All real enjoyment is as good, from the point of view of energy production and conservation, as suffering. —J.G. Bennett


My place is where I am, and your place is where you are. Not only have I got to bear my own situation, I have to bear your situation also. First of all I have to bear the truth about myself and little by little I have to bear all truths —J.G. Bennett



The Third Octave of Life
by Tim White

It is clear to me now that I will not reach Enlightenment in this lifetime. I shall not possess an “imperishable and unchangeable I in the sense of being”. I shall attain neither Objective Reason nor Objective Conscience. In spite of the fact that these have been the goal, aim, and purpose of my adult life, I shall not achieve them.

This leaves me with questions--ranging from despair to wondering how to proceed. What was the point of it all?  Is there any purpose or value to be found in continuing in the ways I have pursued until now?  Is something else or a different kind of effort required to take me where I have always wanted to go?  If yes, what?  If not, what is left?  What is required of me at this stage of my life that I can accomplish?

A long time ago, George Cornelius, who had worked with Gurdjieff directly, came to work with us at Camp Caravan for a week. In the course of our discussions he said to one of our group leaders, “You are entering into the Third Octave of Life…”  I remember thinking at the time that this was significant and that I should look into it. But I was much younger then and nowhere near the third octave of my life. As a result, I cannot remember anything of the discussion that followed, but the idea stayed with me, dormant for years.

It was in the midst of my gloomy reflections and ponderings that I happened to recall the idea of the Third Octave of Life. It came a time when I realized I had been just “treading water” in both my outer life and my spiritual life. I found myself continuing down the same pathways that I had been following for the whole of my adult life. Inwardly and outwardly my efforts were concentrated on and directed toward “getting something for myself.”  The circumstances of my life, combined with the idea of “entering the Third Octave…” made me realize that I had arrived at what is spoken of in the Work as an “interval.”  I had come to the interval that Mr. Gurdjieff refers to as the “Harnel-aoot,” standing between the second and third octaves between sol and la on the enneagram.

The Third Octave of Life took on a new meaning for me when I placed it in the framework of the enneagram of an evolving cycle. In that cycle, the first octave encompasses the time from birth to the coming of “responsible age.”  After the transition of the mi-fa interval, I see the second octave representing the work of our adult life, both in the world required for sustenance as well as spiritual work. The transition of the sol-la interval, or the Harnel-aoot would bring one to the third octave. I saw myself standing on that threshold.

My experience of the first octave began with the dawning of self-awareness and extended to the first interval. For me, it was a time of searching for meaning. For the longest time, this consisted of childish questions. Why?  How does this work?  What is the purpose of…?  When I was still a teenager, I was given a taste of Gurdjieff’s ideas. This was the beginning of my first interval, the interval between the First and Second Octaves of my life.

The Work ideas brought me to questions of value and purpose for life in general and my own life in particular. At some point, I found myself on the other side of the interval, having made the decision to work on myself. The Second Octave of my life has been characterized by active efforts. This began with the effort to identify the work that I was called to in life —both inner an outer work. When I finally re-connected with the Gurdjieff Work, it became the major focus of the spiritual aspect of my adult life. In all of my efforts, the aim and purpose was the same, to acquire the material needed to secure something of substance.

The interval between the Second and Third Octave did not come suddenly; in fact, I was blissfully unaware that it was coming at all. It only came into my awareness in drips and drops as I began to see how much I had become “habituated,” in both my outer life as well as in the Work. I have long been aware of my tendency to “always continue with efforts through to the end, regardless of consequences.” While this tendency has been useful, even valuable in my outer life, it allowed only limited progress in my inner life. I had doggedly continued toward what I believed to be the “path of self-realization.”  So long as I believed that I was working towards getting some result, some benefit for myself, this continued for a long time, with no concern for what was really needed.

When I looked at all of this in light of what I had come to understand from study and my own experiences of the Harnel-aoot, I knew that continued progress was not possible by means of the efforts that had brought me to where I was. Passage through the Harnel-aoot would require a letting go of ego and a surrendering of myself to the Will of a higher power. But how was that to be accomplished?

I have long believed that “If one asks a question, an answer will always be given.”  I asked questions about the meaning and experience of entering the Third Octave of anyone and everyone. I found one answer in particular that seemed to speak to the heart of the matter. I was told that Mr. Bennett spoke often, and at length, of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount. He often spoke, in particular, about his understanding of the first, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  On one occasion, Mr. Bennett rendered this as: “Blessed are those who are empty.”  And once he added, “…and do not wish to be filled.”  To me, this speaks of seeing one’s emptiness or nothingness and not wishing to be filled—in the sense of “having” or “being”. It speaks of setting aside the desire for gain for oneself in order to be able to be unified with the Will of the Higher.

The Third Octave of Life is the time for letting go of the hope of reward for our efforts. It is a time for making the effort to discover and understand what it is that is required of us in service to the Work. We need to see what we have to offer in service to the Great Work and set ourselves to perform that service, as far as we are able.

It is true that we are small and our individual efforts will be, at least to all appearance, insignificant. Our work is needed, individually and collectively, here and now. The Third Octave of Life is the time when we must cease gathering and holding for our own benefit and begin preparing to give what we are called to give to the future. The threshold of the Third Octave of Life comes when we truly see that we are empty, “poor in spirit”, and set aside our egoism and desire for our efforts to bring us accomplishment or reward. With this, we may be able to begin to serve, and to “pay the debt of our existence.”