Aug 19, 1996 04:51 AM
by Sy Ginsburg
For those not familiar with it, I would like to contribute a brief explanation
of Gurdjieff's view on consciousness. The entire thrust of the practical
Gurdjieff teaching is for people to work on themselves so that they exist in
each moment in what he calls the third state of consciousness, rather than the
second state of consciousness which most of us live in most of the time.
Gurdjieff sees this second state of consciousness as a kind of waking sleep.
Here are the 4 Gurdjieffian states of human consciousness in ascending order of
being more conscious.
1) Consciousness state #1: Sleep/dream state i.e. like our state in bed at
2)Consciousness state #2: "Waking consciousness" or "waking sleep" or "relative
consciousness" . It's all the same to Gurdjieff and just the hypnosis of life in
which most of us live most of the time, but don't know it. We walk around in a
kind of sleep/dream with our attention always taken by identifications.
3)Consciousness state #3: "Self-consciousness" or "self-awareness" or
"self-remembering". This is the Gurdjieff work, that is to make effort to be
in this state in each moment. It is a degree of human consciousness which most
humans are unaware of at all. It requires dividing the attention, or if you
like, expanding the attention to include the experience of oneself in the
attention all the time.
4) Consciousness state #4: Objective consciousness. This is the supreme state
of human consciousness in which we can know things as they are. It is the "real
world" of Gurdjieff, and the world of mystical experience. It is the stuff
about which our theosophical libraries are full of inadequate description.
Gurdjieff says it's great fun to read about consciousness state #4 and to
imagine our existence in this supreme state. But don't fool yourself. You
cannot stay in it for more than a flash, unless you already exist more or less
permanently in consciousness state #3. Then you can go on.
So the work is to try as best we can to exist in consciousness state #3. The
tool that Gurdjieff says we have for existing in consciousness state #3 is
"ATTENTION". It is, in fact, our only tool. The work is to include ourself in
our ATTENTION in every moment and at the same time include in our ATTENTION
whatever else we are attentive to.
This is likened to "mindfulness" practices in certain forms of buddhism, and
"watchfulness" the secret code word in the new testatment about which Jesus
spoke. It is what the monks practice on Mt. Athos as esoteric Christianity.
If I read Richard Ihle correctly, this is what he is talking about in his recent
posting as follows:
"As mentioned previously, the reason most people seldom regard the
ego-formations at the lower levels as any kind of even "temporary
identities," is because just a modest degree of Self-awareness--or
Undifferentiated-Consciousness-Awareness--(as "captured" by what HPB might be
inclined to call the "Spiritual component of the human soul"--i.e.,
Buddhi-manas consciousness) makes it possible to maintain a
"Once-Removed-Vantage" or Witness during the experience. It then becomes,
for example, "I ~have~ the physical sensation," rather than "I ~am~ the
physical sensation." Or, "I ~have~ a dislike for the physical sensation,
rather than "I ~am~ a dislike for the physical sensation."
Fortunately, distinctions like the foregoing are comparatively unimportant at
the lower levels. --Let me take that back: they probably ~were~
comparatively unimportant before the advent of modern visual and auditory
electronics. Now, it is a common experience to be sitting in a movie, for
example, which is so powerful that it can "command your conscious attention"
the whole while, but then you are surprised that two hours have gone by and
"you hadn't really been there"--i.e., that you had lost complete awareness of
yourself--your ~Self~ as its Buddhi-manas ~upadhi~, so to speak. Missing
Witness or "Silent Watcher," so to speak.
So anyway, maybe in the good old days, perhaps the big challenge was for
people of the Fourth- or Fifth-Degree of Self-awareness to maintain enough of
the Once-Removed-Vantage not to let themselves be deluded that they ~were~
their Fourth- and Fifth-Level (Desire-Mental and Mental) ideas and cognative
operations (rather than that another "Witnessing I" was simply ~having~ these
ideas etc.). Now, perhaps the Apocalypse is really at hand because
soul-snatchers of unprecedented power can nab even some of the best of us at
the lower levels as well.
Indeed, allowing for the moment the possibility that reincarnation may be
true, I have long suspected that mere "aggregates of attachment" (~skandhas~)
might not be enough to bring the old Atma-Buddhi-manas package back for
another try: it seems reasonable that at least some Self-awareness must
remain in association with these "desire-seeds."
--Yes, let me take it back: if modern life becomes primarily like sitting in
one highly entertaining, attention-grabbing, but ~Self-erasing~ movie after
another, who is to say that every human soul will leave this world " "
It is all summed up in Gurdjieff's famous aphorism: "Remember yourself, always
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