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Doing The "Work" -- Gurdjieff Style -- In A Fourth Way School


by Dr. Derek Lamar, QM21.com

Opening a “school” is not as simple as it might seem. There are so many variables. Understand we are talking about an “esoteric school” or a “mystery school” in the truest sense of the word. But you can’t advertise a “Mystery School” per se because that sounds so “New Age Hokey” with crystals, oils, incense and sweat lodges. But at the same time you don’t want people to think it is a night school course you could find at the nearby college offering something like “Reflections on World Religion” or “Alchemy 101: Real or Unreal?”

At this point in one’s life you really have to have done enough “Work” on your self that the answers come to you intuitively for the most part. You can brainstorm all you want but then you must let the right answers rise to the top, as it were. People rarely understand how the process works and “The Teacher” tends to withhold information because the material either freaks out the novice, or the semi-initiate thinks you are exaggerating and overplaying the statements you are presenting. Now you should personally beware of “teachers” who engage you personally in work that is not your choice per se. Sometimes there are retreats, or special classes that involve personal one-on-one therapies or group therapies where everyone is involved and occasionally those are appropriate and effective. However, for the most part the personal “Work” students should be engaged in should come from his or her own inner voice drawing them into dealing with what is going on deep within them. That is where the student finds their real “Teacher.” Unfortunately too often people learn to say: “I don’t need a teacher. I learn on my own.” And usually they don’t learn very much because their subconscious makes sure of that.

This is one of the areas in which mystic, G. I. Gurdjieff, brought insight to the Western world. In modern terms he introduced “self-observation” and combined that with the need to “wake up.” The point to one having a “Teacher” was to have someone who was knowledgeable in the “Work” who could “wake you up” periodically. This is because people constantly fall back to sleep and get lost in the fantasy and illusion of their daily life. It is also important to become acquainted with your “Observer Self” in order to reflect on the duality of your own self and your world and begin to separate Reality from illusion. Too often “students” who jump from one group on to another group, from this book and to that philosophy, simply are engaged in what I call “spiritual barhopping.” Often people become engaged in groups because they know they are drawn there or because they can also see that they need help. Usually it is for both reasons. But when they get close to one of their problems through the “reflection” process, they become uncomfortable, they are not happy with their surroundings, and they leave the group. Their subconscious blames the group for their fear of change and they continue like this as they move from group to group in life, much like how people deal with personal relationships. There is no process taking place and rarely any change. Certainly very little change as to the mechanicalness of oneself. We are like androids with a distant sense of self and though we think we are awake and believe that we are aware of everything going on, most people are almost snoring.

So, at this point the ceiling tiles are cleaned, the offices organized, the lecture room is created with chairs in place,speakers in place, podium (left over cash register station from Brocks on Chester) and of course “the blackboard” hanging on the wall. Everything now is almost ready for the GRAND OPENING. I noticed across the street along the canal, where the B’nai Jacob Congregation synagogue is, that there were workers getting ready to install new carpeting. I immediately went over and talked to the Rabbi. I introduced myself, as did he. The first thing I noticed even before either one of us spoke was the cowboy boots he was wearing. That was pretty funny. I was just here from Los Angeles and particularly fond of the Jewish Fairfax area and none of the rabbis looked like this. Then of course he spoke. Did he sound like Jackie Mason? Did he sound like Joey Bishop? No. He sounded like he was flown in direct from Oklahoma. Apparently if I recall the story correctly, he and his family WERE from Oklahoma. Talk about “culture shock.” I told him about our school and wanted to know what he was going to do with the old carpet he was taking out because we could use it. Of course he graciously said I could have it. I thanked him and went back and got my car and loaded it up in the hatchback.

I mention that because it was just toward the end of my installing the carpet in the back room that I managed to cut myself with the carpet knife. Nancy and I immediately got in the car and went to KMC (Kern Medical Center). There was nowhere to park close to the entrance so I jumped out and went inside. My hand was wrapped in a towel if you’re wondering. I looked around the crowded room and returned to my wife in the parking lot. I said: “I don’t have anything against the people here but it just isn’t the place I am supposed to be.”  I am speaking about my awareness of the consciousness of the situation and the intuitive factors operating at that point. I had Nancy get my wallet out of my pocket and get Dr. Nevit Ergin’s phone number out. We found a pay phone and she called him. He told us to meet him at his office immediately. I had met Dr. Ergin a few times on my travels to Bakersfield. Joe Sparks took me to his office to meet him and I got to discover his weekly groups of friends, food and wine.

This day it was just the three of us and he cleaned my wound and stitched up my hand. I was, of course, as good as new: with a little time for healing thrown in. Nevit is half French and half Turkish. His Turkish side plays the dominant role except perhaps for his love of wine. He speaks English, French, Persian/Farsi and has been actively translating Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi poetry and teachings since around 1990. Nevit came to this country and began living in Michigan and was involved with a Gurdjieff group that manifested out of the J. G. Bennett line. Nevit was a personal student of Hasan Shushud, a Sufi from Bosphorus and author of Masters of Wisdom of Central Asia. Shushud was a spiritual adviser to Bennett as well, and Nevit became acquainted with the entire group during his stay in Michigan. Bennett mentions Nevit in his book “Witness.” Later Nevit moved to Bakersfield. Cecil Peart was the man Nevit was in contact with, before moving to Bakersfield, and he was the director of Kern Valley Hospital in Lake Isabella. When Nevit looked at his map he was confused because he could not find Lake Isabella. Of course the map was printed before they created the lake in 1953. For myself I remember going up to the lake from Los Angeles with my family for vacations and there were still living trees sticking up out of the water. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Kern River at the junction of its two forks at Whiskey Flat and the dam was built creating a lake and a popular tourist getaway.

Cecil and Terry Peart, both now gone, were lifelong friends with Nevit. Terry even became Nevit’s secretary and sometimes assistant in his medical practice in Bakersfield and was always there for the “mystical” gatherings of serious frivolity. These were typical Fourth Way events because there was a mood that permeated the meetings of fun and curiosity. There were offhanded comments made by Nevit that would then lift the atmosphere into questioning the meaning of things and also accepting that there was more meaning to life than what most people encountered. It wasn’t an obvious “self-encounter” event with the tone of austerity but simply a casual and calm interlude of people who needed a break from the neurosis of a mechanical world. Often simply the differences of people coming together in a calm situation of like-minded seeking would be in itself enough to bring about an inner change. One that likely remained fixed within them and helped to set them free in some way as they would return to “their other world.”

Cecil Peart had also been a victim of World War II. He was in the military and was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked the 76,000 sick and starving Filipino and American defenders of Bataan. They were forced to surrender to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. This was when the Japanese led them on the infamous “Death March” where 7,000 to 10,000 either died or were murdered during the seven days it took before arriving at the internment camp. Cecil Peart survived that march and became a pivotal piece in the puzzle that would someday help form the nuance of energy that was expressed in these encounters.

Al Robbins was often at these events and always had an interesting story, a magic trick or a discussion of snakes and other reptiles. The Al Robbins Herpetological Center at the California Living Museum (C.A.L.M.) in Bakersfield was named after Al Robbins and represented his lifelong contributions to society and especially a tribute to the fifty years he entertained the children of Bakersfield. There are few that grew up in Bakersfield that did not get a chance to meet Al Robbins during the many presentations he made at the many Bakersfield schools during his lifetime.

Janet and her husband Mr. Kane, as Nevit always called him with respect, were often there and Janet was a great cook. She
was from Lebanon originally and they had two daughters, Mary and I think, Talin was the other’s name. She was younger and I remember often running into her at K-Mart when she worked there on 34th St. Mmmmmmm… I can taste the dolmas as I reminisce. Also Frances Daniel-Sanchez from the American Indian Council of Central California was there many times. As well as private investigator Don Brown and sometimes his sister who was then married to a Kern County District Attorney. It was quite a mix of people who created a vortex of energy that kept the possibilities spinning. It was like a fun house of mirrors where you would struggle to find your way through the experience but never without seeing your reflection in what you thought at the time to be a doorway of escape.

I did survive my self-encounter with the carpet knife and we were able to finish getting everything ready for the opening. I had a list of Fourth Way Students from Los Angeles, a few friends from the Fourth Way / Esoteric school we had gone to, interested individuals from over the years and a list of names from people who had come to my three lectures back in January of 1986. It wasn’t a long list but it was a beginning. In my letter to those who came to the promotional lectures I said that: “The school exists now, even though as I write this there is no address. But there is the knowing of the one place in Consciousness where self meets self. The school will offer evening classes and weekend seminars that will be metaphysical by definition, ontological by design, and taught in a fourth way manner.” Sundays a lecture would be presented and would represent ‘a grounding’ for many throughout the week. The School, named The Ontological Center would be an opportunity for real esoteric instruction on a regular basis the likes of which Bakersfield had never known.”

Part of the analysis I did on the location of Bakersfield was in the name itself: “Baker’s Field.” This would be the field that belongs to the baker. The field is where one does work. The baker is the one who represents the bread that is symbolic of the body or the human state of consciousness as it pertains to physicality. And this is where one begins to do their “Work” as it relates to the raising of consciousness. In one of my letters I stated that, “Quantity vs. quality is no conflict either. Increase shall be evidenced, for there are many waiting, who, as yet, do not know. “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few.” And yet as the journey begins with one step, so it is that the Teacher begins with one student, then another, and another, who early on are able to follow their inner direction rather than being pulled humanly by the emotion of the crowds that wander aimlessly in search of rationalizations.  You represent those who are waiting to learn things not yet spoken: “realities that at present remain unseen.”

Saga continues: Grand Opening of a Metaphysical School

Derek Lamar now walking the streets of Bakersfield...

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