talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

prieuré, february 13, 1923

liberation leads to liberation.

these are the first words of truth—not truth in quotation marks but truth in the real meaning of the word, truth which is not merely theoretical, not simply a word, but truth that can be realized in practice. the meaning behind these words may be explained as follows:

by liberation is meant the liberation which is the aim of all schools, all religions, at all times.

this liberation can indeed be very great. all men desire it and strive after it. but it cannot be attained without the first liberation, a lesser liberation. the great liberation is liberation from influences outside us. the lesser liberation is liberation from influences within us.

at first, for beginners, this lesser liberation appears to be very great, for a beginner depends very little on external influences. only a man who has already become free of inner influences falls under external influences.

inner influences prevent a man from falling under external influences. maybe it is for the best. inner influences and inner slavery come from many varied sources and many independent factors—independent in that sometimes it is one thing and sometimes another, for we have many enemies.

there are so many of these enemies that life would not be long enough to struggle with each of them and free ourselves from each one separately. so we must find a method, a line of work, which will enable us simultaneously to destroy the greatest possible number of enemies within us from which these influences come.

i said that we have many independent enemies, but the chief and most active are vanity and self-love. one teaching even calls them representatives and messengers of the devil himself.

for some reason they are also called mrs. vanity and mr. self-love.

as i have said, there are many enemies. i have mentioned only these two as the most fundamental. at the moment it is hard to enumerate them all. it would be difficult to work on each of them directly and specifically, and it would take too much time since there are so many. so we have to deal with them indirectly in order to free ourselves from several at once.

these representatives of the devil stand unceasingly at the threshold which separates us from the outside, and prevent not only good but also bad external influences from entering. thus they have a good side as well as a bad side.

for a man who wishes to discriminate among the influences he receives, it is an advantage to have these watchmen. but if a man wishes all influences to enter, no matter what they may be—for it is impossible to select only the good ones—he must liberate himself as much as possible, and finally altogether, from these watchmen, whom some consider undesirable.

for this there are many methods, and a great number of means. personally i would advise you to try freeing yourselves and to do so without unnecessary theorizing, by simple reasoning, active reasoning, with yourselves.

through active reasoning this is possible, but if anyone does not succeed, if he fails to do so by this method, there are no other means for what is to follow.

take, for instance, self-love, which occupies almost half of our time and our life. if someone, or something, has wounded our self-love from outside, then, not only at that moment but for a long time afterwards, its momentum closes all the doors, and therefore shuts out life.

when i am connected with outside, i live. if i live only inside myself, it is not life; but everybody lives thus. when i examine myself, i connect myself with the outside.

for instance, now i sit here. m. is here and also k. we live together. m. called me a fool—i am offended. k. gave me a scornful look—i am offended. i consider, i am hurt and shall not calm down and come to myself for a long time.

all people are so affected, all have similar experiences the whole time. one experience subsides, but no sooner has it subsided than another of the same nature starts. our machine is so arranged that there are no separate places where different things can be experienced simultaneously.

we have only one place for our psychic experiences. and so if this place is occupied with such experiences as these, there can be no question of our having the experiences we desire. and if certain attainments or liberations are supposed to bring us to certain experiences, they will not do so if things remain as they are.

m. called me a fool. why should i be offended? such things do not hurt me, so i don't take offense—not because i have no self-love; maybe i have more self-love than anyone here. maybe it is this very self-love that does not let me be offended.

i think, i reason in a way exactly the reverse of the usual way. he called me a fool. must he necessarily be wise? he himself may be a fool or a lunatic. one cannot demand wisdom from a child. i cannot expect wisdom from him. his reasoning was foolish. either someone has said something to him about me, or he has formed his own foolish opinion that i am a fool—so much the worse for him. i know that i am not a fool, so it does not offend me. if a fool has called me a fool, i am not affected inside.

but if in a given instance i was a fool and am called a fool, i am not hurt, because my task is not to be a fool; i assume this to be everyone's aim. so he reminds me, helps me to realize that i am a fool and acted foolishly. i shall think about it and perhaps not act foolishly next time.

so, in either case i am not hurt.

k. gave me a scornful look. it does not offend me. on the contrary, i feel sorry for him because of the dirty look he gave me. for a dirty look must have a reason behind it. can he have such a reason?

i know myself. i can judge from my knowledge of myself. he gave me a dirty look. possibly someone had told him something that made him form a bad opinion of me. i am sorry for him because he is so much a slave that he looks at me through other people's eyes. this proves that he is not. he is a slave and so he cannot hurt me.

i say all this as an example of reasoning.

actually, the secret and the cause of all such things lies in the fact that we do not possess ourselves nor do we possess genuine self-love. self-love is a great thing. if we consider self-love, as we generally understand it, as reprehensible, then it follows that true self-love—which, unfortunately, we do not possess—is desirable and necessary.

self-love is a sign of a high opinion of oneself. if a man has this self-love it proves what he is.

as we have said earlier, self-love is a representative of the devil; it is our chief enemy, the main brake to our aspirations and our achievements. self-love is the principal weapon of the representative of hell.

but self-love is a an attribute of the soul. by self-love one can discern the spirit. self-love indicates and proves that a given man is a particle of heaven. self-love is i—i is god. therefore it is desirable to have self-love.

self-love is hell, and self-love is heaven. these two, bearing the same name, are outwardly alike, but totally different and opposite to one another in essence. but if we look superficially, we can go on looking throughout our whole life without ever distinguishing the one from the other.

there exists a saying: "he who has self-love is halfway to freedom." yet, among those sitting here, everyone is full to overflowing with self-love. and in spite of the fact that we are full to the brim with self-love, we have not yet attained one tiny bit of freedom. our aim must be to have self-love. if we have self-love, by this very fact we shall become free of many enemies in us. we can even become free of these principal ones—mr. self-love and mrs. vanity.

how to distinguish between one kind of self-love and another? we have said that on the surface it is very difficult. this is so even when we look at others; when we look at ourselves it is still more difficult.

thank god we, who are sitting here, are safe from confusing the one with the other. we are lucky! genuine self-love is totally absent, so there is nothing to confuse.

in the beginning of the lecture i used the words "active reasoning."

active reasoning is learned by practice; it should be practiced long and in many varied ways.