Gurdjieff International Review

Selected Excerpts from the

Talks and Writings of G. I. Gurdjieff

Photo Collection Gurdjieff Foundation of New York

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Working For the Third World of Man

There are two struggles—inner-world struggle and outer-world struggle, but never can these two make contact, to make data for the third world. Not even God gives this possibility for contact between your inner- and outer-world struggles; not even your heredity. Only one thing—you must make intentional contact between outer-world struggle and inner-world struggle; only then can you make data for the Third World of Man, sometimes called World of the Soul.1

Struggle Unceasingly

To possess the right to the name of ‘man,’ one must be one.

And to be such, one must first of all, with an indefatigable persistence and an unquenchable impulse of desire, issuing from all the separate independent parts constituting one’s entire common presence, that is to say, with a desire issuing simultaneously from thought, feeling, and organic instinct, work on an all-round knowledge of oneself—at the same time struggling unceasingly with one’s subjective weaknesses—and then afterwards, taking one’s stand upon the results thus obtained by one’s consciousness alone, concerning the defects in one’s established subjectivity as well as the elucidated means for the possibility of combatting them, strive for their eradication without mercy towards oneself.2

Objective Conscience

In all three-brained beings of the whole of our Universe without exception, among whom are also we men, owing to the data crystallized in our common presences for engendering in us the Divine impulse of conscience, “the-whole-of-us” and the whole of our essence, are, and must be, already in our foundation, only suffering.

And they must be suffering, because the completed actualizing of the manifestation of such a being-impulse in us can proceed only from the constant struggle of two quite opposite what are called “complexes-of-the-functioning” of those two sources which are of quite opposite origin, namely, between the processes of the functioning of our planetary body itself and the parallel functionings arising progressively from the coating and perfecting of our higher being-bodies within this planetary body of ours, which functionings in their totality actualize every kind of Reason in the three-centered beings.

In consequence of this, every three-centered being of our Great Universe, and also we men existing on the Earth, must, owing to the presence in us also of the factors for engendering the Divine impulse of “Objective Conscience,” always inevitably struggle with the arising and the proceeding within our common presences of two quite opposite functionings giving results always sensed by us either as “desires” or as “nondesires.”

And so, only he, who consciously assists the process of this inner struggle and consciously assists the “nondesires” to predominate over the desires, behaves just in accordance with the essence of our COMMON FATHER CREATOR HIMSELF; whereas he who with his consciousness assists the contrary, only increases HIS SORROW.3


You are given legs to walk; hands to prepare and take the necessary food; your nose and the organs connected with it are so adapted that you may take in and transform in yourself those World-substances by which there are coated in the three-brained beings similar to yourself both higher-being bodies, on one of which rests the hope of our COMMON ALL-EMBRACING CREATOR for help in His needs, for the purpose of actualizations foreseen by Him for the good of Everything Existing. . .

Although you were created for the purpose of the common-cosmic existence on planets, and although you were created also as ‘a-field-of-hope’ for the future expectations of our COMMON ALL-EMBRACING CREATOR—that is to say, created with the possibilities of coating in your presence that ‘Higher-Sacred’ for the possible arising of which the whole of our now existing World was just created—and in spite of the said possibilities given to you, that is to say, in spite of your having been created three-brained with possibilities of a logical mentation, yet you do not use this sacred property of yours for the purpose for which it was foreordained.4

Seven Aspects of Work in Life

At the end of the meal, several people left the table to wash up. Mr Gurdjieff then turned to his neighbour on the left and reproached him for having carried out badly his role as Director.5

This seems a small thing to you. But for those who know how to conduct their affairs in life, it is a big thing.

There is not just one aspect. In reality there are seven of them. If you know how to conduct one of your affairs well, the others could go well, even automatically. But if you neglect only one of these aspects the result will be bad, even though you followed this business through your whole life.

If you assume the role of director you must control all aspects of it. You must be able to supervise very precisely all the details.

While fulfilling your obligations nothing else must count. Even if you have business worth millions, you must forget it. If you do this, when the time comes to transact your deals in millions you will know how to act in the same way. If you accustom yourself to do well the task of the present moment, you will learn to do everything well.

You are here, now. Sacrifice everything else. All your presence (attention), all your thoughts, all your associations must relate to the matter on which you are working.

In the ordinary things of life you must fulfill all your obligations. You must think of what is needed one or two weeks in advance and never fail. You have the time—you will know how to find it. Think well about all these aspects—prepare yourself. In reality you always lose time: with such an interior organization a man will never go far.6

Separating Mind from Essence

Our mind, our thinking, has nothing in common with us, with our essence—no connection, no dependence. . .

The mind is capable of functioning independently, but it also has the capacity of becoming identified with the essence, of becoming a function of the essence. In the majority of those present, the mind does not try to be independent but is merely a function. . .

At present we are not capable of controlling our states, and so it cannot be demanded of us. But when we acquire this capacity, corresponding demands will be made.

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.7

What Obligations Am I Under?

Only now have I come very clearly to understand that everything we have at the present time and everything we use—in a word, all the contemporary amenities and everything necessary for our comfort and welfare—have not always existed and did not make their appearance so easily.

It seems that certain beings in the past have during very long periods labored and suffered very much for this, and endured a great deal which perhaps they even need not have endured.

They labored and suffered only in order that we might now have all this and use it for our welfare.

And all this they did, either consciously or unconsciously, just for us, that is to say, for beings quite unknown and entirely indifferent to them.

And now not only do we not thank them, but we do not even know a thing about them, but take it all as in the natural order, and neither ponder nor trouble ourselves about this question at all. . .

And so, my dear and kind Grandfather, now that . . . I have gradually, with all my presence, become aware of all this, there has arisen in me, side by side with this, the need to make clear to my Reason why I personally have all the comforts which I now use, and what obligations I am under for them.8


One of the best means of rendering ineffective the predisposition present in your nature of the crystallization of the consequences of the properties of the organ Kundabuffer is ‘intentional-suffering’; and the greatest intentional-suffering can be obtained in your presences if you compel yourselves to be able to endure the ‘displeasing-manifestations-of-others-toward-yourselves.’9

A Simple Secret

In the common presence of every being existing merely on the basis of Itoklanoz, ‘something’ similar to the regulator in a mechanical watch is present and is called ‘Iransamkeep’; this ‘something’ means: ‘not - to - give - oneself - up - to - those - of - one’s - associations - resulting - from - the - functioning - of - only - one - or - another - of - one’s - brains.’

But even if they should understand such a simple secret it will be all just the same; they still would not make the necessary being-effort, quite accessible even to the contemporary beings and thanks to which, by the foresight of Nature, beings in general acquire the possibility of what is called ‘harmonious association,’ by virtue of which alone energy is created for active being-existence in the presence of every three-brained being and consequently in them themselves.10

The Disease ‘Tomorrow’

Thanks to this abnormal hope of theirs a very singular and most strange disease, with a property of evolving, arose and exists among them there even until now—a disease called there ‘tomorrow.’

This strange disease ‘tomorrow’ brought with it terrifying consequences, and particularly for those unfortunate three-brained beings there who chance to learn and to become categorically convinced with the whole of their presence that they possess some very undesirable consequences for the deliverance from which they must make certain efforts, and which efforts moreover they even know just how to make, but owing to this maleficent disease ‘tomorrow’ they never succeed in making these required efforts.11

Abnormally Established Conditions

I wish to point out to you one great ‘secret’ of their psyche. . .

You, no doubt, my boy, have already guessed that by this secret of their psyche I refer just to this same, as I called it, ‘psycho-organic-need’ of theirs to ‘teach others sense’ and ‘to put them on the right road.’

This special property formed in their psyche, thanks of course also always to the same abnormally established conditions of ordinary being-existence, becomes as it were—when each of them already becomes a responsible being—an obligatory part of his presence.

Everyone there without exception has this ‘psycho-organic need’; old and young, men and women and even those whom they call ‘prematurely born.’

The mentioned ‘particular need’ of theirs arises in them, in its turn, thanks to another particular property of theirs which is that from the very moment when each of them acquires the capacity of distinguishing between ‘wet’ and ‘dry,’ then, carried away by this attainment, he ceases forever to see and observe his own abnormalities and defects, but sees and observes those same abnormalities and defects in others. . .

I might as well here remark that thanks to this property of your favorites always to grow indignant at the defects of others around them, they make their existence, already wretched and abnormal without this, objectively unbearable.12

The Snake Who Wanted To Become a Monk

During one meal, Monsieur Gurdjieff told us the story of a snake who wanted to take religious vows:

In the middle of a forest a man-eating snake saw a monk coming along a path. He went to meet the monk to ask if it was possible for him to take religious vows.

After listening to him, the monk said, “Yes, but if you take religious vows, you will no longer be able to eat men, or attack them!”

The snake promised to obey his instructions.

So, the monk gave the snake some advice, told him how to pray, and said to him, “In one year I will come this way again, and we’ll see how you are getting on,” and he went on his way.

One year later, the monk came back through the same forest. He saw the snake coming towards him. But the snake was emaciated, and covered in wounds. The monk asked him what had happened.

The snake replied that having kept to his promise of no longer attacking men, these men and children had started to throw stones at him.

“I see!” said the monk. “Yes! yes! I certainly asked you not to attack people, but I didn’t forbid you to hiss!”13

The Foundation of Essence

Your weeping gives me the assurance also that in your future responsible existence there will also be in your common presence those being-data which are the foundation of the essence of every bearer of Divine Reason and which are even formulated by our COMMON FATHER in words placed over the chief entrance of the holy planet Purgatory decreeing the following: ‘ONLY - HE - MAY - ENTER - HERE - WHO - PUTS - HIMSELF - IN - THE - POSITION - OF - THE - OTHER - RESULTS - OF - MY - LABORS.’14

A Real Man

I also very well remember that on another occasion the father dean [Borsh] said:

“In order that at responsible age a man may be a real man and not a parasite, his education must without fail be based on the following ten principles.

“From early childhood there should be instilled in the child:

Emerging from Hell

My ladder was some sixty feet in length; I had not climbed up a third of its height before I emerged from that hell. There above was a beautiful starry and moonlit sky, silence and a stillness such as is rarely found even at home in Eastern Persia. Below, there still reigned something unimaginable; I had the impression of standing on some high cliff on a sea-coast overlooking the most terrible storm and upheaval. . .

It has been shown that the sand-filled atmosphere has a definite and not very high limit, and that the contours of it’s upper surface always correspond to the contours of the desert itself; and one must admit that it is absolutely necessary to make use of this discovery in the journey we have ahead of us.16

Our Repertoire of Roles

You must realize that each man has a definite repertoire of roles which he plays in ordinary circumstances. He has a role for every kind of circumstance in which he ordinarily finds himself in life; but put him into even only slightly different circumstances and he is unable to find a suitable role and for a short time he becomes himself. The study of the roles a man plays represents a very necessary part of self-knowledge. Each man’s repertoire is very limited. And if a man simply says ‘I’ and ‘Ivan Ivanich,’ he will not see the whole of himself because ‘Ivan Ivanich’ also is not one; a man has at least five or six of them. One or two for his family, one or two at his office (one for his subordinates and another for his superiors), one for friends in a restaurant, and perhaps one who is interested in exalted ideas and likes intellectual conversation. And at different times the man is fully identified with one of them and is unable to separate himself from it. To see the roles, to know one’s repertoire, particularly to know its limitedness, is to know a great deal. But the point is that, outside his repertoire, a man feels very uncomfortable should something push him if only temporarily out of his rut, and he tries his hardest to return to any one of his usual roles. Directly he falls back into the rut, everything at once goes smoothly again and the feeling of awkwardness and tension disappears. This is how it is in life; but in the work, in order to observe oneself, one must become reconciled to this awkwardness and tension and to the feeling of discomfort and helplessness. Only by experiencing this discomfort can a man really observe himself. And it is clear why this is so. When a man is not playing any of his usual roles, when he cannot find a suitable role in his repertoire, he feels that he is undressed. He is cold and ashamed and wants to run away from everybody. But the question arises: What does he want? A quiet life or to work on himself?17

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1 Kathryn Hulme, Undiscovered Country: A Spiritual Adventure, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1966, p. 103.
2 G. I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, New York: Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1950, p. 1209.
3 Ibid., pp. 372–373.
4 Ibid., pp. 194–195.
5 The director’s principal task was to direct the ‘toasts’ ceremony during the meal.
6 Transcript from a Paris Meeting led by Gurdjieff, 1943.
7 G. I. Gurdjieff, Views From The Real World, New York: Dutton, 1973, pp. 148–151.
8 Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson, pp. 76–77.
9 Ibid., pp. 241–242.
10 Ibid., p. 445.
11 Ibid., p. 362.
12 Ibid., pp. 1075–1077.
13 Solange Claustres, Becoming Conscious with G. I. Gurdjieff, Netherlands: Eureka Editions, 2005, p. 69.
14 Ibid., p. 1164.
15 G. I. Gurdjieff, Meetings with Remarkable Men, New York: Dutton, 1963, p. 57.
16 Ibid., pp. 171–172.
17 P. D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, New York: Harcourt Brace, 1949, p. 239–240.

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Copyright © 2007 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2007 Issue, Vol. X (1)
Revision: April 1, 2007