Gurdjieff International Review

The Work in Life

The following comments were made by Maurice Desselle and Henri Tracol on June 6, 1964 in Paris at a weekly meeting for studying the Gurdjieff ideas. They were translated from French notes by Dorothea Dooling and Patty de Llosa.

Maurice Desselle

The subject that brings us together tonight is “The Work in Life.”

I’d like to examine it in a very simple way and, at the same time, in a very broad way, to try to understand the link that exists between my work and my life. And inversely, the link between my life and my work. I’m forced to face this idea, which presents an ongoing question, because the very idea of an effort and a search springs from my life, out of my life.

I speak not only for myself because we have all approached the possibility of work in this way. In this life—made up of an accumulation of information about facts, events, chance happenings—which is given to us one day and will be taken away from us on another (we don’t know when), a moment always comes when it seems incomprehensible to us, even absurd.

It is at this very moment that the idea of a search appears and an attempt to understand our presence here begins. So the connection is obvious. We cannot refuse this life. It is within this very life that our search must be established and pursued…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]

Henri Tracol

I would like to return to an idea which seems worth going into further, and which was put forward earlier. On the hanging suspended above the students’ heads in the Study House (at the Institute), Mr. Gurdjieff had written this aphorism, among others: “Always remember that here the work is a means, and not an end.” To encourage a false mystique of the work in myself and in others does injury to the very essence of our search. It substitutes a mental or emotional image which is, at the very least, suspect. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think it’s a danger that lies in wait for us all. One of its chief characteristics is to turn us away from life, to invite us to treat life with contempt, to consider it the beast we must vanquish or the enemy we must overcome. As if the work could be in any way against life! That would mean forgetting, among other things, why the day came when we turned towards this teaching. Whatever form our dissatisfactions and hopes took, we came to the work asking, above all, for help to live this life, help to recover a more real, more convincing, meaning for it. And that’s what we discard when we give way to an image born of experiences that are still fragmentary and hopes that are not yet legitimate…

[The complete text is available in the printed copy of this issue.]

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