The mind lives on comparisons and conceptualizations—such is its path. First it selects ideas, and then it judges the state of the world on the basis of them—this is the normal functioning of what mystics call the conditioning of a person’s reactions. Coming up with a conceptualization of the Path is an intrinsic part of the mind of a seeker—even if he believes that no such Path actually exists. Those who seek enlightenment or Truth involuntarily absorb a number of contradictory conceptualizations of the Path, whether they want to or not. Hence, for example, the eightfold Path outlined by the Buddha. Its stages are spelled out perfectly clearly—right view, right aspiration, right action and various other things that are right. A definition of what is meant by “right” in each case is also spelled out clearly and concisely. At the same time, there is no guarantee that you will be able to pass along this Path, and how much time it will take you to do so. The human mind does not like such uncertainty, and so it begins to look for further guarantees in examples from the lives of holy people, or at least from fellow travelers who have progressed upon this path. The mind seeks certainty, and this is something that is absent on the mystic Path. Then it begins creating prostheses in the hope of introducing the illusion of certainty into the situation, and these prostheses are played by conceptualizations of how things will be (or should be), plus a belief in the rightness of the chosen path. 

Masters have, to a certain extent, to artificially come up with a description of their own Path, outlining certain stages on it. The Sufis, for example, have in their description of the Path a series of “stations”, each of which represents a particular step or stage where the seeker will find themselves at a given time. The stations are not described or interpreted the same way in different orders, but that is not the point. With this description, the seeker is given a map of the Path, which soothes the heart and mind. Inasmuch as the mind is involved in carrying out the work, albeit outside of the mind, the possibility of his falling into a state of anxiety can severely constrain the seeker’s progress. That said, the sequential description of the stations, which often appears in literature dedicated to Sufism, is a simplification, because it is not uncommon for a person to pass two stations at the same time. Any map is to a certain degree conditional, and its value is absolute only to those who have learned the map but have not taken the Path.

Along with conceptualizations of the Path, any seeker will also have a conception of his own aims—and you also will not get anywhere with this at first. Normally it is an image that is based on actually existing prototypes, like Christ, George Gurdjieff, Seraphim of Sarov and other remarkable figures. The same problem arises—the inevitable idealization of the image, dragging with it those features bestowed upon it which real people do not have. What happens next is the seeker wants and hopes to acquire those qualities he does not particularly need, and which are not in fact attainable. And pupils contrive to project their dreams and desires onto living Masters, while all the best things hang upon the dead ones, as on the Christmas tree at the Kremlin.

Do you know which of the mystics has the most memoirs written about him? Gurdjieff. There have been several dozen published on him. And this number of memoirs can be explained quite easily—in these memoirs, people are trying to unpick the mystery that the Master posed, and which he himself cultivated and maintained in all possible ways. And yet, what can we learn about Gurdjieff from these memoirs? Almost nothing. Descriptions of events and activities that the author was present at; most memoirs consist of a description of the impression that Gurdjieff left on people. And so reading the description of one impression, you gain a different impression, as though it were your own, and on that you construct a conception of the thing you need to arrive at. And you end up with distortion squared. So you gain the illusion that you know who Gurdjieff was and who you should become. And both of these are absolute drivel.

The example I have alluded to above concerns all mystics and seekers without exception. The mind always prolongs the illusion if you let it, but a real mystic is always hard to grasp and understand. The mystic eludes your perception, because yours is not developed, and because it is hard for you to understand the motives for the actions he takes, and his behavior in general. All mystics who come to operate in the world make mistakes, many are inclined to exaggerations and mystifications that are easily discovered and not readily explicable from a common-sense perspective. There are as many examples of this as you like. Pupils and researchers try to find explanations for this from a common-sense perspective, but this is worthless here.

The fact is that the Path is predictable only where it concerns work with the ego and the three lower bodies of a person, in other words, where it relates to spiritual work. In this, everything goes according to plan, and everything is subject to the laws of logic. But just as the centers and the mental body begin to reveal themselves and the level of awareness grows, the linearity and predictability of the processes breaks down. There are many factors at play here, and one can only talk of them in general terms, because the minutiae are in each case different. As I have written above, by working on himself, the seeker changes the frequency of energy that he is “vibrating”. For this reason, he moves to the influence of the Upward Stream of Creation. But the Downward Stream does not really like to let go of people, all the more so as they have within them a mystical component called Darkness. And every seeker that begins to move towards the Light, always encounters some opposition from Darkness. This opposition may take many different forms, but as a rule, it is normally close family and friends, or lovers, who become its conductors, suddenly turning on the seeker, demanding that he immediately give up everything he is doing and do something real. That is to say, to pay attention to his loved ones and generally to change his behavior. This is a very typical reaction, and when it happens, it means the movement towards the Light has already begun. And here it is hard to explain the sudden interest of one’s loved ones in what one is doing as anything other than a reaction of opposition, because before then they could spend years paying no attention (at all) to one’s “whims”. Opposition can take many different forms and miracles can happen that it is impossible to believe in until you seem them with your own eyes.

Owing to this opposition, the Darkness has in all ages come to be the chief enemy of most mystics. Actually, at a certain point on the Path, the opposition between internal and external Darkness and Light becomes the main focus of what is happening. Yet if a person’s sixth center is activated, he will begin to perceive Darkness and Light absolutely clearly, as forces that objectively exist. This is how warriors of the Light appear, and mystics cannot be blamed for this, when after all their Path—to the Upward Stream—is also the Path to the Light. But sooner or later, every mystic comes to understand that Darkness and Light are merely elements in the grand scheme of Creation, and he then ceases to attach himself to the Light, escaping the limits of this beautiful though fearful duality.

Strictly speaking, a person may only call themselves a mystic or Sufi after he has accepted the Will and begun to follow it. It can be that someone may be called a mystic whose Heart has been opened, given that he has a conscious connection to the Source. The rest remain seekers, pupils and so on, until they have gone through the processes of opening the Heart and accepting the Will. Only after this does their life become fully the life of a mystic, which is to say, only then does it lose its predictability.

All conceptions of the mystic Path that a person may hold within their mind are rather primitive and will never match its true reality. This is determined by two factors: distortions that come about both in expression—when experience is translated into words—and in perception—when the person listening has no corresponding experience to correctly comprehend what has been said. Distortion in communication and perception is the primary factor that enables completely inaccurate conceptualizations of the Path to be created. The second is when a seeker bases their conception on the example of another person. Another person—no matter how accomplished he is—is still not you. And your journey will never repeat the path of someone who has gone before.

This is the greatest mystery and the greatest beauty—every person’s Path to God is unique. Just as the qualities that appear and flourish within a person on the Path are unique. Our journey does not end after Surrender, on the contrary, in some sense it has only just begun. No matter what different people say about the blessing of enlightenment to lure people tired of suffering; from the perspective of higher realization, this blessing is a very minor, almost meaningless thing. There is no place in the search, or on the Path, for those seeking respite and contentment, indeed they will never get to it. The Upward Stream is entered by overcoming oneself, and this task is not easily done. Serving God and people and realizing one’s own destiny are also not simple exercises. It is not for nothing that many mystics are perceived as supermen, when after all this is precisely what they become on the Path to God.

It must be said that the Will of God, which the mystic follows, sometimes comes across as being irrational, in the same way that human desires are. It can lead him to paths one would scarcely want to take. In this there is always a higher providence, but sometimes this is known only to God, and it is often not possible for a person to see the Pattern as a whole. However, the mystic must follow the Will and follow it to the best of his strength and intelligence, though his actions may strongly differ from people’s expectations and other conventionalities. This is how stories of the outlandish behavior of holy people, and the eccentricities of mystics, come about. Although, of course, one cannot do without this uniqueness, which appears in both thought and action, and generally in the features of their higher realization.

Following the Will is an individual and to a certain degree intimate thing, because the connection to God and interaction with Him concerns all aspects of a mystic’s life. A mystic cannot say—now I am serving God and fulfilling the Will, and now I am living for myself—that does not happen. The mystic is always in service and preparing for it.. His life is a sacrifice, and the Path is full of mysteries. And this is not a metaphor—after Surrender, all sorts of miracles begin to happen which are difficult to adequately describe, and all but impossible to adequately comprehend. The point is that continuing on the Path after Surrender leads the mystic to new heights, both in his personal being, and in the possibilities of his service. But the territory he is heading into has so far not been described to anyone, in that his Path is unique. There are certain things someone may have encountered before, but many, many things the mystic will go through are new, and may be the first and last time in the whole of human history. In the process of conducting the Will, he gains new experience, new powers and new abilities and continues to grow in his understanding of and insight into Truth. The mystic’s opportunities for growth at a certain point become unlimited and his mystic potential boundless. Although of course in reality all this is limited by the duration of his life in the physical body.

It is due to the uniqueness of each mystic’s journey on the Path that so many different descriptions exist, as they are taken from their experience. Hence the confusion in the heads of those who read a lot. Sooner or later all readers arrive at a simplified understanding of the Path and, perhaps, begin their Path, which is bound to contradict all their pre-conceptions regardless. Reality is infinite, and God does not like to repeat Himself, and He has no interest in playing the same game over again, simply changing the figure on the board. This is why the games are always different, and life is very varied. And it is also why both life and the Path are so beautiful. Although to those looking for certainty and predictability, and who wish to keep everything under control, it does not seem that way. But this book is not for them. It is for those who are ready to risk everything and lose it all, in exchange for gaining the highest form of realization, which is only possible in this world, as this is the only way to become a mystic in the true sense of the word.