The Lectures and THE WORK
Those who study Ed Rabel's 1975 Commentaries on the Old Testament and his 1976 Commentaries on the New Testament often wonder about the source of his esoteric Bible interpretations. They are from the writings of Maurice Nicoll, a student of Carl Jung, George Gurdjieff and PD Ouspensky. Ed Rabel learned them early in his ministry while serving as a minister in Toronto and he developed them throughout his entire career.
The video lectures you can watch here, Basic Self Knowledge, were given in 1993 as an afternoon elective at CEP. They provide a glimpse into esoteric psychology, an aspect of Unity teachings focusing on metanoia, the change of consciousness. They also show how the Gurdjieff teachings framed Ed Rabel's understanding of the teachings of Charles and Myrtle and how they provided him a rich source of metaphysical truth for his lectures on the Bible.
Ed Rabel was not the only one influenced by THE WORK as taught by Gurdjieff. Others in Unity have drawn from these teachings and many continue to provide spiritual guidance to students based on self observation and contemplative prayer. These teachers are not well known; they reflect Gurdjieff's own reluctance to attract praise and admiration. They are not spiritual entrepreneurs and you won't find them writing books or traveling around on the Unity lecture circuit.
But they are available for the sincere student. That the teachings are esoteric only means they are hidden by one's own readiness to comprehend spiritual truth. What these teachings and their teachers underscore is that the REAL objective of the student of THE WORK is not acquiring credentials, but to wake up; and that the REAL unit of THE WORK's spiritual community is not a church, but a study group.
Caution for Esoteric Seekers
It is easy to get lost in esoteric studies, and the Gurdjieff teachings are no exception. Emilie Cady cautioned us about reading too many books. Eric Butterworth cautioned us about people who are "over read and under done." Ed Rabel himself in this series cautions us about "misapplying energy externally" and his entire focus here is on esoteric psychology, not cosmology nor theology.
If individuals are prone to fall into the trap of endless esoteric seeking, so much more is the risk to a denomination whose churches sometimes offer more spiritual showcasing than the hard, difficult work of discipleship. Too often a Unity church showcases attractive teachings of others more than it does its own teachings. The showcase fills seats and may even foster spiritual growth, but the showcase, by itself and without generating its own content, does not produce anything creative or productive. The end result is that the showcase gives way to newer, more efficient means of delivering spiritual benefits, such as Oprah's Super Soul Sunday or the broadcasts of Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.
So I am somewhat reluctant in putting these videos up on the Internet and I am reluctant in writing this introduction to Ed Rabel's lecture series. I hope that THE WORK presented here is received as an opportunity to know oneself and to enrich Unity discipleship, rather than being perceived as a new product in the Unity showcase.
Having been cautioned, I still strongly believe in the value of studying the esoteric side of Unity, especially the study of esoteric psychology. It is the only way of true freedom. Henry David Thoreau wrote in his Conclusion to Walden,
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.
Living with the license of a higher order of beings may be the most concise description of what spirituality is all about. That is certainly the promise of these lectures. Here are my notes from Lecture Three:
Reading from the bottom of p.108, Ed reflects that Unity teaches the same in saying we remain under the law of cause and effect, but as we evolve we live under a higher level of cause and effect: grace. The laws of grace operate on a higher level than the laws under which man lives ordinary (mechanical cause and effect, karma). Emilie Cady entitled this "bondage or liberty, which?". He continues on p.109, reading about the seed which becomes a plant when it is placed in a suitable environment. Ed reflects on how often Jesus uses seeds in his teachings. There are different categories of natural law and when man tries to ascend the evolutionary ladder, through The Work, he comes automatically under the higher range of laws. Man is fully capable of having the higher spiritual laws which will work out most of his problems for him. We don't have to work out our own problem, "it is the Father within me who doeth the works." Don't go on a diet, but only "open your mind to greater light and the light will find its way to every part of our being and bring us under the influence of higher laws."
May we, with St. Paul "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1).