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In the teachings of Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way, it is expressed that significant collective events in the life of mankind are the direct results of influences from a higher level of existence. Actions and events in a higher world, or larger Cosmos, are expressed in the lower world of collective human life. How the events in a higher world actually manifest in a lower world depends upon how the lower world is able to respond to the influence of the higher world. In Gurdjieff’s book ‘Beelzebub’sTales’, it is said that the working of the various cosmoses requires their reciprocal action and relation. This can be expressed in terms of the exchange of substances and energies of different qualities which are needed by the various worlds. Each world and cosmos then requires a certain kind of substance and energy, and each world is also required to produce a particular substance and energy that is needed by another world or cosmos. A world or cosmos requires to be ‘fed’ and is also required to ‘feed’ others in order to maintain its own relative balance and harmony, and also in order to aid in the maintenance of other worlds.

It has long been suggested that man is required to produce some form of substance or energy in order to perform his role in the larger working of reality. How this substance and energy is produced, and what its nature is, has been considered differently by the various cultures and civilisations throughout time. ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘Worship’ have frequently been considered as the required means of producing the said substance or energy. ‘Sacrifice’ has long been taken in the form of the physical sacrifice of life, whether human or animal life. This notion of sacrifice has also long been connected with the ideas about the nature of blood. The substance and energy of the blood of organic life has been considered as that which can feed a higher cosmos and, thereby, provide a degree of order in the collective life of humanity. The release of the substance and energy of the blood has been seen as a means of ensuring a degree of harmony in collective life, and this applying equally to the processes and actions of Nature and those of Man himself. ‘Worship’, where this doesn’t involve physical sacrifice, has also been considered as a means of generating or liberating the required substances and energy. With worship, the idea is that the act of worship itself can generate the equivalent energies and substances, particularly when this is a communal act of a group of people. Here it is implied that the energies of human experience themselves may be transformed, transformed into a form that is suitable and mutual with the need of the higher cosmos.

In the teachings of Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way, the ancient ideas about the need of sacrifice and worship are affirmed in their essence, however, the form of this sacrifice and worship is conceived differently. In the Work, it is said that a man may individually liberate the required substances and energies that are needed for maintaining balance. This requires some intentional action towards the substances and energies of his experience. A man may work with the substances and energies of his thoughts, feelings, and physical body in order to produce what is required. ‘Sacrifice’ can take the form of intentional actions, undertaken against the habitual resistance of the established mechanisms and patterns present in an individual. ‘Going against the grain’ and acting counter to one’s established preferences and tendencies can liberate an energy which may be of use to the greater working of reality. The same can be said in regard to working directly with the energy of the physical body in the form of ‘sensation’. There can be work to develop the ‘somatic’ presence in the physical body, work to intentionally develop the sense of ‘embodiment’. It is known in various traditions that direct work with the body can involve a change in the nature of the physical blood and its action in the organism. This change cannot only produce effects in the individual and their state of being, it may also produce effects in the collective life of man. Here we may have to think of something like the ‘emanations’ of individuals which go towards composing the collective ‘emanation’ and ‘atmosphere’ of mankind. At the present time, the general man has a hard time in conceiving of means of relation and interaction that are outside of the perceived ‘physical nature’ and the perceived properties of ‘objects’. There is something of the notion of the interconnectivity of all life and natural processes, such as may be expressed in one form in the idea of the ‘butterfly effect’ and ‘chaos theory’ etc. However, these theories are still largely based upon a ‘physical’ notion of the mechanism involved. The idea of ‘morphic fields’ may be one that attempts to express something of a different notion to interconnectivity and its mechanisms. The idea that we may have to take responsibility for our inner world, along with our outer manifestations, is not one that may be appealing.

This idea of taking responsibility for our inner world, and its vital importance to the collective conditions of mankind, may be seen to be present in the great traditions. Various expressions in these traditions can be seen as emphasizing the greater importance of the inner state as compared to the external actions. To bring order into the inner world is seen as something which may be of greater importance to the maintenance of general balance in human life. ‘Worship’ may take the form of bringing some degree of order and coherence into one’s feelings and thoughts. This can also take the form of the intentional physical expression and enactment of this inner coherence. Practices involving intentional awareness of the breath are also expressed as having a role in providing this greater coherence to the feelings. Conscious breath can have a direct effect in the feelings as well as an effect in the physical sensation and sense of embodiment. The breath is, of course, directly linked with the blood and pulse, and in the various traditions the breath is equally given importance in the realm of prayer and worship. Many of the practices and exercises of the Fourth Way involve this intentional awareness of the breath and pulse, combined with the intentional direction of thought and the evocation of positive feelings. This line of work, and the various practices connected with it,  has been considered as not only a means to greater emotional coherence and balance but also as an obligation and duty. Not to succumb to general feelings of anxiety and fear, and to be able to remain relatively free of the general action of suggestibility, is considered as an obligation to those wishing to fulfil their human potential and duty. This line of work also includes development of the capacity for ‘empathy’ as expressed in the ableness to actually ‘put oneself in the place of one’s fellow living brother’. This development is said to concern the direct realization of unity with the other forms of life, and this is something different to merely an intensification of feelings of ‘compassion’ etc. The expression and manifestation of this development can take various forms, these including the psychological overcoming of the tendency for thinking and feeling in terms of ‘us and them’, along with the overcoming the general degree of inner disturbance that expresses in the occupation with negative thoughts and feelings. Another form of expression to this realization of direct communion with life can be present in the ableness to lay one’s life down for one’s brother. This can equally apply to the very sense of ‘self’ and ‘ego’ as to the physical body and life.

Times of trouble always provide greater potential for transformation, provided that one is able to make use of the added potential. Some people are more sensitive to the workings of the larger Cosmos; here meaning events in a higher world. Those with a greater sensitivity have a greater potential means for making use of the given conditions. Making use of the conditions involves having a notion of how to transform the results of this larger process, the results of this process as manifested in oneself and the immediate environment. Without some degree of conscious awareness of the results of this larger process, the mentioned results may only express in an involuntary way. Our given organic and psychic mechanisms have to ‘huff and puff’ to transform and manifest the results in a way that gives as little damage as possible, but these involuntary means may be limited in this regard. Due to man’s condition, even the given involuntary means of expression may be interfered with, meaning that the results of such a larger cosmic process can be made worse by a being’s own ‘bob-tailed’ nature, causing them to act in a way that is even more damaging and possibly even ‘diametrically opposed’ to the intended aim of mitigating the damaging effects.

Developing the said sensitivity to the larger cosmic processes, and their expression in our given world, is a part of the Work and the ‘being-obligolnian strivings’ spoken of in Beelzebub’s Tales. One expression of ‘self-perfecting’ is the enhanced form of relationship with the cosmoses directly ‘above and below’ the given cosmos in which one is centred. This can involve a greater awareness and understanding of how the activity and results of these cosmoses manifest in ourselves. The general capacity of awareness and attention is too small to recognize certain recurring patterns in oneself and one’s environment, along with the results of these processes. Hence there is significant limitation in the general man’s ability to identify and relate actual ’cause and effect’. Gurdjieff mentions here, for example, that a man may be in a ‘mood’ because someone has done something to upset him, or he may equally be in a ‘mood’ because he has eaten something which has caused this result in him. The cause for a ‘mood’ can also be extended here to include larger cosmic events and cycles. The general man has little in the way of the ability to recognize and distinguish these various influences acting upon him, along with their resulting manifestations in him.

Outside of the required development, needed to enable recognition of the various influences acting upon him and their results in him, a man has little to work with in terms of coming to be able to transform the results of these influences in some more intentional way. General efforts towards consciousness and increasing the sensitivity and span of attention are one means towards the required development. Lacking the required development, general man has been given certain collective means to attempt to mitigate the potential negative results issuing from the interaction of different worlds or cosmoses. Some of these collective means include the general practices of the great Religions that have been introduced into society. These practices, in their essence, may be seen as providing an order to man’s collective life. This order may be seen as a compensatory means of dealing with the mentioned influences and their possible results. The religious practices and customs may provide something of a ‘subconscious’ means of dealing with the said influences and limiting their potential negative effect. They may provide something of a ‘structure’ to individual and collective life, and this ‘structure’ may be one which is mutual with higher laws, enabling a more harmonious transformation of the higher influences and the energies of experience. Much of what is imparted into the great religions is inaccessible to the general man, in terms of an understanding of the reason for the arising of the religion and an actual understanding of what is involved in its practices etc. The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the religion and its practices and customs is not understood in regard to the laws of the transformation of influences issuing from varying worlds or cosmoses.

Though the general man may not be able to see the actual utility of a religion and its practices and customs, he may be able to respond to it sufficiently enough to engage in the given practices and customs. His engagement with the religion may be for various reasons and purposes, one of which may simply be the social pressure in his immediate environment, another may simply be some notion of ‘punishment and reward’. The general man may also be moved to engage in a given religion through some form of genuine recognition of the need for its practices and customs in his personal life. This recognition may again occur through the given ‘subconscious’ of the individual, and hence the actual reason for the engagement with the religion may be quite different to that presented to the given ‘consciousness’ of the individual. The general man may still have ‘something’ in him which is able to respond to a higher value or relative means of harmony. This ‘something’ present in the man may simply be present at the level of his ‘feeling’, in which case a man may be moved into some form of useful and harmonious action due to a stimulation of his ‘feelings’ that is significant enough for him not to be able to ‘ignore’ it or to severely ‘distort’ it in its reception and manifestation. A man may be moved into a degree of harmonious order in his life through the force of his ‘feelings’, and he may engage in beneficial actions without any notion of ‘what’ it is that he is actually doing and ‘why’. Lacking the degree of development of ‘reason’ that enables a direct perception and actual understanding of the various influences and their expression in man and his environment, it is only an action of the ‘feelings’ that may pull a man into a degree of harmony, aside from some kind of forced direction from without.

In the Work, there is the notion of ‘objective conscience’, a feature expressed as being present in man in his ‘subconscious’. This feature may still have enough functionality in a given man to enable ‘subconscious’ influences and direction to be received, and this occurring mainly through his ‘feeling brain’. Through ‘conscience’, ‘something’ may be present which can respond to real value, as related to the promotion of harmony and well-being. This impulse may remain relatively ‘inarticulate’ but sufficient enough to move the man in the desired direction. Development of the ability to be sensitive to the impulse of ‘conscience’ may be considered as the keystone of the Work. The development of the sensitivity to ‘conscience’ is considered as a common aim, being a development that can occur on a large scale. The previously mentioned significant development of ‘reason’ is something that is expressed as having only a limited potential in terms of human numbers. In this sense, it is always a small number who will have this significant development and whose responsibility it will be to enable the majority to come to some degree of harmony. The realization of this responsibility occurring through direct work with individuals and also through the introduction into the collective life of man of appropriate social structures, customs, and practices etc. This also then involves the work to re-correct for distortions that have entered into these collective processes, including the given religions.

Times of common struggle can be a means to the stimulation of ‘conscience’ in some people, enabling a new source of order to come into their lives through a significant manifestation of ‘feeling’. This new order can refer to a change in ‘values’, which can then express in the felt need to alter one’s life; in terms of both the inner and outer life. It is known that times of common struggle can remove the apparent barriers between people, whether these are ‘internal barriers’ in the ‘mind and heart’ of individuals, or ‘external barriers’ in the form of certain social structures and dictates. The common struggle can yield a common form of work and a higher degree of organisation between people. This may produce significant results, enabling the given issue to be resolved. After the common struggle and its possible threat has passed, the ‘status quo’ appears to resume. However, it is not directly seen what effect this period of greater community and organisation has on given individuals, in terms of what results it produces in them and their life. ‘Impressions’ from such a time of greater coherence between people can be significant enough to radically alter the course of a being’s life and nature. In such a time, ‘conscience’ may be stimulated enough to produce this effect in a being’s inner and outer worlds, giving re-orientation and re-valuation. ‘Something’ of sufficient intensity may be stimulated such that it becomes a dominant force in the re-organisation of a being’s life, becoming an ‘inner authority’ or source of order.

Times of trouble may not only serve as a ‘shock’ in the form of the remembrance of ‘mortality’, they may also serve as a ‘shock’ in the form of ‘higher impressions’ which may be received through the communal response of people in a common endeavour and mobilzation. Confrontation with death can certainly be a source of the re-evaluation of one’s values and manifestations, and this can have particular effect in regard to a man’s emotions. Confrontation with death can be a means to enable the eradication of ‘involuntary and unnecessary suffering’ in the form of the ‘petty trifles and fears’ that can occupy a man and dictate to his inner world and outer manifestations. Another means to such an eradication can come through communal work with others where there is a sufficient ‘spirit’ of ‘communion’ and ‘service’, and this may be particularly so if the work involves ‘sacrifice’. Being in the presence of such communal service and sacrifice can serve as an equivalent shock for the transformation of the ‘feelings’, bringing a new source of order into their functioning and manifestations.

‘Disorganisation’ and ‘incoherence’ in a man’s feeling nature may be considered as one of the main sources of collective suffering and strife. This disorganisation and incoherence could be seen as the main source of ‘contagion’ between people, in terms of it being the main means and vehicle through which inter-personal influence occurs. To bring a degree of order into the feeling nature may be considered as the greatest ‘medicine’ that a man can give himself individually and which he can minister to others through his being and manifestations. A ‘disharmony’ in one ‘member’ is treated by the connection of this member to the totality and its wholeness, which wholeness bears the ‘image’ of harmony and lawfullness for the given body. The disharmonized feelings of an individual are remedied through connection with the relative totality or wholeness, which, in the given case, concerns the collective feelings of Man as a single ‘body’ and essence. The feelings of an individual may be connected to the feeling of the totality, the individual member connected to the whole. ‘Conscience’ is again expressed as being involved in establishing such a connection. Such a connection may give rise to a form of suffering, just as an individual member may recoil when being treated for a malady. This recoil and form of suffering may be expressed as ‘remorse of conscience’, and this remorse has been said to be the very thing necessary to aid in dealing with the influences of the larger cosmos in a way that can re-establish and promote harmony through a form of inner transformation.

Written by

Joshua was born to parents and family members interested in the Work and teachings of Gurdjieff. He consequently began engaging with the material and ideas of Gurdjieff from a young age. Joshua has been mainly influenced by the work of J.G. Bennett, pupil of Gurdjieff. Joshua's parents were involved with groups in this line of the Work. Joshua has made connections with many different individuals in the Work over the years, including those in the American groups as well as the English groups. Joshua, and his parents, have also had connection with Anthony Blake, pupil of J.G.Bennett. Joshua pursued a career in Joinery and Construction before moving into the world of Social Care and therapy for children. Joshua is currently exploring ways to incorporate the ideas of the Work into social care reform, also with a view to bringing the Work to into mainstream schools in the form of educational programs involving practical work, drama, and inner exercises. Joshua currently attends a small work group based in Cumbria, England. Joshua has an interest in music of all genres and enjoys playing the Guitar. Joshua also has a passion for Nature and for walking and climbing Mountains. Joshua has an interest in the Sciences, Arts, Philosophy, Mythology, and Religious studies, also taking an interest in works of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

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