As humans, we are constantly bathed in a flow of external circumstances. We encounter all sorts of “challenges” as we process and individualize the stream of life’s events. As Fourth Way students, we seek to be consciously aware of the flow of such material reality into us, how we process it in our inner thoughts and what product is finally produced by the whole affair.
No matter how exquisitely “conscious” we may become, it will still be necessary to change a flat tire or heat a can of soup. Obviously, our targeted state will include everything, that is, a competent response to all the “outside things” and an appropriate and energetic approach to “inside things” whether or not they have originated from “outside things.”
Fourth Way literature presents Mr. Gurdjieff’s thoughts on these matter very well in his wonderful lecture on “The Octave of Development of Being Foods.”1 Of course, this line of inquiry includes all sorts of his ideas about hydrogens, and more specifically, the process entailed in the refining of hydrogens. These thoughts form the basis of the earlier mention of an “appropriate and energetic approach to inside things.”
The undesired possibility inherent in our approach to external circumstances is simply that we can become “defined” by them. This implies that we can live in a way which is exactly, that is, not even more or less, entirely comprised of our responses to external circumstances. Inevitably, such a thought life is quite vulnerable to the sort of “mechanicality” Gurdjieff presents as the main obstacle to conscious thought.
His proposal to “escape” this mechanicality is, in a very abbreviated sense, to replace it with a much more energetic inner thought process (again, the refinement of impressions into higher hydrogens). We will all, in every moment of our lifetimes, be responding to external circumstances. However, Gurdjieff’s question is: “Will this be the defining factor which determines our being?”
- In Search of the Miraculous, p. 181.