Gurdjieff Dominican




Talking about the real significance of feelings…

J.G. Bennett – extract from talk.




Mr. B. There are several triads, but let us think first about the active force which is the affirmation in the head brain, and the passive force which is the denial in the bodily functions.  The reconciling force between these two is feeling.   This does not mean our automatic associations of like and dislike.  There is a feeling which is exempt from like and dislike.  It is a force, which we cannot experience when we are asleep.   In sleep, we live in a world of like and dislike attraction and repulsion.  There is no single force in our feelings, and they cannot occupy the position of the reconciling principle; they are dualistic, and need reconciling themselves.  Is it not so?


Mr. L.    Yes, I see.


Mr. B.   If you have begun to see the mechanicalness of your thinking associations, that is, your formatory apparatus, then perhaps you can begin to observe also the mechanicalness of what you call your 'emotions.'  If it is hard to accept that your thoughts are mechanical, it is perhaps even more difficult to acknowledge that there is no 'I,' nothing active, in all your likes and dislikes.  They are passive.  It does not matter whether you are attracted or repelled, whether your experience is pleasant or unpleasant, it is all equally passive.  There is no 'I'.'  But it is very hard to admit that.


If you learn to work so that you can discover the real energy which is behind your emotions, that is, the energy of feeling, you will see that quite a different kind of force can arise.  Only then will you begin to understand what the real significance of feeling energy can be in our lives.  With our real feelings we can see, we can penetrate.  They have no like or dislike, the give us the force to do that which our head brain decides.


Mr. L.    Is the feeling you now speak about able to influence the generation and release of energy in oneself?


Mr. B.   What do you understand by this?


Mr. L.    Perhaps it is easiest to explain it in a personal way.  I find that when there is something awaked in my feelings, I can do very much more.  I have more energy; I can carry on with less sleep and do more work.  I cannot call this really an active state, but something has changed.  It occurred to me that the difference might be in the effect of the feeling energy on my inner physiological processes.


Mr. B.   It is quite true that we can through our feelings draw on reserves of energy, but this will only help you if you learn not to be identified, otherwise you may use up the energy in your accumulators, and find that you cannot replenish them fast enough, and sooner or later your activity will come to a stop.


Mr. L.    Yes, I have observed that this is true.


Mrs. D.  When I am in an unhappy condition, is this just an example of the passive state?


Mr. B.   Who is to tell?


Mrs. D.  When it does not seem like a dream, it appears to me to be.


Mr. B.   Perhaps a nightmare!


Mrs. D.  Not so bad as that.


Mr. B.   It may be a state in which your ‘sleep’ is no longer comfortable.   You remember I said that when we realize that we do not possess in ourselves anything able to be awake, this realization must make us suffer.  It could be that what you call 'unhappiness' is that realization.  There is already hope of waking up if your sleep begins to be uncomfortable.


Mrs. D.  When I suffer because I cannot get what I want, does that mean I am asleep?


Mr. B.   What do you want?


Mrs. D.  I want many things, and I cannot have them.


Mr. B.   What kinds of things?


Mrs. D.  Life situations, chiefly.  I do not get what I want in life.  I wonder how to get out of this kind of passivity, where I am always identified because I am not getting what I want.


Mr. B.   You have to ask yourself:  "What do I really want?  Who is it in me that want?"  Each of your centers wants different things.  Every 'I' in you wants something for itself.  There are some things that you really need; for example, you need not only food and clothing and the direct requirements of your bodily life, but you also need certain kinds of impressions.  If you do not get those impressions, your spiritual life remains hungry.  It can even be starved.


But you have to realize that life can never give you all that you want.  It cannot even give you all that you need.  If you are hungry for one kind of impression which you cannot get, you have to be clever and try to find what other impressions will give you the food you need.  It is true that you need food of impressions.   Life sometimes will not give us the impressions we need.  It is not only that life can deny us impressions and experiences that we want.  It often will not give us impressions that are really necessary as food for us.  We must study ourselves.  We have to learn what kinds of impressions are necessary for work.  It is always possible to get what we need if we know how to look for it. 


Mr. C.   Would you say that we have arrived where we are in our dream-like state - by chance?  In other words, we see inexplicable differences in mental capacity, in feeling capacity, in different human beings.  How have we arrived where we are with all these differences?


Mr. B.   Partly by heredity, partly by the conditions of our conception and birth, which determine our fate, and partly by the accidents of our upbringing, which have formed our personality.  All these factors combine to make us what we are, when we cross the threshold of responsible age.  After that, there is the further factor of our own choice, the aim that we set ourselves in life, and the effort we make to achieve it.  Or, the lack of aim and the absence of efforts!


Mr. L.    What is it in me that remain, so to speak, awake, or at any rate aware, when I am physically asleep at night? That is to say, what can make you - when you have determined previously - wake up at a certain hour? Or what is it that awakens you when, for example, a bell suddenly rings?


Mr. B.   Sleep is not the cessation of function.  Our centers do not cease to work, they become disconnected with one another.  The instinctive centre goes on working twenty-four hours a day, alternating in its rhythms between various active and passive states, particularly those connected with food and digestion.  The instinctive centre keeps to its rhythms; it has very good clocks of its own, and it usually will oblige if you ask it to tell you the time, or wake you up when you want to.


Sleep is disconnectedness, waking is unification.  As we go towards sleep, the different mechanisms become disengaged from one another.  It is like a factory when the lunch bell goes.  The workers slip the pulleys and the wheels run idly.  The machines and the shafting are no longer connected, except where they have to be left running, to maintain the work of the factory while the workmen go for their lunch.  When the bell rings again, the workmen come back and begin to start up the machines.  All is connected; the factory works as one single unit.   It is like that with our organism, only the complete coordination of the whole factory is never achieved, because there is no manager to see that the different departments keep in touch with one another, and work for one common plan. 


The state of connectedness in which the whole organism works as one factory, is called 'self-remembering.'  When we remember ourselves, we bring our centers into one single experience, instead of having three different experiences, and even those fragmentary and intermittent.  When we remember ourselves, our centers are not only in order, but their work is properly timed in a single rhythm.  In our ordinary states, our centers have no common rhythm.  Each one robs the other of energy because it is out of step. 


The whole work of self-remembering is to discover one single inner rhythm for the whole of our inner life.  When we discover that, our work must be to preserve and maintain that inner state.


Mr. G.   Coming back to the question of history: why should I, for instance, have a fairly good heredity and upbringing, and another person have a poor one?  What have I done to deserve that?


Mr. B.   It is not a question of what you have done.  There is no question of deserving or not deserving.  In order to deserve something, you must be.  Who in you is to deserve or not deserve?


What exists in you?  There is an organism with certain functions and corresponding memory.  There are many associations, nearly all of which originated in your childhood.    It is this bundle, this collection, which goes by your name.    But there is nothing else that is permanent, and therefore able to be held responsible.  You have no 'I'.   You have no soul.  You have no Being.  You must not take my word for this.  It is something you have to discover, and establish for yourself.  You remember how I said that there is nothing in us which is able to be awake?  If you existed, you could be awake.  If you had an 'I' or a soul, it would be able to remain awake.   What kind of meaning would attach to the word 'soul' if it had no power even to experience its own existence?


It is useless to try to speak to people about such questions as yours until it is first established that they have no 'I'.  Let us suppose that you have worked at this and have come to realize it for yourself, and realize that however much you may wish to, you cannot remain awake.  Whatever measures you may take, and whatever you may do to remind yourself, you cannot remember yourself.  That means that you have begun to see that there is nothing in you which you can call 'I'.  This realization completely changes the situation.  I cannot speak of what I deserve or do not deserve, unless there is some 'I' to reap the rewards and suffer the consequences of past actions.   What you are now is the result of the past, but only by way of the general process which,  so far as you are concerned, may go back three or four generations.  You are the result of the phylogenetic confluence towards the moment of your conception.   Your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, were something; they lived in a certain way.  From each of them, material came together.  Then you were conceived under some definite conditions of planetary influence, the constellation of which put all that material into a specific pattern.  Is it your Essence.  These influences continued from the moment of conception to the moment of birth, and in that way your fate was determined.  Then you were born, and from then onwards your parents and teachers and everyone who came in contact with you proceeded to do all they could to make it impossible for you to achieve your destiny.   They began to fill your life with all kinds of imaginations about yourself and about the world, which made it  more and more difficult for you to have any contact with Reality.   Sometimes when we look at what parents and teachers do to children, we might suppose that they had some grudge against them, instead of loving and caring for them as they think the do. Anyhow, now you and I, and each of us, are in this situation, and somehow we have to get out of it.


Copyright belongs to
the Estate of J.G and Elizabeth Bennett