talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

new york, february 22, 1924

everyone is in great need of one particular exercise, both if one wants to continue working and for external life.

we have two lives, inner and outer life, and so we also have two kinds of considering. we constantly consider.

when she looks at me, i feel inside a dislike of her, i am cross with her, but externally i am polite because i must be very polite since i need her. internally i am what i am, but externally i am different. this is external considering. now she says that i am a fool. this angers me. the fact that i am angered is the result, but what takes place in me is internal considering.

this internal and external considering are different. we must learn to be able to control separately both kinds of considering: the internal and the external. we want to change not only inside but also outside.

yesterday, when she gave me an unfriendly look, i was cross. but today i understand that perhaps the reason why she looked at me like that is that she is a fool; or perhaps she had learned or heard something about me. and today i want to remain calm. she is a slave and i should not be angry with her inwardly. from today onward i want to be calm inside.

outwardly i want today to be polite, but if necessary i can appear angry. outwardly it must be what is best for her and for me. i must consider. internal and external considering must be different. in an ordinary man the external attitude is the result of the internal. if she is polite, i am also polite. but these attitudes should be separated.

internally one should be free from considering. but externally one should do more than one has been doing so far. an ordinary man lives as he is dictated to from inside.

when we speak of change, we presume the need of inner change. externally if everything is all right, there is no need to change. if it is not all right, perhaps there is no need to change either, because maybe it is original. what is necessary is to change inside.

until now we did not change anything, but from today we want to change. but how to change? first, we must separate and then sort out, discard what is useless and built something new. man has much that is good and much that is bad. if we discard everything, later it will be necessary to collect again.

if a man has not enough on the external side, he will need to fill the gaps. who is not well educated should be better educated. but this is for life.

the work needs nothing external. only the internal is needed. externally, one should play a role in everything. externally a man should be an actor, otherwise he does not answer the requirements of life. one man likes one thing; another, another thing: if you want to be a friend to both and behave in one way, one of them will not like it; if you behave in another way, the other will not like it. you should behave with one as he likes it and with the other as this other likes it. then your life will be easier.

but inside it must be different: different in relation to the one and the other.

as things are now, especially in our times, every man considers utterly mechanically. we react to everything affecting us from outside. now we obey orders. she is good, and i am good; she is bad, and i am bad. i am as she wants me to be, i am a puppet. but she too is a mechanical puppet. she also obeys orders mechanically and does what another one wants.

we must cease reacting inside. if someone is rude, we must not react inside. whoever manages to do this will be more free. it is very difficult.

inside us we have a horse; it obeys orders from outside. and our mind is too weak to do anything inside. even if the mind gives the order to stop, nothing will stop inside.

we educate nothing but our mind. we know how to behave with such and such. "goodbye." "how do you do?" but it is only the driver who knows this. sitting on his box he has read about it. but the horse has no education whatever. it has not even been taught the alphabet, it knows no languages, it never went to school. the horse was also capable of being taught, but we forgot all about it. . . . and so it grew up a neglected orphan. it only knows two words: right and left.

what i said about inner change refers only to the need of change in the horse. if the horse changes, we can change even externally. if the horse does not change, everything will remain the same, no matter how long we study.

it is easy to decide to change sitting quietly in your room. but as soon as you meet someone, the horse kicks. inside us we have a horse.

the horse must change.

if anyone thinks that self-study will help and he will be able to change, he is greatly mistaken. even if he reads all the books, studies for a hundred years, masters all knowledge, all mysteries—nothing will come of it.

because all this knowledge will belong to the driver. and he, even if he knows, cannot drag the cart without the horse—it is too heavy.

first of all you must realize that you are not you. be sure of that, believe me. you are the horse, and if you wish to start working, the horse must be taught a language in which you can talk to it, tell it what you know and prove to it the necessity of, say, changing its disposition. if you succeed in this, then, with your help, the horse too will begin to learn.

but change is possible only inside.

as to the cart, its existence was completely forgotten. yet it is also a part, and an important part, of the team. it has its own life, which is the basis of our life. it has its own psychology. it also thinks, is hungry, has desires, takes part in the common work. it too should have been educated, sent to school, but neither the parents nor anyone else cared. only the driver was taught. he knows languages, knows where such and such a street is. but he cannot drive there alone.

originally our cart was built to suit the road. the cart has many small wheels. the idea was that the unevennesses of the road would distribute the lubricating oil evenly and thus oil them. but all this was calculated for a certain town where the roads are not too smooth. now the town has changed, but the make of the cart has remained the same. it was made to cart luggage, but now it carries passengers. and it always drives along one and the same street, the "broadway." some parts got rusty from long disuse. if, at times, it needs to drive along a different street, it seldom escapes a breakdown and a more or less serious overhaul afterwards. badly or well, it can still work on the "broadway," but for another street it must first be altered.

every cart has its own momentum, but in certain senses our cart has lost it. and it cannot work without momentum.

moreover the horse can pull, say, only fifty kilos, whereas the cart can take a hundred kilos. so even if they wish to, they cannot work together.

some machines are so damaged that nothing can be done with them. they can only be sold. others can still be mended. but this requires a long time, for some of the parts are too damaged. the machine has to be taken to pieces, all the metal parts have to be put in oil, cleaned and then put together again. some of them will have to be replaced. certain parts are cheap and can be bought, but others are expensive and cannot be replaced—the cost would be too high. sometimes it is cheaper to buy a new car than to repair an old one.

quite possibly all those who sit here wish and can wish only with one part of themselves. again it is only with the driver, for he has read something, heard something. he has many fantasies, he even flies to the moon in his dreams.

those who think that they can do something with themselves are greatly mistaken. to change something within is very difficult. what you know, it is the driver who knows it. all your knowledge is just manipulations. real change is a very difficult thing, more difficult than finding several hundred thousand dollars in the street.

question: why was the horse not educated?

answer: the grandfather and grandmother gradually forgot, and all the relatives forgot. education needs time, needs suffering; life becomes less peaceful. at first they did not educate it through laziness, and later they forgot altogether.

here again, the law of three works. between the positive and the negative principles there must be friction, suffering. suffering leads to the third principle. it is a hundred times easier to be passive so that suffering and result happen outside and not inside you. inner result is achieved when everything takes place inside you.

sometimes we are active, at other times we are passive. for one hour we are active, for another hour passive.

when we are active we are being spent, when we are passive we rest. but when everything is inside you, you cannot rest, the law acts always. even if you do not suffer, you are not quiet.

every man dislikes suffering, every man wants to be quiet. every man chooses what is easiest, least disturbing, tries not to think too much. little by little our grandfather and grandmother rested more and more. the first day, five minutes of rest; the next day, ten minutes; and so on. a moment came when half of the time was spent on rest. and the law is such that if one thing increases by a unit, another thing decreases by a unit where there is more it is added, where there is less it is reduced. gradually your grandfather and grandmother forgot about educating the horse. and now no one remembers any more.

question: how to begin inner change?

answer: my advice—what i said about considering. you should begin to teach the horse a new language, prepare it for the desire to change.

the cart and the horse are connected. the horse and the driver are also connected by the reins. the horse knows two words—right and left. at times the driver cannot give orders to the horse because our reins have the capacity now to thicken, now to become more thin. they are not made of leather. when our reins become more thin, the driver cannot control the horse. the horse knows only the language of the reins. no matter how much the driver shouts, "please, right," the horse does not budge. if he pulls, it understands. perhaps the horse knows some language, but not the one the driver knows. maybe it is arabic.

the same situation exists between the horse and the cart, with the shafts. this requires another explanation.

we have something like magnetism in us. it consists not only of one substance but of several. it is an important part of us. it is formed when the machine is working.

when we spoke about food we spoke only of one octave. but there are three octaves there. one octave produces one substance, the others produce different substances. si is the result of the first octave. when the machine works mechanically, substance no. 1 is produced. when we work subconsciously, another kind of substance is produced. if there is no subconscious work of this kind, this substance is not produced. when we work consciously, a third kind of substance is produced.

let us examine these three. the first corresponds to the shafts, the second to the reins, the third to the substance which permits the driver to hear the passenger. you know that sound cannot travel in vacuum, there must be some substance there.

we must understand the difference between a casual passenger and the master of the cart. "i" is the master, if we have an "i." if we have not, there is always someone sitting in the cart and giving orders to the driver. between the passenger and the driver there is a substance which allows the driver to hear. whether these substances are there or not depends on many accidental things. it may be absent. if the substance has accumulated, the passenger can give orders to the driver, but the driver cannot order the horse, and so on. at times you can, at others you cannot, it depends on the amount of substance there is. tomorrow you can, today you cannot. this substance is the result of many things.

one of these substances is formed when we suffer. we suffer whenever we are not mechanically quiet. there are different kinds of suffering. for instance, i want to tell you something, but i feel it is best to say nothing. one side wants to tell, the other wants to keep silent. the struggle produces a substance. gradually this substance collects in a certain place.

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 between two sides is worth something. only when much is accumulated can something new manifest 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.

question: conflict of two desires leads to suffering. yet some suffering leads to a madhouse.

answer: suffering can be of different kinds. to begin with, we shall divide it into two kinds. first, unconscious; second, conscious.

the first kind bears no results. for instance, you suffer from hunger because you have no money to buy bread. if you have some bread and don't eat it and suffer, it is better.

if you suffer with one center, either thinking or feeling, you get to a lunatic asylum.

suffering must be harmonious. there must be correspondence between the fine and the coarse. otherwise something may break.

you have many centers: not three, not five, not six, but more. between them there is a place where argument may take place. but equilibrium may be upset. you have built a house, but the equilibrium is upset, the house falls down and everything is spoiled.

now i am explaining things theoretically in order to provide material for mutual understanding.

to do something, however small, is a great risk. suffering may have a serious result. i now speak about suffering theoretically, for understanding. but it is only now i do so. at the institute they do not think about future life, they only think about tomorrow. man cannot see and cannot believe. only when he knows himself, knows his inner structure, only then can he see. now we study in an external manner.

it is possible to study the sun, the moon. but man has everything within him. i have inside me the sun, the moon, god. i am—all life in its totality.

to understand one must know oneself.