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Gurdjieff and the Prayer of the Heart

posted Mar 1, 2016, 9:39 AM by Jim Turner   [ updated Mar 1, 2016, 9:42 AM ]

February 18, 2016

by Joseph Azize


Gurdjieff taught that techniques such as fasting, confession and prayer were not only valuable, but essential for any seeker. Gurdjieff gave few indications about prayer, but he knew of and used certain Eastern methods of praying. I can hardly overstate how important moderate and medically safe fasting is in disrupting the coordination of the centres and making possible new physical, feeling and intellectual experiences.

Of particular importance are what are often called the prayers of repetition, such as the Prayer of the Heart and the Jesus Prayer. I prefer to call these “continuing prayer”. Here, etymology is enlightening. “Continue” is derived from two Latin roots, *SCOM meaning “together” and *TA / *TEN, “stretch, hold”.

A “continuing prayer”, then, is one where the attention is held by the praying. Our attention will fluctuate. Yet, the person praying is influenced by the prayer, and the active elements of the prayer (aim, intention, wish, feeling, grace) are augmented by a stretching of the attention. The better our prayer at a natural level, the better the chance of receiving grace, the power of a supernatural level. The aim of the prayer, after all, is to connect us to God.

Our prayer is not useless just because our attention may wander, or I may find I have an unworthy thought. The important thing is to try to bring my thought back. Whether I succeed or not is another thing: but I try. In some notes published as “Notes on Saint John’s Gospel”, and wrongly attributed to Ouspensky, the unknown author wrote: “Earth is enclosed and enwrapped in a great flame of radiant power. The same power is stored inside every living form, waiting for some shock that will set it free.”

The Christian techniques of prayer can provide such shocks, but perhaps as Ouspensky stated on 23 January 1934, these techniques are useless without conscious breathing and fasting (see A Further Record, pp.295-8.) Ouspensky’s comments make sense of some rather cryptic remarks to be found in the Philokalia, especially in Nikiphorus the Monk (see volume 4 of the complete text).  If one means by “useless” completely useless, then no that is going too far. But our prayers are made much more virtuous by these techniques.

Adie’s instructions tally exactly with those of Nikiphorus. Indeed, they make sense of and expand the monk’s deliberately fragmentary and incomplete instructions. Incidentally, Mme Kadloubovsky, who had a major role in the preparation of the English translation of the Philokalia, and who assembled the volume which dealt with the Prayer of the Heart, was Ouspensky’s secretary. In that volume, Nikiphorus is entered under the name “Nicephorus the Solitary”.

It would be irresponsible to provide specific indications concerning continuing prayer, because, as the Philokalia stated on the Prayer of the Heart, and also Mr Adie said, such techniques must be learnt from someone experienced, who can watch the orant (student). Otherwise, a person can become deluded, and imagine that they possess qualities they do not, or worse.

Gurdjieff did have sources. Wherever I have been able to identify such sources, they are in the Greek tradition, especially in the “Neoplatonic” school of Plotinus and Iamblichus. But his tradition has come through Christianity. In In Search of the Miraculous: at p.304, Gurdjieff asked his pupils where the word “I” sounds in them when they pronounce it aloud. Ouspensky stated that he was “entirely unable to evoke this sensation” in himself. Then, said Gurdjieff, there is an exercise “preserved up to our time in the monasteries of Mount Athos.” (Incidentally, Gurdjieff had earlier stated that he had been to Mount Athos, Miraculous, p.36).

In this exercise, Gurdjieff said, a monk takes a certain position, lifts his arms in a certain posture, and says “Ego” while listening to where it sounds. In Greek, “ego” does not mean “me”, it means “I”, or “I am”. Further, there is not necessarily anything of self-will or self-assertion in it. The purpose of the exercise, Gurdjieff explained, is to feel “I” at every moment a man thinks of himself, and furthermore, to bring the sense of “I” from one centre to another. All this material on the “Ego” exercise is given in some 19 lines. Incidentally, the 19th century Maronite monk, Mar Naamtallah is often shown praying in just this posture.

Where does this leave us? I think it is encouraging to reflect that there are methods for prayer and self-development which can and do work. They are not easy, and one must be prepared for real shocks, but the possibility is there. It is also, I think, comforting to reflect that the Gurdjieff methods and ideas do not have to be so divorced from religion as they sometimes, perhaps even too frequently, are. I think that for those in the Gurdjieff tradition, it points them to the authentic preparations and exercises brought by Gurdjieff, and away from the “sittings” of the “new work”. For those of us who have ever had the sense of the continuous prayer and its vibration in the body, it is a much-needed reminder, because as Merlin once said (in the movie Excalibur): “It is the doom of man that he forgets.”


Ibn' Arabi - 'Alone with the Alone'

posted Feb 9, 2016, 1:57 PM by Jim Turner

February 9, 2016

One of the 20th century’s most prolific scholars of Islamic mysticism, Henry Corbin (1903-1978) was Professor of Islam & Islamic Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and at the University of Tehran. (Iran)

Corbin’s central project was to provide a framework for understanding the unity of the religions of the Book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His great work: “Alone with the Alone: Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi “is a classic initiatory text of visionary spirituality that transcends the tragic divisions among the three great monotheisms.

Corbin’s life was devoted to the struggle to free the religious imagination from fundamentalisms of every kind. 

Mystic, philosopher, poet, sage, Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi is one of the world's great spiritual teachers. Ibn 'Arabi was born in Murcia, Spain in 1165 and his writings had an immense impact throughout the Islamic world and beyond. The universal ideas underlying his thought are of immediate relevance today.

Music: Armand Amar

Free from all of my ordinary fears

posted Jan 12, 2016, 7:35 PM by Jim Turner   [ updated Jan 17, 2016, 12:39 PM ]

January 12, 2016

from Tuesday 8 April March 1986 - George Aide - Originally posted by Joseph Azize 

...“the work is to have the moment, and move beyond it. There is a moment, “now”. It is what it is now partly because of the past. And the future is going to depend upon now. It will be the same as the past has been. But if I can be here now, the future is going to be different. I have to bring myself to the situation. I am in an external situation, but I am not in the one I think I am. What I think of as being the situation is largely erroneous, until I am present. If I am present for a flash I begin to see how things are.”

“There is an awful lot of moral self-punishment and chastising which wrecks our work. If I could only accept that I am as I am largely because of my upbringing. Now I had better do something about this. I have heard something which I think is unquestionably true, and now I am going to try and follow that. With that, a new element can come in. Then all of this has to be digested, because it has its momentum and habit. So as I go on, if I work, these habits are still there, but they’re slowing down, they’re slowing down … and finally they don’t interfere.”

“People do the most horrible things in their family, and outside. If one really saw one’s motives and sees how one behaves about possessions and all sorts of things, one would be quite horrified. But there’s no use saying: “Oh, I’ve been this wicked person!” I haven’t been, I just wasn’t there. But now, because I wasn’t there, I have the responsibility of dealing with the matter. Now I can start to be guilty if I wish, but I will know how to deal with that. So I have a chance. None of these quite terrible things are ever done intentionally. They are done because I am not there. Some automatic arrangement of particles produces that action.”

“If I am there, more or less, I am free from all of my ordinary fears. They are only temporary, in a sort of way. So I am free of that by being there, and the more I am, the more I am free from erroneous thought, and I am free from making absurd deductions and connections. I have a little choice on what I think.”

“My life is very limited, I only gravitate to deal with people I like, while I shun people I don’t know or suspect. So I’ve got this narrow life of people that I think will agree with me or even appreciate me, and I have not time for the others. But as I become more impartial, I find that I can have relation to many people.”

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Subtle Activism: Spiritual Responsibility at this Time of Global Crisis and Transformation

posted Sep 25, 2015, 9:36 AM by Jim Turner   [ updated Sep 25, 2015, 9:45 AM ]


"First we receive the Light.
Then, we impart the Light,
thus, we repair the world."

"David Thomas Nicol interviews Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee for the Subtle Activism Summit, The Inner Dimension of Peace Building. 

Subtle Activism is an emerging subject that explores how spiritual practices can effect not only individual but also collective or global transformation. This interview explores this bigger dimension of spiritual practice, and also how many of these practices traditionally give us access to the inner worlds, where we can work with the forces within creation to help the regeneration of the Earth. It looks at the power of prayer as well as ways of working with the energies of the archetypal world. Finally it explains how we need to bring our connection to the Real into our daily life."


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posted Jun 29, 2015, 7:04 PM by Jim Turner

June 29, 2015

"For consciousness, collection of attention is necessary. Attention is as oil in the lamp. Consciousness is the light. Where there is consciousness things are illuminated."  ~ Mme Ouspensky

"In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.  In practice, there is."  ~ Yogi Berra      

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."  ~ Phililip K. Dick

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You Cannot Capture Silence. It Captures You.

posted Apr 10, 2015, 10:01 AM by Jim Turner   [ updated Apr 10, 2015, 10:06 AM ]

April 10, 2015

by Richard Rohr

For me, the two correctives of all spirituality are silence and service. If either of those is missing, it is not true, healthy spirituality. Without silence, we do not really experience our experiences. We may serve others and have many experiences, but without silence, nothing has the power to change us, to awaken us, to give us that joy that the world cannot give, as Jesus says. And without clear acts of free service (needing no payback of any sort, even “heaven”), a person’s spiritual authenticity can and should be called into question. Divine Love always needs to and must overflow!

To live in this primordial, foundational being itself, which I am calling silence, creates a kind of sympathetic resonance with what is right in front of us. Without it, we just react instead of respond. Without some degree of silence, we are never living, never tasting, as there is not much capacity to enjoy, appreciate, or taste the moment as it purely is. The opposite of contemplation is not action, it is reaction. We must wait for pure action, which always proceeds from a contemplative silence in which we are able to listen anew to truth and to what is really happening. Such spiritual silence demands a deep presence to oneself in the moment, which will probably have the same practical effect as presence to God.

You do not hear silence (precisely!), but it is that by which you do hear. You cannot capture silence. It captures you. Silence is a kind of thinking that is not thinking. It’s a kind of thinking which mostly sees (contemplata). Silence, then, is an alternative consciousness. It is a form of intelligence, a form of knowing beyond bodily reacting or emotion. It is a form of knowing beyond mental analysis, which is what we usually call thinking. All of the great world religions at the higher levels(mystical) discovered that our tyrannical mode of everyday thinking (which is largely compulsive, brain-driven, and based on early patterning and conditioning) has to be relativized and limited, or it takes over, to the loss of our primal being and identity in ourselves. I used to think that mysticism was the eventual fruit of years of contemplation; now I think it all begins with one clear moment of mystic consciousness, which then becomes the constant “spring inside us, welling up unto eternal life”.

Richard Rohr picture

About the Author: Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar, an internationally known speaker and author, and a founding director of the Center for Action and Contemplation. The above passage is from his book, "Silent Compassion: Finding God in Contemplation."

From The Huffington Post:

"Meditation is often presented in a way that misses how urgent and central the underlying problem is for each and every one of us: we are all well practiced in a repetitive way of thinking -- and the problem is not what we think nearly as much as our universal entrapment in our own compulsive way of thinking. The problem only becomes clear when we fully realize that we are all victims of the mind and its hard wiring." 

Our Work Requires That We Should Be Present

posted May 3, 2014, 2:02 PM by Jim Turner

May 3, 2014

The work, our work, requires that we should be present. To be present we have to be free from such obstacles as identification, losing ourselves in what we are engaged in. To be present, we have to be relaxed and this brings us to the world of tensions.

Tensions are not something inert, passive, just slowing up our development. We have to observe how they arise. We have to observe that they arise in us from that which is hostile to the work. They represent in us a great force, our denying force. It is the center of egoism in us which defends itself by means of tensions.

It is essential that there should develop in us an active side which sees and experiences the need to relax. Once again, we need to observe, observe our inner gestures of refusal, our clutching at whatever we are lost in. By relaxation we can become free.

The way is clear. We need to learn to make a gesture of relaxation and to learn to renew it.

Mr. Bennett had a word for this – unhooking. We need to learn the art of unhooking, to make a movement of disengagement, or inwardly letting go. To do this we begin with work on physical tensions, letting go literally a hundred times a day. Later we see that to look for and relax only the superficial tensions does not do very much because under the influence of the underlying tensions they quickly return.

This week, wherever you are in this work, resolve to make some progress in the field of tensions. Superficial tensions can be affected by a superficial effort of attention, the deeper ones require work of a more subtle kind. This week set yourself to go deeper, for tensions are the opposition to our work.

Pierre Elliot
Claymont Society, 1976

Wishes Are Controllable

posted Dec 28, 2013, 11:26 AM by Jim Turner   [ updated May 3, 2014, 2:02 PM ]

December 28, 2013

J. G. Bennett
by John G. Bennett, December 20, 1964

Excerpt only from Sunday Talks at Combe Springs pp.10-12

Where is the point at which we are all free, at which we have power to do what we choose? This depends on what we really wish for. This power of wishing is ours and it is never taken away from us. We can wish what we decide to wish. But that decision must be taken by ourselves, we cannot push it off on to anyone else.

We must be sure that we know the difference between wishing and wanting, desiring, or even needing. The way I shall use the word 'wish' in talking to you now refers to the inward decision that every one of us has to take as to what really matters to us. But it does not mean that because we wish for something that we also have the power to achieve it. Nor have we even the power to want, because our wants are divided    one part of us wants one thing and another another; one part desires one thing, another hates it. We cannot get away from this conflict of desires in ourselves, or the changing of our wants: we now want this then forget all about it and want something quite different. This is how we are, but none of this touches a true wish, because wish is where will is anchored. Wish is really the simplest thing because wish can either be to belong where we do belong and to find the place that is destined for us, or it can be a wish to occupy the place that we want, that we desire. In another and a still simpler way of putting it, we either can wish to serve God or we can wish for the satisfaction of our own egoism. It is said that there is no place for two in the soul: it must be either I or God, not both. I say it is at this point that we have full power to wish for what we choose. That is why the place of supreme responsibility is where we have to decide what it is that we wish. None of us need be confused about this question. It does not require any learning, it does not require any particular articles of faith nor belief in this or that creed. It is before and beyond and more intimate than all of that.

So long as this is not faced, life is troublesome. We approve of this or of that, we are affected by things, by people, by their behaviour, by success and failure, by pleasure and pain, but none of these can touch us when we know what we wish. If you see any person who is affected by what other people think, by how they stand in other people's eyes and so on, you must know that they have no stable unchanging wish, and if you find that you yourself are such a kind of person, you must know that your wish is not clear. If you wish for God, for reality, for Truth, for what is right, none of these things will matter. They cannot, because they all belong to the wish that you have rejected; that is, the wish for your own egoistic satisfaction.

Until you have not cleared this question of wish, you will be afraid, because you will not know how to face the future. If you are clear about this, fear disappears, because you know that whatever happens and whatever may come, your wish will remain unchanged. When people have a strong wish they are strong in their lives. We must not forget that the power of wish also applies to people whose wishes are founded on their own egoism. They wish for success, they wish for dominance, they wish to stand well in the eyes of people, and they go all out to get it, ruthlessly. And because of this, they have not got these kinds of subserviences to what people think or to pleasure or pain. They will face being affronted, having to suffer overwork; they will deny themselves, because they know what they wish for.

You know the parable of the Unjust Steward. When he saw that he was going to lose his job, he took every precaution to see that he would be all right, and to everyone's surprise he is commended. Even Christ says that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Why? Because it is necessary to know what one wishes for and who does not know what he wishes for is nothing at all, because this is the centre of everything for us. There are many people who can be called children of light, who are sincerely drawn towards truth and reality and yet are all the time looking over their shoulders to see what is going on behind them, or looking at other people to see whether they are approved or disapproved of, or waiting to be commended, or something. They are the kind of people of whom it is said: "The children of this world are wiser than they." When one is really clever, how can any of these things matter?

It may be that we cannot make the image of what we wish for clear to ourselves, but we can, without any question, make the direction clear. By that I mean that a person may say "I wish to serve God, l wish for the realisation of truth, I wish for the love of God, for impersonal objective love" without being able to fully comprehend what these things mean; but everyone can be clear about whether the wish is for himself or for what is right. We must all of us see without any doubt that about this there can be no self deception. When this wish is clear then all the other things will come, and that again is expressed by the saying of Christ: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness... ."Even if you do not really know what it means, this is the direction to which you can turn and the rest will become clear by itself. There has to be an implacable, uncompromising demand of oneself that one will not deceive oneself, because with self deception we fall into every kind of misery. We become afraid, we depend upon people, we have no kind of confidence.

When I say we must be clear about what we wish, I do not mean that this solves all our problems, far from it. We still will want the wrong things, we shall still forget all about it, we still will be drawn towards stupidities. This is how things are, we have very little power over all that. But once we are clear about our wish and return to it again and again to be quite certain that it remains unchanged in us, that we really know that we do not want our own egoism to be fed, pampered, by anything whatever, then we have the extraordinary assurance that enables us to face anything. But as soon as we are again caught by this egoism of ours, every misery enters again. This must be clear.

Copyright - J.G.Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett

Spiritual Ecology

posted Jul 28, 2013, 11:43 AM by Jim Turner   [ updated Jul 28, 2013, 11:45 AM ]

July 28, 2013

The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh was asked what we need to do to save our world.
“What we most need to do,” he replied, “is to hear within us the sound of the earth crying.” 

Our present ecological crisis is the greatest man-made disaster this planet has ever faced—its accelerating climate change, species depletion, pollution and acidification of the oceans. A central but rarely addressed aspect of this crisis is our forgetfulness of the sacred nature of creation, and how this affects our relationship to the environment. There is a pressing need to articulate a spiritual response to this ecological crisis. This is vital and necessary if we are to help bring the world as a living whole back into balance.

A Collection of Essays
Edited by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Contributors include: Chief Oren Lyons, Thich Nhat Hanh, Sandra Ingerman, Joanna Macy, Sister Miriam MacGillis, Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Fr. Richard Rohr, Bill Plotkin, Jules Cashford, Wendell Berry, Winona LaDuke, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Brian Swimme, and others.

Aim and Wish

posted Mar 9, 2013, 1:23 PM by Jim Turner   [ updated Mar 9, 2013, 1:32 PM ]

March 9, 2013

Highlights from A.L. Staveley's Aim & Wish published by Two Rivers Press.


People often speak of the difficulties they have in formulating their aims. That is because they start from idea, from thought. Aim is not an idea, though it has thought in it. Aim must be feeling - plus - thought. Start from a picture - from feeling.

Aim has to start with wish - with what you essentially wish to be.

Wish has a magic ingredient....it ...reach(es) a higher level from which it can receive help and strength.

Gurdjieff says we are not doing anything Nature is not doing also, but we are trying to do it consciously. ...try to find an analogy within our own experience of something stirring in us, perhaps just beginning to develop in our dawning consciousness. How do I sense that hard shell that has, up to now, protected me, sleeping as I have been in a dream world? ...now something in me is stirring, my dream world begins to be troubled and I am no longer satisfied, but shut in.

Whichever way I stretch I come up against that inflexible prison. Sometime I call it my personality and sometimes I call it my mechanicality, but by whatever name there seems no way to escape from it. I am surrounded by all sides. I perceive that although, yes, there is a real wish to escape, there is also ...(an impulse) to remain safe, protected, and to continue to dream calmly and peacefully. I cannot change ...unless I cease to remain as I am. Again and again the disturbance returns - Life is knocking at my door; it is the time to awaken; there is a task to be done.

This is where a man needs to establish an aim - an aim founded on the wish ...a conscious aim.

There is a lot that could be said here, but only one thing perhaps can really help. Direct your aim to what is above, to what is ahead. ...You are the sum of all your experiences. ...Start from there.

Bringing it down to practicality, how does one go on from day to day? Try, for a time, to have an aim of aspiration. First ponder: What is aspiration?  ...How can I relate my aim to this in a real but small way? Small enough so that it can be realizable.

*     *     *

From Merriam-Webster - Aspiration

an audible breath that accompanies or comprises a speech sound

a drawing of something in, out, up, or through by or as if by suction

the act of breathing and especially of breathing in

a strong desire to achieve something high or great

an object of such desire

*     *     *

Full text of "Aim and Wish" available at Green Man Creations

Material presented in ( ) provided by webmaster to provide clarity of excerpt.

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