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"Consciously Directed Imagination" - the secret to the Gurdjieff Work and intellectual power

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5 KJV

Intellectual masturbation

Almost all intellectual activity and engagement in the predominate cerebral culture of the modern world could be classified as 'mental masturbation' - a competitively driven maelstrom of machine gun-like debates, discussions, critiques and commentaries, with absurdly complex and esoteric language that only serves to arouse the participants and audience to orgasmic levels for entertainment purposes. The endless material of social media, news and podcasts parading on the internet are testaments to this incredible waste or misuse of human energy that is affectionately called 'discourse'.

As Gurdjieff would say, all these 'wiseacrings' and 'titillations' amount to no more than 'pouring from the empty into the void'. Yet, more than ever, people need a powerful intellectual centre that functions as a reliable interface to navigate a world heavily reliant on the substrata of information and digital systems - that, of necessity, requires a sophisticated and complex language, underpinned by a mind that can use it creatively.

Imagination - a two edged sword

In Gurdjieff's book "Life is Real, Only then, when ‘I AM’" (Penguin, Arkana, pages 131-142), he elucidates on a particular 'secret' for the use of imagination in self-perfecting, in which he would normally consider as a negative property of consciousness. What is this secret?

Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

From Gurdjieff's psycho-cosmology, the 'fuel' (or energy) of imagination comes from 'Piandjoëhary', which is the lower 'devolved' energy of 'Exioëhary' (i.e., the sexual or creative energy that fuels life) and the higher 'evolved' energy of 'Tetartoëhary' (i.e., the intellectual or mental or mind energy that allows life navigation).

When sufficient inner work has been undertaken to balance the intellectual, emotional and bodily energies, the higher devolving energies can 'flow down' to invigorate and vivify the lower energies - giving an active presence of inner life.

Conversely, the lower energies (intellectual, emotional and bodily) can 'inform' and 'channel' the higher energies into action. Thus, a mutual ascending (evolution) and descending (involution) relationship can be established in dynamic balance for a healthy transformative effect for both.

However, if the lower energies have not been sufficiently balanced and integrated, the higher energies may flow down to all the 'wrong places', potentially disrupting the lower energies and producing unintended consequences for life.

The most common form of this disruption is in the intellectual function, fuelled by the Piandjoëhary of imagination - driving it often into fantasy, particularly 'ego-fantasy', through unmitigated sexual desires, vanity, pride, self-importance, possessiveness, deceit, etc. This is because the energy fuelling imagination (Piandjoëhary) is a higher, more potent fuel than that of the intellectual or mind energy (Tetartoëhary) and must go somewhere on its downward trajectory - and if not into something useful and practical, then into something un-useful and impractical. As Tetartoëhary is the next lower level energy down from Piandjoëhary, it is the intellect that feels the full force of this energetic devolution.

Consciously directed imagination

For the intellect or mind to be appropriately 'empowered' and move into thought forms beyond its own limitations of Tetartoëhary - it needs to be provided with the right potency of fuel from above it (Piandjoëhary) and grounded in the energies below it (coming from Protoëhary, Defteroëhary and Tritoëhary - the energies supporting the body).

When this 'triadic' relationship is attained, the energy of imagination can be more consciously directed by the intellect, giving rise to a truly creative power in problem solving or free creation. What does this look like in practice?

Sustained alignment within oneself between the higher and lower energies creates a conduit where above and below can be in active communication, providing the possibility to mutually transform each other.

The first thing needed is to ground and integrate the energies of the intellect with the energies of the body. This takes a long time of disciplined practice, and is facilitated through using one's power of attention to sustain a connection with the organic sensations (perceived energies) of the body under favourable and unfavourable conditions.

The second thing needed is to ground the feeling-states or states of being that arise in connecting the attention to the organic sensations of the body, with the natural movements of imagination. This normally takes the form of 'contemplation' - that is, one poses a question to oneself first, and lets it gradually find a place within, waiting and watching for an intuitive response, image or insight to arise.

The third thing needed, once one is thoroughly conversant with the first two, is that the response, image, insight or 'ideal' one is wishing for is generated first, as wholly and as detailed as possible, sustained for as long as one can, and then letting it go to move back into the depths of subconsciousness, merging and transforming what is already there.

The 'secret' is that one must bring a balanced, conscious and strong attention to the imagined 'ideal' - giving the ideal as much potency as possible. The greater the clarity and detail of the visceral, emotional and conceptual dimensions of the ideal, the greater its potential effect.

The one qualifier in consciously imagining the ideal, is that it must be realistically attainable, as assessed through long practice and commensurate with one's understanding, and not based on some fanciful idea bereft of any evidentiary foundation. It is the power of the imagination that can be one's chief source of limitation or one's chief source of liberation. The choice is ours.

For Christians, consciously directing the imagination to constantly focus on the ideals of Christ, is a work to receive real help, not only for the future, but here and now.


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