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The Web Exercise: Azize Exercises Recommended by Cynthia

1. Preliminary Remarks

I had not originally planned to include this exercise among those under consideration in this very introductory sampling and still have serious reservations about presenting it to you now. There is a significant risk that some of you may be tempted to try it out under inappropriate conditions and wind up in confusion and error.

But the exercise so clearly furnishes the bridge, both conceptually and practically, between the Atmosphere Exercise we have just been working with and the magisterial Four Ideals Exercise which we are about to embark on that to leave it off the table has proved to be impossible. You will begin to meet a new side of Gurdjieff here, a whole new depth to his collective and compassionate engagement with our beleaguered planet that few commentators, even those senior in the Work, have sufficiently remarked on.

So here’s the caveat up front: Please do not try out this exercise with your newfound friends in your online spiritual study group. Repeat: DO NOT! It needs to be anchored in actual on-the-ground experience, lived cheek-to-jowl with your fellow seekers, with a hefty component of simple practical work. Full engagement of the moving center is mandatory for understanding. As in the Rule of St Benedict, it is the intentional, rhythmic circulation through a daily round of activities—“prayer alone, prayer together, work alone, work together”—that undergirds the gradual transfiguration of understanding. If you try to do this with your virtual group, you will be starting too far up in your body and in only one quadrant of activity. You will inevitably mistake the emotional feeling of closeness with your group members for the imperishably finer, more spacious, more impartial substance that enters “from above”…”when the conditions are right…”

Instead, I would ask you to try to recall a time in your actual on-the-ground group experience when something of this other order of intensity entered. A whole different flavor, a whole different taste from either clinging, sentimentality, or enthusiasm. Represent it to yourself; use your conscious imagination to actually make it present to yourself again.

I can recall two such experiences clearly marked by this other quality of fineness. The first was during a Wisdom School several years ago on the Olympic Peninsula, where our combined Fourth Way/contemplative group suddenly found itself in the midst of a morning of “sohbet” (spiritual conversation and dialogue) thinking as if with one intelligence, seamlessly articulating a whole that was infinitely more than the sum of its parts. (Quakers also acknowledge much this same experience when they speak of a “gathered” or “covered” meeting. In the utter stillness of their melded “atmospheres” something of a different substantiality can sometimes enter.)

The other experience was more recent; at our Gurdjieff/ Teilhard seminar at Claymont just last fall, where the “gathered meeting” actually went on for several days, across a variety of spheres of activity. Maybe it had something to do with our opening-night Eucharist right on the movements floor, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the passing of G.I. Gurdjieff. Maybe it was our daily work with the “Make Strong” exercise. Maybe it was the movements themselves; they have an uncanny capacity to evoke this dimension. Whatever the combination, the group soon fell into an effortless collective transfiguration. That transfigured light cut across the teaching, the practical work, the work in movements. We were effortlessly carried, as if on a wing. We saw things, understood things during that liminal sojourn between the realms that simply cannot be reconstructed now. But we knew it was food from above.

And we are drawing on that food right now. I share these personal recollections to help you get a taste of the quality of oneness we will be looking for as we begin in the next post to ponder the remarkable assertions Gurdjieff is making in the Web Exercise. Using Gurdjieffian language, you might say it bears the distinct fragrance of “higher emotional center” and even “higher intellectual center.” It cannot—repeat—CANNOT be generated from below, from even the most fervent application of our usual wishing, desiring, aiming. Instead, you must wait in stillness, quietly poised within your own atmosphere, attending with bare simplicity to the next thing that needs to be done, until—in the words of Paulette Meier’s beautiful Quaker chant—“light arises out of darkness and leads thee.”

Then and only then are you really clear to participate in forming that web which does, indeed, have the capacity to significantly shift the state of things both in our own world and in worlds beyond.

2. The Group Atmosphere

Just as there is an individual atmosphere, so there is also a group atmosphere, formed from the aggregation of individual atmospheres. Gurdjieff picturesquely calls it a web. When this web is clear and conscious, it can become a tremendous source of support and transformation, both for its individual group members and for larger planetary purposes.

Gurdjieff may never have heard those contemporary buzzwords, “quantum entanglement” and “non-localized action,” but in this exercise (which in my opinion is less an exercise than an extended reflection) he demonstrates a precocious awareness of both these dimensions of nonlinear causality. In this exercise he sets before us the dazzling possibility that a group which has become capable of navigating consciously within these deeper waters can become a profound force for healing and good.

Don’t pass through the metaphor of the web too quickly, taking it simply as a synonym for “network.” When you look more closely, you see that Gurdjieff is actually talking about a substance (“a material” as he calls it) manifested in and through that web, which actually creates the web in the first place. It’s this substance we want to keep our eyes on. We’ve met it already in a few of my earlier posts.

The substance in question is this mysterious quality of “fineness,”of a higher order of synergy, understanding, clarity, that sometimes flows through a group and lifts it into a whole new realm of expressivity– as if the group is, with one body and soul, collectively “in the flow.” We experience it usually as “oneness” and tend to process it as a feeling.

What is actually going on, however, is that we are collectively tasting a substance of an infinitely more delicate, crystalline nature, a substance perhaps bearing the fragrance of that “sacred aiëssakhladonn” I referred to in my commentary on the Make Strong exercise, that direct nurturance emanating from our Most Holy Sun Absolute. It takes a prepared heart and a prepared nervous system to be able to partake directly of food of this voltage. This is true both for the individual and for the group. But when that preparation has been carefully made, miracles can happen.

The quantum entanglement extends in two directions: between the group and its individual members, and between the group atmosphere and the planetary atmosphere. In this and the next post I will be focusing on the first of these aspects; then I will turn to on Gurdjieff’s astounding assertion that through the “warming” produced within the web “You can have a reciprocal action on a whole city.”

The Conscious Work Group

We’re not talking about any old group here, of course. By “group” (or “brotherhood,” as he also calls it) Gurdjieff means an intentional work group, bound together by a common aim and a willingness to abide by the protocols of conscious labor and intentional suffering. If the atmosphere of the group is clear and consciously tended, and if the desire to “go towards the aim” (as he puts it here) is strong enough, then the group can accomplish collectively– through its melded atmosphere– a transformation unavailable to an individual working alone.

The stipulations are clear, however. The first is that the group must be held together at the apex (in Azize’s perceptive words) by their “shared conscious aim.” Held together from their Omega Point, in Teilhardian language. No lesser motivation will do. A conscious work group is not for support, fellowship, or a feeling of belonging. None of these proximate aims, no matter how laudable in their own right, are strong enough to endure the ravages when the shadow side starts to surface. Only the true north of the common aim will guide the seekers across the darkened waters.

The second stipulation is that this brotherhood must truly be “one for all, all for one.” The terms for arriving at the destination are that all arrive together; all are bound in a covenant of mutual becoming. This is a core theme for Gurdjieff. You will also see it resonating very strongly as well in his fifth Obligolnian striving:

“the striving always to assist the most rapid perfecting of other beings, both those similar to oneself and those of other forms, up to the degree of the sacred ‘Martfotai,’ that is, up to the degree of self-individuality.” (BT, 352).

It is to my mind no coincidence that exactly these same stipulations form the twin pillars of the Rule of St. Benedict, which has guided Christian seekers for some 1500 years now, the longest continuously surviving conscious fellowship in the Christian West. The sense of a common aim in this “school for the Lord’s service” pervades the entire Rule. Perhaps less well known is the sublime reflection in chapter 72 (the next-to-the-last) on “The Good Zeal of Monks:”

“This, then, is the good zeal that monks must foster with fervent love: They should try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior and earnestly competing in obedience to one another, No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead, what he judges better for someone else….”

It’s also much the same, incidentally, in a good choir— which in my own experience is actually the closest approximation of the ideal Gurdjieff is laying before us here, (though of course in a more limited way.) No good choir forms to offer fellowship to its members. The choristers are there for one purpose only: to collectively serve the music, to give it voice and unlock its beauty. Everybody yearns to feast on its beauty, but they can only recognize this aim together. Sometimes choir members are not friends; they wince at each other’s mannerisms and bear each other’s infirmities through gritted teeth. But in order to make the music happen, they must defer to each other and “earnestly compete in obedience to one another.” A choir of prima donnas will never deliver the music. They cannot form a coherent atmosphere. What can be accomplished when a group atmosphere is woven on the loom of these two great stipulations? Plenty. We’ll consider some of the practical implications in my next post.

3. Yin and Yang

The Web Exercise is unique in the Gurdjieff repertoire, Azize comments, “in that it requires the members of the group to work at it in conjunction with each other, both when they come together as a group and while they go about their usual [i.e., separated] activities.” The exercise thus has a kind of “yin and yang” quality to it, and it is coming to see how these two phases work together that the real learning here is to be had.

I don’t want to push the yin/yang metaphor too far, but let’s say that the yang phase corresponds to the time when the group is actually physically gathered together. Here Gurdjieff suggests that rather than just “disappearing” into one’s private inner work (as happens all too often in spiritual groups), that a deliberate effort be made to reach out and establish a direct contact with the common aim that has brought the members together in the first place.

“Direct contact,” of course, means through sensing. In the same way we have already practiced sensing our leg, sensing our head, sensing our atmosphere, we now simply expand the radius of our attention one notch farther and directly sense the atmosphere of the entire group, the atmosphere called into being by the confluence of all those individual aims.

In so doing, a mutual quickening happens. The group atmosphere is consciously activated and synchronized; it comes into coherence and becomes a single, unified field. As Gurdjieff picturesquely puts it, “The atmosphere is warming for an aspiring with all your being towards a common aim.” Then, from the warmth of that activated field, all members can individually draw reinforcement as they work together toward the fulfillment of that common aim. This is the “fineness” I spoke of earlier: the mysterious “something” that enters and allows a group to work miles above their own heads in a seemingly effortless clarity. It is actually an emergent property of the whole, of the group atmosphere that has been summoned into life.

I repeat here my caveat from my first post: that the real advantage offered in an on-the-ground group is the enforced participation of all three centers. As the group circulates through its rota of daily activities—teaching, exercises, practical work, movements, meditation—the sensation of unity gradually grows across a spectrum of activities and becomes deeply seated in the body: as a felt-sense memory, not simply an emotion of closeness or a speculative notion. In that deeply embodied configuration, it can be more quickly drawn on when the group enters “phase 2.”

The Yin Phase

Once that morphogenetic field has been created, the first surprise in store for the individual members is the discovery that the group atmosphere does not disperse when the group itself physically disperses. The atmosphere remains in place, continuing to infuse and bind its members together (“at the apex”) even though they may be widely scattered geographically. The product of a higher order of causality, it is not bound by the conventions of space and time. It moves by non-localized action. As Azize comments: “Movement is effectively instantaneous in time and space, for conscious activity is realized in higher dimensions.” (p. 201). It does not require the members to be physically (or “virtually”) in contact with each other; what is known in one corner of the web is mysteriously available throughout the entire web. Encouragement, insight, solidarity, healing, prophetic initiative, the sudden entry of third force: all of these are knowable and instantly available to all within the “warmed atmosphere” and sheltering intelligence of the web. Learning how to work with this property comprises the yin phase of this exercise.

As you can now more fully imagine, this is the main reason I have been reluctant to jump whole-hog onto the bandwagon of simply riding out the pandemic with a proliferation of zoom groups, online study groups, zoom retreats, even zoom liturgies. First of all, it isn’t a priority or in fact even necessary in an authentic wisdom group. Everything you need is there already through the common sustenance flowing to you through your group atmosphere. Second, that continued siren call from the surface pulls you away from the level at which the real juice is flowing, the level at which you have by grace and grit been preparing yourself to work. It substitutes a more superficial level of “staying in touch” and horizontal fellowship for the alchemical fusion of souls that is awaiting you at the depths. A bit like trying to grope your way in the dark with the help of a flashlight when what you really need is to learn how to see in the dark.

The first step is the hardest: lean into the emptiness! Don’t immediately rush to fill up all the available space. Lean into the darkness and let your eyes adjust. Little by little you’ll discover that you’re actually seeing a new landscape, seeing in a slightly different way. The deeper clues of connectedness begin to fill in for you, announcing their presence in small and often surprising ways. As your imaginal vision gains strength, that strength flows back into the group web, and the web itself gains strength and presence—presence enough, eventually, to begin to hold within its collective atmosphere healing and even prophetic force.

And yes, I know. Some of you are holding teaching and pastoral posts with commitments that must be upheld and folks out there who are frightened, lonely, and disrupted, longing for connection at any level. Do your work; feed the hungry. But when you are finished what you have been given to do on any day, shut down the computer and lean into the emptiness; the atmosphere has your back! Trust that what we have built on the ground over these past two decades during our yang phase of our Wisdom work, is now there for us all as we collectively enter the yin phase, which may feel like a diminishment but in fact draws the circle whole.

4. Global Warming Revisited

The far more interesting possibilities implicit in this exercise, however, open up for me in the opposite direction: between the group atmosphere and the planetary atmosphere. Let’s say that a conscious work group has managed to establish a group atmosphere that is coherent, stable, and clear. Can this atmosphere then interact with our larger planetary atmosphere to actually bring a new influence into the situation? Can it really, indeed, “have a reciprocal action on a whole city?”

Gurdjieff’s answer—offered allusively but fervently—is that it can indeed. And if this is indeed the case, it opens before our Wisdom sangha a dazzling new potential pathway of service, together with a very stringent road to tow if we are to make good on it.

Azize makes the invitation explicit in his lean, four-bulletpoint commentary:

“Second, says Gurdjieff, when the people whose atmosphere form the web come together with a common aim, there is a warming in the webs. This invisible reality is not something neutral: It is positive. It also means that a conscious aim, especially perhaps a common conscious aim, is an active element not only in a group but even for society, represented here by the city of Paris.”

While Paris may indeed be intended only to “represent” the larger society, I think it’s important not to lose sight of the particularity of the context here. Azize notes the date of this exercise as May 25, 1944—i.e., less than two weeks before the allied forces will arrive on Normandy Beach and begin their relentless drive east. Three months to the day later, Paris will be free, and the former “Fête St. Louis” will have been rebaptized “La Fête de la Liberation.” Throughout the entire dark and terrible four years of the occupation Gurdjieff had held his ground right there in Paris. Unlike most other spiritual teachers of his era, who had fled to places of greater tranquility to carry on their spiritual work undisturbed, Gurdjieff stayed put, finding his conditions for transformation not in tranquility but in fierce presence. From his small apartment less than a mile as the crow flies from the Nazi command post on the Place de la Concorde, he simply went about feeding people, literally and spiritually.

Drawing on his legendary skills as a magician and wheeler-dealer, he somehow managed to acquire huge stockpiles not only of staples but also of gourmet items. The staples he stored in a back pantry, accessible to all through an outside stairwell that was never locked. The gourmet fare he laid out in lavish banquets before whatever assortment of pilgrims happened to assemble that night. There was teaching, inquiry, liberally flowing Armagnac—and a suffusion of love that still blazes in the hearts and writings of those students blessed enough to sit at his feet during those times. His teaching became simpler, more direct, more overtly religious, more compassionate in its bearing and universal in its focus. He was literally warming the atmosphere of Paris.

Some of you may know of the white-knuckle drama unfolding at the same time (grippingly recorded in the book “Is Paris Burning Yet?”) Aware that the German retreat was inevitable, Hitler had laid in place an elaborate plan to wreak as much damage in his wake as possible. Bombs had been laid beneath the celebrated monuments of Notre Dame and the Louvre. All was in readiness for the obliteration of a thousand years of Western cultural history. All that awaited was the command from the German commanding officer, Dietrich van Choltilz, poised there on the Place de la Concorde.

Somehow that command never came. Like a tide that reaches its flood and then noiselessly recedes, so the German army of the occupation simply receded. No decision was ever made NOT to bomb Paris; the moment simply slipped away. No one knows exactly why. This is the sort of thing that can happen when an atmosphere is warmed.

In linear causality, of course, there is absolutely no way to prove a connection between these events. In imaginal causality (that “higher dimension” Azize referred to where conscious work takes place) there is no way of NOT seeing it; the lines of causality cross vividly before your eyes— in the web.

I am not saying that Gurdjieff deliberately set out to accomplish that result; almost certainly he did not. It never works that tightly. He simply felt in his great heart the atmosphere of a Paris grown brittle and mineral under the occupying forces and undertook to supply the missing element. Call it food, call it abundance, call it love; without it the human spirit starves, and life grows frozen and intractable. When the atmosphere thaws, when even in one tiny corner of it life becomes flowing and supple, then something new is possible everywhere. For, as Gurdjieff pointedly observes:

“If one current comes in at one point, it shall arrive everywhere, if one sensation of warmth is in one point, all the points shall feel the heat. Picture how what happens in one place happens everywhere.”

I lay this story before your creative imagination to invite the Wisdom Community to envision a broader and bolder way that we might intentionally work in the world. A web is underutilized if we only use it to shore up our personal sense of safety and connectedness within our immediate group. It can also be used to offer direct transfusions of hope, courage, compassion, and resilience to an entire planet grown dark and mineral for lack of these things. It can begin to warm the atmosphere in the inner ground, so that new movement in the outer ground becomes possible.

There are cautions and protocols around this kind of work, essentially encapsulated in the classic monastic vows of “chastity, poverty, and obedience.” I will be looking at these in my next post. But for now, let’s stay with the extraordinarily high possibility being laid before us here: that a “warmed atmosphere” constellated within a group through the alchemy of their common aim can then be turned outward, where it can indeed “have a reciprocal action on a whole city.” Even a whole world.

5. Poverty, Chastity, Obedience

You might picture Gurdjieff’s web as a two-directional amplifier. Directed inwardly, it enables individual group members to draw continuing replenishment from the collective strength of the whole. Directed outwardly, it boosts the magnitude of the group’s common aim to a point where “you can have a reciprocal action on a whole city.” Through the amplifying effect of its web, the group becomes a real player in the planetary atmosphere.

This is an awesome invitation, of course. Were our hearts not burning to hear it? But it is also “awesome” in the traditional sense of the word, meaning needing to be approached with due humility and awe. For it carries a solemn responsibility and comes with all-too-real risks of running off the rails. Particularly for us “newbies” who have not been fully prepared to work at this level, and surrounded as we are by a culture that has largely forgotten this level even exists, the dangers are all too real of getting shanghai’ed by lesser agendas. Powerful work can indeed be done here—and I think is in fact crying out to be done here—but some fairly rigorous protocols need to be observed in order to ensure that our work remains sober, lucid, and safe.

As I mentioned in my last post, most of the rubrics are already embedded in those classic monastic vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, once you learn to hear these not as ascetic renunciations but as practical safeguards for all esoteric work.

CHASTITY, in this case means: “Keep your atmosphere within its atmosphere.” In the Atmosphere Exercise you practiced on an individual basis keeping your atmosphere within a certain finite limit (a meter to a meter-and-a-half): not letting it escape beyond that limit, not letting it get distended by thought or emotional waves. You practiced sitting within it, allowing its waves to quiet, and learning to maintain conscious stewardship of it as you brought it with you into your daily rounds. The same is true, on a larger scale, of your group atmosphere. It needs to stay coherent and clear, able to stretch across whatever distance it circumscribes, without being unduly ruffled by waves of passion or grandiosity. It wants to be a still pond in which the full moon is reflected. All urgency or self-importance will immediately kill this reflective capacity–and alas, those impulses can ignite like brushfire in an atmosphere gathered around a common aim. Considerable restraint is needed here—chastity—to keep from being taken over by what Gurdjieff rightly calls “a misuse of the sex center”—i.e., intoxication, overexcitement, demagoguery, and all too often, violence.

POVERTY means: “Give up all attachment to outcome. Even all curiosity about outcome.” It’s a natural human inclination to want to hold our aim a little too tightly and then wait eagerly for the results. We light a candle and vizualize a specific outcome: the healing of our planet, the disappearance of the corona virus, a restoration of the broken links of our human community. But it never works this linearly and in fact can’t work this linearly, for imaginal causality is not linear but synchronous. It produces its effects nonlocally, instantaneously, in places you’d never expect or with partners you don’t even know you’re playing with. Perhaps the atmosphere of your group melds with a compatible atmosphere of—say— some Sufi dervishes in Central Asia you don’t even know are out there. And in a manger in Bethlehem, a Messiah is quietly born. It’s like that: way more indirect, way more playful. You simply carry your little pebble of conscious striving to the edge of the cliff and toss it into the ocean. The rest is in the hands of God.

And yes, there are certain initiated elders who do in fact have the authority to bend intention to a desired end. Fortunately, this power lies beyond most of us– for good reason–and one does well to tread with utmost humility here. Creative imagination fettered to a still untamed ego will always result in some variation of magic—at best, merely overwrought and foolish, at worst, deadly dangerous.

OBEDIENCE means: “Listen, Listen, Listen!!” In fact, that’s literally true. Obedience comes from the Latin ob-audire, which means “listen to the depths,” or “listen from the depths.” Ninety percent of the work you will doing inside your group web is listening: listening to one another, listening to the subtle directives that emerge out of the depths as you gain more proficiency in attuning to them, listening to the needs that the rapidly changing conditions in the outer world are laying before you.

The operative model here is actually best captured in that relatively new physics buzzword, a self-specifying system, of which the cell is our baseline example. The cell demonstrates diversity of function within an overall unity, maintained by an instantaneous capacity for self- regulation governed by its DNA and RNA. Inside the cell there is always a dance going on, a continuous process of listening, of making micro-adjustments. Through that dance the cell remains in dynamic equilibrium, i.e, alive.

The wonderful implication here—fully glimpsed though not fully articulated by Gurdjieff—is that the group web is in fact a self-specifying system. It has “emergent properties”—capabilities not present in its individual components but vested collectively in the whole. (That is again that mysterious “fineness” we’ve spoken about several times before.) Individual members sacrifice a degree of personal autonomy in order to partake of the far greater capacities of the whole. Through listening— that continuous dance of adjusting, deferring—those capacities become available to each member, insofar as he or she remains in coherence with the whole. The web remains alive.

In the end, one either surrenders to this higher level of wholeness or one does not. What doesn’t work is to sit on the fence.

Modern buzzword or not, the idea itself has been around for a long, time. St. Paul was already onto it in the first century with his celebrated teaching “We are all members of the one body of Christ.” And so it comes as no surprise, perhaps, that these ancient vows should again demonstrate their timeless timeliness as we now scramble to self-organize at a new evolutionary level, in order to meet the evolutionary challenge that has just been thrown down on our human plate.

6. Vertical Exchange

One final point to keep in mind before we tackle the Four Ideals Exercise. The web extends not merely horizontally, but vertically as well. It also serves as a conduit for exchange between the realms.

The world’s sacred traditions unanimously teach that are other realms beyond our own—several higher, a few lower—each one furnishing a different set of conditions for the manifestation of divine creativity. Our own Christian notion of heaven and hell is an attenuated version of what has more broadly unfolded on the great cosmological roadmaps as “the Great Chain of Being.” These maps depict an elaborate procession of worlds within worlds, stretching from the unfathomable abyss of the Divine Unmanifest through progressively more variegated densities—angelic, causal, imaginal, material—until it finally meets its endpoint in total density, in what ancient cosmologists called “outer darkness” and contemporary cosmologists call a black hole.

To this elaborate roadmap Gurdjieff adds an allimportant new twist. In his “Ray of Creation” (his equivalent for the Great Chain of Being), the energy does not simply stream out from the divine center in a continuous cosmic redshift. Something is returned as well. Each realm has a contribution to make to the wellbeing of its neighbors, so that along the entire ray, energy is not only lost but also gained. Entropy does not have the final word. Instead, the whole manifest universe becomes a single, gigantic self-specifying system, maintaining its dynamic equilibrium through the continuous exchange among its parts. Gurdjieff gives this process the jawbusting name Trogoautoegocrat (“I keep myself alive by eating”), but you can also just call it reciprocal feeding.

This is of course the crucial piece of information that dropped off our post-enlightenment roadmaps both sacred and secular. Its disappearance largely accounts for the blind arrogance that led the human species into ecological catastrophe leaves us still able to pull ourselves out. We’re working with a map that’s far too small, that leaves us still unable to fathom our solemn accountability within the vast scheme of things. As Gurdjieff forcefully reiterates, it is only within the full breadth of this great cosmological exchange that human beings can ever come to discover their true purpose and dignity.

Help From Above

The bottom line here is that we do indeed receive help “from above” —and we are expected to give help as well, not only to our own realm but to higher realms as well. The miracle is that we can actually do this.

The realm just “above” ours, widely known as the “imaginal” has long been seen as the nexus for this exchange between the realms. It has traditionally been understood as the realm of prophecy, dreams, visions, and subtle inner guidance. The closest Christian rendition of this idea lies in the Communion of Saints, with its underlying conviction that these attained beings are somehow still “out there” and willing to give help. This is no magical illusion. It is a vestigial remembrance of the true state of things, a remembrance which thankfully refuses to die in the human heart.

Gurdjieff’s own version of this teaching is found in his notion of a conscious circle of humanity. Bridging the so-called “abyss” of death, there extends a chain of conscious human beings—some still in bodily form, some on the other side, but united by the common denominator of their conscious work. They are the imaginal continuation of the human web, and their chain extends all the way across the imaginal realm to the threshold of realms still higher, from which the greatest of the cosmic servants descend. Along this entire chain of hearts (truly, organically, a great chain of beings), the uploading and downloading goes on intensely. Here on the human side we indeed receive wisdom, help, guidance, as well as sudden surprising infusions of clarity and force. And we offer back the fruits of our conscious work in the form of forbearance, gentleness, joy, peace, generosity, compassion—those perennial “fruits of the spirit,” through which not only our own planetary atmosphere but the entire ray of creation is warmed. It is our consummate human alchemy.

My own teacher, Rafe, was mesmerized by this vision of a conscious circle of humanity. He yearned more than anything to be a part of it, and he saw his own final life task as preparing me to take my place in that chain as well and hold up my end on this side once he had physically left the planet. I am quite certain he made it across and that his conscious service goes on in higher realms. As for myself, I have often felt in these twenty-four years since his death like the cabin boy left to steer the schooner, but I have done the best I could to stay the course and to stay true to what he taught me.

I do know the vital importance of keeping this line of inter-realmic exchange open, particularly at this crucial juncture in our planetary history. There is simply not enough spaciousness, breadth, hope, love, empowerment, or real juice left in the visions of either our secular or traditionally religious roadmaps. We cannot think our way out of this mess, and we can no longer even imagine our way out since establishment religion has long ago sold its mystical birthright for a mess of pseudo-psychological pottage. Only in that deeper listening will the way be found again.

Passion and compassion are still there to rekindle us. Our planet is infinitely precious and lovingly tended by those “higher being bodies” in worlds above. We humans are a crucial link in the great Trogoautoegocrat, and we will find our footing once again. But this will come to pass as there are those who have learned to listen deeply into that great cosmic web, and are able both to receive and offer back the food that comes to us from above.

Download Web Exercise (PDF)

Read Cynthia’s blog series on Azize Exercises:

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