I want to conclude with some thoughts about Gurdjieff’s approach to conscience. This is not a teaching only about consciousness or awareness. I once met a man who probably had worked on himself at length; he had remarkable presence. He electrified the room; his eyes were flashing. I was young and impressed. But I realized the words coming out of his mouth and the motivations I sensed in him were crazy. He was a megalomaniac. He was an example of heightened consciousness without conscience.
Gurdjieff included in his teaching some profound tales – teaching tales – bearing on conscience. He said and wrote that faith, hope, and love – the virtues through which Christianity, and other traditions, had hoped to set things right among human beings – are spoiled. He said that faith is spoiled because people have faith in any old thing – whatever the herd says to have faith in, you have faith in. That love is spoiled because people love any old thing – whatever is gratifying, whatever is pleasant. And where hope is concerned, people hope for all sorts of things and don’t really engage in life, don’t really work toward their hopes, so that hope is also corrupted in our time.
... a new experience of conscience: a willingness to experience inner collisions, a willingness to suffer contradictions rather than ignore them.
But he also said that conscience is buried out of harm’s way in our subconscious, perfectly intact though out of reach without work on oneself. The whole enterprise of work on oneself is to come in touch with a clarified, possibly heightened consciousness and with conscience.
This teaching offers a way to develop a keener consciousness over a lifetime. But also to come to a new experience of conscience – through a new attention, through three-centered awareness, through relaxation, through sincerity, through perseverance, through a willingness to experience inner collisions, through a willingness to suffer contradictions rather than ignore them.
For more on the Gurdjieff teaching.