Tuesday, January 10, 2017

a center that works by itself

Madonna Standing in an Arch
Maestro de La Madonna André, c. 1500

Combined 3 centered work is impossible until each center has been taught to work by itself.

—From notes of a meeting with Gurdjieff, Jan. 25, 1923

What does this mean, for a center to “work by itself?”

In order to understand what this means, we need to understand the difference between voluntary and intentional work. Mme. Salzmann speaks of a voluntary sensation; Gurdjieff speaks of both voluntary suffering and intentional suffering.

I have explained this before, but I think the concept needs perhaps to be explained more exactly. 

First of all, Gurdjieff didn’t mean ordinary work when he used the word work. When a center is working, in the sense that he used this term, it has acquired two faculties which it does not have under ordinary automatic—that is, mechanical— conditions. These are the faculty of understanding— that is, an intelligence that is active, and wish, that is, a desire to work, to engage in a spiritualized activity. 

We can attempt to understand the terms understanding and wish more precisely in the sense of infusion. 

The centers have become infused with these two qualities, understanding — which corresponds to Swedenborg’s Divine Wisdom — and wish, which corresponds to Swedenborg’s Divine Love. We can call it understanding and wish, or we can call it wisdom and love — both are correct.

The infusion of any center— intellect, body, or emotion — with these divine qualities, which result from the inward flow of the divine as a manifestation of God, that is, a more conscious intelligence — awakens the center so it can work by itself. 

It cares about working.

So when a center understands how to work by itself, it means that the center works under its own volition — that its own intelligence brings it to the work effort. Under these conditions, the center participates voluntarily, that is, under the energy of its own effort, in the action of Being. When Jeanne Salzmann describes a voluntary sensation in The Reality of Being, she is indicating a condition whereby sensation acts within its own intelligence and appears within the experience of Being.

Feeling center is capable of exactly the same kind of awakening and voluntary action.

Yet such voluntary action is not yet enough. What it represents is that the center in question has learned to work by itself; and what is ultimately necessary is for the centers to work together

True, through voluntary action, much becomes possible; but it’s only when intentional work — intentional sensation (= conscious labor), intentional suffering — begin that anything more definite can be sensed. This is the point where real aim finally enters one's inner work.

It’s quite important to understand these questions directly and through experience. One needs to make an intelligible effort to become open to the inward flow of divine love and divine wisdom in order for them to inwardly form a capacity in sensation and feeling. In this context, Swedenborg’s teachings form an important and perhaps even essential adjunct if one wants to understand Gurdjieff’s teaching from a cosmologically broader point of view.


Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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