I need to ponder the question: What do I serve?
No matter what we do or fail to do, we serve something. Our attention and energy can easily be taken by the things of ordinary life, and in that case, that is what we serve. We serve it through the payment of our Attention. But the attention and energy can also be directed toward something higher, what we call our aim, and in that case, we serve this aim.
Many different deeper questions point to the same wordless experience of a calling in a certain direction. Who am I? Why am I here? What is missing in my life? Such questions can resonate with a deep part of ourselves, which Gurdjieff calls magnetic center. They can help to awaken a deeper sense of ourselves and our possibilities.
When we begin this process of becoming something more than our present ordinary self, our aim is usually expressed as something we want for ourselves, either a deeper experience of some kind or a freedom from some inner pain or suffering.
As we continue with the process, we gradually sense more and more the possibility of help, not only from others also engaged in the process but also from some higher, invisible source or level. We do not understand what this “something higher” might be, but we begin to sense, in our body, that it is somehow connected with our process of becoming.
It is not necessary to “believe” in this “something higher” as if it were a separate being, in a way like ourselves but only much higher and far more powerful. Instead, the existence of the higher can become a direct experience in the moment, affecting all of our centers. No belief is necessary. We simply know that it is (whatever it is).
Further along in the process, we begin to sense not only that the “something else” may be helping us in invisible ways, but that our ‘work’ is needed, is necessary for a purpose much higher than our ordinary wishes and desires, our original understanding of our aim. We begin to wish to serve this higher purpose. Parts of us will want to understand exactly what this purpose is, why our work is needed, and what will be the precise effect of our work. But these parts are like the small children who constantly ask, “Why, why?”
In a deeper part of ourselves, we already know, but not in words. The reason for our existence and our ‘work’ is already contained in each one of us, from the moment of our creation, but we are not in touch with this deeper knowledge. As we work, if we work in the right way, not just for ourselves, this is gradually revealed to us on a level much deeper than words.
I cannot grow in a right direction, as determined by higher laws, unless I see, feel, and sense that there is something much higher in the universe that I am called to serve. I need to align myself with this “something higher” so that Its influences can be received through me (this physical-psychological form, not “me” personally), for purposes that I cannot really know or understand.
Some refer to this “something higher” as “God,” but then begin to imagine it is something like a person of a much, much higher level. So, they pray to “God” for certain things they want, as if God were waiting to hear from them and give them what they want. In the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), we pray, “Thy will be done.” But there is often an unspoken and unnoticed “shadow prayer”: But could Thy will be at least a little like my will?
I cannot know God or the highest level of consciousness in the universe. At my level, the manifestation of God is through the fundamental laws (Law of Three and Law of Seven) that govern world creation and maintenance. I begin to see God everywhere expressed in the lawfulness of the universe.
It is quite impersonal. It is not that God does not “care” about me, but the relationship exists on a much higher level than personality. All that exists is like a single out-breath of God, and when the in-breath follows, all the universe that we know, and much more will simply disappear. I am an infinitesimal tiny speck of that universe, a flicker of light that exists for less than a fraction of a second on the larger scale. Yet the mere existence of each of us is an expression of God’s Love, as manifested through the fundamental laws. It is that Light, that Love, we are created to transmit into the world around us.
How can I ‘work’ when my existence is so insignificant?
There are two currents that flow through us, a horizontal current that connects us to ordinary life, to the maintenance of the planetary body, which is, therefore, the first step of the process (First Striving), and a vertical current that connects us to our source, the Absolute, God. The two currents, which are represented by the two aspects of the Cross, are our two natures, which we struggle a whole lifetime to reconcile.
In the symbol of the Cross, the vertical represents the First Commandment of the New Testament (Love God with the whole mind, the whole heart, and the whole body), and the horizontal represents the Second Commandment (Love your neighbor as yourself).
We must love our neighbor not as we love our self, but as our self. We and our neighbor are one, on a higher level. Our own life is interdependent with that of everyone else, like the threads of a carpet or tapestry all interwoven together (in the East, this is expressed by the idea of karma). As we are, we are incomplete, and we cannot become complete alone but only in connection with our neighbor.
We need the help from trying to practice the First Commandment in order to be able to follow the Second. The two are interdependent. It is like Jacob’s ladder. The vertical current or First Commandment is like the vertical part of a ladder, leading to from where we are to where we are called to go (the “way to the Father” in the New Testament). But we cannot climb the ladder without the horizontal steps that come from following the Second Commandment.
In the same way, the ten commandments of the Old Testament are in two parts. The first three refer to our relationship with what is highest (or “God” for those who use that word) and the last seven to our relationships with other people. Again, we see the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. The ten commandments can be understood on many different levels. On one level, they are a guide to correct social behavior (at least the last seven of them), how to get along with other people in a harmonious way. On another level, they are guidance on how to live so that we are at peace with ourselves and can pursue a spiritual path without too much disturbance from ordinary life. On a still deeper level, they are about our relationship to our self, to honor what is highest in us, not to mix it with lower influences, not lying to ourselves or doing inner violence.
The two currents can also be seen from the Enneagram, which embodies both the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. The triangle 0-3-6 is the three forces or Holy Trinity, the vertical current. The repeating cycle 1-4-2-8-5-7 is the horizontal current, trying to practice the Second Commandment of the New Testament. This cycle links the three centers, thinking, feeling, and sensing. The whole of the diagram combines the Two Commandments and shows the way to prayer in all three centers that can support trying to follow both Commandments.
This cannot be only in the mind, theoretical. I need to try to live the ideas, to align the whole of my being with a higher influence that calls me to the real meaning of my existence in this form. In order to serve this higher influence and purpose, there is a need for organic change in all of my centers.
The organic change, or transformation (transubstantiation), is connected to the level on which I digest and refine the energies we receive through the three kinds of food. Not only the first conscious shock (at the moment of receiving impressions) but also the second conscious shock are both necessary. A certain “cleansing” of the centers, and especially the emotional center, is needed to assure that nothing false in me is crystallized during the transformation process.
This cleansing can be helped by trying to remind myself constantly that the purpose of my work is not about me personally but about an impersonal and wholehearted willingness to serve something Higher.
Those who practice mindfulness out of the context of any spiritual path will recognize the experience as related to a continual return to the mantra and meditating without concern for results. For those for whom the deeper truths of traditional religious paths are a part of their practice, this may be expressed as practicing the Presence of the Living God or praying without ceasing. For those who follow Gurdjieff’s teaching, it can be expressed in his wish for us to “Remember Yourself Always and Everywhere.”