Obligolnian Strivings: Week Four of Inner Task Series by Heather Ruce

This week our theme will be the second striving: to have a constant and unflagging instinctive need to perfect oneself in the sense of Being. Jeanne De Salzmann, in her book The Reality of Being speaks of our work with this striving. “I begin to see that I live torn between two realities. On the one hand, there is the reality of my existence on the earth, which limits me in time and space, with all its threats and opportunities for satisfaction. On the other hand, there is a reality of being that is beyond this exis­tence, a reality for which I have a nostalgia. It calls to our conscious­ness, across all the disappointments and misfortunes, to lead us to serve Being, to serve the “divine” in ourselves. If my life is lived only to subsist, the essential being is veiled, obscured. Even if I subsist in an intelligent, reasonable way, I do not see the true sense of my life—I have no direction. I am entirely drawn toward outer existence and thus prevented from becoming conscious of my authentic being. On the other hand, if I feel another reality, under the force of this impression I forget my life and withdraw into isolation. Thus the world claims me without caring about inner life, and my being calls me without caring about the demands of worldly existence. These are two poles of one larger Self, one same Being. I need to find a state in which I am more and more open and obedient [listening] to an essential force in me, and at the same time able to express this force and let it do its work in the world.“ (p.135-136)

This week our theme will be to stay with the second striving: to have a constant and unflagging instinctive need to perfect oneself in the sense of Being. Being, from a Gurdjieff perspective is the inner cohesion of experience, what we actually are in any given moment as well as overall. It is qualitative and as we apply the teachings of Wisdom to our being, our level of being can increase. In her ecourse through Spirituality and Practice, Becoming Truly Human: Gurdjieff’s Obligolnian Strivings Session 6, Cynthia says,

“From a Gurdjieff Work perspective, falling to a lower level of Being inevitably entails moving to a less energized state. This may not seem obvious to you at first, because negative states can sometimes feel highly energy-charged. But in the Work, the tip-off is not the state of your emotions but the state of your attention. A state in which you’re collected, gathered, focused, present, is a higher energy state. This means that it is running at a more powerful magnitude of Being; it supports the “upward” transformation of meaning. A lower-level state plunges you back below the critical threshold needed for maintaining lively contact with that deeper aliveness of “Real I.” Inevitably, once your reservoir of Being starts to get drawn down you fall back into identification with your smaller self, which in turn draws your reservoir of being down still further. It’s a complete vicious circle.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to spot when we move to a lower state. Just as most people can’t see the moment they fall asleep at night, so they also can’t and don’t notice when Being starts to sink. And when you think about it, that actually makes sense: you can’t go consciously unconscious! But with training and sincerity you can begin to notice more promptly when you’ve gotten hooked, and at least not feed the downward slide!

Sometimes, as the Psalms say, you simply have to “wait in the darkness crying for the Lord.” The ability to see a deteriorating state does not immediately mean that you can do anything about it. You have to endure for a while (sometimes a long while!) in the gap between your power to see and your power to do. It’s one of the most uncomfortable tight spots in the whole spiritual journey.”

The invitation in this striving is to be willing to see and work with our level of being constantly, continuously over a time with a firm steadfast resolution or faithfulness, from that instinctive place that is natural and from which we follow without thinking too much about it, in order that our Being may be perfect (this can sometimes be a troublesome word) meaning complete, having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics, or lacking nothing essential to the whole. Work with self-observation—the capacity to see and notice from a place deep within that does not judge or criticize but has the capacity to intentionally suffer what is seen, what is actually going on inside you objectively—in particular around when you fall into a lower state of being. We all know what this is like so be curious about the emotions and in particular the sensations of this state. Again, work with the capacity to simply see it and to bear it. Does this simple noticing have any effect on your state of being? What situations, people, things, etc. do you commonly get caught in and that have a tendency to set off a downward slide of your level of being?