A. R. Orage

Gurdjieff International Review

My Note Book

by A. R. Orage

October 1934

The Myth of Progress—Understanding and Attainment—The Self Is or Is Not—Men on Earth and Divine Purpose—Free Will, Fact or Fiction?—Physicists and Psychologists.

In an essay “The Myth of Progress” published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology, my old friend, Mr. M. D. Eder, undertakes his usual rôle of enfant terrible. There is no Progress; the idea is simply a myth created to make life tolerable; and the realistic objective fact is that “we are born mad, acquire morality, become stupid and unhappy, and then die.” “This natural history of man under domestication,” he says, “is so little agreeable to our self-love” that we devise a myth of Progress as a refuge. But if it comes to a question of devices and refuges, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: the “myth” of Progress for the one, and the “myth” of No Progress for the other. And even though Mr. Eder may appeal to the “objective” criterion of “natural history” it is obvious that his reading of natural history may be as subjective as that of the subjectivists themselves; and who is to decide between them? The truth appears to me that we are literally not wise enough to settle any such question at present. Save for a few rare individuals in every age, mankind, as a whole, even in its most developed members, is scarcely beginning to be able to state such questions with exactitude; and as for answering them objectively, scientifically, and therefore, measurably, neither the men nor the means as yet exist. Mankind, in short, (always excepting the few who, again, are out of court for lack of a competent jury), is trying, in the person of its intellectuals, to solve problems in algebra before it has mastered arithmetic.…

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