Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the weeks of April 1 & 8, 2019

The Cascade of Energies

(Spiritual Dynamics: 11)

An understanding of inner energies brings a new dimension to our personal inner work. This can guide us in exploring fresh approaches to generating, integrating, and managing inner energies. The hierarchy of spiritual energies describes the substances of our inner lives, from the mundane to the sublime, from those we have regular contact with to those we aspire to. John G. Bennett, elaborating on one aspect of the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, named and presented the energies as a scale [1], which forms the basis of the energy list in the diagram below.

Gurdjieff also taught about what he called the fundamental laws of the universe that condition how things work. One of his two principal laws is the Law of Three, which he formulated as:

The higher blends with the lower in order to actualize the middle and thus becomes either higher for the preceding lower, or lower for the succeeding higher. [2]

Applying this Law to the hierarchy of energies leads to the following diagram [3], which shows the primary interactions of the energies as three interwoven instantiations of the Law of Three:

These interactions can and do occur haphazardly and accidently, but with limited results that dissipate quickly. However, we can use this simple diagram to help us navigate the energies in practice, and enhance and accelerate our inner work.

Each downward arrow along with its associated upward arrow represents an entire class of spiritual practices. Each practice embodies the Law of Three: the higher energy blending with the lower energy to actualize the middle energy. That middle energy may serve as the higher energy in the next lower set of practices (the next lower instantiation of the Law of Three). The middle energy may also serve as the lower energy in the next higher set of practices (the next higher instantiation of the Law of Three).

The downward movement thus creates a cascade of energies. For example, if one is able to open to the Will at the level of the Unitive Energy of Love, perhaps through deep, heartfelt submission to the Divine, that energy blends with the Conscious Energy to produce the Creative Energy (the Sacred Light). By opening our being to the Sacred Light, the Creative Energy can pour into us, blending with the Sensitive Energy to produce the Conscious Energy. The Conscious Energy in its turn can blend with the Automatic Energy to produce the Sensitive. One's whole being is fed and flooded by this cascade of energies.

The work of sensing our body brings the energy of consciousness into contact with the Automatic Energy to produce the Sensitive Energy. When we gather and direct our attention, we are engaging the Conscious Energy. Our body ordinarily operates with the Automatic and lower energies. Thus, the practice of sensing brings the Conscious Energy into contact with the Automatic. Keeping our attention engaged in body awareness gradually produces the Sensitive Energy. We notice our body perception gaining vivid, new life, buzzing with this new energy. Of course, this same type of contact occurs through many other activities, such as sports, dance, and other complex physical actions involving active attention, all of which tend to leave us invigorated.

In practice, we begin with the lower steps of this cascade, because the work with energies requires the refinement of our perceptions and the lower energies are the most accessible place to start. Moreover, the higher energies need the lower energies to blend with. If those lower energies are not present in sufficient quantities, then the actions of the higher energies quickly evaporate and are lost. "For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath" [Mark 4:25]. Our inner work produces something we can bring to the spiritual table. If we bring a sufficient supply of the appropriate lower energy, the higher energy has a place to land and a substance to blend with, creating more of the middle energy, which we thereby assimilate into our being, our soul.

We can see and experience an affinity between the higher/lower pairs of energies. The Conscious and Automatic energies both do their work quietly behind the scenes, smoothly and without fanfare. The Creative Light and the Sensitive Energy both have an effervescent dynamism. And whereas the Conscious Energy brings wholeness, the Unitive Energy completes it in oneness.

While the energy levels and worlds are objective, our ability to open to them, to engage with them is subjective and idiosyncratic. For that reason, it can help to choose words, sounds, or melodies as labels that can serve as pointers or even doorways to each of the higher energies and worlds. We choose labels that are emotionally resonant and uplifting for us personally. As we work with these labels over time, their efficacy grows, though we treat the labels as labels, not as the reality to which they point.

Whenever we are able to go up a step, the process cascades and accelerates. The higher inner work creates more of its middle energy, which then serves as the higher energy for the inner work of the next step down. The inner work at that step in turn creates more of its own middle energy, which then serves as the lower energy for the work at the upper step. Thus, our practice can have multiple simultaneous levels, with mutually reinforcing feedback in both directions between the levels. It is a matter of stretching our intention and attention to work with agility at these interlinking levels, weaving our way into being a generator of spiritual energies.

However, this is not only about our personal transformation. Gurdjieff [4], Bennett [5], and others affirm that the generation and transformation energies is vitally necessary for the continued well-being and evolution of humanity and our planet Earth. They even go so far as to say that the very purpose of human life consists in this work of generating spiritual energies. Yes, part of the result serves our soul. But crucially, another part goes to serve humanity and our planet. Both the quantity of energy transformed and the quality matter. This is our opportunity and our obligation, to the extent we are able. And by our persistent, creative, intelligent, and heartfelt inner work, we raise the extent to which we are able to produce what is needed in the arena of energy transformations.

Though all this sounds somewhat technical, the actual experience is not. That direct, heart-warming, life-affirming, uplifting experience matters. The whole enterprise of transforming energies up and down the scale inspires awe and gratitude in us, while showing us a new realm of unsuspected possibilities and responsibilities.

[1] Energies: Material - Vital - Cosmic (The Collected Works of J.G. Bennett) (Volume 12). CreateSpace, 2016

[2] G. I. Gurdjieff: All and Everything: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. Two Rivers Press, 1993, page 751. (in Chapter 39)

[3] For an earlier diagram with some similarities to this one, see: Nicoll, Maurice Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky 1 Vol. I, page 187 (in Section 14.11.42)

[4] G. I. Gurdjieff: All and Everything: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson. Two Rivers Press, 1993, pp. 570-572, 1105-1108.

[5] J. G. Bennett: Lectures on Gurdjieff: 14 Public Lectures, 1949-1973. See the last lecture "Gurdjieff Today," end of Q&A.

Revised April 11, 2020


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