When people ask me to recommend my favorite biography on G.I. Gurdjieff I instantly mention Fritz Peters‘ My Journey With A Mystic.
Although the title is a tad provactive and lacking (G. was much more than a ‘mystic’ — I’m not sure a fitting term has been compiled too encapsulate the man accurately), though the book is an honest to goodness journey. A wild, fun, heartfelt ride for certain. The book’s tenor is very human, the language simple and Peters’ recapitulation vivid and objective, alive. You won’t find a more engaging recounting.
In this section, G. describes the missed opportunities of poorly composed questions. Of which, in life, there are few genuine ones:
“You see what trouble I have with students? She ask stupid questions and I give stupid answers, but even though stupid, they honest.
But same is true even when someone—very rare—ask genuine question. When I give true answer, her unconscious already know answer is true because unless already know answer, unconscious cannot ask question. But, even so, she think I make joke, so will not listen.
In teaching is necessary to remember that no one really asks questions. Impossible to ask question about something you not already know, already have good idea. So I only give answers which she already know. Answer to such question everybody already know. Is usual, when person ask me question, to already know two answers: one pleasant, one unpleasant. Not really ask question, only want confirmation; want pleasant answer from other person than self, because already know pleasant answer not right.
But. . . if other person, like myself, give pleasant answer then can say to self that I tell this answer, and so not have to worry with conscience because is my fault.
But for serious man is not necessary find new answers, but new questions. Once you ask question, this mean you already have a very good idea about answer. For teacher is important make student ask new questions.
This reason why education in your country and in modern times upside-down. Teacher in school never make new student ask new question or try to discover new thing. Only answer old questions to which everyone already have answer or can find answer in self without effort.”
Question: What is inspiration?
Answer: Inspiration is an association. It is the work of one center. Inspiration is cheap, rest assured of that. Only conflict, argument, may produce a result.
Whenever there is an active element there is a passive element. If you believe in God, you also believe in the devil. All this has no value. Whether you are good or bad — it is not worth anything. Only a conflict bewteen two sides is worth something. Only when much is accumulated can something new manifiest itself.
At every moment there may be a conflict in you. You never see yourself. You will believe what I say only when you begin to look into yourself — then you will see. If you try to do something you don’t want to do — you will suffer. If you want to do something and don’t do it — you also suffer.
What you like — whether good or bad — is of the same value. Good is a relative concept. Only if you begin to work, your good and bad begin to exist.
“In order to develop from any of the three ordinary types into higher orders of being it is necessary to crystallize and temper essence into a permanent and unifeid “I.” This is done mainly by instigating a struggle between essence and personality. Both essence and personality are necessary for this work: essence must have personality or it will not wish to develop. Personality provides the material to study, the obstacles to overcome, the temptations to resist, the delusions to invalidate, and in the process of struggling with and testing itself against personality, essence gains in strength and maturity. This battle is what Islam calls the holy war (jihad) and in this war the more evenly matched the opposing sides, the greater the intensity of combat and the more thorough the destruction and renewal entailed.”
– Kathleen Riordan Speeth
What keeps us out of the upper floors [the higher intellectual and emotional centers] of our mansion? Obstacles to higher levels of consciousness are abundant in daily life: they are our legacy from generations past. Perhaps the most central is identification, the basic flavor of ordinary waking state.
“In this state,” Gurdjieff noted, “man has no separate awareness. He is lost in whatever he happens to be doing, feeling, thinking. Because he is lost, immersed, not present to himself, this condition is known…as a state of waking sleep.”
Identification is the opposite of self-consciousness. In a state of identification one does not remember oneself. One is lost to oneself. Attention is directed outward, and no awareness is left over for inner states. And ordinary life is almost totally spent in states of identification.
The thinking of ordinary people occurs when something “occurs to one.” It is mechanical chatter, colored by lying, which is not under any control. Formatory apparatus, the moving part of intellectual center, is incapable of comprehending orders of truth higher than the dualistic: thus the ordinary individual is third-force blind. He sees things in terms of opposites — cause and effect, good and evil, truth and falsity, seeing duality not not trinity.
– Kathleen Riordan Speeth
“If a man could understand all the horror of the lives of ordinary people who are turning around in a circle of insignificant interests and insignificant aims, if he could understand what they are losing, he would understand that there can only be one thing that is serious for him — to escape from the general law, to be free. What can be serious for a man in prison who is condemned to death? Only one thing: How to save himself, how to escape: nothing else is serious.”