One of the questions that arises frequently, in any culture that embraces the idea of an all-powerful God, is “Why does He allow such suffering to exist in the world?” Many of these cultures have gone on to invent a dark “anti-God”, whose cosmic purpose is to tempt men into evil and destruction. These two entities then get fused with race memories of the warmth and relative safety of day, versus the coldness and dangers of night. In some of these cultures, both “powers” have legions of minions, who walk amongst men with their true natures hidden, working the will of their respective masters. In other cultures, suffering is caused by angry spirits. Taoism, which has no God, says that suffering is merely what happens when a man walks a path that is contrary to the flow of the universe. Buddhism teaches that suffering is merely the result of attachment – of the wish for things to be different than they are.

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One of the more elusive concepts in Gurdjieff’s “Fourth Way” system is that of “identification”. For many people, it equates to those moments when our attention is grabbed by something to such an extent that we are not aware of time passing. Or perhaps to moments when we are so sure of something that we defend it passionately, as if we are defending ourselves. Again, the “modus” of this state is supposedly that our attention is focussed on achieving one outcome. But this is not “identification”. For sure, it is “attachment”, but these are quite different things. We can be “identified” even when our attachment seems faint, or non-existent. As J.G. Bennett once pointed out – we can be identified, even when we feel “awake” – even when we feel we are not “attached”. So how do we recognise this condition?

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Everyone has the potential to become a “bodhisatva” – a being of perfect knowledge – and yet all start from a state where how they imagine themselves and the world is what actually motivates any action. Only a very few find themselves motivated to pursue real knowledge – real inner sight – and of those, many just end up making a new, imagined world. There are so many places on the journey for seekers to “rest on their laurels”. Even as the centre of gravity of the seeker’s “being” changes, he (or she) continues to carry the baggage of the past, including the motivations that caused one to begin to seek.

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Walking The Path

To many people, walking a path of enlightenment is a meaningless act. They may feel – deep down – that life is just a cruel accident: that the essence of consciousness is merely suffering. Or perhaps they reject the suffering and instead count only the pleasure. Perhaps they believe that anything that smells of religion is just a bunch of hokum and that it’s all just about people and power. Or maybe they feel they are already in the arms of their God and, as long as they follow their particular set of holy commandments, their soul is “saved”. Perhaps they don’t believe in any God, but do believe there is a natural order to the universe and that any pain and suffering arises merely from being out of alignment with that order. Perhaps they are living with a constant threat of hunger or violence and merely seeing another dawn is blessing enough. Are they, perhaps, walking a path of enlightenment anyway, despite doing nothing in that direction? Is it, perhaps, something that all life is “doing” and everyone is along for the ride?

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