Gurdjieff International Review

Another Kind of Thinking

Scott Williams

The astonishing thing is not that there exist natural laws, but that the further the analysis proceeds, the finer the details, the finer the elements to which the phenomena are reduced, the simpler—and not the more complicated, as one would originally expect—the fundamental relations become and the more exactly do they describe the actual occurrences.1

Since 1969 I’ve been a practicing research mathematician. Whenever I have what I believe is a novel and interesting idea, the voices of pride arise. A useful piece of pride causes me to pursue the idea to its fruition, powering past possible ‘idea sinkholes.’ However, pride is most expansive when I imagine how others will view my discoveries. And as those “Oh how smart I am” voices increase, my ability decreases. If I continue in this state, I always make an error. Should somebody challenge the value of my input, I become angry and depleted of energy.

I have never managed to “do” mathematics while sensing. But who can “do” mathematics or who can write this article in the midst of parading, vainful “I’s?” Not me. So, I practice a fragment gleaned from my teacher, Louise March. I begin to sense my body—upwards from the feet to the solar plexus. I try to write while maintaining the solar plexus thread. Are the voices gone? Upon occasion they surface, I shake my head, smile, and try to sense the solar plexus as I write.

At this moment, I resist temptation to complicate, instead of simplify, my aim which is to “know so that not even a thought comes between [me] and what [I] know”2 on the subject of Faith, Love, and Hope.


I wish to live my daily life in the Work. This begins with questions, rather than answers. In the original King James version of the Bible, St. Paul says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” For our purpose we can follow Maurice Nicoll by presuming “pistis = faith” actually means “another kind of thinking.” “Another kind of thinking” is contradictory to my ordinary associations. Properties of my ego such as swagger, self-love, vanity, and imagination are “the same kind of thinking.” Yet such thinking seems to direct what passes as faith in our contemporary times.

A move toward conscious faith requires active and present efforts supported by acts of intent and will, carried on with an attempt to experience the question of faith, with the clear vision that I live below something higher. A move toward conscious faith contains a wish to be able to be open to higher powers, finer energies. Here are some concrete efforts I try:


My colleague Sam’s ‘Seinfeld TV program’ manifestations irritated me. Replays of his rudeness to secretaries, waitresses, janitorial staff, colleagues and students grated upon my being. One day, tired of being eaten by this situation, I decided to make Sam my friend. I began socializing with him regularly both at work and outside. Even now, fifteen years later, as I write this a storm of negative emotions arises and sits on the horizon.

At first, the efforts to be Sam’s friend required extraordinary amounts of energy. I would return to my office or home exhausted. A small side experiment demonstrated that as long as I spoke to no one outside of my Group meeting about Sam or my effort, the depletion lessened. Further, as long as I stopped positing my “after all, I’m in the Work” superiority, voices logging up Sam’s insufficiencies were frequently silenced.

A few years later I began practicing sensation in the center of my chest whenever I encountered Sam. I don’t know whether this procedure distracted or reversed polarity of the charged voices in my head. But they began to diminish. No, Sam has not seen the error of his ways. Indeed, he seems outwardly unchanged to me. Though occasionally he listens to my suggestions, there is no obvious-to-me reward for the above exercises, more than that of a muscle-building routine. From time to time I feel love for my friend apart from his manifestations.


I turn my microscope on unconscious hope. A standard definition for hope is to “intend with some possibility of fulfillment.” What I think of as hope is often anxious, fearful, weak, an automatic response to anxiety, the hope of a victim. I am motivated by the hope of winning a game, getting a job, passing an easy test, falling in love or shortening a war. These kinds of hope are characterized as “hope in something.”

Gluttony, like lust, is hope for physical satisfaction, and against fear of hunger. I have to ask myself, as I smoke, lift weights, jog, and diet, what is it I hope for? In today’s culture, rarely a day goes by when I don’t buy something—gasoline, food, drink, clothing, music or books. The exchange of money is going on all the time. For me, there’s the fear of having an empty wallet.

Finally, ordinary hope includes what Beelzebub calls the “disease of tomorrow,” where I hope for something in the future, tomorrow, later, soon, another time. Are my negative attitudes a source of such hope of feeling? Are my passive yearnings useful to my goals?

Hope of consciousness is to realize that my future opens through my own active concrete efforts.

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Visit Dr. Scott Williams’ website at:

1 Hermann Weyl, The Open World, 1932, pp. 40–42.
2 Prince Lubovedsky from the film, Meetings with Remarkable Men, Remar Productions, 1979.

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Copyright © 2007 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2007 Issue, Vol. X (1)
Revision: April 1, 2007