I think this is worthy of some further examination. Once we adopt an external form, membership in an organization of any kind, it becomes a vehicle for our aspirations. Unfortunately, the aspirations end up becoming a part of the vehicle, instead of a part of ourselves.
We have a divine intelligence and intuition that is emanated into us through the action of life itself. Our very Being and all that we live and breathe is created by this; the divine is manifested through the action of life in every circumstance. Yet instead of understanding that the results of relationship are our direct responsibility, and that every action we take affects that, there’s this odd belief — which everyone is, in varying degrees, a victim of — that the institutions we become members of have an intelligence that automatically renders our ideas effective, and embodies our behavior.
This is never the case; it is always we ourselves who are responsible for the way the institutions function. Not the ideas that create them. It reminds me of situations I have found myself in many times during my professional career, where the owners of small private companies personally fail to take steps that meet the needs of their business, and then get angry and blame all their employees when things go wrong. They never stop to think that the institution — their business — is their responsibility, and that if things go wrong, it begins with their own personal actions, not the rest of the institution.
If we personally fail to directly, intelligently, and compassionately exercise the manifestation of the divine intelligence which we are responsible for embodying, and the outer results — the results of the institutions — are then failures in one way or another, it is not the failure of the institution. Everyone who is a member personally owns the failure. And until each member of an institution or society becomes personally responsible for their action inwardly, everything remains impossible.
When Gurdjieff was preparing material on his chapter about Ashiata Shiemash in Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, he pondered this question at great length. Understanding that Faith, Hope, and Love had all been tried as a means of saving mankind, and that more drastic steps were necessary, he recognized that only the awakening of conscience — which alone survived in humanity as a vestigial organ of the Divine — would still be able to do the job. And he furthermore realized that mankind would need to have a completely different set of institutions (structures of existence) in order to awaken that conscience. The structures needed to be reconfigured so that conscience is awakened automatically.
Yet where is our individual conscience today? What is our relationship to it? How doe we use our time, and honor both ourselves and others?
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.