S4/E39: Deciphering Gurdjieff’s Enigma

Published March 24th, 2022

S4/E39: Deciphering Gurdjieff’s Enigma

Deciphering Gurdjieff’s Enigma

In this podcast we share with you a dialogue between Russell and several of his students, about suffering, formatory thinking, lightening the Sorrow of our Common Father, coating our higher being-bodies, how to quickly disconnect and reconnect centers, will action, the great Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen debate, Ouspensky’s Hydrogen numbers, as well as a description of Worlds 1 thru 96. 


The Mathematical Food Diagram

The Mathematical Food Diagram

Cosmic Weave Diagram

Cosmic Weave Diagram

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.

In today’s podcast I will share with you a dialogue between Russell and several of his students, about suffering, formatory thinking, lightening the Sorrow of our Common Father, coating our higher being-bodies, how to quickly disconnect and reconnect centers, will action, the great Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen debate, Ouspensky’s Hydrogen numbers, as well as a description of Worlds 1 thru 96. 


Let’s begin:


Student:  What is suffering? 

Russell:  Suffering is subjective. If a man is doing what he loves to do, there will be no suffering. I don’t care if he is digging ditches. 


Student:  Okay, I get that. 

Do impartial men suffer?

Russell:  No. Impartial men do not. Primarily because, after becoming impartial, they will no longer be concerned with what they have to do, and therefore, will not suffer, which to some extent, you might have experienced. That is, when you were more awake, things were great, and when you were less awake, you most likely placed blame, and as such, you suffered. 

And yet, Gurdjieff said that any time a man makes efforts, something will arise in him that does not wish to make efforts, and because of that, he will suffer. 

However, if he was an impartial man, his sufferings would be conscious sufferings. 

We were told that we are lazy machines, which means that there is something in us that does not want to make efforts; but, we must make efforts if we wish to awaken. 

But again, it is the way the task is perceived; if the task is perceived as, “I don’t want to do this,” then we will suffer. 


Student:  Would you talk a little about formatory thinking, or give us some suggestions as to how to deal with formatory thinking?

Russell:  Formatory thinking. Well, let me ask you this, what do you think are some of the characteristics of formatory thinking?


Student:  Well, I guess, the simplest would-be seeing opposites, like that is bad and this is good, or perhaps being identified with the outcome. That is, even though I have more than one response to what has happened, if I am identified with the outcome, to me, that would be formatory.

Russell:  Good. 

Some other characteristics of formatory thinking would be the little catch phrases we use, like “bitchin’ dude,” or “awesome man,” those kinds of things. 

So, in order to be less formatory, simply try not to see opposites, or use catch phrases. 

However, the formatory apparatus constitutes the beginning of reason, which starts by comparing two things, and as such, comparing two things may be necessary at first; but, if that is all you ever do, you might acquire reason, but you will never acquire impartiality.


Student:  The work says that our four centers are composed of matter which is animate, but that the matter of the formatory apparatus is inanimate. I’m not sure how to understand that.

Russell:  No problem. What does inanimate mean? It means, “not alive,” which is kind of like labels. The other centers deal with things which have substance, whereas the formatory apparatus only deals with labels.


Student:  Our centers do not seem to be definable. That is, I cannot point my finger at my Moving Center. So, are the centers just metaphors?

Russell:  Well, we can observe their functions, which will tell us what centers are involved. Ouspensky said, “If we want to know the center, observe the function, and if we want to know the part, observe the attention.”


Student:  I would like for you to talk a little bit about the fourth striving, and what it means to pay for our arising and individuality as quickly as possible.

Russell:  Sure. The fourth striving begins after we awaken, which is when we are capable of seeing our inexactitudes, and as such, we become obliged to do something about them … and, to do it quickly. 


Well, why wouldn’t we?

I am reminded of Data’s statement to counselor Troi in Star Trek the Next Generation, when Data asked the counselor what the Doctor meant when she told him to “Bust him up,” referring to him beating an opponent who had challenged him to a game of Strategema (strata-JAY-mah), and the counselor said, “You know, Data, take the quickest path to victory,” to which Data replied, “As opposed to what?” 

Similarly, Jesus implied that men, before awakening, were not accountable for their actions, as they did not have eyes to see, nor ears to hear, but after awakening, they were, and as such, they were charged with rapidly getting on with the cure, so as to not suffer darkness and gnashing of teeth.


Student:  How does that lighten the Sorrow of our Common Father?

Russell:  Again, the idea is that we are here to achieve our potential; and I presume that if there is a God, He would want us to do just that. And if we don’t, He would most likely be saddened, especially since He was unable to assist us. Like in my model of our child being in the play at school: We know their lines, as we helped them learn them. However, if when they walked onto the stage, they went blank, we would be unable to assist them. 

If something like that has ever happened to you, you will understand what Gurdjieff meant by the Sorrow of our Common Father.


Student:  So, we’re lightening His load by learning our lines.

Russell:  That is correct. Self-completion is the aim.


Student:  I have a Beelzebub’s question. Gurdjieff uses the word ‘coat,’ which I am sure was used intentionally, but I would like to understand a bit more about it.

Russell:  No problem. The idea is that we coat our physical body with higher being-bodies, which by the way, take the shape of the physical body. 

‘Crystallization’ is another term used by Gurdjieff regarding our higher being-bodies, as is ‘fixed,’ which means they remain ‘fixed’ after the physical body dies. Just like the chocolate coating on an ice cream cone will retain its shape when the ice cream melts.


Student:  Firstly, I would like to thank you for deciphering Gurdjieff’s enigma. I have been studying Gurdjieff’s ideas for twenty years; and, although his philosophy makes great sense, I received no results. Then, you showed up; and, after only eight days, I was able to awaken. So, thank you for that.

Secondly, I have a question about physical sleep. I do not sleep well; primarily because I have trouble falling asleep, which usually occurs because I am either identified with something, or concerned about something, which will keep my thoughts rolling and rolling; sometimes for hours. Do you have any suggestions as to what I might do in order to change that?

Russell:  Only to disconnect and reconnect your centers faster. 

What do I mean by that? 

Well, Gurdjieff tells us that at night, it takes us quite some time to disconnect our centers; and in the morning, it takes us quite some time to reconnect them, and as such, we spend almost as much time disconnecting and reconnecting our centers as we do sleeping. If that is happening to you, you need to find a way of changing that. 

Fortunately, there are several things you can try. Firstly, there is counting sheep. 

Why do you think people count sheep? 


Student:  Well, I suppose because, since they are intentionally occupying the place with counting sheep, they become tired.

Russell:  That is correct. By holding a long or a repetitive thought in one center, it allows the other centers to disconnect. 

Some people read a book when they go to bed, in order to accomplish that. 

What I do when I go to bed, is to mentally stare at the silverware in the silverware drawer, which unlike reading a book, will not stimulate my interest. By mentally staring at the silverware, my other centers quickly disconnect, as will the center that is staring at the silverware, and as such, I usually fall asleep within a few minutes. 

And then in the morning, I get up as soon as the alarm clock rings. 

By quickly disconnecting and reconnecting centers, my sleep time has been reduced to only 6 hours. In fact, it has reached a point to where I no longer need to set an alarm; I always awaken 6 hours after I go to bed. 

That being said, dreams are normal. Everyone has them. We cycle from light sleep, to deep sleep, and then back to light sleep, and after four of those cycles, we usually awaken. 

Furthermore, we always dream during light sleep, and if we awaken while we are dreaming, we will remember the dream. 


Student:  What should I do if a dream wakes me up? 

Russell:  Simply hold one thought or go back to mentally staring at the silverware.  


Student:  Is there anything significant in dreams? I mean, some people try to interpret them, but aren’t they just one center observing another?

Russell:  Yes, that is correct. Dreams are simply the random associations that occur in one center, which are being observed by another, and as such, they have no value.


Student:  Just to pursue that a little bit more. Is it worth knowing which center is being observed, and which center is doing the observing?  

Russell:  No, not really. 

However, I will say this, if your dreams have motion, it is probably your Moving Center that is being observed. If your dreams have meaning, it is probably your Emotional Center that is being observed. And, if your dreams contain data, like ‘the hip bone's connected to the thigh bone,’ it is probably your Intellectual Center that is being observed. Furthermore, since nothing meaningful is ever found in dreams, most likely, nothing meaningful will ever be found if you discover which center is dreaming and which center is observing.


Student:  Could the knowledge of my dreams ever be useful?

Russell:  Well, perhaps. If you often find yourself in fearful dreams, those dreams will most likely be coming from your Emotional Center, and as such, you might be able to recognize the emotion which is behind them. If so, you may be able to put something in there that will cause that emotion to change.


Student:  I have a question about something in Psychology. On page 36, Ouspensky says, “…if we want to have more prolonged periods of self-consciousness and not merely glimpses, we must understand that they cannot come by themselves, they need will action. This means that frequency and duration of moments of self-consciousness depend on the command one has over oneself. So it means that consciousness and will are almost one and the same thing, or in any case aspects of the same thing.” 

I am not quite sure I understand what he means by ‘will action.’ 

Russell:  No problem. Will action is simply an action that is created by your will, as opposed to an automatic response that is not created by your will. 


Student:  Before class, many of us were wracking our brains regarding Chapter IX in The Fourth Way, concerning Ouspensky’s terms of Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen, as they relate to the Food Diagram, as well as to many other diagrams. Would you please explain to us what those terms mean?

Russell:  Ah, the great Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen debate. 

Had you asked me beforehand, I might have saved your brains the mind warping manifestation of trying to apply the properties of Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen to the food diagram, as well as your mind-numbing attempt of trying to affix significance to them.

Fortunately, after reading The Fourth Way 100 times, I began to understand that book from the point of view of the author, and as such, my Higher Mental Center reminded me of what was in Chapter VIII when my concerns turned to what those labels meant in relation to the Food Diagram, which I read about in Chapter IX.


Excerpt from Chapter VIII, page 189:

"The first thing to remember is what was said about the Law of Three— that everything in the world, all manifestations of energy, all kinds of action, whether in the world or in human activity, whether internal or external, are always manifestations of three forces which exist in nature. These forces are called active, passive and neutralizing, or first, second and third. It must be understood that they do not differ from one another as activity and passivity differ in our ordinary understanding of these terms. Active and passive forces are both active, for a force cannot be passive. But there is a certain difference in their activity, and this difference makes all the variety of phenomena that exist in the world. The three forces work together, but one of them predominates in each combination. At the same time, each force which is now active can become passive or neutralizing the next moment, in another triad. When three forces meet together, things happen. If they do not come together, nothing happens. From this point of view, matter must also have certain definite denominations according to which force works through it—whether it is organic or inorganic, a chemical element or a compound. When active force passes through any kind of matter it is called Carbon. When passive force passes through it, it is called Oxygen. When neutralizing force works through it, it is called Nitrogen. And when matter is taken without relation to the force that works through it, it is called Hydrogen. At first these names should be taken simply as labels. Thus the Law of Three brings relativity into our definition of matter, for instead of one iron we have four irons, instead of one copper four coppers, and so on. Father, mother, son; carbon, oxygen, nitrogen. The family is hydrogen. The beginning of a new family is the son. In ordinary thinking we realize the existence of two forces—action and resistance, positive and negative electricity, and so on. But in this state of consciousness we do not see that three forces are always present in every event, in every phenomenon, and that only a conjunction of three forces can produce an event. Two forces cannot produce anything—they will only turn round one another without any result. It takes a long time to begin to see three forces in things—for some reason we are third force blind, although we can observe it in many chemical reactions and biological phenomena. Even when we fully understand that nothing can happen without the presence of all the three elements, in relation to ourselves we are inclined to forget or disregard it. We do not fully observe even two forces and generally expect things to happen when only one force is present. Later you will see that if you want to produce a certain effect or a certain action and one force is missing you can get no result."

Russell:  Ouspensky just as easily could have used the labels Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green, instead of Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Hydrogen. And if he had, then Yellow 768 would have met with Red 192 and become Blue 384, which would have then become Yellow 384 in order to blend with Red 96 and become Blue 192 … and as such, we would be trying to apply the properties of Red to the active force, instead of the properties of Carbon.

And, as to his Hydrogen numbers of 6, 12, 24, etc., I believe that I also understand why those numbers were used. Those numbers came about by the successive doublings of his triads. That is, (1, 3, 2 = 6), (2, 6, 4 = 12), and (4, 12, 8 = 24), etc. 

Whereas, the math of creation is 5/6 to the seventh and 2/3 cubed, which has nothing to do with those numbers. 

However, in my Mathematical Food Diagram, I do show both his symbolic Hydrogen numbers and the diatonic math of the three forces involved, which allows for a much better understanding of the Food Diagram (See Figure 16 - The Mathematical Food Diagram - in Chapter 5). However, in order to get to that better understanding, you must first learn about the Laws of World-creation and World-maintenance, as well as cleanse your mind of all the inaccurate descriptions which I too read about and believed. That is, prior to acquiring a real understanding of how the Universe actually works.

Furthermore, Worlds 1 through 96 are not that hard to comprehend if we take into consideration this excerpt from The Fourth Way on pages 25 and 26:

“We must return to the Law of Three. You will remember how it was explained that everything that happens is the result of the action of three forces and that two forces by themselves cannot produce any effect. I will try to connect this idea with the Ray of Creation.”

“The Absolute is World 1, for the three forces in it make one. By his own will and consciousness the Absolute creates worlds. It is all intentional there and each force in it occupies each place. This is incomprehensible to us. In the next world, World 3, there are the same three forces, only they are already divided. These three forces again produce worlds of which we take one, but this World 6 is different from World 3 which is in contact with the Absolute, for it is already mechanical. World 6 has three forces from the preceding world and three of its own. The next world, World 12, has three forces from the world of the second order, six from the world of the third order and three of its own. The next world, World 24, has twenty-four forces, the one after forty-eight forces and the last ninety-six forces.”

World 1 Absolute   1

World 3 All Worlds   3

World 6 All Suns   6   (3 + 3)

World 12 Sun 12   (3 + 6 + 3)

World 24 All Planets 24   (3 + 6 + 12 + 3)

World 48 Earth 48   (3 + 6 + 12 + 24 + 3)

World 96 Moon 96   (3 + 6 + 12 + 24 + 48 + 3)

Russell:  Notice that each world has three forces of its own. Therefore, we only need to postulate 18 forces in order for us to understand the Universe, which can be seen in the Universal Cosmic Weave (See the Cosmic Weave Diagram). 

Okay, what would World 1 be?

What would World 3 be, etc.?

I can deduce them all … and perhaps, with a little bit of thought, you will be able to deduce them too.

Just start with something that existed in the original Black Hole, before science’s Super-force was created, then cast it out, and pull off Gravity, (World 1).

Following that comes 3 forces: the weak force, electromagnetism, and the strong force, (World 3).

Next, we have orbital laws, laws of angular momentum, and thermal dynamic laws, (World 6). 

And, at some point, we have laws that govern how things seek their own level (heavy things sink and light things rise), etc.

Further down, we will have to answer questions like, “What are the three forces for an Earth? There, we will most likely have to postulate things like having water in liquid form, having a Magnetic Field to shield the Earth from cosmic rays, having enough mass to hold an atmosphere, or perhaps, having a very large Moon, which keeps them at a constant tilt, and causes their climate to remain steady, thus allowing the slow process of evolution to take place.

I won’t give you all the answers, as that would spoil the fun of you yourself discovering them.

But, I will point out that Gurdjieff once said the three forces of its own occupy half the place, which is a very good clue.

Well, that should get you started. However, if you need more, and have purchased The Blueprint of Consciousness, simply join us in ZOOM on Saturday, or read the Fourth Way 100 times like I did.🙂

That completes today’s podcast.


Thank you for listening.

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