A brief commentary on conscious labor
This particular version of the Enneagram was designed to clarify the relationship between the ideas Ouspensky presents in "In Search of the Miraculous" and the path of the Yogi by way of graphic integration into the lawful influences of the law of three and the law of seven.
The influences from the law of three — "do," the absolute, conscious labor, and intentional suffering — are higher influences that do not belong to the actions taking place on the ordinary level of the octave. They arrive —they assist — they participate. But the diagram graphically illustrates the fact that they emanate from a higher source.
This irrevocable fact puts their origin outside man's domain. He can receive these influences; he cannot generate or own them.
Because the first three ways, found on the right side of the diagram and within the first triad, come under mechanical influences, that is, remain attached to the circumstances of the material world (the first note struck in this progression is "re," materiality) only the higher influence of conscious labor can work to overcome the obstacles at this level of work. A man's initial aim must be to pass through these notes and the attendant interval, and get to the note "sol", at which point conscious influences become active.
A superficial reading of any of the three ways might presume that somehow it would be possible for them to achieve some form of inner completion by themselves; but, indeed, they prove themselves deficient in the same way that Gurdjieff indicated, because the interaction of all three of them is actually necessary in order to effectively move inner work forward to the note "sol;" and only a conscious, that is, higher, influence coming from outside the mechanical consequences of the material world can assist in this effort.
All of a man's efforts, his work at sensation, his attempt to complete tasks, set himself goals and aims, and so on, are merely preparation for conscious labor, and don't actually represent any conscious labor on his own. Man is he is is incapable of conscious labor, because he isn't conscious. Conscious labor itself is an outside force, help sent from above, which a man or woman can only prepare for. As such, any effort a man or woman performs on their own, from what they presume to be their own volition, and which they think belongs to them, isn't conscious labor. It is merely a preparatory action, whose use is to help create conditions in which a force that makes conscious labor possible might arrive.
Misunderstandings about the nature of conscious labor abound, and the language and ideas regarding this question are often confused or vague. It's important to understand and remember that the force of conscious labor does not come from this level.
Those who fail to understand this invariably continue to believe they are in charge. This conviction is so thoroughly developed in us that it is nearly impossible to expunge, and may well be the final, nearly universal flaw that even Gurdjieff's Purgatory seems unable to fully redress.
Interested readers may also want to take a look at the structural relationships in the Ray of Creation.