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Three Spiritual Ways for Modern Seekers

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

In ancient times, religion meant 'way of life' - that is, how a person lives, as opposed to what is professed, determined their religion - not the other way around. Therefore, a person's religion, and their spiritual progress, can be assessed only through their actions.


It is difficult to change one's way of life beyond attainment of responsible age as the substrata of consciousness has already been laid. However, all spiritual work requires this material for its productivity, particularly in the creation of a Soul.


As elaborated by G.I.Gurdjieff, and then J.G.Bennett, there are broadly three spiritual ways that modern seekers can pursue to change one's life:


The First Way - the Way of Function


The first Way belongs to trying to change the habits of the lower part of the Soul originating in the mind, feelings and physical functions.


All modern 'education' focuses, to some degree, on the Way of Function - which, in contemporary culture, is quintessentially identified in the way of the:

  1. Athlete, centered in the motor/instinctive functions (Gurdjieff's Man No.1);

  2. Artist, centered in the emotional/intuitive functions (Gurdjieff's Man No.2); and

  3. Academic, centered in the intellectual/conceptual functions (Gurdjieff's Man No.3).

Often, those who consciously or unconsciously wish to change their life begin this Way as it is the easier of all the Ways because it is overt, widely available and accessed, and can be readily mimicked.


The Way of Function needs to be constantly exercised and tested functionally - that is, there is a requirement for continued performance and improvement in the chosen arena of activities.


Ultimately, an authentic Way of Function seeks to strengthen the capacity and capabilities of all the functions related to the body. However, no matter what level of performance is achieved in the Way of Function, it is a doomed limitation as, inevitably, the functions decay and die along with the body.


The Second Way - the Way of Being


The Way of Function - that can strengthen the functions or 'centers' (such as the intellectual, emotional and motor) - can also prepare entry into the Way of Being, though it is not necessary.


The Way of Being concerns itself with balancing and consolidating the connections between the functions or centers (rather than the centers themselves) to crystallize an 'inner togetherness' for the middle part of the Soul - the journey of Gurdjieff's Man No.4.


The contemplative religious or secular traditions - focussed on quietness, meditation and stillness exercises - are most identifiable with the Way of Being. However, crystallized Being, of itself, is limited in its realization if confined to the connections of centers.


The Third Way - the Way of Will


The Way of Will belongs to the Reality of Work - the 'power of doing' that is underpinned by the capacity and capability of making 'conscious choices' and following them through - irrespective of personal welfare - that contributes, fundamentally, to the operations of reality.


If the Way of Function is the grounding for the Way Being, then the Way of Being is the grounding for the Way of Will (the lives of Gurdjieff's Man Nos. 5, 6 & 7).


The 'Functions' are directly material, visible and sensory, and forcibly act on physical reality as we know it.


'Being' is not demonstrable directly as it belongs to the energy of relationships between functions, but indispensable for their effective coordination and application.


'Will' is altogether unknowable directly, and can only be understood by the pattern of action that unfolds through the immediacy and capacity of Being that touches physical reality through the instruments of the functions. Will is the direct connector between the inner and outer dimensions.

 

The life of Christ appears nonsensical at an ordinary level. For Why would a young man be willing to die one of the most unimaginably horrible deaths at the hands of his self-appointed enemies for the sake of everyone's salvation? In psychiatric terms, this kind of thinking, let alone action, is delusional and a product of a sick mind.


Yet, despite this, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has inspired and fuelled the Gospel of Love to spread throughout the world in the last 2,000 years. Without it, we simply would not have modern civilisation as we know it today.


However, on closer examination, a pattern emerges that makes Christ's acts critically necessary for what was intended to be accomplished over subsequent millennia - that is, to implant the seed into the human heart for the need of 'service and sacrifice' - to love one's neighbour - and support the evolution of humanity. The foresight is truly divine.


Most of the lives of the Prophets, Messengers and Saints of history are likewise. Even Gurdjieff's life reads like a Biblical narrative - a drama that fulfils something essential, something archetypical, that we recognise and can respond to at a deeper level.

 

Overall, the application of our 'intention' or 'will' is mysterious. We can't 'see' will, or even sense it, yet somehow, the force of this willing enters the physical world from an unseen one to act in it.


We also innately understand when there is a 'lack of will' - for example, a lack of political will, or moral will - where this 'lack' prevents important possibilities from being realised in the world.

The connection between 'Will' and 'Action' is poorly understood, but it requires the development of the force of Function and the energy of Being as conduits for Will to act in accordance with the reality of higher forms of intelligence.
 

Faith of consciousness is freedom.

Faith of feeling is weakness.

Faith of body is stupidity.


Love of consciousness evokes the same in response.

Love of feeling evokes the opposite.

Love of body depends on type and polarity.


Hope of consciousness is strength.

Hope of feeling is slavery.

Hope of body is disease.


G.I.Gurdjieff, Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, p. 361, Penguin, Arkana

 

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