Monday, January 1, 2018

On what we value, part V—the difficult actions of the soul

Do not forget that Gurdjieff said, in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, that existence in the universe must, in the end, be nothing but suffering. Our search for value must be tied to this action; indeed, it means nothing without it, and of course the Buddhists know how essential the question of suffering is to the action of spiritual search. This question is central to all real religious traditions regardless of their age or origin.

The action of the sorrow as a universal “active representative of God” that is collected and concentrated along with the concentration of consciousness as an action that leads to the distillation and purification of that consciousness as it absorbs, without exception, all of the impressions and encounters. This is a terribly difficult activity; the conscious soul is not excused under any circumstances from encountering all of the consequences of creation, including the ones that appear to be negative or evil. It has to free itself from subjective (personal) experiences and interpretations related to this and attempt to understand it in the larger context which Sri Anirvan explains to us. In doing so, it must employ the feeling faculty, which is the most sensitive part of a human being; and that faculty, which provides a connection to astral forces (read The Sixth Sense) comes into its full operation at the note La on the Enneagram, that is, the point at which purification takes place. This is associated with the throat in the chakra system; and it is, logically enough, related to purification because the representative of God (the particles of sorrow) are what allows God to speak. That is what a representative does: it carries a message from what it represents and presents it: it stands in the place of what it represents and speaks for.

In this sense, then, when we speak about listening in all inner works what we are listening to, in the end, is the voice of this sorrow the way that it expresses itself. It offers us an opportunity for emotional purification through its action, if we listen. Listening involves being willing to take on the suffering in a conscious way — Gurdjieff’s “intentional suffering.” While I haven’t written many things about this over the years, this is probably the most comprehensive overview on the subject, because it ties so many of the questions together — and, of course, centers around a valuation of being that begins in God and not in myself.

The most difficult action of the soul, however, isn’t in absorbing the emanations of the sorrow of His Endlessness; and it isn’t taking in the often horrifying impressions of the terrible violence that we do to one another on this planet, or the results of accidental catastrophes such as tsunamis or storms. The most difficult action for every soul is to stop its mechanical action of egoistically locating its sense of value in itself. I use the word difficult because the soul has to give up so much in order to turn its sense of value inside out.

Swedenborg argued that the line between selfishness and unselfishness demarcated the boundary between heaven and hell; and everything in Gurdjieff’s teaching about recognizing one’s own nothingness also turns on this point, if it is understood. In a certain way a soul has to give itself up to discover the real value of life, which lies in God. It is a soul sacrifice; but it is not a sacrifice to the devil. Instead it is a sacrifice to God. The irony here is that the whole action of the soul under ordinary circumstances is already the sacrifice to the devil that everyone fears so much in Christianity and other religions.
 I’ll wrap this lengthy discourse up with a practical example. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and was plagued, at once, by selfish automatic thoughts about a situation I am currently in in which I thought I should get something. Thoughts of this kind our persistent in all of us. Yet at the same time, as is so often the case in the middle of the night, the organic presence of the Lord was active; and I had to keep turning my attention back to her relationship with that, because that was the priority: to rediscover and really concentrate the relationship with God, which consisted of directly suffering my incarnation and mortality. The part in me which wished to yet and to have from life, and that felt the situation I was contemplating was somehow unfair, had to be dialed all the way down to zero; and it is like this with everything I want for myself. In the ordinary action of life, it is acceptable want for oneself up to a certain point; but no more. And the relationship with God must absolutely come first. It has to be inserted as the postulate, before my opinions and cravings.

The situation reminds me of Gurdjieff’s adage that a man should make as much money as he can, but only with his left leg.


My new book is now available in paperback, and as a PDF.  While the book, in its first half, discusses Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson at considerable length, it also looks at the nature of the universe in some depth from a cosmological point of view in the second half, The Information of the Soul.

For the text of the introduction, see the PDF link.

Novel, Myth and Cosmos at Amazon (paperback)

PDF file for digital devices cab be ordered at:

Novel, Myth and Cosmos PDF format

An iTunes bookstore version will be available soon.

Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.

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