Today we will be talking about the four paths to immortality. This is a teaching that is actually out of Gurdjieff. If you are not familiar with Gurdjieff, he was a mystic and a very popular esoteric teacher early on in the 1900s to the mid 1900s. He became really popular in Russia and had a lot of students there, and then kind of moved around the world and was able to set up different esoteric schools in different places.
But this teaching is also in the Gnostic teachings. So, I thought it would be helpful for us to get the basics and really understand where the Gnostic tradition fits into a variety of spiritual paths. We are going to learn that the Gnostic path is actually the fourth of these paths that we are going to talk about today.
Our Purpose for Studying
It is important for us to think about how this relates to us. So, I want you to remember why you are here, not just here studying Gnostic teachings, but why did you get interested in spirituality in the first place?
Maybe years ago, you had a longing, something that is not necessarily rational, but you knew that there must be something more or you felt curious about these things. So I want you to remember that because the motivation is really important to keep you centered.
If you are thinking about going on a path, you are going on a long journey, you are going to encounter some obstacles and difficulties. So it is essential that you always remember why you are on that path. What is the point? What is your motivation for being there? If you can't think of your motivation, how are you going to make it all the way to the end?
Another thing that is important for us to remember is “What is the goal of our spiritual work?” because if you do not even know the destination of what you are trying to get to, we’ll then again you might get easily lost on your journey.
We talked about it for a few weeks: “What are the goals of our spiritual work? What are we really hoping to achieve by coming to this type of group or studying teachings or doing practices? What is the outcome we are really looking for?”
Here in the Gnostic tradition, the purpose of spirituality is for us to experience and know divinity, to understand ourselves in deep ways, and to be freed from suffering. If you keep that in mind when you are encountering difficulties and other things come into your life, then it can keep you motivated to get all the way to the end.
The Spiritual Paths
So the spiritual paths… this is what Gurdjieff has to say about them:
It is necessary clearly to understand the idea that the ways (the spiritual paths) are the only possible methods for the development of man's hidden possibilities. This in turn shows how difficult and rare such development is. The development of these possibilities is not a law. The law for man is existence in the circle of mechanical influences, the state of 'man-machine.' The way of the development of hidden possibilities is a way against nature… ―G. I. Gurdjieff, as quoted in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous
What he is pointing out here is that we are not all going to become magically enlightened just by going along with the flow, that we need ways. We need spiritual paths. We need specific methods by which we can develop all of the capacities of the human being and can develop our soul. To be able to do that actually is to go against nature, because nature works towards nature's ends. Nature does not work for us to become the highest form of human being that we are able to do. This is the same sentiment that we have in the Gnostic tradition as well.
He calls them the four paths of immortality. So what does immortality mean? It has that root there: mort, which means “death,” and mortal, which means “to be subject to death.” Gurdijeff says elsewhere that if there is anything in a man able to resist external forces, then this very thing itself may also be able to resist the death of the physical body.
So we are trying to consider, what is something that is within us that can resist external forces? I think we have circumstances in our life where people are really rude to us, or where life gets really difficult, but there might be some piece of us that is able to resist those external forces, that is able to struggle, to rise above them, to perform feats that seem, in a relative sense, a bit miraculous, that we were able to overcome all odds. Gurdjieff is saying that if we are cultivating that part of us that is able to resist those external forces, then that is the part of us that may be able to resist our physical death.
So let's hear exactly what he says about immortality:
Immortality is one of the qualities we ascribe to people without having a sufficient understanding of their meaning [...] Only the man who possesses four fully developed bodies can be called a 'man' in the full sense of the word. This man possesses many properties which ordinary man does not possess. One of these properties is immortality. All religions and all ancient teachings contain the idea that, by acquiring the fourth body [which is the soul], man acquires immortality; and they all contain indications of the ways to acquire the fourth body, that is, immortality. ―G. I. Gurdjieff, as quoted in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous
What I want to point out here is that he talking about four fully developed bodies. We might consider the bodies that we have right now are not fully developed. He also says that we need to acquire the fourth body, the soul. This would mean that what we have now is not a fully developed soul, but something that needs to be worked on, and that there are ways in which we can acquire it.
What are these four bodies he is talking about? This graphic comes from the Gnostic tradition. It is actually the bottom half of the kabbalistic Tree of Life. I thought it would be a good diagram to show you exactly what he is referencing here.
This first sphere here on the bottom is Malkuth, and this relates to our physical body. This is the organic matter all of us can touch and feel. It is the most dense body. All of us should be pretty familiar with what our physical body is, right?
But this is very intimately linked with the vital body. The vital body is an energetic body by which our physical body is animated. If we did not have a vital body, well, we would be dead. We would not have any energy to get up, to move around, to digest food, to breathe, to circulate the blood in our body.
This is actually one body in Gurdijeff’s terms because you cannot really separate the vital body from the physical body. So, that is the first of the four bodies that Gurdjieff is referencing. It is related to our motor, instinctive, and sexual functions, all of the things that automatically keep us alive.
The second body Gurdijeff is talking about here is the astral body. The astral body is related to our emotions. It is just a vehicle through which we can feel emotions and process them.
It is very similar to the mental body, which is related to our intellect and our thoughts. The mental body gives us a chance to process and experience thoughts.
So just in the way that you cannot take a thought and show it to somebody, you cannot take an emotion and show someone, but yet you know these things are real because you verified the reality of these things in your awareness, in your own experience. You have felt emotions. You have thought thoughts, right?. That is how we see that these bodies exist, but they are more subtle. They are things that do not have physical, dense matter, but they are still real parts of us. They are a little bit multidimensional.
The fourth body he is talking about is the soul, the human soul, Tiphereth, related to the causal body. The causal body can relate to our human willpower, but for all of us, this is kind of an essence. It is the seed of a soul. It is something that needs to be fully developed, and we use these spiritual paths to be able to fully develop those.
So my question is to you: “Which of these bodies do you think is the most real body, in your opinion?”
Audience: Probably the one down on the bottom! It’s the one we’ve directly experienced!
Instructor: Right? I think most of us would say it is the physical body, because that is the easiest one for us to touch and to feel and to see…
Audience: probably the one we experience most in the moment…
Instructor: But which do you think is the most immortal body? We know it cannot be the physical body because that’s the one… all of us will die.
Audience: The one at the top?
Instructor: The one at the top, yeah, I think the human soul. So then we have to ask ourselves, we live as though our physical bodies are reality, as though that is the part of us that matters most. We take care of it. We feed it. We nourish it. If we feel pain, we comfort the body. We feel pleasure and we go and get more of that. We live our whole lives walking around taking care of our physical body.
We might also do things to take care of our emotions. We do things that make us feel proud of ourselves. We might do things that we think are logical, but how much of our lives do we actually invest in our soul, our spiritual life? This is the part that lives on after death if we have developed it, if we have acquired immortality. That is the part of our identity that is going to be the most real and lasting part of us, yet we live life in this backwards, inside-out kind of way, where we are taking all of our time and all of our energy to take care of our physical needs, or our emotional desires, or what we think. We are not giving any development to our soul, so that when the physical body dies and our terrestrial life ends, our body dissolves. When all of the merits and the social status and the wealth that we have acquired is gone, will we only have a seed of the soul left, or will we have a fully developed soul in which we can resist death? It is an important question.
The Three Brains
So, how do we experience these? I want to introduce you to a topic from Gnosticism that we talk about a lot. It might sound a little bit confusing right now, but I want to introduce it to you now so when we talk about it later, and you will know what we are talking about.
The three brains are three energetic centers. You can see in the diagram where we might feel these types of centers. The idea here is that according to nature, our organism is just a machine. It takes in energy, processes it, and it keeps moving. It is just a machine. There is no active willpower there. In order for our machine to be able to process all of these things, we use three brains.
The first brain is related to the vital and the physical body that we talked about in the last slide. It is the motor-instinctive-sexual brain. This controls all the automatic functions of instinct, movement, and sexual reproduction that keeps us alive as a natural species, right?
The second brain is the emotional center. Most of us feel here in the middle region. If you feel fear, you might feel it in your abdomen. If you feel love, it might feel like warmth coming out of your chest, right? So the emotional center, the emotional brain, is what gives us the ability to feel and to experience that and to process those emotions.
You see that it is divided into superior and inferior. We teach that there are both superior emotions that are related to the soul, like joy, compassion, and serenity. Then there are inferior emotions that are related to the more animal aspect of the soul. So this can be anger, pride, aggression, etc.
Finally we have the intellectual brain that deals with all of our thoughts and that, very similarly to the emotional brain, is divided into superior and inferior thoughts.
Like I said, we are going to talk more about it later on, but I just wanted to introduce you to this topic because it will have a lot of relevance to us and our spiritual work.
Now what is interesting about these three centers, even if we separate them out from spirituality, is that most of us have a tendency to work with one of these centers more than the others, to work with it in an unbalanced way. So if we think about the motor-instinctive-sexual type of person, somebody who really resonates with that brain, we can think of athletes. We can think of people who really take a lot of time caring for their physical bodies. So maybe they are always on a new diet or running marathons. They are really identified with that part of their body. So if you talk to them, they might not want to sit there and think things through. They might just want to act. These are people who really like movement, actions, and being quick because the instinctive brain is very fast, much faster than the other brains. These people may also not have a lot of emotional depth.
Audience: So they’re shallow?
Instructor: So it is not necessarily bad, but their predisposition is to invest a lot of their time and their energy into their physical or movement center, or their instincts, and that is where they feel comfortable.
Others, emotional types of people, might be like actors and actresses, people who have a lot of emotional energy and they get really invested into developing that and experiencing all the emotional sensations of life. People like this might love dramatic television shows or they might be somebody who loves the newest social gossip. They just always need to know “What is going on with my friend group?” and “Who did what to who?” Some of us might have those kinds of emotional addictions, where we really like to feel a certain way. We love romance or comedy.
The third type of person might be an overly intellectual person. So this can be people like academics, people who love studying and having theories, but if you try to connect with them emotionally, they might be very cold. They might not understand what you are trying to talk about in an emotional way. They also might neglect their physical health and get really ill because all they want to do is think things through all the time.
We need to think about which kind of person we might be. It is not that we do not have these other aspects of ourselves. It is that we do have a preference for one or the other. Part of Gnosis is understanding yourself, knowing yourself. So if we want to learn about ourselves, we can think about this and try to discover, “Which kind of person am I?”
The Path of the Fakir: Willpower
These three brains relate to three different paths that we are going to talk about.
The first path is the path of fakir. I want to point out that Gurdijeff uses this term fakir very generally. As just all these terms that we are going to talk about today in these paths, we are just using them in a general sense to refer to different paths that might have a preference for one of the three brains over the others.
So the path of the fakir has a preference with the motor-instinctive-sexual brain.
Audience: Well that’s how you pronounce that!
Instructor: Fakir is a Middle Eastern term and so this is related to physical willpower. The physical willpower that the fakir uses is not in the way you were describing with athletes, but he is using it in a way to develop yourself spiritually. So he is using his physical willpower to be able to conquer the physical body through these tremendous feats.
Maybe all of us have seen photos like this where a fakir is lying on a bed of nails. Or we have heard about different spiritual practitioners that go out to the woods and live in a cave, and they barely eat anything and they just stay there for thirty years straight…
Audience: Maybe one of those who doesn’t drop his arm…
Instructor: Or a guy like this who can stand on one foot for thirty years straight without stopping. They do this in a way to develop willpower and to get closer to divinity, but we have to question: “Is this the full development of the human being?” Certainly what they are able to do is incredible and astonishing, but is it the same goal that we are trying to reach like we talked about earlier? Is it the goal of immortality in the fully developed human being?
So let us see what Gurdjieff has to say about it:
The way of the fakir is the way of struggle with the physical body [...] This is a long, difficult, and uncertain way. The fakir strives to develop physical will, power over the body. This is attained by means of terrible sufferings, by torturing the body. The whole way of the fakir consists of various incredibly difficult physical exercises. [...] But his other functions―emotional, intellectual, and so forth―remain undeveloped. He has acquired will but he has nothing to which he can apply it, he cannot make use of it for gaining knowledge or for self-perfection. ―G. I. Gurdjieff, as quoted in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous
This is a valuable path and those paths will develop one aspect of ourselves, which is willpower, but the other functions that we talked about earlier, the emotional and the intellect functions, might not be fully developed. So can we consider ourselves a fully developed soul or human being if that is the case? We would still have more work to do to reach that end goal.
The Path of the Monk: Devotion
The second path is the path of the monk. It is a devotional path. We are using the term monk very generally here just to refer to those types of people who seek to know God through their emotions. This is a very beautiful path because these people cultivate a lot of what they call faith and emotional love and devotion for God. They are really seeking union with God.
But sometimes these people will say that “To know God emotionally and feel God's presence in my heart, and love, that is enough. I do not need to study the scriptures. I do not need to read anything. I do not need to develop any willpower or act on that love, that faith is enough.” A lot of Christian traditions will teach that “faith without works” is fine, and faith is all that you need to save you. So those would fall in this general category of the devotional path of the monk that Gurdjieff talked about.
The way of the monk is the way of faith, the way of religious feeling, religious sacrifice. Only a man with very strong religious emotions and a very strong religious imagination can become a 'monk' in the true sense of the word. The way of the monk also is long and hard. [...] Subjecting all his other emotions to one emotion, that is, to faith, he develops unity in himself, will over the emotions [...] But his physical body and his thinking capacities may remain undeveloped. In order to be able to make use of what he has attained, he must develop his body and his capacity to think. This can only be achieved by means of fresh sacrifices, fresh hardships, fresh renunciations. A monk has to become a yogi (which is the next path that we are going to talk about) and a fakir (the last path that we just talked about). ―G. I. Gurdjieff, as quoted in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous
Again, even though we cultivated this beautiful emotional relationship with God through this path and maybe even had mystical experiences through working with these types of practices, the other aspects of our identity might be undeveloped. We might not understand the experiences that we had. We might not be able to act on those experiences and perform the right actions that we really feel are necessary to live our faith.
The Path of the Yogi: Knowledge
The third path is the path of the yogi. Gurdjieff uses the term yogi. I like the term “scribe” a little bit better for me. That kind of captures the essence of this path. So not all yogi paths fall under this category. Again, we are just using this general term to denote a path that emphasizes intellectual knowledge. So even though these paths might have physical practices to develop our willpower or emotional practices and prayers, they really emphasize that the way to unite with God is through the intellect, through a very advanced knowledge of what God is in our intellect.
In these types of paths, we will notice people that are able to describe things at length, to be able to speak of all the scriptures and give you a very profound theoretical explanation of how God works, how God exists, and how all these things fit together in a system, but again, they might be lacking a little bit of the love and faith in the heart. They might not even have the willpower in which they are really active in living their faith. So this again would be a path that might not be a fully developed human soul.
Let us see what Gurdijeff says:
The path of the yogi is the way of knowledge, the way of mind. [...] The yogi reaches the fourth room (related to the soul) by developing his mind, but his body and emotions remain undeveloped and, like the fakir and the monk, he is unable to make use of the results of his attainment. He knows everything but can do nothing. In order to begin to do he must gain the mastery over his body and emotions [...] To do this he must again set to work and again obtain results by means of prolonged efforts. In this case however he has the advantage of understanding his position, of knowing what he lacks, what he must do, and in what direction he must go. ―G. I. Gurdjieff, as quoted in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous
Gurdijeff is saying that he has the advantage of understanding his position, which means that if this is a sincere path, an authentic path of the yogi, then this person will know which steps they need to take next to be able to attain their development. But if they spent their whole life developing understanding about God through the intellect, then how much time are they going to have left to go back and develop the emotional connection, to go back and develop the willpower and physical, active aspect of their faith? Again, this will be a path that is a little out of balance, right?
What is Our Path?
Let us reflect on ourselves: “Which path do we tend to follow? “
Like I mentioned earlier, each of us might have a preference for one of these three brains. If you think about what has it been like for you sitting here in this lecture, you might learn something about yourself, because if you have been sitting here thinking, “Aww… I want to get up. I want to move around and I want to act on these things!” then you might be related to the path of the fakir. You might be seeking a lot of spiritual development through willpower and action.
If through this you were feeling a lot of emotional reactions, like “Oh yeah! I really like that part,” or “I do not like that at all… that just does not feel right to me,” then you might be someone who is a little bit more emotion-centered.
If you were reflecting on this through the intellect and thinking, “Well, that does not really make sense because this other thing that I read does not make sense with this particular teaching here,” then you might be somebody who is a little bit more intellectually centered.
As I mentioned, these things are not bad. Most of us, the majority of people, are going to be a little bit out of imbalance, having preference with one of these paths over the others. But we need to know ourselves because if we follow one of these three paths, are we are really going to really reach that goal of our spiritual work that we talked about? If we are only developing ourselves emotionally, are we going to be a fully developed human being? If we are only developing willpower over our physical body but not understanding God and not feeling God, are we fully developed as a soul? Again, if we are only intellectually understanding God but we are not having any mystical experiences for ourselves, knowing from our experience what God is, then are we going to reach the goal?
The Fourth Way: Equilibrium
As I mentioned to you before, the fourth path is the Gnostic path.
The way of the Gnostic is the way of equilibrium. We use all three of these centers within our body in balance, and that when they are in balance, something new can awaken within us. When we are not overly, emotionally identified with our circumstances, or we are not off thinking in theories and kind of distracted from our life, and when we are not instinctively, physically reacting to everything on impulse, when we are able to have those three brains in balance through the use of different practices, meditation, and prayer―that is when our consciousness, the seed of our soul, can awaken. When the consciousness begins to awaken, that is when our spiritual work really begins. We are able to begin to develop ourselves. We can experience life in a new way.
I do not know if you ever had an experience of awe. Maybe you saw something really beautiful. So it was not necessarily that you were thinking about that thing or even that you were trying to feel for that or moving around and acting. Maybe those brains, those three centers and brains had energy in them, but there was something else in there that was active, something that really felt that there was something spiritual here, something divine. You can feel that through that connection in your own self. That is the consciousness when we work with the consciousness on the path of equilibrium.
So, Ouspensky, who was a prominent student of Gurdijeff, talked about this fourth way. He was asked, “Does the fourth way embraces the three other ways?” ― the three that we just talked about. He answered:
No, this is a wrong description, because the Fourth Way does not have many of the things which enter into the first three ways, and it has many other things that do not enter into the three ways. The idea of the Fourth Way is that it discards from the three ways all that is unnecessary in them, because besides the necessary things the three ways have other things which have remained there purely through tradition, imitation, and so on. In the Fourth Way all the sides can develop, develop at the same time, and this makes it different from other ways where you first develop one side and then go back and develop another, then again go back and develop a third side. In the Fourth Way all the four centres must be more or less alive, on the surface, open to receive impressions, otherwise long preliminary work to open them is necessary before one can begin. ―P. D. Ouspensky, The Fourth Way
So what is unique about the fourth way is that it does not neglect the development of those three other centers, those three aspects of us, but allows us to use consciousness to work on all three brains, all three centers, at the same time. So that is what makes the fourth way a path of balance, and the most efficient means by which we can develop ourselves spiritually into a fully balanced human being, a full human soul.
So let us hear what Gurdijeff says:
The fourth way requires no retirement into the desert, does not require a man to give up and renounce everything by which he formerly lived. The fourth way begins much further on than the way of the yogi (which is a path of the mind). This means that a man must be prepared for the fourth way and this preparation must be acquired in ordinary life and be a very serious one, embracing many different sides. Furthermore a man must be living in conditions favorable for work on the fourth way, or, in any case, in conditions which do not render it impossible. [...] Furthermore, the fourth way has no definite forms like the ways of the fakir, the monk, and the yogi. And, first of all, it has to be found. This is the first test. ―G. I. Gurdjieff, as quoted in Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous
In some of the other paths, there were a lot of requirements, a lot of austerities that were necessary. What Gurdjieff is pointing out is that when you are working with the consciousness, which is the fourth way, we do not have to physically change our circumstances. We do not have to retire into the desert and be able to lie on a bed of nails, or pray for twelve hours a day or sit in meditation for thirty years straight. The fourth way does not require us to change our life, yet it is the most efficient way for us to follow because it gives us the chance to work on all the different sides of ourselves all at once.
But he does point out that a man must be living in conditions favorable for the work on the fourth way. We mentioned earlier that we might have habits that take us out of balance. So we might have habits where we are getting very emotionally invested in what other people are saying or doing, and that might take away energy from our spiritual life. We might have habits which we are spending a lot of time theorizing, intellectualizing, studying, and that might not be the right conditions in which we can develop ourselves. Or we might always be running around, always needing to “get ready for my next marathon.”
So the conditions he is talking about, needing for our spiritual life, are not necessarily conditions imposed on us. All of us have to have a job. We have to work. We have to be able to eat and be able to take care of our families. But what are the other things in our life that are making it impossible for us to develop our soul?
We already talked earlier about that we invest a lot of energy into our physical identity, “My name, my culture, my race, my job.” We invest a lot of energy into that, but when we come to the end of life and we die, how much will we have to develop our soul, which is the part of us that is going to be the most immortal?
That is why he says the fourth way has no definite forms. There is no external school that you have to be following or rigorous discipline that we must do, although it can be useful for us, but we need to be able to find the fourth way. How do we find something that does not have a definite external form? How do we find a spiritual path that does not force us to stay with one group or another? Well, that is the fourth way, and the first test for us is to find it.
The Path of Awakening Consciousness
We find that by awakening our consciousness because the path is within us. The real way to develop the soul and the real way to know God is to turn around our vision and look within, to look with our consciousness, the part of us that is most divine, and to develop that, to be able to experience it. We have to ask ourselves if that path is within us, why do we not see it? Why do we not find this path? Why are we not able to develop? Well, it is [robably because we are investing a lot of our time and energy looking without and not within.
The oracle of Delphi said that “Man, know thyself, and you will know the universe and its gods.”
We are kind of taught in this materialistic culture that we need to know a lot of facts about the natural world, of physics, and how do atoms work, how we can harness more natural resources. In that frame of mind, we are actually trained to seek to understand nature. That is how we are going to know what human beings are and how we fit into all of this. But if we follow that advice of knowing ourselves first, then we will understand what is our place in the universe.
What is god? What is divinity? Why does nature exist, and how can we use it as a school for our own development? That would be the way of the fourth path. That would be the way of awakening consciousness: to go within and to know what we are through our own conscious and direct experience.
The Gnostic tradition was founded by Samael Aun Weor. I know we have mentioned him before. He has a really great quote about awakening consciousness that I wanted to share. He says:
Certainly, and in the name of truth, we shall say with great frankness that only by awakening consciousness can we see the narrow, straight, and difficult path that leads unto light. How could those who sleep see the path? ―Samael Aun Weor
He is pointing out that in Gnosis, we believe that the path of awakening consciousness is the way that we can fully develop and fully reach light or life, spiritual knowledge. It is not that the other paths are not useful. They are useful and they help us develop, but they will not take us all the way there. They will not take us to that full direct experience and understanding of what divinity is. In order to do that, we can not learn that from the external world. We have to learn that by awakening our own consciousness and by knowing for ourselves, through our own soul, what divinity is. Why is all this stuff and all this nature here? What is the purpose of life?
He says: “How could those who sleep see the path?” If we are living in an unbalanced way, we are probably asleep. We should notice that and we should think about ways in which we can invest in the other parts of our life and the other parts of our soul, because if we are really identified with one of these three brains, then we are not going to be able to balance the three brains and then awaken consciousness. Consciousness is awakened when we are living in balance. We need to learn how to do that.
But I know that it can sound pretty abstract: what does it mean to awaken consciousness? For most of us, we are able to have a pretty good sense from our own experience what our emotions are, what our thoughts are, and what our physical body is, even what energy is like moving through our bodies, what keeps us alive. But it can be hard to think of, “Well, how consciousness is different from that?” Even if we do not say that we believe it, we are kind of taught in this culture that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. That means it is just a result of chemical reactions and that if you cut off the physical brain, then you would not exist anymore. There would not be no more consciousness. This is the very materialistic scientific view of what consciousness is, what people are.
But if you have actually been able to work with consciousness, you know that it is something that is not limited to this physical body. You know that it is something that can persist outside of the body through death, through astral projection. Maybe you have heard of near-death experience stories. We know there has to be a way in which we can access that part of ourselves, but what is it going to feel like?
An Example of Conscious Awakening
I am going to give you an example from my own life. Sometime ago, I was working with these practices. I remember very vividly one experience I had where I was talking with a colleague, and for some reason in that moment, I was working with this, I was self-observing, and I had the three brains in balance. I was feeling very tranquil. I was very aware of the coffee shop we were sitting in. I was aware of what this person talking to me and what he was saying to me. I could even feel the chair that I was sitting in. So I was very bright and conscious and attentive, but I was not necessarily thinking a bunch of thoughts. I was just awake.
In that moment, my colleague had asked me a question. From that state, I made a conscious choice that I would answer honestly, even though the answer might not be what the colleague wanted to hear. Then his whole face changed, and he made a comment that was critiquing what I had just said. Since I was fortunate in this moment to really have the consciousness active, I began to observe a change in myself that I found very astonishing at the time. I could feel my instinctual center starting to tense up, starting to feel very almost frightened of this person, or angry about what they had said. I felt that as tension in my body. I observed these emotions of pride, anger, and insecurity coming to my emotional center. I was able to even observe thoughts. My mind was already trying to think of “What responses can I say to convince this person that he is wrong about me and he needs to respect me?” because this was a colleague that I really respected his work a lot. So of course, I wanted him to think of me favorably. But since I was awake, I was able to be aware of the whole process of “me” and have a space of separation from which I could choose: “Do I want to respond with anger or with justifications or with pride, to have an argument with this person that could eventually start a chain of consequences that could lead to being problematic for me at work? Or do I want to answer calmly, serenely, from this conscious place, and not have to act in this instinctive, habitual way that I always respond to situations where people are criticizing me?”
So awakening consciousness gives us the power to be able to choose how we are going to respond to life, rather than mechanically always reacting to life in the way that we were conditioned to do by our own psychology.
Gurdijeff also says somewhere else that the highest thing that a man can attain is to be able to do. His teaching is that even though we feel we are great actors in our life, that we are the ones paving the way and deciding exactly the way our life is going to be, in reality, if we are sincere and we reflect on our life, most of it has been determined by external forces. Most of the time we are just reacting to situations that keep coming. Someone is angry at us. Someone is beating us up, and we just react to that. We change our job because we can not get along with our boss. There is not so much choice. There is not so much freedom and power to really do what we want to do in our life.
But when we are working with consciousness, we begin to cultivate some of that power, even freedom from our own circumstances, and that is a truly tremendous thing. It is the beginning of the path.
The Effort to Awaken
In another statement that I think summarizes all that we talked about, Samael Aun Weor said that:
No matter how much we might increase our strictly mechanical energy, we will never awaken consciousness. No matter how much we might increase the vital forces within our own organism, we will never awaken consciousness. Many psychological processes take place within us without any intervention from the consciousness. However great the disciplines of the mind might be, mental energy can never achieve the awakening of the diverse functions of the consciousness. Even if our willpower is multiplied infinitely, it can never bring about the awakening of the consciousness. All these types of energy are graded into different levels and dimensions, which have nothing to do with the consciousness. Consciousness can only be awakened through conscious work and upright efforts. ―Samael Aun Weor, The Great Rebellion
So he is pointing it out here, that even though this is an internal process of awakening consciousness, it is not a mechanical process. We have lots of things that go on inside of us all day. We might get distracted. We might feel bored. We might feel angry. We might feel excited. We might do all that in the way in which we were asleep, and we are not seeing those situations for what they are. There might be no active consciousness there. We are just kind of mechanically going through the day. None of those days, thinking about God, or feeling God in our heart, or feats of willpower alone and of themselves, can help us to awaken consciousness.
What we really need to do is to work with the consciousness through conscious work. That means paying attention, being aware of yourself from moment to moment, all the time. It is very difficult in the beginning, but over time are you are working with that, just like strengthening any muscle, it will be much easier to be aware of yourself.
He also talks about upright efforts. I think it is important to point out that he means “upright” as in ethical, as in living your life with rectitude. We do not need a moral dogma to tell us how to live, but each of us needs to know from our own conscience and our own heart what is ethical. If we decide that we are going to awaken consciousness, or we are working with that energy in a way that is harmful, and that is harming ourselves or others, or in a way that is unbalanced, what we are actually doing is we are strengthening our psychological imbalance and making it harder for ourselves to become free from our conditioning and circumstances. We need to make sure that we are finding our own internal ethic, and that we are really living by that and living in a way we think is upright.
Practice Conscious Self-Observation
We are going to talk about the practice of conscious self-observation. It is actually on your hand out so you will be able to take that home and work with that more. Gurdjieff makes a statement about the fourth way that I think is really important about understanding conscious self-observation. He says:
The fourth way differs from the other ways in that the principal demand made upon a man is the demand for understanding. A man must do nothing that he does not understand [...] The more a man understands what he is doing, the greater will be the results of his efforts. This is a fundamental principle of the fourth way. The results of work are in proportion to the consciousness of the work. No 'faith' is required on the fourth way; on the contrary, faith of any kind is opposed to the fourth way. On the fourth way a man must satisfy himself of the truth of what he is told. ―G. I. Gurdjieff
So let us break this down a little bit. He says the most important thing is the demand for understanding. We have talked many times about how the word gnosis means “knowledge,” but experiential knowledge, knowledge that we have gained through our own experience of life. When we are awakening consciousness, we are beginning to understand ourselves in new ways. In the example that I gave, I caught myself about to react in an unconscious way that I have reacted to many times, many times when somebody would criticize me, which is to argue and create more problems for myself. So I was able to understand myself by becoming conscious, and working on this fourth way, I learned something about myself and I also had the power to change it and realize, “Why do I keep doing this? This is creating problems for me and it is not worth it. I should take that energy and invest it back into my spiritual life.”
He says a man must do nothing that he does not understand. Most of us go through life doing things, feeling like, “Oh, I gotta get this done! I need to do this stuff for work so my boss thinks I am great,” or whatever the different demands of our life are. But do we really understand them? We might intellectually understand them, but experientially, with awakened consciousness, or with our very soul, do we understand ourselves and the things that we do?
Gurdijeff says that “the more a man understands what he is his doing, the greater will be the results of his efforts.” The more consciousness that we cultivate, the more that our actions can create powerful effects in our life. This can work two ways. If you are very conscious of what you are doing, but you choose to do harmful behaviors, or you choose to do things that are out of balance, the results of that work are going to be more powerful. So you are actually going to strengthen imbalances or create more problems for you. But if you are working with consciousness to become a better person, to sincerely understand yourself, to know what divinity is from your own experience, that can produce powerful effects because you are really working with the root energy of who you are. The consciousness is the root energy of which we experience thought, emotion, and physicality. It is actually the source of who we are, yet sometimes we live the other way around, as though this physical body and this terrestrial identity is “who I am.”
Gurdjieff also says that “no faith is required on the fourth way. On the contrary, faith of any kind is opposed to the fourth way.” So we do not have to take for granted that what a church, or a religion, or a scientist, or a teacher tells us is true. On this fourth way and on the Gnostic path, we are seeking to know for ourselves what is the truth. We can use different teachings to help us, to guide us, to give us a sense of where we might begin, but really, we ultimately need to not trust blindly what other people tell us. We need to awaken our own consciousness through different types of practices like conscious self-observation. Then we know for ourselves so we can satisfy ourselves with the truth of what we were told.
I want to end with an excerpt from the Bible. In Romans, it said:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. ―Romans 12:2
“Do not be conformed to this world” is talking about not being conformed by our external circumstances, not living always reacting to the world and the expectations that are placed on us by other people and by society but cultivating something within ourselves that is free from that, that can resist external forces.
It says, “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” When we awaken consciousness, we are working with an energy that is new, that is always spontaneous, that is always able to perceive things as they truly are, perceive things not through the filter of the intellect, not through the filter of emotions, not through an instinctive filter, but to truly perceive them in a new way and that transforms us. The renewing of our mind helps us to become different people, better people. When we are able to do that and we are able to have the three brains in balance, working with the consciousness free from our external conditioning and from our physiological conditioning, then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
I hope that the reason for all of us being here and for learning about spiritual things is because we want to understand “What is God's will” and “What is God's purpose for me? Why am I alive? What is the meaning of life?” When we are working in balance, when we are awakening consciousness, from that we enter into a state in which we can actually begin to understand God, and know what it is, “What is my calling? What is it I am supposed to be doing with my life, and how do I develop myself?” By doing these practices, this is the prerequisite to be able to do all of that spiritual development.
What I have gone over today is really just the basics and is just an introduction. We have many, many practices through which we can awaken consciousness, through which we can develop ourselves in our own self-knowledge and our knowledge of divinity that we are going to cover over the next few meetings. But I think this is a good introduction for us to get a sense and even, hopefully, to have learned something about ourselves and our own psychological disposition: how we tend to approach spirituality and to consider how we might balance out that approach. By working with those other centers a little bit more, getting those three brains in balance through meditation and self-observation, we are be able to activate our consciousness so we can experience life in a new way, in that way that inspires awe and allows us to act from our own conscience, from our own connection with divinity.
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