Religion and the Arts, Gurdjieff Edition (Part 2)

The second article in this edition happens to be my article: “The Readiness Is All: Gurdjieff’s Art of the Preparation”, the title being taken from Hamlet.

It deals with Gurdjieff’s “preparation”, the absolute basis of all the inner work he brought. I shall not repeat what is in the article. For this blog, I think it would be more useful to take the article one step further.

That step is this: in the collected state, which is (from one perspective, the aim of the preparation), one can work in two directions, upwards and downwards.

First of all, the aim of the preparation can be put in other ways. For example, one can correctly say that in the preparation we aim to ingest and assimilate higher hydrogens; or one can say that the aim is to stop thought. The different formulations are almost limitless.


Next, when I speak of working in two directions, upwards and downwards, I mean that the work, to achieve what it can, must both produce in us a higher state, and educate the lower state.

Let us take a concrete example: I am plagued by a choleric temperament. It is not always there, but too often, it is. When I am in a collected state, and present to the workings of the formatory apparatus (the moving part of the intellect), that tendency to bad temper is entirely passive. I cannot be made angry. This is why one can speak of a higher and a lower mind. It is true that the formatory part is lower in that it is further from the highest levels of the universe, that is, it is more distant from God. But it is also true that the lower mind is not evil, or even bad. It has a legitimate and indeed essential role to play. Life on earth would be impossible for us without it. The problem is that we spend too much time in that lower mind, and remain trapped within it when higher mind is needed. 

There are many ways to come to higher mind. And when I am placed, or abiding (it is hard to find the right word) in higher mind, then my choleric temperament is passive. That is what I call working upwards.

 But a work downwards is also necessary. Mr Adie used to call this the “education of personality”. I need to change the machine so that it is no longer of a choleric temperament. The machine will always be a machine. But it does not have to be such a machine as what it is now. It can change so that, as he said, I lose my temper less frequently, am more calm more often, and if I give offence I am quicker to take it back. He said to me once that a certain person, having in a fit of anger said that, it was now good that when he was more collected, he would say this.

 That is the education of personality. It is most effective when it takes placed in infancy and childhood through the good example of parents, siblings, family, friends and even strangers. That goes some considerable way to explaining why some people are naturally even-tempered. It is their good fortune. It would be wrong to envy them. But we can and should take them as role models, and inspired by them, educate personality.

 How do I educate personality? Gurdjieff outlined a very simple method: active mentation. “Simple” does not mean “easy”. The work is too simple for it to be easy. To achieve a oneness of focus is extremely difficult, yet it is the essence of simplicity. And probably the clearest and deepest example he gave of active mentation is in The First Series, where he he advised Hassein to look upon the sunrise each morning. However, it is mentioned elsewhere. The thing is to look for it and make what he said your own.

The point I am trying to make here is that both types of work, the work upwards and the work downwards are really one: it is only when I am collected that I can undertake the education of personality with any significant chance of success.

 Each type of work must be attempted by itself, and in doing so, they will be attempted together. But the more one understands what one is about, and why, the more the two will come together. It is a law. This law operate so that each effort to come to myself calls me to the education of personality, and each observation of my personality calls me to the higher, free from thought state.

That state is almost endless: it calls me to be present with three impulses (thought, feeling and sensation) and even more, for a fourth factor must be present to be simultaneously conscious of these three basic functions. The ordinary mind and even the higher parts of the intellect cannot do it: it needs higher emotional centre. And even then, more may be possible.

Joseph Azize, 9 May 2017

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