Why can’t I develop my spiritual search on my own?
‘A Man may be born, but in order to be born he must first die, and in order to die he must first awake’
G I Gurdjieff
This aphorism feels full of a deep essential meaning but how are we supposed to interpret it? Surely we are already ‘awake’? How else could I function as I go about my daily routine?
Gurdjieff introduces us to the notion of various states of ‘sleep’. At night in bed we experience both a deep sleep and a lighter sleep during which we may dream. In the morning as we begin our day, we find ourselves in a ‘waking state of sleep’, capable of performing all our outward responsibilities – but only in an automated and mechanical way. In this state we can be anywhere between daydream and a more alert mode.
We can also, from time to time, ‘wake up in a flash’ – a moment of self remembering. This is a fleeting event connecting us to something higher. Initially I am mildly amused by this state and simply accept it as part of my life. However there comes a point when I get a taste for this vivifying moment. It somehow feels authentic and I gradually acknowledge that I wish to know more. How can I hang on to and extend this moment? Where does it come from and why does it go away so quickly? I become increasingly curious. I want to know why the hypnotic effect of life pulls me back into my waking state causing me to feel dull, directionless and without purpose once again. I am no longer content with the status quo of my life. I have the beginnings of a search.
Help is at hand! I can discover testimonials of those who have gone before, sacred books and spiritual paths. Beware however since this risks remaining a purely intellectual exercise. Information from books is not the same as Self-Knowledge or deep personal understanding.
I can only go so far on my own. I have a need to share my curiosity with others but I find that my immediate circle of acquaintances is not entirely receptive to my apparent self-centred musings. I need to find others who resonate with my own experiences – not just one or two but a group.
A Group has a history, a structure and an aim. A Group has a leader(s) who has travelled further than me on a particular path. The leader gives the Group direction. I bring questions related to my search. I get a response which is tailored to my immediate needs and hints of a future direction for me. I hear and watch others in the Group, which helps to confirm and identify a shared path of discoveries, dilemmas and difficulties. Group activities serve as a constant reminder of my ‘sleep’ and invite me to ‘wake up’. I cannot be my own constant reminder to remember myself. Only by beginning to remember myself can I awaken. The ‘wake up’ call must come from outside myself. This is the purpose of a Group.
To return to the aphorism above: to Awake, to Die, to be Born. To awake from my ‘waking state’. To die to the misleading reactions we normally mistake for life. To be born again to the higher potentialities of life – the real purpose of our presence here on Earth.
The next Café Gurdjieff event in Central London on the theme of “Why do I need a Group?2 will take place at 11am on SAturday 12 November. See our Meetup Group for more details.