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Paying our Debt
"The fourth: the striving from the beginning of their existence to pay for their arising and their individuality as quickly as possible, in order afterwards to be free to lighten as much as possible the Sorrow of our COMMON FATHER."—Gurdjieff, Tales, p. 386
The fourth striving speaks of the debt of our ‘arising and individuality.’ What can this possibly mean? In order to investigate this, we must first provide ourselves with a frame of reference, and for this I propose using our ordinary idea of debt, in the form of credit cards and mortgages. Most every one of us has some debt of this kind, and dealing with it responsibly can teach us something. If we are currently not responsible, this will be theory, but for those of us who are responsible this can be a verification of the laws of which G often speaks. In this case the law is ‘all of nature is mathematics.’
Usually this law is cited when speaking of getting paid in the future for work we do now; however, the reverse must also be true; namely, for all the time we have not worked we are in debt (we will have to pay in the future). When dealing with nature, we cannot print up more currency like our country does!
Now, if we have a large debt, we are simply paying the interest and not touching the principal. Using ordinary methods we will always get deeper into debt and never make the payoff. This is easy to see if we look at the situation with our ordinary logic. The interest is so high that it builds up faster than we can pay it off. In this, ‘time’ certainly plays a part.
So how does time affect our ability to work? When we are young, we can make bigger and longer efforts; when we become old, we lose this ability, so at a certain ‘time’ we can never recover from our debt by ordinary methods. G laments this, saying that when most people realize the need to work it is already too late. Time is measured subjectively, and if we look, we will see that time was ‘longer’ when we were young because there were more accidental self-rememberings then and the older we get the less often they occur; thus ‘time’ goes by faster. (This is good material for pondering and verification in your own experience, I only briefly mention it here.) If this was not the case, work would not be necessary to enable us to pay off our debt of existence.
It is said that time is measured when we enter the work. What does this mean? Could it be similar to ‘credit counseling’? When we file for credit counseling, we are put on a schedule to pay off debts in exchange for lowered interest rates. When we work, we lower the ‘interest’ by self-remembering, because the interest in our existence is the speeding up of ‘time.’
One thing to remember when calculating your debt is to include your parents and their parents, etc.; this is the meaning of ‘the sins of the father.’ G tells us that it is a part of our duty to clear up debts of our ancestors, which makes sense, since this system, that is, nature, has not created a cosmic ‘good householder’ in aeons. So we can see that the ‘national debt’ is very high indeed. All this must fuel our wish to work, for the debt of our existence is beyond our imaginings.
Perhaps you ask yourself why you should want to pay off this huge debt, saying "What’s in it for me?" Here we have the concept of being ‘food for the moon.’ Our debt can be seen as this food, and only after paying this can we have something for ourselves. The work teaches us that it is possible to produce extra for the purpose of crystallizing higher-Being-bodies for our own future existence, but only after paying off the debt. So if you have been thinking that some small work effort, or even a big one, is progress and you can take some rest, be careful that you do not deceive yourself. Although through work it is possible to create something for ourselves, this will not happen immediately, for we have to make payments for some time before reducing our ‘principal.’ This will become evident to you when your efforts fail to stem the tide of ordinary life and you fall asleep once more.
Here is a practical way to look at it. Find some ‘bad habit’ in yourself that is difficult to struggle against, perhaps even impossible. Calculate how many years you have had this habit, how long you have been ‘developing’ it. If we were not paying interest, we would in theory merely have to go against the habit for the same number of years to neutralize it. In reality, however, it will take longer, because we have become older and more feeble, according to nature’s ‘interest.’ The situation indeed looks hopeless unless we begin to work and, by self-remembering, cheat time. However, self-remembering by itself is not useful; it is only the vehicle within which we can accomplish the payment of our debt. The sooner we do this, the sooner our efforts go toward our higher bodies, so we see that the specification ‘as quickly as possible’ is because of our enlightened self-interest and not because of some sentimental idea of God.
And what is ‘the Sorrow of our COMMON FATHER’? How would you feel if you had created something with vast potentials and it was not being realized? Each and every one of us has this potential; when we develop it, the sorrow is reduced. So although ordinary life is opposed to this development, higher spiritual forces will help us, if we submit to them. This is one meaning of ‘grace’ or ‘God is my help.’ Objectively, ordinary life, in any form, is help not for us but for the moon.
By pondering the extent of our debt, it is possible to realize our situation, which in turn will fuel our wish to work. Time is of the essence!
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