In the Western world today, the civilization of the “individual”, each of us is encouraged to form what we are told is a unique perspective on the world. We each are encouraged to see the world through our own eyes. But this leads to certain problems because at the same time, most people believe that “their” interpretation of the world is the correct one, the “true” one. And most people don’t realize that their ideas are as “individual” as their identities decked out in designer jeans and brand name running shoes. But that aspect will be dealt with another day. Here we will look at a different element, the fact that very few people ever ask themselves what is the basis of their individuality, for this supposedly unique “way of seeing.”
It is likely that these worldviews are based upon many things: where someone is born, their upbringing, the assumptions and prejudices about the world that have formed within them while they were growing up, their schooling or lack of it, their ability to reflect and think versus their willingness to allow others to think for them, and perhaps even influences from past lives if one allows for the possibility that some part of us is permanent and returns. These are only some of the influences that go to make up our character and our way of seeing the world.
Given the wide variety of influences, differing in a large degree from one person to another, we can ask whether these people see the world as it really is. Different people having different perceptions of the world is not necessarily a bad thing. They could be complementary in nature and by combining them, a group could come to a deeper understanding of the world. They would learn from each other and the different elements of reality each individual could bring forward. Unfortunately, in our world, we are more likely to encounter hostile and contradictory interpretations, visions that are mutually exclusive. We see daily in the news where this has led us.
We do not think it is too much to suggest that this collection of hostile and contradictory views cannot all be correct. They cannot all offer an accurate take on the world. If they are not all correct, might not the problem lie in this issue of “foundations,” for most of them never put into question the foundation upon which their worldview is built. They never question themselves and their own perceptions and interpretations.
Some people and groups of people believe that they, and those who agree with them, are “right” and others wrong. Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, or Moslems, for example, tend to paint the world as black and white, and see everything in terms of “us against them.” Humanists and atheistic scientists can be as dogmatic in their materialist explanations for the world as religious fundamentalists.
For both of these groups, the “religious” and the materialists, their beliefs create within them a great intolerance for other beliefs and the people who hold them.
For others, including some of those who have begun to think about the foundations of their beliefs, this mix of ideas found among the world’s peoples leads them to believe the world can be interpreted in myriad ways. In the modern or “postmodern” world, the idea is commonplace that each of these interpretations is as valuable as another, that there is no one way to see the world. In the words of the deconstructionists, there is no “transcendental signifier,” no overriding meaning to our existence.
This insight might be considered as an advance over the dogmatic, “I am right” view, especially when we study human history where all too often one particular way of seeing the world was imposed by force by one group upon another. This imposition was carried out not because one point of view was “truer” than another, but because one group was stronger than another. The scientific view of the world did not overcome other systems of thought through debate, but through guns and violence as the European countries, where the “scientific mindset” developed, imposed their will upon each other and their colonies.
Force rather than truth was the means of establishing the dominant worldview. This “way of seeing”, once enshrined, was then passed on as “natural” until a new group emerged as the dominant power, bringing with them a new interpretation of the world justified by a mightier sword.
We have seen an example in our day where neo-liberalism was imposed and enshrined as the only “true” economic model, western democracy as the one-true political model, materialism and humanism as the philosophical and scientific models, with the monotheistic trinity of Christianity and Judaism as the religious models in the West. All of these ideologies are either the product of the United States or are defended by the United States. And unless you happen to be a resident of this cursed country, you will quickly see that these ideas have been imposed through economic power backed by military might, not because of any overriding validity or truth.
Truth has nothing to do with it.
But the “correction” is not necessarily the “relativism” of the post-modernists.
Although groups of “believers” may defend one or another of these views as the Gospel Truth, their very fanaticism calls forth the opposing relativistic view that says that these “truths” are limited to a certain context, an attempt to find a middle ground where any and all interpretations of the world may coexist, a view known as “relativism.”
“True believers” of any stripe are, of course, outraged at this postmodern interpretation.
But as is so often the case, it is also possible that neither pole in this polarity is correct, and that both are false paths designed to feed off of each other, in the manner of capitalism and communism, attempting to claim the entire spectrum of possibilities so that no third way appears possible.
Perhaps the problem can be looked at differently. Perhaps there is a way to recuperate the notion of “truth” while preserving the notion of multiplicity of views. If truth can related to multiplicity of views, this might, moreover, be a way of avoiding the pogroms of the “true believers.”
Readjusting the “Reading Mechanism”
We live in a world that appears to run according to a set of physical laws that we have yet fully to uncover. These laws appear to be the same no matter the country, the hemisphere, the climate, the colour or religion of the inhabitants.
As far as we can tell, this Earth is ruled by one set of laws.
There is only one physics, one biology, one chemistry. We may not yet know what the rules are in each of these domains, but by continuing to do research with an open mind, we can make progress in understanding them.
This is understood for the “hard” sciences. Of course, different schools of thought arise in each, and the members of each school have a tendency to defend their interpretation as the “right” one. But time, research, and new data can bring to light weaknesses in these schools, and they can evolve, adapt or be supplanted. The problem arises when the dogmatism of a school becomes more important than the desire of the members to know what is.
In other areas of research, outside of the “hard” sciences, where it is more difficult to devise tests for hypotheses, it is more difficult to put the study on a scientific basis. Nevertheless, with a critical and open mind it is possible.
As well, we find both the hard and soft sciences are infected with power centres, groups of people who bring an agenda other than a desire for understanding, knowledge, and truth.
If different people and different individuals live in the same world, yet they understand the world in different ways, perhaps it is because of the assumptions and filters we have that shape the way we perceive and interpret this world. If the physical world is one, but if we explain it in many conflicting ways, perhaps the fault lies within us and our “reading machines”. Perhaps if we were able to become aware of the way our “foundations” influence our interpretation of the world, we might be able to compensate for the “reading errors” of our perceptual machines, and we could then come to see the world as it really is and not as we believe it is or would like it to be.
The notion of “Truth” is thus the notion of the world as it is and our ability to see it correctly, to understand the underlying dynamic and to respond in a way that defends our own Free Will while respecting the Free Will of others. This is a dynamic truth that can only be lived because it always depends upon context. There are no formulas, no rules to be memorized and applied. A dynamic that appears to resemble a previous experience may, in fact, be completely different because of the context.
One of the goals of Fourth Way work, of what is also known as Esoteric Christianity, and of what we consider is possibly an ancient science that has been handed down for tens of thousands of years, is to learn to see the world as it is.
This science has been made “public” in the 20th century through the work of G. Gurdjieff among others. In his own works, as well as those of his students, we get an idea of Gurdjieff’s teachings. The Russian, Boris Mouravieff, also wrote about this tradition, especially in his three volume magnum opus Gnosis. In that work, Mouravieff discusses the importance of correcting one’s “reading errors”.
In studying Time, we must never lose sight of the subjectivity of our senses. We cannot reach the objective except through the medium of thesubjective. This is the underlying reason for esoteric studies: they allow the exterior man to give objective validity to his subjective mentality. He can achieve this by a technique analogous to one we apply to precision instruments: before putting them to work, we determine the reading error of each. By taking the ‘subjectivity’ of instruments into account in this way, we obtain correct readings from them, in spite of their flaws. To observe the phenomena of our internal world and those of the external world with precision, we must have recognized and determined thereading error of our mental instrument for observation, one of the main tools of the Personality. All esoteric teaching is oriented towards this goal, which is reached with the second Birth-when man attains a new form of consciousness and existence which is quite different, objective-and which exterior man can only represent to himself in a vague and obscure way. (Gnosis, Vol. I, pp. 115-6.)
In other words, this work is a means of observing “objective reality” by working to readjust the filters that obscure it, by recalibrating our mental instruments in order to correct for “reading errors.”
Not only that, but “all esoteric teaching is oriented towards this goal” – not towards out of body experiences, not towards seeing other realms, not towards flights of “spiritual” fancy. The goal is to give “objective validity” to the “subjective mentality” through the correction of the reading errors in the mental instrument. In other words, the goal of esoteric work is to see thing as they are.
It is perhaps the origin, the original sense, of the Christian term “witnessing.” Witnessing the world as it is.
Our misreading of reality is one of the ways by which we lie to ourselves. It is one way of lying to ourselves even if it is unconscious. To understand why, we must introduce another concept, that of the “buffer.” “Buffers” and “self-calming” consist of the telling of lies to oneself in order to avoid the shocks of everyday life. They may also originate in the family or with friends as we are growing up. How many times are our own perceptions criticized and negated by those around us? We see that someone is upset with us, and we ask, “Mommy, are you mad at me?” Well, mothers are not supposed to be mad at their children, so the mother might respond, “Of course not. Where did you get that silly idea?” The lie is told, the perception, the child’s accurate perception, is discounted, and the reading machine has been recalibrated to misread reality.
Or perhaps the child is upset. The mother, believing she is helping to cheer the child up, might say “Upset? No you’re not upset. You’re mommy’s little baby.” Once more the child learns to ignore his or her own feelings.
We eventually become so proficient at telling ourselves these types of lies that we no longer need others to do it for us. We have internalized “culture”.
Having internalized this system of lies, we can then tell others the same types of lies.
Gurdjieff has this to say about “buffers”. He begins by recognizing the problem we have in our “machines”, that is, why we are so afflicted with “reading errors”:
“You often think in a very naive way,” he said. “You already think you can do. To get rid of this conviction is more difficult than anything else for a man. You do not understand all the complexity of your organization and you do not realize that every effort, in addition to the results desired, even if it gives these, gives thousands of unexpected and often undesirable results, and the chief thing that you forget is that you are not beginning from the beginning with a nice, clean, new machine. There stand behind you many years of wrong and stupid life, of indulgence in every kind of weakness, of shutting your eyes to your own errors, of striving to avoid all unpleasant truths, of constant lying to yourselves, of self-justification, of blaming others, and so on, and so on. All this cannot help affecting the machine. The machine is dirty, in places it is rusty, and in some places artificial appliances have been formed, the necessity for which has been created by its own wrong way of working.
“These artificial appliances will now interfere very much with all your good intentions.
“They are called ‘buffers.’”
These buffers are the mechanisms of this interference. They are necessary while we remain mechanical, that is, before we have fused the many small “I”s of the Personality into our Real I, because they ease the many conflicts and contradictions we feel in life. They help us to “forget” ourselves and how contradictory our actions really are.
“‘Buffer’ is a term which requires special explanation. We know what buffers on railway carriages are. They are the contrivances which lessen the shock when carriages or trucks strike one another. If there were no buffers, the shock of one carriage against another would be very unpleasant and dangerous. Buffers soften the results of these shocks and render them unnoticeable and imperceptible.
“Exactly the same appliances are to be found within man. They are created, not by nature but by man himself, although involuntarily. The cause of their appearance is the existence in man of many contradictions; contradictions of opinions, feelings, sympathies, words, and actions. If a man throughout the whole of his life were to feel all the contradictions that are within him he could not live and act as calmly as he lives and acts now. He would have constant friction, constant unrest. We fail to see how contradictory and hostile the different I’s of our personality are to one another. If a man were to feel all these contradictions he would feel what he really is. He would feel that he is mad. It is not pleasant to anyone to feel that he is mad. Moreover, a thought such as this deprives a man of self confidence, weakens his energy, deprives him of his ‘self-respect.’ Somehow or other he must master this thought or banish it. He must either destroy the contradictions or cease to see and to feel them. A man cannot destroy contradictions. But if ‘buffers’ are created in him he can cease to feel them and he will not feel the impact from the clash of contradictory views, contradictory emotions, contradictory words.
“‘Buffers’ are created slowly and gradually. Very many ‘buffers’ are created artificially through ‘education.’ Others are created under the hypnotic influence of all surrounding life. A man is surrounded by people who live, speak, think, and feel by means of ‘buffers.’ Imitating them in their opinions, actions, and words, a man involuntarily creates similar ‘buffers’ in himself. ‘Buffers’ make a man’s life more easy. It is very hard to live without ‘buffers.’ But they keep man from the possibility of inner development because ‘buffers’ are made to lessen shocks that can lead a man out of the state in which he lives, that is, waken him. ‘Buffers’ will lull a man to sleep, give him the agreeable and peaceful sensation that all will be well, that no contradictions exist and that he can sleep in peace. ‘Buffers’ are appliances by means of which a man can always be in the right. ‘Buffers’ help a man not to feel his conscience.” (pp. 154-5.)
Buffers are part of our faculty of “self-calming,” the entropic tendency that lulls us back to sleep when we have a moment of heightened awareness of the terror of our situation. Therefore buffers are important mechanisms in our lying to ourselves. If we are to paper over and ignore the contradictions between our small “I”s, we must tell ourselves the lie that we are not splintered personalities. Because we are not in harmony with ourselves, we must put the “blame” for the inner tension we feel somewhere else. And we do feel this inner tension. We all have parts of ourselves that are in conflict with other parts of ourselves or with our self-image.
We just don’t like admitting it. Of course, we live in a world where admitting our own faults is dangerous because we are in a sea of psychopaths who are awaiting the least show of “weakness” to pounce. Therefore, it is “safer” to lie and not admit to internal struggles.
We also note that psychopaths do not seem to be beset with these types of contradictions. Lying is part of their nature.
Gurdjieff discusses the relationship between buffers and lying:
“In the life of an ordinary man truth and falsehood have no moral value of any kind because a man can never keep to one single truth. His truth changes. If for a certain time it does not change, it is simply because it is kept by ‘buffers.’ And a man can never tell the truth. Sometimes ‘it tells’ the truth, sometimes ‘it tells’ a lie. Consequently his truth and his falsehood have no value; neither of them depends upon him, both of them depend upon accident. And this is equally true when applied to man’s words, to his thoughts, feelings, and to his conceptions of truth and falsehood.
“In order to understand the interrelation of truth to falsehood in life a man must understand falsehood in himself, the constant incessant lies he tells to himself.
“These lies are created by ‘buffers.’ In order to destroy the lies in oneself as well as lies told unconsciously to others, ‘buffers’ must be destroyed. But then a man cannot live without ‘buffers.’ ‘Buffers’ automatically control a man’s actions, words, thoughts, and feelings. If ‘buffers’ were destroyed all control would disappear. A man cannot exist without control even though it is only automatic control. Only a man who possesses will, that is, conscious control, can live without ‘buffers.’” (G quoted in ISOTM, pp. 159-60)
The first step to living in truth is to stop lying to the self. The first step in this is to begin to recognise how often we do it, to become aware of the lie as we tell it. As we become aware of our lying, there develops within us a distaste for the lie. We watch ourselves as we lie, and we cringe at ourselves. This is the manifestation of the higher self within us, and we must act upon it or the light will go out, we will lose our ability to be self-aware.
The decision to begin the process of stopping our lying to ourselves is itself a decision of Will. The effort expended to be self-aware, that is, to remain in contact however fleetingly with our higher self, and to stop the lies before they are spoken is an exercise of Will. So we see that the Will necessary to live without “buffers” can be developed in the work to eliminate the “buffers.”
Another aspect of the work is to use the faculty of self-lying to bootstrap oneself towards the truth by pretending that one is already truthful. This can plant the seed.
Mouravieff touches on this:
The faculty of lying is the third element in our factitious life. It helps substantially to give it a semblance of continuity. We can easily realize the role played by this faculty of lying if we imagine what our existence would come to if this possibility were taken away. Life would become impossible, due to the shocks and conflicts which we would have to face. In this way, lies serve as buffers, like the buffers of railway carriages which soften shocks. It is this faculty of lying which makes our lives less of a battle, and contributes greatly to the impression of continuity life gives us. We are brought back once again to the fact that we attribute to ourselves faculties which we do not possess -except as possibilities for development: we pretend to be truthful because telling the truth and living a truthful life are possibilities which can become real; but they can do so much later, after we have worked hard and long upon ourselves. In the meantime we are condemned to lie. Whoever denies this only testifies to our difficulty in facing the truth. (Ibid., p. 29.)
But while we are telling ourselves these lies (that we are truthful) because they are true “potentially”, we must be aware that we are lying in the sense that they are only provisionally true. They are lies until we develop the Will that will realize our potential to BE.
For this, we must be able to get in touch with the higher part of ourselves, because it is from that point of view that we can see ourselves as we are while also seeing the potential for who we can be.
Gurdjieff turned to this same question.
The first of the aforementioned secrets is that as a means for self-perfecting a man can use a certain property which is in his psyche, and which is even of a very negative character. This property can serve as an aid to self-perfecting and exists in people in general, particularly in contemporary people, and especially in you, and is none other than that which I have many times condemned and which people themselves consider an unworthy manifestation for a man who has reached responsible age – of course in this respect also excluding themselves – and it is called “self-deception.”
Such an, at first glance, illogicality and deduction not corresponding to any human sane reasoning, namely, that such a property unbecoming to the psyche of a man of adult age can consciously be made use of for such an immeasurably high aim, is obtained owing to the fact that the cognizance of truths concerning the possibilities of self-perfection, and the real forming in oneself of what is required for this, must proceed not in the ordinary consciousness of a man, which for the given case has almost no significance, and since, thanks to all kinds of accidents ensuing from the various abnormalities of our ordinary life, it has become impossible for a man, particularly for a contemporary man, to take in anything at all and so to say “digest” it directly with his subconsciousness, therefore it is necessary for him, as has in the course of many centuries been experimentally proven by persons of Pure Reason, to use a special means for inculcating in his subconsciousness some reasonable indication accidentally grasped by his ordinary consciousness and not contradictory to his instinct, and this can be done only by means of this self-deceptive imaginativeness in him.
If you have understood without any doubt what you must do, and how, and fully hope at some time to attain this in reality, you must at the beginning often imagine, but imagine only, that this is already present in you.
This is necessary chiefly in order that the consciousness forming in oneself during an active state should continue also during a passive state. (Life is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’, pp, 132-4.)
Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone is able to do this.
It is also unfortunate that this “secret” has been transformed into a cornerstone of the Human Potential movement. Put an idea in your subconscious and let the seed grow. Imagine it. Creatively visualize it. Or in the words of Napoleon Hill, guru of American entrepreneurs, “Conceive, Believe, Achieve!” How far the “secret” has fallen! Twisted into a materialistic recipe for success.
Buffers and Bankruptcy
Even within Darwinian terms, one could make a case that those who are able to see objective reality would have a better chance for survival than those who live in a world of wishful thinking. If the entire human species has brought itself to the verge of global war, has soiled its habitat to such an extent that pollution is killing off great numbers and vital resources such as water are more and more scarce, might not this be due to reading errors in our mental apparati?
If such a process of learning to see objective reality is possible, we think it is worth pursuing. Not everyone will be willing to undertake such a project, and we, therefore, embark upon it with no belief that by so doing we can “correct” the problems confronting us on this planet. We do not believe that the majority of people on the planet would want to fix these reading errors. There is too much to lose: all of the buffers that keep us sedated, tranquilized, in submission and ignorant bliss. Before one arrives at an understanding of the importance of working to end this process of self-calming, one must pass through a bankruptcy where all of one’s old ideas and beliefs are found to be wanting. One must understand in one’s core that these old ways do not work.
It is a gut-wrenching and vertiginous experience. One falls with nothing left to cling to.
The old ways are the ways of lying, especially lying to the self. To live in truth, as we saw above, one must first of all cease to lie to oneself. As Boris Mouravieff puts it:
[...] the attitude of the esoteric Doctrine towards lying is clear and realistic. It does not require us to stop lying from the start, because nobody can carry out such a resolution. However, if man cannot stop lying to others, the same cannot be said as far as he himself is concerned. He is therefore asked to stop lying to himself-and this in a definite way. This requirement is absolute, and we can easily understand why. The objective of esoteric work is the march towards Consciousness, which means towards : Truth. It would be a contradictio in objecto to try to approach the truth while continuing to lie to ourselves or to believe in our own lies. We must therefore eliminate any attempt to lie to ourselves: on this point no compromise can be tolerated, no excuse admitted. (Gnosis, p. 30.)
If we lie to ourselves, we cannot know ourselves. If we do not know ourselves, how can we be sincere? As Gurdjieff expressed it:
“You do not understand what it means to be sincere,” said G. “You are so used to lying both to yourselves and to others that you can find neither words nor thoughts when you wish to speak the truth. To tell the complete truth about oneself is very difficult. But before telling it one must know it. And you do not even know what the truth about yourselves consists of.” (Quoted by Ouspensky in In Search of the Miraculous, p. 249)
We do not know ourselves. In a world of lies, where no one has the right to be him or her self, where we are afraid to be open and transparent even with our closest friends and family, we do not know the truth about ourselves. To learn this truth, the old ways of life have to be shocked and cracked, the buffers must be pushed to such a degree that they momentarily cease to function. This is the moment of bankruptcy, an instant when the first veil falls and we have a glimmer of the truth of ourselves, of the lies we have always told ourselves. In that instant we have a glimpse of who we really are, both the ridiculous play actor who struts his stuff on the stage of life, but also the permanent part of ourselves, our higher self, our Real “I”.
It is a flash that must be seized before the buffers kick back into play, and the door slams shut.
The man who starts to struggle against lying to himself must be forewarned of these difficulties, and of the possible collapse of some or all his greatest values. But it also happens that such inner collapses are produced in people who never approached esoteric work, but afterwards come to search for something more solid and permanent. All should know that true esoteric work only begins after the novice has passed through a general bankruptcy, and has had his gods helplessly thrown to the ground. (Gnosis, p. 168.)
But as we said, the crucial moment of bankruptcy may only be an instant. We must decide in that instant: Do we do the full monty and expose ourselves completely, or do we retreat behind a new costume. If we are not aware, if we have not the burning desire to know the truth about existence, beginning with the truth about ourselves, the fallen Gods will reawaken and reclaim their places. A new set of lies will be constructed, a set of lies that will convince you that you have seen the truth, that you have destroyed your gods. Only all of your attention will be focused not upon yourself and your lessons, but upon those who were the incidental trigger of your bankruptcy. When this happens, your moment of liberation becomes but another set of chains, only chains that are more subtle, more finely crafted, more suited to the new formation of ego brought about by your shock.
Therefore, this moment of potential understanding must be seized upon, for if it is twisted, the chains will return that much stronger, the veils that much more subtle, and your possibility of escaping much more reduced.
This refusal to face the truth is a form of self-calming. One particular form of it can be expressed as “Yes, but…”. Mouravieff again:
It is also necessary to guard against a variant of the habit of lying to ourselves, one which we commonly adopt from early childhood and against which we must fight by every means. This variant is widespread because at first glance it appears to us to be a positive attitude. Such an attitude can normally be adapted easily to any case; used in spoken language or in writing; in mundane conversation, or in a thesis for a doctorate, it is betrayed by the phrase: ‘yes but…‘. This in itself does not imply any harm when it is used. On the contrary, such usage is helpful and even indispensable in discussions, controversies and pleadings -where we resort to it quite frequently. However when applied to ourselves and for our own benefit, with the aim of softening a shock, or rediscovering our inner peace after we have sinned, or excusing our actions or faults, this idiom crystallizes within us over a period of time to create a true auto-tranquillizing mechanism. It is to be noted that the effects of this mechanism are not to be compared with ‘sang-froid’, or the ability to answer well and quickly, or those of inspirations from consciousness. On the contrary, it is a true mechanism of mental anaesthesia, founded on a refined and disguised lie. It sows hypocrisy in man towards himself.
This auto-tranquillizer, like all other moral buffers, must be destroyed. (Gnosis, pp. 30-1.)
How often has someone made a comment about something you have done, and your first reaction is to say, “Yes, bit…” Then, rather than looking at what you have done to warrant such a comment or criticism, you turn around and begin to drag up everything the other person has done. Your focus changes from self-understanding to self-defence and attack on the messenger.
Here in the work at the Quantum Future School, we see this reaction, particularly when people are facing the bankruptcy. At times there may be a glimmer of recognition of the truth, a moment when the whole edifice of one’s life is collapsing, and from the chaos the student recognizes the truth of his or her life, the bankruptcy of one’s life. It is not long afterwards that the “Yes, but…” may set in, and then, rather than following through and accepting the lifting of the veil, the predator in the student does its best to pull it back into place, snapping shut the possibility for liberation.
At that point, the student is no longer interested in the truth; he or she is then motivated by the desire to kill the pain, to seek shelter in the arms of the predator: “Look what they have done to you. Of course, you have made mistakes. You have even admitted them to everyone. What more can they want? But look at what they are doing to you!”
And all is lost. The lies have started once again.
We shall now better understand the attitude of the Tradition to lying. If man wants to reach the Way, it is imperative that he stops lying to himself from his first steps on the track. If not, he will not be able to build his cage or, if he is able to start building it, the walls will tumble as soon as he intentionally seeks to cheat himself. He must no longer try to justify himself when a fall occurs, while he knows in his inmost heart that the reasons he is giving himself are not valid. A sincere error is forgivable, but an ‘arranged’ error ruins everything. We have here one of the aspects of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that hypocrisy towards oneself that will not be forgiven now, or in the time to come.
To move from “sincere error” to justifying oneself when you know “in your inmost heart that the reasons you are giving yourself are not valid” is to move off the Path, to commit an error “that will not be forgiven now, or in time to come.”
The Seeing of Objective Reality Cannot be Imposed
Coupled with this possibility of learning to see objective reality is another idea: that this “way of seeing” can never be imposed upon anyone. By its very nature, it can neither be attained through force nor imposed by force because it can only be brought about from the inside out, never from the top down. It can only be brought about by the work of an individual to understand his or her own filters, the foundations of his or her own way of seeing the world, to understand and dismantle the buffers.
Any attempt to impose a perception of the world “as it is”, whether done either individual by individual or through the action of one group over another, is dead in the water because such attempts would have to resort to imposing a belief system, a set of ideas to be learned, which become in turn nothing more than a new set of filters.
On the contrary, one can only embark upon and carry through the learning cycle to see things as they really are by the action of one’s Free Will, as individuals. It is a commitment to the higher self. There is also an element of faith involved, the faith that such a possibility exists. However, it is faith devoid of any ‘content’, any icon or set of beliefs, because this content has been emptied via the bankruptcy. The old idols have been smashed. The new faith is that the truth exists and one can approach it, not that it can be codified.
So such a new faith can never be imposed. It comes through internal work on the self, through cultivating the desire for truth.
At the same time, because we each have our own individual reading errors, such a project would of necessity have to be a group project in order that the individuals involved be able to contrast and compare their various takes on reality. It could only be achieved by a network of individuals entering together freely into the adventure of working to align their reading machines with objective reality.
This must be done free of hierarchy, free of constraint, free of obligation from the outside. It can only be done through the strictest respect of Free Will.
Thus, such a process is both individual – because each participant would have to work on his or her own assumptions, prejudices, and emotional baggage in order to see clearly – and collective – because the feedback of others, their mirroring to you of your blind spots, is a necessary part of overcoming the individual shortcomings of your perceptual weaknesses.
The group must therefore be composed of strong individuals who are working to become completely “themselves”. That is, they are working to assert their individuality by discovering what it is that makes them unique. At the same time, they are building a strong network because as they become fully seated individuals, they are able to enter into conscious agreements with others that are not subject to the whims of the “personality”, that part of us all that defends our small ego, our false individuality.
In this way, the individual-collective polarity is resolved and is no longer the basis for an unhealthy tension. Acting for the higher self and the group is an expression of co-linearity. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.
One becomes oneself and is able to act for the first time in one’s life. How can one act if one is aligned with the lie?
Rejecting lying to oneself is mirrored in the group by the need to be honest with one another. If we are honest with ourselves, we must also be honest with those who walk the path with us. Mouravieff:
While we wait for the coming of this era, an interdiction against lying nevertheless applies to certain Individualities: we speak here about certain men who have attained or who are about to attain the Second Birth, that is, interior men. We find only one indication on this subject in the New Testament, but the text of St Paul the Apostle leaves no room for any ambiguity:
‘Lie not one to another: seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto the knowledge after the image of Him that created him: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman; but Christ is all and in all.’
This is only addressed to a small minority of interior men, in their relations between themselves, yet such a restriction applies fully as soon as a given degree of evolution is reached, since this governs our capability for truth. (Gnosis, p. 166.)
We saw above that Gurdjieff relates one’s not knowing oneself to one’s inability to be sincere. He discusses this in terms of one’s relationship with the group.
“Speaking in general the most difficult barrier is the conquest of lying. A man lies so much and so constantly both to himself and to others that he ceases to notice it. Nevertheless lying must be conquered. And the first effort required of a man is to conquer lying in relation to the teacher. A man must either decide at once to tell him nothing but the truth, or at once give up the whole thing.”
In the case of the Quantum Future School, the group is the teacher. There is no hierarchy, no one individual who plays the role that Gurdjieff did with his students. It is the group as a whole that performs the function of teacher. It is to the group as a whole that students in the QFS apply these words.
“You must realize the teacher takes a very difficult task upon himself, the cleaning and the repair of human machines. Of course he accepts only those machines that are within his power to mend. If something essential is broken or put out of order in the machine, then he refuses to take it. But even such machines, which by their nature could still be cleaned, become quite hopeless if they begin to tell lies. A lie to the teacher, even the most insignificant, concealment of any kind such as the concealment of something another has asked to be kept secret, or of something the man himself has said to another, at once puts an end to the work of that man, especially if he has made previous efforts.” (G quoted by O Search, pp. 229-230)
The group is working together to escape from the prison of the evil magician. It is imperative that we watch each others’ backs. How can we do this is there is not complete honestly and transparency among the members?
If someone is not yet ready to commit to such honesty, they are not yet ready for the work.
Gurdjieff returns to the question of sincerity in his final work, Life is Real Only Then, When ‘I Am’:
I now, at the very beginning of the formation of this new group composed of various persons pursuing one and the same aim, find it necessary to warn you of an indispensable condition for the successful attainment of this common aim, and that is in your mutual relations to be sincere.
The unconditional requirement of such sincerity among all kinds of other conditions existed, as it happened to become known to me from various authentic sources, among people of all past times and of every degree of intellectuality, whenever they gathered together for the collective attainment of some common aim.
In my opinion, it is only by fulfilling this condition for the given proposed collective work that it is possible to attain a real result in this aim which one has set oneself, and which has already become for contemporary people almost impossible.
Each of you having become an equal-rights participant in this group newly formed for the attainment of one and the same so to say “ideal” must always struggle with such impulses, inevitably arising in you and unworthy of man, as “self-love,” “pride,” “conceit” and so on, and not be ashamed to be sincere in your answers concerning your observations and constatations on the exercises recommended by me.
[...] In the present case, you must not be afraid of being sincere among yourselves.
Being occupied with the solution of questions concerning this common great aim, each of you must always cognize and instinctively feel that you are all in a certain respect similar to each other, ands that the well-being of one of you depends on the well-being of the others.
No one of you separately is capable of doing anything real at all; therefore, even for the sake of only an egotistical aim, help one another in this newly formed group which might also be called a brotherhood. The more sincere you are with one another, the more useful you will be to one another.
Of course, be sincere only here in this group, and in questions concerning the common aim.
Sincerity with everyone in general is weakness, slavery, and even a sign of hysteria.
Although the normal man must be able to be sincere, yet he must also know when, where, and for what purpose it is necessary to be sincere.
And in the present case, to be sincere is desirable. (Life is Real, pp. 136-8.)
Co-linearity and Truth
As the work of the individuals in the network progresses, over time, as each individual begins to develop a clear sight of the world as it is, one would expect such a group to begin to view the world in a similar way. As their perceptions become less and less subject to the errors introduced through upbringing, schooling, unquestioned assumptions, emotions, received ideas, etc., they would begin as individuals to see objective reality as it really is. They will begin to see objects and the dynamics between these objects more clearly.
As each individual begins to see the world as it is, their perceptions will more and more concur, and their ideas about this world will begin to concur as well.
However, we must be clear that this is not because they are elaborating a common set of beliefs or formulating a system of ideas that is learned and memorized. Nor are they formulating a series of algorithms to be applied to life.
This coming together of perceptions and understanding is simply the natural consequence of seeing the world as it is.
But this does not man that there are no divergences or that everyone thinks the same, becoming a mindless copy of his or her companions. In fact, the full individuality of each person is able to be expressed. While the individuals concur on the overall character of what they see, in the details each person is able to see something unique. These differing details are complementary, not contradictory, and enable the group to build a more complete picture of reality. In this way, the multiplicity of views is honoured while retaining the notion of an overriding truth, but without hierarchy, belief, submission, or force. Each person’s contribution is necessary to the whole, and it cannot be hierarchical. Each bit of information is an important as the others.
To embark upon and succeed in such an enterprise as individuals and as a group, one must value the truth above all else.
What does this mean?
We are individuals living among other individuals in a world with a history that has brought us to the current state of affairs, a society of conflicting forces. This society exists in a physical world.
To value truth means searching for the truth in each and every aspect of existence: the truth of ourselves as individuals, the truth of those around us in our immediate lives and our relations with them. It means searching for the truth in the society in which we live and on this planet that is our home, in the political, social, and economic relations among peoples, groups, and countries. It means uncovering the real history of the world, not that taught in schools. It means understanding the fundamental laws that govern the physical world, the biological world, in all realms, living and inert.
But to do this we must being willing to call into question all of our old concepts and categories if needs be, if new data arrives showing that our current view is no longer tenable. We cannot hold onto old ideas.
We must be open to the fact that what we “know” today may change tomorrow, and that we must be as open to the limitless possibilities of the universe as a whole, an open universe, as we are to the limitless possibilities of each other. We dream of a world where we can each be ourselves, accepted by others as we are, with no need for pretense or hiding behind masks. But to achieve this, we must allow those around us the same liberty.
This is only possible in an environment of the strictest sincerity.
Defending the Truth in a World of Lies
As we have seen, Mouravieff and Gurdjieff are clear that sincerity is necessary among seekers, but, as Gurdjieff put it, it is a weakness when practiced with those who have no desire for the truth.
Living in truth is not the same thing as always telling the truth.
Living in truth means that one sees the truth in the situation in front of one at any moment, the truth in the dynamic, the truth in the person or persons in front of us. In responding to such a situation, one responds to the truth of the situation.
Are these people in front of me asking for the truth or are they still caught up in the lie? Will they use the truth to deny the truth, that is, will they take the things I say and twist and distort them, using them to protect the lies under which they choose to live? Will they use the truth to deny me my right to the truth and to live in the truth?
These are the questions that must be answered in order to see the truth of the situation and know how to act.
Among others on the Path, we must remain truthful, sincere. There can be no lying. But this is not the case with everyone.
Mouravieff puts it in these terms:
We must nevertheless be prudent. The Tradition’s rule on this subject is explicit; it prescribes: ’keep silent.’ But it would be an error to think that it requires a true vow of silence. To keep silent, in the esoteric sense, means to talk, but to talk within well defined limits: man must say what must be said, when it must be said, and to whom it must be said. This naturally excludes all gossip and loquacity. (Gnosis, p. 170.)
Gurdjieff says something similar:
[...] “As I have said already, one of the first demands is sincerity. But there are different kinds of sincerity. There is clever sincerity and there is stupid sincerity, just as there is clever insincerity and stupid insincerity. Both stupid sincerity and stupid insincerity are equally mechanical. But if a man wishes to learn to be cleverly sincere, he must be sincere first of all with his teacher and with people who are senior to him in the work. This will be ‘clever sincerity.’ But it here necessary to note that sincerity must not become ‘lack of considering.’ Lack of considering in relation to the teacher or in relation to those whom the teacher has appointed, as I have said already, destroys all possibility of any work. If he wishes to learn and to be cleverly insincere he must be insincere about the work and he must learn to be silent when he ought to be silent with people outside it, who can neither understand nor appreciate it. But sincerity in the group is an absolute demand, because, if a man continues to lie in the group in the same way as he lies to himself and others in life, he will never learn to distinguish the truth from a lie.” (G quoted by O Search, p. 230)
And as we saw, Gurdjieff put it this way:
Sincerity with everyone in general is weakness, slavery, and even a sign of hysteria.
We must take into consideration the reality of those in front of us.
We must recognize that there will always be those who do not choose this path, the path of truth, and who will try to refuse to us the right to an open universe and limitless possibilities, and that it is our right to defend ourselves and our Free Will to be who we are. But we must learn to make distinctions here, too. There are those whose lack of interest in the truth is born of laziness; there are others for whom it is a choice.
In the first group are those who will not understand, who have no interest, and with whom no exchange is possible. They can be “loving” family and friends who do not understand this drive we have to search out the truth. These are people who remain caught up in the “A” influences, that is, the drive for wealth, success, material goods, or sensual pleasures, and are unable to understand someone whose motivating force is the need to see, the need to understand, the need to know the world.
Seen from the outside, from the point of view of one who accepts the lies of the world, where a person’s individuality might be said to consist of their personal selection of lies that they choose to believe, those who choose to live in truth seem an odd lot. The Believers of the Lie believe that it is us who all think alike, who are giving up our individuality for some form of groupthink. They do not understand, and from their perspective they cannot understand, that it is only by living in the truth that one can truly be oneself, one’s true self.
As Mouravieff says, here, silence is perhaps the best choice.
But there is another class of people, people who will actively work to subvert our work. The defense of the truth takes on a completely different aspect in such a situation, when we are confronted with the psychopath, those individuals who are incapable of compassion and empathy and who will often stop at nothing to get his or her way. We see the handiwork of the psychopath daily on the Signs of the Times page. Many of our most profound lessons come through our experiences of learning to defend ourselves in ways that are creative, defending ourselves as a consequence of defending the truth. Because our concern is for the truth, not our own well-being, we are able to tap into a creative source that is unavailable to the psychopath. This, in turn, permits us to come up with ideas that leave the psychopath defenseless, and that, in turn, serve as an effective self-defense. But always as a consequence of working to defend the truth.
I know that this may seem abstract and theoretical. Above, I mentioned that learning to see objective reality could not be reduced to a formula, and yet, here I am developing theories. This is the dilemma in which we are caught. We can draw out the main lines of the ideas, but we must never forget that every situation and every person is unique. It is only by applying and working with these ideas yourself, with the people in your own lives, that you can learn their truth from the inside out.
Even in cases with people that appear to be psychopaths, we must keep in mind that everyone in modern society develops these tendencies to some degree because these are the values that are necessary to succeed. Therefore, our decisions about people cannot be hard and fast. People change. Our understanding of people changes. People make mistakes, including ourselves. It is always possible that we are the one in error, and we must take this into account.
There are no easy formulas, no checklists. If we can never attain the truth, we can promise ourselves that we will do our best to get as close as possible, to realise that potential that exists within us.
Only in this way can we remain honest, open, and humble enough to be worthy of the truth.
But, of course, if this becomes something we pride ourselves for, then it loses its value!
To be truly oneself is not easy, for one must be continually aware of habit, of the congealed past weighing down on one’s ability to act rather than to react, aware of assumptions and received ideas. One must live each moment as oneself, not as stored programmed and mechanistic responses to stimuli from the environment. Relying upon these programs is also to live in a lie because one is living in the past and not the moment.
The truth is to be found in each lived moment if we have the eyes to see.
Originally Published 2003_09_10