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Measuring 'Being' - Gurdjieff's categories of Man in Soul Creation

Gurdjieff’s categories of 'Man' (implies both men and women) are based on levels of ‘Being’ (or degrees of inner connectedness or internal coherency) - and not a typology of functions or biological characteristics. It is a measure of conscious development in Soul Creation.

Man Numbers 1-3 (those people dominated by either their body [Man No.1], emotions [Man No.2] or intellect [Man No.3]) are all equally ‘mechanical’ - that is, there is a lack of conscious connection in their Being that leads to inevitable ‘lopsidedness’ (where either the thinking, feeling or moving centres dominate).

Man Number 4’s centre of gravity is in trying to attain some semblance of ‘Conscious Being’ (a balanced and connected state that can only come via conscious efforts). And Man Numbers 5-7 are in varying degrees of semi-permanent/permanent states of inner connectedness developed through conscious efforts.

A practical way of understanding this is in the conducting of the 'Preparation Exercise' (among other exercises) where one progressively pays attention to, and connects with, the organic sensations of the body that induces different states of being.

In the beginning of the exercise, one is naturally more disconnected or fragmented - as one is all in one's associative thoughts, or reactions or bodily tensions, or combinations thereof (i.e., the various traits of Man No.1-3).

When one can ‘understand’, and come into a more collected state, in which one's various parts (thoughts, reactions and sensations) are more ‘connected’, one starts to approach the Being of Man No.4.

If this collected state could be sustained (or induced ‘at will’) - with the understanding that is required to do that - one would begin to approach the Being of Man No.5 and so on. For without a sustained and collected state, the higher energies cannot enter and take up residence that are needed for further and higher understanding and Being.

So, for Gurdjieff, the highest aim someone can have is to first develop and sustain a ’state of connectedness’ under all conditions of life. This aim becomes the bedrock of any other aim one may have.

A potential delusion (which is a great risk in spiritual work) is that one can 'think’ one has the Being of a Man No.4-7 that creates feelings of being special or important, and so on. This is why one must relentlessly ’test’ oneself to bring a reality to the situation, and is why, in part, Gurdjieff brought many exercises of these kind.

But first, one must have grounded experience in being collected and connected to contrast it to when one is not - then many other things become possible.

'Philokalia' itself means love of the beautiful, the exalted, the excellent, understood as the transcendent source of life and the revelation of Truth. It is through such love that, as the subtitle of the original edition puts it, 'the intellect is purified, illuminated and made perfect'. The texts were collected with a view to this purification, illumination and perfection. They show the way to awaken and develop attention and consciousness, to attain that state of watchfulness which is the hallmark of sanctity. They describe the conditions most effective for learning what their authors call the art of arts and the science of sciences, a learning which is not a matter of information or agility of mind but of a radical change of will and heart leading man towards the highest possibilities open to him, shaping and nourishing the unseen part of his being, and helping him to spiritual fulfilment and union with God. "The Philokalia", Volume One, Introduction by the translators and editors, page 13, Faber and Faber, London.


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