We had some close friends from the work over last night. In a wide-ranging discussion, we touched on several subjects I want to pass on.
My friend P. expressed his vision of the question of Christ from the point of view of the traditions and our own work. His observation was that the Jewish faith placed the arrival of the Messiah in an impossibly distant and essentially unreachable future; and the Christian faith places the Messiah in an impossibly distant and unreachable past. I agree with him; and I thought I'd expound upon that in a bit more detail.
God, and Christ — the two are not different – exist in eternity.
Eternity is a place outside of time; so even as we begin to conceptualize about the temporal "location" of Christ, we've already misconceived the situation. Christ is not subject to temporal constraints; the condition of God's existence is immediate, tangible, and pressing, not temporal, ephemeral, and without priority. Indeed, the question is of the utmost priority, since all other conditions flow from it.
P. reported a story told to him by Louise March about something which took place while she was working directly with Gurdjieff translating Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. They were working on the passage with Ashiata Shiemash. During the reading of the material, Gurdjieff very earnestly engaged with Louise, pressing her for an answer:
"You believe? You believe Ashiata Shiemash?"
Louise pondered the question for a few moments, taken aback, then answered him by saying, "Yes. I believe he was real."
"Not was," replied Gurdjieff sternly. "Will Be!"
This story, while unique unto itself, carries some echoes of the tale reported in Frank Sinclair's Without Benefit of Clergy, in which Gurdjieff exhorted his pupils to visualize Christ as an immediate presence.
One other note about last night. P. mentioned recent discussions about Gurdjieff's idea that one man, alone, can do nothing. This remark has always been taken in the context of work in groups, framed around the idea that we have to form these little groups and sit in circles with our hands primly folded in our laps; and that that somehow constitutes what inner work is.
Make no mistake about it; I will never doubt the value of working in groups. No matter how primly one folds one's hands in one's lap, no matter how erect one sits, and no matter how correctly one speaks, work in groups may still produce something of value. Yet I think the point about a man alone may be missed.
One man alone, of course, can do nothing.
But for one man with God as his companion, all things are possible.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.