In Life there are Two Rivers

“Question: What is the role of suffering in self-development?

Answer: There are two kinds of suffering—conscious and unconscious.

Only a fool suffers unconsciously. Let’s understand these two kinds of suffering…

In life there are two rivers, two directions.

In the first, the law is for the river itself, not for the drops of water.

We are drops.

At one moment a drop is at the surface, at another moment at the bottom.

Suffering depends on its position. In the first river, suffering is completely useless because it is accidental and unconscious.

However, parallel with this first river is another river. In this other river, there is a different kind of suffering.

The drop in the first river has the possibility of passing into the second river.

Today the drop suffers because yesterday it did not suffer enough.

Here the law of retribution operates.

The drop can also suffer in advance.

Sooner or later everything is paid for.

For the Cosmos there is no time.

Suffering can be voluntary and only voluntary suffering has value in the Work.

One may suffer simply because one feels unhappy. Or one may suffer for yesterday and in order to prepare for tomorrow.

I repeat, only voluntary suffering has value.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

The Two Rivers I

“It will be useful if we compare human life in general to a large river which arises from various sources and flows into two separate streams, that is to say, there occurs in this river a dividing of the waters, and we can compare the life of any one man to one of the drops of water composing this river of life.

On account of the unbecoming life of people, it was established for the purposes of the common actualizing of everything existing that, in general, human life on the Earth should flow in two streams.

Great Nature foresaw and gradually fixed in the common presence of humanity a corresponding property, so that, before the dividing of the waters, in each drop that has this corresponding inner subjective “struggle with one’s own denying part,” there might arise that “something,” thanks to which certain properties are acquired which give the possibility (at the place of the branching of the waters of life) of entering one or the other stream.

Thus there are two directions in the life of humanity: active and passive.

Laws are the same everywhere.

These two laws, these two currents, continually meet, now crossing each other, now running parallel.

But they never mix; they support each other, they are indispensable for each other.

It was always so and so it will remain.

Now, the life of all ordinary men taken together can be thought of as one of these rivers in which each life, whether of a man or of any other living being, is represented by a drop in the river, and the river in itself is a link in the cosmic chain.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

The Two Rivers II

“In accordance with general cosmic laws, the river flows in a fixed direction.

All its turns, all its bends, all these changes have a definite purpose.

In this purpose every drop plays a part insofar as it is part of the river, but the law of the river (as a whole) does not extend to the individual drops.

The changes of position, movement and direction of the drops are completely accidental.

At one moment a drop is here; the next moment it is there; now it is on the surface, now it has gone to the bottom.

Accidentally it rises, accidentally it collides with another and descends; now it moves quickly,
now slowly.

Whether its life is easy or difficult depends on where it happens to be.

There is no individual law for it, no personal fate.

Only the whole river has a fate, which is common to all the drops.

Personal sorrow and joy, happiness and suffering —in that current, all these are accidental.

But the drop has, in principle, a possibility of escaping from this general current and of jumping across to the other, the neighboring, stream.

This too is a law of Nature.

But, for this, the drop must know how to make use of accidental shocks, and of the momentum of the whole river, so as to come to the surface and be closer to the bank at those places where it is easier to jump across.

It must choose not only the right place but also the right time, to make use of winds, currents and storms.

Then the drop has a chance to rise with the spray and jump across into the other river.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

The Second River

“From the moment it gets into the other river, the drop is in a different world, in a different life, and therefore is under different laws.

In this second river a law exists for individual drops, the law of alternating progression.

A drop comes to the top or goes to the bottom, this time not by accident but by law.

Upon coming to the surface, the drop gradually becomes heavier and sinks; deep down it loses weight and [then] rises again.

To float on the surface is good for it —to be deep down is bad.

Much depends here on skill and on effort.

In this second river there are different currents and it is necessary to get into the required current.

The drop must float on the surface as long as possible in order to prepare itself, to earn the possibility of passing into another current, and so on.

But we are in the first river.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

Crossing over into the Second River I

“As long as we are in this passive current it will carry us wherever it may; as long as we are passive we shall be pushed about and be at the mercy of every accident.

We are the slaves of these accidents.

At the same time Nature has given us the possibility of escaping from this slavery.

Therefore when we talk about freedom we are talking precisely about crossing over into the other river.

But of course it is not so simple —you cannot cross over merely because you wish.

Strong desire or a longing and lengthy preparation are necessary.

You will have to live through being identified with all the attractions in the first river.

You must die to this river.

All religions speak about this death: “Unless you die, you cannot be born again.”

This does not mean physical death.

From that death there is no necessity to rise again because if there is a soul, and it is immortal, then it can get along without the body, the loss of which we call death.

And the reason for rising again is not in order to appear before the Lord God on the day of judgment as the fathers of the Church teach us.

No, Christ and all the others spoke of the death which can take place in life, the death of the tyrant from whom our slavery comes, that death which is a necessary condition of the first and principal liberation of man.

If a person were deprived of their illusions and all that prevents them from seeing reality —if they were deprived of their interests, cares, expectations and hopes — [then] all their strivings would collapse, everything would become empty and there would remain an empty being, an empty body, only physiologically alive.

This would be the death of “I”,
the death of everything it consisted of,
the destruction of everything false [which has been] collected
through ignorance or inexperience.

All this will remain in a person merely as material,
but subject to selection.

Then a person will be able to choose for themselves
and not have imposed what others like on them.

That person will have conscious choice.

This is difficult. No, difficult is not the word.
The word “impossible” is also wrong,
because, in principle, it is possible;
only it is a thousand times more difficult
than to become a multi-millionaire through honest work.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

Crossing over into the Second River II

“Question: There are two rivers—how can a drop go from the first to the second?

Answer: It must buy a ticket.

It is necessary to realize that
only he who has some real possibility of changing can cross.

This possibility depends on desire or a longing,
strong wish of a very special kind,
wishing with the Essence,
not with the personality.

You must understand that it is very difficult to be sincere with yourself,
and a person is very much afraid of seeing the truth.

Sincerity is a function of conscience.

Every person has a conscience
—it is a property of normal human beings.

But owing to civilization
this function has become crusted over and has ceased to work,
except in special circumstances where the associations are very strong.

Then, it functions for a little time and disappears again.

Such moments are due to strong shock, great sorrow, or insult.

At these times
conscience unites personality and essence,
which otherwise are altogether separate.

This question about two rivers refers to Essence,
as all real things do.

Your Essence is permanent;
your personality is:
• your education,
• your ideas,
• your beliefs
—things caused by your environment;
these you acquire, and can lose.

The object of these talks
is to help you to get something real.

But now we cannot ask this question seriously;
we must first ask: “How can I prepare myself to ask this question?”

We can suppose that some understanding of your personality
has led you to a certain dissatisfaction with your life as it is,
and to the hope of finding something better.

You hope that we will tell you something you do not know
which will show you the first step.

Try to understand that what you usually call “I” is not I;
there are many “I’s” and each “I” has a different wish.
Try to verify this.

You wish to change,
but which part of you has this wish?

Many parts of you want many things,
but only one part is real.

It will be very useful for you
to try to be sincere with yourself.

Sincerity is the key which will open the door
through which you will see your separate parts,
and you will see something quite new.

You must go on trying to be sincere.

Each day you put on a mask,
and you must take it off little by little.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

Being Sincere in order to Understand Ourselves

“But there is one important thing to realize.

A person cannot free themselves;
they cannot observe themselves all the time;
perhaps they can for five minutes,
but really, to know oneself,
one must know how one spends one’s whole day
.

Also, a person has only one attention;
they cannot always see new things,
but they can sometimes make discoveries by accident,
and these they can recognize again.

There is this peculiarity:
when you once discover a thing in yourself
—you see it again.

But, because a person is mechanical,
they can very rarely see their weakness.

When you see something new,
you get an image of it,
and afterwards you see this thing with the same impression,
which may be right or wrong.

If you hear of someone before you see them,
you make up an image of them,
and if it bears any resemblance to the original,
this image and not the reality is photographed.

We very rarely see what we look at usually, we only see our image of it, or our ideas of it, our opinions, preconceptions, beliefs, of it….

A person is a personality
full of prejudices.

There are two kinds of prejudice:
prejudice of essence
and prejudice of personality.

A person does not really know anything,
they live under authority,
they accept and believe all influences.

We know nothing.

We fail to differentiate when a person is speaking on a subject they really know,
and when they are talking nonsense
—we believe it all.

We have nothing of our own;
everything that we put in our pocket
is not our own
—and on the inside, we have nothing.

And in our Essence we have almost nothing,
because from the time we were babies
we have absorbed very little into Essence.
Except that, by accident,
sometimes something may enter.

We have in our personality
perhaps twenty or thirty ideas we have picked up.

We forget where we got them,
but when something like one of these ideas comes along,
we think we understand it.

It is just an imprint in our memory.
Really, we are slaves,
and we set one prejudice against another.

Our particularities are almost always acquired mechanically.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

How to Progress in the Work

“Now, as to the question. I can put it this way:

Suppose you find a teacher with real knowledge
who wishes to help you,
and you wish to learn:
even so, how can they actually help you?

The teacher can only do so
when you wish in the right way.

This must be your aim;
but this aim is also too far off,
it is necessary to find what will bring you to it
or at least bring you nearer to it.

So, we must have as our aim
the capacity to wish,
and this can only be attained by a person who realizes their nothingness.

We must revalue our values,
and this must be based on need.

A person can have a lot of resistance
to doing this revaluation by themselves alone.

The teacher can advise you,
but cannot help you [you must learn to apply the teachings yourself]…

The Work can only help you
when you are on the Way
—but you are not there.

First you must decide:
is the Way necessary for you or not?

How are you to begin to find this out?

If you are serious, then you must change your point of view,
you must think in a new way,
you must find your possible aim.

This you cannot do alone,
you must call on a friend who can help you
—everyone can help—
but especially two friends can help each other
to revalue their values.

It is very difficult to be sincere all at once,
but, if you try,
you will improve gradually.

When you can be sincere,
then the teacher can show you,
or help you to see,
the things you are afraid of,
and you will find what is necessary and useful for yourself.

These values really can change.
Your mind can change every day,
but your Essence stays as it is.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

Reevaluation: the Results of the Work

“But there is a risk.

Even this preparation of the mind
gives results.

Occasionally a person may feel with their Essence
something which is very bad for them,
or at least for their peace of mind.

This person has already tasted something and,
though they forget it,
it may return.

If it is very strong,
your associations will keep reminding you of it
and, if it is intense,
you will be half in one place
and half in another,
and you will never be quite comfortable.

This is good only if a person has a real possibility of change,
and the chance of changing.

People can be very unhappy,
regardless of their success in life.

This is a serious risk.

Before you think of changing your seat
you would be wise to consider very carefully
and take a good look at
both kinds of chairs.

Happy is the man who sits in his ordinary chair.

A thousand times happier
is the man who sits in the chair of the angels,
but miserable is the man who has no chair.

You must decide
—is it worthwhile?

Examine the chairs,
revalue your values.

The first aim
is to forget all about everything else,
talk to your friend,
study and examine the chairs.

But we warn you,
when you start looking
you will find much that is bad in your present chair.

Next time, if you have made up your mind about what you are going to decide to do with your life, then we can talk differently on this subject.

Try to see yourself, for you do not know yourself.

You must realize this risk;
the man who tries to see himself
can be very unhappy,
for he will see much that is bad,
much that he will wish to change
—and that change is very difficult.

It is easy to start,
but, once you have given up your chair,
it is very difficult to get another,
and it may cause great unhappiness.

Everyone knows the gnawings of remorse.

Now your conscience is relative,
but when you change your values
you will have to stop lying to yourself
.

When you have seen one thing, it is much easier to see another, and it is more difficult to shut your eyes.

You must either stop looking or be willing to take risks.”

-Paraphrase from ‘NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 13, 1924’ in View from the Real World by Gurdjieff
by G.I. Gurdjieff

 

The Esoteric ‘Stages’ of Life

“The whole of this work is about a change of the level of being in which a person naturally is, in ordinary life.

…All Work on oneself, all personal Work, which deals with stopping negative emotions, with self-remembering, with not being identified with one’s woes and troubles, with not making accounts, etc., etc., is concerned with a certain action that can take place in oneself at this moment —now— if one tries to be more conscious and remembers what it is we are trying to do in this Work.

That is to say, the Work is about a certain transformation of the instant, of the moment, of the present, through the action of this Work.

For example, a man finding himself in the depths of despair, if he observes the situation and tries to remember himself, or tries to give himself any other kind of conscious shock at that particular moment, such as remembering his aim—that is, in other words, if he tries to “transform himself”, to transform his mechanical reaction to the circumstances that surround him at that moment—then he may find to his astonishment that quite suddenly everything is changed, his mood of depression vanishes, and he finds himself in a new atmosphere from which he wonders how he could have been in his former state.

…As was said, a person is born as Essence and this constitutes their real part, the part from which one can really grow and develop.

But this part in a person can only grow in a very small way.

It has not the strength to grow by itself any further after, say, the age of 3, 4 or 5.

Let us call this the first stage of life. The first stage is pure Essence which is capable of a certain amount of growth by itself but reaches a point (very soon) in which it can grow no further.

…A person’s Essence can only grow by itself unaided to a very small extent, and as such a person is nothing but a little child.

Now in order for it to grow further something must happen.

Something must form itself around Essence and this is called personality.

Essence must become surrounded by something that is really foreign to itself, something acquired from life, something which enters through the senses.

…This formation of personality around Essence which is necessary for the development of Essence can be called the second stage of life. But let us clearly understand what is meant here. The future development of Essence depends on the formation of personality around it. If a very poor personality, a very weak personality, is formed around it, [then] there is very little to help further growth of Essence which we will speak of when we come to the third stage.

In the second stage, the formation of personality is taking place…

-Paraphrase from Ch 1.15 in The Revolution of the Dialectic [La Revolucion de la Dialectica]
by Samael Aun Weor

 

The Further Growth of the Essence

“The further growth of essence depends first of all on the formation of personality and the richer the personality the better for the growth of essence, but, ordinarily speaking, the formation of personality is quite sufficient for the purposes of life.

A person finds themselves in a good position, able to deal with life through the formation of a rich personality in them.

And if a person is satisfied, then they are, for all life purposes, adequate.

But this Work, this teaching, is about a further stage of development, and this is called the third stage.”

-Paraphrase from the ‘First Letter (3/27/1941)’ from Nicoll to Bush in
Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
By Maurice Nicoll

 

The Good Householder and the ‘Third Stage’ of Life

“You must understand that this work is not really about life (as it is commonly understood); it is about something else that a person can begin to attempt quite apart from whether they are a successful politician, a famous scientist, or a well-respected butcher or baker or candlestick-maker.

This work starts from a person as good householder (which belongs to the second stage of a human being’s development) —namely, from a person who has developed personality and can deal with life in their own particular way, reasonably enough.

This third stage is concerned with a possible further development of essence and that is why so many apparently paradoxical or at least strange things are said in the Gospels … about the human being.

They are all to do with allowing Essence to grow at the expense of personality and this is the only way in which Essence, (which is too weak to grow by itself) can continue to develop.

In this sense, personality, which is formed around Essence becomes, eventually (if this third stage is entered upon), the very source from which Essence can grow further.

…A person in whom a rich personality has been formed by experience, education and interests, is a “rich man” in personality. But their Essence remains poor.

For Essence to develop, personality must become passive.

…it is very important that everyone in the Work should understand what this … means.

It means that religion in the real sense … refers to the third stage of life, the making of personality passive so that Essence can grow.

…the inner meaning of the Gospels has nothing to do with life [as we commonly think of it].

Their teaching starts at the point where personality has already been formed in a person and refers to next stage (this third stage) of possible development.

[And this implies that] a person must first of all become developed as regards personality by the action of life.”

-Paraphrase from the ‘First Letter (3/27/1941)’ from Nicoll to Bush in
Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
By Maurice Nicoll

 

The Education of the Essence for the ‘Third Stage’ of Life

“No matter what kind of [formal] education you have in life, what political affiliation you belong to, this can only form personality in a person. … it cannot lead us to our real eventual development.

And so perhaps now you understand more clearly why there exist, in life, two kinds of influences acting on people…

One kind of influence is called type “A” influences: these are created by life and they are forms of education that belong to the period that we are brought up in, all the viewpoints that belong to the particular age [era] in which a person is born.

These are type A influences and form personality in a person.

But there are also, as we can see for ourselves even to-day, other influences which are ageless.

For us in the West the Gospels and their teaching are the chief example but these timeless influences can be found at the source of all Authentic Religious and Esoteric teachings.

These … are … called type B influences and these hold good for any age or era because they are always about the same thing —namely, this third stage of development of the Essence, in which Essence begins to grow at the expense of personality.

Unless we really understand this apparent paradox we will never get a very clear idea of the role of this system of spiritual development.

The third stage begins at the end of the second stage, when personality has been formed and [when] a person has tasted life and seen what things are like but feels dissatisfied and begins to seek for something more, for something that will make them understand better, something that will help them and give them a direction and eventually complete the development of the Essence.”

-Paraphrase from the ‘First Letter (3/27/1941)’ from Nicoll to Bush in
Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky
By Maurice Nicoll

 

The Good Householder and the Work

“A typical “Good Householder” will never accept this Esoteric Work.

The typical “Good Householder” fulfills all their duties as father/mother, husband/wife, etc., and because of it, they think the best of themselves.

Nonetheless, they only serve Nature’s ends, and that is all.

On the other hand, there also exists the “Good Householder” who swims against the current, who does not want to be devoured by life.

However, this special type of individual is very rare in the world. There are very few of this type.”

-Paraphrase from Ch 19 in Revolutionary Psychology
by Samael Aun Weor

 

Being Hermetically Sealed

“To detach oneself from the disastrous effects of life (in these times) is certainly very difficult but indispensable, otherwise one ends up being devoured by life.

Any Work that one does upon oneself with the purpose of achieving a spiritual and psychic development is always related with a very well understood type of isolation.

This is because the personality is the only thing that one can develop under the influence of life as we have always lived it…

We do not intend to oppose the development of the personality in any way. Obviously it is necessary in life.

Yet, indeed the personality is merely something artificial.

The personality is neither the truth nor the reality in us.

If the wretched intellectual mammal mistakenly called Human Being does not isolate him- or her-self, but identifies with all the occurrences of practical life, if they waste their strength, their energy in negative emotions, in personal self-consideration and in ambiguous chattering, then nothing constructive, no real element can be developed within a person, except that which belongs to this world of mechanicity.

Indeed, whosoever wants to truly achieve the development of the Essence in themselves must become hermetically sealed.

This statement refers to something intimate, closely related to silence.

The phrase ‘hermetically sealed’ comes from ancient times when a Doctrine on the internal development of a human being, associated with the name of Hermes was secretly taught.

The meaning behind the name of this aspect of the teaching is that, if a person wants something real to grow within their interior, then that person must avoid the escape of their psychic energies.

When one’s energies drain away and one is not inwardly isolated, then it is unquestionable that one will not be able to attain the development of something real within one’s psyche.

Ordinary routine life wants to devour us mercilessly. Hence, we must fight against life daily; we must learn to swim against the current.

This Work goes against ‘daily life’.

This Work deals with something very different from that of ‘daily life’ and something that we must, nonetheless, practice from instant to instant;

We are referring to the Revolution of the Consciousness.

Evidently, if our attitude towards daily life is fundamentally mistaken, if we believe that everything should turn out well because that is the way it is supposed to be, then we will be disappointed.

People want things to turn out well, because everything should be in accordance with their plans, etc.

Nevertheless, crude reality is different; therefore, as long as one does not change internally, whether one likes it or not, one will be a victim of circumstances.

Many sentimental stupidities are uttered and written about life…

This doctrine goes straight to the point, to concrete, clear and definite facts.

This doctrine emphatically affirms that the “intellectual animal” mistakenly called Human Being, is a mechanical, unconscious, sleeping biped.”

-Paraphrase from Ch 19 in Revolutionary Psychology
by Samael Aun Weor

 

The Cornerstone of a Good Householder

“The crude reality of facts comes to demonstrate to us that many are those who have not comprehended the transcendence of the Gnostic Esoteric work, and that a great majority are not good householders.

When one is not a good householder, it is clear that one is not prepared to enter the path of the razor’s edge.

In order to work in the Revolution of the Consciousness, one needs to have reached the level of a good householder.

A fanatic, a lunatic, a whimsical type of person, etc. cannot be good for the Integral Revolution.

A subject who does not fulfill the duties of their home cannot achieve the great change.

A person who is a bad father/mother, bad wife or husband or who abandons their home for this or that man or woman, will never be able to arrive at radical transformation.

The cornerstone of Revolutionary Psychology is in the requirement of: Having a perfect equilibrium at home; whether being a good husband, good father, good brother and good son.

Perfect fulfillment of the duties which exist in regards to suffering humanity.

Convert yourself into a decent person.

Whosoever does not fulfill these requirements will never be able to advance in these revolutionary studies.”

So we should work to be balanced in our lives, and be a good Householder (which refers to the 2nd Stage of Life) fulfilling our responsibilities at home, if we are going to be able to move on to the 3rd Stage of Life: which is the development of the Essence.

“When one behaves in accordance with the ideas of the Gnostic Esoteric Work then one obtains an upright perception of life.”

-Paraphrase from Ch 1.06 in The Revolution of the Dialectic [La Revolucion de la Dialectica]
by Samael Aun Weor