One-third of one's time should be spent in pondering.

Gurdjieff International Review

Discussion on "Good and Evil"

with A. R. Orage

November 5th [1927] — Part 1 of 3

[Eleven numbers were taken.]

Reese: As I remember, there was originally no such conception of good and evil as we have now; it grew out of the idea of positive and negative. It's a degeneration of these ideas, in which such a state as hunger, for instance, can be thought evil.

Orage: You remember that these concepts of good and evil never came into man's experience until objective reason had degenerated. There was discrimination of values before then but it was disinterested—qualitative differences arising from differences of nature. After the decline of objective reason, this discrimination became associated with emotional center and its interests and there came good and evil in place of positive and negative.

Lucille: There was no neutralising element present, was there?

Orage: You remember that a certain being was supposed to have introduced good and evil into the world. His mistake was pointed out, that he had insufficiently stressed the neutralising element. The question arises whether in his mind he thought of good and evil as one neutralising force—a force beyond good and evil, as it were. But the fact is that his hearers had no concept of neutralising force in good and evil. We shall perhaps see what the neutralising force is in these ideas—something which is neither good nor evil but partaking of both.

Mary Johnston: If good is fulfilling potentiality of essence, then evil is falling short of this. I wasn't here when that chapter was read, though.

Orage: That's all right—this is a definition of the purposes of values. The objective merit of a being is his realisation of the values which he was created to fulfill. Added to that is the criterion of direction—a being's state is good if it stays statically good, but a being with potentialities must be constantly in a state of becoming to be good. Progressive values arise out of this process of actualising possibilities. So we have both static and dynamic concepts of good. A perfectly good being would be one whose cross section—the cross section of his time tube—would always be in the direction of fulfilling its objective. But we may find that we need another word to describe a being's responsibility to the nature of its being—the design of its creator. In this discussion try to exercise simultaneity of understanding, holding all statements in mind and contemplating them in one pattern.

Edna: Evil is definitely the problem God faced when he worked out the laws of 3 and 7, life and death. Good is maintaining the 3–7–9 functions, reciprocal feeding.

Orage: But where does good and evil come in? I invite comment on this as a contribution.

Edna: You ask where good and evil come in, but I spoke of making effort at a time of crisis, through pondering, which is certainly good.

Orage: We are close to the ascetic school when we equate good with effort.

Edna: But pondering is an equalising force.

Orage: Pondering is a process. If there is a misdirected effort then effort alone is not necessarily good, there can be good and evil effort relative to the result. There was an idea in the original statement you made—about the government of the universe by the laws of 3, 7 and 9. Nine introduces effort against time. This presupposes that the creator thought the universe worth the effort of maintaining. What we have to consider concerning objective good and evil is whether life in this universe is worth maintaining at the cost of the effort of the semitones 3, 7 and 9.

Sherman: Are you speaking just of this planet, or all the universe?

Orage: All the universe. Life doesn't go absolutely smoothly elsewhere—the only difference is that elsewhere provision is made for securing the effort necessary to the universe at these semitones—through schools, teachers and so on. We reach majority without becoming aware of the nature of our life as adults, and if we have the desire for self-improvement (the first semitone) or to help God (second semitone) we find no one and no school deputed to help us. On other planets youths find such schools. In other respects, we are the same as other beings.

Mr. Brown: The book says no grandmother ever told us.

Orage: We haven't even tradition, you see. It is hopeful to know that we are really normal, but depressing to know that our environment provides no help for development.

Hugh: Why is our environment so unattractive to teachers?

Orage: It isn't. But imagine going to this planet to preach peace, for instance. The people don't even think that they don't want it—they say they want it and then they immediately go to war. Imagine how much more impossible it would be to teach objective duty to the Creator.

[At this point Edna brought up her question about something Beelzebub had said to Hassein. Orage said it was irrelevant—said her type of "mind" was the obstacle to teaching—then modified this a little to keep from hurting her feelings.]

Orage: I pass up Edna's somewhat irrelevant question to answer Hugh and Edna doesn't listen. You understand now, Mr. Ferriss, some of the difficulties of teachers. I thought we were on the high road to a discussion of good and evil—and here we are.

Edna: But it is an absolutely good question—absolutely. [Everyone laughed]

Orage: I had thought that in my 1000th incarnation to be a religious teacher, but I am already getting cold feet. Everyone hears questions and answers from the center of gravity in which he is at the moment. His interpretation depends on this only. Essence has the form of being of the center of gravity—it is animal, child or barbarian—and every second the psyche is changing form. To such beings, doctrines are addressed! You can imagine how such a being transforms a doctrine having heard it in three centers. The difficulties of a world teacher are so tremendous that no wonder it took the Son of God—and he failed—to explain to men a few simple ethical doctrines.

Hugh: It has been said that we should become as little children—is this childlike?

Orage: I explain that something as meaning that if any motive exists for pursuing self-knowledge, then the objective is distorted. It must be pursued as children pursue an interest—without comment or motive. We are not to become like children, but as children. To be like them wouldn't be the kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of the nursery.

Sherman: You mean we should become, as children should be, not as they are?

Orage: No—as they are. You remember—art is like nature, but it is not nature. Well— you can puzzle it out for yourself.

Lewis: Do many potential teachers abandon the idea?

Orage: Hundreds.

Sherman: May I ask if good and evil concepts came into being after the removal of Kundabuffer?

Orage: The concept was a consequence of the organ. We haven't as yet reached a definition of good. Were you thinking of what I said about a being's responsibility to his nature?

Sherman: I was thinking of that being who was banished to an evil island for his mistake.

Orage: I would suggest that the denial of the possibility of being of value is the only objective evil. When a machine is scrapped and is totally useless it is bad. Its suffering is like that of the beings on the planet where nothing they do has any value to the universe—literally nothing.

Hugh: Could you say that the absence of neutralising force between good and evil, in the sense of the lack of possibility of making a choice, would be evil?

Orage: That's good formulation.

John: Heropass is the source of all evil in that it is the great depriver of possibility.

Orage: In that sense it is.

[Mary Johnston suggested that in the universe as a whole the good might outweigh evil, since good is native to the sun absolute.]

Orage: Yes, but there are planets for beings that have absolutely no use in the universe, and yet preserve their being. The idea put forth is too optimistic from our point of view. Some beings refusing to be of value, maintain their being but cease to exist in the mind of God—cease to have any value.

Nat: In a way they are better off than we are; we don't know why we exist.

Orage: We don't know yet. But we have a wish to be needed—to contribute values and to wish this but be incapable of it is the state of beings on those planets we have mentioned. We are of unconscious value, at least, as manure for the moon.

Hugh: Even the people then who just go out to raise hell contribute at least negative values—they aren't evil, but merely bad.

Orage: Exactly.

Carl: By the corollary to the scrapped machine being absolutely evil, absolute good must be fulfilling function.

Orage: Yes, but we must decide what function to fulfill. If I could draw a diagram of this concept it would be:

•       •
•             •
•       •

Positive neutralising force is absolute good. Negative neutralising force is absolute evil. Unconscious neutralization has value to the moon.

Melville: Is minus another word for negative here?

Orage: Yes, a good word. Plus and minus.

John: There is no connection—no triad—between plus and minus neutralising forces.

Orage: Yes, there is present in each being a neutralising of positive and negative forces constantly manifesting in being. But the state of being depends on serviceability to God, and lacking this serviceability beings do not cease to exist but cease to be.

Carl: A description of this state would be life in death.

Orage: Yes, a living death.

Carl: How do minus beings escape Heropass?

Orage: They are bound to last as long as God, if God has suspended Heropass in all his sphere.

[Mary Johnston suggested that the threat of evil, threatening God's existence provides the drama of life.]

Hugh: How does all this effect us practically?

Orage: Only as we realise this drama of the possibility of non-being, and the struggle to develop our being. Plus neutralising force has the function of coordinating positive and negative forces in any being so that that being fulfills its objective. Animals, having no conscience, run no risk as man does, whose consciousness makes it possible for him to actualize the development of conscious plus neutralising, or to fall into minus neutralising. In the book's objective critique of man, he is literally inferior to animals in that he can make a positive contribution to absolute evil by not consciously contributing plus neutralisations. Ashiata started with the assumption of subconscious dormant values —objective conscience. The discipline for waking this conscience starts with self- observation.

Lewis: Then objective conscience isn't a pulling power toward consciousness?

Orage: Objective conscience is a sense of being-duty and the discharge of this duty, which requires a higher state of consciousness than one has. So consciousness demanding plus neutralisations is required by objective conscience and is its motive in discharging its obligation.

Lewis: Then conscience isn't a neutralising force.

Orage: No, it can be said to be an urge toward the development of neutralising force.

Lewis: But if we finally lose all our negative motives for self-observation, such as wish for power, etc., we are left in a sort of barren state.

Orage: But if you finally uncover an urge toward self-observation—the uncovering of objective conscience—it doesn't matter with what motive you started. Self- observation, as a matter of fact, could be taught and practiced merely as a technique in ordinary psychology. Watson might very likely take it up. But when we strike objective conscience we shall realise the falsity of all motives.

Nat: The labor of self-observation would be the same after uncovering objective conscience, wouldn't it?

Orage: Yes, but it then becomes a sacred duty—the highest value in your experience. Values are transvalued.

Hugh: Isn't there a connection between the urge and magnetic center so that after uncovering magnetic center and objective conscience, trick motives are no longer necessary?

Orage: Yes, that can be added.

Hugh: But don't some people uncover this and then lose their interest?

Orage: In Gurdjieff's terminology, faith equals magnetic center. Persons with developed magnetic center "smell" the hidden treasure to be found through further self-observation.

Sherman: You have spoken of this faith stage as a "desert", but it doesn't seem so to me, thank God.

Orage: Roses, roses all the way! So much the luckier.

Nat: Knowing what good is, we still don't know our function.

Orage: Yes. We can ask—what is the nature of our organism? Function is defined by structure and this takes us to the question of norms. It presupposes self-study and this presupposes a state of disinterestedness. Only in this state is self-study possible and only when this exists can the objective value of the structure of the organism be discovered. If we self-observe long enough a state of disinterestedness—of non-identification—does occur. And by reason of the presence of our consciousness it is implicit that we are intended to development of the understanding of our function.

Milliken: We aren't intended to be driven, like motor cars?

Orage: Unconscious, we are driven.

Hugh: Do you assert that self-observation will lead to non-identification?

Orage: Yes.

Mary Johnston: Is non-identification synonymous with impersonal self-observation?

Orage: Yes. Your word is better. Without this non-identification self-observation takes a long time to produce the state; the conscious effort to introduce the state of impersonal self-observation shortens the process.

Hugh: I don't question this, but who introduces non-identification?

Orage: Suggestion. I suggest it—by saying how long plain self-observation takes to produce the state, and so on. Disinterestedness is not lack of interest, but absence of bias. Bias presumes a moving object. It is the neutralising force.

Sally R.: Can you say self-observation is blowing air in the pig to make it bigger, but it is still a pig?

Orage: Yes, the features of the psyche become clearer.

Edna: Real disinterestedness is passionate interest in any observed facts, whatever they prove.

Orage: Exactly.

Lewis: There is no evil, but only the deprivation of good.

Orage: In view of what we have said, we must change that to "deprivation of the possibility of good".

Blanche: Until we live by essence, we cannot be concerned with good and evil. Now we are concerned with right and wrong.

Orage: Yes, in the discovery of essence, the right thing is that which leads to uncovering essence, and the wrong thing is the opposite—that which further conceals essence. We can be statically good, but we must also be dynamically good in developing potentialities. God must maintain the universe this way—not just statically. Sun Absolute is not the abode of absolute good except as it contains the state of dynamic good.

Milliken: Then the inhabitants of that planet you mentioned are a standing condemnation of the creator.

Orage: And so God has no use for them.

Reese: Isn't static good negative and dynamic good positive?

Orage: When static good is wholly static it ceases to be that and becomes minus neutralising. The sin against the Holy Ghost is the suppression of dynamic good.

Reese: Or of static good?

Orage: Thereby hangs a tale I won't tell you now.

Someone: I can't conceive of a being without potentiality, as a representative of evil.

Orage: Well, let us say that we are not apt to meet such a being for a long time. The state of such a being is not being nor non-being, but minus being.

Gertrude: How can a minus-being be actualised, or continue to be actualised?

Orage: It remains statically actualised. It is no longer in the stream of becoming; it is fossilized in its actualised form.

Gert: It can become separated from the law of seven?

Orage: Yes, on that particular planet. It is the scrap-heap of the universe. Whether willfully or ignorantly, these beings have failed to actualize their potentialities; their fate is the same. And they may be a standing condemnation of their creator. Eddington says some atoms exist so—without time's arrow. They are something like hearts that go on beating outside the organism to which they belong.

Milliken: What keeps them beating?

Orage: Ask Eddington.

Copyright © 1998 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 1998 Issue, Vol. I (3)
Revision: January 8, 2018