NOTES FROM BOB SABATH: INNER PRACTICE AND MOVEMENTS EXERCISES
There are a lot of paradoxes in this week’s reading: the Work says that “realization of one’s own mechanicalness is a form of Self-Remembering,” and that seeing our sleep is one of our first acts of waking up! This week’s reading also says that it is only in the state of Self-Remembering that higher help can reach us from the Conscious Circle of Humanity.
What does it mean to become a postulant to the conscious circle of humanity?
On a six week road trip last year, I took along a brief phase from Jeanne De Salzmann from The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff: “We believe we need to pay attention, when in fact we need to see and know our inattention.”
I don’t know much about the conscious circle, but I do know that it is peopled by those who see and know their own unconsciousness.
We may not think that in our current divided and scattered state of being that we belong to sit at this table of conscious humanity.
But in fact it is only those who see and know their own inner poverty and fragmentation who have a place in this conscious circle.
What is needed in this troubling time are not more spiritual giants like a Buddha or a Jesus exploding like fiery meteors on our planet, but the collective and gathered contributions of those who offer up whatever bits of fragmented presence they can muster to the pain body of this groaning planet. Maybe the question is not so much “what is mine to do” as “what is ours to do.”
Conscious work and intentional suffering are the “being duties” that release sacred substances needed for our individual, collective, and planetary growth. At least part of this work and suffering is “being remorse:” seeing and knowing and bearing our own fragmentation, not collapsing into our own private despair and self-pity, but using our own falling as fuel for awakening.
“What do you do at the monastery”, I asked Fr. Aiden the Abbot of a Benedictine monastery near my home. He quietly answered: “We fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up again.”
Our Risen Master himself declared that his body of followers would do greater work than he. The planet needs a new body. All creation groans and is waiting on tip toe for the coming and awakening of this new body — the sons and daughters of the Living Masters. Can we join the dance?
If you want to share with others how you are working with this week’s reading, you can post your comments in the Discussion Forum for Week Ten.
We will lightly continue with our core inner work practice:
The exercise itself is a form of self-remembering — returning from “all these other things” back to ourselves. Its aim is to practice three-centered awareness — observing (seeing), sensing, feeling. Engaging all three centers and having a sense of whole body awareness is essential. Activating gratitude, wonder, a sense of our own being, or our own inner poverty and need for higher help — all are good catalysts for self-remembering.
Post your reflections on Week Four reading and your own inner-life experiments in the Discussion Forum for Week Ten.
GOSPEL OF THOMAS AND WEEKLY LECTIONARY READINGS
Do you see any connections between these scripture readings and the Nicoll commentary reading for this week? Post any reflection in the work group discussion for week ten.
Gospel of Thomas – Logion 25: Excuses
Love your brother and your sister
as your very own being.
Protect them as you would the pupil of your eye.
LECTIONARY FOR LENT 4B, March 11, 2018
John 3:14-21 (New International Version)
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 (New International Version)
WEEK FOUR READING FROM NICOLL’S PSYCHOLOGICAL COMMENTARIES
The following reading is taken from Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. 2, 1996 Edition: Samuel Weiser Inc., pp. 737-741
NOTE: This week’s reading is edited to reflect more inclusive language. Post any reflections from this reading in the work group discussion for week ten.
We should remember ourselves at least once a day. It is very important to remember oneself and in every act of Self-Remembering lies one of the great inner meanings of this Work and of all Esotericism in general.
If we cannot remember ourselves once a day then we should remember ourselves three times a day. That is to say, we should make a bigger effort.
Actors on the stage
Remembering oneself is just as if actors on the stage who had become completely absorbed in the role they were playing suddenly remembered that they were merely acting the role and that they were really somebody else and not the part they were playing. This would mean that they would wake up. They would no longer take themselves as the hero or the king or the cardinal that they were playing.
But what do we do? We are just like those actors who have forgotten that they are playing a role. We find ourselves fitted into the parts belonging to every phase of tragedy and comedy but we identify with everything. We do not see that we ourselves are something else, something different, and so we do not remember ourselves and so we are said in the Work to be asleep.
Why should we not identify?
A little while ago it was asked: Why should we not identify? It is possible to answer this question from a thousand points of view. One great reason is that if we identify we are not doing this Work.
The question is like saying: Why should we do this Work? There is absolutely no reason why we should do this Work if we do not wish to. This Work is only for people who are looking for something. If we identify we cannot remember ourselves.
Self-Remembering can only be understood when we realize we do not remember ourselves
As I said, the Work lays the greatest emphasis on Self-Remembering. It says that the most important thing we have to do is to remember ourselves and it adds that this can only be understood when we realize that we do not remember ourselves.
Degrees of identification
Now if you are identified you are not remembering yourself. There are degrees and qualities of identifying. Some slight forms of identifying are trivial and unimportant. On the other hand, some slight forms of identifying lead very speedily to bigger forms and of these one has to be careful, just as one has to be careful about all small things that start up in oneself innocently, so to speak, and very speedily lead into unpleasant places in ourselves such as very unpleasant forms of negative emotion.
Our internal world becomes visible to us through self-observation
One has to be just as careful where one walks inside oneself after a time, as where one walks in the world visible to one’s senses. Through self-observation our internal world becomes visible to us–that is, we become conscious of it and learn to recognize where we are in it and what takes us down in it and what takes us upwards in regard to our experiences and the small degrees in level of Being that we all possess. Can you afford to walk in your sleep too long?
Identifying is the enemy of Self-Remembering
Since identifying is the enemy of Self-Remembering and since Self- Remembering is our supreme task, it is clear that we have to study our forms of identifying. With what have you been identified most today? Or let me ask you another question: Have you remembered yourself today?
The best starting point for the Work is our lives just as they are
Of course, we do not take our lives in the sense of parts that we have been given to play. The Work says that we start from our lives just as they are and that this is the best starting point for the Work. We do not have to break off our lives and go into monasteries or hermitages.
We take our lives in a different way
For instance, our lives may go on just the same as before, but if we begin to understand what the Work means we take our lives in a different way. I always find this difficult to explain to those who do not yet catch a glimpse of what is meant.
You are asleep. You forget who you really are!
Suppose you were to go on a stage where there were hundreds and thousands of actors dressed up in all sorts of costumes, quarrelling and making love and murdering and so on, and you realized to your horror that they were all fast asleep and were completely identified with their parts, which means that they were taking themselves to be what they had been cast to be in the big drama–what would you do?
You would probably seize hold of the nearest one and shake him violently and try to make him wake up. You might shout in his ear and say: ” Don’t be so silly, don’t stick that knife into that person, you are asleep, you forget who you really are.” And what do you think the result would be? Probably that knife would be pushed into you !
Our lives are best suited to us to wake up from
Now if we can see that our lives are somewhat similar to parts given to actors and that each of us has a different part best suited to us, our attitude would change. What does “best suited to us” mean? It means best suited to us to wake up from. If you take your life on Earth as an end in itself you can never get to the attitude that the Work teaches. The Work takes life as a means to another end. If you take life as an end in itself can you ever cease to identify with it.
The one thing we must always remember
You know how in various myths and fairy stories and esoteric legends there is the idea that the hero is sent out into the world to seek for something, and they are warned not to forget whence they came– this is one thing that they must always remember.
Let me quote from an ancient hymn which contains a great deal of teaching. Here the son of kings is sent by his parents down “into Egypt”, into the world, to bring back a pearl. But after he had been in the world some time he forgot that he was the son of kings, he forgot the pearl and “lay in a deep sleep “. He was awakened from sleep and remembered himself.
“I remembered that I was a son of kings,” he said, “and my free soul longed for its natural state. I remembered the pearl, for which I had been sent to Egypt . . . and I snatched away the pearl and turned to go back to my Father’s house.” In this allegory you will see that the prince remembered his divine origin, he remembered that he was not what he had begun to take himself in life.
Taking our life in the wrong illusory way
Many ancient teachings speak of life as being an illusion. But this is not easy to understand. The Work does not speak about life as an illusion but it says a great deal about our taking life in the wrong illusory way and it constantly emphasizes that we must learn to take it in the right way.
Identifying with ourselves and with the events of life
In this connection it is constantly speaking about identifying both with ourselves and with the events of life. This identifying, whose direction is inwards and outwards, keeps us asleep and makes it impossible for us to remember ourselves and in consequence makes it impossible for certain influences to reach us that can help us, consisting in certain emotions, certain thoughts, certain feelings, not derived from our business affairs, our daily existence, or life as seen, as it appears to be.
The illusion of life lies in our thinking we can do, we are conscious, we are a unity
The illusion of life lies, the Work says, in our thinking we can do, in our thinking we are conscious, in our thinking that we are a unity. The Work says that in life everything happens in the only possible way it can happen. When you apparently act in life, when you apparently do something in life, you are doing the only thing that you could do. It is not you who are doing it.
Realizing our mechanicalness is the beginning of remembering ourselves
When you begin to see this, when you begin to realize your mechanicalness in this way, you are already beginning to remember yourself, you are already beginning to be separated from the machine of yourself and to approach something that lies behind the machine of yourself in the direction of Real ‘I’.
The realization of our mechanicalness is a form of Self-Remembering
This is why the Work says that realization of one’s own mechanicalness is a form of Self-Remembering. In this kind of Self-Remembering you are aware that what you are doing and saying and thinking is not really you. You become a spectator of yourself and you see that all that you have called you and your life is an illusion in the sense that it is all happening, and in that sense it is not real–it is not Reality.
When I see that a life event is entangling me
When I see that an event is entangling me and that I am reacting to this event quite mechanically, the whole business becomes unreal to me because where I thought before that I was doing, I was acting, I was seeing. I see it now as IT that is acting.
Separating from our inner thoughts
In the same way in separating from our inner fantasies and thoughts that spring from False Personality, from vanity, and so on, we may have a moment of Self-Remembering in which we escape from their hypnotic power and see that they are trying to get hold of us and that that is their real object–namely, to put us to sleep again.
Everything in life seeks to keep us asleep
You must remember that everything in life seeks to keep us asleep. In the Legend of Endymion it is related that the Moon kept Endymion asleep because this was the only way in which she could keep her power over him.
We live in a world of sleeping people
Remember that the Work teaches that we live in a world of sleeping people in which everything happens, and that we are also asleep. The only difference is that we are trying to wake up. We cannot change life. A man must begin with himself—a woman with herself. We can begin to change ourselves.
We ourselves are asleep
But this is impossible unless we begin to see that we ourselves are asleep, that we are identified with the tragic or comic parts given us in life, and that we have forgotten ourselves and that we do not even try to remember ourselves.
Are you overcome by your difficulties? Do you feel no one has ever been in such adverse circumstances? Or, on the contrary, do you feel yourself the happiest person in the world? In Self-Remembering one does not start from this situation, this state of affairs, this domestic scene, this particular event one is in.
Life becomes our teacher
Life becomes our teacher only when we understand that it offers us different circumstances, different experiences, different events at different moments, with which not to identify. Life is a series of outer events and inner states and they are always shifting and turning. If we stick at every point, then we are identified all the way round.
We take everything personally
We take everything personally, as being ourselves, like the actors who take every role they have to play as themselves. Then we are indeed asleep and being turned round like little wheels by the big wheel of life. When all traces of individuality fail, collectivity grows.
The secret lies in not identifying and in Self-Remembering
We have to struggle hard not to become only small wheels driven by life, by the circle of events. The secret lies in not identifying, and in Self-Remembering. But if you take every little upset, every domestic incident, seriously and with full identifying, how then can you work or expect to work? You do not even realize you are playing a typical role that millions of others have played or are playing, and that you will not get free from it unless you wake up and see that you are not remembering yourself.
Now we each have a circle of different ‘I’s that revolve. Each plays its role–pathetic, silly, fine, serio-comic, tragic, and various other stock parts. The trouble is that we do not play these roles but they play us.
The roles play us. We must consciously play the role.
Really to play a role in the Work-sense we must be conscious. To play a role consciously is an example of what the Work calls doing. Only a conscious person can do. As we are, roles play us. So it is a good thing to observe them and not identify with them so much–to see them acting in oneself and yet not feel that one is them–to say silently “I am not this!”
I am not this!
This is to begin to remember oneself as different from these ‘I’s. But every day we must practice Self-Remembering at first simply by stopping everything, by being not in anything, not connected with anything in life or in ourselves as life has made us.
If we are identified with ourselves we cannot remember ourselves
Now remember, a man or woman identified with themselves cannot remember themselves because they have no horizon above them. They are limited by themselves. A man who blames everybody, a woman who ascribes everything to herself, is identified with himself, with herself, and really dead.
Let us recall the first three levels of Consciousness: (1) Sleep in bed, (2) So-called waking consciousness, in which people live and also kill each other, and (3) Self- Remembering.
Only at the level of Self-Remembering can higher levels of Conscious Humanity reach us
It is only to this level–the level of Self-Remembering –that help can penetrate and actually reach us from higher levels of the Universe of Being–that is, from Conscious Humanity. That is why it is so important to practice Self-Remembering–to try to do it and gradually find the way to do it.
If the intention is sincere and the aim intelligent and based on an understanding of the Work, the way will be found.
What would happen if we saw our forms of identifying in a flash
Sometimes when you watch a person you may wonder what would happen if he or she saw their forms of identifying in a flash–their mannerisms, their dress, their intonations, their expressions, the seriousness with which they take themselves and their position. Yes, and the same applies to ourselves.
A story about forgetting to remember ourselves
I will tell you a story about forgetting to remember oneself. There was once an island on which a number of people landed from a ship in order to rehearse a play. One person was cast for the part of a villain, another was a spy, another a noble woman, another a brave man, another a miser, another a hero, another a misunderstood wife, another a misunderstood husband, another a long-suffering person, and so on.
The first day they all acted the play and enjoyed it and afterwards laughed at one another’s parts. But the island had peculiar properties. As the days went on, each time they acted this play they began to feel more and more that they were actually the parts they acted. And then everything went wrong and they remained on the island and the ship vanished, leaving only a little boat behind.
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