Saturday, December 24, 2016

The inner teaching

Christ Pantocrator
Travel icon by Chantal Heinegg
Collection of the author

In order to understand Gurdjieff's teaching, it's actually necessary to look past all of the outer aspects of the teaching, and everything he said, including the stories about him, the various often absurd or impossible details he told about himself— the mythologies his followers created— and the structural form he presented.

There is an inner teaching. It is a secret teaching and it is hidden in all possible ways from the outer teaching, because if it were touched by the outside world—the elaborate embroideries and tapestries that hang around it—it would be ruined. 

This aspect of the teaching, the sacred inner aspect, cannot be revealed in words or explained with theories. It's necessary, of course, to work to understand the window dressing — the external aspects — because that serves as a preparation. But to mistake the preparation for the meal would be a great mistake.

 An intelligent cook, a creative cook, spends a great deal of time gathering ingredients. The cook has to use her discrimination to make sure each of the ingredients is of fine quality, and has a potential; and then she has to take from what is available, understanding that some things are in season, others are not, and that the meal she ends up preparing will have to be prepared in the moment and from the ingredients that are available — not according to the recipe or the plan. 

The world is, after all, unpredictable and although a wonderful meal can be prepared, it must be prepared from what is possible.

In the end, after all the preparation, if the cook is sensitive, intelligent, successful, and loves cooking, a meal will emerge from her kitchen which is nourishing and has all of the best possible qualities. But that meal is on the order of a miracle when it emerges; the ingredients could not have predicted it, and none of the ingredients can possibly help anyone anticipate what it is like to eat the meal.

Don't be like the cook who sits around gathering and analyzing recipes and ingredients and thinks they are the same as the meal! 

 Remember that there is a holy feast being prepared; and that one is invited, in the end, to participate in the sacrament (sacred mystery) of the body and blood, not in some worldly meal prepared from the ordinary objects, events, circumstances, and conditions that surround us. 

The meal that Mr. Gurdjieff wants us to eat has nothing to do with those things, but comes from a completely different kitchen than the one we think we are in.  It is a meal filled with astonishment and garnished with mercy.

All of the teaching, the inner teaching, surrounds this passage in the Bible:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 

This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 

On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

—Matthew 22:37-40

This is the heart and the soul of Mr. Gurdjieff's work; and this is why he called it esoteric Christianity.

 Remember, then, on this day, that spiritual things can only be discerned by spiritual means; and go forth in search of the light.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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