- G.I. Gurdjieff
Week 1 Assignments
- Observe and document: How/when “I” react mechanically—when “my” ‘buttons are pressed’ and subsequent emotional and behavioral reactions.
- Observe and document: Suggestion (promises of reward and threats of harm/loss) and “my” reactions.
- Keep a list of “My” rights when you observe yourself claiming rights. Write down how I obtained this right, what gave it to me, or how I earned it. If it can be taken away from you it is not necessarily a right; it might be a privilege.
Week 1 Transcript
This is the start of a new school. We have had many requests to have a school, one where people come to a given place, live and work together for many months and constantly being exposed to certain ideas – ideas which are a study of man. I’m finding that many people from many different areas wish to attend these schools and that it is very inconvenient, and very expensive, and sometimes almost impossible for people to disrupt their homes, their business, their job for many months to attend one of these schools. After much, much effort and quite a considerable amount of study and experimentation, we have decided to put the school on, recorded on cassette tapes.
Now, no one will be standing over you, so will you please use the tapes as they are designed to do so that you may receive the maximum benefit and the maximum value from the tapes. Each tape is numbered. There is no specific name or title to each tape; there is only a number: 1, 2, 3 on up to 48. Now, each tape is to be used for one week. It was suggested that you listen to the tape at least once each day and that you very carefully consider the material that is covered on the tape, and that you attempt to observe it in your affairs in your every day existence.
Now the only thing that is different when a school is put on and people come to one given place is that they’re constantly reminded of what they are doing. They’re constantly pointed out certain ideas, which may be used for observation. So these ideas will be pointed out to you day-by-day and week-by-week. And in 48 weeks if you use the tapes according to the instruction, you will find that there is a complete transformation in your state of being.
The usual study of man, which has been undertaken for centuries, is that man is divided into various aspects. His physiology is studied and a considerable literature is established on his physiology – the function, the internal function of the human body. This is very, very valuable, but it is isolated as the study of the body and does not take into consideration what is going on in either his structure or most especially his inner state, his psyche, his soul, his spirit. These are interchangeable words.
Now there is spiritual studies, but they have gradually deteriorated into observing the behavior and trying to fit a certain behavior and avoid certain other behaviors. In other words, there is an attempt to be what’s called “good” – that one would be kind and considerate and et cetera. However, there is much in man that is not brought to light and is not studied, and so in spite of his attempts to do these he seldom if ever succeeds. And if he does, he’s in somewhat of a turmoil within and he really hasn’t succeeded – he’s only been conditioned to be “good”.
And of course his structure is studied and great works of anatomy are performed and are very valuable for surgery. But they give one little if any understanding as to what’s happening to the structure in everyday affairs of aging, aches and pains, distortions, et cetera.
Now the necessity for a school, so that you will know that you have a school and that you are in a school and that you have all the requirements of a school if it was put away in some hidden area in the California desert, or in the mountains of Idaho, or in some valley in New Mexico or in some other area… these are the necessary things for a school: that one has a teaching or a set of ideas that puts light on our inner states, our spiritual being. It gives a spiritual interpretation of all the events, both inner and outer. Now obviously all these ideas will not be given at once. They’re given one at a time and one observes for self to see if these ideas are true. Nothing is to be accepted because you hear it on a tape or because you hear it in person. One is to investigate, observe by careful observation repeatedly, to observe that the ideas are factual. Or if they’re not, discard them. Don’t discard them at the first moment – continue a little bit.
So the first necessity of a school is a given set of ideas, which no man claims credit for having originated. They have been around a very long time. And various or sundry persons may carry these ideas and share them with others, but the ideas are what are worthwhile – not the person who carries those ideas. In this usual terminology we say, “It is the contents that are worthwhile, not the container.” So whether your container is a cassette tape or whether it was some person or whatever, it is the ideas that count – not the person, or the means by which you receive them, or the channel through which you receive the ideas. So the ideas that will put a light, a spiritual interpretation on all the events that one experiences in the various relationships of everyday existence.
The second thing is that there is two or more people in a relationship. Now this may be work, it may be home, it may be play or whatever. That there is two or more people in relationship. Now only one of these needs to know about the ideas – that is you. Please do not try to force the ideas on anyone else. They are to be used as an inner light, not to be taught to other people, forced upon them, or anything. If they ever ask… and much later down the way you will be given instructions that you may be aware and you will then be able to check it out whether the person is really wanting to be a student and study, or whether they are merely curious.
So at the first there is two or more people – any number of them – may be 50 where you work, or it may be a large family, or it may be some kind of public service, some civic work – whatever and wherever – and you will probably have many relationships. Whatever relationships one finds oneself in, one has something to observe there. And the ideas of the Teaching throws light on it so that you may understand what’s going on in the inner man, the inner state, one’s state of being.
So there’s two or more people in relationship. So there’s nobody so isolated that you do not have some other person that you have some relationship – work, play, home, whatever – every day. This work is not for hermits. And that only one of the people need to be acquainted with the ideas; in fact sometimes it is better that only one be acquainted with it – you, the one has the ideas and is observing. And all the others are going merrily on their way, totally unaware that you are doing the observing. And that one must be using the Teaching for self at least part of the time. Teaching that is not used is of course without any value whatsoever.
Some of the ideas of the Science of Man for study and experimentation, at this moment they will only be worthwhile as something to study, to be aware of, and that there is a different set of ideas. You will be given specific assignments, specific bits of work and specific ways of observing these various ideas from time to time. So don’t be in a hurry. Haste makes waste, as the old sayings go, and slowly and methodically and carefully proceeding one’s way. One is traveling over a very new road. And to you sometimes it may seem rocky or bumpy at first; however, very shortly it will be a very delightful way.
So the ideas of the school is that the man or woman in everyday life that has never studied or been exposed, or had the opportunity to use various ideas that throw light on the spiritual aspect of man and his relationship between his psychology, his physiology, his structure and his biology… that that person without that understanding or having that opportunity, is mechanical. Now anything mechanical does not have a will of its own. It does not have a determination of its own. It is purely subject to what happens to it. Your automobile may be sitting in the street – washed, shined, the motor tuned, everything in perfect shape. But it has no will as to whether it will go or whether it sits. You go out, turn the key, and it performs according to the way it is equipped to perform, what it’s designed for.
A human being may be in such a state that anyone can push a button and cause him to be angry, or to cause them to work, or to cause them to agree with many ideas, which will possibly lead them into a state of slavery sooner or later – a state of dependency on something else. Further, if the car is just setting in the street and something bumps it, it is all bent out of shape. And we might say that when we become angry or worried or excited or frightened or resentful or bashful or many, many other such things – jealousy and so on – that we are bent out of shape; we are far from being happy and pleased within self. We are far from being conscious. We did not choose the state; it happened to us. And in that state we are mechanical. So the first thing that we will observe is that we don’t choose our states.
So, right here you may take a piece of paper and begin to write down the various things that you see all this week – day after day as you listen to the tapes and observe what goes on in relationships – how many times one behaves mechanically. You might say that we have buttons out. So somebody comes along and pushes a button and I’m angry. Somebody else comes along and pushes a button and I’m very delighted. Somebody else pushes a button and I feel annoyed or aggravated or I’m upset in some other way. Now we didn’t choose to be this way – it just happened. Obviously none of us would choose to be upset; we would choose to be peaceful and serene. But we then notice that we are not that way much of the time. Now, maybe we go along several days and everybody is pushin’ the proper button and I feel very delighted. But sooner or later in relationship, somebody forgets – somebody moves something that I left in a certain place, somebody says, “Why are you doing that?” Somebody forgets to do what they said they would do – and let’s observe the mechanical reaction. Those are just a little sample of the ways to push buttons.
Second idea that the school ideas are, that as well as man being mechanical, is that he is 100% subject to suggestion 100% of the time. Now, for a suggestion to work it must be based upon something that is the prime form within man – his frame of reference.
Very early in our existence, possibly almost at the moment of birth, we formed a fundamental conclusion that the whole purpose of living is to regain the non-disturbed state by gaining pleasure and escaping pain. Now, most of us have never consciously thought of that; but as we observe – again, along with observing how much we’re mechanical – we will observe that we are always looking for comfort and pleasure on all levels and struggling to avoid pain on all levels. We’ll take up the various levels from time to time.
So you might say this is a program, to use present day computer language that one is programmed and then anything that does not bring about pleasure or comfort, one reacts to. And anything that brings about pain, one reacts to. So all suggestion either holds out that one will have pleasure and comfort in the future, or will experience pain in the future if one does not do so-and-so. And by observing this we will begin to observe suggestion, that we are 100% subject to suggestion 100% of the time. In other words we always hear it. Now, if we have unexamined self and are unaware of this basic value, this basic programming that the whole purpose of living is to regain the non-disturbed state, we will find that we are not only subject to suggestion, but that we are controlled by suggestion very, very, very frequently… if not 100% of the time. So to leave ourselves a little bit of leeway, we will say almost all the time.
However let’s write it down and see how often that I read a newspaper article that says some terrible catastrophe’s going to occur and that I feel upset. I read that the epidemic of the flu or some other form of epidemic is coming across the country, maybe from across the ocean. Maybe it’s London flu, Spanish flu, Italian flu, maybe it’s Yugoslavian flu. We never have Russian flu because that’s a bad kind…we don’t have that. But let’s see if we become concerned, that if it threatens and if we experience a moment of feeling in an urgency of one form or another. As long as this is unexamined it will continue. So we will start examining where I hear suggestion.
Now remember that suggestion always offers a reward for a certain line of behavior or thought or belief; and that to fail to have that particular line of thought or behavior or belief is threatened with a loss. And all of these are suggestions; you may be aware of them. Now we may read that cancer is rampant, or that heart conditions claimed so many lives; and we might begin to feel of our pulse or we might begin to examine our skin or feel of the body to see if we can find a lumpy somewheres. And if we do, we find some sort of sudden excitement, a sense of urgency. And this of course has its affect on the physiology and it has its affect on the anatomy and it certainly has its affect on the biology of the body. So much of it starts (if we begin to observe) not from something that slips up and attacks us, but from something that arises in the very inner man – the spirit of man, the soul or the psyche. Now, today we generally use the word “psychology.” Some time ago was used “soul” in the English translation and that is an exact translation of the Greek word “psyche” which, of course, is where the word psychology comes from.
And we might notice – and it is a tenant of the Teaching that every suggestion that was accepted uncritically, just accepted because it sounded true – that each of those suggestions becomes a separate personality. We will use the terminology a not-I, a capital “I” with quotation marks around it for a false personality.
I’m sure everyone is acquainted with the story of Pinocchio. A man carved out a wooden doll and due to some reason or other, the wooden doll suddenly became alive and run off on its own and caused all manner of mischief. So we each have many, many, many Pinocchio’s or “not-I’s”. We formed them by agreeing to a suggestion. They stayed, they grew, they multiplied and they have become quite powerful and they go their own way and one at a time takes over and runs the affairs of this household called “I”, or whatever the name may be – the “self”. And we all think that each of these “I’s” is all one and the same. The school Teaching says they are separate personalities. And as we proceed, we’ll find they are in various parties and that certain ones of them cooperate, and that other certain ones cooperate in another camp. And possibly, that every one of them only has one real purpose in mind: destroy the living being.
The next thing is, the idea of the school, is that man feels he has rights. And that he must “stick up for these rights” and that he “blames” everything that to him seems to prevent him having these rights. Now of course the “rights” come from the idea of having had something a number of times and then we feel we’re entitled to it. We possibly feel that the whole world – now we said “feel” that way but it’s an unknowing; but as we observe, it will come to light – that we feel we’re the center of the universe and that everybody “ought to” spend their entire time taking care of “my rights.” I have them – they should get out of the way, they should do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to.
And of course if we want to consider rights for a moment, we might consider how we came into this earth world: nekkid [naked], broke, helpless, didn’t even understand the language, didn’t know what we really needed and maybe we still don’t. And that we found everything provided for us and we managed to grow up to our present state of affairs and we didn’t bring a thing to insure that. We didn’t even know how to ask.
So, wonder if we have any rights or if we had a lot of privileges a number of times. And when something is given to us over and over, we begin to accept it as a right and feel entitled to it.
Now, we will make us another little sheet of paper and put at the top of it “My Rights.” And as you find yourself talking to your self or talking to someone else and defending a certain right or claiming a certain right – “Well I have the right to do this!” and “I have a right to have this!” – I wonder if we could write that down. And then over at the other side of the paper: “I obtained this right by…” and put down what gave it to you, how you earned it.
Anything that’s given to us is a privilege and of course can be taken away, regardless of whether it’s called “rights” or not. But anything that I have formed a title to, earned, may be a right. So let’s begin to see what we really have “rights” to. Anything that can be taken away from you is not necessarily a right, is it?
Now you will notice that one thing: in the teaching of school ideas, specific meanings are put on many words. These will be definitely brought to attention and they will be used as much as when possible. Now we have thrown in “not-I” as anything that resulted from a suggestion that has been accepted and acted upon and brought to be true, and it now is a personality going on its own.
We have seen “rights” as something that cannot be taken away from you. And you know, even life can be taken away from us by most anyone with a hammer or a gun or a knife or a little vile of poison, or a whole lot of other things. So maybe life is a privilege. And maybe driving is a privilege. And maybe the greatest way in the world to lose privileges is to mistake them for rights and start sticking up for them.
That if we saw something was a privilege, we would extend a certain amount of effort and attention and thought to have that privilege. We would make every effort to maintain the privileges we now have and to enhance them… and possibly to even gain more. So it might be very interesting if we in observing what we consider to be our rights, we notice that most of them are privileges. And what have I really done to maintain that privilege, to enhance it, and to gain others?
Another idea of the school: that man has emotions of anger, guilt, fear, insecurity, inferiority, and their many subdivisions like jealousy, like envy, like resentment – all of which man was never designed to have and they’re therefore stress to him. And that when he has stress, there is many adaptations to stress, which is disintegrating. So these basic emotions of anger, guilt, fear, insecurity and all their many synonyms and subdivisions (like jealousy, envy, resentment and so forth) are not proper to man. He was never designed to have them. That is due to his conditioning, to his basic conclusion that the purpose for living is to be non-disturbed, and to the many suggestions as to what is to blame, how he “should do” and et cetera. And that these basic emotions bring into being a state of being called greed, vanity, and pride.
Now we will define greed as wanting more, better and different. No matter what one has, after a little while even though one is very delighted with it to begin with, one grows weary and tired of it or one begins to take it for granted. One begins to accept it as being entitled to it and one wants more, better and different. That is greed.
Vanity is all the not-I’s having a false picture of oneself as always being in the right, being a very wonderful person that is mistreated.
And pride is defending that false picture of self.
Take care of doing the work. To only hear the words (even if you listen to them ever hour) would do nothing. But if one applies and does the work, one will find many great things.