Winter workshops by Alan FrancisJanuary-February, 2018
The practice of Self-observation and Self-remembering form the two main pillars of the Gurdjieff Work.
Self-observation is the fundamental medium of self-study. If correctly applied, self-observation begins to reveal our inner and outer situation: our two opposing natures, lack of attention, mechanicity, the disassociation of our natural functions and capacities, and why everything in our lives, simply “happens”.
For self-observation to be of greater value it is helpful to acquire some theoretical knowledge of the functions, essential organs and linkages of the human machine. For example, in Gurdjieff’s preliminary explanation of the human organism he tells us that we have three centers; thinking, feeling and moving. If we observe, it is possible to verify this idea and to determine what associations and impulses arise or affect each center.
According to Gurdjieff, genuine remembrance of oneself or the awareness of one’s genuine being and mechanical existence is the principal process which permeates the entire practice of the Work and is endowed with an awakening force.
Self-remembrance means the same thing as the becoming aware of oneself, – “I am”. Gurdjieff indicated that this does not presume either psychic functions or thought or feeling; it is a special state of a partial yet ongoing transformation of consciousness.
A characteristic feature of self-remembrance is shared or divided attention, directed at both the object of perception and at oneself.
There remains the important question of how to remember oneself, how to bring oneself towards greater consciousness. The first step towards achieving this is in the comprehension of the fact that we are in essence unconscious, asleep and to fully acknowledgement this fact. If the inner sense and realization of the fact that we do not remember ourselves becomes continuous, then we may acquire the chance to remember ourselves.
We begin to approach self-remembering with the aid of the intellect. However, in reality this phenomenon is not an intellectual effort on the lower levels, it appears due to attention to sensation and feeling and thought a combination of the will and constant effort, which can result in moments of self-awareness occurring more frequently and becoming more intensive. “For self-remembering to be more complete a very high level of emotional energy is necessary” P.D. Ouspensky wrote.
The result of self-remembrance is the awareness of one’s awakened consciousness, and in time, one’s permanent “I”.
The Holy Equation is a practice of invocation, called by Gurdjieff the Holy Affirming Prayer.
Gurdjieff believed that this is one of the universal prayers given to human beings. connected to the Law of Three, Denial exists in any situations in life. The meaning of Affirmation leads to the necessity of making a conscious spiritual effort, connected with accepting and overcoming Denial comes in the form of personal inertia or sleep.. The Holy Reconciliation must be apprehended not only in an abstract way, but must also find its expression as a force coming down into one’s innermost state.
According to Gurdjieff, the realization of the Law of Three in the human being can be formulated this way: “The higher blends with the lower to actualize the middle, which becomes lower for the next higher or higher for the previous lower.”
Gurdjieff believed that the tension which inevitably arises between the awakened part of consciousness and its unawakened aspects could be and should be made use of. The human being striving towards awakening must attempt to use any possible means for the work, including the entire spectrum of sufferings, from the physical to the mental, whereas the sleeping human being suffers blindly and hopelessly, that is unconsciously.
A proper understanding and application of this method may lead toward a transformation of energies and change of being.
On one of his talks Gurdjieff stated: “One needs fire. Without fire, there will never be anything. This fire is suffering, voluntary suffering, without which it is impossible to create anything. One must prepare, must know what will make one suffer and when it is there, make use of it.”
Conscious Labor - witnessed persistent efforts - intelligently approached, assessed and improved on an ongoing basis - efforts that build will, overcome laziness and connect inner and outer worlds. These efforts must contribute to a thorough and minute self-study as we observe changes in inner states and I's we begin to see both mechanical and conscious forces interacting within us under cosmic laws. Conscious efforts are the first steps in turning away from self-calming.
Each human being who comes to the tradition of the “Fourth Way” must either possess or create his personal aim.. Genuine progress is unfathomable without aim and without an underlying objective. In striving towards borrowed aims we risk self-deception. A general work aim provides strength for work but cannot replace individual aims that must be connected with it.
To cultivate and support in oneself the Five Being Obligolnian Strivings is one of the Being Partkdolg Duties of human beings who wish to continue in the Work. Gurdjieff ascribed the authorship of these formulations to Ashiata Shiemash:
First Striving: “To have in one’s ordinary being-existence everything satisfying and really necessary for one’s planetary body.”
Second Striving: “To have a constant and unflagging instinctive need for self-perfection in the sense of being.”
Third Striving: “The conscious striving to know ever more and more, concerning the laws of World-creation and World-maintenance.”
Fourth Striving: “The striving from the beginning of their existence to pay for their arising and their individuality as quickly possible, in order afterwards to be free to lighten as much as possible the Sorrow of our Common Father.”
Fifth Striving: “The striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred Martfotai, that is, up to the degree of self-individuality.”
In one of his talks from 1923 Gurdjieff stated: “Movements which are regarded as part of the Work can be divided into the following categories: – those in which the special peculiarities of the human being are taken into account, moreover, both those which exist presently and those which may but appear, in all possibility; – when breath participates in movement; – when thought participates in movement; – when the antiquated, constant, unchangeable elements of a human being participate in the movement. Only if the movements are connected with these points that I have enumerated, they could become useful in ordinary, daily life”.
Gurdjieff, possessing a remarkable talent in this sphere, utilized many methods including with an extraordinary intensity the movements created by him, which were performed to the music which he and Thomas de Hartmann composed. During the course of the work with movements under the guidance of Gurdjieff, it was possible to acquire skills of concentration and prayer, in addition to the general information about the specific characteristics of one’s own “human machine”.