As humankind we have always asked questions about ourselves and the Universe around us. Through philosophy and religion we have had two contrasting viewpoints.
The first commends doubt and reasoning, the second, the acceptance of a dogma. With the passing of time, however, philosophy has become more and more a simple dialectic abstraction,
and religion a politicised and stereotyped structure.
And yet, from time to time through human history, individuals have emerged to revive the Middle Way, the way that can be found between philosophy and religion.
These people have returned to us the profile of unitary teachings that remain valid through time, and have shaken the minds of their time. Thanks to them the Search for fundamental answers has been given a forward boost.
In our century G. I. Gurdjieff and other contemporary masters, including the Italian G., revealed these teachings once more, drawing them from the Middle East (the cradle of Western spirituality), but unfortunately, just 50 years after his death, they have often been misinterpreted and used as an "erroneous scheme" for personal growth.
This "scheme" is no more than a manís interpretation of a much wider, vaster teaching, and today it has been transformed into "new age" material.
We can clearly see how occultism or this new age can sometimes be a way to escape reality. People go searching for "unknown powers" or "entities" of a parallel world, thus creating alienated individuals, slaves to their own imagination.
For example, Mrs. P. sees angels and ghosts; and speaks with these invisible characters. She behaves in front of others as if they were present, and expresses anger or joy, depending on what these "entities" tell her. Mrs. L. sees extraterrestrials and, whenever she meets anybody, she senses that they have a blue or pink aura. Both of these people began to have these visions after an unpleasant experience, such as the death of a child or loved one.
These two cases show that, where we are not dealing with fraudsters, an unbearable event can push us towards paths of alienating research. If all this is judged with the utmost moderation, whilst respecting the suffering of others, these pseudo-spiritual systems must be considered a danger to the psychological health of the individual.
For this reason our research must begin by studying ourselves, through a new psychology.
Can we find a way to evolve without stumbling into these errors? Letís set out some premises:
1) We need to start with a serious study of the way we actually are.
2) Inner growth does not mean escaping from the world, but learning to be in the world.
3) The surrounding environment should not be ignored; we need to be reconciled with it.
4) In order to reconcile ourselves with it we must first be reconciled with ourselves and fill our psychological gaps.
HOW TO KNOW OURSELVES
When we want to know ourselves we must use a coherent investigative method, the fruit of experimental observation. Let us see, point by point, a correct observational attitude:
1) First of all, we must decide to observe.
2) We must put our results to the test, to verify that they are real, and not just our personal interpretation.
3) We must be honest with ourselves.
4) We must learn not to deny the information obtained, and to accept it for what it is.
The first piece of data that we will come up against if we start to observe ourselves is that we are incapable of doing so, i.e., we are incapable of remaining in our own presence, of fixing ourselves in the present, of maintaining our attention focused on our actions and reactions. We can call this "unconscious sleep". Even if we are physically awake, it is as if we were sleeping, living in a daydream, complete slaves to an "involuntary imagination".
Letís do a little test to help us understand:
For the test, simply ask yourself the following questions:
1) Am I aware of how I am sitting now?
2) Was I aware of the posture of my body and my arms before I asked myself the question?
3) Am I here and now? Or was I, until a moment ago, linked automatically to other thoughts?
4) Can I manage to live in a state of awareness of the present and of myself for the next 10 minutes?
If we try this experiment and are honest with ourselves, we will realise that we cannot manage to be present for more than a few moments. In fact, our will is actually impotent, and we can only make small ďpresenceĒ and self-awareness decisions.
This is the starting point: how can we answer the fundamental questions if we do not know ourselves? How can I find a real answer if I myself am in a dream world?