There's a particular relationship between impressions and sensation that needs to be expounded on. Gurdjieff said to Ouspensky that in order for impressions to be properly transformed into what he called “higher hydrogens,” that is, substances that can feed the higher spiritual bodies, (coat the higher being-body parts) the attention of self-remembering needs to be brought to the place where sensations enter. ( see chapter 9, p. 188, of In Search of the Miraculous.)
Ouspensky, who never fully understood this point of work, nonetheless had glimpses of it:
Later, when I began to learn to divide attention, I saw that self-remembering gave wonderful sensations which, in a natural way, that is, by themselves, come to us only very seldom and in exceptional conditions. (ISOTM, p. 120.)
But the point here is there is no real, durable, or permanent self remembering without the voluntary participation of sensation. I speak here not of the sensation which is invoked, whereby “I” actively work to sense myself (an effort by the mind to sense the body) but the effort whereby the body works to sense the mind. This involves a union of the two centers which alone makes real self remembering possible. All other efforts are just preparation for this type of self remembering, which is based in sensation and its contribution to the effort.
Only when this type of sensing takes place can the emotions find the place and come in to help the work in the way that is necessary so that the transformation of impressions into higher hydrogens can proceed.
This is why I say that one must not just take one's inner work seriously; one must take it organically. There is a need to awaken the capacities of the organism. It has to become interested in a work in the same way that the mind is interested.
Exercises to shut down the mind (meditation, for example) are only of just so much use in developing this capacity. Something fundamental must change within Being for the permanent sensation of Being to evolve. The entire book The Reality of Being is essentially about preparatory work for this change. It takes many years; and even after that, it takes many years more to acquire what is needed for further work.
Any ideas that one “understands" how to work, or what self remembering is, in the absence of this fundamental understanding of the permanent sensation of Being — the organic sensation of Being — are just dreaming, and need to be put completely aside. Up until this faculty develops, everything is just preparation, no matter how intense it is.
My own teachers understood this well and warned me about it long before I understood the question properly. Then again, I worked in a group where the exact and uncompromising aim of the leaders was very specifically pointed towards this understanding, because they already understood it, and they understood it as fundamental. That is, they understood that nothing whatsoever which was real—durable—could take place within anyone until this particular aim was achieved. The effectiveness of their work of many decades concerning this matter was such that those who stayed in the group all achieved this understanding, almost without exception, to one degree or another (for there are degrees); and all of the surviving original group members are still in unison on this point, remarkably so. This all took place, of course, during the years when Jeanne de Salzmann was still alive, providing a different center of gravity than exists today.
Imagination about the process of preparation itself often leads to an excessive reliance on an intellectual interpretation of the process, which leads to lots of theoretical analysis, intellectual argument and discussion, and, generally speaking, an emotional severity that has no place in real inner work. This emotional severity arises because of the wrong work of centers, which become quite frustrated when work takes place in this way. An increasing reliance on misplaced understandings of discipline, order, and hierarchy results.
The majority of people who achieve something in inner work fall victim to this in one way or another. It's easy to see who they are. What is certain is that those who develop properly always work with compassion and love, not distance, dismissiveness, and misplaced intensity. A person who is working in the right way creates a measured, positive, loving, and open atmosphere around them. Above all, perhaps, the intellect takes its right place, not shut down or shut off, but fully participating with clarity and insight.
The need for balanced development is paramount. Things can go wrong even if one develops the organic sensation of Being; relying too much on any one center for one's work creates a weakness. We need to engage in a daily and nearly perpetual discipline of self examination within the context of three centered work to remain sensitive to what parts need more support. If a successful connection between the mind and the body is achieved, it generally turns out that the emotional part needs a great deal of work in order to find its place within the context.
Once it begins to participate in the right way, one begins to understand what intentional suffering consists of. This is voluntary suffering, that is, inward suffering that offers itself as a sacrifice — not the suffering connected with outward life, which is a different thing.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.