Gurdjieff International Review


A. L. Staveley


hen the beings from the continent Atlantis went to the shore of the Sea of Beneficence to hunt Pirmarals they found a country described as follows:

That country was at that time indeed so excellent and so ‘Sooptaninalnian’ for ordinary being-existence, that no being who could think at all could help liking it.

On that ‘terra firma’ part of the surface of your planet, not only did there exist at that period multitudes of two-brained beings of the said exterior form, namely, Pirmarals, but around this water-space were also multitudes of various kinds of ‘fruit trees,’ whose fruit then still served for your favorites as the principal product for their ‘first being­food.’

There were then also so many of the one-brained and two­brained beings which your favorites call ‘birds,’ that when they flew in droves it became, as your favorites say, ‘quite dark.’

The water-space situated in the middle of that country and then named the Sea of Beneficence, so abounded with fish, that they could almost be caught, as they also say, with one’s bare hands.

As for the soil of the shores of the Sea of Beneficence and also of the valleys of the two large rivers flowing into it, any part of them could be adapted for growing anything you like.[1]

Naturally they decided to settle down there and did. That was many centuries ago and many, many generations came and went. Today, as in other parts of Asia, the soil there is exhausted. Nature’s plenty has been laid waste. Death by starvation is no uncommon event amongst the inhabitants of this once bountiful part of the planet. The sins of the fathers have been visited on the children.

The description above of the shores of the Sea of Beneficence, as it was originally, is not too different from all we have seen and heard about this part of the planet we now inhabit. Not too many generations have passed but already signs are apparent that here, too, a process has begun that will inevitably leave this land also barren and laid waste, and that in less than even one century. Everything has accelerated. It may well be too late to reverse the process. Now this is no new original thought. Prophets crying, “Woe, woe!” are not lacking today and so much has been said and written on the subject that we are almost sick of hearing about it. We think like this: It seems someone should do something about it! My self-calming apparatus tells me that they probably are—it will be all right during my time at least—and anyhow, there is nothing I can do about it, it’s not my fault, I didn’t use buffalo for target practice, and so on in the same vein.

It may possibly seem to you that this kind of thing has nothing to do with our work. But it seems to me it concerns us very closely and not alone in the wastage of natural resources but in what we are and could be. What changes rich land to desert is not use but waste. And the wasters are, quite simply, in the last analysis you and me and millions like us. It’s our greed, our laziness, our stupidity, vanity and carelessness that is devastating the whole planet. No one likes to mention this. Even the prophets crying “woe” don’t say much about it. Maybe they are afraid to. People like us don’t like to have their self-calming mechanism attacked and might turn on the prophets and tear them to pieces. It’s been known to happen!

It is not the paper manufacturer who is to blame for forests destroyed. They make paper from living trees because you and I desire paper products and waste so much of them. It’s easier to use paper napkins, towels, etc., and throw them away than to use and care for cloth, which lasts a long time. It is not the manufacturers of innumerable household products, the production of which pollutes the waterways and has other deleterious effects on the intricate balance of Nature, who are to blame, but you and I who use them. As long as we buy them, they will be made. I hear you thinking, “Oh, come on! The little bit I use isn’t going to make that much difference. They save time and labor.” Maybe so. But 1,000,000 saying the same? 5,000,000?

If I really look, I see I do have a part in the waste. My laziness, my greed, my heedlessness swells the current. It takes labor, thought and caring to dispose of garbage correctly and help Nature carry out her recycling processes more quickly and efficiently. It’s easy to put it in a plastic bag to go to the dump. Then what? It probably goes into a landfill where whatever value it had as fertilizer is lost for who knows how long?—until the next earthquake redistributes that part of the surface of the planet or covers it still deeper so that the thin layer of soil on which organic life can exist is impoverished by that much.

We and our children and our children’s children have to pay when we do not help Nature, but perhaps that is not the point for me to be concerned with at this moment. I am a particle of humanity. What is flowing through humanity as a whole also affects me—in this case greed, laziness, etc. This can be observed in my understanding of—my attitude to—waste. After all, my own possibilities are being wasted, as well as the bounty of Nature, when greed, laziness, vanity, heedlessness and so on rule my actions. What is waste—for me, in me? How to be more aware of the way I waste my substance, my potentialities when I “save time” by working in disorder or leaving it behind me? By using shortcuts? By justifying sloppy work, by not completing each process? By permitting the thought to lodge in me, “Someone else should do that?”

Time is passing. What I don’t do now won’t get done. What can I prepare for my children’s children, inside and outside of myself? □

Annie Lou Staveley, Themes II (1982) Aurora, OR: Two Rivers Press, pp. 12–14.

[1] G. I. Gurdjieff, Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950) NY: Harcourt, Brace & Co., p. 210.


Copyright © 2020 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Winter 2019/2020 Issue, Vol. XIV (1)
Revision: August 13, 2020