talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

second evening

g. anyone has something to say that may interest all here?

l. i would like to ask a question about vanity. why is it that, in the best moments as in the worst, vanity always intervenes! being successful with an exercise or failing it, it's always an excuse for vanity.

g. it may be your education that made you so. your parents' influence, or your surroundings, or your friends. vanity has become your foundation, the dominant factor of your being. when another factor, another impulse comes up, your vanity acts at the same time, and since it is stronger, it takes over everything.

this is a very good observation. you have to realize that your enemy is this factor that is crystallizing in you.

[turning towards doctor a.] this should interest you, doctor. it is an important trait of the human psyche. sometimes, a little thing like this can stop all inner work.

objectively, it is a small thing, but for the one that experiences it, it is a big enemy, an organic one. You cannot stop it. it is a thousand times stronger than you. it kills everything. you have to reinforce your individuality, your true 'i'. when the latter will be capable to direct your functions, then you should 'cut' your vanity. today, this is impossible. but struggle to diminish its force, struggle with the help of the exercises i have given you. new factors are emerging in you. let them crystallize and you'll see that, by itself, the other factor, vanity, shall diminish. and now, let me tell you that your question has helped me to better understand you: it showed me who is your enemy, your 'dog' number one. among other reasons, there are the 'good' books, the books so called educational, that taught you that this is a necessary factor in life. this is the very thing we instill in children. we do everything to have vanity crystallized in them. nobody thought that one day, when you'll grow up, you'll take another way. and changing ways... it is very difficult. if you'd have stuck to your first way, vanity would have been for you a very useful thing. for instance, if you were a government employee, a minister, a high-ranking officer, it would have been excellent. but for you your inner life, your number one dog. mark down this day, as an anniversary. until now i could not give you the exact reasons for your inner misunderstanding. now i see better. your inner landscape is clear to me. you helped me help you.

a. i would like to ask a question similar to my fellow's one. and yet, what threatens me is not vanity, rather the desire that everybody should have a good opinion of me.

g. it is exactly the same thing. it is the same factor—under a different form: play the braggart.

a. but sir, this happens to me anyway, even if i don't stand to gain anything from it.

g. it is the same thing.

a. a year ago sir, when i came to you for the first time, i have asked you a similar question. but nothing has changed since.

g. a year ago you did not have the possibility to change. now, it is another thing.

a. the only change, it seems, is in the manner i thrive for this opinion. before, everybody could see it. nowadays, it's less obvious. i have become more subtle.

g. why are you saying this? nothing has changed. you simply became aware of acting in an abnormal manner. your impartial reason has observed it. it is not subtler, even if it may look that way...

a. it tarnishes everything i do.

g. certainly. it emanates, it colors everything—in yellow, for instance. and since it is the strongest thing in you, it paints yellow all your functions. i'm telling you the same thing i told your friend: you have to consciously crystallize in you another factor, a stronger one. i gave you enough material to do it. if you practice with perseverance this vanity factor could be transformed. if you manage to crystallize another factor, stronger than it, vanity will go back to a simple function. by itself, this vanity factor is there. only, it should never have the initiative, never take charge of your 'i'. it has to stay a simple function. when it is the case, just bring it up as a function.

a. but if i call it up, it takes all the space, this is what is dangerous.

g. we are talking about the future. my explanation is only to help you work with it. you have not verified it. in fact, it is the same thing as with your friend. here also, we have the 'shit' education, the useless one. call it what you want, i have only one word for it: 'shit'. excuse me, i don't speak french very well, so i call 'shit' everything which is bad. everybody here got this education. i have realized that due to a very original experience.

you know that i always have candy in my pockets, and when i see a child, i'm giving him one. there's always someone around the child, his father, his mother, his aunt. they all, without exception, say the same thing to the child.

'what are you supposed to say now?' and little by little, the child starts to mechanically say 'thank you' to everybody, without feeling anything anymore. this is not only idiotic, it is a crime! when a child feels like saying 'thank you', i understand. i know his language. and this is what i love. just to hear this, just to witness this true impulse, i give away 5 kilos of candy everyday—which i'm paying 410 francs per kilogram. only to see this impulse... but when children are told, 'what are you supposed to say now?', it kills everything. it kills the child for the future, it kills his willingness. this is a very good example. i don't know how you understand it, but for me this is an edifying one. everything is mechanical, we make the children function like robots which are reacting one way or the other depending on which button we push.

a. and yet we live in society. there are a lot of conventions that children have to learn.

g. i did not say that children should not comply. remember exactly what i said. i said that we should 'externally play a role' but internally remain free, without identifying.

everybody should be educated to play a role corresponding to the true nature of that person. this is good, ideal even. but internally we should not identify, we should be free.

this is the most necessary thing. everything else depends upon this little thing.

ms. e. mister gurdjieff... regarding this, i would like to ask you a question. when one discovers late in life a truth about oneself, one looks back and sees that a lot of things should have been different. one then experiences regret and even pain. should one reject these regrets, on the contrary, keep them and use them?

g. if you really verified what you said, you may have a big opportunity: prepare for your future. with your experience, you may have ten thousand times more chance than a younger person. i congratulate you. you have a lot of possibilities for the future. not for the present: the present is the result of the past and i cannot repair your past. too many years necessary. but if, from now on, you will try to put order in your past, i will take on me the responsibility of your future.


mrs. d. can you tell me how to give the right education to the children we are entrusted in our classrooms? i already changed my way of teaching since i came here. but many times i am in difficulty. i think children are sensitive to my efforts of 'remembering myself'. the best i can do is to fight against strong negative emotions. it seems children are sensing this too.

g. thousand times more than you. a child crystallizes a thousand times more factors than in you. this is why it is dangerous to suggest something to a child whose sensitivity is infinitely bigger than yours.

mrs. d. i have less trouble self-remembering in the classroom than at other times during the day.

g. yes, these children do not emanate yet...

mrs. d. before, when the children were noisy, i would shout to quiet them. now, i try to be calm myself and the children are following suit.

g. you have realized a very good thing. the most important thing for the future of the children it is not your teaching: you can teach them only mechanical associations. what counts are your vibes. this shows how harmful the unconscious education is—educating without being aware of what one emanates.

mrs. d. i have observed also that a classroom is a cartoon of the schoolmaster; one can very well find out about oneself by the mood of the classroom.

g. these are very good observations. observe, observe again and you could very well know yourself through the children. for now, think egotistically that you are working for yourself. what i am doing now, i am doing in order to become a good altruist later. today i am a false altruist. i want first of all to become a good egotist to be on solid ground.

mrs. d. i would also like to ask you for a specific advice. my little boy is trying to affirm himself more and more. he always says no, and opposes everything. to make him give in, i have two solutions. i can talk to him for a very long time and try to reason with him—but this is not always possible. or distract him, give him a toy or something, which is very easy to do—but this doesn't seem ok to me.

g. the second solution is bad, the first one is good: talk to him using analogies. children like them very much.

mrs. d. but it is very difficult.

g. but for him it is easy. for you it may be difficult, but for a child it is very easy to understand a good explanation. it is difficult for you to explain to him because you are wrongly educated. you were brought up not to be a schoolmaster... and me, i have holes in my socks!