Received this email: “Do you have a group of people who meet to work with the Fourth Way ideas? <name, number removed>”
Actually, I’ve been contemplating the idea of starting a Fourth Way
meetup (locally) for a while, but due to other commitments, it hasn’t
happened. If I did, it would involve going through some reading
material, and working on some core practices such as self-observation,
self-remembering, etc. and relating experiences with others over time.
Anyhow, before looking to join any Fourth Way group, I would recommend the following first:
Read and become well acquainted with some of the basic, well-known
material, such as Ouspensky’s ISOTM, The Fourth Way, The Psychology of
Man’s Possible Evolution, and then Gurdjieff’s main works: BTTHG,
Meetings with Remarkable Men, Life is Real, Only Then When I Am, and
maybe Views From The Real World. Nicoll’s commentaries are worth looking
- After the above, understand and look into starting the
regular practice of simple self-observation, and any related practices
that aid this (e.g. meditation/concentration). When ready, start to
include self-remembering. The concept needs to be understood first
though, and unfortunately few people (especially on the Internet and in
online forums) actually understand what self-remembering involves, and
most confuse it with self-observation or mindfulness of sensation (which
it isn’t). Ouspensky detailed the practice best IMO in his works. Note
all experiences in a journal over several months, or years.
Then, and only then, look to meet others to share ideas, experiences and
readings. Avoid any cult-like groups that seem to have a
guru/leader/Gurdjieff-wannabe leading (I won’t name any here, but
there’s a few out there). The “Foundation” is a reasonably safe group,
but still has its ‘issues’. Don’t expect any major progress or insight
to be had from most of the existing older Fourth Way/Gurdjieffian
‘hangers-on’ groups who have managed to fossilize the teachings and
their glorious history, without actually putting much into practice now
on a daily basis, or with the required dedication / short-term
intensity. Better to wait until a local group of people appears that is
accessible to you, and which has a group of people who are truly
interested in the Work right now.
- In the meantime, building a
‘magnetic centre’ with ‘B and C influences’ (to use FW terminology) can
go a long way.. if not _all_ the way.
I had been listening to and reading A Course in Miracles (Text), when I came across this quote:
"The ego is incapable of knowing how you feel. When I said that the ego does not know anything, I said the one thing about the ego that is wholly true. But there is a corollary; if only knowledge has being and the ego has no knowledge, then the ego as no being." (Text 8-VIII.7)
This reminded me of the use (in some circles) whereby the word 'knowledge' is interpreted as 'knowing' or the act of knowing (i.e. being aware) only, rather than in the usual sense of amassing intellectual data/facts/thoughts etc.
In this sense, 'knowledge' or 'knowing only' equates exactly with being, since both as also synonyms for just awareness or consciousness.
Hence, a thought construct, including the primal thought-construct-tendency which is the 'ego' ('I-thought'), cannot actually know anything, in the sense that it is not self-aware or endowed with any form of awareness itself-- but rather lives only as a construct existing in our awareness. The ego doesn't assert itself in deep sleep (or death) for instance, and at times when our waking consciousness seems to be in abeyance.
Being without awareness (knowledge) and being just a thought-construct, the ego thus has no being itself, and is rather just like a computer program- playing out its programming as it was created to do, relying on power beyond itself, and mostly for the sake of the body and its own survival.
This leads to the inquiry of what one really is, if the ego ("I-construct) and the body have no inherent being in themselves.. and taking into account that we normally regard ourselves as a body-mind entity.
Without jumping into further concepts, such as 'we are soul, spirit, Otherness' etc.. it is possible to stop and enquire directly into the nature of what we are in this moment, with the understanding that we are prior to the awareness of ourselves as a body, and prior to the awareness of ourselves as an ego. One means for doing this is via the practiced habit of self-attentiveness and patient observation directed squarely at one's "self" (or the feeling of one's "self").
śanaiḥ—gradually; śanaiḥ—step by step; uparamet—hesitated; buddhyā—by intelligence; dhṛti-gṛhītayā—carrying the conviction; ātma-saṁstham—placed in Transcendence; manaḥ—mind; kṛtvā—doing so; na—nothing; kiñcit—anything else; api—even; cintayet—be thinking of.
Some English translations (verse 25):
(1 - Prabhupada)
step by step, with full conviction, one should become situated in
trance by means of intelligence, and thus the mind should be fixed on
the Self alone and should think of nothing else.
(2 - Fuerstein)
Making the mind settled in the Self by holding the wisdom-faculty steadfast, he should not think of anything.
(3 - Muktananda)
Completely renouncing all desires arising from thoughts of the world,
one should restrain the senses from all sides with the mind. Slowly and
steadily, with conviction in the intellect, the mind will become fixed
in God alone, and will think of nothing else.
(4 - Sri Ramana Maharshi)
Fix the mind [your attention] in [or on] ātman
[yourself]; do not think even the slightest of anything else at all.
I had been reading the Bhagavad Gita of late (book form), and came across a quote online from a Facebook page that was from Chapter 5, Verse 6.. which translated this verse as "Merely renouncing all activities yet not engaging in the devotional
service of the Lord cannot make one happy. But a thoughtful person
engaged in devotional service can achieve the Supreme without delay."
For some reason this translation didn't sit well with me at all, and I checked a few other sources.. and sure enough, Sivananda and some others (Bessant) translate this verse in a completely different way-- and in a way that makes more sense- and relate it to the Chapter discussion on the yoga of action (Karma yoga) vs the yoga of renunciation of action (Sankhya / Jnana).. and Krsna ends up advising that the yoga of action (Karma yoga) is easier, or rather renunciation of action is difficult without yoga (ie training/discipline).. and prior to this verse, it is stressed by Krsna that actually both are equal and one.
Later in the day, I found this excellent explanation on the use of 'yoga' throughout the Bhagavad Gita.. and thus had to share it-
Q: What does the word “yoga” given in each chapter-name mean?
'Yoga' has various meanings . Yoga means nirodha or mastery . also means
upaya , a means of achieving something . Dhyana is also called yoga . A
connection ,sangati , meaning a subject matter , visaya , is also
called yoga. All the 18 chapters of Gita
has the word ' yoga' in its title therefore, the appropriate meaning
here is sangati , the connection or the subject matter. Thus, the word
yoga does not refer to the practice of yoga but to the subject matter."