EnneagramFourth Way Gurdjieff Ouspensky School Education Concerning the Work Teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, Maurice Nicoll, and their students.
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Opposites: Law of Pendulum


A pendulum swings from one side and then to the opposite side. The law of the pendulum is the swing of things between their opposites. We can see the law of pendulum in nature, for example, in the change of the seasons from winter to summer, in the movement of the tides etc; we can see it also in the world of human phenomena, for example, in the swings from war to peace, from prosperity to recession, from famine to plenty etc. We can also see the law of pendulum in ourselves as we swing from yes to no, like to dislike, elation to sadness, excitement to boredom, certainty to doubt, love to hate etc. Even our life is swinging between the opposites of birth and death. In time some pendula hit their opposites more frequently than others, i.e. they are moving faster in time than other pendula.

In ancient literature there are many references to opposites. In the Book of Ecclesiastes it says:`All things are double, one against another'. This means that to everything there is an opposite which makes it exist and also opposes it. For example, hunger and satiety are opposite states but together they are a `thing' which is double and can be called `hunger-satiety'. As hunger is appeased by eating, the opposite---satiety or even disgust---is reached. Then the swing of the pendulum into satiety is followed by a swing back to hunger.

In the Book of Esdras in the Apocryphal Old Testament it says:

The woods of the trees of the field went forth, and took counsel together and said, Come let us go and make war against the sea, that it may depart away before us, and that we may make us more woods. The waves of the sea also in like manner took counsel together, and said, Come let us go up and subdue the wood of the plain, that there also we may make us another country. The counsel of the wood was in vain, for the fire came and consumed it: likewise also the counsel of the waves of the sea, for the sand stood up and stopped them.
II Esdras 4.13-17

This passage expresses the idea that everything is kept in balance by the law of opposites. One thing checks another, for example, every animal is attacked and eaten by some other animal so that a balance is maintained. To understand the law of pendulum it is necessary to think about things simultaneously, but generally we are only used to thinking one thing at a time, comparing it with another.

In Ecclesiastes it says:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace,and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3.1-8

This means that everything comes to an end in time, so that one thing is replaced by its opposite. In turn, this means that the end of sorrow is joy, the end of weeping is laughter and if we have a good time today we may have a bad time tomorrow. When we see that all life lies between opposites, we realise that life is controlled by two opposite forces that tend to counterbalance each other to produce a balance in all things.

It also means that there is no fixed and rigid code of truth. Nothing is the same and everything changes between the opposites. However, people expect things to always be the same and when things do not correspond to what they wish they are not able to adjust themselves to what life brings. Our inability to assimilate the opposite, to see things from an adverse point of view, to be conscious of both sides of the pendulum, makes us very one-sided, inflexible and identified with our view of life. However, we must realise that our lives are governed by the law of the pendulum and when we are in one opposite we are unconscious of the other and vice versa.

One of the aims of the work is to try and escape from the law of opposites which requires self-knowledge, knowing all sides of yourself. In the ancient sacred temple of Delphi there were two inscriptions: Know thyself, which implies self-knowledge including becoming conscious of the opposites in oneself; and Nothing too much, which means that once he knows himself man must not go to extremes. So if you are too far to the right you must go left.

Firstly, it is necessary to see what puts you into opposites, for example vanity which may say `Thank God I'm not like him/her’. Clearly this is one-sided and here we are identified with the best sides of ourselves. But if you can see both your good side and your bad side then you begin to be conscious of opposites at the same time. We should try to see pendula in ourselves and in life and not identify with them.


If you look at the pendulum swinging you will see that it covers the same ground, backwards and forwards. At different times it will be at the same point as before but moving in the reverse direction. We can see this in ourselves, for example, we are angry and becoming calm, or calm and becoming angry. The work says we are most asleep when the pendulum is passing the mid-point. Here it appears to be moving fastest. So we live at the extreme ends of the pendulum swing and do not know what is in the middle.

If we could retain full consciousness right through the swing we would not just remember the extremes, but also catch sight of a third factor in the middle, namely Real I.

By knowing how not to identify with the opposites, for example, not regarding ourselves as good or bad, not priding ourselves on being the best, not thinking we are well or badly treated, our centre of gravity is not pulled one side or the other and we get into a position between the opposites. It is important to get here because only between the opposites lie the possibilities of growth.

The work teaches that there are three forces in every manifestation --- a first or active force, a second or passive force, and a third or neutralising force. Third force lies between the opposites and is represented visually as the midpoint of the pendulum swing. If you do not identify with the opposites, you do not put your feeling of I into them and thus the feeling of I moves to the centre. This is where Real I is which comes from a higher level. The point where we can start to become more free lies between the opposite in the middle of the pendulum swing and by self-remembering we begin to approach this place, for only in this state can `help' reach us.

So, it can be said that self-remembering is trying to be in third force and that non-identifying is trying not to be in the two opposite forces. When we try to act from extremes and say `This is too much' we can only expect the usual action-reaction work of the opposites, for example: `I'm first, now you're first, now I'm first' etc. There is no solution in this. To reach anything like solutions we have to move in one direction a short way but then move in the opposite direction a short way until we get into the middle. This is very difficult.

But in this way you can reach third force --- that is the real meaning, and so the solution.

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