One must attend much more carefully to this question of how life flows into Being in order to understand this properly. The action is fundamental and needs to be observed through the feeling and sensation of its nature, not by thinking of it. When we discuss the idea of self observation, it’s all too common to think about it – and to think that somehow I “see” by observing and then thinking about things, thinking about what I have seen and so on.
Yet the observation that takes place through feeling and sensation doesn’t use the thinking function (the intellectual function) to take in, sense, and understand. Each of these capacities, feeling and sensation, have their own unique intelligence in this regard. When Gurdjieff spoke about three-centered being, he was referring to this action of all three centers functioning in the observation of how life flows into Being. If this isn’t the first aim, then all the other aims are not anchored in objective perception.
I can dream up an endless variety of aims regarding my external life, and I do. Yet there is no dream involved in the receiving of life into Being. If there are dreams, they arise afterwards. When I attempt to draw life more deeply into Being, I’m always poised at the point where life and Being arise and come together, before my dreaming begins.
This organic perception of life flowing into Being is what Swedenborg called the inflow, and what Jeanne de Salzmann referred to as influences. The divine is born within every moment in personhood; the question is whether we participate within awareness and accept before anything else takes place, or whether we attempt to appropriate and own the process. The first alternative – participation — is the path to service; the second one is the path to selfishness. All creatures, whether they want to or not, automatically serve one path or the other.
Meister Eckhart brought this up in sermon 17, where he said, “the unjust man is the servant of truth, whether he likes it or not, and he serves the world and creatures, and is a bondman of sin.” What he means here is related to this idea of life flowing into Being. Truth — the fundamental action of life flowing into Being — is always there. There is no escaping it. It is what one serves within the context of that truth that matters. The more deeply that life flows into Being, the more harmonically aligned a human being becomes with truth.
To have life flow more deeply into Being means that life must go beyond the surface of things. Allegorically speaking, there are three different levels of intelligence within a human being, intellectual intelligence, the intelligence of sensation, and the intelligence of feeling. Gurdjieff lay this out in complex technical terms as described in PD Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous. ( What is commonly referred to as the food diagram.) Yet a simpler and more straightforward approach to this talks about how the most superficial way we can receive our life is through the intelligence of the intellect. Almost everything that human beings come up with in terms of their aim relates to the way this part functions; they think through this part and form aims. Sensation and feeling are like wild animals with little discipline. Yet they have a much greater capacity for receiving impressions of life more deeply; and if the parts function together in harmony, life flows much more deeply into Being, in such a way that it produces completely different sensations and even more different feelings that reveal objective truth that cannot be accessed within the field of our consciousness in any other way. One might say that they are part of the symphony of notes that, under the ordinary circumstances of awareness, cannot even be heard. The ordinary parts of awareness consider them to be undertones or overtones, subtle colorations, whereas they are in fact the most essential parts of the symphony, the character which gives it its essence.
This reminds me of another passage from Meister Eckhart, The Master’s Final Words, in which he reminds his pupils that God is found in the smallest things. In the same way, the most magnificent and extraordinary parts of life can be found in its tiniest aspects, because the character of the harmonic symphony of Being is such that all of its color and meaning is embodied in the so-called overtones and undertones, which cannot be heard, understood, or appreciated so long as the vibrations stop within the intellect. Life must flow deeply into being through an integrated harmonic relationship that brings these notes into the core of one’s essence, falling into a place of stillness that is virginal — untouched by all of the outer considerations.
This may seem difficult, I know. Yet without a lifelong, extended pondering of these particular questions, and many many efforts over many years to become more sensitive to the exact nature of inward Being and the inward flow of life and creation into the divine receptacle of Being, we cannot hope to understand how this functions.
I have not even mentioned grace, which is the assistance sent by God into Being to help it receive life. That is a complicated and essential subject as well; and not the subject of this particular discourse. Yet never forget it, because prayer and the hope of grace is overwhelmingly important in our effort to understand this question.
Remember, here, that I say we must draw our life more deeply into our Being. If one draws life into Being, it is an intentional rather than an accidental or passive action. This means that we must participate actively, that we must be like fishermen drawing the fish towards us. One needs to be present and wish; yet that presence must be selfless and that wish must be a wish without grasping. There’s a magnetic resonance one must learn to inhabit; and one must allow the energy of that magnetic resonance to help draw life into Being.
This is why it is so often said, in the Gurdjieff teaching, that we need to be present to a finer energy.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.