by Lee van Laer


From the Zen, Yoga, Gurdjieff Blog, Jan. 28, 2012, "A Balanced Work"


There are times when the master buries the bone deep.

There are other times when he implies he has buried the bone deep, causing all of his pupils to race around furiously digging holes, when actually, he left the bone right on the kitchen table.

One of the most essential principles in the Gurdjieff system is that an inner work must be a balanced work. Not only did he refer to his organization as the "Institute for Harmonious Development," he repeatedly emphasized the need for three centered work, a work in which all of the centers were balanced. And his protégés—most notably Jeanne de Salzmann—spoke about the need to balance inner work many times. For example, de Salzmann speaks in The Reality Of Being of getting the three centers to work at the same speed—something they don't do under ordinary circumstances, as Gurdjieff explained to Ouspensky in In Search Of The Miraculous.

Let's pause here for a moment and examine all of this information in the context of what Gurdjieff told Ouspensky about the wrong location of the second shock in the enneagram. The shock, he said, lawfully comes between the notes “Si” and “Do.” The diagram, however, "wrongly" locates it between "Sol" and "La."

Aside from his cryptic remarks about the fact that the wrong location indicated the type of work that was necessary for the second shock, Gurdjieff never elaborated on this. Longtime readers of my material may recall that in the past, I've offered a few possibilities for what he meant by that remark.

Today, I'm going to offer what is perhaps a simpler and more obvious one. Take a look at the diagram of what the enneagram looks like when you locate the shock in the correct place.

Let's take a brief excursion into what symbols are for. Symbols are meant to represent abstractions of principles; they are not literal, but, literally, figurative interpretations of ideas. Symbols commonly undergo manipulation in order to more effectively express ideas that cannot be expressed literally.

The simplest possible explanation of what Gurdjieff was trying to get Ouspensky to understand when he talked about the shock being located in the "wrong" place on the diagram is that the type of work that is necessary to pass from "Si" to "Do" is a balanced work. The placement of the shock, in other words, creates a symmetrical and balanced diagram that properly represents the law of three functioning in a balanced way, instead of indicating one-sided or lopsided development of centers.

One sees the symbol is worthless if you draw it literally. It isn't even a symbol anymore: it's a mish-mosh which conveys gibberish instead of harmony. So there is no choice in the matter: in order to create an effective symbol of inner work that is harmoniously balanced, the shock must be located where it is. There are no special esoteric secrets connected to this; the esoteric secret is right here on the kitchen table, where no one notices it—exactly like every other real truth in life.

I suppose some may think it a bit sad to have to take this mysterious question and reduce it to such a simple point of view—especially those on an endless quest for secret magical knowledge— but it's actually not simple at all. The most essential problem we all have in our work is that we aren't well-balanced. We aren't harmonious. And we need to keep that question in front of us at all times.

Seeing our lack is, in part, observing that imbalance up close and first-hand.

I respectfully ask you to take good care.