EnneagramFourth Way Gurdjieff Ouspensky School Education Concerning the Work Teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Maurice Nicoll, and their students.
fourthwayschool/ Psychology/ Knowledge and Being
1994 Navigation

Knowledge and Being

Knowledge is what you know. Being is what you are, and can do.

Man's inner development is dependent on the growth of both knowledge and being simultaneously; knowledge assists development of being and vice versa. If one outgrows the other, inner development sooner or later stops.

Knowledge and Levels of Knowledge

Knowledge is the function of one centre, the intellectual centre, and involves the study of one or various subjects. The knowledge that people have can vary, in that they can know more or less about a given subject. On the whole, knowledge in the West is greatly respected, and someone who has an in-depth knowledge of a subject, or who has made scientific discoveries, is often admired and respected, even if his or her being is weak, that is, he or she is forgetful, moody and so on.

The work says there can be ordinary knowledge or real knowledge. Ordinary knowledge is knowing about details without understanding how they relate to the whole. For example, enormous amounts of detailed information on many branches of knowledge are available nowadays, and information is continually being added to it. However, this growing body of knowledge is not united by principles, and it is hard to see how the fragments of knowledge relate to the whole. Even knowledge that is united by principles, for example this Work, can degenerate into ordinary knowledge when certain ideas are only viewed from one side and others are omitted.

Real knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge of the details or parts in relation to the whole, for example, looking at our daily experiences in relation to principles of the Work, consciousness, cosmic laws, processes, and so on.

Being and Levels of Being

The work distinguishes between mechanical being and real being.

Mechanical Being

Mechanical being is all that a man is, that is, his false personality (his imaginary I, which includes all qualities he attributes to himself, his many contradictory I's, attitudes), his personality, and his undeveloped essence. In other words, a man's being is characterised by multiplicity or lack of unity, lack of consciousness, lack of free will, lack of ability to do. This means that when life changes, circumstances change, at every event, our I's change and different ones surface; they take the centre stage and are unaware of the previous I or I's that were there; each I has its own desires and makes decisions accordingly; there is no control, no permanent Real I. In myself, I notice that my public face is friendly, helpful, cooperative, whereas my domestic face is argumentative, selfish, and small-minded. I am generally unaware of the transition and have little or no control over it. This is the state of my mechanical being. A person who changes rapidly between the I's, who is easily offended, or who easily beomes negative has a weak being.

Real Being

Real being is that of a conscious man. He is characterised by unity, by the possession of one permanent Real I; he has the power to be different, he can do. However, in extreme conditions a mechanical person may experience a moment of Real I. For example, in times of prolonged stress, great fatigue, extreme danger or illness, a person's usual fears, or worrying what others think of him, or usual self-preoccupations, disappear, and his feeling of himself changes. However, for such a state to become permanent a man must work very hard and long on himself.

Levels of Being

Different people have different levels of being. For example, someone doesn't know about self-remembering, but when told about it, thinks he can do it; another knows that he does not self-remember; and another is just beginning to self-remember. Each man represents varying levels of being.

Not only do men have different levels of being, but also within ourselves I's are on different levels, some better, some worse; some are connected to magnetic centre and others are immersed in life. Therefore, at a given moment we can be more conscious or more asleep; more divided or more whole; more or less interested in something; tell lies more easily or with embarassment; have a feeling of mechanicalness or not; have comparatively fewer negative emotions or be immersed in them.

The fact that our being is on different levels enables us to change our being, or at least experience things beyond our current level of being. For example, we can have flashes of understanding where we see quite clearly that certain I's are leading us down a well-trodden negative path, and also what we should do to avoid this, and yet we cannot do what we have seen. We are dragged down by our average level of being. This shows that our ability to see is often greater than our ability to do. Our knowledge is greater than our being.

The Relation of Knowledge and Being

If knowledge outgrows being, then a man knows a lot but cannot put it into practice. If being outgrows knowledge, then a man can do a lot but doesn't know what to do. Therefore, the aim is for knowledge and being to develop simultaneously. This means that knowledge must not just remain words, but should enter into being which feels and senses what it knows in words. For example, I had heard about the idea of identification for a long time and had my own intellectual description of this state. However, one evening as I lay in bed I heard my flatmates mention my name and I saw myself becoming sucked into identification, so that where I was didn't exist for me anymore; it felt like my body had bent towards the door and I was eaten up by this desire to find out what they were saying. When this happens, when knowledge is experienced in three centres (thinking, emotional and instinctive/moving), understanding results.

Likewise, being should also assist the growth of knowledge, so that when we have understood something about ourselves, we should be able to extract more from the knowledge we have. For example, rereading work books, we see something new in the ideas. Another aspect of being assisting the growth of knowledge, is that our being at a given moment is reflected in our state. That means that in one state we can receive knowledge, and in another state acquire even more. In other words, we make more connections with the knowledge we receive, we see connections on different levels.

Work on Knowledge and Being

Work on knowledge means study of the ideas, seeing how the separate ideas make up the whole; study of ourselves, study of the many I's to build up a picture of ourselves as a whole and how the I's are connected.

Work on being first requires seeing our own being; seeing we haven't got one permanent I, that we have many prejudices, our mechanicalness, how we are driven by false personality and that we can't choose to react differently. Sincere self-observation will show us we are really nothing, just a confusion of different I's.

Based on the self-knowledge we have gained of ourselves, work on being then requires a different effort; resisting certain manifestations in ourselves. Work on being means creating unity, not expressing negative emotions, self-observation, study of emotions, trying not to identify, trying to avoid unnecessary talking and so on. In other words, work and change of being requires payment in the form of inner efforts.

Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much? have you reckon'd the earth much?
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
     origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are
     millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
     look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres
     in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.
Song of Myself, Book III, 2
Walt Whitman

You can help support this site. (With thanks to Granny's Kitchen.)
Thank you!
1996 Title