The Fourth Way-Masculine/Feminine

The Work comes over in a very masculine way: we strive against the lower, hoping that the ‘third force’ will make the struggle effective. According to some, the Work itself is the third force. The Work is the ‘System’, the ‘Way’, the ‘esoteric knowledge’ capable of informing our efforts. In the Christian Trinity, and in the triads we find in all traditions, the Logos is masculine. If we ‘struggle against the denying force’, then our affirmation sees itself as ‘good’ and hopes that The Good, the third force, will come in on its side.

I am reminded of Nietszche’s taunt: “If Truth is a woman, what then?” Gurdjieff’s magnum opus “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson” contains almost no reference to women. Of course, this book was heavily influenced by the “Mathnawi” of Jalalu’ddin Rumi, one of the great works of spiritual literature; and in this book, Rumi explains that the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are symbolic. But, Gurdjieff’s exclusivity is all the more striking by its blatant masculinity. A psychologist has no trouble in understanding why it is that so many of Gurdjieff’s most ardent and powerful followers were women. It is an evident form of compensation.

If the triad, the three-term system, is made the primary form of thinking then we have to collapse all kinds of oppositions into a single type. Masculine and feminine, affirmation and denial, higher and lower; all become reduced to the plus and minus terms of the triad. So, the third force not only reconciles, it hides the differentiation between different oppositions. I am reminded of the cartoon showing a scientist inspecting his colleague’s calculations. He points to a part of the mathematics and says, “You are not very explicit here”. This part reads “And now a miracle occurs”.

We can bring to mind Gurdjieff’s teaching on essence and personality. In this, there is no reference to the sexes. Carl Jung, on the other hand, makes it clear that essence is sexual: it is the anima or animus that complements the sexuality of the persona. (See Jung ëThe Problem of the Fourthí in Religion and Psychotherapy: East-West.) Maybe, this is not the same as Gurdjieff’s essence, but I feel that the anima and animus exist in the essence world. Gurdjieff says nothing about the widespread experience of humans in a male or female body finding themselves with a contrary mind or feeling-gestalt. However, he often ascribes essence to feeling, in contrast to the thinking of the personality; which is to suggest that the personality is masculine and the essence, feminine.

It seems to me that the essence, the nature with which we are born, must be sexual. It comes from life. The Jungian idea rests on an intuition of complementarity, in which the outward shape is necessarily coupled with an inward form of contrasting character. The ‘I’ is different again, just because it operates in the role of the third force within us, the trans-sexual force. Jung’s individuation may not be the same as Gurdjieff’s ‘acquiring an I’. Individuation is integration of the opposites, while Gurdjieff is focused on having one’s own third force and, in a formal sense, maps very closely into the western philosophy of the ‘transcendental ego’. It is associated with Intellect, being neither affirmation nor denial, but pure Idea. It is also the truly human, which is not restricted by sex but encompasses it. It is the realm of the ‘Law of Three’ which must be other than the realm of polarity. ‘Now a miracle occurs’.

What I want to suggest is that the ‘third force’ is not the only solution to the sexual problem, which is the problem of the perception of reality. Gurdjieff’s idea of the third force is mysterious. The operative clue is that we are ‘third-force blind’. This may mean that there is no third force at all; that it is impossible. Gurdjieff himself suggests a further step when he describes ‘harnel-miatznel’:

“the higher blends with the lower to actualise the middle” and thus becomes either “higher for the preceding lower, or lower for the succeeding higher”. (Beelzebubís Tales, p.751)

In place of the terminus in higher reason of the third force, we encounter a ‘cross-roads’. The cross-roads is the symbol of the ‘Law of Four’, the quaternary, the alchemical matrix of becoming.

actualization of the middle

The ‘third force’ is no longer a terminus but a new beginning. In terms of J. G. Bennett’s Systematics, which we cannot possibly explain here briefly, it is a matter of principle that the third becomes the gateway, as it were, to the four. What appears in front of us is an indication of the fourth way. The third force shows itself as ambiguous, but in this sense: we hoped to escape the conflict of the plus and the minus, the masculine and feminine, the higher and lower; but we were deluded. The very same dichotomies still apply and cannot be eliminated. It is as if they have to come to some agreement.

I am sick of people who blabber on about reconciliation. I value the existential contingencies of our lives in which, however we play it, there is never going to be any ‘third sex’. At the same time, all of us, both men and women and of whatever flavour of sexuality, are involved in a complex negotiation which constantly changes what these sexual terms mean. This is far more a matter of ‘work’ than projecting the reconciliation of our contradictions into a belief-space of transcendental proportions.

The Work as ‘going against the grain’, plus the help of transcendental insight, is a fairy story. It is an example of ‘Platonic Myth’ described in “The Republic” as necessary for any right orientation of the masses towards the Good. If it is followed through with any integrity, we find the same problems that we have as ordinary sexual human beings; but in a heightened way. From the perspective of the Fourth way, the Work is delusional. A metaphorical way of explaining this is to say that the Work is incapable of ‘raising a family’. Even though there is an emphasis on the value of groups, there is no material which offers any insight into the working of groups as complex wholes in their own right. As a consequence, the Gurdjieff work has been bedevilled by operating as a mixture of autocracy and democracy. Groups form around leaders but they have no independent character of their own.

Wolfgang Pauli, in his studies with Jung, argued that Western science opted for the trinity of Platonic-Newtonian physics in place of the quaternary of Alchemical-Fluddian ‘science’. (This study first appeared in the joint publication with Jung on ësynchronicityí. It is discussed in K.V. Laurikainen, Beyond the Atom, the philosophical thought of Wolfgang Pauli.) He also said that this was a bad mistake. Readers of Gurdjieff steeped in the language of Newtonian physics may become astonished by the similarities of Gurdjieff’s language with that of Newton; and think that, surely, Gurdjieff had read Newton! Yet, in speaking of the Fourth Way, Gurdjieff intimated the leitmotiv of the modern world. As Gurdjieff intoned his canon of three, Jung embarked on his love-affair with the four which begins and ends with the Mother, the Mater-ial, the Matrix: the alternative answer to the enigma of the ‘third force’. At the turn of the century, Western man was bewitched by the idea of the fourth dimension, which implied the death-knell of the Kantian categories. Alchemy was about to be reborn.

Remarks about number may seem trivial, or even archaic. Yet, I feel it is not for nothing that we say that: Seven = Four + Three. Gurdjieff proposed the three and the seven, leaving the four in the ‘shadow’. (In The Intelligent Enneagram, there is reference to the ëlaw of fourí in the ëlowest regioní depicted in the enneagram. The enneagram, which is only one out of an indefinite number of such constructions, is built on seven and three.) His shadow was the feminine, and his dominant followers have been women.

When the four comes out of the shadow, it appears just in the same way as the three appeared: a synthesis of differences. In the triad, the third force integrates the differences of affirmation and negation. In the tetrad, the ‘fourth’ is the integration of the other three terms.This is the basic idea Gurdjieff gives of the fourth way: the integration of the way of the fakir, of the monk and the yogi; or of body, feeling and mind. The fourth way is not just ‘one more’ way, like the others. Why does it qualify for this special status? A new character appears on the scene, one we suspected before but could not see. He is the trickster of all archaic societies or, in Gurdjieff’s own words, the sly man.

The idea of the fourth way integrating together the other three appears so innocuous, so reasonable! It is a sleight of hand, requiring the intervention of a magician, or the application of the philosopher’s stone. In a word, it is alchemical, known in that tradition as the recalcitrant fourth. Plato knew of this. In the “Timaeus”, Socrates asks after the fourth guest who has failed to appear, and has to take on his role. This is the same as Gurdjieff teaching the fourth way, which cannot actually be realised through any teaching at all! All that a teacher can do is establish a relationship, a triad. The fourth way is what people work out amongst themselves: ‘Here a miracle occurs’!

Traditional theories also point out something of great interest: that there is never any ‘isolated’ system which applies without the involvement of other systems. If there is the three, there is the two and the four; and, if there is the four, then there is the three and the five. That is why we often find the numbers sliding about and becoming ambiguous. Bennett attempted to dissolve some of the fixation that we find in Gurdjieff’s ideas by his scheme of Systematics: elevating all number systems to the same status and not giving the Law of Three and the Law of Seven any special position. Yet, he failed to bring into the picture the essential mobility between systems that we can easily find in tradition.

The four is also the five! The realisation of the fourth ‘brings forth’ the fifth, the quintessence, the individuality. We owe Bennett a great debt for his linking of individuality with the five, and his exploration of the ‘essence-classes’ as an explanation of Gurdjieff’s vision of ‘reciprocal feeding’. The fifth is the ‘Ipseity’ that shows itself as a further meaning of the ‘actualisation of the middle’. It stands in the centre of the cross-roads, taking in and giving out, in a ‘transflux equilibrium’. It is in the heart of life, in living time. Almost as a joke, I began to talk about there being a fifth way. It seemed to me that the fourth way must be a process of integration which can only consolidate in specific ways, and hence be associated with the realisation of individual paths. My path emerges as an individual way that is embedded in and draws upon a whole variety of ingredients and influences, to which I myself must contribute. I become part of mutual evolution. My individuality stands between the matrix of the fourth way, the alchemical laboratory, and the events that correspond to the six, where history begins. Such a picture supposes that there are ‘intentional groupings’ of people, in contrast with the ‘natural’ ones and that these intentional groupings influence the course of human history. Gurdjieff’s book, “Meetings with Remarkable Men”, is a powerful hint; as long as we realise that his supposed Near-Eastern ‘powerhouses’of higher learning are symbols of the force that can be generated by any intentional group, in any place and at any time. Gurdjieff and his companions enter the workshop of the fourth way and some of them find their own essential path, which then leads them into what Sufis call the ‘djam’, the meeting at a higher level.

Present day beliefs about ‘aliens’ serve to carry images of intentional groupings intersecting with normal human life in mysterious ways. They are part of our contemporary mythology and serve a similar purpose to the myths of old. One of Gurdjieff’s most salient points was that, whatever the higher order of things might be, we can never participate in it unless we ‘have our own I’. The praxis of this is the ability to bear all of one’s contradictions, something that Gurdjieff points to when he speaks of ‘objective conscience’. Bearing contradictions, integration without rejection, realisation of the third force, entering the fourth way, acquiring one’s own I, individuation, and so on are all expressions of an underlying process of transformation. According toGurdjieff, the purpose of this process is to pass, as it were, from the stream of ordinary life into another stream. I would say that a better picture is to serve as a ‘cross-roads’, where the two streams can exchange their respective materials.

The three repeats itself. It tends towards the cyclic. Only the four allows a progression. This, too, is hidden in Gurdjieff’s teaching. We can find it in his law of seven, or idea of the ‘octave’. Many people have puzzled about his model of a progression based on an analogy with the major diatonic scale in music. Do-re-mi-shock-fa-soh-la-si-shock-do.Why are the ‘shocks’ where Gurdjieff places them, and not at other places? One way of answering this is to go back to the number-systems.

Speaking in general about traditional ideas, we can easily find a common theme concerning the three and the four. This theme is often expressedby the following symbol:

traditional view of heptad

The three ‘above’ is the celestial or divine and the four ‘below’ is the terrestrial or embodied. However, as Guenon in his numerous writings on symbolism constantly asserts, true analogy works by inversion. In more Gurdjieffian terms, the process of evolution ‘goes against God’ and therefore the priorities are reversed. In evolution, we start with the three and move into the four. Here we find again the arising of the fourth way!

In describing the nature of the octave, Gurdjieff says that the first three ‘notes’ lack what is required to make a further step. This further step has to be provided by a ‘shock’ or influence from outside and, if this shock does not come, the process deviates into a circle of activity which does not progress. The idea of the fourth way is just such a shock. Everything changes. We pass into the realm of the next four ‘notes’: fa-soh-la-si. We have changed from being ‘physicists’ to being ‘alchemists’. Our ‘return to the source’ is now going to mean that we carry something with us to give to God. However, this new possibility creates an entirely new problem. How can we bring something with us -‘from below’ as it were – and find a place for it in the place of God? Gurdjieff enigmatically speaks of this problem as the choot-God-litanical-period. (Beelzebubís Tales, p. 797ff) It is the heresy of realisation that ‘I am God’ which cost the Sufi Hallaj his very life.

The structural form of Gurdjieffís octave

In terms of the Gurdjieff work itself, the step from the four into the fifth is heretical. The orthodox complain: “Aren’t the ideas of Mr. Gurdjieff the ultimate? Do you dare to presume that you have something new to offer? Your egoism is causing confusion amongst the people.” James Moore, the biographer of Gurdjieff, speaks in much this way. Deviants from the accepted norm are treated as analogous with the ‘tramps’ and ‘lunatics’ whom Gurdjieff pilloried.

The ‘second shock’ is connected with the realisation of one’s own path. It is the stabilisation of an emergent process. Evolutionary theory and cybernetics have shown us that any deviation from the established matrix is liable to be extinguished. Evolution is risky. If there is a step of evolution, then everything changes accordingly. What is ‘natural’ has a new meaning. In terms of personal experience, we find that we have a kind of ‘touch-stone’ in us that tells us at almost an instinctive level what is approrpiate at the moment. The ‘work’ is no longer artificial, something we try to do because we think it is a good idea. It has become integrated into life.

Between the ‘logic’ of the Work and the realisation of individuality lies the shadow! The shadow is the fourth way. Here is the world of Gurdjieff’s Man No. 4, who strives for harmony between his various parts and impulses and experiences and begins to succeed in this. He is a man who has become ‘plastic’, or partially ‘transparent’, and new experiences can enter him. He is able to learn and become. He may have even more difficulties of understanding ‘who he is’ than the average man; but he has a certain kind of confidence that there is a higher order in which his difficulties may turn out to be a ‘food’ that serves to nourish the evolutionary process, in what Bennett called the ‘flux and reflux of the spirit’. (These ideas appear in chapter 35, The Dramatic Universe, Vol. III.) He is able to listen to what is higher in the form that the higher wishes to speak and not in the form of his own expectations.

Man No. 4 has also harmonised his or her sexuality. Whether a man or a woman, he or she is able to perceive as both, whether through themselves or through each other. He or she is human.