Lee van Laer 2016
April 7, India
Here in one of the principal countries of my many lives, I've been prompted to contemplate the nature of inward and outward suffering, which I fear isn't very well understood; this by way of adepts under the influence of personal Graces which even they themselves often can't see. Old souls often shine, in a given lifetime, past the limits of their own vision; and through Grace one is sometimes a beneficiary of such light. I know one such individual here, and her presence has been very feeding during this trip.
It's easy to talk about suffering; much more difficult to understand it, and even yet more difficult still to understand it organically, which is actually the principal aim of the Gurdjieff work. One can adopt countless aims on the way to this point of work, but for those who work, if the question is properly understood, there is no other valid inner destination.
In order to undertake such inner work it might perhaps be best to forget everything one knows, or ever thought one knew, about suffering, because it is not really useful in understanding what it means from a spiritual point of view. It is not at all what the mind can think of, because it is a fully three centered activity, absolutely reinforced by the higher centers.
Without their participation it remains ordinary.
Gurdjieff understood such suffering in a different and more radical and fundamental way than any other recent teacher, and even those who study his ideas have, for the most part, a theoretical or general idea of what he meant by the term or the practice. Outside the Gurdjieff work the term is even less understood, to the point where in many works folk pointedly think the aim of inner work is (ultimately) to NOT suffer.
Inward suffering needs first to become organic; then spiritual. In order to become organic, a foundation of sensation needs to be created. This organic sensation—which is acquired, as Gurdjieff explained, by the coating of inner parts (a physical alchemy of cellular and molecular transformation)—lays the basis for the receiving of other higher substances, all sent through Grace. All of this work can be prepared for by personal effort; but none of it can be initiated or continued without Grace, which is why both Gurdjieff and de Salzmann reminded pupils that help has to be called for.
All preparation, in fact, consists of calls for help of one kind or another, although it may not look that way to the uninitiated. Movements, prayer, and self observation; all issue subtle calls to the the astral presences able to transmit Grace, and (one hopes) we eventually attract their attention.
One moves through the realm of sensation by way of the deeper absorption of impressions, which lead to a foundation able to receive higher substances. Those substances may bring periods of bliss; but the entire aim of coating being-parts with such substances is to increase the organism's ability to experience conscience and remorse of conscience—that is, to take on even more inward suffering.
Over time, such inward suffering comprehensively limits the action of ego and prepares the ground for actual experiences of organic compassion. We're not done yet, because this form of compassion brings the capacity for even more suffering; and it is in these places that the action of higher centers begins to touch us.
Most folk I know generally understand this idea of suffering as a bad thing; right away, when I attempt to explain suffering, they start to try and argue it away in one way or another, under the assumption that to suffer is painful.
Yet this is to understand the question from the point of view of egoistic suffering, which is the suffering we generally understand in ordinary life. That's painful, all right; and one cannot be blamed; there is, after all, no other point of reference under ordinary conditions.
Yet the suffering I speak of is what one might call anti-egoistic suffering, since it consists entirely of doing precisely what Gurdjieff spoke of when he said we must take on a portion of the suffering of His Endlessness, that is, God.
It's our sacred Being-duty to perpetually perform this task, regardless of external circumstances or needs. It is, in fact, a great reward and privilege which one learns to earnestly seek once one has had the taste.
Suffering of this kind is the sweetest food ever eaten; manna from heaven, and Grace to undertake it.
Lee van Laer is a senior editor at Parabola Magazine.