Conduct and observance

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Thursday, June 7, 2007


In order for a human being to develop spiritually, it is said in the Gurdjieff system that he has to have an aim. That is, there has to be a direction, something that he knows he wishes to achieve. In the absence of aim, man mills about in many directions and achieves very little, although there may be a great deal of impressive activity.

In a sense, the entire chapter of Ecclesiastes in the Bible is about this. Solomon discusses the fact that he achieved an enormous amount in the external world in terms of acquiring power and riches, but determined in the end that all of it was vanity. He concludes with a lofty aim indeed, a single aim which must transcend all other aims: to worship God.

I think that an aim of a real sort takes an entire lifetime to achieve. Of course there can be intermittent aims, mileposts on the way to the overarching intention, but in the end, there has to be an overarching intention, a single unifying principle that gathers a man's life together and points it in one direction.

In undertaking this kind of directed effort, many men are successful in the external world. We see them: they become leaders in politics, law, business, entertainment. You can just about find them all by counting off all the professions and the most successful people in them.

The difficulty with this kind of aim is that when a man puts his aim outside himself, he can only achieve things in an outer sense. That is to say, his aim exists outside him, in the world, and it keeps drawing material out of him in order to serve it. In this way he has an effect on material existence, perhaps even a powerful one, but his inner state remains relatively unchanged.

People go through whole lifetimes like this and abruptly wake up at the end wondering just what the hell happened to them.

Now, the idea of work on spiritual matters is generally understood, it seems, to change man's psychology, but this is a misconception. The ultimate aim of an inner work is to physically change the inner state. In the process of this physical change, many other things happen, and of course the psychology of a man changes, but the physical changes must come first.

So in our esoteric investigation, a real aim begins with the understanding of physical change, and everything else follows.

Where is the difference between this and external aims? The materiality of the inner, not the outer, world is changed. Thus, we see truth: everything is material. It is simply a question of which materiality we choose to affect, inner or outer.

It's very tricky. Because the outer world and its attractions are so utterly compelling, every effort to understand things from an inner point of view gets co-opted by the outer. Forms- religions, icons, idols, images- replace real inner study, and our sleep- lack of awareness of the nature of correspondence between the inner and the outer- hypnotizes us until we absolutely believe that our investment in outer conditions is changing us.

The direction of aim must change, and be pointed inwards. Then the entire process is inverted and a man or woman begins to draw material into the sphere of their inner solar system, rather than having it drawn off and depleted by the inexorable force of larger proximate bodies. One begins to consume one's life and it all becomes a completely extraordinary kind of food.

My own studies have led me to a specific set of aims in regard to these questions. The formulation- which must remain flexible- changes from time to time. This week, I formulate them thus:

Open the flowers.
Empty the vessel.

For those who are interested in such activities: they are lifetime aims, "big" aims. That is, do not expect to "achieve" these aims; merely expect to be working on them. In addition, don't set goals for what will "happen" if there is progress in these areas; simply engage here because this is where engagement can be attempted.

As to why, "Why" can grow only from engagement.

May your trees bear fruit, and your wells yield water.

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