Man is symbol of Laws of Creation; in him there is evolution, involution, struggle,
progress, and retrogression. Struggle between positive and negative, active and passive, yes and no, good and evil. Each struggle between yes and no creates a something which (depends) on something further. Without struggle, no progress and no result. Every breaking of habit produces a change in the machine. Piece all lectures, etc., together; if no paste nothing will stick.
— Lecture given by Gurdjieff about March 2, 1923
This brief quote is interesting when considered in light of perspectives that attempt to make everything relative, claiming there is no good and no evil, and asserting that there are no results, etc.
People love to pretend they grasp such matters because it makes them feel more important about themselves and what they think they know. I’ve run into any number of theoreticians and metaphysical “experts”, for example, who think there's no such thing as evil. If they were raped or murdered—or, God forbid, their children were—they would immediately form different opinions.
It’s easy to dismiss the types of struggles Gurdjieff speaks of if one hasn’t had personal encounters with them — and most people spend most of their lives worshiping the "evil inner God of self calming,” author included. We don't want to struggle; and yet we have to be shattered if we want anything new to happen in us.
Well then. I don’t intend to embark on a longer soliloquy about this opening quote. I just thought it interesting. Let’s forget about the metaphysical arguments for a little while.
How are you inside yourself now? Stop for a minute and just take a look, attempting to come into relationship with the organic presence of Being.
By this I don’t just mean feeling the weight of your rear end on the chair, or the sensation of one foot.
I mean the entire sensation of life and Being as it arises.
Where is that now?
Where does it come from?
Why is it here?
Is it going somewhere?
If so, where?
There ought to be an essential satisfaction in the act of Being; yet even in the midst of an organic manifestation which has a solid center of gravity, sometimes, satisfaction escapes Being. It is a slippery thing; and it only arises in direct proportion to what is received and digested.
This matter ought to be carefully studied, because the study itself helps the food of impressions to be received, properly absorbed, and digested.
These three actions are different actions and need to be understood as different from one another.
To receive impressions is an intellectual exercise, that is, they are filtered through thinking center. They either take on the color of thinking, according to past associations and what is (mostly, mind you, accidentally) present in thought as they arrive—or, they move through thought more transparently and can fall more deeply into the body. This requires a greater transparency of thought, which means that our fixation on our psychology needs to relax and dilate in order for impressions to enter without interference.
To absorb impressions is physical — they move to the center of gravity of Being (if they're of sufficient quality, and taken in with an appropriate attention) and penetrate into the cellular material and, most particularly, the marrow — which is not just a marrow of the bones, because every cell has its own marrow within its nucleus, just as the bones have a marrow composed of cells. (You may not know it, but cells have complex cytoskeletons in exactly the same way that our bodies do.)
To digest impressions is emotional. This takes longer than receiving or absorption, because many complicated things need to take place with impressions once they enter the body. At the finest level, all impressions involve the adjustment of trillions of molecular arrangements in order to be absorbed and integrated into Being; the so-called “conscious” mind is absolutely incapable of any such work, but the “subconscious” mind — which includes all of the “buried” intellectual capacities of the body and the emotions — is not only fully capable of such work, it was specifically designed for it.This is one of the reasons (there are more) that Gurdjieff said the subconscious mind should more properly be considered as man’s true mind.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.