From what does the way start?
Posted by lahar9jhadav on August 8, 2007
ONCE there was a meeting with a large number of people who had not been at our meetings before. One of them asked: “From what does the way start?” The person who asked the question had not heard G.’s description of the four ways and he used the word “way” in the usual religious-mystical sense.
“The chief difficulty in understanding the idea of the way,”‘ said G., “consists in the fact that people usually think that the way” (he emphasized this word) “starts on the same level on which life is going. This is quite wrong. The way begins on another, much higher, level. This is exactly what people usually do not understand. The beginning of the way is thought to be easier or simpler than it is in reality. I will try to explain this in the following way.
“Man lives in life under the law of accident and under two kinds of influences again governed by accident.
“The first kind are influences created in life itself or by life itself. Influences of race, nation, country, climate, family, education, society, profession, manners and customs, wealth, poverty, current ideas, and so on. The second kind are influences created outside this life, influences of the inner circle, or esoteric influences— influences, that is, created under different laws, although also on the earth. These influences differ from the former, first of all in being conscious in their origin. This means that they have been created consciously by conscious men for a definite purpose. Influences of this kind are usually embodied in the form of religious systems and teachings, philosophical doctrines, works of art, and so on.
“They are let out into life for a definite purpose, and become mixed with influences of the first kind. But it must be borne in mind that these influences are conscious only in their origin. Coming into the general vortex of life they fall under the general law of accident and begin to act mechanically, that is, they may act on a certain definite man or may not act; they may reach him or they may not. In undergoing change and distortion in life through transmission and interpretation, influences of the second kind are transformed into influences of the first kind, that is, they become, as it were, merged into the influences of the first kind.
“If we think about this, we shall see that it is not difficult for us to distinguish influences created in life from influences whose source lies outside life. To enumerate them, to make up a catalogue of the one and the other, is impossible. It is necessary to understand; and the whole thing depends upon this understanding. We have spoken about the beginning of the way. The beginning of the way depends precisely upon this understanding or upon the capacity for discriminating between the two kinds of influences. Of course, their distribution is unequal. One man receives more of the influences whose source lies outside life, another less; a third is almost isolated from them. But this cannot be helped. This is already fate. Speaking in general and taking normal life under normal conditions and a normal man, conditions are more or less the same for everybody, that is, to put it more correctly, difficulties are equal for everybody. The difficulty lies in separating the two kinds of influences. If a man in receiving them does not separate them, that is, does not see or does not feel their difference, their action upon him also is not separated, that is, they act in the same way, on the same level, and produce the same results. But if a man in receiving these influences begins to discriminate between them and put on one side those which are not created in life itself, then gradually discrimination becomes easier and after a certain time a man can no longer confuse them with the ordinary influences of life.
“The results of the influences whose source lies outside life collect together within him, he remembers them together, feels them together. They begin to form within him a certain whole. He does not give a clear account to himself as to what, how, and why, or if he does give an account to himself, then he explains it wrongly. But the point is not in this, .but in the fact that the results of these influences collect together within him and after a certain time they form within him a kind of magnetic center, which begins to attract to itself kindred influences and in this manner it grows. If the magnetic center receives sufficient nourishment, and if there is no strong resistance on the part of the other sides of a man’s personality which are the result of influences created in life, the magnetic center begins to influence a man’s orientation, obliging him to turn round and even to move in a certain direction. When the magnetic center attains sufficient force and development, a man already understands the idea of the way and he begins to look for the way. The search for the way may take many years and may lead to nothing. This depends upon conditions, upon circumstances, upon the power of the magnetic center, upon the power and the direction of inner tendencies which are not concerned with this search and which may divert a man at the very moment when the possibility of finding the way appears.
“If the magnetic center works rightly and if a man really searches, or even if he does not search actively yet feels rightly, he may meet another man who knows the way and who is connected directly or through other people with a center existing outside the law of accident, from which proceed the ideas which created the magnetic center.
“Here again there are many possibilities. But this will be spoken of later on. For the moment let us imagine that he has met a man who really knows the way and is ready to help him. The influence of this man upon him goes through his magnetic center. And then, at this point, the man frees himself from the law of accident. This is what must be understood. The influence of the man who knows the way upon the first man is a special kind of influence, differing from the former two, first of all in being a direct influence, and secondly in being a conscious influence. Influences of the second kind, which create magnetic center, are conscious in their origin but afterwards they are thrown into the general vortex of life, are intermixed with influences created in life itself, and are equally subject to the law of accident. Influences of the third kind can never be subject to the law of accident; they are themselves outside the law of accident and their action also is outside the law of accident. Influences of the second kind can proceed through books, through philosophical systems, through rituals. Influences of the third kind can proceed only from one person to another, directly, by means of oral transmission.
“The moment when the man who is looking for the way meets a man who knows the way is called the first threshold or the first step. From this first threshold the stairway begins. Between ‘life’ and the ‘way’ lies the ‘stairway.’ Only by passing along this ‘stairway’ can a man enter the ‘way.’ In addition, the man ascends this stairway with the help of the man who is his guide; he cannot go up the stairway by himself. The way begins only where the stairway ends, that is, after the last threshold on the stairway, on a level much higher than the ordinary level of life.
“Therefore it is impossible to answer the question, from what does the way start? The way starts with something that is not in life at all, and therefore it is impossible to say from what. Sometimes it is said: in ascending the stairway a man is not sure of anything, he may doubt everything, his own powers, whether what he is doing is right, the guide, his knowledge and his powers. At the same time, what he attains is very unstable; even if he has ascended fairly high on the stairway, he may fall down at any moment and have to begin again from the beginning. But when he has passed the last threshold and enters the way, all this changes. First of all, all doubts he may have about his guide disappear and at the same time the guide becomes far less necessary to him than before. In many respects he may even be independent and know where he is going. Secondly, he can no longer lose so easily the results of his work and he cannot find himself again in ordinary life. Even if he leaves the way, he will be unable to return where he started from.
“This is almost all that can be said in general about the ‘stairway’ and about the ‘way,’ because there are different ways. We have spoken of this before. And, for instance, on the fourth way there are special conditions which cannot be on the other ways. Thus the conditions for ascending the stairway on the fourth way are that a man cannot ascend to a higher step until he places another man upon his own step. The other, in his turn, must put in his place a third man in order to ascend higher. Thus, the higher a man ascends the more he depends upon those who are following him. If they stop he also stops. Such situations as this may also occur on the way. A man may attain something, for instance, some special powers, and may later on sacrifice these powers in order to raise other people to his level. If the people with whom he is working ascend to his level, he will receive back all that he has sacrificed. But if they do not ascend, he may lose it altogether.
“There are also various possibilities as regards the teacher’s situation in relation to the esoteric center, namely, he may know more or he may know less about the esoteric center, he may know exactly where this center is and how knowledge and help was or is received from it; or he may know nothing of this and may only know the man from whom he himself received his knowledge. In most cases people start precisely from the point that they know only one step higher than themselves. And only in proportion to their own development do they begin to see further and to recognize where what they know came from.
“The results of the work of a man who takes on himself the role of teacher do not depend on whether or not he knows exactly the origin of what he teaches, but very much depends on whether or not his ideas come in actual fact from the esoteric center and whether he himself understands and can distinguish esoteric ideas, that is, ideas of objective knowledge, from subjective, scientific, and philosophical ideas.
“So far I have spoken of the right magnetic center, of the right guide, and of the right way. But a situation is possible in which the magnetic center has been wrongly formed. It may be divided in itself, that is, it may include contradictions. In it, moreover, may enter influences of the first kind, that is, those created in life, under the guise of influences of the second kind, or the traces of influences of the second kind but distorted to such an extent that they have become their own opposite. Such a wrongly formed magnetic center cannot give a right orientation. A man with a wrong magnetic center of this kind may also look for the way and he may meet another man who will call himself a teacher and will say that he knows the way and that he is connected with a center standing outside the law of accident. But in reality he may not know the way and may not be connected with such a center. Moreover here again there are many possibilities:
“1. He may be genuinely mistaken and think that he knows something, when in reality he knows nothing. “2. He may believe another man, who in his turn may be mistaken. “3. He may deceive consciously.
“Then if the man who is seeking the way believes him, he may lead him in a quite different direction and not where he promises; he may lead him very far from the right way and bring him to results directly opposite to the results of the right way.
“But fortunately this happens very rarely, that is, wrong ways are very numerous but in the majority of cases they do not lead anywhere. And a man simply turns circles on the same spot and thinks that he is going somewhere.”
“How can a wrong way be recognized?” asked somebody.
“How can it be recognized?” said G. “It is. impossible to recognize a wrong way without knowing the right way. This means that it is no use troubling oneself how to recognize a wrong way. One must think of how to find the right way. This is what we are speaking about all the time. It cannot be said in two words. But from what I have said you can draw many useful conclusions if you remember everything that has been said and everything which follows from it. For example, you can see that the teacher always corresponds to the level of the pupil. The higher the pupil, the higher can be the teacher. But a pupil of a level which is not particularly high cannot count on a teacher of a very high level. Actually a pupil can never see the level of the teacher. This is a law. No one can see higher than his own level. But usually people not only do not know this, but, on the contrary, the lower they are themselves, the higher the teacher they demand. The right understanding of this point is already a very consid- erable understanding. But it occurs very seldom. Usually the man himself is not worth a brass farthing but he must have as teacher no other than Jesus Christ. To less he will not agree. And it never enters his head that even if he were to meet such a teacher as Jesus Christ, taking him as he is described in the Gospels, he would never be able to follow him because it would be necessary to be on the level of an apostle in order to be a pupil of Jesus Christ. Here is a definite law. The higher the teacher, the more difficult for the pupil. And if the difference in the levels of the teacher and pupil go beyond a certain limit, then the difficulties in the path of the pupil become insuperable. It is exactly in connection with this law that there occurs one of the fundamental rules of the fourth way. On the fourth way there is not one teacher. Whoever is the elder, he is the teacher. And as the teacher is indispensable to the pupil, so also is the pupil indispensable to the teacher. The pupil cannot go on without the teacher, and the teacher cannot go on without the pupil or pupils. And this is not a general consideration but an indispensable and quite concrete rule on which is based the law of a man’s ascending. As has been said before, no one can ascend onto a higher step until he places another man in his own place. What a man has received he must immediately give back; only then can he receive more. Otherwise from him will be taken even what he has already been given.”
from Chapter Ten of, IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS: Fragments Of An Unknown Teaching, by P. D. Ouspensky.
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