Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the Week of July 8, 2024

Three Worlds 

(Deepening Our Practice 11)

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And thus, every man, if he is just an ordinary man, that is, one who has never consciously "worked on himself," has two worlds; and if he has worked on himself, and has become a so to say "a candidate for another life," he has even three worlds." [1]

We all live in at least two worlds. The first is the outer world of our five senses: all of what we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. The sense of touch extends into our usual awareness of our body: our interoceptive, proprioceptive, and kinesthetic senses. In short, the first world we live in is the physical world and that includes our physical body.

The second is our inner world, consisting of thoughts and images in our mind, emotions in our feeling center, and the motor and instinctive functions of our body. Automatic functioning dominates our inner world. It is the world of our personality with all its habits and patterns, likes and dislikes, memories and desires, knowledge and skills, daydreams and ruminations, emotional reactions, criticisms of self and others, and thought trains.

Ordinarily we live solely in these two worlds, outer and inner, with no hint of another world we could live in, a world as close or closer to us than the first two, and with much more freedom. If someone or something triggers a pattern in us, then our body, heart, or mind will react in their habitual way and we, to the extent "we" even exist, will be taken along for the ride. This is the world of our pseudo-self, where our personality and all its accoutrements substitute for the real us. The habit of living by habit, just cruising through time not really noticing much, makes for a dull life.

There is a third world, which we all taste from time to time. This can be called the human world, or the world of presence. The body of this world is both sensitive and conscious. The sensitive energies give us direct contact with all that goes on in us, everything in our inner and outer worlds, while allowing us not to be lost in all that. The conscious energy gives us a spacious and boundless domain of pure awareness in which to be, a place of clarity, peace, and equanimity.

The core of the human world is our I, not the pseudo-self of our personality. This is who we are, our I, the existential unity of our will. We create our I by responsible action, by making right decisions and following through with them, by going against some of our own desires, likes and dislikes, by not allowing ourselves to be driven by every whim, by not giving free reign to our reactive emotions and criticisms, by directing and maintaining our attention as needed and not being taken away by all the distractions of our outer and inner worlds, by noticing when we fall into identification and climbing out of that hole, by doing the right thing even when we would rather not, and by practicing presence, by being the one who is present, the one from whom our acts arise. All of that releases precious energies from habitual or wasteful patterns, while unifying our will by absorbing and integrating our disparate impulses into a real and effective I. And that I is who we are, the core of our human world.

To inhabit that human world is a high but attainable aim for us. It means being more, living more and more of our time in presence, until we just are, effortlessly. In meditation we acquire a clear taste of that human world, that settling into simple being, that vividness of strengthened and unwasted sensitive energy, that peace and equanimity of consciousness no longer submerged in sensation, and that centeredness in our own I. Carrying that taste of the human world into our life off the meditation cushion shows us it is never far away. We can return to our humanity as we walk through life. The more we do so, the more human we become.

Of course, there are more worlds beyond that third world, spiritual possibilities that open from the third world, possibilities that offer us yet another reason to live as humans are meant to live: in the world of presence.

For this week, notice the extent to which you live in the first and second worlds: the physical world of your five senses and your inner world. Work to gain a greater foothold in the third world. The three worlds are not mutually exclusive. Living in the third world does not put us out of touch with the physical world and our inner world. We can live in all three and live a deeply meaningful and satisfying life thereby.

[1] G.I. Gurdjieff: Life is Real Only Then, When "I Am"; pp. 169-170


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