John Bennett is known as a transmitter of Gurdjieff’s teachings, as a pioneer of coal research, mathematician, linguist; as a seeker of wisdom, as a maverick risk-taking adventurer. But in his last years with students at the International Academy for Continuous Education at Sherborne, Gloucestershire, he showed that he was first and foremost as a teacher of experimental thinking.
Bennett pointed out that certain words and notions in common use – as for example: God, Love, Faith, Will, Consciousness, Reality – can in actuality neither be expressed in words nor even comprehended using our conventional modes of thought. Such notions can be generally termed as denoting higher worlds, more specifically as a scale of worlds each having infinite possibilities and degrees of freedom in relation to lesser worlds. Bennett used a number of different analogies to enable students initially to conceive of the possibility of such worlds, and then to formulate such reality for themselves.
Comparative research into traditional belief systems from different parts of this world revealed to Bennett that certain special techniques can make such higher worlds temporarily accessible. Using the systematic model that he developed following his studies with P.D. Ouspensky and presented in his “The Dramatic Universe”, Bennett led his students gently to the point where it was possible to follow his lead. Bennett taught that understanding is accessible to all and is not dependent upon advanced intellectual capacity or special circumstances, but rather requires hard work and self-discipline.
Bennett went further and proposed the present time of human history is actually the Parousia, or second coming of Christ. The notion of Parousia has its counterpart in Judaism in the doctrine of the Messiah, in Islam as the Mehdi – and exists in the folklore of many cultures, as the English King Arthur or the Irish Finn McCool. Bennett described this as the emergence of a new kind of human existence, which would be based on the principle – central to Gurdjieff’s work – of RECIPROCAL MAINTENANCE. The key to understanding our role in the changes coming to the world is to be found through the kind of shift in thinking which Bennett outlined.
The transition from the old world to the new is an opportunity unprecedented in human history for seekers and teachers from different and hitherto exclusive traditions to come together for the benefit of all creatures. The word ‘creation’ is used to denote the bringing into being of something that has not previously existed, and Bennett pointed out that in every case this takes the form of an idea, and an idea that is great and far-reaching may require years, decades or centuries to come to fruition.
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