Conscious vs. mechanical suffering

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Part of the article series
Fourth Way
Fourth Way

The Fourth Way has a complex notion involving conscious and automatic (mechanical) suffering, seen as being diametrically opposite in their effects.

George Gurdjieff speaks of the holy 'being partkdolg duty' in Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. This is defined as consisting of conscious labors and intentional suffering and is an impulse necessary for man's development towards objective reason and being.

This is not to be confused with mechanical suffering, which is the emotional or physical reaction to anything ordinarily painful. This "feeds the Moon", whereas intentional suffering and conscious labors produce internal friction which is necessary for crystallizing anything of lasting value. The difference between the two types of suffering can be quite subtle and often ambiguous.

P. D. Ouspensky quotes Gurdjieff in In Search of the Miraculous:

If there is anything in the world that people do not understand it is the idea of sacrifice. They think they have to sacrifice something that they have. For example, I once said that they must sacrifice 'faith,' 'tranquillity,' 'health.' They understand this literally. But then the point is that they have not got either faith, or tranquillity, or health. All these words must be taken in quotation marks. In actual fact they have to sacrifice only what they imagine they have and which in reality they do not have. They must sacrifice their fantasies. But this is difficult for them, very difficult. It is much easier to sacrifice real things. "Another thing that people must sacrifice is their suffering. It is very difficult also to sacrifice one's suffering. A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering. Man is made in such a way that he is never so much attached to anything as he is to his suffering. And it is necessary to be free from suffering. No one who is not free from suffering, who has not sacrificed his suffering, can work. Later on a great deal must be said about suffering. Nothing can be attained without suffering but at the same time one must begin by sacrificing suffering. Now, decipher what this means.

From Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson:

He [Buddha] then, among other things, told them very definitely the following: "'One of the best means of rendering ineffective the predisposition present in your nature of the crystallization of the consequences of the properties of the organ Kundabuffer is "intentional-suffering"; and the greatest intentional suffering can be obtained in your presences if you compel yourselves to be able to endure the "displeasing-manifestations-of-others-towards-yourselves.

[...]

The factors for the being-impulse conscience arise in the presences of the three-brained beings from the localization of the particles of the "emanations-of-the-sorrow" of our OMNI-LOVING AND LONG-SUFFERING-ENDLESS CREATOR; that is why the source of the manifestation of genuine conscience in three-centered beings is sometimes called the REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CREATOR. "'And this sorrow is formed in our ALL-MAINTAINING COMMON FATHER from the struggle constantly proceeding in the Universe between joy and sorrow. In all three-brained beings of the whole of our Universe without exception, among whom are also we men, owing to the data crystallized in our common presences for engendering in us the Divine impulse of conscience, "the-whole-of-us" and the whole of our essence, are, and must be, already in our foundation, only suffering. And they must be suffering, because the completed actualizing of the manifestation of such a being-impulse in us can proceed only from the constant struggle of two quite opposite what are called "complexes-of-the- functioning" of those two sources which are of quite opposite origin, namely, between the processes of the functioning of our planetary body itself and the parallel functionings arising progressively from the coating and perfecting of our higher being-bodies within this planetary body of ours, which functionings in their totality actualize every kind of Reason in the three-centered beings. "'In consequence of this, every three-centered being of our Great Universe, and also we men existing on the Earth, must, owing to the presence in us also of the factors for engendering the Divine impulse of "Objective Conscience," always inevitably struggle with the arising and the proceeding within our common presences of two quite opposite functionings giving results always sensed by us either as "desires" or as "nondesires." And so, only he, who consciously assists the process of this inner struggle and consciously assists the "nondesires" to predominate over the desires, behaves just in accordance with the essence of our COMMON FATHER CREATOR HIMSELF; whereas he who with his consciousness assists the contrary, only increases HIS sorrow.

We could say that mechanical suffering is rooted in subjectivity and consideration for self. Intentional or conscious suffering is on the other hand rooted in internal struggle for objectivity. It is choosing the higher in the place of the lower, choosing external considering in the place of internal considering, for example. Of course before this makes sense, there must exist some sort of taste for differentiating between these.

So it comes to be that the illusion of being virtuous because one happens to feel pain must be sacrificed, whereas the internal struggle towards objectivity must be embraced. Man's natural complacency and mechanicality, not to mention the General Law, will offer all the adversary one might wish for. In Gurdjieff's words, the Creator's joy is in creation struggling towards truth. This joy cannot be without the struggle, just as there cannot be free will without the presence of alternatives.

See also