True Faith, False Faith (Paris Groups, 1 & 4 February 1944, Pt XVI)

We now finish the transcript of the meeting of Tuesday 1 February. Y.L. reported progress: a deeper emotional life, ability to stop negative emotions, and more control over motor functions. Only his thought was at a standstill. Gurdjieff gave this advice:

I give you this modest counsel: read a good deal. I am going to give you a programme. I recommend you read two books: Astronomy by Flammarion, and one of Maupassant’s books. Two books: Maupassant to study the French psyche (psychisme), and Flammarion to study the world. Maupassant is for a rest. Then I will recommend two more French writers to you. (77-78)

This was not what I expected. In Ravindra’s Heart without Measure, Jeanne de Salzmann was in Gurdjieff’s apartment with Ravindra, and said: “They want to put books there to make him look scholarly.” (p.30) It is an odd comment: the very first time I wondered: who put them there? Who could put them there if de Salzmann had not approved it? And how could some books in an apartment no one ever saw or knew about unless they read Ravindra’s book, think – on the basis of these – that Gurdjieff was scholarly? But now here we have Gurdjieff citing these authors and saying that he will recommend more writers when Y.L. has finished Flammarion and Maupassant. I cannot help but wonder if Gurdjieff did indeed have some books there.


Friday 4 February 1944, pp.78-84

This transcript opens with the note: “Mr Gurdjieff does the Scale Exercise.” It does not say what the exercise is. Gurdjieff then said: “Now we will no longer read Beelzebub in this group. We are going to read the Second Series, in order, except when I wish to read a particular chapter. Today I want to read the chapter in which I explain how my Institute survived from the material point of view. It is still the same thing now, but (on a) smaller (scale). It’s a very important question.” (78) There is a note that they then read “The Material Question.” Incidentally, this shows that Paul Beekman Taylor was correct in thinking that that chapter was intended to be part of the Second Series, and was not merely an inorganic addition.

The first question came from Dr Aboulker, who asked if it was possible to develop faith, “to make it develop in oneself.” Gurdjieff said that it was possible but he would not recommend it. Five minutes of hypnotism, he said, could make him forget everything except believing that all the secrets of nature and life were contained in this match (which I guess he held up.

Dr Aboulker then said that he felt that the great obstacle he has is that deeply but obscurely he lacks faith. Gurdjieff answered:

The only one who has the possibility of advancing is the one who has no faith. From the beginning, he must be critical and take everything mathematically: twice two are four. If you have understood the truth of something like that, you can put it in yourself. If you believe that twice two are four, without having verified it, then kill that belief, because you believe no matter what (i.e. believe in anything). Do not allow anything to crystallize in you unless you can be sure. Take it simply as material which you must verify, but accept nothing without critiquing it. If you have verified that two times two is four, then you can allow this to crystallise in you. But to believe automatically leads to psychopathy. Such a one will never be a man, only a half-man, a “misunderstanding.”

The true man believes nothing but what he can prove mathematically, or by discovering it through frequent experiences (the French word can also mean “experiments.”) That is my opinion. If my own brother asked me that question, I would answer the same way. Believe neither in father, God, or anything else, except yourself. Apart from yourself, have doubt, and above all have suspicions. Believe nothing you cannot prove practically. Everything else must remain theoretical. Every intelligent man knows that the more such material he has, the more his possibilities of later finding (choosing) how to orient himself. He compiles statistics based on his experiences (experiments). But he must verify this material.

Gurdjieff went on to say that Faith was the scourge of those trying to perfect themselves in monasteries. Three quarters of these men, he said, were lost on account of their “faith,” although there were other causes of spoiling, too, such as their education. Only one per cent of them, he said, stay on the true path. But, he added:

There are two types of faith: ordinary “faith” for men in quotation marks, and the faith of true men, those not in quotation marks. This faith has an entirely different character. It’s true faith. A man knows theoretically, he is theoretically convinced of the existence of God, and through self-suggestion or some similar means, he believes; but this is of another quality (from true faith). I consider (divide) faith as having two qualities, like everything, according to whether it pertains to man in quotation marks or not. I mentioned God as an example. I do not speak to you of your God: an elderly Jew with a beard. (79-80)

This meeting is to be continued.

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