One-third of one's time should be spent in pondering.

Gurdjieff International Review

Discussion on "Good and Evil"

with A. R. Orage

November 19th [1927] — Part 3 of 3

Orage: So far we've agitated the bushes in this discussion of good and evil, but I doubt if we've startled the hare. Instead of recollections to start off with, I wish one or two of you would attempt formulations of the ideas so far thrown out. This last discussion is staged really for Larry Morris, who was so dissatisfied with the first two. Larry, would you summarise what you think we've arrived at?

Larry: Last time we started with a resummary and ended by discussing new things. It's much better I think to start where we left off last week. I recollect that we stopped with a discussion of God's situation at the inception of the universe and considered the conditions under which He was forced to invent some design for it.

Orage: Forced?

Larry: He was driven by His state of fear to form this purpose.

Orage: Not driven. Is a motive called a force?

Larry: He desired to escape a disagreeable situation.

Orage: It was a free desire. He had the alternatives of passing to extinction and of willing to overcome it.

Larry: But He was terrified of extinction.

Orage: Not terrified. There was no compulsion in the matter. The reason Gurdjieff insists on this point is that the universe is non-mechanical, and maintained by a will.

Daly: But He had to find extinction disagreeable according to His nature.

Orage: That was compulsion, but His doing something about it was not.

Larry: Am I wrong in imagining that the story goes that having been satisfied with things as they were, He realised that this would cease, felt fear and took measures to ward the end off?

Orage: Yes.

Larry: That is all I meant to imply by compulsion.

Orage: You can say that this situation provoked Him, but did not compel Him. It is like not being forced to get up by an alarm clock. It isn't having to do one thing or another, but doing something or something else.

Solon: It seems to me that that is the way we use "compulsion."

Orage: That is because we are perfectly mechanical.

Mary Johnston: He would know that His 'I' remained, though, even if the universe dwindled out or not.

Orage: Yes. He couldn't decide to do nothing because to do nothing was part of time's inevitable flow. He had to do one of several things that were possible. You can't decide to let Time take its course; Time is taking its course.

Mary J.: His was a decision to Be.

Orage: Yes. He was under the compulsion (laughter)—well, the logical necessity to Be one thing or another.

Louise: I thought God was in a state of pure Being non-manifested. How did He run down in that state?

Orage: The state is purely psychological. His power of imagination was running down. The images in His mind depended on subjective activity, and, losing this activity, He had to create a source for these images by concreting them.

Imagine a state of pleasant dream interrupted by nightmare from which 'I' concludes that the powers of imagination are waning due to the influence of time. Further waning and more nightmare is foreseen. 'I' makes a selection of dreams and gives them substantiality—makes a durable pattern of them. Then there is no fear of waning dream power.

Reese: If God had sufficient power to maintain His images concretely, why couldn't He go on imagining them?

Orage: Because will was necessary; the dream state was one of only consciousness and individuality. Will is necessary to stabilise. Will was present potentially.

Solon: God and the angels had to objectify their imaginings in order to get the reflexes from the concretions?

Orage: Where does this "objectifying" come in?

Solon: When the imaginings were simply projected from God they were purely subjective; concreted they were objective.

(Daly [raised an] objection; mentioned Santayana and asked for a "summary" of his ideas. The argument trailed off in confusion.)

Orage: All this links up with our personal problem: of selecting an ideal or dream to realise. God's dream actualized is our world. The individual makes a dream come true by concretising it.

Solon: When God was young He took no thought on the morrow—then He began to save up for the rainy day!

Orage: The first part is all right—not the last.

Solon: But our universe is the result of His saving up—of His taking thought.

Orage: Yes—our universe is an actualized dream, like a cathedral—only it is made up of beings.

Milliken: Was the idea of this universe new to the archangels?

Orage: Yes.

Milliken: To God?

Orage: Until the crisis, no thought of will was in His consciousness. This system implies the same in us; there is no actualisation of will in us, but there is the potentiality.

Reese: Was the act of will caused by fear?

Orage: No more than I am caused by it to get up by an alarm clock. Ashiata Shiemash spoke of the "terror of the situation" in order to rouse activity, but not to cause the results.

Milliken: Isn't the universe running down according to Eddington?

Orage: Eddington is in the position of God's angels asked to report on the running down—they reported the second law of Thermodynamics. There is now beginning to be a doubt that that law is the decisive law of physics.

John: These dreams were taking place in subjective space—

Orage: Yes, and the objective dream is in curved space. Imagine a sphere in which every atom is a being. Atoms at any point have the possibility of occupying the whole sphere—a totality enriched by this conscious activity. To go back to Gurdjieff's image—imagine a sphere of every type of being—the mass making up the World of Being. This has a Queen Bee—we assume—which is God. His will is that sphere, until every being in it shall be all sphere, and identified with Him. Since it is a being, the sphere has the possibility of Being All being. Until it actualises this it remains just sphere.

Daly: Then the end of being is non-being after all potentialities are realised?

Orage: There is a difference between positive and negative states of non-being—the positive is the conscious end of actualisation. These are the two ideas of Nirvana, with stress on different syllables when the word is spoken.

John: God conquers the passing of time, rather than time, because in the conquest each moment of time occupies the whole of space.

Orage: Good, John. Have we reached the point now where we know when the ball has stopped rolling?

Larry: We were discussing the perpetuation of pattern and the terms good and evil, and identifying good with what carries out the pattern.

Orage: What maintained the pattern and developed the static and dynamic aspects?

Larry: We discussed how the pattern became the objective necessity to all its component parts.

Orage: Would this be absolute good for all beings in the design, with or without their consent?

Larry: Yes—consent is implied in their being parts.

Solon: Insofar as they tend to destroy the pattern are they evil or wrong?

Orage: Wrong. They are right when they happen to be in harmony with absolute good, and wrong vice versa.

Solon: To what does evil apply?

Orage: To beings who escape from the pattern.

Daly: I thought last week we said only God could do evil?

Orage: Did we say so? Oh—on the supposition that God's choice is to Be, He alone can unmake it.

Blanche: I thought you also said God does wrong when He nods?

Orage: To nod is not to change the decision. I prefer to call it a mistake, or wrong—it is not an impingement. The will is constant, but the consciousness occasionally nods.

Daly: Then can anyone do evil?

Orage: No, they have to drop from the pattern to do evil.

Solon: A part can fall into a state of evil, rather than do evil.

Orage: That's better. The Hasnamus type drops into this state and loses the potentiality of will, ceasing to be actuated by will and dropping out of the dynamic pattern.

Larry: I think the next step is clearing up right and wrong.

Orage: Well, suppose that in an army a plan of campaign is made which constitutes a guide for all; subordinates have no part in the decision, though it takes them into account. Good is now defined as accomplishment of the plan, and evil as the opposite. The subordinates have nothing more to do with it, but their decisions to cooperate or not are right or wrong, good and evil having been determined by the decision on the plan. Good and evil is impersonal for all beings.

Hugh: But the beings don't know the plan, and can't consciously cooperate or decide if good and evil are predetermined, or even right and wrong.

Orage: The history of religion and ethics show that what purports to be called the plans of campaign are handed down, through priests. Privates think they are cooperating by obeying conventional standards of right and wrong—the subjective standards of morality. But we can't be satisfied with the plan of campaign of a leader who is in dispute.

Solon: Does the individual's being right unconsciously bring about good?

Orage: No—it brings about right.

Hugh: Can we discuss this humble soldier who gets conflicting orders?

Crampton: A knowledge of good and evil is necessary before right and wrong can be known.

Orage: Yes, in subjective morality the interpretations are therefore idiotic.

Hugh: Then we must try to discover the plan of campaign through observation, voluntary suffering and conscious labor?

Orage: Exactly so.

John: The plan of campaign for the universe is the same for each part rather than a separate function for each?

Orage: Yes.

Solon: Isn't any obedience required?

Orage: Voluntary suffering only; a means to an end.

Larry: How can the private find an objective criterion of right and wrong?

Hugh: I think that in his desire to know the campaign he might observe himself and discover the purpose of the macrocosm in his microcosm.

Nat: The important thing is to learn this technique before you get shot!

Daly: I understand that before he can choose, even incorrectly, the individual must know the plan of campaign.

Orage: Yes, consciousness may be developed in advance of will.

Daly: I thought will was the last thing developed.

Orage: There is a difference in the capacity of will according to development; it doesn't mean that there is no will to begin with.

Daly: Then full development of will is dependent on consciousness?

Orage: That is true, but they develop simultaneously. The seed is last developed, but it is already in the bud. The development of will, consciousness and individuality is both simultaneous and successive.

Daly: I thought Purgatory was the state of consciousness without will.

Orage: Not enough will for what is understood.

Daly: The beings there can't participate in the conscious plan of God?

Orage: They participate but suffer because they know more than they can do. To avoid Purgatory, will, consciousness and individuality should develop harmoniously and simultaneously. This development of three at once is anti-Yoga. As Beelzebub told Hassein, cease activity in one center when the rate is too high and bring up the other centers, under order of the fourth center—this is Iransamkeep—I keep myself in charge of three centers.

Let me give you this brief summary:

The absolute by definition is the whole considered as one. The absolute to which we refer is the whole of our world. This self-contained unitary absolute presents two features, its status quo and a movement—the static and dynamic features. These two presuppose a plan or design necessitating the maintenance and development of the universe. This development can be called the plan of campaign, and the status quo is the army for carrying it out.

The plan has as its objective the development of the potentialities of all the constituent beings of the total plan. The realisation of the plan is objective reason—the fulfillment of the Being of each being. This plan of campaign is being carried out by all beings, conscious or unconscious, to the extent to which they remain beings at all; they might cease to be contained within this absolute. One potentiality of beings is to be conscious of the plan of campaign and to develop the will to cooperate with it. Regardless of their consciousness, they are all included in the plan, however. The attainment of a state of conscious cooperation with the plan is defined as right. Failure to attain this state is wrong. The plan of campaign by nature and by the nature of the beings operating it is discoverable. In the absence of this discovery, all reports of its nature must be regarded in the category of conventional or religious morality. Obedience to conventional morality constitutes wrong-doing.

The Gurdjieff text claims that the principles of right and wrong as laid down are derived from a prime source by a being having access to it. It doesn't follow that they are right. From that point of view, Gurdjieff's view of objective morality is only one of many of similar claims. However, a technique is given not involving obedience to these commandments, but designed to bring into consciousness the criterion of conscience so that the individual can appreciate the plan for himself. This technique starts with self-observation and proceeds in maintaining the objectification of body and the development of three centers simultaneously. The technique is designed to help the individual understand the plan of campaign and to cooperate in Will with it. This excludes all possibility of team responsibility. Nothing, however, exempts the individual from his responsibility of development.

The only objectively right thing we can do is to practise the method and bring conscience into consciousness. This is claimed to develop all three centers. Other methods aim at a lop-sided development.

Do you feel that these three evenings have been wasted? Is the hare we startled a March Hare? It may be we shall be dissatisfied with our conclusions and have to admit that we cannot produce the Truth, like Hamilinadir, who turned to growing the first being food, which is impressions; the second being food is intentional suffering, and the third food, conscious labor, for the Being which informs the planetary body.

Larry: Would you say that objecting to a lack of criterion is the beginning of objective conscience?

Orage: Yes.

Copyright © 1998 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 1998 Issue, Vol. II (1)
Revision: January 1, 2000