The last of this series on the education of personality will mention, appropriately enough, Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson (although I am more and more warming to the title The First Series).
In chapter VII of the First Series, Beelzebub notices that his grandson, Hassein, is disturbed. Hassein explains that:
“Only now have I come very clearly to understand that everything we have at the present time and everything we use – in a word, all the contemporary amenities and everything necessary for our comfort and welfare – have not always existed and did not make their appearance so easily. It seems that certain beings in the past have during very long periods laboured and suffered very much for this, and endured a great deal which perhaps they even need not have endured. … And now not only do we not thank them, but we do not even know a thing about them, but take it all as in the natural order, and neither ponder nor trouble ourselves about this question at all. … And so … there has arisen in me … the need to make clear to my Reason why I personally have all the comforts which I now use, and what obligations I am under for them. It is just because of this that at the present moment there proceeds in me a ‘process of remorse’.”
Beelzebub tells his grandson that he is too young to tackle such questions right now, he must wait until he is older and capable of ‘active mentation.” He goes on to state:
“The time of your present age is not given you in which to pay for your existence, but for preparing yourself for the future, for the obligations becoming to a responsible three-brained being.
So in the meantime, exist as you exist. Only do not forget one thing, namely, at your age it is indispensably necessary that every day, at sunrise, while watching the reflection of its splendour, you bring about a contact between your consciousness and the various unconscious parts of your general presence. Try to make this state last and to convince the unconscious parts – not (sic) as if they were conscious – that if they hinder your general functioning, they, in the period of your responsible age, not only cannot fulfil the good that befits them, but your general presence of which they are part, will not be able to be a good servant of our COMMON ENDLESS CREATOR and by that will not even be worthy to pay for your arising and existence.”
The status of this exercise in the Gurdjieff groups is uncertain. So far as I am aware, despite the canonical status of Beelzebub, this exercise is – so far as I am aware – rarely referred to. One sometimes hears: “I do that exercise, but not exactly like that, I do it another way.”
Without judging which way might be better, if one is practising the exercise in another way, then one is not practising that exercise, because the method of practice is the essence of the exercise.
When Gurdjieff was asked about this exercise on 20 April 1944, he not only did not discourage it, but he even invited the lady who posed the question to ask Beelzebub himself! He said:
It is not my book, it is Mr Beelzebub’s, and it is advice which he is giving to his grandson. … Beelzebub will explain it to you. As for me, I give you another piece of advice: get accustomed to calling Beelzebub, “my dear grandfather.” That will help you. The condition is that you address him respectfully … Then perhaps he will answer.
So that is the exercise. I think it is a good idea to get up and consciously appreciate in the sunrise. I think many people will agree that it is a good start to the day. The sunrise is a providential symbol of our highest aims. The splendour of the sunrise is a natural symbol for the splendour of holiness, goodness, truth and beauty. The dawning reminds us of the great gift of life. It is a pure, healthy dose of hope. Watching the sun rise, does not our own soul arise within us?
And it reminds us of the smallness of our earth and the greatness of the heavens: it gives us a perspective on the world more powerful than any philosophy, yet without words – and being without words, the connection to our feeling is all the more powerful.
But there is more even than that, although that is still pretty good. Implicit in this is Gurdjieff’s advice on how to reason actively with oneself. And this, as I have said in the previous post, is critical to the education of personality.
Mr Adie told us that the subconscious parts are well represented by our bodies: all we need to do is to sit down before the sunrise, consciously relax our bodies, raise our sensation to consciousness, quieten our emotions, and then speak to ourselves as if we were speaking to someone else. To the extent we sense ourselves and have some feeling of ourselves, we are addressing the subconsciousness. There is no special number to dial, no special wavelength to get onto, over and above that.
I don’t think that these words are the only ones which will work: it depends on our need. But I do think that the first thing is to be able to identify a need, and the second thing is to have a wish to meet that need.
So, how do we bring these other needs to the exercise? First of all, recall that we are speaking about the education of personality. It is a question of remaking, for our benefit, something which we have learned, or fallen into – a weakness which should be improved.
I recall when I was 15 years old, and was on board a ship, as a young Sea Cadet (I think it’s now the Naval Reserve). I was struck that one of the adult sailors said to us that he had given up going out on the weekend and getting drunk because he would wake up with a hangover. One fine morning, he asked himself if it was worth it? To ask the question was to answer it. From that day, he said, he would have a drink – he was not a teetotaller. But he no longer went out and got blind drunk every Friday and Saturday night. That struck me, young and stupid as I was, because he had, by virtue of his intelligence, made a change in his life in an area where people don’t often change.
I recently took my difficulty in getting up in the morning, and I reasoned with myself: did I have a good reason for wanting to get up at a particular time? Yes, I had a very good reason. Why did I not get up? For these two reasons. Were they good? Yes, one was, but no, the other was not. So I said to myself, having prepared myself Gurdjieff instructed, and gazing on the splendour of the sun: “Get out of bed when the alarm goes, unless it because of reason A, and if you do, this will help you play the role meant for you in life, and will also advance the good of my common presence, of which you are a part.”
I must add that reason A has to do with being fair to the body: it is that on some rare nights, I simply cannot get enough sleep because of a condition I have. But in the three weeks since I practised that exercise for that reason, I have not had the least trouble getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, and no matter how tired I am, it soon shifts.
But that is only a small example. The application to our spiritual lives is what really counts: the ability to do good and to conquer our vices. I won’t go into that, it starts to get too personal, and besides, what counts is the principle – which is the education of personality.
Joseph Azize, 14 June 2017