Viewing our habits as energy leaks places them in a more impersonal light. I become irritable, not because I’m a bad person, but because I have too much unused energy. I harbor concerns, not because I’m an anxious person, but because I have too much unused energy. I indulge in daydreaming, not because I’m an impractical person, but because I have too much unused energy. To remember myself more — more frequently, for longer, and more deeply — these leaks will have to be plugged. And because I begin my day with replenished accumulators, they must especially be observed and plugged at the beginning of my day. If I conquer my morning, I’ll make a strong start and set a better standard for the rest of my day.
Last month, we reexamined our desire to awaken and labored to extract from it a practical aim. Student’s responses naturally revolved around repetitive psychological patterns that inhibited their awakening. Some formulated aims around fear, others around inner considering, and others around judgment. Since we normally think of aims as destinations to be reached, we might expect that within a year of work, the fearful would become courageous, the inner considering self-assured, and the judgmental compassionate. When we actually dig down into the roots of our psychology, however, we discover that our deeper psychological habits don’t easily bend. They cannot be changed without unintended consequences. If by some extreme effort the fearful forced themselves to curb fear, they’d not only become courageous but also obstinate and disrespectful. Their conquest of fear will have brought to life a new and equally problematic manifestation. Replacing one form of sleep with another cannot count as awakening. Therefore, the step that follows setting aims invites us to change the way we think of aims. Rather than eliminating the habits that inhibit our awakening, can we transform them into something useful? Can we use our psychology as kindling for the fire of consciousness?
“What do you want?”
“I want to know myself.”
“How does your self-ignorance manifest?”
“In many ways.”
Then start with one of these ways. An aim that stays too large remains impractical. One that begins too small is unemotional. If I’d like to stop talking unnecessarily then I must avoid a specific topic. If I’d like to become more sensitive to others then I must focus on a specific person. If I’d like to stop judging everyone then I must detect a specific trigger. The war on habit is waged through moment-to-moment battles. Win a single battle and gain an edge on the entire war. We advance in the pursuit of self-knowledge by dissipating the fog of vagueness from around why we sought to know ourselves in the first place, so that our aim stands crystal-clear in our minds as an inspiration and guide.
On January 1st this year, our community set an aim to superimpose its teaching onto the labors of the month. Having now completed this cycle, we see how a work grows when we add to it a little each day. I’d like to thank all who put their trust in this experiment, who persisted in applying the inner meaning of each labor, and whose personal verifications contributed to making this a living school. It feels like we’ve made a worthy contribution to the fourth way, which in itself is a cause for celebration. Let us raise a glass, then — like our December farmer — to standing on the shoulders of our predecessors, using their legacy to pave the fourth way into the twenty-first century.
The effectiveness of a new command is not immediate. Just like learning any new word, patient repetition lends it gradual weight. “A man thinks of what ‘being’ means,” says George Gurdjieff. “It is possible ‘to be’ in different ways. He wants ‘to be’ not merely in the sense of existence but in the sense of greatness of power. The words ‘to be’ acquire weight, a new meaning for him.” In this spirit, the third and last step of the November labor is to lend weight to our chosen commands, which can only be achieved by repeatedly and patiently applying them in the moment of trial. Repetition will gradually assign them their designated meaning.
It felt like this gathering made something possible. People who before were just voices and faces on the computer screen gained souls, and many words which before were only understood intellectually gained emotional meaning. But most importantly, I verified the higher state, the state of grace. In Orthodox Christianity they describe grace as something that is given from above. This Rome’s event made me open to receive it, to be inspired.
Grape juice is a poor yield of a vineyard and negativity is a poor yield of an emotional center. But wine-grapes aren’t harvested for grape juice and neither should we settle for the yield negativity. If we work with an end flavor in mind, then a challenging harvest needn’t necessarily portend a bad bottle. In September, we examined that harvest. In October, let us consider what it might mean to refine it into a profound elixir. Which emotions would accelerate our work if we could experience them more frequently, more durably, and more deeply?
This harvest concludes the three harvests featured in the annual cycle: hay, wheat, and grape. We’ve associated harvesting hay with work on the body, harvesting wheat with work on the mind, and harvesting grape with work on the heart. In the Chartres sequence, each of these harvests is spread over two months: hay is shown growing in May and gathered in June; wheat is shown reaped in July and threshed in August; and grape is shown plucked in September and barrelled in October. This two-step principle follows a repetitive pattern. The first step features the produce of nature. The second step features the farmer’s response to that produce. A farmer of land, after all, tames and refines nature. Likewise, a farmer of the fourth way tames and refines himself, which begs the question, what is the yield of the mind, body, and heart? What is harvest in the micro-cosmos man?
“Rules pursue a definite aim,” says George Gurdjieff: “to make people behave as they would behave ‘if they were,’ that is, if they remembered themselves.” To conclude our August labor of coining aphorisms, we hereby formulate a set of ten rules as guidelines for our community. If each member worked individually, a communal set of rules would be unnecessary, but for group work common rules must be formulated, refined, and applied. Below is the latest draft of ten aphorisms that may serve as the granary for our community’s cache of practical advice. I invite members to suggest refinements or replacements in the comment section.
If we don’t harvest in July we can’t thresh in August. If we don’t uncover illusion we can’t Be. In this work — as in any work — one thing opens the door to another, while the neglect of one thing prevents the completion of another. Having discovered our wrong thinking in July, it invariably follows that we proceed to formulating right thinking in its stead. Our August labor will revolve around winnowing the right from the wrong at the moment the habit seeks to assert itself. To fit the moment, our weapon must be brief and potent. Our right thinking must be coined in the form of an aphorism, a succinct command, the smooth stone David used to stun Goliath.