Podcast Series 2, Episode 2: The Five Strivings

The Five Strivings - Thailand salt harvesting

The Five Strivings

An explanation and discussion on the five strivings, as prescribed by George Gurdjieff, and their implications on our awakening.

Associated Diagrams

The Five “Being Obligolnian Strivings”


Click to view Podcast transcript

The Five Strivings

Welcome to a series of podcasts on achieving a peaceful and mindful state through mental  awareness exercises, and further, in gaining understanding into the laws of world creation and world maintenance, specifically as described within the works of George Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way, much of which was often cryptically buried within Gurdjieff’s writings.

Each episode in this particular series focuses upon a particular element of this teaching, and aims to bring simple understanding to what was frequently hidden in plain sight within the various subject areas covered in Gurdjieff and others writing.

Today, we’re going to talk about the five strivings, or as Gurdjieff called them, the Being Obligolnian Strivings, almost literally translated as the obligations a human being must have to live an optimum existence. These insights again come from that fellow I met in Texas. 

Gurdjieff taught us that there exists five strivings in our life, or five that should be in our life, which he describes are obligatory for any sane human being to achieve if they wish to reach the highest and fullest state of their personal potential.

The most important thing to know about the strivings is that they must be done in order, and in the order prescribed.

You cannot start with the fourth striving or the fifth striving, you must start with the first striving, which is:

The first of five strivings

To have in their ordinary being existence, everything satisfying and really necessary for their planetary body.

This means, your first obligation is to your own existence. You need food, clothing, and shelter. The basic needs of life. If the first striving is lacking, you will not be interested in higher things.

That is, it would be silly for us to go to a starving place and attempt to teach the people there about higher matters … they need to eat, and eating is all they will really properly focus on.

Life itself began with the first striving; and, therefore, so could we. 

And before I begin, whenever I refer to man, or he, or him, I of course mean man or woman, and whenever I refer to God, it means anything that one perceives to be higher or greater than their current sense of being. It’s all a personal matter, and there is no agenda pushing here. 

So, back in the day, after a man hunted all day long and caught a deer or wild boar and roasted it over the fire and ate it; and, his stomach was full, he was warm, and he felt safe by the light of the fire, maybe then, he looked up at those twinkling things in the night sky and wondered, “What are those? What is life all about? Why are things what they are?”

Early man was a good observer

Fortunately, early man was a good observer. He observed the plants, he observed the animals, he saw that all animals of the same species had the same tendency. This snake always strikes, that snake does not. That animal runs away, that one stands its ground, and that one always attacks. All animals of that species were that way, not just some. Lions attacked, Garter snakes did not bite, etc. 

All plants and animals fell into a certain niche. They did not get out of that niche and act in a different way. This is how that species acts and that is how this species acts. Over time, the aggressive animals and non-aggressive animals were identified, and the poisonous plants and non-poisonous plants were identified. This plant is safe to eat. That one will make you sick. If you encounter that animal, stand still. If it’s that animal, run.

Because all plants and animals fit into a specific niche, it did not take long for man to recognize a certain law-conformability to things; and, that things kept to that certain law-conformability. Which eventually prompted man to ask, “Well, since all plants and animals fit into a certain niche, and since all plants and animals always act in a certain way… then, what is the niche for man? What are we supposed to be? What is our niche?”

At that moment… the second striving began:

The second of five strivings

The striving to have a constant and unflagging instinctive need for self-perfection in the sense of being.

“What am I supposed to be?”

“What am I supposed to be good at??”

Unfortunately, horror of horrors, the moment that man asked that question, someone walked up and said, “You are supposed to be a this, you are supposed to be a that, a Christian, a Baptist, a Momon, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, a humanist, and even a satanist. You are supposed to do these acts, talk this way, believe these things, wear this stuff, go fox hunting, protest against fox hunting, eat meat, avoid meat”, and on and on.

We ended up with dozens upon dozens of models that had nothing to do with reality. However, it was in our nature to seek the truth and to question what we were supposed to be; to question, what is the niche for man? But that made it easy for people to come along and give us bad information… and we believed them.

Our very nature is that of openness and suggestibility. Without it, we wouldn’t and couldn’t learn new things. This very need to learn, to grow and develop, opens us up to taking in falsehoods just as much as it opens us up to taking in truth. That which was designed to be in our favour, sadly, can work against us.

People push their own agendas

We started getting all kinds of strange responses from people who were trying to push their own agendas.

Gurdjieff said, “Let God kill him who himself does not know yet presumes to show others the way to the doors of his kingdom.”

The moment a man asked the question, “What am I supposed to do,” he received all sorts of wrong answers. 

Unfortunately, with so many people offering different subjective opinions the world became a very confused and difficult place; and… the second striving lost all sense of objectiveness.

It became, “You cannot eat meat and be higher; you are supposed to be a vegetarian. You must bow east, west, or go to our church… because our religion is the only religion that goes to heaven.” Wait a minute, none of that makes any sense. Something is wrong.

The moment a man questioned what he was supposed to be, he was inundated with so many wrong answers that he never made it to the fourth striving and awoke. Why? Because, by following the wrong data, he never made it to the third striving and learned how to awake. 

What is “Awake”?

And, what is “Awake”?

It is simply being present to what is going on both in the outside world around you and in the inner world inside you – being in control of one and being at peace and harmony with the other. A relaxed body… with a still and calm heart and mind. Aware of; and, in control of, all three parts; and, without tension.  For me, one of the most stark attributes of being awake is that thoughts stop – Revelations 8:1 AND when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.  

It is truly amazing that when one stops thinking, thinking stops… there are no commentators.  That is, one can still see and one can still hear, but now you do those without comment.

So, bottom line, the third striving is paramount to our awakening. But, unfortunately, few seekers of truth have ever taken the third striving head on. It was like they all took an “end run” … and tried to go from the second striving to the fourth, without going through the third.

That is, they all wanted to wake up without learning the rules and laws. To wake up just because they ate vegetables, were a member of some religion, wore that hat, or believed in some guy’s tales. However, without the rules and laws it was impossible for them to awaken… unless they woke up subjectively. However, if they had just learned the rules and laws, they could have found an objective way to awaken.

The third of five strivings

So now, let’s take a serious look at the Third Striving:

The conscious striving to know ever more and more concerning the laws of World-creation and World-maintenance.

Perhaps, this guy in Texas was the first one to come along and understand that it was all about the rules and laws. His book, Gurdjieff: Cosmic Secrets, is all about the third striving.

The third striving is the only striving that Gurdjieff called a conscious striving. Why? Because it is the only striving that is about the rules and laws which are the same for everybody. Thus, the third striving is an objective striving.

Notice that the first striving is a subjective striving.

You are from x, you may like xz, I am from W, I like WW, yz is from y, they like xyz, etc.

The first striving is a subjective striving

In the first striving, you can eat whatever you like to eat, or dress however you like to dress. Someone from a cold climate may take their shirt off in cold weather, and someone from a warm climate might put on a coat.

I repeat, the first striving is a subjective striving.

Whereas, the third striving is an objective striving. It is all about learning the rules and laws. Everyone knows that if you want to play some game, you must first learn the rules. Similarly, only through the third striving, through learning the rules and laws, can a man find an objective way to awaken.

Without the third striving, a man will become a follower of someone else’s speculation, conjecture, and guess; and, fall prey to their powers of suggestion and persuasion, “Sorry, you cannot eat meat. If you are not a vegetarian, you cannot wake up.” That is simply not true.

The first striving allows you to have what is satisfying. You may have whatever you like. Maybe you like wine, greasy food, and chocolate. Does that mean that you cannot wake up? No, it means you like wine, greasy food, and chocolate. You can have all the things you find satisfying, and still wake up.

And really necessary

But the first striving also says, “and really necessary.”

If you are hungry, you could eat sawdust and have a sense of fullness, which the body would find satisfying, but sawdust would not take care of the necessary.

So, first, we need to survive. We need to eat food that will sustain our existence. That’s the “really necessary.” But, if we like wine, chocolate, and ice-cream that is OK, too, because the first striving also allows us to have the “satisfying.”

Nowadays, a lot of kids have bad allergies. My generation did not. Because when we were kids, we put everything in our mouths. I guess we were trying to learn what was satisfying and, really necessary. As a result, we worked up resistances to all sorts of things. However, today, we live in a very sanitized world. Our children are becoming anemic and developing allergies. Perhaps, we should let them eat dirt, like we did, but… just a little.

“Satisfying and really necessary” also means that we should take all things in moderation.

It is OK to eat greasy food and drink vodka, but do not eat greasy food and drink vodka all day long. It is OK to smoke but try not to chain smoke. If you eat greasy food, drink vodka, and smoke, you may still live a long life. Life is tolerant. However, try to take all things in moderation.

He should only eat when we are hungry

Actually, we should only eat when we are hungry. Even if we only ate one meal a day, we would be OK. Back in the day, when we worked in the fields all day long, we may have needed to eat three meals a day, but we do not live in a world that does that anymore. Now, we eat three meals a day by ritual.

We are becoming an obese society, we do not top-off our gas tank at every gas station we pass, we wait until the little light comes on. We should eat the same way. Wait until you are hungry, then eat. Eat what you find satisfying… but, only when it is really necessary.

Again, the first striving is subjective. We need to eat what is necessary… that is objective. But we can also eat what is satisfying… that is subjective.

OK. After fulfilling the first striving we can then pursue the second striving. “What are we supposed to be?” For example, all dogs are loyal. Are we supposed to be loyal, too? If so, then how come we are not? Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where everybody was as loyal as dogs?

What are we supposed to be?

We did ask the right question, “What are we supposed to be?” Unfortunately, different religions, philosophies, and belief structures gave us bad data. That is, just because somebody said it was true does not make it true; just because that guy is a famous actor does not mean that we should believe what he says. All the bad data we received has made it almost impossible for a man to wake up; and, the only way to rectify this is with the third striving.

We must come to the third striving. We must first learn the rules if we want to play the game. The first striving may be subjective, but the rules and laws are the same for everybody. Two plus two is four, H2O is water, salt is NaCl, and E=mc2. If we understood the rules, laws, and the patterns that underlie creation, we could use them to become what we are supposed to be. Fortunately, the third striving is objective; and, with it, we can become conscious and awaken.

And, with the help of Cosmic Secrets, man can learn how to awake. It only takes about eight days to learn the rules and laws, the diatonic structure of music and light, the pattern of 3-3-2-4-4-5-3, and the eighth, the quarter, the third, the half, the two-thirds, and the seven-eighths. It is easy mathematics..

Simple mathematics creates a structure that reveals so many truths, it compels someone to say, “Hey, I can do this. I can do the mathematics here, I can calculate these things, and I can see how to awake.”

Then, they will earn the right to the fourth striving… and, can be shown how to awaken.

The fourth of five strivings

The Fourth striving is:

The striving from the beginning of their existence to pay for their arising and their individuality as quickly as possible, in order afterwards to be free to lighten as much as possible the Sorrow of our Common Father.

Which means, after you awake you have a responsibility to do something. Before you awake you are not responsible. Christ said that normal man was not responsible – he did not have eyes to see nor ears to hear; he was dead, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Only the Pharisees would be held accountable because they were supposed to know the truth. If they acted irresponsibly, they would have darkness and gnashing of teeth. So, after you awake, you must pay for your arising.

The fourth striving has many names. It is called Samadhi in Hinduism, Christianity calls it Christ Consciousness, in the Work we call it Steward, and meta-physics calls it Enlightenment. It is the state when man awakes, has a virgin birth… gives birth to himself, wakes up his Higher Emotional Center, becomes self-conscious, and gains access to his conscience. Then, with the aid of conscience, he must do something.

He must stop lying and living in the world of make-believe, he must stop being a know-it-all. After he awakes, he will see that he is a liar, a cheat, and a thief… or a bully, a snob, and a bigot, etc.; and, he will realize that he must stop being those things. That is, with eyes to see and ears to hear, he will now have an obligation to pay for his arising.

He will start speaking the truth, he will say, “I do not know”, he will stop lying about everything, as he will no longer need to pretend that he knows.

When a man awakes

When a man awakes, he will recognize that he has an obligation to pay for his arising and his individuality as quickly as possible.

Why? Because, after he awakes, he will not only have an obligation to himself, but he will also have an obligation to something higher than himself… an obligation to God. That is what is meant by, “In order afterwards to be free to lighten as much as possible the Sorrow of our Common Father.”

A lot of students ask, “What does that mean? How do we lighten the sorrow of our Common Father?”

The answer is easy. God cannot be here. Therefore, He is counting on “US” to be here. We must claw our way out of ignorance and discover what is real. God is counting on us to find the truth.

The sorrow of our Common Father

As a parent, you may have experienced that firsthand. That is, if your child had a part in the school play you probably helped them learn their lines; and, as a result, you probably memorized them. After which, you probably attended the play.  There you were, sitting in the middle of the auditorium. The lights went down and the play started… and at a certain scene your son or daughter walked out on to the stage and went blank. They did not remember their lines. You knew what they were, but there was nothing you could do to help them.

That is the sorrow of our Common Father. Your child is standing there with their mouth open and their head blank and you cannot help them. Maybe the teacher can whisper their lines to them from the wings, but you cannot help. That is the sorrow of our Common Father. God cannot be here to help us. We may be very close to developing our being; then, some idiot comes up to us and says, “You do know that you are only supposed to eat Vegetables.” And, we are lost.

We must help ourselves

If we blindly believe what people tell us, we can miss the boat. We may be very close to figuring it out… then we allow some false information to get in which sets us on a different course; how sad. God cannot help us, we must help ourselves.

That is, there is a possibility for us to help ourselves. How? Well, the truth is, we are the only species charged with the task of self-completion. All the other species are law-conformable. They are what they are. They cannot become higher. We are the only species that can become higher. We are not shoved up like the other species. Instead, we have to figure it out on our own.

That means that we are the only part of creation, which by figuring it out and becoming law-conformable, can add something to the Universe. But there’s the rub. Along the way, we receive an overabundance of wrong information, through which we have to navigate; rejecting what is false and trying to become what is real. It would have been a lot easier if God came down and gave us the right information. But then, we would be like all the other animals and be unable to create an addition to the Universe. That is why man was destined to find the truth on his own; and, why God did not say, “Hey, over here – it’s this way.”

If man WAS helped….

If man was helped, shown the way without question, man would not be able to create an addition to the Universe. He would not have been able to figure it out for himself; crawl out of the nothing, become a something, and add that something to the Universe.

There are obstacles to finding the truth, like in the parable about a wise man who went out to sow good seed. The first seed he sowed fell on hard ground. The birds came in, grabbed the seed, and stole them away. That is, a man finds truth; and then, someone comes along and says, “That truth is wrong,” and steals the seed.

The next seed the wise man sowed fell on rocky ground. The plants started to grow, but, on the first hot day, without deep roots, they withered and died. That is, you cannot convert everyone, you cannot worry about folks who quit at the first difficult moment – on the first hot day. I guess they did not have a strong enough second striving to keep them working.

Kung Fu – an example of patience

Like in the Kung Fu TV series: Many young boys were brought to the temple by their parents. Most of the boys were very unhappy and did not want to be there. Cane just stood there. The masters looked over the wall and saw. After a few days, several of the boys got tired of waiting and went home. Days later… it rained, some of the boys sought shelter under a tree, others scurried off, but Cane just stood there in the rain.

The masters saw. Several days later the monks brought Cane and three other boys into the temple. A servant brought tea for one of the masters and the boys. The three boys, who were very thirsty, grabbed the tea and started to drink. Cane just sat there. The master looked at Cane and asked, “Why are you not drinking your tea?” Cane replied, “Because you are not drinking yours.”

After finishing their tea, the three boys were sent home. Cane was invited to stay.

Many are called but few are chosen

Many are called but few are chosen, “We stood outside for days, we were hungry, we were thirsty, we were tired, it rained.” That is, in the rocky soil, on the first hot day, many plants will wither and die. However, the wise man kept on sowing.

The next seed he sowed fell on thorny ground. “Hey, how much of this bad ground is there?” Be patient, the story is not over. The seed that was sown on the thorny ground started to grow, again, success… but then, the thorns grew up and choked the little plants to death. The Bible actually called the thorns “the little duties and the little cares of life.” Such things can choke off a man’s potential in the work.

It seems, man has the remarkable ability to major in minor things. He finds a great work. Then, one day, he is not in class. You call to check on him and he says, “I had to clean the garage, I had to mow the grass, or my favorite TV show was on.” You can hear the thorns choking off his potential over the phone. He is majoring in minor things. Doing unimportant things instead of important things.

The wise man keeps on sowing

It is sad to watch people become dissuaded by unimportant things and be choked by the thorns. Yet, the wise man kept on sowing.

The next seed he sowed fell on good ground. And, if you keep on sowing, it always will. But the good ground produced different results: some produced 30, some produced 60, and some produced a hundred-fold. That is, some students will do a little, some students will do average, and some students will do a lot.

You must be tolerant when working with humans and realize that some will like it, some will think it is really awesome, and some will take everything from it and teach it to others. The parable of the sower reveals that, in the second striving, all potential deviations are accounted for.

The third striving shows us that if you know the rules and laws, you can buy the best seed, plough your field, get some fertilizer, apply protection from rot and disease, and – by following the rules and laws – you can get most of your seeds to grow.

That is, with knowledge of the rules and laws, man can help one acorn become an oak tree, whereas, nature must produce a million acorns to get an oak tree.

After a man awakes, he is obligated to do something

The fourth striving makes it clear that, after a man awakes, he is obligated to do something. He must stop being important, he must take the lesser position, he must become a humble man, he must allow his steward to expand… until he has a full-blown working conscience. So first, he must attain the Higher Emotional Center and get back what he lost.

Then, he can acquire what he is destined to acquire. That is, the function of his Higher Mental Center, which will possess the properties of objective reason and impartiality.

OK. That pretty much covers the first four strivings.

One addition: Not everyone who satisfies the first striving will begin the second, not everyone who completes the second striving will tackle the third, not all who learn the third striving will take on the fourth, and not many who receive the fourth striving will go on to the fifth; but, all who master the fifth will become teachers… and show others how to awaken.

The fifth of five strivings

The fifth 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.

This means that they will bring others to the fourth striving and show them how to awake.

Martfotai means man of light. Marta (man) and photon (light). An enlightened man. Those who follow the fifth striving will take others on the journey through the laws of World-creation and World-maintenance, so that they too will become enlightened.

Some students ask, “What is meant by, ‘both those similar to oneself and those of other forms?’” Well, that means that other species will acquire reason. All the other centers have multiple participants. That is, more than one species can move, more than species one can feel, more than one species has social qualities, etc., and therefore, more than one species will also acquire reason. Man was just the first.

Then, when another species acquires reason, starts making tools, starts speaking a language, and asks, “What are we supposed to be?” We will not tell them that they are supposed to be “Vegetarians.” Instead, we will show them how to achieve the most rapid perfecting of their being.

The next species will have an advantage

The next species will have a great advantage over mankind because they will not have to figure it out on their own. That is, we will be able to show them the way… because we, ourselves, were able to find it.

Law-conformably, the journey of taking others through truth will continue. Up until now, no other species, other than man, has acquired reason. If they had, we would have given them wrong data, since none of our so-called traditional ways have found an objective way to awaken. Otherwise, all yogis, fakirs, and monks would be awake. But… that has not happened. Instead, every twenty years or so someone following one of these traditional ways subjectively awakens and continues the illuminated idea that by following that traditional way it is possible to awaken.

However, if they had an objective way, everyone would awaken.

Awakening is our right

Fortunately, awakening is our right; and, with a thorough understanding of the rules and laws, it is not hard to do.

With just basic scientific and mathematical knowledge we will be able to understand the third striving, “the conscious striving to know ever more and more concerning the laws of World-creation and World-maintenance.” Fortunately, again, we are lucky, because you probably already have the basic scientific and mathematical knowledge that is required.

So, now let’s apply that knowledge, to where it becomes law-conformable for you to not only expect to awaken… but to start demanding it. After all, it is your right; and, it is according to law.

Remember, nothing that isn’t worth striving for is probably not worth it.

Thank you for listening.


Goodbye until next time.

Teachings based upon the works of R. A. Smith and G. I. Gurdjieff.

All material © 2020 THEDOG Publishing

Shopping Cart
THEDOG Teachings