The Gurdjieff Journal—Fourth Way Perspectives

Working in the World
Work Love


(#) Parentheses indicate footnote number

The Work sometimes is criticized for lacking in love. What is meant is a lack of warmth, of good feeling, of affection, a spirit of friendship and encouragement. In a word, a lack of brotherhood. The point that is missed—and it is a vital point—is that the aim of the Work is to wake up from the sleep of the self-image, from self-love. And awakening is not to a glorious sunny morning but to all the explanations, "could haves," and rationalizations that obfuscate the primary fact of our existence: that we are mechanical and awash in the dreams. Gurdjieff promised not to awaken us but to create the conditions by which we could see ourselves as we really are, not as we imagine ourselves to be. That engenders suffering and so the criticism. (1)

Not surprisingly, just as we attribute to ourselves that we have a real I, free will, and the capacity to do, we also believe we can be sincere, that we can love. But how can a sleeping person love? Isn't the 'love' we experience a 'sleep love' a personal love? When Hindus meet they say Shanti, which means, "I honor the light within you." Not you as a person but the light, the truth, the being that is manifested. True love, (2) spiritual love, is impersonal.

We Personalize Everything

What does impersonal mean? Certainly it does not mean cold, indifferent, callous. As we are, we have no experience of the impersonal; the closest we come is disassociation, a psychological state of frozen reaction. So to begin to understand we must begin where we are: with the personal. That we personalize everything, possessing and setting boundaries, is what we rarely notice. Personalizing taints whatever awareness we have. In our perceptions, we always include others, objects, situations, but rarely do we include ourselves. We do not live in a subject-object world, as is taken for granted, but rather, on investigation we will see that we live in an object world in which the subject, ourselves, is missing. By means of a correct practice of self-observation and self-remembering, we seek to include the missing subject. In time, we see that this subject is not one but many. We are not one indivisible I but many "I"s, each of which has its special dreams, fears and identifications. We wake up to the observed fact that everything we think, say, and do is largely personality—false personality. In the beginning, observation is a marvelous telescope that allows us to see what has long been hidden, but once personality awakens to the fact that its supremacy is threatened, it fights. As Mr. Gurdjieff says, "Personality defends itself."

When we are hit—shocked on the funny bone of our chief feature or chief weakness around which all of false personality and the "I"-structure revolves—we run amok. Like a large fish who has bitten the worm and found itself hooked, we dart and dash and make a run out to sea; anything to get the hook out of our mouths. At the neutral moments when we have made the effort to be present, all the reverse conditioning comes into play. We struggle to stay awake in the maelstrom and so record what would ordinarily be lost. It's all blame and justification, dark vows and dreams of revenge. And should the shock be direct enough, personality will even conjure thoughts of suicide. False personality would rather die than see itself. It can be that extreme.

So when love is spoken about, the question is: are we speaking of love between false personalities, self-images? If so, in the world of the personal—that is, of A influences—the impersonal has no place. The impersonal, C influence, can appear only as B influence, a book, poem, art, architecture or some like secondary manifestation. At best these can only reflect C influence, but that reflection can call forth a remembering. For C influence to be received, we have to short circuit the hypnotic momentum of ordinary life and our identifications and create a stop, a space, allow ourselves to become knowingly available to receive such influence.

But this has to be learned, learned in the only way we can learn: through continual failure. For as we will see, we can't remember ourselves. And yet, nonetheless, we must continue to make the effort and, in so doing, understand that the effort cannot be an ego-effort, a willful effort, for then its source of origin taints and disfigures all results. False personality projects itself as "the spiritual "I"; a spiritual parody endemic to our times. (3)

A Work Effort

Work love has many levels of meaning. Here is one. Years ago in the late 1970s Christopher Fremantle, (4) who had met Mr. Gurdjieff and for many years been a teacher in the Work, was chosen to speak one evening in the weekly lecture series in New York. A handsome man, a mathematician, and every bit an English gentleman, he was now suffering from cancer. In his seventies, he had undergone chemotherapy and so had lost most of his hair. Pale and frail, his clothes too big for him, one might easily conclude that he was half the man he had been. But then one only had to look into his eyes, still lightest of blue, and shining with remarkable intelligence.

He mounted the few steps of the platform with some effort and took his seat on the hard backed chair atop a small Persian rug. Looking out on some hundred and more people filling the hall, all of whom were in the Work, he began to speak in the soft and sensitive way that was his custom. The subject of his talk is not remembered but he spoke for upwards of a half-hour. Then the floor was opened to questions. Immediately, in the third row off to his left, a woman stood up. She did not look familiar. Later it was said she had come down from Canada. Her voice was as sharp as it was clear.

"Mr. Fremantle," she began, pronouncing each syllable, "it is all well and one supposes good what you say...but you don't define any of the terms you use."

The room crackled with the directness of her words.

His answer is not recalled, but his demeanor is. It never changed. He remained as he had been, as if nothing had happened.


Notes

(1) Which is not to say that the Work is beyond criticism. Gurdjieff many times insisted that the methods he used were for him alone and not to be imitated. Creating the conditions by which another person suffers is a delicate matter. One's hands must be clean of all things personal.

(2) G. I. Gurdjieff, First Series, p. 357, speaking about what humans take for love, he says that it is "firstly also the result of certain crystallized consequences of the properties of the same Kundabuffer; and secondly this impulse of theirs arises and manifests itself in the process of every one of them entirely subjectively...not one in ten could describe even remotely, the sensation of genuine Love."

(3) Aren't we fortunate to have so many liberated, enlightened, or as is currently said, "fulfilled" people. To think that this has been the goal of traditional societies such as India for so many thousands of years and they have, quantitatively, produced so few in comparison to what America has spawned in but a generation.

(4) Though he gave many talks and wrote many essays and letters, none were published during his lifetime. Some have been collected in his book On Attention (Indications Press, 45 Thurmonte Rd., Denville, NJ 07834, 1993).


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