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NOVEMBER 2005 • Vol 2, No 11
Presence • Awakening • Higher Centers • The Beloved • God
Being Present

a publication of the Fellowship of Friends

The ‘Internal War’ 

The more sincerely one does this work, the more one sees how much effort it takes, what a battle it is, to keep being present. As the Sufi mystic Kabir said: “In the field of this body a great war goes forward.”

Kabir was referring to the internal war—the struggle by work ‘I’s to repeatedly bypass mechanical ‘I’s and promote presence. Kabir was also not the first to use the analogy of war. The Egyptian school thousands of years before Christ put it this way in Going Forth By Day: “Grip your harpoon and drive off the enemy.” They were saying: take control of work ‘I’s and use them to deflect mechanical ‘I’s being produced by the four lower centers.

Centuries later, the Mahabharata depicted this effort in the warrior Arjuna, who esoterically represents the steward: “Arjuna became well renowned for the firmness of his grasp of weapons.” The authors were indicating that a mature steward can swiftly use work ‘I’s to deflect mechanical ‘I’s and reintroduce presence. The New Testament authors portrayed Christ in a similar way: “Think not that I (the steward) have come to bring peace (presence) on earth (the four lower centers), but a sword (work ‘I’s).” Mohammad, who understood the esoteric meaning of the Bible, would later add: “Swords (work ‘I’s) are the key to heaven (promoting presence).”

These images of war, used by most schools in history, convey the intensity of fighting against an enemy who is determined at all cost to defeat his opponent in a life or death struggle. Internally, the victory to be gained is divine presence that culminates in conscious immortality, while defeat means endless submersion in imagination.

The warrior in this war is the steward who leads his soldiers—work ‘I’s—into battle against a skilled adversary: the intellectual part of the instinctive center. In the image above, the ‘adversary’ is illustrated as a dragon in human form. Seen close up, the dragon’s clothing consists of hundreds of faces—the many ‘I’s—who oppose the steward.

When Mr. Ouspensky said that the intellectual part of the instinctive center is the ‘mind behind the machine’, he explained that it controls the rest of the instinctive center. What he left unsaid is that this part of the machine also controls all the other parts of the machine. That is, it indirectly manipulates the lower centers to produce imagination, identification, and negative emotions. It also arouses reactions like restlessness, curiosity, laughter, and wit, as well as the urge to seek and avoid attention. These are just a few examples. Behind virtually every manifestation lies the intellectual part of the instinctive center, which either passes unseen or is mistaken for consciousness.

The Old Testament, Lamentations 4:12, describes the clandestine nature of this part of the machine: “The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.” About this, Robert Earl Burton has said: “The parts of centers (even the other intellectual parts of centers) are naive to the fact that they are being used by the intellectual part of the instinctive center to displace presence.”

Elsewhere in esoteric literature and art, the intellectual part of the instinctive center is depicted as a hippopotamus, a crocodile, a donkey, a serpent, and the devil. Mr. Burton points out that this is because the intellectual part of the instinctive center is animal intelligence in human form, whereas higher centers are divine intelligence in human form. And overcoming the one to promote the other is the purpose of developing the steward.

Many authors of The Philokalia knew this and expressed it through the idea of prayer, which for them was analogous to using work ‘I’s to deflect mechanical ‘I’s. For example, John of the Ladder wrote: “Your spiritual sword should always be drawn.” Similarly, St. John of Carpathos said, “The enemy knows that prayer is our invincible weapon against him, and so he tries to keep us from praying.” In other words, the intellectual part of the instinctive center knows that work ‘I’s will be its undoing and so it does everything it can to draw us into mechanical ‘I’s and away from work ‘I’s.

The Sufi poet Rumi described the firmness and fierceness of this struggle: “Do not take a wooden sword into battle. Go, find one of steel, and then march forward with joy. Come with all your might, with your piercing sword.” As Mr. Burton said recently: “We do not have time to practice with a wooden sword; we must be present while there is still time.”

This has always been the aim of schools: to keep deflecting imagination and reclaiming divided attention—to be present now. One of the most graphic depictions of this continuous inner struggle comes from the sacred Indian book, the Bhagavad-Gita, which says: “There is a war that opens the doors of heaven. Happy the warriors whose fate it is to fight such a war.

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Links of interest
• Videos of Robert Earl Burton teaching
Suggested reading
• Esoteric keys to understanding The Bible

Introductory lectures — monthly
We offer a series of free introductory lectures in cities around the world. To register:
• Call our USA information line (1-800-642-0212),
Find a center nearest you.

1— An introduction to the system
• The system is ancient, objective knowledge
• The microcosmos man can transcend himself
• Schools use precise methods for awakening

2— The four lower centers (requires lecture 1)
• Observing how the lower centers function
• Recognizing when lower centers displace presence
• Using lower centers to reach higher centers

3— Promoting and prolonging presence
(requires lecture 1 and 2)
• Developing the steward and intellectual parts of centers
• The instinctive center as the ‘mind behind the machine’
• Specific ways to promote and prolong presence

Membership information
The Fellowship of Friends is an esoteric school with centers worldwide. Membership is monthly. For details:
Find a center nearest you.
• Email

• Call 1-800-642-0212.

Rustum Slaying the White Dragon. Seventeenth century Indian miniature, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, Switzerland. (The image reproduced here is for spiritual and educational use only, and is not to be used for any other reason.)

Thoughts on the internal war
If a man lives without inner struggle, if everything happens in him without opposition, if he goes wherever he is drawn or wherever the wind blows, he will remain such as he is.
George Gurdjieff
You must understand that external things matter least of all. It is the internal things that are important, internal war.
Peter Ouspensky
All schools use the same keys, because all schools have the same problem: how to arise from imagination to presence, and how to remain there. If the steward is not active, then the intellectual part of the instinctive center will displace presence.
Robert Earl Burton  
And by thy sword shalt thou live.
Genesis 27:40  
If I could have quickly taken weapons in my hand, I would have made the cowards retreat in turmoil.
Egyptian Text
A Spiritual warrior has no outside enemies.
Abu Bakr 
Whether the sword is sharp or not will be obvious when you strike.
Tibetan Wisdom, Rechungpa  
Blades will sprout where you do your work.
One should ward off the blows of mental afflictions and severely attack them, as if engaged in a sword-combat with a trained enemy.
Tibetan wisdom, Shantideva 
On this warfare against thoughts by attention and prayer, hangs the life and death of the soul.
Draw your sword of discrimination and strike imagination to pieces.
In the battleground of the soul, there is a constant clash between soldiers of the devils and angels, until the angels gain the upper hand.
The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland.
This fight continues all one’s life.

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