3. Magicians and The Sheep
I want to start today with an analogy. This is a story for your right brain, one which has no punch line and no ending. It is just a story from the Work. It is not my own.
Once upon a time there were magicians who were hypnotists and they loved to eat mutton. In order to eat mutton you have to have sheep, so they kept sheep. For years the magicians, in order to keep the sheep, would herd them around beautiful meadows, clear streams and hills. But they found this was a lot of trouble because the sheep would occasionally run away and they would have to go looking for them. They didn't like that. And they found you have to give sheep grass, some water, fresh air, and so forth. Being lazy, the magicians decided the best thing to do was to bring the sheep all together. They thought of putting a fence around them but since that took money, time and effort, they didn't like that idea. They decided they would hypnotize these sheep. They actually did hypnotize them and had them dream and imagine that they were running over the hills, drinking out of clear streams, and smelling fresh air. After they were hypnotized, if you looked at the sheep gathered there you could notice the dirty ground with the grass long gone, and how they were being fed the worst of food, just enough to keep them alive, and given filthy old muddy water to drink. The sheep all had their heads down, but if you looked at their faces you would see they were all smiling. They were happy. They were contentedly imagining that they were running around the fields, drinking from the streams and breathing fresh air.
Now the magicians had nothing to worry about. Once in awhile they would take a sheep, slaughter it and eat it and it would serve them. And as I said, there is no end to this story.
Now it is true that you and I are basically nice people. We have faults occasionally, but if we found money on the road we would pick it up, turn it over to the police and put an ad in the paper saying, "Sum of money found on Marlin Road. Call the police to claim." We are nice to people, we don't kill or steal, so in general you know we are pretty decent people. You aren't like the people I deal with on the streets of Philadelphia as a Probation Officer. At least that is our illusion; the dream we are in. The hells have us well hypnotized that we are pretty fine people.
It is very important that through Self-observation we find that the spiritual food we are eating, the thoughts we are thinking and the emotions we are having are often dirty and not necessarily what you might imagine they are.
It is also very important that we don't take the fact that Gurdjieff says we are "asleep" in a heavy way. Swedenborg's description is even uglier. He says the natural man is not asleep, he is dead! But you should not take this in a heavy way either. Children sometimes think the church tells them they are bad, guilty, and even no good. That is not the way to take it because it is not talking about you being bad. It is telling you that the hells are that way, and that they often have you serve them. The Lord has made it so that you can free yourself from that situation.
When Swedenborg refers to the natural man as not only being asleep, but dead, it is a message about where you are, but it is also a message about where you are able to go, so it is a very good message. That is why the Work requires objective, non-critical, Self-observation. Don't be criticizing yourself about the fact that you have a heredity and a proprium, because that's just the way it is. The only part of you that is trying to make you guilty is from societies in hell trying to make you attach to them or attribute those evils to yourself. So it is very important to take the truth that we are "dead and sleeping people" lightly, or not heavily. Don't get worried about that.
There is much to say about preparation, about preparing yourself for those times when the hells try to hypnotize you. I like to go back to the Writings. I think Divine Revelation is the most important thing, because it's the building block that everything is founded on. Anything in Gurdjieff that I find useful has to confirm and expound on what I find in the Writings. You have to differentiate between people's opinions and Divine Revelation. If you are working in The Work, on the spiritual plane, then you have to found yourself in the truth. We have talked about observing ourselves, observing thoughts and feelings, and that we are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings. They come to us, and to identify with them is very dangerous. When we identify or accept as our own the false thoughts and evil feelings that come to us, we attach ourselves to them and there is less of a leverage point from which to separate from them. Instead of identifying with them, we need to observe them and start to separate from them. This is a very important process. The Writings say:
Evil is from man in that he confirms in him the appearance that he thinks, wills, speaks and acts as of himself. Man can think and will nothing from himself. Everything he thinks and wills, consequently says and does, is from influx. If it is good it is from influx out of heaven, and if evil, from influx out of hell, for what is the same, the good is from influx from the Lord and the evil is from man's proprium. Thoughts and affections make their way from one society to another but no one is aware that they do not originate within themselves. I was told from heaven that like others I believed that I thought and willed from myself when in fact nothing was from myself, but if it was good it was from the Lord and if evil, from hell. I was given to perceive and feel it. As soon as an evil afterwards entered my will, or falsity entered my thoughts, I investigated the source and I inquired from whom it came. This was disclosed to me and I was also allowed to speak with those spirits and refute them and to tell them to withdraw, thus to take back their evil and falsity and keep it to themselves. This has occurred to me a thousand times and I have remained in this state for many years and I still do, yet I seem to myself to think and will from myself like others.
I also think more interiorly and perceive whether what flows into my exterior thought is from heaven or from hell. I reject the latter and welcome the former. Yet, I seem to myself, like them, to be thinking from myself. Inasmuch as man does not want to know that he is led to think by others, but wants to think from himself and believes that he does so, it follows that he himself is at fault. Nor can he throw off the blame so long as he loves to think what he thinks. If he does not love it he breaks this connection with those from whom the thought flows. This occurs when he knows the thought is evil and therefore determines to avoid it and desist from it. He is then also taken by the Lord from that society, from that evil, and is transferred to a society that is free of it. (Divine Providence, portions of 286, 287, 290, 294.)
If you read the Word you often find the phrases, "Gird yourself and be ready." "Prepare." "Watchmen awake!" and so forth. You will read of how they built walls around the city and had watchmen or guards. They also have walls around wells. They are ready! Now if you just go out in the desert and put your tent by the well and think you are ready, when the enemy comes you are in deep trouble! If you just wait for the negative emotion to come and then you think you will be ready, you aren't ready! That's like going out in a wrestling match without any practice. Well, guess what? Something bad's coming up. We need to prepare. We need to practice on the little enemies so as to be ready for the worst enemies.
One way to start practicing is by putting ourselves in the place of our neighbor when we notice a negative attitude toward him in ourselves. We are accustomed to seeing the world from our point of view. We feel the world rotates around us and everyone should serve us. Our opinions seem right, our ideas seem right, we have the right of way and so on. If we can learn to Externally Consider, which is to see the world from our neighbor's point of view, it helps us prepare for the onslaught. Try to see life from their center as if you were them.
"Love your neighbor as yourself." What does it really mean to love the neighbor and exactly how would you go about it? In the Work some ideas are given. One way to love the neighbor is to be creatively positive with what you know, see or imagine about that neighbor. First, you imagine being in their body, and you'll be amazed at what you learn when you enter someone's body. Actually step into that person's body and try to imagine what the world looks and feels like from inside that body. Any posture of a person has a tremendous amount to say.
I saw a man at the station this morning, swaggering around, very arrogant. He looked obnoxious, a real know-it-all and I disliked him immediately. So I thought it was time to try External Consideration. So I just imagined walking like that - and with that effort came a lot of memories of when I felt that good! It didn't feel arrogant; it felt good. And I felt good! The negative state just dissipated. So you can do that, and if you did just that physically, you'd be amazed at the difference it makes. The other way to love your neighbor is to use your emotional center. What is that person feeling like? Look at his face and try to figure it out. Is he irritated? What must it feel like to be irritated? Or, if he's in a hurry, like the guy who runs by or slams a door in front of you, imagine what he's in a hurry about, where he's anxious to go. When I feel his feeling, I realize that he's not aware of me. He's not trying to do anything bad to me. He's just in a hurry. What thoughts must he be having? He's probably thinking about getting to work, maybe he's ten minutes late and thinking about getting that document finished, getting to the computer on time, and so forth.
What you'll find is that you are one with him. You're not the King and neither is he the King. You just feel like another human being or child of Our Father in heaven. A lot of negative emotions to which you were attached can't exist from other points of view, only from your point of view and when you give it up, they just dissipate. But you have to enter his perspective well enough so that you think of him as he thinks of himself, getting into him enough so that your opinion of him is his opinion of himself. Now that does take a certain amount of imagination, attention, and effort. There is no question about that.
A lot of people say, "It's phony, your pretending he's thinking thus-and-so and he's probably not thinking that at all." Well, so what? Before that, you were making it up too! When you attribute to some guy the thought, "That stupid, arrogant so-and- so," you are making up all sorts of things. They aren't true and the hells flow right into you. Well, now make up good things. The Writings say the angels attribute the best motive they can to anybody, so we can try to do the same thing. Try it, you'll like it!
Another way of External Considering is to find a time when you did the same thing this other person is doing, and bring that to mind. The Work teaches that "all real love is conscious of another person's difficulties, through finding the same difficulties within yourself." This is what Jesus meant when He said, "Our foes shall be of our own household." First take the log out of your own eye, and you will see clearly to help your brother take the little speck of sawdust out of his.
In practicing these things you will begin to have some feeling of affection for your neighbor, to love him as yourself. That is why you are doing it. And if we don't do something to change our states we get the other thing, which is the natural proprial way of living which is to hate the neighbor.
I assume that the evil spirits make you feel bad and heavenly motives make you feel good. I just assume that. There are many areas you can confuse and there are a lot of questions and a lot of things you have to sort out. There is no simple answer to some of these things, and because we receive influx from heaven and from hell we ourselves are a mixed bag. But our job is to differentiate between the feelings that we receive. It is important to observe and respond to the feelings or societies that are good and start to reject the ones that are from hell. All of it involves spiritual questions and then a decision. That is what we are trying to look at and come to understand experientially rather than theoretically.
We are given Divine revelation to lead us out of prison. It is not theoretical; it is practical. It is not a travel brochure. It is a survival manual given to save our lives as we travel through rugged and dangerous territory. It keeps us alert, awake, and prepared.
Observe when (your proprium) becomes negative to what another person says or does. Then, through effort and attention, put yourself in that person's situation.Feel what his body is feeling. Have the thoughts he is thinking. Try to see things from his point of view. One method to do this is to recall a time when you thought, felt, or acted in the same manner. This is referred to in the Work as "External Considering" because you come out of yourself in order to consider the neighbor's situation.
Opportunity: Someone takes "forever" at the gas pump while you are waiting and in a big hurry. Apply the task to the situation.