talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

god and microbe are the same system, the only difference is in the number of centers.
(prieuré, april 3, 1923)

the three powers—economy
prieuré, may 23, 1923

man has three kinds of power. each is independent in its nature, and each has its own laws and composition. but the sources of their formation are the same.

the first power is what is called physical power. its quantity and quality depend on the structure and tissues of the human machine.

the second power is called psychic power. its quality depends on a man's thinking center and the material it contains. what is called "will" and other similar things are functions of this power.

the third is called moral power. it depends on education and heredity.

the first two can easily be changed for they are easily formed. moral power, on the other hand, is very hard to change, for it takes a long time to form.

if a man has common sense and sound logic, any action may change his opinion and his "will." but changing his nature, that is, his moral make-up, needs prolonged pressure.

all the three powers are material. their quantity and quality depend on the quantity and quality of that which produces them. a man has more physical power if he has more muscles. for example, a. can lift more than b. the same applies to psychic power—it depends on the amount of material and data a man has.

in the same way, a man can have greater moral power if the conditions of his life have included influences of many ideas, religion and feeling. thus, in order to change something, one must live a long time.

moral and psychic power are also relative. it is often said, for instance, that man can change. but what he is, what he has been created by nature, he will remain. so, as in the case of physical strength, man cannot change; all he can do is to accumulate force if he wants to increase. of course if we are speaking of a sick man, if he becomes healthy, he will be different.

thus we see that the producer of energy cannot be changed; he will remain the same, but it is possible to increase the product. all three powers can be increased by economy and by right expenditure. if we learn this, it will be an achievement.

so a man can increase all three powers if he learns to practice economy and right expenditure. to economize and to know the proper way of spending energy makes a man a hundred times stronger than an athlete. if j. knew how to save and how to spend, she would at a given moment be a hundred times stronger than k., even physically. it is so in everything. economy can be practiced also in psychic and moral matters.

now let us examine physical power. for instance, in spite of the fact that you use different words and speak of different things than before, not one of you knows how to work. not only do you spend much force unnecessarily when you work, but even when you do nothing. you can economize not only when you sit but also when you work. you can work five times harder and spend ten times less energy. for instance, when b. uses a hammer, he hammers with his whole body. if for example, he spends ten pounds of force, then one pound is spent on the hammer and nine pounds quite unnecessarily. but to produce better results the hammer requires two pounds, and b. gives it only half that amount. instead of five minutes he takes ten; instead of one pound, he burns two pounds of coal. so he does not work as he should.

sit as i sit, close your fists and take care to tighten your muscles only in your fists, as hard as you can. you see, everyone does it differently. one has tightened his legs, another his back.

if you pay attention, you will do it differently from the way you do ordinarily. Learn—when you sit, when you stand, when you lie down—to tense your right arm or your left. (speaking to m.) get up, tense your arm and keep the rest of your body relaxed. try it in practice to understand better. when you pull, try to distinguish strain from resistance.

i now walk without tension, taking care only to keep my balance. if i stand still, i shall rock. now i want to walk without spending any force. i only give an initial push, the rest goes by momentum. in this way i cross the room without having wasted any force. to do this you must let the movement do itself; it does not depend on you. i said earlier to someone that if he regulates his speed it shows that he is tensing his muscles.

try to relax everything except your legs, and walk. pay particular attention to keeping your body passive, but the head and face must be alive. the tongue and eyes must speak.

all day long, at every step, we are annoyed at something, like something, hate something, and so on. now we are consciously relaxing some parts of our body and consciously tensing others. as we practice it, we do so with enjoyment. each of us is able to do it more or less, and each one is sure that the more he practices it, the better he will be able to do it. all you need is practice; you must only want to and do it. the desire brings the possibility. i am speaking of physical things.

from tomorrow on, let each person also begin to practice the following exercise: if you are touched to the quick, see that it does not spread all over the body. control your reaction; do not let it spread.

for instance, i have a problem: someone has insulted me. i don't want to forgive him. but i try to prevent the insult from affecting the whole of me. i dislike p.'s face. as soon as i see her, i have a feeling of antipathy. so i try not to be taken by this feeling. the point is not in the people—the point is the problem.

now another thing. if everyone were nice and pleasant, i would have no opportunity for practical training; so i should be glad to have people to practice on.

everything that touches us does so without our presence. it is arranged that way in us. we are slaves of it. for instance, she is antipathetic to me but she may be sympathetic to someone else. my reaction is in me. the thing that makes her antipathetic is in me. she is not to blame, she is antipathetic relative to myself. everything that reaches us in the course of the day, and in the course of our whole life, is relative to us. at times what reaches us may be good.

this relativity is mechanical, just as the tensions in our muscles are mechanical. we are now learning to work. at the same time we also want to learn to be touched by what ought to touch us. as a rule we are touched by what ought not to touch us, for the things that touch us to the quick all day long should not have the power to touch us, since they have no real existence. this is an exercise in moral power.

and as regards psychic power, the thing to do is not to let "it" think, but to try to stop "it" often and often, whether what "it" thinks is good or bad. as soon as we remember, as soon as we catch ourselves, we must stop "it from thinking.

in any case, such thinking will not discover an america, either in something good or something bad. just as it is difficult at this moment not to tense your leg, so it is difficult not to let "it" think. but it is possible.

about the exercises. when you have practiced them, let those who have done them come to me for further ones. now you have enough exercises for the present.

you must work with as few parts of the body as possible. the principle of your work should be: to try to concentrate all the force you can on the parts of your body that are doing the work at the expense of the other parts.