Four Stages of Spiritual Work

Oct 14, 2020
Four Stages of Spiritual Work


As the Awareness School year progresses with many groups in session, I am struck by a clearer understanding of various stages of this great Spiritual Work. Whether that be gathered from one on one meetings or the women’s group or the various classes within the introductory Practical Awareness Course or from our studies of vigilance in the Tuesday night group, we span a spectrum of experience that seeks freedom. Across the board, something has become more solidified for me regarding signposts of these stages, and so I offer a brief overview.

My intention is to elucidate certain aspects of the stages so that one does not become thoroughly discouraged in the beginning of this very specialized approach. Secondly, I will only briefly describe the third and fourth stages in order to inspire and provide hope.

It is meant to be a quick overview that will be fleshed out in future articles.

There are many paths to freedom. Some seekers choose the disciplined path of the Yogi aiming toward non-dualism through meditation on the absolute. Some will choose the devotional path of the monk through prayer and contemplation. Some choose the way of the Fakir, or religious ascetic, working with fasting and other more austere measures to find union with the divine.

The Fourthway takes its name as an indicator of the practitioner’s use of all three of these paths while still living out in the world and interacting with life as we all know it.

Regardless of approach, there are stages that render certain efforts more effective than others. Many seekers will misconstrue tactics and utilize certain practices or meditations at the wrong time, rendering that practice ineffective for them. Therefore, it is helpful to know the stages and just what kind of effort is needed at any given stage.

As I listen to attempts at self-observation in my introductory courses, I see the initial disappointment and feelings of discouragement when I reveal that what they have shared is not an observation. In the beginning stage, It is rather deflating to realize how difficult it is to observe oneself objectively, free of weaving meaning and interpretation into what is happening with us.

The development of expanded awareness is key.

This first stage requires us to accept nothing as fact and to question our experience. We learn how to maintain attention. In doing so, we break it down into simple neutral observations connected with the body through our awareness, without attaching any interpretation. This ensures that we don’t assume anything and that we develop the ability to hold our attention without the thinking constantly interjecting. 

We cannot seek huge breakthroughs at this stage. We must seek not to interpret. We work on getting the practice of self-observation down and that requires awareness of ourselves in a present moment without changing or fixing what one observes. Without this, we cannot move on to subsequent stages.

We have spent a lifetime relying on conditioned response to “not see” ourselves and so to allow thought to capture the experience keeps us in these patterns. It robs us of a true objective observation.

The second stage allows us the power to intentionally struggle with what we see objectively. 

This does not mean we start to improve “bad behavior” or override negativity with positive thoughts. In other words, our struggle by definition means not bypassing our actual reactions but observing them. At this stage, we are dealing with the reactional self aptly named by J.G. Bennett. We find ourselves jealous, abandoned, defined by how others see us, and unable to let go of our suffering. We are unable to accept what is. We dwell in the past. We are victims, power mongers, analyzers, control freaks, know-it-alls and the list goes on and on.

This is the stage of seeing these attachments and points of identification for what they are. We must learn to “bear” our own lack or insufficiency. Our work of observing serves as a second force that brings light and strength to our Essence, emerging as a third force. Strengthening our Essence allows us to willfully endure “the terror of the situation” as that truth unfolds about ourselves. 

This terror is the acceptance that we ourselves are part and parcel of the plight of humankind. 

Faith is bolstered at this point. We gain strength to go forward because we have learned more. We see something is working. With this comes deep remorse of conscience. We see what we could not see before and we accept what could not have been done. It has nothing to do with regret, but it has everything to do with acceptance and forgiveness of self. There are often deep tears without knowing why. 

We find ourselves knowing more about pure feeling. We pass through the doorway of understanding where love enters. We accept our inadequacy in a way that relieves us of it. We no longer need to weave the web of protection and deceit with ourselves and others. We go in and out of this and intentionally vow to continue because these impressions are feeding our consciousness.

We are able to take responsibility for who we are on a level not possible before.

It is the development of awareness in the first stage that allows higher impressions to be had in the second stage. Now we become truly conscious of something deeper. Our aim becomes more resolute. A higher force enters so that we sustain a new level of objectivity about ourselves: something we could not bear to see before.

The third stage indicates a certain level of development of Being; a specific term used in this work to indicate the ability to live life under fewer laws. 

The active and passive forces are always present. It is the opening of the Heart Mind or Higher Emotional Center. There is a dimension of understanding beyond our functional life. We no longer have the hindrance of reaction, and so begin the process of co-creation. Here the famous aphorism of Gurdjieff, “with the present, repair the past, and prepare the future” is a reality. 

The ability to choose becomes apparent.

The notion of I has completely transformed.

With this newfound discrimination, we begin to access higher absolute values. We operate from conscience, unobstructed by the many fetters we were dealing with in the second stage. Our former false construct is dismantled in order to feed a secondary body. This is a stage in which rebirth is actuated.

I will elaborate on this in future blogs.

Briefly, the fourth stage is an indicator that a secondary body is fully formed and permanent transubstantiation is possible. We no longer work in the same way at all. Just as the third stage required a completely different kind of effort, so too the fourth stage is marked by the ability to witness the unknown and be subject to it.

A creative energy is made manifest.

In this stage, we operate from the world of Will, a term specifically used to indicate source moving through us. The form becomes formless and the formless becomes form.

 If the third stage is the development of a container for the Will to enter, then the fourth stage is the ability to live by revelation, to be in true service to humankind, and to serve as a vehicle for higher emanations to enter the world. Its energy is pure, vast, and without limit.

One joins the circle of conscious humanity.


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