Friday, December 25, 2020

separating the mind from essence (redux)

from Gurdjieff's "Views from the Real World," pp. 148-150 As long as a man does not separate himself from himself he can achieve nothing, and no one can help him. To govern oneself is a very difficult thing--it is a problem for the future; it requires much power and demands much work. But this first thing, to separate oneself from oneself, does not require much strength, it only needs desire, serious desire, the desire of a grown-up man. If a man cannot do it, it shows that he lacks the desire of a grown-up man. Consequently it proves that there is nothing for him here. What we do here can only be a doing suitable for grown-up men. Our mind, our thinking, has nothing in common with us, with our essence--no connection, no dependence. Our mind lives by itself and our essence lives by itself. When we say "to separate oneself from oneself" it means that the mind should stand apart from the essence. Our weak essence can change at any moment, for it is dependent on many influences: on food, on our surroundings, on time, on the weather, and on a multitude of other causes. But the mind depends on very few influences and so, with a little effort, it can be kept in the desired direction. Every weak man can give the desired direction to his mind. But he has no power over his essence; great power is required to give direction to essence and keep essence to it. (Body and essence are the same devil.)... Speaking of the mind I know that each of you has enough strength, each of you can have the power and capacity to act not as he now acts.... I repeat, every grown-up man can achieve this; everyone who has a serious desire can do it. But no one tries.... In order to understand better what I mean, I shall give you an example: now, in a calm state, not reacting to anything or anyone, I decide to set myself the task of establishing a good relationship with Mr. B., because I need him for business purposes and can do what I wish only with his help. But I dislike Mr. B. for he is a very disagreeable man. He understands nothing. He is a blockhead. He is vile, anything you like. I am so made that these traits affect me. Even if he merely looks at me, I become irritated. If he talks nonsense, I am beside myself. I am only a man, so I am weak and cannot persuade myself that I need not be annoyed--I shall go on being annoyed. Yet I can control myself, depending on how serious my desire is to gain the end I wish to gain through him. If I keep to this purpose, to this desire, I shall be able to do so. No matter how annoyed I may be, this state of wishing will be in my mind. No matter how furious, how beside myself I am, in a corner of my mind I shall still remember the task I set myself. My mind is unable to restrain me from anything, unable to make me feel this or that toward him, but it is able to remember. I say to myself: "You need him, so don't be cross or rude to him." It could even happen that I would curse him, or hit him, but my mind would continue to pluck at me, reminding me that I should not do so. But the mind is powerless to do anything. This is precisely what anyone who has a serious desire not to identify himself with his essence can do. This is what is meant by "separating the mind from the essence." And what happens when the mind becomes merely a function? If I am annoyed, if I lose my temper, I shall think, or rather "it" will think, in accordance with this annoyance, and I shall see everything in the light of the annoyance. To hell with it! And so I say that with a serious man--a simple, ordinary man without any extraordinary powers, but a grown-up man--whatever he decides, whatever problem he has set himself, that problem will always remain in his head. Even if he cannot achieve it in practice, he will always keep it in his mind. Even if he is influenced by other considerations, his mind will not forget the problem he has set himself. He has a duty to perform and, if he is honest, he will strive to perform it, because he is a grown-up man. No one can help him in this remembering, in this separation of oneself from oneself. A man must do it for himself. Only then, from the moment a man has this separation, can another man help him.... The only difference between a child and a grown-up man is in the mind. All the weaknesses are there, beginning with hunger, with sensitivity, with naiveté; there is no difference. The same things are in a child and in a grown-up man: love, hate, everything. Functions are the same, receptivity is the same, equally they react, equally they are given to imaginary fears. In short there is no difference. The only difference is in the mind: we have more material, more logic than a child.