talks with gurdjieff
george ivanovich gurdjieff (1866-1949)

the following texts are related to four group meetings which took place in gurdjieff's home, in paris, in 1943. these evenings of exchanges have been reconstructed as true to their original as possible, with the help of notes taken with gurdjieff's approval.

first evening

b. how is it that the truths one believes in and one is sure of, do not enter us more profoundly, but stay on the surface and do not change our life?

g. because you are convinced at the time when 'it speaks'. afterwards, you return to life...

r. and i do something else than what i am convinced of. i set against what i believe in.

g. we are divided. this is a fact. think that we have in us two independent organisms: one is the result of our education, of all that we have gathered, the other being our initial, original one. this original organism cannot function unless i am relaxed, at ease and alone. when i go back into active life, it becomes weak, it cannot act anymore; it is the other one that takes over. i cannot do anymore what i have decided. and i go back to doing things as usual.

choose precise tasks and, before you go out to life, when you are alone at home, you relax and you make yourself a plan. you shall represent to yourself how you are going to behave during the day. and you promise yourself to follow it exactly. you are going to fail maybe ten times, maybe twenty times, but the twenty-first time you will be able to do what you decided when alone. there is no other way for now, one has to make a plan. like i was advising you, you will put yourself at ease, be calm, relaxed. only then will you make your planning for the day. then you go out in life and you try to do exactly as planned. if you manage to do it, treat yourself with something nice. if you forget to do it, punish yourself.

r. one doesn't have enough will to punish oneself...

g. one has to get used to it. struggle. this struggle gives results little by little. it accumulates them in you. this gives you strength for the future. you fail once, ten times, but each struggle gives results, like a substance that accumulates in you. it is this substance that will help you make the conscious decision.

l. how can we work with another? with spouses in particular.

g. that is true happiness when two beings living together have the same aspirations, are interested in the same ideas and are doing the work together. one has to learn to make use of this blessing. the work shared with someone else is much more profitable. it doesn't matter with whom: philosopher and a shoemaker can very well work together. each one of them should try to make the other's life easier, to destroy the conditions that bring about anger, in which so much energy is lost. self-love, especially, must be abolished. it is necessary to be able to communicate sincerely, aiming for mutual help. actually, your inner worlds are different, but in working together in this fashion your inner worlds can become one.

husband and wife are those who can help each other most. but this is valid for all those who live together, be they brothers or friends.

i. you recommended that i read, that i proceed gathering information, but where to start? shall i study some questions before others?

g. what is important, is to grasp the soul of things, the essence and not their form. forget the words, the details, ignore them for the time being. but try to hold in you their substance, that which is behind them. this is what you should accumulate in you. this is what, by way of inner accumulation, will bring about slowly an understanding that will be really yours.

[turning slowly then towards p., reputed for his culture and erudition] for instance, in all you that you write, among all the words, all that is useless, all that objectively has no value, there may be a little diamond spark. it is that you have to look for, grasp and accumulate in you.

d. my wife is reproaching me for being a lot more selfish ever since i joined the work. i'm wondering, what have i neglected?

g. yes, certainly: not all the aspect of work have been observed. you have fulfilled a certain number of them, but you obviously left one out...

d. which one?

g. it's your task to find it. for the moment, you are like a good milking cow. she's giving plenty of milk, but when the bucket is full, a sweep of her tail spills everything.

k. to be truthful, i feel like i should help my child for whom i am responsible, but i see that i cannot do it and i do not even know, in fact, what i shall allow or forbid him to do.

g. first of all, it's better not to forbid things to a child, because these things go in through one ear and go out through the other. you must, before anything else, bring up in him the impulse that would help him act this way or the other—or stop him from it. for this, a number of means are available. for instance, you could tell him a little story in which the little boy is mean towards his grandmother. in this way, indirectly, you will awake in him the impulse of respect towards his grandmother and if you are reprimanding him on this subject, the ground will be already prepared.

you can't really change anything profoundly. on the outside, have the best attitude possible, on the inside work, work to become truly responsible.

[at the end of dinner, several persons leave the table to do the dishes. mr. gurdjieff turns then towards his neighbor to the left and reproaches him to have not fulfilled his "director's obligations"]

g. this may seem to you unimportant. but for him who knows how to carry his business daily in life, this is a big thing.

there is never only one aspect. in reality there are always seven. if you know how to conduct your business well, others will follow, even if automatically. but if you are neglecting only one of these aspects, the result will turn bad—even if you have done this well all your life.

if you are assuming the role of director, you have to control all of its aspects. you have to be able to watch over all the details. while you are fulfilling your obligations nothing should interfere with it. even if you have millions of dollars business you will know exactly how to act. if you get used to do well the thing of the moment, you will learn to do well all other things.

you are here, now. sacrifice everything else. all of your presence, all your thinking, all your associations shall be concentrated on the thing you're working on.

in your ordinary life you have to fill out all your obligations. you have to think in advance for a week or two, and never fail. you have the time—you shall know how to find it. think seriously of all aspects, prepare yourself. in reality, you are always wasting time. with such an internal organization, man will never get far.