In this third part of the series, we’ll continue putting together the building blocks discussed previously: the horizontal realm of personality, knowledge, and the forces of life; the vertical inner realm of Being, Essence, and Good; and the relational field that comes into play as we work to raise our level of Being on the vertical scale. Maurice pointed to valuation of Wisdom teachings as a key to placing ourselves in the heart rather than the intellect. Finally, Maurice talked of a “neutralizing force” that could either come from life, or from the Teachings. We will continue on the path, beginning with this neutralizing force.
Gurdjieff teaches that all creations, manifestations, or new arisings are set in motion by the Law of Three. This applies to all things, from the cosmic to our everyday life. Very briefly, the three forces that interact in any new arising are: First Force—which we might call affirming, Second Force—which we might call denying, and Third Force—which is called reconciling, or neutralizing.
It is important to note that Third Force is not a compromise between opposing forces; it is something entering in that rearranges the dynamic.
In Maurice’s psychological commentary on the Gurdjieff teachings, Third Force is applied to the topic that we are discussing and the forces that are in play—Being and knowledge, internal and external, vertical and horizontal, World 24 and World 48, and Essence and personality. Given these forces, how are we to raise our level of Being?
First, a teaching from Maurice on the nature of personality and Essence. Maurice states that “life develops personality, but not Essence. The part of a person that can grow from the Wisdom Teachings is Essence.”[i] Maurice adds that behind the false personality there is something real, unspoiled by life, and that is Essence. Essence is the most simple and genuine side of us, beyond our life in time.[ii]
You may also recall from earlier in this article Maurice saying that Being is composed of personality and Essence. Here we are talking of how this relationship between personality, Essence, and Being plays out in Third Force. If at this point you don’t really know what Third Force is, don’t worry. As I’ve said previously, just stay open and allow yourself to feel these teachings.
In our usual life, before doing Wisdom work, personality or ego is typically strong and well-developed and takes the role of the first or affirming force. Our internal Essence is less developed and becomes the second or denying force. Events of life happen and we react to them, and they become the reconciling force—we muddle through in a situation that keeps us trapped in a mechanical, World 48 existence.
However, through valuation of the Teachings, our Essence begins to gain strength. With enough valuation, and work to lessen identifying so much with external life, Essence (the internal) becomes affirmative force, personality (the external) becomes denying, and the Teachings (through valuation) are the reconciling force.
My understanding, at this moment, of how Maurice describes the above situation is this: A person’s Essence is the observer and a person’s personality is the observed. We seek to remember Essence because it is so important and yet weak, due to the dominance of personality. If we can remember Essence, which has the ability to observe personality, we might reverse the flow by allowing Essence to become the affirming force, train personality to step into the position of denying force, and allow the Wisdom teachings to replace events of life as the reconciling force through our valuation of the teachings.
Self-Observation: the Teachings in Action
I recently observed this dynamic in action during my readings of the Commentaries. My morning habit was to have a period of Lectio Divina for an hour after breakfast. After the readings I would check in on the news headlines for the day. This schedule went on for weeks, months. Eventually a small voice remembered Cynthia’s warnings after her teachings at Wisdom Schools—do not squander the energy you have gathered!
I then remembered Maurice’s teaching on not mixing the higher with the lower, and I saw what I was doing—mixing the daily horrors from World 96 with the beauty from World 24. So I stopped, even though the now passive voice of personality complained— ‘but we like the news, don’t we?’
Even after this important observation, I didn’t see the shift in Third Force. That came a short while later, when I realized that Essence had become strong enough to come forth and protect my Lectio Divina time, and my valuation of the teachings resolved personality’s resistance. Maurice says that “everything that takes force away from personality may bring about a trace of Self–Remembering.”[iii] (In Maurice’s teaching on not mixing the higher with the lower, he makes the observation that this is the real meaning of profanity, and the reason for the Commandment to not take God’s name in vain.)[iv]
A Portal Between Opposites
Maurice speaks of Third Force in a series of talks on “the Opposites.” He points to Third Force as neutralizing or reconciling in the place between opposites in life. If opposites represent identification of one sort or another (like/dislike, attraction/repulsion, good/bad), Third Force represents non-identification, or Self–Remembering. “It can be said that Self-Remembering is striving to be in Third Force, and non-identifying is striving not to be in the two opposite forces.”[v]
Maurice says this is the sole place where help from above can reach us. Third Force is the place in which both Good and truth lie—that is, the real meaning.[vi] Self-Remembering is to reach the middle of the pendulum, between the opposites of life, where Third Force can touch us. This place, which is neither of the opposites, is a new experience, a new consciousness and understanding. All identifying belongs to the opposites.
My sense of this is that in this place of Third Force one of the original forces of creation can still reach us, as if we were standing at a portal between realms, the point where the vertical and horizontal intersect, where Good (vertical) and truth (horizontal) interact. This to me recalls Cynthia saying: “meaning is not explanation, it’s resonance.”
Come into Being as you Pass Away
Maurice devotes seven consecutive talks to the topic of becoming passive to oneself. By passive Maurice means lessening the constant need for ego or personality to judge, label, categorize, and all of the other ways that humans identify so mechanically that we are asleep. However, the habits of personality are not to be simply labeled as bad or wrong. Maurice says the development of personality by the forces of life is necessary. Life, when it is the reconciling force, requires personality to be the affirming force, and Essence to be resisting. And this is the natural arrangement for our species to go through life.
But with humans there is another possible path. If you are drawn to the Wisdom teachings, and they resonate in you as Good and an alternative reconciling force, “personality must gradually become passive to let Essence develop. All individual evolution, all real inner development of yourself, depends upon a growth of Essence.”[vii] This is the real meaning of being passive in the Teachings.
Maurice says to begin from the idea that we do not know, that we are ignorant, and that by non-identifying we can be open rather than closed. Be poor in spirit, as the Beatitudes say— “our work starts from poor Essence, not from rich personality.”[viii] “This gives new life because you begin to get new impressions, new viewpoints, new understanding. If impressions fall on Essence, you see in a new way.”[ix]
Start from the realization that we really do not know all that we think we know. A rich personality is very identified with itself, a poor Essence is not. Opening oneself to new impressions and viewpoints is another way of raising your level of Being. Wisdom teaches that you must become passive to yourself, but it is painful to keep going when your satisfied picture of yourself, your vanity, is hit. “In passing from one level of Being, and experience, to a new level, there is a gap that is painful.”[x]
Come into being as you pass away.[xi]
Yeshua’s invitation in the Logion above can seem confusing, even jarring, certainly paradoxical. It’s the ocean in a drop—all the Teachings in seven words. It is what personality cannot get its head around. A couple of quotes from Maurice apply: “All effort in the work is passive.”[xii] “To become passive, in the sense of the Teachings, requires very great inner work.”[xiii]
My minimalist summary might be—we work to let go.
The Kingdom of Heaven is Our Next Level of Being
I will conclude this part of the series with what I sense are two major teachings from Maurice. First, if you cannot make the shift described here to make Essence more active than personality, you will remain where you are, and therefore what you are. “In the Scale of Being, where and what are the same. That is, the level of Being where a person is, is also what a person is.”[xiv] (Remember: your Being attracts your life). If you begin to see yourself passively, you begin to see your level of Being.
Second, Maurice says that the Kingdom of Heaven that Yeshua refers to is very close to us. “Your Kingdom of Heaven, your Conscious Circle of Humanity, is your next level of Being.”[xv] It depends on valuation of the Teachings and willingness to work—to remember oneself, practice non-identifying, stop making internal accounts, separate from negative emotions, stop self-justifying—all according to our own state and level. “If you do not value the Work as one of the most important things you have ever met in your life, the Teachings will simply pass into your ordinary level of Being, and will become twisted and distorted and useless.”[xvi]
I will stop for now with a final Logion. Maurice died before the Gospel of Thomas became translated and freely available, but he was aware of “sayings of Christ not included in the Gospels,”[xvii] and he quotes from what we know as Logion 22, which he offers as a description of standing between the opposites, in Third Force:
“When you are able to make two become one,
the inside like the outside,
and the outside like the inside,
the higher like the lower,
so that a man is no longer male,
and a woman, female,
but male and female become a single whole;
When you are able to fashion an eye to replace an eye,
and form a hand in place of a hand,
or a foot for a foot,
making one image supersede another—
then you will enter in.”[xviii]
To read the earlier posts in this series, follow these links
Part 1: Living from Good: Hearing the Voices of Yeshua and Maurice Nicoll, Part 1
Part 2: https://wisdomwaypoints.org/2023/11/living-from-good-hearing-the-voices-of-yeshua-and-maurice-nicoll-part-2/
[i] Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (Eureka Editions:2020) v4p1471.
[ii] Commentaries v1p120.
[iii] Commentaries v1p332.
[iv] Commentaries v1p179.
[v] Commentaries v1p333.
[vi] Commentaries v1p334.
[vii] Commentaries v1p275.
[viii] Commentaries v1p294.
[ix] Commentaries v1p295.
[x] Commentaries v1p297.
[xi] Lynn C Bauman, Ward J Bauman, Cynthia Bourgeault, The Luminous Gospels (Praxis 2008) p21.
[xii] Commentaries v3p1005.
[xiii] Commentaries v1p271.
[xiv] Commentaries v1p295.
[xv] Commentaries v2p728.
[xvi] Commentaries v2p729.
[xvii] Commentaries v4p1375.
[xviii] The Luminous Gospels p17.
Bill and Sarah recently closed their Gallery of Smoky Mountain images after 15 years in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They currently live in the mountains of western North Carolina, in the small town of Brevard. They devote each day to their Wisdom journey, in whatever form that takes.
All images courtesy of Bill Britten