A, B, and C influences
The 4th Way Work classifies the forces working on man into A, B and C influences.
A influences are mechanical and random in nature, they seek to keep man occupied with the external world. They can be pictured as vectors of random magnitude and direction which all in the end add up to the zero vector. This is how A influences keep man in his place while providing a lot of random, transient motion. To take a physics analogy, this is like thermal motion of molecules. A influences are the normal realm of man and as long as man seeks no esoteric development these can be good and favorable.
A influences are influences or force vectors created within life itself. Influences such as race, nation, country, family, profession, entertainment, current ideas, customs and so on create A influences. These are the first variety of influences by which man is surrounded. These influences are distributed almost equally over all the surface of the cycle of life. Their effects are radiated outwardly and these effects are inversely proportional to the square of the distance, much like the way in which radiant energy is propagated. Any man is influenced by those influences that directly surround him. He is pulled every instant in this way or that way depending on the way they act on him at any moment within his spatial region. These A influences that surround him, all point in different directions creating a force vector nullification that is comparable to the electrical neutrality of large bodies, whereby no matter how intense the local electrostatic fields surrounding the atoms may be, there is always a space-distributed compensation that makes the whole body perfectly neutral. Those who live strictly by A influences are what Gurdjieff refers to as "nullities.' This is your "average man" in life.
B influences are vectors that are thrown into the field of A influences but these have a conscious source and a consistent direction. B influences do not cancel each other out and systematically recognizing and following these may lead man to the beginning of esoteric work.
B influences differ from A influences because they are CONSCIOUS in their origin and have been created consciously OUTSIDE life by conscious people for a definite purpose. These influences are the "soul" of any culture and they are embodied in the form of religious systems and teachings, philosophical doctrines, art, etc. They are inserted into life for a definite purpose but although these influences are conscious in their origin they begin to act mechanically when they mix within the general vortex of life. Eventually 'B' influences will be transformed into 'A' influences after they merge together within this general vortex.
In some people there is a discriminatory power within them that allows them to discriminate between these two kinds of influences and they discern from this that there are certain influences that come from a source that is outside the mainstream of life. This person remembers them and FEELS them together and they begin to form a certain whole, a certain kind of magnetic "presence" within that person. This person may not be sure exactly what this feeling is and they cannot really give themselves a clear account of what these feelings necessarily mean but the end result is that they collect within this person and they form a MAGNETIC CENTER, and if the conditions are right, this magnetic center leads them to search for someone who knows the way and is connected to the source of these 'B' influences, that is, they seek a person or teacher who is connected to an esoteric center that stands outside the general laws of life.
It is from this source that the person sets on the WAY. The moment when the person looking for the way meets someone who knows the way then this contact is called the FIRST THRESHOLD or FIRST STEP. From this first threshold the STAIRWAY begins. Between 'life' and the 'way' lies the 'stairway.'
C influences are only found within the Work and can only be received in personal interaction with a conscious being. Receiving C influences requires a certain level of personal sensitization and receptivity. Failing this, C influences work like B influences. C influences come from the SOURCE, that is, from an esoteric Center that is located outside of life. When they directly act on someone with a newly developing magnetic center THROUGH a teacher who is directly connected to the source then these influences are called C influences. From this connection the person's magnetic center will grow and will lead them to escape the dominion of the Law of chance and enter into the domain of consciousness.
The magnetic center is the organ the seeker gradually develops for discerning between A and B influences. External criteria cannot generally be used for distinguishing between A and B influences. A influences can closely mimic and parallel B influences. For example, such an influence may speak of the personal gain to be had in the Work, may preach humility while secretly priding oneself on one's great purity etc. Such influences generally involve a degree of dishonesty or deceit or service to self. The points may be arbitrarily subtle and no fixed checklist can be adequate. Discernment is a skill that eventually may become a part of one's being.
Discernment of A, B, C influences
From Mouravieff's Gnosis Vol I, pp. 78-80:
- Let us, however, be very careful not to give the distinction between 'A' and 'B' influences too narrow an interpretation. "A' influences act through the General Law, and therefore conform to the Divine Will. We already know one reason for their being: to serve the interests of the Ensemble. Yet let us not forget that everything is relative. He who studies esoteric science must not naively oppose 'A' influences. That would only succeed in bringing catastrophe. This was Don Quixote's instructive experience--so wrongly understood. 'A' influences play a positive role in the economy of the Universe. They combine with devastating force to oppose anyone who tries to attack them directly in their ensemble. The task of the seeker is different. Instead of trying to annihilate the 'A' influences, or to carve out a path between them for himself by his exploits, while continuing his esoteric education, he should instead escape their grasp.
- It is important to understand that we can never attain this goal by our own forces. It is by absorbing 'B' influences--divine influences from a higher level, which are consequently more powerful--and by putting full trust in them, as well as by giving proofs of capacity and devotion, that we shall be liberated from the dominion of these 'A' influences--which are ruled by the General Law, assisted by the Law Of Accident.
- He whose efforts are crowned with success--who attains higher levels of being--is immediately utilized to share in management and growth of a given level of the lower forces of the Cosmos.
- In general he will have to accomplish--as a mission--a task in the domain of the 'A' influences. Above all, this work will require study of the bipolar world. Intelligence is the only tool we posses with which to achieve this end. This is its real reason for being, as well as the reason why its structure exactly reflects the world of the 'A' influences. This instrument thus allows man in accordance with Plato's principle. to grasp and know the similar by the similar.
- Knowing this, the student of esoteric science must guard against falling into extremes expressed in some teachings; he must neither despise nor neglect his intellectual faculties. This intelligence must be developed and sharpened up to the limit of what is possible, and thought must become sharp as the point of a needle. But it must not be forgotten that the Personality, in spite of its complex structure and its many abilities, is nothing but an instrument, whose functioning remains purely mechanical. It is for this reason that in esoteric matters it does not know, and will never know anything with certainty. By its agnostic nature, and concerned with phenomena, it is limited by form and function to three dimensions. It is incapable of exceeding these boundaries, but sincerely takes the world of 'A' influences as the only reality.