A person I know was recently commenting about how they had made an obvious mistake, a serious mistake, in their lives and realized right after they made it that they had made it because they were — as we say in this work — “asleep"; and that they saw that they wanted to be more aware, more conscious, because they wanted to avoid making mistakes.
This was the point of consciousness, in their mind — if they were conscious, they would make less of these mistakes, because they would know where they were and what they were doing.
It sounds like a pretty good theory. If we are conscious, after all, things ought to go better, right?
Things don't go better just because we’re conscious; presuming, that is, that we have any idea at all of what consciousness consists of, or how it affects us.
In reality, for the most part, we don't. Consciousness, on the ground floor (and a significant number of the upper stories) represents an awareness not of ourselves, but of God and his purposes. Real Consciousness inexorably draws us into deep religious impulses, feelings, and a willingness to suffer that has little to do with actual external events or the proper ordering of our ordinary lives; it's not a set of tools for us to fix everything external.
So I don't really know what it means to be conscious—at least, for the most part, I don't. And if I want to get a lesson from the canon of what consciousness can and can't do, I need to remember that in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, some of the highest being-bodies in the universe—archangels charged with orchestrating the movement of heavenly bodies—made horrible, horrible mistakes. Then higher cosmic individuals set to correct those mistakes made further mistakes.
We can reasonably presume, for the purposes of this argument, that the allegory is directly applicable: even the most conscious beings make mistakes externally. We know that this is, in fact, true, because Gurdjieff himself (we’ll credit him, for the sake of this discussion, with a degree of consciousness significantly above the average person) admitted that he had made mistakes. Things went wrong in his life. And so on.
The fact is that consciousness is not a tire patch to keep air from leaking out of our life situation. It’s an impulse towards a higher principal. That is the essential nature of consciousness. Presuming that it's going to fix the mistakes we make for the things we do wrong, that it's going to cure us of our ills, our sins, our weaknesses, is a mistake.
If we really acquire any additional consciousness of a legitimate kind, one thing and only is certain; it's going to make us suffer. No one wants to suffer; and so the minute any real consciousness appears on the landscape, all of one's ordinary being musters its forces, draws the wagons into a circle, and does everything it can to fight against it.
On another point related to this, this morning my wife pointed out that it's touching to hear so many people in spiritual works struggling with understanding how to speak, what to say.
I asked her if she understood what the root cause, the source, of this inability to speak to things was. She confessed she wasn't sure.
The root cause for our inability in these areas always begins with the fact that we do not have a connection to the higher energy and to our sensation.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.