Frequently Asked Questions
Many spiritual authors speak of “the power of now,” “being here now,” or “living in the moment.” What is different about the Fellowship’s approach?
These are words trying to describe an objective reality, and so are all the words on this website. They are all true, because they are all describing the same thing, but words have little value unless they can be put into practice. The question is, how? Moments of presence do appear by themselves, usually as a result of some shock or outside stimulus, but prolonged presence and real inner change require long and sometimes difficult work. The answer does not lie in words, but in whether you are actually present or making an effort to be present. The aim of the Fellowship is just this: to teach its members how to go beyond words to a direct, living experience of the present, and how to prolong that state.
Aren’t there other valid groups?
There are many paths, and many sincere seekers. At some point, we have to stop seeking and begin working. Otherwise all our searching only feeds the lower self, becoming something to display, an identity that makes us feel real. There may be a number of valid schools; at some point we have to work with one. The Fellowship does offer more than books, videos, lectures, discussions of higher ideas, or sessions of meditation or yoga. It offers a way of life. It is designed for those who want to make a focused commitment to the development of their own Higher Self, and who know that effort is required. Our teacher said, "No matter what school one is in, the question is: are you in a state of presence? If in imagination, one is not even in the school."
You spoke of your school as being a “way of life.” Does that mean I have to change my life to join?
No, you do not have to change your life externally to be a member of the Fellowship. The school was founded upon the basic Fourth Way principle that the work takes place in the normal circumstances of life and does not require special conditions, such as joining a monastery or ashram. Making this work a "way of life" means learning to bring the practice of being present to every waking moment, not just to special occasions, such as attending church services, spiritual retreats, or meditation or yoga sessions. Most members of the Fellowship have jobs and families, and carry out their inner work within the usual activities of their daily lives. As a member, any important external changes you may make in your life will not be dictated by the school, but by your own understanding and by the desire to come closer to your Higher Self. If presence becomes your “true north,” then everything else will follow. It is also true that in order to profit from the school you have to make space in your life for it—it takes time and energy. However, each member has different circumstances, and your degree of participation is completely up to you.
How do I know there will be results?
You cannot know in advance—in fact, that question leads out of the present, and into the realm of imagination. Nothing is guaranteed, and it is only through consistent effort that we can achieve anything real. You can try for a while and see what happens. If you sincerely follow the practices of our school, and make use of what it offers, you will change, and your understanding will grow. You may also find that your idea of the desired “results” becomes quite different. Walt Whitman said, “What you are picks its way.”
You describe imagination as a negative thing. What about creative imagination such as used by artists?
The term “imagination” as it is used in our school refers to uncontrolled mind activity—the incessant flow of thoughts, emotions, associations, and impulses that occupy our inner world. We don’t choose imagination; it happens to us. It is the natural state of sleeping man, and to stop it requires an inner effort. The moment that effort ceases, imagination resumes. Presence can emerge only when imagination is controlled. Any artistic or creative endeavor requires intentionality and choice, and so is actually enhanced, rather than diminished, by this effort. The question to ask yourself is, “Is this imagination under my control?”
Can I make these efforts by myself, or with friends and other interested people?
Try it and see. If you can make consistent efforts and attain the results you desire without a school, then you do not need a school. If you verify that you cannot make consistent, conscious effort alone and you need outside help, then you may wish to enter an esoteric school. Imagination and the lower self are more serious foes than we realize. It is not simply that we lack focus—there is actually something inside of us that actively resists the effort to be present. The lower self has an arsenal of tricks that deceive us into thinking we are making efforts, or that efforts are not needed. Without the outside help of a teacher and other people doing the same work, it is very difficult to distinguish what is true from what is false in ourselves. We are fond of what veils us. Only a teacher with perfected methods of awakening can help us see our illusory nature and remove this veil. It is not a question of acquiring more knowledge. There are countless books and lectures available today on conscious awakening. What is lacking is a precise, practical understanding of how to use this knowledge, and the conditions that enable us to do it. We must not only be shown what to do, but be continually reminded.
How can I know if the teacher is awake?
Usually you first meet other students, not the teacher. Through your impressions of them, you will learn a lot about the teacher before you even meet him. Gurdjieff said, “In this work, he who is most awake is the teacher.” The part in us that recognizes the teacher is the highest part of ourselves. No one can anticipate this experience for another. However, if you become more aware of your own sleep, and more sensitive to your moments of presence, you will begin to recognize this difference in others. What distinguishes a teacher is that he is permanently established in presence. When we are present we meet him there, and we meet our own Self.
Why does the work have to be so difficult?
Effort can become a way of life, and it is a much richer and more interesting life than a life lived in sleep. On a larger scale, every myth, every fairy tale, every epic, every great religious story that we have heard and loved depicts a hero or heroine engaging in a great battle between darkness and light. It is an astonishing, and humbling, experience to realize that undertaking this work means that we must re-enact this battle internally, moment by moment. We are ordinary people attempting an extraordinary task—to use our transient, sleeping bodies to create a permanent awakened Self. If it were not difficult it would not have the value that it has. Petrarch said, “It is the struggle to become a god on Mount Olympus that you have chosen, which is no small, mean contest.”
Why do esoteric schools generate controversy?
A powerful teaching elicits powerful responses from those it touches. The teacher’s role is to help his students awaken to their Higher Selves. In doing so, he must help them see their sleep, their imagination, their illusions, their lies, their imaginary sense of self-importance, all of which must die before their true Self can be born. The student needs to cooperate with the teacher in this, and it is not always easy. Disturbing our sleep and our imaginary picture of ourselves, and helping us achieve our higher centers, is in fact the purpose of a school, and provokes strong reactions from the lower self. Only the Higher Self can understand this necessity, which is why any real attempt at awakening will at times create controversy.
How do I know when it is time to join?
If you have tried to be present, or to reach a spiritual state, and realized that you cannot work alone, and need the help of a teacher and others, then it is time to join. Many people pass their whole lives going from one group to another, never really wanting to find, because finding entails real work, and means relinquishing the idea that spiritual growth lies in external change.
Is there a fee to join?
There is a fee to join the Fellowship, paid on a month-to-month basis. The payment depends on a number of factors, such as where you live, your income, and your situation. Membership donations are on a sliding scale, so that newer members are required to pay less than older members. Every country has a different donation structure, so contact the center nearest you to find out more about the payment in your area.
I would like to join, but I don’t live near a center.
Wherever you join you immediately become connected to the body of the school. Weekly publications, videos of meetings, daily messages, and frequent communications from the teacher and students are available to all members. Of course, you are encouraged to visit other centers and Apollo whenever you can. Interestingly, circumstances often do change, even when we think it is impossible. When we are led by our desire to actualize our higher selves, things can fall into place in a quite unexpected way.
What if I don’t want to stay?
Membership in the Fellowship is on a month-to-month basis. Each month is a chance to assess if you have received something and if you want to join for another month. You can cease being a member of the Fellowship at any time by simply discontinuing the monthly teaching payment; however, you usually cannot return without making a re-entry donation. Understanding does not come immediately, so it is good to give yourself some time to verify these ideas. There are students who have been in the Fellowship for forty years, and others who have just joined—all united in their pursuit of the present.