Gurdjieff International Review

Money and the Meaning of Life

By Jacob Needleman

These excerpts are extracted from Jacob Needleman’s book, Money and the Meaning of Life, New York: Currency Doubleday, 1991, Chapters 13, 14 & 22.

Why Does Money Seem So Real?

Since the beginning of recorded history, man has been haunted by the intimation that he lives in a world of mere appearances. In every teaching and spiritual philosophy of the past we find the idea that whatever happens to us, for good or ill, is brought about by deeper forces behind the world that seems so real to us. We are further told that this real world is not accessible to the senses or understandable by the ordinary mind.

But, and this is a point that is not usually understood, we live in a world of inner appearances as well. We are not what we perceive ourselves to be. There is another identity, our real self, hidden behind the self that we believe ourselves to be.

It is only through awakening to this deeper self within that we can penetrate behind the veil of appearances and make contact with a truer world outside of ourselves. It is because we live on the surface of ourselves that we live on the surface of the greater world, never participating—except in rare moments which do not last and which are not understood—in the wholeness of reality.

It is this all-important second aspect of the ancient wisdom, the aspect that speaks of our inner world, that modern thought has been blind to. And the question about the meaning of life is inextricably linked to the need for contact with the real self beneath the surface of our everyday thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

Without this contact, the external world of appearances assumes for us the proportions of an overwhelmingly compelling force. We cannot see the real world because we are not in contact with the deeper powers of thought and sensing within ourselves that could perceive it. Because of this, it is inevitable that we experience the external world as the strongest force in our lives. This is the meaning and the origin of materialism.

The error, or, to use Christian language, the “sin” of materialism has at its root nothing to do with greed or possessiveness. Nor does it involve, at its root, some philosophical view about matter and spirit in their usual meanings. No, the error of materialism is an error of reality perception, based on lack of experiential contact with the inner world. What we know as greed and possessiveness, with their attendant traits of cruelty and human exploitation, are results of this ignorance of the inner world. We turn to the superficially perceived outer world for that which can only be obtained through deep access to the inner self. Materialism is not a “sin”; it is a mistake.

But a mistake of immense proportions, and with deadly consequences. It is like searching for water on the surface of the moon to search for meaning in the external world. Like grasping a picture of food and trying to eat it. Not only meaning, but also health, safety, service, love, and power can be obtained only through turning to reality. The unreal world can never yield these things to man.

The forms of social and cultural organization founded within the great spiritual traditions of the world have been based on a recognition of the reality of the inner world, and of the higher force that can enter into human life through the inner world. Money itself may have originated in this context as a sacred device.

These institutions and forms, such as those involving the family, the gathering and production of food, and other practical means necessary for survival—shelter, clothing, treatment of illness—all these patterns of living were originally structured to allow human beings to seek contact with the inner self in the midst of the challenges of the external world.

These rituals, customs, and manners were created to foster this interior contact not only as a thought in the mind or a momentary emotion, but also organically, in the very sensations of the body. Enduring and deep contact with the higher forces requires the participation of thought, emotions, and physical sensation, because each of these functions is an indispensable instrument of perceiving reality. Without this complete perception, the experience of the inner self is less vivid, and the outer world dominates human life. The inner world is no longer experienced as vividly as the outer world. The external world begins to seem more real, more compelling, more exigent. Life in the external world begins to have more apparent value to the individual and the society. The ideals of the inner world may remain in the form of religious doctrine, in the thought alone or in the emotions alone or in the automatized ritual patterns of movement and behavior, which are no longer understood. But the organic, experiential contact with a higher force becomes weaker and less compelling and may disappear altogether.

The capacity to live morally, according to mankind’s highest ideals, requires sustained experiential contact with the higher forces within. Therefore, as actual contact with the inner world diminishes, the individual and the community suffer more and more disorder.

To repeat: moral power, the power to live according to the ideals of the inner world, comes only from direct contact with the higher forces that can pass into the inner self from the deeper recesses of the universal world.

We must bear in mind how strong the demands are that compel men and women to act for survival in the physical and social world. These survival demands are of such magnitude that they easily dominate human life in the absence of our direct contact with the depth of the inner world. The traditional social forms were intended both to ensure human survival and to support the struggle for contact with the inner world.

What, after all, is the point of physical survival without this inner contact? What is the point of eating, sleeping, and reproducing without our being conscious of ourselves? If we wish for merely unconscious survival, it means that we wish to be only animals or computers, beings that eat, reproduce, react, or think without self-awareness.

The determining characteristic of our modern era has been the unprecedented extent to which the inner ideals embodied in traditional patterns of human relationship—for example, family duty, care for the well-being and dignity of one’s neighbor, and respect for life, with all the subtle refinements of behavior and perception that have been associated with these values over the centuries—no longer seem inwardly intense and vivid. On the contrary, for most modern people, the main experience of inner intensity lies in the realm of instinctual and emotional drives such as hunger, sexual desire, the need for safety, and the avoidance of pain. Because of this, time-honored forms and customs that supported the inner life have been altered and abandoned, new forms and customs invented, the result being that countless subtler, finer aspects of the human psyche have been eclipsed. The patterns of living that once nourished these subtler aspects of human relationships have been regarded as oppressive or outdated, while new communal forms that could support the full range of possible inner experiences have not yet been created and disseminated by men and women of vision.

The idea that there are two fundamental aspects of reality, two opposing movements, is a universal teaching ancient beyond imagining, ancient beyond Christianity, beyond Judaism, beyond Buddhism and Hinduism, perhaps even beyond Egypt, Sumer, and Babylon. There are two movements of all energy and life—toward and away from unity, toward and away from the wholeness of the universal oneness. “Materialism” acknowledges only one of these movements—the movement outward toward multiplicity and diversity.

Traditional patterns of living, on the other hand, operate to open human consciousness to both movements—the movement outward, represented by man’s participation in an expanding social and physical world, and the movement inward, toward unity, reflected in his yearning to participate in the intelligence that created the universe and which exists as pure energy, awareness, and joy. Many of the emotions, sensations, and thoughts evoked by these rites and ethical practices were meant to lead human consciousness toward awareness of the universal source in the midst of the rhythms of life.

But when the inner contact weakens, then the feelings that could move man toward the higher attach themselves to the other, outer movement. When impulses of love, for example, cease to lead consciousness toward contact with the Source of the universal world, these impulses must inevitably lead consciousness toward the multiplicity of the sensorily perceived world. Putting it in Western religious language, “a man either moves toward God or toward the devil.”

In the culture we live in, our forms of communal life—family, religion, education, art, the pursuit of knowledge—do not lead us toward actual, vivid experience of a higher force. The conditions of modern life bring emotions of many kinds, thoughts of many kinds; but none of this fulfills us deeply because it does not point us to deep contact with the world within ourselves. Our feelings and thoughts about truth and value are pale when compared to the needs and sensations delivered to us by the outer world. We do not experience the inner world as vividly as the outer world.

All our vivid emotions are tied to desires and fears dealing with the outer world. Our feelings for God, for Being, for Truth—whatever we choose to call the ultimate unity of reality—pale when compared to the stimulations that survival and functioning in the outer world evoke. Money, being the principal means of organizing and ordering survival in the outer world, thus seems the most real thing in our lives.

We must move toward truth or appearance, being or nonbeing. Nothing “under the sun” stands still. Everything moves—and it moves either upward or downward, inward or outward. If we do not love God, we will inevitably love that which conveys intense energies in our daily lives, including, especially, money.

What does it mean that against the forces of money, our inner values are almost always so weak and insubstantial? How many times have we not actually experienced that money factors overwhelm considerations of love and friendship, trust, good faith, artistic integrity, mercy, justice, truth? Isn’t the obvious reason for this that we do not experience friendship, care for another, artistic beauty, inner truth, respect for life, a sense of justice, as vividly and intensely as we experience hunger, or heat and cold, or the cravings and fears associated with these and all the other external elements of our lives?

It is not a question of trying to bring back this or that ancient custom or ritual practice or ethical rule. The point is simply to understand that progress in the modern world has been obtained at the expense of certain kinds of experiences available to us. Customs and rules that seem absurd or superstitious to us may have had purposes that we do not now understand—providing experiences of contact with another level of force within ourselves and within the universe.

Think of money as a device invented for organizing the satisfaction of mankind’s outer needs—within a cultural context in which most forms of conduct served the purpose of evoking impressions of the inner self. Money, thus understood, is intrinsically embedded in a contradiction!

Money is intrinsically a contradiction because man is intrinsically a contradiction. It has come to seem so real not only because there are no longer strong enough experiences of the inner world, but also because there are no longer conscious experiences of the two worlds together. It is the experience of this contradiction that can become the source of inner intensity in our modern lives. This is the main point toward which our discussion has been leading. We need to examine it closely.

Man must ultimately choose between the inner and the outer world, between God and the devil—yes it is true, it is what our religious teachers have always told us in unmistakable tones. But what the great traditions only whisper to us—in symbol and legend, indirectly, “secretly”—is the fact, obvious once we have consciously experienced it, that in order to choose, in order to move toward either “good” or “evil,” it follows of necessity that man must be aware of both movements, both directions; that he has that within him which can be in contact with God and money, good and evil, being and nonbeing.

Facing the Contradiction

In every human life there are glimpses of the inner world, glimpses that could lead us to the search for the real inner self. They may be only elementary experiences and they may be isolated, random, and fleeting, but they certainly exist. What is not understood about them, however, and what is not experienced—that is to say, not willingly nor consciously suffered—is the contradiction, the opposition between the inner movement toward the deep self and the outer movement toward the external world that is given by the senses and organized by the logical mind.

Something analogous to the experience of this contradiction is in fact familiar to all of us. We approach this whenever we realize that how we act contradicts what we feel to be our deepest values. But we do not accept these experiences as the gateway to consciousness of our true nature. Our “morality” compels us to deny them, to cover them over with justifications or promises to do better next time. Yet it is just these experiences of the disparity between our values and our behavior which could be felt as vividly as anything the external world has to offer. If we would seek a reality stronger than money, we may find an opening in the cultivation of a new attitude toward these common experiences of inner contradiction.

The ancient rites and customs provided the basis of experiences in the inner world, sometimes very deep experiences, while satisfying the needs of the outer world, the external life in physically perceived nature and human society. But the contradictoriness of the two worlds, the spiritual world and the external world, was generally taught only by the hidden path. The mode of living in two opposing worlds and relating consciously to both of them has always been difficult to discover, just as in our own life it is something that will have to be rediscovered again and again against great odds.

Returning to the question of why money seems so real: the conditions of life in our culture do not support inner experiences, experiences of movement toward a higher part of oneself, that are as vivid as experiences of the outer world and the part of oneself that is drawn to the outer world. And as money has become the principal means for organizing contact with the outer world, there is nothing more vivid—for most of us—than the question of how to have, get, make, accumulate money. No fear greater—for many of us—than the fear of not having money.

It is therefore not a question of getting rid of these desires or fears. What do most of us have to put in their places?—nothing that is as vivid, except perhaps in physical pain or in front of death. Otherwise there is nothing in most of our lives as enduringly intense as the money question. Therefore nothing seems as real. The money question is so strong not because money is ultimately real but because our experiences with it have become—for most of us—the most vivid and intense experiences of our lives.

There are many concepts, ideas, habits, and conditionings from ideas received in childhood, that support this fundamental illusion about money. But the main and basic point has to do with the intensity of experience.

Therefore, the way to struggle with the tyranny of money’s seemingly ultimate reality is, first of all, to search for a quality of inner experience that is at least as vivid and intense as our concerns about money. This is not easy or obvious. It is impossible to achieve by turning to religious ideas or to love or to art or the pursuit of knowledge. And the reason this cannot be done in these ways is that all these activities have already been absorbed by the money problem.

This is the real crime of our culture—not that we are selling God or truth or morality; at least not as that accusation is usually meant. The crime is that the buying and selling are more intense and inwardly vivid than anything else. But we must not forget that the main reason we have bought and sold God, truth, and morality is that the forms we have used to relate to these ideals no longer offer us the direct experiences of them that are possible and necessary for man. If a person marries for money rather than love or duty, it is not necessarily because he prefers money to love or duty, but because he has not experienced the real force of love or duty. It is as simple and profound as that. Love and duty, as examples of facets of the inner world, cannot be truly experienced unless we can contact both currents of energy within ourselves. There is no love in the outer world alone, at least not for human beings. There is no duty in the outer world alone. Nor is there beauty, nor creativity, nor understanding, nor anything else we consider authentically human. The outer world alone, the world “under the sun” is, as Solomon tells us “vanity, vanity.”

Authentic human existence requires the co-presence of two worlds, the inner and the outer. To exist in one world alone is not to exist at all. This is Sheol, hell, death, the disappearance of the soul, its ultimate impoverishment.

And what has become of money itself reflects the fact that it, like our lives, has become reduced to an instrument functioning in the outer world alone. Intended originally as a device to help man live in two opposing worlds, money has become only a technology to organize our lives in hell.

The outer world cannot give meaning to a being made to live in both the inner world and the outer world simultaneously. We are living in an outer world that pretends to be the inner world. The elements of human life that are primarily rooted in interiority, service to the higher—that is, the realm of relationships, of love, knowledge, creativity, elements that are reflected in family, community, the refinement and perfection of nature (science and art)—all these elements are now embedded in money. Money seems the most real factor of life because our glimpses of the inner world are immediately swallowed by modes of acting and thinking and feeling that are geared to dealing with money. We will never be free of the money demon through what we now call love, ethics, or science and art. The modes of modern comportment in these realms have been altered to become solely part of the deceiving outer world.

And it will do us no good merely to pursue strong experiences of the inner world unless we are pointed toward equally strong experiences that will enable us to contact both worlds simultaneously. That is, we need to find an awareness that can be in contact with the two worlds. And this awareness appears in the first instance as an acceptance of the incompatibility of these two worlds. We must go through a long period of actively accepting this incompatibility before there can be any question of these two worlds becoming one, harmonizing within ourselves.

It will not help to divide our culture into mystics and men and women of action, spiritual seekers and practical “doers.” A dream of mysticism is in itself of no greater value than a dream of action and accomplishment. That is, when a man dreams of God without contacting God, his life is of no more significance than that of a man plunged in the torments of materialist illusion.

When monasticism degenerated in the late Middle Ages, surely it was in part due to the illusion that man can contact God without serving the earth, including the material and social needs of his neighbor, as well. For when an individual experiences a higher force and is not aware of the aspects of himself that push him away from this force, it is inevitable that these aspects become even more veiled from him. It is inevitable, that is, that illusions of one’s own virtue and godliness mask the egoism, anger, and fear that coexist with the spiritual wish in human nature. It is inevitable that religion becomes worldly under the pretext of making the worldly life religious. Psychologically, the biological drives in man become suppressed and, finally, destructive. Something like a great buffer is formed between the two natures in man and the higher, finer influences which the human organism is meant to contain cannot reach the biosocial side of man, even while the mind that is part of the biosocial self reflects the memory of spiritual experiences. Few things are more tyrannical than aborted mysticism. “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”

The question of why money seems so real, why the bottom line seems to be the most real factor in our lives, comes to this: why have we lost the ability to experience the inner world in as vivid and intense a manner as the outer world? Why do we not experience the love of truth, for example, as vividly as we experience hunger or desire or the impulse to protect our children?

The surprising answer is that the way toward the real inner world is to experience with even greater intensity of feeling the pulls and impulses that draw us toward the outer world! To experience God as intensely as we experience desire, for example, it is necessary to experience desire more consciously, not turn away from it toward some high, but bloodless and, finally, illusory ideal religious image!

To experience love as intensely as we experience fear, it is necessary to experience the fear more consciously. From the true consciousness of fear, love must inevitably follow as a result. Why? Not because love is close to fear, but because love is close to consciousness. Such intensity of self-experience, such intensity of self-knowledge, requires carefully guided conditions of living in the midst of ordinary life; it requires the support and companionship of others; it requires knowledge of the structure of man and his possibilities. In short, it requires an authentic spiritual path, the way in life.

To begin moving toward this way, it follows that an individual must begin to take himself as seriously as he takes money. Money is the principal means by which modern man enters into the intense world of desire, fear, pleasure and pain, achievement and failure, sex, friendship, courage, loyalty, deceit, cunning, philosophizing, knowledge-gathering, manufacturing of goods, arts, fun, entertainment, competition—all the impulses and activities that make up this round of life called the world in Western traditions, samsara in Eastern traditions. The other world, the world of the spirit, is approached through the increase of attention in oneself, through consciousness of oneself in the midst of hell. The awareness of hell is the escape from hell, or the beginning of the escape.

The first practical step that an individual can take to free himself from the thrall of money is not to turn away from it, but to take it even more seriously, to study himself in the very midst of the world of money, but to study himself with such diligence and concern that the very act of self-study becomes as vivid and intense as the desires and fears he is studying. “The truth shall set you free,” not because it will give you explanations, but because the conscious experience of the truth, even when the truth is hellish, is itself space and light and contact with a higher world.

And what will the individual feel after he begins this work of studying himself in the world of money? If he persists with diligence and guidance and support of companions, he will experience a feeling more intense than anything the outer world has to offer. With a force and an authority he has until now hardly ever glimpsed in his life, he will directly experience the unbelievable contradiction within himself between the wish for God and the attraction toward material, outer life. This experience was called in ancient Hebraic tradition a broken heart and, later, the turning point. In the great monastic communities of the Christians it was called tears and sorrow. It was what the Solomon of legend experienced in his years of exile. Today, in our present era, we may speak of it, giving the word an entirely new dimension of power, as conscience.

It is through conscience that the true self first manifests itself in us.

This realm between the two opposing worlds is, for as long or as short as the experience of it lasts, the real, uniquely human world. And the conditions of living, the principles of ethics and mutual relationship that are offered by a spiritual community are intended to support and lead the individual to this place between the two worlds. Only then can a man or woman actually know, for certain, that there is something in life more real than the world that is organized by money.

Personal Gain and the Gift of Existence

In the concluding chapter of his book, Dr. Needleman converses with a businessman whose views and vision made a deep impact on his understanding of our relationship with money.

What I have tried to do in this book is to call for the inclusion of the money problem in the search for a consciously regenerate life. This means to include in our search all that we usually judge as evil, selfish, violent, and harsh. The other world, the “higher” world, is, as Rilke tells us, this world consciously experienced.

The following is the gist of another conversation I had with the businessman I spoke of in the Introduction.

“Tell me,” I asked him. “You yourself have been in business all your life. What’s your secret? I don’t mean the secret of making a lot of money, but how have you managed to make being in business something that’s really what you call ‘interesting’? What does it mean to you, when you say that making money is interesting? I’m sure you mean more than piling up material things or having people envy you.”

“Outer life,” he replied, “can support the inner work when the demands of life are taken as a challenge to one’s attention, as a reminder that one needs to cultivate the question of who I am and what in this moment is devouring my attention, taking more of me than I need to give it. In this world we live in, nothing brings that challenge more often and more dependably than the adventure of money.”

A long silence followed.

I then spoke to him about my plans for writing this book. He listened to me in a way that made me feel I was being weighed in a balance scale.

“The problem of writing about living,” he said, “or even speaking about living, is that it makes it sound too easy.”

Slowly and semiautomatically, I nodded yes.

“Of course,” he said, “as you know, the subject of your book interests me very much. Because the money question is the only thing that wakes people up these days. You remember the conference you invited me to in Wisconsin some years ago—what was it called?”

“‘Money, Power, and the Human Spirit,’” I said.

“Yes; money, power, and the human spirit. By coincidence, one of the people who was at that conference wrote to me last month. You probably wouldn’t remember him—he wasn’t one of the speakers. He was in the circle of spectators and he didn’t participate much. It seems that something I said touched him and stayed with him all these years.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Well, do you remember when that young woman who had worked in Central America mentioned the fairy tale about the fisherman’s wife?”1

“I remember it very well,” I said. “She was using it as a symbol of American capitalism and you finally lost patience with her characterization of all wealthy people as greedy and selfish.”

“Apparently, what touched this man was my interpretation of the fairy tale.”

“Not only him,” I said. “It struck me, too. You interpreted it as a story about the need to know what one wishes from life. You said, if I remember correctly, that greed is inevitable in the absence of an inner aim. You said that greed in one form or another tends to usurp the place of the inner wish to understand, and that almost every vice in human life represents a lower function trying to imitate the work of an undeveloped higher capacity within man.”

“You have a good memory,” he said.

“Not good enough,” I replied. “I remember ideas, but in the midst of a life situation, especially when money is involved, ideas don’t help, they’re not there, I forget.”

“Because,” he said, “the inner wish is not an idea. It’s a force.”

I took that in.

“Is that what you meant when you said that speaking or writing about these things makes them sound too easy?”

Another silence.

“I agree,” he said, “with your main thesis—that in modern society money enters into every aspect of human life. That means that it enters into every aspect of ourselves, yes? Every impulse, every perception within ourselves is related to the money factor—or, to be more exact, the principle of personal gain. That follows from your thesis, doesn’t it? Personal gain, or the ego principle, is expressed through money in this society—I think that is what you’re writing about, isn’t it?”

He went on:

“When you say that in other cultures money was not as pervasive as in this society, you’re surely not saying that in those societies men and women were less dominated by egoism, are you? You are saying, as I see it, that it’s through money that the ego manifests itself most centrally in our culture. And that the ego is more, far more, than just vanity in its obvious forms. It’s the belief in one’s power to do, to be safe, happy, and fulfilled by one’s own efforts—without the help of a higher influence, yes?”

Again, I nodded. “But the question,” I replied, “is, how to remember in the midst of a money situation that there are higher purposes and forces within ourselves.”

“No, you go too fast. If you put it that way, you are lost. To put it that way only brings the whole spiritual quest into the realm of the ego. Of course, you can speak like that, you can even write books like that. But the fact is one forgets. There is no method that works. Money is just too powerful, life is just too powerful. I will be very interested to read any book you write about this, if you ever actually write it, but I am sure that after people put down your book, they will still be devoured by money situations. It will be good if you can help people come to a new attitude toward money; it is indispensable as a first step. But the question you are now bringing goes beyond change of attitude.”

“The fact is,” he said, “it is only through forgetting that you can remember. Or, rather, that you are remembered, if you see what I mean.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“The point is,” he continued, “that money is modern man’s instrument of the personality, the instrument of his emotions, his adaptive thought, his action. Falling man is continually reinventing himself and modern man reinvents himself through the technology of money. Evolving man is discovered by himself; falling man invents himself. It’s like that, isn’t it?’

“Please explain.”

“What more can I say? Remembering the true self is not an act of the mind or the emotions or the physical body. The evolving self does not care for money or sex or time. But the ego invents itself out of money, sex, and linear time. If you can find conditions and companions among whom you can study how the ego continually invents itself, imagines itself, you’ll understand what I mean. You’ve studied ancient traditions, but no book can give you the direct experience of how the ego invents itself, how it uses material things and ideas and energies continually to imagine itself.”

He paused for a moment, and then continued:

“There is in man a wish that does not come from the ego. There is a wish that is not invented by the ego. It is an energy, a movement that exists outside of linear time. Only when you are ready to experience the complete breakdown of the ego without the slightest impulse to reestablish it again, only then will you experience the wish of the evolving self. It is a certain kind of suffering that is mixed with joy of quite a special taste. Money and linear time and sex all enter into everything that is of the ego and so one needs to have a very specific study of money, sex, and time.

“I say study, because truly to study oneself introduces into life an element completely alien to the ego, yet which the ego can accept. The ego has to become gradually convinced that what it wants—safety, happiness, existence—cannot be obtained through mechanical thinking, personal emotion, or instinctive action. The mind has to become convinced that the only source of its well-being is consciousness. The work of studying oneself introduces a motivation that is free of personal gain, egoistic gain. Study, without the impulse to change anything, motiveless study, choiceless awareness is like the breath of the true wish, the true aim of evolving man. Do you follow?”

Without waiting for my response, he went on:

“The fisherman’s wife is the desire of the ego, life in the absence of the wish for being. You know how the fairy tale ends?”

“The man and the wife are put back in their lowly shack.”

“And they live happily ever after?”

“I don’t believe the fairy tale says that.”

“Well,” he said, “it should. All fairy tales end with ‘happily ever after’—which is fairy-tale language for the state of inner freedom, freedom from the illusions of ego.

“In any case,” he went on, “and fairy tales aside, one needs to discover a wish that is stronger than the ego, and to which the ego can assent. And when you are willing to see how you compromise everything of real value because of the force of money, then it is possible to be remembered by the higher forces within. The point is that, since money has entered so deeply into the formation of the contemporary ego, then it is necessary for us to play the money game with our best abilities, but with a new intention.”

“How would you describe that intention?” I asked.

He paused before replying. I suddenly felt as though I were in a cathedral.

“There is an action, an allowing, a surrender within, that has always been the birthright of every man or woman. The ego experiences it as a kind of stoppage. It is a special quality of silence. In that moment, you know why you are on earth and you know that as you are you cannot serve. You know you must change your life and that this can only happen by searching for companions and conditions that will support the appearance of this moment of opening. On the basis of that moment, a new intention enters into one’s life, a new morality. It is the morality of the search. Whatever supports that search is good; whatever hinders it is evil. One begins to understand that it is only through that opening that one can love as one wishes to love and as we have heard of love in the teachings of the masters. Then, truly, the world and life in this world, with all its pleasures and pains, with all its obligations and difficulties—just this world that you and I live in now—this world becomes my monastery.”

~ • ~

1 From Grimm’s Fairy Tales, “The Fisherman and his Wife” recounts the story of a fisherman who catches, and then throws back, a fish who can grant wishes. The poor fisherman himself does not think to take advantage of this, but he and his wife live in a hovel and his wife asks first for a cottage to live in, then for a castle, then to be emperor, then to be pope, and finally to have power over the sun and the moon. Each time, as the man goes to make a new request, the sea is more and more threatening and the fish is increasingly annoyed. Rather than granting the last, ridiculous request the fish returns the man and his wife to their hovel, where they live to this day.

Copyright © 2005 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Fall 2005 Issue, Vol. IX (1)
Revision: December 1, 2005