talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

third evening

h. sir, i would like to ask you a question. having finished, several weeks ago now, the tasks that i have given myself, i since find myself in a sort of happy imbalance, not missing anything nor wanting anything in particular. i would like to continue, because i know that there is a universe above this one i live in at the moment. but i cannot advance and i feel like i cannot do anything by myself.

g. you are satisfied with little. you feel this a bad sign. it is exactly now that you should make efforts. you must not take it easy. you have to create an inner struggle between your individuality and your functions.

The fact that you could not work anymore is in itself an excellent condition: it is the opportunity to push yourself. if you pass this crisis, this small crisis, you will be able to advance again.

h. i cannot see clearly what way to follow or what aim to make.

g. a 'way' is necessary. what is necessary is that a certain substance accumulates in you. a substance that cannot be created other than by struggle. work, gather, put together the results of this struggle. you have in you accumulators in which this substance can be accumulated; like electricity. you have to create a battle between your head and your animal. do not stop. help yourself with impulses coming from the outside world. when we struggle inside with thought, body and feeling, this substance is formed. You need it in order to continue. let it gather where is convenient. for now it is not important to know where it is located. accumulate it, this is what you are missing. you are still young, you don't have experience, you are empty. but you are on the right track and you should not, above all, stop. start the struggle again. this is the true way. are you looking for ways to do it? these are not important. struggle. you know better than me what to pick on. for instance, what your body likes, whatever it is you usually give to it, stop giving it anymore. this way it will learn to serve. you will see that, until now, whatever your individuality really liked, your body never consented to it.

l. sir, in order to remember myself, you gave me the task to work with someone who is close to me. i observed, and so did my wife, that this aim has changed our relationship, but only up to a certain point. you told us that it is a blessing to work together—but there is an obstacle that none of us can overcome. you told her that you will tell us what to do to succeed.

g. do you have children? then, there is a first thing to be dealt with. like for all parents, these children are creating for you special obligations. well then, tell yourselves that living for yourselves is over! now you should, you and your wife, set this common aim: live for your children. you shall impose yourselves, in everyday life, to sacrifice everything for your children. this aim will create in you a true contact with work—because it is an objective aim, and the work is objective too. start this. talk about it with your wife. discuss it together, easy and openly. here, nothing shall strain your relationship. aim to this: all for your children. not forever, for an established length of time. a struggle will be necessary for both. because if you both set this aim, since your type is different, each one of you shall have to carry on a personal struggle inside. the one that will fulfill this aim will 'pass' his exam. and if you do this for a week or two, i will be able to give you further indications.

p. i would like to know how to avoid imagination taking over, outside the moments when i work on myself, which last only for a certain time.

g. for this, i am going to give you a very simple advice, a very ordinary one. you are also on the right tract. what i am going to suggest to you will amaze you. trying to understand it beforehand, with your usual logic, will not give you anything. later, you would see why this advice was good. every time you have some spare time, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... to 50. then count backwards 50, 49, 48, 46, etc. do this seven times without stopping, and then tell yourself the following words:

'i am, i want to be, i can be. not to serve evil... but to serve the good. to help my fellow man when i will be capable of being. i am.'

after this, start counting again, not mechanically, but consciously. do this during all your spare time. the first time this will look like an absurdity to you. but when you had done it for two or three weeks, you would thank me with all your heart. did you understand me?

ms. l. sir, both here and with close ones, i experience a lot of difficulty in expressing myself, in manifesting my ideas and my feelings. this is very important for me. it is like being paralyzed. what can i do to get rid of it?

g. you have to be impartial.

one should never do what i advise someone else to do. it is you i am talking to now.

you are you. you want to work, you want to have an 'i', a true 'i'. your aim is an independent 'i am'. if you don't have it yet, imagine that you already have it.

one who has an 'i' is impartial to all external things. he is impartial to all other people. for instance x. is mad. nature made him so heredity, his father, his grandfather... he is mad, but i don't get upset because he is mad. i take him as a fool. i have pity. this is called being impartial. you look at all x.'s manifestations, and you try to understand: where are the manifestations of a mad person coming from? there are different kinds of madmen. [g. lights up a cigarette]. for instance, one holds his cigarette like this [he puts the burning end into his mouth]. a normal person would never do that. but i don't get upset: i have pity.

dr. but there are different kinds of pity. we can have pity while having contempt.

g. you, you have this pity. me, i don't have it. either i have pity, or i don't have pity. there are two possibilities: either he is mad, or he is insolent. if he is mad, i have pity. if he is insolent, he will never forget me. but pity is a necessity: everybody deserves pity. if you look at your manifestations in detail, you will realize that a part comes from heredity, another from the damages of education and the third one from the sins that you have committed when young. this makes three categories.

the one that comes from heredity, i pity it, the second category, less pity, but the third one i never forgive. i only speak here of subjective things. but if you apply this in your life, you will never be mistaken. a part comes from heredity, the second one from education, the third from the behavior of youth.

j. sir, a while ago i was very interested by p.'s question and your answer. in my life, usually very agitated and vulgar, i observed how little space there is for the work. i feel lost many times, which is normal. but what is less so, is that i belong to this agitation, to this vulgarity that fits the ordinary person that is stronger in me. and i am asking if, for my own work, it wouldn't be better for me to apply the advice you gave to p., because i think there is something there that can liberate me, in a simple and neat way, from the narrow cage i turn in continuously.

g. no, that doesn't fit you at all! it is very difficult to count like this: 1, 2, 3, to 50. i am going to give you something simpler. do you have family? a father, a mother, a brother?

j. and a sister.

g. a sister too! you are five then! starting tomorrow morning, take this task: every ten minutes—a little more, a little less, it doesn't matter - you will remember one of them in sequence. first your father, then ten minutes after your mother, and so on. you will remember them and you will portray them to yourself. to end, another ten minutes after, do the exercise, 'i am... i want to be' with the sensation of your whole presence. ten minutes after, you start again: your father, your mother, etc. and you spend all your spare time like this. this is even simpler. do you understand?

more, every time it is your mother's turn, you'll think of her coming here with silvery things on her ears, cheap things... and you will give your word that when you will 'grow up' and you will have enough money, you will take the task of buying her new ones, of gold. with a wink to the mother: 10% to me!

mrs. e. would you allow me to ask you for advice?

when i try to remember myself, i am always bothered by an idea: how to organize my day so that everything goes well, that everybody will be happy at home? from another side, during my day, i am bothered by the ideas referring to the inner work. i think of what i hear here, and it bothers me constantly.

g. one has to assign and sacrifice for this work a special time during the day. life is one thing. inner work is another: their substance is different. when you start working, you have to be actively aware. your only task is your work. before you start, you have to prepare yourself, to let it go, to gather yourself. and then, with all your presence, you do the work. be an absolute egotist. forget everything else. forget your god, your husband, your son, the money. after, leave the work aside and come back to the things of life.

it is difficult. in the beginning one cannot do it for long, one tires easily. if you work five minutes more, you are empty of all energy. it is because of this that one has to increase little by little, to get used to it: five minutes, six minutes, then ten minutes. only in this way you will get a good start, to prepare yourself to acquire the state corresponding to a real man. if you work longer, it proves that you are not working with all your presence, but only with your head. and this you can do for thousands of years without gaining anything. work for a short time, but work well: with all your presence. then let life take its mechanical course, as usual, otherwise you will become a psychopath. five minutes of real work are better than twenty-four hours of ordinary work. again, it is not the quantity, but the quality that counts: short but substantial.

h. i would like to be able to follow a schedule: do what i decided when i scheduled it.

g. for you, today, it is impossible to achieve that. later, you will be able you are therefore a man, like all men, not very strong. it is the law.

today, you can be active for a third of your waking state. start by asking yourself if what you are going to do will give you sooner or later remorse of conscience. think about it with all your presence. if you are not sure, don't do it; if you are sure you will not have them, then you can do it. in preparation, you relax, you calm yourself. then you actively think and you force yourself to make a program to achieve what you have decided to do. afterwards, you will lose this state, you will become again the salve of your associations. but what you have decided in that special state, take it as a task, as a service.

do not believe in you and your ordinary state: you will always justify yourself, you will believe in you. you should not believe... you should not especially forget how you have decided your program. without this, you will have the 'tomorrow illness'. beware of that. decide. and when the time comes, do what you have decided. the most unhappy man in the world is the one that has the 'tomorrow illness'. he will never change. destiny is just, objectively just. it always produces what you deserved. what you have planted grows. but if i have not planted anything, nothing that you want grows, something else grows: you need radishes and you get horseradish. horseradish is sometimes a delicacy. sometimes not...

z. may i ask you a question? i think that to arrive at knowledge, one has to be able to risk. many times, i don't have the courage to be wrong and i hide myself in my room. i would like have the courage to be mistaken and go towards knowledge.

g. for this not much is necessary! if for instance you know that you are a zero, if you have really understood that you are a 'nullity', that you are 'shit', and you don't want to be shit anymore, then you have to risk: either this or nothing. but if you already felt that you are a nullity and you could become something else, why have fear? you have nothing to lose. and now, my dear host, seriously, do you understand?

b. mister gurdjieff, when one is taken by a profound feeling of sadness which is impossible to escape, what is the mechanical way to free oneself from that?

g. if you don't know the cause of it?

b. yes.

g. there is no such sadness, this is idiotic. see the medical specialist! i can recommend you to a neuropathologist. i know him every well, he gives me 10% [laughs].

b. sometimes i observe this after lunch.

g. oh! oh! but this is a symptom! you eat a little too much. for a week eat less. observe what is happening and let me know. and if it is not this, we will find something else. let's verify first.

b. but it is not always after a meal...

g. i repeat. eat less, in general. not much less. do not eat the last piece: you understand? bravo, then! verify and next time we will talk about it.

b. how can i cease to mistake what comes from my intellectual center and what comes from the emotional one?

g. take things in a simple way. when you think, you think. when you are warm, or cold, these are your sensations. when you are angry, upset, when you love, when you don't love, these are your feelings.

b. but in my actions, how can i stop the centers to impede on one another: to think with my feelings and reason instead of feeling? how to not let them act for the other?

b. this is weakness, this is an illness. you should not think with your feelings. you should think with your head. but to think with a true thought, otherwise the initiative comes from the feeling and the thinking center is only a function then. the center of gravity should be the true thinking. if not, you are not an individual: you are a machine. every man should try to get used to being an individual on the inside, an independent person, something which is not 'a dog's tail'.

there is here a very characteristic symptom: if your presence concentrates on your thinking, then you are an individual. of course, there are different levels of individuals, but this is not important for the moment. You are an individual when you have your center of gravity in the center of true thinking. if your center of gravity is in another center, in your body or in your feelings, you are only a robot.

when you are working, you should always have as an aim to be connected to true thinking. do it consciously. otherwise, everything in you will proceed unconsciously.