The Polarity of Will and Surrender

Key topics and themes included in this session:

1. Introduction to Maundy Thursday

  • Explanation of the term “Maundy” from “Mandatum” meaning “mandate” or “commandment”
  • Connection to the New Commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you”

2. Themes of Maundy Thursday

  • The New Commandment
  • Institution of the Eucharist
  • The struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Theme of vigilance and the tradition of staying awake
  • Awkwardness of integrating foot washing in modern liturgy

3. Gurdjieff Tradition and Maundy Thursday

  • Tension between Gurdjieff teaching and Christian teaching
  • The need for reconciliation between the two on Maundy Thursday

4. Gurdjieff Work’s Concentration on “I Wish to Be”

  • The importance of forming a stable “I” from a multitude of shifting personalities
  • The conflict between gathering self and surrendering self

5. The Christian Emphasis on Self-Abandonment

  • The concept of dying to yield a rich harvest
  • The surrender impulse versus the concentration impulse

6. Personal Struggle with Tensions

  • The author’s experience shuffling between the Gurdjieff work and Christianity
  • The search for a higher resolution to the conflict

7. The Shifting “I” in Gurdjieff’s Teaching

  • The illusory nature of self in various contexts
  • The necessity of creating a self that can stay put

8. The Role of “Moi” and “Je” in the Work

  • The relationship between the first body self (moi) and the second body self (je)
  • The importance of not identifying with the moi

9. Mutual Pouring Between Higher and Lower Selves

  • The theme of pouring in exercises
  • The reciprocal nature of pouring between higher and lower
  • The necessity of giving back

10. History of the Gurdjieff Work

  • The wavering between concentration and receptivity
  • Influence of Gurdjieff’s students and their interpretations

11. Starting Point: Surrender or Concentration

  • Physiological basis for starting with surrender
  • The concept of spacious mind and non-instrumental thinking

12. The Struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane

  • Balancing personal will with cosmic necessity
  • The surrender in “into your hands I commend thy spirit”

13. Reflection on Powerlessness

  • Father Thomas’s essay on powerlessness
  • The value of anticipating transformation before physical death

14. Application in Personal Practice

  • Encouraging engagement with the tension between work and surrender

A Note About This Content:

These talks were originally presented to a small group of experienced wisdom students who, for several years, have also been working intently with Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way material. The fruits of this work weave their way into the Holy Week talks, including the mention of a set of eighty-eight unpublished exercises, the “doubling” or “pouring” exercises, and “Je/Moi” ( “I/Me”) as a relationship between first and second bodies. While some of the language used may not be familiar or clearly defined, we hope that if one listens quietly, “with the ear of the heart,” the essence of the teachings will prevail. 

We are not at liberty to disclose more about the unpublished Gurdjieff exercises. However, further background on his published exercises can be found in Cynthia Bourgeault’s Mystical Courage, in the Wisdom Waypoints online courses “Building Second Body” and “Nourishing Second Body,” or in Joseph’s Azize’s book Gurdjieff: Mysticism, Contemplation & Exercises.

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