S4/E17: Ideally-Unique-Objective-Phenomena

Published October 21st, 2021

Aurora Borealis


Continuing our talks on Work questions and answers, in this podcast I will narrate a dialogue between Russell and several of his students about chief features, faith, practical understanding, Bible quotes, schools of the Fourth Way, subjective versus objective, and personality versus essence.

Welcome to a series of talks about objective consciousness, an objective universe, and an objective way to awaken, expanding upon the works of George I. Gurdjieff and Russell A. Smith.

Continuing our talks on Work questions and answers, in this podcast I will narrate a dialogue between Russell and several of his students about chief features, faith, practical understanding, Bible quotes, schools of the Fourth Way, subjective versus objective, and personality versus essence.


Let’s begin:


Student:  Hi Russ. We were just reminiscing; there are over 40 people in our class, and during the last eighteen months more than half of us have made the trip to Sanger to study Cosmic Secrets with you, and we all awoke! 

Realizing that, prompted one of the students to express how that, in and of itself, was quite an amazing phenomena, and another, who was reading the Relative Understanding of Time chapter in Beelzebub’s, to say, ‘You know, Gurdjieff called time the, 'Ideally‑Unique‑Subjective‑Phenomenon.' And as such, I am going to start calling Russ’ work the “Ideally-Unique-Objective-Phenomena, because it showed us all how to awaken.” 

We all sat there silently for, I don’t know, three or four minutes. Then we all agreed, that henceforth, we too were going to start calling your work the “Ideally-Unique-Objective-Phenomena.”

Russell:  I am humbled and most honored by your words. 

Now, we just need to get the rest of your group up to Sanger.


Student:  [Laughing] We will. 

In addition, before that, we were talking about chief features. One idea was that you cannot see your own chief feature; and the other was how our chief feature, to another person, might be easy to overcome. 

So there are two issues: 1. Is it true that people cannot see their own chief feature; and 2. If they do see it, what is a good way of working against it?

Russell:  Those are two very good questions.  

Firstly, we can come to see what our chief feature is, but oftentimes, people work on what they imagine their chief feature to be. So, in order to dissuade that, the teachers of the Fourth Way would say, “You cannot see your own chief feature,” in that way, people would not work on the wrong thing.

But at the same time, we could say that alcoholics often deny that they are alcoholics, and as such, they truly cannot see their own chief feature. 

Chief features are likened to the central hub of a wagon wheel; around which everything turns. 

Out from the hub come spokes; false personalities, which encircle the hub and protect it. And around them is the rim, which contains hundreds of “I’s,” encircling and protecting the false personalities. 

So, there is truth in the fact that chief features may be hard to see. 

However, individual snapshots of what we do in life may reveal the hub. That is, they may reveal the chief feature around which everything turns.

Snapshots from others may also help. Those snapshots often lead to what are called “interventions,” where loved ones confront a person and share with them their snapshots, in order to help the person address their chief feature.

Does that help with the first issue?


Student:  Yes, it does.

In addition, would it be useful and appropriate for me to ask you what my chief feature is?

Russell:  Yes, it would be both useful and appropriate. But, I will talk to you about that in private after class.

However, I will say that it takes a brave person to seek objective criticism from another. As well as, how hard it is for the other to speak objectively and critically about them, because in so doing, they may hurt their feelings. 

So both factors are in play.  

In order to lessen those difficulties, we used to have teacher bashing sessions. I would say, “Okay, what don’t you like about me, and what do you like about me?” Fortunately, most responses were positive. 

However, from such sessions, the students eventually learned how to open up to others, as well as, the others learned how to appropriately and honorably respond. 

And then someone would inevitably say, “I want to be like you Russ, it is my turn, bash me.” 

So, we did some student bashings as well. 

But that can be tough, because people would have to look at someone and say, “Well, you’re a liar … and you can’t stop talking,” or whatever it might be. 


Then, the person, who asked to be bashed, thinks, “Why the heck did I even ask? Did I really want to be told what others thought about me? It may have sounded good at the time. However, confronting reality is tough.”  


Student:  We also did that. We called it, “Roast of the Idiots!!”

Russell:  There you go, I like that.

Now to address your second issue, which was: what is a good way of working against chief feature.

All great accomplishments begin by changing one thing at a time. So, if you are fortunate enough to identify a chief feature, just change one thing. And, if you are able to do that, then change another.

The work says, “Doing, always begins by not doing. In order to do new things, you must not do many things that you did before.”

So, take one thing that you now do, which contributes to your chief feature, and try not to do it. That is, take one less drink, eat one less bite of food, come home ten minutes earlier, and wash one dish, etc.

Does that help?

Student:  Ah yes, it does. It really does. I can not do that (smile).


Student:  I have a quick question about the Enneagram. 

Does the length of the lines like Re to Mi or La to Re, have anything to do with how the Enneagram works?

Russell:  No.

The time it takes to perform the activities that occur between two consecutive notes of an Enneagram, take varying amounts of time, but most of the lines in the Enneagram just convey information. 

So, that’s the model. 

It doesn’t matter what the lengths of the lines are, they are just information conduits; a way which allows someone to say this food is going bad, we had better eat it today.  


Student:  One quick jump into The Fourth Way. 

Quspensky talks a little about the word faith, and I wondered if you would answer a question about it. 

Russell:  Sure


Student:  It concerns personality. 

Why does the system not require faith?

Russell:  Because the Fourth Way is a practical way, and practical ways do not require faith. 

The Fourth Way was not built on “you must believe.” Instead, it was built on “you must not believe.” That is, you must make practical efforts, instead of just believing. 

All religions are based on faith, and faith is based on the belief in things unseen. 

That is just the way it is. 

You have to believe, and as such, you have to have faith because there is no verification; there is no way of proving what you believe. 

“Believe in Jesus; and if you do, when you die, you will go to Heaven, case closed.” It is all a matter of faith.  

Whereas, in the Fourth Way, it says otherwise. 

Faith is not required here. We do not do things based on faith.  

Here you are charged with developing yourself, and to do that, you must make practical efforts; which is not faith, it is practical efforts.

The premise is: You are asleep and a machine.  

Thus, firstly, you must see that you are asleep and a machine, and then you must make efforts to cease to be asleep and a machine. 

Faith may enter; but not as the belief in things unseen, but in the fact that, by making efforts, one will inevitably improve; especially if those efforts are law-conformable efforts. That is, if you see and understand the structure, see what is real, and believe in the possibility of changing, you just might awaken. Which, as I said, does require a little bit of faith, otherwise, why work? 

So, there must be something in you that acknowledges that if you make efforts, you will get law-conformable results based on those efforts. 

Which is a little different than just having faith in the unknowable. That is, in things that are not supported by laws, or as Gurdjieff said, “Just believing in any old tale.” 

Does that answer your question?


Student:  Yes, it does. It most certainly does.  

I have another question. What about the astral body, or other things that seem to be beyond our present consciousness, is there a way of having some practical understanding of them as well?

Russell:  Yes there is. 

If we observe the way the laws work, and see that all things are a result of three interweaving forces. That is, no event moves through its octave without help. For instance: flour and water cannot become bread by themselves; no amount of blending will accomplish that. To make bread, we must have fire. Thus, if we see a loaf of bread, even though we do not see the fire, we know that it was there, because fire is one of the three forces. Or if we see a grown tree, even though we do not see water that it received, we know that the tree must have received it, because water is one of its three forces responsible for its growth. 

If everything is a product of three forces, then ... so are we. And as such, there must be three matters involved in our spiritual development as well; matters we call physical, astral, and mental. Otherwise, how would we have evolved past sensations and movement and acquire emotions and intelligence? And, later on, acquire conscience and reason? 

Thus, just like the tree must have had water, even though we did not see it, astral matter - the water for us - must have also been there. 

Does that help?


Student:  Oh yes, that was wonderful, that was perfect. 

I have one more question. Over the weekend, I was having a discussion about the idea that there must be a force in us that allows us to observe a waterfall, a sunset, or a rainbow and see its beauty. 

Is that close to what you are saying about astral matter and outside forces being on the inside?

Russell:  Yes, pretty much. Something creates meaning, and meaning means emotions. 

It is as simple as looking at the evolution of life, and realizing that all life is an interweaving of three octaves. 

Early animals went from RE to MI, and acquired the attributes of instinct and movement. Then they went beyond, and acquired the attributes of emotion and intellect, but wait a minute, that means that some other octave must have entered and helped them go further. What the heck was that octave?

Well, I see it as the astral octave joining the physical octave and sounding its notes RE to MI. Wherein, animals start to recognize their young, acquire meaning, and develop feelings.

So, by knowing that all things are the interweaving of three octaves, and by witnessing the evolutionary process of life, both the astral and mental octaves can be validated. That is, it does not take a leap of faith for us to realize that octaves do not go on by themselves, and therefore, it is fairly easy for us to envision the octaves that assist them.


Student:  That was fabulous Russell, thank you.


Student:  There is also something in the Bible that I have been trying to understand, which says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 

I kind of understand about the rich man not being able to enter the kingdom of God, but I am kind of lost as to how to put a camel through the eye of a needle.

Russell:  Yes, I understand. That does sound impossible. Sometimes however, impossibilities were used to drive home a point, which is most likely what Jesus was doing, that is, using an impossibility to drive home a point. 

He was simply saying, “If you are rich - full of yourself - you are not going to make it.” 

The camel part was just the impossibility that made the idea of a rich man making it, even more impossible, because sticking a camel through the eye of a needle is certainly impossible. 

So the idea was: it is impossible for someone who is rich in themselves; rich in their false personality, to attain anything higher.


Student:  Okay, yes, that’s it. When I first read that, it was so outside the realm of possibility, I wondered why it was said.


Student:  The Bible seems to be full of many such things. Why do people take those things and believe them to be true? I mean, some people believe them all to be true. So, what is true and what is not true. That is my question.

Russell:  That is a good question. There are a lot of esoteric writings that contain B-influences. Some are for Man #1, some are for Man #2, and some are for Man #3. We happen to be in the Fourth Way, which contains a different philosophy, one that is not dependent on faith. But that does not mean that in the literature and sacred writings of Men #1, #2, and #3, or that in the ways of the Fakir, Monk and Yogi, there is no truth; because … there is.  

I quote the Bible all the time; there are some really good truths in there. And the higher I become, the better I understand it, and the more truths I find. 


Student:  Continuing with the Bible, in the book of Job it says, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” Is that the placebo effect? Where if we fear something so much that our fears make it into a reality?

Russell:  To some extent. However, if you fear that meteors are going to hit the earth, I do not think that will cause meteors to actually hit the earth, but it is going to wreck your inner world a bit. That is, you are going to suffer great internal impacts. 

I am reminded of the story of the little old lady who lived in fear of hydrogen bombs and atomic bombs, saying, “If one of them were to fall I would go all to pieces.” Of course, the problem was, she went all to pieces before the bomb fell. 

So, imagining fear is never a good thing. 

I am also reminded of the chapter, “Fears -- Identification” in Views from the Real World, where Gurdjieff says that if someone learns that their fears and forebodings were unfounded in some particular situation, they often feel a certain disappointment as though they were thus deprived of a pleasant expectation.


Student:  Ah, very appropriate. Thank you.


Student:  I have a question about schools. 

In The Fourth Way, Ouspensky says that it is very difficult to find a real school. Why is that? 

Russell:  Well, most schools advertise their existence, and as such, they are very easy to find, but real schools do not. Therefore, you have to be pretty lucky to find one because they do not make themselves known. That is, it is fairly easy to find a Catholic church, but it is very hard to find a real school.


Student:  I get it. You showed me how to awaken, and yet do not advertise. Whereas, all the other ways I tried, who were unable to show me how to awaken, did. 

Ouspensky also said that it is impossible for someone to evolve without being in a school; that we were incapable of doing it on our own, and therefore, we must be around someone of higher mind. Would you comment on that please?

Russell:  Yes ma’am, I will. That is an easy one to respond to.

The idea is: it is much easier to learn how to play the violin under the tutelage of a violin teacher, that is, from someone who already knows how to play the violin and is capable of showing others how to play it, than it is for someone to learn how to play the violin on their own. 


Student:  I understand Russell, but you didn’t have any help. I mean, you just had the books.

Russell:  In The Fourth Way, probably chapter 13 or 14, there is a model of objective and subjective ways. Schools are subjective ways, because in them, one can get help. 

To make it via an objective way is much harder. 

It is possible, but we can’t depend on that, because in an objective way, one has no help, which makes things much more difficult. 

But then perhaps, schools make it even more difficult, because if someone is taught something wrongly by the school, they will thus believe it wrongly, and will never learn what is right.

Another type of subjective way versus objective way is how people awaken. 

Firstly, most everyone awakens subjectively. That is, some circumstance, some event, some moment in their life just happens, and causes them to awaken. Then, of course, a school forms around them, and everybody tries to recreate, for themselves, the same circumstance, in hopes that they too will awaken. But usually, no one ever does. 

We need more than a subjective way of creating schools, we need an objective way. 

So, yeah, a right school may be helpful, but you can awaken without one.  


Student:  I understand. 

So you are saying that you got there by an objective way.

Russell:  No ma’am, I am not saying that. I am saying that I awoke like most others before me awoke, subjectively. Then, ten years later, I discovered an objective way of showing others how to awaken; and as such, you got there by an objective way. 


Student:  Ah, I now understand; finding you was kind of like a miracle. Thank you very much.

Russell:  Well, not so much a miracle … just you, acquiring your right! 

Which I suppose, in this world of wrong information, is kind of a miracle.


Student:  Well, it was a miracle for me.


Student:  I have a question. Would you describe for me what personality and essence look like, taste like, and sound like, in the upper story? 

And, if our goal is to attain “nothingness,” where does that fit in? 

And, how do a bunch of awakened people, who come to nothingness, interact? 

At that stage, are we all the same?

Russell:  Good questions. 

All oak trees are the same. All oak trees make acorns. They may look a little different, but they all make acorns. Not to mention the fact that they never get together and conspire against the maple trees. 

And similarly, all conscious people should acquire the same things, because in their essence they are all identical. It is only the false truths that have been implanted in their personalities by others, which have varied, creating in them, many false beliefs.

Perhaps this question was once posed to Jesus, “Hey if I run into somebody that is really conscious, really awake, and at a higher level, how will I know?” If so, Jesus may have responded, “Well, they won’t try to steal from you, they won’t try to kill, they won’t covet your wife, and they won’t be envious of your cow, etc. 

Certain states of consciousness are consistent. 

All dogs are loyal. They cannot be not loyal. That is just the way that it is. 

What is personality? 

What is essence? 

In simple terms, personality is what we acquire and essence is what we are born with. So, we are born with sensations, and acquire movements. We are born with the ability to feel, and acquire intelligence. 

And, since the Higher Emotional Center is composed of two “essence centers” and only one “personality center,” it too can be considered as an essence center, something that we are supposed to obtain when we reach maturity. 

And from there, we are supposed to acquire the Higher Mental Center as well, which is mostly made of personality, and as such, is a personality center. 

Together, the Higher Mental Center and the Higher Emotional Center, constitute the ‘I’ and the ‘Am’ of a man’s “I AM”  - ‘I’ being his personality, what he acquires, and ‘Am’ being his essence, what he is born with. 

Unfortunately, man’s personality got replaced with false-personality. That is, he acquired many wrong things, which, once acquired, were very difficult to change. Like in the movie Babe, where the dog says, “It is a cold fact of nature that sheep are stupid, and no one would ever convince him otherwise.” 

Thus, we must replace our false-personality with true-personality. And the only way of doing that is by learning the rules and laws, because the rules and laws are based on math, and we all trust math. 

In this way, we can become what we are destined to become, beings who law-conformably act from conscience.

Remember, Jesus did not have to try to be ‘Jesus,’ He was Jesus; He manifested from there. 

Dogs do not have to try to be loyal, they are loyal; they manifest from there. 

We should manifest from “Christ-ness” - if I can put it in those terms - that is, from self-consciousness and from an enlightened state. If we did, we would all love our neighbor and would not hold accounts against anyone. Like the oracle said to Neo in the movie The Matrix, “We would all be right as rain.”

Does that help?


Student.  Yes sir. It does. Thank you very much.


Student:  Well, I think that does it for us. We are really thankful for this day, for your time, and for your Ideally-Unique-Objective-Phenomena. 

We love you.

Russell:  I love y’all too. See you next week.


That ends this question-and-answer session.


Thank you for listening.

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Goodbye until next time.

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