoted themselves in an inward sense to God; they mostly own people of this kind, and that describes most of us. But once one takes even the smallest step towards consciousness, these forces become much more active and one must develop more and more will, receiving more and more love, in order to form a counterweight.
Becoming open involves offering oneself as a proving ground in the struggle between heaven and hell; and at that point, one is constantly required to choose in favor of heaven. This becomes easier over time, because Divine Love powerfully supports such choice; but its adversaries are unyielding creatures.
Coming back to the idea of aim, we must form spiritual aim, that is, our aim must be entirely turned towards God, in the direction of Divine Love. One's entire Being must be turned towards this in a practical, substantial, and material manner.
To be open, to be conscious, means to receive Divine Love. This is what one needs will for. Nothing else.
To understand this in any other way will bring dubious results.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.