From Aim to Conscience

aim-03-smFrom: Ardue University

The strange thing is that, as a rule, people do not know their aim in life.

Aim can be formulated only if one already knows something about one's position.  If a man does not realise his position, all his aims will be imaginary.

So I advise you to think about your aim: what you thought about it before you met this system and how you would describe what you now want and must try to get.

It is useless to describe an aim which you know you cannot attain.  But if you have an aim that you can hope to attain, your work will be conscious, serious.


In the beginning people usually set before them aims which are too abstract and remote.

A person's aim is at first like a light that he sees afar off while walking by night along a dark road.  He makes this light his aim and goes towards it.  On the way to it he sees another light, between him and the first light.  He understands that first he should go to the nearest light, and he goes towards it.  After a certain time he sees a third light, again between him and the light towards which he is going, and so on.  This is repeated several times until, at length, the man learns to concentrate on the light nearest to him — that is, the aim he is able to get to from where he is now.

So do not have too big a view of things; do not look too far; look nearer.  You cannot start working for a remote future; you work for tomorrow.  You find something wrong today.  Why?  Because yesterday was wrong.  So if you make today right, tomorrow will be right.  And only with an aim is it possible to remember what you did yesterday and what you should do today — what corresponds to your aim and what does not.

The motive power in all our actions is of two kinds: something attracts us or something repels us.  We cannot know what we can attain in the remote future, but we know very well the situation in which we are.  If we understand this, it will give us a definite aim.  The aim will be to get out of this situation.  We can know certain things in us from which we must try to get free.

Aim must be clearly formulated, understood, and remembered.  Only then is it possible to come to results.  If the aim is forgotten every moment, no results are possible.

How can a man who realises his position formulate his aim?  If he sees that the centre of gravity of his position is sleep, then his aim will be to awaken.  Or if he sees his mechanicalness, his aim will be to get rid of it.  Both come to the same thing.  It is a simple and practical view.

Aim must always be in the present and refer to the future.  No result is possible if there is no aim, no decision, and no effort.

By J.G.Bennett




The only practical question is whether or not we shall go on trying, supposing that I have no guarantee that my efforts will be rewarded, -am I for that reason to give up trying?


This was one of the things that Gurdjieff most insisted upon in his personal teaching. He reduced the whole teaching to a very simple proposition:


"A man must have an aim".   He may not, can not, see beyond this life, therefore his aim in a concrete sense cannot go beyond his death.  But he can set himself the aim to die honorably, that is to say, not to give up.  “He reiterated this whenever he spoke about aim, and he spoke about it nearly every day. The whole point is that the aim to keep on trying, to work on oneself, admits of no doubt. All philosophical and even religious  questions can remain open for us  but as to whether it is better to go on trying or to give up, there can be no doubt. Therefore the practical issue for us does not concern what is beyond death; it concerns the approach to the moment of death.  How shall I die?


Whatever may be beyond death, it will be better for me that I should do the best I can in this life. I think it is very remarkable, that it is possible to reduce the human problem to such simple terms. Gurdjieff used to say that if we will set ourselves that aim, and we can reach a point where we know that it will be so for us, then we can go beyond that to another aim, But first that; first to establish in oneself, through and through, the realization that I cannot give up.  And not only cannot give up, I cannot do less than the best that is in my power. Otherwise I shall perish as I deserve.


Not everything in man is on the same level. You can try to understand what kinds of things correspond to different levels. On one level there is the whole of our functional mechanism, all is the same kind of stuff our thinking, our feeling, our sensation, and our vital functions. All is a machine. All is passive.


There is - and this is the idea which we are trying to understand, not to believe - also in man ' something' of  an altogether different order; but it is so remote from the ordinary activity of his functions that the two can scarcely ever touch one another, and then only for a brief moment. That different 'something' is the point of contact between the finite and the infinite in him; between that which is himself and that which is beyond himself.

These are the two ultimate poles of his nature. They can only be joined if something is formed in him which can reconcile them, something which has risen from his lower nature, but is of such a quality that it can participate in his higher nature. This intermediate force is our practical concern. We must first try to represent to ourselves what this force is. We cannot experience it, because it is not yet formed in us, but we must try to represent to ourselves that it is possible for us to acquire a new, a second, nature which is independent of our first, or mechanical, nature. We must represent to ourselves also that this second nature can become the seat of our consciousness, and that when it is formed we shall be able to live in two worlds at once, the world of our organic nature, and the world of consciousness. From that world we can recognize and consent to the influences which come from above. It is this inner relationship which is Conscience. I say we must represent to ourselves such a transformation of our nature, even though we cannot experience it.


And then if this corresponds to what we wish to attain, without even knowing whether it is possible for us to attain it, without certainly having the taste of what it is, we must try to live as though it existed in us.  Because if we live as though it existed in us, it will begin to form. When it begins to form, the conviction can grow in us that this really can be attained and made permanent. We can see more and more clearly what it is that we have to do in order to attain it.


Mrs M. What relationship would this second consciousness have to the "I," the relatively permanent "I" that we are trying to form?

Mr . B. This is the consciousness of I AM, when life becomes real.

Mrs. M. But it is not the real "I”?

Mr . B. You know Mr. Gurdjieff said there could be three real "I '.s’ in man. First, there is the self of his functions, the "I" of his organic nature, which is the force of his feelings. Then there can be a second self which is the 'I" of his consciousness. And there is the third "I" which is the "I' of the will. Or if we speak about it in terms of centers, there is the "I" of the lower emotional centre, the "I” of the Higher emotional Centre and the "I" of the Higher Mental Centre. The Higher Mental Centre is the instrument of the Master.  We can not even picture to ourselves what that that "I" can be.


Mr. H. Another speaker mentioned Objective Conscience. You again mentioned the three different "Is" by Gurdjieff, particularly the last two, and the "I" of the higher emotional center and the ' I" of the higher mental centre. I do not see how Objective Conscience and   'I' are related.  I should have thought Objective Conscience, as I have understood from some of your earlier descriptions, is something, which is the Voice of God, something permanent, reaching down to us from a higher level, whereas any "I", whichever way you look at it, is the same evolutionary process that is going on from a lower level t o a higher level.


The highest Self in man is the point of contact between the finite and the infinite. The highest "I" does not arise from below but descends from Above.  You remember the analogy which compares man to a house full of servants?  You know it says that the master comes when the house is ready.  The Master is not a promoted servant, he comes from Above.


Mr.H. yes, he comes when the Steward goes away.

Mr B. No; the steward must remain to serve Him.  The Steward is also not a promoted servant.  The Steward comes from the Master.   Three states are spoken of:  The deputy Steward, the Steward and the Master.


The Deputy Steward is his first I. The Steward is the second "I”, But the Master is the highest, and the Master is He whom we serve, He whom we exist to serve. There must first arise in us the desire to serve.  We have to ask ourselves whether this desire is even born in us.  We speak now of such very big things.  But even of such things as this, we have no right to speak unless we relate them to some present reality. We must have an attitude towards them.   I cannot know the Master.  He can only be known by the Steward. But I can have an attitude towards this relationship that means I can ask myself:  whom do I wish to serve? And I must even oblige myself to answer the question whether I wish to serve my own egoism, or whether I wish to serve the Master.
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