I get the impression that service to the Absolute…what Gurdjieff called world maintenance…is not supposed to be the same thing as service to humanity. I’m uncomfortable with this. I think dedicated service to humanity is the best we can expect from ourselves and is really service to the Absolute.
Let’s begin by asking ‘who do I serve?’ This is not a theoretical question. I cannot serve beyond my understanding. Do I understand what it means to serve humanity? Do I understand what it means to serve the Absolute?
Do I ‘love’ humanity but have very little patience for human beings? Do I really have any connection to humanity unless I know my own humanity…what I share with all others of my species?
These questions point to the absolute importance of first undertaking work on self. I do not know my humanity. I do not know myself. I have all sorts of ideas about humanity and the ideal of serving it, perhaps by working with the poor or the sick. I would like to think I can alleviate their suffering. I would like to think I can change the world.
But I fail to see that I am unreliable, that my motives almost always serve my ego. I fail to see that I must begin at the beginning, by knowing myself impartially, which changes me and my relationships with everything and everyone.
I think it is possible to commit to serving people in our life…not ‘humanity’ but rather actual human beings…and use that commitment as a means for observing self. Take on work for others in order to work on self. Perhaps you think that this is too self-focussed but how can you expect to change the lives of those around you if you do not work to change your own? In this way, service to others supports your work on self.
As for service to the Absolute, this is not for everyone. It is not an aim I can adopt for myself. Do I have a sense of His Existence? Do I feel His Presence calling me to Himself? I think it is not for us to know the meaning and value of our service to the Absolute but, as the Sufis say, He knows best.
As always, the use of traditional pronouns in English does not confer a gender on the Absolute Who is beyond all such distinctions and differences.