Gurdjieff International Review

Man’s Situation on the Earth

Maurice Nicoll


et us review for a moment the present state of the world and the present ideals that dominate people in regard to making this planet a better world. You see on one side inventions such as penicillin and many other similar things which are of benefit to mankind, and on the other hand you see the inventions of destructive agents such as poison gas, atomic bombs, and so on. For everything that is invented of a beneficial nature, there seems to be invented an opposite of a harmful nature. Man, feeling that he can do, does not see this continual contradiction. He does not see that he is living in a world under a definite number of laws that cannot be changed. It is as if there were always the same amount of everything and if a thing is got rid of in one place it appears again in another place.... This idea that we live in a contained world of this kind, a prison under a definite number of laws, is not understood. The Work says, amongst other things, that the Earth is a pain-factory from which a certain quantity of pain and suffering is demanded. People believe that medicine is going to do away with illness but what happens actually is that if a relative cure for one thing is found you will practically always find that some other illness increases....

Can you mention a single law that you are under? I am not talking about man-made laws but about laws belonging to this Earth on which we appear for a brief period. One of these laws is that you have to eat. If you don’t eat you die. This is a law. Another law is that you have to breathe oxygen. If you do not breathe oxygen, or if you breathe carbon monoxide from a charcoal-stove, you die. This is a law belonging to this planet. Yet, curiously enough, we do not see ourselves as being under laws of this kind and imagine ourselves as being quite free and able to do exactly as we like. In other words, we do not reflect upon the nature of our lives on this Earth. And we have the constant illusion that we can do—i.e. that we can alter everything in our favor. And because we have this illusion that we can do, we have also the equally firm illusion that we are progressing and that the mere passage of time means that we all get better and better and more and more comfortable. We regard things like wars as exceptions, just as we regard illnesses as exceptions, not seeing that they are the rule, and belong to our level of Being.

What is the way out from this prison in which these laws constantly interact and play on humanity like a set of different-colored spotlights? The Work, the Gospels, and all esoteric teaching say the same thing: to begin to escape from these 48 orders of laws governing this planetary prison called the Earth a man must cease to see the final solution in changing external conditions but must see it in changing himself. □

Maurice Nicoll, Psychological Commentaries, London: Vincent Stuart Publishers, 1957, pp. 761–762. Some sentences and phrases have been removed for brevity.


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Featured: Winter 2019/2020 Issue, Vol. XIV (1)
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