Essays

Discouragement

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Anyone who sincerely attempts to practice what Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nicoll and others taught is going to face discouragement at some point. The reasons are various, so it’s difficult to predict when or how discouragement will strike. It’s not only that it’s a long path. It’s a long path because of our condition.

My experience is that most of the people who come to this way come gradually, through other teachings that are similar. Teachings that are valid but, in a sense, incomplete. A person who finds this path and begins the journey is someone who has a fair amount of Pride and Vanity, or else they couldn’t think they could do this Work.

This Work teaches that the Essential part of us must eat the False or Acquired part of us in order to grow. As we practice this Work, the False Personality, acquired in life, gradually becomes more and more passive, and the Essential, or real part of us, becomes more and more active. This struggle can be like dying a thousand deaths. It’s not very appealing when there are so many other teachings offering success in a nearly effortless way. But the people who come here have realized nothing gets done without some kind of force being expended. It’s a lovely idea to have someone do it for you, but the reality is that we cannot be sustained by what someone else eats.

Through the decades I’ve traveled through many different kinds of discouragement. Much of it, in the beginning years, had to do with coming to grips with my own imagination of myself. Self-Observation was harsh – I was so identified with the pictures that I and the world had painted of me. Each realization was a kind of painful death-blow. It was very depressing when I didn’t have someone else to blame. Often it was like walking into a spider’s web face first. Over time I learned how to avoid getting stuck in the False Personality’s sticky web. That doesn’t mean I don’t get blindsided from time to time. But we must be ever vigilant or we fall prey to some trap or other.

These days I’m not so surprised by what is in me. Nor am I as dismayed as when I began. The Absolute is not where I am in the great Ray of Creation, so it serves me to understand the idea of relativity, scale. It buoys my hope by giving me more realistic expectations. Ravi Ravindra shared a story, as told to him by Madame de Salzmann, one of Gurdjieff’s students. It speaks volumes about the kind of discouragement I face these days.

Madame de Salzmann told of an incident, late in Gurdjieff’s life, when

she came upon him in a place in Switzerland. He was sitting, looking very sad and discouraged. She asked him: ‘Are you discouraged because we are not working hard enough? Is there something we don’t do?’ With great feeling he described his sadness as he conveyed to her the immense distance between what was needed and what was being done. He felt compassion for the pupils, as well as his inability to do the Work for them. Then he waved to her to go and play the piano.

Although the sadness and compassion are real enough for me, there are days when what I need most is to know how to wave like that.

The childlike wave to go play the piano comes from realizing no amount of thought will ever lead to Truth. It’s a realization that comes like a cool breeze on a hot day.

The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

More often than not, students simply do not know that the house is on fire.

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About Esoteric Talks

"No good deed goes unpunished."

The person most frequently credited as the originator of the phrase is playwright Clare Boothe Luce. Also credited have been playwright Noel Coward, writer Oscar Wilde, journalist Walter Winchell and the late Washington Post writer Bill Gold. The original idea is probably an ancient proverb.

Appearing cynical on the surface, a closer examination of human nature reveals the False Personality to be incredibly vengeful and petty due to its hubris.

Plato has Socrates say, "An unexamined life is not worth living." The reason no good deed goes unpunished is because most people are living lives not worth living. If you feel a sting that probably means you.