Gurdjieff International Review
The Museum of Work
If you do not see your special task—which is the reason you are here on this planet and which is never the same as the next person’s—you do not yet know what you have to work on, and if you do not really know what you have to work on, you do not properly know why you are doing the Work. Has each of you any distinct idea what you have to work on? As was said at the beginning of this paper, if we really knew why we were doing this Work, we would really be doing this Work. The Work, when not specifically applied, comes to resemble nothing but a museum full of a number of things. People wander about in it, now looking at a case labeled “Higher Centers”—which appears to be quite empty—and then looking at a tall wire construction consisting of circles labeled “Ray of Creation,” which they view with great disfavor. A figure of a man standing upright and labeled “Man Awake” they compare with themselves, pointing out that they, too, are standing upright. A large glass case of filth and snakes labeled “Negative Emotions,” they all proclaim is disgusting and should never be exposed to the public gaze. A beautiful mirror in a frame of fine gold which, when they look into it, makes them appear utterly ridiculous, is regarded as a great joke. Amid laughter you hear exclamations of “How absurd,” “How impossibly untrue,” “How really impertinent.” The mirror is labeled “Self-Observation.” At various locations and distances many other cases are being peered at, usually with disapproval.
Let us leave this museum which is only accessible to those who never apply one single element of the Work to themselves, but think of it only as an address where meetings are held. For those who do apply the Work, there is no museum. . .
If you do not apply the Work to your life nothing will happen. The last thing we do is to apply the Work practically to the recurring experiences of our life. This shows that we do not know why we are doing the Work. On one side is the stream of our daily experiences, on the other, all that the Work teaches us to do. We make no connection between them. So we never grasp what it is we have to work on. It follows that we never know what the Work is. One can say one has faith. Yes—but works are necessary too. If you have faith in one kind of life and live another, what are you? Nothing is more wonderful than to be given a vision of how different one’s life is from the Work. This is a sign of increasing consciousness. But it is only a force “from above” that can do this for you—and only if you are willing.
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This excerpt is from Maurice Nicoll’s, Psychological Commentaries, London: Robinson & Watkins, 1973, pp. 1654–1655.
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Featured: Spring 2007 Issue, Vol. X (1)
Revision: April 1, 2007