talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

new york, february 20, 1924

it is impossible to be impartial, even when nothing touches you on the raw. such is the law, such is the human psyche. we shall speak later about the why and wherefore of it. in the meantime we shall formulate it thus:
1) the human machine has something that does not allow it to remain impartial, that is, to reason calmly and objectively, without being touched on the raw, and
2) at times it is possible to free oneself from this feature by special efforts.
concerning this second point i am asking you now to wish to, and to make, this effort, in order that our conversation should not be like all other conversations in ordinary life, that is, mere pouring from the empty into the void, but should be productive both for yourselves and for me.

i called usual conversations pouring from the empty into the void. and indeed, think seriously about the long time each of us has lived in the world and the many conversations we have had! ask yourselves, look into yourselves—have all those conversations ever led to anything? do you know anything as surely and indubitably as, for instance, that two and two make four? if you search sincerely in yourselves and give a sincere answer, you will say they have not led to anything.

so our common sense can conclude from past experience that, since this way of talking has so far led to nothing, it will lead to nothing in the future. even if a man were to live a hundred years, the result would be the same.

consequently, we must look for the cause of this and if possible change it. our purpose, then, is to find this cause; so, from the first steps, we shall try to alter our way of carrying on a conversation.

last time we spoke a little about the law of three. i said that this law is everywhere and in everything. it is also found in conversation. for instance, if people talk, one person affirms, another denies. if they don't argue, nothing comes of those affirmations and negations. if they argue, a new result is produced, that is, a new concepton unlike that of the man who affirmed or that of the one who denied.

this too is a law, for one cannot altogether say that your former conversations never brought any results. there has been a result, but this result has not been for you but for something or someone outside you.

but now we speak of results in us, or of those we wish to have in us. so, instead of this law acting through us, outside us, we wish to bring it within ourselves, for ourselves. and in order to achieve this we have merely to change the field of action of this law.

what you have done so far when you affirmed, denied and argued with others, i want you now to do with yourselves, so that the results you get may not be objective, as they have been so far, but subjective.