Conscious Shocks in the Spiritual Work
In the Work, there is something known as the First and the Second conscious shocks. This term has become familiar in the West, in the context of the inner work, when an Armenian mystic and philosopher, Georg I. Gurdjieff, started mentioning it in his lectures and books. This philosopher has brought the knowledge of esoteric psychology and the multidimensional workings of the microcosm and macrocosm from his travels in Central Asia. The terms the first and the second conscious shocks refer to the necessity of applying an additional force or effort in the inner work to awakening, on the path that we can imagine as a musical octave. The shocks are essential if one is to succeed with any new project, and the same goes for the inner work. Samael Aun Weor has said the following about it in his lecture called The Current of Sound:
“Indubitably, no change processes itself without a special shock. Obviously, the seven notes: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Si, are related to all events in life. Do-Re-Mi, in fact, implicates a series of events. But observe that between Mi and Fa there really exists a pause. Thus, Fa, Sol, and La are the next notes, and between La and Si there is another pause.
“If one proposes oneself to carry out a program, one must inevitably begin with the note Do, we will continue with Re and end with Mi. Upon getting to this part one has difficulties, inconveniences, it is the pause between Mi and Fa. Then the current of sound tends to go back to the original starting point.
“As a consequence or corollary, it is normal that the initial effort, the project that was put to work, will fail. But if one makes new effort to get through the pause, it is obvious that one will maintain a straight line and even increase the impulse one initiated, and the enterprise will triumph.
“Continuing, we see that notes Fa, Sol, and La come later, but, between notes La and Si there exists a new pause. If the initial impulse is not reinforced, the current of sound will return to its starting point and the enterprise, project, or business will fail. So, this of the seven notes of the musical scale is very important, this subject of the current of sound is formidable.
“We must give sound one shock between notes Mi and Fa and another between notes La and Si. A shock is always needed to permit us exist, to achieve a change, a transformation.”
The portrayal of development on the seven-notes octave is a good analogy because it shows the seven steps that everything in creation needs to go through. Number seven is a number that is tightly related to creation and organizations of all things. The number three or triad (the positive, the negative and the reconciling forces) was crucial for the creation as such, but it is through number seven that it develops. And as above, so below. It is therefore elaborated that the three basic nourishment of human being (food, air and impressions) are also passing through those seven steps.
The most crude of these nourishment is food. It has 768 hydrogens when it enters our mouth in its most crude state, but as it passes through the octave of the seven notes it becomes each time doubly rarefied, until it reaches the last note of the octave, note Si, when it has 12 hydrogens. This first nourishment had to go through a shock at the note Mi in order to continue being digested. With this first food nourishment, because it is so basic, the shock is mechanical, something that nature provide for us without our conscious effort. This first shock is breath. Breathing allows for the digestion to continue in the body. And so the end result of food creates the sexual hydrogen SI-12, the sexual energy. In order for this to crystallize in the higher vehicles of the soul (etheric, astral, mental, causal), a new, and this time conscious, shock needs to be applied so that a higher octave commences. This is related to a conscious use of sexuality and sexual energy.
The air nourishment needs the first conscious shock in order to go from note Mi to Fa, and this corresponds to the first note of the impression nourishment. The term impression in this context signify everything that comes to our mind from the external world through our five senses, and everything that comes to our mind from within, such as memories, associations, feelings etc. Unlike for food and air, there is no organ in the body that can transform impressions – we need to do it consciously and willfully.
The reason why I’m explaining above is to show how those (conscious) shocks exist in even the most basic things in life, such as in the transformation of food, and potentially air and impression. As already mentioned, in the teachings of Gurdjieff, there exist the first and the second conscious shocks. The first is the state of self-remembering, and the second is related to self-observation. Here is what he said about it:
“This state of Self-Remembering is a state that Man was born to possess, but he has lost it. A man is born with the power to remember himself, but as he is brought up amongst sleeping people—that is, amongst people who do not remember themselves—he soon loses this power. He falls asleep himself through the hypnotism of other sleeping people amongst whom he grows up, and for this reason this Work must start with talking about the state that Man must reach, which is his birthright. That is why I say to you all that you must practice Self-Remembering.”
And one of his student, Maurice Nicoll continued on by saying:
“G. often used to talk about this, and I will give you in so many words what he said. He said that esoteric teaching at one time used to be only necessary in regard to the Second Conscious Shock, for Man is not born with the possibility of giving himself this shock and cannot give it to himself unless he is taught how to do it, but that now owing to the fact that Man has fallen so much asleep he has to be taught how to give himself the shock of Self-Remembering before anything can be done to transform him. G. used to talk a great deal about how Man has lost this state given to him at birth …”
Gurdjieff has said that “the establishment of real Faith, Hope and Love can only come through the Second Conscious Shock.” and that “the First Conscious Shock is activated by ‘thought’ through the physical body and the Second Conscious Shock by ‘feeling’ through the physical body”, and that “With enough Shocks and enough nutrition, another body can grow.”
So in order to proceed progressing in the Work, it is necessary to be aware that we will need to apply more efforts as we progress, and that each new octave will require subsequently more effort. The good news is that the additional effort on new octaves will be more or less a normal state for us, whereas if someone behind us on the path could perceive the effort we are making, they would see it as a significantly larger effort to theirs and may feel discouraged, not knowing that for us this is normal. Nonetheless, this does not apply exactly to the Three Mountains. For instance, we may finish the First Mountain feeling strong and ready for the Second, only to discover that each initiation of that Mountain requires a lot more effort than the one that came before. We may find ourselves moving slowly on the Second mountain, because we are not used to the new requirements, and possibly also because we are lacking in strength or are stuck in a sort of lethargy. In order to pass through it, we need a conscious shock. However, this shock can be needed at any point of our inner work, depending on our pace of movement.
And so, the first conscious shock implies self-remembrance; this is to be awake in the present moment, aware of oneself at the moment and of everything that is going on around us. This is an effort coming from within, it requires will.
The second conscious shock happens between notes La and Si. This one requires much more effort, perhaps we can call it a super effort. In one way it is related to self-observation, which is an action that not only makes us conscious and awake in the moment, but it is also something that has a much deeper transformative effect – it enables us to see the egos and its mechanicity, that otherwise would keep us asleep. This is an inward effort too, though some people are of the opinion that an external influence is necessary for this to occur. This external effort can be a support of a spiritual group or of a spouse or of a friend, or an object such as a book, or travel to inspiring places, etc. Some people do need this at the second conscious shock, but it seems to me that many who came to Gnosis and are ready to progress on the path, do not need the external help so early on. Although, one can rightfully argue that we may be receiving external help from spiritual beings from the very start of our work. Being an external help, the second conscious shock is sometimes referred to as grace.
From the point of view of the Gnostic teachings, we can say that every major technique that we learn and use serves as a tool, as a conscious shock. The first one is always self-remembrance, because it wakes us up and enables the possibility of the inner work to unfold. The light of the spirit becomes active through our active consciousness, and this provides with light and the nourishment for the seed of potentiality of the self-realization of the Being to sprout. The further development of that seed depends on other things that are necessary to apply.
The second conscious shock is self-observation. We look at what is going on within us and this enables us to stay afloat and to begin learning about the inner darkness, the egos that pull us down to the sleep of the consciousness. Then we learn of the necessity of using the sexual energy correctly, changing its direction inwards and upwards, transmuting and storing it in the heart. This is fuel for the inner work. Because this application comes at around the same time as the mystical death (the dissolution of the egos), we can say that these two aspects are the third conscious shocks. And then the other keys to awakening, the alchemy and the service for humanity, as well as support of the spiritual school or group, or of a friend, or a teacher, comprise subsequent shocks, at different periods of time, and at different octaves.
The Work and the Path require us to climb higher and with more intensity. Every so often, and sometimes very often, we need to assess how we are moving forward, if we are satisfied with our speed, or if we should make more effort. We need to be able to determine what is it that we need that will provide with the conscious shock that will take us onto the next level. We need to determine whether we can muster enough strength or inspiration from within for this to occur, or whether we need to look for it outside ourselves, in the things mentioned above (e.g. going on a retreat, practicing with a group of people, talking to an advanced teacher or student, learning new techniques, reading inspiring books, going to nature etc. etc.). Each one of us need to understand why this is necessary, and then proceed with what internally we feel we must do, because if not much is happening and our work becomes stale, it is in our interest to reflect on the next step, on the next conscious shock that will take us to the next level, the next note, and hopefully to the next octave altogether.
HDP, January 2023.